Can you read your donor’s mind?

why1Ever since the first day I was introduced to the concept of fundraising, I’ve seen lots of people around me struggle with one basic question: “Why do people make charitable contributions to non-profit organizations?” Maybe it is just me, but I think our profession is obsessed with finding an answer to this question.

Here are just a few examples of situations where I’ve seen a version of this question debated:

  • Board volunteers who are reluctant fundraising solicitors trying to rationalize why they won’t make an ask,
  • Fundraising volunteers who are grappling with an organization’s internal case for support document, and
  • Fundraising professionals and non-profit executive directors who are trying to craft a strategy or develop a resource development plan that results in increased revenue.

This question reminds me of the plot in “Moby Dick“. The characters I just described above are Ishmael, and the answer to the question that I posed in the first paragraph is Moby Dick. Am I off base? Or is this one of those age-old questions that are elusive and difficult to really answer?

Last night I was back in my basement unpacking boxes and I came across more training materials from the Boy Scouts as well as Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Those two documents got me thinking about this topic.

why3The following are the “six reasons why donors give” according to my Boy Scout training material:

  1. They are asked.
  2. They believe in the ideas of the organization, and care.
  3. To achieve prestige and recognition.
  4. To seek power and influence.
  5. Because of peer pressure.
  6. For tax consideration.

When I looked at the Boys & Girls Club’s training handout, it was based on survey research found in Jerold Panas’ book “Mega Gifts“. In that book, he listed TWENTY ONE reasons donors give (e.g. major gifts individuals who give more than $1 million) to non-profit organizations and he listed them in the order these individuals ranked them. I won’t give you the entire ranked list (because you need to click the link above and buy his book), but here are the top six for comparative value to the Boy Scout’s list:

  1. Belief in mission of the institution. (1)
  2. Community responsibility and civic pride. (15)
  3. Regard for staff leadership. (17)
  4. Fiscal stability of the institution. (20)
  5. Respect for the institution locally. (4)
  6. Regard for volunteer leadership of institution. (9)

After each of the ranked reasons, I provided a number in parenthesis. The number in parenthesis is where fundraising professionals ranked the same reasons they believe donors give to their charities.

why2What conclusions can we draw from all of these lists? Here is what I think:

  • Generalizations are dangerous, and we need to stop stereotyping donors’ intentions.
  • I believe donors are like snowflakes. While there might be a few generalizations we can make, we need to invest time into getting to know our donors and understanding their individual motivations.
  • Reviewing all of the lists and rankings, we apparently don’t know as much as we think we know.

What strategies and tactics do you and your organization use to figure out donor intent on an individual level? Are there big reasons you believe donors give to your agency that aren’t on any of the aforementioned lists? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment box below because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Donor says: “Less selling. More serving.”

servingOver the last few days, I’ve had the pleasure of doing one-on-one donor interviews for a client of mine. I just love it when I get an opportunity like this because there is nothing more enlightening than chatting with someone about their philanthropy.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes develop a blind spot about what I think donors know versus what they don’t know when it comes to the fundraising profession. For me, it is that “Wizard of Oz” moment where the wizard is discovered by Toto and his response is: “Ignore the man behind the curtain.”

So, it is always startling to me when a donor engages in a fundraising process conversation with me. This is exactly what happened yesterday during one of my donor interviews.

The donor I am referencing simply said:

“The non-profit sector needs to have a paradigm shift. They need to move from selling to serving.”

This opened the door to a rich conversation about the importance of stewardship and loving your donors. (Believe it or not the words ‘stewardship’ and ‘loving your donors’ came out of his mouth and not mine.)

The idea of putting less time, energy and effort into SELLING and redirecting it into SERVING (e.g. stewardship) has been top of mind for me lately because I signed up for Pamela Grow’s four week eCourse titled “Monthly Giving: The Basics & More!

Literally, the night before this donor interview, this is what I read in the first week’s materials:

“One of the most amazing things about monthly giving is that once a donor signs up for a monthly giving program, you can stop asking them for money, because the person is giving you money each and every month. Instead of making regular asks, you can focus 100% on stewarding your donors. Imagine, donors that get tons of attention from your non-profit, and none of it an ask!”

I’ve always been fascinated by monthly giving, but I’ve never had an opportunity to develop or run such a program. So, my curiosity got the best of me and I signed up for this eCourse.

I’m not suggesting that the silver bullet for your resource development program is a monthly giving program. Heck, I’ve only read the first week’s worth of reading materials. Truth be told . . . the case for support is compelling, and I’m excited to learn more.

At the intersection of this eCourse and yesterday’s donor interview, I am left wondering what other non-profit organizations are doing to shift more of their time into stewardship activities?

I suspect the reason monthly giving programs are appealing is because it recognizes a basic truism, which is there is only so much time in a fundraising professional’s day and the money needs to come in the door. Investing in the development of a monthly giving program creates an environment where solicitation time can be converted into stewardship time.

I’m going to stop here because you need to sign up for Pamela’s eCourse if you want to learn more.

What are you and your organization doing to invest more time into “serving your donors“? What does that look like? How are they responding? 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

Non-profit donors, hospital visits, and stewardship opportunities

get well soonIt is the morning of Wednesday, March 27, 2013 and my soon-to-be 40-year-old brother is on his way to the hospital for hip replacement surgery. He is the youngest hip replacement patient that his doctor has ever seen. With all of this going on, my mind still wanders back to non-profit organizations and how they treat their donors at times like these.

It should be no surprise to any fundraising professional that non-profit hospitals are very good at resource development. In 2011, non-profit hospitals and healthcare systems improved their fundraising efforts by 8.2 percent over the previous year’s efforts, according to the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. That’s right. We’re talking about 2010 and 2011 when unemployment, the economy, and the housing sector were softer than they are today.

In a nutshell, I believe people are at their most vulnerable when they walk through the doors of a hospital. They are scared and their support networks (e.g. friends, family, neighbors, etc) stand by their side.

Here is the point . . . good non-profit organizations constantly message to their donors things like:

  • You’re part of our non-profit family.”
  • We care very much about you, and we appreciate how much you care about our mission and clients.”
  • You’re a valued friend.

If all of this is true, then shouldn’t you be by their side during their time of greatest need? And if you aren’t there, then aren’t you undercutting all of the stewardship messaging you’ve invested in throughout the years?

Non-profit hospitals have it easy in this one regard because donors (and prospective donors) are on their home turf. Of course, they still need to do a ton of hard work (e.g. quality care, bedside manner, compassion, service, etc).

My brother’s surgery this morning reminds me of a life lesson that I learned more than a decade ago when a board member, who was struggling with kidney disease, was admitted to the hospital. Not only did I not send a card/balloons/flowers, but I had left a number of emails and voicemail messages pushing him about an upcoming committee meeting.

Needless to say, the post-hospital phone call was more than a little uncomfortable for me. It was a lesson that I learned and carry with me to this very day.

Last week, I started working pledge cards for one of my favorite charities. One of the first donors I called to set-up an appointment informed me that she was being admitted for surgery in a few days. She didn’t want to schedule a solicitation meeting and asked that I call back after her surgery.

So, what did I do?

  1. I wished her well. I asked her when I should circle back around to check-in and set-up a meeting.
  2. I calendarized the date she told me to call her.
  3. I offered assistance. I told her that I’m happy to help in whatever way she thinks is appropriate. I can pick-up prescriptions, run to the store, or drive her to a doctor appointment.
  4. I called the agency to report this news, and they immediately mailed a “get well soon” card to the donor.

Did I do this because I am working the angles to secure a contribution in the long-term?

Heck NO!

I did these things because it is what friends do for each other. It also happens to be what donor-centered fundraising professionals do.

Do you have any stories about donors, hospitalization, and stewardship activities? If so, please take a minute out of your busy day to share that story or what you consider a best practice in the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Fundraising, stonecutters and ignoring best practices

stonecutterWelcome 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 “All That Had Gone Before,” John gets philosophical. He points out how a stonecutter’s success is attributed to a series of chips just like your successes in the workplace is the result of the people who came before you. He says, “Our results today; our performance today; our effectiveness today; is not from what we have done today; but all that we’ve done before.”

I read this and immediate think of a recent fundraising training that I facilitated for a bunch of volunteer solicitors.

In my training, I talk about the 12 steps to making a successful face-to-face solicitation. If followed exactly without any corner cutting, each step is designed to quiet our “inner saboteur’s voice,” which is rooted in fear and the mistaken belief that we are “begging for money.”

I’ve conducted this training almost 100 times in my life (if not more), and it never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t want to slowly and methodically chisel away at their solicitations by following the 12 step process.  Here are some of the most recent things I’ve heard people say in the wake of this training:

  • I don’t need to make my own pledge before going out to solicit my friends. I know that it is the first step in the 12 step process, but I give my time and that should be enough.
  • If the donor indicates that they don’t want to meet with me, I’ll just solicit them over the phone. I know these people well enough so there won’t be a difference between a phone and in-person solicitation.
  • I know that I shouldn’t leave the pledge card behind with the donor, but I know this donor very well and they will send it in and everything will be fine.

These people used to frustrate me. After all, they don’t seem to understand these best practices were developed by countless numbers of volunteers and professionals before them. Ugh! However, after reading John’s blog post, I’m going to attempt to change my perspective.

From this point forward, I will simply look at these folks as inexperienced stonecutters who are trying to split that big rock in half with just one or two swings of the hammer. They choose to ignore all of the progress made by everyone who preceded them because they are simply apprentice stonecutters. Right?

As a non-profit and fundraising professional, how do you channel your inner stonecutter when working with donors? When working with fundraising volunteers? When working with your board? Please scroll down and share your thoughts 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

Bad cause related marketing is offensive

cause related1Have you ever been the victim of a bad cause related marketing promotion? If so, then perhaps you would agree with me that bad cause related marketing is offensive and even damaging to the non-profit industry. For this reason, the industry really needs to start policing itself and developing a set of commonly accepted best practices.

My story

On Saturday, I decided that I needed a new pair of glasses. So, I took a trip to the mall and walked into LensCrafters because it felt convenient. I saw the doctor. She poked around my eyes and dilated them. I picked out my frames and proceeded to check-out. During the process of ringing up the bill, we got to a point that sounded something like this:

  • Cashier: “Would you like to add $1.00 to your bill today to support a charity called OneSight?”
  • Me: “Ummmmmm, what is that?
  • Cashier: “It is a charity that helps poor people around the world who suffer from bad eyesight.”
  • Me: “Can you tell me anything else about the charity?
  • Cashier: “Ummmmmmm, no.”
  • Me: “Then no, I wouldn’t like to support that charity.”

My issue with this exchange

I understand that it is only one dollar, but as a donor don’t I deserve a better case for support than: “It is a charity that helps poor people around the world who suffer from bad eyesight.”?

Again, you’re probably thinking to yourself: “Come on, Erik. It is one dollar. You’re not going to get the song and dance that charities give you for larger ask amounts.”

Of course, you are right, but am I asking too much for something like:

  • A brochure sitting at the cash register that explains more about the charity.
  • In-store posters or displays explaining who this company’s charity of choice is and why it is their charity of choice?

Buyer beware!

cause related2So, I came home and decided to Google around to find a few answers about the charity I was asked to support at the LensCrafters cash register.

Here is what I found on the LensCrafters website:

Twenty-five years ago, LensCrafters founded the OneSight organization with one purpose in mind: To provide better sight for all—everything from free eyecare to eyewear to important research that will change how people see tomorrow.”

Perhaps, I am being cynical, but isn’t LensCrafters asking its customers to fund its charitable work?

Back in the day, I remember corporate America feeling the need to re-invest part of its annual profits back into the communities from where those profits came or into a charitable mission about which they felt strongly. Again, I might be off-base here, but it feels like today some companies are keeping their profits and asking their customers to fund their charitable work and then turning around and asking for customer loyalty because of all their good works.

I did go to Guidestar and snoop around OneSight’s 990 forms, which as you know can be like deciphering hieroglyphs at times.   From what I can tell, this organization raises very little money from more traditional resource development methods and gets most of its money from LensCrafters’ cause related marketing cash register program.

As a consumer, I believe I deserve a little transparency at the cash register if I am just being asked to essentially support a company’s charitable activities.

Is a brochure or display really asking too much?

Cause related marketing is here to stay

Cause related marketing is here to stay because it generates substantial revenue. It is an easy ask. After all, it is just one dollar, right? Come on. Isn’t it a small price for a concerned citizen and donor to pay so that they can feel good about doing something to feed a hungry person or give the gift of sight?

Call me old fashion, but this feels like lazy philanthropy, especially when companies can’t even be bothered to train their cashiers to answer a few questions or produce a brochure for distribution at the cash register.

If only there were best practices and some minimum standards that we could all agree upon.

Ummmm, wait! Perhaps, we have something . . .

My online friend, JoanneFritz, at posted a great article titled “3 Cause-Related Marketing Trends That Matter to Nonprofits and Their Business Partners“. It is definitely worth taking a minute to click-through and read it.

Joanne ends her post with a call to action and includes a few good links for non-profit organizations that are searching for best practices.

Has your agency played around with any cause related marketing efforts? If so, what did you do? More importantly, what did you learn? Please share your thoughts 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

Start talking to donors about THE WHY and THE WHERE

visionOn May 9, 2012, I blogged about something I thought was the next best thing since sliced bread. It was a post titled “FREE fundraising movies every Monday morning? Sign me up!”  Not only did I write about this awesome service, but I took my own advice and signed up. I just love starting my week off with a short three-minute video nugget of fundraising goodness. So, when I opened yesterday’s Monday morning movie email and saw that the topic was “Articulating your vision to inspire others to give,” I knew it was going to be a great week.

One of the reasons I love these Monday morning fundraising videos is because they always make me stop and think. Yesterday’s video didn’t disappoint. It made me stop and think about my last few donor interactions. It even caused me to reflect back on the last time I was solicited by a charity. In this reflection exercise, here is what I found:

  • Sometimes my solicitation visits focus on big picture stuff like “mission.”  These discussions focus on the question of WHY. They are 50,000 foot discussions, and some donors like to hear this message over and over again.
  • Sometimes my solicitation visits focus on big picture stuff like “vision.” These discussions focus on the question of WHERE (and a case can be made for WHY). They are also 50,000 foot discussions.
  • Sometimes my solicitation visits focus on the little picture stuff like “programming.” These discussions focus on the question of HOW (and a case can be made for WHAT). They are not 50,000 foot discussions. These conversations are in the trenches.
  • Sometimes, when I am having a good day and the donor is generous with their time, my solicitation visits are a combination of the last three bullet points.

The interesting thing I discovered when looking back is that each of those solicitation calls looked really different because each donor imposed their own set of constraints on the visit. One donor only had 15 minutes to give me; whereas, another donor is a real detail freak.

I’ve been known to say things like, “The golden rule in fundraising is ‘Know Thy Donor‘” or “Donors are like snowflakes because they’re all different“.

I am inclined to double down on these last two opinions after thinking about my last few solicitation visits. However, if you want to make a generalization about fundraising and donors, then this week’s Monday Fundraising Movie makes a great point. Many of us are getting so wrapped up in demonstrating ROI to our donors that our case for support drifts toward disproportionately talking about programming. This can limit our effectiveness because many donors give because they are inspired to do so, and many of the inspirational tools in our fundraising toolbox deal with our vision.

captain jackThe next time you find yourself sitting down with a donor, try sticking to this simple script:

  • Tell them about the need in your community. Share a few statistics with them, but personalize it with a story about one of your clients.
  • Tell them about the vision your agency has for the future and how it impacts the need you just shared with them.
  • Tell them about how you know your agency is on the right path toward achieving this vision. Share a few outcomes/impact statistics with them, but personalize it with a story about one of your clients.
  • Of course, end all of this by asking for the donation or pledge.

If you practice, I bet you can do this in 15 minutes. I also suspect that you will become one very effective fundraiser.

Has your agency’s case for support started leaning more towards programming and operations in recent years? What have your last few solicitations looked and sounded like? What do you like to hear when getting solicited by other charities? Please scroll down and share your thoughts 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

Fundraising is broken. Fix it.

Good morning, DonorDreams blog subscribers. I thought I’d give you another day off from my random non-profit and fundraising thoughts by offering you an awesome article about DONOR COMMUNICATION, STEWARDSHIP AND RETENTION from a guest blogger.  This guest post is from Nathan Hand, who is a fundraising professional in Central Indiana.  Check out his blog posts at Enjoy!

relationshipsfordummiesIt happened again. And I’ve had it up to here (*as he raises his hand 2 inches above his head*).

This post may get me in trouble but this is important.

I was visiting with a community business leader yesterday. He told me that he and his wife had supported an organization several times over the years,but he hadn’t heard from them in 14 months. The communication he received yesterday was a solicitation for a significant gift. Done via email. Out of the blue.

If that doesn’t surprise and horify you, it should, but surely this will. He politely declined. In his words, he and his wife had understandably ‘moved on’. In return, he immediately received a ranting email from the fundraiser calling him out for his lack of support.

Ho.Lee.Cow. Stop it already!

What happened? Where did this go wrong? It’s an epidemic racing across the country and affecting every cause. It’s destroying the field of fundraising and the nonprofit sector. And I don’t blame the fundraiser (entirely). For those unaware, data released recently from Compasspoint should have fundraisers and nonprofit CEOs more-than concerned. (Download and read the full report)

Simone Joyeaux summarized politely:

“In summary, here’s the scoop: Development officers quit. Bosses fire development officers. Boards don’t play. Organizations don’t get it. This vicious cycle threatens financing of the sector. And, this has been going on for years and we aren’t really fixing it.”


I think it’s a lack of patience and focusing on true philanthropy. Organizations are spread too thin (few staff, barely funded), causing the organization to put undue pressure on their fundraisers who then pressure donors and send clear signals of desperation (cue the story above) and have completely unrealistic expectations on top of it. It destroys any hope of a positive relationship and future with those donors. No wonder half of all donors don’t renew!?! We’re waisting an incredible amount of time and money recruiting/aquiring folks only to treat them horribly and then we have the nerve to wonder why they don’t stick around!?!?

Phew. Enough ranting. What’s the solution?

CEOs – Realize that donors want and expect to hear from you. Fundraising should be YOUR priority, not something you hire someone to take care of. Be intimately involved in the process, in the hiring and for goodness sake, pay a competitive salary to attract and retain talent in a relationship-based position. Understand that the development director’s job is to pull levers and orchestrate you, the board and other major advocates in engaging your network to build support for the organization. Until they’ve been a part of the team for several years, they won’t have the relational credibility to be successful.  Like sales, financial advisors and other relationship-based business, the first few years are establishing repor and won’t bear fruit for some time.

Development pros – You’re more to blame than CEOs. Yes, I said it. This is YOUR profession. It doesn’t mean you should do it alone but OWN this issue. Fix it for yourself, then your organization, then help others do the same. Do your homework before taking a position. Then do it again. A strong relationship is imperative with the CEO. Spend some time with them. If you don’t get more than an hour or two – that should be a clear sign that they don’t understand the magnitude of hiring a development pro.  Meet with the Board Chair. Talk about these issues. Push them on their fundraising philosophy and how they and the board have been involved thus far and how willing they’ll be in the future. Make sure they understand there’s no money-printing press in the back.  And look in the mirror!  It’s easy to point fingers but make sure you have the patience to do this work, understand how to navigate the involvement of others and balance the slow, relationship-based part with being strategically assertive and making asks when appropriate.

It’s not a big deal. It’s just the future of the entire sector we’re talking about…

What do you think? Do you struggle with this? Is there a different problem we should be zooming in on?

The importance of intuition in non-profit work

intuitionWelcome 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.

In a post titled “I Have Leemers,” John talks about the power of intuition and the resistance he encounters from leaders in his workplace when it comes to making decisions based on these gut feelings.

Let me start by making a confession. My Myers-Briggs personality type is ESTP, which means I am:

  • Extroverted
  • Sensing
  • Thinking
  • Perceiving

This is what personality type experts will tell you about intuition and people like me:

“ESTP’s least developed area is their intuitive side. They are impatient with theory, and see little use for it in their quest to “get things done”. An ESTP will occasionally have strong intuitions which are often way off-base, but sometimes very lucid and positive. The ESTP does not trust their instincts, and is suspicious of other people’s intuition as well.”

As a non-profit and fundraising professional, I can honestly tell you that I’ve always felt like I’m at a disadvantage because of my intuition deficit. It is for this reason I work extra hard at trying to develop the intuition side of my personality.

Impossible you say? I don’t think so.  I’ve heard personality type experts compare work like this to right-handed people learning to write with their left hand. It isn’t impossible. It is hard to do and will never feel “normal,” but it is doable.

So, you might be wondering ‘WHY’ would I ever attempt to do something like this? Well, I personally think intuition is a very important attribute for successful non-profit people. Let me give you two examples.


As part of any good annual campaign, you schedule face-to-face meetings with donors. In those meetings you make the case for support and ask them to pledge/give a specific dollar amount. It sounds something like this:

“So, Sally . . . I am hoping that you would give some thoughtful consideration to making a contribution of $1,000 this year to support some of the programs we just talked about as well as everything else this agency does to make a difference in our community.”

That $1,000 ask amount is determined at a committee meeting as part of prospect identification-evaluation-qualification exercises during the campaign planning phase.

As an ESTP, I love prospect identification-evaluation-qualification because it feels like we’re making a decision based on facts and data. We’re looking at the donor database and a prospect’s giving history. We’re looking at a prospect’s life circumstances (e.g. divorce, kids in college, retirement, etc). This decision is based on things that this Sensor can wrap his arms around.

However, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of a solicitation call and my intuition is screaming at me.  As John said in his post, I heard those Leemers saying things like:

  • Abort! Abort! This donor isn’t ready to be asked.
  • Uh-Oh! We’re asking for too much.
  • Eeeek! This person is in love with the agency, and we’re asking for too little.

In every instance, I’ve always stuck to the plan and continued forward with the solicitation and asked for the amount determined by the committee. I can also tell you that every single time, I’ve walked away from the meeting thinking, “Damn, I should’ve gone with my gut feeling.”

I will become a better fundraising professional if I do a better job at developing my intuition.

Board Development

Did you read my blog post yesterday titled “The Chicago Cubs Convention through non-profit eyes: Part Three“???  If that wasn’t an ESTP’s point of view on board development, then I don’t know what is.  LOL

The main theme of yesterday’s post was how important it is to develop data-based metrics to evaluate board volunteer prospects.

As with the fundraising example that I just talked about, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked a board prospect through a recruitment process and those Leemers were screaming at me:

  • This person won’t be a good fit for this board.
  • This person needs other experiences first (e.g. fundraising) before joining the board.
  • This person is saying ‘YES’ but I can’t put my finger on why they should be saying ‘NO’

Again, if I had a dollar for every circumstance I stuck with the plan, closed the deal, and those Leemers were right, then I’d be a very rich man.

I believe intuition is an important board development tool that needs to be in every non-profit leader’s toolbox.

As it relates to me, developing my intuition muscles (even a little bit more) and combining that with my “Sensing” abilities, will help me become a stronger leader, professional, consultant and coach. So, it isn’t about doing less sensing and more intuiting, it is about “balance” for me.

Please scroll down and use the comment box to share an example of when you listened to (or didn’t listen to) your Leemers in a non-profit context. Are you in the same boat as me and need to further develop your intuition? How are you going about doing that? We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

Does your non-profit organization have policies about grant writing?

grant writing1This morning I am asking for your help with a small project I am working on. A few weeks ago I agreed to help one of my favorite non-profit organizations with a staff transition. Not only did their development director move on to greener pastures at the end of the summer, but their executive director also recently resigned. So, the board asked me to step into the void and help their management team with a variety of year-end miscellaneous projects (e.g. year-end holiday mailing, 2013 budget construction, resource development plan, etc).

One of the projects with which I provide a little assistance is grant writing. I am part of the review team that proofreads, edits and asks questions before any proposal is allowed to go out the door. I am not the only person involved in this agency’s grant writing process . . . there is a grant writer (who is an independent contractor), a program/operations person and a board member. I kind of like the process they’ve designed. It feels comprehensive, responsible and serious.

The other day someone brought another grant opportunity to the team. It was a RFP that would’ve brought $2,000 in the door that wouldn’t have supplemented existing programming . . . it was an “add-on” proposition. Here is a list of questions that the grant writing team started asking itself:

  • Is this grant opportunity “budget relieving”?
  • Are the program costs totally off-set by the grant? Or will the $2,000 grant only partially cover the expenses of the add-on programming?
  • Are there other reasons (e.g. political, relationship building, etc) for the agency to consider writing this proposal?

Somewhere in the middle of this discussion, the board member blurted out the following really good question:

“How many more $2,000 grants are we going to write?”

ROIThis question was inspired by a string of two or three grants in a row that this organization had just written. As a businessman, he asked this question because he is accustom to looking at everything through a “return on investment” (ROI) lens.  In hindsight, this is what he saw:

  • The grant writer was putting in three to six hours researching and writing the proposal.
  • The program/operations person was putting in a few hours pull together outcomes data and proofreading the final proposal to make sure we weren’t over-promising anything.
  • The board member, who serves on the management team as the agency searches for a new executive director, is investing a few hours in proofreading and asking tough questions to ensure the organization isn’t over-promising and under-delivering. This is essentially the same role that the executive director would play if there was one on the payroll.
  • I was back stopping the entire process and doing some same.

WOW! It shouldn’t be a surprise after a few small grant writing opportunities he’d ask such a question.

Of course, this touched off an interesting conversation on many different fronts including a discussion about non-profit fundraising policies.

I promised the group that I would blog about this topic and ask the readership of DonorDreams blog for their best possible world-class coaching and advice.

So, I have a holiday season favor to ask each of you this morning:

Would you please take a minute or two out of your busy schedule this morning and use the comment box below to do one of the following two things?

  1. share your agency’s grant writing policy/policies, or
  2. share how your organization makes decisions on when to write or pass on a grant writing opportunity.

pay it forwardSeriously, your feedback this morning will directly help another organization in its pursuit of developing fundraising best practices. Your participation will take all of a minute or two this morning. Please weigh-in. Your collective wisdom is massive and will bring tremendous value to this organization’s discussion. You can consider the few minutes that you invest in responding to this request as your “good turn” this holiday season. Please pay it forward!

Here’s to your health!

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

Five ways your non-profit can participate in #GivingTuesday

Last week I provided a few ideas about how non-profits can benefit from creating a donor drive modeled after Black Friday sales. This week I want to highlight a campaign that is taking off for the first time tomorrow (the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving) by name of  Giving Tuesday.

After standing in lines on Black Friday, running around to leftover sales on the weekend, and grabbing the best deals online (aka Cyber Monday), many corporations and non-profits want to turn the nation’s attention to the spirit of giving.

Let’s take a look at five things your nonprofit can do to get involved tomorrow.

  1. Make it easy to donate – If people catch wind that there is a movement called “Giving Tuesday” and cannot make a donation on your agency’s website, then you’re going to miss the boat. As Erik stated in his post a few months ago about end of the year giving strategies, Giving Tuesday could be beneficial to your organization meeting its year-end fundraising goals. So, make sure there is clear and easy directions about how to make a donation on your website. You can add a Donate Now button easily through PayPal.  If you don’t have time to make major changes to your site, at least put up a blog post or update that tells people where they can send their money.
  2. Link it up – Link to your website on every social media platform where you have a presence. Make sure to mention “Giving Tuesday” in your updates. People don’t want to go searching for where to go. Also, don’t forget to also send an email to your donors.
  3. Provide reasons to give – On a variety of social media sites, share photos of what your organization does with the money it receives (e.g. services, items purchased, your clients, events, facilities, etc). If you are looking to reach a goal for a certain fund or project, then Giving Tuesday is the perfect time to highlight those needs. You also want to mention something simple such as what a $20 donation can provide. Remember, crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter have started a trend of microfunding and people are more apt to give to your organization if they can see results.
  4. Give updates – Throughout the day, give people updates on how things are going. There’s a reason why telethons go to the “total board” many times throughout the broadcast . . . it encourages people to give and creates a bandwagon effect.
  5. Thank people – Thank individuals who either “retweet” your tweets or “like” or “share” your photos on Facebook. Acknowledging those who participate in Giving Tuesday will only help the movement grow. So, even if all you do is spread the word tomorrow, next year your organizations could benefit even more.

I hope that these tips help and your organization gets involved in Giving Tuesday tomorrow.

Even if your organization hasn’t given any thought to Giving Tuesday until reading this post, getting involved by spreading the word can help lay the groundwork for next year. In all off your updates, make sure to include the hashtag #GivingTuesday. The organizers of the Giving Tuesday campaign are showing tweets with #GivingTuesday on their site in real-time. Think of the exposure your non-profit will receive.

What are your thoughts about Giving Tuesday? Is your organization planning on participating? If your agency does participate, please come back here and leave us a comment on how it went.