I love my work! I get to travel across the country and meet amazing people, working for amazing organizations, with amazing missions that are actually changing lives. That feeling was deepened with my recent visit to Edgewood Children’s Center just outside of St. Louis. As one of the founding agencies of Great Circle, “reshaping vulnerable lives” and “giving children and families the confidence to create bright futures”, Edgewood “provides compassionate care and treatment to restore children and strengthen families.”

Young girl holding a stop sign meant to represent the concept of stopping child abuseMy heart breaks for vulnerable and disadvantaged children whether victims of abuse, neglect, abandonment or special learning and social needs. They are so easily forgotten and many times failed by “the system” doing the best it can. But my spirits are lifted and hope restored when I see those devoting their lives, talents, time and resources to give those children and families a fighting chance. Edgewood is one of those places of hope.

Founded in 1834, the Children’s Center appropriately changed its name when relocating to, what at the time was literally the edge of the woods, its current peaceful setting in what is now the edge of St. Louis. Edgewood offers three special programs for non-traditional learners. Programs include one for middle- and upper-school-aged-kids who need assistance with social skills, day treatment programs and education services for children with severe emotional and behavioral disorders, and specialized school and day treatment for children with autism or other diagnoses along the Pervasive Development Disorder Spectrum. Edgewood provides both residential and day programs, with specialized care for children and families, including foster children and families, as well as partnering with S.A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES to assist adolescents and adults who engage in non-lethal, repetitive, self-injurious behaviors.

Great Circle logo and copy that reads "April is national child abuse and neglect prevention month"While just listing the programs is impressive, it doesn’t begin to tell the story of what they truly do and how they care. From the specialized learning programs, to the Garfield Room, the soothing White Rooms, and even the non-buzzing overhead lights to reduce disturbing stimulation for children with certain disorders, the teachers, therapists, case-workers and all of the staff understand the magnitude of what they are doing. Imagine if the only hug you are comfortable with is from a squeezing machine because you can’t deal with the stimulation of human touch. Now imagine knowing the difference it makes in the development and ultimate achievement of these children and their families by providing the feeling of that “hug” that might not otherwise be felt. The staff, volunteers and donors of Edgewood truly provide these children and their families a chance “to create bright futures.” I love to repeat that part of their mission because it is no small feat. No one is deemed to have less of a chance to achieve whatever their bright future may be.

My wife and I toured the entire facility but the most moving place to me was the room of one teenage resident and student. This is someone who will soon be a young adult facing all of the challenges that come with that transition in life. This teenager is allowed to write notes on the wall; a journal of their journey. The words could have been written by any of us such as “almost there, but not quite” along with expressions of trusting others. But this child’s journey and journal would no doubt have completely different entries without the compassion and care provided through an organization that placed itself on the edge of the woods back in the 19th century for one purpose; to give a change at that “bright future.”

Thank you for making me love my work even more by knowing your work.

For more information about The Fundraising Resource Group’s relational fundraising and marketing services, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com.

John Wayne head shot in cowboy hatThe Fundraising Resource Group offers FREE fundraising training webinars every month. Recordings of all fundraising training sessions are available to nonprofit organizations upon request.

The #1 reason people don’t like asking for money is the fear of the unexpected.  This free webinar, Taking the Fear out of “The Ask” – (What would John Wayne do?) will provide practical guidance and tools for planning, conducting and successfully closing major and capital gift solicitations.  At conclusion, you will be able to 1) develop individualized solicitation strategies, 2) solicit major gifts with confidence, anticipating and appropriately responding to potential objections, and 3) prepare others for effective solicitation visits. Request this recording.

The presenter of this fundraising training is Daniel Neel, president of The Fundraising Resource Group, who brings more than 28 years of professional fundraising and financial services experience, serving in executive leadership roles for the past 22 years.  While providing counsel and direction to non-profit organizations across the US he has designed, directed and led fundraising programs that have significantly increased operational funding and provided over half of a billion dollars through capital and endowment campaigns.  In addition to Daniel’s years in successfully leading his own fundraising firms and executive leadership with one of the largest national fundraising organizations in the US, Daniel has served as President, Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer for international investment banking and investment management organizations.  He began his professional career as a Certified Public Accountant specializing in tax work.

Giving USA report on philanthropy 2010 report coverCan we talk about an embarrassing subject?  Recurring gift donors; the ones who give at regular intervals (usually monthly) throughout the year with no end in sight.  The reason this is embarrassing?  Most organizations don’t have enough of them.

According to Giving USA 2011- The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the year 2010, “In the United States, just 10 percent of all donors, on average, are recurring donors.”  Far fewer than our international counterparts.  By the way, this sub-group of donors gives 21 percent of charitable revenue according to the report and are the most predictable, reliable and sustainable source of revenue.

The report goes on to give some characteristics of recurring-gift donors:

Text box with bullet points that read: Generally younger than single-gift givers, No difference in income level, Give significantly more per year than single-gift donors, Are less likely to come back if they lapse in giving, Retention rates are significantly higher, Did I mention they give more?

The findings do reveal one downside of recurring gift donors versus single gift givers. “Single gift donors tend to upgrade their gift at a greater percentage of the original gift than do recurring gift donors.”  I believe that most often this is due to a strategic misstep on the part of the organization.  We don’t give them a reason to upgrade and we don’t ask.

There are several lessons on how to grow a successful recurring gift program to be learned and applied from this information. The plan can be summed up in the three important measures:

Retain – take care of your recurring gift donors and they will stick with you. Upgrade – Give them a reason to grow by offering specific, in-budget opportunities.New - Recruit new donors to consider a recurring gift plan and multiply the impact of their giving.

Ok, I know that the first two are actions and the last an adjective, but it works better if it spells a word.  It also works best if you actually do it.  One more embarrassing topic eliminated.

For more information about The Fundraising Resource Group’s relational fundraising services, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com

screenshot of Drake University Pinterest boardThe only thing growing as fast as Pinterst these days are blog posts about Pinterest and why and how various constituents should be using this (relatively) new and fastest-growing social media website.  In the short time that I have been on it (and admittedly addicted) I have wondered why there aren’t more schools getting on the Pinterest bandwagon.  I have run across a number of bulletin boards and pins by individuals paying homage to their alma maters but schools, not so much.

Admittedly, the search function for Pinterest leaves a lot to be desired at this point in time so it could be that there are more schools on it than I realize but I ran a rather random Google search and found of the US News and World Report top 10 colleges, only two had an official presence (Yale and Amherst) and each had only one board and a smattering of followers at best.  Of the top 10 high schools, none had a presence.  My college (Denison University) had no presence and the only presence for the grad school I attended (Northwestern University) was established by the Career Services department.  Back to the search function issue, it may take students and alums a while to find schools that are on there, but that doesn’t deter me from thinking it’s a good idea.

Why Pinterest, Why Now
Why add Pinterest to your social media strategy?  Because as a social content curation venue, it offers a different approach to connecting than Twitter or Facebook.  A recent Huffington Post article suggested that part of Pinterest’s appeal is that the focus is on “look at this” rather than “look at me.”  (Amen to that!)  Another reason for schools to add Pinterest to their social media strategy is about timing and momentum.  Once you get beyond the big three (Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin) there is a virtually inexhaustible list of social media sites with relatively small, growing followings.  Pinterest usage is comparatively speaking, skyrocketing, and there are rewards for getting in early; it’s typically easier to grow your user base when there’s less competition.  (Conversely, growing one’s user base on Facebook has become more challenging for small pages because they actually get less exposure than prior to the timeline/newsfeed format change.)

How Schools use Pinterest
It is easy for me to envision a school using it as sort of more creative “virtual yearbook” telling their story and building their social community visually via what folks in that community find fun, interesting, useful and important.  One nice feature is that you can even set up collaborative boards, where people you approve can contribute to specific boards.

Northwestern University and Others
Northwestern University Career Services is doing a good job with their boards that cover everything from “Internship Resources,” “Companies where NU Students Intern,” “Dress for Success” (separate boards for men and women), and “Office Spaces,” “Volunteerism” (National and International) and various Library Boards with reading suggestions for Career Resources, Majors/Degrees, Internships and more.  They take a lighter turn with “Wise Words” and “Movies and TV That Work.”  Other schools from my random sample that appear to be off to a modestly decent start are Bowdoin College, University of Texas McCombs School of Business and Miami University (did I mention my sample was random?).

Drake University
But a truly imaginative and better example of the potential for a school, however, is Drake University.  They have managed to fall squarely within the fun and visual user experience that is Pinterest.   Their boards cover everything from “Rad Room Décor,” (loved this!) and “School Colors” (fashion) to “Adorable Bulldogs” (the school mascot – VERY endearing and fun), “Study Inspiration” and “Alumni at the Office” (office décor that incorporates either the school colors or their mascot).  I didn’t go to Drake but I sure enjoyed perusing their boards – which is exactly what Pinterest is all about.  They have done a great job of making their boards bring the Drake student experience to life in such a way that ANYONE can enjoy it.

A common (and I’m guessing widespread) reaction to all the hooha over Pinterest may be similar to my own – “Oh no, not ANOTHER social media site I need to keep up with.” – All I can say is, yes, it is BUT this one may be the one you end up enjoying the most – and possibly reaping the most benefits from.

For more information about The Fundraising Resource Group’s relational fundraising and marketing services, visit our website at www.thefundraisingresource.com.

 

A+ for fundraising successThe greatest opportunity for improvement for non-profit boards is in fundraising.  A recent survey of nearly 1,000 non-profit CEO’s and 800 board members found that only 16% of respondents gave their board an A or B in fundraising, while 84% graded their performance as a C or below.

In their FREE webinar recording, How to Get an “A” in Nonprofit Board Management, Daniel E. Neel, President of The Fundraising Resource Group, provides you with the training and tools needed to effectively engage your board in its greatest and most important challenge.

From this session you will learn how to:  1) communicate specific expectations for board members; 2) provide the appropriate structure and training to empower board members; and, 3) effectively engage board members to be successful in fundraising.  Request this session NOW.

About the Presenter: Daniel brings more than 28 years of professional fundraising and financial services experience, serving in executive leadership roles for the past 22 years.  While providing counsel and direction to non-profit organizations across the US he has designed, directed and led fundraising programs that have significantly increased operational funding and provided over half of a billion dollars through capital and endowment campaigns.  In addition to Daniel’s years in successfully leading his own fundraising firms and executive leadership with one of the largest national fundraising organizations in the US, Daniel has served as President, Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer for international investment banking and investment management organizations.  He began his professional career as a Certified Public Accountant specializing in tax work. For information on other webinars, visit www.thefundraisingresource.com.