Tag: fundraising

Burning out is not mandatory

Burnout is common in the world of nonprofit fundraising, and although I am far from that I want to keep it that way and be an example to my clients of taking time for oneself.

Self care looks different for each of us. For me it means slowing down, asking for help, going for a walk, and spending time with friends in my intimate circle. In between Altrui client time and project work I try to keep all of these actions ongoing.

Burnout is real in our field, specifically the field of nonprofit fundraising. I could also say it’s real in the nonprofit world in general, and since I work specifically in the arena of fundraising, that’s what I am writing about.

Expectations, deadlines, budgets, mission work, too many hours, lack of supportive leadership. All of these not only add stress to one’s life, they can add to burnout. You may see burnout all around you. You may see co-workers having tough times at work. I remember talking to a fundraiser at a nonprofit a few days before an event and they said “aren’t we supposed to be super stressed right now.”

No. We don’t have to be stressed, and we don’t have to burnout.

It’s OK to ask for help. We absolutely do not have to do this on our own. When becoming overwhelmed, I highly recommend reaching out for support. You may or may not get it, but those around you will know that you need a helping hand. Even someone to talk things through can help.

Remember when becoming so burned out that your only solution is to quit your job is not the best way to deal with burning out. (This is separate from quitting because you are being treated like crap.) I suggest we as a collective community deal with issues leading to burn out long before anything like that begins to make sense in our heads. And when we begin to practice this and practice self-care, it makes it easier for other to consider it.

And let’s support each other on a deeper level. It makes a difference.

Take a risk. Be of service. Support your friends and colleagues. Be kind.

Giving Tuesday

What the heck is #GivngTuesday?

Why is it all over my email inbox?

And why should a nonprofit particpate?

#GivingTuesday is for nonprofits what Black Friday is for retail and Cyber Monday is for online shops.

The difference is that for #GivingTuesday, you the consumer are donating, not purchasing. You are changing the world, making the world a better place. This is how nonprofits see it.

Nonprofits all over the world participate, many will ask you to donate and others may ask you to volunteer. Others may take the day to simply thank you as a donor.

From a donor perspective, depending on how many nonprofits you are connected with, it can become overwhelming. I will probably get 40+ emails asking me to donate for #GivingTuesday.

From the nonprofit perspective, I totally get if you as a nonprofit want to pass on #GivingTuesday. You’re busy, it’s too big for you, and with as many times as you get asked to give that day, you don’t want to put your donors through that.

And, since you’ve begun reading this, give me just another minute to share some ideas with you.

First, whether you decide to participate in #GivingTuesday or not, take some time to make sure your website is ready for new donors. How easy is it to donate? Is it clear what the impact of the donation is? Is there information on how a donor can connect with you directly?

Next, take a moment or two to review your social media. Is your most recent post on Twitter from last year? Are your Facebook photos up to date?

Now, consider peer-to-peer fundraising, a great way to engage with donors and their friends. #GivingTuesday is a fantastic way to introduce this.

Now consider #GivingTuesday. It could be a great time to share your impact on social media. It could be a great day to just thank your donors. It could also be a good day to have an event that promotes your organization and mission. You can use #GivingTuesday to promote it among supporters and the press.

I love #GivingTuesday because it allows even the smallest of nonprofits a chance to ride on the coat tails of a huge event. Simply using the hashtag #GivingTuesday on that day and the days prior may get you in front of people who don’t know you.

Whether you are a donor or a nonprofit, #GivingTuesday is a great way to participate in philanthropy and making the world a better place.

Take a risk. Be of service. Support your friends and colleagues. Be kind.

Data, and your CRM

Data. As you read this, please keep in mind that I am not a data expert. I know one though. So if you need to speak with one or hire one, let me know.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Again, no expert. But I do have my favorites. And, there seem to be new ones every year.

Thanks to years of leading fundraising teams, and friends who are amazing data people, I pay a lot of attention to both of these.

Perhaps the title should begin with CRM? I thought that at first, then realized that many nonprofits begin with data first. Some of my clients have started with using Excel spreadsheets to keep their data, simply putting name, address, donation amount, and donation date into a spreadheet and voila!

For many organizations, this can still work. There may come a time when you want to at least consider a CRM, or a new CRM if you already have one.

In regards to data, the main lesson I have learned over the years is that for most nonprofits, several, if not dozens, of people have had access to and added data to the CRM. Each individual has perhaps added data as they best see fit to add it. Then the next individual takes over and adds data as they best see fit. And so so on. You can see where this may not be ideal.

My suggestion is to, right now, create a CRM or data-entering policy. This won’t take too long, and can completely change how your data looks. It can keep your data clean. Forever.

The policy is a simple guide on how to enter data. No more, no less. If everyone adheres to the policy, you are good to go.

Once the data is clean, or you have a data policy, you can pay attention to a CRM, or even a new one.

There are a couple of things I consider when choosing a CRM with a client:

How much data can it hold at the price stated? By data, I mean how many donors. Is there a flat price up to a certain amount of donors, or are you paying more as your database grows?

Customer service. How strong is it? How available is it? Is it free? Can a new employee who also happens to be new to the CRM call for help?

How easy is to pull a LYBUNT report or a report of all individual donors for the past three years who donated $10.00 or more?

How easy is it to learn?

Can I “tag” donors? Meaning can I have a way of grouping donors who attend events, who give through their Donor Advised Fund, etc.?

How much does it cost per year?

Having all of this information makes it a lot easier to decide which CRM is best for you. I’m sure there are dozens of other questions that can be helpful.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to share your favorite CRM in comments.

Take a risk. Be of service. Support your friends and colleagues. Be kind.

Thanks for Giving Day is November 17th

Time flies, and here we are already in November!

That means that Thanks for Giving Day is coming up! Thursday, November 17th, nonprofit board members and staff members will call donors to say one simple thing:

Thank you!

That’s it. It’s all about thanking the donor.

If you haven’t done a Thanks for Giving Day before, here is a quick list to help:

Ask board members to sign up to make calls/send emails.

Create a list of donors who have donated in the last year.

Create a quick script for board members.

Send each board member a list of donor names and contact information, along with the script.

And go!

Something that has helped me in the past is asking board members to send anything they learned about the donor during the call. Had they moved? Do they have a new email address?

Give it a try. Thanks for Giving Day is a great way to support you in building life-long relationships with your donors. It also a great way to get board members engaged with fundraising in a fun way.

Thank you for reading!

Take a risk. Be of service. Support your friends and colleagues. Be kind.

4 Actions to Keep You Always Learning

Fresh from an amazing experience where I learned an intense amount over two days. This had me thinking, as a person who uses “always learning” a lot, that it’s a perfect time to share how you can feed your desire to be always learning.

Four quick actions. I promise you will learn by practicing these:

One: Go to a conference. Pick one that has sessions that can benefit your desire to learn. Being in the world of nonprofit fundraising, I chose the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference as my first conference to try in this arena. I loved it so much I went again this year and was equally thrilled to have attended.

Two: Listen to podcasts. Find a couple that you enjoy listening to. You’re more apt to go back to listening to more, and learn, if you enjoy the podcast. My favorites are The Build Good Fundraising Podcast by Mike Duerksen and What the Fundraising by Mallory Erickson.  Both of these leave me with my wheels spinning and grateful for having had spent the time listening.

The Build Good Fundraising Podcast

Three: Be open and transparent on social media. I often share that I am always learning, always growing, always open to new ideas and different ways of doing things. This draws people who feel the same, and frequently ones who want to share something new with me! This opens up the opportunities for more learning.

Four: Read. I am in at least two books at any given time. Typically, I’m in one book that helps me grow as a nonprofit fundraising consultant, and another book that I just enjoy. There are of course plenty to choose from at your local library, your local bookstore, or online.

“Creative Deviations” by John Lepp.

There you go. Let me know what you think after doing some of these!

Take a risk. Be of service. Support your friends and colleagues. Be kind.

Diversify Your Fundraising

We hear this suggested all of the time. Diversify your fundraising.

A common response to this is “easier said than done”.

Or “I have no idea what you’re talking about”.

Many nonprofits received some type of COVID funding from the government. This may have skewed giving for a year or two. For example, if you received $50,000 from COVID funds for two years, you’re most likely not budgeting that for year three unless you know somehting I don’t.

While figuring out how or if you are going to replace those “extra” funds, it’s a good time to consider a plan to diversify your fundraising. Better said, your fundraising revenue.

Many organizations in human services rely on some type of government funding. I recently spoke with an organization’s executive director about overall funding, and 50% of their funding came from some type of governemnt grant (federal, state, county, city).

I have always believed that the best funding to rely on is funding from individuals. This is where I suggest increasing your diversification

I could write pages on this, and to honor your time, will offer a few ideas on how to increase your individual giving:

Thank quickly. And personally. The auto-response email from an online gift does not count.

Ensure your donors know the impact of their giving. Let me know if you need more information around this one.

Invite donors to give monthly.

Keep your donor data clean.

Continually work on building relationships with your donors, which all of the above support.

These five examples will help you grow your individual giving. This, in turn, will help you diversify your fundraising-generated revenue.

Other categories, of which I will write more about another time, include revenue from planned giving, special events, local business giving, peer-to-peer fundraising (which affects individual giving), and giving from civic/faith groups (think Rotary or your place of faith). Increased revenue from all of these sources will help diversify your revenue.

Thank you for reading!

*Take a risk. Be of service. Support your friends and colleagues. Be kind.*

13 Actions to go from Fundraiser to Consultant

I’ve had several folks in the nonprofit fundraising world ask me about becoming a consultant, so am sharing how I went from working for a nonprofit leading fundraising efforts to Altrui.

I realize this is less of a tips post for fundraisers which is my weekly goal, but you may find something here that will be helpful even if you’re not interested in consulting.

I just celebrated my third year anniversary with Altrui Consulting (see earlier article for more on this). I couldn’t be happier, and a little surprised that Altrui is still going, and growing.

I knew very little about running a business when I began. I knew my consulting would be based in nonprofit fundraising, which had been my world for years, but no business experience.

What I did and continue to do is a mix of things I have read, suggestions from people I trust, and trying things that I think may work (and sometimes do!). My actions to run Altrui may not be a fit for you, but I hope you find something here that will help you with your consultancy or small business. After all, we have to support one another.

Here is what I do/did to create and grow Altrui:

I created a five year business plan. I know, there are many who say this isn’t necessary. For me it was, and has paid off. It’s a living, breathing document that I edit and add to all of the time. It’s been a great guide for me since the start, and continues to be helpful as I update it.

Before leaving my full-time job, I started saving money. Each paycheck I’d set aside an amount so that when I left and was all-in for Altrui I wouldn’t have to worry about money. I am also fortunate to be part of a two-income household with full support from my husband.

In regard to money, I also made investments into Altrui while working full time. This made a big difference once I started.

For example, my website. This was part of getting off to a strong start. Having a website right away helped me have the ability to share about Altrui and have a landing place for people interested in what I’m doing with the consultancy. It made me look more professional. The investments I made included hiring a website person to completely create the site, buying a couple of web addresses, and writing copy that would be representative of how I could help potential clients.

Helmet to the left and my computer to the right with my Altrui website showing. Both on a table at a coffee house.
Working from a coffee house. Photo credit: Author

Having a website on day one is a great way to start.

Licenses. If you are like me and have never had a business, then make sure you pay close attention to this. Find out if you need a business license for where you live and work. FInd out if you need a particular license for the type of work you do. And find all of this out before you begin! I did all my research on the state website and googled other items. For example, in my county, I had to do a fictituous name registry, which included running an ad for four weeks in a local paper about Altrui. Who knew? This is the type of thing you want to have done before your first day.

Contracts. I had some experience with contracts going in so this part of the business wasn’t completely new. After time on the state site and googling other contracts, I learned that there were items in my contract that I had to have per the state. I kept researching this and asked friends for a copy of their contract. I now have a contract that works as a contract and invoice. It includes state-required copy, the understanding of my work promised and what the client is responsible for in working on the project, along with a cancel clause. My contract changes as I learn more or see things I like from other contracts. Some new conultants have an attorney go over their contract, which is not a bad idea.

Having a social media presence is also important. I had a good setup on LinkedIn and Twitter. These were important for the day I introduced Altrui to the world as I had some connections in the nonprofit world and many connections with people who trusted me and would share the news when they saw it on social media.

Social media is something you can work on before launching, and aside from time does not cost you anything.

Photo of different social media logos.
Social media logos on a phone. Photo credit: Author

Have an accountant in mind, something I wish I had done right away. My current accountant is fantastic. She has helped bring Altrui to where we are financially and as far as how are books are done and taxes are paid.

I didn’t need an accountant right away, and wanted to hold off until I had several clients. The main thing is to pay taxes as you bring in business, or at least set 20% aside for taxes for when the time comes. Once you have a year of income you’ll need to (or want to) make quarterly payments.

QuickBooks. A few months in I bought a QuickBooks account. I have the cheapest level, and it works for me. I don’t have direct sales at the moment, only consulting fees. There is not a lot to keep track of. One of the great things about my accounatnt is that she had her team cleaned my QuickBooks up and taught me how to enter revenue and expenses. This full year I have done that and feel so much more at ease, like I have a grown-up business!

Zoom. Having a Zoom account is vital for my business. I have clients all over the country and never sell myself as one who they will personally meet with, so Zoom is important in being able to have clients anywhere. Most of my work is done via email, and Zoom is helpful for when I am starting a new project or campaign. Like QuickBooks, I have the cheapest level and it works well for me.

Share! Share your new business with everyone. Make sure everyone in your circles not only know about your new adventure, but that they know what you do. This is very important. Do not assume that a quick sentence in an email makes it clear enough to understand your work. I still have a neighbor or former colleague ask me “so what is it that you really do?”!

Me in the center. Wearing a pink tie, light blue dress shirt, and dark blue jacket.
Author spreading the word about Altrui at a Chamber of Commerce event. Photo credit: Author

Get a bank account. I went to our local credit union. It has worked really well, and my clients pay me directly to the account.

Join a chamber of commerce. Networking gets a bad rap. I guess it all depends on what networking means to you. I love meeting new people and getting to know them. A chamber of commerce is a great place to talk about your business and build support for it. Membership also gives you the chance to be of service to other business owners and support them with what you have learned.

Lastly, have a HUGE passion for what you are about to embark with. I love fundraising, and I love every one of my clients, whose missions are making the world a better place. I have honestly loved every minute of Altrui, and am forever grateful for the gift of it. My work at Altrui doesn’t feel like a job. It’s more like something I am lucky to do.

I hope this was helpful to you!

4 Tips for an Attention-Getting Job Description

At Altrui we have been supporting clients with recruiting. Although fundraising and donor relationship building are our main focuses, it’s been great working with clients to help create strong teams that will help our work be successful.

Meanwhile, I see a lot of “do this and do that” regarding a resume.

Before I began my work, I looked at dozens of job descriptions and job requirements.

I decided to set these aside and start from scratch.

My first task was to create a better job description. No four pages of duties, simply one page that included what we want from you and what the position will require.

The first couple of items I added for what we want included being ethical and being kind.

Then there was not worrying about things that many seem to worry about. In nonprofit fundraising, a degree is not required. Experience is. I’m much more interested in fundraising and relationship building experience than whether you were able to go to college.

Another thing I have seen that I don’t worry about are time gaps. So, you didn’t work for a year, or two. Hopefully you were traveling the world and not having to care for an ill loved one. Either way it doesn’t affect me in wanting to interview you.

Kindness. Ethics, Experience. And now I’ll add passion for the mission. I want the candidate to absolutely love the work the nonprofit is doing.

These are all important in the type of candidate I want to interview.

The degree, the perfect timeline, not so much.

If you haven’t looked at your job descriptions in a while, do it now. Update them. The world is different.

If you’re looking for a job, apply for positions that you really want. Have some type of experience. You don’t need to match everything the nonprofit is looking for but be able to check many of the boxes.

Nonprofits have a better chance of meeting amazing candidates when they express who they truly are looking for with the job description.

Take a risk. Be of service. Support your friends and colleagues. Be kind.

3 Years of Altrui Consulting!

It’s difficult to believe that we are celebrating three years of Altrui Consulting this week.

Altrui has become one of the biggest gifts for me, an opportunity to work with many amazing nonprofits and hopefully be a part of their impact in making the world a better place.

Three years ago, I left my position as a CDO unsure of what was next. I had thought about Altrui for years and had slowly begun creating the consultancy. I had a website that was almost complete and a business plan. I simply wasn’t sure of whether I wanted to take the risk.

The risk was saying goodbye to a 40-hour a week (plus) position at another nonprofit I was passionate about, where I had a secure salary and where I could do what Ioved. Or, leaving that behind for a chance to build a consultancy from the ground up and having the opportunity to work with many nonprofits in building their relationships and fundraising. The risk was starting from scratch, with no guarantee of income.

Having a supportive husband was critical. Along with a community of friends and colleagues and of course the group of people I like to call my inner circle.

By mid-October I was speaking with someone who would become my first client, and by Giving Tuesday and Colorado Gives Day (December), I was working with several nonprofits and starting to believe that maybe Altrui could become a reality.

Self-doubt appeared many times. Yet the amount of times it stayed with me kept decreasing as I worked harder to build Altrui, to share my dreams of what nonprofits could excel with around fundraising and relationship building, and to keep listening to those I trust in my inner circle who were alongside me 100%.

I often tell people that I feel like I have the dream job, and at the same time don’t feel like I work. Every client is wonderful, doing incredibly important work, work I am uber-passionate about. I want them to have as many resources as possible to rock their impact into another dimension. And I’m forever grateful that they have chosen Altrui to help them with that.

It’s with deep gratitude that I share this news of our third anniversary. To all of you who have been a part of Altrui in any way, thank you.

Take a risk. Be of service. Support your friends and colleagues. Be kind.

Send your next e-appeal

As time flies when we’re having fun, today is a good day to consider your next e-appeal.

For those new to fundraising, an e-appeal is simply a fundraising appeal sent via email.

If you can’t remember when you sent your last e-appeal, this tip is perfect for you. The main idea here is to make sure you are continually asking your supporters to donate.

I like short e-appeals. The perfect e-appeal for me is a quick greeting, a current need, and then an invitation to give. Some insist on sharing a story in their e-appeal, and even though it adds copy, I think this can be helpful at times.

A fundraising team doesn’t need to be big, and doesn’t need to have a lot of extra time to send consistent e-appeals. Quick messages letting your donors know what your need is and what the impact of their donation will be is all you really need. You can definitely take the time to send a longer e-appeal, I’m just letting you know that if you lack the capacity to do that don’t let it stop you from sending something out. It’s better to get an ask out rather than continue waiting until you have the perfect e-appeal ready to go. That day may never come.

Here’s an idea. Calendar an hour or two to leave the office. Think about what you want to accomplish with this e-appeal, who you want to send it to, and what kind of impact you want to share. Finish an amazing draft and then head back to the office and share with your team. Done.

Of course every team cannot finish an e-appeal this simply, but you get the idea.

Thanks for reading. Please let me know if I can help with your next e-appeal!

Your Favorite Nonprofit Still Needs You

I’m surprised that it’s already September.

This week while at CostCo I saw an artifical Christmas tree for sale.

We are all so busy. Meanwhile time flies by.

While life is happening, there is so much going on in our world.

We all have causes that are close to our hearts, causes making the world a better place in a way that we see our world. Your cause could be climate change, domestic violence, hunger, gun violence, cancer, or animal abuse, to name a few. No matter how busy our lives are, all of the issues in the world that we want to make better or change, that matter to us, are still occuring.

Your favorite nonprofit still needs you. There was a time when you read their emails, made donations every once in a while, and perhaps even went to one of their fundraising events. Their mission was your mission. You knew they impacted the world and you wanted to make sure they could continue doing their life-changing work.

Life happened. It’s been months since you last donated. Perhaps over a year. Meanwhile, their mission is as critical as ever, as is your support.

Take a minute this week to check in with them. Go to their website. See what they’re up to. If you’re in a position to do so, make a donation.

It’s time. They need you. And you want to be part of their success in making the world a better place.

3 Tips for Job Applicants – Simple actions to get your application read

In the past few weeks, I’ve had more clients ask me to help them with job searches. As all of my clients are nonprofits, and I help them with fundraising, these searches are for positions on their fundraising teams.

I”m not a recruiter. In this role I support the nonprofit in going through resumes, deciding which candidates to move forward, and conducting first interviews.

Through this, I’ve encountered a lot of applicants that surprise me, and want to share some tips based on those surprises.

First tip: If the application process includes answering any questions, answer them. Organizations use these questions as a quick entry way to move forward, or not, with the applicant. Many organizations do not move forward candidates who choose not to answer the questions.

Second tip: Read the job requirements. Then read them again. Does your experience really match what the organization is looking for? Is your experience worthy of the organizations time to consider? I find these questions to be important as I read through applications where the candidate has either completely misunderstood the organization’s needs, or is simply disregarding them.

Third tip: In an email, cover letter, or any other form of communication included with the application, do not refer to the organization you’re applying to as “your organization”. This makes the person reading the application, in this case me, consider the possibliity that this is just your template for a communication. Instead, use the organization’s name. This adds something more personal, along with the fact that you know which organization you are applying to. Also, this separates you from other candidates.

I have been in a job search. I have been laid off. I know how difficult the process of finding the next job can be, and how it can feel. Nonetheless, applying in a way that immediately rejects you doesn’t help you or the organization you have applied to.


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