The Philanthropic Landscape…Surviving and Prospering in the New Normal

I recently had the chance to hear Carl M. Thomas, Executive Director of the Gheens Foundation, speak at one of our AFP Chapter Meetings. His topic was “Louisville’s Philanthropic Landscape…Surviving and Prospering in the New Normal.” While these comments were tailored for the Louisville area, many of these concepts will apply in your area as well.

Mr. Thomas had many hints and tips for us working in and serving the nonprofit sector. Here’s a quick synopsis of some of them (and if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, some of these will probably sound VERY familiar):

  • Funder relations
    • Communicate and touch base OFTEN.
    • Submit reports to funders ON TIME. DON’T make them call you to remind you (remember, you’re cultivating them for the next gift).
    • Encourage visits.
    • If you are in close vicinity to the funder, drop by with the application. Ask questions, if possible, through the application process and be sure that the funder is familiar with your organization before they receive the proposal.
    • Sending a thank you letter (for the funder’s time) after receiving a denial does not go unnoticed.
  • Marketing
    • Know your service proposition and the impact your organization is making.
    • Hire a marketing coach.
    • Position the mission and programs of the organization as ‘must-haves’ rather than ‘nice to haves.’
    • Pursue formal sales training (perhaps collaborate with a local company to join in on their sales training)
  • Organizational Readiness
    • Demonstrate financial stability – have a strong business plan.
    • Assume that they have (or will) read your 990.
    • Have strong controls in place to prevent fraud and control risk.
    • Be a good steward of funds and communicate how you are doing more with less.
    • EVERYONE who is part of your organization should be trained to be friend-raisers and fundraisers so that it is top-of-mind all-the-time for all staff members.
  • Board / Leadership
    • Remember that people are watching the leadership of the organization (closely).
    • Is the board committed to the organization? Does it show through their giving and their support of the fundraising efforts?
  • Philanthropy / General
    • ‘Wealth effect” has been proving itself: people give more when they feel better about the economy.
    • Stay up-to-date on philanthropy in general.

My favorite quote of the day: “Your organization’s best friends are someone else’s best prospect.”

Thanks for reading!

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