Expert Secrets; 80-20 Rule

3 Nonprofit Secrets to Rock Major Gift Fundraising

Expert Secrets; 80-20 RuleThere’s a treasure trove of knowledge and research around major gift fundraising. What works well.  What doesn’t work at all.  What’s, at best, half-baked.

It’s not rocket science.  But there’s definitely art, and some science, involved.

The gestalt way of thinking about the three secrets boils down to simply being:

(1) SMART,

(2) SYSTEMATIC and

(3) PASSIONATE.

But, I’m pretty pragmatic. So I’d like to give you something more practical.

If I had to pick the top three practical secrets to success, they would be the following:

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journey over rope bridge

6 Steps to Fuel Your Major Gift Journey

journey over rope bridgeThe major gift journey is a synergistic one. You see, it’s both your journey and your donor’s journey.

If you want to follow along the most direct pathway to sustainable philanthropy, you’ll want to consider the two-fold nature of the expeditious endeavor known as major gift fundraising. Or, as I prefer to call it, passionate philanthropy.

First understand it’s not just about the money;  it’s every bit as much about the experience.

Strive to become your donor’s favorite philanthropic journey guide.

If you do your job as guide well, they’ll find meaning, purpose and happiness being engaged with you.

  • If you make the experience a joyful one, your fellow traveler will become your donor.
  • If you continue to make the experience joyful, they’ll continue to travel the road with you by renewing and upgrading their support.

Major gift fundraisers, essentially, are in the happiness delivery business.

That’s right! It’s both  (1) a business, and (2) a donor journey toward joy.  You’ve got to treat it like a business if you want to make money. That means clarifying goals, setting specific objectives, planning strategies and tactics, and holding yourself accountable. Otherwise you’re just occasionally taking folks along for a stroll, without being thoughtful about what’s in it for both of you. And if you haven’t concretized what the benefits are, it’s hard to deliver on them!

Let’s take a look at the 6 steps you must take to build and sustain a winning major gifts program.

Expeditious Steps to Fuel Your Pathway to Passionate Philanthropy

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Sign: Good News is Coming

How to Raise Money with Nonprofit Newsletters

Sign: Good News is ComingYes, nonprofit newsletters can raise money!

And they should delight, retain and upgrade donors too.

How does this work?

It works by using your newsletter to give credit where it is due.

To your donors!

  1. Great newsletters are the opposite of all about you and your organization.We did this.” “We’re planning to do that.”
  2. Great newsletters sustain the joy donors felt at the moment of giving by confirming for them their decision was a good one.You made this happen.” “Your gift gave a happy ending to this story.”

You see, a charitable gift is not the same as a purchase of a product or service. With the latter, you have something tangible to continue to appreciate (e.g., you use your laptop daily; you continually admire the new paint job on your house). With the former, you’ve got nothing but an initial shot of dopamine … and then a memory. For most donors, this becomes a distant memory.  Because most nonprofits don’t consistently and repeatedly report back. With donors, out of sight truly does mean out of mind.

Use newsletters to show authentic gratitude and demonstrate how the donor’s gift made a difference.

You see, once is not enough.  Research shows for gratitude to be deeply felt it must be repeated. Repeat gratitude and reporting back accomplishes the following:

  • Donor feels good

  • Donor trusts you’re good to your word.

  • Donor feels inclined to give again.

  • Donor retention increases

  • Average gift size increases

  • Your raise a lot more money over time

Be guided by the “virtuous circle.”

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Colored pencils

What to Say When Your Donor Asks: How Much do you Spend on Overhead?

Colored pencils

I’ve been asked this question many times.

One of the ways I’ve answered is with my own questions:

  • If you could invest 20 cents to get a dollar, would you?
  • If you could invest 50 cents to get a dollar, would you?
  • If the dollar you got was old, wrinkly and ripped, would that matter to you?
  • If the dollar you got was mint, would it be worth it to you to pay a bit more?

Maybe the return on your invesment doesn’t matter to you. But maybe it does.  In the case of the wrinkly vs. mint dollar bill, it would matter a lot if you’re a collector.  Change that to 50 cents to buy a bag of fresh, nutritious produce that will last a full week vs. 20 cents to buy a bag of old, rotten vegetables, and you begin to understand.

All things are not created equal.

That’s true, in spades, for what folks consider ‘appropriate’ overhead.

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So, Your Nonprofit Donor Wants to Give Cryptocurrency?

Donor with cell phone, crypto

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I discussed cryptocurrency philanthropy basics.

Let’s say you’re intrigued, and want to dip your toes in the water?

How to Accept Crypto?

There is more than one way. These are listed in order of easiest to greatest need for tech and finance savvy.

  1. Donor advised funds and giving wallets. These are now being set up to accept cryptocurrency. If nothing else, you can alert supporters that if they have a DAF they can funnel crypto to you that way. Also, every.org and givewell are crypto wallets that act similarly to a DAF by accepting gifts from donors, then granting your nonprofit cash without you ever having to take custody of the asset. You never have to worry about accounting and legal concerns of accepting crypto.

 

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS solution) donor management platform. Organizations such as The Giving Block, engiven, Crypto for Charity by Freewill and Charitable Solutions, LLC are already set up to accept cryptocurrency on behalf of your organization (the list keeps growing). These dedicate crypto NGOs will sell the asset and transfer the proceeds to you. You can put a widget/button on your website to facilitate this. Crypto goes directly into exchange and is immediately traded for dollars (there is a small fee; around 1%). This is safe, secure and simple as generally the asset will be immediately liquidated (within milliseconds), which is super important with highly volatile assets like crypto. This protects you from a donor asking what you did with their $100,000, and you having to tell them you only realized $50,000 because you delayed a day to sell it.

 

  1. External custody. Behind the scenes, all platforms use a cryptocurrency brokerage or exchange. Three reputable ones are Coinbase Commerce, Kraken and Gemini. They typically charge 35 – 50 basis points per transaction. No donation processing or receipting is available. Nonprofits with expertise in asset management, trading and technology may consider building their own donation widget using these services. Be aware it can take many months to establish an account. Plus, you also need an “Alternative Asset Management Policy” [fold in crypto to your Gift Acceptance Policy; run this by your professional advisors and finance committee] to shield leadership.

 

  1. Self-custody. This is not for everyone and requires a hardware USB device that can be plugged into the computer when someone wants to make a transaction. They’re cold storage, kept off the internet, and highly secure. The downside is it requires a very savvy staff person and high security around custody. Plus it’s tricky to liquidate when you hold it in your hardware wallet. Some donors giving these digital assets like to see nonprofits holding those gifts as crypto, as part of an effort to see crypto go mainstream. If you have the ability to be strategic with investments, for example by building a reserve, you might consider holding onto crypto in its native form. UNICEF, for example, can receive, hold, and disburse cryptocurrency with its UNICEF CryptoFund. Again, you’ll want an “Alternative Asset Management Policy” to guide when you’ll sell.

How to Promote?

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Cryptocurrency coins

Deep Dive into Cryptocurrency for Nonprofits

Cryptocurrency coinsI’m sure you’ve wondered about this: Should we be accepting cryptocurrency?

You may not want to be thinking about this.

But now that there are actual payment processing platforms (e.g., The Giving Block; engiven; Crypto for Charity by Freewill and Charitable Solutions, LLC) and at least two nonprofits serving as cryptocurrency wallets (every.org and givewell) dedicated to helping you with this, the time has come. [You can compare some of the platforms and wallets here; new ones are springing up.]

Opportunity is knocking. Will you open the door?

Changes in Major Gift Demographics

Here are some of the trends:

  • Dollars being given are moving from middle class to wealthy donors (especially from Boomers to Millennials).
  • Fewer donors are giving larger impact gifts. There’s a lot of money out there[1], and if your charity is savvy enough to attract it, you’ll likely find your donor distribution shifting. The Pareto 80-20 Principle is more 85/15, 90/10 or even 95/5.
  • More comes from appreciated assets than cash (stocks, bonds, land and cryptocurrency).
  • The availability of crypto for giving has spurred new waves of younger people to consider philanthropy.

Profile of Donors Holding Cryptocurrency

Of course, there’s no way to know for sure which of your donors hold crypto.  But we do know some things.

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Gala event room

Top Proven Nonprofit Fundraising Event Planning Tips

Gala event room

In my last article I offered a compendium of common sense event planning advice. It centered on the wisdom offered to Alice by the Cheshire Cat when she asked which road she should take:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,”
said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

— Alice in Wonderland

Your direction and goal is important. Once you settle on the goal, then you’re able to pick the best road to take you there.

Hopefully you read the previous article, determined an event was your best strategic option to reach your primary end goal, and now you’re ready to get to work!

What are Some Top Planning Tips to Invite and Ignite?

Do these four things:

1. First you want people to come. 

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Gala event reception

Common Sense Nonprofit Event Planning Advice

Gala event reception

Let’s begin with the Big Kahuna piece of advice: Ask yourself WHY you want to do this event.

Were you to bring your event proposal to a wise shaman or mentor, this is the question they would ask you first – well before asking what theme or format you have in mind or what color scheme you want to use!

And yet this is the one question I find nonprofits failing to ask.  Somehow staff and boards alike think events are simply an inevitable part of the diversified fundraising mix.  Or maybe even the primary way to generate awareness and funds.

Events are neither inevitable nor primary. They are merely a means to an end.

And since they are extremely resource-intensive, it’s critical to think long and hard before embarking on a strategy that could potentially derail other more lucrative and cost-effective approaches.

Events have their place, to be sure; it’s up to you to put them in their place. You must take charge, lest they take charge of you!

What is Your End Goal?

You don’t buy a drill because you need a drill. More likely, you need to create a hole. Maybe the drill will do that best or, perhaps, there’s another more effective tool. It depends on the size and purpose of your desired hole. The same is true with nonprofit special events.

You don’t create an event for the sake of having one (no matter what one or more board members think would be swell.).

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Homeless man and donor on street

Why Smart Nonprofits Focus on Growing Monthly Giving

Homeless man and donor on streetFor at least the past five years I’ve been actively encouraging nonprofits of all stripes to begin or ramp up their monthly giving program. It made sense then. It makes even more sense now.

Why?

If there’s anything the past couple of years have taught us, you need a dependable source of income in order:

  • To be able to sustain programming for problems that never go away
  • To be able to weather current storms, anticipated and unanticipated, and
  • To be able to plan for the future.

It turns out there’s nothing as dependable as monthly donors.

In fact, donors who give to you recurrently sustain you so well a monthly giving strategy is often called a sustainer program.

Do you deserve a group of people who will sustain you through thick and thin?

Of course you do!

But you don’t always get what you deserve – unless you make it happen.

How to Make Monthly Giving Happen

As someone poetic so eloquently put it:

“Nothing will work unless you do.”

— Maya Angelou

There are four steps to a successful monthly giving work plan:

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Handstand

How to Craft a Nonprofit Board Orientation Strategy

HandstandOrientation matters; otherwise, everything can become unbalanced and out of whack.

Please don’t leave your new (or old for that matter) board members dangling!

Being a board member is not something we’re generally taught. In fact, it can be a complete mystery. Folks feel proud to have been recruited to join your board, and excited to begin their service, but… what happens next can mean the difference between a fulfilling experience and a disappointing one.

Do you have a board orientation strategy?

I don’t just mean in a dusty handbook somewhere on a shelf or in a file no one can find. I mean a vibrant orientation approach that kicks in the moment your board candidate says “yes” and, subsequently, as soon as they’re voted in by the full board.

Recruitment is just the tip of the iceberg of building an effective board.

It’s an important “tip,” don’t get me wrong. And all too often it’s handled poorly, leading to nothing but problems down the line. One of the most common complaints I hear from nonprofit staff is their board won’t help with fundraising. And the most common reason is the board members tell me: “I wasn’t told I’d have to help with fundraising,” or even worse “I was told I didn’t have to fundraise.”  Don’t put yourself in this bait and switch mode.

From the get-go, explain to prospective board members what’s expected of them.

All should be involved in some way in giving and getting. Once they sign on, solidify this agreement and their critical role as ambassadors, advocates and askers during the orientation process. Most board members are good people who genuinely want to help. They just need your support and encouragement along the way.

What to Include in a Board Member Orientation

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