Each year, approximately 10% of your non-profit donor base will attrition naturally through death, moving, or just not giving any longer. Then you add lapsed donors on top of that natural attrition, and you are looking at an eroding donor list. Sound familiar?
In this article, I tackle the ever important question of “How to find new donors for your nonprofit?”
Here are some simple steps that you can take to combat this natural attrition and to begin adding new names to your donor list. These are the actual suggestions that I use with my very own clients.
1.) Conduct a fun exercise with your Board members such as a “Treasure Map” activity to help them to think of all those who they come into contact with in their networks i.e. people who they attend church with, volunteer on other Boards of Directors, friends, etc.
2.) Host a gathering or tour and have Board and staff bring those prospective donors to this event. This event should have a program that shares information about the organization and its mission, services, ways to get involved, and most importantly, a testimonial. Don’t forget to conduct follow-up with all those who attend these events to find out what they thought about the event and to determine further interest for engagement.
3.) Use social media as a way to find new donors. Consider having a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Don’t overwhelm yourself with having to manage and pay attention to too many networks at a time. Instead, be strategic, profile your ideal donor and then determine what networks that you are most likely to find them. Keep up to date on your competitor’s website and how they are managing their social media presence. Then promote, promote, promote and have your Board and staff act as “Social Media Ambassadors” sharing the page with friends, family, and other interested individuals. Keep content fresh, consider automating content with an automating app, and don’t forget to comment and interact with others. Keep content 80% of interest and 20% promotional.
4.) Take a look at similar organization’s annual reports, websites, and newsletters and compile a list of who is giving to them. Compile a prospective list of donors. Ask Board and staff if they happen to know anyone on these lists. If so, begin to cultivate them.
5.) Get the local voter or street records list, sometimes referred to as “Grand” lists and review this list with Board and staff based on property assessment, location, or other criteria that meet your ideal donor profile. From there pull together a prospective donor list and cultivate!
6.) Ask for referrals from your current donors. These donors already are giving to you and love you. So why not just ask them who else may they know who might be interested in becoming more involved in the organization.
7.) Be sure when you are doing outreach at events or speaking engagements to bring along a guest book so that interested attendees can sign up to receive more information. You have a captive, interested audience, so you want to be sure to get their names and contact information. Research them if possible, segment out those with greater interest and capacity for cultivation, and add all the other names to your mailing list.
8.) Identify new attendees to your organization’s fundraising events and create strategies that will take their transactional attendance to possible transformational engagement in your organization. One possible first step is to call those new attendees and find out what they thought about the event and if they see themselves getting more involved or interested in learning more.
9.) Capture interested website visitors with a website “pop-up” offering free information and resources. Send these folks a welcome and begin to send them relevant informational emails in cultivation. Ensure that your site is mobile-friendly as more and more folks are using their mobile devices to access content.
10.) And, of course, you can always rent and purchase mailing lists from a list broker.
So there you have ten steps that you can begin immediately taking to start to stem the tide of donor attrition by adding new names to your donor lists. These are the same steps that I use to help my clients build their donor lists. And, they work!
For a FREE half hour coaching session with me, email me now to schedule your complimentary time. Offer ends Friday, August 4.
A lapsed donor is one who has lapsed from giving at least a calendar year. They are the most significant donors to focus your efforts on re-engaging since they have already demonstrated an interest in your organization.
There are several ways to re-engage these lapsed donors. Here are some suggestions that you can implement within your organization.
Identify those donors who gave last year and yet have to donate this year. Those are your lapsed donors.
Add up the total giving from these lapsed donors. Surely after seeing this number, you will want to spend some time trying to recapture them.
Segment out the major donors from this list. A major donor giving level will vary from organization to organization i.e. $250, $500, $1,000, or even more.
Share this list with your Development Committee of the Board and discuss the plan of action.
Have Board members identify those major donors that they can personally call on.
Intend to call on these donors either through personal visits or telephone to secure a gift commitment.
Plan to send a specialized segmented direct mail letter to all others not identified as major donors.
You could also use this same strategy for each appeal that you send out to be proactively trying to prevent lapsing from occurring in the first place.
As a nonprofit organization, you are here to meet a mission to your stakeholders. Maybe long ago, or not so long ago, you were founded to assist a particular group or meet a critical need. And, months go by, years go by, and you are still in existence. But, is the need still there? Are you still relevant towards meeting that need?
Sometimes, we just don’t want to answer this question. Because in answering it, you may find, that yes, indeed, you have met your mission or, in fact, are no longer relevant, or facing a crisis, or maybe even just plain exhausted and lack energy as an organization.
Is it time to dissolve perhaps? Maybe merge with a similar group? Shutting down is not the only option, but it is one.
Let’s face it, was it ever our intent to be here forever?
In admitting that you have met your mission, you have done exactly what you have set out to do. And, more and more nonprofits are choosing this route, admirably I may add.
Ultimately, though, this is a larger Board discussion.
Because the Board of Directors is directly responsible for the organization’s future: whether to grow, change, downsize, merge, evolve, or close. This is governance at its most important and highest level.
Here are some important questions to explore as a Board before you do:
Are we meeting our stated mission?
Are we helping our intended audience?
Are we still relevant to our community?
What is the situation that is precipitating this discussion? Are we tired, lack energy? Financial constraints? No longer needed?
What would be the implications if we did no longer exist?
Do we want to continue? Can the organization be saved?
Have we simply run out of steam and need to close down?
Is it time to let us fail instead of always trying to “right” the ship?
Do we have adequate human resources to keep things going and are they the right people?
After seriously reflecting on these questions, a nonprofit Board can choose to take several routes.
You can choose to change your mission statement to reflect who you are and what need you are truly meeting.
You can choose to restructure your operations, programs, and activities to lead to a better functioning organization.
You can find a similar nonprofit organization in mission and merge.
If under undue financial stress, you may consider filing for bankruptcy
Or, if you are just tired or having met your mission, you can cease to operate and dissolve.
Ultimately, the Board must recognize that a crisis situation exists, focus efforts on addressing this issue, and come to a consensus-based conclusion on which path is most appropriate to your mission, to the community you serve, and to yourselves as individual Board members.
Development Consulting Solutions is announcing NEW interim and project-based service offerings:
Who is “DCS”? There are limited Certified Fund-Raising Executives (CFRE) providing outsourced fund development services and serving as interim fund development staffing. What most organizations need is someone who can do the work for them!
“DCS” recognizes this need and has provided this service to a variety of small to mid-sized nonprofits throughout the New England region. Some of these nonprofits have included Malta House of Norwalk, CT, Friends of Buttonwood Park of New Bedford, MA, and United Methodist Elder Care of East Providence, RI.
“DCS’s mission” “DCS” does not engage with everyone! We have a rigorous eligibility requirement and screening process and only work with four select clients at a time.
What are our requirements? We only work with small to mid-sized organizations that are ready, receptive, and willing to take their development program to the next level through outsourced assistance. These organizations have an engaged Board of Directors, an open-minded and willing staff, and leadership ready to support the organization.
We only work with organizations that are willing to invest in their development function, value established service costs, heed professional advice, and strategy, and act respectfully in the client and consultant relationship.
By selecting those clients most ready to embark on taking their organization to the next level, “DCS” provides you with the tools and staffing to raise more money in support of mission!
To provide outsourced development expertise to organizations that do not want to hire someone in-house.
To assist busy executive directors with taking a few things off their plates.
To reassure donors during a transition or vacancy in your development office that your fundraising efforts will continue
If time is needed to do a search for a permanent development director, and you do not want to be rushed to make a selection
When you are seeking a new executive director and you want to be sure that this leader has an opportunity to select the permanent development director
Because as interim development director, I can have more candid conversations with the executive director, board, and other leaders about why there are problems with keeping development staff or staff is underperforming
When your organization has never had a development director and needs an experienced professional with a proven track record to start up the development office and pave the way for a more junior development officer to be successful.
Here is what “DCS” can do for you:
Assess current fundraising activities and make recommendations to improve strategy
Improve your fundraising efforts
Model what a good development officer does
Enhance systems and processes within the development office
Troubleshoot development problems
Coach the Executive Director and Board in fundraising to boost confidence and skill
Help with the hire of a permanent development director
“DCS” helps with:
Direct Mail Appeals
Development print publications – your newsletter, annual report, brochures, etc.
There always comes the point in an organization when the natural order of things is change. Whether that change is an executive transition, upheaval in the Board of Directors, or even things greater than that. Things such as what should we do as an organization? Stay the same? Merge with another organization? Or even cease our operations?
What does one do or how does one handle this inevitable change?
As with everything, the mission should always be forefront and center.
Case in point, I want to examine one major organizational change that many groups must addresses – merging.
I have some experience with mergers. For a few years, I worked at a religious order that had decided to consolidate. Now, there could have chosen any one of several options – cea
se to exist, merge with another order, or combine their order to a larger entity. In the end, they chose to merge the order from local areas into one community, merging all the Northeastern states into one “community.” And, the end results, were that the merger made them more efficient and useful in many ways including financial, in their infrastructure and support, and in their ability to do ministry to those they serve.
In all cases, the organization should base these big decisions and transitions on how compatible the two or more organizations are in their missions. Are they like missions? Is this mission too much of a stretch? What will happen if they merge missions?
Then they need to determine if, in merging, the organization will become stronger or will it weaken? Will it dilute its services in merging? Will the organization change and become different?
But, most importantly how will this merger impact those that the organization exists to serve? Will the demographics of who the organization serves change? Will they serve this demographic in a different way? Will they serve an entirely different demographic? Will they stop serving a particular demographic?
What about the culture of an organization? What about history? What about past leadership? Will they become financially more viable? Stronger in its internal operations through greater infrastructure? More funding?
I have seen other organizations where these mergers have not been carefully thought out, and, thus, have not faired so well. They lost their identity to those they serve and the community; their organization’s culture of compassion and nurturance changed, and they lost their historical memory. But, most importantly their mission became diluted into a bigger whole and lost its effectiveness. For in this merger, long-time staff was forced to leave, and supporters turned away.
Significant change during an organization’s life cycle is inevitable and in some senses should be planned and accounted for in advance of this change ever transpiring.
If one keeps mission at the center of significant shifts in an organization, then the right decisions will be made. However, if the mission is left out of the picture when making this decision, almost, always, the merger is doomed to fail, or if it doesn’t fail, the organization is in for some rough perceptual seas and waves of transitions ahead.
P.S. – Are you ready to shift your nonprofit Board from management to governance? And, you want it to be successful? Get started with my FREE Non-Profit Governance E-Book and use the same steps that I share with my clients. Click here to download your FREE Non-Profit Board Governance E-book and start shifting your Board’s culture today. I will share with you valuable resources and tools on how to get started.
The founder. What does that mean to be a founder of an organization? And, how does that impact the relationship with your Board of Directors?
Organizations have natural life cycles and founders play a unique role in the organization that the found. There is growth and with growth comes pains.
For founders, what was once solely their creation, becomes something much bigger and larger. And, then the organization grows up and beyond and
needs structure and staffing. The founder must give up something that was very personal to a bigger entity, a bigger dream. Founders hire their first staff; they organize their first Boards, and then they even go on to leave the organization that they founded.
But, through this process, the founder must struggle with their identity and vice versa. How much power and autonomy does the Board have with a founder who remains at the helm? How much power and authority does a founder have to a new found Governance Board who now supervises this very person who founded the organization? Can the Board make as many decisions as another Board with a non-founder CEO? When does this dichotomy change? And, how does it change? At what point?
As the Board begins to professionalize and develop, the Founder plays a key role in ensuring this transition and establishing a Board that will live well beyond them. This reality must be hard for founders as they grapple with creating an organization living beyond their control of it. What was once their dream becomes something much more. While awe-inspiring, on one hand, it can also be frightening on another. And, they are now charged with putting in the structures and supports that will ensure that this continues well beyond them, a founder faces their mortality and lack of power on the other. These same structures and supports i.e. Governance structures, professional staff, start to cause a separation in the identity of the founder. The organization is changing in a way that separates and institutionalizes their role.
Is Governing the same in a nonprofit organization that is led by a founder as it is by a non-founder? I say the structures and functions are the same, but the relationship is not. This relationship needs time to “catch up” and transition. The dynamics need to develop. Decision-making is not as black and white. The founder still has much invested in the direction of their organization, and only through time will this separation happen. I wouldn’t advocate that a nonprofit Board takes a hard stance and decide that it is the “Boss” of the founder. Nor would I advocate that the founder has free reign without the Board. I wouldn’t advocate that the Board sit back and let the founder make all the decisions or nor would I advocate that the Board make all the decisions. There is much more of a fine line when it comes to Board Governing in a founder-led organization. The Governance model provides structure, and then the organization is charged with strategically dealing with the “Elephant in the Room” regarding Governing with a founder at the helm or not? Parameters need to be developed that outline what this unique relationship will look like and what is considered acceptable or not acceptable not just today, but as the organization continues to move forward into the future and the tension of Governance and management continues to evolve and change and go beyond the founder.
The organization must move towards professionalizing if it is going to continue beyond its founder. And, in doing so, the growing pains that a founder and a Board go through are unlike any other. But, as the Board continues to become more sophisticated in its functioning and as the organization begins to professionalize and hire staff, the founder must continually define his or her new role with increasingly less control and a willingness to divest themselves of ownership. Likewise, the Board needs to navigate gingerly this transference of organizational equity to begin to take more control, ensure the overall effectiveness of the organization, continue the mission, and plan for succession of the founder and the resulting organizational shifts. How an organization manages this change, happens over time.
But, all – both the Board and the founder, must be aware that unlike other organizations, they do face unique challenges and opportunities, and must ease each other into their new roles and organizational structures while honoring the past and preparing for the future. This change in roles is a Governance question that if left unaddressed can cause great consternation and organizational dysfunction. It is better to deal with the “Elephant” than to have it trample all over you.
Change management is hard work, but so is dealing with the aftermath of an organization that failed to identify its complexities and address them as they navigate the sea of change. Lifeboats only help when the ship is sinking. A rudder helps to steer the ship, and a compass guides it while in sail.
The lens of mission must guide everything that a Board of Directors decides in an organization. Everything.
Board members are the vanguard of the mission. They develop it; they refine it, and they ensure it. They ensure that the organization is meeting the needs of those that they serve through assessing the community during a strategic planning process, then evaluating current services to ensure that there is alignment between need, mission, and programs.
A mission statement is nothing to be taken lightly. It is the very essence of who your organization is and as such, such be deliberate and thoughtful in its crafting. Mission statement crafting or refining is not something undertaken lightly. In most cases, in happens in tandem with strategic planning. Once a mission has been crafted or revised, the Board should use this mission in all that it does through its governance role.
Whether making a financial decision or a programmatic one, the mission is the lens by which organizations make all their decisions. Let’s take funding for instance. I have seen groups who will actively seek funding dollars, not based upon the mission, but because they are in need of monies to run the organization. And, then when they receive the money, they are not able to provide adequate services. Or, other agencies which are religious in nature that begin to solicit and accept government funding, and then when mandates come down from the federal and state government, these organizations find themselves in precarious moral and ethical quandaries because they have now engaged in these types of contracts.
Programmatically, I have witnessed groups who have started programs or provided services to new constituencies without a thorough discussion centering upon the mission. Then years later, they are serving populations that they never set out to help and wonder how they have moved so far from their core.
Mission. For Board of Directors, this is the lens through which they should make all their decisions. Every strategic governance issue or question should also start with an analysis of the situation through the mission.
Will this particular change impact our mission? If it does, what does that mean? If it doesn’t, should it? How do we remain faithful to our mission? What does it mean to be true to our mission? Should we accept this funding or will it lead to “mission creep?” Do we serve this new population in need or is there another organization who can better meet their needs?
And, yes, sometimes our missions are met. Horrors of all horrors, what happens when we meet our mission. Sometimes that means a group ceases. But, in far too many cases, we think that our organization should go on forever. But, yet we were all started in some senses to alleviate social conditions. What does it say when we never allow ourselves to get there.
Mission. Don’t over gloss the importance of it. And, don’t forget to use it as the lens of every decision made within an organization. It is just that critical.
This past weekend, I embarked on an event that frightened me. Literally and figuratively.
You see, several months ago, I entered a lottery. And, the drawing was for a chance to run up Mt. Washington in the Mt. Washington Auto Road Race. I got in. At the time, it seemed fabulous. Then as reality dawned, I realized that I need to step up my training, if I were to tackle this 6,288-foot peak, and not hiking it, but running it.
So, many months ago, I set out and found a hill. I went up and down that hill over and over again. Then, searching online, I found mountain races. And, I entered them. And, I began running up to the summits of mountains. First smaller ones, and then larger ones. But, nothing greater than 3,000 or so feet.
When the week dawned, and I made my trek to New Hampshire, I began to have second thoughts about what I was doing. Most everyone in my life, asked me, “Do you know what you are getting yourself into?” Admittedly, I thought I did. But, when the mountain physically appeared on the horizon, I began to wonder, if this is something I should attempt.
Race morning dawned, and I was feeling more than butterflies in my stomach. This day was the moment given to me. I had trained for it, and now it had arrived. All my “new” mountain running friends told me that this was going to be the most difficult thing that I was going to do. But, they all told me I could do it. I wasn’t even sure of the weather conditions that I would encounter at the summit. I packed a hat and gloves just in case.
The race cannon fired, and off we all went. I had a strategy; I worked it. Slowly but surely, I chipped away at the mountain and tenths of miles passed. It got hard. No, it got downright painful. As the 5,000-foot mark appeared, my upper body felt like lead. Then 6,000 feet. And, I knew that if I kept going, I was going to do this. Slowly but surely,run-walking all the way to the top. When the summit appeared, one last obstacle presented itself. A 22% percent grade in the road and then the finish line. Nothing stopped me at that point.
What does all this have to do with fundraising? Well, a great deal. Courage. I honestly believe that the most significant characteristic of a fundraiser is courage. These exceptional individuals know that even in the most difficult times, perseverance is key, and that “this too shall pass.” Courage to get a lot of “no’s” and to be able to ask for a gift without hesitation. It is the ability to do this, with rumblings and butterflies floating around in your tummy.
I now know that I climb any mountain. There is no project, no tasks, that I cannot do. Courage is something that no everyone has, but surely, the best fundraisers do.
Someone remarked to me recently, “The thing I like about you is that you live life to the fullest. You don’t live on the edge looking in.” And, truly, that is what we should expect of all our fundraiser. They are making the mission possible. And, you can’t make an organization’s mission possible by looking in from the fringes. You need to be in the field, each and every day, living life to the fullest, in the thick of it all.
While I did know that Mt. Washington would change my life, I didn’t realize that it would give such professional perspective and insight. Courage. A life worth living for causes life-changing and life-saving. Isn’t that the characteristic you want for your organization?
“I never have enough money!”
“Money goes out faster than it comes in!”
“Money doesn’t grow on trees!”
How often have we heard these phrases growing up? Well, if you were like me, probably a lot. As a child, these were the messages that I subconsciously learned about money, and they helped to develop my now adult relationship with it.
Just this week, I led a workshop on asking for money. As part of the icebreaker exercise, I asked attendees to share with me some of their greatest fears about fundraising. And, fear after fear centered around scarcity. In fact, many participants commented that they grew up hearing the very same phrases above.
Stop and think about what you believe about money. Are your beliefs limiting you in your work? Do you have a scarcity mindset?
Have you ever found yourself saying these types of things?
“There are only so many donors to go around!”
“Donors only have so much money to give!”
“We already asked our donors once this year; we can’t ask again!”
Are we placing our beliefs on our donors? Are we making assumptions for our donors? Are we self-sabotaging our work? Are we limiting our role in the work that we do? Are we focusing our efforts and time on things such as events that will take us out of the context of asking?
To be truly effective fundraisers, we all need to dig deep and look at our views and those beliefs of scarcity that may be holding you back. Are they self-limiting and if so how can you work to create an abundance mindset? We don’t want scarcity from preventing our life-changing work from happening both for our donors and for our missions. So, it is critical that you identify your mindset and work to change it. Major gifts start with you. Get that part of the relationship right first.
Break the scarcity mindset before you ask for a major gift.
The fundraising audit is a major step in fundraising planning. When you think about planning, you think about where are we, where do we want to be, and how are we going to get there?
The fundraising audit helps you to determine, where are you. And, it is probably the most important step of the entire planning process. If you don’t know where you are today, how can you even plan for tomorrow? And, it is important to not only look at internal things that will impact your fundraising success i.e. Board of Directors, etc., but it is also critical to examine external factors as well. Some external things that may affect the success of fundraising include political factors (i.e. election time), economic (a down economy), sociocultural (changing demographics), and technology (changes in the web, social media, etc.). Development audits also tend to examine others in the industry including nonprofits serving the same type of causes, similar sizes, potential collaborators, and other market factors).
Also, one can examine the feasibility of conducting a future large-scale campaign. Currently, I am conducting a development audit for a nonprofit organization, and as part of that review, I am asking initial capital campaign feasibility questions to determine if a proposed future capital campaign would be a success.
An audit is just that, a systematic attempt to gather tons of data, and then analyzing and synthesizing this data against professional best practices. While it is best that an objective third party person conducts this process, it can also be accomplished by a new in-house development staff member who still has an objective “eye.” It is also helpful to have someone who has their finger on the pulse regarding what is shifting and changing in the philanthropic landscape.
A development audit is also a great way to engage key stakeholders i.e. Board members, donors, etc. who may need more cultivation. It is just as much about the product as it is about the process.
When developing a fundraising plan, I am often asked whether or not, I can skip the development audit analysis. And, I arguably say “no!”
A fundraising audit is probably the most critical stage of the entire planning process looking at where an organization is now, where it has been, and where do they want to be? Without knowing the answers to these questions, how can anyone put together a solid plan for the future?
An audit is a review of all the factors within an organization that may impact how an organization can expect to accomplish in the future both internally and externally.
A fundraising audit is the first essential component of a healthy fundraising plan, and it provides the “Where are we now?” component. It is only when the organization has a complete picture of the organization’s current strategic position and each of the donor markets served can the organization hope to make meaningful objectives for the future.
So, when an organization says to me, “We don’t have the time to bother conducting a fundraising audit. We’re too busy doing the fundraising.” I say, that if you don’t have a roadmap for the future, you are always going to do what you have done and how do you expect your fundraising to do any better than it has always done? It is absolutely essential and critical to the success of any planning efforts.
Don’t skimp on a development audit. You will only be skimping on solid results in the future. And, that is just plain insanity!
So you ask…now that the planning is over now what do we do with the plan?
It is time to package it up!
Once the initial goals and objectives are drafted and approved by the planning team and board of directors, the organization needs to look at the two main audiences both internally and externally and in what form they should receive a copy of the plan.
And just like a case for support, there are several ways of packaging and for different reasons and audiences.
From my experience you will want to have an internal plan for executive management staff and board purposes that outlines priorities and goals, key objectives and tasks, along with any new staff requirements needed to achieve the plan, budgets to support the efforts and timelines for turning the vision into reality. This internal plan becomes the day-to-day operational plan. This version while very specific and detailed is less formal than what is presented externally. It can be kept as a very informal, rudimentary working document with an eye towards task management and internal benchmarking.
Externally, while not as specific, this document can be more formally polished and presented to a wide variety of stakeholders according to traditional modes of communication. These modes might include brochures, articles in newsletters, insider updates, websites, social media and other mediums as desired depending upon the particular cultural needs and expectations of the stakeholders including potential funders, donors and community partners.
1. Distributing a full copy to every board and management team member.
2. Distributing all (or highlights from) the plan to everyone in the organization from the newest employee to direct care staff.
3. Posting your mission, vision and values statements on the walls of your main offices.
4. Consider giving each employee a card with the mission, vision and values statements (or highlights from them) on a card.
5. Publishing portions of your plan in your newsletter, advertising and marketing materials (brochures, ads, etc.).
6. Training board members and employees on portions of the plan during orientations.
7. Including portions of the plan in policies and procedures, including the employee manual.
8. Providing copies of the plan for major stakeholders, for example, funders/investors, trade associations, potential collaborators, vendors/suppliers, etc.
So how have you gone that final step and packaged your strategic plan?