Category: Resource Development

How Long Should a Project Take? (As Long as It Takes to Do It Right)

By on March 27, 2014 under Resource Development, Strategy & Planning

Has your nonprofit planned or completed a major new program or capital project? How did the end result compare to the project originally envisioned? Did it take longer than expected? Was there a relationship to the amount of planning that went into it and the quality of the end product? Just how long does it take to do a project right?

Come along, boys, and listen to my tale
 I’ll tell you of my troubles on the old Chisholm Trail
Coma ti yi yippy, yippy yea, yippy yea
 Coma ti yi yippy y, yippy yea! **


Jesse Chisholm, 1806-1868, Indian trader, guide, interpreter, spoke 14 languages (source: Oklahoma Historical Society)

Back in the 1870s, a young cowboy in need of money could sign on to wrangle longhorn cattle from South Texas, up the Chisholm Trail all the way to Wichita, Kansas. Provided he survived, he would get paid a handsome $20 most of which he would “invest” in a shave, a bath, new clothes, a steak, whiskey and women. (The rest they squandered.) Most were broke when they got back home (and most never drove cattle a second time), but they were rich with stories to tell.

I learn this and much more at the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum in Cuero, Texas. Just opened last November, this gem of a small-town museum tells the fascinating stories of the early history of Dewitt County and surrounding counties in South Texas.

The museum in Cuero didn’t just happen overnight. In fact, it took 14 years in the making, and how it came about has everything to do with how a nonprofit comes into being … at least when it is done right. (continue reading…)

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3 Incredibly Simple Tips for Improving Donor Retention Rates and Making Supporters Smile

By on March 25, 2014 under Resource Development

Frank Barry, BlackbaudThis is a guest post by Frank Barry (@franswaa), Director of Digital Marketing at Blackbaud.

Fundraisers rejoice! Charitable giving grew 4.9 percent in 2013. Of particular interest to me was the fact that online giving grew 13.5 percent, accounting for 6.4 percent of total giving in 2013.

Yet donor retention rates are struggling. In fact, 27 percent of your new donors will not return after their first gift. It seems our sector has settled for declining donor retention rates. Over the past ten years they’ve fallen from 33 percent to 27 percent — a statistic no fundraiser would be proud of.

In the spirit of improving donor retention rates in 2014, here are three simple tips to help nonprofits turn things around. (continue reading…)

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Are you listening to your grant partners?

By on March 19, 2014 under Collaboration, Resource Development

Gone are the days of the rote grant cycle – apply, receive, report, repeat. The transactional relationship between grantor and grantee has transformed. Now most grantors expect and desire a true partnership with their grantees.

A new video from our fundraising series is now available in the 501(c)ommunity as an exclusive feature for our members. The topic is near and dear to me – Developing Relationships with Grant Partners.  Among the great recommendations offered in the video, the one that stands out the most to me is “Listen to New Ideas.” (continue reading…)

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What’s a nonprofit accelerator anyway?

By on March 12, 2014 under Evaluation & Measurement, Resource Development, Strategy & Planning

Although there are many promising nonprofits who are primed to make a big impact in the community through strong, innovative programs, most organizations don’t take advantage of their own capacity for innovation. Interestingly, we see this concern for dramatic growth and innovation in the for-profit sector as well, where some companies have taken to the concept of an accelerator or incubator. We’re just now seeing this model as a growing solution for nonprofits as well, and our new Accelerator is designed to help local nonprofits significantly grow an existing, high-potential program or service.

We recently held a Q&A Session to help nonprofits learn more about this new opportunity (see the full presentation at the bottom of this post). After the event, we held a short interview with Greenlights’ own Kate Smallwood, who gave us the scoop on the new program:


(continue reading…)

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Communicating Donor Impact: Before the Ask, After the Gift & In the Long Run

By on March 11, 2014 under Evaluation & Measurement, Marketing/Communications, Resource Development

We recently sat down with several development directors to talk about their approach to relationship-building with individual donors. Despite the organizations’ various missions and structures, each conversation revealed similar themes: show donors their impact, provide opportunity for engagement, align donors’ interests with mission, take advantage of words of mouth, and thank donors in personal ways. Today I’ll focus on the idea of conveying impact.


Members can watch the full video here (login required)

Demonstrating impact is at the beginning and end of fundraising 101, and it’s what donors are after. Penelope Burk recently blogged about mitigating donor burnout, saying, “[Donors] tend to identify two points of tremendous emotional connection – an initial rush when they make the decision to give (or give again) and an even greater exhilaration when, later on, they learn that their giving has helped achieve some meaningful outcome.”

So how do you get at this emotional experience with a donor? You tie their support to specific impact – often and in personal ways. Try this:

(continue reading…)

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