The end of the year is around the corner—the single biggest fundraising opportunity of the year! Just how much year-end philanthropic giving will be impacted this year by current events is impossible to know.
In the fundraising forums that I am part of, I often run across the phrase, “We’ve been here before.” I beg to differ! We have not been here before.
It was Machiavelli who first advised “never waste a good crisis.” By that he meant one could look at the opportunities afforded by a crisis to change, to innovate and to improve.
To paraphrase Machiavelli, we advise “never waste a good pause.” Whether it’s a lull in activity or a forced rethinking of business-as-usual, most nonprofits are experiencing a “pandemic pause.” At minimum, everyone should take a moment to consider how to effectively navigate in the new normal. For those who are experiencing a pause, the silver lining is that we can utilize this time to strategically prepare for the future.
We can explore ways to embrace the pandemic pause to PAUSE:
Looking for a way to make your organization’s strategic planning exciting and more relatable? Having a difficult time explaining strategic planning terminology?
Fasten your seatbelt, Toto. We’re not in Kansas anymore.
At first glance, The Wizard of Oz—the widely beloved children’s book by Frank L. Baum, the 1939 film starring Judy Garland, and countless other adaptations for stage and screen—may seem to have little to do with strategic planning: the process through which organizations define their long-term vision and identify strategies and action steps to achieve that vision.
Although the two may seem to be unlikely companions, there is actually a lot we can glean from The Wizard of Oz about strategic planning.
On Wednesday, June 17, The Alford Group hosted a panel of national experts and funders to discuss Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy in 2019 in light of current realities, new opportunities and our future as non-profit staff, funders and philanthropists. The full discussion, along with The Alford Group’s Giving USA report, may be found here.
As Brenda Asare, The Alford Group’s President and CEO, noted as she opened the panel discussion, we all had high hopes for 2020 – momentum within the sector was strong and anticipated to continue at the close of 2019 and through 2020. Of course, no one knew what was coming nor how incredibly important that cushion would be to the survival of many nonprofits. As leaders representing funders and philanthropists across the country, Laura, Marguerite, Steve and Beth offered critical insights into philanthropy today and provided some hope as Brenda said “we must look up and ahead, as that is where we are all going.”
Growing the asset base of a community foundation means the foundation will have an even larger impact on the community it serves. With more assets and resources, the foundation is able to support more nonprofit organizations (or the same organizations at a higher level) and collectively solve community problems and increase the quality of life for community members.
Often times, community foundations run campaigns to increase gifts from individuals, families, and corporations. There are FOUR THINGS that a foundation must do prior to undertaking a campaign to increase its asset base.
Where does your foundation stand in relation to these four elements?
I recently facilitated a panel of development professionals at the statewide Arizona AFP Conference in Flagstaff to discuss the ins and outs of preparing for and launching a major campaign. The session reinforced best practices along with the creativity and flexibility needed to adapt to the bumps in the road that come with any campaign.
Between the panelists and myself, we brought about a dozen or two campaign experiences, a half billion dollars raised and more than a few stories of how campaigns truly bring out magical moments – from motivated donors and serendipity occurrences, to inspired board engagement and giving.
What is a major campaign?
As we got going, the panelists were nodding their heads as I got us all on board with the definition of a major campaign.
While presenting at a recent AFP lunch meeting, I asked the audience, “How many of you have at least a few board members engaged in your major gift fundraising efforts?” Not to my surprise, only a handful of the more than 100 fundraisers in the room raised their hands. Then I asked, “How many of your board members are passionate about your mission?” As you would imagine, everyone in the room raised their hand! So, how do we turn that passion into fundraising action? Here are a handful of tips and tools to get results: Continue reading “Five Tips: Engage Your Board in Major Gifts Fundraising”
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 “Multiply Your Impact: Enlist Key Donors to Create a Meaningful Stewardship Plan”
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 “Making the Most of Volunteers”
Every day the news carries another story about the work in Washington, DC to negotiate a deal on the debt limit and serious debt reduction activities. The issues are familiar – potential spending reductions and potential tax increases. One side will not budge from its position of no new taxes – and the other will not budge on its position of achieving results with new taxes and limited spending reductions. We know they need to collaborate to solve this – yet they are providing a good example of what collaboration is not. Over the next few weeks we will discover if they do learn the meaning of the word.
In the meantime, in our own communities, we have the ability to collaborate every day – and yet in the not-for-profit world I tend to see more competition than collaboration. How can we set an example to work with other not-for-profit organizations that have similar missions, values, and services? Is there a chance to provide improved services to the community utilizing fewer resources and thus improving efficiencies? Do organizations ever attempt to discover the answer to these questions?
Over the past several years, many not-for-profits have begun to shrink their boards to sizes ranging from 9 to 12 people. Both board and staff leaders have argued that a smaller board is more productive and easier to manage. This model seems to be coming from the for-profit board where smaller boards are the norm (comparably) and chief executives are also the board chair (though this trend is changing as more corporate boards are choosing an independent director to be the chair of the board).
I would contend that the size of the board should be based on the amount of community engagement the organization wishes to have. If a not-for-profit organization does not require significant community engagement then it does not need to structure itself with a large amount of community interaction. However, if philanthropy is to play a role in the organization, then community engagement at the volunteer leadership level is essential.
With non-profits working even harder to do more with less, it becomes even more important to find out if your stakeholders – volunteers, donors, prospects – are actually hearing your messages. Do you know when, where and how your stakeholders want to hear from you?
The number and variety of communication channels have increased exponentially in the past five years, as have the expectations of our audience. Prospects, donors, and volunteers expect to be able to engage in a vibrant, multi-pronged conversation about the things they care about. It’s your responsibility to be part of that conversation. Not as a megaphone, but as a genuine contributor – listening, asking questions, learning and sharing what you know.
The first step to doing this well is to find out where your stakeholders are, and what they are saying about you. In a word: listen.
There are many different tools available to help you listen. The first, and often most overlooked – is to simply ASK people. Put an article in the newsletter, a feedback form on your website, or create a simple online survey using a tool like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang.
Determine what keywords people use to search for you, and for the issues you address. Search those keywords and see where the active conversations are taking place. Set up Google Alerts to have links to conversations, articles and blog posts based on the top 10-15 keywords sent to your email, or use an RSS Reader such as Google Reader or NetVibes to further organize your listening, and reduce your email clutter. Identify the most influential people in those conversations, and begin to follow them as well. Other tools you can use include Technorati, Boardreader, Backtype and Delicious tags.
Start with the keyword searching, and build from there. You won’t be able to adapt all of these tools overnight, but listening is the most important first step into deepening your capacity to interact with stakeholders in a meaningful way, and help ensure that your communications are shared in a place and way where people can and will listen to you.
For additional ideas and resources, check out Beth Kanter’s Social Media Listening wiki, Mashable.com, or NTEN’s We Are Media wiki as starting points.
– Debbie Marchione, Senior Consultant, The Alford Group