Friday, March 30, 2012

For Lent or For Any Other Cause: Give up the Poor-Us-Nonprofit-Mentality

One of our all time great purchases was from a yard sale. It is a huge oriental rug (240 knots per square inch) that fit the living room in our new home. It cost $500 with the mat. Later, we had it appraised for $8,000. Over the 20 years we’ve owned it, we’ve paid more to insure it than it cost. Today, we’re buying a new house and the rug doesn’t fit. We visited a local rug dealer asking about a trade-in. He suggested we donate it. The dealer runs a for-profit. He wasn’t in the position to offer us a tax deduction, but you, dear nonprofit leader, can.

Before you bemoan the challenges you face because you are a nonprofit, remember the benefits that come with being who you are. Claim them, leverage them, and be strong.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Book Review: Raise More Money from Your Business Community

“We don’t have a chance to earn corporate support,” Tony complains, “We don’t have a single corporate headquarters in our region.” If you think like Tony, get ready to change your opinion. No matter if your nonprofit serves in a major city, or rural area without a single corporate headquarters for miles, you can raise funds from businesses. Lysakowski’s book, Raise More Money from Your Business Community, will help you to develop a systematic effort to partner with big and small businesses to raise money to meet your mission and to improve your community.

One extremely valuable area of Raise More Money is Lysakowski’s common sense suggestions on meeting and interacting with the business community that are scattered throughout the text. Since getting started is often the most difficult step in fundraising, you will find Lysakowski’s practical, doable advice helpful. She suggests, for example, working with chamber of commences and identifying potential opportunities including “unglamorous partners” like the millionaire who owns the car wash.

This book is excellent for nonprofit organizations that flounder in the business development area and those who believe little is possible, like Tony, whose community offers no corporate headquarters. If your goal is cause marketing and sponsorships, like the Statute of Liberty-American Express experience, follow Lysakowski’s suggestions to enhance your journey to these kinds of relationships. By interacting with businesses, you will have the opportunity to see new possibilities to enhance your nonprofit, businesses, and your community.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Top 10 Things Your Donors Need to Hear From You

1. Thank you.
2. We see you as more than a just as a fat wallet.
3. We want to help you to achieve your hopes and dreams.
4. We are interested in what you want but also what the nonprofits needs. We will work to find ways to honor both needs in our relationship.
5. We will not take advantage of our relationship with you. This non-profit is worthy of your trust.
6. We respect you.
7. The paperwork will be completed promptly. You will have what you need for your taxes.
8. We will let you know that your gift was used as you requested and how it helped.
9. We still care about you after you give us a gift.
10. Thank you.

What would you add to this list? What are other key messages in regards to non-profit funding? How do you plan to make sure you communicate these critical messages to your donors and potential donors in words and actions? How do these contribute to a culture of philanthropy?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Is a Strong Conflict of Interest Policy Enough? A Morality Play, Act I

The University of Miami and its president Donna Shalala got an early but ugly Valentine on February 13 when the community woke up to a front-page article in the Miami Herald entitled, “Shalala’s side job stirs up concerns.” It turns out that Dr. Shalala has been sitting on two corporate boards with her trustees’ blessing. The fact that she is making for her board service more than $360,000 each year – on top of her greater than $1 million annual salary from the university – in a time of upset with the One Percent wasn’t the biggest shock. It was that the corporations are owned by university trustees.

First, I must say that I have always held Dr. Shalala in the highest regard and I trust that her ethical standards and those of her trustees Roger Medel (Mednax) and Stuart Miller (Lennar) are above reproach. I’m confident, too, that all three organizations involved here have strict conflict of interest policies to which they adhere. But that doesn’t mean that those who care about the University of Miami shouldn’t be apprehensive.

When working with clients I always suggest that the litmus test for any decision is how you will feel if you wake up one morning to find the resulting situation on the front page of the newspaper. Tuesday the 13th, it was. And the response wasn’t pretty, if the Herald’s Flashpoint comments on the Opinion page were indicative. This is a private university that relies on big donations, a number of which Dr. Shalala has personally influenced. The university is just kicking-off a $1.6 billion – yes, with a “b” – campaign. I have to wonder if this publicity won’t, at least in the short term, negatively affect charitable giving and consequently what the university can offer.

I worry about the independence of a board where there is so much overlap of leadership. The university and the community are not well served if, even at a subconscious level, trustees and/or the university president hold back from sharing their most creative ideas or raising challenges and critical issues – responsibilities inherent in good governance – because they are afraid that showing vulnerability in one setting will impact their role in another. Moreover, any other trustee who hesitates to speak his/her mind because s/he isn’t part of a perceived inner circle ultimately cheats the university of his/her best efforts.

A related concern is that by going back to the same small group of community leaders to sit on so many of our boards, we are getting only one, relatively homogeneous view of what the community needs. While presumably an intelligent view, it is still an insular one. More diversity on our boards could only benefit the university and the community as a whole.

I can appreciate why any CEO would want someone of Dr. Shalala’s caliber on his/her board. But she doesn’t have to sit on a board to offer insights. If she is going to sit on a board, she’d be wise to steer clear of the boards of her own trustees. The University of Miami Board of Trustees should insist on this. After all, that group is responsible for ensuring the health of the university. It can’t risk the loss of independence, diverse thought or potential donations.

The university has been rather quiet about this flap. Time will tell what the fallout might be. But in my mind the situation serves as a morality play for other organizations. Having a conflict of interest statement is an important first step. But in scientific terms, while necessary it is not sufficient.

What are your thoughts? Is this a lesson other organizations should learn from? Or, is it much ado about nothing? Perhaps Dr. Shalala, with a lens already on her football team, is just too big a target and others don’t have to worry. Are there situations where it is appropriate for the CEO of a nonprofit to sit on the corporate boards of his/her own trustees?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Better Than a T-shirt: Can You Earn Funds With Any of These Ideas?

On my last trip to to London, I experienced the following income generating ideas in practice. Read further to learn about current trends and opportunities that your nonprofit can copy or enhance to increase your income and fundraising.

1. Start With Planned Giving. When I arrived in the National Gallery’s lecture hall, a slide on the screen did not confirm the lecture’s name or offer a welcome. Instead, it invited participants to remember the Gallery in their will.

2. Not Always Free. While good for everyone, since it creates excitement and return visits, a special exhibit with a fee can provide revenue even if you regularly offer free admission. While the British Museum is normally free, a recent special exhibit cost twelve pounds.

3. Use Peer Pressure. Around London, all free sites had clear donation boxes labeled with a suggested donation. All contained money including bills and coins.

4. Press Buttons. If you offer an audio guide include a number and an invitation to listen to a message about your capital campaign or how people can help with a challenge. “For more about what is involved in keeping up the grounds at our garden, press 100. For more about how you can help press 101.”

5. Double Duty Tickets. If you print tickets for your events, consider doing what Westminster Abbey does—use their back to further your mission. The tickets included an invitation to return for a worship service with a list of service times.

6. Take Care of Your Donors Always. Much of London was under construction as it readies for the Olympics. The Globe Theatre was no exception. As part of their construction, one of the many donor walls was covered. However, the donor’s names were still visible. The Globe added a faux wall that included mock bricks with names.

7. Fee Plus Donations. Several sites asked for admission plus a donation of 2 pounds. At Kew Gardens the donation was one fee option at the gate.

8. From Visitor to More. Many sites offered attendees an opportunity for a return visit on the same ticket within one year. While few international visitors will take advantage of this, it creates goodwill among local clientele and offers you a chance to meet patrons with strong interest in your site. If you adapt this idea, remember to capture their contact information on the first return visit.

For more income ideas, see Scroll down to the money and fundraising ideas section.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Five Reasons to Refresh Your Non-profit Organization’s Funding Strategy

What is “refreshing your non-profit funding strategy”? It’s gathering and studying your non-profit organization’s income opportunities for evaluation before selecting the excellent ones to pursue. Why is this helpful? We find five major benefits for non-profit organizations:

1. Fresh Motivation. Is it hard to motivate someone to chair your “tried and true” special event? Frankly, it is hard to motivate yourself to get an annual appeal letter ready? Or, call potential sponsors? If you are bored by how you obtain income, chances are you are not alone. While some work maybe a tad dull and starting anything requires a bit of a leap over inertia, fresh clarity and an improved certainty of outcomes makes every job easier. Because you can see they will work, refreshed funding strategies excite and motivate.

2. Get With the Times. Even if you wish it wasn’t so, the market where non-profit organizations operate changed dramatically in the last five years. Every one of your funding streams experienced changes. It is smart to acknowledge this reality. Yet, even though my crystal ball broke, in the shards I see continue to see incredible opportunity. Donors, customers, volunteers, and board members continue to develop new expectations about their funding relationships with you: new expectations that yield new opportunities. It’s smart to study the impact of changes to reduce and eliminate unpleasant surprises— and to take advantage of new opportunities.

3. Embrace the Best. Even if at times you feel stuck identifying funding opportunities, the truth is this: you have too many opportunities. Your greatest need is to know where to invest your time and discard efforts for so-so opportunities, as soon as possible. You need funding strategies that provide the most outcomes (money or resources) with the least work –over time. Refreshing your funding strategies helps you to identify these vital opportunities.

4. Educate. Your funding strategy may fit your nonprofit and organization’s skills and community perfectly. However, it is highly likely many near you do not understand it or “the why” behind it. If you hear a lot of far-fetched ideas, refreshing your funding strategy can help the sharers to move their energy to your strategy and away from collecting wacky ideas, since they seek to help. On the other hand, if you hear worthwhile ideas, refreshing your funding strategy is the place to air and evaluate options using rational criteria and to compare them to your existing efforts—rather than making a quick decision in the hallway between meetings.

5. Lost Funding. The number one reason to refresh your funding strategy is because you are missing opportunities to increase your funds. Enough said.

What benefits have you found from refreshing your funding strategy?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Is DonorEdge, The Giving Partner or Whatever Its Called Worth It?

Last month, I met with Mark Brewer. Mark leads the Community Foundation of Central Florida. While our visit concerned the needs of non-profit organizations in Central Florida for my funding strategy innovations, we talked a lot about DonorEdge. (Brewer’s organization calls their version of this Guidestar product, “The Knowledge Base.” The Community Foundation of Sarasota* named theirs, “The Giving Partner.”) Central Florida has used it for several years.

Coincidentally, the same week, I put the finishing touches on Selby Garden’s profile for The Giving Partner. What was the process like? Susie Bowie was extremely helpful. The on-line system worked well. The questions were neither difficult nor long. Yet, while the questions weren’t hard, the decisions behind them were challenging. Many involved an assessment of the best answer to give to further the Gardens’ donor development strategy. Questions like, “Which picture is best to use since we can only use one?” and, “What are the five most pressing needs?” involved thinking and planning. The work wasn’t hard, but the strategy and thought behind it were intense. So, what was the process really like? In all honesty, demanding. Yes, you can fill out the profile in several hours, but if you want it to be a tool to support your overall funding strategy, like the Gardens did, it will take lots more.

During the process, I wondered, as you will probably wonder if you take a serious approach, “Is this worth it?” After filling out a profile and talking to Mark Brewer and learning how Central Florida is using it, the answer is “Yes.” Here’s why I recommend you get out your welcome mat for it:

1. Important Information to Share. You want a current profile about your organization to give to potential donors. In all honesty, do you have it? You will with DonorEdge.

2. Sector Enrichment. The nonprofit sector, compared to other sectors, is data poor. DonorEdge helps to close the gap. How big is the average nonprofit board in Bradenton? What is the total amount of capital campaign funding being sought in Orlando? Now, we can learn and share these and similar facts.

3. Your New Wiki. You will soon use DonorEdge to answer quick questions. Filling out your profile teaches you what’s available. Once underway, you will be able to find out about someone else’s mission, an executive director’s background and key programs of other nonprofits by typing in their name and selecting a tab. My prediction: you will use it to look up everything from the important, what are their board members affiliations, to the curious, how long has the executive director been in place.

4. Donor Support. A profile placed in a database on the Internet will by itself drive few donations. However, a well-done profile which quickly provides donors considering funding your non-profit organization the peace of mind that allows them to write you that sizable check or click a donate now button. This 24-7 availability, allows you to sleep soundly, while your donor confirms your excellence at 2 a.m.

If you are struggling to fill out your profile, take heart. From what I’ve learned, it is worth your effort. If you have yet to develop a profile, get out your welcome mat and get started. What has your experience been?
* The Giving Partner is a partnership of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and Manatee Community Foundation—with support from The Patterson Foundation.