How to Hire a Fundraiser: Don’t Try to Make a Chicken out of a Fish-Pt.2

chicken out of fish 300x271 How to Hire a Fundraiser: Don’t Try to Make a Chicken out of a Fish Pt.2

No matter what you do, you can’t make a chicken out of a fish.

In Part 1 of this article I outlined the performance habits (practice) and innate qualities (psychology) to look for in a candidate for a chief fundraising job. I encouraged you to ask candidates questions that probe for these behaviors and qualities.

Equally important to the questions you ask the candidate are the questions s/he asks you.
Continue Reading

How to Hire a Fundraiser: Practice and Psychology

Hire Me 198x300 How to Hire a Fundraiser: Practice and Psychology

I’m a people person.

I happen to currently be working with a number of nonprofits who are seeking to hire the perfect development officer. It’s got me thinking about what to look for in a candidate, and how to best assess someone’s likely ability to perform the job as you need them to perform it.

Of course, this will vary from organization to organization. But if you’re seeking someone to fill a one-person or two-person development shop, there is remarkable similarity in the performance habits (practice) and innate qualities (psychology) that will spell success.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

 

You’re Not Alone: What To Do When You Start To Fail at Fundraising

sinking ship 216x300 You’re Not Alone: What To Do When You Start To Fail at Fundraising

It may be noble for the Captain to go down with the sinking ship, but a compelling fundraising offer it is not.

Once upon a time (around about 2008) a big mean recession cast its dark shadow over many a nonprofit. Grantors cut back on funding. Donors zipped up their wallets. Salaries and benefits got cut. Seasoned professionals were laid off, or left voluntarily. Others lasted awhile, but became increasingly discouraged.

Six years out from the biggest stock market crash since 1929, I’m beginning to hear a lot of organizations crying “Uncle!” These are the ones that, for reasons unbeknownst to them, have not rebounded. And they’re desperately trying to beat back the wolf at the door.

The thing they fear most? Failure.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

 

How the ‘It’s Not My Job’ Syndrome Pervades Nonprofits and Kills Fundraising

 

Big picture of universe 300x236 How the ‘It’s Not My Job’ Syndrome Pervades Nonprofits and Kills Fundraising

Do your employees see the big picture, or just the moving parts?

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

Are you confident your employees – all of them – are fully engaged in your mission so they don’t bungle openings to turn inquiries into interest, interest into involvement and involvement into investment? Do your workers just do their job, or do they understand their real job to be part of your greater vision-focused undertaking?

Unless you’ve created a culture of philanthropy in your organization – one where everyone who works there is fully informed and passionate about your work and the values you enact in the community – then you’re inevitably going to blow opportunities to garner vital support. Under-informed workers lead to disengaged workers. Disengaged workers lead to disengaged constituents.  And here’s how it happens.Continue Reading

5 More Things Your Board Doesn’t Get about Fundraising and Nonprofits

Head scratcher2 300x225 5 More Things Your Board Doesn’t Get about Fundraising and Nonprofits

Scratching your head over stuff your board just doesn’t ‘get’? Join the club.

I unlocked Pandora’s box with my last post, 5 Things Your Board and CEO Don’t Get About Fundraising and Donors. Especially when it comes to board members, many of you say their behavior has you scratching your heads much of the time. So, here are 5 more things that too many boards simply don’t seem to understand:

1. It costs money to make money. This one is odd, since many of these folks seem to understand the concept of ‘investment’ when it comes to their day jobs. Continue Reading

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

Old MacDonald’s Theory of Outstanding Fundraiser Qualities: E-I-E-I-O

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

 Old MacDonald’s Theory of Outstanding Fundraiser Qualities: E I E I O

What do Old MacDonald and an *outstanding* fundraiser have in common?

I’m about to reveal my Old MacDonald’s Theory of the qualities of outstanding fundraisers (you know how they say “the farmer is *out standing* in his field”)? Ahem.  Well… the outstanding farmer is surrounded by a chorus of E-I-E-I-Os.  The outstanding fundraiser is similar in many ways. S/he sings a similar tune and also works in a nurturing, productive space that enables cultivation and growth.

And that’s why I developed my E-I-E-I-O paradigm. Forget about all the nasty business of “it’s a jungle out there.” No, YOU (the fundraiser) work on a farm.Continue Reading

SMIT for May: Why you Need to Reinvent Yourself

Mirror image 209x300 SMIT for May: Why you Need to Reinvent Yourself

Stop looking at yourself in the mirror!

Listen up.

Whatever you did in the past is relevant, but it doesn’t mean it’s exactly what you should be doing today.  Relevant means pertaining to or connected to. Your history is always connected with you in some manner.  But it’s not always germane (central) or apropos (to the point and opportune).

If you say…

That’s not the way we do things.

We tried that; it doesn’t work.

We don’t need research; we know what our audience cares about.

stop.Continue Reading