The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

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Just Hear No: Dealing with Rejection

The stakes are high. Emotions are exposed. And anything can happen.

Ask Andrea: "High Roller" Donor Tactics

Welcome to the final installment in the 2015 Ask Andrea series. In the new year, instead of answering your questions, I will publish my most in-demand blog posts on capital campaign fundraising.

Precepts for the Supremely Successful Board


I've never really kept track.

In my years of consulting, I suppose I've worked with 30,000 volunteer and professional fundraisers. Perhaps as many as 50,000. They come in all sizes and shapes and ethnic backgrounds. Tall, short. Heavy, thin. I've seen it all.

From this wealth of experience, I've identified 15 precepts that I believe board members should use as their guide. In my book, The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards, I spell them out in more detail.

  1. The mission of your organization is its most prized treasure—to be taken out for public display, to be cherished, and to be polished regularly to maintain its luster and value. Your mission isn't a recital of where you've been. It speaks eloquently as to where you're going.
  2. You make certain your organization has the financial resources to meet its mission. Money makes this happen. Board members cannot abdicate their responsibility for raising funds. They cannot allow a mission deficit.
  3. Trustees must be willing to give. This is what transforms vision into reality. If those closest don't give, it is a serious failure, a decaying of moral fortitude, determination, and dedication.
  4. You bring to each board meeting a probing, challenging, open mind. You ask, What are we achieving? Are we meeting our mission? What are the dreams and visions for the future?
  5. Understand that your organization doesn't have needs. The people you serve have needs. You have the answer. The response. The solution.
  6. It is an unforgiving failure if you come to a board meeting unprepared. If you're not familiar with what is happening, it sets a course for a rudderless journey in stormy waters. No compass, no direction, no bearings, no future.
  7. Policy determination is the province of the board and the board only. Policy execution is the responsibility of the staff. You are admonished not to meddle. There ought to be a "No Trespassing" sign firmly in place.
  8. You never lose sight that your organization is in the business of empowering and enriching lives.
  9. Complacency and even graduate growth are the enemies of organizational vitality. There's plenty of room at the bottom for the organization willing to limp along and live on past laurels.
  10. It is amazing, the wondrous things that can be achieved when a staff receives its proper recognition. Including salary recognition. You provide accord and acclaim for good performance.
  11. There are four levels of trustees. Those who make things happen. Those who watch things happen. Those to whom things happen. And those who don't even know what's happening. Your job is to make things happen.
  12. As a board member, you are less concerned about how things are done and greatly concerned about why things are done.
  13. The financial statement doesn't tell the story of your organization. The bottom line cannot be counted in dollars. The true net worth can only be measure in how you affect the lives of those you serve.
  14. A ho-hum board begets a ho-hum institution. Plain vanilla. No soaring hopes. No exciting aspirations. No creative solutions. It will never be able to respond to human and social needs. Your responsibility is to be continuously vigilant. To review, package, and revitalize the program.
  15. As a trustee, you are an advocate. You carry the flag. More than anyone, you're the goodwill ambassador and tell the organization's story whenever and wherever possible. Be a roaring enthusiast. Tell everyone about the amazing work your organization is doing.

As a board member, you are among the chosen few. Lives are being changed and saved because of you. You're the noble souls raising funds to provide the scholarships, heal the sick, feed the hungry, build the buildings, furnish the equipment, and find the cures.

You dream the unthinkable. Attempt the impossible. It is the magic of your involvement that leads your organization to success.

You will forever be, to use Ernest Hemingway's salute: "The winner and undisputed champion." 

The proceding is a guest post by Jerold Panas the author of The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards, Making a Case Your Donors Will Love, Asking, and Mega Gifts: Who Gives Them, Who Gets Them.

Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2016

Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2016 is an annual industry forecast about the ways we use private resources for public benefit.

What’s Better for Philanthropy than Zuckerberg’s $45 Billion Gift?

Mr. Zuckerberg’s pledge to give away 99% of his wealth - $45 billion – over his lifetime is getting lots of attention as a game-changer for nonprofits. What if I told you that nonprofits can also change the game? That by making one simple shift, they could generate up to $80 billion more each year without increasing their donations!

10 Ways Small Nonprofits Can Improve Their Major Gift Fundraising

Addressing the “Development Director Problem” with Relationship Capital

In 2013, nonprofit services firm CompassPoint released the results of a survey of 2,700 nonprofit development staff members and executive directors. The results were dismal enough that the survey has remained a talking point at conferences through 2015.

My Worst Fundraising Moment

I sat down for lunch with a generous donor.

Facts, Not Anecdotes; Fundamentals, Not Fads

As long-time students of the nonprofit sector and our civil society, we regularly feel adrift in a sea of anecdotes, stories, and received wisdom. This is a sector in which opaque institutions call for transparency and measurement, while supposedly mission-driven organizations seek to operate with flaccid and oftentimes unmeasurable missions. As alumni of the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) and McKinsey & Company, we are trained to be hypothesis-driven and fact-based: "My kingdom for a few facts!"

Top Fundraising Challenges Board Members Must Overcome

It’s not quite like sneezing with your eyes open—which I understand is impossible—but still it’s difficult to single out the top challenges board members need to grapple with when it comes to raising money.

Forward-Thinking vs. Backward Philanthropy

Philanthropy comes from the Greek term meaning “love of humanity,” but when you take a realistic look at the way we view charity today, much of it stems from Puritan ideas about penance and making up for wrongdoing or selfishness in other aspects of one’s life. A more forward-thinking philanthropist, instead would take a practical look at how they can integrate philanthropy into all aspects of their life, and achieve the greatest good overall, not just enough that they break even. Today, I’m going to take some time to explore what forward thinking philanthropists are doing, compared against old-school styles of philanthropy.

INFOGRAPHIC: The ULTIMATE Thank You for Nonprofits


Reprinted from Classy

Properly thanking supporters is a fundamental part of great donor stewardship. Sending a sincere thank you letter shows donors that their gift has been noticed and appreciated. Not only that, your thank you message is a chance to deliver the warm feelings of goodwill that drive people to give.

Strengthen Your Fundraising Appeal with the “MPI” Formula

Reprinted from the Fired-Up Fundraising Blog

How to Give with Your Head & Heart in 4 Easy Steps

Last week while I was on my way to grab lunch here in Washington, D.C, a nice gentleman in a blue polo approached me. He identified himself with Charity X and started to methodically solicit a donation from me for his organization. “Without your support, our [beneficiaries] won’t be able to [benefit.] Won’t you help?”

Top 9 Tips for Managing Your Junior Board

Every day BoardAssist is approached by enthusiastic millennials who are eager to be agents of change on a nonprofit board. Unfortunately many of these terrific candidates are either too young to be considered for a full board seat by our clients, or unable to meet the financial commitment required by our nonprofit clients. Until recently we had not been able to accommodate these terrific people and their generous desire to give back. Now we can, with our new Pilot Junior Board Matching Program!

On the nonprofit side, many nonprofits worry that starting or managing a junior board will require too much staff time and/or money for the results a junior board will generate. While that may be the case for some nonprofits, other nonprofits find their junior boards to be great investments. We believe the best way to ensure having a junior board is truly worth your nonprofit’s effort is to both maximize what your junior board accomplishes, while at the same time minimizing the staff time required to manage them.

5 Reasons the Public Is Losing Interest in Your Cause

What can you do when interest in your cause begins to wane?

It's a scary question, and one that many fundraisers and nonprofit marketers will face at some point.

Women at the Table: Placing Policy into Practice

In our first installment of the Women in the Nonprofit Sector blog series, GuideStar’s VP of Strategy Mizmun Kusairi shared her SOS model for success in Women in Nonprofit Leadership. Last week, Peggy Outon, Executive Director of Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management, contributed her story in Women in Nonprofits: Then & Now. Today, we welcome Anisha Singh White as she joins us for the third and final post.

Four Fundraising Traps and How to Avoid Them


Excerpted from How to Turn Your Words Into Money

Sometimes being a writer is like starring in a bad episode of The Twilight Zone. You're about to enter a dark forest to do something heroic. An old man appears from nowhere. He fixes you with bloodshot eyes and warns you the forest is full of traps. Traps, everywhere!

The Golden Key to Grantwriting

You would think, with this being the age of "all information available" via the Internet, that it would be so much easier to develop a compelling statement of need when you are writing a grant proposal. But in truth, it has become much harder.

With so much information available, how do you know which reports, statistics, or quotes to use to build a compelling case for support? Where do you look for the best data you can find? Where do you even begin to build a strong statement of need?

All need statements answer these four very basic questions:

  1. What is the problem that requires a solution?
  2. What will happen if this problem is not addressed?
  3. What is the gap between what exists now and what ought to be?
  4. Why do we need funding now to address this problem?

It will focus your research if you keep all four of these questions in mind as you dive into the task of writing a strong statement of need.

Tip! I actually write these four questions out and keep them on the wall of my office when I am writing a proposal. This keeps me on track.

Unearthing the True Need

Evidence and data are essential tools if you want to develop a strong case for support. The data you present must be relatively objective, however. While most people would say the evidence they present to support their need is objective, it's very easy to skew data—even if it is not intentional.

Consider this scenario:

Your nonprofit runs an afterschool program that is a bit stagnant. The program is maintaining its funding, but the outcomes, the results, are just so-so. The board of directors is beginning to question whether or not the program is having any appreciable impact, and you are sure it won't be long until the funders start to question this as well.

The program needs a makeover, and the director of the afterschool program proposes changes based on her experience.

A funding opportunity comes along, and there is a scramble to collect the data to support a proposed program makeover. Finding the data to support your statement of need isn't all that hard, because the solution to the problem (weak outcomes) has already been determined. You decide to develop a survey of your stakeholders to gather the information you need to generate the statement of need. In fact, the questions you develop are, at this point, actually biased to support your new plan of action.

So, what is wrong with this approach?

The problem with this approach is that, despite the best intentions, your statement of need will now be based almost entirely on the observations and experiences of a few people. It is in-built, a natural progression from an existing program, not truly data-driven!

The potential pitfalls in using a planning process like the one described above is that many individuals who review proposals on a regular basis look for this kind of documentation.

They know it is an easy pitfall for many an organization, not to mention the grantwriter, so you want to stay far away from this kind of reasoning. Instead, go after the documentation that will build a powerful, objective case for support that results in a plan of action that truly attacks the basic premise of your problem or need.

When you develop a need statement, you have to be aware that you are not only documenting the problem or need that is facing society but you are also demonstrating that the approach you propose is built on a solid understanding of that problem.

The need you are presenting, the need you are documenting and sharing with the grantmaker, is what I call a "true" need.

Remember, your overall goal is to convince the grantmaker that the information you are presenting in your statement of need is both accurate and credible, and that the resulting program or project you are asking them to fund is the best way to address this need.

If this topic interests you, I am offering a 90-minute webinar called The Golden Key to Grantwriting as a free gift if you join GrantStation over the holidays! You can learn more about this offer by going to GrantStation.

The preceding is a guest post by Cynthia Adams, CEO of GrantStation, a premiere online funding resource for organizations seeking grants throughout the world. Providing access to a comprehensive online database of grantmakers, GrantStation helps nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies make smarter, better-informed grantseeking decisions. GrantStation is dedicated to creating a civil society by assisting the nonprofit sector in its quest to build healthy and effective communities.

New Study Explores Trends and Challenges Impacting Nonprofit Finance and Accounting Professionals

Because you’re reading this blog, you’ve likely stepped away from your mountain of work for a little brain break. You probably needed the breather. It was on your terms. Your choice. And, you’ll soon return to your work feeling refreshed and focused.

4 Tips for Cultivating Corporate Volunteers

As corporate citizenship continues to grow in popularity, an increasing number of employee volunteer programs (EVPs) are appearing. In an attempt to better understand this volunteer demographic, VolunteerHub recently surveyed a group of nonprofits on the subject. Among the many findings, we found that a majority of nonprofits (70%) report partnering with corporations to gain volunteers.

Five Simple Steps to Better Giving: A #GivingTuesday Must-Read


Happy #GivingTuesday, nonprofits and donors of America! On this global day dedicated to giving back, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.