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Monday, March 21, 2011

Forces for Good - Donor Engagement a Critical Practice for High Impact Nonprofits

Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant outline six critical components that are common to great social sector organizations in their book Forces for Good.  One of the six focuses on donors and volunteers.  "Create meaningful experiences for individual supporters and convert them into evangelists for the cause, "they write. 

Just what is a meaningful experience?  Their examples include special events that engage volunteers and donors in the work of the organization, as with Habit for Humanity and Teach for America, and VIP events such as Environmental Defense Fund's exclusive rafting trips or the Heritage Foundation's invitation-only VIP gatherings.

Each of the experiences described are highly focused on the work of the organization and the social needs they are working hard to meet.  When organizations forget the mission in creating and executing their special events, volunteers and donors begin to forget which charity event they are attending.  It's just another party.

Every event hosted by a non-profit offers the opportunity to provide new insight into the organization's work, and even more importantly, the reason behind their existence -- why is everyone building a house, or rafting a river, or eating another chicken dinner.

There is not enough hard data that shows the net benefit of investing in building strong donor relationships.  But Forces for Good is an excellent invitation to explore why some nonprofits are so successful in maximizing social change. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Audit You Didn't Write That Everyone's Reading

Today's e-Jewish Philanthropy Online had a nice piece on how organizations must understand that the internet is more than a place to publish a newsletter or put out standard PR.

"Online, the authenticity of an organization’s impact and relationships is king. We have entered what I like to think of as the ultimate audit – of individuals, businesses and institutions. We are no longer simply what we say we are. Rather, we are the sum of our searchable reputation; ratings, followers and reviews that tell others the truth about what we have to offer. This is both powerful and frightening."

Indeed, it's easy to think we control what information there is about our organizations, clients' experiences, donors' experiences, employees' experiences but, in fact, those days are over.  

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Donors Say One Thing But Do Another

The NonProfit Times recently conducted some interesting research which Paul Clolery writes about in the March 1 issue. More than half of philanthropic contributions in the United States are to religious organizations.  That's a longtime standard.  However, when the Times surveyed donors about what they thought needed funding, the largest group (35%) answered "education." Religion was fourth, after health and civic and community organizations.

What should fundraisers make of this? Look to the for-profit market. It is well established that people say one thing and do another. We are far more complicated beings than fundraisers have ever given us credit for being. We should be doing a lot more research on people's giving behaviors. It might help organizations waste less money, leaving more to spend on actually accomplishing their missions.