What if you had a new strategy for building the types of committed, transformative relationships with donors necessary to build, nurture and sustain a meaningful major gift fundraising program? Most nonprofits know how important a major gifts strategy can be to their overall survival. After all, the 80-20 rule is than alive and well…Details
In my last article I talked about how to pitch yourself for a new job. My focus was on fundraising jobs, but it’s a paradigm you can use for any time you’re trying to make a persuasive case for yourself.
Today I’d like to get to the part where you’ve transitioned from “selling” to the interviewer, and have arrived at the part where they sell to you. In other words, it’s your turn!
It’s important to prepare for this part of the interview. And, if you happen to be wearing the interviewer hat, you can use these tips to listen for important questions that will tell you a lot about your potential hire.
The Purpose of Question Time
Definitely come prepared with what you want (and need) to know to make a wise, informed decision. You’ll want to ask about this organization’s history, its programs, its culture (don’t overlook this one!), this position, and the person(s) for whom – and with whom — you’ll be working. Think about what success would look like for you, and probe to assure the pre-conditions to achieve that success are in place.
The interview is as much an opportunity for the candidate to get to know the hirer as it is a chance for them to get to know you. There’s little point in selling yourself for a job you ultimately don’t want and won’t enjoy. Where you’ll just be spinning your wheels. Where you won’t have a chance to grow professionally. Life is too short.
POINT OF PERSPECTIVE: I’ve interviewed a lot of candidates in my day. And, truth be told, if they don’t avail themselves of this opportunity to ask questions I really wonder about them. How can they be so lacking in curiosity? Did they not prepare for this conversation? How are they going to learn things on the job so they don’t just do things the right way, but do the right things? If it’s a front-facing fundraiser position, how are they going to be when faced with the opportunity to build a relationship with a donor?
When I’m in hiring mode, I don’t need a broadcaster as much as a relationship builder. I don’t need someone who boasts ad nauseum about themselves as much as need someone who probes for my interests, needs and challenges. So, if you’re the hirer, listen to see how many of these questions your candidates ask; be prepared to answer these questions.
Top 20 Interview QuestionsDetails
Did you have a New Year’s resolution to look for a new development position? Or maybe to transition to work in the social benefit sector?
Have you put your job search off, wondering how your skills translate to what you’d really like to do?
We all have an inner critic telling us super unhelpful things like:
- You’re not ready yet.
- You need another course or degree.
- You need more years of experience doing x, y, and/or z.
- You need time to prepare.
- You aren’t good at this (math/negotiating/technical/financial/digital/sales) stuff.
- You aren’t as confident as other people.
- You can’t take this leap; it’s too risky.
These are all variations on the theme of “you don’t have what it takes.”
This is a totally irrational fear. Your inner critic is perhaps trying to protect and defend you, but actually this critic is holding you back by ruminating on the risks and worst-case scenarios. If you always play it “safe,” you’ll never grow.
Today, I’d like to tell you what it actually takes to be an effective fundraiser.
I hope you’ll see these innate qualities and strengths are things you have already. All you need to do is formulate them into a pitch format you can use when you interview for a job.Details
This week the groundhog told us it’s going to be an early spring!
Spring is always a good time for re-awakening, rebirth and just plain dusting away the cobwebs. And what a dreary, grave, cobwebby period it’s been.
We’ve got a lot to clean up, reorganize and rethink. So much, in fact, it’s downright overwhelming. So, as I sat down to write today’s article, I thought about what you actually have within your power to do. Right now. And all throughout the coming months.
I know it’s been pretty hard to focus with everything going on in the world.
So I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tried to pull together the various challenges I’ve seen nonprofit leaders, fundraisers, and marketers grapple with in the past year. Actually, the past years. Through elections, pandemic, climate catastrophes, shootings, war, unprecedented demonstrations of cruelty and inhumanity, and more. It’s a LOT.
But, the show — your good work — must go on.
In other words, your mission must move forward. People rely on you to do the critical work of the social benefit sector.
I thought: what can people do now to set themselves up for success as we move forward into high fundraising season at the end of this coming year? It may seem early to think about this, but it’s never too soon to put your best foot forward.
I’ve ended up with four tips I hope you’ll find relevant and timely.
- Big Picture
- Your Role as Helper
- Practical Guidance
- Strategic Advice
4 Timely Nonprofit Fundraising and Communications Strategies
1. BIG PICTURE: Message Confidently During Uncertain Times
Whether it’s a marketing or fundraising communication, keep these four messaging basics in mind.Details
While you might be tempted to guess “If I were a Rich Man,” that’s not it.
Because that would be making fundraising mostly about money.
And, actually, fundraising is mostly about love.
So the correct answer is “Matchmaker.”
That’s right. Your job is to make the perfect match between the values your organization enacts and the values your donor shares.
Because when people connect, and care about one another, our world tips ever more slightly back into balance.
Right now we live in troubling times, where the world seems wildly out of whack and people seem further and further apart.
Philanthropy provides a perfect opportunity to bring people together.
And who knows the most about making people fit together? Matchmakers!
And today’s matchmakers have more tools than ever before at their fingertips. Hence the success of online dating services. Though it would’ve been easy to assume matchmaking is such a personal endeavor technology could never touch it, that’s not the case at all. Because the digital revolution means people today are more connected than ever. Successful matchmakers don’t eschew technology; they embrace it. So should you.
Emulate These 6 Things Matchmakers DoDetails
Last year, you posted about sending donors valentines, which I came across a bit too late in the game, so I sent emails. But, this year, I kept that idea and planned for it, and sent handmade valentines to my top level donors. I felt like I was in 2nd grade with my glue stick and doilies, but the response has been amazing! Not only did my colleagues get in on the action, but I have received nothing but great comments via email and phone calls. Definitely a practice I’ll do every year. Thanks for the great idea!— Rebekah Cross, Special Gifts Officer, Guiding Eyes for the Blind
I love a good celebration.
And nothing is more worth celebrating than a holiday, and your donors!
You’ve still got time to send a little love your donors’ way! It’s been a tough, and for many a lonely, isolating and “othering” few years. Chances are good we’re still in for a long season of time during which donors could really use a little extra love from you. Many folks — your donors included — are love starved right now.
Why might this be something for you to consider, amidst all the other “to-do’s” on your plate?
If you don’t do a lot more donor loving, you’re going to do a lot more donor losing.
I hope by now you know donor retention is the name of the game. It costs so much more to acquire a new donor than to keep an existing one. Yet too few nonprofits have serious, intentional donor stewardship programs in place. Because of that, on average, nonprofits lose roughly 8 out of 10 first-time donors and close to 6 out of 10 of all donors.
Don’t be one of those “take the money and run” organizations!
If donors only hear from you when you want something from them, they’re not likely to give more. Or even give again.
Be generous! Show donors how much their support means to you.
Really, donor love should be like breathing for you. In and out. Out and in.
- They love you, and show you (usually by giving a monetary gift).
- You love them, and show them (usually by offering an intangible “feel good” like prompt, personal and repeat gratitude).
You’ll be amazed at how a little love can go a long way.
This year why not dedicate Valentine’s Day to giving, not asking?
If you can’t send valentines to every donor, select a segment or two.
Think about those donors for whom you’d like to show some special love, because they showed you some. Show them you noticed! They could be:
- Major donors.
- Monthly donors.
- Donors who’ve given faithfully for five years or more.
- Donors who increased their giving this year.
- First-time donors of $100+.
- Donors who also volunteer.
- Board and committee members.
Not as much as you might think.
Yet people tell me all the time how much they’re afraid to ask wealthy people for major gifts. If you share those fears, it’s time for a little “Charity Clairity:”
Contrary to what your gut may be telling you, NOT asking is not making would-be donors feel good. Quite the opposite, in fact.
In this article, I’ll let you in on:
Three major donor truths. And I’ll cover why (1) you must stop short-changing your would-be major donors by not offering them opportunities to be the change they want to see in the world, and (2) you must stop robbing would-be major donors of chances to feel good about themselves.
Six major donor triggers. We’ll explore how you can make donors feel so good they’ll want to say “yes” — and passionately — to your solicitation.
Bottom line: When you don’t make donors feel good, they’ll go elsewhere.
The Rich Are Just Like You and Me
F. Scott Fitzgerald is famously supposed to have told Ernest Hemingway “the rich are different than you and I.” “Yes, Scott,” Hemingway supposedly retorted. “They have more money.”
It’s good to remember major donors are, first and foremost, just people.
They may have more money, yet many of them actually don’t even feel “wealthy” (just as often so-called seniors don’t feel “old.”) In fact, a survey of 4,000 investors by UBS found that 70% of people with investible assets of $1 million or more do NOT consider themselves “wealthy.”
What most donors share (no matter their net worth) isDetails
Twice at the end of last calendar year I was asked for a major gift.
Pretty much out of the blue.
Without much preparation, relationship-building or making of an inspiring case for support.
It was clear to me what the charity would get out of it: my money. It was not so clear what I would get out of it. Should I not care?
Perhaps if I were the ideal, perfect donor I would give with no expectation of receiving anything in return.
Perhaps if I were less ego-centric, I’d just do it because it was the “right thing to do.”
Perhaps if I were not on a quest for personal meaning, I’d give just because the person who asked is someone I know (though, not all that well); it would give them a feeling of success, and that would bring me some happiness.
Perhaps if I were not searching for a community of folks who share my values, I’d give without quite understanding the depth and breadth of values enacted by these charities or without having met more of the people involved.
Perhaps if I were not examining what it is that sparks joy in my life, I’d give whether or not this cause was currently at the top of my list or I’d been given opportunity for reflection and consideration.
But I’m not perfect.
I’m betting most of your donors aren’t either.
Donors have expectations… egos… personal meaning they’re seeking… communities they’d like to form… and cups of joy that need filling. Otherwise they wouldn’t be human.
And even if you could find a perfect donor prospect, in the instances where I was asked the case for why this was the right thing for me to do wasn’t even made all that well. The ask was about money, not impact.
There was simply an assumption that since I’d shown interest in the past, I would welcome this opportunity to demonstrate my interest even more passionately.
Okay. That’s not a bad starting place. But… you should never assume. You know what they say about the word “assume,” right?Details
I have a dream…
Today would have been Dr. Martin Luther King’s 95th birthday. During his lifetime he challenged us to recognize the privilege of being part of the struggle for goodness to prevail. He did not live to get to the promised land, yet he saw it from the mountain top. And in his famous speech he mused on the question of what he would say were he to be given the extraordinary opportunity to live in any moment in history. His answer to the Almighty was, “If you allow me to live just a few years in the second half of the twentieth century, I will be happy.”
Today we are more than two decades in, and our challenge is whether we can approach our world with the same degree of gratitude and moral resolve. Our times are challenging. Political division, escalating, senseless violence across the planet, threats to taken-for-granted freedoms, the spread of fake news, a deepening divide between classes, the existential threat of climate change, and a creeping sense of dread as events begin to seem out of our control. The world can seem a cruel and barbaric place. Philanthropy – love of humankind — can seem elusive. Yet it’s right here. In each of us. And at this particular collective moment it has never been more essential for us to develop our capacity to care for one another, to show up for one another, and to love.
King challenges us to recognize that even in dark times, there is light to be found: “I know that it’s only when it is dark enough that one can see the stars.” As we toil in the vineyards of the social benefit sector, it is our privilege — and responsibility — to carry Dr. King’s torch and let shine the light. To muster all our spiritual, moral, individual, and communal resources to drive out the darkness. Today, with my annual “I Have a Dream” post, I invite you to consider what you can do to cultivate loving awareness, adapt, stay positive and make a beneficial impact on the world within and around you — yourself, your family, your friends, your neighbors and strangers.
“The time is always right to do what is right.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
I have a dream for 2024 – and beyond. I have a dream this is the year your organization will move beyond defining yourself by what you’re not (nonprofit) and will begin to define yourself by what you are (social benefit). I have a dream this is the year your people will move from an attitude of taking and hitting people up (aka “fundraising”) to a mindset of giving and lifting people up (aka “philanthropy”). I have a dream this is the year your staff and volunteers will move from enacting transactions to enabling transformation.
I have a dream you will push yourself and your organization this year. You will take the bull by the horns, fully embrace the digital revolution, look at the ways artificial intelligence can be used for good, and open yourself to the possibilities change brings. You will give up on the static donor pyramid, ladder and funnel theory of engagement and put your donor at the center of a new, active engagement model that reflects the myriad ways people connect with organizations and causes today. You will find donors where they are.
I have a dream you will learn who your best influencers and advocates are and you will embrace them. You will recognize you are no longer your best messenger. You will understand many forces beyond you influence your donor’s decision to invest with you, and you will expand your thinking and operations from a one-dimensional to a multi-dimensional model. You will allow your constituents to engage with you at multiple points of entry, and to move freely between these points during the life cycle of their engagement.
I have a dream you will think big, because thinking small will not get you where you need to go.Details
Trust defines the credibility and legitimacy not only of your organization, but of the entire social benefit sector. Yet too few organizations make the effort to operationalize this construct into their fundraising and marketing planning.
Without donor trust and confidence in philanthropy there’s no future for social benefit organizations.
Donor retention guru Professor Adrian Sargeant has spent 20+ years researching the relationship between trust, philanthropy and continued donor commitment. And he has found, unequivocally, that trust is the essential foundation of the philanthropic relationship.
Ignore this at your peril.
Actively Build Donor Trust
The Donor’s Bill of Rights is a great starting point. But simply using it as a checklist is not enough. Too transactional. I encourage you to go above and beyond. Because the best predictor of future giving is when people feel good.
You can make giving to you a transformational experience. How? By actualizing what you learn here into a series of multi-step plans for:
Gift Acknowledgement that Satisfies Donors
Donor-Centered Communications that Instill Happiness
Useful Content Marketing that Offers Gifts
Consistent Branding that Instills Confidence
Relationship Fundraising that Creates Meaning and Builds Loyalty
If you take these five steps, implementing the 10 strategies incorporated below, I can guarantee you’ll steadily build trust and make donors happy. They may seem simple, and they are. But honestly ask yourself if you really do these things right now? Trust must be earned, and it can be fragile. So, I’m going to guess you could do better. Please read these action steps with an eye to what you might do to make your donor retention plan – what I prefer to call a “donor love and loyalty plan” – more vigorous. It’s up to you to establish trust and magnetically pull your donors toward you so they never let go.Details