Thursday, July 30, 2009

In Memorial: Leslie Brown

Very sad news, as I found out earlier this week that Leslie Brown, CFRE, an AFP member for more than 30 years, passed away on July 28. She served for six years on the board of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy and chaired both its Committee on Directorship and the Chapter Fundraising Committee.

Leslie was a founding member of the AFP Fort Lauderdale/Broward Chapter and received the chapter’s Outstanding Fundraising Executive award in 1996. She helped spearhead the chapter’s Fundamentals of Fundraising Course, and to honor her extraordinary service, the chapter has voted to rename that program the Leslie Brown, CFRE, Fundamentals of Fundraising Course.

Leslie was a tremendous fundraiser and a huge supporter of AFP both locally and on the international level. On behalf of the boards of AFP and the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy, I send my condolences to her family and her friends and colleagues at the Fort Lauderdale/Broward Chapter.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Share Your Insights and Advice!

Today I want to highlight a new project which AFP has recently started that is already showing some great results. We’re calling it the AFP Information Exchange, whereby members and organizations can submit short, practical, how-to pieces, toolkits, samples and policies to share with other fundraisers and charities.

One of the most important benefits of belonging to a professional association is being able to draw on the collective knowledge, experience and wisdom of fellow practitioners. Many of our members now have twenty, thirty or more years of experience in the field and are proven expert s in their particular specialties. Some of them have literally "written the book" on how to raise funds.

A terrific way to access your colleagues’ insights is through our open discussion forums, but that kind of structure is best for shorter questions and advice. The Information Exchange allows for more details and greater depth of knowledge to be shared, but in a format that isn’t too long (documents are 2,000 words or less).

The project is a tremendous way to hear the unique voice of each member and learn what’s working (and what isn’t) in a fundraiser’s own words. The spontaneity, perspective and specialization of each paper are what set these types of documents apart from a short email or a long book or manual.

The papers are available free of charge for members only on the AFP website, and writers get visibility for their submission as we’ll be highlighting the exchange throughout the year. We’ve already received some very good pieces so far, such as this very interesting guide on using social media by ThePort™ Network (we have made this one public as an example, so you don't have to sign in first to see it). I’m looking forward to expanding this area of the website in the near future with a variety of papers on all aspects of fundraising and philanthropy.

We’d love to hear the kinds of advice and tips that only you can provide given your experience and work background. Learn more about the initiative here and the guidelines for submitting a document.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Calling All Fundraising Leaders

Leadership is a big issue with the nonprofit sector, what with a significant gap in nonprofit leaders expected in the future. Add in the current economy, and it’s critical to have effective and efficient leaders who understand your organization and can make the tough decisions.

That’s the type of leaders that AFP and the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy are looking for right now to serve on the 2010 board of directors. Any member or chapter of AFP can nominate a qualified candidate to serve on the board for a seat as a district director or as an at-large director.

The evaluation criteria used by the committee to select officers and directors includes:
  • Demonstrated leadership ability
  • Service to AFP, philanthropy and the community locally and/or nationally
  • Particular leadership needs of the Association at the time candidates are being considered
  • Certification (Not applicable for candidates outside Canada and US)
  • Education/training
  • Geography
  • Diversity (all inclusive)
  • Type of professional practice
  • Support of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy
  • District Representative and Chapter size
  • Membership is current and in good standing (has signed the Code of Ethical Principles and Standards)
Nominations for both boards are DUE JULY 31, and information about serving on the board of AFP and the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy are available on the website.

We want our board to be representative of the finest leaders in the profession, and we need your input to make that happen! Nominate someone you know to be a board member! Now, more than ever, we need the collective knowledge and expertise of the best of the profession.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Donor Communications Overload?

The refrain that "we’re getting too much stuff from charities" is one that we hear from the public a lot these days, at least in media stories. But how true is it really?

A new survey was released at the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) National Convention in London a few days ago which shows that most charitable supporters here in the U.K. are happy with the amount of communications they're receiving from charities.

From 150 in-depth interviews conducted by TW CAT (a direct response firm in the U.K.), just 17 percent said that charities communicated too much, while 72 percent said the level of communications was "just right" and 11 percent said communications were "too rare."

Other interesting tidbits:
  • On average, it took eight communications to a donor to receive at least two gifts
  • 61 percent of interviewees said they were LESS likely to give to a new charity now because of the economy
  • There is a big drop in donor retention—from 86 percent to 59 percent—between the second and third year of a supporter’s relationship with a charity
Two thoughts. One, I think there's a big difference between what he hear from our supporters and the general public. The "too much stuff from charities" refrain is, I believe, something that's an automatic response from the general public without too much nuance. We all get frustrated at the amount of stuff in our mailbox from time to time. But drill down and ask each person about specific charities they support, and I imagine your responses will be similar to the survey’s data.

I think these responses also speak to the number of people now less likely to give to new causes. This says to me that while we can't completely bunker down, focusing on and communicating well with current and previous donors is the way to go. I know many organizations are taking this approach right now.

Two, don't believe for a second that just because the survey was conducted in the U.K. that it doesn't have applications in North America. While many believe that the global recession hasn't struck the U.K. as dramatically as other parts of the world (though it may well soon), I'm struck by the similarity between the conversations at the IoF convention and the ones that occurred at AFP's International Conference on Fundraising in March. It's very interesting and refreshing to hear how different countries are addressing today's challenges.

What's your sense of donor communications these days? Are you sending more or less communications? More targeted and segmented approaches?

LAST NOTE: Did you know that you can be a member of IoF by simply opting-in on the AFP website at no cost? If you are raising money in Europe, I would urge you to join IoF. As a sister organization to AFP, IoF is a great resource and offers legal, governmental and fundraising information. IoF members can also opt-in for AFP membership at no cost.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Don’t Get Caught Being Negative

I recently attended a Fellows meeting of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), a great organization of which I was honored to serve as chair a few years ago. Associations are experiencing many of the same challenges that charities are, and most of the conversations centered on the impact of the economy.

We had a great facilitator (Patti Digh) who focused on the importance of staying positive and cautioned how easy it is for individuals and organizations to fall into the trap of being negative even when they don’t realize it. For example, she asked how many of us use the "Yes, but" approach (very negative) as opposed to the "Yes, and" approach (much more positive and encouraging additional communications).

We also did an interesting exercise where we made both a list of challenges and a list of how to make those challenges worse. Then we reviewed the lists to see if we were actually performing any of the activities on the second list, and more often than not, we found that we were doing a few of them.

I think both of these ideas and exercises can easily be applied to fundraising, and it makes me wonder that if we all took a step back from our daily responsibilities, would we be able to identify a few things our organizations are doing that are actually hurting, not helping, us in the long term.

How are you staying positive in this difficult environment? Feel free to post any ideas or processes you are implementing to help your organization and staff focus on the positive!