Friday, February 15, 2013

Is your Development Director on the way out?

Most Development Directors from organizations with budgets under $5 million plan to leave their jobs within two years. YIKES! A new research project, "UNDERDEVELOPED: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising," by CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund describes a vicious cycle that impedes nonprofits' ability to raise financial resources.

Too often, the authors find, ED's and Boards of Directors pin fundraising responsibility solely on the shoulders of their Development Director without establishing fundamental conditions for their success. This research study is a great source of discussion for all of us who care about philanthropy.

In my work sourcing and placing development professionals, I help ED's and board members understand their shared role in fund development, and I coach new Development Directors in developing their skills, plans, and systems that demonstrate competence.

A personal comment...

When I launched my philanthropy consulting firm, I was invited to join a board of directors of a prestigious nonprofit organization. After spending years on the inside knowing what board members should be doing, I jumped at the chance to lead by example. The problem was, I couldn't understand the strategic direction of the organization, and I didn't trust the staff. Although I truly intended to be the best board member I could be, there was no way I was going put my reputation on the line.

That was my a-ha moment.

Board members not only need to internalize the mission and strategic direction of the organization, they need to TRUST the Development Director to be respectful of their contacts, to follow-up in a timely and professional way, and to lead them (as volunteers) on a path to success in raising resources.

So, when I hear about disengaged boards, my inclination is to develop internal staff competencies first in order to create trusting relationships with board members. Those relationships are a big part of the proof that donors need prior to making philanthropic gifts.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Business Solicitations (Nicole Wilken)

This past Saturday, a group of SALTers went out to businesses in downtown Valpo and asked for support for our $15,000 World Relief Campaign. Getting businesses on board is a great way to get a lot of people involved in your project. You have a public event? Make sure to utilize the community bulletin boards around town or leave some brochures on the tables. You need prizes or silent auction items? Businesses can donate a monetary or in-kind donation for the event. It is always helpful if you can create an incentive for the business’ support. One example is that we put the logos of the 5k sponsors on the back of the t-shirt for the runners. Another suggestion is to make sure you go to the businesses that are most relevant to the specific project or event (like going to the sporting goods stores to advertise a 5k).
This type of outreach can get the community involved in ways that a solicitation letter can’t. Personally, I think talking to business owners is less intimidating than talking to donors directly. But the ask itself is pretty similar. Yes, you need a spiel to summarize your project in 2-3 sentences, but it doesn’t have to be a dreaded part of community outreach. The reason solicitations are annoying to businesses is because there are a lot of possible causes to give to. You need to stand out, but go back to the basics. Be polite. Be patient. Be responsive. Not every business is able to give you a stack of gift cards right away. You may need to follow up with businesses at a better time. In everything, it is important to remember that you are the one asking for the favor. But the cool thing is that if it is done right, reaching out to businesses can be mutually beneficial.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Psychology and Philanthropy (Nicole Wilken)

I am a psychology major and, for one reason or another, some people are led to believe that this gives me the ability to read people’s thoughts and manipulate their behavior. And for the most part, I am very grateful that this belief is untrue. However, Jen Shang, the world’s only philanthropic psychologist, studies how donor behavior is affected using psychological principles. This interview with Shang published in the New York Times provides an interesting perspective on how psychology contributes to donor behavior – reinforcing the importance of many of the factors that have been emphasized in previous posts of this blog.

Even though Shang hits upon certain words that can be used in order to increase support, I don’t think the main takeaway from this article is how to manipulate their charitable contributions. If anything, it is the exact opposite. Instead of focusing on the facts that studies show that collectively women are more likely to give if the solicitation letter mentions honesty, I think Shang is trying to highlight that the individuality of each donor still needs to be respected and maintained. Don’t use these buzzwords because that is what an article says you should or even because that is what a donor would like to hear. Say it because you mean it. For a donor, philanthropy is a journey, a series of decisions – such as reading outreach material, volunteering, and then giving financial support. Understand that a donation means something different for each donor and that they might be coming at the opportunity from different perspectives. It is hard to walk that fine line between presenting information in order to get people on board with the mission of the organization and deliberately presenting the information in a way that misleads them into donating. Build a trusting relationship keeping in mind their different perspectives and motivations for their contribution.