Advice to my younger-fundraising-self about delegation and collaboration

blog carnivalThis month DonorDreams is hosting the nationally acclaimed Nonprofit Blog Carnival, and this month’s theme is: “If you could go back in time and give your younger-fundraising-self one piece of advice, what would it be?” As I’ve done each of the last three year’s when I’ve hosted the carnival, I plan on focusing this month’s DonorDreams blog posts on the topic as a way to help inspire other non-profit bloggers to submit posts for consideration. The April 2016 Nonprofit Blog Carnival is scheduled to go live on Thursday, April 28, 2016. So, mark your calendars because you won’t want to miss what other non-profit bloggers have to say on this topic.
Today’s time machine post involves a younger me who learned valuable lessons about how not to delegate and collaborate with others. Enjoy!

I am embarrassed to admit how many times I made the same mistake before finally learning how to effectively delegate and collaborate. In the following two sections, I will share examples where my younger-fundraising-self goofed up. In the final section, I will share with you what I’d tell my younger-self if I could go back in time with a few pieces of advice.
Annual campaign management
is anyone out thereAs a young Boy Scout professional in the 1990s, I was just starting to learn may way around fundraising principles and best practices. While I previously had helped out with a few special events and written a grant proposal for another organization, I never helped plan-organize-implement an annual campaign pledge drive, which is what I was being asked to do with a group of Friends of Scouting (FOS) volunteer within my district.
With the help of the council’s Finance Director, I easily plowed through the early deadlines in my backdating plan. I nailed the pre-campaign tasks such as volunteer recruitment, setting FOS unit presentation dates, identifying community donor prospects, running pledge cards, goal setting, etc. I remember thinking early on how easy it all seemed.
And then the official “kickoff meeting” happened . . .
All of my volunteers gathered before work for an early morning meeting I sold as the “FOS Kickoff”. For slightly more than an hour over coffee and donuts, I walked my team of fundraising volunteers through training, review of materials, and even prospect assignment exercises. Everyone walked away from that meeting knowing the who, what, where, when and why.
Or so I thought.
Four weeks after the kickoff, nothing was happening. The signed pledge cards weren’t coming back to me with pledge amounts. Six weeks passed . . . still nothing was occurring and no one was returning my phone calls. Finally, I started panicking at the eight week mark because there was only one month remaining before the end of the campaign. It didn’t look like we’d come anywhere close to hitting our overall goal.
What I didn’t understand was that while I might have delegated all of those fundraising solicitations to volunteers, I still owned all of those tasks even though someone else had agreed to do them.
Grant reporting
deadlineFast forward a number of years into the future when I was a first-time executive director for a Boys & Girls Club.
After the resource development director, who I had inherited from the previous CEO, had resigned, I hired a replacement who had good pledge drive and event planning skills. Unfortunately, he lacked grant writing experience. I quickly concluded that I was the organization’s best writer, and I took over grant writing responsibilities.
As a former newspaper editor in a previous life, I knew how to write and took to grant writing like a baby duck takes to water. In short order, I fell into the routine of “research, cultivate, write” (aka rinse, later, repeat). And when we received funding, I turned everything over to one of my direct reports who was responsible for operations.
Whenever I handed over a grant, I always sat down with the operations director and reviewed the grant deliverables. I clearly explained what needed to be done (e.g. hiring, program planning, scheduling, kid recruiting, program promotion, outcomes measurement, etc). I also shared reporting deadlines from the funding partner.
As with the aforementioned annual campaign story, I walked away from those meetings knowing the who, what, where, when and why were as clear as possible. Everyone knew what needed to happen and by when.
Or so I thought.
I’ll never forget the first time a funder called me asking where our close-out report was and why we had missed the last few quarterly deadlines.
Even though it had been a few years between the lesson I had learned with my annual campaign volunteers and the staff supervision story pertaining to grant management and reporting, I still had obviously not learned the simple truism that delegating action items doesn’t mean I’m allowed to wash my hands of them.
Where is that time machine when you really need it?
delorean time machineSometimes when I daydream, I see myself standing outside my house in the street with Dr. Emmitt Brown (aka Christopher Lloyd’s character in Back to the Future), waiting for the lighting storm so I can jump into that DeLorean Time Machine. I know exactly where in the past I would first point myself.
It would be either immediately before my first FOS annual campaign kickoff meeting. Or it would be right before one of the staff meetings when I handed off grant materials to the operations director. <sigh>
I also know exactly what I’d say to my younger-fundraising-self if I had the opportunity:

  • Never remove deadlines from your calendar even though you might delegated reporting to others
  • Use your Microsoft Outlook task list and set future reminders to yourself about checking-in with employees who were tasked with reporting
  • Include campaign goal amounts + deadlines + meeting dates/times in the campaign volunteer description to help set expectations during the recruitment process in order to help volunteers determine whether or not they are able to do what you’re asking them to do
  • Schedule in-person “report meetings” every few weeks throughout the annual campaign where volunteers are asked to share their progress (or lack thereof) with each other
  • Email campaign reports illustrating how the overall campaign is performing as well as how individuals are doing compared to each other

<Sigh> If I only knew then what I know now.  😉

If you are a non-profit blogger who wants to participate in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and submit a post for consideration on this month’s carnival theme, click here to read the “call for submissions” post I published last week. It should answer all of your questions and clearly explain how to submit your entry. If not, then simply email me and I’ll be happy to help.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Fundraising New Year's Resolution — Sustainable Giving Strategies

new years resolutionsLike most Americans, I took a little time for myself at the end of 2014. I spent some of it celebrating the holidays with my family. I spent a little more of it celebrating the nuptials of an old friend. I spent the remainder of it in Napa Valley ringing in the new year over a few nice bottles of wine. While recharging my batteries, I came across a USA Today article from John Waggoner titled “Resolutions you can keep“. Maybe it is the wine talking, but I believe there are three important concepts in the final two column inches of this article that non-profit organizations should take to heart as they start a new year. I will focus on each of these three ideas in my next three blog posts. Today’s post focuses on sustainable giving strategies.
As I just mentioned, Waggoner dedicated the last two inches of his new year’s resolutions article to charitable giving. The following is some of his advice to readers:

It’s easier to give to charity if you put some money aside each paycheck, just as you do for your own savings. You’ll get a tax deduction for your donation, of course, but they’s not the reason to give to charity. Government can help alleviate some of the world’s woes, but not all of them — and when you give to charity, you get to choose how your money is used.

Three short sentences. Lots of wisdom!
penniesAs a donor, I discovered long ago that if I want to make a large contribution to a non-profit organization it probably won’t happen by writing one large check. While some people on this planet have that capacity, my bank account balance isn’t fat enough to do something like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. However, “large contribution” is a relative term, and I made my first meaningful, sacrificial gift at the age of 27 when I pledged $1,000 to a local Boy Scout council while earning $27,000 working for that same organization.
At first, giving away almost 4% of my gross salary seemed impossible and crazy, especially when looking at expenditures like student loans, rent for a suburban Chicago apartment, not to mention food and transportation. I wouldn’t have ever been to write a $1,000 check at that time in my life. However, when the person soliciting me for that gift helped me see that a $1,000 annual campaign contribution was merely $38.46 per paycheck, I was hooked!
As Waggoner said, putting a little money aside from each paycheck can add up and quickly become a very nice charitable gift.
Of course, the challenge for your non-profit is figuring out how to help your supporters and donors come to this conclusion without offending them.
One strategy that I don’t believe ever works is telling a donor what they can do without. For example, I once heard a fundraising volunteer suggest that forgoing one cup of Starbucks coffee once a week would be the equivalent of a $250 charitable gift.
My reaction? Bite your tongue!
Why in the world would you ever want to frame someone’s charitable giving as a choice between doing good and consuming something they obviously enjoy? (And if you do employ this strategy, then you better be 100% sure the donor values your mission a lot more than they value what you’re suggesting they give up.)
The following are three strategies I find more effective and suggest you look at integrating into your 2015 resource development plan.
Workplace campaign
workplace givingThe United Way figured this one out a long time ago, didn’t they?
Get permission from a company to talk to their employees about your mission, and then present them with an opportunity to make a contribution to your organization by using payroll deduction. Genius!
This strategy speaks directly to the idea in Waggoner’s USA Today article when it comes to setting aside a little bit of money from each paycheck. It is made even easier through payroll deduction because that which you never see is difficult to miss, right?
It is important to note that non-profit organizations who receive funding from United Way are most likely prohibited from engaging in workplace giving. If you are a United Way agency, please check your funding agreement first before approaching local businesses about the possibility of establishing a workplace giving initiative.
Of course, a workplace giving campaign doesn’t have to look like what the United Way has pioneered throughout the years. The Boys & Girls Club of Fort Atkinson approached it from a different angle with their “Blue Jeans for Blue Doors campaign“.
If you are interested in learning more about workplace giving, then I suggest clicking here to check out what Grant Space (a service of the Foundation Center) has to say on the subject.
Monthly giving
monthly givingSince the Great Recession of 2008, many non-profit organizations have explored and developed monthly giving programs. This strategy has been very popular with European charities, and it is akin to the “set it and forget it” mentality of our society.
Like a workplace giving campaign, a monthly giving program allows your organization to re-frame the solicitation. So, rather than asking for $1,200, you ask them for a $100/month contribution. For many people, $100 per month feels a lot more realistic than a $1,200 annual gift.
One of my favorite monthly giving programs is Chicago Public Radio’s “High Fidelity” program. Your non-profit organization can learn a lot from benchmarking this program.
If benchmarking isn’t your cup of tea, then I suggest you read Joanne Fritz’s article titled “Why Your Charity Should Have a Monthly Giving Program“. Afterward, you should look into signing up for Pamela Grow’s “Nonprofit Monthly Giving — The Basics & MoreeCourse
I’m an avid reader of Joanne’s work, and I’ve taken Pamela’s monthly giving eCourse.  You won’t be disappointed!
Polish your annual campaign pledge drive
As I shared with you earlier in this post, I learned the value of sustainable giving when I made a pledge to my local Boy Scout council’s Friends of Scouting annual campaign pledge drive.
If you currently operate an annual campaign pledge drive as part of your resource development plan, I suggest the following:

  • Look at your 2014 campaign data and determine what percentage of your donors made pledges versus outright gifts
  • Review your campaign materials (e.g. internal case statement, pledge card, external case for support, etc) and look for verbiage about pledging
  • Assess your internal systems (e.g. donor database, financial management software, accounts receivable procedures, etc) and determine if it is possible to add more monthly pledge reminders to the current workload
  • Add a training section on how to emphasize the power of pledging to your annual campaign kickoff meeting
  • Target your 2014 donors who made outright gifts with a specific solicitation message asking them to increase their gift by pledging/paying it over a longer period of time

Does your organization have other strategies on the planning table for 2015 when it comes to promoting sustainable giving? If so, please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Why aren't you asking your staff if they want to donate to your cause?

monday moviesAs many of you know, I am a big fan of 501 Videos and Chris Davenport, who is the producer of Movie Mondays for Fundraising Professionals. Yesterday morning, I woke up to another wonderful video waiting for me in my email inbox. This week’s video interview was with author and fundraising consultant, Susan Howlett, and the video was titled “Simple strategies for finding new donors.”
Susan covers a lot of ground in her interview, but at one point she makes a strong case for providing your agency’s staff with an opportunity to consider contributing to your annual campaign.
Listening to Susan took me back in time almost 10 years to a time when I was a little skeptical about asking front line staff if they would like to fill out a pledge card. Don’t get me wrong. I did it because it was a best practice. However, I wouldn’t describe myself at the time as a true believer until I met a staff person by the name of Eddie.
Here is a thumbnail sketch of the man, who at the time, changed the way I thought about the staff campaign portion of our annual campaign:

  • 21-years-old (or at least in his early 20s)
  • alumni of our agency’s program
  • working part-time (approx 25 to 30 hours per week)
  • earning $9.00 to $10.00 per hour
  • obviously living paycheck-to-paycheck
  • if my memory serves me right, I think he was also a soon-to-be father

After doing the staff solicitation, we were processing pledge cards back at our administrative offices. As you can imagine, there were a number of $5, $10, $25 and $50 contributions, and then we came across Eddie’s $250 pledge.
At first, I thought there must have been some kind of mistake. So, I did what seemed logical and went looking for Eddie to clear the whole thing up. Little did I know that I was about to become the recipient of an amazing gift.
Here is what Eddie told / taught me:

  • He confirmed that it was indeed his intent to make a $250 contribution
  • He spoke passionately about the agency’s mission from an alumni perspective
  • He talked about his desire to “give back” to a program that he said “saved his life
  • He didn’t feel obligated or guilted, but he felt good about being able to give back
  • He explained that he couldn’t write one check for the full $250, and reminded me of the power of monthly giving . . . in his case his contribution came out to $9.62 per paycheck (which was the equivalent of approximately one hour of work)

I walked away from that conversation vowing NEVER to be so arrogant and presumptuous as to assume who should give and at what level they should give to any fundraiser that I organize ever again.
So, this morning I want to thank Susan Howlett and 501 Videos for taking me back to that fond memory. I also want to publicly thank Eddie for providing me with one of the more valuable resource development lessons that I’ve ever learned.
Have you clicked through and viewed the video yet? If so, did it spark any lessons learned that you wish to share? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

What have you done to increase individual giving?

Events, Grants and Individual Giving

By Dani Robbins
Re-published with permission from nonprofitevolution blog
eventI was having breakfast this week with a friend and fellow consultant and we were discussing resource development efforts, including events and grants. By now I’m sure you are well aware, I’m not a huge fan of organizations hosting multiple events. Events are expensive, labor intensive and don’t usually generate a lot of income.
I can hear you out there saying “No Dani, they’re fun!” And they are, at least some of them are.
One signature event a year is a wonderful way to engage new donors, connect with current donors and showcase your programs while raising significant money. Even signature events that don’t raise significant money may still be a good use of your resources. However, more than one signature event is too much.
More than one event (two, if you must) may be a sign that your leadership, board or executive, is reluctant to raise money in other ways.
Leadership that doesn’t want to embark on an annual appeal or a major donor campaign will often advocate more grants be written or additional events be introduced. Not only will more events not raise more money, more events will cannibalize your signature event and may yield less income for more work. Any process that doesn’t get you to your goal is a bad process.
The Executive Director is the Chief Development Officer” of any non profit that seeks contributed income. (Erik Anderson Donor Dreams blog) Whether they want to or not; whether they’re good at it or not; whether they have a development director whose job it is or not, the Exec is still responsible for fund raising and one of the responsibilities of a governing board is to raise money. Neither is a role that can be abdicated.
Events are often 5% to 15% of an agency’s budget and generally net 50% of what they cost, sometimes less. Most attendees would be appalled to know that, but it’s true. It’s too high! I recommend events net 75% of what they cost. There are other, better, avenues to raise money.
grantsGrants, which are often 30% to 50% of an agency’s budget, more if they receive United Way funding, are one way. Yet, they too come with a cost. Most agencies get somewhere between 50% to 80% of the grants they submit. That means that the time spent on writing the 20% to 50% of the grants that don’t get funded is time lost. For the grants that are secured, there are reports to be written, dollars to be tracked, objectives to reach and programming to introduce. All of which is as it should be, and none of which is without cost.
As I mentioned in the Culture of Philanthropy or Fund Raising post, according to “Fund-Raising: Evaluating and Managing the Fund Development Process” (1999) individual giving offers the highest rate on return for the lowest cost (5% to 10%) to the organization. It is also the largest post of money given in this country and usually only reflective of the percentage special event income in most agencies’ budgets. In other words, 80% of the philanthropic dollars in this country are given by individuals yet 10% to 15% of most agencies budgets are received from individuals. Like the post says, “opportunity is knocking. Get the door!”
Your board, staff and major donors will be the foundation of any individual giving program and the program should be introduced in just that order: Board giving should come first with the Board setting and then meeting a giving goal. Staff should then be asked and then major donors. Individual giving is about one on one relationships that are cultivated — and later, stewarded — and require intentional asks for specific dollar amounts.
Once those asks are made, as mentioned in the Sustainability by Descending Order of Love post:

“If you have the time and the volunteers, consider asking your larger mid level donors and prospects in person. Those with the potential to become major donors should also be asked in person as should anyone who is committed to your organization.  While we follow the path of descending order of love in planning, we love all of our donors equally.  If someone would like to see you in person, even if it will be a small gift, go.  It is fun to thank someone in person and is worth keeping a committed donor engaged. When that is not practical, the next best thing is a phone bank or phone calls.”

There are a lot of ways to raise money and some will generate more money in less time than others. Nonprofit leaders are busy. Get the best bang for your buck and get on the individual giving path. It will be scary, and also worth it!
What have you done to increase individual giving?  As always, I welcome your insight, feedback and experience.  Please share your ideas or suggestions for blog topics and consider hitting the follow button to enter your email.
A rising tide raises all boats.
dani sig

Cash back for non-profit donors? Hmmm … Ah-ha!

laughing1Sometimes I see things at just the right time and in the right place, and it results in me seeing something differently. Usually, when this happens it results in an AH-HA moment. This is exactly what happened to me yesterday when I opened an email from my friends at Non-Profit Humour featuring their latest piece of satire (reminiscent of the Onion newspaper) titled “Charity offers cash to get people to donate“.

Here is the part of the post that caught my attention and almost had me fall to the ground in laughter:

The charity started the program quite by accident when a donor event turned ugly. A frustrated fundraiser couldn’t get key donors to make extra pledges.

“Sara just lost it at our wine and cheese party a month ago, and asked out loud what it would take to get our donors to give. She pulled out a $10.00 bill and waved it around just to make a point and sure enough all of our donors started signing pledge forms,” said Snidely. “That’s when we realized that all the stuff we were doing was all wrong.”

The visual of some fundraising professional reaching her breaking point and waiving around cash for pledge cards was hilarious to me. However, I know that I’ve been close to that breaking point and many of you probably have, too.

And by “breaking point” I, of course, mean being flummoxed and absolutely frustrated by what more it will take to engage donors in a manner that inspires loyalty. Just yesterday in my post titled “Uh-Oh: ‘The only time I ever see you is when you’re asking me for a donation’,” I rattled off a long list of things many non-profits employ as part of their donor communications program. If you missed yesterday’s post, here is that list:

  • newsletters
  • bulk email / eNewsletters
  • annual reports
  • impact bulletins
  • computer generated gift acknowledgement letters
  • handwritten letters
  • donor recognition societies (featuring stewardship activities)
  • donor receptions
  • donor surveys and focus groups

I went on to talk about how important it is to add a Moves Management component to this laundry list that involves engaging your agency’s volunteer solicitors in reconnecting periodically with those who they solicited for your annual campaign.

laughing2So, the title of today’s blog post had the word “AH-HA” in it, which implies that my friends at Non-Profit Humour inspired a light bulb of some sort.

The thing that struck me while reading their satirical piece was that maybe non-profit organizations would do better with inspiring donor loyalty if they STOPPED looking at the aforementioned laundry list of tools/tactics as a “Donor Communications” program and STARTED looking at it comprehensively as a “Donor Loyalty” program.

The second part of my AH_HA moment was that there are soooooo many great examples of “loyalty programs” that work in the for-profit sector, this situation surely screams out for some young, entrepreneurial non-profit agency to engage in a benchmarking project.

I am literally at no loss of benchmarking ideas when it comes to loyalty programs. Consider this initial list:

  • Hilton’s HHonors program
  • Holiday Inn’s Priority Club
  • United Airline’s MileagePlus
  • National Rental Car’s Emerald Club (e.g. pick a car from any aisle)
  • Starbucks’ My Starbucks Rewards (e.g. their gold card)

laughing3Yes, yes, yes . . . I know what you’re thinking: “Our agency doesn’t have things like hotel rooms, flights and cups of coffee to give away like these for-profit corporations.” But are you sure about that? Because I’ve attended many charity auctions in my life.

You’re already spending money on donors all in the name of “loyalty,” right? After all, those newsletters and special donor receptions cost you money — both direct and indirect costs.

What if some creative marketing genius told you that you could bundle up many of the aforementioned engagement tactics/tools and create a multi-level donor recognition society? In such a brave new world, newsletters, special tours of your facility, receptions and phone calls from board members might be seen as “rewards“.

I’m sure some of you aren’t biting on this idea yet, but you should check-out what the Indiana University Foundation is doing with its donor recognition societies. For example, if you give a combined $2,500 to the foundation in one calendar year, then you can join the prestigious 1820 Society. And membership has its privileges! Just check out these “rewards“:

  • Invitations to campus and regional events
  • Insider communication from IU leaders
  • Other opportunities to stay connected with IU

Some of you are probably worrying about those donors who tell you to: “Save your money and stop sending me stuff and fussing over me! I don’t make a contribution to your agency for you to spend it on recognizing me!

Ah, yes! Those donors exist. And those donors are loud. However, many of those donors are the same ones who stop contributing because they don’t see their contribution being put to work or having the impact they envisioned.

Your mission — if you choose to accept it — is to engage your donors in a way that inspires loyalty and doesn’t irritate them.

I wonder if there is a for-profit company in your town that will give special discounts to members of your donor recognition society? Oh wait . . . I suspect your National Public Radio (NPR) station has blazed this trail. I’m particularly fond of WBEZ’s High Fidelity monthly giving program (aka loyalty program).

Does your non-profit organization provide donor recognition societies? What types of “courtesies” do you offer those donors? If you’re not buying into today’s big idea about “loyalty programs,” please share with us what you’re doing to inspire donor loyalty. Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences.

Here’s to your health!

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

Uh-Oh: “The only time I ever see you is when you’re asking me for a donation”

stewardship1Last week I was out with a friend for a glass of wine after work. We hadn’t seen each other in a few months, and we were catching up on lost time. “How are you? How is the new job? How’s your wife? Kids? Grandkids?” You know the drill. It was during this exchange that he dropped the bomb: “So, how is your partner? Ya know … the only time I ever see him is when he is asking me for a donation.

I’ve been doing non-profit work for a long time now, and I’ve trained myself to recognize this for what it is worth. Whenever I hear donors say something like this, I immediately think of it as a cry for help. It is a donor who is screaming for attention. They want to know:

  1. Was my contribution appreciated?
  2. Is my contribution being put to work in the manner in which I was told it would be during the solicitation visit?
  3. Is my contribution making an impact?

This is classic Penelope Burk stuff right out of her book “Donor Centered Fundraising“.

donor centered fundraising book coverWhat does your donor communication program look like? Does it include:

  • newsletters
  • bulk email / eNewsletters
  • annual reports
  • impact bulletins
  • computer generated gift acknowledgement letters
  • handwritten letters
  • donor recognition societies (featuring stewardship activities)
  • donor receptions
  • donor surveys and focus groups

I suspect many of you utilize some of these best practices, but are you missing the most powerful and simple stewardship activity of them all? My gut feeling tells me that the answer to this question is probably ‘YES’.

If you are using a “prospect assignment process” that allows you to pair prospects with volunteer solicitors who they know well, then you need to take it one step further and design a stewardship program around those relationships.

You should not assume that two people who know each other fairly well don’t lose touch with each other. It happens all the time. Take a moment to mentally review everyone in your life with whom you own a phone call, email or letter. I bet that list is longer than you originally thought.

If you want to improve your donor loyalty rate (and stop losing donors for silly reasons), then I suggest you do these two simple things:

  1. Amend your written volunteer solicitor job description to include one more task that includes two personal touches (e.g. phone call or sit-down meeting). The first conversation is a simple touch focused on saying thank you and updating them on how their contribution is being used. The second touch is equally as simple with a reiterated message of appreciation and an update on how their contribution is having an impact.
  2. Develop a tickler system and poke your volunteers when it is time to make these two calls. We’re all busy, and reminders are necessary. You shouldn’t expect your volunteer solicitors to remember when stewardship calls should be made.

stewardship2These personal touches do not have to be all about your non-profit organization. I suggest that you train your volunteers to be less obvious. For example, both stewardship touches could be as simple as three minutes worth of messaging in the middle of a lunch meeting or after-work cocktail. It should feel organic and nature. It shouldn’t feel forced or contrived.

Making these additions to your donor communication program will likely improve your donor loyalty rates, but it should also help your volunteers become better solicitors . . . less reluctant and more confident.

If there is one thing I hear all of the time from volunteers, it is how fearful they are with  “over-soliciting” their friends for charitable gifts. I believe this is rooted in the fact that volunteers aren’t involved in the stewardship process. So, they have doubts that the right things are being done in between solicitation calls to demonstrate return on investment.

So why not involve them?

Oh yeah . . . there is one more added benefit to adding these tactics to your stewardship plan. You end up stewarding your volunteer solicitors at the same time because you are providing them updates to share with their friends and your donors.

Does your agency have something like this folded into its stewardship program (e.g. Moves Management)? If so, how well does it work for you? Have you tracked your success? What was the impact on your retention rates? What were your challenges and how did you overcome them? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

By the way, my partner is a subscriber to this blog. So, my shout out to him is: “I think you should reach out to you-know-who and schedule time to catch up over a glass of bourbon.”  😉

Here’s to your health!

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

Those shiny fundraising tools in your resource development toolbox

personal pagesJeff Bezos has been on my mind lately. Of course, he is the 49-year-old owner of, and this internet pioneer recently purchased one of the iconic old media newspapers — The Washington Post — for $250 million. It was no more than a few days after this announcement that I was talking to a non-profit board volunteer about fundraising when I was reminded of this famous Jeff Bazos quotation: “A company shouldn’t get addicted to being shiny, because shiny doesn’t last.

Here is how the fundraising conversation with the board member went:

  • Board member:  “Erik, I am so happy with our agency’s foray into online fundraising. I especially LOVE these ‘personal pages’ where I set-up my online page and email a link to everyone in my email address book.”
  • Erik:  “Why do you like this new fundraising strategy so much?
  • Board member:  “For starters, it is so easy and doesn’t take much time. Who has time to do fundraising the way we used to do it? Chasing down friends — who also don’t have time — and ask them for money when they don’t really want to be asked.”
  • Erik:  “Ummmm … well, hopefully there wasn’t a lot of ‘chasing’ and ‘forcing’ going on. Fundraising should be more about connecting people’s philanthropic wishes with opportunities. We’re not stalking people and stealing their money.
  • Board member: “Well, I just hated sitting down with my friends. It was so uncomfortable. Now, with these new ‘personal pages,’ I don’t have to do that anymore.”
  • Erik:  “Ummmm … that can’t be entirely true, right? I mean you should still be sitting down with large donors because it isn’t very respectful to ask donors of a certain size to simply ‘click and give,’ right?
  • Board member:  “I guess, but I’m not really focused on ‘those donors’. Staff can take care of those individuals.”
  • Erik:  “How do you ask donors to consider making a specific sized contribution that is commensurate with their capacity and willingness to give to your agency?
  • Board member:  “I really don’t worry about that either. I just ask them to give whatever they feel like donating, and the contributions rolled in! I can’t believe it, but my response rate has been approximately 30%. Many people are giving $25 and $50. A few people even donated more than $100. The biggest contribution was $200. I just can’t believe it!
  • Erik:  “I have some concerns about taking the personal touch out of your organization’s resource development program. Hopefully, these personal pages are simply one small strategy focused on the very bottom rung or two of your range of gifts chart. Or is it your agency’s new ‘donor acquisition’ strategy… like direct mail?
  • Board member: “Oh Erik … this is the future of fundraising!

I’m not going to provide too much commentary in today’s post because I suspect you can read between the lines.

unintended consequencesI am a huge proponent of using technology and integrating it into your non-profit organization’s fundraising program, but it shouldn’t be introduced in a way that undercuts the other best practices embedded in your resource development plan.

If your board members are ultra-reluctant fundraisers and you can’t introduce something like “personal pages” into your fundraising tool box without killing your annual campaign, then I suggest taking a pass on those opportunities for now. Timing is everything. Right?

Moreover, the Jeff Bezos quotation reminds us that shiny objects don’t remain shiny forever. So, what happens when those personal pages (or whatever the new online fundraising tool you’re using) become burdensome to volunteers and they resist using it?

My suggestion is that you fix the underlying problems and stop trying to deal with symptoms. If your volunteers are reluctant fundraisers, then help them overcome their fears or recruit additional board members who aren’t reluctant. Don’t just paper over their fears or blind them with shiny objects.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I am not opposed to online giving. I am not against peer-to-peer web-based personal pages. I am concerned about misuse and unintended consequences.

Has your agency started using personal pages to support board volunteer’s peer-to-peer solicitation with their circle of influence? If so, what has been the result? Have individual board members raised more, less or about the same in year-to-year comparisons? Have you seen any ill effects of introducing a shiny new object into your fundraising tool box?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

Mmmmm … strategy for breakfast again?

breakfast5Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a post titled “Making Breakfast,” John talks about how “culture eats strategy for breakfast“. He is referencing the importance of your organizational culture in everything you do. Of course, John says it in a way that only an organizational development professional can:

The strategy required specific organizational knowledge, competencies, and behaviors to effectively execute and deliver the results as envisioned. And the organization didn’t have those. So with every presentation of the strategy, I was conflicted.  Despite being consistently motivated by the possibility, I was increasingly concerned about the capability.”

In 2006, I made what I’ve now come to see as a brave decision when I left the front line and took a job as an internal consultant working for a national non-profit organization. For five years, I woke up every morning (usually in a hotel room somewhere on the road) and learned over and over again that culture eats strategy for breakfast.

To broadly and simply define my job . . . I was “Strategy Man”. My employer armed me with a 110 page manual focused on how to plan, organize, develop, implement and evaluate an annual campaign pledge drive. In addition to that manual, I was provided tons of tools, templates and samples that filled my consultants toolbox.

Some of you might be thinking “Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.” But you would be way off target. Why? Because culture eats strategy for breakfast!

So, picture this . . .

I walk into an organization’s boardroom and sit down with a group of agency staff and volunteer board members. I pull out my PowerPoint presentation and lots of other shiny objects. Nothing up my sleeve … right? This fundraising thing is easy. Making an in-person, face-to-face fundraising solicitation is as easy as following these simple 12-steps.

When I was done selling the sizzle (e.g. teaching fundraising strategies), I was often met with resistance, bombarded with reasons why it wouldn’t work and told why they wouldn’t do it that way (e.g. organizational culture).

breakfast1Do you see it? Culture eats strategy!

If your non-profit organization has hired staff who don’t possess fundraising skill sets and don’t have a track record of success with resource development, then sitting through a meeting listening to “strategy” can be arduous and sometimes downright frightening. The typical response is “resistance,” which is what John means when he says culture eats strategy for breakfast.

The same explanation holds true for your organization’s board of directors.

If you are just recruiting warm bodies to fill chairs around your boardroom table without being intentional, then you probably have a boardroom of people who say things like: “Ask me to do anything, but please don’t ask me to fundraise.”  (If I had a nickle for every time I heard that expression, I’d be retired and living on a tropical island sipping cool drinks in the shade.)

“If you want strategies to work, then you need to have the right people sitting around the table!”

Hire the right people. Recruit the right volunteers. Be intentional.

Last week, I was told by a board volunteer that he didn’t appreciate all of this talk about developing and following a board development process to increase the size of his board of directors. He kept arguing that we should throw process out the window and ask every existing board volunteer to ask a friend of theirs to join the board. Doing so would double the size of the board much quicker than how I was suggesting they do it.

breakfast2Hmmmm … looking back at that meeting, I think he was cooking up a hearty breakfast for me.

Some of you are probably wondering if your hiring and recruitment practices are intentional. If you answer ‘YES’ to many of the following questions, then you are probably being intentional:

  • Do you have a board development committee focused on growing the board?
  • Do you use tools that set expectations for prospective new board members (e.g. written volunteer position descriptions and commitment pledges)? Do you share these tools with prospects before asking them to join your board?
  • Do you build prospect lists with the thought of filling gaps and acquiring volunteers with specific skill sets and experiences?
  • Are you doing some informal background checking (e.g. asking friends and acquaintances about their current commitments, passions, past experiences, etc) before prioritizing who you plan on approaching first?
  • Are you able to rattle off a list of characteristics and traits of a successful board volunteer? How about a successful fundraising volunteer?

If you want to succeed at whatever your organization is looking at doing, then first ask yourself if your agency “possesses the organizational knowledge, competencies, and behaviors to effectively execute and deliver the results as envisioned“. If not, then you need to work on organizational culture first before introducing strategies into the discussion.

How do you change organizational culture? Be intentional!

If you choose to plow forward with strategy with a blind eye turned towards culture, then you better be hungry for a large heaping breakfast plate.  😉

Have you ever had to change the people (e.g. staff, board, etc) who were sitting around your table? If so, how did you do it? What lessons did you learn? Do you have a very intentional board development process? Scroll down and use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences.

Here’s to your health!

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

Spray and pray fundraising strategies don’t work anymore

spray and prayThe concept of “spray and pray” in resource development is simply sending out many appeals (aka shotgun effect), and then waiting for (aka hoping and praying) that enough donors respond so that you can make your goal. “Spray and pray” doesn’t just refer to direct mail. Back in the day, I used it in annual campaigns where I asked fundraising volunteers to identify five people from their social network, sit down with them in-person, and ask for a pledge or contribution. If your fundraising program is still loaded with “spray and pray” strategies, then you’re probably struggling because those days are long since over.

I decided to blog about this topic today because it has now come up in conversations with clients and fundraising professionals and in other various ways (e.g. things I read, etc) more than just a few times over the last six months.

Why? Why? Why?

I’m not sure that I care about “The Why?” A friend of mine used to say all the time — “It is what it is” — which was his cute way of saying “It doesn’t matter because getting to an answer doesn’t change the fact that you still need to address the issue.”

For those of you who are still searching for answers, I encourage you to not think too hard about it. The fact of the matter is that the Great Recession changed everything. Economists, politicians and newscasters have taken to using the phrase “The New Normal” to describe things in our communities that look-act-behave differently now than they did before the stock market tanked in 2008. Let’s face it . . . things are different and it impacts donor behavior.

In my opinion, the answer is simple and right under our noses. Take a step back and look at your own philanthropy.

Before the recession, my partner and I were making contributions (of various sizes and shapes) to 12 or more non-profits both locally and nationally. Some of those agencies were near and dear to our hearts, and others just got lucky because they asked us on the right day at the right time.

After the recession, the number of organizations we support has dropped. You might think that it is because of limited money, fear of market forces and other recession-related issues. While this may be somewhat true, none of these reasons are even close to the big reason. If we were playing The Family Feud, Richard Dawson would shout out . . . “Survey Says?” and the number one answer for me (and I trustthink millions of other donors) would be:


In most cases, my partner and I eliminated our support of those non-profit organizations where we didn’t have a personal connection. We support agencies where we:

  • know a staff person
  • know a board member
  • know a friend who is passionate about their mission

In those instances, we TRUST that our contribution will be used in the manner they said it would be used. We TRUST the outcomes and impact they claim to achieve in their case for support is factual. We TRUST that we’ll be kept in the loop (aka stewardship) on how things are going either through traditional means (e.g. newsletters, eBlasts, etc) or through informal means (e.g. word of mouth from that staff person, board member or friend). Hopefully both!

What replaces “Spray and Pray”?

In order to build trust, you need to become more personal in every aspect of your fundraising program:

  • Your cultivation efforts need to focus on pressing the flesh. Get prospective donors in your door and touring your facilities and programs.
  • Your solicitation efforts need to focus on two things: 1) matching the right solicitor with the right donor based upon their personal relationship and 2) making the ask in-person with the right case for support themes that resonate with that donor.
  • Your stewardship efforts need to focus on a multi-channel approach — mail, phone and in-person. Just sending newsletters isn’t enough anymore.

I am sure that some of you are overwhelmed by these suggestions because you have thousands of donors and limited resources. To those of you who might be shaking your heads and clinging to your spray and pray strategies, I have two things to say to you:

  1. Evolve or die! Welcome to “The New Normal” . . . you need change because someone has “moved your cheese“.
  2. Use your donor database! Technology is amazing and you should have the ability to segment your donor list. You may not be able to become personal with thousands of donors, but your Top 10, Top 100 or Top 250 donors are super important to you and a little bit of focus can go a long way.

What has been your organization’s experience lately with spray and pray fundraising strategies? What have you done to adapt? Have certain strategies worked better than others? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

Don’t set the bar too high for your next fundraising appeal

case2Hmmm? I must be on a Jeff Brooks kick because this is the second or third time I referenced his blog — Future Fundraising Now — in the last few weeks. LOL  Did you read his blog post titled “Pixar’s 22 rules of fundraising” from a guest blogger named Andrew Rogers? If not, then you have to find a few minutes to do so. Those 22 rules are awesome and should be part of every fundraising professional’s toolbox. Today, I’m focusing on “Rule 16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

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:

  • We’ll close our doors unless we meet this fundraising goal.
  • We’ll shut down a site if this campaign fails to hit goal.
  • We’ll eliminate this program if we’re not successful.

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:

  1. They usually get an initial bump in money coming in (e.g. donors respond), and
  2. The next time donors get solicited, the response is down again.

I believe there is a simple explanation for this phenomenon . . . donors don’t like to throw good money after bad.

Before you decide to hit that big red panic button on your fundraising dashboard and tell the entire community that you’re in trouble, I advise that you think twice about doing it. All you’re doing is setting the bar very high down the road, and what happens if you cannot get over that bar?

case1I suggest going back and doing exactly what Rule 16 tells you to do:

  • Write a case statement that tells a story about one of your clients (or a composite client).
  • Describe their needs. What is at stake if they don’t succeed?
  • Describe how you help them with those needs. Help me root for them!
  • Describe how a donor’s support will tip the scales in their favor of our main character.
  • Don’t make this story so dramatic that donors conclude that nothing they do will make a difference.
  • Be truthful and make it emotional. You are telling a story!

This case for support document is internal. Use this tool to:

  • develop your agency’s marketing materials and fundraising brochures,
  • write your direct mail and targeted mail letters,
  • write your website and social media copy, and
  • train your fundraising volunteers on how to turn it into a story that they share with donors during a cultivation, solicitation or stewardship visit with a donor.

Always remember . . . donors care about your mission, your clients, and the impact of their contribution. They don’t normally care about saving institutions and your sacred cows.

What does your case for support (e.g. case statement) look like? When was the last time your refreshed that document? How do you go about developing that document? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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