The Value Proposition of Cause Marketing

Picture 3Guest Blogger Cal Zarin discusses the value proposition of cause marketing and suggests some different ways for nonprofits to approach cause marketing.  Cal is Founder and CEO of Shared Value Media.

My background is in media buying and planning and then later in nonprofit development. I spent years being pitched the value proposition of cause marketing and spent almost as many years trying to convince others of its merit. Being on both ends, I have grown an appreciation for the nuances and challenges of this ‘ask’. In this post, we’ll break down how we, as Development Professionals, often present the marketing value of our nonprofit assets. We’ll offer our perspective on the inherent strengths and weaknesses of each position. And, then we’ll offer Shared Value Media’s somewhat different take on it.

THE STRONG:
Consumer Engagement

First the good: I am a big believer in the engagement proposition of nonprofits. Compared to other platforms, I think nonprofits offer a strong opportunity to drive action among a targeted consumer group.

According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, nonprofits are more trusted than business or media institutions by a margin of over 5%. According to Nielson 2011 Trends, 76% of people trust advertising from people they know, versus the next highest platform, which is opt-in email at 40%. In other words, when nonprofits communicate with our constituency base, they often listen and trust what we tell them.

As a result, when asked, these constituents are often willing to act on our behalf. As a nonprofit, we can confidently say we have the ability to drive traffic, promotion, attendance, click-throughs, content, etc. This is powerful stuff! If your corporate client will share what they are paying for each engagement (i.e., a click-through, a new fan on Facebook, a content submission) try to create a pricing structure that challenges those rates. If you can produce a stronger engagement ROI than some of your partner’s other marketing platforms, watch out! You could be in for a very different conversation in Round Two! And, you would be surprised through our celebrity partnerships, pro bono media, alumni groups, social platforms, etc. how successful we can be in driving engagement.

THE NOT-AS-STRONG:
Media Reach

I believe too often we, as nonprofits, try to sell our reach: We serve this many children. Our newsletter list is this big. Our Facebook page has this many fans. When competing against other more traditional media/marketing investments (TV, online, print, etc.), our reach proposition will often fall short. Unless we represent a large national or global nonprofit, we just can’t compete with the number of eyeballs that a marketer can reach through a more traditional platform. So, I recommend we do our best to represent our total numbers, but understand this isn’t our strongest ace in the hole.

Brand Association

Another value proposition that we often emphasize is that a cause association can help drive the business of our partner. On one hand, according to the 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study, 79% of consumers claim they would likely switch brands, if price and quality were equal, if the other brand is associated with a cause. In addition, according to the 2010 Edelman Good Purpose Report, nearly half of Americans cite social purpose as the number one deciding factor in making a purchase. However, these studies represent consumer attitude, not necessarily consumer behavior, as do the majority of other studies on this topic.

I have only seen two studies that offer quantitative evidence that brand association can impact purchase intent: Cone Inc. and Duke U. Behavioral Study (2008) and Hiscox and Smyth (2005). Until we can reference the study/studies that demonstrate conclusively that purchase is driven by cause association, all we can do is put a fairly meaningless asterisk at the end of our presentations –

**And you have the benefit of being associated with a cause that is important to your consumer… for whatever that is worth**

Measurement

Probably the weakest part of our value proposition is measurement. We, as an industry, have no excuse for this one. Probably a separate topic for a different article, but unless we can offer an apples-to-apples measurement framework with other marketing platforms, we are severely handicapping our sell. Our pitch is dependent on our ability to say the quantitative impact we will have on our partner’s business and then explain how we will measure and benchmark against that impact. If we can’t do that, how can we ask their marketing department to re-allocate dollars to our platform?

In addition, we need to better understanding the demographics of our constituents and our donors. It is not enough to present the age, location, and ethnicity of the people we serve. We need to be able to provide information on the household income of our newsletter list and event attendees, the psychographics and consumer trends of our donors, etc. There is technology out there that helps with this. But, without it, we are going to the negotiating table with one arm tied behind our back.

The SHARED VALUE MEDIA APPROACH
The Cost Proposition:

The value proposition that Shared Value Media often leads with is that nonprofits can help our marketing counter-parts reduce costs. We can do this not necessarily by replacing our partner’s existing marketing efforts, but instead integrating into them.

Let me explain what we mean by applying this approach to a few different event-marketing examples. Why event marketing? Nonprofits can integrate seamlessly into an event marketing campaign and reduce costs consistently.

Trial / Sampling

For the sake of illustration, let us examine Brand Granola. Brand Granola wants to drive trial of their new granola bars. To accomplish this, they hire brand ambassadors to stand at busy intersections and hand out a granola bar to every person who walks by. For this service, Brand Granola will pay for every hour it takes their hired guns to hand out their sampling goal. In addition, Brand Granola may need to pay a permit fee to sample at their target destinations.

What would happen if Brand Granola took a different approach towards sampling? And, instead of hiring an event-marketing agency, Brand Granola forged a partnership (or numerous partnerships) with afterschool nonprofits who provide snacks every day to their constituents. These nonprofit will gladly agree to hand out Brand Granola’s granola bars (if they meet the nonprofit’s health criteria) to an extremely targeted demographic at no cost, since it will reduce the nonprofit’s costs. In addition, by agreeing to partner with Brand Granola, a trusted resource in the community will implicitly be endorsing the brand as a healthy snack option for the kids they serve.

A partnership structured in this way has a very clear, measurable ROI for Brand Granola. If they took even a portion of their trial/sampling budget and donated that product to the right nonprofit(s), Brand Granola would still reduce their marketing costs, meet their trial/sampling objectives, and launch a potentially more effective sampling strategy.

Mobile Tours

In addition, Brand Granola decides to launch a national mobile tour, where they hand out granola samples to parents and their children, ask the families to record a jingle in their traveling recording studio, and offer a number of on-site activities that bring the brand to life.  Again, traditionally Brand Granola would hire an event-marketing agency to build the experience, secure the venue permits, hire staff, and promote the event locally. The costs would be well over $10,000 / week to keep this campaign on the road.

So, what is the sell for a nonprofit? Its simple: we can help you launch the exact same campaign for a third of the cost.

If Brand A also partnered with a national nonprofit focused on youth health, that nonprofit could do the following to support the tour:

  • Reduce venue costs, by leveraging their 501c3 status and relationships to secure venues across the country at a free or reduced cost
  • Reduce staffing costs, by replacing in-market staff with volunteers
  • Reduce local marketing, by promoting the event to their constituents in each market and help to reach an engaged audience vs. random bystanders
  • Strengthen the campaign message by making the tour not only about the product, but also about the product’s values

For a fraction of the cost, Brand Granola could increase the effectiveness, impact, and attendance of their mobile tour.

Content-Gathering

Finally, Brand Granola wants to engage consumers around the country in a promotion that asks consumers to post jingles about their new product. Brand Granola’s goal is to drive traffic to their site, social engagement, and eventually produce content for their new ad campaign. Through numerous online buys and leveraging their event marketing tour, they intend to drive participation in the promotion.

Again, Brand Granola could dramatically reduce costs (and legwork) by finding a nonprofit partner that had an incentive in driving consumers to upload a jingle. There are thousands of nonprofits across the country teaching after-school music. Without any semblance of mission drift, these nonprofits could work with their children and families to record and submit jingles that brought the values of their nonprofit and programming to life. Finding alignment between the values of a nonprofit and the brand of a granola bar should not be difficult and would only enhance the positioning of a promotion like this.

Again, if Brand Granola even put a fraction of their promotional media spend towards a donation to one or more targeted nonprofit(s), Brand Granola would reduce costs and increase impact.

At the End of the Day…

There is no magic formula to selling in the cause marketing value proposition. However, the better we understand the business needs of the brands we are pitching and the strengths and weaknesses of the value we provide, the more likely we are to convince our marketing counter-part that we fill a need.

Good luck – I’ll be rooting for you! And, if you have any tidbits to share with us, we’re always anxious to hear.

About Shared Value Media

Shared Value Media (SVM) helps facilitate corporate partnerships through a network of national or geo-targeted nonprofit partners. Our partnerships are customized, and launched through numerous nonprofits, with a clear set of quantifiable outcomes. This allows us to craft corporate partnerships with reach, measurable deliverables, and clear campaign goals. If you’d like to know more about Shared Value Media you can watch our video here.

Risk and Capacity Building: A Response To Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk

There are oh-so-many things to say about Dan Pallotta and his talk at TED.  The essential point of his presentation is that the nonprofit sector is at a disadvantage to the for profit sector because of the way we – as a society – think about nonprofits and charity.  Some of the many points he makes we can dismiss right off the bat.  For instance, his point that nonprofits can’t share profit to attract risk capital….  Well, yeah, they’re nonprofits.  And that means that they don’t have to pay taxes.  And that means that they can’t act exactly like a for-profit unless they plan on paying those taxes.charity

Many people have talked to me about Dan’s idea of paying top executives in the nonprofit arena more.  I won’t spend too much time on this either; this piece in the Stanford Social Innovation Review Blog makes some interesting points.  What I would point out is that many for-profit companies pay their top talent huge amounts of money and just as often as not they prove to be just as mediocre as the rest of us.  I think Dan exaggerates the impact that a single person can have on a nonprofit institution.

What I do think is really interesting about Dan’s talk is how we are much more tolerant of risk and long-term capacity building in the for profit world than we are in the nonprofit. Venture philanthropy is all the rage these days but the funny thing about it is that most venture philanthropy works and acts exactly like traditional philanthropy.  Yes, there is more of an emphasis on clear and measurable outcomes within a defined period of time. However, I would argue major investors in an organization have always wanted this.  What’s maybe changed is that lower-level investors now expect the same thing.

But aside for a demand for clear social outcomes, venture philanthropy still generally acts very differently then venture capital.  Major investments in fundraising and other capacity building is still exceptionally rare even though such investments can leverage a great deal more.

Patience on social returns that take longer than a couple of years is also a rare exception rather than the rule.  And then there is the complicity of nonprofits themselves.  We so rarely dream as big as we need to.  I was talking with a self-identified venture philanthropist recently that wants to fund riskier ventures and wants to encourage fellow philanthropists to do the same and I remember thinking to myself, “Would we believe a funder if they told us they were OK with failure?”  I’m guessing we wouldn’t.  I’m guessing that we would be thinking that if we want to have a chance at additional funding and a career going forward, we’d better show some concrete results pretty fast.  So we play it safe.  Privately, we all dream big but we seldom put it out there for funders to ponder.

So I agree with Dan wholeheartedly that our societal mentality holds the nonprofit sector back.  He’s very much right in saying frugality does not equal morality.  But, as Laura points out, money invested in marketing is only a means to an end.  The true output is the kind of social impact we have.  Sometimes that requires a lot of dollars, sometimes it doesn’t.  At times we may need to invest a lot in our marketing and fundraising but over time we are ultimately better off investing in our mission and its outcomes.  Many, many nonprofits (if not that vast majority) are able to keep their fundraising costs below $0.25 on the dollar and still be highly effective.  The fact of the matter is Dan’s organization engaged in the least efficient form of fundraising out there: event fundraising.  And while his cause lent itself to that model, most other causes don’t require this and can get a much better return on their dollars.  Even Dan’s organization could have done so by leveraging the people his walks attracted for major donor dollars instead of relying on a few big sponsors that left his organization fatally vulnerable.

Ultimately, I’m glad that Dan is raising these ideas.  It’s important that we talk about the respective roles of the for profit and nonprofit world.  And perhaps those people most in a position to be helpful will start to think of nonprofits differently and change the landscape.  But in the meantime, the nonprofit sector remains a market place just as the for profit sector does.  Efficiency does matter.  Diversity of revenue does matter.  Social return on investment is our ultimate metric, not dollars raised.  As Dan points out himself, ours in the market of love and you can’t measure that in money raised.

Laura’s Response to Dan Pallotta

Oh, Dan Pallotta… How I love what you have to say – and how troubled am I by the conclusions you draw!   For those who have read his first breakout work Uncharitable, you will recognize the introduction to this work in the 2013 TED talk that got so much play in Bob’s and my in-box.  Watching Dan Pallotta at work live gave me much of that same heady rush as when I first read that book:  here is someone saying out loud that the ill-conceived and misplaced vow of poverty that not-for-profit organizations are required to take is hampering social innovation!  Whoopee!

But, I thought, surely he will have moved beyond the conclusions he drew from what

was a devastating – and ultimately fatal – blow to his AIDS Ride organization?  He will have a more nuanced response to that now, right?  You can see in the video itself how choked up he still becomes by the memory of laying off his 350 employees.  I am entirely sympathetic and quite touched by how personally he still takes this moment in his life; how could he not?  However, I think this is where he’s got a blind spot that unnecessarily weakens his

argument about unleashing the social capital necessary to truly transform the world.

Let’s work through it:

Blackbaud Online Giving Trends by Sector

  • Are there some social challenges that defy monetizing?  Are there some problems that business will never find a financial advantage – or enough of a financial advantage in ameliorating?  Yup.  Check.  Totally agree.
  • Is the public pillorying of not-for-profit leadership compensation not only misguided but downright hypocritical, especially in light of recent for-profit debacles?  Oh yeah.  (I actually would like to intensify that agreement with a slightly more profane word, but not on the blog.)
  • Is the devotion to irresponsible expectations for overhead keeping many organizations ineffective and impoverished?  Yes, oh yes.
  • Should not-for-profit organizations have greater leeway in advertising and marketing?  Maybe.  But here is where things start to go off the rails for me.  I have found that the social sector is more complicit in this one, often seeking to move into advertising without a clear goal or measurable outcomes for “increased visibility”.  And, this point begins to unpack Dan’s prejudice within the not-for-profit sector:  huge money is only unleashed through wide-spread, grassroots fundraising.  Perhaps because of his brave movement in this arena, organizations that rely on grassroots fundraising (think American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen For the Cure, other organizations that do walks, etc…) do have a visible marketing presence that doesn’t occur at 4am on public access TV.
  • Following on this fear of moving boldly into the marketing space, Dan also identifies an aversion to taking risk on new ideas.  Again, here’s a place where we could agree.  But we don’t.  Dan identifies the problem as an aversion to risky fundraising ideas.  That is not the problem.  The core problem is an aversion to planning and underwriting risky, innovative solutions to problems.  

He is right in recognizing that the same principles of venture capital need to apply to social innovation:  “risk capital”, investors with patience for a longer time horizon, ability and tolerance for trying and failing and trying again to solve social problems.  If the solutions were easy, we would have found them already.  Trite.  True.  But the challenge holding us back from solving these problems doesn’t lie in the fact that we don’t raise money for them in the right way.  Early attempts at crowdfunding not withstanding, social venture capital comes from a few, very rich, bold people at a much greater rate than it does.  Maybe funding from a broad swath of society will be the answer in the future, but it’s not now.  New ideas in the for-profit realm are started and nurtured by a few venture capitalists.  Why would the NFP market work differently?

Innovation in the social sector comes when leadership and bold investors team up to develop new ideas grounded in data and measurable outcomes, agree that the ability to fail is equally useful as succeeding in solving problems and that investing in the ability to go to scale in the impact realm (which may or may not include costly fundraising programs) is what really matters.

This also takes apart Dan Pallotta’s belief that “bigger is better” in all instances.  Is becoming a $50M+ organization the root to solving all problems?  Not necessarily.  Some problems may require big, centralized investment: diseases, social policy movements.  (But I think we can argue on that point too…)  Other problems are best solved at the local level, but small but appropriately well-capitalized organizations who know their market, know their community, know the issues they need to solve intimately and are nimble enough to be able to address that.   Or put another way, is the only beer we need brewed by Miller and Budweiser?  No way.  Keep my microbrews – and my micro-organizations – safe (and delicious.)

Agree?  Disagree?  I’d love to hear.

Everything You Know About Foundation Fundraising Is Wrong

Everything you know about foundation fundraising is wrong.  Well, maybe not everything.  But possibly quite a lot.  Too often we view Picture 3foundation funding as largely an exercise in research and proposal writing when I would argue that these are the two areas that have the least to do with successful foundation work.  Here are a few myths and misunderstandings that that I’d like to debunk.

Myth #1: Guidelines are set in stone

The way we are all taught to approach foundation fundraising is that guidelines are paramount and are rarely, if ever, violated.  In reality, the opposite is often true.  I know foundations that swear they only give to organizations with national reach, but give regularly to grassroots efforts.  I know foundations who say they never give to endowments or to capital campaigns but repeatedly give to both.

Just like you and your organization, foundations have a vision of the world they are trying to achieve.  Their guidelines reflect their best thinking on how to achieve their vision.  But what is most important to them is their vision, not their guidelines.  If you can get in front of them explain how your vision and your programs may be an equally or even more effective way of achieving their aims, there is a good chance they’ll listen to you.  And if they say “our guidelines really are our guidelines” they will often direct you towards a foundation that more closely reflects your priorities.  You should acknowledge guidelines but not be a slave to them.

Myth 2:  Foundation fundraising equals grant writing

I’m always surprised how many organizations, if they can only hire one foundation position, will opt for a grant writer over a front-line development officer.  Make no mistake, a well-written proposal that can stand on its own is an important part of fundraising.  But foundation work is no different than any other kind of development work.  All of the hard work comes before the ask or, in this case, the proposal.  We should be focused conveying our work through engagement with our programs, engagement with our mission staff, engagement with our Executive Director, etc.  A foundation needs to know you can do everything you are promising.  And that means they need to know your organization and the people in it.  If it’s just a pretty piece of writing it’s likely to be overlooked.  Not because it wasn’t compelling but because there is no way to know if what you are saying to true.  People believe their own experiences not necessarily what you or I tell them in a proposal.  Be sure to give them those positive experiences and the proposal almost becomes a formality.

Myth #3:  Foundation fundraising is a meritocracy

If we have a worthy program that best achieves our own aims and that of the foundation we’ll get the grant, right?  Well, no.  Or at least, maybe.  I’m not accusing foundations of anything nefarious.  What I am saying however is that merit is necessary but insufficient.  There are many, many, many nonprofits doing meritorious work.  Given that, which nonprofit is most likely to get a grant?  The organization that is a known quantity is.  The organization that knows three trustees is more likely to get the grant then the one who doesn’t.  Not because of croneyism but because each of those trustees votes and they can say to themselves “Hey, I know the Executive Director that applied.  I know that she does what she says she will do.  I know that she will report back to us.  I know she will spend the money the way she said she would.  These other applicants, they have some great ideas but I don’t know them well enough so I don’t know if they’ll come through.”

Foundation fundraising is a “who you know” kind of business.  If you can, know trustees.  Failing that, know program officers and other program staff.  Bottom line:  know as many of the decision makers as you can.

These are just three myths but there are others and perhaps in a subsequent post I’ll go through them.  My parting advice is this: when it comes to foundations, don’t see yourself as an applicant, and especially not as a supplicant.  See yourself as a partner with foundations in trying to make the world a better place.  Partnership implies equality and proactivity.  Don’t be passive about your foundation fundraising; get in there and engage with them.

The Four Best Predictors of Major Gift Success

Projected Table of Gifts

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

Empowering Others Through Generous Philanthropy

Picture 3Recently, I was in Albuquerque, NM speaking to 300 women and girls at Sandia Prep about the power of leadership philanthropy.  I framed the discussion by discussing the overarching goal – life-long inspired, joyful, generous giving of all our innate gifts, talents and expertise, time, networks and treasure.  The goal is important.  Too often, we only seek a volunteer’s talents and time.  Or, we think about the individual as a donor and only seek treasure and contacts.  True philanthropy is about giving one’s all so that together we change the world.

Once we all agreed on the goal, we discussed the importance of being inspired and inspiring. As philanthropy leaders, we seek causes that engender passion within us – causes that have touched us, moved us, worry us.  We look for problems we’d like to help fix.  Similarly, as not-for-profit leaders, we most offer big ideas that address important societal issues and thus inspire deep and lasting commitment.

Next, we spent time on the notion of joyful giving.  How we, as donor/volunteers, are engaged, solicited and stewarded matters. When done well, we do feel joy.  I can remember being solicited by Don Jackson when he was with national Easter Seals. The conversation was so empowering, personal and fun that I said yes with joy and gave more than he requested. A great solicitation is a wonderful thing.

But joy also comes from within each of us as leaders and donor/volunteers.  Yes, we need information, and facts, and trust.  But we must also come to the charity with an open mind, giving heart and smile.  It is an honor and privilege to help the people, animals, communities, faiths, ideals and environments the not-for-profits serve.

We then moved to the concept of generosity.  I asked the audience to share at their tables, “How did you learn to be generous (or how are you learning to be so)?” The spoke with each other for about five minutes – five minutes out of a 75 minute session.  Although we spoke about many things after this exercise, it was the discussion about generosity that received the most feedback, tears, laughter and action.

At the end of the program people queued-up to speak with me. One woman asked for advice about starting a scholarship fund for nurses. She wanted to make a difference a difference for others – the potential nurses but most importantly, all of the people the nurses would touch throughout their careers. Thinking about generosity and leadership empowered her to take action.  She didn’t have a hospital healthcare organization, medical school or community foundation in mind, but was ready to find the right place and make an investment.  That five minute conversation inspired a new and wonderful gift.

Another participant told me she was moved to tears because her colleague told her, “I learned to be generous from you.” She didn’t know her actions had been observed, admired and emulated by her colleague until they shared at the luncheon. Sometimes we don’t know we are empowering others.

A student from Sandia Prep said she learned from one of her teachers. Good for Sandia Prep. Many said their parents or grandparents taught them.  Others spoke of religious leaders, neighbors and friends. Everyone said the conversation got them thinking, feeling, wanting to do more or just made them feel proud that they already did so much.

Perhaps the above examples have you thinking.  They got me reflecting and I thought I’d share several things worth noting:

  1. The reason I love the work we do.  Everyone at The Osborne Group is a philanthropist and volunteer. We love our clients’ missions.  We love teaching.  What a gift to be able to do work that is both meaningful and enjoyable.
  2. How smart it is for an organization to open its doors to others for a conversation not about the institution, but about societal topics with broad appeal. Yes, the room was filled with friends of the school, but also with people with no connection.  The Albuquerque AFP chapter, United Way, local businesses, fundraisers and board members from other organizations filled the seats.  They all left seeing the school at its best, and the experience created social capital.
  3. Asking provocative questions and listening to understand is one of the best ways we know to inspire action.  I asked them to think about how they learned to be generous and look at the results.  Asking a question is so much more effective that pitching and persuading. Great questions get people thinking.  If you would like our latest list of strategic questions tailored for your sector, contact me at Karen@theosbornegroup.com
  4. Modeling behavior is one of the best ways to teach, inspire and empower.  I remember reading an article about raising children who are avid readers.  When my children were little, I read to them every night, long after they could read the books themselves.  I attributed their excellent reading and writing skills to that nightly habit.  It turns out that reading to a child is the right thing to do, but what actually creates readers is seeing us enjoy reading. In the same way, by being joyful and generous investors ourselves, we inspire others to do the same.

So, don’t hide your generosity. Share your passion, joy and commitment.  Be an empowering, generous, joyful philanthropic leader and let your light lead.

by Karen Osborne

Hoarding: Buried Alive – The Donor Prospecting Edition

hoardersMany of you have probably seen or heard of the show, “Hoarding: Buried Alive” on TLC.  Each episode tells the stories of people struggling with hoarding behavior that has made everyday life unbearable for both them and their loved ones. Many of these individuals have piles and piles of objects and even garbage taking over their homes and eventually their lives.  For me, donor prospecting took on the same epic proportions.  I will admit it.

As a fundraiser, I have been guilty of donor hoarding – not being able to let go of donor names on my prospect list. I’ve seen these prospect names grow and grow and grow to eventually take over my work life (not really… but you get the point).   So as a former and now-recovered donor hoarder, here are a few tips for overcoming this condition:

Tips to Overcome Donor Hoarding:

1.  Assess the donor relationship beyond asking the 2 C’s (capacity and connection)

Ask yourself, “Does it truly make sense to have this person on my prospect list?” You might say to yourself, “Well, they gave $100,000 to another organization; why not ours?” But capacity alone doesn’t qualify someone to stay on your portfolio, nor does it establish a relationship. Here is where internal ratings and asking specific questions beyond capacity make a huge difference.  Case in point: I had Donald Trump on my major gifts prospect list for an organization I worked for. Yes, “The Donald” had the capacity to give to my organization but he wasn’t personally connected to my cause nor did we have true access to him. Needless to say, Donald Trump remained on our events invitation list but was removed from my major gifts portfolio.  Ask yourself these critical questions when determining whether or not to move a donor name off of your prospect list:

  • Is the person personally connected and engaged with my organization?
  • Are they philanthropic?
  • Do you or someone in your organization have access to the person directly?
  • During the next 6-12 months can the relationship move to the point where the person is ready to have a conversation about their philanthropy to your organization?

If the answer to most of these questions is NO and you don’t have a strategy you can implement immediately to move this relationship forward, then it’s time to move on and release this person from your portfolio. You can give this person a new home in your annual campaign or with your special events.

2.  Face Your Fears

You might fear that if you drop the name off your list they might not ever give…or worse you find out they gave a multi-million dollar gift to another organization. I know from experience how this fear can place you in a holding pattern, just waiting… waiting… waiting.  However, I learned that I couldn’t let the fear that the donor might give to another organization keep them on my list (just in case). The truth is if you have done the work to engage this donor and connect them to your organization and the relationship has not moved, it might not ever move in the way that you want it to and you have to be OK with that.  It’s not about our wants but the interests of the donor. Like the movie, “He’s Just Not Into You”, the donor might just not be into your organization.

Stop worrying that you might lose a potential big donor.  Let it go and spend the time on those donors who are into your organization. Focus on those donors who want to be engaged with your organization. They are out there!

3. Stop Allowing Names to Pile Up.  Get HELP!

A couple of years ago I inherited a list of 400 suspects.  That’s right: suspects, not qualified relationships.  It was overwhelming to say the least.  It took me a good six months to finally come up with a process to evaluate these relationships and be fine with moving a majority of the names off my portfolio. The process was simple: in addition to asking myself the critical questions listed above, I asked for help from my peers and colleagues.

The good thing is that you are not alone in this process. Even if you are a one-person development shop, you still have a group of people to assist you.  Start by rating the list of names internally.  Program staff, long time employees, the CEO and other members of the development staff can all help by adding what they know about the prospective donors. Share these names with them often and develop an internal rating system to assess for capacity, affiliation, inclination and readiness. Then make a decision to either move the relationship to another part of your development efforts or implement a strategy to move the relationship forward. Do this at minimum on a quarterly basis.

There’s Hope!

It is possible to overcome donor hoarding. I promise! Remember your task is to engage the most promising qualified donors with your organization and authentically move these relationships forward. Unlike the TV show where people hoard objects, the reality is that we are talking about people and our relationships with them. While watching a “Hoarders” episode, I go into massive cleaning attack.  I clean absolutely everything in the house.  I hope this episode inspires you to do the same with your donor prospect lists. It’s OK to let release these names allowing for time spent building relationships resulting in more enthused, inspired and generous donors to your organization. For more information to cure donor hoarding and a complimentary tool for donor prospecting and pipeline building,  please contact us.

Balance Your Act with People Who Complement Your Competencies

I once worked for a charismatic and highly successful major gift fundraiser.  His most outstanding competencies included ego strength, intelligence, a driving force to succeed, quick decision-making, and verbal agility.  He liked being in front of the crowd rather than being a team member.  On the down-side, he tended to bulldoze rather than finesse. A quick-silver temper could leave the team reeling and a lack of good listening skills made it hard for the team to recover.  When it came time to hire leaders under him, he picked people who “looked” like him — same competencies and skills and many if not most from very similar backgrounds.

It’s natural to want surround oneself with people who share our strengths and point of view.  But it’s often not the right path for sustainable fundraising success.

  • Know your strengths, weaknesses, communication and leadership style.  Figure out your “blind spots” – those areas that trip you up but you don’t see coming.  Seek honest feedback. As your peers, team members and supervisor about your strengths and weaknesses.  Listen! We recommend taking a personality profile like DiSC or Myers Briggs.  Email us for a free copy of our Management and Leadership IQ™ assessment tool at Karen@theosbornegroup.com
  • Then, when it is time to hire or form a working group, look for people who complement your skills, experiences, competencies and style rather than have the same set.  If you are an idea person, for example, like I am, you have a new “great” idea at least once a day.  If everyone around you is an enthusiastic follower, or focused on the how to get the idea implemented, you need someone nearby who will ask, “And why is that such a good idea?” “Is that the right thing for us to do at this time?”
  • Diversity makes us all better.  Seek diversity in backgrounds, experiences, ethnicity, geography, worldview, and communication styles.
  • Strengths overused often become weaknesses.  A hard driver often needs someone on the team who has the courage to say “whoa.” A quick decision-maker often needs a thoughtful investigator as a partner.

Ask strategic questions that help you uncover the qualities of the possible team member, board member, volunteer, or new hire. Remember to “balance your act” for greater fundraising success.

By Karen Osborne

Three New Year’s Resolutions That Will Pay Off in More Major Gifts (and a happier you)!

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We do this: the annual New Year’s Resolutions to do more, be better.  We make a list of things we want to accomplish and hope sheer will power will overcome all the reasons we didn’t get there before. This list is different.

  • The payoff for each one is huge
  • You can start small and still win big
  • You can make each one fun, collaborative and personally rewarding
  1. Make February Donor Appreciation Month – 20 days, 20 personal “Thank You” calls.
    • If you’re in a small not-for-profit, get everyone involved.  If you’re in a large, complex institution get a small group from each school or division to participate.  Definitely enroll the mission staff (i.e. program, physicians, or faculty) and senior staff.
    • In January, identify your most important donors as well as your most loyal donors at each leadership and major gift level ($500+ for small shops; higher in bigger shops with more robust fundraising).  Put together a very short, quick brief on each — name, address, phone number, relationship (i.e. donor for x years, parent, trustee, alumnus, volunteer).  That’s all.  No research.  It’s just an appreciation call. 
    • Recruit your team.  Make it a contest, something fun.  Big announcement. Start with a few champions and go from there.
    • Assign 20 to each participating team member.  All they have to do is call and say, “Thank you again for all you do for our organization” – one person each day.
    • For the fund development staff, make 25% or more of them personal visits.
    • The results – happier donors, more leadership and major gifts, more staff members participating in fund development.

    2.   Make March Staff Appreciation Month

    • Say “Thank You” to every member of the “Thank You Calls Team,” to everyone who helped in fund development in any way.  “Thank you for your help.  Your contributions helped us serve and transform the lives of more people.  We appreciate you.”
    • The results – more collaboration, therefore more staff members participating in fund development resulting in more leadership and major gifts.

3.  Make 2013 Your Year to Say “Yes” to You (and therefore “No” to some other folks)

    • You know you should make more visits to more major gift donors and prospective donors.  Or maybe you have a hard time getting those contact reports written.  Perhaps you work too late in the office and therefore can’t workout, or date your spouse, or read to your children, or go to a movie with a friend.
    • What are you saying yes to that is neither “Important and Urgent,”* nor “Important but not Urgent?”* (*Stephen M. Covey). Is it a priority of someone else, a constant interrupter, meetings that drag on without clear outcomes, emails that are not important?  Pick one thing each day that falls into Covey’s “Not Important but Urgent”* box and just say “No.
    • The results – you will get more done, have better work/life balance, feel better, and, yes, therefore, raise more leadership and major gifts.  Guaranteed!

By Karen E. Osborne, President

 

 

 

How to Never Hear No Again

by Karen Osborne

Asking is only a sentence. “Please join me with an increased investment of $x.” What inspires a generous and joyful response is all that went before the solicitation conversations.  Here are some sure-fire tips.

  1. Make sure you know the Right people from the beginning.  Who makes the philanthropic decisions? For many of us, we work with the person we know, our alumna, grateful patient, board member, check signer.  In today’s marketplace, more families (not just spouses) are making decisions together.  Research tells us women seek out many inputs before making a decision. Corporations and foundations often have multiple decision makers.  Ask, “In my family, we make our decisions together.  How does that work in yours?”
  2. Engage them all before you ask.  We know engagement leads to more giving.  Engagement is not the same as showing up, or helping out.  It is meaningful and contains a thinking component, feeling aspects, and most important doing.  Engage my mind, not just my time.  Seek my advice and professional expertise, not just my money and contacts.  Ask, “What engagements with other not-for-profits have you found the most satisfying?”
  3. Identify the Right purpose or impact.  Purpose drives amount and BIG IDEAS inspire big gifts.  Our task is to reach the point in the relationship (even if its short term for a leadership annual gift) where the donor says, “I want to make that happen.” Or, “How do we make that happen?” It’s about impact and outcomes, not a shopping list of giving opportunities.
  4. Bring the Right solicitation team.  Who inspires these donors?  Who can ask, “Please join me?”  If the solicitation is made by staff alone, invoke an admired colleague who has stepped up.  You are not pitching an amount or a project, you are engaging your donors in a discussion about outcomes that the project or amount will achieve.  Bring along virtually or physically a believer.
  5. Start with THANK YOU AGAIN. Steward past gifts.  Don’t just thank immediately after a gift (but do thank within 24 to 72 hours).  Take it to the next step and connect the donor, three months, six months, nine months, after the gift with the IMPACT she had or the collective had (everyone who gave to the event, or to the annual fund).  People repeat joyful experiences.  Make your donors say “Wow.”  The next time you ask, you’ll receive an inspired, generous, joyful, “Yes.”

You can follow me on twitter: @kareneosborne