Current State of Advancement: Is Your Acknowledgment Process COVID-19 Proof?

 

Are you struggling with how to fundraise in the current environment? 

Many institutions are. The uncertainty created by the pandemic, along with a slowdown in our economy and growing civil unrest, can make it difficult for your voice to be heard. 

So in these times and beyond, transparency and sensitivity are critical in your donor communications. How can you ask for funds tastefully, and genuinely thank the donors who contribute them? 

 

Advancement in a Pandemic: The Current Landscape

As you can imagine, this was a difficult year for individual giving. In fact, individual giving decreased by 6 percent in the first quarter of 2020, compared to last year. That’s nearly $25 billion in lost revenue for nonprofits if this trend continues throughout the year.

 

Although technology and data enable us to live and work in a socially-distanced world, these tools alone will not lead us to success. In the face of a global pandemic, our relationships have increasingly taken center stage. These relationships were always important, but COVID-19 has made us remember their true value. After all, human connections allow us to survive in the short term and thrive in the long term. 

 

Take a look at one of your most fundamental, human-connection-centric business practices—thanking your donors. This practice of planned gratitude, also known as your acknowledgment process, doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s greatly appreciated by the donors themselves.

But is your acknowledgment process COVID-19 proof? 

 

Assess and Document Your Current Acknowledgement Process

Currently, you probably follow a standard acknowledgment process that may look something like this: 

 

4 Tips to Revamp Your Acknowledgment Process

Since nothing about 2020 has been business as usual or typical, it’s not sufficient to use standard acknowledgment practices anymore.

Go a little further with your acknowledgment process and tailor it to the times. Below are four (4) tips to help you do just that.

 

1. Change Your Verbiage

Our first tip is to change your verbiage. The way you word your acknowledgment email and letter should address COVID-19.

Directly address how COVID-19 has had an impact on your institution, and on your community. Recipients will appreciate your honesty and they’ll empathize with your circumstances. Remember, we’re all in the same boat. 

If you don’t acknowledge COVID-19 in these communications, you risk coming across as if you’re going through the motions…and no one wants that. 

So, breathe deep, and craft a message as though you’re communicating from one human being to another—because you are. 

 

2. Thank Donors at Every Level

Gift minimums might’ve made sense before the pandemic, but they definitely don’t make sense now. 

Discard your gift minimums for saying thank you, and acknowledge anyone who gives a gift during these tough times. Throughout unprecedented uncertainty, these special individuals have decided to support your institution—now that’s a big deal! By thanking all your donors, you’re showing that you truly see and appreciate their efforts. 

 

3. Get Personal

Don’t be afraid to get a little personal. People appreciate those extra steps, especially amidst all this uncertainty. 

If your standard practice is to send an email or a letter, try giving people a call to thank them instead. After all, people’s routines have been disrupted, and they’re feeling more isolated than ever before. Hearing your friendly voice, and discussing something that evokes feelings of hope (like your institution), can add extra positivity to someone’s day. 

 

4. Expand Your Acknowledgement Process

Go beyond the donors, and expand your acknowledgment process. Don’t stop at expressing gratitude only to the people who’ve given a gift; include those who are fundraising on your behalf in your communication process. 

Additionally, pay attention to people who are sharing heartwarming stories about your institution on social media, and take the time to thank them. Expressing this gratitude one-on-one is great, but so is sharing their posts on your social media channels (with their permission). Doing this will amplify the appreciation on both sides while encouraging others to follow suit. 

 

Relevant Acknowledgment for Advancement: Final Thoughts

  • To recap, your current acknowledgment process likely needs an update for this pandemic world.
  • The current landscape for individual giving to nonprofits looks dire. Therefore, change is essential to survival.
  • When it comes to your acknowledgment process, don’t follow the status quo.
    • Change your verbiage, so that people can see how the current landscape has affected your institution and your community. 
    • Don’t set gift restrictions—thank donors at every level.
    • When thanking your donors, get personal. A quick phone call can come across as more heartfelt than your standard acknowledgment email. 
    • Expand your acknowledgment process to include those who are fundraising on your behalf and those who are sharing your institution’s stories on social media.

 

With these actions, you’ll be sure to strike a friendly, positive chord with those you’re acknowledging. These tips will help you in strengthening and maintaining your donor relationships for years to come.

 

If you would like an assessment and clear roadmap, contact us to Future Proof Your Acknowledgment Process.

 

We will help you create an acknowledgment process that is not only effective during the pandemic but sets you up for being responsive to your donors in the future.

A Promise of Accurate and Reliable Data – Learn How!

 

The promise of having accurate and reliable data is often made as a part of the implementation of a new CRM (constituent relationship management) software. It is that promise that often keeps every VP of Advancement/Development Services up at night trying to figure out how to miraculously transform over 10 years worth of information plagued by human error and evolving data entry procedures into something that is pristine, free of duplicates, and meaningful for all users. So why do we even take this on? Accurate and reliable data is critical to user adoption. There is no way of achieving all of the benefits that were listed in the project charter for this multi-million dollar system if no one uses it. So let’s take a look at how we can fulfill on this promise…

 

Continue reading “A Promise of Accurate and Reliable Data – Learn How!”

Why is Business Process Improvement so Challenging for Development?

Why doesn’t Business Process Improvement just happen?  This is an important question many institutions are trying to answer.  Let me suggest a better question to ask: What challenges will you encounter when trying to improve the critical processes that you use everyday?  Let’s investigate why this happens …

Continue reading “Why is Business Process Improvement so Challenging for Development?”

Are you learning your lessons too late?

If you are a diligent Project Sponsor and made sure that your team complied with industry best practices at the end of your project you participated in a Lessons Learned activity that pulled together the entire team to reflect on the project…

  • What worked worked well in the course of the project?
  • In what areas are there opportunities for improvement?
  • How can we get better results?

As each team members settles into the meeting usually on pins and needles expecting to be the target of rapid fire accusations for everything that went wrong. The project manager eases some of the tensions by establishing some ground rules and creating a learning environment for constructive feedback and solutions oriented thinking.

There is an uncomfortable silence until the one brave soul finally starts the conversation…

“Well, I thought adding an ice breaker to each meeting with our stakeholders got them more engaged, this turned into lively discussions and we were able to get more information about their needs, wants, expectations, and requirements. But, our method of managing the information was a little haphazard and it led to a lot of confusion and having to ask the same questions repeatedly.”

It just takes one person to start the conversation, pretty soon you can hardly keep up while one person after another chimes in with more examples. There is a frantic chorus of “oh yeah”, ” I agree”, “I remember that” as people start to dust off the cob webs of their memory to retrieve anecdotes, funny stories, unusual requests, victories, and defeats giving life to these project moments all over again.

It’s hard to disturb the conversation because you witness the natural team building and human connection that occurs during this process. The energy in the room is completely different than when meeting started, but there is still work to do. The project manager refocuses the team’s attention on the list of items identified for improvement. Its time to offer solutions and action planning – what can we do better? Once again a flurry of comments, suggestions, procedural solutions, system solutions, training solutions.

You are impressed by the wealth of information that was collected that will inform the next project. You are even more impressed by the process of collaboration, camaraderie, and collective problem solving. You compliment your Project Manager  for a job well done and feel satisfied that you are now equipped with insights for improvement.

So what happens next…


Nothing – Life goes on!

I am not making any judgements or accusations, I am just stating reality. It is rare that the lessons learned document that was created is even referenced after that initial meeting and as much as it pains me to say it, all of the great ideas for making things better in your organization are long forgotten.

So why does this happen?

This method does not take into account that there is a 90 day window where people must start seeing results to enact any real change. In other words you have 90 days to 1) clarify the idea or suggestion for improvement 2) create an action plan 3) get buy in 4) implement it (at least on a small scale) 5) measure it 6) communicate the results.

You’re probably thinking that this sounds like another project,  I don’t have time for that. What if I told you that this is possible by changing your team’s approach to the lessons learned process?

If you incorporate the lessons learned throughout your project, you will see the following benefits:

Effective Team Building – Lessons Learned activities during the project allow the team to collaborate and problem solve on real situations, not manufactured or simulated activities.

Culture of Continuous Improvement – Creating a culture of continuous improvement through frequent lessons learned activities allows for course corrections or change to occur in a timely manner. You have an opportunity to beat the 90 day time clock. Your team can actually learn the lesson and do something about it.

Increase Team Performance – Remember earlier how I described the anxiety in the room at the beginning of the lessons learned activity. This anxiety didn’t just appear, it has hampered your team throughout the project. By having lessons learned activities throughout the project, you give your team the opportunity to identify the problem, determine a solution, and move on. This eliminates a burden that often impacts performance.

If you are able realize these 3 benefits, not only have you sponsored a successful project, but you have impacted the way your team collaborates for future success. Doesn’t that seem like a lesson worth learning?

If you are the Project Sponsor for a non-profit CRM implementation and want to give your team the tools to be successful, send me a quick email at dauwn@precisionpartners.org to request a free project strategy session.

Author: Dauwn Parker, Principal Consultant – Precision Partners

This is not warm and fuzzy

I worked with one of my clients to plan the kick off meeting for their CRM Implementation project. I started with my workshop Tools and Techniques – Planning a Successful Project Kick Off Meeting and the team was brainstorming on how to meet each objective of the meeting..

Inspire – establish a context that is larger than the project

Inform – define the project, clearly communicate to users the impact of their involvement,  and establish how they will receive more information

Engage – get users involved right from the start

In prior discussions my client expressed concerns about getting their users involved in the project, so I suggested that they conduct a commitment exercise during the kick off meeting.

Here’s how it works…

  • Users  are given cards during the meeting to write down their commitment to making the project successful. To make the directions clear, you can have the cards pre-printed with “My commitment to  [Your Project Name] is …”
  • Executive leadership and project team members publicly share their commitment to the project
  • All of the cards are posted on a visual display and should be referenced throughout the project.

After explaining the commitment exercise I could tell something was wrong, the energy and excitement was sucked out of the room in a matter of seconds.  Finally, one of the project team members let the cat out of the bag – “We don’t do warm and fuzzy here, these type of activities never work”

Here is the reality…there is nothing warm and fuzzy about this commitment exercise. If you are not able to engage your users in your CRM implementation, you don’t have a chance at success.

This is the kick off meeting, the very start of the project, you are still in the honeymoon phase, if you are unable to engage your users at this stage, its time to roll up your sleeves and do some heavy lifting. The benefit of doing an exercise like this, even if it fails, it gives you a critical piece of information that you didn’t have before – are your users engaged in the project? If the answer is NO, its time to get a plan of action in place to get them engaged. This is all a part of change management and any strategies surrounding change management takes into account human responses and natural tendencies. What is clear is that people are rarely inspired by technology, but they are inspired by 1)achieving excellence 2)making a difference or knowing that their contribution made an impact 3)being a part of something bigger than themselves. With any CRM implementation the technology is a tool that enables you to achieve your organizational mission. Focus on that aspect during your kick off meeting, this is what people really care about.

So with a little trust in their project advisor, my client included the commitment exercise in the project kick off meeting – It was a huge success! 

Let me share with you what worked well…

The VP of Development gave an inspiring talk that created a context for the CRM implementation project and concluded with a clear call to action. Each person was charged with “making [the institution] a world class fundraising organization.”

The Project Manager provided clear information about the project approach and how users would get involved and most importantly the impact of their involvement on project success.

I moderated a discussion panel to inform users about Constituent Relationship Management strategies. The panelists provided their insights into the keys to success for a CRM implementation and any lessons learned from prior experiences.

The results…the board that was purchased to display the project commitments could not hold all of the cards because the response from users was overwhelming. Prior to the meeting the team was concerned that people would not even write one sentence – they wrote paragraphs about what they were willing to do to make the project a success. The users even waited in long lines to make sure that their commitment card was posted on the board for everyone to see.

If you are planning a new CRM implementation or planning the next phase of your CRM implementation and would like to increase the success of your project by having your users engaged from start to finish give me a call at 424.206.5379 or email me at dauwn@precisionpartners.org so we can set up a time to talk.

Let’s evaluate your CRM

Author: Dauwn Parker, Principal Consultant at Precision Partners

Maximizing the benefits of Constituent Relationship Management systems has become critical for organizations that are looking to solidify the long-term viability of their fundraising, advocacy, and advancement programs. This has created an urgency for organizations to find answers to the following question…

Why do so many Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementations fall short in the following ways?

    • Meeting the expectations of its users
    • Being the catalyst that transforms how the organization relates to its constituents
    • Ushering users into the age of “Self-Service”
    • Realizing the Return on Investment

THE CHALLENGE..

These common barriers to success are often the culprit that limit the success of a CRM implementation

Hurdle #1: Defining project objectives and measurable factors for success

With the pressure of developing an RFP, selecting a software vendor, packaging a project proposal and justification for board approval, magically garnering resources that are already overloaded – this critical step is often lost in the shuffle.

Hurdle #2: Implementation Preparation

CRM Implementations are often a new endeavor for an organization and the members of the project team. This often leads to the phenomenon of You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know. This lack of knowledge and preparation can limit project success before it even gets started and in most cases the impact isn’t realized until the project is well underway.

Hurdle #3: Support for Project Leadership

Software implementations are demanding and projects that seek to revolutionize the way an organization interacts with its constituents increases the need for peak performance by the Project Manager. All too often the Project Manager is asked to run the implementation marathon without a coach, proper training, preparation, or continued support.

Hurdle #4: Project Team Performance

Project team members must be fully engaged to become a high performing team. Fully engaged does not equate to a dedicated resource. No matter how much or how little a person is allocated to a project, the following factors must be present for a high performing team to emerge:

  • A team identity
  • Clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and expectations
  • Above all else a commitment to the success of the team
  • Continual reinforcement that their contribution is integral to the success of the team
  • Recognition and Appreciation
  • Personal and professional growth or value in their engagement

Hurdle #5: Project Health Assessments

Project status is most often measured by whether the project is on time, within budget, and the software application is delivered according to the documented specifications. While these are important elements to monitor this does not speak to the overall health of the project. Did the methods used to deliver a quality product on time and within budget cause a loss of trust between project team members or stakeholders, disintegration of cross departmental relationships, or loss of credibility for the project sponsor or sponsoring department? Most organizations would say that any of these negative impacts are not acceptable, but it often happens in projects without a structure for prevention or intervention.

Hurdle #6: Stakeholder Engagement and User Adoption

Many projects manage to engage a core set of team members who develop a solution that they wholeheartedly believe will meet the needs of the organization. It is the biggest threat to morale when after such a strenuous effort, the software application does not meet the most basic needs of some key stakeholders and declared unusable.

If you are currently facing these challenges that are threatening the success of your CRM implementation, Precision Partners Project Advisory Services is your solution.  

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