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Posts Tagged ‘fundraising’

It’s Not What You Tell Your Donors, It’s How You Say It

In change management, consulting, Fundraising, nonprofit organizations on February 5, 2014 at 10:52 pm

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I’ve seen my share of “donor death” due to the academic delivery of every specific detail relating to an organization’s mission.  It’s not pretty. First the eyes glaze over and the face slackens, the brow slightly furrows, then the fingers fret with each other as the donor begins to avert his eyes. This is quickly followed by phone checking, paper rustling, and long loving glances at wristwatches.  When this happens, there is no question that the end is near.

When a donor goes into this death spiral, the organization must work harder to keep the donor engaged and interested. Hard work requires more resources and additional resources are expensive. It is far more effective for organizations to understand the dynamics of donor engagement before the meeting.  Spending a minimum of upfront time, determining how to tell your organization’s story in an effective and engaging manner rather than reporting your organization’s destination will pay dividends.

Nonprofits as an industry, we are in love with our science. We love the academics and inner workings of our profession. It’s our passion for the science of what we do that drives us to perform. But frankly, for our donors, it’s the pedestrian, everyday results they can relate to that fires their engines.  I am reminded of a 1970s advertisement produced by Crispin and Porter, that illustrates this point (see above). Telling someone you need to get to a destination is uninteresting and even boring when you compare it to sharing with someone your need to connect with humanity, your family, your loved ones. Same message, but a very different emotion attached to that message.

Check your language. Review your letters, materials, your website. Are you alienating and potentially killing off your donors with your technical speak? Are you telling them where you need to be, rather than sharing with them what or who you want to become. They don’t need the details or the destination. They need the information that will spark their emotions, encourage engagement, and keep them excited about your cause.

The Accidental Fundraiser

In nonprofit organizations, Random, Training on January 22, 2014 at 11:16 pm
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“Your body determines your mind, your mind determines your behavior, your behavior determines your outcomes”. Amy Chuddy, TED Talk presenter.
I didn’t aspire to be in this role. In fact, I never knew this existed–this world of goodness, and compassion, and humanitarian promise. I wanted to be a teacher when I was seven. Or a mom. But somewhere over the course of 25 years, between graduating teachers college and being mom to three young kids, I took on some volunteer roles, which translated to part time employment with a large nonprofit, which migrated to director level and finally executive level leadership of a multi-million dollar foundation. And then to this, sharing what I learned through experience and education with other nonprofits.
In some ways I am an accidental fundraiser. And I have come realize that quite possibly you may be as well. The path to nonprofit work is rarely straight, and it’s not lined with specific degrees, tests, or passing of boards. It’s crowded with teachers, lawyers, and social service professionals. With doctors, nurses, and with administrative support personnel. It doesn’t have one face, it has a million faces.
How do we all know what to do? Aside from the academics of seminars and trainings, I’d say we fake it until we become it.
My first board meeting still haunts me. I was the side show, not even the main course, but my palms were so sweaty I was afraid to hold the paper for fear of leaving stains. I paced for a full hour, feeling nauseous and shaky. I was certain I was a fake, that I wasn’t supposed to be there, that I would be found out, and that I would die of embarrassment when I was. I was exactly the person Amy Chuddy speaks of in her terrific TED Talk, “Your body language shapes who you are“.
This twenty minute talk is a grounding starting point for everyone of us who as ever felt like we accidentally ended up in a role we didn’t deserve, couldn’t manage, or didn’t aspire to.  She provides terrific recommendation on how our body language speaks to us and how we can arrange our bodies to increase confidence, power, and authority.  Fake it till you become it. Because you are here, you do deserve it, and you can do it.
 Highly recommended, this talk will change your life.

Lead or Follow?

In Board, nonprofit organizations on January 13, 2014 at 2:50 pm

lead or followDoes this sound familiar? You are leading your board in a discussion about strategy for fundraising, outlining what is known about your organization’s current philanthropy program. As you ask them to take some time to review the strategic imperatives recommended from the findings, one member raises his hand and says “I think we should just do two mailings a year, no more, and then focus on doing more events. And I think we need more publicity, no one knows about us, that’s the big problem.”

 Somewhere along the line your board was lead to believe that their role is to problem solve. And by problem solve, I mean to direct the organization’s fundraising. And by directing fundraising, I mean doing your job. But, if this sounds all too familiar, how do you refocus your board on the important role they play in governance and oversight?

Getting boards focused, all looking in the same direction, and looking towards the bigger picture is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude, I suggest bringing in a professional. If you are up for the challenge, however, you need to begin with a self-assessment. A self-assessment must be completed and reviewed by the board, and it is only through this effort that they will find the necessary solutions hidden in the information they uncover as they move through the process. Finding an assessment tool is easier than you think. There are a lot of boxed self-assessment tools out there, and Harvest Development Group offers one on our website.

Keep in mind that it is important that the assessment process is driven from within. Board leadership should be suggesting and encouraging the process, not you or the organization. Assuming you have a good working relationship, with authentic dialogue and shared vision with your chairperson (if not, that’s another blog post), then having a candid conversation about the challenges you experience working with the board, accompanied by justification, both qualitative and quantitative, is the starting point. Suggest that the organization will benefit from a board self-review, just as the rest of the organization is reviewed annually. If everything else in a nonprofit is to be measured, it is unwise to exclude the board. With the chairperson leading the effort (or a board development committee, if you are that sophisticated), the medicine may go done a tiny bit easier. Expect some resistance and some sensitivity, because no one likes to be judged, least of which people who have come to not expect it. Once your board is committed to the self-assessment, ask your chairperson to recruit an Assessment Committee who will:

• Review the self-assessment tool and make recommendations on changes. You should provide them with findings showing why certain assessment sections are necessary

• Communicate to the full board the reason for the assessment, the process and the expected outcomes

• Implement and calculate the assessment

• Report on the findings and lead the discussion of the board on the actions to affect change.

Tai chi, is the ancient practice of war by submission. Letting go, allowing leadership in others, encouraging action through quiet movement, can change the board’s role in the organization, improve their performance and enhance the value they bring to your mission. In the end, they will be proud to be a part of your effort.

What is new is not always relevant. What is relevant is not always new.

In Discussables, Fundraising, Innovation, Marketing, Random, Research, Retail ideas on December 6, 2013 at 2:10 pm

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Crowd Funding PBS Special

PBS has been blogging about crowdfunding – the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet   – and their latest post engages nonprofits in thinking about the significant opportunity for financial success in crowdfunding.

From PBS’s post:

“The need for alternative fundraising methods clearly varies a lot across organizations. But even comfortable non-profits accept that crowdfunding has the potential to deliver a deep engagement between fundraisers and backers. And, as emergent civic crowdfunding models suggest, it has the potential to produce new alliances”

The post goes on to highlight success stories in the the crowdfunding sphere:

“In April, the Chicago Parks Foundation raised $62,113 for the expansion of the city’s Windy City Hoops basketball social program on IndieGoGo.”

” The Long Now Foundation is using this model for its Salon campaign, which has raised just over half of its $495,000 target. “

The post ends with this note of validation for many nonprofit’s marketing savvy and the opportunity to leverage that expertise for crowdfunding success. “Many non-profits are established experts in these areas. Many of them have stronger and more-established brands than even the best-known crowdfunding platforms. The quality and scale of crowdfunding campaigns would undoubtedly increase if they decided to apply their expertise to the field.”

While I appreciate what these types of articles do for innovative thinking, when they are sent out into the npo-sphere such as this, with no context to the implementation or integration of such a strategy into a broad range of tactics, it sends most charities desperate for money on a wild – and often disappointing- goose chase for their tens of thousands of dollars from ‘the web’. At best this is a distraction and a waste of resources which could go toward raising real money. At worst, it could be the straw that crumbles an already ailing organization.

In reality, what is new is not always relevant. What is relevant is not always new. Basing revenue development on scholarly data and best practices is essential to helping our nonprofits prosper.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

One Third of Your Revenue Depends on the Next Six Weeks

In Fundraising on November 22, 2013 at 6:53 pm

holiday party mad men

Our friends at Network for Good have prepared this easy to digest guide to Year End Fundraising Essentials 2013 filled with things you can do right now to ensure you get your 30 percent.

If you need some assistance with a plan or executing your strategy, we can help.  A third of your years revenue could depend on the next 6 weeks.

Our programs and services offer professional guidance for all requirements and budgets. Wherever you find your challenges, we have the experience and talent to bring you to a more profitable outcome.

Contact us for a no obligation consultation about your organization

Download PDF of
Year End Fundraising Essentials 2013

The Long Tail of Events

In Board, change management, Discussables, Events, Innovation on November 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Spirited presentation this morning at the Ct Philanthropy Day Conference, around the translational opportunities with Events. It just takes a new perspective, for everyone, to make what has become a drudgery of futile transactional activities (events) into an amazing value added Long Tail translational opportunity!

Let me tell you what I mean by Long Tail. Webster defines Long Tail as:

A frequency distribution pattern in which occurences are most densely clustered close to the Y-axis and the distribution curve tapers along the X-axis. The long tail refers to the low-frequency population displayed in the right-hand portion of the graph, represented by a gradually sloping distribution curve that becomes asymptotic to the x-axis. In most applications, the number of events in the tail is greater than the number of events in the high frequency area, simply because the tail is long.

Did I lose you yet?!?

What it’s saying simply is the value of what is at the head (left) of a graph is not equal to and is less than the value of what exists collectively within the long line to the right. Here’s what that looks like:

Long Tail Graphic

Long Tail Graphic

In our theory on the Long Tail of Events, that equates to the Event itself being the head and the value from that event being greater than the event, that’s the tail.

Got it?

Measuring the value of our events is a long term view- we don’t measure the value of our acquisition appeal against that single appeal. If we did, we would determine that our ROI was a negative and we would stop. We measure the value of our acquisition appeal against a long term view that includes the cost benefit of collecting new prospects in our major gift pipeline and the cash value of those major prospects over time. Similarly we don’t measure the value of grant writing against a single grant submitted. Losing proposition financially. Instead we measure the value of grant writing against a long term aggregate of return on investment.

Then why do we allow our organizations to continue to measure the value of an event against itself as a single activity?

To expect your event to have a long-term financial value to your philanthropy requires a different perspective on event planning. It changes the way you think about and plan objectives for your events. It turns your inviting process on its head, giving a you a laser focus on attendees, and it places your board central to the development of this Long Tail. It demands data driven strategy on donor engagement and a commitment to numbers and dates as deadlines.

It can be done.

We’ll be developing a webinar on the Long Tail of Events in the coming months. We’ll show you what we mean and I guarantee you’ll walk away wanting to chase the Long Tail.

 

The 2013 Fundraising Effectiveness Project report summarizes data from 2,840 survey respondents covering year-to-year fundraising results for 2011-2012. (click infographic to be brought to full report download.)

In Discussables, Research, strategic planning on November 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm

The 2013 Fundraising Effectiveness Project report summarizes data from 2,840 survey respondents covering year-to-year fundraising results for 2011-2012.                                              (click infographic to be brought to full report download.)

AFP 2013 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report

Gen Y and Nonprofits

In Random on October 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

In this interview with WomensRadioDavid J. Neff , co-author of The Future of Nonprofits: Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age, makes some interesting points. However, his argument does fall short of an explanation. Here is my response to ‘Gen Y Driving Nonprofits to Innovate and Thrive’.

A study by CompassPoint and the Meyers Foundation in 2011 called Daring to Lead 2011 , found that two-thirds of executive directors surveyed indicated that they intend to retire by 2016.  This will create a large gap, which Gen Y will be filling. We need to pay attention to this the incoming executive director generation and think about how we should be forming and evolving our nonprofits to be ready for their leadership.

The big national nonprofits like American Cancer Society, are not necessarily innovative, their behavior is pretty traditional. However, they do have the resources needed to strive for innovation. Resources are critical. Grantors and other funders need to design funding programs aimed at growing innovation in nonprofits.

Nonprofit organizations should definitely remember they are a business. Being tax exempt is just their tax status. They need to behave more like a corporation, strategically designing revenue, resourcing revenue development, creating marketing plans, and conducting research and strategic approaches, not just on programs, but on all four areas of operations – human resources, marketing, and finances as well. To do this, the general public needs to abandon their determination to judge a nonprofit by “how much money goes to program and not administration”. Some of the most successful nonprofits spend more on administration, but still achieve amazing results in mission delivery.

Nonprofit employees are actually compensated well, considering their limited sector specific education. Most nonprofit employees do not have a degree in nonprofit management. Many don’t have finance or business backgrounds either.  So the $55k salary for a director at a nonprofit organization, with no educational background specific to the nonprofit sector, is pretty decent. More colleges need to offer nonprofit management degrees, and more nonprofit organizations need to hire specifically for the job. This means not promoting a Program Manager to Executive Director or Fundraising Director for their dedication or their longevity to the organization, as that rarely if ever works out well. Nonprofit organizations should hire professionals with the education and experience background suitable for the specific job role.

Teamwork is important. It always has been. I wrote a white paper on retaining talent, innovative talent. Gen Y works differently. Nonprofit organizations need to change the silo mindset that each person is responsible for their individual tasks and performance measures, and move toward group managed, dynamically measured projects.

Where nonprofits find their supporters is also changing.  SXSW is one great idea. The old stodgy nonprofit organizations don’t think of being there. Bad for them, that’s where the new future donors are. And what Gen Y wants to support is unique; they want ownership and specific outcomes. They want to see a start, finish and most importantly an end. We need to change the way we prospect for donors, cultivate, and solicit donors.

Many of the start-up nonprofits we are working with have been started by executives who have aged out of the corporate sector or young Gen Y/X entrepreneurs. They are excited and passionate about starting their nonprofit and need the business guidance to start up well. They bring high risk tolerance, drive for outcomes, aren’t afraid to fund-raise and understand the need for marketing and publicity.  It’s the new nonprofit.

Intellectual Capital -or- He who has the best brains wins.

In change management, Innovation, strategic planning on August 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Intellectual Capital

               “We have moved from an economy of hands to an economy of heads.”

How are you managing the ‘heads’ of your organization?

The growing power of ideas – as manifested in innovative programs, policies and processes – is the key differentiator for a successful nonprofit organization.

This means that the most important resource in your nonprofit is not your donor database, or your special event… it’s the heads that walk through your door every day. These heads make up the differentiator known as Intellectual Capital.

Building your organization’s Intellectual Capital has become a science that has been shown to propel programs, services and fundraising, to higher standards of success.

To raise Intellectual Capital in your nonprofit in today’s competitive environment, create a culture that encourages creativity, innovation – get that good stuff out of those heads- and one that keeps your best heads around.

What are some signs that you are not leveraging the Intellectual Capital of your organization? Thomas Stewart, early proponent of the concept of Intellectual Capital through knowledge management states “like Lyme disease, knowledge management problems have  symptoms that sometimes mimic other problems.” Each of these symptoms indicate that people in the organization are not finding knowledge, moving it around, keeping it refreshed  and up to date, sharing it, or using it. (Zurbuchen, 1998)

Here is what to look for to determine where your organization stands in nurturing Intellectual Capital:

  • Same Mistake – seventh time.
  • Duplicated effort
  • “Silos”
  • Someone is out, and work comes to a halt
  • Consistent loss of materials and information for routine projects and processes
  • Goals and Objectives consistently not met
  • Poor customer feedback on performance
  • High turnover of excellent performing staff
  • Declining values: Financial, Performance, Membership
  • Poor Employee Morale

This list is not exhaustive but you get the picture, it’s a great illustration of the environment experienced by nonprofits who have not yet placed knowledge management of Intellectual Capital as a core business function.

Growing and retaining Intellectual Capital requires strategy, plan and measurement.

Growing Intellectual Capital

Some steps to take in growing Intellectual Capital:

  1. Make sharing knowledge easy: Create an organizational Wiki, a place for staff to enter learned concepts and share information or ideas.
  2. Encourage online communication: Organizational bulletin boards where your brightest can test theories through communication
  3. Reward innovative thinking: Most organizations are risk averse. This translates into new processes and programs meeting significant pushback. Flip your model of operating around to encourage, embrace and reward new processes and programs.

Retaining Intellectual Capital

Findings from the 2012 national Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey conducted by Nonprofit HR Solutions indicate that three-quarters of nonprofits do not have any formal strategy for retaining staff. That’s money out the door.

What are the key factors in retaining your Intellectual Capital investment? Surprisingly, in repeated studies of the nonprofit sector, rate of pay is not as important to retention as you may think. Here is what is important:

  1. An environment that encourages and rewards autonomy. That means self-direction, flexible work hours and environment (work from home, café, beach) and a results only measurement model. Innovative people like innovative work styles.
  2. Frequent, positive and meaningful feedback on work results. Especially with our newer generation of rising stars, Millennials thrive on feedback. This is a generation that, for good or bad, had helicopter parents, teachers and coaches, giving direction, encouragement and correction at every step.
  3. A role that requires diversity of talents, skills and functions. Many of the most successful people I know, have an entrepreneurial attitude about their work, even if they don’t own the company. Unlike multi-tasking (doing many things at once), multi-talenting is using a variety of talents, learned experiences and ideas in the execution of your work.
  4. Collaborative work. As a society, we have gained an addiction to tribal-ness: the desire to be affiliated and interrelated in our communication, experiences and work efforts. Collaboration also has the benefit of growing your Intellectual Capital through knowledge management. It needs to be encouraged.
  5. Work that is meaningful. Your creatives, innovators and those who are bringing the most Intellectual Capital to your organization, want to know that the results they are accomplishing actually are feeding into higher levels of success. Show them the corollary in an authentic and factual way.

Intellectual Capital is a key driver for competitive advantage in today’s environment for the nonprofit sector. He who grows the brightest and holds them, wins. Therefore, Intellectual Capital is an important, if not THE important, resource that nonprofits need to develop in order to gain sustained strategic advantage increasing their effectiveness in serving their constituency  and funding their mission.

12 Useful, Well-Designed, Worth-Downloading iPhone Apps Created by Nonprofits

In consulting, Marketing, Mobile, Social Media on August 17, 2012 at 10:50 am

12 Useful, Well-Designed, Worth-Downloading iPhone Apps Created by Nonprofits.

I love what she does.

However with this post, I have a problem.

Not with the post itself, per se, but the idea that iPhone Apps for nonprofits are a valuable use of resources.

I own an iPod, and an iPad.   I can tell you, desktop is prime territory and my GB’s like gold.    I only download apps that I know I will use frequently and will rely on for regular (read daily) access.    And yes, maybe a few fun ones too, that I go to in my downtime periodically.

I don’t think I am that much different from other iTech users.

And so, the thought of downloading an app from a nonprofit doesn’t fit with how I dole out my space and memory.    I just wouldn’t find the function of clicking the app for updates that appealing.  Even the ones listed in Heather’s blog above, while they have the sex appeal, are not pragmatically useful- how many times will I need to know what the bird in front of me sounds like?   Or have an overwhelming urge to find out where in this very moment are animals being abused?   Cool to access once, twice, maybe three times, but not GB worthy.    I could simply bookmark these sites  in Safari and get the same result, maybe more, since apps tend to have a more limited function than a full site.

I guess I could see if I were a board member or staff member of a not for profit organization, I might consider an app a cool tool and something desirable in a way.    But really, for the NPO, why spend thousands on developing an app for a handful to access.    Even a couple hundred, if you are a national or international NPO, doesn’t seem like a good use of resources.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  My recommendation: Spend your money making your website mobile optimized.

I’ve been following the nonprofit sector and their discovery of technology for quite a while.    I’ve also lived the experience for over 20 years, from networked databases, to a ‘flashy’ (no pun intended) new website, to internet access for staff- all the various areas of fumbling, bumbling and discovery along the way.   In full disclosure, I am also a partner in a tech start up – Donorfull– for the nonprofit sector.   I believe Nonprofit Apps are one of those “sounded.like.a.good.idea,.cause.everyone.is.doing.it,aren’t.we.hip,but.it.really.is.limited” kind of moments.    Unless someone can come up with an exciting and convincing argument for me as to what possible benefit, goal or stimulating outcome could come of it, I’ll continue to direct and discourage my clients from wandering into this forest.

We’ll all be less ‘appy’ but ‘appy-er’ for it.