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Things to consider when making donations

Making donations to charitable organizations can be a very strategic, methodical, and evaluative process. For many, the donations are more than mere “gifts”, they’re actually investments in causes, organizations, needs, and beneficiaries. A key component of the donor-decision process is quality information. When working with our clients on their giving strategies, we advise an analysis of organizations in five functional areas of charitable operations.

Data & Efficiency

Be sure to look at the organization’s finances to determine such things as proper allocation of funds between administration, programs, fundraising, etc. We recommend using Guidestar to review the organization’s 990 provide sufficient data for an initial screening, enabling donors with a good look at financial performance.

Finance & Fund Development

Non-profits have an obligation to act as responsible stewards in managing their financial resources. This includes compliance with financial requirements, sound accounting principles, and fiscal responsibilities. Since non-profits act as the intermediary between donors and beneficiaries, they have an ethical obligation to ensure proper handling of funds to carry out their missions.

Governance

A non-profit’s leadership, represented by its staff and board of directors is responsible for defining the organization’s mission and for providing overall leadership and strategic direction to the organization. Strong boards strive to ensure that their organizations have adequate resources, provide direction for the executive director and key staff and, evaluate their own effectiveness as governing bodies.

Human Resources

The ability of an organization to make effective use of the energy, time and talents of its employees and volunteers is essential to accomplish the organization’s mission. Exercising fair and equitable practices that attract and retain qualified volunteers and employees is just one best practice. Nonprofits have an obligation to adhere to all applicable employment laws and to provide a safe and productive work environment.

Public Information

Non-profits that provide information to prospective donors and other constituents promote informed and responsible philanthropy. This works to their advantage as donors are better able to make decisions when they can learn a nonprofit’s purpose, who governs it, how it manages its financial resources, whom the nonprofit serves, and what progress it has made toward achieving its mission.

Ideally, donors placing their “investments” with organizations are doing so through strong existing relationships. However, whether donors are already engaged with these organizations or have yet to meet their leaders, taking an in-depth look at these five areas will help solidify the receipt, usage, distribution, and recognition of financial contributions.

 

 

Charitable Giving…A Wise Investment

As business leaders, we’re often asked to donate to charity. Whether it’s in the form of personal contributions, direct corporate giving or corporate sponsorship, we receive requests on a regular basis.

Having served the non-profit sector for 25 years, I’m continually involved with corporate giving, either as a business owner or charitable volunteer. I’m frequently asked why businesses are called upon as often as they are. What I’ve grown to understand are two primary reasons:
1. Business leaders have direct access to marketing, advertising and charitable budget line items.
2. Business leaders understand non-profits and, in many cases, serve on non-profit boards.

There are many reasons why corporate leaders invest in charitable organizations. Businesses have an opportunity to make a difference and a dollar. Strong corporations invest in not-for-profit efforts to:

  • recognize and celebrate its corporate values
  • emphasize the importance of ethical business practices
  • provide positive public relations
  • build customer confidence
  • enhance employee morale
  • maintain philanthropic goodwill
  • increase sales leads and transactions
  • strengthen the community
  • And, of course, it’s the right thing to do.

All of this points to responsibility…a responsibility of businesses to increase revenues and a responsibility to help others.

Positioning corporate giving to be effective for both the business and the supported organizations is not a difficult process. It can be easily blended with existing marketing strategies or function separately from existing plans. Regardless of its official capacity within your business, here are suggestions to maximize your corporate giving.

  1. Assess current giving. Take a good, hard look at your past and current giving practices. What percentage of pre-tax profits is allocated for charitable pursuits? Review the organizations, purposes and methods of giving; then evaluate the benefits received. Can you identify a relationship to your corporate mission, marketing plan and staff connections?
  2. Design a strategy. As you plan your giving, consider your charitable budget. Identify the projects, organizations or sectors you wish to support. Determine the benefits, particularly outreach, sales leads, visibility and impact you wish to gain.
  3. Monitor contributions. Maintain relationships with the beneficiaries of your charitable investment to ensure proper delivery of benefits, use of funds and public awareness.
  4. Assess and plan. Evaluate the effectiveness of the giving strategy and its execution. Make changes, design a new strategy, identify new beneficiaries; all are actions you will likely address to strengthen your charitable giving plan.

Corporate leaders recognize the difficulty in giving away money, particularly marked by a lack of information, guidance and tools required to make wise decisions. Being able to identify the best for-profit investments is a hugely valuable talent and a massive industry has grown up around it. Solid nonprofit analysis is just as valuable.

No matter what strategy you use to make your charitable giving decisions, it makes good business sense to ensure effectiveness, both to the beneficiary and your corporation. A properly executed giving program will generate tremendous value through community impact and revenue generation.

Things you should know about year-end giving

The final two months of the calendar year can provide a significant amount of support for charitable organizations, if leveraged properly. Through working with many non-profit organizations, coupled with extensive research, we strong believe in the power of the Season of Giving.

Let the following statistics state our case.

  • The average total amount holiday givers plan to donate is $281.
  • 22% of donors will contribute to just one organization
  • 55% of donors will spread their contributions across two to three organizations
  • 23% of donors will give to four or more nonprofit groups.
  • Two-thirds plan to donate the same amount as last year, and 12% plan to increase their contributions this holiday season.

If that’s not enough, enjoy these statistics:

  • Between 35%-42% of online giving happens in November and December.
  • About 40% of online gifts are made in December.
  • For many charities, giving in December brings in about 1/3 of the fundraising dollars.
  • Online giving happens largely between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.
  • Online giving (by dollars) on December 31 is concentrated between 10a.m. and 6 p.m. in each time zone.
  • For many organizations, more than 20% of all giving for the entire year occurs in the last 48 hours of the calendar year.

Have you implemented your year-end giving strategy? Do you have one?

Campaigns we help design can see benefits in three primary areas:
Revenue

  • You can raise a little or a lot – either way, it provides new funding
  • Each non-profit is different – varying sizes, varying needs, varying degrees of public presence, varying depths of constituencies
  • Roughly 40% of all giving comes in during month of December

Exposure

  • Solid year-end campaign can create a lot of exposure
  • Local media can play a key role. In most communities, local newspapers, radio stations, and tv networks actively seek ‘feel good’ and ‘community inspiring’ stories
  • Social media creates increasing connections and relationships
  • Email marketing remains a strong tool to engage your existing database of constituents

New supporters

  • In the form of new donors and volunteers, a public relations campaign can lure in new batch of supporters
  • Recruits people who were unfamiliar with the organization
  • Gives your development team a great source of new leads to prospect

If you don’t have a year-end giving strategy, contact us right away. Though we’re just weeks away from the new year, it’s not too late to maximize the opportunity.

 

Seven tips for fundraising success

 

Raising funds for charitable organizations can be difficult; certainly time-consuming. It’s a patient process, requiring considerable research, planning, and organization. The word “development” is a perfect fit to the process an organization goes through to generate a meaningful contribution.

When it comes to raising funds for your organizations, here’s a handful of tips to consider adding to your overall fund development strategy. They have represented the centerpiece of our success. They’re not listed in any specific order, but you’ll quickly recognize where and how they fit in your strategy.
   
Identify strengths and weaknesses

Understand the organization – from operations to personnel to policies to financial management. Recognize the causes and implement solutions to each. Be sure to dot every “I” and cross every “t”.

Offer innovative giving

The one constant between most non-profit organizations is the ability to accept cash contributions. Every donor knows this. However, savvy donors (charitable investors) seek greater information, transparency, accountability, and results from their contributions. A strong percentage of them seek unique and innovative giving methods.

Create solicitation strategies

Know your constituents. An engaged leader is a gem and, as nonprofit leaders, it’s our obligation to strive for their full potential. One great way to really get to know supporters is to design solicitation (or engagement) strategies for each. Start by creating a Prospect/Donor Profile for each, used to document their interest, involvement, willingness, and capability. Mapping a solicitation strategy will force you to be strategic about cultivating each constituent’s involvement. This one act involves and is influenced by the other six tips offered here.

Engage constituents

From prospect identification to board leadership to donor stewardship, your benefactors are your organization’s greatest vehicles of success. Engage them through key steps of the fund development process. You’ll be amazed at their ideas, insight, and perseverance.

Generate active awareness

Tell your story to the world. Shout it regularly through local media and through your social media avenues. Be sure you focus on strengths and opportunities and that any weaknesses are addressed. Distribute clear messages and keep your messaging timely. Encourage staff, volunteers, and donors to share the messages through personal, personable, and electronic means.

Network

It’s a seven-letter word that, for many non-profit leaders, is more like a four-letter word – work. There’s no better way to prospect new supporters, whether they’re future volunteer or donor leaders. It involves stepping out of your routine, forces you to fine-tune your 30-second elevator speech, and smile even if you’re having a difficult day. Ask any business leader, networking produces results. Get out there and make friends and share your organization’s story, needs, and opportunities.

Steward donors

Perhaps the most detrimental cause of recent organizational failure might not have been solely the economic crash. Is your organization at fault for not properly recognizing donations and, more importantly, developing strong relationships with its donors? Stewarding donors strengthens the lifeblood of non-profit organizations. Pick up the phone, send an email, direct a tweet, say hello in the store, high-five at a ballgame, and send a card. These are the little ways that magnify the “engage constituents” tip into truly rewarding alliances. Make each donor feel as if he/she is in the middle of the game.

 

Perhaps one that should be listed is “have fun”…development and non-profit leadership should be exciting, rewarding, meaningful, challenging, and fun. Make the most of it!

 

Donors have much to consider when supporting charities

As the calendar year nears its close, well-organized charities will be orchestrating year-end fundraising campaigns. These initiatives are used to fulfill wish lists, meet annual goals, and fund special projects. As these organizations launch these campaigns, it’s important that they understand donor thinking and strategies during this time of year.

During the holidays, typical donors…

  • Respond to public, promotional, emotional appeals
  • Prefer easy access to make a contribution
  • Make donation amounts of their choice
  • Seek well-managed organizations
  • Wish to not be the only donor
  • Want to know how the money will be used
  • Choose to support a well-regarded and/or well-managed organization
  • Expect proper acknowledgement

Saavy donors make informed donation decisions.

Appropriately stated by Charity Navigator, “Smart givers generally don’t give reactively in a knee-jerk fashion. They don’t respond to the first organization that appeals for help. They take the time to identify which causes are most important to their families and they are specific about the change they want to affect.”

Nearly two years ago, NPcatalyst launched a program called HealthCheck, which analyzes charities in five distinct areas of non-profit management and effectiveness. The five areas are:

  • Institutional Data
  • Governance
  • Human Resources
  • Public Information
  • Finance & Fund Development

As the holidays are upon us, non-profit directors should consider what drives donors.

Donors say appeals that put a face to the donation (either human or animal) and remind them to help those who are less fortunate at this time of year, are most persuasive. A few thoughts to consider…

  • Holiday giving is emotional.
  • Donors are thankful for what they have and give to those who need it.
  • Donors tend to give more when the online experience is intimate and emotionally coherent.

Stats to consider about major donors…

  • One-third of donors with $100,000 or more in annual income, indicate all or most of their charitable giving for this year has not  been planned ahead of time.
  • 42 percent of households with over $100,000 in income, said receiving a tax deduction was a significant influence on their giving.

Year-end fundraising campaigns are smart strategies used by well-organized charitable organizations.

 

Click here for a guide designed to help charities orchestrate year-end giving campaigns.

Donors – if you’re looking to create a strategy for giving, contact us.
Charities – if you’re looking to make strong connections with donors, contact us.

Survey instrument a primer for ideal board strategic planning

Assessment solution

Conducting annual board evaluations is an ideal solution to strengthening charitable boards and their organizations. For some organizations, they can be difficult to plan, cumbersome to coordinate, and last minute activities. To ease the burden and, more importantly, deliver a clear understanding of board leadership, we’ve designed a board analysis survey tool entitled BoardCheck.

BoardCheck targets a non-profit organization’s growth through the voices of its board leaders. The instrument takes a snapshot of the organization’s makeup and activity by identifying its strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. The data then forms the foundation of strategic planning initiatives.

BoardCheck is designed to serve as a tool for non-profit growth through the voices of board leaders. Best utilized prior to board retreats and strategic planning processes, BoardCheck is an instrument which takes a snapshot of a non-profit’s current organizational makeup and activity, analyzes it, and identifies strengths and weaknesses…all stemming from their own board members. All analytical information is derived from a 30+ question survey completed by board members.

workshop-boardcheck-screen

The survey captures information in the following areas.

  • Mission and vision
  • Board development
  • Marketing, messaging, and community interaction
  • Board culture
  • Leadership and involvement
  • Organizational health
  • Board activity
  • Personal involvement
  • Expertise and skills

 

Particularly advantageous to an upcoming board retreat, strategic planning process, or annual review, the BoardCheck survey features questions to identify key topics, board/organization priorities, recommendations and vision…in written-form from each board member.

BoardCheck is an ideal tool for boards of non-profit organizations of all sizes.

The value of BoardCheck is found in the third-party nature of the assessment. The tool allows board members to rate, rank, and share personal comments about the organization at their convenience and in the comfortable setting of their own home or office. The analysis provided through the survey and, any review/recommendation shared by NPcatalyst is conducted in an unbiased fashion.

Designed as solution for 501c3 organizations, BoardCheck is easily applicable membership, school PTA, and fraternal organizations. All data is held in strict confidence and is property of the participating organization. The information is not released, traded, or sold.

Click here to learn more about the BoardCheck board assessment tool.

  

Complimentary year-end giving guide

Year-end giving is a rarely utilized weapon used by charities to target new donors and raise new revenue. However, it can be an incredible strategy designed in a non-profit’s annual giving plan.

Click on the graphic below to view a slideshow designed to help charities orchestrate effective year-end funding campaigns.

Featured in the presentation is a list of resources available to each charity. The list includes:

NPcatalyst

  • Works with non-profit organizations to analyze past giving practices and develop fundraising gameplans.
  • Works with donors to develop giving strategies.

HealthCheck

  • Analyzes charities in five distinct areas of operations. Results in a “best practices” guide for improvement. Typically benefits the organization through refreshed marketing and fundraising success.
  • Provides donors with donor-based research information, enabling them to make wise (strategic) donation decisions.

GiftingWishes

  • Provides non-profit organizations with an effective and innovative online giving tool.
  • Gives donors a safe, secure, and trustworthy website to make their online donations.
  • Designing year-end giving campaigns for each charity using GiftingWishes to help raise funds.
  • Completely free of charge.

We’ve designed a career solutions company

In a partnership formed Pete (our managing partner) and two other corporate and philanthropic leaders, a new career solutions company was created. Greek Ladders is a resource for college students seeking information and connections to properly launch their careers. Simultaneously, businesses and charities leverage the Greek Ladders network to identify ideal candidates for their internship and full-time employment openings.

Creating the company was in response to several factors. The common theme among recent graduates is the disadvantage they’re at slide-greekladders-sitewhen searching for full-time employment. Students have dedicated their college years to preparing for meaningful careers by focusing on academics. By the time they decide to look for a job, many others have beat them to the punch. Factor in extraordinarily high unemployment rates, recent graduates face competition for jobs from those with greater experience and measurable performances, most of whom require less training. It’s possible that these same students may also have waited until graduation or some point during their senior years to begin their job searches. This really puts them behind the curve, further decreasing the likelihood of obtaining their ideal job in a timely manner.

Recognizing these issues, three corporate and non-profit leaders sharing a strong affinity to the Greek System, joined forces to create a solution. The primary goal – to create an opportunity for students to interface with employers, and vice-versa, as a vehicle to give Greeks a “leg up” in the employment recruitment process. Beyond the connection, the partners are adding leadership/career development training resources and strategic partners to essentially coach the students, guiding them toward successful interactions, interviews, and job performance.

The vision for Greek Ladders is simple – facilitate outstanding and mutually-beneficial relationships between students and employers.

Greek Ladders features a website, where job-seekers (primarily students, but also alumni and parents)  and employers (non-profits, businesses) make connections. Its career network highlights hundreds of student and employer profiles, as well as full-time and internship job postings. Students manage their own profiles containing their resumes, academic information, chapter and campus involvement, career objectives, and more for employers to become familiar with prospective employment candidates.

The Greek Ladders network, which is free for job-seekers, features leadership development and career preparation resources. Taking the form of webinars, videos, podcasts, and tutorials, these resources can be utilized by our members to enhance their profiles and learn new skills, thus making us more appealing to prospective employers.

For employers, Greek Ladders provides advantages over other similar companies, like Monster and Career Builder. Employers are directly linked to applicants in a specialized setting. In fact, employers leverage the partnership to essentially take all of today’s college students and siphon them into a single pool (or network) of outstanding potential candidates. One step further, these applicants are qualified, given their aptitude of social, leadership, and organizational skills and activity within the Greek Ladders network. Basic employer registration into the network is free.

If you’re curious about joining the Greek Ladders network as a student or employer, these links should provide you with plenty of information:

In addition, you may send an email to info@greekladders.com or call  775-333-9444 .

Ridge House feasibility study

 

We’re conducting a feasibility study for the Ridge House, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization based in northern Nevada, specializing in substance abuse treatment and re-entry services.

We’ve been meeting face-to-face with community and philanthropic leaders, as well as experts with deep understandings of corrections, recidivism and, naturally, the Ridge House itself.

We now turn to the greater community to share their thoughts, insight, and suggestions for the organization and a unique project currently being assessed. Below is a blog, currently posted on the Ridge House website, providing information for those interested in participating in the study. There’s no cost to participate and no strings attached.

We’d like your feedback!

The Ridge House is taking a serious look at adding a new project to provide our clients with outstanding new skills and employment…at the same time. Your input will help us make the right decision.

With the guidance of Pete Parker and his firm, NPcatalyst, we are conducting a “feasibility”study to determine the interest and potential support from the local community. The results of the study will allow us to decide if we should launch the innovative project.

Similar to projects developed by Delancey Street Foundation and Homeboy Industries, we are looking at opening a sandwich franchise in the very near future. The sandwich shop will employ Ridge House clients and teach them foodservice, retail, and culinary skills. These skills will enable our clients to secure and become successful throughout their employment careers.

Click here to read more information about Ridge House and the proposed project.

Click here to learn more and tell us what you think.

Year-end giving statistics

It’s the time of year when non-profit organizations need to be conducting fundraising efforts to close the calendar year on positive notes. Year-end giving campaigns are an underutilized tool, which can be used to tap new donor bases and raise new dollars to meet goals, fulfill wish lists, or fund key initiatives.

Below are statistics illustrating the effectiveness and potential value of year-end giving campaigns.

  • More than 174 million adult Americans plan to give money to charity between Thanksgiving and year-end.
  • Between 35 percent to 42 percent of online giving happens in November and December.
  • About 40 percent of online gifts are made in December.
  • Giving in December brings in about 1/3 of the fundraising dollars.
  • More than 20% of all giving for the entire year occurs in the last 48 hours of the calendar year.
  • Online giving happens largely between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.
  • Online giving (by dollars) on December 31 is concentrated between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. in each time zone.
  • Donors are projected to give through a variety of channels this holiday season.
 
Orchestrating year-end giving campaigns is a wise strategy used by charities seeking to generate new dollars from existing and prospective donors.
 
Click here for a complimentary guide to year-end giving campaigns.