Strengthening Our Nonprofit Community

Campaign Counsel

The Extraordinary Importance of Ordinary Donors by Susan Ross

August 7th, 2019

All donors, large and small, play an important role in charitable giving, yet recent data show that about half of US families today are not giving at all, and those that do are giving less than they did 15 years ago. Research from the Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana University shows that this is true across the board, among all organizations.

The good news is that most nonprofit organizations are meeting fundraising goals, thanks to larger gifts from fewer donors. Pursuing the extraordinary opportunity means focusing on major gifts. But what about the “ordinary” – the small or medium-sized gift?

The stakes are high: nonprofit independence and sustainability may be jeopardized when a few very generous, very wealthy donors have all the voice and clout. Such donors usually do not want all that responsibility anyway, often urging us to “bring in more people” or “diversify our funding sources.”

As fundraisers are challenged to find more major gifts, we cannot neglect our role in seeking and engaging donors at all levels of the giving scale. While true that a campaign has to focus on the top 10-20% of prospective donors to maximize results, the broader goals are best served when we give everyone an entry ramp and help them become lifelong supporters.

I have often preached that fundraisers should treat everyone well, though it is not possible to treat everyone the same. A reasonable amount of time spent with these donors is more than justified because smaller gifts are likely to be unrestricted, providing a critical revenue source. Also, most people make their first gifts at a “test the waters” level. Make sure those new donors have a good experience by bringing them into relationship with the cause – they can become larger donors. Even if they never have the money to make a fundraiser swoon, they are great ambassadors and relationship builders.

If we take our eye off the participation goal, I fear we will miss a generation of young donors and never get a chance to worry about retaining or growing their gifts.

How do we increase the small end of the pipeline?

  • Create an overall engagement plan and a calendar that defines when and how these donors are touched. Measure what matters.
  • Thank donors quickly after a gift. With the IRS changes, donors are less concerned about filing taxes and more interested in knowing they helped. Look at your acknowledgement plan and imagine yourself as the donor – would you feel touched and appreciated?
  • Brainstorm with your board – they may have great ideas about roles they can play with these donors.
  • Have someone (board or staff) call a new donor when the first gift arrives, and yes do leave a message. Or send a very quick, very personalized email.
  • Create a test batch where you write personal notes or do a thank-you volunteer phone night and track if that increases future giving.

Donor engagement still works the way it always has: one donor, one cause, showing how gifts make a difference, saying thank you. At moss+ross, our goal is to help nonprofits build strong programs that work across the entire continuum to attract, retain, and grow donor commitment and enthusiasm.

If you need assistance with your annual mailings, contact us, and we will help you.

Interesting facts from the data: Source: Indiana University Philanthropy Panel Study 2001-2015
  • Giving by small and medium donors is down significantly, even though total giving and household giving have hit new records. 
  • Today, only about half of all households make charitable gifts, compared to 67% in 2002.
  • Median gifts are down by 14% since 2000.
  • Larger donors are giving more. Itemized giving by households earning $1 million+ grew from $7 billion to $66 billion over a 23-year period. This now represents 66% (up from 10%) of the total itemized deductions in the US. 
  • The percentage of households who can claim a charitable deduction this year is likely to be 5-10%, down from about 30% before the 2018 tax cuts.

How Much Can You Do in an Hour? by Mary Moss

February 27th, 2019

It turns out, a lot!

Have you ever been in a meeting and caught yourself yawning without opening your mouth where your nostrils expand, and you pray no one is watching? This is a dead give-away that the meeting has gone on too long.

I am a keen observer of how different leaders run meetings. Some people process aloud, some don’t say a word, and some insist that everyone say something.  Some prefer to set a time limit; others intentionally do not. Some prepare ahead of time and follow an agenda; others cannot be constrained to an agenda.

I have become a huge proponent of the one-hour meeting. Strong meeting management values other people’s time. For example, my Rotary runs a tight ship – meetings are one hour, although people can come earlier to eat and socialize. We begin and end on time every week. In addition, two leading surgeons who have chaired campaigns told me from the get-go that we had to have one-hour meetings due to their schedules. The former mayor of a leading Triangle city runs his meetings sharply for one hour. I have not perfected it, but I am practicing what I preach.

Five tips for the one-hour meeting:

  1. A one-hour meeting must be led by someone who is not afraid to take charge of the agenda.
  2. Prepare the agenda in advance with timed agenda topics and times written on the agenda. Have a discussion in advance with key participants about desired outcomes so that meaningful discussion can be aimed squarely at the agenda topic.
  3. Plan only what you can accomplish. Think carefully about what has to happen and what can be accomplished outside of the meeting in email or with a phone call.
  4. Begin the meeting exactly on time, even if everyone has not arrived yet. You have to train the group on your expectations, which include reading all materials sent in advance of the meeting.
  5. End the meeting on time, even if items have to be deferred.

Lessons learned from my experience:

  • By practicing the discipline of a one-hour meeting, you yourself will become a better leader, more sensitive to everyone’s time, as you hone your skills on time and meeting management.
  • Everyone leaves the meeting informed, invigorated, and ready to take on next steps. You will see fewer (hidden) yawns and time-checks. People will look forward to the next meeting because they were not exhausted from this one.
  • You and others have more time in the day to do your work.

Give this a try. I think you will like what you see. One of my favorite compliments is “You ran a good meeting,” and that never happens when the meeting is too long.

Making the Most of the Midpoint by Jeanne Murray

February 27th, 2019

In the fundraising world, beginnings and endings are cause for celebration: from kickoffs and launches, to end-of-year campaigns and recognition ceremonies. Yet significant work must also happen in the middle – whether that’s in mid-fiscal year, or in mid-campaign, as many of our clients are experiencing now.

Beware of just muddling through the middle! Take proactive steps that will inspire energy and passion among your volunteers, staff, board, and donors. Rekindle that burst of energy you felt at the outset of your year or campaign with these tips.

Six tips for midpoint action:

  1. Take stock. For an annual fund campaign, examine annual giving trends, and follow up with specific donors whose gifts traditionally came in during the first half of the year but aren’t in yet. For a capital campaign, go back to your campaign plan – are you doing what you planned you’d be doing at this point?
  2. Consider a re-boot. Particularly in campaigns, there’s often opportunity to look at a prospect pool in a new way. You can segment by interests, such as creating a women’s initiative, or by activity, such as developing a plan with a volunteer group. You can plan events to bring focus and attention to the project. On-site events for capital projects or small in-home gatherings can infuse energy, and piggy-backing campaign messages into your existing events can help people see the larger vision.
  3. Refresh the inspiration. When was the last time your board considered ways they can talk about the mission? At your next board meeting, spend 10 minutes in small groups discussing easy ways to start conversations with other people about your organization.
  4. Set mini-goals (and mini-deadlines). For an annual fund that closes June 30, what can you accomplish by May 1? For a capital campaign, can you create a challenge that will encourage donors to give? We’ve seen success with a wide range of giving challenges, for example, involving small groups of leadership donors to inspire first-time givers; time-bound challenges to motivate quick action; and volunteer-led challenges that focus on the goal of participation.
  5. Communicate what you’re doing. You’re accomplishing your mission each day. Stories abound! You don’t need a campaign launch or an end-of-year push to bring attention to the good work of your nonprofit. Tell your everyday stories in media as well as in informal settings, especially with your volunteers (who are your best word-of-mouth network.)
  6. Celebrate milestones. Similar to the point about communications, you don’t have to wait for major milestones to recognize the good work of your team. Whether it is effort by staff, contributions by volunteers, reaching a nice round number en route to your goal, or celebrating achievements of those you serve – look for ways to acknowledge accomplishments.

Let the mid-point serve as the accelerator to the finish line, not just a point in the middle of the continuum.

Jeanne Murray is the Director of Marketing and a Senior Associate with moss+ross.

Our Role in the UNC Campaign

October 30th, 2018

by Susan Ross, Partner

Our region of North Carolina is filled with top-rated colleges and universities, all of which set high bars for development excellence.

Over the past eight years, moss+ross has worked on more than 20 engagements with UNC Chapel Hill and its various schools and programs.  We are particularly proud to be one of two named consulting partners for the $4.25 billion For All Kind campaign. Launched just over a year ago, the campaign has reached $2.3 billion in commitments.

moss+ross clients have included some of the biggest efforts on campus: the $1 billion UNC Medicine campaign, a $500 million Rams Club campaign, $400 million for the Kenan-Flagler Business School, and a $300 million focus for UNC Global.

We are also involved with schools and programs whose eight-figure goals present equally daunting challenges, such as the School of Law, the School of Media and Journalism, the School of Social Work, and The Graduate School (see complete list below).

Vice Chancellor David Routh has led a huge ramp-up in the Advancement Office at Carolina since his arrival. He and Associate Vice Chancellor Cynthia Butler have accompanied increased expectations with new funding for additional development staff, professional training, and improved infrastructure support.

Our knowledge of this fundraising environment and familiarity with the donor base and UNC team have been important differentiators, enabling moss+ross to provide the “local architect” services that have been needed across campus. Our partners and associates have the experience and credentials to take on anything, but we are also nimble enough and close enough to jump in where and when we are needed.

“moss+ross has delivered on its promise to provide tailored strategic counsel to many of our schools and units. Their deep bench of talented associates has helped us with campaign strategy and fundraising plans, strategic planning, and interim staffing. Mary and Susan have a deep understanding of our university and minds that are helping us achieve our vision.”
— David Routh, Vice Chancellor for University Development, UNC

 

UNC Client List (past and present)

University Development
The Rams Club
Kenan-Flagler Business School
Morehead Planetarium and Science Center
School of Education
School of Law
School of Media and Journalism
School of Social Work
Gillings School of Global Public Health
Eshelman School of Pharmacy
The Graduate School
Institute for the Arts & Humanities
Institute for the Environment
Kenan-Flagler Institute for Private Capital
Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise
Office of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid
School of Nursing
UNC Children’s Hospital
UNC Global
University Libraries
UNC Medicine

 

Staying True to Campaign Timelines

October 30th, 2018

by Brooke Jenkins, Senior Associate

One key question in campaign planning is: “What is the timeline for meeting goal?” There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Campaigns with goals of less than $1 million can require as much time as multi-million dollar efforts, depending on an organization’s prospect pool and available staff and volunteer leadership. Still most campaigns entail three key phases:

 

 

 

The Readiness Phase is a critical period that helps an organization define its strategic objectives and what will be needed to accomplish these objectives through a campaign. This phase often begins with organization-wide strategic planning and assessing the fundraising program’s capacity for campaign success (a.k.a. feasibility study). If deemed ready for a campaign, then it is time to: recruit staff and volunteer leadership who will help with campaign planning and solicitations, identify your most viable funding prospects, and create compelling messaging describing the need for support. These efforts culminate in the development of a plan spelling out the campaign’s goals, organization, key strategies, and policies for accepting, acknowledging, and recognizing gifts.

The Leadership Gifts Phase is a period focused on raising some of the most influential gifts in the campaign. During this earliest phase of solicitations, it is important to secure 100% support from the governing board and campaign leaders – you cannot expect the broader community to help meet your goals if your insiders have not demonstrated your project is worthy of support. This is also a period when efforts are focused on your largest gift prospects. You want to appeal to these prospects early because their gifts will move you closer to the goal in the shortest period of time and will motivate others to want to be a part of this success.

The Broad Appeal Phase (a.k.a. public phase) is when campaign outreach expands to prospects of all gift levels. While gifts during this phase tend to be smaller than in the Leadership Gifts Phase, this campaign period can require significant staff time issuing mass appeals by mail, email, and social media; planning fundraising and celebration events; and coordinating donor recognition displays.

Every campaign is unique and, inevitably, opportunities arise over the course of initiatives that shift the timing for planned strategies. Still, maintaining a detailed timeline throughout a campaign is crucial to creating a sense of urgency in meeting goals and keeping your organization on track for success.

 

 

Second New Business Division Announced: m+r interim solutions

June 21st, 2018

by Mary Moss

Our firm’s goal is to strengthen nonprofit capacity in numerous ways. Last month, we announced the creation of a new business division focused on communities of faith. More than 30 representatives of this rich fabric of faith in the Triangle recently attended two different workshops to learn about our new services.  Attendees stuck around well after the presentation to brainstorm how they were going to use new ideas and knowledge gleaned about preparing for a capital campaign, and how we could help bring those ideas to life.

Today, just a little over a month later, Susan and I are delighted to unveil a second new business division for moss+ross.  After almost 10 years of serving more than 150 nonprofits, we are proud to introduce m+r interim solutions to this community.  Clients often call to ask if we can help with interim staffing to bridge a staff departure, work on a special project or fill a temporary need.  Over the years, we have answered the call, and a variety of clients to whom we have provided interim staffing is listed below.  Recognizing that interim staffing solutions are an ongoing need with our clients, with deliberate care and intention we have recruited some of this area’s most skilled professionals to serve as affiliate contractors. We stand ready to help you solve whatever staffing problems and opportunities come your way, planned or unplanned.

We have built our firm on integrity, listening well, and being responsive to community needs.  We believe m+r interim solutions will help you keep your momentum when the unexpected arises.  The article below outlines details and contact information to learn more about our services.

Current and Former Interim Clients (recent clients in italics)

Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance

Boys and Girls Clubs of Wake County

Center for Child and Family Health

Duke School

Duke University Development

Durham Arts Council

East Durham Children’s Initiative

Episcopal Farmworker Ministry

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

North Carolina Opera

Public School Forum of NC

Ronald McDonald House of Durham

SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church

Triangle Land Conservancy

UNC Global

UNC Institute for the Arts & Humanities

UNC School of Social Work

Urban Ministries of Durham

Wake Habitat

WakeEd Partnership

Wesley Foundation

 

m+r interim solutions: Personnel Services for Nonprofits

June 21st, 2018

by Lizzy Mottern, Director, and LisaCaitlin Perri, Co-Director, m+r interim solutions

Triangle-area nonprofits that need hands-on professional help with leadership, fundraising, grant writing, communications, database support, and more can now call on moss+ross for interim personnel services.

Our new service, m+r interim solutions, provides our clients with talented professionals on cost-effective, short-term contracts to:

  • Fill gaps due to planned and unplanned personnel absences
  • Support temporary project needs, or
  • Assist during peak workloads

moss+ross affiliate contractors are highly qualified, experienced nonprofit professionals who work as interim members of a client’s staff.  moss+ross develops the scope of work and contract with the client, manages the client relationship, and provides oversight to the affiliate’s work. Affiliates are guided by moss+ross best practices and understand moss+ross expectations for delivering high-value service to clients.

m+r interim solutions roles include:

  • Executive Director
  • Director of Development
  • Gift Officer
  • Development Associate
  • Database/Data Processing
  • Grant Writer
  • Communications/Marketing
  • Events Coordinator

moss+ross understand the needs, opportunities, and challenges of area nonprofits. The firm has often provided onsite interim services to clients, and the new m+r interim solutions business unit is a response to client requests for expanding this service.

moss+ross is accepting inquiries from clients who need interim personnel services, and also from potential affiliate contractors who are interested in working on short-term assignments for moss+ross clients. Please contact us through our website

Expanded Focus on Faith Communities

May 22nd, 2018

Expanded Focus on Faith Communities

by Susan Ross

Listening to the inspiring words of the Most Reverend Michael Curry on Saturday at the Royal Wedding reminded the world (or at least the two billion of us who watched) that there is power in love to help, heal, lift up, liberate, and show us the way to live.

At moss+ross, we believe the work we do with our nonprofit partners helps to extend this power of love to neighbors throughout our communities. During the past decade, Mary and I have grown the firm to include 18 associates, enabling us to respond rapidly and effectively to our partners. To our original core business of campaign management and fundraising counsel, we have added capacity in executive search, strategic planning, data management, research, and other important areas.

Today we announce an expanded focus on faith communities, knowing that effective fundraising is critical to achieving their missions. moss+ross has helped raise more than $35 million for church, synagogue and diocesan campaigns, and we look forward to becoming even stronger partners in this realm.

We have brought on additional consulting associates to lead our work.  Senior Associates Wes Brown and Patrice Nelson, both ordained ministers with long records of community and church engagement, will direct our faith communities work. In this newsletter, Wes shares his expert perspective on how congregational fundraising is different from other nonprofit efforts.

moss+ross will offer a morning workshop on May 30 and June 13 about planning and running successful faith community campaigns. It is designed to be of interest to both clergy and lay leaders, and there is no charge though space is limited (sign up info is below).

We are excited about expanding our services to partner with Triangle-area faith communities in achieving their fundraising goals.

moss+ross Workshop

Triangle area clergy and lay leaders are invited to join moss+ross
for breakfast and conversation at our upcoming workshop:
“Campaigns and Congregations”Wednesday, May 30 or Wednesday, June 13
(Select the date that’s best for you.)
Breakfast buffet at 8:30am. Workshop 9am – 11:30am.
No charge, but space is limited.

Hilton Garden Inn RTP, TW Alexander Room, 4620 South Miami Blvd. in Durham. Exit 281 off I-40.

RSVP to wbrown@mossandross.com

Fundraising and Faith Communities

May 22nd, 2018

Fundraising and Faith Communities

by Wes Brown

Faith institutions require financial support for leadership, facilities, education, and mission outreach. Yet, many congregants insist that their giving is “between me and God,” and often the pastor or other spiritual leader does not know who gives how much—a very different situation from that of most nonprofits or educational institutions. Fundraising is necessary but often uncomfortable and difficult.

Most non-profits employ staff specifically to manage fundraising efforts, but this is generally not the case for faith communities. While faith leaders know and love their people well, they are seldom experienced in managing campaigns, addressing family financial matters or discussing planned giving options. Members enlisted as campaign volunteers are reluctant, without good training, to approach fellow congregants about generous giving for fear of crossing personal boundaries. And there can be incorrect or inflated assumptions about the charitable capacities of a few prominent members.

A congregation is held together by deep religious beliefs and traditions. It has a strong sense of purpose and mission. It is multigenerational, it meets regularly, it engages professional clergy and enables the ministries of lay persons in activities of worship, education, and service—caring for a parish reaching well beyond its formal membership. The gathering and use of financial resources is a spiritual matter. God’s perspective is abundance rather than scarcity. The Hebrew Bible emphasizes the giving of alms and the responsibilities of tzedakah (charitable giving) as a moral obligation for all. In the New Testament, Jesus speaks about money more frequently than any subject except the kingdom of God. The term “stewardship” describes the proper perspective about money and possessions for members of faith communities who are inclined to reflect the generous priorities of God.

Thus, when the need arises for financial resources beyond the annual budget—for new or growing programs, additional staff, building expansion or repair—congregations may benefit enormously from professional fundraising wisdom and guidance. The team at moss+ross understands that a congregational campaign must be grounded in theological perspectives with appropriate messaging to tie the vision for ministry with the financial goal. Experienced and consistent oversight, a thorough analysis of capacity and readiness, development of a compelling story, training of confident and committed leaders, and close counsel from the campaign launch through celebration are as essential to faith communities as they are to any other organization. Participation becomes a privilege and the result is joyfully transformative.

Join us for one of the upcoming workshops as we share some of the tools needed for a faith community campaign.

moss+ross Workshop

Triangle area clergy and lay leaders are invited to join moss+ross
for breakfast and conversation at our upcoming workshop:
“Campaigns and Congregations”

Wednesday, May 30 or Wednesday, June 13
(Select the date that’s best for you.)
Breakfast buffet at 8:30am. Workshop 9am – 11:30am.
No charge, but space is limited.

Hilton Garden Inn RTP, TW Alexander Room, 4620 South Miami Blvd. in Durham. Exit 281 off I-40.

RSVP to wbrown@mossandross.com

 

Who Are Your People? Find out in eight easy steps.

April 10th, 2018

Who Are Your People? Find Out in Eight Easy Steps

Written by Mary Moss

When growing up, this was one of the most often heard questions coming from the generations above.  I can remember not having a good answer for it.  I didn’t have “people” that I thought were description-worthy.  Frankly, I had no idea who “my people” were:  they were just a sister, grandparents and some distant cousins, so why did people keep asking me “who were my people”?  A few times I answered “Criminals who came over from Ireland” to much laughter.  As it turns out, once I got older and more comfortable with this question, I realized that those asking just wanted to know more about me; the question was not meant to be intrusive but a friendly colloquialism that invited conversation and connection.  In a nostalgic moment now and then, I wish I knew my own people better.

Little did I know that I would spend a career that in one way or another explores this very same question.  In all aspects of advancement work, from direct fundraising to alumni affairs to grant writing, the very first questions we ask about any organization are (1) who is supporting you already; (2) who else might want to support you; and (3) who can connect the dots between your organization and this other group.  It sounds pretty simple, right?  Not!

Understandably, life is so busy in the nonprofit world that organizations develop routines that do not allow time and space to examine these questions.  Staff are multi-tasking and so busy going to meetings, worrying about the next event, or getting a mailing out the door that they have not stopped to ask the basic questions above:  Who are these people?  Who is coming to the party and how can we know them better?  Who is going to open this letter, and what would be memorable and motivating?  We find that many organizations take for granted their consistent supporters and do not thank them or steward them properly.  Current donors are not asked to move up in their investment for fear of losing the current one, and because it is easier and faster to keep doing work the same way.  The thought of getting new people engaged is overwhelming:  Creative thoughts become buried under deadlines and routines.

At moss+ross, we take you back to the basics to stimulate creativity and new approaches.  Whether through a feasibility study, campaign counsel, an assessment, an executive search, or a board retreat, we begin our work with you examining these basic questions.  Who are your people, and how can you know them better?  We encourage you to consider these eight steps to success, and we promise you will know your people better than you do now.

Eight Successful Steps to Know Your People

  1. Set aside staff and volunteer time to take a deep dive into your database.  “Put your creative on” when you are looking at names!  Be curious.  This is not boring work; it is essential and fun work.
  2. Consider wealth screening to know as much as you can about your people. moss+ross offers this service, and we would be happy to talk about prices.
  3. Segment who has been giving consistently for five years or more, and make a plan for them that involves personal outreach from staff and volunteers based on levels of giving and potential.  Ask them to lunch; get to know them; listen.  Tag them in your database.  When they come to the party, have a special plan for them.
  4. Develop a pool of people who dropped off your list six to ten years ago.  Create messages that will bring them up to date and encourage re-engagement.  Ask who knows them, and how they can reconnect?  Tag them in your database.  At the party, seat this group with seasoned supporters who can tell the story.
  5. Look at who has never given.  Why are they in your database?  Repeat the steps in number four and consider eliminating names based on sound reasoning (they were one-time memorial gifts, have not given in 10+ years or more, etc.).  Again, tag them in your database.
  6. Make an effort to add new names to your list.  Work with volunteers to see who is not in the database.  Plan targeted meetings that will stimulate thoughts, perhaps looking at Triangle Business Journal’s Book of Lists, or annual reports of other organizations.  Tag the new names in your database and make a plan for personal introductions.  Don’t just ask board members to submit names of their friends, because you will be met with a blank stare.
  7. Don’t forget to ask.  If you are going to do all this work getting to know them, you will need to know the right moment to ask for a new or increased gift.  In your mailings and conversations, discuss the mission, identify the need and raise the sights of your donors with an appropriate ask.  Use gift levels as motivations to increase support.
  8. Track your results.  Be bold and creative with your segmentation.  Test some different messages within these tiers just to see if one resonates better and pulls in more donors than another. It does no good to segment and create new messages if you do not track the results.  Have fun with it!  Once this type of activity becomes your new normal, you will see better results.

If you need help with this process, just let us know.  We enjoy spending our days doing just that.