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Nancy Dunleavy honored by The Philadelphia Business Journal

 

Pictured amidst her board colleagues from Gwynedd Mercy University, Nancy was proud to be recognized as one of the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Outstanding Directors of 2017. Left to right: Joe England (Trustee), Maria England, Ken Lawrence, Sr., Charlotte McKines (Trustee), Mike Dunleavy, Nancy Dunleavy, Dr. Kathleen Owens (President), Sister Margaret Taylor (Trustee), Bill Avery (Trustee Emeritus), Sister Rosemary Herron (Trustee)

The Philadelphia Business Journal recognized Nancy Dunleavy, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Gwynedd Mercy University, as one of its Outstanding Directors for 2017.  The black tie awards dinner was held on February 23rd at the Union League of Philadelphia.

Nancy is the Founder & CEO of Dunleavy & Associates, a professional services firm dedicated to helping charitable organizations achieve their fullest potential.

Nominated by Dr. Kathleen Owens, the President of Gwynedd Mercy University, who went on to say, “Nancy brings such strength to our Board of Trustees, both her leadership skills, her ability to move the agenda forward and yet deal with the 25 other individuals who are active on our Board.”

Nancy has been a trustee at Gwynedd Mercy since 2006 and is currently in her second term as Chairperson; she shared – “I am humbled to have been nominated by Gwynedd Mercy University and honored to have been selected among this esteemed group of colleagues.

The Philadelphia Business Journal says of its Outstanding Directors: “Behind every great company or organization is a great board of directors – people who are committed and tireless in the pursuit of excellence.”

Nancy also serves on two other boards, The Board of Directors for the Union League of Philadelphia and the Alliance for Women Entrepreneurs.  Additionally, in 2016, she completed nine years of service on the Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board.

Along with Nancy, those awarded the Outstanding Director Award include:

  • George W. Gephart Jr., President & CEO of the Academy of Natural Sciences; Trustee, Main Line Health board of governors who received the Lifetime Achievement Award;
  • Paul Beideman, President and CEO, Avenue of the Arts Inc., Vice-chair of Widener University’s Board of Trustees
  • Walter Cressman, Board member of Penn Community Bank
  • Lauren Dougherty, Design Director at FS Investments, Board President of AIGA Philadelphia
  • Stan Silverman, Board member of Drexel University
  • Lloyd Freeman, Partner at Archer, Executive board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region
  • Mark Gittelman, Chief Practice Counsel – Asset Recovery at PNC Bank, Board member of Support Center for Child Advocates
  • Karen Higgins, President of A&E Communications, Immediate Past President of NAWBO Philadelphia Center for Advancing Entrepreneurs
  • Mildred Joyner, President of MCJ Consultants, Board member of DNB Financial
  • Jeffrey Lutsky, Managing Partner at Stradley Ronon, Board member of University of the Arts, Board member of Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA
  • Vin Milano, CEO of Idera Pharmaceuticals, Board member of Spark Therapeutics
  • Robert N.C. Nix III, Of Counsel, Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel, Board member of FS Investment Corp. III
  • David Pudlin, President and CEO, Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller; Board member, Mural Arts Philadelphia
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An Abundance of Gratitude

gratitude-photo

Each year, as we prepare to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday, reflecting upon the gifts present in our lives becomes customary. This time of year provides a special moment of reflection for me, personally, as it coincides with the founding of Dunleavy & Associates.

Throughout the past 15 years, it has been a sincere pleasure to lead and steward the growth and evolution of our firm. I have had the opportunity to hone my superpower for finding great talent; we’ve recruited some of the most talented professionals in the field – women and men with whom I have had the fortune to work and from whom I have learned so much. For each of you, past and present, I am grateful.

I am a big believer in the power of gratitude. I practice it each day, personally and professionally. It has become a daily mantra, waking me up to notice all of the gifts in my life, ever thankful for another day of leading a team that excels at creating sustainable ways to improve the organizations with which we are privileged to collaborate.

We are each stronger due, in large part, to those who are a significant and integral presence in our lives-motivators, teachers, mentors and, most importantly, friends and family. These are the people who provide scaffolding around us in times of triumph, challenge, vulnerability, risk-taking and reward. I am grateful for their honesty, transparency, counsel and the encouragement they provide without hesitation.

As you gather around the table to enjoy a meal this Thursday, take a moment or two (really, as many moments as it takes) to look around at all that is good and brings you joy. THIS, my friends, is what matters most.

On behalf of Dunleavy & Associates, we wish you and all whom you hold dear a very happy Thanksgiving holiday.

In gratitude, 
nancy-dunleavy-signature

 

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Don’t Go Dark: Stay Connected with Constituents During the Summer Months

megan-lepore-h

By Megan Lepore

Ah, summer. Warmer weather, vacations, and memories with family and friends.

And over two months of potential radio silence from an organization’s constituents as they “go off the grid” for fun in the sun.

But, alas, this doesn’t have to be the experience of all nonprofits. The secret to success is strategizing and preparing several meaningful touch points including communication and fundraising that allow you to stay in front of your constituents and for them to remain engaged in your work.

It’s true that once the calendar turns to June, donors are counting the days until school is out and packing bags for vacation. Meanwhile, many nonprofits are preparing for the end of their fiscal year and looking ahead to the next.

Not too far behind is July – representing the beginning of the third quarter and what can typically be a “slow month” relative to donations and activities.

However, there are ways to make sure your supporters don’t forget the sunscreen or your organization. Here are a few ideas to pack away:

Go where your donors are. The summertime can be a great time to plan a grassroots fundraiser with your constituent base at the beach. A small event may be the perfect platform for a more laid back event (beach attire vs. formal attire), such as a happy hour, reunion or family fun event. Depending on the format of the event, the goal may be to host a fundraiser and/or a “friendraiser”. Either way, organizations can raise awareness and engage constituents at a time when they may not have otherwise.

Give your constituents some beach reading. Consider mailing out a quick “end of fiscal year” infographic with a letter highlighting accomplishments – essentially a precursor to an annual report to be mailed at a later date. This can also be sent in electronic form to your donor base for those who just can’t seem to truly disconnect from it all while on vacation.

Know the alternative addresses for your donors. As an organization gets to know its donor base, more personal information tends to be shared. This includes any seasonal change of address for donors who are snowbirds and spend off seasons in the Florida Keys or those who have summer homes. Knowing this information will help to ensure that your message reaches the right audience in a timely manner. In addition, take advantage of the “down time” and work with a mail house to conduct a NCOA (National Change of Address) update to your mailing list (best practice is at least once per year). This is an investment in the integrity of your database, and your postage budget!

Save the Dates for upcoming events. Though we don’t want to ever rush through the delight of summer, there is always planning to be done for upcoming events. Don’t forget to remind constituents of events and opportunities to be engaged that are on the horizon. If at all possible, offer early registration rates for events to begin to build your guest count. Determine if printed or electronic pieces are the best option for your organization.

Conversational Communication. Take a cue from the season and adjust the tone of your communication with constituents. Enjoy the opportunity to be more relaxed in your messages, and even have a little fun with them. For example, posts on social media can be converted to more activity based links than consistent programmatic updates. Share information about community events hosted by your partners, or offer timely tips related to water safety, educational opportunities, child safety, family friendly activities, etc. While making new memories, don’t hesitate to share a few throwback photos.

However you decide to communicate with your constituents during the summer months, continue to be purposeful in your approach. There are always opportunities to engage new supporters and steward current ones.

Happy summer!

About the author: Megan Lepore is a Senior Project Manager at Dunleavy & Associates and has more than 12 years of development experience in the fields of healthcare, education and human services. She holds a Master of Science in Communication Management from Temple University, where she has also taught undergraduate courses in speech communication, public relations and news writing. Building strategic communication plans, corporate sponsorship, grant writing, foundation relations and event planning round out her professional expertise.

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Should a nonprofit hire a consultant to lead its executive leadership search?

The executive leader of your organization is leaving and now your team is faced with the tremendous task of finding a replacement. You’re having visions of late nights spent sifting through resumes, reviewing interview notes, and calling various board members while searching for the perfect candidate.

Worried there might not be enough coffee in the world to get through the process, you consider seeking outside help. But do you really need to hire a consultant? What would you get for your money? And can you really afford it in the first place?

Staff members at Dunleavy & Associates have helped dozens of nonprofit organizations standing at these critical crossroads find the answers they need. The first thing we advise our clients to do is develop a positive mindset about the whole process: Anxiety is normal, but so much can be accomplished when you focus on the opportunity presented. This is a unique moment to regroup as an organization and bring together team members, board members, and stakeholders to reflect on the past and plan for the future.

The leader’s impending departure creates a tremendous amount of pressure to post the position and start receiving resumes. This is a knee-jerk mistake. First you need to take a step back and determine, “What is our strategy for the next era?” and “Who do we need to lead that strategy?”

An outside consultant can provide valuable insight in guiding this internal discovery process. Specifically, the consultant can help you identify responsibilities that should be in the executive director’s job description and responsibilities that should be shifted to other senior members of your team. Clarifying the job description will allow you to develop a posting that reflects your current needs and attracts the right candidate. You’ll not only engage existing leadership and strengthen your organization, but also set a clear path of priorities for the incoming executive director.

If this is the first time in institutional memory that you are seeking a new leader, it’s easy to underestimate the amount of work that goes into a search. Even if you’re not planning to restructure responsibilities, a lot of groundwork is needed to ensure a strong foundation for the process.

Doing the groundwork is too big a job for one person; you’ll need to form a transition team. Ideally, this team blends expertise from across your organization, including finance, communications, analysis, and even organizational psychology. In our experience, the team will need to devote more than twenty hours of combined time each week and have the ability to successfully lead focus groups, communicate with stakeholders, frame out operational priorities, and, of course, lead a comprehensive search for your new leader.

If your organization lacks the skills, knowledge, or time needed to conduct a search in this manner, it’s likely that an outside consultant is needed. Hiring an executive director is one of the most important decisions an organization can make, and even a high-caliber candidate may turn out to be the wrong choice for a nonprofit if compatibility pitfalls aren’t identified and avoided.

You don’t need to break the bank to get outside help, either. Any good consulting agency knows that many nonprofits operate on tight budgets, and will work with clients to share responsibilities and minimize fees. Hiring a firm such as Dunleavy & Associates means you won’t waste time learning how to conduct a search and ensures you’ll find the best possible leader for your organization.

 

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Four Tips for a Successful Volunteer Program

Cheryl Pompeo

Cheryl Pompeo

Most nonprofits readily embrace the idea of a volunteer program. Every nonprofit has tasks they lack resources to complete and enjoy having help from individuals who support their mission. However, starting a volunteer program and keeping it running is something to approach with care. Here are some tips to ensure your volunteer program runs smoothly.

Spread the word. One of the best ways to recruit volunteers is to be highly visible in the community. This can take several forms. Spread the word about your activities by having a good website and being actively engaged on social media. Use current volunteers to recruit new volunteers — people sympathetic to your cause often have friends who also identify with your mission. It’s hard to predict who will be drawn to your mission or good works, so exposing the largest possible number of people to your nonprofit is the best way to attract volunteers. Make sure all your communications project a clear brand and message and get your name in front of community members as often as possible by participating in local events where you can interact with like-minded people.

Focus on fit. Often, a volunteer will say “I’ll do whatever you need me to do,” but a nonprofit needs to drill deeper and find the right role for the volunteer. It’s always best to go over the opportunities and help guide a volunteer to select a role in which they will find value and feel they can make an impact. Putting someone in a job just because it has to be done can backfire if it isn’t a good fit for the volunteer. Get to know your volunteers. Talk to them and find out what attracts them to the work you do. Once you know your volunteers’ interests and motivations, you can find roles in your organization that suit their preferences and personalities.

Show appreciation. The relationship with volunteers must be stewarded like any other. Talk to volunteers to learn what type of recognition is most meaningful. Some volunteers are modest and don’t want accolades. Some enjoy having their photo in Facebook, whereas others really feel adequately rewarded by a warm and heartfelt thank you note. Creating opportunities for regular interaction with other volunteers and holding volunteer events can reinforce your appreciation and keep volunteers connected to your organization.

Check in regularly. It’s good to have ongoing contact with volunteers. As the relationship develops, ask for their feedback. After an event, ask what they think went well or didn’t? How would they have done things differently? Invest time in showing that you value your volunteer’s opinion. The stronger the relationship becomes, the more likely it is that the volunteer will bring more resources and contacts, which would be a long term win for the organization.

Whether your nonprofit is starting a new volunteer program or wants to improve an existing one, Dunleavy can help. We work with institutions large and small to build programs that set them—and their volunteers—up for success. To learn more about what Dunleavy & Associates can do for your nonprofit, contact us today.

About the author: Cheryl Pompeo is Senior Project Manager at Dunleavy & Associates. She brings nearly a decade of experience in special event and volunteer management experience to the firm. Formerly a Director of Special Events and a Regional Executive Director for a Philadelphia area healthcare nonprofit, Cheryl also specializes in campaign fundraising, corporate development, donor cultivation, board and committee development, and program delivery. Cheryl uses her knowledge to help Dunleavy’s clients strategically plan and implement endurance events, including walks, runs, and marathon campaigns.

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What can be done to get our nonprofit board focused on fundraising?

Nancy Dunleavy

By Nancy Dunleavy

In a perfect nonprofit world, all of your board members would be fundraising champions. They’d flip their rolodex from back to front to back again, seeking donations from friends and colleagues, and even reach deep into their own wallets to ensure the financial stability of the organization they’ve committed to support.

While such boardroom all-stars do exist, it’s rare that an organization is fortunate enough to have an entire roster of them. It’s actually a more common problem for a nonprofit to struggle with board members who are disengaged or reluctant to participate in the fundraising process. So what can be done to drum up the support that your nonprofit needs?

Really, it comes down to inspiration trumping hesitation. Many board members are not accustomed to the relationship cultivation and solicitation that is required to land major donations, and are fearful because they don’t know how to do it. It’s the job of a nonprofit’s leadership to work with such board members to help them feel both passionate about the cause and confident in the fundraising process.

Board members will often gravitate toward special-event fundraising such as selling tickets to a cocktail party or a golf outing, because it’s an easy way to solicit support without having to make the case in person. However, leadership should help board members realize that people typically only give major donations to other people, not to paper. Even the most inspiring newsletter can’t match the emotional connection of a face-to-face appeal.

Board members are best equipped to make these appeals when they’re passionate about what they’re “selling.” Leadership should help board members identify which services speak most to them, and make them the heart of each person’s appeal. For example, as chairwoman of the Gwynedd Mercy University Board of Trustees, I have gravitated toward supporting internship programs for students because I believe in the power of real world experience.

The success of these internship programs in helping students to secure jobs, and companies to cultivate promising employees, has given me confidence in asking for donations. It’s much easier for me to solicit donations for the programs when I believe in their purpose and have evidence of their importance.

Leadership can also help assuage the concerns of board members by reassuring them that success rates are higher than they might think. While its unrealistic to expect a 100 percent conversion rate, prospects will more often than not become donors when courted by an honest and enthusiastic board member. Even better, it only takes the landing of one major donor to receive a potentially transformative donation that even the best golf outing could never match.

About the author: Nancy Dunleavy is the President and CEO of Dunleavy & Associates, which she founded in 2001. Chair of Gwynedd Mercy University Board of Trustees, Nancy also serves on the Board of Directors of The Union League of Philadelphia, and is Treasurer of Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board.  She is a popular public speaker and has received numerous accolades for her work and leadership, but most prides herself on being an “extraordinary talent scout” in recruiting phenomenal clients, colleagues, and collaborators.

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Non-Profit Strategic Planning with a For-Profit Mindset

Carolyn

By Carolyn Rammel

In the for-profit world, much of an organization’s success is tied to producing a solid return on the investments of its shareholders and continuously increasing shareholder and enterprise value. For most non-profit organizations, this concept of return on investment (ROI), or shareholder/enterprise value, gets ignored. While it is true non-profit organizations do not have traditional “shareholders,” they do have investors. And these investors are looking to understand the impact (return) their investments are making.

But before an organization can report on an investor or funder’s return, it must first determine for itself the impact its mission and work is looking to create. Until this is clearly articulated, an organization cannot measure and monitor its success and ROI. So, how can non-profits incorporate this performance and measurement based mindset? For most it will start with a strategic planning initiative.

During the strategic planning process, the mission is affirmed and adjusted and the impact of that mission is clearly defined. Determining how the organization will assess its performance against those impact goals comes next. And it is this assessment practice, as defined by the non-profit, (not its funders), that establishes a true culture of performing to outcomes and knowing if one is on or off track in achieving the mission.

Not all non-profits find it easy to shift from a purely mission-aligned strategy to one based on impact and outcomes. What is the actual financial impact of putting someone in a home of his or her own? It’s incalculable. Yet, even when impact is difficult to measure in a quantifiable way, the idea of managing to an outcome or managing to a specific action in and of itself, still counts.

Having an external consultant facilitate this process is very helpful because initially, managing to outcomes is scary. The right consulting partner preserves an atmosphere of safety and trust while simultaneously revealing exciting possibilities. As seasoned strategic planning partners we help non-profits think deeply about their mission. We help design a pathway for achieving that mission, and set up management approaches to support the collection of data to channel into quantitative claims that not only satisfy funders, but ensure organizations have a clear method for understanding whether they are achieving their mission.

Once an organization reaches the end of this process, its leaders have immense confidence and clarity. They develop a culture of alignment because everyone knows what they are doing, why they are doing it, and just how well they are doing it. And it is in this moment of clarity and alignment that outcomes and ROI become benchmarks of success rather than merely data points.

About the author: Carolyn Rammel is a seasoned executive and consultant with 30 years of experience in the financial services, travel management, non-profit and consulting services industries. She has held leadership roles in marketing and product management, executed numerous international joint venture initiatives, and served as executive director of a Philadelphia based non-profit organization. As a consultant she specializes in the areas of strategic planning, facilitation, governance and leadership alignment, while teaching an executive global leadership program in locations around the world.

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How a volunteer planning committee can make or break a signature event

Kate Goffredo Dougherty

By Kate Goffredo Dougherty

A signature event can be a truly seminal moment for a nonprofit. Execute well, and your organization is likely to receive a windfall of donations and a surge of support from stakeholders and prospects. Execute poorly, and you may find yourself with dwindling coffers and finger-pointing within the ranks.

That’s a lot of responsibility to place upon the shoulders of a volunteer planning committee. Fortunately, there are tried and true methods that Dunleavy & Associates has honed while helping to plan signature events for our nonprofit clients.

The first thing we tell any nonprofit in the early stages of planning an event is to assemble a committee of volunteers with a diverse set of networks and availability. It’s best that committee members have varying work schedules, ensuring someone is always available to complete tasks, and also varying social and professional networks, creating a large pool from which to solicit funds. A tried-and-true recipe is to have high-powered committee members use their network to pursue large donations, while volunteers with more free time handle day-to-day administrative or communications tasks.

Once you have formed the volunteer planning committee for a signature event, the next step is to organize. Subcommittees and their chairpersons should be selected on merit, and tasked with clearly defined responsibilities. Exact positions will vary based on the needs of each event, but all subcommittees will work best when chairs are chosen for their skill set and experience, not their seniority or patronage. In most cases, it’s wise to select a committee chairperson who is high-energy and experienced in planning, and who can take charge, grease the wheels daily, and motivate the committee throughout the process.

Perhaps just as important as utilizing the strengths of the people you do have, is to recognize the weaknesses presented by skills that are lacking. Common examples are organizations that are planning an event for the first time and don’t have experience in securing a location, or those that lack the capacity to handle the large volume of communications that successful event planning requires.

You’ll need to fill these gaps, lest one becomes the Achilles heel of your event. If you’re unable to find the expertise or capacity required within your own network, it’s at this point that enlisting the services of a firm such as Dunleavy & Associates should be considered.

Once you have all of your role players in place, it’s crucial to make sure everyone knows what is expected of them and follows through on those responsibilities. Often times, well-meaning subcommittee members will step outside the lines; a person responsible for securing a location will start nosing around the catering menu, or a volunteer tasked with calling donors will start shopping around for flower arrangements. While their intentions are to help, such blurring of responsibilities often ends up wasting time and annoying committee members already assigned to those tasks.

If you’re not sure you have the right people or enough experience to knock your next signature event out of the park, be sure to follow these best practices and consider bringing an organization like Dunleavy & Associates on board if there are gaps within your volunteer team.

About the author: Kate Goffredo Dougherty is Senior Project Manager, Operations at Dunleavy & Associates. With a background in nonprofit administration, Kate oversees the lion’s share of Dunleavy’s operations, and shares her expertise with clients seeking to improve their operational and organizational management. She also specializes in event planning.

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How can nonprofits maintain authentic donor relationships throughout the year?

deborah-hoxter

by Debi Hoxter

Congratulations! You’ve identified, cultivated and solicited your donor and he/she has just made a major gift (the amount of a major gift will vary depending on the size of your organization).

At this point, many nonprofits believe their work is complete, but nothing could be further from the truth, for this is when authentic donor stewardship begins.

What is authentic donor stewardship? It is the stewarding of the individual, not just the gift, and is grounded in the desire to treat donors as partners by honoring their generosity and demonstrating how their gifts make a difference.

Remember, donors have contributed to your nonprofit because they feel a connection to your organization, its mission and the individuals involved. Nurturing donor relationships enables those who give to connect more deeply to your organization and those you serve and, as a result, make future contributions. Follow these steps to keep them connected to your nonprofit and aware their gift is appreciated.

Step One: Learn a prospective donor’s stewardship expectations before the gift is secured – or soon after

Ask the donor prospect what would be the most meaningful way to steward his/her gift, and what that would look like. Importantly, determine his/her preferred means of communication early on and for all outreach going forward, whether it be by phone or email (donors always appreciate being asked). This conversation enables you to learn more about who the donor is and what motivates him/her to give.

Step Two: Place a phone call within 24 hours of receiving the gift

Within 24 hours a phone call should be placed by your organization’s Executive Director/CEO and the person with whom the donor has the closest relationship. There is nothing that can substitute for a gracious and heartfelt “thank you,” and a donor will always remember the personal outreach.

Step Three: Send a personalized acknowledgment letter within two business days of receiving the gift

Ideally, a letter should be sent to acknowledge the donor’s gift within two days of receipt. If a template is used to create the letter, it should be personalized so that it appears to be written specifically for that donor and the donor’s partner should also be acknowledged in the letter. The dollar value of the gift should be listed in the letter and a brief explanation of the gift’s benefit to the organization.

The acknowledgment letter should always include a short, handwritten post-script.

Step Four: Communicate with your donor throughout the year to demonstrate the impact of his or her gift

Oftentimes donors feel that the nonprofit they support communicates with them only when it’s time to solicit another gift. To set your organization apart, it is critical to build your donor relationships throughout the year through authentic, customized stewardship tactics, identifying a plan that is meaningful to each donor.

For example, invite the donor to visit your organization and make introductions to staff and clients who have benefited from their generosity. Similarly, a letter from a staff member or client expressing his thanks to your donor for his gift and its impact is especially meaningful.

Smaller, donor-only events are also an ideal way to express thanks to your donors and build a sense of camaraderie among your donor base. If your nonprofit has just completed a renovation, plan an event to thank donors for their contributions and conduct first-look tours of the new offices. For those who prefer one-on-one interactions, a lunch invitation to update a donor on how his or her gift is impacting your organization would be especially meaningful.

Step Five: Make personal connections/touches throughout the year

Staying in touch on a personal basis throughout the year is certain to build your relationships with donors. Invite your donor to participate in a Career Day if applicable to your organization. Send your donor a note when a child is getting married or if a grandchild is born. These milestones should be in your database of details gathered during the cultivation step. Or, in lieu of the standard holiday card, consider sending a Thanksgiving card that expresses your gratitude.

Most important is creating a stewardship plan for each donor and developing a calendar of “touches” throughout the year. Dunleavy & Associates’ development professionals have the expertise to guide you throughout the donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship process. To learn more, visit our website at http://matchingmissions.com

 

About the author: Debi Hoxter is Director, Corporate & Foundation Relations at Dunleavy & Associates. Pulling from her prior experience as Executive Director, Corporate Underwriting at WHYY, Debi works with clients to build donor and corporate relationships and create strategies for meeting revenue goals. She began her career in advertising, working first at Ted Bates and Grey advertising agencies in New York before serving as Advertising Sales Manager at Philadelphia Magazine.

 

 

 

 

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Does crowdfunding work for nonprofits?

Brittany Alba

By Brittany Alba

Nobody wants to be the old curmudgeon: the parent who thought The Beatles’ hair was too shaggy or the Scooby Doo villain who shakes his fist at all the meddling kids.

But embracing a new way of raising money like crowdfunding can be a risky proposition for nonprofits. It means taking a leap of faith into methods with which your organization has no proven track record for success and it means betting that you’ll be able to do it well.

However, all nonprofits that do make crowdfunding work have one thing in common: They take the leap with both feet.

Too many nonprofits think they understand the concept of crowdfunding, but don’t commit the resources to properly execute it. They’ll develop an idea for a campaign, but fail to spend the money on an engaging online landing page, or neglect to create a compelling marketing campaign that is essential for success.

While crowdfunding can attract donors of all ages (with last summer’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge being the perfect example), the demographic usually is weighted toward Millenials. And younger donors like their crowdfunding campaigns like the rest of their Internet: with thoughtful, sleek design, use of multimedia, and copy that speaks to them.

If you don’t have the capability to generate eye-catching landing pages within your organization, you’ll need to commit resources to get outside help to run a successful crowdfunding campaign.

A successful campaign also will need to generate crowdfunding ideas that will connect with the target demographic. This is best done by going to the source: By asking your younger employees or even 20-something family members for ideas they would find compelling or amusing.

There’s no way to ensure a campaign will find the audience that San Francisco’s Batkid did, for example, but younger audiences are often drawn to stories about their peers. And if your 20-something niece or nephew finds a story or idea compelling, it’s a good bet dozens of their friends will, too.

As the Internet continues to grow in influence, and Millenials more significant in nonprofit demographics, crowdfunding will grow in importance as well. Every nonprofit will sooner or later have to take the leap, and enthusiastic and early adopters will find themselves ahead of the curve.

About the author: Brittany Alba is a Project Manager with Dunleavy & Associates, and has worked with clients across the education, human services, and community development sectors. She specializes in media relations, graphic design, market research, and event planning, and has embraced her role helping the firm and its clients find new ways to raise funds in the digital age.

 

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A Tribute to David Letterman: The Dunleavy Top 10

David Letterman

Say it ain’t so, Dave!

After a nearly 22-year run, David Letterman will be making his final sign-off on the Late Show tonight on CBS. It’s been an incredible run: Combined with his previous time spent on Late Night, Letterman’s more than 30 years as a talk show host surpasses even that of Johnny Carson.

The Dunleavy & Associates team has many big-time Letterman fans among its ranks, and we couldn’t let this occasion pass without notice. In honor of David’s signature Top Ten List, we created a list of our own to highlight the “Top Ten Ways that Dunleavy Makes a Difference.”

We may not have the side-splitting writers of the Late Show, but the Dunleavy & Associates team is still very proud of the work that we do to support all of our fantastic clients and their missions. So without further ado…

The Top Ten Ways that Dunleavy Makes a Difference

10. We’re professionals with experience

Dunleavy & Associates’ 14 team members have more than 150 years of combined experience working in the nonprofit sector (that’s as many as five Lettermans!). This includes positions in organizations large and small, for profit and nonprofit, with a variety of missions and services. We love matching the experience of our team members with the needs of our clients.

9. We’re professionals who care

At Dunleavy & Associates, we mean it when we say “Our Mission Is Your Mission.” Some people finish the 9-to-5 workday and forget about their job while watching … ahem, late night television. But our employees are passionate about the nonprofit clients they serve, always going the extra mile, even after typical working hours.

8. We’re professionals who teach

In many cases, our clients hire us to fill a knowledge or skills gap that exists in their organization. We see it as our job not to just fill that gap temporarily, but to pass along our know-how to the client so that their nonprofit is stronger after our relationship ends. To use the old saying, we don’t just bring the fish, we teach you to fish, too!

7. We’re professionals who learn

We’re happy that Letterman will retire on his terms and get to relax after a successful career. But Dunleavy & Associates never rests on its laurels! Just as we teach our clients, we also know the value of learning new methods and strategies from them. Our employees also pursue continuing education opportunities to make sure they stay on top of what it takes for nonprofits to succeed in 2015.

6. We’re professionals who are honest

When a client hires Dunleavy & Associates, they’re getting more than just an extra employee. They also get a strategic partner who will be honest in her analysis and help you make the important decisions.

5. Our clients get capacity

There’s no better feeling than taking a bit of burden off your shoulders. When capacity is stretched thin, it can be difficult to find an individual with the exact skill set needed to help with the load. The multi-talented Dunleavy roster can handle any responsibility, giving clients the confidence to tackle bigger problems.

4. Our clients get talent

Letterman is one of the all time greats of late night. Our goal is to be the all-time great of nonprofit services. Our team members wear many hats and are flexible, mobile, and responsive. We may not get the glamour of showbiz, but we get the reward of making a difference, and that’s plenty.

3. Our clients get change

Our clients don’t just get short-term solutions. Dunleavy & Associates team members help to institute meaningful change so that clients are stronger organizations after our services are completed. We do upgrades, not band-aids.

2. Our clients get commitment and connections

The Dunleavy team is proud of our activities outside the office: Our average employee donates $1,000 and 100 hours of her time each year to nonprofit causes, and many team members hold leadership positions in a variety of regional organizations. It’s a reflection of how much we care, and has the added benefit of growing our professional networks and experience, which we pass on to our clients.

And the number one way that Dunleavy makes a difference for our clients…

Drum roll please…

1. WE ARE FUN TO WORK WITH!

This is an idea Letterman could certainly get on board with.

At the end of the day, the nonprofit industry is one that’s all about passion. But stress and budgets and reviews can suck the joy out of the job. Our team members love helping to make a difference, not only for a client’s constituents, but also for its employees. We’re all in this together, and nothing makes us feel better than using our time, energy and abilities to relieve the burdens of our clients and seeing them get them excited about changing the world again.

David Letterman has truly made a difference in the lives of the tens of millions he’s entertained over three decades on the air. We’re not at those numbers just yet, but with the help of our current and future clients, we’ll get there.

Thanks for your support and don’t forget to watch David Letterman in action one last time, tonight on CBS at 11:35 p.m.

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How can our nonprofit leverage the social media networks of volunteers?

Brittany Alba

By Brittany Alba

The word “exponential” sure gets tossed around a lot these days. It seems to have become a favorite catchword of companies and businesses looking to generate excitement around a particular product or growth opportunity, regardless of whether the math actually checks out.

On social media, there’s no denying the exponential potential for nonprofits to grow their support base. And that’s because every volunteer plugged into social media has the ability to introduce dozens, even hundreds of their own followers to your organization with the click of a mouse. The only question is, how to make it happen?

Best practices are a bit of a mix between old and new techniques. One golden rule certainly holds true: “People give to people, not to organizations.” But networks like Facebook and Twitter advance this one step further: People give even more to people they know.

One of the best tactics a nonprofit can use on social media is to promote a story or blog post about a volunteer in their organization. Dunleavy client Angel Flight East, a nonprofit that provides free flights for those who need distant medical treatments, has done this to great effect. The organization’s Facebook page is full of posts about its volunteer pilots and constituents, and the unique relationships they share.

While such volunteer spotlights have long been a staple of nonprofit print communications, posting them on social media offers the unique benefit of tagging the individuals involved, so that they can easily share the story with their network. Privacy should be respected wherever necessary — especially in cases involving medical issues — but a nonprofit’s communications manager can help volunteers feel more at ease taking the spotlight by prompting them to follow the organization’s social media accounts well before ever asking them to be featured on it.

Social media also opens the door to new, creative ways to highlight the work of volunteers. A great example of this occurred at Community Partnership School, a nonprofit school with a mission to provide high-quality education to low-income families in North Philadelphia. A longtime classroom volunteer overheard a Pre-K teacher remark about how she wished she had more booster seats, so that more children could participate in field trips.

Amazingly, the volunteer went right out and bought twelve new booster seats for the teacher, and a short Facebook post documenting the act performed incredibly well on Facebook. This was a perfect example of how a single photo and a few words about one individual introduced hundreds of new people to the good work of the school and its volunteers. And it doesn’t just have to be volunteers: A brief introduction of a new board member can quickly circulate around that individual’s well-connected circle.

Even if your organization’s social media pages are still fledgling, you should not be deterred in implementing new social media efforts. By spotlighting volunteers or even constituents, you can rapidly introduce the people in their networks to your organization and grow your following.

This was recently the case after our firm helped bolster the social media efforts of CORA Services, a nonprofit that helps youth and families overcome a variety of life challenges. By posting several times a week and tagging volunteers, the page’s following grew nearly 25 percent in just a few months. And while that’s not quite exponential growth just yet, it’s certainly a meaningful advance toward the organization’s full potential reach.

About the author: Brittany Alba is a Project Manager with Dunleavy & Associates, and has worked with clients across the education, human services, and community development sectors. She specializes in media relations, graphic design, market research, and event planning, and has embraced her role helping the firm and its clients find new ways to raise funds in the digital age.

 

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Stewardship strategies for turning volunteers into donors

Debi Hoxter

By Debi Hoxter

Stewarding your nonprofit’s volunteers with the intention of eventually converting them into donors can be an intimidating responsibility. You may have a collection of people who are giving hours, even days out of their busy lives for your organization’s cause, and then you’re tasked with also asking them to make a monetary donation. As a result, some nonprofits tend to shy away from approaching this important group of stakeholders altogether.

Fortunately, the process isn’t nearly as ominous as it may seem. And that’s because when done properly, stewardship is an organic and even inviting process that turns a somewhat uncomfortable situation into a winning one for both the nonprofit and the individual.

Facilitating such a relationship starts at the very beginning, when the individual first becomes a volunteer. At that point, it’s important to roll out the red carpet and make sure the volunteer immediately feels valued within your organization.

One way to make your volunteer feel welcome is to plan a tour of your nonprofit’s headquarters. But make sure it’s well-planned and intentional: Introduce the volunteer to your organization’s executive director, staff, or constituents, and have personalized materials prepared, such as a press kit or annual report. Having these items ready will show the volunteer you went out of your way to plan for their visit.

Be sure to also conduct research into the individual ahead of time to determine his or her capacity. Having knowledge upfront about your volunteer’s ability to give or solicit others allows you to steer the relationship in that direction from the beginning.

Once the volunteer feels like a valued part of your organization, make sure he or she stays that way. The key here remains personalization. The more you make an individual feel personally valued by the organization, the more he or she will be compelled to give.

For volunteers who came for a single day of service or who worked on a particular project, write a personalized thank you note and ask to put him or her on the mailing list. For individuals who volunteer on a regular basis, check in from time to time, reminding them how much you appreciate their time and asking how they feel about their experience.

Personalization is a critical component for a successful appeal. Just as you would with a non-volunteer donor, take the time to include a letter to individual volunteers, thanking them for their efforts and asking if they would consider financially supporting the organization.

Finally, never give up on a volunteer. Even if an individual is not yet ready or capable of making a donation, don’t be afraid to ask if there is anyone in his or her personal network who is. Perhaps a friend works for a company looking to expand its philanthropy, or a family member might also be interested in volunteering (studies show that households in which more than one individual volunteers for the same cause are also more likely to donate).

If your organization wants to improve its volunteer stewardship strategies, a firm such as Dunleavy & Associates can provide powerful insights and expertise. Our firm works closely with nonprofits to craft customized stewardship plans that help build lasting relationships with volunteers, existing donors, and new prospects alike, resulting in increased revenue for your organization.

About the author: Debi Hoxter is Director, Corporate & Foundation Relations at Dunleavy & Associates. Pulling from her prior experience as Executive Director, Corporate Underwriting at WHYY, Debi works with clients to build donor and corporate relationships and create strategies for meeting revenue goals. She began her career in advertising, working first at Ted Bates and Grey advertising agencies in New York before serving as Advertising Sales Manager at Philadelphia Magazine.

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How can nonprofits plan successful endurance events?

Cheryl Pompeo

By Cheryl Pompeo

America seems to be going fitness crazy. In the past decade, the popularity of 5Ks, half-marathons, and Spartan races has exploded. And many nonprofits have hitched their wagon to the train, looking to endurance events as a way to fundraise and gain exposure.

But like a newbie runner encountering shin splints for the first time, nonprofits discover that organizing an endurance event is not as simple as just racing out of the door. With events seemingly scheduled every weekend between Easter and Thanksgiving, many nonprofits find out the hard way that just organizing a race does not mean the runners will come. So how can an organization ensure a successful position in a crowded field?

For starters, don’t race. And we’re not talking about your employees participating in the race (that’s highly encouraged). We’re saying give your nonprofit plenty of time to plan. In most cases, you’ll need at least a year to successfully organize an event, particularly since finding and reserving a course is a process that requires significant lead time.

As with any large project, you’ll want to assemble the right team to organize an endurance event. It’s ideal to have a planning committee of volunteers who will work with a staff member on race recruitment, logistics, fundraising, and promotion. Of course, having beneficiaries of your organization and any individuals with connection to the running community on the committee will increase the chances of success.

Once you have the right people in place, the decision-making and planning process can begin. And perhaps the most important decision is what kind of race to hold, and when to hold it. This decision is best informed by the goals of your own organization: A nonprofit looking to reinvigorate an established donor community may benefit from a low-key race in its own back yard, while an organization seeking a new donor base may want to expand to different niches or geographic areas.

It’s also important to clear major logistical hurdles first. By working to secure a race location, date, and corporate sponsor, the committee can then turn its attention to promotion and planning. Ultimately, it shouldn’t be a nonprofit’s goal to win the gold with their first race. We actually recommend planning endurance events in three-year phases and emphasize growth over huge financial success in the first year.

But that’s not to say inaugural endurance events can’t be a hit on the first go-around. Dunleavy & Associates recently helped a client plan a new race that drew 350 participants and buoyed its constituent base. If your organization is considering holding an endurance event but is unsure of its capacity to successfully plan, it may be beneficial to seek out a planning partner to help make your event successful.

About the author: Cheryl Pompeo is Senior Project Manager at Dunleavy & Associates and brings nearly a decade of experience in special event and volunteer management experience to the firm. Formerly a Senior Director of Special Events and a Regional Director for a Philadelphia area healthcare nonprofit, Cheryl also specializes in campaign fundraising, corporate development, donor cultivation, board and committee development, and program delivery. Cheryl uses her knowledge to help Dunleavy’s Clients strategically plan and implement endurance events, including walks, runs, and marathon campaigns.

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How can our nonprofit address a new need without mission creep?

stephanie-taylor

By Stephanie Taylor

As nonprofit professionals, it’s in our nature to help as many people as possible. When we see a new opportunity to expand services and improve the lives of more people, it’s difficult not to jump right in and set a plan into action. That’s particularly true when there’s new money available for services and your organization wants a piece of the pie.

But expanding without careful planning is a time-tested recipe for mission creep. A nonprofit with the purest intentions can suddenly find its mission diluted, its staff in over their heads, and its clients and donors upset or even angry. Fortunately, there are guiding principles and questions a nonprofit can use to ensure that a new direction is the right one.

The first question a nonprofit considering a new service should ask itself is, “Is anyone already doing this really well?” Take a look at your target population and see if there is an organization successfully providing the service you’re considering.

If that’s the case, serious thought should be given to a partnership proposal. The other organization has already done the heavy work of laying an operational foundation, and can tell you what assets your organization has that would be of value. For example, an organization committed to supporting youth entrepreneurial efforts might benefit most from another nonprofit’s relationships with schools in the area.

By working together, both organizations can stay within their wheelhouse, while expanding services to new areas without encountering the perils and pitfalls of mission creep.

If the answer to the prior question is no, and there isn’t an organization already devoted to the effort under consideration, it doesn’t automatically follow that your nonprofit should be the one to lead the charge. It’s at this point that it becomes instrumental to refer back to your strategic plan, and carefully consider whether the program or opportunity fits within your nonprofit’s mission.

There’s nothing wrong with an organization evolving with the times — in fact, it’s a necessity for survival — but it must be done strategically. Providing new services should be a decision made by the board, which can consider the implications thoroughly. If the board determines the new opportunity is truly necessary in changing times, it can alter the strategic plan, put other projects on the back burner, and free up the resources needed to launch successfully in this new direction.

Seeking the board’s approval and an alteration of the strategic plan also helps guard against the slippery slope of mission creep. If it takes leadership-level consideration to add new services, it will be difficult for departments to slide too far down the mountain until somebody notices. Without this safety net, the impact of your current programs could get watered down, your staff stretched too thin, and you might be viewed as an organization lacking a clear direction or commitment.

By following this process, your organization’s employees not only will know they have the resources and approval to add new services, but donors and clients will be assured that their stakes are in good hands.

About the author: Stephanie Taylor has spent 15 years in the nonprofit sector working in almost every capacity, from program delivery to operations. She specializes in leadership, change management, and nonprofit operations, and holds an MBA in Nonprofit Management from Eastern University.

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How can a nonprofit make its second appeal work better than its first?

Gloria Pugliese

By Gloria Pugliese

We’re two months into 2015 and hopefully you’ve been happily going about your business, taking it as it comes. It may seem a long way off now, but you know eventually you’ll glance at the calendar and have the sudden realization that the end of the year is approaching, and it will soon be that time again.

And no, we’re not talking about writing the family holiday card. We’re talking about the annual donor appeal for your nonprofit, and unlike your relatives, nobody is obligated to give you a penny. So how can you make this year’s appeal better than the last?

The key is to start now. If you wait until sometime in autumn to ask this question, you’ll already be too late to answer it effectively. That’s because planning an effective donor appeal is a year-round process, based primarily on responding to and analyzing the results of last year’s efforts.

Donor appeals are about building momentum, and the only way to keep that momentum going is to keep your donors in the loop. Following an appeal, take the time to creatively thank those who supported your organization. Anything personalized is the gold standard, and it doesn’t need to cost money. We’ve seen very effective thank you letters that included handwritten notes from students who benefited from donations. A simple phone call works wonders, too.

Don’t make the follow-up a one-way form of communication, though. Heed the saying, “If you ask people for money, they’ll give you advice. If you ask for advice, they’ll give you money.” Donors — particularly major ones — love to give their feedback on the appeal and messaging, and by engaging them you’ll receive important input on what hit home with prospects.

If your nonprofit has already been doing a great job thanking and garnering feedback from donors, you can start digging into the data from last year’s appeal to look for ways to make this year’s better. There are countless ways to analyze your results, such as determining what messages, media, demographics and delivery times work best. We’ve even seen studies showing that appeals featuring dogs instead of cats garnered more donations for an animal rescue nonprofit.

The key here is finding balance. You don’t want to exert more time and energy than needed to analyze your appeal. It’s easy to become hyper-focused on one approach, and lose donors to whom your new communications don’t appeal. You also need to be careful not to make too many changes at once. That will make it difficult to determine what change made the difference in your results.

If your nonprofit doesn’t have an expert in this field, consider bringing on a consultant such as Dunleavy & Associates before shelling out money for a robust CRM solution or placing the burden on your staff. You’ll get qualified insights into what will work best for your organization, and the expertise to execute analysis if needed.

About the author: Gloria Pugliese is Director, Advancement and Capital Campaigns at Dunleavy & Associates. A Certified Fund Raising Executive with more than 15 years of experience in the nonprofit industry, Gloria formerly served as Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations for La Salle University and Gwynedd-Mercy College, in addition to Director of Advancement for the Delaware County SPCA. She shares her expertise with clients seeking to improve their communications, capital campaigns and development.

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How much administrative support does a nonprofit board need?

Kate Goffredo Dougherty

By Kate Goffredo Dougherty

Time can be an easy thing to under-budget. A 20-minute drive into the city? Try 45. Half an hour at the grocery store? More like an hour and a half. A few minutes after dinner for a stroll around the block? Forget about it.

But time is the key factor when deciding how much administrative support a nonprofit needs to give to its board of directors. Over or underestimation of time commitments on either side can result in leadership breakdowns with ramifications throughout the organization. So how can this be avoided?

Follow this golden rule: Boards do not have a lot of time. Never lose sight of the fact that board members are almost always volunteers, with jobs and other commitments that will take priority over your organization. Even the most enthusiastic board member will at some point find themselves running short on time when life’s other responsibilities come calling.

For this reason, you must treat your board’s time with respect. Expect little of it, and make the most of what you do receive by giving extra emphasis to organization. When board meetings roll around, be prepared.

Don’t use word-of-mouth to determine who should be attending or what will be on the agenda. Instead, send out an email a week in advance with all of the necessary materials and a list of who will be speaking. If neither your board nor your administration has its ducks in a row prior to a meeting, you’ll end up wasting time or, even worse, arriving at crucial decisions based on faulty information.

Administrative support shouldn’t conclude with the meeting, either. Although it can be a cumbersome task, have someone take thorough minutes and commit to spending a few hours after the meeting to cleaning them up and sending them out. You have your board’s attention and the meeting is fresh on their minds, so follow up immediately. They can’t be expected to jump back into the fray a week or two down the line.

Occasionally, board members can actually be the ones who underestimate how much of their own time is needed. We see this often with organizations that lose an executive and decide to temporarily shift responsibilities to the board. Board members optimistically believe they can divvy up the time, but they often fail to realize the extent of responsibilities: tax filing, banking deposits, invoicing, event organization, and even day-to-day communication with employees and stakeholders.

These responsibilities should rarely, if ever, be given to board members, because these situations can quickly degrade into disorganization and lost revenue. For that reason we always advise nonprofits to enlist administrative support services provided by a company like Dunleavy & Associates when faced with an absence, even if only for a short period of time.

About the author: Kate Goffredo Dougherty is Senior Project Manager, Operations at Dunleavy & Associates. With a background in nonprofit administration, Kate oversees the lion’s share of Dunleavy’s operations, and shares her expertise with clients seeking to improve their operational and organizational management. She also specializes in event planning.

 

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How can our nonprofit cultivate donors who can make major gifts?

Debi Hoxter

By Debi Hoxter

If only there were an easy answer to the question of how nonprofits can win big donations. Campaign managers would certainly be able to relax a little.

But while there is no easy way to solicit major donations, the answer is actually quite simple: Relationships. Cultivating big donors is all about developing relationships, and while that takes significant time and energy, it pays off in the long run.

The question then becomes, what is the best way to build relationships? Start by reaching out to your board of directors, and ask for their support and guidance. They’re often well connected and may know people in their network who would be a good match for your cause. Ask your board member to make an introduction, preferably in person, but at least by having their connection take your phone call.

If there is a dearth of leads from the board, start looking at your own network and conducting research. Find out who your competitors’ major donors are and see if you have any common connections. Perhaps you have an old colleague who now works at the same company as a donor, or maybe you share a mutual connection with a prospect on LinkedIn.

Once you’ve identified a target prospect and have made a connection, you can begin the four-step courtship process: Qualify, cultivate, solicit and steward.

  • Qualify: Get to know the prospect and see if your organization is of key interest. Determine if he or she has the proper financial capacity by inquiring about and researching other philanthropic activity.
  • Cultivate: Make the prospect feel a part of the organization. Invite him or her to meet your organization’s leadership, visit its facilities and attend its events. Demonstrate why your organization is different from others.
  • Solicit: The actual ask should not come as a major surprise. Like a marriage engagement, both parties should be expecting and comfortable when the question is popped.
  • Steward: After a donation is made, don’t disappear until the next appeal time. Thank the donor repeatedly, and continue the relationship by inviting your donor to activities that are of interest, from volunteer efforts to cocktail parties. Even better if they can bring a friend to an event who might also be willing to donate.

The key through this process is to take your time. The clock should not be ticking for you to land a major donation; rather, expect that it will take time to court the prospect and ask when the time is right. Although cultivating major donors is time-consuming, it will ultimately pay off and build as your network grows and strengthens.

About the author: Debi Hoxter is Director, Corporate & Foundation Relations at Dunleavy & Associates. Pulling from her prior experience as Executive Director, Corporate Underwriting at WHYY, Debi works with clients to build donor and corporate relationships and create strategies for meeting revenue goals. She began her career in advertising, working first at Ted Bates and Grey advertising agencies in New York before serving as Advertising Sales Manager at Philadelphia Magazine.

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Does a change in nonprofit leadership require a new strategic plan?

Carolyn Rammel

By Carolyn Rammel

There are few things in the nonprofit sector that induce as much anxiety as a change in leadership. Whether it’s an executive director or an influential board member leaving an organization, that individual holds influence that will leave a vacuum after departure.

While the shift may and often should prompt some soul-searching within your organization, there’s no reason a leadership change in and of itself must change your strategic plan.

By design, a good strategic plan will be created through contributions from more than one individual. If created correctly, a plan collaboratively combines the ideas, perspectives and recommendations from various stakeholders. From volunteers to board members, staff members to external constituents, all voices carry the same weight. It is a leader’s responsibility to execute the strategic plan, not to dictate the plan.

However, a change in leadership does present a great opportunity to revisit the strategic plan and ensure it is still functional and in line with the mission and organizational goals. Of particular importance is determining that the plan’s design was not the reason for the prior director’s departure, and that new leadership can still reasonably execute it.

Even if you determine the plan was created with input from stakeholders at all levels and is still executable, it may be time to revise. Strategic plans should be updated every three to five years, regardless of changes in leadership.

If your strategic plan passes review and does not require updating, it can actually be the best tool for weathering the stresses of change. As the plan is intended to be the guiding document of your organization, the individuals leading that strategic direction will be secondary to the plan itself. Even more, a completed strategic plan will offer clarity of direction for any incoming leadership.

About the author: Carolyn Rammel is a seasoned executive and consultant, with 25 years of experience in the financial services, travel management, not-for-profit and consulting services industries. She has executed numerous business, marketing and international joint venture initiatives in the corporate marketplace, and more recently served as the executive director of a Philadelphia nonprofit organization. As a consultant, she specializes in the areas of strategic planning, facilitation and leadership alignment.

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How should a nonprofit talk to potential donors about overhead costs?

Megan Lepore

By Megan Lepore

In a world where everything is scrutinized, administrative costs (also referred to as “overhead”) have almost become dirty words in nonprofit fundraising. Everyone’s heard some version of the following, usually from an uninformed friend or family member: “Can you believe [insert organization here] keeps a third of every dollar? They won’t get a dime from me!

With the budgets of even large, nationally respected organizations being targeted for criticism in recent years, the dilemma for small and mid-sized nonprofits is great. How much financial information should you openly offer to donors and prospects, and how can you best convey it? Is it best not to mention overhead costs at all, or perhaps speak in generalities?

At Dunleavy & Associates, we believe strongly in the importance of honesty and transparency. Leaving donors or prospects in the dark about where their money is going will eventually have negative repercussions, and you can bet they’ll never donate again once their trust is broken.

What donors are really concerned about is not just confirmation of where their dollar is going, but whether or not it’s being wasted. Donors by nature are considerate people, capable of understanding that yes, your staff must earn a salary in order to carry out your nonprofit’s mission. And they (should) recognize that there are real costs involved to doing your work.

So, what is the solution? Use your organization’s communication channels to talk about those costs. It’s okay to talk with prospects about the expenses associated with using current technologies to provide integral services to your constituents, the need to sometimes outsource services (such as graphic design), and the everyday cost of running a successful nonprofit organization.

At the same time, it’s not unreasonable for them to want to know how well you steward their dollars. Be prepared to share what percentage of donations goes to overhead costs. You can share how your organization has worked with vendors to make more cost-efficient decisions (bulk printing, shared resources, in-kind services, etc.) and how the staff and board have resolved to more closely monitor expenses to increase revenue in the new year. This type of information will help to build trust that your organization is careful with every dollar.

And don’t be afraid to spice up your communications. Many organizations report their financials only at the end of the year, often in a large, dense report. Let your donors know how their contributions are making an impact in the community – in both big and small ways.

Send out brief recaps that utilize statistical infographics or photos of your clients and staff. Tell them how the campaign they donated to fed 300 families for a month, or helped 30 pups find forever homes. Highlight your top corporate or individual donors to reward them for their support.

And don’t just wait till the end of the year. Break with tradition and send a brief mid-year synopsis detailing the accomplishments of the first six months, as well as your capital and campaign goals for the next six. Not only will your donors feel more involved in the process, you’ll keep up with your financials and avoid the end-of-year pileup.

Always remember, in a time when donors, prospects and journalists have access to your 990s at the click of a mouse, any effort to cloud your financials is a disaster waiting to happen. Instead, get ahead of the conversation and build trust with transparency through smarter, more engaging communications.

About the author: Megan Lepore is a Senior Project Manager at Dunleavy & Associates and has more than 10 years of development experience in the fields of healthcare, education and human services. She holds a Master of Science in Communication Management from Temple University, where she has also taught undergraduate courses in speech communication, public relations and news writing. Annual appeals, corporate sponsorship, grant writing, foundation relations and event planning round out her professional expertise.

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What is the best way for a nonprofit to launch a capital campaign?

Nancy Dunleavy

By Nancy Dunleavy

If you’re an astronaut, you know you’re ready to launch when NASA announces, “All systems go!”

If you’re Kung Fu fan, you know it is time for the student to launch when he can take a pebble from the hand of Master Kan.

But if you’re a leader in a nonprofit organization, only a feasibility study can tell you when you are ready to launch a capital campaign.

Feasibility studies are designed to determine your organization’s readiness and the probability of achieving the campaign goals. They typically take between three and six months because they involve surveying employees, board members, volunteers, and potential donors.

For a nonprofit planning its first capital campaign, a feasibility study is essential. Among the many potential pitfalls to be identified and addressed are insufficiencies in staffing levels, board support, volunteer capabilities, and donor commitment.

Successfully completing a capital campaign requires an entirely different kind of fundraising than nonprofits use to solicit typical annual donations. In most cases, you’ll be asking for larger sums of money. So you need to determine if your supporters are willing and able to give more. Savvy donors may well ask if a feasibility study has been done before making a large donation.

Having successfully completed a previous capital campaign does not ensure that a new campaign will achieve its goals. You may be more confident in your ability to raise funds because of your past experience, but a new feasibility study will offer current insights that will enable you to better plan for a new set of circumstances. For example, you may learn that the market is not as strong as it was, and it would be best to adjust your aspirations and/or implement the campaign in phases, starting with a smaller goal and increasing it over time.

Communicating with prospective donors during the feasibility study can also garner new ideas for achieving campaign goals. For example, donors who will be asked to support construction of a building, such as a community center, might reveal that they would be more likely to donate if certain facilities were included, such as a basketball court or swimming pool.

Finally, feasibility studies should be conducted by an outside company or consultant, to ensure candid responses. Donors and prospects are unlikely to be completely forthcoming when someone on the staff or board of a nonprofit asks them about their level of commitment. Dunleavy & Associates has performed dozens of feasibility studies that have helped nonprofit organizations launch successful capital campaigns.

About the author: Nancy Dunleavy is the President and CEO of Dunleavy & Associates, which she founded in 2001. Chair of Gwynedd Mercy University Board of Trustees, Nancy also serves on the Board of Directors of The Union League of Philadelphia, and is Treasurer of Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board.  She is a popular public speaker and has received numerous accolades for her work and leadership, but most prides herself on being an “extraordinary talent scout” in recruiting phenomenal clients, colleagues, and collaborators.

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What does strategic planning mean for a nonprofit organization?

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By Stephanie Taylor

We’ve all been there before; we buy a bicycle or dollhouse or piece of IKEA furniture, and shrug off the big, bold “ASSEMBLY REQUIRED” warning. Things go well enough for the first few minutes, but suddenly one of the parts doesn’t fit. Then, you realize another is sticking out at a weird angle. Before long comes the defeated sigh. Where the heck are the directions?

Similar things happen, with predictable results, when a nonprofit organization tackles the challenges that arise each day without the “directions” provided by a strategic plan. In addition to setting the direction of the organization, a strategic plan determines the best strategies for an organization to fulfill its mission and ensures there is a concerted effort from all employees to reach clearly defined goals.

A strategic plan for a nonprofit usually is developed by the organization’s board or executive leadership, often in partnership with an outside consultant, who can provide an unbiased perspective. Typically, the consultant begins by conducting a SWOT analysis to ascertain the organization’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

To prepare the analysis, the consultant performs an environmental assessment, which involves anonymous polling and interviewing of the board, staff, stakeholders, volunteers, and the public about their perceptions of the organization. The consultant also does quantitative analysis to determine the financial health and outlook of the nonprofit, particularly in comparison to competitors.

Using this objective knowledge, a nonprofit will typically create a 3-5 year strategic plan. This leaves time enough to achieve stated goals, and guides the organizations’ responses to inevitable internal and external changes.

A strategic plan provides both internal and external benefits. Internally, it enables the nonprofit’s governing body to coalesce around a few areas of focus, and informs key decisions, such as whether or not to diversify the funding pool, expand or add programs, or establish an endowment. Externally, it communicates to supporters that the leaders have well-defined goals and are united behind a strategy to reach them.

Strategic planning can benefit every nonprofit organization, regardless of age or size. A start-up will require a strategic plan to achieve financial sustainability in the tenuous first few years. Experienced organizations also need one to ensure they stay on track for continued success.

Strategic plans are most useful when they are preemptive, not reactive. The time to develop one is before your organization reaches a fork in the road, not after you’ve already set off down the wrong path.

About the author: Stephanie Taylor has spent 15 years in the nonprofit sector working in almost every capacity, from program delivery to operations. She specializes in leadership, change management, and nonprofit operations, and holds an MBA in Nonprofit Management from Eastern University.

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Those who wish to learn, teach!

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By Patty Poach

Last week we celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week with faculty lunches and recognizing teachers with creative gifts and ideas from Pinterest. This week began with Mother’s Day, a tribute to all moms for everything they do.

When I was seven years old, I wrote in My Book About Me that I wanted to be a mom and a teacher when I grow up. So these recent days of observance got me thinking about how even though my profession is not a school teacher, I am a teacher every day.

Mothers really are our first teachers and I am blessed to be called mom by two amazing girls who provide me with teachable moments throughout every day. My career as a communications and development professional also provides me with the opportunity to teach.

At Dunleavy and Associates, we share our expertise with co-workers, colleagues and clients. We collaborate to help our clients, primarily charitable organizations, achieve their missions and reach their goals. The workplace provides some of the best teaching and coaching opportunities.

We each adopt different roles in our everyday lives, and these numerous roles change in various situations. How many hats do you wear? I am a wife, mother, friend, employee, co-worker, mentor, volunteer and the list goes on. One of the hats I wear proudly is teacher and I believe we all have a role as a teacher in some capacity in our families and workplace, and even with people we don’t know.

I also recently celebrated a birthday, which causes me to pause and reflect on the past year and think ahead to what the next year will bring. I want to be a better teacher and inspire others to achieve their highest potential. We can all make a difference by thinking about our actions and setting a good example. Learning comes from observation, practice, and experience and often mistakes provide an incredible learning opportunity. I truly believe that it is better to give than to receive. What will you teach today with your actions and words? Who will you teach?

 

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Be Inspired, Pay It Forward, and Inspire Others

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by Nancy Dunleavy, Founder, CEO and Chief Talent Scout

published in Philadelphia Business Journal on March 28, 2014

I enjoyed the distinct pleasure of coming face-to-face with inspiration!

Following a presentation by Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and third most viewed on TED talks, I patiently stood on line to have this leadership expert sign his newest book Leaders Eat Last. I left that encounter feeling inspired—not just from his provocative keynote but, perhaps more so from my interaction with him.

I guess I should not have been surprised that he modeled the behavior that is at the core of his thesis – make people feel good. He was warm and genuine. With smiling eyes he took my outstretched hand and held my gaze while shaking it. He did not exhibit any of the impatience or aloofness that often surrounds celebrity (and, this guy had bona fide “rock-star” status among leadership gurus). Despite the long line behind me he wrote a full sentence in my book, dated it and signed it and shared a laugh with me.

I found the message he wrote to be particularly meaningful as it’s something that guides my own leadership journey. How affirming to have my own mantra memorialized over his autograph.

The message says: “Nancy—Inspire as many people as you can!” –Simon Sinek

I believe that’s what the work of leadership is really all about – bringing out the best in people so that they can also find the path that will inspire them to exclaim, “I love my job!” – and really mean it. Simon Sinek loves his job and I love mine — and now it’s the job of leaders everywhere to inspire those around them. Paying it forward in a way—sharing the enthusiasm contagiously.

Simon says (ha-ha, I just realized the irony of how a children’s game of “doing things” begin with the same two words!), leadership is not a rank it’s a choice. That resonated with me, leaving me feeling extremely grateful that I felt “inspired to choose” that I would spend my morning being inspired by this charismatic leader. Bravo to the Arts and Business Council for hosting this terrific program. #SimonSinekSherpaGuide

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Choosing the Right Strategic Planning Partner

By Nancy Dunleavy, Founder, CEO and Chief Talent Scout

One of the most important (and sometimes daunting) business initiatives that any organization must undertake is developing a strategic plan.

It’s entirely different than an operating plan, and is described best as a formidable process that requires focus, forecasting and fearless facilitation.

Perhaps it’s because that process is so formidable, it becomes essential that you also make the decision to engage an outside facilitator to get you through it.

Why? Well, an outsider will be able to elicit unfettered feedback – their independence enables them to get the best information from all stakeholders involved (and keeps you out of the line of fire when the pushback starts, as it undoubtedly will).

So once you’ve settled on the decision to hire someone to work with you on your organization’s strategic plan, how do you choose a facilitator that will fit your needs?

Of course you’ll do your homework, talk to other organizations with good strategic plans, interview candidates, and call their references. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that a good facilitator needs to know your industry inside and out – they just need to know their own industry. A truly skilled facilitator knows how to ask the right people the right questions, build the process, and get the results.

Pay attention to your interactions with candidates while interviewing them. Do they know how to listen? Do they ask the right questions? Do they perceive and pick up on your priorities? Is their personality one that will make people comfortable or immediately put them on edge? A good facilitator will undoubtedly make you uncomfortable during the strategic planning process, because it’s their job to ask the searing questions. In short, you’d better like them from the start!

As you begin the strategic planning process, remember that the plan you will be creating is not an expensive luxury – it’s an invaluable necessity. Think of it as buying the premium ingredients needed to create a fragrant “smell-test”; yes, smell-test—that practical metric used by so many to gauge whether an organization really “gets it”.

Whether a prospective board member, a lender, or an accreditation surveyor is requesting it, the “plan” becomes the basis upon which their conclusions are founded and their decisions are made (or declined).

Done with intensity and intention, your strategic plan can become an eloquent messenger or, if outdated (or, heaven forbid– nonexistent) your most dreaded villain. Don’t fall into the trap of being caught with your strategy down! It’s a slippery slope and completely avoidable if you take the steps to ensure that your business is able to articulate the “who, what, when, where, and why” of its near and longer term future.

A good facilitator will hold your feet to the fire—make sure that the hard questions get asked, and more importantly, that they get answered. They will become the irritant that challenges your committee to stretch its thinking to consider new options, and they will do so unemotionally.

Creating a good strategic plan means taking off your reading glasses and picking up your binoculars. A well-facilitated process will enable your organization to really see where you want to be and then map out the most efficient, effective path to get you “there” (wherever “there” is) on time and on budget.

It’s something like that reliable, friendly travel planning tool offered by Google Maps. Think of your strategic plan like a business Google Map, but on steroids.

Working with an independent facilitator will ensure that you don’t get slowed down by the speed bumps, detoured by the missing signs, or otherwise distracted by the billboards that are advertising the stop-off places along the way. You’re on the long haul and if you select a facilitator who “listens” they will pace your journey to ensure that you’ll arrive refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to roll.

About the author: Nancy Alba Dunleavy is the founder and CEO of Dunleavy & Associates is a professional services firm focused on building capacity, confidence, and bottom lines for nonprofit organizations, and the foundations and companies that support them. She serves on a variety of boards including Gwynedd Mercy University, the Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and LEADERSHIP Philadelphia. Additional information about Dunleavy & Associates is available at http://www.matchingmissions.com.

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