Category Archives: resource development

All posts pertaining to cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship

Another book that every non-profit professional should own


For those of you who are keeping score, it has been three straight days of posts. And the entire week has been “all Mazarine … all of the time!” I think it should be fairly obvious at this point that I’ve become a big fan and I think you should be, too.

Let’s take a moment to recap where we’ve been and where we’re going:

  • Two days ago, I reviewed one of Mazarine’s books in a post titled “One book that every non-profit professional should own
  • Yesterday, I shared with you a virtual interview with Mazarine. In that post, she talked about her upcoming Fundraising Career Conference, which does not require any travel or lodging expenses because it is an online virtual conference
  • Today, if you keep scrolling down, I will talk briefly about another one of Mazarine’s books that I absolutely loved
  • In a few months (sometime this summer), there will be a fourth and final blog. I will share with you another virtual interview with Mazarine. We will talk all about her other online virtual conference in September — Nonprofit Leadership Summit

Are you new to the fundraising field? Do you fundraise for a small to mid-sized organization? Are you expected to know a little bit about a lot of fundraising things? Is your resource development plan full of diverse revenue strategies? Then I think I’ve found a great book for you — The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising.

In fact, if you are an experienced fundraising professional, who has already raised millions of dollars throughout your career, then I suspect you, too, might really appreciate this book. (Teaser . . . I’ll explain this a little more later in the post)

From the very beginning in the foreword section of the book, Mazarine captured my sense of curiosity when she wrote:

“Why I wrote the Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising?

  • The world needs more realistic optimists
  • There are so many good causes, and so few fundraisers
  • You can change the world with these tools, and the world needs some big changers right now

I wrote this book to be a fun primer to fundraising I never had.”

Seriously? How could I not keep reading?

  • I wanted to know more about what she meant by “realistic optimists” as it pertains to the fundraising field.
  • I completely agree with her about too few fundraising professionals and the power to change the world using a philanthropy paradigm.
  • But most of all, I was super curious about how she intended to transform a book about fundraising into a “fun primer.

Most of the fundraising books I’ve read throughout the years, immediately start off in chapter one with technical, wonky resource development concepts. With all due respect to those authors (and I really love those books, too), it can sometimes sound like Ben Stein’s teacher character in the 1986 movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

But Mazarine started off completely different.

  • Chapter 0 (not a typo … indeed she has a chapter zero) is titled “All About YOU! Your Family Background
  • Chapter 1 immediately tackles the myth that fundraising is about money. She titled this chapter “Development is about communication
  • Chapter 2 is about finding a fundraising job that it a right fit for you. And even if you already have a great job, I think you might find some of the resources in this chapter really fun and helpful (e.g. link to her presentation on ‘your fundraising personality,’ instructions on how to write stories using a ‘What-How-Wow structure,’ etc)

I expected the first three chapters to be about special events, grant writing and annual campaigns and trudging onward into major gifts, capital campaigns and planned giving. This formula is fairly typical for most entry level fundraising books. But Mazarine is far from typical. She threw me a curveball, and the first three chapters were all about ME. Needless to say, I was hooked. Go figure. LOL

It is worth noting that Mazarine tips her hand by starting her book in this way. The fact that the first three chapters are all about ME and not about her (or about fundraising strategy) sends a clear signal that her teachable point of view on resource development aligns with Penelope Burk’s Donor-Centered Fundraising books and school of thought.

Before I give you the wrong impression about this book, there is lots of material written on traditional fundraising topics. Here is a list of just a few chapters (and yes, these are her actual chapter titles):

  • Building Relationships: How to find & cultivate donors
  • Events (AKA Kicking Ass and Throwing Parties!)
  • Appealing (Ever want to write beautiful letters for a living?)
  • Phone-a-thons (Yo, what’s your ring-tone?)
  • Putting it all together: Your Wild Development Plan!

There are 17 chapters in all. None of the chapters are very long. Every chapter is packed full of suggestions and resources. Most importantly, nothing reads like an Econ 101 textbook (not that there is anything wrong with that).

There is a lot about this book that I like, but the one thing that I LOVE is how she distills big ideas down into simple nuggets and surrounds them with easy to implement suggestions. It is what makes this book so AWESOME for new fundraising professionals.

As I teased earlier at the start of this blog post, I think this book is a treasure for experienced fundraising professionals in the following ways:

  • It is a fun way to “refresh” your point of view on many fundraising ideas (and there are links to resources in this book that I appreciated as a long-time fundraising professional)
  • It is a great resource to use during a new employee orientation, especially if the newbie to your development department is kinda new to the profession or nonprofit sector
  • It is a great resource to give to the volunteers serving on your organization’s resource development committee

Learn more about Mazarine Treyz

If you can’t tell, I’ve quickly become a fan of Mazarine Treyz. She is one of the more genuine people who I’ve met in my travels, and I’ve quickly become a fan. Like me, Mazarine is a blogger and you can learn a lot about her by visiting her blog and sifting through her posts. You can find her at Wild Woman Fundraising. But if you do nothing else, you should go buy a copy of this book. I promise that you won’t regret it!

Interview with Mazarine Treyz about the online Fundraising Career Conference


Yesterday, I posted a review of “Get The Job: Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide,” which is a book written by a very talented fundraising coach/consultant by the name of Mazarine Treyz. If the title of the book intrigues you, then you definitely want to check out my review. I suspect that after reading more, you’ll most likely be running off to Amazon to get yourself a copy.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Mazarine (or gets to know her through her books) that she used her book as a foundation to build an online virtual conference called the Fundraising Career Conference. This year the online conference is on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting on April 17th. There are 10 different sessions, and Mazarine has some very awesome presenters lined up. (If you are looking for CFRE credits, then you don’t want to miss this opportunity to earn some)

The training sessions are designed to deepen your knowledge on the topics presented in the book. The ultimate outcomes for participants include:

  • Finding a new job
  • Better understand your skills gaps
  • Creating a better work environment for you and those around you
  • Identifying and achieving your career goals

And if you’re afraid that someone also logging into the conference will see your name in an attendees box and tell your boss, then fear no more because Mazarine is keeping everyone’s identities hidden.

If you aren’t yet signed up for this online conference, I urge you to click-through and check it out. After all, it isn’t just for people currently looking for a job.

In order to give you a better feel for Mazarine and what her book and conference bring to the table, I “virtually” interviewed her. You can read the transcript in the space below. Enjoy!


Q: What drives your passion to write a book and host an online conference to help people with their fundraising career aspirations?

A: I have such a passion to help fundraisers because I feel like fundraisers are my tribe.  I’ve moved on up from Development Associate, Development Assistant, Development Officer, to Development Director and now, finally, to Fundraising coach and conference organizer.

When i left my last fundraising job in 2009, I immediately began to write The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising with everything I knew from the last 3 years of full time fundraising jobs in a one person shop.  I wanted to pass on what I knew to people because so often in our fundraising jobs we just WING IT and we aren’t set up to succeed.

Now of course, after 8 years of teaching, I have so much more to teach that I’ve written 10 e-courses and a number of webinars about various aspects of fundraising in a LOT more detail than I went into in the book.

And during my time in full time fundraising, I had the experience of bosses that really did not know what they were doing. We had the issue of the MBA boss coming from the board in my last 2 fundraising jobs, which means they may understand business, but they don’t know fundraising.

So because of this experience, it makes me feel like we have to protect fundraisers from unrealistic expectations, and help them find out if there are going to be these unrealistic expectations RIGHT IN THE INTERVIEW. So what we teach at the Fundraising Career Conference is career self empowerment. Everything from how to negotiate your salary to how to build a better relationship with your boss.

But! We also have to teach bosses what fundraising is and how to manage us better. So that’s why in 2016 I created the Nonprofit Leadership Summit, so we could speak to both sides of the aisle.

It helps people learn how to fundraise more effectively but it ALSO drives home the cost saving message that if you TRULY want your nonprofit to be efficient and effective and raise BUCKETLOADS of money, you need to treat your staff well, and help them stay.

 

Q: What is the biggest challenge you see fundraising professionals grappling with regarding their career path and advancement opportunities?

A: I tend to see two types of challenges with people. One is people who are victims of gender bias as women. They tend to be underpaid, under-appreciated, and under-resourced in their fundraising jobs. So usually they have to move to another nonprofit to make any changes to their situation.

Sometimes women who are older, who feel like no one wants to hire them because they are older women come to me and ask me what to do. They get the double whammy of age bias and gender bias combined.

And then there’s people who have had bosses who don’t understand fundraising, which leads to a whole host of problems, including no money invested in fundraising databases, or events, or marketing, or insisting that the fundraiser be at their desk when they need to be out in the community meeting people. That’s why this year at the Fundraising Career Conference we’re going to talk about how to manage up at your fundraising job, and teach your boss why you do what you do, and how they can best support you.

 

Q: The average tenure for a fundraising professional is just a couple of years according to some studies. Why do you think the development director position is such a “revolving door?”

A: The revolving door is a result of a few things. According to Penelope Burk’s Donor Centered Leadership, AND the Underdeveloped Report by the Haas Jr Fund, people leave because:

  1. They do NOT have a good relationship with their boss. That’s why this year we’re going to teach how to deliberately build trust with your boss at the online Fundraising Career Conference in April 17-21, 2017.
  2. They can get a better salary elsewhere. And this is unfortunately how it goes, instead of negotiating in their current role, they jump ship and go somewhere else. But in this fundraising career conference we’ll be teaching people how to negotiate their salary at their current organization, as well as in a new job. But we’ll also talk about what else you can get, aside from salary, to help this be your dream job.
  3. I find that when people in fundraising are supervised at all, at least in small nonprofits, we aren’t encouraged to focus on our strengths, and we are given 3-5 people’s jobs to do, and we burn out. This does happen much more often than we like to admit, and so often we see it as a personal failing that we can’t do the work of 2-3 people. But it’s not a personal failing. It’s not your fault.  This is what is known as a super job, when you have to do more than one person’s job for no extra pay. And lots of people have this problem, from hotel maids and pepsi truck drivers to nurses and doctors. So we need to work on our boundaries, and last year we went over that.

So in this 2017 Fundraising Career conference we’ll talk about how to manage up, use your strengths, and create space for deeper conversation instead of pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

 

Q: Do you have any advice for fundraising professionals who seek greater longevity and a sense of fulfillment in their current job?

A: Yes. I wrote a whole book about it, so answering this question feels like trying to fit an elephant down a plughole.

For greater longevity, read this interview with Kishshana Palmer about how to manage up in your fundraising role. This will help you be aware of what your boss does and doesn’t understand about fundraising, and hopefully help you start conversations that will make your workplace support you more.

Next, for greater longevity, you want to help your boss learn to trust you. Read this interview with Marc Pitman, as he talks about the signs that are there when there’s lack of trust, and gives you 13 tips on how to create trust with your boss.

Then, if you want a greater sense of fulfillment in your work, you need to check out the Gallup test, where they interviewed 3 million people, and found out that people have these strengths. Take the Strengthsfinder 2.0 test online. Once you find your 5 strengths based on that test, you’ll have a better idea of what you are good at in fundraising and what you should focus on. We’re always told to shore up our weaknesses, but in honesty we should focus on our strengths as much as we can, because this is where we get the juice to be a good fundraiser.

Of course, you can get the book, Get the Job, Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide, on my website, and you can definitely come and ask questions at the Fundraising Career Conference, because these two things together will help you get this.

 

Q: Most fundraising professionals need to become experts at “managing up” in their organizations. Do you have any tips or fun success stories on how to do so effectively?

A: Oh yes! First, you want to ask your boss, what’s your favorite communication style? And they might say, “Email” or “Texting” or “Phonecalls” so, you want to try to communicate with them most often in that manner. However, face time is still important. So,

Second, insist on meeting with your boss every week for 5 minutes on Monday. Go over your priorities for the week, explain why they are your priorities, and ask your boss if they have questions. Or, if your boss is setting your priorities, ask if there’s anything they would like you to do differently. This way you’ll be able to head off any miscommunication at the pass.

Third, if they expect you to do 2, 3, 4, or 5 people’s jobs, when you have this meeting, you can say, “OK you’ve given me 80 hours of work. Which 40 would you like me to do?” This is a way you can push back and have better boundaries at your job.

We are going to be covering how to manage up in a LOT more detail at the Fundraising Career Conference, with a session on how to do this with Kishshana Palmer. I’m really looking forward to this, people are going to learn so much! (Myself included)

 

Q: What is your favorite story you like to tell others about your book “Get The Job! Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide” (either in writing the book or anything associated with the book)

A: I like to tell people that the reason I wrote this book is because I GOT MAD.

I got mad when I saw good fundraisers raising a lot of money and being treated like garbage.

I looked at them being thrown out for systemic problems, not because they didn’t know what they were doing.

I was outraged when I witnessed people being fired for no reason other than their boss got a wild hair. This led me to research workplace bullying, and help people understand it.

It upset me when I saw bosses stealing large sums of money, and lying and cheating their staff out of the wages they were supposed to have from a government contract.

I heard about friends going to interview and being offered $10/hour and having the interviewer laugh and say “ha ha we all wish we could make more! You just have to believe in the mission!!” and that made me even more upset.

Probably the most egregious thing was when I talked with a government leader at the Portland Development Commission, who was in charge of facilitating better relations with the largest apparel and technology companies in our state (Nike, Adidas, Intel, etc).

I asked him, “Why don’t you focus on nonprofits?” And he said, “Because nonprofits bring the median income of a region down.”

And that, right there, is when I knew that I needed to agitate for worker rights, and for helping fundraisers and all nonprofit staff demand a higher salary, better working conditions, no super jobs, a pension and retirement fund, better healthcare, and just decent work.

Why should we be punished with bad wages, no real healthcare, and no way to retire, just because we wanted to make the world a better place?

HOW can nonprofits say they want to create a better world when they actively make it worse for their employees? It’s the height of hypocrisy.

I wrote my Get the Job book in 2013, but it wasn’t enough for me. I wrote a research report called Shafted in 2014, but that wasn’t enough either.

So in 2015 I started the online Fundraising Career Conference and in 2016 I started the online Nonprofit Leadership Summit, and it’s my goal to have as many people as possible take part in these events, so that we can start a larger conversation around decent work in this country. They’re already having the conversation in Toronto with the Ontario Nonprofit Network in Canada. We’re lagging behind here and we’ve got to get caught up.

 

Q: I see that this is the third year you’ve hosted the Fundraising Career Conference. What new and exciting things can participants look forward to this year?

A: Yes! I’m so psyched about this year because we’re going deeper into how to create a better relationship with your current or future boss.

Now, if you’re any good in fundraising at all, you will have been fired, because to be a good fundraiser you have to be able to say no. And so you probably have had a boss who, to put it mildly, has NOT been able to support you in the best way in your work.

Well, this year we’ll have a session from Marc Pitman about how to build trust with your boss, deliberately, which I’m looking forward to very much.

We’ll have a session with Pearl Waldorf, a therapist, who is going to be talking about how to create space for authentic communication at work, and how to assess your boss to see how to communicate with them.

We’ll have a session from Peter Drury all about how to be a better mentor and manager.

We’ll have a session from Kishshana Palmer on how to manage up,

And we’ll have a session for new consultants on how to be a better consultant, how to market your business starting out, and more.

There are so many good sessions that are new and exciting this year, it’s hard to not list them all. But these sessions are the ones that I think signify the integration theme of this year, where it’s not adversarial against your boss, and we’re not focused on healing. Rather, we’re focusing on how you are like your boss, and how your boss is like you. We’re encouraging people to step up and be leaders in their organizations, no matter what their titles are, and that, I think, is a true step towards self empowerment in your career.

 

Q: Unlike in-person conferences, the Fundraising Career Conference is online. What inspired you to develop and offer a virtual conference? And for those who have never participated in an online conference, what should they know and do you have any tips for them?

A: Here’s the deal.  I’m a millennial. Millennials are lazy! That’s why you can attend this conference in your pajamas. Just kidding. Millennials have no money. Because we’re in late stage capitalism. And on top of that, many nonprofit people are underpaid.  That is why you can attend this conference without having to go on an airplane and buy a taxi ride and eat crappy airport food and stuff like that. I wanted it to be available to anyone who wanted to go.

At an online conference, the nice thing is, you can sit at your desk at work (or in a coffeeshop somewhere) and attend this conference. Then you can go back to doing your work.

And if you have to miss some sessions, we’re recording everything for you, so you can go back and watch it later. And we have a phone number to listen in as well. So whether you choose to connect on the phone or on your computer, you’ll have  a way to be involved. We also have a questions pane where people can enter questions during the sessions each day, so everyone will have a chance to have their questions answered.

This is one of my favorite things, being able to answer questions during and after each session, and pass questions on to the presenters, who have also graciously volunteered to answer questions after the conference is over.

Learn more about Mazarine Treyz

If you can’t tell, I’ve quickly become a fan of Mazarine Treyz. She is one of the more genuine people who I’ve met in my travels, and I’ve quickly become a fan. Like me, Mazarine is a blogger and you can learn a lot about her by visiting her blog and sifting through her posts. You can find her at Wild Woman Fundraising. But if you do nothing else, you should go buy a copy of this book. I promise that you won’t regret it!

One book that every non-profit professional should own


A few weeks ago, I was at Bloomerang’s Bloomcon conference in Orlando, FL when an energetic fundraising coach/consultant walked up and introduced herself. Her name was Mazarine Treyz. Much was discussed and at the end of the day I walked away with two of her books.

As the weeks have passed, I’ve rapidly consumed Mazarine’s written thoughts on resource development and charting a career path in fundraising. To say that I’m impressed would be an understatement.

This week’s three blog posts will focus on Mazarine’s two books and an virtual online conference she is hosting.


If you don’t own a copy of “Get The Job: Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide,” then I strongly suggest clicking over to Amazon and purchasing a copy of this book.

As I read this book, it dawned on me that everyone can benefit from Mazarine’s work:

  • Individuals looking to break into the fundraising field
  • Fundraising professionals looking to find work-life balance and fulfillment
  • Employees looking to “manage up
  • Executive directors and board volunteers currently in a search process

To those who are interviewing

Mazarine breaks it down for you with practical and pointed advice on:

  • Writing your cover letter and resume
  • Interviewing
  • Negotiating your salary and benefits

In these initial chapters, I really liked what she wrote about anticipating certain tricky interview questions and how to respond. One such question she tackles is, “Why do you want this job? How does this fit into your plans for life?” Sure this question seems simple, but as someone who has been tripped up by it, I really wish I would’ve read this book first.

What I liked even more than the chapter on interview questions was the section addressing what types of questions you should be asking of your interviewers at the end of the interview. Here are just a few gems:

  • How much was raised last year, and how much would I be expected to raise in the first year?
  • How many times has this position been filled in the last four years?
  • What are some difficult decisions that need to be made? Staff cuts? Budgets? Funding cuts?

For the person currently looking for a position in fundraising, this book is pure GOLD!

To those searching for balance and success

Mazarine starts from Day One with a chapter on what your first 90-days should look like. She provides tips on how to be a better fundraising professional; how to manage your career path; and how to focus your efforts and balance competing demands on your time.

Perhaps, some of the best stuff in the book for individuals currently holding down a fundraising job are case studies (e.g. interviews with other successful non-profit professionals). There is more wisdom shared in that chapter than I can possibly describe.

Managing Up

Mazarine hits the nail on the head when she describes the day-and-the-life of a typical fundraising professional in a one-person development shop. In approximately 10-pages, she covers lots of ground including:

  • Organizational culture
  • Managing your boss (aka the executive director)
  • Assessing what type of boss your work for

There are many things that go into making a top notch fundraising professional, but one thing I see in almost every single one is their ability to “manage up.” Lots has been written on this subject, but Mazarine digests it down very nicely.

Are you hiring?

If you are an executive director or board volunteer currently in the middle of a search process, Mazarine’s book can act like a mirror. It can help you better understand the candidates with whom you are meeting. It can help you craft better interview questions and anticipate what good candidates will say in response to those questions. It will help you know what questions those interviewees may ask of you.

It may even make you a better employer.

Learn more about Mazarine Treyz

If you can’t tell, I’ve quickly become a fan of Mazarine Treyz. She is one of the more genuine people who I’ve met in my travels, and I’ve quickly become a fan. Like me, Mazarine is a blogger and you can learn a lot about her by visiting her blog and sifting through her posts. You can find her at Wild Woman Fundraising. But if you do nothing else, you should go buy a copy of this book. I promise that you won’t regret it!

Are we starting to see year-end solicitation letters v2.0?


direct mail3A few years ago I noticed some of the letters being sent to me by non-profit organizations were getting less wordy. In fact, these next generation donor communications pieces were mostly featuring a big photograph of someone/something that was supposedly mission-focused.

At first, I really didn’t like this new approach to donor communications. Don’t get me wrong . . . I disliked the blah-blah-blah letters. Like most readers, I would read the old solicitation letters like this:

  • Salutation (e.g. did they spell my name right?)
  • First few sentences (e.g. how much do they want and what’s the case for support this time?)
  • Skip to the signature (e.g. do I know the person who signed the letter?)
  • Post script (e.g. don’t know why, but I always read the P.S.)
  • If this five second review hooks me, then I’ll go back to the beginning and start skimming (honestly probably paying more attention to bullets, highlighted text and anything in bold/italics)

I was even worse with gift acknowledgement letters, which I would read like this:

  • Salutation (e.g. did they spell my name right?)
  • Did they get my pledge or gift amount right? (e.g. this is for the IRS and I can’t afford an error)
  • Is there a personal notation on the letter (e.g. did my gift merit a little love or was this just a transaction?)
  • Is the boilerplate IRS verbiage about the value of any goods or services being received by me from the non-profit as part of my contribution correctly listed (e.g. as I said earlier . . . I don’t wanna tangle with the IRS)

The first few times I received what I am describing as “next generation donor communication pieces,” I simply didn’t like it because it represented change. It threw me off my reading routine, which is silly reason to dislike something. Right?

However, the first time one of these letters was used to acknowledge my contribution by a local non-profit organization, I was upset for a few reasons:

  • In their haste to use as few words as possible, they got wrong the boilerplate IRS verbiage about the value of any goods or services being received (this was a technical error)
  • I felt slighted because it was as if “my gift didn’t even rise to the level of deserving a handful of kind words” (by the way, the letter couldn’t have been more than three or four sentences with a giant cute picture of a client)

And then . . . I changed my mind after recently receiving the following year-end solicitation letter from my alma mater

uofi-yearend-letter


Three short paragraphs. One large picture. Lots of wonky ways to give my money.

Here is what appealed to me and changed my mind about this style of donor communications:

  1. The picture took me back to my college years. I know exactly where those four students are standing. I’ve stood there before. I suspect that I felt that same way they appear to be feeling. This picture created an immediate emotional connection for me in a way that words never have.
  2. The logo at the top of the letter also created an immediate emotional connection. It is a picture of the iconic Alma Mater statue. For many students, this artwork at the entrance to the Quad symbolizes many things (e.g. a sense of welcoming, nurturing, school pride, etc). Many students have fond memories attached to this statue.
  3. The shortened fundraising verbiage cut to the bottom line and the three most important things to me and most other donors: a) the university is grateful for my last contribution; b) my gift made a difference in the life of a student; and c) they want me to continue my support. All three of these messages are emotional in natural (e.g. they love me, they flatter me, they want me back).
  4. The multitude of choices is appealing (e.g. cash, credit, EFT/ACH, monthly giving options, gift restriction options). This makes me feel “in charge” and not like I’m giving money to a large, faceless organization that is going to do whatever it pleases with my financial contribution. Again, another emotional message (e.g. providing choice implies trust and respect in our society)

I’ve been a fan of Tom Ahern for years. I think he is one of the smartest donor communications experts in the field. In his videos and e-newsletters he often takes about the the six most powerful emotional triggers that marketers use to get people to do “something” like purchase a product, vote for a candidate, make a charitable contribution, etc.

Just in case you’re wondering, here are those six emotional triggers:

  • anger
  • exclusivity
  • fear
  • flattery
  • greed
  • guilt

Tom also talks about the 13 strongest words used by marketing professionals. Here is a list of those words:

  • discovery
  • results
  • proven
  • early
  • safety
  • free
  • save
  • guarantee
  • new
  • money
  • health
  • YOU

I love Tom, but I do cheat on him from time-to-time by reading other donor communications and direct mail experts like Mal Warwick.   😉

The following are five positive triggers that marketers use to emotionally move us to do something:

  • hope
  • love
  • compassion
  • duty
  • faith

As you review these lists of emotional triggers and powerful words offered by some of the smartest thought-leaders on this topic, can you identify which trigger the University of Illinois wove throughout its letter? Can you see how they did it? If you look really hard, you’ll be surprised at how much more is actually going on in this very short and powerful letter.

Please use the comment box to share your thoughts and observations. 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

Working with fundraising-phobic non-profit boards


boards on fireOrganizational culture is a difficult dynamic to change. After all, birds of a feather flock together, right? It is for this reason that simply changing the people sitting around your boardroom table is likely a very difficult strategy to employ (albeit not impossible or wrong). While this strategy is the most commonly suggested one by non-profit consultants, I recently found comfort and inspiration from Susan Howlett’s book Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully.

In Howlett’s easy to read paperback book, she recounts a story about working with a board that was resistant to fundraising. After trying everything, she simply asked everyone if they would be willing to call two of their friends and engage in a discussion about:

  • why they decided to serve on the organization’s board of directors
  • what the organization’s mission is and what it does
  • a recent organizational success story

At the end of the phone call or coffee meeting, board members were coached to ask their friend if they would mind receiving periodic updates (e.g. email, phone call or in-person visit) about what is going on.

If the board volunteer’s friend was agreeable, then in the subsequent months board volunteers were provided the following shareable things:

  • short emails with snippets of good news or links to online articles about the organization
  • requests to do something on behalf of the organization (e.g. call legislators or city council representatives)
  • invitations to attend something (e.g. facility tour, reception, etc)

In the end, Howlett’s strategy changed board culture and resulted in what she describes as a “board on fire.”

If you couldn’t tell, I highly recommend adding this book to your summer reading list. I suspect it will be a game changer for you if you’re grappling with the question of “how to inspire and engage your board in fundraising success?

After reading this joyful little book, I was reminded of the following basic truisms:

  • fundraising is a learned skill and not something people are born to do
  • engagement (e.g. cultivation) is important to fundraising volunteers because when it comes time to asking for money it feels like the pre-solicitation groundwork has been laid (e.g. they’ve earned the right to ask for money)
  • cultivation doesn’t happen without significant staff support (e.g. feeding volunteers materials to share, organizing informational house parties, etc)

look in mirrorIf your board is resistant to the idea of fundraising, I encourage you to first take a good hard look in the mirror and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What boardroom trainings and generative discussions have you helped add to the board meeting agenda and support?
  • What cultivation materials have you provided to board volunteers with instructions on how to share with others? (e.g. stories, videos, articles, advocacy opportunities, newsletters, annual reports, etc)
  • What cultivation events have you organized? (e.g. lunch-n-learns, facility tours, house parties, etc)
  • What individualized coaching have you done with especially resistant board volunteers? (e.g. teaching others how to tell better stories)
  • How many cultivation visits have you gone with board volunteers on to model effective storytelling and information sharing? (e.g. modeling for others how to tell better stories)

I know it might be a bitter pill to swallow, but the reason your board might not be excited about fundraising could be because you aren’t excited about it or you aren’t supporting them effectively.

If you have done these things, you might want to ask yourself a different question, “How could I tweak these strategies to make them more effective?

Have you had success in changing your boardroom culture around the idea of fundraising? If so, what strategies did you employ to create a “board on fire?” 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

Is it time to eliminate the charitable giving tax deduction?


tax deductionLet’s face it. Our government is broke. We The People have accumulated almost $20 trillion in debt. As government leaders wrestle with this issue, the non-profit sector continues to rally from time-to-time insisting every other sacred cow in the tax code should be scrutinized except for our own. Putting aside the fairness and hypocrisy questions, I’m left wondering: 1) why do we cling to this entitlement so strongly, 2) what is the real effect of this tax policy on our sector and 3) what would really happen if lost this tax status?

Why do we cling?

In my opinion, I think the non-profit sector is afraid of change. It might be as simple as this.

The reason I come to this conclusion is that I cannot find any compelling research-based evidence that clearly proves that giving taxpayers a deduction for their charitable giving has any significant effect on whether or not your organization receives support.

How I did come to this conclusion? There are many stories in the Wall Street Journal, Nonprofit Quarterly and Stanford Social Innovation Review that speak to this issue. While there are opinions on both sides of this debate, the following facts remain:

  • More than half of the deductions being taken for charitable giving comes from a very small percentage of taxpayers (some say this gives taxbreaks to people who don’t really need them)
  • Taxpayers who don’t itemize their taxes (a very large number of people) still donate to charities
  • Review of the history books demonstrate, despite tax code tweaks and changes, charitable giving has remained constant at around two percent of GDP
  • Eliminating this tax deduction amounts to $51 billion more dollars in tax revenue

These are simply facts. (Note: many people come to very different conclusions around these facts)

However, when I set aside the facts and look back over my 20-years of non-profit and fundraising work experience, I can only recall ONE PERSON who was strongly motivated to make a charitable contribution because of the tax code. And for those of you are wondering, “Was that donor and accountant?” the answer is “Of course, he was.

calculateI don’t want to muddle this point. So, let me be clear. I’ve spoke with many donors (both large and small) who mention the word “tax deduction.” It is usually in reference to needing documentation for their accountant. Only one donor actually pushed the pencil and said he needed to make a donation of a certain size to minimize the amount of tax he would pay to Uncle Sam.

Based on the facts and my experience, here are the opinions I hold:

  • Donors who take advantage of the tax deduction do so because it is available to them
  • Many donors don’t determine how much they plan on giving to you because of the deductions (of course, there are exceptions and most are probably related to estate planning and in some instances NAP credits in certain states)
  • Donors don’t decide if they will donate to you because of the tax deduction (I believe they donate to you because they support your mission and the people closest to your mission)
  • No one really knows if charitable giving will go down (or go up) if the tax deduction is eliminated (and anyone who claims to know probably thinks they know who will win the next election or what next year’s crop yields will be)

So, based on facts and opinions, I can only conclude our sector’s resistance to eliminating the charitable giving tax deduction is largely based on the fear of an unknowable future.

What is the real effect of this tax policy?

Again, this is hard to quantify and know for certain, but the following are a few guesses:

  • It helps push a large quantity of charitable giving from individuals into the fourth quarter of the calendar year (because fundraising messages focus on “giving before the December 31st deadline”)
  • It can muddle case for support messaging (e.g. instead of focusing exclusively on community needs and your organization’s solutions/programs language about taxes and non-mission focused based rationale creeps into the discussion)
  • It can hamstring non-profit organizations from engaging in robust lobbying and public policy efforts on behalf of your organization and clients (e.g. IRS rule about public charities only being allowed to engage in a limited amount of legislative lobbying or risk losing their non-profit tax status)

What if the deduction disappeared?

carnacI am not a fortune teller. I cannot predict the impact of such a policy change. However, I can confidently say a few obvious things:

  1. Eliminating the charitable giving tax deduction would be a “market disruptor” and result in change
  2. Recent disruptions in other sectors has produced winners and losers
  3. Market disruptions oftentimes results in innovation
  4. Non-profit organizations who are unskilled or simply bad at basic fundraising best practices such as developing a compelling case for support will most likely struggle until they adapt, innovate or go out of business
  5. Non-profit organizations who are donor-centered, relationship-builders, collaborative, innovative and good at fundraising basics (e.g. case for support, prospect identification, cultivation, solicitation, donor stewardship, etc) will likely survive and quite possibly thrive

I suspect many readers have strong opinions on this subject, and you’re invited to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. I’m also curious what, if any, market disruptions you might be able to think of (e.g. if you could hit the reset button for our sector) that would spur change, innovation and growth. Please feel free to weigh-in with those thoughts, too.

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

Using house party events to advance your non-profit interests


I try to keep an eye open for opportunities to learn new things every day. Last week, I learned something about house party events that was so simple, but potentially game changing if you take it to heart. What I learned was . . .

House party events aren’t just a fundraising strategy.

house partyAs a young non-profit professional, who was just learning his craft, I was first introduced to the idea of a “house party” event format as a fundraising technique. The idea was simple. Ask someone to host a small party in their home. Work with them to identify a guest list of potential donors from their list of friends and colleagues. Make a group ask during the get together and collect pledge cards. My former employer used to call these “leadership circle” events.

Personally, I didn’t like the house party strategy for fundraising. Early experiences demonstrated to me that donors were very effective at hiding in group settings. For example, someone who had the willingness to support your organization and the capacity to do so with a substantial gift, usually ended up making a smaller contribution when asked as part of a group in contrast with a one-on-one in-person meeting.

Fast forward to much later in my career, when I was working as an internal consultant for a large national non-profit organization. I was re-introduced to house parties. Instead of using it as a solicitation vehicle, local affiliates where encouraged to use the strategy for new prospect identification and cultivation. At first, this tool was branded “House Party of Hope,” and later it was re-branded “A Party with a Purpose.

Again, house parties were still being used as a resource development activity. So, I never saw this strategy in any other light. That is until just last week when we hosted a house party in our basement.

The purpose of our house party was to introduce the newly hired CEO for a statewide organization to our circle of friends. The stated purposes of this get together were:

  1. Introduce the new CEO to his organization’s constituency
  2. Introduce the organization’s constituency to the new CEO
  3. Use a facilitated question/answer format with the group to collect stories to help the organization craft a shared vision, set goals, and develop a new strategic plan

engage2Last week’s experience helped me see house parties in a whole new light. No longer was this strategy simply a tool in a non-profit person’s resource development toolbox. The more I thought about it, the opportunities seemed to be endless. Here are just a few of my thoughts:

  • Host a house party to validate a final planning document with any number of stakeholder and constituency groups
  • Host a house party to engage potential collaborative partners in a discussion about what is possible
  • Host a house party to engage staff, build team dynamics, address workplace challenges, start a new program, etc
  • Host a house party to collect stories from clients/constituents to gauge your organization’s impact, develop a marketing campaign, identify additional needs, etc
  • Host a house party to educate the community and initiate a call to action focused on your organization’s public advocacy agenda (Note: I believe I once read the American Medical Association did this in the 1950s or 1960s to defeat national healthcare legislation moving its way through Congress)
  • Host a house party to identify new potential board volunteers as a precursor to the board development committee building prospect lists

I literally believe the sky is the limit with regard to how a house party strategy can be used to advance any non-profit organization’s agency.

If you are interested in learning more about house parties, click-through the following links for a treasure trove of resources and reading materials:

Has your organization ever used a house party strategy? What were your objectives? Were your objectives met? 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

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

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