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Beyond the Annual Appeal: The Extra Mile Campaign

Many nonprofits are in the midst of organizing the annual holiday appeal now. 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 for early 2017. Plan to identify donors who did gave, perhaps early on in your campaign, and ask these donors to 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 the people who benefit from the services you provide.

You will have thanked your donors at least once for their recent annual appeal gift. It’s a good idea to start the extra 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 clients who need to be served 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.

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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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In Case You Missed It: Highlights from Development Workshop

I enjoyed my morning at the Non-Profit Collaborative Fundraising Conference at Mt Wachusett Community College today. I thought the kick-off panel facilitated by Robin Duncan, VP of Marketing & Public Relations at Mt Wachusett was rich with great ideas on making a nonprofit development program work. Joseph Stiso, Associate VP for Development Planning at the college was both humorous and spot-on with his tips on building a program through collaboration. He knows his networking.
I welcomed the opportunity to deliver my workshop: Raising Money for a Purpose: Nuts and Bolts of a Development Plan. Here are a few highlights:
1. Engage the Board. If there isn’t a Development Committee in place, work with the Board chair to identify at least two members who will work with staff on shaping the strategy part of the plan.
2. Set a Deadline for Plan Creation Pick a date about three months out to complete the work. If there are Board meetings in the intervening time, report on progress each time.
3. Bring Final Plan to Board for Review The work group’s product should come to the Board for discussion and, ultimately, approval. If it needs a tweak here and there, so be it.
4. Design Plan in Stages Make sure you don’t try to do too much all at once. Stage the work over time. Organize the strategies and objectives over a timeline so new efforts can be done in digestible gulps. Chug-a-lug is not a nourishing way to go.
For more, see some of my previous posts on creating a Development Plan as well as Board development.

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Beyond the Strategic Plan: Revenue Generation that Works

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.

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First Steps Toward Major Gift Fundraising

Nonprofit organizations working to move beyond start-up to full-fledged operation find themselves with lots of unanswered questions.  And many of those questions relate to fundraising.  What’s the best way for us to raise money for our cause?  Whom do we ask?  How do we best make our case? Why is this so much tougher than we thought when we first incorporated and got our IRS tax-exempt status?

Yes.  It’s not easy being green.  Which is why so many newly-formed nonprofits struggle and many get abandoned.  We read about fabulous campaigns like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and their hugely successful $500 million campaign for their Art of the Americas wing. And then there’s the humongous Pan Mass Challenge that raises multi-millions each year for the Jimmy Fund, a Boston-based organization raising money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  So some of us get stars in our eyes from all this huge success and take various stabs at the “Big Show” only to find it ain’t at all easy.

So what are we to do?   Well, it starts with a good plan and then with fabulous execution.  That’s all. Simple as that.

To get going, here are some steps I recommend:

  • Outline a strategic plan that’s build on a well-articulated mission
  • Understand the demographics of the people we’re helping (primary customers) and the people who’ll help us (supporting customers)
  • Draw up a five-year fundraising plan that anticipates reasonable growth, year-to-year
  • Fundamental to that fundraising plan:
  1.    Preparing a donor prospect list and outline our donor database
  2.    Develop an annual appeal to our prospects, anticipating growth of the donor base year-to-year
  3.    Identify one or two special events we feel will generate growing net revenue each year
  4.    Begin to form a development committee, drawing from our Board and outside volunteers who “get” fundraising
  5.    Expect by Year 5 that we’ll be ready to launch a major gift campaign that will fill a big unmet need of our customer base

It will take good organization, a commitment to top-notch execution, to make this work.  Build it from the ground up.  If you can demonstrate the value you bring to those who require your services, and the community sees the value in what you’re up to, they’ll reach for their wallets and checkbooks and credit cards to help make this vision reality.  But you’ll have to build it, step-by-step, to realize it.

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