Growing New Shoots: Back to Basics Brings Big Results

Since returning to Austin in 2013, I have enjoyed working with organizations that are relatively new, some that have been in existence for a few years but are establishing formal offices (with paid staff versus being all-volunteer), and organizations that wish to expand their good work into new territories. Helping them achieve their goals has been an eye-opening and rewarding experience.

But in each case, I have been challenged to return to the “basics.”

With years of hands-on major gift experience (sometimes operating in remote locations with little or no staff support), and being well-versed in the kinds of pointed questions donors and professional advisors ask nonprofits today, I have helped several social good organizations try new methods and to inspire the trust of donors through key infrastructure improvements.

This critical work is not to be taken lightly. It requires patience on the part of staff who frequently say they are, “too busy” to stop working on programs to provide answers to the myriad questions one must ask of them in order to move forward. But taking the time is worth it!

I created a slide presentation that outlines some basic systems for startups and nonprofits with few staff, that I recommend. In fact, I updated the presentation, and gave it as a public presentation to the Association of Computer Scientists at Sam Houston State University in March, 2017.

I believe there will always be an emphasis on doing “more with less” in today’s lean nonprofit world. With a little financial investment, however, nonprofits can avail themselves of some amazing and helpful tools.

  • Google apps provide email, cloud storage for documents and photographs, easy access to video creation tools, hangouts and more. There are other tech companies that provide similar services, but I admit, as a “Googler” I enjoy using Google. There are also special Google programs for nonprofit organizations, and you should avail yourselves of those resource as well.
  • If nonprofits establish a free account on GuideStar and claim their nonprofit profile (which is already in existence, populated by GuideStar with tax returns uploaded from the IRS), they can share their success stories in detail. The more information shared, the more likely they will be to secure one of the coveted GuideStar seals for transparency. And that seal can be affixed to nonprofit websites, social media and more. The GuideStar seal has become a source of great pride and rightly so. GuideStar visitors can also donate directly from your nonprofit profile if you approve.
  • GuideStar has also partnered with other helpful platforms like AmazonSmile, GreatNonprofits and Crowdrise. If you thought Crowdrise was only for “crowdfunding,” think again. One can make donations to a nonprofit on Crowdrise for any purpose, as well as support crowdfunding campaigns, and the transaction fees are lower than many other platforms. Testimonials are increasingly important in today’s crowded nonprofit sector, and GreatNonprofits can help you there. GreatNonprofits is also linked to GuideStar and it makes attracting and sharing testimonials easy and fun. AmazonSmile is a simply way to receive donations from those shopping on
  • Another assumption from my experience with GuideStar is that it will continue partnering with other helpful nonprofit services in the months and years ahead. Eventually, grantmakers may be able to upload financial and other data about nonprofits directly from GuideStar, which will make it easy for both nonprofit organizations and grantmakers. Nonprofits will then have one platform to update and maintain for much of the “back end” information grant makers require in grant proposals. Stay tuned!
  • Although many nonprofits are loathe to take the time required to complete its extensive (free) application, I do recommend joining the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Again, affixing the logo to your online platforms is a badge of honor and helps promote trust on the part of donors and potential donors. One extensive section of the BBB questionnaire concerns how you fundraise, and I believe that may be the most important part of it!
  • On another front closer to my own expertise with major gift campaigns, during a recent local tech club meeting regarding the functions of Microsoft Office 365, I now believe one could configure the platform specifically for managing major gift campaigns, including volunteer communications and ongoing reporting. There is a modest monthly cost for Microsoft Office 365, but I believe investing in that platform would be well worth it. I would love to be in a “think tank” on this idea.

This discussion only scratches the surface of what is possible in terms of “tech” and the management of fundamental and critical nonprofit work.

My message is, if you will take the time to learn about and use these helpful tools, you and your nonprofit will become more productive, efficient, you will be on the “cutting edge” as time moves forward, and you will open the door to more (and larger) donations.

If you click on the three small bars that the top of Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog, you will find a widget with links to two GuideStar case studies created by me in partnership with the GuideStar staff. I’m a believer!

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