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Posts Tagged ‘ Marcie Wagner ’

SMALL NON PROFIT? 10 Steps to Build your Fundraising Infrastructure

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

SMALL NON PROFIT? 10 Steps to Build your Fundraising Infrastructure


You do not need a state of the art fundraising software program – but you need something. Inexpensive programs to consider are: Telosa Exceed! Basic, eTapestry, DonorPerfect Online, Sage Fundaising 50 (formerly Paradigm).

Visit my website at www.wagnerfundraising.com/resources.html to download a well done spreadsheet with pros, cons, features and cost of the most common software programs. Fundraising software allows you to keep track of all your constituents. You have the ability to generate correspondence (thank you letters, pledge reminders, e-blasts). Whatever system you use, it must allow you to track all “personal interactions” between you and your stakeholders. You need the ability to update information easily, and generate lists of constituents by affiliation (dignitaries, staff, current donors, community groups, donors giving at a certain level or frequency). As a small non profit you require an easy to use program which can produce “canned” reports; the ability to run a query is nice, but requires some skill to get it right. The software purchase must come with technical support. If there is a glitch, tech support is priceless.

Upon the purchase of your software program, proper training is essential. Perhaps more importantly, one person should be responsible for entering data. This responsibility cannot be delegated to various volunteers; there is too much room for data entry error and lack of adequate training. Without reliable data entered into the system, into the right fields, all ultimate report generation is worthless.


It is rare to find a fundraising software program which integrates accounting/bookkeeping software. In fact most new non profits use Quick Books, or the Treasurer of your Board is responsible for keeping the books for ultimate IRS reporting.

Reconciling your fundraising software gifts or pledges with accounting is essential for two main reasons. First, it will let you know immediately if you are entering data incorrectly or have missed a contribution. You see, when you reconcile with a bank statement you KNOW that information is correct. Second, when you make your fundraising report to your Board you want your fundraising numbers for the month to jive with the numbers Accounting will be presenting. Otherwise, it’s an embarrassment and you will need to justify the discrepancy.



Yes, you have so many other things to do, yet without two specific procedures you will be bruised from kicking yourself. Here’s why.

First, you should have a fundraising procedure on how donations are handled; and I am talking about from the moment the postman brings in your mail to the point of the check being deposited. It’s an easy procedure to put into place. The person who gets the mail should sort what looks like a donation and the procedure will explicitly state they are not authorized to open that envelope. This person will take the unopened donation envelopes to accounting/bookkeeping. Once in the hands of the bookkeeper, the gift is opened, check is endorsed and two copies made. One copy for the person managing the fundraising software for gift entry and the second copy for accounting files. This way you only have ONE person handling the “cash”. If you are audited, they will hold you in high regard for having this procedure in place.

Second, you need a procedure for entering information into the fundraising database, including frequency of sending thank you letters. This procedure will include 1) who receives copies of checks,  2) who is responsible for gift entry, 3) how to enter specific information into the database (snag this information from your training manual and, 4) to reconcile your data with accounting each month.

What I have described above is a very simplified version of your procedures; it should  be much more detailed. Each step by step move must be documented should the person who is responsible leave. It would be a luxury to hire a professional fundraising consultant to assess your systems and write these protocols and it would be money well spent.


This policy will be a part of your data entry procedures manual, as many organizations will undoubtedly receive gifts made inkind. You need to define what is and what isn’t considered an “inkind” gift. An inkind gift that is needed by your organization is considered budget relief, because the item(s) was budgeted; meaning you would have had to purchase it had it not been donated. When you receive an inkind gift that is budget relief, you must have inkind listed as one of the methods of how the gift came to you. In your fundraising database it will be part of the menu that allows you to select if it was given by Visa, Cash, Stock, Inkind. You select inkind, because the gift is treated like cash, so the donor must provide you with the market value of that inkind gift.

If you receive an inkind gift that is not budgeted, that’s great if you can use it; however it is tracked differently, it would be tracked in the comments or other similar section of the donors profile in your database – but it does not appear in that donor profile as a gift. Having said this, you need to think about how to track these as they should receive acknowledgment as well, even though it is not budget relief.


Many organizations are made aware of grants available that seem to fit the mission. If a prospective grant is not clearly related to your mission, but would be nice to have; give it some thought and read the fine print. Oftentimes there are reporting requirements attached to the grant and it generates more work for an already overworked staff.

Here is an example: An organization was made aware of a grant for Canopy’s that provide shade for playgrounds. For a school it sounds great, right? However the grant required the school to create a curriculum on “protecting children from the sun or the potential for skin cancer”. They also required one person to manage the program. This curriculum was not part of the school’s mission or current curriculum, nor did they have staff available to manage the program. If the school were to have accepted the grant it would be called, in my words, “chasing the money”.

Make sure that each grant written and received fits your mission and supports your established programs. You want all money received to be directly attached to what your budget requires in order to hit your year-end goal.


When creating your website – seeing is believing. You should consider:

a. Your Mission is Clear: It should take only a couple of seconds for one to arrive at your site and know your mission.  People will expect to find the answers to their questions on  your website.

b. Be Donor-Friendly: Make it simple for people to donate. Your homepage should include one or more direct links to your donation page and they must be prominent.

c. Be Volunteer-Friendly: Oftentimes volunteers are as valuable as contributors. Create a link   or tab called Volunteers or How I Can Help. This will list volunteer opportunities and  information on how to begin the volunteer process. Always include the name, phone and email   of the person to contact directly if they want to help in anyway.

d. Be Press-Friendly: Include a link on your homepage for Media. This link takes them directly to your press kit: Include press-ready photos, pre-approved quotes by your organization’s representatives, a synopsis of your goals and how you’re accomplishing them, and a calendar of your activities. Also, provide the name, email, and direct phone number of anyone approved to represent your company. Finally, include any press coverage you’ve received on this page.

e. Add a Blog (only if you have time to keep up with it): A blog will increase your search engine ranking as well as keep visitors up to date on the goings on of your organization.  Link your blog to others of similar topic and interest; again, it will increase search visibility.

f. Include a Resources Section:  Link your site to others of similar value. It’s not a  competition,  it’s giving your visitors a great experience and sets you up as the place to go for information on  your specific mission.

g. Keep Your Content the Focus: Your website should raise money, encourage volunteers, and educate the public. To be successful,  make sure the content surrounding your mission is the most prominent aspect of your site’s design. Your site design should complement your content.

h. Update and Supplement your Website on a Regular Basis: Your site should be updated at least monthly. Otherwise it reflects poorly on your organization if content is outdated.


Take a half hour out of each day to walk through your offices. Ask questions, show interest, be affable (not threatening). Your daily self-tour shouldn’t be viewed as “checking up” on your employees, rather   the opposite -checking in to make sure they have all they need to do their job. Walking Management is better than an “open door” policy – you are going to your team and it creates an environment of trust and success.


A non profit requires a brand and identity just as any for profit business. You define your unique look and feel which clearly reflects your mission. Once your brand is   created, stay true to it. Don’t cut corners here. Every  piece of literature online or off line looks the same –  you want to bring your organization to the point where one only has to look at the colors, design and know it’s you – the organization name doesn’t need to exist.

A larger piece of this is ensuring that all working within the organization understands what it is that you do – they know the mission. If an employee is asked by anyone, “what is it that your organization does?”, all will have the same answer. At all staff meetings, I would commonly ask everyone to write down the mission statement, and those who got it correctly received some type of prize.


Many organizations create a 5 year strategic plan. Equally important is a yearly fundraising and   marketing strategic plan which includes a detailed, week by week calendar, along with who is responsible. This plan is review every two weeks and I consider it to be a “living, breathing” document; which means it will change and should. This plan should be in direct compliance with the organizations 5 year strategic plan and fundraising goals. For an example of a Fundraising and Marketing  Strategic Plan go to the Resources tab at www.wagnerfundraising.com/resources.html, and you will be   able to order a template.


Creating a functional and strong board is very simple. First, craft a job description which indicates expectations, including the amount they must donate each year. Second, host a board    training, and have each board member shadow a staff member for an hour; they will really know “their” organization after this experience. Last, have the following experts represented on your board: attorney, accountant, professional volunteer (one with resources and time), a person(s) who are   experts with regard to your mission, estate/financial planner, Employee(s) who represent your corporate donors.


Family Feud: How to Prevent Falling into the Board Member Conflict Trap

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Family Feud:  How to Prevent Falling into the Board Member Conflict Trap.

Amid these “Difficult Economic Times” (a term nearing cliché status), organizations are suffering – money lost through investments, down-turn in annual gifts and everyone pointing fingers; “Our Board Members won’t provide names or ask their social network for support”  OR , “Staff isn’t hitting fund raising goals, we need to trim budgets, cut staff and management will take up the slack”. A perfect storm for conflict, a family conflict. In my eyes, staff and board are family, and family dysfunction makes everyone uneasy and stagnant. 

The crux is, there seems to be more chatter about  board/staff conflict than ever.  It’s understandable, fundamental changes are required during times like these. More than ever before your Board and staff must bond together and find ways to change, remain relevant and effective. People are watching, particularly donors.

All the same, we know “change” begets discomfort and discontent.  Undoubtedly at the turn of every corner you will be reminded of and faced with resistance as you delicately mold your organization into a trimmed-down, lean-and-mean machine.  Did I just use “delicate and mean machine” in the same sentence? Yes, I did. Considering your best bet in delivering the goods is walking that fine line between diplomacy and standing  strong on firm ground. What you must avoid is ignoring those  grappling with  the transformation. Your organization requires everyone moving in tandem.  The unfortunate truth?  It’s extremely unlikely that everyone will; including board members. Internal conflict is brewing.

Board conflicts are among the most challenging a nonprofit executive faces. They generally come in two forms—conflicts among board members and conflicts between the board and management. Both of these difficult situations require special consideration. Oftentimes, the Board and Executive Team are aware of the conflict, take sides and continue on as if all is well; until income dwindles and despite all efforts, recovery is unattainable.

If this sounds familiar; let me tell you, it almost always takes a third party (preferably a professional fundraising consultant) to come in and fix the “fundraising” problem. Any good consultant will suspect, fairly quickly, that internal conflict launched the loss of funding. Yet, there is confidence in a brighter future. I’ll tell you why. When greeted with this situation, I’m mindful of the job at hand. I am there to fix fundraising; the internal conflict is a vexing side-effect. But you do need to care for the side-effects before you can fix the fundraising. Here’s how:



1) Identify your key stakeholders. Who “gets” it and will work hard to salvage relationships.

2) Don’t get pulled in. Assumptions will be made that you’ve taken a  side. The solution is to not have “side” conversations. Whenever possible involve those key stakeholders in all conversations and decisions.

3) Understand the relationships among your board and staff. Who is aligned with whom?

4) Understand the genesis of the problem. Once you have create a value proposition (reciprocal benefit) for each of them.

5) Address problems immediately. Determine the best person to address those brewing issues.

6) Specifically Align your Key Stake Holders to the organization’s “Fundraising Recovery Plan”

7) Ask for help, and show that you are willing to listen and change

Once you have appraised the situation, put your recovery plan (this isn’t the blog on the resurrection of an annual fund – look for that in April) into place understanding that it MUST bring the staff and board into alignment. The money will follow. Here’s how:


1) Policies: Do Board member policies need to change? What are their expectations? Are they aware of their expectations? Are board members trained and given the organization “elevator speech”?

2) Job Description: If the answer to Q1 is NO, then are Board Member Job descriptions in place? Are Management Job Descriptions in place OR up-to-date?

3) Giving: Is it abundantly clear that “Family Gives First”? We are not just talking about our volunteer board members; staff must contribute and that should be clear (the amount for staff giving is less important than the simple act of giving any amount). 100% participation – Right? Right!

4) Recruitment Practices:  Is the Board diverse, representing all aspects of the organization: Legal, Finance, Community Volunteer (with a strong social network), Member’s Representing the Mission, and Money Managers.

5)   Board Meeting Inclusion: Are board meetings open to staff members? If not, open the door. While it is appropriate to have a portion of the meeting “closed” as an Executive Session; but then open the doors to those on the front line, your staff.

6)   Relentlessly communicate the same vision, values and mission. Whether you ask the person vacuuming the floor or the President of the Board, “What is this place? What do you do?”, all will respond will the same answer. Everyone understands why they are there and they are PROUD

7)   Provide multiple opportunities for staff input

8)   Issue staff progress reports and successes regularly

9)   Create a culture of openness, you are a family

10) Be present – both physically and emotionally

11) Motivate, energize, and reward staff quickly for positive results in moving forward

12) Gather Board and Staff together whenever possible, eliminate division and unite your family

If the above practices are put into place as part of the “Fundraising Recovery Plan” you will have the Board and Staff aligned and working together with joy and a renewed sense of enthusiasm. For those who do not “get it”; they must be cycled off the board or if staff, they must be let go. Just as Enthusiasm Breeds Enthusiasm. Poison Containments the Well. And that Well is money. What can you expect when Board and Staff are aligned?


!    Your resources (fundraising) will grow

!    Your Brand and Name Recognition is Amplified

!    Synergy equals sustainability and growth

!    Energy is spent on creating a fun environment rather than conflict resolution

!    It offers credibility to new board members and revitalizes current board members as they    understand they are a part of the organization’s family.

!    It gives you a structure and system to foresee and better manage discontent before   escalation

Once you bring the team together (each with a designated role) working alongside you to implement the plan to jump-start fundraising, your byproduct is the group working together. As your Board and Staff watch the plan work, with funds flowing in not out, moral increases and bad feelings wane.

NEW IDEA’S FOR THE NEW YEAR: Create an On-Board Strategy!

Monday, January 10th, 2011

NEW IDEAS FOR THE NEW YEAR: Create an On-Board Strategy

What is an On-Board Strategy? Simply put, it is a strategy to keep those new 2010 donors on board. Fundraising Professionals know that it costs more to acquire new donors than it does to retain current donors.

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) acquiring new donors through direct mail averages between $1.25 to $1.50 cost per dollar raised with a 1% rate of return vs. renewing current donors via direct mail which averages $.25 cost per dollar raised with a 50% rate of return (better).

Makes for a pretty good case to develop an On-Board Strategy for 2011 doesn’t it?

This fundraising consultant believes that the most important element to consider while developing your On-Board Strategy is keeping in touch with your current donors or as I like to call them, new family members – because that is exactly how they should feel. So let’s start there. Here are six simple ways to stay in touch with your new family members.


  1. E-mail quarterly newsletters.
  2. E-mail press releases and press clippings.
  3. Promote your website and other social media (facebook, Twitter et al) on every e-mail sent. Ensure your website and social media is continually updated and informational.
  4. Host an open house or other appropriate event bringing your donors to you face-to-face.
  5. Letters of endorsement. If appropriate personally contact your donors (within a specific giving level) and thank them for their support while also asking for an endorsement you can place on your social media sites. This will not only convey appreciation, but will also engage them more intimately in the promotion of your organization.
  6. Identify those within a certain giving range and grab a cup of coffee to discuss your organization and get their feedback on why they give and thoughts on the future of the organization; make it clear this is not a meeting to ask for money (that will come later).

Now that you have some ideas on how to keep in touch with your donors, the second element of your On-Board Strategy should be to develop and implement ways to better engage your donors. Here are four simple ways to successfully engage donors.


  1. Find ways for donors to hear your success stories, when possible use p ictures or post video’s onYouTube of your work in action.  This brings your mission directly into their home  environment.
  2. Let your supporters know what your organization is currently working on, inform them on any internal changes, provide them with a contact person if they have questions, suggestions or want more information.
  3. Make it easy for your donors to become active in your organization. Ask them for advice, insight, time (as a volunteer), leadership (on the board or committee), advocacy. You will be surprised at their willingness to do more than “just give money”.
  4. Always let volunteers and donors know how much you appreciate and count on their support. And do this immediately after their gift of time or money. Let them “see” the difference they have made for the people, place or thing which serves your mission.
  5. Publish lists or photos of your volunteers, donors, committee members and friends (those who give in-kind gifts) in newsletters, on a designated wall in your building, your annual report, website and so on. Make sure they are sent a copy of the publication or email directing them to the website or other social media site.

The third element of an On-Board Strategy is to make certain your donors don’t feel their usefulness is only a financial one. In fact an On-Board Strategy is less about fundraising and more about advocacy for your mission. If you successfully, concisely and continually promote your mission, the money will follow. Here are a few ideas to turn your donors into advocates.


  1. Host a monthly or quarterly breakfast or lunch to discuss issues around your cause, welcoming your donors as active participants and problem-solvers. Perhaps include a  guest speaker as a draw.
  2. Strategically invite certain donors to write a post for your blog on why they support your cause AND how the relationship has made a difference in their life.
  3. Invite donors to mention your non-profit or “like” your organization on their social media sites. Create and provide them with a “widget” to include on their website.

And finally, if you do not do this already, TRACK your donor retention. You want to know what strategies and tactics work. The only way to do this is to diligently track the percentage of donors retained each year. You can start now. Generate a report listing donors who did not renew in 2010; at the end of 2011 run the same report and my guess is you will find you lost fewer donors or rather you RETAINED more donors.

The best of luck and success in this New Year! Marcie