I went to a gala!

This past weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to attend a fundraising gala for an organization I support.  It is important to point out right away that this is an organization that is close to my heart – not my wife’s!  So while I was up at the auction table bidding on countless things we don’t need or will never do, my wife was sitting at the table probably counting down the minutes until we could leave!  It should go without saying that at the center of every good relationship that involves someone in the fundraising profession is the partner who just wants to go home!

When I returned to the table to proudly announce that I had “won” a book we didn’t need, my wife was chomping at the bit to tell me how excited she was about a conversation she had just had.  It turns out that the head of the organization took a moment to sit down at our table and introduce himself to my wife.  On the outside, it may have appeared that he just wanted to sit down for a second.  But the reality is that he took a moment to cultivate my wife.  He knows that this cause is more “my thing” than hers.  So he took the time to sit down, thank her for our support, ask if she had any questions about the organization and then shared the great things the organization is doing.  As soon as I got back to the table, my wife quickly ran off a list of five programs that the organization was doing and told me how excited she was about one of them.  “Do we give to that program?”, she asked.

Special event fundraising is not a passion of mine.  It is one of the least effective ways to raise money when you look at “cost per dollar raised”.  But it is an incredible opportunity to cultivate your donors for larger gifts.  You should be raising more money the day AFTER your special event then you do the day of.  Strike while the iron is hot and get to know your donors (and their spouses\partners).

This is also a good lesson in not assuming your donors are serving as your best ambassadors to their spouses, business associates or circle of friends.  Needless to say, this organization that was always close to my heart is now, apparently, close to ours!


Where are you going?

One of my favorite Dave Matthews Band songs is “Where Are You Going?”.  Dave Matthews wrote it as more of a love ballad, but I like to think of this song as the Strategic Planning anthem.  Okay, maybe that sounds a little too “nerdy” – but, the title asks an important question that every good professional should be able to answer.

Does your organization have a strategic plan?  Do you have an idea of where you want your organization to go in the next three to five years?  This is imperative to ensure success – you can’t guess where you’re going, you have to plan to get there.

A robust strategic planning process should include all the stakeholders; the board, the executive director, and senior leadership of the organization.  This process is meant to be a “meeting of the minds”.  It is an opportunity for board members who inspire to work with staff that manage programs and operations.  Strategic Planning is an important process that should not be taken lightly.

We encourage non-profit leaders to be able to answer, “So, where is your organization going?”  Do you know?  Would you and your board chair answer in the same way?

Strategic planning is a process – embrace it!

Spring Cleaning

Until recently, the northeast has been spared from major snow this winter.  We were even more fortunate to have a few days of 60 and 70-degree weather.  I took this opportunity to go through my closet and donate a few items to a local charity.  As I told my wife, it was an “early spring cleaning”.

It also got me thinking about the importance of “spring cleaning” your data.  I know for many organizations the end of the year was very busy.  Many donors were making gifts early to maximize their tax benefits.

So in this “lull” before “gala season”, now is a good time to look at your data and clean it up!  Run a duplicate record search, run your data through the NCOA (National Change of Address) database, perform an e-mail append, etc.  Now’s the time.  You’ll be thankful this fall that you took the time to complete this important task.