Strengthening Our Nonprofit Community

Fundraising Counsel

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.

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.

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.)

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.