Tag Archives: Nonprofit organization

How do you count your money?

MoneyA cornerstone of successful nonprofit fundraising is trust. While there are many reasons to give, there are also reasons why people, foundations and corporations do not give. One reason is a lack of trust: donors and funders don’t trust the nonprofit to use the funds for the stated purpose. Here are some suggestions to help ensure your institution or organization retains a high level of trust from current and prospective donors.

Whether you are raising funds for an annual campaign or for a capital, endowment or other campaign the process of building trust begins with how you define what you are raising money for. Gain consensus amongst leadership (board and executive) regarding how much money you seek to raise and how the funds will be used. Be specific. Measure your progress against the agreed upon goal.

Work with the development committee of the board to develop gift acceptance policies. These can help avoid future confusion. For example, how long are your pledge periods, and when do you write off uncollected pledges? How do you account for gifts of real estate?

Be specific when talking about fundraising progress. A donor may have given a verbal commitment for a large gift, but you can’t include it in your fundraising total until it has been received or until you have a signed pledge agreement in place. The gift may not materialize.

Develop standardized fundraising reports that clearly communicate how much has been raised and for what purposes. Differentiate between pledges and actual funds received. When in the midst of a major fundraising campaign you are sure to receive multi-year pledges. These are vital, but they are also typically difficult to spend until the funds are received. Develop reports that show when pledge payments are expected to be received. These should match the terms of each pledge agreement.

When conducting a comprehensive campaign, list your fundraising priorities, and how much has been raised towards each. You may be able to reach or exceed your overall fundraising goal but may not have the funds you need to implement all stated priorities. This can occur when donors are inspired by a campaign and choose to make a restricted gift to a non-campaign priority. You should celebrate such gifts – but be careful how you include them in campaign accounting.

Remember – different people have different foci when it comes to counting money. Bring in the CFO, the CEO and your fundraising team and agree on how you will record and report on your fundraising. Be sure to reconcile fundraising reports with those produced by the finance office. Do this on a monthly basis.

If it sounds like we are focusing on small details, you are right. Don’t claim a fundraising success you cannot substantiate – it can come back to haunt you.

Picture credit: 401(K)2012 via Flickr

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 on Twitter: @saadshaw.


Gifts that keep on giving

Holiday giving,  holiday gifts, nonprofit, gift givingLet the holiday season begin! Thanksgiving ushers in six weeks of busyness as we reunite with family and friends for dinners, parties, and holidays such as Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This is a time of gift giving. In addition to daily business and family activities our minds find time to weigh questions such as “What would my children enjoy?” and “When should I order the turkey?” and, of course, “How can I give to all the people I love without going broke?”In the midst of all this holiday activity comes the busy season for nonprofit fundraising. Some organizations and institutions encourage us to give before the year-end to take advantage of tax benefits, while others offer opportunities to remember those who are less fortunate. Still others invite us to imagine new expressions and manifestations of the arts, leadership, education, and science.

If you can take a moment to escape the hustle and bustle of the season you may find a way to combine celebrations, gift giving and support for nonprofits that are important to you and your family. You can put the busyness of the season in perspective by spending the afternoon with your children volunteering at a local hospital, food bank, senior center, or veterans home. When considering what to give, consider underwriting a child’s pre-K education by giving to a program that had their funds cut this year. You’ll be giving a gift that will make an impact for a lifetime. You can make that gift in honor of a family member. Other ideas include purchasing gloves or socks in bulk to give to people who are homeless in your community. Spend an afternoon making tasty sandwiches and share them with people who are hungry.

Talk with your faith leader, college representative or another trusted person “in-the-know” to find out which out-of-state (or out-of-country!) college students need a home for the holidays and open your home and heart. If your neighbor is in need, consider purchasing a gift card she can use at a local grocery store. This is an ideal time for a gift to the food bank.

Gifts to scholarship funds are easily made on-line and are more important than ever as so many students are losing access to Parents PLUS loans. Give to help those half-way around the world by supporting victims of the typhoon in the Philippines. If you are thinking of purchasing a pet for your child, consider adopting one from your local nonprofit animal rescue or ASPCA. Many nonprofits publish beautiful calendars – consider giving one as a gift. Purchase your Christmas tree from a nonprofit and holiday cards from UNICEF.

Most importantly, sit down as a family and share the gratitude you experience. Then find a way to give in ways that speak to your hearts.

Photo Credit: Nonprofit Hub

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 on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Mission, Vision, and Plan


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 non-profit operations. It is the vision and mission that drive your strategic direction and goals. And it is the strategic direction that influences fundraising and the use of funds.

The chief executive for your organization is the person responsible for the vision and mission. Depending upon the structure of your organization this person could be the director, executive director, the chief executive officer, the president or chancellor. He or she is the person responsible for ensuring board members, employees, and volunteers understand the mission and vision and are in agreement with these. He is also responsible for ensuring the organization’s strategic direction — as documented in the strategic plan — is rooted in the mission and vision.

The work of defining your nonprofit’s mission and vision may have been done years ago. Or, these may be still evolving. Sometimes the process of defining these can appear to be complicated and too time consuming. But clearly defining these is critically important – they are the bedrock from which you will create your strategic, business, and/or operating plans. They are what will ultimately drive your fundraising.

Here’s how it works. Your mission and vision inform the creation of your strategic plan. Your strategic plan sets the path for your operations and activities. Knowing your current and projected future operations and activities informs your fundraising. While you can always raise some money, meeting your fundraising goal will require that you know how much you are seeking to raise and for what current and projected purposes. It all ties back to your mission and vision.

Here are our simple definitions. Your vision statement communicates your vision for the future — what you are seeking to achieve. Your mission statement communicates the purpose of your organization. Your strategic plan communicates how you will bring your vision and mission to life..

Your vision and mission statements 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 short, clearly written plans that include easy-to-understand and easy-to-measure goals and objectives.

Once the vision and mission are established, it is the chief executive’s responsibility to ensure they are understood and that the board and employees are in agreement with them. All parties need to know these statements – and what they mean – inside and out. All need to be able to discuss the vision and mission when talking about the organization. Each needs to know the goals and objectives contained in the strategic plan and the progress being made toward these. These are some of the first steps in building towards fundraising success.

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.

Preparing for Fundraising Success

Leadership Forum Sept 2012

Why are some nonprofits successful with fundraising when others face challenges? What can be done to change a nonprofit’s fundraising “fate?”

Some of the things that impact fundraising are outside a nonprofit’s control. These include a downturn in the local or national economy, or increased – and unexpected – competition from national disaster relief efforts. But other factors can be addressed proactively.

Here’s what we know. Sustained, successful fundraising requires consistent attention, action, funding, and leadership. It is proactive and volunteer-driven. The success of an organization’s or institution’s fundraising depends upon the involvement of board members — specifically, their ability and willingness to cultivate and solicit major donors. This is where it all begins. If the leadership of an organization is not behind a fundraising initiative, it will be very difficult for volunteers or staff to experience success.

Good intentions, desire, and commitment abound amongst board members, staff, and volunteers. While these traits are a mandatory prerequisite for fundraising success, they are not enough.

Your organization will also need develop relationships with individuals and institutions that can provide the financial and other resources you need. You will need strong project management skills and the ability to ensure that your fundraising goals remain a priority in spite of other emerging and/or unpredicted priorities. Volunteer recruitment and management will be key to your success. So will creativity, strategic thinking, and the ability to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Always keep in mind that successful fundraising is donor focused. While it may sound counterintuitive, fundraising is not necessarily about you and your organization or institution. Success comes when you understand why your current and potential donors want to support your organization and when you value those motivations. When donor motivations are valued, the nature of the relationship between a donor and an institution can transform from one where donors are viewed primarily as a revenue source to one where donors and institutions partner to achieve a common goal.

But before you even begin the work of fundraising you need to look closely at your organization or institution and its leadership. Are the director or president and the board in full agreement regarding the organization’s mission and vision and how these will be brought to life? As simple as it sounds, this is where it all starts. Take the time to talk amongst yourselves. Do all members share a common understanding of the mission and vision, or do they operate from their personal or historical understanding of these? Have you taken the time to create an easy-to-use strategic plan that will guide the work of your board, staff and volunteers? Do you know how much money the organization really needs to raise? Can you communicate how the funds will impact the people you serve or advocate for?

Over the next few weeks we will address these topics in more detail. Our hope is that these columns will stimulate conversation and appropriate action within your organization. We want your 2013 fundraising to be successful.

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 on Twitter @saadshaw.

New Year – New Career – Fundraising. Part One

Part One of a two part series

Are you looking for a new caCareer Dayreer? A career with opportunities for growth?

Maybe you were laid off due to changes in the economy, or maybe you feel it is time to make a difference while making a living, or maybe you are entering the job market for the first time — why not consider a career in fundraising or fund development?  The increasing number of non-profits who need to grow their fundraising and a shortage of trained and experienced professionals combine to make fundraising an ideal career. .

You might find work with grassroots organizations, colleges, hospitals, national organizations, foundations, advocacy organizations, research institutes, churches, radio and television stations, or political campaigns. All of these organizations rely on fundraising for some or all of their revenue.

Fundraising is the process of soliciting gifts, and fund development is the ongoing process of identifying and cultivating current and prospective donors. They require similar skill sets and experience. You may already have some of the skills need because fundraising and fund development are close cousins to sales and marketing in the private sector.

For non-profits, revenue can be secured through tuition, sales, donations, sponsorships, interest from endowed funds and other mechanisms. Most people who work in fundraising and fund development are engaged in encouraging and soliciting donations. They work closely with volunteers, board members and often the CEO or Executive Director as they cultivate and solicit gifts.

As a fundraising or fund development professional you get to work with some of the best people around: People who care, people who lead, people who give. And people who want to work with you. As you gain experience your career opportunities will increase as will your ability to make a meaningful impact on your community.

We always remind people new to this field that the work is about the organization and those it serves and not about you. People won’t be giving to you; they will give to the organization you represent. Your job will be to best promote its successes, the vision of its leadership and how donations are used to advance goals and programs.

You may be surprised to learn that most of the time spent fundraising is actually spent on preparation. Asking for funds is an activity that takes the least amount of time. Often the “ask” is made not by fundraising staff but by volunteers who are trained and supported by staff. So if you are afraid of asking for money, don’t be afraid of a career in fundraising. You can overcome fear by learning the techniques used by professional fundraisers. In fact as you get more involved in the profession you will come to realize that fundraising is not about “twisting someone’s arm” until they give. Rather fundraising and fund development is about creating and sustaining relationships between people and organizations that allow individuals, families and businesses to give money, time and resources to the causes they most believe in.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts” and the “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success: The 18 Things You Need to Know as a Fundraising Professional, Board Member, or Volunteer”. Follow on twitter @saadshaw.

Is Your Board Bored?

Empty Conference Room --- Image by © Bill Varie/CorbisHere’s a question for our readers who are nonprofit executives and board members: is your board fully engaged? Does the structure of your board meetings encourage members to bring their talents and abilities to the table or does it stifle members’ creativity and create a “bored board?”

If you are a nonprofit executive, do you really know who is serving on your board? Do you know their skills, strengths, talents and relationships? Do you have a strategy for how to engage each board member in advancing the agreed upon goals of the organization? Have you met with each to share the current strategic plan and ask how each would like to be involved in bringing it to life?

Do you provide board members with information they need to serve as advocates and fundraisers? Have you met personally with members who tend to miss meetings, come unprepared or are otherwise disengaged? Have you reflected on what you know about their skills, personality and relationships and considered strategies for involving members in ways that are in line with their interests?

Do you typically create and circulate the board agenda? Do board members agree with the majority of your ideas? Do you have challenges getting a quorum at meetings? If you answered “yes” you may want to look at doing things differently.

Encourage your board chair to work collaboratively with you in crafting the agenda. Ask her to pose questions of the board; ask for their insights to challenges and opportunities the organization is grappling with. Find a way to creatively release the talents of your board. A “yes” board is not an asset: no one of us is so wonderful that all our ideas are perfect. Encourage dialog and diversity of opinion.

If you are serving on a board take a moment to reflect on your involvement. Why are you on the board? Is the reason you joined the board the reason you continue to serve? Are you serving at the request of your employer? Are you filling a seat that is reserved for a representative from your business, agency, church or organization? Is your board service an obligation or a challenging joy? Do you attend the majority of board meeting? Do you participate or are you bored? Can you summon the courage to talk with the board chair and find a way to contribute to a positive change in how the board operates?

Here’s what we know – talented, respected and well-connected people are often asked to serve on nonprofit boards. But, the structure of board meetings can work against their active involvement. A board’s talent is lost when meetings are filled with reading of reports and discussions regarding the next time to meet. Consider working with a consent agenda and time allocated to strategic discussions regarding operations, growth, partnerships, and delivery of services. No need to be bored.

Gifts for those who have everything

Barnardo's Giving Tree  (Photo credit: Eversheds LLP)

It’s the holiday season, time for us to reach out to those we know, love and  respect offering
gifts as a token of our feelings. Some of us get creative, finding the perfect gift. Others of us
struggle, uncertain as to what would be the right gift. Some of us are fortunate enough to have the challenge of finding the right gift for the person who has everything.

If you are in one of the latter two groups, don’t worry: we have the answer. Give to a nonprofit  organization. Not just any nonprofit, but one that you know your friend, family member or colleague believes in. If you’ve been listening throughout the year you may have heard her talk about the American Cancer Society, her serving as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, or volunteering at a scholarship fundraiser for her sorority. Maybe she serves on the board of the
YMCA. Perhaps she is on the advisory council for an industry-wide job training center. Does she read to children as part of a local literacy program? Serve as a soccer coach?

What about the hard-to-please men on your list? Do they volunteer as mentors? Advocate for marriage equality? Volunteer as a driver for meals on wheels? Coach football, basketball or soccer? Are they proud of their alma mater? Committed to their church, mosque or synagogue? Maybe there’s a man in your life who gives his time to saving the snow tiger in India, or the marshlands of the gulf.

Your reflections will help you come up with the right nonprofit to match with each “person who has everything” on your list.

If you don’t know which organization your family members or friends are committed to think about what you know of their interests and passions. Are they artists or art connoisseurs, outdoors enthusiasts, athletes, theatre buffs? There is a nonprofit for everyone.

When you honor someone with a gift to a nonprofit we recommend you take steps to make sure that your wishes are fulfilled. Here are our recommendations. Call the nonprofit and ask if they have a program for accepting “honorary” gifts. Ask what you need to do in order to ensure a note
or card is sent to the person you are honoring, communicating that you have made a gift in their honor. This is important to do when giving to small, local or grassroots organizations. Larger organizations often have such processes already in place. You can typically find the information
on their “donate” webpage.

Giving to a nonprofit in honor of someone you love or respect has multiple benefits. You show you are aware of what’s important to your family member or colleague. You are contributing to a cause that will continue beyond the holiday season. You can give again for the person’s birthday. You can stay out of the mall, and wait until the last minute to “shop.”