Fascinating, Exciting, Defining: Past, Present and Future

Who Can I Turn ToWords offer a new perspective when we view our work and the use of our time. They can affect our mood and move something once considered difficult or tedious to be challenging even exciting. Changing ‘I have to’ to ‘ I want to’ reduces stress and opens our mind …. Moving from ‘data management software’ to ‘Knowledge Management System ’ suddenly introduces us to a new paradigm where we are involved in conservation, exploration and sustainability.

When you, as a charity, consider the value of maintaining a more comprehensive organizational memory as a Knowledge Management approach we begin to move past the dusty discussion of information management to something that clearly defines the charity and underlines the possibilities that help it prevail.

The Past Defines Us

Our past defines us. It molds who we have become and hints at where we might go. Organizations should treasure their past as this establishes where they have been, the challenges they have faced and how they have arrived. It records what has been learned through past experiences and interactions. When you consider how many businesses today run on this form of information alone, it takes it well beyond being a simple asset to a strategic resource, one which offers extraordinary wealth to the tune of many thousands of dollars and sometimes millions. This wealth is not simply legal tender, but the wealth of knowledge which impacts staff time, learned skills, innovation and opportunities. It helps to mitigate the impact of economic fluctuations.

To introduce tactics and policies to manage this intellectual wealth, the charity needs to understand the potential found in everyone they touch and those who touch them. This would include past and current staff members, board members, volunteers, contacts, advocates, donors and funders.

Knowledgeable agents representing the charity can engage with donors and prospective supporters with well-informed, meaningful rapport. Those charities who offer little clarity of past interactions struggle to be credible and are often exposed for their management flaws and lack of coherence.

A task as simple as maintaining one complete list of the names, addresses and contact information of those who help a charity meet its goals is not a lot to expect but for most organizations this is a monumental challenge as they view each entry not as part of a global memory but as items of personal ownership. It can be exhausting just to consider the merge and purge activity resulting in wasted staff hours. What’s more exhausting is the number of times this activity is repeated.

The Present Inspires Us

Who could not be inspired when staff members know the value their charity brings to a community. That pride is augmented when the charity is well managed retaining its resources to support its staff and any new initiatives they bring forward. Working in an organized environment creates calm. Time can be employed productively to focus on new opportunities whether programs or development activity.

Chaos breeds stress and stress is counterproductive to any team much less a team aiming to evolve as high performance. When chaos is the norm, staff changes become more frequent as failure to perform is the outcome. When chaos is the norm, fund raising goals are not met and access to qualified employees is not viable.

To maintain the momentum and potential of highly productive staff, organization is essential. Further to organization falls the essential of training. The term ‘to train’ implies the building of skills and a level of proficiency necessary to support the needs of an organization and the positions held by staff. We view training as a function of the education process that is necessary to sustain the charity’s knowledge base and prevent it from being undermined by incompetence. The assumption that tools and methods can be figured out through a trial and error process is not reasonable and puts both the knowledge-base and the charity at risk. A conversation suggested that training was expensive, the retort came with a question; ‘’Do you pay people to do things wrong?”

“Education is never neutral or disinterested. It is always organised according to a set of articulated principles, and it methodology reflects a number of believers, from highly pragmatic ones to the conviction that knowledge is an end in itself.”   Thyssen Museum Madrid Spain

Defining Priorities

The position that staff members are too busy to attend to offerings like training or that the cost is too high, supports the contention that charities are not interested in utilizing human resources at their most effective. This may apply to a volunteer run charity with annual budgets less than $50,000 annually but once demand for dollars increases it’s time for a different paradigm. A charity has already made its big commitment which is to its clients. With respect to that commitment, the time has also arrived to ensure it can meet those commitments to remain sustainable by providing staff members with the necessary skills. The key is to capture what is learned making it shareable and extending its value.

Implementing a Knowledge Management as a Charity Model

First and foremost a leader is required to pilot the project. This is not a job for mid-management ranks but rather the top of the pyramid. Change for any organization is often difficult because people need to modify their habits and embrace new methods. A leader committed to a full implementation is a must.

The benefit to this change is that staff members will be part of the process offering what they know and have learned to build a knowledge-based system. Birthing anything new, then documenting and integrating it into the mainstream takes time and endurance. The benefits need to be understood and embraced. By including the best of what staff have to offer they can be recognized for their contribution.

The outcome offers a massive improvement over the current situation and once accepted becomes ‘how we do things here’. This attitude transposes into a full understanding of the value of information and every addition to the knowledge model from the capture of donor information, research data, basic job ‘how to’ instruction sets and much more. We now have a knowledge culture in bloom!

New employees are introduced to an abundant knowledge-base, supported by well-defined job descriptions allowing them to successfully assimilate into the charity’s culture. Should adoption of the charity’s methods be inconsistent, adjustments can be recommended or ultimately a staff removal if a lack of compliance becomes a recurring issue.

The Future Awaits You

No business, whether for-profit or not-for-profit can afford the cost of an ineffective workplace. It’s fine to be busy, but when busy simply means activities caused by disorganization and a lack of priorities, it is time to take the plunge and evaluate all areas of information management and assemble what the charity needs to move back to a productive mode.

The solution is simple to implement. What can be a challenge is enforcing methods with non-compliant staff but be assured, non-compliance disappears as new staff members are hired and old ones leave. The final challenge is maintaining an effective system throughout staff and board change. We have suggested writing requirements into the charity’s charter as a good start so that no one person can erode its benefits through questionable abilities. The assumption that a title or level of education is indicative of the type of habits that grow an organization has been proven wrong time and again. Let your organization have its own voice to expound on its expectations, then see who can stay and who must go. Remember, the future awaits you and the opportunities are boundless!

Sharron Batsch

Charities Cause Fund Development to Fail!

IMG_8619

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

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!

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.”

Have You Forgotten Something?

Sea Cloud

Sea Cloud

The evening for the gala had arrived and the charity and its staff were enthusiastic about the event and the potential it offered for further financial support. The room was beautifully decorated; the guests were dressed for an evening out. It was festive and colourful.

The evening concluded with a live auction and the items offered held a high ticket price. Guests participated actively through the bidding process. Each person who attended knew the money being raised was for a good cause and they wanted to be part of the solution. By the end of the night, the charity had exceeded their goal and everyone, guests and staff included left feeling that the gala had been a success.

The following day, charity staff gathered to ensure they finished the job by entering all details of the event. They entered everything including the  total number of dollars for cash purchases at the event. Those colourful glass beads had been a hit.

This is where we would like to add commentary and make a suggestion. Some charities enter the dollars raised for the silent and live auction as one accumulated amount. If this is entered as a total amount, information is lost about which guests opened their wallet in support. Keeping track of how much a guest spends in support of an auction gives the charity a chance to do something a little special for these guests in the following year … maybe first choice at the front tables or an invitation to a special reception. This would constitute a loyalty opportunity offered by the charity to a valued supporter.  Good idea?! You bet it is!

Here’s an even better idea. Send a thank you note to show the charity’s appreciation for the guest’s support shown by purchasing auction items. Yes, they did receive something but every good business person understands how priceless a simple thank you can be.

We have spoken to guests who have purchased items and in some cases for considerable value. Their contribution was not entered into the Donor Management System so they had become invisible as supporters of the charity. Not only that, a thank you or expression of appreciation would have shown the charity to be a grateful recipient for the additional funds. But none was sent!

Large donations receive some form of thank you, then why not for the purchase of auction items? This does not mean the charity needs to mention everything bought unless of course it is one high ticket item and they choose to do so.

Imagine the chagrin of an executive director or fund raiser who chances on a conversation with a guest who has offered valued support in the past only to be blindsided by their lack of information.

And please don’t suggest this all takes too much time as that is one of the most ineffective excuses of all. Basic civility, something which appears to have been lost in the last few years, can be regained by taking one little extra step  which will set a charity far above the not for profit crowd. A High Performance Fund Development Team never misses an opportunity to do it better!

The Webster Dictionary defines civility as ‘a polite act or expression’. Remember “gimme gimme” will not get forever. A thank you will be remembered as will the lack of one.

Are you Struggling with a Mining Disaster?

Hanoi

You can’t Mine what you don’t have!

Successful fund raising is based on the relationships you build with your donors.  Some of those relationships may be more distant than others but still effective as you work to reduce the distance and engage long term support.  The use of a database to record gifts and information concerning donors is essential to a formal fund development program. There are no secrets and no short cuts to managing this high value resource which gives financial support to your organization. The donations received and knowledge gained, need to be managed as an entrepreneurial asset that requires well thought out policies supported by procedures and standards.

When you sit down to prepare your fund development plan for the next year and you want to include some projections, your success rate will be directly related to the quality and quantity of the data / information you have to work with.

The misfortune for many organizations is they have not managed their donor information with an eye on the present nor the future.  Spreadsheets used to record events, no profile data on high value donors, information kept in notes are a few examples of information found in a less than useful form.

What makes data mine-able?

Think of a bank. You are creating a bank account of information about how your donors have invested in your charity. Determining first and last gift, as well as accumulated donations, requires accuracy. One of the biggest perils is duplicate donor records where multiple entries for a given donor makes this information unattainable. Imagine contact with the donor only to have them point out inaccuracies. It’s not only a personal embarrassment but it exposes poor methods inherent in how the charity manages its business.

Complete information is essential. Surprising as it may be, poor data management is more prevalent than one would think. A basic tenet of successful fund raising is knowing what and how a donor has interacted with a charity. This only occurs through good recording methods and definitely not through staff memory.

A well run charity wants to know what donations have been gifted; which events donors have attended; if they have volunteered; did they spent money on auction items at an event; whether they donated an auction item; have they been an event sponsor; or a participant in a walk or a run.  The answer to all of these questions should and needs to reside in the donor database making data mine-able.

All members of the fund development team should participate so that transactions are recorded accurately and in a timely manner. Gift information, when well recorded provides further depth about a donor’s interest in a charity. For example, recording a donation as a “designated” gift, does not provide the same impact as using a fund account that establishes a specific interest. Knowing that a donor supports a particular program, service, facility or equipment purchase enables the fund development department to engage the donor with further support or interaction with the charity.  These activities build commitment and commitment is what we are looking for.

The Other Information that makes data mine-able will address donor characteristics. For example, type of business, special interests, family and friend relationships. These are just a few ideas that would benefit the charity. The possibilities are endless but they must be relevant to the charity. How this is collected can be part of an annual review of major donors. We have prepared forms that help to establish the basic information that is required when entering donors. Using a template to help fill in information is helpful.

Something as simple as a correctly formed address, phone number (s) and email give access to donors based on special criteria that a charity has captured. When we discuss capture for essential pieces of information we are not suggesting notes as a primary method. Notes are useful as a secondary resource but they DO NOT provide accurate access. Spelling errors, typing errors, different methods of saying basically the same thing are a real waste of time and make data unsearchable and results unreliable.

A system can be developed that is in the best interest of the charity.  This system supports data capture and management where staff members become accountable for the completeness and quality of what they record.

Staff, who are non-compliant, are a risk to an organization and marginalize one the charity’s most valuable assets.  Training is a further issue. Would you give a multi-million dollar asset to someone who thought they could figure things out or someone completely untrained or would you prefer competence as the preferred option? It’s always interesting to find out that training has been all but eliminated from an annual budget. By guess and by golly, does not make for a successful outcome! Boards and senior management need to support training and skill sharing, if a charity staff are to work effectively.

If you choose to have mine-able data, it will be up to you and your organization. Poor donor data management provides low quality data and yeilds poor or mediocre results. It erodes staff time and diminishes morale as the same problems crop up again and again.  Hands-off managers, procrastinators, and those who are too busy, should never be given the responsibility for managing a charity’s financial future.

If you want mine-able data start by looking at how you are managing what you learn about your donors and how you record their interactions with your charity. It’s the responsibility of the charity and its staff to manage; the database used is just the tool!

If you would like sample profile forms, please email your request to ease@batschgroup.com.

Hosting a Successful Conference: an Exhibitor’s Point of View

NagaWe have been an exhibitor or sponsor/exhibitor at several conferences.  It takes thoughtful planning to hosting a conference successful for everyone involved.  We would like to comment on the role of exhibitors and how you can ensure your conference will be well attended by exhibitors and sponsors alike.

Exhibitors view a conference as a business opportunity.  They balance the cost of attending the conference with the benefit of meeting new clients.   The cost of travel, shipping, time away from the office, staffing, materials and the exhibitor registration needs to be offset by the benefits and opportunities the conference provides. To meet with new or existing clients away from the hectic pace of an office is a benefit to exhibitors.  Delegates on the other hand, also benefit from this time to acquaint themselves with what’s new in the marketplace.

Exhibitors give added value to a conference.  They are a rich source of information and ideas.  They can update delegates on new services and products in an exclusive environment.  Exhibitors bring an important influx of cash to pay conference costs and reduce delegate fees.  They are an integral part of conference activity.

The role of the conference committee is to ensure that everyone benefits.  We begin our comments with location.

Location Location Location! Where a conference is held is an important consideration.  Issues like accessibility, services, space and cost are important factors. From an exhibitor’s perspective, access to the target audience is key. When the location is too far afield, the cost of travel, transporting exhibitor booths and materials, and additional transportation requirements all become a factor in deciding to attend.  The conference committee needs to assess who they want attending; only local exhibitors, only deep pocket exhibitors, or a wider array of potential exhibitors that will be of greater benefit to their delegates.

The position of the exhibitor hall, and the routing of delegates as they move throughout the day to encourage traffic is important to exhibitors. Time for delegates to attend the exhibit hall is often relegated to coffee breaks and lunch.  However, when coffee breaks include a trip to the bathroom and chatting with a new colleague or listening to the lunch speaker before rushing off to the first afternoon session, exhibitors will begin to wonder if their presence is valued or whether they were invited as the proverbial cash cow?

Some conferences offer a social evening in the exhibitor hall.  No one is rushed, everyone has a bit more time and is encouraged to meet and greet.  A social event the day before the conference goes into full swing, usually means that local participants will not attend and those coming from afar will just be checking in.  This is not viewed as a generous offering that benefits exhibitors but rather short shrift to attempt to be doing the right thing.

As an exhibitor, we have a few suggestions.  First, you want your conference to provide such value that exhibitors and sponsors are signing up a year in advance. You can do this very easily if you follow a few steps:

  1. Provide time in the schedule for delegates to visit with exhibitors during the day.  Coffee breaks and lunch hours are of limited value.  Bathroom breaks, chatting with other delegates, listening to a speaker, catching phone messages, grabbing a coffee or eating lunch.  There is no time for exhibitors and to offer this time is chintzy.
  2. Don’t fill the delegate schedule so full that they are ready to drop.  Again, everyone needs a bit of their own time and  many exhibitors are a wealth of knowledge and ideas.
  3. Host a special event with the exhibitors in the exhibitor hall.  The more the merrier is very true.
  4. Add the visit to the exhibitor hall on the conference evaluation form.  It provides delegates with a different perspective and helps them understand that exhibitors are important too. After all, exhibitors want time to introduce their products and services in a professional manner.  Keep in mind, your delegates most likely are selling something to their potential client base as well!
  5. Ensure that there is proximity to where delegates spend their day and where exhibits are housed.
  6. If you have promised a delegate list, make it a full list and make sure it is correct. A pleasant invitation can go out to delegates prior to the event from those exhibitors wishing to send one.  Responses like “Take me off your list.” or “How did you get my email address?” show that delegates were not made aware of the importance of exhibitors.
  7. Most exhibitors will stay with their booth over the lunch hour.  Put out some buns and cold cuts.  You would never sit down to eat in your home or office and leave others to stand and watch …would you?  Hospitality to all concerned is beneficial particularly considering the cost and time some exhibitors have contributed.
  8. Take time to thank each exhibitor / sponsor for attending.  A face to face thank you from the committee is a demonstration of professionalism and good manners.

Where did we get all these outrageous ideas?  Well, we have chaired conferences and tradeshow events and we have been exhibitors and sponsors. Our comments are a result of our experiences as a conference participant.

The key to running any event is simple.  If I was in the shoes of the delegate, exhibitor, or sponsor would I feel this was a successful use of my time, my resources and my money?

It’s not just what you get that makes a great event, it’s what you give that makes it exceptional!

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.

  Opportunities

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?

Delivery

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!