Development as THE HUB

I remember when I was a newbie in the Fund Development biz. I was green, a sponge, and was fascinated by every faction of the nonprofit wheel. I still to the day, credit my entry into the field for providing me with the perfect entre. I was the assistant to a contracted Capital Campaign Consultant. I learned all the parts of the development program in less than six months. From organizing folders and files on the computer, to database input, queries and reports, to grant writing, to major gift solicitation and of course, working with the board as well as other staff members. I was hooked! I learned from the best and was a great student. However, when the contract was over and my first mentor moved on to his next contract, I was put on a shelf as if I had no worth, I was not a value-add. Upon reflecting on that stage, I often think of the famous scene from Dirty Dancing. I was put in a corner.

In any nonprofit that has a successful development (advancement, philanthropy, fundraising…) program, you’ll find integration. That is, Development is the center, the hub. Development needs to know the inner works of finance, i.e. costs of programs, capital needs and ROI of those components. In order to align organizational needs to the interests of funding sources, Development needs to know the intricacies of the programs. In order for the Development Program to be successful in identifying individual prospects, it needs a core of volunteers (ideally the Board of Directors). MOST importantly, the communication is two-way with each spoke actively participating.

Well that was over 20 years ago. Not only did I endure more of those moments, I witnessed so many of my professional colleagues weather those storms as well. The fact of the matter is, you can’t put Fund Development in the corner!

There is nothing more gratifying than working in a well-oiled machine, especially when YOU know you are the one that built the engine. Probably even greater, is when the other parts know it as well.

So to all my Development Peeps…get out of the corner! You are the hub.

Nobody puts DEVELOPMENT in the corner!

You don’t know what you don’t’ know…

ambiguity

You’ve been presented with the question.  “What do you want?” …or even better “What do you need?” … and even greater, “What do you need to solve your problem(s)?”.

Oftentimes, these questions are too big, too ambiguous, and downright daunting.  What happens?  They get ignored.

Here is a better question.  Is your organization living up to its potential?  Don’t worry about why.  Don’t diagnose the problem.  Just answer the question. “Yes” or “No”.

If you answer is no, call someone who is experienced in nonprofit management, government, and fundraising.

Yes, here is where the commercial comes in… call Michele Berard, MBA. CFRE.

She can help you (1) identify the problem and (2) craft a strategy to solve it. Call (401) 263-4902 or send an email.

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Mentoring Made Easy with PASS

As the incoming President of the RI Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and a teacher of a Philanthropy class at Rhode Island College (RIC), I get lots of questions and comments about mentoring.

How can I get a mentor?”

“…we had a mentoring program, it didn’t work.”

“…the mentor I want is way too busy for me.”

The reality is if you really want a mentor the opportunity is there for the taking.  Here are some suggestions made easy to remember with the acronym PASS:

  1. Keep it Positive – Who are the professionals or people that you admire?  Who are the people that you aspire to be like?  Chose those people to be your mentors.
  2. Keep it Anonymous –Most of my mentors don’t even know they are my mentors!  I follow them on twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.  I read their suggested articles.  I engage with them at educational seminars and on an individual basis via email, phone and social media.  But, for the most part, they don’t know that they are my mentors.  Think of it like choosing positive professional role models.
  3. Keep it Simple – The mentoring relationship does not need to be something uber-formal with regular meetings and homework (note: that is coaching, not mentoring).  Email or call a specific question to someone you have chosen to be a mentor.
  4. Keep it Small – A mentor is someone who can help you with one or many two specific challenges.  For example, “learning how to be more assertive with your Executive Director of Board Chair”.  They are not a resource for all of your professional education.  Keeping it small will ensure a positive mentoring relationship and will keep you coming back for more!

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Developing a Common Language

The Development Professional and the Finance Professional of an organization need each other in order to be successful.  However, they can’t communicate because each are speaking a different language.

I started off my week with a wonderful meeting with on of my area’s leading CPAs.   She was conducting research on the nonprofit sector, particularly fundraising.  She really wanted to understand how her expertise can add value to my profession (nonprofit fundraising).  It was refreshing to have a conversation with someone who truly wanted to advance the nonprofit sector through partnership and collaboration!

Our conversation had some common themes, which I have outlined below:

  • Developing a Common Language – Why is it that each professional needs to stick so sternly by their professional jargon?  Let’s wave the white flag and meet in the middle…please.
  • Reconciliation – The Development Office should conduct regular (e.g. quarterly) reconciliation with the Finance Office to ensure that all donations were received, acknowledged and recorded by the Development Office and vice versa.  This is also a great opportunity to verify that all designated gifts are properly designated and used (see The Donor Bill of Rights).
  • Designated Gifts – According to the Donor Bill of Rights – a gift accepted by an organization for a specific purpose must be used for that purpose.  Jointly the Development Office AND the Finance Office are the entities that will ensure that activity happens properly.  Both departments need to have a very good understanding of the Donor Bill of Rights and any Gift Acceptance Policies accepted by your organization.
  • Identification of “Fundable” Projects – I have never had the luxury of working for an organization that did not need philanthropy revenue to fund operations.  The CFO or appropriate Finance Officer can guide the Development Officer through the budget to understand what might be translated to program specific expense, which in turn can be turned into a grant application, a major gift request, or a direct mail appeal target.  For more information, see my presentation on Raising Money for Operations.

I look forward to building more meaningful relationships with finance professionals.  In the end, it is a partnership that will help my organization attain success.

Extremely Disturbing

“Extremely disturbing” said my internal voice after reviewing the recently released study, “Underdeveloped – A National Study of Challenges Facing nonprofit Fundraising” by the Evelyn & Walter HAAS Jr. Fund and CompassPoint Nonprofit Services. 

Click Here to access the report.

Per the report, the study “reveals that many nonprofit organizations are stuck in a vicious cycle that threatens their ability to raise the resources they need to succeed.”

The study illustrates that Development Director turnover is not only high, but the qualified talent pool is insufficient to meet the demands of specific nonprofits. It also indicates that Development Directors lack the skills necessary (according to the Executive Directors) to do their jobs and that the smaller nonprofits loose out to the larger nonprofits in the competition for more seasoned development professionals.

I have a deep commitment to advance my profession.  I am involved as a donor and volunteer with many nonprofit organizations.  I am deeply devoted to the nonprofit for which I raise money.  With that said, the initial findings do not surprise me. What did surprise me were the huge, shocking numbers behind the study.

The number of nonprofit organizations has steadily increased over the last 10 years. As federal deficit woes and public sector greed continues, the need for nonprofits is going to increase. With that will be a need for a true understanding of philanthropy, and how to recruit it.

Below are some actions that nonprofits, professionals and volunteers can take immediately to reserved the trends outlined in the study.

  1. Understand the Executive Director’s Role in Fundraising. The ED/CEO must have a true, up-to-date understanding about philanthropy, the process, and the philosophy. Go to your local Association of Fundraising Professionals (www.afpnet.org) to seek low cost professional education resources.
  2. Go for the CFRE. This credential, Certified Fundraising Executive, is the only standard to verify that a development professional has met the criteria and continually meets the criteria of a qualified fundraiser (see www.CFRE.org). If you are a development professional, work toward earning and maintaining this standard. If you are a hiring manager or Executive Director or Board Member make sure you give first priorities to CFRE candidates.
  3. Provide an Environment for Learning – Smaller organizations can get a huge benefit from hiring the right candidate with less skills as long as they provide for professional development via a professional organization or certificate program (located at many colleges and universities).
  4. Embrace the term, “Development is not a Department” – The development director is the operations manager of the development program, however, it is the executive team, the line staff and the volunteers that help to connect prospective donors to the organization.

I would love to hear other professionals’ insights about ways to combat this trend. This is an issue that is not going away, so let’s all dig in and make this profession successful. Our economy is counting on it!

Impact vs. Super PAC

Enough is enough!  As a nonprofit professional dedicated to building successful, sustainable organizations via philanthropy, I hear the comments all too often.  I hear that donors want their donations to create positive impact.  I hear that benefactors don’t want their money to dump into black holes.  I hear that accountability, care and intention must be adhered to.  And, I hear that outcomes and changes in society must be acheived with philanthropic dollars.

But why doesn’t this standard also apply to the uber-rich? Or for the private sector?  Super PAC money might be powerful enough to elect the next president, but really, what outcome will be achieved?  Who will be accountable? And, what positive impact will be realized?

The nonprofit sector bridges the gap between the private and the public sector.  Better said, nonprofits do what the private sector won’t (because they won’t make a margin) and the governament can’t (because they don’t have the funding).

As the economy continues to struggle, and government funding continues to shrink, the nonprofit sector is increasing.  Super PAC donors – please look to this sector.  Your donations will make an impact.  You will create jobs, keep people healthy, teach children to reach and care for our elderly.

Super PAC donors – make an impact today and support a nonprofit organization.