Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs!

“In the complicated world of nonprofit organizations, it can seem like everything goes wrong at once.”

Barbara Kibbe and Fred Setterberg, Succeeding with Consultants

I know when I take on a new assignment I am going to step on some toes. After all, I am usually hired to work with nonprofits facing challenges – a struggling board, a scheduled special event without implementation plans, an organization without a strategic plan or a rainmaker founding board member who decides to leave, but won’t let go.

Many times, the stressors are external – loss of funding, harsh political climate or a lack of buy-in from donors on signature projects.

Be sure and conduct a thorough situation analysis to begin. Identify challenges to focus your work. Here are 10 key questions to guide the process:

1)      Does the organization have a fundraising plan that identifies different sources and funding activities?

2)      Do all the board members contribute money?

3)      Is there a donor management program in place?

4)      Is there consensus about the organization’s vision and mission?

5)      When is the last time the bylaws were updated?

6)      Are marketing and development programs based on services and programs instead of the mission?

7)      Does the community know the nonprofit?

8)      Is the IT infrastructure adequate?

9)      Is there an updated strategic plan and is it followed?

10)   Does the organization have published ethical guidelines for governance and fundraising? Are they followed?

So, be prepared to ruffle some feathers. And, be prepared to read the warning signs when it is time to go.

But, before you leave, be sure and share the nonprofit’s successes that were accomplished while you were there.

Hats Off To Aunt Cele – Fundraising Basics

Hats Off To Aunt Cele

My family lost our Aunt Cele this week. She was high-spirited with a strong sense of fairness and generosity. She always had important life lessons for her family and everyone she met. She taught me to be committed to what I believe in and to do things right the first time.

So, in honor of my Aunt Cele, I offer these fundraising basics so that you and your organization can launch a successful fundraising campaign right from the start.

 1.     Remember, fundraising is all about getting people to be supportive of your organization.

2.     Have a passion and commit to your cause.

3.     Never ask a stranger for money. Cultivate your relationships and introduce each person you involve with your passion for your cause.

4.     Think of the needs of your donors. Find out their interests and how they will personally benefit from giving to your cause.

5.     Only ask for what you need. Do not create new ‘wants’ because you think they sound better.

6.     Personalize your solicitation. The more personalized “the ask” the more likely people will give.

7.     Raise money from the inside out. Start with your board and all volunteers involved in your fundraising.

8.     Raise money from the top down. Solicit your largest gifts first. Success is contagious and will impact your campaign.

9.     Make your case larger than your organization. Show donors how they, their children, and the community will benefit.

10. Don’t overreach. Make sure your strategy supports a successful campaign.

11. Run your fundraising campaign like a successful special event – Research, plan, implement and evaluate.

12. Be sure and say Thank You every chance you get.

 Thank You Aunt Cele.

And, Thank You all for reading my posts.

Brainstorming – Your Key to Creative Solutions

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” Albert Einstein

Creative Thinking

What a dynamic session! I had the privilege of teaching another event management course for the Georgia Center for Nonprofit’s Nonprofit University.

I always encourage people to start the planning phase of all marketing communications initiatives with a brainstorming session. It is very useful when planning a new or updating an established special event.

Brainstorming creates a freewheeling environment in which everyone is encouraged to participate. There are no “wrong” or “bad” ideas.

Make sure participants have fun brainstorming. Encourage them to come up with as many ideas as possible, from the solidly practical to whimsical. Welcome creativity!

Here are some suggestions for holding a great brainstorming session. These are from Notes For Nonprofits :

  1. Set a Goal – This helps keep everyone on track
  2. Be Strategic – Invite people with diverging opinions. Be sure and create a mix of  big picture thinkers.
  3. Post an Agenda – Brainstorming doesn’t necessarily mean a free for all. Creating an outline will keep you on task and help you focus on specific sections.
  4. Start the session off with leading questions.
  5. Encourage everyone to speak.
  6. Determine data collection. I like to provide a flip chart so everyone can see all the responses.
  7. Set a time limit. I suggest you break the session into 1/2 hour segments. If not, the session tends to become dry.

Brainstorming to add to your next special event? Once the goal is set, hold your brainstorming session. Betsy Wiersma and Karl Strolberg suggest using four open-ended questions to add WOW to your event:

  • What will surprise our guests?
  • What will they talk about after the event?
  • What will leave a lasting impression?
  • What will be extra special or unique?

Have you had any successes brainstorming? I would love to hear from you!

Your Nonprofit’s Linchpin: Special Events

Pascha's Eye

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect recently. It’s been so cold and wet that it makes it hard to ride Pascha and Olive. One way to keep them moving is to lunge them. As long as I stay aware that I have 1200+ pounds twirling around me on a rope I can let my mind focus on other things.

A lot has been happening in the last few weeks. Of course much of my focus and I’m sure yours is on Haiti and the growing number of special events occurring to bring aid.

At the same time I’ve been immersing myself in the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, this year as a spectator. And, the Slifka Center at Yale University produced my client/friend’s play The Green Book in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

What I’ve come to realize is that these disparate events are the linchpins to the nonprofit enterprise.

Seth Godin describes linchpins as the essential building blocks of great organizations in his latest book entitled Linchpin: Are Your Indispensable?. Of course he is describing the indispensable people who get the job done.

I suggest you can view special events through the same lens. They are the essential building blocks of your organization. They are the foundation and building blocks to community outreach and fundraising.

We will continue down the path of discussing the power of special events as this blog develops. I hope you join me in the discussion.

Lessons from Al Gore

“If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which way you go!”

Honorable Al Gore addresses 21st Eizenstat Family Memorial Lecture. Photo credit Chris Savas

Honorable Al Gore addresses 21st Eizenstat Family Memorial Lecture. Photo credit Chris Savas

What sage advise from the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland.

There is an old African proverb that says, “if you want to go quickly go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

We have to go far, quickly. – Al Gore

My next post describes the planning and execution of the 21st Annual Eizenstat Family Memorial Lecture featuring The Honorable Al Gore. More than 3000 people joined us for this extraordinary evening.

The success was the result of planning, planning & more planning to figure out which way we were going.

So, please join me so we can figure out how to go far, quickly — together.