Awards Update

April 30, 2009

Mark of Distinction

Until June 30th Markham Winery is holding a contest awarding two people $25,000 to accomplish a project in their city. You can nominate someone or submit a proposal on their website. On July 27th, 10 projects will be chosen and posted on their website. The public with then vote to determine each winner. (Submitted by Laurie Shulman from Marina Maher Communications)

Social Media Makeover by CommuniCause

Vote for a nonprofit that you think needs a social media makeover. The winning nonprofit will get a free $25,000 makeover. Check out the CommuniCause website for details and to vote. This campaign is going on from now till July 31st, 2009. (Submitted by Jeremy Hilton)


Don’t Start Social Media Too Late

April 29, 2009

Over the last number of weeks I’ve had the privilege of coaching a few people on social media. Web 2.0 and social networking are currently catch phrases and “in” topics right now; however, most people and nonprofits are still at the very beginning of understanding and harnessing their power. For this reason I believe many are taking the “wait and see” approach to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other online tools.

Getting started early is important because you are given the power to control your message. Building community online can be done by anyone it does not have to be done by you. But, if someone else starts the first group to talk about your organization that will most likely be the group that everyone joins later.

Let me give an example, a college student started a Facebook group for his college before the school and it now has over 900 members. Anyone searching for a group related to the college sees his group as the largest and joins it. If this student became frustrated with the school he could say and post whatever he wanted because the school did not start the group.

Hopefully I have not sounded too gloom and doom regarding social media. My next couple posts will be about getting started and how to succeed using web 2.0.

Most Powerful Statements: Cass Wheeler

April 28, 2009

Yesterday was the first part of this month’s Featured Fundraiser Cass Wheeler.  Here is part two of that post.

What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?

Being a good fund raiser requires a sales and a management mentality. Every call on a donor is a sales call. Recruiting volunteers requires a sales mentality as well. What appeals do you use to get the results you want? In most instances, staff are also guiding and managing a group of volunteers toward to defined goal so leadership and management skills are also critical. Maintaining a positive “can do attitude” is critical because you often experience many “no’s” before you get to the “yes’s” but you can’t let it get you down and you have to be a role model for the volunteers you work with. You also have to have a thick skin and you have to be assertive. Don ‘t assume that someone either won’t give or won’t give at a certain level. You cannot be in the business of making decisions for other people. Only they can do that.

What are one or two of the most powerful statements you’ve ever made?

I’ll give you two not necessarily in order of importance. First is “What would it take to do x, y or z?” This question re-frames an issue. I remember years ago when our Walk was raising $12 million, I asked the question of our Walk Team: “What would it take to raise $30 million?” At first the responses were all the reasons it couldn’t be done. I told them that I knew it wasn’t impossible and that there must be some way and asked that with no constraints they go back a develop a plan. The team not only came back with a plan but with a slogan—30 in 30. $30 million in 30 months. And it was accomplished in 18 months. As we neared that achievement my next questions was “What would it take to raise $100 million and that was accomplished before I stepped down as CEO.

The second question is to drive candor in your organization. The statement is “Here is what I think and here is how I arrived at that conclusion, please tell me what I’m not seeing or understanding?” This is an empowering statement. You aren’t playing games, you are stating what you think. You are also telling everyone why you think that so they understand your thought processes. But you are also inviting other points of view and encouraging more discussion and not ending discussion. This is particularly important for leaders. These kind of statements will not only improve the quality of your decision making it will increase the organizational commitment to whatever the final decision is because everyone will have had an opportunity to express their views.

Cass Wheeler: Featured Fundraiser

April 27, 2009

This month’s Featured Fundraiser is Cass Wheeler, CEO of the American Heart Association and author of a great new book, You’ve Gotta Have Heart.

What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?

For 35 years I raised funds for the American Heart Association including Major Gifts and Planned Gifts, Special Events, Direct Mail, Bequests, Gala’s, etc.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?

It is the dollars that fuel all the other life saving programs of the American Heart Association. These programs change lives and save lives. As with any organization, donations bring you closer to achieving your long range goals and ultimately your mission. Now I want to continue helping non profits achieve their goals because I believe that if we are to have a vital America, we need a vibrant non profit sector. Volunteering is a foundation of our American culture. Imagine if tomorrow all non profits (zoos, shelters, community hospitals, boys and girls clubs, museums, symphonies, houses of worship, etc) disappeared. How different our world would be. It’s a sector that is worth preserving and it begins with adequate funding as an enabler.

<h3?What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?

Focus, focus, focus. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Your organization should identify 4-7 fundraisers where you think you can excel and perhaps be world class. For each, look within your organization and outside for benchmarks and best practices. Develop rock solid execution plans to drive toward these best practices. Know what works and what doesn’t and provide in-depth training for volunteers and staff. Set long range goals and build a strong case for support based on your mission and strategic plan showing the difference your organization can make. Manage and monitor closely as it is usually the problems you don’t know about that will hurt you the most. Do potential problem analysis to identify what could derail your plans and then define what you can do upfront to minimize possible problems. You will also need to develop contingency plans, if in fact, things do go wrong, but it is better to try and deal with issues up front so that they don’t become a reality.

Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?

Making my first major gifts ask some 30 years ago while flying across Texas in the prospect’s private jet. And best of all, he said “yes” and gave the amount I asked for.

Practical Ideas for Fundraising Efficiency

April 22, 2009

As I mentioned in the last post I am considering bringing a guest expert on as a regular basis please email me any feedback or thoughts on today’s author.  Enjoy the second part of Tim’s article.

In my previous post, I encouraged non profit managers and fund raisers to establish a goal of increasing efficiency. Three simple suggestions to accomplish this are as follows:

  1. Develop a passion for efficiency (or hire someone who has it). Efficiency doesn’t just happen. On the contrary, inefficiency does just happen. You need someone to spearhead your efforts to operate more efficiently. You might not be the person to do that; that’s fine. Find someone competent.
  2. Establish a habit of consulting the data before the heart. Hearts are handy things to have when falling in love, watching romance movies and winning sports championships. When it comes to making critical, data driven decisions… Not so helpful. Don’t toss the baby out with the bath water now; ‘gut feelings’ are there for a reason. That’s not what I’m talking about. Just make sure when you’re faced with a question, (e.g. “is it more profitable to call donors twice a year or three times?”), your instinct leads you to consult a statistically valid test. Get your instincts right first; we can talk about how to do the tests later.
  3. (And this is key) ACT on the results. It should go without saying, (but it doesn’t), that it’s worthless to run a study if you refuse to believe it. Be prepared to act on the data…

In the future, it will be profitable to examine these suggestions and others in greater detail. Until then, happy data driven fund-raising.

Data Driven Fundraising

April 20, 2009

I am considering bringing a guest expert on as a regular basis please email me any feedback or thoughts on today’s author. The next couple posts are by Tim Troutman from Charlotte Rescue Mission, and he is an individual passionate about donor data.

“Figures can lie and liars can figure.” That’s what my boss always says and while I think she’s right, there is a certain ‘mom & pop’ business model ingrained into non-profits that refuses to allow data to speak for itself. Or put another way, I’ve seen my share of non-profit executives who are too resolute in their years of experience to let mere facts interfere with decisions. In case my boss is reading, no I’m not speaking about you!

Through process innovation like Six Sigma, the business world is rapidly adopting a “data-driven” modus operandi. This is true especially in America where high production costs force corporations to build efficiently or build in Asia. How about the non-profit sector? I’m sure the larger ones are already well on their way to data-driven decision making; in fact I know this first hand. But the small and medium non-profits are well behind the times in this regard.

Six-Sigma training may be prohibitively expensive for many non-profits but there is plenty that can otherwise be done. Non-profits, particularly the fund raising departments, stand only to gain from implementing some basic structural changes in the way they do business. The first step is to develop a clear goal of increasing your non profit’s efficiency. (Notice I didn’t say “develop new strategies for expense allocation”!) In the next post, I’ll suggest some practical ways of improving your non-profit’s business model.

Office/Workplace Fundraising

April 15, 2009

Recently I had a friend ask me for help raising money with his workplace. And I thought I’d share some of the ideas here. I was really encouraged to hear from a business leader who is looking for proactive and creative ways to raise money in his office. Here are a few examples of things you can do with your workplace campaign. Anything you want to add?

  • Get a nonprofit representative to speak to a group of staff about how their money can make a difference.
  • Promote monthly giving and how a small portion of your paycheck can make a big difference.
  • Break the office into teams or groups and have them compete.
  • Hold a creative event to generate enthusiasm. An organization I use to work with does a dunk tank event every year. Employees would talk with some of the Senior Managers and Vice Presidents and ask them if they would be willing to go on the dunk tank if their staff raised a certain amount of money.
  • Combine your campaign with something online and offline. Have a fundraising page and send it in an email around the office. This can help everyone see how much they are raising as a group.
  • Set a reasonable target and push to try and increase it every year.