How Long Does It Take to Start a Major Gift Program?

Came across the following on and thought was worth sharing, some great insights/pointers.

It’s a serious dilemma.

The organization needs the money; they have the donors to deliver the money, but there is no major gift strategy in place to secure the money. This confluence of need, opportunity and planning usually results in a lot of impatient leaders.

Just last week I sat in a meeting where a manager was visibly upset at the slow pace of revenue generation. When I tried to explain that relationships take time, she brushed me aside and said: “Look, all you have to do is ask.”

And therein lies the organizational problem for many major gift programs. Management needs the money, and major gift people are told they need to deliver it “right now!”

This is a path to certain failure because the MGO, in this type of hostile and urgent environment, will focus on the money rather than helping a donor fulfill her passions and interests. And we all know that a focus on the money is a sure way to alienate a donor.

Reasonable managers and leaders know that good relationships take time – that you don’t just pounce on a donor and squeeze the money out of him. But these same managers often ask Jeff and me how long it should take to gain traction in a major gift program. “How long,” they ask, “does it take to have a fully functional program in place?”

We think it takes a minimum of 18-24 months to start a major gift program and have it become fully functional. Why so long? There are several reasons:

  1. The organization needs to hire the right MGO. This could take six months when you consider the time it takes to agree on the job description, get the proper authorizations, search for candidates, interview and vet the candidates and then finally hire them. I haven’t seen this process take less than four months. So let’s say it takes four months –although many times it takes longer.
  2. The MGO needs to qualify donors for a caseload. Why? Because only 1 in 3 donors who meet the major gift criteria will actually want to talk to the MGO. So the MGO has to go through a labor-intensive process to find 150 donors who will relate to him. This step alone will take 6-8 months. Let’s say six, even though that is being generous.
  3. Relationship building takes time. While the MGO will qualify donors early in her tenure with the organization, 8 to 10 months will have passed before she actually starts engaging seriously with donors. And building relationships (as you know) takes time – more time than most managers think it will take.

Keep reading full article here

The week in Review (Jan 30)

Have decided that at the end of each week I will do a review of some of the posts I written; just so as those who may have missed something get a chance to read and an opportunity for others to have a second read.

So this week I have touched on:

Are you Prepared to Collaborate?

There’s an abundance of non  profits in New Zealand, something on the lines of 26,000 registered charities, organisations could face support, funding and delivery issues unless there’s more collaboration.

Unless organisations collaborate there is a risk some organisations will cease to exist. There’s only so much people can give, both individuals, business and funding bodies; so just on a funding basis collaboration is needed.

Read more

Are You Singing from the same song sheet

The management, more than anyone in an organisation knows, or should know, what the goals, vision, mission of the organisation are; but is this being shared with all staff, particularly those on the frontline?

It seems that some organisations have a diconnect when it comes to sharing key information with staff, leaving staff to wonder what is happening, where they are in the organisation and how they can confidently do their work.

Read more

Handing over the Reins

It’s interesting to see organisations grow from being something started at a kitchen table, to something substantial.
In growing though there is always a need to bring in others with more expertise, more experience; but in doing so there is fear of the loss of control.

I recall reading about a charity, I think in the States, where the founder who took on a manger; but with the charity operating in an adjacent building to where the founder lived, he would turn up everyday and staff were unsure as to who they should be listening to the new manager or the founder.

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Giving is like Sex

I guess that got your attention.

There’s been numerous studies as to why people give and the effects of giving on those who give.

A recent post I read ”Should you give?” has some great insights into what happens when people give, the effects of giving on the brain, body and soul.

Read more

Charity Events, Plan, Plan and Plan Some More

The pitfalls I hear you say. It’s true not all charity events run smoothly, there can be numerous hiccups on the way to staging an event.

Getting passed these can be a struggle, but you can get passed them.

When it comes to an event, an organisation can spend months planning what they will do, why they will do it and promote, then stage the event. It’s something that can create a lot of stress and frustration.

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What Millennials Want to Know

Gaining support from millennials is important, and yes, they do want to support organisations; it’s just how you go about it that matters.

I’ve recently spent some time with a group of 17 to 26 years olds talking about charities and how people connect with them and how charities work to connect with supporters. Some great insights for me, and I’m glad I had the opportunity.

One thing that came across loud and clear, was the need for great storytelling, not meanigless information, muddled stats, but real stories about the people, the cause that the organisation is working to help.

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They’re peeved off, now what

Why is it that some in the charity sector don’t know how to handle donors who maybe annoyed with you, donors who may feel you’re not deliverying on what you say you will do.

It’s not rocket science, dealing with disgruntled donors is and should be treated in the same was as businesses would deal with disgrutled customers. Simple, customer service skills are needed.

Read more

Something I would be keen to hear is – what would you like to see me blog about; what issues, challenges or general areas of discussion would you like to see me cover on

You can email me with any thoughts, ideas …

Charity Events, Plan, Plan and Plan Some More

The pitfalls I hear you say. It’s true not all charity events run smoothly, there can be numerous hiccups on the way to staging an event.

Getting passed these can be a struggle, but you can get passed them.

When it comes to an event, an organisation can spend months planning what they will do, why they will do it and promote, then stage the event. It’s something that can create a lot of stress and frustration.

Making sure you have a strong event planner is a must, don’t start anything until you have sat and brainstormed the event, what will be needed, possible partners and the outcomes you want from the event. If you don’t do this you’re only setting yourself up for failure.

I’ve seen organisations plan an event, when I say plan, I mean they dream up the idea of an event, contact a few supporters then send out emails inviting people to come along. There’s been little or no planning, then after the event (or maybe days before) the organisation panics, it hasn’t met the ”goals” of the event, income has been lower than expected and costs have soared. All of this could have been avoided, if proper planning had been undertaken.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of planning, but more about some areas that should be taken into consideration:

Venue, is this easily accesible, have you considered where guests will be able to park?

Catering, know your supplier and don’t just accept the first price they quote, can the sharpen the pencil and offer you a better deal if ”billed” as a sponsor?

Invitees, who are you going to invite, when was the last time these people supported your work? Don’t forget to get your Board involved in the invitation process, they may be able to tap into their business networks to help with sales to the event.

Auction, will you be holding one, will it be a live or silent auction? Gaining items to sell can be a massive task in itself, have someone dedicated to doing this; don’t dump this onto someone who already has a lot to do.

Pull the Plug, have something in your plan to monitor ticket sales and know when you will be to pull the plug. There’s nothing worse than having too few people attend and have the even run at a loss.

Timing, when will you hold the event, weekends don’t always work, nor do times leading up to holidays or other major activities in the community. As part of your planning do some research into what is already being planned in your area before setting your date.

So, before you mark on the calendar when your event will be, before you name your event; sit down with your colleagues, and perhaps a supporter or two and brainstorm your event. You need to plan the planning of any event if you want it to be a success.

Happy planning.

What Are You Expecting?

I’ve been hearing from some organisations that they are expecting a lower level of donations from the public this year.

A scarey thought considering many organisations rely on the kindness and generosity of Mr & Mrs Public to ensure they’re able to deliver the services their organisation is established for.

Sure, organisations do have the ability to apply for funding through lottery, other charity organisations and of course their current support base. But, if there’s a downturn in support from the general public this can have a big impact on the organisations ability to carry out what it is there for.

More often than not when income falls below expectation it means cuts have to be made, sure there are overheads that could possibly be trimmed back, but when it comes to cutting back on service delivery this has a wider reaching impact.

How many organisations have a contingency plan should something go haywire with annual funding projections? I’ve worked with a number that at one point looked as though they were flying by the seat of their pants and had no contingency plans in place. They’d just do what they could with what they had, and didn’t seem at all concerned about the clients they were they for missing out. Now they know the importance of a backup plan.

When you are doing your annual planning, do you look at what you would do should you find yourself with a drop off in regular giving? Any drop in regular giving can make a huge difference, so organisations should be factorying this into their annual budget planning – do you?

Branding; when a refresh is in order

Branding; when a refresh is in order

Was talking with a couple of people recently about how they were thinking that maybe they needed to have a brand rethink for the organisation.

This discussion probably takes place more than we realise, one issue when discussing a rebrand, is the thought that it will hit the coffers hard.

During the course of the discussion I recalled an article I had read from Max du Bois “When’s the right time to rebrand or refresh?” and thought it a relevant article to share with you.

In Branding Inside Out Max du Bois suggested you’ll know when it’s time to refresh your charity’s brand “when you’re achieving your goals in spite of your brand and not because of it. Or when you’re spending time, effort and money overcoming its shortcomings rather than reaping the benefits of your brand’s strengths.”

Early signs of trouble for your brand can include hearing the same communication issues over and over again, struggling to explain with clarity how a partnership could best work, or trying to make sense of a proliferation of sub-brands and visual identity interpretations.

Be wary of introducing the word ‘rebrand’ too early as disaster could strike. Trustees will see pound coins flying out the door and start digging in their heels citing branding disasters, and staff might start thinking they’re working for a broken organisation.

Read the full article

Who’s making the Decisions?

It never ceases to amaze me that senior management in an organisation make the decision to change a campaign message, campaign objectives and more without any discussion from those on the frontline doing the work.

Sometimes the first the frontline staff know about a change is when it has occurred and, if they the fundraising team this can have a big impact not only on how they do their work, but also on their morale.

If management are thinking about changing course, modifying the message (and delivery) they are giving to supporters, wouldn’t it make sense to have your staff involved in the decision making process?

Those doing the day-to-day fundraising are likely to have a better picture of what is and what isn’t working, they will have an idea of how your message is being received and, as such have valuable information that could help you make the decision/s about whether change is needed.

Often frontline staff will feel resentment if decisions are made without any consultation and this can have negative impact on how they do their job; is this something you can afford in this competitive sector?

Any organisation, non-profit or for profit needs to have two way communication, if staff aren’t feeling engaged with what’s happening, if their views are being sought and aren’t valued; you run the risk of having a disenfranchised team – is this something you can afford?

When you make decisions, what discussion do you have with your frontline staff; or are you just doing what you think is needed?

What do you do when staff come to you and suggest changes to a campaign, is this something you take seriously, or do yo just shrug it off?

See also

Staff Morale – Is it a reflection on the Organisation?

Do you appreciate your staff?

Are you ready to change?

To see organisations doing the same thing day in day out to gain funding can be frustrating. Especially when you know they could do better and more if they adapted their fundraising methods.

If you keep doing the same thing and getting the same results, why bother repeating the action, it’s pointless, a waste of time and resources.

Organisations need to adapt.

If your direct mail campaign isn’t working as well as expected, adapt it, hopefully you have done a “market test” before launching the campaign and have allowed for tweaks.

If your telephone campaign isn’t working, why? The people making the calls will have market intelligence that they should be encouraged to share. Is it that they’re calling the wrong area, has something happened that’s drawing donors away (a disaster, humanitarian crisis).

Has you email campaign not gained the hits you would have expected? Again, did you test the campaign with a sample of your database before hitting send to your entire database?

It’s important that all campaigns are tested, not just internally, but more so externally. It’s your market that matters, not only what you and your team think.

How much time and effort are you putting into campaigns that could go belly up if you’ve got it wrong?
Be ready to adapt, have something up your sleeve “just in case”.

Be ready to change the subject line of your email campaign if you’re not getting the hits you would expect.

Likewise, be prepared to send the email at different times/days. And, yes, keep records of what does and doesn’t work.

If your phone campaign isn’t hitting the mark, is it the time you’re calling, change your calling times. And, as much as people hate it, don’t forget Saturdays can be a great calling day.

Before you hit go on any campaign, have an alternative plan, be ready, be adaptable and monitor, monitor, monitor.

Be ready to change, to adapt to any situation, perhaps even end your campaign early if need be.

When someone supports give a quick call and ask them why they have supported – yes thank them too.

Perhaps you have a supporter who has donated previously, but not on this occasion; give them a call and ask why.

This type of intelligence gathering is important, and should be done every campaign, no matter what.

So, in the planning sessions you have for your next campaign, allow for people to call delinquent donors and ask why, and call new donors too (you should be doing this anyway), and thank them, but find out why they are supporting.

Good luck out there, remember there’s lots of competition for the charity dollar.

Giving Charities a Helping Hand

The report recently released by NZInitiative, is something anyone in the charity sector or supportive of charities should take the time to read.

“Charities play an important role in our society, delivering a range of social services to numerous communities and causes. Their good work is recognised by the government, which confers a range of privileges to them, such as an income tax exemption, and the state also provides a significant portion of the sector’s funding.

“These are significant privileges, which is why it is important that only groups with a genuine charitable purpose be entitled to receive them.

“Yet as Giving Charities a Helping Hand argues, the regulations governing the sector have set the test of charitable purpose so high that many small groups cannot attain, or struggle to maintain, registered charity status. At the same time, commercial firms owned by charities are allowed to retain profits without paying tax on these funds. Indeed, there is little oversight over how these funds are used, and the current regulations create the potential for unfair completion in the market.

“This report puts forward three policy proposals to remedy this situation, namely to:

  • re-examine the centuries-old definition of charitable purpose,
  • restore much needed procedural fairness to the legislation, and
  • Tax all for-profit firms equally, but make all donations to charity tax deductible.

These reforms are aimed at helping the sector, with the benefits accruing to charities, and ultimately the communities and causes they serve.”

Click to read more

Click to download the report

Do You Know the Numbers

All fundraising is a numbers game, whether it’s tele-fundraising, email, direct mail, face-to-face; it’s all a matter of numbers.

When we look at tele-fundraising, it could be that one in fifty called may give; face-to-face maybe higher, and direct approaches through other means may differ again.

What is important is an understanding of how many, and what type, of approaches is working for you.

To know what your pipeline is, you need to have some knowledge of:

  • How much you’re needing to raise – a finite figure is better than “what ever we can get”
  • What your current “hit rate” is … approaches v donations = hit rate
  • How many approaches to reach hit rate

If you have no idea of what this is, how can you successfully plan a fundraising campaign?

In the business world if you ask most salespeople about the quality of contacts others make for them; you’d likely probably that they are only suspects, probables.

It’s no different when it comes to fundraising:

  • Suspect – anyone on your database
  • Prospect – people know to support
  • Lead – someone ready to consider giving
  • Opportunity – someone wanting give – here and now

It’s important to understand each “category” and to also understand and monitor what it is taking you to reach a favourable outcome, a commitment.

Success shouldn’t be measured solely on the level of funding received, measure it on all outcomes; how many approaches against level of support received.

Watch and observe that the more refined your approaches let lower the number of approaches needed.

This doesn’t mean you need to reduce the number of contacts you have, it’s all about the right approach to the right people at the right time.

How well can you define your contact list – if you don’t have the ability to segment to capture the right people at the right time; you could be missing out.

Disaster Recovery

There are risks in any business operation and a non-profit is no different. There may be occasions when you may not be able to continue your work due to events taking place – think, storms, earthquakes, fire.

Having a plan can mean you’re up and running quickly, for a good guide on continuity planning, read Why your business needs a disaster recovery plan.

From the guide:

Why your business needs a disaster recovery plan

Would your business be equipped to deal with a significant disaster if it were to occur tomorrow? Unfortunately, too many small businesses wait for a crisis to happen before they think about their response, which can prove to be a costly oversight.

By identifying the risks your business faces, you’ll be able to put contingency plans in place to help you mitigate or prevent the likelihood of a disaster affecting your business. It’s peace of mind for you and your staff.

Business continuity planning

It’s vital that your business has a contingency plan in place to help you get back on your feet following a disaster. Think about how your business might be affected by a range of scenarios and jot down a number of ways you might be able to work around these problems.

Start by drawing up a basic list of possible crises that could affect your business. Some obvious risks include natural disasters such as earthquakes and storms with threats of property damage, asset loss, and restricted access to your premises.

Read full article

Next steps

Start protecting your business straight away, by using these useful resources: