Nonprofit Carnival: Day in the Life

August 31, 2009

Have you heard of the Nonprofit Blog Carnival? Every month bloggers all across the nonprofit world share their posts. This month I’m hosting the carnival and my theme is: “Day in the Life of a Nonprofit Professional.”

As you may already know, I write about different nonprofit leaders every month with my Featured Fundraiser posts. This month, for the carnival, I wrote about a day in the life for fundraisers at different levels of experience.

Check out Trina’s Nonprofit blog she submitted a great post:

Kristen Cici from Nonprofit SOS often features various fundraisers. Her posts this month focused on:

Erin O’Connor Jones at Jobs for Change wrote a great post. Jobs for Change is a really neat site about opportunities across the US for jobs in the nonprofit world.

If I missed your post, I’m sorry, please leave it as a comment below.


Building Community Online

August 26, 2009

More and more people use the internet to guide them in their philanthropy. Every organization has a donor culture, most have several. It is important as you develop and grow your online community that you have an intentional culture. What are your online goals? Are your goals: to have more people learn and read about your issues, to secure more online donations, or to be as up-to-date as other nonprofits?

Create some kind of opportunity for your community to engage you online via a comment box, forum, or Facebook page. As people visit your website you are sending a message regardless of if you try to or not. Potential donors will look at your website and evaluate you. Are you an organization that they can give money to? Can donors ask questions and have a conversation about the difference their money has made? That is not always important to all donors, but is important for younger donors and emerging philanthropists.

Our local opera has a special group for young opera goers to which they have created their own board and run private youth-focused events. I think this is a great way to bring a younger generation into the opera world. When you are creating an online community, you want to think about your audience this way too. Who is reading your website? Where is your reader’s place there? Have a post that is catered to that group or talk about an issue that they would be specifically interested in.


Get Involved in AFP

August 24, 2009

Do you have the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) in your community? Use this organization to plug into the local nonprofit community and get to know your peers. Joining your local AFP, or development officer organization, can help you build your network or receive mentoring from other professionals. It can also be a great community to test new ideas. These kinds of groups have been a great encouragement to me when the economy makes work more difficult, or just to chat about everyday frustrations and joys in fundraising.

If you have not joined, I would recommend you can check out the AFP website to find a local chapter in your area. If you are already involved and are not benefiting from networking or connecting with fellow professionals join a committee or focus group. This allows you to contribute to the advancement of your profession, gets your name out there, and builds your resume.

For my Seattle/Puget Sound readers another couple great organizations to check out:

Other nonprofit associations I did not mention? Post a comment and let us know.


Careers in Fundraising: David Lalka

August 19, 2009

Monday I focused on someone newer to fundraising, Cara Rudd. Today I’m focusing on David Lalka, from DVA Navion. David has some great words about what has kept him in the nonprofit world, thank you.- Jason

What motivates you to do the good work that you do?

Photo of David LalkaLike many development officers and consultants, I entered the field of fund-raising not by design, but by accident–and I stayed. On reflection, my primary motivation for doing this work is my strong belief in the inestimable value of not-for-profit organizations to the benefit of society as a whole and to individuals in particular. Further, this work allows me to advance the cause of “independent” solutions to personal and cultural issues over against government solutions.

What has contributed to your success as a fund-raiser?

Several things, I believe, are important for my “success.” First, I never have sought “success” but rather to fulfill my responsibilities to the best of my ability in all circumstances. Second, I believe strongly in a team concept of fund-raising. Every member of the team–support personnel, development services, fund-raising officers–makes possible the cumulative funding success of an organization. It is true: “there is no limit to the amount of money that can be raised if you do not care who gets the credit.” Next, I had the privilege early in my career to be mentored by some national leaders in the areas of major gifts and small college fund-raising. Being mentored, and mentoring others is the surest way of learning what you do not know and what is indispensable to learn. Fourth, I believe strongly in young people, and giving young people a chance to learn. Finally, I believe whatever success I may have achieved derives from my passionate belief in the missions and visions of the organizations which I have served as either the chief development officer or principal consultant.

Have you seen a change in trends or best practices? What changes are coming?

One notable trend is the targeted use of direct mail. Direct mail is effective to a degree for donor acquisition and for the reactivation of SYBUNTS (some year but not this year). Another trend is the ever more significant place of cornerstone – 7+ figure gifts – in campaigns. In some campaigns now 95% of the funds come from 5% of the donors. Yet another trend is specific to my generation: baby-boomers. We largest generation in North American culture, but we have not been great exemplars of philanthropy. When we have made charitable gifts, those gifts have often been with self-interest and with restriction. BUT, baby-boomers, with all their success, are discovering that they want to be significant. And, significance is most often linked to philanthropy–witness Bill and Melinda Gates and Michael Dell.

With regard to best practices, I find that the more attention that is paid by organizations to building lasting rather than “instrumental” relationships the better those organizations are in weathering economic downturns.

Finally, if I could see “changes that are coming” I would be a prophet and not a fund-raising officer. Seriously, I see a couple of things. First, the “elephants” in the room are two: direct mail and phoning of donor prospects. With direct mail, I, like many baby-boomers, do not read it and will not wake up one day and do so. Direct mail has a shelf life that may be ending. Second, with the increase of cell numbers as sole phone numbers, and with the near universal use of caller ID, phoning donor prospects and constituents will become ever more challenging. This change leads to a third: the increased use of the immediacies of email, and social networking to stay engaged with donor prospects and constituents.

What advice do you have for new fund-raisers?

First, I would urge new fund-raisers to recognize that the “discipline” of fund-raising is a legitimate and worthwhile career. I recall the first organization where I served as senior development officer: most people there believed that fund-raising was somehow distasteful and that one day the organization would have enough money and would no longer need to engage in such “practices.” Next, I would urge new fund-raisers to seek out a senior development professional as a mentor. Third, new fund-raisers must remember that “people give to people.” Consequently, honesty, integrity, character, and genuine regard for donors are imperative. Finally, new fund-raisers should remember that they are working for the success of the organization, and not to make a name for themselves.

If you had a choice, would you enter the field of fund-raising again?

Short answer: an unequivocal yes. Friend and fund-raising is not only a noble vocation, but it allows me to engage with people who desire to make the spiritual, educational, social, and cultural fabric of the country better for themselves and for others. Moreover, fund-raising allows me to observe first-hand the great generosity that infects Americans and distinguishes American culture. Finally, it is deeply satisfying to “work for the greater good.”


Careers in Fundraising: Cara Rudd

August 17, 2009

A number of my posts this month are focused on working in the nonprofit field. I always find it interesting what brings people to the nonprofit industry. I thought it would be fun highlight someone newer to fundraising and a seasoned professional. Today, I’m interviewing someone newer to fundraising, Cara Rudd, from Olive Crest. Thanks, Cara.- Jason

What motivates you to continue to do the good work you do?

Photo of Cara RuddSeeing our foster families who invest selflessly into the foster children they are taking care of and witnessing the foster child’s growth and ability to grow up to be a competent citizen and give back to the community. Then I love taking those stories and sharing them with donors; the donor is transformed and I am encouraged to continue breaking the cycle of abuse by sharing the uplifting stories about Olive Crest in an effort to transform even more lives.

What has attributed to your success as a fundraiser?

I’ve grown up in a family who’s always been in debt and has never been financially free to invest in the things most families desire to invest in. Therefore, I had to learn to “fundraise” in order to be involved in the activities I wanted to be. College was a biggie. My parent’s paid my $300 housing deposit, but I was responsible for coming up with the annual $33,000 in tuition, room and board. I took the initiative to apply for scholarships and advocate for myself. I’m proud to say I finished my undergraduate without any loans/debt.

Any tips and advice for new fundraisers.

Always remember why you’re there. For me, I live for the kids and the amazing foster parent’s I get to work with. When I get caught up in not getting the amount I asked a donor for or loosing grant money to another organization, I have wasted my energy and time when I could have been looking for another opportunity to help a child. The worst thing you can do is turn inward and closed and loose your focus. Keep your eye’s and heart on the mission of your organization so you can keep that passion alive.


The Edge Visible Challenge: $1,000 Award

August 12, 2009

I’m always trying to let you know right away when I learn about a new online award or grant. The Edge Group in Washington and California is celebrating their 5 year anniversary with a $1,000 award. They believe that nonprofits often describe themselves with such generic language that they become invisible to the communities they are in.

If you’ve got 15 minutes to tell them your organizations story, and are a 501(c)3 you are eligible. Answer the following questions using “visible, mission specific language” on their website in 100 words or less per question.

  • Describe your nonprofit organization, who are you?
  • What does your organization do/offer to fulfill your mission?
  • Where (geographically, office locations, etc.) do you fulfill your mission?
  • When do you offer your service, products, or programs (week/month/year)?
  • Tell us something unique or special about your organization.

The deadline to submit your application is August 31, 2009. The winner will be announced via email and on The Edge website on September 15, 2009.


Reasons Your Organization Should Blog

August 12, 2009

Does your nonprofit use blogging to advance your mission? Why not? What’s holding you back? Here are a few advantages that blogging can bring to what you do.

  • If you are looking to find and start a relationship with new donors, try communicating with a blog.
  • Blogging allows you to share stories about your organization’s successes on a regular basis. Searching for stories for a regular blog provides you with regular content to use in other areas of your work.
  • People like joining a conversation. You will learn about a number of people who benefit from your services with whom you’ve lost touch. And you will provide your donors a method to communicate with the organization.
  • A nonprofit can use a blog in advancing their message to large group of people in a unique and personal way. Blogs allow you to say as much as you want as often as you’d like, and your community can engage as little or as much as they want.
  • Search engines like blogs. Donors are searching for nonprofit leaders on the issues that matter to them. You are easier to find if you have a blog that talks about the issues they stand for by constantly producing new, relevant content.
  • Blogging is great medium to promote the good work of your staff, talk about remarkable accomplishments, or highlight an employee’s longevity and service to your organization.