Category: Concepts, Tips and Ideas

Give it to Get it

A Muslim pilgrim prays at the top of Mount Noor in Mecca

By becoming the answer to someone’s prayer, we often find the answers to our own.

MOST OF US KNOW that if you want to achieve a certain outcome, you must develop strategies to get you there.

For example, if you want people to attend an event, you might send out invitations. To increase your success in getting actual bodies to your event, you may further decide to invite those who are most likely to attend your event.

The above quote seems counterintuitive in comparison. But is it also effective?

Whether you believe that you reap what you sow, or to keep a gift you have to give it away, or that Karma lurks around the corner; you may have experienced this concept to be true.

25 years ago, I was at a low point in my life. I felt alone and broken. Looking back, the best decision I made, was to volunteer with an organization that looked after some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

By walking with people through their brokenness and loneliness and believing in them until they believed in themselves, I unwittingly brought meaning and purpose back into my own life.

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.

How Much Do You Care About Your Donors?

PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT I’m not challenging your goodness or integrity.

As a fundraiser, you work hard to support a cause that means a lot to you. You strive to connect your donors’ passions to the needs of people your organization cares for.

And you are successful by staying true and focused on your organization’s mission and vision. This is exactly what you should be doing. Good for you!

But what happens when others are finding solutions to the cause that is important to you in different ways or through other organizations?

Do you feel tempted to create a new program in order to win their support?

Do you try to convince your donor to change her mind on the type of program she supports by trying to convince her that your organization’s methods or goals are better? Or reach more people?

Or do you recognize that other organizations may be filling much-needed gaps in the bigger picture of the cause you care deeply about and choose to honour the passion of each individual making a difference in ways that are meaningful to them?

Maybe it’s not about who is better at what. Maybe it’s about each person doing their part and in doing so, achieving better results than anyone of us could have, alone.

What do you think?

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.

Caring For Future Generations

I wonder what would happen if...

I wonder what would happen if…

Each generation, at some point, bemoans the world they have inherited from the previous generation. With their whole lives ahead of them, they vow to leave a better world for the next generation.

 Then life happens.

The drive to provide for, and protect, their immediate tribe becomes priority. They block out the injustices in the rest of the world, not entirely, but where these issues intersect their own survival – they choose to protect themselves.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.

This is how we have survived for tens of thousands of years. We’re not really wired to think about 10, 50 or 100 years from now.

But perhaps in our old age, with our lives mostly behind us, we are freed up to think about future generations.
Maybe then we are willing to plant the tree whose shade we will never personally enjoy.

I wonder what we could learn and what plans we would conceive if we listened to the idealistic dreams of the young and tempered them with the life-time wisdom of the aged.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” – Greek proverb

What can you do today to facilitate discussions about the state of the world for future generations? Who would you invite to participate?

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.

Is Being Right Always Right?

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. — Mahatma Gandhi

untitledA global statement with personal application

In all our relationships there is one guarantee.  We will be let down and we will let someone else down in some way.

It could be a parent, a child, a spouse, a friend, a co-worker – regardless of who it is, each one will fail at some point.

Whether it’s intentional or not is irrelevant

This failure can take many forms including: betrayal, death, illness, criticism or selfishness.

The temptation to pay back the wrong can be strong

Left unchecked it can quickly build into a toxic situation

where those affected are so hurt and damaged

they’ll overreact to the smallest offence.

It becomes too hot to handle.

Maybe you can’t even remember how it started, or who started it.

Someone needs to be the first to offer their hand in peace.

Why not you?

If you must pay back why not…

pay back loyalty?

pay back generosity?

pay back encouragement?

pay back friendship?

pay back love?

Is being right really always right?

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.

*This article was originally posted June 2012 on TALK TO DIANA

Using The Right Tool To Get The Job Done

Anyone who has ever undertaken a DIY renovation or construction project understands the value of having the right tools to get the job done.

Me, in front of the house I helped to build twenty years earlier, Thanksgiving 2012.

Me, in front of the house I helped to build thirty years earlier, Thanksgiving 2012.

IN THE EARLY 80s I TRAVELLED OUT WEST with my boyfriend to help his sister build a house.

Having never built anything in my twenty years of life, I soon found out that I was on a huge learning curve.

I learned plenty about building a house that year. Everything from building walls, trusses and gable ends to installing windows and running electrical wires.

But the most important lesson I took away with me was – having the right tool for the job makes all the difference.

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In the same way, you need the right ‘tools’ to connect the passion of your donors with the passion of your organization.

You will find that the ‘tool’ you’ll reach for the most, will be your listening skills.

Why?

Because if the job at hand is to connect your donors with the work of your organization, you need to tap into their passion and show them how they can achieve their dream for a better world through you.

Ask questions and listen to the answers.

  • Learn why they give to you.
  • Discover what motivates them.
  • Hear their dreams for a better world.
  • Listen to their ideas and feedback.
  • Invite conversation.
  • Stay in regular contact with them.
  • Brag about them every chance you get.

As well as providing you with the significant gifts you need to run your organization, your major donors are a great resource in providing insights, expertise and valuable feedback.

Just as the cartoon below highlights the need for the correct screw head to get the job done, you need to find what connects your donor’s passion to the work of your organization.

screw-heads

Thirty years ago, I helped to build a house that still stands today, how will you use your listening skills to build strong and lasting relationships with your donors?

Today’s post was inspired by Screw heads by John Atkinson, Wrong Hands. You can find more brilliant cartoons by John Atkinson at Wrong Hands here.

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.

Building An Annual Plan From Scratch

IMG_20140601_123212 (2)

Having a good annual fund development plan keeps you focused on the work that needs to get done and raises money for your organization. But what do you do when you join an organization that has no plan in place? How do you build a development plan from scratch?

Something that has worked for me is to envision what an annual plan will look like a few years down the road and develop strategies to get there.

SO WHERE TO START?

Examine the current status and get…

  • a good understanding of current trends and challenges.
  • a good understanding of the organization’s fund development history.
  • a good understanding of its donors.
  • a good understanding of who the organization is and what it does.

Explore fund development opportunities including:

  • Monthly Giving program
  • Major Donors program
  • Planned Giving program
  • Direct Mail program
  • Acquisition and Cultivation strategies including, fundraising opportunities with strong calls to action, third-party fundraising, proposal writing, marketing and promotions
  • Strategies for particular constituent types, i.e., individuals, businesses, foundations, groups, etc.
  • Tools and processes, i.e., database implementation, policies, procedures
  • Writing a case for support
  • Creating a good story and photo bank
  • Writing fundraising copy for each program for use in newsletters, fundraising letters, website, etc.
  • Creating a philanthropic culture starting with the board, staff and other volunteers
  • Identifying and developing strategies for capital needs
  • Creating volunteer opportunities and
  • Developing engagement strategies for the community at large

Once you’ve created a document of all the possibilities, develop a timeline for implementation with particular emphasis and detail on the strategies you plan to implement in the next 12 months.

Starting from scratch, allows you to build a plan that is customized to the needs of your organization. Although there is a lot of hard work involved, implementing the organization’s first annual plan will yield positive results.

Have you ever built an annual fund development program from scratch? What are some of the important lessons you learned? What tips would you recommend to someone who is building an organization’s first annual program?

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.

Are You Having Fun Yet?

Fundraisers are some of the most inspirational people to be around – their enthusiasm is contagious!

Masters of building strong relationships, fundraisers tap into the passions of donors and create meaningful opportunities that move them to support worthy causes.

Yes, you do well working with others outside of your organization. But how do other departments, within your organization, feel about the development department?

I’ve been around long enough to know about inter-departmental tensions.

Tensions between finance and development; the balance between compliance and seizing opportunities.

Tensions between program delivery and development; the balance between client confidentiality and sharing inspirational stories that show how people’s lives are changed.

Our attempts to build solid fund development strategies can create divisive chasms between departments if we push our agendas through with a You-Wouldn’t-Have-A-Program-To-Deliver-Without-Funds-To-Support-It-So-Get-With-The-Program mentality.

This is problematic because your staff and board are your closest stakeholders. They are your inner circle. If you can’t convince your closest stakeholders on the importance of engaging and soliciting support from your community, your influence and impact with your external stakeholders will suffer for it.

How to put the FUN Back into Fund development

imagesSo how do you get staff on board?

How do you build a foundation on which to create an organizational culture of philanthropy that inspires participation internally?

I think the answer lies in the fundamental point mentioned above.

You are masters in building strong relationships.

Following are some suggestions to promote mutual understanding and strengthen working relationships between departments in your organization.

Sit down with each department leader and: 

  • find out what they’re passionate about.
  • ask them what is important to them in order to do their job well.
  • learn how their role fits into the bigger picture. 
  • explore how you can help them to succeed in their role.

Then explain your role to them. Share how support is raised by connecting the passions of donors with the mission of your organization – how it’s about meeting the needs of your clients with the resources supplied by those who care about your clients.

Then tell them your door is always open:

  • to discuss, address and solve tensions as they come up.
  • to develop ways to work together that are mutually beneficial and encouraging.
  • to hear their ideas and joyfully conspire with them.
  • to provide support and materials needed for them to share their new-found enthusiasm with others.

You build strong relationships. That’s what you do and you’re good at it. So why not create a safe environment where creativity and participation are enthusiastically pursued and a commitment to support each other is valued.

What are you doing to create a vibrant culture of philanthropy in your organization?

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.

Building Solid Donor Relationships

When You Are Looking For a Partner, You Have To Decide What Type of Relationship You Want

untitledYou may decide to start with the dating scene.

You just want to get a sense of what’s out there and meet a number of people with different interests and personalities.

Something, many of your parents may have suggested, if they felt you were getting too serious, too soon!

This testing of the waters, helps you to understand what you are looking for, and what potential partners are looking for, in a relationship.

It’s exciting. Sparks fly. Adrenaline is high, but for the most part, dating is a hit-and-miss endeavor.

When You Set Your Mind on Pursuing a Life Partner, It’s a Game Changer

It’s going to take a lot of hard work and it’s not always going to be fun!

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The Same is True When You’re Working With Donors

Acquiring new donors, writing grants for the current year, securing sponsors for your events, etc., is like dating. Although necessary, in and of itself, it is not sustainable for the long-term.

If you want stability, it’s going to take a lot of hard work and it’s not always going to be fun.

Building strong relationships with your donors requires good Stewardship. Things like:

  • finding out what they’re passionate about
  • addressing their concerns and questions
  • commitment and responsibility
  • transparency
  • trust
  • admitting when you make a mistake

What are you doing to strengthen your donor relationships?

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.

Boosting Your Direct Mail Program

IMG_20140901_124915 (3)

Direct mail is just one of the handy tools in your diversified fundraising program. And as with your other fund development strategies, building meaningful relationships in response to your donors’ involvement and preferences is critical.

In other words, proper evaluation and segmentation of your donor file is key to the success of your direct mail program.

When an organization is first embarking on a fundraising program, it’s not unusual for the same letter to go out to every donor. But as an organization grows, it becomes increasingly more important to customize your ASK based on your donors’ giving history.

Analyzing your data, and gathering anecdotal information about your donors from your board and key solicitors, is a good way to start understanding your fund development history and begin developing a direct mail strategy.

Learn Who Your Donors Are

  • How many donors have given you a one-time gift?
  • How many donors gave you multiple gifts?
  • How many donors are recurring monthly donors?
  • How many donors have been giving to you for 3 or more years?
  • How many major donors do you have?
  • How many donors have lapsed?

Armed With The Information You Learn From Your Fund Development History, Develop A Donor Moves Strategy

  • Develop a strategy for your lapsed donors. Perhaps include them in your acquisition strategy.
  • Develop criteria to identify prospects for your monthly donor program and invite prospects to become monthly donors.
  • Develop criteria to identify prospects for your planned giving program. How will you engage them?
  • Work with your board and key solicitors to develop a strategy for your major donors.

Not only is a robust direct mail program beneficial in securing resources for your organization, it can also assist you in building stronger relationships with your donors.

related article: 7 Tips For Writing Fundraising Copy

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.

Mission Drift – Wishy Washy Doesn’t Wash With Folks

 A LESSON FROM RECENT EVENTS WITH APPLICATION for your non-profit organization

imagesI18CTDYQOn March 28th, PC candidate and ex-Wildrose leader, Danielle Smith lost her bid to represent the Highwood riding in Alberta in the general election to newcomer Carrie Fischer.

Let me back up here to give you some background information that led up to these events.

By mid 2014, Smith, as leader of the Wildrose had successfully brought the party to a place where they’d won the hearts, imaginations and support of rural Albertans.

The party had become an effective opposition, shaking up the PCs who have held power in Alberta for more than four decades.

In the fall of 2014, the Wildrose party hit a few speed bumps when several party members crossed the floor to join the PCs. Smith was outraged and even ended a long-term friendship over the issue; telling the defector that she’d have her constituents to answer to.

Shortly afterward, in a plot twist worthy of a Stephen King novel, that left the mouths of many people gaping across the province – regardless of their political affiliation – Smith herself, crossed the floor, urging remaining Wildrose members to do the same.

So on the 28th, the residents of Highwood made their voices heard and expressed them loud and clear by rejecting Smith.

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A lesson with applications for the non-profit sector

This is what happens when who you are, and what you stand for, is discarded. In other words when mission drift occurs. And the same thing can happen to your organization if you don’t remain true to who you are.

When you take your eyes off the prize, when you go along with popular opinion, when you compromise who you are to chase money and garner support, your foundation begins to crumble. It becomes increasingly difficult to engage your community in meaningful ways. Your closest relationships and your best fundraising practices cannot save you when you stray from your mission. Wishy-washy doesn’t wash with folks.

If you don’t stand firm for something, you will fall for anything. And it will be those whom you serve that will suffer the most.

What do you stand for? How do you ensure you’re staying true to your mission?

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate discussions that will help us all to better engage with our communities. Your participation and feedback are most welcomed and valued. Please join the discussion below.