6 Reasons NOT to Attend Planet Philanthropy

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Planet Philanthropy is coming to Tampa June 25-27 – hooray! The Florida fundraising conference moves around the state each year and for the first time in many years, we are hosting it right here in downtown Tampa. I think this is fabulous but I realize not everyone agrees with me. So for those who aren’t sure, here are 6 reasons not to attend (and why I think they are wrong).

1.  It’s too close to home so it won’t be fun
Sometimes the fun of attending a conference is getting to know a new city, I get that. But when is the last time you explored your own city? Our colleagues at the downtown jewels like Florida Aquarium, Tampa Theatre, and the Tampa Bay History Center, support amazing missions that make Tampa a fun location for any event. I encourage you to stay at the Hilton Downtown Tampa and have the full conference experience. I’m going to.

2. My organization doesn’t pay for it
I understand that challenge because I have been there. More than once in my career my employer didn’t support continuing education but I came to the realization that I had to make the investment in my own career. Fortunately, Planet Philanthropy is affordable and you can minimize travel expenses. If you decide not to stay at the hotel, valet parking is available at a very reasonable price.

3. I’m not a CFRE/I’m already a CFRE
You might think that CFRE hours don’t matter to you because you aren’t pursuing that certification but I would encourage you to consider that you might pursue it in the future so keep track of your continuing education hours now. If you already have the CFRE designation, Planet Philanthropy will give you a healthy number of continuing ed points for your next recertification (and it’s coming faster than you realize…it’s always coming faster than you realize).

4.  The networking won’t be good because everyone will be from Tampa
This is a statewide event and while the Tampa Bay area will be well represented, the presenters, exhibitors, sponsors and guests will be from across the state and across the country.

5.  I’ve been in fundraising a long time and I’ve seen/heard it all
With that in mind, the conference planning committee has been diligently researching best practices and securing presenters to cover the latest and greatest.  Click here to see the full list of offerings.  If you’ve been in fundraising a long time, it may be time for you to take a mentoring role to our younger colleagues.

6.  I’m between positions so the timing’s not good
I’ve witnessed more than one spontaneous recruitment at Planet Philanthropy through the years. A nonprofit CEO once told me they would never send another development director to Planet Philanthropy because the last two had used it to get a new job. (Note: I think the problem there is with the CEO but that’s a topic for another blog, another day)

You may have other objections to overcome in order to attend. I encourage you to overcome those challenges and get yourself registered today. Hope to see you there (or here)!

One more thing to share: I am honored to be presenting “Best Practices for Fundraising from a Modern Family,” where I’ll talk about the differences in how generations give. 

Mentors

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I didn’t go looking for a mentor but one sort of showed up in my life. Let me tell you how: right out of college I was working in residential mortgage lending, a terrible fit even though my dad had been a banker. A contact I made through some volunteer work encouraged me to apply for a job in fundraising at a hospital. At that time, my boyfriend’s mom ran a nonprofit so I called her to see what she thought about a job in development. She was very encouraging and helped me through the interview and hiring process. She became a tremendous mentor and fundraising turned out to be a good fit for me. Full disclosure: I married that boyfriend. Just so I’m completely clear: my mother-in-law has been my greatest, but not my only, mentor. I know how amazing that is because many people struggle just to communicate with their in-laws.

If she were writing this blog, Nancy Leonard would have started at the dictionary, so I did. The dictionary says “mentor” is of Greek origin and defines it this way:
     Men’-tor – Noun
     1. A wise and trusted counselor or teacher
     2. An influential senior sponsor or supporter
     Synonyms: adviser, master, guide, preceptor

I like that “mentor” has Greek origin because she was the Executive Director of a Greek letter women’s fraternity for over 20 years. She would assure you that “fraternity” is the right noun because the organization is older than the word sorority. She was like that. She wouldn’t have raised her fist for women’s rights or bristled if you tried to correct the statement. She knew her stuff and generously taught the rest of us so much.

That’s a good trait in a mentor: extensive knowledge but no need to show it off. Here are some other traits I’ve valued in my mentor:

Bright – she was very smart and had a love of learning that insured she kept getting smarter. Her brightness also extended into her sense of humor.

Talented – she was musical, artistic, a brilliant writer and a relentless proofreader.

Respected – she was a leader in her field and set a great example on how to earn respect through years of dedicated service to others.

Varied experience and interests – she started as a business teacher (and could write in shorthand!) but also hosted a children’s TV program, and directed public relations for one of Indianapolis’ biggest festivals. Add to those: a love of sports, musicals, politics and current events and I had a mentor who could help in a lot of areas.

Genuine interest in helping younger people – I was not her only mentee, I was one of dozens. She used her positions – both personal and professional – to help younger people. She had empathy for our challenges. But if I’m going to say “empathy” I must stress not sympathy. Nancy never let me wallow in self-pity. If I didn’t like a situation, she encouraged me to change it or change my attitude.

Ability to offer critique, not criticism – she could have the tough conversations with me but always left me feeling like I could get better.

Willing to be honest with me – not be critical or harsh but she encouraged me to look at things objectively and take the appropriate action.

Willingness – many talented people have been a good influence on me but her willingness to invest time and energy into my life is what made her a true mentor.

I am realizing now that my life is filled with mentors. Some have been long-term and close, while others have been in my career for a brief time. That is an additional trait: the right fit at the right time, whether through a formal program or just coincidence.

I remember the first time someone introduced me as their mentor. I was shocked and pressured. Had I signed up for that assignment? Was I worthy? Had I really added any value? Since then, I’ve learned to answer those questions with a resounding “YES!” As a way of thanking my mentors, I am committed to being available for those around me.

I’ve been thinking about mentors because January is National Mentor Month. I originally wrote this tribute when my “wise and trusted counselor” passed away.  I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on how blessed I was to have known her. I’ll close by saying: thank you to all of my mentors. I appreciate what you have done for me. Most especially, thank you to Nancy Leonard – mentor, mother-in-law and friend.

What Are We Doing: Fundraising or Development?

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Image credit: Jennifer Davis Dodd

Since starting my job at Lakeland Regional Medical Center Foundation more than 25 years ago, I’ve been explaining what I do. That’s natural; since my title included “development,” and many people weren’t sure what I was “developing.”

Throughout my career, my titles have included “development” and “advancement” in several iterations (associate, director of, officer). To simplify I’ve usually explained, “I’m a fundraiser.” But since I’ve been at this for a while, I’ve realized there is more to what I do than fundraising.

Let’s start with some definitions from the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Dictionary:
Developmentnoun; the total process by which an organization increases public understanding of its mission and acquires financial support for its programs
Fundraiseverb; to seek donations from various sources for the support of an organization or a specific project
Fundraisernoun; a person, 1. paid or volunteer, who plans, manages or participates in raising assets and resources for an organization or cause. 2. an event conducted for the purpose of generating funds.
Philanthropynoun; love of humankind, usually expressed by an effort to enhance the well-being of humanity through personal acts of practical kindness or by financial support of a cause or causes

I’ve noticed that we can’t even decide what to call ourselves within our professional field. Click through these links to discover the various ways we describe ourselves:
Association of Fundraising Professionals
National Philanthropy Day
Association for Healthcare Philanthropy
Council for Advancement and Support of Education
Certified Fund Raising Executive

We can’t even decide whether we want “fundraising” to be one word or two.

What Really Matters

My dad used to say, “I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for supper,” and I think that applies here. It doesn’t matter what you call it, what matters most is how you do it.

Development is about developing relationships on behalf of your organization.

Fundraising is a transaction.

If development were a line, fundraising would be a spot on that line.

Here’s what matters most: how do you treat your donors? Do you treat them as a means to a transaction? Or do you treat them like friends and family, like someone who has a relationship with your organization?

If you’re treating them like a transaction, they won’t stay.

If you build a relationship, they will stay.

So what do you call it at your organization? Development, fundraising, or some of both? And how do you approach it: like a transaction or a relationship?

No matter what your job title might be, don’t strictly fundraise. Invest your energies in developing relationships with the donors who support your organization.

Hand Written Notes: Who to Write

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Image courtesy of phasinphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here you sit, pen in hand with a blank note card – now what? In my last 2 blog posts I’ve extolled the virtues of writing hand written notes and talked about some of the occasions that would warrant a hand written note. This time I’m shifting my focus to who should receive those handwritten notes.

I believe that hand written notes should go to more than just donors. Consider these suggestions:

Donors

  • write to a donor who makes a significant gift, remember not just significant to your organization but significant to the donor. Even if the official thank you letter comes from someone else in your organization, send your appreciation for their generosity.
  • send a note to a donor who made a program accomplishment possible bonus: send a photo with the note for extra impact.
  • create a list of donors who have given for a significant number of years and send them occasion notes throughout the year.

Prospects

  • send a note to someone you’ve identified as a prospective donor but haven’t been able to meet in person. Send a photo of something meaningful that demonstrates your mission in action.
  • write a note to a prospect who has indicated interest but you’ve had trouble getting a face to face meeting to follow up. Invite them again for a tour or a visit to your program.

Volunteers 

  • send a note to every volunteer, eventually. Depending on the size of your volunteer workforce, this could be a monumental task. But make a list and get started with a few notes a week. You’ll get to everyone, eventually.
  • look for people who are helping you but you might not have classified them as an official volunteer. For instance, someone who provides valuable advice when you are planning a special event.

Colleagues

  • write a note to the people who report to you thanking them for a job well done. Appreciation should be expressed throughout the year, not just at annual review time, and a personal note is a gracious way to deliver it.
  • send a note to the staff in other departments who make your work possible. None of us could do what we do without the people in surrounding departments. Even if it’s part of their job descriptions, your colleagues will appreciate your appreciation.
  • write a note to your bosses recognizing their dedication. Don’t forget to thank up the chain of command, too.

This list is by no means comprehensive. Look around to discover who else will benefit from a sincere expression of your gratitude for their part in your success.

Happy writing!

Plan Leads to Fundraising Success

 

 

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Exciting news: new online class is approved for 3 points toward CFRE certification

Not all online classes are created equal – I get that. Many online classes involve watching slides and listening to a lecture. Our class is completely different. We call it discussion-style because the class is a series of video conversations between Louanne Saraga Walters and me. We walk through the steps to create a fundraising plan and include worksheets. This isn’t just watching, it’s doing.

3 times you’ll benefit from the new Fundraising Succe$$ class:

1.  Need a new development plan
If you are raising money without a plan, STOP. Well don’t stop raising money but stop trying to get it done without a plan. I’ve got the help you need. Fundraising Success: The Complete Development Plan will walk you through step by step to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. Feel like you are out there on your own? Creating a development plan can fix that. One of the key steps is defining your team.

2.  Time to update your plan
If you have a development plan but it’s been a while since you looked at it, that’s a sign that you need to update it. A development plan should be a living, active document (printed or digital) that everyone on your fundraising team uses to know where you are going and how you are going to get there.

3.  Need CFRE points
Fundraising Success: The Complete Development Plan is applicable for 3.0 points in Category 1.B – Education of the CFRE International application for initial certification and/or recertification. Once you complete the online videos, we’ll send you the points tracker. If you are already certified (congrats!), use the points toward your next recertification. If you are pursuing it, use them toward your initial certification. Not sure what I’m talking about? Click her for CFRE info

But don’t take my word for it, take the class and let me know what you think. The Udemy platform allows for student/instructor interaction (that’s you and me). This is the first in a series that provides the tools you need to experience fundraising success in your nonprofit.

If you’re reading this blog, I’d like to offer you 10% off your registration of Fundraising Success: The Complete Development Plan. Register now and let’s get started.

You Are Here

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It happened again last week: I got turned around at the new outlet mall. My son and I were shopping for some new items at the Disney Store and we parked in our usual place near Starbucks. But I can never seem to remember which row of shops to head down. What did we do? Used the mall map and found the “YOU ARE HERE” indicator so we could map out the best route to the Disney Store. What does this have to do with a development plan? Everything!
Many nonprofits stay plenty busy with fundraising activities. Enough to do is never the problem. The problem is usually doing the right things. The place to start is by determining where you are currently. Here’s how to start: make a list of everything you are currently doing related to fundraising and development. It’s not complicated but it’s a step that many people skip.
3 Steps to Find “You Are Here”
  1. Make a list – begin with a brain dump. List everything you do related to fundraising and development…everything. If you are part of a team, ask the rest of your team to help you. Look back at your calendar from the past year. Think back to the items on your to-do list.
  2. Examine the results of those activities – now that you’ve made your list, write down the results. Look at the revenue and expenses for each activity. Now take that a step farther: were there other benefits? For instance, a stewardship event doesn’t show a positive net income but if it gave you an opportunity to engage your donors, be sure to list those benefits. Examine the results in terms of deeper engagement with your existing donors.
  3. Determine what you want to keep, delete, add – based on the results, what is worth keeping? Make notes on how it can be improved. Now look at the things that didn’t raise much money and didn’t provide other benefits. Make the (sometimes painful) decision to eliminate those activities. At this step, take time to note the things that are missing from your development program.

Once you determine where you are, you’ll be better ready to decide where you want to be and how you will get there. That’s what a development plan can do for you: identify where you want to be and map out how to get there.

I’ve created a new online course with Louanne Saraga Walters of The Philanthropy Show. The discussion-style course will walk you through creating a complete development plan. It includes video instructions and valuable tools to create a development plan that will increase your fundraising results.  I’m delighted to offer a discount to my blog readers.
Click here for more info and to get your discount.

What 3 Things?

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was meeting with an Executive Director and a newly hired Development Director to work on a development plan for their organization. The development director had extensive experience in the for-profit sector and had volunteered with the organization. However, this was his first adventure in professional fundraising. As we wrapped up our meeting, the ED turned to me and asked, “What three things would you tell him as he gets started?” What a great question! At first I was taken by surprise. After a quick minute of thought here’s what I shared:

1. Always have a story
We know our organizations so well but have to remember that the people we meet everyday won’t know it as well as we do. Telling an impactful story is the most effective way to demonstrate your mission in action. Forget the statistics about impact. Don’t bother saying that you are a 501(c)3. Tell me a good story to pique my curiosity. Invite me for a tour. That’s how you will begin to build relationships for your organization.

2. Listen more than you talk
Now that you’ve got a story to tell, tell it well then shut up and listen. Especially when we are new to an organization, we are compelled to demonstrate how much we have learned. Stop that. Tell your story, then stop and listen to the responses. When you are meeting donors who already support your organization, ask them questions and learn from them. (Not sure what questions to ask? My favorite resource for that is from fundraising expert Karen Osborne here)

3. Write it all down
In the busy life of a professional fundraiser, we are tempted to move quickly from one task to the next without taking the time to record important information. I warned my new colleague not to skip that step. For instance, when we are meeting with a donor and practicing “listen more than you talk,” we will probably learn new information that we think we will always remember. Unfortunately, we won’t. Write it down so that it will be recorded and available for you (and the development staff that follows you – and the data shows that you won’t be with your organization forever).

Some months have passed since this interaction and I’ve had a chance to reflect on the three things that came to mind.

Would I change my answers?

I wouldn’t. I still think these are the three things a new development director should keep in mind as they get started.

This blog originally appeared on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay’s blog. 

10 Free Giving Tuesday Resources

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Happy October! Now that we have entered the last quarter of 2015, you should be working on your year-end fundraising plan. I highly recommend integrating the celebration of Giving Tuesday into your plan.

What is #GivingTuesday? Here’s how their website explains it:
“We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join us and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.”

One great thing about this open source movement is the spirit of cooperation among the founders, corporations, nonprofits and donors. This has led to a valuable set of FREE online resources. If you work for a nonprofit organization and want to be a part of this, check out the resources below for lots of help.

Giving Tuesday Tools
From #GivingTuesday: toolkits, case studies, logos, and much more! And it’s all FREE.

Easy Communications Timeline: Planning Your #GivingTuesday and Year-End Campaigns
Timeline from Network for Good helps you organize all of your communications are very helpful to integrate your year-end giving plans with #GivingTuesday efforts.

#Giving Tuesday Trends Report
and many other resources from Blackbaud

Everything You Need to Know About #GivingTuesday
from Salsa Labs, includes a link to a campaign planner

Central Florida provides a great example of an entire region getting together to make a greater impact:
Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership at Rollins College
Giving Tuesday Central Florida Facebook page

Several innovative organizations from the Tallahassee area have teamed up to create
Big Bend Gives Back

HOW TO: Tap Into the Power of Cause Awareness Days
Heather Mansfield of Nonprofit Tech for Good

Give Local America Nonprofit Toolkit
I especially like the “Social Media Toolkit” and “Sample Messaging for Nonprofits.”

Giving Day Playbook 
The Knight Foundation

Do you know of other resources? Please share!

I’ll be watching (and giving and retweeting) on December 1st to see how creative you can get.

Comfortably Accountable

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I recently worked with Steve King, Executive Director, and Dennis Pitocco, Board Chair of Meals on Wheels of Tampa to present an educational session on increasing board members’ participation in their fundraising efforts. Like many boards, this board sees the opportunity for improvement in this area. One of the challenges expressed by many: how do we hold board members accountable when they are just volunteers, not staff members. The next question is often, who should hold them accountable?

In our preparation for the educational session, Dennis said that as board chair  his goal was to hold board members “comfortably accountable.” I love that phrase! We want to hold board members accountable but in a way that is comfortable for the board member, the board leadership and the staff.

Here is the goal: comfortably accountable. Here is the What, Who and How of “comfortably accountable.”

What?
Comfortably accountable is an approach that allows board members to hold each other accountable, not with an atmosphere of intimidation and guilt but with an atmosphere of encouragement and celebration.

Who?
The best person to hold a board member accountable is another board member. Board member to board member is a peer to peer relationship. Both are volunteers.

How?
How do we achieve comfortably accountable? I recommend these 5 things:

  1. Clear expectations – start with clear board expectations during recruitment and revisit them at least once a year.
  2. Focus on the mission – make sure each board member sees how their involvement and investment helps the nonprofit reach their mission.
  3. Thorough follow-up – insure that board members are communicating on their progress.
  4. Collegial atmosphere – find opportunities for your board to get to know each other and build trust as a group. Often a board retreat or social gathering is the way to encourage that collegial atmosphere.
  5. Celebration of successes – make sure that board members appreciate each other and celebrate the successes of the board and the entire organization.

No one wants to serve on a board that is ruled by guilt and fear. Conversely, no one wants to serve on a board that doesn’t really need them. The way to make sure you don’t face either of these extremes is to seek an atmosphere of “comfortably accountable.”

4 Things to Remember in Year-End Planning

Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pumpkin flavored lattes have arrived. The Halloween costume shops have opened. Labor Day has come and gone. What does all of that mean for fundraising? Even though it’s still 90 degrees in Florida, this is the time to get your year-end fundraising plan together.  Make sure you think about more than how you are going to ask for money. Remember that the fundraising cycle includes these steps: identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. For year-end giving, we tend to focus on solicitation but you can make sure you touch every step. Here’s how:

1. Identification – look back over the first 9 months of 2015. Who has been newly introduced to your organization? Look for ways to reconnect with them. Ask board members to help make these connections.

2. Cultivation – The end of the year is fast approaching but you’ve got four months left to engage your prospects in your organization’s good work. What is coming up in your organization’s activities that could be cultivation opportunities? Are there any celebrations? Do you have holiday related activities? Make sure you are inviting your prospects to see your mission first hand.

3. Solicitation – More than half of all charitable giving takes place in the last quarter of the calendar year. Remember that is you aren’t asking your donors for a gift, many other organizations will be. Make a plan to ask your supporters for a gift in the last quarter of the year. Find a way to work Giving Tuesday, December 1, into your year-end solicitation strategy.

4. Stewardship – The last quarter of the year provides many natural opportunities for saying thank you to your donors. Thanksgiving is our national holiday for this purpose. Be sure your donors know that you are thankful for them. National Philanthropy Day is November 15. This is a national event with many local celebrations including these Tampa Bay area AFP Chapters: Suncoast, Nature Coast, Polk County and Southwest Florida. In December the media will be flooded with ‘best of’ lists. Use that idea to tell your donors that they accomplished great things through your organization. Be sure that your communications are more than just asking for year-end gifts.

With four months left, you have time to wrap up 2015 in grand style. Don’t forget that the end of the year is more than asking for one more gift. It’s a chance to engage your donors in your mission.