Tag Archives: Nonprofit Resource Center

Finally! Online Community Giving Blitz Comes to Sacramento


In 2011, I wrote about Washington DC’s “Give to the Max” online fundraising blitz, and I’ve been anxiously waiting for something like that to come to Sacramento. This Monday, April 29, that moment arrives as Give Local Now, the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, For Arts’ Sake, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission and the Nonprofit Resource Center bring us the Arts Day of Giving. As happy as I am for the arts organizations that will benefit, I’m even more excited about what it potentially means for all local nonprofits. I caught up with Susan Frazier of Give Local Now to learn more about the event — and the progress of Give Local Now’s efforts to energize local giving.

Let’s start with the basics: what do you want people to do on April 29?

We want them to go onto givelocalnow.com, where they will be redirected to a special giving page. The page will be up over the weekend but they won’t be able to donate until 4:29 a.m. on Monday, April 29. It’s very simple and quick to get to a list of nonprofits and pick the one you want to donate to. The page can handle 10,000 transactions a minute so it’s not going to slow down. Check out the tutorial about a minute in:

You can also help by spreading the word. Local arts organizations stand to win prizes including $1,000 for the organization that generates the most posts on Facebook and Twitter during the 24-hour-period, but posts must be public and use the hashtag #artsdayofgiving.

Is this the first 24-hour online giving event in the area that benefits a group of nonprofits?

It is. You have to have sophisticated technology in place, which we now have, thanks to the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. The next online giving event will benefit the full sector of nonprofits, in May of next year.

The Sacramento Region Community Foundation has been terrific. The amount of labor and investment that they’ve taken on has been stunning. It’s a real gift to the region. They both funded and staffed the development of the technology.

Technology is more and more important to nonprofits. What technology was required to make this online giving event possible?

We integrated two pieces of existing technology: a database and an ecommerce/campaign tool. The database comes from Guidestar; they branded it as DonorEdge but we renamed it GivingEdge. The secure ecommerce/campaign tool provides the landing page for the day, which will instantly track and display each donation and all kinds of statistics as the day goes along. You’ll be able to tell which nonprofits are getting what and how we’re doing against our goal.

The database allows donors to see really robust information about a nonprofit’s programs, financials, management and governance. We only have the arts organizations profiles now but by fall we hope to have good representation of all sectors of the local nonprofit community. While Guidestar includes all IRS-registered nonprofits, those organizations will have to choose to complete a profile for GivingEdge. The database shines a lot of light and transparency on organizations.

What do you hope will be raised for the arts?

We hope to raise as much as $500,000. We have $100,000 in matching donations from a variety of corporate sponsors and businesses and restaurants that are offering discounts or freebies to contributors who show a receipt for their donation via print out or on their smart phone. And this was just added: Bistro 33 locations are offering a 20% discount to donors and Harv’s Car Wash will provide a free wash. We’re deeply grateful for the support of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, Western Health Advantage, Wells Fargo Bank, Barry and Lynda Keller, Enlow and Mel Ose Endowment for the Arts, Safe Credit Union, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, and the Jean Runyon Endowment for the Arts Fund, which will give a cash prize of $1,767 to the arts organization that raises the most overall during the event.

Why the particular focus on the arts?

The original initiative idea came from “For Arts’ Sake,” through Mayor Kevin Johnson’s office. They thought it would be a great use of their initiative and they knew they couldn’t do it alone.

What are you hearing from local nonprofits about their fundraising success as the local economy begins to slowly improve?

I’m hearing about a slight uptick, but there’s also a lot of concern among donors. As one donor said to me, “Darn, I thought this economic downturn would get rid of some of these nonprofits.” What’s behind that is some skepticism about whether the sector has too much duplication. Nonprofits are really frustrated with that, that they may not be able to attract donors, often because of a misperception. That’s something that this database can help with. It may show that they fill a need that other nonprofits do not, or suggest opportunities for collaboration.

What’s next for Give Local Now?

We’re gearing up with a bunch of different strategies. One of them is the nonprofit capacity piece, working through the Nonprofit Resource Center to build fundraising skills of nonprofits and their Boards through training, and to make them better stewards of the resources they have. We can help them with their message about why they’re worthy to invest in, as opposed to “help us because we’re desperate.” We’ve written a grant for a series of training sessions that will bring executive directors and Boards together to help them understand fund development better – their different roles and responsibilities as well as best practice strategies.

Another focus is measurement. In September 2011, we announced three ambitious goals: to increase the regional average of households that give to charities; increase the average household contribution of households that give; and increase the share of giving that stays here in the area vs. benefiting national or international charities. To help us track progress, we’re developing a set of measures using nonprofit partners’ results as the data source. But first, we need to get local nonprofits on the GivingEdge tool.

The third thing we’re doing is developing a whole suite of new tools that will help local nonprofits connect with donors. We are changing out the website to have a lot more donor tools on it, and to enable donors to get a lot more information about local nonprofits.

The fourth strategy is just an awareness and outreach strategy, with an underlying idea of building regional pride. If information about the cool things that are happening here were more broadly known, there would be a greater sense of pride in philanthropy.

What are some of the cool things you’re seeing?

One example is “Reason to Party,” which organizes events benefiting a cause they select as a way for 20-somethings to have fun and donate. It’s pretty inspiring. Another is the El Dorado Giving Circle, a group of several hundred women in the foothills who contribute individually and pool their donations to make an impact on a cause they select together. The Metro Chamber’s Project Inspire is another innovative way approach to philanthropy, where anyone who donates $250 or more can participate in supporting an exciting project benefiting the Sacramento area community.

Any parting words?

There’s nothing static about Give Local Now. New ideas come in everyday. I really see it as a snowball rolling down hill that’s picking up pieces as it goes. It’s a catalyst. We’re starting to attract people that can see this as a vehicle for change.

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Where will the money come from?

Speaking at the Nonprofit Resource Center annual conference on Wednesday, Jan Matsaoka of the California Association of Nonprofits (formerly with Blue Avocado) put things in plain terms: “You can’t talk about what you’re going to do… without talking about where the money will come from.”

For that conversation, she advocates using a “Matrix map” (a version of the BCG corporate portfolio analysis for you MBA types) to evaluate nonprofit activities according to their impact on mission and money. In Matsaoka’s tool, every major activity is a line of business — not just programs, but any activities that require significant management time or money. Fundraising events, holiday appeals, direct mail campaigns, etc., are just as much a line of business as a career closet.

What’s the point of putting your major activities in a fancy-schmancy 2×2 grid? Ultimately it’s about understanding and decision making.

Understanding comes first. You might discover that some things you’ve always done aren’t really valued, and they take resources that might be used in better ways. Her examples included a little-used resource library and a program that used to have funding. Matsaoka says these are “stop sign” activities (BCG called them “dogs”). You might discover other activities that are profitable but don’t have a lot of impact (“money trees”). The trick here is to see if there is a way to make them reach more people or achieve greater results. “Hearts” (or “question marks” in the original nomenclature) are activities that have high impact, but low profitability. Many close-to-the-mission activities fall here, but identifying them as money-losing (or at least not money-making) helps bring into relief the need for revenue that subsidizes these activities. And “stars,” of course, are activities that have high impact and high profitability. Highly effective fundraising strategies that do something to foster awareness of the nonprofit or cause AND support the general fund would fall in this quadrant of the matrix.

A completed example of a matrix map

Key to the Matrix Map: the strategic imperatives associated with each quadrant

The mechanics: a portfolio analysis like this one uses three variables. Matsaoka uses profitability and impact to plot a program’s position on the X and Y axes. A program’s profitability is defined as the revenue tied specifically to the program (fees, contract, restricted grants) minus “all in” expenses (including some allocation of administrative and overhead costs). Obviously, “impact” is a subjective indicator. You’re going to have to do some thinking about the criteria to determine how much impact a program has (see the next paragraph). The size of the program circle is determined by the cost of the program. (As an alternative, I imagine the number or volume of clients or encounters could be used instead of program cost/budget.) Creating such a chart in Excel is easy; once you have the three variables in their appropriate columns, select “bubble chart.”

If you lack reliable numbers, you can create a scale for any of the variables. For example, you could use a 5 point scale with 1 being low profitability and 5 being high profitability. For impact, you will have to create a scale since it’s subjective. Matsaoka suggests using no more than four factors when figuring impact. Examples: alignment with core mission, excellence in execution, scale/volume/reach, depth/comprehensiveness, fills important gap or need, community building. To that list I would add effectiveness/outcome. For example, you might rate a program 5 in terms of alignment with core mission, and 2 in terms of filling important gap if there are many similar programs in the community.

You may be wondering why a nonprofit’s fund development and marketing programs would be evaluated in the same tool with client- or market-serving programs. I admit that was my first reaction. But I do think it may be helpful to look at the array. If most of a nonprofit’s programs don’t generate revenue (as is the case with many aid-oriented programs), it is important to see that there are enough offsetting money-making programs.

Which brings us to decision-making. This tool isn’t just for understanding the situation facing a nonprofit. It’s intended to foster decision making. Considering a new program? Put it in the portfolio and consider how you’re going to get it to perform in a way that supports both mission and financial sustainability. The portfolio analysis can also be used to cull. By letting go of some programs that may be draining the organization, what will you be able to do, or do better?

Jan, with two co-authors, has a book out – Nonprofit Sustainability. Based on my quick scan as it made its way around the room, it looks like it has lots of examples of Matrix Maps. I’ve ordered a copy and will let you know what I think! Here’s a link to a pdf of a very similar presentation Jan gave a couple of years ago, with all of the slides.

Jan told the sell-out crowd for NPR Center, “The most previous and scarcest resource is the time and attention of its senior leaders.”

“Be ruthless,” she added, about making sure that your resources are invested where they will make the greatest difference.

P.S. If you get the chance to hear Jan speak, do it. Fastest, funniest presentation of this type you’ll ever see.

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What do nonprofits have in common with vampires?


Attendees saw "A Day in the Life" of North Sacramento photos


We could all take a page from our kids:  there’s nothing quite like a good story.

Here’s what nationally recognized public interest communications expert Andy Goodman bluntly told the audience of approximately 300 nonprofit staff members at the Nonprofit Resource Center Annual Conference today:  We have great stories but we suck the life out of our stories.  We are story-telling vampires.

Having gotten the attention of the audience, Goodman went on to dissect nonprofits’ program and mission statements.  It wasn’t pretty.  Burdened by jargon or mind-numbing numbers, they were dead on arrival.

If you’re not telling stories — consciously, deliberately — then you’ve got to start.  And if you are telling stories, you need to do more, he told the group.

What makes a good story?  They follow a classic pattern.  Act one:  We are introduced to the protagonist and learn something about their world.  Something happens to throw the protagonist’s world out of balance and a story is in motion.  Act two:  The hero encounters an obstacle, something that makes you wonder, “What happens next?”  And act three:  The protagonist overcomes the barriers and the tension is resolved.

Where most nonprofits go wrong is in telling formulaic stories that skip the most important part, the barriers.  We haven’t started to root for the protagonist before we are told how the nonprofit fixed everything.  When we tell stories, too often they are bloodless.  The detail of the barriers — first one, then another — is what rivets our attention.

An organization is best understood as the sum of its stories of the things it has done, and will do, Goodman told the group.  Therefore, organizations should identify its core stories and makes sure everyone — staff, volunteers and board — know them by heart.

Goodman said organizations should have a solid repertoire of six kinds of stories:

  • The “nature of our challenge” story.  Example:  A literacy organization could have a story about how parents couldn’t help their children with their homework.
  • Creation stories.  Example:  Everyone at Sacramento Loaves and Fishes knows the story of how Chris and Dan Delaney founded the organization out of the back of their car when they started delivering sack lunches to homeless people camped near Highway 160.
  • Success stories.  Example:  Women’s Empowerment provided Regina with training and job-seeking assistance to get back on her feet after becoming homeless during the period she cared for her terminally-ill mother.
  • Performance stories.  Example:  Rather than just talking about its evidence-based practices and strength-based approach, River Oak Center for Children explains how it achieves clinical results by sharing stories like this one about Darren.
  • “Striving to improve” stories.  You won’t usually find these on websites, but these are the stories of mistakes and problems, and how organizations recovered from them, learned and got better at what they do.
  • Stories of the future.  This one isn’t in story form yet, but it could be.  Imagine the Sacramento Tree Foundation talking about how life in Sacramento would look for a child born 10 years from today as she walks to her first day of elementary school on a hot fall day under a shaded canopy of trees.  Today they say they’re leading to plant 5 million trees by 2025.

Learn more about Andy Goodman or check out his online training workshops at The Goodman Center.  Also be aware that they’ve established a scholarship program for nonprofits.

Thanks, Nonprofit Resource Center for a worthwhile day (and great value)!

(And for the many curious friends and readers who have asked, all is well with me but I have been sucked into working to defeat Measure D, the incorporation proposal, for Arden Arcade here in Sacramento.  If you want to know more about that, ask to receive the e-newsletter:  staysacramento@gmail.com.)

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Strategy maps: great tool for improving nonprofit performance

I had such a great time Tuesday visiting with 15-20 nonprofit executive directors on the topic of strategy maps (Kaplan and Norton), under the auspices of the Nonprofit Resource Center.  I co-presented with Dr. Mary Hargrave of River Oak Center for Children, to whom I introduced the idea of strategy maps in June 2008.

Don’t you love it when someone takes an idea you give them and absolutely knocks it out of the park?  Mary did.  As Mary explained to the group, a clinical organization like ROCC, especially one that is so focused on evidence-based practices (and JCAHO accredited, no less), is already focused on data.  But that doesn’t mean that the data helps the organization know if it’s achieving the right level of performance on the factors that have greatest impact on its ability to achieve its mission and vision.  In other words, measures that help the organization know it’s doing the right things right.

Mary took the strategy map I drafted to her management team.  They hashed it out until they made it their own.  And now, month-by-month, the organization can pinpoint — down to the team level — where they are and aren’t making their mission critical targets.

While I introduced strategy maps to Mary with the idea of increasing clarity among the Board, she has used it to improve operational execution.

All of that sounds very “business-y”, but it boils down to ROCC being able to successfully provide solutions for overburdened families, with financial strength “into perpetuity.”

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