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If you're in a real hurry to drive your fundraising program into the ground by driving away your donors, here are some common nonprofit practices that can help you along the way:
My name is Kjerstin, and I used to run an international nonprofit organization. A pretty great one, at that: my organization, FORGE, helped more than 70,000 refugees in war-torn Africa recover from conflict and prepare for a peaceful and self-sufficient future. In refugee camps across Zambia and Botswana, we built libraries, created computer training centers, provided micro-finance and agricultural finance, started preschools, ran health education programs, and more. In short, we helped refugees determine not only what they needed but how they could build it for themselves. No one else was doing what we did, and we could squeeze more out more out of our money than a souvenir penny press.
So…why the past tense?
While there are no shortage of reasons I could give you, the simplest one is this: I starved FORGE to death.
When I started the organization, I was young, idealistic, and naive. Not experienced enough to know better, I bought the hype: that to be truly altruistic and efficient, we needed to operate at the highest possible levels of self-sacrifice. We needed to direct almost all money raised to buying pencils rather than building infrastructure, we needed to expect our staff to work for the lowest possible wages (or ideally none at all), and we needed to do it all with an eager, grateful smile.
If you judge a nonprofit by those metrics, boy was FORGE good. Our overhead for the first four years hovered just around 4%…most of which went to cover items like paper and stamps for the donation receipts that you are required by law to send. We didn’t invest in workspace (hello, employees that show up to your apartment everyday), we didn’t hire any development or administrative personnel (hello, 180 staff with no accountant or human resource manager), and we certainly didn’t pay money for systems that would help us spend our time more efficiently (hello, fumbling with 15,000 line items in Excel). We were the epitome of what we thought was the righteous path: an organization that is lean, mean, and ready to sacrifice for the greater good.
Here’s the rub: that didn’t turn out so hot. While our donors loved that their hard-earned money was being used for “the right things,” we were slowly strangling ourselves. We under-invested in systems infrastructure, we under-invested in fund development, and we under-invested in human resources. Because donors wanted to give to project expenses directly, we constantly added more to our portfolio without adding the capacity to manage it all. Because unrestricted funding was so hard to come by, we had to spend every last dime rather than build up a reserve. And because we internalized the message that reasonably compensating executive staff was shameful, we couldn’t hire seasoned professionals or afford a CEO to replace me.
I love this time of the year because Giving USA allows fundraising professionals to jump in Mr. Peabody and Sherman’s “Way Back Machine” (aka WABAC machine) and look at what happened in philanthropy in the previous year. This activity has become an event of sorts. Reports are released. There arewebinars. The media covers it, and then there is lots of chatter throughout the sector.
For those of you who are hoping for a quick down-n-dirty synopsis, here you go:
Contact the Better Business Bureau, search online at Guidestar.org, pull up the organization’s website and look for an annual report and its 990 forms to the IRS, or call your community foundation office, he advises.
“A couple of quick searches and calls will reveal whether the organization is truly creating mission impact,” he said. “The charitable investment seeks mission impact — that is, the return the donor is searching for.”
Also, trust your instincts. Does the solicitation seem a bit off, a bit too perfect? Does it seek specific personal information to complete the donation? Does the organization have a name very similar to other more familiar groups? Hmmmm.
“If the caller sounds like they are in a boiler room, or if the solicitation is taking place on your front porch, trust your instincts. Say, ‘Not now,’ and that you would like to look into the cause a bit deeper,” Vande Velde suggests. “A charitable solicitation is not a sales pitch. If it has the sales feel, say you want to look into the organization a bit more.”
First you needed a website. Did it take a while to get one up and running? Then you needed social media, that changes so rapidly it’s hard to keep up! You integrated a blog, that now you need to find people to write for it.
Do you really need to do more?
Yes you do.
I’m writing this in the summer so you can start to put it into your budget for the next fiscal year. Let’s talk about what you need to do to be Web 3.0.
You just inherited a database(s) that is meant for you to track down donations, board members, visitors and everything else. Perhaps there are several files with repeated information or better yet, incomplete information. Sitting in the storage room are files of handwritten notes and check copies, none of which have been entered into a computer. Emails are going back and forth between you and other staff collecting bits and pieces of information making it a tracking nightmare.
So what do you do about when you are tasked with organizing your organizations database in a maze of information?
Is the focus to improve on the database moving forward? Or is it necessary to change historical information. A lot of organizations can just say “forget the past, I’m starting fresh tomorrow.” However, most cannot and they have a lot of cleanup to do.
Breast cancer advocates are up in arms because the CEO of the Susan G. Komen Foundation is still taking home a hefty salary even after the nonprofit recently canceled a number of charity walks and fundraising has dropped.
Nancy Brinker, founder of Komen –- the largest breast cancer charity -- officially stepped down from her role as CEO in August in the aftermath of the Planned Parenthood debacle, but Brinker is still earning a whopping $684,000 a year. Experts say her salary is disproportionate to the organization’s size and advocates are disappointed that so many donor dollars are lining her pockets even as the nonprofit is scaling back on its fundraising efforts.
“This pay package is way outside the norm," Ken Berger, president and CEO of charity watchdog Charity Navigator told NBC. "It's about a quarter of a million dollars more than what we see for charities of this size. ... This is more than the head of the Red Cross is making for an organization that is one-tenth the size of the Red Cross.”
According to a study by Charity Navigator, the median charity’s chief executive officer’s compensation is $132,739.
The nonprofit told NBC that Brinker was given the raise in 2010, prior to the Planned Parenthood fallout and that she did not get an increase in pay in 2011 or 2012 and will not receive one this year either.
But breast cancer advocates remain upset about Brinker’s earning of $684,717 year -- a 64 percent from April 2010 to March 2011, according to the Dallas News.
In early 2012, the organization announced that it would cut grant funding to Planned Parenthood, causing a backlash from donors and abortion advocates. Though Komen reversed its decision, Brinker still stepped down from her post as CEO in August. Yet, the founder is still holding onto her role and her generous salary.
There are a lot of so-called “social media experts” out there. Dishing out advice, sometimes based on limited experiences, and sometimes based on nothing at all. Even the true social media experts sometimes share some misguided advice based on their beliefs and experiences. So with all this bad advice floating around the web, how do you distinguish between what you should -- and shouldn't -- believe?
Have no fear! We’re here to share some of the worst pieces of social media advice we've seen to debunk all those misguided "best practices" and steer you in the right direction toward social media marketing truth and justice.
I second my vote on all of these bad pieces of advice. Be warned about bad social media!
1) Increased demand for performance: Over the years, nonprofits have shared their successes through quantitative measures—either by the number of people affected or how much money was raised. Now there’s an emphasis on a qualitative description of success. People and donors want to see that their support direct impacts individuals as opposed to a broad blanket statement of those helped.
2) Decreased emphasis on “overhead”: The typical understanding of how donor funds were used was that they directly contributed to the nonprofit’s specific projects as opposed to paying the staff, buying new equipment, or getting new supplies for the actual organization. Now people are realizing that project-specific donations are not the most effective way to give money because nonprofits can’t achieve their mission without infrastructure.
What about capacity? Can we increse performance with less overhead?
I love serving on this board because . . .
I agreed to serve on this board because . . .
I donate to this organization because . . .
and they don’t stop talking for a whole minute, until your timer goes off. You reset the timer, and the second person in the pair takes their turn, answering the same question.
Then you ask everyone to find a new partner, and repeat the exercise again, with the same question, and with you giving each person one minute.
I recommend that you do a third round too.
Then debrief. How did their answers change from the first round to the third? What nuggets did they borrow from what they heard others say to incorporate into their own answer?
This always helps board members feel more comfortable talking about the organization and is an excellent alternative to asking people to remember a stiff elevator pitch.
There is a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth when it comes to the subject of nonprofit boards. And it's true that many nonprofits have woefully inadequate boards that don't understand their fundraising duties nor even want to engage in helping with fundraising.
This month's Nonprofit Blog Carnival host, Erik Anderson of Donor Dreams,challenged us to write a letter to our board members (or a fictional board) that expressed all that we ever wanted to say...good or bad...to them.
I am lucky. The boards I've worked with have been pretty terrific, especially that first one when I was new to nonprofit work and was still learning the rules of staff/board relationships.
I have decided to put my gratitude into a love letter to that board for teaching me so much.
Now it’s time for a online community strategy. It’s one thing to set up a group and chant the mantra “If I build it they will come.” And another to say “I will go to them with what I built.” In other words start your strategy with these three steps:
A. Ask your community how they want to participate online?- Depending on what kind of community you are working with their interest in how to use a community forum may vary.- Do they want to be able to have subgroups or subcategories?- Are they interested in promoting their work?- Do they want to have a deeper discussion or get quick answers?
B. Where do they want to participate?- Is the group more comfortable with email?Perhaps a listserv would fit best? Is your group concerned with privacy? Perhaps they would want a secure network instead of a social forum.- Is everyone on Facebook already? Sometimes being on a platform they are already on like Facebook would encourage them to participate.
C. Personally guide them there.- When starting a new community group you will likely get people to initially join the group but then there is the big question of how to do you get people to participate.- The most effective method is also the most time consuming. Start by talking to them one on one and ask them to participate.- Help them by cluing in on how they can contribute something to the community. While discussions are brewing bring in the quiet ones.- There are people who read the forums but never participate.
WASHINGTON, June 18 (Reuters) - Individual charitable giving in the United States grew almost 4 percent last year, while corporate donations rose at triple that rate, according to a report that shows donations by Americans to nonprofit groups mirroring the slow recovery of the larger economy.Overall, U.S. donations to bolster the arts, health, religion and other activities totaled $316.2 billion in 2012, a 3.5 percent increase from the $305.5 billion donated in 2011, according to the report, "Giving USA." That was just a 1.5 percent increase when adjusted for inflation.The annual report is published by the Giving USA Foundation and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.Donations are still down about 8 percent from their 2007 peak of $344.5 billion. Giving levels fell sharply during the subsequent recession.
Failure and your fundraising plan
The first flurry of thoughts that ran through my head pertained to many fundraising programs I’ve seen throughout the years. Here are just a few questions I find myself asking about many agencies’ annual resource development plans:
I’m now wondering if the answer to these questions is that we’re afraid of failure, and it is just easier to keep doing the same thing over and over again. After all, if we evaluate and ask questions, then shouldn’t we “do something” about those things that don’t look so good?
As for innovation and trying new things, there has to be all kinds of “fears” associated with venturing off into the great unknown. Right?
I know that talking about those things we’re afraid of is difficult for many of us. It is this simple truism that keeps countless counselors, therapists and psychologists employed every year. However, I encourage you to take 30 seconds our of your busy day right now and consider these questions and the possibility that your fundraising program is in the grip of fear-based decision-making by staff, fundraising volunteers, and board members.
What would you do . . . if you knew?
What an interesting question to ponder. Dontcha think?
What would I do, if I knew, I could not fail?
Let me step off that cliff first. The following is a list of things (as it pertains to non-profit management and fundraising) I thought of in 30 seconds:
Should your nonprofit invest in designing a responsive website? Read on to find out if responsive design is right for your mobile marketing strategy.
So, how do you know if responsive design is right for your organization? If you answer “yes” to most of the questions below, you should consider responsive design for the next iteration of your website:
1. You have enough money in your budget. Responsive design will cost more and take longer to develop than a desktop version, however it will still be cheaper than creating desktop, mobile and tablet versions.
2. You don’t have the resources (human/monetary) to manage and maintain multiple versions of your website.
3. Your users are accessing your website during off-business hours. Evenings and weekends are when use of mobile devices, including tablets, increases and use of desktops drops. Don’t assume what your users are doing—really look at your traffic data. You may be surprised.
4. Your users expect to access exactly the same information and have a similar user experience, regardless of the platform they are on. Think about how airline mobile websites differ from desktop sites. That’s because users on the go need a different experience than desktop users. If that’s the case for your users, perhaps responsive design isn’t the right choice for your website.
5. Your SEO strategy is very important to your overall web traffic strategy. According to Google (see Google’s recommendation link below) when it comes to SEO, it’s better to have one site accessible on all devices than multiple versions of the site for each platform.
- See more at: http://gettingattention.org/2013/06/nonprofit-mobile-marketing-strategy/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+gettingattention+%28Nonprofit+Marketing%3A+Getting+Attention+Blog%29#sthash.9WEetRjX.dpuf
One of my ex-students recently gave me an update on his startup. When I asked, “What are you working on?” the first words out of his mouth was his fundraising progress.
Sigh. What I should have been hearing is the search for the business model, specifically the progress on product/market fit, but I hear the fundraising story first at least 90 percent of the time. It never makes me happy.
Entrepreneurs need to think about 1) when to raise money, 2) why to raise money, 3) who to take money from, and 4) the consequences of raising money.
It all starts with understanding what a startup is.
As a reminder, a startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.
Read more at http://venturebeat.com/2013/06/11/fundraising-is-a-means-not-an-end/#DOJbOzlI4objhmkm.99
When applying this Pixar rule to fundraising, Andrew Rogers says:
"Rule for fundraisers: What happens if the need isn't addressed? How are real people being affected? In our case, we should never "stack the odds" by exaggerating or otherwise being less than perfectly truthful. On the other hand, don't tell less than the full truth either, and remember that the full truth often isn't very pretty."
I cannot tell you how many times I've seen a non-profit organization try to apply this rule by telling donors things like:
To be clear, I don't think Rule 16 is a license to practice extortion or heavy-handed fundraising tactics.
In instances where I've seen agencies use urgency messages laced with "We're gonna close or we're going to eliminate programming," two interesting things seem to happen every time:
What is content curation about? Diagram, charts and infographics to make sense of the curation conundrum
Curate using this visual map
This will be helpful to share to those wondering about content curation.
Escape from what’s holding you backShift your focus away from these time- and budget-wasters. They are the greatest threats to successful fundraising:
Relying on the cost of fundraising/overhead to assess organizational successPerfecting the old, old thing (like the renewal envelope teaser and email p.s., ugh!)Testing in an improper or half-a___ way—Sloppy testing will lead you in the wrong direction every time, but there’s lots of guidance on doing it rightIsolating key players in silos—No wonder supporters get confused by divergent (sometimes conflicting) messages and look and feel when the disconnect is built into your organization. Pivot towards your donorsYour only chance of getting to happily-ever-after fundraising is 24/7 focus on donor loyalty, says Roger. Here’s his list of key success factors:
Pivot towards your donorsYour only chance of getting to happily-ever-after fundraising is 24/7 focus on donor loyalty, says Roger. Here’s his list of key success factors:
MS Excel is spreadsheet format of Microsoft Office suite that enables a user to store, organize, and manage data. It is a spreadsheet consisting rows and columns, the intersection of a row and a column is called as a cell. Every cell in your Excel sheet is the basic unit for storing data. Moreover, you can apply complex calculations on the data stored on these cells and based on this data in cells, you can even create charts. In this way, MS Excel is the best way to manipulate and manage your numerical data.
However, in any case, if you encounter corruption in your Excel sheet, then you may become completely unable to access your data stored in this file. Your Excel sheet or Excel workbook generally gets corrupt when you perform indecent system shutdown while Excel file is opened on your system, virus infection. Generally, the corruption of Excel sheet renders an error message. Some of the common error messages exhibited by a corrupt MS Excel sheet are:
Mentioned above are some common error messages; however, you may encounter some other error messages rendering Excel corruption as well. You can try below mentioned methods to resolve Excel corruption errors.
Lots of data and very little time to digest it all; however, this quotation caught my attention in another Chronicle of Philanthropy article on December 2, 2012:
“Online giving, though, accounts for less than 10 percent of the dollars charities collect, experts say. But Steve MacLaughlin, director of Blackbaud’s IdeaLab, predicts that over the next five years, the total share of gifts raised online will grow to 15 percent of charities’ overall donations.”
All of this gets me wondering . . . where is that tipping point? When should non-profit organizations get more serious about investing in technology, social media and development of online giving strategies and tactics?
I think my advice might be evolving. Yes, slow and steady wins the race, but investments in benchmarking and planning are always wise.
What is your average size gift from one-time online gifts? Is it in line with national averages? Did your Facebook fan base grow by 46 percent? Did you Twitter following grow by an audacious 264 percent? If not, what are you planning to do in 2013 to adjust your efforts and prevent yourself from falling behind the curve? And how will you guard against the risk of over-investing and living on the cutting edge?