Saturday, January 26, 2008

Board Works

Pop Quiz time. You’ve just started at a new organization. There hasn’t been any ongoing fundraising for quite some and the Board leadership wants you to get out there and start raising funds. What’s the very first thing you should do?

If you answered: Start with your Board, give yourself a solid B. To get the extra points that will move your grade to an A, you’d need to be a bit more specific.
What, then, specifically, should you do? First, make sure that every (and that means all of them—no exceptions) have made their annual give. Call those who haven’t and for that gift now.

What? There isn’t an annual giving requirement? Get your Board leadership together and then them that an annual, unrestricted gift requirement for every member of the board must be instituted immediately. The only acceptable negotiation is ho much. And do not let them sell you short.

Yes, of course you will lose some Board members. That’s good news. You can now replace them with people who will be happy to write that check.

Done? Great. You now have a grade of B+. The A comes when you ask each of your generous Board members to introduce you to someone they know who could support your organization at that annual level or higher.

Let’s be clear on a few things. First, “Introduce you,” does NOT mean that they give you a name and tell you contact the person saying, “Joe (or whatever your Board member’s name actually is) told me to call you.” Introduce means that Joe (or whoever) sets up an appointment for the three of you where you are formally and physically introduced to the prospect.

Secondly, and I know this is going to sound counterintuitive, you don’t want Joe to call on his friend and simply for a gift. You very well might get a check, but then you have the beginning of a beautiful relationship. A relationship that you may be able to bring to a higher level.

Great. You have earned your A grade. But don’t stop there. Get the gift from Joe’s friend. Then earn extra credit by asking the friend, who is now your friend, what friends of his he can introduce you to.

Janet Levine is a fundraising consultant. She can be reached at Her online grantwriting class is available at

Pardon the ALL CAPS Notebook - The Only Measurement That Matters Is Money:
"The only MEASUREMENT that really matters is MONEY (INCOME) raised to FUND THE VISION and SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE YOUR IMPACT. Many of you want to argue/debate this with me. (You may be bringing a knife to a gun fight.) Yes, it's about relationships. But, it's about MAXIMIZING the RELATIONSHIP... AT THIS GIVEN MOMENT.

I'm becoming more mellow with age, but the word/concept of 'cultivation' still makes me gag. Even things like 'stewardship' and 'donor relations' don't work as part of your model or strategy IF there is no GIFT... no INVESTMENT... no MONEY/INCOME!!!"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New report on online fundraising

Internet Evolution - Editor's Blog - The Web's Impact on Philanthropy:
"'Tools of the Internet help you reach out to, not just those who are already giving, but those who currently feel disenfranchised and may not be inclined to give yet,' says Alexander Blass, founder and CEO of RealityCharity."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Good to know

Fundraising for Nonprofits: What is the average fundraising cost per dollar raised?:
"Greenfield states the U.S. national average cost to raise a dollar is 20 cents, which he breaks down into the following:

1. Capital Campaign/Major Gifts: $0.05 to $0.10 per dollar raised.
2. Corporations and Foundations (Grant Writing): $0.20 per dollar raised.
3. Direct Mail Renewal: $0.20 per dollar raised.
4. Planned Giving: $0.25 per dollar raised (and a lot of patience!)
5. Benefit/Special Events: $0.50 of gross proceeds.
6. Direct Mail Acquisition: $1.00 to $1.25 per dollar raised.
7. National Average: $ 0.20"

Sunday, January 20, 2008

If You Build It….

There I was, the chief development officer and the chief cook and bottle washer among my other duties, with no time and no resources to do development. It wasn’t the first time I was there, and so before I started I committed to making three prospect calls a week. That turned out to be unrealistic.

It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t find the time to have three more meetings. Somehow there is always time for another meeting. What I didn’t have enough time for was the calls to get three appointments a week. I figured that it would take a minimum of 60 (and more like 100) phone calls on average to get those 3 appointments. Even assuming that in 80% of those calls I got to speak only to the answering machine, that was the equivalent of one full day a week

What was do-able, however, was to block out at least a half hour a day (or two and a half hours a week) to make phone calls. Because we hadn’t done any real fundraising for years, I didn’t exactly have a wonderful prospect list—but I sure had a lot of suspects!

So I segmented by what I could—age and zip code. Where I didn’t have a phone number, I sent a letter—with a request to call me and a reply envelope. I didn’t get a lot of responses. Interestingly, though, I got more checks in the reply envelope than calls. That was okay. The checks generally gave me phone number and now my calls were much easier.

“Hi,” I would say. “This is Janet. I’m calling to thank you for your gift.”

That worked so well—over 85% of those folks were willing to meet, and most of them ended up giving larger gifts—that I figured I needed to get more reasons to make thank you calls.

A full-on direct mail campaign was beyond my budget, but with the help of IT and my PR department, we sent out large-sized post cards, with the aim of driving them to the website to register. They could, of course, make a gift, but I really didn’t care about that. Registration gave me up-to-date phone numbers, people who had self-identified as being interested in us, and a reason to call.

“Hi. This is Janet. Thank you for registering.”

Pretty soon (well, okay, it took 18 months), I could make 3 fundraising calls a week, which improved our fundraising bottom line immeasurably. Better still, the board decided that if I could accomplish that much by myself, think what could occur if they hired a dedicated development officer.

Janet Levine is a fundraising consultant. She can be reached at Her online grantwriting course is available at

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Interesting, bad news

The NonProfit Times - The Leading Business Publication For Nonprofit Management:
"The ongoing survey asked the same 8,000 families about their charitable gifts made in 2000, 2002 and 2004. While the total percentage of households that gave was similar in all three years (67 to 69 percent), it was not always the same households. The study found that a fairly large proportion of all U.S. households -- nearly one third -- shift between donating and not donating."

Contribute - The People And Ideas Of Giving:
"Levis’ survey shows that most nonprofits post an average gain of just 10 percent each year: they lose 52 percent of their donations, which is then offset by a 62 percent gain in new or upgraded donations. In short, says Levis,nonprofits are losing almost as much as they’re gaining, pouring a river of money into a nearly open drain."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Keeping Your Eye on the Ball

You’re small, under-resourced. You’ve got too much to do, and too few hands with which to do it. Stress has become a way of life, relaxation a stranger. And if one more board member, or your CEO, shows you what Harvard or Stanford, or some national organization that has a gazillion dollars to spend on administration has just brought in, you are going to scream.

Trying to manage a small advancement office is like trying to keep your house clean when you have toddlers and two very large and hairy dogs. Most days, nothing goes as planned and, after a while, it is tempting not to bother to plan at all. At my last job, I planned to meet with at least 3 prospects a week. That didn’t seem like so many. Surely I could fit that into my calendar.

I could have. If I had had three prospects to call on. But I didn’t. So I figured that what I really needed was a database. Oh, we had one. But it was a mess, and it was old technology and very expensive to maintain. Besides, no one in the office really knew how to manage it.

So I began looking for a database that better suited our needs. Along the way, I realized that our gift acceptance and receipting policies were virtually non-existent. They needed to be updated. And oh, I had to go to cabinet meetings, board meetings, staff meetings, meetings with city and state officials and, it seemed, every other meeting held at my organization.

Are you seeing a pattern here? Are you shaking your head because you see the quagmire I’m falling into, or are you shaking your head because you are right there with me?

It is so easy to lose sight of what should be if not the than a primary purpose of your job: Raising funds for your organization. So how do you keep your eye on the ball and ensure that fundraising doesn’t constantly get pushed to the back burner?

Short of quitting, which is sometimes the only option, what can you do?

First and foremost, manage expectations—yours and everyone else’s. Assess your situation, honestly. Given your time, your resources, your prospect pool, what is reasonable to demand of yourself (and, should you be so lucky, the rest of your staff!). Then build some manageable metrics.

Next time, we’ll talk about these metrics in detail. Meanwhile, tell us how you keep your eye on the ball.

Janet Levine is a fundraising consultant. She can be reached at Her online grant writing class is available here


Is Direct Mail Dead? -
"'The economics of direct mail are failing,' writes Mark Rovner, a fund-raising consultant on the blog Sea Change Strategies. 'That is more or less an uncontroverted fact It costs more to mail, and fewer new donors come back with each mailing. This trend has been masked somewhat by higher average gifts by donors you already have, but sooner or later, the acquisition crisis is going to affect bottom lines. For some, it already has.'"

Interesting new scam targeted at nonprofits

Sunbelt Blog: Beware Barbara Moratek of the Ivete Foundation:
"There is a new scam going around where small non-profit organizations are being targeted by a 'Barbara Moratek' of the 'Ivete Foundation'."

Shut up and listen

Donor Power Blog: Is your fundraising a long, dull conversation?:
"Talk to the donor about the donor. The only things you say about yourself are the things that show how you fit into their world."

And get a cattle prod

Teaching Board Members to Raise Money -
"To get board members to raise more money, the author says development officials and executives need to show them how it’s done — and set reasonable goals."

As with anything, it depends.

Idealware: Should Your Nonprofit Use Social Networking Sites?

Are Social Networks for You?

So should you invest in creating a profile or networks on social networking sites? It depends on your organization. To succeed with social networking sites, you'll likely need a staff member or consultant who has a passion for working with these types of sites. You'll also need to establish goals to understand if the time commitment is worthwhile. For instance, if you're trying to expand your community, how many new people linked with your cause would make your time worthwhile? Be open to alternative goals, too: Perhaps your primary purpose with social networks is just to get your name in front of the younger members of your audience.

More than most technologies, success in social networks depends on your sense of adventure. There are a lot of opportunities, but many of them are not thoroughly explored or tested. You might achieve great success — or it could all end up being a great big waste of time. Think through the challenges and opportunities carefully, and then decide whether social networking is right for you.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Keeping an eye on the B List

by Janet Levine

I’m in the midst of writing an on-line fundraising course, and find myself having a lot of "oh yeah" moments. These--as opposed to "aha" moments, where you have an epiphany that hadn’t struck you before--are those moments when you remember what you should be doing. In this case, things I used to do, successfully, before my jobs became so mired in other administrative duties and/or where the volume of what had to be done was matched only by the lack of resources with which to do them. Sound like your job?

One of those oh yeahs was the keeping of me and my organization on the radar of my second-tier major donor prospects. The ones I wasn’t quite yet working with. If I was in the middle of a solicitation cycle, of course I kept in touch. But if I had thought, "ummm, Josie is someone I should keep on eye on," I too often didn’t keep Josie’s eye on me. Meaning, of course, that I didn’t just call to chat on a regular basis, or ask Josie to meet for coffee or come onsite to see something interesting. By neglecting this, I was always having to start it all from scratch.

Related to--and possibly the cause of--this was not populating my B list regularly. I got too busy to pull aside one of the thank you letters I was signing each week to find out more about that particular donor and if he or she should be identified as a potential prospect for a larger gift. Didn’t always follow up with that person I met who was an alum of my institution or who mentioned that she "loved" the work done at my organization. I had gotten, frankly, too busy to plant the seeds that would turn into a strong, sustainable fundraising program.

Inevitably, I found myself bemoaning the fact that all the low-hanging fruit was gone and my good intentions to make a certain number of fundraising calls per week were impossible, because all I had was a database (for good, bad or indifferent—a subject for another time) list of names, who had serious cultivation needs before they could be considered a major donor prospect.

Janet Levine is a fundraising consultant. She can be reached at Her online grant writing class is available here

Could be good news

The New York Times discovers a problem with project-specific grant-making that any nonprofit knows well:
"...when foundations switched to project-based accounting, they forced grantees to sacrifice long-term effectiveness for short-term efficiency, Ms. Enright said. Nonprofits could no longer afford to focus on important strategic activities like advocacy or working for social change, which require “deep resources and the ability to change tactics overnight if the situation demands it,” she said.

In addition, critics say, project-based funding allows grantees to collect only a fraction of their real overhead costs. According to “In Search of Impact,” a 2006 study of foundation grant-making practices from the Center for Effective Philanthropy, foundation chief executives will allow a nonprofit to add only 10 to 30 percent of direct project costs for overhead. Some refuse to provide any operational costs at all.

The financial strain knocks many promising nonprofits out of business."