Category Archives: Fundraising

Prospect Research: The Breakthrough Guide to the Basics

Prospect research can be a complex subject, but it’s vital to growing and developing your nonprofit’s donor base.

With over $373 billion donated last year, giving is on the rise, which means that prospect research is more important than ever for capitalizing on your donors’ generosity and building strong relationships with them.

In this guide, we’ll cover all of the basics, from the definition down to the nitty-gritty details of how prospect research can work for you!

Specifically, we’ll answer these questions:

Let’s get started!

What is prospect research?

Prospect research is the process of learning more about a specific donor or a group of donors so that your nonprofit can cultivate and manage them more effectively. Continue reading

Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother

From Chore Girl to Cinderella: Transforming your Annual Giving Program to Belle of the Ball

Consider one of the most popular childhood tales, Cinderella, the story about a chore girl’s transformation from neglect to fairy tale success. Cinderella lived her life in obscurity, abandoned and often mistreated by her “family,” her best attributes going unnoticed. Despite her circumstances, she still aspired to greatness. It was not until she received significant support and attention, however, that she came to achieve her dream of living a better life.

Similar to the Cinderella story, annual giving programs have become the chore girl of nonprofit fundraising. Like Cinderella’s mean step-sisters, major gift programs and large events are in the limelight, demanding valuable attention and all the best efforts a development office has to offer. Granted, they are important elements of the story and result in very real and meaningful contributions toward an organization’s revenue goals, but the focus on the visible and demanding major gift and event programs often results in neglect of annual gifts.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

With attention, support, and a little strategic planning, you can transform your annual giving program from the chore girl to the belle of the ball that it should be. Continue reading

Major Gifts Donations: Return to Sender?

Last month, the Girl Scouts of Western Washington were in quite the predicament. When confronted with the dilemma to either accept a $100,000 major gift that would be highly beneficial to the advancement of the organization and some of its participants, or return the donation and lose out on the funding but avoid having to discriminate against transgender girls, it was evident that the Girl Scouts of Western Washington prioritized their mission over money. But they didn’t stop with returning the donation. As any smart and adaptable organization would, they leveraged the opportunity and started an online fundraising campaign to recoup the $100,000, attracting nearly three times the goal in less than a week. The Girl Scouts of Western Washington’s actions showcased the organization’s values, their ability and willingness to stand up for those values, and reinforced their brand, effectively telling the organization’s story and connecting with donors who hold the same values. In the words of Megan Ferland, Girl Scouts of Western Washington’s CEO, “every girl should have the opportunity to be a girl scout if she wants to.”

So what can your nonprofit take from this story? To start, it is important to identify under what circumstance you should return a major gift or donation. Continue reading

women leading philanthropy

Diversity in Fundraising: Women Leading Philanthropy

The Diversity Session at the AFP International Conference this year focused on Women in Philanthropy. This was the first time the session had revolved around that aspect of diversity, and the session was very well attended.

The session was introduced by Brenda A. Asare, The Alford Group’s President & CEO. A panel offering insight into their own experience as female philanthropists and researchers in the field included:

  • Una Osili, Director of Research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
  • Sylvia Brown, Principal of Brown Capital Management, Inc.
  • Ann Allston Boyce, President of the board of The T. Rowe Price Associates Foundation

The trend our firm has seen, and that many researchers and practitioners have seen, over the past decade, is that women are becoming more influential in charitable giving and leveraging their power to influence philanthropic decision making. This trend guided the conversation for the panel, which focused its energy on helping attendees understand how women are changing the philanthropic landscape, how to shape strategy to effectively engage women philanthropists, and how to cultivate and steward women donors for maximum impact in their organizations.

In the past, most organizations focused their fundraising efforts on male donors, given the traditional assumption that women were not making philanthropic decisions for their households. As women have begun to increase their rates of college enrollment, women enter the workforce and into higher paying jobs, and as women increasingly outlive men, the philanthropic sector has begun to see an increase in the visibility of female participation as major donors. Whether by accumulated wealth through their own work, or inherited wealth from family or spouses, female donors are having a significant impact on philanthropic initiatives. And more frequently, couples are making philanthropic decisions together.

Women give in many ways. Researchers are finding that across income levels, there is a real interest in philanthropy among women. But it’s not just through treasure that women are looking to contribute – women are increasingly becoming involved through their time and talent. Women are present in leadership for philanthropic organizations, helping to lead fundraising campaigns, plan events, and offering their expertise on governing and auxiliary boards and as staff.

Dr. Una Osili, a member of the panel, oversees research into how and why gender matters is the Director or Research and Chair of the research council of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

“There are some really powerful examples of the dynamic role women are playing in philanthropy. A few examples include Women Moving Millions, the American Red Cross’ Tiffany Circle and Indiana University has a Women’s Philanthropy Council. In order to cultivate women donors, organizations have to think about how female donors might differ – how do they want to give, what do they want to give to, does being part of a network impact their giving?

“Establishing philanthropy through gender lines and understanding motivations is relatively under researched. As women play a more visible role, especially in leadership around the world, there is more interest in asking what are some things about my organization that can reduce barriers for women being involved? What is working elsewhere and how can I apply that to my own organization?”

The challenge of identifying how women want to engage in to the philanthropic landscape corresponds to the challenge of addressing diversity in philanthropy more broadly.

Dr. Osili says that “one size doesn’t fit all. When engaging with diverse communities, ethnically, religiously, multi-racial and multi-cultural donors, similar to female donors, you have to determine what are the barriers – how to ask, how to cultivate, what language and style is important to them. You have to use new approaches to bring new donors in – what worked in the past might not work for donors with different backgrounds, beliefs or cultures.”

She continues, “The broader message about women and diversity in philanthropy is that as the world become more connected and we interact much more with people of different backgrounds and characteristics, there are more opportunities to engage different types of donors – but you have to adapt to make your organization more inclusive of different types of donors.”

The Alford Group has been a sponsor of the Diversity Session and the Diversity Art Showcase at the AFP International Conference for 16 years. We hold a strong commitment to diversity as one of our core values, and continue to encourage conversation about diversity in the not-for-profit sector through many different lenses.

Fundraising in the Asian Community

As one of the most ethnically diverse cities in North America, Vancouver, BC was the perfect setting for the 2014 Giving Institute Summer Symposium. Though I may be biased, I thought one of the highlights of the four-day Symposium was a panel discussion on fundraising in the Asian community. While the topic is vast – the Asian community encompasses more than 40 different ethnic groups – panelists shared their experience working with the Chinese community, both in Vancouver and in mainland China. I had the honor of moderating the session, which opened with a challenge by Dr. Tom Matthews, Head of School at St. George’s School in Vancouver, to a common perception about Asian donors:

“There’s often an underlying premise among mainstream fundraisers that ‘they’ (meaning ethnically diverse donors) don’t understand American-style philanthropy and thus are not good prospects. This sweeping generalization, if taken at face value, can result in many missed opportunities.” Continue reading

We’re All in This Together: Creating a Culture of Philanthropy

As a fundraiser in the rush of day-to-day operations, deadlines, meetings and metrics, it’s easy to lose sight of the motivations and interests of your donors. Sometimes, fundraising can become more about reaching goals than relating to donors. And it can be a slippery slope – the results of which we’ve seen documented in UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising,  which outlined various problems arising in the nonprofit industry, including decreasing retention of fundraising employees and donors. There will be no cure-all for the industry as a whole, but there are steps individual fundraisers can take to see better results in fundraising. Those steps have nothing to do with “doing more” or “doing better”…they are related to an organization-wide shift toward a culture of philanthropy. Continue reading

Making Major Gifts Fundraising Transformational

 

“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.”
— Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912)

visionIn major gifts fundraising, drafting small plans leads to small gifts. Donors give to the goal – not to an organization, person or what they think is needed – they give to the vision or the impact they see their gift will make toward that vision. If the vision is small, donors will behave accordingly. And if the vision is big, donors will step up in a big way.

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Your Strategic Plan: The Biggest Story You Can Tell in Major Gifts Fundraising

There’s a saying in fundraising that it is just as difficult to properly plan, cultivate and solicit a gift of $10,000 as it is $100,000. Often times, finalizing a major gift of any size will require the same amount of work and attention by your fundraising team. Assuming this is true, the real work for any development professional will come in the form of determining which story about the organization or impact of the gift will inspire a donor to give at their highest capacity.  That story inevitably lives in your organization’s strategic plan. Continue reading

Diversity in Fundraising: Making a Long-Term Commitment

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Growing up in Kentucky during segregation, Jimmie Alford attended an all-white school, and didn’t experience racial diversity until the age of nine when his parents moved to Chicago. The move, due to the closing of coal mines, placed Jimmie’s family in a small apartment in the Englewood community. Jimmie was one of three white students in his third grade class of 40 students.

Along with his classmates, he understood economic diversity and its impact on themselves, their families and their community while living in extreme poverty within a predominantly affluent nation. He also directly and personally saw and felt the impact of discrimination. He decided at a young age that the injustice of discrimination was something he would never allow to penetrate his life and that he would work his entire life to eradicate discrimination in all forms. Like many who grow up marginalized in one way or another, Jimmie vowed to lift himself out of his circumstances, make a better life and never forget the important life lessons learned along the way. His commitment to this goal was unwavering and steadfast.

Diversity

Diversity is one of seven core values of The Alford Group, and one of Jimmie’s enduring “fingerprints” on the consulting firm he founded in 1979. One manifestation of this commitment is our 20+-year sponsorship of the Diversity Workshop and Diversity Art Showcase at the annual AFP International Conference. While our dedication to diversity and inclusiveness has remained resolute over the decades, the demographics of America – and thus the universe of donors and prospective donors – have changed dramatically. Lessons learned from diverse communities, and the shared values of diversity, equity and inclusiveness (DEI), are more relevant and more essential today than ever before. Continue reading

Six Success Factors in Strategic Fundraising

Six Factors of Success in Strategic Fundraising

Effective fundraising must be a strategic priority for every nonprofit organization that counts contributed support as part of its annual revenue stream and as a source for capital and endowment assets. Viewing fundraising through a strategic lens focuses on advancing the organization’s mission and vision and not merely on meeting immediate dollar goals.

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