Posts Tagged ‘charity’

The Whiteboard Meeting

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising

Step #7            Go to the Whiteboard!

With the information you have now gathered, from both your own research efforts as well as your just-completed Exploratory Meeting, you are now prepared to begin what may be the most important step, and the most energizing and fruitful. It is now time to gather your troops together to generate solicitation and opportunity ideas for the individual donor, foundation or company you are going to present a proposal to.

To make this process as efficient, effective, and fun as possible, first reach out to those members of your team, or to Trustees or Advisory Board members, that are creative, intuitive, experienced, and wise to the ways of “how donors think”, or may have a personal relationship with the potential donor, foundation or company. Formally invite them to participate in what will become known over time as a “Whiteboard Meeting,” to be held in an office or conference room that has a whiteboard in which to write on.

There is something very magical that happens when ideas/thoughts/comments can be documented instantaneously on a whiteboard, where each participant can view them.

The very visual recording of an idea on the whiteboard energizes others to contribute their own ideas or add to the ideas of other participants. Somehow the whiteboard process creates energy, motion and momentum.

The timing of the Whiteboard Meeting can also be advantageous. I have found that Whiteboard Meetings held earlier in the morning yield the best results, even if held earlier than normal business hours. A Whiteboard Meeting held from 7:00 AM-8:30 AM provides fresh thinking, less distractions, and a fun camaraderie amongst the participants. A shared feeling that the “early bird does get the worm.” Assign one of the team members to supply the donuts, bagels, and beverages—it is always appreciated and gives members an energy pick-up when needed.

Also assign one of the members to serve as the scribe for writing on the Whiteboard, and another member to record what ultimately ends up on the Whiteboard.

To begin the Whiteboard Meeting process, and perhaps in advance, provide the participants two pieces of information:

  • First, provide basic background and information on the potential donor, foundation or company that has been researched and gathered.
  • Second, provide basic information on what the donor, foundation or company is looking for or trying to accomplish, again based on research and the Exploratory Meeting.

The next step of the Whiteboard Meeting is brainstorm ideas, programs or initiatives that would clearly match what your organization can offer with the desires/wants/needs/objectives of the potential donor, foundation or company.

This part of the process should look at two buckets:

  1. Are there existing assets (activities/programs/initiatives/strategic partnerships) that your organization currently has that would serve as a solution to the desires and objectives of the potential donor, foundation or company? In other words, are there ongoing/activated assets in your organization’s quiver that would be of immediate interest?
  2. If not, what is the new/yet-to-be created ideas, programs, or initiatives that your organization could formulate and execute on behalf of the donor, foundation or company?

In both of these parts of the process, encourage the participants to use this piece of advice: Big ideas that execute simply! While there is no shortage of ideas, there are generally limited resources, based on funding and staffing. So the focus should be on great opportunities that will not drain your organization of money and people!

The true purpose of the Whiteboard Meeting, in addition to providing a laboratory for great thinking and creative ideas, is to generate those strategies and tactics that will generate the guts of the formal proposal. The results of the Whiteboard Meeting ultimately translate into showing the donor, foundation or company that your organization has spent time thinking about them!

It is also through this process that your organization arrives at what contribution amount you are going to propose. Once you have clearly defined what measurable impact your organization brings to the donor, foundation or company—in other words, clearly answer the question, “Why associate with us?”—you should now be as confident with the level of financial commitment/contribution you are going to propose.

The Whiteboard Meeting generates the ideas that translate into the formal proposal. The formal proposal should then say to the potential donor, foundation or company, “By making this level of contribution to this organization, and seeing how my dollars will be put to work, I can clearly see my donation’s impact is multiplied many-fold.”

And all parties walk away thinking, “This is a great partnership.”

Next Installment: Step #8: Create an Emotional Atmosphere

This is the 7th part of a 10-part series The Only Difference is Zeros: 10 Steps to Improved Nonprofit Development and Fundraising.
-Don Stirling


Perhaps Not All News is Bad

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

It should come as no surprise that donations from America’s most generous donors dropped considerably in 2009.

Since 2000, The Chronicle of Philanthropy has compiled an annual list of America’s most-generous people.  According to the Chronicle, donors on the Philanthropy 50 donated a total of $4.1 billion to nonprofits last year.  An impressive figure, but a drop of nearly 75% when compared to 2008’s total of $15.5 billion.  This year’s total also represents the second lowest year since the newspaper began tracking a decade ago.  For those on the list, the median gift in 2009 was $41.4 million compared to $69.3 million in 2008 and $74.7 million in 2007.

While these figures only confirm that 2009 was a dismal year for nonprofits, the recession may have catalyzed other trends which could ultimately strengthen the sector as a whole.  One of those trends, as noted by the Wall Street Journal, is the fact that a growing number of donors are no longer content to simply write large checks.  They are seeking ways to become more engaged in the process, and they are interested in finding organizations or strategies that can provide measurable returns on issues important to the donors.

The Journal emphasize this point with a quote from Stacy Palmer, the editor of the Chronicle, who stated: “Wealthy Americans increasingly see philanthropy as way to catalyze big changes in society, rather than choosing only to write a check for a new building or to further existing projects…. More and more top donors now put their money, clout and vision into fueling the development of new ideas and shaping future leaders–whether in education, business ethics, economics or climate change.”

Another interesting trend was also highlighted by the Journal in an article posted at the beginning of the month.  The author recounts how the recession has forced a number of nonprofits to close and more significantly, it has catalyzed the merger of others.  While not always an easy process, these mergers have resulted in cost savings and higher returns for a number of organizations.

These themes of mergers and greater collaboration among nonprofits is also finding a foothold among donors.  As noted in the article, funders like the the Lodestar Foundation, started by Arizona entrepreneur Jerry Hirsch, now awards a $250,000 annual collaboration prize to encourage nonprofits to increase efficiency and eliminate duplication by joining together. This spring, world leaders and philanthropists will meet at Oxford University for former eBay President Jeff Skoll’s annual forum on social entrepreneurship with the theme being: “Catalysing Collaboration for Large-Scale Change.”

In my perspective, these two trends are important to identifying new solutions to timeless social problems as well as increasing the efficiency of a sector not always know for effectiveness. While 2009 will definitely go down in the philanthopric record books for being a terrible year, perhaps it did not bring only bad news.

-Christopher Lindsay