Blog Archives

What can your non-profit learn from Southwest Airlines?


A few weeks ago, I signed a contract to do a little work with an organization on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I must admit that it was nice to get out of the Chicago winter, even if it was only for a few days. On my way home, I found myself waiting for a delayed airplane at a Southwest Airlines gate at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. As time elapsed and the plane became increasingly more late, people understandably became more agitated and upset. It was in this moment I saw a Southwest Airlines gate agent (I think his name was Aaron) demonstrate the type of leadership that every non-profit executive director and fundraising professional could learn from.

Let me attempt to tell this story pictorially.

southwest restless gate

In the picture above, you see that no one was particularly happy. No one is smiling. There are some arms crossed. In fact, every time the gate agent used the PA system to announce a new piece of information, there were audible groans and grousing from weary travelers. It wasn’t a pretty scene.

Then something happened as you can see in the pictures below . . .

southwest line daning

Uh-huh . . . your eyes aren’t deceiving you. You see people in the picture above line dancing.

southwest dancing

Yep . . . this last picture is the gate agent dancing with one of those delayed travelers. What you can’t hear is a fellow passenger playing music on his accordion.

So, what happened?

Simply put, the gate agent realized that people were unhappy, and he stepped into the leadership void and filled it. However, what was most impressive was that he didn’t have many resources at his disposal. Over the course of more than an hour, the gate agent facilitated the following activities with people in the gate:

  • charades contest
  • trivia game
  • line dancing
  • talent show (e.g. an accordion player, magician, and a 7-year-old girl performing her dance competition routine)

When the delayed aircraft pulled up the gate, no one noticed because they were too busy having fun. There wasn’t a frown to be found anywhere.

Mission accomplished!  :-)

So, what happened here that your non-profit organization can learn from?

Well, scroll back up to the first picture of angry people being told that their flight was delayed. Now pretend that those aren’t angry travelers, and they are instead angry donors and key community stakeholders.

The reality is this can happen to the best of us. Our organizations make decisions that make people upset. Sometimes management decisions simply don’t work out. Other times external circumstances lead us down roads fraught with crisis.

When this happens, people get angry. More oftentimes than not, you aren’t in a position to wave a magic wand and fix the situation, but you better do something to keep things from getting worse. (Very similar to the Southwest Airlines gate agent’s situation, right?)

Here are a few tips when your organization finds itself in similar circumstances:

  • Take responsibility
  • Don’t make excuses (even though you want to explain what is happening and why it is occurring)
  • Empathize with those who aren’t happy (we’ve all been there)
  • Do whatever you can to make people happy even if you can’t fix the problem (ask those who are upset if there is anything you can do to make the situation better)
  • Coordinate your response (especially when dealing with a crisis, only have one spokesperson dealing with restless people)
  • Know your resources and use them!

This last bullet point sounds simple, but it is hard to do when you’re in the middle of a challenging situation. However, the reality is that most non-profit organizations have many more resources than the Southwest Airlines gate agent I’ve highlighted in this post.

The following are just a few examples of resources at most non-profit’s fingertips:

  • talented staff
  • board volunteers
  • clients
  • donors
  • community supporters (e.g. program volunteers)
  • collaborative partners (e.g. other non-profit partners)
  • technology
  • budgets (albeit probably stretched thin)
  • facilities (albeit not every non-profit is endowed with physical space)

This short list of resources is like a list of food ingredients for a chef. Surely, some spontaneous recipe can be cooked up?

The reality is that whatever mess you find yourself in, you don’t have to be in it alone.

Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. No one is in this alone. 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

Your non-profit can learn from Hillary Clinton’s email mess


hillaryIt has been called a crisis, scandal, controversy, and problem by journalists. If you are remotely plugged into the world around you, then you’ve probably heard or read something about Hillary Clinton’s decision to use a private server located in her private residence which stored tons of personal and governmental emails during the time she was Secretary of State. This news story is layered and smells as bad an onion, but there is a silver lining to this story, which is:

You and your non-profit organization can learn a valuable lesson from Hillary’s “situation”

I was in Hillary’s shoes (kinda)

It was April 1, 2006, and it was my last day as the executive director of my local Boys & Girls Club. I was packing up my office and trying to get out-of-the-way of the interim executive director, who the board had hired to keep the organization stable durning the executive search process and impending transition.

As I was taping up my last box, I realized that I had an email situation that needed to be dealt with.

Over my six years as executive director, I had:

  • never deleted any of my sent or received emails
  • blurred the lines between my personal and business email accounts

hillary7None of this was malicious. It was always done out of a frantic sense of convenience and lack of time (or so I told myself).

So, I spent my final hours pouring over emails and deleting everything I didn’t consider a business-related correspondence. Ugh . . . and the things I found in those emails:

  • There were all sorts of emails to my mother and sister pertaining to family gatherings
  • There were emails to my then-partner and current spouse regarding social plans
  • There were correspondence to people in my Rotary Club

Frankly, I was surprised at how many non-business related emails existed. None of it was inappropriate, but so much of it was garbage. In the moment, I had the following questions running through my head:

  • Why wasn’t I more careful about segmenting my email by using my personal email account for personal things and my business account for business things?
  • Why didn’t I clean out my email inbox every day?
  • Who owned these emails? Am I allowed to delete all of these emails on my last day?

The reality is that my non-profit organization didn’t have any policies in place to help me answer these questions. Unlike Hillary Clinton, I didn’t have to deal with:

  • government transparency issues balanced against state secrets and delicate diplomacy discussions
  • executive orders and regulations from the President of the United States
  • congressional legislation (e.g. Freedom of Information Act)

The silly thing is that we’re just talking about email, and the tech challenges to your non-profit organization are so much bigger.

Since my last day on the job at my local Boys & Girls Club in 2006, our technological world has only gotten more complicated. Right? It isn’t just email anymore. Now there are social media questions that government agencies, for-profit businesses and non-profit organization must grapple with.

So what lessons can be learned?

Establish clear policies on technology usage

hillary2Most non-profit organizations are stretched too thin. I know, I know. But this is something you need to make time for because it is important.

It is a great opportunity to engage technology volunteers in a meaningful project that can benefit and protect your organization. It is also an important project that can help manage your organization’s legal risks and public exposure.

The following are just a few questions your policies should address:

  • What is appropriate vs. inappropriate content?
  • Can employees use organizational email for personal communications?
  • When is it appropriate for an employee delete email? What should be saved? How should all of this be archived?
  • In a social media environment, what is inappropriate and what will the organization do if the employee is caught violating the policy? (e.g. should an employee be Facebook friends with clients or supervisors or board volunteers? what if an employee is vocalize a political view on a social media site that adversely impacts how donors view the organization?)
  • Should every organizational email possess a “legal disclaimer” as part of the signature block?
  • Is it OK for employees to create and store documents of a personal nature on your organization’s server?

The following are a few resources you might want to check out to help you with this project:

hillary3Create separation and segment your life

I’m a member of the GenX generation, and separating my personal and work lives is difficult. Much has been written about my generation’s blurring of these boundaries, and I have to admit that I resemble those remarks.

But segmenting email communication shouldn’t be horribly difficult. Right?

When I think about my email situation, I have four different accounts (and many people have multiple email accounts):

  • My sbcglobal.net account is what I use for eCommerce and junk. (this is the account I give companies because I know they are going to spam me)
  • My gmail.com account is what I use for personal emails (this is the account I use with my friends and family and for all things non-business related)
  • My heathynonprofit.com account is what I use for business communication (I try to limit to only communicate with my clients using this account)
  • My acb-inc.com account is only used to communicate with capital campaign clients with whom I work as a subcontractor to American City Bureau to provide service

Do I goof up and accidentally blur the lines between these accounts? Of course! To err is human, right?

But that shouldn’t be an excuse not to try.

Moreover, you can now segment your email accounts on your smart phone. I have different buttons on my phone for each of my different email accounts.

I recognize this doesn’t come naturally to some people, but our changing world demands that we change our systems and practices or risk being left behind (or risk looking like Hillary Clinton does right now).

A side not about Hillary’s “crisis-scandal-controversy-situation-etc

hillary6It hasn’t been talked about much, but the Hillary Clinton email story is a “Non-Profit Story“. Think about it for a minute.

Hillary blended her emails. She likely had emails in her blended account pertaining to:

  • State Department business
  • Chelsea’s wedding
  • Funeral arrangements for Hillary’s mother
  • Personal stuff (e.g. yoga class)
  • The Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative

The Clinton Foundation is a non-profit organization.

In fact, The Clinton Foundation is a nonprofit organization that politicians and news media outlets continue to question about overseas donors and if/how those contributions influence family members who still operate in the public sector (e.g. Hillary’s time as Secretary of State and her alleged desire to be our next President).

This email story raises all sorts of non-profit questions including:

  • What level of privacy should donors expect when electronically communicating with your organization?
  • What legal impact can a donor’s email have on their charitable gift or pledge (e.g. restricted vs. unrestricted donations)
  • If your non-profit organization accepts large quantities of government funding, are your records governed by transparency laws like the Freedom of Information Act?

Does your organization have an email policy? Tech policy? Social media policy? What resources did you find useful when developing these policies? Do you find enforcing these policies difficult? If so, how? Please scroll down and use the space 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

Annual campaign success depends on relationship transfer


relationship buildingLast week I had the privilege of soliciting someone for an annual campaign pledge over a cup of coffee. In addition to securing their pledge, this was a nice opportunity to catch up because we hadn’t seen each other in a few years. As I neared the bottom of my cup of coffee, this donor reminded me of something important concerning most non-profit organization’s annual campaign efforts and donor loyalty rates.

People give to people. This is a fundamental resource development principle. So, when a board member or fundraising volunteer moves along to greener pastures, it sometimes means there is no one sitting around the table next year with good enough relationship to feel confident to work their pledge card.

This donor reminded me of a time when I was in the executive director chair and one of the organization’s most prolific annual campaign volunteers stepped aside to focus on challenges dogging his business. I remember taking a phone call from a donor the next year asking what had happened to the volunteer and lamenting about only wanting to sit down with that specific individual.

Your annual campaign will likely experience donor turnover if your fundraising volunteers aren’t actively working at building a relationship beyond the annual solicitation meeting between the donor and your organization.

While there are many good reasons to maintain continuity in asking the same fundraising volunteers to steward the same donors they solicit, the following are a few simple ideas your organization may want to consider to help build stronger and more diverse relationships with annual campaign donors.

Segment your donor list

Identify donors who have been solicited by the same person for more than three years and change your strategy with these individuals. For example, rather than business as usual, ask the fundraising volunteer to bring someone else along with them to the solicitation meeting for introduction purposes.

More robust gift acknowledgement

Your organization’s staff are pulled in many different directions. They are undoubtedly busy! However, I am increasing concerned by how many executive directors and fundraising professionals who don’t seem to personally know the individuals appearing on their donor database reports.

Include in your organization’s individual performance management plans measurable goals focused on calling and meeting in-person with donors after they make their contribution. The focus of those meetings should be:

  • acknowledgement
  • appreciation and gratitude
  • relationship building
  • determining a donor’s philanthropic interests

Stewardship

I know that I sound like a broken record because I say it all of the time, but non-profit organizations need to figure out how to go beyond serial solicitation to more meaningful donor engagement. Additionally, it needs to be more than simply a phone call, written thank you cards and newsletters.

Here are a few meaningful stewardship activities that I’ve seen some organizations implement:

  • Invite donors to the annual meeting and demonstrate the impact of their contribution via testimonials.
  • Ask donors to consider volunteer opportunities.
  • Send something unexpected like a box of chocolate covered strawberries at Valentine’s Day. When they call to inquire about why you did such a wonderful thing, take the opportunity to tell them why they are special and how their support is making a difference.

What is your organization doing differently to deepen its relationships with donors? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

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

Check out this awesome donor upgrade strategy


On January 8th, I wrote a post titled “Fundraising New Year’s Resolution — Upgrade Strategy,” which contained a few tips about how your non-profit organization can achieve this important strategy. After writing that post, I wished that I had a sample to share with you . . . and then a few weeks ago I received an email from Dane Grams at Human Right Campaign (HRC).

hrc

Did you notice the following:

  • The case for support was simply captured without saying a word? A picture is worth a 1,000 words!
  • Philanthropy is an emotional activity and the case evoked lots of emotion.
  • He didn’t bombard me with lots of stats. He didn’t try to tell me how often this type of thing happens in America. He simply pulled an emotional trigger and got out of the way.
  • He asked for a specific dollar amount increase.
  • He made it easy to say YES . . . just click the link.
  • He thanked me for my ongoing support and participation in their monthly giving program.

Tom Ahern, one of our country’s smartest donor communications experts, says all the time that good appeals contain at least one of the following emotional triggers:

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

How many of those triggers can you see in the letter above?

If you want to learn how to get better at donor communications, I suggest checking out Tom Ahern’s books, videos and resources. If you want to learn more about monthly giving programs, Pamela Grow has a really nice four week distance learning online course. If you want to get better at creating upgrade opportunities, keep your eyes open because some of your peers in the non-profit sector have gotten really good at it. As I say in many of my blog posts . . . we can learn from each other!

I’m sure you’re wondering if I clicked that upgrade button. You’re damn straight I did! I didn’t even think twice about doing it, which is how I know it was a very effective appeal.

Have you seen a really good upgrade strategy (e.g. mail, email, etc)? Please feel free to email it to me, and I’ll be happy to share it with the rest of the DonorDreams blog community. I will, of course, scrub it of your personal into and protect your identity.

Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

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 “peepholes” exist for donors to see your non-profit organization?


For the remainder of 2015 on the first Thursday of each month, I plan on featuring a fundraising video snippet from Henry Freeman.  Why? Because I’ve come to see Henry as one of our country’s more talented and accomplished fundraising professionals. I just love his teachable point of view on most resource development topics. In this first installment of “Hangin’ with Henry,” he talks about how donors see your non-profit organization and how they extrapolate many things from those periodic “peephole” views.

I’ve embedded a YouTube video of Henry talking about “Small Windows into Life: How We Experience the World Around Us.” Before clicking through to view the video, you may want to download the discussion guide first. It will save you time from taking notes and includes thought-provoking questions to help you make this video experience more actionable for your organization.

(Note: If your email subscription doesn’t show the embedded video clip, please click the aforementioned hyperlink.)

So, what did you think? What views of your organization are you providing your donors through those “peepholes“? What can you do to improve what they are seeing? What role will technology and social media play in creating “peepholes“? What old-school, non-tech “peepholes” are you using to introduce donors to the “real you“? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other!

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
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Will the computer and smart phone kill fundraising face-to-face solicitations?


kids1Last week, I wrote a blog titled “How do you network?” which was based on a conversation I had with Henry Freeman, the owner of H.Freeman Associates LLC. That post was well-received by many of you, and afterward Henry followed up with a nice email thanking me for his “15 minutes of internet fame.” LOL  Of course, in that correspondence, Henry said something that struck me as interesting, which got me wondering about face-to-face solicitation techniques and the future of fundraising.

Here is what Henry wrote that got me thinking:

“One of the things that scares me about the vast amount of technology that enters children’s lives at a very early age is the impact it may have on their ability to grasp the deeply important human skills involved in simple face-to-face communication that involves far more than the words we speak and the facts we share.”

This paragraph formed a mental image in my head of my nephew and niece with their faces buries in their smartphones during a recent family holiday gathering. There were adults everywhere and none of the conversations were kid-friendly. So, they were bored and their phones were entertaining and full of interesting things like texting, emails, Snapchat, etc.

What got me thinking even more about Henry’s concern was a “Tech Shift” radio story I heard on Chicago’s WBEZ 91.5 FM today while driving to Indiana for a site visit with a client.

The interview was with Nick Bilton, who is a tech columnist at NYTimes.com. He recently engaged in a social experiment that yielded an interesting conversation about smartphones. Click here to listen to that interview. It is definitely worth the click.

In doing a little research for today’s blog post, I stumbled across another post “Picture or it didn’t happen” from Leah Pickett at WBEZ. In this article, she talked about her generation being brought up exclusively on technology and social media and the social behavioral changes that have ensued. This is also definitely worth a click.

As these things rolled around the inside of my head, the Illinois and Indiana snow-covered landscape passed by in one white blur, but the one thing my mind kept wandering back to was this simple question:

kids2I wonder if these influences on the next generation of donors and fundraising volunteers will have an impact on the art of face-to-face solicitation and the future of philanthropy?

The reason why this question is so important is because (as Henry so aptly points out all the time in his trainings) face-to-face solicitation is the most effective way to engage a donor. Good fundraising professionals know there are no other solicitation techniques (e.g. mail, email, telephone, etc) that come close to the level of effectiveness as a face-to-face visit with donor.

I honestly don’t have any answers today, but I think it is something worth thinking about because the answer could impact your organization’s approach to fundraising.

How? Here are just a few ideas:

  • re-investment in face-to-face solicitation training
  • investment in online “personal page” solicitation
  • inclusion of a variety of ePhilanthropy strategies (e.g. email, website, social media, crowdfunding, etc) in your annual resource development plan

I really don’t know. Maybe I’m just showing my age? But I think this is an important enough idea to spend a little time contemplating and asking the simple question of “What if?

What are your thoughts? Do you think the upcoming generation of fundraising volunteers could be impacted by the tech they’ve grown up with? If so, then what do you think the effect could be on resource development? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

On a different subject, I’m pleased to announce to the DonorDreams blog community that Henry Freeman is letting me share his fundraising videos with you. My plan is to share one video per month throughout 2015. If there is good viewership, then I’ll continue sharing even more of his videos in 2016. Henry is one heck of a great fundraising professional, and I suspect you’re gonna love his training videos.

Thanks for being so awesome, Henry!

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

How do you network?


networkingA few days ago, I was Skyping with Henry Freeman, the owner of H.Freeman Associates LLC. It was a getting-to-know-you session because a mutual friend had suggested that we needed to meet and explore possible ways for our two consulting practices to work more closely together from time-to-time. During our conversation, Henry asked me a question that I haven’t been able to get out of my head. That question was:

How do you network?

As one does in a fluid conversation, I had to think on my feet and these were the examples that came out of my mouth:

  • Coffee meetings
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings
  • After-work cocktails
  • Virtual networking (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterst, Google+, LinkedIn, and the DonorDreams blog)
  • Group membership (e.g. Fox West Philanthropy Network)
  • Conferences

I’m not sure if I’m any good at networking, but I do it primarily because I like people. I love meeting new people. If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that I regularly say things like “We don’t have to re-create the wheel” and “We can all learn from each other.” Both of these expressions are most likely drivers behind what gets me out of my home office and meeting with all sorts of people.

During a little windshield time yesterday, Henry’s question was still rattling around my brain when it dawned on me that “networking” is obviously a critical skill for most non-profit CEOs and fundraising professionals. If you’re good at networking, then you are probably a natural when it comes to:

  • cultivating new prospective donors
  • stewarding existing donors
  • developing collaborations with other organizations, groups and corporations
  • soliciting donors and selling sponsorships
  • recruiting volunteers
  • identifying and recruiting new prospective board members
  • engaging existing board members

The more I think about it, networking skills sound more and more “foundational” as it generally related to SUCCESS.

As this idea continued rolling around in my thoughts, I couldn’t help but wonder what skills and traits are associated with people who are good networkers. Here is an incomplete list of things I managed to come up with:

  • Sincere and genuine
  • Conversational
  • Interested
  • Engaging
  • Good listener
  • Empathetic
  • Living in the moment
  • Intuitive

I’m not sure how accurate this list is, but they were all things that crossed my mind.

The final thought that crossed my mind on this topic was “How can someone get better at networking?” Not surprisingly, this question drove me to my favorite resource in the world — Google.   ;-)

After clicking around a little bit, I came across a link to Huffington Post simply titled “Networking Tips.” When I clicked it, there were two pages of HuffPo articles on a variety of networking subjects like “10 Simple Rules” and “8 Ways to Amp Up Your Personality.” It looked like a treasure trove of great reading.

Wanna see those links? Simply click here and enjoy!

Do you think that you’re good at networking? Why? What do you do to network? Which of your many skills and traits lend favorably to your ability to network?

If you end up like me and get thinking about this question, 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
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Make your donor recognition meaningful


recognition1I believe that sometimes the universe speaks to you, and over the last two days I’ve been beat over the head with reminders that your non-profit organization’s donor recognition must be meaningful. While there is a time and place for computer generated gift acknowledgement letters and donor gifts, you need to know your donor and appreciate them in a way that speaks to their inner philanthropic soul.

Yesterday, I met with a group of volunteers and worked on creating a written stewardship document. During that meeting, we discussed things like:

  • When does a donor recognition gift (e.g. lapel pins, coffee mugs, tote bags, hard hats & shovels from a groundbreaking, etc), get to be too much and send the wrong message?
  • How can appreciation of a contribution be personalized and meaningful?
  • How can donor recognition societies go beyond superficial recognition and become more mission-focused?

This conversation was full of rich little tidbits. We used some of Roger Craver’s donor retention findings to frame our discussion and guide what we wanted to include in our plan. While I used a white paper from Roger that I purchased from 501videos.com as part of their Donor Retention Project package (and I’m not sure if that is still available for purchase), I suspect you could find similar good stuff in Roger’s book titled “Retention Fundraising“.

recognition4To sum up the results of yesterday’s discussion, the volunteers decided that donor recognition and gifts should be personal, mission-focused and meaningful.

Of course, this can mean different things to different people.

One of the volunteers said that she once made a gift to a faith-based children’s charity and received an envelope stuffed full of hand-made thank you cards from the kids. SHE LOVED IT! However, another volunteer spoke about a donor recognition society just joined that included a lapel pin, scarf and donor appreciation event. SHE SAW NO VALUE IN IT!

While there are donors who want to receive hand-made cards from kids, there are likely others who wouldn’t appreciate it as much. The same logic applies to donors who love (or hate) hanging out with their peers at an appreciation event. All of this is tricky because few (if any) non-profit organizations have the ability to customize every donor’s acknowledgement-recognition-stewardship program. Additionally, offering too much choice to donors can lead to frustration, which is never a good emotion to associate with your non-profit brand.

So, what is the answer?

Create a reasonable program that includes mission-focused recognition and appreciation. As you implement your program, engage in two-way communication with your donors and make adjustments (either individually or collectively) as you receive feedback.

So, up to this point I’ve shared with you my experiences and conclusions from yesterday. Today, I walk into a client’s office, and the resource development person was banging away on the computer. She was importing pictures from a recent special event into a graphics software package and creating pictures for individual sponsors that included the following:

  • a montage of images from the event
  • the sponsor’s name printed on the aggregated photo
  • handwritten message signed by the organization’s executive director

I believe the picture is framed and given to the sponsor as a small token of the organization’s appreciation.

I was impressed with this effort because it was:

  • mission-focused
  • sincere
  • appreciative
  • thoughtful

More importantly it didn’t feel over-the-top.

So, there you have it . . . these experiences in the last 24-28 hours convinced me that I needed to blog today about donor recognition.

I am very interested in how your organization walks the fine line that I’ve described today. Have you created a donor-centered donor acknowledgement-recognition-stewardship program? Do you think you’ve struck the balance I’ve outlined above? If so, please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Strategies for turning your volunteers into donors


On Tuesday, I completed my three-part blog series on “Non-Profit New Year’s Resolutions” with a post about volunteerism. Coincidentally, later that morning I opened an email from my friends at VolunteerHub containing a guest blog attachment about a study they recently completed about volunteerism. The two posts were not coordinated, but I suspect this is the blogosphere gods telling us that 2015 better be “The Year of the Volunteer” at your organization. I hope you enjoy the following guest post from VolunteerHub’s Corbit Harrison.

Here’s to your health!
~Erik

Study: Best Practices for Converting Volunteers to Donors

By Corbit Harrison
Chief Operating Officer at VolunteerHub

Is one of your new year’s resolutions to increase donations?

If so, then it would be a great idea to target your volunteer base. Volunteers are among the “warmest leads” for donors and most familiar with your organization. In fact, the recent Volunteering and Civic Life in America study reports: “Volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to charity as non-volunteers. Nearly eight in 10 (79.2 percent) volunteers donated to charity, compared to four in 10 (40.4 percent) of non-volunteers.”

So, here’s the big question: how does a nonprofit convert volunteers into donors?

VolunteerHub recently surveyed 200 nonprofits on their best practices for donor management. The results show that many nonprofits are still struggling to tap into the true potential of monetary donations made by volunteers.

volunteers2

Below we share some of the challenges — as well as some remedies — that your organization may want to consider for its own strategic planning purposes.

Challenge: Tracking donor management is time-intensive

There’s a laundry list of reasons why, but the end result is the same: many nonprofits are behind the curve when it comes to implementing new technology. So, perhaps not surprisingly, one in three nonprofits responding to our survey are still manually entering data into spreadsheets in order to document donor information. Another 15 percent use a system of their own creation.

Solution: Implement a dedicated CRM

Approximately 50 percent of respondents utilize a constituent relationship management (CRM) system for tracking purposes.

Of those using a CRM, a name that comes up often is Blackbaud’s The Raiser’s Edge. It is the most widely-used CRM among those surveyed (51 percent of this subset). Additionally, once a system is in place, users tend to stay with it; seventy-two percent of respondents have remained with the same electronic donor tracking software for two years or more.

volunteers3

Challenge: Donor management processes are clunky, and data is scattered

Eight in ten of those nonprofits responding to our survey report that their donor management practices leave room for improvement. Manual data entry and validation issues head up the list at 40 percent, with close to another 20 percent identifying the isolation of volunteer and donor data sets as problematic. Other issues cited include ineffectual donation tracking and spotty donor engagement.

Take a look at what some of your nonprofit colleagues shared: “We have multiple pieces of information in multiple places… hard to have transparency around contact information as it relates to volunteers [and] donors.” Another writes, “The biggest headache pertaining to donor tracking and engagement is that it is outdated and inefficient.” Still more comment that tracking volunteer to donor conversion metrics and/or keeping contact information up-to-date present problems.

Solution: Get volunteer management and donor software to “talk” to each other

Best-in-class volunteer management systems and donor management applications are designed to keep their respective data all in one place and integrate with one another. This combines data from both volunteer and donor groups for much more efficient marketing and fundraising efforts. Synchronization between the two systems offers a 360-degree view of your constituents, by-passing the need for time-consuming manual data imports or exports.

VolunteerHub’s integration with The Raiser’s Edge, among Blackbaud’s other CRM solutions, is the perfect example of how integration can build new synergies.

Download the Donor Management Study

Ready to make 2015 the year of converting volunteers to donors? Download our study of over 200 nonprofits and learn:

  • CRM utilization rates
  • Donor management best practices
  • How to reduce manual data entry
  • How to engage more volunteers and donors
  • Tips for converting volunteers to donors

Click here to download the executive study.

Here’s to making 2015 your best fundraising year yet!

About Corbit Harrison

corbit harrisonCorbit Harrison is VolunteerHub’s Chief Operating Officer and has been actively helping nonprofit organizations engage constituents for over 10 years.

Fundraising New Year’s Resolutions — Focus on volunteerism


new years resolutionsIn my last two blog posts, I talked about a USA Today article from John Waggoner titled “Resolutions you can keep,” which I came across during my New Year’s Eve Napa Valley vacation. I previously mentioned there were three important fundraising concepts in the final two column inches of this article that non-profit organizations should take to heart as they start a new year. Last Tuesday’s blog was about sustainable giving strategies, and last Thursday’s post focused on sacrificial giving and upgrade strategies. Today, I am finishing this three-part series with a post about volunteerism.

So, the third (and final) notable thing that Waggoner said in the final two inches of his newspaper article was:

If you can’t afford to give money, give your time: The most rewarding way to feed the homeless is by hand. And anything you give to charity will probably leave you feeling better than you did on New Year’s Day.”

Some of you may be wondering how volunteer recruitment, retention and management is related to resource development. The simple truth is that volunteers are a “resource” . The following are just a few of the things volunteers will bring to the table for your organization:

  • new ideas
  • access to grant opportunities
  • specialized skills
  • wage replacement costs
  • donor dollars

I once read that a study looking at lifetime giving of traditionally cultivated donors compared to donors who started as volunteers found that those who start off as volunteers gave significantly more over their lifetime. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Volunteers are cultivating themselves better than any of us could do through a site tour, coffee meeting or house party.

volunteersA few days ago, I reviewed a PowerPoint training on a fundraising website that I run for a client. I stumbled across the following startling statistics pertaining to volunteer management:

  • Americans volunteered over 8 Billion hours of service in 2007. Those hours are worth more than $158 Billion (Volunteering in America Study, CNCS)
  • Households that volunteer give 40% more to charity than those that don’t volunteer
  • 80% of volunteers will give financially if asked
  • Fewer than half of the non-profits that rely on volunteers have adopted volunteer management programs

The last bullet point was shocking to me.

If your organization relies on volunteers and doesn’t have a written volunteer recruitment, retention and management plan, then I sincerely hope you take today’s blog post to heart and make it your 2015 New Year’s Resolution to correct this oversight.

Even of your organization isn’t reliant on volunteers, I encourage you to consider doing something in 2015 to change how you approach the idea of volunteerism. Doing so can have a profound impact on your resource development efforts.

The following are a few good links to other resources I think you will find interesting and helpful:

What does your non-profit organization do to attract, retain and manage volunteers? Do you have specific resource development strategies focused on helping volunteers cross that bridge and become a donor? Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Other New Year’s Resolutions?

A good friend, who also happens to be the CEO of a non-profit organization, sent me a nice note last week after reading one of the posts in my “Fundraising New Year’s Resolutions” blog series.

In addition to updating me on some of the progress he’s made with donor stewardship (see the chocolate covered strawberries section of the July 24th post titled “How to ‘surprise and delight’ your non-profit donors“), he also shared with me a new non-profit blog he is following that calls itself “Nonprofit With Balls“.

I’m not joking around, and the truth is that this blog’s post titled “Ten resolutions for the nonprofit sector for 2015” is kick-butt! If you are looking for other ideas for New Year’s resolutions, I encourage you to click-through and check them out. It is definitely worth the click!

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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