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.

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Use Behavioral Science to Positively Frame Year-End Philanthropy

Are you framing your ask as an “annual appeal” or as “we only ask once a year?”

It matters, because people will account for how much they spend on usual annual giving differently than how much they’ll spend for exceptional, one-time occurrences.

A growing body of research in psychology and behavioral economics shows how you frame your ask can have a big difference in your fundraising results. Much of this has to do with how people mentally account for consumer ‘purchases’  — including charitable giving.

Researchers have found people don’t treat their money, time, effort or other resources as if they have one big pool of it. Rather, people have separate mental accounts.

When we spend resources we keep track of each expenditure based on the mental account it came from.

This has significant fundraising implications, so it’s important to delve further into this mental accounting principle. Especially this year, when you can legitimately frame your work as a response to exceptional times.

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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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Last-Minute Strategies to Boost Year-End Fundraising

Do you have that year-end feeling? You know, the one many fundraisers get around this time of year?

Kind of frenetic? Anxious? Stressed?

You’re not alone.

The average nonprofit receives 30% of all donations in December. And 12% arrive in the last three days of the year!  So, yeah, it’s really busy.  And a lot is on the line.

I was talking with one of my clients, who apologized for acting so frantic and rushed.  She said:

“Do you remember having that feeling? Did you get it when you used to work in the trenches? That worry that maybe you won’t hit your numbers? That people won’t give as much as they gave last year? That some of your major donors won’t renew. That maybe you’re not sending enough emails? That you’ll wake up on January 1st and be in BIG trouble?”

Oh, yeah. That feeling…

Of course I’ve felt it!  But over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to help overcome that feeling.

Clairity Click-it: Bounty of Free Nonprofit Resources for Year-End

Friday is Veteran’s Day in the U.S., so let’s give gratitude to all those who served and serve so that others will have better lives.

That counts you in too (Big time IMHO) – so here are links to articles you may find helpful whether you’re a veteran fundraiser/nonprofit marketer or a newbie. I’m emphasizing strategies to help you with this critical year-end time of year, when folks do their most significant giving.

Plus, as usual, you’ll find plenty of free resources – downloadable templates, webinars, cheat sheets, and more.

Thanks for doing the important work that you do. It gives me great comfort in these turbulent times to know you are there. Helping. Listening. Opening yourself to understanding. Holding people accountable. Restoring faith. Extending kindness. Kicking butt when you have to. Being the very best you can be, and the best of what humankind has to offer.

Clairity Click-it Long Week-End: Bounty of Free Nonprofit Resources

Welcome back from summer – at least for my North of the Equator friends.  I hope you had the opportunity to read through some of the resources I offered up in my Summer Click-it Extravaganza.  If not, there’s still time over this long week-end.

Now it’s time to get serious about end-of-calendar-year fundraising.  It’s when folks are most generous, and you don’t want to miss out.  So while I’ve continued to offer links to articles and resources aligned with my top Dive the Fivefundraising fundamentals for 2016, and beyond, I’ve also included practical, basic stuff that falls a bit outside these categories.  It’s all good stuff and, as usual, plenty of free resources too.

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Not Your Usual Year-End Nonprofit Donation Issues

Not_Your_Usual_Year-End_Donation_IssuesI doubt you’re worrying your pretty little heads about this stuff, but you should be.

Because year-end giving is simply too fraught with angst — and it needn’t be that way!

Giving to your nonprofit should be a joyful experience for your donors – before, during and after the transaction.

Not an anxious period of wondering whether their credit card transaction is secure, whether their gift went into a black hole or whether you’ll use it as they intended.

And guess what else?

Receiving donations should be a joyous occasion for you too.

Not an unmitigated nightmare of receiving credit card numbers that don’t work, worrying about how already busy staff can possibly process all your year-end donations and, for that matter, do so in a timely, professional and personal manner.

So give yourself and your donors a break.

How to do this? 

Clairity Click-it: Year-End Tips; Marketing; Social Media; Holiday Gifts

Today I’ve got an eclectic mix for you from both fundraising and marketing blogs. Everything is applicable to nonprofits, and lots of the advice is stuff you can use right away to increase your fundraising success. Then there’s stuff to help you plan for even greater success next year. Woohoo! Let’s begin with the stuff you need the most now… Oh, and did I mention there are presents at the end?

Clairity Click-it: Special Announcement! Plus Content Marketing; Social Media; Year-End Fundraising & Weekly Gift

First a Clairity Click-it announcement: I’m deeply honored, humbled and proud that I made the Top 100, and Maximize Social Business (for whom I write a monthly column on social media for nonprofits) made the Top 50, of the Top Content Marketing Influencers on . If you’re not familiar with Maximize Social Business and its founder,…

Labor Day Week-end Clairity Click-it: Planning/Calendaring, Development Director Mistakes, Time Management, Writing, Psychology, Gratitude

First, some words:

  1. Time to say thank you for your labors.  And thank you for reading Clairification. Your work inspires me and truly creates a more caring community and better, more humane world. Your readership makes my days, months and year. Truly, I appreciate you. Please… rest, reflect and recharge this week-end. You deserve it!
  2.  Last chance to get your highest ROI fundraising management tool (see below). Yes, I’m charging a bit. But not too much (especially given the fact my prodigal son has returned and is eating me out of house and  home!), and way less than what you’ll get out of it. I promise. Guaranteed.

Now… on to this week’s great links…

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How to Take Charge of Your Fundraising Events so they’re Worth the Effort: Converting Attendees into Ongoing Donors

Before you hold your next fundraising event, ask yourself one simple question: WHY?

Take a minute, right now, to jot down all the things you’d like to happen by virtue of you having held your event.

I’ll wait.

Seriously, do it. Jot.

I’m waiting.

Okay, there are a few of you who don’t yet have pencils and paper in front of you. Yes, I can see you.  Remember ‘Miss Nancy’ from Romper Room? [I know; I’m dating myself on this one].

Now, let me guess what you’re writing (and/or thinking).

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Brand Spanking New: The changing meaning of ‘mark’ in marketing, ‘relationship’ in CRM and ‘social’ in branding and business

Branding used to connote something done with a hot iron to mark ownership of a steer.  If there was a relationship quality to this it was only in the fact of being an owner of the thing possessed. It was certainly not about building a relationship, or any important social bonds, with your livestock. In…

Rodin's The Thinker

Want to Recharge Your Personal and Nonprofit’s Life? Borrow Wisdom.

 

Today I want to pique your interest in taking some time to reflect and truly consider what you’re doing and how you do it.

It’s easy to get stuck, literally and figuratively.

Stuck at your desk. Stuck doing what you’ve always done. Stuck in patterns without considering whether they still makes sense.  Stuck using ingrained habits and skills that once worked, but don’t work so well anymore. Stuck working in places that drain your energy. Stuck working for causes that don’t ignite your passions.

How do you break out?

Sometimes I look to thinkers from other disciplines to help me think outside the box. To pull me away from the routine. The ‘just going along to get along.’ The following, rather than leading. The ordinary, rather than extraordinary.

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Are You Leading Your Nonprofit Backwards?

More than ever before nonprofit leaders must lead from vision, not mission.

Why?  The world is moving really, really fast.  Blame it on the digital revolution if you wish.  But why waste time laying blame?  It is what it is.  Instead, get into the 21st century. Now.

The present (what you’re doing) is nothing more than a springboard to the future.

Never lose sight of the change you’re endeavoring to bring about. That’s what folks want to invest in. Positive, transformative change.

Nonprofits have tended to forget their visions in order to justify continued existence.

Sometimes founders and other leaders become too wedded to the status quo.  They can’t let their babies grow up. This is wrong. Nonprofits are founded to meet needs and resolve problems.  Needs change.  Problems get resolved (or they should).  Nonprofits should strive to go out of business, or

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3 Content, Online and Social Media Venues for Every Nonprofit

Nonprofit fundraising and marketing is very different today than when I began. Yet not every nonprofit I encounter seems to have received the message.

That’s why I’m writing.  Because the road to success has changed more in the past five years than the preceding 50.

Why?

It’s been called a “digital revolution,” a “disruptive” force and the “end of business as usual.

Outbound marketing” has been proclaimed dead, making way for “inbound marketing.”

The world is networked digitally in a way that was, until recently, unimaginable to most of us.

So… what does this mean for nonprofits? Especially for small to medium-sized nonprofits who don’t have staff with titles like “Online Fundraising Coordinator,” “Digital Communications Associate,” “Social Media Specialist” or “Digital Philanthropy Manager.”

How can you compete to raise awareness and support among your likely constituents?

Donate Online

Why Aren’t You Doing More Online Fundraising?

You really must! Because the world in which we fundraise is changing rapidly.

Keeping up is challenging.

Yet that’s not a good reason to pretend that time has stopped. I’m not suggesting you neglect the tried-and-true fundamentals, of course (direct mail, telephone, events, face-to-face).

You need them! And they still work. But you’ve got to leverage them with today’s tools, within the context of today’s marketplace.

This is your time. This is our time. But, these times are different and what comes next is difficult to grasp. How people communicate. How people learn and share. How people make decisions. Everything is different now. Think about this…you’re reading this article because it was sent to you via email. Yet more people spend their online time in social networks than they do in email…Technologies such as social, mobile, virtual, augmented, et al compel us adapt our story and value proposition and extend our reach to be part of communities we don’t realize exist.

The people who will keep you in business or running tomorrow are the very people you’re not reaching today. Before you continue to read on, allow me to clarify my point of view. My inspiration for writing this is to help you augment, not necessarily replace, the programs you’re running today. We must still reach those whom matter to us in the ways they prefer to be engaged. .

Brian Solis, The End of Business as Usual

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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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Are You Leading Your Nonprofit Backwards? How to Change

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

More than ever before nonprofit leaders must lead from vision, not mission.  Why?  The world is moving really, really fast.  Blame it on the digital revolution if you wish.  But why waste time laying blame?  It is what it is.  Instead, get into the 21st century. Now.

The present (what you’re doing) is nothing more than a springboard to the future (the change you’re endeavoring to bring about). That’s what folks want to invest in. Positive change.

Nonprofits have tended to forget their visions in order to justify continued existence.  Sometimes founders and other leaders become too wedded to the status quo.  They can’t let their babies grow up. 

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For Whom the Bell Tolls: Major Gifts Officers Will Lose Their Jobs in 2 Years

Unless… they reinvent themselves.

I know this sounds harsh. But check out Seth Godin’s Tried and false where he bluntly tells the truth about the tried and true: “In times of change… most of the tried is in fact, false. False because what used to work, doesn’t, at least not any longer.”

You may have been the best major gift officer on the planet five years ago.  But that was then. This is now. The buying/giving market has fundamentally changed. And, yes, the culprit is the digital revolution. That’s how revolutions work. It’s truly the end of business as usual.

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6 Things Matchmakers Can Teach Fundraisers in an Era of Digital Darwinism

Philanthropy; Not Fundraising

In many ways, what’s new is old and what’s old is new.  I read a lot of Brian Solis who speaks persuasively about The End of Business as Usual in an era where technology is advancing more rapidly than our ability to adapt. Yet we must adapt, or die. How do we do this, and what does this mean for fundraisers? I found food for thought in Solis’ recent article, The 9 Laws of Affinity in an Era of Digital Darwinism.

Rapid change can be dizzying. Ground yourself by remembering that though technology has changed, people have not. We have the same drives… needs… yearnings as prehistoric tribes.  It’s not just about survival. Darwin wrote about survival of the most empathic. We long for connection and meaning. In other words, it’s not just about the “fittest” but about the “fitting.”  Philanthropy provides that “fit opportunity” in spades (or, more aptly, in hearts).

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To Sell is Human; To Give, Divine – Why We’re All in Fundraising Now

Philanthropy; Not Fundraising

I recently attended an inspiring talk by Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human, and found myself furiously taking notes.  Next thing you know I was impulsively buying the book (autographed, of course)! Do I have buyer’s remorse? Absolutely not. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Everything he has to say is so directly applicable to fundraising and the nonprofit sector that [IMHO] it’s a ‘must read’ for those of us in the philanthropy business. Here’s why:

We erroneously think “selling” is bad.   In fact, it’s probably even more of a taboo word in nonprofits than the word “fundraising.” People just don’t like it. Pink did an experiment where he asked people to give him the first word that came to their minds when they thought of “sales/selling.”  They answered with such words as:

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The Winter of our DisCONTENT: Why, even with a content plan, marketing feels so cold to much of our audience

We’re leaving too much of our audience cold, despite the fact that we now have content plans. Brian Solis of the Altimeter Group  bloggedon a new report released by his colleague, Rebecca Lieb, “Content: The New Marketing Equation Why Organizations Must Rebalance.” A principle take-away is that, while we’ve been conscious about creating what…

Just as there's a first kiss, there's a first time for everything for your nonprofit.

How to Persuade New Donors to Join Your Nonprofit Mission

Children holding hands

There’s a first time for everything, if you will it

 

What makes us think a perfect stranger, who’s never given to our organization before, will choose to do so?  It’s highly counter intuitive.

People are most likely to continue doing what they’ve done before.
Commitment and consistency is one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence, and it’s useful in nonprofit marketing and fundraising. But only if you’ve got existing donors.
We talk a lot in fundraising professional circles about the folly of concentrating too many resources on donor acquisition and too little on donor retention. And for good reason. It’s significantly easier and more cost-effective to keep a current donor than to recruit a new one. Why?
It’s appreciably more difficult to get people to reach a new decision than to repeat an old one.
In fact, whenever I coach volunteers to do fundraising, I always suggest they remind current donors how many years they’ve already been giving to the organization.  This acts as a decision-making shortcut for these folks. Aha! They already decided this was a good idea.  No need to sweat it out again.  Done!
But… what if you’re a start-up organization that doesn’t have many donors?
What if your only choice is to go after first-time donors? How do you make a ‘sale’ if people are making a decision from scratch, with no previous history with you or knowledge about your vision, mission and values?

Love letters

What’s Going On? What Can We Do?

Love lettersI had a fundraising post all ready to launch today, but I just couldn’t do it.

The world seems wildly out of whack right now.  I can’t pretend it’s business as usual.

I try to stay away from “politics,” because I know that’s not why you read my blog. However, we live in a political world. And so do our nonprofits, our staff, our volunteers, our donors and our clients. Simply put, politics is about making agreements between people so that they can live together in groups.

Nonprofits cannot seal themselves off in little bubbles, pretending what’s happening in the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

That’s why, during the pandemic, I encouraged you to talk about how events touch those who rely on you. It’s why, all the time, I encourage you to relate your work to what’s in the news and top of mind to donors. Be it hurricanes, fires, famine, drought, social unrest, war, civil liberties, mass shootings, homophobia, racism, sexism, bigotry, or anything else horrifying to body, mind, heart and soul.

If it’s something you’re thinking about, you can bet it’s something your constituents are thinking about.

If you don’t address it, you risk coming across as unimportant, blind, shallow or out of touch. Being relevant, and meaningful, means getting inside your supporters’ heads and knowing what’s important to them. What are they thinking? How are they feeling? In what way do the emotions they’re currently experiencing interact with your mission? How can they help you, and you help them?

I don’t know how you’ve been feeling, but many folks I’ve been talking to have mentioned anger, outrage and fear. Even those who are happy about one or two things are deeply concerned about other developments. And this holds true for both sides. Listen to Fox News, then listen to MSNBC.  You’ll hear equal doses of horror. The pendulum has been swinging wildly, back and forth, and the world seems madly out of whack.

What can the social benefit sector do to bring things back into balance?

I keep coming back to the Golden Rule. What if none of us ever did anything to anyone else we didn’t want them to do unto us? What if we only treated others as we would want to be treated? It seems so simple. So logical. So in everyone’s best interest.

What is it about the human animal that leads the same people who don’t want government to impose mask or vaccine mandates on them wanting to impose no abortion mandates on others? Or, from the other perspective, those who don’t want government telling them they can’t smoke pot wanting to tell others they can’t carry guns? All of this “I can impose, but you can’t” is nonsense from the perspective of “do unto others.” Yet, we persist.

The only way to make sense of these things is through an understanding of balance. We must strive toward philanthropy (translated as “love of humanity”).

Proven 1-2-3 to Nonprofit Fundraising Success

L O V E Sign behind a fenceUnderlying this 1-2-3 formula is a need for balance.

It’s obvious. I know you know it. But… do you do it?

I’m here today, just in case you need a little reminder.

  1. The first step is essential for success in anything.
  2. The second step is essential for success in any consumer-facing business.
  3. The third step is essential for success in reaching a fundraising goal.

When the world seems wildly out of balance, it is incumbent on us to begin with centering actions: for ourselves, others, and our mission.

Balancing Trick: You. Donor. Nonprofit.

I’m talking about balancing self-love with donor-love with mission-love.

You can’t help others unless you first take care of yourself.

This is a truism you should carry with you throughout your life, and not just when the oxygen masks come down on an airplane. It’s never been truer than in the times in which we’re currently living, when there are new things about which to worry seemingly daily.

How do you lead the way forward, helping yourself and others navigate through the tough times?

I’d like to suggest you heed this 3-Step Formula to nonprofit fundraising success.

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The Giant Mid-Level Fundraising Opportunity Your Nonprofit’s Missing

Giant gummy bear escaping from smaller gummies

Bet you’ve got some giants hiding in your midst.

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to donor acquisition. Then?

They largely ignore these donors, unless…

They become worthy of attention by virtue of being ‘major’ donors. Then?

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to major donor relationship building. But…

Between new donor acquisition and major donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship, what happens?

Usually not enough.

This is a BIG missed opportunity.

You’ve likely got great donor prospects hiding inside your own donor base, and you’re essentially treating them like, well, poop.

What if you were to begin to look at your mid-level donors as the transformational fundraising opportunity they are?

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How to Keep Nonprofit Employees Longer with Flexibility

Flexible workerIn my last article I talked about providing employees with praise, recognition and meaningful feedback in order to retain staff and build the type of job satisfaction and longevity that creates a sustainable nonprofit.

For nonprofit fundraisers, the “Great Resignation” was happening long before the pandemic. In fact, per Penelope Burk at Cygnus Applied Research, the average amount of time a fundraiser stays at his or her job is just 16 months.

“Oh, well” you say?  “No big deal” you say?

Need I remind you fundraising is a relationship-building business? Relationships happen people-to-people, not people-to-institution.

All that work I’m constantly exhorting you to do to personally nurture, reward and develop bonds with your constituents as you support them on their donor journey matters.

You can’t afford the typical nonprofit staff turnover, and you need to do whatever it takes to make working for you a positive experience.

Lose a Fundraiser; Risk Losing a Donor Relationship

Fundraiser turnover results in the ongoing work of reporting back, asking for feedback and offering praise getting abridged or abandoned altogether. Trust me, this is a genuine real world concern. I work with countless nonprofits, and staff turnover leads to downgraded and lapsed gifts. You may think this won’t happen to you, but it will. When a donor doesn’t get the meaning they need, they drift away to other causes offering them a better return on their engagement. Don’t blame the donors; it’s just human nature to want to feel connected to other human beings.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking you can’t afford to keep your fundraiser by providing a better salary and other benefits, such as additional vacation time. Penelope Burk surveyed 1,700 fundraisers and 8,000 nonprofit chief executives, and found it would cost just $46,650 to keep a good fundraiser happy.

The direct and indirect costs of finding a replacement are $127,650. Hmmn… being pennywise and pound-foolish is not what I would call working smart.

Employee retention costs a fraction of employee recruitment, training and on-the-job learning. So seriously consider what you can do to work a lot smarter by treating your employees like the true treasure they are. As noted in my last article, a decent salary matters. I’m all for offering living wages! But many more things than money are motivators.

It’s time for a closer look at how flexibility in the workplace will help you shine.

Retain More Nonprofit Employees by Being Flexible

A recent guest essay in the New York Times,

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Are You Getting the Best Bang From Your Fundraising Buck?

Studies show over 88% of all funds raised come from just 12% of donors. 

In fact, the top tier of donors account for the lion’s share of all philanthropy.  Just 3% of donors give 76% of all gifts.

If you’re not focusing your fundraising resources on these donors, this should give you pause.  You’re missing a really big boat.

Plus, chances are good you’re fundraising in a manner that’s not exactly cost-effective.

You’re not alone. I run into this problem all the time.

  • Board members want to do events.
  • E.D.s want to focus on grants.
  • New staff think the future is all in digital fundraising.
  • Existing staff are wedded to increasingly less productive direct mail fundraising.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these strategies. However, generally they won’t give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Where you do get a huge return on investment is from an individual major gifts program, which costs you roughly 10 cents on the dollar vs. 50 cents or more on the dollar for special events fundraising and actually losing money on direct mail donor acquisition.

If you know the Pareto 80/20 Rule, you might want to focus just 20% of your resources on the lower-yielding strategies and 80% on major individual and legacy fundraising.

What’s holding you back from doing something so sensible?

Usually I find it’s one of the following reasons:

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Top 10 Countdown: Most Popular Clairification Articles of 2021

This was another year of adaptation. Settling into some things, while feeling decidedly unsettled in others. Opening our eyes, minds and hearts to see, and be, things clearly.

This year continued to mark a shift in the direction of my content, as “business as usual” seemed out of sync with the times we found ourselves in. Much of the heart of fundraising remains constant, while much of the practice and culture is evolving. It is a time in which feeling our humanity, and coming from a place of love, seems more important than ever.

Today I summarize my writing of the year by sharing the articles that most resonated with readers out of the 70+ I created for 2021, including some popular oldies.

In case you missed them, here are last year’s blog posts with the most views, according to Google Analytics.

Plus, at the end, I’m sharing some photos I hope you’ll enjoy!

Counting Down…

Top 10 Questions to Answer before Asking for a Nonprofit Major Gift

You can’t just call someone up out of the blue and ask them for a major gift to your campaign. Period. Full stop.

This won’t work any better than building a house before you’ve found the right location, created a blueprint, laid a foundation and brought in just the right crew to build according to your specifications.

In both cases, first you must lay the groundwork. I like to think of this as making sure all the pre-conditions to a successful ask are in place before I make someone an offer I know they won’t be able to refuse.  And I’ll know I’m ready to pop the question because first I’ll have answered “Yes!” to all of the ten questions that follow.

10 Critical, Powerful Questions to Lay the Groundwork for Successful Asks

1.  Is this the right prospect? 

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Where Are Our Nonprofit’s Legacy Donors?

fruit in basketLegacy gifts don’t fall from the sky.

Legacy donors aren’t delivered by storks.

You won’t find them hiding behind cabbage leaves.

You’ll mostly find them living in your donor database, volunteer roster, alumni mailing list, membership roll, client files and anyplace else folks connect with you and have a positive affiliation. An affiliation with you.

You see, the mere fact someone is wealthy does not make them a legacy giving prospect. Period. And the fact they’re wealthy and philanthropically inclined does not make them a legacy giving prospect for your charity.

The biggest indicator someone is a good legacy giving prospect for your organization is their affinity and loyalty. Generally this is demonstrated through affiliation (how they are connected to you) and behavior (what they do with you).

Of course, someone who simply shares the values your organization enacts can also be a viable legacy giving prospect. But they’re not likely to make a bequest or other type of legacy gift unless you first develop their affinity and loyalty — to your charity.  So let’s begin with the fruit already picked and in your donor basket.  We can look at the low-hanging fruit later. I do not recommend investing a lot of resources going after the fruit you’re hoping will just fall from the sky (though a little couldn’t hurt).

Satisfaction-Cant-get-no.jpg

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.

PB&J

Nonprofit Marketing & Fundraising Are Like Peanut Butter & Jelly

They’re meant for each other. Yet it may take a while to bring them together.

Here’s what I mean:

Peanut butter was first introduced at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. It didn’t get mixed with jelly until 1901, when the first PB&J sandwich recipe appeared in the Boston Cooking School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics. It was served in upscale tea rooms, and was exclusive food. Until the world changed.

The 1930 Depression made peanut butter, a low-cost, high-protein source of energy, a star. But not the combo sandwich. Not yet.

Then…WWII.

Peanut butter and jelly were on U.S. Military ration menus. Soldiers added jelly to the peanut spread to sweeten the sandwich and make it more palatable. When soldiers came home from the war, peanut butter and jelly sales soared.

Suddenly this marriage became the norm. Why separate them?  After all, they went together like… PB&J!

We never looked back.

How is Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Integration like the Marriage of PB&J?

They didn’t start out married, but they belong together.

Here’s what I mean:

puzzle pieces

Bring Top Value to Your Donor Survey

I get lots of questions about what to include in donor surveys.  But that’s the wrong place to begin.

First you must have clarity on why you’re sending the survey. You can’t bring top value to your donor survey unless you’re specific about what value you want to receive and deliver. The great thing about donor surveys is they’re a genuine “twofer.”

  1. One is for you(useful information you will act on);
  2. One is for your donor(a way to usefully participate, other than giving money, and feel a part of a community of like-minded folks).

Donor surveys are an opportunity for a value-for-value exchange. This is at the heart of all successful fundraising and marketing. The donor gives something of value (usually time and/or money) and you return something of value (usually an intangible “feel good;” a sense of meaning, purpose and connection). Donors are focused on value; you need to focus there too. And value is understood as a clear ‘walking’ of your talk.

Never do something merely to check the task off your ‘to-do’ list. If you’ve had “do a survey” on your back burner for a while, now’s the time to move it to the forefront and give it a closer and more purposeful look. What pieces of the puzzle are you looking to uncover? Begin with asking: How will I know this survey was successful?

Man and woman shaking hands

Are the Rich Motivated to Give Differently?

Wealthy donorProbably 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 cover why 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.  Why you must stop robbing them of chances to feel good about themselves.

And we’ll explore how you can use six major donor triggers to make donors feel so good they’ll want to say “yes” 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 (They Just Have More Money)

F. Scott Fitzgerald is famously supposed to have told Ernest Hemingway that “the rich are different than you and I.” “Yes, Scott,” Hemingway supposedly retorted. “They have more money.”

It’s good to remember that major donors are, first and foremost, just people.

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) is

Giant gummy bear

The Giant Mid-Level Fundraising Opportunity Your Nonprofit’s Missing

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to donor acquisition. Then?

They largely ignore these donors, unless…

They become worthy of attention by virtue of being ‘major’ donors. Then?

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to major donor relationship building.

But between new donor acquisition and major donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship, what happens?

Usually not enough.

This is a BIG missed opportunity.

You’ve likely got great donor prospects hiding inside your own donor base, and you’re essentially treating them like, well, poop.

What if you were to begin to look at your mid-level donors as the transformational fundraising opportunity they are?

Are you reading your major donors right?

Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

The more that you know, the less they’ll say ‘No!’

Such is the advice given by Jay Love, Founder of Bloomerang and a seasoned board member and major donor, some years ago at an online conference where we both presented major gifts master classes. His was on the topic of major gifts development from the donor’s perspective.

Do you think about your donor’s perspective before you ask for a major gift?

Here’s what I learned from Jay:

The more you know:

  • what floats your donor’s boat,,,
  • what other things compete for your donor’s attention (not just causes, but also career and family)…
  • how your donor prefers to communicate…
  • how your donor prefers to be wooed…
  • how your donor prefers to be recognized…

… the more likely you’ll get a “Yes.”

This advice is SO important I want to dig deeper into ways you can get inside your donor’s head and build the type of relationship that will be a win/win. When your donor gets what they want and need, you get what you want and need!

If you can’t show your major donor prospect you really know them, how can they trust you’ll be a good steward of their passionate philanthropic investment?

We all want to be known before we enter into a major engagement.

Which brings us to the crux of successful major donor development. Not surprisingly, it begins and ends with the same thing.

Can you guess what that might be?

6 Strategies to Convey Your Most Emotional Fundraising Appeal Story

2020-10-11 14.40.58People are wired for stories.

We use them to understand our world.

But do the same stories work in any time? For any person? No.

You need to understand your SMIT story – ‘Single Most Important Thing’ – at this moment in time.

And that SMIT will change, depending on the environment in which you’re operating.

You need to know your audience. Today. The story you told last year may not work as well this year.

  • The story must be relevant to the donor – which will depend on what is top of mind for them.
  • And the need to give the story a happy ending must feel urgent.

Relevancy and urgency are the key to emotional appeals.

"Doing the right thing isn't always easy" storefront art

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.

Message painted on stairs - We are in this together

Nonprofit Social Media in Time of Coronavirus – and Any Other Time

Message painted on stairs - We are in this togetherThis is one place you don’t have to social distance.

In fact, this is perhaps the most opportune time ever to do exactly the opposite.

But, not to worry.

Getting up close and personal… getting connected to your supporters and potential supporters in an authentic way… this is among the safest things you can do to give people warm, virtual hugs. At a time when folks are missing human contact the most.

And guess what?

It will make people feel good!

And when you make people feel good, they’ll associate that good feeling with you.

This sets the stage for them to be receptive to your call to action when you’re ready to make it.

Social Media is Not a Stand-Alone Strategy.

Yet it can significantly increase the depth and breadth of your marketing reach.

You might think of social media as the new nonprofit advertising.

Per fundraising expert Tina Cincotti, donors are more likely to give, and stick with you, if you connect to them through multiple points of contact. In fact, they give at least 20% more than those connected through only one channel.

You don’t have to be everywhere, do everything, all the time.

When you think this way, you’ll never start.

Begin at the beginning.