ACN News & Industry Trends

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  • 03/30/2020 2:54 PM | Kelli Moore (Administrator)

    by Amelia Kohm

    Each of us has a number of tools we use regularly in our consulting practices. A well-worn item in many of our toolboxes is the survey. Whether we are doing strategic planning, marketing, organizational development, or evaluation, we often need information best gathered through a survey of current or potential clients, participants, audience members, board members, staff, etc.

    It’s easy enough to create a survey on Survey Monkey or the like. It's harder to get an adequate number of responses. And even when you do, the respondents might not fairly represent the larger group you want to know about. But let’s say you get past these hurdles. There’s still a major hurdle ahead of you: extracting meaning from your data.

    Surveys include different types of questions. Perhaps the most common one is the Likert scale question which asks respondents to indicate how much they agree or disagree with a particular statement using a five to seven point scale.

    Many consultants and organizations will assign numerical values to response options (5 for strongly agree, 4 for agree, 3 for neutral, 2 for disagree, and 1 for strongly disagree) and then compute averages across respondents. But there is so much more information in those numbers than averages can tell you, including:

    The extremes: Averages can’t tell you what were the lowest or highest ratings on any given statement.

    What most respondents said: Let’s say an average response is 3. This number doesn’t tell you if most people responded with a 3 or if half responded with a 5 and half responded with a 1. More broadly, averages can’t tell you how spread out the data is. Are there similar numbers of responses at each point in the scale or do they bunch up around certain values?

    What subgroups think and feel: Even though the overall average might be high, the average might be low for some subgroups within your group of respondents. Perhaps respondents from a certain neighborhood, for example, had very different opinions than the group overall.

    You can extract and show this type of information using data visualization tools like Tableau. Compare this simple list of averages of responses to several survey questions . . .

    . . . to the chart below which shows the range of responses to each survey statement, the proportion of responses for each rating, and the overall average across survey statements (the gray vertical line) in addition to the averages which appear in the gray circles.

    Moreover, the interactive version allows you to “drill down” into the data and see if whole group results hold for subgroups.

    If you are going to go to the trouble of conducting a survey, make sure to squeeze all of the information you can from the data you collect.


    Amelia Kohm, PhD, is the founder of Data Viz for Nonprofits and has more than 20 years of experience studying, funding, and evaluating human services. Data Viz for Nonprofits ( delivers high-quality, low-cost visualizations that help organizations to quickly grasp their data, improve their work, and show their impact.

  • 03/27/2020 10:14 AM | Kelli Moore (Administrator)

    by Heather Eddy 

    Assessing your team and infrastructure is an item leaders often have on the “to do” list, but likely keeps getting pushed to the bottom.

    NOW is the perfect opportunity to tackle the task.

    When we look back on the COVID-19 situation, bold leaders will have used the lessons learned during this time to strengthen their organizations and teams. Here are some things you can review to prepare for short- and long-term operational needs when things do return to normal. (And they will return to normal.)

    • Annual goals and targets. What will they look like at 100% / 75% / 50%?
    • Budgeted numbers (projected and actual). Determine which fixed costs are a must and which soft costs can be deferred, reduced, or eliminated.
    • Job descriptions. When were they last updated? Do they clearly outline performance objectives and expectations?
    • Policies and procedures. Are they current? Do they accurately reflect how your team operates?
    • Members of your team. Who brings exceptional skill? Who is the most versatile? Who always jumps in, and who regularly objects? Who has evolved with the job, and who has steered the job to fit them?

    With this data fresh in mind, outline your ideal team structure for January 2021. Look at the ideal pre-COVID-19, the “leanest” option now, and what falls in between. Defining these frameworks will help in the coming months.

    During both the Dotcom bubble burst (late 90s) and the economic downturn during the Great Recession (2007-2009), we learned that crisis-timed decisions need to be made with short-, medium-, and long-term impact in mind.

    The good news is – we also learned that things do eventually come back. Who you have on your team when that happens will make all the difference. Here are some recommendations when making hard decisions:

    • Culture still eats strategy - even in tough times, and perhaps especially in tough times. Make sure people are adding to a common, valued, shared, and vibrant culture.
    • Strategy does matter. Without it, your team may accomplish a multitude of tasks, but may not reach bigger goals.
    • Longevity carries weight, but last in/first out may not meet your business needs. Staff with less tenure on your team may fill the most current/important need(s) – isn’t that why you hired them?
    • The 80/20 rule. A manager often spends 80% of their time with the underperformers and only 20% of their time with top performers. Who takes up most of your time, and is that time channeled productively and efficiently? If you could achieve more time balance, what outcomes could you accomplish?
    • Ensure your team brings a blend of styles and strengths. KEES uses the DiSC profile for team building. Even if a team member isn’t your favorite personally, that does not mean they are not a valuable asset to the team.

    These challenging times will demand your creative leadership. If you keep your mission and purpose top of mind, knowing that things will rebuild and ultimately thrive again, then short team pain may lead to long term gain.


    Heather co-founded KEES in 2013 after serving for 17 years in multiple executive leadership roles with The Alford Group/Alford Group Executive Search. KEES partners specifically with nonprofits to provide an array of executive search, leadership development, interim staffing and HR consulting services.

  • 03/24/2020 11:24 AM | Kelli Moore (Administrator)

    By Laura Weinman

    If you are a Major Gift Officer or other “relationship manager,” you are likely craving human interaction while simultaneously re-imagining years of best practices teaching that face-to-face is always the best way to engage your most generous donors.

    During times of uncertainty, most major donors will want to hear from you – to know you care about their well-being and to update them on what your organization is doing differently (and what remains unchanged!) during this time of disruption. Reaching out by email or phone is fine (don’t stop doing it) – and suggesting that you meet by video conference might be welcomed. While some donors might not be familiar with Skype, Zoom, or other platforms, many regularly interact with children, grandchildren or friends on their phone through FaceTime or other means. They may even be interested in having a view of your home office or some parts of your life that you don’t usually share. (We’re all in this together.) For a laugh, check out this BBC interview from a home office that goes awry.

    Everyone loves an authentic interaction and during times of stress, letting down your personal guard and interacting as a person rather than an employee can go a long way in building trust and bonds with your major donors.

    However, video chat isn’t for everyone…so what are some other options?

    • Ask your CEO, Board Chair, or someone in direct service at your nonprofit to record a short video and share it widely on social media and email it to donors. Something as simple as a 15 second iPhone video is easy to share.
    • Many people look for ways to be helpful and productive during times of stress and uncertainty. Other than giving, ask for specific things they can do. Can they call another donor to thank them? Can they reach out to isolated clients (ensuring you clear any confidentiality issues) to offer a friendly voice? Can they direct people to your good work through their social media?
    • Simply making a phone call to say thank you for your support this year can go a long way in keeping your organization top of mind at a later date. If you can encourage your board and committee members to make these calls, you’re cultivating them too!
    • Consult experts for help with organization-specific cultivation plans or interim support if you need some additional experts on board temporarily to reach all of your donors.

    Laura has 20+ years of Association/Nonprofit leadership experience. Her expertise focuses on development, staff recruitment, staff management, career coaching, grant writing, major gifts, planned giving, prospect research, strategic development planning, event management, sponsorship, volunteer management, and annual fundraising. She has been with KEES since 2012.

  • 03/20/2020 9:10 AM | Kelli Moore (Administrator)

    by Michelle Hunter

    Working at home can cause stress and anxiety, even under normal conditions. This new world of remote working due to COVID-19, however, is a different ballgame—and one with its own unique set of mental health challenges.

    With the unfolding health crisis, many of us likely have more worries on our plates than usual. As members of the nonprofit community, we are deeply concerned about the pandemic’s impact on the populations we serve and our organizations’ ability to function and survive. We also may be feeling anxious about our own health and financial security, or about working remotely while trying to care for children and loved ones.

    In times like these, it’s more important than ever to take steps to protect our mental well-being. You’ve likely heard the airplane metaphor about putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. The same message applies here: you’ll be in a much better position to make a positive difference for those around you if your fundamental needs are met.

    Here are a few tips for taking care of your mental health while working remotely during this unusual time.

    • Stay connected. To combat feelings of isolation, check in regularly with colleagues, friends and family through calling, texting, e-mailing or video chatting.
    • Schedule down time. Try to set clear boundaries between work and leisure time. Dedicate at least an hour a day to activities that help you unwind, such as reading, exercising, taking a walk, making a meal, or watching a TV show.
    • Look for the bright spots. We did not ask for this crisis, but since it’s here, let’s discover what we can learn from it. Every day there are new, profound examples of our colleagues and clients fighting with all their might to keep our work and sector afloat. We should acknowledge the many acts of good we see and glean as many insights as we can—both for our mental hygiene and so the nonprofit sector can emerge from this crisis stronger and more resilient than ever. 

    There is much we are still learning about how to cope with this new and still-evolving reality. While we don’t have all the answers, one thing is certain: if each of us is to deliver on our mission and purpose, we must make our mental well-being a top priority.


    Michelle Hunter is a freelance writer and consultant who connects storytelling to strategy. She helps nonprofits find and tell their stories in ways that reach their audiences and support their mission, vision and goals.

  • 03/16/2020 11:13 AM | Kelli Moore (Administrator)

    by David Steven Rappoport 

    I’m as horrified as everyone else about the COVID-19 situation, but I’m not worried about how it’s going to impact my ability to work with clients. This is because I primarily work remotely as a matter of choice. I don’t like the wear and tear of travel, and my clients don’t like the increased cost that travel adds to a project. I completed a project in Los Angeles last week and am working on one in New York state this week, without visiting either place.

    My practice primarily focuses on researching and writing complex, high-dollar grant proposals. This work requires organization, clear communication, and a capacity for research and analysis, but it usually does not necessitate in-person interaction. I used to think it did, but years of working with clients on the phone and internet has changed my mind.

    • Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned working remotely:• Organize the project for virtual work. I have a launch call for all projects which I ask key participants to attend. I present and review an outline of the project requirements, create a GANTT chart detailing the project timeline, and detail all roles and responsibilities. Clear expectations are key.
    • Remember that, whether virtual or real-time, consulting is still a trust business. The work I do is fairly wonky. Client trust is built on a perception of experience and competence, not on personal charm – or lack of it. I find that projecting an organized and knowledgeable persona from a distance builds that trust as effectively as being in the room.
    • Establish a primary contact person. I find it is best to talk to one key person on-site as much as possible and let them talk to everyone else. This reduces confusion. Be careful about side conversations.
    • Be comfortable with your technology. I’m an old-fashioned nerd. Simplicity is sometimes better than complexity. I use MS Office products and have the full version of PDF so I can manipulate PDF documents. I don't use Google Docs because for some, its structure may add to confusion on projects, with many participants making changes. Different systems work well for different consultants and organizations. Find the technology that works well for you and your clients.
    • Hand-holding can be done virtually. Sometimes clients require extra personal attention for one reason or another, and for that, a phone call works just as well as being there.

    Ultimately, some projects still benefit from in-person interaction. For example, a few years ago, I was hired by a philanthropic organization to help a group of stakeholders create a proposal to the state government to address a major restructuring. I arrived on site with an organizational development professional, and we spent several days with the participants, creating a system redesign. The work was complicated and layered with anger and anxiety. Could the process have been done online? Possibly, but it would have been more difficult. Very large and complex projects with many elements and participants also benefit from being in person, which helps to who does what and who knows what.


    David Steven Rappoport Consulting, LLC works nationally with non-profits; city, county, state, and tribal government agencies; philanthropies; and businesses. The practice primarily focuses on: (1) the development of proposals to public and private funders – often complex and high-dollar; (2) related opportunity research; and (3) related facilitation, research, planning and analysis.

  • 03/11/2020 4:34 PM | Kelli Moore (Administrator)

    by Liz Duffrin

    Melissa Lagowski, founder and CEO of Big Buzz Idea Group, was surprised at the invitation to be a guest blogger for ACN not long after attending her first meeting. One consultant she met later read the blog posts on her website and recommended her to the ACN marketing committee.

    “I would never have thought to submit my articles to ACN for sharing,” said Lagowski, whose group provides nonprofits with day-to-day operational support and event planning. “The way the ACN the marketing team kept inviting me to share content was meaningful for me. I felt the organization was doing something to support me, and I needed to be part of the community.”

    Lidia Varesco Racoma, a member of the marketing committee and now its chair, was thrilled not only with Lagowski’s blog posts but with the chance to reconnect with her. Years earlier they’d consulted on the same project but had fallen out of touch.

    Once ACN reunited them, Lagowski soon found a need for Racoma’s talents. The Chicago chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners needed to rethink its communications plan. Lagowski, the chapter’s executive director, recommended Racoma, a graphic designer and marketing and branding strategist and founder of Lidia Varesco Design, for the job: “I knew she had a fresh perspective and a process that would be extremely useful.”

    Racoma analyzed the characteristics of the association’s members and divided them into three types—new entrepreneurs, small but established ones, and those grossing $1 million or more each year. For each type of member, Racoma created a profile in a graphic format that was fictional but representative of the group and included a name, avatar, background, pain points, and values.

    Those profiles helped the association better tailor its programming and messaging to the needs of its different audiences, said Lagowski. “It became instrumental in our planning and gave us a solid foundation for marketing that the organization didn’t have previously.”

    Now the two are working on an RFP for a large communications project with ACN member Kelli Moore, principal at Ando Advisors. While Big Buzz Idea Group could have assumed a larger share of the project, Lagowski believes that the diversity of talent that Racoma and Moore bring will make their RFP more competitive and ultimately “give the nonprofit a higher return on its investment.”

    Both said they’re eager to find more ACN collaborators. “I’ve always been seeking partners so that I can participate in larger RFPs or projects,” said Racoma, who joined ACN in 2016. Through her work on the marketing committee, and by serving on the ACN board as vice president of marketing and communications, she’s become familiar with the work of consultants who are potential partners and also colleagues she can refer to clients in good faith. “So ACN has been really awesome in that sense,” she said. “Lately, I’ve been referring people like crazy.”

    Racoma and Lagowski advocate building relationships through ACN events and volunteer opportunities as a way to grow your business. “We are all serving the same target market and the fact that we all do different things lends itself to collaboration,” said Lagowski. “And the opportunity to form collaborations is incredible. It helps you build your bench so that you can bring a whole team, a whole solution to a client.”

  • 02/17/2020 12:26 PM | Anonymous

    By Liz Duffrin, ACN member

    Presenter Monica Kaiser leads a collaborative activity with participants

    The only person nonprofits find more intimidating than an evaluator is an auditor, quipped ACN member and evaluation expert Monica Kaiser of Kaiser Group Inc.

    But at the ACN quarterly meeting in February, Kaiser made the evaluation process seem not only clearer and less intimidating but even fun. During the morning workshop, she led a packed room of nonprofit professionals and consultants through a series of simulation games to better understand what impact is, how a nonprofit can best demonstrate its impact to funders, and how to determine which type of impact evaluation best serves a nonprofit’s needs.  

    Here are a few tips from her workshop on making impact evaluation more successful:

    1.     Create an impact statement.

    “So what do we mean when we say impact?” Kaiser asked the group. “The definition we’re going to walk around with today is, ‘the condition we would like our society or our community to be in because of our work.’”

    A good impact statement, she explained, is measurable, grounded in research, and ambitious enough that your organization can’t claim having achieved it alone. A health services nonprofit, for instance might aim to “eliminate disparities in incidences of chronic diseases,” she said.

    Kaiser also explained what an impact statement is not: It’s not a statistic, such as a percentage increase in a physical fitness score. It’s not a program objective, such as “revise health education curriculum.” It’s also not your nonprofit’s vision, such as “helping all people achieve health across their lifespan.”

    “Unlike a vision, impact has to be stated in a way that could potentially be measured,” she explained. “A vision is our hearts on parade. A vision is a beautiful poetic piece of writing. You can find a clue in your vision. But a vision is not an impact statement.”

    2. Create a logic model.

    Every organization needs a “logic model” or “theory of change” to explain how its day-to-day work will ultimately lead to impact, Kaiser said. These models can vary in format, but they all serve to organize an agency’s thinking about its work, about the data it collects for funders, and about how it communicates its success.  

    Without a logic model, grant writers are often left to come up with indicators on the fly, she said, and an organization ends up with a laundry list of items to measure “because every grant has a different list based on who wrote it.”

    In thinking about a logic model, a simple analogy Kaiser uses is throwing rocks in a pond, which leads to a splash, ripples and ultimately to impact or “The New Pond.”

    Throwing rocks into the pond represents a nonprofit’s services. “The majority of agencies measure their outputs and put them on their websites as if they were outcomes,” Kaiser noted. “’We serve 50,000 people’ is not an outcome, but it is a measure of your reach which is absolutely critical to eventually being able to talk about your impact.”

    The initial splash is short-term outcomes for participants.

    The first ripples are intermediate outcomes that stem from many short-term changes.

    Outer ripples are long-term outcomes for participants or changes that participants make in others, such as educators raising student achievement. 

    The New Pond is the impact that a nonprofit believes will result from its sustained efforts and outcomes.

    (Click here to see one logic model template Kaiser uses. The arrows in the template “are the key in a good logic model,” she noted. “They hide the research that says, if you do this, then this happens. You don’t get to invent those connections, you need to make them using research.”)

    3.     Understand the difference between outcomes and indicators.

    One of the trickier parts of creating a logic model is making the distinction between outcomes and indicators, said Kaiser. Indicators are specific measurements, such as the percentage of students who increase their score on the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. Indicators do not belong in a logic model, she insisted. “You are going to have too many and something is going to change and you’re not going to want that indicator anymore, but you’ve publicly committed to it.” One nonprofit that used scores on the Presidential Physical Fitness Test as an outcome, for example, was forced to change its message when that test was replaced by another, she said. Meanwhile, its real outcome, “improving children’s physical fitness” hadn’t changed.During the ACN workshop, participants worked in small groups to begin creating a logic model by writing an impact statement based on a sample vision along with program activities that would lead to the desired impact. Next, each got a baggie with outcomes and indicators on slips of paper and tried to accurately sort them.

    Kaiser said that the process of creating a logic model is even more important than having one. “I can walk into an agency, meet with them for two days, and hand them a logic model. That brings no value to that organization whatsoever,” she said. “When that happens, it’s literally just a piece of paper and nobody is going to look at it again.”

    The process of creating a logic model, on the other hand, builds buy-in from participants and a shared understanding of what the agency aims to measurably achieve, she said. “The value is in the conversations.”

    (For a list of Kaiser’s suggested evaluation terms, including more detail on outcomes and indicators, click here.)
    4.     Choose an evaluation method that best meets your needs.

    A logic model lays the groundwork for an efficient data collection and evaluation plan. Once the logic model is complete, she said, an evaluation expert inside or outside the agency should assist in coming up with indicators and a plan for measuring the desired outcomes.

    Kaiser thinks of evaluation as a stepladder, with agencies climbing further up the ladder to more complex evaluation methods depending on their needs and resources.

    The bottom rungs of the ladder include tracking the number of people an agency serves and evaluating their satisfaction with those services. These measurements “are critical to being successful in evaluation,” she said. “If you don’t do this well, you can’t climb the ladder.”

    Further up the ladder is measuring benefits to clients. These can be measured qualitatively, based on interviews and surveys. At a higher rung, they can be measured based on standardized, validated instruments, she said. “This is a very solid step to be on, and most agencies really only need to be here.”

    At the top of the ladder are more expensive and time-consuming options. These include comparing outcomes between clients and similar unserved groups. At the very top of the ladder is an evaluation where participants are randomly assigned to receive services or not—the “gold standard” of evaluation.

    At the end of the workshop, groups of participants pretended to be nonprofits of varying sizes and were each assigned a strategic plan goal and asked to choose the best evaluation method based on their needs and resources.

    After the workshop, Kaiser mentioned that she covered as much ground in 90 minutes as she usually does in two four-hour sessions. But ACN participants were enthusiastic and unfazed. “The most common comment I heard at the end,” she said, was ‘My brain hurts, but in a good way.’”

  • 02/03/2020 11:05 AM | Kelli Moore (Administrator)

    By Amy Schiffman, Principal and Co-Founder, Giving Tree Associates

    For nonprofits, the new year tends to bring new resolutions. And I know that, as a former director of development, good committee recruitment and engagement was always one of mine. Easier dreamed than achieved? Maybe. But as we get deeper into the first quarter of the year, now is the time to think about our volunteer committee structures and determine if we have a) the right people; b) enough people; and c) a clear understanding of what it is the committee is tasked with achieving. So, once you have defined your standing board committee structure and determined which committees are appropriate for non-board members, what’s left is a question of recruitment, i.e., “how do I get the right people to serve?”

    Let’s identify the four steps that will help you answer that question…

    1) Develop the committee role description, also known as a committee charge or charter. The committee charter outlines the committee’s role and briefly reviews the areas under the committee’s domain. For example, a marketing committee charter might include responsibilities such as the development of an annual communications plan, an editorial calendar, campaign messaging and a public relations strategy. Decide in advance what this committee will do. This will make the recruitment of committee members easier because people are a lot more willing to volunteer if they know exactly what’s involved and you’ll have a better sense of your needs.

    2) Create an ideal candidate profile. Once you have your charter developed and a strong sense of what you need from your committee, create a document that outlines the skill sets, talents, characteristics and traits of the ideal committee member. Share this profile with current committee members, board members and staff so that they are able to brainstorm with you about possible candidates.

    3) Go out and recruit. I’ve worked with nonprofits that post volunteer opportunities on LinkedIn or Facebook (not a bad idea) and then sit back and wait for candidates to come to them. Recruitment does not typically work this way. When I’m seeking new board or committee members, I share the ideal candidate profile with my network. I then ask those I feel are particularly well networked to sit with me for lunch or coffee and brainstorm about candidate possibilities. I create a candidate tracker in Google Docs that I share with fellow committee members and update the team on my progress. Finally, I meet with those who are referred to me and share the committee charter.

    4) Ask correctly. I have caught myself physically cringing upon overhearing a conversation during which a volunteer is begged, coerced or misled regarding committee or board membership. The manner in which you ask and the picture you create for your committee candidate is crucial to the process. I like to give a candidate a very concrete understanding of what is involved with the role, present the opportunity as an honor (not a chore) and finally, ask in a way that allows them to understand exactly why I want them.

    Please feel free to reach out with questions about committee recruitment at – we are always happy to share resources. I hope these four steps allow you a more productive, positive path toward volunteer recruitment and engagement.

    About Amy: With more than 25 years in nonprofit development, Amy partners with organizations to develop effective fundraising campaigns, build strong leadership teams and empower them with tools to visualize and achieve mission impact. Since co-founding Giving Tree Associates in 2008, Amy has helped clients raise tens of millions of dollars through individual major gifts, foundation and corporate funding. Based in Chicago, Amy is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and is a frequent presenter at local and national conferences, including gatherings offered by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Forefront, Association of Consultants to Nonprofits, JCC Association of America, and Prizmah’s National Endowment & Legacy Institute. She is an adjunct faculty member at The University of Southern California (USC)/Hebrew Union College’s nonprofit management program and lives in Chicago with her husband and two children.

  • 01/09/2020 9:03 AM | Anonymous

    ACN has a partnership with Forefront, Illinois’ statewide association that represents grantmakers and nonprofits, as well as their advisors and allies. 

    Forefront is a wealth of resources for both early stage and established nonprofits, with opportunities such as an onsite Library housing an extensive physical collection of books and journals on nonprofit topics (plus a newly-added database of ebooks for remote access). 

    They can conduct searches of foundation directory online, provide grants/grantee lists and run wealth profiles and reports. They also provide templates and samples for nonprofit topics such as board policies. And both members and non-members can book a research appointment with one of their consultants. 

    Members can take advantage of job posting opportunities, including salary/benefits research as well as in-person and online professional development on best practices, grantmaking, leadership, fundraising, developing talent, board engagement and evaluation. They also offer an ICAT capacity assessment survey tool (free yearly for members). 

    ACN hosts joint events with Forefront and we also have a special membership category for Forefront members

    We are grateful to Forefront for helping us to empower the local nonprofit community.

  • 01/06/2020 8:50 AM | Kelli Moore (Administrator)

    by Sherry Quam Taylor

    I don’t want to sound harsh, but most New Year’s resolutions don’t stick. The daily demands of life and our natural resistance to change - well, they get the better of us and we don’t get the results we were hoping for.Are you approaching your nonprofit growth plan like a New Year’s resolution?

    Without a plan, your nonprofit’s revenue growth isn’t that different from New Year’s resolutions. To raise more money and secure larger donations, you need a growth mindset and a plan to get the results that got you so excited in the first place.

    Resolution #1 Become Proactive

    It’s easy to get stuck being reactive in nonprofit. But there comes a time when a leader has to make a conscious decision to press pause and put a proactive plan in place that will grow the organization and its funding.

    Is it time to pause for planning? Have you truly established your organization’s financial need—one that would actually propel growth? Do your top donors know your true need and their crucial role in your organization year after year? Do they understand your funding structure? Are you presenting your financials to donors on a regular basis?

    Push into these activities and lean into investment-level conversations with your donors this year. Then you’ll see investment-level results.

    Resolution #2 Become Aware of the “Competition”

    Nonprofits don’t usually think of themselves as “competitive,” but right now, there are dozens of other nonprofits in America with similar missions to yours. You are competing for donor dollars. So, what makes someone give to you over another organization?

    You must set yourself apart by providing a satisfying donor experience and conveying your uniqueness. Donors want to give to an organization that serves their interests. Serve your donors! Focus on what their investment in the mission can do through your organization.

    Resolution #3 Become Disciplined

    Most growth initiatives fail when they’re not given the time they need to succeed. Implementing development systems doesn’t happen by magic--you have to take the time to do it, over and over. Simply put, development is discipline.

    Take another look at your budget. Your income goals should direct how to spend your time. For example, a typical organization should hope that 50-75% of their revenue is coming in from their Top 30 individual gifts. With this, your revenue-generating staff should spend a comparable amount (50-75% in this example) of their time on this activity.

    This is where I see nonprofits get stuck - spending too much time on activities that yield small dollars. Watch that you're not spending a disproportionate amount of time on things that don’t generate significant revenue.

    Make A Resolution...With A Plan

    What about you? Dreading the thought of climbing that fundraising hill again? Wondering where you’ll find new donors in 2020? You’re not as bad at fundraising as you may think. Perhaps you’ve never had to do it in your previous career . . . or you've never been taught how to do it.

    Start here with my HOW TO: Find Major-Donors in 2020 Guide. You’ve got this!

    About Sherry Quam Taylor

    Sherry teaches nonprofit leaders how to pivot from spending only time on low-dollar activities to investment-level opportunities. The leaders she works with are experts in their field, but when it comes to individual fundraising, they’ve simply never been trained how to do it, so it feels frustrating. She helps them learn how to solicit in a way that involves less dread and gets results. She does this through her private coaching and 90-day fundraising accelerator. Website:

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