The Dating Game

The_Dating_GameFact: Fundraising is about building relationships. This fact got me thinking about how dating is building a relationship. A basic logic sequence goes like this; since A is B, and B is C, then A is C. So therefore, fundraising is like dating. Here’s the analogy:

Blind Date – This donor donated because a friend pressured them and probably won’t make another one.

The One Night Stand – This donor got drunk at a gala, bought an auction item, and hopes the organization doesn’t call them again.

First Date – This donor made an initial donation because they have an interest in the mission of the organization.

Going Steady – This donor donates monthly through your organization’s online portal.

Marriage –This is a donor who is invested in your organization to have and to hold, through sickness and in health.

Separation – This donor is on your Last Year But Not This Year (LYBNTY) list that you would love to have them come back.

Divorce – This donor is on your lapsed donor list, that leaves you shaking your head wondering what went wrong.

As a small shop nonprofit, you need your Board of Directors to play matchmaker and help you to build relationships. Still need help? Contact me at 407.460.5292 or I can help.

Who’s on your board?

Most small nonprofits that I know have difficulty recruiting for their board of directors. When the founder is still the executive leader and/or the organization is in the startup phase, often board members are friends. That’s a great way to start, of course. How do you get beyond that start up phase? Who do you recruit?

boardsource logo

Every board is different. There is no set formula. Board Source has a good resource for putting together a board matrix. A good board mix would have a variety of skill set, age, ethnicity. A good mixture of board members makes for better over governance. Diversity of members makes for unique perspectives. Recruitment-Matrix

Who do you want on your board? Here are some suggestions on who to look for:

  • A lawyer can give you advice on contracts, employee or other legal issues.
  • An accountant can be useful to serve as treasurer.
  • A wealth manager or banker can steer you in the right director for investment purposes and contacts in the community.
  • A marketer or public relations professional is very valuable for putting together a communication and marketing plan.
  • A person who has expertise in your program. For example, if you are a health based nonprofit, look for a doctor. If you are education focused, recruit a teacher.

What you don’t want are boards members who:

  • Join to pad their resume. They will flame out.
  • Join just because you throw a good party and are in it for the social life. Once the parties gone, they will be too.
  • Are talked into joining, or worst coerced. Again, expect flame out syndrome.
  • Are members of many other boards. Their time, attention and financial support will be spread too thin.

If you need figuring out who you should be recruiting, call me for a free consultation.

End of the Year Appeal? But it’s still summer!

It may be hot and steaming outside, but it is only 16 weeks until Thanksgiving, November 23, 2017. Thanksgiving weekend is when a significant amount of people make their end of the year giving decisions. Which means they need to have your annual appeal in their hands, or your nonprofit might get left out. Past experience has taught me to plan far in advance, starting the appeal collateral production process at least 10 weeks out, to meet this important deadline. Let me explain by working the time frame process backwards.

Let’s break it down:

EOY Appeal CollateralA bulk mail can take 7-10 days to be processed at the post office. To get that piece of mail into the potential donor’s hands before November 22 (Wednesday before Thanksgiving), you need to get your mail trays to the post office mail before November 13.

Two Weeks

Do you use volunteers to fold and label and to save money? Better work in a couple days for volunteer labor. This is probably your biggest mailing piece of the year, so you are going to need lots of hands on deck. Many hands make for light work is my mantra. One organization I worked for used the local church ladies’ circles, but they only worked on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My volunteer labor needs had to accommodate their Wednesday mahjong and Friday tennis schedules. Or does your printing company handle the folding, stuffing and labeling? Lucky you! But still build in a couple days to get that tasked finished.

Speaking of printers, they need production time of at least couple days turnaround time for the project’s actual printing. My printer, after receiving my files, always made a mock up that needed to get final approval of an okay to print. What if that email proof arrives in your inbox late in the afternoon, when you were out making a donor visit, or your Executive Director is out on vacation? Whose final okay is needed? Better build in an extra day for this type of contingency. What if the proof came out all wrong? And there needs to be a correction? Oh my! Better build in another day to your time frame. And of course, the printer is closed on weekends.

Four Weeks

Your time frame in now worked backwards into October.

Is your piece created in house? If you are a small shop, probably. If you are lucky you have a PR Firm who creates content. A seemly easy two-page letter of request content may go through a dozen revisions (over two or three weeks). The program director may want to substitute the statistic, or the ED changes her mind on the levels of giving included in the ask. I also suggest handing the “final draft” to someone who has never seen previous versions, to get a once over for typos.

Is your layout person in house or external? Are you using a volunteer Creative Suites expert? Add in another two to three days for delays.

Six Weeks

Are you including a response envelope? Make it easy for donors to give by including an envelope for them to send in their checks. Is your response envelope up to date? Does it need revisions? Anticipate another delay. What? You don’t have one? Create one. Any other collateral material? Will you be adding a program insert? Add another week to production time.

Your new board chair has mandated a cost control policy of requiring at least two quotes for all outsourced expenses. Add another couple of days to get quotes back.

What about the story? A client story of impact is the best way to get across your mission. You will want to add at least one picture, which may mean you need to make arrangements for a photo shoot.

Eight Weeks

It’s now September. What about the database? Who will you be mailing this appeal to? How clean is your database? Have you made sure to keep it updated? How far back in time will you go? Three years? Five years?  Are you going to purchase mailing lists to acquire new donors? Will you be doing an A/B test? An A/B test is where you do two separate mailings with two different messaging to see which message or delivery method is most effective.  Will you be doing a separate appeal to major donors? Your answers can impact the messaging and or scope of the project.

Ten Weeks

Gather your team together for a concept design session to decide which program or outcome this appeal will focus. Decide what will best represent your mission. Having the right direction will make the process go a lot smoother.

Overwhelmed? Don’t be, call me. I can help.

Where should you be networking?

I was recently asked by my mentee, where should she be networking?

I’m a joiner. I enjoy getting involved with organizations to meet new people and, yes, to network. My advice is to be strategic in which organizations you become actively involved. Most of us have limited time, so focus your activities.

  1. Join one organization that is specifically tied to your industry. For me this organization is the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Other examples in the nonprofit sector would include Grant Professionals Network, Young Nonprofit Professionals, or Charitable Gift etc. Not only will you gain valuable educational experiences but exposure to like-minded individuals. Leadership roles in these kind of organizations means that you are serious about your career. Others in this group maybe on the lower level tier in their organizations today, but will be the executive leaders tomorrow.
  2.  Join one organization that has the potential for a wide range of connections in your community. Good examples of this would be the local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, or Kiwanis or League of Women Voters. Many organization such as these offer discounts to members on everything from office supplies to continuing education. Chamber’s often have leads groups which can put you in direct contact with other professionals in the area for networking purposes.
  3. Join an organization whose mission focuses on a cause you are passionate about. For me that cause has historically revolved around my children’s extracurricular activities, but for you, it might be your church group or the local LGBT activists.

13775996_1223076134391245_4250771107335501275_nUse the “date before you mate” concept, meaning you should visit an organization several times before making a commitment to join. Make sure the group values are in alignment with your own. When you do join, volunteer for some task. This can be anything from serving on a committee to picking up bagels. Taking on a leadership role doesn’t necessarily mean you need to volunteer to be on the executive board straight off. Lead with purpose.

I have found you get what you put into a networking situation. Follow up with those business cards, invite them to join your LinkedIn network, and invite them to coffee. Build a relationship. It takes a lot of time to network, but it pays off in big ways when the community knows and likes you! People like to do business with people they like and trust.

Networking is more than just showing up at an event. Networking is an exchange of information or services to develop mutually beneficial relationships. Your aim should be on building relationships, not just gathering business cards. Get to know people. Networking should be based on the question “How can I help?” and not with “What can I get?”.

In conclusion, be strategic in where you spend your precious time and built relationship in your network.

#nonprofitgladiator #networkingpro

Is your mission getting creepy?

Sweet Spot revisedKeeping an organization true to mission can be one of the most challenging task an organization faces. Mission is at the very core of an organization and should guide all decisions. An organization should review their mission statement annually and revised as part of the strategic planning every 3-5 years. This regular review guards the organization from having mission creep. The sweet spot of an organization is that intersection of the overarching needs of society, the organization’s problem-solving mission and what donors are willing to fund. Mission creep occurs when programs are expanded beyond the original goals of the mission and typically happens when funding is tight.

Every nonprofit faces the double-edged sword of accountability and autonomy. Nonprofits are accountable to the funders for problem-solving outcomes, yet still have the need to be true to the mission goals. There is the need for money, and there is the desire to stay true to the mission. Temptation occurs when a new opportunity presents itself, and the nonprofit finds itself seduced by the lull of money. It is hard to say no to funders who have money, but come with an agenda. An organization can chase money by creating programs that a donor wants to support. Unfortunately, such programmatic reach can spread thin an already overly worked staff. The need for money can force an organization to take on work that falls outside of mission focus.

To stay focused and guard against mission creep, new programs need to be evaluated according to organization’s values that resulted from the strategic planning process. Planned strategic growth is different from mission creep. A change in mission goals may not always be negative. The life cycle of an organization that is in decline calls for efforts to generate rebirth. An organization may need to make changes to keep their organization alive. Change is a process that can sometimes be painful, but can turn out to be transformative. Mission realignment might involve new constituencies, programs or geographic locations.

The important thing is to create a mission statement and stated values in the strategic plan that are achievable and provide clear parameters.  By providing a clear picture of purpose and goals, a strong mission statement will engage and energize stakeholders, donors, clients and staff. Just keep it succinct so people can remember it.

Every organization needs to make decision on what to move forward on and what to abandon. Just say “no” to funding that doesn’t align. Say “yes” to what will take the organization to the next level.

2017 Nonprofit Compensation Report

2017centralfloridanonprofitcompensationandbenefitsslideshow-170630140609-page-001The Edyth Bush Institute of Nonprofit Management and Leadership at Rollins College has rolled out the 2017 Central Florida Nonprofit Benefits and Compensation Report. This report summarizes information gleaned from surveys of 161 local nonprofit organizations from 7 Florida counties: Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia. Churches, schools, colleges/ universities, hospitals and private non-operating foundations were excluded to prevent large organization skewing the data. The median operating budget is $1,222,312.

The report reveals some positive facets of the sector here in Central Florida:

  • The industry is showing growth.
  • The Nonprofit sector appears to be stable. Unfortunately, the nonprofit sector is often the last of economic sectors to recover after a recession.
  • Significant addition of professional jobs.
  • The size of organizations are growing.
  • Reported salaries have increased above the cost of living.
  • More retirement benefits are offered.

The report also reveals improvements still to be made:

  • Gender equality – Sixty-three percent of the participating organization’s executive directors are female; 37 percent are male. On average male CEO/EDs earn significantly higher pay than females.
  • Retention – Organizations reported 20% staff turnover of full time and part-time staff.
  • Providing a living wage – The report contains details on the compensation (base pay and total compensation) for 147 positions with several variables, including organizations’ annual expenses, field of service and total number of employees.

I’m not concerned that an average executive director is making $109,077. They work hard managing the entire organization fundraising, human resources, strategic planning, programs and representing the organization to the general public. I continue to be disturbed that for women the pay is less. For the female ED’s the pay 11% less than male counterpoints. Granted gender inequality is seen across all industries, but more needs to be done.

Thank you to Fairwinds Credit Union for sponsoring the report. This report is a useful tool for all nonprofits in the Central Florida area. To download your copy, visit the Edyth Bush Institute. It’s free! While there check out all the classes and workshops available. Also check out their Nonprofit Consultants Directory. I’m listed. Please call me if I can be of assistance to your nonprofit.


Unicorn or Gladiator

cornify-unicorns-rainbowsI recently saw another reference to fundraisers being the unicorns of the nonprofit sector, because we are magical in our efforts to make the world a better place. Seriously? There are otherwise intelligent Board of Directors and Executive Directors that actually believe that fundraisers create money out of thin air like magic. Fundraisers are not mythical creatures that sprinkle pixie dust. Fundraisers are not cute fluffy creatures with magical cones on their head and farts of rainbows.

Fundraisers are bad ass. Fundraisers work hard. We train. We practice. We hone our skills. We take hard knocks, get up, brush ourselves off and get back into the fight. We are champions. We are gladiators fiercely advocating for the charities we represent. I do use my gifts and talents to make the world a better place. My armor may be lipstick and a string of pearls, but putting them on provides me with the emotional fortitude to take on the world. Is that so different from the metal coverings formerly worn by soldiers or warriors to protect their bodies in battle? defines “gladiator” as a noun from the Latin gladiātor, equivalent to gladi(us) sword.

1.(in ancient Rome) a person, often a slave or captive, who was armed with a sword or other weapon and compelled to fight to the death in a public arena against another person or a wild animal, for the entertainment of the spectators.

2. a person who engages in a fight or controversy.

3. a prizefighter.

While I don’t want to extend this analogy to fighting to the death, I do want to fight for the prize of financial stability for the organizations I represent. I am proud to be a professional fundraiser. I am a gladiator fiercely advocating to make the world a better place.