Can You Teach Generosity? Yes.

For so much of the country these past few weeks have offered plenty of time – way too kids-give-back_square_300x300much time! – to be inventing things to do with school-aged kids, who seem to be in a perpetual cycle of snow days…  We’ve cleaned closets.  We’ve gone through artwork, long stashed under the bed.  We’d played endless charades.  We’ve read.  And read.  And read.  We’re coming to the end of our rope!  Then The New York Times offered this great piece on engaging kids in a conversation about giving.  Can you teach generosity?  This article gave some great suggestions on how to answer, “yes!”  It spurred an interesting conversation for us and a great afternoon of research and weighing of options.

Kids at home or not, we’ve all got a stake in getting this right.

  • We wrote earlier this year about how much our organizations benefit when we engage the whole family in service.
  • So many organizations are looking for those “next generation” board members who embrace serving others and the community.
  • Universities are increasingly recognizing the difference they can make, in their own futures and in the citizens they produce, when they teach philanthropy throughout the curriculum.

I like to imagine a future where this generation knows how to give as well as they know how to manage a checking account and their Twitter feed!

 

Day of Service: Every. Day.

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

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

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

The 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?

The 72%ers: Individual Giving for Everyone

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

30 Days: End of Year Strategies

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

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

1. Breathe

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

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

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

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

2. Focus on what you can control

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

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

3. Revisit your no’s and yeses

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

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

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

4. Secure a challenge or matching gift

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

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

 5. Ramp up your personal stewardship to donors

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

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

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

“Know Something Important…”: Stewardship for Board Members

A very wise client of ours shared this story with me:  The day he was being inaugurated as the new leader of his school, the retiring, long-time head of school advised him that his most important role from that day forward was to “know something important about every member of this community.”  His advice was not to know everyone…  Or to manage his board…  Or to placate his faculty.  He was to make it his business to know something important about everyone.  This, in one elegant, simple story, guides my thinking today on stewardship – especially board stewardship.

We know that when we stop with “thank you” we haven’t really delivered stewardship.  And we know that when we thank and list donors in an annual report or on a donor wall , we haven’t really delivered stewardship.  AND we know that when we steward thoimagesse “easy” donors who give restricted or designated gifts, we also haven’t delivered stewardship.  (We know this, right?  Of course we do.)  Even the most thoughtful offices and officers can be stymied by board members… They are always THERE, right?  We discuss strategy; they know our organization from the inside out; they give because they believe in all we are doing.

Not so.

Board members who receive great stewardship themselves will share it with others.  We must model the kind of stewardship experience we want them to deliver on our behalf.  That’s important but that’s the smallest reason.

Precisely because they are always there, Board members should receive the best we’ve got in the stewardship category:

  1. Are they being deployed well?  Do they feel their service is being well used?  Are they on the right committees and doing things that are personally satisfying for the organization?
  2. Why does their gift matter?  Sure, board members care about all that you do, but there is probably some aspect of your institution that makes their heart beat a little faster, that they especially love that you all accomplish together…
  3. And that bring us back around to that good advice:  know something important.  What did each member of your board bring to the table – expertise, insight, willingness to take a stand on a tough subject, lead an effort, be diplomatic when diplomacy was difficult?

Great board stewardship rolls together that old adage:  “Time, Talent, and Treasure”.  We are strongest when the board brings all three.  Our relationship is strongest when we steward all three.

Board members:  what is the best stewardship you have received from your organization?  Share here!  To listen in on the best stewardship, we have received – check out this podcast.

Why Not More Peer Learning at Conferences?

IFF2013

Last week I spent the last leg of a two week European business trip “presenting” at the International Fundraising Festival in Prague. I put presenting in quotes because so much of the value of this conference comes from the participants learning from each other. The festival, held every two years by the Czech Fundraising Center over three days at the Villa Gröbe, spends the entire second day in “open” sessions where the participants decide which topics they would like to discuss and facilitate the sessions themsleves with us presenters and experts participating and providing tips and guidance where we can.

At The Osborne Group we are privledged to work with many different types and sizes of NGOs including some very large organizations with affiliate structures that hold their own large scale conferences, both national and international. Interestingly, when surveyed, they all very consistently say that while they get lots out of the more formal sessions, they get equal value out of the conversations that develop in the hall between sessions, at dinner, at the bar, and around the coffee dispenser. Anyone who has attend a conference understands the basic truth in this. The IFF has very successfully created a conference that duplicates this informal experience formally, a conference in the spaces and gaps of a typical conference.

photoSo while I did present on Crowdfunding and Fundraising and Activism during the first and last days of the conference, I think the bulk of the real learning took place during the open sessions where topics were as myriad as dealing with stress in fundraising, running a social enterprise, the nature of and limits of corporate social responsibility, and many others. Overall, at least 16 different topics were discussed.

So, why don’t we consultants and conference organizers employ this technique more? I think we tend to find it hard to loosen the reins when we feel that more basic and fundamental areas need to be addressed. In other words, there’s no way I’m going to let these affiliates decide to talk about the ins and outs of crowd funding when none of them have a table of gifts or can even tell me their year to year donor retention rates! I get it and there is merit to this. The fundamentals must be taught but I also think these fundamentals can come out in a more organic way when suggested and organized by the participants themselves. I had a great session where when ended up talking about many fundamentals including metrics, A/B testing, and discussing impact over just reporting news. The original topic centered around how the an organization might do better prospecting.

Many of us presenters use case studies and audience exercise in our workshops. This is admirable but I would like to take this further and again let participants really have more of a hand in the topics that get covered. This can be done in the format that IFF has done it but it would be fine I think if there was just time and space reserved at a conference for participants to organize themselves and talk about topics of their own choosing. So often at conferences there is almost no unstructured time between the formal workshops, dinner, and other “official” “must attend” events. Let’s build in some time for informal learning.

Moreover, when a group takes reponsibility for its own learning and participation (as opposed to just listening) is understood to be part of the format, participants are much more likely to ensure that their own questions get answered, that they will take practical and implementable advice back to their office with them, and that they’ll actually remember what they’ve learned for a much longer period of time.

We “experts” need to do more to promote this type of learning. I’m hopeful that the next time I encounter peer learning won’t be at the IFF 2015.

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!

Raising More Money Before, After and During Your Special Events

Since special events take a lot of time and resources, let’s make them COUNT!  The Wall Street Journal reported that “Retention is the new acquisition and customer service is the new marketing.”  In other words, the keys to raising more money before, during Eventsand after special events, especially at leadership annual giving levels ($1,000+), are holding onto to past leadership event donors and sprinkling those donors with outstanding customer service.

The added benefit of this approach is that your message of high-touch, “WOW” customer service and great stewardship becomes contagious – word gets around your community and more people want to come to your events, learn about your cause, give and get involved. In a brand new book by Jonah Berger, the author tells us that “excitement is an activating emotion” that “increases sharing.”  The author points out that only 7% of word of mouth sharing happens online.  Most happens face-to-face.  The more we “WOW” our special event donors, the more they are going to share our story with others.  The result will be raising more money than ever before!Contagious

Here are six steps for maximizing every event, raising more leadership annual gifts and setting the stage for more major and planned gifts.

  1. Fundraising for an annual event begins the minute the event is OVER.  Make sure your “thank-you-for-attending-and-giving” note and/or phone call is sent immediately after the gift or pledge is made and then again within 24 to 72 hours after the event is over.  Reiterate in the thank you the “promise” of what the leadership annual gift level will accomplish.  If the donor sponsored a $25,000 table, for example, tell the donor and all of the folks involved with securing and giving that gift what $25,000 will help you accomplish programmatically.  Be sure to include a story and let the donors know they will be hearing from you again once you’ve put the money to use. Thank you doesn’t equal stewardship.  It is only the first step.  Sharing impact and outcomes later in the year is the heart of great stewardship.
  2. Build a name-by-name realized and projected table of gifts for each eventPicture 3
  3. Wow and Engage. For the events you held last Fall, now is a great time to provide stewardship for their gifts and engage the top donors in planning for the upcoming event later this year.  For your spring events underway or about to come about, it is not too late to provide stewardship from last year. Start with your table of gifts and list of your best fundraisers. Make appointments and go see them. This is not a phone call.  It is an in-person visit.  It’s hard to wow someone on the phone.  Remember, “Customer service is the new marketing.” Bring pictures, an under two minute video on your tablet or smartphone, a story you can share, a card drawn or signed by a beneficiary, a letter from a program staff member.
  4. At the event, have impact messaging everywhere.  Loop a video. Dot the setting with posters and videos that speak to what the leadership annual giving levels accomplish. Have board members circulate at the event and personally thank donors and fundraisers.  Check out our “Hard Working Special Events” podcast for more ideas.
  5. End where we began.  Debrief immediately after the event.  Who needs a special phone call in addition to the thank you note?  Handwritten thank you notes stand out.  Make sure your best donors and your best fundraisers receive a personal, legible, handwritten thank you note that speaks to the “promise” as discussed in item number 1.  Plan how you will make your event donors say, “WOW.”
      • Exceed expectations
      • Do so in a timely manner
      • Make it personal
      • Add emotion
      • Surprise
      • Let the donors know they are valued and appreciation

by Karen Osborne