Man reading book to kids

Donor-Centered Storytelling Boosts Fundraising. Period.

Donors are always a bit nervous about their investment in your nonprofit.  More than anything, they want to know what their hard-earned money is accomplishing!

Bloomerang found that 8% of donors failed to renew their giving specifically because they weren’t sure what their gifts accomplished.

THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN!

If you want more gifts, you must give them.

And in this article we’ll look at why stories can be the perfect donor gift!

For a lot of nonprofit insiders, this is a paradigm shift. Think about it.  I’m asking you to go from focusing on asking to focusing on giving.

Another way to consider this is to shift from focusing on selling to focusing on helping.

A heartfelt story to tell

5 Guaranteed Ways to Raise Money Through Storytelling

Storytelling today is ‘hot.’

And why not?  It’s the fundamental human activity – we even talk to ourselves!

We tell ourselves stories all the time to inspire, goad, cheerlead and persuade.

“I’ve been knocked down, but I’ll pick myself up.”

“This cake will be even better than my mother-in-law’s.”

“The deck seems stacked against me, but I’m going to fight; I’m going to win.”

“Tomorrow will be a better day.”

Storytelling is something people naturally gravitate to. We’re wired that way.

Stories connect the dots.

They are the connective tissue that turns otherwise random acts into important sequences. Stories invite us in. When we add our own imagination, stories begin to acquire personal relevance.

Does this sound like something that might be useful for your content marketing strategy?

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Successful Storytelling: 5 Foolproof Ways to Raise Money

Content is the heart of your successful fundraising strategy.

If you don’t sell it, you won’t connect with your audience.

And if you don’t connect with your audience, you haven’t got a snowball’s chance in you know where to persuade folks to give to you to further your mission.

This is where learning to become a master storyteller comes in.

I know you’ve heard this before. Storytelling is the meme du jour.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay real attention.

We’re in a content marketing zeitgeist.

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7 Storytelling Tips to Inspire Nonprofit Donors to Act

Listen up: Have I got a story for you!
Listen up: Have I got a story for you!

As a fundraising professional, relationship building with donors is an ongoing process and communication is an important part of that process. Stories are a great communications tool that you can use to tell donors about their impact in a tangible and easy to understand manner.

Storytelling seems to be everywhere these days. Non-profits are actively trying to use stories to engage their current and new donors. Is your non-profit trying to tap into the power of stories? Perhaps it’s been a positive experience for your organization. But maybe you have faced some challenges.

One of the biggest challenges with storytelling is being able to tell a great story. A story that really stands out from the pack and resonates with your donor audience. A story that, ultimately, compels action.

Today I want to share with you 7 rules for telling a better non-profit story.

Clairity Click-it: Leadership; Lead Conversion & Storytelling; Marketing Communications; Social Media

This week’s Click-it has some thought-provoking posts as well as some practical tips.  Hope you enjoy them!  Also, if you meant to sign up for my latest course — designed to help you with critical donor retention — this is your last chance. I know you have the best of intentions. Your donors are super important to you, and you mean to let them know more often. You really do. But somehow you don’t get around to it as much as you should. This course will help you make it a priority — so when this time rolls around next year you’ll be in better shape than you are today.  Sound good?  Okay!

Now… enjoy these articles, please.

Storytelling-brain.jpg

6 Best Ways to Make Storytelling Part of Your Nonprofit Culture

How do you fill the brains of your staff, volunteers and donors with stories about your organization?
What better way to talk about accomplishments your donors make possible than through stories that portray them as heroes?

Everyone loves a good story. Everyone.

Which is why storytelling should be at the heart of your nonprofit’s strategic communications. I know ‘storytelling’ is a meme du jour. But that’s no reason to ignore it. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! There’s a reason these phrases become buzzworthy. In this case, because you want to serve up content that’s relevant, attractive and accessible to your constituencies. Storytelling fits the bill better than anything else.

In fact, of all the content you can create, storytelling is your ultimate weapon and the most powerful means of communicating your message.

Let’s look at this a different way.

Weekly Clairity Click-it: Year-End Planning; Online Donations; Storytelling; Social Media; Sample Fundraising Letters

Planning your year-end fundraising? Check out this week’s links!

Year-end Planning

Click-It: 5 Things to do now for year-end fundraising success. From Network for Good  comes this checklist of all the stuff you should be thinking about. Now! Here’s my favorite: Now is the time to put yourself in your donor’s shoes and thoroughly test your donation process, website, emails, and any other donor-facing elements. Identify any pain points and fix them now while you have some time. None of the above steps will matter if your supporters get hung up on your donation page, are stymied by your website, or can’t reach a real person when they attempt to contact you.

Online Donations

Weekly Clairity Click-it: Content Creation, Storytelling, Practical Social Media, Asking, Thanking

This week’s Clairity Click-it – your eclectic array of easy to-“click-it” links to posts I’ve found thought provoking. With, of course, a few comments of my own.

Content Creation

Click-it: 25 Brain Lubricants to Generate Content Ideas. This guest post on the Convince and Convert blog comes from creative director Barry Feldman. If you feel like you don’t have enough content to fill a blog (and if you read me at all you know I believe every nonprofit should have a blog!) check out these great ideas for combating writer’s block.  Here’s one I like: Got a bookcase full of dusty old classics? Crack one open. Try poetry. Hit Pinterest for inspirational quotes. There’s something about great thinkers that makes you think.

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4 Secrets to Inspiring Philanthropy through Storytelling

Philanthropy; Not Fundraising

People. Purpose. Passion. Plan.  Four “P”s in a row. I know… you’re thinking, cute. Yawn. But wait. Before your eyes glaze over, stop a moment and think about these 4 “P”s.

They’re  central to your success in inspiring philanthropy.  Because even though I’ve written, and truly believe, that there are fundamental ways fundraising has changed significantly over the past five years, there are also things that haven’t changed at all. You simply must translate these fundamentals to the digital world:

  1. People love a good story.
  2. One with a purpose. 
  3. One told with passion. 
  4. One that has an order or plan. 

It’s human nature to love to listen to – and tell – a story.  So let’s figure out how to make that happen for your organization – and for your donors.

12 cups coffee

12 Quick Strategies to Boost Year-End Fundraising

The biggest fundraising time of the year for most nonprofits inexorably approaches.

It can be stressful.

Don’t succumb to the stress. You’ve got this!

Perhaps you can’t do everything you’d like to do this year, but you can do some things.

Here are 12 strategies that will pack a big punch.

Some you can do on your own. Some will require support from technical and/or marketing staff.

Here’s the thing:  Often it’s the little things that count. That pack a surprising wallop.

So don’t save all your energy for writing your appeal. Help your appeal along by putting some of the dozen suggestions that follow into effect.

Even just one or two will make a difference.

Let’s get started…

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.

Walkathon participants

8 Secrets to Keeping New ‘Third Party’ Donors

By now you undoubtedly know you’re losing too many first-time donors.

In fact, the most recent Fundraising Effectiveness Project report shows you’re losing an average of 68% of these folks!

Today I want to talk about a subset of new donors who don’t renew.  They’re called “third party donors,” and they come to you through a variety of portals:

  1. Guests of event ticket buyers
  2. Online auction purchasers
  3. Donors who give to friends’ P2P fundraising pages
  4. Donors who give to crowdfunding campaigns sent to them via a friend
  5. Donors who make tribute gifts in honor or memory of a friend or loved one

The good folks at Classy know most nonprofits are not doing a good job cultivating donors who come to them through third parties, so they’ve prepared The Guide to Courting Third Party Donors. You can download it for free (40 pages), but let me give you the highlights – along with some of my own thoughts.

boy doing head stand

If You Get Nonprofit Donors to Ask this Question, You’re Home Free

There’s a simple six-step process to assure you secure a philanthropic gift.

The heart of this process — your key to success — is to flip the philanthropic asking equation on its head and get your donor to ask you, not vice-versa. 

That’s right.

Just get your donors to pop this one little question, and you’re home free.

Of course, you have to set them up to pop this question. But it’s easy, once you know the formula.

And I’m going to share that formula with you today.

Guess what else is really great about this?

It’s not scary!

If fear has been holding you back, today is your hallelujah moment.  Because I’m here to tell you exactly how to get your donors to ask you for a gift, rather than the other way around.

language of love alphabet

Nonprofit Gift Planning: Do You Use the Language of Love?

language of love alphabetI recently listened in on a thoughtful webinar by Scot Lumpkin for The Stelter Company. It’s all about meaningful conversations with donors who (you hope!) may contemplate a gift to your organization.

To get folks to “YES” you just need to learn the language of gift planning!

It’s not just about HOW people give, but WHY.

Scott was speaking of what is often called ‘planned giving.It’s a term that’s unfortunately come to mean giving vehicles, which is a decidedly non-donor-centric way of framing things.

Anyone who contemplates a major, or stretch, outright gift plans ahead.

No one just gets up one morning and decides to give away $10,000.

Or let’s just stipulate it’s relatively rare.

Rather, would-be philanthropists consider how making a particular gift at a particular point in time may match their values and helps them accomplish their objectives, personal and philanthropic.

It’s seldom a spur of the moment action.

For purposes of this gift planning article, let’s consider your audience to be prospective major (outright) and legacy (deferred) gift donors.

Let’s try an experiment.

How Leaning Into Fear Can Change the World

A very accomplished friend of mine wrote a provocative, and beautiful, article over three years ago.

It’s called On Political Fear, and was written by Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big (named a ‘best book of the year’ by Apple iBooks) and an expert on women’s leadership and well-being. Tara writes a lot about creating a more sane and compassionate world — through leadership, courage and creativity.

That’s the raison d’etre of the social benefit sector, which is why the article resonated with me on many levels, not the least of which spoke to me wearing my hat as a philanthropy facilitator and nonprofit coach.

I shared her article then. I want to share it again.

Tara, in speaking up, described herself as “proudly afraid.”

Are you “proudly afraid?”

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:

cheerleader

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!

Book cover - Anatomy of a Fundraising Appeal Letter

NEW Feature: Fundraising Do’s and Don’ts — Spring Email Appeal

I’m offering a new feature of “Do’s vs. Don’ts.” I’ll run it occasionally, as ‘teaching opportunities’ arise. Please let me know if you find it useful!

Okay, let’s begin with today’s timely spring email example.  Do you think it’s a “Do” or a “Don’t?”

What’s wrong/right with this picture? **

EmailNO_StVincentDePaulSF

I’ll tell you my own thoughts in a moment.  But first…

Think it through yourself because you’ll likely get more out of this if you do.

Seriously, I mean it.  We learn best by doing.

Take five minutes and jot down your answers to the following questions on a piece of paper or your screen.

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.

Moonrise-large.jpg

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. 

Stuffed animal with heart of light

Shared Cure-Alls: Philanthropy and Placebo Effect

Stuffed animal with heart of lightCan the act of philanthropy make people feel better?

I say “Yes. Absolutely.” Much has been written about the warm glow that comes from giving.

So why not think about fundraising as a caring act, and fundraisers (aka ‘philanthropy facilitators’) as trusted helpers and healers?

Reframing fundraising in this way can be your key to:

(1) committing to major individual donor fundraising (helping people to be the people they’d like to see in the mirror), and

(2) engaging more staff, volunteers and board members in this noble endeavor (so they experience not just the joy of giving, but the joy of helping others give).

It helps to understand the similarities in findings from functional MRI research on both the placebo and philanthropy effects.

Boy and Little Red Wagon

Do One of These 12 Strategies Before Year’s End to Raise More Money

The biggest fundraising time of the year for most nonprofits inexorably approaches.

It can be stressful.

Don’t succumb to the stress. You’ve got this!

Perhaps you can’t do everything you’d like to do this year, but you can do some things.

Here are 12 strategies for you to consider. Each will pack a big punch.

Some you can do on your own. Some will require support from technical and/or marketing staff.

Here’s the thing:  Often it’s the little things that count. That pack a surprising wallop.

So don’t save all your energy for writing your appeal. Help your appeal along by putting some of the dozen suggestions that follow into effect.  Even just one or two will make a difference.

Let’s get started…

TWO Strategies to Tell a Compelling Nonprofit Story

I always tell nonprofits writing appeal letters to tell a story. One compelling, exceptional story.

Actually, you need TWO compelling stories.  We’ll get to that in a minute.

First…

Forget the data.

Forget the history of your organization.

Forget the explanatory prose about your processes.

Forget the list of all your programs.

Forget the superlatives about your longevity, awards, and so forth.

That stuff is compelling only to you. Donors don’t care. It’s just not relevant to them. At least not right away. Donors don’t have time to enter into all your self-indulgence.

Really, most folks don’t have time for you at all.

But…

10 baby toes

10-Step Annual Appeal from Start to Finish

The end of the calendar year is prime fundraising season. For most nonprofits, September through December will make or break your annual campaign. So… I want you to do the following:

  1. If you’re just sitting down to write your appeal letter, use this as your step-by-step guide to crafting a winning fundraising offer.
  1. If you’ve already written your appeal letter, use this as your step-by-step checklist to assure your fundraising offer is truly one a prospective donor won’t be able to refuse.
  1. Vow next year to have at least your appeal letter draft written and approved by September 1st. Put this date in your calendar, and work backward to create a timeline of all the steps necessary to meet this deadline. This will give you plenty of time to tweak your appeal language for different mailing segments, prepare your email and social media campaign using messaging and images from your mail appeal, get the letter to the printer and mail house, and prepare your carrier envelope, remit piece, donation landing page, thank you letter and overall acknowledgment plan.

brain and mind

Fundraising Appeal Q & A: 6 Concrete Tips to Overcome Common Challenges

I recently had the opportunity to present a webinar for the Fired Up Fundraising Community on the topic of creating a compelling fundraising offer your donor can’t refuse. We covered a lot of territory, so at the end there was limited time for questions.  Many were left unanswered.  So…

I decided to answer in writing the ones that seemed to be repeated by more than one person.  These challenges, it appeared, were common enough they required some solutions. Or, at the very least, some clairification!

I sent the Q & A to all the webinar participants and thought, gee whiz, why don’t I share it with all of you too?

Here we go…!!!

Man jumping over mountain

How to Transform Reluctant Fundraisers into Ready Fundraisers

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

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

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

Facilitating philanthropy is not rocket science, yet folks unaccustomed to the relationship cultivation and solicitation required to land major donations are fearful because they don’t know how to do it. It’s the job of a nonprofit’s leadership to work with your insiders (staff and volunteers) to help them feel both passionate about the cause and confident in the fundraising process.

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

boy doing head stand

If You Get Nonprofit Donors to Ask this Question, You’re Home Free

There’s a simple six-step process to assure you secure a philanthropic gift.

The heart of this process — your key to success — is to flip the philanthropic asking equation on its head and get your donor to ask you, not vice-versa. 

That’s right.

Just get your donors to pop this one little question, and you’re home free.

Of course, you have to set them up to pop this question. But it’s easy, once you know the formula.

And I’m going to share that formula with you today.

Guess what else is really great about this?

It’s not scary!

If fear has been holding you back, today is your hallelujah moment.  Because I’m here to tell you exactly how to get your donors to ask you for a gift, rather than the other way around.

Transformation-Autumn-Leaves.jpg

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – How to Begin the Transformation

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

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

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

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

elephant and blind men

Use Stories to Knock Down Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Siloes

A recent article on Beth’s (Kanter) Blog by Miriam Brosseau and Stephanie Corleto was so well-written I was inspired to share some of it with you.  I 100% agree with everything it says – and strongly believe you absolutely must do what the article suggests.

What’s that?

Bust down your siloes!

Specifically, turn those puppies on their sides so they form a pipeline, and let the free flow of ideas between programs, marketing and fundraising begin.

Can you picture this?

Imagine your program staff is hoarding all the inspiring stories of impact, and failing to share them with your development team. That’s a silo that needs to be toppled. Because…

8 Tools to Be a More Effective Nonprofit Writer

Nonprofit writing is particular, because you’re always endeavoring to persuade.

So it’s not expository writing, like a term paper. It’s more narrative. As in telling a story. A compelling, emotional story.

Even the best writers, nonprofit or otherwise, can use a little help now and then.

And today we’re fortunate to have a number of online tools to help us write with greater clarity and polish.

When I say polish, I don’t mean big words and complex sentences.  I mean polish in the sense of shiny.  You want your words to gleam! To jump off the page and grab your readers’ attention.

And, guess what often gets in your way?

user tester

Create 5 Donor Experiences to Boost Online Fundraising

How do you create loyal donors? By creating satisfying engagement and amazing experiences.

At. Every. Step. Of…

The. Donor. Journey.

This is the trek you facilitate.  You’re a bit of a Donor Sherpa.  The way you lead will impact whether, and how long, donors will follow. Every step of the journey is important.

How carefully are you thinking through each step?

No matter what you do, the steps exist.  Your donor has to step through them. Forwards or backwards. Upwards or downwards.

Ascertain what these steps look like for your organization’s donors. Are they leading folks onward and upward? Or are they forbidding, dangerous and inherently unenticing? Honestly assess whether the journey is one that is donor-centered. Or one that is all about you, your convenience and your needs.

Before we get started with the creation of five donor experiences to boost online fundraising, I’d like you to being with one “to do.”

Moonrise-large.jpg

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. 

Boy and Little Red Wagon

Little Things You Can Do Before Year’s End to Raise More Money

The biggest fundraising time of the year for most nonprofits inexorably approaches.

It can be stressful.

Don’t succumb to the stress. You’ve got this!

Perhaps you can’t do everything you’d like to do this year, but you can do some things.

Here are 12 things you can do that will pack a big punch.

Some you can do on your own. Some will require support from technical and/or marketing staff.

Here’s the thing:  Often it’s the little things that count. That pack a surprising wallop.

So don’t save all your energy for writing your appeal. Help your appeal along by putting some of the dozen suggestions that follow into effect.  Even just one or two will make a difference.

Let’s get started…

Painting of three eyes

Boost Nonprofit Marketing Results: Message, Time, Place

As year-end approaches, you want to consider leveraging your message across channels. You also want to tailor your message to meet the needs of different target constituencies.

One-size-fits-all messaging seldom works as well as segmented messaging.  The former is all about you, your convenience and your needs.  The latter is about your constituent’s needs.

Successful fundraising and marketing is customer- and donor-centered.

Is your year-end strategy setting you up for success? Are you truly putting your best foot forward?

If you’re not inside your constituents’ heads, you need to get in there! To be constituent-centered requires you to (1) talk to the right people,  (2) with the right message, (3) at the right time and place. Recently, I enjoyed a post on precisely this subject. I share it with you here, and if you’re not yet hip to the Marketoonist, allow me to introduce you.

Donate Online

Why Aren’t You Doing More Online Fundraising?

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

Keeping up is challenging.

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

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

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

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

Brian Solis, The End of Business as Usual

Humanitarian aid

Using Visuals to Enhance Nonprofit Marketing & Fundraising

Is your nonprofit using Instagram yet? Pinterest?

I’m going to suggest you give it some serious consideration.

Why?

We live in the age of information overload. A wealth of information creates a scarcity of attention and thus a need to efficiently allocate attention.

Visual to the rescue!

Visual is a huge trend in marketing, using the power of digital to communicate your message and stay within the diminishing attention span of today’s online readers –8 seconds (one second less than the attention span of a goldfish).

Glub, glub.

If human minds are adapting to information overload this way (to multitask, prioritize, and consume quickly and efficiently), it makes sense for your nonprofit to adapt as well.

Otherwise, you’ll work really hard to put messages out there – that no one will read.

Want to stop working just hard and start working smart?

Reading on Laptop - How to Improve Your Nonprofit Newsletter

How to Improve Your Nonprofit Newsletter

Does your nonprofit have an email newsletter?

I’d rather see you rock a blog, but let’s talk a bit about your newsletter. Since you already have one, you may as well make it better.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

[BTW: If you don’t have an e-newsletter, go read the article above about creating and rocking a blog. Also read this. A blog can serve the purpose of an e-newsletter, and do so in a more donor-centric, user-friendly fashion. IMHO]

Okay. Back to improving your newsletter.

The real point of a newsletter is to stay top of mind with your supporters.

Why?

Because you want to keep them, of course!

Just like with any relationship, if the only time someone hears from you is when you want something from them, they’re not likely to stick around.

You need to woo them.

What Newsletters are For

Major donor meeting

8 Tips to Ace Your Dynamic Major Donor Solicitation

I could just say (1) prepare, (2) prepare, (3) prepare, (4) prepare, (5) prepare, and (6) prepare.

Did I mention that you really need to prepare?

Essentially, this is the meta-message of Shark Tank’s “Mr. Wonderful,” Kevin O’Leary, to would-be entrepreneurs seeking to get spots – and funding – on the television show.

In “How to Present the Perfect Pitch: From the Shark Tank to the Boardroom” he offers 10 tips to help you ace a fundraising pitch. Whether you’re seeking venture capital or a philanthropic gift, many of the principles are the same. I’ve selected six tips I find perfectly aligned with what it takes to make a successful nonprofit ask. Take them to heart, and you’re sure to make your next in-person fundraising presentation a winner.

Oh, and there’s one more important thing, says O’Leary:

“The number-one rule is to make your pitch incredibly dynamic.”

Let’s do it!

I”m going to offer you 6 guidelines and 8 really practical tips…

Walkathon participants

8 Secrets to Keeping New ‘Third Party’ Donors

By now you undoubtedly know you’re losing too many first-time donors.

In fact, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project report shows you’re losing an average of 77% of these folks!

Today I want to talk about a subset of new donors who don’t renew.  They’re called “third party donors,” and they come to you through a variety of portals:

  1. Guests of event ticket buyers
  2. Online auction purchasers
  3. Donors who give to friends’ P2P fundraising pages
  4. Donors who give to crowdfunding campaigns sent to them via a friend
  5. Donors who make tribute gifts in honor or memory of a friend or loved one