Category Archives: Bob Cryer

What Kind of Board Do You Want?

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer


Most nonprofit boards have an option to evolve, or not evolve, from one stage to another. This blog post discusses the most common options and the implications.



A Founder’s Board: A nonprofit founder will typically recruit a few family members or friends to comply with the IRS’s minimum board requirement. The board’s other role is to encourage the founder to keep building the nonprofit in whatever direction the founder would like to develop it. The advantage of this board is that the founder has a support group and has almost complete control of where the nonprofit is going and how and when it will get there.

A Credibility Board: If a nonprofit’s primary funding strategy is getting grants, it might decide to add board members who have a lot of relevant professional credibility and experience. This type of board is likely to have a significant influence on how the nonprofit does things, helping it adopt more professional “best practices” so that they are more grant eligible. The founder gets a lot more advice on how to run things, and less unconditional support.

A Policy Board: If a credibility board continues to grow, it is likely to recruit members who are expert in many of the nonprofit’s functions. A Policy Board will develop policies of how the nonprofit should operate in each functional area, and evaluate the Executive Director on how well their policies are executed. This might enable the nonprofit to become a preferred supplier to the foundations and agencies that fund the kind of work that the nonprofit does. On the other hand, the ED’s freedom of action has a lot of policy constraints.

A Fundraising Board: If an emerging nonprofit’s primary fundraising strategy is individual donors, the board is more likely to recruit donors that are socially active in the community, so that they can recruit more donors, volunteers, committee chairs and board members to run more and bigger events and campaigns.

A Strategic Board: Fundraising board members tend to have a good sense of what gets donors excited about the nonprofit. This board might logically start doing some strategic planning, setting directions for the nonprofit in order to make it easier for the board and its committees to attract even more and bigger donors. A strategic board sets the development direction of the nonprofit and looks to the executive director to implement their strategy.

What type of board does your nonprofit have and what are the implications on the role of your executive director? What kind of board and executive director do you want to have?

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

What Makes Donors Give?

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

If you examine what makes donors give, here are two factors that consistently bubble to the top:

The first is feeling like they’re making a difference. The closer you can tie donor action to results—past, present, and future results—the more likely you are to get more people to give more. Consider these two scenarios. In scenario one, you simply ask someone to donate $100, perhaps online. In scenario two, you first demonstrate that $100 can house a woman and her children in your domestic violence shelter for one week—and THEN you ask donors for their $100. Or better yet, you permit them to choose one of the women in your shelter (names redacted for privacy, of course) and sponsor her and her kids for one week for $100. In that case donors might even get periodic updates on how their sponses are doing, or a thank-you note directly from them. Now, in which of these scenarios do you think the donor is more likely to give?!

There are effective ways of using your website and social media to help convey to existing and prospective donors what you are doing with their money. For example, when Living Homes wanted to create the “greenest” home in America, they posted a one-minute video showing the complete construction of the home, starting with the foundation. For donors who already gave, the video was tangible evidence of the impact of their donations. For prospective donors, the video showed that the organization could truly deliver impressive results.

As a recent headline in the Chronicle of Philanthropy aptly states: “Donors Say They Would Give More If They Saw More Results.”

Another great donor motivator is gratitude. Again, consider two scenarios. In the first scenario, a $1,000 first-time donor is either never thanked, or thanked weeks later in an impersonal manner. In the second scenario, that donor is thanked in an immediate, personal, and meaningful manner, perhaps even thanked in more than one way. Again, the Internet can be a powerful way to accentuate your gratitude. Of course, you could send donors an immediate, perhaps automatic e-mail (for online donations). But beyond that, you could send them a personalized thank-you video. You can send such videos for free from MailVu. Better yet, the next time you have a fundraising or educational event, each attendee could, that day, receive a personalized thank-you video from your executive director, founder, or board chair. These personalized thank-you videos are surprisingly inexpensive—as low as a couple dollars per recipient.

This posting is an extract of an article posted on the Guidestar website by Allan Pressel, CEO of PowerSite123, which helps nonprofits create world-class websites, social media, SEO, and marketing. Allan is a world-renowned ePhilanthropy speaker and co-author of Internet Management for Nonprofits. He was given the Volunteer Service Award by President George W. Bush. Allan was co-founder of i-Cube, which had a highly successful IPO. Feel free to contact Allan with any questions at (310) 363-0095 or

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Is Social Media Right for Your Nonprofit?

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

Most nonprofit conferences have at least one session devoted to social media with titles like: Ten Ways Social Media Can Help You Raise More Funds…Social Media for Getting Your Story Out….What Every Social Marketer Needs to Know. But social media may not be right for your nonprofit if you do not have the following capabilities.

Do you have the staff to respond quickly to a question or comment that someone posts on your blog, Facebook or LinkedIn page? Social media is meant to be interactive. If you do not respond quickly, you are likely to create some negative impressions rather than the positive image you are trying to project.

Do you have the knowledge to provide responses that are always consistent with the brand image that you are trying project? It is not enough to know how to use the technology correctly. Responders must also be a credible and effective spokesperson for your nonprofit.

Do you have written guidelines and policies regarding the accuracy of information you put online, the use of vulgarities, respect for others and how to address criticisms of your nonprofit or its people? Anything you say online is archived and can be retrieved at any time by anyone from anywhere.

Do you have a crisis management plan in place so that you can respond quickly and effectively should something negative about your nonprofit start going viral? Who should your responder report this to in your organization and how should these people respond.

Do you know when you are overexposing your nonprofit to your audience? At what point might you be sending out too many tweets, messages or posts that, instead of holding your audience’s attention, they are starting to consider your messages as spam?

Do you know your lost opportunity costs? Is your social media effort taking effort away from other activities that could be of greater benefit to your nonprofit?

This post is a summary of an article that Larry Checco of Checco Communication wrote for Guidestar in October 2014. Mr. Checco is a nationally recognized public speaker, book author, workshop presenter and consultant on branding and leadership.

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Donor Retention and Development

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer



For the past decade, donor-retention rates have been sinking. Today, they’re at an all-time low. According to studies by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), every $100 raised from new donors is offset by $100 in losses because of attrition. All this despite the facts:

  • Organizations have a 60 percent to 70 percent chance of obtaining additional gifts from an existing donor.
  • A 20 percent to 40 percent chance of obtaining an additional gift from a recently lapsed donor.
  • But less than a 2 percent chance of obtaining a gift from a prospective donor.

So one thing should be blindingly obvious. The bulk of your fundraising expenditures should be aimed at holding onto and building relationships with existing donors, not in acquiring new ones.

Are there primary reasons why donors stop giving? Yes, I detail them at length in my book Retention Fundraising. In short the main reasons are:

  • Failure to properly thank and involve donors.
  • Failure to place the focus of communications on the donor, rather than the organization.
  • Failure to be consistent, both in message and in service delivery to the donor.

Organizations that brag about themselves and ignore donors will ultimately fail. Yet it’s surprising how many organizations simply don’t understand this.

Are there any easy, inexpensive steps we can take to hold onto our donors? Surprisingly, there are. The three that come to mind quickest are:

  • Say Thanks. You don’t have much competition here. Our research shows that more than 60 percent of all nonprofits thank their donors impersonally, slowly, or not at all.
  • Be Consistent. If you’re consistent with your message you build trust. To a donor who gives money for feeding the hungry, switching the thank you to all the great stuff you’re doing in the area of social justice is joltingly inconsistent, and you’re likely to lose the donor.
  • Be Reliable. Just as in personal relationships, reliability is essential. If a donor calls your service center with a question or a request for an address change and is met with a rude or unknowledgeable representative, you’re on your way to losing that donor. Don’t stint on donor service. It’s the best investment you can make.

This blog posting is an extract from an article by Roger Craver that GuideStar published in September 2014. Mr. Craver is the author of the new book “Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Donors for Life”

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Should Fundraising be a “Profit Center”?

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

Gail Perry, in her 8/1/2014 blog post, makes the interesting suggestion that fundraisers define themselves to the nonprofit’s decision makers (the CEO, CFO and their Board) as a nonprofit “profit center” rather than as a nonprofit “cost center”.

If fundraising behaves like it is a cost center, management typically looks for ways to control and reduce that center’s costs. This makes it very difficult for the function to sell the CEO and Board on increasing the fundraising budget, because the fundraisers do not have a credible history of justifying their spending by reporting the profitability and rate of return on the investment of each of their existing fundraising programs.

In order to be perceived as a profit center, the fundraisers need to diligently keep track of the value of all of their efforts and the other expenses that that go into each fundraising campaign, and report the profitability and percent return of each campaign to management.

One benefit of doing this is that you might find very attractive ways of increasing your return. For example, you might have a homegrown online fundraising campaign that nets your nonprofit $15,000, which is the lowest net yield of all your programs. But it also has the highest return because it only costs you $3000 to get that return. You might decide that it would great investment, with little downside risk, to contract with an online fundraising expert to increase the quality of your campaign so it might generate $30,000 for a one time additional investment of $5000.

The other advantage of having fundraising be a profit center is that it gives the fundraisers credibility with management. Everyone knows the profitability and return of every campaign, and they are all good contributors because the fundraisers have eliminated or fixed all the weak sisters. Management is now much more willing to invest in new campaigns because of the fundraiser’s current performance and their willingness to hold themselves accountable.

In the last few years, the idea of a “social enterprise” has spread in the nonprofit community. One way of becoming a social enterprise is for a nonprofit to startup a for-profit business, like a thrift store, whose profits can help fund the nonprofit operations.

The reality is that every nonprofit that has a fundraising operation is already “social enterprise” because the sole purpose of fundraising is to generates profits to fund the nonprofit’s charitable operations. Fundraising is a for-profit business. It is a significant opportunity loss if nonprofits do not manage it like a for-profit business.

If you would like to discuss this idea, please contact us at or at 949-715-4561

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Female Donors are the #1 Donor Demographic

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

According to the June 2014 Huffington Post, 64% of all charitable gifts are made by women. Boomers are the major donors of today, accounting for 34% of all donors, and importantly, 43% of all the money donated. According to an Indiana University study, Boomer and older women are more like to give and more likely to give more than their male counterparts. How do you develop this high potential donor niche?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy says that most mega gifts happen close to home. Furthermore, 89% of high net worth donors volunteer with nonprofits. Gail Perry, an international fundraising consultant, coach, speaker and blogger, vividly recalls the time a mega-wealthy donor said to her “We give our money where we give our time”.

Gail Perry’s Strategic Thoughts:

  • What are you going to do to get high potential donors involved as volunteers? How about a committee, or your board, or a focus group?
  • It’s one thing to take them onsite in the middle of you action. (That is terrific and a must-do!)
  • It’s a next step to get them involved in decision making or policy roles. That is when the bigger money may flow in.

Lastly, Community Foundations are a rapidly rising source of major gifts for nonprofits. Nationally, donor advised funds grew 18% from $38B in 2011 to $45B in 2012. Locally, the Orange County Community Foundation’s 600 high net worth donors enabled their assets to grow 37% from $144M in 2012 to $198M in 2013. Any nonprofit that does not have a well-developed relationship with OC-CF must not be very interested in major gifts, or is just crazy.

The ideas for this blog post were extracted from a Guidestar article by Gail Perry at

Converting First-time Donors into Major Donors

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

Rachel Muir, in her article reprinted by Guidestar in June 2014, gives us a compelling way of quickly converting most of your first-time donors into major donors. “The secret sauce is thanking your donors properly, learning more about their interests, and holding yourself accountable.”

Step 1: Thank the bejesus out of your donor. Your donor chose you out of 1.5 million nonprofits. Create a celebration that tells the donor how grateful you are for their gift.

  • Get a handwritten thank-you card out the door in 48 hours
  • Have a board member thank the donor as well. Being thanked personally by a volunteer board member is the most powerful and meaningful thanks a donor can get. It also helps board members get involved and excited about fundraising.
  • Connect the gift with a meaningful outcome (e.g. giving a fragile kitten a lifesaving vaccine)

Step 2: Learn more about your donor. Use Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest and other sources to learn more about your donor, their company, their neighborhood and interests and their likely giving capacity. Then, in a follow-up thank-you call, ask your donor questions to reveal their interests.

  • What made you decide to give to us?
  • What was the best gift you ever gave? What made it great?
  • If you could change the world, what would you do?

Step 3: Set a revenue goal and cultivation plan for the new donors that have major donor potential. Lewis Carroll said “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” This is especially true in fundraising. How many times have you attended a meeting where people agreed on the right strategy for developing a donor, but nothing happened? Leverage the data you collected in Step 2 into a specific timetable of meaningful interactions with your donor, and the dollar amount you will eventually ask for. Then hold yourself accountable for doing it.

You can read the entire article at

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

Why Do Your Donors Give?

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

Karen Eber Davis at says that studies show that “donors give for a handful of common reasons including giving back, making a difference and because they were asked. Beyond these generic concepts, if you seek to grow your donations, you need to identify the primary reason why your donors give to you.”

When you meet with a donor, talk to them on the telephone or communicate with them by mail or Email, everything you say to a donor should be based on why they want to give to your nonprofit. Karen uses an orchestra to illustrate three different primary reasons why donors might give.

The first is the “me donor” that donates because of what the nonprofit has done for them. The donor might enjoy the arts or appreciate the college education they got, and donate because of the benefit they got or get from “giving back” to that kind of nonprofit.

A second type is the “you donor” that gives because they might want to help someone else. They might not enjoy the classical music themselves, but know of someone that benefitted greatly from the services that that person received from a nonprofit similar to yours

A third type is the “us donor” that gives because they believe that their community, in order to be a good community, should have the resources that your nonprofit provides (e.g. our community should have a college, an orchestra, a food bank, a clinic, etc.).

Karen suggests that when you have an initial meeting with a prospective donor, you might, at an appropriate point, ask if the donor has any personal experience with the type of service that your nonprofit offers. If they don’t seem to be a “me donor”, you might later ask if they know of anyone else that might have benefited from the kind of service that you offer.  If being a “you donor” doesn’t resonate, you might later test whether they have stronger feelings for the community’s need for your nonprofit.

Once you know your donors primary reason for donating, your efforts to develop that donor will be more effective if you focus your communications on how your nonprofit is fulfilling that donor’s primary reason. You might even introduce the donor to other donors that have the same primary reason to donate, and encourage them to collaborate to do even more for your nonprofit.

You can see Karen’s 7 minute video on “Why do your donors give you money” at:

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County. 

What Kind of Board Should You Want?

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

Many of our nonprofit clients dream of having a Board of high net-worth individuals, who, along with their wealthy friends, give bundles of money to their nonprofit, eliminating all of nonprofit’s financial worries.  These nonprofits typically have an existing Board of caring middle-class people who donate what they can and try to advise their Executive Director on how to better manage the nonprofit. The Board of these small to mid-size nonprofits does not typically have many useful connections to high net-worth individuals. Even if they did, their nonprofit lacks prestigious community brand name that attracts these donors to serve on their Board and give generously. Their dream is probably unrealistic, and possible dysfunctional because it may divert energy away from a realistic fundraising Board development strategy.

Rather than recruiting credible professionals who are willing to participate in Board meetings, and make a more modest donation, a nonprofit might consider trying to recruit community activists to their Board and its committees. These activists are likely to recruit others who also want to get involved by putting on various kinds of events for the nonprofit (bake sales, wine tastings, open houses, walk/hike/runs, golf outings, open houses, celebrations or gala events).  As the number of people involved in events as activists, volunteers and participants grows, the number of donors is likely to grow along with this rising awareness of your nonprofit in the community. This is likely to lead to more major donors and involved activists that can continue to accelerate your Board’s and your nonprofit’s growth.

Having activists on your Board may shake things up a bit; creating some tensions and needs for better process management.  But if it provides a more realistic path to your growth vision, it may be worth the risk.

If you would like some help with implementing this strategy, or with any other nonprofit management issues, please explore the idea of getting a no-cost mentor and coach at .

What Kind of Boss Are You?

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

There are at least three fundamentally different styles of dealing with employees. The best approach depends on what you are expecting of your employees, the capabilities of your employee and your capability to effectively utilize the various styles.

I’ll call the first approach the supervisor style. It is not uncommon for people to be promoted into their first management position because of their knowledge, skill and dedication to doing the organization’s work. It is also not unusual for these managers to assume their role is to make sure people are always using their best practices in doing their work or responding to issues. The strength of this approach is insuring that the department’s quality standards are always met, even if there is a high turnover of entry level personnel. If there is any process improvement, it is typically created by the supervisor.

A second style is results oriented management. In this approach, the manager typically sets measurable goals for performance improvement, and encourages their employees to continually think about ways of doing their work that will improve the quality or quantity of the results they are producing. This manager does have to know that much about how the work is currently done, and trusts that their employees are capable of finding ways to meet existing standards.  This style works best with a department with a low turnover of competent employees. The style tends to deliver a lot more improvement than the supervisory style.

A third style is the leadership or visionary approach. This executive trusts the organizations that report to them to maintain quality standards and to continually improve productivity. They are looking for breakthrough ideas for moving their organization into brand new markets or services.  They do this by continually selling the vision and encouraging some of their staff to think “outside the box”, hoping that one of them will develop of a compelling breakthrough idea. Most of this effort will be worthless, but if one great idea emerges, it will be worth it.

Different styles tend to produce different kinds of valued result. Using a style that is not well suited to the results expected and the mindset of your employees can produce a disaster.  A supervisory approach has the lowest downside risk or upside potential. The leadership approach is the opposite, with the management approach somewhere in the middle.

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,