Category Archives: Let’s Get Organized

Good business methods and being organized give back valuable hours.

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!

Productivity, Stewardship, Results: The Donor Centered Charity

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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.

There are four requirements:

  1. Leave your ego behind
  2. Be prepared to invest in change
  3. Never say Can’t
  4. Commit to action & implementation

2019 will look and feel and be, different.

Join us on this journey

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NPO Intelligence

coming March 2019

 

Charities Cause Fund Development to Fail!

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Mara Leopard

It’s not what an organization does to succeed but rather what it doesn’t do that places it at risk. No charity intentionally follows a formula for failure or works towards mediocrity when it comes to developing funds. How then does failure or mediocrity happen?

There have been many articles alluding to problems facing the non-profit sector. In particular, the issue of staff turnover in the fundraising role has been identified as a major problem for charities.

To keep the right staff, regardless of the type of business, an organization needs to create an environment where staff can succeed and use their time effectively. Greater success means more dollars for programs and salaries. In most cases, this success manifests itself in greater staff retention.

The non-profit sector often neglects to provide this type of environment. Instead, they bring new hires into a plethora of ‘this and that’ with no concrete definition of how things get done. Information is everywhere—and in disarray. New hires often have a mandate to make changes and decisions which they are unprepared to make, negatively affecting operations.

Examples of poor results are endless as charities search for funding and the right formula for success, and not just survival.

Some problems might already be well entrenched, with new ones to be introduced. Do any of the following situations sound familiar? 

  • A new staff member is hired to work special events. With no guidance they make decisions about how the event will be presented to the public. The use of a web-based system to accept ticket sales, a spreadsheet of auction items and a list of sponsors provide their tools. The outcome for the following year is chaos as none of the current year’s information was captured in a useful form.
  • The grant writer left and what they left behind was a spreadsheet and some notes. The new hire requested a list of all grants received, declined and in process over the last 5 years. The task was onerous and the results were incomplete.
  • The charity sent out a new holiday information piece at Christmas to the usual donors. The new fundraiser decided to record all gifts as unsolicited. The charity lost its ability to do any form of comparative analysis or determine the effectiveness of the appeal.
  • Staff acquired the contact list used by the previous fundraiser but there was little hope in understanding who these people were, if they were still active contacts or what role they played in helping the charity.
  • The charity has monthly donors. Some monthly gifts had continually been declined. Did the fund development department connect with the donor to get more information? The donor may have wanted to continue with a monthly gift, or was there a change of heart or maybe it was something else? No policy had been established to address the situation so ‘just let it go’ became the policy of the day.
  • The last fundraiser didn’t connect with staff entering donations data. Gifts were entered without any fund allocations and appeals were set up incorrectly.  Now they have data but it’s not an effective stewardship tool.

The most damning situation of all is where new staff arrive only to find a black hole rather than a wealth of information and knowledge. How easily can they resume the job of fund development when they will need to spend considerable time trying to reconstruct the past in order to move forward?

Implementing information-management practices

These problems are not those of the fundraiser but rather of the charity which has chosen not to establish concrete information-management practices. Implementing change may not be welcomed when practices have been established on an ad hoc basis, however, this is where the good of the charity takes precedence over inconsistent methods. People come and go, when they leave a legacy of their contributions it helps sustain a charity, when they don’t it puts the charity at risk.

It is senior management, with the blessing of the board that needs to establish the rules of engagement. These expectations, when hard-coded for all players from executive director to receptionist, provide the basis for achievable goals and objective performance reviews. They make all staff accountable for their compliance to best practices designed to benefit the charity. In particular, it is those involved in fund development that need to explicitly understand these roles. Fund development and ultimately fundraising are key functions and when these areas suffer so does the charity.

It’s our position that each and every staff position should be well defined with specific tasks that ensure a department functions within the context of the business as a whole. Where we have noted a failure to perform is where there are no well-documented expectations and instead there are general guidelines which a staff member may choose to follow in any manner they consider reasonable. This is where fund development gets into trouble as each person’s understanding of what is expected varies.

No one intentionally neglects important contributions to a charity and its knowledge-base, but some have been better prepared to meet their organization’s expectations than others. This may be due to a better understanding of the importance of information and how it affects activities today and opportunities tomorrow.

And how important is fundraising?  Can a charity do without it?  Just examine the percentage of charitable dollars a charity needs to raise annually to understand the gravity of this question.

Can a charity do ‘it’ better?

The answer to this question is ‘it depends’.  It depends on senior management and their resolve to endorse and support change. It depends on whether the board and management understand the need for a business approach to information management and particularly as it relates to fund development activities. It depends on whether the charity wants to thrive or just get by. It depends on whether the charity has been able recognize practices that cause it to under-perform.

To engage a high performance, fund-development team a charity must first look at the environment they offer to ensure continuity and sustainability.

High Performance: Moving From Chaos to Control

CamelPetra

Camel at rest in Petra

How important is the information your charity uses to sustain itself?  The information we refer to is found in donor gifts and interactions, funding research and grants, sponsorships and planned gifts.

This information is an asset. We can add to this asset by including all the tools that an organization builds to perform its fundraising activities. These tools take time to create, they reflect the organization and they are built at a cost thereby having value. When we hear that information is dull we wonder who is dull, could it be the person who doesn’t understand its value?

How can information be dull when it tells you so many things that enable a charity to react in a timely manner; address a donor at a critical time; enter into discussions that result in a major gift or build a planned giving program with committed donors?

This information is hardly dull it is a charity’s lifeline.

When information is not well tended it gets lost, it’s incomplete, it results in a charity looking less than credible, and it puts the charity at risk.

No matter how important staff members may think they are to a charity, they do change. They move to new jobs and what do they leave behind? In many cases, very little is left for new staff to work with and this loss is a setback to the charity. How many setbacks has your charity experienced? We suggest you look at staff changes in the fund development department and see how it has impacted over the years.

If you took everyone out of your fund development department today, how credibly would your organization be able to continue its fundraising activities? We use the word credibly because the loss or inaccessibility of information also pays a toll.

Story: The new fund development manager came from a high tech company. She met with a key donor for the first time. They discussed the donor’s interest in the charity. She asked if he would be attending the Christmas gala … I always attend came the response. Would you be interested in being a sponsor? … I am already a sponsor was the answer.

For an asset that is called dull … we begin to understand dull is not the right word … essential and valuable is a better way to look at it.

The next question is “whose responsibility is it to manage this information”? We think it is the charity’s responsibility backed up by some very well defined job descriptions that ensure staff members know what is expected of them and how those expectations address the charity’s most valuable asset, its capture and retention.

Dull is not the right word; under-estimated would be more accurate.

From Chaos to Control moving your charity to a High Performance Organization

http://tinyurl.com/ChaostoControl1

Treating your Donors like Customers

FunSmall Blue Butterflydraising has become very much a business and if it hasn’t become a business at your site, it may be time to reconsider.

A charity is a business that offers a product or service that a customer can purchase. Ultimately, what when I am a customer I take home the sense that I have made a contribution, it may be big or small but within my world I have purchased the sense that I am helping someone or some organization and I have made a small difference.

How you treat a customer is very dependent and whether they do repeat business. In some cases, a customer continues to do business no matter how shoddy the service because it’s the only place to purchase what they are looking for. This scenario reeks with potential problems because as soon as a better option comes along the customer is gone.

Consider your favour shopping haunt. When you made your first transaction, did they make you feel they appreciated your business? When you returned a second time, did they recognize you or greet you in a positive manner? If you were interested in a specific product line did, they recognize it … and even better, as you they became more familiar with you did they track your preferences?

Over time were you recognized as a valued customer? How did that make you feel? Did it encourage your patronage? Did you speak to others about your experience and encourage them to support the shop as well? Were you ever invited to a VIP customer evening or did they ever do anything for you in the form of a special gift? Did they update you when changes were forthcoming relative to product lines you select? Did you ever receive a thank you from the service staff that simply acknowledged how much they appreciated your business?

These are the customers a charity wants and needs. And these are the things a charity must be prepared to do if they want embrace and retain their customers. There is a great deal of competition in the marketplace for valued donations and I think valued is the key word. When charities become too entitled or too forgetful or too “busy” to look after and engage its customers, we have long term relationships that fade into one off gift experiences.

If you are shaking your head, it may be time to review the tools you are using to manage your customers and whether the information you want and need to retain is being captured in a form that makes every one of the ideas above not only attainable but easy to manage. Great customer relationships start with a plan that is delivered consistently year after year with the appropriate data capture tools to ensure the job can be performed and performed well.

“The relationship with ones’ donors is as fragile as a butterfly.”

Data Collection: Dropping the Ball on Future Opportunities

Donor Master Records

The donor data is in good form; it’s clean, standardized and duplicates have been removed.  The next step is to examine what has been collected. This would qualify as relationship building content and management / decision making data.

Without going into unique requirements too deeply, let’s look at some of the basic pieces of information that create value for a fund development department. We all understand contact information. This includes phone numbers, email addresses, a home address for private donors and a company address for businesses.

Full addresses are usually easy to collect, but phone and email can sometimes be elusive. Acquiring this information may be dependent on what is requested when the ‘Ask’ is being made, or when a donor turns up in person. When a donation is from a non-private donor, the opportunity exists to contact the organization for complete information.

An address lets you contact a donor for a donation, invite them to an event, or send a newsletter. With a phone number, we can contact them personally to say thank you, ask for their support, or invite them to participate in a focus group. Email provides the opportunity to send an eNewsletter, inform them about upcoming events and direct them to a website to further build their interest or send a donation.

How often is some of this information incorrect or simply non-existent? Opportunities lost are not the fault of the software, but the lack of a comprehensive plan to capture data necessary to build a fund development program.

Contacts

Every business, association, foundation, church or service club will have contacts that perform certain tasks.  These contacts are people who interact on behalf of their organization, with the charity. One definitive list that identifies why these people are beneficial, needs to be built and used by all department members.

With one list versus multiple lists, contact information can be kept up to date.  Staff members can move to new positions without leaving holes for the organization to attempt to fill. Contact information for organizations needs to identify ‘who and why and how’ a person or a position, is instrumental to the charity. Qualifying contacts makes access fast and accurate.

Information from the software can be exported to keep email tools and address books up-to-date. When you think about the contact information you collect, think about how this impacts on your ability to keep your community informed by ‘telling your story’, advocacy opportunities and donor support.  Communicating with your ‘audience’ is important to keep their interest and maintain their commitment.

 More Information is Required

This discussion represents only a small part of a much bigger picture when it comes to the type of information we need to ‘flesh out’ the database, making it a powerful entrepreneurial resource.  The ability to run comparative reports on giving history based on business or personal demographics, or select groups of individuals or organizations based on areas of interest, all impact on new opportunities and fund raising dollars.

Incomplete data collection is often supplemented by written notes, comments in emails, or saved in the memory of a staff member … all of these are inaccessible and inadequate as a method of retaining valuable organizational memory.  As part of this project we introduced the 15 second rule.  Accessing what you need in 15 seconds can only be done through the software, the use of a system of coding and a strategy to capture need to know information accurately.

Two areas expand knowledge of our donors. First is the use of the Communications tab to record relationship building information.  Photographs, major gift plans, social networking sites, web sites, web downloads, power point presentations and more can be linked directly to a private or corporate master record.

Second is Dickens, the contact manager.  Dickens records important points of contact that need to be shared organization wide without restriction. Think professional when you think of Dickens.  It takes a moment to record a verbal or electronic transaction. The time is hardly an imposition when you consider the alternative … the loss of valuable historical contact data and of course we look at the benefit …a comprehensive picture of contact activity.

This is the path forward thinking charities are taking as they look at their not for profit organizations from a business perspective.  Personally, we applaud the effort and commitment of the management team involved.  It is no easy task to do a self examination and make changes.  The outcome will find more time freed up for fund raising, less stress and more enjoyment in providing the services they offer.