Blog Archives

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays . . . Think Big!

merry christmasHappy Holidays, DonorDreams readers! It is Christmas morning and my inner child woke me early. I’ve been sitting on the couch, enjoying a silent cup of coffee, and waiting for everyone to wake up.

Honestly, I cannot wait to give my gifts. I am literally fighting the impulse to wake everyone up. While looking out the window and sipping my coffee, it dawned on me that I forgot to get my DonorDreams blog subscribers and readers a holiday gift.

Let me first start by wishing all of you a happy holiday season. This time of the year is obviously not about gift giving, but it is about connecting with your fellow human beings and doing something that comes from your heart. With this being said, I’ve decided that my gift to you this morning is a BIG IDEA.

This big idea isn’t my idea, and I didn’t create it. However, my gift this Christmas morning to you is “the act of sharing a BIG idea with you.”

I hope you enjoy this TED Talks video of Katherine Fulton talking about the future of philanthropy.

Somewhere in the next few days, I hope you reflect back on Katherine’s teachable point of view as well as all of the giving you just did with your family, friends and charities. While doing so, please circle back to this blog post and share in the comment box section below your thoughts on the following:

  • What is the future of philanthropy?
  • What is your role in creating that future?
  • Who did you envision in the picture frame that Katherine projected on the screen at the end of her presentation? Why?

Here’s to your health!

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

Don’t wait until your donors die

in memoriamOn Saturday, I attended the funeral of my father’s aunt — Ruth Merriman — in Crystal Lake, IL. She lived a long and amazing life and her family will miss her dearly. While sitting through the service listening to her children and grandchildren eulogize her, I couldn’t help marvel at the things I didn’t know about my distant relative. For example . . .

  • Aunt Ruth was the first female to be voted the president of a School Board in the State of Illinois
  • She was a Girl Scout volunteer earlier in life
  • In her retirement, she loved her volunteer work at Good Shepard Hospital in Barrington, IL

Aunt Ruth was the picture of philanthropy, and I only kinda/sorta knew that. How embarrassing!

As I came to this conclusion, it dawned on me that many non-profit organizations are in the same boat with their donors.

Donors are part of your organizational family, but oftentimes they are like distant relatives who you don’t know very well. I wonder how many times a non-profit organization found out that someone was “into their mission” only after the donor had passed away?

Of course, the only solution to this problem is to get out of your office and visit with your donors.

  • Invite your donors to coffee or lunch
  • Ask them to attend your events
  • If they stop donating to you, re-engage them and visit

A good friend of mine did exactly this when he accepted the position of President & CEO of a non-profit organization.

relationship buildingHe first started looking for people who had once been loyal supporters but for whatever reason stopped donating. Then he found mutual friends (e.g. board members, former board members, volunteers, donors, etc) and asked them to assist with a re-introduction. On a go-forward basis he simply engaged in relationship building.

While relationship building varies with different donors, it involved nursing home visits, cigars, and field trips to visit the organization’s facilities in the case I just referenced.

If this sounds simple, I assure you that it is. BUT resource development doesn’t have to be complicated.

Sometimes you find great people. Other times you uncover amazing stories. Once in a while, you rediscover a passionate donor who adds you to their estate plan for $500,000, which is exactly what happened in the case of my friend.

What are you doing to engage your donors and bring them into the inner circle of your non-profit family?

In other news . . .

Speaking of maturing donors and relationship building, I am reminded of BREAKING NEWS that was recently announced.

Did you hear that Congress passed and President Obama signed legislation into law extending the IRA Charitable Rollover retroactive to the beginning of 2014? This legislation allows individuals over age 70½ to directly transfer up to $100,000 per year from an IRA account to one or more charities.

Of course, the catch is that is retroactive to January 1, 2014 and only covers contributions through December 31, 2014.

If you want a better/clearer explanation, check-out Tony Martignetti’s vlog on this subject.

Happy Holidays . . . and here’s to your health!

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

What would #RetentionWednesday really look like?

RetentionWednesdayI sometimes get freaked out by how much tech companies seem to know about me. I get a glimpse into that reality when I look at the ads being targeting at me on my computer screen. However, this topic isn’t what I want to talk about this morning and needs to be put in the parking lot for another time. What I really want to blog about today is one of those Facebook (or maybe it was Google) ads that caught my attention a few weeks ago. It was an ad from DonorPath advertising its “free” #GivingTuesday companion consultation service that they branded “#RetentionWednesday“. Once I got past the genius business move by Brian Lauterbach, my mind started spinning on what that Wednesday might actually look like.

As I started conceptualizing a day of stewardship activities, all of the typical tactical things came to mind such as:

  • Organizing a thank-a-thon
  • Hosting a “handwritten thank you note writing” party for volunteers
  • Email (or snail-mail) an impact report to your donors
  • Launching a YouTube channel packed full of alumni or client testimonials
  • Hosting a donor reception (patterned after a tradition chamber of commerce business after-hours)
  • Hosting a town hall meeting on a subject related to your agency’s mission
  • Launching a monthly coffee klatch for donors who want to talk with your CEO, board president or any number of people associated with your non-profit

OK, OK, OK . . . I could go on and on and on with stewardship activities and the list would be endless. I suspect you could do the same thing.

However, the thing nagging me was that stewardship and retention need to be more than just a handful of tactical activities done on the Wednesday after #GivingTuesday. I suspect that DonorPath’s branded service, which is likely just sampling of their more holistic fundraising consultancy services, addresses this issue and helps clients create a larger stewardship/retention plan for the upcoming year that uses #RetentionWednesday as a springboard.

2015 graphicSo, I guess I’m feeling a little bah-humbug about the entire idea of #RetentionWednesday. If I were king for a day (a scary thought), I would decree 2015 “The Year of Retention“.

Oh heck, if I were king for a day, I could do better than that. Right?

I would decree “donor-centered culture” as something mandatory before the IRS bestows non-profit status on any organization.

Ahhhhh, that is much more authoritarian and king-like. LOL  I suspect that I might be able to get used to being king.  ;-)

If achieving a donor-centered culture of philanthropy sounds hard to some of my DonorDreams subscribers, the truth is that “Donor Retention” is becoming a bit of a cottage industry in the non-profit sector in recent years.

For example, my company — The Healthy Non-Profit LLC — would give its left arm to work with your non-profit organization on cultivating and growing its culture of philanthropy.

In addition to my consulting practice and Brian Lauterbach’s DonorPath firm, there is Jay Love’s Bloomerang donor database service, Penelope Burk’s Cygnus Applied Research, Roger Craver’s DonorVoice, and a ton of others. As I said earlier, it is a burgeoning cottage industry that feels like it is getting bigger every day. I suspect this is likely a testament to the growing donor retention crisis in the non-profit industry.

What are you doing to increase retention of your donors? At its core, does your agency have a culture of philanthropy? If not, then what are you doing to change that culture? Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel because we can all learn from each other!

Are you a little lost with the entire “culture of philanthropy” thing? No worries. I’m embedding a wonderful YouTube video of Tony Martignetti (of the famed Tony Martignetti Nonprofit Radio show) speaking to the New York City chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals about “Creating a Culture of Philanthropy Throughout Your Nonprofit“. It is an hour-long video, but definitely worth the click!

Here’s to your health!

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

Philanthropy is emotional. Is your agency embracing this reality?

philanthropyI was on the phone yesterday talking with Pamela Grow over at The Grow Report about a toolbox project I’m currently work on. During that call, she shared an emotional donor story, and my response was simply “philanthropy is emotional“. For whatever reason, I haven’t been able to get neither Pamela’s story nor my simply conclusion out of my head. Whenever something like this happens, I always take it as a sign from the “blogger gods” that I need to write about it.

So, that’s what you’re getting this morning . . . a handful of stories and examples from my life to prove the point that philanthropy is emotional and ask what you’re doing about it. Hopefully, you can share a few stories and examples of your own.

What exactly is philanthropy?

I know that when I think of “philanthropy” my mind immediately wanders to non-profit organizations and charitable giving. However, the concept of philanthropy is much more expansive than just money being donated to agencies. The following is a simple definition that Google spit out at me when I asked:

Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.

When you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, “promoting the welfare of others” includes volunteerism, advocacy in addition to charitable giving.

live unitedOur United Way friends totally get an A+ on this one because they’ve been running around for a decade now telling us to LIVE UNITED which encompasses the following ideas:

  1. Give
  2. Advocate
  3. Volunteer

I guess when I step back and look at the bigger picture of philanthropy, I can’t help but wonder how it can’t be an emotional activity. After all, the act of reaching out to help someone else and expecting nothing in return is a selfless activity that is rooted in love and caring. Both of which are emotional. Right?

My first tearful national conference

youth of the yearMy first Boys & Girls Club national conference was in New York City in 2001 literally months before the terror attacks.

During one of the general sessions, the 2001 National Youth of the Year stepped to the big stage and told his story, which included:

  • a father who had died
  • a mother who was addicted, in prison and infect with HIV
  • a Boys & Girls Club that became home
  • hope and inspiration

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

His story illustrates the power of philanthropy and demonstrates how emotional it is for people.

A donor’s tears

tears2Fast forward to one of my first engagements as an external consultant. I was assisting with an organizational assessment and conducting interviews with board members, volunteers, collaborative partners, donors, former donors and various other stakeholders.

The organization was experiencing a number of pain points and found itself under scrutiny by the newspaper, television stations, and its supporters. As if this wasn’t bad enough, those who the agency served were starting to organize and protest.

I had the privilege of interviewing someone who had “done it all” including:

  • program volunteer
  • fundraising volunteer
  • board member (I believe two different stints on the board)
  • donor

There she sat, sharing her perspective on the current state and desired future state of the agency, and there were lots of tears.

Why was she crying?

Simply said, she understood the importance of the agency. She had witnessed and participated in the transformational gift this organization provides its clients. Her tears were rooted in frustration and fear.

  • Frustration that the current issues haunting the agency were getting in the way of fulfilling its mission.
  • Fear that the current issues might permanently close the doors and impact clients.

Her story illustrates the power of philanthropy and demonstrates how emotional it is for people.

An executive director’s tears

tearsI often find myself standing in parking lots after meeting “kicking stones” with staff, board members, volunteers, etc.

After one meeting, there I was in the parking lot with the executive director and their eyes started to pool with tears. It would be simple for me to chalk those tears up to:

  • being “sideways” with the board president
  • tight cash flow
  • inability to expand services
  • pressures being brought by partners to build organizational capacity
  • powerlessness to be able to give hard-working staff a raise

In reality, this executive director was thinking about opening up a job search and leaving the agency because they weren’t sure that they were the right leader to solve these challenges  The stress was eating them up.

The tears stemmed from the fact that they saw program staff, volunteers, and clients as part of their extended family, and the thought of leaving was akin to divorce or death.

Non-profit staff dedicate their lives to promoting the welfare of others. They are usually donors. They typically work for a lot less than what they could earn in the for-profit sector (by choice). They see, touch, hear, and feel “mission” on a daily basis.

This executive director’s story illustrates the power of philanthropy and demonstrates how emotional it is for people.

What are you doing?

Are you on the same page with me now? Do you believe that philanthropy is emotional? If so, then what are you doing to infuse emotion into the following functions at your non-profit agency:

  • marketing and PR?
  • resource development and fundraising?
  • board governance?
  • staffing?
  • programming?

One of my favorite non-profit PSA commercials is the one featuring Denzel Washington talking from his heart about the roots of his philanthropic spirit. Every time I see this commercial it brings tears to my eyes. Click the video or YouTube link to view this iconic public service announcement and bear witness to another emotional example.

Please take a minute or two to scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences about an emotional philanthropy story. It is the holiday season and a time to give. So, why not give the gift of inspiration to your fellow non-profit colleagues?

Here’s to your health!

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

Non-profit leadership is the great equalizer

leadership2Last night I had the privilege of being invited to a non-profit organization’s year-end holiday party stewardship event. In attendance were board members, capital campaign volunteers, auxiliary members, and various other stakeholders. There was no solicitation presentations, but there were a few powerful testimonials from alumni and lots of gratitude. The energy in the room was palpable, and I was reminded me of the old expression that “hope floats“.  It was in this dynamic setting that I had an amazing conversation with someone about the power of leadership.

In the middle of the event, I got locked into a conversation with a former board member. He is an alumnus of the agency’s programs, and he did two different stints on the board of directors. So, the conversation naturally migrated to how much the organization has changed throughout the many decades he has been involved.

Right in the middle of the conversation about organizational change and capacity building, this gentleman paused, appeared to reflect genuinely about what he was going to say, and then said:

“It is all about leadership and who the board hires to lead the organization.”

While I like to think your organization’s formula for success is about a variety of ingredients, I can’t really argue with this wise alumni and former board member’s assessment. I’ve seen lots of organizations overcome large gaps in their formula for success just because they have the right leaders sitting around the boardroom table and sitting in the CEO’s seat.

This comment also got me thinking about a recent CEO job search process that I helped a client lead. There was lots of conversation around “what does the right person look like” and what skill sets and experiences does the right person need to possess.

leadership1The following is a list of competencies and skill sets the search committee reviewed during its search criteria conversations:

Communication skills

  • Informing
  • Listening
  • Presenting
  • Writing

Decision making skills

  • Analyzing
  • Fact Finding
  • Innovating
  • Judgment
  • Problem Solving
  • Systemic Thinking

Developing Organizational Talent

  • Coaching
  • Delegating
  • Performance Management
  • Providing Feedback
  • Staff Development

Leadership Skills

  • Developing Commitment
  • Empowering
  • Encouraging Innovation
  • Facilitation
  • Influencing
  • Leading By Example
  • Managing Change
  • Providing Recognition
  • Team Building

Personal Initiation Skills

  • Contributing to a Positive Work Environment
  • Organizational Awareness
  • Personal Development
  • Proactivity
  • Professional Development
  • Striving for Excellence

Planning Skills

  • Action Planning & Organizing
  • Business Planning
  • Monitoring
  • Project Management
  • Recruitment
  • Strategic Planning
  • Time Management

Quality Skills

  • Implementing Quality Improvements
  • Satisfying Customer Requirements
  • Using Meaningful Measurements

Relationship Skills

  • Conflict Management
  • Meeting Skills
  • Negotiating
  • Networking
  • Relationship Building
  • Teamwork

Safety, Health & Environment Skills

  • Fostering Organizational Wellness
  • Supporting a Safe Environment

Hmmmm? Leadership is the great equalizer, but it certainly starts looking complicated once you begin searching for it.    :-)

What skill sets have you looked for when trying to hire or recruit the right leaders into your non-profit organization? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

Here’s to your health!

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

Non-profit bloggers for whom I’m thankful

thanksgivingWe are just a few days away from Thanksgiving, and I’m getting in touch with my gratitude muscles this week. If you’re anything like me then you’re probably a “lifelong learner” and love to read about bigger and better ways to engage donors and practice the art of resource development. One of the ways I feed my need to learn is reading other non-profit bloggers. Today’s post is dedicated to some of my absolute favs.

Joanne Fritz at

I started following Joanne almost a decade ago, and I just love how she breaks down complicated non-profit things into really easy to digest bite-size pieces. She tackles the basics as well as the complicated. Click here to check-out a handful of her “fundraising basics” posts. When you’re done with those articles, I suggest you keep on clicking. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

Joanne has been the “ring leader” for a monthly non-profit blog event called the Nonprofit Blog Carnival. She recently announced that she was stepping back and handing the torch to Pamela Grow. We all owe Joanne a debt of gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Thanks, Joanne! You are one of the best non-profit bloggers I’ve followed throughout the years. I so appreciate your point of view.

Pamela Grow at The Grow Report

As I just mentions above, Pamela is taking over “ring leader” responsibilities from Joanne as it pertains to the Nonprofit Blog Carnival. I think we all owe Pamela a big “THANK YOU” for stepping up!

However, Pamela is also the person behind The Grow Report, which deposits a weekly e-newsletter full of fundraising best practices in my inbox.

In addition to her weekly nuggets of wisdom, I’ve signed up for one Pamela distance learning sessions — “Nonprofit Monthly Giving: The Basics and More” — and I’ve purchased one of her eBooks — “Successful Fundraising for the One-Person Shop“.

All of Pamela’s stuff is simply amazing. If you haven’t checked her out yet, I assure you it is definitely worth the click.

Tom Ahern at Ahern Donor Communications

Tom has to be one of the foremost donor communications experts in our field. He can take a blah direct mail piece and make it sing. He can also transform your donor newsletter into a piece that inspires and raises money. He is simply a genius according to many of his clients.

I’m not sure how often it happens, but at least once a month I receive his “Love Thy Reader: About Donor Communications” e-newsletter. I just love Tom’s perspective on resource development and donor communications. His catchy subject lines and headlines always pull me into his stories. For example, his recent publication read “How the Evil Robot killed my monthly gift“. LOL! How can you resist opening that email?

I’ve participated in webinars featuring Tom. I’ve also purchased a DVD from 501 Videos featuring Tom. He is simply a treasure to the non-profit sector!

Click here to see some of his past newsletters. My advice? Keep clicking and then subscribe!

Chris Davenport at 501 Videos

I just mentioned how I purchased DVDs featuring Tom Ahern, and I did that through 501 Videos.

You know Chris Davenport . . . he is the guy behind “Movie Mondays for Fundraising Professionals“. His weekly FREE movies are awesome and always engaging. I especially like the fact that they’re usually around 5 minutes long and a perfect compliment to my first cup of coffee on Monday morning.

In addition to his free Monday morning movies, he sells tremendous DVD resources, and I’ve never been disappointed in what I’ve purchased. In fact, just this morning I received an email from Chris about something he is calling his “BIG BOX of EVERYTHING” offer. It is essentially 70% off of a lots of different videos and resources.

I’m giving this purchase serious consideration.

I know. I know . . . $489 is a lot of money, but I can seriously testify that his stuff is that good. I’m not sure what I will do, but I’d have to be crazy not to give this offer serious consideration.

Everyone else . . .

The risk of doing a blog post like this one is that you leave people out because you quickly run out of room. People like Dani Robbins at Nonprofit Evolution, my friends at Bloomerang, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America CEO’s Jim Clark’s blog, Gail Perry at Fired-Up Fundraising and many others.

Thank you to all of you who take the time to develop content and share it with the world for free.

ALSO . . . Thank you to those of you who take the time to read and comment on non-profit blogs. As I always say, “There is no need to re-invent the wheel. We can all learn from each other!

Here’s to your health . . . Happy Thanksgiving!

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


Thanksgiving, donor stewardship and social media

gravy1Thanksgiving is a time when many non-profit organizations give thanks to their donors who support their mission with their time and money. Over the years, I’ve received Thanksgiving cards, thank-a-thon phone calls, and even a small little gift of gratitude from my favorite charities. However, the ALS #IceBucketChallenge has changed everything and set the bar higher for all resource development activities. So, I’ve spent days (if not weeks) thinking about how to use social media to steward donors during this time of the year. This morning I think I had my best idea yet. Let’s see what you think.

Let me first set the scene . . .

It is Thanksgiving Day and I’m sitting around my parent’s table with my siblings and their children. There is turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, and more food than you can imagine. The table conversation is thick with things for which we are all thankful:

  • Mom is thankful for perfect children
  • Dad is thankful that Mom is happy
  • My sister is thankful that her kids are now all in school full-time
  • My brother is thankful that his second hip replacement surgery was successful


My teenage nephew whips out his smart phone and turns his video recorder on me. I unexpectedly stand up, grab the gravy boat, dump it over my head, and tell everyone why I’m so thankful for my favorite charity and all of my friends who I’ve solicited in the last year to support that agency. I end my testimonial by challenging by name my friends and family to take the #GravyBoatStewardshipChallenge. The video is posted to Facebook, goes viral and a new ePhilanthropy trend sweeps the nation, and this time it isn’t a solicitation phenomenon. It is instead focused on the ever-important stewardship function of your resource development program.

So, whatcha think?

Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . the gravy sounds hot and sticky and not as fun as ice water. OK, you’re probably right. I should go back to the drawing board and get a little more sleep tonight. (And to those of you who think I’ve lost my mind, let me assure you that my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek and I’m just trying to be funny.)

Even though my brainstorming might have come up a little short, this shouldn’t stop your organization from looking at social media as a stewardship opportunity this Thanksgiving season. Here are just a few other (and less sticky) ideas on how to use social media to give thanks to your donors:

  • Record short video snippets of staff, board and clients giving thanks for what your agency has accomplished in 2014 and express gratitude to the donors whose support made it all possible. Then post it to Facebook.
  • Twitpic a picture of something awesome happening at your agency and give it a stewardship caption.
  • Start work on a digital version of your annual report that you will upload to your website.
  • Create a YouTube video version of your annual report and send it to donors.
  • Commit to writing a monthly feature story focused on your biggest supporters, upload to your website and point all of your social media friends to where it is located online.

gravy2If there is one thing all of us should’ve learned from the ALS #IceBucketChallenge, it is that social media is a powerful tool in our resource development toolbox. While we’re all still learning how to use this tool, those who innovate and try new things will surely reap the rewards.

So, why not use social media this Thanksgiving season to steward your donors? Are you already doing something? If so, what is it? Do you have a crazy idea, but are too afraid to try it? What is it? We can all learn and support each other. Please scroll down and share your thoughts and ideas in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

How many year-end plates are you spinning at your non-profit?

spinning platesA few weeks ago I facilitated a training session titled “2014 Finish Strong: Year-End Strategies” for a group of non-profit professionals in New Mexico. Long story short . . . there were LOTS of things that non-profits try to do in the fourth quarter. Participants shared with each other what they were doing back home at their agency and we collectively talked about best practices.

The following is the laundry list of fourth quarter activities that we discussed:

  • Budget development
  • Resource Development Plan (aka fundraising plan)
  • Strategic Plan (or any other flavor of planning like tactical plans, business plans, program plans, etc)
  • Board Development & Board Governance activities (e.g. officers slate, expiring terms, new recruitment, orientation, year-end evaluation, etc)
  • Board Retreat
  • Thank-a-Thons (stewardship phone calls to donors)
  • Holiday Cards (holiday greetings and stewardship messaging to donors)
  • Starting to prep for creation of annual report (e.g. content creation, pics, theme selection, etc)
  • Financial Audit prep (e.g. RFP, hiring auditor, closing year-end books, etc)
  • Focused solicitation strategies with LYBUNT/SYBUNT donors
  • Targeted/Segmented year-end holiday mail solicitations
  • Phone-a-Thons (solicitation phone calls typically following up on mailing)
  • Online fundraising strategies (e.g. #GivingTuesday, etc)

Lots and lots going on in non-profit shops right now all across the country. The fourth quarter is exhausting!

What are you currently working on at your agency? Are some of those things the same as what you see on the aforementioned laundry list of projects? Please scroll down to the comment box below and either add to our list or share a best practice related to one of the items on the list. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

National Philanthropy Day is November 15th

philathropy dayGood morning everyone! I’m up early and running out the door to my local fundraising chapter’s National Philanthropy Day celebration in the Fox River Valley in Illinois. As I busily through things together and guzzle coffee, I’ve been wondering how you plan on spending your Philanthropy Day (which is officially on November 15, 2014).

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals, National Philanthropy Day is described as follows:

“Philanthropy is “the love of humankind,” and National Philanthropy Day® (NPD)—November 15—is the day that thousands of people around the world come together to both (1) put that word into action and (2) recognize the change that word has brought to our communities.

NPD is a celebration of philanthropy—giving, volunteering and charitable engagement—that highlights the accomplishments, large and small, that philanthropy—and all those involved in the philanthropic process—makes to our society and our world.

National Philanthropy Day® is both an official day and a grassroots movement. Every year, since 1986 when President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed November 15th as National Philanthropy Day®, communities across the globe have celebrated by hosting events to recognize activities of donors, volunteers, foundations, leaders, corporations, and others engaged in philanthropy.”

For more information, click here to check out the Philanthropy Day website.

Here is the amazing thing about this special day. You don’t have to register for a conference or all-day special training event to participate in Philanthropy Day. In my opinion, here are just a few things you could do to have your own personal celebration:

  • Make a contribution to your favorite non-profit organization
  • Pick-up the phone, call a donor, and say thanks (or tell them how much you admire their commitment)
  • Volunteer a few hours at a local non-profit agency
  • Reach out and help a neighbor with something like raking leaves or driving them to an appointment

So, think it over and then scroll down to the comment box. I would like to hear how you plan on celebrating National Philanthropy Day this year.

Here’s to your health!

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

Non-profit unicorns . . . have you seen one lately?

unicornAs you know, there is no such thing as a unicorn. It is a mythical creature and the inspiration for this morning’s post about various fundraising policies and procedures documents that everyone says are important but rarely exists on the front line of  many (especially smaller) social services non-profit agencies. I thought it might be a good idea to name these “unicorns” and explain what they are and why they’re important.

Before I begin, I want to give a shout out to my BFF — Michael Johnson — who is a planned giving consultant at H. Freeman Associates. He is the real motivation for this morning’s post because he posted the following comment on one of my blogs from last week titled “Your agency’s fundraising program is like an iceberg“:

“Great post, Erik! This speech underscores the importance of having good gift acceptance policies and an operating plan in place to back up our brilliant marketing. We always need to “Begin with the end in mind” and ask ourselves what we will do when our marketing campaign is successful and the prospective donor responds. Otherwise our donors may become frustrated.”

It was Mike’s reference to Gift Acceptance Policies that got my mind whirling and thinking about today’s topic. THANKS, MIKE! :-)

Gift Acceptance Policies

Sometimes donors like to support your mission with things other than cash. In fact, I just sat through a training a few months ago where my friend Mike talked about how donors give more “stuff” than they do “cash“.

It is for this reason that gift acceptance policies are important. They spell out in advance “what you do and how you do it” with regards to gifts of stuff. In a sample policy that I recently reviewed, an agency included policies and procedures for the following types of donated “stuff“:

  • publicly traded securities
  • securities that aren’t publicly traded
  • real estate
  • tangible personal property like art, jewelry, etc
  • insurnace
  • in-kind gifts and pro bono services
  • deferred gifts (e.g. charitable gift annuities, irrevocable charitable remainder trusts, etc)
  • revocable gifts like bequests

I refer to this policy and procedures document  as a “non-profit unicorn” because I very rarely see it, and when I do it is typically larger non-profits (e.g. universities and hospitals) who have taken the time to develop them.

If you are interested in more info on gift acceptance policies, the National Council of Nonprofits has done a nice job uploading resources and samples to their site. However, please remember that policy making is a a responsibility of the board of directors. So, make sure to include them in the discussion and development of your agencies policies and procedures before asking the board to approve them.

Named Gifts Policy

Sometimes donors like to put their names on stuff, and a Named Gift Policy helps non-profit organizations with the following:

  • identifying what can be and can’t be named (e.g. buildings, rooms, endowments, scholarships, events, etc)
  • identifying the process and rules associated with naming something
  • identifying the process and rules associated with unnaming something

Our friends at the Association of Fundraising Professionals have done a very nice job making the case for why this type of policy is important and providing a number of samples and links to resources. This online article is definitely worth the click!

Again, I consider this a “non-profit unicorn” because I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen a policy like this.

Donor database policy and procedures manual

Many non-profit organizations have donor databases, and very few of them have put into writing things such as:

  • how to input a pledge
  • how to input a gift
  • how to run solicitor reports
  • protect donor privacy (g. what can be shared and with whom)
  • how to enter donor’s names (g. Mr & Mrs, etc)
  • what information to collect and where to put it
  • how to track soft gifts
  • how to enter a new donor
  • how to track volunteers and prospects

The biggest reason this policy and procedures manual is critical is because your agency won’t always have the same person entering donor information into the database. With turnover comes inconsistency and lost institutional knowledge. Long story short . . . the lack of a policy and procedures manual for your donor database typically results in a G.I.G.O. situation (garbage in, garbage out).

Want to avoid the feeling of wanting to throw your database out the window? I suggest developing your policy and procedures manual.

I know that I sound like a broken record, but I’ve only seen a few of these in all my years of working with non-profit organizations, which is why it is a “unicorn” in my book.

Our friends at Metafile (ResultsPlus donor database) published an awesome nine page white paper that speaks to this issue. Click here to view their sample template.

Does your organization have one of these policies? If so, what was your motivation for creating it? What samples/templates did you use to get started? Are there other “unicorn documents” that you’ve heard about but never seen? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

Here’s to your health!

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


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,014 other followers

%d bloggers like this: