What Makes a Good Development Plan?

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 8.45.13 AMLast month, Laurel McCombs shared the importance of having a written development plan.  New studies suggest that having a development plan vs. not having a development plan can be the difference between success and failure.  So what makes a good development plan?

  1.   Know Your Goal – We’ve all heard the the maxim “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”  This cliche remains critically true.  The first step in creating a development plan is knowing what you are trying to achieve.  For most of us this boils down to knowing our monetary goal for the time period in question.  But it might include other goals such as creating a major gift program, piloting a monthly giving program, increasing the average gift size by 10%, etc.  Once you know your goals, you can work backwards to determine what is required to achieve them.
  2. Have Measurable Goals, Objectives and Benchmarks – This is critical.  Without this, a plan isn’t a plan, it is merely a statement of intent.  Metrics and benchmarks let you know if you are on the path to achieving your goals and give you advance notice to adjust your strategies if you are not.  Better yet, having measurable objectives, goals and benchmarks force you to actually have strategies.  Without empirical data there is no way to know if your plan is a success.
  3. Have Action Steps for Achieving Your Goals – Another critical piece that turns what might otherwise be a statement of intent or a vision statement into an actual plan is to have clear steps outlined with clear deadlines and clearly delineated responsibility for achieving the goals.  In other words:  who, what and when?  Breaking down the plan into smaller steps with deadlines ensures that your plan will be implemented on a timeline that makes success possible.
  4. Have a Budget – It’s important to think about what you’ll need to effectively implement your plan and what it will cost as part of the creation of your plan.  Almost all serious change requires some expenditure of resources.  Understanding your costs up front will ensure that your plan has all the resources it needs to be successful.

There are many other elements that go into successful planning but these are the basics.  Overall, it’s important to be specific.  Avoid statements like “We will create a culture of philanthropy” without tying it to specific actions.  How will you achieve this culture?  Does it it involve training?  Will you implement a staff giving program?  Who will lead it?  How will you know if you’ve achieved your goal?  Why are you creating a culture of philanthropy in the first place?  The more specific you can be with metrics, timeframes, responsibility and cost the better off you will be.

To learn about planning in more detail sign up for our January 28th webinar: “Creating and Implementing an Effective Development Plan”.  The Osborne Group is also available to help you create your development plan.

Periscope! Why Not-for-Profits Need to Use It

imgresHave you heard of Periscope?  No?  You will.

Periscope lets you live stream whatever you are doing directly from your cell phone to the world.  Not only that, viewers of your live stream are able to comment and interact with you in real-time as you stream.  The iOS and Android phone apps launched last spring and have been steadily gaining traction since.  Periscope follows a growing trend of more and more live streaming of events, games, etc.   The trend began with sports (on major league baseball’s platform) and video games (on services such as Twitch) but now have moved more into everyday use.  The important thing to note is that your phone has become a mobile broadcast studio.  This is going to change a lot of things in our world.

Right now the broadcasts on Periscope (and its main rival Meerkat) remind me a lot of the early days of podcasting about ten years ago.  The content isn’t great, as the earliest adopters don’t necessarily have broadcasting knowledge or experience (although I’ve noticed some tv personalities have taken it up), but there is a lot of enthusiasm around its practitioners.  You can tour foreign cities as users walk around or just follow along as people live their everyday lives.  Periscope is owned by Twitter and works seamlessly with it, allowing you to announce your live streams via your Twitter feed and take advantage of the Twitter following you’ve already built up.

When I learned about Periscope at its launch, my first thought was “what a great way for not-for-profits to show their work.”  Every not-for-profit’s biggest challenge is engaging people with their work in meaningful ways.  This can be especially challenging if the beneficiaries of a not-for-profit’s work are in hard to reach places or are even abroad.  Periscope lets you bring those experience directly to the donor or prospective donor as well as to a wider audience.   Even though the recording of the live stream is only archived for 24 hours, you can save videos on your phone or use services such as Katch allow you to keep it longer and distribute the video to an audience that wasn’t able to join you live.  The Central Park Conservancy regularly periscopes tours of Central Park.

Your live streaming doesn’t have to end with just your client work.  What about streaming an event (like a $5K run or your gala), an interview with one of your program staff, a panel discussion, or even a board meeting?  The opportunities are many and can be especially powerful because of Periscopes’ ability to take questions and comments live.  This isn’t just passive watching of video; this is active engagement with your donors and potential donors.  And you can do it all with your phone.

What ideas do you have for Periscope?  Let us know if you’ve tried this fantastic new tool.

Don’t Tell The Story Before You’ve Heard It

imagesDuring a recent client visit I was talking to the VP for Advancement about major gift strategy and the importance of truly understanding donor motivations and values.  She told me that when she meets with major donor prospects she tries to ask as many questions as she can, and in her words: “I try not to tell the story before I’ve heard it.”  What a great phrase!  So many times in an effort to come up with an effective cultivation strategy we make all kinds of assumptions and speculations about our donors.  Does any of the below sound familiar?

“Our research shows that she gives to the local Boys and Girls Club.  Children must be her biggest cause and we don’t work with children so she’s not a good prospect for us.”

“He’s the CEO of his own manufacturing company so he’ll probably want to work on the finance committee.”

“She created an endowed scholarship for her university.  Scholarships aren’t our main priority but it seems like that is what she likes to do.”

The reality is that in each of this cases, based on the information provided, we know very little about our donors in terms of their values, giving preferences, and how they might wish to engage and give to our own institution.  About ten years ago if you were able to look at my own giving history you’d see that I gave to quite a few organizations that helped people with disabilities.  Is this my main philanthropic priority?  Not really.  Did I give to those cause because a friend asked me to and it was his philanthropic priority?  Yes.

The only way to truly know what a donor’s priorities are, what their values are, and what their priorities are within your own institution is to ask the donor directly.

“I know that you are an ardent supporter of the Boys and Girls Club.  Are children a philanthropic priority for you?  What are your other priorities?”

“With your business background we’d love to have you involved with our finance committee but tell us, how do you best like to be engaged with the organizations you work with?  What was your best volunteer experience and why?”

“What was your motivation in donating an endowed scholarship to your university?”

Asking strategic questions will give you the most accurate information from which to design an effective cultivation strategy.  It will also result in a far more satisfying experience for your potential donor.  Finally, asking strategic questions will also set a tone of open dialogue and information sharing.

If you find that you are speculating and filling in information that is based on anything other than what you’ve heard directly from the donor, stop, realize that you don’t truly know the answer to the question you are asking, and make a point of asking it the next time you meet with your potential donor.  The results will be a far more interesting story than the one you’ve made up in your head.

 

Fundraising Tips and Ideas via @15SECFUNDRAISING

If you’re an Instagram user, please check out out new tips and ideas show on Instagram, @15SECFundraising.  Every week @bobosborne17 and guests give you fundraising ideas and tips via Instagram for running a strong fundraising program based on best practice and the latest in cutting edge ideas and technology.  You can also check out this blog for the latest installments.

 

 

 

Should You Adopt Radical Transparency?

imgresThe idea of radical transparency has been a popular concept in the business world for around the last decade or so.  The term gets used quite a bit but in the context of the corporate world, it essentially refers to making decisions in public, being open about data, and generally being up front in areas where a corporation has traditionally tried to do the opposite.  The idea is that in the chaotic world of the internet the only way you can influence your own reputation is to be part of the conversation in an open way.  Increasingly, I’m beginning to see nonprofits adopt the same idea.  So, should you adopt radical transparency?

My friend Dora is involved with an organization called Razom.  The organization was formed a little over a year ago in response to the Maidan movement in Ukraine.  It’s been fascinating to watch the organization over that period of time.  First, the fundraising ROI is off the charts at less than $.01 expenses per dollar raised.  But more interesting to me is their philosophy of complete financial transparency.  For instance, their financial books are a publicly viewable google doc.  Sure, it’s in cyrillic but Google will helpfully translate it for you if you haven’t kept up with your Ukrainian.  For most nonprofits, having their finances down to every last expenditure displayed for all the world to see would send the CFO running away in horror.  Additionally, when Razom was first trying to get its books in order it decided to have a “financial hackathon”.  All members of Razom were invited to participate and help get the organization organized financially.  Now, when I say “members” I mean people who have joined their Facebook page, so more or less the general public.

I love that Razom has begun its organizational life with transparency as a core value.  While I am sure Razom faces its share of challenges just like any other nonprofit, I’m going to guess that trust between the organization and its donors is not one of them.  No need for donors to guess how their money is being spent; they can see it any day at any time.  Creating the Future, a social change research and development laboratory, conducts all of its board meetings via Google Hangout, open not only to viewing by the public, but participation by the public.  What a crazy, radical, wonderful idea.

Given how poorly the vast majority of nonprofits steward their donors, we could benefit from considering these and similar practices.  Most of those who are familiar with The Osborne Group know that we consider stewardship of paramount importance.  90% of the time we see a problem with an organization and its ability to fundraise, ad hoc stewardship or a lack of it all together features into the problem prominently.  As a sector, we are bad in this area and we need to get better.  Radical transparency might be the answer.  We are not saying that you have to conduct your board meetings in public; there is a lot of work that goes along with this.  But what if you video taped them and put them on the web?  Or maybe conducted one meeting a year open to the public?  What if you did make your P & L available on the web?  What’s the worst that could happen?

The problem, of course, is that the way philanthropy, especially institutional philanthropy from corporations and foundations, is perceived makes this concept pretty scary.  In essence, we are all terrified that if our funders saw all of our struggles that we risk losing funding.  In this day and age we are all so focused ROI and metrics that we believe deep down that if our donors know that we aren’t perfect they’ll just support some “better” or more “efficient” operation.

But what if the opposite turned out to be true?  What if the best way to show commitment to a strong ROI and social ROI was to have all of our struggles out in the open?  Wouldn’t that show and even greater commitment to being the best organization we can be?  Wouldn’t that build the most important of all bonds, trust?

Given how little most donors trust nonprofits, we would all do well to at least consider the idea.

 

The Foundation Screening List

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.24.46 AMI want to talk briefly about an important but underutilized development tool: the foundation screening list.  When we are first beginning our development careers everything we learn about foundations implies that they are pure meritocracies.  Have a good organization with a good project, write a good proposal and you’ll have as good a shot at getting funding as anyone else.  And to some extent this is true.  If you aren’t a well run organization and you don’t have a good project you probably won’t get funding.  But the reality is that you will be competing against many other meritorious organizations and not everyone one will get funded.  So, how do you stand out from the crowd?

The reality is the business of successful foundation funding is very much a “who you know” business.  I’m not saying that there is any sort of cronyism involved.  But I am saying that your ideas are more likely to be heard if you know the decision makers involved and have had a chance to talk over your work in detail.  I am saying that knowing trustees counts for a lot more than knowing program officers.  And I am saying that trustees and program officers knowing you and believing in your leadership and your ability to deliver on the promises of your proposal is critical.

So, a really valuable exercise for any organization is to know who you know on foundation boards and staffs.  How do we find this out?  The foundation screening list.

The foundation screening list is a packet of foundations (up to 25) likely to fund your organization based on their stated mission and its relevance to yours.  Each foundation gets it own page and on each page, triple or quadruple spaced, you’ll list every trustee and program officer.  If it is a large foundation then just list the relevant program officer.  You can see a sample layout here.

Now, what do we do with foundation screening list once we have one?  Sit down with your staff, your board and other volunteers, friends and anyone else willing to listen to you.  Ask them to flip through the list and see if they know anyone.  Ask them to write in the margins who they know and any important information about them.  Ask them if there is any foundation or anyone not on the list that they would be willing to contact.

Ask them if they’d be willing to help set up a meeting with anyone they know.

Over time you should get a pretty good catalog of who knows who and hopefully have people setting up meetings on your behalf.  Record everything in your database.

Giving USA 2014 Spreecast

 

 

In this Spreecast, Laurel and Bob break down their first impressions of the new Giving USA statistics.  Giving levels are nearly back at pre-recession levels but what does it all mean?  Give Bob and Laurel a listen to find out!

Connecting with Donors Starts with Connecting with Employees

connectionsConnecting with donors on a personal level builds lasting and productive relationships. In much the same way, connecting with employees results in higher staff productivity and retention.

We want our donors and volunteers to feel valued and appreciated.  Joe Connelly of WSJ said, “Retention is the new acquisition and customer service is the new marketing.” Retention of talent is as important as retention of donors.

Attrition hits the bottom line hard.

But how can we hold onto donors by providing thoughtful retention strategies and outstanding customer service if we first don’t “wow” our staffs?

We can’t expect staff or volunteers to deliver what they have not personally experienced.

Thank you is fundamental.  Genuine, prompt, and specific.  “Thank you for staying late Friday.  I know you had plans with your family.  I appreciate your sacrifice.”

Reporting on impact is critical. “I wanted to circle back.  The project you helped us with three months ago, when you stayed late and pitched in has had an enormous impact on our work.  You made a difference.  Thank you again.”  Personal, timely, authentic and concrete.

Survey your team

How valued and appreciated do they feel?  Do the same with your volunteers and board members.  To what degree do they believe their work is making a difference?

Inspiration is also an important component of donor work.  We are seeking inspired, joyful and generous investments of time, talent, expertise, connections and treasure.  Inspiration is equally important internally. If you are interested in surveying your team, asking the right questions that will uncover valuable data and truths, contact us at mail@theosbornegroup.com

Having a Sense of Purpose Motivates

Employees report that having a sense of purpose is the top motivator for work satisfaction according to author and leader Aaron Hurst.

“Researchers have found that the best ways to ensure that employees feel a sense of purpose boils down to three simple things: They need to have opportunities to grow; to build relationships with employees and others involved in the work; and to create something greater than themselves.”

Too often, we don’t start by inspiring our teams before we ask them to inspire potential donors.  CEOs need a big inspiring vision of the future.  Not an internal vision – “We will be the organization of choice in our market, grow our endowment to x and increase our client base by y.” We are talking about a meaningful, outward vision that will result in fixing a societal ill or creating a major societal shift.  Big ideas bring about big gifts.  They also garner internal dedication.  Connect every staff and volunteer task no matter how mundane to the mission, vision and work. Share the vision at every opportunity.

Make sure that every employee and every board member on an annual basis has a hands-on experience with the people, animals, planet you serve.  For some this is easy and others a challenge especially if your work is primarily overseas.  But hard doesn’t equate to impossible.  Be creative.  Remember, connecting with donors and employees is key to outstanding results.

Meaningful and productive engagement is critical for donors.

Research reports that when engaged, annual fund and major gift donors give 24% to 38% more.  Engagement also works for staff and board members.  Ask for advice and ideas.  Share decision-making through appropriate delegation and empowerment.

Are your staff and board meetings show and tell or are folks engaged in meaningful discussions that matter?  Are you listening?  Seeking and providing feedback?

Connecting with donors starts with connecting with staff and board members.  The payoff will be huge.

by Karen Osborne

Moving Your Board in the Right Direction

In our fourth Spreecast, Laurel and Board discussion moving your board in the right direction.  Check out the 30 minute video that gives great practical tips and information on:

  • Creating a strategically composed board
  • Finding the right board members for the right jobs
  • Knowing your board members and their preferences
  • What is the right sized board?
  • Lots of other great questions.

Embedly Powered

You can join us every Friday at 12p Eastern for more great Spreecasts.  Join us, ask questions, learn practical tips in an easy to disgest format.

Next week we talk about effective time management.  Join us!