Endorsements

Steve Smith worked with us to re-build our board of directors in 2008. Board members came to understand "best practice" and developed job descriptions that are still informing our work. Steve helped us to pull together stakeholders and identify new community resources. We were surprised to realize the support available right in our own community! Board members felt comfortable with Steve right from the start, he took time to understand our organization and made sure that all of our work was a good fit for us. Steve tailored his work to our needs and the board took full ownership of the results
Chris Casserly, Executive Director of Rochester NH Child Care Center

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Donor Stewardship: Expressing Gratitude to Our Supporters

Thanksgiving week is a good time to take a few moments to gather the troops and discuss “Are we doing a good job thanking our donors?”
Talking it over with staff as well as your development committee helps get ideas on the table. Attending a session on “donor acknowledgment” at the next nonprofit conference is time well spent. Learn what others are doing. Apply thanking techniques that feel right, that fit right for you and staff and volunteers who get the relationship part of fundraising.
Here are a few things for pause and reflect:
Thank all your donors.
“Tier” your thank you: post card for small gifts, letter for gifts $25+. Set tiers that make sense for your nonprofit.
Acknowledge online gifts with email.
Use appropriate stationery to acknowledge memorial gifts.
Use special thank you for special gifts from special givers. Organize a board “thankathon” (see Kay Sprinkel Grace in High Impact Philanthropy) for special/major gifts.
The important thing is to let the donor know that s/he is appreciated. That it’s more than the money. Confirm the relationship by letting the person know you remember something about him/her; how the gift will help those you serve in some specific way. Help make a link happen. Cement the bond.
I remember when I worked with the American Lung Association in New Hampshire, board members agreed to thank major donors to the Christmas Seal campaign. They called donors. The first year we did it, some donors thought we were calling for more money. Board members were coached to let donors know, “no, we just want to let you know how much we appreciate your recent gift of ___ to help fight lung disease. We are interested, if you care to share, in what inspires you to give. It helps us to know.” Well. Our donors were pleasantly surprised to get the personal touch and usually had something to tell us. Log this information in your database. It’ll come in handy for your next appeal.
In this way, the “thank you” helps affirm the relationship.

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Applying Strategy to Operations: Nonprofit Change

A measure of nonprofit capacity to deliver service in a changing environment comes once the strategic plan has been updated.
We know it’s no easy task to bring in the consultant, set the course of a planning process, then get the Board members to carve out time to do the strategic plan work. Once that process is complete, leaders heave a sigh of relief and go on to what’s next on the agenda.
This is when strategic planning gets a bad name. Because there’s no thought to the Big Deal: Implementation.
The annual plan and budget cycle needs to reflect what came from the plan process.
If not, then why did you bother with all of that huffing and puffing in the first place?
Jumping off the implementation cliff is not easy. This is where a can of energy drink comes in handy to help get the group through what’s next. And there’s a simple way to approach it. To achieve some buy-in. And it goes like this:
What’s New? Staff bring to Board the new work that needs some attention. That clearly was a priority from the energy that was expended in the planning process.
What Has to Go? Can you afford to keep doing what you’ve been doing and take on the new? Prepare a recommendation with what will go so the new has room to breathe.
Do We Need New Resources? Is it going to cost us more? Do we need a new committee and added staff to get the new work done? How can we phase this in over time?
Bring Implementation Plan to Stakeholders Convene a group of Stakeholders. Those who work as partners on projects with you, who you need to engage as new partners, people who will benefit from the new work you’ll be doing. Convene them over breakfast or lunch. Lay out the plan. Mix the crowd up at various tables and give them some discussion points to work through.
Act On It. Bring a (now) more detailed action plan to the Board for approval.
Get Busy.

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Your Board and the Annual Appeal

This post comes to you in early November. This is the time when nonprofit organizations are sending, or preparing to send, their annual appeal for support to donors (and donor prospects). Nonprofit leaders try to organize the appeal in a way that will generate more net revenue in the current year than last year. How might we involve the Board of Directors in helping make this hope reality?
All Board Members Give. The chair of the Board, or the chair of the Development Committee, organizes a campaign to seek board members’ gifts to the appeal. And hopefully, a larger gift than last year. There is a letter or an email involved. But there can also be a direct ask. Where members who have a history of giving make a point to ask members who haven’t given for their gift.
All Board Members Are Asked to Ask. At a meeting of the Board, members are asked to ask their friends and colleagues to consider a gift. At many nonprofits, the donor list is shared at the meeting and members are asked if they recognize names on the list. Will they write a personal note asking for the donor or prospect to consider a gift? Or a larger gift this year than last?
Special to Major Givers Active members of the Board, and perhaps members of the Development Committee, are asked to help make a personal visit to donors who make much larger than average gifts to make the gift this year. The personal approach usually results in larger gifts.
Compelling Message Of course, the appeal is centered on a compelling story or message that will inspire the donor to give more. Some staff think it’s compelling to provide a long recitation of statistics of all the various program activities. This is not as successful as a great story about a person who used a service and whose life was made better because of it. A good story is very helpful.
Apply these techniques and you should see a net gain in your annual appeal.

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Meeting the Challenge of Change: Leadership

Nonprofit Organization leaders know that a measure of their success is their flexibility and adaptability. Or, in other words: The constant in nonprofit governance and management is change.

Funders (particularly grantmakers) are interested in knowing, before they will award a grant, in the capacity of the particular nonprofit to roll with changes in its environment. What are some indicators of that capacity?

Diversity in Leadership. Does the board and staff of this nonprofit reflect the community it serves? Is the Board packed with baby boomers? Or are there Gen X and Gen Y representatives in governance as well as staff positions?

Training in Leadership. Are board and staff leaders provided education and training opportunities to learn about current trends in their environment? Is there evidence that the group is networked in the community and in organizations that have expertise needed by this nonprofit?

Customer Focused Leadership?Is there evidence that leaders at this nonprofit communicate comfortably and frequently with the clients/customers they are charged to serve? Do leaders know how to listen, or are they always in broadcast mode?

It’s in some ways, application of the “bend-don’t-break” philosophy from sports convention to the Third Sector.

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Reflections on a Month in Vietnam

I have been back in lovely Lynnfield, Massachusetts, USA since August 24. Eleven days to acclimate and reflect.

The opportunity to travel to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and teach classes in the MS Leadership program for Northeastern University was a terrific experience for me. The first class on Leading Teams began online June 30. This gave me an opportunity to get to know the students through the Blackboard platform. To exchange ideas. To learn a bit about their lives and what drew them to this program.

Week 5 of the Teams class got underway in HCMC the week of July 28. The warmth and friendliness of the students at first meeting was very much appreciated. I got to know a bit more about them and their lives beyond what they posted in Introductions on Blackboard. Two of the women in the class own their own successful businesses. Three students work at International University, the partner institution in downtown HCMC. One student is a gas and oil trader. The youngest in the class is a recent grad straight out of undergraduate school. One is assistant to the President of another local university. Another organizes student activities at another university.

What this group has in common is a desire to carve out their niche in a highly competitive world of work in Vietnam. There are many MBA programs. But this MS Leadership program is quite different from the rest. It helps students examine styles of leading. What makes teams tick and how best to develop this form of work; in many instances, a project management tool that draws people from across departments in the workplace to get a special job done.

The Teams class wrapped up August 9. And the Building a Leadership Development program got underway August 10. We were fortunate to have Mr Lai Minh Duy, General Director of TST Tourist, Vietnam and Mr Bruce Newton, Senior Director, HR for eSilicon a US corporation with offices in Vietnam. Both gentlemen discussed how they developed as leaders in their companies, how they worked through impediments, and what makes some people successful. The following week we had Jeff McLean, General Manager of UPS operations in Vietnam. These speakers shared how they developed as leaders and what they believe contributes most to success today in the workplace, particularly in Vietnam. A key topic was always the multicultural make-up of today’s workforce.

Departure was bittersweet August 23 when i began the long flights home to the USA. Getting the unique chance to teach overseas and to learn so much while at the same time providing some stimulating food for thought for these students was a great experience. I will always cherish it. And when this group of 12 graduates I look forward to seeing them when they come to Boston to don the cap and gown and regalia for commencement. I recommended June vs February 2015.

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