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Best Practices for Your Nonprofit Organization

May 07, 2014

Ideas worth considering for your NPO.

One of the advantages of being in a CPA firm with so many not-for-profit clients is that we get to see many different operations. We get to see the things and operations that are working well and, unfortunately, some that are not. My next two blogs will share some of each. In an effort to start on a high note, this blog will be about some ideas worth considering for your organization.

1. Implement a practice that is intended to improve performance. All too frequently programs continue to run year after year without change. However, some organizations identify key pieces of data from each program and track these on a regular basis while implementing small changes that are designed to improve the program and be reflected in the tracked data. Some call these data points Key Factors for Success (KFS) and focus on these points at staff meetings.

2. Donor management. Everyone knows that when you ask for a sandwich at McDonald’s they ask “do you want fries with that?” This is a standard operating procedure at McDonald’s and other eating establishments because it is easier to sell an existing customer more than it is to find a new customer. The same principal exists with your donors. Asking donors who are already contributing to give more is easier than finding new donors.

When you receive the first gift from a new donor, this is when you begin working on the second gift from that same donor. Thinking ahead to the next gift immediately upon receipt of the present gift will impact your response and relationship with that donor forever. The goal is to make the donor feel like a part of the organization – like a partner in your mission. Realizing the difference between an existing donor and a prospective one is critical to building long-lasting relationships that benefit your program and mission for years. You should always be trying to increase your donor’s knowledge and commitment to the organization.

Also, you should consciously work to have your repeat donor keep pace with inflation. Don’t wait years and then ask your donor to double their annual gift amount. We have a client who sends very personalized annual giving letters out and it is not unusual for the letter to a $50 donor to ask if they could donate $53 to this year’s annual campaign. This organization’s giving growth rate from repeat donors is much higher than other organizations soliciting an annual support donation.

3. Demonstrate the impact of your efforts. This is also part of donor management. However, today more and more we hear of donors, especially younger ones, wanting to know more about how their funds were used and what change did funding this program bring about. Measurable output is the new phrase of the day.

We have a client who raises funds to bring kids to a water park in the summer. After the event, the organization posts pictures and videos on their website of the kids having fun and thanking the donors for their support. Every donor receives a thank-you e-mail with a link to the website. Additional pictures and videos are saved for the following year’s fundraising campaign. This has been an extremely effective way for them to communicate and show people the impact of their donation. Even if you do not raise funds for such a specifically targeted purpose, that doesn’t mean you cannot communicate targeted results back to general donors.

Individual donors are a gateway into a multi-generational family of givers. A growing number of donors want to involve their children and grandchildren into philanthropy and will welcome the opportunity to do so. These donors are looking for opportunities for people of different ages to volunteer and learn about the work of your organization. Think of ways of helping your donors instruct their families in the pleasures of philanthropy.

As I have mentioned, photos and videos are great tools to demonstrate exactly how donations are used. Posting this type of media to your website, social media sites and in an e-newsletter is an excellent way to share this content with even more potential donors. Make sure the quality of your visuals and videos are top notch, these are what will make that connection to your donors and a quality video can make all the difference.

If hiring a professional isn’t an option, bringing them in to teach your staff might be a nice alternative. Recently a shelter had a photographer go to the shelter to teach staff how to photograph animals available for adoption. The shelter also invited volunteers and donors (all of whom own pets) to the education session. Now they have a greater supply of trained photographers, donors who know more about the shelter program and volunteers who have been exposed to another facet of the operation. All of this is a positive for everyone involved.

Read my next blog 5 Things to Consider Changing at your NPO.

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