Strengthening Our Nonprofit Community

Fundraising Counsel

Five Ways to Become a More Effective Major Gifts Officer by Elizabeth Hopkins

August 7th, 2019

For many major gift officers, summer is the opportunity to take stock of the success and challenges of the previous fiscal year and make resolutions for the new year. The most successful gift officers embrace prospect planning to ensure they are getting out of the office to find, cultivate and solicit the best prospects. If you are at your desk more than you are out, you are missing opportunities. Meetings, database entry deadlines, reports, and proposal writing can tie you down to your desk, preventing you from your primary responsibility of engaging prospects and donors in major gift conversations.

Here are five suggestions to help you focus your work to become a more efficient, effective, and productive major gifts officer.

1. Create a personal annual development plan that includes both fiscal-year fundraising goals and engagement goals. Include a projection of total dollars raised, face to-face visits completed, and number of proposals submitted and closed. Also include a total number of specific solicitations projected by each quarter over a 12-month period to demonstrate a viable pipeline of prospects, and outline specific cultivation and stewardship events and activities. Written plans are effective tools because they clarify and focus thinking, establish context and framework for action, become the basis for year-over-year performance planning, empower major gift officers to do their best work, and ensure accountability.

2. Identify your top 10-25 prospects in your portfolio. Who has the highest capability and probability to donate a major gift to your organization? Your top prospects should include a balance of constituents at all stages of qualification, cultivation, and solicitation. Focus your prospect engagement work by fiscal year quarter to ensure that you are giving yourself specific targeted dates for moving towards a gift solicitation and close.

3. Develop strategies for each of your top 10-25 prospects. Develop written strategies for each of your top prospects so you have the roadmap of their engagement over the next year. Identify specific persons to be involved in each task, including internal partners and external volunteers. Include and track specific target dates for each action. Consistent and strategic engagement deepens the relationship between you and the prospect and the prospect and the organization – and raises more money faster and more efficiently and effectively.

4. Reserve several days a month (or more) on your calendar for prospect meetings and/or development trips. Carving out time on your calendar will help you hold yourself accountable for getting out of the office for prospect/donor meetings. Discipline in holding those dates for prospect meetings is essential to prevent the creep of office tasks taking over your calendar and keeping you behind your desk. Before you know it, critical time will have passed and you may not have had face-to-face meetings with your most important prospects. Remember that prospects very often have multiple philanthropic interests. Keeping in touch not only builds relationships with them for your organization, but it lets them know how important they are to you.

5. Add discovery/qualification prospects to your call lists routinely. It is critical to add newly identified major gift prospects to your pipeline. High-value, high-inclination prospects may be flying under the radar and are a missed opportunity if not cultivated. Engaging new prospects can also be energizing for a gift officer: helping prospects learn more about how their support can help impact your organization while meeting their philanthropic goals can help invigorate your work and give you a refreshed focus on prospect engagement.

Now is the time to commit to managing your portfolio to raise important and impactful gifts for your organization. moss+ross has worked with many clients to provide tailored major gift training and coaching that has resulted in measurable improved major gift fundraising. To learn more, contact moss+ross.

 

Elizabeth Hopkins is a Senior Associate with moss+ross.

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.

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