Recently, I came across a blog post questioning whether “expensive” capital campaign brochures and materials are a “good thing” or a “not so good thing.” The author and respected consultant, Gail Perry, expressed ambivalence and intentionally did not make a strong case for or against.  From the title of this blog post, you already know I intend to explain why I feel they are important and necessary.

Capital Campaign LogoA Distinct Identity
A capital campaign is “an intensive fund raising effort designed to raise a specified sum of money within a defined time period to meet the varied asset-building needs of an organization.” The first thing we do when we create capital campaign materials is develop a logo design and tagline/theme for the campaign. There is an important reason for this. It signals to your constituents that this isn’t “business as usual.” This is a special effort where you are asking donors to reach above and beyond their normal annual donation amount for your organization, often for a multi-year commitment. By creating a separate, but related, brand identity you are communicating the importance of this effort both to your organization and to your constituents.

Capital Campaign Brochures
Capital Campaign brochure spread Immaculate Heart Radio.Typically, we create two brochures for capital campaigns. One is a multi-page large brochure and the other is a small tri-fold brochure. The large brochure is used in face-to-face, personal meetings where those soliciting donations have done their homework on the prospective donor, understand their passions and interests and will be taking a very personalize approach in their conversations with the prospective donor. The brochure serves as a confidence-builder for those soliciting, frames the messaging, and is a leave-behind for donors who want to review information or glean more in-depth information not covered in the meeting. Very occasionally, we have a client or board member who worries about the materials being “too slick.” These are high-net-worth donors you are calling on. Unpolished, unprofessional materials can inadvertently signal a lack of professionalism, a “small potatoes” mentality or worse, a lack of caring enough. (The tri-fold brochure is typically used most during the public phase of capital campaigns for larger gatherings, mailings and for garnering smaller donations. It provides similar benefits to the larger brochure – frames the messaging and ensures consistency and gives volunteers greater confidence in their solicitation efforts, and can stand on its own.)

I would never claim that a brochure is solely responsible for an organization getting donations. I do believe that a lack of a branded campaign effort and professional materials can result in a lesser solicitation effort and lesser donations.

Capital Campaign logo for Christian Community ActionHow Expensive Is It?
The cost of your campaign materials should come out of campaign donations. Many times, you can approach a donor specifically to underwrite this effort. Virtually all marketing and design firms offer a non-profit rate that is less than their typical for-profit rates. Often, organizations have access to professionals who are willing to donate all or part of the development, production and printing of materials. (My only caveat here is that often, you get what you pay for. Vet any potential in-kind donations in this area the same way you would if you were paying for the materials. Ask to see other work samples and make sure that they have comparable experience.) If an organization receives offsetting contributions (either cash or in-kind) giving notice or credit to their generosity to allow you to development attractive, quality materials can diffuse the nay-sayers who may think you spent too much of materials.

When speaking to the value of hiring fundraising consultants versus self-led capital campaigns, Daniel Neel, president of The Fundraising Resource Group, often quotes the oil well firefighter, Red Adair, “If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur.” He asserts that the biggest campaign expense in these situations is the money left on the table. I believe the same can be said for organizations that choose to forgo the “expense” of professional expertise in branding and capital campaign materials.

For more information on The Fundraising Resource Group and how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success through high-impact, high-return fundraising activities, visit our website at

Dr. Evil1. Do Your Research
Choosing wisely starts with having a good pool to choose from. You can ask board members and your nonprofit peers for recommendations. The AFP National Directory and industry publications such as the Chronicle of Philanthropy also maintain lists of fundraising consultants. Be sure to visit and read websites and blogs. Once you have your short list, ask to connect with individuals on LinkedIn and view their profiles and recommendations from others.

2. Avoid the Bait and Switch
Many firms will send dedicated sales people to meet with you and make their “pitch.” Make sure the people presenting to you are the ones you’ll be working with. Just sitting in the meeting doesn’t count. You want to see them in action and hear what they can do for you from “the horse’s mouth.” I’ve written more in-depth on this topic in my blog post, Steve Jobs Theory on Why Great Companies Decline – Hint: Beware of the Great Salesman.

3. Consider the Trust Factor
One of the many reasons to see prospective fundraising consultants in action is you want to find someone who conveys trust. You need a consultant that demonstrates leadership and emanates honesty and integrity (don’t mistake “polished” with “professional”).

4. Weigh Their Interest Level
Have they done their homework on your organization? Did they ask good questions prior to submitting their proposal? Did they visit with you on the phone or in person and tour your facilities? In other words, have they made an effort to get to know your organization, its current challenges and needs?

5. Look for Thoroughness
How thorough is their proposal? Their presentation? Did you walk away with a clear understanding of the process, timeline, responsibilities, deliverables, and fees?

Yoda Star Wars6. Don’t Underestimate the Value of Experience
One of the biggest reasons to bring in outside counsel is expertise. True expertise comes over time, through experience. An experienced consultant knows many of the challenges you may face in advance, has dealt with unexpected “bumps in the road,” and has the interpersonal skills to successfully interact with your most important donors, senior management and board members. This is one of the many reasons I believe in the project management model over resident council for capital campaigns. The consultant serving on your front lines day-in and day-out with resident counsel is invariably a less experienced, more junior consultant.

7. Conduct Meaningful Reference Checks
Checking references should be more than a formality. Presumably, no firm would provide you with references they didn’t think would be positive, so your mission in talking to references should be to gain insight. Ask for three references from satisfied clients and one reference from a client whose goal was not achieved. Make sure you get references for the consultant you will actually be working with. Ask references what they wish the consultant had done differently and if they would hire the firm again. Also ask about your individual fundraising consultant’s strategic planning abilities, perceptibility, adaptability in challenging situations, and integrity. Ask them if there is anything else they think you should know prior to making a final decision.

8. Listen to Your Instincts
Taking into consideration gut instincts is very different from blindly following them. You want the decision-making process to be as objective as possible but, realistically, personal preference is part of every hiring decision. The important thing is to examine the source of your instincts or inclinations and decide if they are important or even valid. Often times, they are. Well-demonstrated competency may translate into trust, excellent interpersonal skills into rapport, and similar core values into attraction.

For more about The Fundraising Resource Group and how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success through high-impact, high-return fundraising activities, visit our website at


carrot on a stickAccording to the 2014 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey, 1 out of 5 non-profits cited turnover is the biggest employment challenge at their organization. “Inability to pay competitively” was identified as the biggest challenge in retention. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that if any of the NPT’s Best Nonprofits To Work For were among those surveyed, they were not among the organizations who cited turnover and salaries as their biggest challenges.

What Motivates
Why? Because scientific research has proven – over and over again – that for all but the most narrowly focused tasks in business, money is not the big motivator. According to NPT, “Leaders at organizations that topped the list of  Best Places to Work appear to share some common approaches, such as empowering employees and encouraging them to find their own creative solutions.” I would venture to guess that an important thing they all have in common are the three factors mentioned in Dan Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us: autonomy, the opportunity for mastery, and sense of purpose. (View Dan’s TED talk on this subject.)

What Employees Say
Employees holding smiley faces in front of their own faces.As I read through the article that accompanied the survey in The Nonprofit Times, the companies interviewed talked about empowering employees, investing in training and education (internally, externally or both), and making sure there was clear communication and alignment with regard to the organization’s mission. On money, “Some organizations benchmarked at higher-than-average percentiles for salaries while others provided generous benefits to try to offset potentially lower salaries.” When organizations asked employees what they are looking for, they frequently cited “the ability to grow and learn.” If you still suspect it’s more about resources and less about internal marketing and employee empowerment, consider the fact that the organization in the #1 slot, National Older Worker Career Center, has 23 employees, 10 of the top 50 have less than 25 employees and 18 have less than 50.

Often Not the Deciding Factor
At one point in my career I was on the verge of accepting a job with a well-respected non-profit organization. Their mission aligned with my interests and I really liked my prospective boss. The pay was not great but I could envision being happy working there. In the eleventh hour, I ended up turning the job down. I had done some asking around and discovered that the Executive Director, while nice, was infamous for being a micro-manager and the Marketing Director position had become a revolving door. I knew enough to know the lack of autonomy would kill my spirit.

"Example is not the main thing influencing others, it's the only thing." Albert SchweitzerLeadership and Values
The employee turnover rate among non-profit organizations mirrors the national average at a little over 16%. In the retail industry, the turnover rate is closer to 25%. The Container Store, voted among Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For for 15 years running, has a turnover rate significantly below the national average. During the time I worked there, the pay was slightly above average and benefits were pretty standard (they have since upped their game a lot in the benefits department). People loved to work there then, and they love to work there now. Why? Because they have leadership that evangelizes their well-articulated and consistently practiced core values, they invest in training, and empower their employees – which sounds a lot like what the non-profits highlighted in the survey do.

What I hope other non-profit organizations take away from The Nonprofit Times survey is that being a great company to work for and being a company that is able to attract and retain good talent is a lot about leadership and values. Yes, money is a factor but if the other key elements are in place – respect and autonomy, the ability to grow and learn and a belief that each team member makes an important difference in the mission – salaries are less of a stumbling block and employee retention will become a much smaller issue.

For more information on The Fundraising Resource Group and how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success through high-impact, high-return fundraising activities, visit our website at

Roy Disney and quote, "It's not hard to make decisions once you know what your core values are."The Nonprofit Time’s has just released their report on the Best Nonprofits To Work For 2014. Taylor Carrado, Head of Nonprofit and Education Marketing at Hubspot noted 11 common traits the non-profits that make this list share. Not surprisingly, six of them were related to internal marketing:

  • The leadership lives by and understands its culture.
  • Employees know their role and how they contribute to the mission.
  • The organization’s leaders solicit feedback and suggestions from their staff regularly.
  • Onboarding and training is a key part of the culture and is always improving via staff feedback.
  • Part-time staff is kept in the loop on all content from staff meetings.
  • The majority of employees participate in fundraising and awareness efforts for the cause.

What is Internal Marketing?
Perhaps I should back up a minute and provide a definition of internal marketing because I think all too often, what internal marketing is and how to engage in it is misunderstood. A common misconception is that internal marketing is the marketing department’s job and it’s about keeping others within the organization abreast of external marketing activities. In reality, it is a lot more than that and it is the job of everyone in a leadership role in the organization and it must come from the top, down. Internal marketing is the process of promoting the organization’s mission, core values and brand to the employees.

Done well, internal marketing:

  • helps align, motivate and coordinate staff,
  • creates a more informed staff that is more engaged and invested in outcomes, and
  • helps ensure consistent brand messaging externally.

While non-profits often do an excellent job of communicating and promoting their mission, many non-profit organizations do not have well-defined core values or a crystal-clear understanding of their brand. (Not surprisingly, the two are inextricably related to one another.)

Words "core values" and an apple coreThe Role of Core Values
A core value is a principle that guides an organization’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with the external world. Core values communicate to employees what is expected of them. These values help employees in their decision-making processes, define common ground, and create rallying points. If an organization’s core values are well-defined and leadership communicates those core values in everything they say and do, the organization will have happier, more productive employees. Core values should be about actions, not words; they need be an integral ingredient to the organization’s success, both in day-to-day operations and longer-term strategy. Importantly, they must be lived and breathed from the very top down; core values can’t be delegated.

Core Values also help organizations make better hiring decisions. Along with experience and skills, a good “cultural fit” is essential. But how do you effectively define “cultural fit?” Core values. Zappos!, the online shoe retailer, came to this realization when they were going through a high-growth and hiring phase. They now incorporate their core values into their hiring process and interview questions. (Read “How Zappos! Infuses Culture Using Core Values” published via the Harvard Business Review and written by Zappos! CEO Tony Hsieh).

How this Relates to Branding
Illustration of brain with brands in itThere are lots of definitions of a brand floating around out there but I think Seth Grodin’s is as good as any, “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” Brands are developed over time through:

  • consistent verbal and visual messaging,
  • interactions with an organization and its representatives,
  • recommendations, and
  • real life experiences using a service or product.

That makes everyone in your organization from the janitor to the receptionist to the executive director a brand ambassador. Non-profit organizations that understand the role and importance of everyone in the organization having a deep understanding, and daily experience of, the core values and mission of the organization are the ones that are most successful in their branding. They also have brands people like and feel more of an emotional connection to.

Internal Marketing in Practice
According to Steven Nardizzi, executive director of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Wounded Warrior Project (ranked #3 overall this year after 3 years in the #1 spot, which it still retains among large non-profits), successful organizations boil down to focus on the culture and alignment with mission and attracting, retaining, and engaging the supporting incredible people. WWP has 17 offices and opens an average of 5 new offices each year. The NPT reports, WWP “surveys team leaders to keep up on how offices are doing, to ensure tools and resources are available to staff, and keeping a healthy office environment that’s ‘aligned with core values and constantly committed to mission.”

AHC, ranked #2 overall and #1 among medium-sized non-profits, “immerses employees in a ‘culture of customer service’ from the start.” Their new-hire orientation program spells out its “commitment to teamwork and communications; dedication to the environment, and a pledge to offer opportunity, respectability and accountability to all employees.” Their orientation process centers around their core values.

Good internal communications are essential to successful organizations where talented people want to work. I had the privilege of working in management at The Container Store earlier in my career, a for-profit company that has been on Fortune’s list of “The 100 Best Companies to Work For” for 15 years running. They are experts at internal marketing and place so much importance on their core values that they call them their “Foundation Principles” (and have gone to the time and expense of trademarking the term). They directly attribute their repeated appearance on the list to “our collective focus on upholding the Foundation Principles in everything we do.” Not surprisingly, one of their Foundation Principles is “Communication IS Leadership.”

How about your non-profit organization, does it have well-defined core values? Does leadership communicate these core values in everything they say and do?

If you work for a non-profit and are interested in more on this subject, visit our website and request a copy of our FREE webinar recording, Essential Elements for Strategic and Effective Marketing Communications. For more about The Fundraising Resource Group and how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success through high-impact, high-return fundraising activities, visit our website at

Chart showing elements of brand architecture.I’d love to say that what I am about to write is so basic as to be self-evident and should “go without saying” but the reality is, these are mistakes I see being made every day. I work with non-profit organizations primarily in helping them with capital campaigns branding, messaging, and materials and find the following to be common stumbling blocks.

1. Not making sure their messaging is strategically on target. Any marketing person worth their salt wouldn’t dream of starting a project without developing a Creative Strategy Statement or Brief. This is an exercise we take all of our capital campaign clients through prior to beginning to develop the case for support. Recently I had a client balk at the idea, confident that they had their messaging down. I asked them to humor me. What ensued was a stimulating and thought-provoking discussion that – lo and behold – yielded a very different perspective on their differentiators, primary benefit and brand promise.

2. Not consistently making the connection between organizational impact and donors. It is not enough to thank donors when they give to your annual campaigns, capital campaigns, or attend your fundraising events or to say “thank you” once a year in a letter that appears in your annual report. “Thank you” is about consistently making the connection between your organization’s impact and the fact that none of it would be possible if not for the donors and volunteers who support your organization in all your messaging. Sometimes I feel that organizations get so worried about making sure they communicate their impact and tell their stories well that they “forget” to make this ultimate connection back to the donors. It’s not that they never make the connection, it’s that it’s not made often enough (i.e. at every opportunity).

3. Not remembering that communication with donors is an end in itself. Which is a nice way of saying that soliciting money in every communication with donors is a HUGE no-no. No one wants to be the parent whose kid only calls or writes when they want something. Look for ways to make your major donors know that you thought about them specifically.  If they are important enough to qualify as a major donor, you should know them well enough to know a good deal about their passions and interests beyond your organization. And what about those donors who have the potential to become major donors? Reach out with important news before it’s generally known, remember birthdays and holidays, recognize major life events (theirs), treat them as the cherished friends they are or that you want them to be.

For more information on The Fundraising Resource Group and how we can help your non-profit achieve fundraising success through high-impact, high-return fundraising activities, visit our website at