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My Tips on Mobilizing the Board for Fundraising

Boards

This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

“I want to join your board of directors, but I don’t want to ask for money.” How many times have you heard that!? This month’s post – and podcast – helps you figure out what to do to combat that statement.

Boards come in all shapes and sizes. Some help out more with daily work because there are fewer staff, some are more strategic thinkers. Sizes range from 5-25, or even more.

No matter what, the board of directors of a nonprofit is responsible for making sure the organization is being fiscally responsible. This means making sure the nonprofit is spending money the right way, but it also means raising enough money to keep going.

But what do you do if your board doesn’t want to “ask for money?” We’ll talk through some ways that you can mobilize your board for fundraising without them outright asking for money.

How they can play a role in each part of the donor cycle

Fundraising isn’t just about asking for money. Donors go through a cycle, and board members can have a part of interacting with them at any part during that cycle.

  • Identify: Do your board members have friends, family, colleagues who might be interested in supporting the cause? Or, even people who are committed to supporting them as an individual. Or: if board members don’t want to tap into their personal networks, they can help with attending events for organizations like yours, and meeting others who care about what you care about.
  • Research: This is information gathering. Some of this is doing research online, but some of it is also just finding out more information about a donor or prospect – that could mean taking them for coffee or even just asking questions at an event.
  • Cultivate: This looks different depending on what your organization does, but this is the time when board members can often shine. It’s educating donors about the organization and the impact it is making. It’s sharing personal stories about their connection and experience, and connecting the donor or prospect with the organization. This is the friendraising portion of the donor cycle.
  • Solicit: There may be some board members who are comfortable with coming with a staff member on a major donor visit and ask, which is great. If they aren’t, they can write personal notes to go alongside appeal letters through the mail, to have a hand in the solicitation part of the cycle.
  • Steward: Stewardship is a lot of gratitude – saying thank you and showing them the ways their donation has made a difference. Board members can make thank you calls or write notes, and just keep donors informed about the organization’s work.

Systems & reports to help support your board

All of this work is for naught if it’s not being communicated back to the organization’s staff and put into the database. Build systems that are a fit for your board – some are more tech savvy and might want to fill out Google forms about donor communications, and some might want to fill out paper forms. It’s important to listen to what they want and build those – otherwise, they will never get filled out.

There are a variety of forms that can be created. One of the most important forms is a donor contact form, which is completed any time a board member interacts with a donor, and describes the communication on both sides. This is put into the database as a contact note.

Once the information from these forms is put into the database, a report should be created from the database that includes all of the information and is generated on a regular basis for board members.

A few last comments

Remember that your board is meant to help you. If you set up some systems and structures to support them, and show them the variety of ways they can get involved, they can be a force of nature for your organization.

Don’t forget, it’s always good to offer fundraising training to your board. Even if they are familiar with fundraising, there are always new insights to offer, and it can also be a good chance for people to share their wins in fundraising.

The important thing is to provide board members with information and resources they need to do their job – to an extent. Strike a balance between responding to these requests and taking care of other work. Focus on mobilizing the board to the extent that it will help you with your work because at the end of the day, the organization is what you’re all working for.

-N.C.

My Tips on Fundraising Events & Galas: Part 2

This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

We have a doozy of a topic this month, friends. We love ‘em, we hate ‘em, we love to hate them: it’s fundraising events and galas.

But they don’t have to make us tear our hair out! There are a few things to do to help us maintain sanity and make sure our event is a success.

Click here to check out the post & podcast from part 1. Read below about part 2!

So all of these event elements are great: but how do you do all of this and stay sane at the same time?? Here are some tips to help keep the burnout at bay.

  • Put together a project management spreadsheet and timeline. Build out a timeline as early as possible, and build in plenty of buffer time. Include all deadlines and who is responsible. Once it’s built out, share it with everyone involved.
  • Engage a committee. If there is a board committee working on the event with you, establish a consistent meeting schedule and goals for meetings at the beginning. Make sure there is a job description for committee members, and that there are clear expectations of everyone.
  • Engage the full board. They are key in getting attendees in the room and sponsors for the event.

Again, remember that the event you are pouring your heart and soul into is just one evening for your guests. So don’t forget to use it as an opportunity to build relationships with the people in the room that will last much longer than a few hours.

And (try) to have fun!

-N.C.

My Tips on Fundraising Events & Galas: Part 1

Cal Shakes Gala 2017 Placesetting

This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

We have a doozy of a topic this month, friends. We love ‘em, we hate ‘em, we love to hate them: it’s fundraising events and galas.

But they don’t have to make us tear our hair out! There are a few things to do to help us maintain sanity and make sure our event is a success.

Before you do anything else: establish a goal. Do you want to build relationships with your current donors? Do you want to engage new supporters? Something else? This will help shape a lot of your decision making.

Also remember that the event is just a blip in a donor’s experience with your organization – so consider the entire experience (before, during, and after the event) for the guests.

Now: let’s get to the event! Make sure that you are illustrating the impact that your donors have through their participation as a supporter.

  • Make sure you have visuals that illustrate impact: ideally, display boards with personal stories or quotes and a photo.
  • If your event has a speech component, make sure there aren’t too many talking heads. Including the board chair and executive director is nice, but make sure to have a testimonial of some kind that illustrates impact.
  • If you’re doing a video, focus on the story, and keep it short and sweet, but from the heart. It’s always nice to have the person who is featured in the video there in person, if possible.
  • If you are going to have clients at your event, make sure they are not used as props. Assign them to a staff member they are comfortable with, who will show them around and introduce them. Do not relegate them to a table in the back or ignore them. Incorporate them into the event in a way that feels celebratory and comfortable, but also natural.

Once you have those elements in place: focus on the guest experience.

  • Have great customer service. No matter what is happening behind the scenes, everyone interfacing with attendees should have a smile and an attitude of gratitude.
  • Start and end on time. If you’re having a cocktail hour, be transparent with your guests about the fact that there is an hour of networking before the program begins. Whatever schedule you sent out, stick to it, even if it means shortening some speeches. No one wants to feel as though their time isn’t valued.
  • Keep an eye on quality – to an extent. There’s a delicate balance of investing money in a quality experience but also not going overboard. Make sure that you show that you are using donor dollars in a responsible way.

Stay tuned for Pt 2 next week!

-N.C.

Me & My Sister’s Tips on Fundraising for Charity Walks

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This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode related to this topic, click here.

It’s time to get personal. And introduce you to someone very important: my sister Tomasine.

I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2010. I didn’t know anything about it or anyone who had it, so it was a confusing time for me. So I turned to a nonprofit organization for help: the National MS Society.

At the same time, my sister was living across California, and she and my mom wanted to help. They googled walks that benefit MS causes and found Walk MS Silicon Valley, a 1K or 5K walk designed for people with all sorts of abilities – and TEAM CHAPIN was born.

Tomasine and I want to share with you some of our experiences in fundraising for a charity walk – because we’ve learned a lot, raising more than $50,000 over eight years (shout out to our other TEAM CHAPIN members!!). And we know it’s a very common way to raise money for some very important causes out there.

Tomasine is our team captain, coordinating our members and handling team logistics. Our team is made up of family, friends, and others we’ve met who are impacted by the cause. While we are grateful for all levels of involvement, we look for a few key things in a member of our fundraising team.

Desired traits in a team member include:

  • Being comfortable asking for money from their networks
  • Being committed to raising at least the minimum amount required to get a t-shirt (for Walk MS Silicon Valley, that is $100) – it helps create community at the walk
  • Having excitement for the cause – you can walk, be a virtual walker, or just come to the event and spend time with us
  • Being willing to help out at and/or attend team fundraisers
  • Being creative in how they fundraise

At the end of the day, the job of a team member is to raise money. Here are some tips of how we have been successful in asking for money.

  • It sounds simple, but our most successful way to raise money is emailing family and friends, and announcing on Facebook. As we’ve talked about before, it’s very important to share a personal story with this.
  • Don’t forget to remind your donors about checking with their employer to see if they match donations.
  • Team fundraisers have been successful as well. One or two people will spearhead, and others will help with logistics & getting people there. We always share personal stories and information about MS at these events. Our successful events have included: Cupcakes & Gear for a Cure, U-Jam for a Cure, the MS Awareness Challenge, and garage sales.

And of course, we’d be nowhere in our fundraising over the years without saying thank you. A couple of tips for saying thank you that we’ve done:

  • Immediate thanks is always appreciated. I like to do a thank you on Facebook, so that our mutual friends also see and are reminded if they want to donate. If they request to be anonymous or aren’t on Facebook, I send an email.
  • Speaking of Facebook, we’ve also had a team member post fun thank you videos on Facebook, which was very effective.
  • Tomasine always coordinates a post-walk thank you card that is sent to all donors, and includes photos of the team on the walk and another personal message.

We hope that these personal anecdotes help you with your fundraising for any charity walks or runs you participate in. And if our story has inspired you, you can check out the TEAM CHAPIN fundraising page for Walk MS Silicon Valley 2018 (which is happening April 14) at bit.ly/teamchapin2018. Thank you!

-N.C.

My Tips on Planning and Prioritizing: Team of One Fundraising

Stock Illustration of a Busy White Person Holding And Talking On Three Corded Telephones

This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode about this topic, click here.

Now that you have your plan together… what do you do if you have no other development staff members to help you execute? Not to worry – here are some tips as to how to go about prioritizing your time. Remember: even Beyonce has only 24 hours in a day!

First: prioritize. Get very clear with your executive director what is absolutely necessary to accomplish, and then pick some extra things to do to complement the need-to-do’s.

  • Maybe there’s a big grant that your organization gets every year – it’s important to get the application and reporting deadlines on the calendar so that you don’t miss them. And build the relationship with the program officer!
  • Your next item to execute should be a year end appeal. This can be an easy way to communicate out to a big group of donors and bring in money without too much one-on-one contact. It’s an efficient way to fundraise if you don’t have much time.
  • Next would be relationship building, especially with major donors. They have the capacity to give large gifts that could make a big difference to your bottom line.
  • Lastly, if you have time, you can throw in a fundraising event. Events are nice-to-have’s, but take a lot of time and aren’t guaranteed to raise a lot of money.

Next: remember that while you’re a team of one, you’re not REALLY a team of one! You have other resources at your fingertips.

  • Are there other staff (outside of development)? They can help with demonstrating impact, like hosting a donor at an event with your clients.
  • Is there a board? They can help with sharing stories about the organization.
  • Is there a development committee? They can help with getting to know donors. You can assign them a portfolio of donors to work with.
    • If not, can you work to form one? Can you identify a chair?
  • Are there other volunteers? They can help with writing thank you notes or doing thank you calls.
  • Can you mobilize your donors? They can help with acquiring new donors, by asking their friends to give on your behalf.

All of these people can help tell your story. They all have their unique perspectives on what the organization is doing. They can forward your e-newsletters, share your social media posts, attend your events, and be advocates for you in the community – which is the majority of what you should be spending your time on as a fundraising effort.

As you’re busy running around mobilizing all of these people – remember to say thank you. Not just to them, but also to yourself. Hold yourself lightly, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Be thoughtful about your work, take breaks when you need to, and do your best. The organization’s story will hold up no matter what!

You can do it! And thank you!

-N.C.

My Tips on Planning and Prioritizing: Managing Fundraising Teams

motivating team

This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode about this topic, click here.

When you hear the phrase fundraising planning – what do you think? Do you think about Excel spreadsheets that sit on the shelf, or documents with track changes with dates that span over eight months? Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. A plan can serve as a roadmap for the direction you want to go, and can be something you refer to when your executive director asks you to do something a little out there (it can help you say no!). At the end of the day, it can – and should – be something that helps you stay sane.

As you start to put together your plan – use last year to benchmark, but don’t set your sights too low & get stuck on what’s happened in the past. Be reasonable but also imaginative. And make sure you have concrete goals. For each group you are looking to raise money from (i.e. individuals, grants, events), think about what you want to accomplish. Are you trying to raise more money? Increase your number of donors? Those goals aren’t necessarily the same, so get clear on what you want to do from the beginning.

So what if you’ve put together your plan and now you have to manage your staff fundraising team? It’s not an easy feat – getting everyone on your team on the same page. There are endless ways to fundraise, and there are always more people to ask for money, so as a team manager it’s your job to decide how to prioritize the work to be done. It’s also super important to balance what has to be done with what could be done – i.e. what is good for long term fundraising.

A couple of tips to do this:

  • Team retreats: In addition to your staff fundraising team, it’s good to include others as well, like your executive director, marketing team, or other volunteers working with you. Make sure to use time effectively – balance between strategic thinking and implementation. Make sure to do follow up! There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hours at a retreat and then hearing nothing afterwards.
  • Regular check ins: Depending on your team, this could be with the whole team or one-on-one. It’s important to keep your staff working on what’s important, but still have the bigger picture in mind.

It’s all about open communication! But: what if you’re a team of one? Stay tuned for tips next time!

-N.C.

My Tips of Giving Donor Appreciation by Saying Thank You

thank-you-note

This post is a complement to a podcast episode of Social Entrepreneurship with Nathan A. Webster, of which I am a monthly contributor. To listen to the episode about this topic, click here.

Happy New Year! Now that you’ve received a mountain of donations for your cause (hopefully!), it’s time to get down to business and say something important to your donors: thank you.

Before getting down and dirty with your donor recognition, let’s take a moment to remember why it’s important. In the everyday madness of running your organization, it can be easy to take your donors for granted. But saying thank you – and stewarding donors – will pay off in the long run.

Donor retention (getting a donor to give more than one year in a row) is vastly more cost effective than donor acquisition (recruiting a brand new donor from the general community). And the best way to retain a donor is to say thank you and illustrate the impact their donation made.

Now let’s get down to it. Before we talk about how you can say thank you immediately, remember that involving your board and other volunteers is critical. As a donor, receiving a call or note from someone who’s not getting paid by the organization is very powerful. Plus, you can’t do everything yourself!

Here’s a few ways you can say thank you to your donors immediately.

Phone Calls:

  • Consider doing a thank-a-thon. Depending on your group, you can do a lunchtime event with pizza or an early evening event with wine and cheese, and invite board members, volunteers, and program staff to make calls.
  • Prepare a script that your volunteers can go off of. Keep it short and sweet – name, affiliation with the organization, thank you for the donation, and perhaps a short comment about why it made a difference. Personalizing it is even better. Don’t forget to smile, too!
  • In the donor lists for your volunteers to call, and include: name, phone, donation amount or range, and year they’ve been donating since.
  • Save major donors to get calls from the board chair, executive director or other management staff.

Mail:

  • Send acknowledgment letters immediately (or as soon as possible, within a week), for tax purposes & immediate communication from the organization.
  • Prepare some inexpensive notecards – you can ask volunteers to handwrite some and return to you to send out.

Don’t forget to record all of this activity in your donor database!

Here’s a few ways you can create a culture of gratitude throughout the year.

  • Pay attention to your customer service. Make sure everyone in your organization is saying thank you to anyone who is a donor. If you’re sending an email, say thank you in the beginning and at the end of the message.
  • Try to recognize small moments like birthdays or donor anniversaries – donors are often only receiving solicitations from nonprofits, so it’s nice for them to receive other types of communications, even if they are informal.
  • Consider doing a mid-year stewardship mailing. Mid-year is a great time, keeping them updated on what’s going on and priming them for an end of year ask. Make the mailing directly related to your mission, and have fun with it!

These tips may seem obvious, but you might be surprised how many nonprofits don’t take the chance to say thank you beyond the standard acknowledgment letter. A little gratitude goes a long way, so make it a goal to implement even just one of these tips this year. You’ll see your donor retention rates improve!

And thank you!

-N.C.

Chapin’s Monthly Fundraising Tips – You Can Now Listen!

 

Chapin 2017-67 - resize2

Some exciting news for 2018! I am going to be a monthly contributor to the podcast I’ve been on a couple of times, Social Entrepreneurship with Nathan A. Webster (if you want to check out my posts about the two other episodes I was on, check out I’m On a Podcast! and Fundraising Tips for the Last Two Months of the Year). I’ll be focusing on different topics related to fundraising. My episode comes out the third Monday of each month, so look forward to the first one this coming Monday!

I’ll also do a blog post that complements each episode, so as long as you’re subscribed to my blog, you’ll get notifications every time there’s a new episode. You can also subscribe to the podcast through your preferred podcast listening method – just search Social Entrepreneurship with Nathan A. Webster.

If you or someone you know might be interested in sponsoring the podcast, let me know here!

And thanks to Nathan for having me! I’m exciting to share fundraising tips with his audience!

-N.C.

Fundraising Tips for the Last Two Months of the Year

We’re in the home stretch, friends! We’re in the final two months of the year and we’re ramping up for the busiest part of the giving season. If you’ve found yourself here thinking – well what do I do to raise money? – you’ve come to the right place.

A few months ago, I was honored to be a guest on the podcast Social Entrepreneur with Nathan A. Webster (you can check out the recording here). Nathan and I had such a good time that he invited me back to talk about five tips of things to do before the year wraps up. Here’s the link for the new one: 5 Fundraising Tips for Q4. Because I have your back, I’ve written up some notes from what we talked about.

Let’s get into it!

  1. Think of a story that illustrates your impact.
    1. We’re all emotional creatures, and we love a good story. It’s a great way to draw people in and show your impact without telling them what you do with tons of jargon and fluff. In this story, try to get as specific as possible, describing the people involved and using descriptive language about the setting and the feelings. Show, don’t tell!
    2. You can use this story everywhere, whether in mail, email, social media, or even in person. You might feel like you’re telling the story over and over, but you won’t oversaturate your donors – your donors only hear a fraction of your messages, and will pay attention to even a smaller portion than that.
  2. Tell your story & communicate it out.
    1. If you have the capacity, send out a mail appeal. You can stick with a simple letter and donation envelope. Mail it out to donors from the past three years, and if you have the time, you can segment the list more and send more targeted communications.
    2. Definitely make time, however, to focus on electronic communications, email and social media. A few email tips: keep your email as simple as possible, from the subject to the text inside. Make it very obvious what you’re asking for in the email. Make sure the donation request is above the fold; while many people are accessing their email on their phone, it’s still important. Speaking of the phone, make sure your website is both ready to go and mobile friendly.
  3. Use Giving Tuesday.
    1. Giving Tuesday is an annual day of giving, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, as a response to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It’s a fun day celebrating nonprofits and what they give to the community. Since we’re just a few weeks away, don’t spend too much time and energy on it – but at the very least, send out an e-blast with a donation button and post on social media (remember to use the hashtag #GivingTuesday!). If possible, find a donor or company who will match donations on that day.
    2. This is also a great day for a meme! Take an image from your organization (a cute animal, a beautiful outdoor setting, a cute kid) – and use language about impact, donating, feeling good, etc. Ask a young person if you need it! This is a fun way an intern or volunteer could help.
    3. Finally, check out their website at givingtuesday.org – it has tons of great resources.
  4. Use your board & other passionate volunteers.
    1. Ask your board to talk to their circles about the work your organization is doing. Make sure to send them details about your impact story so that they can tell the story themselves. Draft an email requesting donations that your board and other volunteers can send to their contacts.
    2. If there are a few extra passionate board members, have them follow up with donors who did not give their gift by the last two weeks of the year. If there are board members who are uncomfortable with asking, have them make some calls to say thank you.
  5. Say thank you!
    1. Make sure your acknowledgment letter template is ready and fits in with the message you set with your story. Try to get your thank you letters out as soon as possible. I’m not as much of a stickler to get them out 48 hours after receiving the donation, but sending them out within a week is ideal. Make sure your electronic acknowledgment message also reinforces your story.
    2. Try to have an attitude of gratitude while working with your donors. The end of the year can be a stressful time of year, and customer service is key in making sure donors have a positive experience with your organization.
    3. And extend that attitude of gratitude to yourself and the other staff or volunteers who are working tirelessly during this season. Saying a genuine thank you on a regular basis can mean a lot and make the work more enjoyable.

Speaking of saying thank you, thank you for the great work you’re doing. I hope you can take some of these tips and implement them to get your story out and raise plenty of money. Your cause is worth it, so it’s up to you to tell your donors and prospective donors all about how they can be part of it.

-N.C.

Celebrating Six Years of Blogging & the Next Chapter for Nonprofit Chapin

next-chapter

I’ve been waiting to write this blog post for months. I’ve been waiting to make these career decisions for even longer. And today, on the sixth anniversary of this blog, I am ready to share what I’ve been thinking about for so long – my plans for the future.

Over my eleven years of working in fundraising and marketing for nonprofits I have learned so much. I’ve learned about the joys and the challenges of working in nonprofits, that there is always work to be done, and that at the end of the day, the work changes lives.

I’ve also learned to key in on the elements of work that I enjoy and that I’m really good at.

  • I have eleven years of experience of working in various roles in development teams, and have a real knack for thinking about efficient operations. I know how to effectively manage direct mail appeals, put together major gifts programs, write and report on grants, put on a gala, or maintain a donor database.
  • I love thinking about how teams work and supervising staff. Empowering nonprofit staff to do their best work – while taking care of themselves and their needs – is a real passion of mine.
  • I love working in periods of change and transition – I like thinking on my feet and introducing new solutions to problems. And I have a knack for being a calming force during a time of chaos.
  • I’d like to work with a greater variety of nonprofits. Ever since I got my Masters in Nonprofit Administration, I’ve been craving the ability to use the breadth of knowledge I received with a wide range of organizations.
  • I want more flexibility with my time. I’ve realized that when I work constantly, I get in a zone and more quickly burn out, not doing my best work. I want a better balance so that I can do better work.

I’ve taken a lot of time to think about all of this, and had a bunch of informational interviews with people who have worked in development for a long time, and have landed on my next career move:

I’m looking to move into interim development director work.

I’ll help manage your development team, ensure your daily operations are taken care of and that money is raised, and even evaluate your current development program and make some recommendations. I’ll help during your search, help make a smooth transition to your permanent development director and then leave you to succeed.

With the constant state of turnover that many nonprofits find themselves in with this key position, I hope to fill a real need. Just because you’re between development directors doesn’t mean you have to put additional pressure on your current team or redirect someone else’s time. I can come in and help make sure everything runs smoothly.

My last full time day with my current employer is April 7. After some time off, I’ll be looking for jobs like this. If you hear of anyone who might need something like this, please think of me! I’ll be relying on my community of support – and that certainly includes you – to get me plugged in where I need to me. Many thanks in advance!!

-N.C.