Brahm P. Verma, Mark Crossley 2018-02-16 23:51:21
Development insights for the future The ASABE Foundation is a real success story. Through the contributions from members and supporters, the Foundation has provided funds for many important initiatives and underwritten the ASABE awards annually. However, today’s approach to building future resources for advancing our profession and the technology needed to meet increasing demands for food, energy, water, fiber, and a healthy environment is very different from that of the past. This article outlines actions the Foundation is taking to prepare for the future. To understand the current fundraising climate, and to learn ways in which the Foundation should modernize, the Foundation trustees requested Executive Director Darrin Drollinger and Director of Advancement Mark Crossley to recruit a consulting firm to assess the possibility of engaging such a firm for professional guidance. ASABE staff identified a Chicago-based firm, Association Development Solutions (ADS), and held an exploratory meeting with ADS in May 2017. From the discussion at this initial meeting, ASABE staff recognized the need to evaluate the Foundation’s current fundraising performance before effective, future fundraising strategies could be developed. Accordingly, ADS submitted a proposal for conducting the first phase of an assessment related to current fundraising performance, which was approved by the Foundation Board of Trustees. The Methods Information collection for the assessment began with interviews of ASABE leaders. ADS gathered information regarding the Foundation’s solicitation strategies, funding priorities, fundraising performance, and related communications. ADS then conducted in-depth interviews with ASABE staff for a thorough review of existing staffing, data management, communications, fundraising programs and performance, and leadership roles and responsibilities. ADS also solicited input through in-depth interviews with individual Foundation trustees and corporate donors to receive their reactions to existing fundraising approaches and to glean ideas for formulating corporate giving strategies. To be inclusive and receive input in the broadest way possible, an electronic survey was distributed to the entire membership to determine member knowledge of, and engagement with, the Foundation and to receive member recommendations for future actions. These phases provided baseline information for establishing the Foundation’s current fundraising standards and best practices, as well as ideas for future plans. The Findings The interviews with ASABE leaders and staff revealed that the Foundation has largely operated with volunteer staff time for its management and administrative needs. While the Foundation has done a good job integrating Foundation messaging into existing ASABE communication channels (such as Resource, the website, and outreach materials), it is seriously handicapped without devoted staff time for crafting and delivering a consistent message around a case for support. This message should include the mission, vision, and purpose; history of achievement; current challenges, opportunities, and solutions; and a funding plan. In other words, a case for giving has to be compelling and delivered periodically to potential donors. At the current level of staff support, the Foundation’s development capacity has plateaued. Future fundraising will require additional resources, which may be achieved by a combination of increased staff time, recruiting additional volunteers, and greater engagement of the Foundation trustees in development activities. In short, additional resources are needed to reach the future goals. In the past year, the Foundation Development Committee reviewed similar findings and developed a plan for increasing promotional activities to raise an additional $1.25 million by 2021. The plan recommended updating the Foundation pamphlets and portfolios and distributing these materials widely at professional forums, building partnerships with sister organizations, and implementing methods for sustained donor solicitation. In summary, the strategies offered in the ADS report coupled with the Development Committee plan has the potential for exponentially growing the Foundation’s resources and enhancing its capacity for supporting ASABE initiatives. The results of the member survey were drawn from more than 900 respondents (an impressive response!) covering a wide cross-section of ASABE members, including students, new members, and long-term members. The following are some of the insights from the survey: • 77% of the respondents were aware of the Foundation; however, nearly a quarter, representing hundreds of members, did not know of its existence. • Over 60% have not previously given or are unsure if they have. • 88% of the respondents felt they should be invited to give to the Foundation. • The Foundation could increase stakeholder interest with a visionary message that moves away from dedicated funds and builds on core goals and priority initiatives. • The top three member priorities for support include student initiatives, ASABE programs, and Standards development. • Promoting the Foundation during meetings and events was viewed as the most effective means for raising awareness. Conclusions As ADS recommends, successful fundraising efforts require four critical elements: (1) a compelling case, (2) effective and influential leaders who have personally invested in the Foundation, (3) a prepared pool of prospective donors, and (4) a well-organized and viable plan to leverage the assets of the donor organization. The Foundation Board of Trustees plans to build these four critical elements by (1) creating a brand that establishes a unique image for the Foundation, (2) recruiting influential leaders to be part of the Foundation, (3) studying stakeholder profiles to update the donor pool, and (4) building on the existing development plan. The Foundation is grateful to all those who provided thoughtful input, which will guide future actions and better position the Foundation to support important ASABE initiatives. Our immediate plans include continued engagement with ADS for developing effective promotional messaging and communication actions, and working with the Foundation trustees to make them better ambassadors of the Foundation. Visit www.asabe.org/foundation.aspx to see the complete report prepared by ADS and to learn more about the Foundation, and to see how you can help shape our future. ASABE Fellow Brahm P. Verma, Professor and Associate Director Emeritus, College of Engineering, The University of Georgia, Athens, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Mark Crossley, Director of Advancement, ASABE, St. Joseph, Mich., USA, email@example.com. This is one in a series of articles from the Foundation Development Committee. ASABE Fellow Sylvia Schonauer, P.E., Foundation Trustee and Development Committee Chair, Principal Engineer (retired), W.K. Kellogg Institute, Bellaire, Mich., USA, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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