Why are Good Nonprofit Fundraisers Hard to Keep? MONEY

 

Money in hands

Money is only part of the story of why fundraisers leave

 

If you’re a fundraiser, does the following statement sound like you?

Show me my money!!!

According to five years of research by Penelope Burk (culminating in her book, Donor-Centered Leadership) as well as a much-talked-about study, Underdeveloped, by CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, half of chief development officers plan to leave their jobs in two years or less and 40% plan to leave fundraising entirely. 

The number one reason fundraisers give for leaving is to earn more money.

What’s going on, and how can you fix it?

Is it about money, or something else?

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10 Common Nonprofit Major Gift Asking Mistakes to Avoid

Ice Cream Cone SpillWhen you’re not aware you’re making a mistake, it’s hard to avoid it.

So let’s get curious. I’m going to ask you to close your eyes for a minute to imagine a donor you’ve been wanting to ask for a major gift. I’m going to ask you to visualize a space where you’re meeting. Put them in your office, their home, a café or even a Zoom screen. Choose what’s comfortable, and where you think you’d be most likely to meet with this donor within the next month or so.

Okay… do you have your donor and your meeting space in mind? Excellent!

Now, before closing your eyes, commit to visualizing these four things:

  1. You’re in the room together.
  2. You smile. They smile back.
  3. Someone else is in the room with both of you.  Imagine you brought them with you. Who are they, and how does it feel having them there to support you?
  4. Bolstered by the smiles and good company, what do you say to open the conversation?

Okay, are you ready to close your eyes? Even if this feels a little weird, why not give it a try?

EXERCISE: You can do this by yourself, but it works better if you do it in a pair. Find a co-worker, friend or family member to prompt you to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Notice if you’re holding tension anywhere in your body. Relax those areas (forehead; neck; shoulders; hands; belly; thighs; calves; feet)  Now have them ask you the following questions:

(1) Pick a donor to meet with.

(2) Pick your meeting space.

(3) Pick an additional person to support you in the room (e.g., program director; subject matter expert; volunteer; executive director; board member; other donor). Describe who they are, and how it feels having them there.

(4) Open the conversation. What are you saying to them? What are they saying back? What’s their body language? Are their eyes lighting up? Are they smiling? Leaning forward? Play this scenario out just a bit, until you get to a place of comfort or discomfort.

Then open your eyes.

What did that feel like?

What felt comfortable to you? Uncomfortable? Did it feel more comfortable and pleasant than you may have imagined?

Smiling people, committed to the same cause, hanging out in a comfortable space together…. from such a space can come many good things.  

  • What did you say to open the conversation?
  • How did that feel?
  • If it felt good, why?
  • If it didn’t feel good, why?

Take a few minutes to journal some answers to those questions. I guarantee this will help you shift the energy for the next time you move into this space – in real time – with a donor.

A Mistake is Just a Misjudgment

It’s not fatal; you can correct it. But first you have to recognize it happened!

Mistakes in major donor conversations generally arise when you don’t know enough about the donor, or vice-versa. That’s why there are two kinds of major donor visits:

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Do You Know How to Use AI for Your Nonprofit?

Three San Francisco Hearts: Blooming Heartree; Love of-Dahlieas; Seeds of PeaceHave you been struggling with whether – and how – to incorporate generative artificial intelligence (AI; ChatGPT) into your work? Or perhaps you’ve been worrying your job will soon be obsolete?

You’re not alone.

Honestly, the whole AI thing scares the you-know-what out of me on most days.  But, let’s consider the encouraging present rather than worry so much about the possibility of a bleak future (as in destruction of humanity?!).

You can’t control everything.

You can control some things. So, I thought I’d take a quick minute to send you some tips I’ve curated from others to help stimulate your thinking and planning for ways ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) and other AI-driven chatbots have potential to free up your time and revolutionize how you communicate with donors.

You can ignore all of this if you choose. But, it won’t make it go away. Nor will it stop your peers from figuring out how to get a leg up through use of these new tools.  Remember, at first some of us were slow to adopt use of computers, the internet and social media (who, me?).

So let’s lead from curiosity, not fear.

I begin with

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5 Guaranteed Ways to Raise Money Through Storytelling

A heartfelt story to tell

Want content that raises money? Tell more stories.

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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Evolving Top Nonprofit Storytelling Practices

Three San Francisco Hearts: Beyond the Horizon; Eons of Love; Secrets of the HeartEveryone knows storytelling = good. Humans wired for stories. We want to enter into them … become part of them… see ourselves, in some way, expressively reflected in the characters, plot and struggle. Everyone responds, all ears, to “Shall I tell you a story?”

Yet there’s been a brouhaha of late around so-called “donor-as-hero” stories. I’ve long been a proponent of encouraging donors to jump right into the narrative to give it a happy ending. Yet, today, people worry these stories reinforce “white saviorism,” especially in cases where donors are perceived to be in positions of privilege and power. In such situations the impression is donors unfairly get to feel good about helping those less fortunate. And it’s unfair because donors are part of, and contribute to, an unfair system — even if unconsciously. And this unfair system keeps people in need in their disadvantaged state.

Related to this are the ethics of making poster children of clients. Program staff may fear the commodification of stories as “sales products” for fundraising.  There’s tension between departments, fueled by misunderstanding and mistrust.

I’d like to address (1) the overarching storytelling challenge, with specific attention to both the (2) white saviorism and (3) ethics conundrums. Let’s begin with.

(1) How to Meet the Challenge of Doing Good, without Doing Harm?

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Nonprofit Major Donor Fundraising A B C’s

Three San Francisco Hearts: heartsinsf; Love Captured Heart; Planes

You don’t just roll out of bed one day, randomly go visit a major donor prospect and ask for a random amount. At least not without a boatload of advance preparation. Right?

It’s a lot smarter to begin at the beginning.

And then take it step by step from there.

According to a plan.

A plan to secure BIG gifts for you BIG mission.

It’s always a great time to review what you can do to get yourself and your solicitors (staff and volunteers) ready to make win/win matches between your organization and your prospective major donor/investors.

Ready for some A, B, C’s?

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Could Gifts of Stock Be Your Nonprofit’s Magic Genie?

Genie pexelsDoes your nonprofit promote stock gifts?  You should!

A groundbreaking study by Dr. Russell James J.D., Ph.D., CFP®, professor in the Department of Personal Financial Planning at Texas Tech University, found nonprofits that consistently received gifts of appreciated stocks grew their contributions six times faster than those receiving only cash.

This is HUGE.

If you learn to ask for gifts from appreciated assets you’ll get more generous gifts. The study shows:

  • Received only cash gifts = 11% growth.
  • Received any kind of non-cash gift = 50% growth. Included gifts of personal and real property and deferred gifts.
  • Received securities non-cash gifts = 66% growth. Massive difference from just this one strategy!

You Don’t Have to Get Fancy

The most productive strategy is simply to accept gifts of stock.

But it’s up to you to offer up this giving framework to your supporters.  Otherwise, they’re apt not to see this as an opportunity.

And speaking of ‘framing,’ this can establish a persuasive reference point for would-be donors. Researchers have found people don’t treat all their money as if they have one big pool of it.

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How Do You Keep Former Nonprofit Board Members Engaged?

Heart hands

Sustain the positive energy of love and connection

Are you throwing your former board members out like yesterday’s trash?

This may not be your intention, but you’re kind of guilty of this if you don’t continue to (1) let them know how special they are, and (2) build personal relationships with them. After all, one of the foundations of Penelope Burk’s groundbreaking work in Donor-Centered Fundraising is the finding donors want one thing first and foremost: “Show me that you know me.”

Are You Showing Former Board you Know, Love and Feel Specially Connected to Them?

CONSIDER THIS:

  • As board members, they got used to being treated as “insiders.”
  • Now that they’ve stepped off the board, you’re treating them as if they mean less to you.

Every single communication with a former board member should let them know you know who they are.

If you treat them like they’re toast, don’t be surprised when they start sending you little bread crumbs instead of the whole slice – or loaf – they once sent. People want to be appreciated. It’s just human nature. And facilitating philanthropy (the word literally means “love of humankind”) is a very human endeavor.

Don’t stop loving your former board members.

Stop blaming them for stopping to love you. Blaming is a cop out. Instead, look in the mirror and see what part you may be playing in their changed behavior.

SPECIAL TIP: You can apply much of the suggestions in this article to former staff as well.  I often marvel at the hands-off way I’m treated by some of the places where I once worked, sometimes for many years.  Places where I donated too, because I believed in the mission. Now I’m just a “prospect” or “lapsed donor” to them, and the communications I receive come across a bit infantalizing. After all, I know this stuff.  I wrote a lot of this stuff!  It just feels like they’re telling me “since you don’t work here any more, you mean nothing to us.”

Why Former Board Merit Their Own Engagement Strategy

Former board should be one of your top segments for cultivation!

IN A NUTSHELL:

  • They have a deep understanding of your vision, mission and values.
  • For years, they made your nonprofit one of their top philanthropies.
  • They have numerous connections with your cause, including relationships with staff, each other, and even beneficiaries.
  • At one point you were part of their identity and family.
  • You likely have a special place in their heart.
  • They may even have included you in their estate planning!

Don’t stop making beautiful music together! Continue to treat them personally, unless they specifically ask you to stop. Don’t simply relegate them to your impersonal e-news mailings or mass annual appeals. Treat them like major donors and develop a love and loyalty strategy that invites them to stay engaged with you, albeit in a new way.

8 Strategies to Build a Former Board Member Love and Loyalty Strategy

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