Getting the Appointment

April 21st, 2014
Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

Master Fundraiser Jerold Panas said in a GuideStar article, that when you get the appointment, you are already 85% of the way towards getting that major gift. He likes to think of the appointment as a “visit”. An appointment has a unpleasant connotation, line a dental appointment. But a visit has a different feel, giving your prospect an opportunity to invest in making a positive difference in people’s lives.

Mr. Panas recommends that you always send a letter to the prospect prior to making the phone call because it is the most effective way possible of securing the “visit”. And it saves you 5 or 10 minutes of trying to explain why you want to visit with the prospect.

Write a script for what you plan to say on the phone call. Keep the small talk brief, and focus on setting a time for your visit. Give them a choice of two dates for the meeting. Your script might look like:

“Hi, Mary. This is Jerry Panas. I sent you a letter the other day about the new library at the Middletown School. Can I visit with you and John next Tuesday or Thursday at 2pm?”

Practice the script several times prior to making the call, but don’t risk sounding flat by reading it to the prospect. Have your calendar handy to make it easy to find a mutually convenient date and time. Tell the prospect how much time you will need, and ask them if that is OK?

Don’t fall into the trap of making your presentation over the phone. It won’t work. Focus on getting the date and time for your visit.

Follow-up your phone call with a brief letter of confirmation and appreciation. You are now 85% of the way towards getting that major gift donation.

You can read Mr. Panas’s complete article by going to

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

  • Share/Bookmark

Checking Our Delegation Skills

April 14th, 2014

Adrianne DuMond



How many of us have delegated a task and not had it turn out like we visualized or wanted? Then it’s hard to get it like we expected it to turn out. Here are some reminders that might help refresh the actions.


1) Getting started the right way: Being clear about expectations and responsibilities.

WHAT: The most important step is being specific about what the end result and success will look like. Take time to be explicit and test to see if there is agreement with the person to whom you delegate.

WHO and WHY: In these work-pressured times, with many part-time employees, it’s beneficial to let people know why you have selected them for the job. For example, “Jane (who) I have chosen you to lead the project because (why) you’ve shown great leadership of the team”.

WHEN: It’s important to have interim check points, to set tentative dates for the updates, and to agree upon an end time. This hopefully avoids any miscommunication and disappointments.

2) Create learning opportunities: Delegation is an excellent way to coach promising talent and to fulfill the need for succession planning at the same time. Choose carefully, make delegation reward for good performance, and stay involved to ensure success – but let us not micromanage.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

  • Share/Bookmark

Testing Your Strategic Plan

April 7th, 2014
Dave Blankenhorn

Dave Blankenhorn

Many organizations go through the annual strategic planning process without really testing their ideas and plans against some basic prinipals.Coming up with a plan is difficult but coming up with a plan that makes a difference to all your constituents is even more so. In light of this here are some tests to consider:

Does your strategy have a vision? – Will it have a deeper meaning to your clients, service the community the way it should and provide the emotional catalyst for your employees and stakeholders?

Is your client the center of your strategy? – The plan is all about servicing and taking care of your client so that needs to be the center of the whole plan.

Is your strategy forward looking? – Many groups place too much weight on the existing and status quo. Look ahead.

Does your strategy take into consideration the financial ability to achieve it?

It is fine to think big but only if you have the means to do it or have a specific plan to obtain funds to achieve the plan.

Is your strategy flexible? – a good strategy will be flexible enough to slow down or speed up depending on changing conditions. A well thought out strategy will include the assumptions and variables that would influence changes in your strategy.

Is your strategy designed around a bias? – When designing a plan it helps to acknowledge and limit any inherent biases. These can include being over optimistic, too fearful, herding or following the crowd, anchoring on some data point, or the “champion” bias of placing too much merit on a strategy because of the person that proposed it.

Does your plan have conviction? – Many plans fail because of faulty execution by the staff. A good strategic plan requires more that Board approval- everyone in the organization must share the passion to make it work.

Can you translate your plan into an action plan? – Once a plan is approved the real work begins. The successful execution of the plan depends on an accurate road map outlining initiatives’, accountability and time frames.

If you have a plan in place or are formulating one take a look at these eight factors to see if you meet these tests. Your nonprofit will be better for it.

Author:  Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

  • Share/Bookmark

A reminder on the Federal Form 990 …

March 31st, 2014

Robin Noah

If you are a nonprofit organization that is required to file a Form 990 make sure you are using the current 990 form. As a reminder – especially for newly established nonprofits – the 990 is an informational financial return that most nonprofit’s have to file annually with the IRS, five months after the close of their fiscal year. Failure to prepare and submit form 990 is cause for the revocation of the exempt status of a nonprofit organization.

You can easily check with the web site for nonprofits that may not be required to submit information

Most organizations with gross receipts of less than $200,000 and total assets less than $500,000 may choose to file either the revised Form 990 or the Form 990-EZ.

Nonprofits organizations with annual gross receipts of less than $25,000 aren’t generally required to file Form 990. However, they do have to file an electronic postcard form called the Form 990-N, available from the IRS at

The submitted 990 forms are available to the general public including donors and grantors. The data includes executive compensation and program expenditures. Potential donors and grantors can, and many routinely do, look at an organization’s Form 990 before making decisions about charitable giving. The media and nonprofit-watchdog groups may also check out 990s.

According to IRS disclosure regulations, exempt organizations must make its three most recently filed annual 990 or 990-PF returns and all related supporting documents available for public inspection. This public disclosure rule also applies to Form 1023, which is filed to obtain exempt status.

From the Attorney General’s office: Charities operating in California must register and file annual financial reports with the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts. The Attorney General’s Charities website offers resources to help charities with registration and reporting compliance. Compliance and enforcement are handled by the Attorney General’s Charitable Trusts Section: California Attorney General, (916) 322-3360 or 1-800-952-5225

For additional information you can get a copy of the Tax Exempt Status for Your Organization Publication 557 (Rev. October 2013) at the Attorney General’s web site.

Author: Robin Noah, Executive Ciaches of Orange County,

  • Share/Bookmark

Finding Good Prospects

March 24th, 2014
Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

Would you be interested in learning who might be a good prospect to contact about making a donation to your nonprofit and/or to join one of your nonprofit’s committees or its Board? One definition of a good prospect is someone who is interested enough in your nonprofit to repeatedly, over time, seek out information about your nonprofit and its activities. How might you identify these prospects?

One way of finding them is to “data mine” your Email list. If you regularly Email a newsletter to a fairly large audience, and use an Email service like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact to deliver that newsletter, that service creates a file for each Emailing of what happened when they tried to deliver your Email to each recipient:

  • Was the Email service able to deliver the Email to that recipient?
  • Did the recipient open your Email to read its content?
  • How many “links” in your Email did the recipient “click on”?
  • Did the recipient “opt out” of future mailings?

You can download these “Email servicer” data files for several of your Emailings into your computer, merge them into one file, and sort the records to readily determine which of your Email recipients frequently opened your Emails to learn more about your nonprofit. These are your “loyal followers” that have repeatedly been interested in your nonprofit over the time period analyzed, and are good prospects to contact to determine if they might be interested in doing more to support your nonprofit’s good works, and how they might like to contribute.

Please visit our for more information about how we might help you with your fundraising plans or any other issues that you might be facing.

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

  • Share/Bookmark

Networking: A New Way of Solving Social Problems

March 11th, 2014

Adrianne DuMond

“Networks generally create value for individual members as well as for the network as a whole. They are reciprocal and tend to involve multiple value positions for participants”. (Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ), Winter, 2013) What is the message in this for nonprofits? Nonprofits struggle daily with all human conditions – homelessness, poverty, human trafficking, immigration, hunger, education, health care. The above publication is recommending that networks (e.g.,agencies, Boards of Directors, hospitals, government ) must combine operations and influence to better solve these ongoing problems.

To utilize these concepts that create larger impacts and stronger influence, they lay out a set of guidelines for the networks.

  1. Adaptability rather than control. Most of us like to have control over projects and services. It is much easier to be accountable when we have control. But NPQ argues that leading with adaptability over time is a better approach. Given the extreme complexity of many problems, it is impossible for any one leader or entity to know all the ways to solve a problem.
  2. Live with emergence over predictability. Like all living systems, when leaders come together, think together, work together, it is not possible to predict what they will come up with. It is often new possibilities. The speed of instant communications via internet capability compounds this unpredictable condition.
  3. Resilience and redundancy. The most successful athletic teams have backups for key positions. Given the fluidity and complexity of operating through various networks, it is important to learn to be comfortable with “redundancy of function and the richness of interconnections.” If one network leaves, there are others to take its place.
  4. Contributions before credentials. I know a senior partner in a major consulting firm that never finished college. How did she get there? She worked hard, is a visionary and a great problem solver.
  5. Diversity and divergence. The essence of being comfortable with a variety of networks, trying to solve the same problem, is the acceptance of new thinking, various fields of experience, and expanding options.

As a volunteer, I have listened to many presentations on the Affordable Care Act. Whether we agree with it or not, just as it is changing the face of health care, it is symptomatic of the complexities and required changes for solving other social problems. This article has tried to suggest a new approach.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

  • Share/Bookmark

Become a Better Decision Maker

March 11th, 2014
Dave Blankenhorn

Dave Blankenhorn

Many of us like to think we make key strategic decisions based on our experience, knowledge, our analytical ability and our intuition. We do so after discussing and confirming our judgment with our key people. However recent studies have revealed this approach can result in a high error rate because we don’t really look at the negative impact our decision might have and other potential ideas. We do this because of our:

Narrow mind set- Most people make decisions without really considering any alternatives. By focusing on the narrow decision most people will miss some valuable input and data. Studies show strategic decisions made without alternatives are wrong half the time’

Confirmation bias- We have a tendency to place more value on information that supports our opinion while ignoring or devaluing any contrary ideas. We see what we want to see even when data on both sides is equal thereby ensuring we will opt to the side that supports our view.

Short term emotion- While we like to think our decisions are based on all factors we are often unaware how emotions steer our thoughts. Fleeting short term emotions can influence us into making poor long term decisions.

Overconfidence- Once our mind is made up we rarely revisit the decision to see if that decision was the right one. Studies show doctors who were absolutely certain of their initial diagnosis were actually wrong 40% of the time.

Knowing we face these pitfalls we could lower our possible error rate by asking a few key people to prepare a case against your decision which will allow you to clearly see the other sides of the issue. If you then wish to proceed you will do so with more confidence knowing more of the facts.

Author:  Dave Blankenhorn, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

  • Share/Bookmark

Reimbursing employee milage …

February 21st, 2014

Robin Noah

On December 6, 2013 the Internal Revenue Service issued the 2014 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 56 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 23.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

Alternatively, individual taxpayers may deduct the actual costs of using their vehicles, rather than using the above standard rates.

According to Attorney Chris Olmsted ( Barker,Olmsted and Barnier)employers have gone down the road of litigation after failing to reimburse employees for mileage. He notes that California Labor Code section 2802, subdivision (a), requires an employer to indemnify its employees for expenses they necessarily incur in the discharge of their duties. This includes, of course travel expenses. Employers should reimburse employees for mileage driven for business purposes in personal vehicles. (This does not include commute miles.)

Failure to pay for the mileage can easily place the employer in the courts facing litigation on issues concerning wage and hour liabilities.

Prudent employers have employee manuals/handbooks that clearly state the company’s policy on mileage reimbursement; including procedures for employees to claim and receive reimbursement for travel and other expenses. Methods and procedures should also be available to the management staff of the company so that the process can be administered equitably.

Title 8, California Code of Regulations states, in part, that employers must compute and pay mileage reimbursement when wages are paid, or at least once per calendar month, as determined by the employer. All such payments must be made not later than the end of the calendar month following the calendar month in which the expenses were incurred, unless the employee fails to provide the employer with the records of the number of miles driven for the reimbursement period, in which case the reimbursement must be made no later than the month following the month in which the employee provides the employer with the records for the mileage claimed.

 Resources: www.IRS.Gov / California Labor Code Section 2802(a) / Title 8, California Code of Regulations, Sections 1300 to 13706

Author:  Robin Noah, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

  • Share/Bookmark

Making “The Ask”

February 17th, 2014
Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

Jerold Panas provided some compelling advice on how to do the ask in the Guidestar blog. Here is what he says that potential donors typically have on their minds, which the “asker” needs to address.



  1. Why should I give to this nonprofit? Why should I make it one of my priorities?
  2. Why is this particular program important enough to make me want to give? Does it interest me and will it make a difference?
  3. Why should I give now? Is it really urgent enough to divert funds away from others that I have been considering?
  4. And finally, why are you calling on me to make this gift? Why have you singled me out?

Mr. Panas also has some advice on the qualities of an effective “asker”.

  1. The most important attribute is that there is passion for the cause. The ideal “asker” is someone who is “burning in their bones” for the organization.
  2. It also takes persistence because it typically takes at least two visits to get the donors pledge, so you have to stick with it to get the appointments.
  3. The “asker” must have a talent for listening, to draw the prospect out to talk about their thoughts and feelings about the proposal. Askers should talk about 25% of the time and listen 75% of the time.
  4. The person that should make the ask is the volunteer who the prospective donor would have the hardest time saying no to. On the first call, you should ideally have that volunteer accompany the CEO to make the ask (Panas’s magic partnership).
  5. That volunteer should testify to the gift they have already pledged. If it was a stretch gift, the testimony is likely to be powerful and compelling. Never bring a volunteer that has not made their own major gift to the cause.

You can read Mr. Panas’s entire blog post at:

Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

  • Share/Bookmark

The Relationship between the Executive Director and the Board (especially the Board Chair)

February 10th, 2014

    Adrianne DuMond

    An important asset to a well functioning nonprofit is a Board of Directors that is used well. Often this means that the Board chair is a competent leader and works well with the Executive Director/CEO. It is their responsibility to see that Board members are trained to see their utility in ways they can support the agency.

There are some practices to consider in making this happen.

  1. Define and clarify the specific roles. The relationship between the Executive Director (ED)/CEO and the Board is often not defined clearly. I have seen very effective ED’s lose the respect of the Board because the lines of authority or decision-making were not clear. Once animosity arose, it was hard to put the genie back in the box. If only each entity had taken time to be specific about the roles and accountabilities, hard feelings could have been avoided. When hiring the ED/CEO, or as problems arise, it is necessary to take the time for a clear job description and explanation of responsibilities.
  2. The role of the Board Chair. He/she plays a pivotal role in seeing that harmony and effectiveness prevail. This means communicating early and often. It’s best for the ED/CEO and Board Chair to meet once a month (preferably face-to-face) so there are no surprises for either party. The ED/CEO needs to be open and candid about challenges/issues as well as successes. The Board Chair is the facilitator to the Board, the mediator on tough choices, and honest with her/his dealings.
  3. Presenting a united front. There are few decisions a Board makes that do not have varying positions. In fact, if they are a good Board, various opinions are encouraged and respected. But once a decision is made, it is wise to present a united front. It is damaging to the organization when one or more Board members are vocal about dissent to the public.
  4. Preparing for transition Many of the above issues could be better handled if agencies tried hard to determine back ups for key roles – especially the ED/CEO position and the Board Chair. Planning for succession should be part of the strategic plan for the year. Setting aside budget dollars for this purpose ensures that the subject is honored and planned for. Training and coaching are important investments in talented people so that they are groomed for future leadership.

Author:  Adrianne Geiger DuMond, Executive Coaches of Orange County,

  • Share/Bookmark