Category Archives: Fundraising

What should you do when a board member quits fundraising?


This certainly seems to be the topic of the month for non-profit people running in my circles. I’m not sure why this is the flavor of the month, but I’ve been asked this question so many times recently I took is as a sign from the universe (or the fundraising gods) that I should blog about it.

Why do board members quit on you?

quit1Oh, well let me count the reasons . . .

  1. They feel lost when it comes to asking for charitable contributions (aka lack of training)
  2. They feel uneasy about asking friends for money (aka they are asking inappropriately due to a lack of training which results in any number of FEARS and the feeling that they’re begging)
  3. They feel unsupported by staff (aka staff aren’t going out with them to help and model best practices)
  4. They sense there is a lack of organization behind their efforts (aka meetings are poorly attended or poorly organized, acknowledgement letters are sent late or sporadically, etc)
  5. Prospective donors are assigned to volunteers by staff without input from volunteers (aka they aren’t asking people with whom they are comfortable soliciting)
  6. They are busy people and there aren’t accountability tools being used by staff to keep everyone focused (e.g. report meetings, dashboards, scorecards, campaign reports, peer-to-peer phone calls)
  7. Fundraising efforts lack urgency (aka deadlines always seem to be extended, goals seem to shift/change, etc)
  8. They weren’t recruited appropriately and didn’t know what they were saying ‘YES’ to when joining the board (aka your board recruitment process lacks “expectation tools” like volunteer job descriptions, commitment pledges, etc)

I could go on and on and on with this list, but that wouldn’t be productive. Suffice it to say, if any of the aforementioned reasons describe your organization, you need to address it. Quickly! Otherwise, no matter how many new board members you recruit to replace the ones who quit on you, the problem will continue to recur.

All of this begs the question, “What can and should be done about board volunteers who quit on their fundraising responsibilities?

Step One: Have a heart-to-heart discussion

heart to heartI have no idea why this is so scary for so many non-profit staff and board volunteers. It doesn’t have to be a confrontation. Here are a few talking points:

  • Describe what you are observing (e.g. a reluctance to fundraise)
  • Assure them that it happens in the case of many board volunteers
  • Ask them what the trouble seems to be
  • Listen – Listen – Listen (empathize where appropriate)
  • Ask them how you can help
  • If there is nothing you can do to help, then ask them how they’d like to move forward

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it too many times. Board members disengage and no one asks them if everything is OK and if they are in need of assistance.

It is troublesome when non-profit families start acting this way, which is why Step One is always to sit down and listen.

Step Two: Engage in cultivation & stewardship

quit2If the reasons given by your board volunteer aren’t things beyond anyone’s control (e.g. family member illness, work-related challenges, etc) and they simply don’t feel comfortable with solicitation, then ask them to get heavily involved in cultivation (e.g. engaging new prospective supporters) and stewardship (e.g. showing existing donors gratitude and return on investment) activities. (Note: don’t simply let them focus on other non-fundraising activities like programming or marketing)

The following is a partial list of things you can ask of reluctant fundraising volunteers:

  • Host a house party with people who don’t currently support your organization (e.g. party where staff briefly talk about the organization and the host follows up with participants to see if they are interested in learning more)
  • Invite people who don’t currently give to your organization to tour your facilities and see the mission in action
  • Invite people who aren’t donors/supporters out for a cup of coffee and simply chat about the organization (e.g. it is important for the board volunteer to share reasons why they are involved and passionate about the organization)
  • Hand write letters to donors to express gratitude for their support
  • Make phone calls to donors in the middle of the organization’s range of gifts chart to express gratitude, engage in a discussion about their reasons for support, and share a piece of organizational good news
  • Invite larger major gifts donors/supporters out for a cup of coffee, share a copy of the most recent annual report, share any recent pieces of good news or programmatic results, and talk passionately about the future

I’m not suggesting you ask a reluctant fundraising volunteer to do one of two of these things. I am suggesting you immerse them in these activities. You might try asking them to complete five handwritten letters, five phone calls AND five in-person contacts every month for the next year.

Why?

In my experience, there is something curative when board members have substantive encounters with others that focus on community need, mission, vision, and impact.

I’ve seen a heavy dose of this approach help many volunteers get over their cold feet or malaise when it comes to fundraising.

Step Three: Finding a New Seat on the Bus

seat on busSometimes we can’t fix the problem. Board members are people, too. Their parents get sick. Their marriages falter. They end up with a new boss who demands more from them.

When these things happen, the first order of business is empathy. This is what you’d do for a family member going through the same thing. Right? And board members are your non-profit family.

But whatever you do, you cannot make exceptions for individual board volunteers with regards to their fiduciary responsibilities. It is an all or nothing proposition.

I’ve seen it too often where one board member is given a pass (usually for good reason). It’s a slippery slope. Others board members start identifying reasons in their life why they can’t participate in fundraising. Worse yet, a schism materializes in the boardroom between “those who fundraise” and “those who don’t.”  When this happens, resentment and ugliness aren’t far behind.

So, what does finding a new seat on the bus look like? It could be any number of things including (but not limited to):

  • Taking a short sabbatical from the board
  • Resigning from the board and moving into a new role (e.g. joining a committee, becoming a program volunteer, helping with small projects, remaining on as a donor, etc)
  • Acting as an advisor (e.g. monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly coffee meetings with the CEO or development director)
  • Becoming a community ambassador (e.g. speaking periodically at service clubs, etc)

We don’t banish or fire board members (unless of course it is a toxic/destructive situation). People who support our mission are valued and important. We keep them involved, but we do so in roles that are mutually beneficial and fulfilling.

How has your organization dealt with and addressed board members who quit fundraising (or maybe never really got started)? Please use the comment box 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

What RULES do you live by when it comes to fundraising?


rules1Have you ever stopped whatever you doing, took a deep breath, and observed the world around you? (And I mean really take a deep look.) I did this just the other day, and what I saw kind of surprised me. Everywhere I looked I saw R-U-L-E-S. There were formal rules such as stop signs, registration forms and sales taxes. There were also informal rules such as people walking on the right side of the sidewalk.

As I pondered this revelation, it dawned on me how complex and layered this practice has become for humans. Consider the following:

  • There are rules that govern our international interactions (e.g. diplomacy, war crimes, etc)
  • In the United States, there are federal rules, state rules, and a myriad of local rules (e.g. municipal, county, township, etc)
  • Every profession operates within a set of rules (e.g. ethics, accreditation, operational norms, etc)
  • Individually speaking, there are informal rules many of us follow in public spaces (e.g. opening doors for others, smiling and shaking hands when introduced, not purposely passing gas, etc)
  • Also, individually speaking, many of us create a set of rules for ourselves when we’re not in public (e.g. wake-up at 7 am THEN start the coffee THEN let out the dog THEN feed the pets; brush teeth before leaving the house; make the bed)
  • I haven’t even mentioned . . . a) the rules of physics, b) the rules of biology, c) the rules of chemistry (all of which govern our ability to exist)
  • And don’t even get me started about the rules of God and our world’s major religious institutions

kindergartenMy mind was completely blown! (yes, I was completely sober)

It almost became overwhelming to think about how many rules existed in my little life. Many of which I don’t even think as I go about living my day-to-day life.

Of course, every once in a while, we are reminded about this phenomenon by authors such as Robert Fulghum, who authored “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.”

Sometimes, we even enjoy a rebellious rock-n-roll song bemoaning all of the rules that exist in our world. One of my personal favorites is the Five Man Electric Band’s 1971 song “Signs.” I just love how the lyrics start off with “And the sign said, long hair freaky people need not apply.

All of this deep thinking got me wondering about RULES that govern resource development and fundraising practices.

While there is obviously the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) Code of Ethical Standards, my curiosity goes deeper. I am wondering what policies and practices (e.g. rules) you’ve put in place in your local organizations. And more importantly, I’m wondering why you feel these rules are important.

I looked at some of the resource development practices I put in place at my last organization. The following are just a few examples:

  • Gift acknowledgement letters must be in the mail within 24 hours of receiving a pledge/gift
  • All pledges/contributions must be entered into the donor database even if it meant double entry from other sources (e.g. duck race software, financial management software, etc)
  • All board volunteers were asked to hand write at least five thank you notes at the end of every board meeting to donors who made a pledge/gift in the last 30 days
  • Annual reports were produced and distributed in time for the annual dinner fundraising event held at the end of January
  • Every gift acknowledgement letter included IRS language in the footer of the letter indicating whether or not any goods/services were received by the donor in lieu of their contribution and the value of those goods/services

In addition to looking at my own experiences, I went back to an old training curriculum titled “Stewardship” to see if I could identify more “rules.” This was what I found on a PowerPoint slide titled “Stewardship Activities & Functions:”

  • State Registration — Before you begin to solicit, be sure you are in compliance with all state laws (State registration is usually done through the Secretary of State)
  • AcknowledgementOfficial thank you letters or receipts that include information required by IRS
  • RecognitionGiving clubs, named gift opportunities, special events, individual activities
  • CommunicationThe information stream that reinforces appreciation of gift and tells about its impact
  • AdministrationBack office activities in resource development and finance ensure gifts are accounted for and invested properly
  • ImplementationThe work of executive director and program staff to see that gift is used according to stated purposes

Obviously, stewardship goes well-beyond simply thanking donors for their contribution.

As I bring this post to conclusion, I am first struck by how many formal and informal resource development and fundraising rules exist in the average non-profit. However, I’m also left wondering if all of these varied rules can be rolled up into more global truisms similar to the ones found in Fulghum’s book about the values we all learned in kindergarten.

Maybe one of those simple, comprehensive rules can be summed up as: “Treat your donors like your BFF.” (e.g. do unto others as you would have them do unto you).

What rules do you operate your resource development shop under? And why have you instituted those rules? Please use the comment box 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

Report meetings are the key to better fundraising campaigns


head in sandIf I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it over and over again. An organization puts the right people around the table and engages everyone in developing the right written plan for their fundraising campaign or event. They recruit the right people in the right way to work pledge cards or solicit event participants or secure sponsorships. They even go about assigning prospects/donors to volunteer solicitors very effectively. And then it happens . . . solicitation materials are distributed and everything comes to a screeching halt.

Why does this happen?

In my experience, the following principles must be in place for volunteer solicitors to thrive:

  • The campaign must feel well-organized
  • The case for support must be mission-focused and consistently messaged
  • Volunteers must be trained and feel supported by staff
  • There needs to be a written plan, and those asked to implement it needed to have some part in developing it
  • A sense of urgency (positive tenacity not crisis or consequence focused) needs to be genuinely felt by everyone
  • Everyone needs to feel accountable to doing what they said they would do

Having two or three of these principles in place isn’t good enough. If you lack one of these “engagement principles,” your fundraising efforts are likely to experience a hiccup of some sort.

One strategy that helps with two or three of the aforementioned bullet points is integration of routine “report meetings” throughout the duration of your campaign timeline.

What is a report meeting?

NegociateUpScale_crop380wA report meeting is simply a face-to-face meeting of volunteer solicitors, who come together to report their progress to each other.

How these meetings are facilitated is important. An ineffective report meeting is when volunteers give a simple report comprised of a few broad statements. Here is an example of such an ineffective report:

I’ve called a few of my prospects, and left voicemail messages, but no one has called me back yet. I should be able to get all of my initial calls done by some time next week or the the week after.

Effective report meetings are:

  • Facilitated by one person (which can be a staff person or the volunteer chair of the campaign)
  • Volunteers are asked to give their report one at a time
  • Volunteers go through their list of prospects/donors one at a time and provide a short progress report on each prospect
  • The entire team is invited to provide suggestions, offers of assistance and encouragement at the end of each volunteer solicitor’s report

Here is an example of an effective report:

Last week, I called Sally and set-up a lunch meeting with her for this Friday. Yesterday, I met Joe and his wife at their lovely home and asked them to consider increasing their pledge from last year. They need some time to think it over, and I have a follow-up meeting schedule with them two weeks from Wednesday. As for John, I’ve called him three times both at home and the office, and he isn’t responding. If anyone sees John this week, please give him a friendly nudge and encourage him to give me a call.

Keep these meetings focused and organized

focusIf you’ve recruited the right volunteers with the right skill sets and experiences to work on your fundraising campaign, then these people are likely very busy.

There is no better way to disengage a busy person than by wasting their time. So, these report meetings need to be well-run and efficient.

One person designated as the facilitator can keep the meetings on track, gently move the group along if they end up off-track, and give the entire experience an organized feeling.

Create a sense of F-U-N

Yes, busy people typically dislike nonsense in their meetings, but there are ways to still have fun without it feeling like a waste of time.

One way I’ve seen fun injected into report meetings is by using a campaign theme to organize the report meeting.

For example, I once saw an annual campaign adopt a horse race theme. They met at the racetrack. Each volunteer solicitor was assigned a paper horse on a paper racetrack hung on the wall. There were point values assigned to various activities (e.g. securing a meeting, making an ask, securing the pledge card, etc), which translated into how far your horse moved along the track.

Of course, there were fun prizes and recognition involved in this friendly competition.

I’ve seen these strategies range from highly organized — like the one I just shared — to very simple (e.g. rewarding the number of completed pledge cards turned in at the meeting).

Whatever you decide to do, a little bit of fun can go a long way in making these meetings palatable for busy people.

Integrate mission into the meeting

missionWe need to keep in mind that no one likes fundraising just for the sake of getting their friends to give them money. The reason volunteers sign-up to do what many people consider difficult and intimidating is because they are truly bought into your mission.

So, use these report meetings to remind them of why they agreed to do this in the first place.

This can simply be done by dedicating two or three minutes at the beginning of each meeting to a mission moment. It shouldn’t be too long and can be as simple as a:

  • testimonial
  • short story
  • video

Recognition is important

If your report meetings start to feel like beatings, then people will stop coming. In order to avoid this phenomenon, one of my clients started having a little fun with their recognition items. The following pictures are just two examples of inexpensive and creative recognition items you can use.

report meeting1     report meeting2

If the pictures are too small, hopefully you can see that the recognition items are as simple as a bag of Goldfish Crackers and a package of Reese’s Pieces with cute puns attached that recognize the volunteer’s accomplishment. What fun!!!

What if people cannot attend?

I’ve seen a few organizations successfully pull off report meetings via conference call, but not very often. Why? probably because it is too difficult to instill fun, mission-focus and urgency into a phone call. If you want my opinion, I prefer in-person meetings.

If someone absolutely needs to miss a meeting for a good reason, you should ask them to send a written report to be read at the meeting. But these absences need to be rare. Otherwise, everyone else ends up backing out of future meetings.

The best way to ensure good attendance is to set expectations up front during your initial recruitment visit. Clearly explain what you are asking of the volunteer and include report meeting attendance as of those expectation. It is best if you can actually share those meeting dates with the volunteer prospect during the recruitment meeting. (This should also be included in the written job description that you will leave behind after your initial meeting.)

For those potential volunteers who tell you upfront that they are happy to help, but cannot make your meetings, I strongly suggest you thank them for their consideration and not take them up on their offer. Obviously, don’t scorn them . . . but explain how important report meeting attendance is for success and then suggest a different opportunity for them to be involved in the campaign or your organization.

What does your organization do from a campaign strategy perspective to help create accountability, urgency and engagement from your fundraising volunteers? If you’ve used report meetings as a strategy, then what best practices have you used? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box. 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 should your non-profit learn from Great Britain’s Brexit vote?


brexitLast week, British voters stunned the world in a number of different ways. First, they voted in a non-binding referendum to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which triggers a process to disentangle Great Britain from the European Union (EU). Second,  global financial markets have reacted poorly to this news because it injected a large amount of uncertainty into all things financial (apparently there is now a projection by some economists that there is a 30% to 50% chance the United States will now enter into another recession because of this vote). Finally, and most importantly, many people were stunned by reporting in the days following the referendum that there appears to be a growing number of voters who felt misinformed and regretted their vote.

As I listened to last week’s news coverage, I couldn’t help but worry about what this all means for the American non-profit sector.

Of course, the risk of another recession obviously spells trouble for non-profit organizations who are still digging out from the 2008 economic crash. However, this isn’t really what concerns me the most.

The fact that voters felt misinformed and ignorant about what they were voting on is a chilling realization and one that should concern every non-profit professional.

If you stop and think about this phenomenon for a few minutes, it isn’t really surprising.

  • People are busy
  • Many people report feeling as if our world is getting faster and faster
  • Information pours into our lives at breakneck speed (e.g. network television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter, cable television, data reports in the workplace, email-email-email, etc)
  • There appears to be a blurring of the lines between opinions and facts in the media
  • There is a media outlet (and internet link) validating every point of view . . . so if you believe it, then you can reinforce it thus hardening your opinion and becoming less likely to hear opposing viewpoints

information overloadCommunications experts refer to this experience as “information overload.”

You may be asking yourself, “So what?

Well, there are consequences . . .

  • Anxiety
  • Decreased productivity
  • Tuning out and unplugging

I’m sure some of you have heard the old marketing adage that it takes at least seven times of someone hearing/seeing an advertisement before it actually breaks through the noise and registers with them. This is a concept called effective frequency.

OK, so now you might be asking yourself, “What does any of this have to do with my non-profit organization?

Let me attempt to answer this question with a few questions for you to consider:

  • What are the consequences of your donors not hearing your post-solicitation stewardship messaging?
  • What problems could result if your board members aren’t reading the reports and materials you send them prior to making decisions in the boardroom?
  • What could happen if staff aren’t processing and reacting appropriately to outcomes data, properly reading/implementing program curricula, or understanding the deliverables written into grant agreements?

If your answers were:

  • increased donor turnover
  • fewer dollars raised
  • bad decision-making
  • poor programming
  • decreased productivity and performance

. . . then you are likely on the same page with me.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is absolutely happening in your organization, but I am asking you to weigh the possibilities.

There are more theories and studies showing us the internet is rewiring our brains and changing: a) how we read and b) how we process information. (If you want to read more, click herehere . . . and here)

information-overloadSo, if you are still with me, you might be wondering what can be done to improve the likelihood that donors, board volunteers and staff are hearing (and understanding) what your organization needs them to know. While I am not a communications expert, here are a few thoughts:

  • Use more pictures and graphics
  • Tell more stories to convey your messages and contextualize your outcomes data
  • Segment your donors and do a better job at targeting your messaging
  • Use multiple communications channels (e.g. in-person, phone, mail, email, outdoor advertising, Facebook, Twitter, etc)  and stop over reliance on email and mail
  • Integrate infographics, dashboards and scorecards into your boardroom materials
  • Redesign your meetings (board and staff meetings) to be more interactive / participatory

How does your organization communicate with its stakeholders? How do you know if your key messages are being properly received and understood? Please use the comment box 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

Are values at the center of your your fundraising program?


values1Anyone watching television or engaged in community conversations in recent months knows that our communities are entering into another period of time punctuated by values. Some people are talking about life, liberty and happiness. Others of us are focused on equality versus freedom (which are two values that are somewhat mutually exclusive). Perhaps, this elevated values debate is because our country is heading into a divisive Presidential election year. Or maybe it is because big policy debates are underway about LGBTQ and gun rights issues. Regardless, all of this talk has me thinking about the role of values and your non-profit organization’s resource development program.

Whenever I facilitate a strategic planning process for a client, regardless of which planning model I use, the process typically starts off with assessment of the current state and quickly rolls into facilitated discussions about mission, vision and organizational values. I always find it interesting that board volunteers find it easy to talk about mission and vision, but they generally seem to struggle with the values piece.

I suppose this shouldn’t surprise any of us. After all, values discussions can be emotional. Consider the following famous expressions about values:

  • Give me liberty or give me death!” ~Patrick Henry
  • Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury – to me these have always been contemptible. I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best for both the body and the mind.” ~Albert Einstein
  • Only men would think of cutting themselves to determine who the packleader is. Idiots.” ~Christopher Paolini

So, a values discussion can be emotional. Got it! And then a planning facilitator like me comes along and tells your organization it is important to come up with a list of “shared values.” I guess when I look at it from this perspective, it totally makes sense that people want to punt on this exercise.

Regardless of how difficult this might be, it is still important.

Why? Well, I think Roy Disney probably put it best when he said:

It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.”

values2All of this gets me thinking about the countless discussions I’ve been a part of throughout the years with non-profit staff, boards and fundraising volunteers where difficult fundraising decisions were being made. The following are just a few examples:

  • Should a gift from Big Tobacco be accepted when the organization runs anti-smoking and healthy life skills programming with its youth clients?
  • Should a named gifts contract be signed with a donor who wants to put a Bible quote on the outside of the building when the organization is secular and committed to serving everyone in the community?
  • Should a pledge be booked to one campaign versus another fundraising activity when a donor is clear about the benefits they desire and fuzzy about their intent; all of which is juxtaposed against staff wishing to achieve the goals laid out in their individual performance plans?

UGH!

Of course, the easy answer is always . . . “What do your organizational policies say about this issue?

However, weren’t those policies shaped and developed in a crucible of shared organizational values? I hope so.

Moreover, how many times have you dusted off those policy binders only to find they don’t speak clearly or directly to your issue? When this happens, then you’re right back where you started . . . stuck and left with your organization’s shared values.

There seem to be a number of different schools of thought on the question of fundraising values.

  1. Some people believe your fundraising program should align with the organization’s shared values (hopefully found in your strategic planning document)
  2. Other people believe your fundraising program should align with the organization’s shared values, but it should also have a set of supplemental values focused specifically on the unique activities stemming from resource development activities
  3. Still others believe that fundraising staff come with a set of values that bind them together as a profession

The Association of Fundraising Professionals subscribe to the third school of thought and have this to say about values:

An ethical fundraiser aspires to: Observe and adhere to the AFP Code and all relevant laws and regulations;  Build personal confidence and public support by being trustworthy in all circumstances; Practice honesty in relationships; Be accountable for professional, organizational and public behavior; Be transparent and forthcoming in all dealings; and, Be courageous in serving the public trust.”

To be honest, I’ve never  operated under any one of these schools of thought. I guess my career has been guided and shaped by a hybrid (aka mishmash) of these ideas.

values3I’ve always taken the AFP ethics/values statement to heart, embraced my organization’s set of shared values, and superimposed my own set of individual values. As an Eagle Scout, my individual values have always been rooted in the 12-points of the Scout Law (e.g. trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent).

However, after some thoughtful consideration, I’m left worried that this approach could result in conflict. After all, what happens when an organizational value is in conflict with an individual value?

My best advice to those of you who care about values and the impact these potential conflicts might have on your organization is as follows:

  • Invest time in developing your organization’s list of shared values
  • Incorporate these values into your various systems (e.g. recognition, compensation, recruitment, etc)
  • Integrate these shared values into your supplemental planning documents (e.g. resource development plan, baord development plan, marketing plan, individual performance plans, etc)
  • Start every policy development exercise with a discussion about values
  • Find a way to talk about your organization’s shared values in every board meeting (e.g. generative discussions, CEO report, committee reports, etc)
  • Most importantly, build an organizational culture where it is safe for people to talk about their values in the context of shared organizational values (keeping in mind that your board is in a constant state of flux with volunteers coming and going)

To those of you who don’t care about this topic, I encourage you to turn on your television and watch some of the news coverage focused on what’s happening in Congress in the wake of the Orlando mass shooting. If you don’t want your non-profit board room to look like that, then I suggest you start caring about the power of values.

Has your organization had to deal with a difficult decision recently? Did values play a role in fueling the conflict or solving the problem? If so, please use the comment box 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

Please send a thank you note to your donors


In the last few months, I’ve been on a business development kick by sitting down with non-profit leaders and developing proposals for their consideration based on those conversation. After sending out the proposal, which they requested and helped frame, my recent experience is . . . nothing happens. And I do mean nothing. No follow-up phone call. No email. Not even a “thanks but no thanks form letter.” And when I initiate the follow-up, I sometimes don’t even get a response to that communication. Really?!? I am wearing deodorant (even cologne, usually). Ugh!

As I sit and contemplate this weird little trend in my professional life, I got thinking about the bigger picture and last five years of my life.

  • The last time I sent an organization my resume for a job vacancy (more than five years ago), I never received a letter acknowledging receipt of my application or a rejection letter
  • I’ve sent countless emails to non-profit organizations over the last five years asking if I could buy the CEO a cup of coffee or meal in an effort to “get to know them and their organization a little better as well as introduce myself,” and many times my email and phone calls would go unreturned
  • We’ve even made charitable contributions in the last few years and either didn’t receive a gift acknowledgement letter or it arrived oddly late

All of this chin stroking and head scratching inspired me to dust off my copy of Penelope Burk’s Donor Centered Fundraising book to look for data on how often this type of stuff happens in the non-profit sector. This is some of what I found on page 38:

  • 38% of donors say they always receive a thank you letter after making a charitable gift
  • 41% report receiving something most of the time
  • 19% receive an acknowledgement sometimes

Burk goes on to mention on page 46:

Prompt gift acknowledgement influences 44% of study donors’ future giving decisions. 38% of study donors receive a thank you letter within two weeks; 54% within a month; 8% within two months.

As I think back to that year-end charitable gift we made to an area organization for the first time, I’m remembering: a) it was the first gift we ever made to that organization outside of an event ticket and b) it is the last time we gave them any money and haven’t participated in any of their events since. As I process this for the first time since it happened, I don’t think we’re mad about it. I suspect we just don’t care enough, especially if they don’t seem to care about it.

I am left with the following thoughts and questions:

  • With so many organizations using donor databases today, isn’t it as simple as a key stroke to produce a gift acknowledgement letter?
  • Is it too time consuming to put a customized note on each computer generated letter to help alleviate the impersonal nature of this type of response?
  • For loyal donors or larger philanthropists, is another handwritten thank you note that difficult to produce?

If I had a nickle for every fundraising professional who asked me for “good samples” of gift acknowledgement and thank you letters, I would be a wealthy man. If you are one of those people who is stuck and needs a little advice, then spend a little time with the following data that Burk shares on page 37:

What donors feel makes a thank you letter superior: personalized in some way 51%; acknowledges how the gift will be used 30%; handwritten 16%; signed by a member of the board 13%

I highly recommend purchasing one of Penelope Burk’s books. For people who subscribe to and read this blog, you know I’ve been a fan for a long time.

In addition to the amazing Penelope Burk, I also suggest looking at:

And for those of you who are looking for samples and templates of well written acknowledgement and thank you letters, Miss Manners also has some wise advice for you that was published on July 24, 2012 in the Washington Post. Click here to read what she has to say. Enjoy!  😉

What is your organization’s policy on gift acknowledgement and thank you letters? Where is that policy written (e.g. gift acceptance policy? resource development plan’s section on RD policies?) What consideration went into developing your policy (e.g. size of fundraising staff? technology? donor retention goal?) Please use the comment box to share your thought 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

How is your organization blending storytelling with mission-focused donor stewardship?


write brain booksLast week I found myself in New Orleans at Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s national conference sitting in an exhibitor booth trying to make new friends and connect with old ones. On Wednesday, right before the exhibitor area opened, I was visited by a fellow exhibitor from Write Brain Books. She shared with me a little information about her company, asked me about my non-profit consulting practice, and invited me over to her booth to learn more.

After spending the morning in my booth, I decided to visit my new friend. As I crossed the exhibitor floor, I found the Write Brain Books booth. It was twice the size of most exhibitor spaces and it was very, very orange (all the way down to the orange carpeting they brought in).

While I couldn’t find the person who had visited me earlier, there was a swarm of people working the booth. More importantly, there were lots of conference attendees buzzing about and checking out this company’s program. Most importantly, everyone was greeted warmly and pulled into a discussion about how after-school providers can better engage kids in academically enriching activities. I was no exception.

Before going any further, let me give you a road map for today’s blog post.

First, I’m going to talk briefly about Write Brain Books and their amazing academic enrichment program. Second, I will talk about how this encounter became a resource development AH-HA moment blended with a peanut butter cup craving. Finally, I will provide a few examples of mission-focused and inspired donor stewardship.

Thanks for letting me do a little signposting. I hope that you’re still with me. Did I mention that we’re going to talk about peanut butter cups soon?  😉

I won’t be able to do a good job in this short space with describing the Write Brain Books program, but I think you will get a sense of it from the following bullet points:

  • Write Brain Books uses illustrated, wordless books to help spark a child’s imagination and allow them to write their own stories
  • Story Mats (e.g. 11 x 17 art posters) are also used to help engage kids in writing and storytelling
  • Story Builder Cards are used to help facilitate group writing games
  • There appears to be lots of resources for after-school program staff (e.g. facilitator guides) with an eye towards outcomes measurement
  • Participants also participate in a project-based learning and where they learn how to collaborate while co-authoring an actual book that will get published
  • This program is so much more than a simple writing program . . . participants benefit in the areas of reading, writing, vocabulary, critical thinking, collaboration, storytelling, etc
  • Write Brain Books activities aren’t just for little kids . . . programming is age-appropriate and spans K-12

I’m staring at a stack of literature on my desk, and I realize that I am only scratching the surface. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to visit Write Brain Books YouTube channel. There is also tons of great stuff on their website.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with resource development? Well, as I walked away from the Write Brain Books exhibitor booth, I had this thought . . .

reese peanut buttercups“Hey, you got peanut butter in my chocolate!”

That’s right. I’m referencing that 1981 Reese Peanut Butter Cup commercial where a peanut butter lover and chocolate lover bump into each other on the street, and the entire goofy encounter is supposed to give birth to the idea of a peanut butter cup.

If you want to take a walk down memory lane (or don’t have any idea what I’m talking about because you’re a Millennial), then here is the YouTube link to the commercial.

You might be wondering how I suddenly turned this blog post into a discussion about peanut butter cups. In addition to probably being hungry, there is a logical explanation. Please let me try to explain . . .

In the days right before BGCA’s national conference, I was researching information about the 2016 Nonprofit Storytelling Conference, which is coming to Chicago on November 10-11. As a result, I had the following two similar ideas spinning around my head as I walked away from the Write Brain Books exhibitor booth:

  1. Storytelling is an effective strategy used to engage kids in reading, writing, comprehension, vocabulary, critical thinking, and many more skills necessary for academic success in the 21st Century
  2. Storytelling is an effective engagement strategy in resource development when it comes to prospect cultivation, solicitation, and donor stewardship

Professionally, I am a BIG fan of non-profit organizations marrying together mission-focused program stories and donor stewardship activities. When this occurs, it is refreshing from a donor’s perspective and so much more effective than throwing outcomes statistics at a donor and simply saying: “See! See! Your donation resulted in ROI.

Similar to the Reese Peanut Butter Cup commercial, I had fun donor stewardship ideas rolling around my head stemming from the question of: “What would I do with the Write Brain Books program as it relates to donor stewardship if I were still working for a non-profit organization?

Here are just a few thoughts:

  • Host a reception and ask donors to participate in one of the Write Brain Books activities (e.g. Story Mats, Story Builder Cards, or a collaborative story writing exercise)
  • Use kid generated story mats as a donor gift and simple way to say thank you (as a donor to my local Boys & Girls Club, I’d totally hang a story mat on my refrigerator)
  • Host an event (e.g. book signing, panel discussion, book launch, etc), where kids could interact with donors in a meaningful and mission-focused way

If you are looking for an example, then you might want to check out what Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta did with their creative writing program a few years ago. Click here to view a creative writing program that donors received as a “donor gift” and stewardship touch.

Does your organization integrate programming opportunities with donor stewardship activities? If so, please use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences. Please also share how donors respond. 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

Make your organizational data easy to digest


dataFor the last few decades, the non-profit sector has been focused on data in an effort to convince donors to continue their philanthropic support. I still remember being a new executive director sitting in my first United Way meeting and learning about constructing logic models and differentiating between inputs, outputs, outcomes and pre- and post-test survey tools. All of this was piled on top of a slew of other data metrics my national office was asking for such as:

  • overall organizational membership
  • average daily attendance
  • member demographics (e.g. gender, age, ethnicity, zip code, household income, etc)
  • employee turnover
  • how many members attended 52 days or more per year compared to 105 days
  • And on and on and on (seriously, the report was 35 pages long)

While I understood information was powerful, especially with regards to management and decision-making, it was mind-numbing to me the first time I heard someone advocate for total transparency by sharing all of this data with donors.

My immediate reaction was:

  1. Of course, donors have the right to see what their investment is producing!
  2. But seriously . . . isn’t a data dump via the annual report, website, newsletter, impact reports, etc. counterproductive and confusing for donors?

From that starting point in the Spring of 2000, I began my journey and life-long struggle with becoming a donor-centered fundraising professional.

I must confess this quest for the holy grail of perfect donor communications is ongoing.

For the last few days, I’ve been preparing for next week’s Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Conference in New Orleans. In addition to beautifying my exhibitor booth, I’m refreshing The Healthy Non-Profit‘s marketing materials. In the process of doing this, I decided to take a stab at producing a few infographics related to some of the services I am trying to highlight.

I recently got bit by the infographic bug because two of my capital campaign clients are really good at using these tools. I just love how easy they make it look. I also became a fan after I started researching why these communication tools are so effective.

Check out the following cute infographic that helps make the case (Source: CopyBlogger post titled “25 Ideas to Transform Ho-Hum Infographics into Something Extraordinary,” written by Barry Feldman):

information-overload

As I set out to create my first few infographic handouts for my conference booth, I must admit it wasn’t easy. However, I found a few great online resources that helped me get over those first few hurdles. In the spirit of collaboration, I thought I should share:

It has been a while since I’ve served on the front line of a non-profit organization. I’m sure online tools like these are now more common. What does your organization use to distill its data and information into easy-to-digest, bite-size donor communications pieces? Please scroll down to the comment box and share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Oh wait . . . before you leave . . . it is important to note that there are some very smart fundraising professionals and bloggers who are NOT on the bus when it comes to sharing data with donors during the solicitation stage of the resource development process. While they typically agree on the importance of collecting data for data-driven decision-making, they stop short of sharing it with donors because philanthropy is an “emotional” act and not “logical.” I find these arguments compelling and lean towards storytelling as a fundraising tactic, but I still see infographics as powerful stewardship tools.

<sigh>

Heck, I tend to waffle on this issue. So, I’m interested to hear what you think.

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

April Nonprofit Blog Carnival: Advice to your younger-fundraising-self


blog carnivalI’m so honored to be hosting the April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival. When announcing April’s carnival theme in my April 4th Call for Submissions post, I was excited to see how the non-profit blogosphere would respond to this question: “If you could go back in time and give your younger-fundraising-self one piece of advice, what would it be?

I have made many mistakes over the last 20+ years of fundraising and non-profit management, and I love to share those teachable moments with younger professionals. However, the idea of learning from some of our sector’s greatest non-profit thinkers was fun and thrilling.

I challenged my fellow bloggers to incorporate time travel movie references into their posts. Having read all of the submissions, I think you won’t be disappointed. Not only did bloggers serve up some amazing advice, but in some cases bloggers included fun references to movies such as Back to the Future, Groundhog Day, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Howard the Duck, and much more.

I hope you enjoy this month’s virtual carnival rides and the sweet and savory posts chock-full of advice and tips!


time travelJoe Garecht at The Fundraising Authority blog reached out to some of the non-profit sector’s best consultants, speakers and authors and asked them to answer this month’s carnival question in his post If Famous Fundraisers Had to Start All Over Again… What They Wish they Had Known… Very entrepreneurial, Joe!   😉

I am never disappointed by what Jeff Brooks writes over at Future Fundraising Now, which is why I was so honored when he wrote something for this month’s carnival. As a young fundraiser, Jeff was prone to extreme fundraising approaches. If he could go back and advise himself, he’d tell that young extremist that moderation is a lot smarter. (Note: I think Jeff is being too hard on himself when he refers to his present-day-self as “a gray-haired, middle-aged codger.”) Click here to read his non-codger advice.

“It’s about sticking with what you know is right,” explains Claire Axelrad in her Clairification post titled The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 1. And she always knew that she couldn’t take sole credit for money that was raised under her watch. But she wishes she had known how important it is to actively give others credit. While her younger-self understood this to a degree, she didn’t to the extent that she does today. It’s so important in fundraising to come from a place of love. Because, in essence, that’s what philanthropy means.

I had no idea that Ignited Fundraising blog’s Lori Jacobwith had worked on a U.S. Senate campaign back in the 1980s.  In her post Don’t Make My Fundraising Mistakes, Make New Ones, she would tell her younger-fundraising-self that if she’s counting on people, especially volunteers (and anyone who is NOT a fundraising professional is a volunteer!) to support her work in ANY way. . . she needs to treat them like her favorite and most special donors or customers.

bill murrayI love the fact that Bill Murray makes a cameo appearance in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival thanks to Empower Nonprofits‘ Jeremy Koch.  Jeremy will tell you everything Bill Murray taught him about how to free yourself from the fundraising time loop and improve your fundraising. Keep Calm and Chive On, Jeremy!

My longtime and dear friend, Dani Robbins over at Non Profit Evolution, went into overdrive this month and submitted two posts with tons of advice. In her first submission, she shares EIGHT Teachable Moments that she wishes someone had given her when she was younger. She adds another 23 things she learned along the way in her post Reflecting on my Pursuit of Social Justice. Simply amazing . . . Thanks for sharing, Dani!

Mary Cahalane at Hands On Fundraising blog won me over by referencing one of my favorite movies — Working Girl — as she talked about her fundraising career path. She wonders how things might have been different “if only . . .” While everyone will benefit from reading To my younger fundraising self – and maybe you, new fundraising professionals are simply going to LOVE this post!!!

Seth Rosen’s post over at Joan Garry Consulting‘s blog complements the previous submission regarding the keys to building a fundraising career for those just starting out in the field. If you are new to fundraising, you’ll want to read Fundraising Career Advice: What I Wish I Knew Then.

In Zach Hagopian’s first fundraising event that he hosted with his co-founder in 2014, they learned a valuable lesson: “To leave limitations behind and think bigger / outside the box.” Event coordinators won’t want to miss out on reading Accelevents’ Back to the (Fundraising) Future.

Of all the non-profit consultants I know, Pamela Grow has an inspirational journey line stories to share. I simply love how she tells the story about what happened when the board hired a new executive director for her organization. I won’t give away the surprise, but I guarantee you will love the advice she dispenses to her younger-self!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and all of that time travel. But if after consuming all of those sugary and sweet blog posts full of advice you still find yourself craving more, then you will want to check out five additional carnival posts that I wrote throughout April for the DonorDreams blog community. Here are links to those posts:


Craig Linton at Fundraising Detective blog will host the May 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival. The theme will be “Leadership in Fundraising: the best or worst boss you ever had. What did you learn? How was the experience? Tips for others.” Click here for more details and how to submit your blog entry for consideration.

As I say at the end of all my blog posts . . .

Here’s to your health! (and try not to eat too much cotton candy at this month’s carnival)

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

Advice to my younger-fundraising-self about phone-a-thons


blog carnivalThis month DonorDreams is hosting the nationally acclaimed Nonprofit Blog Carnival, and the theme is: “If you could go back in time and give your younger-fundraising-self one piece of advice, what would it be?” In addition to asking other non-profit bloggers to submit posts for consideration, I am also focusing this month’s DonorDreams blog posts on the topic. Today’s post is the final one prior to the April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival going live on Thursday, April 28, 2016. So, mark your calendars because this month promises to be full of fun submissions.

Today’s Matrix-inspired post involves a younger me who learned valuable lessons about managing phone-a-thons. Enjoy!


Back in the early days of my career when I worked for the Boy Scouts, I remember managing my first phone-a-thon fundraising activity. It was a clean-up strategy at the end of my first Friends of Scouting (FOS) annual campaign. Here is how it worked:

  • phoneathonRecruit a handful of volunteers who don’t mind calling people and asking for money
  • Find a volunteer whose company had a bank of phones available after work (this was prior to cell phones)
  • Secure a list of previous year’s donors who hadn’t renewed their FOS pledge (names and phone numbers)
  • Develop and provide a phone script to volunteers
  • Conduct a short training before unleashing volunteers on the phone and answer all of their questions
  • Ask volunteers to complete the pledge form for those donors who made a commitment over the phone (and in lieu of a signature simply write “phone solicitation“)
  • Send pledge reminders to donors whenever the Finance Department’s next batch of invoices is scheduled to be sent

As I recall my first annual campaign, I am painfully reminded of those horrible “year-end pledge uncollectible phone calls” that both I and all of my fellow district executives were tasked with making. I remember the exact moment when I realized how many of those calls were being made to donors who had contributed via the phone-a-thon.

Unfortunately, I’m now even remembering a specific discussion with an irate donor who insisted he never made a pledge and challenged me to find any documentation with his signature on it.

<Ugh>

matrixI sometimes wish those cool phones used by the characters from the Matrix movies could be used today for time travel. Because if that was an option, I would totally go back in time to my first phone-a-thon in the late 1990s. I would tell my younger-fundraising-self the following:

  • Phone solicitation is not effective . . . you’ll raise more money by organizing campaign mop-up activities focused on in-person visits (“Just Say NO” as Nancy Reagan was famous for saying)
  • People have been conditioned for decades by telephone solicitors to be evasive
  • People receive so many phone solicitations (e.g. newspaper subscriptions, credit cards, etc) that they all blur together and can be hard for donors to recall days and months after they occur
  • Don’t just let volunteers complete the pledge form for the donor without a signature . . . create a special phone-a-thon pledge form that requires the solicitor to sign-off on the authenticity of the pledge (now you at least have the name of someone you can contact if things go wrong)
  • Set-up a procedure where donors are called within 24 hours to verify they made the pledge
  • Send out pledge reminders within 24 hours of the verification call

If you’ve gotten this far and find yourself thinking a phone-a-thon sounds like a great idea, then I refer you back to the first bullet point.


If you are a non-profit blogger who wants to participate in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival, you are unfortunately too late for April’s carnival which goes live on Thursday, April 28, 2016. However, you should check out how to participate next mont’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival at Pamela Grow’s website.

If you are a DonorDreams subscriber or reader (or someone who simply stumbled upon this post), then please come back in a few days for the April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival. Prepare yourself for some of the non-profit blogosphere’s “best & brightest” who will be sharing invaluable lessons from their fundraising and non-profit pasts. And once you’ve had your fill of sweet and savory blog posts (note to reader that I am trying to channel fun carnival imagery here), I encourage you to share the carnival with your staff and board volunteers and via your social media networks.

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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