Category Archives: @EASE Fund Development Software

A High Value Donor and Accountability

What a High Value Donor Thinks Part II

Batsch Group (BG) sat down today with a High Value Donor (HVD), who has played many different roles in our community and in Canada. Some of those roles included CEO of a Melcor Developments, Chancellor of the University of Alberta from 2012 – 2016, a Board member,  a fundraiser and as a donor. These are just a few of his community activities, which makes him the perfect person to ask about his perspectives on giving.

Please meet Ralph Young (RY)and hear what he has to say.

BG:     How do you choose the charities you wish to support?

RY:     First, it is the cause.

Next, it is believing that our contribution will bring value.

Finally, I like to see it’s working, so feedback is important.

BG:     As a developer, what are your thoughts about the foundation that supports a building?

RY:     Well, without a strong foundation, the building doesn’t stand.

BG:     What are your thoughts about charities and their organizational foundation?

RY:     Well, we have worked on many not-for-profit projects and found that their foundations are often dysfunctional. Staff members change, and often little is known on what has been committed or what will happen with donor’s wishes, leaving it in question. There has to be accountability by the organization to donors.

BG:     Accountability is important. You have mentioned several times today.

RY:     Acknowledgement is nice, too. Don’t forget us once the gift has been received.  

BG:     Are you suggesting that once the gift is received, charities forget about you?

RY:     It’s nice to hear from charity staff. They could take a moment to just drop a line, maybe a quick card signed by someone who has worked with you.  This keeps our interest and shows the charity understands we are more than the gift.

Note to readers: What is being expressed here is relationship building and how a charity can maintain a donor’s interest in how projects are proceeding.

            I once heard a fundraiser say they wanted to make friends with donors. Our position is donors are not your friends they are collaborators supporting a common cause.

            We also heard a comment from a young fundraiser who had worked for one of the cancer charities. They bragged that they had acquired so many gifts in kind for an event that they didn’t even bother thanking the donors. If you were the donor what would you think?

RY:     The problem is staff change so often. It is hard to build a relationship. I am working with a Foundation and I thought the development staff worked well, but they have all left.

BG:     The level of disorganization can affect staff morale. It’s hard to be successful when you spend most of your time looking for information or trying to build a donor profile so you can be credible when you meet with a donor.

RY:     Another area is reporting. I have often received very glossy reports but something simpler with more content would be useful.

BG:     Would you consider donating to a charity where they run a chaotic organization?

RY:     It would depend, but chaos and a lack of discipline would be a consideration.

BG:     What do you think of a form of certification for a charity which supports how it works to successfully deliver its programs, and which cannot be undone by every new staff member.

RY:     I think it’s a good idea.

BG:     Ralph, thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts, your suggestions and some of your frustrations!

Summary Comments

The charitable sector manages billions of dollars annually. In Canada, CRA has some oversight, but what about oversight related to how the charity runs internally. A chaotic environment, run by often untrained staff, who are responsible for donor management practices puts the charity and its funding dollars at risk. What if a charity could say to prospective donors:

  1. We have an annual training budget and all staff engaged with fund development are required to be fully trained.
  2. We have an organizational strategy for all electronic tools, so access to our resources is seconds, not minutes or hours.
  3. Senior managers all participate in adding to our organizational history.
  4. Fund development managers can use the donor management software and collaborate with data entry to ensure all campaigns and appeals are properly defined.
  5. The charity has specific policies and practices for all forms of data management, which we adhere to allowing for corrective actions where needed.
  6. We invest in continuous improvement but all within the context of our current methods of information management.
  7. Our investment in these methods has continued to improve our productivity and our charitable dollars.
  8. Staff change will no longer put the charity at risk as our methods and policies have enabled us to continue work regardless of change.
  9. We have developed a High Performance work environment to achieve our goals and maintain high performance staff.
  10. We have more time to invest in building relationships with our valued donors, so we are a true donor-centric organization.

Batsch Group Inc

Authors of From Chaos to Control Build a High Performance Team Using Knowledge Management

Risky Business

U Bein Bridge Myanmar
1.2-km bridge was built around 1850 & is believed to be the oldest & (once) longest teakwood bridge in the world.
U Bein Bridge Myanmar

RISK to a charity resides at the top. It is found in the attitudes expressed by Boards and senior management.

Information and knowledge are the drivers behind successful businesses today. This includes the charitable sector.

When information and skills are given short shrift by those who should ensure a well-run organization, you have RISK. Board members and staff change. In the case of staff, they receive salaries, RISK does not directly affect them. When staff leave, the knowledge they have recorded of their interactions and research with donors, funders, and advocates is their legacy.  But what happens when little of that information is recorded? Can the charity be confident they have the most current data? Unfortunately, this is not an unusual situation, where large gaps occur in the knowledge base which the charity uses to engage its donors.

How do you reverse the knowledge loss which affects most charities? We think the answer might be found with their donors. Would donors be more comfortable giving to a charity who offers an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) or TQM (Total Quality Management) form of accreditation? This accreditation would address standards where members of an organization participate in improving processes and the culture in which they work.

There are organizations currently, which look at charity outcomes to recognize the charity’s value. But, what about behind closed doors? What would the outcomes be in a more organized, knowledge-driven environment where data is captured, not lost? Would RISK be mitigated? Would staff change be drastic? Could the black hole often greeting new staff be removed?

We recently sat down with a high-value donor whose gifts fall into the seven-digit  range. Our conversation is next:

What a High Value Donor (HVD) Thinks

Batsch Group (BG) sat down today with a HVD, who has played an important role as a donor in our community, to gain th

eir perspective on how they choose a charity to support. 

We discussed some issues from our perspective regarding how the charity is organized to ensure staff have the tools they need to be successful as they tell the charity’s story, build a funding base and a sustainable future for the charity.

BG:     What is important to you when you select a charity to support?

HVD: For me, it is the Why – How – What. 

Why the charity needs to raise money?

How will it help a situation?

What are the expected outcomes?

            Leaders fail when success stories are second to the ‘shadow of failure’.  When I give, I look for positive results.

BG:  What are your thoughts on whether the organizational structure of a charity impacts their ability to raise funds?

            Physical organization of the tools used.

            Building a Knowledge-base to better understand donors.

            Training, so staff can use the tools they need to do their job.

            Job Descriptions which make staff accountable.

HVD: I don’t like to put people in a box; it curbs their creativity.

            I prefer the words Job Outline to job description.

BG:     We consider physical organization a platform to support staff creativity. Time is important, and if 2 hours are taken to do a 20 minute activity, 1 hr and 40 minutes are lost. When tools are provided like recording key conversations but the staff member chooses to use something different, it undermines the charity.

            I agree with you; creativity is key to success.

HVD:  Charities need to think like a business.  The team, a new staff member, joins, is important in retaining them, as good staff will stay in a less productive environment with a good team, versus good staff hired to work with a bad team.

            The salary differential for charities is huge between different organizations.

BG:     Salaries are usually determined by charitable dollars raised. Where an environment does not support a platform from which fundraising staff can succeed, the result will be fewer dollars.  Another impact is training. Charities often feel training is an expense.

HVD:  I am all in on the importance of training. The cost of a poorly trained employee far exceeds the cost of a trained one.

BG:     Would you donate to a charity, which is highly disorganized.  A charity where there is no training and time is squandered due to a disorganized working environment?

HVD:  No.

BG:     The majority of charities struggle with common issues. Managing their donor data is a big problem. Because we work at the grassroots level, we see the impact of a donor database where only gifts are entered and little else. We call this the BLACK HOLE, as it undermines the charity and hobbles the ability of staff to speak confidently with its donors.

BG:     Thank you for taking the time to discuss an important issue. The charitable sector plays an import role in all communities.

Information is what a charity needs to collect to build a viable future not impacted by change but in spite of change. 

FROM SURVIVAL TO THRIVAL!

Is your Special Event Boom or Bust?

HermitageUrn

Hermitage

First and foremost a special event needs to be enjoyable. To that end it needs the right venue, the right food, the right environment, the right audience and the right price.  Consider your goals when approaching each of these and a good rule of thumb is based on whether you would enjoy what is being offered and better yet, if you would go back to experience it again!

  What is the objective?
It’s important to understand what the event wants to achieve. There are many activities competing for attendees and dollars these days. Consider carefully how to ensure that event guests understand the charity’s needs and enable them to contribute financially.

I recently attended two similar fundraising events with slightly different outcomes. Let’s take a closer look at what made one of them far more successful than the other.

The first event was to fund activities in central Africa. I arrived to a room teaming with guests. The event featured silent auction tables and a bountiful buffet. The key to this event and its outcome was the auctioneer, a city media celebrity with a great knack for entertaining people who made sure the auction was a success.

Connect your guests to the mission
Rather than building complacence after a heavy meal, the auctioneer stepped up to the microphone and announced the live auction.  Attendees could “purchase” beds for a hospital, goats and chickens, there was a rather large donation needed for a health related area on the table.  The Beds were about $100.00 each so he started with a request for 40 beds … as one hand went up after another, he counted … 40 Beds done.  Next, came the request for a goat, kid and chicken, 50 sets for families. The price $65.00 … so let’s see those hands once more.  As the hands went up volunteers passed each contributor a form to complete which would be used to make a payment over the course of the evening.

This approach was very successful. Rather than wasting dollars on frippery at the silent auction table, people could see that what they were purchasing was directly assisting the charity’s goal to provide this community with what it needed.

The second event was for a charity working in North Africa.  This event was less successful but had just as much potential. The charity was looking for money to help support children to attend one full school year. Desks, books, a uniform and medical help were required. At no time, were these items offered through a live auction. The event, although nice to attend, forgot the time old truth – you need to ask!

Investing in a personality who will make ‘the ask’, works. Depending on the age of the audience you may find people who no longer want to collect unessential things through auction purchases but rather have discretionary income to purchase an item of value to the charity in question. Forty dollars for a desk is an easy ask, or a full package for one child for a mere $275.00.

When hosting your next event be sure to consider your goals. Look at what you hope to achieve and how you can frame your ‘ask’ to encourage guests can give. Purchasing something of value gives donors the feeling they have made a difference.

In Conclusion
Be sure you record what guests have spent and follow up with them. It’s always nice to be informed about those who have been generous by recording the amounts gifted in your donor management software. Having the full giving history is definitely an advantage when engaging with your charity’s supporters.

Side Note: When you go to a restaurant your server will often ask how you liked your meal. We would like to suggest a better question being ‘Would you come back?’. I think this is equally relevant for a special event hosted by a charity.

 

 

For High Performance Fund Development Staff A Charity Needs a High Performance Environment

Winter 2013 leaves CostaRicoYou’ve just hired a new fund development manager. On paper, it looks like a good decision. Once they are in place its important to assess their performance. This can be difficult when the elements of their job are not clearly defined. Determining if a new staff member fits into a high performance mould can only occur when those at top levels in management have designed the specifications required to build and maintain high performance working environment.

It is all too common to find employees with job descriptions defined at a very macro level, leaving the actual day-to-day work to be re-defined and changed with every new staff member. This scenario allows for lost information, very poor data management, undocumented procedures (or no procedures at all!) and an overall disaster. Without the right level of leadership, staff may be left entirely out on a limb, without the resources they need to efficiently manage their time and succeed in their job. How then, can you truly assess their performance when their time might be eaten up with busy work and productive actions take a back seat?

Information management tends to be a major issue that is overlooked and under addressed in many charitable organizations. Dollars in, relationships with donors and advocates, research and more are directly impacted when there are no specific guidelines on how to record and retain information to ensure compliance and support accountability; attributes of a high performance environment.

Take a look at your organization and consider your information gathering functions. We are focusing on information and fund development because charitable dollars are a charity’s lifeline and processes concerning its management are often overlooked.

In our experience, the lack of detailed job descriptions to define the expectations of a particular staff role, are often far too open-ended. These expectations are the basis on which consistency, compliance and accountability can be determined and where there is a lack of framework, staff are forced to make decisions they may not be qualified to make; at which point, assessing their performance becomes more difficult because omissions that arise may be tied to organizational problems and not the employee’s capabilities.

It takes time and effort to assess and document the tasks that are important to the success of both your staff and your organization. In a system with no specific requirements and methods, individual staff will each come up with their own processes, which may add to confusion, inefficiency, poor outcomes and less than satisfactory results. Put one, two or three people through the same job over the course of several years and you wind up with a chaotic environment where information is both everywhere and nowhere.

One fact remains consistent; you cannot assess a staff member’s overall performance if some of their most basic tasks have not been defined. We place the onus on senior management to design systems that address all departments, allowing the charity to create a high performance work environment to support high performance hires!