Lydia Sierra
Author Archives: Lydia Sierra

Has Your End-of-Year Fundraising Campaign Gotten Lost in the Shuffle?

It’s pretty late to start planning a fundraising campaign. Ideally, your year-end appeal would have gone out before Thanksgiving, but I’ve been in this field long enough to know that I’ll continue to hear from organizations I love and support, even as the date inches closer to the holidays.

I understand: You didn’t have the time or the capacity to plan a campaign, but you don’t want the year to end without making at least a small effort to raise funds. I’m here to tell you that all is not lost! There are still steps you can take to maximize the effectiveness of your last-minute appeal.

Here are some best practices and tips for launching a 4-Week Fundraising Campaign:

#1 Activate leadership and staff at all levels

To get things rolling, set up a meeting (or, if you can, a few meetings!) – with your Board, your staff, and maybe even your most active volunteers and constituents. The goal is to engage all of your most important stakeholders in the fundraising effort. Here’s an example of what the agenda might look like:

  • Introduce the fundraising campaign
  • Ask everyone if they will participate, and how much they might realistically raise from their personal networks. Ask them to create lists of prospective donors.
  • Tally up the donation projections and make fundraising goals for each team, i.e. Board, staff, volunteers
  • Create a fundraising campaign theme that will inform all forms of solicitation
  • Make sure that your website has a payment platform (i.e. Paypal, Stripe, etc.), or use FaceBook’s fundraising platform.
  • Schedule a second meeting to create the pitch, and ask that everyone come prepared to share their personal reason for supporting your organization
  • Set up a calendar with dates for calling personal networks. Remember, an email or a social media post is not enough to achieve real donor cultivation. Everyone must make their calls.

#2 Don’t expect to warm up a cold list at the end of the year

I see so many organizations that are not regularly active online or via email newsletter, but launch their fundraising campaigns with a social media or email ask. Imagine your response if you heard from a beloved friend only two times a year, and the second time they asked for money! You can see that it’s not the ideal strategy… I’m not saying you shouldn’t send an end-of-year email in conjunction with your campaign, but unless you are regularly engaged with your community in this way throughout the year, that email should focus more on sharing the impact of your work, than on asking for donations.

Let’s be real: At this point, your biggest opportunity for success is through direct solicitations: You, your Board members, and your staff and volunteers should start calling your closest colleagues and friends to cultivate those relationships. Though it’s still essential to plan and implement an appropriate online strategy, the focus of a late year-end appeal should be on personal networks – those people you already have close relationships with, and who are engaged and committed to your mission in some way.

Simultaneously, you should create weekly emails, blog posts, or video blogs, and four weeks worth of social media posts that educate and inform all followers of your organization’s mission, who you serve, and your impact in the field. Provide everyone who has agreed to participate in the fundraising campaign with the links to your social media and website, videos, marketing pieces, and other material they can send to their networks and post online.

#3 Check-In

Schedule a meeting and ask everyone to share their experiences with the phone calls and making their pitch. This will strengthen everyone’s confidence, give them fresh language and ideas, and inspire them to keep making calls. If any donations have come in, this is the perfect time to share what has been raised, and instigate some momentum!

#4 Remember to Say Thank-You

Not only to the donors, but to the Board members, staff, and volunteers who stepped up. Starting a campaign this late in the game requires dedicated people who are passionate about your organization and willing to extend themselves on your behalf. They deserve to be recognized as ambassadors of your organization.

Count your successes and examine the lessons you’ve learned. Consider this a test-run of your current fundraising capacity. No one should be made to feel bad because they weren’t able to give their all to this campaign under last-minute pressure. But those who were ready to open their networks and “make the ask” will learn from the process and be better prepared next year, when you will plan in advance to provide training and support for an even more successful campaign.

Let 2020 be the year when you immerse your organization in fundraising and develop a fundraising culture from the Board to the volunteers.

Let me know if you have any questions or if you found this article helpful.

All the best,

Lydia

Spring Is Here… Time for Pruning Programs and Services!

For most of us, spring is a time for spring cleaning. Many of us have been watching Marie Kondo on Netflix and saying thank you and good-bye to those things that don’t bring us joy anymore. For some of us, now is the time to detox our bodies, start a fast, cleanse our systems, and re-charge. And for those of us who are leading and managing our own businesses, churches, and nonprofit organizations, now is the ideal time to stop and assess what is working and what isn’t.

Why? Because the new season requires renewed energy and resources.

For some nonprofit leaders, this assessment may lead to the elimination of programs that do not receive designated funding. If a program is not generating revenue and there is no plan in place to establish dedicated support within the next quarter, the best choice for the long-term health and stability of your organization may be to close the leaks in your expense budget right away and shut down some programs.  This can be a very difficult and emotional decision when you believe those programs are truly benefitting a small group of people in need, but it’s important to keep in mind that your organization is only one part of a larger tapestry of support in your community. This is one of the reasons I am a huge advocate for collaboration and partnerships. No one organization can meet all the needs of individuals and families in need, and an integrated network of organizations that serve aligned constituencies or interests can leverage their power for the greatest possible impact.

My years of experience have taught me to recognize the signs that pruning must be done. To “prune” is to “cut away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.” Pruning what is no longer fruitful to your organization and/or community is necessary to ensure a nurturing and fertile organizational structure that supports continual growth.

What do YOU have to prune?

Start by asking…

What are my priorities?

What must be done within the next quarter, six months, or year?

What resources are needed?

How much are those resources going to cost?

Where is the revenue going to come from?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your role as a leader, this process of spring cleaning can be especially restorative. I see many organizations start programs without securing the necessary human or financial resources to support it, adding to their own workload and risking staff burn-out. This impulse comes, of course, from the passionate desire to meet the critical needs of the community, but is not sustainable. Like a mother caring for her baby, we must make sure we, as individuals and organizations, are robust and stable so we have the strength and capacity to nurture essential programs and services.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “My board, my staff, even my community will not understand or support my decision to cut programs and services.” My response to this is, “The numbers don’t lie.” Start gathering the data to show that you are making an informed and critical decision, and then plan your next board and/or staff meetings. Once you remove programs that are draining your resources, you will see your other programs flourish. Staff and client morale will increase and you will find work much more manageable, and even better, you may begin to find renewed joy in your work!

Many of the leaders I work with feel alone in these challenges. It can be hard to find peers and confidants whom you trust with confidential information, as it seems everyone knows each other in your circle. This is what makes Executive Coaching so appealing.

I hired an Executive Coach over a year ago and the truth is that my coaching calls have helped me to focus on my priorities, manage and develop my business, and they have increased my bottom line. I’m hooked on coaching and I most likely will never go without it again. I’m actually thinking now of adding different coaches to my network to help me in other areas of my life. I trust the framework. I respect the framework. And I humbly admit I need the support. I have also seen how regular coaching calls with my clients helps them find clarity, gain confidence, move forward, and achieve their goals.

Enjoy your spring cleaning and if don’t hesitate to ask for support!

In Love & Solidarity,

Lydia

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Welcome To My Blog!

Hey there!

This is Lydia and I’m so glad you are here!

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I look forward to getting to know you and your organization!

xo

Lydia