Tagged: process

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.

 

Innovation as a Culture…..

It all started with a statistic in 2006, repeated in 2011: Two thirds of all executive directors of US nonprofits intend to retire by 2016 (Cornelius, Moyers, & Bell, 2011).

That led to a thought: Filling those positions are Gen X and Y, who work so very differently and embrace a culture of Innovation

That led to a fear: Is our industry prepared?

That lead to a revelation: We need to focus hard on developing Innovative Cultures now, in order to weather the shift.

Innovate: Verb

1: to introduce as, or as if, new
2: to effect a change in 
Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2012
 

Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society. Innovation builds on existing ideas. It is not to be confused with Invention. The Printing Press was Invented, the Kindle was Innovative.

If our Grandparents were Inventors, then Gen X/Y are Innovators. They may not own the market on Innovation, but lead the charge and drive the process. Their Innovative spirit causes them to see work differently, and for those working in the Nonprofit Sector, and stepping into the vacuum of leadership soon to be created, that could be a challenge.

The exiting generation of Boomers tend to believe work was for life and WAS life. After all, they created the ‘workaholic’ and ‘superwoman’ concepts. The Gen X/Y to come, view work and their work life much differently. They are traditionally seen as individualistic, self-reliant and skeptical of authority. They expect great workplace flexibility. They are tech savvy and seek diverse groups. The speed and ease of the Internet  and its subsequent vast knowledge base, has led the ‘Net Generation’ of Y and Xer’s to be flexible and changing in its consciousness and with how it is communicated. We can see how this is in great contrast to the current environment of the risk averse, staid and steady world of the nonprofit.

However, we have seen some break-outs in the industry, nonprofits that have jumped the fence to do things differently, and with great results. For these nonprofits, we see that Innovation provides bold, new approaches to the way they work; they have decidedly replicated and integrated what can be learned from other disciplines; and they have provided ideas and strategies to our industry on how organizations can better foster new ideas and solutions to challenges and mission need.

Which is just the type of culture required to manage through such a massive shift in leadership, that is pending in our industry in the coming years.

What is needed for your organization to jump the fence into a culture of Innovation and to stand apart and excel in the approaching change?

Here are some simple and manageable ideas to get started.

1) Create and/or Embrace Your Constraints:

An excellent line from Marnie Webb, CEO of TechSoup Global, reflects “Innovation happens when people work within constraints — in an environment of not enough — and they figure out how to do it anyway.”  (Webb, 2011).   Well, doesn’t that just describe the EVER PRESENT environment of most, if not all, nonprofit organizations? So lack of resources, lack of time, lack of experience is a benefit and not a detriment to your Innovation.

Inspire a spirit of can do in your team: Teach them to routinely say to the world, “I know you said we can’t do this, but we are  going to figure a way that we can.”  A fun way to do this is to challenge your staff each month with one new problem to solve. It can be simple or complex, but make sure there are no single ‘right’ answers expected, and that all respondents get an encouraging word about their creativity in designing a solution. Take a look at the monthly responses and find one or two things that can be implemented from each, to make this activity actionable and inspiring.

2) Data is fuel for Innovation:

Research has had its day recently in the public square of discussion among the nonprofit set. It wasn’t until this recent decade though, that many nonprofits began to wake up to the fact that data drives exceptional performance. Metrics on outcomes of service and mission performance, as required now by grantors; benchmarks on philanthropy, collected and aggregated to drive decisions on fundraising expenditures; demographics on constituency that support political advocacy and marketing investments – all data driven for enhanced results.

Data drives Innovation as well.  How many experiments do you have currently going in your organization? What are you currently testing? If the answer is nothing, the future may look bleak for you. Testing gives you all the raw data you need to begin to get creative and innovate existing projects and services. Without it, you’re shooting in the dark.

It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you start. Test something every week, every month and have a few tests going at the same time. Overall, testing does not significantly impact resources devoted to your project: You’re already completing the project with all the resources you have and need. Testing requires a simple tracking methodology.

A simple trial test, to get yourself and your staff acquainted with a culture of testing, is to develop a survey used with every donor/donation received. The survey can ask some common demographic questions, but also some quirky ones:  What color would you paint your car if you could paint it any color? What did you want to be when you grew up? What’s your favorite treat food?

The resulting data can be a rich playground for your team to get creative. What if more than 75% of your donors said Popcorn was their favorite treat food? How could you use this information to better your appeals, raise more money, sign up more volunteers, get more people to your programs? You could also take that quirky data, create an info-graphic and share with your constituency, giving them all an intimate look at the tribe they are part of in supporting your mission!

3) Free Access, Embrace Risk:

Let your staff play. Open up their access to the internet, create an environment of walking around to work, withhold judgement, encourage impossible dreams, create shared spaces for interaction. Let go of your organizational fear, and strict fence posts, and let your staff bloom! Additionally, inspire and ask you constituents and donor base to get involved. Create spaces for shared ideas, allow your donors to see their own giving histories, to watch projects unfold and to openly track progress of service delivery and program development.  Yes, even the warts and the odd parts.

Try this for one month: Using a cloud based program, like Dropbox or Google+, create a shared folder or a group for idea generation. Invite staff, board, donors, clients, to get involved. Post a problem or question of the month. Then encourage everyone to drop a comment. People love to give their feedback, so encourage that sharing on your real issues. Why not start with this question: What one thing would you change about us? Interact with the group, asking further questions, exploring responses, challenging perceptions.

4) Allow process, iteration, pivoting. Don’t kill the messenger or the message – massage it.

If you don’t give Innovation the time and attention it deserves, it will not produce and it will not gel as a culture. There are no bad ideas, only ideas which have not matured yet. Like a fine wine, an idea becomes innovative after taking some time to develop. Too often we rush to judgement on a solution, concept or strategy. Keep all ideas generative and don’t lose any along the way. Pop them open every so often, encourage follow through and push back on development on those that look promising or have some immediate potential application. Use data to tweak them along the way and send them out for more testing. Turn them over, look at them differently.  One of my favorite examples of this is asking the question: How is your_____________  like a ________? For instance, “How is your Nonprofit, like a Toaster?”.

5) Be sincere

Finally, don’t offer lip service on Innovation. It knows when you are lying and it knows when you are passionate about serving it well. Innovation is not a tactic, or a business management style. It is truly a culture, one which can only come from authentic, inspired and patient nurturing. Making it part of the spirit of your organization will yield powerful results.

Capital Campaigns as Transformative Projects

Capital Campaigns are incredible projects – consuming of immense amounts of resources, but the returns of which can be transformative for your organization.

Capital Campaigns are important strategies to include in your organizations long term philanthropy development plans. Campaigns that are integrated (including all of the organizations’ stakeholders in its design and implementation);  unified (with the goal of raising campaign funds as well as enhancing and improving annual and other donations); and are strategically designed, have the power to change the level and quality of your fundraising forever.

Campaigns have a history of being synonymous with specialized one time fundraising, while the reality is that most organizations today operate campaigns on a regular basis, completing one as they are planning and launching another.  Such is the need for large capital project development for any nonprofit organization, whether you be hospital, school, church or social service. The good news is that this has changed the culture of philanthropy for your donor base. They are more attuned to the segmentation of capital needs vs operating needs for programs and service delivery. And many major donors are considering the next campaign project for your organization, as they prepare their own giving strategy.

Preparing for your capital campaign begins with a feasibility study, six to twelve months before you host your first campaign meeting of volunteers.

Studying What is Feasible

A feasibility study is a specialized process in which analysis is conducted on your organizations ability, capacity and capabilities to successfully operate a capital campaign. Studies show a 92 percent success rate for campaigns preceded by feasibility/planning studies.  A study is traditionally facilitated by a consulting group, such as Harvest Development Group. Through experience with other studies, as well as by providing third party anonymity to study participants, more accurate data is collected and assessed when a feasibility study is lead by a consulting firm, resulting in better decisions in the construction and launch of your campaign. Results of the feasibility study are developed and presented in a report that outlines not only your organizations internal ability to operate a campaign (human resources, data collection tools,  organizational capability to devote time and money to a campaign), but also to the external capacity for campaign success.

How is a Campaign’s Financial Goal Set?

The financial goal of your campaign cannot be determined without a study. Your campaign goal is not how much you need, but by how much you can be forecasted to raise. Taking a measurement of past giving history, donor statistics, environmental issues impacting your efforts, as well as time and human resources available, your feasibility study consultant will project a range in which you can rely on campaign funding, if all activities are implemented as directed. This range is a more realistic and reliable goal than using the cost of your project as a campaign goal. In many cases the goal revealed through your feasibility study will be sent back to your project planning and/or finance committee for consideration, as it will affect the projects scope and funding plans. Without a study to determine how much can be raised, it would be folly to start out a campaign, fundraising to reach an artificial and unknown amount. Worse is to ignore the feasibility study determination and set an artificially increased goal. No organization can benefit from falling short financially on a capital campaign, it does more harm than any of the good from the effort.

Who Do We Ask?

Another outcome from your feasibility study is analysis of your current and potential donor base to the campaign. A well facilitated study will determine best prospects, range of gifts (as a gift chart) and the number of gifts required, and a categorized donor base for consideration. Imagine an infographic outlining who to ask, how much to ask for and when to make the ask. With this information you can confidently move into planning and implementation with a visualization of how you can be successful.

Planning for your Campaign

After your feasibility study is completed, your organization has to take the next step- planning for, launching and operating your campaign. Feasibility studies are time sensitive, because it deals with dynamic data. The data revealed and used for results in your feasibility study has an expiration date, like milk. Waiting too long after a feasibility study is completed for your campaign to begin, can be detrimental to your campaign.  Sometimes waiting too long to launch after a study is completed  results in money being left on the table, because the information used has changed drastically for the better.  It would be horrible to ask a donor for an amount that is too low, because the study was produced with information three years prior! Worse, and more common, is a campaign delayed resulting in missed goals due to donors leaving, other organizations in the community launching their own campaign, project costs increasing, etc. Ideally, study results are valid for about six to twelve months, but no longer. Be certain that your organization is ready to move forward when the feasibility study is completed.

As with the feasibility study, the planning, launching and implementation of your capital campaign benefits tremendously by bringing in counsel. Don’t try to save money in this area, as a good consulting firm will not only help you raise more money but save you money as well.

Develop our Volunteer Leaders

Your feasibility study will have delivered a list of potential volunteers for your campaign effort. Include these individuals in your campaign committees as well as your board. Begin to inspire, organize and engage your volunteer campaign members immediately after your feasibility study ends, while the experience of being interviewed and the buzz of the study is still fresh in their minds. Preparing your committees and drafting your plan will be a four month project at least, given the busyness and chaotic schedules of volunteers and competing organizational priorities.

Pieces of the Plan

Planning for your campaign requires attention to details in a broad area. Staffing is critical, and plans may need to be developed to increase staffing temporarily to assist with campaign or back office workloads. In addition, operational tools for managing the campaign will be essential- CRM software, Data management, material production, media and distribution lines for campaign materials. Financial forecasts should be developed in collaboration with finance, so everyone invested in the financial outcomes has a schedule of when the funds can be anticipated for use.  Internal policies and procedures for campaign implementation are to be developed as guiding and aligning instruments. Crafting a campaign case statement that is inspiring, informative and catalytic is an early planning activity. Additionally, prospect development and solicitation briefs and strategies set the foundation for your cultivation’s and asks. Good counsel will lead and facilitate all of this and more as you move toward your campaign launch date.

Campaigns Added Benefits

Although campaigns require a significant investment of time and resources – expect to spend about 20% of your campaign goal on the planning and implementation of your campaign- the return in campaign funding, future funding, increased donor base, increased visibility and internal enthusiasm and engagement for your mission is invaluable and well worth the investment. A well organized and operated campaign can change your organization for ever.

 

For further information or to speak about how a  campaign can help your organization reach new heights contact Harvest Development Group, LLC at   roots@harvestdevelopmentgrp.com    or    at    860-575-5132

C.R.I.B. Notes

C.R.I.B. Notes:

10 Steps critical to launching (or enhancing) a Comprehensive, Responsive, Integrated, Balanced fundraising program.

More frequently, nonprofits are taking a step back and evaluating their fundraising programs. Philanthropy has become an essential income line for nonprofit organizations. No longer is it looked upon as an “Oh, and we have fundraising, whatever it brings in I hope it’s a lot” approach. Now, in response to recent economic influences and increased competition for donor’s attention, it is considered part of a critical and required stream of sustainable funding.

Sustainable funding is a concept widely demanded by donors, grantors and program evaluators. It is a measurable and indispensable part of your nonprofits business practice. But how to go about establishing a viable and sustainable fundraising program?

For a fundraising program to be sustainable it must be comprehensively designed, integrated throughout the nonprofit organizations strategy and work plan, responsive to donor and program needs and balanced to ensure its smooth transition through the many economic and societal impacts the organization will face in its lifetime.

Here are ten fundamental steps that must occur, which if performed successfully, will position your fundraising to be Comprehensive, Responsive, Integrated and Balanced.

  1. Review your organizations Mission/Vision: Why do you exist? What are you seeking to do and who else is doing it as well? Audit the communities’ needs and what other providers of service to those needs exist. Are others doing exactly what you are doing? Successfully? With funding? If you stand out alone in your field, congratulations! If not, but you can justifiably compete, consider collaborating. If you cannot justifiably compete, then consider amending or abandoning your mission focus.
  2. Determine your organizations Value Proposition: What real, fundamental and measureable value impact does your organization have on the community it serves? Your true value must be determined by evidenced based outcomes that you can point to in support of your organizations reason for being. People will not fund what you do, but they will flock to you if you can prove, with results, what changes you bring about that either affect their lives or align with their values. It can be as simple as ‘We lighten the spirits of 5,000 urban and suburban symphony members every year from May through October’; or as complex as ‘We reduced crime 34% in the last 18 months through our youth crime prevention mentoring initiative’. Either way, it will require some work on your part, to consistently and accurately determine your programs valuable achievements.
  3. Establish a financial forecast for your fundraising: Why do you need this money and what are you going to do with it? How much is needed and why that specific amount? Your donors will want this information to be valid, reasonable and transparent, if they are going to trust their investment with your organization and buy in to your ability to be successful in your efforts. No trust, no funding.
  4. Audit and Assess your prospective donor pool and determine your viability in fundraising and your financial capacity: Where will you be pulling your donors from? Internally? Externally? Warm prospects? Cold lists? Individuals? Corporations? Foundations? How much can convincingly be raised from these prospective donor pools? And how long will it take you to move your donors to achieve this amount of funding? Does the amount of money you can project to reasonably raise meet your needs, as outlined above? If not how will you fill the gap? Your board, not to mention your donors, will not want to fund a program set to fail because of poor long term financial planning. Have your ducks lined up and know how your money is going to come in, how much and from whom and how long to achieve your goal.
  5. Develop a budget for your fundraising program: Raising money is a product generating and performance enhancing business practice, which requires a budget for expenditures in its implementation. Set your organizations mind right, by building a budget that will be sufficient to generate the returns you have determined you can achieve.
  6. Establish and follow Performance Metrics: Tangible, measurable, meaningful metrics on your fundraising program, will provide feedback in the short term for iterating your fundraising plan. Iteration is an important part of your plan and should be built into your strategy. The term and technical process of iteration is stolen from the Tech world, but it is a wildly successful and highly focused tool for making significant and donor centric improvements to your fundraising plan over short term intervals. Responsiveness will increase your fundability. Over the long term, performance metrics will validate your efforts to your donors, your clients and your leadership and set a foundation for additional growth.
  7. Develop your case for support: Assess your organizations service programs, your fundraising goals, your measurements as above and your donor prospects. Tell your donors through the development of your Case Statement, specifically why funding you is an excellent investment, what programs will be supported, what outcomes will be achieved, how you will achieve them, by when and by whom.
  8. Get your papers in order: Review your By-Laws. Ensure your organization is set up to fundraise. Consult with your financial advisor and your attorney to validate your organizations filing status with the state or states you are fundraising in. Avoid costly legal and financial miss-steps before they occur.
  9. Organize your interactions: Invest in a Donor Relationship Management database early on, before you launch your new or newly expanded fundraising program. Building on your success and establishing a long term trusting relationship with your donors is the most significant strengthening exercise to your sustainability. This cannot be done without a tool to accurately and confidently track your relationships. Don’t skimp on this one. Luckily, there are many software programs that are no or low cost to qualified nonprofit organizations.

10. Assemble and engage your key stakeholders: Administrative leadership, board, employees- these are not only your first donor set, but your strongest and most important partners in your sustainable fundraising program. Empower them and make them apostles of the fundraising plan. With the first nine steps in place, their confidence will be raised and their enthusiasm to lead the effort will be the natural response.

SHIFT: Meeting Corporate Philanthropy Where It’s Headed- Influencers: NPO

INFLUENCES ON THE NOT FOR PROFIT SECTOR

The recession was a wake up call.

Many nonprofits were left high and dry when their sole funding stream, gov’t line items, grants or contracts, began to disappear. Many scrambled to pressure the feds, others sought funding elsewhere. Some sadly closed up or, if they were lucky, merged with a similar organization.

Relying too heavily on one form of funding is a death knell. Diversifying funding is essential to nonprofit sustainability. In the recently released 2010 Nonprofit Fundraising study by the Foundation Center, organizations raising over $3MM annually did so because of their diversified funding streams. Over seven different funding vehicles were used by over 73% of those in the $3MM plus group. How many funding streams are you accessing right now? Corporate giving is an important part of those streams.

Another influence on nonprofits, peeking their interest and attention toward new corporate philanthropy, is the overwhelming BUZZ on corporate social responsibility, which has not been missed by these organizations. This is making them question their approach and strategy and reformulating to meet the new corporate perspectives. Additionally, many nonprofits are now finding themselves being denied funding from previous corporate partners, many of whom they relied on for significant help, because the companies in question are realigning their giving in a more unified and strategic fashion with their CSR model.

Finally,  bad information being disseminated and lack of research on corporate giving among the nonprofit sector has a negative influence on our thinking and planning.  Corporate giving is not about marketing.  Neither is it influenced by an ‘obligation’ the company feels to society.  And if we went off and approached our corporate partners with this in mind we would be dead in the water before we got to the closing statement.

It is an investment, not an obligation; a partnership, not a market approach. And it is directly tied to their business goals.

Up tomorrow: Defining Corporate Social Responsibility to understand process, policy and approach

SHIFT: Meeting Corporate Philanthropy Where It’s Headed- An Introduction

This is the start of a four week series on corporate philanthropy, based on research, best practices and personal experience from the field. We’ll keep it entertaining and packed with good useful information that will help you develop your own Corporate Giving program. To follow along, bookmark and check back daily, or subscribe to the blog using the button at the bottom of this page (left side).  But don’t just follow along.  Ask questions, challenge observations, make recommendations, share your own experience, invite friends to participate.

Many of us have been in the philanthropy industry for years….maybe even decades…and we have much to lean on when we think about corporate giving. We know it is changing, it’s evident around us, and we know it has evolved over time, through some pretty hairy and weird years, to some truly meaningful examples. I’m going to ask us to set all of that aside for the next few weeks.

Let me start with a short, true, story to help us understand perspective and prepare our frame of mind. This story came to me from a friend.
“Years back a group of scientists in New Guinea visited a tribe who believed their world ended at the river. After several months, one of the scientists had to leave, which involved crossing the river. Safely across the river, he turned and waved at the tribesman he had left behind. They did not respond, because they said they did not see him. Their entrenched beliefs about their world had distorted their perception of reality.”

But changing  beliefs can be hard, right?

Let me give you an example.

Look at this door panel of squares. Now stare at the X in the center and think circles. What happens?

The circles that appeared when you thought ‘circles’, are an example of a shift in your perception of reality.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

That’s why, in this series on corporate philanthropy, I’m asking you to abandon your old beliefs, your old perceptions about what you think you know about corporate giving, and become open to new understandings. In the words of our old friend Stephen Covey: Seek first to understand.

This month of posts on meeting corporate philanthropy where it’s headed, will help us to understand the influences on corporations as they strategize their giving efforts. We’ll identify influences on the sector. We’ll connect with company  goals and needs, and explore key behaviors in winning partnerships.  Not winning in the Charlie Sheen way, but in the way that provides outcomes and benefits for both the corporation AND the nonprofit partners.

A busy few weeks, but worth the investment if you want to create sustainable, efficient and effective corporate philanthropy revenue streams.

So join in, ask questions, engage, share, learn, enjoy.

Use these mid winter months to GROW, not slow, your organizations philanthropy

Most nonprofits experience a significant lull in donations and donor activity in the months of January and February. The post year end doldrums.

Donors are slow to give, having distributed their 2010 charitable contributions during the ebullience of the holiday season.

Consumers are recovering from gift purchases.

The weather makes for hermits, with snow, ice and early nightfall urging more indoor, stay at home activities.

And snow birds have fled for warmer climates, leaving their local neighbors and friends to fend until spring.

This is the perfect time to grow your philanthropy program!

No other time in the calendar year do you have the potential to capture your audience’s undivided attention.

With all of the inactivity your donor and prospective donor is engaged in, you can offer a variety of options to help keep them entertained and informed, from the comfort of their warm living rooms.

  • Give them good reading for a cold winters night. January and February are the perfect time to send out newsy information on your group, your past success, your future plans.  Make sure your communication is meaty and news worthy, capturing the weather dulled eye of your constituency.
  • And to make sure those e-newsletters get to the right place, this is a perfect time to clean up your database.  With the reduced number of donations being processed and less visits to be made, your staff should spend time tidying up. Use an email verification software provider or staff can correspond and validate emails themselves. Capture address and phone while you are at it.
  • While you’re assessing, audit your grant programs, ensuring that you are on track with grantors expectations.  Send love notes to all your grantors, with New Year greetings and a true note of appreciation for what their funding has provided to your clients/mission.
  • Spruce up your website, e-newsletters and social marketing plans for the coming year.  Increase the frequency with which you are sending e-notices on your organizations marketing efforts, driving traffic to your newly spiffed up site.
  • Your staff has unique insight and talent, let others know! Identify media outlets and negotiate opportunities for your staff to contribute articles or podcasts on activities of interest, connected to your mission. A schools newsletter might appreciate a guest blogger or author writing about the importance of home support in education. A local grocer might find an article from an expert in the field of nutrition, valuable in their marketing to their customers.  Nows the time to get those pieces written and published. And don’t dismiss national journals. They need good writing too.
  • Lay the ground work for your spring appeal. Collectively send out notice to your annual donors, giving them insight and a sneak peak at your case for the spring and summer months.
  • Train your board. Your board meets regularly and has clearly defined agendas. Make the January or February agenda one that focuses on philanthropy.  A little bit of elbow grease and knowledge sharing by the board, will prepare them for an active and engaged year.
  • If you are planning a feasibility study, plan to launch it now. Most study participants can be reached by phone or online, so travel is less necessary.  Staff has more time to devote to feasibility study efforts. And the sobering months of January and February will flavor the feedback from your constituents, providing a more realistic and conservative view of your organizations ability to raise those funds through a campaign.

Engaging Your board In Fundraising: Framing Your Perspective

So in my last post we talked a little bit about Passion in your Board being the driving force for Philanthropy. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Lets bring it back to the beginning.

In order to be open to new ideas, its essential we frame our own perspective on the boards involvement in fundraising.

Whats important to know is why bother? We all know that it is often easier to just do it ourselves. The board asks too many questions, is too resistant. Doesn’t believe, isn’t invested, doesn’t even give themselves. They are too judgemental, demanding and disconnected. They are naive and lack the fundamental education to be effective. They are more interested in the type of potatoes to serve at the next gala, or the color of the napkins. Maybe what time to tee off at the golf tournament, or whether its a scramble or best ball format.

Is this how you see your board?

A board’s legal role is to govern and act as fiduciary authority for the nonprofit organization. By their position, their involvement in fundraising is expected. Additionally, their presence on your board puts them on stage. The community is watching. If the community sees a board not raising money for the organization, then the community sees an organization that matters little with regard to their own donation. If the board isn’t involved, then why should they be. Board involvement in fundraising (not only giving of their money but being involved in raising it) validates the nonprofits mission. Nothing will kill an NPO faster than an invisible board of directors.

Also, no organization is an island. It would be virtually impossible for one Exec Director and a fundraising staffer to go out and raise all the money needed to survive. Its a Sisyphean endeavor. But with the board invested AND involved we have tripled and quadrupled our opportunities to get the job done. The network of your board and their networks network, act as a funnel flipped on its side to share the burden and increase the return.

Legal accountability, organizational validation and increased outreach/expanded return, three solid reasons why getting your board involved is critical to the success of fundraising in your organization.

So if its this important, then why cant they get out there and help?

Well here is the reason. And you’re not going to like it. Maybe I’ll lose my followers at this point, but the reality is:

Most board issues are not about the board, but about us.

There, I said it. And for those of you still reading, here is why.

If asked, here is what board members will say about why they are resistant to getting involved in fundraising. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it is a good representation of some of the most commonly heard complaints:

No education

Too overwhelming

Too embarrassing (no skill)

Not aware what they were signing up for

No money themselves

Fear of rejection

Or fear that they are asking too much of someone, something the other can’t part with.

Lack of confidence in plan, process, person, organization

Disinterested

I had a board member say to me once, she would rather shrivel up and die, than ask for money. That’s hard core resistance.

What they say and what they feel are actually two very separate things, but connected. Most boards resist fundrasing because we have not done our job in leading and administering the fundraising effort. We too often lack concrete goals, lack clarity in board roles, we offer hazy expected objectives/outcomes of their efforts, we develop poor organization of the donor pool, we lack research on prospects, we have ineffective communication of organizational success, and so on and so forth. When they say its overwhelming, we have to ask- Are we being clear and concise in our goals? Is the prospect information simply understood, specific and relevant? Is the process organized and direct, with concrete outcomes, strategy and actions steps? Do we have valid measurements to share? When they say they are embarrassed, have we done our job in bringing the mission into the board room, developing passion, choosing the right board members? I can hazard a guess that the early board members of Susan G. Komen Foundation were not embarrassed about fundraising, as they had the passion for the mission, they were the right people for the job.

Being responsible for our board not fundraising doesn’t make us bad or not worthy of support. It does make us take inventory of our internal operations, our strategy, our board development and our leadership, in developing the best possible framework for the board to fundraise within. And thats were our control comes into play.

In my next post we will talk about some of these controls, starting with developing our board of directors to be an engaged, passionate board.

1 in Five Million Billion Trillion

I was twittered about a direct mail letter someone received from St Jude’s Hospital, asking them for a renewal donation. This mass produced letter had a return tear off, preprinted with three separate boxes, in which the recipient was to mark off which donation they would like to make. We all get them. Usually they say $25, $50,$100 or some such combination.

In this case, the tear off read $0, $0, $0. The twittee indicated the letter made the same mistake, asking for a $0 donation like last year.

What?!?!

Clearly this is a mass produced request. Nonprofits like St Judes are the Big Box Store of the nonprofit world. Processing and manufacturing donors in mass production. Quantity over quality. They have to, to feed their gianormous budgets for personnel and S+E costs.

We all use mass mailing companies. What was most objectionable, in this case, is when the twitee called St Judes and questioned the mistake, the hospital said yes it was an error, the mail house did right by them by rebating some money for the production, but the hospital had no intention to follow up with the donors who received the incorrect request, there were just too many.

I dont know about you, but I would NOT want to feel like I was one of so many that a phone call or follow up letter could not be sent. If my dollars are so small to be insignificant enough to justify correction, then I’m not giving to the right organization.

I would bet among those who received the incorrect letter, and were NOT contacted in follow up, were some who would have and could have been life long and major donors potentially sharing millions, if given the attention and respect a letter or phone call would have cost St Judes.

We have come too far from what npo’s were- local, personal, compassionate, respectful companies, helping people with money and intention connect with need.

Never, EVER let your size dictate your stewardship. Find a way or go local.