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!
In our fourth Spreecast, Laurel and Board discussion moving your board in the right direction. Check out the 30 minute video that gives great practical tips and information on:
You can join us every Friday at 12p Eastern for more great Spreecasts. Join us, ask questions, learn practical tips in an easy to disgest format.
Next week we talk about effective time management. Join us!
It’s not too late to end the year strong with an increased surge in philanthropic investments. Kevin Daum, author of “Roar! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle,” recommends tips that translate nicely for fundraisers.
“Go Lean and Mean,” is his first recommendation. Focus on the top three goals you can actually achieve in the next month. Frontline fundraiser might consider (1) Closing the gifts of loyal friends, especially those donors from whom you are seeking an upgrade. Call, pop by, email or write a personal note and then follow-up. Start at the top in terms of giving capacity and requested amount. Make it as personal as you are able. Quality matters with these top potential donors. (2) Maybe the next tier down and (3) everyone else who hasn’t been asked receiving a warm invitation to make a difference now!
For non-frontline fundraisers, Daum’s advice still works. “With only a little time left, every minute is valuable, so don’t waste them. Decide on two or three major goals that are important and achievable. Stretching is fine, but make sure the motivation is strong. The rest can be eliminated or go on the schedule for 2014. Then you’ll be mentally free and ready to focus hard and attack these important few goals.”
“Take Stock,” is his second recommendation. I don’t think that works well for December in the fundraising world no matter your position on the team. For example, donor relations professionals are buys getting thank you notes, holiday cards, and impact reports out the door, helping donors feel great about their investments and thinking about making another. Researchers are polishing lists and briefs for fundraisers trying to close, close, close. January, however, is the perfect month for taking stock and adjusting your plan for the remainder of your fiscal year if not on a calendar year or making a new plan for 2014.
“Much of what you anticipated would happen this year probably turned out to be different than you originally thought. Don’t try and execute an aggressive approach based upon information and expectations that are months old. Take a day or two to disconnect from the day-to-day craziness to assess, think and plan the coming months. You might consider a consultant to help you find your weaknesses.” The Osborne Group offers many diagnostic tools and services to help you maximize strategically taking stock.
His next recommendation is also excellent for January. “Add Structure,” – a path to success. You need a plan with clear metrics and accountability. Use January to assess what worked, what didn’t, why, and what shall we do differently going forward.
“Make a Deal,” number four suggestion and I like it a lot. What motives you to excel, to pick up the phone, to get out the door, to exceed your own and your supervisor’s expectations, to make your donors say, “Wow?” Identify that motivator, promise to reward your excellent behavior, and then go do amazing work these last few weeks always keeping in mind it is not too late to end the year strong!
His last recommendation is essential. “Enlist Partners.” We know that volunteers can and should be force multipliers. Here’s a quick piece that may inspire your volunteers this holiday season. Enrolling and engaging your best volunteers to help you with both stewardship (calling, visiting to thank, share impact, and wish the best for the New Year) and to ask and close (Please join me) is a winning formula.
As you focus on what to do during these last few weeks, keep in mind the good advice of Jess Lee, “Keep things as simple as possible, edit out the extraneous, and focus on polishing the details.”
It’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.
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”.
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!
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!
Fear and fundraising: two words that, unfortunately, often go hand-in-hand. Our volunteers and board members are afraid of approaching their friends and colleagues. Our executive directors are afraid of their boards. We are all afraid of not hitting our goals and causing program cuts, layoffs, etc. But there is one fear that seems to bring down more fundraising programs and otherwise good gift officers more than any other. And that is the fear that chief development officers have of their executive directors and their boards.
I recently had a chief development officer come to me and tell me that they were really worried the fundraising event the organization was planning would be a complete flop, take up incredible amounts of staff time and resources, and lead to very little money raised.
I asked my client, “Have you told your executive director and board this? Have you forcefully stated that you think this fundraising event will be a disaster?”
“Well, I’ve metnioned my concerns”, my client said, “but the board really wants this event.”
When the event fails to meet expectations, fails to raise money, and other fundraising is negatively affected, is the board going to remember that the event was their idea? Will they remember the chief development officer’s feeble protests? Or will they take a hard look at the person responsible for fundraising: the chief development officer?
I think we all know the answer to this question and many of this have been in this position. The business of fundraising is a highly quantifiable one. You’re good if you raise money, you’re not if you don’t. Period. Yes, unfortunately it is just this simple. Your board isn’t a good fundraising board? Welcome to not-for-profits. Your executive director came from the mission side and doesn’t really understand fundraising? So what else is new? Your department is under-resourced? Show me one that isn’t. As fundraisers its our job to succeed despite these challenges.
How? We are the experts and we need to act like the experts. If you think that the event the board wants to do so badly will be a disaster, you need to forcefully say so, and back it with metrics and historical data, until they tell you to be quiet. If you need more fundraisers on your board, then you need to push steadily for a board overhaul. Are you worried you’ll get fired or in trouble for being to pushy? What do you think will happen if you don’t hit goal?
Fundraising is a business of uncertainty and it’s a business of persuasion. We can’t always get our way but we can always try and push for what is best for the organization. Pushing doesn’t mean being obnoxious. It means being persuasive, providing best practices and data, and it means being respectful. But it also means not being afraid of exercising your expertise. After all, that is why they hired you.
Often its a good idea to set expectations upfront. In the last job I was at before I did full time consulting I sat down with the executive director and the board chair before I started the job and I said. “I’m aggressive. I’m going to really push for an increase in board giving and some term limits. I want to completely overhaul how we handle our communications. Is that OK with you and do I have your support? If not, you shouldn’t hire me.”
They told me that was exactly what they wanted and they were true to their word. That doesn’t mean that we didn’t have conflict at times or rough patches. But we raised a lot of money and generally got on very well because of that fact.
So, don’t be afraid to be the expert and don’t be afraid of your boss or your board. In the end, pushing for what is needed in spite of having some uncomfortable moments is the only way to success.
Check out our podcast with Beth Herman for more coaching tips
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.
So 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.
Spring is nigh, and we’re dusting off our free weights, trying out Pilates, buying new running shoes. Can you feel the promise in the air?
What a great time to talk about learning to understand and flex to your Conative Style.
Conation (koh NAY shun) relates to desire, volition, and striving. Conative Style is our natural mental tendency that produces an effort. It’s your own instinctive mode of action, the way in which you would tackle any new task given no instructions, on your own.
“Everyone has an indomitable will that powers our instincts to act,” says Kathy Kolbe, developer of the Kolbe A Conative Style Index (Conative Connection, Acting on Instincts, Kathy Kolbe)
“No matter what combination of talents we bring into play, we make the biggest impact when we solve problems in ways that are most natural to us.” And doing jobs that inhibit our natural modes and require least preferred actions? That produces “conative strain.”
We all know that it takes more effort, more commitment, and perhaps more vitamins to learn a new upper-body weight training regimen than it does to jog the same route you’ve done for years. By understanding your preferred style of doing, you can capitalize on your strengths and gently broaden your range of motion—without tearing anything or pulling up lame.
How it works
The Kolbe A Index rates the strength of your preference on a scale of 1-10 (10 is high) for each of four Action Modes. (You might notice some overlap between these descriptions and those of the DIsc Inventory or Ned Herrmann’s Whole Brain Model. If so, fellow psych nerd, let’s get coffee later.)
(My Kolbe scores are Fact Finder 5, Follow Thru 3, Quick Start 8, Implementer 3. My top Kolbe strengths: explain, adapt, improvise, imagine. Note that I have no pull to learn Excel or troubleshoot—OK, break—printers and smartphones.
My Kolbe Career MO+ ™ Report lists these examples of jobs that have brought satisfaction to people with an MO similar to mine: sales, on-camera TV, comedian, therapist, alternative program educator, copywriter, fundraiser, and interviewer. Spooky accurate.)
The Kolbe A test costs $49.95 and this author receives no kickback, but I do help clients apply this new knowledge with their teams.
The resulting career report defines why a particular job role may—or may not—work out and even suggests question to ask a prospective new boss. (The best ones from mine: “Would I be able to work on several tasks at the same time? Will someone be able to assist me if my equipment is not working properly?”)
Here’s how to leverage your Conative style to cover more ground with less strain:
You can make your workplace a safe, open playing field where positions and strengths aren’t a secret, and everyone gets to be a star.
In my next post:
Improve donor visits by understanding different “conversational styles”
Beth B. Herman is principal of EBH Consulting LLC
A core part of our work here at The Osborne Group is helping organizations build fundraising capacity. Very often our clients want to build a major gift program or strengthen their existing major gift program and our job is take a look at the best way for them to create major gift success. This involves a detailed understanding of what makes major gift programs and efforts tick and taking a close look at how any given organization measures up. While we take a very comprehensive look at data provided by our clients, we interview staff, board and investors, and we look at marketing materials and marketing collateral, etc. we have found that the likelihood of major gift success boils down to a few factors. I’d like to share four of them with you here.
Do you have sufficient prospects? Fundraising is a very quantifiable business; there is no reason to ever guess at projected results or be surprised when your numbers fall short. How many gifts do you need and at what levels do you need to make your goal? How many prospects do you need to close each gift? What does that add up to and do you have enough prospects? It really is just that simple. I am continually amazed at how few experienced chief development officers and major gift officers fail to have or make active use of a projected table of gifts or the more accurate name by name table of gifts. If you have enough prospects, there is a good chance your major gift effort will be successful. If you don’t, it probably won’t.
Do You Have a Vision? Vision is a fancy word for answering the question “why should I give you any money?” or saying “this is what will be different tomorrow because you gave money today”. A good vision promises specific outcomes within a specific period of time (usually 1-5 years), is a stretch for your organization requiring increased generosity by your core supporters, and is articulated in terms of the impact it has on the community and society in general. Let’s be clear, most major donors have a clear sense of the amount of money they are going to give away in any given time period and when you ask for a major gift you are either asking that donor to not to give to something else or give more than they intended and thus make some other interest of theirs less of a priority. People and institutions are open to this but only when the impact is clearly and specifically defined. This is your vision and you need it or your major gift program is dead in the water.
What does your leadership level annual giving look like? Typically leadership level annual giving is defined as gifts between as gifts from $1,000 – $24,999 or $1,000 – $49,999 depending on the size of the organization. You can think of it as your mid-level gifts for your organization or your highest level gifts that you receive on an annual basis. Another way to think about it is the level that a potential donor will give prior to making a major gift. Explicitly or implicitly high capacity donors who give at this level are saying “let’s see what you do with this money.” They are evaluating if they hear from you on a regular basis, if you’re communicating the impact of their gift to them effectively and regularly, and if they are appreciated. If they have a clear sense that their gift made an impact and what that impact was they may start to consider a major gift. If they don’t, they won’t.
This work is usually only effective if you have an actual plan. What does your stewardship calendar look like for this group? For your major gift prospects in this group do you know how they prefer to have you communicate impact? Do you have an individualized cultivation plan for each?
Do you have a sufficiently large, motivated, affluent and influential volunteer corps? Many organizations approach the creation of, or enhancement of, a major gift program as a exercise in strategic staffing. Having well trained and high quality major gift officers certainly is very important for major gift success but the best major gift officers in the world can do little if they are not surrounded by sufficient affluent and influential volunteers starting with the board. You don’t hire your hire major gift officers and development staff based on their personal connections (at least you shouldn’t). You hire them because they are skilled at working with large numbers of people and getting them moving in the same direction in a motivated manner that results in large gifts. But they need prospects to work with and those prospects must be generated by an army of volunteers. The more volunteers you have with high levels of social capital the more prospects you have. Again, it’s that simple.
There are many other factors such as engagement, culture of philanthropy, sufficient staffing, sufficient capitalization, etc. that go into major gift success but I would consider the above fundamental. Without them, no matter how good everything else is major gift success will be difficult. These four predictors are in many ways the hardest areas to develop but by far provide the largest payoff.
you can follow me at @bobosborne17
As you read this I have probably already sat down to meet with my very first boss, who is hiring me for the second time: first as her annual fund assistant, and this time as her consultant for her school’s annual fund. As I prepared for our visit, I have been reflecting on how the annual fund that she and I built back in 199…whatever… has changed from the practices we see our clients implementing today.
Here is my running list of Annual Fund Strategies: Then and Now (Add a big, booming voice as you say “Then and Now” in your head for added effect… Nice, right?) What would you add to your list? How has your annual fund approach changed in the last ten years? Or the last five? What happened before 2008 that is just not coming back? Post comments here or leave your ideas on our Facebook page. We’ll collect them all and post in a future blog entry.
Then… Segmenting your mailing was enough. I will admit to having a 32-segment mailing once, each with their own slightly parsed difference between one letter text and another. Everyone got fundamentally the same message and everyone was just asked to “give, give, give… trust us and we’ll do the rest.” Unrestricted dollars that could slop around to every corner of the budget were the only thing to do.
NOW: There are few programs today who don’t see a higher level of engagement and more inspired giving when donors are given the ability to be activists. CFOs (and I) still need unrestricted dollars: that will always be the heart of a strong annual fund, but making tangible the impact of giving to the annual is mandatory. No more “margin of excellence”; annual fund dollars help provide things like the manipulatives underpinning the mathematics program in the after-school experience. Gone is “bridge the gap” talk about other revenue sources and the annual fund; the annual fund helps ensure that mission staff have the iPads and tech training they need to collect and evaluate data on the efficacy of your program in the field. These dollars all need to hit your budget directly, but need specifics around them that make it clear and concrete what they accomplish.
An extra idea, building on this one? Look for three to five “big buckets” within your budget toward which your annual fund gifts can be designated (not restricted! This makes your CFO happy!). For schools these categories are often: financial aid, faculty salaries, library and technology, spaces for learning, athletics, etc… What would those big budget areas be for your organization? Allowing your donors to vote with their dollars for the things that most resonate for them not only provides one more good reason to step up giving, but also gives you a clear road map for how to steward these donors.
…which leads to “Then and Now” #2…
Then… Stewardship was something you did for endowment donors, donors of Chairs, building naming, scholarships when they became fully funded and probably only did once: put the plaque up, name the new Chair holder, have a dinner, and wash your hands of it.
NOW: That pig isn’t going to fly for even one second. Not only must stewardship be a year-on-year institutional value that is woven throughout your relationship building with your donors, it is a universal. All annual fund donors deserve WORLD CLASS stewardship. Getting used to talking about the annual fund in tangible, specific ways is the first step. Understanding your donors’ motivation through their gift designation is a second step. Getting people to help you take on this project – even with its enormous value add – is the third.
Try this: rather than just asking volunteers to “please make 10 (or 20 or 30) calls” to past donors, thank-a-thon style, let your volunteers know that you have $75,000 (or $500,000 or $5M) worth of thank you calls to make and would they be willing to take $12,000 of that. Then keep reporting back: “Your thank you calls valued at $75,000 last year turned into repeat gifts of $83,000 this year.” Who wouldn’t feel great and motivated to do more?
Finally, a NOW and NOW:
Maybe you saw these two incredible stories about focused giving contests – one at Columbia that raised $7M in one day (ONE DAY! CloEve Demmer, who spearheaded this is a friend of ours and, no kidding, one smart lady!) and the other that may have helped inspire and guide Columbia’s efforts: Giving Days.
Among the reason these two focused campaigns worked is that they borrowed the “vocabulary” of gaming to bring fun into the annual fund. (C’mon. I had to. Put the FUN back in the annual fund? A classic knee slapper. To development officers only.)
We play games because we love taking on tasks that are exactly hard enough. How can you use today’s tools – email, social media, video, podcasting, blogging, etc… to make your annual fund volunteers’ job more fun and more of a game? And, how about using this to jump start a monthly giving program? Europeans envy our culture of giving in many ways, but are befogged by why we don’t embrace monthly giving programs more fully. Deploy your volunteers on a quest for new monthly donors!
Another Now: these campaigns were terrific, engaging, generated great excitement and energy. But what do we do the other 364 days a year? Once upon a time, we mailed a lot of letters, made slightly fewer phone calls and almost never left the office. Today a robust annual fund program must be anchored with personal visits to top donors in conjunction with the major gift staff (we have a great resource on boosting annual giving in a campaign here.), to leadership donors to explore their passion and focus for their giving, to new potential leadership donors, to lapsed donors and to volunteers. If there were one more position everyone could add right now, I would vote for a solid individual giving officer who LOVES being on the road, closing $1,000, $10,000, $50,000 annual gifts three days out of five.
Are the fundamentals of annual giving the same? Yes. I agree that they are. Are there so many more ways to be creative and innovative in reaching your community of supporters? Absolutely. The annual fund is more fun.