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!

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!

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.

 Tricia Pic 1 011013 (2)

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!

 

 

The Benefits of “Wow”: Donor Retention, Upgrades

Consistent sameness does not delight.  Of course, it is important to stay in touch with our donors. To thank them for every monthly gift, every pledge payment. To make a special fuss about a new donor, welcoming her to the family. To invite our donors to fireworksspecial events. Most importantly, report to them, in concrete and specific ways, the impact their investments helped us realize.  These strategies are the cornerstone of donor retention.  But…  ho hum.

Timeliness and consistency have real value.But sameness leads to boredom or worse. We can miss out on viral marketing for sure. Often, sameness leads to the stagnant gift levels, no upgrades. And if the donor isn’t watching the video, reading the impact report, attending the scholarship luncheon, your efforts may not inspire the donor retention you seek.

Wow moments, on the other hand, work magic.

In Seth Godin’s blog he makes the case for, “Amazing is what spreads.”  Think about a time when a company “wowed” you as a consumer. Perhaps a hotel, online dealer, car repair service or supermarket delighted you with exceptional customer service or an unexpected kindness…

Our missions, visions and the work we do should “wow” our donors. But our donors have many charities on their lists and all of those charities do worthy and impressive work. So how do we stand out? How do we amaze and delight, not consistently, but sometimes, just enough to wow our donors?  So, what makes a WOW moment?

  1. Surprise. If you think about those moments when you were delighted with customer service, when you said, “Wow,” chances are the kindness rendered was a surprise.
  2. Exceed expectations. The surprise factor goes a long way, but when the reaction to the situation is not only unexpected but is above and beyond what you’ve experienced in other similar situations, the delight meter soars.
  3. Get personal. A wow moment feels personal, tailored to me, designed around my personality, situation, needs.
  4. Be authentic. It doesn’t feel canned, rehearsed, planned (even if it is)
  5. …and responsive, timely. Something went wrong and you fixed it. Something went right and you acknowledged it on the spot, within hours.

And don’t forget to wow your internal audiences. Underappreciated and undervalued staff members will find it difficult to surprise and delight your donors. Joe Connelly of CBS radio and the Wall Street Journal reported, “Retention is the new acquisition and customer service is the new marketing.” Finds ways to amaze and delight your donors. Wow your way to donor retention, upgrades and viral marketing!

How are you wowing your donors?

“And” Not “Or”: The Heart of Generosity

When I think about inspired, joyful, generous investing in our world to make it a better place, I focus on “and”, not “or”.  Just as the funny commercial shows us – sweet or sour chicken, bed or breakfast –  “or” can be a bad idea, I find that “or” hurts our not-for-profits as well.  Generosity is all about AND.

contagiousGenerosity

I invest my intellectual capital in the organizations that matter most to me. I prepare for board and volunteer meetings, think about the issues, offer ideas, pay attention. I’m present.

I share my connections. Invite people to my home and to events. Make introductions. Facilitate strategic conversations about the societal problems we are trying to solve.
I invest money with an open heart as generously as I am able.

When we talk about things like “give or get,” “time, talent or treasure,” “work, wealth or wisdom,” we are selling our missions short:

  • Give generously AND help bring in additional resources. You can sell tickets; inspire friends to support your walk; help a CEO meet a foundation leader or government official you know; use social media to connect friends and their friends to a treasured cause.
  • Give generously AND volunteer your time. You can mentor, share expertise, help build a house or dig well, give a talk, offer an internship, give blood, serve on a task force, stuff envelopes.

AND represents generosity. It doesn’t matter how little time you have to give or how little money. For those of us who can do and give more, we should. Sharing makes us all richer, happier.  We love Katya’s Non-Profit Marketing Blog – here’s a classic piece from her blog on the science behind generosity.

Sharing makes the world a better place.

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.