Find Yourself Failing at Fundraising? Put on Your Radiator Cap!

Radiator cap 300x198 Find Yourself Failing at Fundraising? Put on Your Radiator Cap!

Put on your radiator cap and spread the joy of your mission far and wide!

Do you find yourself sinking into a fundraising hole?

If so, you’re not the first. And you won’t be the last.

I’m going to tell you how to begin to dig yourself out!

First, stop blaming others. It’s not because so-and-so foundation just pulled their grant (how dare they?).  It’s not because the government just cut back funding in your area (those bastards!). It’s not because your development director is lazy (why can’t she work 70 hours?)… and it’s not because your board doesn’t give enough (they’re so stingy!).

Sure, some of those things may be happening.  ButContinue Reading

Yes, The Donor Pyramid is Really Dead

dinosaur 300x300 Yes, The Donor Pyramid is Really Dead

When it’s our time to go, we all gotta go — dinosaurs and pyramids alike!

An Open Letter to Andrea Kihlstedt — Part 1

[I am responding to Andrea Kihlstedt’s Open Letter to me, Is The Donor Pyramid Really Dead, in the Guidestar blog. She was responding to my recent posts on the death of the Donor Pyramid in Fundraising Success Magazine: R.I.P. Donor Pyramid? and Maximize Social Business Blog How Social Media Toppled the Donor Pyramid – What that Means for Nonprofits.]

First, let me say this is a great dialogue to be having. The donor pyramid is a sacred dinosaur, and it’s good to challenge old assumptions from time to time. After all, the dinosaurs had a very good run, but even they became extinct.

Andrea says “no, the pyramid is alive and well,” making the case that (especially in capital campaigns) not all donors are equal. She also finds use for the pyramid in other campaigns, noting a Kickstarter campaign she recently worked on in which the biggest gifts came from donors who were approached face-to-face rather than via online strategies.Continue Reading

You’re Not Alone: What to Do When Leadership Loses Its Way- Pt. 2

follow the leader 300x225 You’re Not Alone: What to Do When Leadership Loses Its Way  Pt. 2

Is “leader” (or “director”) just a word in your job title? Or is it something you do?

In my last post of this two-part series, “You’re Not Alone: What to Do When You Start to Fail at Fundraising,” I discussed what can happen to organizations when leadership begins to lose its way. This can occur for any number of reasons.

Why Leadership Loses it’s Way

  • FOUNDER LEAVES with no succession plan in place.
  • Founder STAYS TOO LONG, and their founding vision no longer resonates with an evolving constituency and/or landscape.
  • Significant staff and/or board TURNOVER at the executive level.
  • No board turnover, terms of office or adherence to BYLAWS dictating board roles and responsibilities.
  • Organizational INFRASTRUCTURE is dysfunctional (e.g., there are too few committees; all the real work gets done in executive committee; power is lopsided in favor of the E.D. or the board; there is no governance committee holding members accountable; staff support for board is insufficient; board refuse to accept their responsibility for financing).
  • Organization’s leaders are good at MANAGING only one way (e.g. during a period of growth, contraction or status quo) but are not so good at managing through another modality.
  • Organization lacks SKILLS and/or access to RESOURCES essential to survival in a changing environment
  • … and more.

Most organizations share similar traits.  That being said,  every organization is different and I definitely don’t believe in cookie cutter solutions.  In an upcoming post I’ll discuss how to embrace your organization’s particular challenges and face them head on.

Today I’d like to share with you a few  ‘quick and dirty’ recommendations that most commonly flow from the development audits I conduct for organizations who find themselves in this situation.  While you may not need to make changes in all of these areas, my hunch is that if your fundraising has plateaued or has been heading steadily downward, you’ll want to be considering changes in these key areas.

A 6-Step Road Map to Successfully Turn Things Around

  1. Integrate fundraising and marketing under the leadership of a seasoned development professional.

Nonprofit marketing and fundraising have changed more in the past five years than the preceding 50. The digital revolution ended business as usual. Per the 2014 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, the biggest challenges nonprofits face today are:

  • donor acquisition;
  • community engagement;
  • brand awareness, and
  • donor retention.

You must attack your greatest challenges head on as you move forward. You won’t succeed if you try to do this catch-as-catch can, leaving folks to figure out what to do on their own. More than ever, successful development requires strategic leadership. You’re in a battle to win over donor hearts – not just once, but over and over to sustain and build loyalty you can count on. You won’t win the war unless you pull together your team, and your resources, and get everyone together on the same page. And that page must be in line with the way today’s donors and advocates research, engage, and ultimately support organizations.

Fundraising and marketing must be seamlessly integrated. They cannot be separate silos any longer. Staff with responsibilities in these areas must speak the same language.  Responsibilities must be clearly assigned, both to prevent fights over territory and to assure nothing slips through the cracks. Department meetings should be held regularly so everyone understands the role they play in contributing towards the big picture goal.

  1. Clarify the role of the board, both as a whole (governance) and as individual members (financing).
  • Work through a Governance Committee to make a plan to add more qualified board members– develop job descriptions, identify needed skills and recruit new members who understand their leadership role in both governance and financing, and assign staff to actively support members and develop customized development work plans with manageable ambassador, advocacy and asking assignments for each individual.
  • Make a formal plan for recruiting and training leadership volunteers — board, associate advisory group and other volunteers to expand volunteer participation and engagement.
  • Expand the Fundraising Committee (consider adding a few former board,  major donors, other committee or direct service volunteers or other influencers) and clarify their role overseeing, evaluating and approving fundraising initiatives. Delegate subcommittees, as needed, to steer major initiatives , events or campaigns.
  1. Build and develop a board and committee structure to evolve to a stronger, more engaged and more diversified fundraising board.
  • Clarify the role of standing committees, ad hoc committees and subcommittees in moving fundraising/marketing forward .
  •  Schedule regular meetings with your full board to reinforce  the strategic ways in which different committees interact and to inspire energy around vision/mission/values).
  • Consider a retreat to discuss  committee (as a whole) assignments and ambassador, advocate and asker tasks (for individual members).
  1. Clarify your mission/vision goals; case for support, and stories.
  • Engage in team-building exercises to energize board and staff and reconnect them with their passions for this work (include time to socialize; learn about each other).
  • Engage in skill-finding exercises and skill-building workshops to re-enforce strength areas and build confidence and collaboration (e.g. “Gallup Strengths Finder for staff; Branding, Personas, Storytelling and/or Content Marketing for all; Fundraising training for board).
  1. Develop and implement a clearly articulated written strategic development plan.
  • Build and polish prospect lists to acquire new donors.
  • Develop and implement a customer-centered stewardship system to renew and upgrade donors.
  • Reframe, consolidate or eliminate strategies that are no longer working effectively.
  1. Build an inbound content marketing program to support development.

You can’t do anything if you don’t have the supporters you need to see your mission through to fruition.  You’ve got to spend money to make money.  These days that means investing in staff and technology that allows you to build relationships online. The digital revolution has ended business as usual. Today, you’ve got to invest time in thinking how to make dynamic frameworks that serve fundraising. Pair your passion to further your mission with the incredibly exciting fact that digital tools and channels will ensure that the way you can engage with people will be constantly evolving. So no one can afford to sit back and wait to follow. The world moves too fast today. There’s simply no substitute for leadership. This is beautifully summarized in Tony Elischer’s Rebuilding the Donor Pyramid:

In the digital world of fundraising it is the leaders who reap the rewards, rarely the followers.

TO LEARN TO LEAD YOUR NONPROFIT TOWARDS SUCCESS…

Get the 7 Clairification Keys to Unlock Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising Potential. Through a series of clairifying worksheets and individual and group exercises, this 23-page guide will give you fresh insights into how fundraising and marketing have changed more in the past 5 years than in the previous 50.

Image courtesy of freedigitalimages.net

 

If it’s Broke, Better Fix it: Two Disarming Truths

broken arm xray 247x300 If its Broke, Better Fix it: Two Disarming Truths

What’s wrong with this picture?

Truths: Today, there are two things broken from my perspective: (1) my arm, and (2) the donor pyramid.

Yup! I’m really not much of a camper, but had a momentary lapse in judgement over the week-end. Kaboom!

Luckily, I managed to type up an article about the sad state of the donor pyramid prior to being reduced to a one-handed hunter/pecker (because this method is SLOW, baby)! That article, “R.I.P.Donor Pyramid,  is gracing the cover of the May/June Fundraising Success Magazine, so I hope you’ll check it out over there and let me know what you think. Here’s my bottom line: Continue Reading

Why Your Nonprofit Fundraising and Marketing is Outdated

 

change same buttons 300x225 Why Your Nonprofit Fundraising and Marketing is Outdated

Fundraising and marketing have changed more in the past 5 years than the previous 50.

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

For too many nonprofits something isn’t working. Change is happening at a rapid pace while people try to employ yesterday’s ‘best practices,’ seeming to work harder and harder to make do with less — while needing to serve more.

Before the digital revolution, an information imbalance existed.  This facilitated a one-way ‘push’ model of marketing/fundraising. We could define our own brand and sell it.  Guess what? Continue Reading

Is the Civil Sector in Death Spiral Mode?

Withering Tree 168x300 Is the Civil Sector in Death Spiral Mode?

Wither civil society?

Today’s post is a quick – yet very thought-provoking – share.

I happened upon Ruth McCambridge’s feature story for Nonprofit Quarterly, Jeremy Rifkin: The Future of the Economy is There for the Civil Sector to Claim.  In it she dissects Rifkin’s op ed for the New York Times, “The Rise of Anti-Capitalism.” I often hear a lot of doom and gloom about our sector, so this inspired me.

Maybe we’re not in a death spiral. Yet.

But we do have to create our own future.Continue Reading

Be the Fruit. Not the Juice. Start something Up this year.

Hugh MacLeod start up 300x235 Be the Fruit. Not the Juice. Start something Up this year.Start.

Don’t be a wuss. Yeah. This year, make a resolution to stop being a wimp and start being an entrepreneur.

I looked up the definition of wuss, and aside from meaning pushover, weakling and ineffectual it comes from Middle English meaning “liquor obtained from boiling or squeezing fruit or vegetable substances.”  Think about this for a minute.

Do your programs, over time, become more and more diluted so that the essence of the ripe fruit they began as becomes essentially lost? Are you doing things by rote, having lost all passion, taste and flavor for the fruits of your labor?Continue Reading

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream

Moonrise large Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream

I have a dream…

I have a dream for 2014 – and beyond. I have a dream  this is the year your organization will move beyond defining yourself by what you’re not (nonprofit) and will begin to define yourself by what you are (social benefit). I have a dream  this is the year your people will move from an attitude of taking and hitting people up (aka “fundraising”) to a mindset of giving and lifting people up (aka “philanthropy”). I have a dream this is the year your staff and volunteers will move from enacting transactions to enabling transformation.

I have a dream you will push yourself and your organization towards transformative change. You will take the bull by the horns, adapt to the digital revolution and open yourself to the possibilities that change brings. You will give up on the static donor pyramid, ladder and funnel theory of engagement and put your donor at the center of a new, active engagement model that reflects the myriad ways people connect with organizations and causes today.

I have a dream you will learn who your best influencers  and advocates are and you will embrace them.  You will recognize you are no longer your best messenger. You will understand that many forces beyond you influence your donor’s decision to invest with you, and you will expand your thinking and operations from a one-dimensional to a multi-dimensional model.  You will allow your constituents to engage with you at multiple points of entry, and to move freely between these points during the lifecycle of their engagement.

Sun will rise Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream

… the sun will rise…

I have a dream you will ask not what your donors can do for you, but what you can do for your donors.  You will recognize that they don’t serve you; you serve them. You will embrace the true meaning of philanthropy as love of humankind.  You will remember that your donors are humankind; you must love them if you want to be a part of philanthropy.  Otherwise, you’re just transacting business.

I have a dream you will reevaluate your raison d’etre.  You will ask yourself whether you’re in the business of selling, and you won’t answer cavalierly.You will not pat yourself on the back for being different than your for profit brethren.  You will not tell yourself that nonprofits are about mission and values and doing good deeds; whereas for profits are about greed and sales.  You will reevaluate why people compare ‘making the ask’ to ‘making the sale.’

I have a dream you will embrace your role as a salesperson, understanding how fundamentally human this is.You will understand that selling (the very definition of which is to exchange or deliver for money or its equivalent) is something that we’re constantly doing. And you will have an “ah ha” moment that this is also what fundraising is about — a value-for-value exchange.  A donor gives something of value (money or an in-kind good or service) and the charity returns something of value to the donor.  As Daniel Pink writes in his new book To Sell Is Humanthe ability to move others to exchange what they have for what we have is crucial to our survival and our happiness. It has helped our species evolve, lifted our living standards, and enhanced our daily lives. The capacity to sell isn’t some unnatural adaption to the merciless world of commerce.  It is part of who we are.

Parting clouds Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream

… the clouds will part…

I have a dream you will come from a place of love, not need. When interacting with your supporters you will do more than tell folks how much money you require. You will consider how your supporters benefit and what’s in it for them if they invest with you. You will help people to value your accomplishments by assuring they understand your impact.  You will recognize that if you don’t demonstrate impact, then you can’t expect folks to worry what might happen were you to be unable to grow or, even worse, cease to exist.

I have a dream you will speak to peoples’ hearts; not just their heads. You will become aware that if the bulk of your communication with supporters is about numbers, finances and pie charts rather than stories of real people being helped, it will become increasingly difficult to expect anyone to care enough about your mission to invest in your success. You absolutely must clarify your stories and share them.

I have a dream your leaders will embrace a culture of philanthropy that engulfs your entire organization.  You will eliminate silos and include everyone in the transformative power of your mission. You will make sure that everyone associated with your organization is clear about the values you enact and has stories they can tell about the ways you help to repair our world. Philanthropy will become the glue that binds everyone together – every department and every volunteer – working towards a common goal.

Rainbow Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream

… and it will be because of the light you shine.

I have a dream you will engage in philanthropy; not fundraising. You will embrace the fact that just as business has changed fundamentally, so must fundraising change fundamentally. You will accept that we’re all social businesses now; merely “transacting” no longer cuts it. You will agree that for too long fundraising has been approached as transactional – as being primarily about money – and that this approach results in fundraising being seen at best as an onerous chore; a necessary evil.  You will see that philanthropy is fundamentally social; it’s about love — and nothing could be more transformational.

I have a dream for 2014 – and beyond.  Do you share my dream?

Want to apply this dream — this culture of philanthropy philosophy — to securing more and bigger gifts this year for your nonprofit? This is your LAST WEEK to register for my new 6-week E-Course: Winning Major Gifts Fundraising Strategies for the small and medium-size shop. No more “hitting people up.” We’ll talk about setting achievable goals,  finding the right folks, meeting them,  moving them along a continuum and, ultimately,  inspiring folks to join you in your mission.  You’ll love this course — or your money back. Register by midnight PST January 25th to reserve your spot!

This article has been modified from an article originally published January 24, 2013 on Clairification.

Photos via Flickr:
55Laney69;lrargerich; Marc Crumpler

 

Are You Leading Your Nonprofit Backwards? How to Change

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

Backwards Wrong Way 199x300 Are You Leading Your Nonprofit Backwards? How to Change

Are you too wedded to the status quo?

More than ever before nonprofit leaders must lead from vision, not mission.  Why?  The world is moving really, really fast.  Blame it on the digital revolution if you wish.  But why waste time laying blame?  It is what it is.  Instead, get into the 21st century. Now.

The present (what you’re doing) is nothing more than a springboard to the future (the change you’re endeavoring to bring about). That’s what folks want to invest in. Positive change.

Nonprofits have tended to forget their visions in order to justify continued existence.  Sometimes founders and other leaders become too wedded to the status quo.  They can’t let their babies grow up. Continue Reading

Less is not Enough:Why Your Nonprofit Needs to Spend More on Fundraising

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

“Incremental Change is Not an Option.” 

Dream Big1 Less is not Enough:Why Your Nonprofit Needs to Spend More on FundraisingWhat if this was your charity’s mantra? This is so different than “We keep overhead super low.”  The first means dreaming on a large scale, and reaching for true solutions to social problems.  The latter, not so much.

For years donors have been taught to look for low overhead as a sign of effectiveness. When you stop to think about it, it makes little common sense. Who cares if you spend only 5 cents on the dollar if you only net $71 from your bake sale?  Will this solve your problem? Whatever resources are needed to solve the problem, those are the resources that must be spent.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.Continue Reading