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Risky Business

U Bein Bridge Myanmar
1.2-km bridge was built around 1850 & is believed to be the oldest & (once) longest teakwood bridge in the world.
U Bein Bridge Myanmar

RISK to a charity resides at the top. It is found in the attitudes expressed by Boards and senior management.

Information and knowledge are the drivers behind successful businesses today. This includes the charitable sector.

When information and skills are given short shrift by those who should ensure a well-run organization, you have RISK. Board members and staff change. In the case of staff, they receive salaries, RISK does not directly affect them. When staff leave, the knowledge they have recorded of their interactions and research with donors, funders, and advocates is their legacy.  But what happens when little of that information is recorded? Can the charity be confident they have the most current data? Unfortunately, this is not an unusual situation, where large gaps occur in the knowledge base which the charity uses to engage its donors.

How do you reverse the knowledge loss which affects most charities? We think the answer might be found with their donors. Would donors be more comfortable giving to a charity who offers an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) or TQM (Total Quality Management) form of accreditation? This accreditation would address standards where members of an organization participate in improving processes and the culture in which they work.

There are organizations currently, which look at charity outcomes to recognize the charity’s value. But, what about behind closed doors? What would the outcomes be in a more organized, knowledge-driven environment where data is captured, not lost? Would RISK be mitigated? Would staff change be drastic? Could the black hole often greeting new staff be removed?

We recently sat down with a high-value donor whose gifts fall into the seven-digit  range. Our conversation is next:

What a High Value Donor (HVD) Thinks

Batsch Group (BG) sat down today with a HVD, who has played an important role as a donor in our community, to gain th

eir perspective on how they choose a charity to support. 

We discussed some issues from our perspective regarding how the charity is organized to ensure staff have the tools they need to be successful as they tell the charity’s story, build a funding base and a sustainable future for the charity.

BG:     What is important to you when you select a charity to support?

HVD: For me, it is the Why – How – What. 

Why the charity needs to raise money?

How will it help a situation?

What are the expected outcomes?

            Leaders fail when success stories are second to the ‘shadow of failure’.  When I give, I look for positive results.

BG:  What are your thoughts on whether the organizational structure of a charity impacts their ability to raise funds?

            Physical organization of the tools used.

            Building a Knowledge-base to better understand donors.

            Training, so staff can use the tools they need to do their job.

            Job Descriptions which make staff accountable.

HVD: I don’t like to put people in a box; it curbs their creativity.

            I prefer the words Job Outline to job description.

BG:     We consider physical organization a platform to support staff creativity. Time is important, and if 2 hours are taken to do a 20 minute activity, 1 hr and 40 minutes are lost. When tools are provided like recording key conversations but the staff member chooses to use something different, it undermines the charity.

            I agree with you; creativity is key to success.

HVD:  Charities need to think like a business.  The team, a new staff member, joins, is important in retaining them, as good staff will stay in a less productive environment with a good team, versus good staff hired to work with a bad team.

            The salary differential for charities is huge between different organizations.

BG:     Salaries are usually determined by charitable dollars raised. Where an environment does not support a platform from which fundraising staff can succeed, the result will be fewer dollars.  Another impact is training. Charities often feel training is an expense.

HVD:  I am all in on the importance of training. The cost of a poorly trained employee far exceeds the cost of a trained one.

BG:     Would you donate to a charity, which is highly disorganized.  A charity where there is no training and time is squandered due to a disorganized working environment?

HVD:  No.

BG:     The majority of charities struggle with common issues. Managing their donor data is a big problem. Because we work at the grassroots level, we see the impact of a donor database where only gifts are entered and little else. We call this the BLACK HOLE, as it undermines the charity and hobbles the ability of staff to speak confidently with its donors.

BG:     Thank you for taking the time to discuss an important issue. The charitable sector plays an import role in all communities.

Information is what a charity needs to collect to build a viable future not impacted by change but in spite of change. 

FROM SURVIVAL TO THRIVAL!