Top 5 Project Mistakes All Nonprofits Make (+5 Tips to Combat Them)  

What are the five words every nonprofit longs to hear?

Your grant proposal is accepted.

It’s a weight off your shoulders when your hard work pays off. You spent months preparing the proposal and you’re ecstatic your nonprofit won the bid.

Then reality creeps in—you worry the team can’t pull off such a massive project. Your staff is limited, the budget is tight, and expectations are sky-high. It’s a problem many nonprofits face—even the largest nonprofits fail in their deliverables.

If the best nonprofits struggle with the same problems, how can your nonprofit manage the project to perfection? Is it doomed to fail?

Absolutely not.

Most nonprofits run into the same problems of project management. In this guide, you’ll see what five mistakes are the most common during a project cycle. You’ll learn how to avoid these mistakes with actionable advice you can implement now.

Let’s get started on how you can perfect your project management skills for your nonprofit.

EVALUATE COMPLETED PROJECTS

If you work at a nonprofit, chances are you’ve managed projects before.

But—once a project is completed, you sift it to the completed pile where it gathers dust.

Well, you’re missing out on a massive opportunity to assess what went wrong and what went right. Don’t make the mistake of marking a project complete. It’s an opportunity for you and the team to make note of all the learning points.

Most nonprofits deal with specific issues or causes. So, you often work on projects similar to ones you have managed in the past. Think about your last project and how it differentiates from the new project.

Is it similar? Are you working with the same actors? Is the timeline different?

These are questions you must ask yourself as part of the pre-planning stage of the project cycle. If you don’t evaluate previous projects, you should make it the first part of your project cycle now.

Kick your pre-project planning off with a meeting—have all previous project managers (or those who worked on previous projects) assess one project they worked on. Give them a list of five questions to document what went well and what didn’t. Ask them to list three wins and losses from the previous project.

What’s the point here? To ensure you don’t run into the same pitfalls for this project. It helps you think of new techniques and approaches. Choose the ones that worked and those that didn’t.

BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE

In your pre-planning meeting, you found one common issue your team brought up regarding previous project mishaps—constant urgent requests.

These requests kill your project timeline. Your team gets distracted by unanticipated events. And too often, urgent needs take priority from other aspects of project implementation.

So—what can you do?

You need to be aware of these problems and build them into your project timeline by planning better and being on top of your project management.

Improper planning is the most critical mistake every nonprofit runs into with their projects. It’s especially difficult for larger projects where many people are involved. There is a process needing approval in different ways. And you know most nonprofits are held captive to external factors—vendors, suppliers, regulations, weather, or holiday time.

So, the second step to the project cycle is planning. But—it’s not only about making a timeline. There are many factors you need to consider. So, you’ll need a bit of help. Let’s take a page from the for-profit world here.

Start by finding the best software tool that helps with project planning, preparation, and automating project management processes. There are tons out there, but you need one that already has a framework built in for you to follow.

A platform, like Pipefy, comes loaded with all the features you’ll need to manage your projects without the stress.

It not only streamlines your project tasks, but it also tells you why a process isn’t working. Imagine a one-stop shop letting you know exactly what tasks people should work on and how long it should take.

BREAK DOWN YOUR PROJECT INTO PHASES

So—how does a nonprofit maximize their resources in the next six months to meet its goals with the greatest impact and success?

Good resource allocation.

But it’s one mistake nonprofits make all too often. The problem? Nonprofits have to keep their expenses low to demonstrate they use funds appropriately. And they still need to be efficient in their operations.

Limited budgets are the reason why nonprofits are not able to try out new ideas but stick to ones that didn’t work too well. But it doesn’t mean you should underestimate the resources needed for a project.

The way forward? Implement a new project management strategy.

Break down projects into smaller phases. Why? It makes the project seem more manageable to your team. You want your team to be comfortable and confident they are able to tackle what seems like an impossible project. It’s difficult to accomplish tasks if they focus on the enormity of the project at hand.

Plus, it helps everyone on your team be a mini project manager. Each person knows the amount of time it takes to complete certain tasks. And it helps to prioritize which aspects of the project or tasks need more resource allocation. You don’t need someone working on a lower priority task while a higher visibility part of the project begins to slip.

This is where the project manager can look to the planning and let team members know what tasks should take priority.

FOCUS ON BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

Many times, nonprofits want to go at it alone. They are goal oriented and enclose themselves in their own circles.

But—strong networks provide an opportunity to capitalize and solve problems in the face of adversity. And working with others helps build your leadership and collaboration skills every project manager needs to succeed.

Don’t fall into the habit of using partnerships for one sole project. The most important goal is to learn, build understanding, and develop trust with your partners. Focus on building a relationship and not using partners as helpers.

It’s not about perfecting a great pitch, but more about networking. Try to initiate a smaller project with a big player. Make sure you deliver on results but focus more on bridging a relationship with the donor.

MARKETING OUTREACH IS A NECESSITY

Nonprofits need to think about their message outside of their own walls.

Don’t think everyone will love your cause. This mentality will make your project fall flat—especially when it necessitates having other people involved.

This is where marketing and awareness come into play.

Consider your audience and who you want to target. You’re not trying to please only your board of directors and donors. You’re trying to deliver a project helping a certain target group, so you’ll need to reach them.

Ask yourself what value you bring to your audience. Utilize social media channels. If you really want to gain some traction on social media, you’ll have to hit all the channels and keep up with promotion on these channels.

And don’t forget to respond to comments, post the content of others, follow other social media accounts, and show your personality through all of it.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Being a top-notch project manager for an NGO might feel like climbing Mt. Everest, blindfolded.

So—start by implementing these five essential tips. You’ll be one step closer to mastering your project management for your projects.

About the Author

Bio: Roger is a Career Writer who has a passion for helping nonprofits achieve the best possible growth imaginable.
www.zety.com

Do more with less: 6 tips to maximise your fundraising

There’s little in life that causes as much frustration as a squandered opportunity. From the smart child whose grades suffer as a result of playing the class clown, to the sports star who throws his career away living a rockstar lifestyle, we hate to see an opportunity wasted through avoidable mistakes. Unfortunately, there are a huge number of charities who have yet to realise their full fundraising potential, not due to mismanagement or laziness, but rather because of the harsh reality of their situation.

The unfortunate truth is that many smaller charities are barely scraping by. Stretched thin in terms of money, manpower and time, they lack the resources needed to capitalise on all the opportunities that are out there. Close to half of Australia’s 54,000 registered charities employ no staff, but instead rely on volunteers, while two-thirds have annual revenue of less than $250,000. Many smaller, grassroots nonproofs are struggling to keep their head above the water, and don’t have the luxury of focussing their efforts on innovation or trying new things.

So, how can these organisations capitalise on fundraising opportunities when time, money and people are all at a premium? Let’s take a look at some simple ways that tier two and three sized charities can get creative and do less with more

1 . Pro bono work

From marketing and public relations activity to legal or financial advice, there are great advantages that can come from engaging a professional agency. Unfortunately, these services can also be prohibitively expensive – but that doesn’t mean they’re unobtainable. Pro bono work is professional work that’s done for free, generally for the benefit of the public. Many large organisations will have a pro bono component to their CSR program and will volunteer a certain amount of their employees’ time to causes each year.

Even smaller agencies and companies can often lend their expertise to a cause they see as worthwhile. If they’re unable to fully support you (remember, many of these smaller businesses are stretched thin themselves), they might be able to give some handy pointers, supply you with materials to help whatever project you’re working on, or connect you with other businesses in their network. At the end of the day, it never hurts to ask.

2 . Leverage social media

The power of social media cannot be overstated. Its ability to reach a broad audience without any real investment is second-to-none and makes it a powerful tool in the arsenal of a charity looking to do more with less. Focussing on quality over quantity, and ensuring all posts have a call-to-action (a link to donate or purchase tickets to an upcoming event, etc.) will help ensure you get maximum return on your time investment.

3 . Manage your people

I’ve spoken with many volunteers and ambassadors who want to support a cause but find it difficult to engage with the charity. Again, this is often through no fault of the charity – they’re simply too busy managing the day-to-day operations to do so effectively – the result being underutilised human resources. A charity’s people are some of its most significant assets, so it’s essential they’re managed effectively.

Ensure they’re given clear and concise instructions on what’s required of them, maintain lines of communication throughout their engagement, and show your gratitude for their generous donation of their time and energy (this doesn’t have to be an elaborate party or gift – a simple, sincere email can make a world of difference). While engaging your volunteers or ambassadors in a more structured manner can take some planning and time, the output you’ll get from well-managed people makes it well worth your while.

4 . Build a business plan

A business plan essentially outlines your goals and the methods and strategies that you’ll use to achieve them. Not only will a business plan help you stay on track internally but being able to show that there’s a strategy behind your fundraising is also invaluable when seeking donations or pro bono work from large organisations.

There’s plenty of information about how to write a business case online, and even free templates you can use to get started. While it might seem like a waste of time given you’ll already have a good idea of everything in the business case, taking the time to write it down can be useful – and might even help clarify a few things for you.

5 . Brainstorm

Sometimes it takes a fresh set of eyes to help you see what’s right in front of you. A new perspective can help charities think outside the box and come up with creative new ways to fundraise. From leveraging new technology to a cool idea for a peer-to-peer campaign, there’s an almost infinite amount of views that can breathe new life into your fundraising. So, speak to everyone from experts to friends, family and colleagues and see if you can pool your thoughts and avoid getting stuck in a routine.

6 . Invest

The old saying “you need to spend money to make money” is so overused, it’s cliched at this point – but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing in it. With some small investments in the right areas, you can take your fundraising to the next level and unlock even more avenues for donations. However, when every dollar counts, where should you spend your money?

Perhaps you have a large event coming up and you want to invest in an online auction and event management platform to generate more revenue. Or maybe you want more people to find out about your cause, so spending some money on a Facebook advertising campaign is the way to go. The best use of your money will depend on your specific situation – so think hard, do your research, invest wisely, and you can be rewarded with a significant return on your investment.

It can be hard to shake off old habits or commit to setting aside a few hours a week too – mainly when you already feel like you haven’t got enough time to meet your administration and fundraising goals as it is. But, as with any investment, it can be more than worth it in the long run.

The irony is that it’s often the charities that feel they don’t have the time or funds to do things differently that need to the most. It’s not easy, but who knows how many fundraising opportunities might pass you by if you don’t!

WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR PEER-TO-PEER TOOLBOX

One of the biggest changes to happen to the fundraising landscape in recent years has been the growth of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) fundraising events. Spurred on by the inter-connectedness afforded by technology and social media, P2P is now one of the most popular – and lucrative – methods of raising money for a cause.

Helping your fundraisers be as effective as possible isn’t tricky – nor does it have to be expensive. With some simple planning and preparation, you’ll be able to help your fundraisers, help you.

Your first email

When your supporters sign up to take part in a P2P campaign, they should be given everything they need to get out there and start raising money. This not only includes all relevant information on your cause and the event itself, but also the digital tools and assets they’ll use along the way. Remember, the easier you make it for them, the more successful your campaign is likely to be.

A simple way to do this is by sending an email as soon as someone signs up, that can serve as your campaign toolbox – a one-stop shop for everything your supporters could possibly need.

Some things you can include in your induction email include:

  • Imagery: Including high-resolution logos and any relevant imagery not only makes it easy for your supporters to use them when seeking donations, it also stops them from having to source them online and potentially using incorrect, outdated or low-res logos.
  • Your mission statement: Help your supporters and their network to connect with your cause by telling them what you’re all about, and what the money they’re raising goes towards. Keep it short, sharp and be sure to show the real-world impact that people’s donations will have.
  • Templates: Your supporters will need to solicit donations from their network, so you might want to give them a well-written template they can use when contacting people. This will not only make it super simple for people to engage with their friends, colleagues and family, it also helps you control the messaging used and ensure your cause and the campaign is represented in the best light.
  • Fundraising best practices: Fundraising is your world, so you know it inside and out – but it’s important to remember that most of your supporters don’t know much about the art of fundraising. Including some basic, handy tips that they can use when raising money for your campaign is an excellent way to bring them up to speed and give them the best chance of success.
  • Event day details: If your P2P campaign is built around a specific event, be sure to include all event details in a clear and easy to read format.
  • Hashtags: Hashtags are potent tools when it comes to raising awareness, but they’re only useful if people are aware of them. Be sure to include any hashtags that are relevant to your cause and campaign and actively encourage people to use them in their social media posts.

Remember, this email will be the first real contact that many of your supporters have with your cause, so it’s essential you make a good first impression. Likewise, your supporters are representing you to their network, so you need to ensure they’re representing you to the standard you want.

By providing your supporters with the right tools, you are helping them to raise more in-turn, for your cause – it is a win-win situation.

Tips for the less “socially savvy”

By its very nature, modern P2P fundraising goes hand-in-hand with social networks. After all, it relies on using your network, and in the 21st century, what better network is there than a social network? When we consider that the average Facebook user has 388 friends, the advantage of leveraging the power of social becomes clear. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all your supporters will be comfortable using social networks like Facebook or Twitter, and some may not even know where to begin.

Help your less “social savvy” supporters to utilise social media during the campaign with a simple starter kit that breaks down the basics. Adding a PDF or a website link for a downloadable page in your induction email, explaining how to use hashtags, the ideal length for posts, and some of the other basics of social media can help encourage people to get active on social and get excited about the fundraising possibilities it offers.

Tailoring your messages

Not everyone who signs up to your campaign will have the same approach to fundraising – so you shouldn’t treat them all the same! If you have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, you can see who’s participated in your campaigns before and gauge their level of expertise and dedication by looking at how much they’ve raised previously.

Little touches like thanking them for their continued support or issuing a friendly challenge to beat their previous total can go a long way to getting them engaged. Similarly, if you notice a supporter had participated before but didn’t raise any funds, you might want to give them additional information and tools in your initial email to remove any barriers they faced.

This might all seem like basic things – and they are! But it’s amazing how easy it is to overlook things like thanking your supporters for their participation, including all the background details, and giving them imagery to use. By going back to basics and ensuring your supporters are given the right tools for the job, you can take your Peer-to-Peer campaign to the next level.

WHY P2P CAMPAIGNS ARE SO POPULAR

Peer-to-peer campaigns have quickly become one of the most popular and effective tools in fundraiser’s toolbox – and looking at how successful and iconic many have become, it’s not hard to see why. As the platform behind some of Australia and New Zealand’s biggest P2P campaigns, we know how powerful and effective they can be when done right. So, if you’re on the fence about whether a P2P campaign’s right for you, here are four reasons why we love them.

They engage your supporters

In today’s increasingly crowded fundraising landscape, keeping your supporters engaged is more important than ever. Not only does it help to drive donations, retaining supporters is much more cost-effective than securing new ones, making it a win-win. A peer-to-peer campaign is a powerful tool when it comes to building that all-important connection between you and your supporters. By actively fundraising on your behalf, creating their own fundraising page, and telling their friends and family all about their involvement, participants rightly feel involved and, in turn, form a bond with your charity. Sharing updates with your P2P participants throughout and after the campaign also ensures they’re aware of the impact their support is having; one of the best ways to keep them engaged.

They raise awareness

Many peer-to-peer campaigns are built around an event or theme that’s aligned with the cause they’re supporting. Do It In A Dress, for example, is an Australian charity that asks participants to complete challenges while wearing a school dress, to raise funds for school girls in Africa. Not only does the dress create an eye-catching visual identity, it also emphasises the link with school girls and the work the cause is doing. A P2P campaign’s ability to create a meaningful connection to both the charity and those it supports is a big benefit of the format, and one that many non-profits have used to great effect.

They leverage social media

Peer to peer campaigns rely on your supporters calling on their network of friends, family and colleagues, making them a match made in heaven for social media. From asking for donations, to sharing updates of their progress, there’s plenty of opportunities for participants to post to their various accounts, not only raising you more money but also exposing your charity to a large and engaged audience. Considering the average Facebook user has 338 friends, the ‘sharability’ of P2P campaigns makes them particularly powerful.

They raise a lot of fundraising $$ if done right!

One of the biggest advantages of a P2P campaign is how much the best campaigns can raise. Because your supporters are actively involving their friends and family on your behalf, campaigns can quickly go viral, delivering a strong ROI in terms of both time and money. FrontStream’s powerful Peer-to-Peer platform makes managing your P2P campaign easier than ever before, letting you create an entirely white-label, customisable journey, manage registrations, and accept online donations with ease.

If you’d like to find out more about P2P campaigns and how you can use them to take your fundraising to the next level, get in touch with one of our experts on info@frontstream.com.au or by calling 1300 330 118.

How to use mobile phones for fundraising

As a millennial, I absolutely love smartphones. Who doesn’t? You can use it to communicate, navigate (google maps yo!) and look up information. At the very least, it is a great source of entertainment. Mobile phones to me and the rest of my generation are much like an extension of ourselves – they just makes our lives so much easier. So why haven’t many nonprofit professionals thought of using mobile phones as a medium for fundraising?

Several nonprofit organisations like Red Cross, Keep A Child Alive, and Operation Smile have made this shift and have seen tremendous benefits; especially in terms of having caught the attention of the younger generation. From making the donation process faster to building personal connections with donors, mobile phones are a great tool when it comes to raising more funds for your organisation.

Unsure of where to begin? You’re certainly not alone. But don’t worry! In this article, I’ve highlighted 5 ways in which you can leverage mobile phones to fundraise.

Personal and meaningful connections

Fundraising through text messages helps to create personal connections with your supporters, making them investors in your cause rather than one-time donors. And it’s rather convenient. With just a simple dance of your fingers, anyone with a phone can contribute to your cause. You can easily draft a text and send it to all your constituents within minutes. For instance, “Hi Alice. This is Jon from Hope Society. We’re almost reaching our fundraising goal of $5,000 for the Clean Iowa ballot initiative. Can I send you a small $10 donation?

This works best when you’re reaching out to first-time or lapsed donors. People are more likely to engage with you and donate when the request comes as part of a personal, one to one conversation.

Link it to your peer-to-peer campaign

An advantage of integrating your peer-to-peer campaign with your mobile fundraising campaign is that it increases the number of potential donors. Moreover, it also makes it easy for you to build and cultivate donor lists. What you can do is motivate a few of your core supporters to make personal appeals to their social networks. You can send them three types of text:

  • Motivational texts encouraging them to reach out to more people
  • Informational texts providing them with various tips and tools
  • Text appeals which they can send to their circles

Now that you have those new donors’ email addresses and numbers, you can add them to your database and existing email marketing list, so as to keep them updated on all the workings of your organisation and upcoming volunteering opportunities.

Make use of SMS sign-up

An SMS sign-up campaign is a great way to encourage mobile giving and to build your donor lists. For this, all you need is a keyword and a shortcode. By publishing your number at an event, rally or your social media handle, any person interested in your cause can send in a text to make a donation. For example, the American Red Cross made use of SMS sign-up campaigns to raise money to help people affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific region. Here, US residents were given the option to text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate to the cause. In this example, the keyword is “REDCROSS” and shortcode is “90999”.

Once a prospective donor texts the keyword, you can send an automated reply to collect their details, the donation amount, and the cause they want to help out. You can set the keyword while creating your SMS sign-up campaign and rent a shortcode or longcode.

Encourage text pledges

Text pledges are much like the “paddle-raise” at an event, but performed in a more fun and interactive way. With mobile pledges, the donor texts in the amount they are pledging to donate. You record the amount pledged, the time and date, and the donor’s cell phone number, after which your organisation collects the funds either at the end of the event or a days after the event.

One example of this type of mobile giving is The annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Oscar party (which received a whopping $7 million in funds). They foundation jazzed up their donation process with an on-site giving opportunity. Here, guests were allowed to pledge a limitless monetary contribution via text message. A live feed then broadcasted their pledges to the attendees, which created a social giving network. The donors were given the option to choose the amount they wanted to give and decided if they wanted to be recognised or not. This type of social giving opportunity works because of the power of peer-to-peer influence.

Send out donation prompts during the event

First up, ask for phone numbers during event registration. This solves your problem of having to request for information later. Next, focus on sending out donation prompts during the event urging guests to contribute. You need to highlight the need and urgency. You can say something like this “Hey Alice, we’ve almost raised of $10,000 for Clean drinking water initiative at Randwa. But we’re still $2000 short. Can you help us out by donating $15?” Sending out such prompts right at the beginning of an event, when attendees are getting settled, can result in the request being ignored. Instead, send out prompts after a presentation or during a speech that plays on the feelings of need or motivation to best encourage your potential donors.

Your nonprofit needs donations to keep running and mobile phones just make the process a whole lot easier. Try the above ideas for your organisation. And when you do, let me know! I would love to hear how they worked for you!

Author bio:

Jasmine Somaiah is a communications specialist at CallHub, a multi-channel engagement platform for nonprofits. She helps organisations grow their contact database and create personal channels of communication with supporters. If you have any queries hit her up at jasmine@callhub.io

 

Rising to the fundraising challenge

“Want to bet?” It’s hard to imagine a more motivating sentence than these three simple words. People love a challenge. From friendly wagers to giant corporate projects, it’s human nature to want to rise against the odds, overcome a hurdle, and emerge from the other side triumphant.

One thing that Australians love almost as much as a challenge is getting behind a good cause. So, when presented with the opportunity to combine those two, it’s no wonder that people jump at the opportunity. With March already upon us, thousands of Australians are gearing up for the World’s Greatest Shave. The event, in which people get sponsored to shave or colour their hair, has gone from strength to strength and is now one of the nation’s biggest fundraising events, raising over $200 million since it began in 1998.

World’s Greatest Shave is just one of many fundraising challenges that have become household names over recent years – and when you look at the three key characteristics of a challenge event, it’s easy to see why they’re often such a success.

They tell a story
Not only do good challenges tap into that primal desire to prove oneself, they also tell a story about the cause they’re supporting. By tying the challenge to the ethos or mission of the charity behind them, participants and those supporting them feel a strong connection to the cause. For example, the 40 Hour Famine Backpack Challenge raises money to help young refugees and involves living off whatever essentials you can carry in a backpack for 40 hours. The challenge echoes the experience that many refugees go through, who are forced to flee with nothing but what they can carry on their back. So not only do participants raise money, they also raise awareness in a meaningful way that’s sure to resonate with people.

They’re cost effective
Most challenge campaigns don’t involve large costs, as participants participate on their own time. There’s also no need to spend money on equipment or logistics as you would with a large-scale fundraising event, and as they’re particularly popular amongst millennials and the social-media savvy, your marketing almost takes care of itself – which brings us to…

They’re social media friendly
If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around, does it make a sound? Similarly, if people participate in a challenge and don’t post it to social media, did it happen? Fundraising challenges are almost custom-made for shareability, meaning your cause is likely to reach a large audience organically as people post about their participation and give updates on their progress. Using a unique hashtag for your challenge will not only help people see who else is participating and create a sense of community, it will help you to collate images and stories that you can use in social media posts, emails and marketing campaigns of your own.

TOP TIPS

  • Base your challenge around a unique feature of your cause so that participants raise awareness while they’re raising funds
  • Keep costs down by choosing a challenge that doesn’t require you to create any physical materials and that participants can complete on their own
  • Encourage people to share their progress on social media so your cause reaches their audiences
  • Use a hashtag to collate images and posts for future marketing campaigns

Simplifying Humanitarian Aid with Direct Cash Assistance.

After recently returning from refugee settlements in Lesbos, Australia for UNHCR national director Naomi Steer explains why direct cash assistance is actually one of the most efficient and effective forms of humanitarian aid delivery.

It had been raining for two days at the Moira Reception Centre on Lesbos when I visited a few weeks ago. Asylum seekers and refugees, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, were struggling in the crowded conditions and flimsy dwellings, and were desperately asking to be moved to the mainland with better, more secure shelters.

It’s a tough place to live, and the influx of refugees has been a huge adjustment for locals on Lesbos, a Greek island that until recently was famous simply for its idyllic beaches and laid back lifestyle.

One of the few clear success stories for refugees and locals alike that I heard about on Lesbos is the cash assistance program. Administered by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), it’s a monthly cash payment, loaded onto a card, for refugees and asylum seekers, who would struggle to survive without assistance.

The amount is only a few hundred euros per month per family, and the exact amount depends on the size of the family. But it is enough to help people with the absolute basics.

The concept of cash handouts can be highly politicised in our own country, but it is actually one of the most efficient and effective forms of humanitarian aid delivery.

Asylum seekers and refugees can decide how to spend the cash, depending on the specific needs of their family. Aid agencies are saved the – often significant – expense of procurement, storage and distribution of essential supplies. And host communities benefit when the money is spent in their businesses.

Colleagues on Lesbos told me that the decision to deliver aid via direct cash assistance has helped smooth relationships with the locals as it brings money into the economy. Even several years since refugees began arriving in Lesbos, the local community remains generally supportive and sympathetic.

On a larger scale, direct cash assistance is becoming increasingly popular, and its use has grown dramatically in recent years. In 2016-2017, UNHCR reached 10.5 million vulnerable people across 94 countries with cash assistance. Targeted programs also employ cash assistance as a protection measure – along with other services – to prevent families being forced to resort to negative survival strategies such as child labour or early marriage.

In Jordan, increasingly sophisticated technology is being utilised and iris scans are now used at ATMs for Syrian refugees receiving cash assistance to ensure only the designated recipient can make a withdrawal. Not all refugees are eligible, just to most vulnerable, such as female-headed households, the elderly or people living with chronic illness or disabilities.

I’ve heard from mothers in the Middle East that the small amount of cash assistance they receive is what stands between them and becoming homeless or being forced to return to the warzone in Syria. They have told us how important it is for them to have the dignity of choosing how to spend the aid they receive – as mothers they know best what their children and the family needs most each month, whether it’s food, warm clothes, or medicine.

As the national director of a humanitarian aid charity, reliant on private sector donations, it’s also increasingly apparent to me that this is a system that delivers value for money to donors. On average, using direct cash assistance, 93 per cent of each dollar goes right to the families who need it most.

The reasons for using cash assistance can be more complex than other forms of aid – and it certainly doesn’t lend itself to dramatic PR photographs – but the benefits are immense, especially as technology develops, making it even simpler to distribute and monitor.

Top 3 ways to recognise and work with an engaged donor.

Ruth Jones on the characteristics of engaged donors (there are seven), the power of getting personal and what you should really be spending your time and money on.

Before we move into specifics, let’s talk about why we want engaged donors. After all, they are a lot more work, and everyone is pretty stretched for time as it is. We want them because once they are engaged, they are likely to be with you for the long haul.

Sometimes, reading the paper is depressing. Surrounded by difficult, possibly intractable issues, people feel a sense of helplessness.

What nonprofits give their engaged donors is a sense that they are part of something worthwhile and meaningful: that they can make a difference. That’s a great feeling. Research at Social Venture Partners showed that when people felt that their gifts were meaningful, they were more inclined to give more.

1. CHARACTERISTICS OF ENGAGED DONORS

From my time working with a network of engaged donors, several characteristics were evident:

  • Social standing was not a driver of their involvement with an organisation or a cause
  • Many already had a pre-disposition to be involved in community activities
  • Equal numbers of men and women
  • They were already cognizant of societal issues around them
  • Most often, they were not from a background of inherited wealth, so were open to new ideas about how philanthropy should be practiced and how one might respond to social issues
  • Many had children: this was an important influence on their desire to be involved in philanthropy and volunteering
  • Being in the company of peers interested in the same topics is a big driver: the other key driver is getting close enough to understand and appreciate the approach that an organisation is taking.

Summing up then: people who are aware of what is going on in their community; have no preconceptions about what philanthropy is meant to look like, and are ready to learn and experiment; are conscious of passing on strong values and modelling good behaviour to their children; enjoy experiential, on the job learning, so to speak; and like to do so in the company of those who share their values.

2. A SENSE OF COMMUNITY MATTERS

When you consider the scale of the problems we see each day, and then consider the amount many people can give, it’s not hard to understand why people can feel helpless – that the amount they are able to give can’t make a difference anyway. Feeling part of a community of donors changes the equation. Alone, my contribution is a drop in the bucket – but a group of us? That’s a different story.

Being part of a community of engaged donors gives individuals the chance to engage their mindand connect with people who are working directly on the issues. That’s when giving stops being cerebral – because it’s the right thing to do – and starts becoming deeply personal.

Being part of a community of donors has an impact on people’s knowledge and understanding of social issues: it cements their commitment to philanthropy and pushes them to give more and do more. This often needs to be conveyed in this way to CEOs and Boards to help them understand.

3. TAKE TIME & SPEND MONEY TO UNDERSTAND YOUR DONORS

During my time at Social Venture Partners, we had the benefit of working with a data analytics firm. Its research and analysis gave us an in-depth picture of our donors: their family, business and spiritual lives, annual household income, annual giving, level of education… We wanted to understand more about the people who were drawn to our engaged giving model.

The responses to our regular donor surveys and the data analytics study were anonymous but gave us information that strengthened program planning and implementation and informed communication: it gave us a good handle on people who might be drawn to our engaged model of giving and volunteering.

We also did occasional town hall style meetings with donors at which they were asked to comment on specific areas of our performance. Sometimes it turned out that something I thought was great, they didn’t care all that much about. What it reinforced was the importance of checking in regularly with donors to find out what they really think, rather than going with what I hoped – or wanted! – them to think.

FINAL TIPS ON ENGAGING DONORS

  • Bring them together with their peers. The social aspect is important and here I don’t mean galas and extravagant events: I mean the opportunity to meet and spend time with people who also care about the issue
  • Educate them about the systemic issues you are dealing with: the more they understand, the more they commit. This can be a mix of experiential learning, mentoring and training
  • Offer them the opportunity to contribute their professional skills, too, if possible

Ruth Jones is a Specialist Philanthropy and Donor Engagement Consultant at The Xfactor Collective. Click here to read more about Ruth Jones.

To hear Ruth speak more on these topics, click on the links in the article or go to the ‘THE X-CHANGE’ youtube channel. You will also find many of the other specialist consultants from The Xfactor Collective community sharing their expert knowledge at THE X-CHANGE, which is growing from 50+ to 125+ short helpful videos over the coming few months. The Xfactor Collective is a community for social change-makers and game-changers, and includes a growing group of specialist consultants, a Concierge helpdesk service and other support services.

5 Tips For Your Most Successful Digital Year-End Campaign.

Some excellent tips from US fundraisers in relation to online End of Year fundraising campaigns.

Are you ready?

According to Network for Good, most nonprofits raise about 1/3 of their revenue in December. And 11% of their annual total during the last three days of the year.

Year-end is the easiest time to raise more money online! Think about it this way:

Your donors are more likely to give during the last weeks of the year than any other time of the entire year.

And because year-end is such an important time for digital fundraising, we want to give you 5 tips that will ensure a successful year-end for your fundraising.

# 1: Use the same message in every channel

Some of your donors are online, some aren’t. Pick your strongest message, then repeat it through direct mail, email, your website, and social media. It’s more powerful for your donors to see the same message in different media channels than it is for them to see two different messages.  Repetition is your friend!

# 2: Ask early and often

You’ve been talking to your donors all year about what your organization does, you’ve told them how they can help. So this time of year, don’t Thank them. Or Report to them. It might feel counterintuitive, but our testing showed that Thanking and Reporting this time of year will cause you to raise less money than you could. Follow the advice below and just Ask well!

# 3: Emphasize the deadline

A deadline communicates urgency. December 31 is a natural deadline — for the tax year and for your organization. Tell donors your deadline and repeat it multiple times in your messages.

# 4: Set a goal

How much do you want or need to raise? What would it take for you to meet your budget? Feed everyone you want to feed by year-end? Shelter abandoned pets through the end of the year? Overcome a financial shortfall? Tell your donors the goal.

We need to raise $XX,XXX by midnight, December 31.

# 5: Communicate consequences

What will happen if you don’t meet the goal? Connect the donor right to the heart of your work.

We need to raise $XX,XXX by midnight, December 31 or we will have to cut back on the number of pets in our shelter in the coming year.

Or

We need to raise $XX,XXX by midnight, December 31 or we will not be able to advocate for the arts as effectively next year.

Whatever your organization does, if having less money means you would be able to do less next year, say so!

Most important tip? Start now!

We’ve built a Year-End Digital Fundraising Toolkit so that you can develop a successful year-end digital campaign. Buy it now and you’ll save time, raise more money, and have your best year-end ever!