Posts tagged Nonprofits

Fundraising Planning in the Small Shop





I have worked in many small development offices, defined here as staff of three or less, and the majority of my consulting clients have small shops.

In my experience, it is the rare small shop that regularly draws up annual development plans. While they have fundraising goals and fundraising calendars, few small shop development directors annually assess their nonprofit’s fundraising systems, resources and past strategies and then chart a course for the new year.  

The small shop development directors I know say that they are overworked and understaffed and cannot find the time to pull an annual plan together.

I know there is always too much to do, but if your nonprofit is going to be successful, you cannot afford to skip the annual development planning process.  In fact, you might currently be wasting precious staff and volunteer time and budget pursuing funding strategies that do not work.  Creating a plan helps you to focus the majority of your efforts on the fundraising strategies that have the most potential to sustain your nonprofit.

Annual fundraising plans are a key element of successful small shops in the best of times.  In economically shaky times such as these, plans are even more important.  Has your nonprofit lost government or foundation funding over the past year?  How will you work to replace this money?  What do you think will be your best funding sources this coming year? The focus required to create a plan will help you to answer these questions. 

Many nonprofits are about to start a new fiscal year on July 1, so March and April are good times to consider how this year’s fundraising efforts have gone, and plan accordingly for next year.

Here are some key questions to consider:

1.    Your Donors

  • Who are your current donors? 
  •  What strategies are you using to cultivate and keep current donors, upgrade gifts where possible and recruit new donors? 

2.    Infrastructure:  

  • Do you have an effective database? 
  • Do you need additional technology to take advantage of social media and online giving?
  • Do you have systems in place for regularly communicating with donors, sending timely thank you notes,  and following up on new leads?

3.    People

  • Do you have an active Fundraising Committee?  Is this committee provided with adequate training and staff support?
  • What is your development staffing plan, and is it working effectively?
  • Do your professional staff need additional fundraising training?
  • Is your Board of Directors actively engaged in fundraising? 
  • Does your Board recruitment process prioritize finding members with fundraising experience and connections?
  • Does your nonprofit clearly articulate and communicate Board fundraising responsibilities to incoming as well as current Board members?

4.   Strategies:

  • Which funding sources might you have to move away from given the changing economy?
  • Which fundraising strategies provide the biggest “bang for your buck”?  Do you have plans to expand on these successful strategies?  Do you have plans to drop the fundraising strategies that are not working?

5.   Communication strategies

  • What communications vehicles might need to be added or upgraded in the coming year?  Your website?  E-mail and snail mail materials? Your newsletter?
  • Do you have a plan for using social and interactive media to reach new supporters?

After considering some of these questions, you will need to prioritize.  Which of the above require attention this year?  Which should you find ways to address over several years?   These are only some of the things to consider in planning.  In future posts, I’ll talk about the Board and fundraising and the importance of having a revenue plan that includes individual donors.

Most importantly, find a way to create an annual development plan.  I know you are busy, but you cannot afford to waste the time caused by a lack of planning.  In the end, we all need to remember the saying credited to Alan Lakein, the time management expert:  “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

3 Ways Nonprofits Can Staff Social Media


Social Media is a hot topic in the nonprofit sector, and most non-profits know they need to use social channels to engage new and existing supporters.  But as excited as many nonprofits are about exploring social media, many also wonder:  How are we going to staff this?

I just trained 23 non-profit representatives on using social media, and I was regularly asked some version of the following:  Our staff are already overworked and underpaid and we can’t afford to hire anyone else.  We know we need to participate in social media, but how are we going to manage this?

A look at some of the knowledge gained by nonprofits and small businesses already using social media, suggests at least 3 benchmarks to consider in developing staffing plans:

 1.     The 2009 Nonprofit Social Network Survey Report sponsored by NTEN, Common Knowledge and ThePort, found that 80% of the nonprofits surveyed committed 25% of a full time employee’s time to social media management.  

When developing your organization’s social media plan, you may want to focus on social networking strategies that can be accomplished in 8-10 hours of staff time per week.  It will take testing and evaluation (followed by amendment of your plans) to figure out which of your goals can be met in 8 to 10 hours a week.  But if you plan with the 8-10 hours per week baseline in mind and then actually measure the staff time you are using, you will collect hard data to use with future staff planning. 

2.  Amber Naslund offers some useful staff benchmarking tools in her ebook Social Media Time Management   

Listening — to what is said about your organization and to what is being posted about your field — can take one staff member 10-15 hours per week.

Creating Content and Engaging with Online Users can take one to three staff members one to three hours per day.

Measuring Reach can take one person five to ten hours per week.

 You can use the above guidelines to decide how much of each activity – listening, engaging, and measuring — you want to undertake and assign staff  accordingly.  Naslund does argue that if you want to be serious about social media, you need to allocate a minimum of one hour per day of staff time to start.

3.  You also don’t need to allocate the same amount of staff time each week to social media efforts.  Consider the heavier and lighter times in your organization’s social networking calendar.  For example, if you have an event coming up, you might want to commit extra staff time before the event to promote it on social channels and some extra time after to engage new followers in your ongoing work.

If you are fundraising online, consider allocating extra staff to social media management when online donating is heaviest.  In 2009, 46% of all online dollars were raised in October, November and December.  December activity accounted for 30% of total online giving.  (Source:  Joanne’s Nonprofits Blog )

You might want to spend fewer staff hours earlier in the year and pack more staff time into the last half of the year.   You could also consider hiring a consultant to provide some extra help when your social media engagement is heaviest.

These are just a few concrete ways to estimate staff time needed for different social media strategies.  If you have helpful examples from your own nonprofit’s experience, please share them in the comments section below.