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

Transitions

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My wife and I aren’t the biggest TV watchers beyond the nightly news, a White Sox game and the occasional political news station, however, we have recently been engrossed with the Netflix biographical drama The Crown. We’re just a few episodes into the first season where the show highlights Queen Elizabeth’s sudden ascension of power soon after her father King George VI passes away.

One of the key themes is the many transitions that take place because of the new leadership. We see promotions and demotions with the new assistants, deputies and private aides which lead to a lot of uncertainty. It’s no different when changes happen at a non-profit. When a new President, department head or manager joins the team, there is without a doubt change that will transpire. The changes mostly likely aren’t going to be made overnight but change is inevitable.

One of the roles we can play and assist with during these times of transition is making sure the new team members are properly informed on the institutional background of the organization. Yes, they will have to do their own homework, learn the systems and especially familiarize themselves with the many stakeholders but taking the time to provide them with your knowledge is the right thing to do personally and for the organization.

Transition without solid communication is a recipe for confusion and frustration. It is essential to keep the lines of communication open as there will most likely be anxiety amongst the team and employees will require some time to engage the newness. Transitions are hard on everyone and making sure that everyone is informed can be an easy win to avoid pessimists and unnecessary conversation. If you aren’t in a position of authority you should speak up and ask questions so you are informed.

For transitions that are self-induced, they should be handled skillfully as your reputation is on the line. Think back on the time you joined the organization and how well or how poorly the transition went. It’s important to make sure you are leaving your replacement and team in good hands so any required reports or notes that are provided are completed with accuracy and are on point.

Assisting in the transition no matter what role you play or what level you are in the organization is everyone’s job. As I’ve witnessed in The Crown and in work evolutions I’ve been a part of, support and most of all trust are required ingredients to have in a successful and smooth transition.

 by: Tim Kennedy, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Event Planning — Is it Just for the Event Planner?

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This question is on my mind as my feet are still throbbing from last night’s fundraiser.  The last boxes were put in my trunk after midnight.

You see as Vice President of Development, my current responsibilities include managing the fundraising and logistics for my client’s signature event.  It’s true, an event of this magnitude needs a single point person for go to questions.  But I find the greatest value is often in the important roles of others on my team.

One day I realized it is possible for a sponsor to come into an event, wander around the reception alone, be seated for the program and leave without ever getting the “donor love” that they need and deserve.

We know that events like these wouldn’t be sustainable without our sponsors right?

So now I put our CEO, Board members and leadership team staff all on standby to greet and mingle with our sponsors as they arrive.  Last night there were even some state dignitaries who promised to come, so I gave our team head shots so they would know who they were looking for.

I wish budgets were more generous and we could add a member to our development staff for this client. Honestly, I’d be happy to assume the role of Major Gift Officer and throw away my clipboard! I would much prefer to  have ample time to get to know our donors one-on-one at these events. But state budgets being what they are, I don’t anticipate a change.

So until that time, my philosophy is…..if you can’t thank sponsors yourself, then delegate, delegate, delegate.

Happy Spring Fundraising!

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Seasoned and Green

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Is your current Board comprised of established members – constituents who have been a part of your organization for a decade or longer?  Over the past few weeks, I have found myself in conversation with several non-profit leaders where this topic has been raised.  The consistent concerns are twofold:

  1. How do we continue to engage this important (and aging) group; and
  2. How do we attract and engage the “next generation” of leaders?

Let’s take the first group first.  Obviously, it is important to continue to recognize and thank your faithful leaders.  But it is also important to read their cues.  In other words, do you have a Board member who is getting tired?  Is he/she hinting that it may be time to take a less active role with the organization?  The best approach is simply to have a conversation with this person.  Invite him/her for coffee or lunch and listen.  Ask open-ended questions.  Find out how they would like to stay engaged and informed.

If your organization does not have one, perhaps you should consider creating an Advisory Council or a President’s Council.  Designed to meet the needs of your organization and a select group of constituents, this type of “board” typically meets only once a year for lunch and a “state of the organization”-type presentation.  In addition, the members of this Council may be consulted occasionally for advice or assistance.  This arrangement is typically a “win-win” for members and the organization alike.

It is equally important to “listen” to the senior Board members who want to continue to be active and engaged.  Unfortunately, I have seen active Board members forced to “resign” to a role as a Life Trustee – or something less meaningful – as a way to open a Board spot for someone else.  This can be a big mistake, as some may take offense and become less engaged, both with their time and their resources.

In terms of attracting the “next generation” – it is also important to listen and understand what type of volunteer work they are interested in and what role they may want to play with the organization.  It’s typically a good idea to find more entry level roles for younger constituents – perhaps they can help with a benefit or serve on a Junior Board.  This helps both the volunteer and the organization get acquainted before making a potentially bigger commitment, such as a Board role.  It is also fun to identify and cultivate family members – children or other relatives of Board members or volunteers –  as they typically have a good understanding of the mission and may be interested in developing a relationship with the organization as well.

In any of these scenarios, it is often just a matter of observing, asking good questions – and truly listening to the needs and interests of your constituents.  Which simply translates into good development.

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

Multi-Directional Managing

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After a career of 45 years, I’ve earned the title “Senior” Advisor.  But the truth is, like most employed people, I’ve spent my entire career somewhere in the middle of the management structure.  Think about it.  No matter where you are in management, you have responsibilities to manage down, up, and across your position.  Understanding the differences is important for people with positions of responsibility in non-profit organizations.

Most management theory has to do with giving direction to those beneath you in the organization: how to boost productivity, manage the work-load, and get the most out of people who report to you.  Chances are you spend the majority of your time managing down.  Your “to do list” probably has a list of deadlines and tasks to be accomplished, and getting those things done is a large part of what you were hired to do.

People who work in non-profit organizations also spend a good portion of their time managing up.  If you report to an Executive Director, look at your organization’s goals from his or her perspective, and think together about how you can help the ED to achieve the goals.  If you are an Executive Director, you know you have direct responsibility to members of your Board.  Good managers know that they need to spend significant amounts of time each week recruiting and retaining productive board members, and strategizing with them on the future goals and accomplishments of the organization.

The most neglected part of management is what I call managing across the organization and profession.  It took me many years to realize that I myself and the people who report to me cannot accomplish the goals for the organization in isolation.  Observing effective managers, I realized that they are adept at gaining support from peers within and outside the organization.  In a large non-profit, you as a development professional will be more effective if you work together with peers from marketing, intake, human resources, technology, accounting, etc. to accomplish the goals you all share.  In a small non-profit, you may have to look outside the organization to find peers who can complement your skill set and help you to think about how to accomplish your goals from a different perspective.  Some of the ways to do this include joining professional organizations, seeking consultant services, and/or attending professional workshops and national conferences.

The next time you visit your list of goals and objectives, take a few minutes to analyze it.  Make sure that you include goals to manage down, up, and across.  You will be more productive and happier if you do!

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

 

 

What Gets Measured Gets Done

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In an earlier post back in January titled, Time to Get Moving, I offered that failing to actively pursue our personal goals means they are destined to simply linger in our pile of good intentions. Goals, like strategic plans, are great… but they only matter if you act on them.

One of my recurring personal goals this year is to be consistently active each and every week and I rely heavily on my Fitbit to help me with that. In fact, I check in on my progress at least two times a day and review my stats (steps, active minutes, miles…) on a month over month basis. I get that this is pretty basic, but being ever mindful of the benchmarks I have established to achieve my goal helps me stay focused and to make adjustments when I get off track. In short, the Fitbit dashboard holds me accountable and the data provided even motivates me to push myself in a competitive manner from one week/month to the next.

What Gets Measured Gets Done

I depend on my Fitbit dashboard so much in fact that, as I was helping a client revise their development plan last year and we were discussing accountability, the inspiration for the Development Activity Tracking Assistant (DATA) was born.

Using the key actions that this particular development director was going to take to accomplish her individual fundraising goals, I put together a very simple and straightforward dashboard for her to follow. As you can see when you click on the DATA link above, there is nothing overly complex or complicated about it. It is a one page tool that tracks the key daily/weekly/monthly activities she is holding herself accountable for to reach her funding goals. And, while it should come as no surprise, it is worth noting that the majority of the actions involve donor interactions and engagement.

Once you’ve taken a look, I invite you to build your own tracking assistant dashboard.

You may want to use some of the same activities and, more than likely, you’ll come up with a few alternatives that more effectively align with your development plan. Whatever you decide, I encourage you to keep it simple and only list the key activities on your DATA that are most essential to your work.

I would be thrilled if you would share with me how it turns out. Does it help keep you on track and focused on doing the things that you know you need to succeed? If my client’s experience is any indication, I’m confident that it will help you do just that.

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

Show, Don’t Tell: Why Your Nonprofit Needs Data Visualization Tools

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You’ve seen them all over the interwebs. You run into them as you’re scrolling through your feed on Facebook, as you’re checking your Twitter updates, as you’re looking for remodeling ideas on Pinterest.

They’re infographics, and they’re everywhere. But more importantly for nonprofits: infographics (and other data visualization tools) are not a passing trend. It’s time you add them to your fundraising toolbox.

Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data, or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. Other data visualization tools—like charts, graphs, pictograms, gauges, dashboards, etc.—similarly present data in a pictorial or graphic format.

Why should you care?

Infographics and other data visualization tools:

  • Combine appeals to logic and emotions (a critical element of getting and keeping donors)
  • Engage 66% of all people who are visual learners
  • Register much more quickly with readers than narrative: visual cues are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text
  • Are visually intriguing and motivational
  • Give the reader’s eye a place to rest (especially when incorporated with appropriate amounts of white space)
  • Improve document readability
  • Can be published and packaged in multiple ways, making it a multipurpose tool

That last bullet point may be the most critical: data visualization tools can be used anywhere—social media, websites, cases for support, annual reports, and even grant proposals.

So, how do you create infographics and other tools?

As a nonprofit pro, my default response is use something free! And there are some high-quality, free tools available, like Easel.lyCanvaInfogr.am, and Piktochart. I’ve used them all, and they’re intuitive, provide lots of layouts and options (even at the free level), and are user-friendly for those of us who don’t have graphic design backgrounds.

If you have the resources to hire a professional graphic designer or illustrator, do it. They are amazing professionals who can help you step up your game in developing compelling fundraising collateral. And you may be surprised to find a graphic designer in your area who specializes in nonprofit work – I know I was! They’re out there, and some of them are even willing to volunteer.

by: Heather Stombaugh, Grants Consultant,  HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Awards Award and More Awards

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Did you watch the Grammys?  Are you geared up for the Emmys?  How about the Kid’s Choice Awards?  SAG awards?  People’s Choice Awards?  Lately, I feel that at every turn, there is another awards show or banquet that is being publicized.  Or, there is one that I will attend for one of my children, or a friend or a brother-in law or a cousin.  You get the point…but, it’s not just Hollywood or in our own lives that awards are being given out in rapid fashion.  Presenting an award or honoring someone special in the not for profit world is also quite prevalent…and it’s our job to make sure it’s the right person and the right way to celebrate this amazing person.

As we are surrounded by awards being given at every turn, I think it is important for not for profits to really think through whom they would like to honor, why they selected them and how they would like to show their gratitude.   One not for profit that I am engaged with recently had a discussion at a committee meeting about who they would like to honor at their gala this year.  When I asked what the criteria were for selecting an honoree, no one had a clear idea.  It gave us all the opportunity to determine the criteria of how to best select an honoree.  Is it giving level?  Is it the number of years on the board that makes someone an honorary board member?  And, how do we honor them?  Is it simply a listing on an invitation?  Or, is it a public presentation at a gala or an annual meeting?  Developing our criteria was important as it provided a solid framework to guide our selection process.

Another organization that I worked with did have criteria in selecting and honoring a special person to the agency, however, it hadn’t been revised or changed in many years and had grown stale.  They also held a donor reception every year where a notable person received an award, yet, the attendance was declining.  A brief survey revealed that the event was a bit stale and while people were interested in continuing an annual event, a venue change was needed and a fresher format of the evening was also key.

In times like these when so many are awarded all around us, both on TV and in our communities, we want to be sure that our efforts are meaningful to the honoree, well represent the agency and inspire others.  Having clear ideas and specific criteria help to properly honor the wonderful champion of any organization.  Our job, with criteria in hand, is to make sure that our honoree feels special…that the guests feel inspired and that the way in which we honor those dear to our organizations doesn’t feel like it’s just another event or awards banquet to attend.  It feels right…it feels special.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

 

Attention to Detail

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In his blog post two weeks ago, “Are you loyal to your loyal donors?” my colleague Steve Murphy provided a very tangible and fundamental post on being loyal to your most loyal donors. If you missed it, I would strongly encourage you to go back and read it and share it with your colleagues, your boss and even your board. The organizations that take the time to recognize gifts properly, steward strategically and pay attention to detail will stand out and will further the giving cycle.

Speaking of paying attention to detail and standing out, I recently received a thank you letter in the mail acknowledging my wife and my annual support to an organization over the past calendar year. It was nicely written highlighting the accomplishments of the year, the impact the organization is making in the community and the bold program goals for 2017, but in the valediction the signature of the author was missing. Yes, you got that right the letter was not signed…. THEY OMITTED A SIGNATURE!

I couldn’t help but take a deep breath, then have a nervous laugh, took a deep breath again and then I found myself really annoyed. This is my profession and a detail such as this cannot be neglected.  I absolutely understand we make mistakes (wrong addresses, ink that doesn’t dry on the letter, etc…) but this is one you just don’t forget to do. I was more worried for the organization than the letter to me. I don’t want this to hurt their stewardship efforts and I will respectfully share my concern with them and offer the appropriate suggested follow up to the donors.

Steve posed the question in his post – “Do they even know that I value their mission and consider them one of my top three charitable interests?”  Getting an unsigned letter further signified the importance of Steve’s question. As development professionals we need to find this answer out. We need to dig a little harder to know who the donor is and where the organization falls in their priorities.  We need to pay attention to detail, ask our colleagues to double check our work, slow down and spend as much time on the thank you letter as we do on the appeal letter or on the special event invitation we are producing.

Details matter and sloppy development work results in unhappy investors. Unhappy investors equate to lost money…and lost money is a hit to the mission.

 by: Tim Kennedy, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

One step at a time

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The new administration has left many feeling surprised, overwhelmed and at times, helpless.  “What can I do given these swift changes?”  “How can I make a difference?”  “What is coming next?”  I have found myself contemplating this often over the past few weeks and have gained inspiration by watching people come together for the greater good.  Whether it is a peaceful protest, a letter to a politician or simply facing each day with a positive attitude, we all have the ability to make an impact.

Each of us has made a decision to work in the non-profit field, which means your work is making a difference in the lives of others every day.  It is imperative that we remind ourselves of this – and we must remind those around us of the impact they are having as well.  Whether it is a fellow staffer, a Board member or a volunteer, the time and effort they put forth to forward your organization’s mission is essential.  We must lift each other up and reinforce the fact that the work we do is positively impacting others.  Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Keep your clients “front and center” in your daily routine and your conversations – they will inspire and energize you
  • Thank those around you and remind them that your organization – and the clients you serve – need them
  • Continue to participate in ways which make you feel empowered – write to your congressman, sign a petition, attend a discussion or serve on a committee in your community
  • Look for extra ways in which you can make a difference to someone around you – help a neighbor or friend in need, serve at a soup kitchen, give the homeless person on your route a pair of gloves

I know I can’t influence policy, but I do have the ability to make a difference in the life of someone in my community.  I have found a renewed sense of spirit in looking for more opportunities to make someone’s day a little brighter.

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