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Is your non-profit preparing for the Times Square countdown?


santa letterI spent a decent amount of time last week in the car. When I do that, I typically listen to National Public Radio (NPR), which in the Chicago market is WBEZ 91.5 FM. So, all week long I heard how they were approaching the end of their fiscal year and how they need to hit their pledge drive goal.

When I woke up this morning, I had a few thoughts racing through my head:

  1. OMG . . . it is July! How did THAT happen?
  2. I wonder if WBEZ made its pledge drive goal?
  3. I wonder how many other non-profits that don’t have June 30th year end financials are preparing for their December 31st year-end push?

I remember when I was on the front line and making decisions about fundraising matters. I typically wanted my year-end fundraising efforts and mailings to hit the post office in the beginning of November.

When I gave donors a few weeks before Thanksgiving to consider what they want to do with their year-end charitable giving, it usually worked out better. I tested all sorts of different launch times over the years, and the beginning of November always produced the best results.

So, if your agency follows the same blueprint . . . guess what? You only have four months left to get all of your ducks in a row.

My best advice is to get to work NOW and avoid the last minute rush. Why? Because in my experience the last minute rush always resulted in unexpected hiccups and delays in getting the mailings to the post office.

I’m not suggesting that you write your letter today (but I wouldn’t discourage it either), but there are things you can start doing now that will help you later. Here is a short laundry list of those things:

  • Determine your theme.
  • Put together your project management plan and establish deadlines.
  • Write your internal case for support, which will be the basis of your letter and package.
  • Pull together a focus group of donors and test your case for support.
  • Use the input that you get back from your donors to tweak your messaging and theme.
  • If you like to incorporate a client story into your year-end appeal, then start identifying the client and their story now.
  • We all know that the mailing list is the biggest factor in your success. So, start building your list today. It takes time to wrestle with your donor database and work with a mail house.
  • Plan on mailing out a cultivation / stewardship letter four to six weeks prior to mailing your year-end appeal. Start developing that messaging and package today.
  • Use social media to cultivate and steward your year-end donors. Develop a three month campaign that leads up to and culminates in the launch of your appeal in early November. This obviously starts NOW.

Your agency is probably preparing to march in a Fourth of July parade in the next few days, and year-end thoughts are probably far away, but don’t blink! Because Santa Claus will be coming down the chimney any day now.

You know I’m right!

Still not convinced? Well, consider the fact that more than one-third (and I’ve recently read it could be as big as one-half) of all charitable giving happens in the fourth quarter during the holiday season.

I’ll leave you with this thought and popular expression: “Prior proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.” I’ve heard it referred to as the Seven P’s.

When does your agency start preparing for its year-end appeal? What goes into your planning? What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced? When do you plan on starting this year?

Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts 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

Don’t set the bar too high for your next fundraising appeal


case2Hmmm? I must be on a Jeff Brooks kick because this is the second or third time I referenced his blog — Future Fundraising Now — in the last few weeks. LOL  Did you read his blog post titled “Pixar’s 22 rules of fundraising” from a guest blogger named Andrew Rogers? If not, then you have to find a few minutes to do so. Those 22 rules are awesome and should be part of every fundraising professional’s toolbox. Today, I’m focusing on “Rule 16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

When applying this Pixar rule to fundraising, Andrew Rogers says:

Rule for fundraisers: What happens if the need isn’t addressed? How are real people being affected? In our case, we should never “stack the odds” by exaggerating or otherwise being less than perfectly truthful. On the other hand, don’t tell less than the full truth either, and remember that the full truth often isn’t very pretty.”

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen a non-profit organization try to apply this rule by telling donors things like:

  • We’ll close our doors unless we meet this fundraising goal.
  • We’ll shut down a site if this campaign fails to hit goal.
  • We’ll eliminate this program if we’re not successful.

To be clear, I don’t think Rule 16 is a license to practice extortion or heavy-handed fundraising tactics.

In instances where I’ve seen agencies use urgency messages laced with “We’re gonna close or we’re going to eliminate programming,” two interesting things seem to happen every time:

  1. They usually get an initial bump in money coming in (e.g. donors respond), and
  2. The next time donors get solicited, the response is down again.

I believe there is a simple explanation for this phenomenon . . . donors don’t like to throw good money after bad.

Before you decide to hit that big red panic button on your fundraising dashboard and tell the entire community that you’re in trouble, I advise that you think twice about doing it. All you’re doing is setting the bar very high down the road, and what happens if you cannot get over that bar?

case1I suggest going back and doing exactly what Rule 16 tells you to do:

  • Write a case statement that tells a story about one of your clients (or a composite client).
  • Describe their needs. What is at stake if they don’t succeed?
  • Describe how you help them with those needs. Help me root for them!
  • Describe how a donor’s support will tip the scales in their favor of our main character.
  • Don’t make this story so dramatic that donors conclude that nothing they do will make a difference.
  • Be truthful and make it emotional. You are telling a story!

This case for support document is internal. Use this tool to:

  • develop your agency’s marketing materials and fundraising brochures,
  • write your direct mail and targeted mail letters,
  • write your website and social media copy, and
  • train your fundraising volunteers on how to turn it into a story that they share with donors during a cultivation, solicitation or stewardship visit with a donor.

Always remember . . . donors care about your mission, your clients, and the impact of their contribution. They don’t normally care about saving institutions and your sacred cows.

What does your case for support (e.g. case statement) look like? When was the last time your refreshed that document? How do you go about developing that document? Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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

Fundraising professionals say “Open sez me”?


popeyeWhen I was a kid, I loved to watch cartoons. One of the first cartoons I fell in love with was Popeye. It was because of this early childhood idol that I first ate my spinach. It is also why I’ve been struggling with something I recently read in Tom Ahern’s “Love Thy Donor” eNewsletter.

First things first, here is the passage I’m referencing in Tom’s recent publication:

Last year, my colleague Jen Shang, “the world’s first philanthropic psychologist,” as the New York Times dubbed her (and wife of chief fundraising researcher, Adrian Sargeant) was quoted. “Seven adjectives define what Americans see as a ‘moral’ person,” Jen told the reporter. Here are those seven words, in a sterling silver bracelet custom-crafted by Roxysjewelry.com. The adjectives: kind, caring, compassionate, helpful, friendly, fair, hard-working, generous and honest.

So, what does Popeye have to do with any of this for me?

Well, there is an episode where Popeye meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves and one of the lines of dialog is:

“Open sez me!”

These were magic words that opened something like a cave or possibly his can of spinach. The bottom line is that these were magic words.

When I read Tom’s eNewsletter, all I could hear was Popeye reciting those nine magic adjectives: kind, caring, compassionate, helpful, friendly, fair, hard-working, generous and honest.

popeye2Here were some of my initial thoughts:

  • Jen Shang told the New York Times reporter that there are “seven words,” but I could “nine words” on that bracelet. Where did the extra two words come from? Hmmmmm? I smell a mystery! Perhaps, this is where Scooby Doo and his meddling friends enter the picture?
  • Wow! How can I use these magic words in my donor communications? If I use them in a solicitation vehicle (e.g. mailing, email, social media campaign, annual campaign case brochure, etc), will they be as magical as when Popeye uttered the words “Open sez me“?
  • Is it the use of the those words or are these feelings and conditions I need to establish in my donor communications?
  • A little voice inside my head is starting to crowd out Popeye, and the name of that voice is Penelope Burk. I’m beginning to worry that this doesn’t feel very “donor centered”.
  • Maybe I should start getting concerned about all of these voices in my head!   ;-)

OK, OK, OK . . . I think I can reconcile my concerns about magic words and donor centered fundraising. However, that is another topic for another blog. I suspect a case can be made for the nine adjectives being the essence and soul of donor centered fundraising if you use them as guiding principles rather than magic words in a direct mail solicitation.

Let’s keep today’s blog post at 50,000 feet and end it with the following questions:

How do you instill any (or all) of the nine magic words as principles into your donor communications? In other words, what do you do and how do you say things to make a donor feel like they are being: Generous? Helpful? Honest? Compassionate? etc

Can you share some examples? If so, please do so in the comment box below.

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

Can you read your donor’s mind?


why1Ever since the first day I was introduced to the concept of fundraising, I’ve seen lots of people around me struggle with one basic question: “Why do people make charitable contributions to non-profit organizations?” Maybe it is just me, but I think our profession is obsessed with finding an answer to this question.

Here are just a few examples of situations where I’ve seen a version of this question debated:

  • Board volunteers who are reluctant fundraising solicitors trying to rationalize why they won’t make an ask,
  • Fundraising volunteers who are grappling with an organization’s internal case for support document, and
  • Fundraising professionals and non-profit executive directors who are trying to craft a strategy or develop a resource development plan that results in increased revenue.

This question reminds me of the plot in “Moby Dick“. The characters I just described above are Ishmael, and the answer to the question that I posed in the first paragraph is Moby Dick. Am I off base? Or is this one of those age-old questions that are elusive and difficult to really answer?

Last night I was back in my basement unpacking boxes and I came across more training materials from the Boy Scouts as well as Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Those two documents got me thinking about this topic.

why3The following are the “six reasons why donors give” according to my Boy Scout training material:

  1. They are asked.
  2. They believe in the ideas of the organization, and care.
  3. To achieve prestige and recognition.
  4. To seek power and influence.
  5. Because of peer pressure.
  6. For tax consideration.

When I looked at the Boys & Girls Club’s training handout, it was based on survey research found in Jerold Panas’ book “Mega Gifts“. In that book, he listed TWENTY ONE reasons donors give (e.g. major gifts individuals who give more than $1 million) to non-profit organizations and he listed them in the order these individuals ranked them. I won’t give you the entire ranked list (because you need to click the link above and buy his book), but here are the top six for comparative value to the Boy Scout’s list:

  1. Belief in mission of the institution. (1)
  2. Community responsibility and civic pride. (15)
  3. Regard for staff leadership. (17)
  4. Fiscal stability of the institution. (20)
  5. Respect for the institution locally. (4)
  6. Regard for volunteer leadership of institution. (9)

After each of the ranked reasons, I provided a number in parenthesis. The number in parenthesis is where fundraising professionals ranked the same reasons they believe donors give to their charities.

why2What conclusions can we draw from all of these lists? Here is what I think:

  • Generalizations are dangerous, and we need to stop stereotyping donors’ intentions.
  • I believe donors are like snowflakes. While there might be a few generalizations we can make, we need to invest time into getting to know our donors and understanding their individual motivations.
  • Reviewing all of the lists and rankings, we apparently don’t know as much as we think we know.

What strategies and tactics do you and your organization use to figure out donor intent on an individual level? Are there big reasons you believe donors give to your agency that aren’t on any of the aforementioned lists? Please share your thoughts and ideas 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

Donor says: “Less selling. More serving.”


servingOver the last few days, I’ve had the pleasure of doing one-on-one donor interviews for a client of mine. I just love it when I get an opportunity like this because there is nothing more enlightening than chatting with someone about their philanthropy.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes develop a blind spot about what I think donors know versus what they don’t know when it comes to the fundraising profession. For me, it is that “Wizard of Oz” moment where the wizard is discovered by Toto and his response is: “Ignore the man behind the curtain.”

So, it is always startling to me when a donor engages in a fundraising process conversation with me. This is exactly what happened yesterday during one of my donor interviews.

The donor I am referencing simply said:

“The non-profit sector needs to have a paradigm shift. They need to move from selling to serving.”

This opened the door to a rich conversation about the importance of stewardship and loving your donors. (Believe it or not the words ‘stewardship’ and ‘loving your donors’ came out of his mouth and not mine.)

The idea of putting less time, energy and effort into SELLING and redirecting it into SERVING (e.g. stewardship) has been top of mind for me lately because I signed up for Pamela Grow’s four week eCourse titled “Monthly Giving: The Basics & More!

Literally, the night before this donor interview, this is what I read in the first week’s materials:

“One of the most amazing things about monthly giving is that once a donor signs up for a monthly giving program, you can stop asking them for money, because the person is giving you money each and every month. Instead of making regular asks, you can focus 100% on stewarding your donors. Imagine, donors that get tons of attention from your non-profit, and none of it an ask!”

I’ve always been fascinated by monthly giving, but I’ve never had an opportunity to develop or run such a program. So, my curiosity got the best of me and I signed up for this eCourse.

I’m not suggesting that the silver bullet for your resource development program is a monthly giving program. Heck, I’ve only read the first week’s worth of reading materials. Truth be told . . . the case for support is compelling, and I’m excited to learn more.

At the intersection of this eCourse and yesterday’s donor interview, I am left wondering what other non-profit organizations are doing to shift more of their time into stewardship activities?

I suspect the reason monthly giving programs are appealing is because it recognizes a basic truism, which is there is only so much time in a fundraising professional’s day and the money needs to come in the door. Investing in the development of a monthly giving program creates an environment where solicitation time can be converted into stewardship time.

I’m going to stop here because you need to sign up for Pamela’s eCourse if you want to learn more.

What are you and your organization doing to invest more time into “serving your donors“? What does that look like? How are they responding? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment box below.

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

Non-profit donors, hospital visits, and stewardship opportunities


get well soonIt is the morning of Wednesday, March 27, 2013 and my soon-to-be 40-year-old brother is on his way to the hospital for hip replacement surgery. He is the youngest hip replacement patient that his doctor has ever seen. With all of this going on, my mind still wanders back to non-profit organizations and how they treat their donors at times like these.

It should be no surprise to any fundraising professional that non-profit hospitals are very good at resource development. In 2011, non-profit hospitals and healthcare systems improved their fundraising efforts by 8.2 percent over the previous year’s efforts, according to the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy. That’s right. We’re talking about 2010 and 2011 when unemployment, the economy, and the housing sector were softer than they are today.

In a nutshell, I believe people are at their most vulnerable when they walk through the doors of a hospital. They are scared and their support networks (e.g. friends, family, neighbors, etc) stand by their side.

Here is the point . . . good non-profit organizations constantly message to their donors things like:

  • You’re part of our non-profit family.”
  • We care very much about you, and we appreciate how much you care about our mission and clients.”
  • You’re a valued friend.

If all of this is true, then shouldn’t you be by their side during their time of greatest need? And if you aren’t there, then aren’t you undercutting all of the stewardship messaging you’ve invested in throughout the years?

Non-profit hospitals have it easy in this one regard because donors (and prospective donors) are on their home turf. Of course, they still need to do a ton of hard work (e.g. quality care, bedside manner, compassion, service, etc).

My brother’s surgery this morning reminds me of a life lesson that I learned more than a decade ago when a board member, who was struggling with kidney disease, was admitted to the hospital. Not only did I not send a card/balloons/flowers, but I had left a number of emails and voicemail messages pushing him about an upcoming committee meeting.

Needless to say, the post-hospital phone call was more than a little uncomfortable for me. It was a lesson that I learned and carry with me to this very day.

Last week, I started working pledge cards for one of my favorite charities. One of the first donors I called to set-up an appointment informed me that she was being admitted for surgery in a few days. She didn’t want to schedule a solicitation meeting and asked that I call back after her surgery.

So, what did I do?

  1. I wished her well. I asked her when I should circle back around to check-in and set-up a meeting.
  2. I calendarized the date she told me to call her.
  3. I offered assistance. I told her that I’m happy to help in whatever way she thinks is appropriate. I can pick-up prescriptions, run to the store, or drive her to a doctor appointment.
  4. I called the agency to report this news, and they immediately mailed a “get well soon” card to the donor.

Did I do this because I am working the angles to secure a contribution in the long-term?

Heck NO!

I did these things because it is what friends do for each other. It also happens to be what donor-centered fundraising professionals do.

Do you have any stories about donors, hospitalization, and stewardship activities? If so, please take a minute out of your busy day to share that story or what you consider a best practice 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

Fundraising, stonecutters and ignoring best practices


stonecutterWelcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking at posts from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a post titled “All That Had Gone Before,” John gets philosophical. He points out how a stonecutter’s success is attributed to a series of chips just like your successes in the workplace is the result of the people who came before you. He says, “Our results today; our performance today; our effectiveness today; is not from what we have done today; but all that we’ve done before.”

I read this and immediate think of a recent fundraising training that I facilitated for a bunch of volunteer solicitors.

In my training, I talk about the 12 steps to making a successful face-to-face solicitation. If followed exactly without any corner cutting, each step is designed to quiet our “inner saboteur’s voice,” which is rooted in fear and the mistaken belief that we are “begging for money.”

I’ve conducted this training almost 100 times in my life (if not more), and it never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t want to slowly and methodically chisel away at their solicitations by following the 12 step process.  Here are some of the most recent things I’ve heard people say in the wake of this training:

  • I don’t need to make my own pledge before going out to solicit my friends. I know that it is the first step in the 12 step process, but I give my time and that should be enough.
  • If the donor indicates that they don’t want to meet with me, I’ll just solicit them over the phone. I know these people well enough so there won’t be a difference between a phone and in-person solicitation.
  • I know that I shouldn’t leave the pledge card behind with the donor, but I know this donor very well and they will send it in and everything will be fine.

These people used to frustrate me. After all, they don’t seem to understand these best practices were developed by countless numbers of volunteers and professionals before them. Ugh! However, after reading John’s blog post, I’m going to attempt to change my perspective.

From this point forward, I will simply look at these folks as inexperienced stonecutters who are trying to split that big rock in half with just one or two swings of the hammer. They choose to ignore all of the progress made by everyone who preceded them because they are simply apprentice stonecutters. Right?

As a non-profit and fundraising professional, how do you channel your inner stonecutter when working with donors? When working with fundraising volunteers? When working with your board? 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
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Bad cause related marketing is offensive


cause related1Have you ever been the victim of a bad cause related marketing promotion? If so, then perhaps you would agree with me that bad cause related marketing is offensive and even damaging to the non-profit industry. For this reason, the industry really needs to start policing itself and developing a set of commonly accepted best practices.

My story

On Saturday, I decided that I needed a new pair of glasses. So, I took a trip to the mall and walked into LensCrafters because it felt convenient. I saw the doctor. She poked around my eyes and dilated them. I picked out my frames and proceeded to check-out. During the process of ringing up the bill, we got to a point that sounded something like this:

  • Cashier: “Would you like to add $1.00 to your bill today to support a charity called OneSight?”
  • Me: “Ummmmmm, what is that?
  • Cashier: “It is a charity that helps poor people around the world who suffer from bad eyesight.”
  • Me: “Can you tell me anything else about the charity?
  • Cashier: “Ummmmmmm, no.”
  • Me: “Then no, I wouldn’t like to support that charity.”

My issue with this exchange

I understand that it is only one dollar, but as a donor don’t I deserve a better case for support than: “It is a charity that helps poor people around the world who suffer from bad eyesight.”?

Again, you’re probably thinking to yourself: “Come on, Erik. It is one dollar. You’re not going to get the song and dance that charities give you for larger ask amounts.”

Of course, you are right, but am I asking too much for something like:

  • A brochure sitting at the cash register that explains more about the charity.
  • In-store posters or displays explaining who this company’s charity of choice is and why it is their charity of choice?

Buyer beware!

cause related2So, I came home and decided to Google around to find a few answers about the charity I was asked to support at the LensCrafters cash register.

Here is what I found on the LensCrafters website:

Twenty-five years ago, LensCrafters founded the OneSight organization with one purpose in mind: To provide better sight for all—everything from free eyecare to eyewear to important research that will change how people see tomorrow.”

Perhaps, I am being cynical, but isn’t LensCrafters asking its customers to fund its charitable work?

Back in the day, I remember corporate America feeling the need to re-invest part of its annual profits back into the communities from where those profits came or into a charitable mission about which they felt strongly. Again, I might be off-base here, but it feels like today some companies are keeping their profits and asking their customers to fund their charitable work and then turning around and asking for customer loyalty because of all their good works.

I did go to Guidestar and snoop around OneSight’s 990 forms, which as you know can be like deciphering hieroglyphs at times.   From what I can tell, this organization raises very little money from more traditional resource development methods and gets most of its money from LensCrafters’ cause related marketing cash register program.

As a consumer, I believe I deserve a little transparency at the cash register if I am just being asked to essentially support a company’s charitable activities.

Is a brochure or display really asking too much?

Cause related marketing is here to stay

Cause related marketing is here to stay because it generates substantial revenue. It is an easy ask. After all, it is just one dollar, right? Come on. Isn’t it a small price for a concerned citizen and donor to pay so that they can feel good about doing something to feed a hungry person or give the gift of sight?

Call me old fashion, but this feels like lazy philanthropy, especially when companies can’t even be bothered to train their cashiers to answer a few questions or produce a brochure for distribution at the cash register.

If only there were best practices and some minimum standards that we could all agree upon.

Ummmm, wait! Perhaps, we have something . . .

My online friend, JoanneFritz, at about.com posted a great article titled “3 Cause-Related Marketing Trends That Matter to Nonprofits and Their Business Partners“. It is definitely worth taking a minute to click-through and read it.

Joanne ends her post with a call to action and includes a few good links for non-profit organizations that are searching for best practices.

Has your agency played around with any cause related marketing efforts? If so, what did you do? More importantly, what did you learn? Please 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
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Start talking to donors about THE WHY and THE WHERE


visionOn May 9, 2012, I blogged about something I thought was the next best thing since sliced bread. It was a post titled “FREE fundraising movies every Monday morning? Sign me up!”  Not only did I write about this awesome service, but I took my own advice and signed up. I just love starting my week off with a short three-minute video nugget of fundraising goodness. So, when I opened yesterday’s Monday morning movie email and saw that the topic was “Articulating your vision to inspire others to give,” I knew it was going to be a great week.

One of the reasons I love these Monday morning fundraising videos is because they always make me stop and think. Yesterday’s video didn’t disappoint. It made me stop and think about my last few donor interactions. It even caused me to reflect back on the last time I was solicited by a charity. In this reflection exercise, here is what I found:

  • Sometimes my solicitation visits focus on big picture stuff like “mission.”  These discussions focus on the question of WHY. They are 50,000 foot discussions, and some donors like to hear this message over and over again.
  • Sometimes my solicitation visits focus on big picture stuff like “vision.” These discussions focus on the question of WHERE (and a case can be made for WHY). They are also 50,000 foot discussions.
  • Sometimes my solicitation visits focus on the little picture stuff like “programming.” These discussions focus on the question of HOW (and a case can be made for WHAT). They are not 50,000 foot discussions. These conversations are in the trenches.
  • Sometimes, when I am having a good day and the donor is generous with their time, my solicitation visits are a combination of the last three bullet points.

The interesting thing I discovered when looking back is that each of those solicitation calls looked really different because each donor imposed their own set of constraints on the visit. One donor only had 15 minutes to give me; whereas, another donor is a real detail freak.

I’ve been known to say things like, “The golden rule in fundraising is ‘Know Thy Donor‘” or “Donors are like snowflakes because they’re all different“.

I am inclined to double down on these last two opinions after thinking about my last few solicitation visits. However, if you want to make a generalization about fundraising and donors, then this week’s Monday Fundraising Movie makes a great point. Many of us are getting so wrapped up in demonstrating ROI to our donors that our case for support drifts toward disproportionately talking about programming. This can limit our effectiveness because many donors give because they are inspired to do so, and many of the inspirational tools in our fundraising toolbox deal with our vision.

captain jackThe next time you find yourself sitting down with a donor, try sticking to this simple script:

  • Tell them about the need in your community. Share a few statistics with them, but personalize it with a story about one of your clients.
  • Tell them about the vision your agency has for the future and how it impacts the need you just shared with them.
  • Tell them about how you know your agency is on the right path toward achieving this vision. Share a few outcomes/impact statistics with them, but personalize it with a story about one of your clients.
  • Of course, end all of this by asking for the donation or pledge.

If you practice, I bet you can do this in 15 minutes. I also suspect that you will become one very effective fundraiser.

Has your agency’s case for support started leaning more towards programming and operations in recent years? What have your last few solicitations looked and sounded like? What do you like to hear when getting solicited by other charities? 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
www.thehealthynonprofit.com 
erik@thehealthynonprofit.com
http://twitter.com/#!/eanderson847
http://www.facebook.com/eanderson847
http://www.linkedin.com/in/erikanderson847

Fundraising is broken. Fix it.


Good morning, DonorDreams blog subscribers. I thought I’d give you another day off from my random non-profit and fundraising thoughts by offering you an awesome article about DONOR COMMUNICATION, STEWARDSHIP AND RETENTION from a guest blogger.  This guest post is from Nathan Hand, who is a fundraising professional in Central Indiana.  Check out his blog posts at NonprofitNate.com. Enjoy!

relationshipsfordummiesIt happened again. And I’ve had it up to here (*as he raises his hand 2 inches above his head*).

This post may get me in trouble but this is important.

I was visiting with a community business leader yesterday. He told me that he and his wife had supported an organization several times over the years,but he hadn’t heard from them in 14 months. The communication he received yesterday was a solicitation for a significant gift. Done via email. Out of the blue.

If that doesn’t surprise and horify you, it should, but surely this will. He politely declined. In his words, he and his wife had understandably ‘moved on’. In return, he immediately received a ranting email from the fundraiser calling him out for his lack of support.

Ho.Lee.Cow. Stop it already!

What happened? Where did this go wrong? It’s an epidemic racing across the country and affecting every cause. It’s destroying the field of fundraising and the nonprofit sector. And I don’t blame the fundraiser (entirely). For those unaware, data released recently from Compasspoint should have fundraisers and nonprofit CEOs more-than concerned. (Download and read the full report)

Simone Joyeaux summarized politely:

“In summary, here’s the scoop: Development officers quit. Bosses fire development officers. Boards don’t play. Organizations don’t get it. This vicious cycle threatens financing of the sector. And, this has been going on for years and we aren’t really fixing it.”

Why?

I think it’s a lack of patience and focusing on true philanthropy. Organizations are spread too thin (few staff, barely funded), causing the organization to put undue pressure on their fundraisers who then pressure donors and send clear signals of desperation (cue the story above) and have completely unrealistic expectations on top of it. It destroys any hope of a positive relationship and future with those donors. No wonder half of all donors don’t renew!?! We’re waisting an incredible amount of time and money recruiting/aquiring folks only to treat them horribly and then we have the nerve to wonder why they don’t stick around!?!?

Phew. Enough ranting. What’s the solution?

CEOs – Realize that donors want and expect to hear from you. Fundraising should be YOUR priority, not something you hire someone to take care of. Be intimately involved in the process, in the hiring and for goodness sake, pay a competitive salary to attract and retain talent in a relationship-based position. Understand that the development director’s job is to pull levers and orchestrate you, the board and other major advocates in engaging your network to build support for the organization. Until they’ve been a part of the team for several years, they won’t have the relational credibility to be successful.  Like sales, financial advisors and other relationship-based business, the first few years are establishing repor and won’t bear fruit for some time.

Development pros – You’re more to blame than CEOs. Yes, I said it. This is YOUR profession. It doesn’t mean you should do it alone but OWN this issue. Fix it for yourself, then your organization, then help others do the same. Do your homework before taking a position. Then do it again. A strong relationship is imperative with the CEO. Spend some time with them. If you don’t get more than an hour or two – that should be a clear sign that they don’t understand the magnitude of hiring a development pro.  Meet with the Board Chair. Talk about these issues. Push them on their fundraising philosophy and how they and the board have been involved thus far and how willing they’ll be in the future. Make sure they understand there’s no money-printing press in the back.  And look in the mirror!  It’s easy to point fingers but make sure you have the patience to do this work, understand how to navigate the involvement of others and balance the slow, relationship-based part with being strategically assertive and making asks when appropriate.

It’s not a big deal. It’s just the future of the entire sector we’re talking about…

What do you think? Do you struggle with this? Is there a different problem we should be zooming in on?

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