Your January Major and Leadership Gifts To-Do List: 8 Steps to Take Now!

Perhaps you’ve just closed your fiscal year and this is the beginning of the New Year. Maybe you’re mid-way through. In either case, January presents opportunities for taking a hard look and making strategic changes in your major and leadership gifts program. Here are eight steps you can take over the course of January that will help make 2017 your best year ever.

1. Crunch Those Numbers
• First, of course, you are measuring your progress against goals.
• Then go deeper. What is working and why?
• Finally, look for opportunities disguised as problems. For example, if your realized table of gifts indicates poor performance at the $1,000 level but you’re doing great at $500, make a plan for inspiring all of those $500 donors to make a second gift to reach $1,000. Share the impact that a $1,000 investment brings. Ask a great donor to offer a challenge. Turn that problem into a success-opportunity.
• Don’t forget your e-scores. Which of your engagement activities are resulting in the most new gifts, donor retention and upgrades? Do more of those in the coming year, and drop or tweak the non-performers.

2. Steward Your 2016 Donors (Again)
• Start at the top of your realized table of gifts. What did you do in 2016 to make that donor say “WOW?” When did you do it?
• What creative and personalized impact experience and/or communication did you share and when?
• If it has been more than six months since you’ve provided an impact/outcome experience or communication, get going, starting from the top of the pyramid and moving down.
• Consider making February your stewardship month and getting everyone (board members, peers, and mission staff) involved. 28 days, 28 calls and visits per person. Celebrate on the last day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgrA3v3ozcE

3. Refresh Your Plan (or write your first plan)
• We know that having a sound development plan tops most everything else in terms of results. Visits without a plan are better than no visits, but with a plan, you are on your way to great year. Find more on planning here.
• Make sure your plan includes your realized table of gifts and a refreshed projected table of gifts. These are two old fashioned (yes) but indispensable tools. Everything old is tired. Just saying.

4. Solicit All Board Members Who Have Yet to Make Their Gift (If this is the beginning of your fiscal year, you want them on board EARLY. If this is mid-year, they need to give now, modeling the behavior you seek from others)
• Peer-to-peer is best. Who are your best givers, best solicitors? Ask them to ask the rest of the board. Not via email. Call or visit. Make it personal. Ask for an increased gift. “Please join me with an investment of…”
• If you solicit them by email or snail mail, how will they learn to solicit others in a warm, personal manner?

5. Maximize Your Upcoming Events
• Spring event season is only months away. What is your “turn-out” strategy? How are you ensuring high donor retention by getting all who came in the last two years to return? What is your donor acquisition plan? What strategic initiatives or “moves” are you planning for those in attendance? Who is responsible for getting your ED or key volunteers around the room, making introductions, asking strategic questions, and sharing key points?
• Most important, what is your follow-up plan? Not just getting the thank you notes out. What are you doing to engage attendees and those who declined post the event?

For more on making data-driven event decisions, check out this blog post and webinar.

6. Spend Time Planning Your Calendar
• Whom do you need to visit over the next three to six months? Where are they? What alternative dates can you offer so that you are sure to get on their calendars?
• What days are you crossing off for donor visits each month?
• What days are you setting aside for developing donor strategies?
• What time are you marking each week for making appointments and follow-up calls?

7. Take Care of You
• Your professional development, morale, and health matter. Build in recovery time. Be sure to take the vacation days that your organization offers.
• Consider crossing off one day a month as an “admin” day for catching up on things, reading the articles you were saving, organizing, and strategic thinking.

8. Celebrate
• Philanthropy is a joyful experience. Giving, and helping others do the same, adds to the quality of our lives and the lives we touch with our generosity. It wouldn’t happen for your organization without you and your team.
• Say thank you. Celebrate. Feel good about all you are doing to make your community, country, and our shared world a better place. For more reinforcement, read this great post from Lynne Wester.

What Makes a Good Development Plan?

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

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

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

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

August Major Gift Countdown

 

imagesLabor Day will be here before you know it. You have about 15 days to complete your August Major Gift Countdown to success.

  • Let your metrics lead the way. What worked well from January to now? Or from last June or August until now? Learn from your successes. What didn’t work? Why
    • Donor and volunteer retention for new donors, donors giving for two to four years, donors giving for five or more years
    • Upgrade rates
    • Yes rates (how many closed gifts compared to how many requested; what percentage of the requested amount actually given; how close to capacity)
  • Dust, re-tool, or create off your name-by-name table of gifts. Whom will you, a member of your team, your cadre of volunteers, solicit for a leadership or major gift between September and Thanksgiving? For how much? For what impact, outcome, purpose or project? What results are you anticipating?
  • Line up The Rights. Do you know, with confidence all of the Rights for each of the donors listed in your name-by-name table of gifts?
    • Right amount
    • Right purpose
    • Right solicitation team
    • Right donor participants
    • Right time
    • Right place
    • Right materials
  • Think through your strategic engagement. In order to INSPIRE a gift of that size, what strategic steps do you need to take BEFORE the solicitation conversation?
    • A strategic conversation to confirm on of the rights?
    • Contact with CEO, a mission staff member or volunteer?
    • An interactive tour
    • Stewardship of the last gift?
  • Whom on the list could you inspire to do more by connecting them to the impact of their last gift?
    • What stewardship have they received?
    • How long ago?
    • What can you do now that might inspire a joyous, generous yes?
  • Look at your strategic fundraising plan. Re-tool this year’s tactical plan. Are all your goals SMART?
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Results-focused
    • Timed
  • Make sure your planned events are worth doing and you’ve positioned them for success.  Clear goals for new donors, donor retention, gift upgrades, think, feel and do messaging from credible message bearers and most important, your follow-up plan.
  • Are your volunteers ready? Do they have fresh and compelling stories to tell? Have you inspired them? Have you solicited and stewarded them?
  • Have you thanked and prepared your internal partners – your team, mission staff and c-suite staff who helped you, who you want to help you going forward? Do they have fresh and compelling stories to tell? Have you inspired them?
  • Have you taken care of you? Did you take time off? Can you get off the grid for Labor Day weekend? Did you, can you find time to power down? You’ll need all of your energy, enthusiasm, smarts, and savvy to ensure a major gift success this fall.

You can read more here.

The Tortoise and The Hare: Aesop Had Major Gifts Officers In Mind…

This morning I came across my copy of Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. My friend Tom Wick, a fellow development professional gave it to me and said it’s one of his favorite books because it is full of lessons for major gifts officers. I’ve been thinking about those lessons the most popular being “slow and steady wins the race.”

But what does this really mean? And how can this help us now as many fundraisers are under pressure to close end of the fiscal year gifts while knee deep in budgeting for the upcoming fiscal year?book title

Before we begin, here’s a quick refresher on The Tortoise and the Hare: 

The story begins with Hare teasing Tortoise and bragging about how much faster he is than Tortoise. Hare then challenges Tortoise to a race.  Hare sprints away at the start, taunting Tortoise for being so slow.  Soon, Hare becomes very tired and looks back to see that Tortoise is so far behind him.  He decides to rest under a tree eventually falling asleep. Hare is so comfortable that he dreams of his victory against Tortoise and is later awakened by the cheers of the crowd watching Tortoise approach the finish line. Rabbit jumps up screams at Tortoise to slow down but it is too late. Tortoise wins the race and they both learn a powerful lesson:  goals are achieved with hard work and perseverance.

We know these words to be true, but many times we find ourselves as fundraisers feeling like the hare rather than the tortoise.  We are given goals at the beginning of the fiscal year and we pursue them with fervor yet the pressure to produce and unreturned phone calls from donors can make us feel tired and sometimes feeling that our goal is unachievable.  On the other hand, it’s just as easy to become disenchanted with our goals when we slow down to strategize and develop our fundraising tactics especially when building a major gifts program or going into a capital campaign.  We’re excited about the future but want to see results now.  When they don’t materialize as soon as we had hoped, it’s easy to think that we will never raise the money.

Slow & Steady Wins the Race

As fundraisers we have multiple goals to balance – donor visits, solicitations, stewardship pipeline building, donor communications and follow-up, internal meetings, database entries, staying current in our profession and the list continues.   How do we balance achieving our overall fundraising goals with everything else on our plates without burning out like Hare or plodding along Tortoise? After all, you can’t really say to your boss: “ I am the tortoise.  I’ll achieve these fundraising goals slow and steady.”

The fundamental task in achieving our goals is breaking them down into many smaller goals and assigning “tortoise” or “hare” characteristics to them,” Tyler Tervooren, founder of Frugally Green, a website dedicated to helping people live green while saving money. I’ve adopted Tyler’s observation and make it specific to our fundraising work below.

The Role of Tortoise

In the fundraising world, Tortoise represents our organization’s overall vision and the planning that is required to achieve it. This could be anything from eradicating childhood obesity or becoming the number one engineering school in the country. It’s the “fire” that is going to move our donors to action. Whatever our vision is, Tortoise represents the strategic and deliberate planning that must take place to realize it.  A vision is not something that can be completed tomorrow but is something that if we strategically pace ourselves can be achieved. We achieve this by breaking our vision into smaller, more easily attainable goals often dotortoise_harene in a written campaign plan. It is through this slow and strategic process that we will build the framework that will guide our actions toward our end goal. The same is true if we look at our overall fundraising goal and break this goal into small manageable pieces with milestones to make at specific times. This allows us to see if we are on the right track or if there is a course correction that needs to take place. This is why writing our goals with specific actions steps and completion time is so vital to our success.

The Role of Hare

We all know a fundraiser or two who has burnt out while trying to balance multiple goals under what appears to be an incredibly fast-ticking clock. I’ve been there and know that it can feel like you are on a constant treadmill, racing to finish a marathon of goals and demands.  So where does the Hare and his hyperactive and boastful tendencies come into play for us?  Well, since we took our time when we started tortoise-and-the-hare_metromomsoff and carefully pieced together an outline that breaks down our goals into bite-sized pieces, we can now pursue each of them, one by one, with clarity and strength.

If we look at our example of achieving our overall fundraising goal, a first step could be to make a daily commitment that, no matter what, you reach out to five donors a day. This could mean calling potential donors, executing a stewardship touch for an existing donor, sending a personalized invitation to an upcoming event, etc. The point is you make this a habit and you do this when you are at your Hare peak energy of the day. This is a habit I started about five years ago and it transformed the way I was able to keep myself on track to achieve not only my overall fundraising goals, but the related goals as well. There are times when we go through the day feeling that we have not had any time to connect with donors because we have been in internal meetings all day… we are working on a solicitation piece… we have to attend an event. It feels like there are not enough hours in a day to actually talk to donors. But by taking the energy and the confidence of Hare, we can form daily habits that allow us to achieve our overall goals and vision while ultimately strengthening our donor relationships.

Putting It All together

The lessons taught in The Tortoise and the Hare are relevant throughout the day and the life of a fundraiser. Sometimes we face seemingly contradictory goals: closing end of the fiscal year gifts, while planning for the coming year’s fundraising goals.  We can tap into our Tortoise and Hare characteristics to meet these goals by understanding how to use these characteristics for our success. Our Tortoise nature allows us to take the time to be strategic in our work and not githe-tortoise-and-the-hareve up. Our Hare nature gives us that quick burst of energy and confidence we need to see some immediate results of our efforts. We’ll build on these in an upcoming blog.  But for now we’d like to know what are some other childhood lessons we can learn from and incorporate into our fundraising work?

Share them by posting on our blog. We’d love to hear from you!