Each summer I write a piece about proper attention to donors. And the centerpiece of “proper” is “thank you.”
So my advice to you on this rainy New England day in mid-June is to think about proper donor acknowledgement this summer.
Start with a note. A thank you note out of the blue is always a nice touch. Unexpected, maybe on a picture postcard you have created that presents a nice image of how you are delivering your mission in your community. With a brief signed note of thanks to your donor. A personal touch, a bit out of the ordinary that will get this person’s attention.
Host an event. Depending on the mission of your nonprofit, holding a morning coffee, afternoon tea or early evening canapes with refreshing drinks reception would be well received. If you are an arts-related organization, this is very easily done and will be much appreciated. If you are an environmental or health or social service organization, finding space for this might be a bit of a challenge, but a board member might help you and co-host it at a nice spot. And having a speaker talk briefly for a few minutes on a topic of interest can add to the draw. And the event isn’t to make an appeal for another gift. It’s purely an opportunity to acknowledge donors and socialize.
House party. The latest trend is for board members to host mini parties at their homes and ask for contributions. This could be simply thank you events in a home setting, featuring light hors d’houvres and drinks of some sort and a chance for people close to the nonprofit to mix socially with donors and let them know they are appreciated.
Try this on for size. It’s an application of relationship fundraising…with a focus on the relationship.
At the May 30 2013 NH Council on Fundraising Council, I was joined by Tricia Casey, Director of Advancement at Boys & Girls Club of Nashua NH. We delivered a workshop “Raising Money with a Purpose.” Our focus was on development plans and case statements. And our premise was that these elements worked best when they are built out from a Strategic Plan. Why? Because the nonprofit that’s properly focused on a Mission with well-laid out Goals knows where it’s headed. And if staff and volunteers are clear on their direction, then approaching donors makes sense. I believe one reason why board members are reluctant to raise money for a nonprofit is because they’re not clear about the “why.” Building out a thoughtful development plan from a strong Strategic Plan will make all the difference.
And here are some of the key components:
A Development Committee Leads the Way. Having a volunteer development team on the board who can take the lead in the annual appeal (asking fellow board members for their gift, and asking major donors for their gifts) will be very useful to the fundraising process.
Diversified Revenue Stream. Beyond the annual appeal, there are appropriate events and other activities that bring in revenue for the nonprofit.
Assessment Before the Plan. Check out what similar nonprofits are doing to raise funds. Develop a profile and try to stage growth into a broader fundraising action plan over time that will make sense for your organization.
For more detailed information, please feel free to contact me for advice on building an effective Revenue Generation plan for your nonprofit organization.
Hope I’ll see you Thursday May 30 in Manchester NH at CONFR – NH Conference at Southern NH University. My workshop Raising Money with a Purpose is scheduled for 9:00 AM – noon. Looking forward to co-presenting with Tricia Casey, Director of Advancement at Boys & Girls Club of Nashua. You can register here: . http://www.confr.org/2013/04/workshop-best-of-confr-manchester-may-30/
At some point, each nonprofit organization should have a Planned Giving Program. The question is, when is the right time to get started in asking donors to consider naming your nonprofit in their will or trust?
I think Planned Giving logically follows the annual fund. As your annual fund grows, maybe by the fifth year, and you have a newsletter in place, it’s the right time to make your nonprofit a beneficiary. It helps, too, to have an estate planner on your board. A person with expertise in writing wills or working with financial institutions in creating trust documents that can protect assets from probate. It’s very important to identify an experienced attorney in this area. Some States have Estate Planning Councils, and some States have persons certified to prepare such documents.
If your donor requests some help in this regard, you can provide some language to recommend for inclusion in the person’s will. I do not recommend that the nonprofit get involved in recommending specific attorneys to write wills. there should be an “arm’s length” relationship between the donor and the nonprofit so there is no conflict of interest that can call the ethics or even the legality of a document into question.
But if you look at newsletters of universities, hospitals, and voluntary health organizations you will see ads or articles on this subject with recommendations that the individual follow up with a person in the development office for advice on how to proceed. Your nonprofit may not have a development office. But you can have a volunteer attorney with estate planning experience who can assist you properly and help guide donors in a proper and ethical way.
There are other kinds of options to investigate, like charitable remainder trusts that can be beneficial to the donor and to the nonprofit. There are specialists in this area who can advise you on how to implement a program. My suggestion is, as your fundraising/development effort matures you should install a Planned Giving program. Recruiting the proper advice will help to you avoid pitfalls that can sour a relationship with an important donor.
It’s way too easy to fall into patterns of complacency. And when this happens, the energy dissipates and we lose that zip for the mission. So how do we recapture the sense of urgency around the nonprofit mission? One way to achieve this is to invite one or two people who benefit from your services to come to the next board meeting and tell a story. The story about how your nonprofit made a difference in their lives. What is it, who is it, why is it that something sparked and life felt a bit better because of that experience. Build the meeting agenda around the story or stories. Make sure whatever is on the board agenda is essential for the nonprofit. That the topic will drive an important decision the board needs to make now or in the near future. That we’re not just reciting reports to make committee chairs feel important. Of course, they are important. But everyone’s time is important, and hearing a report that’s already in written form and easily readable by literate members of the board is not a good use of their time. Don’t undermine the sense of urgency with reports which can just as easily be read. Please. Let’s think about ACTION and what needs to be discussed that moves us in the direction of a decision.