Monday, March 28, 2011

How to Raise Donations, Or Rather, How to Raise Donors Who Give Again

Donors who lament, "...they got me...they got me to give..." aren't likely to give to that organization again.  No nonprofit should, upon discovering one of their donors gave and then mentioned this to another, after; feel their fundraising is effective.  This is not good for either the donor or the nonprofit.

Fundraising isn't a side-gig where nonprofits mostly focus their energy and efforts on the organization's work (the mission statement) but '...have that annoying fundraising to get to at some point, too'.  Fundraising is a full time job.  What nonprofit doesn't constantly need cash flow?  Well, then it needs to be raised, constantly - all year round, every week, every business day.

Donors are not forced, cajoled, or sand that give once to our organization but then slip on and away.  Donors are people, foundations, corporations, families, local businesses, etc.  In other words, donors are people.  The goal, then, is to retain the person who gives to our organization once, so that they give again, and again.  How?

If we consider the tragedy of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and the ensuing need, there, like any other catastrophe people are compelled to help however they can, including donating towards a relief organization.  But, after the Japanese pick up the pieces and get their nation moving on steadily, again, will those donors give again to say The American Red Cross, regularly?  In this case, they might not and its not that The Red Cross has lacked in its fundriasing effort.  In this scenario, the donor was compelled to give for whatever reason and selected The Red Cross as the organization it entrusts their contribution with.  The donor trusts that the assistance that they can afford to send to Japan will reach the Japanese at nearly 100% of the monetary amount pass through, in a program, service, or form of relief that truly meets the current needs of the Japanese, such that it actually helps someone or some people.  Now, if the donor comes to know exactly (what percent of) their dollar did, for whom, how, and what need existed or remains for that assistance, that donor might give to The Red Cross again.

Or, what about our friend David, who recently moved from an apartment to a small rental house closer to his children's school?  He packed the apartment up two weeks ago and all last week moved from the old apartment complex into his new neighborhood.  While he packed, he put aside anything that he no longer used or needed.  He planned on donating everything that was in good condition to donate to St. Vincent de Paul's or Goodwill, and making a run to the dump with everything else.  Perhaps David decided which nonprofit to donate his used clothing, household items, and furniture to based on convenience.  After all, he was literally in the middle of a move.  Or, perhaps David has given to a specific charity used household and personal goods before and has a personal connection with that organization, so he gives to them, again.  There are a couple of reasons, at least, that David would select one nonprofit over another, when he decided which organization to give his items to.  If he's giving, again, to an organization he gave to, before; then the recipient organization might just have a repeat donor.  David might have a strong tie to that particular organization.  Perhaps a friend who was down on her luck when the economy went south was tremendously helped out by one of these organizations and he saw what that assistance did to help her.  Or, perhaps David, after giving a coffee table, set of cooking pots, and some jeans and sweaters he no longer used to an organization, was clearly informed, perhaps by a thank you letter (even a form one), where the contributions go, to whom, why, and what need exists for that assistance.  He was informed and from that information, the organization created a repeat donor, because David saw that the contribution was given to a hard hit, low income, family in need; and he didn't realize, but the unemployment rate in his town, right then, was nearly 20%.  The need clearly exists for that kind of assistance and he was able, through the organization's work, to successfully help others.

Finally, let's say that our friend Kim was just diagnosed with breast cancer.  You and I had taken turns going with her to a couple of preliminary doctor's appointments, for tests, so we know that Kim is understandably shocked, feeling powerless, and terrified.  You and I speak on the phone after we discover that the concern has indeed led to a diagnosis.  We coordinate our schedules so that we can each be there for Kim, right now.  While you take Kim to her first chemotherapy appointment, I spend the day phoning local breast cancer nonprofits.  Neither you nor I have much experience with breast cancer, and Kim certainly hasn't until, now.  All of us are out of our elements, understandably, and needing to know what we can do to help Kim survive it, get through it mentally and emotionally.  Like most anyone who is faced with a new terrifying diagnosis (of any kind), none of us have any idea about what support, information, and services exist in our community for us and Kim to get through this in the best possible way.  Let's say that I phone five different nonprofits.  I hadn't even realized that there were five nonprofits, locally, that dealt with breast cancer.  One assists people who have breast cancer (and their loved one) by providing information on local doctors services just for breast cancer patients, refers patients to local oncologists and other relevant specialists with excellent reputations and success rates, and provides counseling and support to patients and even their loved ones (who are often care takers).  Another organization provides transportation at low or no cost to those in need who can not get to cancer-related doctor's appointments and treatments, otherwise (for lack of resources, lack of personal vehicle, inability to walk on one's own, etc.).  The third organization provides information to the public but mostly fundraises to provide cancer researchers (doctors, scientists, etc.) with funds to find a cure.  The fourth organization provides housing, food, clothing, or any other basic need to those who are cancer patients, but without means of their own to arrange for these basic needs for themselves.  The fifth organization, I find out, provides hospice or personal care, medical assistance, and spiritual care (for any faith) to those who are tragically perishing from cancer.  I learn, while speaking to these organizations, that there are two good oncology departments in our local hospitals but one (over the other) has an excellent breast cancer unit and has actually but recognized, nationally, for it's success rate and repeatedly excellent care of patients.  I also find out that one local doctor, in particular, given Kim's specific diagnosis (as I related it) would probably be very effective at helping her eradicate the cancer entirely.  I decide that this information and the first two organizations will probably be extremely helpful to Kim and us, during her fight against cancer.  I base this on Kim's particular financial, emotional, mental, and health insurance situation.  She is working, she has good health insurance, her ability to care for her basic needs are fine, and of course, though she's just been diagnosed, she is certainly not dying and we anticipate that she won't for tens and tens of years to come.  I also base that decision on how we can best help Kim.  I know that you and I have to work, but we know, too, that sometimes Kim will have an appointment during the work week.  The second organization will be very helpful at safely getting Kim to and from those weekday appointments on time. 

I gave this in depth example above, based on a similar (but not exact) nonprofit that I worked at for over five years, in Seattle.  The reason why I gave such an in depth scenario about Kim and the organizations that 'I phoned' is to demonstrate the lack of knowledge, real needs, and emotions that someone (anyone) who phones a nonprofit (any nonprofit, for any issue or cause) might be dealing with.  The well run and successful nonprofit that succeeds at delivering its mission (repeatedly) can wind up being a real answer in a time of some one's time of severe need.  It can wind up being the difference between survival and a tragedy.  Similarly, the scenario above demonstrates what both the person (or thing) that has experienced the actual trauma and the people in their lives go through.  It might be an 'everyday thing' for the volunteers and staff at the organization to answer the phone and hear that another person needs their assistance, but if their office is run well, and if the volunteers and staff are both trained well and given necessary support from their superiors; no call for assistance is less dire or important than any other the organization received in the past or will receive.  From this comes donors.  You and I might come to learn exactly what assets our community has in the two nonprofits that we and Kim work with.  After her battle with cancer is won, in a couple of years or so, perhaps you and I look back at the entire experience, with Kim, and decide that the nonprofits that helped were literally partners in her survival or our ability to form a viable and safe team that would help her survive and get through the horrors of breast cancer.  Based on this, the three of us decide to pledge some amount to the two organizations and the hospital, regularly.  We three feel confident about giving to these specific organizations because we witnessed (or experienced) where the money goes, what it does, and we know the organizations (in this scenario) are honest, effective, efficient, and successful at what they do.  We're donors for life.

From the different donor experience examples, above, you can see from the potential (individual) donor's perspective how a nonprofit can create new donors who give again and again.  Nonprofits that do not follow through, that do not thank donors, or that do not expressly describe what current work is being done, where, for whom, why, and how (to each donor - no matter if they gave $5 or $25,000) are simply leaving potential repeat donors (and future donations) by the wayside. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

When Writing A Grant Proposal, Should The Grant Writer Use Professional Jargon or Not?

When writing a grant application or proposal, it can be difficult to deal with the jargon or words that are unique to a nonprofit's professional field of work.  Does the grant writer take the time, in the actual grant proposal, to define jargon words, after each one's use?  Does the grant writer, instead, use jargon in the grant application but then also provide an index of professional jargon in the back, as an attachment?  Or, does the grant writer just avoid jargon and replace it, where it would've been used in grant request documents, with 'everyday' words?

All nonprofit organizations work in a professional field.  One organization assists people who have just been diagnosed with breast cancer, another receives brand new school children's clothing as donations and gives them out to children in need, and the next one works on an entirely different cause.  Add to that, too, that each nonprofit's mission statement, or service or effort for the community, varies organization to organization, as well.  For instance, the organization that is assisting those who have just been diagnosed with cancer might provide support groups, information and referral services, provided by professional social workers, the children's clothing donations might be all volunteer run, while a housing and lending program might be run to provide low income families with the basic information on how to save for and achieve the dream of home ownership. 

What an organization does to provide its service, product, or program; and what cause or issue a nonprofit works on determines what professional field(s) it works in.  Some are organizations working in environmental causes and their effort is conducted by biologists, oceanographers, and administrators; others are religious organizations conducted by appropriate religious leaders, lay people, and volunteers; and still other nonprofits provide emergency and disaster relief and are doctors and nurses.

For every cause or issue and every type of program or service provided, in other words, for every professional field, there is language unique to it and this is what is commonly called jargon, and each field's jargon mostly varies from the next, but of course there is some overlap in word use.

Why worry about jargon at all?

When any organization writes and submits grant proposals, there is always going to be someone (i.e. foundation staff and board of directors) or something (computerized programs that receive grant proposals on behalf of a grant donor and process them, initially, for the grant donor) that reads the grant application that you and your staff and volunteers have just submitted.  It is imperative that this fact never leaves a grant writer's mind as they write, formulate, compile, and submit each grant proposal.  Since you and I do not know who will read each grant proposal we submit, but we each hope that every single one gets funded, we must format, write, compile, and submit grant proposals that make it easy for whomever or whatever reads them to get the first time around: what our organizations will do with the grant money, why, how, for whom, when, expecting what outcome.  You nor I want to get in our own organization's way of getting any grant by befuddling, confusing, or losing the potential grant donor's interest or comprehension as they read our submission.  Instead, we always want to be creating excellent submissions that will enhance the recipient's impression, experience of, and knowledge about our organizations.

For example, if I work for a nonprofit that is mostly staffed by geologists and the organization works with communities around the world being endangered by exotic gems trade, my grant proposal might include the following paragraph.  Imagine that you work for the grant donor and are reading the document (quickly - along with two hundred and fifty other grant proposal submissions) to determine which get to the next stage in the consideration process.

"...Gems Are People Too, when assessing what options a community has to avert and avoid conflict or endangerment, as they process their local geology, our geologists conduct field work and assess the strike, dip, and run on site; the size of the developed gembody; and the composition (in ratio to one another) of the geologic formation including veins, intrusions, and contacts."

You might generally understand that the geologist goes into the field and takes a true assessment of each location's geology and describes it according to professional geologist practices, as you read the grant proposal, but you don't necessarily understand what exactly the organization considers, determines, and uses to base its work on.  It is very important,  though, that I make it easy for the staff at the grant donor's office to understand what I am explaining about the nonprofit and its work, if a grant donor is going to give to my nonprofit.  It is imperative.

So, I should re-write the above example paragraph and remove the jargon.  I should not create a larger paragraph (because I'm not using jargon but having to explain everything in 'layman's terms').  I should still formulate clear, on point, succinct, and informative sentences.  A re-write, then, might look like this:

"Gems Are People Too, when assessing what options a community has to avert and avoid conflict or endangerment, as they process their local geology, our geologists conduct field work and assess what the geologic history is in the immediate area, what direction each type of rock in that location runs, and how large each body of the geology is.  We determine what gems, minerals, ores, and rock the local geologic resource is comprised of, in total, including whether or not other types of rock interrupt or intrude into the majority rock, on site."

The re-written paragraph avoids jargon, conveys the same information about the nonprofit's work, and avoids confusing, frustrating, or losing the person or program that will read the grant proposal; all in relatively the same amount of word-space.  The second re-written paragraph could even be whittled down a bit more, without losing key information or facts.

Jargon has its place in professional dialogue, among colleagues, but it should not be used in grant proposals that might confuse the grant donor.  No one needs to be condescended to, nor shown how brilliant an applicant organization is through the grant proposal's use of jargon.  A nonprofit must, in a grant proposal, clearly convey, articulate, and demonstrate what the organization applying for the grant does, why, for whom or what, how, and all other key details without losing, confusing, or frustrating the grant application reader.

Monday, March 14, 2011

How to Safely Donate to Assist the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami Victims

Charity Navigator, one of the web's finest (oldest, ethical, and accurate) resources for donors, provides advice to anyone who is donating to assist in the Japanese tsunami and earthquake relief effort.  Click on Charity Navigator's Japan Earthquake and Tsunami page for donation tips and warnings.

The American Red Cross explains on their American Red Cross Responding to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami web page what they are doing and posting daily with updates.  They have a link to donate to their effort on the web page.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies reports regularly, too, on their Japanese tsunami and earthquake relief work and also provides a link to donate to the cause through their work at No Rest for Red Cross Medics As Search and Rescue Efforts Continue

and then some of the latest headlines, as of this morning...

Japan economy shudders after shocks, BOJ pumps cash by Leila Kihara at Reuters

Stricken Japan nuclear plant rocked by 2nd blast by Eric Talmadge and Shino Yuasa at The Seattle Times

Gigwise reports on a relief effort by pop, rap, and other artists to support the Red Cross at Katy Perry, P Diddy, Rihanna, Chris Brown Support Japan Relief Efforts

Finally, one of my favorite online resources for all things nonprofit, Joanne Fritz, Ph.D. (as she always does after a major crisis) has pulled together, on Nonprofit an excellent list of other, various, reputable nonprofits that are actively working on the Japanese tsunami and earthquake relief effort.  The list is available at How You Can Help the Earthquake and Tsunami Survivors in Japan.

No matter how you decide to assist those impacted by this major Japanese crisis, be sure to keep Charity Navigator's advice (first link, above) in mind for safe and effective contributions.

Monday, March 07, 2011

What To Say About This Economy In Grant Proposals - Or Not To Say

When applying for a grant, as described in the potential grant donor's giving guidelines, it is often required that there be some content in the nonprofit's grant proposal describing the organization's financial picture and its financial outlook.

It is very tempting, here, to say something about how hard hit the nonprofit has been by this down economy, isn't it?  In fact, any nonprofit applying for a grant could say this.  Remember, though, you always want to be indicating and demonstrating why your organization (and the program or project you're proposing in the grant application) are a sound investment for anyone considering donating anything, including a grant.  In this way, you always want to set your organization apart from other applicants by your organization truly being the better investment - enabling the grant donor to select your organization as a grant recipient in that giving cycle.

What do you want to say in a grant proposal (in the financial portion of the document), and what do you not want to say?  See the following...

__ Always say something.  Never think that there is some power retained by being extremely discreet or not providing a grant donor with the information that they request.  Anything requested of your organization by a grant donor (within normal professional practices and standards) should be provided to that grant donor.

__ Keep in mind that all of the organizations that are applying for a grant from that grant donor, when you do, have also been impacted by the difficult economy.  Most likely, even the grant donor, itself, has.

__ Any nonprofit that "seems too good to be true" as depicted in their grant proposal or application for a grant, (and remember, grant donors read tens and tens of grant applications during each giving cycle) is a red flag warning to them.  Don't make it easy for a potential donor to put your organization's request into the "not at this time" pile, after they review your request.  Never suggest your organization is perfect, impervious, and likely to succeed at everything 100%.  It comes off as it sounds: like you and the organization's leadership are either not being fully honest or perhaps you don't have much experience.

__ Say a sentence or two (not a whole paragraph, unless it's requested by the grant donor) about how your organization has been effected by this economy beyond simply stating "it's been effected by this economy" or (even worse) "we have had a difficult time from this economy".  These are both pieces of information that the person who reads the grant request can already guess (so why waste precious space in a grant document stating the obvious?).  Instead, articulate, in clear (honest and quantifiable) phrases how the economy effected your nonprofit?  Getting long winded or too detailed isn't appropriate, here, if it isn't requested of the grant applicant.  If the grant donor wants more details, they will ask you for them.

__ State the true repercussions of the economic downturn and how it impacted your organization's ability to deliver the goals of its mission statement to the beneficiaries of your organization's work.  State in clear quantifiable data how this impacts the beneficiaries and their needs that your organization meets.

__ Indicate (and this is important - this is how you can set your organization apart from other applicants, for the better) clearly, again in quantifiable factual data, how your organization is surviving this economy intact, and how it will continue to operate, grow, and achieve its mission statement's goal.

__ Never assume that any success, accolade, or achievement is obvious to the grant application reader (no matter how good your organization's public relations and marketing has been).  If your organization has achieved successes among organizational goals or programs and services - clearly state each of these that are recent.  Not all organizations run well enough to achieve successes - so being clear that your organization has is powerful to the grant donor and their weighing whether to give to your nonprofit or not.

__ Indicate how your organization's leadership prepared for the pending economic decline, if they did; or state how the leadership coped with the budgetary challenges as the economy changed; and explain how the decision and changes that were made enabled the organization to further its work and successes.

__ Keep to succinct, poignant, defensible, factual, and confidence-building facts and sentences.  Again, write sentences and paragraphs that get to the point succinctly.

Grants Available for American Nonprofit Organizations Using Computers, Technology, or Video Games to Educate

From The Foundation Center...

[If you are interested in more information about this grant opportunity, click "Link to Complete RFP" at the end of this post].

Deadline: May 15, 2011

ESA Foundation Offers Support for Youth-Focused Education Technology Programs

The ESA Foundation, a philanthropic vehicle of the Entertainment Software Association, is dedicated to supporting programs that make a difference in the lives of America's youth.

The foundation is accepting grant applications from nonprofit organizations that provide programs and services utilizing technology and/or computer and video games to educate America's youth and young adults (ages 7 to 18).

Applicants must be nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations or governmental units exempt under Section 115 and described in Section 170(c)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code. Funding must be sought for a specific project or program that is or will be implemented or available nationwide or in a minimum of two states in the United States.

In general, the ESA Foundation does not accept applications for endowments, operating support, benefit and event fundraisers, annual fund appeals, youth sports teams, religious organizations for religious purposes, political organizations or campaigns, labor groups, indirect costs, research, or from fiscal agents. Grants are not made to individuals or for projects outside the United States of America.

First-time grant recipients will be considered for grants of up to $50,000 each.

The grant application deadline is May 15, 2011 for projects to be implemented in 2012.

Visit the ESA Web site for complete program guidelines and application procedures.

Primary Subject: Children and Youth
Geographic Funding Area: National