Monday, March 29, 2010

Stuck on Nonprofit Goals?

Does your nonprofit struggle with setting goals? Next time you embark on a goal setting exercise, consider adopting the following four universal nonprofit needs as a framework:

1. Create great mission outcomes
2. Develop leadership
3. Provide resources to create great mission outcomes
4. Develop realistic future strategies to do more of the above

You can use these goals to build a strategic planning session. And, you can also use them to measure your current status with the following.

Where do you stand on each? To find out, use this quick exercise at your next board meeting. On the 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the highest, ask your board members to privately rank your organization’s achievement of these goals by placing a number of an index card you distribute for each area. Collect the card and post the results. Discuss: What reactions do you have to our results? What do our ranking tell us about what we need to do next? Are we investing in the right priorities? Do we invest adequate time on them?

For more reading on the topic of creating successful nonprofits, see: Karen’s Ten Steps to Create a World-Class Program.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Use Your Vision to Find Untapped Resources

The March 22 edition of Philanthropy Journal featured an article with the headline, Business partnerships seen boosting nonprofit causes. But, how do nonprofits identify the most appropriate partnerships? They can start by turning to their vision statements.

A well-written vision statement will have a community focus, that is, instead of speaking to how the organization will be seen – e.g., as the best, most successful, well recognized, etc. – it points to the impact it promises to make in the community. Most organizations have vision statements that actually reflect several such strategic impacts. For instance, a senior care facility might have a vision that commits to providing a warm, caring and safe environment where seniors requiring some level of outside support are able to spend their days living with dignity and respect at their full potential. In this case, the strategic impacts are 1) providing a warm, caring and safe environment for seniors; 2) helping seniors that require some level of outside support; and, 3) ensuring that these seniors have the opportunity to live to their fullest potential with dignity and respect.

Begin by identifying the strategic impacts in your vision statement. Then, for each, brainstorm those businesses or institutions that might also be interested in, or would benefit from, having a similar impact. In our example, those that might be interested in warm, caring and safe environments could include the police, security companies, other senior care facilities, real estate developers, families facing the need to find somewhere to place a loved one, families that had a bad experience when placing a loved one and who don’t want anyone else to go through something similar, doctors that know that their older patients do better – live longer and healthier – in such environments, nurses, home health companies, those that run training programs for nurses aides, and so on. Stretch. Get creative when listing possibilities.

After you have identified as many broad categories as possible for each strategic impact, determine which have the greatest capability to serve as a good strategic partner and/or to provide resources to your organization. Plug each of these types of businesses into a search engine such as Google, along with “vision” or “vision statement” and the words that make up your strategic intent. What will return are the specific businesses that share your beliefs, concerns and commitment. You now have several entities to approach and a common bond from which to start a conversation.

Avoid going in with hand outstretched. Research what their needs are and ask for an appointment to discuss how you might help each other accomplish your shared vision. Focus on advice – not money – at least at the beginning. People are almost always willing to offer intellectual capital. That often leads to money or gifts in kind however once they get to know your organization and become invested in it. In any case, your organization has successfully begun the important process of community engagement. That will bring its own rewards (the subject of another blog!).

Thanks to my colleague Steve Bowman of Conscious Governance in Australia for generously sharing this concept.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Karen’s Facts of Life about Money

Do you need more cash for your nonprofit? Nonprofit leaders always answer yes to that question. This month’s Added Value, a monthly newsletter for nonprofits, contains a dozen facts about nonprofit money. Here are two from the lead article:

3. Know Thy Sources
Individual contributions are fabulous because of their flexibility, but
the majority of nonprofit income year-to-year is earned income. Action: Know the sources of your organization's income and how they compare to nonprofits in general (see Where Do Nonprofits Derive Funding? and Where Do Nonprofits, Except Healthcare, Derive Funding?) This knowledge will help you to make faster and more effective decisions about resource development.

10. Easy Money
Along the way, you will obtain some easy money. Easy money is an exception to the rule -that proves the rule. After you win at the easy money cash machine, avoid lingering around it for another hit. Too many organizations waste resources trying to get easy money sources to produce again. True opportunities follow consistent and proven preparations. Action: Undertake consistent actions to increase your income from sources that consistently provide nonprofit income.

For the rest click here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Want More Donors? Create More Philanthropists

Most people think philanthropists are Capital P Philanthropists. Capital P Philanthropists include people born with last names like Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, Buffett and Gates. Most people associate philanthropy with people who give a series of large gifts. Since your donors don’t bear these last names or related assets, they do not consider themselves philanthropists. Consequently, they fail to see their personal commitment to lifetime giving and the philanthropic patterns in their lives.

A philanthropist is “someone who makes charitable donations intended to increase human well-being.” Therefore, the mother who drops off a can of food at your food bank to increase the well-being of another mother is a philanthropist. The student who donates community service hours for the betterment of his hometown is a philanthropist. So is the father who sends in an extra $10 for a scholarship so his child’s classmate can attend the field trip. Also on your list of philanthropists, include the woman who has made a habit out of giving to others, including designating your organization in her will. Without your help, she will never appreciate that she is a philanthropist. Finally, include yourself because you give to increase human welfare.

Start by calling your supporters philanthropists, especially those who give multiple gifts. Help people who give to your organization including time, talent and money-- to see their acts as lifetime habits instead isolated events. Help people to connect the dots in their lives. It will support their future giving--because giving reflects who they are.

One small way to help your philanthropists to see themselves as philanthropists is to thank them for their gifts. To get started and to refresh your expressions of gratitude, try any and all of the ideas found in 20 Ways to Say Thanks.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Growing your own talent

Many non-profits lament the fact that there are not enough fundraising professionals in their local area and that attracting talent to their organization is difficult. I challenge this by asking "are you willing to invest in the position and the person you bring on board?"

I see many aspiring up and comers leave the profession because organizations feel they don't have the funds to invest in their professional development. If someone has the qualities you are looking for, is passionate about your cause but lacks experience, consider engaging a consultant to be their mentor. The consultant can tailor the learning experience to fill in the knowledge gaps. You may argue that sending them to conferences and workshops is cheaper, but the ability of the consultant to customize will actually provide a better return on investment. The result will be a more confident and knowledgeable fundraiser.

Invest also in the tools needed for effective fundraising - a database, a laptop computer and a smartphone. That way your fundraiser is not chained to their desk when they should be out meeting with donors.

Laura Mikuska
Fund Development and Event Specialists

Monday, March 8, 2010

Very Good Services and Organizations

Saturday, I stopped by the local vitamin store to buy refills of two supplements. I handed the clerk the bottles and said, “I'd like one each of these, please.”

He came back a few minutes later with new bottles. As he rang them up, he showed me one of them, “These are not very good. We have much better. “

After that opener, I expected to be offered a selection of superior products,
Instead, he took my plastic and said, “That’s $21.32. Debit or credit?”

I entered the store a satisfied customer; I left perplexed. Why would he sell something that was “not very good?”

Nonprofit take away: In any way, do we tell our donors, customers or clients that “we” or “our services” are not very good?” Or instead, do we frame lesser services, like the free class, the mini-play or the initial session as entry points? High esteem draws others and their resources to you. If you are interested in building your nonprofit’s esteem and thinking more about how you explain your services, see 12 Tickets to Healthy Nonprofit Esteem.

Enlarge your circle and define opportunities to attract more volunteers

We often hear these days about the lack of volunteers in the non profit sector and program cutbacks and closures as a result. In the "good old days" not only did people feel it was their duty to help out, but we had a willing and ready volunteer workforce made up of women who did not work outside the home.

Times have changed dramatically and so must the way we treat and attract volunteers to our causes. What makes someone volunteer?
  • they like the people involved in the activity or cause
  • they have an opportunity to use their skills or to learn new ones
  • they want to have some fun!
How can we create better conditions to attract those volunteers?
  1. Ensure your vision is clearly and consistently articulated
  2. Help volunteers understand the role they play in achieving the vision
  3. Show them how the vision fits into the broader community needs
Linking the vision to broader community needs means you can cast a wider net beyond your obvious supporters. There may be people that are unaffected directly by your cause, yet see an opportunity to contribute to the community by using their skills and having some fun.

Clearly define volunteer roles and responsibilities in position descriptions so people know what they have signed up for. Then treat them as a vital part of the organization and you'll both reap the benefits. Get rid of the attitude that someone is "just a volunteer" by encouraging and expecting them to do the best they can at whatever they have been assigned.

Shifting your attitudes and enlarging your circle will allow you to attract and use your volunteers effectively - a win-win situation for everyone!

Laura Mikuska
Mikuska Group
Fund Development & Event Specialists

Thursday, March 4, 2010

in celebration of International Women's Day

On March 3rd, I attended The National Council for Research on Women's panel, From Turbulence to Transformation. Christine Grumm, President and CEO of the Women's Funding Network, shared this call to action:
I saw what money does for movement building. Women have been under-capitalized. This is the point in time for the women's movement to become capitalized. ...If this is a female economy, like the Harvard Business Review said, then let's see the money!
Jacki Zehner, philanthropist and Founding Partner of Circle Financial Group, added:
The world in which we are all liberated from gender roles is a safe and healthy and better world for all.
The following day, I attended the Global Fund for Women's event, Women hold the Solutions, featuring author Nicholas Kristof. He shared a wonderful analogy illustrating the short-sighted focus on the "scalability" of nonprofit programs: "Restaurants like McDonalds are infinitely scalable." But there are many small, local restaurants that are wonderful and very much about the owner and/or chef. The event also featured activist Pinar Ilkkaracan, of Women for Women's Human Rights in Turkey. She shared the following insights:
You can't work against honor crimes; you can empower women to work against honor crimes. Feminist analysis has taught us that all inequalities are interconnected.

What, Why & How Story Matters

My newest essay, What, Why & How Story Matters, is now posted at PhilanTopic. If you are interested in hearing and sharing stories from your donors, board members, colleagues, and clients, you will learn vital tips for recognizing and eliciting real stories.

It begins:
I fear the term "story" is being used so broadly as to render it meaningless.

Messages are not stories. Statements of belief and opinions are not stories. And, most of the time, answers to direct questions are not stories.

Many well-intentioned professionals are rushing out and thinking they are asking for stories, when they are not. What gets shared as a result of their efforts is often called story, even when it is not.

Click here to read the full post.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Toyota R Us

Recently, I had lunch with a local nonprofit leader. Earlier this year, her organization faced a crisis when one of their former employees was arrested. We compared that event and similar challenges at nonprofits to the recent Toyota recalls. Like Toyota, we must gather large public respect to advance our work. Like Toyota, we build our future on trust. Like Toyota, errors, lapses and missteps, violate that trust and can rock our foundation. Like Toyota, we need to respond to crisis (a time when a difficult decision must be made.)

Toyota Not R Us. We do not have to follow Toyota’s missteps. Nonprofits with a solid mission, vision and a clear understanding of their strategies —have the tools they need to respond to recalls, arrests and other crisis. These tools can answer questions like: how can we continue to best serve our customers in light of this incident? What does the public need to know? How do we avoid such events in the future? How can we communicate our plans to do so?

Mission, vision and clear strategy thinking are not only for blue-sky days. They are musts for days when our organizations are rocked by storms. These thinking tools help us to understand the actions we must take to weather the storms that are part of life. For a list of strategic questions to ask your board see