Blog Archives

Are You the Future of Philanthropy? Meet Marissa Garza


NPBlogCarnivalBannerFor the third year in a row, DonorDreams is proud to be hosting the Nonprofit Blog Carnival in May. On May 4, 2015, we published a call for submissions from non-profit bloggers across the blogosphere on the topic of “You are the future of philanthropy,” which stems from a 2007 TED Talks video presentation by Katherine Fulton. I asked bloggers to pontificate on any number of topics including the democratization of philanthropy, aggregated giving, social investing, and much more. If you are a blogger looking for more details, click here to read the May 4th call for submissions.

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

In addition to whipping the blogosphere up into a frenzy, we are dedicating our Tuesday and Thursday DonorDreams posts throughout May to people involved in local philanthropy. We’re videotaping donors, volunteers and non-profit professionals and asking them to answer the following question posed by Katherine Fulton at the end of her TED Talks presentation:

“Imagine 100 years from now and your grandchildren are looking at an old picture of you. What is the story? What impact did you want to have on the community around you? What impact did you make?”

Meet Marissa Garza

Marissa Garza works as and volunteers for:

Being a “child of philanthropy” (e.g. Marissa’s mom has worked for a local non-profit — Marklund), Marissa has enjoyed volunteering for everything from direct care to helping with special events. She has filled her life with volunteer opportunities and other little opportunities when and where she can.

For all of these reasons, we  ask Marissa to take a crack at answering the question that Katherine Fulton posed at the end of her TED Talks presentation.

Marissa’s philanthropy story?

(Note: If you receive DonorDreams via email you may need to click here to view today’s video interview.) 

Stories from your community?

Katherine Fulton says in her TED Talks presentation:

“We have a problem. Our experience to date both individually and collectively hasn’t prepared us for what we’re going to need to do or who we’re going to need to be. We’re going to need a new generation of citizen leaders willing to commit ourselves to growing and changing and learning as rapidly as possible.”

Have you met someone in your community who you think embodies the future of philanthropy and is a member of a new generation of citizen leaders? If so, please scroll down and use the comment box to tell us about that person.

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

How much time will it take to serve on your non-profit board?


thoughtsDo you know what is rattling around someone’s head during your non-profit board recruitment process? Knowing this could help you design a better process with better tools. This week and part of next week, we are focusing on a recent survey released by our friends at nonprofit 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 second key finding of SoftwareAdvice.com’s survey was:

“The most important consideration before joining a board is level of expected involvement (50 percent).”

The remaining 50% of responses were as follows:

nonprofit-board-considerations

There are many different board development tools that organizations develop and use during the recruitment process to help answer a prospect’s question about involvement. The following are just a few examples:

All of these are great resources that you hopefully have in your board development toolbox.

Perhaps, one of the most unique tools I ever saw was a document titled “120 Hours That Will Make A Difference“. I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent, but I’m pasting the content of that document in the space below:


 120 HOURS THAT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Of the 8,760 hours that make up a calendar year, our organization and the clients it serves needs 120 of those hours.  When properly allocated, these hours have a huge impact on our organization and the kids that we serve.

Meeting Attendance

  • 12 hours at board meetings.
  • 10 hours at special events and fundraisers.
  • 10 hours in committee work.

Advocacy/Raising Awareness

  • 10 hours talking about our organizaiton with family, friends, associates, business vendors, religious groups, civic organizations and prospective donors.

Influencing

  • 18 hours convincing foundations, United Way trustees, local government officials, state legislators, business and community leaders that contributing to our organization is a wise investment.

Reading and Responding

  • 6 hours reading and responding to information sent to you from our organization.

Planning

  • 8 hours attending and participating in annual board retreats and strategic planning workshops.

Fundraising

  • 18 hours placing calls, writing letters and making asks in support of the organization. This time is best used assisting with one or more of our major fundraising events.  Remember, in order to ask for donations you must be willing to first give yourself.

Becoming Educated

  • 28 hours attending trainings and orientations, conferences and spending time in the organization’s facilities with clients and staff. It is important for you to be engaged in the mission to better understand the urgency of the work we do.

120 hours per year equates to 10 hours per month, or about 2 ½ hours per week in support of an organization that is making a difference in our community.  The commitment is modest, but it is time well spent.

ARE YOU WILLING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?


So, what do you think about the document?

  • informative
  • specific
  • eye opening
  • daunting

I know some of you are likely thinking that a tool like this will likely scare off some people . Well, my response is:

good news

You are not looking for warm bodies to sit around your boardroom table. You have serious work that needs to be accomplished, and that work will take a commitment of time from a group of very talented people.

Think of it another way. How upset would you be if someone lied to you in order to gain your commitment of time?

This question is top of mind for the majority of board volunteer prospects with whom you are talking. So, what are you doing to clearly communicate the answer to this critical question? Additionally, what else are you sharing with prospects during the recruitment process? Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your answers to this questions. You are also more than welcome to share links to other documents and resources you find helpful in answering this question.

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

Do you know what your board volunteers need from you?


boardroles1Most non-profit organizations have a very clear understanding of what they need from their board members, but there is a better question that needs to be asked. “Do you know what your board volunteers need from you?” This week and part of next week, we are focusing on board development questions at DonorDreams blog. Our next three posts look at a recent survey released by our friends at nonprofit 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 first key finding of SoftwareAdvice.com’s survey was:

“Personal fulfillment is the most commonly cited benefit of serving on a board of directors (50 percent).”

The remaining 50% of responses were as follows:

nonprofit-board-benefits

Some of you might be wondering why these results matter. Simply stated, your board members need to get what they want out of their volunteer experience. If they don’t, then they won’t likely hang around your boardroom for very long.

Personal fulfillment

While most people will tell you they understand this concept, the reality is many of us struggle with this for the duration of our life on this planet.

Achieving a sense of personal fulfillment is a complicated success equation and is different for each us. The following factors are just a few things connected with this idea:

  • setting and achieving personal and professional goals
  • establishing a connection to something greater than yourself (e.g. community, God, volunteer board, etc)
  • experiencing failure
  • venturing into the unknown
  • being recognized and appreciated

oprahI think Oprah wrapped all of this up best when she said:

“Real success means creating a life of meaning through service that fulfills your reason for being here.” 

The reality is that many people have agreed to join your non-profit board of directors because they think it will add meaning to their lives. When you stop to think about this, it is mind-blowing at first and then it quickly turns into a daunting challenge.

Hopefully, this survey finding has you thinking about how your organization approaches board development and governance.

The following are just a few suggestions you might want to consider.

Be thoughtful on the front end

We’ve all been there . . . you have a few (or many) vacancies on your board, and you need to get them filled quickly. You ask for suggestions from the board. You set-up appointments with prospects. You put on your best smile and charm those people into saying ‘YES’ before they know what hit them.

Well, you got what you wanted. But will they get what they want? Have they even had an opportunity to think through what they want?

fulfillmentStructure your board development process in a manner that allows the following to occur:

  1. They get a chance to learn what you are all about
  2. They learn exactly what’s being asked of them
  3. You get a chance to learn what they are all about
  4. You have time to figure out what experiences will give them a sense of fulfillment

The reality is these objectives cannot be accomplished in one meeting. Consider including the following in your board development process:

  • a tour of your programs and facilities
  • a written volunteer position description
  • time with other board volunteers (e.g. invitation to committee meetings and/or board meetings and meet-n-greets)
  • sharing key governance documents (e.g. strategic plan, financial audit, resource development plan, budget, conflict of interest policy, commitment pledge, etc)
  • Q&A opportunities

You’re asking an individual to join your non-profit family. You might consider doing this in a mindful manner.

Speaking of family . . . you might want to find a way to include your board prospect’s spouse and family in your board development process.

Recruitment and on-boarding future board prospects in this manner might help you make their board experience more fulfilling, which will increase the likelihood of keeping them around for a little while.

Why is ‘keeping them around‘ important?

Simply stated, “turnover” — regardless of whether it is staff turnover, donor turnover or volunteer turnover — is a damaging and expensive prospect. Looking at it through a relationship lens, how many donors and prospects do your board volunteers bring to the table? And how are those relationships damaged when a board member walks away from your organization unfulfilled and potentially frustrated with their experience.

Be thoughtful on the back-end

partnershipI cannot tell you how many boards I’ve worked with on board development and governance projects push back on the idea of year-end board member evaluations.

I suspect the push back centers on the word “evaluation“. So, my advice is stop calling it that. I just sat through a wonderful board development presentation last week and the organization simply calls their board evaluations the “year-end sit-down” during which time the following questions are explored:

  • How did the individual board volunteer contribute in the last year? (Note: this is all about thanking them profusely for those contributions)
  • How did those contributions help the organization? (Note: this is all about showing them how their contributions support the bigger picture)
  • How did those contributions align with board member roles/responsibilities expectations? (Note: this is all about acknowledging that you see them doing what they said they’d do when they first signed up)
  • Were those contributions rewarding (aka fulfilling) to the board volunteer? (Note: This is about you listening and partnering with them on mindfully finding a sense of fulfillment and happiness in life)
  • Where does the board member see him/herself contributing in the upcoming year? (Note: This is all about you meeting them where they are at and aligning the organizations needs to what they can contribute rather than vice versa)

These year-end conversations are a firewall for you. They provide an opportunity to thoughtfully check-in on whether or not the board member’s needs are being met. And if they aren’t, then you have time to make adjustments.

If you want to get a peek at what the next few blog posts will be about, you are welcome to check out SoftwareAdvice.com’s full survey report titled “Tech Skills and Other Considerations  for Joining a Nonprofit Board IndustryView“.

Does your non-profit organization have a well-defined board development process? If so, 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

What can your non-profit learn from Southwest Airlines?


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

Let me attempt to tell this story pictorially.

southwest restless gate

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

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

southwest line daning

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

southwest dancing

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

So, what happened?

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

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

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

Mission accomplished!  :-)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. No one is in this alone. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Are you turning your donors into volunteers?


I’m on the run today and don’t have a ton of time to write the blog post that I’ve been formulating in my head about what your non-profit organization can learn from Southwest Airlines. I will try to get that post written for next Tuesday. Today, I am re-posting an article that my friends at VolunteerHub asked me to write for their blog last week. On Thursday, I’m rolling with a video from Henry Freeman in a new monthly guest vlog series I’m calling “Hangin’ with Henry”. Enjoy!  ~Erik

==================================================

Expanding Your Volunteer Base by Engaging Donors

volunteers2If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times – “Time is money!”

Perhaps, this is why many nonprofit organizations are squeamish about asking their donors to also consider helping with volunteer opportunities. Ironically, this reluctance might be shortsighted as well as a missed opportunity to improve donor loyalty rates.

In 2009, the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund published a study on volunteerism and charitable giving. While there were many findings, the following data point makes the case for asking donors if they would like to get more involved:

“Two-thirds of those surveyed (66%) agree that “true philanthropy” includes the giving of both time and money.”

Still not convinced? Then look no further than the donor data in Penelope Burk’s iconic book “Donor Centered Fundraising.” One of her many discoveries was:

“The question that should really matter to the fundraising industry is “Why do you stop giving?” . . . When we asked our study donors that question, we found that 46% would stop giving to a not for profit they once supported for reasons that are tied to insufficient or poor quality information concerning their gifts at work.”

Asking your donors to consider giving their time in addition to their money will likely:

  • Improve donor loyalty numbers
  • Increase lifetime giving
  • Support your organization’s upgrade strategy

The following are a few simple ideas you might find helpful in getting donors to consider giving their time – in addition to their money.

Create a Diversity of Volunteer Opportunities

volunteers1Not all donors have time to volunteer on the frontline, working with your clients every Tuesday and Thursday. The reality is that donors are like snowflakes and each one is a little different.

Creating a menu of volunteer opportunities with various levels of time commitments will increase the likelihood of donors being able to fit volunteerism into their complicated calendars.

Additionally, volunteer opportunities shouldn’t all have a programmatic focus. Use your organization’s standing committees (e.g. finance, resource development, board development, etc.) as well as fundraising campaigns and events to find volunteer opportunities.

Finally, make sure to include one-time volunteer opportunities in addition to recurring volunteer jobs.

Align Charitable Giving Interests with Volunteer Opportunities

While many donors are engaged in a transactional fundraising relationship with you (e.g. direct mail, special events, annual campaign pledge drive), you likely have some donors who make restricted contributions to very specific programs.

When you know a donor is giving for a particular reason or specific program, identify volunteer opportunities in those areas for their consideration.

A few weeks ago, I solicited a husband andgardening volunteers wife for their financial support of a community gardening program. At the same time, I asked one of them to volunteer their time by working with kids in the garden. This alignment not only made the solicitation meeting feel very comfortable and natural, but it also escalated their giving significantly.

Remain Humble & Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Good fundraising professionals have learned that it is their job to ask; it is the donor’s job to consider the request and say yes or no.

The reality is that busy people are the ones in our world who get things done. Essentially, it is the reason they are busy in the first place. Don’t assume that you know where and when someone else might want to volunteer his or her time. Ask your donors and maintain a positive tone. You might just be surprised by how many donors say yes to volunteerism.

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 is your non-profit organization’s superpower?


superhero1When I was a child, I loved watching cartoons. I was especially a fan of cartoons that featured superheros such as Spiderman, Superman, Batman, etc. I oftentimes found myself daydreaming about having a superpower and what kind of good things I could accomplish with such a power. Yesterday, I went to lunch with an old friend, which got me thinking again about the concept of superpowers and how that idea might apply to your non-profit organization.

So, there I was enjoying a wonderful lunch with someone who used to do lots of volunteering for the annual Duck Race fundraising event my former non-profit employer used to run. While it has been 10 years since I worked for that organization and they abandon the duck race approximately five years ago, I’ve maintained a strong relationship with this individual. We’ve been through good times and bad times together.

At some point in the middle of lunch, he pulled out a folder of information and dropped the hammer. He now sits on the board of directors for my former employer, and he agreed to be the chairperson for this year’s annual campaign. He asked if I would consider volunteering and working a few pledge cards.

My first thought was . . . “Uh-oh! I can’t say no to my friend. We’ve been there for each other and that is something for which I am grateful and value.”

My second thought was . . . “Damn, he’s good! He’s obviously been a good listener throughout the years because he was making the perfect ask. I really can’t say NO.”

My third thought was . . . “There is something here that needs to be blogged about.”  🙂

As I sat at my desk this morning thinking through how to tell this story, it dawned on me that “The Power of Relationships” is really every non-profit organization’s “superpower.

superhero2Of course, the real question is whether or not you’ve learned how to unlock and use your superpower? If you are interested in exploring this question, I suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • When looking for volunteers to do something, do you find yourself asking for someone to volunteer in a group setting like a board or committee meeting?
  • When facilitating a prospect assignment exercise for your annual campaign (or any number of other fundraising activities), do you let people pick their own pledge card?
  • When brainstorming prospective new board members, do you ask your board development committee (or your board members) to identify people who they know who might be interested?

If you’ve answered YES to any of these questions, then you might still be struggling to unlock your organization’s superpower.

Volunteer recruitment

The first bullet point speaks to how you recruit people to serve as committee chairs, event volunteers and annual campaign workers.

If you simply ask for a volunteer from a group, there is no guarantee the “right person” is going to put their hand in the air. The truth is that the person who steps forward might not possess the right skills to get the job done. Moreover, they may not have the right relationships with others who they will need to call upon to ensure success.

If you want to unlock your superpower talent, then focus on:

  • identifying the necessary skill sets necessary for success
  • identifying the type of relationships your leader/chairperson needs to possess for success (also look at their social network for relationships they may have with specific people)
  • developing written job descriptions for every volunteer opportunity and using this tool in the recruitment process
  • investing time in developing a prospect list for each volunteer position you need to recruit

Prospect assignment

The second bullet point speaks to how you assign donor prospects to volunteer solicitors.

If you simply spread pledge cards out on a table and ask people to choose whomever they wish, then you are leaving much to chance. Additionally, you can’t guarantee that the person with the “right relationship” will get the assignment.

If you want to appropriately use your superpower talent, then consider:

  • distributing a list of donor prospects to your volunteer solicitors in advance of your kickoff meeting
  • ask each solicitor to identify twice as many prospects who they’d feel comfortable asking for a pledge/contribution (e.g. if everyone is being asked to solicit five prospects, then ask them to identify 10 prospects with whom they have relationships)
  • review everyone’s submissions and assign prospects based on your knowledge of who has the best relationships with your donor prospects
  • come to the kickoff meeting with solicitation materials and packets ready to distribute to specific volunteers

Board recruitment

The final bullet point speaks to how you strategically put the right people with the right skill sets and relationships around your boardroom table.

Simply asking for suggestions is akin to asking for warm bodies, which is not what you need more of in your boardroom.

Those who invest time in completing a “gap assessment” and developing prospect lists based on those gaps are significantly more effective in growing their organizational capacity. I especially like it when the gap assessment takes into consideration your board’s ability to access specific social circles in your community.

Have you figured out how to tap into “The Power of Relationships?” If so, please share an example in the comment box below. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel 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

Strategies for turning your volunteers into donors


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

Here’s to your health!
~Erik

Study: Best Practices for Converting Volunteers to Donors

By Corbit Harrison
Chief Operating Officer at VolunteerHub

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

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

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

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

volunteers2

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

Challenge: Tracking donor management is time-intensive

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

Solution: Implement a dedicated CRM

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

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

volunteers3

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the Donor Management Study

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

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

Click here to download the executive study.

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

About Corbit Harrison

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

Fundraising New Year’s Resolutions — Focus on volunteerism


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The last bullet point was shocking to me.

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

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

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

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

Other New Year’s Resolutions?

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

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

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

Here’s to your health!

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

A basic truism about fundraising volunteers


horse to waterI believe it is a basic truism that you can’t make people do anything they don’t want to do. Every example I can think of ends up not working.

As a nation, we tried to force people to stop drinking (when they didn’t want to) by passing a constitutional amendment banning alcohol. The result? A black market and the rise of Al Capone.

Tell someone to stop smoking or lose weight (when they don’t want to) and it might result in short-term results, but the relapse rate in the long run is high.

While I’m sure there are exceptions to what I am calling a truism, I think I am more on the right track than the wrong track with this belief.

So, if you’re buying what I’m selling this morning, I have one simple question for you:

“Why do so many of us try to force non-profit board members to do fundraising when they tell us that they are strongly opposed to do it?”

I know, I know. We do it because many of our fundraising models need volunteers to be involved in order for it to work. Obviously, another basic truism in fundraising is that “people give to people.

However, I still go back to where I started . . . forcing people to do what they don’t want to do is a recipe for failure.

So, what is the solution?

In my opinion, the answer can be found in the old Texas two-step:

  1. Stop recruiting people to do things they don’t want to do
  2. Start engaging people in honest discussions about what they do want to do

birds of a featherBoard Development

There have been many blog posts written on this subject, but it is time to stop agreeing with what is written and start putting those thoughts into action.

Your board development and recruitment process must include honesty, transparency and a number of tools that set expectations before a volunteer is asked to say “YES” to joining your board.

If someone wants to join your board but doesn’t have the stomach for fundraising, then you need to find another role for them in your organization (e.g. program volunteer, committee work, etc).

This type of strategic focus in recruiting like-minded people when it comes to fundraising will help solve your problem because you’ll no longer be forcing people to do what they don’t want to do.

your seat on the busResource Development Plan

Unfortunately, this board development strategy won’t be enough to completely solve your problem.

Why?

Because not everyone around your boardroom table will be comfortable participating in every aspect of your fundraising program.

Some people are drawn to planning parties (e.g. special event fundraisers). Other people are attracted to your pledge drive and sitting down face-to-face with their friends to ask for money. There are also be a number of people who appear to disdain traditional fundraising activities, but who are open-minded to opening doors, going on donor solicitation visits (as long as you do the talking and asking), and various other stewardship activities.

The reality of the situation is that you need people to do all of these things in order for your fundraising program to be successful.

This is where involving everyone in writing your annual resource development plan comes into play.

Getting everyone involved in the planning process is akin to asking them to choose which seat on the bus they want to sit.  In doing so, you avoid the pitfall of arm twisting and making people do what they don’t want to do (which never works and is where we started in the first paragraph of this blog post)

So, there you have it! Your agency’s fundraising problem is solved.  ;-)

Good luck rolling out this two-part strategy and please circle back to this space to let me know how it works out for you.

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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