Fundraising for Nonprofits

Inspiring Gifts that Transform

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Appreciate what you have

The idea of reducing the world’s population to a community of only 100 people is very useful and important metaphor. It makes us easily understand the differences in the world, and where we fit in.

There are many types of reports that use the Earth’s population reduced to 100 people, especially in the Internet. For example, the above video has been viewed by over 1.5 million YouTube viewers alone. Ideas like this should continued to be shared even more, especially today when the world seems to be in need of dialogue and understanding among different cultures.

The text that originated this video was published on May 29, 1990 with the title State of the Village Report, and it was written by Donella Meadows, who passed away in February 2000. Nowadays the Sustainability Institute, through Donella’s Foundation, carries on her ideas and projects.

What powerful metaphor are you using to tell your good cause's story? What if your client base or community was only 100 people? Who would they be? What if you had only 100 donors, how would they be contributing?


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

30 tips for effective nonprofit board leadership

When you are fundraiser like me, you routinely are asked to join nonprofit boards. In the last 4 weeks alone, I've been asked to join the leadership of 4 different organizations! I couldn't tell you how many times I've been asked the same question in the last 12 months, as I've lost track.

While some people have the capacity to serve on multiple boards, I simply don't. Particularly because I'm the new board president of the Development Executives Roundtable, a trade association for nearly 200 Bay Area fundraisers, representing organizations with combined budgets of approximately $1 billion. DER is an all-volunteer group, so we're a "working" board in the fullest sense of the term.

I recently posted a question on LinkedIn asking for advice as a first-term board president. Given how essential this role is to successful fundraising, I thought I'd share with you just some of the invaluable tips I received:

  • Avoid micromanagement, while making sure you understand the big picture.
  • Be passionate about your organization, making sure everyone you meet hears about your nonprofit frequently.
  • Communicate clearly and frequently to the membership and the outside world.
  • Develop a plan. If you don’t already perform strategic planning, start now. Establish a list of realistic and attainable goals, and make them happen.
  • Develop individual board member agreements that specify what each member will contribute and what they can expect in terms of support and opportunities.
  • Ensure all board members play a role in agency fundraising.
  • Find 15 minutes on the agenda of each board meeting to either reflect upon a big picture trend or to learn about an issue that affects the work of the nonprofit.
  • Find opportunities to expand the participation of regular members in big and small ways so they have a stake in the organization success.
  • Have a strong treasurer who keeps true financial oversight.
  • Hold monthly check-in calls with agency leadership to act as sounding board and provide coaching. Call all board members once per quarter and thank them for specific things they have done, checking in on their sense of engagement.
  • If you ever decide to hire paid staff, make sure to establish a true partnership with the executive director, rather than a vertical relationship, and keep expectations realistic.
  • In advance of board meetings, call key board members to check the pulse. Often important or sensitive matters will emerge in private that may not be suitable to be addressed in a larger context.
  • Insure that all members of your board share a common vision for the organization.
  • Keep organized records so when your term is done you can hand off information to your successor. Make sure that officers and committee chairs are doing the same.
  • Develop patience. Learn how to smile when you really want to cry.
  • Less is more. Doing the right 1-2 member-driven items is far more valuable than a laundry list of initiatives.
  • Make sure there is a shared understanding of the importance of board development, and what support directors need to be successful.
  • Make sure there is an engaging and challenging conversation on the agenda for every board meeting and that it is well framed.
  • Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you were elected to do and what you are bringing to the table.
  • Review the year and look at what worked and what could use improvement
  • Run effective meetings. Have an agenda, with times, and follow it.
  • Strengthen collaborations with other organizations in your sector.
  • Succession planning is critical. Have board officers and committee chairs take the lead in scouting for successors.
  • Use the board executive committee to preview of the full board meeting agenda and really road test it to work out kinks.
  • Weed out the people who have nothing better to do than to contribute through negativity or simply want something to put on their resume.
  • When chairing a meeting, find ways to draw in people who don’t always get a chance to speak or who are newer to the board.
  • When people’s terms on the board expire, find ways to hold on to them in some capacity if they contributed a lot: perhaps by forming an advisory group?
  • You need a process person and a cheerleader on the board. Decide which you are and then find a partner to play the other role for the organization.
  • Your primary market is your membership. Just as in any other business, you must assess the needs of your market.
  • Recommended books: The Best of Board Cafe, Great Boards for Small Groups, Heroic Leadership, Nonprofit Board Answer Book, Basic Principles of Policy Governance, Boards that Make a Difference, Good to Great and The Social Sector, The Source, and Leaders Who Make a Difference.
Big love to all those who contributed their words of wisdom, including: Aaron Hurst, Beth Yoke, Birgit Van Hout, Brian Weiner, Chris Sinton, Doug Barg, Gayle Uchida, Glen Peterson, Greg Lassonde, John Darrouzet, John Kenyon, Jovida Ross, Juanita Carroll Young, Kliff Kueh, Kliff Kuehl, Lela Davia, Marion Conway, Mike McClure, Morrie Warshawski, Neal Gorenflo, Peggy Hoffman, Sara Farina, Stephen Peelor, Steve Novak, Pam Cook and Sushma Raman.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Everything you know about fundraising is wrong

If you think fundraising is merely raising about money, you really are missing the point. The inspired fundraiser understands her job is to foster greater generosity and gratitude in the world. Development is simply the building of valued-based relationships between prospective donors and organizations. Fundraising is a vehicle for donors to act on these values, bringing joy to themselves and others.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Truth is there is no lack of money for good causes. According to Giving USA, last year $295 billion was given away to nonprofits in the U.S. Over 83%, or $245 billion, came from individuals. All research indicates that individual can provide nonprofits with stable and flexible sources of funding, even in times of recession. The single largest barrier to raising money is your own lack of belief in yourself, donors and your good cause. The first step is healing your own negative relationship to money, power and privilege. If you are having trouble raising money from others, let me suggest you start by increasing your own donation.

It is also a mistake to think you must know rich people to succeed as a fundraiser. You already know everyone you need to get started. The fact is that low- and middle-income folks give at a higher percentage of their incomes than those of upper incomes. Successful fundraisers welcome donors of all levels. Statistically speaking the regular, small annual fund donor is the best planned giving prospect.

Too many of us have forgotten that the ancient practice of giving and receiving of gifts has the power to transform the lives of individuals, institutions and communities, and even connect us to what is divine in the world. Fundraisers can:

  • Help those in need to break free of the cycle of poverty, violence and oppression they might face, reminding them there are those who still care.
  • Help donors express personal values, developing a sense of abundance and generosity by learning they have enough to share.
  • Reduce isolation in communities by connecting people who share common values, providing them opportunities to organize for social change.
  • Create sustainable financial support for organizations that have strong community need, yet often little or no perceived for-profit market value.
  • Through opening hearts to the cycle of giving and receiving, connect people to something larger than themselves, which is the core of every spiritual tradition.
Think about the last time you wrote a donation check or spent time volunteering at a nonprofit? How does it make you feel months or even years later to remember? Isn’t this one of the best feelings? Don’t you want everyone else to feel as you do right now? You can. All you need do is ask them for a gift.

You see, asking for help is one of the best ways you can tell someone they are important to you. If you decide to not ask, perhaps you think they are not rich enough or do not care enough about the issue. You may think you are protecting them. In fact, you’ve taken away one of their most valuable rights: their right to choose. The truth is, people only rise to the level of expectations we place them. To succeed as a fundraiser you don’t need to change donors, only your belief in them.

The inspired fundraiser provides donors an opportunity to put their values into action, to become the hero of their own life story, and to make their dreams for a better world come true.

So let me ask you. When you ask someone for a donation, whose gift is bigger: their’s or yours?

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