Tag Archives: nonprofits

More Hidden Fundraising Challenges

fundraising, FUNdraising Good Times, fundraising challenges, donor relations, fundraising best practices, nonprofits, Not all fundraising challenges lie in the actions – or lack of action – by donors, board members, staff and volunteers. Some are hidden in plain sight. Consider the following.

The will to fundraise. If you don’t want to fundraise, don’t make it a priority, and don’t invest time and money in fundraising, chances are you don’t have the will to fundraise. Will and willingness are related, but not the same. Willingness is an attitude: will is the application of willingness. It is evident in the actions you take and don’t take. Do you visit with people in person? Do you ask for financial and in-kind support? Are you building a corps of fundraising volunteers, or do you try to do it yourself when you have the time?

Overcoming the business-as-usual mentality. Fundraising is competitive. You have to constantly lead with your uniqueness while fulfilling your mission and understanding the needs and concerns of donors and funders. You can’t go on autopilot. Take time to consider where your support lies, where it could lie, and how to test your supposition. Take small risks, evaluate the results, and keep innovating.

Do you know your marketplace? Fundraising is all about people. Do you know the people in your community? Do you know the general attitude of the community towards your nonprofit? Do they like you? Do they care about your mission? Do they trust your leadership to use donated and invested funds with efficiency and efficacy? Can you identify emerging, unmet needs and make a difference without indulging in “mission creep?”

Mediocrity. Honestly, is your organization stellar, mediocre, or just getting by? Sometimes an organization has been doing things so long, and dealing with contracting revenue for too long that mediocrity becomes the norm. Take a close look at operations and attitudes with the goal of discerning if there’s a better way to conduct business. While your organization may need money, need isn’t necessarily a philanthropic motivator. Service, innovation and accountability are the new norms.

Measuring and communicating your impact. These are directly related to accountability. You have to answer the question: how does my money make a difference? Take a moment to identify the measurements you will deploy and build them into your programming. Review your measures and outcomes. Use them to refine your work. Communicate impact consistently – people care more about impact than need.

Benefits and opportunities. Are you building a circle of reciprocity? What benefits – tangible and intangible – can you offer donors, volunteers and staff? What opportunities do you offer that increase your value and offer meaning to others? Don’t take people and relationships for granted. Demonstrate your gratitude in ways that incentivize giving and involvement.

You can succeed: your community needs you to succeed. Keep up the good work.

Read Hidden Fundraising Challenges Part One

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.


Hidden Fundraising Challenges

Fundraising Challenges, fundraising, FUNdraising Good Times, fundraising challenges, donor fatigue, nonprofitsYou can’t see what you can’t see. There may be some challenges facing your nonprofit that you’re not be aware of. They are insidious and sometimes deadly. Taking a close look at “what’s really going on” may refocus your energy and resources, and rescue your fundraising.

Here’s some background. Nonprofit organizations and institutions play a key role in communities across the country. Healthcare, education, advocacy, homeless services, domestic violence prevention, athletics, the opera, symphony and theatres are just a few of the ways in which they add to our collective life. The rewards from such work are many. And, unfortunately, challenges abound. Top ones include board involvement, staffing, money, resources, exposure and awareness, and volunteer involvement. These are real. And at the same time, for some organizations the challenges are actually a little deeper. They lie in what you can’t see. And they inform or exacerbate the visible ones.

Lack of urgency and excitement. It’s hard to raise money and engage volunteers without a sense of urgency and excitement. Have you made the case to a potential donor regarding why it is important to support the priorities of your nonprofit today, and not tomorrow? Have you created a mechanism for generating enthusiasm in giving? Are you actively competing for the philanthropic dollar or waiting for it to come your way? You need an infectious excitement that is communicated verbally, in writing and electronically. Put fundraising at the top of your list each day.

Duplication of services. You may be 100% committed to your organization, its services or advocacy, and the people it serves. But, are you the only game in town, or are there a multitude of organizations doing similar work? When there are too many organizations providing comparable services it can be difficult for donors and funders to understand why they should fund your organization over a similar one. You may not get funded. Or you – and your like-minded nonprofits – may be splitting a pool of funds with the result being that no one raises enough money to effectively advance their mission. If duplication of services is an issue for your nonprofit, you may want to consider the unthinkable: merging, or refining/changing your mission.

Repeatedly soliciting the same donors and funders. This is an “under the radar” challenge that sometimes isn’t even identified as such. The positive spin is: we have a few committed donors who consistently support us. That may be true, but how long will it last? Are they providing enough funding, or is your organization cutting staff and services in order to operate? What if donors suddenly changed their giving? Donor retention isn’t a given: things change. Don’t put your nonprofit at risk: broaden your fundraising.

Next week we will cover more.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

Nonprofit success: more than “feel good”

Part two of a two part interview…View part one here

Mike Bruns www.fundraisingggodtimes.comSuccess in business is not enough. In fact, nonprofit involvement –and giving – can be a greater “buzz” than continued business growth. “After becoming reasonably able to share, a person realizes that the buzz you get from sharing can be greater than the buzz you get from daily life in business. Ten percent growth year-after-year doesn’t always equal the buzz of giving ten percent to the community.” That’s the experience of Mike Bruns, founder of Comtrak Logistics, a national transportation and logistics company headquartered in Memphis.

“The true donor misses the boat if they don’t get just as much back in their heart, meeting people and making friends,” Bruns continued.  “Involvement brings satisfaction – it makes the donor feel good.  I was chair of Youth Villages for so many years, and they did as much for me as I could ever do for the organization.”

Youth Villages, also headquartered in Memphis, is a leading national nonprofit dedicated to providing the most effective local solutions to help emotionally and behaviorally troubled children and their families live successfully.

“Youth Villages grew as a result of a wonderful culture, incredible leadership team, and a management team that knew this was a business. Nonprofit is more than a feel-good. Many stall out because the person who started the organization didn’t surround themselves with good business people. At Youth Villages the leadership surrounded themselves with business people who helped them run the organization like a business, but not at the expense of their passion. They serve 60,000 young people and they measure everything.  ‘Feel good’ doesn’t last long if the business model doesn’t work.”

That goes for the board as well. The biggest challenges Bruns has experienced arise when board members don’t know what is expected of them. “That has to be done on the front end. You can’t read a board manual to people. You need to explain their job description, financial expectations, and share with them why they were recruited. They have to become involved with the organization and passionate about it. Board members who are engaged and feel a part of something come to meetings. This solves the problem some boards have where they spend almost half their time worrying about the best time to get attendance. As board chair I focused on getting engagement. So many boards operate without engagement.”

Bruns closed with his perspective on board members’ reluctance to fundraise. “When a board member is not prepared, and is not personally passionate, the gifts he solicits become a ‘trap’ wherein he now ‘owes’ an equal gift to the donor’s nonprofit of choice.” The solution: “Be prepared and sell the nonprofit on its merits; then people give to the organization and not to you. You then are free to make your gifts based on merit too.”

The Impact of Mobile Devices at meetings

An example of a Digital Conversation being run...

Who is more important: you or a group of your fellow nonprofit volunteers or professionals? What signal are you sending when you direct your attention to your mobile device instead of the group’s discussion? If you believe the work of the organization or institution is unimportant, say so and work with your peers to restructure meetings. If not, give your attention to the business at hand. Each of you has carved out time from your busy schedules to attend the meeting: make the most of it.

For many, time is now considered a resource even more valuable than money. Increasing demands on our time from work, family and volunteer commitments make it all the more important that time allocated for meetings be most productive. As nonprofit professionals are asked to take on more responsibilities the time dedicated to staff meetings becomes even more valuable. Checking your mobile device removes your attention from the discussion at hand. Your knowledge, expertise and insights are removed from the conversation. The opportunity for synergistic thinking, problem solving and strategizing diminishes as participants mentally enter and leave the group’s work with a glance at their device.

And then there’s hurt feelings. Some people are offended when they are talking and others are texting or checking email. The sentiment can be, “Why should I bother if they aren’t interested?” The result can be a process of gradual or immediate disengagement.

Observe your behavior and that of others in the next meeting you attend. How often do people check their devices? What is accomplished in the meeting? Ask reflective questions of yourself and others in the room: are our meetings boring? Too long? Are they structured to take advantage of the best thinking in the room? Are people coming prepared to meetings? When are people checking their devices and does that correlate to the discussion at hand?

Make sure your meetings are worthy of the time you ask each person to give. Develop a protocol for the use of mobile devices. One corporate board asks members to place devices in a basket upon entering the meeting, and provides breaks for the purpose of checking calls and messages. Your nonprofit is as important as a corporate board. Reach agreement regarding the use of devices and hold each other accountable. Remind people of the policy when meetings are being scheduled, and again at the beginning of each meeting.

You can use mobile devices to help advance the organizations you are involved with. Engaging and updating friends, colleagues, donors and supporters via Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Instagram increases the organization’s social media presence and reach. The same with calling and emailing to set appointments and provide updates. Mobile devices bring us together. Don’t let them drive us apart.

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.

New Year – New Career – Fundraising. – Part Two

Part two of a two part series

In the first RolesResponsibilitiespart of this series we encouraged you to consider a career in fundraising. It’s a career that gives you a “voice at the table” and introduces you to those who have the resources to make change.

People in fund development and fundraising help influence service delivery, public policy, education, research, advocacy, and more. Success in fund development can bring you to the decision making table. It’s also excellent preparation for serving as an executive director.

“How do I start?” you might ask. If you are can secure work with a hospital, college, or public radio or television station you can learn the systems and procedures that represent best practices.. Working in fundraising for one of these institutions can provide insight into the different strategies and activities that comprise fundraising.

Another way to gain experience is to volunteer as a board member or fundraiser for an organization you believe in. If you are interested in learning through doing, be sure to interview the leadership of the organization and tell them your goals. Also, make sure their fundraising is well-organized and effective, and is a program you will actually learn from.

You may also find that your private or government sector experience is transferrable. The following is an overview job titles and responsibilities within the nonprofit sector. Knowing the terminology and responsibilities can help you assess career opportunities and the extent to which your skills may be transferrable.

  • Chief Development Officer, Vice President for Development – executive charged with fundraising management.
  • Data management specialist – enters fundraising-related data into a database and generates fundraising management reports.
  • Development Assistant – provides administrative support to staff, board and volunteers.
  • Development Coordinator – coordinates fundraising activities. Specific responsibilities vary from organization to organization.
  • Grant writer/Proposal Writer – researches foundations, corporations and government agencies that make grants in the areas your organization specializes in. Writes proposals that meet funders’ objectives and reports required by funders.
  • Major Gifts Officer – cultivates and solicits major gifts. Works with board members and high-level volunteers. Major gifts can range from $2,500 to $250,000 to $2,500,000 or more.

The following fundraising activities can be filled at the coordinator, manager or director level depending on an organization’s needs and the skills of the individual. As you review consider how your experience could be of value to a future nonprofit employer.

  • Alumni Relations –engages alumni and encourages annual giving that increases over time.
  • Annual Campaign – secures gifts from individuals on an annual basis often ranging from $25 to $2,500.
  • Corporate and Foundation Relations – identifies, cultivates and solicits individuals within corporations and foundations responsible for grant making, underwriting and sponsorships.
  • Direct Mail – creates, manages and grows direct mail programs that encourage current and prospective donors to give through the mail or online.
  • Donor Relations –sustains and strengthens relationships between donors and the organization. Encourages continued giving and shares giving opportunities that match a donor’s giving priorities.
  • Membership – develops and manages programs that enroll members who pay a fee in exchange for benefits or services.
  • Special Events – designs and/or manages special events ensuring they are financially profitable.

We wish you every success in your career!

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