Category Archives: Opportunity & Delivery

Productivity, Stewardship, Results: The Donor Centered Charity


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.

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NPO Intelligence

coming March 2019


High Performance: Moving From Chaos to Control


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

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.”

Knowledge Management for Better Fund Development Results

Bangkok Flower Market Orchids

Fundraisers OD!

Fundraising is all about money.  It is identifying an opportunity and orchestrating a successful delivery.  If you keep the relationship between opportunity and delivery simple, it is easy to see what is important, if you want your fund development program to be successful.

Opportunities come in many forms. Most are the result of a concerted effort to make things happen.  The reality of the fundraiser is not only investigating potential opportunities but retaining what they have learned.

Inspiration vs. Perspiration … effective fundraising will increase one and decrease the other.  Which one has the greater impact on your fund development program… inspiration or perspiration?

It is said that those who are successful will do the things that those who are not, won’t do  Many of the activities of success are not draped in drama and glamour but rather come down to good practices and hard work.

As a Not for Profit Organization one of your most important tools, if not the most important, will be the data management tool you use to capture and manage your opportunities.  To be effective and have a long lasting impact this tool will be coupled with well-defined processes and procedures to ensure that it is used to its fullest extent.  The search for this tool can be aggravated by an unsupportive board or by the idea that the organization can get along without it … because they aren’t ready yet … or that they will build their own.

Any one of these three attitudes presents an enormous risk to an organization and the information it gathers, as its knowledge base is what it thrives on.  After 16 years of working with charities our advice is to invest in a system at start up; one that is supported by good management and data collection methods … the same methods that a business would use to market and sell a product.

Factors that undermine the work of committed staff are found when opportunities cannot be addressed due to:

  • lack of time
  • lack of staff
  • lack of morale
  • lack of funding for programs, and
  • the inability to meet goals and objectives.

Little or no data management along with poor processes are major contributors to these factors.

Leadership from senior NP management is essential.  Firemen do not fight fires with a shovel and a pail because it is cheap. And you cannot fundraise effectively without a good quality data management tool.


Fund development is marketing.  It is telling your world who you are, what you do, the benefits you provide and identifying how people can participate.  Some charities are masters at marketing, everyone knows who they are and what they do.  Others assume everyone knows who they are when in fact their exposure is minimal.

Marketing can be done on a one to one basis … or it can be done more effectively by passing your message along to larger groups.  Marketing requires a strategy and examining options that may have been overlooked.

Fund development is engaging the public or specific audiences in the support of your charity.  How you engage these groups is dependent on what you know about them and the potential for a relationship.

So where do opportunities come from?  They come from examining your charity and the impact it has on your community.  They come from knowing what complementary groups have accomplished in other areas.  They come when you apply a creative approach to your target audience and bring forward appealing ideas.

Telling your Story

The ability to tell your story can take a great deal of time … or it can be relatively easy.  The key to better use of your time starts with some documented planning and an investment in setting up the initial building blocks.

Who falls into the story telling category?  Media is an obvious one, but it may extend further than just your current radio and TV stations and key newspapers.  It might include community papers and journals.  Your client base, if you are program driven, is another group that could use a broader perspective of what you do. Let’s look further.

There are people in your community that work as influencers for you.  This might include Members of Parliament and your Legislative Assembly, or the Councilors and Mayors of the various communities you service.  It might also include people who have senior positions in organizations that you need to remain close to … like a health authority.  Then … there are groups like service clubs, associations and unions whose membership could also have an interest.  Corporations and major businesses that benefit from the services you provide could be another target group, particularly when they publish a newsletter and welcome submissions.

Is sourcing these groups going to be easy? … Unfortunately, a good deal will be ‘not interested’ before finding those who are. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

The key to taking a proactive approach to telling your story and keeping it in front of your target audience is to have rapid and accurate access to the right groups.

What most organizations do, is skip the use of their data management tool and store this information over several systems, often duplicated, on paper, in word documents, or excel sheets …  lots of places where access to the information awkward and time consuming if it can be found at all … and when found … inaccurate!

 Engaging the Public

You all have donors.  Retaining them and developing the long-term commitment of these donors is very important.  Increasing the size of annual gifts is a goal.

New donors are another challenge.  But what about other opportunities?…  opportunities that have the potential to get others helping you.  There is an old adage that says ‘many hands make work light’.  Service Clubs can be a source of this activity, as can unions, employee associations and small businesses who want to help.  When you are talking to groups, are your recording all the right pieces of information that will open doors for you.  Better yet, are you asking the right questions while you are getting to know them better?

Relationship building takes time and needs to be strategic.  Just as important is your ability to retain what you have learned so that it can be capitalized on at the appropriate time.

Researching Common Interest

Corporations and Foundations often have gifting criteria …adding descriptive keywords to your system allows you to source funding opportunities right from your own initiatives.  The first time an organization is researched it is a investment.  If this information is lost, and the organization needs to be researched a second or third or fourth time … it is a cost in both time and resources and potentially the loss of valuable funding.

Not only are we interested in what they will fund for, but when they accept proposals, who is head of the community investment department, have they provided a proposal format, did we asked them for money in the past successfully or unsuccessfully?  A quick profile on the organization should offer answers to all these questions.

Being late or not submitting proposals could cost an organization thousands of dollars.

Organizational History

Board members, committee members and volunteers; who were these people from the past?  When looking at a profile it would be beneficial to know more about the commitment people have shown.

Staff turnover is a given and frequent for some organizations.  Retaining organizational history and knowledge is an area that needs to be addressed in an electronic format as it again impacts on potential opportunities that are often hidden away in old file boxes or in the memories of past employees.

Leaving your Legacy

Leaving a legacy of well-defined opportunities should be a goal.  Starting over from scratch every time a staff change occurs is neither profitable nor desirable.  Solid expectations and the implementation of policies and procedures regarding information retention need to exist if an organization is to grow.  Ask yourself what  will your legacy will be?


The fun side of fundraising is delivery.  A great opportunity has presented itself and now you move into delivery mode.

Delivery should bring about the capture of all elements of the event or activity, and how your audience participated whether it is a direct mail, a third party event or a special event.

Take a special event for example.  It has a series of elements, none of which should end up on a spreadsheet but rather all should appear your fund raising software tool.

  • Sponsors
  • Ticket Sales
  • Auction Item Donations
  • Donations
  • Prizes
  • Revenue Items
  • Silent Auction Sales
  • Live Auction Sales
  • Volunteers

By keeping all transactions together you can easily receipt those who get receipts, thank those who have contributed to your success, build bid sheets for the event, invoice sponsors and for tickets sales, have a list of who donated what for next year’s auction and have a complete invitation list for next years event.

All of the above activities take no more than a few minutes to complete providing the data has been recorded, giving the fundraiser and their staff more time to focus on the event and enjoy the event themselves.

Building a Knowledge-base

Selecting a database should be done based on what it will do for you today and how it will support you in the future.

@EASE has been built and designed to build a Knowledge-base for an organization.  It is our opinion and belief that the days of the donor database are well past.  Our philosophy is to develop a powerful tool that speaks to your strengths and gives you the access you need when you need it.

We have designed @EASE to be easy to use so that all members of your organization can participate and help to build a successful future.

Hands-off management of your most important asset does not, and will not work.  We need senior management that are comfortable enough to be involved in how a knowledge system is used and populated to create and sustain a bright, productive future.

Knowledge-based Fund Development

Opportunity and Delivery … Let’s OD!

Fundraising is all about opportunity.  Whether it is raising more money or promoting a charity, successful fund development involves identifying an opportunity and marrying it with cost effective delivery.

Knowledge-based fund development looks at how to build opportunity and record the findings so you can act when the time is right.  Knowledge-based fund development facilitates delivery, using methods and tools you’ve created to achieve a cost effective result.

We will examine fund development as a knowledge-based activity.   In particular, we will look at how it impacts on populating a fund development database.

Making Things Happen!

Anyone who has worked in sales knows the zing you get when one of those many calls translates into a potential opportunity.  We think fund development is much the same.  There is an old adage that says

“People who are successful will do the things that unsuccessful people won’t do”.

It is not just the zing of finding good potential opportunities, but more importantly, asking the right questions and recording what was collected in an useful form.

Knowledge-based data collection supports organizational continuity.  Too often, we see situations where a development manager starts a new position and wonders what their predecessor did.  Information is scant, or stored in many different tools or not stored at all.  This represents a significant loss of intellectual capital to an organization.  Another way of looking at this … is simply the need to start over.   How many times can an organization afford to start again?

Building a Delivery Structure

Chaos costs time and money.  Intellectual knowledge and intellectual tools are of great value to an organization.  When we go to work, we expect to end our day, confident, that we have not simply engaged in busy work, but have moved our annual fund development plan forward.

An organized work environment offers staff members a place that supports efficiency.  A Knowledge-based environment supports effectiveness and efficiency.  Having a toolkit that everyone can access reduces both costs and protects organizational assets.

Opportunity & Delivery working for You!

Knowledge-based Fund Development looks at your data: foundations, corporations, businesses, private donors, service clubs, associations, prospects, contacts, and your sphere of influence so that you can interact with them successfully.  Knowledge-based Fund Development collects your tools: forms, letters, procedures, and policies so that you can manage from a set of best practices saving time and money.

Knowledge-based Fund Development addresses both sides of the coin … the idea and the implementation!