Monday, July 20, 2009

Your Nonprofit, No Matter the Size, Can Do These Simple Steps to Increase Funds Raised

No matter what size your nonprofit organization, there are a few critical but simple processes that you can set into motion, in a tough economy, to both secure and also improve all of your nonprofit's fundraising, including its grant raising.

No matter what size nonprofit you work for; to improve your fundraising and grant writing:

__ Clarify and regularly state to the client, visitor, or whomever/whatever the beneficiary population of your organization's work is and the communit(ies) that your organization serves what your organization does, for whom, what issue it is working on, and any recent successes, accolades, and major achievements. Simply sharing this information regularly and keeping it simple, clear, factual, and up to date provides all donors, volunteers, clients, members, and potential donors and future board members clear about not only what your organization does, who it serves, but also why your organization is worthy of baring this work out for the community; it is successful. Donors, in particular, invest in not just talented and honest nonprofits that are well run - they invest in organizations who are meeting real current needs in a community that are also full of potential, talent, and are integrated into the community such that this organization can really provide real solutions today and tomorrow. Their potential is great. This is why having a talented, knowledgeable, connected, and visible team working on any nonprofit is powerful.

__ Keep track. Keep track of everything. This may sound tedious but once this protocol is initiated and then regularly conducted the information will be invaluable to not just your fundraising (grant writing and all fundraising). It will also assist all those people who are both charged with managing programming at your agency and envisioning new programming, too. Once your agency tracks and retains visitor numbers, numbers of attendees, participant numbers, or whatever users utilize your agency's work and also tracks their demographics (e.g. sex, age, home city, race, income level, etc.) your agency has the hard data sets to provide to potential donors demonstrating (truly proving) all claims of success, achievements, and to prove that all the populations that your agency says are being served by your organization, are being assisted. Ask volunteers to provide the correct numbers of hours that they worked, each time that they do, as well. Why? If, for instance, you are applying for a grant from ABC Corporation and 20 of your agency's regular volunteers work (or retired from) ABC Corporation - when you write the grant proposal it is very compelling to potential donors to state for instance, "Defenders of Double Digits nonprofit is proud to share that twenty full time and four retired ABC Corporation are regular volunteers improving our community through Defenders of Double Digits' mission and work. These twenty-four volunteers provided five thousand volunteer hours during the 2008 fiscal year in ten different programs and special event fundraisers; both serving over 200 people and also assisting to raise a total of $50,000, of which (as with all of our donations) 80% of each dollar went to our programs." After some regular interval, perhaps the first of each month, be certain that a competent, diligent, and organized volunteer is responsible to enter the data (correctly) to a database or Excel spreadsheet (whatever works for the agency), and checks it after. Then, anyone can access this very compelling and powerful information. The Marketing, Fundraising, Programs, Volunteer Management, Etc. Committees, staff, and also the organization's leadership can then access this information to create pamphlets, marketing materials, press releases, inform fundraising letters or materials, etc. including grant proposals.

__ Thank anyone and everyone. Always, without fail, send a thank you letter or e-mail to anyone who donates to your organization. Whether your thank you's are formal or simply letters intended to serve the donor as a tax deduction receipt - be certain to thank the people, local businesses, etc. that support the nonprofit that you work for. They are, whether you or your agency's leadership see them as such, part of the reason that the organization operates. Without them the agency is dead in the water. Keep them returning to donate again by communicating with them not only the nonprofit's thanks, but state that they are viewed as essential to the team creating the organization's success, share with them their value, and state clearly what their money will do. After, perhaps once a year, conduct an annual appeal letter fundraising campaign and in that letter state the organization's achievements for the year, indicate any increases in numbers served or new programs, and then share what the nonprofit's goals are for the new year and how the community can help (donate, give new needed items, volunteer, become a board member, etc.). Getting back to donors with the successes that their donations (given) did in the community will keep most connected to your organization's success and repeatedly supporting it. People give not just for a tax break, studies show repeatedly, but to help a cause that concerns them, and the community. If you can show donors that their money did X and if they give again they will be able to do Y - you've helped them feel accomplishment in their community regarding the issue that concerns them. Similarly, if your organization receives a grant from a grant donor that does not require an end of grant report (stating what the grant paid for and did via your agency), provide the grant donor with a one page end of grant report, anyway clearly stating the same. Thank those who are helping provide the agency's services (donors, volunteers, community partners, etc.) and report into them with information that clearly demonstrates what they have helped to accomplish in the community and what they are welcome to do for the agency in the community.

__ On the phone, in the press, face to face with anyone visiting your agency or at any community event where you (or others) are representing the nonprofit you work for - be polite, be courteous, listen to others (and hear them), clarify as needed any misconceptions or errors, and always put the agency's most professional face and position forward. NO matter what the situation - if your agency needs emergency funds, if your nonprofit has just gone through a major scandal or is heading to court, or if your agency is seen as a preeminant leader in its field - etc. The only way to behave in the office or publicly, is professionally. On this note, all nonprofits are operated by many people. They operate by teams of people. As such, conflict is a norm in nonprofit operations. Yes, it just is. Do not try to avoid conflict or dissuade conflict. Really. Instead, leaders (in particular) in your organization should be indoctrinated and expected to uphold open interpersonal interactions. Everyone can be listened to and everyone can share. This is fair. Everyone should attempt to really hear everyone - even those who differ from your opinion - but at a minimum the rule in the office, at the board meetings, and everywhere should be "reasonable people can disagree reasonably". The struggle is the 'thing' and struggles in any conflict are the mechanism by which any and each nonprofit grows.

__ Plan. If your agency has a single one goal or multiple goals (and all nonprofits do) then your leadership must take the time to educate itself in any new territory (e.g. maybe your organization is attempting grant writing as a fundraising method for the first time; or if a nonprofit is a start up the leadership must take the time to learn board roles, the laws they are charged by law to follow, fundraising, nonprofit operations, etc.) and then plan. There must be time given to get any new program, project, or effort learned, planned, implemented, and underway. Perhaps more than a year or two must be built into the cost to cover the time taken for most and any type of new project to get onto its legs, underway, and self-sustaining (e.g. financially). Planning saves pain, time, money, and the organization's reputation for ability and success, in the long run.

These professional nonprofit best practices are "best practices" not because all nonprofits "should" do them. They are "best practices" because many times, over and over, different nonprofits have used these methods and are better for it. These are tried and true ways to save all resources and to gain more. Give them a try!

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