Why Your Nonprofit’s Events are a Waste of Time

golf ball entering a hole 300x210 Why Your Nonprofit’s Events are a Waste of Time

Are you seizing your opportunity? Or letting your ‘thoners just fall into a black hole?

Fun events may bring in hundreds of attendees, but a fundraising event is not an end in and of itself.  Often the charity never sees these folks again (or at least not until the next event) because these folks are golfers or ‘thoners, not donors. These events are a waste of your precious resources.

Don’t tell me that you “raised awareness.”

Unless you raised awareness towards a particular end (usually generating greater philanthropic support) – and you have a plan to intentionally build on this awareness — then everything your attendees may have learned about you will go in one ear and out the other. Awareness that isn’t reinforced lasts about two seconds.

Don’t tell me that you “raised good money.”

Did you really? Well, think again. Continue Reading

10 Steps to Take Charge of Your Nonprofit’s Major Donor-Investor Plan

Gopher it Major 300x290 10 Steps to Take Charge of Your Nonprofit’s Major Donor Investor Plan

Now that’s MAJOR. Gopher it!

Major individual gifts are the single largest source of philanthropy, by far. The most recent data from Giving USA[Free Summary Download] shows 72% of gifts come from individuals’ annual gifts and an additional 7% from bequests.

The process of individual donor development proceeds along a continuum – from awareness… to education… to involvement… to investment.  People must first be made aware of the organization’s existence and its mission.  Once this occurs, people who share values enacted by your organization can be identified, further educated and majorly involved.

When the relationship is sufficiently built – and only then — the prospect can be invited to significantly invest to assist in furtherance of your organization’s mission.Continue Reading

Declare Your Independence Day – Information Overload Be Gone!


4th of july dog overloaded 257x300 Declare Your Independence Day – Information Overload Be Gone!

Feeling a bit overloaded?

It’s the new plague. And a highly contagious epidemic, from which no one is immune.

Are you showing any symptoms? I feel like:

  • I’m working all the time, but not getting that much accomplished.
  • I’m working on 10 projects at once, but none get finished.
  • My ‘to-do’ list never gets completed.
  • I’m in meetings all day and don’t have time to work.
  • I bring my laptop to meetings and pretend to take notes while surfing the web.
  • I’m answering email all day and don’t have time to work.
  • I answer email during conference calls and in meetings.
  • I have less and less time to plan, not to mention free time.
  • I have less and less time to learn, not to mention creative time.
  • I can never get to things quickly enough.
  • I sit down at my computer and end up doing something different than I planned.
  • I am eating lunch at my desk, mired in my virtual inbox.
  • I make calls while driving, and even send the occasional text, even though I know I shouldn’t.

If you checked off three or more, you’ve got the disease. 8 or more and we need to rush you to an unplugged vacation. All of the above and you need a sabbatical!Continue Reading

Why You May Not Have Time for an Email Campaign

Sleep on it 300x199 Why You May Not Have Time for an Email Campaign

Are you giving yourself time to sleep on it and channel your superhero?

I was playing around on Mashable yesterday and happened on The Key to More Successful Email Campaigns: Time.  Since I recently offered you Top 10 Tips for Successful Nonprofit E-Appeals (and the big 11th is coming on Monday – you’ve still got time to guess what it is and win a free e-appeal review!), I thought I’d share this with you as a nice complement.

It’s something that should be a no-brainer; but, as Pooh describes it, sometimes we all can be “a Bear of No Brain at All.” How can we be the Best Bear in all the World?Continue Reading

6 Ways Your Nonprofit Wins the Game of Social Media

Football pile up 6 Ways Your Nonprofit Wins the Game of Social Media

You’ve got to stand out from the amorphous mass

First you get in the game. This should go without saying, but I still hear too many executive directors saying they don’t want to play. Folks: you gotta play to win. And it’s not the lottery.  Your chances of winning are really good.  It’s a game of skill, not luck.

Then you acknowledge that everyone is getting into the game.  So you won’t get noticed just because you’re on the field. An October survey of U.S. nonprofits by VerticalResponse found that more than three out of five nonprofits reported spending more time on social media than they did a year ago. Nearly two out of five reported devoting six or more hours per week to social media. Ninety-six percent of nonprofits said they were on Facebook; 80% of these organizations reported posting on the site multiple times per week. Twitter also gets significant attention from nonprofits. The site was used by nearly three-quarters of nonprofits, and the organizations were more likely to post several times a day on Twitter (19.5%) vs. Facebook (13.8%).

Just because you’re flitting and twitting around doesn’t mean you’re getting anywhere fast. It reminds me a bit of the big pile-up on the football field.  An amorphous mass.Continue Reading

6 Ways to a Kick-Ass Content Plan for Your Nonprofit Blog: Part II of the C.P.A. series


Kick Ass Content 300x179 6 Ways to a Kick Ass Content Plan for Your Nonprofit Blog: Part II of the C.P.A. series

Begin your kick-ass content plan with great research

C.P.A.? Yup. In my last post I introduced you to the ‘accountant’ theory of an effective blog content strategy.  C for constituent-centered. P for plan. A for accessible. You can review the C post here.  Today we’re going to talk about the P.’

For starters, you’ve done your market research and you know what your constituents care about (if you haven’t done this, look at the 6 actionable tips in the previous post). Now, take all the great topics you’ve researched and brainstormed – all the questions you’ve been collecting from your constituents – and build an editorial calendar for your blog. I’m going to give you some tips and tools that will make this really simple. Promise.Continue Reading

The Keys to Nonprofit Blogging that Drives Engagement

1184346933 bff6754651 The Keys to Nonprofit Blogging that Drives EngagementI’m a huge blog booster for nonprofits.  So much so that tomorrow I’m offering a free webinar on the topic with the folks at Good Done Great.  I’ll also be posting a series of articles on this topic in the coming week.  If you don’t have a blog yet, you should get one. Pronto! Yup, I think they’re that important.

Here is an overview of what I’ll be covering in tomorrow’s webinar, plus I’ll have a special bonus offer for webinar participants. If you can’t make it, you’ll find a few actionable tips in this article. Plus you’ll find more actionable tips all week.  I truly want you to do this, and I don’t want it to kill you. So I’m going to give you some easy steps you can take to make your blog (1) doable, and (2) a super investment of your time and resources. I’m betting that pretty soon you’ll wonder what you ever did without it!Continue Reading

What Fishing Can Teach Us About Fundraising

071201a.gif What Fishing Can Teach Us About Fundraising
Maybe this wasn’t a good place for fishing?
We spend too much time thinking about the right way to ask people for donations, yet not enough time thinking about who the right people are to ask.  It’s like buying a perfect fishing rod and reel, learning how to cast, and then casting off into empty waters. It takes more than toiling, more than tackle, and more than time. If you are fishing in the wrong place none of that matters. 
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a volunteer or staff member in an organization say “Why don’t we get So-and-so to give?” I’d be a wealthy woman.  Because usually, within a given community, everyone is targeting the same So-and-so.  And here’s why that won’t work.

So-and-so has:

NO LINK to your organization: No hook
·      No organizational connection – never attended an event, participated in a program, used/referred your services, or obtained any benefit from you.
·      No human connection – doesn’t know anyone affiliated with your organization.
NO INTEREST in what you do: No appetite for your bait.
·      Not what they care about.  Why? Because they really don’t have a clue what you do.  Maybe they’ve heard something vague, but not much.
·      Not a value they’ll ever share.  Why? Whales just aren’t their thing.  In fact, animals aren’t their thing.  Their big thing is feeding poor people.   They’re always going to give their extra dollar to help save human lives. Period.
NO ABILITY to give: Too small to feed you.
·      No resources; barely getting by.
·      No liquidity; overly committed elsewhere.
HAD A BAD EXPERIENCE: Had a run-in with you; learned avoidance.
·      Got poor service from a program (or knew someone who did).
·      Got poor service from development: weren’t thanked promptly and personally… weren’t kept informed… weren’t recognized… name was misspelled…
·      Didn’t like the position your organization took on an issue… a rumor they heard…  a run-in they had with a board member…

If you’re contemplating prospect cultivation and/or solicitation, go through this checklist. You can remember each element by using the acronym B A I L(though I’ve listed them in the order of what I believe to be of greatest importance). If you’re able to put a check next to any of these, you’ve got some work ahead of you before you’ll be ready to ask.  In some cases, you’ll never be ready to ask.  It’s best to bail sooner rather than later.
The world is filled with people with a wide range of values and purposes.  Not everyone will share the values your organization enacts.  Don’t fish in those ponds.  Why waste your valuable and limited time? There are still plenty of other fish in the sea.  You can lead a prospect to water, but you can’t make ‘em bite.
What common mistakes do organizations make that cause them to fish in the wrong ponds, and how do you avoid making these errors?


Now that we’ve talked about prospecting, we’re going to need to talk about soliciting.  Watch for my free webinar, in collaboration with the folks at NonprofitWebinars.com, a service of Good Done Great, taking place Wednesday, October 3, 2012, at noon PST: How to Overcome Your Board’s Fear of Fundraising, Once and for All.

5 Little-Known Factors That Could Optimize Your Nonprofit’s Online Engagement

 5 Little Known Factors That Could Optimize Your Nonprofit’s Online Engagement

Are you confused by all of the “must have” online marketing options? It’s a virtual online storm of choices out there, raining tweets and posts and pokes and pins and stumbles. Weathering the storm requires forethought. But armed with the proper rain gear – and these 5 little-known facts — you can happily create a whole chorus of supporters merrily singing in the rain.  Just holistically integrate search (SEO), content marketing and social media. You’ll be well on your way!
 Let integration — search + content + media — be your umbrella.

  1. SEO is changing. It’s not all about keywords for search engines any more. 
Google has been a game changer (cool infographic alert).  Today blogs are favored over websites because they’re updated more frequently and they also contain relevant content. It’s still good to think about keywords, but optimization now takes a holistic approach by digging into what your customers care about.  It’s about customer information needs, and the content you should produce to meet those needs.
            I find this to be incredibly good news.  It’s like being validated at school for working hard and effectively, as opposed to being a good sucker-upper who self promotes.  There are no tricks involved here.  Just provide good content your clients/customers/supporters care about.  Simple. You don’t have to be a techie to do it. And what do folks care about? Read on…
  1. People search for knowledge. They’re not always looking to buy or give.
    • They search for answers to problems.  Check out this blog post about the hospitality industry in New Orleans, and what they did to reassure customers it was safe to come back to the city after Hurricane Isaac. Why not optimize your knowledge base with similar insights into what’s happening in the news?  Or FAQ content?  Or “how to” lists?
    • They search to be “in the know.” It makes them look good to their own social networks. This is good for you, because it gets folks to share your content with many more folks than you could otherwise reach. Why not feed them enticing bits of “behind-the-scenes” information. Or great infographics or videos?  Or photos/live tweets of what’s happening in the field?
            Again, good news!  Because by the time you come to conversion you’ve an informed group of customers who’ve optimized themselves!
  1. You’ve already got most of what people want. Look at your existing content. 
Who’s it for? Who’s the optimum audience for that content? Do some research within these audiences. Take note of what questions people are asking. See where conversations are happening on the social web relevant to what your audience cares about.  Get a sense of what’s possible.
            Yippee! All we have to do is talk to the front-line folks (e.g. receptionist; program manager) and ask them what their FAQs are.  Or simply google FAQs for your industry. That’s what folks want. And it’s probably your core material and already in writing somewhere. In a course, brochure, hand-out, research paper, speech, script, etc.
  1. Optimize channels based on your best customers. Resources are limited, so don’t try to be all things to all people in all social channels.
Once you’ve figured out your most favorable audiences you can optimize for them.  Have empathy for how your audiences discover content.  What are their consumption preferences? Phones? Tablets? Desktops? Mail? Images? Audio? Video? Quick tips? Tutorials? What kinds of topics and content types will motivate them to take the actions you want them to take? Segment as much as you can.
  1. When you give people what they want they return the favor. Pay attention to where this is happening for you.
Are your Facebook posts getting shared? Are people commenting on your blog? Responding to your tweets? If so, great. Do more of this.  If not, rethink your channels and your content. Attract. Engage. Arouse.  Win folks over and they’ll become your ambassadors because they’re inspired by you.
Here’s where to be careful.  Before delivering content to your channels, ask:
§ Why would anyone care about this?
§ Is there anything about this someone might want to share?
§ Would this make people want to come back to us and stay connected?
§ Is there something here that would make constituents invest time/express loyalty?
§ Is this content making us appear like experts in our field?
§ Do we have a plan to deliver content consistently?

Remember, being online is not about the act of being online.  It’s about sharing relevant content and engaging in meaningful dialogue that’s mutually beneficial. If what you’re doing is not of value to both you and your audience, then do something else. Media guru Brian Solis, who also authored The End of Business as Usual, notes that an online engagement plan that is one-sided ignores the value of listening:

Following the path of social is a journey towards relevance… 
 Listening leads to a more informed business. Engagement unlocks empathy and innovation. 
But it is action and adaptation that leads to relevance. And, it never ends.

We’re all in this together. Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain… and you’ll never walk alone. Just be sure to bring your umbrella.

What do you do to optimize online engagement?
If you’re generating dialogue, please share your tips!

Why You Must Stop Putting Out Fires: the Urgent Disrupts; the Important Erupts

 Why You Must Stop Putting Out Fires: the Urgent Disrupts; the Important Erupts
Preventing beats fighting
Remember:  Only YOU can prevent [forest] fires. Do you find yourself spending most of your time responding to other people’s crises?  Is your day consumed with disruptive activities? Answering email? Responding to texts and voicemail? Are you constantly reacting, with little time left for acting? If so, you (and most likely your co-workers too) are probably not doing the important preventive work that must be done so these urgent fires don’t break out. There is a way around this.  But first you must fully embrace the notion that firefighting is not your job (unless, of course, you work in a firehouse and slide down a pole when an alarm goes off).

Firefighting, sadly, is a lot easier than fire preventing. It takes comparatively little thought. You just get into “action mode” and can be really busy. Busy resembles productive.  And you feel like a hero. But, when you really stop to ponder the matter, wouldn’t it be better if you allowed the important, planful, preventive work to erupt from the constraints you’ve placed on it so those fires never occurred?
 Why You Must Stop Putting Out Fires: the Urgent Disrupts; the Important Erupts
Here I come to save the day!
Firefighters are only needed when you/everyone is neglecting the important activities of preventing fires. Important activities are those that have outcomes designed to get you to your goals.  Urgent activities are often associated with someone else’s goals. Even if you’re a boss, and think it’s your job to help staff accomplish their goals, you undoubtedly still have your own agenda to accomplish.  And maybe your agenda is putting in place the systems/procedures/training/staffing that would help your staff avoid the fires?
Getting the right job done requires prioritizing and time management.  In “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey distinguishes again and again between the urgent and the important, noting that focusing on the former makes us dependent (all of our work is reactive) while the latter gives us independence (we can take initiative that propels us toward our own goals).
Some tips:
  1. Put first things first.  Begin with the end in mind. Prioritize, plan and execute your daily/weekly tasks based on what’s important rather than what’s urgent.  Ask yourself: Will working on this today get me towards my goals?
  1. Take responsibility for your choices.  Embrace the fact that your decisions determine how effective you’ll be in accomplishing your goals.  If you choose to react, then you’re not going to get where you want to go. It’s your choice. If you choose to work on somebody else’s problem, it’s not their fault.  
  1. Block off time on your calendar.  When you have an important project to accomplish, make some inviolate time.  Treat it like an appointment.  Don’t look at your email or cell phone during this period.  If you must, get out of the office and go someplace else where you won’t be distracted.  Trust me; in the few hours you’re ‘disconnected’ the world won’t come to an end.
    UrgentImportant Why You Must Stop Putting Out Fires: the Urgent Disrupts; the Important Erupts
  1. Delegate urgent items.  Keep your priorities in mind and don’t fall back on the tendency to think either (a) “This is a quick fix” (as a general rule, there’s no such thing), or (b) “I can do this faster/better than anyone else” (this may be true, but you can also do your priority task faster/better than anyone else – and it’s more important).
  1. Consider using an Urgent/Important Matrix. This is a tool credited both to President Dwight Eisenhower and Steven Covey.  If you’re a visual person, and it helps you to graph things out, this may be useful.
  1. Plan ahead to avoid the urgent. A lot of urgent things happen because we leave important things to the last minute.  Anyone who’s ever pulled an ‘all-nighter’ knows this. Some things, of course, cannot be foreseen.  But a lot can, and should, be anticipated.
  1. Before favoring an urgent task over an important one, ask yourself key questions:
    • Must this be done NOW?
    • If not, when can I schedule to get it done so that it becomes part of my plan and an important ‘to-do’?
    • If so, do I need to be the one to do this? To whom can I delegate?
    • What do I have to put on my ‘to-do’ list for the future so this doesn’t happen again?
Allow the important to erupt. Give your important tasks the time and space they deserve.  Don’t hold them back by spending all your time responding to interruptions. Interrupting fires, even when you fight them, burn down forests. It’s a never-ending cycle; a battle with no productive end. Erupting volcanoes build mountains. What’s your mountain?  Own it. Build it. Don’t get distracted by the fires.  
What do you do to prevent forest fires from consuming your time?
If you were to commit today to doing one thing differently so that you can change your focus from the urgent to the important, what would it be?