Ruthellen Rubin & Associates blog Ruthellen Rubin & Associates blog RSS Feed Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:54:32 GMT Who's the boss? <p><img src="/userfiles/image/images(1).jpg" width="259" height="194" vspace="5" hspace="5" align="right" alt="" />A burning question that Executive Directors often ask me is: &nbsp;&quot;Am I the boss or is our Board President the boss?&quot;</p> <p class="MsoNormal">The answers to this and other questions relating to board governance are pretty easy. I review them, step by step, in frequent workshops and trainings. I often blog about several of these topics.&nbsp; <a href="">Here's a recent example on Greater Giving</a>. The challenge, however, is putting these sensibilities into practice. Evolution at the nonprofit board level can only happen with strong board leadership.&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormal">For the purpose of this leadership discussion, I will focus on the Board President. The fact that (s)he has had many years serving on your board or other boards, or that (s)he is in a position of responsibility at work, does not necessarily mean (s)he will lead your board where it needs to go.&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Strong board leaders spend an enormous amount of time and effort understanding the existing mission and prevailing strategic plan at your organization. The Board President should have total confidence in the Executive Director (ED) and view their mutual relationship as a fifty-fifty partnership. By modeling a respectful relationship with the ED, the President will set the tone for all of the board members. The ED and the entire organization benefit tremendously when this mutual trust exists.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">Roles and responsibilities and the intricacies of the board/staff relationship should be clearly defined and agreed upon.&nbsp;Communication agreements as fundamental as specification of the ED's and the Board's annual goals are critical at the start of each year. And, although the ED is in charge of all elements of the program and the Board President oversees the planning and policies for the organization, it's important that each respects and invites the other's input in important considerations. Does it take a perfect world to achieve this partnership? Not really. Simply put, if you are considering taking an ED role and you question the potential for a partnership with the Board President, don't take the job. And, vice versa.</p> <p class="MsoNormal">As to the original question - Who's the boss? The ED is the boss of the office and all matters pertaining to the program and services delivered by the organization. The Board President is the boss of long range planning, policy, compliance with legal requirements and ensuring that the organization has the resources it needs to carry out the mission. It's kind of like asking who is the boss at home - the husband or the wife?&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 04:00:00 GMT Ruthellen S. Rubin, CFRE Learning from One Another <p><img src="/userfiles/image/learning 2.jpg" width="250" height="182" vspace="5" hspace="5" align="left" alt="" />The topic of professional development comes up every day in my work with clients. &nbsp;Many of the fundraising staff for whom I consult work in small shops with two or three professionals who raise money for their organizations. &nbsp;Their daily schedule is jam-packed meeting deadlines, goals and donors. &nbsp;The opportunities to get to know other fundraisers, to share what tools and strategies are working, are few and far between.</p> <p>When I meet with nonprofit clients, my first recommendation is usually for them to make time to interact with fundraising peers - whether it's their contemporaries at similar type organizarions or others who fundraise in their community. &nbsp;I advise them not to worry about these folks being competitors; fundraising is NOT a zero-sum game. &nbsp;In fact, the better our colleagues do at raising money, the better we all do.</p> <p>On April 17th, I'll be facilitating a half-day discussion at The Support Center in NYC on <a href="">Technology for Fundraising: &nbsp;Matching Today's Digital Resources with your Organization</a>. &nbsp;Join me and a like-minded group of your colleagues for a discussion of how fundraisers are integrating technology in their development strategy and learning how to make informed decisions when it comes to the latest tools. &nbsp;</p> <p>If in-person workshops like this are not available in your city, call up a few of your colleagues and go out for a beer. &nbsp;The more we collaborate and learn from one another the better it will be for our own work product, our organizations' ability to deliver programs and services and the community as a whole.</p> <p>For other professional development opportunities for fundraisers in New York City, visit <a href="">Support Center/Partnership in Philanthropy&nbsp;</a>&nbsp;and <a href="">New York University's Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising.</a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 04:00:00 GMT Ruthellen S. Rubin, CFRE Learn to Love your Donor Database <p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: small;">I have had lots of discussions lately with development professionals who are considering migrating to new donor databases.&nbsp; Often, because: &nbsp;they never learned to use the one they have, their data is a mess, someone else chose the software and they inherited it, they don't know how to generate the reports their board members are requesting or because they lost the phone number for tech support.&nbsp; What a can of worms!</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: small;"><span style="font-family: Arial;"><img src="/userfiles/image/hugging computer.jpg" width="250" height="174" vspace="5" hspace="5" align="right" alt="" />Before you jump ship, do your homework to figure out exactly what functionality your organization needs and set real goals for the tasks you want to manage with your database.&nbsp; Next - get on the phone with tech support and find out if this can be achieved via your current database.&nbsp; Be prepared to spend time and money to get this right.&nbsp; It will be the best time and money you can spend from your development budget.&nbsp;&nbsp; </span></span><span style="font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;"><o:p></o:p></span></p> <p>&nbsp;<span style="font-size: small;"><span style="font-family: Arial;">If you decide to investigate new software, read </span></span><span style="font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;"><span style="font-size: small;"><a href=""><span style="font-family: Arial;">Idealware's latest consumer's guide to donor management systems</span></a></span><span style="font-size: small;"><span style="font-family: Arial;">.&nbsp; <a href=""></a> is a phenomenal resource for all things having to do with nonprofit software.&nbsp; Then, get on the phone and call colleagues who are using the software you are considering. You will only learn the nitty gritty from someone who is using the system.</span></span><o:p></o:p></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: small;"><span style="font-family: Arial;">A new database will not cure messy data -- you will just be importing that mess into your new software. Face up to it and create a plan to clean it manually or develop and commit to a style sheet that will build a database of high integrity going forward.&nbsp;&nbsp; </span></span><span style="font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;"><o:p></o:p></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span style="font-size: small;"><span style="font-family: Arial;">Nine times out of ten, the problem is not the current software but the lack of training to understand how the software can help build a sustainable fund development program.&nbsp; I'm looking forward to seeing what's new and what I can learn later this week &nbsp;at </span></span><span style="font-family:&quot;Times New Roman&quot;,&quot;serif&quot;"><span style="font-size: small;"><a href=""><span style="font-family: Arial;">#14NTC</span></a></span><span style="font-size: smaller;"><span style="font-size: small;"><span style="font-family: Arial;">.</span></span></span><o:p></o:p></span></p> Mon, 10 Mar 2014 04:00:00 GMT Ruthellen S. Rubin, CFRE Making Our World Better <p><span style="font-family: Arial;"><img src="/userfiles/image/collaboration2.jpg" width="200" height="136" vspace="5" hspace="5" align="right" alt="" />We fundraising professionals are always looking for ways to improve our work. &nbsp;With our success comes the direct result of increased resources to further the mission of our charitable organization. The more money we raise, the more people we can feed, the more students to whom we can provide scholarships, the more children we can vaccinate, and so on... &nbsp;With successful fundraising our programs improve, additional services become available in our community and our social sector grows stronger and more effective.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Arial;">How can we continually improve and become the very best we can be at fundraising for our nonprofit? &nbsp;As is the case in most jobs, professional development will enhance our current competencies and help us develop new skills and knowledge. The sharing and brain-storming that occurs in a classroom of professional fundraisers further elevates the collective learning to develop even higher level competencies and fresh ideas. &nbsp;The majority of professional fundraisers have limited ability to advance their skill sets while on the job. &nbsp;I don't mean to undermine the priceless value of on the job experience and the continuous learning that goes along with the daily adventures of working with our donors. &nbsp;However, that is just one part of the equation. The application of new technologies, understanding current giving trends and advancing timely stewardship opportunities will help us keep pace with our donors in a way that will continue to nurture the partnerships between our donors and our mission, that are fundamental to a successful social sector.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Arial;">Sharan Kaur, President of </span><em><a href=""><span style="font-family: Arial;">Medals4Mettle</span></a></em><span style="font-family: Arial;"><em>&nbsp;</em>shared the following after a recent class at the </span><a href=""><span style="font-family: Arial;">Heyman Center for Philanthropy at NYU:</span></a></p> <p><em><span style="font-family: Arial;">Medals4Mettle (M4M) is an all-volunteer nonprofit, consisting almost entirely of endurance athletes. Our mission is a simple one - we collect earned race medals from marathoners and triathletes, and we then gift these medals to sick children who are running marathons of their own. To date, we have gifted medals to over 40,000 children.</span></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-family: Arial;">When M4M first started in 2005, most of the fundraising was kept at the grassroots level. That seemed to work fine for a while. However, due to some media attention that we received in the last couple of years, M4M has expanded so rapidly that our &nbsp;previous fundraising methods have not been able to keep up with our growth.</span></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-family: Arial;">As President of the organization, I have been trying hard to come up with a structured and sustainable development program. But due to our limited resources, I was at a complete loss as to where to even begin.</span></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-family: Arial;">Then on January 6th and 7th, I took 2 courses that were life-changing. The courses, specifically, were <a href="">The Annual Appeal</a> (taught by Ruthellen Rubin), and <a href="">Online &amp; Mobile Fundraising</a> (taught by <a href="">Liz Ngonzi</a>). Wow. I was amazed by how well laid-out and informative the courses were. The material presented was so useful in helping us take our nonprofit management to the next level! Never have I been in a class where I managed to stay alert during the entire day, from 9:00 - 5:00!</span></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-family: Arial;">After class concluded on January 7th, I went through all my class notes and did some research of my own. I then prepared a plan, which I submitted to our Founder, Dr. Steve Isenberg, the same night. In my plan, I outlined some basic infrastructure that our organization needs to put in place immediately. Not only did Dr. Steve love the ideas, but he submitted them right away to a foundation, who has agreed to fund the implementation of these ideas! There is so much excitement amongst the leadership team at the moment. We are thrilled to finally have some direction with regard to national fundraising.</span></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-family: Arial;">It is impressive how these 2 courses have had such a huge impact on our organization.&nbsp;To give you some perspective, M4M has 75 chapters within the US, Canada, Japan, and at the Air Force Base in Osan, Korea. So we are hardly a small organization.&nbsp;</span></em></p> <p><em><span style="font-family: Arial;">I feel so grateful to have taken these courses. Ruthellen and Liz are amazing teachers. They educate AND inspire their students!&nbsp;<span style="background-color: transparent;">Thank you Heyman Center for giving nonprofit professionals the opportunity to learn from the best!</span></span></em></p> <p>Opportunities for professional development abound. &nbsp;In the month of March, I invite you to join me <a href="">on the 7th in New York City for a brand new class on harnessing the power of the donor database</a>. &nbsp;From March 13-15, I hope you can join the coolest people in the nonprofit sector at my favorite annual conference, the <a href="">2014 NTC in Washington, DC</a>.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Thu, 06 Feb 2014 05:00:00 GMT Ruthellen S. Rubin, CFRE It Takes a Classroom to Change the World <p><img src="/userfiles/image/world.jpg" width="125" height="125" vspace="5" hspace="5" align="left" alt="" />In the whirlwind of cyber-learning featuring podcasts, netcasts, webinars and MOOCs it is a rare treat for an inquisitive fundraising professional to participate in an intensive, in-person classroom course.&nbsp; It often requires travel, expense and the commitment of a full day out of the office.&nbsp; But what a difference a day can make when shared with a room full of prospective and experienced fundraisers.</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Yesterday I had the privilege of facilitating a full-day comprehensive course on The Annual Appeal at the <a href="">Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising at NYU</a> with 25 fundraisers (present and hopeful) from around the world.&nbsp; They came from Bostswana, Turkey, Luxembourg, Ireland, Virginia, Wisconsin and across the mid-Atlantic states.&nbsp; They represented universities, hospitals, social services, start up grassroots organizations, family foundations and more.&nbsp; In the room we had board members, philanthropists, major gifts officers, development staff, executive directors and ship-jumpers from the arts, healthcare and public relations.</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Eight hours of classroom time gave us the space to explore annual giving throughout the multi-channel options with which we are presented today.&nbsp; We moved from the age-old direct mail appeals right through the <a href="">infographics</a> of tomorrow.&nbsp; We considered our range of communications strategies from the art of the handwritten note to talking to a donor face-to-face to voicemail communications to the medium of email to communicating via SMS.&nbsp; No one left during the breaks; no one played with his/her cell phone and no one fell asleep.&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Twenty five professionals, from around the world, listened to one another, offered their best thinking and were amazed at the similar situations we shared in the art of donor cultivation and in the quest for finding perfect partnerships among donors and nonprofit organizations.&nbsp; Although I have led and participated in many online learning opportunities, none can compare to the high level of learning that can take place in a classroom.</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">In discussing the importance of asking a donor for a specific gift amount, an interesting quandary emerged.&nbsp; I mentioned that our family gives an annual $1,000 gift to one of our alma maters.&nbsp; We are proud to support that university but our gift, in and of itself,&nbsp; in no way seems to make a measurable impact.&nbsp; At the same time, there is a local grassroots organization that we greatly admire and give an annual gift of $50 which is much appreciated and has an immediate impact on their ability to serve young girls in an impoverished community.&nbsp; I mentioned that it didn't make sense (that we wouldn't reverse those two gifts), but those types of giving habits are quite common.&nbsp; One student stopped me right there!&nbsp;</p> <p class="MsoPlainText">Rather than just take notes about this frequent occurence, she challenged me (and the rest of the class) to consider how that can be changed.&nbsp; She asked us how donors can be retrained to not just make gifts at a certain level out of habit. And, to consider how a grassroots charity can become bold enough to routinely ask for $1,000 gifts, thereby moving the needle very quickly to help improve the life of a child living in poverty.&nbsp; At that moment I wished for another 8 hours in the classroom with this group of professionals because I believe we could have changed the world.</p> <p class="MsoPlainText"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> Tue, 07 Jan 2014 05:00:00 GMT Ruthellen S. Rubin, CFRE