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.

.

Strategy Lessons to Learn from Congress

madison-in-congress

On April 17th, the Gun Bill was defeated in the U.S. Senate preventing the effort from moving forward to the House.  News reports say that 90% of Democrats voted for the Bill while 90% of Republicans voted against.  The result left the effort 6 votes short.

Those opposing the Bill stand by the 2nd Amendment in that U.S. citizens “have the right to bear arms”.   But let’s remember when the Bill of Rights was proposed and enacted.  It was proposed in 1789 and came into effect December 15, 1791.

What would happen if businesses maintained the same strategies that they adopted in 1791?  What would happen if nonprofit organization maintained the original missions they committed to in 1791?  The answer is none of those entities would be relevant (or in existence) today.

When I work with my nonprofit clients about adopting strategies that incorporate change, I regularly face pushback.  I have been informed many times that “changes happens slowly here” and “we can’t force change because we’ll loose people” and many other reasons why change can occur.  I respond to all of these comments the same way, “Don’t change so slowly that you, your mission, and your organization’s purpose becomes irrelevant”. 

This post is not meant to blast Congress or to advocate for gun control.  It is simply to an appeal to adopt a practice of strategic thinking for the current day and those days to come.

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!

Don’t Eat Your Chickens!

A Question all Non-Profit Organizations should ask regarding their Board Members… 

Are We Eating Our Chickens?

Non-profit board members are organizations’ most important volunteers.  When properly recruited, trained and engaged, they act as the body with the greatest amount of influence and can positively impact the non-profit with which they are affiliated.  Yet, board members’ fiduciary responsibility of legal, financial and ethical obligations to the non-profit positions them as those with the most to lose.

Regardless of this risk, many non-profit organizations tend to regard their board members as a bottomless well in terms of resources (time, talent and treasure). Too often, organizational employees, including management, expect board members to know exactly “what to do”.  They expect board members to give to the annual fund, to the gala, and the capital campaign…every year…at the highest level.  They are expected to act as advocates in the community, ask their friends to come to events and give to the organization. Additionally, board members are expected to serve on committees, and give of their talent and time. In short, non-profit organizations have a lot of expectations.  Unfortunately, too often, these expectations go unmet.

The reasons expectations are not met are simple; board members are not properly recruited, trained and engaged.  The result, non-profit organizations end up eating their chickens!

Chickens and Eggs

What would you do if all you had for a food source was a chicken?  You could cook it and eat it, or you could nurture it so that it produced eggs.  The second option provides you with a continued food source, where the first option might be faster and easier, but will be exhausted quickly.

The Chicken/Egg analogy is often used in referral networking (www.BNI.com).  A “Chicken” is a business referral that keeps producing through repeat business, thus an “Egg” is a purchase.  A good example is a locksmith with a large apartment complex as a customer.  The complex is the chicken and every time a new tenant moves in, the locks need to be changed, and hence “lays an egg”.

We can also apply the analogy to philanthropy and non-profit governance.  The chicken is someone who has a strong link to the organization, has tremendous influence and many times, is of means.  In non-profit organizations, chickens are primarily board members, but can also be regular donors, former board members, former agency beneficiaries etc.  In this analogy, the chicken’s contacts are the eggs.

The saying, “people give to people, not causes” acts as a proponent for the Chicken/Egg scenario in non-profit fundraising.  Chickens are more likely to secure philanthropic contributions for their favorite charitable organization because they have an illustrated, commitment to the organization.  Their contacts (i.e. eggs) view the chicken’s affiliation to the organization as a stamp of approval and are more likely to entertain a relationship with the organization.

How Non-Profits Can Stop Eating Their Chickens

Step #1 – Identify Your Needs

Like humans, non-profit organizations are different, thus have different needs.  Identify your organization’s needs and how your board can help to meet those needs.  From here, identify the attributes (e.g. political influence, industry knowledge, affluent leader, passionate advocate) of an ideal director for your board.

 Step #2 – Board Member Job Description

A formal document that outlines the Board Member expectations – specific to your organizations needs – is a helpful recruiting tool.  Keep in mind the 3 T’s (time, talent and treasure).

 Step #3 – Training

Board Members are volunteers; they are not professionals in your organization.  Give them the training they need to be successful and orient them about your organization, the industry, trends and challenges.

Step #4 – Individual Board Member Goals

Not all board members are alike, nor do they have the same capacity, talent or connections.  The organization CEO should meet with each board member, individually, to establish individual goals in terms of time, talent and treasure.

 Step #5 – Evaluation

After one year, board members should (1) evaluate the performance of the CEO, (2) the board as a whole and (3) their individual performance based on their own goals.