Seeking your input on donor databases and QuickBooks Online

data integration1One of my many jobs in this world is being the webmaster and community manager for a large national organization’s resource development website, which essentially acts as a fundraising toolbox for their local affiliates. One of the many functions of the website is an “Ask the Expert” service where front line staff can ask resource development questions and receive an answer in approximately 24 hours. A few weeks ago a question was asked about donor databases and QuickBooks Online. While I’m happy with our answer, I’m wondering if there isn’t more advice that could’ve been provided.

So, this morning I’m inviting all of you to become one of our “experts” and weigh-in with advice that will help round out the response that was originally provided.

The Question

“I am looking for guidance on purchasing a donor management system. We currently use QuickBooks online version and are having difficulty finding a solution that will integrate with the software. Are there any solutions out there that are recommended?

The Answer We Provided

There is a great workbook in The Vault titled “Getting the Most from Your Decision: Four Steps to Selecting Donor Management Software.” It is located in the Donor Management Guides section where you will find many more interesting resources that can assist you in making a sound decision.

It sounds like your organization has ranked data integration with your QuickBooks Online account as a high priority. As you move from the second step of your search process (e.g. prioritizing) to the third step of the process (e.g. deciding), you will end up:

  • engaging a variety of companies
  • viewing many product demonstrations
  • using your list of preferred functions and features to screen your options

I encourage you to walk this path with other people (e.g. preferably other system users and individuals who will be impacted by this decision).

With all of this being said, it sounds like you are following this process and disappointed in how few options exist when it comes to data integration with your QuickBooks Online account.

The national organization has a policy that prohibits me from recommending specific products. So, please do not construe any of the following information as a recommendation.

After some preliminary investigating, it looks like the following two donor database products offer the feature that you’re looking for:

I also found an online service called itDUZZit which seems to work with DonorPerfect in the cloud to configure and integrate your data with QuickBooks Online. You should check into the willingness of this company to create other bridges for other products. From what I saw on their website, this might be an option.

It is important to note that I have no experience using DonorSnap and itDUZZit, and I have very little experience with Donor Perfect. Again, please don’t view any of this as a recommendation to purchase those products. I am simply suggesting these options might be worth further investigation.

However, I am recommending the following:

  • Keep looking . . . Google is a great resource and so are all of the articles located in The Vault
  • Identify other non-profit agencies in your community who use QuickBooks Online and ask them if/how they bridge their systems
  • Think outside of the box . . . many cloud-based database systems have export features that give you what you need to upload to QuickBooks Online (and being OK with a few extra clicks might expand your database search options)
  • Don’t lose sight of the fact that data integration is likely only one of many functions and features that you desire. While integration with QuickBooks Online is obviously at the top of your list, I encourage you to guard against letting it blind you from your other functions and features needs.

In researching your question, I reached out to Nancy Guthrie who is the owner of Business Matters, an accounting firm who works with many non-profit organizations like yours and has experience with QuickBooks Online. Here is what she had to say:

Time marches on and there are solutions . . . there are many external softwares that now integrate with QuickBooks online.  I googled “Quickbooks online donor integration” and hit the choice below (DonorSnap). I am sure there may be others.  I support looking at all of the online solutions for data and accounting. It is where the attention is and gives the most flexibility and most modern choices and connections to time and communication tools.  The integration with QuickBooks Online has come a long way!

In a second email, she added this:

At this point, reverting to a desktop-based accounting software will NEVER get my vote — no matter the integration.  The amount of the transaction entry time for deposits saved will never make enough difference to change the accounting away from the Online version, which is so perfect for non-profit organizations.”

I hope this helps. If you have additional questions, please feel free to come back and “Ask the Experts”.

And now . . . the rest of the story?

data integration2OK . . . you’ve had a chance to read the question and answer. What additional advice would you have provided? Do you use QuickBooks Online and a donor database with a data integration bridge? If so, what can you tell us about the data bridge and the database (or CRM)?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. I will happily pass your thoughts along and possibly even append the response that we uploaded to the website.

Similar to Tuesday’s post about revising a whitepaper/brief, I’m asking you to “pay it forward” today.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Why people do and don’t donate to your non-profit agency

why1There has been lots written throughout the years about the psychology of philanthropy. Most of the stuff I’ve read has been right on target with regards to why people open their wallets/purses and give money to a non-profit organization. I’ve been asked to revise a whitepaper titled “Why People Do and Don’t Give Money” for a national organization’s online fundraising toolbox to which their local affiliates have access. So, I thought I’d ask you and the rest of the DonorDreams blog community for a little help this morning. Would you please be so kind and give me one minute (or less) of your time at the end of this post?

The fundraising whitepaper starts off with this simple opening paragraph that frames the rest of the document:

Knowing what motivates donors to make a philanthropic gift helps you determine where your prospect falls in this spectrum. Once you understand where they are coming from, you can plan your solicitation strategy accordingly.”

The following are just a few of the 17 bullet points listed, explaining the motivations of some donors:

  • They have a need to be philanthropic, to do good
  • They like your organization’s mission and believe in your cause
  • They like making a difference
  • They like and have respect for the solicitor
  • They are asked to give!

Then there is a list of another 11 bullet points listing reasons people don’t make donations. Here are three of the reasons provided:

  • They are pressured in any way
  • They are promised any kind of favor in return or there are strings attached to their gift
  • They do not have the money at the moment

Here is where I’m asking you to please take a minute out of your busy day and help me with this small project. Please scroll down and answer the following two questions in the comment box below:

  1. Please share one reason you suspect people donate to your agency. (e.g. something that motivates the donor to contribute)
  2. Please share one reason you suspect donors won’t give to your agency. (e.g. a strategy you don’t use because you know it doesn’t work)

I will take your responses and weave it into a beautiful resource development tool for countless other fundraising professionals to use.

Why should you do this?

Simply stated, this is your opportunity to pay something forward today. Many of us have been the recipients of awesome coaching and mentoring from other professionals along our career paths. I believe those “debts of gratitude” should be repaid joyfully every time the opportunity presents itself.  :-)

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

How much time are you asking for from your board members?

timeI ran across an old board development handout the other day, and it made me laugh. So, I decided to share its essence with you today and ask for your thoughts and opinions. The handout started off with the following two sentences (and I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent):

Of the 8,760 hours that make up a calendar year, ABC agency only asks for 100. These 100 hours, if properly utilized, can help save and/or enhance the lives of hundreds of people in our community.

From this point, the rest of the document actually attempts to breakdown how much time will be spent doing specific things. The following are the categories of activities and estimated hours that were included on the board development handout:

  • 14 hours attending meeting (e.g. board meetings, committee meetings, fundraising events and planning meetings, etc)
  • 20 hours influencing (e.g. advocating for the agency with decision-makers and opinion-shapers such as city council members, United Way trustees, community leaders, business leaders, etc)
  • 20 hours reading and responding (e.g. meeting notices and materials, emails, surveys, etc)
  • 6 hours guiding and planning (e.g. attending an annual board retreat and follow-up planning work session)
  • 20 hours fundraising (e.g. making phone calls, writing letters, sitting down with donors, etc)

They end with this deal closing verbiage:

The 100-hour year comes down to less than two hours per week in support of an organization that is making a vital difference. The commitment we seek is modest, but it is time well spent.

I read and re-read this board development tool and found the following questions floating around my head:

  • How many board members actually volunteer 100 hours during the course of a year?
  • Does the average board member’s volunteer hours really breakout like this tool suggests? If not, I wonder how they spend their time?
  • The phrase “if properly utilized” in the second sentence of the handout sounds like a performance metric for executive directors. Should this be incorporated in some way into a non-profit CEO’s annual performance management plan?
  • Come on! I’ve been in countless board and committee meetings in my life and if there are only supposed to be 14 hours dedicated to those activities, then lots of people are doing something wrong. How many hours does the average board member spend in just board meetings every year?

I’m just getting warmed up with the number of questions that came to mind, but I’m going to stop here because I want to hear what you have to say.

What is your reaction to this board development tool? What questions came to your mind when you read some of this content? If you had to guess, how many hours do your board members give to your agency? If you were given an opportunity to re-distribute these hours and change this tool, what would you change and why?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below. It will only take a minute or two, and we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Time to start writing your 2015 resource development plan

fred the bakerAfter spending a nice long Labor Day weekend in Michigan at a friend’s summer cottage on Saginaw Bay, I am now faced (as are you) with the long slide towards the end of the year. Not only can I not wear white clothing now that Labor Day has come and gone, but my fundraising friends should be starting to engage board, staff and fundraising volunteers in developing their agency’s written 2015 resource development plan.

The process of engaging all necessary stakeholders in this process can oftentimes feel like that old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial featuring “Fred the Baker” who was famous for saying “Time to make the donuts!

Additionally, some fundraising professionals complain that the process can be complicated and confusing.

With all of these things in mind, I decided to commit this morning’s blog post to providing you with resources, samples, templates and worksheets to hopefully make this exercise a little easier this year.

However, before we start, let’s review why writing your agency’s annual written fundraising plan is so important:

  1. It mirrors the creation of your agency’s operating budget, providing board members with the necessary strategies and explanations behind the revenue numbers they see in the revenue budget.
  2. It provides fundraising professionals an opportunity to “engage” their co-workers, board members and fundraising volunteers (e.g. as Jim Collins talked about in his book,  “From Good To Great,” getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats).
  3. It provides clarity around the goals, strategies and tactics necessary for success in the upcoming year.
  4. It allows you to take a step back and see the “forest through the trees” before plunging into another series of campaigns, events and set of fundraising activities (e.g. grant writing, cultivation, stewardship, etc).

Of course, plans come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes.

strategic planning implementationHaving two degrees in planning, I tend to get overly excited about developing plans, and some of my past resource development plans have been 50 and 75 pages in length (Yeah, I have gotten carried away). Those plans included elements such as:

  • statement of fundraising purpose (e.g. big picture case for support document)
  • goals
  • strategies
  • tactics (e.g. action plans for each strategy)
  • comprehensive fundraising calendar
  • resource development policies
  • range of gift charts
  • prospect lists of volunteers broken out by campaign/event
  • prospect list of donors broken out by campaign/event
  • budgets
  • toolkit in appendices with resources such as job descriptions, GRPIs, committee charters, etc

Before you contemplate going to the roof and throwing yourself off of it, please understand that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I recent purchased a copy of Pamela Grow’s e-book “Simple Development Systems: Successful Fundraising for the One-Person Shop“. Her book is a wonderful reminder of how your annual written fundraising plan doesn’t need to be much more than a one page summary sheet that ties back to a series of simple worksheets focused on:

  • grant writing
  • growing individual donors
  • public relations and donor stewardship
  • website and social media
  • how to tell your agency’s story

Regardless of what your plan looks like, I’ve scoured the internet this morning looking for resources to help make your planning experience a little easier this year. Please take a moment to click-through and review some of these samples, templates, and worksheets. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

First, if you have the time, I found this one hour long YouTube video from Emily Davis at GiftWorks on “Creating a Resource Development Plan“. It’s a great resource to frame your journey if you have the time. You might want to also share it with your fundraising volunteers before inviting them to their first planning meeting.

The following are samples and templates you might want to check out (because Stephen Covey always says “Begin with the end in mind.)

Oftentimes, national organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs of America produce samples and worksheets to help their local affiliates with their resource development planning process. Here are two links I think you will find useful:

Is your organization starting its resource development planning process for 2015? What are some of the considerations you’re looking at? What resources do you use to help frame this important process? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Ice Bucket Challenge: You know you’ve gone viral when . . .

going viralJeff Foxworthy has made a career out of answering a simple question: “You know you’re a redneck when . . .”  This morning I thought I’d do something similar with: “You know you’re fundraising campaign has gone viral when . . .” by describing how last week unfolded for me as it relates to the ALS #IceBucketChallenge.

Monday, August 18th

I am getting ready for bed and the local news is on my television. Before cutting away to commercial, the news anchor teases an upcoming segment. The video footage shows someone dumping a bucket of cold water over their head.

I turn the TV off and think to myself “What kind of stupid person dumps ice water on themselves, and how in the heck is that newsworthy?

Tuesday, August 19th
I’m in Rockford, Illinois having lunch with a non-profit executive director. Towards the end of the meal, he starts to lament about how he wishes his national office had the foresight to innovate something as creative as the “Ice Bucket Challenge.”

I must have looked stupefied because his next question to me was: “You’ve heard about this fundraising campaign, right?

When I told him that I had no idea what he was talking about, he proceeded to fill me in on the details.

Wednesday, August 20th

lightning in a bottleFellow blogger and fundraising genius — Jeff Brooks — publishes a blog post titled “What a weasel is going to tell you about the Ice Bucket Challenge“.

I forward it along to the executive director in Rockford with whom I just had lunch along with a few other fundraising friends with an “Amen” and” Hallelujah” because Jeff does a nice job of hitting the nail on the head when he says:

“The problem is the Lightning Factor. ‘Lightning’ has to strike for a campaign to go viral. And nobody has control over the lightning.”

On a side note, I’m beginning to see my Facebook feed fill with friends who are all dumping buckets of ice over their heads, making a charitable contribution to ALS, and challenging others to do the same.

I also saw on Google+ that my friend, Marissa Garza, had written a blog post titled “Haters Gonna Hate: Ice Bucket Challenge Edition.”

This is then first time I remember thinking “Uh-Oh . . . I wonder if someone is going to challenge me since fundraising and non-profit consulting is my line of work?

Thursday, August 21st

ALS icebucketchallenge1The day is winding down. The television is on, we’re into what will likely be the last show of the evening before going to bed, and my phone starts to blow-up. Needless to say, one of my former Boys & Girls Club of Elgin board presidents and good friend, Tim Williams, just completed the ALS #IceBucketChallenge, and I was one of three people he challenged.

My first reaction was: “I should’ve seen this coming sooner.

My second reaction was: “Yippee! I get to do something fun for charity and gain my 15 minutes of online fame by joining my friends in doing something crazy and for a good cause.”

My third reaction was: “What if I do this thing wrong? I don’t want the world to laugh at me. I better do some research. What will I say? Who will I challenge? How much should I donate?

I immediately go to Google+, dig up Marissa Garza’s blog post on “Haters Gonna Hate: Ice Bucket Challenge Edition,” and start my research.

Friday, August 22nd

I get it all figured out, and I take the challenge on my deck in the backyard. I dedicate my challenge to one of my very best friends — Jim Chambers — whose father lost his battle with ALS a number of years ago. I immediately come inside to my computer and donate $100  to ALS using their online donation page.

I bask for hours in the warm glow of philanthropy because the entire exercise from dumping ice water on my head to making the contribution felt really awesome and fulfilling.

Click here to check out my ALS #IceBucketChallenge video:

Later that evening, we attended a Kane County Cougars game with a friend and his children. His 10-year-old son, Mitch, was buzzing with excitement about getting called out by a friend to do the ALS #IceBucketChallenge.

I made the mistake of assuming that Mitch was just being a 10-year-old and getting all excited about the act of dumping ice water on himself and mugging for the camera. I quickly learned how wrong I really was, when I asked Mitch if he planned on making a small donation from his piggy bank to the ALS Foundation. The following response warmed my heart:

“No, I have a bank account and I’m trying to decide whether to donate $50 or $100.”

It was at that moment I realized the complexity of ALS #IceBucketChallenge. All of the following things seem to be going on simply as a result of a bucket of ice:

  • The ALS Foundation is raising a ton of money . . . last story I saw indicated this campaign has crested $30 million since the end of July
  • There is a flood of new donors surging into the ALS Foundation’s donor database systems . . . it will be interesting to see what resource development strategies they employ to steward and retain these donors.
  • Millions of people are self-educating themselves about ALS.
  • The non-profit sector has another successful online fundraising campaign to evaluate as a case study.

My takeaways

I find myself marveling at how I experienced something so viral. I literally went from knowing nothing about this online fundraising campaign early last week to participating in it at the end of the week. If I had to describe what I felt, I would simply use the words “tidal wave” to describe the experience.

To Marissa Garza’s point, I am not a hater. I am intrigued by what is happening, and I am excited to see so many people get into philanthropy (especially when it comes to teaching kids about the power of philanthropy).

However, I totally agree with Jeff Brooks when talks about how non-profits are better served in focusing on fundraising basics rather than trying to catch lightning in a bottle by trying to duplicate the ALS #IceBucketChallenge.

What is your agency doing when it comes to resource development in the wake of this online campaign? Are you trying replicate it? Are you ignoring it and focusing on other fundraising basics and best practices? Or are you trying to find the next wave to ride? Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

The difference between success and failure

goalsMany years ago I traveled the Midwest region as an internal consultant working for a large national non-profit organization. For part of my time there, I worked with countless local affiliated organizations on planning and implementing an annual campaign focused on face-to-face solicitation strategy. Some agencies took to it like a duck to water, and others just struggled. Every once in a while (typically when I’m contemplating the origins of the universe), I think back to those days and wonder what the difference was between those two realities.

Whenever I get into one of those “WHY?” moods, I’ve concluded that differences in the following factors must be what made the difference:

  • resource development skill sets
  • state of donor donor readiness
  • board of directors
  • community factors

While I am sure all of these things play a role, I think it might be even more simple.

This morning I was enjoying my coffee and reading a book when I came across the following passages from the book “The Magic of Thinking Big” written by David Schwartz:

Desire, when harnessed is power.”

Success required heart and soul effort and you can only put your heart and soul into something you really desire.”

When you surrender yourself to your desires, when you let yourself become obsessed with a goal, you receive the physical power, energy, and enthusiasm needed to accomplish your goal. But you receive something else, something equally valuable. You receive the ‘automatic instrumentation’ needed to keep you going straight to your objective.”

While I’ve always believed in the power of goal setting, I guess I’ve never seen it in this light or from this perspective.

So, the answer to my original question very likely is simple . . . those who succeeded just desired it more and those that didn’t do well didn’t.

I guess this is why successful fundraising professionals are focused on measurable goals such as:

  • campaign and event contribution goals
  • sponsorship goals
  • grant writing goals
  • donor retention goals
  • new donor acquisition goals

These goals are encapsulated in strategic plans, fundraising plans, stewardship plans, major gift prospect cultivation plans, annual performance plans, etc.

What type of fundraising-related goals does your organization have? Where are those goals written down? How do those goals get translated into your individual goals and where are those written? Were those goals developed collaboratively and do they align with what you’re passionate about? If not, how do you bridge that gap in order to avoid failure?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Just say NO to planning for the sake of planning

It happens all the time in my line of work. A new executive director or board president gets it in their head that they need a strategic plan because it “cures all that ails you“.  With this vision, they call a planning consultant to facilitate creation of this perfect solution. Of course, the problem is that . . .

Not everyone is ready for strategic planning

The other day I was clicking around the internet looking for readiness assessment tools to share with a client, and I came across a wonderful white paper published by the The Nonprofit Center at La Salle University’s School of Business. It identified the following five instances when many non-profit organizations tend to instinctively reach for the strategic planning tool and should definitely resist doing so:

  1. not readyWhen they are in (or starting to slide into) financial crisis
  2. When the board realizes the executive director “isn’t right” for the organization
  3. The board is fuzzy when it comes to their roles and responsibilities
  4. There is tension throughout the organization (either in the boardroom or on the front line)
  5. There is a pervasive attitude of “We don’t do it that way” or “We tried that and it didn’t work”)

When any of these circumstances are present, then strategic planning isn’t something you should engage in. Click here to read more of that article from The Nonprofit Center. They offer some nice solutions to each of these five situations.

Of course, even if your agency passes this initial test, there are still additional readiness questions you should ask before proceeding. The following are just a few questions I found online embedded in a survey tool developed by the Community Foundation of Monterey County:

  • Is our board proactive in preparing for the future instead of waiting for emergencies to react?
  • Are key community leaders and partners willing to participate in our planning process in a meaningful way?
  • Are the board and staff knowledgeable about current trends in nonprofit management?
  • Does our organization keep good records? Does it use data to support decision‐making?
  • Are board and management aware of the time and resources required to engage in meaningful strategic planning?

There are 10 other readiness assessment questions included in that tool. Click here to read more from the Community Foundation of Monterey County about strategic planning readiness.

questions2My advice to those of you considering a strategic planning engagement is:

  • ask yourself a few questions first
  • make sure the right people are sitting around the table for a potential planning engagement
  • engage a variety of key stakeholders in a collaborative discussion around readiness
  • do a little research about various planning models
  • develop an informed decision about which planning model fits your internal and external circumstances
  • if you decide to hire an external consultant . . . define the project, develop and RFP, and hire someone with experience using the planning model you’ve chosen
  • if you decide against strategic planning, what needs to happen to position the agency for planning and who is doing what and by when to address those issues

Are you considering strategic planning for your non-profit organization? What considerations are you weighing? Who is involved in this decision? Please scroll down and use the comment box to share your thoughts and experiences. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Donor stewardship postcards? They work!

UIUC student unionI have a confession to make. For years, one of the ideas I’ve shared with clients is that a postcard can be an effective stewardship strategy. The truth is that I’ve doubted the effectiveness of this strategy primarily because I had never seen it done well. Today, I’m able to say that I’ve seen the light and officially have become a believer thanks to my alma mater — University of Illinois (UIUC).

Let’s take a moment to review . . .

Back in December, I blogged about how the University of Illinois finally convinced me to make a contribution to the annual fund. I explained in that post how my first gift had been a long time in the making. Click here to read about the initial solicitation, the rejection, the expert use of donor management systems and the persistence involved in securing gift number one 20 years later. It really is a great story in fundraising persistence.

At the end of my December post, I said this:

“For the record, I am excited to now see how the university stewards its donors. Stay tuned!”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the fundraising professionals at UIUC are good at stewardship. Here are just a few of the stewardship strategies they’ve used on me:

  • an automated gift acknowledgement letter
  • another letter from the Department Head  with a little handwritten notation on the letter
  • a letter from the President of University thanking me for my support and updating me on what’s been going on since I made my contribution
  • a number of different email communications
  • a postcard with some many different subtle (and not so subtle) messages

Have you done the math yet? I made my contribution in mid-December. It is mid-August and I’ve probably already received between five and seven stewardship pieces and countless marketing impressions with targeted messaging all designed to secure a second charitable contribution.

It was this last stewardship piece that convinced me that postcards can be an affordable and effective strategy for donor stewardship. I scanned the front and back of the postcard and inserted them below for your viewing pleasure.

UIUC postcard front

This is the front of the postcard. Here are some of the things that jump out at me:

  • The content of the picture conveys a happy graduate and implies that my support helped make her future very bright.
  • The picture also features the most iconic and powerful image that every UIUC graduate loves — Alma Mater. Every graduate I know has some story and happy memory associated with this statue. Just seeing it again on the front of the postcard brought a smile to my face and fond memories flooding back.
  • The two simple words — “Thank You” — are printed on the front of the card. In combination with the words “Illinois Annual Fund” in the lower right hand corner, I don’t even need to turn the postcard over to understand what they are trying to communicate to me.

A picture is worth a thousand words and this stewardship postcard exemplifies this in spades!

UIUC postcard back

This is the back of the postcard. There are 165 words used in the  letter. Here are some of the things that jump out at me:

  • I am updated and told what my charitable contribution is doing (In reality, my gift was made to a department scholarship fun, but that doesn’t stop them from giving me credit for lots of other great things)
  • I am thanked again in gracious tones
  • They specifically recognize that I was a first time donor (so this postcard is obviously targeted)
  • They specifically recognize that my first gift was secured as part of a solicitation to support the Department of Urban & Regional Planning
  • They tell me how I can make a second gift online (this time to the annual fund). Obviously, this stewardship tool is also a cross-channel  ePhilanthropy solicitation tool. It is also a crossover strategy to move me FROM a donor restricted gift to a departmental scholarship fund  TO the annual fund.
  • The words are few, but they are powerful and emotional. They are purposely used to repeated hit my heart. Here are just some of those emotional words and phrases: generosity, impact, invest, choosing, transformational, discovery, innovation, friends, makes a difference, shape the future, etc

We can learn a lot from this stewardship postcard. What do you see? What impressed you? What ideas are you walking away with and plan to incorporate into your next stewardship postcard? Please scroll down and share your thoughts in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Fundraising lesson learned at a lemonade stand

lemonade1Last week I was walking our dog, Betrys, when I came across a lemonade stand in my neighborhood. A mom was helping her two young sons set-up as I approached. It was in that moment that the 3-year-old boy learned a valuable lesson that every fundraising professional learns sooner or later in their career. So, I decided to take a minute to blog about it this morning.

As I approached, we exchanged pleasantries and I complimented the boys on how nicely their roadside stand was coming together. Without missing a beat, the 3-year-old asked me if I wanted to buy a refreshing drink.

Unfortunately, I had left my wallet at home and I explained that I didn’t have any money to make a purchase. I wished them lots of luck and continued walking the dog.

As the dog and I continued on our way, I heard the youngest boy in a distressed voice ask his mother:

“Why didn’t the man stop and buy our lemonade?”

Of course, his mom had to explain in “kid terms” what just happened:

  • It takes money to make a purchase
  • I didn’t have any money
  • Not everyone will want to buy lemonade that day for reasons including lack of funds or in some instances not having a taste for what they were selling

Wiser words have never been spoken, and that boy just learned something that every fundraising professional eventually learns if they practice their craft for long enough.

The fundraising lessons are layered:

  • Not everyone will have the financial means to support your non-profit when you ask, but no doesn’t necessarily mean “never” . . . it might just mean “not now
  • Just because someone has the financial means to make a donation, doesn’t mean they will be inspired by your mission or case
  • Not everyone is going to donate and that is OK … it isn’t our job to beat the money out of them

lemonade2Our job as fundraisers is to understand the rules of engagement when it comes to fundraising:

  1. We need to have a good case for support
  2. We need to identify people who care about that case
  3. We need to develop many channels for people to give because not every giving opportunity will be convenient or desirable to every donor
  4. We need to tell our story well — with emotion and passion
  5. We need to not let the donor who takes a pass on buying our “lemonade” bum us out and impact the next opportunity

What other lessons do you think can be drawn from this lemonade stand experience? How does your agency translate those lessons into fundraising practices? How do you infuse these things into your organizational culture and pass them down from fundraising professional to fundraising professional?

Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Get over your fear and ask for a specific contribution amount

ask1On Tuesday, I wrote a post titled “Things to consider before sending your next direct mail solicitation” and there appeared to be great interest from DonorDreams readers. So, today I decided to drill down on one specific mail solicitation topic — “asking for a specific donation amount” — because it is something few people seem to feel comfortable doing.

Everyone I’ve ever talked to about their mail appeal swears that they are good at asking for a contribution in their letter. However, the truth is that many of the letters I receive default to what I call the “passive ask.

Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • But we can’t do any of this without you. We need you to make a contribution today.”
  • All gifts are appreciated and needed to continue this important mission. Small or large, your gift makes a difference.”
  • Say YES to making a donation today to XYZ agency and being a special part of the XYZ family.”

These were real solicitations that I received from organizations.

Many of you are probably asking:  “What is so wrong with this approach?

The truth of the matter is that this donor (and I suspect many other donors) want to know:

  • what is a reasonable gift for donors like me?
  • what contribution amount from me will help you hit your goal?
  • what level of donation will help you make a difference with your clients?

Put me in a ballpark. Make a suggestion. Bottom line? I don’t really want to think too hard about this. Throw out a suggestion (based upon what you know about me). I’ll consider it. If it is something I can and want to do, then I’ll do it. If it isn’t something I can or want to do, then I won’t.

In my opinion, there is a darker side to this entire question . . .

Stop putting your donors on the spot and making them guess what you need.

This is, in fact, exactly what you’re doing. Right? Let’s think about this situation in a different light.

ask2What if your spouse or friend approached you and said, “I am really hungry and I need you get me food and make a meal before I starve.” However, they didn’t tell you:

  • How hungry they are?
  • How much time they had left before they starved?
  • How much food would satisfy their need?
  • What they want to eat?
  • How they like their food prepared?

You’ve been put on the spot, but you have no idea what is expected of you or what needs to occur to solve the problem.

In my book, that is frustrating! And the last time I checked, it is never a good idea to do things that frustrate your donors and supporters.

So, you’re probably wondering what’s the right way to respectfully make an ask in a mail appeal?

Here’s a few real examples:

  • Smile Train: “We hope you can send a donation of $25 that can cover the cost of sutures for one cleft surgery . . . $50 that can cover the cost of anesthesia . . . $125 that can pay half the costs of one surgery . . . or a most generous donation of $250 that can cover the cost of one complete surgery to save a child forever.
  • Council of Indian Nations: “Mr. Anderson, do you realize that for $10, we have the ability to provide over 90 servings of food to hungry Native Americans?
  • Michelle Obama: “So please, without waiting even a moment, rush your contribution of $1,000, $1,500 or whatever you can afford to Obama for America today.
  • The Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation: “But Founding Sponsors who contribute $150 or more will also receive a limited-edition, numbers photograph of Dr. King and his ‘American Dream’ speech.
  • Boys & Girls Club of Elgin: “Would you consider making a $25.00 donation to the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin to help underwrite educational and technology programs?

ask3A few observations:

  • Technology is amazing and easy to use. Mail merge allows you to personalize every letter and change the solicitation amount for each donor and prospect.
  • If you don’t know the person receiving your solicitation letter, you can always ask for consideration in a range.
  • You can also lay out a variety of giving options with an explanation of what each option helps underwrite.

With all of this being said, I understand the following:

  1. this isn’t easy
  2. there are times when you shouldn’t ask for a specific contribution amount
  3. some people insist there is a science to these issues

If you want to explore this question in more depth (and I encourage you to do so), you might want to investigate the following resources:

How does your agency tackle the issue of setting suggested ask amounts in your targeted and direct mail solicitations? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. Because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


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