Thursday, October 30, 2008

This Year Use Online Tools to Give Your Holiday Giving Campaign a Boost

I usually wait until much later to blog about using your online tools during the holiday giving campaign. This year when nonprofits are shaking in their boots about their year end giving campaign, I decided to get an earlier start. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but here are some ideas for using your online tools to give your campaign a boost this year.

Online giving remains a small factor for smaller nonprofits, but it is growing rapidly and it is worth giving attention to this year. A Convio survey conducted in September had some noteworthy findings. About half the people surveyed said they planned to donate online this holiday season. There was some variance, but this is true across age groups 21 – 64. Forty-one percent of those who plan to donate online said they intended to support groups such as food banks and homeless shelters. This will be great news to these charities as their industry is one of the few that is booming.

My suggestions:
Update Guidestar – Guidestar is gaining in popularity. It will be featured in newspaper and TV segments as a resource to learn about charities. It will be linked to as an authoritative resource from more places than you know – everywhere from American Express to the Fidelity Gift Fund websites. For free – you can update your information to provide much more about your organization than what is on your 990. Do that today!

Update your website – Of course you already have Donate Now capability so I am not going to discuss that. Do you have any special holiday programs? Pictures from last year’s event? A wish list? It’s a good time to make sure your website is fresh and current – everything from event postings to the contact list.

Network for Good gift card - Check out the Network for Good gift card and recommend that people give them as gifts for the holidays. They even have a custom program for businesses to be able to customize gift cards with their business name.

American Express – AE has year round ability to give online with your American Express card but it is buried at their website. During the holiday season, they feature this capability and send emails about it to their card members. Using the Guidestar database, you can contribute to any charity in the database using your credit card. Its easy and efficient. There also is a gift card available. An American Express Gift Card for charity verses a Network for Good one may appeal to a certain clientele. Consider suggesting it in your appeal letter or email or on your website. This is a great one for those of you able to segment your list.

Use technology to reach younger donors - Technology is so ingrained that you have to use it to get to this group. Now may be the time to get a start with using Social Media. Activate your younger donors and ask them to put a charity badge(widget) on their Facebook and MySpace pages for your organization. I’ve just posted mine here on my blog. It took a few minutes to put together at Network for Good. CAC provides vital services to children in the inner city in Newark and like with many nonprofits this year the demand for services is increasing as funding is in jeopardy. You can help by clicking on my charity badge and making your donation now.....See that is how simple it is. This is also a great idea to request of your younger employees who have MySpace and Facebook pages.

Even the Salvation Army has a new program aimed at younger donors. You will be able to text message to a number on the red kettles and a $5 donation will be put on your phone bill. I’m impressed – the Salvation Army is embracing text messaging. What can be next? I guess I'll be writing about that next year.

Are you planning any holiday events? Set up a laptop and give people the opportunity to donate online from your website. You may just catch a few new donors or those in the celebrating mood who give more.

Have more ideas – please post your comments now and share with all of us.
Create your own charity badge at Network for Good under My Profile

Marion Conway Consulting

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Facing the Economic Downturn – Paying Attention to Business Details and Making Tough Decisions

In May my son finished his full time education and started a great job at a great company with an excellent starting salary, profit sharing bonus structure and health benefits. As any parent of someone in their twenties will tell you, I felt like I personally had caught the brass ring. So far he has experienced business travel, formal training, the summer picnic, fall barbecue, free stuff with corporate logo and a tuition aid plan. Feel jealous yet? Yesterday they had a whole facility meeting where he learned about the austerity measures they are taking to deal with the loss of sales. He asked me if I could guess what they were. After working for a Fortune 100 company for 30 years I had no trouble naming all of them. He was surprised. I was glad to hear that layoffs were not on the list...yet. I know about the yet part pretty well too.

The list included no more catering, high level approval needed for business travel, limited attendance at conferences, freeze on hiring, overtime and training and a small, if any, bonus. Forget any more freebies. Seems like small stuff, right? Yes it is but it all adds up. There is no silver bullet.

Nonprofits can’t wait to see how badly their year end fundraising will be. It will be bad. You need to look at expenses now and begin to take action before the actions you have to take are more painful. This list from my son’s employer is a very basic standard starting point.

Many nonprofit leaders are much better at dealing with program services than business management. However, paying attention to business may be a critical component of survival in the year ahead.

If you have reserves, now it the time to figure out how much you are willing to go into your reserves for next year’s budget and how much you may have to cut back on expenses. This will need to be revisited regularly.

If you don’t have reserves, you will almost definitely have to reduce expenses. Here are some tough choices to consider.
•Take a look at your services and figure out which ones you can’t afford to still offer no matter how wonderful they are. Plan a smooth phase out at the end of a program phase – such as the end of the school year. Planning will make it have less of an impact than if the decisions are made hastily.
•If you have multiple locations and can consolidate space to reduce expenses or move to a less expensive location begin planning now before a lease expires. Or perhaps a lease renewal at a lower first year rate is feasible. That may be negotiable if finding another tenant will be difficult.
•Keep tabs on your level of service and staff levels and make adjustments in a timely manner. Rather than layoffs you may be able to handle adjustments with reduced hours or eliminating overtime.

Plan your expense cutting in priority order. Do the simple things like my son’s employer did immediately. Analyze your income after the year end campaign and see if there are bigger steps that you have to take.

Seeking new revenues is not out of the question. Remember foundations have just taken a huge hit in their portfolios and are not the best source at this time. The experts say reving up your individual giving is probably the best bet.

It’s a good time to look at how the big guys have dealt with the downturn – consolidation, merger, acquisition. If you are one of those fortunate organizations with reserve funds you may be an excellent suitor for a complementary organization. The time may be right for a great strategic move. For those of you on the other side of the coin, merger, consolidation, acquisition may be what will keep you in business. Now may be a good time for some bigger, stronger, more robust nonprofits to emerge.

Marion Conway Consulting

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Visionary Leadership Workshop in Two Weeks and See Marion’s Article at Network for Good’s Fundraising Resources Web Page

I will lead a half day workshop entitled "Visionary Leadership"on November 5th.

In addition to program management, financial management and fundraising skill, Nonprofit leaders are also expected to demonstrate Visionary Leadership. This interactive workshop will focus on what it takes to be an effective visionary leader and you will have the opportunity to work through a series of exercises and group activities to develop your own skill.

Offered by:
Volunteer Center of Bergen County
64 Passaic Street, Hackensack
Cost: $45
Registration: Tess Tomasi 201-489-9454 ext.114 or

My Article at Network for Good
Network for Good has posted the featured article in my October 2008 newsletter and given it a flashy new title. This article was based on two recent posts here on my those of you who read the saw it first.

A Match Made in e-Heaven: Your Strategic Plan and Website Working Together

You can find other great articles for nonprofits with a fundraising theme at Network for Good's Resources web page.

Marion Conway Consulting

Monday, October 06, 2008

Take Strategic Planning and Using Technology Up a Notch with Real Time Strategic Planning and Social Media

Last month I wrote about integrating your strategic plan and website. Today I am writing about “real time strategic planning (RTSP) and social media. You can think of it as my original post on steroids or my original post for the next generation or just an old fashioned next step.

Last week I was privileged to attend the first convening of the Kellogg Action Lab College of Consultants in Minneapolis. I attended workshops presented by David LaPiana author of The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution and Beth Kanter, the foremost expert on using social media in the nonprofit world. Here are some highlights of what I learned:

David LaPiana is inspirational in his approach to strategic planning. David’s new book is the result of a four year research project (well funded, I might add) to develop an alternative and better way to do strategic planning. The subtitle says it all – “Real Time Strategic Planning in a Rapid Response World.” It is more than just strategic thinking. He provides a straightforward model with this framework of questions:
•Where we are?
•How did we get here?
•Where do we go next?
•How do we get there?
The model can be used to address a “Big Question” facing your organization and doesn’t require going through a whole organizational analysis. David defines strategy as “a coordinated set of actions designed to create and sustain a competitive advantage in achieving a nonprofit’s mission.” This understanding of stategy as action rather than a goal is central to the RTSP model. His presentation was stimulating and I highly recommend his book which I began reading on my way back to Newark from Minneapolis.
Find David LaPiana's books here at Fieldstone Alliance

The most surprising and thoughtful thing I learned from Beth Kanter is the concept of using Social Media to listen. Listening is an important leadership skill and I had not thought about listening on the web. But now I can hardly wait to start! I listened to Beth about using Facebook, Twitter, Google Alerts and even your own blog to listen. You can help me listen by posting your comments – I’d really appreciate it. Visit Beth’s Blog where she provides lots of details on this subject.
Visit Beth's Blog

Marion Conway Consulting

Update: This article was adapted for publication in the comprehensive You and Your Nonprofit published in July 2011 by Charity Channel press. See the special discount offer and link for more information in the sidebar.