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Archive for February, 2012

Launching an “Extra Mile” Campaign

Most nonprofits have wrapped up or are wrapping up their holiday appeal.  Most of these direct mail (or, more inclusively, “direct response”) campaigns are run in November – December, with follow-up in January – February.  Increasingly, nonprofits recruit board members to conduct a personal solicitation component of the holiday appeal to high-level and “special handling” donors.  This usually adds significantly to the dollars raised.  A recent client conducted an e-mail component and raised revenue 20% over the previous year.

Now is a good time to consider an Extra Contribution or “Extra Mile” campaign.  Nonprofits identify donors who did gave, perhaps early in the annual appeal (November) and ask that these donors consider going the “extra mile” and adding to their gift.  Nonprofit staff and volunteer leadership need to feel comfortable taking this step.  It’s possible that some donors will be turned off by this approach.  In my experience, there is a significant number of donors who will consider doing more for your mission if you make a good case.

Your case for an Extra Contribution should be 100% focused on those who rely on the service you provide.

And of course, you have already thanked your donors at least once for their recent annual appeal gift.  It’s a good idea to start the appeal letter with another “thank you.”  To clearly acknowledge that your nonprofit and your clients (I refer to them as primary customers) appreciate what your donors have done.  But there are unmet needs.  And you will note one or two of these: the number of people who need to be reached but aren’t because there isn’t quite enough in the cupboard to get the job done.

Give it some thought.  Talk it over.  Let your development committee know what you’re considering and ask for their feedback.

The potential is there to add another 10% to annual appeal revenue.  Food for thought.

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Engaging Networks to Advance Nonprofit Mission

Here we are in 2012 with the US economy starting to improve. As public confidence in the nation’s economy regains its footing,  nonprofit organizations should utilize one of their most precious asset—their networks.  Identify connections with your stakeholders: The people who benefit from your mission directly and indirectly, the people who support your mission directly and indirectly. Create a plan to strengthen the bonds with individuals in your networks. Focus on people with the ability to deliver all manner of resources to help deliver the mission .The goodwill, future financial support, and contacts developed by networking during this period of economic resurgence  will be the silver lining to emerge as the clouds of recession lift. Networking is the art of identifying, cultivating, and engaging friends of your organization. These relationships ultimately may yield monetary support, non-financial support; they can become ambassadors who cultivate more friends. Now is the time to identify these potential friends, hone your message, and plan how to best deliver the message. By getting your staff, board of directors, and other volunteers ready for brighter days, you’ll build your capacity to thrive when recovery is more firmly established.The best place to start is a meeting of the board of directors, who must constantly stay mindful of their critical role as emissaries for the organization. They know the mission, they know the goals, they know the good that the organization brings to the community. How do they communicate this value? How do they spread the good news with people they work with, play with, pray with?
Start with a conversation. Take some time at a staff meeting and the next board meeting to talk about reaching out to friends to share your mission. There may be members who are doing this now. Identify them before the next meeting. Ask them to share their techniques with the group. Use their experiences to kick off the discussion. Listen for the ideas that have been most successful. Share a summary of the results with all who can benefit from these experiences.
Continue the conversation. Be sure to put the discussion on the agenda for subsequent meetings. Find out in advance who is trying the new techniques. Ask one or two of the new practitioners to report on what they’re doing.
Engage communications experts to share advice. Do you have a director of communications on your staff? If not, does one of your board members or volunteers have communication expertise? Strategize with this person about your approach to engaging networks. Incorporate messages that are consistent with your brand so your staff and volunteers are talking about your work in a unified and consistent way.
Twitter? Facebook? Blogs? Is someone on your team familiar with social media and willing to show others how to effectively use these tools? It’s likely that this person will be younger than most of the team. If so, this is an excellent opportunity to let an up-and-comer show their stuff. An effective plan for social media can engage people you otherwise might miss who will support your mission once they learn what the organization is about.
What’s your story? Nonprofit organizations have numerous stories about your clients’ great experience with your services. Incorporate telling stories as part of “conversation time.” A program staff person or a volunteer probably has more than one such story to share. Let your group hear a story or two each time you meet, and encourage your board, staff, and volunteers to retell these stories when they are out engaging their networks.
There is a reservoir of good will out there, ready to hear about the good you do. And every day, your volunteers and staff talk with many people who will want to help bring the “good” you deliver to more people. Your organization’s job is to forge links through staff, board, and volunteer networks so you can grow the circle of friends and supporters. When you take the time to apply creative approaches to communication through networks, you engage and energize people for your mission. It takes commitment and work, but it will put your organization in the strongest possible position as the economy gets ready for the next great leap forward.

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Ken Burnett on Relationship Fundraising

This week it’s all about Relationship Fundraising.  And the guy who wrote the book on the subject is Ken Burnett.  If you’re raising money for charitable purposes, you should have his book close by.  Relationship Fundraising: A Donor Based Aproach to the Business of Raising Money. Jossey-Bass is the US publisher. Second edition: 2002.

I recommend that you check out his blog. A post in 2009 “2020 vision” is definitely worth a look:  A sample:

Fundraisers will wake up to the fact that they are selling neither their organisations nor their causes, nor their missions and certainly not all the nuts and bolts and insignificant minutiae of what they do. Rather they are promoting joy, the warm glow, the exhilaration, the sense of achievement and fulfilment, even the meaning of life. As business life and political life are so discredited now, the timing for all this could not be better now.

Great food for thought. Particularly for nonprofit boards who think “someone” (preferably staff) just go ask for and get money.  Mr. Burnett teaches us to reach out to prospective donors, befriend them to the mission, acquaint them with the good you do and the people who benefit from that goodness so there’s a desire to be a part of the good works.

Makes lots of sense to me.  Please tell me if it makes sense to you.

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Assessing & Supporting the Nonprofit Executive

Several months ago, I featured a series of short essays on “Board Essentials.”  They covered four topics:

  1. Parameters of board governance
  2. Role of the nonprofit board
  3. Strategic work of the board
  4. The board as hub of the nonprofit

Today, I’m writing about the board’s role in assessing and supporting the CEO of the nonprofit.  Performance review is a Board Essential that’s easy to neglect.  Every year, or every other year, there is likely a new chair/president of the board. Rotation of officers can create a situation where CEO assessment can get overlooked.  It’s important to have a reliable, annual process in place that engages the whole board in the process.

I advise my clients to have the CEO start the process with a report on his/her achievements in the past year, highlighting things of importance that need attention next year.  This self-assessment should be based on the job description.  And any items flagged last year that were to be attended to in the year now coming to a close.  So there’s a cycle to this.  And it’s a priority for the elected chair of the board.

There’s a deadline for submission of the CEO self-assessment report.  The board chair forms a small work group or the executive committee or an ad hoc personnel committee to do the follow-up work with the CEO.  The full board is apprised of the process and is asked to discuss and then vote it’s agreement, or not.  Once a process is set and the CEO report is in hand, the committee meets.  The group discusses the CEO report.  Do they agree with the assessment?  Do they want more information?  When they’re ready (within two weeks of receiving the report), the board chair arranges a meeting of the committee with the CEO.  There’s an open discussion.  Things that went well are identified. Things that need some attention are also identified.  Do all parties agree?  The chair prepares an executive summary for the board which is confidential and between the board and the CEO.  Staff input to this process might be sought if the group feels it will be desirable and helpful.  But the board should plan and implement this element with care.  The idea is not to have staff evaluate their CEO’s performance.  This can easily devolve into “end around” activity that undermines the CEO authority in the staff relationship.  Having a person on the board with strong HR experience who can help organize this so the outcome is viewed as helpful and constructive to the volunteers as well as to the CEO.

BoardSource is a good place to go for best practice tools in facilitating this process.  Their publication Assessing and Supporting Your Chief Executive is an excellent e-document to purchase and use as a guide.

The idea is not to allow “we always did it this way” to set in.  Change is good. Change is healthy.  Finding ways to institutionalize change so it’s productive and not destabilizing can help keep the nonprofit performing at its max capabilities and not get stuck in old, tired ways of operating.

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