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Archive for May, 2011

Summer Appeal to Your Nonprofit Donor List

Summer is almost upon us, and the living is easy. In some respects.  If you don’t do a mid-year appeal to your donor list, I recommend that you consider doing it this summer.

Most nonprofit organizations do their direct response (mail, e-mail, social media) appeal to donors near the Christmas holiday. The competition for your donors’ attention is quite strong at that time of year. Many people, particularly women age 55 and over, donate to five, six, seven charities and don’t necessarily give to the same group every year during that Thanksgiving – Christmas interval.  This is why I recommend that my clients, friends and peek-a-boo folks do a follow up in January or February to lapsed donors asking for their consideration.

Summer is another opportunity to appeal to your loyal donors and lapsed donors.  Some of you might consider prospecting for new donors this time of year. But in this blog post, my focus is on messages about your mission and what you’re delivering to your clients/customers that your donors will welcome and might make a second gift.

Some things for you to consider in this appeal

  • Make it part of a newsletter, or follow a few weeks after your newsletter informing friends and donors what your nonprofit has been doing to deliver service to people who benefit from your mission
  • Focus the pitch on the mission
  • Don’t focus on “needs” of your nonprofit
  • Tell a compelling story about how a particular individual benefited recently from a service you provide
  • In telling a story, be sure to either get written permission to tell it, or change the names to protect the innocent

For those donors who did contribute to your last annual campaign, thank them now. Let them know that you know they did in fact give within the last twelve months. That you’re not pulling a fast one, tricking them into a second gift. That the purpose is to do more. Because there are people out there who aren’t feeling the benefit of the easing recession. There are still people getting foreclosed on their home. There are still millions of people doing part-time work, looking forward to the economy improving and getting back to working full time.

Those of us fortunate enough to be working, or retired with a pension and a bit of a cushion, might be ready to do a bit more.

And you won’t know the answer ’til you ask the question.

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Chasing After “Deep Pockets” for Nonprofit Board

We frequently read about the importance of seeking board members with “deep pockets.”  Meaning: having lots of money that they will gladly give to our cause. Starting a board recruitment effort with this in the forefront of the brain will not work out well.  Usually.  And here’s why.

People become involved with a nonprofit, generally because they first and foremost feel a kinship with your mission. The Governance (formerly known as “Nominating”) Committee working with the CEO is best served when the group seeks relationships with individuals who care about the cause. And want to be involved in some way. Giving to the cause is just one aspect of best board practice. There’s also networking, which includes speaking with friends and colleagues about the mission; telling friends why they are involved.

It is true that you gotta ask to get. And if your nonprofit board has folks with “deep pockets” they can help find similarly troused friends who will join, support the mission and give because a good friend asked. This is not bad. But in my work with nonprofits, I like to get the relationship focused on mission. So it’s clear that the cause and the people we’re helping are our primary purpose in being involved.  Yes, we want to bring more resources (including $$) to the table to help further advance the mission and good work of our nonprofit. But we want to be clear that it’s the relationship and the mission first and foremost.

When a nonprofit organization decides to launch a major gift campaign, the development committee begins its work looking at the donor list…those who give to the annual campaign…and “qualify” individuals who have the wherewithall to commit at a “major” level, however the nonprofit decides to define it.  For some good thinking on moving in this direction, I recommend Wendy McGrady of Curtis Group Consultants (North Carolina/Virginia) for great strategic thinking on this: “Turning Annual Fund Donors into Major Gift Donors”

From my experience, people with significant resources are not always eager to join the board. But when approached in the right way by the right person, they may be inclined to contribute to your major gift effort. They, like most of us, want to make a difference. When we find something that looks properly designed and has a good team implementing the work, it’s easier to say “yes.”  Make the gift.  Perhaps over time the relationship will blossom. And Mr. or Ms Deep Pockets will commit to a term on the board.

The moral of the story: don’t make “deep pockets” the focus of your board recruitment. Or fundraising, for that matter. It becomes apparent to people rather quickly if they’re being pursued for $$ and not for commitment to mission.

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Hubspot is Hot Spot for Marketing Intelligence

In my nonprofit management classes at Northeastern, and with my nonprofit clients wherever they may be, marketing is a fundamental I emphasize ’til the cows come home.

After all, if the nonprofit organization is not fully tuned in and clued in to its market (knows its customer inside out) the likelihood of success is unlikely.

I love to explore around and find smart people who know marketing and can apply social media tools to 21st century thinking about target audience and delivering great results to customers.

I’m hooked up with the RSS feed from Hubspot. Here’s a link to a recent post: Quiz: Are You a Modern Marketing Superstar?

Check. It. Out.

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Growing the Nonprofit in a Slow-Growth Economy

While the housing market in the USA continues to seek its trough, and foreclosure is still a trend, it’s very hard to grasp the idea that the economy is on the mend. Tell it to the Marines. Human service needs are on the incline, arts organizations (small to mid-size) struggle to raise the dough, and healthcare reform is being challenged leaving providers up a tree.

How does a respectable nonprofit organization with a well-thought out mission and a likeable program continue to attract the where-with-all to grow?  We know it’s deadly to become complacent, to wait for the big tide change that will come any….year now. What is a nonprofit to do?

I, for one, really like the thinking described in The New Work of Nonprofit Boards by Taylor, Chait, and Holland. This “new work” I believe, is a key to addressing the environment each nonprofit is working in. This is the first step in getting resolution that is appropriate to the unique situation facing any nonprofit organization .  The authors talk about Generative Thinking. This is a time set aside at the board meeting to look ahead, to what’s on the horizon that is challenging the mission and to consider best ways to address the challenges.

For an arts organization, the chair of the board might challenge two or three members to do some research of similar organizations in similar-size communities to examine what they are doing and how the public is responding.  The human service organization might take a look at board make-up and determine if there is new thinking around marketing that might be good to know and then apply to the work ahead. The health care center might see a related service niche (transportation or day care) that’s keeping clients from accessing services; collaboration with another community nonprofit might attract a foundation interested in fostering strategic alliances among nonprofits.

The central idea is to set aside board meeting time for some creative thinking based in fact.  So new approaches can be developed that are rooted in data.  This is not brain-storming.  Not that I’m agnostic about brain-storming, but I do prefer that nonprofits I’m working with are rooting their decision-making in reality; not on a fabulous idea of one board member that has no basis in fact, or may just not be appropriate for the particular culture of this nonprofit.

Generative Thinking.  A good place to start to find working answers to stimulating some growth in an economy sadly lacking in that commodity.

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