Tag Archives: fundraising

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!

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!

Have You Forgotten Something?

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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.

The Perfect Storm

Nothing seems more mundane than discussing a donor database. It is, however, a discussion that more clients are having as they realize the value of quality data in their search for funding.

Really, what is the purpose of a donor database?  It keeps track of your donors and what they have donated. It provides a spot for notes and relationships; and it records receipts and gifts designated to specific areas. Okay, this all sounds good but is just being good, good enough or is good really complete.  These are the questions we helped answered for a client who wanted to take their donor database to the next level.

The client is a progressive charity that supports a vulnerable sector within our city.  They have recently expanded their services.  Their funding comes from private individuals, companies, service clubs, associations and foundations.  Government does not fund them.

The renewed interest in the management of their donor data was two fold.  First was the issue of acquiring more dollars to support their programs; the second issue dealt with better use of staff time as some tasks seemed to take far more time than one would deem reasonable. This takes time away from more productive activities and can impact on morale and some other periphery issues that they wanted to alleviate.

A key factor that motivated this renewal was their management team.  They had the perfect storm in a positive way.  They had a group of managers who were all on the same page, keen to make improvements and willing to put in the effort to make change happen.

This situation was a consultant’s dream. No deadwood, speed bumps or road blocks to deal with, just a group of individuals open, interested and ready to commit to working smarter not harder in the pursuit of their common goals.

More and more, we see clients who come forward to make a strategic change in how they view and manage the use of their donor database. They need to take data from a keyboarding input task to a fund development level.  At a fund development level there are many more things that can be done at the point of entry of any piece of information that makes it useful now and valuable in the future. Data is no longer one dimensional but multi-dimensional relative to its use as an entrepreneurial resource and a source of intelligence.