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Archive for October, 2010

Hot Pursuit of the Annual Campaign

Trick-or-treat is over, Daylight Savings will come to an end November 7, and the Christmas decorations are already popping up at the Mall. Guess it’s time to get the annual campaign readyto go.
If you’ve always sent your appeal via snail mail, it’s time to look at reaching out to donor prospects electronically.
Do you get online gifts during the year? Do you capture e-mail address and other info from these donors? Design an modification of your snail mail appeal to these donors who found you online and donated via credit card. They’re used to giving to you this way. Give them the opportunity to add a gift to this appeal.
Do you have donors who make memorial or tribute gifts to you online during the year? Be sure to “prospect” these donors.
Do you use Constant Contact? Use this tool to design the appeal.
Are you capturing contact and other (demographic, psychographic) information from these electronic donors?
Be sure that you’re collecting all this information.
And integrate a “thank you” protocol for all your donors: thanking individuals in different ways depending on how much they give, how much you know about them, how connected they are to members of your board and other key volunteers.
If you’re contemplating a major gift campaign, having a “rich” database of information on those who are contributing to your annual campaign and in other ways will help you as you prepare to qualify prospects for gifts to a big-time campaign.
Getting busy with this work now, including considering what your appeal will say this year, will help get your message out in front of your donors earlier in the holiday season than others who may not be as quick out of the chute as you.
Want to talk about elements of design for an effective campaign? I’m at your service.

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We Can Work It Out: How the CEO and the Board can Stay out of Divorce Court

A relationship is never easy. To succeed, all parties need to work on it; be committed to its success. This applies to the CEO’s relationship with the nonprofit board of directors. In the past I’ve discussed “Who’s in charge?” The importance of clarity and delineation in the bylaws and then, of course, in practice.
A strong relationship at the top of the nonprofit can be characterized as a partnership. The board creates policy and sets out a strategic plan. The CEO and the staff team carry out the policies and execute the work plan called for in the annual budget. Sounds simple? Issues arise that generate fog. For example:
CEO FIRES A BOARD MEMBER’S FAVORITE. When poor performance issues arise, the CEO needs to know that s/he has authority to act. At the same time, the CEO should document performance shortcomings, try to rectify them, and act in a fair way. There should be no “end-around” shenanigans tolerated by the board. If staff can circumvent the CEO, this undermines the leader’s authority.
CEO APPEARS TO BE DOUBLE DIPPING. The bookkeeper sees expenses showing up on company credit card vouchers, and then again on expense reimbursement forms for the CEO. What to do? Sticky wicket! If there’s a good relationship, ask the boss if there’s an error. If the relationship is on shaky ground, ask another senior staff member for advice; go to volunteer Treasurer and point out the apparent discrepancy. Junior staff are in a very tenuous position. But if there is theft, it has to be dealt with. Easy for me to say. Thankfully, these problems are rare. But when they rear their ugly head: act.
BOARD MEMBER IS ENTHUSED ABOUT AN EVENT IDEA. You’ve heard about the one where a board member attends a great event at another nonprofit in town. And now wants “his/her” nonprofit to repeat it and make thousands? Hey. Maybe it’s a great idea. But the board needs to have standards for such things: if we’re adding an event, there will be a business plan. If our staff is stretched, we don’t put that job on their shoulders. If a board member wants to develop the plan, put some work into designing how it will look. Well, maybe. Hopefully, there’s a development committee that can air out these great ideas that seem to come up two or three times a year.
Open communication, clear sense of who’s responsible for what, demonstration of a truly collaborative way of doing business all go a long way to keeping the CEO and the Board of Directors out of divorce court.

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Blog Posts of Interest Around the Marketplace

This week, I’m providing two links and a book that might be useful to you and your nonprofit board of directors.
Recent New Yorker story http://nyr,kr/bfJ9DW “Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted,” cites the sit-in story that started in Greesnboro, NC February 1, 1960 resulting in desegregation of lunch counters across the South. In this case, I believe the author has an axe to grind and is intent on minimizing the impact of social media.
In the Omaha World Herald (10/10/10) in the “Warren (Buffet) Watch,” the story http://bit.ly/99zCZQ focuses on a panel chaired by Charlie Munger, a Buffet Partner, assessing the value (or not) of nonprofits in the great economic engine driving the USA. Do businesses advance society more than nonprofits? Interesting topic to debate on a chilly night in Omaha. However, I believe it’s a false dichotomy: these are two very different sectors with different roles. In my experience, nonprofits are incubators of ideas that capitalists aren’t quite ready to capitalize. I do feel that there are entrepreneurs in all sectors that drive change; that make the USA a robust place to live.
And finally, I recommend that we all read Jerold Panas’ text Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards. If anyone knows his board-as-fundraiser stuff, it’s this guy. I’m a long-time admirer, going back to my American Lung Association days and work with colleague Dick Beale, and Indiana guy who was a true leader within the Lung family.
Hope you find this material interesting. Please be in touch if you want to chat, explore how we might work together.
s.p.99smith@gmail.com 781-334-4915

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Reaching the Board Comfort Zone in Fundraising

Whether it’s in my fundraising classes at Northeastern University, with my clients here in New England, or in conversation with fellow travelers who proselytize the value of boards of directors actively raising money, it’s an on-going struggle.
What’s the problem? Problems? We know our volunteers are committed to the mission. How can we translate that commitment to bringing home the bacon to put the mission to work?
Not too long ago (March, 2008) Guidestar published “Five Fundraising Mistakes We Make with Our Boards.” here’s the link: http://bit.ly/aWVpLJ. Click link to get more detail, but here are the points that still hold true 31 months later:
1. We make it about asking for the $$, not about building and keeping friends
2. We send board members on cold or cool calls. Hey! We’re not selling encyclopedias door-to-door. We want to hook our volunteer leaders up with warm prospects.
3. Too many calls at low dollar level.
4. Emergency fundraising, not long-term relationships. Urgency is good; crisis mode is bad.
5. Lack of training, structure, coaching and support.
We need to institute a thoughtful approach to make this work.
Hope you’ll also visit Gayle Gifford’s blog, Cause and Effect: http://www.ceffect.com. Read her October 4 submission: If Fundraising is a Profession, Why Are We So Angry with our Amateur Board of Directorsf?
Huh? That’s a pretty good question. And Gayle gets at #5 in that Guidestar piece I referred to above.
We can make progress with our boards when we invest in them.

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