Tagged: advice

Capacity Building

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If we ask any of our nonprofit prospects and clients, what is there biggest challenge besides fundraising, the answer is invariably “building capacity“.

Capacity building is a broad term that encompasses “actions that improve nonprofit effectiveness”. According to a journal released by the Foundation Center in 2003 entitled “Investing in Capacity Building: A Guide to High-Impact Approaches”, capacity building can take many forms, including:

  • Professional development for staff and board members
  • Opportunities for peer learning, networking or leadership development
  • Creating or re-examining organizational plans
  • Initiating collaboration with other nonprofits
  • Developing new sources for earned income
  • Utilizing pro bono support for high-impact projects

Many of the community foundations and professional associations for nonprofits with whom we work offer numerous opportunities for capacity building- from grants directly to the organizations to bring on talent, expand knowledge and build strategy; to offering workshops, seminars and conferences from which the nonprofits can learn.

Yet we are still talking about capacity building over a decade later. If we know these things mentioned prior can work, what isn’t working?

Our firm has studied this issue for two years. We have worked with over 1000 prospective clients in trying to establish a solution set that met their needs and their budget.  We’ve heard from each of them as to what they have tried to do on their own and with help from foundations, associations and in some cases universities. What we learned was that for each one, where the process of capacity building fell apart was in execution.

Good ideas, strategy, recommendations, action steps, all are excellent in theory but will fail the nonprofit if they feel unable to execute. Some obstacles to execution are time and resources, confidence and experience, and accountability.

Of the thousands of prospects and clients we spoke with, about 80% were deserving, viable nonprofits. They have neither the resources nor the time or support needed to truly benefit from a contract for private consulting support.

after our study of this issue, we built what we believe to be a game changing answer to the capacity building issue for these nonprofits.

BLOSSOM

When we realized the scope of this problem, we thought, what if we could create a learning lab, curating the best of educational videos, podcasts, journal articles, and books, in which nonprofit executives could reliably and affordably access these tools in an online workspace, at any time. And what if we supported each learner with a private coach, who would have complete access to their learning progress in the lab, evaluating and mentoring them through assignment completion and assessments, and meet with the learner by phone, skype or google hangout once a month for 90 minutes.

And then what if we could provide an upfront assessment for the learner and the coach and learner could identify one looming key performance issue in the organization that they want to create a long term project around, affecting real time change to the nonprofits outcomes.

And finally what if we assembled six learners in a team, where they could interact, share ideas and have rich discussions around topics relevant to the nonprofit industry, effecting their organizations?

Around these assumptions we built BLOSSOM: The Virtual Incubator for Nonprofit Executives.

The incubator is a twelve month program, covering fifteen different nonprofits business topics. Learners start with an assessment on their influence style and on their organizations health. From these assessments the coach will develop leadership learning opportunities and will define with the learner their long term project. The Learner receives an online workspace that has the best of curated educational materials, tools, and templates, along with a resource library of additional information and downloadables. Learners are assembled with five other executives, for teams of six, who meet once per month online to discuss general nonprofit topics of interest. They also hold each other accountable for the progress and completion of their long term projects. The program culminates with a review of real time outcomes acheived, completion of the long term project, and a new network of colleagues and support members to continue the growth and sustainability acheived.

Early feedback was overwhelmingly rejoiceful! Yes, rejoiceful, lol!  Brilliant was one word used, Something I can really rely on for change in my organization was another phrase heard often.

We would love to get your feedback. Request access to the Free Trial Module and tell us what you think!

Email us for acccess to your FREE TRIAL MODULE

roots@harvestdevelopmentgrp.com or call us at 888-586-1103 ex2 to get immediate entry to the trial.

Success Strategies for Volunteers – Morning Musing Workshop

Hosted by The Community Foundation of Middlesex County. Presented by Harvest Development Group, LLC. Client Engagement Director, Jeanne Boyer Roy.

If you want to go fast – go alone! If you want to go far – go together!

Nonprofit organizations rely on volunteers – their passion, their commitment, and their time. Volunteers help nonprofit organizations meet their mission, and in doing so, they are key ambassadors in the community.

Harvest Development Group provides tools and strategies to craft a plan for managing volunteers that will ultimately lead to increased participation in fund development.

This workshop is free to nonprofit organizations – space is limited and pre-registration is requested.

Register by e-mailing Jamie or calling 860.347.0025.

 

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford

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One of the biggest challenges in meeting any goal, whether it be related to productivity, waking early, changing a habit, exercising, or just becoming happier, is finding the motivation to stick with it.

If you can stick with a goal for long enough, you’ll almost always get there eventually. It just takes patience, and motivation.

Motivation is the key, but it’s not always easy, day in and day out, to find that motivation. (READ MORE)- From our friends at zenhabits.net-

Success Strategies for Engaging, Recruiting, and Maintaining Volunteers Morning Musing Workshop

Hosted by The Community Foundation of Middlesex County. Presented by Harvest Development Group, LLC. Client Engagement Director, Jeanne Boyer Roy.

If you want to go fast – go alone! If you want to go far – go together!

Nonprofit organizations rely on volunteers – their passion, their commitment, and their time. Volunteers help nonprofit organizations meet their mission, and in doing so, they are key ambassadors in the community.

Harvest Development Group provides tools and strategies to craft a plan for managing volunteers that will ultimately lead to increased participation in fund development.

This workshop is free to nonprofit organizations – space is limited and pre-registration is requested.

Register by e-mailing Jamie or calling 860.347.0025.

Date/Time
14 Oct 2014
9:00 am – 10:30 am
Location
Community Foundation of Middlesex County, 211 South Main Street, Middletown, Connecticut

 

Lessons From My 93-Year-Old Kindergarten Teacher

Mary Beth Washington is the stuff that kindergarten dreams are made of. “She did almost everything contrary to the rules: she took the kids out walking in the rain, she napped with them during naptime, she came to school dressed like a circus performer. She was in love with birds, dancing, poetry and people.” Now in her 93rd year, she is as spirited as ever and still going strong with her walking stick, cheery stockings and shoes, and many layers of scarves. “I teach the big children, now,” she says, in a chance encounter with a parent whose child was one of her students. With hearty chuckles and magical winks, there are many lessons to be learned from this special woman. (10901 reads) 

Lessons From My 93-Year-Old Kindergarten Teacher

The Golden Rule of Fundraising

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When you don’t see the value in your donor prospects, they don’t see the value in you.

I’ve come to realize that nonprofits have what companies spend millions on– a pool of qualified prospects that represent customers who are interested in their product. Businesses, large and small, have entire teams of people devoted to the “sales” side of their business equation. They have entire departments focused completely on generating and then cultivating those new prospects. They do this because they know how valuable these leads are. They are worth their weight in gold, literally. In fact, many companies actually calculate the value of a lead, figuring how it translates into essential revenue.

And yet, few NPO’s I’ve come to work with have acquired a strategy related to this pool of prospects and how to move them to a “sale”. Do you know the financial value of a lead for your organization?

It doesn’t matter if your NPO is in healthcare, academics, social services or the arts. Every month you generate new major donor prospect leads that lay unnoticed. And these unnoticed leads, that are not being cultivated, are leading to revenue loss for your NPO.

Your lead generating system includes obvious things like events, but consider new clients and volunteers, people who signed up for your newsletters and RSS feeds, and people who inquire about your services and programs. But collecting these is a just a waste of time, if you don’t have a plan that you act upon.

There are four things ways you can capture prospects that are new to your organization. Let’s call them them our “First in the Door” prospects. These people have expressed an interest in you. It might not be as obvious as a lead saying “Hey, I like what you do, put me on your radar screen for a donation.”  It probably is more common that they have attended an event, as a guest or a participant, had been present at a workshop or lecture, read your blog or newsletter, or maybe requested information on your program for a friend. I can think of a recent personal example of this.  In January, my 80 year old father came to live with us and I contacted a not for profit senior housing and assistance group to learn more about their organization. While they sent it right away, no one from the group has since reached out or shared other information on their organization with me, even though we had chatted about the challenges of being a not for profit and their upcoming building campaign! I could be a terrific prospect for a donation, but I get the impression that they don’t value me as one. So, I’ll move focus my attention on another charity.

To help you with those First in the Door prospects, here are four really solid things you should be doing to get them the information they require to build rapport:

1) Email response with material. For every new person that is entered into your database- client, guest, or vendor- you should have an email mechanism thanking them for their involvement with your group (appropriately) and delivering to them literature on your organizations message. Remember stories sell, don’t push them away with statistics, but tell them a story that brings them closer. This material could be in the form of an ebook, a slide deck, or a video.

2) Blog. I can’t say this enough, blogging is a simple, inexpensive way to stay in front of your prospect pool and current donors. 250 words takes under ten minutes to prepare but represents days of retention with your supporters.  You already know they are interested, keep them engaged with a regular flow of blog posts about your work. Again, stories, stories, stories. Include a call to action or a response mechanism for further information. Send your First in the Door prospect this blog, link in a follow up email to the one above. Ask them to sign up for future posts.

3) Lectures and informational sessions.  I recently received a beautifully prepared pamphlet on upcoming arts and music lectures that interested my husband and me.  The series was to be held twice monthly and had some interesting speakers, including local historians speaking on New England music, an old folksinger of local fame, and a representative talking about a local non- profit art museum. This series did not come from an arts organization, but from a senior housing facility, a different one I had called upon.  Brilliant! I’m going to attend some of these programs, and I am excited about learning more about this innovative group that markets themselves so well.  My point is, they kept me engaged by attracting me to a program that they knew I, as their audience, would be interested. They could have easily invited me to a lecture on issues of caring for an aging parent, and I would have attended. But they diversified and offered me a value added opportunity as well.  I like them already. Your informational sessions can and should be about your services, but also about those things your audience likes. Do your research, know your prospects and clients.

4) Social media. It’s not for fundraising. I can’t stress enough how ineffective Facebook and other social media strategies are in actually raising a dollar. However they are invaluable when it comes to performing in the way they were intended—building your tribe of supporters and deepening your relationships.  Instagram pictures of your team, your clients (with permission of course just as you would do for your newsletter), and your daily activities. Instagram is informal, no need to save it for big activities. Tweet out information on upcoming activities, current successes, and research that relates to your work. Create Pinterest boards relevant to your work. Talk daily with your prospect pool on Facebook. Create a discussion group on LinkedIn. Invite your First in the Door prospects to all of this.

Right about now you’re saying “Oy!!  I don’t have time for all of this!!”  You won’t have any time, at all, if you don’t do this, because these people whom you are currently ignoring will not be your donors in the coming months. And without donors,  you’ll have no programs to offer. Ignoring your pipeline of prospects is putting your organization on ice, ignoring your financial future, and telling those people who have already said they are interested in you, that you don’t value them. They will leave, you can count on it.

Take a look at your organization today, create a strategy for cultivating those First in the Door prospects and decide who will be responsible for carrying out this prospect generating process. Many companies (and nonprofits) envy you for the pool you are building, show them you value your prospects as much as they do.

Must-Haves, Wants and Needs

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It’s so very easy in our personal lives to live by imperatives — those must-haves we need to exist, to enjoy our lives, to be successful, and to be fulfilled.  Some of my own imperatives for my personal life include: the need to have good food, well prepared meals, and someone to share them with; the need to have laughter and social situations that inspire laughter; the need to have a partnership with someone I love and admire; the need to communicate clearly and be understood; the need for shoes . . . ok, that’s more of an obsession than a need, but I NEED to have a wide variety of fashionable and sometimes comfortable footwear to feel inspired! You get the picture.
However, when we leave our homes, apartments, schools, and move into our professional life, our imperatives for the organizations we lead and work for can become somewhat murky. I’ve watched many capable nonprofits struggle when it comes to defining their imperatives. They wrestle with the needs of their group, their culture, their operations, their mission. They have a difficult time determining difference between an imperative, a strategy and a tactic. Defining your imperatives for your organization must start with a look into how you and others perceive your work, your mission, and your outcomes. It must review where you are successful  and where you have failed. And it must be objective, taking into account the inherit strengths and weaknesses of the organization.
Given a deep dive into these areas, you may discover that you need talented marketing people, employees or volunteers.  You might need to recruit board members who bring specific strengths to the organization or executive leadership experienced in a specific industry. Or maybe you just need more space to do your work, or an area to call your own. Imperatives can be complex or simple, but universally they are truths that, if denied, ensure certain failure for your effort. Take the time to determine your organization’s imperatives today, and allow them to drive your actions and outcomes to success

In Defense of your Board . . . Let Them Lead.

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One of the most prevalent challenges for the nonprofits we work with is board development.  The conversation usually starts like this: 

ED: “I really need help with my board.”
HDG:  “What kind of help?”
ED: “They don’t actually do anything. They come to the meeting, I give them reports, they listen, then they give me ideas that I can never implement and they go home. And they don’t support us financially at all or not nearly enough.”
HDG:  “So what do you want them to do?”
ED: “Raise money:”

In defense of your board, you cannot expect them to perform at level that has not been clearly articulated.  The first steps toward rectifying this situation is a review of the organization’s board governing documents, processes, major giving program and cultivation events, and the board’s understanding of their role in the organization.

And, this is what we often find:

  • No role and responsibility documents outlining what each board member is expected to do, when, how, and with whom.
  • A role and responsibility document is in place, but it does not state how much the board member should give, nor what they should be doing or how they should help fundraising.
  • A role and responsibility document that is visionary, but not concrete i.e.”The board member will advocate for the organization in the community.” Huh?
  • A board agenda that has the Executive Director talking 90% of the time.
  • No, or very few, sub committees to do the heavy lifting of the board.
  • A board that is led by the Executive Director, who makes the agenda, sets the tone and runs the meeting.
  • A board chair who has no idea why he or she is there, and what to do once they have arrived.
  • An organization that has not developed a strategy for how their board will govern, and what outcomes and outputs they will expect and measure from the board.
  • A board that is not allowed to lead.

So often we hear from organizations that are challenged by their board’s inability or unwillingness to lead and govern or get involved in moving their organization forward. Most of the time, though, we find that it is the organization that is at odds with what to do with its board. There is a fine line between a board that governs and one that meddles. But even their meddling is often just their way of trying to be relevant in a situation that leaves them feeling lost.

Getting a board development strategy in place, and getting your board working effectively requires only four components:

1. An articulated vision for why your board exists and what you want them to achieve (outputs) and impact (outcomes).

2. A relationship (shared partnership) between you and your board chair. Build this together.

3. A set of governing documents that not only covers legal requirements,  but also communicates your expectations.

4. Programs that give your board freedom to engage Now back away and let them lead.

That’s it. Building your board as a program, with strategy, actions, timeline, expected outcomes, immediately strengthens your board’s position and their leadership role in your organization. Taking the time and investing the resources in board development can, quite often, be the most important thing you do for your nonprofit’s mission.

Empower your board to lead. Free yourself. Improve your results.

It’s Not What You Tell Your Donors, It’s How You Say It

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I’ve seen my share of “donor death” due to the academic delivery of every specific detail relating to an organization’s mission.  It’s not pretty. First the eyes glaze over and the face slackens, the brow slightly furrows, then the fingers fret with each other as the donor begins to avert his eyes. This is quickly followed by phone checking, paper rustling, and long loving glances at wristwatches.  When this happens, there is no question that the end is near.

When a donor goes into this death spiral, the organization must work harder to keep the donor engaged and interested. Hard work requires more resources and additional resources are expensive. It is far more effective for organizations to understand the dynamics of donor engagement before the meeting.  Spending a minimum of upfront time, determining how to tell your organization’s story in an effective and engaging manner rather than reporting your organization’s destination will pay dividends.

Nonprofits as an industry, we are in love with our science. We love the academics and inner workings of our profession. It’s our passion for the science of what we do that drives us to perform. But frankly, for our donors, it’s the pedestrian, everyday results they can relate to that fires their engines.  I am reminded of a 1970s advertisement produced by Crispin and Porter, that illustrates this point (see above). Telling someone you need to get to a destination is uninteresting and even boring when you compare it to sharing with someone your need to connect with humanity, your family, your loved ones. Same message, but a very different emotion attached to that message.

Check your language. Review your letters, materials, your website. Are you alienating and potentially killing off your donors with your technical speak? Are you telling them where you need to be, rather than sharing with them what or who you want to become. They don’t need the details or the destination. They need the information that will spark their emotions, encourage engagement, and keep them excited about your cause.

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.