Dr Saumya Arora

About Dr Saumya Arora

Dr. Saumya Arora is a development professional with cross-disciplinary experience in project management, resource mobilization, donor relationship management, community mobilization and project execution at the field level. She is currently working towards building fundraising and resource mobilization capacity of community-based organizations, apart from developing functional linkages with donors across the world.

How board members can play a role in resource mobilization

Board members are the core drivers of an organization. They set the direction of the organization for years to come. They constitute the board, a collective body that governs the non-profit, guide the organization to work towards its mission and vision. Despite their importance in functioning of the organization, most of the board members do not actively play role in resource mobilization. Though it is not mandated as their ‘role and responsibility’ in the non-profit, the board can definitely take a step ahead to catalyze the growth of the organization without ‘asking for money’.

Group of Business People Meeting

Active involvement of the board can definitely fuel the growth, more importantly so in the case of smaller NGOs. Here are a few ideas how they may play crucial role in resource mobilization, to bring in resources to fuel the functioning of the organization, bringing a sense of responsibility towards it, and utilizing their skills, expertise, experience and goodwill to benefit the organization in the long run:

  • Advocacy

Ask them to advocate with government for your organization or cause. For example, if you are an organization working for children, you may have someone on your board who is an educationist, academician, bureaucrat, or government official. You can request him/ her to advocate for your cause with the government. He/ she may even help you in getting government schemes and projects.

  • Involving donors

The board members are very passionate towards the cause of the organization. They devote their time to actively participate in the planning, and activities too. This alone can set a very good example to motivate the donors. Thus, you may ask your board to motivate donors, or you may display their stories on your website.

  • Negotiations

The board members may contribute indirectly towards the financials, by negotiating with suppliers or vendors to supply goods or services for lower prices. Their good will and connections can help your organization in this way.

  • Diverse expertise

Your board might have highly knowledgeable people from diverse fields and backgrounds. You may ask them for support related to their domain. For example, an organization who has a lawyer in the board, can ask for legal advice from him/ her. This will help the organization gain from the learned and experienced law professional, while also saving cost if help was to be sought from elsewhere.

In this way, your board can kick start some of your resource mobilization efforts, and also can help with diverse and useful knowledge and domain expertise. 

  • Employing a donor appreciation program

For organizations which embed donor acquisition and retention strategies into their overall goals and strategy, donor recognition and appreciation are one of the very important ways to achieve long term results. And with internet, crowd-funding platforms, social media and online platforms, these strategies and programs are very easy to implement. So, involve your social media/ communications team along with your core team to employ your donor appreciation program.

  • Why a donor appreciation program

We know how important donors are for non-profits, and it is the responsibility of non-profits to thank them for their contribution, and let them know they are valuable. A simple acknowledgment will help them getting tax benefits, feeling good about their contribution, and in developing willingness to stay association in the long run, meaning donor retention. So it is a win-win for you and your donors. Though there is no limit to creativity and innovative ideas for developing and implementing a donor appreciation program, here are a few suggestions.

  • Choose a time, platform and frequency

Select a time of the year when you want to employ donor appreciation/ recognition program. It can be an ongoing activity too, on your website/ social media accounts. For example, you may contribute a section to ‘donor of the day/ week/ month’ on your website. Update it very often. Try to recognize and acknowledge every donor’s contribution. If some donors would prefer anonymity, you may provide a dashboard/ infographics on your website to show donors’ activities and contributions on weekly or monthly basis, without names or personal information.

  • Interest of donors

Know your donors. Understand their preferences. Many donors may like to hear ‘thanks’ and how important their contribution is, on social media or public platforms, while many others would like anonymity despite their ‘good deed’. It is important to respect their choices and so take consent before publishing anything with donor information.

  • Selecting a theme

A theme can provide your campaign or program with relevance and context, alongwith a sense of belongingness to the donors who relate to the cause. Theme may be women and children, water and nature conservation, etc. Give a brief background about the theme, donors who have contributed towards the cause, and appeal to those who wish to be associated.

  • Motivate them to ‘give’ more

Research has shown that appreciated and happy donors are very likely to donate again for the cause. So, demonstrating gratitude towards donors is good for them as well as for your non-profit, as they are likely to be associated with you for longer periods. Inspire them and motivate them by sharing other donors’ stories, sharing stories of people who were benefitted by their contribution, and of those who need their help and support.

  • Never forget to acknowledge

Apart from public recognitions and media posts, never forget to acknowledge the contribution of donors in form of thank you letters and receipts, which will make them avail tax exemptions as per your country’s laws, while also making them feel good.

  • Make them know you better

Keep them updated about your latest plans and actions taken on the ground. Share pictures and stories of work done, people benefitted, and of the work to be done too. Share the cause and problems that you wish to address in the future, and what kind of support you will need to accomplish your mission. Deepen their understanding of your cause, mission and vision.

9 interesting ways to maintain relationships with your donors

Every donor, be it an individual, a donor agency, a foundation, or a CSR (corporate social responsibility) arm, looks for feedback from the non-profit or charity. Feedback in terms of knowing how important they are for you, how appreciated they are, and what it gives them to stay connected. A sense of appreciation, feeling of contributing towards a social cause, and regular and meaningful communication would result in maintenance of lasting relationships with your donors.

9 interesting ways to maintain relationships with your donors

Here are 10 interesting ways to help you maintain mutually beneficial relationships with your donors:

  1. Show appreciation

Whenever a donor contributes for your cause, make sure that you respond with appreciation. That said, appreciation can mean personalized emails, a thanks note on your website and/ or social media pages, or a personalized letter. You may tweet a thanks note with the donor’s name, or post a thanks note on your facebook page, tagging the donor. This appreciation would mean a lot to the donor, while it also has the potential to get more donors, for his/ her friends will see the good deed and would be motivated to do so too.

  1. Respond to their queries promptly and value follow-up

Donors are not mere suppliers of funds; instead they are a valuable asset to your organization. It is important to value your donors as partners, and to make them feel valued. So, make sure you respond to their queries promptly and follow-up with them on regular basis. This will also help in converting one-time or regular donors into recurrent ones. You may set up a hangout or chat session for this, or create a simple system for feedback through your website or social media accounts. The key is in ‘being prompt’.

  1. Report results- tell them how their donations make a difference

Tell your donors what impact you have been leaving on the communities you work for. Be careful that it sounds donor-centric rather than, ‘We do this, we do that, we are amazing, follow us, donate donate donate..’ A donor-centric approach will really help, ‘We have been attempting to reduce the inequalities and injustice towards underprivileged communities and your support brings us closer and closer to the goal. Thanks a lot for your selfless support. Here is how your contribution has been changing lives:……..(stories and impact figures to follow)…’.

  1. Create days of appreciation- be it Valentine’s day or Children’s day

Find opportunities to thank your donors in creative ways. With the social media and internet everywhere, it is not very difficult to look for such ways or plan and execute simple campaigns. For example, on Valentine’s Day, you may create a simple online event with good graphics, thanking each donor, posting messages or personalized emails, with messages like ‘No love is above the love for humanity. Thanks for being a great Valentine for this cause.’ Or ‘Let us spread love for these innocent children, support them with —— this Valentine..’ These are some of the examples, but you can be as creative as you wish to be.

  1. Share success stories and pictures

Share stories of success and inspiration on your website, social media pages, annual reports, newsletters, and in thank you letters, everywhere. Include pictures from the field, pictures of people whose lives have been touched by your work (of course with their consent). ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’ indeed holds true, and makes an emotional connect with your donors.

  1. Keep them posted with activity or event alerts

Let your donors know about what is happening in your organization and on field. Keep them posted about your events, send personalized invites to them for these. Does not matter whether they will come or not, what matters is that you keep you donors in mind for any important event. This makes them feel valued and stay connected to you.

  1. Invite them to write for you

Happy donors invite more donors towards your cause. Make them happier by connecting them to you cause in an integral manner. Invite them to write about their experiences of being associated with you. They may write pages, testimonials or blogs for you. If a corporate donor write a positive testimonial, be assured that this is definitely going to attract more donors and hence more support.

  1. Timelines, the ‘before and afters’

Share the project timelines, and the before and after stories. It will be best if clubbed with pictures. Share these on your websites, social media pages, in e-mailers, personalized letters, or anywhere you wish to. Frame a story, with this flow: situation earlier, what has been done to change it and why; and finally the ‘after’ situation. Sharing pictures along with these create a lasting impact. For example, pictures before toilets in schools, and after toilet construction, including how the hygienic conditions have improved, children play in safe and hygienic environment.

  1. Personalized thank you letters from the community

Imagine an 8-year old kid sending a thank you note to you for helping him continue education as follow his dreams! Wouldn’t it be the most gratifying feeling ever? Understand the value of feeling in donor-receiver relationship. Allow the donor hear directly from the recipient how he/ she has gained from the support. For example, if you are an organization working for education or children, you may get hand-written note or letter from the child and send it to his donor with a picture. Be assured that this donor feels so much valued and happy to contribute towards transforming lives, that he will be a recurrent donor. This is also because he knows his money is being used for the intended purpose.

How to write engaging case studies to demonstrate impact

A case study is a very important qualitative method of capturing impact. It is an approach to qualitative research with focus on specific in-depth analysis of a particular case, incident, story, or event. For NGOs, case studies reflect successes of a particular program(s) in terms of changing people’s lives, with ‘voice’ of the people impacted. Well-researched and well-documented case studies win hearts, and may even win donors!

So here are a few tips on how to write engaging case studies to demonstrate impact of your work:

  1. Start right:

Set the pace of the case study right from the beginning. Start off at a very interesting note; create a mental image for the reader about the situation. Or, start with emotionally engaging note, surprise element or shock element. For example, “Nikita was very scared to go to school because she was bullied by her classmates and teased about her mother’s profession, sex work.’’ Make the opening lines attention grabbing, so that the reader is intrigued and bound to read further.

How to write engaging case studies

  1. The ‘before’ and ‘after’:

Case studies are all about the ‘change’ brought about by your work or program. Include the situation prior to the program, to demonstrate the differential impact. The situation prior to the program, the specific help or work, or intervention for changing the situation, and the changed picture are the three main elements of a case study. Make sure that the overall flow of the case study includes all three.

  1. Include specific information:

Specific information does not mean including confidential beneficiary information. Names of persons, places, etc. can be changed to protect the confidentiality of the information of beneficiaries. Yet, changed names and other information can be included to give a spin to the story, speak about the impact in ‘people’s voices’, and to make the story engaging for the reader.

These 3 simple basics of writing a case study can make demonstrating the impact of your work easier, more engaging for the reader. Case stories reflect the inspirational people, incidents and events, and the reader starts trusting your work as well. These readers may trust you to enough to donate and contribute towards your cause in future, you never know!

Steps to write a crowd funding pitch

Crowdfunding for non-profits, social enterprises, start-ups and other causes and organizations has been really successful method of raising funds recently. Many organizations have gained a lot from successful crowdfunding campaigns, and their ventures have taken off with the help of these resources. A crowdfunding pitch is the first level of contact with the donors/ funders and the general public. It is very important to create a pitch that clearly spreads the word about your work, while conveying what change a donor or aid can bring about.

Here are 5 simple steps to create a clear and succinct, short and effective pitch for crowdfunding. We will use examples to understand each step:

  1. Introduction:

First, introduce the situation briefly to set the context. Give a brief about the broader scenario, the extent of the problem at hand. You may also use numbers or other data here.

Example: “India has the third-highest number of people living with HIV in the world with 2.4 million Indians accounting for about four out of 10 people infected with the deadly virus in the Asia—Pacific region’’, says a UN report. Among the states in India, Maharashtra has a very high HIV prevalence of 0.40%, which is even higher than the national average of 0.35%.”

Now the reader knows the extent of the problem at hand, and the seriousness of the situation. 

  1. Now explain what problem you will address:

“For HIV-AIDS patients in Maharashtra, it is a very difficult situation. A penniless, Maharashtra State Aids Control Society (MSACS), which distributes free drugs to HIV patients, has medicines and condoms supply left for just a few weeks! With no funds, the MSACS issued a circular to NGOs to cut down on 25% of their work force which distributes syringes, medicines and kits to AIDS patients, till March 2016.

This will have drastic consequences in the fight against the disease, especially since Maharashtra has as many as 3 lakh HIV and AIDS patients who might be left without treatment as the free medicine distribution programme is set to run out of medicines very soon. The supply of testing kits and anti-retroviral drugs (medicines to treat AIDS), has been erratic since December 2013. As the HIV drugs are very expensive, more than a third of HIV and AIDS patients seek free anti-retroviral drugs from government centres.”

It is clear now that your crowdfunding pitch is focused on solving this problem.

  1. Involve the reader: use attention grabbing headlines:

Use shocking scenarios to make the reader understand the gravity of the situation in simple terms. Example in the current context: “Just imagine, a disruption in the treatment of an HIV infected pregnant woman will result in the child getting infected with HIV in the womb.” 

  1. How do you aim to solve the problem:

Now come to the solution, and what you do, what you aim to do and how you will do to address the problem. “Organization XXX is an NGO/ YY established in 1975 by Mr/ Mrs/ Dr…….. is committed to the betterment of lives of people living with HIV AIDS, their families and communities and is able to achieve this by support from some national and international agencies, and with the help of passionate individuals like you. With your help, we can help these individuals in getting access to the treatment and medicines for HIV AIDS, so that they and their families live with dignity and safety.”

  1. How the reader can help??

This is the most important part of the funding proposal and pitch. The reader now looks for ways to support your work or organization. He/ she needs to have simple, precise yet adequate information about how he/ she may contribute. Make sure you ask for what you need very clearly. Ways and methods of payment, communication and feedback must be also made very clear here.

Example in this scenario: “How you can help save lives – by financial contribution in the following ways:- 1. Mention amounts- with flexible options for the donor. 2. Modes of contribution: Online payment (Netbanking/ Payment Gateway)/ Cheque/ DD. 3. Please find attached the details of our work against HIV AIDS. You may visit our website ________ for details. 4. Do write back to us or contact the undersigned on the address/ telephone number given below in case you need any clarifications. 5. Conclude and thank: We look forward to join hands with you against this deadly disease, and thank you again for your intent to contribute towards this noble cause.”

Fund-raising scenario in India: Lessons for NGOs

Non-profit sector is increasingly feeling a need to have professional fund-raisers in order to maintain the functions smoothly, attain financial stability and sustainability. The problem lies in a lack or shortage of such professional fund-raisers. Earlier, most of the NGOs have been receiving foreign funds. However, with more stringent monitoring, FCRA regulations (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act), western economic downturn and a shift in India’s international standpoint regarding foreign funding agencies, there has been a sharp decline in the amount and frequency of foreign funding.

Because of this, NGOs are facing shortage of funds, and are now looking for other domestic and local sources. So far, because of pre-determined fund flow, there has been complacency in terms of putting in efforts, getting trainings and professional outlook for fundraising. The scenario is changing fast because of the new (2013) amendment of the Indian Companies Act. As per the clause 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, the CSR provision within the Act is applicable to companies with a specified range of annual turnover, which have to spend at least 2% of their average net profit in the previous three years on CSR activities. This section is now implemented from the fiscal year 2014-15, and thus it is resulting in a new and massive source of funds for NGOs, the corporates.

In addition, this situation is resulting into mushrooming of the ‘mediating agencies’ between donors and receivers (NGOs). The problem lies in no professional training and up-gradation of fundraising skills of NGO sector. These mediating agencies are selling ideas to the corporates on behalf of these NGOs, thereby making some money in between.

On the other hand, the most useful and dynamic platform of fundraising is taking the centre stage, which is ‘Internet and Social Media’. The lessons for the NGO sector in India are very clear in the current context.

The non-profit sector needs to upgrade itself and engage in hands-on use of this powerful medium of fundraising, while also a mode to spread the word about the good work. Digital media is a huge opportunity to be tapped, but it is also dividing the development sector into ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. NGOs and development professionals who are able to make use of this medium are gaining funds, support, volunteers and other resources. The “Daan Utsav” is a very appropriate example of how NGOs can make best use of digital world to raise resources. Many NGOs were able to raise huge amounts of funds, and also to engage volunteers in thousands because of this event.

However, the NGOs who do not have accessibility and skills to utilize the digital media have remained unaffected by this surge. To conclude, there are new and huge opportunities for fundraising available for the development sector now, but the need of the hour is to engage professional fundraisers, utilize the digital media, to build own skills and to widen the knowledge for harnessing the untapped financial and other resources locally as well!

Resource mobilization for community-based organizations

Community-based organizations (CBO) or Community organizations (CO) have been an integral part of the development projects and initiatives since decades. They are indeed the ‘face’ of community empowerment, by virtue of the fundamental principles of democratic processes, building on the social capital, and reliance on community participation.

Many development projects have CBO formation as a ‘model’ inherent in the project principles, systems and processes. Most commonly, CBOs form, grow and stabilize over the years, during the project period. But once the funding support ceases, which usually is a part of the project costs partially or fully, the CBOs face multiple challenges in sustaining their functions. As a result, many such organizations die out.

 Resource mobilization for community-based organizations

For continued existence, financial self-reliance, and sustainability of the community-based organizations, exploring new avenues for financial support is very important. These organizations must not depend only on the external funding support, as it might be inconsistent, temporary and based on the priorities of funding agencies/ donors rather than on the real need at the grassroots.

In order to devise an innovative strategy for fundraising, the community organization (CO) must first focus on its current activities, prioritize them and then must diversify accordingly. It must first understand its own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities in front of it and also threats to its resources or existence. In order to attain financial self-reliance, access to financial resources may be sought in more than one way.

There may be mainly three approaches to gain access to financial resources: 1. Accessing financial support from other organizations, like foundations, CSR arms, local resources and support, etc.; 2. Generating income by taking up income-generating activities 3. Making use of resources available to generate funds/ other kind of support, like asking volunteers to raise funds, building and utilizing network and goodwill to raise funds.

All three ways can be used innovatively to raise funds or resources for a CO.

  1. Accessing financial support from foundations/ CSR/ local resources or bodies is the conventional and most common way of raising funds. Yet, newer and innovative methods and approaches towards fundraising can make a difference. The CO must make its own cause clear to the donor, explaining what activities it undertakes and what impact it is making on the grassroots level. A well- documented impact report, testimonials; third-party evaluations (if possible) can establish the credibility and effectiveness of the organization.
  2. Taking up income-generating activities is what many organizations have started doing in order to support them to some extent. Such activities may involve selling items at goodwill prices, partnership with other organizations, training programs, and other similar activities. One newer avenue in this regard is eco-tourism, exposure visits, transect walks, and similar tours. Such events enable one to explore and experience the ground realities which are not a part of the daily lives of a normal urban dweller. One very important thing to note here is that such activities must not interfere with the mission, vision and the main functions of a CO. Thus, these must be completely isolated from the main activities of the CO.
  3. Making use of resources available to generate funds/ other kind of support: like asking volunteers to raise funds, building and utilizing network and goodwill to raise funds. Social media can play a very important role here. A very large network of volunteers and goodwill supporters can be built through the use of internet and social media. A well-made and comprehensive website can also play crucial role here. Free web platforms are available these days where websites can be made very easily. Some amount of training and skill-building for CO will be needed to access this very effective medium of today’s age. Volunteers may also be engaged in direct fundraising support apart from other activities of a CO.

Certain events may also be organized for networking and fundraising support with the help of volunteers. Local resources may also be tapped with their help. Some of the local bodies like Panchayats, Zilla Parishads, and Municipalities in India from which support may be sought for fundraising.

Development Blogging: Some tips for NGOs

We cannot deny the importance of internet, social media and blogging for organizations. These are integral parts of online marketing strategies of organizations in today’s digital age. For non-profits too, it is important to develop content for online platforms, and to utilize these media. A blog is a discussion or information portal, and is increasingly becoming the new face of expression, communication and also a form of journalism. Some advantages of blogging by development organizations are: increased traffic on your website, organizational positioning in the sector that is instrumental for image/ brand building, even promotion of your cause or campaign by interlinking web-pages. So, it is up to you how you make the most of your website and such platforms.

Some tips for non-profits who want to explore development blogging:

  1. Decide who will blog?

Some NGOs might have a communications team or dedicated person or team for managing social media presence of the organization, while some might not. In either case, it is worthwhile to discuss and decide who will blog for an NGO. It is not imperative that the communication team takes care of it. One needs to understand that a blog is a conversational piece with a pinch of personal opinion about a theme or topic. Thus, people in your organization, staff can blog on the website, but not on the behalf on the entire organization. This creative freedom must be given to the blogger, with of course, some moderation by the communication team, or the team that handles social media and website.

  1. Identify talent in your team:

NGOs would need to identify such talent within their teams, which may not be difficult. Discuss with your staff; check out their social media accounts and LinkedIn posts to identify such talent. Use a disclaimer on the blog page, if apprehensive about the organizational image, stating that ‘the views expressed are solely of the blogger/ author and do not represent the organization XXX’s opinion’.

  1. How often and about what?

Now the question arises, how often should someone blog, and about what. Discuss openly with the bloggers you have selected from your team or from outside, about what they want to write about. The overall theme may be associated with the organization’s cause, with myriad views. The author/ blogger must be conversant with the topic and must have good theoretical and practical knowledge about it. The frequency must be good enough to garner high number of hits.

  1. Write like you are talking- conversational style:

It is important to note that while good language skills are necessary for writing a blog, one must avoid using heavy words and jargon. A blog should have conversational style, and express one’s views and experiences about something in an interesting manner to engage the reader.

  1. Content with spin:

The content is of utmost importance in a blog, like in any other piece of writing. But the blogger needs to add a spin to the content, to make it much more interesting. A blog must be written in a reader-friendly style. An interesting title is also very important for a blog, one that evokes interest and curiosity. For example, ‘5 effective ways to lead your fundraising efforts’ as a title is way catchier than a plain ‘Methods of fundraising’.

  1. Remember- a picture speaks a thousand words:

To add both zing and quality to your blog, make sure to include lot of examples, pictures, videos, graphics, wherever possible. Give relevant links for further reading or examples to engage the reader better.

  1. Reply to comments:

Make sure you reply to the comments and feedback, and you do so fast! This will keep the blog alive, and readers will be engaged.

  1. Guest posts:

Encourage guest posts or guest blogs initially. A person, who is engaged like he is a part of family, is more likely to be loyal! Similar is the case with your online engagement strategies like blogs. Such people may later support your cause in more than one way in future, you never know!

  1. Interlinking with important campaigns/ projects of your organization:

You may wish to utilize the ‘hits’ on your blog page as a resource too, apart from engaging the readers. So, you may link your blog page with important campaigns/ projects of your organization. You can give web-links or tags on the blog page to guide the reader towards your campaigns or navigate to other pages.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for non-profits

In this digital age, technology has the power of great positive transformation for organizations. Information and Communication technology (ICT) has been booming and non-profits have great opportunity to utilize ICT for internal systems strengthening and external stakeholder involvement and communication.

In the context of non-profits, the main areas where ICT can be applied are implementing digital infrastructure of the organization, application or implementation of programs, monitoring and evaluation, interpersonal communication, information dissemination, advocacy and many others. So, ICT can be disruptive for both internal information and communication system and external communication systems and impact, and engaging with multiple stakeholders.

A few steps for NGOs to utilize ICT for professional development and streamlining their work in the external stakeholder context:

  1. Preparing a comprehensive communications plan and calendar, with focus on social media and website for external communication
  2. Using the website and other social media applications for communicating impact
  3. Increasing e-presence for reaching out to potential donors and engaging them
  4. NGOs may consider outsourcing the IT since it will allow it to focus on the operations and programs, while letting the specialist people handle ICT related activities
  5. Maintaining consistency and sync between posts on Social Media and websites, and current activities and programs of the NGO. Posting and updating these can be daily or weekly or fortnightly as per the convenience and availability of resources.
  6. Blog can be a very effective tool to express to the World the activities of a non-profit. Some very popular platforms to blog may be WordPress, e-blogger, etc.
  7. It is very important to remember that ‘What cannot be measured, it cannot be managed’. Most of the platforms have built-in tools to measure interactions, page-visits or hits, etc. Monitoring these, identify trends and then acting upon them is very important.

Employee engagement strategies in CSR projects

With the Section 135 of Companies Act 2013 in place now, more and more companies are looking for NGOs that are reliable, credible, trustworthy, and transparent and accountable, apart from having the documentation and certifications with them. These companies are not only willing to give funds, but also support in terms of management consulting, technical support, linkages, and the most popular one- volunteer support, which is also called ‘employee engagement’ in CSR projects.

Employee engagement strategies in CSR projects

It is important for NGOs to understand why companies may be interested in engaging their employees as volunteers, for exposure and hands-on experience, to develop a sense of ownership, for do-good feeling, engagement within their company, or boosting employee morale. Whatever be the reason, the fact is that there is a huge opportunity for NGOs to be tapped, as the corporate volunteers can be a very useful resource. But most of the NGOs do not have a concrete and well-thought of strategy for employee engagement.

So here are top tips for employee engagement strategy for CSR programs:

  1. Know your project and target community needs and their skills:

Understand the project needs and target community needs and list down what you require from the volunteers. These volunteers will have certain fixed amount of time to be devoted towards the CSR project of their company. Analyze what may be achieved according to the time devoted by them, and then designate the tasks. For example, IT company employees will be well-equipped and happy to teach computer to a group of children, as part of their engagement with an NGO, but they might not be able to contribute much in your financial matters.

  1. Make a calendar for your engagement plan:

Decide on an engagement plan, as per your requirements, and then make a calendar for involving the corporate employees. Share this calendar with them.

  1. Make them know you- communicate your goals, mission, vision:

Communicate your organizational goals, mission and vision to the corporate volunteers. This will help them understand you better, and will feel more ‘engaged’.

  1. Sense of pride in association:

Create and foster a sense of pride in the association of the company or organization, with your cause.

  1. Be an NGO they can believe in:

Share your organizational values with them and maintain them always. Demonstrate transparency and accountability at all times.

  1. Communication:

Always keep the doors of communication open. Stay in touch with the donor company, keep them updated about your field and project activities. Respect them and invite them to the main events.

  1. Feedback:

Always ask for their opinion about the project or the activities you are jointly undertaking with them. This will make them feel valued and thus ‘engaged’ in its true sense.

  1. Allow them to come up with new ideas:

Though you have much more knowledge about what works and what doesn’t on the ground, allow the donor company or partner organization to express their views. Allow them to come up with new ideas, if they wish to. This may be followed by discussions and brainstorming for the betterment of the entire program.

  1. Meaningful relationships:

Develop meaningful relations with the partner organizations and companies. If they are interested, involve them in all related activities, right from planning, designating roles and responsibilities, to implementation and finally evaluation.

  • Think long term:

With CSR provisions of the Companies Act 2013 in place now, companies look for long term association with credible and reliable NGOs. So think long term and foster long term engagements for a ‘win-win’ situation.

  • Provide the needed information or support:

Be there to communicate and provide information, as and when it is asked by them. Assure them of all the support they need, and make arrangements accordingly.

  • Treat them as very important:

No doubt, donors are very important for NGOs, and same is the case with corporate volunteers. They are very important resources, and they bring their talent and a new dimension to the social projects, if utilized properly. Always show gratitude and treat them as very important.

  • Thanks and congrats:

Say thanks often. Reply immediately to any query from them. Thank them immediately as you receive the cheque or in-kind help or donation.

  • Little training initially:

Make sure you provide a short training to the corporate employees in your engagement program. They are coming from a different work environment and a little orientation and training will definitely help in a more fruitful engagement.

  • Share stories:

Share stories of success with them which are a result of their engagement. Send pictures and case stories, to appreciate and encourage them. This is also a very good way of saying thanks on behalf of the community they are helping.

7 steps for NGOs to build a network

What is a network and what is networking? As a noun, network means ‘a group or system of interconnected people or things’, and as a verb, to network means ‘to interact with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts’. (Source: online dictionary).

Networking is crucial for one’s personal and professional growth in the work sphere. Organizations employ people specifically to expand their network in the ecosystem they work in. For non-profits, networking becomes even more important, because of closely linked roles of various stakeholders in the ecosystem, inter-dependence on one another, and dependence on the governments and donors to some extent.

Here are 7 steps for NGOs for building a network:

  1. Take initiative:

Networking might be a little out of your comfort zone, but you may hire someone with experience in networking, or ask your board members to get involved as they will have a strong network already. Lack of initiative and inactivity will not help, so you will need to take initiative for networking.

  1. Participation in events:

There are lot of events going on all year round related to non-profit sector, civil society and CSR. Participation in these events can be very fruitful for networking, building connections, and potential partnerships in future.

  1. Create a database of contacts:

Collect lot of visiting cards and contact details. This contact information will grow if you keep attending events and conferences, meet-ups, etc. With this information, create a database of contacts. Save this database as one of your e-mail list too.

  1. Exchange information:

Keep your network posted about the work you are doing. This can be by means of mailers, newsletters, reports, pictures, graphics, videos, testimonies, anything! Having no information to share implies inactivity. So, document your work in some form and broadcast! Keep a lot of visiting cards with you, and brochures and other promotional material too, while attending an event.

  1. Show interest and remember the principle of reciprocity:

Be posted about what others are doing. Read about them, explore their websites and social media pages. Show interest in their work and events, and remember their interests.

  1. Online and offline networking:

Though internet and social media are making networking easier and faster than ever, you must be aware of the pros and cons. There is a clear emotional difference in online and offline ways. For example, if you wish to invite an important person for an event, you would like to meet or call up rather than only sending a mail. So be aware of these emotional differences and decide what will appeal, as per the context.

  1. Lastly, remember that it is ‘humans’ you are dealing with:

Remember that in any sector, organization, or industry, lots of human factors come into picture. So, networking does not only have a rational basis, but emotional too. So be nice and greet people you meet. Introduce yourselves get to know about the others. Try to stay in touch. You might not like all the people you need to meet, but be aware of your emotional responses, and try to strike a balance.

8 very simple yet effective tips for donor retention

NGOs are now focusing on donor acquisition strategies, along with resource mobilization and fundraising strategies. But research tells us that the donor retention rates are poor in most cases, at a mere 25%. This means that out of 4 new donors acquired; only 1 continues to be associated with the cause for the next year.

This means that most of the efforts and resources spent for raising resources and acquiring donors go in vain! A high donor retention rate means less resources spent, and more received. So, NGOs need to work on donor acquisition and retention strategies too. Here are some simple but very effective tips for NGO to achieve good retention rates.

8 very simple yet effective tips for donor retention

  1. Know your donors:

Knowing the donors and their intent towards investing in social causes is the first step for true engagement. Some donors might want to engage themselves, my means of volunteers, and participation in the various events of the NGO; while others might be okay with timely reports received from NGOs sans any ‘hands-on’ experiences. So, understanding a donor first will be instrumental for devising engagement strategy.

  1. Real engagement: develop strategy and systems:

Many donors want a real engagement with the NGO, and even with the beneficiaries. It is important to vision a long-term engagement with the donor to make the best out of the relationship. Thus a donation must not be viewed as just one-time transaction, but as a step towards more meaningful relationship. This will guide the NGO to make it inherent in the strategy and develop systems accordingly.

  1. Do it better than others:

No doubt, your NGO and staff are committed and highly motivated to work towards a social cause. But demonstrating your professionalism and ability to make yourself stand out is the key to get noticed by the donors. For example, in case of corporate donors, know which partners are associated with the donor, what they do, and how they are doing it. Display that you are better at your work than your ‘competitors’.

  1. Have a clear communications strategy:

NGOs need to understand the need of more and meaningful communication with the donors. One tip here is to develop a ‘communication calendar’, similar to your project activity calendar or a Gantt chart. Share this calendar with your donors too, and stick to it!

  1. Thank your donors:

Believe in your heart that donors are very, very important. So, you need to acknowledge their contribution and send ‘thank you’s, along with other communications as per your calendar.

  1. Speak a language understandable to the donor:

Understand that your jargons might impress the donor once, but use of jargons and heavy terms in routine communication will make the donor just glance through your communication material, or maybe not even that! Use a language that is understandable for the donors, to make them feel a part of the ‘family’. Send them the information they want to hear, not what you want to share. 

  1. Share stories:

The donors are overwhelmed when they get to know what change their contribution is bringing about. Remember that most donations come from the ‘heart’, that is the donor’s desire to do good. Share stories, case studies, success stories to delight, encourage, and engage the donor.

  1. Ask for feedback:

The best way to find out areas of improvement is to ask for feedback. Ask your donors what they like, what they don’t, and how they would like you to improve. Obviously, taking feedback very seriously and acting on it is imperative thereafter.