Monday, January 19, 2009

What are You Experiencing?

- NFP News – January 20 and 22, 2009

Last week, I was fortunate to be able to join two groups of nonprofit leaders in discussing a range of nonprofit topics, including board development and fund raising. By inviting you into some of these discussions, I hope you will also find some new ideas and share yours with us.

I joined a group of senior fund raisers in Indianapolis to discuss issues within their organizations and the community, hosted at Gleaners.

Thoughts and ideas that caught my attention:
• All of the organizations represented had seen a strong fourth quarter of donations. A primary concern is that overwhelming negative press about the economy could decrease giving in 2009.
• Though some capital campaigns are being delayed others are moving forward with good results and positive expectations.
• In larger organizations, it makes a huge difference whether they use a current endowment asset balance or a rolling three years to define endowment withdrawals.
• Some are seeing much stronger on-line giving
• Corporate giving is not as strong as it has been
• “Slacker Tracker” is a fun term for a person on your leadership team/board who takes responsibility for holding people accountable for what they have agreed to do.

In Cincinnati, I was invited to be part of a panel discussion for Business on Board, a board training program hosted by the Fine Arts Fund. I joined Rick Pender, Director of Development, for the Cincinnati Opera and Caitlin Wood, Director of External Relations, for Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati on this panel, facilitated by Mike Boberg from the Fine Arts Fund.

Thoughts and ideas that caught my attention:
• People who really care about your work will still support it.
• This is a time to get great deals on advertising through most media.
• In-kind gifts are easier to get from hotels or other businesses that have assets sitting unused.
• It takes more integrity to cut a program than to compromise quality and hope no one notices.
• Mid-sized nonprofit organizations might struggle most in a tight economy because they don’t have as many staff or programs that can be cut and have not yet developed the endowments, reserves, or fund raising clout of a larger organization. Small organizations are more accustomed to living on the edge, surviving on passion, and may find it easier to “step back” to their roots to weather the storm.
• When looking for places to increase revenue and decrease expenses, invite leaders of similar organizations to review your organization and go help review theirs. You will be surprised how many things are staffed or done “because we always have”, not “because we have to”.
• How should a board member respond when the staff comes back with – “We have made all the cuts we can”? From a long-time Executive Director – “There are always more cuts that can be made, but the trade-offs and consequences increase with every cut. Staff should always be able to come back with a plan for more cuts plus some ideas to increase revenue.”

The messages they are conveying to donors:
• We are looking ahead and planning the use of funds responsibly
• We fully expect to be here for the long-term but need your support right now.
• We will not compromise the quality of our programs

What are your thoughts? What are you experiencing?

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