One of the biggest complaints I encounter with fundraising staff is they wish others, especially the board, would come up with ideas that can actually be implemented.
Ideas that that organization can actually afford to act on.
Ideas the board members will participate in.
In a short read from Paul Sloane he explains that “the easiest way to crush creativity is to find fault with new ideas which colleagues and subordinates bring forward…All it takes for a few crazy ideas to be shot down and people stop volunteering them.”
We want our board members and volunteers and even our colleagues to bring us their brilliant ideas, right? But we actually want those ideas to be based in some reality of cost and capacity.
Here’s a simple and magical sentence to insert into the conversation when you encounter one of those half-formed, “great” new ideas:
“That sounds interesting; how can we make it work?”
Then, as Paul Sloane says, “let them talk.”
After more than 13 years of coaching I suggest adding some additional questions to the conversation.
As staff your job is to cause the idea generators to think about costs and capacity with questions like:
“Who will be the/my board partner to ensure this project gets accomplished?”
“What might the costs be associated with this idea/project?”
“Let’s take a moment and figure out what will have to be removed from the current staff workload if we take on this new project/idea.”
With my coaching hat on, I often ask questions like these of both staff and board members.
I watch the conversation unfold but I help to keep the conversation based in some reality. And then let the group find their way, within the time constraints of a meeting or training session.
More often than not, the outcome is better than I would have imagined and the group leaves more engaged. Most importantly real decisions are made quickly about “new” ideas so everyone can get to work doing what they agreed to do.
What questions do you use with your team to allow creativity AND actionable ideas?
"So often, a bequest comes to you from a source you knew nothing about. And, by the way, the largest percentage of bequests come from those with a net worth of $3 million and less. As I recall, it's about 82% of the bequests.
Here are some characteristics of those who are most likely to think of you in their estate plans.
Length of giving to your organization (5 or more years of regular giving)
Giving to you over a long period of time (Giving may not be year after year- but gifts have been made over a long, extended period of time)
Frequency of Giving (monthly credit card donors, or those who give more than once a year)
Is an active volunteer (At one time or now a board member, or a volunteer in some manner)
The Family has been involved in some way in the organization (Best if there is a long-time association)
Few family obligations (children and grandchildren are appropriately taken care of, no mortgage, no indebtedness)
Securely retired (feeling comfortable and confident about future financial situation)
Been kept informed (have been on your mailing or in contact over a period of time)
Has been called on regarding Planned Gifts and bequests
Has requested information on making a Planned Gift
Sixty-five years of age and over
Recognized by your organizations (has received special recognition for volunteer service or past giving)"
This is great information for fundraisers and things to keep in mind when creating your donor communications.
I recently attended a training session for ArtsLab, an amazing capacity building project by Arts Midwest. I'm honored to be on the curriculum team. At the board leadership session we referenced a powerful white paper by Sam Pettway with five questions every board should ask.
In my experience, I find staff sometimes grumble about what the board is focused on. On the flip side, the board sometimes grumbles about what they are supposed to do or the many reports they are having to read each month.
These five questions are incredibly helpful in helping both the board and staff stay focused and clear about their actions. And actually be effective in meeting goals while feeling great about their board experience.
When your board takes the time to ponder and answer these questions at board meetings or at your annual board retreat, the answers WIILL more clearly focus your:
Here's a quick example:
You and the board have decided you want to increase individual donor contributions. Your team has decided to do that by making regular thank you calls to donors at the $250+ level AND your team is making an effort to invite every donor at that level and above to attend one event in person this year.
That means board meetings will be spent looking at metrics for how many calls and/or invitations the board has made to $250+ donors in the past month.
You'll likely have a subcommittee (Fund Development committee) that is leading the charge on engaging the full board in tackling your goals in this area and taking action.
You'll recruit board members who don't mind phoning others and/or meeting people they don't yet know.
You'll have a snazzy, easy-to-read dashboard that shows the activity to date vs. the year-end goal.
And you'll have even talked about this goal in the recruitment and orientation process for new board members.
These questions are simple and very powerful. Are you brave enough to introduce them at your next board meeting? Or better yet, have the board chair introduce them and move the conversation forward about adopting a culture of knowing the answers to these questions, always.
Good luck and let me know what changes you are making once you start to incorporate these questions into your board structure! I promise your board WILL be more engaged and effective in being your partner.
For years I've been telling you that THE most powerful way to connect people to your mission is by sharing a story. By telling a real-life example about how your work affects one man, woman, or child you cause listeners to feel something and to take action.
I know you've been listening because every day I'm contacted by people who want private coaching or storytelling workshops. While I'm honored to have so many requests, I simply cannot physically visit each of your organizations!
And so, I have taken your desire for more storytelling coaching seriously. I've developed a system that is the next best thing to me being there in person.
As a master storyteller and coach, I have worked with thousands of staff, board members, and committed volunteers to teach them how to think differently about the stories they share. I’ve seen firsthand the power of sharing an engaging example of your work and that’s why I created this storytelling system for you.
My passion is to help you raise more money from individuals. My vision is that you do this with ease. A story can change how much money your organization raises and build a tribe of dedicated cheerleaders sharing your mission with the community.
It is important to build your muscles in this area. That’s what this system is for!
With the Imagine What’s Possible: Step-by Step Storytelling System you will learn how to craft compelling stories with bold communication. I created this system just for you, as a step-by-step guide for creating thoughtful, meaningful stories that will help you engage with your community. The Step-by Step Storytelling System is loaded with more than 30 pages of worksheets and templates in hard copy and on a CD. It also includes a 90-minute webinar on DVD where I've inserted "extra" exercises and messages for your board and staff. Virtually everything you need to take your stories from boring to brilliant.
If you have board members who say they don't have a story to share. Or your colleagues don't help you identify great stories to share...HELP is here! There are bonuses and special pricing available for a limited time. So, click on this link to learn more:Imagine What’s Possible: Step-by Step Storytelling System.
I'm KNOW it will help you craft compelling, moving stories that will have you raising more money that you ever imagined.
TED Talk video featuring Dan Pallotta, fundraiser and activist
Before I tell you about game-changing activist and fundraiser Dan Palotta, I wanted to let you know that he's going to be the opening keynote speaker at this year’s 2013 NTC conference to be held here in Minneapolis, April 11 – 13. I'll also be there speaking with Lars Leafblad of Pollen & Bush Foundation, Dana Nelson of GiveMN, and Jamie Millard of Paper Darts & Pollen. Our session is Saturday morning.
This is an exceptional opportunity if you live near the Twin Cities to hear some national speakers and get your board and staff some exceptional training and learn innovative ideas.
Okay, now back to Dan. He was a featured speaker this month at TED Talks. I wrote about Dan a couple of years ago and I am as passionate about his message today as I was in 2011.
From my October 2011 post: “Dan’s observation is that we have two rule books: One for charity and one for the rest of the economic world. We blame capitalism for creating huge inequities in our society. . .
and we refuse to allow the nonprofit sector to actually use the tools of capitalism to rectify those inequities.” To read my full post click here.
From the TED Talk's site: "Activist and fundraiser Dan Pallotta calls out the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities. Too many nonprofits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend -- not for what they get done. Instead of equating frugality with morality, he asks us to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments (even if that comes with big expenses). In this bold talk, he says: Let's change the way we think about changing the world."
Dan’s passion is to highlight five areas of discrimination for nonprofits. It's a controversial message for sure, but a game-changer. I encourage you to not only spend the 18 minutes watching his engaging Ted talk video, but to also commit to sharing this video with your board and your key supporters. You just might start a movement and give people the freedom to do
MORE to support your important work.
I recently read a great post by Michael Hyatt about how we have more control than we think. In the post Michael writes about all the things we worry about that are outside of our control: the weather, the economy, and other people. Then he mentions what we do have control over: "But you and I have 100% control of the one thing that is the most important to our success: ourselves. We can control our attitude, our thoughts, our words, our emotions, and our behavior. This is what makes us human. We are not automatons. We have a choice."
I believe focusing on what we CAN control is a much better use of our time. Especially in fundraisers in the social profit sector. We simply can not control everything and worrying never helped anything.
As fundraisers we often worry about things we have no control over like: how many people will bring a guest to an event, whether or not the board sold enough tickets, will rain or snow? Falling down into the pit of worry is easy, and it can paralyze us. But you don't have to stay down there. There are plenty of things within your control.
Here are a few of the things you have total control over when it comes to your fundraising:
How clear your message is
The sense of urgency you've created in your fundraising campaign
How clear you share what impact the donor gifts will make
How much warmth and mission you've infused into the follow-up and thank you process
How grateful you are when board members complete their projects or open doors for your organization
The report is based on a survey of 1435 nonprofits from thirty countries and asked people what their communication plans were for the year, what tools they planned on using, and much more. The results are fascinating to say the least, and I'd really encourage you to download a free copy of the 34-page report for yourself so you can see how other fundraisers and nonprofits are hoping to spend their year.
Not surprising was the graph and statistic showing how nonprofits identified their most important goals for the year when it came to their communication strategies. Acquiring new donors and engaging community were the top two vote getters. You can see the other priorities in the graph below.
Behind these numbers is some juicy information about nonprofits and how bigger organizations prioritize their communications in comparison to smaller ones. From the report you'll learn the differences between the Community/Brand Builders and the Fundraisers from their budgets to their plans to the tools they use to communicate.
Here are some great excerpts from the report: The “community/brand builders” were more likely to have written plans and to work for larger organizations (60% in this category have organizational budgets over $1 million). They were more likely to identify media relations/PR, blogging, and social media as very important tools. They were also more likely to say that phone calls/phone banks and paid advertising were their least important tools. They planned to email more frequently, and were much more likely to rely on and experiment with social media than “fundraising” communicators.
Conversely, the “fundraising” communicators were much more likely to identify both print marketing and email marketing as very important communications tools, along with phone calls/phone banks and in- person events. They are likely to send direct mail more often, and to take a more conservative approach to social media. For example, they are more likely to say they are experimenting with sites like Twitter and YouTube, which have been more fully adopted by community/brand builders.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the report was that it asked ￼￼"What Excites You about 2013?" The study found that many of you are energized and eager to keep on doing the challenging, important work you do every day. Some of the answers to the question included:
New opportunities to expand their reach and connect with new people
Using social media more strategically
Developing and implementing communications plans
What are you most excited you most about your communication plans for 2013? I'd love to hear what new things you are planning this year!
The new year always reminds me of when I was a young girl of three or four years old. At that age I was enchanted by big white spaces. I thought they were JUST for me to put my mark on.
And so, you can imagine my Mom’s annoyance when she found me sitting on the couch quietly creating my own “pencil art” on the white parchment pages of her wedding album.
I had intently scribbled on each of the parchment pages and remember thinking I had made her wedding photo album even more beautiful. Fortunately, my Mom realized that this was indeed my self-expression and kept those pages intact.
So what is YOUR version of a clean white page? How will you set yourself and your nonprofit organization up for an exciting, prosperous year?
I’ve spent the past couple of days thinking through my plan for 2013 and I’ve begun taking actions that will allow more creative time while off-loading some of the administrative work that can really eat up my time.
I’m excited about the fresh clean calendar I’ve mounted on the wall in my office. I look forward to putting my scribbles and notes on it, and truly creating a year that has balance AND provides great coaching and support for all of you.
I came across a post about taking a break on the Fundraisin is fun blog site as I was working to inspire myself into writing this week’s blog post.
I don’t know about all of you, but I’m finding I’m ready for a break after a very busy 2012 and an especially busy fall. I’m grateful to Ephraim for the reminder that I, too, can take a break. Click here to read the full post.
When I read Ephraim's post it was as if he had written the words I was thinking. From his post: "When I first started on Twitter I panicked and assumed I had missed some crucial information, a tweet that I NEEDED to see. So as soon as I could, I logged on and went as far back in my stream as possible. Yup- I was just a wee bit addicted.
It took some time but I came to learn that I can’t see every tweet and so if I missed something- life goes on. . .
The constant grind of wanting to suck in as much information as we can, the need to read and react, our compulsion to know what our friends are doing every minute of the day…we could ALL use a mini-vacay. I know that some people don’t sit on social media all day- but time away from the monitor would benefit everyone."
Across the country as we deal with the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy we may find ourselves spending more time than usual sorting through our feelings using social media. Today we can grieve, share information, and send condolences with a few key strokes. While technology is amazing and allows unprecedented speed to our communication, there still may be some value in taking a break from it all so the healing can begin.
I plan to “unplug” myself from all that is social media for some of the time in the final week of the year. I’ll spend time with family, read, get some projects done I’ve been longing to do, and most importantly I’ll spend some time planning for next year…all without tweeting, liking, sharing, pinning, posting, messaging, commenting, plus oneing, and so on.
I do admit I’m a little nervous about what I’ll miss and at the same time I look forward to the break!