Fight of the Fund-Raisers! Part Two

In the last article RSC looked at some of the reasons why so many development professionals are either leaving or wanting toleave their current position.  In this article we’ll look at what your organization can do to attract and keep top-notch, productive fund-raisers.

As a quick recap from the last article, let’s touch on these three areas:

Fundraising is a team sport. 

Fight of the Fund-Raisers! Part One

A development director, new on the job, finds three envelopes in her desk drawer, left by her predecessor.  The envelopes read, “open at the end of year one, year two, and year three”, respectively. At the end of year one she opens the first envelope as instructed. Inside, the message reads, “Blame the Economy.” As the second year concludes, she opens the next envelope and it reads, “Blame the Marketing Department.” After three years she opens the final envelope, which contains the message. “Prepare Three Envelopes.”

RSC Launches Fundraising Educational Video Series for Non-Profit Organizations

Indianapolis – Robert Swaney Consulting, Inc. (RSC) has released the video series, “RSC: Arts Fundraising / Engaging and Keeping Partners”, available to the public free of charge, and accessible via Youtube. Featuring RSC Senior Consultant (and certified fundraising executive) Scott Giffen, the series captures excerpts from a workshop generously sponsored by the Missouri Arts Council and presented to local arts leaders in Springfield, Missouri. Aimed to provide “best practices” related to non-profit fundraising, RSC’s seven-part video series focuses on various sub-topics ranging from the 'Components of the Right Ask', 'Ask Techniques' and 'Thanking Your Donors'.

The Fiscal Cliff Deal and Your Non-Profit: Moving Forward with Practical Advice and Action

Contributing writing by RSC Senior Consultant Jeremy Hatch, cfre

Welcome to 2013! Less than a week into the New Year and already our world is changing with some mixed news from

Your Donors Can Make It!

Congress. Over the past few months, many RSC clients (along with board members, volunteers and donors) have expressed concern and fear about changes to tax law in 2013.  Some donors have stated that they will likely not be able to give with the same fervor as they once did because of the impending changes. 

Before donor-paralysis sets in, let’s look at what we know so far, based on the agreement passed by Congress on January 1:

Tasking Your Development Committee Without Pain or Panic

Contributing writing by RSC Senior Consultant Jeremy Hatch, cfre

Your season is launched, your direct mail campaign is underway, sponsorship is at a post recession high and renewals are coming along. What’s next?

It’s time to task your development committee for year-end fundraising success.

When Money Problems Persist – Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom

Every arts and cultural organization has the number.  The number needed for their organization to be fiscally healthy. The numerical panacea that would make the institution financially “whole”.  Even if inconspicuous, the number is there – on the balance sheet, in the strategic plan, or in the bucket named “unidentified fundraising” that the organization carries around year after year.

Trim Some More Fat?

A Mailbox Full of Noise

You are entering the last quarter of the calendar year and your annual fund campaign is just revving up. Reviewing your tactical plan, you prepare to send a direct mail piece to every current and past donor since 1915, along with some other prospects who might respond to a “now’s the time” mailer. Warning! If you haven’t put those wheels into motion yet, RSC says, “Get it going or prepare to wait.”  Those mailboxes are about to fill up with red, white and blue solicitations and there won’t be much room left in your patrons’ mailboxes.

There's a tree in my mailbox!

The Double-Edged Sword of an Annual Fund

The term “Annual Fund” can be a double-edged sword. 

Arts organizations are perpetually in fundraising mode and Annual Funds are the primary vehicle to secure donations.  By comparison, membership campaigns are similar, but Annual Funds are, well, more edgy.  But because Annual Funds run for a full year we’re often lulled into putting off that work by the illusion that we have all year to do it.  Other urgent issues arise. One day goes by.  Then another…and that side of the sword can cut deeply into your performance.

Rolling Up Your Sleeves and Tilling the Garden

Several years ago I had a particularly memorable conversation with a long-time volunteer of a regional symphony. Now, I can’t remember the circumstances of the conversation or how we got on the subject, but I remember her sweet, unassuming stature, passion and earnest when she reminded me that, “Back in the day we didn’t have paid staff to do everything. When something needed to be done, we just rolled up our sleeves and did it.” Pretty cliché statement, right? But there was something meaningful behind those words – and I was recently reminded just exactly what it was.

Client Spotlight: The Detroit Symphony Orchestra and RSC Partner to Achieve Stellar Annual Fund Success.

After coming out of well-publicized financial and labor difficulties in 2011, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's (DSO) Annual Fund is now on pace to grow at a rate not seen in over a decade.  

In mid-2010 the DSO engaged Robert Swaney Consulting (RSC) to create and implement the strategies and tactics needed to significantly grow the individual giving base.  Despite the extreme challenges facing the organization at the time, DSO and RSC staff worked together to produce a 32% increase in dollars and an 18% increase in the number of donors over the previous year.  Together, we not only reversed a decade-long negative trend in less than one year, but we also greatly surpassed the budgeted goal for the fiscal year.

The Fat Lady Sings at Opera Boston...

...well somebody had to say it.

If you haven't heard the news, Opera Boston will cease operations on January 1, 2012.  They cited "lackluster fundraising in a tough economic climate" as the primary factor that lead to a $500,000 "insurmountable" budget deficit.

I'll admit, I don't know much about Opera Boston's organization or the circumstances that led to the decision to close their doors, but I do know that many arts organizations -- even some around the Opera's $3M annual budget mark -- would dance a jig if their deficit totaled only $500k!  It just doesn't strike me as an insurmountable number....but who knows?

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