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Developing Fundraising Skill in the CEO

Today, most nonprofits seek a CEO with fundraising experience. Generally, that experience is in the annual campaign and major gift fundraising.
But at times, the nonprofit Board hires a new CEO who has built successful special events. With the expectation that this new leader will apply that ability successfully.
My advice to Board search committees is, negotiate with the top candidates on how this will be applied in six month blocks of time from hire date. What is the hoped for result? What experience and qualities of the candidate can be best applied to get improved results?
Building on a solid track record has the best chance of success. Focusing on candidates who get the mission, who communicate with enthusiasm, who seem most engaging with other people…look for the skills that will have the best chance at success.
Then monitor progress along the way.

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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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Strategic Thinking III: No Money, No Mission

We want our Nonprofit Boards of Directors to be thinking strategically. The work of the board needs to be in the area of direction-setting for the Nonprofit. Operations are the staff’s business. Strategy is the Board’s.

Of course, we want the strategies to be sound. To fit with the mission. To make sense within the context of the Nonprofit Strategic Plan.

Some of this thinking (and doing) is in the realm of Fundraising. And kicking that thinking up a notch to the level of Development. Development assumes there’s some relationship building going on; that it’s not just about asking for money. What’s the driving purpose behind the ask? Somewhere in there needs to be the Nonprofit Mission.

So when we are seeking gifts for the Annual Fund (and most nonprofits have done that business this past November – December) we’re letting our donors know what we’ve been delivering, and further what needs to be delivered in the coming months. And years.

Doing this smartly depends on strategic thinking. Beyond today. And always in terms of the folks the Nonprofit is serving. So when we’re going for Money for the Mission, it’s all about the people we serve. The Nonprofit itself is a tool to the end we’re seeking.

When our donors see we get that and we communicate that sense of purpose, they will dig a little deeper.

So the Nonprofit Board is thinking and acting Strategically. I don’t know how else the work gets done.

Do you?

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Social Media for the Nonprofit Community: How to Assess All the Options?

Some of you may be familiar with Ken Burnett and his book, Relationship Fundraising (2nd. Ed., Jossey Bass, 2002) which I vamp shamelessly to my clients and my students in my marketing and fundraising classes at Northeastern. A fine book. If you raise money for a living, you want a copy by your side. Particularly his Essential Foundations of Fundraising: 28 bullet points that are quick, helpful reminders of important basics to fundraising best practice.
For example: “Don’t just ask people to give.”
It’s about the relationship first.

And it was written some years before the advent of the Social Media movement.  Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. YouTube. Pinterest. And lots lots more.

Most successful development professionals in the world of nonprofits get the concept of Relationships. Many of us are familiar with the teachings of Ken Burnett. And of course Kay Sprinkel Grace, the indefatigable giver of workshops on great boards and great fundraising.

Now all of this has a new level of complexity with the advent of Social Media. Where does it fit? Recently, I mentioned Debra Askanase who tweets as @askdebra and whose Community Organizer 2.0 is helping nonprofits get into focus with Social Media. Clearly, one size does not fit all. Each of us can apply the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) Goals process to Social Media as part of a well-thought-out marketing strategy for our nonprofit organization.

A smart fellow I rely on for advice and guidance in this area is Bob Cargill, who Tweets as @CargillCreative and whose blog at www.anewmarketingcommentator.com is a great source of current…and I mean immediate….thinking on application of Social Media in a variety of work and other settings.  I  recommend even if you aren’t a twitterati at the moment, that you sign up for Twitter and follow Bob.  Within a week you will have been linked to loads of thought leaders in Social Media and begin to formulate your own perspective on how you will apply these tools to your nonprofit.  Among other things, Bob very generously speaks with my nonprofit marketing classes at Northeastern University, and co-hosts a tweet-up in Sudbury MA you might want to know about, and will learn about if you follow Bob.

The idea is to identify bright communicators and network mavens who have something of value to share on the subject. This will help you determine where you want to go with Social Media.  It’ll provide a new layer of potential for your relationship fundraising efforts.

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Building Fundraising Relationships

The Essence of Effective Fundraising, according to Ken Burnett (Relationship Fundraising, Jossey-Bass, c 2002), is the concept of Relationship. A fundamental of sound fundraising practice is that “people give to people.”  The degree to which your nonprofit organization gets at Relationship building is a measure of future effectiveness at raising money for your mission.

On pages 28 and 29 of his seminal book Relationship Fundraising, Mr Burnett offers 28 bulleted points for practitioners to keep in mind.  Among his points is this: “Fundraisers need to be able to see things through their donors’ eyes.”  Part of the process of engaging board members in the process of raising money for mission is to get them talking face-to-face with donors.  And I mean people who are already committed to giving to your cause.  These are the folks in your donor database who are giving to your annual campaign.  Bringing the Development Committee together to review the list before the next campaign to identify individuals they know, and to get board members asking for renewed gifts from people already giving to you is a good way to engage your volunteers in the process of raising money for your nonprofit’s purpose.

And this is very different from prospecting for new donors.  You are asking your volunteers to get involved in asking experienced donors to renew their gift.  To increase their gift a bit over what they donated the previous year.  Instituting this process at your nonprofit engages your board in gift renewal. Gets them used to and comfortable with asking.

We know that there are individuals on the board who are not comfortable with asking for money. This, involving the board in the renewal process can help take the reluctance away. And it opens the door for a conversation about why the donor gives, and then, in response, why the board member is also a donor and gives.  They get to share their thinking about what’s important about the nonprofit. Its mission. Its raison d’etre. And out of this conversation can come a relationship, which helps cement the connection to mission.

Another of Ken Burnett’s 28 points is great fundraising is sharing. For sharing to occur, there needs to be some dialogue.  A chance for a connection to be made. This all serves to grow the campaign, to reduce donor attrition.  Getting members of your nonprofit board involved in the annual fund ask process helps build your potential to raise more money.

This is how successful nonprofit organizations grow their potential to extend the reach of mission.

Make the potential for strengthened relationships part of your annual appeal.

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