Tue, August 18 2015

#GivingTuesday Success with a Staff of One: Q&A with CASS

Liz Ragland's avatar

Senior Content and Marketing Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Giving Days • Nonprofit leadership •

Last year, Network for Good customer Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) had a great #GivingTuesday campaign and won our prize for Best Social Campaign. The organization raised more than $17,000, came in fourth on our leaderboard for number of donors, and exceeded its original goal by 43%.

Because I experience and witness street harassment in Washington, DC, I can see the immediate importance of CASS’ mission. CASS mobilizes the community, through online and offline activism, to end public sexual harassment and assault in the DC metropolitan area. The campaign caught my eye and I was inspired to donate to it on #GivingTuesday. After I became a donor, I was delighted to receive some of the best post-donation communication ever! CASS has become one of my favorite nonprofit customers that we serve in DC.

Because CASS had such great success on #GivingTuesday 2014, I wanted to do a Q&A with Zosia Sztykowski, the nonprofit’s executive director, to find out how they put together an amazing campaign with just one paid staff member.

How did you plan and set goals?

Zosia Sztykowski: We set a very ambitious goal for our end-of year-campaign—triple what we had done in the previous year—and based on our experience, we knew we’d have to get a strong start on #GivingTuesday for that to work. #GivingTuesday and New Year’s Eve are always the best giving days for us.

How did you reach out to donors before, during, and after?

ZS: We started reaching out to donors four weeks in advance with soft touches via email. A week or two before, we gave all of them a call and asked folks to pledge. During the campaign, we reached out via email and social media. Afterward, everyone who donated received a special thank you email and a handwritten card.

What surprised you the most about #GivingTuesday?

ZS: It’s amazing how generous everyone is even when every other organization is asking for donations at the same time. There’s something very touching about that. It really is a day about giving in the broad sense of the word. In 2014, we managed to quadruple what we raised in 2013 on #GivingTuesday because of this generosity.

What is the number one piece of advice you would give to nonprofits doing #GivingTuesday for the first time?

ZS: Plan, plan, plan. Read about others’ successful strategies. Get your emails and your social media materials ready well in advance. Know that you’ll need all hands on deck on #GivingTuesday. Have a schedule—but be prepared to throw it out the window if you come up with a better idea at the last minute.

How did you manage it all with very few paid staff members? CASS only has one paid staff member, right? And how did you make sure volunteers followed through with their commitments to help make it great?

ZS: Yup, just one—me! Needless to say, I had some pretty serious tunnel vision going in late November/early December. But our volunteers are one of our strongest assets. They get the word out and solicit people in their networks. Every time we run a campaign like this, we don’t just reach multiples of our dollar goal, we also multiply the length our donor list, and I think this is directly attributable to our grassroots strategy. If a volunteer team is well organized and engaged—trained, prepared with all the materials they need, and knowledgeable about the organization and its fiscal needs—then they will follow through. Better yet, they’ll make it fun. It’s really about starting a conversation with volunteers that continues throughout the process.

What will you differently this year?

ZS: We’re planning to reach out to more big donors way in advance to build a lot of momentum for #GivingTuesday.

Thank you, Zosia, for sharing these details with us! If you want to put on a great #GivingTuesday campaign in 2015, we can help. Sign up to get Network for Good’s #GivingTuesday resources sent directly to your inbox.

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Tue, July 28 2015

The Millennial Impact Report: Q&A with Derrick Feldmann

Emily Wang's avatar

Senior Communications Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials • Nonprofit leadership •

What inspires Millennials to give and volunteer? How can an organization engage with its Millennials? We’re racking our brains trying to understand the group that’s soon to be the largest living generation in the nation. Fortunately, we’ve got help from Derrick Feldman and his team at Achieve, who recently published the 2015 Millennial Impact Report. If you have the same burning questions, I strongly encourage you to read the report here. Short on time? Read our Q&A with Derrick below:

Network for Good: How can organizations use your research to activate their Millennial donors and volunteers?

Derrick Feldman: One of the most beneficial uses of this research is that it offers an intimate look at how Millennial employees engage in cause-related activities, especially in the workplace. They are passionate supporters of causes that interest them and benefit society! This research can be used as a guide for becoming more acquainted with your Millennial employees. It is a fairly comprehensive account of the attitudes and behaviors of Millennial (and non-Millennial) employees’ approaches to volunteerism and charitable giving within diverse work settings. Many CSR professionals might glean insight into how to effectively harness Millennials’ energy and enthusiasm toward cause-related experiences. For example, the report provides valuable information about using Millennials’ skills, interests, and motivations to create opportunities of value for them as well as to make an impact in their chosen community.

NFG: What are the top three takeaways from the report that would be valuable for an organization’s board and staff?

DF: Here are the three important takeaways:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask your Millennial employees to give! Nearly a quarter (22%) of Millennial employees and more than half (55%) of Millennial managers who made charitable donations in 2014 indicated that their company solicited these donations. Millennials are charitable, and they want to make a difference in both their local and global community.

  2. Know your employees! Nearly half (45%) of Millennial employees participated in a company-wide volunteer day. While that is impressive participation, there is certainly room to increase involvement. Among those employees who volunteered, 29% did so because they were interested in the cause, and more than three-quarters (77%) said they were more likely to volunteer if they can use their specific skills or expertise. When organizing opportunities for Millennial employees to volunteer, companies should know which causes employees are passionate about, and then leverage the skills and knowledge of those employees to benefit the cause.

  3. Peer influence and relationships matter! Employees (management and nonmanagement) were most highly influenced to participate in cause-related activities by their peers. Sixty-five percent of Millennial employees were more likely to volunteer if a co-worker asked them. Meanwhile, 67% of managers indicated they would be more likely to volunteer if other co-workers, not supervisors, were participating.

NFG: You recommend having a peer-to-peer fundraising model in place to activate Millennial employees. What factors do you think are required for it to be successful?

DF: Companies need to create resources and roles for peer engagement that don’t exist today. This is where companies can take the lead from nonprofits that have been working in the peer-to-peer fundraising space for a while.

Companies should enable peer leaders to step into a leadership role, identify the cause issue they want to address, and define the methods they want to engage their team in performing. This means the company needs to provide resources for the peer to be successful. This includes the education, programming, and financial resources to activate their peers. From toolkits to training programs, companies should activate peer interest into leadership and leadership into organizing.

NFG: What can we look forward to in the next phase of the Millennial Impact Report?

DF: In the next phase of the Millennial Impact Report, we will be moving from attitude and intent to investigating behaviors and factors that impact that behavior. We really want to understand how and why some workplace cultures are successful in cultivating an engaged workforce while others are still struggling to establish successful cause-related initiatives or programs within their companies. We also want to delve more deeply into which relationships, and associated characteristics of those relationships, yield the most engaged employees and how this engagement can be sustained into the future. We plan to release our next update report in October. Stay tuned.

A big thanks to Derrick for chatting with us! For more great research from Derrick, check out our recent webinar with him, Millennial Alumni Study: Key Takeaways for the Nonprofit Sector.

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Tue, June 16 2015

How the Fundraising Game Has Changed Forever

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Nonprofit leadership •

(Editor’s note: Today’s post comes from our friends at the National Council of Nonprofits. Jennifer Chandler, Vice President and Director of Network Support & Knowledge Sharing, offers insight on new legislation that will allow nonprofits to own their true costs.) Jenny Chandler

How the Fundraising Game Has Changed Forever – and Four Steps Your Nonprofit Should Take to Benefit

A “game changer.” It will “transform the landscape ... for generations to come.” No, these aren’t ads for a new car or reviews for movies coming to a theater near you. They are descriptions of the impact brought about by new federal rules for many grant awards—impact that just may make life less stressful for nonprofit fundraising professionals and development directors everywhere.

For the first time, the federal government is acknowledging what nonprofits have known all along: to deliver effective services in our communities, nonprofits must incur basic costs to keep the doors open and the lights on. The federal government, through the new Uniform Guidance issued by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), now requires that any government using federal funds—whether local, state, tribal, or federal—to hire a nonprofit to deliver services must pay its share of indirect costs (sometimes called overhead or administrative costs).

For fundraising and development professionals, this reform can mean less stress and urgency chasing down private donations and grants to fill in the large gaps left unfunded by governments. With government now mandated to pay for these “indirect costs” when the initial funds flow from the federal government, it will ease pressure on private philanthropy to fill all-to-common gaps left unfunded by governments. Not only that, but with this historic acknowledgement from government that indirect/overhead costs are essential to service delivery, some private funders are revisiting their policies and coming to a similar logical realization.

To put the impact of this new rule in perspective, consider the size of the gaps that governments historically have left unfunded. According to a recent Urban Institute survey, 53 percent of nonprofits reported that governments capped reimbursement for indirect costs. Of those, 76 percent reported that governments imposed caps of 10 percent and below – and 24 percent reported zero reimbursement for indirect costs. Just imagine the effects on the fundraising climate if all of these nonprofits received just the 10 percent minimum mandated by the Uniform Guidance, much less the full amounts that far exceed that floor.

Limits on Overhead Costs

Steps Your Nonprofit Can Take to Transform the Potential into Reality

Although the Uniform Guidance is now law of the land, it will take further action to realize its promise. State associations of nonprofits and others have invested countless hours of advocacy over the last three years to secure these reforms. Yet the journey still is not complete. Here are the steps your nonprofit needs to take:

· #OwnYourOwnCosts: It is essential for your nonprofit to have financial management systems in place that track your indirect costs so you can negotiate your federal indirect cost rate and receive more than the 10 percent minimum.

· Protect your rights: If a state or local government tries to deny your nonprofit the reimbursement rates guaranteed by the Uniform Guidance, stand up for your nonprofit’s rights. Among the many safeguards put in place by OMB, pass-through entities may not ask your nonprofit to sign a waiver of its right to this reimbursement. Our quick guide, Know Your Rights … and How to Protect Them, details your nonprofit’s rights, highlights potential compliance challenges, and explains how the Uniform Guidance should be properly interpreted.

· Stay informed: The laws in many states and localities will need to be adjusted to comply with the Uniform Guidance. Join your state association of nonprofits for information on how to help make these needed changes, and sign up for our free e-newsletters to stay up-to-date on the latest developments.

· Report back: As you enter into new grants and contracts, share your experiences—positive and negative—using the confidential Uniform Guidance Implementation Report Form on the National Council of Nonprofits website. The information that nonprofits share will help the network of engaged state associations of nonprofits monitor compliance, compile data and patterns that can be addressed at a government-wide level, and identify good processes and solutions that can be replicated to help nonprofits across the country meet their missions.

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Tue, June 02 2015

All Your Board Questions Answered: Q&A with Rachel Muir

Liz Ragland's avatar

Senior Content and Marketing Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Nonprofit leadership •

If you missed our webinar with Rachel Muir, vice president of training at Pursuant, I highly suggest you download the archived version and get ready to take lots and lots of notes. Rachel gave us some amazing insights on how to motivate your board and how to turn them into fundraisers. Because we had such a great Q&A with her at the end of the webinar, I wanted to share some highlights and ask a few more questions that we didn’t have time for.

How do you motivate/engage a board that is appointed?

Rachel Muir

Rachel Muir: Identify what motivates each board member. What do they love about what they do? When do they feel the most alive? What part of your work are they the most passionate about? Find out what are they best at: speaking, networking, being a thought leader, etc., and how can you leverage that talent to best serve your cause. That might look like a cultivation event, a press conference, or the board member playing a behind-the-scenes role supporting your organization.

If you have not made board giving clear from the start, how do you approach it after the fact?

RM: Take responsibility that you failed to make this requirement clear. Own that, and apologize for it. Next, explain why board giving is critical. It is a healthy sliver of organizational revenue, but perhaps just as or more important, how can we ask someone else to give when we have not? Point to grant applications demanding that 100% of the board has given in order for the organization to be eligible for support. Explain that funders do not want to give if the leadership of the organization has not also given. It’s important to note that giving is not limited to the board. Staff members can and should make their own gifts to the organization at a level they feel comfortable giving.

Can you provide tips on “retraining” an existing board and setting new expectations for veteran board members?

RM: Your board chair plays a critical role in setting new expectations for board members. The chair sets the tone for how the rest of the board responds. If fundraising expectations for board members were not properly set, the chair needs to own that and apologize for it. They should share that they have stepped up to embrace the role philanthropy plays in supporting the organization by making their own gift. Ideally this is a stretch gift, and they can share that they’ve “dug deep” because of how much they care and believe in the cause. They need not share the amount of their gift. The idea is just that they make a gift that is personally meaningful to them. Some organizations set the same minimum “give or get” gift amount for all board members. Others ask that board members make a gift that is meaningful to them. Still others might target board members for unique gift amounts based on their individual capacity. It is not “one size fits all.” Decide which works best for you.

Additionally, your chair should share the other ways she or he is stepping up to the plate to support fundraising, whether that be hosting a cultivation event, bringing in key individuals to the organization for a private tour, going on donor visits, writing thank you notes, and/or calling donors to thank them.

My advice is to be humble and apologetic. You and your board chair are setting the tone for how the organization embraces philanthropy. Giving is the lifeblood of your institution. It’s your donors who make your important work possible. Supporting a meaningful cause is a joyous experience. Be thoughtful and respectful in how you recognize not setting expectations properly. Giving to the cause should not feel punitive to your board. It should feel like a personal, thoughtful, exciting, and rewarding expression of their love for your cause. You are not “hitting someone up” or taking something away from them. You are inviting them to share in a meaningful opportunity to move the organization forward, to be significant and solve the problem your mission serves.

Do you suggest scripting your thank you calls, or would you simply let the board member engage in a more organic conversation?

RM: I recommend providing a script for thank you calls to board members. Include the donor’s name, gift amount, history of giving—for example, is this their first gift, or have they been giving every year for five years?—how or why they first got involved (if you know), and a couple lines of copy they might use (see below). Most board members will not get the donor on the phone; they will get voice mail.

If they do get a donor on the phone, prepare them with a few sample discovery questions to take the conversation further. The board member might ask the donor what inspired their first gift to your organization (if you don’t already know), or what interests them most about your organization.

If the donor is responsive, the board member could go a step further to ask broader questions about their philanthropy. I like “What was the best gift you ever gave and why?” Or “What are your philanthropic priorities?” Start by asking the donor’s permission to ask questions. It shows respect for the donor, gets their buy-in, and, as long as they agree, it instantly gets them saying yes to you! Just a simple “Do you mind, [name], if I ask you a question?” will suffice. It also helps tee up more personal questions. It could feel awkward to just come out of the gate and ask a new donor, “What other causes do you support?” Introduce it with a question. Ask permission. “In order for us to get to know you better, [name], we’d like to learn more about your interests. Would you mind sharing what other causes you support so I can understand this better?”

Sample board member script for a donor thank you call:

“Hello, Greg. I have the pleasure of serving on the board of ______, and I want to personally call you to thank you for your generous first-time gift. [Introduce that you are a board member] We are so grateful. [Gush. This is a time for rejoicing.] Boy, if you could have heard the screams and squeals from the kids when they found out that, thanks to your generous gift, they would get to tour the nation’s capital, they were positively deafening! [Strive to describe how the gift was received or is important using descriptive language that makes a donor feel like they are there. Think virtual field trip!] I’d love to learn more about what inspired your gift. Can I ask you a question? What made you write this generous check? I’d love to learn more about your interests. Would you mind sharing with me which philanthropic causes are near and dear to your heart?”

What advice do you have for “managing up” to convince/inspire an executive director to see the importance of involving board members in fundraising?

RM: Shameless plug alert: Hire me to come do a training and get your executive director and fundraising team inspired! I would share the research with the board on how board engagement increases donation amounts and donor retention rates. According to a study by leading fundraising expert, author, and researcher Penelope Burk, first-time donors who received a thank you call from a board member within 24 hours gave 39% more than those who did not. Fourteen months later, they were giving 42% more than those who did not get a call. Plus, these donors had a 70% retention rate! Penelope’s 2012 report, The Cygnus Donor Survey: Where Philanthropy Is Headed in 2012, U.S. Edition, compares the impact of thank you calls from staff members versus board members on donor retention. Thank you calls from staff members increased the likelihood of donor retention by 10%. Thank you calls from board members increased it 25%!

If the positive impact of these results does not motivate them, then consider the consequences. Not having board members engaged in fundraising is a roadblock to your growth. Is a capital campaign in your future? In a capital campaign, very few foundations will donate if you do not have 100% board participation.

Some board members are participants, advocates, or great volunteers, but not connected to higher-end donors. Should they be replaced?

RM: Even without a fat Rolodex full of high-powered connections, a board member can support fundraising. Board members with few connections can support fundraising. Board members who are terrified of doing a solicitation can support fundraising. They can thank donors, join you for an ask, make an ask, host a donor cultivation event in their home and share their personal story of why they are involved in your organization, get assigned to cultivate two to three donors, write an article on why the organization is important to them, name your organization in their will, or take on a project to share client testimonials, or share how money makes an impact at your organization, or raise awareness about the organization.

I need to replace my board. Where should I start looking for new board members?

RM: Look at who the great board members are at other agencies and start cultivating them to consider your organization when their current term ends. As a trainer, I am shocked by how little organizations invest in providing board training. You want someone with prior board experience, who knows how great boards function, and what is expected of service. I am not saying you shouldn’t prohibit newbies to board service from serving, but if you do permit them to serve, you must invest in properly training them.

Rachel, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us. And again, if you haven’t downloaded the webinar that inspired these great questions, download it now. (It’s free!)

10 Tips to Get Your Board Fundraising in One Hour

Rachel Muir, CFRE is Vice President of Training at Pursuant where she transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.

You can find Rachel and Pursuant on Twitter by following @rachelmuir and @pursuant.

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Thu, April 02 2015

Going Viral: A Small Nonprofit Gets National Attention

Laura Tubesing's avatar

Director, Customer Success, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Nonprofit leadership •

Estella's Brilliant Bus

How does a small nonprofit go viral and capture attention on the national stage? I set out to learn the answer from a Network for Good customer that has achieved the biggest exposure opportunity any business, organization, or individual could hope for: a commercial spot during the Super Bowl.

Estella’s Brilliant Bus was featured in Microsoft’s Super Bowl ad this year. And the Super Bowl was just one appearance from the past 18 months: Estella has appeared on Dr. Oz and Oprah and was named a CNN Hero of the Year.

I talked with the organization’s founder and sole staff member, Estella Pyfrom, to understand the story behind the exposure. Going in, I thought I might find a replicable strategy around networking, PR, and elevator pitches, but after talking with Estella, I realized what I should have been expecting all along: It starts with mastering your nonprofit basics.

Find your special sauce.

Estella started with an idea, a bus, and her life savings. As she started researching how to make her organization operational, she found that she wasn’t the only one delivering technology or education to underserved communities—but her delivery mechanism was completely unique. Estella’s Brilliant Bus was the only self-sufficient mobile technology teaching facility in the world! It’s important for your staff, constituents, donors, and volunteers to understand what’s unique about what you do. To be noticed, your work must be noticeable.

Tell your story to others.

At first, Estella was suspicious of the media. Local and national networks approached her several times after people in her community starting talking about Estella’s Brilliant Bus, but she turned them away. It wasn’t until she turned to some resources at a local college that things changed. Estella’s contact at the college told a friend about Estella’s work, who told her husband, who happened to be a producer for CNN. The producer got in touch with Estella right away. With the promise that she could review the story before its broadcast, Estella agreed to some media exposure. After the CNN spot, Estella was booked for more media appearances, and the passion and excitement around Estella’s Brilliant Bus grew. Small nonprofits like Estella’s can be hesitant to relinquish control over something that feels so personal out of fear of judgment or providing misinformation. But when we arm our supporters with the right to tell the story, that’s when “viral” happens.

Be a business.

When I asked Estella about the keys to success, her immediate answer was that planning has made all the difference. The past two to three years have been about refining the model for delivering technology in a mobile facility to children in underprivileged areas. She knows where the bus will drive each day and how many kids they’ll serve, and she has backup engagements if a school or community has a last-minute cancellation. Delivering unique services with flawless execution has ensured that Estella’s Brilliant Bus maintains its positive reputation. The message is clear: Over-deliver your mission’s promise.

Continue to do good work.

Going Viral Quote

Estella never stops moving or gets caught up in her own success. When we discussed how she feels about all the attention, Estella quickly responded, “I haven’t had a chance to be nervous or realize how big this has become. I’m too focused on achieving the vision I have for this business.” Her actions are true to her words: When presented with the 5,000 Points of Light award, she refused to fly cross-country to accept the award and drove her bus instead. Along the way, she stopped in cities to provide services to children. To date, Estella has served more than 61,000 children. She has no plans to slow down until Estella’s Brilliant Bus is a movement that puts a bus in every major U.S. city, and then worldwide. It’s a good reminder that landing big media attention is not the goal—it’s a means to touch more people and expand your reach.

So, the next time your executive director asks you how to land that big media attention, reply:

  • We need to find what’s unique about our organization and let our work, communication, and story revolve around that concept. Let’s make sure everyone understands why we’re different.

  • After that, let’s encourage and empower everyone we know to tell our story far and wide.

  • Let’s focus on every part of our process to deliver programs. Are our programs easy to understand? Where are the risks? Let’s spend time making ourselves a well-organized and program-focused delivery machine. We owe it to our constituents and those telling our story to be the best we can be.

  • Finally, remember that big media attention isn’t the goal. It’s an opportunity to get more volunteers, donors, and supporters, and the by-product is awareness about our organization.

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