Category Archives: Uncategorized

Strong Systems Trump Leadership

Galapagos Islands … Blue Footed Boobies

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.

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.
Outcomes
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.

Chaos Scoring

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!

Contact us if you need HELP!

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The Knowledge Driven Charity Behoves Donor-Centric Fundraising

temples baganDonor-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!

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.

 

 

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