Over the years, I have shared knowledge with my followers, clients, friends, and family about the best practices for nonprofit organizations. While I can’t spill all the coffee….ehr..tea, this article is designed to be a guide to tips and resources to make your nonprofit stronger moving to the future. I will answer questions about donors, boards, volunteers, and staffing your nonprofit. Let’s sit back with a cup of coffee and #nerdoutabout nonprofits.
What’s My Story?
That’s a loaded question!! If you’ve listened to The Nonprofit Show for a few episodes, you may notice my native southern accent slips into conversation. I am originally from South Carolina but have lived in Arizona so long, they consider me a native Arizonan!
What I love about Arizona is the small business culture, business networking, and the weather (most of the year!). My son and I take as much time outdoors hiking and camping as we can. When the weather is right, I might even be working from a campsite. When it’s too hot in the summer or we want to play in the snow, we head to Utah. That’s where I met my husband! We both love the outdoors (and each other, of course!), that it is a perfect match.
My passion for nonprofits comes from a heart of service. I love working with people who love who they serve and want to make the world a better place. In 2009, I began The Rayvan Group and while we’ve always served nonprofits, I’ve moved away from doing grant writing and am now consulting. In 2022, I launched Nonprofit School where I teach my proven method for growing a grant writing business.
As a nonprofit leader, I support organizations with training in fundraising, board development, leadership coaching, strategy, and interim executive services.
When you think about your organization, what comes to mind? For many leaders, it is how to raise money for programs and staffing. Ask yourself these questions:
Is your personal money story blocking your professional success? If you ate mayonnaise sandwiches like I did as a kid or were told that certain items were too expensive, you have mental blocks about money. I can help you, and your staff, learn how to move from scarcity to abundance mindset and apply it to your organization.
Is the nonprofit meeting the mission? There’s a myth that nonprofits don’t make a profit and that isn’t true. The reality is that you need to make a profit to hire staff to grow the organization, create programs, and continue to serve those who you identified in the mission statement. And if you don’t know the mission, let’s start by identifying that so we can measure success.
How has your nonprofit changed since the height of the pandemic? Let’s embrace the Nonprofit comeback. Now is a great time to include pandemic planning. Re-engage staff, volunteers, and donors in new ways. Improve the website so calls to action like DONATE or VOLUNTEER are prominently displayed. Teach how to host a Zoom meeting. Review lessons learned through the last few years to include in the upcoming plan.
In this way, you are embracing the new ways to look at your organization, and nonprofits, and are updating processes and procedures. We don’t want another pandemic, but if it happens, your organization is prepared. If you’re not sure where to start, I’d love to help you!
What is a Nonprofit Nerd® ?
As your resident Nonprofit Nerd® and paid consultant, I have worked with nonprofits across the country teaching best practices for hiring (and firing), fundraising, staffing, the importance of a clear vision, mission, and values. I’ve consulted and temporarily served in interim executive roles for a number of organizations. These experiences have pushed me out of my comfort zone to build a better consulting business, and better nonprofit culture.
As a Nonprofit Consultant and Founder of The Rayvan Group, my team and I have identified the Genius Zonesof The Rayvan Group as Fundraising Assessments, Fund Development Program (Grants!), Coaching Program for Nonprofit Professionals, Strategy Days, and Interim Executive Services. If you’re not sure what the genius zones are for your organization, we should chat!
It is my hope that The Rayvan Group consulting and Nonprofit Nerd® co-hosting of the American Nonprofit Academy’s The Nonprofit Show with Julia C. Patrick will help you evolve your organization in this everchanging world.
Each weekday, Julia and I interview nonprofit leaders on topics that bring together problem solving, innovation, and reflection on what is happening with nonprofits. Our goal is to amplify your social impact and support you in achieving the mission, vision, and values of your organization.
Spoiler Alert: New donors aren’t like donors of the past.
Today’s donors want what they want and how they want it. While there are some who still love receiving a letter and donation envelope via snail mail, many others would prefer a social media campaign and call to action and an app where they can easily donate, making it important to #nerdout on donor data.
Ask for money with confidence. I attended a gala which seemed to have a perfectly orchestrated program of events and speakers…until it didn’t. When the “make the ask” person came to the podium, they went off script and seemed awkward and unprepared. You could almost feel the energy of the room tank, and so did the donations. It was a misstep to have that person ask for donations. When you’re planning events, be sure you’re asking for money with confidence.
Making the ask is easier when you know what your donors want and are delivering the ask in a way that suits them, and the organization. Attract new donors by telling the story of the organization in ways that connect with them. It is when they connect and can easily donate that they will contribute.
The Board of Directors has a fiscal responsibility for what happens within the organization. Without their support, the organization can fail. I’ve worked with boards in a customized workshop to identify next steps. We collaborate with staff and board leadership to set specific activities and expectations for board members, like fundraising and event participation goals. We provide ongoing support and training to support meeting these goals.
If your board isn’t engaged in fundraising, we can work with staff and board to find ways each person can contribute in a way that works best for them. Not everyone wants to host a gala, but they may be great for attracting, engaging, and retaining volunteers, for example. Getting to know your board will go a long way in engaging them to meet the mission of the nonprofit.
As the organization grows, you will need to attract and engage volunteers and staff. I’ve recently expanded my own team and know the hiring process can be challenging, as much as it can be rewarding.
● Know their genius zone. If you’re hiring a fundraising expert, make sure they have the experience to meet the organization’s goals. They may be a nice person who has worn a number of hats as part of a nonprofit staff, but can they do the most important task of the role? Be sure they can before making the offer.
● Hiring grant writers. As a former grant writer myself, I can say with certainty that how grant writers are paid isn’t as well-known as you might think. Oftentimes, people think writers are paid after the grant is obtained. That form of payment may actually be unethical according to the Association of Grant Writing Professionals (AFP), an organization whose guidance we follow. Grant writers are in fact paid on an hourly or project basis as contractors.
● If you’re a grant writer, here are tips. Grow your grant writing business by increasing your rates on an annual or even quarterly basis. Make an announcement when grants are obtained for your clients. Track the amount and number of grants you’ve written and obtained; this motivates you and can be used as a marketing tool to set you apart from others. Join Nonprofit School to Grow Your Grant Writing Business!
● If you’re a nonprofit leader, let’s take a peek. In the mind of a grant writer are a lot of ideas and projects. They are likely organized, with grant deadlines on their calendars. They will need leaders to be available for interviews and information. Please oblige them as they need you in order to write a strong grant for your organization.
Stop leaving money on the table! #NerdAlert Review financials often so you understand income and expenses, budget, and fundraising expectations. Having the numbers will keep you moving ahead with the organization. If you’re not sure what to do with the financial reports, consider hiring fundraising professionals to ensure success.
A nonprofit hiring a fundraising professional should be considered a positive for the organization. It means you’re aware that you need an outside person to review and make recommendations for future efforts. Like grant writers, professional fundraisers are paid hourly or by the project based on experience, as per the AFP guidelines.
They can also offer ideas for engaging the board in fundraising efforts, including reminding them of their fiduciary responsibility in their role. Tap into their genius zones and offer ways their help is needed and can be utilized. Make expectations clear. In this way you can stay connected to the board and fundraising professionals to build an organization and programs that meet the mission, vision, and values of the nonprofit.
When all is said and done, it is important to look in the mirror and take time for yourself. The hustle and grind culture isn’t cool anymore, but taking care of yourself is. This year I traveled more than ever, including checking a few places off my son’s bucket list! We expanded our family when I got married and now, we’re a blended family of four. Making an effort to connect with loved ones is special, no matter what time of year it is or how busy your nonprofit is.
From one Nonprofit Nerd® to another, stay focused and healthy so that you can serve your staff, volunteers, and the community.