The Secrets to Their Success?

Yesterday was a fun day for me because I managed to get out of my home office and spend some time in the field trying to sell work. So, I hopped in my car and visited one resource development director and two executive directors. During the long drive home, I reflected on each of those three visits and came to the same conclusion:

In spite of sluggish economic growth,
there are some non-profit organizations
that are doing very well!

Here is a quick run down of what I saw in the field:

  • A fundraising professional with approximately 6-months under her belt at a new agency, planned and executed a $500,000 direct mail campaign in the fourth quarter of 2011.
  • An executive director who essentially closed a significant budget deficit in a matter of just a few months.
  • An executive director who quarterbacked a fairly reluctant board through the planning and implementation of a new annual campaign (developing a new revenue stream for their agency that is approaching 10-percent of their overall revenue budget).
  • A CEO whose non-profit organization has experienced a: 38-percent increase in individual giving, 80-percent increase in foundation contributions, and 222-percent increase in corporate sponsorships . . . all over the last two years. In fact, just last year this agency signed up 250 NEW donors.

I thought this economy was supposed to be big, bad and ugly for non-profit organizations? So, being the curious person that I am, I asked lots of questions and here are some of the things I discovered that I believe are “The Secrets to Their Success”:

  • Investments in marketing — aggressive pursuit of public service announcements using print, radio and television helped two of these agencies generate amazing awareness and mission-focus throughout the communities they serve.
  • Investments in fundraising staff — all three of these organizations had either hired more fundraising professionals or were talking about doing so. It reminded me of something my for-profit friends are constantly saying: “It takes money to make money.”
  • Engaging prospects and donors — all three of these organizations haven’t been shy about calling lots and lots of people (both existing donors and lots of new folks who have never given them a penny). The strategy was simple . . . be aggressive . . . get as many people on-site to see what their agency does . . . don’t ask for money right away, but ask them shortly thereafter (a few weeks to a few months later).
  • Re-developing the board — two of the three organizations have been diligently working on identifying, cultivating and recruiting new board volunteers who are capable of writing nice checks, are willing to introduce their friends to the agency’s mission, and aren’t afraid to ask others to make a contribution.

While the last 4-years have been brutal for many non-profit organizations and some recent survey research shows that many more are on the brink of insolvency in 2012, I believe that good executive leadership with a bullish and aggressive approach to resource development and non-profit management is “the cure for all that ails you”.

Here are a few bloggers who I like pertaining to marketing, hiring fundraising staff, cultivation & stewardship, and board development:

As you look around your community, has your non-profit organization performed better than the others over the last few years of recession and sluggish recovery? If so, please use the comment box below and share one or two of your secrets. Remember . . . we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

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