Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Try Thinking Like a Business

Every day business owners have the opportunity to attend – either virtually via webinars or in person – seminars designed to help them improve their businesses. Topics include advice on ways to take their businesses “to the next level” in such areas as technology, social media, marketing, human resources, finance, general management. Could some of this advice also be helpful to not-for- profits? Should NFPs pay more attention to business practices? Why not?

In a very real sense, NFPs are engaged in business.  The product is the mission and/or services offered. And fund raising is sales. NFPs have human resources issues.  NFPs need to know about and apply technology for greater efficiency, and even as part of the fund raising plan.  Information about bank financing options is also valid.  NFPs frequently finance expansion projects and meet cash-flow needs with the assistance of loans and lines of credit. 

Leaders in the field note that NFP managers need to realign themselves and what they do: to think entrepreneurially.  They should look at the efficiencies of what they already do, consider ways to change the culture of their operations by finding more methodical ways of ‘doing business’ – in other words, by applying an entrepreneurial sense to achieving mission.
So the next time you have an opportunity to attend a workshop for “business people,” go!  You’d be surprised how much you can learn that is applicable to the management of your NFP. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Building Partnerships with Business

When not-for-profits and business work together, it can be a win/win!

Many businesses find that philanthropic activities can be a great marketing strategy.  It raises positive perceptions, it provides low-cost community exposure, and it creates a relationship between the business and the supporters of a charity.  An office supply store attracts business and good will by offering special discounts to school teachers.  A restaurant fills tables on slow nights by donating a percent of all sales to a chosen charity.  A financial institution sponsors regular giving days on which employees who donate to a named charity are allowed to wear jeans to work. 

So, how can your charity benefit from such a partnership?  Here are a few ideas to consider.

  1. Be proactive.
Don’t wait for a business to come to you.  Take a partnership idea to a business.

  1.  Target businesses that have something in common with your supporters.
Consider what’s in it for the business – more business, exposure to a targeted market, increased customer loyalty.

  1. Offer a plan for joint publicity. 
Be prepared to detail how the relationship will be promoted – press releases, mailings to donors, etc.  Ask the business include it in regular advertising and via store posters.

  1. Rally your supporters to do the requisite shopping/dining/etc.
Here’s a way for the people who care about you to help you without spending extra money.  They merely acquire an experience, item, etc. they might have had anyway.

One caveat – pick a reputable partner.  Don’t allow your good name to be used – or possibly abused – by someone strictly for their own gain.  The goal here is win/win.

Partnerships between not-for-profits and business are very common.  If your organization has not explored this relatively painless way to increase funds and exposure, then now’s the time to see if you can add it to your list of fund raising activities.

Kathryn Lima has over 30 years of experience in marketing, public relations, and fund raising.  E-mail your fund raising questions to her at

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fund Raising Tips for Clubs

If you belong to a club, you are probably always seeking ways to raise money for your favorite causes.  This is a universal issue for many civic clubs.  Many years of observations about how clubs raise money and what seems to work or not work, have inspired the following list of tips that should help improve fund raising results and keep members motivated.

v  Pick a project/theme/cause
Ø  Choose something that relates to the club’s interests
Ø  Partner with an established agency/organization
Ø  Select an aspect that is under funded – don’t be just another “drop in the bucket”

v  Set a goal
Ø  Make it realistic
Ø  Make it monetary
Ø  Tie it to an accomplishment, e.g., provide breakfast for 200 children

v  Plan a diverse strategy with a timetable
Ø  Should meet needs and abilities of membership
Ø  E.g., one event, one sales item, one direct contribution effort

v  Appoint a chair person and committee for each effort
Ø  Avoids burnout
Ø  Allows for simultaneous planning and implementation of various projects
Ø  Allows members to participate where interests, abilities and time are most conducive

v  Publicize, publicize, publicize
Ø  Before, during, and after each event
Ø  When presenting your gift

v  Celebrate
Ø  Allow members to experience joy of making a difference

Kathryn Lima has over 30 years experience in marketing, public relations, and fund raising.  E-mail your fund raising questions to her at

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Keep those mailing lists up to date...

Waste Not those Mail Solicitations

Every organization that sends requests for donations through the mail faces the same dilemma.  The list keeps growing.  The costs of printing and postage grow as well.  Yet many people on the list have not given in years.  What should you do?  Should you continue to waste money in printing and postage on people who may not be prospects?  What if they have moved?  What if they are unhappy with your organization?  Or can no longer afford to give every year?  Even people who have given only once might need to be reminded of your worthy cause.  One never knows when or why they might decide to give again. 

Several years ago I made a memorial gift to an out-of-state charity.  Although I have not made any follow-up gifts since, I still receive their newsletter -- very nicely done and not inexpensive to print and mail.  This charity is wasting money by keeping me on its mailing list.

If you suspect that you are mailing unprofitable solicitations, consider the following steps:

1.      Peruse your mailing list and highlight everyone who has not given a gift in two or more years.
2.      Of that list, highlight those who live out of state and determine why they gave in the first place -- was it in memory of a friend or relative who lived in your area?  Was it likely a one-time gift? Have they moved away from your service area?
3.      Delete anyone from this list who has never lived in your area, made only one gift, and has not responded again.
4.      Send a personal correspondence to anyone who used to give regularly and has stopped. Ask if they wish to continue receiving news of your organization.  If they respond, keep them on the list. It might even convince the lapsed donor to resume giving. 
5.      For those who have not given in two years or more, but you want to stay "in front of", devise an inexpensive communications piece, such as a postcard, to send annually.  The message could be a simple list of the numbers of people you have helped in the preceding year, or new programs you have begun in response to community need.  Don’t forget to add a line about how to give!
6.      If your lapsed donor was a large donor, pick up the phone and schedule an appointment.  You really want to know why your more generous donors ($500 or more) have quit giving!

Evaluate the names on your mailing list regularly.  It’s time well spent!

Kathryn Lima, founder of Faro Enterprises, is a consultant with over 30 years experience in marketing, public relations, and fundraising.  Send your questions about fundraising to her via e-mail –

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tips for a Successful Ask

Look that Prospective Donor in the Eye and Say…
If you ask, you might fail.  But if you don't ask, you certainly fail.

            Asking for money strikes fear in the hearts of most volunteers, usually because they fear failure.  In addition to constantly reminding yourself that the worst that can happen is the prospect will say "no," there are some basic steps you can take to increase the likelihood of success. 

            First, know your prospect.  What, if any, is his/her interest in your cause?  If it’s a business, what benefit can the business derive by supporting your organization?  Just because a person can afford to give, and just because a person gives generously to other causes, doesn't mean that he or she will give to you.  What are his/her interests, motivations or desires?  Before making a fundraising call on an individual or business, learn as much as possible about the person who will make the decision.

            Select the right solicitor.  In general, people give to people, NOT to causes.  Your chances of success are greatly increased if the solicitor is known to the prospect.  As a volunteer, try to pick prospects you know -- or who know you.    But, if you do not know the prospect, spend some time getting acquainted.  Share why you are a volunteer, why you think your cause is important, and, especially, WHY YOU SUPPORT THIS ORGANIZATION!
            Know what you want, how much, and why you think the prospect would want to participate.  Be sure to specify an amount.  Avoid the temptation to ask for “...whatever you might contribute.”  And, it's better to ask for too much than too little.  You can always reduce your request ("... if that's too much, would you consider $___ ?"), but you can't raise it after you realize you might have asked for too little. 

            Most prospects are expecting to be asked to participate, and have usually made a decision before you arrive. Very seldom (never say “never”) will a prospect say, “Actually, I was thinking of a higher amount.”

            Just because a prospect says "no" the first time, doesn't mean the answer will always be the same.  Listen very carefully to what the prospect has to say.  Find ways to inform, interest, and get that person involved in your activities.  Cultivate a relationship.  When the time, circumstances and/or reason are right, ask again.

Kathryn Lima, founder of Faro Enterprises, is a consultant with over 30 years experience in marketing, public relations, and fundraising.  Send your questions about fundraising to her via email to   

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Improve your fundraising results. Take the test.

If you sit on the board of a not-or-profit that has trouble raising money, perhaps it’s because your group has not done a good job of defining what it does and why it deserves support.  Or perhaps it’s because there are too many other groups doing the same thing.  Or perhaps it’s because you are asking the wrong people.  There are a number of reasons seemingly worthwhile causes fail to garner the support they need.  Here is a test every board or support organization should take to help better define what they do, and how they fit into the local community. 
Know yourself and your community!
Why would anyone want to contribute to your organization?  Try to see yourself as others see you.  Spend some time with board members and key volunteers answering these questions.  The answers will help you better define your mission as well as understand who you are and why you deserve support.  They will also help you target your most likely donors – persons and organizations that care about what you do and its value to the community.

1)     What do you do?  Who benefits?  If you cease to exist, why would you be missed?  Who would miss you?  (The answer to these questions will lead you to the right prospective donors.)

2)  Who else does what you do?  How are they the same?  How are they different?  In your community, are there potential collaborators for joint projects?  Joint grants? 

3)    What's missing?  What do you need?  What is your vision?
In fulfillment of your mission, what should you be doing but can not due to lack of resources?  How would adding this to your list of services benefit those you serve?  The community?  Is anyone else providing this service?

4)   Complete this sentence:
If we had an extra $__________ per year, we could ________________________!
(Note:  Complete this sentence with a mission-related goal, e.g., feed more children, or expand literacy services.)

5)    Where do you get most of your money now?
What fund raising activities do you do regularly?  Can this/these activities be improved?  Can the amount raised be increased?  What other fundraising activities have you tried?  Successful?  Why or why not? Where do you think you might find "untapped" resources?

6)    What are your volunteer resources?
Who is on your board?  Who uses your facility?  Who are your willing workers?  Who knows both your organization and your community?  Who is willing to speak on your behalf?

7)    What are your fund raising goals? 
To increase the annual budget?  To fund specific projects?  To purchase capital equipment?  To offset funding reductions and maintain current level of service?  To expand your mission?
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Kathryn Lima, founder of Faro Enterprises, is a consultant with over 30 years experience in marketing, public relations, and fundraising.  Send your questions about fundraising to her via email to  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Unusual locations inspire successful special events

For a Successful Fund Raising Event, Consider Location, Location, Location

Many people raise money by hosting a special event.  Usually it is some sort of banquet, dance, or both in the local hotel ballroom or country club.  No wonder attendance seems to decline every year!  Boooorrrrrriiiinnnggg!  If your group depends on such an event for a large portion of its revenue, consider a change of venue.  Here are a few examples of events that succeeded because of location:
·         In a small town in Missouri, the local chapter of the American Heart Association scored big by staging not one event, but twenty – all within a two-week period.  Each private “dinner party” was hosted in a sponsor’s home.  Area residents purchased tickets to the party and/or event they wished to attend.  The events ranged from casual barbeques for up to 100 at an area farm, to formal dinners for six with live, classical music.  And the event stayed fresh because every year the range of parties, venues, and ideas changed!
·         Another group of dedicated volunteers staged a memorable “Phantom of the Opera” party.  Although timely at the time, the real success of the event was due to the location – in a large Victorian mansion made available for the occasion by its generous owners.
·         One not-for-profit can help another when the local museum is the site of an event.  The Carnegie Museums in Pittsburgh actually advertise the space in their four facilities as a perfect venue for private parties.  Many small-to-medium sized museums can even arrange for catering.  It’s a nice source of extra revenue (and exposure) for the museum, and a location with a difference for the sponsor.
·         How about a Texas-style ho-down in a large barn?  Nice casual, fun atmosphere and, if pasture space allows, an opportunity to make a few extra dollars with a rousing game of Cow Pasture Bingo.
·         One group planned to host a Mississippi River Boat theme event in the courtyard of a small, enclosed shopping mall.  The foyer of an office building might work as well if the décor supports the theme.
When it comes to special events that make people want to attend, choosing an unusual location adds interest to the event, and dollars to the cause.  Just make sure that all the other elements are in place as well: The event is fun.  The committee has fun planning and hosting.  The event is well planned and executed.  The people who attend look forward to next year!

Kathryn Lima, founder of Faro Enterprises, is a consultant with over 30 years experience in marketing, public relations, and fundraising.  Send your questions about fundraising to her via email to  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Successful not-for-profits plan for the future

Fund Raising – Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow . . .
Sometimes even valuable agencies go out of business due to a failure to plan for the future.  One example is a now former local social services agency in my county.  The organization was forced to cease operations after only a couple of years, even though it seemed to have all the right things going for it.  It filled an unmet need in the community.  It did not duplicate the services of any other organization.  What had the leadership failed to do?  Why was did the organization fail?  How can your favorite cause avoid the same fate?  Read on.
This organization was formed with a five-year grant from the state.  Although nationally affiliated, this was the first chapter in our county and the need for its services were not being met by any other local agency. 
Using the state grant money, it obtained office space, hired staff – including a social worker – and began operations.  Right away a waiting list developed of people in need of this service, and the agency was up and running!
Two years later it learned that its state funding was being terminated due to the state’s poor fiscal condition.  With that news, the organization's leaders immediately terminated the social worker and began to recruit a volunteer board of directors who could help raise money from private sources.  It was too little too late.
                What did they do wrong?  What should they have done differently?  Here are a few suggestions that you should consider and share with any agency in which you are involved that seems to be making the same mistakes.
·         First, they started the program before putting the organizational structure in place.  If they had recruited a volunteer board right away, they would already have had a resource of help, ideas, and community ambassadors they could turn to when the going got rough.
·         Second, they made a dangerous assumption – that the state grant was secure.  Consequently, they relied on a single source of income.  As any savvy investor knows, diversity is the key.  The same applies to fund raising.  They should have begun development of a comprehensive fund raising plan immediately.  It is important to plan ahead.  Even if the state grant had been secure, they should have begun planning for the day the grant ended.

What’s the message here?  Sometimes, in our haste to get started we overlook the importance of laying the groundwork for elements – such as boards and fund raising plans – that need to be in place before we need them!  One of the biggest obstacles for successful fund raising is the failure to do today that which you might not need until later.  Because when you need it, it may be too late!

Kathryn Lima, founder of Faro Enterprises, is a consultant with over 30 years experience in marketing, public relations, and fundraising.  Send your questions about fundraising to her via e-mail –   Her web address is

Friday, October 28, 2011

Characteristics of a Successful Fundraiser

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get.  We make a life by what we give.”  A good fundraiser is generally a positive person who sees his/her profession as helping others make a life! 

In addition to that positive attitude, there are five key qualities that I have found make for a successful fundraiser.  I think these traits are more important than experience and formal training.  A successful fundraiser is:

1.   Passionate
Asking for money is difficult.  But if the person doing the asking – or directing the process – is passionate about the cause, that passion comes through, is infectious, and results in more and larger gifts.  In addition, passion is what keeps one going when all seems lost.
2.   Nosey
Good fund raising means matching the right prospective donor with your cause.  A good fundraiser pays attention to what people say, how they live, who they know, and every other seemingly trivial aspect of a person’s life.
3.  Fearless
In my seminars, I deal most often with fear – the fear of asking, the fear of rejection.  A good fundraiser is fearless in the face of overwhelming odds.  A good fundraiser has the attitude of, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
4.   Creative
A good fundraiser uses creativity to forge a win/win relationship.  Too late to get a challenge grant?  How about a grant that recognizes the funds raised to date – as a reward?  I took that approach once and it allowed my group to get a campaign-finishing grant that had seemed hopeless after our visit to the foundation.
5.   Persistent
Even if the first answer is “no,” a good fundraiser continues to learn more about that prospect, seeks ways to involve the prospect in the organization, tries to understand the motivation for the initial “no”, and continues to seek opportunities to ask again. 

Kathryn Lima has over 30 years experience in marketing, public relations, and fund raising.  E-mail your fund raising questions to her at
Happy Fund Raising!

Kathryn Lima
Faro Enterprises

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Maximize profits from your special event

A Sad Tale

On a recent visit to Massachusetts, I read a very up-beat story in the local paper about a fund raising event that attracted 400 people, garnered excellent attention to the sponsor and the issue, and raised $3,000.  That made me very sad.  Here’s why.
Over the years I have worked on many fund raising events – some more successful than others.  But to work as hard as this group had to work, and to have as successful an event as they had – gee, 400 participants – and earn only $3,000, is not a worthwhile use of people’s time and efforts.  Especially when they knew in advance how much they needed to raise – only $12,000 – and did not plan how to do that.
Too many willing workers and dedicated volunteers participate in fund raising events where the only goal is to “…raise as much as we can.”  So what do they need to do differently?  Here are a few tips:
·         Set goals.  You can’t measure your success if you don’t know what you were trying to achieve.  In the case cited above, the group was trying to cover a funding shortfall of $12,000.  I know of many smaller that raise that amount and more.
·         Solicit corporate sponsors.  Start with the businesses with whom you do business.  They will consider it a way of saying, “thank you” for the business you give them.  Price the sponsorship in proportion to the amount you are trying to raise – another reason setting goals is so important. – and create levels of sponsorship.  Each level will receive a different level of recognition at the event.  After your vendors, ask businesses that are interested in doing business with the people who will attend your event.  For example, the women’s golf outing attracts sponsors who want to do business with women.
·         Get services donated.  Reduce your expenses by asking for donated or reduced price services, such as printing, food, door prizes, etc.  Recognize donors like sponsors – in proportion to the value of the gift.  Remember, any service that is donated reduces expenses, and increases revenue.
·         Add other revenue generating activities to the event.  Don’t rely on ticket sales alone.  Have silent auctions with donated items, sell chances (if you are allowed) for drawings – again on donated merchandise. 
·         Make sure ticket prices cover expenses.  Once you’ve calculated how much your expenses will be, calculate the cost per attendee, then price tickets accordingly or reduce expenses via donated goods and services.  Sometimes a higher ticket price will add a touch of glamour to an event and attract even more people.  I have seen people in a relatively small, slightly rural community pay $75 per person to attend a black tie auction where they would be expected to spend even more during the course of the evening.  The price per ticket just about covered per person expenses, and the profits were made from the auction.  (By the way, this event in Missouri in 1985 netted almost $100,000 from a single event.  I was there!)

Remember, fund raising events require a lot of work.  Be sure the end results are worth the extra effort.
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Kathryn Lima, founder of Faro Enterprises, is a consultant with over 30 years experience in marketing, public relations, and fundraising.  Send your questions about fundraising to her via email to