Cultivation and stewardship: Who’s on first? What’s on second?

Yesterday’s post titled “Time in the office versus time with donors” begged more questions than it answered. Today, we’re going to zoom in on one of those questions and examine it more closely.

Should the executive director be more responsible for relationship building than the development director?

I have always advocated that, regardless of how hard they try, a non-profit executive director cannot abdicate their role as their agency’s chief development officer. Even when an organization is lucky enough to have a fully staffed development department with talented fundraising professionals, the executive directors is ultimately the person who needs to provide vision and direction.

I think Harry Truman said it best when he said, “The buck stops here!”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the executive director needs to be the person out on the street cultivating and stewarding relationships with every prospect and donor.

To answer the question posed at the beginning of this post, I believe it is as simple as taking an inventory of who does what well. While I firmly believe that prospects and donors prefer meeting the executive director and developing a relationship with him/her, there may be situations where the executive director doesn’t possess the requisite relationship building skills to cultivate and steward people to the extent necessary for a successful fundraising program. If this is the case, then the answer becomes simple . . . whoever is the natural “people-person” takes on the lion’s share of cultivation and stewardship.

It really can be that simple. Right?

How do you know if someone is a natural relationship builder? Here are a few things I lused to ook for when I interviewed fundraising professionals:

  • If their network is big, then there is a good likelihood that they are good at building relationships.
  • Do they keep in contact with their network? If so, then they are most likely someone who intuitively knows how to maintain relationships.
  • Have they ever “taken advantage of” someone and violated their trust? Trust is a foundational issue in building relationships, and it is something good fundraising professionals know how to navigate.
  • I always like to learn more about what is being talked about between a relationship builder and the person with whom they are trying to build a relationship. Why? Because good relationship builders are inquisitive and take an interest in the prospect or donor.

Again . . . while I personally prefer that the executive director takes on this role, it doesn’t always work that way and the fundraising professional might need to become the primary cultivation and stewardship person for the agency. It might also become something where certain board volunteers need to help step-in and help. Regardless, the executive director cannot abdicate this role completely and must find places where they are comfortable meeting prospects and donors.

In these circumstances, it is important to clarify roles and responsibilities and the executive director needs to take the initiative in doing this. Off the top of my head, the following are a few tools that can and should be used to achieve clarity:

  • written annual performance plan
  • weekly contact reports
  • written comprehensive resource development plan
  • weekly in-person checkpoint meetings
  • written cultivation & stewardship plan
  • Moves Management program

Doing an inventory of skill sets and assigning and managing roles and responsibilities for cultivation and stewardship activities will keep your agency from sounding like Abbott and Costello in their famous Who’s on First? comedy sketch. It will also likely help you answer the difficult question posed in yesterday’s blog post about how much time needs to be spent outside of the office compared to behind your desk.

Who is the person primarily responsible for cultivating prospects in your agency? Who stewards your donors? What tools and strategies are used to maintain clarity? Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

Know when to stop chasing the great white whale

I’ve done it. We’ve all done it. I’m, of course, referring to the act of chasing that big philanthropist in your community.

Every community has a small circle of very generous philanthropists. They have the financial capacity to give, and they support their favorite charities in ways that the average donor (like you and me) can only dream of doing some day.

From the outside looking in, fundraising and non-profit professionals start fixating on strategies to engage those individuals in our mission and our organization. It looks something like this:

  • looking at who (if anyone) in our agency’s circle of friends has access to that donor’s network;
  • engaging other people from that philanthropist’s social network in activities associated with our non-profit organization; and
  • inviting that philanthropist to get involved (e.g. attend an event, take a survey, participate in a focus group, or even volunteer some time).

All of this is called “CULTIVATION” and it is indeed a fundraising best practice; however, sometimes after all of this work the prospect doesn’t turn into a donor. There is no “magic moment”. There is no pledge card or check.

One of the most important skills for fundraising professionals to possess is to know when to stop cultivating and move onto greener, more promising pastures. If you’re unable to do this, then you end up spending lots of time (which is a limited resource) on something that will have no return on investment for your organization.

So, how do you know when to stop? Well, I think we can learn a lot about this by looking at it through a “relationship” lens.

View a Vlog post titled “They’re Just Not That Into You” by someone using the handle “DeniseActutallyVlogs” on YouTube.  Sure, she is talking about dating rituals, but how different is that really from fundraising and resource development.

Caution: Denise is a little “salty” at times during her Vlog post, but it is mostly PG-rated stuff.  I encourage you to listen to what she has to say and translate it into the language of fundraising. I think there are more than just a few nuggets of wisdom.

How have you guarded against chasing the great white whale? When do you know it is time to stop cultivating an individual and move along? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share a tip or two with your fellow non-profit friends.

Here’s to your health!

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

Expounding upon the idea of “Quality Donor Touchpoints”

Yesterday’s post titled “Non-profit donors: “Should I stay or should I go?” built upon a recent post over at “The Agitator” blog about donor retention. One of the things they said was that retaining donors goes way beyond doing a good job of talking about your mission and your organization. They argued that every touchpoint needs to be quality and inspire a sense of satisfaction for donors.

To put this in context, let’s use a for-profit analogy.

When a consumer goes to Walmart to buy towels, their experience is affected by so much more than just the satisfaction of finding the towels they desire at the price they want to pay. While these are indeed two factors, the following things also influenced that experience and play into whether or not they come back to Walmart next week:

  • Was the store orderly and easy to navigate?
  • Was the store well-lit?
  • Was the physical environment too warm, too cold, or just right?
  • When they couldn’t find the towels that they were looking for, did the employee who helped them do so in a friendly and efficient manner?
  • Did the store smell nice?
  • Did the other customers behave and conform to the social norms of shopping?
  • Did the shopping cart wheels stick and make it difficult to use?
  • How much time did customer spend in the check-out line?
  • Was the cashier friendly and helpful?

There are countless other little details that when added together can result in a great experience which results in repeat business and customer loyalty. Or they can also add up to an unsatisfied customer who won’t return, but will likely bad mouth you to their friends and post horrible things about you on Facebook and Twitter.

The same holds true for your donors!

Non-profit donors need to hear more than just good news about your mission and programs. They also need to hear more than how efficient your organization operates.

Your non-profit organization’s goal needs to be “putting a smile on the donor’s face” every time you cultivate them . . . every time you solicit them . . . and every time you steward them.

Now that is a TALL ORDER when you start thinking about it because there are so many factors (just like in the Walmart example I used). Some factors are easy to influence, and others can be very difficult to impact.

The following are just a few ideas to keep in mind as you contemplate how to ratchet up your donor services:

  • Communicate with donors as often as they tell you they want to be communicated with.
  • Communicate only those things the donor has said they want to hear from you.
  • Only send fundraising volunteers and employees with whom the donor has a GREAT relationship (and this goes for cultivation, solicitation or stewardship activities).
  • Send donors( who give frequently and recently) a birthday card.
  • Celebrate anniversaries for “weddings” and “becoming a donor to your agency” (focus these activities on major gifts prospects and donors).
  • Include the donor’s spouse whenever possible and make the cultivation, solicitation or stewardship experience feel like “family experience” (as long as it feels appropriate).
  • Let the donor tell you where they are most comfortable being solicited and then solicit them there.
  • Train volunteer solicitors about the finer points of soliciting a charitable contribution by going beyond the 12-step process of “closing the gift”.

This approach is not intuitive for many non-profit organizations. So, my final suggestion to those of you are very serious about improving donor services is to invite a small group of customer service professionals to participate in a focus group. During the hour that you have them together, educate them about how you communicate and interact with your donors. Ask them how they would go about improving the experience. You might just be surprised at what you learn.

Let’s add to my list of suggestions. Please scroll down and use the comment box to share JUST ONE IDEA on how to improve donor services and increase the quality of donor touchpoints. We can all learn from each other.

By the way, thank you to all of you for helping DonorDreams blog exceed 10,000 page views in less than one year. This milestone is a testament to you and your thirst for engagement. The next big goal is to reach 300 subscribers by December 31st. In celebrating today’s accomplishment and looking forward to the next one, would you please reach out today to one friend, non-profit professional, volunteer or board member and tell them about DonorDreams and encourage them to subscribe? Thanks again for tuning in, and I hope you continue enjoying this online community that we’re building together.  🙂

Here’s to your health!

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

Non-Profits Can Mobilize Slacktivists Using Social Media

Hi, my name is Marissa and I am a slacktivist. I admit to thinking I am politically active by sharing my thoughts on issues with my friends through social media without really taking any other political action. It is easier for me to “like”, “retweet”, “+1”, or “share” something than it is for me to write a letter to my Congressperson.

But is slacktivisim a bad thing? And how can you use this passive involvement of others to actually make something happen for your non-profit organization and mission?

This past week, I caught an episode of my favorite news source, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His guest was Ben Rattray, founder of a website called As the interview went on, it became clear to me that Rattray had found a way to take the simple act of a person’s “like” or “retweet” and turn it into powerful political action.

The basics behind are this: a user can create a petition about any issue and will help the user reach out through social media to get people to sign the petition for free. Petitions are simply signed with the click of a button.

If the user decides to pay for their services, they can export the list of people who have signed their petition. also offers organizations access to sponsored campaigns.

“Sponsored campaigns” are promoted to users who would most likely support your cause. The community on is growing everyday, and I can only imagine it growing even more after this week’s exposure on The Daily Show. Tapping into the already growing community of users could help your non-profit organization gain more exposure. It could also be a great way of generating a list of prospective donors who are interested in supporting your mission and issues. also connects users with local and national media outlets. Remember when Bank of America was going to charge $5/month for using a debit card? It was a user who created a petition that 300,000 people signed, which gained national media attention. This, of course, resulted in Bank of America deciding to drop the proposed fee hike.

So, what could do for your organization? You could create  a petition connected to your mission and use to engage individuals who sign your petition. A recent article on Mashable states:

“slacktivists are 2x as likely to volunteer, 2x+ as likely to ask for donations, and 4x as likely to ask others to get involved.”

If you’ve seen KONY 2012 or Bully, you know how quickly a message can spread through the internet. Projects like these have inspired many people to get involved.

Even if you choose to not use a platform such as for your agency, there are still lessons to take away from the foundation they set-up.

Make it easy for people to get involved. If you have a blog on your site, make sure you have social media buttons at the bottom of each post to allow users to share your message with their friends.

Create a community. Peer pressure is a powerful thing. Use it for good. If you create a community on a social media site (e.g. Facebook, Twitter or even on your own blog), then make sure you take the time to reply back to those who leave comments as well as recognize those who are sharing your content with their social network.

Support a cause that supports yours. If there is a petition out there that helps your mission, then get involved and sign it. If people see that you care about an issue they also care about, they might take the time to visit your website to learn more.

It was exciting for me to see how makes a difference in our communities with a tool as simple as a petition. And I guess that’s the big takeaway from it all; the easier you make for people to get involved, the more people will be.

Is a network that your organization could benefit from? I’d love to hear why or why not in the comments below! Or are you using other providers or platforms to accomplish the same objectives? Please share.

Non-profits under fire: Measure this! Measure that!

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

Today, we’re focusing on a post that John titled “How Much Do I Love Thee?“. In that post, he talks about the recent obsession in the workplace to measure EVERYTHING (e.g. SMART goals, Management by Objectives, etc) and pushes back on the idea that everything must be quantifiable. He starts his post with the following quotation from Albert Einstein:

“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

Every non-profit professional in the world knows that our sector is under extreme pressure to conform to the trends that John references in his blog post. Here are just a few examples:

  • measuring community impact,
  • program outcomes measurement,
  • employee performance (e.g. management by objective), and
  • measuring donor loyalty.

Neither John nor I (or Einstein) are saying that we must fight this trend; however, there are things that are not measurable that must be considered and brought in the equation.

More concerning to me is the impact that this trend seemingly has on fundraising practices. Specifically, I’ve heard more and more fundraising professionals talking about program outcomes and how it can be used to demonstrate “return on investment”.

Speaking as a donor, I love hearing that my local Boys & Girls Club’s homework assistance program resulted in 75% of kids either maintaining or improving their grades. However, I really want to hear the personal stories about little Jack and Jane; Jose and Irma; or LaShaunda and Xavier. There is something inspirational in those stories. More importantly, it helps me understand the impact of that program.

I think the Center of NonProfit Excellence stated it best in their marketing for a 2010 training titled “Narrative Philanthropy: Stories that Result in Gifts”:

“But the pendulum may have swung as far as it can in the direction of statistics and outcomes. Accountability is crucial, but cannot account for the fact of why people give.  What explains the emotional impulse to give?  Stories. One good story is worth at least 10,000 measurable outcomes.”

If you get a chance, I encourage you to click here and read more about Jim Grote and his ideas around Narrative Philanthropy.

I also like what Norma Cameron said a few weeks ago in her blog post titled “The Power of Legacy Stories: A Daughter’s Love“. You should check out an awesome template that Norma created to gather legacy stories from your donors. A link to this tool is embedded in her blog post.

Circling back to John’s blog post — “How Much Do I Love Thee?” — he drives home his point by posing a simple question: “How much do you love your spouse?”  Of course, there is no way to answer this question in a quantifiable manner.

The same holds true for the non-profit version of this same question:

How much do your donors love your organization?

While you may be able to look at your donor database LYBUNT reports and review the results from a recent donor survey, I suspect none of this data will ever truly answer the critical question that I just posed. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that you stop trying to answer the question.

So, what should donor-centered fundraising professionals do???

I suggest picking up your phone, calling that donor, and inviting them out for a cup of coffee or lunch. When you are sitting across the table from them, do what Jim Grote suggests . . . tell them stories (and pepper in a little outcomes and impact data). Make them smile. Make them feel good about their last donation. Once you get to this point, you may want to take Norma Cameron’s suggestion and ask the donor about collaborating on the creation of their “legacy story”.

Yes, I know how busy many of you are. I am not suggesting this approach with all of your donors or the folks who buy raffle tickets to support your mission. Surely, you know who your most important donors are. Right? For small organizations, this might be a great project for your Top 5, 10, or 25 donors. For large organizations, the sky is the limit. This might even be a great cultivation/stewardship project in which fundraising volunteers can be trained and included.

I suspect this is can be woven into all organization’s Major Gifts and Planned Giving programs.

Where is your organization at with all this “measurement” stuff? What are you doing to adjust to the trend and ensure that you’re not over compensating? Are you having success aligning with United Way’s “Community Impact” model? Do you employ any of Jim Grote’s or Norma Cameron’s Narrative Philanthropy suggestions in your resource development program? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share a little bit of your experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Wow . . . Non-Profit Donors are Naked!

Yesterday, I wrote about the power of donor database software in a post titled “What can’t your donor database do?”  In that post, I marveled at the availability of powerful tools such as WealthEngine and Blackbaud’s Target Analytics that have the capability of interfacing with your donor database systems. Of course, these service cost money and for a number of non-profit organizations with scarce resources, sophisticated prospect research can feel out-of-reach.

The reality is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Much of the information that data mining companies provide comes from public sources of data. All your organization has to do is dedicate a little staff time to this project, and you’ll be able to develop fairly complete prospect/donor profiles.

To test this hypothesis, I selected one donor from a local non-profit organization who I don’t know very well and used online resources to find out as much as I could on him. In order to protect the innocent, I will refer to this donor as “John Doe” throughout today’s blog post. In completing my prospecting work, I used a number of free resources that are available to everyone with an internet connection.

Google. It is amazing what you can find out about a person using Google. I typed in my prospect’s name using quotation marks and plus signs. It looked exactly like this:

“John Doe” + Elgin + Illinois

Using the quotation marks and plus signs helps narrow the Google search and improves the search results. With just that simple search, I found the following information on this prospect:

  • Place of employment
  • Address of workplace
  • Phone number of workplace
  • Work email address
  • Job title
  • Number of employees in workplace
  • Company sales volume
  • Last five employers
  • Other non-profit boards upon which they serve or or or These types of sites can help you secure information like home address, phone number, estimated age, and names of relatives. You can also find information on previous home addresses, which gives you more to search on Google. Once I found this prospect’s home address, I went to and found out what those people believe his house value. (If you are feeling brave, you can check on your house’s value. I am feeling a little ill after doing exactly that. Apparently, out house has dropped $92,000 in value since we purchased it six years ago. Ugh!) Publicly traded companies are required by the federal government to disclose a lot of information. I went to this site to learn more about the company for which my prospect works. I also clicked around to see if he is a significant investor or owns large chunks of any publicly traded companies. Unfortunately, he did not. Non-profit charities are also required by the federal government to disclose a lot of information. So, I looked up the 990 forms of the non-profit organizations for which my prospect sits on their boards. I also did a search on my prospect’s name to see if there are any foundations that have been set-up in his name or his family’s name.

Facebook. Even though this prospect and I are not “Facebook friends,” many people don’t understand this social network’s privacy policies. As a result, a number of you have more personal information hanging out there than you care to know about. In this instance, I found out where my prospect graduated from high school. So, now I know where he grew up. I also found out where they went to college and what they studied.

LinkedIn. It is amazing to me what people post on their LinkedIn profiles. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my prospect on this social network. However, if I had, then I probably would’ve had access to information such as: employer, past employers, job functions/responsibilities, interests/groups, and possibly even his birthday. If I was “linked” with the prospect, I would’ve likely been able to view their network of friends and business associates.

So, the point I am driving at is that you don’t need lots of money to afford the services of data mining companies because there is already a lot of information out there on your prospects and donors. All you need to do is find time to gather the information and enter it into your donor database.

Ohhhhhh . . . I can already hear many of you saying that your organization is too thinly stretched and don’t have time. OK, I get it. I’ve been there and done that. However, how many prospects and donors do you really need this level of detailed data on? For small and mid-size non-profit organizations, it might only be your Top 10, 25, 50 or 100 donors. If you set aside a few hours each week, you will have detailed donor profiles for your most important donors in a very short period of time.

Ohhhhhh . . . I can also hear many of you saying that this feels like an invasion of privacy. Or maybe stalking? I also know some of you doubt the need for this level of detail.

Let me simply end by saying, fundraising is all about relationships. The more you know about your prospects/donors, the more likely you are to deepen those relationships, connect with them, and raise money for your mission. While this might not be necessary for “transactional fundraising” programs that rely on special events and annual campaigns, it is an absolute necessity once you start moving toward donor-centered fundraising and development of a major gifts program.

Still not convinced? Birthday and age information impacts planned giving strategies. Home value is one data point that can contribute to assessing wealth and philanthropic capacity. Understanding a prospect/donor’s social network, friends, and professional relationships will help you with volunteer solicitor assignment strategies.

Online prospecting work will never replace good old fashion relationship building. It is amazing what people can and will share over a cup of coffee, but doing your homework by using free online tools or paying data mining companies certainly helps and it makes your resource development efforts a little easier.

Does your organization use fee-based data mining companies like WealthEngine to do donor screening or compilation of donor profiles? If so, what has been your experience? Have you used some of the aforementioned free online tools? If so, please share your experiences and thoughts by using the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

What can’t your donor database do?

I left the non-profit frontline back in 2006 for an internal consulting position with Boys & Girls Clubs of America. So, it has been a long time since a donor database has “run my life”. A few weeks ago, I participated in a webinar focused on the Results Plus database product produced by Metafile in Rochester, Minnesota. It was during that webinar that I was reminded about how powerful donor database software packages have become.

For the “average non-profit” out there, a donor database is the software package they capture the following data:

  • Donor name
  • Donor address
  • Donor phone number
  • Contributions (amount and to what campaign)

It is less common for non-profit organizations to capture other information such as: solicitor names, spousal information, occupation & employer, social networks, wealth indicators, interests, etc (and this list can go on and on and on because there are more than a hundred data fields in most database packages that can be filled with information).

What I’ve found to be common for many non-profit organizations is they purchase a donor database system, invest in training, and lose institutional knowledge as employee turnover naturally occurs. As new fundraising professionals are hired, the desire to throw the old database out the window is magnified because they weren’t involved in database set-up and the systems built around the database weren’t designed by them. Most commonly, new fundraising professionals come to the table with biases toward database systems with which they might be more familiar.

Naturally, the drums start to beat and the mantra becomes “Buy a New System” rather than: 1) invest in training, 2) clean and deepen the data, and 3) fix the systems built around the database.

While I participated in that “refresher webinar” hosted by Mark Gerber at Results Plus, I was awestruck with what some donor database can do nowadays.

Credit Cards processing. Many donor databases have built functionality into their products where you can swipe and store a donor’s encrypted credit card information. This can make events (esp. auctions) really easy. It also makes recurring contributions (e.g. monthly giving program) to your annual campaign really easy. I’ve seen some database companies (e.g. build credit card processing right into the services they provide their clients. Other databases like Results Plus allow you to hook-up to external merchant account companies like Moneris and credit card processing happens with just one keystroke.

Event Management.For a long time now, fundraising professionals have been able to do a lot associated with event planning from inside their donor database, but the functionality and features continue to multiply. The following is just a short list of what is possible: seating assignments, auction management, creating/sending invitations via snail-mail or email, budgeting, creating/managing project management task lists, tracking entrée selection, managing gift acknowledgement letters with appropriate IRS disclaimer information for the value of services received (e.g. quid pro quo gifts), and the list goes on and on and on and on.

Volunteer management. A recent study released by Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and VolunteerMatch reports two big things: 1) 67% of survey respondents said they “generally make their financial donations to the same organizations where they volunteer” and 2) Volunteers tend to donate an average of 10-times more money to charity then people who don’t volunteer. This is why it is so very important for your non-profit organization to use your donor database to track and manage your volunteers. You can track and do all sorts of things such as: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Interests? Time volunteered . . . value of that time . . .  background check information . . . generate cultivation/stewardship letters . . . and the list goes on and on and on!

Prospect research. Third-party data mining companies have done a remarkable job integrating their services in such a way that you can run their applications from inside your donor database and even pull that data directly into your system. These services are costly, but it is amazing what you can find out about a prospect or donor from public records. Wow! And it can all easily be done from inside your donor database. If you have some cash to spend, talk to your database provider about whether or not information from WealthEngine or Blackbaud’s Target Analytics can be easily brought into your database system.

These were just a few functions and features that had me on the edge of my seat throughout that webinar. My best advice to all non-profit organizations with donor database systems is to:

  1. Call your database provider and ask a sales professional to provide you with their “nickel tour”. Even though you already own the system, you will likely learn a lot about what you already own. The sales pro will play along because they might just sell an upgrade or add-on module.
  2. Invest and continue re-investing in training. The donor database world is constantly evolving and you really need to stay on top of what your system can do.
  3. Pay attention to the systems you build around your database (e.g. staffing, contact reports, event registration forms, pledge cards, etc). These system have a lot more to do with the data you’re capturing than the software you’re using.

I wonder when the donor database companies will build enough functionality into their systems so all I need to do is press a button on my computer and the database will brush my teeth for me?  😉

Please scroll down and use the comment box below to share one of your favorite features or functions associated with your donor database.

Here’s to your health!

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

Marketing does not equal resource development, usually

A very good friend of mine from Ohio emailed me last week and said that her soap box topic for the month of March for any non-profit who would listen was: “marketing is not resource development“. Oddly enough, I too spent the month of March telling many people the exact same thing. So, this morning I decided to climb to the top of my online soap box and yell as loudly as possible that “Marketing does not equal resource development, usually“.

First, let me address the issue of why I used the word “usually”. Simply stated in two words . . . “Cause-related Marketing”.

For those of you who are still wrestling with what cause-related marketing is all about, I point you in Joanne Fritz’s direction. She has written a number blog posts on the subject including “Five Best Cause Marketing Programs For Local Nonprofits“. In this instance, cause-related marketing is a solicitation tool and can become a part of a non-profit organization’s comprehensive resource development plan.

So, what exactly is “resource development”?

Without looking up definitions in a Fundraising 101 textbook, I’ve always thought of resource development as a big machine with a number of cogs that work together. Those cogs have the following names:

  • Prospect identification
  • Prospect introduction
  • Prospect cultivation
  • Prospect solicitation
  • Donor stewardship

In recent months, I have come across a number of non-profit organizations (esp. board volunteers), who believe that their agency simply needs to invest in more marketing to solve their revenue problems. The implication is that there is a direct relationship between dollars coming in and the agency’s visibility.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not “hating” on marketing people today. In fact, I love the marketing profession and spent three years working as a newspaper journalist. I love my marketing friends; however, I really want them to stop telling my non-profit friends that they have the cure for their revenue ills.

Yes . . . yes . . . yes . . . It is true that better marketing will improve an agency’s visibility in the community, which can impact resource development activities like identification, cultivation, and stewardship. It is also true that in some instances like “cause-related marketing” that marketing becomes a solicitation tool. However, in the end, the reality is still:

Marketing ≠ Resource Development

 Let me share a few examples of how marketing professionals and fundraising professions look at the same resource development issues and think differently:

Example #1: How to improve your existing annual campaign?

Marketing professional — give the donor something they really value (like a really nice premium gift). This will change the ROI calculation and result in more donors and increased dollars raised.

Fundraising professional — revise the agency’s case for support, provide better training and support to volunteer solicitors, recruit more solicitors to make more asks . . . these things collectively will allow for a higher quality solicitation as well as more solicitations all of which will result in increased dollars raised.

Do you see the difference in approach?

Example #2: How to engage more prospects?

Marketing professional — purchase advertising (or secure it for free using a public service announcement strategy) in local newspapers, radio and cable television. Tell people about your agency and those who are interested will opt-in using a telephone number, email or website address provided in the ad.

Fundraising professional — engage board members, volunteers, and existing donors in helping you identify their friends who share a common passion for your organization’s mission. Once those prospects are identified, ask those same volunteers and donors to invite their friends to participate in mission-focused activities like an open house, reception, event or cup of coffee with the executive director.

Do you see the different in approaches?

In the for-profit world, those corporations sell “things” (e.g. widgets), and those products are valued by consumers. So, when someone sees a marketing pitch around something they want, then it triggers this impulse to purchase. In my humble opinion, this is not the same dynamic at play when it comes to donors who make charitable contributions to non-profit organizations.

This is not to say that an impactful marketing program isn’t important because it surely is. However, I really want board volunteers to stop pinning their hopes of increased revenue solely on marketing efforts because:

  1. “hope” is NOT a strategy, and
  2. there is no substitute for board members and fundraising volunteers participating in a comprehensive resource development program.

I understand that sitting down and asking people for money can be scary, but it is the only thing in the universe that has ever worked. So, let’s stop “hoping” and looking for ways around it, and let’s start building a resource development machine that is supported by an effective marketing program.

So, do you disagree with me? I know there are tons of people out there who do. If so, please scroll down and share your thoughts using the comment box. Do you agree with me? If so, please scroll down and use the comment box to provide additional examples of how marketing professionals and fundraising professionals approach similar resource development questions from different angles.

We can all learn from each other. I am open-minded and willing to consider other viewpoints.

Here’s to your health!

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

New Donor Formula: Hustle – Follow-Up – Tenacity

The following is true story about a salesperson who is trying to hook a new customer. I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent.

Once upon a time . . .

There was this salesperson who had a GREAT product, but needed more customers. He decided that millions of business people just like him traveled this path before, so he cracked the Sales 101 textbook and did the following:

  • Identified his prospects
  • Made a list of his prospects
  • Rated and prioritized his prospect list
  • Picked up the phone, started calling and tried to secure appointments with prospects to demonstrate his product

One of the prospects on this salesperson’s list (we’ll call him “Jorge”) would take his phone calls, listen intently, say all the right things, and then end the conversation by putting the salesperson off for a few more months.

“Gosh, your products and services do certainly sound interesting and affordable, but we already have a vendor who we really like who does the same thing you do. We really like our vendor, but once things slow down around here, we’ll let you come over and show us what you got,” said Jorge.

This went on for TWO YEARS!

So, one day the salesperson decided to flip to the next chapter in his Sales 101 textbook and read about how to respectfully get more aggressive with his prospects. Last week, the salesperson showed up at Jorge’s business. He was armed with a huge sample of his product along with sales materials and a business card. Unfortunately, Jorge wasn’t there when the salesperson showed up. Of course, the salesperson left everything behind and asked that Jorge please call him back when he gets a chance.

Well, Jorge’s employees looked over the huge sample and the sales materials. They fell in love with it just like the salesperson had promised on the phone. When Jorge returned to the office, he also totally became enamored with the product and services.

Two weeks later nothing has happened!

Jorge hasn’t followed up or called the salesperson because he is busy.  While the salesperson’s product and services are really enticing, the reality is that the existing relationship with another vendor takes the sense of urgency out of doing anything. As for the salesperson, they obviously haven’t finished reading their Sales 101 textbook and have neglected to read the chapter titled “ABC: Always Be Closing”.


“ABC: Always Be Closing” isn’t a bad paradigm for fundraising professionals. If you’ve never heard of this approach, it entails the following:

  • Always be hustling
  • Constantly be following up
  • Never take NO for an answer
  • Keep adding more and more enticements until you get to YES

While I think the final bullet point is probably where I draw the line, fundraising professional can apply “ABC” and walk away from this story with a few lessons learned.

For example, if you aren’t HUSTLING for new donor prospects every day that you are employed, then you aren’t really focused on building your donor base. Prospects are all around you. They shop at your grocery store. They belong to your church. They attend your Rotary Club meetings. There is a way to always be talking about your charity in acceptable, non-obnoxious ways. When someone says “Huh, that sounds interesting,” then it is perfectly normal to invite that person to tour your facilities or sit down over a cup of coffee to learn more.

The thing I see most of us neglecting to do is FOLLOW-UP. We send letters, emails, and newsletters. We make phone calls, have introductory coffee meetings, and give tours. We drop the ball and let things hang out there just like the salesperson in the aforementioned story. We introduce our mission and cultivate prospects, and then one of the following things usually happens:

  1. We don’t follow-up enough because we’re afraid of being obnoxious
  2. We just let it drop because we think the ball is in the prospect’s court and they’ll take action if they’re really interested
  3. We get our prospect really interested, but forget the “call to action”
  4. We hear NO and cease & desist, rather than understanding that the NO was simply to the opportunity we were presenting or the timing of the ask.

I suspect that most of us would get 100 percent better at securing new donors if we mastered the concept of follow-up and didn’t fall into the same trap that the salesperson in the story fell into.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any similar stories to share? How do you apply the principle of “follow-up” without over-staying your welcome or upsetting the prospect? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share your thoughts along with your tricks of the trade. We can learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Kony 2012: How Viral Video Messaging Can Make an Impact

Last Wednesday, I woke up to see the same video posted countless times on Facebook and Twitter. It was a 30 minute documentary about the leader of the Lords Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, and what he has done to the people of Uganda. This seemed strange to me because I can’t think of the last time I discussed the situation in Uganda with many of my friends. What was it that suddenly got a large number of people interested in what is happening on the other side of the world? So, I watched the video.

Video is a powerful medium that can be used to raise awareness about your mission. But how do you make a video that people want to share?

Make it personal

KONY 2012 starts off, talking about the world and how “humanity’s greatest desire is to belong and connect”.

Who cannot identify with that? We are all human. We all want to belong. In fact, the reason why I watched the video in the first place was because I wanted to belong to the community of people that knew what this video was about.

The movie continues with a home video from the birth of the director’s son. How much more personal can a person get? We all were born and some of you are parents. Because of that, this clip does wonders for connecting the audience to the cause and once the audience is connected. They are instantly more interested in what comes next.

How can you achieve this in your video? Go straight to the source. Talk to the people who are impacted by your organization. Show your audience how you make a  difference in both your client’s life as well as for the community.

Make it special

There are a couple of key points in KONY 2012 where the narrator lets the audience know they are special. He states, “99% of the world doesn’t even know who Joseph Kony is”. He is letting you in on a secret; giving you information a lot of other people don’t have. People love to feel like they know something that someone else doesn’t. This works to the filmmaker’s advantage because a lot of people wanted to tell their secret after watching the video.

You might not have a mission that is as unique as stopping a Ugandan warlord, but you can define a unique problem that needs solving and tell people about it.

As a nonprofit staff person, it is easy to think that everyone knows about your mission and what you are trying to achieve because you personally live and breathe it every day. But what about those who don’t?

What specific part of your mission do you want them to focus on in order to become more interested in your organization? What don’t they already know?

Make it urgent (and give directions)

KONY 2012 is titled KONY 2012 for a reason. The organization behind the film, Invisible Children, wants Joseph Kony arrested by the end of this year. That’s not a lot of time. They want you to get involved now. Invisible Children has organized an action day in April of 2012, which creates even more urgency for your involvement. The film gives the audience four specific actions they can take to get involved now — one of which is very simply is to share the video.

People want to help. You just have to tell them how they can. In my exerperience, people are more willing to do something if they are given clear and easy instruction (e.g. “share this video”)

One more observation . . . KONY 2012 is 30 minutes long. At the time of writing this post, it has received over 71 million views on YouTube. This is incredible since most videos that go viral are under four minutes long. Take the time to tell your story to build your community. If you connect with your audience, they’ll be sure to stick around. More importantly, they will want to share it with others.

Hopefully, you find my observations about KONY 2012 helpful as your non-profit investigates online video as a way to extend your social media messaging.  You might also want to check out YouTube’s Nonprofit Program.

Do you currently use videos in your social media messaging? If so, is it more for an awareness campaign or as a direct call for donations? What methods do you find to be the most successful? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!