Nonprofits

Do good in the world with good practices. Resource sharing and advice from nonprofit leaders from the Blogosphere and beyond.

Fundraising in a recession – 7 tips for working smarter, not harder!

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Unfortunately, the world of nonprofit development can be notoriously fickle and unfocused.

Clearly we are in a major recession with no end in sight. The trick is not to panic. Here’s how you can meet your goals and, yes, even prosper in the upcoming year!

  1. Stay the course. Develop a balanced, thoughtful budget approach which includes realistic goals for grants and corporate support, individual support, program support and events. Plan as you normally would.
  2. Retain staff. This one is key. I have worked with nonprofit organizations who have had – seriously – five development directors in three years! How can an organization have any kind of continuity with donors with that kind of record? Staff your organization with quality individuals and do your level best to keep them.
  3. Invest in Education. If you’re not sending your development staff to workshops, classes and seminars, you’re doing your organization a grave disservice. Why are so many organizations reluctant to invest in education for their employees? Training enables and accelerates innovation. It’s good for the employee – it’s good for the employer.
  4. Research, research, research. Foundation giving may be declining. On the other hand, it may not. Remember, foundations are created with the sole purpose of supporting philanthropic causes – regardless of the state of the economy. To maintain their legal status Foundations MUST donate an amount equal to 5% of their assets averaged over 5 years. Foundations also often INCREASE their giving in challenging times to offset decreases in giving from other sources
  5. That said, you need to make it a practice to routinely scope out new sources of foundation funding. Develop a system where you’re sending out proposals or letters of inquiry to new foundations on a weekly basis.

  6. Start a Monthly Giving Program. This one’s a no-brainer and I am astounded that more organizations have not picked up on it.
  7. If you’ve got donors who are giving you $1,000, $100, even $25 every year, they’re prime candidates for a monthly giving program. Implement one now. Give donors the option of monthly credit card or checking account debits. And what rule says you can only mail once a year? Why not twice or even three times a yea

  8. Refine (or Define) Your Story. Benevon calls it the organization’s “emotional hook.” It’s your nonprofit’s “story” – what makes donors give to you. The most compelling stories bring on the tears. Talk to your board members, talk to your clients, talk to your staff, talk to foundation funders and individual funders to find your emotional hook. Bring it to life.
  9. Communicate. It doesn’t have to be on a weekly or monthly basis but it absolutely needs to be consistent. Donors would rather be kept notified on a timely basis in a simple manner than receive a glossy magazine publication (that makes them wonder what the heck you are doing with their money) once every two years. A two to four-page quarterly or triannual newsletter is ideal.

About the author: Pamela Grow is a consultant, assisting nonprofit organizations with proposal development, prospect research, annual appeal strategies and communication planning and is the author of “Five Days to Foundation Grants.” Check out her weekly blog, “Towards Effective Nonprofit Writing” and join her Facebook group, Tools for the One Person Development Office.

By | January 18, 2009|Blog, Nonprofits|0 Comments

Choosing a donor database

It’s the Data, Stupid! Why Your Organization’s Database is Your Most Important Development Tool

We all know the story of Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign against George H.W. Bush. While, early on, Bush was considered virtually unbeatable, Clinton’s campaign chose to address an issue that Bush Sr. had ignored, and “It’s the economy, stupid” became a catch phrase.

Nonprofit development is, by its very nature, data driven.

Yet it is rare that an organization gives more than lip service to its database. Databases are often selected solely on the basis of price. Staff is given little to no training on software. Entry policies are never established. No one is given ownership of the database – or the organization qualifies the data manager as low-level clerical staff.

Just imagine the following scenarios:

You’ve just received a donation from a contributor who notes that she would like her gift to be allocated to a specific program – and you have no record of the existence of this program.

You’ve located that “perfect fit” foundation, spent three weeks crafting your proposal, sent it off with high hopes … and later learned that the foundation HAD funded your organization three years ago, kept no record, and failed to follow through with a final report? (Did I mention that you are the third development director in three years and files are nonexistent?)

You’ve just fielded a call from an irate regular donor of thirty years, vowing to never contribute again because she has phoned three times in the past to have her deceased husband’s name removed from the mailing list – and she just received a newsletter in his name?

You’re unable to track how well your Fall Appeal did – because the proper coding was never created in the donor database to track it.

I have encountered these horror stories and, yes, worse, in a wide variety of nonprofit organizations.

An organization’s best campaign will fall on deaf ears if donors have given up on your organization in frustration over poor record keeping.

And, while employee attrition probably plays a large role in the problem, it’s clear that selecting the appropriate database, thoroughly training staff and developing firm policies for data entry from the start, and recognizing the long-term value of maintaining the integrity of your data will alleviate many of these problems down the road.

From the smallest organization to the largest, written protocols should be established early on setting forth the most exhaustive details – from your organization’s salutation standards, to who signs thank you letters – and regularly tweaked (and always put in writing).

What salutation style does your organization prefer? First name or Mr./Ms./Mrs.? Ampersand or “and”? How do you handle deceased records? How are the grant files maintained? Do you use a separate database for tracking grants?

What is the turnaround time for gift acknowledgement? One week? Two? Who places thank you phone calls? When and why?

How are email addresses collected and entered?

When deciding upon a donor database, is price your only criteria (I sincerely hope not!)?

Once you have a database in place, is your organization recognizing the value of proper maintenance, including training and the hiring of a qualified database manager?

Raisers Edge can be the Cadillac of donor databases – or an Edsel, depending on how many people have had their hands in it and how badly folks have mucked up the coding.

And Excel is not a database. It is a spreadsheet. If you’re keeping your records in Excel, you’re in for some problems.

Development is, by nature, data-driven. Pay attention to the details, now and on a consistent basis, and the capital campaign your organization runs ten years from now will function seamlessly.

About the author: Pamela Grow is a consultant, assisting nonprofit organizations with proposal development, prospect research, annual appeal strategies and communication planning and is the author of “Five Days to Foundation Grants.” Check out her weekly blog, “Towards Effective Nonprofit Writing” and join her Facebook group, Tools for the One Person Development Office.

Photo credit: Adam and Rob

By | January 18, 2009|Blog, Nonprofits|0 Comments

The truth about hosted software packages

Should you consider hosted or Software As a Service software applications for your nonprofit? There are a lot of conflicting and often inaccurate messages out there: They’re not secure! Use them – they’ll replace your IT staff! Perhaps they’ll change your life… or perhaps they’re evil. What’s the truth? We investigate.

Once upon a time, you could pretty much assume that when you bought a software application, it would come in a box and you would install it onto your computer.

Times have changed. Now there are a huge number of options. Software packages might still be simply installed onto a single computer, but they might also be installed onto a server and multiple staff desktop computers so that a number of people can use the software. Or, the programs might even be installed on your own Web server to be accessed by your staff over the Internet.

And there’s a whole other possibility these days: hosted software packages. …more from Idealware. Flickr photo credit: Leo Reynolds.

By | November 1, 2008|Blog, Nonprofits|0 Comments