It’s time to start planning for 2012

As the year draws to a close – hard to believe there’s on a few more weeks of 2011 left, but let’s not dwell on what ifs, what we could have done better – lets look instead to what we CAN do in 2012. 

Maybe in the last year you have struggled to gain new supporters, had difficulty in being heard in the ‘noise’ of stories about the work nonprofits are doing, or maybe you’ve just been run down. 

Whatever the reason for not achieving everything in the last year, set about in making a change in 2012. 

If there’s things you haven’t achieved this year, that you still want to do in the coming year, and provided the won’t sap you of energy or redirect focus – knuckle down and set about to achieve them in the coming year. 

If you have missed out on gaining new supporters, set yourself new targets, instead of saying “we will gain 1200 new supporters in 2012” – rephrase it and chunk it down into ‘bite sized’ targets – “we will gain 100 new supporters each month in 2012.” As the phrase says ‘It is possible to eat an elephant, you just have to eat it one bite at a time’ – don’t bite off more than you can chew, this is true with every aspect of our lives, and the work we do. 

  • Set about your plans for the coming year, do you want to: 
  • Gain more acknowledgement for the work of your organisation
  • Join the social media wave and grow your organisation
  • Establish new giving opportunities for supporters
  • Upgrade your website
  • Start a volunteer network

Whatever it is you want to do, you won’t achieve it unless you have a plan (and a time frame) to do it. 

What are you plans for 2012, it’s not too early to start planning – don’t leave it until the first weeks you’re back in the New Year. 

How and when do you start planning for the year ahead – share your ideas on making the most of your planning.

Growing your nonprofit with Social Media

Almost everybody representing their organisation on social media platforms are looking to ways to get their message out, to raise aware of and support of the work they do. 

How people go about it varies, some use social media solely to broadcast their appeals for support, others are using it to engage and tell a story, to listen and connect with others who need or have had support from the organisation or a similar one. 

It’s likely the latter group, those who are using social media ‘socially’ that are making more inroads, gaining more support and understanding for their work who are succeeding. 

Often you will see nonprofits (and you could be one of them) simply using the street corner technique “hey can you help us” – “we need your support”, but unless the people you’re talking to know who you are, what you do and how their help will make a difference you’re unlikely to gain that support. 

Now to take this online – you send out messages on your FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn or an assortment of other platforms, you post an update “We need your support – click blah blah for more info” – what’s the real point of this? It doesn’t really do a lot unless people know the background story – and really who is going to see this, more than likely 90% of the people who see it will already by your supporters, or be people who know what you do. 

This group may share your message, but still there’s no background story, no real reason. 

Here’s a tip, go through your connections – pick half a dozen and send them your message, but rephrase it – ask them to help spread the word, if they’re your connections on Twitter – ask “hey @mention have you seen what we’re doing < link to info> – can you do as a favour and ask others if they can help us”. 

When these people have passed on your message – thank them, a little thankyou goes a long way. 

Share information, join in conversations – if you see people talking about how they support community organisations, ask them what it takes from an organisation to gain their support – this will help to open up conversation, connection and likely support (in kind or monetary) for your organisation. You can also file away this information to help you you’re your next campaign. 

When you have an appeal running and it’s on your website, ensure that there is sufficient information (without boring people with too much) to make them make an informed decision, perhaps even include a simple online “ask us” portal, where people can get real time answers to their questions. 

Social media is just that, it’s social, people want to know and see the faces behind an organisation, so simply posting links, news and information won’t work, you need to make the effort to connect and engage with others.

How many individuals from your organisation are using social media, it’s quite likely a number of your staff/volunteers are using at least FaceBook – ask them to share what you’re doing with their friends and family. 

Using social for nonprofit activities really can broaden your reach, but you do need to handle it right, steer clear of using it only for broadcast and take on board some of the thoughts, comments above, you’ve nothing to lose – only potential to gain. 

If you’re already using social media effectively to gain support and grow your organisation – what has been the one big change you have made, and what made you make the change? Share your comments others are keen to learn.


Pitch it and Zip It!

When asking for a donation know what you want, why it’s wanted and the positive impact the donation will be to those receiving it. 

A while ago I wrote ‘How much is needed’ in it I said: 

‘When asking for money, it’s generally accepted that if you ask for specific amounts, offer suggestions on giving levels organisations can have a better ‘return’ than those who simply ask for ‘support’.  

$20             will give a child school lunches for x

$50             will allow a child to attend school activities for x

$100           will give a child school books for x 

When people can see that their donation is “earmarked” for a specific purpose they’re more inclined to give – they can “see” a result, a benefit. 

In reality it’s only part of it – knowing when to ‘shut up’ is important too. 

Using the ‘pitch it and zip it’ approach will help ‘close’ the donation request. 

Asking for a donation is no different to someone in sales asking for the sale – options are given, price is given, then any salesperson with experience will zip their lips and wait for the customer to make comment. 

The first person who speaks after the ‘offer’ is given generally loses the ‘sale’. 

It’s no different when requesting a donation, ask for the amount you want and ‘zip it’, wait for the person you’re talking to speak, they’ll either say that’s too much, or I can’t afford that, both signals that they could give but the amount asked for is too high for them, they’re not saying they won’t give. You still have the opportunity to ask for a lesser amount. 

When asking for a donation it often pays to start high and come down, you can’t ask for $20 then when the person says yes increase the amount asked for. But if you ask for $100.00 and they say it’s too much you can come down – but don’t come down too quickly, they’ll tell you what they can give. 

So next time you pick up the phone and ask for a donation, paint a picture, tell the person you’re talking to how important their donation is, then ask for an amount – then ZIP IT.

Don’t give discounts, make a donation instead

Do you offer prompt payment discounts? Ever thought that instead of giving a discount; you tell clients you will make a donation of the percentage normally given, to a charity in their name?

An accountant spoken to about this has said it’s possible to do, and it could a way for you to get paid on time; while at the same time showing your support for local causes.

Imagine you normally give a 10% discount to clients who make prompt payments, a bit like utility companies do. If your invoice is $1200.00, and you normally give a 10% discount, you’d be making a contribution to charity on behalf of that client of $120.

The other way this can be done, is to break the discount in two; give your client a 5% discount, and make a further 5% contribution of the total invoice amount to charity in your name. This way you’re able to claim the 5% as a tax rebate.

In the current up and down market we’re still seeing, it makes sense to look at other ways to encourage people to pay on time; so why not look at something like this as a way to help you and charity at the same time.

Selecting a charity or charities could be the hard part; but most people have an idea of the types of causes they support. A while ago I posted Not-for-profit – Giving Survey Results, this should give an idea on how to select a charity.

Imagine how the charity you give to would feel, seeing extra money coming in on a regular basis. Think how much more they could do with these extra dollars; and has it really cost you? It doesn’t if you normally give a discount.

Doing something like this can help with staff morale, ask your staff what charities they support, get staff buy in and you’re definitely on the road to a win – win – win situation.

What have you got to loose? Nothing, you can only win adopting something like this in your business.


Who attends your events – Invite the staff

How often does the management of your organization invite front line staff to attend public events?

After writing ‘Your board and trustees should be working’ – I was reminded of how often the executive team in some organizations were the only people who would regularly attend events hosted by or for the organization – why?

Lets look at something, who does the ‘real’ work, who are the people responsible for raising the funds, administering services, answering queries from the public? Is it the management team, or is it the front line staff – the worker bees?

Sure events cost money and every ticket sold helps offset costs, but surely some of the people who attend could forgo their place at the table, instead giving it to someone who spends hours everyday working to ensure the organization can and does meet its goals.

Imagine what it would do for staff morale if staff were invited to attend events, they’d have the opportunity to meet and talk with people the organization works with as well as sponsors etc; they’d have ‘stories’ the could share with other staff and be able to use the experience of the event to help them in their day to day work.

Sure there could be a challenge in working out what staff to invite, but it’s worth the effort to spend time looking around and seeing who would benefit most from attending. Don’t make the decision on a pecking order in the organization – instead invite staff who offer a range of skills, staff who have been with the organization a while, as well as at least someone who may have only been there a short time who shows promise.

If you have regular events do you invite staff to attend – if not why not? If you do, then how do you work out who attends? 

Charities Supporting Disaster Relief Efforts

Cards on the table I’m a blogger with/for 101Fundraising and was aware of, but didn’t attend or register for IFC, but have just read To raise funds, or not to raise funds. That’s the question, and not having the background – access to the video of the debate cannot comment on what took place, but will comment on whether “Should we be raising funds for disasters occurring in developed economies?”

First off, being from one of the countries mentioned, New Zealand, I have a personal take on whether fundraisers should have helped out, so will leave that out of this ‘debate’.

Let’s look at why people are involved in fundraising:

The area they are fundraising in/for is close to their heart – personal experience
They’re involved because they care
It’s human nature to help others

These are only three of the reasons why people work in the nonprofit/charity sector, there are more. So just looking at these three areas, if we’re asked to help because we have skills and experience based on the above, then we’re more likely to.

Not having seen the debate (restricted access) I can only comment from a personal level.

Something that I’m wondering is who took part in the debate, were they representatives of their ‘employees’, or were they attending as ‘individuals’ – which ever, the outcome can be skewed.

As people working in the nonprofit (fundraising) area we’re interested in doing what we can for others, those we represent directly – the organisation people are employed by – but we’re also interested in, and care for others in other countries who work in the same or similar field of assistance.

So if we’re humanitarian and care about, for argument sake kids with cancer then we’re likely to rally our resources to help organisations working in a similar field in a country or area affected by a natural disaster, and by helping the wider ‘relief’ effort we are doing our part to help.

I’ve written previously about charities supporting charities, but feel that this is a different kettle of fish all together.

The debate about charities supporting disaster relief is likely to not go away, what we perhaps need to do, rather than be negative to organisations who support relief efforts is to get in behind then and support them.

What are your views, does your organisation support efforts outside of your organisations aims, what effect has this had on your abilities to maintain your core objectives?

Your board and trustees should be working

You have a board, you have trustees – who among them are working, or are they only there as figureheads, people to steer the organization and ensure the smooth operation (and legal compliance) of the organization?

Where possible board members and trustees should be doing their part to raise the profile of the organization, they should also be helping to raise funds.

Too often we hear of this group saying things like ‘we work hard, we give our time’ – sorry but time doesn’t always equate to money – but it could.

Your board and trustees could be connecting with people in their external networks to talk about the work of the organization, what it does, why it does what it does and how people can help it achieve its goals.

We all know it takes relationships to build and strengthen an organization and it’s likely board/trustees have some strong relationships in the community. If they were to tap into this – using their clout to help raise profile and funds, it would make it easier for your organization to do what it does – and it would also show to others in the organization (staff) that they (board/trustees) are more than figureheads.

Your board/trustees could be doing all manner of thing in the community:

  • Visiting business groups and talking about the role of your organization (Rotary, Lions, Chamber of Commerce)
  • Talking to business colleagues about the organization and how business can be involved 
  • Attending (and paying) all organization events, bringing along colleagues and friends
  • Running events – using their business connections to host events that will benefit the organization

Are your board/trustees actively working to help the organization – what are they doing, please share how they help and what happened to get them more involved. 

Fundraisers and Commission

Is it right or even ethical for fundraisers to be paid a commission is something I’m often asked, and the answer depends on a number of things.  

Are the fundraisers ’employed’ and earning a wage as well as commission, are they commission only agents, or are they an external agency.

People doing any work should be rewarded and charity fundraisers are no different, it should be clear to people making donation where their donation goes (see Being an open book), anyone making a donation shouldn’t feel that they can’t ask – they have every right to ask. 

Charities and fundraisers should be prepared to answer questions from donors, they have an obligation to be open and upfront. 

Some things that charities, fundraisers, and donors should think about are: 

  •  Donors may lose faith, trust in the organisation when they learn of ‘personal gain’
  • Some fundrasisers could be seen as using ‘hard sell’ techniques to get the donation.
  • Does personal gain come first, does the interests of the charity suffer?
  • Are commission based fundraisers only doing it for the money, do they believe in the work of the organisation?

 There is an element of ‘so long as the charity receives a donation it doesn’t matter who gains from it’ – perhaps this is true. 

Does your organisation pay fundraisers a commission, if so, do you find you gain more in donations? 

Are you a fundraiser earning a commission – what drives you the potential income you can personally earn or the income you can earn for the organisation you are raising funds for? 

Would you give to a charity knowing that a percentage of what you give is paid as commission to an ‘agent’? 


Impact of RWC on Fundraising

New Zealand recently hosted  (and won) the largest sporting event the country has ever seen, for some sectors its been a bonanza, for others there is  some doubt about any positive impact.

What about the charity sector, has there been any impact?

For some there hasn’t really been any concern, for others there was concern from the outset that hosting of the cup tournament would have a negative impact on their fundraising – but has this been the case, or is it (still) too early to know?

There may have been some increase in the number of people out doing street sign ups, and regular street appeals have still taken place, phone appeals too, but whether there has been any impact on the success or otherwise of fundraising and supporter acquisition campaigns we may not really know for sometime.

Managed right organisations could have gained more exposure than they may have otherwise got, being careful of course not to run foul of ambush marketing rules.

Some organisations would have been effected negatively, those who would have normally earned income through car parking duties, but perhaps they managed to recoup any loss through other means.

There has been some feedback from some in the sector that their donation income dropped as people spent ‘disposable’ money on tickets to events or other activities during the cup, whether this was widespread may never be known, but there is the likelihood that there would have been a percentage of people who diverted money they would normally have donated.

It would be interesting to know if there was any impact on the charity, nonprofit sector – positive or negative.

Was your organisation affected by the cup, if so in what way? if in a negative way, what have you done to compensate for any losses?

Did organisations change their programmes, event schedules around the cup?

If you’re not in New Zealand and your county has hosted a major event did your orgnanisation change activities around a major event?


Charities and Christmas

More and more people are opting to give to charity at Christmas rather than spend money on gifts – so why aren’t more organisations ramping up their activity and activiely promoting something on the lines of –  “instead of that gift – make a gift that will make a difference”?


It would make sense for charities to run some form of promotion, using social media for starters perhaps, to get the message out that giving to charity at Christmas can make a difference, that the gift has the potential to last long and have more of an impact than something wrapped under the tree.


There are already some doing it, and that’s great to see, but why aren’t more doing it? Has your charity, or a charity you give to sent out a message asking for donations at this time of year, what’s the response been?


If your an individual, or family – why not ‘gift’ a donation to charity in the name of someone you would normally buy a gift for, companies instead of sending out gifts could be sending a card to those they’d normally give something to say “we’ve made a donation in your name to xyz.”


Charities should be planning to do this – if they’re too late for this year, get the ball rolling and be ready for next year.