For over 40 years, Alford Group has tested the effectiveness of written material with a variety of stakeholders (donors, volunteers, partners, community leaders, foundation and corporate funders, etc.) for nonprofit organizations ranging in size, sector, lifecycle stage and geography.
Over that time, we have identified aspects of effective storytelling that remain universally true. Below are four tips to keep in mind while crafting your prose.
Your fundraising reports should be purposeful and engage your audiences. The right reports can drive better fundraising results and deploy different audiences to act in different ways. Many of our clients come to us when they are at their wit’s end with their reporting. Here is what they say:
“I’m frustrated because my monthly fundraising reports take 5x longer than they should.”
“I want to produce the right reports, but my database doesn’t exactly export what we need so there’s a lot of manipulation in Excel.”
“I don’t have the right visuals that spur conversation or action.”
“I’ve been producing the same reports for years and hardly anyone looks at them anymore.”
The explosion of online communications channels, expanding new technologies and a younger population is a reality to be reckoned with. Add to those trends the new and exciting fundraising results from online giving, and the projected $8.8 trillion transfer of wealth by 2027, and it’s easy to leap to the conclusion that the wave to catch and surf to the land of opportunity is digital. However, let’s look closely at compelling opportunities, documented results and stated donor preferences before we take the plunge.
Last year as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe and racial and social inequities were exacerbated and brought into the national spotlight, we nonprofit warriors “pivoted” and navigated “uncharted waters” during “unprecedented” times, while kindly asking our colleagues to “please unmute yourself.”
Although I always jump at the chance to reference Friends – “PIVOT! PIVOT!” – I’m happy to say these overused words and phrases are mostly behind us, mostly. (Plus, there are less cringe-worthy and more productive ways to reference Friends. Read on and you’ll see.)
Every person in the world who has competed at the highest level of athletics, music or a skilled trade has had a coach. They’ve also relied on the knowledge, skill and expertise of quality mentors to push, challenge and motivate them. In the nonprofit community, we all know it takes equally as much skill and training to be successful, whether you’re leading, managing or raising funds to move your organization closer to reaching its mission. Executive coaching helps leaders cultivate confidence in their own leadership and effectively grow their organizations to new heights.
Donor-advised funds, or DAFs, have been at the top of mind for many people since the release of the Giving USA report for philanthropy for the year 2020 (check out our blog here for an overview) and especially now with Giving USA’s groundbreaking report on DAFs which was released on November 11, 2021. DAFs have also received extra attention this year due to the bills that have been introduced in the U.S. Senate that aim to place new restrictions on DAFs. However, for many, there is a real lack of clarity around the current status of DAFs, and they raise more questions than answers.
For development professionals who oversee fundraising for their organization, the question is how to engage DAF-holders. Given the stunning growth in DAFs over the past five years, there are no signs of their popularity slowing down, so let’s unpack and demystify this hot trend. What are the rules around DAFs? What are the benefits of a DAF? How can your organization gain access to them?
In celebration of Black Philanthropy Month, we have an opportunity to look more closely at stories that illustrate the depth and richness of Black philanthropy. There are many present-day stories that uplift, and behind their brilliance are many stories of the previous generation that not only inspired, but created the springboard for those philanthropists whose impact we see every day. And there’s an incredible-but-true story from a previous century that evokes awe, admiration and, admittedly, a little anger.
I’m unhappy that I have only recently learned of this story that inspires so many – no matter your age, race, gender or economic circumstances – on so many levels. And it debunks so many myths about Black philanthropy; in fact, it recalibrates my personal notion of philanthropy and philanthropists.
Where is your organization on its diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging journey? Would you describe it as being asleep, awake, woke or at work?
Wherever you and your organization lie on the continuum, it goes back to culture, values and intentionality toward creating a place where everyone can be their authentic selves and feel that they have acceptance, attention and support.
Organizations that value diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging as core to their culture – and integrate these principles into their practices – realize possibilities for their full potential being unlocked in the areas of decision-making, relevant programs and access to potential leaders and donors who might not otherwise become involved or contribute.
Unless your organization breathes life and action into its values, they are just empty words on your website or in your strategic plan.
On Tuesday, June 15, Giving USA released The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the year 2020. It was a much-anticipated report given the upheaval of daily life everyone has experienced in the past year and a desire to see how that upheaval has impacted the philanthropic space. Here is a brief overview following the release of this year’s report.Continue reading “Giving USA 2021 Overview”
In the time of COVID, in the midst of so much change and uncertainty, let’s imagine that you’re faced with staff turnover in the development department. What shall we do? What will tomorrow look like? How can we predict the best possible course of action? Continue reading “Love in the Time of COVID”
As we ask ourselves: Now What? What do we do in this ever-evolving “new normal?” It’s time to take action. Here are the five actions to take today.
As a consultant with Alford Group and former development professional with more than 30 years’ experience in the nonprofit sector, when my colleagues and I see what is happening all around us, we regularly ask “How might we have the most positive impact with our clients? How can we improve our work so that our clients can better serve their participants, members, families, patients, students, children and youth?”Continue reading “Board Members and Nonprofit Leaders: It’s Time.”
On the heels of Black History Month and at the beginning of Women’s History Month, it is not lost on me that we need to celebrate diversity now more than ever. And it is important that we do not relegate our recognition of the contribution of Blacks and women to just one month.
Sankofa is an African word from the Akan tribe in Ghana. The symbol, based on the mythical bird with its feet firmly planted forward with its head turned backwards, serves as a reminder that the past serves as a guide for planning the future. It is the wisdom of looking back to look forward.
Diversity has been a core value of Alford Group for our 41-year history and we recently renewed our commitment to fostering and creating adaptive cultures that are more inclusive and equitable in our work as a firm, with our clients and in the entire social sector. We are elevating equity-centered philanthropy as intentional action toward changing the structures, roles, processes, representation and practices that perpetuate inequities in how organizations communicate, engage and build relationships to support philanthropic endeavors.