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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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.

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.