Clairity Click-it: Culture of Philanthropy; Donor Retention; Online Social Fundraising; Annual Fund; Food for Thought + Free Stuff

My son got married this week-end (!), so I got a bit behind in my every-other-Friday publishing schedule for the “Clairity Click-it.” Please enjoy these links and free resources. I hope you’ll find plenty of food for thought, plus some useful practical tools to help you along your journey towards making the world a kinder, gentler and more loving place.

And here’s to all the June brides and grooms — past, present and future!

Clairity Click-it: Culture of Philanthropy; Content Marketing; Newsletters + Opportunities

Clairity Click-it includes links to fundraising and nonprofit marketing resources from around the web.Hope you enjoyed/are enjoying the week-end! Please also enjoy these links. There’s all sorts of interesting stuff for you on boards and fundraising, storytelling, newsletters that make money, how to get better results from snail mail and more.  You’ll find some great training opportunities and five (count ’em!) free resources.

Culture of Philanthropy

Click-it: Turning Board Members into Fundraisers: Q&A with Claire Axelrad. Emily Wang of Network for Good recently interviewed me on this subject. If you missed it, here’s your chance to check it out.

Clairity Click-it: Online Social Fundraising; Culture of Philanthropy; Events + Free Stuff

Mixed #nonprofit links and free resourcesHope you enjoy these links, free resources and training opportunities. Again, I’ve organized according to two of the top 5 areas I’m hoping you’re working on improving this year.  This week it’s:

  1. Online Social Fundraising
  2. Culture of Philanthropy

I’ve also got some “food for thought” articles on special events, plus links to free resources and upcoming training opportunities. I hope you find at least one useful nugget!

Clairity Click-it: Culture of Philanthropy; Online Social Fundraising; Food for Thought

Hope you enjoy these links, free resources and training opportunities. Again, I’ve organized according to two of the top 5 areas I’m hoping you’re working on improving this year.  This week it’s:

  1. Online Social Fundraising
  2. Culture of Philanthropy

There are also some “food for thought” articles in other areas, plus links to free resources and upcoming training opportunities. There’s bound to be something here you’ll find useful!

Clairity Click-it: Events; Social Media; Generational Giving; Culture of Philanthropy + Free Resources

This week’s Click-it is another mélange of fundraising wisdom, ranging from events to social media and taking a look at which generations are good target markets for you. Plus some fun posts.

And, as always, if you scroll to the bottom you’ll find some free resources I’ve selected for you. There’s some really worthwhile stuff here — and I’ve got a lot of it this week.

See you next week where I’ll return to my “Dive the Five” virtual nonprofit curriculum. Want to know the top five priority areas for your focus in the coming year? Make sure you’re subscribed to Clairification so you don’t miss an article!

And now, on to this week’s articles…

Clairity Click-it Future of Fundraising Edition: Culture of Philanthropy, Donor Retention, Gratitude, Nonprofit Change + Learning Opps

Catch this Special Edition!
Catch this Special Edition!

This week is all about what we need to do, collectively and within our organizations, to assure a bright future for philanthropy. I’ve gathered articles from some of the leading thinkers and researchers in the civil sector. This is important stuff — and one “Click-it” you won’t want to miss! Plus, as always, some great learning opportunities for you (scroll to the bottom).

Sign expressing values

Bottom Line: Philanthropy Culture Improves Fundraising

“Philanthropic culture is a key driver of fundraising performance.”

Adrian Sargent, Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy

Is a culture of philanthropy just something that’s ‘nice’ to have? Does it simply make people feel good? Or might it actually affect your bottom line – making it ‘necessary?’

I know I’ve worked with organizations who looked at the notion of developing a philanthropy culture a bit like doing staff morale building or sensitivity training. It certainly sounds good, and who can argue with reports from pioneering organizations like the Walter and Evelyn Haas Jr. Fund (see Underdeveloped, Beyond Fundraising: What Does it Mean to Build a Culture of Philanthropy, and Fundraising Bright Spots) and Sea Change Strategies (see Inside-Out Fundraising) that embracing a culture of philanthropy (COP) will bring all sorts of benefits, including recruitment and retention of talent, stronger development plans and infrastructure, a better understanding of the board role in fundraising and a shared understanding of the importance of fundraising across functional siloes.

“As a sector, we need to elevate the importance of fund development as a leadership issue, invest in a stronger talent pool, and strengthen the ability of nonprofits to develop the systems that enable fundraising success.”

Jeanne Bell, CEO of CompassPoint, co-author of Underdeveloped

“Generally, a culture of philanthropy is one in which everyone—board, staff and CEO—has a part to play in raising resources for the organization. It’s about relationships, not just money. It’s as much about keeping donors as acquiring new ones and seeing them as having more than just money to bring to the table. And it’s a culture in which fund development is a valued and mission aligned component of everything the organization does.”

Cynthia Gibson, author, Beyond Fundraising

“Without tackling internal issues head-on, we believe the prospects for major fundraising progress are limited. In most organizations, fundraising is limited more by organizational culture and structure than by lack of strategic or tactical know-how.”

Alia McKee and Mark Rovner, Founders, Sea Change Strategies

Despite the impressive research that’s been done showing the value of a philanthropic culture, too many nonprofits have simply assumed they had one by virtue of merely existing within the social benefit sector. Or even if they understood achieving a true COP took work, they just never moved this from the back burner to the front.

“Many charities are so wrapped up in the process of doing – delivering, raising income, adapting to the panoply of changing circumstances that can radically alter day to day activity – that establishing a truly philanthropic culture might not be high on the list of priorities.”

Adrian Sargent, Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy

It’s Time for a Change

Woman breathing, sunset

Want a true philanthropic culture? Make it the air you breathe.

Woman breathing, sunsetYour organization won’t survive and thrive with only great fundraising technicians. Youand the entire social benefit sectorneed organizational-development-grounded philanthropic facilitators. In fact, you need a team – maybe an entire village – filled with them!

This is what it looks like in a culture of philanthropy. And it involves more feelings than tangibles. What does it feel like where you work?

Your organization’s culture can make or break your fundraising – and just about everything else. If you don’t foster a culture in which people want to work, great professionals won’t apply for, or stick with, jobs. You have to be intentional in creating a culture that attracts, retains and grows professionals. The kind who will inevitably build sustaining relationships with supporters.

Here are some things you can do to build a true philanthropic culture.

Say what the culture is, get buy-in; demonstrate it.

To foster an authentic values-based organizational culture, you must first identify and write down the main beliefs that make up the culture. This can be simple – as little as a sentence or single paragraph – but this written manifestation of the culture you want to foster is critical to helping people understand the culture.

Here are some questions to ask yourself or, better yet, to do as a group exercise with a team of staff and/or board.

Man jumping over mountain

How to Transform Reluctant Fundraisers into Ready Philanthropy Facilitators

How do you help people afraid of fundraising become comfortable in what should be a mission-aligned role for everyone associated with your nonprofit organization?

After all, everyone benefits from increased philanthropy.  Not just development staff.

Increasingly, successful nonprofits are adopting cultures of philanthropy where everyone involved – administrative staff, program staff, board members, committee members, direct service volunteers and even beneficiaries – comes together as ambassadors, advocates and askers on behalf of furthering the organization’s mission, enacting its values and fulfilling its vision.

Facilitating philanthropy is not rocket science, yet folks unaccustomed to the relationship cultivation and solicitation required to land major donations are fearful because they don’t know how to do it. Actually, they do. They just need some guidance, hand holding and support along the way. Reluctant fundraisers tend to think fundraising is just about money. It’s a lot more than that.

It’s the job of a nonprofit’s leadership to work with insiders (staff and volunteers) to help everyone feel both passionate about the cause and confident in the fundraising process.

There are barriers to be overcome; first and foremost is fundraising fear.  This fear takes many forms, and is perhaps best expressed in some of the questions I frequently receive.  So I’m endeavoring to answer a few of these questions below.  Hopefully this will help you address these challenges within your own organization so you, too, can transform folks from fearful and reluctant “fundraisers” to joyful and ready “philanthropy facilitators.”

Philanthropy is a Team Sport

Team huddleNo one can do it alone, sitting in their own little corner.

Not the E.D. Not the development director. Not the development committee of the board. Not the fundraising consultant.

One-person shows don’t work in fundraising.

This isn’t tennis, figure skating or golf. You’re not one person trying to be the best you can be, with all the glory accruing to you. You’re part of a team, all pulling together in the same direction, with the glory accruing not just to your team but also to your fans and your community.

Siloes don’t work in fundraising.

You aren’t saving up grain for the winter. Besides, simply hoarding won’t help enough. Development operations must figure out how to grow and harvest as much grain as possible so you can feed more and more people in need. Hoarding in siloes is a scarcity, not an abundance, mindset. A status quo, not a growth mindset.

If you have vision and big goals you need a team to see you through.

How Do You Build Your Development Team?

Begin with recruitment of stakeholders.

Look around you. Who do you see? You see internal and external stakeholders. People who care about your organization winning.

Generally, you’ll see:

Mural art, pointing finger

Philanthropy Trends Your Nonprofit Needs to Know Mid-Pandemic

Mural art, pointing fingerCould you be getting it all wrong when it comes to the what, who, where, why, how and when of your nonprofit’s communications and fundraising as this pandemic plays out?

You could.

Especially if you’re leading from opinion above knowledge. You know, going with your gut when it comes to what your donors want or need from you right now. Otherwise known as guessing.

That’s never a good idea for someone whose job is to facilitate philanthropy. Because a lot is known about how much joy it brings people to demonstrate their ‘love of humanity’ through philanthropic acts. Your gut telling you donors don’t want to be invited to become heroes? P’shaw.

Now, thanks to the folks at Blue Frog Fundraising, more is known about how donors feel about giving in response to the current pandemic. In the recently revealed Coronavirus Research Findings: What do donors think now? they focus on what donors have told them about how their approach to giving has changed. Or hasn’t.

These philanthropy trends are important to understand, so I’ve selected the most salient among their key findings (highlighted in the break-out boxes) and have grouped them according to the traditional journalist’s rubric of what, who, where, why, how and when.

Research Graph, Blue Frog, What Donors WantI’m going to explain what your nonprofit should do to show donors you do, in fact, understand where they’re coming from.

Before taking any marketing message or fundraising appeal off your plate, and before adding anything new, always make sure to ask yourself these six important questions! They will help you assess almost any situation, plus focus your efforts and aid you in telling more relevant, compelling stories.

Let’s get started…

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Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream 2020

Today would have been Dr. Martin Luther King’s 91st 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 here, 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 free speech, 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.

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 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 2020 – 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, adapt to the digital revolution 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. 

Parking Lot

Strategies to Leverage Donor Advised Fund Philanthropy

The use of Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) as a means for individuals to make philanthropic gifts continues to rise. So much so, in fact, I felt it imperative to help you understand how they work and how they may be of benefit to your charity.

Why?

  1. You don’t want to leave money on the table.
  2. You want to best serve your donors.

Today we’re going to take a look at:

  • What a DAF is/is not
  • Who DAF donors are/common characteristics
  • How you can best serve DAF donors
  • What you can do to leverage DAF philanthropy

Let’s begin at the beginning.

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Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream 2019

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of standing up for what’s right, even when it isn’t convenient. There is so much happening in the world around us today, and at such an unprecedented, rapid pace, it’s sometimes challenging to make sense of it all.  And, in particular, our place in it all. How will we face the world of 2019 and beyond? What challenges will we take on, and how? What can we do as individuals, as groups, as organizations, and as a community to adapt, stay positive and make a beneficial impact on the world within and around us — ourselves, our families, our friends, our neighbors and strangers. What can we do, especially, to protect and defend and care for the most vulnerable among us? What can we do that is not just transactional, but transformational?

“The time is always right to do what is right.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

I have a dream for 2019 – 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, adapt to the digital revolution 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. 

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Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – How to Begin the Transformation

You probably know my tagline is “Philanthropy, Not Fundraising.” It’s my overarching philosophy, and I welcome you to read about it here. But make no mistake…

I’m still using the word fundraising.  In fact, I wrote an article entitled To Sell is Human; To Give, Divine – Why We’re All in Fundraising Now.  I understand this may be a bit confusing. In fact, I’ve had some comments to that effect. Some of you hate the word philanthropy; others hate the word fundraising.  So, let’s clairify.

If you want to move from a culture of transactions to one of transformation don’t get bogged down worrying about semantics! You say potato; I say potahto… a rose by any other name… It’s the CONCEPT of “philanthropy, not fundraising” I’m hoping you’ll grasp. The point is to come from a place of love; not need. A place that centers on your donor; not you. A place that is deeply relational; not one-sided. A place that focuses on impact and outcome, not money and process.

Let me share a few comments I received and contribute my thoughts:

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Adopt a Gratitude Culture: 5 Ways to Stop Losing Donors

It’s common for retail businesses to adopt the mantra: “The customer is always right.” But when’s the last time you heard “The donor is always right?” Too often, the opposite is true.

I hear a lot of complaining about donors. They should do this (e.g., give because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do; be compliant and not make us work so hard); they shouldn’t do that (e.g., give any way other than ‘unrestricted’; require reports that take us hours to complete). I don’t hear enough of “What can we do to delight our donors today?”

What can you do to delight your donors?

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Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream 2018

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of standing up for what’s right, even when it isn’t convenient. There is so much happening in the world around us today, and at such an unprecedented, rapid pace, it’s sometimes challenging to make sense of it all.  And, in particular, our place in it all. How will we face the world of 2018 and beyond? What challenges will we take on, and how? What can we do as individuals, as groups, as organizations, and as a community to adapt, stay positive and make a beneficial impact on the world within and around us — ourselves, our families, our friends, our neighbors and strangers. What can we do, especially, to protect and defend and care for the most vulnerable among us? What can we do that is not just transactional, but transformational?

“The time is always right to do what is right.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

I have a dream for 2018 – 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, adapt to the digital revolution 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. 

Moonrise-large.jpg

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream 2017

There is so much change occurring in the world around us, and at such an unprecedented, rapid pace, that it’s sometimes challenging to make sense of it all.  And, in particular, our place in it all. How will we face the world of 2017 and beyond? What challenges will we take on, and how? What can we do as individuals, as groups, as organizations, and as a community to adapt, stay positive and make a beneficial impact on the world within and around us — ourselves, our families, our friends, our neighbors and strangers. What can we do, especially, to protect and defend and care for the most vulnerable among us? What can we do that is not just transactional, but transformational?

I have a dream for 2017– 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 think big, because thinking small will not get you where you need to go. You will understand there is great power in a big, wildly exciting vision. You will share this vision broadly to attract people — and financial resources — to your cause. You will no longer be content to remain a “well-kept secret.”

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 that 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 push yourself and your organization towards transformative change.

The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 2

In Part 1 I laid out why philanthropy inspires, and fundraising tires.

Fundraising must be done, of course, but there’s something about how it’s been practiced in the past that turns too many people off.  It’s been connoted as being all about money, when really it’s all about valued outcomes.

These valued outcomes are shared by many who support the cause – donors and non-donors.  Employees and volunteers. Development departments and program departments. Major gifts staff and annual giving staff. All these folks have a collective stake in the nonprofit’s survival.

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The Meaning of Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – Part 1

Philanthropy is a mindset. An embracing culture. A noble value.

Fundraising is a means towards that end. Servant to philanthropy.

Philanthropy, not fundraising.

This has been the tagline for my business and blog since I began Clairification in 2011. It grew naturally out of my experiences working as a frontline development director for 30 years. I’ve always insisted that no single person could possibly receive credit for a donation.  “Donors don’t give because of development staff,” I’d tell program staff.  “They give because of the great work you do!

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Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream 2016

Photo of moon rise
I have a dream…

I have a dream for 2016– 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 think big, because thinking small will not get you where you need to go. You will understand there is great power in a big, wildly exciting vision. You will share this vision broadly to attract people — and financial resources — to your cause. You will no longer be content to remain a “well-kept secret.”

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 that 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 push yourself and your organization towards transformative change.

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5 Ways to Revolutionize Your Nonprofit Culture to Stop Losing Donors

Do you have a "top service" donor-centered culture? If not, you're losing donors you could keep. Time for a revolution!
Do you have a “best service” donor-centered culture? If not, you’re losing donors you could keep. Time for a revolution!

It’s common for retail businesses to adopt the mantra: “The customer is always right.” But when’s the last time you heard “The donor is always right?” Too often, the opposite is true.

I hear a lot of complaining about donors. They should do this (e.g., give because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do; be compliant and not make us work so hard); they shouldn’t do that (e.g., give any way other than ‘unrestricted’; require reports that take us hours to complete). I don’t hear enough of “What can we do to delight our donors today?”

What can you do to delight your donors?

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Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream 2015

Photo of moon rise
I have a dream…

I have a dream for 2015 – 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 think big, because thinking small will not get you where you need to go. You will understand there is great power in a big, wildly exciting vision. You will share this vision broadly to attract people — and financial resources — to your cause. You will no longer be content to remain a “well-kept secret.”

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 that 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 push yourself and your organization towards transformative change.

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Purely Practical SMIT for January: Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – How to Begin the Transformation

Autumn leaves changing color
Change happens

Here comes this month’s *SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you):

I’m still using the word fundraising.  In fact, my most recent post was To Sell is Human; To Give, Divine – Why We’re All in Fundraising Now.  I received a lot of feedback (mostly embracing) on the first post in my 2013 Series: Philanthropy; Not Fundraising.  But there’s evidently some confusion.  So, let’s clairify.

If you want to move from a culture of transactions to one of transformation don’t get bogged down worrying about semantics! You say potato; I say potahto… a rose by any other name… It’s the concept I’m hoping you’ll grasp. The point is to come from a place of love; not need. A place that centers on our donor; not us. A place that is deeply relational; not one-sided.

Let me share a few comments I received and contribute my thoughts:

Aware man

Do you wish you had a dime for…

… every time a nonprofit board or staff member told you “We’re the best kept secret in town; if people knew what we do, they’d give to support us.”

Nonprofits tell me this all the time! If I had all those dimes, I could make a nice contribution to your cause.  And I would, if…

  • You endeavored to learn a little bit about me,
  • You engaged me personally,
  • You discovered my values match yours,
  • You offered me opportunities to connect with your mission and supporters that involved something other than money,
  • You showed me you knew what most engaged my passions, and
  • Then you asked me for a gift!

You see, merely “building awareness” will not ipso facto raise more money for your cause.

Just because I care about something, and somehow learn you are involved in doing something about that thing, doesn’t mean I’m going to support you financially.

Why should I?  There are a lot of good causes out there, and making a decision to invest in you is something I need to act on.

I’m busy.  I’m overloaded with information. And inertia is just too powerful a force.

You’ve got to do better than just hope I’ll stumble upon your website, see your social media post, hear about you on the news, or even open your direct email if you want me to really sit up, pay attention, and actively engage.

Especially if you want me to engage as a philanthropist.

Two people hanging out together

Getting to Know You

Two people hanging out togetherTRUTH BOMB:

The key to successful fundraising is knowing your donors.

If you don’t know them, you can’t nurture them.

If you don’t nurture them, they won’t grow.

Simply staring at your bare patch of land waiting for flowers to sprout and blossom doesn’t work 99% of the time.

Why are you waiting to ‘get lucky’ the winds will just blow some seeds your way?

Likely, this won’t happen.

Even if it does happen, the seeds may not take root and grow.

Unless you do something to help them along.

In fundraising, the best way to nourish supporters is to know them better.

So you can give them what they explicitly need, not what you think they need.

You need to engage in “getting to know you” activities so you’re basing your work on knowledge, not just opinion.

Why Don’t Fundraisers Reach Out to Get to Know Donors Better?

There are all sorts of excuses.

Many come from a sense of ‘donors’ being primarily identified that way, rather than as the complex people they truly are. Staff are often afraid of, or at least uncomfortable with, ‘donors.’ Even many volunteers, who aren’t major philanthropists themselves, feel this way.

Have you ever heard (or felt):

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What “Chopped” can Teach Fundraisers about Productivity and Passion

passionOne of my secret pleasures is watching the show “Chopped” on the Food Network. Today I watched an episode that just had me bawling at the end. It was the most heartwarming show I’ve ever seen. And it reminded me of why all of you do the work you do in the social benefit sector.

So please allow me to share.

I don’t know if I can adequately convey the pathos I felt, but if you haven’t had a chance to see this episode I would strongly recommend it. It will make you feel very good. At the same time, it will make you understand — even more than ever — how much work there is to be done.

And why YOU, toiling in the vineyards of the social benefit sector, are just the person to do it!

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Reframe Fundraising: Responsibility, Privilege and Opportunity

Frame in front of ocean view Fundraising is too often seen, at best, as a ‘necessary evil.’

When viewed this way, folks – staff and volunteers alike – understandably prefer not to touch it with a 10-foot pole. Who wants to place themselves on the side of ‘evil?’

Yipes stripes!

But that’s not what fundraising is at all.

The tagline for my business, Clairification, is “philanthropy, not fundraising.” I often talk to folks about how the word philanthropy comes from the Greek and translates into “love of humankind.”  Nothing evil about that!

In fact, if you ask folks to throw out the first word that comes to mind when you say ‘fundraising,’ and then ask them to do the same when you say ‘philanthropy,’ you’ll see it breaks down pretty neatly between good and evil.

Why it’s Important to Reframe Fundraising

If you’re coming at fundraising from the perspective of ‘necessary evil’ or ‘no pain, no gain,’ you’re never going to be effective. Especially when it comes to asking individuals, one-to-one, for passionate gifts.

As long as you hate it, donors will be able to tell you hate it. I call this wallowing in the pain. Never a good approach. Distaste for asking begets distaste for giving.  It’s done grudgingly, not passionately.

When donors can sense you’d rather be doing anything else than asking them for a gift, guess what happens?  They follow your lead!  In other words, they feel they’d rather be doing anything else than making a gift.

But there’s more to reframing fundraising so it’s seen as a really, truly good thing.

I like to reframe it thusly:

  • It’s a responsibility.
  • It’s a privilege.
  • It’s an opportunity.

Fundraising is a Responsibility

If you’re fortunate enough to be a successful nonprofit, this means you’re helping solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

10 Strategies to Actively Build Nonprofit Donors Trust

trustTrust 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.

You should.

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:

  1. Gift Acknowledgement that Satisfies Donors
  2. Donor-Centered Communications that Instill Happiness
  3. Useful Content Marketing that Offers Gifts
  4. Consistent Branding that Instills Confidence
  5. Relationship Fundraising that Creates Meaning and Builds Loyalty

If you take these five steps, I can guarantee you’ll steadily build trust and make donors happy. What I’d like to do now is break these steps down into 10 action strategies. They may seem simple, and they are. But honestly ask yourself if you really do these things? I’m going to guess you could do better. So please read these 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.

Donor screening call

Donors Screening Calls? 12 Strategies to Stop Being Defeatist.

Donor screening callHave you ever made a phone call hoping to talk with someone, but instead reached voice mail?

Of course you have!

Does that mean you don’t ever make phone calls?

Of course not!

What do you do?

You leave a message and ask the person to call, email or text you back.

Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.

But at least they know you reached out to them. If they want to connect with you, they now have an invitation to do so. And if they know you, and like you, they’re very likely to return your call.

Donors know you. They like you. Otherwise they wouldn’t have made a gift to you.

So why are you, or your board members, so afraid to pick up the phone to thank them?

All the time nonprofits tell me “Asking our board members to make thank you calls won’t work, because people screen their calls these days; they won’t pick up.”

Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t.

Either way, you’ll have accomplished something important merely by proactively reaching out.

Stop worrying about how your donors will or won’t behave. Instead, worry about how you’re behaving. Or not.

Don’t donors deserve thank you calls?

Of course they do!

Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, found 91% of donors said this is their number one preferred method of recognition.

Thank you phone calls, IMHO, are the number one underutilized strategy in your fundraising toolkit.

Sign: Amplify Your Voice

Digital Fundraising Revolution: Annual Benchmarks Study; Trending Behaviors

Sign: Amplify Your VoiceYou’ve no doubt become familiar by now with the term “digital revolution.” It’s something that’s been dawning on us, slowly but surely, over the past few decades, and particularly in the past ten years with the advent of social media. How far has your nonprofit come? Far enough?

It’s hard to believe, but a mere ten years ago so few nonprofits had jumped on the digital bandwagon I began blogging about it. I even wrote monthly for a national social media blog, becoming their guest nonprofit expert. It makes me chuckle now, because use of technology is by no means my sweet spot.  But I was just so troubled by the elephant in the room too few nonprofits were naming.

Today, most nonprofits have a digital strategy. Some are even going so far as to discontinue direct mail entirely. I don’t recommend this; still, it’s testimony to how far we’ve come in a short period.

NOTE: I find abandoning direct mail a bit extreme and precipitous. A classic “leaving money on the table” rookie mistake. Merely substituting an online for an offline channel ignores today’s reality. What’s that? It’s a multichannel world. Sure, it’s more work than in the past. Where you used to just have to communicate in one space, now you must show up in many. Yet there’s good news: layering your strategies can result in richer engagement than before, because you’re meeting folks where they are and reaching people you’d never have before reached. And donors cross channels! The lion’s share of philanthropy still comes from direct mail, but things are evolving. Online giving may be precipitated by offline fundraising strategies. Even if you engage in direct mail, you need to consider the convenience of your prospects and donors. What makes giving easy, convenient and likely for them? Simply sticking to online fundraising may narrow your chances for success. Did you know average email lifespan is 17 seconds vs. direct mail’s average of 17 days?  Also, did you know 31% of offline-only first-time donors are retained for over a year, versus 25% of online-only first-time donors? So you’re going to want to hedge your bets and not just fundraise in one place.

Okay, back to the revolution.

Nothing accelerated the transformation to digital like the past year.

Is your digital adoption of a transformational nature? Has it fundamentally altered how you do business? We’re at a transformation tipping point, and transformation doesn’t move backwards.

Going digital is now an in-your-face proposition that can’t be ignored.

I’m about to share some data with you to demonstrate how online engagement and revenue grew in 2020. But first I want to share some broad perspective strategic thinking on the subject.

Truth: newspaper headline

Fundamental Fundraising Truths: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Truth: newspaper headlineThe Lilly Family School of Philanthropy projects total giving will grow by an estimated 4.1% in 2021. So you can’t use the pandemic as an excuse for raising less money in the year ahead.

Nor should you ever adopt a sky-is-falling stance of “we can’t compete in this environment, so let’s lower expectations and cut back.”

Did your organization cut back on development expenses last year?  Did you lay off fundraising and marketing staff? Did you send fewer appeals?

If you did, chances are you didn’t tell, and sell, your case for support.

At least not as effectively as possible.

That’s a sure-fire recipe for raising less money than you could or should.

Here are three evergreen, fundamental fundraising truths:

1. It Costs Money to Make Money

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What Causes so Many Fundraisers to Leave their Jobs?

Fundraisers report money is the number one reason they leave their jobs. While I do believe too many fundraisers are underpaid relative to their skill sets and performance, I’ve a strong hunch it’s not the real chief culprit for fundraiser dissatisfaction.

What is causing so many fundraisers to leave their jobs? Or leave the nonprofit field entirely?

Support. Culture. Infrastructure.

Or, to be specific, the lack thereof.

  • Too little support.
  • Toxic culture.
  • No organizational infrastructure to facilitate philanthropy.

Alas, in interview after interview with fundraisers working in the trenches, I find these essential components of a productive and joyful work environment sorely lacking. This situation doesn’t usually arise out of malice. It’s born of a desperate lack of understanding about what it takes to manage people well. Of course, that’s a topic unto itself. But there’s something else that happens with people hired to work as development staff. And that’s what I want to address here.

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How to Help Donors Give Astutely Before Year-End

I’ve written about some of the new charitable deduction opportunities included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed on March 27, 2020 before. But a recent post shared by Greg Warner of Market Smart — Dr. Russell James’ tips to help donors give wisely before this year ends — plus a recent conversation with a financial advisor, reminded me it’s a very good time to share with you again.

You see, there are several things that will impact donor deductions – THIS YEAR ONLY. It’s good for you to be aware of these as a fundraiser, because making your supporters mindful of these opportunities may lead to them making more, and larger, gifts to your organization.

Of course, you’re not in the business of offering legal, tax or financial advice.  And it’s easier to tell yourself donors’ own advisors will likely tell them about these new provisions. And that “this isn’t really your responsibility.” Yet…

Not all of your donors have their own accountants or financial advisors.

And not all tax advisors are up to snuff, especially when it comes to charitable deductions. Do you want to risk not receiving generous gifts you could have otherwise received, just because you’re too lazy to share this useful information?

The Genuine Job of the Philanthropy Facilitator

Sorry about using that “L” word, but too many fundraisers (IMHO) don’t 100% understand their job as a philanthropy facilitator. Do you?

Your job is to do everything within your power to make giving easy, joyful and meaningful for your supporters. Everything. Doing everything means

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How Humanity and Trust Supercharge Nonprofit Fundraising

"Doing the right thing isn't always easy" storefront artEveryone is saying it.

Just about daily.

“These aren’t ordinary times.”

We’re living in the face of a firehose of breaking news, and most of it is pretty difficult to digest. Let alone know how to face, handle and get through it with safety and sanity intact.

We can either retreat, live in limbo or figure out a way to navigate through this reality and find opportunities to do our work in new and better ways.

It’s a difficult assignment, because it’s not easy to know where to begin.

We want to come from a donor-centered and community-centered place, but… what exactly might that be in this extraordinary time?

“We’re not only longing for the normal that was – we’re grieving losses yet unaddressed and ignoring some of the most obvious. I know for sure: if we don’t find a way to consciously engage with our losses, when this pandemic is finally over, the soul of our country will still be locked down”

– Oprah Winfrey

I’ve been thinking a lot about what the world most needs right now.

I think it’s humanity and trust.

Usually we have to guess at what will feel relevant to our supporters. Today, we pretty much know. Because we hear it all the time. On the news. On social media. When we zoom with colleagues. When we talk to our friends. When we’re sheltering in place with our family.

  • People want to know who they can trust!
  • People want their fellow humans to act the part!
  • People want to consciously engage — with humans they can trust — in a meaningful manner.

‘Philanthropy’ means ‘love of humanity’. Yet today it sometimes seems all we’re hearing and seeing is hatred of humanity. Us and them. Insiders and outsiders. Democrats and Republicans. Left and right. Young and old. Good and evil. I could go on…

There’s a better way.

Not Today Covid 19

Anatomy of a Coronavirus Nonprofit Email + Thank You

Not Today Covid 19Last week I shared a number of real-life examples from innovative nonprofits taking creative steps to connect meaningfully to their supporters during these trying times. While staying connected, some organizations are succeeding in stepping up both their marketing and fundraising communications to the next level.

Sometimes this means virtual events, online conference calls and hang-outs and, yes, asking for the philanthropy needed to respond to urgent needs and stay in business for the longer haul.

I promised today I’d share an example of a straight-up email appeal.  Actually, it’s more than an appeal.

Because every communication you have with folks today must be more than business as usual.

It’s got to be empathic.

Let’s face it. All folks are thinking about today is coronavirus. If you ignore this fact, you’ll come across as out of touch and even insensitive. So begin every communication with some acknowledgement of what people are going through. Not just you. Them.

Check in with people and ask them how they’re doing.  This is actually always a good way to begin. We do it more in our personal lives (oddly, particularly with strangers).  You ask the clerk at the counter “How’s it going?” You leave the store saying “Have a nice day.” In fact, one of the hallmarks of a culture of philanthropy is you’ll find staff always asking each other “How can I help you today?” [See “Fundraising Bright Spots”]

Silver lining of this pandemic? Rediscover the power of empathy.  Take this opportunity to connect the dots between the problem you lay out and the solution with which the donor can be helpful. This is solid, basic fundraising – the way it should always be practiced but too often is not.  Use this opportunity to be better.

It’s got to be innovative.

Remember, this is not ‘business as usual.’ Already every nonprofit and their dog are sending out messages related to this crisis.  What will get your messages to stand out? Lots of things come to mind, including great subject headlines, compelling images and graphics, engaging stories and an authentic tone. All the basics apply.

Practice solid fundraising, of course, but try to add in a little bit of something extra. Novelty. Fun. Inspiration. Prayer. Social action.  Whatever is best suited to your particular brand and community.

Silver lining of this pandemic? Many of your familiar, tired strategies were probably due for a change anyway. This is an opportunity to reject the status quo, develop new skills and consider fresh initiatives that may, ultimately, serve you far better than the ones you’ve been using.

TIME TO SHARE AN EMAIL EXAMPLE: APPEAL PLUS

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FAKE Nonprofit News: 6 Fundraising Untruths

scrabble tiles: fake newsThere’s a lot about fundraising folks take for granted. And not in a good way. Because… much of it is untrue!

In fact, if you, your executive director, your board members or anyone else where you work subscribes to these fictions you’ll be in for a lot of pain and suffering. You won’t raise near the money you could otherwise raise. And you won’t enjoy your work.

But there’s a fix!

Previously I wrote about certain self-evident fundraising truths. Truths you want to hold close to become a fruitful philanthropy facilitator.  The problem? These tenets I call truths are too often not apparent at all.

Why?

A disinformation campaign is unconsciously being waged by leaders who:

  • Don’t understand how fundraising works.
  • Don’t understand pre-conditions must be in place in order for fundraising to flourish.
  • Don’t want to understand because then they’d have to step up to the plate and do things that make them feel uncomfortable.

Oh, dear. Guess what?

Like anything else worth doing, fundraising must be done well to succeed.

You get out of it what you put into it. And… the truth shall set you free!

If you believe any of the following untruths, your fundraising program is in jeopardy. And so is your mission. Let’s break these down.

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How Jargon Destroys Nonprofit Fundraising & Marketing

I hate jargon. With a passion.

Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.

Just. Can’t. Stand. It!

Yes, I guess you could call it a pet peeve.

But, really, why would you ever use jargon if you wanted to truly communicate with someone?

Just check out the definition:

“language used by a particular group of people, especially in their work, and which most other people do not understand”

— Cambridge dictionary.

Jargon = Failure to Communicate

When you talk to people in words they don’t understand, really, what’s the point?

Are you just trying to make yourself look smart?

Because, trust me, that’s not how it comes across.

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Partner to Solve Social Problems; Stop Acting in Silos

Ask someone on the street if there are too many nonprofits addressing the same causes. Most likely, you’ll get a resounding “yes.”

When there’s a crisis, folks are confused as to which relief agency they should give their money. When a friend is diagnosed with cancer, they aren’t sure which organization will make the best use of their donation.

This confusion leads to “drop in the bucket” donations. Folks want to at least doing something, but don’t want to risk throwing their hard-earned money into a black hole.

This behavior stifles the entire nonprofit sector. Folks don’t trust their philanthropy will be effectively stewarded, so don’t give as much as they could. Even worse, folks with track records of investing — philanthropic (aka “social”) entrepreneurs — sit on the sidelines waiting.

Waiting for what?

Waiting for the social benefit sector to do something that, up until now, it has not done well. 

Museum painting of woman perhaps not living to her potential?

Are You Failing to Achieve Your Nonprofit Fundraising Potential?

Too often, fundraising is relegated to an administrative function rather than a mission-central function.  It’s viewed as a ‘necessary evil.’ As a result, either no one embraces it as central to their job description, or someone is hired and shunted off to a corner to do the ‘dirty work.’

Others don’t necessarily feel a need to cooperate or support the fundraising effort. It’s ancillary, not primary.

In fact, I’ll often hear executive directors or board members tell me, with some pride and a soupçon of defensiveness: “We can’t spend money on development staff right now; anything extra we have must go into the mission!”

As if fundraising doesn’t support the mission?  Seriously, that’s the entire purpose of what nonprofits call ‘development’ (aka fundraising and marketing). It derives its purpose from ends served. It’s never an end in itself.

What this so-called ‘mission first’ logic fails to acknowledge is that everyone associated with your nonprofit is guided by a ‘mission first’ philosophy and has a collective stake in your nonprofit’s survival.

And for most nonprofits, survival – or at least some level of mutually desired success – depends on philanthropy.

When fundraising is treated as an afterthought, relegated to the development committee, or delegated to the development director, it disenfranchises a huge segment of folks who care about sustaining the cause. This means you’ll leave money on the table and fail to realize your mission potential.

It takes a dedicated village to generate sustainable, meaningful philanthropy.

I’ve found four ways nonprofits don’t wholeheartedly commit to fundraising. They all have to do with typical priorities that aren’t standing them in good stead.

Beware of a Half-Truth; It May Be the Wrong Half

How do you get to the heart of what’s true and meaningful to your constituents?

It’s very easy. It’s also very difficult.

The easy part is simply to listen. As the old adage goes, “you have two ears and one mouth; use them in that proportion.” Sadly, that’s also the difficult part. Because, too often, we think we know more than we do. So we don’t look too closely. We make a lot of assumptions. And assumptions lead to a closed door.

Too often we don’t genuinely invite response or commentary. So there is nothing for us to listen to. Opinion frequently trumps knowledge.  We say “I know what our donors think and care about better than anyone.” Or the boss says “This is the way it’s going to happen. Period.”

Too often those around us let us get away with this sloppy, self-validating approach.

If you think this may be happening at your organization, read on to see why this can be so damaging to your long-term success.

Why Creating Donor Engagement Opportunities Boosts Fundraising

I wish I had a dime for every time a nonprofit board or staff member told me “We’re the best kept secret in town; if people knew what we do, they’d give to support us.”

If I had all those dimes, I could make a nice contribution to your cause.  That is, if…

  • You endeavored to learn a little bit about me,
  • You engaged me personally,
  • Then you asked me.

You see, merely “building awareness” will not ipso facto raise more money for your cause.

Just because I care about something, and somehow learn you are involved in doing something about that thing, doesn’t mean I’m going to support you financially.

Why should I?  There are a lot of good causes out there, and making a decision to invest in you is something I need to act on.

I’m busy.  I’m overloaded with information. And inertia is just too powerful a force.