Fundraising

Thomas Jefferson had it right.

Posted by on Feb 19, 2014 | 0 comments

One of my favorite excursions when visiting the East coast is a trip to Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. The house and gardens reflect the personality of this great American leader.

On the official Monticello website, there is a page dedicated to Thomas Jefferson’s canons of personal behavior. Today is a good day to revisit these canons and remind ourselves that how we conduct ourselves and how we treat others is a reflection, not only on ourselves, but on the organization we work with, the cause we believe in, and those who have tied their name to it.

Quoted directly from monticello.org:

Thomas Jefferson often took the opportunity to advise his children, grandchildren and others on matters of personal conduct. Over the years he developed a list of axioms for personal behavior. Some were his own invention; others derived from classical or English sources.

Jefferson’s most extensive list is the one he sent to Cornelia Jefferson Randolph, a young granddaughter, while she was visiting her older sister and new brother-in-law. It appears that, later in life, Jefferson pared his list down to ten canons. Here, in response to a request from the new father of a baby boy named Thomas Jefferson Smith, Jefferson listed a “decalogue of canons for observation in practical life.”

  1. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do to-day.
  2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.
  3. Never spend your money before you have it.
  4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.
  5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.
  6. We never repent of having eaten too little.
  7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.
  8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.
  9. Take things always by their smooth handle.
  10. When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.[2]
What are your Top Ten Canons of Personal Behavior? If you don’t have a list, start with this one.  I’ve learned that having a list of standards against which I measure my actions and decisions helps me to stay focused, ethical and productive. Over time, (and it wasn’t always easy, for a long time I loved seeing gray instead of black and white) it has become habit,  it’s just the way I do things. Life is easier when you have a foundation of principles to work from. Go forth and be amazing!
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Donors are not ATM’s

Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 | 1 comment

A recent training I attended gave me pause. In a particular session, which I attended with a group of nonprofit executive directors, the focus was on financials.

On this day of the financial training, as we were reviewing balance sheets and applying the “acid test” to determine a nonprofit’s financial standing, one organization was upside down with a ratio of .0494:1.05 (.05 in assets to every $1.05 in liabilities – not a good situation.)

The facilitator asked the group to comment on what should be done based on the negative ratio; one participant responded: “You better get out and get more donations!”

Now, I am pretty sure she was kidding, but there was that fleeting moments when the only thought in my mind (after much self-editing) was: REALLY?! And it prompted me to make this short blog post to remind all of us that our donors are not a go-to source for money when we’ve mismanaged or planned poorly.

Our donors are not ATM’s.

EVER.

Executive directors have the responsibility to manage a financially solvent non-profit organization with AT LEAST a 1:1 ratio of assets to liabilities. And that really isn’t enough, because there is no room for error.

If the ratio begins to slip into the negatives, and the liabilities are greater than the assets, the Executive Director’s responsibility is to make changes within the organization to offset that dip. And where do you do that? Typically in your largest expense items: personnel, programs, etc. , or you can borrow money – not a recommended practice, but sometimes it’s necessary.

Donors are volunteers. They are partners. They are supporters. But they are not ATM’s.

I absolutely believe if management is doing their job, a donor will never be called upon to “save” the organization.

And that’s that.

REALLY.

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Your Board and Fundraising

Posted by on Nov 25, 2013 | 1 comment

Next week I will be facilitating a 3-hour Board Training workshop in Washington DC. Our focus is on the board’s role in fundraising and how each unique member can be effective in helping with a nonprofit organization’s fundraising efforts.

As I’ve prepared for the training, it’s become very apparent to me that many board members don’t see themselves as fundraisers. Even more concerning, they don’t want to be involved in fundraising.

There are differing views on a board member’s role in fundraising for a nonprofit organization, to be sure. But to me, it seems like a no-brainer. Of COURSE they should be involved.

Your nonprofit board is not staff. They are not paid representatives of your organization (typically), but they are a critical part of your organization’s team. They have signed on as ambassadors by agreeing to serve on your board. They have often signed agreements to donate hours, money, resources. If nothing else, they have allowed you to attach their name to your organization. They are important. They are influential. They are key players…and not just in policymaking decision, but in fundraising.

Not every board member is able to donate funds to an organization, although all should be asked. But every board member can help with fundraising in many ways, including the following:

  1. Recommend your organization to their friends and colleagues
  2. Identify their personal and professional circle of influence and recommend potential donors based on their knowledge of the person or organization
  3. Sit on your organization’s development committee
  4. Attend your organization’s events and participate in the storytelling
  5. Attend civic and community events and share your organization’s story
  6. Join the CEO in potential donor visits
  7. And the list goes on….
Signing on as a board member for a nonprofit organization is more than just adding a name to the letterhead, it’s a commitment based on passion for your mission and confidence in your efforts and leadership. It’s not a surprise that many board members don’t think of themselves as fundraisers, not many do. It’s not a role many seek after. But with training and a little information, there is rarely a better fundraiser than a motivated board member. It’s worth the effort.
We can’t expect board members to know how to fundraise, or to even understand their role in fundraising, without providing them some basic training and information. It should be part of every organization’s annual planning retreat.
If you are a board member, you are a fundraiser. You may never have to ASK, but you will always be carrying the message.
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4 Suggestions to Help You Be More Friendly

Posted by on Aug 10, 2013 | 0 comments

Do you remember the saccharin-sweet person you couldn’t stand to be around? Do you remember the always-a-downer person who never was invited to anything? Are you either of these two? If you are, or if you have someone on your staff who is,  take a deep breath and start to make a plan for change, because saccharin-sweet and always-a-downer personalities can take down an organization.

Literally.

Donors are looking for authentic. They want passion and enthusiasm. They want to feel good about what they are doing. How we approach them can make the difference between a “yes” or a “no”.  Our demeanor can make or break a donor relationship.

Friendly is defined as having goodwill. Friendly is not hostile.  Friendly is warm and comforting.

Are you friendly when you meet with donors? Or do your nerves take over and cause the meeting to feel tense (the opposite of warm and comforting)? There are four clues to improve your “friendly” factor, they are:

  1. SOUND FRIENDLY: Ease your voice: Don’t talk too fast or too loud. Practice the “prepared” part of an expected conversation before the meeting.
  2. APPEAR FRIENDLY: Sit or stand comfortably. Don’t fidget. Don’t furrow your brow. Don’t hunch and cross your arms. Relax your shoulders. Let your hands rest easily, don’t clench them together (or fiddle your thumbs!).
  3. SMILE FRIENDLY! Nothing says “friendly” more than a smile. (Don’t forget to brush your teeth and do a quick rearview mirror check for a clump of pepper or green flake, so you can smile confidently in the meeting – there’s nothing worse than wondering if you have something in your teeth). A genuine smile can rock the world.
  4. LOOK FRIENDLY: Make eye contact. Don’t look down and up and all around. Look at the person you’re talking to. This makes you approachable and also shows that you are interested in them.
To borrow something from my mother: Friendly is as friendly does. For a nonprofit fundraiser, friendly begins with a phone call or first time meeting and continues through follow up notes, thank you letters, requests for input, personal meetings and really never ends. Donors may irritate or disappoint, but it’s their money that’s funding your projects. Being friendly, even if we’re disappointed, stressed, or discouraged, is the least we can do to say thank you.
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Feel With Your Heart

Posted by on Jul 4, 2013 | 0 comments

Just wanting to share one of my all-time favorite quotes from Helen Keller:

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”

Building a culture of philanthropy in your business or organization is a team-building effort that not only fosters a feel-good work environment but improves your bottom line.

Never doubt the power of philanthropy, which defined is the love of mankind.

Helen had it right.

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