All Articles

Below is a complete list of all the articles published on Blog posts are not included in this list. They can be found in the archive of blog posts.

What’s the Real Cost of a Fundraising Opportunity?

Every fundraising opportunity has three categories of costs. One is obvious, the second is obscured by the opportunity itself, and the third is investment inherent in the structure of an organization. The first is always considered when deciding whether to pursue an opportunity. It is a direct cost. The other two are indirect. One of the indirect costs forms an either-or question and is often neither seen nor considered. The other is a question of capability. The three categories of opportunity costs are: Resources required to pursue an opportunity. Benefit that could have been derived if those resources had been applied to a different opportunity. Ability to pursue an opportunity. We plot the first cost on spreadsheets, then create budgets, and even institute measurement tools before we begin our pursuit of an opportunity. The second cost, the cost of opportunity lost, too often receives only a cursory examination early in the decision-making process. Sometimes it’s ignored completely. The third we can do little about at the moment of opportunity, but failure to recognize and understand it can turn an opportunity lethal. In fundraising we are used to making decisions based on return on investment (ROI). We decide to invest in a fundraising initiative because we believe it will generate income substantially greater than the cost of implementation. In fact we look for opportunities that strongly leverage that expense. We want an outcome, an ROI, that delivers a high multiple of what we have invested. But what about what will be lost because some other course of action is denied those resources? The answer to that question isn’t easily plotted... read more

Holiday Giving: Make It Bigger and Better Next Year

As we enter the final days of the Holiday giving season, a question occurs to me. It’s one all nonprofit development officers who expected this season to yield increased giving over last should ask themselves: Was I prepared? Come January it’s tempting to sit back and rest after a hectic three months. Maybe even pat yourself on the back a bit. That’s especially true if year-over-year you did better. But making dollar amount raised, number of gifts, and average size of a gift the only measures of success or failure is a mistake. Doing your job well in the final quarter can boost donations and cover up what you failed to do in the first three. When I ask were your prepared, I’m not asking about your readiness to receive an influx of donations. Nor whether you created and executed well-crafted appeals. I’m asking what you did during the first ten months of the year to enlarge your base of potential donors. How did the number of qualified prospects with which you began the final two months of this year compare with last year? Was the number substantially stronger? Was it ten, twenty, thirty percent…higher? I suggest you look at those numbers. Don’t kid yourself. Be ruthless in your analysis of what constitutes qualified. Then deconstruct everything you did to make this year’s number substantially larger than last year’s. I bet you’re going to be disappointed in your efforts. January is a great time to develop plans for making your organization better prepared to optimize the next holiday giving season. Then February through October carryout those plans. Make it... read more

Make Your Mission Statement a Fundraising Tool

A nonprofit organization’s mission statement should be its principal case for support—the main reason why anybody should ever consider donating to the organization. Every other statement a nonprofit makes about its good works past, present, or future should derive from the content of a well crafted mission statement. A mission statement should be clear, concise, and active. It should literally trip off the tongue. The gist of it should be easily remembered. Think of it as your elevator pitch—what you want someone to know about your organization when you have 20 seconds or less to tell them (the time it takes for an elevator ride). That elevator ride may be the only chance you ever get to pitch your organization to a prospective donor. Make it count. A prospect who hears an organization’s mission statement should walk away with an absolute understanding of the primary purpose of that organization—the part of its identity it will never give up. There are those who will argue that fundraisers don’t need to worry about the mission statement. They’ll suggest that the fundraising story can be told successfully irrespective of the mission statement.  Don’t believe it. A mission statement is rooted in an organization’s founding and permeates its existence. It should be the first and best argument for support. Clear, Concise, and Active The absence of a clear, concise, active statement of mission hampers fundraising efforts. An organization cannot have clarity in fundraising if its statement of mission is murky or fails the test of user friendliness. A clear mission statement is easily understood. It is written in common, everyday language. It doesn’t... read more

Accountability & Job Performance for Nonprofit Fundraisers

How and what development professionals are held accountable for are two of the most important questions nonprofit organizations and their fundraisers face. Accountability is a necessary tool for managing staff and fundraising efforts, but it is only as good as the foundation upon which it is built. Early in my career as a fundraiser I struggled in achieving the goals and actions for which I was being held accountable. I would work hard with the best of intentions. But when it came time for my bosses to tally up my successes and failures they saw me as falling short. The result was frustration. I kept trying to meet the standards—usually only a dollar amount to be raised—placed in front of me. Being chided for my failure to do so seemed to leave me with only two alternatives: Quit the field of fundraising because I was unsuited to be a professional development officer. Hang on and keep trying until I was able to move on to an organization where I might have better luck. The first of those choices would force me to accept that the problem lay solely within me. The second assumed that a different organization would yield a different result—that luck of the draw was the difference maker. I was not ready to give up on myself. Nor was I willing to relinquish control of my fate or my organization’s to a belief in luck. What if, I began to wonder, the fault lay not in what I was doing, but in the accountability metric? What if the criteria by which I was being judged lacked validity?... read more

Building a Small-Gifts Campaign Landing Page

Website pages are an important part of any fundraising campaign. When the fundraising effort is made online only, the online campaign landing page (OCLP) can be the difference maker. It can speed or impede the giving process. As things stand now all online fundraising campaigns should be small-gift campaigns. The amount of money asked for should be scaled to the size of a common everyday purchase such as lunch in a restaurant. A gift of that size, requires no consideration by donors of its impact on their budget. It will be an impulse gift. The trick is not to get in the way of that impulse. People are infinitely more likely to walk away from making a $10 gift because of a slow cumbersome process than because of the impact the gift will have on their personal finances. The OCLP is called a landing page because that’s what happens. People land there after coming from somewhere else. Think of it like an airport. Everybody who has ever gotten off a plane at some large airport for the first time does so with a look of bewilderment. Where do I go? Left, right, straight? After leaving the secured area, comes the line of people holding name cards. Even if you’re one of the names, you still have to search for it among the 10 to 20 others. Then there’s baggage claim. Which one of 78 near identical black suitcases is yours? Let’s not even think about what happens when your bag doesn’t show up. How much better would it be if your private plane were landing at an airport where everything was set up for you to... read more

Accept Fundraising Feasibility Study Results
No Matter How Painful

As I was in the midst of writing this article, my wife entered the room modeling a dress she thought would be perfect for an upcoming special event. She asked my opinion. I looked her up and down, examined the garment, and then suggested that it might be a bit too dressy for the event. When will I ever learn? It wasn’t the first time she had rejected what I had to say. Nor is she the only one to ever do so. As someone who has been asked by nonprofit organizations to produce campaign feasibility studies, I’m familiar with what often happens when you tell people what they don’t want to hear. We perform feasibility studies to determine whether to go ahead with major fundraising campaigns such as capital or endowment. A feasibility study is essential for an organization in order to assess the likelihood of success before entering into a campaign. An organization that doesn’t conduct a feasibility study puts at risk the campaign, the project for which the money is to be raised, and sometimes even the organization itself. Things You Don’t Want to Hear from Your Feasibility Study but Need to It’s a sad fact however that all too often when a finished feasibility study is presented to an organization, board members and staff leadership balk. They resist implementing the recommendations simply because they find themselves being told what they don’t want to hear. It’s hard to believe that the friends of their organization—people they themselves put forth as knowledgeable and caring about the organization—may be critical of the organization’s operation and their leadership. To those... read more

Single Women Fundraising Sweet Spot

Nonprofits should reach out and develop a base of support among single women, and a social-media strategy should be an important part of that effort. The evidence for both the importance of unmarried women as donors and social media as a key way to interact with them lies in a mashup of data from three sources: US Census Bureau Lilly School of Family Philanthropy 2010 Women Give study Website Magazine report on social media use by men and women In its broadest sense, a mashup is the combining of content from different sources to reach a new or deeper understanding about a subject touched on in part by each of the original sources. The three sources used in this mashup provided the most recent data and conclusions readily available. And while some of the data may be six or more years old, I have no reason to doubt its continuing validity. Taken together, the three sources support the conclusions that: Single men and women are a major segment of US population. Single women are more inclined to give than single men. Single women who give will generally give more than single men who give. Significantly more women than men use social media, use it more often, and engage with it more deeply. The underlying data that support those conclusions make an unassailable argument for developing and nurturing an identified donor base of single women and for using social media to do it. Single Women Are an Important Group and There are More of Them than Single Men According to the US Census Bureau 44.1% (103 million) of the adult... read more

How Long Should Donors Have to Fulfill Fundraising Pledges?

In my hands is a slick, well done brochure for a capital campaign. The nonprofit organization that has produced it wants to build a new $6.5 million facility. Dates are given for ground breaking, commencement of construction, building completion, and dedication of the new facility. It tells of several encouraging, pacesetting donations that have already been received. An impressive campaign leadership group is identified. Attractive naming opportunities are listed. Everything in the brochure speaks to a well thought out project. It’s a great brochure touting a well planned project and campaign. All looks good, except for one thing—one sentence: “Pledged donations may be paid over three years.” Eight words, such a small thing, but those eight words are the seeds for potential disappointment, even failure. Let’s suppose I’m a prospective donor, a supporter able and quite likely willing to make a gift of $100,000. But, for a variety of reasons I will want to pay my pledge over five years not three. I’ve got taxes, personal obligations, and commitments to other worthwhile organizations to think about and plan around. Think about how being put on notice that I cannot make my gift according to my timetable is likely to impact my receptivity to solicitation by the organization.  But the Money Is Needed Now Organizations raise money because they need it to meet expenses. Annual-fund campaigns designed to cover operational shortfalls are the best example of the need for explicit payment schedules. The money they raise is needed to cover anticipated expenses in the coming year. In many ways the same holds true for capital campaigns such as the building... read more

Should an Organization Have a
Formal Gift-Acceptance Policy?

I am often asked—and it is a recurring topic in fund-raising forums—about whether non-profits should have a formal gift-acceptance policy. My questioners aren’t just concerned about the rare donation that may come with a tinge of doubt about the donor or a level of concern that acceptance of a specific gift may shine a less than favorable light on the organization. Some seem to have a desire to delineate in writing what an organization will and will not accept as a donation. On one hand, it sounds like a good idea for an organization to know what type of gift, from what sources, with what strings attached it is not willing to accept. On the other, a rigid policy can get in the way of working with an unusual donor or gift, and nothing makes a policy more rigid its existence in the form of a formalized written statement. A gift-acceptance policy that is less than well thought out can be a strong negative communication to prospective donors, particularly if that policy is public—published on an organization’s website or included in an annual report or other printed documentation. No matter how you look at it, a gift-acceptance policy is a judgment by the organization of the worthiness of gift and giver. If prospective donors are aware of the content of the policy, they are likely to feel categorized and prejudged. They may feel that the things that make their situation or gift special and therefore an exception to the hard and fast rules will be ignored. They may very well turn away from the organization in order to avoid... read more

Supporting Organizations May Be the
Fundraising Answer If and Only If…

There are members of the boards of trustees of nonprofit organizations who would like to lessen, even eliminate, the fundraising responsibility that comes with their position. Doing so is not wise, but that has not stopped some boards from establishing other bodies that are then charged with all or some of the fundraising responsibilities that would normally fall to them. In general, this is bad practice, bad policy, and a failure of responsibility. However, there are exceptions. The responsibility for fundraising for a nonprofit organization lies primarily, if not wholly, with its board of trustees. The smaller the organization, the more the board needs to be actively involved with all aspects of fundraising, and large size alone doesn’t let a board off the hook when it comes to its fundraising responsibilities. Even if an organization has a substantial and highly professional development staff, the board at a minimum has to accept and carry out fundraising responsibilities in five areas: Oversee all fundraising policies, practices, and activities to assure that they meet legal requirements and follow accepted accounting principles. Oversee all fundraising policies, practices, and activities to assure that they are in alignment with the organization’s vision, values, and mission. Make gifts in keeping with their ability to give. Request gifts from peer-group prospective donors. Recruit additional volunteer leadership for fundraising campaigns. Not all members of a board are equally capable of delivering in an impactful way in all those areas, and no one realistically expects that to be the case. A board made up solely of rich and eager givers may seem like a dream come true to many... read more

How Large Should A Development Staff Be?

The core of the question, in any of those settings, is a search for an “ideal” or industry standard. Such an animal doesn’t exist. There are just too many variables for an across-the-board approach to organizing a development office, especially in terms of how many staff should be employed before we know what they should be employed to do. That would truly be a backward approach. Before the how many, you need to know the what for. Too many questions need to be answered about an organization and its fund-raising intent before you can determine how many people are needed. How old is the organization? What is the size of its annual operating budget? Is the organization and its annual budget expected to expand, contract, or remain about the same size? Is the organization planning to add new functionality or service areas? Does the organization have an earned income stream? What percentage of the organization’s annual operating budget relies upon contributed income? Is there an existing fundraising operation? If so, how long has that fund-raising operation been in existence? What are the principal sources of contributed income at this time–small donors, large donors, grant-making organizations and corporations? Does the organization want to change the weighting of that sourcing? How well known is the organization and its work to the community which it serves? Has there been a change in the fund-raising environment in the community of donors from which the organization requests or will request funding? Have there been any events that impact the organization’s credibility in the fundraising marketplace The above list makes it clear that attempting to... read more

It’s a Brave New Digital World
But Will This Strengthen Relationship?

As the 20th century drew to a close, we had come to think of fundraising as a mature, well developed discipline. But then came the emerging technologies of the 21st century. These game changers have already given us communication and transactional media that could barely be imagined by most fundraisers three decades ago in the 1980s. They present engagement opportunities and channels of giving that were only dimly visible on the horizon of fundraising in the early 1990s. Traditional Areas of Expertise As we move more deeply into the second decade of the 21st century, we can see clearly that fundraising has changed in ways many would not have expected. Looking back, it can be argued that the 1990s were the last decade in which a successful fundraising operation could be based almost exclusively on varying levels of knowledge and expertise in such traditional fields of endeavor as: Accounting Marketing Direct mail Communications Public Relations Law Advertising Selling Event management Organizational management I’m sure the list is missing one or more areas of expertise that effective fundraising has relied upon, but the point is that since the turn of the century new fields based on new and emerging technologies have forced their way onto the list. The impact of these arrivals has been to substantially enlarge the areas of expertise needed by professionals who dedicate themselves to assuring the financial security of nonprofit organizations. There is no doubt that we previously have seen important additions to the expertise needed. Telethons and phone campaigns, for example, when they entered the scene in the mid 20th century made use of then... read more

What To Do When Foundations Have Walled Themselves Off from Your Organization

Reaching out to foundations that have predetermined your organization is outside their area of interest can be challenging, and doing it wrongly can close doors forever. Private foundations are mandated by law to give away a certain percentage of their assets each year, but they can give their money how, when, and where they choose. That’s why some foundations can have a “give only to preselected charities” policy. It’s their money. As fund-raisers we need to honor the wishes of these “walled-off” foundations. Yet, for the good of our organizations, we find ourselves searching for ways to form relationships with these “potential” donors in hopes of becoming one of their accepted few. As we attempt to span the gap between their giving policy and our need, we have to do so with integrity and delicacy. After all, we’re trying to build a bridge not burn one. A major complaint I have heard from foundation officials over the years is that grant seekers are often either oblivious to a foundation’s established grant eligibility requirements or they ignore those guidelines. Those are both big mistakes. So, what can you do when face to face with a wall built by a foundation to keep organizations like yours out? Is there a way you can make justified and meaningful contact with these grant makers and not violate their rules? The answer is yes. It has been done. How do you do this? Use Direct Leverage of Key Stakeholder Associations While some grant makers deal only with their favored, preselected charities, even refusing to accept proposals from others, you can be pretty safe in... read more

Metrics Can Be a Grant Writer’s Nightmare

Let’s pretend you’re the person in a nonprofit organization charged with seeking grants and that your boss is going to hold you accountable to one or more of the following standards. You must get _____ proposals “out the door” every_____. You must get ___­_% of the grants for which you submit proposals approved. You must raise a minimum of $_____ as a result of your grant proposals. I don’t think there could be three more dismaying demands. Using any of these too common absolutist metrics to evaluate a grant seeker’s performance is more than formidable. Depending on how the fill-in-the-blank numbers are determined, it can be flat out damning. Such demands, more often than not, lack a footing in reality. They are unlikely to show even a rudimentary understanding of which grant-making organizations are awarding grants to what initiatives, projects, and organizations. Demands such as these are unlikely to be based on any true market research looking at the way in which grant-making organizations value the purpose to which the requested grant will be put. And this is research that has to be done for each grant-making organization taking into account the operating context of the nonprofit seeking the grant. That is not research which can be done in a half hour on the Internet. It takes time and effort—a lot of time and effort! Too often such demands come out of the poorly informed view that: Success or failure can be measured simply by looking at the “numbers.” Those numbers need to be tough. Grant-proposal writers need to be pushed to “stretch” their goals and increase their effort.... read more

Use of Social Networking Sites on the Rise

If you are managing a nonprofit or some aspect of a nonprofit’s fundraising and have not yet found yourself faced with the question of what to do about online social network participation, you will be—and more likely sooner rather than later. Year after year the data keeps piling up, and it says social-media use just keeps growing. No organization can afford to ignore the constantly growing reach, power, and peer-endorsement clout of social networks. The latest study to reinforce that conclusion—Social Networking Sites and Our Lives—was released June 16, 2011 by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Among its findings: In 2008, 26% of adults used an online social network; in 2010, it was 47%. In 2008 only 18%of Internet users over age 35 used a social network; in 2010, it was 48%. Average user age in 2010: My Space 32. Twitter 33. Facebook 38. LinkedIn 40. Percentage of users who check a social network site at least once a day in 2010: Facebook 52% Twitter 33% MySpace 8% LinkedIn 6% It’s hard to extrapolate exactly what all this and the rest of the far more detailed data to be found in the study mean to nonprofit organizations. But, the amount of time and the level of involvement that social media is garnering makes them a major conduit of communications and places to build awareness of an organization and its mission. For those who figure out how to turn that awareness into action, social media can become important sources of contributed income. Others have done it to the tune of millions of dollars—depending on the scale, appeal, and... read more

Can One Non-Profit Donate Money To Another?

I was asked if one 501(c)(3) non-profit can give money to another 501(c)(3) charity. With the usual, and necessary, caveat of, “I am not attorney, nor am I giving legal advice,” I responded that, Yes, when the transaction advances the donor non-profit’s charitable mission, a non-profit can donate money (and other resources) to another non-profit. In some instances doing so is an essential part of a non-profit carrying out its mission. Example: An orchestra could donate funds to an organization which seeks to develop overall marketing and PR education and outreach to that city’s arts and culture population. Along with that necessary start to the process, the donor non-profit needs to make absolutely certain that there is: No conflict of interest. Any person or persons responsible for the transfer of the donated funds must not personally (their families, friends, associates, etc.) benefit in any way. Example: The donated funds are used to purchase equipment in some way connected to business interests of a Board member of the donor non-profit No violation of donor restrictions. While exacting restrictions are not generally connected to most donations, nevertheless, the risk is that some donors would not approve of their money, in principle, going to another charity they did not choose, no matter how it fits or how worthy. No misuse of the donated charitable resources by the receiving non-profit. Should the receiving non-profit subsequently have publicized financial problems, even though the donated funds were not in fact misused, the overall perception of the receiving organization trumps the reality. Perception is everything. There could be serious trouble for the donor non-profit requiring it... read more

Managing & Reporting
Fund-Raising Campaign Progress

How do you keep a fund-raising campaign on track? By being well organized, constantly monitoring progress, and informing all campaign participants of that progress. The very reason for the pyramidal structure of a campaign committee is to simplify management. In the best of circumstances, the pyramid is constructed so that no person supervises more than five people. (To maintain this limit is why we sometimes add campaign and divisional co-chairs.) Managing even the largest campaigns then becomes a matter of monitoring the progress of a limited number of small hierarchical units. Team captains track the efforts of solicitors, divisional chairs make sure that captains are on top of their teams, and the campaign chair keeps tabs on the divisions. However, this system works only if information moves upward quickly. You can’t fix a problem in a campaign unless you know there is a problem. The best way to make sure that information is being shared is to schedule monthly progress meetings .Attendees know they will be expected to report on their area of responsibility—what has been done, who has been contacted, how much money has been raised. The monthly progress meeting gives the campaign leaders a deadline by which they need to have their houses in order. It is unlikely that you would reconvene at these progress meetings everyone who attended the kick off meeting. The logistics are just too cumbersome. Unless the campaign leadership is an especially large group, the ideal progress meeting consists of the campaign chair, divisional chairs, team captains, the organization’s development person, and the development consultant, if one is being used. In really large... read more

Micro Gifts & Impulse Giving Online

How the Smallest of Gifts Combined with the Impulse to Give Can Yield Real Results Micro-giving is most often thought of as the charitable donation of small increments of money from individual donors to a specific recipient. As it has developed in the past decade, it can be seen as a marketplace where philanthropic needs are offered to a “customer base” in search of opportunities to support, or invest, in causes, societies, and endeavors in which they believe. Micro-giving can be seen as having grown out of Nobel-Peace-Prize-winner Muhammad Yunnus’s Grameen Bank initiative begun 30 years ago to provide micro credit to individuals in Bangladesh. In its short history, micro giving has been largely the province of aggregating philanthropic websites offering a wide variety of giving opportunities. However, micro-giving can be an important fundraising tool for individual nonprofits in search of additional support for specific programs and institutional needs. Overall it should be thought of as part of a small-gifts program that reaches out to donors willing to make smaller donations. Traditionally, most nonprofit organizations have been inclined to concentrate fundraising efforts and resources primarily on seeking large donations and cultivating major donors—both individuals and foundations. Historically about the only ongoing effort to obtain smaller donations has been as part of annual fundraising campaigns to meet operational deficits. Micro-giving is a newer way to seek smaller gifts, but it should not be thought of as an alternative to a traditional annual fund appeal. The annual campaign is the tool for offsetting operational deficits. Micro-giving campaigns are best used for soliciting small gifts for specific purposes. They are a form... read more

Membership Campaigns: The “How-To”

You want to introduce a membership campaign, preferably as part of the Annual Fund Campaign. Your objective is an expanded and reliable base of donors who renew their support year after year. Good thinking. Give yourself a pat on the back: An effective membership campaign can be one of your greatest assets and building it requires little more than a dose of common sense and strategic approach. The Purpose Of a Membership Campaign Philanthropy-driven, recognition-based, membership campaigns are proven and effective tools used to convert prospects into donors, to increase the size of gift, and to build and strengthen relationships. They are one of the most useful solicitation methods fund-raising managers have. Such campaigns can work with corporate and even foundation donors, but let’s stick with where the membership campaign works best, and where most of the money is to be found. Individuals. (Of the $350 billion given to charities annually in the USA, approximately 84% comes from individuals.) Donation Levels = Membership Levels You want to attract as many donors as possible to make their respective donations which they may choose from a number of various giving levels you provide in your campaign Membership levels need to be structured around what you believe is, or close to, the giving potential of your prospective “members.” As you will discover after rating each of them, capacity will vary widely. Plugging into your campaign a wide range of membership levels allows you to provide each donor a giving opportunity he or she will recognize as appropriate to personal circumstances and the depth of his or her connection to your mission. In... read more

How Can I Become a
Non-Profit Fund-Raising Consultant?

There comes a time when some non-profit development professionals begin thinking about saying goodbye to their organizations and hello to the world of fund-raising consulting. They want to know what it takes to be a consultant, and how to find clients. Although the consulting profession may seem attractive, the leap into this hazardous arena requires serious thought and honest assessment of your knowledge, temperament and motivation. Consultants must respond to a wide range of challenges, so they need to have a wide range of experience I know from hard-earned experience what it takes to provide sound, reliable counsel to non-profits facing the challenges of recruiting volunteers, identifying prospects, managing campaigns, and asking for money. No one should expect to be hired as a fund-raising consultant without having behind them a broad base of experience in meeting and overcoming these challenges. Reading books and attending seminars are valuable learning experiences, but nothing trumps real-life experience. Large or small, young or seasoned, experienced or novice, clients expect consultants to deliver the detailed plans and proven tools the organization needs to attract the funds it seeks. This is a demanding profession where the consultant cannot say to a client, “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure,” or “What do you want to do next?” It can be intimidating when all heads turn and all eyes focus on the professional consultant seated alone at the end of the table, charged with answering any and all questions Perhaps most challenging for an aspiring consultant is selling his or her experience to organizations that enjoy a professional development staff and a record of successful fund-raising.... read more

Donor List Selling or Exchange with Other Non-Profit Organizations

Many non-profit organizations exchange with other non-profits their mailing lists of people served, i.e. their clients, users, patrons, etc. They do this for marketing purposes, especially in the arts and culture world. And it could be said it is a good thing, in the spirit of cooperation and public service. But all too often the exchange, or even the sale, of nonprofit organizations’ donor listings is practiced. This is a much different method of mutual support, and it has its consequences. To many of us, such selling of our donors’ names and addresses would, in essence, be a “selling out” of our donors. It’s probably safe to say that most of them would take a rather dim view of this practice. And to seek the permission of the donors to allow their names to be widely and randomly distributed would be an exercise in futility. Many of an organization’s donors were initially brought into its donor base by board members, other volunteers, donors and staff. Those donors are cultivated, solicited and maintained in an organized program of stewardship. Any within the organization’s “family” would most likely be dismayed, even angry, should the names and addresses of the donors they brought into the fold be sold to another non-profit organization. We can only imagine their reaction should the organization begin to lose or receive less money from donors as a result of sharing their names with other charities. These days, more and more unwelcome “cold” solicitations are being made through telefunding and direct mail programs to individuals due to the sale and exchange of donor lists. Consequently, these individuals are... read more

In-Kind Gifts:
How to Acknowledge and Recognize Them

When you receive gifts of products, time and services, be aware that your organization can be held in even greater regard by donors of such In-Kind gifts, should you express your gratitude in a meaningful way—in a manner far and above how these contributions are usually acknowledged by non-profit organizations. This can be accomplished in strict keeping with the applicable IRS rules and regulations, which are especially explicit when it comes to In-Kind gifts and how non-profits handle them. By law, non-profit organizations cannot provide a donor with the dollar value of an In-kind gift. Such valuations when applicable, relative to “fair market value” of In-Kind gifts, need to be professionally assessed and certified elsewhere—if they can be—and that is the responsibility of the donor. This certification subsequently needs to be resolved with the professionals and others who prepare the donor’s tax forms—whose work in turn will need to be reconciled with IRS regulations. In instances where time and service are donated, no tax break whatsoever is allowed, as the IRS Publication 526 clearly states, “You cannot deduct the value of your time or services…” This unique aspect of In-Kind gifts often causes a non-profit organization to acknowledge them in understated, and almost offhanded ways, unlike the precisely stated amounts cited for gifts of cash and stocks. As well, the dollar value of gifts of cash and stocks can be directly related to specific programs and services made possible by such support, which is not usually the case with In-Kind gifts. Thus, appreciation of In-Kind gifts is not always expressed as effectively and graphically, but it can and should... read more

Building Donor Loyalty Chapter 8
Sample Donor Survey Questionnaire

This is the eighth of eight chapters on building donor loyalty. The Table of Contents below will take you to additional chapters. Table of Contents Chapter 1: A Goal for Every Organization Chapter 2: A Strategy for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 3: What You Need to Know about Your Donors Chapter 4: The Importance of Being Donor Centric Chapter 5: Tactics for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 6: Stewards of Other People’s Money Chapter 7: Tools for Donor Cultivation Chapter 8: Surveying Your Donors Chapter 8 Sample Donor Survey Questionnaire  What Do You Know About Your Donors? If you want donors to be loyal to, and support, your organization—they must know you, trust you, and believe that you are fulfilling your mission and using their contributions wisely. If you don’t know who your donors are and what they think of your organization—you can’t successfully communicate with them. Donor Surveys Help You Learn About Your Donors Donor surveys can be implemented in a number of ways, including mail, e-mail, telephone, focus discussions, and face-to-face meetings. Whether comprehensive one-to-one interviews, or a mix of any of the other options, surveys do not need to be complicated research instruments. A simple questionnaire (or format, for personal meetings) can be tallied either by hand or, if you structure the questions right, on a simple computer spreadsheet. Guidelines First, take a hard look at what you want to learn and about the uses to which you intend to put their response. Although some questions are “standard,” you will be more productive if you develop a survey tailored to your organization’s specific need. Whether... read more

Finance vs. Development?

Mixing Oil and Water and Making it Work in a Non-Profit Organization The receiving and the handling of donations made to non-profit organizations are simple to do, but very often poorly done. When that happens, a vital block is taken out of the foundation we strive to build in an effort to ensure donor loyalty for future gifts. Lost or misplaced checks and other communications from donors, late and erroneous recording of gift/pledge dates and amounts, delayed and otherwise neglected acknowledgments, spelling errors of donors’ names, etc., all lead to lost or upset donors. We can all agree that this critically important process must be done right. And it starts with the very first check or pledge from a donor when it arrives in the mail room. But in many non-profit organizations, there is a sharply divided opinion regarding just where those checks, pledges, and other donor communications should go next in order to ensure that all goes right with the receiving, posting, acknowledging, reporting, and banking process of donations. Show Me the Money The Finance Department wants to be the receiver of the first resort. They are worried about possible theft, lost or misplaced funds, and failure, in general, to meet what they regard as standard accounting procedures. They are under the gun to provide up-to-date budgets and forecasts for the monthly meetings of the board of trustees and for all other such timely reports required in between. The Development Department wants to be the receiver of the first resort. They want to know the results of their fund-raising campaigns as quickly as possible, with no delay. They... read more

Pro Bono Services for Your Organization

Pro Bono: “Especially for the Public Good” (Merriam-Webster) The dictionary definition of pro bono fits well with non-profit organizations, which themselves are also for “the public good,” according to the IRS description of how they must be created and operated. And the good, in the case of pro bono work, is what countless non-profit organizations have received from generous businesses and firms as contributions of legal work, accounting, printing, and much more—all of which help to reduce operating and special expenses the organizations would ordinarily need to pay, even to help make funds available for things they would like to do, but could not otherwise afford. The result is to help relieve the strain on the requirements of their annual fund and other fund-raising campaigns. Much of the pro bono work donated to non-profits by businesses and firms is direct and uncomplicated. Such work can be evaluated in terms of making exacting legal decisions, having accredited year-end audits, producing workable long-range plans, executing successful searches to fill management staff positions, etc. Free But Maybe Not Acceptable However, it is another matter entirely when it comes to pro bono work requiring creativity, such as art, design and writing: when the pro bono work is for a non-profit organization’s annual report, mission-oriented institutional publications, marketing and PR publications, other media (such as radio and television, website development), and especially for the materials and communication resources which drive fund-raising campaigns. All of these pro bono services are the direct result of the creative and artistic minds of others from advertising and related agencies, whose creative personnel usually are not closely enough associated... read more

Development Director Job Interview Questionnaire

Introduction The interview form presented below is designed to elicit as much pertinent information as possible and as desired or required in the most advanced of interviews. However, for the vast majority of non-profit organizations, it is meant to be a guide to the conducting of a wide range of interview situations when seeking to hire a Director of Development. For each such hiring process, the questions selected by an interviewer for a non-profit organization should be relevant to the needs of that particular organization, and as the development professional’s duties are expressed in the job description. And, most important, they must be realistically in accord with the interviewee’s experience. The questionnaire is designed so that the interviewer asks questions which go beyond simple yes and no answers, thus allowing the job candidate to do a good deal of the talking. Desired/Required Basic Skills When hiring a professional development officer, the emphasis should be placed on the characteristics that are necessary for the appointed person to be able to carry out efficiently the position requirements. Specifically, you hire someone who can accurately and effectively communicate the mission of the organization, and who understands the importance of close interaction and teamwork among members of the development office and public relations/marketing personnel, as well as other professional staff and management. This person will also represent the organization externally in ways that foster the best possible relations with volunteers, actual and potential donors, sponsors and granting agencies. In succinct terms the requirements are: Knowledge of basic skills of fund-raising management; Superior organizational and communication skills; Donor and volunteer service mentality; Analytical capabilities;... read more

Sales Professional to Development Professional:
A Workable Transition

A For-Profit Salesperson’s Guide to Getting a Job in Non-Profit Development Introduction The primary and most direct way for sales professionals to obtain positions as development professionals in non-profit organizations is for former sales professionals to promote and demonstrate their sales skills and experience as relevant to what they would do in a non-profit development setting. The main purpose of this article is to provide interested sales professionals with the strategies and tactics they will need to begin new careers as non-profit fund-raising professionals. Two additional concepts can help accelerate and facilitate the sales-to-development transition into the consciousness and practice of both the for-profit and the non-profit communities. One is to explain how corporations—which are finding it necessary to layoff or permanently terminate their sales professionals for good reason, (through no fault of these otherwise valued employees)—can personally and directly help their former employees find jobs in non-profit organizations. The other is to bring to the attention of non-profit officials, who are looking to hire development professionals, the availability of an entirely new pool of potential employees—and to foster in them a recognition and acceptance of the many directly applicable skills and knowledge that sales professionals can bring to non-profit organizations. I will describe these further at the end of this article. Many Development Jobs Few Candidates The number of cultural, health, religious, social service, and educational organizations that must conduct fund-raising campaigns has increased dramatically in the past few decades. Well-trained and experienced development officers are in high demand, and good ones are hard to find. One reason for this may be that there is no proven training... read more

Debt-Elimination Fund-Raising Campaigns

How can your organization raise the money it needs to pay off: Money borrowed from a lending institution? Unpaid invoices from vendors, suppliers, and contractors for the purchase of a capital asset? Money allocated from other of the organization’s resources/assets? Accentuate the Positive Surveys tell us that people give to charitable organizations as an “investment” of their resources, expecting to see results that are tangible and good. They can do that when a building is erected with their support, and when they fund a special program or service which is directly provided to those who benefit from the organization. They feel that way as well when they have invested their money to help an organization meet its general annual operating costs, since those donors know that paying salaries, utilities, etc. makes it possible for the organization to carry out its mission fully on an ongoing basis. Developing a case for support of each of those endeavors is a relatively easy thing to do. The arguments can be clearly delineated and convincingly presented, and the results can even be quantified. But, how much success do you think any organization would have with the following approach to its donors? “Would you please consider making a contribution of $ _______ to help us pay off our organization’s debt?” A request for a contribution made in this way by a solicitor to a prospect would have the former hardly feeling eager to make the ask. With almost certainty, the solicitor herself or himself would not be a true believer in the project. As for the prospect, she or he would be asked to... read more

Solicitation of Vendors

A non-profit organization’s intention to solicit its vendors for cash contributions in support of its general operating campaign or a capital building or renovation project has a number of unique twists and turns which must be considered in detail before asking for the money. Soliciting a charitable gift based on a prospect’s wish to support something of personal value and for what is good for her or his community is a purely philanthropic act, and it is a vastly different transaction from a non-profit expecting a donation based on a business deal because a company or firm sells products or services to the organization. This latter situation could cause people within a non-profit to want to exert pressure—sometimes unfair—on vendors to make contributions. Along with the caveats cited in this article for greater sensitivity to the vendor solicitation issue, it should be kept in mind by those exerting such pressure, that the organization is, after all, getting something for its money from the vendor’s products or services. The Challenges of Determining a Meaningful “Suggested Ask” Determining a suggested asking amount for each vendor will most likely be a guessing game. Yet setting a reasonable and accurate contribution amount is essential. Otherwise, simply asking them to contribute “something” is like raising money in a vacuum. Most prospects, including vendors, at least on the surface, will welcome and better understand a suggestion of what would be an appropriate contribution for them to make. There is one unique reason for finding it difficult to come up with a meaningful suggested asking amount for a vendor’s contribution of cash relative to the business... read more

Donor Surveys

What Do You Know About Your Donors and What Do They Know About Your Organization? If we’re going to ask people for money, it sure helps if they think highly of both our organization and its mission. Do they see our mission as vital and valid? Are we perceived as being successful at carrying out that mission? Has our organization earned and maintained trust and respect? Have we been efficient stewards of donations and resources? Has any controversy been associated with us? Have questions about any of our leaders arisen? Do people believe we are the right organization to address what we declare in our Mission Statement? Do they know enough about us to have formed any deeply held opinions? Learn About Your Donors Methods to learn the opinions and impressions donors have of your organization can be implemented in a number of ways, including mail, e-mail, telephone, focus discussions, and face-to-face meetings. Whether comprehensive one-on-one interviews, or a mix of any of the other options, surveys do not need to be complicated research instruments. A simple questionnaire (or format, for personal meetings) can be tallied either by hand or, if you structure the questions right, on a simple computer spreadsheet. When conducting a donor satisfaction and donor interest evaluation, I think a few suggestions on how to collect data are in order: Questionnaires are a good way to collect a lot of information quickly. Unsigned questionnaires guarantee anonymity. They are easy to manage, and multiple-choice responses can be easy to quantify. But you have to be careful not to write questions that bias responses. Questionnaires lack a personal... read more

Wearing Those Development and Marketing “Hats” at the Same Time: A Bad Fit and a Headache

Wearing Those Development and Marketing “Hats” at the Same Time: A Bad Fit and a Headache Introduction For decades, I have heard about, observed, and have had personal relationships with scores of individuals who attempted to wear the Development and Marketing/Communications/PR “hats” at the same time and who for many years—mostly in vain—struggled to perform both those jobs within their non-profit organizations. Still, the reality is that this undesirable and mostly unworkable practice is currently widespread, and it will continue as long as the leadership of non-profit organizations are willing to attempt to squeeze two very different sets of duties from one person, and for those times when such professionals delude themselves into thinking they can work both activities equally well. Of course, there are exceptions, and some may very well wear the two hats with a good degree of comfort. However, from my long experience with just about all of the facets of non-profit fund-raising management, what I write and recommend must necessarily not deal with the exception. I have never believed that we can rely upon the exception for success, and that especially holds true in this instance. The Purpose Of This Article Is: To encourage professionals to think twice regarding the formidable and unique expectations, demands, and the pitfalls they surely will encounter when they are considering accepting such a position having those formidable dual responsibilities. To support professionals already in over their heads working to wear those two hats in their organizations as possibly a way for them to convince management to hire another professional as a colleague to fill one or the other positions.... read more

Challenge/Matching Gift Programs for Your Fund-Raising Campaigns

Challenge Grants Can Multiply Your Success Challenge grants are indeed challenging to fulfill, and once secured, they are unusually rewarding opportunities for non-profit organizations to greatly energize and enhance their fund-raising campaigns. They can significantly increase the chance to raise more money than would be possible otherwise. Challenge Grants may be utilized to jump-start a campaign, or as a mid-course correction to energize a flagging campaign. The best thing to know about Challenge Grants is that they almost always are a required key element of capital and endowment campaigns, but are equally effective and productive when they are employed in annual fund, sponsorship and underwriting campaigns. From Whom and for How Much? To help identify a potential Challenge Grant donor, your best source is your Board of Trustees. Perhaps one of your Board members has the financial capability to lead a challenge, or knows of another individual, company, family or community foundation that has such potential. It is always best to identify several possible donors in priority order. The amount of the Challenge Grant request will depend on a variety of factors: The need: based on the Fund-Raising Campaign Goal. The rated capability of the Challenge Grant prospect. he rated potential of those in your donor base from whom you will seek matching funds. Do you have reasonable certainty that you can match the challenge dollars at least on a one-for-one dollar ratio? Based on your fund-raising potential as indicated above, you can determine if you will seek the usual one-for-one (dollar for dollar) match, or increase the ratio to perhaps, one-for-two, or even one challenge dollar for every... read more

Corporate Matching of Employees’
Gifts to Your Organization

A number of resources provide listings of companies having gift programs that match contributions made by their employees to non-profit organizations. According to the grantor’s guidelines, such matching funds could be general in nature for support of almost any type of accredited non-profit favored by an employee, or a company might limit its matching funds, say, to education. Often, a company has a maximum limit to funds it donates in this way to a given nonprofit organization during a single year. Through your research from libraries and on the Internet, such commercially available lists and those harvested by nonprofit associations, such as CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education), can be reviewed for possible value to your organization. Look Only or at least Mainly to Companies Operating in Your Area of Service You will need to be selective and temper your expectations when consulting listings of companies matching the gifts of their employees. These general and geographically-wide lists of companies with matching gifts programs may be of very limited use to community organizations. What counts most is that any companies that match gifts of employees who make contributions to non-profit organizations must have some facility or operation in the geographic area served by the non-profit. Thus, it would do no good to present to your donors a list of companies that have no business interests or employees in your area. No business in the area—no employees—no matching gifts. So, let’s narrow the search for those companies which have matching programs, and which operate in your area. How do you identify the companies in your area with matching programs?... read more

Greetings from America: How U.S.-Style Fund-Raising Can Work in Your Country

Introduction I have presented fund-raising workshops in many countries outside North America during a professional career of more than 35 years. I have also presented fund-raising workshops to numerous foreign visitors in the United States who were representing charities in their respective countries. In every case, the people who attended my workshops came from nations in which there was neither a tradition nor an established process of individual or corporate philanthropy toward charitable and cultural agencies or non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Yet despite such challenges, people from around the world sought advice and guidance regarding the U.S. philanthropic-style of fund-raising. They did so because they recognized that government support of charities, cultural bodies and NGOs in their countries was rapidly eroding and in danger of disappearing altogether. As a result, they were both willing and eager to learn how to fund-raise in the American style. “Just show us how to do it,” they told me. “We will find a way to make the process work for us.” Many of them succeeded in dramatic fashion. And this article is intended to convey the message that you can make it work, too. A Heritage of Giving The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom share a long-standing tradition of philanthropy. Fund-raising for charitable organizations that promote human welfare—as well as for such cultural entities as art museums and orchestras, and for NGOs that do good works—is, therefore, both accepted and encouraged in our societies. While the U.S. and some other countries enjoy a long heritage of private support for charitable organizations, individuals in other countries are just as caring and supportive as... read more

When Should a Non-Profit Organization
Hire its First Development Director?

The short answer is sooner rather than later! If a non-profit organization is beginning to ask whether it needs a professional development director, it probably should have hired one months, even years ago. The biggest mistake non-profits make in hiring their first development director is waiting until the board, executive director, and other key personnel have arrived at a consensus that one is needed NOW. An organization that waits until it is necessary to hire a development director has waited too long. When I was hired as the first development director of the Cleveland Orchestra way back in 1972, it had already been in existence for 55 years and was recognized as one of the world’s great orchestras. It was also facing a $1 million deficit. I was introduced to the board as, “… a necessary evil …” brought on by that staggering deficit. The orchestra had waited until it was necessary to hire me. It should have hired its first development director years earlier when a fund-raising development professional could have worked with the board to help prevent, or to greatly reduce, that deficit. So then, what are the universal signals—the indicators—that tell an organization it’s time to hire a professional development director? Well, the sad news is that there aren’t any. Each organization will have its own set of signals based on its culture, mission, budget, size, potential for growth, and a host of other factors. To know when to hire your first development director requires that you know your organization. You Can’t Add, Subtract, Multiply or Divide Your Way to When to Hire a Development Director... read more

A Campaign Deferred Is a Campaign Defeated

Disasters and crises can occur anywhere, at any time. Hopefully they won’t have the impact of mega-disasters such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks or of 2005’s hurricane Katrina. However, even disasters of considerably less magnitude can impede the fund-raising efforts of non-profit organizations located in areas where they occur. Flood, drought, storm, and other natural disasters are obvious candidates to impact an organization. Major accidents, industrial or otherwise, can hit hard too. On top of these gloomy possibilities there is always the crisis that could result from change. A key supporting industry moves away or closes. The local economy enters into a general malaise. Add to all those, the results of bad publicity hitting a non-profit organization or the impact of what happens when a well-known national charity is embroiled in scandal. When problems of this magnitude arise in an area, officials of local non-profits can be tempted to question openly whether they should proceed with regular fund-raising, let alone dare to tackle new initiatives. But local events aren’t the only occurrences that can weaken a non-profit’s fund-raising resolve. Terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. and hurricanes striking the Gulf Coast can chill the fund-raising climate across the nation if officials of organizations allow themselves to believe calamitous events hundreds of miles away will seriously affect their community’s capability or willingness to give to local causes. No Excuse Is A Good Excuse A few months ago, a major institution in my state announced a huge deficit for its current fiscal year. A spokesperson for the institution placed a significant part of the blame for the... read more

What’s a Good Director of Development Worth?

Non-profits with resources sufficient to engage professionals in key staff positions seem to find it relatively easy to determine salaries for heads of marketing, finance, and human resources, among others. Development directors however are another story. Why is that? I believe there are several reasons. But perhaps most important is the fact that what is expected of the development director is rigorously defined by the individual situation of the organization. What will be asked of a development director is determined by an organization’s financial condition, board composition, and a host of other criteria highly specific to that organization. The human resources director of one organization is quite likely to perform just as well in another. But the development director who fits perfectly with organization A’s situation may find her or his skills and experiences a less-than-perfect match to organization B’s needs. Other directors and managers in a non-profit organization need to labor just as hard as the development director. They too need to bring professional skill, a strong work ethic, and integrity to the job. But a development director must add to that mix a sensitivity to both the organization’s resource needs and its donor and volunteer constituency. Development directors are the persons paid to see that the money an organization must have to perform its mission—even survive—is raised from a specific constituency of supporters and funding entities. High Expectations All non-profit organizations want a development director who has common sense; works hard; prepares to perfection; is courteous, sensitive, and understanding; exudes unbridled enthusiasm; possesses a positive temperament; and is committed to what the organization is doing. And that’s... read more

Making The Development Office a
Fund-Raising “Clearinghouse”

(It Makes for a More Perfect Fund-raising World) Introduction The fund-raising “left hand” not knowing what the “right hand” is doing when it comes to who is asking whom for how much, for which purpose, and when, has always been a common dilemma for non-profit organizations. So it was with mine. As I began my twenty-year engagement as Director of Development of The Cleveland Orchestra, it became readily apparent to me that numerous solicitations of individuals, corporations and foundations were being made without anyone’s coordination by scores of volunteers acting independently on behalf of our Orchestra in general, but specifically to meet needs as determined by the Orchestra’s three women’s committees, the Chorus, and by staff from the artistic, marketing, education, and finance departments. Such well-intended, but errant fund-raising activities collided with my own development department’s ongoing and planned annual fund, capital, endowment, sponsorship, and underwriting campaigns. Something needed to be done—and it was, with great and satisfying cooperation by all parties. Simply put, I actively promoted the benefits of establishing a process to make the development department the total fund-raising “Clearinghouse” as an absolute necessity in order to establish funding priorities, maximize funding potential for each of the special needs, and make more efficient our overall fund-raising program. The following article will make the case for such a clearinghouse arrangement, and show you how to do it should “ad hoc” fund-raising be an issue at your organization. A “Perfect” Fund-Raising World It Is Not! In a perfect world all fund-raising initiatives would begin and end with the development department. There would never be a worry about one fund-raising... read more

When the Development Officer
Is Obliged to Raise Her or His Own Salary

Paying For Your Own Keep Too often, especially in smaller non-profit organizations, staff development officers are forced into a deplorable position that belittles them and damages the organization. They are charged with personally raising their own salaries. These salaries sit outside the normal budgeting process. They are not treated as a regular operating expense. Instead, they become an extraordinary item, an afterthought. There is no rational argument for this practice. I believe it comes from trustees who mistakenly view fund-raising as a necessary, but demeaning, evil. They try at all costs to avoid doing it themselves, even though fund-raising is universally acknowledged to be a primary responsibility of trustees. For these malfunctioning trustees, fund-raising is a repugnant task they hire someone else to do. An attitude such as this places fund-raising outside of an organization’s regular operational activities. From there it is a short step to not including it in the budget and making development staff responsible for finding the money for their salaries. Such a view is dangerously flawed. Trustees who think that the people they hire to raise funds are in fact “the” fund-raisers condemn their organization to a life of under funding and curtailed programming. It is the responsibility of the leadership of an organization to take the lead in raising the funds needed to sustain that organization. There is no stronger indicator of an organization in trouble than the refusal of its trustees to accept their fund-raising responsibility. Fund-Raising Expense: The Cost Of Doing the Organization’s “Business” Growing, successful organizations see development staff salaries in the same light as any other personnel expense. They understand... read more

Develop Your Fund-Raising Plan
with Consensus

Introduction Are you working on a fund-raising plan—or planning to? When seeking to construct a plan for a fund-raising campaign, the persons charged by their non-profit organizations with that responsibility often ask for a plan “boilerplate,” or a “template,” thinking that such models could be directly and wholly adapted to their situation. However, it is not that simple. Since each campaign plan should be determined by the objectives, costs, resources, priorities, responsibilities and timelines emanating from the long-range, strategic plan, it is obvious that a “one-size-fits-all” fund-raising campaign plan document can only be used in a broad and general way. Refinement, flexibility, and consensus, are but a few of the components which each plan must accommodate and they are unique from one organization to another. This article can help you to adapt the guides and outlines provided so that you can develop your own general development plan and specific fund-raising campaign plans. Planning Is Everything A fund-raising campaign must be: A plan, Within a plan, Within a plan. Each campaign plan works within the general development plan, which in turn must fit into the organization’s strategic plan—with the Mission Statement being the “center of it all.” Deviate from this hierarchy of plans and you invite chaos. A campaign plan that is not in accord with the general development plan may make its goal, but it may also “poison the well” for other fund-raising efforts. A general development plan that has not been created within the context of an organization’s strategic plan may outline a valid theory for acquiring contributed income, but it will probably lack the content necessary for... read more

In the Beginning

All fund-raising campaigns must begin with a realization that the organization needs money, usually voiced to the person charged with fund-raising as, “We need to raise $________.” The amount varies, but once accepted it becomes the Goal. Whether the effort is to be the regular clockwork of an annual campaign or a one-shot designed to raise money for a specific, non-recurring purpose, it begins and ends with the goal. Success or failure is measured incrementally by how far above or below goal the campaign finishes. The first step in setting the goal is to look at the resources you plan to tap and see if they can meet the stated need. Even organizations with modest contributed income needs will find the following example of this principle instructive. Once at a board meeting of The Cleveland Orchestra, an influential and highly respected trustee got up and said, “What we need is more endowment. We ought to have a $20 million endowment campaign.” Sitting there, hearing that declaration made with no justification, and no warning, I was in no position, as Director of Development, to show any reaction, however subtle—that we should and could raise that significant amount, or that such a goal was not possible. My inside emotions were another thing, as I said to myself, “Oh no!” But it was to be yes! The suggestion was made, after all, by a trustee of great influence and affluence, and all heads nodded in agreement with him as expected. Not the Best Way to Set a Goal In the end, the goal we decided on was $12 million, not $20 million.... read more

Who Should Raise the Money
from within Your Organization?

The board of trustees must be the lifeblood of a non-profit organization’s fund-raising and development activities. They are the leaders who approve program initiatives developed from the organization’s long-range strategic plan. They authorize the expenditure of funds to carry out those initiatives. Those board-authorized expenses determine the organization’s operating budget. When that operating budget is greater than earned and endowment income, money must be raised to cover the resultant deficit. Therefore, it is trustees who establish fund-raising goals through their expense authorizations. An Alarming and Potentially Dangerous Trend Those leaders of non-profit organizations who establish fund-raising needs should carry the full responsibility for meeting those needs, but in recent years I have seen more and more organizations place the burden for fund-raising gift solicitation on the shoulders of executive directors and development staff. When staff members are given the responsibility of raising all or most of the money an organization needs, I have seen those non-profit organizations experience many serious and damaging consequences. In those instances, trustees failed to recognize that successful fund-raising officers do not ask for the money; they get others, beginning with the trustees themselves, to ask for it. As I have seen more and more heated discussion in recent years about who should be raising the money for non-profit organizations, I have observed a change in how we development professionals describe and perhaps even think about ourselves and how others see us. What’s In A Name? Plenty! There is a tendency in the development profession these days to describe our work as fund-raising and to call ourselves fund-raisers. To my way of thinking, volunteers are... read more

Major Gifts Campaign Checklist

A successful Major Gifts fund-raising campaign is not magic. It is a straightforward, concise process of executing well-defined components arranged in a step-by-step progression. I know this to be so because I have seen it done over and over again—starting at A and working through to Z, successfully carrying out campaign after campaign and achieving goal after goal. Looking at the nuts and bolts of a Major Gifts fund-raising campaign is the best way I know to make its success probable and its process understandable. Breaking down a campaign step-by-step, point-by-point, lets you present it to staff and volunteers of your non-profit organization in a way calculated to increase acceptance of over-all goals and individual responsibilities. However, if successful fund-raising is simply hard work on the part of the thoroughly prepared, then that preparation must begin before a campaign is planned. An organization contemplating a Major Gifts campaign needs first to assess and evaluate its readiness to raise money. To that end, I suggest that the checklist below be used to self-evaluate your organization’s Major Gifts fund-raising readiness at a special board meeting, at a staff retreat, or as a one-on-one survey of trustees and staff. Try it yourself and see if it changes your own understanding of your organization’s readiness to raise money from Major Gifts. It’s easy to do. Just check each statement that you can honestly claim to be true for your organization. Our Major Gifts Fund-Raising Program: Works from a General Development Plan Operates with other campaigns without diluting any of our resources Has a solid base of major gifts from our Board of Trustees... read more

Developing a Communications Strategy
For the Development Operation

If a nonprofit organization wants to maximize its contributed income it needs a coherent, executable development plan, and that plan must have a viable communications strategy. What we’ll be talking about here is not an organization’s overall communications strategy – how and what it does to present itself to the public at large. Rather we’re talking about an organization’s development communications strategy—how and what it does to communicate its fundraising needs and efforts to donors, prospects, and those able to influence them. Context of a Development Communications Strategy A development communications strategy starts with the organization’s overall communications plan. Whatever is done to communicate, as part of the fundraising effort, must be done in the context of how the organization has decided to present itself to the public. The need for a specialized development communications strategy does not give a development department the license to work outside the organization’s communications department. It is crucially important that the development department work with the communications department. Approval must be sought from the communications department for the development communication strategy and its major components. I cannot stress this point strongly enough. A development communications strategy crosses functional lines within an organization. It must be true to both the development and the communications departments’ guidelines, practices, and policies. Failure to work closely with the communications department in this area can result in damage to the organization, its fundraising efforts, collegial harmony, and your career. There is another thing to which any development communications strategy must also be true – the organization’s mission. No one should ever construct a development plan or the communications... read more

Nonprofit Fund-Raising Demystified

When it comes to fund-raising, there are truths and myths. The truths illuminate the path to success. The myths speak with the dark voice of “conventional wisdom” of what can’t be done and won’t work. Throughout my career I have had to overcome three myths of fund-raising that would have me give up before I start. My tools have been The Nine Basic Truths of Fund-Raising. Myth 1: Face it, fund-raising is impossible and the process is a mystery. Anyone who has failed at it or has managed to avoid being held accountable for that failure knows this. Myth 2: Everybody knows you need a proven track record if you are to raise money. If you doubt it, just look at all the help-wanted ads for development officers that list as a qualification “successful history of managing a major annual campaign or soliciting large donations.” Myth 3: It’s common knowledge that corporations and foundations give most of the money. Just ask those who have never done any fund-raising or who would find a contribution of $50 a strain on their budget. Those three “beliefs” have helped doom many a fund-raising campaign. On the other hand, there are some insights about fund-raising that successful fund-raisers have gained. These insights often fly in the face of the myths of conventional wisdom. They offer no shortcuts. They promise no instant results. However, they are not hard to understand, and nearly anyone can profit from them. They are The Nine Basic Truths Of Fund-Raising. The Truths, The Whole Truths, And Nothing But The Truths Sometimes in this world that showers us with new... read more

Building Donor Loyalty Chapter 7
Tools for Donor Cultivation

This is the seventh of eight chapters on building donor loyalty. The Table of Contents below will take you to additional chapters. Table of Contents Chapter 1: A Goal for Every Organization Chapter 2: A Strategy for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 3: What You Need to Know about Your Donors Chapter 4: The Importance of Being Donor Centric Chapter 5: Tactics for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 6: Stewards of Other People’s Money Chapter 7: Tools for Donor Cultivation Chapter 8: Surveying Your Donors Chapter 7 Tools for Donor Cultivation Tactics and tools are not always easily separated. In fact, many of the approaches we described as tactics a few minutes ago could be viewed as tools—newsletters, annual reports, greeting cards, press releases, etc. Just as the tools we are about to discuss could be recast as tactics. For me, something is more readily seen as a tactic when it is so familiar that we have no need to explain what it is. Newsletters, annual reports, greeting cards, and press releases certainly fall into this category. With tactics, we only need to show why they should be used. Tools on the other hand, are less likely to be so ingrained in our work process. Tools, for me, are things that need to be explained. Their use needs to be learned. The value inherent in their use may not be as easily seen. Particularly when it means adopting new technology or making an investment in their acquisition and implementation. Over the past decade, two high-tech tools have become increasingly available and effective for managing and cultivating donor relationships. The first... read more

Building Donor Loyalty Chapter 6
Stewards of Other People’s Money

This is the sixth of eight chapters on building donor loyalty. The Table of Contents below will take you to additional chapters. Table of Contents Chapter 1: A Goal for Every Organization Chapter 2: A Strategy for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 3: What You Need to Know about Your Donors Chapter 4: The Importance of Being Donor Centric Chapter 5: Tactics for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 6: Stewards of Other People’s Money Chapter 7: Tools for Donor Cultivation Chapter 8: Surveying Your Donors Chapter 6 Stewards of Other People’s Money When it comes to raising money from foundations and corporations, cultivating relationships with them, and turning them into loyal donors, there are three key elements we need to remember. Most importantly, the decision to award a grant is made by people. That means most of what we do to court individual donors works just as well with foundation and corporate decision makers. But there is a difference, and that difference is the second most important thing to remember. The money they give away is not theirs. Except in the case of a tightly controlled family foundation, those people are stewards of other people’s money. When it comes to cultivating foundations and corporations and turning them into loyal donors, you need to respond to each foundation and corporation as you would to an individual donor. A few words about that third point: It needs to be done with active cultivation, careful consideration, and respectful appreciation. Active cultivation means you continuously work to cultivate relationships with the people at a foundation or corporation who award or influence the award of... read more

Building Donor Loyalty Chapter 5
Tactics for Cultivating Relationships

This is the fifth of eight chapters on building donor loyalty. The Table of Contents below will take you to additional chapters. Table of Contents Chapter 1: A Goal for Every Organization Chapter 2: A Strategy for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 3: What You Need to Know about Your Donors Chapter 4: The Importance of Being Donor Centric Chapter 5: Tactics for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 6: Stewards of Other People’s Money Chapter 7: Tools for Donor Cultivation Chapter 8: Surveying Your Donors Chapter 5 Tactics for Cultivating Relationships with Donors You’ve recognized the importance of building donor loyalty through the strategy of donor cultivation. You’ve identified the data needed to build the donor profiles necessary to donor cultivation, and your organization is ready to commit to developing a donor centric culture. It’s time to get down to the brass tacks of implementing a donor cultivation strategy. A strategy is a plan for what we want to accomplish. Tactics are how we go about doing it. Strategy is grand design. Tactics are life in the trenches. To implement our strategy of building donor relationships and loyalty, let’s take a look at seven basic techniques of donor cultivation. For each technique, I’ll be giving examples of specific tactics you can use. The seven are: Bring donors to the organization. Go out to meet donors. Keep in touch with donors. Look for ways to help donors, i.e., facilitating business & social contacts Bring donors closer. Find ways to connect them with program & other staff. Always thank donors quickly and accurately for their generosity. Recognize donors in ways that they... read more

Building Donor Loyalty Chapter 4
The Importance of Being Donor Centric

This is the fourth of eight chapters on building donor loyalty. The Table of Contents below will take you to additional chapters. Table of Contents Chapter 1: A Goal for Every Organization Chapter 2: A Strategy for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 3: What You Need to Know about Your Donors Chapter 4: The Importance of Being Donor Centric Chapter 5: Tactics for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 6: Stewards of Other People’s Money Chapter 7: Tools for Donor Cultivation Chapter 8: Surveying Your Donors Chapter 4 The Importance of Being Donor Centric An organization becomes donor centric when it recognizes donors as its lifeblood and makes their care a central aspect of its endeavors. Notice that I have said “a” central aspect, not “the” central aspect. It would be a sham non-profit organization that centered its existence simply on raising money. The mission of all non-profits should be to do good works in some way, shape, or form. However, if an organization is to build donor loyalty and develop the strong donor relationships that will assure its long-term growth, it must make cultivating donors and managing its relationships with them a core organizational value. Donor cultivation must be embraced as an objective by every department, staff member, and board member. If your organization is to be donor centric you must avoid isolating fund-raising from the rest of the work the organization does. The organization must acknowledge that fund-raising is a shared responsibility. If board chairs and executive directors recognize fund-raising as one of their top three responsibilities, they will infuse their organization with a positive view of fund-raising. If... read more

Building Donor Loyalty Chapter 3
What You Need to Know about Your Donors

This is the third of eight chapters on building donor loyalty. The Table of Contents below will take you to additional chapters. Table of Contents Chapter 1: A Goal for Every Organization Chapter 2: A Strategy for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 3: What You Need to Know about Your Donors Chapter 4: The Importance of Being Donor Centric Chapter 5: Tactics for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 6: Stewards of Other People’s Money Chapter 7: Tools for Donor Cultivation Chapter 8: Surveying Your Donors Chapter 3 What You Need to Know about Your Donors There are many ways to collect information about donors. Remembering the 80/20 rule, it’s obvious you’re going to put more hands-on time and effort into collecting information about the 20% of donors who give 80% of contributed income. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore the rest. All donors are capable of growth. And your largest donors today probably started out making far smaller gifts. You need to develop profiles of all your donors. It’s just that the profiles of your smaller givers are unlikely to be as fleshed-out as those of your largest donors. It’s common sense that you will know a lot better the donor who gives a hundred thousand dollars than one who gives a hundred. Nevertheless, you should be collecting basic profile information on all donors. One more word of, I guess, caution. You’re not going to be able to get all the information listed here. But try. Over time, you’ll be surprised at how much of it you will be able to collect. The real value of a donor database-a... read more

Building Donor Loyalty Chapter 1
A Goal for Every Organization

This is the first of eight chapters on building donor loyalty. The Table of Contents below will take you to additional chapters. Table of Contents Chapter 1: A Goal for Every Organization Chapter 2: A Strategy for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 3: What You Need to Know about Your Donors Chapter 4: The Importance of Being Donor Centric Chapter 5: Tactics for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 6: Stewards of Other People’s Money Chapter 7: Tools for Donor Cultivation Chapter 8: Surveying Your Donors Chapter 1 A Goal for Every Organization When we set fund-raising goals, we usually cast them in terms of dollars. However, the major fund-raising goal of any organization should be to build a base of loyal, supportive donors who give money year after year, campaign after campaign. It is that base of loyal, supportive donors upon which the financial goals of every campaign are built, making donor loyalty the most critical element of long-term fund-raising success. The only bigger sin than allowing the first gift received from a donor to become the only gift received from that donor is allowing the most recent gift from a donor who has made multiple gifts, to become the last gift from that donor. That’s because the longer a donor gives to an organization the more likely those gifts are to grow in size and frequency. Losing a donor is so painful to me that my objective has always been to never allow it to happen. I wish I could say I have met that objective. Still though, we must strive to hold onto every donor by consciously... read more

Building Donor Loyalty Chapter 2
A Strategy for Cultivating Relationships

This is the second of eight chapters on building donor loyalty. The Table of Contents below will take you to additional chapters. Table of Contents Chapter 1: A Goal for Every Organization Chapter 2: A Strategy for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 3: What You Need to Know about Your Donors Chapter 4: The Importance of Being Donor Centric Chapter 5: Tactics for Cultivating Relationships with Donors Chapter 6: Stewards of Other People’s Money Chapter 7: Tools for Donor Cultivation Chapter 8: Surveying Your Donors Chapter 2 A Strategy for Cultivating Relationships with Donors We cultivate relationships with donors in order to bring them closer to an organization and strengthen their connection with that organization.  There are many tools and techniques for cultivating donors, but before you can cultivate donors, you have to get them. So, a few words on donor acquisition need to preface our discussion of donor cultivation. Donors almost invariably fall into one of two groups: Those whose lives have been touched by the organization. Hospitals always put former patients high on their list of potential donors. Schools and universities have entire departments devoted to alumni relations. At the Cleveland Orchestra, we collected the names and addresses of everyone we could who purchased tickets. Those not personally touched by the organization, but who are influenced and impressed by its work or its leadership. Individual donors can fit easily into either of these categories. Foundations and corporations fall almost exclusively into the second group. However, it is possible that the people either recommending or approving grants and contributions may have been personally touched by the organization. Every... read more

How Board Members Can
Become Effective Fund-Raisers

So, you’ve been asked to join the board of a non-profit organization, or maybe you’re already on the board. In either case, here’s some advice. Never sit on the board of a non-profit organization unless you are willing to express your leadership by asking friends, family, and acquaintances to make gifts of a size consistent with their ability to give. Board members must be eager solicitors of donors, especially those with the ability to make substantial gifts, and they must be willing to lead fund-raising efforts. In the end, the success of fund-raising campaigns hinges on leadership, and that leadership starts with the board. Board members are the campaign solicitors of first and last resort. They are the most important fund-raising resource an organization has. There is no greater strength in a fund-raising campaign than a board ready and willing to lead, and no greater weakness than one which sees fund-raising as someone else’s job. Yet far too many board members are, at best, reluctant fund-raisers. They’re quick to claim they don’t have the time, feel uncomfortable “begging,” don’t have the right contacts, or didn’t sign on to be fund-raisers—that it’s the staff’s job. Does that mean we have the wrong people on our boards? Would things be any different with different board members? The answer to both those questions is a resounding NO! Board Members Must Be Provided With The Fund-Raising “Road Map” From my experience, much of the fault lies in an organization’s failure to define and delineate for board members their fund-raising role. Board members need to be made aware of the fund-raising process and to... read more

The Executive Director and Development Director It Can Be a Relationship Made in Heaven or Hell

In a nonprofit organization, no single internal relationship is more important than that between the executive director and development director. One carries the responsibility of leading the organization to the efficient execution of its mission, and the other shoulders the burden of finding the money that makes it all possible. In many ways, these two individuals are joined at the hip. Why then do they seem at times to be pulling painfully in opposite directions? Far too often, I have received complaints from development directors that their organization’s executive director erects barriers that prevent them from raising money. On the other hand, executive directors have told me of working with development directors they felt hurt the organization because they failed to understand its true needs. Good development directors work hard to enhance relationships with donors capable of giving gifts of substantial size and scope. If they are to succeed, they need to represent those donors within the organization. They need to be the voice of those donors. They need to be the person driven to meet donor needs and committed to seeing donor desires addressed. Good executive directors work hard to see that the organization fulfills its mission effectively and efficiently. If they are to succeed, they need to represent each of the different parts of the organization at different times. They need to be the person driven to meet programming needs and committed to seeing that the organization stays in balance. Realizing that it is the executive director’s job to be organization centered, and the development director’s to be donor centered, it isn’t hard to see how the... read more

In Search of the Elusive Major Giver

What a Major Giver is How to find them What you need to have in place before conducting a Major Gifts Campaign Your organization needs money. Big money. The kind of money you can’t raise by going out and asking for donations of $10, $20, $100, or perhaps even $1,000. Maybe you need the money to expand your services. Maybe you need it to build a new wing. Maybe you need it to match the largest grant you’ve ever been awarded. Maybe you need it just to stay alive. Raising big money is a different proposition from chasing down contributions to the annual fund. Let me draw an analogy. Money is the sustenance that nourishes an organization. Just as food nourishes our bodies, money keeps the organization alive, healthy, and growing. It is the lifeblood. The great majority of us get our food in restaurants a meal at a time and from grocery stores a bag or two at a time. That’s not unlike what we do in most of our fund-raising efforts. We go after small money—enough to keep us going for a cycle. That cycle can be measured in time—a few months or a year. Often it is measured conceptually—a specific project or program. Raising big money is more like growing our own food and then preparing every meal from scratch. That means we’d have to clear the land, plow the ground, plant the seeds, cultivate the crops, harvest the yield, and store it. And that’s if we’re vegetarians. I don’t even want to think about what I’d have to do for a steak. The point I’m... read more

Consulting Agreement for an
Annual Fund Campaign

The following example of an annual fund development agreement between a non-profit organization and a fund-raising consultant is suggested as a guideline for: Organizations having little or no experience in drafting such documents. Experienced development professionals beginning a new career as development consultants. There may be occasions when a contract more formal in its nature, intricate in its wording, and legalistic in its phraseology is needed. However, my experience has been that simpler is better This sample annual fund agreement can be easily adapted for capital, endowment, sponsorship, and underwriting campaigns. The purpose of the fund-raising campaign and some of its jargon might be different, but for the most part, the steps in the fund-raising process are the same. That can be confirmed by reviewing my website’s articles and plan outlines for those respective fund-raising campaigns. A good campaign plan must layout what is to be done, when it will be done, and who will do it. The same is true of an agreement between an organization and a consultant. Clearly defined and agreed-upon expectations are at the heart of any successful contract. Contract Between Fund-raising Consultant and Non-Profit Organization for Counsel for an Annual Fund Campaign Introduction Annual fund campaign gifts to the Non-Profit Organization (NPO) provide the entry point of support for most of its donors. Annual funds comprise the foundation of the NPO’s overall operating support, and they are the steppingstones to special and major gifts. As personal contacts by NPO volunteers with donors continue, those donors are made more and more a part of the NPO family through a process of cultivation. As a result,... read more

The Fallacy of Financial Ratios: Why Outcome Evaluation Is the Better Gauge of Grant Worthiness

Talk of developing a system to evaluate the sustainability of non-profit organizations has been on the rise. Centered around measuring outcomes in terms of percentages or ratios, the goal of such a system appears to be twofold: To create a filter that will allow grantmakers to quickly assess and compare the overall ability of non-profit organizations to manage funds and deliver results. To express those assessments as a numerical ratio that will rank the worthiness of non-profits as grant recipients. Calls for hard measurement of non-profit organizations’ efficiency have been made before, but I can’t remember a time when the voices doing so have been so loud. Attendees at a major conference heard the CEO of one of the United States’ largest foundations say that he is looking for a financial ratio to employ in the review of grant applications. The CEO of a major website serving non-profit organizations has publicly expressed his intent to create a numerical approval ranking system for the hundreds of non-profits listed on the site. A state association of non-profit organizations announced that the organization was planning to implement numerical “performance standards,” and that the association was going to “raise the bar” for non-profit organizations in order to judge “whether or not they were doing a good job.” From the statements I’ve heard and the comments I’ve read, it would appear that funders are in search of a litmus test for grant worthiness. An organization that fails to score high enough would be out of the box — automatically ineligible to be considered for a grant. One that fell within the box would then... read more

Campaign Feasibility Studies: Taking the Time to Find Out whether the Time Is Right

A campaign feasibility study is a tool a non-profit uses to determine whether it should go ahead with a capital or endowment fund-raising campaign. It is essential for an organization to assess the likelihood of success for a campaign before entering into it. A non-profit that does not do so puts the campaign, the project for which the money is to be raised, and even the organization itself at risk. An assessment of the feasibility of a campaign can be conducted by the organization itself or by outside professional counsel. If the organization is very well prepared (more about that later), it should be capable of making an internal assessment of feasibility. However, if a full-blown feasibility study is needed, then that study is best conducted by outside counsel having no ties to the organization. The reasons for this will be delineated later in this article. At one time, a feasibility study for a capital or endowment campaign was little more than a process of identifying where the money was—who had it and how much they might be willing to give. No longer. In today’s donor-centric world, an organization needs to assess the: Community’s perception of the importance of the need for which money is to be raised. Feelings, both positive and negative, about the organization and its mission. Size of the potential donor base and its ability to give. Availability of strong campaign leadership and effective volunteers. Internal resources available for the campaign and the preparedness of the organization to undertake it. External factors that could influence the outcome of the campaign. Let’s take a look at these... read more

Positioning Grant Writers For Success

Unrealistic Expectations, Pay Practices That Grantors Often See As Tainting The Funding Process, And Poor Planning And Follow Through, Can Doom The Best To Failure Some of the most heated discussion in the nonprofit world centers on grant writing. Why? Because so much is riding on it. It is the rare organization that could continue to carry out its mission anywhere near as effectively if its grants dried up, and for many, such an occurrence would sound the death knell. Of the three basic sources of money for non-profits—earned income, donations from individuals, and grants—the process of getting a grant is the most puzzling. All but the smallest organizations are likely to have people on staff or use outside counsel who specialize in grant writing. The demand for skilled grant writers, coupled with the mystery that seems to surround successful grant writing, leads to some troubled areas for development professionals and non-profit organizations. Two questions are central: How do you evaluate the performance of grant writers and how do you pay them? How Do You Evaluate The Performance Of Grant Writers? I have seen many resumes with statements like the following, “The grants I write are awarded funds 80% of the time.” A recent query to an Internet newsgroup by an executive director asked, “My grant writer has a grant success rate of 41%. How does that compare with the standard of other organizations?” Grant writers touting a past high percentage of grant attainment to impress potential employers are in danger of setting themselves up for future failure. How many of us would want to go into a new... read more

Fund-Raising with a Net: the Internet

The excitement surrounding Internet fund-raising and its hoped-for windfall of support for non-profits reminds me of when direct mail and telefunding were new to the fund-raising scene. However, Internet fund-raising is causing an even greater stir in the non-profit world for a couple of reasons. A listing on a host fund-raising website costs a tiny fraction of the expense to mail appeals or telephone prospective donors. The Internet’s all-encompassing penetration is an almost irresistible lure. What non-profit wouldn’t like to enlarge its base of potential donors to national or even global proportions? The promise of new and increased fund-raising opportunities through the Internet is being made by many organizations and touted by numerous individuals. These early adopters see a cyberspace frontier that non-profits must explore. I agree, but it is an exploration best undertaken with a healthy degree of caution. Not every breakthrough, to which those first to adopt new technology rush, proves to be a winner. And even if the underlying concept is sound, its first implementation might not be the way to go. Remember Betamax and eight-track? When it comes to fund-raising, the Internet has yet to prove that it can deliver substantial rewards to the many types and sizes of non-profit organizations that makeup the philanthropic world. While online fund-raising may work for some, it just might not be the ticket for all. A crisis-driven Internet appeal can net significant amounts of money following a hurricane, flood, earthquake, or other disaster. The response in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11 is proof of that. However, an enormous number of non-profit organizations and agencies... read more

Your Organization’s Next Special Event:
“Fund-Raiser” Or “Friend-Raiser?”

Should a special event be focused on making friends for an organization or bringing in money? On the one hand, every organization needs friends to help promote its mission and to be there for future fund-raising needs. But on the other, there are bills to be paid today. I believe that the short answer is to go for the money today! Putting on a special event is a substantial effort that requires the dedication of important resources. Those commitments should be made only when the primary goal is to make money. When properly conducted special events can be a valuable source of additional contributions that complement a nonprofit organization’s traditional fund-raising campaigns. They also can be a way to increase volunteer involvement with an organization, resulting in a larger pool of more committed volunteers to draw upon for future fund-raising campaigns. Special events can help publicize and promote an organization, and they can be useful tools for developing public awareness of an organization’s contribution to the community. But that should all be secondary to the goal of raising money. By focusing your special events on fund-raising, you make the measurement of their success clear-cut. By not trying to accomplish two or more differing goals, developing a plan for a special event becomes an exercise in getting from point A to point B by the shortest route possible. A special event with the straightforward primary goal of making money is a special event much more likely to be successful. Key Criteria for Successful Fund-raising Special Events They make significant amounts of money. They have a high ticket-price structure. Tickets are... read more

Don’t Make Your Organization’s Statement
of Purpose A”Mission Impossible”

We read in all of the right publications and we are told by the experts that a non-profit organization’s mission statement should be contained on the back of a business card, declared in as few words as possible on the organization’s letterhead, etc.—and even, as a national authority states, fit on a T-shirt. Because such brevity suggests simplicity we could be led to conclude that the process required to create or to rewrite a mission statement is likewise a brief exercise. That is far from the truth. But take heart, while deliberate and comprehensive it must be, the mission statement development process is not incomprehensible. All you need in order to do the best job possible is to have a board of Trustees leading the way and working effectively together, as they take into account the core values and the outlook for their organization—which is subsequently distilled as the mission statement. Your Nonprofit Organization’s Mission Statement The ‘Center’ Of It All The Mission Statement declares ‘why’ an organization exists, and is the only foundation upon which a long-range strategic plan (the blueprint for carrying out the organization’s ‘business’) can be developed. The long-range strategic plan, with its clearly stated and defensible programmatic initiatives and their respective costs, allows for the creation of the fund-raising plan from which specific fund-raising campaigns are organized and launched to secure annual, capital, endowment, sponsorship,and underwriting funds. An organization’s mission statement IS the center of it all. Your Mission Is Not What You Do But The Difference You Make Because of its fundamental importance in the life of nonprofit organizations, volumes have been written on mission... read more

Designing a Communications Plan to
Enhance Your Fund-Raising Campaign

Don’t Confuse a “Communications Plan” with a “Marketing Plan” A well-conceived communications plan will be essential to the success of your campaign, especially in the case of a broad-based effort that is directed to the general public. As components of this plan, the case for support, campaign brochure, and publicity plan will create an awareness of your organization’s value to the community and the financial need that necessitates the campaign. This broad-based public awareness will assist in creating a climate conducive to giving. At the outset, let’s clear up some confusion about the respective roles of a communications plan and a marketing plan. All too often, the process designed to convince prospective donors to contribute to a non-profit organization is described as “marketing.” However, according to Webster, “Marketing is all business activity involved in the moving of goods from the producer to the consumer.” While this for-profit definition might be stretched to relate as well to the “delivery” by non-profits of food, therapy, medicine, education, cultural events, etc. to constituencies, it’s apparent that soliciting a charitable gift involves a very different transaction The sale of commercial products involves an explicit selling and buying environment which customers understand and expect. By contrast, when we seek voluntary charitable contributions, we are working in a substantially different transactional environment. Rather than selling a product to prospective donors based on its best value in the marketplace, we are presenting donors with an opportunity to realize their own, perhaps unformulated, desire to contribute to the welfare of their community and to associated causes. So, while there are some close parallels in “selling”– in the... read more

Cultivate a “Grass-Roots” Fund-Raising
Campaign for Your Organization

Many non-profit organizations serve individuals who pay very little or who are unable to pay anything in the way of fees for the services they receive. They generally are in no position to give even the smallest donation to their organizations’ annual fund. In all instances those client/user groups are grateful for the good being done for them and their families. They quite often ask if they can do anything within their power and means to show appreciation to their service organizations since they have no money to give to them. Leaders of those non-profits want to know how best they can respond when at the times the people whom they serve say, “I know you need money and I want to help. Is there anything I can do?” I have found many such individuals were able to solicit small donations from their immediate family members, other relatives, friends, co-workers, and from other sources personal to them. They responded well to plans presented to them by their organizations’ development officers and trustees. Perhaps your organization can do the same by employing a model of such a program I have used a number of times with success. However, you should present the idea only when your clients or users of your programs and services enthusiastically volunteer their support. And, most important, you must be absolutely certain there is not even the slightest misperception that the quality and frequency of the services they receive from your organization are at all influenced whether or not they engage in fund-raising activities. Some Non-Profit Organizations Have Successfully Adapted This Type Of Campaign Individuals enrolled... read more

Should Your Organization
Sell Products & Services to Raise Money?

I am made increasingly aware of the conflict non-profit organizations experience when faced with choosing between: Raising the money they need using a traditional philanthropic process. Making a profit from selling and endorsing commercial products and services. The number and variety of selling opportunities presented to non-profit organizations, especially through the Internet, is growing rapidly. All too often, the advertisements for those products and services make outrageous and misleading promises of big and easy money to needy and vulnerable non-profits. There is nothing wrong with selling a commercial product or service to help support a non-profit organization if: The time expended can be justified by the profit gained. It neither restricts nor replaces the far more effective and time-proven philanthropic process—a process that has seen billions of dollars raised over decades of time. An organization institutes a product or sales program as additional and complimentary to their regular fund-raising, not as a replacement or alternative to it. “Girl Scouts Can’t Live on Cookies Alone” Raising contributed income for non-profit organizations requires much more than selling commercial products and services to make money. Such programs have their place, but most organizations simply cannot generate enough income from them to meet all their needs. A number of years ago the Girl Scouts proved that point with their highly visible campaign to let the public know that “Girl Scouts can’t live on cookies alone,” and that the organization required additional major support in the form of philanthropic contributions. Selling products and services to generate income seems an easy way to make money. Some commercial vendors of products and services even tell their... read more

Annual Campaigns: Once a Year Every Year

An annual campaign is best described as a campaign conducted each and every year for the purpose of raising money to assist in paying a non-profit organization’s regular, ongoing expenses. The money it raises is most commonly used to offset an operational deficit, but it can be applied to any purpose. The annual campaign is usually an organization’s primary source of unrestricted contributed income and should be a mainstay of its fund-raising efforts. The goals of any annual campaign ought to include: Stimulating the contribution of unrestricted funds Raising an awareness and acceptance of the organization and its responsibility to raise money Developing a base of knowledgeable volunteers Cultivating prospects for future giving Every non-profit organization with a need to raise contributed income should have an annual campaign which it conducts every year. Use the chart below to help estimate an obtainable goal. For each source of annual fund income, list the previous year’s achievement, identify what portion of that income will not be repeatable, and estimate expected new gifts and increases. From this information you should be able to project the total amount of contributions that can be realistically achieved. For Fiscal Year ______ Annual Fund Campaign Evaluation & Goal Executing a well-conceived annual campaign allows an organization to build a predictable base of support and provides a pool of proven donors for other fund-raising efforts. The vast majority of individual donors give their first contribution to an organization through its annual campaign. Repeat contributors to annual campaigns become an identified group of loyal and established givers—a constituency. Their record of contribution shows a care and concern for... read more

Know Your Organization

You start the process of becoming a fund-raiser for an organization when you first become involved with the organization. That’s when you begin to acquire knowledge about an organization, and acquisition of knowledge is the first step in preparing to raise money. To sell any product, it is important to know just what the product is and what it does. It makes no difference whether you are a waitress explaining the intricacies of the specials of the day, a computer salesperson pitching the new improved model, or a solicitor in a fund-raising campaign. If you are the person running a campaign, you must make sure your solicitors have access to information about what the organization is, what it does, and why money is needed in the furtherance of what goals. If you are the person asking for the money, think about how you would go about making your request without that information. Yes, you will on occasion find people who will give because you ask rather than give to the cause, but that is the exception and –this can’t be said often enough—you cannot rely on the exception to support your organization. New board members should be invited to attend a formal orientation session exposing them to what the organization does, how it is important to the community, why its services are necessary, and what their role will be. Volunteer solicitors in a campaign should be given the same information. Professional development officers need to steep themselves in the workings of the organization from their first day on the job. Your Mission — It Is Not What You Do,... read more

Capital Campaigns: Building for Now

A capital campaign raises money that will be spent to acquire or improve a physical asset. The most common use of a capital campaign is for the purchase, construction, or renovation of a building (commonly referred to as “bricks and mortar”). However, an organization can conduct a capital campaign to purchase machinery, equipment, furniture, fixtures, or any physical asset that can be reflected on its balance sheet. The purpose of a capital campaign differs from that of an endowment campaign in that the money raised will not be used to cover ongoing, operational expenses, or to fund special projects. Capital funds are spent on one-time or seldom recurring expenditures. The primary difference between capital and endowment funds is that capital funds are not retained and invested to yield income. However, capital and endowment campaigns are very similar in their planning and management. “One-Time Only” Campaigns Somehow They Keep Coming Back! Like endowment campaigns, capital campaigns should be rare. The answer to the question of how frequently to conduct a capital campaign should lie within the organization’s strategic plan. If an organization has successfully mapped out its growth, it can anticipate the points at which capital expenses will be incurred. In other words, need and planned strategy will determine when an organization should conduct a capital campaign. Frequent capital campaigns can sap the strength of an organization’s annual fund campaign program. Keep going back to supporters with one special campaign on the heels of another, and sooner or later it will affect giving to the annual campaign. It is usually best if a number of years pass between the execution... read more

How Much Endowment
Is “Right” for Our Organizaton

Is there a “standard” or “industry” percentage ratio of our endowment funds—funds working to provide annual income—which can relate that corpus/principal amount to  key financial statements such as the annual expense budget, operating deficit,  annual fund campaign results, etc.? I have been asked that question many times. My response is that I am certain there is no exacting standard. However, an endowment funds-to- operating-expense ratio is the one such “benchmark” at times sought by non-profit organizations—though there is no real justification or worthiness for such a number in any event. During the time I was at The Cleveland Orchestra, such a ratio was promoted—”suggested”—by the largest and most influential granting foundation in our area. The idea was that endowment funds, paid and working in the bank or otherwise invested, would total a three times the organization’s annual operating expense. This was an unofficial “suggested standard” which was not imposed on organizations in any way for them to receive grant consideration, nor was there any kind of measuring rationale made by the foundation regarding that ratio. Why did they tout it then? Because, everyone recognizes that that there is a need to somehow, someway measure the efficiency of non-profit organizations. This was yet another attempt. I believe that no ratio of any kind between working endowment funds and what an organization spends each year has any real meaning. The Foundation-inspired three-times rule/guideline/objective/standard—whatever one chooses to call it—could have others think that another percentage ratio might be arbitrarily determined just as well. It could be two times, four times, etc. of the annual operating expense amount. It seems obvious that any... read more

Making Your Endowment Funds
Work for Your Organization

Whether you already have some form or endowment or are about to embark on your first endowment campaign (see the article Endowment Funds Go on Forever But an Endowment Campaign Should Not ) you need to be ready, willing, and able to steward your endowment funds and maximize their impact.  And that raises two issues: Endowment fund investment, oversight and reporting. How, if, and when you spend endowment fund interest and dividends—and how, if, and when you might need to “invade” any of the principal. You can address the first of these by researching investment performance ratings and practices with your local banks and other companion firms with the guidance of your Board’s Finance Committee. Talking to the leadership and top staff of a few large organizations. Investment and finance committees will be a most useful exercise as well. This article addresses the second issue, and suggests the following guidelines. Endowment Funds and Income: To Spend or Not to Spend A non-profit organization currently holding endowment funds, or an organization which is planning to raise endowment funds for the first time, should give special attention to how the funds will be managed—not from an investment perspective as stated above, but rather how an organization will utilize the endowment income and principal in its operations. This endowment management policy should be instituted with the consensus of an organization’s leading officials and advisers. It should be cited in an organization’s bylaws, as well as entered and defined in its Financial Policy Manual. It’s that important because it represents an organization’s future. The first issue to address would be about how the... read more

Setting an Endowment Campaign Goal

How do we begin to set a goal? You first set a “target” goal, based on what you must accept as very loose factors; those being the changing rates of interest (meaning changing amounts of future income), the sliding scale of actual endowment funds at work as the pledges are paid (often over several years), and the determination of the costs of the programs and services or operations (often undefined and undetermined) the funds will pay for or reduce their costs over how many years. Very indistinct and elusive factors indeed, as you can easily see—but worth the exercise to be as close as possible to an ultimate endowment campaign goal which is feasible, and which makes some sense. When you set a goal for the campaign, do you later consider the goal achieved with pledges or promises of funds totaling the goal amount, or do you need actual cash in hand? You work to the goal and cite the progress and the achievements to that goal by applying any money pledged or otherwise committed. Never declare ongoing progress or final results with cash payments only, because endowment campaigns are successful to the highest degree when you can offer multiyear payments of pledges to donors and prospects. And, some pledges could very well extend over many years. That is why there are pledge cards and letters of commitment used as staples of such campaigns; so donors can tell you as best they can of the schedule of the payments they can make on their pledges. This may be declared with an initial cash amount given, with the balance due... read more

Endowment Funds Go on Forever
But an Endowment Campaign Should Not

There comes a time in an endowment campaign when the initial urgency of the need inherent in the campaign’s case for support begins to fade. The excitement of the kickoff, anticipation of success as the personal solicitations begin, the first promising results—can go for naught if the campaign goes on too long. As an organization’s endowment campaign begins to extend well into its second year of actual solicitation activity, volunteers begin to grow tired and donors will not believe there is a real and immediate need for their money. Invariably, campaigns of this type slow, stall, and sometimes fail because the management and implementation of the campaign plan were not well organized. The key to successfully completing an endowment campaign on or before its established and public deadline is, in a word, organization. How Is A Successful Endowment Campaign Organized? Because an endowment campaign is a special, widely-spaced occurrence, a non-profit organization must be certain its leadership fully understands the process of raising endowment funds, knows how such a campaign effort fits into their overall development plan and ensures the organization and resources are in place to carry it out. An endowment campaign is a fund-raising campaign that raises money for an organization to invest rather than spend. The proceeds from an endowment campaign are placed in an endowment fund, the income from which is used by the organization to meet ongoing expenses, cover capital expenditures, or fund special projects and programs. An organization which undertakes an endowment campaign does so in order to lessen its need either to raise money each year to cover any operational deficit—the difference... read more

How to Recruit Your Volunteer Fund-Raising Team

Volunteers are the lifeblood of a development operation, and trustees are the most important volunteers of all. The trustees approve an organization’s budget and they must accept personal responsibility for raising called-for contributed income. They are expected to set the pace in giving, recruiting other volunteers, and soliciting major donors. Too often I have been engaged as a consultant only to have the executive director of the organization or chair of the board of trustees tell me, “Our board doesn’t raise money. You’ll have to look elsewhere for fund-raising leadership.” That’s when I tell them they have to change the makeup of the board. A board must include individuals capable of leading a major fund-raising campaign. There is no greater strength in a fund-raising campaign than a board ready and willing to lead. There is no greater weakness than one which sees fund-raising as someone else’s responsibility. Leadership is the key element in determining the goal or deciding whether you should even conduct a fund-raising campaign. Be it this year’s edition of the annual fund campaign, a first-time attempt to raise endowment, or a first-ever fund-raising effort, leadership is what will make or break your campaign. At its best, a truly responsible and effective board will produce a volunteer development organization along these lines: BOARD OF TRUSTEES → DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE → FUND-RAISING CAMPAIGN LEADERSHIP (Annual, Endowment, Capital, Sponsorship & Underwriting, Governmental) → SOLICITORS The board chair sets the tone for the organization and its volunteers. Other trustees look to the chair for leadership, and the chair has primary responsibility for volunteer leadership commitment. However, a development director may have... read more

Campaign Solicitation Kits

“For Want Of A Kit A Campaign Was Lost?” A little neglect may breed mischief: “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, the horse was lost; for want of a horse, the rider was lost; for want of a rider, the battle was lost.” B. Franklin: Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1733 A little “neglect” of the packet of information we produce to support our fund-raising campaigns “may breed mischief” as solicitation kits are the support mechanism for solicitors in the field. When solicitors sit alone at the phone, preparing to call prospects for an appointment, all they have to fall back on for inspiration and guidance is the packet of materials they received at the campaign kickoff meeting. For this reason the solicitation kit must: Instill confidence Provide needed information Be easy to use The kit instills confidence by looking thoroughly professional and by providing data on other successful campaigns—reporting, for example, how much the annual campaign raised the previous year and explaining how the goal was achieved. It helps solicitors answer questions by supplying comprehensive background information on the organization and the current campaign. A solicitation kit is easy to use when it is well organized, contains support materials and tools designed for the current campaign, and eschews extraneous materials. There is a temptation to put every printed piece available into a solicitation kit. “Do you think they can use this, Mary?” “I’m not sure, Joe.” “Well, lets go ahead and put it in just in case.” Resist that temptation. A packed solicitation kit is not a useful tool. It requires solicitors... read more

Sponsorships and Underwriting Campaigns: Would You Please Fund Our…?

Sponsorships and underwriting are different labels for basically the same thing: funding donated for the support of a project, program, event, initiative, activity, or even a salary. In general, foundations are identified as underwriters and corporations as sponsors. Individuals can be either, but in most instances underwriters and sponsors will be foundations and corporations. The amount of publicity and recognition also helps answer the question of whether a funder is an underwriter or a sponsor. The word sponsor connotes a higher level of participation and consequently higher visibility than does underwriter. If one of the benefits a funder is seeking in exchange for support is publicity and recognition, then that funder is best identified as a sponsor. In very low visibility situations such as the funding of a position -an executive director, for instance—we would probably refer to the donor as an underwriter, even if the donor was a corporation. In the end it doesn’t really matter whether you call a funding opportunity underwriting or sponsorship. Do what seems natural, what is usual within your community, and always do what the funder wants. If a corporation would rather be named an underwriter than a sponsor, then it’s an underwriter. For the purposes of this discussion, I will use the labels sponsor and sponsorship in instances where we could be talking about either a corporation or foundation. Only when I wish to restrict the application of what I am saying to a foundation will I use the labels underwriter and underwriting. “Package” Your Programs, Services And Events Sponsorship, especially corporate sponsorship, is a relatively recent fund-raising strategy compared to other... read more

A Development Director Needs More Than “a Smile and a Shoeshine,” But It’s a Good Start

This is the era of high-tech delivery of information in an instant. The Internet is accessible from any telephone line, and lap-top computers let us take the facts and figures—all the facts and figures—to wherever they’re needed. Development professionals must master this technology which lets us massage estate planning scenarios, target solicitation mailings, and develop campaign giving plans. But, we must also remember that, no matter how high-tech the tools, funds are raised person-to-person. In Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” Willy Loman’s rejection of new technology, when he encounters a voice recorder for the first time, is part of his slow and agonizing deterioration. The only thing he knows—selling—is slipping from his grasp, and he tries to tighten his grip on it by clinging to the past. The times are changing and Willy isn’t. But that doesn’t mean that the experience of a lifetime of selling is no longer valid when he declares, “The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want.” Willy is talking about being a salesman and having the proper temperament for the job, but he might just as well have been talking about Development Directors. Those of us who carry the responsibility of seeing to it that money is raised for non-profit organizations would do well to bear in mind Willy Loman”s failure to change with the times. But we should also remember what he says about the process of selling. You won’t be good at selling widgets, or orchestras, or social services unless... read more

Campaign Assessment and Review: What Was Accomplished and What Was Learned

It’s over. The campaign is finished. The thank-you’s have been said and the money counted. However, before closing the book on a campaign for good, you should take one last look at it. The days immediately following a campaign are the time to analyze what went wrong and what went right, which fixes worked and which didn’t. You should assess and review every fund-raising campaign, and you should make a record of what you find. Evaluation is the final procedure in a well-organized fund-raising campaign, and the report you write based on that evaluation is the organized record of the knowledge you acquired. File that report and it will be a database for you to draw on. Hindsight is 20/20. Turn it into foresight for the next campaign. All the participants in a campaign should be asked to evaluate their area of responsibility and the volunteers with whom they worked. You want to determine what the campaign did well and not so well, which expectations were realistic and which weren’t, which tools worked and which didn’t, and who performed well and who didn’t. Solicitors, team captains, division chairs, and campaign chairs should each make their own evaluation, but no evaluation is more important than that of the staff members charged with designing, organizing, and running campaigns. They, after all, are the ones who are going to have to manage the next campaign, so it is from their perspective that we will look at the evaluation process. The First Rule in Evaluating a Campaign Is Don’t Wait The farther away you get from a campaign, the less you and others... read more

To Consult Or Not to Consult: That Is the Question

To consult, or not to consult—that is the question. Or at least it would be if Hamlet were to ask it. Hamlet’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” make me think of fund-raising goals too great and resources to meet them too few. His “sea of troubles” sounds like an ocean of red ink. In fact, think about a scarily challenging fund-raising campaign too long, and your mood is likely to mirror the melancholy Dane’s. Just like him, you may begin to contemplate traveling into an “undiscover’d country.” If you’re exploring using outside professional fund-raising counsel for the first time, the journey is likely to take you to a country nearly as “undiscover’d” where no traveler returns as Hamlet’s oblivion. But, the land of fund-raising consultants is a place from which you can come back, and if you watch your step, with the competent and capable help you need. Fund-raising consultants can be a godsend to non-profits. For organizations with an inexperienced, small, or nonexistent development staff, they can do everything from mentoring a budding development director to designing specific campaigns and tools to setting up the organizational structure for an ongoing fund-raising effort. Larger organizations with considerable experience in fund-raising and a fully professional development staff can benefit from a consultant’s mastery of the process of initiating new types of fund-raising efforts and reorienting the development department Basically, there are two types of consultants: National or regional firms offering a full range of services and a large staff experienced in all facets of fund-raising and well versed in the needs of all types of non-profit organizations. Locally based... read more

Fitting Annual, Endowment, Capital, Sponsorship & Underwriting Campaigns
into Your Organization’s Plans and
then Making Them “Sing”

Remember those great old movies with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland? The ones in which the “kids” had a money-raising dilemma that perplexed and perplexed them. All of a sudden Mickey would light up with youthful exuberance and optimism. He’d turn to Judy, and say, “I know, let’s put on a show! We can do it!” An hour and a half later, after a liberal dose of movie magic, they’ve put on a production worthy of Broadway, the problem is solved, everybody has had a good time, and Mickey and Judy are in love. There are non-profit organizations that operate in much the same way. Faced with the dilemma of growing financial need outstripping static resources, officials of those organizations will turn to one another and say, “I know, let’s put on a fund-raising campaign!” Unfortunately there is little movie magic in the nonprofit world. Too often the campaign fails, the problem is still there, nobody has a good time, and love isn’t exactly what the campaign managers are feeling for one another. It’s not that fund-raising campaigns aren’t the answer to financial need. In the end, where else is a nonprofit organization to turn than to generous givers? The problem is that, unlike Mickey’s and Judy’s show, the current campaign isn’t the first or the only one the organization will put on. It has to fit into the context of an overall development plan. Today’s campaign, follows yesterday’s, and precedes tomorrow’s. The trick is to make sure that each and every one of an organization’s campaigns is successful. That’s the job of a general development plan. A Fund-Raising... read more

Asking For The Money:
“If You Don’t Ask
You Don’t Get”

Generally, the first step in asking prospects to make a donation is to send them a letter. This is true no matter the type of campaign or potential size of gift. In the small-gifts division of an annual campaign the letter may be the only step, although I would recommend having it followed up by a telephone call, if at all possible. Even in door-to-door solicitations, a letter should be sent first announcing the date of, reason for, and, in most cases, the suggested amount of the request. In the case of larger gifts, the letter announces that a solicitor will be calling for an appointment. We refer to this kind of letter as the proposal letter because it proposes that the prospect become a donor to an organization. Proposal letters are usually signed either by the solicitor or by the campaign chair. In the case of the latter, the status and power of the chair are lent to what is essentially a request of the prospect to meet with a solicitor. If signed by the chair, you can also be sure the letters all went out by a specific time. This also forces solicitors to act by the time the letter says they will be calling for an appointment. However, not every solicitor will be able to make the initial calls in the same time frame. One or more solicitors may be out of town when the letter hits. Consequently, there is less likelihood of being in error as to when solicitors will be calling if the timing of proposal letters is left in the hands of the... read more

Tapping the Philanthropic Well

Principal Fund-Raising Myth It’s common knowledge that corporations and foundations give most of the money to non-profit organizations Principal Fund-Raising Truth You go where money you think you can get is to be found in the greatest quantities and most of the time that means you look to the individual donor No fund-raising campaign should ever be started until you have identified the sources from which you will draw contributions. Sources here does not refer to specific potential donors, but to the six categories of donors who contribute money to non-profit organizations. They are: Trustees Of The Organization Individuals Corporations Private Foundations Community Foundations Government Your plan for a fund-raising campaign should target each source appropriate for that campaign and set a goal for contributions to be achieved from that source. Those goals are determined by rating and evaluating the potential donors that comprise each source. Trustees All fund-raising campaigns begin with the trustees of an organization. In general, if you are planning a fund-raising campaign and are not expecting important contributions from your trustees, there is something drastically wrong with either your campaign plan or the composition of your board. Trustee giving sets the pace for any fund-raising campaign, and your board should have on it persons ready, willing, and able to make their best possible gifts to the organization. A board of trustees is a resource for an organization to draw upon in carrying out its mission, and part of the mission of any successful non-profit organization is to raise money. Therefore, there must be people on an organization’s board who can be counted on to give... read more

12 Things You Should Know About
Setting A Capital Campaign Goal

A capital campaign raises money that will be spent to acquire or improve a physical asset. The most common use of a capital campaign is for the purchase, construction, or renovation of a building (commonly referred to as “bricks and mortar”). However, an organization can conduct a capital campaign to purchase machinery, equipment, furniture, fixtures, or any physical asset that can be reflected on its balance sheet. The amount needed (the goal), can be readily translated into printed specifications, drawings, slides, photographs, models, etc. These explicit and physical “goals” are fixed and unyielding. Success or failure of fund-raising campaigns is measured incrementally by how far above or below goal a campaign finishes. Annual fund and endowment campaigns, while having visible and public goals, can fail to meet their objectives, but are able to absorb the losses or diffuse the failures. The annual fund campaign can fall short of its goal and incur a deficit in the current year, but can make up the deficit in the following year. Endowment campaign goals are established in rather uncertain ways. The goals are based upon long-term, not always clearly defined needs and are related to forecasts of investment income which generally are unreliable. Thus, an endowment campaign’s goal can be raised or lowered at almost any time during the drive, and most often without serious notice or concern. However, the failure to meet a capital campaign goal is a serious matter and is of great concern. If a capital campaign fails to meet its goal, the loss is clearly visible. A building will not be completed, a renovation will be curtailed and... read more

The Argument Against Paying Development Professionals Based on Amount of Funds Raised

Few topics generate more heated discussion in non-profit organizations than whether development professionals (staff or consultants) should be paid a percentage of the money raised, receive commission-based compensation, or be paid a performance bonus. Perhaps because it is a practice of giving financial rewards to development professionals contingent upon the achievement of fixed money goals, we can simply refer to it as “contingent-pay.” Whatever you want to call it, two things are becoming more and more apparent. The practice is increasing. The practice is troubling the development profession. Thinking about why we have seen more contingent-pay in recent years, I found myself reflecting on a change I have witnessed in how we development professionals describe and perhaps even think about ourselves. There is a tendency these days to describe our work as fundraising and to call ourselves fundraisers. I have always thought of the volunteers as being the true fundraisers and we development professionals as the people who develop the atmosphere for that fundraising. To some this may seem like an exercise in semantics, but I think it is a great deal more. Many development professionals today enter into consulting agreements or are hired as staff to “raise funds.” Sometimes they even seek to be THE fundraiser for the organization they serve. The result is that these development professionals and their organizations have blurred the once clear difference between the fundraising role of development officers and that of trustees and other volunteer leaders. Many development professionals have become the “fundraisers” for organizations. As a result, contingent-pay methods of compensation have gained acceptance. The argument being, let’s reward people for... read more

Annual Fund Giving & Getting
Guidelines for Trustees

All of your organization’s fund-raising campaigns must have the leadership and the financial support of your Board of Trustees. The most important of those development efforts should be the raising of funds necessary to maintain and enhance your organization’s programs and services year after year. This is accomplished through the Annual Fund Campaign. The annual fund provides the “bedrock” of reasonably predictable renewed support and is the entry-level for larger gifts possible for future endowment, capital, sponsorship and underwriting campaigns and planned giving programs. Thus, the annual fund especially requires that your trustees be in the forefront as they contribute their own funds and as they personally raise other money. To successfully raise money externally, you must first raise money internally, and that starts with your board. Principal Guidelines Know the giving capability of each of your trustees. Each trustee should be rated and evaluated for his or her best giving potential in the same way other non-board individuals are rated and evaluated for their suggested giving to the annual fund campaign. You always seek a realistically large—hopefully the maximum—potential gift from each of your trustees. A minimum gift requirement to be a trustee is usually not a good idea. The minimum amount could be more than some trustees are capable of giving who can provide other, non-financial, benefits to your organization. It is necessary to have as many trustees as possible on your board who have the potential to to make significant financial contributions. However, you should also encourage and accommodate a select and controlled number of others who, while they are not as financially able as the... read more

Beginning a Career in Non-Profit Fund-Raising

“How Do I Get Started In Fund-Raising?” This question has been posed to me countless times in my nearly thirty-year career as a development professional. And, it is a query I now observe scores of times via the various internet non-profit-related News Groups. If this is a question you have been asking, I’ll try in this article to direct you to travel several avenues toward your objective of beginning a career in the non-profit fund-raising profession. The business of fund-raising quite often overwhelms and discourages individuals who wish to enter the profession. You are told that fund-raising is impossible and that the process is a mystery. When seeking your first-time development position, you read help-wanted ads for development officers which usually lists as a condition of employment, “must have a successful history of managing a major annual campaign or soliciting large donations.” These can be formidable obstacles, but they are not insurmountable. Take heart that fund-raising, being simple in design and concept, (but very hard work!) can be readily and quickly learned. And, you do not need years of experience to be good at fund-raising. All you need is the chance! Development jobs are available in great profusion because good and experienced development officers are hard to find. One reason for this may be that there is no broad formal training ground for development officers. However, you do have at hand the means to gain an understanding of the process of fund-raising. And, you can take advantage of the opportunities to enter the field through the process of apprenticeships in organizations where you can learn from the competent and... read more

So, You Were Asked to Volunteer and
Work on a Fund-Raising Campaign!

As a businessperson, you are among the most sought-after volunteers for support of non-profit organizations. Officials of non-profits want you to take leadership positions with them because: They know that you are a natural leader and a strong advocate for charitable groups and their causes They know that as a good corporate citizen you are aware of their problems and needs and are sensitive and responsive to them. They are aware that you are able to help them gain support from other business and civic leaders because of your own stature in the community and through your friendships and contacts. They recognize that involvement in charitable organizations is in your own self-interest and that the networking opportunities they provide for you is good for your business. But where and how to you find the time to best serve those non-profits which look to you for your leadership and involvement? You look again at your watch and you finally say, “It’s time for me to go back to the office and help raise money for my own company.” You say this as yet another fund-raising meeting comes to an end for one of the several charities with which you are involved as a volunteer fund-raiser. This is a common dilemma for business and industry executives. It’s hard enough to balance the demands of career and family, much less those of the many worthwhile non-profit organizations that want your time and energy even more than they need your money. But successful businesspeople most often do feel the need to make such contributions of their time and efforts. So the issue of... read more

Rating and Evaluating Prospects:
Whom Do You Ask For How Much?

No one would argue the fact that every fund-raising campaign needs a goal and that everyone connected with the campaign, including prospective donors, needs to be aware of that goal. Then why do people so often fight the setting of a goal for each prospective donor and sharing that goal with the prospect? Trustees often blanch at the idea, and it is the rare solicitor who the first time he or she is told that there will be a suggested giving amount for each of his prospects does not respond with, “I can’t tell people what to give!” They’re right. Solicitors shouldn’t try to tell prospects what to give, as this will engender a great deal of resistance. Yet setting a personal goal for all prospective individual donors, letting prospects know what their goal is, and helping them see where and how it fits under the umbrella of the campaign goal is probably the most important element of a campaign. No matter what sources you are approaching, you need to be ready with a suggested giving amount in line with what each prospective donor is capable of giving. Dealing with foundations, corporations, and government funders in this manner is easy. In fact, it is usually required. Grant application forms have a blank space where you fill in the amount requested. But when it comes to individual donors, we seem to think it is a different kettle of fish. It isn’t. Individual Donor If a fund-raising campaign is to have a realistic chance at succeeding, we must in the case of every prospective individual donor: Rate and evaluate the ability... read more

Check Out Your Organization’s
Fund-Raising Readiness and Learn
the Secret Of Fund-Raising Success

For many people, fund-raising is the stuff of myth and magic—a series of tasks rivaling the labors of Hercules and demanding the powers of a Merlin. Myth and magic, because they offer the balm of simple acceptance in place of the pain of comprehension, can be very comforting, and in no instance is this more true, than when the myth of fund-raising magic is used to excuse fund-raising failure. “If,” goes the justification, “running a successful fund-raising campaign is an endeavor comparable to dredging the river Styx, and soliciting large gifts equivalent to pulling Excalibur from the stone, what mere mortal can be expected to succeed?” Given that attitude, let me add a corollary: “Why bother to develop a goal or start a campaign?” The answer to those questions is, because we have to, and because the myth of fund-raising doom can’t measure up to the basic truth that fund-raising success is simply hard work on the part of people who are thoroughly prepared. A successful fund-raising campaign is not magic. It is a straightforward, concise process of executing well-defined components arranged in a step-by-step progression. I know this to be so because I have seen it done over and over again–starting at A and working through to Z, successfully carrying out campaign after campaign and achieving goal after goal. I’ve never found a well planned fund-raising campaign to be a Herculean task. Looking at the nuts and bolts of a fund-raising campaign is the best way I know to make its success probable and its process understandable. Breaking down a campaign step-by-step, point-by-point, lets you present it to... read more

Nine basic truths of fund-raising

The nine basic truths of fund-raising listed below are taken from the introduction to my book It’s a Great Day to Fund-Raise, and they are the foundation of my successful career as a development officer for and consultant to nonprofit organizations. Organizations are not entitled to support; they must earn it. Successful fund-raising is not magic; it is simply hard work on the part of people who are thoroughly prepared. Fund-raising is not raising money; it is raising friends. You do not raise money by begging for it; you raise it by selling people on your organization. People do not just reach for their checkbooks and give money to an organization; they have to be asked to give. You do not wait for the “right” moment to ask; you ask now. Successful fund-raising officers do not ask for money; they get others to ask for it. You don’t decide today to raise money and then ask for it tomorrow; it takes time, patience, and planning to raise money. Prospects and donors are not cash crops waiting to be harvested; treat them as you would customers in a... read more

The Name Is the Game:
Memberships and Named Gift Opportunities

In the nonprofit world, when it comes to “memberships,” we seem to be of two minds. On the one hand are memberships that convey benefits in exchange for a fee, and on the other, those that recognize donors for gifts made. Fee-Based Memberships In fee-based memberships, a patron of The Metropolis Museum can “join” that institution and become a member by paying a fee of $25 or $50 and receive a monthly magazine, free admission, a discount at the museum shop, special event invitations, etc. To my way of thinking, this type of membership is actually an earned income opportunity and is better left to the museum’s marketing department. Those fee-paying members have more in common with a performing arts organization’s season ticket holders than its donors, and their real value to a development effort lies in their potential to contribute to fund-raising campaigns, rather than the fee they pay for their membership. Philanthropy-Driven Memberships Recognition-based membership programs are tools used to convert prospects into donors and to increase the size of gift. They are one of the most useful tools fund-raisers have. Donors giving at a certain level to the annual fund become Friends of the organization. If they give at increasingly higher levels they have the opportunity to be recognized as Contributing Friend, Supporting Friend, or Sustaining Friend. Then there are those who give more that one could ever expect from a friend and enter the rarefied air of Benefactor or even Founder. Perhaps they become members of the President’s Circle. What matters is the concept, not the name. The idea is to tastefully and properly recognize... read more

Asking for the Money Is the Job of the Leadership and Friends of a Non-Profit Organization

Never Hire Someone To Do What Is Their Responsibility Fund-Raising Consultants Can Be A Godsend. They Can Also Be An Ethical, Financial And Donor Relations Disaster For organizations with an inexperienced, small, or nonexistent development staff, consultants can do everything from mentoring a budding development director to designing a campaign. Larger, more experienced organizations, even those with a fully professional development staff, can benefit from a consultant’s mastery of the process of initiating new types of fund-raising efforts and reorienting the development department. There is a valid place for consultants in the business of fund-raising, but there is also a place consultants should never go. It is one thing to engage a consultant to assist in the creation of a development effort, the design of a campaign, or an evaluation of organizational need and the resources available to meet that need. It is quite another to hire a consultant to ask prospects for money. What’s Wrong with Hiring Someone to Solicit a Prospect? Everything! Organizations ask for money to meet a current need and lay ground work for the future. The twin goals of every solicitation should be to get the largest gift possible and to strengthen the organization’s relationship with the donor. Use a “hired gun” to ask for money and you automatically reject those two goals. Every competent fund-raising professional knows that the best solicitation is made by someone the donor knows and respects. It is always easier to flat out turn down or, at the very least, give less to, someone you don’t know. When I want you to give to a campaign, the person I... read more