Wisdom Wednesdays: Ah, the Fun Parts of a Job!

by Phyllis Castens Wiederhoeft

There are those of us who love administrative tasks and then there are those of us who would just as soon get an ice cream headache than complete basic tasks.  The subject of this blog may be ice cream to some of you and a headache to others.  But in any case, we all have to consider the necessary and all-important task of registering our organization if we solicit donations from donors in states other than where our organization is based.

PhyllisI learned this requirement early upon arriving as ALDE Executive Director, and back in 2001, there was no such thing as the Unified Registration Statement (URS).  Now, the URS helps simplify the registration tasks, but as we get more sophisticated with online donations, new issues arise that can cause massive headaches if unheeded.

One such issue was brought to my attention by a new member who was informed that placing an online donation button on the organization’s website triggers the need to complete the URS.  I know that direct mail solicitation can only be completed in those states in which ALDE has registered and/or does not require registration.  Consequently, ALDE does not do a direct mail solicitation to members in Washington, D.C., because the registration process is too costly and cumbersome.  However, I had innocently thought that an online donation button and even our email blasts are passive enough that those methods do not violate state registration requirements.

Thankfully, and I do mean thankfully, this member’s question forced me to delve further into this issue and to catch up on recent developments.  My research points out that online and email solicitations do require registration in some states.  Therefore, I must get back to this administrative task of reviewing which states ask for what filing because I know that ALDE will not stop online and email solicitations.

The two resources that I have found most helpful thus far are:

There is a lot of information in the blog posting alone that may make that headache worse, especially for those of us who serve small organizations and don’t have a good tax adviser/legal department readily available.  But I highly encourage you all to complete this administrative task because having the IRS and states pursuing your organization will certainly cause even more headaches and more trouble than tackling the registration task.

Plus, be sure to do it annually!  That’s why I am grateful for the member’s question — I haven’t put this task on my calendar tickler and I must!  So I’m off to do this part of my job. Here’s hoping you too are spurred on to managing yet another “vanilla-flavored” task, saving the joyful, “butter pecan” aspects of meeting donors and receiving gifts for later.

Phyllis Castens Wiederhoeft, Ph.D., is Executive Director of ALDE.  She lives and works in Verona, Wis., where she enjoys gardening, biking, hiking, piano, choir and enabling her husband’s Model A habit.  She is the mother of two grown daughters.


Wisdom Wednesdays: Raising Major Gifts With Limited Resources, Part Three

by Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE

Read Part One
Read Part Two

Inquiring minds always want to know how many prospects a full-time Major Gifts Officer (MGO) can effectively manage.  The short answer: between 100-250 prospects at any one time.  Of course, this varies depending on a variety of factors — experience, other assigned office duties, the level of donor commitment to the organization, etc.

For many organizations, a full-time MGO is a “pie in the sky” dream.  But every development office can begin — in small ways — to develop a strategic approach to building relationships with larger-level donors through identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship to motivate ongoing and increased giving.

Miller-Dawn-webIt can be challenging, with limited personnel and financial resources, to create major gift strategies that are meaningful and that allow staff to build relationships consistently and carefully with this segment of donors.  Always ask yourself: “What is manageable with my current workload and budget?”

We know that a donor’s motivation increases as s/he becomes more engaged and involved with an organization or program.  Therefore, plan to spend the bulk of your time in the cultivation stage with your top donors and prospects.  Cultivation is really the process that builds personal connections that are key to major gift commitments.

Typically, there are three cultivation levels:

  • Introduction — Introduces the prospective donor to the organization and its initiatives to create an initial tie with the prospect
  • Engagement — Engages the prospective donor in the work of the organization
  • Preparation for the “ask” — Involves extensive communication about the prospective donor’s philanthropic capability and willingness to give, informs prospective donor in more detail about the needs of the organization and introduces solicitors

Know that cultivation leading to solicitation is a continuous process.  It often takes several contacts, or moves, over a period anywhere from a few months to several years to obtain a major gift from a prospect.  In many cases, it takes 24 to 30 months to successfully cultivate and solicit major gifts.

While you’re building your major gift program and cultivating your donors, consider the following tips:

  1. Pay attention to your current donors, not just “new” money and potential prospects.  Keep an eye on your donor attrition rate from year to year
  2. Treat your donors as partners, not as sources of cash. Donors are not ATMs
  3. Create strong relationships with the program/service folks at the nonprofit to strengthen your “selling ability” of the organization
  4. Work to truly understand your donor’s passion and motivation for supporting your nonprofit
  5. Keep your donors up to date on the programs or services they are supporting.  This can be easily done through briefing letters, phone calls and ongoing communication

As a development professional, your role is to help donors visualize — and realize — the various roles they may play in order to change lives and save lives through your organization.  With dedication and a consistent approach, your major gifts program will blossom over time.

Dawn M.S. Miller, CFRE, is Director of Consulting for Fund Development Services at Zielinski Companies in St. Louis, Mo.  Zielinski is one of our Resource Partners and was invited to post with us through their partnership.  Dawn can be reached at dmiller@zielinskico.com or (800) 489-2150.  Founded in 1957, Zielinski Companies helps nonprofit and religious organizations address their financial, management and planning needs.  The firm has a broad range of consulting service areas, including: Fund Development and Mission Advancement Consulting; Audit, Accounting and Tax Services; Property and Facility Planning; Organizational Management and Planning; Long-term Care, Facility and Staffing Consulting and Cash Management and Credit Card Services. For more information, please visit www.zielinskico.com.