Sitting down with a donor is an important relationship-building experience. What happens when fund development staff attend a meeting with less than reliable or complete information about the donor? A situation arises where the donor becomes aware that someone in the room is struggling to maintain a professional demeanor! How often have you been exposed? Information that should have been readily available had simply not been retained in a useful form! Let’s hear about situations which exposed the charity placing it in a RISKY position. Would you give your money to a non-profit which is disorganized and lacks the ability to manage effectively? The high-net-worth donor we interviewed said “NO!”.
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.
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.
a developer, what are your thoughts about the foundation that supports a
without a strong foundation, the building doesn’t stand.
are your thoughts about charities and their organizational foundation?
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.
is important. You have mentioned several times today.
is nice, too. Don’t forget us once the gift has been received.
you suggesting that once the gift is received, charities forget about you?
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.
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
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.
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.
area is reporting. I have often received very glossy reports but something
simpler with more content would be useful.
you consider donating to a charity where they run a chaotic organization?
would depend, but chaos and a lack of discipline would be a consideration.
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.
think it’s a good idea.
thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts, your suggestions and
some of your frustrations!
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:
We have an annual training budget and all staff engaged with fund development are required to be fully trained.
We have an organizational strategy for all electronic tools, so access to our resources is seconds, not minutes or hours.
Senior managers all participate in adding to our organizational history.
Fund development managers can use the donor management software and collaborate with data entry to ensure all campaigns and appeals are properly defined.
The charity has specific policies and practices for all forms of data management, which we adhere to allowing for corrective actions where needed.
We invest in continuous improvement but all within the context of our current methods of information management.
Our investment in these methods has continued to improve our productivity and our charitable dollars.
Staff change will no longer put the charity at risk as our methods and policies have enabled us to continue work regardless of change.
We have developed a High Performance work environment to achieve our goals and maintain high performance staff.
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
RISK to a charity resides at the top. It is found in the attitudes expressed by Boards and senior management.
and knowledge are the drivers behind successful businesses today. This includes
the charitable sector.
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.
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.
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?
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.
is important to you when you select a charity to support?
HVD: For me, it is the Why – How –
charity needs to raise money?
How will it
help a situation?
What are the
fail when success stories are second to the ‘shadow of failure’. When I give, I look for positive results.
What are your thoughts on whether the organizational structure of a
charity impacts their ability to raise funds?
organization of the tools used.
a Knowledge-base to better understand donors.
so staff can use the tools they need to do their job.
Descriptions which make staff accountable.
don’t like to put people in a box; it curbs their creativity.
prefer the words Job Outline to job description.
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.
agree with you; creativity is key to success.
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.
salary differential for charities is huge between different organizations.
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.
am all in on the importance of training. The cost of a poorly trained employee
far exceeds the cost of a trained one.
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?
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.
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.
Ya Ya Ya ,,, Change?!! No Way! Barbary Ape Gibraltar
A common theme for charities is staff turnover, lack of productivity and the struggle to maintain donation levels.
We attribute many of these issues to the charity’s ability to create and maintain a high performance work environment.
Like any business, access to tools and information is critical to its function and to those it employs.
Surprisingly few of you reading this will be interested in the how and why, to achieve better results.
The old adage ‘it has always been this way’ is clearly the mantra of common leadership.
This conversation is directed at Executive Directors who want more and are willing to make deceptively easy changes to free up staff time, bring in more dollars and have job satisfaction. You have said ‘We don’t have time to change’.
For some of you this is true. But for a few, this will be a challenge and one where you will rise from surviving to thriving.
As a donor do I want to hear my charity of choice proclaim
“We need to clean up our data!”?
Is there something functionally misunderstood in the not for profit community where data, their most valued asset, is given short shrift to other needs?
Is it possible that a more organized and functional method for managing all the information a charity uses to operate successfully, would support all these needs?
Our many years working in the charitable sector has shown us time and again, the negative results of poor information management, lack of training and little staff accountability.
It is interesting to hear that good leadership is the solution when in fact good business practices which outlive staff change, not only supports leadership but is a salve when poor leaders are in place. It’s not our intent to focus on leadership. Good intentions, come in many forms, some are just more effective than others.
It has been our contention for a long while that the charity itself needs to have some requirements built into how it functions, so that it can hire the right people and retain the right methods to support its sustainability.
There are many avenues of information or knowledge which supports a work group. Consider a bank. Does every new accounting clerk change the software to something they are familiar with only to quit in 18 or so months? No. Do tellers change processes that protect the bank from making errors when handling customer deposits and withdrawals? No. Would any change be acceptable where a more effective solution has been in house?
Training is a big area of concern. “Let’s not train our staff and see if they can figure things out.” It’s cheaper than investing to support a knowledgeable work team. Going back to our bank analogy, do they train their staff? Yes. Because someone worked at a different banking organization is that enough to assume they can absorb the differences and function successfully. Maybe or maybe not, but ensuring staff are knowledgeable should be a criteria for success if not greater productivity.
Large shops enjoy the benefit of many staff members taking specific jobs working on focused tasks. Small shops need to have shared job skills to ensure there is quality in the processes and speedbumps are avoided.
So, our bottom line is this. We find the idea that ‘our data is a mess’ is really the outcome of poor management and a lack of understanding of what information and knowledge means to a charity. Anyone can ask for money, but only some can manage the processes around ‘The Ask’ effectively. The charity needs to come forward to define its expectations and instill accountability at all levels.
Join us now and rate your charity’s Chaos Quotient.
Who said we need to use the database … we like spreadsheets and little lists!
1. Database is not being used and donations are being recorded elsewhere.
2. New staff members do not use donor database because senior managers have not mandated its use.
3. Some donor gifts are manually receipted.
4. Special events are handled on spreadsheets.
5. We were unable to invite all previous guests to a special event as lists not recorded in the donor management software were lost.
6. We don’t record how much people spend at the event so we don’t know who the big supporters are.
7. Documents and lists are everywhere, finding what you are looking for is time intensive.
8. Getting a mailing list takes days because information has not been centralized … it’s stored in word processing documents, on spreadsheets, in homemade access databases, on paper, in someone’s smart phone or contact management system, elsewhere?
9. There is no organizational history; we don’t even know who past board members have been.
10. We aren’t accountability for recording touch points with donors, they are non-existent.
Training is a cost. Trial and error produces a creative mix of methods!
1. New staff members are not trained because senior managers don’t mandate training. It is not required.
2. Staff turnover has been an issue and no one can find any contact information on donors or community supporters.
3. The head of fund development left and we are at a loss as to where to begin so we start again.
4. A staff member left who was really good at creating mailing lists, letters and emails. Now, no one knows.
5. Grant proposals have been written. Some were accepted and some were declined. We have tried to find the status of all requests and what is still outstanding.
Controls are not something we are interested in!
1. Software updates have been left undone because no one is responsible for ensuring new versions are up to date.
2. We have donors who have given multi-year pledges, the documentation has been lost.
3. We have donors who pledged but have not paid. We don’t have a follow-up policy to handle this situation so we left it.
1. Fundraising dollars at events have decreased or not increased.
2. The ability to inform donors and the public about the charity is onerous and time consuming.
3. Donors call in and no one can find information on their gifts.
4. One of our big donors called to say they wouldn’t be supporting us in the future.
5. We are in constant scramble mode, and no one is enjoying their job, morale is low, stress is high.
Give yourself 5 points for every Yes. Add your total and this is your CQ%.
• Anything over 30 suggests a problem.
• Over 50 and there is definitely some issues that need addressing.
• After 50, it’s all downhill!
Donor-centric fundraising is all the rage. It makes a great deal of sense. Know who your donors are and why they are motivated to support a charity; ensure their gifts are allocated as requested; do the appropriate stewardship to show the charity understands their giving goals with supporting information. The final piece is the donor’s interest in how the charity runs. Is it efficient? Does it use its time and resources effectively? Is it able to meet its funding goals and are donor dollars well used?
We think this sounds wonderful until we look into how the charity is functioning at a more in depth level. Experience has shown us that many charities use their donor management system for receipting and usually this is tasked to a single individual. Fund development staff is often several steps away from any meaningful interaction with the data other than report requests.
This begs the question, how does a charity employ a donor centric approach to working with its donors under these conditions? A further observation has to do with staff turnover and the effect on information retention, pertaining to interactions with donors which would be used for future fundraising and stewardship support.
Running a charity begins at the top. It is incumbent on senior management to employ a methodology that ensures the best possible care of all types of information a charity needs to support a donor-centric approach to its valued donors. People can and do give their money anywhere they choose to, so what is the best way to influence donors and ensure their interest remains strongly attached to a specific charity? What would you like donors to know about how the charity functions in support of both its goals and those who support them?
Let’s begin with the Knowledge Driven Charity. First and foremost it will address the capture of important data. Standards exist which include everything from how to search to ensure a donor record is new to prevent duplication, to how the information is recorded to give maximum benefit to the donor and a fundraising team. Next is the gift and where it is positioned to show donor support. Values like ‘designated’ in the fund field provide little information, so how can the data recorded by appeal or campaign, be entered for maximum effect? This pertains not only to the charity but for the donor as well.
How charity staff work is equally important to a Knowledge Driven Charity. Taking too long to perform a task, being unable to access reports, not knowing how to pull a reasonable export, these are a result of training or the lack thereof. The idea training is expensive is a misconception. What is expensive is guessing how things work and making poor decisions on how to achieve work with charity data.
The Knowledge Driven Charity documents a non-profits’ best practices, describing for staff how to perform jobs recorded in easy to follow and maintain, point form. There is skilled labour in this marketplace so why let these skills leave without an appropriate capture. The time saved by staff and the recognition gained those by those who share their knowledge is of great value to an organization whether for profit or not.
Here’s an example. An engineer firm sent out field managers to check certain aspects of their jobs. One such manager had a check list. He used this list before every trip to ensure he had all the right tools to do whatever was necessary. The other field operatives did not and subsequently wasted company time with trips back and forth to the office to pick up what they forgot. The solution was simple, the check list was now a company resource and the expectation was that all field managers used it to ensure no more unneeded trips, wasted time and more importantly unneeded cost. In the world of a charity, this might be a word processing skill or who to create a report or how to properly build an in memory campaign. Time is expensive and when it is wasted there is a consequence which impacts productive actions sidelined by waste.
Naysayers will tell you a knowledge approach would be difficult to implement, hard to maintain, too costly for a charity to consider. Our position is that it is not difficult because staff members become the champions of an improved workplace as stress is reduced and productivity soars. A culture of Plan First is the rally cry. Time is freed up and accountability sets in as ones actions will affect another. ‘Too costly’ is what the charity is currently experiencing through costs associated with busy time.
Write these new methods into the documents that define the charity. Include in all job descriptions specific requirements with consequences to address any laxness that undermines the team.
Implement the Knowledge Driven Charity. Identify the charity’s commitment and share it with donors and funders. Be prepared for the Reaction and for the Results!