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There’s a bogus belief that exists in the minds of nearly everyone who works in nonprofit. It’s unfortunate, because it causes a lot of problems.
I call it the Myth of Boards. And it goes like this:
“People who sit on nonprofit Boards know how to be good Board members and they know how to help with fundraising.”
Think about it: how many times have you been frustrated with your Board because they won’t do their job? They won’t help get sponsors. They won’t open. They don’t seem to want to make eye contact with you when you start talking about fundraising. You know what I’m talking about.
I believe that the more you understand, the more you can do something about it. So, let me tell you what’s really going on here.
People who say “yes” to serving on your Board are good-hearted people, and they probably love your mission. In fact, they probably said “yes” because they want to help and they want to make a difference.
Unfortunately, they probably don’t know squat about serving on a Board.
Without any education, they will gravitate to whatever looks familiar, easy, or fun. That’s why some want to talk about the napkin color for the upcoming gala, and others want to micromanage. They’re operating in a vacuum of knowledge.
Want to fix it? It’s pretty simple really. Teach them.
There’s no Board police to step in and show them what to do, so if you want your Board to be different, you need to step in and give them the tools they need to do their job.
Teach them their basic roles and responsibilities. Explain fundraising to them in some simple terms that they can grasp. Show them you’re there to support them to be successful.
I know you may be annoyed at the thought of training your Board, but what’s the alternative? You can keep doing what you’ve been doing, but you’ll get what you always got. If you want something different, you must DO something different.
I’ll be talking more about this on a free webinar I’m leading on Tuesday, May 21st called “The Three Reasons Why Your Board Disappoints You (and How to Fix It).” You can register at http://getfullyfunded.com/disappointed-by-your-nonprofit-board/.
I’m convinced that if you want to help more people, you need to raise more money. And to do that, you need your Board to help. Join me for this webinar and I’ll show you how to get started with that.
Step one in the Simple Success Fundraising Plan is to identify your assets. An asset is defined as a useful and desirable thing or quality. It can also be described as an item that can be converted into cash (real estate for example).
So what does this have to do with your nonprofit? As an organization, you have assets that you can leverage in your fundraising plan that can make your case for support stronger.
Here are some examples of nonprofit organizational assets:
- Compelling mission (like feeding the hungry or housing the homeless)
- Large donor base
- Incredible organization name recognition (like Habitat for Humanity)
- Well-known staff or Board members
- Facility that lends itself well to a tour (like a clinic, shelter, or food pantry)
- Organizational vehicles that are driven around town regularly
- Website with LOTS of daily visitors
- Opportunity for earned income (like a thrift store or gift shop)
- Well-known local, regional, or national celebrity who supports your organization
- Something else?
I helped a client evaluate their assets recently to find that they had a HUGE email list they weren’t doing anything with. They’d been taking names and email addresses for a couple of years, and sending out e-newsletters regularly, but had never asked for a gift. It was a no-brainer to me that we needed to ask! We did, and raised a quick $10,000 for the nonprofit.
Another organization I worked with had an awesome facility that lent itself really well to tours. They were able to create a tour that they promoted to their donors and prospects, and brought hundreds of people onsite over the course of a couple of years to see first-hand what their work was about. Most donors increased their giving after the tour experience.
So, what are your nonprofit organization’s assets? Take a few minutes today (or better yet, at your next staff and/or Board meeting) to compile a list of assets that you can use help raise more money. Decide how you can leverage your assets, then get busy. Those assets won’t do you any good unless you do something with them.
What if building relationships with donors didn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable? Would you do more of it? (I hope you’re thinking “yes!”)
Check out this video where I explain how to shift your thinking about building donor relationships.
Usually when I teach a webinar or a workshop, people consistently tell me they love the practical tips I share. They love hearing something they can easily implement and see results from.
Today, I have 3 simple tips that may seem really elementary, but trust me, they’ll bring you BIG results. Each one will help you put that little extra touch on your fundraising that will help deepen donor relationships. And after all, good fundraising is ALL about the relationships!
- Tell your donors how you will use their money. This is critical. Make sure the donor knows how you plan to use the donation he or she just sent you. Text like “Your gift will ensure that 15 children will go to summer camp for one week” makes the process of donating more real and tangible to the donor. Include this text in your Thank-You letter, then include a little update in your print and email newsletters. When donors know what you’re doing and how things are going, they’ll feel “in the know” which builds trust, and that leads to loyal donors.
- Add personal notes to Thank You letters. Taking a few minutes of a busy day to go through a stack of letters may seem like a chore, but trust me – donors who get a Thank You letter with a personal note will be thrilled that you took the time to personally acknowledge their gift. It lets the donor know they aren’t just a number, but are a valued supporter, and that you care about them.
- Invite donors for a tour of your facility. Always welcome donors and prospects in for a personal tour (if appropriate). You may never have anyone take you up on this, but they will remember that you offered. Seeing firsthand the work that you do may make all the difference in the world to a particular donor. I had a donor once that came for a tour and got really interested in a particular program. After a few minutes of asking quizzing me about the program, he asked the Magic Question – “What does it cost to run that program?” I told him, and he pulled out his wallet, handed me his credit card, and said “Go run it.” Talk about awesome!! He made a $15,000 gift right there on the spot. Moral of the story? Seeing your work first-hand can be a powerful, moving experience for a donor.
Always remember that your donors are your most important asset. Without them, you’d have no fundraising program. Do everything you can to take care of them and your efforts will be rewarded.
If you’re like me, you have more to do during the day than you can get done. Here’s a short video featuring Stephen Covey explaining a technique to help you focus on getting the most important things done.
Many of my colleagues and I have been preaching for years that accountability is KEY in fundraising. And now there are several instances of accountability gone wrong in the news. Here are three and lessons every nonprofit can learn from them.
If you haven’t heard about the Susan Komen Foundation’s debacle, then you’ve been living under a rock. Their decision to cut grant funding to Planned Parenthood was met with such public outcry, that they’ve reversed their decision. The only problem is the damage is already done. Many have become disenchanted with the organization that began the movement that has resulted in a tidal wave of pink across the globe. I predict their donations will suffer and some will decide not to participate in their events because of this. Whether you agree or disagree with their decision, the lesson to learn is that you must think through the implications of the decisions you make. I’m not saying don’t do things that will piss some people off. Just be prepared for the aftermath. Think about the support you stand to lose and base your decision on that. And be very careful about thinking it will never happen to you. Arrogance is the grease that sends you into public relations hell.
In another case, country singer Garth Brooks asked for the return of a half-million dollar gift from a hospital. This sounds to me like a case of donor intent not being honored. The only reason a donor should EVER consider asking for a gift back is when they believe you as the nonprofit aren’t using it appropriately. The solution? First, have integrity and spend the money as the donor intended. If you can’t do that, don’t accept the gift. Second, communicate. Talk with the donor. Tell him/her what you’re doing with their gift and how it’s having the desired effect. By the way, this goes for ALL donations, not just the big ones.
Finally, in my local news is the story of a Board suffering from raging ignorance. It has come to light that the Executive Director’s compensation is excessive and some Board members said they didn’t know what her compensation package was. Really? How could you not know? Don’t you ask questions during the meeting? Don’t you look at the financials? That’s your job after all. Every Board has some basic roles and responsibilities, and one of the most important is fiduciary oversight. The Board’s job is to make sure that money coming into the organization is spent wisely and properly. If not, prepare for public outcry and angry donors.
The thing that each of these cases have in common is the nonprofits involved all have damaged reputations. It will take each of them some time to recover from this negative publicity and rebuild the public’s trust. When the public doubts an organization’s trustworthiness, fundraising becomes very difficult if not impossible.
So take a lesson. Always work to build trust with the public. Be a good steward of your resources. Be transparent with your records. Be accountable. And you won’t wind up on the front page of the local paper in a story of scandal.
There are LOTS of details you MUST pay attention to if you want to develop great, strong relationships with your donors.
You must spell their name right. Get their salutation right. Pay attention to special situations, where the husband and wife have different last names.
When you pay attention to these details, you let the donor know they are important to you. Mess this up and you’ll either get complaints or disappearing donors.
Whee! We’re counting down to the official launch of my new Get Fully Funded book on Sep 30. I hope you’re enjoying 30 days of tips here on the blog!
Don’t make your donor work to figure out how to help you. Always make it easy for them to act.
Always have a clear call to action in your fundraising letters, newsletter, event, or whatever. If the donor can’t immediately see how they can support your organization, they have room to say “I’ll figure this out later” which means you won’t get a donation. Keep your call to action simple and clear, and you’ll be way more likely to get the result you want.
Sep 30 is the day! My new book Get Fully Funded will be officially launched. And we’re leading up to it with lots of goodies, like 30 days of tips on teh Get Fully Funded blog.
People who send you large checks are screaming that they love the work your nonprofit is doing.
What are you doing to adequately express your gratitude and appreciation to them? One dull, dry thank-you letter won’t cut it.
Send a warm, sincere thank-you letter. Get it out the door promptly (shoot for 2 days). Sign it yourself (no digital signature). Add a hand-written note at the bottom. Then follow up with any number of things like a phone call, an email, a hand-written not, or all of the above. You can’t thank your best donors enough.
We’re counting down to Sep 30 when my new book Get Fully Funded will be released! To celebrate, I’m sharing 30 days worth of tips right here on the Get Fully Funded blog.
A friend shared this very powerful video with me and I wanted to share it with you.
It’s a great example of the power of words.
“Vision Is Seeing the Invisible.” — Jonathan Swift