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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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Exactly…what is American First Policies?!

I am a concerned US citizen regarding our current leadership. I’ve worked in nonprofit management/fundraising for 20+ years and understand research. Tonight I saw an Ad for America First Policies and was curious as to its intent and purpose. Through some basic research I found the following:

 

 

http://docquery.fec.gov/pdf/701/201706089056321701/201706089056321701.pdf

(again, note: the purpose stated above)

 

These are public records (unsure if our president understands that we lay-people can access these). The media has been accused of “fake news” (trust me, I am NOT on that side)…this is evidence of more of our President’s “untruths”.

My questions are:

  1. Why is a “nonprofit” needed to support and promote the President’s agenda? Particularly, when our current President “has benefited from GREAT success as a businessman”
  2. Why is the only action recorded as an expense to pay for advertising to oppose John Ossoff in the recently completed special election for GA 6th Congressional Seat?
  3. How does a 501(c)3 get formed this quickly (note: I’ve done my fair share of 1023 applications and it doesn’t happen that fast!)?
  4. Is the entity approved as a 501(c)3? I don’t see it registered with the IRS.
  5. Who is the contact person for this entity and how do you contact them (no email, no phone, nothing listed)
  6. Non-profits have several IRS designations. E.g. 501(c)3 allows donors to write off donations, (c)4, (c)5…NO. I, as a US citizen, have the right to request financials (which should include donors), board members, articles of incorporation, etc. OR…is this not required of PACs?  

20/20 Vision Courtesy of Objectivity

It’s the old cliché “you can’t see the forest through the trees”.   Objectivity is the ability to see a situation for what it really is.  And, for many nonprofits, that takes an objective expert.

Consider this,

An objective expert can help your organization to:

  • Save time
  • Save money
  • Make greater impact

Does your organization want to achieve the proceeding bullet points?  Consider partnering with an objective expert. Stay tuned for details on exactly how!  If you have a burning desire to know before the next post, contact me at (401) 263~4902 or email.

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.

“Who Should Run The Development Committee?”

This question was posted recently on one of my LinkedIn Groups.  It caught my eye because most of the responses were very black and white (i.e. a voting board member) (click to view the discussion). 

I felt compelled to provide a different answer.  “It depends”

Like human beings, no two NPOs are identical. Throw in Board Members, Volunteers and Key Staff and you’ver really got a unique animal.  In order to determine what is best for your organization, I recommend you review the following:

  • New Organization (or a new philanthropy program) – This organization is going to need some education about the difference between management and governance. With that said, the ED/CEO needs to be very hands-on along with the DoD/CDO. They need to provide a lot of guidance and best practice resources. It will do the operation well to bring in outside counsel – if for the only purpose – to validate the internal resources in the CEO and CDO as “experts”. The focus will be on understanding (1) what a culture of philanthropy is and (2) getting all board members to participate in some function (which is not necessarily and ask). At this stage, the staff will be doing most of the “work” (i.e. asking).  This is fine for this stage, but volunteers need to reminded that this stage has a ceiling as a capacity. The main objective is the build a level of trust between the volunteers and the staff. Allow the volunteers to believe that there is a body of knowledge that supports the philanthropy field and that philanthropy is a bona fide revenue stream that can be leveraged.

 

  • Growing Philanthropy Program – This organization is either ready to or needs to go to the next level. Volunteers will be intrumental in stewarding current donors and introducing potential donors. The staff (CEO, CDO) turn more into “logistics managers” for this phase. The Development Committee Chair is a Board Member…optimally, the Vice Chairperson. He/she leads by example and ensures that all board members have specific goals relating the the philanthropy program (give and get). At this stage, staff are splitting their time between making direct asks and supporting the volunteers. 

 

  • Mature Philanthropy Program – This organization has a strong culture of philanthropy. All committees (i.e. nominating, finance) factor in how philanthropy impacts their committee charters. Volunteers are recruited based on their comfort with philanthropy and willingness to participate. The staff spend most of their time supporting the volunteers (as they have the biggest impact) and less time actually “making the ask”. 

If you are building your Development Committee or evaluating it for better performance, ask yourself, where does your organization fall and plan accordingly. 

 

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.

Short Sighted Solutions

I get it.  We are a culture of immediate gratification and demand “results now”.  However, that is not a long-term solution for most issues.  It doesn’t work with diets.  It doesn’t work with making money.  So, it shouldn’t work for the Federal Budget either.

For too long, the Charitable Deduction Allowance has been target for removal or adjustment in order to reduce the deficit.  Jay Carney said earlier this week, “The President’s proposal, as you know, includes the provision that would cap deductions for wealthier Americans at 28 percent—a very common-sense proposition,”  I am typing this to inform people that this is not a common sense proposal!  Click here for a link to the article.

Those wealthier Americans are those individuals who can and do make transformational philanthropic gifts to nonprofits.  These individuals substantially fund the sector, which in turn, creates economic development opportunities throughout the Country.  Furthermore, the nonprofit sector as a whole conducts services that the private sector won’t (because there isn’t money to be made at it) and the public sector can’t (or at least shouldn’t).

Limiting the deduction takes away any leverage these philanthropist have.  With out them, the sector and the services provided, will die.

 

 

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!