Many times in my career I resented the money we were spending on board gifts. Looking back, that was short sighted of me. Board gifts – those little things with your organization’s logo that you can use to express gratitude for their service – actually pay a dividend to your organization.
I’ll use my favorite Yeti knockoff as an example: it was a thank you gift for my service on a board (it was actually leftover participant gifts from a golf tournament – so check the supply closet). At the time I opened the gift, I thought “oh this is nice.” But now 5 years later, it is a powerful tool that opens many conversations about the organization.
Yesterday I took it to my daughter’s high school softball game. Lest I sound like a complete nonprofit nerd, let me assure you I selected that tumbler because I can sit in the hot Florida sun and the ice won’t melt in my Diet Dr. Pepper. But, because the Young Life logo was on the tumbler, one of the other parents asked me about it (the organization, not my cold beverage). I had the chance to talk about the mission of the organization and why we support the organization. I didn’t have to bring it up – they asked me. In any fundraising book, that’s a win-win.
Here are some ideas on how your next board gift can be a win-win for your organization:
Do they write with your organization’s pen? Do they keep an extra on hand so when someone needs a pen they can share it?
Do your board members have name tags they can wear at your events? These are cheap and easy to order, so make sure it looks nice.
Do your board members have shirts (a collared shirt for casual Friday or golf)? Hats? Some kind of apparel that makes it apparent they are on your team?
Do they drink from a coffee mug or insulated cup with your logo on it? It could also be used on their desk to hold pens.
Board gifts are a valuable tool in helping board members share the mission of your organization and allows a soft introduction to the people they see when out and about.
We’d love to hear about the best board gift you have given or received – please share in the comments below or Tweet us @SaraTampa.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to be a mystery shopper. It’s not just the shopping part – which I love to do – it’s the opportunity to give feedback on the customer experience.
We need to take time to think of our donors as customers – people who buy into our mission and the amazing work we’re doing to make our community a better place. Customers who we want to engage in our mission and become repeat customers. A great place to start is your online giving.
When is the last time you made an online gift to your organization? What about a gift from your mobile device? It’s probably not something you, your board members or your other staff members do on a regular basis.
Today, I challenge you to do a little mystery shopping of your own and make an online gift to your organization (bonus points if you try this from your mobile device). Here are some things to look for as you complete the process:
Could you easily find the ‘donate now’ button?
How many clicks did it take you to get to the actual give page?
Does your form ask for too much information that isn’t needed? (You probably need way less than you think.)
How easy was the process as a whole?
Were stories and pictures used on the give page to make you feel connected the mission? (This is a great place for a short case for support.)
Could you make a gift in memory or honor of someone (and get the proper recognition to the family or individual)?
Does the landing page after clicking ‘submit’ make you feel good about your giving? (It should NOT go to a blank page.)
Is the emailed receipt timely and accurate?
Did you receive some kind of communication afterwards?
Does someone in your organization pay attention to online gifts and make personal contact?
Were you added to the donor database?
How did the whole process make you feel? (Frustrated isn’t a good answer here.)
If you’re using your mobile device, could you complete the process in an easy way?(You shouldn’t have to contort your phone all around and zoom in and out.)
Once you complete your mystery shopping, make notes of the improvements that could be made. Don’t feel like you need to fix it all right away – use your findings to make changes as you can starting with the most crucial. Just don’t put them off forever; you don’t want to lose a gift because someone found your online giving process to be too much work.
Since November, I’ve been honored to be a part of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s (NSP) Social Enterprise Accelerator. This exciting initiative is part of the Foundation’s Nonprofit Support Program. Starting with a series of educational labs, nonprofits were challenged to think differently. Ten nonprofit organizations were selected to complete the business planning process. My work with the groups has focused on raising the startup funds needed to begin their social enterprise.
I’m pleased to share some information on this innovative program as published in their recent press release:
Social enterprise as a self-supporting approach to revenue generation is new to many nonprofits. In response, the NSP launched the Social Enterprise Accelerator, designed to help organizations expand beyond traditional grants and donations when looking for new sources of revenue.
In June, the Foundation announced a matching challenge. For every dollar of start-up capital raised by the ten organizations participating in the Social Enterprise Accelerator project, the Foundation will match dollar for dollar, up to 50% of the goal, not to exceed $40,000. The announcement followed individual “Fast Pitch” sessions, where each organization presented their business plans to current and potential donors and made a direct ask for financial support toward startup capital needs.
“The enthusiasm and effort that area nonprofit organizations have brought to the Social Enterprise Accelerator program has exceeded our expectations,” said Nonprofit Support Program Director Melanie Tavares.
Community Child Guidance Clinic operates a school in Manchester for children ages 3-15 years of age of varying academic levels, learning abilities, and behavioral and emotional issues that serves students for districts throughout the region. One of the challenges for districts, students, families and staff is the cost and administration of transportation to the school. Currently, referring districts contract with different transportation companies to get the students to and from school. Due to safety concerns and lack of vehicle driver training in behavioral de-escalation models, districts typically have to utilize as few as one van or bus per student.
Recognizing these challenges, Community Child Guidance Clinic Chief Executive Officer Jamie Bellenoit and her executive team came up with the idea of using the agency’s vans and teaching assistant staff to provide therapeutic transportation services to the districts they serve. By having trained staff who the students already know serve as drivers, more students can share vans, allowing for the need for fewer drivers, reducing expenses and also providing higher quality services to the districts, the students and their families.
“Participating in the Social Enterprise Accelerator program was a true example of synergy as we had an opportunity to work with our program partners, Hartford Foundation staff, and No Margin-No Mission to fully realize our vision,” said Bellenoit. “Being a part of the nonprofit clinical and special education world, we simply lacked the expertise to develop a cohesive business plan and launch it. With the generous support of the Foundation and the expertise of Larry Clark from No Margin, No Mission as well as Sara Leonard, we now have the resources necessary to begin implementing our therapeutic transportation services this fall.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day at your organization – doing what you have to do to get through the day and make our community a better place. Then, someone decides that all your team needs is a staff retreat to get everyone back on the same page and focused on what is ahead.
So, a calendar invite is sent with instructions for everyone to clear their calendar and meet in the conference room for a day of fun and togetherness (you know the email, I’m pretty sure you just rolled your eyes).
The day comes and it turns into a daylong meeting – with lots of PowerPoint slides, the same people talking, excruciating “get to know you” games – and, everyone leaves frustrated and feeling behind.
Let’s be clear, the intention was good. The execution… could have been a lot better. Planning a successful staff team retreat takes time, thought and preparation. We’ve got four tips to make planning your next staff team retreat a day everyone leaves feeling refreshed, focused and ready to tackle whatever is next for your organization.
1. Know your why. We have facilitated staff team retreats for a multitude of reasons – major changes on the horizon or just completed, new leadership or key team members, reconnecting a team. Once you identify the reason for your staff team retreat, you can set the agenda to accomplish this goal. Knowing this can help you with a lot of the logistic details like location and activities.
2. Don’t over fill the agenda. This can happen quickly – “oh, since we’ll all be together we can take care of this.” This is not a staff meeting, so you shouldn’t treat it like one. Going back to your why, pick one or two (at the most) major topics and allow ample time to cover them in depth. Often when prepping for a staff team retreat the most push back comes from what is seen as a “not enough” agenda from the organization’s lead. In our experience, a flexible agenda that allows for the natural flow of conversation and ideas works best.
3. Plan for active participation. Some people take more time and coaxing to take an active part in conversations. Think ahead of the conversations – how to include those people less likely to just jump in and how to temper those who are prone to taking over the conversation. Everyone on your team has a voice and brings a different perspective to an issue or challenge. At a recent retreat, the accounting person had a great idea for the thank you letters – no one had ever asked.
4. Bring in a professional. You’re great at what you do – and, that might not include planning and facilitating a successful and productive staff team retreat. Lucky for you, there are professionals, like the Sara Leonard Group, who have the experience and expertise to help you realize your why and to create an agenda to accomplish your why while planning for active participation from your entire team. A professional, outside facilitator allows full participation from your entire staff and a voice of reason and objectivity. Make sure when choosing a facilitator for your staff team retreat that it is someone who listens and understands your goals for the day. Your facilitator should be someone you are comfortable spending some time with – the preparation for your staff team retreat is really what makes all the difference.
We hope these tips help as you plan the next staff team retreat. If you’d like to discuss how we can help your organization in planning a retreat that gets the results you want, please contact us.
The annual board retreat is coming up! You’ve found the perfect date (you still can’t believe it worked for everyone!), location (the perfect mix of relaxation and work space) and the yummy food is set to be delivered. The board leadership has worked with your board retreat facilitator to create an agenda that lets the group get to know each other better and discuss some big things ahead. This isn’t your first board retreat though, you know how hard it is to get everyone to disconnect and be present. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with three ways to help you and your participants be present at your next board retreat.
1. A cell phone basket. Before the board retreat begins, have everyone place their silenced phones in a basket (don’t worry, they can check them at breaks and lunch if needed). We all know how addicting our phones are and one innocent, out-of-habit look at your email is all it takes to lose focus on what is going on in the same room. The fair thing would be to give your board retreat participants advanced notice so they can set their out of office messages and be prepared for giving up their phones.
2. To do later list. One of the first things we do at a board retreat is have participants take out a blank piece of paper and title it “to do later.” This is where all of those nagging thoughts of ‘did I respond to Joe?’ and ‘I need to pick up the dry cleaning’ go. Taking a cue from meditation – acknowledge the thought, write it down (in our case, not meditations) and let it go.
3. The parking lot. Sometimes conversations take a wrong or winding turn. This is where the parking lot comes in handy. When the ideas are flowing and everyone is together great ideas happen. But, it might not be the time or place for that idea. On the parking lot it goes. It makes the board retreat participant feel that their thought matters and it gives the great idea or question a place to live so that it can be addressed later.
A well-organized board retreat is a great way to re-engage, re-energize and reconnect your board members. It offers time to concentrate on specific issues at your organization or to think big picture about the future. To make it as successful as possible everyone needs to be fully present and engaged. We hope using the tips above helps you make the most of your time together. We’d love to hear how you incorporated these into your next board retreat.
Me: “Let’s brainstorm on who might invest in your social enterprise startup capital.”
NPO: “We should ask Mrs. Brown. She’s a great prospect for this. But then again, now isn’t a good time for her because she has moved recently. And, she makes a generous gift to our golf tournament. And, she might not like this because she is passionate about our mission and this is a business enterprise. So let’s not put Mrs. Brown on the list.”
This is a common conversation when I start working with the nonprofit organizations who are part of the Margin Mission Ignition initiative of The Patterson Foundation. I guide them through the process of making a prospect list for their new social enterprise. These prospects will be cultivated and if they indicate an interest, they will be asked to make a donation to invest in the business enterprise.
Too often, the staff and volunteer members of the team come up with great prospects but then talk themselves out of cultivating them for one reason (excuse) or another. In other words, they are deciding “no” for the prospect before they’ve even talked to them about the innovative and mission-sustaining business enterprise.
It’s not our job to say no for the prospect.
So what is our job? I’m glad you asked, because I’ve got some ideas:
It’s our job to talk to everyone we encounter about this exciting venture. I like to borrow the concept original to Gail Perry in “Fired Up Fundraising…”: the board should be sneezing. If your organization is embarking on a business planning process for an earned income venture, you should be talking to everyone you know about it. Picture sneezing and spreading your message all around – yes, I too was grossed by the visual at first.
It’s our job to share our enthusiasm. Creating an earned income strategy is an exciting undertaking and that should be shared with the people inside and outside your organization. It’s an opportunity to create a mission-sustaining income stream. What supporter wouldn’t want to know the organization they love will be sustained for years to come?
It’s our job to cast the vision. Business planning is a forward-looking process. Your organization has given it a lot of thought and it is part of a larger vision for the future of your nonprofit. Don’t keep all that to yourselves. Share it with those who are passionate about your cause.
It’s our job to invite them to be a part of the life-changing work of your nonprofit. Many times we are so close to the work of our organization that we forget that every day we are saving lives, changing lives and making our communities better places to live. When we ask for an investment in the business enterprise, we are inviting the donor to be part of that life-changing work.
When we decide “no” for a prospect, two bad things happen. First the prospect misses the opportunity to be a part of the amazing work of our nonprofit. Second, our nonprofit misses out on much-needed financial support. Next time you find yourself thinking of all the reasons a prospect might not support your nonprofit – STOP. You’ll be glad you did and surprised how contagious your enthusiasm can be.
Last month I completed my term as president of the AFP Suncoast Chapter. That milestone led me to reflect on my term and write some closing thoughts. I’m currently reading Anne Lamott’s book “Help Thanks Wow.” Her writing inspired my thoughts about the past two years in our AFP chapter.
The board members and volunteers have provided help to the fundraising professionals of Tampa Bay. The resources from AFP International have enriched the help we have provided. That help came in the form of education, advocacy, resources, scholarships and friendship. Our job board helped people find jobs and helped organizations find valuable staff members. Everything we do is to help professional fundraising colleagues and the nonprofits where you work.
I have been honored to serve with the dedicated board members and volunteers who make this chapter work. Because our board is an operating board not a governing board, each board member worked with a committee of volunteers to make the magic happen. And it is magic! All of those people are busy professionals who find the time to give back to AFP. Thanks to everyone on the AFP Suncoast team!
Each time I’ve stood at the podium of our chapter meetings and looked at all of you, I’ve been touched by the impact you make in our community. Wow! You – my fundraising colleagues – represent nonprofit organizations that are changing lives and saving lives. You educate children, feed hungry neighbors, shelter victims of abuse. You make the world brighter and lovelier with art, music and history. You care for the environment and animals. You work every day to improve your corner of the world. I’m glad your corner is my corner, too. Wow!
In her book, Anne Lamott calls help, thanks and wow her “three essential prayers.” For me, these are the three essentials words that express my appreciation for my colleagues and friends in the AFP Suncoast Chapter.
Calling a prospective funder shouldn’t just be another phone call to quickly check off your to-do list. At the point of actually picking up the phone, you should be confident the funder is open to your communication (Call Me… Maybe: Determining If You Should Call a Foundation Prospect) and have spent time researching and preparing to make the call (Wait, Don’t Just Pick Up the Phone). Now (and hopefully only now) is the time to actually make the call.
Remember – this is not just any old call. This call could be the beginning or the beginning of the end of a great relationship with a funder for your organization.
Here are tips to make the most of the call.
Be Ready to Talk Now or Later
When you make the initial phone call, you may or may not get through. Be ready for either scenario. First, if you get through to the funder and they say, “Let’s talk now” be ready to go. This does not happen often, but you have to be ready for it every time. Conversely, if you get voice mail or talk to a gatekeeper, be ready to explain why you are calling and make an appointment to connect at a later time.
Location, Location, Location
One wonderful benefit of our modern, connected world is our ability to conduct business from anywhere – coffee shops, sporting events, and conferences. This however is not one of those times. Find a quiet, private place and make sure those around you know that you are not to be interrupted for the duration of the call.
Be Prompt and Respectful of Their Time
Place the call on time and be respectful of the time allowed for the call. If you asked the funder for 20 minutes, stick to that. When the allotted time has passed, you can ask if they are able to keep going, but be prepared for them to say “no” and conclude the call.
This might sound silly for a phone call, but it really matters. If you smile while you are talking, it will show in your voice. Practice this on a family member if you are skeptical. The smile in your voice projects a positive attitude and shows your enthusiasm.
Avoid the trap of being “all business” and not letting your passion come through during the conversation. Make an effort to find the inspiration that you need. Consider a photo of the ultimate beneficiary of the mission – that might be an animal that will be rescued or a child that will be educated.
You’re building a relationship and first impressions matter. Remember the little things:
• say please and thank you,
• don’t interrupt,
• listen carefully to their answers,
• speak in a clear voice.
Take Good Notes
This conversation is where you can ask for answers and clarification to the questions left unanswered by your research. As you ask your questions, take good notes. Make note of any questions the funder has of you and be sure to record any promises you make or any information you need to provide following the conversation. If you are asked a question you can’t answer, don’t panic and just be honest. Explain why you don’t have that information and offer to find out and follow up as soon as you can.
Ask for Clarity
If you are asked a question you don’t understand, speak up and ask for clarification. The nonprofit sector is filled with jargon and the funder might use terms you haven’t heard before, ask for a definition. Sometimes we are afraid to admit we don’t understand something for fear of making a bad impression. It’s much better to understand than to answer incorrectly on the application when the funder feels they told you what they wanted.
As you conclude the conversation, review anything you promised to provide and confirm your next steps. Hopefully, you have determined that they will consider your grant application so confirm the deadline. If you determine that a grant application is not appropriate, restate any follow-up action that is appropriate. No matter the outcome of the call, thank them for taking the time to talk to you.
A thank you/nice to meet you note is always appropriate to send after a call. If the funder requested information be sure to follow up and provide it within the agreed upon timeline. If someone else has the information, contact them immediately and confirm that the deadline is appropriate.
The funding community is smaller and more connected that most people think. So while it’s true that if you know one funder, you know one funder – they also talk and a good impression on one can translate to introductions and a good reputation among many funders. Taking the time to do your research about the funder’s process; researching what you can on your own while preparing; and making the most of your time while on the call can make a big difference not only on this particular opportunity but perhaps even more opportunities in the future.
The most important thing to remember: the contact you make with a potential funder can make or break your grant application before you write a single word.
That being said, prepare and prepare some more. Do your research on the funder and the person to whom you will be speaking. Think of this as you would a job interview. Just as you present your best self during an interview – for this conversation, you want to do the same for your organization. Here are five things to consider during your preparation.
Only Ask Questions You Couldn’t Find Through Research
Before you make a call, seek to find the answers to your questions using the funder’s website and third-party sites like GuideStar. If you use a phone call or meeting to ask questions that you could have answered with a little research, you will have wasted the funder’s time. That will make a terrible impression and likely have a negative effect on any future grant applications.
After doing your research, think of possible objections the funder might have to considering a grant request from your organization. I once met with a funder who assured me he would never fund an organization as large as mine. I quickly explained that the program actually benefited grass roots organizations that were the sweet spot for this funder. I was only ready for that because I had done my research and anticipated the objection.
Make the Most of Your Time
Go into this conversation knowing that this could be the only time you talk to the funder. Never think, “I’ll ask that next time” because there might not be a next time. Prepare thinking, “this might be my only shot” and make the most of your time while being respectful of their time.
Prepare an Elevator Speech
Don’t wing it. Even if you are good at extemporaneous speaking, this is not the time. Prepare a two-minute elevator speech that summarizes your organization and your request. End with, “Does this sound like something in which your foundation would have an interest in learning more about through a written proposal?” Once you ask the question, stop and listen carefully to their answer.
After preparing but before dialing: practice. Find someone outside your organization and practice your questions and elevator speech. Use a stopwatch and make sure you are getting it done in the time allotted.
This may seem like a lot of work to make a phone call, but you only get one chance to make a first impression. This could be the start of a long and worthy relationship for your organization – that alone makes it worth the effort.
Next time, we’ll talk about actually making the call and how to make the best impression possible in a short amount of time.
To contact or not to contact? That’s the million-dollar question (okay, let’s be realistic – the $40,000 question). You’ve identified a new private foundation that might fund your organization, so you want to make contact with them right away and tell them all the ways your organization is a great investment opportunity for them. Now’s the time to stop and make sure it’s the right thing to do.
Raising money from private foundations certainly has some things in common with other types of fundraising, but there are some major differences. One major difference is whether or not to contact a funder before submitting a grant application. The three steps below will help you determine the best course of action before you pick up the phone.
Before deciding to contact a prospective funder, determine if calling them is an appropriate option. You should consider these scenarios before picking up the phone.
When Not to Approach
They Ask You Not To
If the funder has specific instructions not to contact before applying, don’t! Each funder has their own specific process for receiving applications. Research the funder to determine if they are open to discussing your application before its submission.
You’re Not a Match
Don’t approach the funder if your project does not meet the criteria they have for funding. For instance, you might be within their program specifics but outside their geographic boundaries. Or your request for general operating support or capital campaign funding does not fit their type of giving.
They Have a Letter Of Intent/Introduction Process
In the vast majority of cases, if a funder has a Letter of Introduction or Letter of Intent process, they want that process to be the initial contact. Be considerate of the funder in this case. An LOI is a fairly simple document that will most often give the funder an opportunity to learn more about your organization than through a phone call. Be respectful of the funder’s time by making the LOI your first inquiry.
This may seem like overly simple advice, but many times in our enthusiasm for our cause we overlook the obvious.
When Approaching is Okay
They Accept Calls
As you do your funder research, pay attention to how they accept contact. Some funders are open to phone calls, some will have meetings, while others do not allow any contact before an application. If they state that they are willing, then you are safe to reach out.
You Are Connected
Foundations are staffed by people and people have connections. When you have identified a potential funder, review the list of their staff and board members. Show the list to your organization’s board members to see if they have any connections. If you identify a connection, ask them to reach out on behalf of your organization or to make an introduction.
You Have Specific Questions
Just because a funder will accept calls, don’t make the assumption that you should make the call. Only make the initial outreach if you are prepared and have specific questions. After you carefully review their published materials and their website, determine what additional information you need from them to complete your application. When you call, you want to make the best impression – so be prepared.
If you attempt to contact a potential funder and are not able to reach them or don’t receive a return phone call, take that as their way of saying, “we don’t want to have a conversation with you until you submit an application.”
Next time we’ll discuss what to do if you decide to move forward with making a call and share tips for preparing.