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!

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.

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.



Nonprofits CAN Raise Money for Operations

“We can’t raise money for operations.  Donors don’t want to pay for salaries.” 

I have heard it all too often.  The well-connected, respected, influential (and often affluent) board member makes the statement that virtually kills the fundraising for an organization.  I know you’ve heard it too.

I have a request of my fellow nonprofit fundraisers and executives.  The next time you here this, please speak up.  Please inform your board members that your organization’s entire operating budget is your organization’s mission.  “Salaries” is the largest line item in an organization’s budget.  That’s because it takes people to do the mission of the organization.  And yes, they need to get paid.  If you need an example, use mine.

I work for a psychiatric hospital.  We don’t have operating rooms or fancy equipment.  We do however, have expert doctors, compassionate nurses and mental healthworkers who have choosen to work in field that requires a special kind of person.  With out these people, my hospital couldn’t function.

Donors will pay for salaries.  They will pay for programs. And they will pay for organizational missions that make an impact.  I have included part of a presentation on “Raising Money for Operations” on my blog.  Please watch it, share it and use it to become empowered to raise money for operations.




Windows not Mirrors

Ask a small nonprofit why they do what they do and most likely you’ll get a response like, “to help those that walk through our doors”.  Ask a larger nonprofit why they are building a new building or creating a new program you could hear, “to better serve those who need our services”.  These responses are examples of looking in mirrors. They are internally focused views that do not impact people or entities outside the walls of that organization.

Take the same two examples and look through windows.  Answer the question, “how will my organization benefit the community?”  The small nonprofit might respond this time be answering, “we provide culinary training to low-income individuals to help them get a job, which in turns benefits the local economy”.  Or, “our new building will increase access to health care services – statewide”.

Avoid looking in mirrors when developing your organization's case for support

When developing your organizational case for support or program case statements do so while looking through windows.

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.