The last six weeks of the calendar year can be the last opportunity for nonprofits to meet their annual budget. In fact, by some accounts, 30% of ALL charitable gifts made in the United States are made in December.
However, there are trends the wise nonprofit needs to be aware are happening. Those who acknowledge this trend, consider modifications to their fund development efforts and take action could possibly avoid a nonprofit ill wind.
My blog title references “The Grinch” because the trend is one of declining contributions and specifically a trend to give differently during this six week period of the year. A scholar named Amy Schiller recently wrote an article that speaks to the impact of the new tax laws and the report by Giving USA that tracks donations on an annual basis. I want to share some of the wisdom from these sources.
One note of caution: Due to the timing of data collection, we might be farther into this trend than the numbers tell us. If that is so, taking corrective actions sooner rather than later may be that much more important. (The 2019 Giving USA report analyzes donations made in 2018).
So here’s the bad Grinchy news: We know individuals give nearly 70% of all charitable gifts. Except for one single category, all domestic giving by individuals across all recipient categories IS DOWN. Total individual giving was down 3.4%. Within recipient groups these declines ranged from, -3.9% to Religious Organizations (the largest recipient annually), -6% to Public Benefit like United Ways, -9.1% to Foundations, -3.7% to Education and -2.1% to Arts and Culture. The sole domestic recipient that saw ANY increase was a +1.2% increase to the Environment/Animals. And this giving is within the backdrop of one of the hottest economies the US has experienced for a while.
Schiller also reports the trend of a decline in universal small gift giving. She opines this universal giving my many has given way to what she refers to as “megadonors” giving extremely large gifts to fewer entities. She shares that after the 2017 tax cuts, which raised the individual standard deduction to $12,000 removed some incentives for donors whose deductions didn’t reach that level. The share of taxpayers who took the charitable deduction went from 24% of the taxpayers to just 8.5%.
As you already know, this is a complex issue and requires a thoughtful deliberate action plan to address it. The steps to address it will be varied from one nonprofit to another. The solution will be one of knowing your donor base and possibly the courage to implement changes to your fund development approaches. One tool available to you is your Nonprofit Network membership. It entitles you to regular phone consultations with an expert. If you need a thought partner on your next steps, give us a call to discuss it.
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- Tom Williams, Capacity Builder
No one likes to be rejected. This "fear" can hold us back from progress, including seeking the funds needed to meet our mission. We camouflage this fear sometimes with explanations like not having time or haven’t gotten around to it yet or even I don’t know that person.
Eventually, asking people for money becomes a lower priority and we seek out less threatening ways of getting the money, like a new event or searching for additional grants.
However, you should take note: Individuals are the leading funders of nonprofit organizations, contributing as much as 85% of all gifts to nonprofits, and those organizations with a broad base of financial support from many individuals are more sustainable for the future.
Individual donors are an important part of your funding plan.
One way this “fear-of-the-ask” can be overcome is by rearranging your fundraising perspective. Statistics say that a response of “no” is something to expect at least 50% of the time and this rarely has anything to do with you. Another reality to consider is that your request for funds provides the potential donors with an opportunity to make a difference in their community. Why would you want to deny them this privilege?
If you are looking to overcome your fear, give us a call and let’s talk it through. Better yet, grab your board members, leadership staff, and some key volunteers and let's plan a workshop. It's always better to do something hard with the people who can help you and support the process.
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Katena Cain, PhD.
Nonprofit Management Consultant
Katena Cain, PhD.
Katena Cain, PhD.
Katena Cain, PhD.
Nonprofit Management Consultant
Nonprofit Management Consultant
Nonprofit Management Consultant
The board's role in fundraising is to provide leadership, financial support, and connection to donors and potential donors. The board must be structured to meet the primary needs of the organization. And it needs to be prepared to effectively pursue the fundraising goals it establishes in support of the organization. The board works in conjunction with the staff to bring great influence and strength in support of the organizations broader fundraising plan with the staff driving the day-to-day execution of most activities.
Preparation for fundraising is greatly aided when all board members participate in the planning process;
Advocating on behalf of an organization is an important early part of the fundraising process. Board members bring two critical forms of leverage to the process: reach into the community through their own spheres of influence and the collective volume of their connections. Board members should look for opportunities to introduce others to their organization and to educate them about the importance of the mission. As advocates, board members should always be ready to tell the story of the organization and articulate the mains points of case for support. Now, it is not necessary for board members to walk around with every detail and statistic but a few key statistics and a story or two illustrating the good work of their organization, combined with the board member's passion are more than enough to initially engage the prospect.
While there are many opportunities for individual board members to participate in fundraising, they can be most effective in securing major gifts. As leaders for whom the nonprofit organization is a priority, board members begin all fundraising efforts with their best prospects - themselves. Understanding that in the nonprofit arena time is NOT money, board members make their cash gift first in order to be comfortable asking others to do the same.
Is it realistic to expect others to do something that you are not willing to do yourself?
Board members who cite time as their gift are in a good position to ask others for time. However, time does not pay staff, utilities or the other hard expenses required to operate the organization.
An individual who gives time is a volunteer. An individual who gives money is a donor. A board member must be both a volunteer and a donor.
Nonprofit Network’s mission is to strengthen nonprofit governance and management and we do this in a variety of ways. Reach out to us to learn how to become a better volunteer and donor for your organization.
This time of year, many nonprofit boards are knee deep into the process of identifying candidates to join their board. Some of you have a fiscal year that makes your pending elections near.
If you find yourself on the “governance committee” or what some refer to as the “nominating committee” and are responsible for this extremely important effort to recruit the best board member candidates, I’d like to share some insights.
I’m sure you have adopted the standard process of evaluating the makeup and skills possessed by your current board. This review and comparison to the desired skill sets and makeup of your board often identifies the “gaps” that guide your search for leadership. This process answers the question of how do we make our board stronger.
In this effort to find board members, we sometimes are tempted to just fill the seats in order to conclude the process speedily, but I suggest that quality be the driver in this important process. In fact, I’d like to make the case that developing the slate of new board members is one of the most impactful activities for any nonprofit. It literally is creating your organization’s future. So slow down and introduce some intentionality. Ultimately your organization will benefit from it.
Your community has a makeup. It includes people with different histories, skill sets, current experiences, races, sexes and ages. Developing leadership that all has the same skills, experiences, races, sexes and ages hampers an organization from making the best decisions possible. Decision making (the primary role of the board) can only be done well when good data is used to make those decisions. Good data comes from numerous sources, but a primary source should be the life experiences of your leadership.
Recruiting for those vast experiences requires intentional effort. I’ve often heard this intentional effort is “more work”, “harder”, or “extra steps”. I’d suggest the results from this effort far exceeds the energy required of any deliberate steps. Recruiting to reflect your community enhances your perspective on program delivery, fund development, staffing and communications. Having a leadership group that has a makeup that is comparable to your community leads to better board conversations. Those better board conversations lead to better board decisions which-again-is the board’s primary work.
Having a board table surrounded by a diverse experiences, views and skills and including each of their perspectives in the discussion and decisions is a recipe for connecting with the community. Connection gets your story out. Connection gets your story heard. Connection places your organization in an enviable position to deliver impactful services to your community. Go and be impactful.
Need assistance with any of the above steps? Use your membership benefits and give us a call. Not a member? Join (it’s very reasonable) and we're here to help!
Many kudos to you as a board of directors if you have already conducted a Performance Evaluation of your Executive Director this year.
If you haven’t even considered it or maybe even deliberately shoved it down the priority list, I’m about to share how your organization can get an renewed edge, get higher quality output and make your Executive a happier professional. If this sounds appealing, please read on.
Historically, executive performance evaluations have been disliked not only by boards but also by the executive. One key reason is that the evaluation has been structured, perceived and used as a tool to sit in judgment on the Executive’s performance. Boards don’t like to do that and executives like it even less. Better structured processes are not perceived this way and result in significantly better conversations, which incidentally is one of the reasons you’d want to do an evaluation on a regular basis. If you are seeking a solid process, may I suggest you search our blog archive for a great one called “Evaluate your Executive in 7 Steps”. Additionally, our on-line store offers an Executive Director Evaluation Tool and we have a 1-hour webinar, Ed Performance Evaluation on March 3rd, 2021 at Noon and the recording will also be for sale in our Online Store. And if you need a better incentive NN members pay way less!
However, the intent of this blog post is one of exploring why.
Performance evaluations are all about getting better. As skilled, visionary, personable and professionally engaging as your Executive is, they can improve. In fact, we at Nonprofit Network invest much of our work with professionals telling us they want to get better. And as a member of the board, you want the very best Executive you can have implementing your vision and achieving the organization’s mission. Your organization’s performance evaluation process should be structured and delivered in the context of “how do we get better than we currently are”.
Evaluations are also about having better conversations. When your executive can depend on getting constructive feedback consistently they gain confidence that the channels to introduce enhancements and seek remedies to issues are open. Engaging the Executive in the evaluation process on how they can get better guides the conversations towards new approaches and highlights areas important to the board and the executive.
Evaluations are also about recognition. Structured well performance evaluations permit the board to fully acknowledge accomplishments and for the executive to receive confirmation that their performance is appreciated. The Executive role can be a very lonely one. Equipping them with assurance of support is a solid approach to sustaining their view as part of a larger team that is addressing the mission. Making a difference is a primary reason some professionals choose serving a mission-based organization over a profit-based entity. Regrettably, we at Nonprofit Network encounter professionals that change employment due to the absence of this assurance.
Evaluations benefit from routine. Settling on a process and a tool to conduct the evaluation eliminates some unknowns for all parties. Consistency permits improvement. Clarifying responsible parties to initiate or deliver the evaluation helps immensely. Establishing a consistent month during which the evaluation will be conducted also benefits all parties.
If you need assistance in any of these elements of performance evaluations use your membership benefits and give us a call to discuss it. Not a member? Join today (it’s very reasonable) then call us to get started!
By: Sharon Castle
“How do we engage our board members” or “How can I engage as a board member,” is a frequent request we receive at Nonprofit Network. We’ve developed an excellent workshop on said subject; it’s a great tool, but it’s ONE workshop so here are some ways to make your nonprofit board experience more fulfilling.
First and foremost, make sure when you agree to serve on a board, you have a real interest in the organization’s mission. Think about what talents, relationships and other support you can and are willing to share. Be honest about how much time and energy you are able to devote. A mentor once told me “When you make a commitment to serve on a board, don’t check your brain at the door when you attend board meetings or other sessions because if you do, you will be bored very quickly and a boring life is no fun.”
When facilitating, I almost always begin workshops by reminding attendees that the session will be more meaningful and interesting if they think about the information they are hearing and how it relates to them and their organization. If you embrace this philosophy in your board role and thoughtfully participate in discussions, I promise your involvement will become much more meaningful and interesting.
Strong organizations have a high level of trust and one way to build trust is to do what you say you will do. For instance, if you are the board secretary charged with taking minutes, please do so and get them out in a timely fashion; preferably within a week of the meeting. And if you aren’t able to attend a meeting, ask another board member to handle the minutes instead of defaulting the task to staff. This models great board behavior for other members and shows staff that you understand your role and are taking your responsibilities seriously. Follow-up with the board member who took the minutes in your stead and make sure they go out as per usual.
Find ways to make board meetings interesting. Suggest inviting a long-time donor with a passion for your organization’s mission to a board meeting to share their reasons for supporting you and have members thank them for their support. Or, suggest inviting a client or program recipient to a meeting to share how their lives were impacted by your work. By doing this, participants will feel special, board members will learn why folks support you or benefit from your services and it gives all involved a chance to connect in a different light. AND, it’s way more enjoyable than listening to reports. Which, by the way, should have been in the board packet and been read before the board meeting. Just saying...
Most importantly, embrace your role and help foster a culture where folks share and test new ideas that help deliver your mission, programs and services in an even more effective way.
In January 2019, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette distributed a report indicating that on average, when a paid fundraiser is involved, fewer than 33% of the funds raised go to the nonprofit.
This is scary on many levels...
But – I totally get it. You need money. You don’t have time. You don’t have enough volunteers to help. Your old tactics aren’t working. Calling in a professional seems like a good idea, and receiving "some" of more money is better than receiving none. That bottom line number (whatever the 33% is) is more than you have today and you might just be able to serve more people. There are many things that nonprofits can outsource to save money, manage time and be more productive – building relationships with donors isn’t one of them.
If you are going to work with a professional fundraiser, make sure you maintain control of your donor list. Make sure the relationship with the donor is with you, the nonprofit – not with the fundraiser. Donors should be leery of high pressure tactics or if the check needs to be made out to someone other than the charity – ask who will show up on the donor's credit card receipt – the nonprofit or another name. Donors should also use caution if the caller wants to pick up the donation immediately – most organizations are happy to wait for the donation to arrive in the mail.
Nonprofit Network facilitates different fundraising workshops throughout the year, they are always listed on our website and announced in our newsletter. We are currently working up our 2021 calendar.
Workshop Calendar Link
Nonprofit Network is here to advance your mission. We also provide customized services based on your specific needs. Reach to one of us today, we'll set an appointment when you have time & promise that we will work on efficient strategies and practices that makes the time you do have more productive.
Our Staff Link
*updated from Oct. 2019
What is the 2020 Census?
The 2020 Census counts every person living in the United States and the five U.S. territories.
The count is mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. Each home will receive an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire—online, by phone, or by mail. This will mark the first time that you will be able to respond to the census online.
Why it Matters?
The census count has consequences we will live with for the next decade, if not longer. This makes the stakes even higher. Michigan stands to lose an estimated $1,800 per person per year in federal support for programs that use census data. These include Medicaid, nutrition assistance, highway construction and planning, Title I and Special Education Grants, Foster Care and Child Care Grants, K-12 education, Section 8 Vouchers, and Head Start/Early Start — for which Michigan received more than $14 billion in 2015.
The Census matters to every nonprofit – all of us want our clients and communities to have as many resources as are owed to us so that we can focus on our mission.
What is Asked on the Census?
See the sample 2020 Census Questionnaire at https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial/2020/technical-documentation/questionnaires-and-instructions/questionnaires/2020-informational-questionnaire.pdf
Ways to Respond to the Census?
By April 1, 2020, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. You will have three options for responding:
Did you know that humans are hard-wired to relate to stories? Neuroscientists tell us that the brains of people listening to well-told stories fire on the same neuralpath as if they were experiencing the circumstance themselves. Likewise, if you and I are hearing the same story, our brains will fire in similar areas. There is quite a bit of science in people connecting with one another. Add to this that humankind has been sitting around ancient fires or watering holes relating guidance and requests verbally as stories for eons. (Interesting sources here and here.)
Humans like stories.
Stories have been ways to educate, inspire, and motivate for ages and today’s technological advances haven’t changed that one bit. In fact, we can now share stories so much faster with technology that our storytelling skills are needed more now than ever before. The great news is that storytelling is a skill that can be learned.
I can think of many reasons a nonprofit organization would want to enhance its storytelling skills. A couple off the top of my head include:
In our nonprofit world there are at least five different categories of stories every organization would benefit from adding to their pool of stories. Give some consideration to stories you may have about:
Keep it short. Long stories lose the listener
Keep it simple. Ultra-complex stories cause listener to mentally check out
Highlight people, not programs
Consider your audience. It’s YOUR story, but it won’t get heard if you misread your audience.
When you get to the end of the story, STOP. Continuing past the end, buries the point you wanted to make with the listener.
Practice your story telling by writing “mini-sagas.” These are stories with a character in pursuit of a goal in the face of an obstacle, written in exactly 50 words.
Want to talk more about how you can use your story to retain and upgrade donors? Attend Leverage Your Story: Building the Case for Support
Want more? Click here to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and announcements. Each week you'll get a link to the most recent blog post. We promise to respect your time and will not flood your inbox. We only send one or two e-mails each week.
Katena Cain, PhD
I was recently organizing a bookshelf at home and came across a book that I originally read over 12 years ago: Soar With Your Strengths by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson. It reminded me of a time early in my career when I searched for the motivation to encourage others using a strengths-based approach. Walt Disney, the visionary who turned a single mouse into an entertainment mega-empire, boiled his success down to a simple premise: “Of all the things I have done, the most vital was coordinating the talents of those who work for me and pointing them at certain goals.”
While there are not many Disney-type fairy tales in the real world, supporting weaknesses and leveraging strengths can take your team to levels of success you might not have previously imagined—perhaps the “happily-ever-after” of ultimately obtaining your vision. As leadership engineer John Maxwell asserts, “Work on the weakness that weakens you, and there is no telling how far you will go.”
Top Five Tips for Leveraging Strengths and Supporting Weaknesses:
1. Pay attention
Survey individuals' unique leadership styles, work ethics, skill sets and personalities. Some successes and failures may be a fluke, but if you pay careful attention, trends will likely emerge in relation to a person's strengths and weaknesses.
2. Make them aware
It is easy to recognize an individual for something at which they excel—chances are they already know it is one of their strengths. The harder part is pointing out a weakness. However, it is likely that he or she already realizes some of their own inadequacies.
3. Utilize Mentors
Partnering an individual who has a particular weakness with someone who exhibits strength in that same area creates ample opportunities for that person to sharpen a skill.
4. Consider and budget for Professional Development
Consider utilizing your own resources as well by having the employee who has the sharpest skill set in a particular area lead a company-wide workshop on how they developed and best employed that strength.
5. Allow for failure
Once upon a time, most leaders focused solely on utilizing the strengths of their team members for achieving directives. But by letting team members know they are being given the opportunity to fail for the sake of strengthening a weakness, not only will it give them confidence for developing a skill set or overcoming a shortcoming, but it will prepare them to use that very attribute for future successes.
The best leaders today realize that in order for real achievements to become a reality they must focus not only on the preeminent attributes of employees, but also on their weaknesses, initiating efforts to both buoy and leverage those shortcomings to achieve greater success.
Ready for some Professional Development opportunities?
Coaching on how you can leverage strengths and support weaknesses on your team?
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