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SHIFT: Meeting Corporate Philanthropy Where It’s Headed- Influencers

In change management, Discussables on April 6, 2011 at 10:56 am

THE INFLUENCE OF CORPORATE THOUGHT LEADERS ON CORPORATE GIVING

Corporate philanthropy has seen some radical shifts in the last twenty years. We may just now be drawing concern about what is happening, where it is headed and how do we stay engaged as these changes evolve?

To understand the shifts as they appear, we need to look at some key factors, one being influences on the corporate sector.

Let’s take a look at thought leaders in business and how their rockstar status and larger than life influences have impacted the patterns we are experiencing with corporations as they support causes and charitable efforts.

No conversation about corporate giving could be complete without a reflection on the impact of Milton Friedman.

Milton was a Nobel Prize winner in economics. He was a distinguished professor at the University of Chicago. He was the author of the classic best-seller Capitalism and Freedom and a long-time Newsweek columnist.

Milton Friedman was one of the greatest and most influential economists in the 20th century. This certainly qualifies him to be considered a business rockstar. He was also an unapologetic curmudgeon, an outspoken and controversial thought leader on all things business.

He was vehemently against corporate social responsibility as an obligation of business. He held that giving by a publicly held corporation in the name of “social responsibility” was a form of theft.

But Friedman was not against all corporate giving. Corporate philanthropy could be justified if it served a business objective—improving employee teamwork and motivation, strengthening the marketing of a company’s brand, enhancing financial outcomes. He also had a less emphatic position on giving by privately held companies. He thought that was a decision best based on the individual or family owning the company, as it was their money to give away.

Milton was a multi-dimensional man. Besides being a powerful voice in the business sector, he was also a great philanthropist and a tremendous advocate of philanthropy.  He was not alone

Alfred P. Sloane, another uber-chief of corporate discipline, he was born in New Haven Connecticut, educated at MIT and graduated from there in just three years, as the youngest member of his class. Alfred was a long time President and CEO of General Motors, resigning to remain as their board chair until the late 1950’s.  He steered the corporation through some tenuous and deadly years of bad business, Nazi allegations, and revenue slumps.

He was not as eloquent a man as Milton, but he too felt philanthropy had no business being tied to business. He simply stated “The business of business is business.” And like Milton he was a prolific philanthropist. Because of his personal generosity, his name today is on buildings and foundations across the nation, from Sloan Kettering in New York City to the Alfred P Sloan Foundation, whose assets currently reach about 1.8 billion dollars.

Why is it important to have knowledge of these two giants of industry? Why should we abandon our cynicism and try to comprehend their position on corporations and giving? Because every MBA student leading or preparing to lead companies today, have at their hearts, minds and training, the words, vision and example of Milton and Alfred. And it is with this training today, that they are approaching the development of corporate giving strategies.

The apparent disunion in the perspectives of these two gentlemen, when it came to business and philanthropy, is at first perhaps perplexing. But it is not unusual. Their beliefs still hold true today.  Whether you agree or disagree with their perspectives, these men continue to have tremendous influence on the culture of business through their legacy.

SHIFT: Meeting Corporate Philanthropy Where It’s Headed- An Introduction

In change management, consulting, executive coaching, Research, Retail ideas, strategic planning on April 6, 2011 at 10:11 am

This is the start of a four week series on corporate philanthropy, based on research, best practices and personal experience from the field. We’ll keep it entertaining and packed with good useful information that will help you develop your own Corporate Giving program. To follow along, bookmark and check back daily, or subscribe to the blog using the button at the bottom of this page (left side).  But don’t just follow along.  Ask questions, challenge observations, make recommendations, share your own experience, invite friends to participate.

Many of us have been in the philanthropy industry for years….maybe even decades…and we have much to lean on when we think about corporate giving. We know it is changing, it’s evident around us, and we know it has evolved over time, through some pretty hairy and weird years, to some truly meaningful examples. I’m going to ask us to set all of that aside for the next few weeks.

Let me start with a short, true, story to help us understand perspective and prepare our frame of mind. This story came to me from a friend.
“Years back a group of scientists in New Guinea visited a tribe who believed their world ended at the river. After several months, one of the scientists had to leave, which involved crossing the river. Safely across the river, he turned and waved at the tribesman he had left behind. They did not respond, because they said they did not see him. Their entrenched beliefs about their world had distorted their perception of reality.”

But changing  beliefs can be hard, right?

Let me give you an example.

Look at this door panel of squares. Now stare at the X in the center and think circles. What happens?

The circles that appeared when you thought ‘circles’, are an example of a shift in your perception of reality.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

That’s why, in this series on corporate philanthropy, I’m asking you to abandon your old beliefs, your old perceptions about what you think you know about corporate giving, and become open to new understandings. In the words of our old friend Stephen Covey: Seek first to understand.

This month of posts on meeting corporate philanthropy where it’s headed, will help us to understand the influences on corporations as they strategize their giving efforts. We’ll identify influences on the sector. We’ll connect with company  goals and needs, and explore key behaviors in winning partnerships.  Not winning in the Charlie Sheen way, but in the way that provides outcomes and benefits for both the corporation AND the nonprofit partners.

A busy few weeks, but worth the investment if you want to create sustainable, efficient and effective corporate philanthropy revenue streams.

So join in, ask questions, engage, share, learn, enjoy.

Raising money online: Fact or Fiction?

In Discussables, Rants, Research, Social Media on March 13, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I recently read a study that indicated of the 180,000 “Causes” on Facebook, the avg funds raised through this online method for each charity, over the course of a year, was only $1000.

Really?

This seems slightly outrageous given the hype and passion circulating about using Facebook by NPO’s for online fundraising. It seems everywhere you turn we have charities urging us to “like” them, to support their efforts. Daily my news feed blows up with requests from friends to give to the –> insert cause here<– organization to help them cure, fight, win, save, grow or change.

Before I get angry posts here by those who might find these comments slightly adverserial, I am NOT disparaging the NPO’s for trying. Good things do come from visibility and advocacy in this way.

It just doesn’t look like any of those good things include $$$$$$, and I wanted to know why.

To be more clear on this subject I recently undertook a (very unscientific) research project of online fundraising  by US NPO’s. I researched Web 2.0 portals designed to help nonprofits raise funds online. Here is a list of those I identified and used in this study:

  1. Causevox.com (Beta)
  2. Changingthe present.org
  3. Connecttocharities.com
  4. crowdrise.com
  5. Donorschoose.org
  6. firstgiving.com
  7. Fundrzr.com
  8. give2gether.com
  9. giveo.com (Beta)
  10. Globalgiving.com
  11. Independentcharities.org (givedirect.org)
  12. Jolkona.org
  13. Jumo.com (Beta)
  14. justgive.org
  15. mtdn.com (MakeTheDifferenceNetwork)
  16. networkforgood.org
  17. Pledgie.com
  18. Razoo.com
  19. sixdegrees.org
  20. tuttidare.com (Beta)
  21. yourcause.com
In addition to these, I discovered four more sites currently in beta to be launched this year (2011), including one called ‘Supporter Wall’ – I presume to model itself after Facebook’s Causes (which we now know works so well, lol)
This list is in no way exhaustive, nor as I said scientific, so all you data wonks, don’t go all geeky on me 🙂

Some observations.

Most of these vendor developed online fundraising sites have a short life history, from 2000 to the present. One site started and closed within a few years (Make the difference network). Firstgiving.org, which also has a U.K. version called justgiving.org,  and Network For Good have the longest history with the years 2000 and 2001  claimed as launch dates on their sites.

When a gift is made through one of these fundraising portal sites to your charity, the gift is held in a donor advised fund owned by the company. Despite the web address extension of .com on some of them, most of these vendors have a 501C3 status organization as an affiliate, which handles the donations, for tax relief purposes. When a gift is made to your charity, the tax receipt is from the vendors 501C3  organization, not from your charity. Of course you are encouraged to send a thank you, but the receipt is not from you to your donor, it is from Network for Good. This might mean something to some donors who want to be ‘counted’ as having given to your cause, but for most they may not notice. The distribution of your gift from this donor advised fund is not instantaneous- most are scheduled as a once or twice per month distribution. These donor advised funds are presumably managed by investment firms. No information could be found on where the interest from these temporarily held funds goes. I would imagine they might be part of the revenue stream for the portal vendor. In one interesting case, the corporate officers of a certain portal vendor, were found to also be the principals of the  investment firm that manages that particular portals donor advised fund. Hm?

The big gorilla, based on longevity and reach with NPO’s is Network for Good. They have an interesting B2B model that probably helps with their revenue stream for operations. Many of the newer and beta sites listed above, indicate that they use Network For Good to process and manage their donations (as the 501C3 donor advised fund), for which a “grant” of 4.75% is paid to Network For Good, presumably by the charity receiving the donation. It raised the question, “Then how are these particular portal vendors earning money?”.   Probably through Data Analytics, like Facebook, and through ad sales. If you are not paying for a service, you are not the customer, you are the product.

One interesting site is the Independent Charities of America (ICA) site at givedirect.org, which offers individuals the ability to create a personal foundation, to which they can invest an initial low amount of $250, all contributions being tax deductible and distributions can be made at the donors convenience with only 5% of the foundation $$ needing to be distributed annually. It does not have any social networking capacity or connections with charities, although it links to an outside source for charity information. Beside ICA, the other vendors reviewed are set up to offer multi-cause, multi-organizational opportunities, most of whom (but not all) require a charity to be a registered IRS entity, with a position on Guidestar or BBB.  Only two that I reviewed allowed anyone to raise money for anything – personal causes (a new boat??), medical bills, weddings, etc.

I then reviewed the number of nonprofits each fundraising portal vendor had as ‘registered’ on their site or the number of charities which they had distributed funds to last year, as well as the total amt of money raised through their portal. As expected those vendors who were .org or had listed the .org affiliate who managed their funds, were easier find data on, getting it directly from their 990’s off of Guidestar. The few corporate sites had limited data available for review. Of those portals where data on number’s of charities served and amount raised could be found,  the avg raised per year / per charity through their online portal revealed the highest amt was just about $30K per charity on avg. and the lowest was $470. In going back a few years, spikes can be seen that I can only assume correlated with global disaster fundraising, for which online giving seems the go to measure.

Let’s pause for a moment here.

If the Network for Good is eleven years old, has a breadth of experience and professional technicians leading its efforts, has a global reach, and it cannot help the NPO to raise more than $30K per year on avg……whats wrong with this picture? A good annual appeal direct mail campaign would be more successful.

Ruminate on this for a minute and we will review the fees charged to charities for this privilege.

In the list reviewed, fees range from a low of 3% per transaction  to a high of 15%. One site took no fees but required a $9.oo per project fee from the charity. Some sites also required credit card processing fees on top of transaction fees. Some sites asked the donor to consider covering  these costs for the charity. All told, the fees charged are, as with everything, buyer beware for charities when it comes to choosing to engage in online fundraising using these portals.

I don’t know about you, but if I had to pay $199 per month for my charity to be listed and an additional 3% per donation, plus credit card transaction fees, not to mention the back office costs of staffing for management, gift processing, stewardship etc. I would want evidence of a significant return on my investment.  *Side note- nowhere on these portals did I find any pitch to support the financial value proposition of charities using such a site for fundraising.

Back to our review.  Given the advent of Facebook, Myspace, Friendster, LinkedIn and other social networking sites into our culture, I expected to see a lot of these vendors offering a social networking aspect to their services. And they did not fail me, although they are not as advanced as I would expect, nor as would be beneficial. While 1/3 have no social networking aspects, 1/3 have what I would term a simple or basic social networking component to their sites, while 1/3 use existing Facebook linkages and – yes – Causes, exclusively. Some include a game of collecting or placing badges on current social networking sites like Facebook, twitter etc.

All of those vendors reviewed offer or require a pitch page that charities use to highlight their organization or their project or, in two cases, requests for funding for very, very specific needs: pencils, books, etc. This allows the donor to get most of the info right on the vendors portal without having to bounce off to the charities site, although most offer the option of placing a link to your organizations homepage on your pitch page.

Donorcentric?  Many of  the sites offer intent options to the donor during gift processing, but not the majority. This is, in my humble opinion, a great defect in these portals. It undermines what we in the industry know about donor giving- that it is specific to the interest of the donor, NOT the need of the organization. I guess they rationalize this, by considering the potential for massive volume of  possible donors- like throwing **** against a wall and knowing some of it will stick.  Some limit the gift intention choice for the donor by project as defined by the charity. The newest contender Jumo.com (by Chris Hughes the co founder of Facebook) does not currently offer donor intention option, but it is in beta and soon could.

One other *missed* opportunity by these portals in being donorcentric, is in offering to the donor (or requiring of the charity) gift use reports for each donation.  Very few offer this option, although some do require charities to show evidence of their project completion as defined on their pitch page. Donor intent is a very hot topic and something that quite often will keep donors from contributing, out of fear that their gift wont be used as intended. Currently, there is no system to screen for that through the checks and balances surrounding NPO’s in the US. The annual tax audit NPO’s are required to have only ensure that accounting methods are followed accurately and that the gift intention was followed when depositing and allocating the money, not necessarily that the gift was then used to purchase the product or build the building. Would the benefit and value of required gift reports bring more donors to the online system of giving?

Conclusions? These vendors mean well and I applaud them for trying. Most of these portals are built on direction from nonprofit industry experts, but they fall short of being technologically cutting edge. Others are developed by Techstars, who have no inside knowledge of how a donor thinks, feels or acts, or what best practices exist in raising money from individuals for a charitable group.  All portals are directed toward the relationship between the vendor and the charity – and all but ignore the needs  of the donor!

Online fundraising needs to continue to be examined and manipulated. How are we currently using social media and to what end results? How can online fundraising better mimic and support our real world relationship building efforts with our donors? Is there a niche for online fundraising that we haven’t uncovered yet? I personally don’t believe we are there yet with any of this stuff- online giving results we are currently seeing are abysmal. We need to keep shaking it up, reformulating and evolving to determine what ‘IT’ is that might make this a productive and supportive tool in our arsenal.

Use these mid winter months to GROW, not slow, your organizations philanthropy

In Retail ideas, strategic planning on January 19, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Most nonprofits experience a significant lull in donations and donor activity in the months of January and February. The post year end doldrums.

Donors are slow to give, having distributed their 2010 charitable contributions during the ebullience of the holiday season.

Consumers are recovering from gift purchases.

The weather makes for hermits, with snow, ice and early nightfall urging more indoor, stay at home activities.

And snow birds have fled for warmer climates, leaving their local neighbors and friends to fend until spring.

This is the perfect time to grow your philanthropy program!

No other time in the calendar year do you have the potential to capture your audience’s undivided attention.

With all of the inactivity your donor and prospective donor is engaged in, you can offer a variety of options to help keep them entertained and informed, from the comfort of their warm living rooms.

  • Give them good reading for a cold winters night. January and February are the perfect time to send out newsy information on your group, your past success, your future plans.  Make sure your communication is meaty and news worthy, capturing the weather dulled eye of your constituency.
  • And to make sure those e-newsletters get to the right place, this is a perfect time to clean up your database.  With the reduced number of donations being processed and less visits to be made, your staff should spend time tidying up. Use an email verification software provider or staff can correspond and validate emails themselves. Capture address and phone while you are at it.
  • While you’re assessing, audit your grant programs, ensuring that you are on track with grantors expectations.  Send love notes to all your grantors, with New Year greetings and a true note of appreciation for what their funding has provided to your clients/mission.
  • Spruce up your website, e-newsletters and social marketing plans for the coming year.  Increase the frequency with which you are sending e-notices on your organizations marketing efforts, driving traffic to your newly spiffed up site.
  • Your staff has unique insight and talent, let others know! Identify media outlets and negotiate opportunities for your staff to contribute articles or podcasts on activities of interest, connected to your mission. A schools newsletter might appreciate a guest blogger or author writing about the importance of home support in education. A local grocer might find an article from an expert in the field of nutrition, valuable in their marketing to their customers.  Nows the time to get those pieces written and published. And don’t dismiss national journals. They need good writing too.
  • Lay the ground work for your spring appeal. Collectively send out notice to your annual donors, giving them insight and a sneak peak at your case for the spring and summer months.
  • Train your board. Your board meets regularly and has clearly defined agendas. Make the January or February agenda one that focuses on philanthropy.  A little bit of elbow grease and knowledge sharing by the board, will prepare them for an active and engaged year.
  • If you are planning a feasibility study, plan to launch it now. Most study participants can be reached by phone or online, so travel is less necessary.  Staff has more time to devote to feasibility study efforts. And the sobering months of January and February will flavor the feedback from your constituents, providing a more realistic and conservative view of your organizations ability to raise those funds through a campaign.

Engaging Your board In Fundraising: Framing Your Perspective

In Discussables on October 4, 2010 at 10:05 am

So in my last post we talked a little bit about Passion in your Board being the driving force for Philanthropy. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Lets bring it back to the beginning.

In order to be open to new ideas, its essential we frame our own perspective on the boards involvement in fundraising.

Whats important to know is why bother? We all know that it is often easier to just do it ourselves. The board asks too many questions, is too resistant. Doesn’t believe, isn’t invested, doesn’t even give themselves. They are too judgemental, demanding and disconnected. They are naive and lack the fundamental education to be effective. They are more interested in the type of potatoes to serve at the next gala, or the color of the napkins. Maybe what time to tee off at the golf tournament, or whether its a scramble or best ball format.

Is this how you see your board?

A board’s legal role is to govern and act as fiduciary authority for the nonprofit organization. By their position, their involvement in fundraising is expected. Additionally, their presence on your board puts them on stage. The community is watching. If the community sees a board not raising money for the organization, then the community sees an organization that matters little with regard to their own donation. If the board isn’t involved, then why should they be. Board involvement in fundraising (not only giving of their money but being involved in raising it) validates the nonprofits mission. Nothing will kill an NPO faster than an invisible board of directors.

Also, no organization is an island. It would be virtually impossible for one Exec Director and a fundraising staffer to go out and raise all the money needed to survive. Its a Sisyphean endeavor. But with the board invested AND involved we have tripled and quadrupled our opportunities to get the job done. The network of your board and their networks network, act as a funnel flipped on its side to share the burden and increase the return.

Legal accountability, organizational validation and increased outreach/expanded return, three solid reasons why getting your board involved is critical to the success of fundraising in your organization.

So if its this important, then why cant they get out there and help?

Well here is the reason. And you’re not going to like it. Maybe I’ll lose my followers at this point, but the reality is:

Most board issues are not about the board, but about us.

There, I said it. And for those of you still reading, here is why.

If asked, here is what board members will say about why they are resistant to getting involved in fundraising. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it is a good representation of some of the most commonly heard complaints:

No education

Too overwhelming

Too embarrassing (no skill)

Not aware what they were signing up for

No money themselves

Fear of rejection

Or fear that they are asking too much of someone, something the other can’t part with.

Lack of confidence in plan, process, person, organization

Disinterested

I had a board member say to me once, she would rather shrivel up and die, than ask for money. That’s hard core resistance.

What they say and what they feel are actually two very separate things, but connected. Most boards resist fundrasing because we have not done our job in leading and administering the fundraising effort. We too often lack concrete goals, lack clarity in board roles, we offer hazy expected objectives/outcomes of their efforts, we develop poor organization of the donor pool, we lack research on prospects, we have ineffective communication of organizational success, and so on and so forth. When they say its overwhelming, we have to ask- Are we being clear and concise in our goals? Is the prospect information simply understood, specific and relevant? Is the process organized and direct, with concrete outcomes, strategy and actions steps? Do we have valid measurements to share? When they say they are embarrassed, have we done our job in bringing the mission into the board room, developing passion, choosing the right board members? I can hazard a guess that the early board members of Susan G. Komen Foundation were not embarrassed about fundraising, as they had the passion for the mission, they were the right people for the job.

Being responsible for our board not fundraising doesn’t make us bad or not worthy of support. It does make us take inventory of our internal operations, our strategy, our board development and our leadership, in developing the best possible framework for the board to fundraise within. And thats were our control comes into play.

In my next post we will talk about some of these controls, starting with developing our board of directors to be an engaged, passionate board.

Engaging your Board in Fundraising Part II

In News on October 4, 2010 at 9:38 am

So I’ve struck a nerve!

More people have written to me about this topic since my last two posts than ever before. So first, thanks for reading. Its good to know that this blog has value in the cyber world for those of us doing the heavy lifting in funding our mission driven nonprofits! Secondly, your response has driven me to develop a series of posts on “Engaging your Board in Fundraising”. I recently had the opportunity to teach at a conference in Boston on just this topic and the feedback and interest was remarkable. So based on that presentation (the PPT can be found at my Linked in site here ), I’ll be blogging over the course of a week in a series, sharing insight and recommendations on board engagement in fundraising.

Enjoy and thanks for your commendations 🙂

Engaging your Board in Fundraising

In News on June 20, 2010 at 8:27 am

Boards are complex and can be your best friend and worst enemy.     A frienemy.

We rely on our board for governance, engagement, advocacy, financial authority and leadership. We ask their input, seek their counsel and require their approval. They come to us from the community,  some as a requirement and some as a favor. They are the voice of the people.

From the people, it should therefore be easy for them to go back to the people to ask for support.

But it isn’t always so.

Most executive directors and nonprofit officers will tell you that getting their board to raise funds is one of,   if not THE,   biggest challenge they face.   Its often uncomfortable for the board and the ED to talk about the issue. Fundraising by the board is alluded to in the ED’s reports, it is referred to in the board documents, but it is not always the reality.

We will be presenting an important workshop on September 29th in Boston on just this subject.   Not to be missed!

Hosted by the Center for Nonprofit Success, we will be speaking on “Engaging your Board in Fundraising”:

Your board can be among your most powerful fundraising assets. That is, if you use it correctly. Too often, the board is not involved in fundraising or views fundraising as a daunting task. The result is that many board members neglect their responsibilities, which are then left to staff members who have too many other responsibilities already. To address this problem, your board members need to be reminded of the importance of their fundraising responsibilities, and learn concrete tools and techniques that make fundraising a rewarding task.

Topics we will cover include:

  • Why board members fear fundraising, and what you can do about it
  • What board members need to know to start fundraising
  • Steps for energizing your board even when you are not on the board
  • How to deal with board members who won’t fundraise even when they know they should
  • Building and maintaining the fundraising partnership between the board and  development staff

You will gain fresh ideas to energize your board members about fundraising. The session is designed for beginning to intermediate fundraisers.

Click here for more information on the conference and to register. As conferences go, this one is relatively inexpensive but the material and insight you’ll gain is incredibly rich.

We will see you there!!!

On Hiring a Consultant

In Retail ideas on June 14, 2010 at 4:16 pm

You’re experiencing problems in your organization. Maybe you’re losing donors. Maybe your board is not working together, not working at all, or maybe you’ve lost board members. Perhaps you are experiencing high turnover of staff. Or maybe you don’t think you are getting as much out of your staff as you think you should.

Or maybe you’re just not making enough in philanthropic revenue as might be possible.

What ever your reason, you’ve begun to think about bringing in a consultant to help fix it all.

So what’s next?

BEFORE THE HIRE

Before making a phone call and sending out an SOS, get your thoughts in order. Get on paper answers to some of the following questions:

  • What are your problems ? (what are you seeing and why do you think they exist?). Categorize if more than one or two exist.
  • What do you expect to accomplish by bringing in a consultant?
  • What are you specifically interested in having the consultant do?
  • What outcomes would you need to see, that states “Job well done”?
  • Do you have enough staff resources to support this endeavor?
  • How long do you have to accomplish this?
  • How much financial resources are you willing to spend on this?
  • What financial resources can you commit to spending on this?

Having a thought out plan to share with the consultant will help in delineating if they can help you, and if they can, what areas might be the focus and what resources can be allocated.

THAT FIRST MEETING

You’ve made the call, maybe a few calls, to consultants that came recommended. Having recommendations from colleagues, other organizations, membership groups you might be a part of, board members, volunteers, donors, etc is a pretty important part of the process. It’s not a good idea to open the Yellow Pages to C for consultant. There are plenty of people out there who have used a consultant that they will either rave or ravish. Reach out and get those names.

So now you have a few meetings lined up to review your problems with some consultants. The purpose of this first meeting is twofold: Do they have the capacity to help with the problems AND are they a good fit with you, your board, your staff, and your organization. Finding the right fit is actually 99% of what will make or break your experience. No need to fret over whether you go large or small, with regard to the size of the consulting firm, right now. Get a good mix of both to sit with you and review the issues. It’s your time to decide if the person they send is a match. In rare cases, during a really good economy, large consulting firms may not be interested in your issues if they do not feel the value of the contract is worth their time. In today’s economy – 2010- we are seeing much less of this.

It’s a good idea to send your cheat sheet, as developed above, out to each consultant ahead of time. If you’re not comfortable sending financials regarding what your budget is, simply put a range in, or indicate you have a financial pro forma developed that will be shared at a later discussion.

REVIEW OF PROBLEMS

It’s important that the consultant has a good understanding of what you are experiencing and why you think it came to be- it will help them feel confident that you have a good grasp of your business and that you are prepared to be an active part of the consulting process. It also helps them to begin to determine what services and programs might be helpful to your organization, who they might need to bring in, how long it might take.

Be prepared to share info on the details of other areas of your organization. You might not think them relevant in the moment but a well balanced organization is all connected- like a skeleton- so if one part of the organization is experiencing difficulty, it may be directly related to another part not working well, but totally overlooked. For instance, if you are a nonprofit medical facility, and your growth of annual donors is down or stagnant, the consultant may want to hear about your patient base: how many, where from, what socio-economic area, how you are connected in any way.

Set aside about an hour and a half for this first meeting. Really be willing to offer insight and ask questions. Aside from some general questions such as experience, past clients, success stories, size and scope of firm, other firm professionals, be ready to ask some more specific questions as well, such as:

  • What would you indicate is your firms (or your) area of expertise. (Two or three areas are the norm. If they rattle off a laundry list, beware).
  • Will you teach us to do this work ourselves? Will you provide templates for us to carry on with out you?
  • Do your recommendations frequently require the client to purchase a program, service or product from you or from someone you recommend?
  • How many clients do you normally work with at one time? Will you return phone calls or emails the same day? Do you require administrative support from us?
  • What kind of documentation will you give us when the project is completed? Who will own that documentation? Will you sign a confidentiality agreement?

This first meeting is all about the fit and the details on your needs and their ability to meet those needs. It is NOT the time to talk money. Asking a consultant “what would you charge to do this” is like asking your doctor “what is the diagnosis” before he has even done an exam.        The consultant needs time to process the notes he or she has taken (he should be taking notes) and to review some possible scenarios with his team or by himself.

What you should ask for is a written proposal for consulting services. This will usually follow up the first meeting by about 5 business days (a hungry, confident firm will get it to you in two days). The proposal should outline: Background (yours and theirs), scope of work, and approach to the work, timeline and terms. Feel free to offer a template to the consultant if you want to have all of the firms you spoke with bring you similar data you can compare. A template is offered free for download at our website www.harvestdevelopmentgrp.com

FOLLOW UP

Before the meeting ends, ask the consultant if there is anything else they might need from you to get the proposal in by X (give them a date). Also leave them with a contact person, if other than you, to answer any further questions they might have. Ask for the same in return.

When reviewing the proposal, make sure they have captured all of the information on the issues you revealed to them. They should give you insight into some possible causes that may have been unknown or overlooked. The proposal should also provide detailed information on what specifically they will be doing, what they will be providing by jobs end and what tangible benefits should be received by your organization as a result of their consulting services. It should also indicate what resources you will need to provide, what they will bring to the table and what they will want to access during their contract to manage the work you need completed. Finally it should give the costs, broken out by sub contract if more than one area needs to be addressed, the timeframe for completion with milestones, and the terms for payment.

Recently, we have seen nonprofit consulting firms take up a practice long used in marketing and advertising agencies: the packaged product. These consulting firms have a one size fits all process that they will want to use in working with your organization. The packaged product usually has a catchy name, “The Advantage Solution” or “Copernicus Planned Giving Strategies”, and is trademarked for their firm. Avoid these like the plague. These packaged products are meant to raise the profile and the brand of the consulting firm, but do little to address the core needs of the organization they are supporting. Like the McDonalds or Burger King of nutrition, you might enjoy the process, but in the end your organization will not be nourished.

HIRING

The process is complete, and you have found your consultant. Congratulations!! Be sure to run their contract by your legal advisor before signing. Make sure you are knowledgeable about their payment expectations. List out a series of reports and touch points that you will want to see during the process. Introduce them to your board and staff. And off you go!!

An Undeniable Truth

In Discussables, Retail ideas on April 26, 2010 at 2:06 am

Don’t pollute

In Random on April 22, 2010 at 9:03 am

Happy Earth Day!
Today people across the US will consider their carbon footprints. They’ll think of ways to conserve, recycle and eliminate pollutants in their life, to ensure our world stays healthy and around a long time.

Often we pollute our donor relationships as well. Its the same careless lazy attitude that causes earth pollution, which leads to polluted relationships. Not spending time connecting to stay in touch, leaving questions unanswered, assuming someone else will tell them first, not saying thank in a timely way, not offering to help before we know its needed. These all lead to a destruction of the trust and affection between your donor and you. Worse are the implicit forms of pollution: white lies, enhanced truths, applying the old spin to results.

Today, while you’re reviewing your earth friendly actions, consider your donor friendly values as well. And clean ’em up!