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Donor feedback and more: A review of the issues of 2022

By Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, Notes on Nonprofits

2022 has been a challenging year for nonprofits in many ways. Here’s a look back at the questions you asked and the issues we discussed.

In January, a reader asked what it meant to be a “working board.” Grassroots and start-up organizations are typically governed by a working board until they secure enough money to hire staff. This topic also bubbles up when established boards are struggling with engagement because some directors mistakenly think their role is advisory when there’s hands-on work to be done.

A February column extolled 24 reasons why I love nonprofits including boards that consistently make quorum and directors who arrive on time ready to work. My colleague Beth Ann Locke reminded us to “appreciate the giver, not just the gift.” I suggested fundraisers tape this message to their desk, laptop, or phone as a daily reminder.

Author and activist Ian Adair spoke passionately about mental health at the state fundraising conference.  He said, “our people are the magic behind our impact” which is 100% true.  “We can’t keep pushing the notion in the nonprofit sector that we have to give so much of our ourselves, all the time, until there is nothing left mentally or emotionally, and we burn out.”

Kelly Otte wrote a guest column about the good, bad, and the ugly of donating in-kind goods. Love Your Nonprofit Neighbors Leon is a Facebook group that connects people who have things they want to donate with nonprofits and schools who need them.

I shared feedback from donors. One said, “I appreciate the hand written note from the board chair because it sounded like he wrote it and really meant it. What I didn’t like was realizing he probably knew how much I had given which made me feel uncomfortable.”  This was a good reminder to honor donor privacy and confidentiality.

Another donor who makes five-figure gifts to charities they support said, “I’m so tired of being presented to; I want to be engaged.” This was a powerful call to action for anyone involved in fundraising. Money follows engagement.

Nonprofits faced the challenge of complying with the required $15 minimum wage after COVID relief grants dried up and paycheck protection program loans stopped flowing. As cash flow tightened this year, one director astutely said, “nonprofits aren’t going to cut their way to prosperity.”

“Telling our unique story gives our fundraising wings.” This column was a reminder that your case is never the end of the calendar year, end of the fiscal year, or about the grant that got away. It’s always about why your mission matters.

I continued Kelly’s promise to run the column on bullying every time we received a question or a call for help on this issue or witnessed a bully in action. I ran this column in June and regret this is still an issue on many boards and staff teams. Standing up to a bully is the only way to make it stop.

At the start of hurricane season, I reshared a guest column on disaster planning by Marcia Warfel. Florida was hit by Hurricane Ian and Nicole which underscores the critical need to be prepared with a plan for your organization, employees, people and pets you serve.

A reader asked me to address the issue of name-only board members who do not actively participate but remain a director for various reasons. The biggest pitfall is active directors resent inactive directors which torpedoes productively, undermines collegiality, and causes high-performing directors to resign.

Is your board driving you crazy? I reshared Kelly’s “eye-rolling column” in which someone caught her rolling her eyes in a meeting when she thought no one noticed. She revealed what makes her eyes roll and why she pledged to stop. Guest columnist Bob Harris shared ways to recognize an authentic board.

Nonprofits returned to their strategic plans this year after putting them on hold during the pandemic. I wrote several columns about the questions a strategic plan should answer, the benefits of having a plan, and the differences between strategic, action, tactical, scenario, and turn-around plans.

I wrote two columns about sabbaticals as a strategy to support resiliency and self-care for Executive Directors. Election season prompted a column about what nonprofits can and cannot do regarding support for candidates. A post-election column offered tips for reaching out to newly elected leaders and their staff.

I shared tips on use of a consent agenda to maximize board meetings and a Halloween themed column about what’s scary and not-so-scary about the nonprofit sector. Kelly wrote a two-part guest column about sketchy fundraising tactics when she observed someone raising money outside a local store for an organization that was not providing services in Tallahassee.

Winding up the year, I wrote about authentic gratitude, championed the Florida Giving Report from the Florida Nonprofit Alliance, and shared practical tips to improve yearend fundraising. I look forward to sharing more resources and responding to your questions in 2023 so keep them coming.

Notes on Nonprofits is a column in the Tallahassee Democrat produced by Alyce Lee Stansbury, CFRE, President of Stansbury Consulting, and includes resources, responses to reader questions, guest columns, and timeless topics. This column first appeared on December 13, 2022. Please send your comments and questions.

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