Planning is the Key to Nonprofit Succe$$

Planning is the Key to Nonprofit Succe$$

As the Frederick nonprofit community continues to grow, so does the advice that we offer to these organizations. While our specialty is on the legal side of nonprofit management, we want to offer our clients more. This month we invite Mary Ellen Mitchell, local nonprofit expert and CEO of Allow Me Consulting & Housing Frederick to the blog. We first met Mary Ellen as a client of ours, helping her launch and register both the small business and nonprofit organization. Over the next few months, Mary Ellen will be offering insider knowledge and tips for nonprofits. Let’s dive in.

What does success look like to your nonprofit?

Great services, changed lives, community awareness?

Reaching the moment when your CEO and Board can take a deep breath knowing that they can keep the lights on for at least another year?

Many nonprofits run on small budgets. According to Maryland Nonprofits 2016 “Nonprofits Count Report” there are over 1,000 in Frederick County. More than 75% or 750 nonprofits operate on budgets under $100,000 per year. In the same report, it can be noted that the demand for services has increased 37% on average. Is your nonprofit prepared for a 37% increase in donations?

Planning is the only way you can ensure that your fundraising keeps pace with the demand for services. Planning begins with empowering your team.

Fundraising is everyone’s responsibility. Yes, everyone’s! Your high school intern is responsible. Your PhD Board chair is responsible and everyone in between. Your development director is responsible for capitalizing on your staff and volunteers’ relationships in the community. Fundraising is a team effort. Make this a part of your culture and you will see a rise in morale and in your bank account.

It’s time to shake things up and add some new focus to your fundraising plans:

  1. Change the way you contact donors. The rule of 7 in fund development means you need to contact a prospective donor seven times before they will give. Get creative! Follow them on social media, like, comment and share their posts. Send an e-newsletter, invite them to an event or tour, send them a birthday/congratulations card, send them an article about their interests, give them a call. What else?
  2. Take a look at the sources of funding you receive. A diverse stream of income offers stability. Do you receive donations from individuals, businesses, foundations, civic/church groups? Do you host events? Encourage in kind gifts? Have you had a 3rd party raise funds in your name?
  3. When was the last time you changed your message? It’s important to keep your story fresh. Have you increased services? Tracked a client’s progress? Added a new initiative? Brought in an expert to train your staff or teach your clients? How can you look at what you do through another lens?
  4. How do you track your donors’ history of giving? Do you know who gave this year, but not last? Do you have prospective donors you are adding to your database? When was the last time you updated your database?

Steps 1 to 4 don’t just happen on their own, they require planning.

More Opportunities to Learn (for free)

If you would like to learn more about planning your development efforts, you can take a no-cost workshop called “A One Year Fundraising Plan” coming up on December 6th at the C. Burr Artz Library at 110 East Patrick St in downtown Frederick. Join me on the first-floor community room from 10:30 to Noon. (There is a snow date for December 13th if Frederick County Government is closed or delayed).

You will get a jump on your year-end fundraising by setting your organization up for success months in advance. Learn how to work your calendar backwards to plan your campaign and develop the ask. You will learn how to save time and make money for your nonprofit. You can register on Facebook here.

We are happy to feature this nonprofit series. Upcoming events will include a blog post on these topics:

  • Event Planning 101: Jan 3 (Snow date Jan 10th)
  • How to Write a Grant: Feb. 7 (Snow date Feb. 14th)
  • Raising Money, Raising Awareness: March 27 (Snow date April 3rd)

More About Mary Ellen

Mary Ellen is the CEO at Housing Frederick & CEO at Allow Me Consulting. After 20 years in the industry, she launched her own consulting firm to provide nonprofits and small businesses with capacity building and public relations expertise. She launched the nonprofit Housing Frederick in 2019 to collaborate, advocate, and educate the community on affordable housing.

She has a strong track record in program and event creation, strategic planning, and partnership building in the fields of education, health, and housing.

She serves the community through the Frederick Coalition for Financial Success, Leadership Frederick County Council, the Women’s Giving Circle, and as an appointed member of the Frederick County Government’s Affordable Housing Council.

You can reach Mary Ellen at or