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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
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Things to consider before sending your next direct mail solicitation


direct mail3A client called and asked for a little help with their upcoming direct mail solicitation. As a result, all I’ve had on my mind over the last few days is direct mail. So, it only made sense to blog about it today. I’m breaking this post down into small sections, and I’m doing so in the order of highest importance (e.g. the first section has a bigger impact on the performance of your mailing than the second section, etc)

Before I begin, I offer this disclaimer (and then a disclaimer to the disclaimer) . . . I am not a direct mail expert. However, with that being said I believe all of us are “quasi-experts” because we all receive mail and if we’re paying attention then we know what works and what doesn’t work (at least from our perspective). Don’t sell your intuition short and always remember to: “Use the force, Luke.

The List

direct mail 4Perhaps, the biggest factor in the success of your direct mail appeal is your mailing list. The following are just a few donor segments that I’ve mailed to throughout the years:

  • current donors
  • lapsed donors
  • donors to a specific special event who you are trying to crossover into an annual campaign
  • new donor prospects (cold lists being used for acquisition purposes)

Your response will vary depending on your audience. For example, you will most likely get a better response rate and raise more money by mailing to people who already give to you. Why? Because they know you. They love you. They know what they’re investing in and understand the return on investment.

Which donor niche most likely to yield the lowest response rate? Your cold list of prospects . . . people who don’t contribute yet.

Not only does the character of the list, in and of itself, typically determine campaign performance, but it should also inform your strategies and tactics. Here are just a few examples:

  • letter content will likely be different for lapsed donors compared to new prospects
  • follow-up recognition and stewardship messaging and strategies might look and sound different for new prospects compared to returning donors

The Outer Package

direct mail1Your beautifully crafted letter means nothing if the recipient of your mailing doesn’t open the envelope. Right?

For this reason, you need to put some thought into what the package looks and feels like. Here are just a few strategies I’ve read about and experimented with throughout the years:

  • use pictures and teaser phrases on the outside envelope to encourage people to open the envelope
  • use actual stamps (e.g. first class or non-profit bulk stamps) because they allegedly get a higher open rate than an envelope using an indicia
  • use color enveloped because get opened more regularly than a standard white one (or at least put color on the white envelope)
  • use an odd sized package because they allegedly get opened more often than a standard #10 envelope
  • hand address envelopes (when practical) because those letters allegedly get opened more often than those with labels and windows

The psychology of direct mail is complex and every expert has their own opinion. My suggestions are:

  1. Google around, read some of the data out there, and develop your own point of view
  2. Test, test, test . . . try different approaches and track your results
  3. Pull together focus groups of donors or prospects and ask their opinions

Always remember that the more you personalize your mailing, the better off you will be.

The Letter
If you are lucky enough to get someone to open your envelope, a good rule of thumb is to design your letter with the understanding that most readers will spend 10 seconds or less with your appeal.

I suggest you focus on making the following parts of your letter pop because these are the components most commonly viewed by readers in the first five to 10 seconds:

  • salutation (make it personal and get it right)
  • first paragraph (don’t beat around the bush and ask for specific contribution amount right off the bat)
  • signatory (customize who is signing the letter based on relationship with reader or secure well-known and respected person in your community)
  • post script (most people read the PS so use it right by reiterating your call to action and tell them how to participate)

Lots of experts have lots of advice when it comes to your letter. Here is some of the advice I’ve personally subscribed to throughout the years:

  • tell a story and make it emotional (focusing on heroes and villains puts you on the right track )
  • ask for a specific contribution amount
  • bold/italicize/underline a few words or sentences that are most important and convey your message
  • don’t pack the letter with lots of words . . . less is more
  • write the letter using a conversational style (don’t worry about what your 7th grade grammar teacher told you)
  • focus more on the donor and less on your agency (use the word YOU)
  • when referencing yourself and your agency don’t use the “royal WE” . . . make it personal and use “I”
  • white space and pictures of people (especially cute kids and animals if applicable to your mission) are preferable to lots of words
  • larger fonts and more space between sentences accommodates your more mature donors

I could literally go on and on and on, but you don’t have time for that this morning. If you are interested in doing more research, the following are a few of the people I love to read on this subject:

What has been your organization’s experience with targeted or direct mail? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Faith in fundraising


I’ve been thinking about this post for months, but I’ve been frightened to tackle it head-on. However, after speaking with a number of non-profit professionals and faith-based donors, I’ve found my sea legs and decided to talk about God and resource development. Buckle up! This should be an interesting post.  :-)

Genesis

genesisHaha! You thought I was going to start with something like, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  (OK, the thought went through my head. Guilty as charged!)

The idea for this post came from a former client whose name I will not share. I decided not to share the agency’s name for three main reasons:

  1. I’m not sure how you will react to what I’m about to say and they don’t need added attention
  2. I feel strongly about the confidentiality clause in my contracts
  3. I honestly couldn’t help them and this isn’t a success story

The idea for this post came from a client whose . . .

Resource development strategy was rooted in prayer

There isn’t a lot of structure to this agency’s fundraising program. As I said, the strategy was mostly asking God to provide.

While I respect people of faith incorporating their relationship with God into their agency’s comprehensive resource development program, there was little to no structure to speak of . . .

  • There was no written resource development plan
  • There was no donor cultivation going on
  • Solicitation involved sending letters to random names in the phone book
  • There didn’t appear to be much stewardship going on either

However, on two different occasions, when cash appeared to be getting tight, prayers were answered and each time it was an unlikely five figure gift.

Needless to say, the prayer strategy was working and nothing I could bring to the table compared.

In the end, I walked away from this engagement wondering if I failed this organization and more importantly contemplating what role prayer could and should play in resource development.

seekHe who seeks finds

In the gospel according to Matthew, it is written:

Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened.

I sought out a friend who has worked in the non-profit sector for decades including time as a fundraising professional at a faith-based hospital foundation. I sat down with her and asked her to please share a few of her experiences.

While she didn’t subscribe to the idea of simply praying for contributions, she did educate me on the role that faith played in her fundraising shop at the hospital foundation. The following are just a few examples she shared:

  • When doing prospecting work for their capital campaign, a donor’s Catholic faith was a consideration.
  • In cultivating or soliciting prospects and donors, it wasn’t uncommon for a nun to play a role because fundraising is all about relationship building.
  • Religious messaging was built into the case for support because the hospital was faith-based.
  • Mission moments at the beginning of meetings sometimes had faith-based elements.
  • Prayer (when appropriate) sometimes occurred at the beginning of a meeting with a donor.

The bottom line is the fundraising department was very sensitive to how religion was used in the resource development process, and their guiding principle was always RESPECT.

good worksGive to him who asks of you

Sitting down with my faith-based fundraising friend helped me process what I had encountered, but things didn’t really come together until recently when I interviewed a number of faith-based donors.

These individuals see their philanthropy through a faith-based lens such as the one found in the gospel according to Matthew:

‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;

These donors understand charitable giving in a different way. Depending on their faith, some saw philanthropy as “good works” and others said it was something they were called by God to do. One donor even explained to me that she is in business in order to use her profits to do God’s work.

When speaking to these folks, it wasn’t uncommon for them to answer my question with an answer sounding something like this:

“I’m not sure. That is something I will need to pray on.”

If these individuals are going to see your agency and its mission as something that fits into their philanthropic portfolio, they will need help from you in seeing how it fits. As mentioned earlier, this might mean drawing connections between where your mission intersects with the mission of their faith. However, it is important not to use faith as a “strategy” or “tactic” and instead let the value of RESPECT guide everything.

How have you engaged faith-based donors? Do you have any church congregations who donate to your cause? If so, how do you steward those gifts? 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
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

How to “surprise and delight” your non-profit donors


input requestedCraig Linton, blogger at Fundraising Detective, is hosting the July Nonprofit Blog Carnival. In his call for submissions earlier this month, he asked his fellow non-profit bloggers to “Share your posts on welcoming donors and reducing attrition.

It was this simple request that inspired me to write the following email yesterday and send it to 25 of my non-profit friends across the country.

Erik’s email request to share thoughts and experiences

To:  Erik’s NFP friends
From:  Erik Anderson
Date:  July 23, 2014
Re:  A small favor: 30 seconds of your time?

Dear non-profit friend:

I am writing a blog tomorrow (Thursday) morning and I need a quick favor from you. Would you please click reply to this mail and take 30 seconds to write between two and five sentences answering the following question:

What do you do to welcome donors to your cause and surprise and delight them?

I will incorporate your response into tomorrow morning’s DonorDreams blog post without attributing the response to you or your agency. This way you don’t need to worry about people calling you or supporters seeing your actions as anything less than nice and genuine.

I know you’re busy and appreciate you taking a 30 second break from work to help me out.

Sincerely,
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC

The responses kept coming in!

To be honest, I know how busy my non-profit friends and clients are. I have worked on the front line of a number of non-profit organizations, and I’ve experienced the hurricane that beats every agency’s beach on a daily basis.

So, when 14 people responded to my email request, I was pleasantly surprised at first and then I was humbled that they took time out of their chaotic day to share their thoughts or experiences.

Thank you to those who responded to my call to action. I appreciate you. I appreciate what you do. I loved your submissions.

Warning to readers: There was a lot of content submitted yesterday, and I am sharing it ALL with you. As a result, this post will be a little long today, but I promise that you will find pearls of wisdom embedded in your colleagues comments. In an effort to bring some structure to everyone’s experiences, I’ve divided people’s suggestions into categories. As you saw in my original email, I promised people anonymity unless they decided to share their identity in their response. Enjoy!

thank you letterAcknowledgement letters, emails, phone calls and gifts

  • “I will share what I have – but I cannot really help much here.  Things I have done in the past, but unfortunately have not been particularly consistent: 1) Asked the board to make phone calls thanking first time donors; 2) Sent thank you notes saying that we know that this is a first donation for them; and 3) For a large first time donor, we have taken a small, kid made gift.
  • For first time donors of any size, we send a handwritten “Thank You” note signed by our kids. For amounts from $1,000 to $5,000 donors also receive a call from one of our members, letting them know what their donation means to them personally.  Anything over $5,000 the donor receives both of the above as well as an original piece of artwork made by one of our kids and hand delivered to the donor.  All donors are recognized  at our annual event.  This has really made a difference in donor retention.  They love talking with the kids.”
  • “To show special appreciation in certain circumstances: 1) we send donors thank you letters that have been written or made by our youth; 2) send thank you letters with pictures of clients during an activity; 3) ask board members to make a personal thank you call; 4) send a birthday email; 5) send hand written thank you notes; 6) send a logo pin or other small gift; and 7) send a paper or email newsletter 3-4 times a year.  Sorry it isn’t in sentence form…I am going on vacation and have four deadlines to finish.”
  • “I always send a little note to thank them for their gift, and I use a handmade card because I love to scrapbook. While I often get comments on the beautiful cards, my favorite surprise is having the older Club members make turtles. This is an easy gift to do with just a microwave (pretzel, Rollo and a pecan). We put a few of the candies in a cellophane bag, tie with a ribbon, and attach a little poem of thanks telling them this was a handmade gift of thanks. The kids then deliver them if they can, or I do. This seems to thrill our donors.”

Treating donors like you would treat your BFF

  • In regards to surprising and delighting donors, I think I have found the best way is to treat them as people. In doing so, you welcome learning about them — their hopes and dreams and thoughts. You can learn so much about their families and what makes them personally tick. This can all be done with a phone call, a special note, or their favorite things (e.g. coffee or candy). In doing so we hope they feel what we all want to feel — special, noticed and appreciated.”
  • “We make their experience more personal.  We introduce them to our kids and let them get to know them. We help them understand that we are interested in them, and not just their financial support.”

Demonstrating impact

  • We welcome them personally and in writing and place a huge emphasis on stewardship; reporting that their generous contribution is being used in the way they intended and assuring them through both statistical and anecdotal means that their contribution is making a significant impact. I know that all sounds pretty standard but it’s what we do.”

take a tourInviting donors to take a tour

  • The best way to welcome donors to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus is to invite them to tour the Club. Donors are always so surprised when kids from the Club approach them and introduce themselves in a professional way. It is a key behavior that our staff drill into kids and one that really sets our program apart. In addition to being a great skill for kids to learn, donors don’t usually expect to come into the neighborhoods we serve and see such impeccable manners and poise. This experience has engaged many of our donors but also prepared many Club kids to perform well in job and college interviews.”
  • “I believe it is important to listen to our donors and find out first what their passions are and then tailor  our approach to meet them.  When we meet with a potential donor, we like to start with a tour of the facility and provide information about our community needs and the services provided that address those needs.  Usually delight comes when we listen to what drives our donors, and find a way to partner their passions with our mission.”
  • “We try to welcome donors to our cause by getting them to come into the Club for a tour while the kids are here.  This way they get to see exactly what positive impact we make with the youth in our community as well as what positive impact their donations are making.  A little (and easy) surprise for our donors comes in the form of a hand drawn and written thank you card from our youth members that is placed in their “official” administrative thank you letter sent out after we receive their donation.  It is such an easy thing to have our kids do and not only teaches them about appreciation and what others do for them but also sends a heartwarming thank you to our new and repeat donors.  How could donors not be committed to our cause after seeing what we do in action and getting a personalized card from one of the kids as well?!

Pictures and stories

  • One of the first stewardship activities we do is to make them feel that they are a part of what we do here, a part of our Boys & Girls Club family. Sending updates about the individual progress and successes of our kids made possible by donors is a great way to do that. It is similar to receiving an invitation to a recital or a graduation announcement from loved ones. Those pictures and stories are shared so donors can celebrate significant life successes together with them. It makes them feel more a part of their lives. This same thing occurs when we bring in new donors by sharing specific success stories about our kids. Because in reality, those donors ARE a part of each child’s life at the Club.”
  • “We welcome new donors by sharing stories of impact – stories of real kids from our community who have real challenges and then how the Boys & Girls Club works hard to improve their lives.  We share these stories through targeted mailings, events we hold, through our Board of Directors’ relationships, through our Social Media efforts, etc.  Then we surprise our donors by thanking them as often as we can – first with a letter after their donation, then with a personal phone call, through a holiday card, and then through our annual “Thank-a-thon Night” in which our Board Members call every donor to simply share our gratitude and finally, for those donors who make a gift of $500 or more we invite them to a special “Donor Night” held at one of our Board Member’s homes in which we treat them to food, drinks, and fun – and the funny thing is, we tell them more stories of real kids and what we do to help these kids while we have their attention and in person.  It’s a constant and intentional pipeline of stories, impact, appreciation, recognition, donation, stories, impact, appreciation, etc.”

chocolate covered strawberriesSend chocolate covered strawberries

I should’ve included this response under the first category, but it was so unique that I had to break it out and highlight it. At first, I was skeptical and thought my friend was pulling my leg. So, here is how the email thread went:

  • Non-profit CEO: “I delight them with a dozen chocolate covered strawberries delivered to their house as a surprise.
  • My response email: “I am sensing sarcasm and won’t publish that. If you do indeed do this (and where is that money coming from), then let me know and I’ll include it in tomorrow’s post.  I’m looking forward to our lunch in a few weeks.”
  • CEO’s email response: “No, I am serious! My four biggest donors LOVED the unexpected chocolate strawberries. When they call to thank me, it gives me another chance to discuss the Club and their donation(s).  I generally give out 10 to 15 per year. Trust me . . . IT WORKS!!!

Well, that was embarrassing. I apologized to this friend for ever doubting his resource development genius.  :-)

Invite donors to participate, get them involved behind the scenes, and recognition

  • 1) We invite our donors to participate in behind the scenes engagement opportunities (conductor searches, rehearsals, sitting on stage with orchestra during a dress rehearsal, radio interviews, Fall Camp activities).  2) Send selected performance and Honors Groups CD’s to donors.  3) Provide invitations to hospitality events (concert receptions, lunches or dinners with staff, Board member, and artistic staff, meet & greets with guest artists and guest conductors) and complimentary tickets to ensemble performances.  4) Invitations for complimentary tickets to Chamber Music Institutes Concerts and Honor Groups performances. 5) Instituted a Servant Leadership award given each year to a volunteer or donor.”
  • Working with volunteer groups that come through our agency, I recognize that they are giving of their time. In our post-project “debrief,”  we thank them for their work and give them stats on their impact. We also share additional ways they can get involved. It could be other ways to volunteer or a special project. We provide them with our most recent appeal that offers stats and a call to action. We share other ways (beyond time) how they can impact the mission. Now this is planting a seed, while not discounting the two hours they just “sweat-it-out-for-good.”

This has been the longest blog post that I’ve ever published at DonorDreams. Again, thank you to everyone who weighed-in with what is working on the front line of their agencies when it comes to stewardship activities. Based on this response, there must be lots of surprised and delighted donors out there.

Did I forget to send you and email? Is there something that your agency is doing to steward donors and is having a positive impact on reducing your donor turnover rate? If so, please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other.

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Seuss on your donors


uncertainty“I laughed at the Lorax, “You poor stupid guy!
You never can tell what some people will buy!”

Business is business!
And business must grow
regardless of crummies in tummies, you know.

– Written my Dr. Seuss in The Lorax


 

There are so many things that I find amazing about Dr. Seuss, and one of those things is that he packs so much into so few words. In the post I wrote last Thursday, I used Seuss’s words from “The Lorax” to address the idea of growth in the non-profit sector and the need for planning. Today, let’s take the same quote and look at your agency’s donors.

You never can tell what some people will buy!

While this quote is obviously focused on the for-profit sector and consumers, I think the same can be said for donors to non-profit organizations.

In a recent battery of donor interviews, I found people all over the map with their motivations. Here are just a few of the things I heard them say:

  • I like this organization’s mission and the programs they offer their clients.
  • This agency gets results.”
  • They know how to stretch my contribution.”
  • I really like the executive director.”
  • Someone on the board is a good friend of mine.”
  • I am an alumnus and that organization made a difference in my life.”

In reality, there are probably countless reasons why people give to your non-profit organization, and it is easy to take the position that it doesn’t matter as long as they keep giving.

But I believe that taking this position is a mistake.

If you want donors to go from making their first gift to their second, then you need to give them what they want. AND . . . if you don’t know why they gave to you in the first place, then it is hard to give them what they want.

Stewardship activities run the spectrum and some of them get you no closer to understanding your donors such as:

  • gift acknowledgement letters
  • annual report
  • gift acceptance policies
  • handwritten letters

relationship buildingOther stewardship activities definitely get you a little closer to building that relationship and understanding your donors’ rationale for making a charitable contribution:

  • tours of facility
  • follow-up thank you phone calls
  • annual sit down visits
  • focus groups
  • interviews
  • surveys
  • stewardship receptions and events

Seuss is right . . . you never can tell what motivates people. So, let’s stop guessing.

I understand that these types of activities are time consuming, which is a commodity many non-profit organizations lack.

So, what is the answer?

Segment your database and target donors for cultivation / stewardship activities. If you are a small agency with very little capacity, this activity might result in targeting less than five donors.

Don’t do this organically. Put together a plan for each donor. It doesn’t have to be a big plan, but put some thought into it. There are lots of samples out there on the internet. One set of templates I found that I liked is provided by Gary Hubbell Consulting.

In addition to templates, there are a ton of white papers available online. The following is just a few that I like:

What is your agency doing to engage donors, deepen relationships, and most importantly, understand their motivation for giving? Please scroll down and share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below. Why? Because we can all learn from each other. Or perhaps you want to answer the more appropriate Seuss-related questions:

  • Would you like them in a house?
  • Would you like them with a mouse?
  • Would you eat them in a box?
  • Would you eat them with a fox?

Come on, friends! Let’s have some fun this morning!!!  What are you doing with regard to donor stewardship? Where are you doing it? What have been your results?

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

 

A basic truism about fundraising volunteers


horse to waterI believe it is a basic truism that you can’t make people do anything they don’t want to do. Every example I can think of ends up not working.

As a nation, we tried to force people to stop drinking (when they didn’t want to) by passing a constitutional amendment banning alcohol. The result? A black market and the rise of Al Capone.

Tell someone to stop smoking or lose weight (when they don’t want to) and it might result in short-term results, but the relapse rate in the long run is high.

While I’m sure there are exceptions to what I am calling a truism, I think I am more on the right track than the wrong track with this belief.

So, if you’re buying what I’m selling this morning, I have one simple question for you:

“Why do so many of us try to force non-profit board members to do fundraising when they tell us that they are strongly opposed to do it?”

I know, I know. We do it because many of our fundraising models need volunteers to be involved in order for it to work. Obviously, another basic truism in fundraising is that “people give to people.

However, I still go back to where I started . . . forcing people to do what they don’t want to do is a recipe for failure.

So, what is the solution?

In my opinion, the answer can be found in the old Texas two-step:

  1. Stop recruiting people to do things they don’t want to do
  2. Start engaging people in honest discussions about what they do want to do

birds of a featherBoard Development

There have been many blog posts written on this subject, but it is time to stop agreeing with what is written and start putting those thoughts into action.

Your board development and recruitment process must include honesty, transparency and a number of tools that set expectations before a volunteer is asked to say “YES” to joining your board.

If someone wants to join your board but doesn’t have the stomach for fundraising, then you need to find another role for them in your organization (e.g. program volunteer, committee work, etc).

This type of strategic focus in recruiting like-minded people when it comes to fundraising will help solve your problem because you’ll no longer be forcing people to do what they don’t want to do.

your seat on the busResource Development Plan

Unfortunately, this board development strategy won’t be enough to completely solve your problem.

Why?

Because not everyone around your boardroom table will be comfortable participating in every aspect of your fundraising program.

Some people are drawn to planning parties (e.g. special event fundraisers). Other people are attracted to your pledge drive and sitting down face-to-face with their friends to ask for money. There are also be a number of people who appear to disdain traditional fundraising activities, but who are open-minded to opening doors, going on donor solicitation visits (as long as you do the talking and asking), and various other stewardship activities.

The reality of the situation is that you need people to do all of these things in order for your fundraising program to be successful.

This is where involving everyone in writing your annual resource development plan comes into play.

Getting everyone involved in the planning process is akin to asking them to choose which seat on the bus they want to sit.  In doing so, you avoid the pitfall of arm twisting and making people do what they don’t want to do (which never works and is where we started in the first paragraph of this blog post)

So, there you have it! Your agency’s fundraising problem is solved.  ;-)

Good luck rolling out this two-part strategy and please circle back to this space to let me know how it works out for you.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Ben Franklin is the father of American philanthroy


Every year for the last 15 years or more, I take the week of the Fourth of July off and head up to an old Boy Scout friend’s cottage in Michigan. Needless to say, blogging gets a little difficult when you’re looking out over Saginaw Bay trying to forget about the world. So, I’ve decided to re-post two older pieces this week pertaining to philanthropy’s roots in the founding of our country.

Today’s re-post is actually from the end of 2011 when I was trying to be cute and offer readers predictions for the coming year.

Enjoy!


 The Final 2012 Non-Profit Prediction

This entire week we’ve been looking back upon 2011 for major trends, and then looking forward to 2012 with an eye towards making a few predictions. Today’s post speaks to a fundraising prediction that has been true every year since the birth of our country more than 235 years ago:

If you ask people to donate, then you will raise lots of money.

A few days after Christmas, a friend sent me an email with the following Benjamin Franklin quote from Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography and Other Writings:

“It was about this time that another projector, the Rev Gilbert Tennent, came to me with a request that I would assist him in procuring a subscription for erecting a new meeting-house.  It was to be for the use of a congregation he had gathered among the Presbyterians, who were originally disciples of Mr. Whitehead.  Unwilling to make myself disagreeable to my fellow-citizens by too frequently soliciting their contributions, I absolutely refus’d.  He then desired I would furnish him with a list of the names of persons I knew by experience to be generous and public-spirited.  I thought it would be unbecoming in me, after their kind compliance to me solicitations, to mark them out to be worried by other beggars, and therefore refus’d also to give such a list.  He then desir’d I would at least give him my advice. “That I would readily do,” said I; “and in the first place, I advise you to apply to all those whom you know will give something; next, to those whom you are uncertain whether they will give anything or not, and show them the list of those who have given; and, lastly, do not neglect those who you are sure will give nothing, for in some of them you may be mistaken.”  He laugh’d and thanked me, and said he would take my advice.  He did so, for he ask’d of everybody, and he obtained a much larger sum than he expected, with which he erected the capacious and very elegant meeting-house that stands on Arch-street.”

Ben Franklin is considered by most people to be the “Father of American Philanthropy”. His advice is timeless and perfect for those non-profit executive directors and fundraising professionals who are stewing over what their 2012 new years resolution should be:

Don’t say “NO” for anyone.

Ask everyone if they want to support your mission
and invest in the outcomes and impact your agency produces.

Ask! Ask! Ask!

If you do this, then my 2012 prediction for you is that regardless of the economy and any other external influences your non-profit organization will thrive and you’ll exceed all of your fundraising goals.

Speaking of non-profit new years resolutions, do you have any? If so, please use the comment box below and share your thoughts because we can inspire each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

America was built on a foundation of philanthropy


Every year for the last 15 years or more, I take the week of the Fourth of July off and head up to an old Boy Scout friend’s cottage in Michigan. Needless to say, blogging gets a little difficult when you’re looking out over Saginaw Bay trying to forget about the world. So, I’ve decided to re-post two older pieces this week pertaining to philanthropy’s roots in the founding of our country.

Enjoy!


Philanthropy and the Fourth of July

Happy Fourth of July everyone!

As with most Americans today, I find myself reflecting back on our country’s history. While doing so, I became curious about how the history of philanthropy is woven into America’s story. After a little bit of googling and thinking, it is very obvious that one of very cornerstones on which we’ve built our country is philanthropy and charity. Consider the following facts:

  • In 1628, the Massachusetts Bay Company established the first ever American “board” to manage colonial business.
  • In 1630, John Winthrop preaches to Puritans bound for America that it is the obligation of the rich to care for the poor.
  • In 1638, John Harvard’s planned gift establishes a major American educational institution.
  • Throughout the 1700s, Benjamin Franklin is involved in numerous philanthropic projects including creation of the first circulation library in Philadelphia. He arguably plants the seeds of philanthropy throughout the founding of our country.

The list goes on an on. Click here to see a very interesting chronology of philanthropy published by our friends at the National Philnthropic Trust.

declaration of independenceThere is also a great white paper published on the website learningtogive.org that argues that the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution are underpinned by philanthropic principles.

First, consider that “philanthropy includes voluntary and active efforts to promote human welfare and well-being.” Look no further than the Constitution’s preamble that charges our new country with many things including providing for the “general welfare”.

Click the aforementioned link to read so much more about how philanthropy is woven throughout the American tapestry.

I encourage you to take a moment this Fourth of July to reflect upon philanthropy’s roots in our American democracy and pay tribute to how it has made us the country we are today.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone!

Here is to your health!

 Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Another lesson learned from a donor about relationship building


On Tuesday of this week, I shared with you a story that a donor had shared with me while walking me down his driveway to my car, and it had to do with a skunk and an incredible moral to the story for all of you workaholic non-profit professionals out there. Today, I am excited to share another short donor story with you about relationship building.

Enjoy!


caricature1Earlier this week, I found myself walking into a title company to interview a donor for a client. As I walked into the office building, I noticed the following things:

  • the employees looked busy
  • there was a sense of purpose in the air
  • there were lots of smiles and people seemed genuinely happy to be doing what they were doing
  • the office was ringed with framed pictures of people drawn in caricature

At first I found the caricature pictures to be out-of-place. I’ve never been in a professional office environment with cartoon pictures everywhere. (By the way, I do mean EVERYWHERE.) However, I quickly realized that these pictures created an atmosphere that permeated the workplace.

When the donor greeted me in his waiting room, I asked: “What’s up with all the caricature pictures? Is it a local hall of fame?

He explained that the pictures were of local real estate professionals who use the services of his title company to close their property deals. He said that he used to make bobble head dolls of his customers, but that practice got a little bit out of hand. So, they started doing caricature pictures instead.

caricature2I walked away from the conversation thinking this was a unique, fun and quirky business practice. I also came to understand that this business practice was a genius idea on so many different levels:

  • it was obviously a form of recognition
  • it was a practice that allowed the company to express gratitude to their clients for choosing their company
  • it created a fun office culture infecting employees with an attitude that couldn’t help but bring a smile to their faces
  • it served as a constant reminder to everyone that these are the people they work for and the reason they are in business

Throughout the entire interview, I had the theme song from the 1980s television sitcom Cheers — “Where Everyone Knows Your Name” — running through my head. LOL

As the donor walked me to the lobby and the front door, I expressed again my love of his framed caricatures. He graciously accepted the compliment and then summed up his business practice with these few words:

“It’s all about relationships.”


Indeed!

Business is all about relationships and so is your non-profit organization’s fundraising program.

As I walked through the parking lot back to my car, I couldn’t peel the smile off my face. I just love it when a donor touches your heart and teaches — or reminds you of – something.

Driving away to my next donor interview, I made a promise to myself. If I ever find myself back to the front line of a non-profit organization as an executive director or fundraising professional, I am going to incorporate this framed caricature idea in some way, shape or form. Here are just a few of the ideas I came up with for framed caricature picture:

  • distinguishing an employee of the month
  • spotlighting successful clients
  • recognizing board volunteers
  • appreciating donors who join a monthly giving program or donor recognition society
  • identifying great program volunteers

Has a donor ever inspired a new business practice at your agency? If so, what was it? Can you think of other creative ideas on how to incorporate caricature pictures into your workplace that we can add to the list above? Please scroll down and 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
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

 

A donor learns a lesson from a skunk


I’ve been doing lots of interviews with donors recently, and gosh do they some of the darndest things.  :-)   I have two donor stories that I just can’t resist sharing this week (today and Thursday) with DonorDreams blog subscribers.

Enjoy!


 

skunkAs I walk down the driveway of an 80-something-year-old donor, he starts sharing a story with me about a skunk that appeared in his very nice and upscale neighborhood.

One morning while walking down the driveway to get the newspaper for his wife, he observed a skunk walking in circles and making its way down the street towards his house. As the skunk got closer and closer, this donor realized it accidentally had gotten its head stuck in a plastic soda cup, and it was circling and weaving around because it was disoriented and couldn’t see where it was going.

Not knowing what to do, this donor called the police department and asked for help.

As you can probably imagine, neighbors came out of their homes to see what was happening. Additionally, people driving by pulled over to investigate what all the commotion was about.

One of the people who had pulled over, asked the donor what was going on. After explaining the situation to her, she simply asked:

“Why hasn’t anyone here just walked up to the skunk and pulled the cup off of its head?”

Of course, no one had wanted to get sprayed by the skunk, and in the case of our 80-something-year-old donor he didn’t move very well anymore.

Sensing that no one was willing or able to do what was necessary, this lady walked up to the distressed animal, grabbed the cup and shook it gently until it came off of the skunk’s head. No one got sprayed, and the skunk ran for cover under the nearest bush.

With nothing left to look at, everyone went along on their merry way.

Problem solved . . . thanks to one lady who had the courage to step up and do what was obvious to everyone.


 

As I approached the end of the driveway with the donor and the skunk story came to an end, I couldn’t help but ask “Is there a moral to the story?

Which of course there was . . . he simply smiled and said:

“Do what you can do!”

As I drove away, I couldn’t help but smile. This donor had just summed up the entire interview that took me an hour or two to complete in a matter of a few minutes. In fact, he summed up so much more including the mantra for your agency’s:

  • resource development program
  • programming
  • volunteer efforts
  • special projects
  • board engagement

As you organization runs around your community talking about needs and the case for support, there will be lots of people who just stand there looking at you like that skunk. They will be paralyzed and unwilling to step up to do what is obviously necessary.

You need to keep in mind that it isn’t your job to convert these people. That is hard work and likely going to be a waste of time. Instead, it is your job to find the few people who are willing to do what is necessary.

Have you ever walked away from a conversation with a donor with a fun story that invoked an epiphany related to your non-profit work? If so, please use the space below and share it with the rest of the world.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

 

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