Category Archives: philanthropy
I really hate writing about national tragedies. I sometime worry that all of this media attention (e.g. television, radio, blogosphere) simply rewards sick people who seek this exact type of attention (e.g. their 15-minutes of fame). In spite of this belief, I’ve had a few epiphanies this week as I mourn the events of Orlando with my LGBTQ friends and all of my fellow Americans, and I really want to share. So, please forgive my hypocrisy for the next few minutes.
Realization #1: Lots of blame to go around
As I’ve attempted to process this most recent horrific shooting, I couldn’t help but watch the news. In doing so, I’ve heard so many different people and groups stand-up to condemn what they believe is the root cause of this catastrophe. Interestingly, there are many different groups who cannot seem to agree on what the driving force was behind the Orlando massacre.
After days of listening to others and trying to make sense of it all, here are all of the things I’ve been told by others to blame:
- Lack of gun control
- Mental illness
- Homophobia (externalized and perhaps even internalized homophobia)
After almost a week of watching news reports and television shows, I’ve come to two conclusions:
- I need to stop watching TV because anyone with an opinion seems to be getting a chance to voice it
- There are likely many different reasons why this gunman did what he did
Realization #2: Homophobia in all forms is harmful
Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Time to address homophobia in the non-profit sector?” I focused on my experiences over the last two decades as a member of the LGBTQ community trying to work in the non-profit sector. Most importantly, I tried to talk about my internalized homophobia and reactions to institutional homophobia and just homophobia in general.
My internalized homophobia has caused me to:
- quit jobs
- lie to friends, colleagues and clients
- impose upon those who I love (e.g. my husband)
- engage in self-destructive behavior (e.g. overeating, etc)
To bottom line this realization, HATE is one of the most powerful and motivating emotions known to humankind. I suspect that where there is HATE (regardless of whether it is homophobia, racism, sexism, misogyny, etc) there will always be a high likelihood of violence.
Realization #3: Non-profits bear responsibility for this mess and will also be the solution
I’m sure many of you probably think I’ve lost my mind. After all, what rationale could I possibly come up with that would allow me to blame non-profit organizations for this mess and charge them with fixing it?
Please join me in reviewing the list of non-profit organizations that I heard/read mentioned in news coverage this last week:
- Democratic National Committee
- Republican National Committee
- National Rifle Association
- The Brady Campaign
- The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
- Newtown Action Alliance
- Everytown for Gun Safety (Michael Bloomerberg’s non-profit org)
- OneOrlando Fund (fund set-up to raise money to support non-profits helping victims of this shooting)
- Equality Florida
- Human Rights Campaign (aka HRC)
- Mental Health America (interviewed by The Washington Post)
- Council on American-Islamic Relations
I’m willing to bet if I tried a little harder that I could double this list. All of these groups are non-profit organizations. Some of these organizations have been blamed for the problem, and others are rushing in to help address it.
However, I want to take this point one step further with the following random non-profit thoughts as they pertain to solving our country’s mass shooting crisis:
- I’m interested to see how the NRA reacts to the legislative push to outlaw people on the terror watch list from being able to legally purchase guns
- I’m interested to see how after-school programs will embrace diversity programming to help kids appreciate our differences rather than hate and bully
- I’m interested to see how churches rally and Muslim mosques rally their congregations in the name of love (and likewise which ones will embrace hate)
- I’m interested to see how mental health non-profits addressing the issue of gun rights and the rights of their clients in addition to looking at homophobia differently
- I’m interested to watch the Democratic Party and the Republican Party try to spin the Orlando shooting into political gain in November
- I’m interested to see if organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations can stop anti-Muslim legislation and help foster a healthy interfaith dialog
- When will organizations like the Boy Scouts of America finally stop teaching kids that gay people can’t be trusted to be leaders because their values are different (thus helping create another generation of gay scouts who struggle with internalized homophobia and straight scouts who look down upon LGBTQ individuals)
So, what do you think now? Lots of “non-profit stuff” going on when it comes to the Orlando shooting, right? Please use the comment box to share your thoughts, experiences and concerns. Nothing is off limits. All I ask is that you keep it civil.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
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:
- Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior
- Miss Manners’ Basic Training: Communication
- Miss Manners Minds Your Business
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!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
For 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:
- Of course, donors have the right to see what their investment is producing!
- 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):
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:
- Donna Moritz’ blog post titled “7 Super Tips for Creating Powerful Infographics” on the Entrepreneur blog
- Wick Marketing’s “The Power of Infographics“
- Allison Gauss’ “10 Nonprofit Infographics that Inspire and Inform” on Classy Blog
- Picktochart, which is an online infographic generation tool (Note: I subscribed to the free version and liked this site’s intuitiveness. I might even upgrade into one of their pay-packages.)
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.
Heck, I tend to waffle on this issue. So, I’m interested to hear what you think.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
This month DonorDreams is hosting the nationally acclaimed Nonprofit Blog Carnival, and this month’s 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. The April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is scheduled to go live on Thursday, April 28, 2016. So, mark your calendars because this month promises to be full of fun submissions.
Today’s time machine post involves a younger me who learned valuable lessons about inspiring and managing special event volunteers. Enjoy!
As many readers know, I was once an executive director for a non-profit organization that ran a Duck Race fundraiser. For those of you who don’t know what a Duck Race is, it is simply a raffle where serial numbers on the bottom of little rubber ducks correspond to numbered adoption papers sold to donors. The first 10 ducks that cross a water raceway finish line win prizes. The challenge from a revenue perspective is essentially two-fold:
- Sell lots of sponsorships
- Sell lots of duck adoptions
The key to selling lots of duck adoptions is also simple. Organize as many volunteer teams as possible. Encourage them to sell to their friends, family and co-workers AND set up adoption tables in high foot traffic areas (e.g. outside of grocery stories, in malls, etc).
The big challenge from a non-profit fundraising professional’s perspective is:
- inspiring volunteers to sell duck adoptions
- creating a culture of fun
- being creative with accountability
- instilling a sense of urgency
- keeping people focused on the goal
Being a young fundraising professional, I made the decision to use weekly update reports in an effort to inspire competition between duck adoption teams as well as foster a sense of accountability and urgency.
Of course, as we got closer and closer to the event and the duck adoption totals weren’t exponentially jumping, my weekly reports ended up doing the opposite as they were intended. Not only were volunteers uninspired, but some board members started whispering about whether or not I knew what I was doing.
In the 1986 box office flop Howard the Duck, Howard gets transported from his home world of “Duckworld” by a dimensional-jumping device. If I had access to that device today, I would totally transport myself to a place where I could share the following nuggets of advice with my younger-fundraising-self:
- reporting can cut both ways with volunteers (esp. when falling short with goals)
- always find good news to spotlight regardless of how small it may be
- perceived negativity is like a flu virus (very catchy and spreads quickly)
- “who” issues the report is important (peer-to-peer accountability is powerful and reports should come from the volunteer event chair and not staff)
- positive incentives and fun recognition items are important to tie to a reporting tool
I would also put my arm around my younger-fundraising-self and tell me that using “reporting tools” to create accountability and “goal setting” to create urgency are best practices, but these tools must be used in conjunction with the following volunteer engagement strategies:
- well run, in-person meetings
- mission-focused messaging and activities
- setting expectations upfront
- helping people feel organized and being personally organized
- celebrate success (both big and small successes early and often)
Where is a dimensional-jumping device when you need one? 😉
If you are a non-profit blogger who wants to participate in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and submit a post for consideration on this month’s carnival theme, click here to read the “call for submissions” post I published a few weeks ago. It should answer all of your questions and clearly explain how to submit your entry. If not, then simply email me and I’ll be happy to help.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
While it is well established that Baby Boomer donors currently are in the prime charitable giving years, the fact of the matter is Millennial donors are becoming a force with which non-profits must reckon. So, I’ve asked Zach Hagopian from Accelevents to weigh-in with his suggestions on how your organization should start thinking about acquisition and retention of this new powerhouse generation of philanthripists. I think you will like his four suggestions. Here’s to your health! ~Erik
4 Ways to Acquire and Retain Millennial Donors
By Zach Hagopian
Co-founder & COO of Accelevents
Is your nonprofit organization trying to break into the millennial space in order acquire and retain more millennial donors?
In this post, I am going to outline some of our most useful tips for both acquiring and retaining millennial donors.
But first, let’s discuss why millennial donors are so valuable…
According to the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, a whopping 84% of millennials made a charitable donation in 2014. Long gone are the days of assuming millennials are a predominantly selfish group of consumers.
While we can all agree that capturing millennial donors is immensely valuable for your nonprofit organization (or just for your annual fundraising event), many NPOs and fundraisers struggle to acquire and retain these donors.
Here are four of my best tips for acquiring and retaining millennial donors.
1. Get Personal
Our first tip is to get personal with your potential donors – tell the story of your cause and how it personally relates to your experience.
While inclined to donate, millennials constantly seek stories that they can identify with. Affinity in values and social responsibility are extremely important, when it comes to the restaurants millennials eat at, the stores they shop at, and even the organizations they donate to.
Conveying your story in a meaningful way will get you in the door with millennials, and the rest will be history (if you follow our next three steps…)!
2. Utilize Technology
One thing that we can all agree on is that millennials are very connected.
Whether we are checking our iPhones every 30 seconds, or sneaking a look at our Facebook news feed during a conference call, we millennials have the means to find and share any information instantly.
And fundraisers / nonprofits should be using this to their advantage!
In today’s world, millennials are willing to donate to charitable causes, but they desire to do so on their terms, which means embracing easy-to-use, flexible, and accessible donation tools. For the most part, this entails making the switch from traditional means to online and mobile enabled platforms.
These tools can be anything from donation pages to mobile silent auctions and raffles and peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.
Regardless of the tools you decide to move forward with, embracing technology will allow you to offer millennials a much easier channel for them to donate whenever they’d like.
3. Embrace FOMO
Our next tip if for your organization to embrace one of the strongest emotions felt among millennials – THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT (aka “FOMO”).
When used with online and social fundraising methods, FOMO can become one of your best tools for millennial acquisition AND retention.
The key here is to hold your donors socially accountable. Did your supporters just buy a ticket to your next fundraising event? Has one of your donors just made a donation to support your cause? Provide them a means to share this to their social network!
When your donors share updates about your cause, the benefits here are twofold:
- Acquisition – Other millennials will witness all of the passion and excitement around supporting your cause, and will flock to join. Just like that, you’ve acquired new millennial donors.
- Retention – Your current supporters may not have returned to support your cause for a second time. FOMO comes to the rescue, reminding them that they too should be joining in the excitement of helping a great cause.
4. Show Your Appreciation (with a twist!)
While our final tip applies to donors of all ages, it is still extremely important for your millennial donors. As most people do, millennials appreciate being acknowledged for their support and contribution to your cause.
Traditional methods of thanking your millennial donors work great, but your thank-yous are even more effective when you can add a twist!
Some of our favorite examples of unique acknowledgements for millennials include:
- Donor Spotlights – Has one of your donors (or a group of donors) gone above and beyond in their support of your cause? If so, create a nice piece of content on their story, and share this out to your audience. Not only will the highlighted donor(s) feel appreciated, but your other supporters will see the lengths that your team goes to, in order to acknowledge your donors
- Create a Sizzle Reel – Did you just wrap up a great fundraising event or have your best year in terms of donations? Spend some resources to create a great video or “sizzle reel” to share with your audience. An exciting video will stand out against the hundreds of emails your audience receives each day, and it’s also a great piece of content for your donors to share out to their networks!
About the Author
Zach Hagopian is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding. An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.
As a Millennial living in Boston with strong ties to the Boston fundraising community, Zach most recently spent the past two years organizing a fundraiser geared almost completely to millennial donors. In his first year, they attracted 850 guests to their event and raised over $65,000 for the prestigious Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In year two, they raised $108,000 from over 1,000 Boston-area millennials and young professionals.
In a nutshell, the Nonprofit Blog Carnival is an online traveling show of non-profit bloggers. Each month one blogger hosts the carnival and asks their fellow non-profit bloggers to submit a published post from their blog focused on a particular topic. The benefit to this approach is that readers are able to get a large concentration of advice and resources from a variety of non-profit thought-leaders all in one place.
I am honored and privileged to be hosting the Nonprofit Blog Carnival for a fourth year in a row.
As has been the tradition ever since Kivi Leroux Miller founded the Carnival in 2006, the host publishes a “Call for submissions” at the beginning of the month. In that post, the following is explained:
- fun or special rules in order to be considered for inclusion
- how and what to submit
In the space below, I will walk you through all of these things for the April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival. Now please excuse me, while I step up to the online carnival main stage and proclaim to the world:
“Step right up! The April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is live and we’re gonna do the time warp again!“
If you are looking for a link to last month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival hosted by Allyson Kapin at RAD Campaign, click here to read more about what the non-profit blogosphere had to say about “Reaching Millennials And Beyond“.
I hope you are ready for a fun Nonprofit Blog Carnival in April. If so, please keep reading to learn more. 😉
If you could go back in time and give your younger-fundraising-self one piece of advice, what would it be?
A few months ago I was onsite with a client and found myself working with a young fundraising professional. They hadn’t been on the job for long. In fact, their background wasn’t even in resource development. If my memory serves me well, then I think they had a college degree and an internship’s worth of experience in marketing or public relations.
My work with this organization was focused on a particular fundraising campaign, and the “issue of the hour” had to do with the level of engagement (or lack thereof) of their campaign volunteers. After spending a little time with this new fundraising professional, I discovered their love of email to communicate with volunteers. So, I spent much of my time talking about the value of report meetings, rallies, update reports and phone calls instead of a constant stream of emails.
Later that evening, I was working from the hotel room with the television chirping away in the background. One of the “Back to the Future” movies was the evening feature. Ignoring Michael J. Fox and focusing instead on my work from earlier in the day, I started thinking about all of the fundraising mistakes I had made (and hopefully learned from) when I was younger.
And then something spectacular happened both on the television set as well as in my head. Christopher Lloyd’s character, Dr. Emmett Brown, successfully completed one of his time travel experiments and I found myself thinking:
“If only time travel was possible. There are so many things I would tell my younger-fundraising-self!“
My very next thought was . . . “Holy cow! THAT would be an awesome topic for a Nonprofit Blog Carnival. I would LOVE to read what some of the blogosphere’s best non-profit bloggers (e.g. Pamela Grow, Marc Pitman, Jeff Brooks, Gail Perry, etc) would go back in time to tell their younger-fundraising-selves.”
So, there you have it bloggers!
The April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival theme is all about:
“What one piece of advice would you give your younger-fundraising-self if time travel was possible?”
If you aren’t a fundraising blogger, you are welcome to adjust the theme to what one piece of advice would you give your younger-nonprofit-self”.
I encourage bloggers to be specific. Perhaps, you could consider telling us about a situation from your early days as a fundraiser or non-profit professional that was challenging and what you would travel back in time to tell yourself that would’ve made a difference.
Obviously, it is your blog and you may do whatever you please within the parameters of this month’s theme.
Special rules in place for April submissions
Let’s have a little fun with this topic. It lends itself nicely to it. Right? 😉
It hasn’t been unusual for me in the past to get a ton of submissions for consideration. On a few occasions, I had to exclude some bloggers because there were too many posts from which to choose.
In order to stimulate a little creativity this month, I will give “special bonus points” to bloggers who include a reference to a time travel movie or build their entire post around such a motion picture.
There are literally tons of movies from which you could choose. Here are just a few ideas:
- Back to the Future
- Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures
- Star Trek
- Hot Tube Time Machine
- Austin Powers
And this is just the tip of the iceberg!
Since this topic is very broad, I encourage you to focus on a time when you were young and working on a project such as writing a resource development plan, capital campaigns, annual campaigns, special events, planned giving, board development, marketing, program development/implementation, grant writing. Or you could drill even deeper by talking about micro-topics such as developing a case for support, prospect identification/evaluation, stewardship/retention, donor database selection, year-end board member evaluation, etc. Simply tell us about the project, your experience, the result and what you would choose to go back in a time machine and tell yourself in order to get a different result.
The sky is obviously the limit . . . so let’s get creative and have some fun!
Of course, if you aren’t into movies, that is fine. Please feel free to submit anything, and you have my assurance that I’ll include your post if there is space and if it is on topic.
How bloggers should submit their work for consideration?
You are welcome to write your blog post anytime during the month of May (or even submit a post you may have previously published); however, I must receive your submission by the end of the day on Monday, April 25, 2016:
How do you submit? Simply email the following information to nonprofitcarnival[at]gmail[dot]com:
- Your name
- The URL of your post
- A two of three sentence summary of your post
We will publish the April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival on Thursday, April 28, 2016 right here at DonorDreams blog.
Earlier this week and last week, I started writing about the State of Illinois’ budget crisis and how it is impacting non-profit organizations. In Part 1 of this series, I shared survey results provided by United Way of Illinois along with other insights and perspectives . In Part 2, I talked to a non-profit executive director whose organization lost significant funding as a result of Illinois’ budget impasse and shared some surprising developments. Today, I have a suggestion for Illinois non-profit leaders to mull over as the crisis deepens (and there is lots here for non-profit leaders from other states to chew on, too).
Frog in boiling water
We’ve all heard the story about frogs and boiling pots of water. Right?
Assuming that some of you haven’t any clue of what I’m talking about, here is a nice summary from Wikipedia:
“The boiling frog is an anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that occur gradually.”
I have no clue what the origins of this old story are, but I do know this . . .
IT IS A MYTH!
Don’t want to take my word for it because you might have heard it from your grandfather or another beloved family member. No problem … I completely understand. Let me provide you with scientific proof. Simply click here, click here for more, and click here if you are in deep denial. If you clicked all three links, I’m guessing you probably also believe a number of other grossly inaccurate things about other animals and suggest you the Snopes.com article titled “Critter Country: Wild Inaccuracies”
So, what does any of this silliness have to do with non-profits and the Illinois budget impasse?
Your organization is like a frog!
In other words, your non-profit should (and likely will) jump out of the boiling waters of government funding if things get too hot. It is a simple matter of survival.
Question #1: When?
I’ve lamented too often — right here on this blog — that too many non-profit boards operate poorly. They don’t understand (and sometimes reject) their legally defined fiduciary responsibilities, focus their meetings obsessively on monitoring rather than governance, micromanage the organization and its staff, rubber stamp things (oftentimes very important things) that staff put in front of them, and my list can go on and on.
If anything in the last paragraph describes your organization’s board of directors, please hear me clearly . . .
You’re at risk!
In other words, you might just be on the road to proving all of the scientists, who said in the last section that “the boiling frog story is an urban legend,” are liars.
Your board is likely made up of smart people. If they aren’t being used (at a minimum) as a “sounding board” on the issue of government funding and what to do about it, then my suggestions are:
- Stop business as usual in your boardroom
- Start adding a 45 minute “generative discussion” agenda item to every one of your monthly meetings for the foreseeable future
- Focus your discussions around various aspects of your government funding situation
- Bring in guest speakers who know more than you do about state funding and your grants
- Pose open ended questions and facilitate an engaging dialog where everyone is encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings
- Don’t just have theoretical conversations … also pose action oriented questions (e.g. what are our options? what should we be doing?)
If you and your board can make this adjustment in non-profit governance, I guarantee you that . . .
It will be clear when it is time to jump out of the boiling pot!
Question #2: What?
Of course, the more difficult question for most non-profit organizations is “What to do about it?”
If your organization isn’t reliant on government funding, the answer is easy . . . carry on and try not to gloat too much around your non-profit friends. For those of you who rely on modest (or perhaps significant) government money, then you want to keep reading.
If you and your board have decided the water is getting a little too hot, then here are a few suggestions:
- Re-exam your non-profit revenue model
- Explore other models (refer to previous section about generative discussions in the boardroom)
- Make a group decision about which model (or hybrid model) is best for your organization at this time
- Don’t try to turn the battleship all at once … choose one (or a few) things to “try on for size” and experiment with small aspects of your new revenue model (e.g. write a private sector foundation grant, engage a corporate partner, identify prospective individual donors and start a conversation with them; write a business plan for a potential social enterprise, etc)
- Invest time, energy and effort in evaluation of every new thing you undertake and commit to nurturing a culture of improvement and excellence
- Celebrate every success from top-to-bottom and side-to-side of your organization (no matter how big or small it may be)
If you got this far and still find yourself scratching your head over the idea of different non-profit revenue models, then you need to click-through and read a Bridgespan white paper titled “Ten Nonprofit Funding Models“. I also highly suggest clicking on and reading every hyperlink embedded in the white paper.
If you don’t believe your organization can do this without help, then I have some good news. There are countless non-profit consultants (myself included) who are available for hire.
Stop listening to stupid people
I do NOT believe foundation leaders and United Way professionals are “stupid people“. However . . .
I have heard some people (in fact some are even dear friends of mine), amplify the cautionary words of foundations and United Ways and then twist them by concluding “private sector philanthropy” cannot fill the gap. It is these folks to whom I urge you to please stop listening.
The reality is that foundations, corporations and United Ways only account for 20% of the $358 billion of charitable giving. The remainder of the pie (a huge whopping 80%) comes from individuals either directly or through bequests.
Moreover, charitable giving is only 2% of our country’s GDP.
The pie can be increased. There is room to expand and grow. Foundation leaders and United Way professionals never said private sector philanthropy couldn’t be the solution (or at least a big part of the solution). They were simply say that politicians need to stop telling voters their organizations will fill the gap.
Are you a doubting Thomas? If so, then I have a proposition for you . . .
Add this topic to your board agenda. I think it makes for an awesome generative discussion. If you’re an Illinois non-profit organization and you’re looking for someone to speak in your boardroom on this subject and facilitate a generative discussion, then please contact me because I would be willing to consider it.
Next up in this blog series?
I’ve sent emails to a handful of politicians and policymakers who I trust and respect. I’ve invited them to share their thoughts on this subject. If any of them respond, then I’ll publish those next week.
In the meantime, please use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences on the Illinois budget impasse, the impact you’re seeing on the non-profit sector, your thoughts on what organizations should be doing about it, or anything else that is top of mind regarding the state of government funding (federal, state or local) and those trends. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
As most of you know, DonorDreams blog has dedicated the first Thursday of every month for almost the last year to featuring a short video from Henry Freeman, who is an accomplished non-profit and fundraising professional. We affectionately call this monthly series “Hangin’ With Henry” because of the conversational format around which he has framed his online videos. This month we’re talking about Making People Comfortable During a First Visit. I thought this video would be a night follow-up for my blog post published two weeks ago titled “Can we all please agree that ambushing donors needs to stop?” where I shared tips on how to set-up a meeting with a prospect/donor without ambushing them.
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.
OK, I understand that Henry is talking about “the first visit” within a major gifts initiative context. However, doesn’t everything he said still apply to other resource development work, especially when sitting down with a new prospect during a cultivation visit?
I think one of the things that I loved the most from Henry’s video is how he talks about leaving your fundraising agenda at the door during your first visit.
So, let’s stop here and focus on leaving your agenda at the door. How have you successfully done this? What have you focused on instead? What clues in the conversation where you able to pick-up on that gave you permission to go back and open the door on your fundraising agenda?
We can all learn from each other. Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
Let’s face it. Times change, and those things that don’t evolve and keep up with the times get old and stale. And this applies to everything in life including your fundraising plan (which includes your goals, strategies, tactics and sometimes even best practices). I’ve asked Abby Jarvis from Qgiv to weigh-in with her suggestions on how your organization might evolve its approach to soliciting donors and polishing up its fundraising plan. I think you will like her five suggestions. Here’s to your health! ~Erik
5 Ways to Make Better Fundraising Asks
By Abby Jarvis
Blogger, marketer & communications coordinator for Qgiv
Your nonprofit is constantly trying to improve. Whether you’re developing an efficiency hack for your staff members or trying new fundraising events, openness to change is what allows your organization to grow, acquire more donors, and raise more money for your cause.
One area that nonprofits can constantly improve in is their donation appeal strategies. There is always room for improvement, whether you ask for donations over the phone, in person, with direct mail, or through any other method.
Check out these five ways to improve your fundraising appeals!
1. Update your website
Donors who find themselves on your nonprofit’s website don’t want to see pages that haven’t been updated since 2007.
Part of improving your fundraising efforts should involve sprucing up your nonprofit’s website and donation page.
Online donations are steadily rising and becoming the preferred giving method for younger generations who have grown up surrounded by technology. Make sure that you aren’t losing these donors’ interests by having an outdated donation page and website.
Check out these great examples of donation forms for a little inspiration.
2. Start personalizing your direct mail
You wouldn’t send a letter to your Aunt Margaret that started off with “Dear Relative.”
You shouldn’t be doing that in your direct mail appeals either.
One characteristic that unites all nonprofits with successful direct mail solicitation is the personalization of their letters.
Personalization doesn’t just mean using the donor’s name in the greeting, though. It also means:
- Referencing past involvement or contributions.
- Offering new ways to interact with your nonprofit.
- Suggesting giving levels based on past contributions.
- A personal signature from an organization member.
- And more!
Make sure that you’re personalizing your direct mail appeals to bring in more donations for your nonprofit!
3. Ramp up your email campaigns
More and more nonprofits are looking to improve their email marketing techniques. Is your organization ready to join them?
Ramping up your email campaigns means taking a look at the successful emails you’ve sent in the past and improving the ones that weren’t as effective.
Don’t just send out donation appeals in your emails, though. Give donors regular updates about your organization with:
- Success stories.
- Info on current projects.
- Volunteering opportunities.
- Invitations to events.
- And more!
Sending out emails to your donors is a cost-effective and efficient way to keep them in the loop and to ask for donations.
4. Host really great fundraising events
Even though event fundraisers come with a cost, they can be fantastic opportunities for your supporters to interact with one another and your nonprofit.
They can be a valuable be a great way for your organization to ask for donations!
Let’s say you’re hosting a family fun day for your church’s mission trip. During the opening or closing ceremony, let attendees know why their donations are so important and what they will help fund. Then, give them ways to donate either through physical, on-site donations, or digital methods like text-to-give or mobile donation forms.
Hosting a fundraising event takes a lot of planning and coordination, but with the right tools, your nonprofit can make better fundraising asks at the events you host for donors!
5. Take a look at your major gift strategy
Asking for donations from major gift prospects can be tricky. Not only do you have to convince someone that your organization is worth supporting, but you have to ask that person for a significant amount of money.
The best way for your nonprofit to succeed when it comes to major gifts is to develop a strategy for going after those donations. This strategy should include:
- Appointing a major gift officer.
- Developing comprehensive cultivation techniques.
- Forming solid relationships with your prospects.
- Using prospect research to help determine the right ask amount.
- Creating solid stewardship practices for after the donation has been made.
Major gifts are often some of the biggest donations that a nonprofit can receive. In fact, an individual who has made a gift between $50,000 and $100,000 is 25 times more likely to donate than an average person is. Make sure you aren’t missing out on these large contributions because your major gift strategy has been found lacking.
Your nonprofit should have several goals for improvement, but one of them should definitely be to make better fundraising asks! With these five tips, you’ll be set for success. Happy asking!
Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading online giving and peer to peer fundraising tools for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.
Well, it happened to me and my husband again just the other day. We were asked to dinner by a non-profit friend. It was a simple dinner invitation, and one that we’ve been working on setting up for more than a year. We weren’t in the restaurant for more than 15 minutes and the pre-meal cocktails had just arrived, when our friend was asking us to give some consideration to making a contribution to their organization’s endowment fund.
There isn’t any other way to characterize a situation like this other than it was an old fashion…
The inexplicable thing I still cannot wrap my head around is that we would’ve happily accepted this dinner invitation if we knew there was a solicitation attached to it.
Some of you might be wondering what the big deal is all about.
Simply, I believe soliciting unsuspecting prospects and donors is detrimental to your organization (and to everyone else in non-profit sector) for the following reasons:
- It puts the person on the spot (and when has that ever felt good?)
- It erodes trust (what will they think the next time you ask them to join you for a meal?)
- It validates the erroneous belief by some people that fundraising is a sneaky and shameful activity focused on making people do something they otherwise wouldn’t want to do
- It feels wrong when friends do this to their friends and colleagues, which contributes to people saying NO when asked to volunteer for a non-profit fundraising campaign
Yes, I understand most people don’t do this purposefully. They simply weren’t trained appropriately or they harbor anxiety about rejection (or any number of other fears) when it comes to setting up the fundraising meeting.
Some of you are probably now wondering what the solution is.
Almost 10 years ago, I ran into a very smart board volunteer who understood the importance of training. So much so, his company developed a video he used with his fellow board members to help them feel more comfortable with every aspect of the solicitation progress. I was lucky enough that he agreed to share his homemade training video with me.
Embedded within more than an hour of video was a seven minute clip explaining (and role playing) the appropriate way to pick-up the phone and successfully secure a fundraising meeting with a prospect/donor. This is simply one of the best pieces of video that I’ve ever seen on this topic.
In an effort to do may part to help eradicate the “ambush” tactic from our non-profit toolbox, I will share with you some of the tips from this video.
- Before picking up the phone, write down three reasons why you need to sit down with your prospect/donor and keep that piece of paper nearby when you place the call (and look at this piece of paper when you feel yourself getting nervous)
- When the prospect/donor answers the phone, ask them for time to meet in-person (after preliminary greetings and chit-chat, of course) and share the three reasons for the meeting
- Some of the reasons to meet in-person might include: a) asking for advice, b) securing their involvement, c) thanking them for their support, d) accessing their expertise; BUT one of the reasons must include discussing their potential support of the campaign, event or fundraising activity in question
- Making up reasons to meet can feel insincere and manipulative . . . so don’t use silly reasons. Come up with real reasons that will benefit the organization or are plausible based upon your personal relationship
- Don’t ask if they can meet . . . ask them when they can meet.
If this sounds simple, it’s because it is. If you still don’t believe this approach works, then think of it this way . . .
We are all very busy with our lives. So, when a friend calls asking for some of your time and only gives one reason for the meeting, it doesn’t feel weighty enough to want an in-person meeting. Surely one discussion item can quickly be resolved on the telephone. Right??? However, listing off a number of things you wish to discuss begins to feel lengthy and not well suited for a quick telephone conversation.
Still don’t believe me? Well then, I guess there is only one way to resolve this dispute . . . try this strategy on for size next time you need to schedule an in-person meeting with a prospect/donor. I’m betting that you’re successful. 😉
Do you have additional tips to share with the non-profit sector about how to set-up an in-person meeting with a prospect/donor without resorting to ambush tactics? If so, please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC