Category Archives: Donor Relations

We need to stop treating nonprofits the way society treats poor people

brown-shoes-1150071_960_720During a drink with one of my favorite program officers, I brought up some feedback about how onerous their grant reporting process was. Even though the foundation is really flexible on how the funds can be used, they still ask for exactly how much of each line item the foundation pays for. And their line items don’t line up with ours, so we have to spend significant time translating our budget into theirs. And once the report is submitted, it affects what we report to other foundations, leading to a funding Sudoku that wastes endless hours of my and my team’s time. 

Her response, half-joking and half-serious, was “When you entered the sector, what were you expecting, cake and ice cream?” At that moment, all I wanted to do was weep quietly into my raspberry mojito while Foreigner songs play in my head: “In my liiiiife, there’s been heartache and pain. I don’t knooow, if I can faaaaaaace it again…” Continue reading

10 classic movies that could have been about nonprofit work


humphrey-bogart-619157_960_720Despite the awesomeness and complexity of our work, and the fact that we employ 10% of the work force, and the fact that independent studies that I have commissioned found that we have the most attractive professionals among all the sectors, nonprofit is still neglected by the media and society at large. 
I’ve written about the need for more TV shows about our sector. And now, we need to push for more movies. Imagine how much more awesome some of our classic movies would have been, if they had been about nonprofit. Here are some of my ideas, along with potential quotes. #nonprofitmovielines. Go make that trend on Twitter, like you did with #nonprofitpickuplines.

A Few Good Donors: An up-and-coming Development Director tries to convince her ED to change their org’s fundraising strategies, in the process encountering resistance and a complex conspiracy involving budgets, CRMs, the board, and strategic planning. “You want answers? You want the truth?! An effective donor cultivation strategy takes time and resources!”

The Shawshank Restriction: Andy, a new Program Director learns too late that the organization that just hired him had gotten trapped by a burdensome and restrictive multi-year federal grant. The terrifying realities of restricted funding are explored as Andy works to save the remainder of his program and his sanity, using his skills and intelligence to gain the trust of his jaded colleagues and extract the program and organization out of the dilemma. “Get busy living, or get busy dying. Or somewhere in between: just lots of paperwork.” Continue reading

“I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas” and other nonprofit holiday songs

christmas-card-566305_960_720Hi everyone, happy holidays. I hope that you are taking it easy these next couple of weeks. This week, instead of reading serious articles about our sector, I learned about the dark origins of Christmas carols. Apparently, back in the olden days, carolers were drunk hooligans who went door-to-door demanding to be let in and served your best food and booze, and could get rowdy and belligerent if you turn them away.

So of course, that inspired me to re-write some of our holiday songs. Why don’t you learn them, and then we can try old-school caroling as a novel fundraising technique. Suggest other #nonprofitholidaysongs in the comment section and on Twitter. Continue reading

The Nonprofit Hunger Games, and what we must do to end them

Katniss-Violence-Mockingjay-2A while ago, at a leadership seminar I was a participant in, I sat down at a random table and met a really nice older couple, along with another participant in the program, “Jane.” We all got to talking, and it turned out the two seniors were major donors to Jane’s organization who also happened to like Vietnamese food. I said, “Hey, I know a great Vietnamese restaurant! I’d love to take you sometime. Maybe the four of us could get lunch together.”

There was a 20-second stare down between Jane and me. The breeze died. Tumbleweeds rolled in the background, and a horse snorted nervously. Vultures circled overhead. “Yes…” said Jane, “I’ll connect all of us.” She never did. I ran into her at another event, and she introduced me to others as “The guy who tried to poach my donors.”

Why am I telling this story? One, to warn Jane that I will not rest until I find those donors, and I will have lunch with them, and I will persuade them to donate to my organization, and she won’t be able to stop me, because I will not sleep or eat until I share spring rolls with peanut sauce with them and a check is in my hands, muwahahahahahahah! MUWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Two, to illustrate the fact that the Nonprofit Hunger Games are going too far and are destructive to our sector’s collective mission of making the world better. Continue reading

Winter is coming, and the donor-centric fundraising model must evolve

nedHi everyone, this post is one of the toughest I have written. Mainly because I just watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones and now am feeling depressed and anxious about which character I like is next to die. Just kidding—kind of. This post is difficult to write because individual donor cultivation is complex, and I have been so focused on other areas of our sector that this seems like new territory for NWB. Today’s post, then, is more an invitation for discussion, and I hope fundraisers, and donors, will weigh in with thoughts and counterpoints.

Over the last few years, we have been sharpening our fundraising knives on the whetting stone of donor-centrism in order to carve into the gluten-free loaf of equity and social justice. (This may just be the worst metaphor I’ve written since the Vitamix of summits blending the margaritas of community engagement). Because of the constancy and complexity of fundraising, the brilliant development professionals in our field—Pamela Grow and Mary Cahalane being two that I learn from—have created a model where the donor is at the center. It is not about us and our organizations and programs, but about the donors and their relationships with our missions. I’ve been making sure donors are thanked quickly and in personalized ways and are constantly kept in the loop, for example. And I’ve been learning to say “you” way more often in all my communications, both at work, and even at home—e.g., “YOU do the dishes!” Continue reading