Maya Angelou’s Lessons for Life & Nonprofits

Two weeks ago I got the news… I was sitting on my couch watching the morning news and there it was at the bottom of the screen, “Famed poet and author Maya Angelou died this morning in North Carolina. She was 86.”

Maya Angelou

I felt my heart stop and my thoughts rush through memories.  I could see Maya Angelou reciting poetry on our PBS station in the late 1970’s; her voice so powerful and enchanting. She seemed so regal and wise. I could remember coming of age in high school and believing “Phenomenal Woman that’s me!”  I could see the pride in my grandmother’s eyes when Dr. Angelou recited “On The Pulse Of Morning” at President Clinton’s innauguration and how that poem remained on my grandmother’s refrigerator until her death. I recalled how excited I was when I called Dr. Angelou’s home on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association just three years ago and although I didn’t speak to her directly ; I was overwhelmed with excitement by just the mere thought of reaching Maya Angelou.

As I continue to reflect on how Dr. Angelou has impacted my life, I’d like to share a few life lessons from her that can be used in our personal and professional lives as we  serve the nonprofit world.

 “When You Know Better You Do Better”

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http://www.oprah.com/oprahs-lifeclass/The-Powerful-Lesson-Maya-Angelou-Taught-Oprah-Video

This is a lesson I continue to learn both personally and professionally.  I think the knowing is much easier than the doing. I know to exercise more but the doing it consistently is another story. I see how this lesson can apply to our work with donors. When we learn to focus on building donor relationships rather than rushing to a solicitation we find that our donors are more engaged and inspired to make generous and joyful gifts.

“I’ve Learned That People Will Forget What You Said, People Will Forget What You Did, But People Will Never Forget How You Made Them Feel.”

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As a parent and wife, I practice this every day although there are moments that my ego will allow me to forget.  When we fully embrace this as a way of being, not only does it enhance and deepen our personal relationships but it also takes our professional relationships to another level as well.

 “I Am A Woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal Woman That’s Me!”

phenomenal woman

http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/Listen-Dr-Maya-Angelou-Recites-Her-Poem-Phenomenal-Woman-Video

Like many women, I have found myself on occasions being the only woman in the room. There were times in these situations that I did not own my power and sat in these meetings without saying a word. Thanks to Dr. Angelou not only did I learn to embrace my power as a woman and take my seat at the table , I learned to encourage other women to do the same including my phenomenal 5 year old daughter.  Phenomenal  women also serve  as  leaders, philanthropists ,and volunteers for the causes we serve.

“When People Show You Who They Are- Believe Them”

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTiziwBhd54

This lesson calls for an “AMEN!”  How many times have we tried to change people or see only what we want to see? How about with donors? We want them to give this specific amount to this project because it’s the end of the fiscal year and we are praying that we make our goals. Yet, the donor’s actions are screaming” I am not interested in this project but I am interested in having an impact in another way.”  We can avoid this situation by asking the right questions and listening to our donors rather than seeing only what we want to see or hearing only what we want to hear.

 “My Mission In Life Is Not Merely To Survive, But To Thrive; And To Do So With Some Passion, Some Compassion, Some Humor, And Some Style.”

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This is truly how I want to live my life. It reflects my core values both personally and professionally. It takes the concept of “work/life” balance and makes it more tangible and practical. I’ll share more in a future blog.

Finally, I leave you with another Maya Angelou lesson- one that I do every single day, “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”  Every day we have the opportunity to be a blessing in someone’s life both at home and in the workplace.  It’s just a matter of taking the opportunity to do so.

Thank you Dr. Angelou for your wisdom and love for humanity! You will be missed but your legacy lives on throughout the world and through those who serve the nonprofit world.

What’s On The Table?

Chicago-Community-Trust-On-The-Table-2014Monday I had dinner with 10,000 people. Well, not exactly..  But, I did participate with 10,000 other Chicago area citizens in a community-wide “town hall” called On The Table created by the Chicago Community Trust in celebration of their 99th anniversary.

The goal, according to Chicago Community Trust, CEO, Terry Mazany was to have more than 10,000 people “from all walks of life and socioeconomic circumstances” engage in conversation about the issues facing their communities and ideas to make their communities stronger.

“We hope the conversations “generate new ideas, inspire bold solutions and cultivate relationships and collaborations to improve communities region-wide,” said Mazany.

The trust is using social media to capture these ideas and will report back to the community through their website and an idea exchange in October. The trust is also planning to use ideas gathered from On The Table to inform future grantmaking decisions.

I love this idea and loved personally participating in an On The Table event sponsored by PADS of Lake County.  Our group leader, Joel Williams, Executive Director of PADS was funny and engaging. He provided a tasty barbecue to facilitate our outdoor conversation.  Afterwards, many of the participants agreed to continue these conversations on a monthly basis and hold one another accountable for the action steps they committed to during our visioning.

Here’s what we discussed:

  1. What does our community do well?
  2. What’s best about our community?
  3. What can we do better?
  4. What’s our community going to look like 5, 10, and 15 years from now?
  5. What’s the one thing you will do this week to make the above vision happen?

Non-profits can take this On The Table concept to facilitate meaningful conversations with community members, key stakeholders, donors, etc.  Not only does this provide a wonderful engagement opportunity for these groups but it will also provide your organization with new ideas and stronger relationships between your organization and these constituents. Here’s 10 tips to get started :

1)      Check out the On The Table website at onthetable2014.com

2)      Select a date to host these events (perhaps your founders day, a significant date in your organization’s history, or a special date related to the cause you serve. World Alzheimer’s Day is an example)

3)      Identify table hosts who would be willing to provide the location and food. You can also have them host a pot luck or brown bag lunch.  Note the number of table hosts would depend on the overall size you want your event to be. Keep in mind you want small intimate gatherings of no more than 15 people.

4)      Create a website for the event and opportunities for people to engage through social media before, during and after the event

5)      Tailor the above discussion questions to your organization

6)      Engage your local media before, during and after the event

7)      Get your board members involved

8)      Invite some of the people you serve to these events

9)      Develop a plan to collect and share the ideas generated at these events

10)   Report back to the attendees on the ideas you plan to implement and the progress you’ve made

So, what’s “On The Table”  for your organization? We’d love to know!

 

Fundraisers Share Their Vision for 2014

It’s the beginning of the year and many of us are making our personal New Year’s Resolutions . My New Year’s Resolutions are being more consistent with exercising, reading more and enjoying more time with my family.  Many of us also have 2014 resolutions or a vision for the non-profits we serve. Here’s what fellow fundraisers had to say when asked the question: “What is your vision for your organization in 2014 and what will be your role in making it happen?”

    Laura Mannion                      

Laura Mannion, Director of Development, Franciscan Alliance  Foundation, Mishawaka, IN

My vision for the Foundation in 2014 is to increase our fundraising by 30% so that we can maintain and expand our programs in communities in Northwest  Indiana where the unemployment rate is higher than both the state average and the national average.

Increased philanthropy will enable the Foundation to impact the lives of the working poor throughout our region.  Changes in health care have already increased demand.  To achieve a 30% increase in philanthropic donations, we have recruited a board of community leaders who are passionate about our mission.  Each of our board members is hosting events at their homes or private clubs to help us build affinity for our mission programs amongst those with the capacity to impact our mission.  In addition to working with our board, we are leveraging the strength in numbers of our employee base by launching an employee giving program.  We are also expanding our work with family and corporate foundations.   Finally, we are initiating physician giving and a grateful patient program while marketing planned giving opportunities. Working this diversified plan will enable us to continue to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis in embracing a community in need.

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Tricia Brosnahan, CFRE,  Major Gifts Officer, Detroit Zoological Society,
Royal Oaks, Michigan

My vision for 2014 is to continue to build the organizational culture of philanthropy as we work together to fully fund the largest and most dramatic capital project in DZS history, The Polk Family Conservation Center.

My role is facilitating communication between staff, board and donors!

 

Michelle

Michelle S. Gollapalli, MBA, CFRE, CAP, Chief Development Officer, Bancroft,
Cherry Hill, New Jersey

My vision for Bancroft in 2014 is that we are able to raise awareness about the quality and range of the services we provide to children and adults with autism, brain injuries and intellectual and developmental disabilities and to tell our story in a powerful way that appeals to stakeholders who can really help move our mission, empowering the people we serve to maximize their potential.

Chad

Chad Hartman, Vice President of Development , Epilepsy Foundation,
Landover, Maryland

My vision for 2014 is that the Epilepsy Foundation will continue to have a keen focus on building a mission driven culture of philanthropy and serve as a national leader of best practices for all advancement activities.  We want a new organizational attitude, internally and externally, toward philanthropy and the development process.  The Foundation encourages every constituency to understand, embrace, believe in, and act on his or her collective and individual roles and responsibilities in philanthropy, stewardship and donor engagement in a collaborative and donor focused manner. 

I see my role as leading and supporting the organizational and department strategic and financial goals to expand public awareness, community services, education, and innovative research and new therapies for people living with epilepsy. 

We’ll revisit our fundraising friends six months from now to see where they are at in achieving their vision for 2014 and share their strategies for success. We’ll also ask various leaders and board members about their vision for 2014 as well.

In the meantime, check out our resources on building a culture of philanthropy and join us for our January 16 webinar on what you can do during the next six months to end the fiscal year strong.  Register now!

Five Tips to Build Relationships with Corporate Donors

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Ebony R. Lincoln, a 15-year corporate communications and philanthropy veteran who has worked on the teams deciding on and directing corporate philanthropy with major corporations, including State Farm, Ameren and Lundbeck Pharmaceuticals. Ebony had bclc_bizgivesback_skr2some tips on building strong relationships with your corporate donors and we added some of our own.

Remember that corporate giving is driven by relationships… the same as any giving relationship.  Too often, we hear the misperception that corporate giving is simply a well in which the not-for profit world needs to dip a bucket.  (For more on a creating a balanced portfolio, check out this post by my colleague, Laura.)

1)  Make it make sense!

Get to know the company by reading its website, annual report and press releases.  Ask yourself; “Does my organization align with the company’s values, mission and giving objectives?” You must know the answer to this question before seeking to establish a partnership. Corporate donors are looking to connect with organizations that can relate to their services or products. For example, it makes sense for a science-based company to partner with an organization delivering Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs that work to support teachers and students. Once you know the company and understand their philanthropy objectives, guidelines and criteria present initiatives or programs (new or existing) that connect with the company. If it doesn’t fit or make sense, don’t force it.

Then go beyond to ask:  what problems or challenges does this company have that we could help solve?  A company that requires a strong, entry-level workforce who is drug and alcohol-free may seek out investment in an organization that provides prevention or treatment programs.  A corporation facing increasing health care costs, or absenteeism due to health problems in their workforce gets returned value when supporting an organization tackling research and treatment, or focusing on building health and wellness in the community.

2) Develop an authentic relationship resulting in a true partnership.

Checkbook philanthropy generally only works for the short-term. While this approach will support your bottom line, it creates a situation that allows the company to walk away whenever times get hard.  Go beyond the funding application and the company’s financial support:  giving motivation is part of the equation but not the whole thing. Go deep to uncover the values of the company and help to fulfill them.  Anchoring your relationship in their values makes your organization a partner at their corporate table.

If a company is passionate about being green or service-learning, determine if your organization can align to those topics and then make it your mission to infuse that into your partnership with them, and report back to them through your stewardship.  When you seek to connect with the company on a deeper level, you are telling the company that it is important enough for you to make an investment that supports the relationship and understand what values matter most to them.

3)  Provide meaningful opportunities that allow all levels of the company to be actively engaged and long term fixtures with in your organization.

Yes, employee engagement may feel like the “hot, new topic”, but it, too, has long been fundamental to strong corporate relationships.  Not only do opportunities for employee engagement raise morale, it enables you and your corporate donors to leverage all the assets they have available.  Meaningful opportunities can range from having someone at the company serve (not just “sit”) on your board, or speak at a career day or awareness event at your organization.  Short on marketing expertise or resources?  Tap into the corporate marketing department.  Need human resources expertise for an on-going project or short-term advice?  Get to know a corporate partner’s professionals.  Need some laptops and networking expertise to ease registration and check out at your gala?  Ask for help from the IT department of a corporate sponsor.  Look for ways to get as many employees as possible from every level of the company (not just executives) more involved and invested in the work of your organization. Your goal is to create true champions of your organization who live within the company. These champions can play a key role when it’s time for the company to make a decision about continuing funding to your organization.

4)  Build for mutual success and be accountable.

Non-profits can ensure success by developing multi-year initiatives that are mutually beneficial in partnership with the company. Approach your relationship from a long-term perspective and know what your non-negotiables are.  Make the partnership easy for the company by doing the “heavy lifting” for the company, whenever possible. For example, if the company is involved in your organization’s mentoring program, take the responsibility for managing the match process and report on the success and impact in a way that can easily be communicated throughout the company.   Most importantly, be accountable to your corporate partners in when things go well and when things go awry.  By being willing to have an open, frank and candid relationship with the company – talking about how a program has succeeded, how things have gone differently than anticipated, and what the organization is doing to “fail forward” – you build TRUST.  Every company is intimately familiar with “productive failures” and may prove to be a valued partner in helping solve your challenges.  And, of course, provide timely reports on progress as you promise…  under-promise and over-deliver.

5)  Drive exposure and recognition.

Companies don’t want to be seen as self-serving but they do want a return on investment. PR from non-profits gets picked up quicker than PR from corporations.  Look for ways to recognize and acknowledge corporate contributions, initiatives and partnership success regularly. For example, develop a PR plan when a new, significant program is created with a corporate partner or when a company participates in your organization’s major programs or awareness events.  (Not sure how to do this well?  Ask for their help and expertise in building the right PR campaign that meets everyone’s needs!)  Your goal is to demonstrate and promote your partner’s outstanding corporate citizenship, whenever possible.

Back To School: It’s Not Just For Kids

back to schoolIt’s that time of year again: “Back to School. “ The dog days of summer are over and soon our stores will be filled with Halloween costumes and Christmas decorations. But wait.. the concept of “Back to School” is not just for kids or for those who work at schools, colleges or universities. “Back to School” can be used as a metaphor as a new beginning for your fundraising efforts.

School supplies

Let’s face it, school supply shopping is not fun but getting new supplies can put a smile on your face. So, what are the supplies you need to arm yourself for a successful “school year” ? Need a new pen to write those handwritten donor letters or perhaps your favorite carryon bag needs an upgrade? How about updating the visuals that surround your desk or better yet incorporating some Zen or feng shui into your office?  How about updating the mission pictures you have in your office or even changing your telephone greeting  to share something new about your organization?

What other supplies do you need? Are there new board members who can supply you with a good list of individuals they are willing to engage with you? Or mission staff that can supply you with anecdotal and real stories of impact to share with your donors? How about your CEO supplying you with more of their time to engage in donor relationship building? Make your list of supplies “to purchase”.

Wellness check-ups

Ok, maybe you are not due for a shot but when was the last time you got a check-up or had a maintenance day? Karen Osborne and I were talking recently about how to fit things into our packed schedules like doctor appointments, alterations, or even getting your hair cut.  Karen shared that she schedules “maintenance days” to take care of these necessary tasks that seem to pile up. Perhaps Karen will share this knowledge in an upcoming blog post (hint hint)

So what type of shot do you need? Maybe you need a shot of fun? Put in for some time off before the holidays to help you maintain and recharge. Maybe you need a shot of reality from your donors? Now is the time to ask those questions that help you better understand your donor’s perceptions of your organization and their philanthropic values, attitudes and desired impact on your cause.

Does your overall fundraising program need a check up? What can you do differently to get the results you want?

In Case of Emergency

I just completed emergency cards for both of my kids providing instructions to their schools on what to do in case of an emergency. So how about an emergency plan for your donor work? Emergencies do happen and sometimes right before some big event or on your way to a substantial donor ask. My former colleague always had a folder on her desk for “in case I get hit by a bus.”  She provided essential details for projects she was working on and even basics like her work-based passwords.  Having an emergency plan and a succession plan saves time and energy.

Who do you call in case of an emergency? We all need a support system to get us through those tough times personally and professionally. I am grateful for the wonderful colleagues who have become friends especially during those trying times.

 Training and Education

Fall conferences are around the corner. Yippee! Yes, I really enjoy my fair share of trainings both as a facilitator and attendee. There’s so much out there and more opportunities than ever to stay on top of your professional development. Check out our website: http://www.theosbornegroup.com/corp/workshops-seminars.asp for our fall schedule and stay tuned for our upcoming complimentary webinars and podcasts. What other types of training and education is out there? Perhaps now you can take that yoga or cooking class you always wanted or maybe it’s time to share your expertise with others by teaching as class of your own or facilitating a training session for your fellow colleagues.

“Back to School” doesn’t have to mean the end of summer fun and it’s not just for kids. It’s a time to refocus and try something new. Who knows? Maybe because you tried some new strategies you’ll hit that FY14 goal ahead of time!

It Takes More Than A Pretty Face at Fundraising Events

Does the adage, “Sex sells.”, ring true for fundraising? Last week, “20/20” featured a segment on Charity Angels,  a Los Angeles-based company that hires good-looking women to “work the room” during nonprofit fundraising events.  According to their website, The Charity Angels have successfully partnered with over 100 non-profits to help raise over $10 million dollars for organizations across the United States.

Charity Angels join a growing group “fundraisers for hire” in which individuals outside of the nonprofit organization are hired to be the face of the organization at events or make phone calls on behalf of the organization. Whether or not these “hired guns” are a growing trend, they CAN NOT take the place of professional fundraising staff especially, those who serve as major gifts and individual giving staff members.

As professional fundraising staff, you live and breathe your organization’s mission, strategic plan and impact . You are skilled at building donor relationships and securing life-long philanthropists for your organization. You are often the first one in the office and the last one to leave because you have “just one more call to make.” You have created and implemented strategies that have provided donors with the unique opportunity to save and transform lives.

It takes more than a pretty face to build lasting donor relationships. “Fundraisers for hire” don’t build a culture of philanthropy and they definitely don’t take the place of your volunteers and leadership in sustaining donor relationships.

During this season of summer fundraisers and planning for fall galas here are 5 tips to keep relationship building at the center of your work.

1) Create an engagement plan for your key guests focused on the experience you want them to  have, who you want them to meet, messages you want them to hear and feel, and the outcomes you want to achieve as a result of their attendance.

2) Have specific roles for your leadership, mission staff, volunteers and “clients” at your event.

3) Prepare leadership, mission staff, volunteers and “clients” for their roles prior to your event including a briefing on key individuals, talking points and pictures so they can identify key individuals and donors.

4) Arrange “mission stations” sprinkled around the event – pictures of the kids in your program, mission staff or “clients” demonstrating some aspect of your programs or have program volunteers answering questions.

5) Develop post event follow up plans for your guests in advance of your event-customize this follow up based upon the guest’s relationship with your organization.

So yes, in some industries sex does sell. But we are not in the business of selling. Our sector is focused on changing and transforming lives. You are more than a pretty face; for many you are THE FACE of your organization and you wear it well!

 

 

Making The 3.5% Increase Good News: Responding to Giving USA

winston churchill

Giving is up 3.5%.  Does that give you reason to feel promise?  Or is it cause for continued anxiety?  Either way you look at it, the 2013 Giving USA report reminds us of the fact that philanthropy continues to be an American value and one whose impact is felt globally.

So, as you find time to read through this report or focus on the highlights, here are three things you can do before the end of summer to make this report even more applicable in your work.

  1. Make the data relevant to philanthropy at your organization
  • Understand the percentage of giving from individuals, corporations, foundations, and bequests to your organization:  what does your portfolio look like?  (For our podcast on building a balanced portfolio, click here and find episode 23.)
  • Think about how your percentages compare to national trends:  If giving from individuals is low, you have a case to increase time and energy in building your individual giving program especially since individuals account for more than 83% of giving nationally (this number raises to more than 86% when you account for family foundations).

2.  Create your own Giving USA report focused on your organization

  • Leverage your existing annual report with even more stories – and photos! – of impact.
  • Take the time now to create brief impact statements to share with your donors now. Share stories of recent impact rather than only telling the story of things you accomplished more than a year ago.
  • Find five well-connected champions within your donor base to share your story and their involvement through their social media channels.  Increase this number as you refine this approach.

3. Share highlights from the report with your top donors, prospects and volunteers

  • Have conversations about philanthropy with your current and potential donors.  How does your organization compare to others within your sector?  Sharing that context can generate pride in your strength, deepen understanding of the challenges you face and create motivation to be a part of the solution in your organization.
  • Use this as an opportunity to celebrate philanthropy, not just at your organization but to other causes as well!
  • And use this conversation as a springboard to other specific questions about donor philanthropy.  Where is our organization on your list of philanthropic priorities? How can we move up your list? What type of impact would you like to have with your philanthropy to our organization? Do you feel you are having this type of impact now? Why or why not?

Giving USA is a great resource we have to better understand the pulse of philanthropy on an annual basis. It provides great insight and detail on the type of philanthropy happening around the country and it’s up to us to have that same level of insight into giving at our own organizations. It’s a worthwhile quest and one that deepens our relationships with our donors and the investment they have in impacting our mission. Stay tuned for more perspectives on Giving USA from The Osborne Group.

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.

The Tortoise and The Hare: Aesop Had Major Gifts Officers In Mind…

This morning I came across my copy of Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. My friend Tom Wick, a fellow development professional gave it to me and said it’s one of his favorite books because it is full of lessons for major gifts officers. I’ve been thinking about those lessons the most popular being “slow and steady wins the race.”

But what does this really mean? And how can this help us now as many fundraisers are under pressure to close end of the fiscal year gifts while knee deep in budgeting for the upcoming fiscal year?book title

Before we begin, here’s a quick refresher on The Tortoise and the Hare: 

The story begins with Hare teasing Tortoise and bragging about how much faster he is than Tortoise. Hare then challenges Tortoise to a race.  Hare sprints away at the start, taunting Tortoise for being so slow.  Soon, Hare becomes very tired and looks back to see that Tortoise is so far behind him.  He decides to rest under a tree eventually falling asleep. Hare is so comfortable that he dreams of his victory against Tortoise and is later awakened by the cheers of the crowd watching Tortoise approach the finish line. Rabbit jumps up screams at Tortoise to slow down but it is too late. Tortoise wins the race and they both learn a powerful lesson:  goals are achieved with hard work and perseverance.

We know these words to be true, but many times we find ourselves as fundraisers feeling like the hare rather than the tortoise.  We are given goals at the beginning of the fiscal year and we pursue them with fervor yet the pressure to produce and unreturned phone calls from donors can make us feel tired and sometimes feeling that our goal is unachievable.  On the other hand, it’s just as easy to become disenchanted with our goals when we slow down to strategize and develop our fundraising tactics especially when building a major gifts program or going into a capital campaign.  We’re excited about the future but want to see results now.  When they don’t materialize as soon as we had hoped, it’s easy to think that we will never raise the money.

Slow & Steady Wins the Race

As fundraisers we have multiple goals to balance – donor visits, solicitations, stewardship pipeline building, donor communications and follow-up, internal meetings, database entries, staying current in our profession and the list continues.   How do we balance achieving our overall fundraising goals with everything else on our plates without burning out like Hare or plodding along Tortoise? After all, you can’t really say to your boss: “ I am the tortoise.  I’ll achieve these fundraising goals slow and steady.”

The fundamental task in achieving our goals is breaking them down into many smaller goals and assigning “tortoise” or “hare” characteristics to them,” Tyler Tervooren, founder of Frugally Green, a website dedicated to helping people live green while saving money. I’ve adopted Tyler’s observation and make it specific to our fundraising work below.

The Role of Tortoise

In the fundraising world, Tortoise represents our organization’s overall vision and the planning that is required to achieve it. This could be anything from eradicating childhood obesity or becoming the number one engineering school in the country. It’s the “fire” that is going to move our donors to action. Whatever our vision is, Tortoise represents the strategic and deliberate planning that must take place to realize it.  A vision is not something that can be completed tomorrow but is something that if we strategically pace ourselves can be achieved. We achieve this by breaking our vision into smaller, more easily attainable goals often dotortoise_harene in a written campaign plan. It is through this slow and strategic process that we will build the framework that will guide our actions toward our end goal. The same is true if we look at our overall fundraising goal and break this goal into small manageable pieces with milestones to make at specific times. This allows us to see if we are on the right track or if there is a course correction that needs to take place. This is why writing our goals with specific actions steps and completion time is so vital to our success.

The Role of Hare

We all know a fundraiser or two who has burnt out while trying to balance multiple goals under what appears to be an incredibly fast-ticking clock. I’ve been there and know that it can feel like you are on a constant treadmill, racing to finish a marathon of goals and demands.  So where does the Hare and his hyperactive and boastful tendencies come into play for us?  Well, since we took our time when we started tortoise-and-the-hare_metromomsoff and carefully pieced together an outline that breaks down our goals into bite-sized pieces, we can now pursue each of them, one by one, with clarity and strength.

If we look at our example of achieving our overall fundraising goal, a first step could be to make a daily commitment that, no matter what, you reach out to five donors a day. This could mean calling potential donors, executing a stewardship touch for an existing donor, sending a personalized invitation to an upcoming event, etc. The point is you make this a habit and you do this when you are at your Hare peak energy of the day. This is a habit I started about five years ago and it transformed the way I was able to keep myself on track to achieve not only my overall fundraising goals, but the related goals as well. There are times when we go through the day feeling that we have not had any time to connect with donors because we have been in internal meetings all day… we are working on a solicitation piece… we have to attend an event. It feels like there are not enough hours in a day to actually talk to donors. But by taking the energy and the confidence of Hare, we can form daily habits that allow us to achieve our overall goals and vision while ultimately strengthening our donor relationships.

Putting It All together

The lessons taught in The Tortoise and the Hare are relevant throughout the day and the life of a fundraiser. Sometimes we face seemingly contradictory goals: closing end of the fiscal year gifts, while planning for the coming year’s fundraising goals.  We can tap into our Tortoise and Hare characteristics to meet these goals by understanding how to use these characteristics for our success. Our Tortoise nature allows us to take the time to be strategic in our work and not githe-tortoise-and-the-hareve up. Our Hare nature gives us that quick burst of energy and confidence we need to see some immediate results of our efforts. We’ll build on these in an upcoming blog.  But for now we’d like to know what are some other childhood lessons we can learn from and incorporate into our fundraising work?

Share them by posting on our blog. We’d love to hear from you!

 

The Four Agreements for Development Officers

4 agreementsYears ago I read the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and was reintroduced to it a couple of weeks ago while watching “Super Soul Sunday” on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). It got me to thinking about how these agreements are helpful not only in our personal lives but also in our lives as professional fundraisers.

In his work, Don Miguel Ruiz describes how implementing these agreements can help us with the relationships we have with ourselves and with one another. When I think of the first agreement, “Be impeccable with your word”, it reminds me of donor stewardship at its best.

Agreement 1 – Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.  –The Four Agreements

When we speak the truth about our work and how our donors have moved our cause forward we are using the power of our words to build a more authentic bond with our donors. When we talk about the true impact our donors’ gifts are having – the lives changed, families transformed, animals saved – we allow it to come from a place of integrity and sincerity about our work and who we are as an organization.  When we use our words both written and verbal, we use them in ways that inspire our donors for continued action while demonstrating gratitude for what they have already done.  By being impeccable with our word, we also speak the truth during times of adversity or when there is an issue with a donor’s gift.

Throughout my career (and honestly, on a daily basis), I have the opportunity to practice the second agreement, “Don’t take anything personally.” As fundraisers, how often do we take it personally (even if for a minute) when a donor says no to a gift request or the donor makes a gift much lower than we asked?

Agreement 2 – Don’t take anything personally.  Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. – The Four Agreements

Of course, there will be a period of self-reflection when a donor declines our request or a gift comes in at a lower amount. We think about things we could have done differently, such as the timing of our solicitation, or the actual program we thought this donor was passionate about. However, when this self-reflection becomes self-defeating, the concept of not taking anything personally is a tool that can help us move forward and continue to build the relationship with the donor that will manifest into a joyous, inspired gift.

I can recall clearly the day when a donor, whom I thought was ready to make a significant gift, called me “a pest” after months of what I thought was a good relationship. So yes, for a moment… actually several moments, that lasted the rest of the day… I did take her comment personally. Fast-forward three months later, after letting go of that comment and figuring out what she would say yes to, I called the donor. She enthusiastically agreed to meet and she made a joyous, inspired, generous gift of $500,000.  Of course, there was a lot of re-evaluating and strategy that happened between “The Pest Comment” and having this great experience with the donor, but the fact of the matter is, it happened when I let go and resolved to not take it personally.

Along with sometimes taking donor reactions personally, we might also fall victim to making assumptions about the donor’s passion for our organization. The third agreement, “Don’t make assumptions”, speaks directly to this.

Agreement 3 – Don’t make assumptions.  Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. –The Four Agreements

Our board relationships can often be ones where we make assumptions. For example, one might assume “Of course we are our Board Chair’s top priority. After all he is the Chair.”

But I have experienced both as a fundraiser and witnessed as a consultant, that this is not always the case. When organizations have as a practice to meet with their board members individually with the purpose of engaging and asking questions about the board member’s thoughts, feelings and plans as a volunteer and as a donor, they are able to decrease assumptions and deepen their board relationships.

The Fourth Agreement, “Always do your best”, brings all the above tools together and speaks to the reality that our “Best” varies and gives us the freedom to be our authentic selves.

Agreement 4 – Always do your best.  Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret. –The Four Agreements

It’s the end of the fiscal year and your annual review is right around the corner. While some may use this as a time of reflecting on what didn’t go right or goals that were not made, it can serve you to use this time to reflect on when you truly did your best. About ten years ago, I began collecting examples of when I did my best by keeping a file called “Accolades.” This is where I kept emails and notes from donors, colleagues, bosses, etc. who commented on my work or something I accomplished. I looked at this during those tough times when “to do” lists were long and time was even shorter.  Further, when it was time to do my self-review, I could pull from these examples instead of trying to remember all that I did. This file has served me well as a reminder of doing my best and the value I bring to my organization and the people around me.

I encourage you to take a look at the Four Agreements and experience for yourself how one or all of these agreements can serve as a tool both personally and professionally. You might find that many of these agreements you have already made with yourself and the mission you serve!