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Posts Tagged ‘success’

Passion, in the boardroom, gives birth to a fundraising high

In Discussables on September 28, 2010 at 10:35 am

Fundraising for an organization on which a person serves as a board member is a core component of their role. Why? Because a boards role is to govern and act as fiduciary authority for the protection of the organization.  According to a Grant Thornton report from 2008, boards spent 30% of their time on Strategic Planning, followed by Fundraising at 21%. That’s more than 50% of the board’s time spent on governance and raising money.

That’s the official requirement.

“When non profit board members are fired up about the real change they want to make in the world, they are more willing to embrace fundraising.”  – Gail Perry

But there is something more real. More authentic. Something of which I hope you can relate, because the power that comes from having board members with passion is beyond measure.

Passion=Philanthropy

Passion drives philanthropy. Philanthropy drives fundraising.

Fundraising is not about talking your friends out of their money….its about giving them the opportunity to get involved in something important to you, something that will give them satisfaction in successfully making a difference, having their investment show results, feel rewarded.

As philanthropy professionals, we want our boards to be excited about the possibilities for our mission and be eager to help create the resources to make it happen.

That means a lot of work for the organization in engaging our board. The organization will need to set strategy and keep it. Set goals and reach them.  Show results. Share stories on how they have changed lives. Be responsible to their clients and to the board for the organizations actions.  Prove their value through their work.

But it is also work for the board.

Board members have promised to steward and guide the organization and its donors, to be strong, passionate advocates about the work being performed and to harness that passion in gathering much needed revenue to continue to serve the mission. It is an essential requirement that they work toward developing that passion, through active participation in the organizations activities: presence at the board meetings, special gatherings, organizational events, and through donor engagement.

Passion builds Philanthropy, through enthusiastic and engaged leadership, the type that revs people up and makes them want to be a part of what’s going on!

A passionate board member:

  • Has no problem helping in ask for a large gift from a donor.
  • Picks up the phone without prompting to thank a donor he knows.
  • Introduces himself enthusiastically at events to donors and new friends, eager to share the mission.
  • Offers to write notes of encouragement on solicitation letters.
  • Gets excited and provides recommendations on fundraising success and progress.
  • Shares with her vendors and clients her experience at the organization and asks them to help her.
  • Invites neighbors and friends to a reception at his home to present programs stories and solicit support.
  • Invites an organizations administrator to coffee with them next time they are meeting a friend.
  • Makes their own personal financial commitment to the organization, because it feels good, they are excited to do so and they give sacrificially, leading by example.

And that my friends, is fundraising

This is a partnership between you, the philanthropy professional, and your board members. A team effort that when carefully nurtured, has been shown to move mountains. Be careful on who you pick to be at your board table: bad choices will never build passionate support no matter how hard you try. Give your board clear roles, expectations and measured outcomes to support their effort. Allow them access and authority to staff, programs, data. Encourage their results. Build their passion.

So, before we complain once more about the board that does nothing to raise funds, make sure you’ve invited passion into your boardroom, that you are igniting passion in your board members and that passion is driving your philanthropy.

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!!

Slow Money…Salvaged Soul

In Discussables, Retail ideas on April 26, 2010 at 10:44 am

Go here

Slow Money

Amazing concept and yet so…..organic? familiar? basic?

Principles of the Slow Money Alliance include:

In order to enhance food safety and food security; promote cultural and ecological health and diversity; and, accelerate the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration, we do hereby affirm the following Principles:
I. We must bring money back down to earth.

II. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down — not all of it, of course, but enough to matter.

III. The 20th Century was the era of Buy Low/Sell High and Wealth Now/Philanthropy Later—what one venture capitalist called “the largest legal accumulation of wealth in history.” The 21st Century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place and non-violence.

IV. We must learn to invest as if food, farms and fertility mattered. We must connect investors to the places where they live, creating vital relationships and new sources of capital for small food enterprises.

V. Let us celebrate the new generation of entrepreneurs, consumers and investors who are showing the way from Making A Killing to Making a Living.

VI. Paul Newman said, “I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer who puts back into the soil what he takes out.” Recognizing the wisdom of these words, let us begin rebuilding our economy from the ground up, asking:

* What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?
* What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits?
* What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?

Wow. Finally, a better way to measure our success as a society.


An Undeniable Truth

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

Data Rich $$$

In Discussables on October 26, 2009 at 7:31 pm

In philanthropy management, data is the key to godliness.  And accurate, complete and usable data is the food of Gods.

When I began in fundraising…many years ago…our data on donors was kept on index cards. Yes, little white cards, or color coded, depending on your offices level of sophistication. We kept demographic data: name, address, career related information on these cards. We kept the donors financial information on these cards.  We kept information on the donors interests on these cards and their latest donations.  And we kept a documentation of our interaction with the donor on these cards.

Maintaining these cards was easy. One file box. A few scribes. No one could use the card at the same time. No one could ‘erase’ the data without leaving evidence of it. If you referred to the card, unless it was not written on the card to begin with, you knew exactly who was speaking with whom. The worst that could happen was the box was lost, or the card.

Pulling data from these cards in any batch effort was impossible, or nearly so. It would require days of man hours to collect a report of who was interested in pediatric surgery, or who made a gift in the last year.

Then enter the computerized database. What a joyous feeling it was to actually have a system to collect data to and query reports from!

We jumped into using the database with both feet and soon learned that our headaches had only just begun. I don’t know of one philanthropy professional who is without a war wound, horror story or hairball of a database system, because of a rush forward into technology without restraint and with ignorance to the outcomes.

What I’ve learned on the battle field is summarized here in four key mandates. Read the rest of this entry »

The revolution in ‘fundraising’ EVENTS – how not to raise money

In Discussables, Rants on October 7, 2009 at 9:49 am

Nonprofit fundraising has become known to the common masses for its ‘fundraising’ events and its sale activities. Talk to any layperson about being in ‘fundraising’ and they respond “Oh, you must be good at planning events!” or “I was never good at selling cookies”.

Events are commonly misunderstood. Possibly the misunderstanding comes from the saturation affect: the daily arrival of invites, ads and press releases on what black tie gala, or hayride and cookout is being hosted for which group, how much they raised or plan to raise, and who attended. The misunderstanding is that events are hosted to raise funds.

Too often the reality is, the money raised is minimal compared to the expense, the attendees learn little about the organization as beneficiary, and the event is seen as a burden on the supporter- an obligation that must be born to show support and that most donors would just as happily support the nonprofit in other ways, ways more lucrative and efficient to the nonprofits mission.

Disagree? See, as evidence, the recent results of the cancellation of such ‘fundraising’ events due to economic stress. One nonprofit board member, Nancy Jarecki, speaking in an article in the Nonprofit Times, observes “It’s kind of strange, when people are almost not required or obligated to get that event invitation in the mail, that expectation that they feel like they’ve got to do it, they still write the check,” Jarecki said. “They tended to still give, but on their own. They didn’t have the pressure of buying a $1,000 ticket”

In the same article, Carol Kurzig executive Director of the Avon Foundation notes “In general, in our experience, individual donations are holding very well and have increased significantly this year”

And in a study conducted in 2007, the nonprofit watchdog group, Charity Navigator concluded “…special events are inefficient in comparison to overall fundraising activities” and “Many health charities would benefit from shifting their fundraising focus away from special events.” Most disturbingly, the report went on to discover “A large percent of charities are reporting their special events data incorrectly, with no recourse from state or federal regulators.” But that’s a topic for another post, I digress.

So, the question then becomes- Why? Why are nonprofit leaders across the nation continuing to perpetrate this crime on the donating public? Why do they continue to reel head long onto the path of wasted money and large headaches in pursuit of raising funds, if the results are poor return on investment, bad donor feelings and a weak economic model in a stressful economy?

1. Perception

Unlike our corporate sisters, nonprofits have been indoctrinated into believing that they must perform to the expectation of the masses, allowing the public to lead the development and performance of the NPO, rather than driving performance and perception from their core product line. Public opinion sways management more than outcomes when it comes to fundraising. Maybe it’s because many fundraisers come from the service delivery field, where public need and opinion rightly DOES drive program. Maybe it’s because our Board of Directors often do not have sufficient experience in philanthropy to be governing such decisions. Maybe we just don’t know how to stop.

2. It’s easy

Okay, hosting events is not really easy. They’re a heck of a lot of work- volunteer coordination, set up, break down, mailings, registration tracking, and more mailings. And all of those decisions. Hours and hours of time and resources, for months on end, to produce a three hour event. But what makes them easy and attractive is the group nature of the solicitation. No one is on the end of the limb. No one is in the spotlight asking for the gift. The ‘ask’ is not from a philanthropic place, it’s from a sales place. And a sale is an academic activity, it’s understandable, it’s American. I give you this, you give me that. It seems fair. But compared to cultivating and building a relationship with a real person – mano a mano – to ask them for money, well bring on the flower choices and dinner menus. Let’s have a party.

3. It draws daily attention

Show me the society page that has picture upon picture of Mrs. Jenna Moneybags and the Executive Director of the We Need Your Help nonprofit organization with the head line “Years of Cultivation and Stewardship Pays Off: Large ask gifts WNYH organization with $100,000 for their children’s ward.” Valuable philanthropy just doesn’t get that kind of everyday publicity or pictures and smiles. It doesn’t market.

4. It feels good

Volunteers want to help. Planning events gives them something to do.

All of which, while being valid and understandable, still doesn’t answer the question why do we continue.

I propose we place a moratorium on all new ‘fundraising’ events, all expansion of  ‘fundraising’ events, or even, the continuation of dying ‘fundraising’ events. The economy seems to be helping us do just that.

I next propose we educate our boards in a way that helps them become more effective in governing philanthropic decision. Let’s start with the wasteful nature of events as fundraisers.

In tandem, we need to provide academic educational opportunities and tracks of learning and growth for fundraising professionals. More academics on developing relationships, cultivating constituents, stewarding donors and less of the ‘how to host an event’ training is needed. And it needs to be qualified in a tiered way that allows the development of professionals along lines of experience, from entry level to experienced professional.

Finally, let’s develop a mental picture of what events can actually do for us: engage volunteers, bring awareness, and satisfy public perception. But they don’t raise money and so therefore are not ‘Fund Raisers’. If we build our events using these three core beliefs, I reason that waste will be reduced, donor market share will increase and philanthropic profits will rise.

Visionary Leadership

In Discussables on September 28, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I’ve been asked to speak on visionary leadership.  I’m still deciding if I have anything cogent to say on this topic.

The term “visionary leader” is tossed out like so much corporate slang today. But is it an accurate representation of the sentiment hoped to be communicated?

The encyclopedia defines leadership as an individual’s capacity to motivate others to seek the same objective.  Well that’s a bit short sighted. Using this as a strict term, Hitler would be classified a leader.  As would Satan.  Not my perception of what the word leader should conjure up.

Lets try visionary. The dictionary defines visionary as one who is given to impractical or speculative ideas; a dreamer. Not much better.

What is being communicated when we speak of visionary leaders? Certainly not impractical dreamers, Svengali’s leading others to senseless ends.

Perhaps we can find a better term, based on our longed for attributes in leadership, those characteristics that are valuable and inherently humanistic.

Suggestions?

I’ll start us off:  West Point Academy writes that they build  “Honorable Leaders”.  The dictionary defines honorable  as adhering to ethical and moral principles. 

I like that.

Others?

Truth, purity, unselfishness – wherever these are present, there is no power below or above the sun to crush the possessor thereof. Equipped with these, one individual is able to face the whole universe in opposition.’ Swami Vivekananda

Performance management

In Discussables on September 24, 2009 at 10:32 am

Performance Management is the core of successful philanthropic organizations. But what does this truly mean and how does an organization strategically manage its outcomes?

Five essentials to doing so in the industry’s current environment:

Identify Your Starting Point: To determine if your organization is making progress or achieving “success”, it is critical to establish a baseline or starting point for comparison of future performance assessment.  The best baseline measures are actionable, quantitative and core to the outcomes you are seeking to achieve.

Benchmark Your Organization: Do you know how your organization compares to others of similar characteristics? Benchmarking your organization is the process of identifying equal measures and pinpointing those that are comparative and crucial to your success. To create a benchmark by industry can be time consuming, but is time well spent.  Hiring a consultant is one method to benchmarking. There are also many organizations, membership driven associations and other groups that have benchmarking programs, for a fee. The Advisory Board and AHP are two such groups providing systems that allow you to upload data and assess your comparative performance against other similar organizations. You can also conduct your own research on what the standards are for workload, impact, cost ratios, etc.

Prepare an Organizational Balanced Scorecard: A Balanced Scorecard, or Dashboard, is a tool used by most corporations to access four critical areas of management. It was originated by Drs. Robert Kaplan (Harvard Business School) and David Norton as a performance measurement framework that added strategic non-financial performance measures to traditional financial metrics to give managers and executives a more ‘balanced’ view of organizational performance. It suggests we develop metrics, collect data, and analyze it using four perspectives:  Financial, Business practices, Learning, Customers. These are easily adaptable to any non profit organization and should be specific to your organizations needs. Determining your dashboard metrics is a collective process. Inclusion of all stakeholders in developing it is essential.

Manage Employee Performance: Benchmarking and assessing staff performance is quite possibly the single most effective method to enhancing performance in the long term. Research exists on philanthropic staff performance measures, best practices and identified targets for measured outcomes. With these measures, staff selection, education and training and management becomes more strategic.

Assess Your Organizations Performance: Assessment tools are time specific and are used throughout the operations of an organizations lifetime. Performance measures derived from the dashboard, compared to industry standards and annualized on past performance, provide short and long term maps allowing you to realign your management strategies and communicate clear vision to your organization.

Philanthropy as business

In Rants on July 18, 2009 at 11:17 am

Too often we are drawn to think about philanthropy and charities in terms of a softer, kinder model, less business focused. Because the product is not widgets, financial gains or consumables, but human caring, it is tempting to believe the business of philanthropy is just as soft and touchy/feelie.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not being snarky about the work of charities. My heart is where they operate. I can think of no greater calling than to be working to help mankind. Truly. And I also believe that working to help mankind is not solely relegated to charities. Many businesses in the course of their work can, and have, effectively positioned their business model to acheive gains in their financial standing AND help mankind.
And so I believe charities can balance that concept as well. By this I mean, charities can help mankind and acheive significant financial gains. To do so, we need to think like a business. Just as business needs to think like charity to acheive their mutual ends.
A melding of concepts, could this be an evolution for two very seperate frames of thought in the MBA world?