Three Steps and Three Tools to Jumpstart Your SEO

Guest Blogger:  Ashley Dortch, Co-Founder, Meridian Interactive

Last week, I had the opportunity to podcast with Neesha Rahim.  We had a great discussion on how nonprofits might use the SEO process to build strategic major donor relationships.  I hope you got to listen!  Neesha said many of you have put incredible effort into building a website.  Some of you have perhaps even installed your Google Analytics and figured out the basic way to use it.  But search-engine-optimizationincreasingly, we hear that some of you are finding that — gulp! —  only a few people were actually visiting those great sites.  Whether you see yourself in those words or not, if you’ve launched a website and have started to look at analytics on how visitors interact with that site, this post is for you.  It’s time to start thinking about increasing traffic and upping your game. There are options out there that can be expensive, like purchasing advertising. However, another option that all website owners should take advantage of is SEO, or Search Engine Optimization.

Search Engine Optimization, by definition, is the process of increasing traffic to your website organically, or within the free (non-paid) results on the search engines. Understanding the process of SEO and educating your organization on what search engines consider when ranking websites will provide the measurable benefits of increased traffic at minimal cost AND this process presents you with an opportunity to build out your major donor relationships.  (More on how exactly how to do that in this podcast…)

Here I want to provide you with three detailed, simple steps utilizing three free tools that I referred to in that podcast on taking your SEO game-plan to the next level:

1) Decipher the Competition and See Where They Stand using “PR Checker”
Understanding your competition and where other organizations in your niche rank is important to your SEO strategy.  Think of search terms that donors, philanthropists, and other potentially interested parties may be looking for – for a youth development organization, say: “Giving to Children’s Education”. Type “Giving to Children’s Education” into Google and make a list of who appears in the search results. These are the players you want to be mindful of, analyze, and eventually appear next to (if you already don’t).  Using the PR Checker, you can see what Google thinks of your competitors as well. This gives a nice gauge as to where they stand and what you should strive for. Google ranks sites on a 0 to 10 basis.
2) Competitive Keyword Research using the “SEO Book Page Analyzer”
Once you decipher the top competitors and high-rankers in your industry, it’s time to see what keywords they are using. Find the exact page that is showing up in the results (for example, www.yourcompetition.com/the-exact-page, as opposed to www.yourcompetition.com).  Next, plug the page into the SEO Book Page Analyzer. This will show you the top keyword strings that appear on that page. Pay more attention to the two and three keyword strings, as opposed to the single-word keywords, as longer strings may produce more exact results. Once you have this list of keywords, start blogging, producing articles, and creating content using these keywords. Putting content out there on the web that is relevant to what your competitors are writing about is a great way to be found amongst them in search results.
3) Link Building using BackLinkWatch
Relevant inbound links from high ranking sites are key for improving your search rank for SEO. Think of it as the credit game.  A teenager starts out with no credit, and her parent decides to help her build credit by adding them to their credit card (with a $250 limit, of course!). Google and the other search engines rank your site in the same way. The goal is to know your page rank, and get sites with higher page ranks to link to you, therefore boosting your ranking.
So how do we go about this? Using your list of competitors (those organizations you admire who are doing work like yours), drop their websites into the BacklinkWatch tool. Now, see who is linking to them, and find creative ways to get those other sites to link to you too! Remember to be mindful of the rank for these sites (use the PR Checker tool above).  If the site who is linking to your competitor has a #1 rank, and you have a #3, it may not be worth your effort.
But why will they link to you? Because you are offering them something of value… Ask to contribute to their articles, see if they will allow you to introduce yourself to their audience, if they have a directory, see what it takes to get listed… it’s that simple. This not only increases your website rank, but it gets you in front of interested eyes and relevant readers. Syndication across the web is key… Think of the web as your “keyword highway” and you want to be on every billboard along the way.
If you would like to reach our guest blogger, Ashley, you can do so at Meridian Interactive (http://www.meridianinteractive.com) Email: info@meridianinteractive.com Phone: (347)268-4089

 

The Four Agreements for Development Officers

4 agreementsYears ago I read the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and was reintroduced to it a couple of weeks ago while watching “Super Soul Sunday” on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). It got me to thinking about how these agreements are helpful not only in our personal lives but also in our lives as professional fundraisers.

In his work, Don Miguel Ruiz describes how implementing these agreements can help us with the relationships we have with ourselves and with one another. When I think of the first agreement, “Be impeccable with your word”, it reminds me of donor stewardship at its best.

Agreement 1 – Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.  –The Four Agreements

When we speak the truth about our work and how our donors have moved our cause forward we are using the power of our words to build a more authentic bond with our donors. When we talk about the true impact our donors’ gifts are having – the lives changed, families transformed, animals saved – we allow it to come from a place of integrity and sincerity about our work and who we are as an organization.  When we use our words both written and verbal, we use them in ways that inspire our donors for continued action while demonstrating gratitude for what they have already done.  By being impeccable with our word, we also speak the truth during times of adversity or when there is an issue with a donor’s gift.

Throughout my career (and honestly, on a daily basis), I have the opportunity to practice the second agreement, “Don’t take anything personally.” As fundraisers, how often do we take it personally (even if for a minute) when a donor says no to a gift request or the donor makes a gift much lower than we asked?

Agreement 2 – Don’t take anything personally.  Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. – The Four Agreements

Of course, there will be a period of self-reflection when a donor declines our request or a gift comes in at a lower amount. We think about things we could have done differently, such as the timing of our solicitation, or the actual program we thought this donor was passionate about. However, when this self-reflection becomes self-defeating, the concept of not taking anything personally is a tool that can help us move forward and continue to build the relationship with the donor that will manifest into a joyous, inspired gift.

I can recall clearly the day when a donor, whom I thought was ready to make a significant gift, called me “a pest” after months of what I thought was a good relationship. So yes, for a moment… actually several moments, that lasted the rest of the day… I did take her comment personally. Fast-forward three months later, after letting go of that comment and figuring out what she would say yes to, I called the donor. She enthusiastically agreed to meet and she made a joyous, inspired, generous gift of $500,000.  Of course, there was a lot of re-evaluating and strategy that happened between “The Pest Comment” and having this great experience with the donor, but the fact of the matter is, it happened when I let go and resolved to not take it personally.

Along with sometimes taking donor reactions personally, we might also fall victim to making assumptions about the donor’s passion for our organization. The third agreement, “Don’t make assumptions”, speaks directly to this.

Agreement 3 – Don’t make assumptions.  Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. –The Four Agreements

Our board relationships can often be ones where we make assumptions. For example, one might assume “Of course we are our Board Chair’s top priority. After all he is the Chair.”

But I have experienced both as a fundraiser and witnessed as a consultant, that this is not always the case. When organizations have as a practice to meet with their board members individually with the purpose of engaging and asking questions about the board member’s thoughts, feelings and plans as a volunteer and as a donor, they are able to decrease assumptions and deepen their board relationships.

The Fourth Agreement, “Always do your best”, brings all the above tools together and speaks to the reality that our “Best” varies and gives us the freedom to be our authentic selves.

Agreement 4 – Always do your best.  Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret. –The Four Agreements

It’s the end of the fiscal year and your annual review is right around the corner. While some may use this as a time of reflecting on what didn’t go right or goals that were not made, it can serve you to use this time to reflect on when you truly did your best. About ten years ago, I began collecting examples of when I did my best by keeping a file called “Accolades.” This is where I kept emails and notes from donors, colleagues, bosses, etc. who commented on my work or something I accomplished. I looked at this during those tough times when “to do” lists were long and time was even shorter.  Further, when it was time to do my self-review, I could pull from these examples instead of trying to remember all that I did. This file has served me well as a reminder of doing my best and the value I bring to my organization and the people around me.

I encourage you to take a look at the Four Agreements and experience for yourself how one or all of these agreements can serve as a tool both personally and professionally. You might find that many of these agreements you have already made with yourself and the mission you serve!

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.

Stretch – Don’t Strain – Your Conative Style

Picture 3by Beth Herman

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.

My what?

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.)

  1. Fact Finder:  Precise, judicious, thorough, and appropriate.  Loves detail and complexity and facts.
  2. Follow Thru:  Methodical, systematic.  Focused, structured, ordered, and efficient.  Planning, programming, design, predictability.
  3. Quick Start:  Spontaneous, intuitive, flexible, and fluent with ideas.  Deadline and crisis oriented.  Need challenge and change, can be impatient.
  4. Implementer:  Hands-on, craft-oriented.  Strong sense of 3D form and ability to deal with the concrete.

(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:

  1. Know thyself—and thy team
  2. Maximize the time spent using your preferred modes of action
  3. Bag, barter, or “better” the tasks that most strain and pain you.  And, to help you do that…
  4. Knowingly choose colleagues whose preferences complement rather than mirror your own.

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

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

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.

50+ Donor Engagement Ideas

Picture 3Engagement and involvement are critical to succesful fundraising.  As fundraisers, we must go beyond simply telling people how strong our work is, how effective the methodology is, etc.; we must show them.  Messages that are delivered by active engagement are far more credible and memorable than messages that are delivered orally or written.  People believe and remember their own experiences.  They tend not to believe or remember what they have simply been told.

Here are 50 ideas for engaging your donors and potential donors and inspiring true belief and buy-in to your mission, vision, leadership, plan and projects.

  1. Invite to have a private conversation with your CEO on a matter related to your mission or organization
  2. Do the above but with your head of program or a person in the field
  3. Invite to listen in on a conference call where your CEO discusses a matter related to your mission or organization
  4. Invite to speak at a conference or meeting
  5. Invite to attend a conference or meeting
  6. Invite to speak to the people your mission serves
  7. Ask to host a parlor or vision meeting within their home or office
  8. Ask to provide space for a vision or parlor meeting and then report back to them on the results
  9. Ask to speak at a vision or parlor meeting
  10. Ask to introduce the organization to others within their corporation
  11. Ask to provide feedback on your case for support
  12. Ask to provide feedback on your vision statement
  13. Ask to provide feed back on your website
  14. Ask to provide feedback on your Facebook page, blog, etc.
  15. Ask to provide commentary on your strategic plan
  16. Ask them to serve on your strategic planning committee
  17. Ask to serve on your stewardship committee
  18. Ask to serve on your campaign committee
  19. Ask to serve on your board or advisory board
  20. Ask to provide advice on a matter facing your organization
  21. Ask to provide expertise on a matter helpful to your organization
  22. Invite to a briefing in your office on a issue related to your mission
  23. Ask them to interview a staff, donor or board member for your newsletter
  24. Interview them for your newsletter
  25. Ask them to be a guest blogger on your blog
  26. Ask them to review your marketing materials
  27. Invite them into the field to see a demonstration of your work
  28. Invite them to take pictures of the people you serve when they are in the field- use the pictures for your marketing, send them a nice montage of the pictures too
  29. Ask them to mentor a client
  30. Ask them to meet a parent, student, or someone else you serve
  31. Ask them to volunteer at your event
  32. Ask them to review your finances
  33. Ask them to take part in a panel discussion
  34. Invite to a panel discussion that takes place of Google+ Hangout
  35. Ask to shoot video for you
  36. Ask to edit video for you
  37. Ask if they will look at a screening list and make introductions to foundation officers on the list (or individuals or corporate officers)
  38. Ask them to interview other effective organizations within your community for insight
  39. Ask to help make a PowerPoint presentation to be delivered to another potential donor
  40. Invite to attend a fundraising training with your staff
  41. Invite to attend activism training with your mission staff
  42. Invite to listen in on a staff meeting
  43. Invite to be part of your campaign video or other video
  44. Ask to provide an endorsement quote for your organization
  45. Ask to start a Facebook campaign
  46. Ask to participate in a crowdfunding campaign
  47. Ask to call a list of donors to thank them for their gift
  48. Ask to organize a “thank you-a-thon” where the whole organization calls donors to thank them
  49. Ask to call a list of new donors to thank them for donating
  50. Ask to help your clients find jobs, internships or other relevant experiences
  51. Ask them to host a party for your clients to congratulate them on an achievement
  52. Ask them to visit other potential donors that live in the area on a business trip

 

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

Stress and the Whole Human Fundraiser

Overheard in an advancement office near you:  “It’s business, not personal.”… “A pro learns to compartmentalize.”…“A bit of fear keeps them sharp.”  Is that true?  Or are we whole humans whom fear makes dull?  What impact does stress have on our ability to be not just good, but truly great at our important work?

Do you try to avoid messy emotions in the workplace?  Make goals and metrics scary- ambitious to drive effort in yourself and your team?

I get it—I’ve done it—we got here honestly.  From first grade on, we learned to ignore discomfort, focus on our left verbal brain, and ignore the wisdom of our right brain, our bodies, our emotions.  But advancement work requires that we learn to engage both sides again.

Living exclusively in the left, verbal brain ignores a big chunk of an advancement professional’s whole human system.  Anxiety results when our bodies get left behind.  As we pursue enormous campaign goals in competitive times,  neuroscience and positive psychology have much to share about the corrosive effects of unacknowledged anxiety in our development shops—and much to teach about learning to work with mindfulness and ease.

Human beings run on three operating systems—cognitive, emotional, and physical—that are designed to work in sophisticated synchrony.  When your mind has a thought, it creates an emotion that is felt in the body.  The body reacts.  The mind may overlook this response or heed its message.  We can learn to use this finely tuned system of checks and balances to achieve delicious productivity—but only if the system is kept healthy, open, and clean.

As a lifelong fundraiser, now a consultant and coach, I help my clients ensure that their thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations are not ruled by toxins like fear and harsh self-judgments that can inhibit their performance and cause exhaustion and pain.

Many campaign consultants sidestep the emotional and physical components of the human machine, providing benchmark reports and prescribing big jumps in total gift income and visits per month before fully understanding why fundraising progress is slow.  At organizations that anticipate this approach, my first visit can suck the air out of a room—until I breathe, make eye contact, and state my purpose.

I find in many under-performing advancement shops triple, intertwined threats: diffuse focus, insufficient training, and subterranean fear.  Sadly, the pervasive, contagious anxiety often starts within the very person who cares most about success—that dedicated leader semi-consciously driving herself with punitive internal messages every day.

You know that deer-in-the-headlights feeling that wears you out over time?  It starts in a flash.

Richard E. Boyatzis and Annie McKee (2005) and others have shown that in stressful situations, fear-based thoughts activate the oldest, most primitive part of our mind—the limbic system or “lizard brain.”   The almond-shaped amygdala at the base of the brain sounds the alarm and the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, releasing Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, and Cortisol that prepare us to fight, flee, or freeze.  Blood flow is directed away from the cerebral cortex to the large muscles, inhibiting memory and the creation of new neurons.

Living in our sympathetic nervous system erodes thinking and health. Ironically, the first casualty in the development operation’s stress fest quite often are those courageous, delicate major gift conversations we need most.   Survival anxiety keeps us busy rewriting metrics and churning reports instead of seeking out those crucial conversations that spell campaign success.   To the lizard brain, big solicitations seem black or white, all or nothing, win or lose.  Even if we know that solicitation is a process, not an event.

This energy impacts the donor interview.  Without proper preparation, those subconscious “win/lose, make/break, do/die” messages can narrow your visual field and aural acuity so timing suffers and subtle feedback is missed.  Adrenaline spikes blunt your ability to remember details and feel the donor’s truth.  The human body easily confuses excitement and anxiety—this is true for donors, too.

There’s a better way to build transformational gifts.

Joyful, stretch gifts are inspired by love, not fear—and they are born in the present, whole-hearted conversations that only become possible when the fundraiser’s thoughts, emotions, and feelings are calm, clean and clear.

Understanding and improving work teams’ emotional experience—their inner work lives—can seem a daunting investment.  But it pays off big both on, and off, the road.

It may feel risky to explore internal messages and odd to intentionally engage the parasympathetic nervous system at work – but the payoff is huge when your team gels, trusts, and stays.  The payoff magnifies as your committed team facilitates aspirational gifts that delight donors and heal the world.

So next time you sit down with a potential donor or a new hire, slow down.  Notice, with presence and compassion, how he is a whole human, and so are you.

You can follow Beth at: @EBHermanCoach

By Beth Herman, Principal, EBH Consulting   Guest blogger Beth Herman is an advancement consultant, advancement trainer and personal coach.  She specializes in how organizations can build their capacity by focusing on the individuals within the team.

What I Learned About Fundraising Here By Fundraising Abroad

Over the last few years I have had the privilege of conducting fundraising and management work globally.  It has been an incredibly rewarding and fun experience; an experience that goes beyond merely having the opportunity to see new parts of the world.  It has in many ways confirmed and strengthened my/our philosophy of fundraising here in the United States.  My experiences have varied and of course every country and culture are different, but I’ve boiled what I’ve learned down to three main lessons.

Communicating Impact Matters – We all know this in our heart, we talk about it constantly, but I am continually amazed at how infrequently I actually see this happening.  In 2011 I was speaking at the International Fundraising Festival, a conference run by the Czech Fundraising Center in Prague, Czech Republic.  As part of the conference the organizers brought in some donors/philanthropists to speak to the attendees.  I was struck by how forcefully and constantly that talked about a need to have a clear understanding of what their philanthropy was accomplishing.  In fact, it was more or less the only thing they cared with the exception of the percentage of each donation that actually went to services, which I could also argue is part of impact.

Here in the US I rarely see impact talked about in such an upfront manner.  We tend to spend a lot of time talking about mission (what we want to do), methodology (how we do what we do) and track record (what we’ve done in the past).  We seem to rarely “bottom line” our work and come out and say “here’s how the world/community/this family,etc. is better off because of your donation” or if we do, it’s lost in a sea of other information.  Impact is why people give.  Make it front and center.

Stick to Your Vision – Over the last two years I’ve developed a personal interest in civil society development in Central Eastern Europe and South East Europe.  I’ve gone so far as to join the international advisory board of the Czech Fundraising Center and start a blog on Serbian NGOs and civil society.  In talking to some of the folks involved with the civil society sector over there they have lamented to me the fact that in many ways the nonprofits have, or are in danger of becoming, mere arms of the government.  The government or the EU or USAID puts out an RFP for certain work they desire to have done and nonprofits submit proposals to conduct that work.  This isn’t a terrible thing over all BUT I would argue that nonprofits serving communities in those countries will have a far better sense of what those communities needs are than government bodies based in Washington or Brussels.

Far more impactful and interesting and then seeing what institutional funders desire to fund is having your own vision of the impact you’d like create based on the needs that you and your organization see.  Your own vision will inspire and motivate.  Following the money results in mission drift, at best.

People are Generous – A common complaint I hear in parts of the US is that “there is no money here.  This isn’t like New York City where you’re from.”  True enough.  I understand that different regions have more or less people, industries, foundations, etc.  That said, nearly$300B was donated privately last year here in the US.  Many of the places I have been abroad have far less money available to them and far less of a culture of philanthropy and manage to carry on.

Is fundraising always easy?  No. Often it is very hard.  But altruism is a part of our heritage as human beings, hardwired into us.  Give people a clear sense of your vision and how their generosity can help realize that vision and the money will come.

you can follow me at:  @bobosborne17