Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stewardship: It Really Matters

Excellent stewardship is rooted in good manners and basic relationship building skills. Remember when you received that 8th birthday gift from your Aunt Blanche and your mother had you call her in Maryland and mail her a thank you note? Your mother taught you a few fundamental action steps of gift acknowledgment and proper etiquette. One should always thank someone repeatedly for their generosity and consideration to help strengthen the relationship between the two parties.

Great stewardship relies on great communication; after all, successful communication is necessary in all great relationships. How long does a relationship last with a friend that you do not communicate with regularly? How strong is that relationship? How frequently do you email, tweet, and send LinkedIn and Facebook messages to your friends and colleagues? If your friend, mother, spouse, or business associate gave you a gift and you did not thank them or show appreciation for the gift, how long would you be friends? Positive communication and rapport are the bedrock of philanthropic stewardship. Effective fundraising stewardship of a gift starts with the initial first expression of gratitude from the leadership of the organization.

An ongoing process of educating and reporting information to donors about their gifts and the impact they continue to make on the individuals and environments that the contributions touch should be consistent in all stewardship efforts. Since a gift is a significant expression about how a person feels about the organization, the way one acknowledges the gift should be honored as such. Contributions are meaningful and every organization ought to take the time to acknowledge gifts so that it is known how greatly one appreciates the contributions.

Successful development program always have an effective stewardship plan and program. One-time donations may be the way that most people are first introduced to the world of philanthropy but the most important lasting contributions are usually the ones where the donor has developed a relationship with the organization. These relationships are built through effective oral and written communication. It is through effectively integrated media and the delicate persistence of ongoing cultivation that the donor is aware of the major events, challenges, and successes of an organization.

The type of stewardship actions deployed by fundraisers depends on the level of the gift and is the personal interaction and informational exchange that the organization has with donors. Stewardship actions are vital and critical to any successful development program. These carefully crafted action steps help to strengthen the relationship between the organization and the donor, which begin to pave the way for new and increased contributions.

Noteworthy Steps to Effectively Steward Gifts

1.) Acknowledge, Acknowledge, Acknowledge! Get that thank you letter out within 48 hours. Make sure that you use the appropriate spelling, title, and name of the donor and make sure you acknowledge all parties throughout the relationship

2.) Keep your donors informed, educated, and happy. Knowledge is power and you want your donors to have the power to make an educated decision why your organization should be the recipient of their next major gift or bequest.

3.) Only use the gift for the purposes allowed! Make sure you follow the donor’s wishes.

4.) Report and Rapport! Provide informative data and reports to update donors regarding contribution uses and benefits and to provide a status briefing of the organization. Effective communication is critical for successful development programs. Remember to treat your donors honestly, sincerely, and respectfully.

5.) Develop a strategy for each level of gift, or with larger gifts or donors on the cultivation list, and develop individual strategies for the next contribution.

6.) Remember that in most cases the next big gift will be from a previous donor. The same energy and effort should be employed to secure subsequent gifts as the effort to obtain the first gift.

7.) Donors are unique and have unique needs. Tailor and personalize your efforts to meet the needs of your donors.

8.) If donors do not respond to your telephone calls, emails, or correspondence, do not lose faith! They may still be reading what you send them. Consistency in communication is key to yielding results.

9.) Meet and befriend the family! Intergenerational stewardship is important. Just because you have a relationship with one family member does not mean that you have the same relationship with the family. Remember every donor is unique and has unique interests. New sources of wealth and leadership may be a generation or a 
family member away, which could wield amazing results for your organization.

A fundamental thought in fund development is that if donors feel appreciated and respected, and the organization has been an effective steward of their gifts, the donors will continue to repeat and possibly expand their contributions. Personal attention and expressions of gratitude are paramount to stewarding relationships. Well treated donors are more likely to be happy and satisfied with the organization; therefore, these donors are more likely to make repeat or increased contributions in the future.

Remember loyal donors have loyal fundraisers cultivating and stewarding their relationships. This process starts when you first receive the gift and continues with effective communication throughout the relationship. Effective stewardship is the best way to nurture burgeoning relationships and resources to promote favorable behavior. Effective stewardship is necessary to encourage increased donor loyalty and helps to promote an expanding base of support for ongoing philanthropic relationships. Lastly, effective stewardship involves how faithful and responsible fundraisers and organizations are towards the contributions entrusted to them.

- Tiffany Edwards, CRFE  
   for  The Grant Guru

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Notice to the Board...

For some, board membership represents prestige, a resume builder, or just something to chat about. However, the actual role of a board member is to promote organization awareness, to inform and execute decisions related to organizational sustainability and growth, to provide program oversight and support, to fundraise, to ensure effective leadership, and to provide financial guidance/oversight.

Sadly; however, some board members shy away from their responsibility to serve as fundraisers for the very organization that they want others to support. Development departments throughout the sector cringe at the very idea that often there is not one hundred percent board giving. How can a prospective funder or  donor to feel comfortable about giving when board members have not?

In the hallowed “halls” of the development/fundraising departments, there is a mantra often quoted that simply says, “Give it. Get it. Or get off.” Paraphrased, the mantra simply suggests that board members are expected to be of financial support to the organization, which they represent – some how, some way. 

All board members should have a copy of their organization’s bylaws that state the required board gift/assessment. Board gifts differ from organization to organization in terms of amounts and frequency of the gift (i.e. some gifts are annual, some are quarterly, etc.) Regardless of the size or frequency of the gift, when you accept a board seat you have also accepted the responsibilities that come with it – including giving!

Give It
As noted, board members are expected to give. So KNOW the assessment and the frequency of the gift before you accept a board seat. If you pockets can handle the assessment, please write the check, turn in the cash, charge it, or have it debited from your account in a timely fashion. The development department has to report on all of these activities and board member cooperation is crucial to that process. So if you can, give it!

Get It
Again, you are expected to give; however, your pockets cannot handle the expectation. Well, this is where the “get it” comes in. Ask x number of your friends to make gifts in some pre-determined amount until you have reached your expected gift total. Family members, colleagues, etc. can make a donation on your behalf to your organization putting your name in the memo section of the check. For instance if board assessment is $100 annually and you cannot afford give the full amount, ask 9 people for $10 to support your organization. Add your own $10 and you will have met your duty. If you can afford half of the cost and your company has a matching gift program, then this is another way to “get it.” Your company can even make the full payment on your behalf, if it has a matching funds program for volunteer hours.

Your respective nonprofit organization should have a giving policy in place that addresses the processing and acknowledgement of such activities. If not, your development committee, finance department, and/or legal counsel need to work towards such with expedience. There are countless ways to make your board gift, even if you do not personally have all of the funds available. All it requires is a little bit of time, effort, and follow-up on your part. You have not, because you ask not. Simply ask and go get it!!!!

Get Off
Finally, if you really have no desire to support organization financially it is probably best for you to step down or simply put, get off the board. If you are not willing to fundraise, you are simply dead weight in that respect to the board. Perhaps, it would better serve for you to sit on an advisory committee where you can share ideas and even volunteer during some of the fundraising activities such as phone-a-thons, stuffing envelopes, serving as a greeter, etc. Either way, you still must be willing to “give” something! No one wants to really see a board member leave, but board members must realize that they have financial and fiduciary responsibilities that are crucial to the overall health and sustainability of the nonprofit organization.

I hope this serves as a wake up call to some and/or just a reminder to others. If nonprofits are to be viable in both the short and long-term, board giving is a must. It directly impacts and influences the giving of prospective donors and speaks volumes about the overall organizational culture and propensity for success.

-The Grant Guru

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Welcome to Insights from the Grant Guru...

Welcome to Insights from the Grant Guru, a blog that provides information about the world of philanthropy and fundraising.  Insights from the Grant Guru is both practical and scholarly in its content, giving you facts and critical analysis about the ins and outs of the nonprofit sector. In most cases, we will try to keep it short and sweet, but some topics will demand a little more attention. Check in often and send us your questions and comments!

Now, let’s get right to the meat of things…

Some Truths About Grant Submissions

Truth #1 - We were supposed to launch on June 15th. We did not and as a result may have lost the opportunity to connect with some valuable readers. Hopefully; however, you will enjoy this blog and encourage others to tune in. Sometimes, life happens…

Truth #2 – If this were a grant application, we have already broken the first cardinal rule: do not turn in late submissions! Automatically, your organization is dismissed in terms of the pool of potential applicants eligible to receive consideration for funding. Be aware that unless the grantmaking organization has a rolling deadline, all grant submissions are due by the specified date. Late submissions are rarely, if ever accepted. Thus, you will have to wait until the next submission deadline and in some instances that could mean another 365 days!

Truths #3 – Read and follow the guidelines before you begin to develop the proposal/application. This will help to ensure that you will submit a well-crafted proposal/application.

Truth #4- Give the grantmaking entity EXACTLY what they ask for. If they say: 12-point font, times roman, 5-pages, and double-spaced, then that is what they mean. When you don’t follow the guidelines/directions, it suggests to the funder that perhaps you will not properly administer grant funds.

Truth #5- Grant awards are not guaranteed! There are various reasons why your organization may not receive funding OR less funding than you actually requested, including:

1)    Limited number of grants awarded each funding cycle
2)    Did not follow the guidelines/directions
3)    Mission does not align with grantmaking entity, thus your program/project does not match the areas that are funded by the entity
4)    Missing information
5)    Missed the deadline
6)    Poorly written
7)    Budgetary inconsistencies
8)    Your organization has never applied for a grant and/or does not have a track record of successful programs and services provided
9)   Did attend mandatory grant information session (some grantmakers require prospective grantees to attend info sessions)
10)    Board politics
11)    Reduction in funding because of economic down-turn
12)    Reduction in funding because grantmaker decided to spread the money among more organizations

Truth # 6 - I have prepared grants that have been denied for one or more of the aforementioned reasons listed in Truth #5. I learned from my mistakes and so can you! If the funder does not provide you with notes/insight regarding your denial, contact the funder via phone, email, or letter. In most cases, the funder is more than willing to tell you how to improve your next submission!

Until the next time, positive vibes and good fundraising!

-The Grant Guru