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Posts Tagged ‘ Grant Writer ’

Must Have Fundraising Apps for Your Smart Phone

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012


Whether you’re a social entrepreneur, in the business of federal grant writing, or you scurry around planning special events; there is most likely an app out there created to ease the way. Here are my top five as of October 2012:

1. Kickstarter 101

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects, everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others. Since its launch on April 28, 2009, over $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people, funding more than 30,000 creative projects, now that’s a kick-start!

2. JustGiving

Allows fundraisers to keep track of what they are raising in real-time, it alerts you each time a donation is made and you can easily share with your contacts. Furthermore, if you know who just gave, you can thank them in real time as well! Nifty.

3. Rally.org

Set up a social donation page in minute’s using Rally’s fundraising platform to share your story in a new way. Easily customize a cause donation page with your own design or use one of their templates. It rids you of the cost and burden of needing to create a merchant account for your nonprofit in order to accept donations.

4. The Razoo iPhone App

Razoo enables you to manage your fundraisers and engage your donors. You can keep track of each donation, view your fundraising progress, ask people to give, and thank everyone who makes a donation. A one-stop iPhone fundraising app!

5. Fundraising Basics

This app is perfect for those just starting out in fundraising or those needing fresh ideas for the events they are coordinating. Full of tips and tricks, Fundraising Basics provides you with time saving methods and information to tackle the obstacles you may encounter. In this Android app you will find: 10 things your fundraising plan must include and how to put it together, 12 things your website must tell your visitors, and 6 common-sense but overlooked ways to find untapped pools of donors – among other advice.

What was Trending in Fundraising this September 2012

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Monitoring fundraising/philanthropy blogs and articles this past month, here is what’s trending in fundraising this past month:

1. How to Raise Money via Facebook: We’ve got the “21 things you should know about facebook” type of articles, how nonprofits can use facebook ads effectively, and my favorite, separating your personal facebook page from your non profit page; sounds simple – not necessarily so….

2. Year-end Fundraising: Just yoga’d the Autumnal Equinox and simultaneously my in-box is over-loading with solicitations to prepare for year end. It’s reminiscent of school supplies showing up in Target the day after the 4th of July. What was out there in September: how to do it, start it now, get your board to help, hire someone to do it for you now!, help your donor’s say ‘yes’, and year-end mistakes to avoid. It’s some good stuff; read up on it NOW!

3. The Iphone 5: Not so much fundraising, but certainly trending and with that there are new fundraising apps and fundraising-use chatter. For example: “think face to face – think mobile”. Or this new app: Shoparoo has partnered with Proctor & Gamble and Unilever, who produce brands like Dove, Suave, Ragu and Skippy, to raise money for schools. Consumers essentially donate (report) their purchasing habits. You use the app to submit receipts from super-centers, groceries, clubs, pet stores, dollar stores, convenience stores and drug stores- a portion of the proceeds arrive at your designated school; but beware OR prepare for coupons galore filling your in-box.

4. Saying “Thanks”: Clearly this September trend is securely attached to many nonprofit’s rounding the corner to their fiscal year-end. From the “art of saying thank you” to “anyone can say thank you – just have someone do it”.

5. Political Fundraising: This could very well remain on the ‘what’s trending’ short list long after November 4th. A couple new ones to be mindful of: The Chronicle added, “Where the 2012 Presidential Candidates Stand on Key Nonprofit Issues” by Suzanne Perry. The Non Profit Times included, “With Election Around The Corner, Charities Must Tread Carefully” by Janice Ryan & Ronald Jacobs. I encourage you to read both if you haven’t already.

If you want to contribute to ‘what’s trending in fundraising’, give me a holla at
marcie@wagnerfundraising.com.

Arrrrgh! Some People are so DIFFICULT – or is it me?

Monday, September 17th, 2012

I believe the real answer is that it’s “us”; personality types not meshing. So where am I going with this? I hate conflict. Heck, I
lose sleep over it while others shrug their shoulders and move on, or they kind of love it.
A successful fundraising program is directly tied to how well you get along with those involved; and how well those involved get along with each other. You will raise more money within a joyful, collaborative team. Conflict creates distraction, and distraction takes your eye off the prize; reaching your fundraising goal.
Here’s a quick and easy solution to conflict resolution: Personality Assessments. Most of you are familiar with Myers Brigg’s and may recall your letter type-indicator. I don’t recall mine, but know it was the same type as other fundraising professionals in the room; and very different than the lawyers.
I just took a similar personality assessment called DiSC®. It’s also designed to help you work with different personality types. This article is not an endorsement for any particular type of test, rather an encouragement that every few years you take one. A refresher course on why some people get on so well with a person you wish would disappear by clicking your heels a few times.

Understanding your true self and how you are perceived by others is pretty important as a fundraising professional. One of the first things I
tell a new client is that, “This is going to be hard work, if fundraising were easy, everyone would do it successfully.” Next, I tell them that
we’re going to have FUN! Authentic enthusiasm is infectious, and the money follows.
Take a personality assessment. Find out how people perceive you, better understand other temperaments and hone your ability to identify them so you can control the traits which are in conflict with theirs. We know you can’t change people, so managing conflict sits solidly on you. By knowing yourself and changing your behavior, you will do a better job of avoiding conflict when it pops up and raise funds rather than tempers.

Wondering where my personality assessment lands? First you need to know what four personalities types are offered: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness,
and Conscientiousness. I was almost perfectly balanced between two types according to the DiSC®: Conscientiousness and Influence. Here’s the irony,
according to the assessment, Conscientiousness and Influence types should struggle. What does that say about me? While I’m a critical thinker, detailed and orderly (Conscientiousness); I am also prone to persuade others to get involved and ensure results are not only accomplished but exceeded (Influence). Lastly, I’m considerate of others because I don’t like conflict (aha!). The assessment does seem to define what it takes to successfully raise money: one needs to be an authentic, fearless, people person AND the nerd who totally digs research and wins those grants. Cheers to personality assessments!

Fundraising: What’s Trending this Month

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Monitoring fundraising/philanthropy blogs and articles this past month, here’ what’s trending in fundraising:

1. Political Fundraising: Shocker! More specifically, campaign volunteers giving first before asking. Does celebrity endorsement/giving hurt or help? Secret, non-traceable data-mining for the perfect prospective donor.

2. Livestrong: Hum. Good guy or Bad guy? Drops the doping fight (admission of guilt?) and bolsters Livestrong charities (again!). Two things are certain, this guy has a steadfast core group of donors and he made silicon bracelets must-have bling.

3. Should Non Profits Jump on the Social Media Train? Gosh, this is topic trending for 2012 for sure. Current or on-going discussion: small non profits are missing out by not utilizing social media, what social media increases google rankings (kinda varies but pretty much: Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn), How to use Social Media to raise money and so on….

4. Women are more Generous than Men – so pay attention to us! Not certain why this came up so much this month, could be driven by the Chronicles’ recent blog on the topic – those trendsetters!

5. Design: Website, Colors, Image, Slogan, Name….lot’s of branding chatter to increase your nonprofit chatter.

Start Your NonProfit for Sustainability: Part Two Fundraising

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Finally, you are now in business and we can start fundraising for your organization in earnest.  Nonprofits, like most start up businesses, begin with the founder personally (and perhaps your board members) funding the organization until it can be funded with outside sources.  If you have to fund the organization yourself at the beginning, be sure to keep meticulous records of what you have put into the organization and be clear about its intent. For example, whether your funding is a gift or a loan to the organization. Here are some creative, fun and traditional ways to fund a nonprofit organization:

  1. Sell Something.  Collect and sell items on Ebay or Craigslist to raise your start-up capital.
  2. Borrow Against Life Insurance Policies.  If you have a life insurance policy, check to see if it has cash value. Most policies start accumulating cash value after a certain period of time.  When you borrow against your life insurance policy, your policy stays intact as long as you continue paying the premiums when due.  If you die while there’s an outstanding loan against your policy then the face amount is reduced by the loan amount. The nice thing about borrowing against your life insurance policy is that there’s no credit check, or income verification like most other loans. All you have to do is call you insurance company and let them know you want to borrow the cash value.
  3. Borrow from Family and Friends.  Your friends and family are a good source of capital fundraising. This might be one of the most cost effective ways to fundraise for your business—that’s if your friends or family members are not asking for interest on the loan.  You can also protect the spirit of the transaction by putting your agreement in writing and making small payments as soon as you can.
  4. Grants.  Depending on what your business is there are a number of small and large corporations that give away money in the form of grants.  Grants are usually competitive in nature, but once you receive the money repayment is not required or expected.  Grant amounts vary and some may have conditions. Once your grant period is complete, you should mail the grantor a final report clearly indicating what was accomplished with the grant money. This should be done whether or not it is required.
  5. Fundraising Registry Sites.  There are many fundraising sites that are geared toward nonprofits.  Most fundraising sites have fees or a percentage that you are required to pay based on the amount of money you raise.  The fees the site owner may charge could include a monthly user fee, or credit card fee and other nominal charges.  You should check before you start using the site.  Once you’ve set up your fundraising idea on the registry then it is up to your efforts to send your site link to everyone you know and request a donation.  Let them know how their contribution will help you and this will motivate donors. This is a fun way to raise money through your own creativity and watch your money grow on your site. Don’t forget to say “thank you”. Some fundraising registry sites to research are Network for Good and Razoo.
  6. Place a Donate Button on Website.  More and more nonprofits have a “donate” button on their websites.  If your ultimate goal is to fundraise then you need to consider a “donate” button on every page of your website. The internet technology today makes it easier for individuals to donate anytime without leaving the comfort of their home.

If you find a couple or even just one of the above idea’s to make sense and feel it will give your new organization enough cushion to seed your program – I would recommend that you also give some thought to investing in a part-time fundraising professional. Oftentimes the first investment in a fundraising professional is a consultant; which is smart as it most likely will bring in more money sooner rather than later. It is important to note that it may be more beneficial to your organization in the long run to have them on staff. Whichever direction you take, give thoughtful consideration to the level of importance those donor relationships are to offer your organization sustainability over the long-haul.

Start Your Nonprofit for Sustainability – Part One

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Part One of our series in starting a nonprofit will guide you through the steps of formal incorporation. Part Two of our series will provide you with proven ways to raise those first dollars for your nonprofit. Let’s begin.

So you’ve come up with a great idea and a vision to form a nonprofit organization. But where do you start? Here we’ve provided your road map to get a new nonprofit off the ground with sustainability always in mind. The process of forming and incorporating a nonprofit is similar to a corporation, except for a few differences. A nonprofit cannot be formed from any of the following entities: Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Corporation or a Corporation “C” or “S”.

A nonprofit, like a corporation, is a legal entity separate from the founder(s); it can survive the life of its founder(s) and can exist infinitely. Unlike a corporation that is owned by its shareholders, a nonprofit does not have shareholders and is not owned by anyone, but is managed by the board of directors. The other distinct difference between a corporation and a nonprofit is how the income is taxed. Now, let’s take you through the process. 

Step One: Recruit a Board of Directors.  A board should include diverse representation from the following: finance, legal, someone who represents or is considered an expert with regard to your mission, someone who represents the people you exist to serve, local corporate executive(s) – specifically from a company who tends to fund organizations like yours, community/professional volunteer(s) – persons with a network of wealth, and another nonprofit executive. Ensure that you have a job description in place which clearly indicates board member expectations, including all information related to your nonprofit. Expectations should include: governance, financial support, and hands-on leadership. You do not want a board of directors that feels “just showing up” fulfills their duty. Finally, you never stop looking for good board members. Your board should have a set tenure to ensure there is always room for fresh faces, ideas, and connections.

Step Two: Formation Meeting. The formation meeting is a meeting of the initial board of directors to vote on incorporating and pursuing the tax exemption status as well as to establish the purpose of the nonprofit. During this meeting and all subsequent board meetings, make sure to take meeting minutes to show a unanimous agreement by the board before moving forward.

Step Three: Naming Your Nonprofit. Name selection is important because it identifies your purpose and creates your identity and brand. Pick your organization name like you pick your child’s name—repeat it often, pretend to answer the phone using the name to hear if it has a nice ring to it. You can choose almost any name you want for your organization as long as it is not already in use. You can check name availability on your state’s governing website to see if it is available before you file it. Generally this is the secretary of state’s office.

Step Four: Incorporate.  The incorporation process is similar to that of a corporation. The Articles of Incorporation are prepared and filed with the state’s governing body; again, typically the Secretary of State’s office. Some states have sample articles which you can obtain and use in drafting your articles, however, meeting the state’s minimum filing requirement does not necessarily mean you meet the IRS’s requirements. Make sure you properly and carefully draft articles of incorporation that meet the requirements of the IRS if you plan to apply for federal tax exemption; which you will. There is a filing fee associated with this process paid to the state. The fee for the state is usually around $100; the filing fee for your tax-exempt status is around $850. 

Step Five: The Bylaws. You are required to prepare bylaws for your nonprofit. Bylaws are the rules used by the board to govern your nonprofit. Most states do not require a copy of the bylaws to be filed with the state. Regardless of filing requirements, it is a state law requirement that an incorporated entity have written bylaws. The IRS will require a copy of the bylaws to be filed with your application for tax-exemption.

Step Six: Obtain your Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN). Once you’ve completed your paperwork, you will need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) also known as a federal tax ID from the IRS. You can do this quickly and easily online. Don’t forget to print out a copy for your permanent records. You will also need a copy to submit to the IRS with your tax exemption application. To apply for your EIN visit the IRS’s website. It is important to note that simply holding an EIN number does not mean you are approved as a 501(c)3 by your state or the IRS. You can raise money for your organization prior to approval. However, be mindful that more often than not, granting organizations require an approved 501(c)3 and will ask for a copy of your approved status letter.

Step Seven: Application for tax exemption to the IRS. After you have incorporated your nonprofit and obtained your EIN, then you can start your tax exemption application to the IRS using IRS Form 1023. The form can be obtained at the IRS website. This is a comprehensive application. You must carefully read the instructions, learn about the laws of compliance, complete the application, and collect & assemble the attachments. Hiring a professional to help you is highly recommended. If you are attempting to do this on your own, the IRS estimates a few hundred hours are necessary to complete this application. After your initial review, complete the application to the ‘letter’ of their instruction. If your application is not clear or missing important information, it will be sent back to you for more information. If it does not fit within the tax exemption regulations, it will be denied. As mentioned above, there is a fee associated with this application; approximately $850. The fee changes periodically, so be sure to check the filing fee before you submit the application. The IRS is currently taking between 6-8 months to assign the application to an exempt organization specialist. If your application is approved, you will get a “Letter of Determination” that classifies your organization as tax exempt. The nice thing about this long process is that the date of your exemption is retroactive to the date that the IRS first received your application. This means that if you did receive a donation requiring 501(c)3 status prior to your approval, you will ultimately be in compliance with the funding organization and the IRS. Yet, it is not recommended to raise funds externally until you receive your Letter of Determination.

State Tax Exemption. Most states recognize and accept the federal tax exemption “Letter of Determination.” However, there are a handful of states that have additional state requirements to be income tax exempt for state purposes. You will have to consult your state’s governing body to see if there are additional state requirements.

Ongoing Compliance. After you are officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization, there are a handful of things that you must do to maintain compliance with state and federal requirements. Some states require an annual report. Most states require an annual corporate renewal, and some states do not require state income taxes to be filed unless the nonprofit receives a certain threshold income.  As you can see, each state operates differently. The key is to keep yourself informed and up-to-date with the requirements of your specific state. On the federal side, IRS Form 990 or a variation of Form 990 is required to be filed annually. This is the annual tax return form for nonprofit organizations regardless of income. Currently, the law states that if you fail to file Form 990 for three consecutive years, the IRS will automatically revoke your nonprofit status. If this happens, then the nonprofit can no longer receive tax-deductible contributions. Additionally, you will have to reapply for tax exemption again. You have taken the time to build your nonprofit, so take the time to take care of it and remain compliant.

Let’s quickly review your nonprofit incorporation steps: 

  • File the certificate of incorporation
  • Select individuals to serve on the board of directors
  • Develop vision and mission statements
  • Establish bylaws and board policies
  • Obtain an employer identification number (EIN)
  • File for federal tax exemption
  • Follow state and local nonprofit regulations

Next month look for a step by step process to raise those very first dollars for your newly incorporated nonprofit.

Increase Fundraising Revenue with Donor Recognition Cards

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

A memorial gift is a common way of donating to a nonprofit. But think about taking memorial gifts one step further by building a strategic and branded Donor Recognition Card Program that proactively markets and encourages donors to think beyond giving gifts in memory.

Let’s outline what types of special occasions are best to promote and it will detail the Recognition Card Program internal procedures and protocols as professional fundraising consultants we recommend to ensure a well run program. Let’s begin.

The Best Special Occasions to Promote: We’ve all heard the cliché, “What do I give someone who already has everything”? There’s an altruistic answer; begin to brand and promote giving gifts in honor of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Encourage donors who already have what they need to ask guests to give contributions to your organization in lieu of gifts for their new baby & shower, a birthday, their wedding (check out the https://www.idofoundation.org/). Also promote examples of gifts given from Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other special occasion.

Brand Your Program: Making a gift to charity in ones honor provides a meaningful response; and may even create a spark within that person to begin to do the same. As a fundraising professional, whenever given the opportunity to speak to a captive audience about your nonprofit and how they can help; emphasize the many ways to give to your organization through your Donor Recognition Card Program. Brand it as a unique and touching way they may remember or honor someone special. The donor will find that giving to a particular organization in this fashion affects their loved ones in a way they will remember and cherish.

Here’s a genuine example of how giving to a nonprofit through recognition cards encouraged one donor to pay it forward.  A client of our consulting group asked friends and family members to give donations to a nonprofit significant to them instead of giving gifts to them after the birth of their first child. This donor got the idea after his company purchased Holiday Cards they give to clients instead of their traditional box of chocolate covered cherries. Once introduced to the new concept or trend of gifting donations to a nonprofit in lieu of personal gifts for a special occasion, it will prompt some people to donate in a similar manner in the future; building your Recognition Card Program brand and ultimately revenue for your nonprofit.

Your Recognition Card Procedure: Talking about your nonprofit’s Recognition Card Program is just the beginning. As with any specific and branded professional fundraising strategy or program, you must be able to communicate with your donors efficiently and precisely. Your Recognition Card Program is no different. Therefore, establish procedures and protocols to ensure a well thought out system is in place to implement and manage your Recognition Card Program.

If you do not follow through and create that Recognition Card Program system within your organization; it may backfire. Here’s an example of what to avoid. During the memorial gift acknowledgment process, the name of the deceased was erroneously entered as the donor; as a result the donor was entered as the deceased. Consequently, the memorial gift thank you letter was sent to the deceased’s’ family. In turn, the card intended to notify the deceased’s’ family of the memorial gift was sent to our donor. Shortly after, the nonprofit received an unpleasant call from the donor. The criticism was well deserved; after all, a thank you letter was mailed to a dead person; a person very special to the donor. It didn’t matter who made the mistake, the important next step was to learn from the mistake and fix the procedure.

This vignette offers an ideal segue into how to organize a well-run, fool-proof Recognition Card Program.

Recognition Card Program Procedures:

1.      Recognition Card: You must have Recognition/Memorial Card to send to the person the gift was made in honor/memory of (in the matter of a death – a card to send to the family of the deceased). This card should mention who gave the gift, the occasion, whom the gift was given in honor/memory of, and the name and mission of the organization the gift was given to.  DO NOT mention the amount of the gift.

2.      Thank You Letter: Next, the donor, or person who made the gift must receive a thank you letter letting them know the gift was received by your organization, and a card was sent to the person they have honored or the family of the deceased. You should also include wording that reinforces that the amount of the gift was not mentioned, and include the date that the card was sent.

In the event your organization is receiving numerous memorials for one person, you do not want to send the family of the deceased numerous, identical thank you letters. Instead, phone the family of the deceased, express sympathy for their loss, and personally thank them for the memorial designations to your nonprofit. Then explain that you would be mailing them a list of the donors who gave gifts in memory of their family member; the total amount of donations would be listed at the bottom of the report. This is an effort that is genuinely appreciated by the family, because it is personal and they too want to thank the friends/family who gave a gift in memory of their loved one or gifts in honor of the birth of their child and so on.

3.      Timeliness: Ideally, the recognition card will be sent out the same day the gift was received. The staff member in charge of opening mail and/or managing donations should have recognition cards and stamps accessible to them so they may simply hand write, or print out the card and mail to the intended recipient that same day. The thank you letter to the donor can mail upon your normal thank you letter schedule; which should be at a maximum, weekly.

4.      First-Class stamps: Always use first class stamps when mailing the recognition card and thank you letters.

5.      Procedure Training: Your staff must have a formal training on the procedures used to receive, process, and thank recognition card donations. Procedures should include: 1) One person designated to open gifts; 2) One person designated to handle recognition card gifts (can be the same person); 3) A supply of pre-printed cards on hand; 4) One person designated to hand-write on the card who was honored/memorized by the gift and the name of the donor; 5) One person designated to mail the cards on the day the gift arrived; 6) One person designated to enter recognition card gifts into the donor database; and 7) One person designated to mail thank you letters the week the gift arrives. Of course, the entire procedure can be managed by the same person or two person’s working on the same team.

Raise Money Without Spending It: In running a Recognition Card Program cost effectively, you do not need professionally printed cards/brochures.  You can simply use blank note cards and print your organizations’ logo on the front. The inside of the card can also be printed with appropriate text. This is what you will need:

·         Blank Note Cards: Purchase or ask for donated cards from a discount retailer or paper wholesaler.

 ·         Laser Printer or Ink-jet Printer: Most printers have excellent print quality. It’s recommended to use black and white printing for the best finished product.

 ·         Agency Logo: Ensure you have your agency logo available in JPEG format. If you don’t have your agency logo, you will need to contact the designer of the logo and ask them to email it to you in JPEG format.  If you don’t have access to the designer; scan your agency logo. Scanner’s typically scan an image as a PDF. Take that PDF of your logo and then “save as” a JPEG format. If your version of Acrobat Adobe will not allow you to ‘save as’; find a volunteer or friend who has a purchased version of Acrobat 8 or higher so you may get your logo in JPEG format.

It may seem much attention is being made to having your logo in JPEG format; yet, if you are not already aware, you will find having the availability of your agency logo will save printing costs in many areas.

Begin to discuss the building and branding of a Donor Recognition Card Program within your nonprofit as a permanent and growing fundraising strategy which will increase your revenue far beyond your expectations. The program works, it’s easy to implement and most importantly you will see increased revenue within one year.

Raise More Money with Gift Envelopes

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

No matter your organizations’ size or budget, every nonprofit or professional fundraising consultant must have or recommend using gift envelopes in order for donors to send in their contribution(s). There are times to use postage-paid envelopes (Business Reply Envelopes or BRE’s), and there are times to use regular gift envelopes. Even so, no matter the type of gift envelope, I’ll tell you how to use them and immediately raise more money for your nonprofit.

As a fundraising consultant and trainer, I always emphasize how you can raise more money with gift envelopes simply by placing them in every piece of literature that goes out of your organization and into your community. This includes your annual report, newsletters, press kits, speaker’s bureau literature, agency brochures, invitations, fundraising letters, and thank-you letters. Yes, as an annual fund expert, I make sure all non profits fully understand the importance of placing reply envelopes into your letters which thank donors for their donation.

Let’s talk a bit about placing envelopes in your thank-you letters. In working with and training board members, there’s usually some resistance in adding this strategy to your fundraising plan. Many feel it’s greedy, sends a poor message and may even put you at risk of losing donors. I’ve worked with non profits of all sizes for over twenty years implementing this strategy, and I can tell you it’s not true. You will increase the amount of money you raise simply by incorporating the abundant use of reply envelopes into your fundraising strategy. Donors are more likely to view a gift envelope as a convenience. If you send out a significant amount of thank-you letters, you will begin to raise more money almost immediately.

This next gift envelope fundraising tactic may blow your mind; please trust that it works, the results Wagner Fundraising has tracked over the years speak for themselves. Many fundraising professionals understand that it’s important for a direct-mail program to send something to donors every month. As mentioned earlier, these monthly mailings are newsletters, fundraising letters, an annual report, open house invitation, and seasonal recognition opportunities; like Mother’s Day and holidays.

In preparing your direct mail annual calendar, you may find that there are a couple of months out of the year where you don’t have anything to mail to your donors. Test this tactic; prepare your direct-mail piece using your gift envelope as the ONLY insert. Again, during those two months when you don’t have anything of significance to send to your donors, place a gift envelope inside your mailing envelope and send using regular or bulk mail depending on the size of your mailing list. If you don’t believe it works, go to Wagner Fundraising’s website at wagnerfundraising.com and read endorsements from my workshop attendee’s and read how this tactic helped their giving increase.

Here are real statistics, from Wagner Fundraising Groups’ clients when using gift envelopes to raise more     money. A mailing was sent to 2,200 donors who gave twice or more in previous years. This group was defined due to their trend in sending more than one gift annually to that organization. This first “Envelope within an Envelope” mailing, as they called it, raised $14,566.50 and received two calls wondering where the letter was. In fact, this direct-mail tactic worked so well that they permanently added the “Envelope within an Envelope” mailing to their annual development strategy, and you should too.

An interesting finding in beginning to place gift envelopes in all organizational mailings is that other direct-mail campaigns do not suffer. You will understand and reap the benefits of witnessing that particular donors will give every time you sent them an envelope, regardless of the insert. When you begin to use gift envelopes in all of your mailings, you will raise more money, and you will realize the additional revenue within a year.

Build Your Non Profit Brand in Just Seven Days!

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

For many non profits, marketing gets no respect, let alone time dedicated to build a brand. So if you’re entering the New Year fed up with the way your organization is portrayed or perceived by the public, or you’ve inherited an internal culture that implies your mission will sell itself, I’ve created the “Brand on a Budget” just for you! First, you must pay attention to my disclaimer: Brand on a Budget in Just Seven Days works best for my friends working hard in the small development shop.

You see, in order for this process to work, the buck must stop with you. Eliminate decisions made by committee; if you don’t, beware – you’ll get bogged down with egos, copy quibbling, and distractions a‘la mode.  Your seven-day focus is to efficiently create a Brand Positioning Statement that is effective, timely, fluid and precisely anchors what you can do for others.

WHAT IS A BRAND? A brand is an accumulation of assumptions about your organization disseminated to the public which now defines your organization for better or worse. These assumptions are formed by everything you’ve communicated, acted on, and/or interacted with. For example, when an interested party asks a chance question about your organization, the knee-jerk response from bystanders may be primarily based on a feeling rather than fact.  What does this mean? It means that your reputation, identity, and good work are wrapped up in your brand. GuideStar pulled it together best by saying, “Essentially, your brand is the reputation you have for delivering on your promise.” (Levy, 2011) . What we will do today is put you in control of your brand and its authenticity in a manner that is sustainable.

PREPARATION: This blog isn’t meant for you to read and then immediately launch into Day One of your Brand on a Budget adventure. You need to prepare. And you have two to three weeks for this preparation phase. This is what you to do to prepare for Building Your Brand in Seven Days:

  1. Block off your schedule for the seven day branding crusade; select a day, time, location and invite a minimum of 6 attendees for a full day strategy meeting (described below in Day One).
  2. Research your competitors. It’s like this: before you can stand out in a crowd, you must know what crowd you’re standing in.  In order for your brand to be effective, you need to articulate your brand in a way that is unique and easily explains how you differ from others or focuses on an area where you clearly respond to the cause in a better manner. As a part of your fact-finding, get a handle on what you think they’re doing right, and what you feel they’re doing wrong or could do better for their brand. This will arm you with the “idea starters” you need during your Day One brainstorming session to arrive at your goal of creating your organization’s Branding Position Statement.
  3. Create and email a perception survey to your stakeholders, family and friends. Because you also want feedback from those who know of your organization but are not directly involved. Ask specific questions like: When you think of [your organization], what comes to mind first? Describe what [your organization] does. Are there other organizations that come to mind when thinking about [your mission]? How do you feel we are different from other similar organizations? For additional resources on creating your perception survey, check out QuestionPro, they offer a one month free trial and will lead you through the development of your survey questions based on the outcome you are seeking. They will also submit the survey and analyze the answers. You can also use free services like Survey Monkey, Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, and Vertical Response to conduct your online survey. Each will email the survey and allow you to see how many people opened the email, how many email addresses bounce back, and of course how many responded and what those responses were. Use those responses as your “idea starters” on Day One.
  4. Retain a volunteer professional designer; you will need them on Day One and Two. If there isn’t a clear choice for a professional volunteer designer (who is brilliantly creative) search for well-trained designers by contacting your local design school and community college. You should also look into online volunteer banks like Volunteers Grassroots, Corporation for National & Community Service, World Volunteer Web, or VolunteerMatch.

DAY ONE – BRAINSTORMING: It’s Not about You! Now that you’ve done your homework and you are surrounded by the five best minds you could find, you have this one day to create your brand. During this day you have one objective. That objective is to create and define a  Brand Positioning Statement that elicits a specific emotion within people so powerful they remember and act on it. Once you are armed with this, everything else falls into place. Awareness. Credibility. FUNDING.

Before I guide you through the brainstorming process, I will tell you what your brand shouldn’t be. It is not your logo, tagline or color scheme. It shouldn’t be about you. Your brand mustn’t reflect what you think you need to tell people; it must be what people NEED or EXPECT from you. 

Here’s an example: You’re a K-8 Spanish immersion charter school. You believe kids should learn Spanish at an early age. But what about distinguishing your school as a place dedicated to helping children become informed and interconnected global citizens?  Now, this resonates with me because I know it will benefit my son and give him an advantage when he enters middle school and beyond. But guess what? This institution preparing our children to live and work globally also resonates with international companies with offices in Latin America; global companies with foundations who give hundreds of millions away each year. They will invest in a school dedicated to bringing up their future workforce.

Ok, let’s get this brainstorming bash started. Here’s a zippy framework for your day.

  1. Write your objective. Distribute it to attendees, and post it grandly for all to see during the session. Your example objective: Create and define a brand that elicits a specific emotion within people so powerful they remember and act on it.
  2. Set a time limit, up to 4 hours.
  3. Capture all ideas as they flow from the group and specifically follow this process:
  • Hand out a stack of note cards
  • Bring up one Idea Starter (see below) and ask each participant to write down four (4) ideas per starter on one note card, then hand the card in and so on.

Idea Starters are the outcome of your research. Use present tense when presenting the category or goal for discussion[1], for example:

Category: Emotion Evoked

  • We are warm and nurturing (Red Cross)
  • We are nonjudgmental (Planned Parenthood)
  • We are Aggressive and Energetic (DAP – Domestic Abuse Project)

Category: Perception Evoked

  • We are Mature (AARP)
  • We are Youthful (Tree House)
  • We are Activists (PETA)
  • We are a Service Organization (Catholic Charities)

Category: Target Market Appeal

  • We appeal to East African Immigrants (American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa)
  • We appeal to parents of children with a life-threatening illness (Ronald McDonald House)

Now address your brand goal by asking participants to provide at least 4 answers on how to accomplish the goal, and then prioritize each goal. Then determine which goal is your priority and how to accomplish it.

Goal:     Our brand engages a sense of community not only externally, but inside our organization as well (Nike)

Goal:     Our brand motivates groups of strangers to come together because they feel a shared experience or passion (Susan B. Komen)

Goal:     Our brand is our lighthouse – guiding and driving all messages, strategies and identifiers back home (Target)

Goal:     Our brand is clear and simple (Geek Squad)

   Goal:     Our brand is focused and will endure (Coke) 

4.  Display ideas by category on white sheets of paper around the room – place slash marks next to similar ideas.  Take the two most popular ideas for each category and as a group agree on one idea per category.

5.  Take the top idea per category. You may feel that you fit many of these profiles, but choose the one(s) you want to come through the strongest in your brand. Your brainstorming session is now adjourned.

6.  You and perhaps one board member take those top ideas and define your “Brand Positioning Statement” which I promise will match your brand objective.

If you feel you need a bit more guidance on using your top ideas to create the brand, I found brandeo.com to be very helpful. They say there are four elements, or components, of a positioning statement (Simons, 2010):

  1. Target Audience – the attitudinal and demographic description of the core prospect to whom the brand is intended to appeal; the group of customers that most closely represents the brand’s most fervent users.
  2. Frame of Reference – the category in which the brand competes; the context that gives the brand relevance to the customer.
  3. Benefit/Point of Difference – the most compelling and motivating benefit that the brand can own in the hearts and minds of its target audience relative to the competition.
  4. Reason to Believe – the most convincing proof that the brand delivers what it promises.

Template for a Positioning Statement:
For (target audience), (brand name) is the (frame of reference) that delivers (benefit/point of difference) because only (brand name) is (reason to believe).

My Brand Positioning Statement for the Spanish immersion charter school:  “For parents who want their children to have the added benefit of bilingualism, Spanish Immersion Academy[1] is the Spanish education cultural  gateway that delivers an added advantage for young minds as they enter middle school and beyond because only Spanish Immersion Academy is firmly positioned to groom our future decision-makers to live and work in an interconnected world and economy.”

Now that you’ve defined your  Brand Positioning Statement, what do you want to accomplish with it and how will you measure those accomplishments? According to brandeo.com the criteria for evaluation follows (Simons, 2010):

  1.  Is it memorable, motivating and focused to the core prospect?
  2. Does it provide a clear, distinctive and meaningful picture of the brand that differentiates it from the competition?
  3. Can the brand own it?
  4. Is it credible and believable?
  5. Does it enable growth?
  6. Does it serve as a filter for brand decision making?

DAY TWOBUILD YOUR BRAND BRIDGE!  Now that you’ve defined your organization’s  Brand Positioning Statement, you need to give it a face. That face is your organization logo and tag line. And while the logo, tag and colors you choose are not your brand – they do bring the brand experience full circle and serve as expressions of your brand that communicate it to your core prospect. It’s possible your current logo and tag line remain relevant even with a new brand. When possible, build on the brand equity you’ve already developed. It’s possible to update your look while still retaining recognizable hints.

Creating or renewing your logo doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, the single most important element of a logo is oftentimes your organization’s name or acronym of your name, combined with a color scheme that fits your brand.  Your volunteer designer was a participant in the brainstorming session and has a handle on an appropriate font, color(s), and design elements which augment your brand. The tagline is your mission sound bite. A good tagline doesn’t just tell people what you do in a few short words – it instantly evokes a feeling that is consistent with your brand. These elements must resonate, poised for recall.  If your brand is memorable, it will last a long time.

Recently the YMCA of the USA was ranked the #1 nonprofit brand by Cone Nonprofit Power Brand 100 (DaSilva, 2009) report. It makes sense, all you say is “The Y,” or see The Y. And getting back to my point about tag, logo and color; I didn’t realize until this blog that the Y changed its color “Y” from Red. Of course there is a reason for the new assortment of color s and that creates various new impressions related to their brand, yet, by keeping their logo, “The Y”, their brand equity was not tied to the color of their logo whatsoever.

In everything you do on Day One and Day Two, remember that your brand is your bridge to the public’s head, heart and ultimately hands, either by their gifts of time, items, funds, or all three. Your brand has to be versatile and meaningful for everyone it speaks to, including those who support your work, and those who benefit from it.

DAY THREE – GET ON THE SAME PAGE: Part I, Organizational Training. During the Preparation Phase, schedule a mandatory 1 – 2 hour staff meeting for Day Three. If your entire staff didn’t participate in the brainstorming session or some board members couldn’t make it, this time will be blocked off on their schedule for you to announce your new  Brand Positioning Statement and the detailed process (including those involved in the process). It’s important to illustrate the brainstorming process you used to arrive at the new brand. You need organizational buy-in. Next, train your staff and key volunteers on your new brand and how it’s to be used. Ensure that every person working or volunteering for your organization has this information, or that it’s accessible to them. 

I like to invest in a supply of 2 GB flash drives (priced between $1 – $5) to save all your branded materials on and distribute to staff and board for use. It’s often helpful to create key messages and talking points for the organization. Include those on the flash drive and strongly emphasize the importance of using the brand consistently across departments.

Many organizations feel the need to create a dense and rarely read brand style guide. I don’t believe in them. Brands are no longer static. Today they’re fluid, flexible and nonlinear (Greenberg, 2008). In order to stay on track with your brand and organization identity you need to revisit it annually to ensure your message remains relevant – if not, adjust. This doesn’t mean you change your logo (as we know, that isn’t your brand), you subtly adjust your brand messaging.

This is a fast paced society – an on-line environment is in a constant state of “real time” change. It could be prompted by a current event, negative publicity, or economy shift. You must position yourself to evolve as our world evolves. Change is hard; one can make it an easier transition if they are prepared to remain fluid, flexible and open to the likelihood of change whenever needed.

Next, review all organizational materials to ensure brand application, bringing it to life and use as soon as possible. Review your letterhead, business cards, website, newsletter, brochures, flyers, signage and more. Then assign a watch dog to ensure that the integrity of your brand and messaging is maintained.

DAY FOURTRAIN YOUR AMBASSADORS TO BECOME STORY TELLERS: Part Two, Organizational Training: Everyone associated with your organization has a life outside of it. I train my nonprofit clients to use all opportunities available to them in their daily lives to become ambassadors of the organization. What you do or what you’re involved in comes up as a topic of conversation. Whether you are at your child’s soccer game, your book club, at dinner with friends, or in a grocery line, prepare your ambassadors to acknowledge these opportunities and then use them to tell your organization’s story, giving your new brand legs. This is where talking points become useful.

Storytelling remains your single most powerful communications tool in verbally reinforcing your brand identity because it innately creates an emotional connection between you and the person you are speaking with which can then be reinforced using social media.

Your story must be concise, clear and compelling.  Begin by writing out the story you tell donors, from your perspective. What motivated you to get involved, what motivates you to stay, the good that you have witnessed and how it made you feel. Keep it short and share with your fellow storytellers.  If the story is confusing and poorly conveyed, the intended audience will dismiss it in a matter of seconds. However, if it’s engaging and touches the heart, he or she will likely become entranced and moved to use their hands – either by volunteering, giving stuff, money or all three. Prepare your internal family to become enticing storytellers as they move through their day.

Here is an example of the key message and talking points to provide your ambassadors to use in creating their personal story and emotional appeal:

Key Message: This is a description of how you are delivering on your promise.  “Spanish Immersion Academy offers parents of elementary-age children the opportunity to give them a bilingual education which prepares their children to live and work in our increasingly interconnected world.”

Talking Points: Describe the unique benefits of your organization, or a unique way the organization provided an advantage to you or a member of your family.

  • Full Spanish Immersion (from the moment dropped off, to the moment picked up, students speak Spanish)
  • A maximum of 18 children per classroom
  • Offers advanced classes and classes for learning disabilities, along with extracurriculars like band, art, gym, and music
  • A close-knit community – every teacher not only knows my child’s name, they know my name
  • While at work with me, my 5th grader overheard a gentleman ask for directions to the elevator in Spanish. My child answered the question and had a fluent conversation with him. Lyndon was beaming with pride afterwards. It was the first time he fully understood what his Spanish education will mean for his future.

DAY FIVE – TAKE IT GLOBAL! By Day Five you’ve defined your brand: 1) The organization is differentiated from others and can authentically deliver on its promise to fulfill the mission. 2) The logo and tagline enhance your brand by instantly evoking a consistent emotion or feeling. 3) Your key message and talking points are defined and the organizational family will convey your story in a manner which inspires involvement.

Now you’re ready to use technology to take the brand online! Believe it or not, there are people out there actively seeking brands that are right for them. In your case, they are seeking a nonprofit organization brand that matches their personal value system. Furthermore, they are actively seeking a nonprofit brand because they are ready to dig in and help. This typically happens in the New Year, as people solidify their New Year’s resolutions or goals.

It could be my industry or the fact that the information age is “nearly” as old as I am, but the fact is that if something piques my interest – a phrase, nameorganization, association, topic –  I Google it. Depending on what bubbles-up – website, Facebook page, LinkedIn or Twitter account – I check in to find out more. If what I find strikes a chord, I “share” it.

 

Honestly, if you’re not online with your brand, you don’t exist. You certainly aren’t fully respected by your peers, nor will they believe you can deliver on your promise to fulfill your mission. Let me imprint the importance of creating your online home in a manner that you will retain beyond this reading. Remember what I said earlier? You must be poised to evolve as the world around you evolves. And today an individual’s first interaction with a brand is commonly first witnessed through digital technology. If you ignore the place of social marketing in today’s world, your brand will remain invisible.

Chris Garrett of chrisg.com recommends that if you want to build your online brand, you have to know how all your activities work together. You need consistency and congruency. Each part of the social media puzzle builds into a picture people have of you; how they imagine you to be relates to how you really are to the degree you get this stuff right (Garrett, 2008).  Chris also suggests that the best way to approach social media is to choose your venues and connect them in some way to your blog. I agree, because that’s what I do. My blog is the truest representation of my company and its brand. Yours should be too. All our best stuff originates and is archived in this place. When I Google you, you want me to land on your blog or your website which clearly links to your blog.

DAY SIXCOLLABORATE FOR SUSTAINABILITY! If all is done well, your most dynamic donors are inspired to collaborate or form a solid partnership with your organization because they are invested in its success and sustainability. You have successfully attracted newcomers, increased interest in current donors and  recovered lapsed donors into more active participants, all because you now express who you are in a way that builds your close-knit community of donors, volunteers and community partners.

Now that you are out there standing tall, proud and true to who you really are – you’ve attracted new attention, gained renewed respect – it’s important to acknowledge your hard work and sustain your newly found presence by sharing blog-posts, event announcements, and newsworthy articles on a monthly basis. In January 2011, my blog topic was how to Build an On-Board Strategy. This is what I’m asking you to address and create on Day Six. Ensure you are fully prepared to retain and grow the new and renewed interest you have now created within your organization. Here are the six steps I provided in order to build your on-board strategy: 1) Email quarterly newsletters, 2) Send out regular press releases and press clippings, 3) Add your website, Facebook Page, Twitter ID and current blog topic to your email signature, 4) Host an open house, 5) Solicit letters of endorsement from donors, city officials, celebrities, etc. and place them on your website and social media sites, 6) Meet with new donors or renewed donors in person, not to ask for a gift, but to solicit feedback on any aspect of your organization, mission, or brand.

DAY SEVEN – MAKE SURE IT WORKS! The last seven days have been trying, I’m sure. It’s important that what you’ve created is working. In all you do, you must evaluate and track your outcomes. There are free tools to track your online success such as Google Alerts. Simply choose keywords associated with your organization and Google will send a link to your email with any online news that has this keyword. It lets you know who is writing about you or reprinting articles or blogs you have posted online. With free analytics, you can also track if your renewed brand and online presence is driving more traffic to your website. Again there are free tools through Google called Google Analytics. You can also use the free tool Clicky Web Analytics. Both are easy to understand and will show you how many people found your site, the total number of visits, bounces (people who leave the site without going past the first page) and so much more.

Google Analytics will let you know where your website traffic is coming from (Arkansas, Amsterdam, Uganda), who it is (male/female), and their IP address. Using Google Analytics, I recognized that many international NGOs where visiting my website and staying. I began to market directly to NGOs. As a result, my international business went up by almost 40%.

In closing, developing a strong brand is hard work; it takes a lot of time and a commitment to giving your organization a recognizable image in the community. But you wouldn’t be doing it if you didn’t realize how important that is to every single aspect of a nonprofit’s activities, from bringing in clients, to fundraising, to collaborating with partners, to getting great board members and volunteers on your side. The hard work a good brand will do for you is well worth the effort. Ultimately, it’s all about building brand equity and the amount of money a donor will give just because it’s your brand.


[1] Fictitious name



[1] In parenthesis I have place a nonprofit which I feel fits this brand

Five Simple Steps to Evaluating Your Program

Monday, January 2nd, 2012

By Jenelle Montoya and contributing author Marcie L. Wagner

January 2012

For a startup nonprofit, the idea of “program evaluation” can be overwhelming, and yet funders are increasingly asking grantees to provide not only numbers served, but demographic information and outcomes-based information. As more nonprofits compete for a reduced funding pool, it’s important that they know and understand the difference their investment made in your ability to carry out the organizational mission. Let’s say your mission is to provide a safe place for youth.  Sure, you may have given Jim a place to sleep for the night, but how did that positively impact his life and his future? What did you do for Jim to prevent him from having to use your services in the future? How many “Jim’s” did you help in 2011? How many did you turn away? What are their ages? Where did they come from? Why did they come? How many are high school drop outs? How many have their GED? How many are immigrants? And so on….

The secret to getting started is to keep program evaluation simple and include board members, staff, and anyone else involved in data collection and use. It’s easy to end up with “analysis paralysis” if you try to do too much too soon. Realize that program evaluation is a process, not an event. It can take many months to implement, and years to refine. What’s important is that you get started now. If you receive grant funding, you really have no choice. We are here to help!

STEP ONE: Decide What You Will Measure. First you need to know what outcomes your funders want at year’s end. Second, you must track the information your organization’s leadership needs in order to make knowledgeable decisions that either impact the course of your organization’s future or ensure your organization is tracking with your strategic plan (if you have one). This process can be as simple as reviewing different reports required by existing funders and the grant guidelines of your prospects. Sit down with your board president or create an ad-hoc Program Evaluation committee to take on the task. There are several levels of knowledge you might need when it comes to collecting program data:

  • ·         Data including age, residence, income, race, ethnicity (demographics)
  • ·         Numbers served, goods distributed, or other units of service you define (outputs)
  • ·         The impact of your services on the lives of your clients (outcomes)

Demographic data is easy to collect. It can be as simple as handing each client a form to fill out. If confidentiality is important, your form doesn’t require a name.  In order to count numbers served or units of service, staff must be trained to record the people they serve each day and the specific activities they engage in with the client.

Measuring the impact your services make on clients is a bit difficult, but it can be the most valuable and rewarding data you collect.  If you decide to measure impact, it will benefit you to explore creating a logic model. A logic model illustrates the relationships between inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and goals that create the structure and flow of your organization. Briefly, inputs are the resources that go into making your program activities possible, such as technology, training, people and funding. The activities you undertake as part of your program are what you will do to accomplish your goals. Outputs are the product of your program, as in the number of people served or the number of items distributed or made. Finally, outcomes are the impact of your work on those you serve, or the change affected in their lives. Logic models are a complex topic and there are many different approaches that can be taken to developing one for your program. Resources are available for assistance in creating a logic model, including the United Way of America’s book “Measuring Program Outcomes,” which is available at www.unitedwaystore.com for a mere $5. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has also created a more complex logic model guide which can be downloaded free from their Knowledge Center at www.wkkf.org.

Finally, set quantitative goals around the items you’ve decided to measure. If you exclusively measure demographics, create a goal that 80% of clients served are classified homeless by federal definition, which helps you measure the impact of organizational outreach, or marketing and advocacy work. If you measure numbers served or other units of service, your goal could be to provide 1,000 children with shoes in a 12-month period, or provide 800 hours of community outreach to areas with high youth crime rates. An example of an outcome to measure impact would be that 75% of clients are able to provide for their food and shelter needs upon exit from your program, or that 60% of individuals receiving parenting education report a greater sense of harmony and wellbeing in their households after they complete a course.

STEP TWO: Determine the Tools You Will Need. Assess your current evaluation tools, such as client intake forms or reporting already required by current funders, refining what you’re already doing and preventing duplication. The tools you need and the cost of collecting data depends on what you’ve decided to measure and the complexity of your plan. If you’ve decided to collect demographic data, you can use current intake forms by including questions which add depth. If you collect numbers served or units of service involve your staff in deciding how to do it efficiently. Use simple ticker sheets compiled by hand, or use electronic spreadsheets with embedded formulas to automatically tabulate numbers. Google Docs offers a free way to create electronic forms in an online database which allows you to distribute to a number of users via email. The software automatically compiles the numbers submitted on the forms into a single spreadsheet which you can use for reporting. A more costly option is to purchase database management software.  There are several companies offering tailor-made solutions.

When collecting outcome-based data to measure impact, it can be difficult to determine the best method. Let’s go back to Jim. After providing Jim with a place to sleep for the night, your outcome is to link him with community resources and increase his knowledge and utilization of such services, and to ensure he follows through and uses your referrals. In order to accurately measure the outcome, you could provide him with an exit survey allowing him to rate your services and the likelihood that he will follow through with the referrals on a numerical scale. Let’s say Jim does return; during the intake rate his level of improvement on a scale from 1 to 5 since his last visit. At year-end calculate how many clients returned once, twice, or never. If you come up with a logical way of quantifying this data, you can easily record it in a database and tabulate it. Remember that you are the expert when it comes to your work and the data collection methods most applicable and reasonable for your particular service(s).

STEP THREE: Assign Responsibility. When possible, put this responsibility in the appropriate staff person(s) job description. When you designate a person to manage the data collection process, including compilation and reporting, you are 90% on your way to success. Make sure you choose someone who has the skills and understands the value in evaluation, and then provide them with the tools and training. In our hypothetical “safe place for youth” scenario, it makes sense to designate staff in charge of client intake and discharge to collect and manage data collection. If data collection is new to your organization and the responsibility was not in a job description upon hire, you may encounter resistance from program staff to take on additional tasks.  We suggest you don’t act flip about adding to their already long list of responsibilities Instead, introduce data collection in the form of a PowerPoint presentation to the entire staff. Begin with your logic model, as it will best convey that program evaluation requires everyone’s full support and assistance. It will also clearly explain who is best positioned to collect the data: program staff. Place a quantitative value on the importance of data collection and how it will directly and positively impact their job and their work with clients by, for instance, sharing the amount of support received from funders who require the data. Well done evaluation opens the door to new and increased funding; it gathers emotional and financial support from your community as you tell your story through qualified and quantified data which proves you’re making a difference.  

STEP FOUR: Implement. You’re ready to implement the project evaluation plan once you’ve decided what to measure, obtained and prepared the necessary tools, and determined who is responsible. Implementation should begin by creating a clear and concise procedure manual. This manual will define those responsible, the timing and frequency of data collection, and when and how often reports are produced and reviewed. It will also serve as an invaluable resource for training new staff. Your designated data manager(s) must be vigilant in the beginning, checking in on staff to ensure they follow the procedure. In an effort to make your oversight seem less invasive, solicit suggestions on how the system is working and whether there are ways to improve the system and make it more efficient. Ask all staff responsible to track the amount of time data collection is requiring and watch closely to see if the time allotted begins to wane as they grow accustomed to the process. When you secure new funding, double check your current data collection to ensure your existing system will provide the evaluation data they require; if not, implement their unique specifications as seamlessly as possible and update the staff, forms and procedure manual.

STEP FIVE: Utilize your Data. This is the step where many nonprofits tend to fall short; conversely it can be where the process of collecting data and evaluating comes full circle via new, renewed or upgraded gifts.  

Most likely your organization has a strategic plan. Every decision your board makes should relate directly to that plan. A strategic plan primarily takes into account all things related to successfully and sustainably carrying out your mission over the long haul.  This information boils down to finance and program impact to make certain your organization or program is carrying out its mission. You feed your board this information as a result of successful data collection. If your data reveals problems or issues, leadership can make informed decisions and act accordingly. If your data reflects positive results, send out a press release and publicize your successful outcomes in your newsletter(s), annual report, and website.

All donors (whether corporate, foundation or individual) want and need to know their return on investment. Their return on investment can be given qualitatively through client testimonials, and quantitatively by showing impact in numbers. For example, maybe you’ve helped 1,000 people increase their knowledge of how to gain employment by 80%. That’s something to celebrate!

A program evaluation system is beneficial to nonprofits on many levels.  Developing the system requires organizational investment, but it doesn’t have to be cumbersome or costly. Some orga­nizations may feel they can’t afford to spare any amount of time for such a project. We say organizations can’t afford to ignore such a project. If nonprofits want to survive and thrive, they must acknowledge their duty to supporters and clients by measuring the impact (or lack of impact) of their mission.