We are thrilled you’re here! In the blog posts below you will find resources, updates, news, and information about a variety of topics in philanthropy and the social sector. Enjoy!
Don’t we all agree that the most precious things in life are worthy of our best attention, effort and care? In the fundraising world, the most precious “things” are our donors and their philanthropic dollars.
Who among us has the luxury of a daily schedule that is just waiting to be filled with new ideas and activities? Nobody that we know! So let’s take 15 minutes – only one percent of our day – to ponder ways to work smarter and multiply the impact of our efforts, and benefit the most precious “things” – our donors!
How do you make sure that your donor stewardship is intentional, timely and effective? You need to plan for it! Wonderful ideas for individual stewardship activities, timelines and plans abound on the internet, so we aren’t going to reiterate them here. The idea we are offering is a strategy for multiplying the impact of your stewardship planning process by also using it as an engagement opportunity for key donors, staff and board members. Continue reading
By Diane Knoepke, Vice President, The Alford Group
If you’re working in the social sector, you’ve probably said – or at least heard – things like this in discussions of the dynamics between grantmakers and grantseekers:
“We want this to be valuable for both sides of the equation.”
“I’ve sat on both sides of the table.”
“We need to understand how things work on the other side.”
Perhaps this “both sides” idea is a misnomer. At least that is what I walked away thinking after moderating two dynamic panels of funders and their not-for-profit partners at Friday’s “Straight Talk: Unpacking the Power Dynamic between Grantseekers and Grantmakers” event, hosted by Chicago Women in Philanthropy. When we think of partners in funding relationships as the “asker” and the “asked,” we are missing a lot of dimensions to the power dynamics present in these relationships. Continue reading
Prepare your donor database for year-end fundraising with performance analysis, data clean up, and…dragonglass
Ok folks, Halloween is officially over and WINTER IS COMING (Game of Thrones references provided for our fellow fans – you’re welcome). Hopefully the change of seasons from fall to winter and the accompanying year-end appeal planning and execution feels less like you’re facing the Night King and an army of Wights and more like you’re planning a feast for your loyal bannermen or awaiting the Lannister loot train (minus the pesky Targaryen dragon attack).
For many organizations the year-end push yields a significant portion of annual giving. By November you’ve likely already planned your appeal, written your letters and booked your mail house, but have you planned for measuring your success and course-correcting any shortcomings? If not, we’ve pulled together a few tips to guide you on your quest for the Iron Throne, errr….I mean, for a successful year-end appeal!
By Molly Hansen, Vice President, The Alford Group
“Please be our next board chair. Joe, Sarah, and Ben have all turned us down and Andrew doesn’t want to stay on for another term.”
Has this ever happened to you or in your organization? With thoughtful planning and leadership development you can create a reality where begging for board officers and committee leaders just doesn’t happen.
In a 2015 BoardSource survey, only 49% of nonprofit CEOs agreed that their organizations had an effective process in place for officer succession. CEOs often navigate (survive?) multiple chair transitions, and cited building a board leadership pipeline as being among the most important area for board improvement.
A recent Board Effect blog post cites the report Succession Planning for the Non-profit Board Chair that finds:
“Most organizations can survive the successful election to the Board of an individual or two whose group participation skills and leadership attributes are less than stellar, as other stronger members of the Board will generally neutralize any adverse consequences to the organization. However, placing Board members into the organization’s highest leadership positions is a much higher-stakes proposition. Persons in elected leadership positions with mediocre leadership skills will, at best, do no harm, but might cause the association to miss strategic advantageous opportunities. Persons with poor leadership skills may create organization dysfunctions that may take years from which to recover, if ever.” Continue reading
Are your volunteers worth their weight in gold, or are they simply weighing you down?
By Laura Edman, Vice President, The Alford Group Read Laura’s Bio
Have you ever thought to yourself, “Why do I bother with volunteers? It would be so much easier if I just do this myself.”
I admit it; over my 30-plus years as a fundraising professional, that thought has crossed my mind more than once. Yet whenever that happens, I think about the many times during my career when volunteers have made the critical difference between success and failure, between reaching that stretch campaign goal and falling short, or between successfully recruiting that key board member and having them turn down the opportunity.
So, how can you make sure that your volunteers really are worth their weight in gold, instead of being too much trouble to bother with? Here are some tips that might help you and some resources for more information. Continue reading
By Diane Knoepke, Vice President, The Alford Group
Over just the past few months, we have been the beneficiaries of an absolute embarrassment of riches in terms of high-powered convenings and insight-filled reports related to corporate/social sector collaboration and investment. I dare say we are seeing an unprecedented level of research and conversation about the role of companies in driving social sector outcomes and vice versa. While digesting it all can feel like sipping from a firehose, I’m finding that so many of my partnership conversations right now are coming back to three themes, all of which are supported and driven by these great insights coming from all corners of the corporate social innovation and philanthropic worlds.
#1 Heightened consumer expectations, and how companies are responding
Sixty percent (60%) of Americans now expect companies to play a greater role in society, particularly given the new administration. Tina-Marie Adams, Midwest Managing Director of APCO Worldwide, shared this data point at last month’s Social Innovation Summit, drawn from research her firm had recently completed. This is further borne out by data from Cone Communications’ 2017 CSR Study, which found that “millennials are putting their faith in companies to ignite change,” with 71% of millennials hopeful that business will take the lead (compared to U.S. average of 63%). Continue reading
By Amy Hines, Senior Vice President, The Alford Group
With the start of an unprecedented intergenerational wealth transfer, not-for-profits have a lot to gain by avoiding any inadvertent pitfalls that deter potential donors from contributing to their efforts. With access to the internet, donors do not have to rely on government scrutiny to avoid unscrupulous charities (Besides, government entities have limited authority as watchdogs). Donors can look for evidence themselves, vetting charities with a tap or a click.
Maintaining integrity is key—but ensuring that an organization’s optics convey that integrity is also essential.
A potential donor’s due diligence before opening her wallet, is likely to take place by heeding to the credo–“follow the money.” While that may in fact be just a line in a movie, it resonates in the philanthropic ether as a sound way to approach investigating an organization’s worthiness.
How do potential donors assess the money trail? There are several logical ways:
- Look at the organization’s website to see if financial information is being reported in a transparent way.
- Go online to GuideStar, the primary resource for accessing an organization’s IRS 990 and comparing similar organizations.
- Go online to Charity Navigator to see how the organization is rated.
- Go online to BBB Wise Giving, to check out whether they have been accredited as a trustworthy national organization.
It’s important for not-for-profits to manage the optics of their organizations in these four locations. Here’s how. Continue reading
5 must-haves to fortify partnerships against the elements
By Diane Knoepke, Vice President, The Alford Group Read Diane’s Bio
Almost every company is a good fit for at least a handful of nonprofits, and every company is a bad fit for quite a few nonprofits. The inverse is also true: almost every nonprofit is a good fit for at least a handful of businesses, and every nonprofit is a bad fit for quite a few companies.
With increasingly discerning audiences, a volatile political climate, blurred lines that used to seem bright, and the unprecedented speed of change and information, what must nonprofits and companies do to successfully partner with one another?
How to fortify partnerships against the elements
Any partnership without a little bit of risk is also likely a partnership without any value or interest. Of course, we all know there are good risks and bad risks. Below you will find ways to make sure the risks you take are planned and smart and likely to have great returns. Here are the five must-haves for a successful corporate-nonprofit partnership: Continue reading
By Molly Hansen, Vice President, The Alford Group Read Molly’s Bio
How to find great, or even good, nonprofit board members is an ongoing challenge. For many nonprofit organizations the board development issue feels especially urgent right now. The competition for good board members is increasing.
The philanthropic environment has nearly recovered from the Great Recession, but many philanthropists are still very cautious about where to invest their dollars, time and energy. Organizations who have been largely supported by government grants and contracts, their long-held intention to diversify their revenue through board members with financial capacity and connections, are now faced with the reality that it’s harder than they thought to find strong board members.
Regardless of the type of nonprofit you serve, its size, or the nature of your board and organizational funding, the following tips will help you get started on a productive path of board development. Continue reading