How To: Plan for the Plan

I just got a survey in the mail from a nonprofit I donate to once or twice a year.  It says it’s an annual survey of all it’s close friends. It also specifically says that amid the current pandemic, my input is very important as “we attempt to navigate through some tough challenges.”

To me, this is a very smart move for this small nonprofit. Instead of guessing at what donors/volunteers want from their favorite nonprofit, they took the time to ask. Taking the time to ask and get feedback streamlines programs, fundraising strategies and marketing later on. It is a very efficient exercise to spend time on planning the plan now and then focusing on what the donor/volunteer/member wants throughout the year.

As we all search for the “new normal” it occurred to me that assuming we (the nonprofit leadership and staff) know what the “new normal” looks like for our donors and other stakeholders is dangerous to the recovery of the nonprofit sector. For example, assuming that your nonprofit should “press pause” on your fundraising annual plan or kicking off a new service or program without getting feedback from those who might support it would be detrimental to the staff who would run it, the participants who would use that program or service and the donors who are passionate about impacting their communities.

Create the time to “take the temperature” of your donors/volunteers and participants before forging ahead on a campaign or program that you think fits the current needs of your constituents. Here are some cost effective ways to implement collecting data and feedback:

  1. USPS- Much like the nonprofit mentioned, you can send a letter with a short (no more than 15 questions) survey. For best response, send a stamped envelope for the surveyor to send back and an option to fill out the survey online.
  2. Online Survey- Email an online survey to your constituents to fill out. With some online survey tools you can add a link to your social media platforms as well. Again, keep it short and simple. No more than 5 to 10 questions.
  3. Facebook Group Poll- Facebook give you the opportunity to poll members of your group. So if your nonprofit has a Facebook group set up, you can poll that audience one question at a time. This is an option for questions and answers that can be shared with anyone since there is no confidentiality.
  4. Face to Face Surveys and Focus Groups- With these types of survey environments, confidentiality can be provided and more in-depth and sensitive questions can be asked without the risk of ruffling feathers.

In all these instances it is important to uncover quality quantitative data and anecdotal evidence of the needs and direction the stakeholders would like to steer the nonprofit. Data that can set benchmarks and begin the goal setting process. Ancillary benefits typically bubble up from a survey process; volunteer leadership and support from unknown sources are uncovered. Unknown but perceived issues, strengths and weaknesses are also uncovered through asking for feedback.

So while we all start to open our businesses and nonprofits again we must take a pause to consider our new normal, learn from our supporters and move forward, together.

Have You Asked the Board?

I was sitting in on yet another virtual meeting a few weeks ago with two panelists who are working in nonprofit fundraising. The topic? You guessed it. The impact of fundraising during a pandemic. The panel was going over the shift in programs, communications and administration and the rapid change that’s had to happen. What stuck with me was that one organization was running so quickly to shift and change to abide by guidelines that they almost forgot to involve and do outreach to their Board of Directors.

At the time I remember being snarky in thinking, “What’s new?” But it got me thinking. Any time, but especially in a crisis, local to the organization or world-wide, continuously keeping your board involved and engaged will lead to higher rates of success. Nonprofits of any size have board members who are passionate and willing to support their cause. Other than staff, they represent the closest constituents to your organization so they should be well informed on how the nonprofit is moving forward through these uncertain times. So remember to include them when it seems appropriate.

Fundraising is not just about asking for money but starting and maintaining relationships with those who also care about the same cause. Here are three social distancing ways you can include your Board of Directors in fundraising:

  1. Educate your board of directors on how the organization has been impacted by the pandemic. Has the need for your services increased? Or decreased? Are you an essential nonprofit? Have you started new programs/services because of an increased demand? How has the pandemic impacted your ability to staff your nonprofit? Do you have anecdotes and stories you can share with the board the shows the impact? The answers and others form the new case for support for your organization’s sustainability through 2020.
  2. Once you have educated them on the new case for support ask them to be part of spreading the word. Donors, volunteers and online followers simply need to know that you are still providing services, still building programs for education or animal welfare or arts and culture, etc. The balance is to make it easy to do at home or socially distant. Here are some ideas based on non-profit sectors:
    1. Environmental/Parks: Ask Board Members to create a “how to” video on how to safely use parks in their area with the new CDC rules.
    2. Animals: Create videos of board members with their animals from home playing fetch, with a cat toy or on a horse.
    3. Arts & Culture: Ask a board member to teach dance, or create art in a video to promote any virtual programs.
    4. Health: Ask a board member to create a video of them making personal protective equipment.
  3. Ask board members to send out thank you cards to donors. There is always time to thank someone for their time, talent and/or treasure. So make it more personal by providing your board members with thank you cards, a list of addresses and stamps to send a personalized greeting from a fellow donor/volunteer.

All of these ideas aren’t just for when the world is facing a very contagious virus and we are all quarantined. Try them out now and see how your organization can implement them in other ways.

Do you have other ideas Board of Directors can do to help promote and advocate for their nonprofit? Tell us about it on Facebook.

2007 National Senior Games #FBF

Happy belated 2015! In the new year, we’ve been reflecting about clients, their supporters and those whose mission focuses on healthy lifestyles. One of our best experiences was working with the Louisville Sports Commission and the National Senior Games. The National Senior Games is a sports competition held every two years for seniors from North America. With more than 10,000 competitors and 20,000 spectators, it the largest multi-sports event specifically devoted to adults ages 50 and older.

Louisville Senior Games logo

The custom made Louisville Senior Games logo.

The Louisville Sports Commission was bidding on hosting the competition in 2007. To host an event of this size the entire community has to be a part of supporting it. So the Commission asked for a planning study to be completed. They wanted evidence that organizations, businesses and foundations in the city and region would support an event that would raise the awareness of healthy living.

The planning study, successfully completed by GF&M, reflected community support, and identified volunteer leadership, sporting venues, along with potential sources of financial support to move the project forward.

The Sports Commission contracted with GF&M to conduct a campaign for the Games. With leadership from the Louisville Host Committee, we were successful in generating over $4 million in local and national support for the Louisville Games. In fact, GF&M’s role with the Senior Games extended beyond Louisville. We created a multi-year sponsorship for Humana and Astrazenaca both of which are still supporting the Senior Games today.

#TBT 2001 Intel ISEF

In 2001 GF&M had the honor of working with this fabulous group of volunteers during the Intel ISEF hosted in San Jose, California. Our role was to support the fundraising and event management of the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). This host committee worked tirelessly to create one of the best Intel ISEF’s ever.

‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ – Winston Churchill

Inte ISEF 2001 host committee

Intel ISEF 2001 Host Committee

#TBT FFA National Convention

FFA National Convention

FFA students march into their annual National Convention in Louisville

As a firm, we are very proud of our headquartered city. As a native of Louisville, I have a personal belief that as a community member it is my duty to be an ambassador for the home team. Every new “transplant” I meet, I welcome them to Louisville and try to provide a few new cool things they should discover about the city and the state.

When GF&M partners with Louisville’s Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), we have that same opportunity, but on a whole new level!  Since 1992, GF&M has had the opportunity to partner with the CVB on many different projects like the Intel ISEF, the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial and the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Associate to mention a few.  In the 1990’s, as FFA was just starting to think about moving the National Convention out of Kansas and possibly to Louisville, GF&M was tapped by the CVB to help develop a strategy for sharing this unique opportunity of bringing “65,000 blue coats” to Louisville with our corporate and civic business leaders. The question that needed a response was WHY Louisville would be interested in hosting an essentially Agri Business property of high school students.

GF&M understood the challenge and proposed a strategy that would showcase the value of one of FFA programs, the leadership training. The idea was to take FFA student leaders into  corporate and foundation offices, letting the students tell their stories of what FFA had done for them, and what they now, as student leaders, wanted to do for FFA and the future membership. This strategy gave Louisville leaders a first-hand experience with the quality of the student leaders. The meetings showcased the student’s ability to meet diverse leaders with a variety of interests and backgrounds, and to respond to their questions in a balanced and professional manner. The response of the business leadership was terrific!

These early meetings provided the basis for the development of future relationship with Louisville businesses and foundations. As the students shared their stories, which were  reinforced by convention attendees, Louisville’s respect for the work of FFA and the quality of the student participants was increased. From the early meetings, a host city committee was identified to streamline FFA’s request for the Convention including their need for volunteers, judges and funding. Today, Louisville is on a three year rotation cycle with Indianapolis. While the rotation offers challenges, it also provides the region with an opportunity to recruit these young students and future leaders back to our communities for college and jobs.

As stated in a recent Insider Louisville article, the FFA national convention comes to Louisville. That convention alone generates a $40Million economic impact for the city. We are thrilled to say that GF&M had a part in supporting that effort for the city of Louisville.

#TBT Independence Day

Waterfront Festival

#TBT 2003 Independence Festival

Way back in 2003 the city was really starting to come together. That’s the year the city of Louisville and Jefferson County were merged into a single consolidated city-county government with the official name of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government. The official short form of the name is Louisville Metro.

That was the year the board of Waterfront Development Corporation (WDC) engaged the services of Griffin Fundraising and Marketing to help them define the feasibility of their “big dream” for the park and one of their largest events at the time, the Independence Festival.

The Independence Festival (Festival) began in 1989, ten years before the opening of 55 acres we all know today as the core of the park. By 2003, fourteen years later, the Festival became the seventh largest event in the region with an attendance of over one hundred thousand. It was one day of family fun, recreation, music and fireworks. As a free event, the Festival was a meeting place for the entire community to celebrate our independence.

In 2003, the board had a vision for the Festival to further enhance the quality and appeal of the event to both the diverse local audience and the regional tourists.  To roll out that vision and “big dream” to city and regional leaders, Griffin Fundraising and Marketing was tapped to conduct a Planning Study for the Waterfront Independence Festival. From that planning study major changes and suggestions were given to help make the board’s big dream a reality. It was from that planning study that the two day Independence Festival was created. A corporate sponsorship plan was also identified and rolled out to the community. It was in 2003 that the long time presenting sponsor of the Festival was named. From 2003 to 2013 the Independence Festival was an opportunity for every part of the community and region to celebrate the history, government, and traditions of the United States. It is our hope that community support will again allow the city to do just that on our waterfront in 2015. 

Traveling War Memorial

AVTT replica of Vietnam War Memorial

For 2014, a national group has provided a gift to celebrate the history, government and traditions of the United States this Independence Day. The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, a client of GF&M’s, is holding its national reunion in downtown Louisville this weekend. As part of their programming, they have brought the American Veteran Traveling Tribute’s 80% replica of the famous Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. from July 2nd to July 6th on the South Great Lawn in Waterfront Park. Additionally, the Reunion is setting up a static display of helicopters used in the Vietnam War near the river on part of the North Great Lawn in Waterfront Park that is open to the public on the 3rd and 4th. A Combat Assault Re-enactment starts at 4 pm on the 4th. This promises to be a very special 4th of July evening indeed!


#TBT 30 Years of FREML

In this addition of #TBT we jump back to September 2013 . Susan Griffin, Founder and CEO of our firm, is one of the past presidents of the Fundraising Executives of Metro Louisville (FREML). As part of the 30 year anniversary last year, many of them gathered to be honored for their hard work by the organization. She was flattered to be invited to participate and is proud to be part of Louisville fundraising industry. Still today Susan and Liz are dues paying members of FREML.

FREML presidents



Non Profit Communication Infographic

I love a good Infographic. I saw this on Charity Digital News and just had to share it.

Check out this infographic which highlights the key findings of Nonprofit Marketing Guide’s 2014 Nonprofit Communications Report, which surveyed over 2,100 nonprofit professionals.

The eyebrow raising highlights for me were 31% of professionals do not have time to create a clear communications strategy even though the #1 communications goal is to acquire new donors. Reminds me of a quote by Ben Franklin, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

I also loved seeing that the Executive Directors think In-person communication is the #1 effective vehicle for communication. In our experience, at Griffin Fundraising and Marketing, non profits who take the time to communicate their needs to interested donors face to face are the most effective in raising funds during a capital or major gifts campaign.

Lastly, I wish more non profits would experiment with LinkedIn. I happen to think that social media site has loads of potential, especially for the Development Officer within Non Profits. It’s a great way to connect with donors, research potential new donors and corporations.

What do you think? Do these numbers mirror your non-profits communication goals and challenges? Or is this a bunch of bologna?


The Non-Profit New Year!

2014 goals




We are less than two weeks away from 2014. The year of the horse. Happy New  Year….almost.

It’s a clean slate. A chance to restart, dream BIG and make progress towards goals. So I have to ask, is your non-profit organization ready for January 1, 2014? If not, these three To Do’s should give you a good place to start.

The First 3 To Do’s to Prepare for 2014:

1. Review Goals from 2013.

To me, this is the FIRST place to start when planning your goals for 2014. Maybe you just finished your annual end of the year ask campaign or your year end report. If not, dig through your files and find that wish list, prioritized goals sheet, strategic/marketing or development plan from way back and review it. Sit down with individual staff members to review their goals from 2013 and then set new ones for 2014. Ask the Board of Directors about their goals and new initiatives from 2013 to 2014. It’s a great opportunity to showcase their wonderful accomplishments and motivate for the new year.

Three different categories should immediately jump out at you when you look back:

  • Goals that were hit and/or exceeded! Great Job!
  • Items that may not have panned out the way they should have. It happens.
  • Items that still need improvement. Opportunities for 2014!

2. Spring Forward!

You’ve reviewed previous goals. You know where you’ve been and have a better idea of where staff and the board want to go. Now, set your goals with your staff and volunteers. Remember, this is a fresh start. Dream big and aim high! These goals should be how_do_you_eat_an_elephantchallenging but attainable.

Don’t forget to make a plan to hit those challenging but attainable goals. Add action items to each goal during each season or quarter. For example, what three action items can be done during the Spring to attain the overall goal? By breaking each goal down into smaller action items throughout the calender year makes them more attainable and “do-able” for busy volunteers and staff members.

3. The 2014 Fresh Look

You’ve reviewed and you’ve set new challenging but attainable goals. Now what? I’d shout it from the roof tops!

It’s not easy to look back and then set new goals for staff and volunteers AND keep the ship sailing forward. This is a busy time of year with holiday parties, shopping, end of the year reviews/reports/grants/etc. Having a plan for 2014 is just one of many items on the check list.

So post your goals for staff. Add goals for the board’s review for their next meeting. Give everyone a short “script” to tell donors, volunteers, program partners, etc what is on deck for your non-profit. The organization will be stronger and more focused if all members are well informed.

Hopefully, these three steps can help set you on the right path for the New Year.

Did you find these helpful? Have more questions? Leave me a comment or give us a call.