Archive for March, 2010

Essentials of fundraising for the memory-challenged

Limited budgets require economies of scale so nonprofits must make important choices that allow them to generate quality donor relations—not quantity. Mass marketing is dead; nonprofits must acknowledge the awesome possibilities real donor relationships bring and carry out their plans with their eye on what the donor wants—not what they think they want.

“Despite the recession, despite greatly increased competition, despite the pace and scale of recent developments, there have never been more opportunities for relationship fundraisers than now,” says Burnett. It is critical that nonprofits take a meticulous inventory of how they are communicating with prospects and donors and ask themselves the question “Are we thinking of the donor or the gift when we craft a plan or a message?”

Ken Burnett’s Relationship Fundraising is a broad overview of the fundraising profession and how practitioners can incorporate relationship-building in everything strategy. Burnett lays the groundwork by exploring what motivates people to give and what makes a successful fundraiser. This list below is excerpted from Relationship Fundraising and is comprised of fundraising essentials every practitioner should know and it’s helpful to be reminded of every now and then.

An excerpt of essential foundations of fundraising

    Successful fundraising involves storytelling.

    Great fundraising is sharing. Share goals, encourage involvement. Involved donors give more.

    Turn complaints into support. The most loyal donor has complained and received a satisfactory response.

    The value of trustworthiness to a donor increases in importance as they get older.

    Great fundraising requires imagination.

    Great fundraising is getting great results. If your results are mediocre, your fundraising probably is too.

    Be honest, open and truthful with donors. They do not forgive you if you are less than straight with them.

    Avoid waste. Donors hate waste.

    Technique must never be allowed to obscure sincerity. As all actors know, you can’t fake sincerity.

    Fundraisers must talk to donors where they are. That’s not always where the fundraiser wants them to be.

    Fundraisers and donors have a relationship of shared conviction.

    Great fundraising means being “15 minutes ahead” so you can spot opportunities and take careful risks.

    Fundraisers should learn the lessons of history and experience. Do your homework.

    Always “thank” properly, often [and promptly]. Be brilliant at welcoming new donors.

    Read the full summary of Relationship Fundraising by subscribing to our Page to Practice™ library or visit the CausePlanet summary store for single titles.


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    Leveraging good will from your board

    In light of our current Page to Practice feature, The Search for Social Entrepreneurship and its exploration of nonprofits activities as they relate to business practices, we thought it would be a great opportunity to revisit our interview with Alice Korngold, author of Leveraging Good Will.

    Korngold is a national consultant who has worked with hundreds of businesses and nonprofit organizations. She is the former chief founding executive, president and CEO of Business Volunteers Unlimited (BVU), a national program that trains and places business professionals and executives on nonprofit boards of directors.

    CausePlanet: As nonprofit leaders and board members, our readers know it’s important for businesses to partner with nonprofits and vice versa—how would you build on this case for support?

    Korngold: The first step for a business is to create a philanthropy, service, and leadership strategy that aligns with their corporate mission and strategy; then, choose nonprofits that will be good partners as follows:

    Companies can communicate key messages about their company and its brand by the nonprofits and causes it chooses to invest in (like a publishing company funding literacy, for example).
    By involving employees in volunteerism, companies build teamwork and show support for their employees, while also improving the community.
    By encouraging and supporting the involvement of executives on nonprofit boards, companies foster leadership development.

    In all these ways, companies improve the communities where their employees and customers live and work, and build good will.

    Nonprofits benefit by engaging businesses by:

    Accessing individuals with valuable expertise for their boards of directors and in providing useful pro-bono management consulting assistance; and
    Accessing financial resources through sponsorships, contributions, and donated services (free printing, for example).

    Most importantly, the community benefits when experienced businesspeople are involved in advancing nonprofits that provide vital health and human services, education, arts and culture, and environmental protection and conservation.

    CausePlanet: In what ways can business executives be most helpful to nonprofits?

    Business executives can be most helpful to nonprofits by lending valuable business expertise. Given that nonprofits must be more strategic in addressing new and greater financial challenges, businesspeople bring useful skills in market assessment, strategic decision making, organizational development, revenue models, public relations and advocacy, finance and investments, information technology, and measurement.

    It is especially important for business executives who join boards to engage with the board in envisioning the organization’s greater potential; articulating the case for the organization and its compelling value; keeping the organization focused where it can have the greatest impact in achieving its mission in serving the community; helping to ensure there is a viable revenue model and maximize resources; helping to generate new and additional sources of revenue; and helping the organization to achieve more on behalf of the community.

    Korngold: Can nonprofit executives also be helpful to businesses? How?

    Yes! Nonprofit executives are highly knowledgeable about their communities. They usually have a breadth and depth of knowledge of the community, its needs, key issues, the pros and cons of various solutions to core issues. They also keep close track of the key players and who is effective for what purpose. Many of them know how to get things done in the community.

    CausePlanet: What’s the best way nonprofit leaders can differentiate themselves from other nonprofit opportunities that are presented to a corporation?

    Korngold: A nonprofit can distinguish itself in making its case to a corporation for support by researching the company, its mission, challenges, and key strategic goals, and then offering ways for the nonprofit to be valuable as a partner. That is, what positive message will the business get to align with? How can employees engage in productive and rewarding volunteer experiences that meet the nonprofit clients’ needs and also meet employees’ realistic schedules and interests? How can executives support the nonprofit through board service and/or management assistance (contributing expertise in marketing, public relations, human resources, and so on)? If the company makes a significant donation, how will the company be recognized in a way that will resonate in the community? Best of all, can this all be packaged in a nice, cohesive program—under a theme, a partnership concept, something inspiring and wonderful? And even better, can the nonprofit tell the company how this will make the community better, i.e. how many more children will advance from elementary school to middle school because of this company’s involvement, or how many children will learn to read, or how many babies will be rescued and sheltered in the next year because of the company partnership? Results! Outcomes! Making the world a better place!

    Read the full summary of Leveraging Good Will by subscribing to Page to Practice™ book summaries. Or, purchase this or one of our other Page to Practice™ executive summaries by visiting the CausePlanet summary store.

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    Be an effective matchmaker

    Alice Korngold, author of Leveraging Good Will: Strengthening Nonprofits by Engaging Businesses, provides illustrative examples and real-life success stories to show how several nonprofits have transformed their organizations through partnerships with businesses.

    Her book is a how-to guide that gives readers step-by-step advice on how to navigate the issues that arise when forming partnerships, including creating an effective match between a nonprofit and business; making the translation from the business world; realigning the board structure and composition so that it can effectively address contemporary issues; choosing and nurturing strong board leaders; and creating an effective strategic plan.

    Creating an Effective Match between a Nonprofit and Business

    An effective matchmaker is key to helping nonprofits find strong business leaders to serve on their boards, as well as helping business leaders find a board that best fits the needs and interests of their company. When properly matched, board members and other volunteers can help strengthen a nonprofit and make it more successful, while at the same time satisfy the need of the volunteer to make a valuable contribution to the community. Matchmakers should take the following steps to ensure a good match between a volunteer candidate and an organization:

    Conduct a needs assessment of the nonprofit.

    Interview each candidate.

    Respect the nonprofit’s right to choose its volunteers.

    Train board candidates

    Provide complementary board consulting services.

    Making the Translation from the Business World

    Business leaders will be effective in the nonprofit world only when they take the time and effort to learn about the nonprofit sector’s unique qualities, the specific cause they have chosen, and their role as board members. Conversely, nonprofit leaders need to be open to new perspectives that may at first be alien to the way they are used to doing business. Korngold lists 10 key factors found in successful partnerships, including:

    Board members should have a personal passion for the mission of the nonprofit.

    Volunteers should respect the difference between mission-related and profit-oriented organizations.

    Board members should understand the financial model and board culture of the nonprofit.

    Board members must understand the complexities of measuring success.

    Boards need to assess the skills, experiences, and relationships of their members.

    Read the full summary of Leveraging Good Will by subscribing to Page to Practice™ book summaries or visit the CausePlanet summary store. Find out more about the full book and Alice Korngold.

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    Turn your “staff beatings” into staff meetings

    There was a time when I worked for a nonprofit and we used to call the staff meetings “staff beatings” because they were so horrible. People left completely unmotivated and broken. It was all we could do to rally for another week. It doesn’t matter if you run a nonprofit or a for-profit—anyone who is in business knows that the most dreaded part of the workday is the meeting. They last too long, they take time away from real work, and they sap workers of energy and enthusiasm.

    In Death by Meeting, from best-selling author Patrick Lencioni, readers are invited to take a contrarian, nontraditional view of meetings that will transform what is now a painful and tedious activity into something that is meaningful and productive.

    Lencioni argues, meetings are usually unfocused and any and all topics are given equal discussion time; the result is that they end up being ineffective and participants leave feeling unsatisfied. Instead, the solution is to hold different kinds of meetings for different purposes—four, in fact.

    Meeting #1: The Daily Check-In: The purpose of the Daily Check-in is to hear what other staff members have on their agendas for the day, in order to avoid unnecessary and time-consuming email chains about schedule coordination and to make sure that important tasks don’t fall through the cracks. Daily Check-ins should last five minutes—10 minutes tops—and should be done standing up to ensure that they don’t last longer.

    Meeting #2: The Weekly Tactical: A Weekly Tactical should last between 45 and 90 minutes and should focus exclusively on tactical issues of immediate concern. Critical elements include:

    The Lightning Round: This is a one-minute, around-the-table reporting session in which every team member relates their two or three priorities for the week.

    Progress Review: Members report critical information or metrics on issues such as revenue, customer satisfaction, inventory, etc. Lengthy discussions of underlying issues should be avoided here; the progress review should last no more than five minutes.

    Real-Time Agenda: Contrary to popular belief (and practice), the agenda for a meeting should not be set beforehand; instead, once the lightning round and progress review are completed, the team leader should decide which tactical issues are most pressing and are to be addressed during the meeting.

    Meeting #3: The Monthly Strategic: This is the meeting where team members can really sink their teeth into an issue and engage in an open-ended conversation and debate. Monthly Strategics are what Lencioni calls the “parking lot” for critical strategic issues that come up during the Weekly Tactical meetings.

    Meeting #4: The Quarterly Off-Site Review: Off-site meetings have justifiably earned a reputation for being more of a social gathering than a time to explore the long-term vision of the organization. According to Lencioni, this is a time for executives to step away from daily distractions and to reflect on and discuss the state of the organization.

    Read the full summary of Death by Meeting by subscribing to Page to Practice™ book summaries or visit the CausePlanet summary store. Learn more about Patrick Lencioni, his books and consulting services.

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    More great answers from social entrepreneurial guru

    We couldn’t help but excerpt more of our Page to Practice™ interview with Paul Light. His answers to our questions about his recent book, The Search for Social Entrepreneurship are insightful, honest and funny.

    CausePlanet: One of the central focuses of your book is the four components of social entrepreneurship: 1) Entrepreneur, 2) Idea, 3) Opportunity, and 4) Organization. Which of the four do you think is the most elusive for existing nonprofit organizations and why?

    Light: Organizational excellence is the most elusive, actually, because it is the least interesting. Organizations are seen as obstacles to creativity; so is management. Nobody wants to be a bureaucrat after all. But organizations contribute mightily to success, and can undermine even the most powerful idea. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to scale, or grow, socially-entrepreneurial organizations to super-size, but not enough about how to create organizations that innovate naturally. Social entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be a 24/7 battle against the odds; it can be a natural product of healthy organizations that encourage collaboration, creativity, etc. A lot of entrepreneurial organizations say they encourage trial AND errors, but when the mistakes are made, it becomes trial FOR error.

    CausePlanet: Despite the fact that you present a robust amount of research to date on the topic of social entrepreneurship as well as conduct a study of your own, what is the biggest question you believe still exists?

    Light: How do we solve urgent threats faster?

    CausePlanet: If an organization seeks to be more socially entrepreneurial, what are the preliminary steps toward that goal?

    Light: I’m a big believer in exploring the future. We rely too much on single trend lines extrapolated from the immediate past—we call that “muddling through” in political science; we adjust our trend lines using some increment of past experience. If the current recession has shown us anything, it is that the past is a very poor predictor of the future. Too much going on out there.

    Not surprisingly, I’m also a big fan of research. Unfortunately, research is seen as an inconvenience for social entrepreneurship. Yes, we talk about measurement, logic chains, social rates of return, data-driven government, outcomes, and results management, etc. But too many investors view researchers as rather like babies on an airplane—sometimes cuddly, often exhausting, potentially dangerous, and certainly irritating if they challenge the conventional wisdom. We need to be more open to research even when it hurts—we have to be able to accept the truths about our programs, our endeavors. I’m trying to do that with my own work. I was wrong about many of the assumptions I made about social entrepreneurship back in 2006 (was it really that long ago?), and have been updating since.

    I’m also a big fan of infrastructure. I like Winston Churchill’s quote about it. Here’s what he said of Great Britain’s victory in the 1899 Sudan River War: “Victory is the beautiful, bright-colored flower. Transport is the stem without which it could never have blossomed.” The same might be said of any social impact. Yes, there are great heroes; yes, there are great battles; and yes, courage is essential, as well as a good battle plan. But if you can’t get the supplies in the right hands at the right time with the right tools, you’re not going to succeed. Mundane as it seems, supply-chain management may have as much to do with ridding the world of Malaria as the vaccines we are working to develop. No syringe, no vaccination.

    Learn more about Light’s book, The Search for Social Entrepreneurship, read the full summary by subscribing to Page to Practice™ book summaries. Or, find this summary at the CausePlanet summary store.

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    Find the hooks in your story say Heath brothers

    Our recent feature of Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath promises some valuable guidance for nonprofit leaders if you don’t mind putting on your sales lens for a moment.

    Credible ideas make people believe. Emotional ideas make people care. The right stories make people act. According to the Heath brothers, a story’s power is derived from two benefits: simulation (knowledge about how to act) and inspiration (motivation to act). Both are geared toward generating action. Mental simulation—recreating events or sequences in your mind—works because people can’t imagine something without also thinking about doing it. According to the authors, mental simulation is not as good as actually doing something, but it’s the next best thing. How does mental simulation apply to sticky ideas? The right kind of story is, in effect, a simulation. Going back to the brothers’ Velcro Theory of Memory, the more hooks you put into your ideas, the better they’ll stick. Stories put knowledge into a framework that is more real, more true to our day-to-day lives. They get the audience ready to act.

    The authors also make the point that you don’t always have to create sticky ideas. Spotting them is often easier and more useful. They use the story of Jared, the man who lost weight eating a diet of Subway sandwiches, as an example of an inspirational found story. What if nonprofits could count on their volunteers to be on the lookout for symbolic events or encounters that might inspire others in or outside of the organization? Spotting great ideas isn’t hard, but they are easy to overlook. However, there are story templates that have been proven effective, and learning them helps you spot those inspirational stories:

    The Challenge Plot: The key element of a Challenge plot is that the obstacles seem daunting to the protagonist. The story of David and Goliath is the classic Challenge plot. Jared slimming down to 180 pounds is a Challenge plot. Challenge plots inspire us by appealing to our perseverance and courage. They make us want to work harder, take on new challenges and overcome obstacles. They inspire us to act.

    The Connection Plot: Connection plots are about people who develop a relationship that bridges a gap—racial, class, ethnic, religious or demographic. The movie Titanic and the play Romeo and Juliet are classic Connection plots. Connection plots inspire us to help others, be more tolerant of others, work with others and love others. The authors offer this practical advice: If you’re telling a story at your organization’s Christmas party, it’s best to use the Connection plot; if you’re telling a story at the kickoff party for a new fundraising campaign, use the Challenge plot.

    The Creativity Plot: The Creativity Plot involves someone making a mental breakthrough, solving a long-standing puzzle or attacking a problem in an innovative way. Creativity plots make us want to do something different, to be creative or to experiment with new approaches.

    The goal of learning about these plots is not to invent new stories, but to be able to spot stories that have potential for your organization. You don’t have to make stories up, but you do need to know what you’re looking for so that when a good story presents itself, it doesn’t fall by the wayside. Stories can also beat the Curse of Knowledge. They embody most of the SUCCESs framework in that they are concrete; most of them also have emotional and unexpected elements. The hardest part about using stories is making sure that they are simple—that they reflect your core message. It’s not enough to just tell a great story; it has to reflect your mission.

    Read more about Made to Stick by subscribing to Page to Practice™ book summaries. Or, purchase this or one of our other Page to Practice™ executive summaries by visiting the CausePlanet summary store. Find out more about the Heath brothers and their books.

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    The lost and found: Social entrepreneurship

    The Search for Social Entrepreneurship examines the power of social entrepreneurship to accomplish large-scale systemic change within the nonprofit sector. Author Paul C. Light takes on the behemoth task of synthesizing differing views and research outcomes to arrive at a consensus so entrepreneurialism can be studied and replicated for the greater good.

    Despite the fact that absolute certainty about what constitutes a highly entrepreneurial organization is elusive, Light successfully teases out useful similarities among researchers’ findings. He does so by identifying four basic components of social entrepreneurialism. In the end, the reader gains a collective view of what highly entrepreneurial organizations look like and how they behave.

    Below is an excerpt from a delightful Q & A we had with author Paul Light in our March Page to Practice™:

    CausePlanet: In your book you conclude that highly socially entrepreneurial organizations portray internal practices such as lower emphasis on strategic planning and undiversified revenue streams. These descriptors seem antithetical to highly performing organizations that have a diversified funding base and good planning systems in place. How would you turn these conclusions into instructive guidance for aspiring entrepreneurial organizations?

    Light: It’s the founder’s syndrome we often talk about. Once the entrepreneur has the idea, why should he, she, or they look for input from inside or outside the organization? They have THE idea after all. They also have less interest in strong governance, I think. The board exists to serve the idea—I’m a big believer in strong boards, but agree that micro-management is off limits. But an occasional conversation about what the entrepreneur might do better is strictly required. So is the social exploring I talked about earlier in this interview. The more diversity in this picture, the better. In fact, the latest research suggests that “collaborative creativity” by diverse groups produces more breakthroughs than “garage innovation” by lone wolves. And it is more effective in reducing dead-ends. In baseball terms, collaborative teams produce more hits, extra bases, runs, and homeruns (“going yard” as Detroit Tigers fans like me call it), and they also produce fewer strikeouts and errors.

    CausePlanet: What advice do you have for nonprofit leaders who would like to hire more entrepreneurial staff members or train the team they have? What characteristics should they be looking for or trying to develop?

    Light: Creativity is the key, I think. Once you find someone with faith, look for creativity, inspiration, passion, and hope (which I view as a deep form of optimism—we all have optimism at some level, whether about that dinner we just put in the oven (or microwave in my case), the movie we’re about to watch, our favorite sports team, or the opera. But hope is something more durable—it resides in our being, a sense that what we are doing will add up somehow to a significant change in the world.

    Can we teach people to be more creative? Absolutely. Set aside some training dollars for your team to do just about anything that stirs their imagination—a cooking class, pottery workshop, a yoga class (though I rather prefer an elliptical myself), a painting course, you name it. Too much of our training is tightly circumscribed—accountants take accounting classes (and we don’t want them to be creative with the numbers, but we do want them to see how those numbers are part of the creative discipline), leaders take leadership courses, etc. We can do better. Some of the best training classes for innovation involve a drawing pad and a charcoal pencil. Believe it.

    Learn more about Light’s book, Search for Social Entrepreneurship, or our Page to Practice™ book summary.

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