At a workshop the other day, participants were asked to describe their management styles. Are you consensus-driven or top-down, permissive or autocratic? The way the question was posed implies that management flows in just one direction, from manager to employee. But most development professionals know they need to engage people across the entire organization and at every level. So don’t we need different styles depending on whom and what we’re managing?
The plain fact is we don’t manage associates the same way we manage directors. And we don’t manage board chairs the way we manage interns. Different positions require different approaches. So before we talk about ‘style,’ let me propose thinking about ‘direction:’ up, down, and sideways -- and suggest developing a separate management approach for each. Read more.
At a workshop I attended the other day, participants were asked to describe their management style. Are you consensus-driven or top-down, permissive or autocratic? The way the question was posed implies that management flows in just one direction, from manager to employee. But most development professionals know they need to engage people across the entire organization and at every level. So don’t we need different styles depending on whom and what we’re managing?
The plain fact is we don’t manage associates the same way we manage directors. And we don’t manage board chairs the same way we manage interns. Different positions require different approaches. So before we talk about ‘style,’ let me propose thinking about ‘direction’ -- up, down, and sideways -- and suggest developing a separate management approach for each.
Let’s start with managing ‘up’ -- namely your boss. This is all about positioning yourself as an indispensable member of the team and getting your boss to do things for you.
No. 1: Be in synch with your boss. One way you can do this is by making her priorities your own. Make it a point to understand your boss’ short- and long-term goals. What tasks need to be done right now? What impact does she want the organization to have five years down the road? It might be growth or stability, or a combination of both. There's usually a policy agenda, but what’s driving the agenda -- fairness, equality, safety, accountability? Once you understand her priorities, keep them front and center – post them in your office and make sure your actions advance those priorities.
No. 2: Another way to understand your boss is to watch for pressure points. Are there certain situations where you notice the tension-meter rising? Perhaps a particular board member calls or a finance committee is coming up? If you watch and understanding these dynamics, you can adjust your interactions accordingly. You don't want to adding to the pressure. Be supportive and wait for the right moment. It will go a long way to helping you be successful.
No. 3: Remember your boss is a busy person. There are a lot of people competing for her attention. You need to develop strategies to ‘cut through the noise’ of her schedule. Face-time is critical for maintaining a good relationship, so establish a regular weekly meeting to go over projects, provide an update on fundraising, report on new trends, and talk about budget and personnel changes. Try to pick a time that’s unlikely to draw conflicts and cancellations, so early morning or late afternoon. It’s probably best to stay away from the busy hours of 10 am to 4 pm.
No. 4: When you do have a meeting, make it both easy and rewarding. Send an agenda in advance, cover the most pressing issues first, and wrap up on time. Your boss – and everyone else -- will dread meeting with you if you’re unprepared, disorganized, or drone on about old business. And bring good news. No matter how bad it gets, find something positive to report about your department. Direct mail down? Talk about online giving. Fewer donors? Talk about increased average gift. Turned down for a grant? Bring 10 more prospects. Also plan to use this time to get what you need to succeed in your job. Do you want your boss to make thank you calls to donors, meet with a program officer, approve a new staff position? Use every trick: cajole, compliment, and persist.
No. 5: Finally, when asked to do something, always say yes. Don’t try to rationalize saying no by claiming you have no time or you don’t have enough staff. Your boss took those factors into consideration. She asked you for a reason; she thinks you’re the best person to do the job. So be happy she has confidence in your abilities and just say yes.
There’s more to managing 'up' than we can cover in one blog, but these are good starters for making interactions with your boss go more smoothly. Next week, we’ll talk about managing ‘down’—that traditional understanding of management-- your direct reports.
Blue Strike offers free and low-cost resources to help you handle a range of common tasks found in the development office. From tip sheets and suggested resources to free webinars and research reports, we provide timely information you can put to use right away. In addition to materials intended for a general audience, our services include customized staff and board training, executive mentoring, strategic planning, and transition services.
Designed for the busy fundraising professional, our free slideshows feature field-tested practices and time-saving techniques to help you manage your daily tasks. The slide decks from all previous webinars are posted on our website and free to download. We hope you'll find them useful and even share with volunteers and staff.
We would like to know about some of the fundraising practices you used in your organization, specifically the practices you used in 2013. Please think back to that period -- January through December of 2013 -- and answer each question to the best of your ability. If you need to consult another member of your staff, or research your records to answer any of the questions, feel free to do so.
There are a total of 20 questions, and they should take about 10 minutes to answer. Questions will display one at a time. If, for some reason, you are unable to complete this questionnaire in one sitting, simply close your browser wherever you pause. When you want to return to the survey, click again on the link provided, and the answers you have already given will be there.Take the survey
Designed for the busy fundraising professional, these slide decks feature field-tested practices and time-saving techniques to help you manage your daily tasks. Feel free to download and share as-is or modify to meet your needs. Be sure to check out our upcoming webinars and trainings sessions.
This page describes the Nonprofit Research Project's goals, research design, and preliminary findings. This information was first presented in March 2015 at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin. View the presentation.
See the final report: Popular Fundraising Practices: How Well Do They Work for Advocacy Organizations
help staff choose the most effective fundraising strategies -- aimed at increasing giving among current donors -- for their organization
take into account the organization’s size, staff experience, and board involvement. In other words, which “best practice” will be the best practice for my organization?
focus on cost-effective and easy to execute strategies, so . . . no galas!
778 organizations were selected at random to receive a 20-question survey on their fundraising practices
the study was limited to organizations engaged in advocacy, public policy, civic engagement, and public interest law
the online survey was sent via email to the development director or, in the absence of a development director, the executive director
the survey was conducted from Jan. 20 to Feb. 17, 2015
personal phone calls were made to encourage participation
survey responses were matched with IRS administrative records (FY2013) to create the datafile
About the sample
162 completed surveys
44 states represented, the most from DC and California
14 different categories represented, from arts and culture to health, education, and international affairs. Environment, civil rights, and crime/legal related categories had the highest numbers.
Individual Giving and Revenue
Most organizations (77 percent) have fewer than 1,000 donors
Most (60 percent) have fewer than 5,000 names on their email file
Average revenue is $1,995,251 (median is $1,266,532)
Only 17 percent count on individual donors to make up 50 percent or more of their revenue
Staff and volunteers
Two-thirds of the organizations have staff dedicated to development
38 percent have executive directors with less than five years tenure; while one-third have tenure of 10 years or more
Two-thirds of the organizations indicated that at least a few of their board members engaged in fundraising activities, either meeting with donors, sharing names, or thanking donors personally. However, out of this group, only about one-third said that more than a quarter of their board members participated in these activities.
More than half (54 percent) have sustainer programs, but of that group, only 12 percent place a heavy emphasis on this program
About half also use matching campaigns (47 percent) and conditional ask strings (51 percent)
Only 42 percent have giving clubs
The most widely used fundraising practice, coming in at 85 percent, is a donate button on the website
Only 30 percent have mobile compatible donation forms
- View the full report: Popular Fundraising Practices: How Well Do They Work for Advocacy Organizations
Blue Strike supported an academic research project examining nonprofit fundraising practices. In January 2015, 778 organizations received a 20-question survey about their fundraising activities.
Preliminary findings were presented March 6, 2015 at the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin. Findings and recommendations were shared with all respondents and disseminated to the nonprofit community at large. The survey results are intended to aid in the development of tools that will improve the nonprofit community’s performance and positively affect the work of many organizations.
If you have any questions or would like more information about the research, please feel free to contact me at (703) 399-0855.
Mary Dillon Kerwin
Donor-advised funds represent seven percent of all individual charitable donations. Their growth has outpaced all other giving vehicles. In 2013 alone, contributions to DAFs grew 23.5 percent. With those numbers, we need to do everything we can to capitalize on this giving vehicle.
In January, we asked Ruben Orduna, vice president of development and donor services for The San Francisco Foundation, to offer strategic advice and recommendations to help fundraising staff understand donor advised funds and how to adapt our cultivation strategies to DAFs. Here's a quick recap from the webinar:
How they work:
“Giving accounts” are set up to give the donor the ability to make grants at donor's pace. Donors receive an immediate charitable tax deduction. Assets in accounts owned by the DAF provider. There are pros and cons compared to private foundations.
Ruben offered these five recommendations:
- Focus on community foundation DAFs
- Look for areas of alignment with community foundation
- Community foundations want to align with their donors
- Need access donor services / relationship staff
- Use your Board members or other donors that have DAFs
Donor-Advised Funds: The Source Fundraisers Can’t Afford to Ignore by Joe Boland, July 2014
Shaking Up the Ranks of America’s Largest Charities, by Holly Hall, Oct. 19, 2014 Chronicle of Philanthropy
By some estimates, charities receive upwards of 40 percent of their donations in December -- so it pays to be prepared. Here are five quick recommendations for making the most of your year end giving.
1. Show donors fresh, relevant content. Be sure to consider what your donors will be seeing when they look at your website or open your year end appeal. Use new photos and up-to-date information about your issues . . . especially if your issues are getting media attention. Work closely with your program staff to weave messaging and action into your appeals.
2. Execute your solicitation activities. Year-end letters and emails, matching campaigns, a final push for major gifts; they all need to happen now. Be conscious of the calendar and other people's schedules. If your executive director or board chair will be writing personal notes on year-end letters, make sure to leave enough time. It always takes longer than we think! And, if you’ve been holding a solicitation, waiting for someone to make a personal call, don’t wait anymore. Send it now.
3. Connect with office staff. Lots of staff will be taking time off. But it's also your busiest time of year, so plan ahead. Remind everyone that you're gearing up for year end. Post a visible reminder like a dashboard or a thermometer on your door or bulletin board. Beyond your development team, be sure administration and finance know how to handle year-end gifts and how to help donors with things like stock transfers, in case you're not around. Add some fun and gratitude for the extra work.
4. Engage board members. Request help in finishing out the year. Have all board members made a gift this year? Provide regular communications during the coming weeks to keep everyone up to date. You might want to hold a board fundraising webinar or schedule thank you calls. Personal thank you's can be a great way to engage your board in outreach and build meaningful relationships with donors.
5. Pay attention to your online presence. Plan for a shadow box, home page hi-jack, and new lead stories. Make it easy to find info on stock transfers, IRA rollovers, donor advised funds and other specialized gifts. Check your profiles in Charity Navigator, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and Guidestar to make sure your info is up to date.
In the midst of the excitement and pressure . . . don't forget to breathe!
There’s been a lot chatter about the ice bucket challenge and whether this wildly successful fundraiser will ring in a new order for the nonprofit marketplace. An informal poll by Philanthropy News Digest showed 47 percent of respondents think it represents “something new in fundraising.”
At first glance, it looks like a new approach. It certainly tosses a lot of received wisdom out the window. It doesn’t 'demonstrate need.' It doesn't use 'performance-based measures.' It doesn’t even 'tell a story' -- the donor communication du jour. So, yes, it challenges some of our basic assumptions.
But on closer examination, we can see that it actually uses several tried-and-true techniques. They’ve emerged in a slightly different form, but they should be familiar to many of us.
- Good brand name. The ice bucket challenge leverages the name recognition of a well-established, respected organization. ALS has a good reputation, they are well-known in the health circles. That counts for a lot. Even if you know nothing about the organization, you’ve probably heard of this devastating disease.
- Friends asking friends. Now we call it peer-to-peer fundraising, but it’s a well-established principle: solicitation is most successful when it takes place between two people who know each other and who run in the same circles. You don’t see bosses challenging employees. Not cool, right?
- Challenge campaign. It taps into our competitive streak and gives us a chance to be part of a team. Almost every organization has seen this work at one point or another. Donors unresponsive to regular pleas for funds all of the sudden jump on board when it’s a matching campaign.
One more positive note -- in an era when nonprofits are tempted to invest in expensive things like target analytics and the latest fundraising software, it’s refreshing to see a highly successful fundraising activity just take off on its own.