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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.

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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.

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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.

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Plan ‘Random Acts’ of Nonprofit Donor Kindness, Especially Now

There’s a pandemic out there killing people.

What can your nonprofit organization do to offer a remedy?

Kill ‘ em with kindness.

I’m talking about your supporters, of course.

In order for people to do good they have to feel good.

Seriously, philanthropy takes energy. It takes the ability to step out of one’s day-to-day grind and think about someone, or something, else. And it’s more difficult than usual for folks to find this generous space right now.

You can help.

Make this the giving season.

I often say “If you want gifts you must give them.”

Maya Angelou says “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Let’s talk about what you can give – as nonprofit staff and board — to create happier supporters.

Notice a lot of folks saying “2020 is a bad year?” People can use a bit of cheer.  They’re tired of doom and gloom.

Remember when “random acts of kindness” was a thing? People would buy a coffee for the person behind them in line. Or they’d pay the bridge toll for the next car. Their reward was simply imagining the unexpected delight their gift would give to someone that day. Ever have it happen to you?  Ever try it?

Now’s your chance!

I’d like to suggest practicing some creative planned (not random) acts of kindness.

Something to bring your donors and volunteers a bit of good cheer. It can be as simple as letting them know what they did to change someone’s life for the better. Or it can be a modest, human gesture showing them how grateful you are for their support. This is something you can have fun with.  And the rewards will be huge, both for you and your donors.

10 Acts of Donor Kindness For a Pandemic, and Beyond

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4 Types of ‘PERSONAL’ Your Nonprofit Must Adopt Today

4 Sculptures of torsos, Kristina May, Filoli 2020Early in my career I received a piece of fundraising advice that has stuck with me to this day:

People are all people.

And what do you do with people if you want to build a relationship?

You get PERSONAL!

In fact, if I had to tell you how to win over donors with just one word, “personal” is the word I’d choose.

This word should become your mantra and underscore everything you do. Your annual appeal writing. Your special events. Your newsletters. Your blog posts. Your proposals. Your reports. Your social media.

If you take just this one word to heart — PERSONAL — you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.

This is the one word that can set you apart.

That can help you build relationships like nothing else.

Though we talk a lot about empathy and donor-centricity, truly valuable tools in building donor relationships, these terms are subsumed by the umbrella of the ‘person’ to whom they apply.

Make sense?

Today I’d like to flesh out the multiple meanings of this word, and discuss how getting personal can help you achieve your nonprofit fundraising and marketing goals.

This is something that has always mattered. Today, in an era of social distancing and striving for greater diversity, equity and inclusion, how we get personal and how we define people are more important than ever.

How Yucky Email Addresses – and Inhumanity — Hurt Your Nonprofit

Robotic_dinosaur_with_face_mask_-_Art_in_the_VoidThese days you’re likely communicating with constituents digitally more than ever before.

That’s terrific, but… I want you to remember one important thing, especially if you’re a small to medium-sized, local nonprofit.

Philanthropy, translated from the Greek, literally means ‘love of humanity.’

Whatever you do that gets in the way of your humanity?

Stop doing it!

I really mean it.

Why?

PEOPLE GIVE TO PEOPLE

Sure, sometimes the ‘cause’ alone is enough to drive donations. But generally this holds true only for first-time gifts, emergency response gifts, and gifts to national and international charities with large name recognition. Even in these cases, repeat gifts and major gifts are driven by human interaction.

When it comes to your current supporter base, they tend to want to engage with real human beings.

Want to know what’s not a real human being?

Nonprofit’s ‘Unfair Advantage?’ You Deliver Meaning.

In whatever times we’re in, that’s what folks don’t have enough of. That’s what folks crave.

That’s what explained Nike’s daring move in 2018 to put forward a polarizing marketing campaign featuring the face of American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, most famously known for taking a knee during the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner.

In Why did Nike do what they did? Mark Schaefer of Grow, and author of several digital marketing books, explains why this was a brilliant idea. Despite the fact it generated controversy, including protesters burning shoes in the streets, Schaefer notes Nike’s move aligns with research highlighted in his book, Marketing Rebellion. The book explores how to connect with customers and build a brand in a world without loyalty.

The message of the book applies  to folks in the social benefit sector as well.

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No-Nonsense Strategies for Nonprofit Crisis Fundraising

Balance. That should be your ‘today mantra.’

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

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

This is really a truism you should carry with you throughout your life. But it’s never been truer than the times in which we’re currently living.

At the bottom of this article, I’m going to offer you some ‘don’t panic’ self-care strategies.

Since, however, you primarily look to me for fundraising advice, let’s begin with some specific strategies to try right NOW.

FIRST: Take Care of Your Donors

Donor at home under blanketConnect, Connect, Connect – with Everyone!

Talk to your donors about how they’re doing. It’s always been good practice to stay in touch with your supporters.  In fact, the numero uno reason donors stop giving is due to your poor communication with them. So use this time as your reason to – finally — get your donor love and loyalty plan off your back burner!

Take this opportunity to connect with folks with sensitivity and empathy. Show you care about them. As people, not just donors. Let them know you’ve no idea how this pandemic may be affecting them, personally and professionally. Listen and empathize with what they tell you. Depending on what your organization does, you may even be able to help them. At least put out an offer of help, and a listening ear, should they need you in the coming weeks and months. Then – as appropriate — share with them the situation for your organization and those who rely on your programs and services.

NEXT: Take Care of Your Mission with Specific Strategies to Try Right Now

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Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Major Donor Cultivation 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 major donor engagement strategy.

It arrived as an email. There’s a subject line, preview pane, the email itself, and what happens if/when you click through.

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?

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

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

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, tell us what you think

Preview Pane

We’d like to hear from you

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 (“Claire, tell us what you think”) or the email preview pane (We’d like to hear from you”) 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?”

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Super Strategies to Spoil Your Supporters

Do you have some major donor prospects you’re trying to woo?

Of course, you want to start with your overall donor love program. You know, the one where you plan to communicate regularly with all your supporters – 4 to 7 purely grateful, meaningful touches for every 1 inspiring ask.  You do that, right?

  • Thank you letter, email and phone call
  • Donor welcome package
  • Newsletter with stories about outcomes
  • Blog with stories about outcomes
  • Token gifts (e.g., ‘how to’ lists; recommendations; new research results; recipes; discount coupons, etc.)
  • Invitations to free events

Good!

However… just the basic stuff won’t do it with major donor prospects.

You need something extra.

Something to really grab folks’ attention.

Something unexpected.

Something personal.

Without a little something, you’re left with just a dumb thing… like automated group mailings. Or really big ‘moves’ you never quite get around to. Or stuff, let’s face it, which just isn’t particularly thoughtful.

Winningest Ways to Woo 

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3 Ridiculously Easy Strategies to Boost Fundraising by 27%

3 people with marching ordersI’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’s what the research reveals, and I recommend: 

hiking journey

6 Steps to Fuel Your Major Gift Journey

hiking journeyThe 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.

If you make the experience a joyful one for your prospect, they’ll become your donor. If you continue to make the experience joyful for your donor, they’ll continue as your donor.

Strive to become your donor’s favorite philanthropic journey guide, and they’ll come back to you time and again to find meaning, purpose and happiness.

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

I cover this (1) business, and the (2) donor journey toward joy, in great detail in my online course, Winning Major Gift Fundraising Strategies. Please sign up for it, or get on the waiting list if the course is currently full. Meanwhile, 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

roaring lion

7 Things Nonprofit Major Gifts Programs Need to Succeed

Every nonprofit should have a major gifts program.

That’s where the lion’s share of the money is.

It’s a rare organization that has a mailing list large enough to raise a million dollars from a million different $1 donors. But most nonprofits do have major donor prospects hiding in plain sight.

It’s up to you to find them; then move them along a cultivation path that prepares them – and you – to make an ask that results in a win/win values-based exchange.

Let’s review 7 secrets that will guarantee your major gifts program is a success, whatever your size.

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?

scrabble tiles: fake news

FAKE Nonprofit News: 6 Fundraising Untruths

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

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

But there’s a fix!

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

Why?

A disinformation campaign is unconsciously being waged by leaders who:

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

Oh, dear. Guess what?

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

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

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

I am grateful

How to Cultivate Awe, Gratitude and Altruism to Boost Nonprofit Fundraising

I’m a huge fan of the Greater Good Science Center at U.C. Berkeley, and often apply their research to nonprofit fundraising and marketing.  A recent article really struck me: How to Find Your Purpose in Life.

Over my 30 years of practice as an in-house development professional, the fundamental thing I learned is this:

You serve your donors every bit as much as they serve your organization’s mission.

Please allow that to sink in.

You have a mission. A purpose. Donors can help you get there.

Your donors are looking for purpose. You can help them find it.

It’s a symbiotic relationship.  And you have a role in fostering that relationship.  What is that role?

Your job is to facilitate your donor’s philanthropic journey. Their journey to discover their purpose.

So what’s this really all about?

mindblowing-176x300.jpg

Your Secret to Mindblowing Fundraising – Improve Donor Retention Just 10%

Imagine what it would mean to your mission if you doubled the lifetime value of all of your current supporters.

Do you know even know what percentage of donors you’re retaining?

According to Jay Love, founder of Bloomerang, less than 45% of fundraising offices know this answer!

So, you’re not alone.  But you can do better.

Because knowing your retention rate enables you to move it to something better.

And I’m going to guess, if you’re like the majority of nonprofits, you probably need to improve your donor retention.

At least if you want to grow.

Or maybe even just survive.

Just a small change in retention, up or down, can mean thousands of dollars.

It’s your choice whether they’re your gain, or your loss.

Why Donor Wooing Requires WOWing

cashier-Pixabay1791106_640The Unfair Exchange Bernadette Jiwa, The Story of Telling.

That will be eight dollars,’ the woman, who is carefully weighing and wrapping two serves of freshly made fettuccine for us to take home, says.

As my husband is about to hand her the cash, she takes another handful of the pasta from behind the glass and adds it to our package.

She doesn’t announce that she’s giving us twenty per cent extra for free.
She doesn’t even invite us to notice the gesture at all.
It’s enough for her that she knows she has added value.

We think of value as a hard metric—the anticipated fair exchange of this for that.

But value can be a surprising, generous, unfair exchange.

Something that is given because we can, not because we must.

Ah… value.

Wow, wow, WOW!

This is what all fundraising, fundamentally, is about.

A value-for-value exchange.

Yet one side of the exchange is a hard metric: The donor’s cold, hard cash.

While the other side of the exchange is something decidedly less tangible: Freely given gratitude from you and your organization.

Or at least that’s how it should work.

The Difference between ‘We Must’ and ‘We Can’ 

What does your donor love and loyalty plan look like?

Do you even have such a plan?

If the only reason you acknowledge donations is because you feel you ‘must,’ it’s likely your donors aren’t walking away from the encounter feeling much more than matter-of-fact. The transactional receipts many organizations send out are registered by the donors as “Ho, hum. Guess I’ll go file this with my tax receipts.”

This kind of exchange is fair, sure.

But it’s not generous.

Meeting over coffee

Improve Major Donor Fundraising to Grab a Larger Piece of Philanthropy Pie

If I had to tell you what you need to do to succeed with major gift fundraising in one sentence it would be this:

Identify major donor prospects… qualify them so you know they want to build a deeper relationship with you… cultivate them… visit with them… listen to them… reflect back to them what you heard… ask them for something specific that resonates with their passions… steward their gift and communicate in an ongoing way to make them feel like the hero they are!

Whew – that was a mouthful!

A shorter way to say this is: Meet with donors. Listen to donors. Ask donors.

See — it’s simple!

It’s definitely not rocket science. It’s just good old hard work. Satisfying and rewarding work. And it’s a type of work anyone can learn to do. [If you want to learn, please sign up for my upcoming Winning Major Gifts Strategies e-course that begins January 21st. It may be the most important investment you make all year. Just one major gift will more than cover the cost].

Over my 38 years in fundraising, 30 of them working in the trenches as a director of development for organizations with budgets ranging from $1 – $40 million, I have asked for a lot of major gifts.  I know what works, and what doesn’t work. Today I want to give you:

(1) some of my best words of wisdom, and also

(2) answers to some of the questions folks frequently ask me .

I hope these tips will help you tweak your mindset and invigorate your systems so you can be more successful fundraising in the coming year!

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!

Hold these 4 Nonprofit Fundraising Truths to Be Self Evident

DeclarationOfIndepenceI’ve created for you a little “Declaration of Fundraising Independence” to help you become a fruitful philanthropy facilitator from this day forward.

This Declaration incorporates what I consider to be essential fundraising truths — four pre-conditions which must be met before you’ll be able to successfully exercise your fundraising strategies. Within these four pre-conditions are additional hidden truths (don’t worry; I’ll call them out for you).

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that not all charities are created equal, that they are endowed by their constituencies with certain unalienable visions, missions and values, that among these are visions, missions and values that some, but not all, members of the public share. That to secure these visions, missions and values, charities are instituted among the public, deriving their just powers from the support of the public. That whenever any form of charity becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to fail to support it, and to instead support those institutions as to them shall seem most likely to effect the safety, happiness, goodwill and public benefit of the populace.

Fundraising is not an end in itself. It serves noble ends.

(1) When those ends are ones valued by the people, and

(2) When folks trust you’re doing an effective job meeting needs they believe must be met, then

(3) You earn the privilege of fundraising and, in fact,

(4) You assume the responsibility to fundraise to assure those who rely on you to meet these needs are not left high and dry.

So… this is where you get your Declaration of Fundraising Independence.  You are ‘free to fundraise’ once you’re able to make a case to enough people that you deserve to exist.  For this to be the case:

Conscious compassion

4 Ways to Consciously Keep Donors Connected

Conscious compassionWhen people give to you for the first time, often they know very little about you. Perhaps they found you through a link on social media. Or organic search. Or through a friend who emailed them a link to your appeal.

They were inspired to give, once, based on whatever they saw or read.

What happens next is critical.

Either you’ll inspire donors to stick with you, or you’ll depress their enthusiasm through benign neglect.

I say “benign,” because I’m sure you don’t mean to mistreat your supporters. Nonetheless, I’m willing to bet many of you do.

  • Perhaps donors make a gift online, and are not immediately taken to a thank you landing page that reassures them their gift went through.
  • Perhaps you send donors a deadening thank you email that looks like a receipt.
  • Perhaps your generic thank you doesn’t tie back at all to the reason they gave.
  • Perhaps your thank you talks all about your organization, rather than about how your donor is a hero.
  • Perhaps your thank you focuses on the amount of their gift and its tax deductibility, and fails to mention specifically what it will accomplish.
  • Perhaps your email thank you lacks the personal touch you put into your mailed thank you letters.

Here’s the deal: Donors are looking for meaning. If your thank you and subsequent donor communications don’t give it to them, they’ll dismiss you and go look for meaning elsewhere.

All donors have questions they need you to answer for them. If you fail to answer these questions you fail to lay the groundwork for developing a positive, ongoing relationship.

4 Keys to Raise Money in Today’s Social Nonprofit Fundraising Environment

keys 4 Pixabay-791641_640Wondering where fundraising is heading in our highly networked, overly saturated, noisy-as-all-get-out post-digital revolution world?

It’s a bit of a jungle out there, with so much competition for attention — for-profits, other nonprofits, political campaigns, friends, family.

It’s a wonderful time to seize the opportunity to put in place a system that values multiple voices.

Truly, if you’re able to really show people how much you value them, you’re going to rise to the top of the heap.

Of course, sometimes it’s easier said than done.

Today we’ll explore 4 keys to raising money in our socially-revolutionized zeitgeist.

Bad News/Good News:

Leverage Millennial Marketing Strategies to Woo ALL Nonprofit Donors

Marketin to MillenialsDo you ever worry you’re not doing enough to attract the donors of the future?

Does thinking about how to market to Millennials (who already are the largest segment in the workplace, will be 50% of the U.S. workforce in the next two years, and who will be 75% by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) fill you with anxiety, because it’s just one more thing to add to your overflowing list?

Fear no more!

Today I’m going to tell you how you can have it all – and with very little extra work.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not dissing a multi-generational strategy. If you can manage to treat different types of donors differently, you absolutely will get the biggest bang for your buck by so doing.  However…

Jar of penny coins

ONE Amazingly Simple Smart Fundraising Strategy

 

Invest more.

That’s it.

It’s simple. And it works.

You see, penny-wise fundraising may seem smart.  You may pat yourself on the back for working “lean and mean.” But, in actuality, lean and mean is the antithesis of how a nonprofit becomes successful.

Penny-wise fundraising ends up being nothing more than mean.

  • Mean to the people to whom you pay pauper’s wages.
  • Mean to the staff you overwork.
  • Mean to the volunteers you burn out.
  • Mean to the clients you can’t afford to help.
  • Mean to the donors to whom you’re unable to offer satisfying philanthropic investment opportunities.
  • Mean to the community you can’t afford to serve.

Penny-wise fundraising takes you down exactly the wrong pathway.

You May Think You’re Being Smart, But You’re Not

Penny-wise fundraising reveals an underlying attitude fundraising is a “necessary evil.’  So… why not invest as little as possible in it?

Sadly, this approach to fundraising is doomed to failure.

Museum painting of woman perhaps not living to her potential?

Are You Failing to Achieve Your Nonprofit Fundraising Potential?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure on treadmill

You Control Nonprofit Donor Retention

Are you caught in the trap of transactional fundraising?

Donors come in. Donors go out.

One-time gifts are here today, gone tomorrow.

It’s like being on a non-stop treadmill.  Just exhausting!

There’s a way to catch your breath, and even begin to enjoy breathing again.

Instead of continuing on as a transactional fundraiser, become a donor experience transformist!

Receipt of the gift is the beginning, not the end.

Before you can create a transformative donor experience, you must undergo a transformation of how you think about donor acquisition and retention. If your holy grail is simply getting the gift, you’re missing the point.