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Last week, we posted some commentary on a Chronicle of Philanthropy piece sharing advice from national nonprofit leaders about focus points for 2014. Now we want to share some local recommendations from our friends in fundraising, leadership and consulting roles.

What should we focus on in 2014?

Share your passion.
“Giving is an emotional decision and can be contagious. We are in the business of people because we love what we do and care deeply for those that we work with. It is vital that we help our donors to connect with our passion and begin to care as deeply as we do for the mission that we live for. Make sure that everyone that we meet becomes our ambassadors: Volunteers, staff and Board.”  -Rose Chapman, LCSW, President & CEO, Jewish Family & Children’s Services of the Suncoast

Think of communication as a mindset.
“In order to leverage relationships with donors, employees, board members, funders, beneficiaries and the community, you must make sure they hear and understand your story and message.  However, with so much noise competing for attention today, your story and message are at risk of being drowned.  Commit to developing a communication mindset so that your message is shared consistently, strategically and emphatically to those who need to understand and by everyone within your organization.   Each interaction (in person, letter, tweet, blog, ad, video, audio, conference, etc.) is an opportunity to educate someone about your organization, its work, its mission and its contributions.”  -Michael Corley, Senior Consultant, The Patterson Foundation

Consider telling your story LIVE.
“How better to connect with your current and prospective friends and donors, than sharing your signature events in real time?  Facebook, Twitter, Video, Pinterest, Instagram…the possibilities are endless. Board members can experience your impact virtually and current supports can share ‘you’ with their on-line networks. With 88 percent of adults under 30 online (as well as 71 percent of all adults), Web 2.0 is a part of nearly every young person’s life. Sharing events via social media will increase your connections with youth and young professionals to build the next generation of leaders, patrons, and donors. Realize Bradenton has gone LIVE with the Bradenton Blues Festival and ArtSlam the last two years with excellent results. This past December, we also did a world-wide video streaming of the Blues Festival with 3,000 hits in 24 hours. WOW.   2014 is the year to increase your LIVE online exposure!”  -Johnette Isham, Executive Director, Realize Bradenton

Do it different and expect more!
We know that revolving development staff are often ineffective.  So, too, are staff of long-standing who keep doing it the same way each year.  In 2014, do it a bit different.  Even if that solicitation letter, phone call or personal visit netted improved results, put a twist on it. Promise yourself that you will make the next letter zing; the next call overflow with enthusiasm; the next visit measurably meaningful.  And don’t settle for more dollars raised.  Expect upgraded gifts, more new donors; set a goal to bring those lapsed donors back!  –Zoltan Karpathy, ACFRE, Florida Regional Director, Charitable Giving, The Able Trust

Great advice from those who have been successful!  What ideas you would you add to the conversation? We hope you will share them with us.

skyThe Chronicle of Philanthropy recent published “What Nonprofits Should Start Doing in 2014: Advice from the Experts,” an article by Nicole Wallace citing various giants in nonprofit leadership who have great advice to share regarding habits we should cultivate in the coming year.

Below is a summary of four of the six suggestions shared in the piece, along with a few editorial thoughts:

  1. To improve performance, regularly review data.
    Amy Sample Ward, CEO, Nonprofit Technology Network We couldn’t agree more, but the value of regularly reviewing data surpasses performance improvement alone. It’s wonderful when development staff and program staff talk to each other frequently so that success stories and data points are on the tips of their tongues as they interact with donors and funders. Do board members have an opportunity to observe your programs too? When they are closer to the impact you are making and see data and stories in action, they can be perfect ambassadors for your organization.

  2. Concentrate on receiving a second gift instead of investing so much energy in winning new donors.
    Farra Trompeter, VP, Big Duck

    Yes! By the way, where are those Giving Challenge donors from last year? Have you infused them with love throughout the year after they chose to support your nonprofit out of nearly 300 other participating organizations last March?  Updating donors on your progress, providing social opportunities with other supporters and your staff, and sharing success stories are important ways to cultivate trust and positive relationships before you ask for more support at year-end or during the next Challenge.

  3. Experiment with crowd funding.
    Alia McKee, Principal, Sea Change Strategies
    Check! We’re ahead of the curve on this one in our community, yes? With two wildly successful Giving Challenge events under our belt in Southwest Florida, local organizations have really learned a lot about how this can work well. This year, consider a specific project or need you will spotlight in center stage for the Challenge, using the power of the crowd to make it a reality for those you serve.

  4. Consider how you will show impact.
    Theresa Pesch, President, Children’s Foundation, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
    The program section of your Giving Partner profile is all about impact—short-term successes, long-term successes, examples of success, how success is measured. Remember, if we want donors to stop obsessing about our expense allocations and start focusing on whether or not our work is making a real difference, we have to consistently place an emphasis on our impact.

What’s next? We want to know what you think nonprofits should start doing in 2014. And how about foundations? Any thoughts for what we should start this year?  We’re open for comments!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

boardofdirectorsIt’s going to be a good year.

More than 350 nonprofits serving people, animals and special places in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties have taken the time to share more about their governance, management, financials, programmatic impact and needs by developing in-depth profiles in The Giving Partner.

What does all of this transparency mean?

It means that donors–those very generous people who care about making the world a better place–have a reliable source for the kinds of information they are increasingly seeking. Greater knowledge of the entire charitable landscape in one place empowers donors. It helps create and maintain trust in nonprofits.

So here is a first prediction of 2014: donors will pay more attention than ever to your board of directors. The board is where the buck stops–it is the guardian of your organization’s mission. A strong board is the foundation for a strong organization.

Here are four governance questions donors will start paying even more attention to this year:

  1. Is the board is active?
    Take a look at your organization’s board meeting attendance rate over the last fiscal year. Is it at least 67%? The average board meeting attendance rate for Giving Partner organizations is 82%. Get that percentage up there to communicate a powerful message: your volunteer leaders are showing up for the job.

  2. Does the board adhere to a conflict of interest policy?
    It is up to each board member to make decisions for the organization based on what she believes is the best decision for the organization–not for herself.  If a personal or professional conflict arises, or the appearance of a conflict arises, she will simply excuse herself from the decision-making process.

  3. Are board members making personal monetary contributions to the organization each year?
    Know that donors and funders really do ask, “If board members aren’t making donations, why should I/we?”  Personal participation in giving by each board member is more important than the amount of the individual gift.

  4. Are multiple family members on the board? Are family members of the executive director on the board? Are board members also acting as paid staff?
    These situations are not regarded as strong governance practices in the nonprofit sector. Remember, safeguarding against a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict is very important to ensure the trust of donors and the community.

Answers to each of these questions can be found in the governance section of each nonprofit’s profile online at www.thegivingpartner.org.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County encourages donors to understand these questions and to use them as conversation points with nonprofits, not as the ultimate deciding factors in choosing whether to support a particular organization.

Enjoy the rest of your week, and let’s make 2014 a great year!

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County