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What should you do when a board member quits fundraising?


This certainly seems to be the topic of the month for non-profit people running in my circles. I’m not sure why this is the flavor of the month, but I’ve been asked this question so many times recently I took is as a sign from the universe (or the fundraising gods) that I should blog about it.

Why do board members quit on you?

quit1Oh, well let me count the reasons . . .

  1. They feel lost when it comes to asking for charitable contributions (aka lack of training)
  2. They feel uneasy about asking friends for money (aka they are asking inappropriately due to a lack of training which results in any number of FEARS and the feeling that they’re begging)
  3. They feel unsupported by staff (aka staff aren’t going out with them to help and model best practices)
  4. They sense there is a lack of organization behind their efforts (aka meetings are poorly attended or poorly organized, acknowledgement letters are sent late or sporadically, etc)
  5. Prospective donors are assigned to volunteers by staff without input from volunteers (aka they aren’t asking people with whom they are comfortable soliciting)
  6. They are busy people and there aren’t accountability tools being used by staff to keep everyone focused (e.g. report meetings, dashboards, scorecards, campaign reports, peer-to-peer phone calls)
  7. Fundraising efforts lack urgency (aka deadlines always seem to be extended, goals seem to shift/change, etc)
  8. They weren’t recruited appropriately and didn’t know what they were saying ‘YES’ to when joining the board (aka your board recruitment process lacks “expectation tools” like volunteer job descriptions, commitment pledges, etc)

I could go on and on and on with this list, but that wouldn’t be productive. Suffice it to say, if any of the aforementioned reasons describe your organization, you need to address it. Quickly! Otherwise, no matter how many new board members you recruit to replace the ones who quit on you, the problem will continue to recur.

All of this begs the question, “What can and should be done about board volunteers who quit on their fundraising responsibilities?

Step One: Have a heart-to-heart discussion

heart to heartI have no idea why this is so scary for so many non-profit staff and board volunteers. It doesn’t have to be a confrontation. Here are a few talking points:

  • Describe what you are observing (e.g. a reluctance to fundraise)
  • Assure them that it happens in the case of many board volunteers
  • Ask them what the trouble seems to be
  • Listen – Listen – Listen (empathize where appropriate)
  • Ask them how you can help
  • If there is nothing you can do to help, then ask them how they’d like to move forward

Unfortunately, I’ve seen it too many times. Board members disengage and no one asks them if everything is OK and if they are in need of assistance.

It is troublesome when non-profit families start acting this way, which is why Step One is always to sit down and listen.

Step Two: Engage in cultivation & stewardship

quit2If the reasons given by your board volunteer aren’t things beyond anyone’s control (e.g. family member illness, work-related challenges, etc) and they simply don’t feel comfortable with solicitation, then ask them to get heavily involved in cultivation (e.g. engaging new prospective supporters) and stewardship (e.g. showing existing donors gratitude and return on investment) activities. (Note: don’t simply let them focus on other non-fundraising activities like programming or marketing)

The following is a partial list of things you can ask of reluctant fundraising volunteers:

  • Host a house party with people who don’t currently support your organization (e.g. party where staff briefly talk about the organization and the host follows up with participants to see if they are interested in learning more)
  • Invite people who don’t currently give to your organization to tour your facilities and see the mission in action
  • Invite people who aren’t donors/supporters out for a cup of coffee and simply chat about the organization (e.g. it is important for the board volunteer to share reasons why they are involved and passionate about the organization)
  • Hand write letters to donors to express gratitude for their support
  • Make phone calls to donors in the middle of the organization’s range of gifts chart to express gratitude, engage in a discussion about their reasons for support, and share a piece of organizational good news
  • Invite larger major gifts donors/supporters out for a cup of coffee, share a copy of the most recent annual report, share any recent pieces of good news or programmatic results, and talk passionately about the future

I’m not suggesting you ask a reluctant fundraising volunteer to do one of two of these things. I am suggesting you immerse them in these activities. You might try asking them to complete five handwritten letters, five phone calls AND five in-person contacts every month for the next year.

Why?

In my experience, there is something curative when board members have substantive encounters with others that focus on community need, mission, vision, and impact.

I’ve seen a heavy dose of this approach help many volunteers get over their cold feet or malaise when it comes to fundraising.

Step Three: Finding a New Seat on the Bus

seat on busSometimes we can’t fix the problem. Board members are people, too. Their parents get sick. Their marriages falter. They end up with a new boss who demands more from them.

When these things happen, the first order of business is empathy. This is what you’d do for a family member going through the same thing. Right? And board members are your non-profit family.

But whatever you do, you cannot make exceptions for individual board volunteers with regards to their fiduciary responsibilities. It is an all or nothing proposition.

I’ve seen it too often where one board member is given a pass (usually for good reason). It’s a slippery slope. Others board members start identifying reasons in their life why they can’t participate in fundraising. Worse yet, a schism materializes in the boardroom between “those who fundraise” and “those who don’t.”  When this happens, resentment and ugliness aren’t far behind.

So, what does finding a new seat on the bus look like? It could be any number of things including (but not limited to):

  • Taking a short sabbatical from the board
  • Resigning from the board and moving into a new role (e.g. joining a committee, becoming a program volunteer, helping with small projects, remaining on as a donor, etc)
  • Acting as an advisor (e.g. monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly coffee meetings with the CEO or development director)
  • Becoming a community ambassador (e.g. speaking periodically at service clubs, etc)

We don’t banish or fire board members (unless of course it is a toxic/destructive situation). People who support our mission are valued and important. We keep them involved, but we do so in roles that are mutually beneficial and fulfilling.

How has your organization dealt with and addressed board members who quit fundraising (or maybe never really got started)? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

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What RULES do you live by when it comes to fundraising?


rules1Have you ever stopped whatever you doing, took a deep breath, and observed the world around you? (And I mean really take a deep look.) I did this just the other day, and what I saw kind of surprised me. Everywhere I looked I saw R-U-L-E-S. There were formal rules such as stop signs, registration forms and sales taxes. There were also informal rules such as people walking on the right side of the sidewalk.

As I pondered this revelation, it dawned on me how complex and layered this practice has become for humans. Consider the following:

  • There are rules that govern our international interactions (e.g. diplomacy, war crimes, etc)
  • In the United States, there are federal rules, state rules, and a myriad of local rules (e.g. municipal, county, township, etc)
  • Every profession operates within a set of rules (e.g. ethics, accreditation, operational norms, etc)
  • Individually speaking, there are informal rules many of us follow in public spaces (e.g. opening doors for others, smiling and shaking hands when introduced, not purposely passing gas, etc)
  • Also, individually speaking, many of us create a set of rules for ourselves when we’re not in public (e.g. wake-up at 7 am THEN start the coffee THEN let out the dog THEN feed the pets; brush teeth before leaving the house; make the bed)
  • I haven’t even mentioned . . . a) the rules of physics, b) the rules of biology, c) the rules of chemistry (all of which govern our ability to exist)
  • And don’t even get me started about the rules of God and our world’s major religious institutions

kindergartenMy mind was completely blown! (yes, I was completely sober)

It almost became overwhelming to think about how many rules existed in my little life. Many of which I don’t even think as I go about living my day-to-day life.

Of course, every once in a while, we are reminded about this phenomenon by authors such as Robert Fulghum, who authored “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.”

Sometimes, we even enjoy a rebellious rock-n-roll song bemoaning all of the rules that exist in our world. One of my personal favorites is the Five Man Electric Band’s 1971 song “Signs.” I just love how the lyrics start off with “And the sign said, long hair freaky people need not apply.

All of this deep thinking got me wondering about RULES that govern resource development and fundraising practices.

While there is obviously the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) Code of Ethical Standards, my curiosity goes deeper. I am wondering what policies and practices (e.g. rules) you’ve put in place in your local organizations. And more importantly, I’m wondering why you feel these rules are important.

I looked at some of the resource development practices I put in place at my last organization. The following are just a few examples:

  • Gift acknowledgement letters must be in the mail within 24 hours of receiving a pledge/gift
  • All pledges/contributions must be entered into the donor database even if it meant double entry from other sources (e.g. duck race software, financial management software, etc)
  • All board volunteers were asked to hand write at least five thank you notes at the end of every board meeting to donors who made a pledge/gift in the last 30 days
  • Annual reports were produced and distributed in time for the annual dinner fundraising event held at the end of January
  • Every gift acknowledgement letter included IRS language in the footer of the letter indicating whether or not any goods/services were received by the donor in lieu of their contribution and the value of those goods/services

In addition to looking at my own experiences, I went back to an old training curriculum titled “Stewardship” to see if I could identify more “rules.” This was what I found on a PowerPoint slide titled “Stewardship Activities & Functions:”

  • State Registration — Before you begin to solicit, be sure you are in compliance with all state laws (State registration is usually done through the Secretary of State)
  • AcknowledgementOfficial thank you letters or receipts that include information required by IRS
  • RecognitionGiving clubs, named gift opportunities, special events, individual activities
  • CommunicationThe information stream that reinforces appreciation of gift and tells about its impact
  • AdministrationBack office activities in resource development and finance ensure gifts are accounted for and invested properly
  • ImplementationThe work of executive director and program staff to see that gift is used according to stated purposes

Obviously, stewardship goes well-beyond simply thanking donors for their contribution.

As I bring this post to conclusion, I am first struck by how many formal and informal resource development and fundraising rules exist in the average non-profit. However, I’m also left wondering if all of these varied rules can be rolled up into more global truisms similar to the ones found in Fulghum’s book about the values we all learned in kindergarten.

Maybe one of those simple, comprehensive rules can be summed up as: “Treat your donors like your BFF.” (e.g. do unto others as you would have them do unto you).

What rules do you operate your resource development shop under? And why have you instituted those rules? Please use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

What should your non-profit learn from Great Britain’s Brexit vote?


brexitLast week, British voters stunned the world in a number of different ways. First, they voted in a non-binding referendum to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which triggers a process to disentangle Great Britain from the European Union (EU). Second,  global financial markets have reacted poorly to this news because it injected a large amount of uncertainty into all things financial (apparently there is now a projection by some economists that there is a 30% to 50% chance the United States will now enter into another recession because of this vote). Finally, and most importantly, many people were stunned by reporting in the days following the referendum that there appears to be a growing number of voters who felt misinformed and regretted their vote.

As I listened to last week’s news coverage, I couldn’t help but worry about what this all means for the American non-profit sector.

Of course, the risk of another recession obviously spells trouble for non-profit organizations who are still digging out from the 2008 economic crash. However, this isn’t really what concerns me the most.

The fact that voters felt misinformed and ignorant about what they were voting on is a chilling realization and one that should concern every non-profit professional.

If you stop and think about this phenomenon for a few minutes, it isn’t really surprising.

  • People are busy
  • Many people report feeling as if our world is getting faster and faster
  • Information pours into our lives at breakneck speed (e.g. network television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter, cable television, data reports in the workplace, email-email-email, etc)
  • There appears to be a blurring of the lines between opinions and facts in the media
  • There is a media outlet (and internet link) validating every point of view . . . so if you believe it, then you can reinforce it thus hardening your opinion and becoming less likely to hear opposing viewpoints

information overloadCommunications experts refer to this experience as “information overload.”

You may be asking yourself, “So what?

Well, there are consequences . . .

  • Anxiety
  • Decreased productivity
  • Tuning out and unplugging

I’m sure some of you have heard the old marketing adage that it takes at least seven times of someone hearing/seeing an advertisement before it actually breaks through the noise and registers with them. This is a concept called effective frequency.

OK, so now you might be asking yourself, “What does any of this have to do with my non-profit organization?

Let me attempt to answer this question with a few questions for you to consider:

  • What are the consequences of your donors not hearing your post-solicitation stewardship messaging?
  • What problems could result if your board members aren’t reading the reports and materials you send them prior to making decisions in the boardroom?
  • What could happen if staff aren’t processing and reacting appropriately to outcomes data, properly reading/implementing program curricula, or understanding the deliverables written into grant agreements?

If your answers were:

  • increased donor turnover
  • fewer dollars raised
  • bad decision-making
  • poor programming
  • decreased productivity and performance

. . . then you are likely on the same page with me.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this is absolutely happening in your organization, but I am asking you to weigh the possibilities.

There are more theories and studies showing us the internet is rewiring our brains and changing: a) how we read and b) how we process information. (If you want to read more, click herehere . . . and here)

information-overloadSo, if you are still with me, you might be wondering what can be done to improve the likelihood that donors, board volunteers and staff are hearing (and understanding) what your organization needs them to know. While I am not a communications expert, here are a few thoughts:

  • Use more pictures and graphics
  • Tell more stories to convey your messages and contextualize your outcomes data
  • Segment your donors and do a better job at targeting your messaging
  • Use multiple communications channels (e.g. in-person, phone, mail, email, outdoor advertising, Facebook, Twitter, etc)  and stop over reliance on email and mail
  • Integrate infographics, dashboards and scorecards into your boardroom materials
  • Redesign your meetings (board and staff meetings) to be more interactive / participatory

How does your organization communicate with its stakeholders? How do you know if your key messages are being properly received and understood? Please use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Please send a thank you note to your donors


In the last few months, I’ve been on a business development kick by sitting down with non-profit leaders and developing proposals for their consideration based on those conversation. After sending out the proposal, which they requested and helped frame, my recent experience is . . . nothing happens. And I do mean nothing. No follow-up phone call. No email. Not even a “thanks but no thanks form letter.” And when I initiate the follow-up, I sometimes don’t even get a response to that communication. Really?!? I am wearing deodorant (even cologne, usually). Ugh!

As I sit and contemplate this weird little trend in my professional life, I got thinking about the bigger picture and last five years of my life.

  • The last time I sent an organization my resume for a job vacancy (more than five years ago), I never received a letter acknowledging receipt of my application or a rejection letter
  • I’ve sent countless emails to non-profit organizations over the last five years asking if I could buy the CEO a cup of coffee or meal in an effort to “get to know them and their organization a little better as well as introduce myself,” and many times my email and phone calls would go unreturned
  • We’ve even made charitable contributions in the last few years and either didn’t receive a gift acknowledgement letter or it arrived oddly late

All of this chin stroking and head scratching inspired me to dust off my copy of Penelope Burk’s Donor Centered Fundraising book to look for data on how often this type of stuff happens in the non-profit sector. This is some of what I found on page 38:

  • 38% of donors say they always receive a thank you letter after making a charitable gift
  • 41% report receiving something most of the time
  • 19% receive an acknowledgement sometimes

Burk goes on to mention on page 46:

Prompt gift acknowledgement influences 44% of study donors’ future giving decisions. 38% of study donors receive a thank you letter within two weeks; 54% within a month; 8% within two months.

As I think back to that year-end charitable gift we made to an area organization for the first time, I’m remembering: a) it was the first gift we ever made to that organization outside of an event ticket and b) it is the last time we gave them any money and haven’t participated in any of their events since. As I process this for the first time since it happened, I don’t think we’re mad about it. I suspect we just don’t care enough, especially if they don’t seem to care about it.

I am left with the following thoughts and questions:

  • With so many organizations using donor databases today, isn’t it as simple as a key stroke to produce a gift acknowledgement letter?
  • Is it too time consuming to put a customized note on each computer generated letter to help alleviate the impersonal nature of this type of response?
  • For loyal donors or larger philanthropists, is another handwritten thank you note that difficult to produce?

If I had a nickle for every fundraising professional who asked me for “good samples” of gift acknowledgement and thank you letters, I would be a wealthy man. If you are one of those people who is stuck and needs a little advice, then spend a little time with the following data that Burk shares on page 37:

What donors feel makes a thank you letter superior: personalized in some way 51%; acknowledges how the gift will be used 30%; handwritten 16%; signed by a member of the board 13%

I highly recommend purchasing one of Penelope Burk’s books. For people who subscribe to and read this blog, you know I’ve been a fan for a long time.

In addition to the amazing Penelope Burk, I also suggest looking at:

And for those of you who are looking for samples and templates of well written acknowledgement and thank you letters, Miss Manners also has some wise advice for you that was published on July 24, 2012 in the Washington Post. Click here to read what she has to say. Enjoy!  😉

What is your organization’s policy on gift acknowledgement and thank you letters? Where is that policy written (e.g. gift acceptance policy? resource development plan’s section on RD policies?) What consideration went into developing your policy (e.g. size of fundraising staff? technology? donor retention goal?) Please use the comment box to share your thought and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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 is your organization blending storytelling with mission-focused donor stewardship?


write brain booksLast week I found myself in New Orleans at Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s national conference sitting in an exhibitor booth trying to make new friends and connect with old ones. On Wednesday, right before the exhibitor area opened, I was visited by a fellow exhibitor from Write Brain Books. She shared with me a little information about her company, asked me about my non-profit consulting practice, and invited me over to her booth to learn more.

After spending the morning in my booth, I decided to visit my new friend. As I crossed the exhibitor floor, I found the Write Brain Books booth. It was twice the size of most exhibitor spaces and it was very, very orange (all the way down to the orange carpeting they brought in).

While I couldn’t find the person who had visited me earlier, there was a swarm of people working the booth. More importantly, there were lots of conference attendees buzzing about and checking out this company’s program. Most importantly, everyone was greeted warmly and pulled into a discussion about how after-school providers can better engage kids in academically enriching activities. I was no exception.

Before going any further, let me give you a road map for today’s blog post.

First, I’m going to talk briefly about Write Brain Books and their amazing academic enrichment program. Second, I will talk about how this encounter became a resource development AH-HA moment blended with a peanut butter cup craving. Finally, I will provide a few examples of mission-focused and inspired donor stewardship.

Thanks for letting me do a little signposting. I hope that you’re still with me. Did I mention that we’re going to talk about peanut butter cups soon?  😉

I won’t be able to do a good job in this short space with describing the Write Brain Books program, but I think you will get a sense of it from the following bullet points:

  • Write Brain Books uses illustrated, wordless books to help spark a child’s imagination and allow them to write their own stories
  • Story Mats (e.g. 11 x 17 art posters) are also used to help engage kids in writing and storytelling
  • Story Builder Cards are used to help facilitate group writing games
  • There appears to be lots of resources for after-school program staff (e.g. facilitator guides) with an eye towards outcomes measurement
  • Participants also participate in a project-based learning and where they learn how to collaborate while co-authoring an actual book that will get published
  • This program is so much more than a simple writing program . . . participants benefit in the areas of reading, writing, vocabulary, critical thinking, collaboration, storytelling, etc
  • Write Brain Books activities aren’t just for little kids . . . programming is age-appropriate and spans K-12

I’m staring at a stack of literature on my desk, and I realize that I am only scratching the surface. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to visit Write Brain Books YouTube channel. There is also tons of great stuff on their website.

You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with resource development? Well, as I walked away from the Write Brain Books exhibitor booth, I had this thought . . .

reese peanut buttercups“Hey, you got peanut butter in my chocolate!”

That’s right. I’m referencing that 1981 Reese Peanut Butter Cup commercial where a peanut butter lover and chocolate lover bump into each other on the street, and the entire goofy encounter is supposed to give birth to the idea of a peanut butter cup.

If you want to take a walk down memory lane (or don’t have any idea what I’m talking about because you’re a Millennial), then here is the YouTube link to the commercial.

You might be wondering how I suddenly turned this blog post into a discussion about peanut butter cups. In addition to probably being hungry, there is a logical explanation. Please let me try to explain . . .

In the days right before BGCA’s national conference, I was researching information about the 2016 Nonprofit Storytelling Conference, which is coming to Chicago on November 10-11. As a result, I had the following two similar ideas spinning around my head as I walked away from the Write Brain Books exhibitor booth:

  1. Storytelling is an effective strategy used to engage kids in reading, writing, comprehension, vocabulary, critical thinking, and many more skills necessary for academic success in the 21st Century
  2. Storytelling is an effective engagement strategy in resource development when it comes to prospect cultivation, solicitation, and donor stewardship

Professionally, I am a BIG fan of non-profit organizations marrying together mission-focused program stories and donor stewardship activities. When this occurs, it is refreshing from a donor’s perspective and so much more effective than throwing outcomes statistics at a donor and simply saying: “See! See! Your donation resulted in ROI.

Similar to the Reese Peanut Butter Cup commercial, I had fun donor stewardship ideas rolling around my head stemming from the question of: “What would I do with the Write Brain Books program as it relates to donor stewardship if I were still working for a non-profit organization?

Here are just a few thoughts:

  • Host a reception and ask donors to participate in one of the Write Brain Books activities (e.g. Story Mats, Story Builder Cards, or a collaborative story writing exercise)
  • Use kid generated story mats as a donor gift and simple way to say thank you (as a donor to my local Boys & Girls Club, I’d totally hang a story mat on my refrigerator)
  • Host an event (e.g. book signing, panel discussion, book launch, etc), where kids could interact with donors in a meaningful and mission-focused way

If you are looking for an example, then you might want to check out what Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta did with their creative writing program a few years ago. Click here to view a creative writing program that donors received as a “donor gift” and stewardship touch.

Does your organization integrate programming opportunities with donor stewardship activities? If so, please use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences. Please also share how donors respond. 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 organizational data easy to digest


dataFor the last few decades, the non-profit sector has been focused on data in an effort to convince donors to continue their philanthropic support. I still remember being a new executive director sitting in my first United Way meeting and learning about constructing logic models and differentiating between inputs, outputs, outcomes and pre- and post-test survey tools. All of this was piled on top of a slew of other data metrics my national office was asking for such as:

  • overall organizational membership
  • average daily attendance
  • member demographics (e.g. gender, age, ethnicity, zip code, household income, etc)
  • employee turnover
  • how many members attended 52 days or more per year compared to 105 days
  • And on and on and on (seriously, the report was 35 pages long)

While I understood information was powerful, especially with regards to management and decision-making, it was mind-numbing to me the first time I heard someone advocate for total transparency by sharing all of this data with donors.

My immediate reaction was:

  1. Of course, donors have the right to see what their investment is producing!
  2. But seriously . . . isn’t a data dump via the annual report, website, newsletter, impact reports, etc. counterproductive and confusing for donors?

From that starting point in the Spring of 2000, I began my journey and life-long struggle with becoming a donor-centered fundraising professional.

I must confess this quest for the holy grail of perfect donor communications is ongoing.

For the last few days, I’ve been preparing for next week’s Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Conference in New Orleans. In addition to beautifying my exhibitor booth, I’m refreshing The Healthy Non-Profit‘s marketing materials. In the process of doing this, I decided to take a stab at producing a few infographics related to some of the services I am trying to highlight.

I recently got bit by the infographic bug because two of my capital campaign clients are really good at using these tools. I just love how easy they make it look. I also became a fan after I started researching why these communication tools are so effective.

Check out the following cute infographic that helps make the case (Source: CopyBlogger post titled “25 Ideas to Transform Ho-Hum Infographics into Something Extraordinary,” written by Barry Feldman):

information-overload

As I set out to create my first few infographic handouts for my conference booth, I must admit it wasn’t easy. However, I found a few great online resources that helped me get over those first few hurdles. In the spirit of collaboration, I thought I should share:

It has been a while since I’ve served on the front line of a non-profit organization. I’m sure online tools like these are now more common. What does your organization use to distill its data and information into easy-to-digest, bite-size donor communications pieces? Please scroll down to the comment box and share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Oh wait . . . before you leave . . . it is important to note that there are some very smart fundraising professionals and bloggers who are NOT on the bus when it comes to sharing data with donors during the solicitation stage of the resource development process. While they typically agree on the importance of collecting data for data-driven decision-making, they stop short of sharing it with donors because philanthropy is an “emotional” act and not “logical.” I find these arguments compelling and lean towards storytelling as a fundraising tactic, but I still see infographics as powerful stewardship tools.

<sigh>

Heck, I tend to waffle on this issue. So, I’m interested to hear what you think.

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

It is gift giving season. Do you know what you’re giving your donors?


IMG_20151220_110543620[1]Happy Holidays, DonorDreams readers! I am one of those people who procrastinates gift shopping until the last minute, which is why I was so relieved last night when I snagged the last Minecraft video game for Xbox 360 off the shelf at Target for my niece. Phew! That was a close call. I know that gift giving isn’t just on my mind because last week one of my clients gave me a pen and set of blank cards designed by their clients as small token of their appreciation (see picture to right).

Giving gifts to donors as part of a campaign (e.g. mugs, plaques, frames pictures, tote bags, etc) or at the end of the year as part of a holiday stewardship initiative is fairly commonplace in the non-profit sector. Of course, this activity is full of an angst because the last thing in the world a non-profit organization wants to do is leave the donor with a feeling that their donation had just been wasted on gift giving and appreciation.

A few years ago, a fundraising professional wrote to me and ask me for advice on this topic. I shared the following:

  • Pick up the phone, call your Top 10 donors and ask their opinion on what they think is appropriate in your community (because a simply phone call can be as much of a gift as any tote bag or appreciation plaque)
  • Send every donor a holiday card at the end of the year and include a simple Impact Report along with it (or at least incorporate some simple ‘impact messaging’ with your card)
  • Utilize “The Smell Test” and don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right (when it comes to donor gifts)
  • Practice the “KISS principle” and don’t do anything too extravagant (when it comes to donor gifts)

Gifts don’t always need to be something physical. Sometimes a personalized acknowledgement can be a very thoughtful gift.

For example, last week our friends at Bloomerang gave me the best gift of all when they named the DonorDreams blog to their list of “64 Fundraising Blogs You Should Be Reading in 2016“. This was the second year in a row that this blog made that list, and it was better than almost any other holiday gift I’ve received in recent memory.

(Side note: I encourage you to click-through and read the Bloomerang article about other non-profit/fundraising bloggers. There are a number of smart and engaging bloggers on that list who you might want to check-out.)

Do you give your donors gifts? If so, what do you give them and how do you make sure that you don’t over-do-it and upset your donors? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below because 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

Why your organization should worry about Haiti and Charleston, SC


In the last few days, there have been a confluence of blogs, emails and news stories that got me thinking about the state of donor confidence in the non-profit sector and the increasing importance of practicing stewardship. I’m going to use the rest of this blog post to share with you exactly what has me spooked. I will also end with a link to an awesome blog post by Marc Pitman talking about what you should do about all of this. So, sit back, relax and get ready to roll up your sleeves!

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore

I am currently on the road visiting a client and couldn’t sleep a few nights ago. Whenever this happens, I’m usually dialed into Comedy Central watching late night shows like The Daily Show and The Nightly Show.

I was jolted awake when Larry Wilmore cut into the Red Cross for its $500 million Haiti earthquake relief fundraising efforts, which allegedly resulted in very little relief. If you missed the show, you might want to click-through to hulu and view this segment.

wilmore

I know your organization isn’t the Red Cross, but you should still be concerned. Donor confidence is kinda/sorta like consumer confidence. When consumer confidence sinks, every business suffers and the economy slumps. Similarly, when donor confidence wanes, all of our organizations are put under the spotlight and questioned by donors.

Charleston massacre

bbbAs I’ve already explained, I couldn’t sleep, and the Red Cross story by Larry Wilmore rattled me to my non-profit core.

So, I flipped over to a cable news channel only to discover somebody walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and opened fire with a gun killing nine Bible study participants.

It didn’t take 24 hours before the online fundraising solicitations started arriving in my inbox. The first one was a friend forwarding me U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ request to make a contribution directly to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in their time of need. It really was a nice appeal.

However, no sooner did I open the forwarded email from Sen. Sanders, when I received another email from Jasmine Turner at the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance. Here is what the bulk of her email advised me to do with regards to funding requests pertaining to the “Charleston Massacre“:

BBB Wise Giving Alliance urges donors to give thoughtfully and avoid those seeking to take advantage of the generosity of others. Here are BBB WGA’s tips for trusted giving:

1. Thoughtful Giving: Take the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are providing assistance.
2. State Government Registration: About 40 of the 50 states require charities to register with a state government agency (usually a division of the State Attorney General’s office) before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag.
3. Respecting Victims and Their Families: Organizations raising funds should get permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs of them. Some charities raising funds for the victims of previous shootings did not do this and were the subject of criticism from victims’ families.
4. How Will Donations Be Used? Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.
5. What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund? Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately (e.g., paying for funeral costs, counseling, and other tragedy-related needs.)
6. Advocacy Organizations: Tragedies that involve violent acts with firearms can also generate requests from a variety of advocacy organizations that address gun use. Donors can support these efforts as well but note that some of these advocacy groups are not tax exempt as charities. Also, watch out for newly created advocacy groups that will be difficult to check out.
7. Online Cautions: Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.
8. Financial Transparency: After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out and not have to wait until the audited financial statements are available sometime in the future.
9. Newly Created or Established Organizations: This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may be well-meaning but will be difficult to check out and may not be well managed.
10. Tax Deductibility: Not all organizations collecting funds to assist this tragedy are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors can support these other entities but keep this in mind if they want to take a deduction for federal income tax purposes. In addition, contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual/family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.

An email like this is surely proof that donor confidence is on the decline.

If I were on the front line running a non-profit, I’d be looking for ways to be proactive and inoculate my organization from this problem.

Invest in stewardship

respectRecently, I’ve become frustrated by the word “stewardship” because every time I say it, the conversation immediately veers in the direction of gift acknowledgement letters, annual reports, thank-a-thon events, etc. While these things are important and necessary, the fact of the matter is that recognition is only a part of stewardship.

So, I went digging in my toolbox and pulled out an old (and very dusty) training curriculum I previously used when I was an internal consultant working for Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). In only the very first few PowerPoint slides, I came across the following definition of “stewardship“:

“Stewardship is 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.”

In addition to acknowledgement and recognition, the training curriculum went into other stewardship concepts like:

  • legal compliance (e.g. state registration, etc)
  • pledge/gift recordkeeping (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)

The benefits of doing “stewardship” in its entirety, thoroughly and correctly are:

  • ensuring future support (aka maintaining high donor loyalty)
  • remaining in good legal standing (aka not running aground with the government)
  • supporting volunteers (aka no surprises builds confidence, improves solicitation and retains volunteers)
  • it is the morally and ethically right thing to do

Organizational exercise

marcI went looking online for other non-profit consultants and bloggers with ideas to share. So, I wasn’t surprised when I came across a similar post from Marc Pitman (otherwise known as The Fundraising Coach). He also talks about Haiti and the Red Cross, and at the end of his blog post he lays out an awesome 30 minute exercise you can facilitate in your boardroom or with your resource development committee.

Marc’s post is titled “The Red Cross and Glass Houses,” and it is definitely worth the click. Don’t just read it . . . DO THE EXERCISE!

Have you recently had an uncomfortable conversation with a donor or supporter? Are you getting questioned a little more about how you’re spending money and whether or not you’re getting the results you promised? If so, please scroll down and tell us what your organization is doing about it. We can all learn from each other.

On a somber note, I would be remiss if I didn’t end this post by expressing my condolences and sympathies to those families and friends who lost loved ones in yet another senseless act of domestic terrorism inspired by racism.

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

Looking for motivation? Show up for your non-monetary paydays


calgonLet’s face it. Working in the non-profit sector can feel like a grind. Compensation is typically less than what can be made in the for-profit sector. Clients can be challenging. Donors are awesome people, but getting them what they want and need can be difficult. Managing the day-to-day affairs of a resource strapped organization can leave you mumbling those words you learned from a bubble bath television commercial in the 1970s and 1980s, “Calgon, take me away!

When I was a young Boy Scout professional almost 20 years ago, I received some great advice from my boss. He urged me to always show up for non-monetary paydays, which he believed were Eagle Scout ceremonies. He said attending those events reminded him of why he does what he does, and they always wiped those gray skies away.

Truth be told, I thought he was full of it when shared that advice with me. However, I discovered that I was jaded and he was right. It is a lesson I will never forget.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago . . .

I received an invitation to this year’s Elgin Community College commencement ceremony from LaShaunda (Clark) Jordan, who was the 2001 Youth of the Year (YOY) recipient at Boys & Girls Clubs of Elgin, which is where I was the executive director from 2000-06.

Sitting in the ECC field house waiting for things to get started, I found myself taking a walk down memory lane with regards to LaShaunda. Here is some of what was rolling through my head:

I was a relatively new executive director, and LaShaunda was the first kid to receive the YOY honor on my watch. I had also decided to change our annual dinner format from a Steak-n-Burger dinner to a Distinguished Citizens theme, and our Youth of the Year was going to take the stage with other important and influential community leaders. So, I personally rolled up my sleeves and helped front line staff prepare LaShaunda for her big speech and memorable evening.

I remembered pacing the back of the banquet hall as LaShaunda spoke to a room of 300 people. I was really nervous because we had all of the right people in the room, and LaShaunda’s big night was an equally big night for our organization.

And then it happened.

LaShaunda stopped talking. The electricity in the room brought people to their feet. Two or three incredibly influential community leaders and donors were wiping tears from their cheeks.

Our little known organization, which I just spent a difficult year managing, had arrived, and it did so thanks to its 16-year-old YOY recipient.

lashaunda2I thought that day back in 2001 was a huge non-monetary payday for me, but I realized how wrong I was while waiting for the ECC graduation event to get started. As the Class of 2015 filed into the gymnasium, LaShaunda took her seat on the main stage because she was the commencement speaker. Sitting among her proud family members, this is what I learned (much of which I knew but some I did not):

  • LaShaunda is an air force veteran
  • She met her husband, James, during her time in the air force and they are happily married
  • They have three beautiful children
  • Thanks to G.I. bill benefits, LaShaunda and James are in school pursuing college degrees and living the American dream.
  • LaShaunda is enrolled at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville in the fall where she plans on completing work on a bachelor’s degree
  • While at ECC, LaShaunda was a student leader who was involved in the Black Students Association and was nominated as the 2014-15 Woman of the Year on campus
  • She just put her cancer in remission

It is the mission of the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

Hindsight is 20/20, and the Distinguished Citizens Dinner wasn’t my non-monetary payday. It was the ECC graduation event.

LaShaunda was kind and gave me and the Club a little shout out from the podium. While that was awesome, what I really found motivational was learning that LaShaunda is reaching her full potential as a productive, caring, responsible citizen.

All of those tough days on the front line were worth it. At the end of the graduation ceremony, I actually found myself wondering when/if I might find my way back to the front line some day.

I want to use today’s DonorDreams blog platform to publicly thank LaShaunda for sharing her amazing day with an old friend. It meant more to me than she ever could possibly imagine.

I’m also hoping non-profit professionals who read this blog seek out their non-monetary paydays. They most likely exist all around you and occur more often than you think.

In my opinion, these types of opportunities are what motivates “Nonprofit Nation“.

By the way, if you think these mission-focused events are motivational for people who work for non-profit organizations, please trust me when I say they are equally impactful for donors.

Do you have a non-monetary payday that you’d like to share? Please scroll down and do so 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

Advice from experts on donor stewardship


stewardship task listA few weeks ago I received an email from NonProfitEasy blog asking me to provide some “expert advice” for non-profits on the topic of donor stewardship. They said it was for their blog. They flattered me a little bit. So, I did what they asked of me. I was very busy at the time and didn’t really spend very much time figuring out what they were doing or how my submission would be used.

And then I received a follow-up email today informing me that their post went live. I clicked through out of curiosity, and the first thing I saw was a big headline saying:

“Donor Stewardship Expert Advice from 29 Industry Leaders”

Oh my . . . that is a lot of “experts“. And, of course, I couldn’t resist clicking through to see who else had submitted advice. Upon clicking the link, I saw names like:

  • Tom Ahern
  • Kivi Leroux Miller
  • Craig Linton
  • Claire Axelrad
  • Joe Garecht
  • Marc Pitman

These are some of the non-profit sector’s biggest consulting names, and they are all people for whom I have tons of respect. The following is just a small taste of what industry leaders said:

KIVI LEROUX MILER, PRESIDENT OF NONPROFIT MARKETING GUIDE.COM, SAYS:

So many nonprofits send bad thank you letters – if they send them at all! Nonprofit thank you letters need to be thought of as a very important, highly strategic piece of communication.

A thank you is NOT just a tax receipt. It should look like a personal letter from one friend to another. Ditch the predictable openings like “Thank you for your gift of…” or “On behalf of our organization…” Draw in the donor immediately by placing them front and center. Something as simple as “You made my day…” is much better.

A great thank you is the first step in creating a relationship with your donor that will inspire them to give again and again.”

MARC PITMAN, FUNDRAISING COACH AT THE NONPROFIT ACADEMY, SAYS:

One of the most important things to do in donor stewardship is connect the donor to the mission. We need to bring donors into what my friend, Shanon Doolittle, calls these ‘mission moments.’ We often overlook these because they’re things our nonprofit is doing on a regular basis. But these are exactly what the donor is investing in. And since they’re happening on a regular basis, it doesn’t take a lot of programming or organizational inconvenience to bring donors in.

The best part? When non-fundraising staff see donors get excited about their work, the non-fundraising staff start willingly helping with the fundraising!”

Here is what I shared and was lucky enough they published:

“Donors are not ATMs, they are people with wishes and dreams. Your job as a fundraising professional is to help people realize those dreams. You are not a mugger lurking in the shadows trying to snatch a donor’s wallet or purse. If there is one guiding principle that is paramount to all other fundraising best practices, it is treat your best donors like you would your childhood BFF.

  • Check-in with them from time-to-time.
  • Care about what is happening in their life.
  • Put their needs ahead of your own.
  • Spend time with them figuring out what they want their philanthropy to accomplish and then show them how your organization can help them accomplish their goals and dreams.

The more personal you can make your cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship interactions, the stronger your relationship will become. Philanthropy done right can be enriching for all parties involved!”

Honestly, I am humbled to be included in today’s post with so many other amazing experts. Thank you, NonProfitEasy blog!

Ready to hear the rest of the advice?  Head over to NonProfitEasy’s full blog post now!

If you have advice of your own — from the front lines — that you’d like to share, please scroll down and do so in the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.      😉

Here’s to your health!

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

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