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1 Big Donor Retention Secret: Giving is Not Always its Own Reward

What are you doing to give your donor the meaning s/he seeks?
What are you doing to give your donors the meaning they seek?

Donor needs vary and evolve, depending on where they are in their own life cycle and their life cycle with your nonprofit. Do you ever wonder how you might help them meet their needs? How you might reward them for giving?  You should — if you want to keep them as donors.

You may be familiar with Maslow’s “Theory of Human Motivation” where he breaks needs for human development and contentment down into steps that form a pyramid. Maslow suggests the basic human needs such as food, shelter, and sleep are required before you can pursue higher needs such as security, love and belonging, esteem and the need for self-actualization.

Sadly, just giving to charity doesn’t necessarily meet these higher-level needs. Donors may give out of guilt, fear, peer pressure (which doesn’t feel so good). Some give to be praised (meets esteem need, but only if you praise them). Some give to be accepted by peers (meets love & belonging need, but only if you offer opportunities to connect and feel loved)… and so forth. You see, giving is not always it’s own reward.

To create life-long donors imposes on your charity the obligation to do something proactive to fulfill your donor’s highest level needs.

Donors, like all human beings, are on a continual quest for meaning. It’s the existential search to be all that one can be. To feel self-actualized.

In non-psychological or theoretical terms, at the self-actualization pinnacle donors just feel darn good. They carry around a warm glow, representing the realization of their potential and inner peace.

This feeling is very powerful – and we human beings naturally seek it out. It’s one of reasons why even very poor give outsized proportions of their income to charity.

Another way to describe this is the search for meaning in life. For most people, meaning is deeply intertwined with community connections. Victor Frankl in his famous chronicle on the search for meaning wrote: love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Humans want to feel a sense of connection and a sense of purpose to life. Giving (time, money, and energy) is a central way that we strive to find meaning.

If your nonprofit doesn’t complete the exchange circuit for donors, their search for meaning gets cut short.

Food bank giving

The True Meaning of Giving Tuesday

Food bank givingThis year Giving Tuesday is November 29th. So, soon.

Now is a good time to think about whether or not you want to jump on the bandwagon and, if so, how. There is more than one way to slice this particular piece of pie. And, really, that’s what Giving Tuesday is – just one piece of your total annual fundraising strategy.

You don’t want to blow it out of proportion. But you probably don’t want to ignore it. Rather, plan ahead to put it into a context where it will complement your other year-end communications and fundraising strategies.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is Giving Tuesday?

I confess I’ve been a bit of an apologist for the “holiday.” I like to turn the tables by actually giving to donors, rather than asking them to give yet one more time during this busiest fundraising time of the year.

Plus, I often say if you want gifts, you must give them. What better time to do so than on giving Tuesday?

Of course, asking can also be a form of giving. So, I love appeals on this date that give people the option of giving money or supporting you in other ways.

It’s all philanthropy (aka “love of humanity”).

Key: Approach GT Strategy with a Giving Spirit

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How Not to Ask for a Major Gift

Man yelling into phoneTwice in the past month I’ve been asked for a major gift.

Pretty much out of the blue.

Without much preparation, relationship-building or making of an inspiring case for support.

It was clear to me what the charity would get out of it: my money. It was not so clear what I would get out of it. Should I not care?

  • Perhaps not.

  • Perhaps if I were the ideal, perfect donor I would give with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

  • Perhaps if I were less ego-centric, I’d just do it because it was the “right thing to do.”

  • Perhaps if I were not on a quest for personal meaning, I’d give just because the person who asked is someone I know (though, not all that well); it would give them a feeling of success, and that would bring me some happiness.

  • Perhaps if I were not searching for a community of folks who share my values, I’d give without quite understanding the depth and breadth of values enacted by these charities or without having met more of the people involved.

  • Perhaps if I were not examining what it is that sparks joy in my life, I’d give whether or not this cause was currently at the top of my list or I’d been given opportunity for reflection and consideration.

But I’m not perfect.

I’m betting most of your donors aren’t either.

Donors have expectations… egos… personal meaning they’re seeking… communities they’d like to form… and cups of joy that need filling. Otherwise they wouldn’t be human.

And even if you could find a perfect donor prospect, in the instances where I was asked the case for why this was the right thing for me to do wasn’t even made all that well. The ask was about money, not impact.

There was simply an assumption that since I’d shown interest in the past, I would welcome this opportunity to demonstrate my interest even more passionately.

Okay. That’s not a bad starting place. But… you should never assume. You know what they say about the word “assume,” right?

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Warning Sign: A Post-Trump Digital Divide Between Nonprofits?

Believe it or not, this guest post appeared originally on my blog 3 1/2 years ago. I happened on it today, and thought it was still appropriate so wanted to share. One of my Clairification School students, Matt Patchell, had begun an important discussion in our online Subscriber Forum about what he termed the current “digital divide.”

He was referring to the chasm between nonprofits who are facing the digital revolution head-on, adapting their strategies to embrace its’ opportunities, vs. those sticking their heads in the sand and hoping it will go away.

Folks, digital engagement is not going away. Rather, it’s exploding.

As of late last year, one study found 43% of U.S. adults get political news online, rather than via television, radio or print media. A report from the Pew Research Center found one in five Americans get their news from Facebook. For the first time in the Center’s surveys, more than half (55%) of Americans age 50 or older report getting news on social media sites. That is 10 percentage points higher than the 45% who said so in the previous year. And that report is now three years old!

If you continue to ignore the channels your supporters frequent, and the ways they prefer to receive their information, the only thing that will be going bye-bye are your supporters.

What digital means for nonprofits.

It’s a sea change in how your marketing and fundraising team(s) operate and cooperate. Adopting is a far cry from adapting.

What does this have to do with Trump?

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At the Intersection of Major and Planned Giving: Moving to Asset-Based Philanthropy

Most organizations, large or small, public or private, local or national, arrive at the intersection where major gifts and planned gifts cross, come into question, or even merge. Which road should they take? Should the major gift officer learn planned giving? Should the planned giving officer become a major gift officer? What business mo will…

Even Nonprofits Get the Blues

2020-06-07 15.39.42Times are tough. It’s easy to get demoralized. Especially if you work for a business, nonprofit or otherwise, that doesn’t feel ‘essential’ in today’s environment.

It’s human to feel depressed.

A survey conducted in June by the Kaiser Family Foundation found more than 30% of adults in the United States were reporting symptoms consistent with anxiety or depression since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Even our former First Lady revealed in a recent podcast:

“There have been periods throughout this quarantine where I just have felt too low… I have to say, that waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not responded, waking up to yet another story of a Black man or a Black person somehow being dehumanized or hurt or killed, or falsely accused of something, it is exhausting. It has led to a weight that I haven’t felt in my life — in, in a while.”

Michelle Obama

I know it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes.  And waiting for time to pass sucks.

Yet my Mom always said, “This too shall pass.”

I found it comforting.

It was like she was sharing some universal truth by telling me time-specific depression need not turn to despair.

There’s another path.

Mrs. Obama said she had benefited from keeping a routine, including exercise, getting fresh air and having a regular dinner time. I’ve found these things useful as well. Most important, I’m learning to focus more on what I can control than what I can’t. Plus I’m learning to accept there are some things I can’t do. Some things I can’t fix.  Not now.

Sometimes we have to wait.

Meanwhile, there are things to do to make the waiting bearable.

What Nonprofits Can Learn from the Blues

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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. 

Donor-centered focus: Heart and Gratitude over WealthI find a widespread misunderstanding about the notion of what constitutes being donor-centered. It derives from two misconceptions:

  1. Assuming people don’t want to be asked.
  2. Spending all your time on cultivation, assuming folks don’t need an ask and will simply give spontaneously as a result of being wooed.

Both of these rationales short-change your would-be donors.

Why?

FIRST: Donors want to be asked because they’re starved for the love that comes from voluntary giving and receiving. Donors have love to give, but don’t always have an object towards which to direct their affection.

SECOND: Donors need to be asked because when they’re not, they don’t know how much you need their help.  Consequently, giving feels a bit empty. Almost a bit like a crap shoot.  Donors want to invest their money where they feel confident it will be most appreciated and will do the most good.

Let’s delve into both of these misconceptions more deeply, putting them into a donor-centered context.

In other words, what are your would-be donors feeling?

Donors are Love-Starved

(more…)

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3 Ways to Remove Psychological Barriers to Philanthropic Giving

If you can remember this acronym, you’ll be able to persuade more donors to join you and stick with you. This is deceptively simple stuff.

And it really, truly works!

Give me a ‘D’ for DOUBTS!

Give me a ‘U’ for UNIQUENESS!

Give me an ‘E’ for EXPECTATIONS!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you must overcome to win over donors!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you owe your donors!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you must meet to show you’re worthy!

Ready to ‘D.U.E.’ it?

Let’s get started!

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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. 

#GivingTuesday or #GratitudeTuesday? Choose!

I’ve long been an advocate of turning the tables on #GivingTuesday and using the “giving” part of the day to give to donors rather than add yet one more ask from them in an already crowded solicitation season.

If you want gifts, you must give them. 

#GivingTuesday is one of those things that sounds good on paper, but in actual implementation it can be less than ideal.

Why?

Because it comes smack dab in the middle of most folks’ annual campaigns. So there’s often little time to do it right. And it can suck your energy and focus away from other critically important year-end fundraising efforts.

I’ve got a better choice for you.

Flip the idea and rather than asking folks to make a symbolic gift to you, why don’t you make a heartfelt gift to them?

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By Not Asking Donors to Give You Short-Change Them

If done correctly, I would say the most donor-centric thing a fundraiser can do is ask a donor for a gift. Why? Because you are allowing the donor to change the world. You can’t get more donor-centric than that.”

— Jeff Schreifels, Veritus Group

Jeff made the comment above in response to an article by Roger Craver on the Agitator blog: Donor-Centric or Faux Donor-Centric? Check the Plumbing. It has a terrific checklist of ways to tell whether or not your organization is donor-centric (I’ve summarized the list at the bottom of this article).

Everything on the list applies to donors of all stripes. If you’re going to do major gift fundraising (and you really, truly should because 88% of dollars raised comes from 12% of donors), these tips apply in SPADES.

Jeff was offering the ultimate donor-centric item to add to this checklist, and I could not agree more.

Extreme paddle board

Risk vs. Reward: Rethink Nonprofit Marketing & Fundraising Best Practices

As you plan for the year ahead, it’s smart to think about risk vs. reward.

Sometimes you feel like a risk; sometimes you don’t.

If everything is going along swimmingly, and you want to take things to the next level, then taking a calculated risk may be just the thing.

If you’re not yet maximizing return using tried-and-true best practices, then going the risky route may make less sense.

If you’re wondering when to take risks with your nonprofit’s marketing and fundraising, here’s my answer: When you’re ready.

Begin by determining which current strategies are your most rewarding. Do you have good basics in place?

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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. 

#GivingTuesday or #Gratitude Tuesday? Choose!

I’ve long been an advocate of turning the tables on #GivingTuesday and using the “giving” part of the day to give to donors rather than add yet one more ask to an already crowded solicitation season.

If you want gifts, you must give them. 

It’s one of those things that sounds good on paper, but in actual implementation it can be less than ideal. Why? Because it comes smack dab in the middle of most folks’ annual campaigns. So there’s often little time to do it right. And it can such your energy and focus on other year-end fundraising efforts.

I’ve got a better choice for you.

Flip the idea and rather than asking folks to make a symbolic gift to you, why don’t you make a gift to them?

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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.

THANKS(for)GIVING: 9 Mistakes Nonprofits Make Thanking Donors

Thanking donors is the one thing most nonprofits do not spend enough time thinking about. Too often I find that staff spend 95% of their time crafting their fundraising appeal and getting embroiled in project management — design, layout, printing, postage, etc.  Finally, the letter (or e-appeal) is ready to launch.  The mailing is dropped. The button is punched. And… voila!  Gifts start to arrive! But then what?!

After you’ve sent out your appeal is too late to start thinking about what your thank you letter or email will say. Or who will sign it. Or whether someone who donates online will also receive an actual letter. Or thank you call. Or who will make the call. Everything must be well thought-out in advance. You must be ready to go, with different templates and strategies for different target audiences, well before you’ve asked for your first donation.

What would Miss Manners have to say about the way you too often focus more on the gift than on the giver? She would not be happy.  Not happy at all.  So, make a vow to remedy this situation before we kick into prime giving season.

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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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? 

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The Heart of Effective Major Donor Development: It’s Not Money

The heart of major donor development is customer service
The heart of major donor development is demonstrating impact and showing gratitude. Continually.

Everyone wants to develop a major gifts program. Or to strengthen their existing major gifts program. Why? Because they want to raise more money.

If you approach major gifts development solely from this perspective you’ll ultimately fail.

You might raise more money for a little while. But over the long-term you’ll lose more support than you gain. Because it’s not just about money.

Successful, lifelong major donor relationships are about two things:

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3 Keys to Rethink Fundraising Risk and Reward in 2014

When should you take risks with fundraising? When you’re ready. Here’s what I mean:

You Can’t Riff Without a Guitar. News flash: You’ve got to do the basics before you improvise.

What’s on your playlist for 2014?  The rewarding gold standards like prospecting, asking and stewarding? Or riskier new events? Special campaigns? Extra social media?  You’re to be congratulated if you’ve got innovative ideas. It shows you haven’t lost your creative spark, and you’ve got gusto and passion for what you do. Bravo! But… wait… hold on a minute…

Before you get lost in the creative process,

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Less is not Enough:Why Your Nonprofit Needs to Spend More on Fundraising

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

“Incremental Change is Not an Option.” 

Dream Big inscribed on wallWhat if this was your charity’s mantra? This is so different than “We keep overhead super low.”  The first means dreaming on a large scale, and reaching for true solutions to social problems.  The latter, not so much.

For years donors have been taught to look for low overhead as a sign of effectiveness. When you stop to think about it, it makes little common sense. Who cares if you spend only 5 cents on the dollar if you only net $71 from your bake sale?  Will this solve your problem? Whatever resources are needed to solve the problem, those are the resources that must be spent.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

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Personal is the New Plastics: 4 Ways Nonprofits Can Build Donor Relationships.

This month’s SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you):

Remember in ‘The Graduate’ the one word piece of advice given to Dustin Hoffman?  PLASTICS. That was seen to be the wave of the future (oh how long ago that seems, and how quickly something can turn from friend to foe…. but I digress).

Recently I gave another “P” word as my best piece of advice for nonprofit marketers and fundraisers. PERSONAL. I received a lot of feedback, so I’d like to revisit this word and flesh out its multiple meanings – and how getting personal can help you achieve your fundraising and marketing goals.

Wishing you a prosperous new year

How to Help Donors Give Astutely Before Year-End

Wishing you a prosperous new year

Do you want to risk not receiving generous gifts you could have otherwise received, just because you failed to go the extra mile to share relevant, useful and even critical information? Or because you just did the most basic things, failing to do what would have made your communications really stand out?

The Genuine Job of the Philanthropy Facilitator

Your job as a philanthropy facilitator is to do everything in your power to make giving to you as easy, joyful and rewarding as possible.

Everything.

Do you?

Doing everything means

Thank you note writing

Why Prompt, Personal Thank You’s are Nonprofit Donors’ Inalienable Right

Thank you note writingIn 2018, WSJ columnist Christopher Mims observed:

“Alongside life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, you can now add another inalienable right: two-day shipping on practically everything.”

”Everything” includes a prompt expression of gratitude when someone makes a philanthropic gift to your organization.

At least that’s what donors believe.

And you better deliver – or else.

Don’t Think Donors will Give You a Pass Because You’re Nonprofit

People have come to expect this kind of turnaround by land, air and sea. So, you better believe they expect it by internet!

Especially if they make their gift online.

And, yes, they expect it from you.

They know you have the ability to send them

How to Make Donors Happy to Say YES to Your Fundraising Appeal

Super hero kidsToday I’m going to tell you how to create a fundraising appeal that’s all about your donor’s happiness.

Because if you can persuade your donor that saying “yes” will make them happy, then you both win.

Don’t you want to make your donor feel like a winner?

Don’t you want to be a winner?

Everybody wants to be a winner!

Sadly, most nonprofits write appeals that don’t create a win/win.

They write self-congratulatory letters that talk about how wonderful they are, and what wonderful outcomes they make possible.

They forget about the donor.

They don’t think about donor joy.

How can I be so certain this is the case?

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10 Strategies to Skyrocket Major Gift Fundraising

Skyrocketing“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.” So wrote Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland.

It’s the same with major donor fundraising, except you don’t ever really stop.  You just start up again. You do follow a prescribed path, however.  And here’s what it looks like:

  1. Before
  2. Ground Floor
  3. Explore
  4. Back Door
  5. Adore
  6. Mentor
  7. Ask For
  8. Implore
  9. Rapport
  10. Report

If you do this correctly, it becomes a transformational process for the donor. They want to stay connected and engaged and invested.  Which is why you don’t stop.  You follow up with “Some More.”

But first…

Broken Heart

Important News about Relationship Fundraising: Stop Losing Donors

Broken Heart
Do you know how you may be breaking your donor’s heart? Keep it up, and they’ll break yours.

This is important.

It’s about a report that may change how you do fundraising.

It should.

Let me explain.

Unless you’ve been asleep at the wheel, by now you should know most nonprofits have been hemorrhaging donors for over a decade.

By tending to focus more on expensive, staff-intensive acquisition strategies like direct mail and special events, charities are bringing in one-time donors who never give to them again. It’s why I focus so much on donor retention strategies and exhort you to make them your priority strategy.

Why? Because otherwise all your acquisition efforts are wasted. The latest Fundraising Effectiveness Project Report  revealed an astounding 81% of first-time donors lapse. [BTW: This isn’t the report that’s going to change your modus operandi; it’s merely the rationale for the release of the report that will. Keep reading.] Of repeat donors, 39% lapse. This means, on average, charities retain only 45% of all donors. For every 100 new donors acquired, on average nonprofits lost 96 existing donors. That means you’re engaging in a whole lot of work, for a pretty miserable return on investment.

“Over 70% of people that we recruit into organizations never come back and make another gift, so we’re caught on this treadmill where we have to spend lots of money on acquisition which most nonprofits lose money on anyway, just to stand still.”

– Professor Adrian Sargeant,
Director of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University

This is the proverbial three steps forward, two steps back – only worse!

This burn and churn strategy is killing nonprofits — and burning out the folks who work in them.

Why is it that for profits manage to retain 94% of customers, yet there’s such a huge disparity when it comes to nonprofits?

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.

Mythological Frieze

How to Overcome Nonprofit Fundraising Myths

Mythological FriezeIf you’re constantly encountering people on your staff or board who want to curtail your fundraising efforts, you’re not alone.

Generally, people hate fundraising. It’s an “F” word.

And folk can get creative telling you why it’s an “F” word; hence, something to be avoided.

Sigh…

I call these creative explanations, at best, half-truths.

“Beware of a half truth. It may be the wrong half.” – Danish proverb

I use this cautionary proverb a lot.

It fits a lot of circumstances. Half-truths, myths, “common wisdom,” and crowd-sourced beliefs all have the “ring” of truth; this ring, like all bells and whistles, can be distracting. Beware: the core of the matter can get overlooked and/or distorted.

What can you do to avoid basing your fundraising strategy on a lie?

How to Kill Persistent Fundraising Myths

I too often come across six fundraising myths – lies and half-truths — in my work with nonprofits. These myths exist because the word fundraising leads with “fund.” Fund means money.

journey over rope bridge

6 Steps to Fuel Your Major Gift Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expeditious Steps to Fuel Your Pathway to Passionate Philanthropy

Sign: Good News is Coming

How to Raise Money with Nonprofit Newsletters

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

And they should delight, retain and upgrade donors too.

How does this work?

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

To your donors!

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

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

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

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

  • Donor feels good

  • Donor trusts you’re good to your word.

  • Donor feels inclined to give again.

  • Donor retention increases

  • Average gift size increases

  • Your raise a lot more money over time

Be guided by the “virtuous circle.”

Colored pencils

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

Colored pencils

I’ve been asked this question many times.

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

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

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

All things are not created equal.

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

3 people with marching orders

3 Ridiculously Easy Strategies to Boost Fundraising by 27%

3 people with marching orders I’m excited to share three easy tips with you, and the results are measurable.  Do these things and you’ll be able to tell if they impact your bottom line!

I was inspired to share these ideas with you based on a 2019 study by NextAfter and Kindful looking at how organizations are cultivating donors via email. They found plenty of data-driven ideas that can improve donor retention and boost online fundraising revenue — by as much as 27%!

Think about how much an increase like that could mean for your organization!

That’s right!

Make way…” for these ridiculously easy, revenue-boosting strategies!

If you raised $100,000 last year, you could raise $127,000 – or more – this year.

And that’s without having to apply for a new grant, hold a new fundraising event or even ask for a new major gift or two to reap these rewards.

All you must do is simply pay a little more attention to your follow-through communication with donors.

Did you know most of the top reasons donors give for not renewing their giving have to do with how you do/don’t communicate with them after they make a donation?– or fail to personally, meaningfully and promptly communicate.

Meaningful, regular donor communication can hugely impact your bottom line.

To make a demonstrable difference in donor behavior, however, your communication strategy must tick more than one box. It must be prompt, personal and relevant to what your donor cares about and how they want to hear from you. Don’t just guess what your donors might like from you. Ask them!  In fact, surveys, social media queries, online quizzes, solicitations for comments and feedback are all wonderful ways to communicate digitally in a manner that personally engages your supporters.

Never forget: The best fundraising is personal.

So… what are you waiting for?

Here are three strategies revealed by the research: 

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logo

Fundraising Do’s vs. Don’ts: Monthly Donor Appeal Strategy

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoHere comes my occasional “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature, where I share with you something arriving in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity.’

Today we’re going to review a monthly donor campaign strategy.

It arrived as an email. There’s (1) a subject line, (2) the email itself, and (3) what happens if/when you click through and are transported to the donation landing page.

We’ll take a look at the various elements; then assess what works/doesn’t work.

I’ll ask you some questions.

  1. Would you open this email?
  2. If yes, why?
  3. If no, why?
  4. What looks good about the email?
  5. What looks not so good about the email?
  6. Would it inspire you to click through?
  7. If yes, why?
  8. If no, why not?
  9. Once you click through, would you be inspired to take action?
  10. If yes, why?
  11. If no, why not?

First, I’d like you to think about your answers and jot them down.

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

Third, if you disagree with me please let me know in the comments below.

Really take the time to notice what you like and don’t like.

I promise you’ll learn a LOT more this way. We learn best by doing.

Seriously, I mean it.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Subject Headline

Claire, here’s a simple way to do your part to repair the world.

This may help: Take three minutes and jot down your answers to the first three questions on a piece of paper or your screen. I want to know if what was in the subject headline would have caused you to open the email or hit ‘delete.’

Okay.  Ready to learn what I think thus far, and also see what else we’re working with?

Let’s begin!

Does this Email Say “Open Me?”

Flexible worker

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,

LIght bulb

Are You Accountable? Or do You Suffer from Akrasia?

I’ve long advocated for incorporating accountability into nonprofit job descriptions if you hope to get, and measure, results. Without accountability, tasks have a serious likelihood of slipping to the back burner; then off the stove entirely.

Procrastination is just a human trait. 

We tell ourselves we’ll clean out the garage this weekend.  But no one makes us do it.  So the weekend comes and goes without anything happening.

We make a new year’s resolution to exercise more. We even join a gym. We attend a couple of times, but no one is tracking our progress on the elliptical machine. We fall back into our previous habits and, before we know it, we’ve stopped going.

We plan to get out of the office and visit a donor at least three times a week, but no one really pays attention to our schedule – after all, we’re grown-up professionals! – and it’s easy to get distracted by emails, meetings, and a host of other tasks.

I could go on with a zillion examples. You probably can too. Why?  Because human beings are wired this way. We get distracted. We procrastinate. We give in to habits that may not serve us well. And we’ve been doing it for centuries.  It even has a Greek name: Akrasia.

cigar smoking Groucho

Can You Smoke What’s in Your Major Gift Pipeline

You want a smokin’ major gifts program, don’t you?

Of course you do.  You want to light those babies on fire!

Better put, you want to ignite your donor’s passions, light the fire in their bellies, and help facilitate the type of philanthropy that will be a win/win/win – for you, your donors and the vision your organization seeks to attain.

You can’t do this without;

  • Nurturing a pipeline that lights your donors’ sparks of interest,
  • Fans the flames, and
  • Patiently waits until ignition happens.

Sure, you could just light little fires. Fires that self-extinguish pretty quickly. But these aren’t the fires that will sustain you and keep you warm over the long haul.

That’s why every nonprofit, no matter your size, cause or longevity, needs to build a major gifts pipeline.

Otherwise, you’ll have nothing to smoke!

Want to learn how to stop running on fumes?

Let’s Build Your Major Gifts Pipeline in 10 Steps!

Mail-email-300x250.jpg

How Often Should You Mail to Your Nonprofit Donors?

I decided to write this post due to the number of times nonprofits ask me “How often should we mail to our donors?” The corollary question is “How often can we ask people to give?”

The answer?

Well… if there was one quick answer I wouldn’t have needed to write a whole article. I’d just have given you a headline with a definitive response!

I know you want a definite answer.

And I could give you one. But it wouldn’t be the truth. Because the truth is different for every nonprofit. And the truth will even be different for your nonprofit at different points in your life cycle.

There are two definitive things I can tell you:

Customer-service-300x300.jpg

7 Strategies to Revolutionize Your Nonprofit Culture to Stop Losing Donors

I hear a lot of complaining about donors.

They should do this:

    • Be more compliant.
    • Not make us work so hard to please them.
    • Treat us like we know what we’re doing.
    • Give just because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do.

They shouldn’t do that:

    • Give any way other than ‘unrestricted.
    • Demand specifics on how their money was spent.
    • Act like they know more than we do.
    • Require reports that take us hours to complete.

What about what YOU should and should not do to build sustainable, fulfilling relationships with your supporters?

I don’t hear enough of “What can we do to delight our donors today?”

I hear too much of “We already sent a thank you; that’s enough, and they shouldn’t expect more.”

Shouldn’t they?

Donors are people first, philanthropists second. And people need to know they’re important to you.

Let me tell you a true story.

A close friend of mine used to complain to me about her husband all the time. Why? Because he didn’t tell her he loved her enough. Understatement of the year.

Heart with stick figure

Fundraising Appeal & Thank You Strategies Your Nonprofit Needs NOW

Heart with stick figureI know you’re working on calendar year-end fundraising right now.

And if you’re not, start immediately!

Per Mobile Cause:

  • 30% of annual donations occur in December
  • 12% of annual giving happens on the last three days of the calendar year
  • 53% of nonprofits start planning their year-end appeal in October

Before it’s too late, I want to share with you four almost magic strategies that have worked well for me for decades!

Yes, there are ways to tweak these strategies to conform to the current zeitgeist and recognize we live in a digitally revolutionized world. This can be super helpful, and I highly recommend you pay attention to the ways fundraising and nonprofit marketing are evolving. It means new skills are needed, more money must be invested to yield your most positive returns, and you’re no longer going to be able to rest on your laurels.

That being said, I don’t want you to get so caught up in bells and whistles you neglect the fundamentals. Nor do I want you to throw up your hands in despair, culminating in a decision that you just can’t compete or do a better job because… (fill in the blank).

No excuses!

The magic strategies below have worked for me, and countless nonprofits, over generations. They’ll work for you too.

Truly, I promise if you do these things you’ll raise more money this year.

Ready to get started?

Frame in front of ocean view

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.

Top Strategies to Overcome Fear of Nonprofit Fundraising

How often have you heard someone say “I hate fundraising; I’ll do anything else,” or something along those lines?

Every time I hear this, my response is to get curious. “What makes you say this? How does fundraising make you feel?” Generally I’ll get a range of responses; mostly they boil down to some variation on the theme of FEAR.

Board members aren’t lazy because they’re afraid of asking for money. Your staff aren’t slackers because they fear fundraising.  They’re just scared, and need help overcoming their fears and anxieties. That’s your job if you’re the fundraiser!

Today we’re going to look at how to get around these fears, so you can turn reluctant fundraisers into ready ones. Honestly, it’s not rocket science; it’s just not something most of us are taught. Very few people are “natural fundraisers,” so falling back on “some people are good at this; others are not” is neither true nor helpful.  Everyone can become good at facilitating philanthropy – once their fears are addressed.

How to Overcome Fear-Based Barriers to Fundraising

It’s the job of a nonprofit’s leadership to work with insiders and stakeholders (staff and volunteers) to help them feel both passionate about the cause and confident in the fundraising process. Below you’ll find some top strategies to address challenges within your own organization so you can transform folks from fearful and reluctant to joyful and ready fundraisers.