Faith in fundraising


I’ve been thinking about this post for months, but I’ve been frightened to tackle it head-on. However, after speaking with a number of non-profit professionals and faith-based donors, I’ve found my sea legs and decided to talk about God and resource development. Buckle up! This should be an interesting post.  :-)

Genesis

genesisHaha! You thought I was going to start with something like, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  (OK, the thought went through my head. Guilty as charged!)

The idea for this post came from a former client whose name I will not share. I decided not to share the agency’s name for three main reasons:

  1. I’m not sure how you will react to what I’m about to say and they don’t need added attention
  2. I feel strongly about the confidentiality clause in my contracts
  3. I honestly couldn’t help them and this isn’t a success story

The idea for this post came from a client whose . . .

Resource development strategy was rooted in prayer

There isn’t a lot of structure to this agency’s fundraising program. As I said, the strategy was mostly asking God to provide.

While I respect people of faith incorporating their relationship with God into their agency’s comprehensive resource development program, there was little to no structure to speak of . . .

  • There was no written resource development plan
  • There was no donor cultivation going on
  • Solicitation involved sending letters to random names in the phone book
  • There didn’t appear to be much stewardship going on either

However, on two different occasions, when cash appeared to be getting tight, prayers were answered and each time it was an unlikely five figure gift.

Needless to say, the prayer strategy was working and nothing I could bring to the table compared.

In the end, I walked away from this engagement wondering if I failed this organization and more importantly contemplating what role prayer could and should play in resource development.

seekHe who seeks finds

In the gospel according to Matthew, it is written:

Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened.

I sought out a friend who has worked in the non-profit sector for decades including time as a fundraising professional at a faith-based hospital foundation. I sat down with her and asked her to please share a few of her experiences.

While she didn’t subscribe to the idea of simply praying for contributions, she did educate me on the role that faith played in her fundraising shop at the hospital foundation. The following are just a few examples she shared:

  • When doing prospecting work for their capital campaign, a donor’s Catholic faith was a consideration.
  • In cultivating or soliciting prospects and donors, it wasn’t uncommon for a nun to play a role because fundraising is all about relationship building.
  • Religious messaging was built into the case for support because the hospital was faith-based.
  • Mission moments at the beginning of meetings sometimes had faith-based elements.
  • Prayer (when appropriate) sometimes occurred at the beginning of a meeting with a donor.

The bottom line is the fundraising department was very sensitive to how religion was used in the resource development process, and their guiding principle was always RESPECT.

good worksGive to him who asks of you

Sitting down with my faith-based fundraising friend helped me process what I had encountered, but things didn’t really come together until recently when I interviewed a number of faith-based donors.

These individuals see their philanthropy through a faith-based lens such as the one found in the gospel according to Matthew:

‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;

These donors understand charitable giving in a different way. Depending on their faith, some saw philanthropy as “good works” and others said it was something they were called by God to do. One donor even explained to me that she is in business in order to use her profits to do God’s work.

When speaking to these folks, it wasn’t uncommon for them to answer my question with an answer sounding something like this:

“I’m not sure. That is something I will need to pray on.”

If these individuals are going to see your agency and its mission as something that fits into their philanthropic portfolio, they will need help from you in seeing how it fits. As mentioned earlier, this might mean drawing connections between where your mission intersects with the mission of their faith. However, it is important not to use faith as a “strategy” or “tactic” and instead let the value of RESPECT guide everything.

How have you engaged faith-based donors? Do you have any church congregations who donate to your cause? If so, how do you steward those gifts? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Non-profits need more board volunteers like Mike


advocacyAs many of you know from previous blog posts, I’ve facilitated a ton of “board roles and responsibilities” trainings this year. So, the curriculum is fresh in my mind, which is why what happened on my Facebook page a few days ago struck me as awesome. Before I tell you about what happened, let’s quickly recap the following key points with regard to board roles and responsibilities:

  • There is a difference between the board’s collective responsibilities and an individual’s roles
  • An individual board member is responsible for being engaged (e.g. attending meetings, reviewing materials, preparing for meetings, asking questions, etc)
  • Board volunteers should look for people in their circle of influence, who are interested in the agency’s mission, and engage them in volunteer and fundraising activities
  • Individual board members are asked to make financial contributions and engage in the organization’s resource development program
  • Board volunteers need to participate in planning activities (both for the board’s internal activities and the agency’s external direction)
  • Individuals need to find opportunities to talk about and advocate for their non-profit organizations (e.g. chamber after-hours, social parties, etc)

In a nutshell, non-profit boards collectively: 1) establish identity and strategic direction; 2) ensure resources; and 3) provide oversight. An individual board volunteer understands that apart from the board’s collective responsibilities their personal role at the boardroom table is: 1) being active and participating in the work of the board, 2) staying informed, 3) promoting the organization, 4) safeguarding ethics and values, and 5) upholding legal obligations.

OK . . . with this in mind, let’s commence with the Facebook story.

On Saturday, my partner and I realized we had fallen behind on picking the cucumbers in our garden. So, we decided to quickly do some harvesting before running off to a wedding reception. Little did we realize how crazy things actually were in our garden.

Twenty minutes later we were the proud owners of 25 pounds of cucumbers! 

After washing our bounty, we stacked the vegetables and I decided to take a stupid picture of my partner posing with the cucumbers in our kitchen. (See picture below)

IMG_20140726_162802596[1]

What do people do with these types of pictures nowadays? Of course, they post them to Facebook.  ;-)   And so I did.

In addition to the picture, I posted the following verbiage:

“OMG … This is after we gave a whole bag away to a neighbor.

Michelle Obama told the nation to plant gardens, but she never warned us about this.

Thank goodness that John Zawada learned how to can relish and pickles.

Eeeeeeeeek!”

Mike WarrenAt first, there were the comments ooooooohing and aaaaaaaahing over the silly picture.

Then there were those people who commiserated with our plight.

And then a friend of mine, who serves on a local non-profit food pantry board of directors weighed in and said the following:

You can drop the extras at Food for Greater Elgin when you have too much.

Now this might seem like a non-event, but this response did my non-profit heart good.

Why?

In my experience, I don’t see many board members advocating like this for their non-profit agencies. Of course, you see them standing in front of the city council advocating for a grant from time to time. However, I just haven’t seen many board volunteers advocating in smaller social settings (e.g. cocktail parties, social media, etc) for mission-related issues.

So, this morning I decided to use my bully pulpit to recognize this good deed and remind board volunteers that advocacy is one of their many roles and responsibilities. AND most importantly . . . advocacy doesn’t have to be standing on top of the mountain every day and shouting the praises of your agency. It can be as simple as commenting on a friend’s Facebook status when the topic aligns with your organization’s mission.

How do you provide support and encouragement to your agency’s non-profit board volunteers when it comes to advocacy?  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

How to “surprise and delight” your non-profit donors


input requestedCraig Linton, blogger at Fundraising Detective, is hosting the July Nonprofit Blog Carnival. In his call for submissions earlier this month, he asked his fellow non-profit bloggers to “Share your posts on welcoming donors and reducing attrition.

It was this simple request that inspired me to write the following email yesterday and send it to 25 of my non-profit friends across the country.

Erik’s email request to share thoughts and experiences

To:  Erik’s NFP friends
From:  Erik Anderson
Date:  July 23, 2014
Re:  A small favor: 30 seconds of your time?

Dear non-profit friend:

I am writing a blog tomorrow (Thursday) morning and I need a quick favor from you. Would you please click reply to this mail and take 30 seconds to write between two and five sentences answering the following question:

What do you do to welcome donors to your cause and surprise and delight them?

I will incorporate your response into tomorrow morning’s DonorDreams blog post without attributing the response to you or your agency. This way you don’t need to worry about people calling you or supporters seeing your actions as anything less than nice and genuine.

I know you’re busy and appreciate you taking a 30 second break from work to help me out.

Sincerely,
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

The responses kept coming in!

To be honest, I know how busy my non-profit friends and clients are. I have worked on the front line of a number of non-profit organizations, and I’ve experienced the hurricane that beats every agency’s beach on a daily basis.

So, when 14 people responded to my email request, I was pleasantly surprised at first and then I was humbled that they took time out of their chaotic day to share their thoughts or experiences.

Thank you to those who responded to my call to action. I appreciate you. I appreciate what you do. I loved your submissions.

Warning to readers: There was a lot of content submitted yesterday, and I am sharing it ALL with you. As a result, this post will be a little long today, but I promise that you will find pearls of wisdom embedded in your colleagues comments. In an effort to bring some structure to everyone’s experiences, I’ve divided people’s suggestions into categories. As you saw in my original email, I promised people anonymity unless they decided to share their identity in their response. Enjoy!

thank you letterAcknowledgement letters, emails, phone calls and gifts

  • “I will share what I have – but I cannot really help much here.  Things I have done in the past, but unfortunately have not been particularly consistent: 1) Asked the board to make phone calls thanking first time donors; 2) Sent thank you notes saying that we know that this is a first donation for them; and 3) For a large first time donor, we have taken a small, kid made gift.
  • For first time donors of any size, we send a handwritten “Thank You” note signed by our kids. For amounts from $1,000 to $5,000 donors also receive a call from one of our members, letting them know what their donation means to them personally.  Anything over $5,000 the donor receives both of the above as well as an original piece of artwork made by one of our kids and hand delivered to the donor.  All donors are recognized  at our annual event.  This has really made a difference in donor retention.  They love talking with the kids.”
  • “To show special appreciation in certain circumstances: 1) we send donors thank you letters that have been written or made by our youth; 2) send thank you letters with pictures of clients during an activity; 3) ask board members to make a personal thank you call; 4) send a birthday email; 5) send hand written thank you notes; 6) send a logo pin or other small gift; and 7) send a paper or email newsletter 3-4 times a year.  Sorry it isn’t in sentence form…I am going on vacation and have four deadlines to finish.”
  • “I always send a little note to thank them for their gift, and I use a handmade card because I love to scrapbook. While I often get comments on the beautiful cards, my favorite surprise is having the older Club members make turtles. This is an easy gift to do with just a microwave (pretzel, Rollo and a pecan). We put a few of the candies in a cellophane bag, tie with a ribbon, and attach a little poem of thanks telling them this was a handmade gift of thanks. The kids then deliver them if they can, or I do. This seems to thrill our donors.”

Treating donors like you would treat your BFF

  • In regards to surprising and delighting donors, I think I have found the best way is to treat them as people. In doing so, you welcome learning about them — their hopes and dreams and thoughts. You can learn so much about their families and what makes them personally tick. This can all be done with a phone call, a special note, or their favorite things (e.g. coffee or candy). In doing so we hope they feel what we all want to feel — special, noticed and appreciated.”
  • “We make their experience more personal.  We introduce them to our kids and let them get to know them. We help them understand that we are interested in them, and not just their financial support.”

Demonstrating impact

  • We welcome them personally and in writing and place a huge emphasis on stewardship; reporting that their generous contribution is being used in the way they intended and assuring them through both statistical and anecdotal means that their contribution is making a significant impact. I know that all sounds pretty standard but it’s what we do.”

take a tourInviting donors to take a tour

  • The best way to welcome donors to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus is to invite them to tour the Club. Donors are always so surprised when kids from the Club approach them and introduce themselves in a professional way. It is a key behavior that our staff drill into kids and one that really sets our program apart. In addition to being a great skill for kids to learn, donors don’t usually expect to come into the neighborhoods we serve and see such impeccable manners and poise. This experience has engaged many of our donors but also prepared many Club kids to perform well in job and college interviews.”
  • “I believe it is important to listen to our donors and find out first what their passions are and then tailor  our approach to meet them.  When we meet with a potential donor, we like to start with a tour of the facility and provide information about our community needs and the services provided that address those needs.  Usually delight comes when we listen to what drives our donors, and find a way to partner their passions with our mission.”
  • “We try to welcome donors to our cause by getting them to come into the Club for a tour while the kids are here.  This way they get to see exactly what positive impact we make with the youth in our community as well as what positive impact their donations are making.  A little (and easy) surprise for our donors comes in the form of a hand drawn and written thank you card from our youth members that is placed in their “official” administrative thank you letter sent out after we receive their donation.  It is such an easy thing to have our kids do and not only teaches them about appreciation and what others do for them but also sends a heartwarming thank you to our new and repeat donors.  How could donors not be committed to our cause after seeing what we do in action and getting a personalized card from one of the kids as well?!

Pictures and stories

  • One of the first stewardship activities we do is to make them feel that they are a part of what we do here, a part of our Boys & Girls Club family. Sending updates about the individual progress and successes of our kids made possible by donors is a great way to do that. It is similar to receiving an invitation to a recital or a graduation announcement from loved ones. Those pictures and stories are shared so donors can celebrate significant life successes together with them. It makes them feel more a part of their lives. This same thing occurs when we bring in new donors by sharing specific success stories about our kids. Because in reality, those donors ARE a part of each child’s life at the Club.”
  • “We welcome new donors by sharing stories of impact – stories of real kids from our community who have real challenges and then how the Boys & Girls Club works hard to improve their lives.  We share these stories through targeted mailings, events we hold, through our Board of Directors’ relationships, through our Social Media efforts, etc.  Then we surprise our donors by thanking them as often as we can – first with a letter after their donation, then with a personal phone call, through a holiday card, and then through our annual “Thank-a-thon Night” in which our Board Members call every donor to simply share our gratitude and finally, for those donors who make a gift of $500 or more we invite them to a special “Donor Night” held at one of our Board Member’s homes in which we treat them to food, drinks, and fun – and the funny thing is, we tell them more stories of real kids and what we do to help these kids while we have their attention and in person.  It’s a constant and intentional pipeline of stories, impact, appreciation, recognition, donation, stories, impact, appreciation, etc.”

chocolate covered strawberriesSend chocolate covered strawberries

I should’ve included this response under the first category, but it was so unique that I had to break it out and highlight it. At first, I was skeptical and thought my friend was pulling my leg. So, here is how the email thread went:

  • Non-profit CEO: “I delight them with a dozen chocolate covered strawberries delivered to their house as a surprise.
  • My response email: “I am sensing sarcasm and won’t publish that. If you do indeed do this (and where is that money coming from), then let me know and I’ll include it in tomorrow’s post.  I’m looking forward to our lunch in a few weeks.”
  • CEO’s email response: “No, I am serious! My four biggest donors LOVED the unexpected chocolate strawberries. When they call to thank me, it gives me another chance to discuss the Club and their donation(s).  I generally give out 10 to 15 per year. Trust me . . . IT WORKS!!!

Well, that was embarrassing. I apologized to this friend for ever doubting his resource development genius.  :-)

Invite donors to participate, get them involved behind the scenes, and recognition

  • 1) We invite our donors to participate in behind the scenes engagement opportunities (conductor searches, rehearsals, sitting on stage with orchestra during a dress rehearsal, radio interviews, Fall Camp activities).  2) Send selected performance and Honors Groups CD’s to donors.  3) Provide invitations to hospitality events (concert receptions, lunches or dinners with staff, Board member, and artistic staff, meet & greets with guest artists and guest conductors) and complimentary tickets to ensemble performances.  4) Invitations for complimentary tickets to Chamber Music Institutes Concerts and Honor Groups performances. 5) Instituted a Servant Leadership award given each year to a volunteer or donor.”
  • Working with volunteer groups that come through our agency, I recognize that they are giving of their time. In our post-project “debrief,”  we thank them for their work and give them stats on their impact. We also share additional ways they can get involved. It could be other ways to volunteer or a special project. We provide them with our most recent appeal that offers stats and a call to action. We share other ways (beyond time) how they can impact the mission. Now this is planting a seed, while not discounting the two hours they just “sweat-it-out-for-good.”

This has been the longest blog post that I’ve ever published at DonorDreams. Again, thank you to everyone who weighed-in with what is working on the front line of their agencies when it comes to stewardship activities. Based on this response, there must be lots of surprised and delighted donors out there.

Did I forget to send you and email? Is there something that your agency is doing to steward donors and is having a positive impact on reducing your donor turnover rate? If so, please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Seuss on your donors


uncertainty“I laughed at the Lorax, “You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy!”

Business is business!
And business must grow
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.

– Written my Dr. Seuss in The Lorax


 

There are so many things that I find amazing about Dr. Seuss, and one of those things is that he packs so much into so few words. In the post I wrote last Thursday, I used Seuss’s words from “The Lorax” to address the idea of growth in the non-profit sector and the need for planning. Today, let’s take the same quote and look at your agency’s donors.

You never can tell what some people will buy!

While this quote is obviously focused on the for-profit sector and consumers, I think the same can be said for donors to non-profit organizations.

In a recent battery of donor interviews, I found people all over the map with their motivations. Here are just a few of the things I heard them say:

  • I like this organization’s mission and the programs they offer their clients.
  • This agency gets results.”
  • They know how to stretch my contribution.”
  • I really like the executive director.”
  • Someone on the board is a good friend of mine.”
  • I am an alumnus and that organization made a difference in my life.”

In reality, there are probably countless reasons why people give to your non-profit organization, and it is easy to take the position that it doesn’t matter as long as they keep giving.

But I believe that taking this position is a mistake.

If you want donors to go from making their first gift to their second, then you need to give them what they want. AND . . . if you don’t know why they gave to you in the first place, then it is hard to give them what they want.

Stewardship activities run the spectrum and some of them get you no closer to understanding your donors such as:

  • gift acknowledgement letters
  • annual report
  • gift acceptance policies
  • handwritten letters

relationship buildingOther stewardship activities definitely get you a little closer to building that relationship and understanding your donors’ rationale for making a charitable contribution:

  • tours of facility
  • follow-up thank you phone calls
  • annual sit down visits
  • focus groups
  • interviews
  • surveys
  • stewardship receptions and events

Seuss is right . . . you never can tell what motivates people. So, let’s stop guessing.

I understand that these types of activities are time consuming, which is a commodity many non-profit organizations lack.

So, what is the answer?

Segment your database and target donors for cultivation / stewardship activities. If you are a small agency with very little capacity, this activity might result in targeting less than five donors.

Don’t do this organically. Put together a plan for each donor. It doesn’t have to be a big plan, but put some thought into it. There are lots of samples out there on the internet. One set of templates I found that I liked is provided by Gary Hubbell Consulting.

In addition to templates, there are a ton of white papers available online. The following is just a few that I like:

What is your agency doing to engage donors, deepen relationships, and most importantly, understand their motivation for giving? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other. Or perhaps you want to answer the more appropriate Seuss-related questions:

  • Would you like them in a house?
  • Would you like them with a mouse?
  • Would you eat them in a box?
  • Would you eat them with a fox?

Come on, friends! Let’s have some fun this morning!!!  What are you doing with regard to donor stewardship? Where are you doing it? What have been your results?

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

 

Dr. Seuss on the growth of your non-profit organization


growth“I laughed at the Lorax, “You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy!”

Business is business!
And business must grow
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.

– Written my Dr. Seuss in The Lorax

 


 

You hear it all the time from for-profit business people, “If you’re not growing, then you’re dying.” If you want proof that this is the mantra of the business community, turn on the news or open your newspaper. Oh heck, just Google it and you’ll find more than you can read.

However, isn’t this also the mantra of the non-profit community? In my almost 20 years of experience, it certainly seems to be. The following are just a few things I constantly hear my non-profit clients saying:

  • Our facility is too small (or too old), and we need to raise money to build a new one to serve more people.”
  • The state just released a new grant RFP, and we should look at expanding programming if we hope to qualify.
  • We don’t have enough board volunteers and need to add more.
  • Operating expenses keep rising and we need to add another fundraising campaign or event.

changesSo, I guess Dr. Seuss is right again . . . “Business is business!” It must just be a function of human nature, right? Because I see corporate America constantly expanding. I see the non-profit sector doing the same thing. And I may just get sick if I hear one more person rant about the expanding size of government on my television (I probably just need to learn how to use my remote and change the channel.)

There is lots and lots of wisdom in Dr. Seuss’ words and there are lots of directions I could go with my blog post this morning, but it is his last sentence that sticks with me.

I don’t know about you, but I believe “crummies in tummies” is an obvious reference to:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • uncertainty

I think he is saying the idea of growth is a force at work at all times in our organizations, and it is likely a stressor.  While I believe this to be true, I’m choosing to look at this as a clarion call rather than a truism. I think the good doctor is making the case for . . .

PLANNING

In my experience, non-profit organizations who plan for growth don’t have many “crummies in tummies.” And I’m not just talking about developing one plan . . . those organizations have many plans including:

  • Strategic plan
  • Long term plan
  • Business plan
  • Resource development plan
  • Board Development plan
  • Compensation & Benefits Plan
  • Program plan
  • Marketing plan
  • Crisis communications plan
  • Succession plan

planningI know that many people look at this list and immediately reject it, but if Dr. Seuss is right and “Business is business! And business must grow” then change is inevitable inside of our organizations. And if change is inevitable, then why put on a blindfold and take the proverbal steering wheel of your organization?

If this post intrigued you but you’re not sure how or where to start, you might want to check out a few of these resources I recently found online:

Of course, if you are looking for an external consultant and partner to help your agency with facilitating you plan, I know of someone who might be willing to help.  ;-)

I am feeling whimsical this morning. So, please scroll down and use the comment box below to share what this Dr. Seuss quote inspired you to think about this morning. Your thoughts and experiences are appreciated and will likely help inspire other non-profit professionals and volunteers reading this blog.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Your non-profit can learn something from the Chicago Cubs


Let me set the stage for you. It is a Sunday afternoon, and I am sitting in the bleachers waiting for the start of a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs (a team that I’ve been a fan of since my birth 44 years ago) and the Atlanta Braves. It is hot . . . VERY HOT! Then a song written in 1969 titled “Hey Hey Holy Mackerel” started blaring over the speakers. This song is intended to be a fight song. Never heard of it? Here are the lyrics words by I. C. Haag and music by JOhn Frigo):

Hey hey! Holy Mackerel!
No doubt about it,
The Cubs are on their way. (Hey hey!)
The Cubs are gonna hit today,
They’re gonna pitch today,
They’re gonna field today.
Come what may the Cubs are gonna win today.Hey hey! Holy Mackerel!
No doubt about it,
The Cubs are on their way.
They got the hustle.
They got the bustle.
The Chicago Cubs have come to play.
The Chicago Cubs are on their way.

Wanna hear it? Here is the YouTube version for your enjoyment:

OK . . . the scene is set. Now image another Cubs game in the history books and the reality setting in:

  • They aren’t on their way
  • They didn’t pitch today
  • They didn’t hit today (well, maybe a little bit)
  • They didn’t field today
  • Did I mention that they really aren’t on their way?

The morale to the story?

Be careful about the promises you make because you might disappoint your fans! How is this applicable to your non-profit organization? Simple! Consider the following:

  • Your mission statement is akin to the Chicago Cubs fight song.
  • Your vision statement is also akin to Hey Hey Holy Mackerel.
  • Your marketing tag line and public service announcements are also rally cries, right?
  • And your donors are very much fans.

When you organization makes promises that aren’t delivered upon, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.

Don’t believe me?

Then go ask the Chicago Cubs who purportedly are selling one million fewer tickets this year than they did a number of years ago. Ouch! That must hurt. Hopefully, the promises they’re making as part of their rebuilding plan are things they will deliver on (and soon).

Are you assessing your agency’s effectiveness? Who are you engaging in that assessment? How are you assessing your agency? And what are you doing about it?

Don’t torture your donors and supporters for more than a century. Start your assessment and planning process today and include all of your stakeholders in that process.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Tools for engaging your non-profit board during planning activities


Planning is an engagement activity, especially when it is done right. This is probably why I’ve found myself signing many contracts with non-profit organizations in the last few years to help them develop long term plans, strategic plans, tactical plans, business plans, board development & governance plans, resource development plans, marketing plans, program plans, etc etc etc.

OMG . . . I think I was channeling Bubba from the movie Forrest Gump there for a moment:

As you saw from that memorable movie clip, this stuff can get a little mesmerizing and rote. When it does, then planning isn’t very engaging at all and begins to feel like Dunkin Donuts’ Fred the Baker. Remember him?

Planning (whatever you are planning) can be frustrating for many different reasons, but two of my all time favorite things that result in tearing out one’s hair are:

  1. when participants don’t understand the issues, strategies or tactics being discussed during the planning process (or they have an incorrect and fuzzy picture of what is really going on at their agency)
  2. when board members don’t want to put their names on any of the action items

I recently found a tool that you might find useful, and I employed a simple exercise that also appeared to work fairly well with helping people better understand and engage in your planning process. I thought it would be fun to share both of these tools with you today.

post it notesExercise: What seat(s) on the bus do you want to sit?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where your resource development committee is writing your organization’s annual resource development plan in a vacuum?

You know what I mean . . .

The committee meets, strokes their chin, pontificates on goals-strategies-tactics, puts it all on paper, brings it to the board for approval, everyone votes ‘YES’ and the illusion of  consensus descends upon the boardroom. Action plans were sketchy and very few people’s names were listed next to any tactics. In the end, you have a plan and the only person doing anything associated with the plan is YOU.

One simple exercise that your resource development committee could use to engage the board simply involves:

  • Larger poster paper
  • Post-It Notes
  • Pens
  • Approx 5 minutes of time on the board meeting agenda

Let’s say your resource development committee has set its goals and now grapples with what strategies it should include in the plan to achieve the goals. It certainly doesn’t make sense to include strategies with which no one plans on volunteering to help. This exercise — albeit simple — helps get a handle on the question: “What seat on the bus do you want to sit in?” Here is how it works:

  1. Label each poster paper with a prospective resource development strategy (e.g. prospect cultivation, specific special events, annual campaign, major gifts, planned giving, special projects, donor stewardship, etc)
  2. Give every board members a stack of standard size Post-It Notes and a pen
  3. Ask participants to put their name on Post-It Notes and place those notes on the larger posters that represent activities where they would like to volunteer their time
  4. Step back and facilitate a short discussion about what they see (e.g. Are there resource development strategies that don’t have any names? If so, what should be done about that? Are there posters with lots of names? What options does that give the committee? etc etc etc)

This exercise gives your resource development committee an opportunity to:

  • Refine and fine tune the strategies in its draft plan (e.g if no one put their name on the annual campaign strategy, you can eliminate it from your plan OR revise your board recruitment plans to find people with that interest OR change the annual campaign model to better fit the skills and interests sitting around your table, etc)
  • Develop leadership prospect lists for various fundraising activities
  • Target specific board volunteers to engage in discussion about action plans and tactics

Kinda simple, but pretty effective in getting people in the seats that they want to sit in on the fundraising bus.


matrix mapTool: The Matrix Map

When planning, I find that sometimes people get all turned on issues pertaining to:

Profitable activities

vs.

Impact and mission driven activities

Let’s face it. Sometimes our organizations do things that lose money because our mission calls us to do it or the community impact demands we do it. Likewise, we sometimes do things that have nothing to do with our mission because it brings in money and helps fund other mission-focused activities.

These calculations aren’t intuitive to business-minded people who sit on your board.

One tool I found while reading LinkedIn discussion groups is something called a Matrix Map, and it might be helpful to your board members during the planning process.

Steve Zimmerman recently wrote a great article at the Nonprofit Quarterly titled “The Matrix Map: A Powerful Tool for Mission-Focused Nonprofits“. This link is definitely worth the click if your board members struggle with questions like “why are we doing that?” during a planning activity.

What tools have you used to engage your board or help clarify issues in your boardroom during planning and strategic related discussions. Please scroll down and share your experiences in thoughts in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

A basic truism about fundraising volunteers


horse to waterI believe it is a basic truism that you can’t make people do anything they don’t want to do. Every example I can think of ends up not working.

As a nation, we tried to force people to stop drinking (when they didn’t want to) by passing a constitutional amendment banning alcohol. The result? A black market and the rise of Al Capone.

Tell someone to stop smoking or lose weight (when they don’t want to) and it might result in short-term results, but the relapse rate in the long run is high.

While I’m sure there are exceptions to what I am calling a truism, I think I am more on the right track than the wrong track with this belief.

So, if you’re buying what I’m selling this morning, I have one simple question for you:

“Why do so many of us try to force non-profit board members to do fundraising when they tell us that they are strongly opposed to do it?”

I know, I know. We do it because many of our fundraising models need volunteers to be involved in order for it to work. Obviously, another basic truism in fundraising is that “people give to people.

However, I still go back to where I started . . . forcing people to do what they don’t want to do is a recipe for failure.

So, what is the solution?

In my opinion, the answer can be found in the old Texas two-step:

  1. Stop recruiting people to do things they don’t want to do
  2. Start engaging people in honest discussions about what they do want to do

birds of a featherBoard Development

There have been many blog posts written on this subject, but it is time to stop agreeing with what is written and start putting those thoughts into action.

Your board development and recruitment process must include honesty, transparency and a number of tools that set expectations before a volunteer is asked to say “YES” to joining your board.

If someone wants to join your board but doesn’t have the stomach for fundraising, then you need to find another role for them in your organization (e.g. program volunteer, committee work, etc).

This type of strategic focus in recruiting like-minded people when it comes to fundraising will help solve your problem because you’ll no longer be forcing people to do what they don’t want to do.

your seat on the busResource Development Plan

Unfortunately, this board development strategy won’t be enough to completely solve your problem.

Why?

Because not everyone around your boardroom table will be comfortable participating in every aspect of your fundraising program.

Some people are drawn to planning parties (e.g. special event fundraisers). Other people are attracted to your pledge drive and sitting down face-to-face with their friends to ask for money. There are also be a number of people who appear to disdain traditional fundraising activities, but who are open-minded to opening doors, going on donor solicitation visits (as long as you do the talking and asking), and various other stewardship activities.

The reality of the situation is that you need people to do all of these things in order for your fundraising program to be successful.

This is where involving everyone in writing your annual resource development plan comes into play.

Getting everyone involved in the planning process is akin to asking them to choose which seat on the bus they want to sit.  In doing so, you avoid the pitfall of arm twisting and making people do what they don’t want to do (which never works and is where we started in the first paragraph of this blog post)

So, there you have it! Your agency’s fundraising problem is solved.  ;-)

Good luck rolling out this two-part strategy and please circle back to this space to let me know how it works out for you.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Ben Franklin is the father of American philanthroy


Every year for the last 15 years or more, I take the week of the Fourth of July off and head up to an old Boy Scout friend’s cottage in Michigan. Needless to say, blogging gets a little difficult when you’re looking out over Saginaw Bay trying to forget about the world. So, I’ve decided to re-post two older pieces this week pertaining to philanthropy’s roots in the founding of our country.

Today’s re-post is actually from the end of 2011 when I was trying to be cute and offer readers predictions for the coming year.

Enjoy!


 The Final 2012 Non-Profit Prediction

This entire week we’ve been looking back upon 2011 for major trends, and then looking forward to 2012 with an eye towards making a few predictions. Today’s post speaks to a fundraising prediction that has been true every year since the birth of our country more than 235 years ago:

If you ask people to donate, then you will raise lots of money.

A few days after Christmas, a friend sent me an email with the following Benjamin Franklin quote from Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography and Other Writings:

“It was about this time that another projector, the Rev Gilbert Tennent, came to me with a request that I would assist him in procuring a subscription for erecting a new meeting-house.  It was to be for the use of a congregation he had gathered among the Presbyterians, who were originally disciples of Mr. Whitehead.  Unwilling to make myself disagreeable to my fellow-citizens by too frequently soliciting their contributions, I absolutely refus’d.  He then desired I would furnish him with a list of the names of persons I knew by experience to be generous and public-spirited.  I thought it would be unbecoming in me, after their kind compliance to me solicitations, to mark them out to be worried by other beggars, and therefore refus’d also to give such a list.  He then desir’d I would at least give him my advice. “That I would readily do,” said I; “and in the first place, I advise you to apply to all those whom you know will give something; next, to those whom you are uncertain whether they will give anything or not, and show them the list of those who have given; and, lastly, do not neglect those who you are sure will give nothing, for in some of them you may be mistaken.”  He laugh’d and thanked me, and said he would take my advice.  He did so, for he ask’d of everybody, and he obtained a much larger sum than he expected, with which he erected the capacious and very elegant meeting-house that stands on Arch-street.”

Ben Franklin is considered by most people to be the “Father of American Philanthropy”. His advice is timeless and perfect for those non-profit executive directors and fundraising professionals who are stewing over what their 2012 new years resolution should be:

Don’t say “NO” for anyone.

Ask everyone if they want to support your mission
and invest in the outcomes and impact your agency produces.

Ask! Ask! Ask!

If you do this, then my 2012 prediction for you is that regardless of the economy and any other external influences your non-profit organization will thrive and you’ll exceed all of your fundraising goals.

Speaking of non-profit new years resolutions, do you have any? If so, please use the comment box below and share your thoughts because we can inspire each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

America was built on a foundation of philanthropy


Every year for the last 15 years or more, I take the week of the Fourth of July off and head up to an old Boy Scout friend’s cottage in Michigan. Needless to say, blogging gets a little difficult when you’re looking out over Saginaw Bay trying to forget about the world. So, I’ve decided to re-post two older pieces this week pertaining to philanthropy’s roots in the founding of our country.

Enjoy!


Philanthropy and the Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

As with most Americans today, I find myself reflecting back on our country’s history. While doing so, I became curious about how the history of philanthropy is woven into America’s story. After a little bit of googling and thinking, it is very obvious that one of very cornerstones on which we’ve built our country is philanthropy and charity. Consider the following facts:

  • In 1628, the Massachusetts Bay Company established the first ever American “board” to manage colonial business.
  • In 1630, John Winthrop preaches to Puritans bound for America that it is the obligation of the rich to care for the poor.
  • In 1638, John Harvard’s planned gift establishes a major American educational institution.
  • Throughout the 1700s, Benjamin Franklin is involved in numerous philanthropic projects including creation of the first circulation library in Philadelphia. He arguably plants the seeds of philanthropy throughout the founding of our country.

The list goes on an on. Click here to see a very interesting chronology of philanthropy published by our friends at the National Philnthropic Trust.

declaration of independenceThere is also a great white paper published on the website learningtogive.org that argues that the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution are underpinned by philanthropic principles.

First, consider that “philanthropy includes voluntary and active efforts to promote human welfare and well-being.” Look no further than the Constitution’s preamble that charges our new country with many things including providing for the “general welfare”.

Click the aforementioned link to read so much more about how philanthropy is woven throughout the American tapestry.

I encourage you to take a moment this Fourth of July to reflect upon philanthropy’s roots in our American democracy and pay tribute to how it has made us the country we are today.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Here is to your health!

 Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847
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