The Importance of Succession Planning for an Organization’s Leadership

Hi, DonorDreams Readers! Hope this week is treating you well! It’s Marissa here, with a great post written by Heather Eddy, President and CEO of KEES: Kristner Eddy Executive Services and Alford Executive Search. While we’ve talked a lot about retaining key employee in the past few posts, today Heather talks about how to plan for when people move on to another opportunity. Succession Planning along with employee retention makes for a strong nonprofit. Thanks again, Heather! Enjoy!

Although this blog has covered retaining employees for the past two posts, sometimes it is time for people to move on, even a revered and beloved leader. How an organization and it’s leadership undertakes this transition says a lot to other employees. It can make a big difference in general employee satisfaction and what might trigger a good employee to leave. A Board may not realize it, but having thoughtful and articulate plans in place about the organizations future (Strategic Plans, Succession Plans, Compensation Plans, Capital plans, etc.) speaks volumes to the general employee base.
Succession Planning is a term used in private and nonprofit sectors (less so with governmental entities) to describe the batonprocess that an organization (typically a Board of Directors) undertakes to plan for its next leader. Interestingly, with the term being common in leadership lingo, a limited number of organizations actually have a written Succession Plan. How do we know this? It is a question that we survey groups about frequently. The responses often come back as: maybe, no, I don’t know, yes-we’ve had a few meetings about it, yes-it’s in my head, and my favorite….yes – we talked about it once and someone has the notes somewhere. An idea, wish, intention or concept or does not truly constitute a solid Succession Plan. I find that less than 15% of the nonprofits we interact with have a written Succession Plan that is that is widely understood by organizational leadership (Board and Executives), and could be accessed and implemented with ease. Note – often times the “emergency “plan (what to do when the ED gets hit by a bus or wins the lottery) is confused with the Succession Plan. The two can be related, but are entirely different.
A relevant and ideal Succession Plan should have an overview of the following, with specifics to be filled in at the time certain triggers occur. A Succession Plan should be reviewed every 2 – 3 years if the sitting leader will be there for a while, and every 1 – 2 years as s/he gets closer to natural retirement.

  • An overall philosophy of leadership and the role of the Executive leader
  • A clear statement of the Board’s role in finding, hiring, evaluating, growing, and changing leadership.
  • An ideal timetable for a natural transition process to occur (having a 90-day buffer helps)
  • A job description of the current Executive leader and all of the immediate, direct reports.
  • An organizational chart, identifying the key functional areas of leadership, and which direct report or other key staff person “back-fills” the top Executive in these functions. Note: this could add another dimension to the plan if all/most of the top leadership is roughly in the same 5-year window of possible retirement and/or the same team has been in place for 15+ years.
  • Current thinking (point in time) about the organizations greatest needs in the coming 3 – 5 years. This can be derived from Strategic Planning.

If your organization does not have a written Succession Plan in place, I urge you to have a conversation at the next Board meeting. Try to gain a commitment to invest time in addressing the points above. The Board may not be ready for a full Succession Planning process, but at least document the above six points and make sure the whole Board is on the same page. If the commitment is there to do more….ask the Governance Committee, Executive Committee, or ad hoc Committee to take this on as a special project (60-90 days with 2 – 3 meetings and follow up in between).

We urge you/your organization to not only focus on Succession Planning, but what we call Leadership Transition successionPlanning2Planning. This type of planning focuses on how an organization transitions, whether to a new executive leader, an entirely new leadership structure, or growing leaders within the top levels of leadership as the organization grows.

With the enormous workforce transition we will undergo, in all sectors, not just nonprofit, hiring managers (Board’s included) are struggling to find desired talent brings skills to meet current needs, and potential grow with the organization. In some nonprofit sub-sectors, it is anticipated that as many as 20% of the leaders currently at the helm will retire in the coming five years. It is also estimated in those same sub-sectors that, perhaps, at best, 4 – 8% of “ready” next leaders are in place. This upcoming gap is a direct result of nonprofits doing a great job of hiring good talent and getting every bit of expertise they can, but failing to invest in that good talent, to make it great talent. There is an enormous need for organizations to grow and develop talent, at mid and upper levels of management, to meet this potential gap. Does your organization have a leadership development program? If so, please tell us about it in the comments.

Leadership Transition planning helps you define what you have, what you want, what you need/think you need and what is a realistic expectation for the leader(s) at the next phase to meet organizational needs. It then guides you to put that transition in to a timetable, articulate the resources needed (often budget related), and define how you will communicate with internal and external audiences. Based on the type of leadership transition coming up, the timetable and audience focus could be completely different. And, based on the organizational capacity, the ability to invest resources in developing and transitioning leaders varies greatly. Leadership Transition Planning is a process that should be collaborative between the top Executives and the Board. Both leadership groups have a vested interest in the organizations future success, and should work together to ensure the right leader(s) are in place to achieve that success.

While your organization many not face an imminent retirement or departure of its top leader, both Succession and Leadership Transition Planning are essential for the continuity and sustainability of your organization.


Strategic Compensation: An Effective Tool in Recruiting, Promoting and Retaining Highly Qualified Employees

Happy Tuesday! Marissa here! We are continuing our discussion about retaining employees today with a post by Evette Simon, VP of Alford Executive Search. Thanks, to Evette for sharing her expertise with us. Enjoy! 

HR system design and a consultative executive-level approach have quickly replaced the traditional philosophy that HR simply serves as an administrative function in support of achieving organizational goals.
The non-profit sector, more than any other industry, has had to quickly make the shift from the philosophy that HR is shutterstock_59294644something that they we HAVE to do, to viewing HR as a strategic partner in organizational development and sustainability.
In an environment where organizations of all types and sizes have begun to recognize that our human resources are among our most valuable and costly assets, attracting and retaining highly skilled employees has become a high-level strategic priority, in order to gain or maintain a competitive advantage.
More than ever before HR practices are being intentionally designed with business outcomes in mind. However, the notion of building strategic compensation systems and policies remain a daunting endeavor for many non-profit organizations due to the lack of trained HR professionals on staff and/or the limited strategic compensation expertise available. As a result, most organizations simply take the best-case default approach of aligning position titles with market surveys and compensating within the reported ranges. And, in many cases, market surveys aren’t used and employment offers are made based on what the compensation of the incumbent in the position at the time of separation or what they were hired at any number of years earlier or even some arbitrarily contrived number in between the two.
Because compensation, whether we like it or not, is usually visible within our organizations, having a written compensation policy that is clearly and consistently communicated throughout the organization is critical toward ensuring that employees understand how compensation decisions are made.
An effective compensation policy will successfully communicate the following:
Internal consistency which highlights and clearly places each job in the organization into an ordered job structure that recognizes the differences in job functions. Placing at a higher level in the structure jobs that require higher degrees of skill and expertise, include more responsibility and more complex tasks, than those jobs requiring less skill, less responsibility and less-complex tasks. Compensation professionals use systematic job analysis and job evaluation to establish pay differentials for each position in the organization.
Market competitiveness refers to the pay practice used most often in compensation policies geared toward attracting andRunning businessman. retaining highly qualified employees. In order to determine how the organization’s compensation structure lines up against market competitors, the internal job structure is compared to the competitive external market using compensation surveys. As a result of this analysis, organizations are able to strategically determine whether they wish to lead the market (Market Lead), lag behind the market (Market Lag), or match the market (Market Match).
Many internal and external factors should ultimately play into deciding which market position an organization chooses. An organization might actually choose to lag behind the market for some job categories, lead the market for some and meet the market for others, depending on the internal value placed on specific job categories and the external market conditions for those pools of talent. However, the best practice is to have one market position across the organization. This more equitable philosophy lends itself to internal consistency and is easily justifiable.
Recognizing and rewarding individual contributions should be a key component of an effective compensation policy. Similar to the process for establishing internal consistency using job analysis and evaluation to distinguish the differences between two job functions, attention should be given to the fact that no two employees perform the same job equally, nor do they usually possess the same credentials or expertise. Therefore, when completed, effective pay structures should include defined ways and rationale for recognizing and rewarding employee contributions in order to promote the retention of valued employees.
Other structural components of compensation policies include pay grades and pay ranges. As another outgrowth of the NegociateUpScale_crop380wjob analysis and evaluation processes, pay grades are used to group job functions determined to have similar compensable factors and, pay ranges outline the minimum, maximum and midpoint pay rates for each pay grade. This allows HR professionals and managers to more consistently apply the organization’s pay policy.
Strategic compensation practices, like every other component of human resource management, must also take into account all of the legal and compliance related factors associated with employee recruitment, compensation and separation. Therefore compensation professionals must also consider all of these factors as part of the high-level strategic process.
Once legally compliant compensation policy and structures are in place, managers and other HR functions will be able to use them as effective tools in recruiting, performance appraisal systems, professional development, labor relations and even terminations.

How does your organization retain highly qualified employees? Let us know in the comments!


How to Retain Employees in Today’s Job Market

Hi, DonorsDreams Readers! It’s me, Marissa. I’m covering for the blog for Erik as he sails the ocean blue on a well-deserved vacation. Today’s post was written by Denise Benages, an HR professional for over 16 years. She shares with us best practices for retaining employees in an ever changing job market. Thanks, Denise!

Once upon a time, people stayed at their first job, moved up the ladder and received a gold watch when they retired. How very Ward Cleaver!

retaining-employeesWelcome to 2015, where the average worker will have 12-15 jobs in their lifetime. Ten of those jobs will be held before the age of forty. So how is a nonprofit to function in the land of no golden watches? Well, we must ask ourselves, how do we retain employees.

First, let me ask you, do you have a retention strategy? In a 2013 survey of nonprofits, 90% did not have formal retention strategy. However, the majority of them did have informal retention strategies. Let’s talk about how you make an informal retention policy into a formal one.

Your first step is to evaluate your policies. What are you doing to keep your employees? What is your turnover rate? Are you turning over staff in a particular department? These questions will lead you to discover what issues your nonprofit faces when it comes to retaining employees.

Remember that statistic about having 10 jobs before the age of 40? It should not be surprising that entry and mid-level staff were reported to be challenging to retain (30% and 40%). It is interesting to note that the numbers were much lower at the experienced-level (17%) and executive level (only 4%). Yet, most HR training dollars are spent on leadership training rather than job specific or business skills training. When surveyed on staffing challenges, 49% of non-profits are concerned with retaining entry level staff.

Retention is extremely important to nonprofits because turnover costs can be as much as 50-60% of an employee’s annual salary when you consider the cost of recruiting, onboarding, accrued time off, workflow disruption, lost clients and replacement costs. So it’s imperative that we look at why employees leave and how we can monitor this.

Here are some of the most common reasons employees leave their current positions:

  • Dissatisfaction – To examine this, immerse yourself in each department. Pay attention and monitor the feeling in the office. Conduct exit interviews to determine why people were unhappy at your non-profit.
  • A Better Opportunity – Employees are always looking to move up, you will not be able to stop some of this turnover. But you can ensure they know you have a career path for them. Build goals into the review process, so employees are clear of what they need to do to move forward. Employees only look when they don’t see their next step.
  • Following Their Map of Success – Some employees know they have do to A, B & C to get to the next place in their career. Their current position may have been a stepping stone from the beginning. Turnover can be stopped before an employee is even hired. Dig deeper in your interview to see where an employee aspires to be. If their dream is not available in your organization, they might not be the right candidate.
  • They Just Quit – This is the most important turnover to dig into because they are reacting to something negative in your organization. You need find out if it’s the job, harassment, bad management, skipped over for a promotion or any other HR situation. You may not be able, or want, to save that employee but it’s important that you resolve a systemic issue before you replace the employee.

We touched on why people leave, but it’s equally as important to know why they stay. You would be surprised to hear it’s not the money.

Recruiting-Retaining-Quality-Employees-croppedHere’s some reasons employees find more important than money when considering staying with an organization:

  • Job Satisfaction – Employees need to enjoy their work and believe their job is important. Give them feedback on how they are doing and how it’s helping the company. Tell them randomly during the year, not just in a review.
  • Employer/Employee Relationship – It’s imperative for employees to have good communication with their supervisor and have a good working relationship. They don’t have to be friends, but need to be considerate and fair. Make sure your team is trained on how to deal with employees. Observe their interactions and coach them.
  • Training and Development – Your investment in them shows them loyalty and commitment. They will give you the same in return.
  • Work/Life Balance – Your organization may not be able to be competitive with salary, but you can also compensate staff with paid time off, flexibility in schedule, or telecommuting.

While retaining employees might seem challenging; the good news is the most important thing you can do to retain your employees is to listen to them. If you do that, you have all of the answers right in front of you and may be able to hand out a gold watch or two.


The 6 Questions Nonprofits Need to Ask Before Hiring an Event Manager

Lisa Green is an aspiring blogger who has graciously agreed to provide this amazing post while I am taking a much-needed vacation for the next few weeks. Thanks, Lisa!  ~Erik

lisa1An event hosted by a nonprofit is often fighting an uphill battle even before the first committee meeting is scheduled. A finite amount of funds and resources are often all that is available to these worthy causes, which makes raising money for cancer research or underprivileged children even more crucial. However, the lack of resources can leave those involved frustrated, overworked and unsure of how to make an event impactful while working under such budgetary conditions.

Even when working with such few resources, a fundraising event can be successful if a nonprofit organization has a high standard of excellence for any sponsor or company they work with rather than aiming for whoever offers the lowest price on the market. A prosperous nonprofit should instead look for sponsors, vendors and companies that can help provide excellent support and top-notch service as well as having experience working in the industry, all while being affordable.

One way to accomplish all of these goals for a fundraising party or dinner is to invest in an event manager. This might on the surface seem like an unnecessary expense, but a quality event management company will know how to make the most out of what is available as well as how to raise the most funds for a cause.

To ensure you are hiring a stellar event manager that will benefit you in the long run, you will need to do your research. In particular, you will need to know what specific questions to ask to help you determine exactly what you’re getting when you hire a company.

Do you know how to work with a nonprofit budget?

An event manager should never ask you to spend outside of your budget. Instead he or she should maximize the amount of funds you have and help you make your gathering look like it cost far more than it actually did.

Verifying that your event management company has worked in the industry previously and asking for specific references or companies they’ve worked with will let you know if they have this capability and if they can provide all that they claim.

What is your experience with fundraising and money collection?

A huge portion of a fundraising event is collecting and keeping track of donations. This can be a tricky business, particularly when working with promised amounts and personal information.

That’s why it is crucial for to verify that an event planning company has a clear plan on collecting funds from your supporters. Whether that is through a verified mobile bidding service that allows you to collect bids from around the globe or a paper-based system that focuses on the crowd in front of you, your event planners should have a sterling reputation with money as well as a clear plan for when you will receive your donations.

It is also important to verify that your event planners have certain connections and abilities to help save you money in the long run. For example, a smaller business might have to pay a large fee for your guests to pay with a certain credit card, but a company with a relationship with that particular card can save you from paying such a large charge.

How involved are you?

This is how you can determine if you are getting a day-of coordinator or a planning partner. An event company that gets involved from the beginning is preferable to one that comes in late in the game, as an involved planner will know your budget, help you craft a doable timeline and will care about your cause as much as you do.

lisa2How can you improve our donations?

Part of the appeal of hiring an event planner for a nonprofit fundraising event is the idea that if the event runs more smoothly and looks more enticing, donations will increase. The company you hire should be able to outline a clear way in which they can help you earn more for your cause, be it a specific marketing plan or an online payment method for auctions.

Do you have any guarantees on your technology?

Should the event planning company have any technology that they offer to employ for your event, be it a customized website or an online auction app, you will need a formal promise that the company has a back-up plan in case of an emergency. This guarantee should come in the form of a service-level agreement (SLA) that details specific ways the company will ensure that you do not lose money in case of a power outage or other disaster.

For example, with a mobile-bidding app, an event-planning company should plan in case of bad cell reception. A SLA would detail what would be done in this case, such as installing cell signal repeaters to ensure constant coverage.

How do you improve guest experience?

Earning money for a good cause is obviously the primary goal of any fundraising event, but it is also important to create an atmosphere that helps attendees enjoy themselves. These event planners should help you plan games or entertainment, as well as help ramp up competition on auctions to help increase donations and interaction among the attendees.

A great event planning company for a nonprofit should do more than just contact caterers or set up a silent auction. They should put the cause first and respect the needs of a nonprofit, ensuring that your charity earns the most donations possible to accomplish the true goal of this event – helping those in need.


Bon voyage

cruiseStarting next week, this non-profit blogger is running off for a few weeks of a well-deserved cruise through the Panama Canal. But never fear! Your DonorDreams blog community will continue providing quality content to help you generate ideas to improve the organizational capacity of your non-profit organization. In my absence, Marissa Garza will take the wheel and ensure everything runs smoothly. (That’s right . . . Marissa is the same person who wrote non-profit tech articles a few years ago for DonorDreams. Welcome back, Marissa!)

We’ve lined up some fun guest bloggers while I am floating around the Caribbean on my vacation. Here is some of what you have to look forward to while I’m gone:

  • Lisa Green is an aspiring blogger who will write about “The 6 Questions Nonprofits Need to Ask Before Hiring an Event Manager”
  • Denise Benages of HR Midwest and blogger at Don’t Bite The Apple will blog about staff retention strategies
  • Evette Simon of Alford Executive Search will write about compensation and how it factors into creating a strong team
  • Heather Eddy of Alford Executive Search will follow-up Evette’s post with an article on leadership and succession planning
  • Marissa Garza will thrill you with another one of her technology posts
  • At the end of the month, I’ll return with a “call for submissions” post because DonorDreams is hosting the Nonprofit Blog Carnival in May

April is shaping up to be a fun month with an important focus on human resources related issues!

Rest assured that I will be thinking of you while I decompress and recharge my batteries on vacation. While most of May’s blog posts are already mapped out, I promise to publish a “special edition” with pictures from my various stops in Aruba, Columbia, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Cabo San Lucas.

Enjoy the next few weeks, and as always thank you for your readership.

Here’s to your health!

Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

You don’t own your non-profit brand

warrenThe other day, I was in my home office trying to wrap up some work before dinner. The television in the other room was tuned to PBS and Charlie Rose was interviewing Warren Buffet and a few other rich guys. They were talking about the late Coca-Cola President Don Keough who recently died. I was trying hard to ignore the background noise and distraction, but then the following five simple words floating into my office:

“The people own the brand.”

These words came from Warren Buffet’s mouth in response to a question Charlie Rose asked about the time when Coca-Cola removed its Classic Coke from the shelves and replaced it with a reformulated New Coke and the public appeared to backlash.

These five simple words got into my head and have rattled around for the last few weeks. They bothered me, but they certainly sounded wiser than I ever might be.

It got to the point where I actually typed these five words into a Google browser, which is when I found a post titled “You Don’t Own Your Brand Anymore, Your Customers Do” over at iYogi Blog written by Sairam K.

I love the iYogi Blog post, and it is certainly worth a click from you. It crystallized everything for me and got me thinking about the following questions for your non-profit brand:

  • When is the last time you talked to your donors, clients, staff, and volunteers about what the brand means to them?
  • What are your key messages (and I don’t mean your marketing tag line) and how do they align with what people think about your brand?
  • How do you monitor your brand and what people are saying about your brand (especially on social media)?
  • Have you thought through how and what your responses might look and sound like in the event your brand comes under attack in social media circles? And more importantly, have you thought about the damage you might do if your strategy is simply “deleting” posts on your Facebook page?

I think the reason Warren Buffet’s words rattled me so badly was because I thought the organization owned the brand, but in reality staff and volunteers simply care for and steward the brand. The people (aka donors, community leaders, staff, clients, the community at-large, etc) do indeed own the brand.

What does this mean for your organization and your marketing/communication efforts? 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!/eanderson847

“Hangin’ with Henry” and talking about group solicitation strategies

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 fundraising shortcuts like the group solicitation.  

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 for the last 6 minutes, I was transported back in time to my earliest fundraising solicitations as a District Executive working for Boy Scouts of America’s Northwest Suburban Council. While part of their Friends of Scouting annual campaign pledge drive model was based on in-person, one-on-one, face-to-face solicitation, the bigger part of it was group solicitations in front of gatherings of parents at Cub Scout Pack Nights and Boy Scout Court of Honor events.

I honestly don’t miss dragging the old slide projector and screen all of the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. LOL

As I listened to Henry, everything rang true. I learned the hard way that highly capable donors lowered their philanthropic sights when solicited in a group setting.

I also remember learning that the smallest dollar amount mentioned during my presentation usually resulted in scads of pledge cards with that number on it. It was with this lesson that I re-trained myself to do the following during my group asks:

  • Stop saying: “Even a gift of $25 makes a difference.”
  • Start saying: “People who pledge $150 tonight will walk out with a complimentary Norman Rockwell coffee mug.”
  • Bring a box of donated chotskies (e.g. yo-yo’s, baseball cards, etc) and tell parents their kids were welcome to a free gift if they allowed them to bring their pledge cards to the front of the room.

Ahhhhh, those were fun days when fundraising was new to me and every day brought a new lesson.  :-)

(Note: Hindsight is 20/20 and I’m not very proud of some of the group solicitation tactics I employed even though I became one lean, mean group solicitation machine compared to my fellow co-workers. Needless to say, I was nothing more than a transactional fundraiser who couldn’t say “donor-centered” if I tried.)

Henry did indicate there can be an appropriate time and place for your organization to employ a group solicitation strategy. For example, some non-profit organizations are very successful with Terry Axelrod’s annual campaign model that you might know as Benevon.

If your organization uses a group solicitation fundraising strategy, please scroll down to the comment box and answer one of the following questions:

  • under what circumstances do you use a group solicitation?
  • what are a few “lessons learned” that you feel comfortable sharing?
  • how do you ensure that larger donors aren’t lost in the shuffle and contribute less?
  • how do you create a sense of urgency for donors to ink their pledge cards on the spot?
  • what post-solicitation follow-up strategies do you use with pledge cards that walked out the door?
  • what pre-solicitation cultivation strategies and post-solicitation stewardship strategies work best for you?

Please take a minute to share your thoughts and experiences.

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!/eanderson847

Do you want to improve your fundraising event?

Kari Kiel of DoJiggy reached out to me a few weeks ago and asked if I’d be willing to let her periodically guest blog on my site. As I have done from the start, I’m  thrilled to allow other voices access to this space such as Marissa Garza, John Greco, Dani Robbins, Mike Johnson as well as others. I’ve always received rave reviews from those of you who I know about our guest bloggers. I’m confident you’ll love Kari as much as you have the others. Enjoy!    ~Erik

6 Tips to Help Your Nonprofit Achieve Better Results at Your Next Fundraiser

By Kari Kiel of DoJiggy 
Guest blogger

In order to be successful in your fundraising efforts, it’s important to create a solid fundraising plan. Fundraising is not just about sending a donation request letter to your donor database and then waiting for donations to come to you. It’s much more strategic. It’s about effective communication, planning and leadership, managing time and resources efficiently, integrating new ways of reaching out to existing supporters and tapping into new potential supporters.


Below we share six tips to help your organization achieve better fundraising results through strategic planning:

  1.  Choose Your Campaign Wisely

Before you get started planning a fundraising event, you must choose your campaign. Of utmost importance is making sure the campaign theme and type of fundraiser makes sense for your cause. Explore a variety of fundraising event ideas to find the perfect one for your organization.

Consider the following:

  • Mission alignment: does the chosen campaign communicate your mission and/or cause? if you are an organization promoting health and wellness, perhaps your campaign should mirror that mission by offering a walk-a-thon or fundraising campaign that promotes well-being in addition to raising funds
  • External factors: what time of year is it? Are people anxious to get outside where a walk-a-thon or golf tournament might be the right fit? What’s the state of the economy like? Are budgets tight? if so, consider seeking smaller investment amounts from a larger pool of donors rather than hosting an extravagant gala event.
  1. Setting & Monitoring Goals

kari2What goals do you hope to achieve with your fundraising campaign? In addition to raising funds, what else do you hope to accomplish: spread awareness, gain new supporters, strengthen relationships, etc. Jot down your goals as this will shed light on the activities that will follow.

Here are some examples of goal setting:

  • If you wish to spread awareness of your cause and gain new followers, then perhaps an online fundraising campaign is right for you. With a crowdfunding initiative (or peer-to-peer fundraising campaign), you engage participants to help spread the word through their networks via numerous social channels. This attracts funds from a much larger pool of potential donors by spreading your message beyond typical channels.
  • Perhaps your goals are more focused on strengthening relationships with existing donors. If this is the case, maybe a gala fundraising event or celebrity golf tournament is a better choice. You invite select VIPs and treat them to a night of entertainment and appreciation. Money can be raised through ticket sales, a silent auction, contests, and more.

Another part of goal-setting is monitoring progress. You should consistently be aware of where you are relative to your goal. When using fundraising software, fundraising thermometers can help you see where you are relative to your goals and also give you an opportunity to highlight top performers, thus motivating others.

  1. Budget & Resources

Be sure to choose a fundraising campaign that’s within your means. What budget do you have for planning your campaign? If it’s pretty small, perhaps an online donation drive or charity auction might be the perfect fit, as these have lower associated costs.

What about resources? How many people will be working on the fundraiser? Do you have a leadership team to help plan and manage or is it left to just one or two people? Consider your network and your board of directors. Are there any ties to local businesses that might be interested in sponsoring the event? Consider any way you might be able to creatively minimize expenses: Use volunteers whenever possible, use online channels to spread the word (rather than paying postage), and seek donated items for raffle prizes or charity auctions. You may also wish to ask businesses to donate items that typically cost you money (i.e. printing, signage, or decorations) In exchange, you can offer them exposure at the event.

  1. Outreach

kari3Who is your target market and where can you find them? Are they active online? If so, make sure you have a fundraising website that’s attractive and easy to navigate. Then not only will you want to make sure your message gets broadcast through online channels, but also make sure it’s easy for people to share your message. Use social sharing widgets & post cool imagery and videos that draw people in. Give people an incentive to help you spread the word. Award people who raise the most funds or drive the most traffic to your website. Look to relevant social media groups that are already invested in your cause and may be more likely to give back. Don’t forget about online channels such as online community groups, local email lists, online calendar of events listings, etc. Leverage existing connections by asking them to tap into their networks.

If your event is a local attraction (such as a charity golf tournament or local fundraising event) seek local media coverage. Invite media to attend the event and you’ll get some free press and increased awareness. You may also want to put posters up in local stores, mass transport or community centers. Don’t forget about pitching local businesses for sponsorship. They love the opportunity to get their products and services out in front of a receptive local community and in exchange, you can raise money through sponsorship fees and take advantage of their help promoting the event.

  1. Be Organized.

Of utmost importance is being prepared. Create a fundraising calendar and checklist to make sure you are staying on track. Most fundraisers require starting at least 6 months out! By planning ahead, you can ensure sufficient lead time for publicizing and preparing for these events. Situations change, so remaining flexible is essential; however, by scheduling events well in advance you can be certain that everything is in place and ready to help make your fundraising activities successful.

Use fundraising software! There’s no need to create excel spreadsheets and file folders of all your to-do items. With fundraising software, your planning team can use a back-end administration area to manage all the details of the event. They can publish and update information, post announcements, and generate numerous reports. Your organization becomes much more efficient by using a software service. Instead of manually taking registration cards, participants can sign up online and automatically get added to your database and communication list. You can also collect online donations with credit cards instead of manually dealing with cash. Progress is tracked in real-time; as each donation is made your fundraising thermometer rises.

  1. Evaluation

Keep comprehensive records of the entire planning process. See what you did right and what could be improved on. By maintaining records of each contact with potential donors and the work that has been done in your fundraising efforts, you can ensure that you are not duplicating efforts or neglecting to follow up with interested donors. You may want to survey those who were involved. Find out what participants liked about the process. If you utilized fundraising software, did they find the website user-friendly? Did you see donations increase with the ability to accept contributions online? Make use of Google Analtyics®. Your fundraising website can show you were traffic came from. This can help you see which social channels were most effective, or if you received leads from a particular partner or media channel.

In Summary

Strategic fundraising can help your organization be more efficient in your planning efforts. It can also help you maintain a solid reputation in the eyes of your supporters. By managing your fundraising strategy effectively, you can ensure greater financial stability while hosting more lucrative fundraising campaigns.
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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:



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.

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!/eanderson847

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’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:


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:


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’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!/eanderson847


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