Fundraising for Nonprofits

Inspiring Gifts that Transform

Monday, December 31, 2007

All fundraising rises and falls on leadership

In preparation for my new role as Board President of the Development Executives Roundtable I’ve been reading a lot of leadership books, by authors ranging from Deepak Chopra to Peter F. Drucker to Marcus Aurelius.

One of my favorites is John C. Maxwell’s classic Developing the Leader Within You. It is a must read for anyone leading a nonprofit development team. I agree with Maxwell, who says the world needs leaders:

  • Who use their influence at the right times for the right reasons;
  • Who take a little greater share of the blame and a little smaller share of the credit;
  • Who lead themselves successfully before attempting to lead others;
  • Who continue to search for the best answers, not the familiar one;
  • Who add value to the people and organizations they lead;
  • Who work for the benefit of others and not for personal gain;
  • Who handle themselves with their heads and handle others with their hearts;
  • Who know the way, go the way, and show the way;
  • Who inspire and motivate rather than intimidate and manipulate;
  • Who live with people to know their problems and live with God in order to solve them;
  • Who realize that their dispositions are more important than their positions;
  • Who mold opinions instead of following opinion polls;
  • Who understand that an institution is the reflection of their character;
  • Who never place themselves above others except in carrying responsibilities;
  • Who will be as honest in small things as in great things
  • Who discipline themselves so they will not be disciplined by others;
  • Who encounter setbacks and turn them into comebacks;
  • Who follow a moral compass that points in the right direction regardless of the trends.
QUESTION: What steps can you take to develop the leader within you in 2008?

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

How to become a top ranked expert on LinkedIn, without really trying

I'm rather shocked to tell you that out of LinkedIn's current 15 million users, I am now ranked among the top 15 Charity and Nonprofit experts on the site. This after joining just a couple of months ago. If you wish, you too can quickly become one of the top experts on the Internet's leading business networking site. The secret is to take advantage of LinkedIn's powerful Answers features.

Search and Share Answers
LinkedIn’s Answers is somewhat like a modern day oracle. Do you have a question -- any question -- that you need answered quickly? Post it online and within hours dozens of people will have shared with you their thoughts and opinions. Some are wise -- some are not so -- but collectively you will have received pretty good advice. Odds are somebody has asked your question already, so often you do not even need to post a new query to get find a good answer. The site archives hundreds of thousands of previous responses that you can easily search.

LinkedIn Answers offers a “share this” link that appears at the lower right hand corner under each question. Click on the link to e-mail the question to a LinkedIn personal connection, add it to or digg, or grab a permalink to highlight it on your blog or other social networking service like Facebook. This is a great way to strengthen your network by helping your friends get their questions answered quickly, or letting them shine by answering a question within their subject expertise.

Ask Questions
Posting a question is an excellent way to quickly survey the community. You can post your question privately and forwarded to just a few of your select contacts; or you can choose to make it public and have it available to be answered by anyone of the site's millions of registered users. It will also then show up on the home pages of all your network connections. This means if even I am the only person you are connected to and you ask a question, it will show up on the home page of over 15,700 people. (If you answer one of my questions, the answer will be linked to the home page of over 1,245,000 people!)

When asking a question, just be careful or you can come off looking rather silly. For example, avoid asking something that has been posted before or could be answered through a simple Google search. Remember good grammar and spelling still count. Don't post just to fish for new clients; people can always tell. Most importantly, be clear about what you are asking and why it is important to you. If you receive permission and give credit, answers make great source content for republication to a blog or elsewhere.

Answer Questions
You can become a ranked expert like me by consistently providing useful answers to other's questions. LinkedIn uses a rating system to award expertise points. If you follow the above posting advice for asking questions, your reputation will strengthen when responding to others as well. By answering questions, I have made connections with individuals as far away as Australia, India and Israel.

Do you have a favorite category in which you would like to become a recognized expert? My suggestion is that you subscribe to its RSS feeds. Simply use the "Browse" module in the left hand column of the Answer module to navigate to the category you are interested in subscribing to, where you can find link to that category’s feed. This is one way I'm strategically keeping up to date with the pulse in the Charity and Nonprofit sector. Many of my answers have ended up inspiring recent posts here on this blog.


Monday, December 17, 2007

2008: Let it be a year of a thousand invisible kindnesses

I received the following this morning from the good folks at Bread for the Journey. Thought I'd pass it along to you.

QUESTION: What if the healing of the world utterly depends on a thousand invisible kindnesses we offer simply and quietly throughout the pilgrimage of each human life?

There are as many ways to make a difference as there are people. One simple way you can contribute to a healthier world is to make 2008 your own "Year of a Thousand Invisible Kindnesses." We’ve compiled a list of ideas to inspire you. Please join us in creating a movement of people, each doing something every day to heal our world and create a life that embodies the best of who we are.

  • Turn off your TV, computer and cell phone.
  • Walk places and say hello to people.
  • Refrain from gossip.
  • Get involved and vote.
  • Say “I love you” every day, more than once.
  • Bake something and give it to a neighbor.
  • Find new uses for things you would have thrown away.
  • Love yourself well.
  • Fix it even if you didn’t break it.
  • Forgive someone.
  • Buy from local merchants and farmers.
  • Garden, then share your harvest.
  • Discover what you love and give it to the world.
  • Sing, dance, be in your body.
  • Stop and breathe deeply before you react.
  • Take time each day to meditate.
  • Take children and dogs to the park and play with them.
  • Listen well.
  • Ride your bike instead of driving.
  • Help carry something heavy.
  • Do it even if it isn’t convenient.
  • Baby-sit for someone.
  • Seek to understand.
  • Pick up litter in your neighborhood.
  • Make a monthly donation to a nonprofit you love.
  • Honor an elder you know.
  • Volunteer your time.
  • Recycle it instead of throwing it away.
How would you add to this list? Please add your suggestions in the comments below.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

5 steps to create a “B-R-A-N-D New U” online

Last summer I received a phone call from an influential Washington D.C. figure, who had recently been nominated for the 2007 Noble Peace Prize. You might even know his name. He was looking for fundraising advice. However, before I share with you details of that conversation, I’d like to talk to you about why he called me of all people.

Let’s face it, we live in an interconnected, intermediated and Internet world. If perception equals reality, than what people learn about you online can influence your career success, whether you are an independent consultant or a long-time staff fundraiser. Tom Peters got it right ten years ago when he developed the concept of personal branding. “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”

Today more than anything else, one thing determines the strength of your personal brand: your Google rankings. What are the total numbers of personal responses returned, how high are your results, and how relevant are they to what you would like to be known about? If you don't have an online presence, in the eyes of a growing number of people, you simply don't exist. For a more comprehensive analysis, visit the Online Identity Calculator today.

If after evaluating your online identity, you are serious about developing a stronger online brand, I have a turn around strategy for you. Here are my five recommended steps to create a “B-R-A-N-D New U” online.

Start a blog focused in a niche subject area that you would like to become well known. Set yourself a goal of at least 3 posts a week for 6 months. Wordpress and Blogger are just 2 of the many free services available. Google rankings are heavily determined by how many links in and out, as well as how fresh is the content of your site. Regular blogging is the easiest and fastest way for an individual to actively increase their rankings. Want to get real serious about blogging? Than subscribe to Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger.

Responding to posts on other blogs is the best tip I can give you to becoming an effective blogger, because it forces you to become a blog reader. You will quickly learn what are the most current topics of under discussion in your field. Use Technorati to locate the top 10-15 authoritative blogs in your niche. Subscribe to their RSS feeds using Google Reader. Read their posts daily and set yourself a of leaving at least 3 comments a week. Truly contribute to the dialogue, and you will soon find the favor returned.

Assume everything you post online will be accessiable forever and will eventually be linked back to you, including those nasty anonymous comments on a Hollywood gossip blog. Are you sure all the personal information you are posting on Facebook is something you’d like to share with strangers ten years from now? Many think public advocacy only means criticizing those in power, but have you ever been impressed with someone who complains all the time without providing solutions? Keep it clean and constructive.

The further you progress in your career, the more you understand we are all only as strong as our relationships. The number one rule in networking is that if you want to succeed, help others succeed first. One of the added benefits of using a professional business networking service like LinkedIn, is that Google ranks LinkedIn profiles very highly in its search results. It takes less than an hour to set-up a free profile and invite your friends to join you. In just a couple of months, my business network there contains 350 people who can help me reach over 1 million professional users on the site.

D)o It
We all start as beginners and learn by doing. If as young children we never tried to walk because we were afraid of falling, we’d all still be crawling around on all fours. When I’ve described this B-R-A-N-D New U strategy to others, a common reaction is, “What will I write about?” The great thing is that you don’t need to know, it will come to you. These recommended five steps will not only develop your personal brand, but your personal growth. Today’s thought leaders are bloggers, and by pursuing this strategy you can become one too.

As for the man who called me for fundraising advise? No, it wasn’t Al Gore. It was another good man with a good cause, whose board wasn’t engaged in fundraising, was the sole fundraiser for his agency, and needed help developing back office systems and procedures. Sound familiar? All around the world, our needs are not very different.

Finally, why did he call me? The answer is simple, because of my strong online personal brand.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How fundraising has changed my life

Am honored and humbled to announce that I have been elected the president of San Francisco’s Development Executive Roundtable. Hank Ross, the godfather of contemporary fundraising, founded DER many decades ago. He had a dream of a group that provided accessible training and peer support to fundraisers at all stages of their careers. Today DER builds thriving organizations and communities by helping nonprofit professionals teach the joy of giving.

For those of you who knew Hank, or know of his legacy, he talked a lot about the transformative power of fundraising: the ability to change not only the lives of those who receive, but also those who give gifts.

However, we do not often talk about the transformative nature of fundraising on those who ask for gifts on behalf of others. What can happen to you when you dedicate your life to fostering generosity in the world? I’d like to share briefly how fundraising has affected me, and the role DER has played in my life.

Not too many of us grow up as young children wanting to become fundraisers. Like many of you, I made a mid-career change into this line of work. After being let go of my previous job during the dotcom bust I looked around for other work. Given my background in nonprofit marketing, fundraising wasn’t too big of a stretch. Moreover, if I could learn to raise money, I knew I’d always be employable. It was simply a practical decision.

Soon I went to my first DER meeting, and like many others before and after me, I stood up and introduced myself as an unemployed person hoping to break into the field. That first day I met people who would become my friends and mentors, who would help me find jobs, and whom one day I would later hire.

Like many others, at first I found soliciting gifts very difficult. To be an effective fundraiser, I soon learned I had to come to terms with my own relationship to money and privilege. Over the years, I’ve come to believe that one of the greatest obstacles in raising money is not finding people who will give, but helping people become more comfortable with receiving abundance in their lives. Too many of us in this culture don’t think we are worthy of such attention or affection. In order to foster generosity in others, the first person we need to start with is ourselves. One who is mindful of the practice of fundraising, can develop a spirit of self-acceptance and generosity toward themselves, others and the world.

Today fundraising does help pay my bills, but it is much more than that for me. It is a sacred calling. I believe you and I are inheritors of a tradition of giving and receiving that goes back to our earliest cultural memories. It is at the root of all our major spiritual practices and indigenous cultures. We who help transform the world, cannot help be transformed in the process.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, I encourage you to join DER with me. Individual memberships are only $50. Not too bad a price to pay to transform your life, don’t you think?

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Friday, December 07, 2007

The 5 keys to individual fundraising success

For-profit organizations know that developing a new market requires financial risk and takes several years to return a profit. The same can be said for nonprofit individual fundraising. It takes several years of up front investment to develop a strong pool of individual donors, let alone find a return on the initial capital outlay. Success therefore requires leadership committed to a multi-year, 5-part fundraising cycle of planning, prospecting, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.

Internationally know fundraising trainer and consultant Kim Klein, once wrote, "The key to fundraising success is planning, planning, planning and then working your plan." A good fundraising plan is donor-centric. It requires a willingness on the entire agency, from top to bottom, to engage with donors in the most transparent, accountable and professional basis possible. This often requires an internal cultural shift and building the capacity of the organization.

"You already know everyone you need to know to raise money," is one of the truisms of fundraising. Many people think you need to know rich people to be a successful fundraiser. Of course this doesn’t hurt, however wealth is the least reliable indicator of giving. Strength of relationships and the interest in the cause are more reliable factors. Successful fundraising builds on the relationships already in place between an agency, board, staff and community to identify new prospective donors.

Prospective donors should be cultivated as agency "friends." If we ask ourselves how we would like to be treated by our own friends, than we have answered the question as to how to treat prospective donors. We should thank them for their interest, maintain regular communication, actively listen to them, spend time with them, be accessible, share information and ask for their advice. New friends whom we want to get to know the best, our major donor prospects, should receive even more regular and personalized interaction from agency leadership.

Many people fear asking others for money or help. Exploring our own personal relationship to money and recognizing that fundraising provides an opportunity for donors to act on their values can often shift this barrier. However, not everyone involved has to ask for money. Fundraising is a team sport. There are always more line roles available than those in the backfield. Yet, without a strong quarterback, there is no point in taking to the field.

The importance of donor stewardship cannot be over-emphasized. Gifts received by nonprofits are not given to us, but through us in service of the greater community. Donor stewardship includes gift acknowledgement, managing funds effectively, maintaining good donor communication and deepening donor relations. This is good manners as well as good business practice. All gifts should be appreciated. However, the larger the gift, the more personalized the donor attention should be. As a matter of efficiency, cultivation and stewardship activities are often combined.