Monday, March 12, 2012

Take Care of Yourself First, So That You Can Continue to Take Care of Others by Tracy Vanderneck, CFRE

For professionals in the non-profit world, it takes a lot of effort and coordination to manage volunteers while successfully navigating your specific core job. Add to that the typical challenges that come from working in an industry where pens are generally not a budgeted item and where your pay may not match the hours and passion you put in to delivering your agency’s valuable services, and it is easy to let yourself get stressed out. Burn out can be high, especially in social service jobs that often mean coping with endless stories of people facing extremely challenging situations. Sometimes those situations are made more challenging by that spool of red tape that keeps getting its sticky self in the way.
We all choose to work in the non-profit sector for a reason, maybe because of a desire to help and serve, a love of the arts, or we have loftier goals of changing the world one saved puppy or newly-planted tree at a time. So how do we keep our wits about us and maintain good mental health while saving the world, recruiting volunteers, and reporting outcomes?

Here are a few quick ideas:
  1. Breathe
  2. Let it go without giving up
  3. Keep at least one heartfelt “mission moment” in mind

I know those are simple ideas to address a big topic. But since this is a blog post and not a novel, I get to write about brief and simple ideas!

Breathe. You don’t have to be a yogi to know that quiet time just focusing on your breathing can help you slow down and take a mental time out (my grandma use to call it “counting to ten”). Notice that when you are stressed or angry, you often sigh, harrumph, clench your teeth, or blow air out of your mouth like you are spitting out the bad ideas. Things like this tend to just help your body accumulate tension. If you can, close your door for five minutes (if you can’t close your door, just hope that no one walks by), or even just three minutes if that is all you can get. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Oxygenate your blood and your brain. Mentally focus on relaxing your muscles and picture the stress or problem leaving your body. You don’t have to call this meditation if you think that is hinky. Just think of it as letting out some pressure before you blow. It doesn’t solve the problems or make them go away, but it gives you just a few minutes to get some distance and clear your head so you can go back to dealing with the situation from a different angle.

Let it go without giving up. No matter how much we want it to be, we do not get to make all the decisions.  We all have bosses who ultimately make the final decisions, and those of us who are the boss, have a board of directors that are the bigger boss. When we have great ideas, problem fixes, program concerns, or whatever, it generally has to go through a whole lot of people before action can be taken. Even then, for reasons that may or may not make sense to you, the ideas may be nixed. Sometimes the reason may not even be communicated to you. The key to keeping yourself from being discouraged and giving up is to let go of your attachment to the idea. Though it may make sense and it could potentially help a program, you’ve made your pitch, fought the fight, and a decision has been made. Holding onto it and being bitter about not being heard or your idea not be utilized only stresses you out, makes you grumpy, and as a result, makes the office a tense place to be.

The key, however, is that letting it go is not the same thing as giving up or becoming apathetic. When frustrations are high, it is easy to say, “Well forget it! I’m not going to bother trying to make things better then. I’m going to stay in my office and mind my own business.” There are a couple of problems with that. One is that hiding out is as bad for office morale as being openly grumpy in the halls. The other is that when you are unmotivated and angry, the puppies aren’t getting saved and the baby trees aren’t getting planted. You are working at your non-profit for a reason. You believe in the mission and you want to help it be delivered well. So do that! Just because your specific idea or suggestion wasn’t taken this time or even for the fifth time, that doesn’t make your mission any less worthy. You can honor the mission by working within the framework you are given.  Make it as good as it can be with the tools you have, and let go of the ones you don’t. And don’t let the past “no” keep you from sharing new ideas in the here and now.

Keep your “mission moment” in mind. Things are frustrating, you’re tired, you feel like no matter how hard you work, the “to do” pile just keeps getting bigger. We all get to the point periodically that we want to put our head down on our desk and yell Uncle. Usually we get over that feeling and go on with our day and keep plugging away at our tasks (and hopefully doing them with joy knowing that our efforts are resulting in good work helping people in some way).

When your head is down and you’re getting ready to invoke the name of your old male relative, it might be a good time to think of your mission moment. Yes, that may be a cheesy thing to call it, but you get the drift. What I mean is, picture one or two of the moments you’ve had at your organization that made you say, “having that happen made everything else I do here worth the effort.”

A moment from when I worked for the American Red Cross is the one that I think will always come to my mind, no matter how long I’m in fundraising. And the funny thing is, it didn’t even happen to me directly. But the impact was the same.

Here is my moment:

In January of 2010, a devastating earthquake hit Haiti on a Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday I came in to work and the phones started ringing with people wanting to help. By 10am we’d set up a call center and a walk-in donation station, and we were preparing to have an emergency board meeting by phone. Every American Red Cross across the country, and much of the world, was going through a similar process.

We had our first briefing on a national call run by HQ in Washington, D.C., on which we got our first inside look at the destruction that had killed thousands and trapped thousands more. By early afternoon, HQ had set up an international “Safe and Well” system using phone, internet, and text. We learned that people trapped under collapsed buildings in Haiti were sometimes able to get a text out to a loved one trying to give their location. Within a few days, there was a system set up by USAID for mapping zones to determine where search and rescue teams were in relation to those texts that were coming in fewer and further in between.

But on that Wednesday, and for many days to come, so many Haitian families in our county did not know the fate of their families and loved ones. That afternoon, a volunteer that had been staffing the walk-in donation table came into my office and leaned against the wall with tears on her face. She said she just needed a minute to compose herself before going back out. What she said then is the thing I will always keep with me to fuel my fundraising motivation.

An elderly Haitian woman about 80 years old came in to the reception area with a younger woman who’d driven her to our Red Cross building. I’d seen the woman come in, and as I remember it, she had a handkerchief tying her hair back and a white shawl around her shoulders. She sat down with our volunteer, pulled money out of her pocket, handing it to the volunteer. The woman said that she’d made contact with someone in the town she came from in Haiti, and learned that her family’s house had collapsed during the quake, leaving no one inside alive. She no longer had a living family member in Haiti… not a son, not a daughter, no grandchildren, no brother. The woman said, “I’ve lost my family in this earthquake. I want to give you this money so that you can help other families live through it.” I continue to be amazed at the strength this woman had that she was able to focus on the wellbeing of others when she had just been so personally devastated.

Then, an hour or two later, an American woman in her late sixties came in. She opened her wallet and pulled out two ten dollar bills. She said she was on fixed income, but that she had already bought groceries for the month and gas for her car and had $20 left. She had a hair appointment that week and said it would cost $10, so she gave us one of her $10 bills and asked us to help the people in Haiti. As she turned to leave, she handed a volunteer the other $10 and said, “I think the people you are helping in Haiti need this money more than I need a haircut. So you take this too.”

Any job where we get to be the conduit that allows humans to help each other in such a selfless way, is a job worth dealing with a little stress for. So, when I’m doing what we talked about above, taking a five minute time out to get my head on straight, I picture those two women. Two women of different races, born in different countries, who each gave what little they had to help others survive. That is a picture worth seeing again.

Whatever your motivation, whatever your “mission moment”, remember to take the time out for yourself to keep yourself sane and healthy. At Red Cross there is a rule in disaster response: take care of yourself, or you won’t be good enough to take care of others. I think this is true of working in non-profits in general. It doesn’t matter if your mission is in education, the arts, social service, or animal welfare. Yes, there can be stress. Yes, it can be frustrating. But the reward of being a part of our organizations’ missions is worth working for.

Article by: Tracy Vanderneck, CFRE,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

5 Fundraising Focus Sharpeners: Continuing the Conversation—A Guest Post by Roxie Jerde

What a pleasure it was to see representatives from so many local nonprofit agencies at the May AFP meeting. I enjoyed the opportunity to share some of what I’ve learned about donors in my time at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and now at my new home here at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Thank you for welcoming me with such warmth and enthusiasm.

As a follow up to our conversation, I wanted to pose a few thoughts that may help guide you in building and sustaining funding for your nonprofit’s mission. Consider using these questions as a reference in your evolving development plan, or feel free to post your thoughts and comments right here on the AFP blog:

  1. Do our development efforts align with the breakdown of the $303.75 billion in charitable giving? More than 80% of all charitable giving comes from individual donors and bequests, and this is where the lion’s share of your time should be focused.
  2. Is our organization addressing what high net worth households—representing 2/3 of all individual giving—want in charitable giving? They need to believe their gift will make a difference and that your organization is efficient in its use of donations. Being over-solicited is a leading reason high net worth households stop giving. 
  3. If/ when special events are part of our development plan, are we capitalizing on this time to cultivate major gift prospects and truly convey the purpose and impact of our mission? Following up with your guests, using board members as ambassadors at your event and driving your mission home with a mix of compelling stories and facts are integral.
  4. Do we know each of our donor’s motivations for giving and are we using this to build our relationship with them? Hope Neighbor, Money for Good researcher, classifies the motivations for giving into six categories—repayer, seeking to “give back” to a cause close to the heart; casual giver, giving to well-known nonprofits because it’s simple; high impact, supporting nonprofits the donor believes are doing the most good; faith based, giving to support religious institutions and/or beliefs; see the difference, giving to small and/or local organizations where the donor feels they are making a difference; and personal ties, giving when the donor has connections to the organization’s leaders.
  5. Are you a “Double E”—effective and efficient—nonprofit? Answer this question by taking a look at your program effectiveness, operating budget, financial transparency and board engagement. Consider your administrative and fundraising expenses—ideally less than 25% of your budget—and the retention rate of senior leadership, which is considered favorable if it’s more than 75%.

I’m impressed with the caliber of professionals in the Southwest Florida chapter of AFP and know that you have strong resources right in front of you. You’ll also find continuing support for professional development and knowledge through the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s Nonprofit Resource Center and online in national studies, blogs and philanthropic publications.

Here are a few of my favorites we talked about at the meeting:
I’ll look forward to seeing you out in the community and onsite at your nonprofit over the coming months and year.
Roxie Jerde became the president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County on March 1, 2011. Learn more online at

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

You're Perfect for the Mentoring Program.Take a Look at What AFP Has to Offer...

The Mentoring Program matches advanced fundraising professionals with AFP members who want to develop their skills in a particular area--from annual fund to major gifts to event planning to career development--to name just a few of the possibilities.  Your mentor will then meet with you regularly throughout the year and provide you with personalized feedback, direction and nurturing to help you build your career.

Mentees gain valuable skills and personalized career-building support through a one-on-one mentoring relationship.  You can focus on a fundraising topic of your choice that has practical application to your job.   It’s like having a free consultant dedicated to advancing your career.

Mentors have an opportunity to share their professional expertise and to nurture rising stars within our profession.

How does the AFP Mentoring Program work?
  • People who would like to be mentored identify themselves to the program facilitator.  Mentees complete an enrollment form and skills/needs survey that helps them establish goals.
  • People who would like to be mentors also let us know of their interest.  Mentors should have 5+ years in development, a desire to help other fundraisers, and a willingness to focus on the mentees goals and needs and help him/her achieve them.
  • The facilitator matches mentees and mentor, considering geography, subject matter to be worked on and matching people from organizations that are mutually illuminating while not being competitive.
  • Mentees identify a project or 1-3 specific goals they hope to accomplish during the year.  Where do they want to be in their careers in 2 years?  What specifically do they need to master to serve their institution more effectively?
  • These goals should also mesh with the AFP Knowledge Areas and Curriculum Framework.
  • Mentors and mentees agree on the goals and basic format for their meetings beforehand and sign an agreement.
  • Mentor/mentess meet at least monthly and probably connect more often via phone and/or email.
  • Communication is confidential and structured enough to ensure progress but open enough to foster communication and evolve as needed.
  • Both members of the pair need to have a sense of purpose and accountability.
  • The pairs should meet somewhere they both feel comfortable to speak openly.
  • The facilitator checks in with all program participants monthly and convenes the entire group every other month so they can report back on their progress and experiences.
  • The program is for AFP members, and it is free. 

What time commitment is involved?
Mentor/mentess meet at least monthly and probably connect more often via phone and/or email.  The entire group meets for an hour every other month so they can report back on their progress and experiences.

Is there a cost?

Do you have to be a member of AFP to take advantage of the program?


How do I get involved?
Please contact Mary Saionz, Mentoring Program Coordinator, 917-1203/

Monday, April 18, 2011

What is Your Organizational IQ? by Rhonda Peters

You’re the Chief Executive and you’re confident you know exactly what business you are in. At least you think you do.

But take a walk around your organization and ask two questions across all levels and see what you learn: “What is our core business function?” and “Who is our core customer?”

If you work for a museum and you speak with a curator, you will likely hear that, “We’re in the business of collecting and preserving great works of art.” The head of exhibitions might report, “We’re in the business of presenting and interpreting great works of art.” Meanwhile  the head of marketing will say, “We’re in the entertainment business.” 

Is a blood bank’s core business to collect, manufacture, distribute, or transfuse blood? Is its core customer the blood donor, the hospital, or the patient? Is a food bank in the business of collecting food? Storing it? Packaging and distributing it? Educating the community around the problem? By now you’re declaring “They’re in the business of all of that.” You’re on your way toward a high Organizational IQ.

Organizational IQ is comprised of four key elements:

  1. Full comprehension of what business you’re in.
  2. Full comprehension of your core customers.
  3. An organizational structure/design that supports your vision.
  4. Business processes that are aligned with your goals.

Organizational Structure

Let’s take the example of the broadcasting company that believes it knows its business and core customers – leadership views it as obvious. So they structure their organization around five divisions: two TV stations, one radio station, a magazine, a production company, and a fifth division that is responsible for the smaller projects the other divisions don’t want to do.

Each division has its own general manager, sales department, creative, technical, and administrative staff. They share the corporate finance and HR departments, and each GM reports to the same CEO. They also share a common understanding of who their major competition is – each other. They compete with each other internally for budget allocations from the CEO and they compete with each other externally for advertisers, sponsors, and investors. Their organizational structure essentially requires they put the other out of business to thrive. Clearly a zero-sum game.

So what could they do differently? They could see themselves in the business of 1) content development and 2) content distribution. Had they designed their organization around that premise, their structure would look very different.

Leaders with high Organizational IQ run businesses that are more efficient, more effective, and more agile. Efficiency cuts costs through the reduction of waste and redundancy. Effectiveness increases customer service and satisfaction. And agility makes organizations more responsive to change.

Among the driving characteristics of highly functional organizations are:

Internal/external management teams:  These organizations do not operate in silos where departments and divisions operate independently of each other. Communications and data flow freely among all departments and work is accomplished collaboratively. The managers of all divisions have a shared view of the core business and all internal operations support the resources required to operate the core business. Successful organizations include all relevant perspectives to ensure effective and efficient business strategies and processes.

Strategic partnerships:  Entering new markets or expanding existing markets is often best achieved through alliances. By leveraging core business competencies and forging strategic partnerships, an organization can provide new products and services to a broader audience (external) or it can more effectively and efficiently provide operational support (internal) for services such as IT, HR, finance, facilities, training, etc.

Most CEOs come into organizations with the structure already in place – having been built and remodeled time and again over the lifespan of the agency. Whether new to the organization or a seasoned veteran, the CEO must continually institute new strategic initiatives.  Often these initiatives are not fully successful due to an inherited organizational design that is out of alignment with how business is conducted today.  Once the framework within which the organization arranges its lines of authority and allocates it resources is aligned with its core business and customers, it begins to approach the Mensa level of Organizational IQ.

Business Process Improvement The next element to achieving organizational genius is to fully understand how the work is done – how we do what we do. This is achieved through business process improvement tactics. The organization must develop the techniques and skills to look at its business processes, understand them, identify ways to improve them, and implement changes.
What is a business process? It can be filling out a purchase order, preparing the annual budgets for the organization, recruiting and scheduling volunteers, order entry, or fulfillment. It is how we do what we do.

To exemplify business process improvement let’s head back to the museum and this time focus on its customer interactions. The museum’s organization is still structured around the silo model, so the frontline staff receives multiple messages and directions.

When a visitor approaches the admissions desk the staff is expected to: 1) obtain zip code, 2) determine membership, 3) sell admission ticket or membership if not currently a member, 4) present highlights of current special exhibitions (some with upgrade fee), 5) complete financial transaction, 6) provide museum guide and answer any questions the visitor may have.

The entire transaction cannot exceed 60 seconds and the admissions staff must provide outstanding customer service. Is this possible? No. The directives are coming from multiple departments representing multiple business objectives (increase membership, cover costs of special exhibition, provide demographic profile to funding agencies…). None of those issuing the directives have ever spoken to the admissions staff or have any knowledge of the admissions process from either the staff or customer point of view. No one is trying to be difficult. Everyone has a valid request. It is the process that is flawed.

What can be done to replace the cross-departmental finger-pointing with customer-focused solutions that achieve the museums goals? Begin by gathering the right people – the process owners (admissions, membership and marketing) and have them define the current process using a flowchart. This flowchart depicts a step-by-step map of the activities, actions and decisions which occur between the starting and stopping points of the process. For possibly the first time, they are all looking at the same business process with a common agreement. From here they can begin to gather the data required to simplify and resolve the issues. 

Business process improvement techniques allow those employees who are directly involved to work together as a team to eliminate waste and streamline activities. Once the silos have been dismantled through a realigned organizational structure, process improvement allows employees to radically improve performance through cooperative problem solving. By this point in improving the organization’s functionality, the core business and customers are defined, and the structure is in place both to support the organization and plan for the future. Business process improvement addresses the tactical demands and moves the organization away from incremental change to continuous improvement.

The benefits of training employees in the techniques of process improvement include:
  • Creation of cost savings through efficiency.
  • Reduction of redundancy and error correction.
  • Improved ability to service customers.
  • Improved internal communications.
  • Increased productivity.
  • Simplified processes and workflow.

The visual representation of how work gets done leads to an enlightened and empowered workforce. By examining the methods, the assumptions and the misconceptions, organizations become highly functional. The result of this process is higher effectiveness, efficiency and the agility to respond to growth and change.

Growth ReadyWith a high Organizational IQ no challenge is too great. Test yourself by first drawing a flowchart of your core business. How do customers/clients come into your system? What are the program/service options? How do they navigate your system? What happens when they exit? On a parallel plane, identify the administrative/support services required to fulfill each step of the core business.

Once you have a visual depiction of your core business functions you can begin to identify the stumbling points. You will likely be surprised by what you find. Perhaps it’s a client left abandoned at a particular point or the omission of a key support area in servicing a critical function. With a visual representation of your core business you can now begin to align your organizational structure on an informed level. You will see how your decisions impact your clients and your employees.

You may consider bringing in independent counsel to provide an impartial perspective or expertise in organizational design. The more entrenched the silos the greater the need for independent consultation.
Building your Organizational IQ is a discipline. Continuous improvement is a commitment. Both are driven from the top and position your organization for growth and sustainability.

Rhonda Peters

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Getting to Know a Gem in Our Membership: Kareen Ver Helst, MS

As director of development for Coastal Behavioral Healthcare, Inc., Kareen Ver Helst has a sensitivity and passion for helping those with mental disorders. You'll enjoy hearing her talk about what she refers to as "the privilege of being a behind-the-scenes agent or 'facilitator' of good deeds for thousands of people who otherwise would have no other resources to regain their health."

She's been an AFP Southwest Florida member since December 2009 and is a new member to our Marketing Committee.

We'll follow up with 4 things she values about the local chapter of AFP in a subsequent post, but for now, let's get to know a little more about this fascinating person who is so well-spoken about her fundraising work.
  • Tell us about your typical work day.
    I doubt you will be surprised by the answer…that there is no typical day at the office! In fact, this keeps my job exciting! Prior to becoming the Director of Development for Coastal Behavioral Healthcare, I was the Grant Development Director and later worked for Coastal on a contract basis, preparing competitive grant applications to private and public entities at the local, state, and national level.

    I continue to develop and submit our grant applications and have also been involved over the past year with our volunteer Board and Development Committee members in sharing with our community the stories that speak of our mission. It has been rewarding to host small gatherings where we have had the opportunity to share with others why our mission matters. I get to meet a lot of people in various fields, all working toward the common goal of making our community a better place to live – whether from law enforcement organizations, other social service agencies, private funding entities, individual donors, and many unsung heroes along the way!

  • What are the biggest funding challenges for organizations serving mental health/ substance abuse missions? When a person suffers from a mental illness or a substance use disorder, their illness is often seen by many in our culture as a character flaw or lack of willingness to simply “get over it” and make better choices. This can lead to little empathy for those who suffer from a mental illness or substance use disorder.

    Without empathy, there is no connection to the person who is suffering and no compassion. If we were all guaranteed the financial resources to take care of ourselves and our families in the event of a mental health issue, there would be no need for a charitable not-for-profit agency like Coastal. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Even the best insurance plans available do not cover the costs of treatment for mental health and substance use disorders in the same way that traditional medical disorders may be paid for. And many in our community are not aware of this reality.

    Mental illness is also something we are still afraid to talk about. The health of our mind impacts every choice we make on a daily basis, from how we interact with our family members, colleagues, and friends, to whether we are able to take care of ourselves and be successful at our job. It might be surprising to many to hear that some of the symptoms of mental health disorders (e.g., low mood, or at the opposite end of the spectrum - feeling on top of the world, fatigue, worry, inability to focus, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, etc.) can be a part of the normal range of daily experiences and may not necessarily constitute a mental health disorder.

    Some of these symptoms even resemble those of common physical health problems. It is the frequency, duration, and intensity of the symptoms along with the degree to which they impact one’s ability to function in social and occupational roles that may lead to a clinical diagnosis of a mental health disorder. And many factors influence human beings’ susceptibility to these disorders, including prolonged periods of severe stress. This can be a scary thought for most of us…What if this happened to me or to the people I love? How would I handle it? What if I could no longer take care of myself or my family? Where would I go for help? Would I lose my dignity, my reputation and be shunned by those I call my friends? Mental illness and substance abuse devastate the people who experience it and the families and communities we are all a part of.

    I believe that is why it can be difficult to find champions for our cause…However, we have been fortunate right here in our community to have witnessed the courage of individuals who help break the stereotype of what it means to live with a mental health disorder. They have had the courage to share their story and demonstrate to all of us on a daily basis that leading a healthy and positive life is possible when the right treatment is provided at the right time – just like with a physical health disorder. People recover and live well. Treatment works. We count our blessings every time we meet someone who is passionate about helping us further our mission. If one in four individuals in America is affected by a mental health diagnosis (including substance abuse), there are many in our community who care and are waiting for us to connect with them so we can help them realize their passion! I am encouraged and know that it is simply a matter of time…

  • What do you like most about your job? Wow, there are many things I like about my job. First, I am fortunate to work for an organization that is truly committed to caring for those who count on us for help in their darkest hours and for the employees who do the work every day to carry out our mission.

    What I find most rewarding about my job is the privilege of being a behind-the-scenes agent or “facilitator” of good deeds for thousands of people who otherwise would have no other resources to regain their health and no one else to be a friend when faced with an illness that is still heavily stigmatized. Our donors and funders give us the tools to make it happen – their passion and caring hearts pave the way for us to do the work of giving thousands each year another chance at a healthier life with the tools and skills to make better choices and contribute positively and meaningfully to the their families and to the life of their community.

    It is also a personally rewarding experience to meet and develop relationships with people who are passionate about health and give of themselves and their personal resources to help us succeed …I have the opportunity to be inspired every day by extraordinary acts of generosity and stories I can take back to my children so that they, too can believe and be inspired. I am very fortunate to benefit from the wisdom and experience of great leaders within my organization, on our board, within our community, and within our very own AFP chapter, who have walked before me, lead by example, and thoughtfully guide me along the way.

  • What’s your favorite after work activity? Truthfully… picking up my boys after school, seeing their little faces full of beauty and energy, and being able to squeeze them tight after a long day apart! I also enjoy fitness activities like weight training, yoga, and other fitness classes.

  • If you could meet one person from any time in history, who would it be? I am fascinated by Abraham Lincoln’s story of perseverance and resilience in the face of multiple “failures”, illness, and setbacks. Despite all of the challenges he faced along the way, he gave to our humanity one of the greatest gifts that can be restored to the human spirit: the gift of freedom for every person in our country regardless of our differences in ethnic origin, race or color.

  • What’s one thing about you you’d like to share that most people don’t know? Many people are surprised to learn that I was born and raised in Haiti. I lived there until 1987 and moved to the US to continue my education when the political climate of the country became extremely unstable and dangerous after Baby Doc (a dictator that ruled the country for over 15 years) was overthrown in a coup d’état. My native language is French…though after so many years, I have to say that English feels much more native to me.

    Having grown up in Haiti, I was surrounded every day by extreme poverty. Unknowingly, life there was preparing me for where I am today….I witnessed countless times my parents’ concern for the people who worked for us, as they helped them with schooling expenses for their children and provided extra meals to feed their families.

    My father even had the reputation of buying things he didn’t need from people just because they desperately needed the money! But what impacted me the most as a child was the little faces staring through the window outside the ice cream shop we visited every Sunday following our family outing to the beach or the beautiful mountains of Haiti… I realize today the special gift my father made, not only to those children, but to me as well when he would hand each one of them their very own ice cream cone and watch the joy that suddenly lifted them, if only for a brief moment of their Sunday afternoon … My father passed away more than 29 years ago when I was still a child – but I know he is smiling down upon us. He taught me the meaning of philanthropy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tips on Above-Board Fundraising by Tracy Vanderneck

Tracy Vanderneck
In a recent committee meeting, the attending members were attempting to find a catchy name for a presentation on ethical fundraising. Let’s be real, “How to Fundraise in an Ethical Manner” is a snooze. The committee members joked that the title should be, “Tips on above-board fundraising that will keep you out of jail!” See? Much more interesting!

Ok, hyperbole aside, understanding the lines between legal, ethical, and just plan good practice, is important for every fundraiser…really, for any non-profit employee. But the topic is so vast, it is impossible for a fundraiser to know every rule, caveat, and pitfall. Sometimes, it is just as important to know where to go for an answer as it is to have the answer yourself.

I rely on several sources for assistance when I have a question:
  1. A book called Ethical Fundraising: A Guide for Nonprofit Boards and Fundrasiers. This Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) publication is a compilation of articles from various authors. It was compiled in 2006/2007 and covers such topics as: 1. Conflicts of interest, 2. Compensation for development professionals, 3. Tainted money, 4. Relationships between grantees and funders, 5. Public perception, and more.
  2. AFP’s website web site has downloadable copies of The Donor Bill of Rights, as well as of AFP’s Code of Ethical Principles.
  3. Board members with industry expertise. I have found that having a CPA on your board can help you stay ahead of state regulations (for example, rules on sales tax at non-profit auctions if you auction more than three times in a given twelve month period). Having a board member who is willing to research and interpret laws for you is invaluable. This might take working with your CEO and Governance Committee to target future board members in specific industries.
  4. Other fundraisers. When you aren’t sure, it is good to put in a call to a development professional or fundraising consultant that is senior in the field. They may have experience with the situation in question, or they may know where to go to find the answer. This may seem like a simple thing, but sometimes just knowing who to ask solves the problem.
  5. “Big” non-profits. If you work in a small shop and are the only fundraiser, don’t try to guess or reinvent the wheel. If there is a question about whether a particular practice is acceptable and/or ethical, chances are the larger non-profits (e.g. American Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen, etc) have come across the same issue. And those organizations have legal departments to find the answer for them. So do some networking and make a friend at a big organization! Ask them if they are willing to mentor you, or just be a sounding board for questions should they arise.
Doing a little reading on the front end, and looking at all of your activities with a critical eye, will help you identify potential problem areas and help make sure you are operating within accepted norms. Over time, your donors will notice that you conduct your fundraising within industry standard ethical guidelines, and that will go a long way in securing donor trust and confidence in you and your organization.

Tracy Vanderneck is the Director of Annual Giving at a Manatee County non-profit and is working towards her CFRE. Tracy is in her fifth year working in the non-profit sector and was most recently the Director of Development at the American Red Cross Manatee County Chapter. The first 11 years of her professional career were in sales of management and interpersonal communication skills training courses and consulting services.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Biggest Mistake: Jerry Koontz Talks About Fundraising

In a new series of blog posts, we're asking seasoned nonprofit leaders in our area to share what they view as "The Biggest Mistake" when it comes to raising money. To kick it off, we've posted an insightful perspective from Jerry Koontz, President of United Way of Manatee County:

Fundraising is much more an Art than it is a Science, and that makes it somewhat of a challenge to identify which are the biggest mistakes one can make that impact being successful. However, I welcome this opportunity to share what I consider to be two mistakes that merit your attention.
Assuming all donors are alike.  No two donors are exactly alike. For example, they have different priorities. What is an important Cause to one, might not matter to another. Most want to be recognized and thanked for their contributions, while some wish to remain anonymous. Almost without exception, donors want to know what was accomplished with their contribution. So, it is critical to do as much as you possibly can to know your donor, and respond accordingly.
Not asking/not making a good case for support. In fundraising, it is commonly accepted that the primary reason for not contributing is not being asked. Ask yourself, how often have you contributed to something without being solicited? So, do the Ask. While I believe that most people have what I call a Charitable Giving Need, they are often not sure how to best satisfy that need. Two things are important: a Cause that is worthy of their support, and the assurance that a very high percentage of their gift will go to that Cause and not be diminished by excessive administrative costs. If you don’t make a good Case for Giving, and can’t demonstrate low overhead, you most likely will not get the gift.
I will close with a true story that supports the importance of knowing your donor. An executive of a non-profit was calling on a prospective donor hoping to get a sizable contribution. The prospect asked, “How much do you want?”, to which the executive cautiously replied “$10,000.” The prospect asked, “Is that all?” At the end of the discussion, the prospect pledged $1 million.

Many thanks to Jerry for taking time out of his sharing his experiences with us. Check back soon for the next post in The Biggest Mistake series.

Would you like to be a guest blogger for The Biggest Mistake series? Let us know!