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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Prepare the Annual Holiday Season Appeal to Donors

It’s time once again to consider the “something old, something new” that should go into our 2015 Annual Appeal.

Just for you: A few new 2015 twists on Annual Appeal practice:

For Starters: Time to get creative with copy in the first appeal? What’s the new take on your work that will capture your donors’ attention? Something that will motivate. That captures a sense of urgency. That tells the donor how you deliver hope. Short but powerful images that can’t be ignored.

  • Follow up. Now is the time to plan ahead. Four-to-six weeks after your initial Appeal, send a follow-up to selected segments of your list who didn’t respond first time around. Take a theme from the initial Appeal, and do a short update on it.
  • Second Appeal. Six months after your initial Appeal, go back to your donors with a new mission-related message, or a new story to tell that will get your supporters’ attention and motivate them to give again.
  • Stewardship. Put a “thank you” plan and system in place now that acknowledges gifts soon after they are received. Personalize the “thank you” to different degrees depending on amount of gift and the duration of relationship with the particular donor.
  • Communicate. Have a communication plan and system in place that keeps your donors informed on what’s happening at your Nonprofit that will be of interest. Consider a special, exclusive executive newsletter to donors with notes and observations from the CEO that give an insider perspective to what’s happening.
  • Always the Mission. All communication always features the Nonprofit mission.
  • In my estimation, these steps should produce a 10% or greater bump from your Annual Appeal. Track it. See what some revision of your practice can do for your Annual Appeal revenue.

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    NH Nonprofit Leadership Summit Big Hit

    Congratulations to Mike Ostrowski, Interim CEO NH Center for Nonprofits for the work of his team to present a topnotch conference. Jeanine Tousignant, VP of the Center’s Board, served as Master of Ceremonies.
    Steve Zimmerman, Spectrum Nonprofit Services, opened with “The Capacity to Endure.” His Six Key Questions starting with “What do our constituents need?” were provocative and can help a nonprofit establish and maintain a proper focus. Aren’t we in business to serve our primary customers? Those who need our service?
    Kim Klein of Klein and Roth Consulting followed with her stimulating talk: “Less is the New More.” The work to downsize government, cut taxes and leave more $ in the taxpayers pockets has resulted in more competition for the charitable dollar and not enough new dollar sources from all the tax savings to serve the needs of various client groups. Among other things, Kim contends that “public” schools are disappearing and raising more and more money in the community to cover more children’s programs that used to be paid for with tax dollars.
    Meanwhile, the top 1% accumulate more and more wealth while the rest of us stay stagnant.
    What is wrong with this picture?
    Some may argue that Kim is feeding a cultural war on the wealthiest Americans.
    The point truly is, there is minimal trickle down.
    And we’re in a rut…by many measures, the US is falling behind in its pursuit of happiness.
    Nonprofits discussed at table talk: What can we do?
    Results will be captured and reported back to NHCN members.
    Stay tuned!

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    Psychology of Change and Implications for Nonprofits

    Dan Gilbert gave a very popular TED talk: “The Psychology of Our Future” http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_you_are_always_changing?language=en.

    He cites studies of how much people think they changed over the past 10 years, and how much they will change in the coming 10 years.

    The findings are interesting: We actually change (including who is our best friend, what is our favorite music, what issues and nonprofits were/will be important to us) much more than we believe we will.

    The psychology of this phenomenon is important to grasp when talking to clients of our nonprofit and supporters of our nonprofit. Change happens. And will continue to happen. Are we prepared at our organization to deal with what comes our way?

    Nonprofit organizations go through strategic planning exercises. And then they think they are done. Planning is great at building a sense of shared values among a board and staff. But if we don’t also determine how we’ll implement the changes we just agreed to. And recognize that the constant going forward will be change…we won’t be ready to deal with what the future has in store for us.

    Check out the link to the Dan Gilbert video. Think how that applies to you. And to your organization. And next board meeting, let’s consider the issue and how we can deal with life going forward.

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    Never Say Die: The Importance of Persistent Mission Communication

    The Gallup survey of US confidence in the economy currently (stable) and future (wary) http://www.gallup.com/poll/184271/economic-confidence-index-level-masks-volatility.aspx?utm_source=ECONOMIC_CONFIDENCE& reflects what has been happening in Europe with Greece still on the brink of financial failure. How does the economic outlook in the US impact our fundraising prospects?
    Nonprofit leaders should maintain strong effort to connect with your stakeholders: The people who benefit from your mission directly and indirectly, the people who support your mission directly and indirectly. Work from a plan that will strengthen the bonds with individuals in your networks. Focus on people with the ability to deliver all manner of resources to energize the mission. The goodwill, future financial support, and contacts developed by networking during this period of economic uncertainty will be the silver lining to support your fundraising efforts.
    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 even in the shadow of economic uncertainty.
    The best place to start is a meeting of the board of directors, who must constantly stay mindful of their 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 experienced working 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, despite economic uncertainty.

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    Strategic Meetings for the Strategic Board

    Nonprofit boards struggle with quorum issues, which usually is an indicator of lack of motivation.
    Board members want to use their precious time effectively.
    Do they look forward to board meetings with eager anticipation? Or with foreboding?

    Take a few steps that will inject a bit of energy into the process:
    – Assure that each discussion item links to your strategic plan. How does it connect to where you’re going? If it doesn’t, why do you need to discuss it?
    – Assure that each item you’re discussing leads to something the board will need to act on. Or if not act on, that it ties to a policy of the nonprofit that’s clearly in the purview of the board and comes under the auspices of the board.
    – Executive, officer, and committee reports all should be submitted in writing a week prior to the board meeting so members have ample time to read them and bring any questions to the meeting. Member time should not be wasted by having members read reports that should have been read in advance of the meeting.
    – Allow time for what Chait, Ryan, and Taylor call ‘Generative Discussion.” I recommend that this be conversation time. Not Roberts Rules of Order time. When a member can come with data on a trend related to one of your strategic goals, present to the board and there can be some thoughtful and fun discussion about what’s happening in the world that may be impacting your community and what you may need to do in the future to prepare for it. This can be very stimulating. Not recommended every meeting. But a good “charge the batteries” opportunity for the board.
    The assumption should be that everyone’s time is too valuable to waste.
    Meetings are held only when board action is essential.
    Meetings start on time and only extend overtime with permission of those present.

    Check out The Board Chair’s Handbook from Board Source:

    Gayle Gifford’s blog post A Meeting Menu for the Board Chair on her website Cause & Effect

    Make your meetings Strategic!