All posts pertaining to cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship

Just take that virtual

photo of man using laptop
Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on

“Oh, that’s easy . . . just go virtual.”
It seems like every time I turn around, some non-profit expert is glibly sharing this advice with an executive director or fundraising professional who is experiencing organizational challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are a handful of real life examples I’ve come across in just the last few days:

  • We had to cancel our annual dinner” . . . no worries, just do a virtual event
  • We had to cancel our auction fundraiser” . . . just do an online auction
  • We can’t provide services to our clients during this stay-at-home order” . . . have you heard of Zoom
  • The print shop is closed and I can’t get my newsletter produced” . . . use Constant Contact and turn it into an e-newsletter

If I put a little effort into this crazy coronavirus inspired exercise, I’m sure that I can come up with another five examples in less than five minutes. I’m not kidding.
I don’t mean to suggest anyone should be ungrateful for the advice. But I really wish everyone would stop dispensing this type of sugar-coated advice. It is overly simplistic. And dare I say, it can even feel a little dismissive.
Going “virtual” is simply not as easy as it sounds. Consider the following issues I’ve seen non-profit organization’s grappling with just this week:

  • Employees lack the skills to do what needs to be done to take programming and services virtual
  • Internet bandwidth is challenging
  • Hardware is lacking
  • Software or online services hasn’t been acquired yet
  • The organization’s budget can’t support those tech investments
  • A digital divide in the community means clients don’t have access
  • Not every donor has a Facebook account

My “pandemic wish” for the non-profit thought-leadership community is to stop tossing around nuggets of meaningless advice and let’s start getting specific.
For example, rather than simply saying, “just pivot and take your fundraising event online,” let’s explore the organization’s current state.  What systems do they have in place? What needs to be put in place to support their people? How does going virtual impact their organizational culture and the direction they were heading before the pandemic hit?
Then after getting answers to all of the assessment questions, let’s get specific about live streaming vs. recorded online videos or cross-channel donor communications utilizing email, text, website and social media.
OK, I’m going to get down off my soapbox because this rant is going to get nerdy very quickly.
I’m interested in hearing from you about how “going virtual” (aka your digital strategies) is working for you? What hiccups, if any, are you encountering? How are you solving those challenges?
Please share your experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other!
Be well, stay safe!
Erik Anderson

How is Trump ushering in renaissance for non-profit sector?

Yesterday, I published a post titled “What will Trump’s impact be on the non-profit sector?” and I ended with a cliffhanger with the following tease:

The Trump Administration will mark the beginning of a renaissance for the non-profit sector!

If you didn’t have a chance to read yesterday’s post, I encourage you to go back and do so. It wasn’t very long, but it helps set the stage for what you’re about to read.
As I explained yesterday, I had written a blog post a few days after the election about what Donald Trump’s election might mean to the non-profit sector. However, a funny thing happened on my way to clicking the “publish” button . . . my inner Jiminy Cricket started chirping. While I normally ignore my intuition because I don’t trust it, I’ve been working on developing this inferior function (yes, this is a geeky Myers-Briggs reference … LOL) over the last five years. And I think it paid off in this case.
In the days and weeks after the election, I started to sense a “drip-drip-drip” of non-profit news coverage. There were random stories in my Google feed in addition to what I heard on the radio and saw on television. Again, I didn’t put the bigger picture together right away, but it did give me pause and kept me away from my blog’s dreaded “publish” button.
Here are a few examples of the “drip-drip-drip” I was seeing:

At first I kind of dismissed this as something I would describe as: “My-Liberal-Friends-Are-Rallying-The-Troops” phenomenon. Of course, you are thinking the same thing, right? It must be because the headlines are full of non-profits that seen as “liberal causes” such as:

  • American Civil Liberties Union (e.g. fighting Trump on immigration issue)
  • Planned Parenthood (aka abortion issue)
  • International Rescue Committee (aka Syrian refugees)
  • Center for Public Integrity (aka investigative journalism)
  • The Marshall Project (aka criminal justice system issues)
  • NAACP (aka civil right)
  • Human Rights Campaign (aka LBGTQ issues)
  • Anti-Defamation League (aka addressing anti-Semitism)
  • Sierra Club (aka environmental issues)

Take a good look up and down this list. It is way to easy to buy into an explanation like “My-Liberal-Friends-Are-Rallying-The-Troops” phenomenon.” Right? And I almost did, but Jiminy Cricket was still wagging his finger at me (or maybe it was Trump). So, I held off on publishing my Trump blog post for a little longer.
And then it came to me . . .
I was at Bloomerang‘s Bloomcon conference in Orlando, FL on February 13, 2017. One of the many expert speakers that day was Tom Ahern. (He is one of my all-time FAVs) And he was on his favorite soapbox talking about his favorite things:

  • storytelling (e.g. make the donor the hero of your case for support)
  • emotional triggers (e.g. anger, exclusivity, fear, flattery, greed, guilt, salvation) and neuroscience
  • 13 most influential words in the English language (#1 on the list is the word ‘YOU’)

My ah-ha moment came to me like bricks falling from the sky. It occurred while Tom was waxing poetic about great non-profit stories having “good guys” and “bad guys.” And this is when things started making sense:

  • Who is the perceived ‘bad guy’?  President Trump
  • What is the problem?  The new administration will [fill in the blank with things like repeal the healthcare law, deport millions of people, etc]
  • Who is the ‘good guy’?  YOU … Mr. or Mrs. Donor who cares about these issues
  • What is the solution?  A trustworthy non-profit organization asking emotionally buzzed up donors to get involved (aka volunteer, sign a petition, call your legislator but definitely don’t forget to make a contribution)

So, put a check mark in the “Good Storytelling Material” box.
But what about the emotions at play in these donors’ philanthropic decisions? (hint: go back up to the bullet point where I list Tom’s favorite seven emotional triggers and quickly refresh your memory)
The following is what I believe is driving this wave of engaged donors:

  • ANGER — donor is upset about Trump victory, especially because it was a surprise and they might now have been emotionally prepared for it
  • FEAR — donor is confident that policies and programs they value will be dismantled and people will get hurt (and the 24/7 cable news networks certainly stoke this fire)
  • GUILT — donor feels guilty that maybe they should’ve done more to help Clinton campaign (e.g. could’ve donated, knocked on doors, volunteered, etc)

These three emotions are all powerful in and of themselves. However, there is synergy between these emotions, which I believe exponentially took people to a new place (I prefer to think of it as a philanthropic place set in technicolor).
For those readers, who are excited because it sounds like I am saying that fundraising is as easy as saying: “BOO! Donald Trump is President so won’t you please give to my organization?” . . . I encourage you to think again.
But, oh snap, look at the time. It is getting late. <yawn> And I am way past my maximum word count guideline. I guess you’ll need to come back tomorrow for another installment of this series of Trump-inspired posts. But I guess it is only fair to give you a little preview:

“Trump is like having a golden ticket’ to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for those organizations who know how to fundraise. But those organizations who have been fat and sassy and accepting lots of government funding instead of fundraising are likely going to fail or merge with other organizations.”

Don’t worry. If your organization falls into the “fat and sassy government funding” category I just described, I’ll have a few tips for you tomorrow (or maybe the next day).   😉
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Interview with Mazarine Treyz about the online Fundraising Career Conference

Yesterday, I posted a review of “Get The Job: Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide,” which is a book written by a very talented fundraising coach/consultant by the name of Mazarine Treyz. If the title of the book intrigues you, then you definitely want to check out my review. I suspect that after reading more, you’ll most likely be running off to Amazon to get yourself a copy.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows Mazarine (or gets to know her through her books) that she used her book as a foundation to build an online virtual conference called the Fundraising Career Conference. This year the online conference is on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting on April 17th. There are 10 different sessions, and Mazarine has some very awesome presenters lined up. (If you are looking for CFRE credits, then you don’t want to miss this opportunity to earn some)
The training sessions are designed to deepen your knowledge on the topics presented in the book. The ultimate outcomes for participants include:

  • Finding a new job
  • Better understand your skills gaps
  • Creating a better work environment for you and those around you
  • Identifying and achieving your career goals

And if you’re afraid that someone also logging into the conference will see your name in an attendees box and tell your boss, then fear no more because Mazarine is keeping everyone’s identities hidden.
If you aren’t yet signed up for this online conference, I urge you to click-through and check it out. After all, it isn’t just for people currently looking for a job.
In order to give you a better feel for Mazarine and what her book and conference bring to the table, I “virtually” interviewed her. You can read the transcript in the space below. Enjoy!

Q: What drives your passion to write a book and host an online conference to help people with their fundraising career aspirations?
A: I have such a passion to help fundraisers because I feel like fundraisers are my tribe.  I’ve moved on up from Development Associate, Development Assistant, Development Officer, to Development Director and now, finally, to Fundraising coach and conference organizer.
When i left my last fundraising job in 2009, I immediately began to write The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising with everything I knew from the last 3 years of full time fundraising jobs in a one person shop.  I wanted to pass on what I knew to people because so often in our fundraising jobs we just WING IT and we aren’t set up to succeed.
Now of course, after 8 years of teaching, I have so much more to teach that I’ve written 10 e-courses and a number of webinars about various aspects of fundraising in a LOT more detail than I went into in the book.
And during my time in full time fundraising, I had the experience of bosses that really did not know what they were doing. We had the issue of the MBA boss coming from the board in my last 2 fundraising jobs, which means they may understand business, but they don’t know fundraising.
So because of this experience, it makes me feel like we have to protect fundraisers from unrealistic expectations, and help them find out if there are going to be these unrealistic expectations RIGHT IN THE INTERVIEW. So what we teach at the Fundraising Career Conference is career self empowerment. Everything from how to negotiate your salary to how to build a better relationship with your boss.
But! We also have to teach bosses what fundraising is and how to manage us better. So that’s why in 2016 I created the Nonprofit Leadership Summit, so we could speak to both sides of the aisle.
It helps people learn how to fundraise more effectively but it ALSO drives home the cost saving message that if you TRULY want your nonprofit to be efficient and effective and raise BUCKETLOADS of money, you need to treat your staff well, and help them stay.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you see fundraising professionals grappling with regarding their career path and advancement opportunities?
A: I tend to see two types of challenges with people. One is people who are victims of gender bias as women. They tend to be underpaid, under-appreciated, and under-resourced in their fundraising jobs. So usually they have to move to another nonprofit to make any changes to their situation.
Sometimes women who are older, who feel like no one wants to hire them because they are older women come to me and ask me what to do. They get the double whammy of age bias and gender bias combined.
And then there’s people who have had bosses who don’t understand fundraising, which leads to a whole host of problems, including no money invested in fundraising databases, or events, or marketing, or insisting that the fundraiser be at their desk when they need to be out in the community meeting people. That’s why this year at the Fundraising Career Conference we’re going to talk about how to manage up at your fundraising job, and teach your boss why you do what you do, and how they can best support you.
Q: The average tenure for a fundraising professional is just a couple of years according to some studies. Why do you think the development director position is such a “revolving door?”
A: The revolving door is a result of a few things. According to Penelope Burk’s Donor Centered Leadership, AND the Underdeveloped Report by the Haas Jr Fund, people leave because:

  1. They do NOT have a good relationship with their boss. That’s why this year we’re going to teach how to deliberately build trust with your boss at the online Fundraising Career Conference in April 17-21, 2017.
  2. They can get a better salary elsewhere. And this is unfortunately how it goes, instead of negotiating in their current role, they jump ship and go somewhere else. But in this fundraising career conference we’ll be teaching people how to negotiate their salary at their current organization, as well as in a new job. But we’ll also talk about what else you can get, aside from salary, to help this be your dream job.
  3. I find that when people in fundraising are supervised at all, at least in small nonprofits, we aren’t encouraged to focus on our strengths, and we are given 3-5 people’s jobs to do, and we burn out. This does happen much more often than we like to admit, and so often we see it as a personal failing that we can’t do the work of 2-3 people. But it’s not a personal failing. It’s not your fault.  This is what is known as a super job, when you have to do more than one person’s job for no extra pay. And lots of people have this problem, from hotel maids and pepsi truck drivers to nurses and doctors. So we need to work on our boundaries, and last year we went over that.

So in this 2017 Fundraising Career conference we’ll talk about how to manage up, use your strengths, and create space for deeper conversation instead of pretending the problem doesn’t exist.
Q: Do you have any advice for fundraising professionals who seek greater longevity and a sense of fulfillment in their current job?
A: Yes. I wrote a whole book about it, so answering this question feels like trying to fit an elephant down a plughole.
For greater longevity, read this interview with Kishshana Palmer about how to manage up in your fundraising role. This will help you be aware of what your boss does and doesn’t understand about fundraising, and hopefully help you start conversations that will make your workplace support you more.
Next, for greater longevity, you want to help your boss learn to trust you. Read this interview with Marc Pitman, as he talks about the signs that are there when there’s lack of trust, and gives you 13 tips on how to create trust with your boss.
Then, if you want a greater sense of fulfillment in your work, you need to check out the Gallup test, where they interviewed 3 million people, and found out that people have these strengths. Take the Strengthsfinder 2.0 test online. Once you find your 5 strengths based on that test, you’ll have a better idea of what you are good at in fundraising and what you should focus on. We’re always told to shore up our weaknesses, but in honesty we should focus on our strengths as much as we can, because this is where we get the juice to be a good fundraiser.
Of course, you can get the book, Get the Job, Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide, on my website, and you can definitely come and ask questions at the Fundraising Career Conference, because these two things together will help you get this.
Q: Most fundraising professionals need to become experts at “managing up” in their organizations. Do you have any tips or fun success stories on how to do so effectively?
A: Oh yes! First, you want to ask your boss, what’s your favorite communication style? And they might say, “Email” or “Texting” or “Phonecalls” so, you want to try to communicate with them most often in that manner. However, face time is still important. So,
Second, insist on meeting with your boss every week for 5 minutes on Monday. Go over your priorities for the week, explain why they are your priorities, and ask your boss if they have questions. Or, if your boss is setting your priorities, ask if there’s anything they would like you to do differently. This way you’ll be able to head off any miscommunication at the pass.
Third, if they expect you to do 2, 3, 4, or 5 people’s jobs, when you have this meeting, you can say, “OK you’ve given me 80 hours of work. Which 40 would you like me to do?” This is a way you can push back and have better boundaries at your job.
We are going to be covering how to manage up in a LOT more detail at the Fundraising Career Conference, with a session on how to do this with Kishshana Palmer. I’m really looking forward to this, people are going to learn so much! (Myself included)
Q: What is your favorite story you like to tell others about your book “Get The Job! Your Fundraising Career Empowerment Guide” (either in writing the book or anything associated with the book)
A: I like to tell people that the reason I wrote this book is because I GOT MAD.
I got mad when I saw good fundraisers raising a lot of money and being treated like garbage.
I looked at them being thrown out for systemic problems, not because they didn’t know what they were doing.
I was outraged when I witnessed people being fired for no reason other than their boss got a wild hair. This led me to research workplace bullying, and help people understand it.
It upset me when I saw bosses stealing large sums of money, and lying and cheating their staff out of the wages they were supposed to have from a government contract.
I heard about friends going to interview and being offered $10/hour and having the interviewer laugh and say “ha ha we all wish we could make more! You just have to believe in the mission!!” and that made me even more upset.
Probably the most egregious thing was when I talked with a government leader at the Portland Development Commission, who was in charge of facilitating better relations with the largest apparel and technology companies in our state (Nike, Adidas, Intel, etc).
I asked him, “Why don’t you focus on nonprofits?” And he said, “Because nonprofits bring the median income of a region down.”
And that, right there, is when I knew that I needed to agitate for worker rights, and for helping fundraisers and all nonprofit staff demand a higher salary, better working conditions, no super jobs, a pension and retirement fund, better healthcare, and just decent work.
Why should we be punished with bad wages, no real healthcare, and no way to retire, just because we wanted to make the world a better place?
HOW can nonprofits say they want to create a better world when they actively make it worse for their employees? It’s the height of hypocrisy.
I wrote my Get the Job book in 2013, but it wasn’t enough for me. I wrote a research report called Shafted in 2014, but that wasn’t enough either.
So in 2015 I started the online Fundraising Career Conference and in 2016 I started the online Nonprofit Leadership Summit, and it’s my goal to have as many people as possible take part in these events, so that we can start a larger conversation around decent work in this country. They’re already having the conversation in Toronto with the Ontario Nonprofit Network in Canada. We’re lagging behind here and we’ve got to get caught up.
Q: I see that this is the third year you’ve hosted the Fundraising Career Conference. What new and exciting things can participants look forward to this year?
A: Yes! I’m so psyched about this year because we’re going deeper into how to create a better relationship with your current or future boss.
Now, if you’re any good in fundraising at all, you will have been fired, because to be a good fundraiser you have to be able to say no. And so you probably have had a boss who, to put it mildly, has NOT been able to support you in the best way in your work.
Well, this year we’ll have a session from Marc Pitman about how to build trust with your boss, deliberately, which I’m looking forward to very much.
We’ll have a session with Pearl Waldorf, a therapist, who is going to be talking about how to create space for authentic communication at work, and how to assess your boss to see how to communicate with them.
We’ll have a session from Peter Drury all about how to be a better mentor and manager.
We’ll have a session from Kishshana Palmer on how to manage up,
And we’ll have a session for new consultants on how to be a better consultant, how to market your business starting out, and more.
There are so many good sessions that are new and exciting this year, it’s hard to not list them all. But these sessions are the ones that I think signify the integration theme of this year, where it’s not adversarial against your boss, and we’re not focused on healing. Rather, we’re focusing on how you are like your boss, and how your boss is like you. We’re encouraging people to step up and be leaders in their organizations, no matter what their titles are, and that, I think, is a true step towards self empowerment in your career.
Q: Unlike in-person conferences, the Fundraising Career Conference is online. What inspired you to develop and offer a virtual conference? And for those who have never participated in an online conference, what should they know and do you have any tips for them?
A: Here’s the deal.  I’m a millennial. Millennials are lazy! That’s why you can attend this conference in your pajamas. Just kidding. Millennials have no money. Because we’re in late stage capitalism. And on top of that, many nonprofit people are underpaid.  That is why you can attend this conference without having to go on an airplane and buy a taxi ride and eat crappy airport food and stuff like that. I wanted it to be available to anyone who wanted to go.
At an online conference, the nice thing is, you can sit at your desk at work (or in a coffeeshop somewhere) and attend this conference. Then you can go back to doing your work.
And if you have to miss some sessions, we’re recording everything for you, so you can go back and watch it later. And we have a phone number to listen in as well. So whether you choose to connect on the phone or on your computer, you’ll have  a way to be involved. We also have a questions pane where people can enter questions during the sessions each day, so everyone will have a chance to have their questions answered.
This is one of my favorite things, being able to answer questions during and after each session, and pass questions on to the presenters, who have also graciously volunteered to answer questions after the conference is over.
Learn more about Mazarine Treyz
If you can’t tell, I’ve quickly become a fan of Mazarine Treyz. She is one of the more genuine people who I’ve met in my travels, and I’ve quickly become a fan. Like me, Mazarine is a blogger and you can learn a lot about her by visiting her blog and sifting through her posts. You can find her at Wild Woman Fundraising. But if you do nothing else, you should go buy a copy of this book. I promise that you won’t regret it!

Nonprofit Blog Carnival call for submissions: Advice to your younger-fundraising-self

blog carnivalIn a nutshell, the Nonprofit Blog Carnival is an online traveling show of non-profit bloggers. Each month one blogger hosts the carnival and asks their fellow non-profit bloggers to submit a published post from their blog focused on a particular topic. The benefit to this approach is that readers are able to get a large concentration of advice and resources from a variety of non-profit thought-leaders all in one place.
I am honored and privileged to be hosting the Nonprofit Blog Carnival for a fourth year in a row.
As has been the tradition ever since Kivi Leroux Miller founded the Carnival in 2006, the host publishes a “Call for submissions” at the beginning of the month. In that post, the following is explained:

  • theme
  • deadlines
  • fun or special rules in order to be considered for inclusion
  • deadlines
  • how and what to submit

In the space below, I will walk you through all of these things for the April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival. Now please excuse me, while I step up to the online carnival main stage and proclaim to the world:

Step right up! The April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is live and we’re gonna do the time warp again!

If you are looking for a link to last month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival hosted by Allyson Kapin at RAD Campaign, click here to read more about what the non-profit blogosphere had to say about “Reaching Millennials And Beyond“.
I hope you are ready for a fun Nonprofit Blog Carnival in April. If so, please keep reading to learn more.  😉

If you could go back in time and give your younger-fundraising-self one piece of advice, what would it be?

back to futureA few months ago I was onsite with a client and found myself working with a young fundraising professional. They hadn’t been on the job for long. In fact, their background wasn’t even in resource development. If my memory serves me well, then I think they had a college degree and an internship’s worth of experience in marketing or public relations.
My work with this organization was focused on a particular fundraising campaign, and the “issue of the hour” had to do with the level of engagement (or lack thereof) of their campaign volunteers. After spending a little time with this new fundraising professional, I discovered their love of email to communicate with volunteers. So, I spent much of my time talking about the value of report meetings, rallies, update reports and phone calls instead of a constant stream of emails.
back to future2Later that evening, I was working from the hotel room with the television chirping away in the background. One of the “Back to the Future” movies was the evening feature. Ignoring Michael J. Fox and focusing instead on my work from earlier in the day, I started thinking about all of the fundraising mistakes I had made (and hopefully learned from) when I was younger.
And then something spectacular happened both on the television set as well as in my head. Christopher Lloyd’s character, Dr. Emmett Brown, successfully completed one of his time travel experiments and I found myself thinking:

If only time travel was possible. There are so many things I would tell my younger-fundraising-self!

My very next thought was . . . “Holy cow! THAT would be an awesome topic for a Nonprofit Blog Carnival. I would LOVE to read what some of the blogosphere’s best non-profit bloggers (e.g. Pamela Grow, Marc Pitman, Jeff Brooks, Gail Perry, etc) would go back in time to tell their younger-fundraising-selves.
So, there you have it bloggers!
The April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival theme is all about:

“What one piece of advice would you give your younger-fundraising-self if time travel was possible?”

If you aren’t a fundraising blogger, you are welcome to adjust the theme to what one piece of advice would you give your younger-nonprofit-self”.
I encourage bloggers to be specific. Perhaps, you could consider telling us about a situation from your early days as a fundraiser or non-profit professional that was challenging and what you would travel back in time to tell yourself that would’ve made a difference.
Obviously, it is your blog and you may do whatever you please within the parameters of this month’s theme.
Special rules in place for April submissions
bill and tedLet’s have a little fun with this topic. It lends itself nicely to it. Right?  😉
It hasn’t been unusual for me in the past to get a ton of submissions for consideration. On a few occasions, I had to exclude some bloggers because there were too many posts from which to choose.
In order to stimulate a little creativity this month, I will give “special bonus points” to bloggers who include a reference to a time travel movie or build their entire post around such a motion picture.
terminator time travelThere are literally tons of movies from which you could choose. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Back to the Future
  • Terminator
  • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures
  • Star Trek
  • Hot Tube Time Machine
  • Austin Powers

And this is just the tip of the iceberg!
Since this topic is very broad, I encourage you to focus on a time when you were young and working on a project such as writing a resource development plan, capital campaigns, annual campaigns, special events, planned giving, board development, marketing, program development/implementation, grant writing. Or you could drill even deeper by talking about micro-topics such as developing a case for support, prospect identification/evaluation, stewardship/retention, donor database selection, year-end board member evaluation, etc. Simply tell us about the project, your experience, the result and what you would choose to go back in a time machine and tell yourself in order to get a different result.
The sky is obviously the limit . . . so let’s get creative and have some fun!
Of course, if you aren’t into movies, that is fine. Please feel free to submit anything, and you have my assurance that I’ll include your post if there is space and if it is on topic.
How bloggers should submit their work for consideration?
austin powers time travelYou are welcome to write your blog post anytime during the month of May (or even submit a post you may have previously published); however, I must receive your submission by the end of the day on Monday, April 25, 2016:
How do you submit? Simply email the following information to nonprofitcarnival[at]gmail[dot]com:

  • Your name
  • The URL of your post
  • A two of three sentence summary of your post

We will publish the April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival on Thursday, April 28, 2016 right here at DonorDreams blog.

Storytelling can be so much more than just a fundraising tool

storytellingLast night I met with a non-profit board of directors, and we spent an hour talking about the “Three Stories You Need To Tell“. I centered the discussion around the Nonprofit Storytelling for Board Members curriculum developed by Chris Davenport at 501 Videos LLC.
It was a great evening (in this facilitator’s opinion). We talked about the importance of developing each board volunteer’s “involvement story” as well as developing an organizational “impact story” and “thank you story“. At the end of the meeting, worksheets were distributed and work groups were formed. The excitement and buzz around developing the first draft of stories that will be shared at the organization’s next board meeting was palpable.
For me, I’m excited for this organization because I suspect cultivating a culture of storytelling will jump start this board’s resource development efforts. More importantly, I believe a storytelling culture can used during planning processes to engage board members in:

  1. organizational assessment
  2. vision casting

Let me take a moment to explain . . .
assessmentHow many times have you been handed pages full of data at the start of any type of planning process (e.g. strategic planning, resource development planning, etc). You are typically asked to look for gaps in addition to organization strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
This type of work is foundational and important to any planning process. However, the board president at last night’s meeting would tell you that data looked at within a vacuum is worthless.
So, the question I posed last night is: “What if we used a storytelling paradigm to contextualize our organizational data at the start of a planning process?
For example, let’s say your data is telling you that you served 25% fewer clients in 2015 than 2014. Rather than just accepting that data point at face value, your board could drill deeper to find the stories behind why this is happening. Perhaps, the story of one of one of the 2014 clients who stopped being a client in 2015 could be told and a deeper understanding of what is happening could be achieved by decision-makers.
I would argue that a deeper understanding of your organizational data will enrich your planning process.
Vision casting
visionAfter the assessment phase of any planning process is over, it is common for boards to spend time developing a vision for the future. It is upon this vision that goals, strategies, tactics and metrics are all built.
For years, one of my favorite “vision casting exercises” has been asking board members to pretend they are newspaper reporters (I probably like this exercise because I used to run a small town newspaper many years ago).
I ask them to envision themselves five or 10 years in the future writing a story about their organization. Of course, the question is: “what is that story about?
As part of this exercise, I ask everyone to write their story and share it with the group. This gets everyone engaged in creating a collective vision.
Of course, this is nothing more than using storytelling as a tool to create a vision.
The question I asked last night was what other storytelling exercises could we develop to create a shared vision? Could we even use storytelling as a brainstorming opportunity to develop organizational goals and strategies?
I believe the answer to these questions is YES because of what Chris Davenport tells us are the “Thee C’s of Storytelling“:

  1. Character
  2. Connection
  3. Conflict
  4. Conquest

It is this final “C” that has me believing a storytelling approach can get board volunteers thinking about goals and strategies. After all, if every good story needs to end with how the main character will solve the conflict, then doesn’t this get people talking about your organization’s potential “future state” (aka vision) but also possible solutions (aka goals and strategies)?
I believe it does, and we’ll get a little closer to the truth at the future board meetings.
storytelling dvdI’m not trying to sell Chris Davenport’s products today, but if you haven’t checked out his storytelling DVD and collateral materials you may want to do so. Click here to learn more about his DVD product. Click here to learn more about a very useful brochure that can accompany the DVD or be used as a standalone resource. Click here to learn more about his free field guide and journal.
Again, I will not profit from any of this. I do not have a business relationship with Chris other than the fact that I’m a customer and purchase resources from him. OK, OK, OK . . . I guess I am smitten with this work and have found his stuff useful in my some of my consulting projects. Regardless, I won’t see a penny of anything you decide to purchase anything from him.
Does your organization do any storytelling? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share how you employ the power of storytelling? What have been the results? Has it changed anything in your organization (e.g. are board members better fundraisers now, is your planning process more dynamic and engaging, have you used storytelling to enhance your board governance and board meetings, etc)?
We can call learn from each other. Please take a moment to share.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

What does your Mural of Generosity look like?

muralI’ve had a recurring thought for the last two weeks because I keep running across beautiful donor recognition walls at non-profit organizations. Just yesterday I came across a donor recognition board in the lobby of the Knight Nonprofit Center on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, and it was titled the “Mural of Generosity“. I just love the sound of that. Don’t you?
So, my recurring thought is this:
In a perfect world, what would you organization’s mural of generosity look like?
Please understand that I am not looking for vendor recommendations on where to purchase a nice donor wall.
I would like you to envision the following:

  • Who is on your mural?
  • Where is that mural displayed?
  • For what are they being recognized? (e.g. lifetime giving, planned gifts, recurring loyalty, etc)
  • What does it look like?
  • How is it continuously celebrated? (e.g. how do you build your organization’s culture around the mural)

You know how this works. Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other AND we can certainly inspire each other from time to time.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays . . . Think Big!

merry christmasHappy Holidays, DonorDreams readers! It is Christmas morning and my inner child woke me early. I’ve been sitting on the couch, enjoying a silent cup of coffee, and waiting for everyone to wake up.
Honestly, I cannot wait to give my gifts. I am literally fighting the impulse to wake everyone up. While looking out the window and sipping my coffee, it dawned on me that I forgot to get my DonorDreams blog subscribers and readers a holiday gift.
Let me first start by wishing all of you a happy holiday season. This time of the year is obviously not about gift giving, but it is about connecting with your fellow human beings and doing something that comes from your heart. With this being said, I’ve decided that my gift to you this morning is a BIG IDEA.
This big idea isn’t my idea, and I didn’t create it. However, my gift this Christmas morning to you is “the act of sharing a BIG idea with you.”
I hope you enjoy this TED Talks video of Katherine Fulton talking about the future of philanthropy.

Somewhere in the next few days, I hope you reflect back on Katherine’s teachable point of view as well as all of the giving you just did with your family, friends and charities. While doing so, please circle back to this blog post and share in the comment box section below your thoughts on the following:

  • What is the future of philanthropy?
  • What is your role in creating that future?
  • Who did you envision in the picture frame that Katherine projected on the screen at the end of her presentation? Why?

Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

BOO: Halloween is a non-profit holiday

Happy Halloween everyone! In the spirit of today, I decided to reach back into the DonorDreams archives and re-post an article from two years ago. Are your children collecting donations for UNICEF? is your non-profit agency using Halloween to steward donors? We’re re-hashing these issues today. Enjoy!

BOO: Halloween is a non-profit holiday

By Erik Anderson
reposted from October 31, 2011
unicefI just love this time of the year. The temperature outside is lovely. Trees are turning colors and putting on a show. Charity is coming into focus for millions of Americans. Last year approximately 174 million Americans donated approximately $50 billion to charities during the holiday season. While most resource development people will tell you this all starts with Thanksgiving, I contend that Halloween is when the starters gun goes off in my head.
I was reminded this past Saturday afternoon when two kids came to my door holding a small orange box and asked if I’d consider donating some pocket change to UNICEF. Not only do I have fond memories of doing the same thing as a child, but I realized that it might have been the very first time I ever solicited anyone for anything on behalf of a child.
My passion for charity and professional career path might have started all because of a UNICEF box more than 35 years ago.
This realization got me thinking . . . perhaps the year-end charitable giving season starts with Halloween and not Thanksgiving.
Let’s put solicitation to the side. Halloween can be a stewardship opportunity. In fact, non-profit organizations can turn most holidays into stewardship opportunities for their donors as I wrote in my post titled “Stewardship opportunity on Labor Day” which is one of my better read posts of all time. Go figure!
Here are just a few thoughts I have for how your agency can use Halloween to frame your case for support heading into the holiday season:

  • Host a Halloween costume party for your top 100 donors. Don’t solicit them. Just invite them to come to a free event, have some fun, and hear a few short testimonials about how your agency is using their investment from earlier this year to do good things. End everything by saying you hope they will consider reinvesting with a contribution to your year-end holiday mail appeal that is sure to appear in their mailbox in a few weeks.
  • Organize a phone-a-thon where volunteers call donors to whom you plan on mailing your holiday mail appeal. Use a “trick-or-treat” script that talks about how your non-profit doesn’t believe in “tricks” which is why you are calling with a Halloween “treat,” and then read a small snippet of outcomes measurement data that you’ve recently been collected. Thank the donor for helping your agency achieve that specific accomplishment and then end by saying you hope they will consider re-investing when your year-end holiday mail appeal arrives in their mailbox in a few weeks.
  • Simply organize a Halloween theme inspired stewardship mailing (e.g. a ghoulish looking impact report). Don’t ask for any money. Just communicate some return on investment information and thank them for their previous charitable contribution. This can softly frame your case for support in donors minds just a few weeks before you send a solicitation mailing.

As I said in my Labor Day blog post . . .

Many non-profit organizations struggle with stewarding their donors and instead become solicitation machines (which ironically burns out donors and creates a cycle of turnover). When I’ve talked to my non-profit friends and asked WHY, the most common answer I’ve heard is that time is a limited resource.

So, take a look at your stewardship calendar and ask yourself how you can do a better job of aligning these activities with holidays.
Does your non-profit organization have any fun and effective stewardship activities and best practices wrapped around holidays? If so, please use the comment box to share because we can all learn from each other.
Here is to your health! And oh yeah . . . BOO . . . Happy Halloween!!!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847|

BOOM . . . You have fundraising stereotypes to overcome!

A few months ago, when I was at the movie theater with friends, I saw the trailer promo for Kevin James’ new film “Here Comes the Boom“. While I haven’t seen the movie yet, I can honestly say that the promo reached out of the silver screen, grabbed me by my fundraising collar and shook me hard. The first time I saw it, my immediate first thought was “OMG . . . I bet this is exactly what most volunteers conjure up in their mind when I ask them to help me fundraise for a good cause.

Click here to see that short promotion:


If you didn’t pick it up from the video clip, here is how the film is described by its PR people:

“When cutbacks threaten to cancel the music program and lay off its teacher (Henry Winkler,) Scott begins to raise money by moonlighting as a mixed martial arts fighter. Everyone thinks Scott (Kevin James) is crazy — most of all the school nurse, Bella (Salma Hayek) — but in his quest, Scott gains something he never expected as he becomes a sensation that rallies the entire school.”

If I could re-write this description, it would sound something like this: “When cutbacks threaten to cancel the music program, supporters think of all kinds of crazy fundraising ideas first (ranging from cage fighting to bake sales) rather than the most obvious solution — flat-out asking their friends and fellow music program supporters to write a check.

Isn’t this the simple truth, too? It always surprises me that people will grasp at every other straw first during times of cutbacks almost as if they are saying: “I’ll do anything, but please don’t ask me to ask other people for a contribution to support something I know they want to support.”

Additionally, this movie trailer has me convinced that when many of us ask friends to join the annual campaign team to work a few pledge cards, their brain immediately pictures a cage match with them and a prospective donor gripped in a grudge match.

With annual campaign season right around the corner, I suspect many of us are starting to assemble our prospect lists of potential campaign volunteers. Kevin James’ movie provides me with a gentle reminder that volunteers have all sorts of stereotypes in their heads about fundraising, and it is my job to over come those obstacles.

The following are a few simple suggestions and best practices that can help you change the picture in your prospective campaign volunteer’s head on your next recruitment visit:

Setting expectations

Clarity is very important when recruiting volunteers for your annual campaign. Keep in mind that people don’t process as much through their ears as they do through their eyes. With this in mind, bring a written volunteer job description with you to the recruitment meeting. Explain verbally what you need them to do, and then leave the written volunteer description with them.

Providing something in writing does a few things:

  1. It gives them more information to process and reinforces everything that you told them verbally .
  2. It sends a strong signal that you are NOT “soft selling” them on what you need. (aka there is nothing up my sleeve and you can trust me not to pull the old fashion bait-n-switch)

Finally, when you get back to your office after the recruitment call, send a letter thanking them for their time and consideration. Use some of the space in that letter to reinforce what you asked them to do along with some of the important dates/times you asked them to mark off in their calendar. Repetition is the key to getting people to hear you.

Have you ever wondered why people agree to work pledge cards and then drag their feet on actually doing it? If so, go back and re-read this section because I am willing to bet that it is possible those volunteers didn’t have a clear understanding of what was being asked of them.


After securing a ‘YES’ from your prospective fundraising volunteer, you need to do everything possible to get them focused on your agency’s mission. Take them on a tour of your facilities. Introduce them to clients. Get them to understand your  ‘case for support’  inside out.

One of the biggest reasons people are afraid of asking others to join them in making a charitable contribution to your organization is because they can’t get it out of their head that they are not asking for themselves.

If you can help a volunteer understand in their heart that they are asking on behalf of your clients, then you’ve just cleared a major hurdle.

This is easier said than done and it won’t be accomplished by simply handing then your case statement.

Involve volunteers in cultivation

Too often, fundraising volunteers are fearful of making the ask because they think they’re asking friends to do something they don’t want to do. They haven’t been on all of the cultivation calls that you’ve been on, and they haven’t seen their friends and colleagues open their hearts to your mission like you have seen.

Simply involving your campaign volunteers in the cultivation or stewardship process before asking them to “get out there and ask for a contribution” will show them that they have permission to make the ask.

It will also go a long way in helping you change the stereotypical picture of what that fundraising call is likely going to look like.

What else have you done to help your fundraising volunteers change their mental picture? Please use the comment box below to share suggestions and best practices. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

What is your non-profit agency’s year-end stewardship strategy?

Yesterday, I posted about the importance of developing your organization’s year-end fundraising strategy and doing so ASAP (by which I mean get it in writing by the end of this week). As I reflected on my post all day yesterday, I started thinking about all of the great holiday opportunities with regard to donor stewardship activities.

Over the years, I posted a number of articles immediately before, during or after a holiday talking about how organizations could have piggy backed on the holiday to implement some effective stewardship activities. After each of those posts, I remember thinking . . . “Hmmmm, perhaps I should’ve posted this a few weeks or months ago and readers might have had some time to put thought and planning into such an idea.”

With this in mind, let’s go back in time and revisit two blog posts from the fourth quarter of last year that spoke to the idea of using holidays as stewardship opportunities. Here they are:

Another thought that I’ve shared with a number of clients throughout the years is the idea of taking the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song and using it as a December theme for “The Twelve Days of Stewardship”. It can be as simple as doing 12 stewardship activities in December or as complicated as the song suggests (e.g. giving the donor two of this, three of that, etc etc etc).

If you’re rolling your eyes at this suggestion, I encourage you to stop and think about it for a moment. I bet that right now off the top of your head, you’ll be able to rattle off three or four stewardship things your agency does around the holidays, such as:

  • mailing holiday cards
  • hosting a holiday party for supporters and donors
  • thank-a-thon (e.g. stewardship thank you phone calls)
  • annual report
  • Running a “A few of my favorite things . . .” essay contest with your clients about your services and sharing the results with your donors.

With a little bit of thought and creativity, I bet you can weave things that you already do into a 12 day tapestry of stewardship opportunities.

The bigger point that I am trying to make today (and yesterday) is that these things don’t just happen. They require some thought and planning (and more than just a few days before).

The fourth quarter and holiday season offer unique and fun opportunities to steward donors, and it is something you need to start thinking about this week because the fourth quarter will be here starting Monday of next week. (Eeeeek! Talk about a scary Halloween gift)

What is your organization doing to steward donors for Halloween? Thanksgiving? Hanukkah? Kwanzaa? Do you have thoughts or ideas to help flesh out the aforementioned 12 Days of Stewardship concept?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts, plans and questions in the comment box below. We can all learn from and inspire each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847