Your January Major and Leadership Gifts To-Do List: 8 Steps to Take Now!

Perhaps you’ve just closed your fiscal year and this is the beginning of the New Year. Maybe you’re mid-way through. In either case, January presents opportunities for taking a hard look and making strategic changes in your major and leadership gifts program. Here are eight steps you can take over the course of January that will help make 2017 your best year ever.

1. Crunch Those Numbers
• First, of course, you are measuring your progress against goals.
• Then go deeper. What is working and why?
• Finally, look for opportunities disguised as problems. For example, if your realized table of gifts indicates poor performance at the $1,000 level but you’re doing great at $500, make a plan for inspiring all of those $500 donors to make a second gift to reach $1,000. Share the impact that a $1,000 investment brings. Ask a great donor to offer a challenge. Turn that problem into a success-opportunity.
• Don’t forget your e-scores. Which of your engagement activities are resulting in the most new gifts, donor retention and upgrades? Do more of those in the coming year, and drop or tweak the non-performers.

2. Steward Your 2016 Donors (Again)
• Start at the top of your realized table of gifts. What did you do in 2016 to make that donor say “WOW?” When did you do it?
• What creative and personalized impact experience and/or communication did you share and when?
• If it has been more than six months since you’ve provided an impact/outcome experience or communication, get going, starting from the top of the pyramid and moving down.
• Consider making February your stewardship month and getting everyone (board members, peers, and mission staff) involved. 28 days, 28 calls and visits per person. Celebrate on the last day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgrA3v3ozcE

3. Refresh Your Plan (or write your first plan)
• We know that having a sound development plan tops most everything else in terms of results. Visits without a plan are better than no visits, but with a plan, you are on your way to great year. Find more on planning here.
• Make sure your plan includes your realized table of gifts and a refreshed projected table of gifts. These are two old fashioned (yes) but indispensable tools. Everything old is tired. Just saying.

4. Solicit All Board Members Who Have Yet to Make Their Gift (If this is the beginning of your fiscal year, you want them on board EARLY. If this is mid-year, they need to give now, modeling the behavior you seek from others)
• Peer-to-peer is best. Who are your best givers, best solicitors? Ask them to ask the rest of the board. Not via email. Call or visit. Make it personal. Ask for an increased gift. “Please join me with an investment of…”
• If you solicit them by email or snail mail, how will they learn to solicit others in a warm, personal manner?

5. Maximize Your Upcoming Events
• Spring event season is only months away. What is your “turn-out” strategy? How are you ensuring high donor retention by getting all who came in the last two years to return? What is your donor acquisition plan? What strategic initiatives or “moves” are you planning for those in attendance? Who is responsible for getting your ED or key volunteers around the room, making introductions, asking strategic questions, and sharing key points?
• Most important, what is your follow-up plan? Not just getting the thank you notes out. What are you doing to engage attendees and those who declined post the event?

For more on making data-driven event decisions, check out this blog post and webinar.

6. Spend Time Planning Your Calendar
• Whom do you need to visit over the next three to six months? Where are they? What alternative dates can you offer so that you are sure to get on their calendars?
• What days are you crossing off for donor visits each month?
• What days are you setting aside for developing donor strategies?
• What time are you marking each week for making appointments and follow-up calls?

7. Take Care of You
• Your professional development, morale, and health matter. Build in recovery time. Be sure to take the vacation days that your organization offers.
• Consider crossing off one day a month as an “admin” day for catching up on things, reading the articles you were saving, organizing, and strategic thinking.

8. Celebrate
• Philanthropy is a joyful experience. Giving, and helping others do the same, adds to the quality of our lives and the lives we touch with our generosity. It wouldn’t happen for your organization without you and your team.
• Say thank you. Celebrate. Feel good about all you are doing to make your community, country, and our shared world a better place. For more reinforcement, read this great post from Lynne Wester.

A Relationship Lesson from Lemurs

Last month was my friend Chris’ birthday. Chris has a love of lemurs and his wife started a campaign on GoFundMe.com to give him a day trip to a lemur center.  I don’t particularly share Chris’ fascination with lemurs andlemurs it wouldn’t be my choice of birthday of celebrations, but I contributed. In fact, as I look back, I realize that I have given several gifts in the past few months to a variety of things that my friends were raising money for.

Through sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter, I had supported friends in the achievement of things that were important to them, both professionally and personally, but none of them were tied to a not-for-profit organization. I won’t get a tax write-off for these gifts and I don’t care, because I was giving purely because I believed in their individual causes or dreams, the achievement of something special for people that are special to me.

Here at the Osborne Group, we often talk about the “Rights”. Having the RIGHT person ask for the RIGHT amount of money for the RIGHT purpose at the RIGHT time. My experience over the past few months has left me contemplating one of those rights in particular, and that is the RIGHT person.

I hear from a lot of development professionals that are frustrated by the lack of response from current and prospective donors. We’ve all been there, donors that won’t return phone calls or reply to emails (even ones that don’t ask for money) or asks that we felt incredibly prepared for, but just fell flat. It can feel like you’re continuously running into a brick wall when trying to engage people who seem to be interested and supportive of your cause, but are consistently unresponsive.

As you dissect the mystery of why you can’t seem to move forward with a prospect, I encourage you to take a lesson from the lemurs. Instead of focusing on HOW you are reaching out or WHAT you are trying to engage them in, take a moment to focus on the WHO. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • As you conduct research on prospects, employ peer screening with board members, staff and volunteers to find out potential connections and relationships
  • Utilize those connections when making your donor engagement plans to determine the best roles for everyone to play in the process
  • If there are several people connected to the same prospect, take a team approach – determine each person’s strengths and deploy them when most appropriate
  • The WHO isn’t just about making the ask, but is also about making sure the RIGHT people are involved in engaging prospects and delivering personal, high-impact stewardship
  • When in doubt, ask someone who knows. Don’t try to guess what a prospect wants or why they might be unresponsive, ask for advice from people who know them. Even board members or volunteers that are reluctant to get involved with engaging or asking a prospect directly will usually be happy to offer up advice on how to best move forward.

Whether you’re running a Friends Asking Friends campaign online or developing a major gift prospect, the WHO is a critical component of success. While increased personal fundraising might be seen as more competition for dollars, let’s instead look at it as a learning opportunity to figure how we best take their example to harness the power of relationships in our own endeavors.

The Foundation Screening List

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 11.24.46 AMI want to talk briefly about an important but underutilized development tool: the foundation screening list.  When we are first beginning our development careers everything we learn about foundations implies that they are pure meritocracies.  Have a good organization with a good project, write a good proposal and you’ll have as good a shot at getting funding as anyone else.  And to some extent this is true.  If you aren’t a well run organization and you don’t have a good project you probably won’t get funding.  But the reality is that you will be competing against many other meritorious organizations and not everyone one will get funded.  So, how do you stand out from the crowd?

The reality is the business of successful foundation funding is very much a “who you know” business.  I’m not saying that there is any sort of cronyism involved.  But I am saying that your ideas are more likely to be heard if you know the decision makers involved and have had a chance to talk over your work in detail.  I am saying that knowing trustees counts for a lot more than knowing program officers.  And I am saying that trustees and program officers knowing you and believing in your leadership and your ability to deliver on the promises of your proposal is critical.

So, a really valuable exercise for any organization is to know who you know on foundation boards and staffs.  How do we find this out?  The foundation screening list.

The foundation screening list is a packet of foundations (up to 25) likely to fund your organization based on their stated mission and its relevance to yours.  Each foundation gets it own page and on each page, triple or quadruple spaced, you’ll list every trustee and program officer.  If it is a large foundation then just list the relevant program officer.  You can see a sample layout here.

Now, what do we do with foundation screening list once we have one?  Sit down with your staff, your board and other volunteers, friends and anyone else willing to listen to you.  Ask them to flip through the list and see if they know anyone.  Ask them to write in the margins who they know and any important information about them.  Ask them if there is any foundation or anyone not on the list that they would be willing to contact.

Ask them if they’d be willing to help set up a meeting with anyone they know.

Over time you should get a pretty good catalog of who knows who and hopefully have people setting up meetings on your behalf.  Record everything in your database.

Giving USA 2014 Spreecast

 

 

In this Spreecast, Laurel and Bob break down their first impressions of the new Giving USA statistics.  Giving levels are nearly back at pre-recession levels but what does it all mean?  Give Bob and Laurel a listen to find out!

Crowd Funding – A Toolkit Part I

IndiegogoDay0Below is the first of a series of posts on crowd funding.  I am currently running a crowd funding campaign with a friend using the principles outlined in these posts.  You can follow its success (or failure!) here.

Over the next few posts, I  am going to walk through all the basics of running a successful crowd funding campaign as well as provide you with useful tools.  A while back, I wrote on post on the basics of when you should crowd fund.  You might want to read it and decide if crowd funding is the right thing for your nonprofit.  If it you think it might be, please read on and learn about crowd funding!

OK, so you’ve decided to go ahead with your crowd funding campaign.  You’ve picked a good project and a realistic goal.  So what’s next?  Well, before you launch your campaign you need to do some preparation.  There are two main areas that we need to prepare:  our materials which consist of videos, pictures, updates, etc.  and preparing our volunteers and our social media.  This post will concentrate on the latter.

The first rule of crowd funding:  If you build it, they will NOT come.  This means if you simply slap up a campaign on IndieGoGo or some other platform, nobody will donate to you.  Why?  because they have no idea that your campaign exists.  We have to drive people to the campaign.  How do we do this?  Well, through people and their social media.  So where do we start?

Take an inventory of your friends, family, colleagues, etc. – We need to determine who within your own network has the biggest social media networks and would be willing to help with the campaign.  Luckily social media makes this research pretty easy.  Start quantifying who has the most connections/followers on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.  If you have a lot of time on your hands or free and/or cheap labor you can see who has the most secondary connections, meaning whose connections have the most connections.  Stick them all into a spread sheet and rank them.  We’ve included this tool for your use.  Then divide them into the following categories:

  1. People who you might want to be part of the campaign itself – these are people you trust, who have a lot social reach, and would be willing to serve on the main team.  These are people who would be committed to help you during the life of the campaign and people whom you might want to make an administrator to the campaign.
  2. People who are willing to push your campaign heavily during the life of the campaign – These are people who support your cause and who will be willing to post, tweet, etc. your campaign at regular intervals
  3. People who are willing to support the campaign – This is everyone else who is willing to post, tweet, etc. your campaign.

For now, just keep this information for yourself.  Later we’ll talk about how to use all those connections before and during your campaign but for now we just want to have a list of people we’ll eventually want to approach.

Take an inventory of relevant of blogs on other media – Who cares about your nonprofit’s cause?  Do some research via google to see who might be willing to post an article about your campaign and cause.  You can use compete.com to get a rough sense of the traffic each of these sites gets monthly.  Look at the blog and blogger’s Facebook pages to see how many friends they have, check out their twitter accounts and see how many followers they have, etc.  Again, put all the information into a spreadsheet so you see which blogs and other media you might later approach.  We’ve included this tool for your use.

Cross reference your two lists – Do any of your connections have connections to the blogs and other media you have identified?  These will be your best bets.  Rank your media for future use.

OK, so now you have a pretty good list people and blogs that you will eventually contact.  But don’t contact them yet!  We still have a little work to do.

You’re now ready for the next step in your crowd funding preparation, getting your materials ready.  Here is the basic inventory of the materials that you’ll want to have created in advance:

  1. Video
  2. Pictures
  3. Perks
  4. Email

While the exact nature of the materials listed above will differ from campaign to campaign, your primary materials should follow one basic principle: you want to talk about future impact.  Far too often as nonprofits we want to talk about our track record and/or our methodology.  For instance, let’s say you want to get funding for a new arts festival your arts organization.  The temptation is talk about how you want to bring people together through the arts which you have successfully done for the past  few years by having a concert, a play, and providing free entrance to school age children.  A far more powerful way of talking about your work is to discuss your future impact, which to say, which artitsts and plays are you hoping to bring to the festival with the help of crowd funding supporters?  How many children do you hope to expose to your festival and what impact will it have on them, their education, their schools, their community?  The basic message is “we are trying to achieve these wonderful, societal results but we can only succeed with your help”.  The past has already been funded; the future awaits.

Video and Photography: I am no video and photography expert.  Suffice it to say in crowd funding, a short video or series of pictures can be worth far more than a written explanation of your campaign.  Many, many articles have been written on this subject so I would suggest a quick google search.  Keep in mind that thanks to Youtube our tolerance for less than professional quality video has greatly increased and that some video is better than none.  So, even if it means sitting in front of your smart phone or your computer’s webcam, make sure you create something!

Perks:  If you check out your average Kickstarter campaign or some of the for profit projects on Indiegogo, you’ll notice that they offer material perks for donations, often a first chance to receive the new product that the campaign is trying to launch.  Nonprofit crowd funding is very different.  While it is certainly fine to recognize your contributors by providing them with some sort of material benefit, they are funding your campaign not because they want something material in return but because they want to make a difference!  So, your perks should be reflective of that and talk about impact.  $50 lets us send one children to our arts festival for free.  $500 allows us to give a free music lesson to an entire elementary school class.  You get the idea.  If you want to throw in a free tee shirt or something, that’s fine too.

Despite the lack of a material return, your perks are one of the most important parts of your campaign and they need to be well though out.  Perks tell me the difference I am making as a donor.  They tell me why is should give $500 and not just $50.  They need to be compelling.  If the difference I make by giving $500 sounds more or less like the difference I am going to make at $50, then I’ll likely give $50.

Email – Don’t forget about email.  It’s still a far more effective way of reach people than social media, particularly for those that you already have a relationship to.  Email will be a cornerstone of your campaign.  You’ll need it to reach out to friends, family, colleagues, bloggers, to get them all on board with your campaign.  You’ll need to to update them all and you’ll need it again when you close your campaign.  We’ll talk more about the specifics of these emails in later posts but like all other communications, create as many of them in advance as possible and remind people that whatever you are asking them to do will result in social good.

OK, so we’ve done our research, we know who our best volunteers might be, which blogs we’d like to be on; we’ve shot our video, designed our perks, taken our photos, etc. We’re getting pretty close to being able to launch.  But we still need to do a few things…

The next thing I need you to understand is how these crowd funding sites generally work.  While I mentioned before that if you build it they will not come and that we’ll have to drive our own traffic, this not 100% true.  If you build it they may come, but only if you launch with a splash.  Most crowd funding sites want to have the most dynamic campaigns on their home page, dynamic being defined as having the most social media, the most frequent updates, the most money raised, and the greatest percentage of their goal raised.  So, we don’t want the first day of our campaign to be the first day people hear about the campaign.  We want to have people ready to give, tweet, post, etc. on the day of launch.  And to get that critical mass we need to do some work first.

Trending

Ask your connections for connections to the relevant blogs and media you identified – Remember when we cross referenced our connections to our best blog and media bets?  Well, its time to reach out to those connections to ask them to make an introduction.  This step should be taken fairly far out from launch so you have time to get a response and then follow up with the bloggers and media.  You can use this email template to reach out.  You may wish to share some materials with them so that they are motivated and know that they are helping a project that is professional and well thought-out.  Let them know why your project is important and ask for their help.

Write to blogs and media – Now its time to reach out to the blogs and media.  Start with the ones where you have been introduced and work your way out from there.  Be ready to supply them with information about your project and link to the page (if you’ve already launched).  Let them know when your launch is and ask them to post at launch or within the first day or two.  Here is a quick email you can use to introduce yourself.

Get your volunteers organized for a coordinated launch – Remember when we inventoried our best volunteers?  Well, now is the time to approach them.  Here is a quick email or letter you can use as a template to send them.  Let them know why your project is important, when your launch is, and what you’d like them to do on that day.  Your launch day shouldn’t be too far away so that your volunteers remain excited and ready.  You may also wish to ask the people with the biggest connections to reach out to their best connections and make a special appeal.

Make a personal appeal to those closest to you – It really helps to have some donations on the first day.  Make a call or send a personal appeal to the people that are closest to you and ask them to be ready to make a donation on the first day of the campaign.  This will give you a little momentum and will lend credibility when others discover your project.  If people see $0 raised they will wonder if your project is legitimate and they will be less likely to give.  On the other hand, if they see a project having a strong first few days, they will be more likely to make a donation.

Create an editorial/publishing calendar – One way that crowd funding campaigns don’t succeed is that the organizers fail to make regular updates on the project.  One way that we can avoid this is to create a publishing calendar of our updates in advance.  This includes any video, emails, and pictures you want to use (as described in the last post) but it should also include any social media that you want to use.  Using something like Hootsuite can help you automate this work.  Here’s a link to an editorial calendar.  It was designed for a year-long social media cycle but you can adapt it or create your own.

Think about using Thunderclap – One cool site that you can use in advance of your launch is Thunderclap.  Thunderclap is a crowd funding platform but instead of collecting money for a project it collects social media posts.  People pledge a tweet or a post for your project and if your project reaches its goal in social media reach (people who will potentially see the post) then at a specified time everyone who pledged will post, tweet, etc. simultaneously and automatically.  Obviously this can be a powerful tool that can be used at launch and it’s an easy thing for people to do because they are pledging social media not money.  But, the really great thing about this is that those same people now have a stake in your campaign and are more likely to give, provide additional social media resources, etc.

ThunderclapDay6

OK!  Now we are really getting somewhere.  You have your social media, traditional media, and early supports all lined up.  You’re now ready to make a big splash at launch, the topic of our next post.

 

Day of Service: Every. Day.

The Osborne Group will be closed on Monday – but we won’t be off.  Perhaps like you, we mlk day of service 2014honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a “day on” volunteering with our families, rather than a day off.  In the not-for-profit world, we recognize that every day is a Day of Service.  Or it could be…  To help you expand the ways that you engage the whole family of your donors, investors and volunteers in a Day of Service throughout the year, here are some ideas we’ve collected from the team:

  1. Host an on-site work day with a variety of projects that pile up over the year:  from raking leaves or clearing out and organizing closets, to identifying and calling volunteers from the past six months to thank them, or cataloging the collateral material you’ve created over the past five years in one neat file. Create a menu of options for a Saturday…
  2. Host a Philanthropy Forum for Families to discuss how families can help children and grandchildren embrace philanthropy, develop their own philosophy, or help other children and families in need.
  3. Establish volunteer opportunities where corporate partners’ staff, service club members, and other engaged groups and their families have the opportunity to work directly with the people, animals, and habitats you serve.  Later in the year, share with the individuals who volunteered pictures of recipients enjoying the facilities they helped improve.
  4. Create a series of one minute videos of the children of donors speaking about helping others.
  5. If you have a “Friends Asking Friends” event (i.e. run, walk, bowl, etc): create specific opportunities, materials, ideas for families to get involved.
  6. Help families achieve their resolution of being more financially responsible by teaching their kids about smart money planning (including budgeting for charity). Websites like Oink.com let parents give their kids a set amount of money which they then can budget and spend or give with their parent’s oversight.
  7. Lead a hike, run a program, give a tour geared to families – one for teens with ways to take this back to their middle school or high school, one for families with younger kids to introduce them to what you do.
  8. Share “three ways you can advocate for us” via social media; include a variety that includes calling a legislator, and speaking up for your cause among friends, neighbors, your employer or at school
  9. Develop an annual calendar of family-friendly activities to keep philanthropy top of mind all year round to send to donors and hand out at events. It might include things to do around certain holidays or tips for key times of year.
  10. Include a family volunteer/donor profile in your newsletter and/or annual report.
  11. Run a Volunteer Job Fair with other NFPs to recruit short term and long term volunteers.
  12. Look for ways to engage teen-aged of donors mentoring others – lots of schools require community service or service learning, many kids look for bar or bat mitzvah projects.
  13. Host a roundtable discussion with different stakeholder groups – or mixed stakeholder groups: What does our community need most from our community-based organizations? What does our community do well? Where are the holes?
  14. … or host a panel discussion on raising generous and grateful children; invite the community to participate.
  15. Invite major gift donors to an event being held in a program area where their gift made an impact. Instead of just inviting the donor, invite his or her family to the event and place them in volunteer roles during the event, through which they will be able to have meaningful interactions with clients.
  16. Create a special recognition category for family giving. Families that make your organization their family charity of choice are recognized as such and have a specific set of stewardship activities. Maybe develop a Family Giving Circle and hold special stewardship events for members.
  17. Establish a Family Giving Back Day; invite families of donors to a day of providing service to clients and their families – everything from reviewing resumes, job interview techniques, repairing and painting toys, organic gardening, healthy cooking, learning about social networking, and so forth.
  18. In all your donor visits, seek their advice about the best ways to engage the children of donors!
  19. Incorporate a golf clinic (or sport, or other talent clinic) into your special events, enabling donors to engage with your beneficiaries or their children.
  20. Look for ways that the recipients of your services can connect to and interact with your donors and investors – philanthropy is a two-way street.

And of course… Be sure to include family members (when appropriate) in your stewardship in individual donors and volunteers!

The 72%ers: Individual Giving for Everyone

I admit it.  I wait for the Giving USA numbers to come out each June with perhaps more excitement than is due.  What will they tell us?  Are things really looking up, or does it just feel that way?  Will there be any big anomalies?  A big swing one way or another?  And then they come out and…  well, I’m not ever that surprised by the results, honestly.  At the 60,000 foot level, they tend to say the same thing every year: images most giving to religion and education; 72% from individual giving, outright with about 7-8% more through bequests each year.  I guess that what does surprise me is the conclusion that more organizational leaders do NOT take from these findings, year after year:  despite the fact that $227.7 billion dollars were given by individuals last year, and individuals gave $8.67 billion more than last year, so many anchor their growth strategy in corporate giving, the smallest part of the giving pie.

My hunch – from conversations with many of these organizations – is that the instinct is to go where the money is:  okaaaaay.  And the perception, often from the board, is that corporations are where the money is.  But, of course, we don’t have to go digging very far to find that the many millions of giving individuals in the country give about 2% of their disposable income each year while corporate giving has fallen and stagnated at levels not seen since 1977 – a mere 0.8% of corporate profits last year.  So, clearly individual giving IS where the money is, but building an individual giving portfolio feels unattainable to many organizations.

Why?

The reason I most often hear is, “I/we don’t know ‘those’ people”.  And with the proliferation of the Philanthropy 50, the Most Generous lists, the Forbes Titans of Philanthropy, the press on those who have taken the Giving Pledge, it is easy to understand why accessing “those people” does not feel like it is within the purview of the thousands of small and medium-sized organizations around the country.

But, who do you really need to know?  For sure, knowing and engaging high-net worth individuals who can and will give major gifts is critical and wonderful.  Giving USA confirms again that having volunteer opportunities that attract, inspire and engage these individuals is key:  88.5% report that their giving follows their volunteer involvement.

Leadership donors – those who can give between $1,000 and $10,000 or $25,000 a year – are the bread and butter not only of these Giving USA numbers, but of strong, small and mid-sized organizations around the country.  (After all $1,000 is $83 a month.  $83.  How much was your cell phone bill?)  The “big dog” organizations have known that for years and have invested staffing and fund development strategies to find and keep this cohort above all others.  What can the little guys do to catch up?  The details in Giving USA this year point the way:

  • Leadership donors report that they often give to inspire others.  Do you give your current leadership donors (at whatever level) a voice in your communications?  Do you seek out some who are willing to be showcased to share their story of inspiration with others?  It’s not just about finding those who will be solicitors for you (nice though that is!) but those who are willing to tell your story to others… or have their story told.multi-channel-marketing-fueled-by-crm-increases-member-giving_16001162_800926552_0_0_14057469_500
  • 66% of individuals report that they give regularly to a few organizations they really care about.  Are you offering the opportunity to give multiple times a year?  Through different channels?  To many parts of your core mission that matter to your donors?  I am not advocating a constant, unceasing barrage of mail and email to your donors, asking and asking, always with a hand out.  But, I do know that small and mid-size organizations can cut back – waaaay back on the number of times they invite people “to the table”, either because of fear or just a lack of staff or volunteers to get appeals out the door.  Could you divide the impact of what you do into four or five different pieces and send an appeal, an email, a link to a video on your website quarterly or about every other month?  What and who would it take to do that?  $200 at a time builds up quickly.
  • 90.8% report that they have some or great confidence that the not-for-profit sector can solve problems in society.  That’s HUGE confidence, especially given the much more dismal numbers we were seeing just five or six years ago… (And much greater confidence than Congress currently enjoys, yet they don’t seem to have pulled back the political fundraising…hum.)  Here’s the “But” and it’s big:  the Fundraising Effectiveness Project found that the not-for-profit sector has a crisis of donor retention.  Those who believe in your organization give regularly; however, there is a huge number – on average, 59% of donors – who are getting passed around from organization to organization, year after year.  Notice that I say “passed around”, not “jumping around”:  so often we’re complicit in letting them go by not paying attention to donor stewardship and reporting back on the impact of giving in a way that matters and gets noticed. (Check out our podcast #7 and #15 for more on stewardship.)  Recoiling at the thought of soliciting four times a year?  What if you communicated a powerful stewardship message in between each of those appeals?  Much more palatable, right?  And your donor retention will move closer to those few who top 70% – and you’ll build stronger leadership giving along the way.

In the end, I know what keeps a commitment to individual giving off the table for many organizations:  the reality is that individual giving is a “people to people” business and that can be messy, it doesn’t have a tidy recipe that bakes up every single time.  It is like cooking – you throw yourself into it with good ingredients, you tinker with what works and what doesn’t, you ask others how they’ve made it come out so well and try again and again.  Lots of people know how to cook.  You can too.

30 Days: End of Year Strategies

june-2013-calendar-stock-illustration-istock1The clock is ticking… it’s 30 days before the end of the fiscal year… and your boss asks you “what are you going to do to meet goal?”

You ask yourself the same question as you wrestle with the need to meet goal and the 30 days you have to do so. Plus, you haven’t had a day off since New Year’s Eve and you’d like to book some vacation time before you lose them. What’s a fundraiser to do? Here are some end of year strategies to help you through these next 30 days and beyond.

1. Breathe

Yes, breathe. Stress in our profession is real and burnout even more so. Unrealistic expectations, lack of support, un-returned phone calls from donors and a non-existent culture of philanthropy all make for a stressful situation. 30 days isn’t enough time to change our situation completely but it is enough time to change our reactions and thoughts about our situation. It’s also enough time to make breathing during stressful times a habit. So for 30 days take the time to focus on your breath.  Here’s how.

Before you log on to your computer take a few minutes to breathe instead of mentally running through your “to do list.” Dr. Andrew Weil one of the world’s leading authorities on alternative health recommends the following three breathing exercises each providing a different internal and external benefit.

  1. The Stimulating Breath (also called the Bellows Breath)
    The Stimulating Breath is adapted from a yogic breathing technique. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness. Dr. Weil suggests using this technique instead of reaching for a cup of coffee. I’ve personally used this when I feel extremely tired and need a quick pick me up. It does work though you might get some interesting looks from anyone walking by you as you perform this exercise.
  2. The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise
     According to Dr. Weil, this exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous           system. It’s the perfect exercise to use before going into a meeting or anytime you experience anxiety. This exercise takes practice and is easier to comprehend by seeing it in action. The following is a link to view this technique.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r82UgmWReY
  3.  Breath Counting
    This breathing exercise can be used as a form of meditation throughout the day.   I’ve used it to quiet my mind especially during times of endless to do lists. It’s simple to do because it’s literally just counting your breaths.  

You can find more information about these and other stress reduction techniques by visiting Dr. Weil’s website at http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html

2. Focus on what you can control

You can control the number of strategic conversations you have with donors but you can’t control whether they give during these next 30 days or not. You can increase your odds for success by visiting with those donors who you have personally engaged during this fiscal year but you haven’t quite made it to asking them for their support. Now is the time to ask not because it’s the end of the fiscal year but because you have a compelling reason and opportunity for them to invest in. “We need your support because it’s the end of the fiscal year” is not a compelling reason for our donors to give now. But “join us in sending 100 kids with brain injuries to experience camp for the first time this summer ” is a more compelling reason to move donors to action.

What are some other things you can control during these next 30 days?

3. Revisit your no’s and yeses

Just because a donor declines to give when you ask the first time doesn’t mean they will not give in the future. Now is the time to revisit the no’s and ask questions about their thoughts, values and motivations to give. Perhaps it was the timing of your original ask or the particular project you presented. Find out what inspires the donor to action and ask questions about the impact the donor wants to have on your cause through your organization.

Next , go over every top donor and highly rated prospective donor.  Re-calculate your “high, low, likely” projections.  Do this as a team.  Get others’ take on each name. Include corporations, foundations, and individuals.  Don’t forget event donors for spring events.  Who are the top fundraisers among your volunteers?  Who are the top donors to those events?  Make sure they are in the mix as potential end of the fiscal year donors.  Take just an hour or two to strategize and spend the rest of the day making your appointments.

Finally, revisit the yeses you received earlier in the fiscal year. Are there any donors that might give again? You don’t know unless you ask.

4. Secure a challenge or matching gift

Matching gifts and challenge gifts can be a highly effective tools to significantly increase the chances of raising more money. A challenge gift is a noncontingent gift (not dependent on the gifts of other donors) to your organization with an accompanying “challenge” for other donors to join. For example, Janet Smith commits to give your organization a “$10 a day” during the month of June to help in sending kids with brain injuries to summer camp. She then challenges 30 other people to join her and when they do your organization will have $9,000 in additional revenue. This method can be highly effective using social media especially when donors ask their friends and family to join them and then their friends and families ask others to join them as well.

Matching gifts  can add an even more compelling dimension to your case, letting donors know that the gifts they give will not only help to support your organization and make your organization’s campaign success a reality, but that the money they give literally multiplies as it is matched by the matching donor. If your Board members have capacity to make large gifts, ask one of them to lead the challenge. If they can’t do it themselves, they may know another individual, family, company, or foundation with potential interest. You may even consider asking the Board to collectively fund a matching gift challenge at the outset of the 30 day campaign, which can be a good way to get them invested in your overall fundraising success.

 5. Ramp up your personal stewardship to donors

Write down the names of 30 of your top donors and each day pick one to deliver personal stewardship. 30 days= 30 successfully stewarded donors=30 possible donor relationships teed up for their next gift opportunity.  The best way to retain donors is to continue to share with them the impact their philanthropy is having on the constituents you serve. How about new donors to your organization? Divide this list up among your board members to personally reach out to new donors which again makes board members a part of your organization’s philanthropic success.

For minimal effort but great results, try hosting an “end of the fiscal year thank a thon.”  Invite your community – students, staff, other donors, current and retired board members to a year- end thank you party complete with pizza or popsicles. It’s your choice. Just keep it simple. Pick a day for people to drop in and write a few notes, make a few calls, share a few stories of impact that others can share too.  Set a goal – daily, hourly, weekly – for everyone and track progress – people love a game and knowing that they contributed tangibly to your organization’s success.

vacationIt might be June 3 by the time you read this but don’t fret. You still have time to incorporate some or all of these strategies to help you in meeting your goals. There is a light at the end of the tunnel filled with donors ready to give and a well-deserved vacation.

Donor Motivation not Donor Education

DownloadedFileMotivation not Education“.  I found this saying while at the campaignstrategy.org website doing some research on a new presentation on Activism and Fundraising.  In my opinion, there are many parallels between activism and fundraising but this saying struck me as perhaps the most apt.  Our job as fundraisers, much like the job of the activist, is to get people to do something.  To act.  In the case of an activist campaign that action might be to show up for a protest, or sign a petition, or call their congress person.  As fundraisers, we want people to give money, volunteer, call their friends and get them to attend an event.  Through cultivation we lower the barriers to act until the desired action takes place.  We motivate.

However, all to often we spend the bulk of our time educating people and hoping that education will lead to motivation and action.  We give them facts.  We give them things to read.  We sit down with them and try to persuade them.  We generally push information at them.

As campaignstrategy.or points out in reference to activist campaigning:

Education…is a broadening exercise. It uses examples to reveal layers of complexity, leading to lower certainty but higher understanding.

 

Campaigning maximises the motivation of the audience, not their knowledge. Try using education to campaign, and you will end up circling and exploring your issue but not changing it.

 

Fundraising works in the same way; it’s not an educational experience or an “oral argument”.  Yes, people will almost certainly be educated about our cause as we cultivate and build relationships with them, but education is not the primary purpose.  Good fundraising is action oriented.  As fundraisers, we get our best results not when we try to persuade and provide endless amounts of information, but when we “show” and motivate.

So, how do we motivate people?  People tend to believe and place the most value on their own experiences.  If they can see that your organization is effective because they have met your clients, your families, etc. that is much more valuable than reading about them or watching a video.  Likewise, if you can let them see and experience for themselves the impact of a previous donation this increases the motivation to give more.

Finally, “the act of doing” is in itself motivational and leads to more action.  Always give your donors a clear action they can take whether that’s donating, a Facebook like, or volunteering.  Don’t just send them an endless stream of information but provide no way to act.

Letter to a Friend (About Why I didn’t Give More to your Gala)

A good friend who sits on the board of the organization that she loves invited us to their gala and then called to follow up.  Isn’t she a good board member?  I’m so proud of her!  We couldn’t attend.  But we did give… just not a stretch gift.  And look above: this is a GOOD friend… someone I’m really proud of and have great feelings about.  Why didn’t I give more?Gala X

I have lost track of the number of times that I’ve used the Tarnside Curve to illustrate why donors don’t make stretch gifts based on the relationship they have with the person doing the asking.  But my email to her spelled it out at greater length and I decided to share it with you in hopes that like her and her organization, you might find some lessons learned to apply to yours.

Dear Very Good Friend,

First, I’m so sorry that we can’t make it to the Gala.  It would have been lovely to catch up with you and see you in your new role on the Board.  Second, I wanted to share with you why I am not giving more.  I know that you asked for my input on fundraising for your organization before, and this seemed like a good moment to share my thoughts.

As I was going through your organization’s site and figuring out how much we should give, I had some thoughts.  Please know that I realize how hard it must be to run Organization X and that most of the staff are out there doing the real work of helping clients who need it.  And I don’t know any of the back story on the site, who wrote it, the politics, etc.  In any case, this isn’t meant to come off as belittling any of the work they do on the ground or who they are as people.  Not at all.  I’m sharing my thoughts with you because if Organization X were my client, it’s what I’d do.  If it’s helpful, then share and feel free to share as is.  If it’s not the teachable moment I think it could be, and/or would hurt feelings and be unhelpful, then please don’t.

I tell my clients all the time that there are plenty of great organizations out there to support.  Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to find them.

I went to Organization X’s site because of you and your clear passion about the work they do.  I trust you.  I value your opinion.  I don’t know all that much about Organization X.  This is how many many donors are introduced to organizations, especially in the context of events.

So there I am now looking around on the site and trying to figure out how much to give.  Should I do what’s comfortable, or should I forgo something I want to do and stretch?   If I do the stretch, then I have to explain it.  Already, I’ve explained to the family that we’re giving to Organization X because “Aunti loves them and I respect her and want to support her cause.” 

But to go the extra mile on this, I’d have to say more. I’m looking… I’m looking… I’m not seeing much.

When I get to the “stories” page, the first thing I see is the founders page and it’s a little bit off-putting because it suggests that the organization was founded on a whim.  I am willing to bet that the founders story is an awesome one that had much more than, “had nothing better to do” as a beginning.  But this is what it says.  I stop reading.  I’ve got 10 minutes to my name here and this isn’t what I’m looking for.  So then I move on to see if there is an annual report anywhere.  What I am looking for is a breakdown of the financials, what the annual budget is and also an idea of giving levels. Here again, I come up empty-handed.  OK… what about an idea of what various levels of giving means in terms of impact?  Nope.  Nothing to be found.  I sit back a minute.  It dawns on me that there are no photos.  That the site is all text, and not even written particularly well.  Ugh.

My thoughts go back to you.  I remind myself that you are super-smart and that you wouldn’t sit on a board for no reason.  Organization X MUST be doing terrific work.  I just don’t have any sense of it.

And so… I make my “comfortable” gift.

After the gala is behind you all and you can sit and think, here are a few things that I’d do right away:

1. Create impact statements.  My son and his friends just raised money to plant trees and gave it to http://www.plantabillion.org/  Every $1 plants 1 tree.  They want to plant one billion.  Take a look.  It’s a huge goal.  But they aren’t afraid to throw it out there.  And incredibly, every $1 of that billion feels important.  When I give my gift to Organization X, what does that mean?  What can I feel good about in making this contribution besides vaguely knowing I’ve done something good because you say I have?  Create impact statements to tell visitors to your site and donors new and old the impact of gifts made at various levels.  This is going to be useful for far more than just your site.  (Sidebar:  I didn’t include this in my letter, but you can download a great resource on writing impact statements here.)

2.  Post your financials.  You don’t need to create and post an annual report in my opinion.  Hardly anyone reads those.  But what they do look for is exactly what I looked for.  To not have that information up makes you look bad.

3.  Make the site more visually appealing.  You have this know-how.  I realize you can’t post photos of the clients for safety sake.  But there are all kinds of creative images you could post that don’t show faces.  Look at what other like organizations are doing.  I know you know this already, but Facebook is ranking images and video much higher than plain text in terms of their edge rank, their news feed algorithm that determines which posts get seen and by whom.  That says it all, doesn’t it?

4.  Be sure all the content is appealing and it’s not there for political reasons alone.  If you are going to share stories, make certain that they are really strong.  And know that most visitors are looking for client stories.  It helps me feel good about giving when I see a story of a client whose life was transformed by Organization X.  When I have my consultant hat on, I talk about helping donors feel like superheros for supporting them.  Keep that in your mind as you decide what to post on the site.  Would reading it make someone feel like a superhero for supporting?

I could go on.  But I won’t because I know it’s going to take time to get through this list as it is and that is going to take commitment from more than just you.  No matter that I know how hard it is to think about these things right after going through the hard work of putting a successful event together, it’s really important that you all do this.  I’m happy to chat about this whenever.   In the meantime, good luck tomorrow night!  I’m sorry I won’t get to be there.

Good for you for being involved with Organization X.  I’m proud of you and will be rooting for you guys tomorrow… 

Love, Neesha

Have you had a friend – a GOOD friend – visit your organization’s website?  Asking for that frank assessment of the public face you are sharing with the world can offer invaluable feedback.