Board Recruitment: Are we looking for the right thing?

Sometimes I am pulled up short, reminded that the amount of time I spend thinking about philanthropy is not the amount of time that normal people spend thinking about giving…

Driving home from picking up Hanukkah candles for our dual-holiday family, I happened to catch an NPR story on year-end giving.  “Ooooo, goody!”, I thought, but then spent much of the rest of the interview shouting at the radio, as the host seemed insistent on uncovering people who were pulling back or diverting their giving to Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts.  “No, no!”, I yelled to the dashboard of the Prius, “People give ADDITIVELY when this happens!  They give MORE, not less!”  Of course, in my rational mind, I know that each person is different:  some are finding that they have much less to give, and some are using social services for the first time because of the storm, others will have to re-direct their giving, but many of us do give more when extraordinary circumstances call.  (Despite my rantings, the interview really is worth a listen.)

I was reminded of a profound observation made by the Philanthropist of the Year recipient at one of the AFP National Philanthropy Day luncheons I attended this year:  “Giving is a celebration of abundance, not of scarcity.”  This wonderful man gives and gives and gives because he experiences as a way he can honor the abundance in his life, not as something that creates scarcity in his life.

Right on.  But rare to find.  (And now we circle around to board recruitment…)

We, at The Osborne Group, love working with our clients on building a culture of philanthropy (here’s a tool on that topic!) and having a strong, strategically composed board is one critical part of that culture. (Here’s a podcast on that.)  As you think about new board members, you know you need people who:

  • are dedicated to your mission and our organization,
  • who make you a top priority for their giving
  • are wise, strategic, ethical
  • meet key criteria and bring needed skills

But how much are you listening for and seeking out those who feel about their own philanthropy the way this man (and, to be fair, his incredible wife) feel about giving.  Is thoughtful GENEROSITY on your board recruitment radar screen?

The Bank of America/ Indiana University Center on Philanthropy just came out with the 2012 study of high-net worth giving – one of my favorite studies of the year! – and one line caught my eye:  “Just 5 percent of high net worth donors reported having a mission statement for their charitable activity.”  I would bet that if the question were asked a little differently, more would see themselves as having a overall approach and belief system for their giving… and those are the people we’re look for, to join our boards:  those who not only think strategically about how to make our organization stronger, but how their own generosity – with time and with resources – can be used strategically to accomplish those goals.  The deepest level of engagement – ownership – comes when we find those people and put them to work for us.

I don’t usually promote “unicorn hunting”.  But that seems like a unicorn worth finding… and I’m not convinced that these people are as rare as that radio interviewer would have us believe…

How to Never Hear No Again

by Karen Osborne

Asking is only a sentence. “Please join me with an increased investment of $x.” What inspires a generous and joyful response is all that went before the solicitation conversations.  Here are some sure-fire tips.

  1. Make sure you know the Right people from the beginning.  Who makes the philanthropic decisions? For many of us, we work with the person we know, our alumna, grateful patient, board member, check signer.  In today’s marketplace, more families (not just spouses) are making decisions together.  Research tells us women seek out many inputs before making a decision. Corporations and foundations often have multiple decision makers.  Ask, “In my family, we make our decisions together.  How does that work in yours?”
  2. Engage them all before you ask.  We know engagement leads to more giving.  Engagement is not the same as showing up, or helping out.  It is meaningful and contains a thinking component, feeling aspects, and most important doing.  Engage my mind, not just my time.  Seek my advice and professional expertise, not just my money and contacts.  Ask, “What engagements with other not-for-profits have you found the most satisfying?”
  3. Identify the Right purpose or impact.  Purpose drives amount and BIG IDEAS inspire big gifts.  Our task is to reach the point in the relationship (even if its short term for a leadership annual gift) where the donor says, “I want to make that happen.” Or, “How do we make that happen?” It’s about impact and outcomes, not a shopping list of giving opportunities.
  4. Bring the Right solicitation team.  Who inspires these donors?  Who can ask, “Please join me?”  If the solicitation is made by staff alone, invoke an admired colleague who has stepped up.  You are not pitching an amount or a project, you are engaging your donors in a discussion about outcomes that the project or amount will achieve.  Bring along virtually or physically a believer.
  5. Start with THANK YOU AGAIN. Steward past gifts.  Don’t just thank immediately after a gift (but do thank within 24 to 72 hours).  Take it to the next step and connect the donor, three months, six months, nine months, after the gift with the IMPACT she had or the collective had (everyone who gave to the event, or to the annual fund).  People repeat joyful experiences.  Make your donors say “Wow.”  The next time you ask, you’ll receive an inspired, generous, joyful, “Yes.”

You can follow me on twitter: @kareneosborne

High Impact Year-End Activities: Five (or more!) “Must Do” Activities for Every Development Officer

Got an hour?  We’ve got five big ideas (and lots of little ones) to help you make the most of your time between now and January 31…

In this webinar, we’ll share great ideas for:

  • Year-end donor relations and stewardship
  • Making the most of your December and January face to face visits
  • How you can refresh and renew your case for support
  • And take good care of yourself too!

Tuesday, December 4             3-4pm ET

To sign up, go to the RESOURCES section of the blog to find the link…

Combat The Sitting Disease with Major Gifts Visits

by Karen Osborne

Maybe you read about this.  For every hour we sit after age 25, we lose 21.8 minutes of life-expectancy.  Compare that to smoking for example, 11 minutes lost for each cigarette smoked, and one realizes how important this new research is.  We need to get up.

Here are great prevention strategies for The Sitting Disease!

  1. Make appointments to go see your donors!  We can’t think of a better way for fund development professionals to stay healthy and lead a long and productive life.  Nothing beats an in-person meeting, one that is purposeful, strategic and engaging.
  2. Stand up when you make the appointment.  It will help with the sitting disease PLUS put energy in your voice.  People will want to be with you. Don’t forget to smile.
  3. Have a standing strategy meeting.  As you prepare for your visits, gather trusted colleagues but don’t sit down.  Brainstorming is often more effective when everyone involved is on his or her feet.  Put up an easel and flip chart. In five minutes or less, explain the key facts about the donor – motivations, values, interests, decision-makers, engagement to date, capacity, inclination and readiness to give.  Then, succinctly, state the issue and seek input.  Listen.  Take notes on the flip chart paper so everyone can see them, comment on them.  After ten minutes, fifteen on the outside, thank everyone and then return to your office to sift through the ideas and decide what you will do.
  4. Give three reasons. Okay, so this one doesn’t prevent the sitting disease but it’s still a good idea.  One reason can be handled with a phone call.  Even two.  But give three and we have a meeting.  Make sure the reasons are appealing to the donor. Seek advice, ideas, engagement rather than “I want to update you on what’s going on.”
  5. Inspire them to come to your site, campus, see your work up close and personal.  But instead of sitting in a conference room and folks coming to them, walk and talk.  Help your donors prevent the sitting disease as well.

Capitalize Your Development Operation!

by Robert Osborne

Every organization wants more money for its programs but I am constantly surprised at how few organizations are actually willing to spend money to make money. I know of organizations that have cut back their development staff even as they have raised their fundraising goals. I know of organizations that refuse to do stewardship because they think it is too expensive. And I know of “national” organizations that wish to fundraise across the United States but have no travel budget.

The problem becomes even larger when we talk about capital campaigns. Organizations that wish to raise 10x or more of their annual operating budget and tens of millions of dollars often balk at spending even a $100K to do so!

Your development office is a “profit center”, another way of saying that your development office makes you money. But only if it is properly capitalized. While different types of fundraising have different costs associated with them, a good rule of thumb is anticipating spending somewhere between $.15-$.20 for every dollar you want to raise. Events have the highest costs associated with them with a cost of roughly $.30 on the dollar and major gifts have the least with a cost of roughly $.12 on the dollar. But there is no such thing as free fundraising.

Every organization should ask itself what it needs to be successful to meet its fundraising goals. Do you have enough personnel, not just “front line” fundraisers but also administrative support? Do you have the proper technology to operate efficiently and effectively? Do you have the marketing pieces you need including video? Do you have a budget for any necessary travel? Have you built in contingency?

My suspicion is that organization try to do fundraising on the cheap because they do not have the cash on hand when they begin their fundraising. They realize that they are undercapitalizing the effort but are unsure what to do. Ideally, our supporters would help us in this area as Dan Pallotta discuss in this post in the Harvard Business Review and truly leverage their investment, but lamentably capacity building tends to be way down on investors lists of things to fund.

Sadly, there are no short cuts. An undercapitalized effort may even cost you more than not doing it at all. If you don’t have the cash on hand to properly capitalizing a fundraising effort you need to make raising the necessary capital part of your plan. This may take longer but it will be worth it. To not do so is to spend money on what is likely to be an unsuccessful effort. But the right investment can go a long way.

You can follow me on twitter:  @bobosborne17

Make Room Black Friday and Cyber Monday- GivingTuesday™ is here!

By Yolanda Rahman, CFRE

As many of us prepare to stuff ourselves with turkey on Thursday and empty our wallets on Friday; there’s a new activity to add to our calendars:  November 27 is now GivingTuesday™.

GivingTuesday™ was created by 92nd Street Y, a New York-based nonprofit community and cultural center, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation.  It is a day to celebrate our country’s great tradition of generosity; a day for joining with colleagues, friends and family to support the causes we believe in; a day for giving.

To date, more than 1,500 organizations in all 50 states have pledged to take part and encourage their communities to participate and give whatever they can—money, expertise, time. Small businesses and major corporations, like Discover, are participating as well. As a part of their involvement, Discover is launching an employee giving program where they will match gifts plus make a bonus donation. They are also encouraging card members to donate their cashback bonus to the company’s charitable partners.

Today, I asked myself “What is my role?” in Giving Tuesday™?  The website lists several ways for individuals, families and businesses to get involved, but I wanted to make this even more personal and find a way to help those who are often overlooked in my community.

There’s a facility in my neighborhood that’s home to more than 200 severely mentally ill individuals. I often see them walking around town; shopping at the grocery store and even buying things from our annual garage sales. I often make eye contact and smile. But on GivingTuesday™ I want to do more than smile, I want to do something that would make them smile from the depths of their soul. So… I contacted my son’s elementary school principal and asked if the kids could participate in a card writing project for the residents of the home and he enthusiastically agreed. The Activities Director at the home was even more enthusiastic saying that this would probably be the only card many of the residents have ever received since living there.

On Tuesday November 27th, after meetings with clients, I will deliver the heartfelt cards from my son and his classmates and this time both the residents and I will be smiling. Now if I can only convince my husband to get his high school students do something on GivingTuesday™… That might take some extra pie on Thanksgiving and a 50% coupon for his Black Friday shopping.

We’d love to hear how you are participating on GivingTuesday™.  Send us a note on this blog, on Facebook or on Twitter. Together, we can make #GivingTuesday™ a permanent fixture on the calendar.

Happy Holidays!