I used to love three-on-three basketball. The challenge, competition and camaraderie kept me coming back way past the time when my back—and my wife—told me to stop. One of the heroes in basketball will always be Coach John Wooden, who has coached many of the greats. Bill Walton tells about walking into an early practice and having Coach Wooden tell the team to remove their shoes and socks. He was such a stickler for the basics that he wanted the men to know the right process from the very beginning, right down to their socks and shoes.
One of my favorite quotes from Coach Wooden is that “failure to plan is a plan to fail.” My passion for organizational development is probably most clearly seen in the area of process. Many times when I work with an organization, they are stuck. They need money and they need it fast, thinking that a major event is the key to making things happen. My response is always that the key to getting outside the box is not another major event—it is in working the process without overworking it. The process is all about bringing together goals, people, and methods to make an impact and do meaningful work through your organization.
When an organization feels the heat, too often they want to continuously make shifts in their plan. Once the plan is in place and has been blessed by all the players, it is time to trust it and not micromanage it. Constantly and unwisely tweaking a plan, or ignoring it altogether, is a sure road to chaos and possible failure.
Have you ever gone on a diet and found yourself standing on the scale day after day waiting for the pounds to drop off? After the first few pounds, a plateau always occurs. If you have a diet plan, the best way to succeed is to stick to it rather than constantly trying new fads, or abandoning the goal altogether because success wasn’t instantaneous. Careful planning and committed implementation lead to success, but it takes discipline. Plan the work and then work the plan. Planning gives everyone the sense of direction and purpose that leads to a positive and productive environment. Developing a simple, doable plan leads to sustainable, profitable growth.
The 6.0 earthquake on the East Coast took everyone by surprise this week. It damaged national monuments like the Washington National Cathedral, which relies on nonprofit funds to rebuild and repair. We are all grateful that there was no widespread damage or loss of life due to this earthquake, but what if there had been? Is your organization ready to respond in case of an emergency? Whether your organization is hands on the ground or sending support in other ways, having a response plan ready and available is key.
How can you prepare your organization to be ready in the event of an emergency so that you can respond quickly and let your constituents know your plan of action? Here are a few simple steps to help you get started:
1. Build a team. Establish a pre-selected, on-call team that drives decisions and communications around an emergency response effort.
2. Create an Emergency Response Kit. The easiest place to quickly implement change is your online presence. When creating your kit, consider creating a modified version of your homepage, banner, donation form and email template with images and content ready to be dropped in. Go social. Engage in a two-way conversation. If you can still make changes to your mail and media programs at minimal cost, do so.
3. Start communicating. Regardless of your mission, acknowledge what’s happening. The news is affecting your constituents just as it is affecting you. Address it and let them know you care. If your organization works directly in an emergency or disaster relief area and is raising funds to send support, have a clear call to action on how your constituent base can help:
- Be specific. How does your organization intend to help those in need? What, exactly, do you plan to do? Don’t be perceived as glomming onto the latest crisis and taking advantage of a terrible situation and people in need.
- Commit. What percentage of funds raised will actually be distributed? By when? Reassure your donors that at least XX% will go directly to helping those in need by a specific date. Then follow through.
- Connect. Your response needs to connect with your organization’s purpose or it will confuse constituents. Let Red Cross do blood drives. That’s what they are known for. What are you known for? How can you apply that to this situation?
- Mobilize. Ask your constituents to act on your behalf. Be sure to have a clear call to action and plan for that action. What is it that you want them to do? Donate clothes, blood, food, money, pray or maybe volunteer in some capacity? Then, ask them to engage their network on your behalf and make it simple for them to do so.
4. Follow up. This is the most important step. Engage your constituents based on the point of entry – in this case, via the emergency at hand. Leverage pictures, videos, and any personal stories you may have. As you provide consistent updates on the issues (don’t forget to usher constituents into the broader mission of what you do and why it matters.
We can’t predict the future, but we can certainly plan for it so that we can respond quickly and appropriately in a time of need. If you have questions on how to create your emergency response kit, please contact me.
Do you have an example you’d like to share of how your organization has responded to a crisis in the past? Tell us about it in the comments.
Our job is to connect the passion and resources of the donor with the vision and needs of the people that our nonprofit organization has called us to serve. But how do you bridge the gap between your donor and the vision and needs of your organization? You can’t just have a clear vision of service for your organization; you also need a distinct, clear plan for adequately staffing and funding the call.
Small businesses tend to have an imaginary hat rack at the front door. As each employee walks in they grab the hat that is still hanging, whether it fits them or not. That same method is often applied to nonprofits. How many times have you heard someone say that their organization doesn’t have job descriptions, and that everyone just does what needs to be done? Sounds like a servant’s heart, but it’s most often the response to poor planning and a misinterpretation of how to steward the people resources in an organization. We miss the boat when we don’t manage our people resources with understanding and discernment.
It can be especially frustrating when board members are giving their time, energy, and money to an organization they believe in, yet nobody stops to evaluate how they could best be used within the organization. What strengths do they have that could bring great influence and wisdom? What down to earth contributions could each board member make? It’s important to spend time learning about how each board member is wired in order to facilitate growth and harmony among board members and between the board members and the organization.
Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, repeatedly advises to get the right people in the right places doing the right things. This is not easy. Some questions that can help you figure out a plan to better steward your people resources are:
- What are the visionary’s strengths and weaknesses? The staff? The board? The volunteers?
- Who determines the “highest and best use” of each person?
- What is the plan for additional staff? Board members?
- How clearly defined are the roles and expectations for fundraising efforts from the entire organization?
- What can you count on in terms of people resources right now? In three months? In nine months? In two years?
If you have a revolving door of staff and board members, it could be due to the misuse of passion, skills, and personalities. You need clear roles and expectations of all the people resources for the organization instead of trying to put square pegs into round holes. Fundraising is much easier when you have the right people in the right place doing the right things.
Register now for Top 10 Strategies For Year-End Donor Cultivation and Solicitation, presented by Barbara Talisman, CFRE, Senior Vice President, Pursuant Ketchum.
This free 90-minute webinar will provide 10 or more ideas that you can use, whether your 2010 year-end was fabulous or could use some help.
Join us if you want to learn:
- New techniques for year-end donor cultivation and solicitation
- How integrating direct mail, email, website and online giving tools, and messages create a donor-centric experience and successful campaign
- Why and how segmenting your database of prospects and donors is important
- What kind of communication you can and should be doing between this webinar and your year-end solicitation to connect with prospects and donors
- Whether video, social media, or PURLs are options for your organization’s year-end program
- How you can effectively engage your board in your year-end program
There’s a lot to do in the next few months. If you start now, you WILL be more successful than last year. You’ll finish this webinar with more answers than questions, energized to plan and implement your end-of-year giving program.
This session is scheduled for 90 minutes, with 60 minutes of content and the opportunity for you to get your questions answered throughout the session. Full participation in this webinar is applicable for 1.5 points in Category 1.B – Education of the CFRE International application for initial certification and/or recertification.
The webinar will be presented on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at Noon CDT (1 p.m. EDT, 10 a.m. PDT) and we hope to see you there! Click here to register now.
Barbara Talisman, CFRE and Jason Mitchell are featured today on Fundraising Success with a follow-up article to their presentation at the 2011 Bridge to Integrated Marketing and Fundraising Conference.
They talk about how important it is to integrate all communications across channels to tell your organization’s story in the most effective way and steward your donors online.
Once you have the stories to tell, you need to create a strategy around how to use them to reach the right donors with the messages and information they care about. Today there is no excuse for sending generic messages, especially when stewarding donors. We learn about our donor’s interests by collecting data from the information we send them. This means we need to collect and review what they responded to, where they clicked, how long they viewed a page, and even ask them outright! We are able to better focus and integrate our stewardship efforts through this behavioral data.
Click here to read the entire article at Fundraising Success.
Joel Mikell, president of RSI, and Rebecca Gregory, senior vice president of marketing and strategy, were recently featured in the May/June issue of Worship Facilities Magazine. They were interviewed for an article called “The Joy of Giving,” where they discussed the art of developing consistent givers in the church.
Joel gave his thoughts on establishing consistent giving in a congregation. He believes that it requires inspiring leadership, motivation, education and gratitude.
“I fully believe that the greatest obstacle for establishing consistent givers is the lack of bold, visionary leadership—leadership that not only inspires people to give, but demonstrates a level of sacrificial giving themselves,” Mikell says. “People have to be asked … you cannot be afraid to talk about money and to ask people to invest in something that is worthwhile.”
Rebecca talked about how important it is to make sure that you’re creating an impactful case for support that will reach your intended audience in the right way.
“It’s not just about creating a case for support, it’s about creating a case that is relevant to the audience you are targeting,” says Rebecca Gregory, senior vice president of strategic ministry development at Pursuant, a full-service fundraising firm based in Dallas.“Studies show that 52% of givers prefer to be asked by a friend towards a cause than any other method. That is especially true for Gen Y and Gen X givers, as sited in Convio’s whitepaper, “The Next Generation of American Giving.”
For over ten years I have worked with organizations of all sizes, raising millions of dollars through capital campaigns, events, and personal relationships. What I have learned is that there is no “one size fits all” for raising money. However, there are fundamentals in the work that can be applied to all organizations. I like to think of organizational development as the 4 Ps: philosophy, people, process, and partnerships. I am convinced that development doesn’t hang on the sheer ability or personality of “the development guy.” It is a system that can be learned and implemented. It isn’t an either/or. It isn’t personality versus process. It is both art and science.
You may want the quick fix or the silver bullet, but they don’t exist. There is an order and rhythm to this work, and if it is done right it is sustainable and profitable. If it is done wrong, it eventually turns upside down. Getting it right from the beginning is the key to managing your organization’s resources in the best way possible.
When you get your oil changed, the shop usually tells you that the air filter is awfully close to time for replacement. They even demonstrate the gunk clogging up the system with great gusto, wanting you to feel guilty at the very idea of driving away with such an atrocious piece of equipment in your car. I certainly appreciate the value of having filters—they are the gatekeepers, whether in the car, the furnace, or the water faucet. Filters allow the good stuff to get through and hold the bad stuff back.
A philosophy statement for an organization does exactly the same thing. It is a grid for decision making that allows the suitable decisions to get through, while the unsuitable decisions are filtered out. It is an absolute requirement for an organization that will make an important difference for a long time. It clearly defines the core values of fundraising for everyone involved: the board, leadership, staff, volunteers, and even donors.
Filtering questions are a great way to get an organization to get to the heart of their philosophy statement. Here is a list of questions you can ask of the leadership in your organization:
- What methods of fundraising fit your organization?
- What will you do when you are pushed against the wall and need funds for payroll and operating expenses?
- How do you know what fits you and what doesn’t?
- Who defines suitability?
- Who makes the final call on the fundraising programs?
- What will you say yes to? No?
- How does your mission statement line up with prospective programs for fundraising?
- Are you consistent in your approach to donors?
- Are you designing a strategy that will be comfortable for your donor base?
- How do you manage the pressure to try the latest and greatest ideas?
You should also be clear on what your donors expect from you in return for their gifts. You need to know if these expectations fit your philosophy. Gifts can strangle an organization with golden cords. After the elation over a large gift settles down, what is the reality? Will you ultimately be hindered by accepting someone else’s goal for your organization along with their gift? Some additional questions you can ask around the subject of motivation and donor expectations are:
- How do we handle gifts with strings?
- What about the mutual benefit of fund raising?
- Will we be expected to reciprocate with other organizations?
- What if a restricted gift stops the flow of operations?
- How do we manage donors who control with their funding?
These filtering questions allow the organization’s leadership to set parameters and guidelines. A philosophical base gives direction for the organization to hold the course. Get your philosophy statement on paper and make it a part of everything your organization says or does.
I was serving in a fundraising capacity for a nonprofit several years ago. After some time on the job, I was curious if my three kids knew what I did for a living. So I asked them.
Their response: “You have lunch and dinner with people.” Their answer highlights the essence of a foundational problem in the fundraising arena: a tendency to focus on tactics.
Fundraising is a discipline—one documented in academic research and literature, one that is supported through extensive consultative and training services, and one that should be practiced by professionals who have studied the art and science behind what it takes to successfully raise funds for nonprofit mission and vision purposes.
But some fundraising programs suffer from the leadership of fundraisers who are new to their positions. In the absence of experience and knowledge, they replicate the tactics of their predecessors or of other nonprofit organizations who may very well be functioning the same way.
The field of fundraising is hardly alone in this respect. Companies routinely ask people to lead and serve in areas where they don’t know what they don’t know.
To be clear, there are many outstanding fundraising professionals in our field serving worthy nonprofit organizations. To them, this may simply offer an important reminder: that fundraising should be driven from a data-based, strategic perspective, not a tactical one.
For others who are newer to the profession, my hope is that I can challenge you to redefine fundraising. Nonprofit missions need quality support and professional leadership.
What is involved in diagnosing an organization’s donor development challenges? How does diagnosis inform a comprehensive strategy? How is strategy executed? I hope that this paper can shed some light on these important questions and provide input for those seeking a deeper understanding of how to construct a strong, comprehensive fundraising program, one that really works for their organization.
Greg Mortenson is best known for his bestselling books, Three Cups of Tea and Another Cup of Tea. But no one knew who he was back in 1993 when he first started trying to raise funds to provide educational programs to young girls in Pakistan. His first attempts at fundraising were a complete failure. He sent 580 letters to celebrities, businessmen, and popular Americans. He received one response from Tom Brokaw for $100. He wrote 16 grant requests, every one of which was rejected.
Mr. Mortenson ran headlong into the same problem faced by many nonprofits. We take what is familiar and craft a strategy around it. We discover a technique that works, and then continue the cycle by repeating the newfound tactic. If direct mail proves to be a successful way to connect with donors willing to give, we send more mail. If running major donor events or capital campaigns was helpful, then that becomes our focus.
What began as a single tactic becomes the centerpiece of our strategic plan, even if we didn’t fully understand what made it “work” in the first place. But the plan says “do it again,” further cementing the practice as a staple in our fundraising diet.
In time, we build an ecosystem around the tactic by hiring staff who writes direct response letters, crafts compelling videos, designs beautiful websites, or plans memorable events. In the process, we institutionalize our fundraising strategy around specific creative capabilities, but with little strategic understanding or thought. Our tactic informs our strategy instead of using a robust, data-driven strategic planning process to inform a balanced and comprehensive suite of practices.
Unfortunately, most fundraising consultancies operate the same way. Too many direct response consultants will tell you that your funding needs can be solved through printed letters and postage stamps. Website design firms tell you a new site will cure your communication and donor connection concerns. They have creative strengths. They do that work well, so it’s understandable that they are going to try to sell those specific services in the form of a solution.
Is it wrong to capitalize on a strength? Of course not. But if we aren’t careful, strengths cause us to miss opportunities to connect in new ways with new constituents, or to enhance what was once a strategic strength but has been weakened over time through almost mindless repetition.
So how do we break the cycle where tactics drive strategies, which in turn drive the same tactics and strategies over and over? We redefine the fundraising strategic planning process.
This is an excerpt from Redefining Fundraising, a whitepaper by Curt Swindoll, Executive Vice President of Integration and Strategy at Pursuant. Click here to download the complete whitepaper. For other Pursuant whitepapers and on-demand webinars, visit our Resources page.
We encourage organizations to have a donor-focused approach to their fundraising. We want to build a relationship with donors, and communicate to them in a way that deepens their affinity with the organization and cause. So if this is our goal, and if this is going to allow us to be more effective fundraisers, why are so many organizations funneling new names that come onto their file into their standard communication?
In order to be successful, it is important to recognize characteristics that distinguish these new individuals. You need to know if they are new to your online or offline file, how they came on your file and what their primary interests are.
If I signed up to receive communication from your organization, will the next message I receive be an eAppeal that comes a month later? Or would it be over 2 months before I get a postcard inviting me to an event in a location where I would not be able to attend? We cannot assume that every individual fits the same profile and has the same level of interest in your organization. If we speak to these individuals in a more personalized manner and are willing to “listen” to them, we will dramatically increase the chances of taking the relationship to the next level.
If you are going to successfully develop a relationship that leads to a donation, a second gift and even a recurring gift, it is critical to have a multichannel communication plan to integrate them onto your file. We encourage utilizing a three- to five-part online Welcome Series, along with a direct mail component, to appropriately introduce individuals to the organization and then begin move them toward the desired action.
Key elements to developing a successful Welcome Series:
- Identify the primary sources of new name acquisition
- Classify the distinguishing elements of these entry paths
- Set up variable messages based on those key/unique elements
- Introduce your organization/share the vision
- Provide a clear action-related item in each message
- Consume additional content
- Join social networks
- Share with friends
- Provide feedback on interests
- Make a one-time or recurring gift
- Thank them for their involvement
- Collect preferences and interests
Utilizing a Welcome Series will show your constituents that you appreciate their interest. It will allow you to communicate with them more effectively going forward, and it will ultimately lead to more dollars for your organization.