Posts By: Sondra

How to Start a Movement

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“Set yourself on fire with passion, and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”

You can’t lead movements without passion for your cause. I don’t care if your movement is for profit or nonprofit, you have to be on fire for your mission, product, service, goals. This however has much risk.

First is the risk of being alone in your passion. We are a people hard wired to belong in groups, in tribes. Seth Godin makes a great argument for that in his book by the same name, “Tribes”. Being alone requires one to be unafraid, to overcome their fears of ridicule, judgement, rejection, or attack. Being alone means bearing through the anxiety of uncertainty and the prospect of failure. Will I remain alone? Will anyone join me? Is this truth? What if I’m wrong? Being alone in your passion for your cause also bears the possibility of alienation. Look at the scripture persona of John the Baptist. He was labeled insane and spent years wandering the desert alone because very few joined his cause for a very long time. But then, he changed the world.

Secondly, being on fire for your passion requires you to inspire others. To find just the right actions to get others to join you. The risk in this is doing the wrong thing. Is there such a risk? Is doing the wrong thing a permanent fault?

Finally, being on fire for your passion can hurt. Risking your emotional well being requires bravery and piety, putting aside your own needs for the needs of the cause. And yet everyday, we are inspired by people who HAVE set themselves on fire for their cause. And there is a formula, as evidenced in this TED Talk by Derek Sivers.

The formula can be condensed into this:

  • You can’t be successful unless you are ON FIRE for your cause.
  • Passion drives performance. Feel your cause and let it move you to action.
  • Passion is contagious. Mentor others through your actions, words are a dime a dozen.
  • Have patience. Passion hears ‘no’ as Not Now.
  • Develop and deepen your faith. Trust that what you believe in will have followers. Somewhere. Sometime. If one person believes it, there ARE others.
  • Embrace your early followers and empower them to own the passion and the cause. Leadership means stepping aside to enable the growing fire to burn freely.
  • Celebrate small victories. New followers are like gold, treat them to a joyous celebration.
  • Think allow, not how. Once the fire burns, controlling it can consume you. Know that your passion has ignited a cause and it’s ultimate outcome is driven by your tribe of similarly passionate people.
  • Most importantly, be brave.

A world driven by passion is a world on fire for change.

The Secret of Fundraising Revealed

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The one question I receive consistently in working with nonprofits is this “Sondra, what’s the secret to fundraising?” While my ego would like to answer with some profound, deep, complex revelation, it’s really much more simple than that. The secret to fundraising is in how we treat others. It’s about respect.

Turn your clock back to 1950, a time when respect, courtesy, grammar, and poise were paramount. Sensitivity, decorum, and grace were at one point held in high regard. It was a reflection of your character to be considerate, conscientious, forthright, and restrained.

Now take that picture, and apply it to your philanthropy.  How do you speak with you donors? With your board?  With your team? Do you hold true to your promises, your word? Ask yourself, are you showing true gratitude for the gifts your receive? How have you shown your gratitude? Have you called the company right after receiving the gift, do you ring them every month to tell them how your work is proceeding, are you happy to make time to visit them periodically, just because they went through the trouble and consideration of supporting you?  And it doesn’t need to be a company, how about a person? Think about the last gift you received. How did you respond? Did you open the envelope and send it to finance, to work out the details of posting and sending your form thank you letter? Our ancestors would have done more than that. They would have valued the generosity of that gift, put on their coat and hat (yes, they wore hats back then) and visited that donor. Even if the donor had no time for them, the action meant everything- the donor knew his gift was not only received but tremendously valued.

One of the barriers created by our technological age, is the deterioration of face time. The lethal combination of too much to do, too little time and the convenience of electronic interactions, has made us shallow and self absorbed. We focus on getting through the actions, ticking off the to do’s, but missing the point of the light of day. In our field, that light of day is spent 99% of the time in conversation with, appreciating, and showing our enormous respect for our donors.

Phone that donor. Respond to that email for your sponsor. Better yet, initiate that interaction before they have to – find a way to make them the center of your day, every day, and you will have discovered the secret of fundraising.

The Accidental Fundraiser

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“Your body determines your mind, your mind determines your behavior, your behavior determines your outcomes”. Amy Chuddy, TED Talk presenter.
I didn’t aspire to be in this role. In fact, I never knew this existed–this world of goodness, and compassion, and humanitarian promise. I wanted to be a teacher when I was seven. Or a mom. But somewhere over the course of 25 years, between graduating teachers college and being mom to three young kids, I took on some volunteer roles, which translated to part time employment with a large nonprofit, which migrated to director level and finally executive level leadership of a multi-million dollar foundation. And then to this, sharing what I learned through experience and education with other nonprofits.
In some ways I am an accidental fundraiser. And I have come realize that quite possibly you may be as well. The path to nonprofit work is rarely straight, and it’s not lined with specific degrees, tests, or passing of boards. It’s crowded with teachers, lawyers, and social service professionals. With doctors, nurses, and with administrative support personnel. It doesn’t have one face, it has a million faces.
How do we all know what to do? Aside from the academics of seminars and trainings, I’d say we fake it until we become it.
My first board meeting still haunts me. I was the side show, not even the main course, but my palms were so sweaty I was afraid to hold the paper for fear of leaving stains. I paced for a full hour, feeling nauseous and shaky. I was certain I was a fake, that I wasn’t supposed to be there, that I would be found out, and that I would die of embarrassment when I was. I was exactly the person Amy Chuddy speaks of in her terrific TED Talk, “Your body language shapes who you are“.
This twenty minute talk is a grounding starting point for everyone of us who as ever felt like we accidentally ended up in a role we didn’t deserve, couldn’t manage, or didn’t aspire to.  She provides terrific recommendation on how our body language speaks to us and how we can arrange our bodies to increase confidence, power, and authority.  Fake it till you become it. Because you are here, you do deserve it, and you can do it.
 Highly recommended, this talk will change your life.

The Benefits of Collaboration

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One could argue that the start up funding required by new and smaller nonprofits, looking to elevate their organization to the next level (which is very different than struggling nonprofits looking to get profitable), is similar to the start up funding required for tech and other entrepreneurial corporate ventures.

The similarity continues when we look at the risk factors in funding start ups and nonprofit organizations: a tech start up is a risk for investors, who subsequently require tremendous insight and evidence of feasibility. Similarly, the nonprofit startup risk is addressed by funders who ask them to produce feasibility as well. Most nonprofits understand and experience this, making feasibility studies the bread and butter of many firms like Harvest Development Group.

Start up tech firms require industry expertise. Nonprofits starting up and those taking their sustainability to the next level also require expertise, not only in the program area of their specialty, but in business management experience as well. Both require a well designed, justified, and articulated detailed business plan. Investors on both sides of the aisle want to be certain that the organization has a well thought out plan, has explored the possible pitfalls, and have every aspect of their journey defined. They would prefer that each is lead by passion. In fact, it is this passion that will ultimately define their success. Leaders of tech start ups and of nonprofits need have a “never-say-die” spirit, a determination to make their plan work against all odds.

With so many similarities, one would think that nonprofits and business start-ups could benefit from collaborating, sharing insights, learning lessons and gaining experience from these shared efforts. To this end, Harvest Development Group has partnered with like-minded business owners to open the shoreline’s first ever co-working space. This co-working space will bring both nonprofit and for-profit startups and growing organizations together.

Shared space= shared experiences= stronger outcomes= more success! Want to learn more, send us an email at sldharvest@gmail.com or call us at 888-586-1103.

Lead or Follow?

lead or followDoes this sound familiar? You are leading your board in a discussion about strategy for fundraising, outlining what is known about your organization’s current philanthropy program. As you ask them to take some time to review the strategic imperatives recommended from the findings, one member raises his hand and says “I think we should just do two mailings a year, no more, and then focus on doing more events. And I think we need more publicity, no one knows about us, that’s the big problem.”

 Somewhere along the line your board was lead to believe that their role is to problem solve. And by problem solve, I mean to direct the organization’s fundraising. And by directing fundraising, I mean doing your job. But, if this sounds all too familiar, how do you refocus your board on the important role they play in governance and oversight?

Getting boards focused, all looking in the same direction, and looking towards the bigger picture is not for the faint of heart. If you don’t have the intestinal fortitude, I suggest bringing in a professional. If you are up for the challenge, however, you need to begin with a self-assessment. A self-assessment must be completed and reviewed by the board, and it is only through this effort that they will find the necessary solutions hidden in the information they uncover as they move through the process. Finding an assessment tool is easier than you think. There are a lot of boxed self-assessment tools out there, and Harvest Development Group offers one on our website.

Keep in mind that it is important that the assessment process is driven from within. Board leadership should be suggesting and encouraging the process, not you or the organization. Assuming you have a good working relationship, with authentic dialogue and shared vision with your chairperson (if not, that’s another blog post), then having a candid conversation about the challenges you experience working with the board, accompanied by justification, both qualitative and quantitative, is the starting point. Suggest that the organization will benefit from a board self-review, just as the rest of the organization is reviewed annually. If everything else in a nonprofit is to be measured, it is unwise to exclude the board. With the chairperson leading the effort (or a board development committee, if you are that sophisticated), the medicine may go done a tiny bit easier. Expect some resistance and some sensitivity, because no one likes to be judged, least of which people who have come to not expect it. Once your board is committed to the self-assessment, ask your chairperson to recruit an Assessment Committee who will:

• Review the self-assessment tool and make recommendations on changes. You should provide them with findings showing why certain assessment sections are necessary

• Communicate to the full board the reason for the assessment, the process and the expected outcomes

• Implement and calculate the assessment

• Report on the findings and lead the discussion of the board on the actions to affect change.

Tai chi, is the ancient practice of war by submission. Letting go, allowing leadership in others, encouraging action through quiet movement, can change the board’s role in the organization, improve their performance and enhance the value they bring to your mission. In the end, they will be proud to be a part of your effort.

What is new is not always relevant. What is relevant is not always new.

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Crowd Funding PBS Special

PBS has been blogging about crowdfunding – the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet   – and their latest post engages nonprofits in thinking about the significant opportunity for financial success in crowdfunding.

From PBS’s post:

“The need for alternative fundraising methods clearly varies a lot across organizations. But even comfortable non-profits accept that crowdfunding has the potential to deliver a deep engagement between fundraisers and backers. And, as emergent civic crowdfunding models suggest, it has the potential to produce new alliances”

The post goes on to highlight success stories in the the crowdfunding sphere:

“In April, the Chicago Parks Foundation raised $62,113 for the expansion of the city’s Windy City Hoops basketball social program on IndieGoGo.”

” The Long Now Foundation is using this model for its Salon campaign, which has raised just over half of its $495,000 target. “

The post ends with this note of validation for many nonprofit’s marketing savvy and the opportunity to leverage that expertise for crowdfunding success. “Many non-profits are established experts in these areas. Many of them have stronger and more-established brands than even the best-known crowdfunding platforms. The quality and scale of crowdfunding campaigns would undoubtedly increase if they decided to apply their expertise to the field.”

While I appreciate what these types of articles do for innovative thinking, when they are sent out into the npo-sphere such as this, with no context to the implementation or integration of such a strategy into a broad range of tactics, it sends most charities desperate for money on a wild – and often disappointing- goose chase for their tens of thousands of dollars from ‘the web’. At best this is a distraction and a waste of resources which could go toward raising real money. At worst, it could be the straw that crumbles an already ailing organization.

In reality, what is new is not always relevant. What is relevant is not always new. Basing revenue development on scholarly data and best practices is essential to helping our nonprofits prosper.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

One Third of Your Revenue Depends on the Next Six Weeks

holiday party mad men

Our friends at Network for Good have prepared this easy to digest guide to Year End Fundraising Essentials 2013 filled with things you can do right now to ensure you get your 30 percent.

If you need some assistance with a plan or executing your strategy, we can help.  A third of your years revenue could depend on the next 6 weeks.

Our programs and services offer professional guidance for all requirements and budgets. Wherever you find your challenges, we have the experience and talent to bring you to a more profitable outcome.

Contact us for a no obligation consultation about your organization

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Download PDF of
Year End Fundraising Essentials 2013

The Long Tail of Events

Spirited presentation this morning at the Ct Philanthropy Day Conference, around the translational opportunities with Events. It just takes a new perspective, for everyone, to make what has become a drudgery of futile transactional activities (events) into an amazing value added Long Tail translational opportunity!

Let me tell you what I mean by Long Tail. Webster defines Long Tail as:

A frequency distribution pattern in which occurences are most densely clustered close to the Y-axis and the distribution curve tapers along the X-axis. The long tail refers to the low-frequency population displayed in the right-hand portion of the graph, represented by a gradually sloping distribution curve that becomes asymptotic to the x-axis. In most applications, the number of events in the tail is greater than the number of events in the high frequency area, simply because the tail is long.

Did I lose you yet?!?

What it’s saying simply is the value of what is at the head (left) of a graph is not equal to and is less than the value of what exists collectively within the long line to the right. Here’s what that looks like:

Long Tail Graphic

Long Tail Graphic

In our theory on the Long Tail of Events, that equates to the Event itself being the head and the value from that event being greater than the event, that’s the tail.

Got it?

Measuring the value of our events is a long term view- we don’t measure the value of our acquisition appeal against that single appeal. If we did, we would determine that our ROI was a negative and we would stop. We measure the value of our acquisition appeal against a long term view that includes the cost benefit of collecting new prospects in our major gift pipeline and the cash value of those major prospects over time. Similarly we don’t measure the value of grant writing against a single grant submitted. Losing proposition financially. Instead we measure the value of grant writing against a long term aggregate of return on investment.

Then why do we allow our organizations to continue to measure the value of an event against itself as a single activity?

To expect your event to have a long-term financial value to your philanthropy requires a different perspective on event planning. It changes the way you think about and plan objectives for your events. It turns your inviting process on its head, giving a you a laser focus on attendees, and it places your board central to the development of this Long Tail. It demands data driven strategy on donor engagement and a commitment to numbers and dates as deadlines.

It can be done.

We’ll be developing a webinar on the Long Tail of Events in the coming months. We’ll show you what we mean and I guarantee you’ll walk away wanting to chase the Long Tail.