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Archive for November, 2012

Update on Strategic Marketing & Fundraising

I wrote this blog two years ago and tweaked it a bit as we close in on 2013:
Does it make sense to you that the fundraising approach that will work best for your nonprofit organization is the one that fits your strategic plan? It does to me, and I’ll tell you why.

A well-thought-out Strategic Plan is rooted in the mission of the nonprofit. When we’re clear on our mission, and we have set out goals that clearly emanate from it, we’re heading on the right track. The goals are about our value proposition: what we deliver to our primary customers (those who benefit from our service) that helps make their lives better. And this basic rule-of-thumb can apply to an arts organization, a human service agency, a health care provider…you name it, it can work.

So I believe it stands to reason that how you raise money, the messages in your appeal to donors, the way you build your special events, the fundamentals of your major gift campaign all come from what you’re delivering that’s making life better. So when folks make a contribution it’s clear that they’re helping you make a difference.

And I don’t know of any factor more important to forging and maintaining a relationship with your donors than that they understand the value. And want to be a part of it. In my brain, these folks are supporting customers. This terminology comes from what was once called the Peter F Drucker Foundation. Very market-based. Which is what I recommend that you, your nonprofit, and your nonprofit’s Strategic Plan all be.

If you’re using an array of LinkedIn groups and follow several of the best and brightest marketing and social media gurus on Twitter you are likely keeping pace with much of the advanced thinking on nonprofit strategic marketing.

There’s great help out there to assist you in tailoring your fundraising/development plan to jibe nicely with your Strategic Plan.

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Generation Next: New Leadership Is Here!

I hear a lot of sad tales and witness a lot of hand wringing over the Great Divide. You know: These young folks just don’t get it. So us old fossils need to hang on to the levers of power for a few more years until these young whipper snappers just….just…..just what, exactly? What on earth are we waiting for?

I think the time has long since past for the older generations to step aside and let youth take charge. They may not see things exactly as “we” see them, but that is probably all for the better. Their values are a bit different. But ours are not necessarily “better.”

Part of the problem is, many of the nonprofit boards consist of members whose age profile reflect the boomer era; like many of the sitting executives. So of course, sitting boards are very comfortable with executives who see things as they do. Well it’s time to break free from that comfort zone, and bring in new leadership who see the world a bit differently and who will bring the new vision and new approaches to the nonprofit mission. It’s time for change. And the time needs to get in gear now.

So let’s get busy as 2013 approaches bringing in Generation Next: Generation X and Generation Y who are ready to apply new approaches to make the nonprofit mission work for us. Just do it!

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Boards that Give, Boards that Get

Nonprofit organizations seeking to improve their fundraising want their boards of directors to be involved. Involved in giving (donating money) and getting (raising money).
An article of faith for most people responsible for raising money is that effective fundraising starts at home. If we can’t convince our board of directors, our volunteer leaders who have legal and fiduciary duty to our nonprofit mission to provide financial support to some extent, then whom can we expect to support us?
Board members frequently complain that they give time; and from their perspective, time is money.
Certainly there is value in the time volunteers give to advance the nonprofit mission.
And this is reported in the audited financial statements.
But we also know that when we go to present a proposal to certain foundations, we get this question:
“What % of your board make a financial contribution to your nonprofit organization?”
And for some foundations, unless the % is at or up close and personal to 100% they question the board’s true commitment.
This is just a fact of life.
But this doesn’t solve the problem of overcoming the reluctance of some board members to reach for their wallets or credit cards to come across with the loot. I believe volunteers on the board can address this. I think it’s a mistake to leave this matter in staff’s hands. It’s up to the board to address this; to engage their colleagues and to intelligently and humanely work to persuade their colleagues that donating according to ones means is the right thing to do. As a reflection of caring.
There are lots of helpful tools out there to rally support on a board.
I recommend that you poke around BoardSource.org for starters.

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I Love an Event: But What Kind of Event?

Nonprofit organizations need to diversify their revenue streams. It’s just common sense. and once you get beyond the annual fund drive the next logical area to consider is special events.

But what kind of event exactly? A walk? A run? A gala ball? A brunch? A chili cookoff? A night of comedy? A night of tragedy? Decisions, decisions! The purpose of this post is to help you focus on organizing the kind of event that might work best for the likes of you!

Here are some factors to take into account when considering which direction to go:

1. Fundraising Committee. Do you have one of these? And if you do, are there members with experience and/or interest in events? Before you launch a fundraising special event, be sure to organize a committee of volunteers of interested souls with an interest and energy to help make it work. Having a group consider type of event will serve you well.

2. Network. Do you have a cadre of volunteers? A base of folks who are using the service of your nonprofit? People who passionately care about your mission and want to help make it work in their community? Events take an audience of active participants, and a solid core of interested people who feel a strong urge to make it work. The key is to get the core group organized, set a timeline, and then engage their networks to build the audience. It’s not magic. It’s hard work and good organization!

3. Communication. Do you have a communications/public relations person on staff? On the board? A group of volunteers who have expertise in this area? If not, it’s time to build a group with this kind of ability. Great special events depend on great communication in social media, broadcast media, print media…you name it. It means communicating.

4. Budget. What’s it going to cost to produce this event? Events cost money. If you can find one or more event sponsors, that’ll be fabulous. But it’s not a guarantee. Frequently, sponsors won’t join the parade until they see a successful first run. But maybe you’ll overcome that obstacle. Maybe there’s a person on you’re board who loves the mission and has a passion for the kind of event you want to do and will get four-square behind it and put some money on the deal. That would be great! Make sure the board is informed on the planning. And be sure there’s a champion for the event on the board, so it’s not totally staff-dependent. Because if it doesn’t work as planned first time around, it’ll be helpful if one or more board members speak up for it and give the effort its due, particularly if you want to try again next year even though it wasn’t a smashing success first time around.

So, get ready for lots of work. Be sure to allocate time for the effort.

There can be a great pay-off if the planning and execution are well done!

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