Tagged: work

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.

Ethical Bonus Structure for Fundraisers

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In a recent discussion on a group in LinkedIn, the topic of commissions for fundraisers was a hotly debated point of disagreement, and often fierce agreement, among posters.

After 50 posts, the group began to consider another question:  If not commission, then is there an ethical way to offer compensation as a bonus for work well done by fundraisers?

I posted my response, outlining my successful experience and ethical structure for providing bonus compensation to staff. The response for a copy of the outline was overwhelming and after responding to a few by email, I decided to post it to my website for free download (PDF). You can go there and if you have further questions, feel free to contact me.

A few more thoughts on bonus compensation, and then would love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

Bonuses work. It’s a studied fact. But they don’t work in isolation and should be combined with non-tangible compensation as well. People want to be acknowledged and validated for their value, in ways additional to monetary compensation.

Establishing and working toward bonus goals should never be done in a vacuum. The goals-

  • Must be drawn from an organizational strategic plan, and relate directly to how the employee can help the org reach their departmental goals.
  • Must include more than just financial goals, and ideally only reflects financial goal achievement of the TEAM.
  • Must be developed in a collaborative fashion between the employee and supervising staff.
  • Must be built on the capacity for the fundraiser and the organization to achieve the goals realistically (“Can we get there from here?” is always a number one consideration in building bonus goals.)
  • Must be a PART of an overall performance management assessment tool and not the only factor.
  • Must be tracked monthly. Its only fair that the fundraiser knows where he stands on a regular basis, so that he can improve his performance or making changes to his approach. No surprises.
  • Must be calculated with a balanced, but benevolent approach and must include supervisory staff as well as Executive Leadership in determining final calculations. For smaller NPO’s that may mean ED and a Board member.
  • Must leave room for discussion. Don’t deliver it in an email or paycheck envelope, please!
If managed correctly, with sensitivity, a fierce determination to goal achievement and ongoing support- it can only be an ethical approach.

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.

Engaging your Board in Fundraising Part II

So I’ve struck a nerve!

More people have written to me about this topic since my last two posts than ever before. So first, thanks for reading. Its good to know that this blog has value in the cyber world for those of us doing the heavy lifting in funding our mission driven nonprofits! Secondly, your response has driven me to develop a series of posts on “Engaging your Board in Fundraising”. I recently had the opportunity to teach at a conference in Boston on just this topic and the feedback and interest was remarkable. So based on that presentation (the PPT can be found at my Linked in site here ), I’ll be blogging over the course of a week in a series, sharing insight and recommendations on board engagement in fundraising.

Enjoy and thanks for your commendations 🙂

Engaging your Board in Fundraising

Boards are complex and can be your best friend and worst enemy.     A frienemy.

We rely on our board for governance, engagement, advocacy, financial authority and leadership. We ask their input, seek their counsel and require their approval. They come to us from the community,  some as a requirement and some as a favor. They are the voice of the people.

From the people, it should therefore be easy for them to go back to the people to ask for support.

But it isn’t always so.

Most executive directors and nonprofit officers will tell you that getting their board to raise funds is one of,   if not THE,   biggest challenge they face.   Its often uncomfortable for the board and the ED to talk about the issue. Fundraising by the board is alluded to in the ED’s reports, it is referred to in the board documents, but it is not always the reality.

We will be presenting an important workshop on September 29th in Boston on just this subject.   Not to be missed!

Hosted by the Center for Nonprofit Success, we will be speaking on “Engaging your Board in Fundraising”:

Your board can be among your most powerful fundraising assets. That is, if you use it correctly. Too often, the board is not involved in fundraising or views fundraising as a daunting task. The result is that many board members neglect their responsibilities, which are then left to staff members who have too many other responsibilities already. To address this problem, your board members need to be reminded of the importance of their fundraising responsibilities, and learn concrete tools and techniques that make fundraising a rewarding task.

Topics we will cover include:

  • Why board members fear fundraising, and what you can do about it
  • What board members need to know to start fundraising
  • Steps for energizing your board even when you are not on the board
  • How to deal with board members who won’t fundraise even when they know they should
  • Building and maintaining the fundraising partnership between the board and  development staff

You will gain fresh ideas to energize your board members about fundraising. The session is designed for beginning to intermediate fundraisers.

Click here for more information on the conference and to register. As conferences go, this one is relatively inexpensive but the material and insight you’ll gain is incredibly rich.

We will see you there!!!

On Hiring a Consultant

You’re experiencing problems in your organization. Maybe you’re losing donors. Maybe your board is not working together, not working at all, or maybe you’ve lost board members. Perhaps you are experiencing high turnover of staff. Or maybe you don’t think you are getting as much out of your staff as you think you should.

Or maybe you’re just not making enough in philanthropic revenue as might be possible.

What ever your reason, you’ve begun to think about bringing in a consultant to help fix it all.

So what’s next?

BEFORE THE HIRE

Before making a phone call and sending out an SOS, get your thoughts in order. Get on paper answers to some of the following questions:

  • What are your problems ? (what are you seeing and why do you think they exist?). Categorize if more than one or two exist.
  • What do you expect to accomplish by bringing in a consultant?
  • What are you specifically interested in having the consultant do?
  • What outcomes would you need to see, that states “Job well done”?
  • Do you have enough staff resources to support this endeavor?
  • How long do you have to accomplish this?
  • How much financial resources are you willing to spend on this?
  • What financial resources can you commit to spending on this?

Having a thought out plan to share with the consultant will help in delineating if they can help you, and if they can, what areas might be the focus and what resources can be allocated.

THAT FIRST MEETING

You’ve made the call, maybe a few calls, to consultants that came recommended. Having recommendations from colleagues, other organizations, membership groups you might be a part of, board members, volunteers, donors, etc is a pretty important part of the process. It’s not a good idea to open the Yellow Pages to C for consultant. There are plenty of people out there who have used a consultant that they will either rave or ravish. Reach out and get those names.

So now you have a few meetings lined up to review your problems with some consultants. The purpose of this first meeting is twofold: Do they have the capacity to help with the problems AND are they a good fit with you, your board, your staff, and your organization. Finding the right fit is actually 99% of what will make or break your experience. No need to fret over whether you go large or small, with regard to the size of the consulting firm, right now. Get a good mix of both to sit with you and review the issues. It’s your time to decide if the person they send is a match. In rare cases, during a really good economy, large consulting firms may not be interested in your issues if they do not feel the value of the contract is worth their time. In today’s economy – 2010- we are seeing much less of this.

It’s a good idea to send your cheat sheet, as developed above, out to each consultant ahead of time. If you’re not comfortable sending financials regarding what your budget is, simply put a range in, or indicate you have a financial pro forma developed that will be shared at a later discussion.

REVIEW OF PROBLEMS

It’s important that the consultant has a good understanding of what you are experiencing and why you think it came to be- it will help them feel confident that you have a good grasp of your business and that you are prepared to be an active part of the consulting process. It also helps them to begin to determine what services and programs might be helpful to your organization, who they might need to bring in, how long it might take.

Be prepared to share info on the details of other areas of your organization. You might not think them relevant in the moment but a well balanced organization is all connected- like a skeleton- so if one part of the organization is experiencing difficulty, it may be directly related to another part not working well, but totally overlooked. For instance, if you are a nonprofit medical facility, and your growth of annual donors is down or stagnant, the consultant may want to hear about your patient base: how many, where from, what socio-economic area, how you are connected in any way.

Set aside about an hour and a half for this first meeting. Really be willing to offer insight and ask questions. Aside from some general questions such as experience, past clients, success stories, size and scope of firm, other firm professionals, be ready to ask some more specific questions as well, such as:

  • What would you indicate is your firms (or your) area of expertise. (Two or three areas are the norm. If they rattle off a laundry list, beware).
  • Will you teach us to do this work ourselves? Will you provide templates for us to carry on with out you?
  • Do your recommendations frequently require the client to purchase a program, service or product from you or from someone you recommend?
  • How many clients do you normally work with at one time? Will you return phone calls or emails the same day? Do you require administrative support from us?
  • What kind of documentation will you give us when the project is completed? Who will own that documentation? Will you sign a confidentiality agreement?

This first meeting is all about the fit and the details on your needs and their ability to meet those needs. It is NOT the time to talk money. Asking a consultant “what would you charge to do this” is like asking your doctor “what is the diagnosis” before he has even done an exam.        The consultant needs time to process the notes he or she has taken (he should be taking notes) and to review some possible scenarios with his team or by himself.

What you should ask for is a written proposal for consulting services. This will usually follow up the first meeting by about 5 business days (a hungry, confident firm will get it to you in two days). The proposal should outline: Background (yours and theirs), scope of work, and approach to the work, timeline and terms. Feel free to offer a template to the consultant if you want to have all of the firms you spoke with bring you similar data you can compare. A template is offered free for download at our website www.harvestdevelopmentgrp.com

FOLLOW UP

Before the meeting ends, ask the consultant if there is anything else they might need from you to get the proposal in by X (give them a date). Also leave them with a contact person, if other than you, to answer any further questions they might have. Ask for the same in return.

When reviewing the proposal, make sure they have captured all of the information on the issues you revealed to them. They should give you insight into some possible causes that may have been unknown or overlooked. The proposal should also provide detailed information on what specifically they will be doing, what they will be providing by jobs end and what tangible benefits should be received by your organization as a result of their consulting services. It should also indicate what resources you will need to provide, what they will bring to the table and what they will want to access during their contract to manage the work you need completed. Finally it should give the costs, broken out by sub contract if more than one area needs to be addressed, the timeframe for completion with milestones, and the terms for payment.

Recently, we have seen nonprofit consulting firms take up a practice long used in marketing and advertising agencies: the packaged product. These consulting firms have a one size fits all process that they will want to use in working with your organization. The packaged product usually has a catchy name, “The Advantage Solution” or “Copernicus Planned Giving Strategies”, and is trademarked for their firm. Avoid these like the plague. These packaged products are meant to raise the profile and the brand of the consulting firm, but do little to address the core needs of the organization they are supporting. Like the McDonalds or Burger King of nutrition, you might enjoy the process, but in the end your organization will not be nourished.

HIRING

The process is complete, and you have found your consultant. Congratulations!! Be sure to run their contract by your legal advisor before signing. Make sure you are knowledgeable about their payment expectations. List out a series of reports and touch points that you will want to see during the process. Introduce them to your board and staff. And off you go!!

carpe diem

Seize the Day! Wisdom from the Roman ages.

So many excellent fundraising plans have been the foundation for failure…. All because the individuals implementing them did not seize the day. We spend numerous hours and beau coup resources developing the intricate, detailed and exceptionally well coordinated strategic plans. And we don’t file them, we leave them on our desktops ensuring we look at them daily. And yet, if we don’t seize the moment we end up with mediocre results. We can do a task or we can seize a task. The difference being the enthusiasm, focus and energy we bring to the effort.
Each day we are given 24 hours. I’m not suggesting we work longer. I’m saying work each minute to its maximum. If your plan requires 20 calls this month, make them matter. Give each call thought and attention, preparation. Plan what outcome you’ll be satisfied with after each call is completed: an appointment? More data? A promise to chat again? If your plan calls for developing a new product or service, get your hands dirty- to your elbows- in research and design. If your plan calls for getting this product out the door, wake up sprinting to the finish line, making sure everyone knows the item is ready for delivery.
We only have this moment. Make it count.

Vacate!!

Spending some much needed time with women friends, in the warm winds, crystal blue sea and white sands of AMI.
While I’m gone, spend some time watching Stefan Sagmeister explain the benefit of his year long sabbatical, which he takes every seven years. [ted id=649]

“Locard’s Exchange Principle” or “Some armchair philosophy to start your morning”

When someone comes in contact with another person or place, something of that person is left behind, and something is taken away.
“Locard’s Exchange Principle”

Edmund Locard was a 20th century forensic scientist and director of the first crime lab in Lyon, France in 1910.
His theory postulates that wherever two things meet, evidence exists of their meeting. In his case, he was speaking in terms of crimes against humanity.
But in recent years, his theory has been used in terms of more positive meetings as well. Although it continues to be used in crimes, including white collar crimes of a business and financial nature, it has been applied to explore interactions that result in the advancement of positive outcomes: mentoring, coaching, management, consumerism and philanthropy.

How does the theory apply to you in a positive way? What ‘fingerprints’ exist due to your personal contact with others. Globally it is evident that the work of nonprofit organizations change individual lives. But Locard was speaking on a more singular interaction, the one on one imprint of a conversation, written communication, action.
A mentor hypothesized yesterday that “relationships are the conversation”. That everything else before and after: your thoughts, inner dialogue, intentions are not a relationship, it exists only within the communication you are having with the other person. And to review that communication, in the moment and after, to assess your relationship.
How often do we think in terms of communicating with the intention of enhancing the relationship? Of the relationship as a means of leaving an imprint, of employing Locards theory?

I for one believe Locards theory can be applied universally. Maybe it deserves a plaque above our desks, on our walls, on our hearts, to help us remember that we are not moving through this world alone, but in connection and concert with everyone and everything around us. And that we are leaving an imprint.
Talk about authenticity.