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.

4 Steps You Can Take NOW to Strengthen Major Donor Engagement

Major Donor Engagement

Strategic engagement leads to increased investment. We all know this. Yet, we often offer a too small selection of ways to engage our major donors and potential donors.

  1. Help us fundraise
  2. Attend an event (fundraising, alumni, cultivation, stewardship luncheon)
  3. Take a tour
  4. Join our board (or a committee)
  5. Meet with me

That’s often it.

We shoehorn our donors into one of these five boxes. Some fit nicely, but for others, none of the above lights a fire. Even worse, they fail to move the potential donor closer to an inspired, joyful and generous, “Yes.”

Our goal, however, is to tap into all of our donors’ personal capital – human, intellectual, network, and financial. We want them to be “All In.” Women demand it. Men respond to it. Millennials love it. Gen Xers and Boomers, like most men, give more even though they say they don’t have time or don’t need it. People of color like being part of a larger group who are also involved.

It doesn’t matter who you are. Asking for more than money and contacts makes one feel valued. When we tailor that engagement to interests and skill sets, we have a winning formula.

Step One: Assess your current major donor engagement options.

Involvement and engagement are not the same. A major donor engagement opportunity is interactive, two-way, flexible, taps into emotions, intellect, and skills and requires ACTION. A tour, for example, can be either involvement or wonderful engagement. You can walk people through, talk at them, answer questions. OR, you can open by asking the major donors a question taking involvement up a level to engagement.

“You are going to see a lot of our work first hand over the next hour. At the end of the tour, we’d like to discuss your responses and recommendations. What did you find most compelling? What were your impressions of our effectiveness? What are some of your takeaways?

In addition, it is sustainable by your office. It isn’t busy work but rather MEANINGFUL AND PRODUCTIVE. For example, if every time that certain committee meets you are scratching your head about what to do with them, this is not a good major donor engagement activity. They know it isn’t important and you know it.

Finally, a good suite of major donor engagement options has variety. Some need to be highly personal like hosting a small “consultation” gathering in one’s home with the CEO and other major donors. Others should be longer term like heading a task force or serving on a committee.

Bring your team together. Define engagement so everyone understands the difference between involvement and engagement. Provide easels, flip charts and markers. Stand around each flip chart in groups of five or six. Then, ask which of our current major donor engagement opportunities meet the criteria. Write them all down on the first page of the flip chart. Which almost meet them and could if we just tweaked them (like the tour example above)? That’s page two. For page three, ask which don’t even come close and we should stop doing them. Have the teams report; discuss why they put some opportunities on one page or the other. Come to agreement.

Step Two: Brainstorm New Major Donor Engagement Opportunities

Using the same brainstorming technique, think about what you would like to add. Start by telling your team to remove constraints from their minds. Don’t start with, “we tried that and it didn’t work,” or “we can’t afford that.” Instead, dream big. Report out and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of some of the new ideas. Make sure they meet the criteria.

Karen Blog SmartArt - August 2016

Step Three: Create your new suite of major donor engagement opportunities

Here is one way to organization the brainstorming results:

High Impact

  • Can be tailored to the needs and desires of the major donor
  • Highly interactive and steeped in mission
  • Taps into intellect and skills
  • Meaningful and productive
  • Sustainable

Harder to Maintain or Get Started: Requires budget approval, or more help from outside your office, coordination and time

High Impact

  • Can be tailored to the needs and desires of the major donor
  • Highly interactive and steeped in mission
  • Taps into intellect and skills
  • Meaningful and productive
  • Sustainable

Easy to Implement:  Already doing it well or only needs minor tweaking, easy to add

Lower Impact

  • Isn’t mission infused and hard to do so
  • Mostly presentation, no room for conversation
  • Not really needed by staff, more on the “busy work” side

Harder to Maintain or Get Started: Requires budget approval, or more help from outside your office, coordination and time

Lower Impact

  • Isn’t mission infused and hard to do so
  • Mostly presentation, no room for conversation
  • Not really needed by staff, more on the “busy work” side

Easy to Implement: Already doing it well or only needs minor tweaking, easy to add

Step Four: Take Action

  1. Act on High Impact and Easy to Implement
  2. Plan for High Impact Harder to Implement
  3. Improve the Lower Impact Easy to Implement or drop
  4. Drop Lower Impact Harder to Implement

Making Data-Driven Event Decisions

Event season is almost upon us, but it’s not too late to set measurable goals to maximize your events. It’s also a great time to take a step back and determine if you should repeat this event again next year.

This month’s Chronicle of Philanthropy has a great article on Killing Sacred Cows, letting go of those time-honored strategies that might not be the most effective. One of the most prevalent examples of this is special events.

This isn’t a new topic. You’ve probably read many articles about event return on investment. But, have you taken the step of collecting data and doing an honest assessment of your events? Of course, this assessment is dependent upon knowing what our event goals are in the first place.

So what are your event goals?

Many people would answer this question with the dollar amount listed in their budget. However, there are several potential outcomes, such as identifying new prospects or generating publicity. And, while raising money might be the primary goal, these secondary outcomes are often the reasons given as justification for holding on to an event that might not be seeing an adequate financial return.

It’s completely legitimate for an evenevent decisionst to have goals beyond raising money, but they have to be deliberate objectives, not rationalizations. So, how do we make sure that we’re setting intentional, strategic goals, measuring achievement of these goals, and ultimately, using that data to make decisions about an event’s efficacy?

  • Raising Funds: If raising money is your primary goal, then you should be netting no less than 70%, including staff costs. If raising funds is not your primary goal, then you might be able to justify a higher cost per dollar raised, but this should be for legitimate, measurable goals and not arbitrary excuses.
  • Non-Revenue Development Goals: Events can play a critical role in building a prospect pool, engaging potential donors and stewarding existing donors. In fact, you may have several events that are intended solely for this purpose. In these cases your return in investment should be measured against the annual and lifetime giving of the donors engaged in these events. But, they should be real numbers, not assumptions about how the events are influencing donor engagement.  If events are a key strategy in your donor development program then you should have measurable new prospect goals – how many do you hope to attract to this event, for how many did you capture contact information? And, if you’re using events for donor cultivation, are you implementing strategic initiatives or “moves” at the event? And, did you secure a “yes” to a next step from at least 80% of those engaged?
  • Marketing and Public Relations: Beware, this one is a slippery slope. As the Chronicle of Philanthropy article pointed out, many organizations use the idea that an event generates publicity and builds awareness as a reason to maintain it. In some cases, this is true, but many events fail to generate the kind of publicity or awareness they are looking for to see long-term results. If marketing is truly a goal of your event then you have to measure it – how many media impressions did you receive, how many new attendees were exposed to your message, etc. And, to make this goal meaningful, you must have a plan for following up to further engage and enroll potential donors.  Identify your “think, feel and do” messages and make sure you deliver them in a mission-infused way. What do you want your participants to think about your organization because of this event? How will the program and activities during the event achieve this? How do you want them to feel and, most importantly, what do you them to do after the event. A good event should be part of a continuum of activity, not an end unto itself.
  • Attendance Goals: For too many of our events, we only measure attendance in quantity – last year 300 people attended and this year 350 attended. But what about quality – did the right people, the people you most wanted, attend? And, if your event is annual, are you looking at retention and what that number tells you about the event’s effectiveness in long-term donor strategy? And, don’t forget board participation. Your goal is to get them there AND get them working the room on your behalf – delivering messages, asking questions, helping you meet new people and securing follow-up visits.
  • Programmatic, Volunteer Recruitment: As with the previous examples, this is a completely legitimate goal for your event, as long as you’re measuring the event’s ability to achieve it. Anecdotes about meeting a guy at that event awhile back that ended up becoming a volunteer don’t count. Track the number of inquiries you receive from your event and the number that ultimately become involved in your program. If you can’t justify the costs of the event based on the number of volunteers you’re recruiting, then you might have to let it go.
  • Stewardship: An event isn’t worth doing if you don’t have a measurable follow-up plan. Do 100% of attendees receive a thank you note within 72 hours of the event? Do 100% receive a stewardship touch three to six months after the event? Make sure your plan includes special impact communications to top event donors, volunteer fundraisers, and hosts. And, don’t forget to follow-up with those whom you invited and wanted to attend but couldn’t.

True assessment requires brutal honesty. Data helps with that. It’s hard to argue with hard numbers. But, as we all know, it can be easy to put a spin on numbers that allow us to rationalize keeping an event that we know isn’t giving us the results we need. By setting measurable goals, we limit the ability to give anecdotal justification and are able to objectively analyze events and make data-driven decisions that can best benefit the organization.

For more information on making data-driven decisions, check out this webinar.

What Makes a Good Development Plan?

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 8.45.13 AMLast month, Laurel McCombs shared the importance of having a written development plan.  New studies suggest that having a development plan vs. not having a development plan can be the difference between success and failure.  So what makes a good development plan?

  1.   Know Your Goal – We’ve all heard the the maxim “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.”  This cliche remains critically true.  The first step in creating a development plan is knowing what you are trying to achieve.  For most of us this boils down to knowing our monetary goal for the time period in question.  But it might include other goals such as creating a major gift program, piloting a monthly giving program, increasing the average gift size by 10%, etc.  Once you know your goals, you can work backwards to determine what is required to achieve them.
  2. Have Measurable Goals, Objectives and Benchmarks – This is critical.  Without this, a plan isn’t a plan, it is merely a statement of intent.  Metrics and benchmarks let you know if you are on the path to achieving your goals and give you advance notice to adjust your strategies if you are not.  Better yet, having measurable objectives, goals and benchmarks force you to actually have strategies.  Without empirical data there is no way to know if your plan is a success.
  3. Have Action Steps for Achieving Your Goals – Another critical piece that turns what might otherwise be a statement of intent or a vision statement into an actual plan is to have clear steps outlined with clear deadlines and clearly delineated responsibility for achieving the goals.  In other words:  who, what and when?  Breaking down the plan into smaller steps with deadlines ensures that your plan will be implemented on a timeline that makes success possible.
  4. Have a Budget – It’s important to think about what you’ll need to effectively implement your plan and what it will cost as part of the creation of your plan.  Almost all serious change requires some expenditure of resources.  Understanding your costs up front will ensure that your plan has all the resources it needs to be successful.

There are many other elements that go into successful planning but these are the basics.  Overall, it’s important to be specific.  Avoid statements like “We will create a culture of philanthropy” without tying it to specific actions.  How will you achieve this culture?  Does it it involve training?  Will you implement a staff giving program?  Who will lead it?  How will you know if you’ve achieved your goal?  Why are you creating a culture of philanthropy in the first place?  The more specific you can be with metrics, timeframes, responsibility and cost the better off you will be.

To learn about planning in more detail sign up for our January 28th webinar: “Creating and Implementing an Effective Development Plan”.  The Osborne Group is also available to help you create your development plan.

Periscope! Why Not-for-Profits Need to Use It

imgresHave you heard of Periscope?  No?  You will.

Periscope lets you live stream whatever you are doing directly from your cell phone to the world.  Not only that, viewers of your live stream are able to comment and interact with you in real-time as you stream.  The iOS and Android phone apps launched last spring and have been steadily gaining traction since.  Periscope follows a growing trend of more and more live streaming of events, games, etc.   The trend began with sports (on major league baseball’s platform) and video games (on services such as Twitch) but now have moved more into everyday use.  The important thing to note is that your phone has become a mobile broadcast studio.  This is going to change a lot of things in our world.

Right now the broadcasts on Periscope (and its main rival Meerkat) remind me a lot of the early days of podcasting about ten years ago.  The content isn’t great, as the earliest adopters don’t necessarily have broadcasting knowledge or experience (although I’ve noticed some tv personalities have taken it up), but there is a lot of enthusiasm around its practitioners.  You can tour foreign cities as users walk around or just follow along as people live their everyday lives.  Periscope is owned by Twitter and works seamlessly with it, allowing you to announce your live streams via your Twitter feed and take advantage of the Twitter following you’ve already built up.

When I learned about Periscope at its launch, my first thought was “what a great way for not-for-profits to show their work.”  Every not-for-profit’s biggest challenge is engaging people with their work in meaningful ways.  This can be especially challenging if the beneficiaries of a not-for-profit’s work are in hard to reach places or are even abroad.  Periscope lets you bring those experience directly to the donor or prospective donor as well as to a wider audience.   Even though the recording of the live stream is only archived for 24 hours, you can save videos on your phone or use services such as Katch allow you to keep it longer and distribute the video to an audience that wasn’t able to join you live.  The Central Park Conservancy regularly periscopes tours of Central Park.

Your live streaming doesn’t have to end with just your client work.  What about streaming an event (like a $5K run or your gala), an interview with one of your program staff, a panel discussion, or even a board meeting?  The opportunities are many and can be especially powerful because of Periscopes’ ability to take questions and comments live.  This isn’t just passive watching of video; this is active engagement with your donors and potential donors.  And you can do it all with your phone.

What ideas do you have for Periscope?  Let us know if you’ve tried this fantastic new tool.

Don’t Tell The Story Before You’ve Heard It

imagesDuring a recent client visit I was talking to the VP for Advancement about major gift strategy and the importance of truly understanding donor motivations and values.  She told me that when she meets with major donor prospects she tries to ask as many questions as she can, and in her words: “I try not to tell the story before I’ve heard it.”  What a great phrase!  So many times in an effort to come up with an effective cultivation strategy we make all kinds of assumptions and speculations about our donors.  Does any of the below sound familiar?

“Our research shows that she gives to the local Boys and Girls Club.  Children must be her biggest cause and we don’t work with children so she’s not a good prospect for us.”

“He’s the CEO of his own manufacturing company so he’ll probably want to work on the finance committee.”

“She created an endowed scholarship for her university.  Scholarships aren’t our main priority but it seems like that is what she likes to do.”

The reality is that in each of this cases, based on the information provided, we know very little about our donors in terms of their values, giving preferences, and how they might wish to engage and give to our own institution.  About ten years ago if you were able to look at my own giving history you’d see that I gave to quite a few organizations that helped people with disabilities.  Is this my main philanthropic priority?  Not really.  Did I give to those cause because a friend asked me to and it was his philanthropic priority?  Yes.

The only way to truly know what a donor’s priorities are, what their values are, and what their priorities are within your own institution is to ask the donor directly.

“I know that you are an ardent supporter of the Boys and Girls Club.  Are children a philanthropic priority for you?  What are your other priorities?”

“With your business background we’d love to have you involved with our finance committee but tell us, how do you best like to be engaged with the organizations you work with?  What was your best volunteer experience and why?”

“What was your motivation in donating an endowed scholarship to your university?”

Asking strategic questions will give you the most accurate information from which to design an effective cultivation strategy.  It will also result in a far more satisfying experience for your potential donor.  Finally, asking strategic questions will also set a tone of open dialogue and information sharing.

If you find that you are speculating and filling in information that is based on anything other than what you’ve heard directly from the donor, stop, realize that you don’t truly know the answer to the question you are asking, and make a point of asking it the next time you meet with your potential donor.  The results will be a far more interesting story than the one you’ve made up in your head.

 

Fundraising Tips and Ideas via @15SECFUNDRAISING

If you’re an Instagram user, please check out out new tips and ideas show on Instagram, @15SECFundraising.  Every week @bobosborne17 and guests give you fundraising ideas and tips via Instagram for running a strong fundraising program based on best practice and the latest in cutting edge ideas and technology.  You can also check out this blog for the latest installments.

 

 

 

Should You Adopt Radical Transparency?

imgresThe idea of radical transparency has been a popular concept in the business world for around the last decade or so.  The term gets used quite a bit but in the context of the corporate world, it essentially refers to making decisions in public, being open about data, and generally being up front in areas where a corporation has traditionally tried to do the opposite.  The idea is that in the chaotic world of the internet the only way you can influence your own reputation is to be part of the conversation in an open way.  Increasingly, I’m beginning to see nonprofits adopt the same idea.  So, should you adopt radical transparency?

My friend Dora is involved with an organization called Razom.  The organization was formed a little over a year ago in response to the Maidan movement in Ukraine.  It’s been fascinating to watch the organization over that period of time.  First, the fundraising ROI is off the charts at less than $.01 expenses per dollar raised.  But more interesting to me is their philosophy of complete financial transparency.  For instance, their financial books are a publicly viewable google doc.  Sure, it’s in cyrillic but Google will helpfully translate it for you if you haven’t kept up with your Ukrainian.  For most nonprofits, having their finances down to every last expenditure displayed for all the world to see would send the CFO running away in horror.  Additionally, when Razom was first trying to get its books in order it decided to have a “financial hackathon”.  All members of Razom were invited to participate and help get the organization organized financially.  Now, when I say “members” I mean people who have joined their Facebook page, so more or less the general public.

I love that Razom has begun its organizational life with transparency as a core value.  While I am sure Razom faces its share of challenges just like any other nonprofit, I’m going to guess that trust between the organization and its donors is not one of them.  No need for donors to guess how their money is being spent; they can see it any day at any time.  Creating the Future, a social change research and development laboratory, conducts all of its board meetings via Google Hangout, open not only to viewing by the public, but participation by the public.  What a crazy, radical, wonderful idea.

Given how poorly the vast majority of nonprofits steward their donors, we could benefit from considering these and similar practices.  Most of those who are familiar with The Osborne Group know that we consider stewardship of paramount importance.  90% of the time we see a problem with an organization and its ability to fundraise, ad hoc stewardship or a lack of it all together features into the problem prominently.  As a sector, we are bad in this area and we need to get better.  Radical transparency might be the answer.  We are not saying that you have to conduct your board meetings in public; there is a lot of work that goes along with this.  But what if you video taped them and put them on the web?  Or maybe conducted one meeting a year open to the public?  What if you did make your P & L available on the web?  What’s the worst that could happen?

The problem, of course, is that the way philanthropy, especially institutional philanthropy from corporations and foundations, is perceived makes this concept pretty scary.  In essence, we are all terrified that if our funders saw all of our struggles that we risk losing funding.  In this day and age we are all so focused ROI and metrics that we believe deep down that if our donors know that we aren’t perfect they’ll just support some “better” or more “efficient” operation.

But what if the opposite turned out to be true?  What if the best way to show commitment to a strong ROI and social ROI was to have all of our struggles out in the open?  Wouldn’t that show and even greater commitment to being the best organization we can be?  Wouldn’t that build the most important of all bonds, trust?

Given how little most donors trust nonprofits, we would all do well to at least consider the idea.

 

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.