The 5 Scariest Comments Donors Can Hear
Halloween is in the air! As many of us check on our candy supply (candy corn for our fearless editor-in-chief, Margaret) and finalize those costume decisions, let's review five scary things our donors do not want to hear at Halloween or any time throughout the year.
- Your gift really did not go to the project we discussed. Be sure that what you promise in a proposal, gift agreement or conversation is exactly what happens. This means that nonprofits have to clarify and confirm mutual intent with donors, and then follow through. Often this bridges roles and responsibilities in your organization and requires leadership, coordination and accountability that are driven by your CEO.
- The outcomes really are not what we said. Be sure that you have measurable outcomes that can both motivate before the donation and justify the investment after the fact. If the project is conceptual or a startup, there are still donors who will respond. If you are talking about success rates, be sure someone is validating these figures internally and asking tough questions when needed.
- We appreciate your gift that was made two months ago. Nothing raises more questions for donors than late or incorrect acknowledgment of a gift or commitment. Be sure that any major gift is acknowledged immediately with a phone call and that a formal acknowledgment letter is sent within two business days.
- Someone in our organization embezzled your hard-earned gift. Unfortunately, no organization is exempt from the possibility of theft or scandal. It can be outright theft or a misuse of resources such as challenges that have recently rocked the University of North Carolina. Be sure you have sound procedures to safeguard against financial abuse.
- Our CEO is overcompensated. Don't get me wrong, we need to attract the best and brightest in the nonprofit world — at all levels of our organizations. However, boards can get too cozy with a CEO or lapse in their fiduciary responsibilities. Be sure you have systems in place to educate the board leadership on its role in supervising the CEO. And be ready to address the question of compensation with donors and the media. Even if the compensation level is appropriate, you can be sure that this question will arise every few years.
Spookiness is just for Halloween, so let's be sure to always give our donors treats and not tricks.
Jeff Jowdy is the president and founder of Lighthouse Counsel and a member of the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking for Jeff? You'll find him either on the lake, laughing with good friends, or helping nonprofits develop to their full potential.
Jeff believes that successful fundraising is built on a bedrock of relevant, consistent messaging; sound practices; the nurturing of relationships; and impeccable stewardship. And that organizations that adhere to those standards serve as beacons to others that aspire to them. The Bedrocks & Beacons blog will provide strategic information to help nonprofits be both.
Jeff has more than 25 years of nonprofit leadership experience and is a member of the NonProfit PRO Editorial Advisory Board.