The “To Do List for Growth for 2014”

by Robert Evans and Avrum Lapin

As we ease into the final weeks of 2013, let’s look ahead and learn from our experiences this year. Along with so many others, we assert that success in a slow-but-recovering economy requires reinvigorated visions, creative ideas, and updated strategies. In 2014, planning must become a priority! Planning for work will help professionals from all types of nonprofits “work their plan” in 2014 and beyond. For those who have already created a comprehensive plan for fundraising and organizational growth next year, we commend you. For those who haven’t, consider our “To Do List for Growth for 2014.”

1. Demonstrate results often, online and off.

Many nonprofits do not display enough connection between donations and results, yet donors and prospects expect to see this. While major gifts are still secured the “old fashioned way,” through developing relationships, personal cultivation, and education, multi-platform communication is a key to developing the presence needed to obtain these results in face-to-face meetings. Successful nonprofits must constantly demonstrate their impact and outcomes through both traditional and new media.

2. Recommit to face-to-face meetings with donors.

Donors, especially leading and major donors, like to be nurtured and acknowledged for their generosity and appreciate an open channel to the leadership of an organization. However, in “our day and age” it seems very easy, and much less intimidating, to send an email or pick up the phone, but it is key that leaders go that extra mile and sit down with donors and find out about what they are happy with or would like to see changed. Nonprofit leaders are much more likely to achieve targeted fundraising goals by taking the time to meet donors in person.

3. Create a strategic, multi-year fundraising plan.

A multi-year fundraising plan offers guidance in decision-making to nonprofit leaders and is an increasingly important tool in cultivating major gifts. Donors want to be sure that organizations have a long-term strategy for financial stability. A comprehensive fundraising plan can help focus leaders, structure donor identification and stewardship strategies, and eliminate non-essential activities. Once the plan is developed it should be reviewed with management and key Board members to ensure that everyone is on the same page and has equal buy- in.

4. Re-evaluate and refresh your website.

With the ever-evolving tools available on the Internet, building a professional, easy-to-update website is easier and more cost effective than ever before. Remember, donors that visit a website that is out-of-date, difficult to use, and riddled with broken links will doubt the integrity of the nonprofit and go elsewhere to spend their charitable dollars. Best practices today dictate a website overhaul every three years.

5. Embrace and leverage online giving.

Multiple studies tracked the rise of online giving in 2013, and the popularity of crowd-funding sites only added more momentum to the trend. The continued shift towards online donations for lower-level gifts puts the power in the donors’ hands to find out about new causes, but it also puts the responsibility on nonprofits to ensure that their online giving process is easy to use and accessible across multiple platforms (computer, mobile and tablet).

6. Do more to educate your donors about their giving options.

The range of giving options available to donors is vast, and nonprofits in the Jewish community would be wise to budget for professional development workshops covering gift planning protocols so that leaders are able to communicate these options to donors with ease. Secondly, offering free, easy-to- understand educational opportunities to donors can display the mutual benefits of charitable giving while also demonstrating responsible donor stewardship. Remember, donors won’t contribute to a program that they don’t know about! Leading nonprofits in the Jewish world must communicate options often to donors, and work hard to make these options clear, compelling, and compatible with donor desires.

7. Incorporate planned giving as an essential part of all campaign efforts.

With Donor Advised Funds on the rise and the increased life expectancy for Baby Boomers, now is the time to talk with donors about planned giving. Nonprofit leaders must plan to communicate the many organizational benefits that result from thoughtful gift planning. As consultants to all sizes and types of nonprofits inside and outside the Jewish community, our experience indicates that conversations about estate planning and testamentary giving tend to inspire donors to consider sophisticated forms of giving. Don’t leave this important charitable option off the table in 2014!

8. Bring on a younger Board member.

As digital natives, young people are tech-savvy and able to understand complex social media functions and techniques. Studies show that they are increasingly concerned with having a positive impact within the world, and many plan on supporting charities throughout their lifetimes. By bringing on an appropriate younger Board member, Jewish nonprofits can help diversify their Boards’ skill sets, engage with the next generation of members and donors, and bring new energy into the boardroom. By connecting with young philanthropists who bring new skills, engage diverse networks, and who are just beginning to discover their charitable passions, successful nonprofits can help secure a pipeline of support in 2014 and beyond.

9. Recommit to outstanding donor recognition and stewardship.

Donors at all levels want to feel appreciated and be assured that their contributions are helping the organization achieve its mission and making an impact. Forging strong relationships predicated on gratitude will strengthen your organization and drive its growth and success. Pick up the phone today or write a note to let donors know their contributions are appreciated and they are playing a significant role in keeping the nonprofit running smoothly.

10. Bring fundraising into the 21st century with a contemporary donor management software system.

Utilizing a contemporary donor management system is the best way for nonprofits to develop and evaluate quantifiable fundraising and membership goals. Nonprofits must take this step to remain relevant and competitive in today’s marketplace! These types of systems enable nonprofits to become modern fundraising entities capable of staying on top of details relating to donor interests and other critical details. With ever-advancing technologies, donor management software is less expensive and easier to use than ever before, so there is no good excuse not to employ this critical fundraising tool in 2014.

11. Train the Board to fundraise successfully.

All Board Members recruited to serve on a nonprofit’s Board of Directors must fulfill their responsibilities to the organization that they represent, including fundraising. The problem is that many of these dedicated leaders do not know how to raise funds! Even if the majority of leaders recruited to be on a Board serve on other Boards, that fact does not guarantee that they know how to be effective fundraisers. By committing the time and resources needed to correctly train Board members on how to communicate the organizational mission and vision, identify and cultivate donors, and request gifts of significance, leading nonprofits in the Jewish community can create Boards that are capable of achieving unprecedented fundraising success in 2014.

12. Create a standing committee of the Board that is focused on fundraising.

Nonprofit leaders can’t expect Board members to become fundraising champions if a clear expectation of a “culture of fundraising” isn’t properly defined and communicated. Establishing a standing fundraising committee of the Board allows a nonprofit to structure the Board’s fundraising activities, create an effective “sales force” from among Board members and their circles, and utilize positive peer pressure to get results. By empowering a dedicated group of Board members to strategize and support fundraising activities, and ask their peers on the Board to join them when needed, this committee can significantly advance development activities in 2014.

13. Cultivate a “Culture of Philanthropy.

It is critical that organizational leaders take a “top down” approach to demonstrating a “Culture of Philanthropy” by empowering all volunteers and senior staff to be pro-active fundraisers as well. As a first step, we recommend that leaders “celebrate what they want to see more of” by highlighting successful fundraising initiatives and campaigns, and championing Board contributors, volunteers, and staff members often. We also recommend that organizations set an expectation that all Board members and key staff be donors and set appropriate “give and get” expectations to maximize their devotion to the mission.

14. Commit to a donor-centric development model.

Successful nonprofits focus on their donors. Donor-centric fundraising demands that nonprofit leaders create fundraising strategies that put the donor at the center of the conversation, emphasizing and responding to the donor’s unasked questions and unstated expectations. Successful and visionary nonprofits in the Jewish community which look to the donor-centric approach will find a new vista before them offering greater opportunities for even more effective philanthropy. By focusing on engaging donors and achieving the mission simultaneously the possibility of success grows!

We encourage all nonprofits to keep these fourteen items on their “to do lists” as they plan organizational resolutions and directions for 2014. We will be discussing these ideas in greater detail throughout the year in our various eJP contributions, and in conversations with current and prospective clients, and we look forward to hearing from readers about what their organizations are focusing on for a stronger year!

Robert I. Evans, Managing Director, and Avrum D. Lapin, Director, are principals of The EHL Consulting Group, a fundraising consulting firm located in suburban Philadelphia. They are frequent contributors to eJewishPhilanthropy.com. The EHL Consulting Group is one of only 38 member firms of The Giving Institute. EHL Consulting works with dozens of nonprofits on fundraising, strategic planning, and nonprofit business practices and strategies. Learn more at ehlconsulting.com

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