Tag Archives: non-profit management

Social Capital

Patricia Brandes“Trusting relationships and reflection/rejuvenation are required for building strong networks and collaborations.” That’s the word from Patricia Brandes, executive director of the Barr Foundation. She didn’t say more funding, more collaboration, lower expenses or greater impact. She focuses on the three R’s – relationships, reflection and rejuvenation.

We had the opportunity to hear Brandes speak recently, and she encouraged the audience to value “being” as well as “doing”, acknowledging that “doing” is our culture’s more highly prized verb. Focusing on “being vs. doing” she asked “which will really move a nonprofit forward? Which really supports relationships? Where and how is trust built?”

While many funders invest in “doing” the Barr Foundation invests in “being.” It offers local nonprofit leaders the opportunity to answer the above questions through a fellows program Brandes launched in 2005. The Barr Fellowship is a leadership network designed to celebrate, connect, and empower diverse leaders across Boston.

The fellows program provides three-month paid sabbaticals for Boston nonprofit leaders. Each “fellow” can experience the 3 R’s: no work for three months. No calling in, no emails…. The one requirement: participate in two week-long group learning journeys to locations such as South Africa and Zimbabwe, Brazil, and Haiti.

Back at the nonprofit, board members and employees have to operate without their known leader. This provides new opportunities for interim leaders and the Barr Foundation helps out here too, providing these leaders with peer support and facilitated learning environments. The foundation has found that employees and board members step up in unexpected ways while their leader is on sabbatical.

This fellows program is an example of what Brandes calls “creative disruption.” A sabbatical is highly prized – but awfully disruptive! No more business as usual for the nonprofit, and even more importantly, for the leader. When on sabbatical leaders confront “being” as their primary experience. This often leads to personal discovery and recommitment to what brought them to work in the nonprofit sector in the first place. The group learning journeys take this change process to another level, bringing leaders together across differences and boundaries. As they share time unstructured time together fellows have the opportunity to “be” together and in that process build trust. These trusting relationships later inform new and deeper levels of partnership and collaboration.

Over time the deep value of this fellowship expresses itself. Boston now has a rich network of diverse leaders who have sustained relationships over the years, built social capital, and remained in the nonprofit sector. The foundation found that five years after their sabbatical, 75% of fellow were still at their organizations, 92% were still active in the civic sector in Boston, and 92% were still active in the civic sector nationally.

The results are radically different from the turnover and burnout experienced within many nonprofits. Investment anyone?

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.”  They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them @saadshaw.

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No Short Cuts to Meeting Your Fundraising Goal–Part Two

How do you report that your non-profit has not met its fundraising goal? Do you extend your campaign? Lay off employees? Close programs? Do more with less? Do you simply stop talking about the campaign and hope no one will ask about it?

Grappling with these questions and finding ways to answer them is part of doing business as a non-profit organization or institution. Knowing where the money will come from is vital to ensuring consistent operations and to implementing growth strategies, increasing impact, or financing new ventures.

Our last column discussed the University of Virginia $3 billion capital campaign. As you may recall they have extended their campaign and are seeking to raise the last $240 million by the spring of 2013.  Obviously UVa is in a unique position – very few organizations or institutions can forecast their ability to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in less than a year. But, regardless of the amount, realistically forecasting your fundraising is part of non-profit management.

At the heart of the matter is the question, “how do you know that you can raise the money you need?” And stepping backwards, “how did you come up with your fundraising goal in the first place?”

Our experience has shown that fundraising campaigns require a significant period of planning prior to campaign launch. Here’s a short version of the long list of typical pre-campaign activities. Determine fundraising priorities (how the funds will be used); develop case for support and test amongst potential donors and influencers via market research (“feasibility study”); revise case (including campaign financial goal) based on results of research; identify potential donors and the amount each could give; create campaign plan; solicit and engage campaign leadership; raise 40% – 60% of campaign goal prior to “going public…”

The amount of work can appear overwhelming. But, it is better to know what really goes into fundraising than to build an internal consensus that “we can do it” without knowing two important things: how the philanthropic market responds to your case, and the amount of fundraising capacity and infrastructure required to support your campaign.

When you find you have challenges in meeting your fundraising goal you are experiencing “campaign stall.” It’s not unusual. It occurs within many campaigns and is typically a time to review the campaign plan, reassess strategies, and huddle with campaign leadership. It’s time to see which components of the plan were implemented, which were modified and which were either consciously scrapped or unconsciously overlooked.

In the case for UVa they are rethinking the focus for the balance of their campaign, and looking to increase annual giving. How exactly do you plan to meet your fundraising goal, and what will you do if you are not on target to meet your plan?

No Short Cuts to Meeting Your Fundraising Goal –Part One

“Sadly, I have to report that I and we failed.”

That is not a good message to have to deliver. But it is part of life. The above quote is from a report given by Robert D. Sweeney, senior vice president for development and public affairs to The University of Virginia Board of Visitors at its meeting September 14th.  Sweeny was reporting on the progress of the University’s $3 billion capital campaign. According to The Daily Progress the campaign launched in 2004 and was to conclude at the end of 2011. To date UVa has raised $2.76 billion; the campaign has been extended. “We will be to $3 billion by the spring,” Sweeny said.

While the number of nonprofits launching multi-billion dollar campaigns is small, there are lessons to be learned from publicly available information regarding the UVa campaign.

Here’s what we know: campaign strategy and the economic downturn contributed to the campaign’s challenges. UVa was not exempt from the economic challenges of the past five years. Another factor was strategy.

The Daily Progress reports, “Sweeney said there was a ‘miscalculation’ on the part of UVa officials, who thought they could pull in enough gifts of $10 million and $20 million to offset not having one more $100 million gift… Some consultants had suggested they’d need such a gift but UVa officials had thought otherwise, Sweeney said.”

Obviously most organizations dream of receiving even one $1 million gift. What’s important is not the size of the gifts, but the underlying fundraising principles that were in place or overlooked.

While UVa worked with campaign counsel, it also chose to move ahead despite guidance regarding the number and size of gifts needed to reach the campaign’s goal within the campaign timeframe.

In our experience that is not an unusual decision. It is, however, a risky one. Your campaign goal should be realistic. It should take into account your financial needs, the market’s response to your case, and the number of campaign gifts or grants you can secure.

To raise $1 million you need to know where the money could come from. Who can give $100,000? $50,000?  $25,000? How many gifts of $1,000 to $5,000 can you secure? Ensuring you reach your goal means identifying three times the number of gifts you need to receive; if the first person you ask turns you down you know who else you can ask. If you need 500 gifts to raise $1 million, you should, in general, identify 1,500 potential donors.

As you can see, reaching a campaign goal requires a lot of work. Impatience, overconfidence or miscalculation can be expensive. Think about how you are preparing for your campaign. Are you taking the time you need to be successful or will you find yourself saying, “Sadly, I have to report that I and we failed.”

Vision Mission and Fundraising

Successful nonprofit fundraising doesn’t just happen. It takes planning and preparation. It also requires an understanding and agreement regarding the organization’s mission, vision, strategic direction, goals, and financial position. We know that many times people want to begin fundraising right away. “We need money; we don’t have time to do all that,” is a common cry.

That may be true. And, you may be able to raise money without going through the “trouble” of ensuring understanding and agreement on the above items. But, you can only go so far without doing this work. Here is what we have learned: understanding and agreement, or the lack of these, will inform your fundraising.

Successful fundraising begins long before a fundraising plan is ever created. It starts with your organization’s vision and mission. These two items are at the core of nonprofit operations. It is the vision and mission that drive the strategic direction and goals. And it is the strategic direction that influences fundraising and the use of funds.

Defining the vision and mission can be a group process, but it needs to begin with the chief executive for your organization. He is responsible for ensuring board members, employees and volunteers understand these, and agree with them. He needs to live and breathe the vision and mission. He is also responsible for ensuring the organization’s strategic direction – as documented in the strategic plan – are rooted in the mission and vision.

Your vision and mission should be short and concise. One or two sentences at most, if possible. Your strategic plan can be as simple or as complex as your organization requires. We are partial to a short, clearly written plan that includes easy-to-understand and easy-to-measure goals and objectives.

Sometimes the vision, mission and strategic directions are documented, but they exist primarily on paper and are not the heartbeat of the organization. Things may have changed since they were written. For example, new board members or employees may have joined the organization and may not have participated in an orientation session that communicated these. Or, maybe the needs of the community have changed and the vision and mission need to be updated. You may have achieved the goals of your last strategic plan but not yet created a new one. These are good things to know – and to take action on.

If your vision, mission and strategic plan need revising, take the time to do so. Once these are in place, it is the chief executive’s responsibility to ensure they are understood, that the board and employees are in agreement with them, and that they are put into action.

Working in this way contributes to fundraising success, as fundraising goals need to tie to your strategic plan and its implementation.

For example, when you begin discussing how much money your organization needs to raise you should refer to your strategic plan to map out what you are seeking to achieve over the coming years. From there you can begin to map out costs and fundraising goals.

Here’s some more detail, some things to consider. When the leadership of your organization fully understands your vision and mission they are in a strong position to evaluate – and as necessary modify – the strategic plan. Understanding the strategic plan allows your leadership to make informed financial projections that impact programs and operations. An understanding of the financial position and projections informs fundraising. These can help ensure the organization is engaged in proactive fundraising instead of “emergency fundraising.”

Here are a few questions which can help define what we mean by the term financial position. Is your organization operating in the black? Does it run a deficit? Are there upcoming, required, but unfunded capital improvements or expenditures? Are programs being cut (despite increasing need) because of decreased funding? Does your organization have a pipeline of potential donors and funders who could be solicited should projected donations or revenue decrease? Are there multiple revenue streams, or do the majority of funds come from one source?

Take the time to ensure board members understand the implications of the financial statements they are asked to review. Encourage open discussion and questions regarding the organization’s finances. Discuss the variables that could impact your organization’s financial position, for better or for worse. Ensure that plans are put in place to address these possibilities should they arise. Review the size of the reserve fund and what expenses it could cover. If your organization doesn’t have a reserve fund, put plans in place to create and grow one. A reserve fund provides options for addressing an unanticipated increase in demand or services, or a decrease in revenue.

The economy may change without notice, and donors and funders may change their giving priorities – these are situations beyond anyone’s control.  But, with proper planning, they do not need to jeopardize your organization’s financial health. Consistent monitoring and assessment of finances contributes to organizational stability and growth.

Your organization’s vision, mission, strategic plan and financial position will impact your fundraising success. Take the time you need to discuss and review these and to ensure there is full understanding and agreement amongst your organization’s leadership. This is your starting point for fundraising. Special events, online giving and major donor appeals are strategies that will be impacted by your foundation – or lack of one. Take your time; be prepared.

Volunteer Management – Ten Things to Consider

Volunteers make all the difference in the world!
Here are 10 things you – as a volunteer coordinator – can consider as you grow your program.

  1. Have you developed a volunteer engagement, management and recognition program for your division?
  2. Are volunteer roles and responsibilities for your program clearly defined, documented and updated?
  3. Are you tracking past, current and potential volunteers and how they can be – or are – of service? Are you tracking their interests, relationships and birthdays?
  4. How do you communicate with your volunteers?
  5. How do your volunteers communicate with you?
  6. How do you inspire and motivate your volunteers on a consistent basis?
  7. Have you developed an ongoing support and training program to support and grow volunteer involvement?
  8. Do you encourage volunteers to make a financial gift to your organization?
  9. Have you developed a volunteer manual to help guide and orient your volunteers to your organization and the needs of the community?
  10. Do you have a “buddy system” that pairs new volunteers with more experienced volunteers?

 

Thoughts on Sustainability

Sustainability is a current buzzword. And an important concept for each of us to integrate into our work, our communities, and our personal lives. They are all connected, especially for those of us who work or volunteer in the nonprofit sector. Questions and concerns related to sustainability are often unasked and unanswered. How can we sustain our work in light of growing demand and contracting funds? How long can we continue to operate like this? And, on a personal note, how can I get through today?

The economic challenges of the past five years have pushed these questions to the forefront for many organizations and institutions. Some have closed their doors, others have cut services. Yet others are expanding, collaborating, investing and growing. Both are, in part, responses to the environment. Some are reactive and others proactive.

Our regular readers know we advocate for engaged, committed volunteer leadership and organizational integrity. These are key to sustainability or, more simply, organizational health. Here are some questions and ideas to consider in the area of sustainability.

Are our expectations of ourselves and our organizations reasonable? Are they in line with what is possible or do they push us beyond what we are capable of? When we face our limits – real or perceived – how do we respond?

What are the structures we as leaders put in place to sustain our institutions and our most important resources – our people. For example, are sabbaticals offered to staff at all levels after a set number of years of service? If not, is this possible? If not sabbaticals, how does the institution retain its talent? Are staff provided with opportunities to engage in professional development and networking? How is the executive leadership supported? Does the board partner with the executive in attracting resources, building relationships, and planning for the future?

How are new ideas vetted, accepted or rejected? What about succession planning? How are you cultivating the next generation of leadership? Most importantly, are your programs, advocacy and mission in sync with the current needs of the marketplace? For example, if your institution provides job training or employment preparation services, are these tied to specific needs of this region’s current employers? Valuable resources such as curriculum, teachers and instructors, and students’ time should be allocated most effectively with the end goal in mind – helping prepare residents secure living wage employment and perform well on the job.

Business processes such as payroll, purchasing, record maintenance and decision making should be evaluated. Are these in line with current best practices? Same with technology. Does your institution deploy technology (hardware and applications) that support business processes, data collection, reporting, evaluation and decision making?

We ask these questions not to stress you out, but to encourage you and other members of your leadership team to begin asking critical questions and making strategic investments that can help your organization sustain over time.

Know Your Legal Responsibilities

You may not be a lawyer, but you should know your non-profit related legal responsibilities…

What legal issues should you be aware of regarding your involvement with non-profit organizations? Wanting to provide executive directors, board members, employees and volunteers with information, we talked with Mr. Van Turner a partner in the law firm of BRITTENUM BRUCE, pllc (“Brittenum Bruce”). Mr. Turner’s law practice is concentrated in the areas of business and commercial litigation, business transactions, government relations, municipal law, and estate planning. Most importantly he is also an experienced board member.

Understanding that no interview can take the place of legal counsel, we asked Mr. Turner to help provide a high-level overview of the types of legal issues that can emerge within the non-profit sector. We started at the beginning, asking Turner what it means to be a “501 c 3” organization and what it takes to start one, and we continued with questions about managing endowments, fiduciary responsibilities, taxes, and who is “really in charge” – the board or the executive director.

Our interview is below, followed by more information about Attorney Turner.

Saad & Shaw: Let’s start at the beginning. What does it really mean when an organization is a nonprofit organization? What is a “501 c 3” organization?

Attorney Turner: A nonprofit association is a corporation or corporate entity which is not primarily organized to make a profit. In fact, nonprofits are organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, or educational purposes. The “501 c 3” language comes from the United States Internal Revenue Code and section which defines the types of organizations which are exempt from federal income taxes. In essence, for profit corporations must pay federal income taxes and nonprofit corporations do not have to pay federal income taxes.

Saad & Shaw: Related to that, what does it take to start a non-profit?

Attorney Turner:In order to start a nonprofit, an individual must first complete and file a 1023 Form with the IRS. One must also file the Articles of Incorporation with the Secretary of State in which the company will be headquartered, form a board of directors to govern the company and develop by-laws to govern the board of directors.

Saad & Shaw: What about the board of directors? What are the legal responsibilities of the board of directors? What is their role? Do they run the organization or does the executive director or CEO?

Attorney Turner: The board of directors has a fiduciary obligation to the organization. The legal definition of fiduciary is a person or entity entrusted with the duty to act for the benefit of someone else or something else. A person acting in a fiduciary role must exercise a high degree of care and must subordinate his or her own personal interests in the event that there is a conflict. While the executive director may handle the day to day obligations of the nonprofit, ultimately, the legal responsibility for the organization lies with the board of directors. For example, if the board must decide between what the executive director wants to do and what is in the best interest of the nonprofit, the board has a responsibility to do what is best for the nonprofit.

Saad & Shaw: What should the leadership of a non-profit be aware of when it comes to entering into contracts for goods, services and/or property?

Attorney Turner: The leadership should be aware that he or she is an agent for the nonprofit when entering into contracts. If the board of directors allows the leadership or the officers to negotiate and handle contracts, then everyone must understand that the executive director is binding the nonprofit to the deal. Therefore, if the board later decides that the contract is not good, they cannot come back and rescind the contract without a validly legal reason. The board of directors must make it clear in the by-laws whether it wants to approve every contract or allow the leadership to handle the contracts without board approval. What I usually see is that the board allows the leadership to contract up to a set amount and anything above that amount must be approved by the board.

Saad & Shaw: What about financial management? Are there specific oversights, policies or procedures that need to be in place? What happens if the money just disappears?

Attorney Turner: Yes, of course. A nonprofit is like any other business in that regard. Solid financial management is a must. It is advisable to address a system of checks and balances in the by-laws and to require an annual audit of the financial records. If the money just disappears and the board allows it to happen, then the board will be held accountable along with whoever took the money. If the board had strong procedures and the officers simply stole the money, then the board should probably investigate seeking criminal as well and civil remedies against the bad actor. The nonprofit could also purchase insurance to help cover the cost of theft or embezzlement.

Saad & Shaw: What about gifts and pledges? What should a nonprofit be aware of when accepting a gift or pledge?

Attorney Turner: I suggest that the nonprofit develop a gift acceptance policy. This policy will assist developing a planned and orderly method of knowing which gifts to accept and how to handle the gifts when accepted. For instance, if property is donated to the nonprofit, the nonprofit must develop a procedure for making sure they are receiving good title and that they are not accepting a landmine which would cause more headaches. Also, the policy could assist with spelling out some of the tax issues which may come-up with certain types of gifts.

Saad & Shaw: Is a written pledge really legally binding? If a donor commits to giving a certain amount to an organization, can that person really be held accountable?

Attorney Turner: A written pledge can be legally binding in some states if there is consideration involved. However, this is a state-specific issue and may vary from state to state. Consideration is simply “the thing of value” each party to a contract agrees to give in exchange for what he or she receives. So, for instance, if a nonprofit was going to name a building for someone who pledged a large sum of money and the nonprofit began construction on the project, the court may rule that there was consideration and find that the donor is legally bound to the pledge.

Saad & Shaw: Many of the leaders we talk with are interested in growing an endowment for their organization. Are there specific legal requirements associated with growing and managing an endowment?

Attorney Turner: I would again suggest creating a policy to handle the endowment. One particular issue that I see with an endowment is that the board would likely need to contract with another entity to assist with the financial planning and management of the endowment. The endowment needs to be invested correctly, and the board should have a policy in place to make sure an expert is retained to handle the endowment funds.

Saad & Shaw: What about receiving property from a donor? Or selling property?

Attorney Turner: I believe that the gift acceptance policy should specifically spell out what happens with donated property. Buying and selling property requires much more than executing a simple contract. The title of the property must be analyzed, insurance must be purchased, the proper disclosures need to be made, and the financing, if any, must be analyzed very carefully.

Saad & Shaw: Everyone says nonprofits don’t have to pay taxes. Is this true?

Attorney Turner: Yes, nonprofits are exempt from paying federal income taxes as long as they maintain their charitable purpose, apolitical purpose. I must note here that nonprofits are forbidden from engaging directly in politics. While 501 (c)(3) nonprofit corporations can encourage the franchise of voting by encouraging citizens to vote, they cannot support one candidate or one political party over the other.

Saad & Shaw: let’s talk about the not-so-pleasant possibilities. What about embezzlement and misappropriation of funds? What happens if someone suspects that this is going on? What actions should be taken by the board or executive leader?

Attorney Turner: The board should immediately remove the executive leader from the bank accounts. Further, the board should then request an audit to see what has been misappropriated. Furthermore, the board should also alert the authorities as to what has occurred. The board should also seize the executive’s computer. Even if the executive has deleted emails and materials on the computer, those materials can be retrieved and can assist in trying to figure out what happened with the money.

Saad & Shaw: We have covered a lot of issues in this conversation. Do you have any last words of wisdom for our readers?

Attorney Turner: Remember that the board has a fiduciary obligation to run the nonprofit. This means that if the board does not have the expertise, it should retain the expertise to make sure it is correctly conducting the business of the nonprofit. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and this simply means that taking time out on the front-end to develop solid by-laws and policy and procedures can prevent several issues later on as the nonprofit develops and grows.

Saad & Shaw: Thank you Attorney Turner.

About Attorney Van D. Turner

Van D. Turner, Jr. is a partner in the law firm of BRITTENUM BRUCE, PLLC (“Brittenum Bruce”). Mr. Turner’s law practice is concentrated in the areas of business and commercial litigation, business transactions, government relations, municipal law, and estate planning. Before joining Brittenum Bruce, Attorney Turner was of counsel at Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Cannada & Stevens, PLLC (“Butler Snow”). Prior to practicing at Butler Snow, Mr. Turner served as Associate General Counsel for the Board of Education of the Memphis City Schools and as judicial law clerk for the Honorable Samuel Hardy Mays, Jr., federal judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.

Attorney Turner participates and has served on the board of directors of several legal professional organizations, including the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the Tennessee Bar Association, the Mississippi Bar Association, and the Memphis Bar Association. Mr. Turner’s most notable honors include Memphis Business Journal, 2007 “Top Forty Under 40”, Super Law Magazine, Mid-South Rising Stars for 2010 and 2011 in the areas of litigation and government relations, and selection as a Barrister in the Leo Bearman Sr., American Inns of Court. Mr. Turner has also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Memphis, C.C. Humphreys School of Law.

Mr. Turner earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1997, with Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude distinctions. After serving as an Assistant Teacher of English with the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program in Yamanashi, Japan, Attorney Turner returned to the United States and attended the University of Tennessee College of Law, where he earned his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 2002. Mr. Turner is licensed to practice law in Tennessee and Mississippi.

You can reach Attorney Turner at vturner@brittenumbruce.com  or (901) 271-3794.

Volunteers: The Key to Nonprofit Success

Fundraising: Nonprofit board roles and responsibilitiesPart 5

Volunteers are at the heart of fundraising. They make all the difference in the world. They are passionate, connected, creative, and talented. And they need to be managed. Ask anyone who has served as a fundraising volunteer and you will quickly learn what made their experience great and what fueled disappointment. Perhaps you, as a volunteer, have experienced the joys and the pitfalls.

Here are some things to keep in mind. As an organization, make sure you know exactly what you want people to do before seeking volunteers. Create a one-page document outlining “roles and responsibilities” for each type of volunteer you need. Outline expectations for event volunteers, members of the phone-a-thon committee, or the corporate sponsorship committee. It may sound like a lot of work, but if people don’t know what you are asking them to do, it is hard for them to hit the mark.

If you are asked to help with fundraising, ask questions before saying “yes.” If you are not provided with written roles and responsibilities, request them. Here’s how to say “yes” while setting boundaries around your involvement:  “That sounds like something I can do. Would you write up your expectations, and any dates I should be aware of? I will review and confirm.”

When you say “yes,” treat your volunteer commitments as seriously as you treat your personal and professional commitments. Apply your talents and creativity, ask questions, engage your network.  You can provide valuable resources and leadership that are beyond the scope of staff.

As a volunteer you can make a difference by providing printing, web design services, meeting facilitation, a reduced or no-cost lease, food, legal services, transportation or products/services directly related to the organization’s mission. You can host a gathering at your office introducing the organization to your peers and encouraging them to give money and pro-bono services.

As a staff member, you need to be prepared to manage volunteers and respond to their requests and ideas. Allocate time for this. Be prepared to change how you do business. Volunteers may make requests that stretch your resources and your thinking. You may feel frustrated. That’s natural, but unhelpful. Be prepared to partner and to change.

Volunteers can take you to new levels; they can open doors that staff only dream of. Be prepared. Clearly communicating roles and responsibilities sets a framework for accountability. From there you can negotiate as volunteers bring new ideas to the table. You can choose to think of volunteers as “prima donnas” who take up your time. Or you can consider their requests and ideas as reasonable responses that arise out of their desire to help you. If your organization allocates adequate time to managing and supporting volunteers all parties can benefit.

© Copyright Saad & Shaw.  Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

Your fundraising quarterback: Staff

Fundraising: Nonprofit board roles and responsibilities – Part 4.

Have you heard this before: “We’ll hire the right person and they will raise the money.” Hmmm…. If only fundraising were so simple. Here’s a short list of problems associated with this perspective. First, the board is ultimately responsible for fundraising and needs to be engaged at all times. Then there’s the issue of how to identify, hire, manage and retain experienced fundraisers. Let’s not forget the adage “people give to people” which includes peer-to-peer fundraising.

While fundraising staff cannot go it alone, there is plenty they can and should focus on. Their number one priority is to support and supplement the fundraising work of board members and volunteers. Fundraising professionals are actually volunteer managers who identify, motivate and support the work of volunteers. They have strong people skills.

As a means of supporting volunteers, staff develop materials that “make the case” for giving to your organization. They develop and manage the fundraising plan, organizing the work of volunteers, employees and others. Working closely with the CEO and chair of the development committee, they keep the board up-to-date on fundraising successes, challenges, and opportunities.

They also maintain accurate information on current and prospective donors, produce reports that show funds raised from different sources using different methods; manage online and direct mail campaigns; write proposals and submit reports to funders; send thank you notes and gift receipts; and manage special events.

Fundraising staff are responsible for building infrastructure and capacity. They help ensure marketing and communications tie to fundraising, and, as appropriate, help develop cause marketing programs and donor benefit packages. They focus on fundraising all day, every day.

Finally, here are some things to consider. Demand for experienced fundraisers is greater than the supply. Many individuals have experience in one or two aspects of fundraising, but may not have experience with the methods your organization uses. Staff need to be managed by the executive director. They need to have measurable goals they can reference when allocating their time on a daily or weekly basis. “Raising enough money to cover the budget” is not an adequate goal and will not ensure the financial health of your organization. We recommend goals such as “prepare for and facilitate six meetings with fundraising volunteers” or “identify 30 new prospective donors who can give $1,000 or more” or “working with board members identify three local businesses interested in pursuing a cause marketing program.”

When hiring, consider people new to fundraising with successful sales experience. Many understand the identification, cultivation, solicitation, stewardship cycle and are experienced meeting goals. Always allocate time for staff to attend meetings or conferences of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and for other training and networking opportunities.

© Copyright Saad & Shaw.  Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

Where Does the Buck Start?

Fundraising: Nonprofit CEO roles and responsibilities – Part Three

It’s an honor and a privilege to serve as a non-profit executive. And a lot of work! You are the CEO and the chief development officer. That means fundraising. Even if you have a vice president for advancement, or a development director. At the end of the day the proverbial “buck” stops with you.

The fundraising expectations are real, whether the board tells you explicitly or not. Major responsibilities include articulating the organization’s vision, and working with the board and development team to create a case for support that will drive fundraising. You also have to work with the development office to ensure the organization works from an agreed-upon fundraising plan. That’s the beginning.

You need to work closely with the board, development staff and fundraising volunteers providing motivation and asking hard questions. Examples include “how many prospective major donors have we identified, and how many are we cultivating?” “Who is researching prospective grant opportunities?” “How is the board progressing with its goal of hosting ten friend-raisers this year?” “Who should I meet with when I am in Washington next month?”

In most cases you are the face and voice of the organization. That means scheduling time to meet with community leaders, as well as current and prospective donors/funders, to develop and sustain relationships, and share the organization’s fundraising goals and priorities. And, to solicit gifts.

As the executive, you are truly the chief development officer, regardless of how many development employees there are. At the end of the day donors, funders and partners want to meet the executive director. And when it comes to major donors, many want to meet with you before making a meaningful gift. Many major donors expect you to “make the ask.” They will not write a check because you send a direct-mail letter. Most will not make a major gift online. They expect you to ask.

In addition to asking you have to manage your development staff. You are responsible for ensuring they work from a development/fundraising plan, that they have the resources they need (people, funding, software, marketing materials), and that they are making progress. You have to know how to guide and support your development team. And how to provide them with measurements they are held accountable to. Quick tip: those measurements have to be more than “meet annual fundraising goal.”

One of your most important responsibilities is to partner with the board chair in the recruitment and retention of board members and volunteers who are committed to fundraising. This is one of the most important “resources” the organization needs to be successful. People truly give to people. And volunteers – board members and others – can help transform your organization in meaningful ways, if you engage them. Be open, accessible, prepared and unafraid to ask. You will do well. Your organization believes in you.

© Copyright Saad & Shaw.  Mel and Pearl Shaw are the owners of Saad & Shaw. They help non-profit organizations and institutions rethink revenue sources. They are the authors of How to Solicit a Gift: Turning Prospects into Donors. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.