Fundraising

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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Philanthropy rocks.

Posted by on Dec 13, 2013 | 0 comments

I’ve been a nonprofit person for decades. I’ve led organizations. I’ve raised money. I’ve lifted heavy boxes. I’ve swept floors after events. I’ve collected dues. I’ve managed silent auctions. I’ve built fundraising plans. I’ve drafted marketing content. I’ve packed boxes. I’ve done research. I’ve written grants. I’ve crafted mission statements. I’ve redirected entire vision statements so they align with the mission. I’ve told stories. I’ve shared experiences. I’ve spoken to large audiences. I’ve visited members. I’ve met with donors. I’ve recruited staff. I’ve made a lot of people very happy and I’ve pissed off a few. I’ve gotten down and dirty. I’ve been dressed to the nines. I’ve raised a lot of money. I’ve never been embarrassed to ask.  I’ve been honest, I’ve been creative, I’ve been direct. I’ve over-promised, and I’ve also over-delivered. I’ve failed a few times. I’ve disappointed on occasion. I’ve surpassed expectations more. I’ve learned, and I’m still learning. I’ve become a pseudo-techy. I’ve succeeded. I’ve survived.  I’ve been lied to and I’ve been a confidante. I’ve critiqued, edited, created, built up and torn down, pushed, pleaded, and even sometimes been silent. I’ve raced right into the radar and I’ve stayed under it. I’ve led and followed and done both at the same time. I’ve excelled. I’ve surpassed. I’ve underwhelmed. I’ve wiped sweat from my brow. I’ve torn my jeans. I’ve ruined clothing. I’ve involved my kids. I’ve shared with friends. I’ve moved all over the US. I’ve travelled internationally. I’ve worked. I’ve played. I’ve made lifelong friends. I’ve built relationships.

But no matter where I was, what organization I was working for, what my title morphed into, what my responsibilities were, who liked me, who didn’t like me, what I was doing, or what I wasn’t  – I was always working for a good cause, something I believed in.

I am a nonprofit professional. I work with people who share a passion to make a difference. And for that I will always be grateful.

I love what I do. Philanthropy rocks.

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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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Do Be Do Be Do

Posted by on Oct 25, 2013 | 0 comments

I am underwhelmed by a lot of things, including my own organizational abilities at times. But today I am overwhelmed with the to-do list that greeted me so cheerfully this morning with multiple beeps and toots from my MacBook and iPhone. I wanted to holler – “I surrender, you win!! May the sound cloud in the great internet void beep forever, but please PLEASE leave me alone!”

To do lists save me. They are also my worst enemy. I love them and hate them. I follow them and ignore them. I create them and then redo them.

My name is Jean and I am a listmaker. “To do or not to do” that is my question. Daily. Hourly.

And there you have it. I can make lists like no one else. Getting them done is another thing altogether.

What IS it about a list that makes me, a) feel organized, and b) feel overwhelmed, and on occasion, c) feel satisfied? A list, to me, is everything and nothing. It gives me direction (which I often don’t follow). It outlines a plan (which I typically rearrange). It provides structure (which I reject). And there is the crux of the problem…I reject structure.

Lists are structure in outline form. They guide us to a goal (which is probably identified on yet another list). Lists help us prioritize the multitude of lists we have in our minds and on paper and online.

Lists and more lists. They may be the death of me, and that’s simply not an option….soooooo…..

I have come up with the following solution: I have a single list that I work from. It happens to sync between my iPhone and my computer, and I can print it out if I choose. It allows me to check off what’s accomplished, push a task back on the calendar that I can’t get to as hoped, and beeps me everyday (once) to remind me that I have a list.

This list has helped me tremendously. I used to sub-list my lists…you know, school, church, home, business…but now I simply use one list for everything. If I have a dental appointment and need to take information with me, it’s on my list for that day, which might very well be the same day I have a grant proposal due, and a lunch date with an old friend, along with a manicure, and a conference call with a client. EVERYTHING is on the same list.

There are a lot of apps online that do all these wonderful things, and I have used several, I think you have to try them out until you find the one you like best. My favorite was using TASKS on Google Calendar before I bought the Mac…it was simple, showed on my calendar and I liked it.

HOWEVER, since I’ve had my Mac, I’ve realized that there are better, more inclusive apps available…and so I made a list of them. And I searched for a list as well, and found several. If you want to check them out see the list of lists below.

List # 1. 

List # 2.

List # 3. 

List #4.

My go-to list maker for a long time was the simple REMINDERS app. It worked for me. Not too complicated, not too simple. I can schedule by date and time, add recurring dates, edit, alter, move, delete and check off as I so desire. That’s my kind of list.

And then I found AWESOME NOTE (aNote) and my life changed forever. It syncs with Evergreen, my calendar, my Reminders list, my Notes, my – well, you name it, it probably syncs. I don’t know what I would do without it. I can add travel notes (which I used to keep in Notes), journal entries (which I would scribble onto a calendar near my desk), and anything and everything. If you really want to organize your life, I highly recommend aNote. Claim your life back. Dominate the beeps and toots. Take control, and do it with  a good to-do list management system

Now that should give you something to add to your to do list!

As for me…well, Do be do be do!

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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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