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Five Big Questions (and Answers) Every Fundraiser Should Know




I recently spoke in Richmond at the Virginia Fund Raising Institute conference. VFRI is a cooperative effort of all of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) chapters throughout Virginia. These chapters organize annually to coordinate the VFRI in order to advance philanthropy through education and fellowship.

I like speaking to fundraisers because they deal mostly with people outside of the organization. They’re the ones that need to articulate the value proposition of their organizations and try to convince donors to part with some of their hard-earned money. Fundraisers face reality in the eyes of their constituents every day: How is our organization perceived? Do people value our work? What could we be doing better? As I frequently remind my staff, we don’t get a vote on determining how we are doing – it’s our users and stakeholders that do.

The title of this year’s conference was “Navigating the New Normal,” and that gives you some idea of what was on the minds of these Virginia fundraisers. I presented a session along the lines of the same theme, focusing on how big changes in society (such as more demand for data and more skepticism about institutions) and trends in philanthropy (such as more donor engagement and the power of the Internet) are changing the scope of work for fundraisers and in many ways making their jobs more difficult. Hanging over our heads was the down economy and the cloudy prospects for the year ahead.

As part of my session, I introduced them to Charting Impact, our new effort we recently launched with Independent Sector and the BBB/Wise Giving Alliance. We are urging every nonprofit to take the time to commit some serious effort towards answering the Charting Impact questions and spending time with their board and major stakeholders to discuss the answers. The five questions are:

  1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?
  2. What are your strategies for making this happen?
  3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?
  4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?

5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?

To test the value of these five questions at VFRI, I broke the room into small groups and asked the participants to test out the questions using their own organization as an example. The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. The fundraisers found the questions “valuable,” “meaningful” and “exactly what we need to be successful fundraisers.” One person told me it helped him more than any other session that day in learning what he needed to do in order to raise more money. If you haven’t done so, I hope you will take a look at Charting Impact and let me know what you think.

I ended the day with a quote from Andrew Watt, President and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and coincidentally the keynote speaker at the conference. Commenting on Charting Impact, he said

“Donors don’t support a cause because of its efficiency; they support a cause for the impact that it secures for society – for all of us. Charting Impact will help to focus nonprofits – and their boards – on how to communicate who they are, what they achieve and how they achieve it, skills that all of us need to develop.”

Fundraisers: what other tools do you use to showcase your organization’s impact?

Bob.jpgThe preceding is a guest post by Bob Ottenhoff,  Chief Executive of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. With an entrepreneurial spirit, strong technology focus, and a quest to make an impact in the world, Bob has the ability to take an organization and lead it into strong performance, sustainability, and industry leadership.

Topics: Fundraising