Posts made in January, 2012

The Role of A Fundraising Consultant

Posted by on Jan 31, 2012 | 0 comments

Today’s post is from a friend and colleague in the nonprofit fundraising world, Ann Fitzpatrick of A.C. Fitzpatrick and Associates.  A fellow fundraising consultant, Ann is a mentor for many who are fighting for freedom around the world; her candid and knowledgable approach to successful fundraising never fails to impress and inspire.

The following  entry entitled “What Should We Expect of A Consultant?” is part of Ann’s regular outreach to her subscribers:

“When faced with difficulties in raising money, some nonprofit executives fall into the trap of thinking: ‘Once we hire a consultant, our funding problems will be solved.’

The truth is that while consultants can be key partners for nonprofits that are ready to tackle problems such as murky vision, a lackluster board, poor management or weak fundraising skills, they are not a fix-all remedy.

When is it the right time to hire a consultant? And what should we expect of a consultant? Follow these guidelines for creating a successful consultant relationship:

Evaluate your needs and budget. Consultants provide varying services based on their expertise. Do you need a strategic plan? A fundraising audit? An additional pair of hands in the fundraising office? Assistance with a capital campaign? Staff training? Or board development?

Find the right match. Not all consultants do the same work. Be sure to check references to ensure the consultant has the skills you require, as well as accomplishments to back them up.

Put deliverables in writing. Many consultant relationships are soured when the consultant fails to live up to expectations. But sometimes that’s the fault of the nonprofit, which fails to make its expectations clear. Discuss your requirements with the consultant and what you want out of the relationship. Review these expectations every few months to ensure both you and the consultant are on the same page.

Be realistic. Consultants rarely have philanthropists in their back pockets that they can direct to fund your nonprofit’s programs. However, an experienced consultant team can offer other valuable services. For instance, they might: provide focus for your fundraising activities, guide your organization around potential pitfalls, deliver honest messages to management, and build the strength of your fundraising team.

Remain fully engaged. Yes, consultants can reduce some of the burdens of fundraising, but they cannot work alone. The most successful relationships are ones in which the leadership remains engaged and available for conference calls and meetings.

When in doubt, consider the 4 c’s. Look for consultants who are compatible, competent, confidential and who share a belief in your cause.

Finally, remember that the consultant works for you. This may sound obvious, but a good consultant—like any other team member—will benefit from your honest assessment and regular feedback on what is helpful and what is not.”

Thank you Ann, once again you’re right on target!
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Conquering Your Speaking Fears

Posted by on Jan 28, 2012 | 0 comments

It was bound to happen.

You’ve been invited to speak to a group of peers. Congratulations!

Wait, what’s that? You’re NOT excited? You don’t want to take the assignment? You HATE to speak in front of people? Oh my. Hmmm. Well, we better get to work!

A lot of very successful people have made it “to the top” without ever gripping a podium or looking out over a vast audience. How this happens is a topic for another blog post, but for today we’ll just state it as a  fact: great leaders are not always great speakers.

Having made this observation, we should also add that great speakers are not always great leaders. However, when the two are one – great speaker, great leader – there is a powerful energy for motivation and inspiration that cannot be denied.

So, what makes a great speaker? Let me break it down to two factors: Knowledge and Presentation. These are the two most critical elements of a presentation of any kind, whether speaking to a small group of attentive colleagues or an auditorium filled with sleep-deprived conference attendees.

Knowledge. It is imperative that a speaker know his stuff. Experience, training, and education on the topic you are presenting not only gives you a foundation to speak from, but gives you a degree of credibility before you ever open your mouth. This isn’t something you should cram for. Certainly there are instances where we’ve been given a task to teach that we aren’t 100% skilled in, so cramming is probably a good idea on occasion. But when speaking to an audience, either as a panelist, a keynote, or a session presenter, it’s important that you have a foundation of experience and knowledge to establish yourself as an “expert” of sorts. There are a lot of people with knowledge, but without the ability to present the information in a captivating, organized, motivating way…who cares? And that brings us to….

Presentation. It really doesn’t matter how many degrees you have or what your life’s experiences are, if you don’t have the know-how or ability or desire to share information in a creative, attention-holding manner, you shouldn’t be speaking at all.

  • Posture – how you stand at the podium (or sit at the panelist’s table) tells your audience a lot about you. Stand straight, sit straight. Lean forward. Rest your elbows on the table or place your hands on the podium when you’re not using them for communication. Assume a position of comfortable, assured presence.  Your posture and presence should tell a story about you: you know why you’re there, you know your audience, and you’re prepared.
  • Speech – your voice is a tool. Keeping your voice in mid-range when speaking allows you to lower it or raise it for emphasis. You can incite excitement in your audience, or make them go wide-eyed, simply by using different voice inflections as you deliver a well-prepared speech. Practice, practice, practice – before the event. Use a mirror, a tape recorder. Listen to yourself. Notice your pauses, when your voice cracks. Check your breathing, slow down, take breaths. Stop saying “Um” or “Uh”.
  • Preparation – there is a lot of necessary preparation before a successful presentation. First and foremost, know your audience. Find out who they are, why they will be in attendance, and what they need to know. And second, draft your presentation to that audience, remember who you will be speaking to and speak to them as you draft your speech. Start with a topic, draft an outline, fill in the blanks, rewrite and then rewrite again. Ask for a second pair of eyes to read through it. Maybe a third pair of eyes too. Include facts. Include personal stories. Make it something your audience can identify with. Use humor, even if your (or especially if your) subject is somewhat dry. Humor and lighthearted quips give the audience an opportunity to connect with you on a more personal level.
  • Confidence – granted, confidence comes with experience, but as you prepare for a presentation, remember that you are bringing to the table YOUR knowledge on this topic, and you’ve been asked to speak precisely because of YOUR knowledge. Share your strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. Have the confidence to be real, to know that you are the person that should be speaking to that audience on that day on that topic. You can do this!

It was Ann Landers who said, “The trouble with talking too fast is you may say something you haven’t thought of yet.”  So, take a deep breath, be prepared, stand tall, feel confident, speak clearly, stay on topic, use humor, and enjoy this assignment.

You may already be a great leader, but now it’s time for you to be a great speaker too.

Yes, it was bound to happen, but you’ve got this one. I know it.


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CHOICES – You, Me, and the Donor

Posted by on Jan 23, 2012 | 0 comments

Joanne Kathleen Rowling said, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” How true this statement is, both in life and in fundraising.

Every day we have the opportunity to choose. I believe this is something we take for granted, or at times, maybe even take advantage of.

“Let me choose,” is one of our first experiments with self-sufficiency. Aren’t those “terrible two’s” all about personal choice over parental direction?

Our lives are a sum total of the choices we make, good and bad, right and wrong. We are the product of our choices.

Donors make choices every day too. They open their mail and find solicitation letters from numerous nonprofit organizations, many with compelling messages and passionate missions.

How do they choose? How do we make good choices in life? How does a donor make the right choice when selecting a charity to support?

In both cases, emotions play a large part in the decisions that are being made.

Humans are, well, human. We want to be liked. We want to make a difference. We want to feel emotion, this reaffirms that we are vibrant, alive and of value.

Jono Smith has written, “Feelings, not analytical thinking, drive donations. According to a new study (PDF link) conducted by Deborah Small, a Wharton marketing professor, and colleagues George Loewenstein & Paul Slovic, if organizations want to raise money for a charitable cause, it is far better to appeal to the heart than to the head.”

But in fundraising, just as in life, the emotional appeal must be sincere and have staying power. A quick emotional high is not sustainable, in social settings as well as in donor relationships.

An article at stated the following:

A totally emotional decision is typically very fast. This is because it takes time (at least 0.1 seconds) for the rational cortex to get going. This is the reactive (and largely subconscious) decision-making that you encounter in heated arguments or when faced with immediate danger.

Common emotional decisions may use some logic, but the main driving force is emotion, which either overrides logic or uses a pseudo-logic to support emotional choices (this is extremely common).

Another common use of emotion in decision is to start with logic and then use emotion in the final choice.

As a fundraiser, attracting a potential donor’s attention by appealing to their emotions is an authentic and acceptable effort. We want their attention.

It’s the follow-up after the donation that can make the difference between a one-time donation and long-term support.  Emotional heart tugs are important reminders of the compelling mission a donor is supporting.  Logical affirmations to donors showing strong content, forward progress, and good stewardship confirm the correctness of their initial decision to give.

And in life, our emotions can rush in and take over as well, causing all logic to fade. It’s in these adrenaline-fueled moments that a deep breath can make us or break us by providing the time needed to think clearly, remember our values, and maintain our principles.

Integrity is a critical trait. It helps us to think through and balance our choices.

As a fundraiser, the choices we make when interacting with donors, communicating with partners, and sharing our organization’s story can make or break our fundraising efforts. Telling the truth, responding in a timely manner, being transparent and delivering on promises should be key components of your donor retention efforts. Choose your words carefully and balance them with logic and emotion. Keep your donors informed.

Life is about choices. You have them. Your donors have them.

Have fun along the way (emotion), stay balanced (logic), and most importantly…choose well.

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Where Character is King

Posted by on Jan 17, 2012 | 0 comments

Today we celebrate the life of a man of character, courage, and conviction: Martin Luther King Jr.

In everything Martin Luther King Jr. did, and in everything he said, the singular message that stands out to me is the importance of character. In his messages, the topics of color, pay grade, education, and religion almost fade to the background as CHARACTER stands firmly center front.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

He had a dream.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s not the easy breezy days of our lives that bring out our real character, it’s during the stormy days of discord, challenge and difficulty that we become who we really are.

I share Dr. King’s dream. I am grateful for the men and women who have stood for character and freedom in the past. And I pray for the men and women of character who are taking a stand for freedom today, and for those courageous souls who will continue the fight tomorrow.

More than anything, I hope and pray that my grandchildren will have the opportunity to live and love and worship and work and speak in a free land, where character is king.

I have a dream too.


Artwork by Christine Peterson.

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8 Lessons Shared (to Our Benefit)

Posted by on Jan 12, 2012 | 0 comments

Brent Beshore, the CEO of AdVentures, created his company in 2007 ( now ranked #28 on the 2011 Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies in the U.S.)  “to create, enable, or acquire companies that offer transformative communications solutions.”

In this blog post, Beshore recounts 8 lessons learned over the past 6 years.

My take-away? The backbones of start-up success: simplicity, planning, humility, courtesy, focus, perseverance, and profit.

We can learn from his experience.

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5 Easy Steps to a Facebook Ask

Posted by on Jan 10, 2012 | 0 comments

There are many ways to approach your Facebook friends and followers for a donation, but today’s focus is on a soft ask within an event announcement. It’s simple. Quick. Easy. And can be very effective.  Here are the 5 steps to create an effective event page ask:

  1. Create a unique FB Event page announcing your upcoming event
  2. Include a compelling image on the new page
  3. Draft inviting copy describing the event, speaker, activities, etc.
  4. Include a registration link.
  5. Ask for support within your content, as your last paragraph.
Below is a solid example of how to manage Step #5:
“Would you please consider making a donation to the ABC Organization for the Red, White and Blue? If you are not able to support us financially please support the cause of liberty <or whatever your particular cause is, child abuse, etc>  by sharing this with your Facebook friends. Visit our contribution page <don’t forget to insert your contribution page link>. Thank you in advance for your support. It makes all the difference.”
There are many other ways to ask for support on Facebook, but this is a tried and true soft ask that works well and is easily incorporated into your Events Page content. Try it out and let me know how it works for you!
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Sexy, Red, White and Blue Adjectives

Posted by on Jan 9, 2012 | 0 comments

Honestly. How many descriptors does a noun need?

This short blog post from states that when dealing with social media “the complexity of language in the content was inversely correlated with the number of shares.” Referencing a study by Dan Zarella as reported in his book Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness, the blog reminds us to simplify if we want our content to be picked up and shared.

This is good info and a timely reminder.

We would be wise to keep our scintillating, sappy, serious, heartfelt tweets simple: a PhD writing-style is not likely to win friends on social media.

And on social media especially, don’t we all want to be liked?

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Straight Talk about Sitting Straight

Posted by on Jan 7, 2012 | 0 comments

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I’m tired of drama. Employees, managers and donors are all looking for straight talk. And let’s face it, there’s more than one kind of slump.

So here you go, straight talk about sitting up straight. Don’t dismiss this as fluff, a simple posture adjustment can make your job much more pleasant!

My mother always told me to sit straight and stand up straight – I wish I had listened. Because I didn’t listen, and because of the hours I spend at the computer, I fight back strain nearly every day, and I’m not alone. According to Science Daily, the percentage of Americans who suffer back pain is on the rise.

So let’s read Maddie Ruud’s straight talk about sitting up straight! I found this post at HubPages to be very helpful. Maddie shows through words and illustrations how your body should align with your chair, your desk, and your computer to avoid eye, back and wrist strain.

Considering the amount of time most of us spend on the computer, I believe this information can be life changing – so much so that I’ve rearranged my desk/chair/computer set-up as a result of reading it. Make this a final step in your “Getting Back Into The Swing of Things” efforts!

Straight up.

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Getting Back Into the Swing of Things

Posted by on Jan 6, 2012 | 0 comments

It’s Friday. I should be lifting a TGIF toast, but instead I am back in my office after a few days of vacation. And it’s tough!

As any fundraiser knows, the holidays are not vacation time for a development professional. December is a huge month for giving and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is the biggest 7-day period of giving in a year. So, there’s no after-Christmas time off for fundraisers, at least not for this one: I worked December 26 through late on New Year’s Eve. My break started on January 1st and ended mid-day yesterday. So, yes, I’m back…and trying to regroup on a Friday.

How about you? Were your holidays as wonderful and hectic as mine, with work and family and friends and food and celebrations? If so, you are welcome to join me on this late Friday afternoon (PST) as I ponder what needs to happen for me to “get back into the swing of things”.

Let’s start with new 2012 calendars:

  1. Replace 2011 wall and desk calendars with 2012 updates.

And now, the desk:

  1. Sort and stack papers, bills, files, Christmas cards, etc.
  2. Toss old Christmas candy, treats, etc.
  3. File anything that does not require action (yes, I said it: File!)
    • Office Files – for papers you need to keep
    • Circular File – for anything you don’t need and won’t need
  4. Divide remaining items into UNOPENED MAIL, URGENT, TOMORROW, and READ ONLY piles.

Next step, snail mail:

  1. Unopened mail: Open it, toss most of it.
  2. Put remaining mail into URGENT, TOMORROW, and READ ONLY piles.
  3. Send any thank you notes that were missed in the late December haze (I consider this URGENT).
  4. Write personal notes to supporters who sent a holiday card or gift (I consider this URGENT).
And now, voice mail:
  1. Listen to your voice mail messages
    • Take notes, then delete
    • Return calls that are extremely urgent and past due
    • Sort voice mail notes into URGENT AND TOMORROW piles.
And we can’t forget the dreaded InBox:
  1. If you haven’t been managing your email while away, you’ve got a lot to do!
    • Read, sort, respond
    • Flag as appropriate, per whatever system you use
    • Delete, delete, delete
Finally, the piles:
  1. URGENT – get through this pile quickly and ASAP. Respond, call, email, etc.
  2. TOMORROW – work on this pile as you have time, obviously today’s tomorrow can also become tomorrow’s tomorrow, and etc.
  3. READ ONLY – sort this pile into 1) items you want to read in your office and 2) items you want to take home.
    • Read as time allows.
And last, but not least, the briefcase:
  1. Remove all Christmas ribbons, holiday bags of homemade goodies that you forgot about, and toss them (don’t eat them!).
  2. Reorganize your briefcase to match your URGENT, TOMORROW, and READ ONLY piles.
Through this entire process you should be calendaring “To Do’s” from voice mail, email, snail mail, and paperwork on your electronic calendar – whichever one you use.
Now, take a deep breath and look around. You’re ready for Monday! And TGIF!
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