Collage of nopnprofit heart logos

Survival of the Most Loving – and Loved (aka, Why do so many charities have ♥♥♥ in their logos?)

Collage of nopnprofit heart logosWhy do people – with plenty of worries and expenses — give hard-earned money that could otherwise be spent on their own families, taxes and bills to complete strangers via philanthropy?

It’s not a rational thing to do.

This is a question that puzzled Charles Darwin.

While known for the theory of “survival of the fittest” (which actually was coined by the philospher, Herber Spencer), Darwin posited the notion of “survival of the kindest,” finding sympathy to be the strongest human instinct. You see, survival doesn’t necessarily mean the strongest or most aggressive. It depends, as much if not more, on cooperation and empathy.

Which would mean people give to be helpful because they’re biologically wired that way.

It simply pays off to come from the heart and be generous.

Humans are wired to be selfless.

Recent research in psychology agrees with Darwin,

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Me wearing a mask

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 Sculptures of torsos, Kristina May, Filoli 2020

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.

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heart with votive candles

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 Rules for Thanking Nonprofit Donors that Should Never Be Broken

If you’re not retaining as many donors as you’d like, you’ve no one to blame but yourself. And I’m here to tell you why.

You’re not thanking donors properly.

I’m serious. How you handle donor acknowledgements is that important.

Sadly, most nonprofits do an absolutely rotten job of showing donors how much they are appreciated.

Part of the problem is due to focusing on acquisition at the expense of retention. Most executive and development directors don’t even know their retention rates without looking them up. 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.

DUDES! Your retention rates should be on the tips of your tongues! If you don’t know how you’re doing, how can you improve?

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8 Strategies to Celebrate Nonprofit Donors on Valentine’s Day

I love a good celebration.

And nothing is more worth celebrating than a holiday, and your donors!

With Groundhog Day in the rear view mirror, and Valentine’s Day on the horizon, it’s the perfect opportunity for a holiday/donor celebration mash-up!

You’ve still got time to send a little love your donors’ way!

Why might this be something for you to consider, amidst all the other “to-do’s” on your plate?

If you don’t do a lot more donor loving, you’re going to do a lot more donor losing.

I hope by now you know donor retention is the name of the game. It costs so much more to acquire a new donor than to keep an existing one. Yet too few nonprofits have serious, intentional donor stewardship programs in place. Because of that, on average, nonprofits lose nearly 8 out of 10 first-time donors and close to 6 out of 10 of all donors.

Don’t be one of those organizations!

If donors only hear from you when you want something from them, they’re not likely to give more. Or even give again.

Be generous! Show donors how much their support means to you.

Really, donor love should be like breathing for you. In and out. Out and in.

  • They love you, and show you.
  • You love them, and show them.

You’ll be amazed at how a little love can go a long way.

This year why not dedicate Valentine’s Day to giving, not asking?

If you can’t send valentines to every donor, pick a segment or two.

Think about those donors for whom you’d like to show some special love, because they showed you some. Show them you noticed! They could be:

  • Major donors.
  • Monthly donors.
  • Donors who’ve given faithfully for five years or more.
  • Donors who increased their giving this year.
  • First-time donors of $100+.
  • Donors who also volunteer.
  • Board and committee members.
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Gumball Machine

How to Kill Your Nonprofit Career: Gumball Theory

Are you treating your donors like gumballs?

You are if you consume them in five minutes, then never think about them again.

Alas, too often nonprofits treat their donors exactly like a gumball dispensed from a machine.

Chew it up. Spit it out. Done.

Transaction over.

Want your donors to sustain you? Then you can’t treat them this way!

Whatever size gift they make, they’re unlikely to make it again — let alone give more — unless

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3 people with marching orders

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: 

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Thankful for Thanksgiving

Happy Days of Thanks(for)Giving

Thankful for ThanksgivingThis Thursday folks in the United States will celebrate what I consider to be the social benefit sector holiday of the year:

So it’s time for my annual Thanks(for)Giving post!

Just think about what ‘Thanksgiving’ means.  Literally, it’s a day for giving thanks for blessings.

Who, and what, do you count among yours?

I know when we go around the table at my family Thanksgiving, saying what we’re grateful for this year, most folks respond with a people-based answer. Sure, they’re happy about the feast in front of them. But they’re most grateful for caring friends… loving family…. and for being together sharing the warmth of good company.

Who are you grateful to at your organization?

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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?

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