A strategic plan in development by a team of experts.Before getting started on a capital campaign, major gift fundraising or nonprofit fundraising in general, a nonprofit must consider strategic planning. As with building a house, taking a vacation or starting a business, achieving your desired outcome depends largely on the plan you have in place beforehand. As experts in strategic planning, fundraising consultants can help you create this blueprint and ensure that you meet your desired goals, whatever they may be.

3 Objectives of Strategic Planning
So, what is strategic planning? Strategic planning is the process of defining a strategy, identifying goals, and outlining a plan for achieving those goals. Whether you are just starting a nonprofit organization or are looking to complete a specific fundraising event, strategic planning is a huge driver of your success.

The 3 objectives of strategic planning are:

•Assess the Current Situation
Where does your nonprofit currently stand? What needs to change and how are you going to change it?

•Affirm the Future Direction
Make sure everyone is on board with your goals and vision for the future.

•Adopt an Actionable Plan
Work with fundraising consultants to create a plan that makes sense for your nonprofit and identify the tactics through which you will achieve it.

The Benefits of a Strategic Plan
If you’re still not sold on strategic planning, consider these benefits it will bring to your organization:

Strategic planning requires focus.Focus – As a decision-making tool for your nonprofit organization, your strategic plan will bring focus to your mission, vision, and overall goals

Ownership – Developing a strategic plan that involves all of your key stakeholders will provide a sense of ownership to everyone involved.

Clarity – Strategic planning brings clarity to your organization’s purpose. It helps clarify who you are and where you’re headed.

Unity – A strategic plan that involves the whole team will also unify the whole team. You all are working towards a common goal and you know what that goal is and how you’re going to reach it.

Success – With a positive attitude, full team involvement, and an actionable plan, you are sure to see success.

Strategic Plan Framework
As you’re developing your strategic plan, remember this basic framework:

•Super-Ordinate Objective
What is the overall outcome your organization plans to achieve?

•Sub-Ordinate Platform Objectives
What are the desired outcomes for each broad area?
        ◊ Goals – What we will achieve?
        ◊ Strategies – How we will achieve it?
        ◊ Actions/Tactics – What specific steps we will take?

Strategic planning is vital to any nonprofit, whether you’re just getting started or you’re planning a capital campaign. If you need assistance with strategic planning, fundraising consultants can help you identify your goals and develop an actionable plan for achieving them. Check out our blog to learn more about executing an effective strategic planning process and contact us to develop your strategic plan today.

Written by Lee Neel, Vice President of The Fundraising Resource Group. The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com or call 888-522-1492.

photo of social media icons highlighting twitter

So your nonprofit board has never heard of Twitter. Or maybe they just don’t understand how Facebook can be used beyond embarrassing your kids and reconnecting with high school classmates. Sounds like you have a dilemma on your hands. Social media is such a huge part of digital marketing that businesses can no longer afford to ignore it. And that goes double for nonprofits!

There are a number of reasons why nonprofits, of all shapes and sizes, should invest in social media. According to Pew Research, as of May 2013, 72% of online U.S. adults were using social networking sites. In addition, these adults ages 18-64 are spending an average of 3.2 hours per day on social media (Ipsos OTX). These statistics beg the question: why not connect with potential donors where they are spending most of their time? Social media is perfect for nonprofit marketing, offering a great platform for nonprofits to engage, interact, and elicit donations.

So, why do board members have such a hard time coming to terms with a social media investment? Of course money is a big concern for most nonprofits. The nonprofit board works tirelessly to ensure that the money is well-spent. Since it is often difficult to determine the ROI of social media, boards don’t want to risk spending too much time or resources there. While ROI may be tough to show, social media is not a wasted effort, and it is time for your board get on board with social media marketing.

5 Steps to Getting Your Nonprofit On Board

1.) Do Your Research
Your first step is to conduct thorough research on the benefits of social media, specifically for nonprofit marketing.  Gather the top statistics, determining which sites your demographic hangs out on and the potential ROI and how you plan to measure it.

2.) Explain the Role of Social Media
illustration of tree with social media icons for "leaves"
Once you have your research in hand, set up a time to meet with your nonprofit board and present your findings. Often times, your board just doesn’t understand how social media fits into the overall strategy. Once your board is familiar with cool social media features like nonprofit communities on Google+ and Facebook advertising, they are likely to come to terms with the investment.

3.) Provide a Case Study
Give your nonprofit board a specific example of how social media has worked for other, similar nonprofits. Find a competitor or best of breed nonprofit and present their strategy, wins, and losses to your board. If they can see it in action, they are more likely to believe it.

4.) Share Your Well-Thought-Out Plan
The research and case studies are great, but they mean nothing if you don’t have a strategy for how you’re going to implement social media. Before you present to your board, prepare a strategy for who will manage the sites, which sites you will be on, how often you will post, and what the expected budget will be (time and money). With a really well-thought-out plan, all they will have to do is sign on the dotted line!

5.) Keep the Board Involved
Once you receive the go-ahead and begin managing your nonprofit’s social media, don’t forget about the board. Keep them in the loop on social media wins over time, reassuring them that the investment was worthwhile. If you stop engaging your nonprofit board, social media may be the first thing cut when it is time to budget for next year.

Social media is a huge part of digital marketing and nonprofit boards are going to need to embrace it for the New Year. Follow the above steps to make it easier for your board to sign off and you will be on your merry way to generating new leads and garnering donations.

photo of SaraWritten by Sara Thompson, SEO and Social Media Administrator at Informatics Inc.

About Informatics: Informatics is a full service web agency that provides a wealth of web related services, including digital marketing, web design and development, e-marketing strategies, hosting, custom web applications, mobile applications, social media management, SEO services, photo and video services and multimedia development.

Imagine that you just kicked off a capital campaign in order to raise money that will fund a new capital project for your nonprofit. You have a viable list of major donors to reach out to. You, your staff and volunteers work hard and put in a lot of hours. But somewhere midway through your campaign you realize you’re only going to be able to raise a fraction of what you hoped to. What went wrong? Sadly, this situation occurs all too often (some sources estimate that 40% of capital campaigns fail to reach goal) but it can be avoided…with a feasibility study.

What is a Feasibility Study?
Abstract representation of a feasibility study using a man standing on an unfinished bridge.At the most basic level, a feasibility study is defined by Business Dictionary as “an analysis and evaluation of a proposed project to determine if it (1) is technically feasible, (2) is feasible within the estimated cost, and (3) will be profitable”. This definition of a feasibility study can pertain to real estate, restaurants, nonprofit capital campaigns, and basically any other industry looking to complete a project. We are talking specifically about feasibility studies as they pertain to capital campaigns for nonprofits.

Why is a Feasibility Study Important for Nonprofits?
If your nonprofit is considering a capital campaign, your first step should be conducting a feasibility study. Typically, nonprofit organizations hire fundraising consultants to conduct feasibility studies because it is important to have someone outside the organization conducting the interviews to ensure confidentiality and objectivity. Fundraising consultants with years of experience conducting studies also bring insight both to the process and interpreting the results that internal staff and leadership don’t have. A fundraising consultant will be able to help you validate your case for support, realistically assess the potential size and scope of your campaign, and evaluate internal readiness.

A feasibility study before beginning the capital campaign process is important because it explores an organization’s image and reputation, gauges the understanding of the project and financial need, determines the philanthropic priority of the project among potential donors, identifies potential volunteer leadership, evaluates the level of major donor support, determines organizational readiness, verifies campaign timing and the attainability of the fundraising goal. In spite of all of benefits of doing a pre-campaign study, only 11% of nonprofits use outside fundraising consultants to assess the size and scope of their capital campaign, via a feasibility study (Nonprofit Research Collaborative Summer/Early Fall 2011 Study). In addition, self-led campaigns raise around 50% less than campaigns that use expert counsel (Barna Research Group). Below are the major benefits of enlisting fundraising consultants to conduct a feasibility study for your capital campaign.

1.) Determining Fundraising Potential
Going into a capital campaign, nonprofits can misjudge the amount of money that can be raised, setting their goal based on need rather than by gauging interest in the specific project and philanthropic priority among top donors. Almost three-fourths of the nonprofits responding to the Collaborative Study said they established their goal based on the amount needed, which also explains why so many campaigns do not reach their goals. A feasibility study provides the opportunity to communicate with your donors and determine the probable amount of money that can be raised.  Simply put, there is no better way to gauge philanthropic priority or reliable indicator of capacity for your project than through a feasibility study. Past experience, the success of another capital campaign or any other measures can’t be applied to the campaign at hand to determine fundraising potential with any level of accuracy. Nonprofits that set their goal based on need alone often don’t stop to consider the negative perceptions that arise when an organization falls short of its publicized campaign goal.

2.) Identifying Donors and Leaders
Entering a capital campaign head first, without a feasibility study, can leave you ill-prepared in terms of logistics. Leaders and volunteers could be difficult to find. During the study process you will learn who is most likely to support you through their leadership and time commitments. 

3.) Validating the Need
A feasibility study will verify whether your project is seen as an urgent need by those most likely to support it through their leadership and gifts. It will identify what resonates most with your donors and help you to more strategically craft your case for support and other campaign messaging.

4.) Developing a Campaign Plan
There is no one-size-fits-all, off-the-shelf solution that will work for everyone. Even best practices and proven methodologies must be adapted to your organization’s reality. Every campaign plan is unique to the organization and project and takes into account specific challenges that are identified in the feasibility study.

5.) Determining Organizational Readiness
Too often, nonprofit organizations make the decision to move forward with a capital campaign because the project and the need exists without carefully determining organizational readiness. By conducting a feasibility study, an outside fundraising consultant can assess internal readiness in terms of staffing, timing, and support systems and make recommendations to improve readiness.

6.) Protecting from a Negative Experience
The campaign must be an unqualified success. A capital campaign is a large undertaking that requires dedicated staff time and hard work that is sustained over an extended period of time. A feasibility study helps ensure success and protects your organization and its supporters from a negative experience.

Enlisting fundraising consultants to complete a feasibility study for your nonprofit will safeg
uard against potential pitfalls by testing and verifying a reasonable campaign goal, a practical timeline, and identify the people that will be able to help you along the way.

The Fundraising Resource Group has experienced, senior-level executives that will conduct your feasibility study to lay the groundwork for your successful capital campaign. Contact us today to get started!

One of the most overlooked nonprofit website pages is the “thank you” page that donors land on after their donation has been made. This is an incredible missed opportunity. You have someone who has just made a donation to your organization, likely a first-time donor, and you have their undivided attention. At this point, you have a number of opportunities as enumerated in a recent Nonprofit Tech for Good article, you can: provide a thank you video for them to view, encourage donors to join your social network pages, encourage them to become involved in other ways, enable them to share their donation with their social networks or take a survey.

Why Donors Aren't GivingWhile I love all of these ideas, the idea of a short survey seems like a particularly good one for nonprofits who are trying to hone their nonprofit marketing approach and build their online donations.

What to Ask and Why
In terms of what to ask and how to ask it, I like the approach suggested in the online video, Golden questions” that reveal exactly why your visitors aren’t converting. Although intended for for-profit companies, the advice has relevance to the nonprofit sector as well. The presentation suggests conducting a short survey of customers who made an online purchase in order to learn more about those who didn’t. In all cases, they suggest that the questions be open-ended and not to use a drop-down multiple-choice format for more insightful and actionable results. Here are the four questions, adapted for nonprofit use:

1.) The objective: To uncover where your donors are coming from:
      Where exactly did you first find out about us?

2.) The objective: To identify appeals that work:
       What inspired you to give to us?

3.) The objective: To understand reservations or impediments that may be preventing others from giving:
       What is the one thing that almost stopped you from donating to us?

4.) The objective: To get ideas:
       How can we improve?

A short survey like this can provide valuable information that you would never get from analytics alone. As online donations play an increasing role in your nonprofit marketing strategy, especially for donor acquisition, it is important to learn ways to continue to improve your conversion rate. A post-donation survey of donors can help you to better understand both why people are donating and why not.

Written by Lee Neel, Vice President of Marketing, The Fundraising Resource Group. The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com or call 888-522-1492.

image meant to depict a fundraising campaignA capital campaign is an intensive fundraising effort within a defined time frame by a non-profit organization designed to raise significant funds to meet asset-building needs. Typically, capital campaigns are undertaken to pay for the purchase of land, construction of a new building or facility, renovations and expansion of existing buildings, additions to endowment and other large projects. 

Capital campaigns differ from other fundraising campaigns in that the gifts solicited are generally larger and donors are asked to give over-and-above (i.e. in addition to) their annual giving levels, typically making a gift pledge over a three-year period.

Capital Campaign Success
To conduct a successful capital campaign, a non-profit organization must:

  • Build and communicate a well-defined, impactful and urgent case for support
  • Engage, enlist and prepare committed leadership
  • Create an environment for capacity giving
  • Develop and manage a timeline that allows for success while maintaining discipline
  • Map a clear financial path to their objective

Before beginning a capital campaign it is important that a non-profit organization:

  • Conduct a feasibility study to measure external support for the campaign and its goal, and to identify potential leadership and leadership gifts
  • Conduct a development diagnostic to measure internal readiness

Unfortunately, too many organizations overlook these critical first steps. According to a study done by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, only 11% of non-profits use an impartial third party to conduct a feasibility study and development audit to determine internal readiness, the best campaign approach, and viability of the desired campaign goal.

Feasibility Studies
Sign saying "plan ahead"Non-profit organizations and board have misconceptions about feasibility studies. They either don’t understand the depth of the study and what it accomplishes or they dismiss feasibility studies as an unnecessary expense and process, the outcome of which is a recommendation to hire the consulting firm who conducted the study.

The truth is, no past or present giving experience is a sure indication of what an organization can raise in a capital campaign. A feasibility study is the means by which information is shared, tested, analyzed and put into an plan that recommends specific and actionable steps on how best to proceed including project priorities, preliminary goals, campaign organization, timeline and activities, awareness and marketing, assessment of organizational readiness, and a clear financial path to success. Simply put:

  • There is no better way to gauge philanthropic priority for your project.
  • There is no other reliable indicator of capacity.
  • The campaign must be an unqualified success.

This last point is an important one. In the majority of capital campaigns, 52%, the goal is determined by staff, the board or both (Nonprofit Research Collaborative). When setting a campaign goal based on project need, rather than a realistic assessment of what can be raised, organizations often don’t think about the ramifications of not reaching their goal. The objective is to set a campaign goal that can and will be exceeded through the effective work of the campaign. When an organization does not reach its publicized campaign goal, the organization risks the campaign being perceived as a failure, and any ripple effect that ensues.

Using an experienced and objective fundraising consultant to important to the study process for several reasons. First, it reassures those being interviewed that their responses will be kept confidential, thus allowing them to speak more candidly about their opinions. Secondly, a senior level consultant can bring insight to the responses and findings that can only be gained through years of experience with the process.

The Realities of Gift Size
A big gift box next to a little gift boxAnother area where there is often misunderstanding is how the money will be raised. Thinking along the lines of “If we need a million dollars, all we need to do is get 1,000 people to give us $1,000 each,” simply isn’t substantiated by the facts.

Experience has shown that 5 to 10 percent of the donors provide 85 to 95 percent of the goal in a capital campaign. To ensure this, at least one gift at 10 percent or more and two gifts each worth 5 percent or more of the goal are sought at the beginning of the campaign (Robert Peirpont for School of Philanthropy at Indiana University). In our experience, the top ten donors to a campaign contribute approximately 60% of the funds needed. 

Can You Do It Yourself?
Many non-profit organizations don’t use outside counsel. Some have the expertise and manpower in-house to take the task on themselves, but most do not. All too often, we hear stories about campaigns that stall out long before the goal has been reached. Most often, their problems started at the very beginning in the planning stages. (We offer several free webinar recordings on this topic, including as Ensuring Capital Campaign Success: The 4 I’s to Foolproof Planning and The 7 Deadly Sins of Capital Campaigns and How to Avoid Them). Conducting a successful capital campaign isn’t easy, especially if your experience and resources are limited, nor is it the time to experiment.

Often times the reason organizations don’t hire fundraising consultants is the expense. It’s important to understand that all campaign costs should ultimately be paid using campaign proceeds, including fundraising. As a rule of thumb, cost-per-dollar-raised for any fundraising campaign, including fundraising counsel and all other direct and allocated campaign costs, should not exceed eight to ten cents for any campaign. Cost should be based on the the time and intensity of services provided.

Typically, the greatest expense in a self-led campaign is the money that doesn’t get raised. To quote Red Adair, the famous oil well fire-fighter, “If you think it’s expensive to hire an expert, wait until you use an amateur.”

Written by Lee Neel, Vice President of Marketing, The Fundraising Resource Group. The Fundraising Resource Group helps non-profit organizations across the United States with fundraising feasibility studies, capital campaigns, annual giving campaigns, major gift fundraising, non-profit marketing, fundraising training, and other high-impact, high-return fundraising activities. For more about how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com or call 888-522-1492.