Random Thoughts on Life and Work

November 11, 2015

When Need Meets Budget Reality

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 11:58 am
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I’m working with a small non-profit that had a unique need for donor management. The organization is only about 3 years old and has just a hand full of donors. Not enough to warrant expenditure on a donor management package. Yet, they still need to track income, contacts, etc. At the moment it is all done in the president’s head. To their credit, they want to be positioned for the future and so we needed to do something.

I tend to be an advocate for not reinventing the wheel and getting software that works. However, it is hard to argue with very limited budgets and so . . .

Solution – created a rather unique Excel workbook that I think will serve the needs for the time being. At least until the donor pool is on a significant growth curve. It isn’t terribly difficult to add new donors or new giving opportunities. However, it is challenging to provide the treasurer with the needed detail so it gets a little complex at that point.

Nothing fancy (no fancy macros or special data entry windows) but I think a good short term solution for a non-profit startup. I don’t think I would recommend it beyond about 40 donors or so.

Anyway, if you are interested in seeing it, I am happy to share. Just comment and we can connect.

December 3, 2014

WestJet Does It Again

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 2:14 pm
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Congratulations to WestJet again for going above and beyond expectations.


January 5, 2012

It’s About Choice

I had an experience recently with an online services provider that illustrated the point about providing choice to your client base.

The company supplies a service to charitable organizations that facilitates third-party fundraising – allowing constituents to raise money for charity. We pay the company for an account with branded landing pages and then there is also a charge assessed to each transaction. We have been generally happy with the service though it is maybe not as robust as it could be. We have a large number of individuals who use it to raise money for us while participating in athletic events in particular – including myself.

They recently implemented a change to the way that donations are displayed on the fundraisers’ pages. The page now displays only the “intended donation” rather than the full donation. And here lies the challenge. When a donor makes a gift on a page, they are provided with the option of covering the fee that the company normally charges to the transaction. If the donor chooses to cover that amount, then the only amount shown is the gift amount. So for example, if I make a gift of $25 and chose to cover the fee, the additional $1.92 is not shown on the page. It does however come across to the charity as part of the gift when we download the weekly gift report.

Here is where I think they made the mistake:

  1. They assumed that every charity wanted the exact same thing from the software.
  2. They assumed that the fee charged to a gift when the donor covers the fee is less of a gift than when the amount is not covered by the donor.
  3. They assumed that all charities calculate their fundraising campaigns the same way.
  4. In applying the change to active pages (rather than just new pages) they placed the onus on the fundraiser to have to explain to donors why their totals changed.

In today’s world, it is about options and choice. If you don’t make your systems flexible, you lose the ability to effectively serve. You may retain customers who can’t afford to leave but those who can won’t put up with less than effective systems.

Needless to say, we are looking at making a major change.

April 14, 2008

ROI – Does it exist?

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 11:38 am
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Business people are used to talking about Return on Investment.  And many times we try to apply some measurement of ROI in the non-profit world as well.  I would contend that within the development arena, ROI is particularly challenging to measure.  Some efforts produce an easy to measure statistic.  Others – not so much.

Take direct mail for instance.  95% of ROI can be measured easily.  Costs spent on the mailing vs donations returned.  The other 5 % might be goodwill, name recognition, or just plain informing.  Of course, if done badly, this 5% might be negative and actually hurt the organization. 

What about donor events?  Vastly expensive in both direct expenditures and staff impact.  Especially if the organization makes every attempt to run lean.  But how do you measure ROI?  Do you absorb the costs knowing that your donors have been impacted (hopefully positively) by the event?  Is the information that you have shared with them enough?  Does the fact that this group of donors has received a special invitation to a special event serve as enough motivation to keep their engagement with the organization?

Now I realize that donor events come in all flavors of size and purpose.  But I just want to throw out some thinking surrounding this development activity. 

I would contend that maybe ROI for donor events is not truly measurable.  But the events themselves can be powerful connectors for donors.  So in that sense, they shouldn’t be ignored entirely.

Just a thought.

April 10, 2008

A Reflection On “Idol Gives Back”

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 8:30 am
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I imagine this week’s show will be discussed ad naseum throughout the blogosphere today and tomorrow.  Oh well.  Thought I would add my two cents.

While I am impressed with the effort that is put forth into highlighting the plight of so many in Africa and here in the US, I still can’t help but wonder how the mix of celebrity “pitchmen/women” truly feel about the situation.  I suspect that combining one year’s income from 3 or 4 of them would outstrip the GDP of one country in Africa.  And yet they continue to appeal to “common” America to open up the purse strings and give.  Just seems a little disingenuous to me. 

Which leads me to a question.  Is it the cause, the pitch, or the show that leads people to give?  In development we often quote the phrase, “People give to people not to projects.”  But how does that play out in this case?  Are people giving because of the images they see on tv or because of the celebrity pitch?

Which leads to another question.  How do we in the non-profit world truly feel about the celebrity pitch?  A number of organizations use them to great effect.  But where do we draw the line and say, “Put up or shut up!”  Where is the break even point between the value of their giving and the value of their name associated with a cause? 

Okay, I am done ranting for the day. 

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