Four Elements to Strengthen Your Planning

By Alexis Cooke, Senior Consultant

Organizations have been in constant flux to respond to 2020. Your organization likely implemented crisis response plans quickly after the onset of COVID-19. These response plans may have transitioned into scenario plans to navigate the ongoing crises of this year and/or your organization made substantial pivots or even pauses to your organization’s strategic plans. As the non-profit sector continues to respond to the devastating realities of the pandemic and our country’s social and racial injustices, The Alford Group elevates four specific elements that will strengthen your implementation and positioning for success, if embedded into your planning processes – crisis, scenario or strategic.

#1 Be Analytical

Continue reading “Four Elements to Strengthen Your Planning”

Diversity in Fundraising: Making a Long-Term Commitment

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By JoAnn Yoshimoto, CFRE, Senior Consultant

Growing up in Kentucky during segregation, Jimmie Alford – The Alford Group’s founder – attended an all-white school, and didn’t experience racial diversity until the age of nine when his parents moved to Chicago. The move, due to the closing of coal mines, placed Jimmie’s family in a small apartment in the Englewood community. Jimmie was one of three white students in his third grade class of 40 students.

Along with his classmates, he understood economic diversity and its impact on themselves, their families and their community while living in extreme poverty within a predominantly affluent nation. He also directly and personally saw and felt the impact of discrimination. He decided at a young age that the injustice of discrimination was something he would never allow to penetrate his life and that he would work his entire life to eradicate it in all forms. Like many who grow up marginalized in one way or another, Jimmie vowed to lift himself out of his circumstances, make a better life and never forget the important life lessons learned along the way. His commitment to this goal was unwavering and steadfast.

While Jimmie passed away suddenly in 2012, his spirit and leadership remain with us as the nation and world grapple with the opportunity afforded by the Black Lives Matter movement and a renewed call for equity and social justice. We share his unwavering optimism that better days lie ahead when we all work together.

Diversity

Diversity is one of seven core values of The Alford Group, and one of Jimmie’s enduring “fingerprints” on the consulting firm he founded in 1979. One manifestation of this commitment is our 20+-year sponsorship of the Diversity Workshop and Diversity Art Showcase at the annual AFP International Conference. While our dedication to diversity and inclusiveness has remained resolute over the decades, the demographics of America – and thus the universe of donors and prospective donors – have changed dramatically. Lessons learned from diverse communities, and the shared values of diversity, equity and inclusiveness (DEI), are more relevant and more essential today than ever before. Continue reading “Diversity in Fundraising: Making a Long-Term Commitment”

Follow the Yellow Brick Road: The Wizard of Oz as a Strategic Planning Tool

By Michelle Hunter, Associate Consultant

Looking for a way to make your organization’s strategic planning exciting and more relatable? Having a difficult time explaining strategic planning terminology?

Fasten your seatbelt, Toto. We’re not in Kansas anymore.

At first glance, The Wizard of Oz—the widely beloved children’s book by Frank L. Baum, the 1939 film starring Judy Garland, and countless other adaptations for stage and screen—may seem to have little to do with strategic planning: the process through which organizations define their long-term vision and identify strategies and action steps to achieve that vision.

Although the two may seem to be unlikely companions, there is actually a lot we can glean from The Wizard of Oz about strategic planning.

Continue reading “Follow the Yellow Brick Road: The Wizard of Oz as a Strategic Planning Tool”

Uncharted Waters: Simple Steps for Strategic Planning

By Sharon Tiknis, Executive Vice President & East Division Manager and Lieve Buzard, Senior Client Service Associate

“The only thing that is constant is change.”

― Heraclitus.

Today organizations face new challenges posed by technology, economic trends and uncertain regulatory environments. How can nonprofit leadership rise to meet these demands? Just as the captain of a ship doesn’t look to the waves in order to navigate, your organization is well-steered by strategic thinking.

A strategic plan can transform your organization from surviving to thriving under the guiding star of a strategic plan. Without a clear vision or strategic objective, it will be difficult to generate volunteer enthusiasm and energy for the work necessary to make the weeks, months and years ahead a success.

Continue reading “Uncharted Waters: Simple Steps for Strategic Planning”

Vision 2020: Planning Strategy for the New Year

By Sharon Tiknis, Executive Vice President & East Division Manager and Lieve Buzard, Client Service Associate

It’s the beginning of a new year, and across the country Boards of Directors and staff members are gathering for annual retreats – a time to renew and refresh vision for the many challenges and opportunities in the year ahead.

You might be wondering, what scenarios could unfold in the course of planning for 2020 and beyond? We have a few examples to share. Someone on your organization’s Board of Directors may have a big hairy audacious goal for future growth and impact. Or you may be facing a cash flow crisis that requires tough trade-offs and strategic pivots. You may find strategic discussion running in circles from a lack of cohesion between staff and board leadership and your organization’s roles in the community.

Without a clear vision or strategic objective, it will be difficult to generate volunteer enthusiasm and energy for the work necessary to make 2020 a success.

Continue reading “Vision 2020: Planning Strategy for the New Year”

Getting the Most From Your Upcoming Anniversary

By Mary Kaufman-Cranney, CFRE, Vice President

During my tenure as the head of development with the YMCA of Greater Seattle, I was lucky enough to be there for the organization’s 125th anniversary.

As the 120th year of the YMCA of Greater Seattle loomed ahead, I asked our public relations volunteers if we should start getting ready to celebrate. Their reply? A resounding, “No! Save it for the big one at 125 – but start planning now.”

“Five years out?” I thought to myself. “That  seems crazy!” But as we started to explore the significance of the 125th and realize that no update had been done on our history timeline since the 100th – not to mention electronically capturing our history and thousands of photos dating back to the late 1800s – we had lots to do. Continue reading “Getting the Most From Your Upcoming Anniversary”

Reflection Guide: What can you learn (and improve upon) from your 2018 Year-End Fundraising results?

By Mary Hackett, Associate Vice President and Wendy Hatch, CFRE, Vice President

You’ve made it through the busiest time of year for gift-giving! The ever-challenging journey of Year-End Fundraising might have thrown you a curveball or two, taken you down a path that wasn’t anticipated, or went exactly as planned with minimal hiccups.

Now comes the time for reflection.

Like any experience, it’s important to assess it before the memory becomes fuzzy. Below are some questions to get the juices flowing. So, gather your team and sit down to have a candid, eyes-wide-open conversation.

Let’s start with the anecdotal side.

Answer these questions: Continue reading “Reflection Guide: What can you learn (and improve upon) from your 2018 Year-End Fundraising results?”

Community Foundations: Wondering How to Grow Your Asset Base?

The 4 Things You Must Do First

By Jamie Phillippe, CFRE, Vice President with Lieve Buzard, Client Service Associate

Growing the asset base of a community foundation means the foundation will have an even larger impact on the community it serves. With more assets and resources, the foundation is able to support more nonprofit organizations (or the same organizations at a higher level) and collectively solve community problems and increase the quality of life for community members.

Often times, community foundations run campaigns to increase gifts from individuals, families, and corporations. There are FOUR THINGS that a foundation must do prior to undertaking a campaign to increase its asset base.

Where does your foundation stand in relation to these four elements?

#1 Strategic Plan

A comprehensive strategic plan must be in place to provide a road map, to provide credibility, and to provide a sense of urgency to the entire effort. Continue reading “Community Foundations: Wondering How to Grow Your Asset Base?”

Getting the Most From Your Upcoming Anniversary

By Mary Kaufman-Cranney, CFRE, Vice President

During my tenure as the head of development with the YMCA of Greater Seattle, I was lucky enough to be there for the organization’s 125th anniversary.

As the 120th year of the YMCA of Greater Seattle loomed ahead, I asked our public relations volunteers if we should start getting ready to celebrate. Their reply? A resounding, “No! Save it for the big one at 125 – but start planning now.”

“Five years out?” I thought to myself. “That  seems crazy!” But as we started to explore the significance of the 125th and realize that no update had been done on our history timeline since the 100th – not to mention electronically capturing our history and thousands of photos dating back to the late 1800s – we had lots to do. Continue reading “Getting the Most From Your Upcoming Anniversary”

Please be our next board chair

By Molly Hansen, Vice President, The Alford Group

“Please be our next board chair. Joe, Sarah, and Ben have all turned us down and Andrew doesn’t want to stay on for another term.”

Has this ever happened to you or in your organization? With thoughtful planning and leadership development you can create a reality where begging for board officers and committee leaders just doesn’t happen.

In a 2015 BoardSource survey, only 49% of nonprofit CEOs agreed that their organizations had an effective process in place for officer succession. CEOs often navigate (survive?) multiple chair transitions, and cited building a board leadership pipeline as being among the most important area for board improvement.

A recent Board Effect blog post cites the report Succession Planning for the Non-profit Board Chair that finds:

“Most organizations can survive the successful election to the Board of an individual or two whose group participation skills and leadership attributes are less than stellar, as other stronger members of the Board will generally neutralize any adverse consequences to the organization. However, placing Board members into the organization’s highest leadership positions is a much higher-stakes proposition. Persons in elected leadership positions with mediocre leadership skills will, at best, do no harm, but might cause the association to miss strategic advantageous opportunities. Persons with poor leadership skills may create organization dysfunctions that may take years from which to recover, if ever.” Continue reading “Please be our next board chair”

Optics Matter: Avoiding Red Flags that Undermine Your Fundraising Efforts

By Amy Hines, Senior Vice President, The Alford Group

With the start of an unprecedented intergenerational wealth transfer, not-for-profits have a lot to gain by avoiding any inadvertent pitfalls that deter potential donors from contributing to their efforts. With access to the internet, donors do not have to rely on government scrutiny to avoid unscrupulous charities (Besides, government entities have limited authority as watchdogs). Donors can look for evidence themselves, vetting charities with a tap or a click.

Maintaining integrity is key—but ensuring that an organization’s optics convey that integrity is also essential.

A potential donor’s due diligence before opening her wallet, is likely to take place by heeding to the credo–“follow the money.” While that may in fact be just a line in a movie, it resonates in the philanthropic ether as a sound way to approach investigating an organization’s worthiness.

How do potential donors assess the money trail? There are several logical ways:

  1. Look at the organization’s website to see if financial information is being reported in a transparent way.
  2. Go online to GuideStar, the primary resource for accessing an organization’s IRS 990 and comparing similar organizations.
  3. Go online to Charity Navigator to see how the organization is rated.
  4. Go online to BBB Wise Giving, to check out whether they have been accredited as a trustworthy national organization.

 

It’s important for not-for-profits to manage the optics of their organizations in these four locations. Here’s how. Continue reading “Optics Matter: Avoiding Red Flags that Undermine Your Fundraising Efforts”

Prospect Research: The Breakthrough Guide to the Basics

Prospect research can be a complex subject, but it’s vital to growing and developing your nonprofit’s donor base.

With over $373 billion donated last year, giving is on the rise, which means that prospect research is more important than ever for capitalizing on your donors’ generosity and building strong relationships with them.

In this guide, we’ll cover all of the basics, from the definition down to the nitty-gritty details of how prospect research can work for you!

Specifically, we’ll answer these questions:

Let’s get started!

What is prospect research?

Prospect research is the process of learning more about a specific donor or a group of donors so that your nonprofit can cultivate and manage them more effectively. Continue reading “Prospect Research: The Breakthrough Guide to the Basics”