Category Archives: Uncategorized

Holiday stewardship can be as easy as baking cookies

cookiesA few days ago I found myself talking with an old friend who is an executive director for a youth development non-profit organization in Indiana. We were chatting about her organization’s year-end stewardship strategies, which include something called a “Cookie Drop.”

It is the holiday season and many of you are probably baking. So, I decided to share her stewardship recipe with you this morning:

  • Recruit kids
  • Bake and decorate holiday cookies on a Saturday
  • Package cookies in tins (could be simpler packaging)
  • Include a handmade holiday card (include short “impact message”)
  • Use donor database to identify Top 10 donors
  • Call donors and let them know you’re coming over
  • Put kids in van and drive to donor’s house or business
  • Sing a holiday song or two
  • Thank the donor for all of their support
  • Stick around, answer questions and leave when it feels appropriate

I asked her if she has ever measured her results, and her response was perfect. She said that everyone who has received her kids cookies over the last 10 years are still donors unless, of course, they moved away or passed away.

My mom just shared an old family recipe for holiday ball cookies with me the other day. As you can see from today’s post, this executive director shared her holiday stewardship recipe. ‘Tis the season for sharing. Do you have any year-end stewardship strategies or simple activities that you would like to share? If so, please scroll down and do so 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!/eanderson847

Hangin’ with Henry and talking about use of language and your case for support

As most of you know, the first Thursday of every month has been dedicated to featuring a short video from Henry Freeman, who is an accomplished non-profit and fundraising professional. As you may know, Henry recently published a new book titled Unlacing the Heart. If you haven’t had a chance to check-it-out yet, I strongly urge you to do so. (To re-visit last month’s book review, check out the post titled “A book every fundraising professional MUST read!)

In the last few weeks, I’ve been answering a lot of questions from new fundraising professionals about the difference between an internal case for support document (also called a case statement) and an external case for support document (also commonly referred to as a campaign brochure or an appeals letter). So, when I recently viewed one of Henry’s video snippets on internal vs. external language with regards to donor communications, I thought this might be the perfect time to share it with the DonorDreams community.

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.

I know there is very little time in a busy fundraising professional’s life, which makes cutting corners hard. However, writing an internal case for support (aka case statement) is an important exercise before doing any of the following fundraising activities:

  • annual campaign
  • special event
  • direct or targeted mail
  • grant writing

Sitting down and pouring your thoughts out on a piece of paper will help you crystallize what and why you’re doing what you’re doing. It will help you with answering the the following questions:

  • What is the need?
  • How do we know it is a need?
  • Why the sense of urgency?
  • What is our organization doing to help address this need?
  • Who will this benefit?
  • How can donors help and get involved?

As Henry describes in his video, you will use lots of internal language in developing your internal case document, which is OK because the only people who will see it are staff and volunteers. You will then use this document to:

  • develop your external communications pieces (e.g. letters, brochures, etc )
  • develop support documentation for fundraising volunteers (e.g. FAQs, fact sheets, etc)
  • develop trainings for volunteers
  • develop talking points for volunteers

When going from internal to external, Henry hits the nail on the head when he warns us not to use jargon or language that people outside of our organization may not connect with.

When is the last time you wrote an internal case for support (aka case statement)? What was your experience? What would you do differently? Was it beneficial? Please scroll down to the comment box and 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!/eanderson847

“Hangin’ with Henry and talking about how to secure donor meetings

As most of you know, the first Thursday of every month has been dedicated 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 Opening the Door for a Future Visit.

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.

Personally, I can recall countless times where I’ve had difficulties securing an initial meeting with a prospect/donor. In hindsight, my struggles have always stemmed from:

  • not having much (or any) relationship with the person
  • not understanding the person’s philanthropic vision (and reason they support us)
  • simple fear of the unknown

My first strategy has always been reaching out to someone who knows us both and asking that person to set up the meeting. Of course, this isn’t always an option.

Our friends at 501 Videos recently published a similar video to Henry’s as part of their FREE Movie Mondays service.  The video was titled “Getting the Donor Meeting” and the interviewee provides additional helpful tips. It is definitely worth the click!

The tip that I received almost 10-years ago (it was from a video produced by Bob Osborne of the Osborne Group) that has been the most successful for me was:

Have three reasons for needing to sit down with a prospect/donor.”

It is important to make these reasons “real and genuine” or you will come across as plastic and insincere. However, you likely have lots of reasons to sit down with someone is you just thought about it for a few minutes. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • You are looking for advice
  • You need help with a project
  • You need help opening a door
  • You want to share something (e.g. annual report, success story, etc)
  • You need feedback on a special event (e.g. critique, evaluation, etc)
  • You want to talk about their charitable giving and future support of the organization

You always want to include the last reason in the laundry list of bullet points in order to avoid turning the meeting into an ambush.

How have you gotten over the hurdle of securing difficult meetings with prospects/donors? Please share your tips and best practices in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

Is your non-profit organization following the law?

state lawsMy husband is a sales and use tax accountant for a large multi-national corporation, and I am a small entrepreneur who runs a non-profit consulting practice. We operate in two very different worlds, but every once in a great while there is overlap. A few months ago, John sent me an email about a sales and use tax ruling in the State of Oklahoma that very much applied to non-profit organizations that run charity auctions, and it got me thinking about the ever changing complex and overlapping legal structure in our country and the status of your non-profit organization.

Here is what the new Oklahoma sales and use tax ruling said:

“The Oklahoma Tax Commission examined the sales tax treatment of sales of tickets to a silent auction held to raise funds for a foundation. The Commission found that the ticket charges were subject to sales tax under a provision that imposes sales tax on sales of tickets for admission to (or voluntary contributions made to) places of amusement, sports, entertainment, exhibition, display, or other recreational events or activities. The Commission also found that the ticket charge did not qualify as a nontaxable donation because the charge was necessary for admission and was not an entirely voluntary contribution. (LR 14-003, 01/15/2015.)”

I could write an entire blog based upon this simple ruling, but I’m going to use some self-restraint this morning. Instead, I’m going to focus on the bigger picture.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post titled “Why your organization should worry about Haiti and Charleston, SC“. In that post, I talked about the importance of embracing donor stewardship in ways that go beyond simple gift acknowledgement.

I shared the definition of stewardship from a training curriculum I formerly used: “Stewardship is a process whereby a non-profit cares for and protects its philanthropic support – its gifts and the donors who give them – in a way that responds to the donor’s expectations and respects the act of giving.”

I also shared with readers what some of the big picture topics were from that training, including:

  • legal compliance (e.g. state registration, etc)
  • pledge/gift record keeping (including donor intent)
  • transparency & communication (e.g. demonstrating how gifts are used and if impact is being achieved)
  • policy development & organizational capacity (e.g. board engagement and governance)

Understanding that stewardship includes the concept of legal compliance and circling back to the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s ruling, I’m left wondering:

  • How many Oklahoma non-profit organizations know about this new ruling?
  • How do most non-profits stay on top of the always evolving federal, state, and local laws?

I’ve been pontificating these questions for the last few months. Having been an executive director for a small, under-resourced non-profit organization, I can honestly say that I’ve come up with very few good answers.

However, I do have a few suggestions:

  1. Make sure you pay an external accountant to conduct an annual audit or financial review every year. (I know it is expensive, but it is necessary.)
  2. Make sure your board development committee understands the importance of recruiting an attorney to serve on your board (and make sure that person understands you need them to help you keep an eye on the changing legal and regulatory environment in your community)
  3. Subscribe to non-profit blogs that focus on the law (I especially like and they even have a legal updates section to their site)
  4. Consider joining (or at least keeping in touch with) your state’s non-profit association. Click here to access a list of those groups. If you can’t afford to join, then at least visit their website periodically and subscribe to their blog if one exists.

Is your organization a good steward? Does it take its stewardship related fiduciary responsibilities beyond simple gift acknowledgement? How does your non-profit organization stay on top of legal and regulatory changes? Please scroll down to the comment box and share your best practices. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Hangin’ with Henry and talking about setting fundraising goals

It is the first Thursday of the month, which can only mean one thing at DonorDreams blog. We’re “Hangin’ With Henry” today and talking about when goal setting for fundraising campaigns becomes a little counter-intuitive.  Henry characterizes it as “when raising more money is easier than raising less”.

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.

If you clicked through and watched Henry’s 3:33 minute short video, then you saw him playing with a rubber band as he described the challenges associated with setting campaign goals that are too big as well as too small.

I loved this analogy, and it reminded me of a story about one of my favorite donors.

I had been recently hired as the new executive director, and my start date just so happened to align with annual campaign season. During my first week on the job, I learned that the board’s idea of an annual campaign involved sending 10 letters to their friends asking for $100 each. There were no in-person visits, and only a few people were following up with phone calls. Needless to say, there wasn’t much money being raised.

So, I decided to jump in with both feet and change the campaign by introducing a face-to-face, in-person solicitation strategy. In addition to selling the board on the idea and bringing some training to the table, I started looking around the community for seasoned fundraising volunteers who I could recruit to work five pledge cards.

Of course, I started developing my prospect list by reviewing previous year’s donor honor roll lists (because of course they didn’t own a donor database. UGH!).

Shortly after identifying a few people with the right set of fundraising skills and experiences,  I found myself in the office of someone who would become one of my favorite donors of all time. As I sat in this person’s office, I asked him to consider renewing his pledge and working five pledge cards. I’ll never forget the words he uttered immediately after I asked for these two commitments.

He said . . .

“Erik, you’re new to town so please understand that I’m not the guy you ask to work five pledge cards valued at a few hundred dollars for your annual campaign with a goal of  $20,000. I’m the guy you ask to help raise millions of dollars for your capital campaign.”

He promptly reached into the middle drawer of his desk, pulled out a checkbook, wrote a check for the amount I asked him to pledge, and sent me on my merry way.

I walked away from that meeting with the following thoughts:

  • I failed to ask him for a large enough pledge because he simply wrote a check right on the spot
  • Our annual campaign goal was too small and didn’t inspire people to stretch

Henry captures this idea so perfectly in 3:33 minutes and with a rubber band as a prop. If I could go back in time and talk to my young fundraising professional self, I would share this YouTube video with him.

Learn a lesson from me. Consider sharing Henry’s video and my blog with your resource development committee or your board of directors before setting your next fundraising campaign or event goal. I suspect you may be surprised at the discussion that ensues.

A word of caution . . . please don’t mishear Henry. He is NOT saying you should set lofty, unreasonable goals because that rubber band will break and donor confidence in your organization will evaporate. He is simply suggesting that the idea of “stretching” is a powerful engagement tool in your fundraising toolbox both for donors and volunteers.

Please take a minute to share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

  • How do you go about setting your fundraising goals?
  • How do you prepare your board members and fundraising volunteers for this conversation?
  • Do you have any fun personal stories like the one I just shared?

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

Here’s to your health!

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

Your agency’s greatest asset? Your staff and volunteers, of course!

Sorry, everyone! I’m on the run today and blogging doesn’t fit into the schedule. So, I dug up an old guest blog from my friend, John Greco. I think it is a great reminder of why non-your profit is wealthier than your balance sheet says it is. Enjoy the re-post!



Cubicle Diamonds

By John Greco
Originally published on March 15, 2012
Re-posted with permission from johnponders blog

diamondsAn African farmer heard tales about people who had made millions by discovering diamond mines.  These tales so excited the farmer that he could hardly wait to go prospecting for diamonds himself.  He sold the farm and spent the rest of his life wandering the African continent searching unsuccessfully for the gleaming gems that brought such high prices on the markets of the world.  Finally, worn out and in a fit of despondency, he threw himself into a river and drowned.

Meanwhile, the man who had bought his farm happened to be crossing a small stream on the property one day, when suddenly there was a bright flash of blue and red light from the stream bottom. He bent down and picked up a stone…

It turned out to be one of the largest diamonds ever discovered.  

And his creek was full of such stones, not all as large, but nonetheless valuable…  The farm the first farmer had sold, so that he might find a diamond mine, turned out to be one of the most productive diamond mines on the entire African continent. 

That first farmer had owned, literally, acres of diamonds, but he didn’t look there.

— Update, from a reader: From a lecture by Russell Conwell and popularized by Earl Nightingale many years ago.  Thanks Deb!

This is a pretty well-traveled story, with a pretty straightforward lesson.

Before you look out, look in.  You may already have what you need to accomplish what you want.

I’m going to “mine” this differently.

There are diamonds of a sort all around you now.  Can you see them?

Look outside your office.  Down the hallway.  In the cafeteria.  Every single meeting you go to.  And all the ones you don’t.

diamonds2Jerry, the financial analyst, can make a mean bouillabaisse.  Mary, the executive admin, is a Toastmasters organizer.  Julie, in inside sales, does graphic design for her church’s marketing pieces.  Peggy, in tech support, is a stand up comedian.     Bill, in logistics, does resumes on the side for family and friends.  Susan, in customer support, is on the board of a local non-profit.  Judy, a software tester, volunteers at the local hospice.  Christian, a call center agent, paints.  John, an industrial engineering manager, blogs.  Damian, a research analyst, is an actor in a local drama troupe.

Diamonds, all.

Our people are our greatest asset.


Too bad their added value is off the books.

Undiscovered, in cubicles, unmined.
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My humble apologies and non-profit lessons to be learned

on vacationSome people say that good intentions are really what life is all about. You know what I mean. Those people are the ones who will say that it doesn’t matter what the holiday or birthday gift is . . . all that matters is the intention behind the gift. Then you have those people who say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Who’s right? Who knows!

A week ago, I went into a full out sprint with the contracts I’m currently working because I needed to catch a plane to Mesa, AZ for a father-son vacation at the Chicago Cubs baseball spring training.

I had a lot of really good intentions:

  • I intended to pre-write my blog posts
  • I intended to line up some nice guest blog posts
  • I intended to do what I’ve done over the last three years, which is not miss a beat when it comes to blog posts

Obviously, I failed on all accounts. I ditched last Monday and Tuesday as I tied up loose ends and raced to catch my Wednesday plane. I’ve been in Mesa for the last five days, and couldn’t get back on the horse. Today represented the sixth day that I should’ve published something and just didn’t get it done.

While this will likely sound like an excuse, I think I just reached a point where I needed to relax and go on vacation. Ooops!

Moral to the story

There is nothing wrong in my opinion with taking a break; however,  I believe I owed it to you and the other readers of this blog to explain that I was going dark for a few weeks.

I suspect many non-profit people end up in the same dark place (often called burnout) that I currently find myself. When this happens, it is important to:

  1. Find time (e.g. vacation or time off) for yourself before it becomes acute
  2. Tell those to whom you feel a responsibility that you are taking a little time

My time-off request

Dad and I are still in Mesa watching painful practice games by the Chicago Cubs (ugh. . . they look brutal). When I return from vacation mid-week, I hit the road right away.

So, for those of you who like the daily grind of posts from DonorDreams blog, I owe you an apology. I don’t have it in me to start blogging again until Monday, March 31, 2014.


For those of you who are tired of hearing my babble . . . enjoy the break and vacation.  😉

Here’s to your health!

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

Shall we play a game?

Connecting your agency to online gaming communities

By Rose Reinert
Guest blogger

game1Last week we paused for a recap of how far we have come in Lon Safko’s book “The Social Media Bible.” Chapter 16 digs into a topic that is complete foreign to me, “Gaming the System: Virtual Gaming.” As I dug in to this chapter, I have to say I was struggling with how I could possibly relate virtual gaming to non-profits. So, to get me through this challenge, I will twist it a bit and let’s see what we end up with. Please join me on this journey.  😉

The chapter provides an overview of advertising within MMORPG ( Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). There have been very successful campaigns, even including advertising by President Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign.

Safko makes a great point in the opportunity that exists for marketing.

Any time you have 50,000 to 8 million people in the same place with the same interests in a trusted network, a business opportunity exists.

I am sure you may be like me that when you think of video games, you think of teenagers, who generally are not our target donors or volunteers. Actually, according to Safko, “. . . only 25 percent of online gamers are teenagers; the average MMORPG player is approximately 26 years old. Fifty percent are employed full-time, 36 percent are married and 22 percent have children.”

Well, this is great! It seems like a great market that any non-profit would want to reach. Right? Of course, the real question is: “At what price?

With this question in mind, I took the concept of video games and flipped it a bit to see how non-profits could utilize video games for engagement.

There are some simple ways to drive people to your website, and it turns out that games or links are both resources. Below are some examples:

games2The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Their site offers engaging games including “Fad Diet Timeline” and “Nutrition Suduko.”

I dug a little deeper and found  “Games for Change.” Founded in 2004, Games for Change facilitates the creation of social impact games that serve as tools in humanitarian and educational efforts. They work to leverage entertainment for social good. I encourage you to click-through and check out the various games that cover topics from Human Rights to Poverty.

I am so interested in how you have experienced gaming. What are ways that you could utilize this unique way to engage. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.
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It isn’t about the donation . . . it is about trust!

trustDid you read Seth Godin’s blog post a few days ago? He wrote about what the most important question a company should be asking itself about its customers. In Godin-like fashion, he runs through a laundry list of questions that are not as important. In the end, he tells us that the most important question in marketing is: “Do they trust me enough to believe my promises?

As I let this blog marinate for a few days, I’ve come to see Godin’s question as critical for both for-profit and non-profit corporations alike. I even Googled the search words “non-profit donor trust” and came across a great post at Fundly titled “Building Donor Trust For Your Non-Profit Organization“. The first paragraph of this article summarized my sentiments perfectly:

“Donors won’t give if they don’t completely trust your organization. They have to emotionally invest in your cause before they financially invest, and the bridge between the two is built on trust, accessibility and accountability. How do you build that bridge?”

After this obvious realization, I decided to do the opposite of what Seth did in his post and started writing down questions that non-profit organizations should be asking themselves.

Here is just some of what I came up with:

  • Is your agency doing what it said it would do with a donor’s contribution?
  • Are you achieving the programmatic results and outcomes that you promised?
  • Are you measuring the right things in order to know your agency is making a difference?
  • Are your data gathering tools and methods valid and acceptable?
  • Does your agency communicate with donors in ways they want to be communicated?
  • Is your agency running programs that address community needs? Or are your programs being run just because of organizational inertia?
  • Are we sharing the type of success stories that your donors want to hear?
  • How much do your donors trust you? Can it be measured and quantified?

Asking and answering questions like these are directly related to building trust with your donors.

Here are a few other good links that I found from my Google search regarding donor trust and loyalty:

How is your non-profit organization addressing donor loyalty? How are you building trust and relationships? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

Is your agency’s grant writing program in a state of change?

grant writingYesterday, I had the opportunity to spend a little time with a professional grant writer, and I walked away from the encounter wondering if there isn’t a new trend afoot in the world of non-profit grants. During our time together, I got the sense that the winds of change are blowing. So, I thought I’d blog about it this morning and see if you are encountering some of the same things.

Of course, a comprehensive grant writing program has many different components to it, such as:

  • Private foundations
  • Corporate foundations
  • Government grants
  • Family foundations

Even within these areas, you have some additional subdivision:

  • Federal government
  • State government
  • Local government

So, our conversation was predicated on planning question because this organization’s resource development committee is in the process of developing a written resource development plan for 2014. Here were some of the questions I asked:

  • How many grants did you write in each of these areas last year? What were your results?
  • What do you currently have in the pipeline (e.g. written and out the door, in the process of writing, etc)?
  • What strategies are we currently using? Should we shift our grant writing strategies and make adjustments in the upcoming year (e.g. who we’re writing to, what we’re writing for, how we’re engaging decision-makers, etc)?

It was during this interesting discussion the grant writer shared a few interesting observations (and opinions):

  • He sees a contraction in government grants starting to occur
  • He sees increased competition for private foundation and corporate foundation pools of dollars
  • He attributes a huge bump in grant dollars over the last few years to the federal stimulus package and believes that organizations who rode that wave now need to find another wave to surf (and quickly)
  • In the wake of the recession, he thinks there is a “New Normal” where many non-profits tweaked their fundraising plans and focused more on grant writing (thus making proposal pools more competitive)

Of course, I find all of this interesting even if it is just one data point (and one grant writers opinion) in a huge universe of data. However, it still tweaks my curiosity. So, I’m hoping you will use the comment box below this morning to weigh-in on any of the following questions:

  • Did your agency change its resource development plan (e.g. goals, strategies, tactics) since the 2008 economic crash? If so, what did you start doing  differently?
  • Are you seeing some of the same things?
  • If you are experiencing some of the same things (e.g. increased competition, fewer government grants, etc), what are you planning to do about it?
  • Are you in the process of shifting your agency’s grant writing focus? If so, what are you shifting it to?

In the interest of sharing, this organization is contemplating slightly shifting its focus to Family Foundations and engaging its board volunteers to help in the cultivation process. Of course, these type of foundations act and behave very differently than the others. As a result, they need to look at possibly employing different engagement strategies and different solicitation strategies.

As I always say, there is no reason that we need to be alone out there in this vast non-profit universe. We can all learn from each other, but that requires you taking one or two minutes out of your busy day and sharing your thoughts and experiences.

Here’s to your health!

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

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