Topic: Nonprofit Organizations

It’s All About Principle and Method

Clients come to Harvest Development Group with a variety of challenges facing their nonprofit organizations, but the underlying reason they need our help boils down to two simple aspects of their operations —  Principle and Method.

Principle and Method are the key elements of our work. The principles and methods may differ from organization to organization, but both are required to reach successful outcomes. Let’s put this into simple terms and examine the principle and method for getting dressed in the morning.

A Principle is a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning. Principles are established through trial, error, and observation. There are some common principles in getting dressed: one has to believe and agree that being dressed is important. An article of clothing is required to be classified as being dressed. To be accessible, the garment needs a place to reside when it’s not on our body. The garment also needs to be the right size and shape to fit our body. Finally, we need to be trained to assemble and secure the garment, learning techniques like buttoning, zippering and tying.

A Method is a particular form of procedure for accomplishing or approaching something;  a simple or detailed organized plan, sufficient to achieve successful outcomes. Some methods are “proven” meaning they have a good track record of success. Others are groundbreaking and innovative. There are many methods one can apply to getting dressed, each one personalized to our desired outcome. I used to watch my children get dressed — one putting one leg at a time into his pants and the other putting both legs into the pants before pulling them up. Each served their own purpose and both reached the successful outcome of wearing their pants. Efficiency and personal preference seemed to drive their actions.

The same concept of Principles and Methods can be applied to the business operations of a nonprofit organization. There are established, researched, well defined principles in program development, board development, philanthropy, recruitment and staffing. There are individualized methods that have been proven to work, and others that are innovative, which are applied to each as well.

When nonprofits contact Harvest Development Group for help, we assess to gauge what is at the root of the problem. With this information in mind, we teach the organization to apply the principles that lend support to these problems, and develop and apply the methods necessary to deliver on the outcomes they desire. So, as you can see, it all boils down to two simple aspects of your operation — Principles and Methods.

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

Image.

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

telling-a-secret

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

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

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

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

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

The Accidental Fundraiser

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

The Benefits of Collaboration

co-working space

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

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

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

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

Shared space= shared experiences= stronger outcomes= more success! Want to learn more, send us an email at [email protected] or call us at 888-586-1103.

Lead or Follow?

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Implement and calculate the assessment

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

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

12 Useful, Well-Designed, Worth-Downloading iPhone Apps Created by Nonprofits

12 Useful, Well-Designed, Worth-Downloading iPhone Apps Created by Nonprofits.

I love what she does.

However with this post, I have a problem.

Not with the post itself, per se, but the idea that iPhone Apps for nonprofits are a valuable use of resources.

I own an iPod, and an iPad.   I can tell you, desktop is prime territory and my GB’s like gold.    I only download apps that I know I will use frequently and will rely on for regular (read daily) access.    And yes, maybe a few fun ones too, that I go to in my downtime periodically.

I don’t think I am that much different from other iTech users.

And so, the thought of downloading an app from a nonprofit doesn’t fit with how I dole out my space and memory.    I just wouldn’t find the function of clicking the app for updates that appealing.  Even the ones listed in Heather’s blog above, while they have the sex appeal, are not pragmatically useful- how many times will I need to know what the bird in front of me sounds like?   Or have an overwhelming urge to find out where in this very moment are animals being abused?   Cool to access once, twice, maybe three times, but not GB worthy.    I could simply bookmark these sites  in Safari and get the same result, maybe more, since apps tend to have a more limited function than a full site.

I guess I could see if I were a board member or staff member of a not for profit organization, I might consider an app a cool tool and something desirable in a way.    But really, for the NPO, why spend thousands on developing an app for a handful to access.    Even a couple hundred, if you are a national or international NPO, doesn’t seem like a good use of resources.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  My recommendation: Spend your money making your website mobile optimized.

I’ve been following the nonprofit sector and their discovery of technology for quite a while.    I’ve also lived the experience for over 20 years, from networked databases, to a ‘flashy’ (no pun intended) new website, to internet access for staff- all the various areas of fumbling, bumbling and discovery along the way.   In full disclosure, I am also a partner in a tech start up – Donorfull– for the nonprofit sector.   I believe Nonprofit Apps are one of those “sounded.like.a.good.idea,.cause.everyone.is.doing.it,aren’t.we.hip,but.it.really.is.limited” kind of moments.    Unless someone can come up with an exciting and convincing argument for me as to what possible benefit, goal or stimulating outcome could come of it, I’ll continue to direct and discourage my clients from wandering into this forest.

We’ll all be less ‘appy’ but ‘appy-er’ for it.

Mobile Ready?

Mobile ready?:

Just a decade ago, we were all wondering why we needed a website and what would we even do with one? Webshot capture of AOL.com from 2001

Now here we are with content rich, visually exciting desktop websites…and then bam! – Mobile.

According to this very thorough research study by Jakob Nielsen, last year was the year of mobile in terms of growth- more mobile sites developed and launched. This year is the year of redesign. Requirements and user expectations have gone up. How to improve your users experience? Design a separate mobile site. Have clear links from desktop to mobile and vice versa. Design for the small screen. Limit number of features.

So nonprofits, how about you? Do you have a mobile specific site for your donors, advocates, clients and volunteers? Do you want one?

Check out donorfull.com, a tech start up focused specifically on empowering nonprofits to benefit from the mobile revolution. As a partner in this new venture, I can’t express how excited I am about being able to finally offer the tools and the assistance to the nonprofit sector – in an affordable and easily understood/implemented way!

Join our newsletter list at donorfull.com, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to stay up to date on our launch announcement. Blog coming soon to help you prepare to be empowered 🙂

How a gift to someone else, can be the perfect gift for your Dad

Dad’s, at least the Dad’s of my generation, had two jobs- Earn an Income and Make Pancakes on Sunday Night for Mom’s night off.

The first we knew represented his RESPONSIBILITY to his family.

The second we knew represented his LOVE for our mother and for us.

There never seemed anything we could do to repay  him.  There wasn’t a tie nor trip nor lighter nor ballgame ticket which could ever- EVER- be as valuable as what he gave and sacrificed and provided for our welfare, spirit and education.

And so maybe we stop trying. We give up on the gifts and just purchase a card. Or maybe we continue to maniacally hunt down JUST THE RIGHT THING, in a blind, ambitious desire to give him something that comes close to saying Thank You.

What Dad was doing was not only loving and nurturing his wife and his family. He was passing down years of learned respect and responsibility, he was educating us on what Fatherhood really means, he was mentoring and coaching a future generation to prepare them for the same offering of self that he so willingly provided, in love and in gratitude for all he was given.

And believe me, he doesn’t want a present for that. What he wants is to know that all of that good stuff has been passed on, that it continues and grows and moves beyond his years to others.

So this year, give him what he deeply desires, by supporting a nonprofit “Fatherhood Initiative” .

Fatherhood is not DNA encoded. It is not something every boy is born knowing, and sadly many do not  experience  in their short lifetime.

But it CAN be learned. And it CAN be shared. And it will live on through the noble work of these organizations and more.

Here are some to get you started. And when you give, give generously as Dad did, from your need, not your excess. And then say Thank You Dad.