Charity Alignment – Avoid The Tyson Effect

Controversy abounds over Mike Tyson and his on/off visit as a motivational speaker, should or shouldn’t he be allowed into the country is a decision only Immigration can really make – sure their decision could be overruled by the Minister of Immigration, as has happened already. I’m not going to get into the legal issues, or his right or otherwise to come here. 

Instead lets look at how charities need to be mindful of how they connect with others, what background checks they do, and what checks and balances they have in place for others working with or for an organisation who might put the welcome mat out to support an event.

Tyson’s visit to speak is being organized by a promoter and it would seem that a well meaning volunteer for an organization offered the welcome mat and further offered support by way of a letter supporter his application for a visitors visa; whether they had the right to send the letter is an internal matter, and one would hope rules and systems are being looked at to prevent anything like this happening again.

Sure, some would say his (Tyson’s) visit would benefit a charity, but what needs to be looked at is ‘alignment’ – does the person have the good character, morals to be associated? Forget about whether someone has served time or been punished in some way for what they have done in the past, what needs considering is whether supporters (present and future) will continue their support long after the event has been held and the money been banked.

It would seem in this case that the letter went out by an over zealous supporter, a volunteer Trustee, it would seem that the message from the governing board that they weren’t in support of the association didn’t get passed down the chain so that all who may have responsibilities for fundraising knew where the Trust stood.

If you’re a small, or a single location organization it’s a lot easier to manage things, but when you have branches, affiliate offices elsewhere that  have their own fundraising responsibilities it’s important that a clear fundraising guideline be in place.

Without a guideline people involved in promotion and fundraising can run amok – do you want your organization to be the next to hit the headlines over an over zealous supporter agreeing to something that your organization should perhaps steer clear of? If not, then dust off your internal procedures manual, flick to your communication and fundraising section and update it. If you don’t have a guideline now is the time to be thinking of putting on together – hop to it.

Planning the Year

We all need goals, without them we’re on an aimless journey; what goals do you have for the year ahead? The following are some ideas you could look at as part of your communication, supporter acquisition and other goals for the year.

Communicate – make February the month you will communicate with your supporters, they want to know what you have planned for the year. Update them about what you achieved in the previous year, and how this will help you in moving forward in the current year.

Needs Analysis – have you done a needs analysis to ascertain what resources you need to help you fulfil your goals and functions for the year ahead? Now is the time to set about preparing one, what resources will you need, who will you call on, are staff up to speed, all manner of your function can and, should be covered.

Annual Report – if your financial year end is 31 March, there’s no reason why you can’t start planning your annual report while your accounts are with the accountant or auditor. Think about how you will share you annual report, what information apart from the financials will you include, remember you supporters want to know more than the numbers. See Annual Reports – Print or Online.

Your community – spend time in your community, share your vision with current supporters at informal gatherings and, remember to invite potential supporters to come along and learn more about your organisation.

Social media month – make time this month to do a social media ‘cleanse’. Go through all your connections and see who, what your connecting with that is not adding value.

Now is an ideal time to also review your social media strategy and policies, are they working, do they need tightening?

Internal look – take time this month to take a look at your systems and procedures, are they working, what needs updating?

Have you conducted a staff review recently, are staff (and volunteers) doing what’s expected of them, are they all being rewarded adequately for the work they do?

Fundraising – set some time aside this month to look at your current fundraising methods, are they working, would needs to change, are there other avenues you could be exploring?

Remember to look at grant application deadlines, your presentation techniques could also be reviewed at this time.

Brainstorm – invite a group of current and potential supporters to an informal get together to talk about why they support and help grow your supporter base – see “Use focus groups to move forward”.

Using brainstorm sessions can help clear your mind and they definitely bring an outside perspective to how you could change to gain new support.

Beneficiary month – spend time with those your organisation supports, gather information direct from people who benefit from what you do,

Ask people if they’d like to be included in your next newsletter, a video, blog or other communication – what better way to tell your story than through the words of the people you help.

End of year planning – not long now and the year will come to a close.

Start planning what you will do at years end, will you hold an event to celebrate your achievements, will you be sending gifts/cards to supporters?

Now’s the time to also start communicating with your supporters about what you have planned in the new year and, remember to let them know how appreciative you are of their support.

Christmas party – are you holding a party? What theme will it take. It may be the end of the year, but it doesn’t mean it’s time to stop, there are lots of things that can still be done before the curtain comes down on the year, start your goal calendar for the coming year. 

Goal set and plan – set about building your own goals, targets and wishes for the year. Involve staff, supporters and other stakeholders – get buy-in for everything you do. Remember too that by including others in this process you will find the task easier and will likely come up with other goals you may not have otherwise thought of.


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.

Ongoing Support is Needed


As individuals, when disaster strikes we dig deep and give to a relief fund, often having to reduce or put a hold our regular giving. 

For an organisation, there is likely to be occasion when you’re income reduces as supporters divert their giving to a disaster relief fund. 

How can this be managed, can it be managed? 

Some organisations will have a contingency plan in place, others will have to fly by the seat of their pants; and just hope they can ride it out. 

We need to keep in touch with our supporters, we need to perhaps acknowledge that we understand their giving to any relief fund,  and that we look forward to their continued support when they’re able. 

I haven’t done any formal research, but been told by some people that anywhere from 15% to over 30% can be removed from the income of some organisations, when supporters reduce their giving to support a relief fund. 

This must surely cause concern within some organisations;  overheads still have to be met, outgoings for the services provided need to be met. I’d say there’d be some who would need to look at their situation closely. 

How can we manage a contingency, not being an accountant I won’t get into the dollars, cents and percentages; instead I thought I’d look at this from a communication view. 

I’ve already said that it’s important to stay in touch with your supporters. Perhaps you should get in early, within days of a disaster occurring and say let your supporters know that you understand that their support is important to both you, and the people affected by the disaster. That you understand, that they’re likely caught in a catch 22 situation – where do they put their donation money.

It’s by being in touch with supporters; that your message, the importance of their support and the work of the organisation, will be kept in their mind. 

Why have I raised this? Simply I had a conversation with someone recently who talked of the drop in ‘support income’ since the cyclones, flooding, earthquakes and fire that have devastated sizable communities; and cost the local economy, countries affected, many millions, if not billions of dollars in lost income, business that has come to a halt, consumers not spending  – perhaps moving away altogether. 

The major relief organisations do need our support, we can’t disregard that; perhaps as an organisation you could offer assistance to them. Do they have the capacity to field calls? Does your organisation have the capacity to assist? If so offer it. You’d hope someone would offer you the assistance if you needed it. 

It’s important no matter what that you stay in touch with your supporters, your stakeholders; and that you offer support where you can. You can’t afford to sit back and stress that income may have stalled, and worry about how you’ll regain it – you need to act. 

As individuals we need to remember the groups and individuals we normally support, and as soon as possible we must resume our giving to them. 

See also Charities hit as quake gets donor dollars

What’s on your ‘Wish List’



All too often charities and others working in the community don’t appear to have a clear picture of what they want support for; sure they know and can explain they need support to keep the organisation going and enable it to function in the delivery of its services. But, when asking for support they could do a lot better if they had a “Wish List”.

When approaching business or the public for support asking for funds for capital xxx can often be met with a resounding no. If on the other hand an organisation can say they need x amount of dollars for y materials, equipment or a specific project they are often received in a more favourable light.

If you have a project you’re undertaking, where possible break the project down into ‘parts’ – if an organisation is needing funding to take a group of children away on a trip of a lifetime; show the total cost per child, further broken down into the travel costs, accommodation costs, food costs etc – you will be able to ask people to support one child either in total, or for their travel, accommodation or food costs.

Doing it this way will enable those who may only be able make a smaller contribution do so. They won’t feel that you’re doing something they have no way of helping with.

Any project you’re undertaken can be broken down, build your “wish list” have it at hand when making those calls, include it in your appeal material, show it on your website – and ask, ask ask for help based on a smaller amount.

Do you use a wish or project list when making appeals for support? What do you do that works for you?



© Judwick |


What are you expecting in 2011



We all know that the last couple of years has been hard with the economy taking a roller coaster ride, not only have business suffered, people lost jobs; but the charity sector has also taken a hit.

Some organisations have had to reduce their level of service, cut back on overheads and reduced staffing levels; they haven’t been immune to the financial headaches suffered by others in the community.

There have been others in the non-profit sector who have gained support, mostly these have been organisations offering support in areas that provide shelter, food and clothing – human needs groups.

Others haven’t been so fortunate, but with a new year comes new opportunities; and it’s now that plans should have been dusted off, signed off and action started to get the funding needed to provide the services your organisation provides.

Are you expecting the same level of support or less this year? What can you do to change this?

There’s been some talk that the level of giving in the lead up to Christmas and New Year has been up; which is typical – the spirit of giving always seems to come at that time of year. But, we need to maintain the level of giving.

In the coming year it would pay to look at your structure, what areas can you adapt to make the most use of the resources you have? Also, it may pay to be more open with your supporters so that they have a clear picture of where their contributions are going. Being an open book with your supporters will in the long run add value, it will help them to make the decision to continue (and hopefully increase) their support.

Set yourself some targets, not just of the level of support you need, but also the number of supporters you will gain in a certain timeframe; and how you will connect with them.

You now have more resources at your fingertips to connect with supporters, sure, your typical letters, emails, faxes will remain – but, remember to make use of social media to connect. If you’re not using, or only using social media sporadically to connect, then up it’s usage; add it to your plan. When your supporters can see you actively engaged, asking and answering questions as well as talking about the work you do; will lift your profile and in time will aid you in your fundraising, supporter needs.

Don’t stop and dwell too much on what has been, the lessening of support; instead, stop, take a breath and look at the possibilities in front of you.


See also,

Individual Philanthropy: Looking Back And Forging Ahead To 2011

5 Ways Charities Will Be Using Social Media In 2011

Seth Godin on Innovation, Failure and Why Non-profits Should Stop Operating like Businesses

Philanthropy’s 10 Favorite Buzzwords of the Decade Show How Nonprofits Are Changing



Fundraising – Know Your Donor


To quote from “Understanding Fundraising” (Michael Norton, HarperCollins, 2007) …

Fundraising is about selling people the idea that something can be done, and then creating a partnership in which they (the donor) provide the means and you (the activist) do all the work to make things happen.

How many people who seek funding, whether for the organisation they’re employed by, or those who have a cause close to their heart they want to gain further support for go into the task without being prepared?

What you’re aiming to do (please don’t use “trying” – it’s too loose) is to gain support for your organisation, so know what your needs are, know what your potential supporter needs to know to make an informed decision, and you simply must know who benefits and how they benefit.

All too often I’ve heard fundraiser talk about what the organisation needs in the way of money, but they’re not up to the play when it comes to know who will benefit, nor do they know anything about who their potential donor is.

Do you know who really benefits from the work of your organisation? their family, other students at their school, work colleagues; the list of wider benefit goes on. Somewhere among your list of people who benefit, from the immediate, to those that are 6 degrees separated.

Your donor base needs sorting, you need to know things about them; such as:

Where do they live?

Where do they work?

What are their interests?

What age are they?

Every bit of information you have about your current donor, supporter, will help you tap into your potential donor easier. Your current donors will know people that mirror themselves, use (but don’t abuse) your current donor to ‘introduce’ you to new donors.

Sure you can cast the net wide, make more telephone calls, send out more envelopes/letters/emails or knock on more doors; but wouldn’t it be more effective to know who and where your donors are?

Every extra cent you spend contacting your donor, the less you have to spend on the core activity of your organisation.

Take some time out to research your donor, even hold some informal get togethers of donors to get more information from them; perhaps even asking them to help you connect with their friends, family and colleagues that have a similar ‘make-up’.

Whatever, remember:

Fundraising is about selling people the idea that something can be done, and then creating a partnership in which they (the donor) provide the means and you (the activist) do all the work to make things happen.

So, know and your target donor, to enable partnerships to be created, allowing you to get on with the work to make things happen.



© Melissa Schalke |