Tooting Your Own Horn

December 30, 2014

This may sound a little cheap but I’ve found it invaluable. Succeeding as a fundraising professional is often more about managing perception that your actual performance and success. I am writing this for those of us that do not toot our own horn (not for the slackers that really don’t do anything).

I have found that one of the very best ways to keep the development office and my boss happy is to make sure that I am regularly talking about what I’m doing. Not every donor we talk to is going to give us $10,000 or even give a gift at all so it is important that people know we are working even if we are not bringing in money.

Give your boss a short update about some of the prospecting ideas you have been working on, write the name of the person you’re going to meet with on the schedule board before you leave. When times slow remind people, in an appropriate way, of past successes. People tend to forget the good work that we do when money is not coming in and it is helpful to be able to remind them of the value of the development office.


Who Likes Meetings?

December 23, 2014

I have talked a lot about meetings in my last couple posts. Why does everyone hate meetings? Too often not enough work has been done before the meeting so everyone sits around getting nothing done. Sometimes the one chairing the meeting has not “rallied up enough support” before the meeting and everyone spends the entire time in conflict over smaller issues. I think people dislike meetings because too often they take too much time. Here are a few ideas you can try:

  • Keep meetings as short as possible; unless it is a quarterly or one time meeting an hour and a half is probably too long.
  • Start and end your meetings on time, even if everyone is not there. If you make this a habit after a couple meetings people will start to show up on-time.
  • If you consistently find you do not have enough content for the meeting – meet less often.
  • Make sure your meeting chair is not surprised by what is on the agenda.
  • Provide an annotated agenda or short talking points that the key presenters can use, this serves as a reminder of the key items to cover (this works well for volunteers).

Campaign Constipation

December 16, 2014

We have all been there when we are in the middle of a campaign or plan and everything slows down to a crawl. Sometimes this happens because we have not planned enough, or because we need to build critical mass, but other times it happens because of external things you cannot control. Fundraising can sometimes take a bit of slugging.

When I find that internal forces are blocking a campaign from moving forward I find that short strategic regular meetings have helped me push forward. Think through exactly what blocks you have and what it will take to get past them. If you have really stalled out it’s going to take a number of “concentrated charges” or strategic meetings to “break the line” you will probably have to encourage movement a number of times.

Take some time to think through your meeting in your head, what will people say, how will the meeting flow? Then set up your agenda in such a way that you can make sure to cover the important items needing completion. I often use my agendas as my action plan so it will have actual steps from our development or campaign plan on it.

When your campaign slows down more than anything else you need to be patient and persistent. Any advice or proven strategies you have to move forward when internal pressures slow you down?

Keep on Keeping On

December 9, 2014

Every nonprofit has hard times. Here are some of my thoughts if you need to push through tough times.

It is important to set short regular meetings & benchmarks. These do not need to be directly tied to finances. In fact make sure that some of them are not tied to finances. Have some measurable benchmarks such as: how many times you are talking to and meeting with donors, how many handwritten notes you are sending out, etc. Right now we need to be talking to donors and making new connections as often as we can. Setting benchmarks give us goals that we can meet when our financial goals seem unattainable or overly daunting. Doing a check in during a 10 to 15 minute regular meeting gives the team a rally point where they can share success, build momentum, and encourage moral.

Keep focused on your next step. Sometimes things slow to a crawl and that is just the way things are but we can’t let them stop. Talk openly about what the next big thing your team is working to get done.

In the areas that are keeping you from moving forward continue to try different strategies to move to the next step. If something doesn’t work try something else and don’t be afraid to try the same thing again.

I’d love to hear from you and what you have found successful to keep yourself or your office going. What do you do in your office or with your team to move things forward when fundraising slows down?

Will You Be My Volunteer?

December 2, 2014

How many of you value volunteers and volunteer recruitment as highly as donor stewardship? Some organizations I’ve worked for have their volunteer programs held within the development office other have them elsewhere.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the nonprofit; they serve on your board, often serve your clients, keep your front desk staffed, fold your letters, and provide you with community connections. And, every organization I’ve ever worked for has periodic problems with their volunteers, problems finding the right ones and getting them to help with the right projects.

One trick you can use is the very same thing you do with your major donors. If you are looking for a volunteer to help you with a key task at an organization (or are trying to recruit a particular person) why not set it up similar to a solicitation. Set a time to sit one-on-one and talk with the potential volunteer. Ask them about why the organization is valuable to them, or if they are new tell a quick story about your organization. Then make a case as to why you need them or need their help. Then ask them.