To paraphrase the Golden Rule: Do onto your donors as you would have some organization do onto you. Now, while not every single donor will respond exactly the way that you respond to some approach from an organization, overall, must of like to be treated as if we matter, we appreciate honesty and we want to give to something that makes a difference about an issue that we truly care about. So why is this so hard to get right?
Ultimately, your performance as a board isn’t judged by the health of your balance sheet, or the sparkle of your facility, no matter how important these may be.
The real measure is the difference you make in the lives you save, the natural resources you protect, the beauty you create, or the spiritual comfort you provide.
It’s easy to get dazzled by new technologies in fundraising and forget the fundamentals. But it’s the fundamentals that drive the innovation, not the other way around.
I’m facilitating a training tonight with volunteers, staff and board members of smaller environmental groups and thought I’d share this handout with you.
1. Donors are in the driver’s seat
- They decide
- They must opt in
2. Keep the donors and members you have.
- Donors need to know that they matter to you and you care about them
- You need to know who your donors are and what they care about
- You need to keep your donors well informed
- You need to deepen donor relationships with your mission & organization
- You need to be grateful, thank, acknowledge & recognize donors as they would like to be appreciated
2. Planning is essential to a robust program.
- You must set objectives
- You must calculate the efforts needed to achieve the results you want-do the math
- You need a year round plan of activities designed to achieve the results you want
- You need to compensate for unexpected results
3. To grow you must:
a. keep the donations you have
b. replace donations you loose
c. raise more donations than you had last year
4. You must present a compelling case for support
- Your cause has to matter and inspire your potential donor
- The actions you propose need to produce the desired results
- The money you are request must be rationally related to the results
5. You must ask
- The more personal the ask, the better the results, the lower the cost and the fewer people you’ll need to approach
- You must keep reminding people to give until they do
6. Good data and the ability to retrieve it is essential
- You need to store information on your donors in a way that it can be easily retrieved
- You need to protect and ensure the privacy of the data that you do collect
- You need past data on past performance to predict future results
What enables change in a board of directors? Here are a few points: a critical mass of directors, including parts of the leadership, perceive a need for change. The rest of the board is willing to go along. Directors find an inspiring new vision to rally around.
Time after time, I hear from the executive directors of very successful nonprofits how alone and unsupported they feel. “I appreciate the vote of confidence of my board, but I don’t feel completely comfortable steering this ship without some direction from the Board.”
An rich example of effective nonprofit collaboration is the Chattanooga Museums Collaboration. This innovative partnership was one of the eight finalists in the Lodestar Foundation National Collaboration Prize.
I was fortunate to participate yesterday in a webinar led by Heather DeGaetano, Development Director for the Tennessee Aquarium, at the 2009 Conference of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, RI Chapter.
I sat with rapt attention listening her describe this extraordinary collaboration between three very different museums which are sharing a variety of back office services such as finance, human resources, retail, and information systems.
They have even collaborated on the third rail of nonprofits … you guessed it … fundraising! The three museums working together on a transformational waterfront program raised — hold onto your hats— $120 million in 90 days!
Over and over again I see opportunities for building strong partnerships like this. Joint ventures that don’t require giving up your sole through merger. Partnerships that could emerge organically and not by a forced marriage orchestrated by funders. Sharing back office functions can result in stronger and more competent operations, shared expertise, and even cost savings or revenue generation for providing that support to another.
What did Heather tell us this collaboration learned? Among other lessons:
- That collaboration can work.
- That good faith and trust are essential elements of strong collaboration.
- That the benefits of their partnership just keep on coming… and run so much deeper than just cost savings or additional revenue. One example, the Hunter Museum of American Art and the Tennessee Aquarium jointly opened new exhibits called Jellies: Living Art. (wish I lived nearby, the photos are fabulous)
- That they can no longer imagine doing this another way.
I was reluctant to write this piece as they’ve been inundated with calls for information and support since the articles came out. But you really don’t need to contact them to understand what they are doing (after all, they have museums to run rather than spending their time fielding questions). Heather’s report, A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats, provides a pretty comprehensive description of what’s involved.
Instead of calling the museums, how about calling your own colleagues in your community and asking “if they did it, why can’t we? What can we offer each other? How will this help us be better at serving our communities? What would make each of our organizations stronger and more resilient?”
Know that you know it’s possible, you don’t really need to know a lot about the Chattanooga how. What you need to know is whether this is the kind of collaboration you are willing to say yes to. And then make it happen.
Does your board know what questions to ask before it approves the annual budget? Here’s a list to get you started. 1. Does our spending align with our program and operational priorities? 8. Are we confident in the probability of projected revenues — enough to approve the requested level of expenditures?
When did you last receive a sincere expression of gratitude for a gift? How would you rate yourself on the gratitude scale? What could your organization do today to increase its donor gratitude quotient?