The Washington DC Metro Area Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP/DC) is hosting what promises to be an interesting panel discussion featuring up and coming leaders in Washington area philanthropy.
Hosted by AFP/DC’s Advanced Executives Committee, the panel will feature community members all under 50 who are now taking over their families’ philanthropic activities. The intention is to explore how these individuals are viewing their evolving role as contributors and partners with nonprofit organizations.
The panel will be moderated by Mary MacPherson, President of M2Works, LLC. Panelists will include Patrice Brickman, Scott and Patrice Brickman Foundation, Mark McIntosh, McIntosh Foundation, and Liz Norton, Bernstein Family Foundation and Director/Founder Stone Soup Films.
The discussion will be held next week on Wednesday May 4, 2011 from 8:30 – 10:30 a.m. at the Merrill Lynch office on 15th Street, NW.
For more information, go to http://www.afpdc.afpnet.org./
I know we are all very busy, but it’s important to take the time to read some of the really good research and commentary that’s out there. Organizations and individuals are putting out useful information and perspectives that can help us in our daily work, in our interactions with funders and donors, and in thinking strategically about our organizations.
Last week I read an amazing article in the Standford Social Innovation Review, “The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.” I cannot recommend this enough, and it goes right to the heart of a critical issue nonprofits are facing today. Written by Ann Gregory and Don Howard from Bridgespan, it lays out the details of the vicious cycle that’s leaving nonprofits of all sizes starved for critical operating funds. This ongoing cycle of deprivation erodes organizations’ ability to function as well as to accomplish their mission. To break it down, here are the three components of this cycle:
- Nonprofits neglect infrastructure and misrepresent data (about expenditures)
- Funders have unrealistic expectations (regarding what it costs to run a nonprofit)
- Nonprofits feel pressure to conform (to the funders’ paradigm)
It is a chronic problem, and it is resulting in poorly performing organizations, burnt out staff and frustrated donors. It is also resulting in beneficiaries’ not getting the services that they deserve and need.
The solution lies equally with both nonprofits as well as with the funders. Nonprofits need to be courageous and tell their donors and funders what it really takes to accomplish their mission effectively. Nonprofits also need to resist the urge to “hide” fundraising and other administrative expenses. Funders, for their part, need to increase their interaction with their grantees. They need to work more closely with these organizations and increase their understanding of the real-life challenges (and expenses) of running an effective nonprofit. Funders need to challenge their old assumptions. Both funders and organizations need to collaborate more closely if the cycle is ever to be broken.
Check this article out. Use it to start a lively discussion at your next board meeting or staff meeting. Ask your donors how they evaluate these issues. Learn from this conversation.
It’s time to stop starving.
Yesterday I gave a presentation in Arlington County on this topic. We had a great mixture of development professionals and program staff from organizations in DC and Virginia. The goal of the program was to address how all staff members should embrace the roles they play in a successful fundraising effort.
Site visits are a great way to get the whole staff involved. Lots of people play a part, from the receptionist to the program staff to management. It’s important to take the time to carefully plan out the various elements of an upcoming site visit. Staff members need to be briefed and understand what’s at stake.
Key preparation items include being clear about the visit’s schedule, the message you hope to get across to the visitor and what follow-up tactics you plan to employ. It’s also a great time to clean up the office – nothing makes a visitor feel more welcome than when you’ve taken the time to show pride in your organization.
As part of our session yesterday, I had participants design a “Brown Bag Luncheon” on development. The set-up was the executive director had asked each department to lead a presentation so that everyone could better understand the work of their colleagues. One of the suggested topics was preparing for a site visit, and the group came up with some excellent ideas. Here’s their outline for a 30-minute lunch-time presentation:
- Explain why you’re having the site visit; discuss who is coming (donor, media, government representatives, etc.). Explain what the visitors are going to want to see.
- Talk about why the staff is so important to the site visit – Staff members are the ones who do the work; they are the closest to the organization’s programs.
- Discuss how to handle the site visit – Be friendly; think in advance about what you’re going to say; involve the visitor in a conversation, thank them for coming, etc. Reinforce that staff members will get some help in doing this, such as training or scripts.
- Address the follow-up steps – How will you thank the visitor for coming. Thank you correspondence can refer back to a meaningful exchange they might have had with a member of the staff.
Other ideas raised by program participants when I presented this session back in the summer included:
- Talk about the “spiel” or “elevator speech” that staff members can use, it’s part of helping them to be prepared.
- Try some role-playing exercises. What will you say when the visitor stops by your cubicle?
- Talk about the “Don’ts” not just the “Dos” for example, they don’t have to ask for a gift, and they don’t need to overdo it.
- Discuss how you might involve volunteers and past program participants in the visit.
- At the end, describe how this discussion of site visit preparation is in fact a “microcosm” of the way that staff members can support all of fundraising throughout the year.
Do you have a story of a good site visit? If your organization addresses a particularly sensitive subject or if client confidentiality is a big issue for you, how have you creatively approached this topic?
Grantmakers for Effective Organizations has released a survey of its members that explores philanthropic practice among its members. It points out some extrememly important issues, especially ones that surround the ongoing distance that exists between funders and nonprofit organizations. While some funders are beginning to make some efforts toward revising their grantmaking practices in ways that strengthen and enhance their relationships with nonprofits, many funders are still falling short of that goal. And many of those who are falling short are doing so even while acknowledging an understanding that things must change.
Grantmaking, the survey found, needs to get better in two areas: the money and the relationship.
Look for more comments to come in this regard. This is an important subject and worthy of lots of discussion.
In the meantime, visit GEO’s website to see a copy of this study. www.geofunders.org