Strengthening Our Nonprofit Community

From the Partners

The Room Where It Happens by Mary Moss

November 7th, 2019

If you’ve seen Hamilton, you know that the “Room Where it Happens” means more than just clever lyrics and melody. History is made by having the right people in the room, people whose actions and commitment will change everything. Alexander Hamilton was in the room, and as they say, the rest is history.

Who is in your room? As staff, do you have the right people in your room? As board or committee members, do you have the right volunteers in your room?

This past month has been an extraordinary one for some moss+ross clients. To name only a few:  * SECU Family House and Oak City Cares celebrated successful campaign conclusions * Healing Transitions and Durham Tech met huge milestones in their campaigns * Voices Together hired a Director of Development and Eno River Association hired an Executive Director * Alliance Medical Ministry created a new major gifts effort and Compass Center launched a campaign for domestic violence crisis housing in Orange County * UNC Rams Club launched ForevHer Tar Heels in support of women’s athletics * Beth El Synagogue dedicated its beautifully renovated space * Saint Andrews Presbyterian Church and The Pauli Murray Center launched feasibility studies.

What made all of this happen?  Committed volunteer leaders were in the room.  Recruiting the right volunteer leadership means starting at the top and focusing on who and what you need. As examples, Oak City Cares campaign co-chairs Trish Healy and Charles Meeker selected a team that could bring new vision to services for homelessness. Co-chairs of the ongoing Healing Transitions “Recovery Can’t Wait” campaign Carol and Bob Bilbro lead volunteers who are committed to expanding services for those caught in the spiral of addiction. Charles Helton and Laura Helton Kalorin are leading the charge to serve more patients at Alliance Medical Ministry. At SECU Family House, campaign co-chairs Becky and Bob Woodruff, Maureen O’Connor, and Matt Ewend reached out across the state. Nathan Bearman and Gary Zarkin challenged Beth El’s community with strong support from Rabbi Daniel Greyber. And community leaders Willis Whichard and Lois Deloatch are leading Durham Tech’s effort.

The take-away for those of you reading this: success depends on leadership, the right people in the right room.

  1. Start with the top leadership. Do not settle for less, because the dominoes fall from here.
  2. Define roles, and recruit for that purpose. For a campaign: passion, commitment, and willingness to make time are the answers. For a job search, ask people who know the organization’s needs. For strategic planning, seek knowledge and thinkers. Including people for the wrong reasons, such as financial capacity and political connections, may well backfire if they are not going to feel successful in doing the job.
  3. Orient, train, and evaluate all volunteers. Give them the tools to succeed, and then evaluate them.
  4. Fix what is broken. It may take a while, but fix your committee if it is not working. Do not accept the status quo if it does not have the right people on it.
  5. Manage the team well, appreciate each volunteer. Clear communication with volunteers is crucial for their success and yours. Hundreds of people were touched this month by the celebrations and gatherings of the organizations mentioned here. People may forget exactly what was said or what gifts were listed, but they will never forget how they felt when they were appreciated.  November is the month of thanksgiving, so show those in your “room where it happens” some love.

I am proud to say that at moss+ross we have the right people in our room, and each professional was hand-picked to help you mobilize your team. Let us know how we can help you be successful.

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.

Recipe for Nonprofit Success: Three Essential Ingredients by Mary Moss

June 4th, 2019

Imagine your organization has stopped operation. Imagine funds have run out. Imagine the population your mission supports cannot be served. Everything stops. Imagine the despair.

For the leaders at Community Music School (CMS) in Raleigh, this was reality, not imagination, and on the front page of the News & Observer a few years ago.

Fast forward to today, where CMS is thriving, growing, adapting, and serving more students as it lives into its mission To Create Brighter Futures Through Music. Fundraising numbers are way up, teachers are being recognized in myriad ways, and more students than ever are clamoring to see their brand new facility located at Longleaf School of the Arts in Southeast Raleigh.

How did this extraordinary state of affairs turn around? CMS leaders concentrated on three key ingredients. This is a simple recipe, and just like in baking, all three ingredients matter in combination. If you lack flour, sugar, or butter, you cannot bake my mother’s excellent pound cake.

Three Essential Ingredients

1. Visionary Strategic Plan – moss+ross guided them through a strategic planning process that produced a new mission, vision, core values, goals, and strategies. Focused on a big vision – opening the doors of music to all underserved youth in Wake County – the strategic plan directed that the first actions steps were to hire an executive director and create a fundraising plan.

Lesson learned: If you envision it, plan it. There is no substitute for a visionary strategic plan.

2.Strong Passionate Leadership – Board Chair Carol Holland (Vice President, Client Relationship Manager of Paragon Bank), has driven a process to expand the Board with people who love the CMS mission. They have added two new community leaders, with more to come. The Board followed the strategic plan by securing funding for a new Executive Director, Dennis de Jong. moss+ross created the job description and helped define a funding path and a process. Dennis has changed the trajectory of CMS working in collaboration with the Board and other community partners, infusing new vision and energy into the organization in a very short amount of time. Dennis’s skills and experience are a perfect match for CMS’s needs.

Lesson learned: Get the right people in the right seats on the bus. There is no substitute for leadership.

3.Compelling Fundraising Plan – A dream is but a wish without a plan – specifically, an annual written fundraising plan. Without enough funds, CMS could not execute its strategic plan. moss+ross developed a fundraising plan with a case for support that shines the light on the big vision in the strategic plan. Big donors follow big vision. Our moss+ross Interim Solutions division quickly filled their start-up staffing need – and then all involved agreed that Sarah Himmelfarb should transition from moss+ross Interim Solutions to become the new Development Director.

Lesson learned: To live into your mission, you will have to fund it. There is no substitute for money.

If moss+ross can help you create your recipe for success, let us know. For more information on Community Music School, visit the CMS website. Read about their recent fundraising event at the Governor’s Mansion where First Lady Kristin Cooper addressed the audience.

Your Board Really Can Be Great! by Susan Ross

April 11th, 2019

I was asked for my perspective on the probing question “Is Your Board Any Good?” in a recently released short video from local agency Angel Oak Creative.

During the filming, I suggested to the interviewer that “Is your board as good as you need it to be?” might be a better question.

At moss+ross, we work with lots of boards, and Mary and I have rarely run into one that really is not “any good.” But we have seen boards that aren’t making best use of their skills, have fallen into performance ruts or lost their focus, and have ended up being less effective than the nonprofit or institution – or their board members – deserved. Sometimes a retreat or custom training can be a big help to getting a board reengaged and focused.

Last Friday, moss+ross led a workshop with a wonderful group of folks who serve on a university board of visitors. Because this type of board is not a governing board, it has a different role to play than the more proscribed legal role of a board of trustees or board of directors. But believe me, their work matters greatly to the CEO, and their support is critical to the institution.

These leaders represent a wide variety of professions and skills, and all are passionate about the cause and want to serve it well. During the meeting, they reflected on their many successes as a board, and then challenged themselves to be even more impactful in their work.

All boards are expected to provide time, talent and treasure. Typically, members are (or have been) volunteers, are interested in the cause, bring a needed skill set, and offer a particular perspective. In the case of a board of trustees or directors, they also maintain legal and fiduciary responsibility for the nonprofit, hire and fire the CEO, and set the strategic direction of the organization.

What else can a great board do for its cause?

  • Provide a deep and diverse talent pool that the nonprofit would never be able to hire.
  • Offer guidance and input on strategic issues and policies with long-term implications.
  • Help the nonprofit stay focused on its true purpose and avoid mission-creep.
  • Serve as ambassadors for the cause, finding ways to share the story and bring new people in.
  • Support staff leadership without trying to take over and solve every problem.
  • Show that this volunteer role is meaningful to them through their time and financial support.
  • Finally, step aside at the right time so new talent can come in, while finding ways to remain engaged.

We tip our hats to all the thousands of board volunteers who make our Triangle nonprofit community thrive. If your board is ready to challenge itself to be as good as it can be, let us know if moss+ross can help!

 

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.

Double Digits

January 9th, 2019

Double Digits

by Susan Ross, Partner

Mary and I are thrilled that moss+ross is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, and we just have to take a few minutes to reminisce about the journey.

Mary Moss and Susan Ross

Over 10 years we have helped build shelters, schools, cathedrals, synagogues and museums; stabilized reserve funds and helped nonprofits merge; conducted assessments and written strategic plans; launched new initiatives and helped others reboot; managed dozens and dozens of searches and placed many interim staff members along the way.  We have worked on campaigns from $600,000 to $4.2 billion, and we still get excited when our clients get a big gift or cut a ribbon or hit their goals.

moss+ross grew out of a shared vision to strengthen the capacity of our nonprofit community. We felt we could make a difference in this region with an expanded use of the skills honed as development professionals for respected educational institutions we loved.

Mary and I wanted to keep our hands in education, both higher ed and independent schools, but we also felt we could contribute to the growth of the community in which we’ve lived all our lives – specifically, the nonprofit and faith communities in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, on whose boards and committees we had served over the years.  We understood how hard their staff and boards work, and how difficult it is to take on something bigger or different, particularly fundraising campaigns. And we knew how important it was to get it right.

Looking back, we had a nontraditional start. We had made the decision to go out on our own as an LLC just before the economy tanked in 2008. There we were: ready to run the campaigns that no one was conducting. However, we employed what would turn out to be our firm’s core values: creating opportunity, staying flexible and investing in each client’s success. We found other roles to play in strengthening the skills and operations of area nonprofits during those early years.

Along the way we built our team of 18 associates — talented professionals who have joined us from a variety of career paths and who share our commitment to creative and resourceful service to clients. Plus, we have had a lot of fun along the way! Over time, as the economy recovered and the pent-up need for funding meant the campaigns did eventually get underway, we were ready to roll with a larger team and broader consulting experience.

As we start our second decade, we have done our own strategic planning and will be rolling out our plans in future newsletters.  For now, we just want to say thank you to our 169 clients, our 18 associates (plus a handful that have retired or moved on), and the affiliate contractors involved in our newest venture, m+r interim solutions.  It has been a wonderful journey, with many more chapters to come.

“We are grateful for the ways the community has embraced us with a hug so strong

that we were inspired to grow and continue hiring our talented team of associates,

one by one, to meet the needs of the nonprofit sector.”  – Mary Moss

 

 

Respect the Power of December

November 24th, 2018

Respect the Power of December

by Mary Moss

Beginning in late November, the temptation is to concede December as too busy and intrusive for fundraising.  We sometimes become tentative; we project what may not be true:  that December is a bad time to ask because we are invading personal space.

In fact, in my experience, the opposite is true.  Strong Decembers became a marker of my career.

Having worked in development for 37 years, I am very familiar with the pros and cons of this season as it relates to fundraising.

This off-schedule, nonworking time is in fact better for many families.  People are less rushed and have time to be thoughtful about what is important to them, including their giving.

As a general rule, I worked very hard leading up to the holidays and then again soon after they ended. I never got any real push-back because I always asked, “Is now a good time to talk?” and I was respectful and gave permission to say no, not now. Aside from people running from me at parties, I experienced a lot of success with this approach.

Nine tips for December:

  1. Make November count! Continue planting seeds by promoting your mission, making calls and sending personal emails and notes.  Promote year-end giving now.
  2. Create a list of donors who gave last November/December who have not yet given. Craft an “anniversary” note thanking them for their generous support at this time last year. Part of showing that you know them is understanding the traditional timing of their gift.
  3. Show appreciation to your donors and volunteers by sending special thank-you notes or calling them. Gratitude is important year round, and those who are thanked well become your strongest supporters.
  4. Connect with your key volunteers. If you know that they are likely to see their prospects over the holidays, find a way to mention how they are involved with the organization or campaign. You can keep it casual and not overstep, but if the timing is right it will remind them of your cause when they are making year-end gifts..
  5. Be positive and confident, remembering that many families will welcome a communication from you. By arranging a time that is convenient for them, you help them accomplish one of their own year-end tasks.
  6. Disseminate stock giving information in a timely fashion so people know how to do this when they are ready.
  7. Remember that someone will call the office on whatever day you finally give yourself a break. Have a plan for how you will receive gifts while your office is closed, and create explicit phone messages and written bounce-back email messages with instructions.
  8. Set up your January meetings now. Do not wait until the New Year arrives. Work now on your messaging for January 2019 (mid-year report, a year-end report, and an expression of gratitude).
  9. Recharge your own batteries, perhaps in early January. Remember that a  good December can make the year.

Enjoy the season, and make it count!

 

Tax Tips: Tax reform under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) affects individuals, businesses, tax exempt and government entities. This article looks at important elements of the new law that have an impact on individuals, and this series covers issues in more detail. (Thanks to our accountants at DMJ & Co., PLLC for permission to share their content.)

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

 

Salute to the Helpers

September 21st, 2018

moss+ross is proud to work with nonprofit partners who are on the ground in Florence’s wake.

Our work with clients in the nonprofit sector inspires us every day, and never more so than in the past week as Hurricane Florence has affected our region. We appreciate the expertise and dedication of the agencies involved in relief efforts, and the compassion and caring of the staff and volunteers who step up in times of need.  As Mr. Rogers said, when you see scary things in the news, look for the helpers.

This special post highlights a few of our current clients who serve multiple counties in Eastern NC and are on the front lines of relief and support. We know many of our clients are marshalling resources, setting up collections and planning ways to provide ongoing support to the long term needs of recovery. We’ve seen the impact this past week – major events cancelled, services rerouted and volunteers deployed. We salute you all, and stand ready to help where we can.

Relief Efforts by Current Clients Serving Eastern NC

  1. The Episcopal Farmworker Ministry serves migrant and seasonal farmworkers in Eastern NC farm communities that have been heavily impacted by the storm. See the news article below for more details about their work and information about getting involved in their relief efforts.
  2. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Raleigh provides services in the 54 most eastern counties in North Carolina, and serves people of all faiths or no faith tradition. They are working with families affected by the storm to meet their immediate needs and help them recover and rebuild their lives. See Catholic Charities Disaster Relief Services for information on how to help.
  3. SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals serves patients and families from throughout the state, with most guests coming from areas affected by the storm, as shown in this impact map. This client is serving families experiencing storm recovery on top of their serious illness, and support for their mission supports families throughout NC.
Our firm has made donations to these causes, and we know many other clients, particularly those in humanitarian and faith organizations, are coordinating collections, volunteers and fundraising efforts. We encourage you to support them in any way you can.
Recovery and Support for Eastern NC Farmworkers
by Lisa D’Amico, moss+ross interim solutions affiliate
On a typical day, the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry visits a number of camps in Eastern North Carolina where migrant farmworkers live and work harvesting crops and tobacco. Usually, the Ministry provides support in the form of clean clothing (free of pesticide exposure), heavy duty work gloves (to prevent Nicotine Sickness), and water bags to those too far in the field to access water. They provide ESL classes, immigration services, hold a Sunday worship service for the farmworker community, and much more.

But these aren’t typical days. Hurricane Florence has been here with her unprecedented amount of rainfall and flooding. The areas in Eastern North Carolina served by the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry were hit hardest and are surrounded by local rivers, now overflowing their banks.  The focus of the Ministry these days is that of recovery and support. Some camps are flooded and workers are stranded without food until the water subsides. Many workers are in shelters where they need food, water and sanitation supplies.

Residents in the area need direction and assistance with finding resources or applying for federal assistance (if they are legal residents), and the Ministry is helping to provide that information and support. The Executive Director is working to secure funding so the Ministry can not only assist in this disaster relief but also support its ongoing mission of ‘Serving Christ in the fields, on the farm, and at home.’

As the days and weeks go on and the area starts to recover from this devastating storm, the Ministry will go back to its usual day job – that of providing direct services to the farmworkers who help put the food on our tables.

If you would like to help this great work continue, please click on the donate button or send a check to the Episcopal Farmworker Ministry, P.O. Box 160, Newton Grove, NC 28366. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Lariza Garzon at lariza.garzon@gmail.com. Your donations are so appreciated year-round as the Ministry supports the farmworkers, but especially now! Thank you!

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.