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More Best Practice in Annual Appeal Follow-up

I hope 2013 will get off to a good start for you and your nonprofit.

Did your holiday season annual appeal do well? Was your 2012 campaign better than 2011? It’s not to soon to start looking at the numbers, comparing your results for the past three years. Hopefully, your results are in a database and you can track particular donors, their response each year, and maybe even trends by age, sex other demographics. This is good information to have…and maybe you have someone on your staff who loves to analyze numbers who will look for trends and bring that information to the team to discuss and figure what the trend is telling you. Don’t have such a geek on your team? There are lots of capable people around who will volunteer for you, or ably consult for you.

Database or no database, it’s time to follow-up with non-responders. Count on the fact that some of your donors may have overlooked you back in November and December when they were swamped with appeals from every nonprofit in kingdom come. But please don’t be discouraged! Following up on your year-end appeal is one of the best things you can do to generate additional income.
As you prepare this appeal to donors you haven’t heard from, remember these tips:

  • Remind them about your mission, and what your nonprofit is doing right now to serve the mission
  • Thank them for their past support
  • In a short paragraph, tell your donors about a recipient, or a member, or a subscriber to put a face on the value of your service

In your follow up, please do not make your nonprofit the focus. Shine the spotlight on your clients, the people who benefit from your purpose in life. Generally speaking, donors don’t respond well to “help! we just had our worst deficit!!” nor to “we’ll have to lay off staff”. Even in bad times, donors hear this variety of message as “do I want to support a failing organization?”

So…get cracking on that follow up. Be selective on whom you’ll reach out to. And if you’re ahead of the game and your appeal is already out the door, that’s great! Please write a note below, telling us how you do your follow up and the return you get. We’d like to learn from your experience!

Thanks for your attention. If I can be of any help in advising you on your fundraising approach, I’m just an e-mail or phone call away!

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Role of Board in Launch of Major Gift Program

Last week I wrote about fundamentals for Major Gift success:

  • Annual fund donor database with at least 20% renewal rate
  • A senior staff member who gets how Development works
  • A Development Committee with members who know and are connected to generous donors

If these three pieces are in place, you’re working from a base that can work for you.

And one of the key three is a Development Committee.  And if not that, a core of board members who have connections, who contribute to your annual fund, and advance your brand because they truly get the mission.  It’s entirely possible for a nonprofit to decide in 2012 that it wants to get to a Major Gift level and get very intentional about building resources (see bullets above) that will contribute to your first Major Gift campaign when you’re ready to go.  It might be 2015 or 2016 before you are ready.  But you can get there.  With a strong strategic platform to work from, the world will be your oyster.

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What’s Your Customer Saying?

Coming off recent posts with a marketing orientation, it’s time to focus on the nonprofit customer.

Who is the customer of your nonprofit organization?  It’s a good place to start to get clarity, so you, your board, your staff, your volunteers know who the customer is, know what the customer needs are, and how your group responds to those needs.

And to do this well, everyone needs to listen. The staff, the volunteers. Everyone.  EVERY. ONE.  So, from the executive director and the board chair all through the people charged with accomplishing the nonprofit mission: all are listening.  And what we all are hearing is important to capture. And respond.

the primary customers of the nonprofit are the people benefiting from the services provided. The theater subscribers. The kids enrolled in the Boys & Girls Club after-school program. The cancer patients being taken to their chemo and radiation therapy appointments.  It’s clear to all who the primary customer is, what this customer needs, and how we’re set up to meet those needs.

The supporting customers are those folks supporting the mission: stakeholders in the mission who donate, who volunteer who make it possible for the nonprofit to execute the mission: to deliver the essential service that’s provided.

How do we know we’re doing the best possible job we can?  We ask our customers. We design ways to gather information, the feedback that tells us if we’re on course or not. You can count on someone (at least one someone) to question the value of asking. It takes time. It takes use of some resources. Shouldn’t every available dollar go to our service? That’s a hard point to argue. But I urge you to counter the argument with: “How do we know we’re meeting the need we think we’re meeting if we don’t ask?  If we don’t listen to what our customer is saying?”

Just before writing this blog post, I read Micheal Stein’s “Internet Strategies for Nonprofit Sector.”  He’s good. He tweets as @mstein63. His latest post cited research by Convio, the fundraising database experts. He focused on step #4 of their ten steps to grow the constituent base (your donors): “segment your welcome messages.”  So in your communication with new donors, you tailor your message to the demographic and psychographic information you can collect so what you say has meaning to your donor: so it in a way reflects back what you hear them saying to you. This will help build a relationship. And donor loyalty.

It’s part of effective marketing strategy.  And if you’re thinking and behaving in this way, you’ll be many steps ahead of your competition.  Because all too many of your competitors are only thinking “outgoing.”  Not “incoming.”

You’ll be glad you did. Listen. To What Your Customer is Saying.

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Tribute & Memorial Gifts to Nonprofit Organizations

When Margie’s Mom passed away recently, she had an obituary in mind. And that obituary included a request: in lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Alzheimer’s Association. Margie has many friends, and I’m sure the Association will receive many contributions in memory of Lillian, Margie’s Mom.
This is a very common practice. As people deal with the death of a parent and have to make the necessary arrangements, there is a certain feeling among many people to have something good come from a personally sad situation. Maybe these hundreds or thousands of dollars will help a researcher find an answer that will help further forestall the ravages of Alzheimer’s.
Nonprofit organizations, particularly those with a mission related to health and fighting disease, should all have a program in place that makes it easy for the bereaved to honor the deceased’s memory with a tribute.
In addition to memorial gifts, many nonprofit organizations have a tribute or honor program so friends, users of the service, people who subscribe to your environmental newsletter, subscribers who buy tickets to your theater’s or performing art troupe’s events would like to use the celebration of a birthday or anniversary or graduation to pay tribute to a person you feel close to, don’t know what to buy as a gift, but know they are members of the Sierra Club, the Somerville Homeless Coalition, the American Repertory Theater, the Blue Ocean Society and would like to receive such a tribute.
These are good fundraising opportunities that can be used in a thoughtful, tasteful way that engender good feeling and bring in dollars to help you advance your mission.
If It’s The Results can be of help in initiating such a program, please be in touch.

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Creating Change from Spare Change

The various social media (Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, blogs, more) offer lots of ways to build out communications for community benefit (aka nonprofit) organizations. Remember when your group got started? Maybe it’s been around too long for current leaders (staff, board) to remember, but at some point there was something missing in the community. So, this is the USA, and we love to get together to right the wrong or forge the missing link or put on the show. So, we form a nonprofit and apply for tax exempt 501(c)(3) status.
And as our group grows, raising some money, making new friends, fighting the good fight, parameters take hold (federal/state/local law, by-laws, accounting standards, ethics, etc) and calcification sets in.
Of course, we need to play like good boys and girls and obey laws.
But we need to figure out how to keep that innovative, revolutionary spark kindled that was there at the outset. How can we overcome the needs of the bureaucracy to keep things as they are and get those creative juices flowing so we might achieve the impossible?
Here are a few things to keep some forward motion:

  • Commit to reaching out to bring new voices and ideas coming in.
  • Activate the commitment by using Twitter, Facebook, blogging.
  • Keep the rules of the road in mind, but loosen up the reins so there’s a free flow if ideas.

Identify allies on the board of directors who are open to the new. Who know change is the green energy source that helps attract the resources you need to make the mission a reality. Without energy, the mission is dead in the water.

Jordan Viator, writing for Connection Cafe (, quotes Seth Godin, a bright light on social media:

“Take a look at the top 100 twitter users in terms of followers. Remember, this is a free tool, one that people use to focus attention and galvanize action. What? None of them are non-profits. Not one as far as I can tell. Is the work you’re doing not important enough to follow, or is it (and I’m betting it is) paralysis in decision making in the face of change? Is there too much bureaucracy or too much fear to tell a compelling story in a transparent way? …..Where are the big charities, the urgent charities, the famous charities that face such timely needs and are in a hurry to make change? Very few of them have bothered to show up in a big way. The problem is same as the twitter resistance: The internet represents a change. It’s easy to buy more stamps and do more direct mail, scary to use a new technique…Please don’t tell me it’s about a lack of resources. The opportunities online are basically free, and if you don’t have a ton of volunteers happy to help you, then you’re not working on something important enough. The only reason not to turn this over to hordes of crowds eager to help you is that it means giving up total control and bureaucracy. Which is scary because it leads to change.”

So, what do you think? Is this ringing a bell for you?

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