Marketing experts weigh-in on how your non-profit can break through the noise


Just the other day my spouse and I were sitting on the coach unwinding from another busy day when this Geico commercial came on television:

chicken

 

I blurted out, “Oh, I just love this commercial.” My partner’s response was “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this one.

Of course, this commercial has been airing for weeks, and it has taken a long time for it to break through the noise for my partner. It was this revelation that got me thinking about this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival theme “Breaking Through the Noise” being hosted by RAD Blog.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve scratched my head wondering what could I possibly add to this topic that smarter marketing professionals haven’t already said, which is when it hit me:

Go ask the experts!

Over the last year, I’ve had two amazing marketing professionals in my life. I decided to just ask them to say something wise about how non-profit organizations can break through the everyday noise and information overload that our donors, supporters, volunteers, and prospective supporters and donors experience.

This is what they very graciously shared . . .


Meet Noel Childs

noelI first met Noel more than a year ago when I signed a capacity building contract with Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra focused on resource development and board development. He is a board volunteer who currently serves as the organization’s Vice President.

As I got to know Noel, I discovered he is one of those creative-types who understands how people communicate. He is the President & Founder of 9ine, and this is how he describes himself on his personal website:

Designer. Artist. Father. Founder.
Arsenal FC Gunner. Guild navigator.
Dirt farmer. Marten herder. Folk hero. Lover.
Fighter.

Did that break through the noise for you? Yeah, it did for me too, which is why I asked Noel to weigh-in on the question of how non-profit organizations can go about breaking through the noise with their communications strategies and efforts.

Here is what Noel had to say:

Stay true to your core mission

Progressive non-profits are realizing that with institutions dying and culture in flux they need to innovate more then every before when it comes to marketing and communications. Changing with the times is essential, but not at the cost of your mission. Find new tactical ways to engage your stakeholders, but all strategy must flow from your purpose — your “why you exist“.

Assess your digital ecology

Take a closer look at all of your online channels, websites, social media, mobile initiatives, digital marketing, and advertising to make sure it’s interconnected without barriers. Stakeholders (both existing and potential) expect to easily flow between channels and if you’re digital ecology has disconnects you’re missing opportunities.

Identify online communities

Online users behave differently from one another. Conduct research to understand their habits and desires and group them. Seek out the influencers that are at the hub of these groups. They are your key to a higher level of engagement. Create communications that will connect at a deep, sub-conscious level.

If you can’t measure it, don’t do it

Cut out the marketing and communications that don’t have some metric tied to it. With a lean budget, not being able to assess a communication’s ROI is like burning money.

Authentic storytelling cuts through the noise

Traditional advertising and marketing is outdated. People are skeptical of being sold to. Millennials completely ignore it. Show the real value of your non-profit though true stories that connect via content marketing.


Meet John Mitchell

john mitchellJohn is the other marketing guy who has been in my life for the last year.

I first met John during a capital campaign project with Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington. He is one of the busiest cats I know, and he graciously agreed to serve as the chair of the Club’s capital campaign Communications Task Force. He is the Owner & Executive Director (and self-described ping pong guru) of Monarch Media Studios.

John has a very strong and powerful point of view when it comes to cutting through the din that everyone now experiences while watching television, sitting at your computer, driving to work . . . in fact just living.

Like Noel, I consider John to be a communications genius which is why I asked him to weigh-in on how your non-profit organization can break through the noise and reach those with whom you need to speak.

Here is what John had to say:

There is a worsening marketing NOISE developing that is causing the process of messaging to become both more difficult and simpler at the same time….I’ll explain.

While you’re reading this, you’re probably receiving an email, a push notification, and a news alert about something that you will likely ignore while promising yourself that you will find a way to unsubscribe when you have time.

It has never been easier to get your message in front of your target audience, but it has never been harder to make them pay attention.  The most profound of messages will likely be lost in a sea of sports scores, political updates, cat videos, and free wal-mart gift card opportunities.

It sounds overwhelming, but the noise has actually provided an opportunity as well.

The opportunity is for a return to honest sentiment and simple truth. Whiteboard sessions that focus on semantics and tag lines can now be replaced with coffee house meetings over stories of real life change and passion.

Call me naive, but I believe the way to cut through the growing marketing noise is with simple, honest, clear, and real messaging.  It stands out in a sea of swooshes, sexy hamburgers, talking animals, and 3-D billboards.

In this way, not-for-profit messaging has never been at a bigger advantage, when it comes to getting the attention of potential donors.

If I’m selling a widget, I have to dig deep to find a profound, honest message that speaks through the noise.  This is why marketing has started to look more like visual gymnastics than like intentional messaging.  When an organization has a message that is driven by human story (i.e Boys and Girls Clubs stories), passion and compelling calls to action become the low hanging fruit.

So, my advice to non-profit organizations (as a marketing minion who has done more visual backflips than I care to admit), is to lean into your advantage in the midst of the noise.

  • Look for the human stories.  People make us care.  Stories make us move!
  • Find the common denominators in your stories.
  • Speak clearly and honestly to your audience.

Good news . . . you have the power to break through the NOISE.


So, what did you think? Did the advice of these two marketing pros resonate with you? What is your non-profit organization doing to break through the increasing noise of the world around us? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

A special thanks to both Noel and John for taking time out of their incredibly busy and creative days to share their thoughts. Won’t you please do the same? 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

What skills and experiences are critical to your board volunteers’ success?


boarddev1Do you know which skills and experiences are most important for a new board volunteer to possess in order to succeed on your board? Knowing this could help your organization conduct better prospecting exercises and result in better prospect recruitment lists. Today’s post is the third in a three part non-profit board development series that started last week.  During this time, we focused on a recent survey released by our friends at non-profit technology research firm  Software Advice of 1,545 board volunteers and people tasked with recruiting new board members. The survey’s key findings probably won’t surprise you, but the implications might change the way you think about your organization’s future board development efforts.

The final two findings of SoftwareAdvice.com’s survey that caught my eye related to skills and experiences. The first finding was:

Basic computer skills (e.g. email, Excel, etc) are the most important technology skill for service (44 percent).

The remaining 66% of responses were as follows:

nonprofit-board-tech-skills

The other finding was:

Fundraising experience was the most cited (24 percent) skill set and experience that has the greatest impact on a board member’s success.

The other responses included:

nonprofit-board-professional-skills

As I digested these final two findings, I immediately had two visceral reactions.

Was Carol Weisman wrong?

weisman1If you haven’t heard Carol speak or read her books, then you need to figure out how to check those things off of your non-profit bucket list. She is amazing!

When I read the study’s finding about “basic tech skills,” my mind immediately wandered back to a Boys & Girls Clubs of America conference hosted somewhere in the Midwest more than 10 years ago. Carol was one of the keynote speakers, and she was talking about building an amazing board of directors.

I remember her sitting on a stool on a large stage with a wireless lapel mic telling fun stories about non-profit boards and individual board volunteers. She was also likely promoting one of her many books. I was a relatively new and young non-profit executive director, and everything she said sounded right on target.

During Carol’s presentation, one of the things she talked about was how technology is changing non-profit boardroom dynamics.  She shared a story about a board she had worked with that had embraced technology. If my memory serves me correctly, the following were just a few examples:

  • Every board member was provided a laptop computer by the organization
  • Board members received their board meeting agenda and info packet electronically
  • Volunteer who were out of town for meetings would use their webcam and remotely attend and participate

weisman2I am a member of GenX, and this news made my heart sing. I was so excited to hear that my Baby Boomer board could be transformed into that type of board. I came home from that conference with renewed focus and determination to figure out how tech can help my board become more engaged and efficient in governance.

I started digitally scanning my board packets. I created an intranet site for the board. I uploaded board packets and other materials (e.g. policies, procedures, etc) to the intranet. Needless to say, no one followed me, and I abandon my tech efforts a year later.

The lesson learned was:

“You get the board you recruit!”

We had not recruited the board that Carol described in her conference keynote speech. My board development committee had not included “better-than-basic tech skills” as a skill set criteria. The result was that my board possessed basic tech skills related to the Microsoft Office productivity suite and email. They were light years away from going paperless and using Skype.

So, I guess Carol wasn’t “wrong” because tech will obviously change the boardroom experience, but . .

  • change will likely take much longer than we thought (and will likely happen when GenX and Millennial board volunteers make up the majority on most boards)
  • change will occur faster only if board development and board governance committees include tech skills in their search criteria when assembling their prospect lists

If you are looking for additional board development tools to add to your organization’s board development toolbox, then you should read a wonderful blog post by the National Council of Nonprofits and check out their hyperlinks to additional online resources. The post was titled “Finding the Right Board Members for Your Nonprofit“.

Fundraising experience is underrated

scaredWhen I read that only 25% of survey respondents identified “fundraising skills and experiences” as having a great impact on a board member’s success, I literally groaned and rolled by eyes.

Sure, it was the number one response, but it was still only one-quarter of respondents. As my 10-year-old niece would say . . .

“Really? Seriously?”

I suspect that fundraising might not be as important for non-profits that rely on fees and government money to buoy their business model, but the vast majority of non-profits with which I’ve worked aren’t hospitals and universities. Many non-profits have fundraising at the core of their business model, and it is one of the most difficult things I’ve seen board volunteers struggle with.

More oftentimes than not, when I’ve seen a board volunteer frustrated and on the verge of resigning, it usually has something to do with fundraising.

Of course, the solution is the same as I mentioned in the last section . . . “You get the board you recruit, and the board development committee needs to include fundraising skills and experiences in their search criteria.”

The tougher question is “what are fundraising skill and what should we be looking for?” My suggestion is to look for the following when going through prospect identification and evaluation exercises:

  • people who donate to other charities and appear to have an appreciation for philanthropy
  • people who are social and appear to have larger than average social networks
  • people who have served on other non-profit board with a business model rooted in fundraising
  • people who belong to service clubs that organize fundraising activities
  • people who are passionate about your mission (e.g. are willing to walk across hot coals to achieve success for your organization)
  • people who are well-versed at “closing the deal” in their professional lives (e.g. people who work in sales, banking, self-employed, etc)
  • people who are assertive, persuasive, good communicators, relationship builders, etc.

Gail Perry speaks much more eloquently than I do on this subject. You might want to read her blog post titled “Mastering the ‘Soft Skills’ of Fundraising” and figure out if you can add any of those qualities to your board development prospect identification and evaluation process.

If you missed the earlier blog posts in this board development series, I encourage you to investigate the previous two posts from last week. You might also want to click-through and read SoftwareAdvice.com’s full survey report titled “Tech Skills and Other Considerations  for Joining a Nonprofit Board IndustryView“.

What are your thoughts and experiences regarding tech and fundraising skills and experiences and your board of directors? Are you doing anything different now as part of your board development process that might help other non-profit professionals and volunteers re-think their approach? Please use the comment box below to share.

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 much time will it take to serve on your non-profit board?


thoughtsDo you know what is rattling around someone’s head during your non-profit board recruitment process? Knowing this could help you design a better process with better tools. This week and part of next week, we are focusing on a recent survey released by our friends at nonprofit technology research firm Software Advice of 1,545 board volunteers and people tasked with recruiting new board members.The survey’s key findings probably won’t surprise you, but the implications might change the way you think about your organization’s future board development efforts.

The second key finding of SoftwareAdvice.com’s survey was:

“The most important consideration before joining a board is level of expected involvement (50 percent).”

The remaining 50% of responses were as follows:

nonprofit-board-considerations

There are many different board development tools that organizations develop and use during the recruitment process to help answer a prospect’s question about involvement. The following are just a few examples:

All of these are great resources that you hopefully have in your board development toolbox.

Perhaps, one of the most unique tools I ever saw was a document titled “120 Hours That Will Make A Difference“. I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent, but I’m pasting the content of that document in the space below:


 120 HOURS THAT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Of the 8,760 hours that make up a calendar year, our organization and the clients it serves needs 120 of those hours.  When properly allocated, these hours have a huge impact on our organization and the kids that we serve.

Meeting Attendance

  • 12 hours at board meetings.
  • 10 hours at special events and fundraisers.
  • 10 hours in committee work.

Advocacy/Raising Awareness

  • 10 hours talking about our organizaiton with family, friends, associates, business vendors, religious groups, civic organizations and prospective donors.

Influencing

  • 18 hours convincing foundations, United Way trustees, local government officials, state legislators, business and community leaders that contributing to our organization is a wise investment.

Reading and Responding

  • 6 hours reading and responding to information sent to you from our organization.

Planning

  • 8 hours attending and participating in annual board retreats and strategic planning workshops.

Fundraising

  • 18 hours placing calls, writing letters and making asks in support of the organization. This time is best used assisting with one or more of our major fundraising events.  Remember, in order to ask for donations you must be willing to first give yourself.

Becoming Educated

  • 28 hours attending trainings and orientations, conferences and spending time in the organization’s facilities with clients and staff. It is important for you to be engaged in the mission to better understand the urgency of the work we do.

120 hours per year equates to 10 hours per month, or about 2 ½ hours per week in support of an organization that is making a difference in our community.  The commitment is modest, but it is time well spent.

ARE YOU WILLING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?


So, what do you think about the document?

  • informative
  • specific
  • eye opening
  • daunting

I know some of you are likely thinking that a tool like this will likely scare off some people . Well, my response is:

good news

You are not looking for warm bodies to sit around your boardroom table. You have serious work that needs to be accomplished, and that work will take a commitment of time from a group of very talented people.

Think of it another way. How upset would you be if someone lied to you in order to gain your commitment of time?

This question is top of mind for the majority of board volunteer prospects with whom you are talking. So, what are you doing to clearly communicate the answer to this critical question? Additionally, what else are you sharing with prospects during the recruitment process? Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your answers to this questions. You are also more than welcome to share links to other documents and resources you find helpful in answering this question.

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

Do you know what your board volunteers need from you?


boardroles1Most non-profit organizations have a very clear understanding of what they need from their board members, but there is a better question that needs to be asked. “Do you know what your board volunteers need from you?” This week and part of next week, we are focusing on board development questions at DonorDreams blog. Our next three posts look at a recent survey released by our friends at nonprofit technology research firm Software Advice of 1,545 board volunteers and people tasked with recruiting new board members. The survey’s key findings probably won’t surprise you, but the implications might change the way you think about your organization’s future board development efforts.

The first key finding of SoftwareAdvice.com’s survey was:

“Personal fulfillment is the most commonly cited benefit of serving on a board of directors (50 percent).”

The remaining 50% of responses were as follows:

nonprofit-board-benefits

Some of you might be wondering why these results matter. Simply stated, your board members need to get what they want out of their volunteer experience. If they don’t, then they won’t likely hang around your boardroom for very long.

Personal fulfillment

While most people will tell you they understand this concept, the reality is many of us struggle with this for the duration of our life on this planet.

Achieving a sense of personal fulfillment is a complicated success equation and is different for each us. The following factors are just a few things connected with this idea:

  • setting and achieving personal and professional goals
  • establishing a connection to something greater than yourself (e.g. community, God, volunteer board, etc)
  • experiencing failure
  • venturing into the unknown
  • being recognized and appreciated

oprahI think Oprah wrapped all of this up best when she said:

“Real success means creating a life of meaning through service that fulfills your reason for being here.” 

The reality is that many people have agreed to join your non-profit board of directors because they think it will add meaning to their lives. When you stop to think about this, it is mind-blowing at first and then it quickly turns into a daunting challenge.

Hopefully, this survey finding has you thinking about how your organization approaches board development and governance.

The following are just a few suggestions you might want to consider.

Be thoughtful on the front end

We’ve all been there . . . you have a few (or many) vacancies on your board, and you need to get them filled quickly. You ask for suggestions from the board. You set-up appointments with prospects. You put on your best smile and charm those people into saying ‘YES’ before they know what hit them.

Well, you got what you wanted. But will they get what they want? Have they even had an opportunity to think through what they want?

fulfillmentStructure your board development process in a manner that allows the following to occur:

  1. They get a chance to learn what you are all about
  2. They learn exactly what’s being asked of them
  3. You get a chance to learn what they are all about
  4. You have time to figure out what experiences will give them a sense of fulfillment

The reality is these objectives cannot be accomplished in one meeting. Consider including the following in your board development process:

  • a tour of your programs and facilities
  • a written volunteer position description
  • time with other board volunteers (e.g. invitation to committee meetings and/or board meetings and meet-n-greets)
  • sharing key governance documents (e.g. strategic plan, financial audit, resource development plan, budget, conflict of interest policy, commitment pledge, etc)
  • Q&A opportunities

You’re asking an individual to join your non-profit family. You might consider doing this in a mindful manner.

Speaking of family . . . you might want to find a way to include your board prospect’s spouse and family in your board development process.

Recruitment and on-boarding future board prospects in this manner might help you make their board experience more fulfilling, which will increase the likelihood of keeping them around for a little while.

Why is ‘keeping them around‘ important?

Simply stated, “turnover” — regardless of whether it is staff turnover, donor turnover or volunteer turnover — is a damaging and expensive prospect. Looking at it through a relationship lens, how many donors and prospects do your board volunteers bring to the table? And how are those relationships damaged when a board member walks away from your organization unfulfilled and potentially frustrated with their experience.

Be thoughtful on the back-end

partnershipI cannot tell you how many boards I’ve worked with on board development and governance projects push back on the idea of year-end board member evaluations.

I suspect the push back centers on the word “evaluation“. So, my advice is stop calling it that. I just sat through a wonderful board development presentation last week and the organization simply calls their board evaluations the “year-end sit-down” during which time the following questions are explored:

  • How did the individual board volunteer contribute in the last year? (Note: this is all about thanking them profusely for those contributions)
  • How did those contributions help the organization? (Note: this is all about showing them how their contributions support the bigger picture)
  • How did those contributions align with board member roles/responsibilities expectations? (Note: this is all about acknowledging that you see them doing what they said they’d do when they first signed up)
  • Were those contributions rewarding (aka fulfilling) to the board volunteer? (Note: This is about you listening and partnering with them on mindfully finding a sense of fulfillment and happiness in life)
  • Where does the board member see him/herself contributing in the upcoming year? (Note: This is all about you meeting them where they are at and aligning the organizations needs to what they can contribute rather than vice versa)

These year-end conversations are a firewall for you. They provide an opportunity to thoughtfully check-in on whether or not the board member’s needs are being met. And if they aren’t, then you have time to make adjustments.

If you want to get a peek at what the next few blog posts will be about, you are welcome to check out SoftwareAdvice.com’s full survey report titled “Tech Skills and Other Considerations  for Joining a Nonprofit Board IndustryView“.

Does your non-profit organization have a well-defined board development process? If so, please use the comment box below to share.

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

What can your non-profit learn from Southwest Airlines?


A few weeks ago, I signed a contract to do a little work with an organization on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I must admit that it was nice to get out of the Chicago winter, even if it was only for a few days. On my way home, I found myself waiting for a delayed airplane at a Southwest Airlines gate at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. As time elapsed and the plane became increasingly more late, people understandably became more agitated and upset. It was in this moment I saw a Southwest Airlines gate agent (I think his name was Aaron) demonstrate the type of leadership that every non-profit executive director and fundraising professional could learn from.

Let me attempt to tell this story pictorially.

southwest restless gate

In the picture above, you see that no one was particularly happy. No one is smiling. There are some arms crossed. In fact, every time the gate agent used the PA system to announce a new piece of information, there were audible groans and grousing from weary travelers. It wasn’t a pretty scene.

Then something happened as you can see in the pictures below . . .

southwest line daning

Uh-huh . . . your eyes aren’t deceiving you. You see people in the picture above line dancing.

southwest dancing

Yep . . . this last picture is the gate agent dancing with one of those delayed travelers. What you can’t hear is a fellow passenger playing music on his accordion.

So, what happened?

Simply put, the gate agent realized that people were unhappy, and he stepped into the leadership void and filled it. However, what was most impressive was that he didn’t have many resources at his disposal. Over the course of more than an hour, the gate agent facilitated the following activities with people in the gate:

  • charades contest
  • trivia game
  • line dancing
  • talent show (e.g. an accordion player, magician, and a 7-year-old girl performing her dance competition routine)

When the delayed aircraft pulled up the gate, no one noticed because they were too busy having fun. There wasn’t a frown to be found anywhere.

Mission accomplished!  :-)

So, what happened here that your non-profit organization can learn from?

Well, scroll back up to the first picture of angry people being told that their flight was delayed. Now pretend that those aren’t angry travelers, and they are instead angry donors and key community stakeholders.

The reality is this can happen to the best of us. Our organizations make decisions that make people upset. Sometimes management decisions simply don’t work out. Other times external circumstances lead us down roads fraught with crisis.

When this happens, people get angry. More oftentimes than not, you aren’t in a position to wave a magic wand and fix the situation, but you better do something to keep things from getting worse. (Very similar to the Southwest Airlines gate agent’s situation, right?)

Here are a few tips when your organization finds itself in similar circumstances:

  • Take responsibility
  • Don’t make excuses (even though you want to explain what is happening and why it is occurring)
  • Empathize with those who aren’t happy (we’ve all been there)
  • Do whatever you can to make people happy even if you can’t fix the problem (ask those who are upset if there is anything you can do to make the situation better)
  • Coordinate your response (especially when dealing with a crisis, only have one spokesperson dealing with restless people)
  • Know your resources and use them!

This last bullet point sounds simple, but it is hard to do when you’re in the middle of a challenging situation. However, the reality is that most non-profit organizations have many more resources than the Southwest Airlines gate agent I’ve highlighted in this post.

The following are just a few examples of resources at most non-profit’s fingertips:

  • talented staff
  • board volunteers
  • clients
  • donors
  • community supporters (e.g. program volunteers)
  • collaborative partners (e.g. other non-profit partners)
  • technology
  • budgets (albeit probably stretched thin)
  • facilities (albeit not every non-profit is endowed with physical space)

This short list of resources is like a list of food ingredients for a chef. Surely, some spontaneous recipe can be cooked up?

The reality is that whatever mess you find yourself in, you don’t have to be in it alone.

Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. No one is in this alone. 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

Your non-profit can learn from Hillary Clinton’s email mess


hillaryIt has been called a crisis, scandal, controversy, and problem by journalists. If you are remotely plugged into the world around you, then you’ve probably heard or read something about Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a private server located in her private residence which stored tons of personal and governmental emails during the time she was Secretary of State. This news story is layered and smells as bad an onion, but there is a silver lining to this story, which is:

You and your non-profit organization can learn a valuable lesson from Hillary’s “situation”

I was in Hillary’s shoes (kinda)

It was April 1, 2006, and it was my last day as the executive director of my local Boys & Girls Club. I was packing up my office and trying to get out-of-the-way of the interim executive director, who the board had hired to keep the organization stable durning the executive search process and impending transition.

As I was taping up my last box, I realized that I had an email situation that needed to be dealt with.

Over my six years as executive director, I had:

  • never deleted any of my sent or received emails
  • blurred the lines between my personal and business email accounts

hillary7None of this was malicious. It was always done out of a frantic sense of convenience and lack of time (or so I told myself).

So, I spent my final hours pouring over emails and deleting everything I didn’t consider a business-related correspondence. Ugh . . . and the things I found in those emails:

  • There were all sorts of emails to my mother and sister pertaining to family gatherings
  • There were emails to my then-partner and current spouse regarding social plans
  • There were correspondence to people in my Rotary Club

Frankly, I was surprised at how many non-business related emails existed. None of it was inappropriate, but so much of it was garbage. In the moment, I had the following questions running through my head:

  • Why wasn’t I more careful about segmenting my email by using my personal email account for personal things and my business account for business things?
  • Why didn’t I clean out my email inbox every day?
  • Who owned these emails? Am I allowed to delete all of these emails on my last day?

The reality is that my non-profit organization didn’t have any policies in place to help me answer these questions. Unlike Hillary Clinton, I didn’t have to deal with:

  • government transparency issues balanced against state secrets and delicate diplomacy discussions
  • executive orders and regulations from the President of the United States
  • congressional legislation (e.g. Freedom of Information Act)

The silly thing is that we’re just talking about email, and the tech challenges to your non-profit organization are so much bigger.

Since my last day on the job at my local Boys & Girls Club in 2006, our technological world has only gotten more complicated. Right? It isn’t just email anymore. Now there are social media questions that government agencies, for-profit businesses and non-profit organization must grapple with.

So what lessons can be learned?

Establish clear policies on technology usage

hillary2Most non-profit organizations are stretched too thin. I know, I know. But this is something you need to make time for because it is important.

It is a great opportunity to engage technology volunteers in a meaningful project that can benefit and protect your organization. It is also an important project that can help manage your organization’s legal risks and public exposure.

The following are just a few questions your policies should address:

  • What is appropriate vs. inappropriate content?
  • Can employees use organizational email for personal communications?
  • When is it appropriate for an employee delete email? What should be saved? How should all of this be archived?
  • In a social media environment, what is inappropriate and what will the organization do if the employee is caught violating the policy? (e.g. should an employee be Facebook friends with clients or supervisors or board volunteers? what if an employee is vocalize a political view on a social media site that adversely impacts how donors view the organization?)
  • Should every organizational email possess a “legal disclaimer” as part of the signature block?
  • Is it OK for employees to create and store documents of a personal nature on your organization’s server?

The following are a few resources you might want to check out to help you with this project:

hillary3Create separation and segment your life

I’m a member of the GenX generation, and separating my personal and work lives is difficult. Much has been written about my generation’s blurring of these boundaries, and I have to admit that I resemble those remarks.

But segmenting email communication shouldn’t be horribly difficult. Right?

When I think about my email situation, I have four different accounts (and many people have multiple email accounts):

  • My sbcglobal.net account is what I use for eCommerce and junk. (this is the account I give companies because I know they are going to spam me)
  • My gmail.com account is what I use for personal emails (this is the account I use with my friends and family and for all things non-business related)
  • My heathynonprofit.com account is what I use for business communication (I try to limit to only communicate with my clients using this account)
  • My acb-inc.com account is only used to communicate with capital campaign clients with whom I work as a subcontractor to American City Bureau to provide service

Do I goof up and accidentally blur the lines between these accounts? Of course! To err is human, right?

But that shouldn’t be an excuse not to try.

Moreover, you can now segment your email accounts on your smart phone. I have different buttons on my phone for each of my different email accounts.

I recognize this doesn’t come naturally to some people, but our changing world demands that we change our systems and practices or risk being left behind (or risk looking like Hillary Clinton does right now).

A side not about Hillary’s “crisis-scandal-controversy-situation-etc

hillary6It hasn’t been talked about much, but the Hillary Clinton email story is a “Non-Profit Story“. Think about it for a minute.

Hillary blended her emails. She likely had emails in her blended account pertaining to:

  • State Department business
  • Chelsea’s wedding
  • Funeral arrangements for Hillary’s mother
  • Personal stuff (e.g. yoga class)
  • The Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative

The Clinton Foundation is a non-profit organization.

In fact, The Clinton Foundation is a nonprofit organization that politicians and news media outlets continue to question about overseas donors and if/how those contributions influence family members who still operate in the public sector (e.g. Hillary’s time as Secretary of State and her alleged desire to be our next President).

This email story raises all sorts of non-profit questions including:

  • What level of privacy should donors expect when electronically communicating with your organization?
  • What legal impact can a donor’s email have on their charitable gift or pledge (e.g. restricted vs. unrestricted donations)
  • If your non-profit organization accepts large quantities of government funding, are your records governed by transparency laws like the Freedom of Information Act?

Does your organization have an email policy? Tech policy? Social media policy? What resources did you find useful when developing these policies? Do you find enforcing these policies difficult? If so, how? Please scroll down and use the space below to share your thoughts and experiences. 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

“Hangin’ with Henry” and talking about event fundraising


It is the first Thursday of the month, which can only mean one thing at DonorDreams blog. We’re “Hangin’ With Henry” today and talking about return on investment and special event fundraisers. When do special events make sense? When don’t they make sense? 

For those of you who subscribe to DonorDreams blog and get notices by email, you will want to click this link to view this month’s featured YouTube video. If you got here via your web browser, then you can click on the video graphic below.

After listening to Henry and Joan talk for 10 minutes about special event fundraising, please scroll down to the comment box below and share your thoughts and experiences to any of the following questions:

  • What role(s) do special events play in your organization’s comprehensive resource development program?
  • How do you monitor the effectiveness and ROI of your special events? Is there a tool you use? Are there specific metrics your track carefully?
  • What strategies do you use to bridge special event donors to other campaigns and efforts in your organization?
  • Have you ever had to eliminate an event from your annual fundraising plan? What was that experience like? How did you prepare and transition donors?

Please take a minute to share. Why? Because we can all learn from each other! And the comment box is just calling for your help and feedback.  ;-)

If you want to purchase a complete set of videos or other fundraising resources from Henry Freeman, you can do so by visiting the online store at H. Freeman Associates LLC. You can also sign-up for quarterly emails with a FREE online video and discussion guide by clicking here.

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

Are you turning your donors into volunteers?


I’m on the run today and don’t have a ton of time to write the blog post that I’ve been formulating in my head about what your non-profit organization can learn from Southwest Airlines. I will try to get that post written for next Tuesday. Today, I am re-posting an article that my friends at VolunteerHub asked me to write for their blog last week. On Thursday, I’m rolling with a video from Henry Freeman in a new monthly guest vlog series I’m calling “Hangin’ with Henry”. Enjoy!  ~Erik

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Expanding Your Volunteer Base by Engaging Donors

volunteers2If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times – “Time is money!”

Perhaps, this is why many nonprofit organizations are squeamish about asking their donors to also consider helping with volunteer opportunities. Ironically, this reluctance might be shortsighted as well as a missed opportunity to improve donor loyalty rates.

In 2009, the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund published a study on volunteerism and charitable giving. While there were many findings, the following data point makes the case for asking donors if they would like to get more involved:

“Two-thirds of those surveyed (66%) agree that “true philanthropy” includes the giving of both time and money.”

Still not convinced? Then look no further than the donor data in Penelope Burk’s iconic book “Donor Centered Fundraising.” One of her many discoveries was:

“The question that should really matter to the fundraising industry is “Why do you stop giving?” . . . When we asked our study donors that question, we found that 46% would stop giving to a not for profit they once supported for reasons that are tied to insufficient or poor quality information concerning their gifts at work.”

Asking your donors to consider giving their time in addition to their money will likely:

  • Improve donor loyalty numbers
  • Increase lifetime giving
  • Support your organization’s upgrade strategy

The following are a few simple ideas you might find helpful in getting donors to consider giving their time – in addition to their money.

Create a Diversity of Volunteer Opportunities

volunteers1Not all donors have time to volunteer on the frontline, working with your clients every Tuesday and Thursday. The reality is that donors are like snowflakes and each one is a little different.

Creating a menu of volunteer opportunities with various levels of time commitments will increase the likelihood of donors being able to fit volunteerism into their complicated calendars.

Additionally, volunteer opportunities shouldn’t all have a programmatic focus. Use your organization’s standing committees (e.g. finance, resource development, board development, etc.) as well as fundraising campaigns and events to find volunteer opportunities.

Finally, make sure to include one-time volunteer opportunities in addition to recurring volunteer jobs.

Align Charitable Giving Interests with Volunteer Opportunities

While many donors are engaged in a transactional fundraising relationship with you (e.g. direct mail, special events, annual campaign pledge drive), you likely have some donors who make restricted contributions to very specific programs.

When you know a donor is giving for a particular reason or specific program, identify volunteer opportunities in those areas for their consideration.

A few weeks ago, I solicited a husband andgardening volunteers wife for their financial support of a community gardening program. At the same time, I asked one of them to volunteer their time by working with kids in the garden. This alignment not only made the solicitation meeting feel very comfortable and natural, but it also escalated their giving significantly.

Remain Humble & Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Good fundraising professionals have learned that it is their job to ask; it is the donor’s job to consider the request and say yes or no.

The reality is that busy people are the ones in our world who get things done. Essentially, it is the reason they are busy in the first place. Don’t assume that you know where and when someone else might want to volunteer his or her time. Ask your donors and maintain a positive tone. You might just be surprised by how many donors say yes to volunteerism.

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

What does your Mural of Generosity look like?


muralI’ve had a recurring thought for the last two weeks because I keep running across beautiful donor recognition walls at non-profit organizations. Just yesterday I came across a donor recognition board in the lobby of the Knight Nonprofit Center on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, and it was titled the “Mural of Generosity“. I just love the sound of that. Don’t you?

So, my recurring thought is this:

In a perfect world, what would you organization’s mural of generosity look like?

Please understand that I am not looking for vendor recommendations on where to purchase a nice donor wall.

I would like you to envision the following:

  • Who is on your mural?
  • Where is that mural displayed?
  • For what are they being recognized? (e.g. lifetime giving, planned gifts, recurring loyalty, etc)
  • What does it look like?
  • How is it continuously celebrated? (e.g. how do you build your organization’s culture around the mural)

You know how this works. Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other AND we can certainly inspire each other from time to time.

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

 

Annual campaign success depends on relationship transfer


relationship buildingLast week I had the privilege of soliciting someone for an annual campaign pledge over a cup of coffee. In addition to securing their pledge, this was a nice opportunity to catch up because we hadn’t seen each other in a few years. As I neared the bottom of my cup of coffee, this donor reminded me of something important concerning most non-profit organization’s annual campaign efforts and donor loyalty rates.

People give to people. This is a fundamental resource development principle. So, when a board member or fundraising volunteer moves along to greener pastures, it sometimes means there is no one sitting around the table next year with good enough relationship to feel confident to work their pledge card.

This donor reminded me of a time when I was in the executive director chair and one of the organization’s most prolific annual campaign volunteers stepped aside to focus on challenges dogging his business. I remember taking a phone call from a donor the next year asking what had happened to the volunteer and lamenting about only wanting to sit down with that specific individual.

Your annual campaign will likely experience donor turnover if your fundraising volunteers aren’t actively working at building a relationship beyond the annual solicitation meeting between the donor and your organization.

While there are many good reasons to maintain continuity in asking the same fundraising volunteers to steward the same donors they solicit, the following are a few simple ideas your organization may want to consider to help build stronger and more diverse relationships with annual campaign donors.

Segment your donor list

Identify donors who have been solicited by the same person for more than three years and change your strategy with these individuals. For example, rather than business as usual, ask the fundraising volunteer to bring someone else along with them to the solicitation meeting for introduction purposes.

More robust gift acknowledgement

Your organization’s staff are pulled in many different directions. They are undoubtedly busy! However, I am increasing concerned by how many executive directors and fundraising professionals who don’t seem to personally know the individuals appearing on their donor database reports.

Include in your organization’s individual performance management plans measurable goals focused on calling and meeting in-person with donors after they make their contribution. The focus of those meetings should be:

  • acknowledgement
  • appreciation and gratitude
  • relationship building
  • determining a donor’s philanthropic interests

Stewardship

I know that I sound like a broken record because I say it all of the time, but non-profit organizations need to figure out how to go beyond serial solicitation to more meaningful donor engagement. Additionally, it needs to be more than simply a phone call, written thank you cards and newsletters.

Here are a few meaningful stewardship activities that I’ve seen some organizations implement:

  • Invite donors to the annual meeting and demonstrate the impact of their contribution via testimonials.
  • Ask donors to consider volunteer opportunities.
  • Send something unexpected like a box of chocolate covered strawberries at Valentine’s Day. When they call to inquire about why you did such a wonderful thing, take the opportunity to tell them why they are special and how their support is making a difference.

What is your organization doing differently to deepen its relationships with donors? Please scroll down and 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

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