Fundraising During National Disasters

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The overwhelming misery and human need emerging from the recent hurricanes impacting Florida, Texas and Louisiana have prompted Americans of good will to give generously to charities who provide direct aid to the victims. Athletes, celebrities and civic leaders have stepped forward and provided leadership for donations to meet the enormous needs of our fellow citizens.

It is inspiring to see the nation come together, putting aside differences, with generous donations in times of national disaster. History would suggest that millions of individual Americans will donate to relief organizations in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

As fundraisers, we wonder if donor fatigue sets in, and if maybe we should put a pause on our own fundraising efforts until the unfolding human tragedy fades from the front pages and the nightly news broadcasts. The answer is an emphatic NO!

We know at least two things from prior national emergencies. One is that the increased giving to meet the emergency will persist into the second year, so it makes absolutely no sense to try to “wait out” the period of donations to relief organizations.

The second thing we know is that there is no evidence of diminished giving to other non-profits following national disasters. Now is still the best time and the only time to make the case in the strongest possible terms, for financial support for your organization. Fundraising is not a zero sum enterprise. You are not competing for limited dollars with the legitimate and compelling needs of other people. You are only competing to tap in to the endless generosity of the human heart.

Remember, people give to your mission. Your mission is important to your donors before, during, and after a national emergency. If you haven’t already done so, make a donation to a relief organization to help the victims of the hurricanes. But after you do so, get to work on your next fundraising appeal for your non-profit organization!

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

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What are your SWOTs???

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Early on in my career I received some good advice. My supervisor asked me to put together a Development Plan for the new fiscal year. Being new to the organization, I asked where the plan from the previous year was located.

Why? She asked.

Well, so I know where to start, I replied.

She told me she wanted to start with a SWOT analysis. At the next Development Committee meeting we took time to get feedback from our trusted volunteers. They shared what they thought were the organization’s Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. We shared our own insights as staff.

From that conversation, the Development Plan was born. It wasn’t a “save as” document where fiscal years were updated but strategies remained the same.

Instead a variety of new topics emerged and rose to the top. Even  better, we involved our volunteers in the process. They shared openly and had buy in with the ideas.

This was a valuable lesson and one I hope you will implement.

Our team steered the activities of the organization over the next year in a creative way that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. We realized the need for new committee members, the need for a second appeal letter, and implemented a strategy to increase online giving.

So next time are planning for your organization take time to do a SWOT analysis first. It’s time well spent.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Ready, Set, Give!

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Started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, Giving Tuesday was a designed in response to commercialization in the post-Thanksgiving season (Black Friday and Cyber Monday).  This past year, 98 countries participated and over $177,000,000 was raised.  The number of organizations participating in Giving Tuesday continues to grow – 34,000 and counting.   Due to this growth and increased awareness, I am confident that your Board members, donors and other constituents will want to know how your organization will “get in on the action”.

Now is the time to plan!  The Giving Tuesday website, www.givingtuesday.org, offers a wealth of information, including a timeline and toolkits, to help you launch a successful Giving Tuesday campaign.  And, if your organization is located in Illinois, be sure to register and participate in, #ILGive.  #ILGive is an initiative of Forefront (Illinois’ state association of grantmakers, nonprofits, and advisors to the sector), that raises money for Illinois communities, brings in new donors, and increases awareness about local nonprofits while leveraging the national marketing of #GivingTuesday.

Since they have provided the details, I will simply add a few pointers of my own, which come from lessons learned with clients over the past few years.

Be cohesive in your approach

If your organization does a Holiday appeal, be sure that your Giving Tuesday messaging is consistent with your appeal.  For example, if you are sharing a success story about a client in your Holiday appeal, tell a related story in your Giving Tuesday campaign.  I have often found that the “simpler the better”.  Inspire your donors by sharing one cohesive storyline.  And don’t forget to include photos!

Make it personal

Because there is a chance that donors will grow weary of the number of emails, posts and requests they receive in a 24-hour period and may begin ignore requests altogether, try and personalize your emails as much as possible.  Include the recipient’s name in the body of the email and utilize a creative subject line.

Giving Tuesday also provides a great opportunity to enlist your Board members and volunteers.  Ask them to forward the Giving Tuesday email/link to their contacts and include a personal message about why the organization is important to them.  Recipients are more likely to open an email from a friend – and they are more likely to give when there is a personal connection.

Utilize a match

Big or small, the use of a matching gift is inspirational to donors.  If you have a donor who is interested in providing a match or challenge for Giving Tuesday, take advantage!  Donors love it when their gift goes farther.  If you do have a matching or challenge gift, try and keep it as simple as possible.  For example, the Smith Foundation will match every dollar raised up to $2,500.  A challenge is also a good way to inspire new donors; for example, the Smith Foundation will match all new gifts 2:1, so for every dollar a new donor gives, the Smith Foundation will donate $2. 

Watch your timing

While you want to be sure your donors are aware of – and donate on – Giving Tuesday, be strategic.  Consider sending an email the week before to let them know Giving Tuesday is just around the corner.  When the big day arrives, consider sending two (or three, at most) emails to your constituents.  The first could be timed to arrive when people are getting to work or starting their day.  The second could be sent in the evening, when people are arriving home or winding down for the day.   That said, it is important not to inundate your donors; by sending too many emails, they may simply delete them all.

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Does Your Organization Have a Development Plan?

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For many of our clients, summer brings a bit slower pace…and with it, time to plan for the year ahead.  I am currently working with several clients on either updating or creating an annual Development Plan.  Do you have one for your organization?  If not, now would be as good a time as any to create one!  Here are a few things to consider.

Determine your fundraising goal for the year

This is often easier said than done!  Ideally, the Executive Director and Director of Development, in conjunction with Finance and the Board, should identify a realistic – yet stretch – fundraising goal for the year.  This goal should NOT be based on a “gap” in the budget.  Too often, when asked how the fundraising goal was identified, the answer I receive is, “Well, we determined the annual operating budget for the year, and there was a shortfall, so Development is responsible for “funding the gap”.  This almost always backfires and positions the Development office for failure.   This goal should be based on objectives and outcomes from the prior 1-3 years, along with an understanding of any specific needs in the year ahead.  A realistic stretch goal will challenge everyone to work a little harder – and smarter – to accomplish this objective.

Identify specific objectives and outcomes to ensure success

Events are an easy place to start.  Look at your revenue and expenses for each event from the prior 1-3 years.  Set a realistic target  – perhaps a 10% increase – to determine your fundraising goal for each event.  Next, identify ways in which you plan to attain those goals.  Are you doing enough to increase the number of sponsors for each event?  Is it time to raise the ticket price?  Are you giving away too many tickets?  Are there creative ways in which you can cut expenses?

The Annual Fund is another key component.  How many appeal letters are you sending annually?  Is it enough?  Are you sending too many?  What is the ROI on each appeal?  Once you have the facts, you can set your goal to increase your raise for the year.  Make sure you are considering all aspects of your appeals, which includes possibly segmenting and personalizing your letter.   Also, be sure you are telling a story about the work of your organization to make the letter more emotionally appealing.  Consider whether to incorporate Giving Tuesday into your annual fundraising process.  (Note, while there are a lot of great outcomes from Giving Tuesday, I do not feel it is the best use of time for every organization, so I recommend you do your homework and approach this thoughtfully and strategically.)

Consider other sources of revenue for your organization.  Do you have a Planned Giving Society?  Is your organization eligible for grants and/or corporate partnerships?  Set financial goals and specific objectives for each revenue stream.

And…I save the most important for last.  Your individual donors.  Have you defined your giving levels, including major donors (For example, those who give $1,000 or more annually)?  How are you cultivating donors at each level?  Once you have determined the baseline for each level, set a goal to increase the number of donors at each level and identify the objectives to ensure you meet these goals.  And here is the key:  Meeting this goal will require you to set aside time each week for donor cultivation.      

Be strategic

Look at all aspects of your Development operation to ensure that everything you do is supporting your fundraising goals.  Does your monthly newsletter highlight a donor?  Do you list your donors in the Annual Report?  Are you, your staff and/or your Board members calling donors to say Thank You?  Are you strategically publicizing your activities through press releases and other external communications?  How does the website highlight donors?

Creating a strong and realistic Development Plan takes time.  But by investing the time, creating the roadmap and ultimately working the plan, I am confident you can achieve your fundraising goals for the year.  Good luck!

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

What’s on your $ 1 Million Wish List?

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During the campaign preparation process with one of our clients, a staff member recently offered up, completely unsolicited, a “$1 million idea” that she had developed. This particular individual knew that we were in the process of clarifying the campaign priorities and took the initiative to present a new program she wanted to see developed at the organization. It was an impressive move on her part, and one that also reminded me how important it is for organizations to have a list of potential funding options at the ready.

In my previous role as a development director for a public foundation, we talked with the executive directors and development staff at our grantee organizations about having just such a wish list on hand. The challenge was to have compelling and viable options at the ready and be able to answer the question, “Do you know what you would do with $1 million (or $5m or $10m) if someone came to you with that kind of offer?

There are a couple of things I specifically love about this exercise.

  • First, it is always a good idea to have a menu of funding opportunities on hand to offer your donors in the event they either have interests outside of your current funding priorities, or they are inclined to make an impact investment  beyond the scope of your current ask.
  • Additionally, going through the process of discovery and creating your “what if” menu is a great way to engage the people who care about and have a stake in your organization’s future and to get everyone thinking about impact.

Do you have such a list? Is it something you update regularly or share with your board members and key donors to get their feedback on?

In my experience, as long as the conversations are framed appropriately (so that everyone’s expectations are clear), discussing what ifs with your program staff, donors, current/past board members and other key folks in your organization is not only a smart planning strategy, it’s also a great way to engage people in thinking creatively about your future and focusing together on how you might have an even greater impact.  I mean, who doesn’t like to dream big, right?

by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Countdown to the End of the Fiscal Year

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With spring weather approaching (we can only hope!), I find myself gearing up to clean out closets, wash windows and get things in order at home.  I want to be ready to spend more time outside…running (because it’s finally light outside in the morning), working in the garden, riding bikes and watching my son play baseball.

At the office, I also find myself readying for a new season…and also counting down to the end of the fiscal year.  As most non-profits close the year on June 30, we are in the final stretch to meet our fundraising goals.  It’s a good time to review our budgets…and see where we may be up a little (cheers!) or still have a ways to go.  Now is a good time to take a hard look at each revenue bucket and make final adjustments to our plans to reach…or maybe even exceed our goals.

Is your Gala just around the corner?  Maybe it would be beneficial to add a few more visits with potential sponsors or underwriters.  Enlist your committee or board members and ask each one to bring an additional prospect to the table.   If you have a major gift program, make a mini pyramid of prospects and list the potential gifts that you could work to secure from now to the close of the fiscal year.

How about a spring mailing?  Gone are the days when not for profits only send out one mail appeal at the close of the calendar year.  I’ve found that a spring mailing that asks for support of a special project or has a matching component can go a long way.  Some years ago, one of my clients mailed packets of Forget Me Not seeds to lapsed donors.  Another organization asked their alumnae to make gifts in variations of 3’s… a number special to the organization.  All of these direct mail pieces were complimented by email blasts that were sent before and after the mailing and included options for giving online.  These ideas were creative and not overly complicated, they didn’t break the bank, and, they made it simple for the donor to make a gift.

As we tweak our year-end activities, it’s also perfect timing to begin thinking about our plans for the next fiscal year.  What worked well this year?  What didn’t?  What projects were on the list that we weren’t able tackle?  I always find that a short-term plan with clear goals and specific metrics helps guide me to the finish line.  It’s my short burst to complete the marathon of the fiscal year.  As you gear up for spring, both at home and at the office, enjoy the sunlit mornings, warmer weather and, cheers to your well-mapped out trek to close another successful year!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Are You Using Your Roadmap?

 

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Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe 2017 is upon us…have you made any resolutions?  For me, resolutions tend to work in the opposite direction.  For example, if I decide I am going to cut back on eating sweets, it seems that sweets (chocolate in particular) is always on my mind.  If my resolution is to read the news for 15 minutes every morning, I find I am lucky to get to it by 10p.  So, I decided a few years back that my resolution is to not make any resolutions!  It has worked well for me thus far; however, there are a few things I do try and be diligent about, especially as a new year begins.  One of these things is to always have my phone handy, as it has one of my most favorite apps: Google maps.

For those of you who know me, you are probably well aware that I am directionally challenged.  The other day, my husband and I went to the mall.  The good news is that I know how to get to all of my favorite stores in the mall.  But as we began searching for a parking spot that very crowded day-after-Christmas, I suggested a parking location.  My husband very gently said, “I think I am going to park over in that section”, which was nowhere near my recommended spot.  As we were walking towards our destination store, I said, “Oh, this is so much closer!”  And he jokingly said, “Yes, when you made a suggestion, I thought…I am going to go in the complete OPPOSITE direction from what Susan suggested and we should be fine.”  And we were.  So, now you have a sense of the extent of my lack of direction.

Having the ability to google an address and get step-by-step directions is an amazing gift for people like me!  It is so much easier to get places on time, avoid traffic jams and have the ability to relax and truly enjoy the ride instead of wondering if you are actually headed in the right direction (I must admit, I have been on many trips during which I actually drove many, many miles in the wrong direction).  Given my job, I use Google maps on a daily basis and know I would be lost without it.

For the past few weeks, we have been working with one of our HPS clients on their 2017 development plan, which is their “roadmap” for the year.  We have had many conversations about what goals to include, how much to push the team in terms of fundraising and other development activities and our “destination” – what we hope to accomplish this year.  The best part about having this plan in place is that our client “knows where they are going”.  If ever they get to a point where they feel overwhelmed or lost, they can look at their development plan for guidance – and assurance that they are actually making progress each day.

When working in development, it is easy to get distracted, lose sight of what we are trying to do, and feel like the work will never get done.  And while it takes work to prepare for the journey by taking time out of an already overly full schedule, having a development plan in place will ultimately make this journey a little easier.  So, if you haven’t yet drafted your 2017 roadmap, it’s not too late…and I promise it will make the journey a lot more fun.

Cheers!

by:  Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Making the Most of Your Holiday Down Time

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Your holiday appeals have been sent.  Giving Tuesday has come and gone.  The hectic pace of preparing for the season is starting to slow.  You finally have a few moments to catch your breath.  I am hopeful this season has been positive for you and your organization and I commend you on making it through this busy time.  As the year comes to a close, here are a few ideas to help your 2017 start on a positive note.

First and foremost, take some time away. 

Whether you have plans to travel or simply plan to stay home during the holidays, I encourage you to take at least some time away from the office – which includes your email and voicemail.  By completely “unplugging” you will find renewed energy and will be ready to begin the year anew.

Take advantage of a quiet office. 

On those days when you are in the office, enjoy the peace.  Clear off your desk and clean out your files.  Arriving into the office after the New Year and finding your space “clutter-free” (or at least “clutter-reduced”) will feel awesome.

Take advantage of a quiet office, part 2.

If you are in the office, take time to connect with a colleague – perhaps someone you don’t often spend time with during the work day.  Invite a coworker out to lunch.  Learn something interesting about your organization from another perspective.

Take advantage of a quiet office, part 3.

Use this time to write a few personal notes or place “thank you” calls to donors or other friends of the organization.  Consider reaching out to someone you normally don’t correspond with or see very often, just to let them know you are thinking of them this holiday season.

Give thanks.

In this wonderful, yet hectic, time of year, it is easy to forget to say thanks…thanks to donors, volunteers, coworkers, friends.  Each day, take a few minutes to think about those who make your life joyful; then, be sure to let those people know how they are special to you.

Wishing you a wonderful, peaceful and joyous holiday season.

by: Susan Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Requirements and Best Practices – Organizational Gift Substantiation

by George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

As consultants, we speak often about “best practices.”  Those are the habits and behaviors that individuals and organizations should undertake to provide the highest quality and levels of service.  However, best practices are not requirements (typically).  Though many best practices are driven to ensure we do the best for our organizations as well as the donors who support them, they are simply conventions that allow organizations to be the most effective.  Over the next month or so, I will take a look at the requirements that reside behind best practices.  Today, I look at organizational requirements for gift substantiation.

IRS Publication 1771 provides an explanation of the requirements of Charitable Contribution substantiation.  The IRS imposes record keeping and substantiation rules of charitable contributions and disclosure rules on charities that receive certain quid pro quo contributions:

  • Donors must have a bank record or written communication from a charity for any monetary contribution before the donors can claim a charitable contribution on their federal income tax returns. „
  • Donors are responsible for obtaining a written acknowledgment from a charity for any single contribution of $250 or more before the donors can claim a charitable contribution on their federal income tax returns. „
  • Charitable organizations are required to provide a written disclosure to a donor who receives goods or services in exchange for a single payment in excess of $75

Though there are many best practices that would direct an organization to provide a gift acknowledgement in timely manner, the IRS does not impose a penalty on organizations that do not.  They instead say it is the donor’s responsibility to seek out the required documentation for gifts over $250.  However, if an organizations fails to provide written substantiation of a quid pro quo payment, the IRS can impose a penalty of $10/contribution, not to exceed $5,000 per fundraising event or mailing.

Example of a quid pro quo contribution: A donor gives a charitable organization $100 in exchange for a concert ticket with a fair market value of $40. In this example, the donor’s tax deduction may not exceed $60. Because the donor’s payment (quid pro quo contribution) exceeds $75, the charitable organization must furnish a disclosure statement to the donor, even though the deductible amount doesn’t exceed $75.

As organizations look to build or revise policies and procedures it is essential to know what you are required to do.  However, rarely will requirements alone suffice to build and grow donor support.  Once you have a firm understanding of your requirements,  build procedures that support your donors and build loyalty.  What follows are a few best practices regarding organizational contribution gift acknowledgements:

  1. Provide donors with written gift acknowledgements that specify if any goods or services were received and if so, providing detail and value of said goods and services.
  2. Provide gift acknowledgements in a timely manner, typically within 48 hours (business) of when the gift was received.
  3. For donors who provide multiple gifts to your organization per year, provide a year-end summary outlining all gifts made within that year and provide that prior to April 15th of the following year.  The closer to year end, the better.

 

What’s Next?

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David Gee – Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

I had the privilege of participating in a client’s development committee meeting last week when the Chair asked me a question about best practices for committee meetings. My immediate response was, “Know what comes next– and who is responsible.” A few days later, I was working with another client on their major gifts prospect pipeline and we were discussing key elements. In the midst of that exchange I again found myself saying, “Know what comes next– and who is responsible.”

While having a Definitive Next Step (DNS) is crucial to the success of all kinds of projects in every sector and yes, even in our personal matters, it is absolutely mission critical for resource development.

  • If you are cultivating a new relationship or stewarding one with an existing donor, there should always be a plan for the next step/engagement/touch and clarity about who owns it.
  • When great ideas are generated at a committee or team meeting, someone has to have responsibility for what the next steps are and everyone involved needs to be clear about what that means.
  • During a solicitation with a donor, it is critical to define what comes next and, ideally, you – not the donor – are the one that owns it.
    • If the donor says they need time to consider your request and you have gained an understanding as to how much time they think they might need (i.e., two weeks), simply ask if it is okay for you check in with them at that time. This avoids the awkward and sometimes ongoing problem of never knowing if it’s the right time to call, and thus, not being in control of securing the gift.
  • With special events and strategic planning (projects that involve a lot of moving parts) successful execution depends on knowing exactly what comes next and who is tasked with making it happen, throughout the process.
    • It is particularly helpful with these multi-layered projects when the owner of one step understands that completing their task directly impacts another team member’s ability to execute their assigned step. The accountability factor can be an additional motivator.

The key word here is “definitive.” Next steps are only going to be useful if they are clearly actionable and if someone takes full responsibility for them.

Obviously this isn’t rocket science. Nevertheless, being intentional about identifying the appropriate DNS and diligent in ensuring ownership for every step is vital to advancing our fundraising and resource development goals successfully. When everyone has clarity about “What’s Next” we can operate more efficiently and, ultimately, be more effective in achieving our mission.

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David Gee is a seasoned development professional with particular expertise in capital campaigns, major gifts and donor stewardship. David joined the HUB Philanthropic Solutions team after serving as The Chicago Bar Foundation’s Director of Development. Prior to that, he spent 18 years working as a professional actor in Chicago. Among his volunteer activities, David serves on the Donors Forum’s Resource Development Committee, the Development Committee for All Chicago and as the Local School Council Chair at Beaubien Elementary School.