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Fundraising has been the topic of the week and in addition to my salon I took in a webinar put on by Cfccanada.ca and thestop.org called Stocking the Pantry: Fundraising in the community food sector.

What’s a good ask (for money)?

For corporations and foundations there’s usually a clear process so follow it. For major gifts – build relationships, ensure alignment, have a good plan and articulate what you’re about, do research on target, don’t ask on the first date, be ready with an answer; be clear about the impact the donation will make.

More from the experts

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask and be clear about what you want. But make it a two-way dialog, not just about your organization; ask what the donor wants to accomplish
  2. Persistence and stewardship of leads/donors is key. Expect it to take 1-2 years to develop major donors
  3. Alignment is important – what’s the connection of donor and cause. Long term relationships are based on trust and common interest
  4. Don’t forget the 80/20 rule, 80% your funds come from the 20% so focus on that – usually major donors and foundations
  5. Practice relentless storytelling (about talking about your cause) and be on the lookout for allies
  6. Your desk has a gravitational pull; schedule moments to talk to someone about the cause; be on the road
  7. Every board should have at least one member who will fill the ambassador role, you need at least 2 who will ask for money. Always be on the lookout for board members that will fill this. Committees good way to groom new board members.
  8. You need unrestricted funded in addition to program funding, diversified funding; flex money is like R&D money. Ongoing donors where you have earned trust may be open, and you can challenge “is this the best use of funds”?
  9. Funders come and go so you need to diversify; relentlessly be on the lookout for other folks; juggle, keep and find new ones
  10. Use volunteers in fundraising; for events they are a key work force; as ambassadors; volunteers are donors in another form and you need to steward them. Segment your volunteer list according to the roles they want to fill.
  11. There are probably more time/cost effective ways to make money than events. With successful events, what’s your goal? Getting donors, cultivate potential donors, build your profile, get more folks engaged…good reasons. Measure the results. A big part of the event is the follow up; capture names and then follow up 1-2 days after (say thank you, offer a tour, sign up for newsletter)
  12. 3rd party events are less effort. Need to be clear about what you are willing to do. The Stop has guidelines online with expectations and how they engage.
  13. Marketing platforms easier for getting corporate funding than programs. Businesses need to entertain clients anyway so an interesting event would work – it also makes them look like good corporate citizens. What are your assets to leverage? The Stop has chefs and farmers.
  14. Measure the costs of each campaign (all costs), measuring soft costs (opportunity costs, could we have raised more with less time/effort, event vs. grant proposal)
  15. Research shows that a big reason donors stop their support is because of a lack of effective communication with the organization

Cool thoughts

Strategic planning process might be a way to get funders involved – they talked of a senior exec at a bank who got involved in the planning process, offered great insight and ended up a lifelong supporter

Plan-passion-persistence:“Money grows on the tree of persistence”

You are the link between the needs of your organization and the philanthropic desire of the potential donor that wants to have an impact; needs to be aligned

They had a couple of cautions

  • Be cautious about social enterprise. Only do it when you have the other pillars of fundraising solid – it is not the quick cash answer for charity. (By this I presume they are cautioning traditional charities that are looking for a snap on business that generates funds, not the new generation of social entrepreneurs.)
  • There is a new breed of volunteer/funder, angel investors, that come with a big sense of how you should run your organization. The advice is to stay true to your plan, be strong – don’t let them take you off course.

Lots more info in this webinar which is available online at http://www.learningnetwork.thestop.org.
Just register (it’s free) and you’ll get access to this session and many more valuable presentations.

This is the mission of the Canada Post Community Foundation. Bet you didn’t know our postal service had a foundation. I didn’t know until I posted a package today and was asked if I wanted to contribute to children’s charities. It was such a generic ask compared to what is normally presented at retail, and the young clerk and I had an interesting chat about positioning and where Santa letters fit in.


I got home and did some digging. Turns out that canadapost.ca/community is the online home for the foundation. The current President and CEO of Canada Post, Deepak Chopra (not the famous one), is listed as one of the 4 trustees of the Foundation with the VP Government Relations/Policy, VP Communications/Public Affairs and one outsider as the remaining trustees. The site refers to the former Canada Post Foundation for Mental Illness & Mental Health, which was established in April 2008. So I guess with new management comes a new direction.

Information on the site is thin, news item (there is only one) is undated, but funding is covered enough to let folks apply. They take applications in February and support these areas:
• create lasting change for children
• programming supporting healthy children
• building safe, kid-friendly communities
• services for children and youth with special needs and their families

It’s interesting that they specifically do not support sports teams but do support a variety of school projects. Also no operational or admin funding, fundraising activities, research, faith based groups or conferences.

Looking at the financials, the $2million fund comes mostly (75%) from retail sales (stamps) and 15% from employees. The recent grant recipients are online and they’ve done a pretty good job of providing information on those, although links to the organizations might be useful. Looks like grants range from about $5k to $65k, with many of them receiving $65k.

Canada Post is not the only enterprise to have its own foundation for giving. Within organizations there’s often an overlap between United Way campaigns, departmental or employee driven fundraising and the organization’s central foundation with employees being squeezed in middle. As a consumer, being asked at retail to support an organization’s charity drive is not uncommon, but I think Canada Post has some catching up to do in refining the message and raising awareness that they’re in it for the kids.

I can’t believe how many organizations run without a plan. How do you know you’re getting somewhere? How do you decide what initiatives to undertake? How do you allocate budgets or people efforts?

I realize that many consultants or organizations make strategic planning a painful and useless process but I truly believe in having everyone wear the same t-shirt, be able to tie their work into the greater mandate and understand what success means.

No plans for us

There seems to be 3 reasons folks don’t have a useful plan:

  • Big bureaucratic organizations do planning as an isolated task instead of a tool to support real work. They’ve lost the spirit of the strategic planning.
  • In entrepreneurial organizations the plan, which changes often, remains locked in the head of the boss.
  • Organizations don’t know the concepts, benefits and techniques of strategic planning.

The classic model works with some extras

I am a believer in the classic model of mission, vision, goals and objectives.

Then I take it further, adding tactics, so that the real work we do can be laddered up to the objectives. You can see the meaning and understand management decisions since there’s a path from work tasks to more broadly defined objectives.

And I add success metrics from the bottom to the top, again laddering lower level task measures up to the higher level measures that show attainment of goals and objectives.

Add realism and commitment

Now I may sound like “one of those consultants” but I am far too practical and pragmatic to make this a useless process. I have a fast, yet inclusive, and decisive process that I use to get this “stuff on paper.” And I live these plans…post them up…make decisions based on the charts and measure my progress.

This model worked well for my clients when I was a paid consultant. Now that I’m a strategic volunteer, it’s working amazingly well in the non-profit space.

I don’t know why anyone would spend an hour of effort without knowing where they’re going!

I was at a panel discussion at Rotman (UofT) this week focused on how to combine a professional career with a “desire to achieve societal impact.”

The room was packed, at full capacity, and it seemed filled with more corporate and non-profit folks than actual students. The panelist names were big and it’s not surprising that folks want to hear what the top organizations are doing.

  • Kaz Flinn, VP – Corporate Social Responsibility, Scotiabank (Kaz has a government relations background)
  • John Smiciklas, Senior Manager – Corporate Responsibility, Research in Motion (John was a manager in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Sustainability practice)
  • Andrew Heintzman, CEO, InvestEco (Andrew is a former publisher)
  • Gerald Butts, CEO, World Wildlife Fund Canada (Gerald was Principal Secretary in the Office of the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty)

After the end of the hour, I was thinking the answer was – not as much as they could be. The banks, of course, are well underway with CSR and make that information publically available. RIM, on the other hand, is just starting and may be more reflective of the average company in Canada – their clients are now demanding it so they’re starting to pay attention.

The big focus: Sustainable and ethical supply chains

The panelists were united on the direction of CSR and the current hot focus of sustainable and ethical supply chains. Corporations are now making this strategic, non-profits like WWF are being asked to consult on these issues, and there’s agreement that this is a growth area with room for a lot more experts and expertise.

My fav phrase of the evening, “You get the behaviour you compensate on” so if CSR is important, it needs to be part of your evaluation and compensation structure.

This session was sponsored by Rotman Net Impact, a chapter of the international organization Net Impact, promoting leadership in corporate social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, international development, and environmental sustainability.

I wish I had done more social investing when I was in business. It’s easier as you have a large ecosystem to leverage as I did when running my business. I did do some social good – giving young folks a chance, donating to all client causes, donating services and doing some creative giving through exchanges. But had I taken the time, I think we could have done more and woven some of that thinking into our team building initiatives.

I was inspired recently by Oxford University Press, who on moving their offices, cleared out the warehouse with proceeds going to World Literacy. What a great win-win-win – good for Oxford as they got rid of the unneeded books, good for World Lit as they got some funding and good for the environment as those books didn’t end up needing processing.

If you belong to a large organization, there’s probably a lot of charitable work going on. Often, I bet you feel overwhelmed by the continuous asking.  It’s a delicate balance of giving, asking, and integrating social responsibility into a business while maintaining the focus on the bottom line. But when I see the wastage in business I remember that phrase, “one person’s trash is another’s treasure.”

Those that do corporate social responsibility well are not as well known as they should be. I think the models are there, and in light of a newly recharged focus on doing good, whether that’s green, sustainability or social investing, opportunities exist to share and explore.

Which brings me to this special session at the Rotman School at University of Toronto.

Rotman Net Impact Session on “Achieving Social Impact Through Business”
Monday, January 25, 2010
5:30 sharp to 6:30pm panel discussion and Q&A; 6:30 to 7:30pm networking cocktail reception
4 EXPERT PANELISTS:
Kaz Flinn, Vice President – Corporate Social Responsibility, Scotiabank
John Smiciklas,  Manager – Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility, Research in Motion
Andrew Heintzman, CEO,  InvestEco
Gerald Butts, CEO,  World Wildlife Fund Canada
SYNOPSIS: panelists will share how they have wed professional careers with a desire to achieve societal impact

I’m looking forward to hearing their stories. If you’re in the Toronto area late January (and weather permits) come join me in exploring what I’m sure will be  a combination of corporate and individual commitment to doing good at work.

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