Friday, October 28, 2011

Proof: The Individual Donor Opportunity Door is Wide-open

Sally Part One

We were having drinks after the consulting conference. Sally asked what I did. (Not her real name, because even though this sounds like it is about Sally--it is not.)
“I help nonprofits earn sustainable income and with innovations.”
“You know,” Sally responded, “Teach for America does a really good job.” Sally went on to explain that before Teach for America, she and husband were forty-dollar givers.
“Forty dollar givers?” I asked, astounded and then quickly assuming that even though I understood what she met—I must not. Sally, as I had learned earlier in the day, is a successful consultant who worked for global name-brand clients. Earlier, she earned an MBA from Stanford and worked as a manager with for a large international consulting firm. Surely, Sally and her husband, who had to in my quick conservative estimate earned more than $100,000 per year, didn’t only give $40 a year at a time to a nonprofits?
Yes, she explained they did. In the past, when they were asked to write a check they wrote one for forty dollars. Now, with Teach for America, they were sponsoring a classroom for $5,000 a year. “It’s amazing, we get to touch all those lives and it only costs $5,000 and only about a 100 people a year do it.”
Sally represents one of thousands of people who are bright and earn a sizable income—and seek to make a difference. She represents someone who has never been asked and worse, never shown the path your nonprofit offers to making a difference.
Sally reminds us that the individual donor opportunity door is wide-open, as are the majority of the other six nonprofit income opportunity doors. This is why this story is not about Sally because it is about nonprofit leaders, like you, who are unsure about approaching the Sally’s you know. Are you neglecting to offer the Sally’s in your sphere of influence the opportunity to help you change lives? Are you assuming (like me) that educated people with means already understand philanthropy and are already doing their part? How might we reach, show and educate Sally about the opportunities she is missing?

Stay tuned for more about Sally. In my next piece, I will share how Teach For America helped Sally to become a $5,000 a year donor. -Karen Eber Davis

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Karen’s Ultimate Test: Is this a Good Plan?

We like to hike, especially as summer heat gives way to cool fall mornings. Sometimes we come to bridges. Stone bridges are good. Solid wood bridges are good. But open slat or rope or wobbly logs over swiftly moving creeks—not my favorite. Nonetheless, I will step upon them to cross if I can see that they will bring me to where I want to go… in advance.

Your plans should also let you “see” that you can reach your destination from where you are. With firm plans you can feel that the next step you take and each one after that will let you place your foot on something solid that leads you to your destination.

Can you in your minds eye see in advance how your plan gets you from here to there? How many of your plans, big and small, get you from here to there—in your mind's eye?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Planning, The Final Step Bridge Building

By far, the most complicated and most important step of planning is bridge building. The purpose of the bridge you will build is to get you from here to there. The bridge represents the steps you will take to move between these two spaces. A good bridge closes the gap between the two locations and it carries solid traffic. This is complex thinking. It involves concepts, making connections, identifying steps, estimating timing, using resources, testing ideas, and research. It involves eliminating good choices that do not work, coping with unknowns and not meeting everyone’s expectations. Throughout the planning process, hope is critical. You must believe that solid plans are possible and that the results will be worthwhile. Finally, good bridges and good plans are not built in a day or afternoon. Invest time and energy to create your bridge or plan from where you are now to your vision.
When it actually comes down to making “the plan” how do you organize the process so that nothing is overlooked?
(For more on the first two steps of planning, see my recent entries in this blog.)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Often Missed Step of Planning: Where You Are Now

My office is near U.S. 41 in Sarasota—the main commercial artery of the city. Along this corridor I have standard errands, both north and south. To save time, I run different errands en route to meetings depending if the meeting is north or south respectively. This plan saves gas, energy and waiting at stoplights. At your nonprofit, your plans will work best if you also know your starting place. This Where You Are Now is the second essential stage of good planning.

What does it mean to know where you are now? Knowing includes obvious items; your physical location, financial status and pending staff changes. It also includes subtle issues, like market conditions, a planning group’s comfort level with each other, and if you have the information you need to plan, etc. As an example of the last, last week a group of consultants planned what with a series of recorded teleconferences. We failed to make much progress until we determined that we had recorded the previous sessions—a needed piece of information.

Another component of Where You Are Now that is especially fruitful for experienced groups is information about other planning experiences your group completed. What was successful about them? Lacking? Do people have positive expectations about up-coming planning sessions? Was the fiscal piece strong or does it need additional effort? Identifying these or related issues is “knowing where you are now” and the second step in good planning.

What kinds of questions do you ask and answer when you look at your current situation as part of the planning process?

(For the first step of good planning read this entry: The Critical First Step of Income and Other Planning: Destination.)