Blog Archives

Volunteers aren’t responding to your emails?


email inboxI was chatting the other day with a newly elected board president. He was lamenting the fact that his fellow board volunteers don’t respond to his emails very well, and he wanted a little advice on how to change this dynamic. If this is a problem for your organization, then please keep reading.

There are any number of ways to look at this situation:

  1. This could be a “people” issue
  2. This could be an “organization issue
  3. This could be a “process or tools” issue

Let’s take a look at these possibilities one at a time.

People issue

email1Within this broad category, there are many considerations.

  • Are your board volunteers tech savvy?
  • Do board members understand their roles and responsibilities?
  • Do these individuals have the appropriate experiences and skills to deal with whatever is being sent to them in these emails? (aka do you have the right people around the table)
  • Do these people care? Are they mission focused?
  • Does the culture of your organization embrace technology? Or is the way it has always been done more personal and in-person meeting oriented?

In my experience, most of us jump to the conclusion that email unresponsiveness is a people issue (e.g. they don’t care, they’re too busy, etc). However, there might be other issues. Let’s take a look at organization and tools issues in the next two sections.

Organization issue

org structureBelieve it or not, how you are structured can greatly effect how people decide to use email as it relates to your organization.

  • Does your organization cover a large geographic territory? And do board members live far and wide thus making in-person meetings more difficult?
  • How often does the board or committee meet in-person? If it is often, then some individuals may simply put off responding to emails because they see an opportunity to share their thoughts in-person.
  • How many standing committees and work groups exist in your organization? Are these organizational silos? If so, then how do they communicate with each other and with the governing board? Is this spelled out in the bylaws or committee charter? (e.g. they must report at board meetings, etc)
  • From a board governance perspective, has your organization made changes to its bylaws to allow for the use of newer technology to make decisions? (e.g. electronic/email voting)

I know it can be hard to believe, but how we structure our organizations (and even the internal design of our workplaces) and teams can impact our email usage (and even more broadly how we use tech).

Five years ago, I was working for a national non-profit organization on a team that was scattered all over the country and in four different time zones. This organizational dynamic drove all sorts of decisions including monthly conference calls, the need for in-person staff meetings two or three times per year, optimal times for conference calls, use of email to distribute materials and collect feedback, shared document storage/access, etc.

Structure” . . . it is an invisible force that drives human behavior more than any of us think.

Tools issue

communications toolsEmail is simply a communication tool. Here is an inventory of tools/processes/approaches that you may find in your communications toolbox:

  • Telephone (individual one-on-one or conference call)
  • In-person meetings (individual one-on-one or group)
  • Webcam (individual one-on-one or group)
  • Online project management collaboration services (e.g. Basecamp)
  • Private, group messaging and chat tools
  • Social media
  • Online groups and discussion forums

I’m sure that I’ve missed a number of other communications tools. You are welcome to add those in the comment box of this blog post.

Each of these tools is designed to do something very well, but of course they all have their shortcomings. The best question to ask yourself when confronted by a situation that doesn’t seem to be working (e.g. people aren’t responding to email) is . . .

Am I using the right tool for what I want to accomplish?

My final thoughts?

We all have our “points of view” on things. It doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily right or wrong. Here is what I believe about email:

  • It is a great information sharing tool (e.g. distribution of agendas, meetings notes, materials, etc)
  • It is a poor discussion tool (e.g. asking for feedback, advice, anything conversational)
  • It is used differently by every generation
  • It is easy to ignore and many people have developed user habits around this tool (e.g. deleting habits, reading habits, etc)

The advice I gave to my board president friend was . . .

Pick-up the phone if they aren’t responding to your email!

I also asked additional questions about which volunteer engagement strategies he was using and which ones were lacking. Each of the nine volunteer engagement strategies (e.g. urgency, accountability, planning, setting expectations, etc) come with a number of tools (e.g. goals, dashboards/scorecards, action item memos / task lists, project management punch lists, written volunteer job descriptions, committee charter, committee work plan, etc).

In other words, the choice of communication tool might not be the problem. It could be the organization isn’t using best practices associated with volunteer engagement, which is resulting in email unresponsiveness.

The morale to today’s post?

Simple problems may not be as simple as they seem, especially when we’re talking about groups of people under one organizational umbrella. So, my advice is . . .

Don’t jump to conclusions. Do the hard work in thinking it through!

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

Advertisements

Is your holiday mail solicitation personalized?


mail mergeI had the privilege of interviewing a young fundraising professional yesterday for an online article that I am writing. In that interview, we talked for almost an hour about direct mail and her passion for learning as much as she can about that industry’s best practices and how to apply it to her non-profit fundraising work.

We spent a good long time talking about her passion for “mail merge“.

I know, I know. To those of you who don’t do much work on the snail-mail side of the fundraising profession, this probably sounds a little funny. After all, isn’t mail merge simply a word processor function?

The reality of direct mail and targeted mail is that the more personalized you can make your mail piece the more effective it will be in raising money for your organization. In other words, a letter that begins with “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Friend” will raise significantly less than “Dear Erik” or “Dear Mr. Anderson“.

Of course, for many of us, mail merge begins and ends with the salutation at the top of the letter. But this was NOT the case for my energetic young interviewee yesterday. The following are just a few of the ways she was using mail merge in her fundraising letters:

  • Customized salutation (as described above)
  • Customized signatory (board member with a relationship to the donor)
  • Last year’s gift amount
  • This year’s ask amount
  • Customized gift level check boxes on the response card
  • Customized message on the outside envelope

To say this fundraising professional is in love with the mail merge as a tool would be an understatement. As would be my admiration for someone who exhibits that much passion for her work with donors and the art of philanthropy.

You might be wondering about the last two bullet points pertaining to the response card and the exterior envelope. Let me try to clarify in the space below.

With regard to the check boxes on the response card, there is some good evidence that indicates that the numbers you use psychologically factor into the donor’s decision.

For example, if a donor gave $275 last year and you’ve asked them to consider a $350 gift this year, some experts say you should not provide check box options with big gaps (e.g. $250, $500, $1000) because the donor will likely round down if last year’s gift is closer to that number instead of rounding up. To combat this psychology, using mail merge to customize the options (e.g. $275, $350, $500) can help increase the effectiveness of your upgrade strategy.

With regard to the customized message on the outside envelope, there is good evidence that people open mail from people they know. For example, an envelope that simply indicates there is something from your non-profit organization is less likely to be opened because donors can guess it is likely a solicitation and treat it like they do other direct mail. However, mail merging a message such as “A message from [insert BD vol name] is inside” will increase the odds of the donor opening the envelope because we all give consideration to our friends.

There is no doubt that direct mail and targeted mail are complicated and involve proven practices (aka the science of direct mail), which is why talking to young, enthusiastic fundraising professionals about this topic always does my soul some good.

So, my tip for today as it relates to direct mail is MAIL MERGE is your friend!

The following are a few older DonorDreams blog posts on the topic along with a few other resources:

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

New donor database survey findings about email marketing integration


Good morning, DonorDreams readers! As many of you know, my work schedule has become challenging in recent months, and I’ve asked a number of “virtual online friends” to help me out with guest blog posts. Today’s post is a Q&A session with Software Advice’s Janna Finch. The topic is focused on electronic donor communications (e.g. solicitations, stewardship activities, etc) and integration of all these things with your other software systems (e.g. donor database, CRM, financial management, etc). I hope you enjoy this morning’s post.  Here’s to your health!  ~Erik


Q and AThere are many ways to ask individuals for donations and support, and not every nonprofit asks in the same way. However, a new report from the fundraising technology advisers at Software Advice indicates that more and more nonprofits are asking for donations through email marketing, and want those marketing tools to integrate with their fundraising database and accounting systems. Nonprofit market researcher and author of the report Janna Finch shares her insights on why nonprofits are seeing software with more functionality, addresses common questions about navigating software selection, and discusses implications for the fundraising space in 2015.

What was the most striking finding from your survey of nonprofits?
This year, 133 percent more buyers specifically requested built-in email marketing and outreach tools, and I was surprised to see such a large increase. It makes sense that nonprofits are requesting outreach functionality, of course, but this was a significant jump. Retaining existing donors by engaging them and building good relationships with them is a tried-and-true strategy for keeping consistent contributions. It’s good to see that small nonprofits are being proactive about trying to put new systems in place and considering new technology.

2-top-requested-communication-functionality

In replacing software, the top response was more functionality. What kind of functionality are buyers seeking and why?
Email marketing was by far the most-requested type of functionality at 42 percent, followed by automatic acknowledgements at 35 percent, reporting capabilities at 23 percent, and campaign management features and direct-mail support, both at 22 percent. In my interpretation, this indicates a desire to automate certain processes to be more organized and save time, generating more capacity to focus on furthering the mission of the organization.

Do you have any ideas or theories on what drove the increase in demand for email marketing? 

I think that nonprofits understand the value of storytelling and personalized messaging for donors, and are looking for ways to do that more efficiently. It’s incredibly difficult to manage messaging for more than a few dozen donors without some kind of system, and software can make it easier. There are a good number of affordable fundraising systems with email marketing capabilities available today, so it’s hard to imagine why fundraisers wouldn’t want to consider using email-marketing tools.

What are some ways people can determine which fundraising software is best for their nonprofit?

There are three important considerations for nonprofits purchasing fundraising or donor management software—budget, staff/volunteer skill level and the activities you expect it to support. First, set your budget. If you’re not familiar with how fundraising software is priced, then read about total cost of ownership (TCO) so you know what licenses and fees vendors typically charge. Next, assess the technical literacy of everyone who will need to use the system. For example, if a nonprofit has lots of short-term volunteers who use the system, then ease of use should be priority. I also recommend creating a comprehensive list of every activity you want the software to support, few solutions truly “do it all,” and it can be helpful to prioritize the list into “need-to-have” and “like-to-have” categories.

What are the implications of the trends you identified for the fundraising tech space?

We see a trend of fundraising, donor management and CRM systems naturally morphing into a single system that supports all types of interactions with constituents and fundraising activities. There is overlap in what these systems do and how people use them, so it makes sense that this is happening. Hopefully these more comprehensive systems can make it easier for small nonprofits to amplify their message, better organize and protect their data, and promote long lasting relationships with donors and supporters.

You can read the full report here: Fundraising and Donor Management Software BuyerView | 2015

Make your special event fundraisers all about individuals


walkathonLast week I wrote a post titled “Philanthropy is all about individuals” and focused on the newest set of data in the Giving USA annual report. Not surprisingly, the report told us that individuals are responsible for more than three-quarters of charitable giving. Of course, not every non-profit organization asks individuals for their support in the same way, which is why I found the information in Software Advice’s report titled “Which Fundraising Event Is Best for Your Nonprofit? IndustryView | 2015” very interesting.

There are many ways to ask individuals for their charitable dollars and support:

  • special events
  • annual campaign pledge drives
  • direct mail
  • major gift proposals
  • capital campaigns
  • endowment appeals
  • any number of online giving strategies (e.g. personal pages, crowdfunding, social media appeals, website landing page, etc)

Savvy non-profits have a diverse approach and often include many of these strategies in their written resource development plan. Smaller organizations usually embrace fewer of these approaches simply because their organizational capacity doesn’t allow them to do everything.

The following statement from the Software Advice report caught my attention:

“According to the research group Nonprofit Research Collaborative, event fundraising is quite popular: 82 percent of nonprofits host galas, golf tournaments, competitive races and other types of events to amass contributions and raise awareness for causes.”

eventIn other words, most of us run at least one special event as part of our comprehensive resource development program. While this was foreseeable and expected, what was surprising to me was that different size non-profit organizations get more bang-for-their-buck from different types of events. And what floored me was that regardless of organizational size most respondents reported that “fun runs and walks” universally receive a high return on investment (ROI).

And then I remembered what I wrote last week . . .

Philanthropy is all about individuals

Of course, “fun runs / walks” get the most ROI when compared to other events. They engage a lotw of individuals both as volunteers and even more as donors who might have been asked to make pledge for every mile walked.

Janna Finch, who is a non-profit researcher for Software Advice summed it up best when she said:

“We found that fun runs and walks, a-thon events and competitions are best for small nonprofits—including athletic clubs, PTAs, booster clubs and similar—because they are budget-friendly and easy to plan no matter a person’s experience. The good news is many of those types of organizations already host such events and execute on planning them very well.” 

In addition to the report’s finding on”fun runs and walks,” the following are few additional key findings:

  • Small nonprofits are at a disadvantage compared to larger nonprofits: Respondents say the upfront investment for an event is a strain on resources.
  • On average, a-thon events have the lowest cost per dollar raised (CPDR), and thus are suitable for all nonprofits. Concerts have the highest CPDR, requiring a larger budget.
  • CPDR, number of new donors and number of attendees are the most popular metrics to measure event success, used by 83 percent, 80 percent and 75 percent of respondents, respectively.
  • Respondents say that software, including fundraising and event management applications, speeds up event performance analysis and improves experiences for both staff and attendees.

average-cpdr-by-event

The following is an awesome SlideShare document summary provided by Software Advice that nicely summarizes everything for those of you who don’t have time to read the entire report:

If you do have a little time, you really should click-through and read the report. It contains lots of interesting facts and findings that you and your fundraising volunteers will likely find thought provoking.

Does your organization run special events? How do you determine which ones are best for you, your volunteers, and your community? What data analytics do you track and how do you use it?

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

CRM? Donor Database? Your non-profit needs one


crmIn recent months, I’ve been reminded of the power of donor databases and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. For-profit corporations grasped the importance of gathering customer data a long time ago, which is why they invested in these systems before many non-profit organizations started doing so. I will divide the remainder of this blog post up into sections and share a few personal stories about my experiences in recent months. At the end of this post, I’ll share a few resources to help you with your search.

What is the difference?

I suspect the difference between a traditional donor database and a CRM is getting smaller and smaller as time passes. However, I think the whitepaper at culturehive.co.ik titled “Do I need a CRM or a donor database?” written by Mags Rivett at Purple Vision did a nice job spelling out the technical differences.

Here is how Mags described a donor database:

“A donor database can be anything from an Excel spreadsheet or Access database through to a tool available on the open market or even built especially for you. The definition of a database is usually much more limited than that for CRM: ‘A database is a collection of information that is organized so that it can easily be accessed, managed, and updated.’ (Google Dictionary)”

Likewise, here is how a CRM was described:

“Today, CRM has assumed two meanings. It is both:  a) the approach of successfully managing customer and organisational relationships (be that for business, fundraising or service delivery) and b) the tool which we use to manage the relationships. We think of it as being the 360 degree view of our customers and the work of the organisation.”

Still don’t understand the difference? Don’t worry about it. Please trust me when I tell you:

  • you need a tool like this in order to make your private sector fundraising program run effectively in the 21st Century
  • you shouldn’t just purchase one and think that all of your problems are now solved
  • you need to connect and integrate your other systems with this tool
  • you need to build organizational capacity around this tool (e.g. written policies and procedures)
  • you need to put staffing around this tool

Does this sound like work? Of course it is! But it is worthwhile because this tool will help you build and deepen relationships with prospects and donors, which is what resource development is really all about. Right?

Welcome aboard, Mr Anderson!

IMG_20150414_215128628[1]My husband and I like to take cruises every other year and visit fun places. Over the years we’ve traveled to the Caribbean, Greek Islands, Scandinavian peninsula (and St. Petersburg, Russia), Alaska, and recently the Panama Canal (and Central America).

Over the last 10 years, we’ve only sailed on Princess Cruises, and they’ve collected an awful lot of data on us. For example, they know:

  • Our age
  • Our birthdays
  • Our dining preferences
  • Our entertainment preferences
  • Our drinking preferences (e.g. we’re oenophiles)
  • Our weakness for buying artwork
  • Our desire to purchase off-ship excursion packages

I am confident this information is stored in a CRM of some sort because I see signs of it from the moment I walk onto the cruise ship. The following is what is waiting for me in my cabin mailbox:

  • advertisements for the special wine club membership (for discounts on bottles of wine)
  • invitations to wine tastings
  • brochures for upcoming excursions
  • invitations to purchase tickets at the captains dining table
  • a handwritten card from the art director welcoming me back and inviting me to the first art show

IMG_20150414_191147999_HDR[1]While some people think this level of interaction is creepy, I believe the vast major of people (including myself) find this comforting and convenient. I prefer to think of it differently. I’m in a 10 year relationship with Princess Cruises, and they better know my preferences just like my husband better know my eye color.

Of course, relationship building goes beyond simply tracking my expenditures and targeting special events and offers at me. It includes more fundamental relationship building tactics like sending a bottle of champagne and a hand written note immediately following our purchase of artwork.

Non-profit organizations who use these types of systems are:

  • customizing how they communicate with their supporters (based on the donor’s interests and desires)
  • targeting donors with specific invitations, campaigns and appeals
  • celebrating specific milestones (e.g. birthdays, anniversaries, etc)
  • connecting supporters based on affinity groups and backgrounds
  • managing events and campaigns

I don’t know about you, but this all seems very convenient and helpful to me from a donor perspective. Dare I suggest . . . “very donor-centered“.

Welcome back, Mr. Anderson!

marriottWhen I returned from my cruise at the end of April, I immediately hit the road on a business trip. Whenever I visit this one particular client, I always stay at the same hotel — Marriott SpringHill Suites.

When I checked into the hotel, the front desk person:

  • greeted me by name
  • knew my room preferences
  • reminded me of things that we’ve talked about before

And this time, they asked if I had enjoyed my Panama Canal cruise. The catch is that I had never told that particular front desk person about my cruise. Hmmmmm? I smell the existence of a CRM.

As I said in the previous section, I’m sure there are people who find this kind of stuff scary. However, I find it comforting and reassuring. It is nice to connect with people on a more personal level. In my opinion, it is the essence of being human.

Choosing a system that is right for your non-profit

OK . . . these systems can be expensive, especially when you add in the costs associated with creating systems, hiring people and developing policies and procedures. So, my advice is simple . . .

Treat this decision like you might do so with a marriage proposal

  • Think through what you really need
  • Involve all stakeholders
  • Develop a budget
  • Try different systems on for size
  • Ask lots of questions

I once came across an awesome online workbook titled “Getting the Most from Your Decision: Four Steps to Selecting Donor Management Software” developed by NPower Seattle. I think this step-by-step workbook is awesome, and I suggest you click-through and use it if you are thinking about purchasing a donor database or CRM.

While I don’t endorse products at DonorDreams blog, I have had experiences with certain products that I feel are worthy of your investigation. The following is a short list you might want to look into:

There is no such thing as a perfect product, and you need to find what best fits you.

I strongly urge you NOT to pick-up the phone and start calling sales professionals for these companies. Sit down with the NPower Seattle workbook first and determine your needs and wants first.

Is your non-profit organization using a CRM or donor database? How is that going for you? Please scroll down and share your experiences in the comment box below. 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

Nonprofit Blog Carnival call for submissions: You are the future of philanthropy


NPBlogCarnivalBannerI am thrilled to be hosting the Nonprofit Blog Carnival this May for the third year in a row. This year’s theme is inspired by a TED Talks video filmed in 2007 of Katherine Fulton talking about the “future of philanthropy“. I’ve seen this video countless times, and I’m always inspired by it, which is why I’m using it as a springboard for non-profit bloggers this month.

Throughout the years, I cannot count the number of times I’ve spoken with non-profit friends who openly worry about who will step-up as their community’s next philanthropic movers-and-shakers. They point to the impact of globalization and how it has transferred wealth and philanthropic decision-making away from Main Street.

Watching Katherine speak reminds me there are forces at work that will likely reshape the future of our work. She talks eloquently about the “democratization of philanthropy,” which always makes me think about how the resource development tools in our exist toolbox probably need to be re-thought or tweaked.

Of course, rushing to embrace these changes too soon is fraught with peril as some bloggers like Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks has warned us about in so many wonderful posts throughout the years.

For this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival, I’m inviting non-profit bloggers to first click-through and view Katherine’s TED Talks video and then write something inspired by her words.

Katherine Fulton

The following are just a few ideas I can imagine non-profit bloggers seizing upon as inspiration for what I anticipate will be amazing submissions to this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival:

  • Moving from closed-small-slow-fragmented-short to open-big-fast-connected-long assumptions
  • A new generation of citizen leaders
  • The democratization of philanthropy
  • Mass collaboration
  • Online Philanthropy Marketplaces
  • Aggregated Giving
  • Innovation Competitions
  • Social Investing
  • The Social Singularity

If none of these topics are appealing, I invite bloggers to participate in the picture frame exercise at the end of Katherine’s presentation.

During the month of May, DonorDreams blog is dedicating every post to bringing you videos of non-profit leaders, donors and every day people like you participating in Katherine’s picture frame exercise. If you are not a blogger but want to videotape yourself participating in the picture frame exercise, I am happy to post your vlog on my blog platform. Simply videotape yourself, upload it to YouTube and email me the link with an explanation of who you are and what town you live in.

How bloggers should submit their work for consideration?

You are welcome to write your blog post anytime during the month of May (or even submit a post you may have previously published); however, I must receive your submission by the end of the day on Monday, May 25, 2015:

How do you submit? Simply email the following information to nonprofitcarnival[at]gmail[dot]com:

  • Your name
  • The URL of your post
  • A two of three sentence summary of your post

We will publish the May 2015 Nonprofit Blog Carnival on Thursday, May 28, 2015 right here at DonorDreams blog.

Go visit April’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival

In April, the carnival was hosted by Craig Linton at his blog — “Fundraising Detective”  The theme was “A Celebration Of SOFII – Will You Inspire Or Invest?” . He challenged bloggers to submit 100 new articles and exhibits for SOFII (Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration).

If you’re interested in seeing what some very smart and talented bloggers submitted, click here.

Miscellaneous details?

Click here to learn more about the Nonprofit Blog Carnival and sign-up for monthly reminders. If you want to view the archives, then you want to click here.

I am very much looking forward to see what you decide to do and where you decide to take this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival.

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 skills and experiences are critical to your board volunteers’ success?


boarddev1Do you know which skills and experiences are most important for a new board volunteer to possess in order to succeed on your board? Knowing this could help your organization conduct better prospecting exercises and result in better prospect recruitment lists. Today’s post is the third in a three part non-profit board development series that started last week.  During this time, we focused on a recent survey released by our friends at non-profit technology research firm  Software Advice of 1,545 board volunteers and people tasked with recruiting new board members. The survey’s key findings probably won’t surprise you, but the implications might change the way you think about your organization’s future board development efforts.

The final two findings of SoftwareAdvice.com’s survey that caught my eye related to skills and experiences. The first finding was:

Basic computer skills (e.g. email, Excel, etc) are the most important technology skill for service (44 percent).

The remaining 66% of responses were as follows:

nonprofit-board-tech-skills

The other finding was:

Fundraising experience was the most cited (24 percent) skill set and experience that has the greatest impact on a board member’s success.

The other responses included:

nonprofit-board-professional-skills

As I digested these final two findings, I immediately had two visceral reactions.

Was Carol Weisman wrong?

weisman1If you haven’t heard Carol speak or read her books, then you need to figure out how to check those things off of your non-profit bucket list. She is amazing!

When I read the study’s finding about “basic tech skills,” my mind immediately wandered back to a Boys & Girls Clubs of America conference hosted somewhere in the Midwest more than 10 years ago. Carol was one of the keynote speakers, and she was talking about building an amazing board of directors.

I remember her sitting on a stool on a large stage with a wireless lapel mic telling fun stories about non-profit boards and individual board volunteers. She was also likely promoting one of her many books. I was a relatively new and young non-profit executive director, and everything she said sounded right on target.

During Carol’s presentation, one of the things she talked about was how technology is changing non-profit boardroom dynamics.  She shared a story about a board she had worked with that had embraced technology. If my memory serves me correctly, the following were just a few examples:

  • Every board member was provided a laptop computer by the organization
  • Board members received their board meeting agenda and info packet electronically
  • Volunteer who were out of town for meetings would use their webcam and remotely attend and participate

weisman2I am a member of GenX, and this news made my heart sing. I was so excited to hear that my Baby Boomer board could be transformed into that type of board. I came home from that conference with renewed focus and determination to figure out how tech can help my board become more engaged and efficient in governance.

I started digitally scanning my board packets. I created an intranet site for the board. I uploaded board packets and other materials (e.g. policies, procedures, etc) to the intranet. Needless to say, no one followed me, and I abandon my tech efforts a year later.

The lesson learned was:

“You get the board you recruit!”

We had not recruited the board that Carol described in her conference keynote speech. My board development committee had not included “better-than-basic tech skills” as a skill set criteria. The result was that my board possessed basic tech skills related to the Microsoft Office productivity suite and email. They were light years away from going paperless and using Skype.

So, I guess Carol wasn’t “wrong” because tech will obviously change the boardroom experience, but . .

  • change will likely take much longer than we thought (and will likely happen when GenX and Millennial board volunteers make up the majority on most boards)
  • change will occur faster only if board development and board governance committees include tech skills in their search criteria when assembling their prospect lists

If you are looking for additional board development tools to add to your organization’s board development toolbox, then you should read a wonderful blog post by the National Council of Nonprofits and check out their hyperlinks to additional online resources. The post was titled “Finding the Right Board Members for Your Nonprofit“.

Fundraising experience is underrated

scaredWhen I read that only 25% of survey respondents identified “fundraising skills and experiences” as having a great impact on a board member’s success, I literally groaned and rolled by eyes.

Sure, it was the number one response, but it was still only one-quarter of respondents. As my 10-year-old niece would say . . .

“Really? Seriously?”

I suspect that fundraising might not be as important for non-profits that rely on fees and government money to buoy their business model, but the vast majority of non-profits with which I’ve worked aren’t hospitals and universities. Many non-profits have fundraising at the core of their business model, and it is one of the most difficult things I’ve seen board volunteers struggle with.

More oftentimes than not, when I’ve seen a board volunteer frustrated and on the verge of resigning, it usually has something to do with fundraising.

Of course, the solution is the same as I mentioned in the last section . . . “You get the board you recruit, and the board development committee needs to include fundraising skills and experiences in their search criteria.”

The tougher question is “what are fundraising skill and what should we be looking for?” My suggestion is to look for the following when going through prospect identification and evaluation exercises:

  • people who donate to other charities and appear to have an appreciation for philanthropy
  • people who are social and appear to have larger than average social networks
  • people who have served on other non-profit board with a business model rooted in fundraising
  • people who belong to service clubs that organize fundraising activities
  • people who are passionate about your mission (e.g. are willing to walk across hot coals to achieve success for your organization)
  • people who are well-versed at “closing the deal” in their professional lives (e.g. people who work in sales, banking, self-employed, etc)
  • people who are assertive, persuasive, good communicators, relationship builders, etc.

Gail Perry speaks much more eloquently than I do on this subject. You might want to read her blog post titled “Mastering the ‘Soft Skills’ of Fundraising” and figure out if you can add any of those qualities to your board development prospect identification and evaluation process.

If you missed the earlier blog posts in this board development series, I encourage you to investigate the previous two posts from last week. You might also want to click-through and read SoftwareAdvice.com’s full survey report titled “Tech Skills and Other Considerations  for Joining a Nonprofit Board IndustryView“.

What are your thoughts and experiences regarding tech and fundraising skills and experiences and your board of directors? Are you doing anything different now as part of your board development process that might help other non-profit professionals and volunteers re-think their approach? Please use the comment box below to share.

Here’s to your health!

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

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


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

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

I was in Hillary’s shoes (kinda)

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

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

Over my six years as executive director, I had:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what lessons can be learned?

Establish clear policies on technology usage

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

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

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

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

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

hillary3Create separation and segment your life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Clinton Foundation is a non-profit organization.

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

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

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

Does your organization have an email policy? Tech policy? Social media policy? What resources did you find useful when developing these policies? Do you find enforcing these policies difficult? If so, how? Please scroll down and use the space below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

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


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

Here is what Henry wrote that got me thinking:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How? Here are just a few ideas:

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

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

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

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

Thanks for being so awesome, Henry!

Here’s to your health!

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

How are you improving your productivity in 2015?


plates spinningFor the last few decades, I’ve been on a quest to become more productive with the time I’ve been given. My counselor introduced me to the idea of mindfulness, meditation, and breathing exercises. Microsoft introduced all of us to Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. David Allen and Stephen Covey introduced us to time management strategies, tools and techniques.

Truthfully, all of these things have helped make me a more productive person, but I’m still looking for the holy grail.

Why?

I’m not sure. It could be a loose screw in my head. Or could it be that 24 hours in a day is simply not enough? Perhaps, it is most likely that as I get older life feels like it is going faster and faster with more balls to juggle and plates to spin.

With all of this going on in the background of my life, I was drawn to the question Beth Kanter posed in her January 2015 Nonprofit Blog Carnival call for submissions post:

How are nonprofit folks strengthening their personal productivity online muscles in 2015?

I’m dividing this post into two sections. First, I want to talk about some of the new things I’ve been pursuing online to boost productivity. Second, I will talk about what I am doing off-line to tame the online beast that I’m feeding.

Online productivity

jugglerOn March 28, 2012, I published a blog post titled “Getting your ducks . . . er . . . volunteers in a row“. I talked a lot about various online services and software I had started using to work with volunteers such as Doodle, Google docs, GoToMeeting, etc. However, it was clear that I had fallen in love with an online project management service called Basecamp.

For the last few years, I’ve exclusively used Basecamp to work with my non-profit and executive coaching clients. It is intuitive and easy to use. Its functionality simply falls into the following areas: shared calendar, task list, documents file cabinet and writeboards.

I know this service fills a need in my non-profit clients’ professional lives. I know it because I’ve seen some of them continue their usage of Basecamp after our engagement ended. As our lives get busier and busier, Basecamp provides non-profit professionals and volunteers a virtual online space where they can collaborate and get work done without having to call another in-person meeting.

With all of this being said, I’m no longer convinced that Basecamp is the end all and be all of online collaboration services. A few weeks ago one of my clients asked me to look into Microsoft’s SharePoint and, much like Alice, I seem to have fallen down a rabbit hole.

Since the end of December, I’ve sunk time into:

  • watching YouTube videos about SharePoint
  • reading the book “Office 365 in Business” by David Kroenke and Donald Nilson
  • reading the book “SharePoint 2013 for Dummies” by Ken Withee
  • speaking with friends who use SharePoint in their office

Embarrassingly, I must admit that I’m still trying to wrap my head around what exactly SharePoint is and how to use it. I’m not a “tech-dummy,” but the functionality of this software/service is huge. In the interest of brevity, here is how Ken Withee summarizes the question of “What is SharePoint?” on page 40 of the Dummy’s Guide book I just referenced:

“Officially, Microsoft represents SharePoint as a “business collaboration platform for the enterprise and web.” SharePoint is a platform from Microsoft that allows business to meet their diverse needs in the following domains: collaboration; social networking; information portals and public websites; Enterprise content management; business intelligence; and business applications.”

In other words, it does A LOT and it is complicated.   🙂

I’ve concluded that the 21st Century will be a time of online evolution for non-profit organizations in the area of productivity and collaboration. In just the last few years, I’ve personally seen it with my clients as some embraced Basecamp and now others appear to be checking out SharePoint.

If you are one of those non-profits investigating Basecamp versus SharePoint, I found this awesome compare/contrast page created by TrustRadius. This is definitely worth the click!

Please scroll down and use the comment box to share some of your thoughts and experiences regarding Beth Kanter’s January 2015 Nonprofit Blog Carnival question. We can all learn from each other!

Offline productivity

meditationI remember it like it was just yesterday. In 2006, I started a new job working for a national non-profit organization providing resource development capacity building services to local affiliates. On Day One, I received my first ever “smart phone,” and I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

It was a Palm Treo (you never forget your first true love).  😉

Since that time, I’ve gone from a Treo to a Blackberry to a Motorola Droid Razr to a Nexus 6 (Google’s first attempt at manufacturing a phone after buying Motorola Mobility).

My love of these mobile devices is rooted in the idea of 24/7 connectivity, which makes me feel more productive. However, my love affair has ended, and I’m starting seeing these little hand-held devil boxes as a ball-and-chain that adds weight to my work-life-balance challenges.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I started working with a counselor almost two years ago. Without getting too personal or entering the realm of TMI, let me just say that I’m working on stress and anxiety reduction strategies that include mindfulness, breathing and meditation.

As online services provide non-profit professionals greater levels of productivity, the price many of us likely pay is stress, anxiety, conflict, and loss of balance. Ironically, all of these things place a drag on our productivity.   LOL

For those of you looking for resources and advice about stillness and meditation, I suggest checking our Russell Simmon’s book “Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple“. It is an easy read and a wonderful place to start.

In the end, I believe you need to blend online and offline strategies to move the needle on your personal and professional productivity.

What are your thoughts? Please share your experiences in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

%d bloggers like this: