Make your special event fundraisers all about individuals

walkathonLast week I wrote a post titled “Philanthropy is all about individuals” and focused on the newest set of data in the Giving USA annual report. Not surprisingly, the report told us that individuals are responsible for more than three-quarters of charitable giving. Of course, not every non-profit organization asks individuals for their support in the same way, which is why I found the information in Software Advice’s report titled “Which Fundraising Event Is Best for Your Nonprofit? IndustryView | 2015” very interesting.
There are many ways to ask individuals for their charitable dollars and support:

  • special events
  • annual campaign pledge drives
  • direct mail
  • major gift proposals
  • capital campaigns
  • endowment appeals
  • any number of online giving strategies (e.g. personal pages, crowdfunding, social media appeals, website landing page, etc)

Savvy non-profits have a diverse approach and often include many of these strategies in their written resource development plan. Smaller organizations usually embrace fewer of these approaches simply because their organizational capacity doesn’t allow them to do everything.
The following statement from the Software Advice report caught my attention:

“According to the research group Nonprofit Research Collaborative, event fundraising is quite popular: 82 percent of nonprofits host galas, golf tournaments, competitive races and other types of events to amass contributions and raise awareness for causes.”

eventIn other words, most of us run at least one special event as part of our comprehensive resource development program. While this was foreseeable and expected, what was surprising to me was that different size non-profit organizations get more bang-for-their-buck from different types of events. And what floored me was that regardless of organizational size most respondents reported that “fun runs and walks” universally receive a high return on investment (ROI).
And then I remembered what I wrote last week . . .

Philanthropy is all about individuals

Of course, “fun runs / walks” get the most ROI when compared to other events. They engage a lotw of individuals both as volunteers and even more as donors who might have been asked to make pledge for every mile walked.
Janna Finch, who is a non-profit researcher for Software Advice summed it up best when she said:

“We found that fun runs and walks, a-thon events and competitions are best for small nonprofits—including athletic clubs, PTAs, booster clubs and similar—because they are budget-friendly and easy to plan no matter a person’s experience. The good news is many of those types of organizations already host such events and execute on planning them very well.” 

In addition to the report’s finding on”fun runs and walks,” the following are few additional key findings:

  • Small nonprofits are at a disadvantage compared to larger nonprofits: Respondents say the upfront investment for an event is a strain on resources.
  • On average, a-thon events have the lowest cost per dollar raised (CPDR), and thus are suitable for all nonprofits. Concerts have the highest CPDR, requiring a larger budget.
  • CPDR, number of new donors and number of attendees are the most popular metrics to measure event success, used by 83 percent, 80 percent and 75 percent of respondents, respectively.
  • Respondents say that software, including fundraising and event management applications, speeds up event performance analysis and improves experiences for both staff and attendees.

The following is an awesome SlideShare document summary provided by Software Advice that nicely summarizes everything for those of you who don’t have time to read the entire report:

If you do have a little time, you really should click-through and read the report. It contains lots of interesting facts and findings that you and your fundraising volunteers will likely find thought provoking.
Does your organization run special events? How do you determine which ones are best for you, your volunteers, and your community? What data analytics do you track and how do you use it?
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Nonprofit Blog Carnival call for submissions: You are the future of philanthropy

NPBlogCarnivalBannerI am thrilled to be hosting the Nonprofit Blog Carnival this May for the third year in a row. This year’s theme is inspired by a TED Talks video filmed in 2007 of Katherine Fulton talking about the “future of philanthropy“. I’ve seen this video countless times, and I’m always inspired by it, which is why I’m using it as a springboard for non-profit bloggers this month.
Throughout the years, I cannot count the number of times I’ve spoken with non-profit friends who openly worry about who will step-up as their community’s next philanthropic movers-and-shakers. They point to the impact of globalization and how it has transferred wealth and philanthropic decision-making away from Main Street.
Watching Katherine speak reminds me there are forces at work that will likely reshape the future of our work. She talks eloquently about the “democratization of philanthropy,” which always makes me think about how the resource development tools in our exist toolbox probably need to be re-thought or tweaked.
Of course, rushing to embrace these changes too soon is fraught with peril as some bloggers like Future Fundraising Now blogger Jeff Brooks has warned us about in so many wonderful posts throughout the years.
For this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival, I’m inviting non-profit bloggers to first click-through and view Katherine’s TED Talks video and then write something inspired by her words.
Katherine Fulton
The following are just a few ideas I can imagine non-profit bloggers seizing upon as inspiration for what I anticipate will be amazing submissions to this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival:

  • Moving from closed-small-slow-fragmented-short to open-big-fast-connected-long assumptions
  • A new generation of citizen leaders
  • The democratization of philanthropy
  • Mass collaboration
  • Online Philanthropy Marketplaces
  • Aggregated Giving
  • Innovation Competitions
  • Social Investing
  • The Social Singularity

If none of these topics are appealing, I invite bloggers to participate in the picture frame exercise at the end of Katherine’s presentation.
During the month of May, DonorDreams blog is dedicating every post to bringing you videos of non-profit leaders, donors and every day people like you participating in Katherine’s picture frame exercise. If you are not a blogger but want to videotape yourself participating in the picture frame exercise, I am happy to post your vlog on my blog platform. Simply videotape yourself, upload it to YouTube and email me the link with an explanation of who you are and what town you live in.
How bloggers should submit their work for consideration?
You are welcome to write your blog post anytime during the month of May (or even submit a post you may have previously published); however, I must receive your submission by the end of the day on Monday, May 25, 2015:
How do you submit? Simply email the following information to nonprofitcarnival[at]gmail[dot]com:

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

We will publish the May 2015 Nonprofit Blog Carnival on Thursday, May 28, 2015 right here at DonorDreams blog.
Go visit April’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival
In April, the carnival was hosted by Craig Linton at his blog — “Fundraising Detective”  The theme was “A Celebration Of SOFII – Will You Inspire Or Invest?” . He challenged bloggers to submit 100 new articles and exhibits for SOFII (Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration).
If you’re interested in seeing what some very smart and talented bloggers submitted, click here.
Miscellaneous details?
Click here to learn more about the Nonprofit Blog Carnival and sign-up for monthly reminders. If you want to view the archives, then you want to click here.
I am very much looking forward to see what you decide to do and where you decide to take this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

What skills and experiences are critical to your board volunteers' success?

boarddev1Do you know which skills and experiences are most important for a new board volunteer to possess in order to succeed on your board? Knowing this could help your organization conduct better prospecting exercises and result in better prospect recruitment lists. Today’s post is the third in a three part non-profit board development series that started last week.  During this time, we focused on a recent survey released by our friends at non-profit technology research firm  Software Advice of 1,545 board volunteers and people tasked with recruiting new board members. The survey’s key findings probably won’t surprise you, but the implications might change the way you think about your organization’s future board development efforts.
The final two findings of’s survey that caught my eye related to skills and experiences. The first finding was:

Basic computer skills (e.g. email, Excel, etc) are the most important technology skill for service (44 percent).

The remaining 66% of responses were as follows:
The other finding was:

Fundraising experience was the most cited (24 percent) skill set and experience that has the greatest impact on a board member’s success.

The other responses included:
As I digested these final two findings, I immediately had two visceral reactions.
Was Carol Weisman wrong?
weisman1If you haven’t heard Carol speak or read her books, then you need to figure out how to check those things off of your non-profit bucket list. She is amazing!
When I read the study’s finding about “basic tech skills,” my mind immediately wandered back to a Boys & Girls Clubs of America conference hosted somewhere in the Midwest more than 10 years ago. Carol was one of the keynote speakers, and she was talking about building an amazing board of directors.
I remember her sitting on a stool on a large stage with a wireless lapel mic telling fun stories about non-profit boards and individual board volunteers. She was also likely promoting one of her many books. I was a relatively new and young non-profit executive director, and everything she said sounded right on target.
During Carol’s presentation, one of the things she talked about was how technology is changing non-profit boardroom dynamics.  She shared a story about a board she had worked with that had embraced technology. If my memory serves me correctly, the following were just a few examples:

  • Every board member was provided a laptop computer by the organization
  • Board members received their board meeting agenda and info packet electronically
  • Volunteer who were out of town for meetings would use their webcam and remotely attend and participate

weisman2I am a member of GenX, and this news made my heart sing. I was so excited to hear that my Baby Boomer board could be transformed into that type of board. I came home from that conference with renewed focus and determination to figure out how tech can help my board become more engaged and efficient in governance.
I started digitally scanning my board packets. I created an intranet site for the board. I uploaded board packets and other materials (e.g. policies, procedures, etc) to the intranet. Needless to say, no one followed me, and I abandon my tech efforts a year later.
The lesson learned was:

“You get the board you recruit!”

We had not recruited the board that Carol described in her conference keynote speech. My board development committee had not included “better-than-basic tech skills” as a skill set criteria. The result was that my board possessed basic tech skills related to the Microsoft Office productivity suite and email. They were light years away from going paperless and using Skype.
So, I guess Carol wasn’t “wrong” because tech will obviously change the boardroom experience, but . .

  • change will likely take much longer than we thought (and will likely happen when GenX and Millennial board volunteers make up the majority on most boards)
  • change will occur faster only if board development and board governance committees include tech skills in their search criteria when assembling their prospect lists

If you are looking for additional board development tools to add to your organization’s board development toolbox, then you should read a wonderful blog post by the National Council of Nonprofits and check out their hyperlinks to additional online resources. The post was titled “Finding the Right Board Members for Your Nonprofit“.
Fundraising experience is underrated
scaredWhen I read that only 25% of survey respondents identified “fundraising skills and experiences” as having a great impact on a board member’s success, I literally groaned and rolled by eyes.
Sure, it was the number one response, but it was still only one-quarter of respondents. As my 10-year-old niece would say . . .

“Really? Seriously?”

I suspect that fundraising might not be as important for non-profits that rely on fees and government money to buoy their business model, but the vast majority of non-profits with which I’ve worked aren’t hospitals and universities. Many non-profits have fundraising at the core of their business model, and it is one of the most difficult things I’ve seen board volunteers struggle with.
More oftentimes than not, when I’ve seen a board volunteer frustrated and on the verge of resigning, it usually has something to do with fundraising.
Of course, the solution is the same as I mentioned in the last section . . . “You get the board you recruit, and the board development committee needs to include fundraising skills and experiences in their search criteria.”
The tougher question is “what are fundraising skill and what should we be looking for?” My suggestion is to look for the following when going through prospect identification and evaluation exercises:

  • people who donate to other charities and appear to have an appreciation for philanthropy
  • people who are social and appear to have larger than average social networks
  • people who have served on other non-profit board with a business model rooted in fundraising
  • people who belong to service clubs that organize fundraising activities
  • people who are passionate about your mission (e.g. are willing to walk across hot coals to achieve success for your organization)
  • people who are well-versed at “closing the deal” in their professional lives (e.g. people who work in sales, banking, self-employed, etc)
  • people who are assertive, persuasive, good communicators, relationship builders, etc.

Gail Perry speaks much more eloquently than I do on this subject. You might want to read her blog post titled “Mastering the ‘Soft Skills’ of Fundraising” and figure out if you can add any of those qualities to your board development prospect identification and evaluation process.
If you missed the earlier blog posts in this board development series, I encourage you to investigate the previous two posts from last week. You might also want to click-through and read’s full survey report titled “Tech Skills and Other Considerations  for Joining a Nonprofit Board IndustryView“.
What are your thoughts and experiences regarding tech and fundraising skills and experiences and your board of directors? Are you doing anything different now as part of your board development process that might help other non-profit professionals and volunteers re-think their approach? Please use the comment box below to share.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Does your non-profit use shiny objects?

IMG_20131016_135643_455As I said in an earlier post this week, I am currently in Reno, Nevada at Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Pacific Leadership Conference. The conference is being held at Silver Legacy Resort & Casino. Of course, in order to get from the hotel to the conference sessions, you need to walk through the casino where you are bombarded by all sorts of “shiny objects”.

By shiny objects, I mean:

  • Slot machines
  • Bars
  • Blaring music & P.A. announcements
  • Gaming tables with dealers
  • Alarm bells announcing winners
  • Restaurants and delicious smelling food
  • Distracting blinking lights
  • Interesting decorations

I literally found my eyes darting all over the place. I’m not a gambler, but I was definitely tuned in and engaged with what was going on all around me.

When you consider how much money casinos make, it is hard to argue with all of these shiny object  tactics.

As I sat in my exhibitor booth, I kept watching the salesperson at Markel Insurance spinning a “Wheel of Fortune” type of prop. As the minutes and hours ticked by slowly, I couldn’t help focus in on how this wheel worked its charm on conference attendees. Someone could be wandering by the Markel booth with no intention of stopping, but the moment that wheel started clicking and whirling people stopped to pay attention.

Shiny objects . . . human being like them. A LOT!

All of this got me thinking . . .

What types of shiny objects do non-profit organizations use to capture the attention of donors, clients, and volunteers?

IMG_20131016_135832_525In an effort to make the time pass more quickly, I started making a list. Admittedly, I started thinking way outside of the box, but here is some of what I came up with:

  • newsletters
  • websites
  • Facebook pages
  • Twitter feeds
  • Various other social media platforms (e.g. Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc)
  • Texting
  • Newspaper stories (e.g. earned media)
  • Newspaper advertising (e.g. public service announcements)
  • Outdoor advertising (e.g. billboard)
  • Cable advertising
  • Phone calls to donors
  • Announced challenge gifts
  • Radio ads
  • Special event fundraisers
  • Press conferences
  • Town hall meetings
  • Constant Contact e-blasts
  • Online advertising (e.g. Google ads, Facebook ads, etc)
  • Sending your executive director out in public (e.g. speaking at city council, Rotary meetings, etc)
  • Hosting small cultivation or stewardship events in board members living rooms
  • Direct mail
  • Health and community service fares
  • Cause related marketing campaigns

I suspect the list could probably go on and on and on.

As I stepped back and started contemplating how many shiny objects I had identified, I suddenly realized the problem with the road I was walking down.

The casino throws their shiny objects at their customers all at once. It is like an amazing fireworks finale that never stops. Most of the non-profits I could think of that do messaging well, use an eyedropper to carefully measure out their marketing efforts.

I am hard pressed to think of many examples of cross-channel messaging by a non-profit organization. The few that come to mind might used two or three different channels to cross promote their message. For example, a year-end direct mail appeal referencing a website address along with volunteers following up with a phone call solicitation.

This is not exactly comparable to my experience at the Silver Legacy Resort & Casino this week.

Let me end this post by asking for your help:

  • Please help me add to my laundry list of shiny objects used by non-profit organizations.
  • Please highlight communications efforts that utilize more than a few channels to engage supporters.
  • Please weigh-in with your suggestions on how non-profits can get better at lighting up the world around them.

You can share your thoughts and experience by using the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health! (Enjoy additional pictures I’ve included from the conference that I’ve pasted into this post below my signature block)

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

IMG_20131016_135554_679   IMG_20131016_135942_889   IMG_20131016_135741_658

IMG_20131016_135921_679   IMG_20131016_135603_946   IMG_20131016_135814_197

Are you building your future base of Millennial donors?

participate1Did you see it? Did you see the front page news in USA Today Monday on Monday, April 22, 2013? The article by Hadley Malcolm was headlined “Millennials show no e-fear“. In a nutshell, this entire article boils down to one simple idea. We are going through an economic paradigm shift, and we’re moving to something economists are calling “The Participation Economy“. I believe fundraising and non-profit professionals need to pay attention because this will likely have a HUGE impact on the future of philanthropy.

So, what is “The Participation Economy“? Jeff Fromm, who is a blogger at Millennial Marketing and co-author of Marketing to Millennials (ugh … how old fashion . . . a book . . . what is THAT?), really describes it well when he says  in USA Today:

“They’re (millennials) willing to accept advertising, but they want something out of it. The willingness to share where we are, who we’re with, what we like with the virtual world is part of ‘the participation economy’.”

The reporter dug up some interesting data from the University of Southern California’s Center for the Digital Future:

  • 25% of Millennials would trade personal info in exchange for more relevant advertising (for those of us 35+ years old only 19% agreed with this statement)
  • 56% of Millennials would share their location to receive deals from nearby businesses (for those of us 35+ years old only 42% agreed with this statement)
  • 51% of Millennials would share info with a company if they get something in return (for those of us 35+ years old only 40% agreed with this statement)

Consumers are willing to “participate” if they get something in return, and this especially applies to younger consumers (aka people who will have the money in the not-so-distant-future).

participation3Looking at this from a different angle, people are willing to ENGAGE if they get something in return.

If you want more proof, I suggest that you turn on your television set. The shows that people tune into most are participatory (e.g. American Idol, The Voice, etc).

What does any of this have to do with your non-profit and your resource development program? Well, here are just a few of my thoughts:

  • Millennials live their lives in both the physical world as well as in the virtual world. Fundraising programs will need to set-up shop in both spaces in the future.
  • Ten years ago, many of my fundraising colleagues warned against over-investing in ePhilanthropy strategies because Millennial donors were young and years away from participating in serious philanthropy. Well, the oldest Millennials are now 34-years-old. Uh-oh! I think “the future” is knocking on the door. It might be time to get serious about what ePhilanthropy looks like and what strategies and tactics are effective.
  • The idea of PARTICIPATION holds the key to engagement for this up-and-coming generation of philanthropists. So, it stands to reason that if you want Millennials to take the place of their Baby Boomer parents over the next 10 years, then your resource development program can’t simply treat donors like Cash Station machines (ATM). We need to get beyond the “you ask and then you get” mentality. We need to shift our paradigm to “you involve, you ask, they give, and they stay involved“.

At first blush, we’re obviously talking about volunteerism being the key to engaging the next generation and developing your future base of donors. Here are a few interesting resources for those of you who understand that you have some work to do around strengthening your agency’s volunteer recruitment and management program:

However, I think focusing on your volunteer recruitment, management and retention program and strategies is just the tip of the iceberg.

participate2Here is a crazy thought out of left field. What if you and a handful of Millennial aged supporters sat down and asked the question: “How do we build great participation (both physical and virtual) strategies into our resource development program?”  Here are a few wacky questions and ideas to chew on:

  • How can your agency partner with the business community to entice Millennial consumers (aka donors) to “check-in” on Facebook or Foursquare at a local business. What benefit will the business get out of it? What benefit will your agency get out of it? What benefit will the consumer (aka donor) get out of it? How can the business and your agency share that data? What will you do with it once you have it? For some reason, I am envisioning a scavenger hunt fundraiser. I am also envisioning passports with QR codes linked to YouTube videos containing clues, instructions and cultivation/stewardship info.
  • How can you get your Millennial aged donors to participate in the act of allocating where their donation goes? Are we at the threshold of entering “The Restricted Gift” era? What can you do to involve donors as volunteers in programs that their contribution helps support?
  • What tools will your fundraising volunteers need in their toolbox if they are going to evangelize you mission online and solicit people in the virtual world? Will those strategies need to look different than the current structured campaigns we’ve been running in the physical world? If so, what accountability and urgency strategies will fundraising professionals need to develop in order to drive productivity?

Does your head hurt? I know mine does. So, let’s focus on one simple question:  “What two or three things can you and your agency do to start transitioning your resource development program into alignment with the new ‘Participation Economy’?” Please scroll down and share a few thoughts in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

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

State of the Nonprofit Sector: Remainder of 2013

Good morning, DonorDreams blog subscribers. I thought I’d give you a day off from my random non-profit and fundraising thoughts by offering you an awesome guest post by Ashley Halligan. She is a managing editor at Austin-based Software Advice and a very talented freelance features writer. Check out her book project on Facebook:  Enjoy!

State of the Nonprofit Sector: Remainder of 2013
By: Ashley Halligan

state ofSix weeks into the new year and last year’s reports are coming to surface helping shape the expectations for the remainder of this year in the nonprofit sector.

With the beginning of President Obama’s second term, a recovering economy, and a fiscal cliff, nonprofits have – well – a lot to discuss and anticipate in 2013.

Several reports have been released in the past month that indicate 2012’s performance and trends, offering insight as to what to expect this year. Among those things are hiring trends, succession planning, adoption of mobile technology, social giving campaigns, and, most predictably, differing opinions on the impact of tax reform and proposals on the missions of nonprofits.

More Hiring & Succession Strategizing

The Improve Group and Nonprofit HR Solutions released a report that showed 44 percent of the nation’s nonprofits planned to create new positions this year. Positions in direct services in fundraising were at the forefront of organizations’ plans to hire.

According to the same study, 70 percent of nonprofits lacked a formal succession plan, though those who had implemented a strategy reported that it brought their organization peace of mind, developed talent, and retained staff. Experts expect focus in this area to become a primary area of focus this year.

Deploying More Technology & Social Giving Campaigns

Another main area experts and reports agree on is the increase of technology deployment in the nonprofit sector. In particular, a Blackbaud report shows that mobile technology will be significant this year with more than two-thirds of surveyed NPOs planning to utilize more mobile tech this year.

Additionally, more and more nonprofit technology companies are emerging giving organizations in this sector far more options, ranging from fully integrated suites to specialized programs for basic needs like fundraising or donor management.

This year a bigger emphasis is expected to be seen on social giving campaigns as well. The 2012 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report says to expect three things:

  1. The monetization of Facebook
  2. More usage of Google+
  3. Increased fundraising efforts through Twitter

Some are Weary of Tax Uncertainties, Others See Promise

Tax promises and concerns, however, are still at the top of mind in the nonprofit sector. Till months pass and charitable giving trends can be analyzed, long-term impacts of the American Taxpayer Relief Act can’t be certain. Some think the act could positively impact giving by $3.3 billion, while others still fear proposed tax ceilings fearing a negative impact of the same amount.

This is a big year for nonprofits. A lot is yet to be determined. What is your take on the state of nonprofits for the remainder of 2013? Feel free to leave your comments below or reach out to us directly.

ashley sig

Be intentionally personal with your non-profit donors

handwritten letterWelcome 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 “Just a Note; Just a Phone Call!” John talks about the power of a simple handwritten note or well-timed phone call.

After reading John’s post, I couldn’t stop obsessing about how many emails and texts I now get and how few phone calls and handwritten notes there now seem to be. For example, I went on a road trip on Wednesday of this week, which meant being in a car for six hours and away from my email inbox.  I spent tons of time talking to clients on the phone, but when I arrived at my destination and looked at my email inbox . . . OMG!

Maybe it is just that I am getting older, but the world seems to be moving at an insane pace. I’m also not smart enough to know if our communications tools (e.g. text, email, etc) are fueling this speed or if it is just a necessity or symptom of this acceleration. However, I am smart enough to know that people who donate to non-profit organizations are special people who deserve a little more attention than a form letter generated from your donor database, a simple text or quick email.

In my experience, being intentional and personal gets you and your organization noticed.

I believe Penelope Burk, author of Donor Centered Fundraising and CEO of Cynus Applied Research, says it better than could:

“A handwritten letter is the ultimate in personal recognition because it proves that someone in your organization spent at least a few moments thinking specifically about that donor.”

As many of you know, Penelope does a ton of survey research and looks specifically at donor and organizational behaviors.  According to the research in her book, the following reasons were cited by agencies as to when they compose a handwritten letter to a donor:

  • the donor is well-known to the writer;
  • the gift is of exceptional value;
  • the donor is a leadership volunteer;
  • the donor has been giving for a long time; or
  • the donor is prominent in the community.

A very dear friend of mine, who is the former executive director of one of my favorite local charities, used to employ handwritten note techniques with me all the time.  Here is what I saw her doing:

  • I would receive a handwritten note on my donor database, computer generated gift acknowledgement letter;
  • On my birthday, I would receive a card with a handwritten note wishing me well and thanking me for my longtime support;
  • When a donor’s name shows up in the newspaper or someplace public, she would clip it or copy it, attach a nice handwritten note of congratulations and send it to them.

Phone calls are also super effective, but I believe you need to be very careful with who you put on the phone.

phone callFor example, one local charity likes to conduct “thank-a-thon” events during the Thanksgiving season. I cannot tell you how upset I get as one of their donor when I pick-up the phone and there is a client at the other end telling me how much they appreciate my donation.

What? Huh? You’re probably wondering “Where did THAT just come from?” or “What is wrong with THAT?”

For me, it goes back to Penelope Burk’s research and the number one reason why non-profit agencies get more personal in their acknowledgement and thanks:

“. . . the donor is well-known to the writer . . .”

  • Do I know the client making that thank-a-thon phone call?   No.
  • Did I get solicited by the client?   Nope.
  • Do I want to make the client feel uncomfortable?   Definitely not.
  • Does a client, who is “obviously reading from a script,” come across to me as “personal” and “heartfelt”?    Absolutely not!

Am I opposed to thanks-a-thons as a donor stewardship tactic?  No . . . but speaking personally as a donor I can honestly say that an informal, unscripted, personal phone call from the person who had originally asked me for money would’ve been something special and memorable.

What is your organization’s policy, procedure or practice around handwritten notes or phone calls to donors? What has been your personal experience as a donor? Any thoughts on what appears to be a trend around using more and more forms of impersonal communication (e.g. text and email) and what can be done to guard against its overuse? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts, opinions and experiences.

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

Evaluating your non-profit board volunteer prospects’ social reach and network

social reach1I was recently engaged in an engaging discussion about board development with a great group of non-profit board volunteers. The range of topics in that conversation spanned issues such as prospect identification, evaluation methods, prioritizing prospect lists, cultivating prospects, recruitment process, orientation, recognition, and evaluation.  It was one of those conversations that a facilitator loves because everyone was engaged and actively participating. There was an energetic dynamic in the room, and then someone asked a really tough question:

“How do we evaluate the scope of someone’s social network?”

This question stems from the discussion on the importance of diversity in your boardroom. After talking about the obvious (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity), these discussions always turn to the more difficult subjects including how to assess a prospective board volunteer’s social network and social capital. Of course, this is important because you don’t want a boardroom full of people who all walk in the same social circles.

Moreover, this is important because:

  • Fundraising — The collective network in your boardroom is related to the reach of your fundraising program, its appeals and potential future donors.
  • Board Development — Birds of a feather flock together, and the collective network in your boardroom will give birth to future boards. Board replicate themselves all the time!
  • Group-think — People who are close and come from the same walks of life can sometimes think alike, which can greatly influence board governance and important decisions.

So, what is the answer to the aforementioned question pose by this obviously super smart board volunteer?

Well, it is complicated and simple all at the same time. Ugh!

social reach3For decades (and probably centuries), board development committees have answered this question the old fashion way. They sat down around a table and talked it over. Those committees who were successful had a diversity of people sitting around the table and were able to assess a prospect’s social network in an anecdotal manner. They talked about what they see and hear about the prospect. Here are just some of the things they most likely talked through:

  • Does the prospect sit on other non-profit boards?
  • What church does this prospect belong to? Are they active? Who else belongs to that church?
  • What other groups does this person belong to? (e.g. Rotary, Kiwanis, country club, chamber of commerce, local booster clubs, etc) Who else belongs to those groups?
  • What else do we see this person’s name attached to? (e.g annual reports, donor recognition walls, local newspaper articles, etc)
  • How does this prospect’s network, reach, and social capital compare to what is currently sitting around our boardroom table?

This is what “old school” board development assessment work looks like. It is highly effective. It has a track record of working. It is highly dependent on a diversity of people with a diversity of perspectives engaging in such a conversation.

Of course, our 21st Century mindset and perspectives leads us to question old approaches and investigate new tools and approaches, and there is nothing wrong with that.

So, I recently opened up my board development toolbox and re-examined some very traditional tools such as:

  • board matrix
  • sample prospective board member information sheet
  • board candidate rating form

In doing that simple review, it occurred to me that there isn’t much substance to those tools from the perspective of assessing someone’s social network, social reach and social capital. The matrix does ask the board development committee to assess  “community connections,” and the information sheet also asks questions about your prospect’s affiliations and other non-profit board service. While these tools nibble around the edges, it wouldn’t be difficult to tweak these tools to more directly address the question posed by our board volunteer at the beginning of this blog post.

social reach2However, there are some “21st Century” tools that your board development committee might want to start using when talking through the issue of a prospect’s network. Consider the following:

  • Do a Google search on your prospective new board members during the evaluation phase of your process. Talk about the results of that search.
  • Look at their online social networks (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter). If no one around the table is connected to the prospect in that way, then: 1) that might tell you something in and of itself and 2) you might expand your reach and find someone on the board or among your network who is linked in such a way.
  • Use Guidestar to determine if they are associated with other non-profits in your community.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the “old school approach”. In fact, one simple way that you can tweak this traditional approach is by including your prospective future board volunteers in the process. Asking them to help you answer a few questions about their network and their reach. If done appropriately, it wouldn’t have to feel awkward.

How does your non-profit organization tackle the question posed at the beginning of this blog post as part of its board development process? Please use the comment box to share your best practices. We can all learn from each other and save time by not re-inventing the wheel.  😉

Here’s to your health!

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

Non-profit “inside the box thinking” — Understanding change

As promised in last Friday’s post, I am dedicating today, tomorrow and Thursday to challenging proponents of “outside-the-box thinking” and examining various “inside-the-box thinking” principles. This week’s posts were determined by DonorDreams blog subscribers who took the time to voice their opinions via a poll last Friday. Thank you to those of you who voted. Additionally, the foundation of these posts are rooted in Kirk Cheyfitz’s book “Thinking Insider The Box: The 12 Timeless Rules for Managing a Successful Business.” 

DonorDreams blog subscribers voted to hear more about chapter one of Cheyfitz’s book, which is titled “The Basic Box: Some Things Never Change”.

I love how the author starts each chapter with a short sentence that serves as “food for thought”. The following is how chapter one was started:

Know the difference between what will change and what won’t, and pay attention to the former.”

Most of this chapter talks about how some economists and many pundits are flat wrong about what they see as a “new economy”. He points to the dot-com bust of 2001 and talks about how ignoring human behavior and the basic principles of capitalism will get you and your company in trouble all of the time.

This chapter got me thinking about Gail Perry’s recent post titled “Post Recession Donors Have Changed” over at her Fired Up Fundraising blog.

After reading Perry’s post about donors, I realized the following:

  • There will always be donors regardless of how good, bad or sluggish the economy is. This will never change.
  • The mindset of those donors and conditions upon which they will donate is always evolving. This is constantly changing.

Cheyfitz’s encourages us to pay attention to “what will change” because not focusing on the ever-changing landscape is what puts too many companies (both for-profit and non-profit) out-of-business.

Gail Perry tells us in her blog that post-recession donors . . .

  • trust non-profit agencies less than they used to,
  • crave more information about ROI,
  • want to see more transparency, and
  • want to contribute to fewer unrestricted fundraising campaigns.

Read Gail’s blog for a few great tips on how to use “inside-the-box thinking” to address these perceived trends in the donor community.

There are also many other interesting trends occurring in the donor community:

  • technology’s impact on giving,
  • technology’s impact of cultivation and stewardship activities, and
  • donor communications moving  from one-way to two-way communications.

Cheyfitz urges us to not focus on “the shiny object” (in this case it would be technology) and throw what works out the window for what we don’t understand (e.g. ePhilanthropy). However, he does not tell us to ignore the changes that are starting to happen. Instead, he point to the words that are chiseled above the entrance of the National Archives in Washington, D.C.:

“The past is prologue”

He ends the chapter by saying, “Paying attention to history, in short, can save a lot of time and pain and produce a lot of gain.”

The non-profit sector has seen this kind of change in communication technology before, right? I am thinking about the rise of “direct mail” and how that changed how we cultivate, solicit, and steward donors today.

I suspect that non-profits, who tossed their special events and peer-to-peer annual campaigns onto the trash heap and invested everything they had into direct mail, probably went out of business. Those who survived kept their eyes on the trend, engaged their donors in thoughtful discussions about their preferences with direct mail, and proceeded forward with caution and strategic focus.

Again . . . outside-the box thinking will sink you, and inside-the-box thinking will keep you afloat.

At the end of every chapter, Cheyfitz provides a few tips on how to “build your box” so that you can think inside of it. He offered four tips at the end of chapter one, but the last tip struck me as very appropriate for non-profit organizations during these challenging and changing times (read the word “customer” as “donor” to help with the non-profit translation):

“Use your time to focus on how your customers’ lives are changing and how you can serve their emerging needs with new products and services (delivered using the same old business models).”

Are your donors behaving different after the economic crash of 2008? What is your donor data telling showing? What are donors telling you? What kinds of “inside-the-box” best practices are you employing to thrive in this new economic climate? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share a thought or two with your fellow non-profit professionals this morning.

Here’s to your health!

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

Why Nonprofits Should Use Skype

Communication has come a long way since quill and parchment. Today information is sent through the air at high speeds and people can get what they need in a matter of seconds. Email is a standard in today’s communication arsenal, but today I’m going talk about voice calls. Talking is still faster than writing and today we are going to look at how Skype can help when it comes to communicating through voice.

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Skype is a powerful tool that can be a great benefit to any nonprofit organization. Skype can be used to make voice or video calls to people in your contact list. I know what you might be thinking, “we already have phones for this, Marissa”, but allow me to show you the flexibility of using Skype for calls.

Calls (voice or video) to users in your contact list who are also using Skype are free. That’s right, FREE. This can add up to big cell phone savings. How many times do you send an email knowing it’s going to take longer than you’d like to get the information you need just because everyone has a ton of email to go through? If everyone in your organization was on Skype if a person had a question, they could just Skype call them and get the information in a matter of seconds. Skype calls can be answered no matter where the person is logged in from, if that’s home, a cafe, or the cubicle next door.

English: Skype on mac that is version
English: Skype on mac that is version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By adding money to your Skype account, phone calls can be made to landlines. This is a nice feature to have if a person on your team is even found in a place with a wifi signal but no cell phone reception. Additionally, by adding money to your Skype account, you can make international calls at lower rates than you would if you used a landline phone.

Skype also allows users to attach a single phone number to their account to make it easy for calls, whether made from Skype or a landline, to be answered from anywhere. With a mobile app, Skype users are able to answer voice and video calls on the go.

Skype also comes with voicemail functionality. This can be a great tool for agencies. By simply creating an account with phone number attached to it, messages left in this voicemail box can be accessed by anyone who has access to the account; making returning calls a team effort.

One more feature of using Skype for voice calls is the ability to record phone calls. If your agency is having an important conference call, it can be easily recorded through Skype. This recording could the be posted for absent team members to listen to when they are available.

There is much more to Skype besides just making voice and video calls that can be helpful for your organization. When in a video call on Skype users have the ability to share their screens with people on the call. This feature could come in handy for Board Meetings being held online if not all of the Board Members could make it. Skype also comes with an instant messaging service that allows you to send quick messages to people in your contact list when a call is not needed. Through this chat system, documents can also be easily shared between team members.

Skype is a feature rich application that has a lot to offer a nonprofit organization. I have seen where using it has increased communication between team members just due to the pure flexibility that comes along with it. Do you think Skype is a good fit for your agency? Do you already use Skype? If so, what do you use it for the most? Let talk about it in the comments below!