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Archive for July, 2011

Strategic Alliance Anyone?

Nonprofit organizations find themselves strapped for cash during slow months. And with the current economic environment: slow years. Community benefit organizations try to operate on the narrowest of margins.  They impair their capacity to deliver mission by cutting salaries, benefits, programs, training of staff, training of board.  And with the continued cuts in discretionary spending on the federal level, and the concomitant trickle down effect to State and local level, everyone will struggle to do more with less.

Now is the time to consider strategic alliance with other community benefit organizations in the same vicinity.  Sharing office space. Sharing bookkeeping service. Jointly retaining public relations, communications, web design help to take advantage of discount.  And for those still able to offer staff health benefits, forming a legal partnership to enlarge the group and get some savings on health insurance premiums.

There are ways to do this; and there are capable firms who can work with you to price these joint services.  And folks like me that can help you negotiate with fellow nonprofits to make the deal.  Getting appropriate legal counsel at the right time.

Here’s a reference of an initiative in Massachusetts by The Boston Foundation and partner organizations, providing incentives to do this strategic alliance work:  http://foundationcenter.org/pnd/news/story.jhtml?id=308900014.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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Will Event Supporters Become Annual Fund Donors?

Nonprofit organizations wrestle every few years with the quandary: Should I treat my special event participants as annual fund donor prospects?  If we write a nice appeal letter, won’t they contribute to the annual appeal?

The answer is, typically “no.”  Your community benefit organization attracts people with certain interests to certain activities. Supporters who come out for the 5k walk, the golf tournament, the chili cook-off develop a commitment to the event. There may not be the zeal for your mission that annual fund donors feel. The connection to the event may be more to people they know, whom they have a relationship with, that they like to see each year and maybe compete with to see who will raise the most money. For many event participants, it’s more about the people and the event than it is about the benefit to those you serve.

People who are contributing each year to the annual fund are of a different kettle of fish. They may be older. Their demographic profile is likely quite different from those who fill up your events each year. Think of the way you thank and honor your loyal annual appeal donors; how does this contrast to how you recognize key volunteers and super fund-raisers in your annual walk?

When you sit down with the development committee and discuss this, the differences become apparent to all. But I do recommend that you not give up the ghost on this pursuit.  Summertime is a good time to convene a group of friends of your nonprofit and run through the event participant list together. Perhaps there will be names some of these friends recognize.  Perhaps a special note from a friend might spur the person to add an annual gift over and above the money donated associated with the special event.

You can have a special appeal from annual fund friends to event friends. You can identify a few good prospects from the event lists and do a special prospecting approach to these individuals.  Sending a mass mailing to potentially hundreds of event supporters usually is a waste of resources.  Targeting the better prospects is the way to go.

So, the answer is: Yes. Event Supporters can become Annual Fund Donors. But it depends.

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Getting Lapsed Donors Back

Summer time is a good time to think about and prepare for your fall annual fund appeal.  The majority of nonprofits do this work in the months leading up to Christmas and New Year, so the competition is pretty stiff in the community benefit organization world.  So how can you get an edge?

I recommend that you and your Development Committee, among other things, go to the database and formulate a list of lapsed donors.  Organize the list by year of last gift (going back three and maybe as many as five years) and amount of last gift.  Time for some research.  Determine who passed away and needs to come off the list. Who heads elsewhere for winter months…which is a hint that you should send the appeal to these folk when they return, unless you can locate their winter address. Are there any notes in the file that give a reason why the person stopped giving?

Good to review your year ’round communication approach with your friends, volunteers, and donors. Are you keeping your supporters aware of what’s up at your organization during the year?  Do you invite some of this group in intermittently during the year for coffee and cake and conversation? Thanking and paying attention to donors is the best way to minimize “breakage.”

Consider a specially written and designed appeal to lapsed donors.  Find out if committee or board or other volunteers know people on this lapsed list.  Might a personal note or call from a friend help spark re-interest in your fabulous nonprofit?

Making time for this work pays dividends.  There might be thousands in unanticipated revenue in this group.

Time to mine the gap.

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