Friday, February 21, 2014

Do you kill souls or touch hearts with your mission?

You know the conference room. An urn of percolating coffee. Styrofoam cups. Cherry pastries from Panera. Bottled water. Cell phones vibrating. White boards. Flip charts. Permanent marker smell. Org charts. Small groups. Perky facilitators…

This is the time of year for your strategic planning retreat (or advance). And the first order of business is ALWAYS a review of your mission statement.

Here’s the problem. Most nonprofits articulate their mission in terms of organizational success or a comprehensive list of programs.
  • “Our mission is to be the provider of choice in blah, blah, blah services.”

  • “We provide yada, dada, and bada programs to disadvantaged youth in our community.”
  • "We work to enhance the quality of life in Nearlyperfect County by offering the best arts education and performance opportunities.

Do these mission statements look familiar to you? Did you just spend half of your Saturday duking it out in an epic wordsmith battle with a realtor, a banker, an attorney, and a grade school teacher?
I’ve got to be honest with you.These mission statements kill my soul. 

If I’m going to give away my money to your nonprofit, or if I’m going to spend 40+ hours a week working for your organization, or if I’m going to volunteer to be away from my family in service of your mission, you’d better set my heart on fire.

The good news is that there are two simple questions that can focus these discussions to produce a concise mission statement with heart, soul, and legs that generate revenue.

The whole purpose of your organization is to change somebody’s life. You make people go from sad to happy. From hungry to full. From delayed to advanced. From depressed to inspired. From uninformed to data-driven. From addicted to clean. From sick to healthy. From damned to redeemed. And so on and so on ad infinitum.

Your mission statement ought to reflect that, and anyone who represents your organization—from your board members to your janitorial staff to your weekly volunteers—ought to know exactly whose lives they are changing and what the specific transformation is.

These are my simple questions when I facilitate board retreats.

  • Who are your primary beneficiaries (clients, consumers, participants—whatever you call the important people you are serving)?
  • What specific, positive transformations or changes occur in your primary beneficiaries because of the programs and services you provide?

Your mission is simple. Your mission is to create those specific, positive transformations in your beneficiaries. That's what inspires. That's what is important. It should feel so profound that everyone who touches your organization from staff to board to fundraisers and donors understands that it is a privilege to serve.

Your mission is most definitely not about offering programs and services (those can and should change according to the times, circumstances and opportunities.) 

Your mission is about changing peoples’ lives. Go set some hearts on fire!

I'll share some examples in a future post! In the meantime, if you have a mission with heart that you want to share with the world, leave a comment below!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Do you know you need to make a change, but… but… but… something always gets in the way?

You get distracted. You’re unmotivated. You don’t know what you’re passionate about.

You can do something to create happiness now.

Take action at the Embracing Feminine Leadership Conference on March 7, 2014.

Randi Light, Transformation Specialist, Mental Trainer and Healer, will challenge her audience to “Ignite your Purpose, Passion, and Productivity” at the Embracing Feminine Leadership Conference on March 7.

“Sometimes front line sales and fundraising professionals feel stuck, angry, and unable to make progress with their customers and donors and in their personal lives because of fear and doubt,” said Light. “I guide people through a process of self-questioning, discovery, and hypnosis in order to align their conscious and subconscious minds.”

If you are ready to focus on the positive changes you want to make in your life, put your best qualities to work, and to lead from a position of confidence instead of fear, then join Randi Light for the Embracing Feminine Leadership Conference on March 7, 2014; 7:30am-4:00pm at the Best Western Indian Oaks, in Chesterton, IN.  Register online:

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Does your communication style get you in trouble at work?

Do something about it.

Learn the Three Keys to Effective Communication.

Do people ignore your requests? Or, do team members do the job, but with a chip on their shoulders? Do you dread giving performance feedback because you're afraid of a tearful or angry reaction? Or, does your sales team or frontline fundraiser choke when it comes to closing the deal?

Take action at the Embracing Feminine Leadership Conference on March 7.

Instead of chalking it up to hormones (yours or theirs), you can learn to take control of the situation to improve performance by finding the middle ground in your communication style.

Kealah Parkinson, Communications Coach and Author, will teach confidence to conference-goers by harnessing the power of both passive/active communication and empathic/strategic listening.

The Three Keys to Communication include:
  1. Self-awareness, or understanding your natural style of communication,
  2. Relational honesty, how to listen and communicate with family, coworkers, clients, etc., and
  3. Universal honesty, how your communication style reflects and affects the world around you.

"My goal is to teach confidence," says Parkinson, "I want each person to gain a sense of control in situations that normally lower confidence and cause confusion."

Parkinson will present "Sexually Speaking: Leaning into Conflict" at the Embracing Feminine Leadership Conference, March 7, 2014; 7:30am-4:00pm at the Best Western Indian Oak Spa in Chesterton, Indiana. Register online: Embracing Feminine Leadership Conference

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Collecting Pledge Payments from Donors

What is the  proper protocol when you have emailed and invoiced a donor who pledged and you receive no response? An askAPB question from LH in Porter County, Indiana.

Great question, LH! 

I always like to assume the best about people--they pledged their gift wholeheartedly, voluntarily, and in good faith at the time of the pledge. There are three reasons why folks aren't responding:
  • They haven't gotten around to it. Donors lead complicated lives. Check out my earlier post about pleasant persistence vs. donor stalking
  • Something has changed in their financial situation, and they can't fulfill the pledge right now.
  • They just plain aren't interested in the cause anymore. 

Your job is to figure out which of these situations applies. So, pick up the phone and invite them (to coffee or for a tour) for a project update. Share your goals for the meeting: (1) to provide real examples of how their financial commitment has been working for your clients, and (2) to discuss the status of fundraising progress toward your goal.

The phone conversation alone may provide the detail you need. 
  • Folks may respond, "Oh, LH, I'm so sorry I've forgotten to put that check in the mail. I'll take care of it right away. It would be lovely to see you." 
  • Donors may say, "Yes, of course. We've had a delay in our payment schedule, but I still plan to make a payment... hopefully in 60 days." Remember, gifts are made on the donors' timetable, not always yours. Tell them you understand and you appreciate their commitment. Perhaps you can negotiate partial payment terms, or monthly auto-billing on a credit or debit card. If it is a larger payment, you could suggest fulfilling the pledge with a gift of appreciated stock or a gift directly from an IRA distribution.
  • People may not take your call. Continue to try periodically with paper, email, and phone check-ins. Always be optimistic. After a significant amount of time has passed and you've had a thorough discussion with your CFO, you may need to write-off uncollected pledges. However, I would remain positive in periodic (minimal cost) communications with the pledge-maker. You may not know or understand the reason for the delinquency, but that pledge-maker still has a voice in the community and may still have an affection for your cause.

Hope this helps, LH! If other readers have additional ideas, please feel free to share them in the comments below. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fundraisers: This is your highest priority!

"How do you suggest prioritizing time between cultivation/stewardship and new prospect identification/qualification?" T.H., Lake County, IN

APB responds: T.H., this is an important question. 

Your number one goal in fundraising is to RETAIN your current donors.

Most (somewhere around 70%) of first-time donors to U.S. nonprofits never repeat that gift. Then, NPOs lose 30% of those donors year after year. Imagine the shock and horror of a for-profit company CEO who learned that 70% of her customers never bought from her again! She'd be out of a job, really quick.

Yet, somehow, in nonprofits--especially in the human service sector--we often make the mistake of chasing new donors (or, worse yet, new money). It's a grass-is-always greener view. And it's a HUGE missed opportunity.

Let's take a for instance: Let's say in your first year on the job, you are able to attain 10 donors who contribute at a $25 level. In year 2, only three of those 10 donors give again, but they increase their gift by 10%. In year 3, you have two donors left, and in year 4 you are down to only one of those original donors. 

The total amount you have raised in 4 years from all of those folks is $426.

  Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Total Giving
Donor A $25 $28 $30 $33 $116
Donor B $25 $28 $30   $83
Donor C $25 $28     $53
Donor D $25       $25
Donor E $25       $25
Donor F $25       $25
Donor G $25       $25
Donor H $25       $25
Donor I $25       $25
Donor J $25       $25

Presumably at some point during these four years, you would start scrambling to find new donors to replace the ones who are leaving their relationship with you. That would pull you away from stewardship and cultivation activities, and it would burn you out because 70% of all the new donors would never give again. 

But, let's say you prioritized retaining donors through stewardship and cultivation so that in year 2 you retained 50% of your donors and nothing else changed. By the end of your 4th year, you will have raised $545, 28% more than in the first scenario. 

  Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Total Giving
Donor A $25 $28 $30 $33 $116
Donor B $25 $28 $30 $33 $116
Donor C $25 $28 $30   $83
Donor D $25 $28     $53
Donor E $25 $28     $53
Donor F $25       $25
Donor G $25       $25
Donor H $25       $25
Donor I $25       $25
Donor J $25       $25

So, T.H., if you work for an organization with a large number of annual donors that you don't know very well, I would suggest spending a larger portion of your time stewarding those donors and cultivating personal relationships that could lead to major gifts and legacy gifts from those same individuals.

However, if you work for a newer, grassroots organization with a very modest donor pool, I would suggest prioritizing a few "point of entry" events or solicitations to help you identify first-time donors. Then I would urge you to devote a substantial portion of time towards encouraging donor loyalty.

Get your hands and eyes on anything by Adrian Sargeant for more research on donor retention. In addition, read the latest from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project at the Urban Institute by clicking HERE. 

If you have any burning, nagging, or "I'll look into that later" questions about fundraising, philanthropy, or the complex world of nonprofits, you can askAPB ( I'm excited hear from you!!

If anyone has more to share, please comment below!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

When your Board Member says, "Sorry, I don't have any friends to ask for money."

"Three out of four executive directors (75%)--and 82% of executives among organizations with operating budgets under $1 million--call board member engagement insufficient" according to Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Organizations (2013). 
Penelope Burk's new research on Donor Centered Leadership also points to nonprofit staff and board leadership's self-reported dissatisfaction about board engagement in fundraising. Simone Joyaux writes eloquently and extensively about how to set governance expectations and what to do if board members don't meet those expectations. And, she reminds us not to ask board members to trespass on their personal and professional relationships (so important!). 

There's a lot of emotion--guilt, unclear expectations, resentment, and fear--all wrapped up in conversations with board members about introducing interested members of their spheres of influence to the nonprofit organizations that the serve and represent. In my experience working with boards on fund development plans, these emotions manifest with a comment like, "I'm sorry. I don't have any friends to ask for money." (Let me be clear: this is not the assignment they've been given.)

My sense is that a scarcity mindset is at the root of these emotions. It goes something like this, "If I talk to people about my nonprofit, (1) they will think I'm asking them for money, (2) that would be taking money away from someone, (3) I'm then going to owe that person money for whatever cause they represent, (4) and I don't want someone to ask me for money, because (5) I don't want someone to take money away from me." 

There are a number thoughts to unpack in the scarcity mindset I outlined above. We won't get to them all in this post. I want to start directly with the notion of charitable giving as "taking money away from someone." A way to enter into conversation with a board member who feels this way is to show him or her how charitable giving can offer a financial benefit to a donor and to a charitable organization: a win-win. These are things that are rarely discussed with board members, and doing so may make a slight shift in their scarcity mindset. It may inspire your board members to be more comfortable being an ambassador for your organization.

Please join me, Tim Rice and Aaron Adcock from Lakeside Wealth Management on Thursday June 6 from 8:30am-10:00am at United Way of Porter County for an in depth discussion about 4 Simple Charitable Giving Strategies that Board Members Can't Wait to Share.

You will learn:

  1. How giving stock can reduce tax exposure for donors
  2. Why you should create a great "sponsorship" menu--and how to do it
  3. Who can benefit from Indiana NAP tax credits--and how to explain them in plain English
  4. How IRAs can turn into great gifts
At the end of the session, you will be able to:
  1. Help donors understand how charitable gifts can have important tax benefits
  2. Educate your board members about 4 tax saving strategies to share with friends
  3. Communicate the value that you can bring to and advisor-client relationship