Homeless youth

Homeless youth
People we don't see.

Monday, September 21, 2015

One in five children

This is one of those posts that will typically not get a lot of reads. When I write about topics like poverty, hunger or HIV/AIDS, many tend to skip the post.

I will keep this post short.

The federal government released poverty numbers this past week.

One in five children in California live in poverty.

One is six children in the US live in poverty.

No matter why you read my blog or why you connect with me personally, I ask you to please consider these numbers.

So much wealth. So much privilege. Yet so many live in poverty.

As fundraisers and people who work with non-profits, we can take action. We can also build bridges with communities whose main mission is not ours, and become stronger. We can find connections with our work to poverty, to hunger and to class. In the Los Angeles area, where I live, it is not difficult to see hard-core class distinction.

If you would like more information on poverty in the US, please click here.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Los Angeles!

I'm here!

After years of dreaming to live in southern California we took the risk and made the move. We both left amazing jobs and a great life for warmer weather, more culture and of course surfing!

I am thrilled about so many incredible non-profits in the Los Angeles area doing so much for those with nothing, those in need and making huge efforts to make the area a better place to live for everyone.

I was fortunate to have so many amazing interviews with many of the organizations and on August 17th I begin my new path. I am super excited.

I am also super excited to take the rest of my days off and continue getting to know the city, as well as more surfing!

If you're in the LA area I would love to meet you!

Once I get started I look forward to creating an amazing fundraising team and once again work hard to make a difference in the lives of others.

Thanks so much for reading!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Making the right hire

Before I begin about my thoughts around hiring for your fundraising team, please remember that I a  fundraiser. I am not a recruiter or a human resources person.

I do, however, hire people. I hire people to be part of an elite fundraising team.

So here are some thoughts:

The hiring process begins long before there is an open position. Whenever I meet people out and about who I think would make an incredible part of my team and seem passionate about the cause, I stay in touch with them and add them to my "back pocket" list. We all meet people who intrigue us or who we constantly here are doing incredible things in fundraising. So start that list.

Keep you job descriptions up to date. This is crucial. Make sure that the position you are putting out there matches the actual day-to-day expectations of the position. Job duties should match for sure.

Be very clear in your job posting. If you need someone to rock with corporate giving, make sure that is clear in what you post. It's also nice to put if the position is 9 -5 only or if occasional evening/weekend work is required.

Look at your budget with your team and see how the new person could support what you are trying to accomplish.

Start with ten-minute phone interviews. If you have a human resources person, take advantage of their expertise when creating questions.

Once you have a list for in-person interviews think of two others who might be able to do the interviews with you. Consider someone on your team and consider a program person.

In-person interviews are very important. Do not start preparing five minutes before. If you do, you are doing a disservice to you, your team, your agency and those you serve. Remember that you are looking for an individual to help your team go to new levels. Invest in the process. I will also add here that it is important for me to use the same questions for each candidate and to do each interview with the same co-workers.

If you have any past negative experiences in hiring, keep those in mind when interviewing. Be frank. Be clear about performance and expectations. Dig deep into your candidate's past experiences so you have a clear picture of what they can bring to your team.

With final interviews, it's great to include five minutes with the ED/CEO and/or someone on senior staff.

Finally, remember that the longer a future employee stays on your team and the more they bring to your team the better off everyone will be. Take your time.

Thanks so much for reading.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Tips for the fundraising professional's job search

I am on day 14 in Los Angeles.

A quick personal note (which I try to stay away from on my fundraising blog): We moved here after years of wanting to be in southern California for the warmer climate, the culture, the food and of course to be able to surf more often!

Being a fundraising professional on a job search in a city where nobody has ever heard of you isn't an easy task. Yet for some amazing reason I have had the chance to interview for some pretty incredible non-profits doing life-changing work in the Los Angeles area.

I wanted to pass along a few tips I do during the job process here. Some of these I realize are just :

Do not be in a hurry.

Get very comfortable with working with recruiting firms, especially ones who don't necessarily show that much respect for fundraising professionals or non-profit professionals as a whole.

Focus on getting in front of those who would actually hire you. This means rocking it through the recruiters.

As with any job, write an eye-opening cover letter specific to the position. Remember that you want to get in front of the person who will actually decide to hire you.

Be early to your interview.

Study the budget before the interview. For fundraisers this is crucial.

Don't promise the world. Focus on your past experiences and successes.

Dress for success.

Have a list of seven professional references that includes folks who you have reported to, who have reported to you, board members and professional contacts.

I think that's a good start!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Onto my next big adventure

Although I try to keep this blog all about fundraising, this time I have to add a little bit of personal information.

Me and my family are moving to Los Angeles. This has been a big dream of ours, to be closer to the ocean and the chance to surf and sea kayak a couple of times a month versus once or twice a year. Plus, at 49, I am done with winter.

The big move happens next week, with my last day as Director of Development and Public Affairs at Urban Peak being July 2nd.

I will always feel incredibly humbled and intensely grateful to have had the chance to fundraise for Urban Peak and to support one of the most amazing program staffs I have ever seen. Ever. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on holidays, in heat, in frigid temperatures, in surroundings that most people would not even want to think about, the program staff at Urban Peak rocks it for youth with nothing, youth experiencing homelessness or on the verge of homelessness. Youth that most people would rather not even think about. Youth that in many cases have had their voices ripped from them.

There folks are my heroes. They are rock stars.

How was I so lucky to have had the opportunity to fundraise so they can do what they excel in? I have no clue. Yet I have been deeply touched. I will never be the same human being I was when I first began working here because of these people.

Youth homelessness is many times overlooked in the overall conversation around homelessness. This is one thing that has become super clear to me while at Urban Peak. The unfortunate reality is that without agencies like Urban Peak, young people who have been totally crapped on by society have very little chance of going beyond poverty, violence and hopelessness to move from a life on the streets to a life where they are housed, safe and living on their own without needing help from anyone. Like I have told many donors, if we can get into relationship with a youth living on the streets, that youth has a very big chance of not holding a sign asking for money when they are my age.

All of the successes with youth at Urban Peak happen because we have an incredibly passionate and compassionate group of people. They don't make a lot of money. They don't get recognized like sports stars. But they are the true agents of making this world a better place not only for the youth served by Urban Peak (2,385 last fiscal year) but for each one of us.

Please support your local agency that serves youth experiencing homelessness. If you are in the position to make a financial contribution to the agency you have just read about, please click year here.

And please stay tuned for the Los Angeles fundraising adventures!

Thank you for reading.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Making the move to Los Angeles!

My family and I have decided to follow our many-year dream and move to southern California. We will be living in the suburbs east of Los Angeles.

Leaving Urban Peak is tough. This is truly the most remarkable organization I have ever been a part of. On a daily basis we serve youth with nothing, youth who have been discarded and who in many ceases society has simply failed. The successes at Urban Peak to show youth that they are cared about and can rock it in life no matter what has happened to them is truly mind blowing.

I will be at Urban Peak through early July then we will pack up the U-Haul and head west.

I have begun the search for a development position at an agency serving those most people would not like to think about and rocking their mission. There seems to be an endless list of those types of organizations in LA and I am looking forward to getting to know many of them.

After a little beach time and getting to know our new surroundings I will be all set to rock it for those with nothing and hopefully become a part of another truly amazing non-profit.

If you are in the LA area I would love to meet you.

If you know of any amazing opportunities at non-profits in the LA area please let me know. My email is fundraisingdan@gmail.com

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Another loss for the non-profit world

I love being in the non-profit world.

I love being a fundraiser in the non-profit world.

I talk up our world all of the time. Non-profits need good pr.

Recently, someone I highly respect, decided to leave our world.

She couldn't take the lack of leadership.

She couldn't take the lack of transparency.

She couldn't take the politics.

I spoke with her several times. I urged her to leave where she was but to please stay in the non-profit world. Not all non-profits are the same and I knew she could land at an amazing non-profit that met her very normal expectations of a work place.

She decided to leave.

I am devastated that she is leaving us.

Non-profits change the world. We save lives and change lives every day. We do work that many would rather not even think about.

I have written about non-profit leadership, and lack of leadership. We need to get it together if we are to be a landing spot for incredible and passionate talent. Those we serve depend on it.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Passion for the mission

I think of this often.

Does a member of your fundraising team need to have a passion for the mission of the non-profit?

I say yes.

I bring it up often when interviewing. I believe hiring the right people for your team is the first key to a successful fundraising team. Or any team for that matter. And I talk a lot about our mission when interviewing.

After all, we serve youth experiencing homelessness, youth who have nothing. We don't do the mission or the youth any justice if we can have folks out there building relationships in the community who don't have a passion for our work.

It's not difficult to figure out in the interview process. As a fundraiser, I want my team to have as many tools as possible to take out and build relationships and partnerships with. Their work will be so much easier if they are passionate for the cause.

Another reason I want members of team to be passionate for the mission is that I will know that coming to work and rocking it will fulfill them personally. Between being personally fulfilled, working with other who are equally passionate for the mission, being empowered and supported on all levels, and working with an elite team of fundraisers they will inevitably love their work!

I would love to hear what other fundraisers think.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 26, 2015

I started using lists

There seems to be  a lot of solid opinions on whether or not making lists help with finishing tasks or don't help.

For years I have met folks, speaking of fellow fundraisers here, who make lists and they work from them. I always thought that this was a great idea for them and I'm glad it worked for them.

Then, last year, while preparing for our weekly development team meeting, I realized that I was one of those fundraisers who works from a list. Just like that! And I had been doing it for some time.

You see, every Monday morning I prepare for our weekly team meetings. I create a list of items I want to chat with the team about and during our meeting we go over those items. Then, that LIST becomes a check off of items I will work on for the week.

It could include meeting with a particular staff member, something to bring up with my boss, starting an event invitation or working and working on a direct mail piece.

The simple fact is that for me, starting the week with a list of items, regardless of whether or not they are already on my calendar or in notes or whatever else I use to plan, helps me considerably.

It shows me the intensity of the week.

It allows me to celebrate as I cross things off.

It keeps me focused, which does not come natural to me.

It allows to continually throughout the week check in with others about what we are working on, how things are going with those items, and how others can support.

I could on. I won't.

For me, lists work. Or should I say, a Monday morning list for the week works for me.

I have met many fundraisers and work with many fundraisers. I realize we all have our tools that support us and the successes we have. This may or may not work for you. I wanted to share it because it works for me.

Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 23, 2015

January fundraising

Yes, I am aware that January is almost over! My has it flown by. I still think it's relative for fundraisers to talk about making January an awesome month.

As a fundraiser, January has always been an interesting month. In most of my positions I have breathed a sigh of relief in early January or been devastated by a failed end of year effort. In some cases I have been able to create a quite strong fundraising month in January based on rigorous efforts and relationship-building in December.

At my current agency we run a fiscal year that goes from October to September. No craziness in December as far as making budget but we still rock it due to it being an important month of giving for our donors.

So what do we do in January? Regardless of whether this is the start of your fiscal year or in the middle, all of these suggestions could help:

Make sure every donor from December has been thanked.

Make sure all of your recurring monthly donors have a received a letter telling them the total amount of their giving for the past year.

Personally call all of your major donors and thank them for donating last year.

(At this point you might be seeing a pattern. Basically, are you in relationship with your donors, do they know that, and are you in a position to continue that relationship this year.)

Send a year-end review to your Board of Directors. Let them know five or six highlights of the past year and a couple of things that surprised you.

If this is something that you can do, send the same type of email to the entire staff.

Meet individually with your team members and talk about how you want to rock it with them in the next couple of months. Be prepared.

Learning. Yes, most of us have a lot to learn. Hold a training for your team.Go to a training. Create a "101" for folks you lead.

Finally, it's important to not give up on lapsed donors from last year. You've run the numbers and you see that your donor retention rate was not that good. Just because you are in a new year doesn't mean you need (or should) give up. Create a plan to engage with those donors.

Let's make January an incredible month!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Take a walk! With a donor!

Every year The Community First Foundation sponsors Colorado Gives Day, an online giving day created to increase giving in Colorado to local non-profits. Typically the second Tuesday in December, this day of giving has completely exploded into a $20 million + fundraising day for Colorado non-profits.

Each year I like to ride the coat tails of this day and have some sort of event. This past December we planned #WalktheBlock, a 24-hour walk to shine a light on youth homelessness through walking. We partnered with Saint John's Cathedral and for 24 hours walked around the Cathedral. We had a RV supplied from a donor, had lots of food and drink donated, and for 24 hours we walked, talked, laughed, visited and most importantly, got people thinking about homeless youth.

I was surprised by how many of our donors swung by to walk a few blocks. Some called ahead and asked if we needed anything, others showed up with food and drink. It was certainly an amazing day for us and for the youth we serve.

Something that I was not expecting happened. With so many donors coming by I had the chance to take a walk with many of them. Some walked for five blocks while others walked for longer. Each time I walked with a donor I finished feeling like our relationship had just been catapulted to another dimension.

It didn't matter what we talked about. It could have been about why we were walking or how the day was going. Many times it was about their day, their family, something personal about them.

And I learned. So much more about them than I could have ever possibly learned from a phone call, a site tour, or seeing them at a special event.

We had many successes that day. Learning so much more about so many of our donors certainly was on the top of the list.

Take a walk with a donor. Listen. Let them talk.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 9, 2015

How much have I given?

This week I excitedly sent our annual giving letters to donors.


Donors are busy. Their job is not to keep track of how much they are giving and when they gave. That's my job.

We start with those who donate monthly. When those donors set up a monthly donation, we ask them if it's OK that we send them an annual thank you letter as opposed to a monthly one. They love that, mainly because it saves time and money for us. So in the first week of January we send out those letters.

Then we go to our list of donors who have made multiple donations, or have donated a cash gift and perhaps attended an event. The letter spells out the tax deductibility of the event donation and includes any other cash donations, and of course the dates of the donation.

These letters help us, and the youth we serve, in so many ways.

We are not asking for a donation.

We are making a touch.

We are letting our donors know about their giving, which may or may not surprise them. I find that doing these letters adds to an increase in gift amount. It also helps in a decrease of lapsed donors. How many times have you met or spoken with a donor and their response to you telling them their last gift date is one of shock? Time flies, not only for your but also for your donors.

It's up to us as fundraisers to communicate with our donors and to support them in any way we can. Hopefully you are in good relationship with your donors and yearend giving letters will not be a surprise or something that they are not aware of!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

An awesome fundraising team

I think about this often.

As a fundraising professional.

As a leader of a team of fundraising professionals.

As a person who is responsible for raising funds so program people can do their jobs.

As a human being who is completely passionate about making positive change in the world and intensely passionate for the mission of the agency I fundraise for.

What makes an awesome fundraising team?

Several things:

People who give a shit about the mission.
People who have some sense of a work ethic.
People who aren't afraid to talk about the mission.
People who aren't afraid to build relationships.
People who aren't afraid to make a financial ask.
People who realize there is no box.
People who care about more than just themselves.
People who are creative.
People who can listen.
People who have the ability to set their own personal ego aside.
People who can lead if their in a leading position and who can mange if they are in a managing position.

This is a start.

We as fundraisers are changing the world. Our success makes a difference in whether or not the program folks can do their job, which in our case is saving and changing lives.

An awesome development/fundraising team is vital.

Thanks for reading.