Earlier this week, we shared the results of our #ynpn10 fundraiser, celebrating our first decade as a network and preparing for the decade to come. Today, our leadership team was kind enough to share some of the process behind the campaign and lessons learned. Their answers shed light on how to: attract millennial donors, deal with unexpected changes in plan and motivate change through powerful messaging.
1. Do you feel like you learned anything new about millennial donors as a result of this campaign? If so, what?
While many of our donors were millennials, we were actually really proud of the age diversity among those who supported the campaign. In addition to the members and chapter leaders that supported the campaign (who fall solidly in the millennial age bracket), we also had YNPN alumni (more of the Gen X crowd) and the parents and family members of YNPN members who supported the campaign. It was really great to see people of all generations recognizing the value of supporting emerging leaders.
I did notice, however, that our younger supporters were more likely to share that they supported our campaign and encourage others to support the campaign via social media. We suspected that might be the case, which is why it was really important to us that we chose a platform that made social sharing really easy and accessible. We ended up using Fundly, which was a dream to work with and which looked a lot like Kickstarter, something we thought would be familiar and accessible to a lot of donors, particularly millennials.
2. What aspects of the campaign do you think resonated with donors and elicited such a strong response? Was it the message, the communication method, or something else?
I think it was a combination of things. First, I think people were intrigued by our ambitious goal. “Really? You’re going to try to raise $10,000 in 10 days? Ok, I have to see this.”
We found that people were really energized by match days. This is one of the main reasons that our campaign was such a success. People are really motivated by that beat-the-clock element and I think also really enjoyed feeling like their money was having twice the impact.
I also think having a genuine milestone--a 10 year anniversary--gave people a strong reason to pay attention. We wanted to make sure that people were aware of what we’d accomplished in the last ten years and how we planned to continue to build on that success. We also have very specific things that we’re working on over the next year, like launching a national database, that gave people some concrete ways in which we’re investing in our network that they can join us in.
3. What is something that didn't work as planned with this campaign, and what lessons did you take from that?
Well, it’s funny that you ask. We actually thought for several weeks that a big celebrity (I mean, a household name) was going to be able to record a video for our campaign through a personal connection we had. But it was getting down to the wire in terms of planning out the content for all 10 days and whether or not we had this celebrity’s video was going to affect the order of the entire content slate.
So we ended up planning two content slates: one with (celebrity) and one without.
The celebrity connection fell through, but our content and the campaign went so smoothly because of that advance planning. It was a great lesson in the importance of doing all of the work upfront and preparing for a variety of scenarios.
4. In planning the campaign, did you draw inspiration or ideas from previous campaigns or other organizations?
Yes! We were in the midst of planning the campaign when Trish went to the Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) conference in Baltimore. Before that conference we had been planning a pretty traditional campaign--a couple of emails spread out over 4-6 weeks with folks making individual appeals at the same time.
While at the conference, Trish heard a presentation from the Progressive Technology Project of Austin, Texas on a couple of sprint campaigns they had recently consulted on. Trish emailed us from the conference saying, “Ok, I know this isn’t what we were planning, but hear me out…” When the rest of us on the planning committee heard the idea of doing a shorter, sprint campaign that would tie the 10 year anniversary to raising $10,000 in 10 days, we thought it was a great idea. We knew it would mean a lot more work upfront, but we loved the thought of how a sprint campaign could energize people.
5. Did YNPN's national reach and relatively young status (operating less than 15 years) negatively or positively impact the campaign elements? What lessons can be learned from organizations with similar operating characteristics?
I think our national reach only helped us. We’re really fortunate (for many reasons) to have a fantastic network of chapters and chapter leaders who believe in the value of what YNPN does because they experience it every day. Nearly 20% of our donations were from chapter leaders and we had at least one person donate from 22 of our 40 chapters. Several of our chapters donated to the campaign as an organization.
Even though we’re relatively young, we’ve served tens of thousands of young nonprofit professionals and many of those alumni still continue to support YNPN even as they’ve “outgrown” the network. More than 50% of our original $10,000 goal was raised from alumni of our National Board. I think similar network organizations and organizations that offer powerful experiences would agree that maintaining strong relationships with alumni can be a very effective fundraising strategy. I feel like “alumni engagement” is very hot right now and our experience on this campaign shows that there’s an obvious financial reason why it’s important.
But we also feel strongly that it’s important because the young nonprofit professionals of today are the executive directors, board chairs, and funders of tomorrow. One of our hopes is that as members move on from our network and the designation of “young nonprofit professional,” they don’t lose sight of the importance of developing the emerging leaders they work with. A campaign like this can be a reminder as to the benefits they gained from the network and the great experience they had as a YNPN member and leader.
Thank you to all who so kindly donated, and helped us surpass our goal. You are the reason we can create a powerful and diverse social sector, and we can't wait to see where the next 10 years take us.
In the final week of our #ynpngiving conversation, we wanted to provide a two-part summary of our #ynpn10 campaign. We are so grateful to the many individuals, local chapters, and National Board volunteers who championed our cause and made this possible. We designed the campaign around the number 10 -- attempting to raise $10,000 in 10 days to celebrate 10 years.
We had a couple of goals for the campaign: First, we wanted to celebrate a milestone birthday. Ten years as a national network is a big deal! We wanted to let people know that we were proud to have finished our first decade and excited about what was ahead for our second.
We were specifically raising money for the infrastructure that’s going to power that next decade of our work. Over the last three years, the number of YNPN chapters has grown by 60%! This year YNPN is making a big investment in people, data systems, and resources that are going to take our work to the next level.
What will the funds raised be used for?
YNPN is at a turning point in our development as a network. Over the last ten years, and particularly over the last three, we’ve experienced exponential growth. It’s clear that there’s a real demand for the services, resources, and connections that YNPN provides.
We want to make sure that we have the capacity to meet that demand, so this year we’re focusing on adding the resources and infrastructure that will keep our network sustainable. In 2014, we increased our staff from one person to three staff members. We’re also investing in a database that will be used by all of our chapters across the network. And we’re making a big investment in upgrading the services and support that we offer our local chapters.
We’re so excited about what these projects are going to enable us to do. We want to thank everyone who supported the campaign and we’re looking forward to continuing to build a diverse and powerful nonprofit sector for the next ten years and beyond!
On Thursday, we'll be sharing #ynpn10 Campaign Summary, Part 2: Lessons Learned. Stay tuned!
If you’re like me, you read through the 2014 Nonprofit Finance Fund State of the Sector report and breathed a sigh of relief. Not because the 2014 report paints a particularly rosy picture of where we are as a society and as a sector, mind you, but because the results of the 2009 survey are still seared into so many of our memories.
Yeah, you remember that survey--the one that spelled out so plainly what all of us were experiencing in our neighborhoods and our organizations: soaring demand for critical services (93% of organizations providing these services reported an increase in need) and plummeting resources (62% and 43% of organizations braced for foundation and government funding cuts respectively). The majority of respondents planned to operate at a deficit that year. Those were some pretty dark days, friends.
And like I said, it’s not that the 2014 report is calling for 7 days of high temps and sun. 80% of this year’s respondents are still anticipating increased need for their communities. But far fewer are operating at a deficit and the year over year comparison shows that funding prospects are essentially expected to remain level. So, while we're at a place where we're no longer in freefall, the sense memory of the freefall is still pretty acute.
What better time to have real conversations about the relationship between funders and grantees?
As you know from past posts, YNPN and EPIP have made a commitment to advancing the conversation about the power dynamics that exist between funders and grantees. We call this the Beans & Cornbread convo as a reference to the Louis Jordan & Tympany Five song about things that go together but sometimes just can’t get along. Rahsaan and I have been open about the fact that we don’t exactly have a 12-step plan for “advancing the conversation” but we do have a strong, shared desire to actively and thoughtfully experiment.
Members of YNPN & EPIP's NYC chapters talking funder-grantee relationships
As another step in the direction of figuring out how funders and grantees can go together and get along better, earlier this month we hosted a pilot dialogue circle which brought together 3 representatives from YNPN NYC and 3 representatives from EPIP NYC.
Over pizza and snacks, facilitator Lucretia John (formerly of the Funding Exchange) guided the group through some introductory questions about identity, hopes, and fears for the conversation, then opened up the floor for participants to reflect on three basic questions:
Who has power to create change in communities?
Who sets the priorities for change efforts?
Who defines impact?
As you can imagine, the responses to these questions raised even more questions. More importantly, early feedback tells us that the experience also highlighted the shared identities, goals, and attitudes of folks in the room, as well as an eagerness to learn more about each other and how we can use these stronger relationships to change how power plays out in social change work.
This is great news for the vast majority of this year’s NFF respondents who reported that they can’t have real conversations with their funders about anything other than expanding programs. And we all know that it takes more than that to build stronger communities.
You’ll be seeing a fuller synopsis of the pilot conversation and plans for next steps soon. In the meantime, check out the NFF Report and tell us in the comments below where you’re seeing signs of hope or how you think we should continue the conversation.
Early on in my time as national director for YNPN, I was hanging out with a group of other, new-ish EDs and almost right away, talk turned to fundraising.
“I just have NO idea when I’m going to hear back from this guy,” one said. “He said there was a good chance we’d get funded this year but that was in February. IT’S AUGUST!!!”
“Yeah, I’m in the middle of writing this grant and I have no idea how much I’m supposed to ask for,” the other said. “I got a good vibe from the conversation but I just couldn’t figure out the actual ask. Does she want me to pitch $5000? Does she want me to pitch $500,000??? I literally have no idea.”
I remember staring back and forth between the two of them for awhile completely bewildered. Finally I offered what I thought was the obvious answer:
“Couldn’t you just call your program officer and ask her what’s up?”
They both looked at me for a moment, turned to each other, then burst out laughing. I remember they didn’t even bother to explain to me what was so funny.
Despite how it sounds, it wasn’t a mean girls moment. They weren’t actually laughing at me. They honestly thought I was making a joke. After a few months on the job, I figured out why they thought my suggestion was so absurd.
When I took the YNPN national director job, I was pretty new to fundraising. I’d worked on teams where I’d been deeply involved with fundraising but, to be honest, the only grants I’d ever written at that point were for our two major funders at the time--the Annie E. Casey Foundation and American Express. After a few months on the job, I had a much wider set of funder interactions to draw from, so I could understand a little better why my ED friends looked at me like I was an alien when I suggested treating their program officers the way you would any other colleague.
I feel fortunate, though, for my first experiences with Rafael Lopez from Casey and Richard Brown from AmEx, because they set the tone of partnership and mutual respect that grounds all the funding relationships YNPN seeks now and will seek for the life of our organization. Not only because it’s better for everyone involved, but because it’s the way that it’s actually supposed to be.
A few things that I’ve learned from those relationships that I carry with me:
- Great funding partners recognize that it’s their job to make grants. So they make it as clear and as simple as possible to do so.
- Great funding partners recognize that they can offer recommendations based on what else they are seeing in the field, but at the end of the day you know your organization and what your organization needs best.
- Great funding partners seek out ways to strengthen your work beyond writing a check. Offering meeting space or access to consultants or introductions to other like-minded funders can be just as valuable.
- Great funding partners make you feel like just that--a partner.
Over the past two years, our list of funding partners has been lucky enough to grow to slowly but surely include other amazing organizations like the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, the Packard Foundation, and the Newman’s Own Foundation, and the tone set by our early partners has held true.
We’re sending #nplove to these folks not only because of their financial generosity, but also because of the generosity of spirit that our partners have shown the network and the lessons they've taught us about how fulfilling relationships between funders and grantees can be.
As nonprofit professionals, we all know how critical donations and financial support are to an organization's ability to fulfill its mission. YNPN has been fortunate enough to work with fabulous funding partners who support our work and our mission of creating a more diverse and powerful social sector.
This year we began working with two new funding partners: the Newman's Own Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
We also maintained and deepened our relationship with the American Express Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, two long-term supporters of YNPN:
As we look back at 2013, we are so thankful for our funding partners who made our work possible.
In addition to corporate and foundation support, we also increased the number of individual donors to YNPN. We are of course grateful for the resources these donors have contributed, but we're also blown away by their willingness to invest in next generation leadership and their support for the YNPN movement.
Thank you all for believing in YNPN!
So it’s been about 9 months since you looked in your inbox and checked your Twitter feed, saw the words “Beans and Cornbread” for the first time, and thought:
Rahsaan and I sent out that note and posted this blog way back when, hoping to take a conversation that had been happening between the leaders of EPIP and YNPN National and put it where it belongs: out into our communities. You’ll remember, we said:
We got such a wide range of responses:
Some of you wanted to let us know that you were already building those bridges. (Shout out to all the EPIP/YNPN chapters that are already co-programming, like the Twin Cities chapters working together to build a cross-sector leadership development institute!)
Some of you YELLED AT US IN ALL CAPS FOR GETTING THAT SONG STUCK IN YOUR HEAD FOR DAYS! (#sorrynotsorry)
But, the VAST majority of folks we heard from wanted to say thanks. You talked about the fact that this issue of power is one that all of us struggle with--sometimes outwardly but often inwardly. And you were grateful for some space to sort it out and actually work through it.
Rahsaan and I were open and have continued to be open about the fact that we didn’t have much of a plan about the best way to create these spaces. Early on we agreed to be reflective and intentional about moving this conversation forward but we also agreed that it was okay to just see what opportunities to build momentum presented themselves.
And some great opportunities did!
At the Network level -
We learned via survey that there is great interest and excitement between EPIP and YNPN members to do more co-programming
EPIP opened up it’s annual conference to YNPN members in Chicago and invited Trish Tchume to take part. YNPN National selected Rahsaan to give a “Spark Speech” about power dynamics at their annual conference in Phoenix.
Beyond EPIP and YNPN
Trish and Rahsaan were invited to share this conversation with a wider group at the Whitman Institute Retreat in Santa Cruz, CA, where they co-facilitated a workshop discussion about power dynamics in the sector. Turns out younger leaders aren’t the only folks who are ready for this barrier to come down. The workshop included funders, grantees, younger, and older leaders - all of whom are calling for more spaces to work through these issues.
Following the Whitman Institute Jess Rimington of One World Youth Project decided to join Rahsaan and I as core organizers to move these conversations forward.
So what’s to come? We know that we need to keep widening this discussion to drill down to what people see as the true barriers and to work with those same folks to identify some workable short term and long term solutions. So our plan for now is to host a mid-sized gathering in New York to expand the conversation.
Where else are you seeing opportunities to address these issues on the ground. Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet feedback to #BandC_power. We’ll keep you engaged as well on how these conversations are developing and ways that you can connect to them virtually.
Because (sing it with us) Beans and Cornbread... we go hand in hand!
This video - Dan Pallotta's The way we think about charity is dead wrong - has been rocketing around the internet over the past couple of weeks. Numerous people have emailed it to me and a couple have shared it on my facebook wall. All of them have been asking what I think.
I finally had a chance to sit down and watch it a few days ago and, honestly, what strikes me most about it is not the central message about how our emphasis on overhead misses both the point and the potential of the nonprofit sector. I don’t think Dan Pallota is saying anything that folks like Kim Klein or GIFT have been making for years - though I always appreicate when someone’s able to underscore an important point eloquently. Mr. Palotta does just that in his TED Talk, so I am very grateful to him.
What struck me most about Dan Pallotta's talk is that he’s trying to shine a bright light on something that isn't necessarily controversial. The vast majority of us agree that the way we think about nonprofit operations is broken. Even folks outside of the sector who don't have an understanding of the ins and outs of running a nonprofit organization understand the simplicity of the argument that you can't solve big, complex problems with meager investments. What's difficult is where to and how to begin to change something that has become culturally comfortable, however dysfunctional. What are the first steps an individual, let alone a sector takes in making a fundamental shift in the way that it thinks and operates?
Last month, Rahsaan Harris, executive director of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, and I posted a blog and sent eblasts to our respective networks about something else that most of us agree is broken - power dynamics between funders and grantees in the nonprofit sector. We titled the eblast Beans & Cornbread - Rahsaan's tongue-in-cheek reference to the Louis Jordan & Tympany Five song about things that go together but sometimes just can't get along. But we also talked seriously about this need for a fundamental shift in the way that these dynamics play out and what we see as the role of our generation in facing these issues.
What Rahsaan and I found in our conversations surrounding the post was that agreeing that the fundamental relationship between the nonprofit sector and the philanthropic sector is problematic wasn't hard. Agreeing that EPIP and YNPN have a unique role to play in addressing these dynamics wasn’t hard either. It’s a conversation that our organizations have actually been having for years and our members are very ready for based on the numerous responses we got to the survey that accompanied the post. What's hard is figuring out what to do next.
After we sent out the post, many responded enthusiastically, “Saying, okay - what’s the plan?” Here’s the honest answer - we’re not really sure. EPIP and YNPN have taken important steps by co-facilitating power dynamics workshops together but know that this is only one piece of the puzzle. We know that it’s important to set the stage at the National level but also need our members to be talking one on one. We know that this conversation has and will take years (as fundamental shifts tend to) and it will take many of us working patiently together. So we're as curious and excited as everyone else to see where it will lead.
What we do know is that folks are ready - they’re past ready. So we’re ready too. And we’re looking forward to figuring this out together.
This guest blog post comes to us from the authors of the newly published Nonprofit 101 book edited by Darian Rodriguez Heyman. This resource comes from one of the book’s contributors Tori O’Neal-McElrath
As much as you might want to believe that grants are awarded simply due to the fit of the program and the excellence of the application, it simply isn’t true. In fact in our experience the odds of getting a grant that you send in without contacting the foundation are about 5-10%. Just as in individual (and all!) fundraising, developing relationships is critical. There are people at these foundations, called program officers, who are directly responsible for deciding who gets money and who doesn’t. They care deeply about the work they are funding, and consider it an advantage to be able to scope out potential grantees. In person meetings with program officers are ideal, but even a short phone call with a grant manager or administrator can still yield the basic information you need, as well as getting your name in the mind of someone at the foundation.
Sometimes these initial conversations can save you valuable time in applying for a grant program that was not a fit—always do your homework on their funding goals ahead of time! But often, they are valuable knowledge gathering sessions: use the call or meeting to identify their key priorities and desired language, which many times cannot be found on their website; figure out which of your programs or initiatives is the best fit, and determine how much money you should request. Finally, go out on a limb and ask if they would be willing to preview your LOI (Letter of Intent) or proposal before your official submission. This will give them a sense of ownership over your request and provide you with valuable feedback. Start today by calling the offices of your top foundation prospect and seeing if you can get on a relevant program officer’s schedule.
- Read more about Nonprofit 101 and check out their resources.
- Each week- the blog features a “tip of the week” - well worth following for quick bites of helpful information and advice.
Ms. O’Neal- McElrath is currently the director of development for the Center for Community Change in Washington, DC. She has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 21 years in various management and consulting roles for both organizations and foundations focused on women and girls, health and community clinics, and social justice.
Image from todaymade.com.
At our anniversary celebration last week our key note speaker Steve Mariotti Founder of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and JJ Ramberg our nonprofiteer of the year and Co-Founder of GoodSearch.com spent time sharing their experiences and paths that led them to careers in social change. Even though they work in different causes and have different backgrounds, they both shared one powerful piece of advice to changemakers: learn how to tell a story.
The importance of story telling comes up quite a bit in the nonprofit sector, especially when it comes to more externally facing professions like communications and fundraising. However this is an important skill in all aspects of nonprofit work. As we seek to grow and engage our supporters, employees, and communities we serve, we must learn how to present our experiences and our work in a compelling way that draws our audience in and makes them feel connected and invested in the work we are doing. Story telling is one of the most powerful tools changemakers have, yet it’s a hard skill to master. What does it mean to tell a good story? How do I get others to tell their stories in support of our cause? How do we go from story telling to taking action?
Luckily there are resources to help you get started....
The recent article in the Wall Street Journal on small charities being forced by bigger ones to change their names, colors and other portions of their branding really disturbed me. So now we, compassionate servants of social missions, are colorists?
I do understand the need to have a strong identity, but if you are constantly suing the other charities and keeping them from their mission, something's horribly wrong.
Let's not forget that we are social missions and well-run, well-financed organizations. If you really think your organization is losing money and/or manpower, go back to the drawing board and find a brand that can't be duplicated. Consider a merger even, especially if both groups are fighting for the same cause.
For too long, charities and other nonprofit social mission entities have been caught up with being like for-profit, publicly-traded corporations. Unlike shareholders that win if you maximize profit, you can lose your donors and stakeholders if they feel their money is being wasted or spent on overhead at the expense of the social mission.
Keeping that in mind, either re-write your mission such that it supports these type of brand defending activities or get back to funneling your money to the cause at hand.
What do you think? Is it ok to protect your slogans, logos or other branding activities at the expense of yours (and other similar groups' ) core mission?