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

The World is Changing

Coronovirus Fundraising: Steal these Ideas!

Now more than ever you must, must, must invest in your fundraising efforts.

Rather than spending time worrying – panicking? – why not turn your mind towards positive things?  Like creative ways to invite others to help keep your mission afloat?

In my post earlier this week, I shared some ingenious ideas implemented by other nonprofits  — all so you can resourcefully borrow their ideas. I will keep sharing, because that’s how we learn. And… that’s what Clairification School is for, right? [If you’re not yet enrolled, there’s no better time than the present!]

It’s a blank slate now when it comes to fundraising. Yes, use tried-and-true principles of donor-centered fundraising. But don’t be tone deaf to the unprecedented times we are in.

Coronavirus is all folks are thinking about right now. Even while they try not to think about it.

Stay relevant, or prepare to be ignored.

You can help people!

Here’s the deal.

I’ve never in my lifetime heard so many people asking: “what can I do to be of service?” 

Charities have the opportunity to answer this question.

Living in a pandemic sucks, but you’d be remiss if you didn’t avail yourself of this opportunity to (1) keep your mission, and those who rely on you, afloat, and (2) help would-be helpers feel helpful!

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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?”

Moonrise-large.jpg

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. 

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Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Donate Landing Page + Form

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoI’m continuing with my increasingly popular “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature which I began last spring.  I promised whenever something arrives in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity,’ I would share it with you. I hope you find this example useful for all your online fundraising campaigns!

Today’s teaching example is a donation landing page (where you land when you click “donate” from the Main Menu) and donation form (the part a donor fills out once they click through from your landing page).

Too often, fundraising staff leave these aspects of their campaign completely up to IT, website or marketing staff.  It’s a shame, because these campaign elements can make or break you.  Everything you’ve carefully crafted will be for naught if the landing page and form are in any way off-putting or daunting to complete.

I came across this example in an effort to make a memorial donation honoring someone who had worked at this nonprofit. We’re going to evaluate every element methodically.

I’ll ask you some questions.

  1. Would you click through from that landing page to learn more or to donate?
  2. If yes, why?
  3. If no, why?
  4. What looks good about it?
  5. What looks not so good?
  6. Would it inspire you to give?
  7. If so, why?
  8. If not, why not?

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

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

I promise you’ll learn a lot more this way.

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

Let’s begin!

DONATION LANDING PAGE

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?

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Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Giving Tuesday Email +Donation Landing Page

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoIt’s not too late to use these tips to help with your year-end fundraising.

This new “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature is popular, so I thought I’d share another one that seems like a good ‘teaching opportunity.’ It’s a twofer, as I’ll discuss both the appeal and the donation landing page to which it takes folks — should they be inspired to click through.

Please note: Sometimes I can’t omit the name of the charity in the examples I use. Please know I’m coming from a place of love, and don’t mean to shame anyone. As with almost anything you can think of, there’s good AND bad in the examples I share. We learn both from mistakes and stellar efforts. Our own, and others.  Kudos to all who put things out there and make an effort. The only way you learn is by trying. Believe me, I’ve sent out some real clunkers in my time as a development director! If I ever use you as an example, and you disagree or want to clarify, feel free to contact me directly.

Okay. Let’s move on.

We’re going to evaluate every element methodically.

I’ll ask you some questions.

  1. Would you open that email?
  2. If yes, why?
  3. If no, why?
  4. What looks good about it?
  5. What looks not so good?
  6. Would it inspire you to give?
  7. If so, why?
  8. If not, why not?

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

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

Let’s begin!

Do you think this email is a “Do” or a “Don’t?”

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Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Year-End Donor Retention Email

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoI’m continuing with my occasional “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature which I began last spring.  I promised whenever something arrives in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity,’ I would share it with you. I hope you find this timely example useful for your year-end fundraising ‘clean-up!’

Clean-up?  Yes. That’s exactly what I want you to do right now.

Get. Everything. In. Order.

Tie up loose ends so you assure nothing slips through the cracks before the calendar year closes.

Take a look at all your sources of support last year.

Who’s given this year already?  Who hasn’t?

Important: Don’t let any of last year’s donors lapse!

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.

Thanksgiving table

Not all Holiday Fundraising is Created Equal

Thanksgiving tableWho doesn’t love a holiday?

The very word conjures up notions of celebration, warmth and love.

If you’re a donor-centered fundraising practitioner, you’d be a fool not to take advantage.

Why not tap into pre-existing positive vibes to increase the chances your appeal will be warmly received?

After all, if you can channel something positive that’s more or less universally felt, this gives you a leg up.

It puts your donors in a giving mood using familiar symbols and traditions.

Except when it doesn’t.

A true holiday fundraising story

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?

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.

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.

Question mark of people

How Jargon Destroys Nonprofit Fundraising & Marketing

I hate jargon. With a passion.

Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.

Just. Can’t. Stand. It!

Yes, I guess you could call it a pet peeve.

But, really, why would you ever use jargon if you wanted to truly communicate with someone?

Just check out the definition:

“language used by a particular group of people, especially in their work, and which most other people do not understand”

— Cambridge dictionary.

Jargon = Failure to Communicate

When you talk to people in words they don’t understand, really, what’s the point?

Are you just trying to make yourself look smart?

Because, trust me, that’s not how it comes across.

Heading banner

3 Ways to Get More of Your Donors to Match Their Gifts

Heading bannerFighting the good fight for your nonprofit’s cause is what you do best.

Funding your mission, however, is always challenging. The planning, the lists, the headaches, the inevitable snafus that arise at any given moment… it’s a lot of effort to solicit a single donation.

And while seeking out new donors is vital to raising money for your cause, what if you could double your donations with your current donor list?

With the 3 E’s⁠—education, ease, and encouragement⁠—you can maximize your donations by getting more of your donors to match their gifts.

  1. Education: The Power of Matching Gifts
  2. Ease: The Tools to Matching Your Donor’s Gifts
  3. Encouragement: Increasing Donor Retention

Ready to help your donors make the most of their gifts to your cause?

Let’s dive into what makes matching gift fundraising such a powerful way to tap into the hidden potential of your supporters.

Treasure Map

Do You Want More Major Donors? Read This!

If you’re like most nonprofits, you probably wish you had more major donors.

Guess what?

You can have them!

Today we’re going to look at a great tool for building those important relationships with top prospects over time.

And we all know that is what will result in the big gift.

You know how important it is to put a plan in place to build relationships, right?

It’s super-de-duper important if you want to secure major gifts.

And there’s a name for the strategic process of building meaningful relationships with potential major gift donors.

I’m talking about “Moves Management.”

Cookie Monster when his name is misspelled

Donor’s Lament: You Didn’t Thank Me Properly

Cookie Monster when his name is misspelled

Everything I learned about saying “thank you” I learned from:

According to Burk’s research from Donor-Centered Fundraising, more than 80% of thank you letters start with “Thank you for your generous gift of…” or “On behalf of the Board of Directors, thank you for your generous gift of…”

Y  A  W  N

  • Want to stand out?
  • Want your donor to actually read your letter?
  • Want your donor to feel good about the decision they made to invest in you?
  • Want your donor to feel warm and fuzzy inside?
  • Want your donor to say “Aw, that’s SO nice!”
  • Want your donor to feel the opposite of bored?

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Fundraising Do’s and Don’ts: Email Invitation

FR_Do's_and_Don'tsI’m continuing with my new, occasional feature of “Do’s vs. Don’ts.”

Whenever something arrives in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity,’ my plan is to share it with you.

Please let me know if you find it useful!

Today’s example is an emailed invitation to a donor appreciation luncheon.  

Do you think it’s a “Do” or a “Don’t?”

What’s wrong or right with this subject line?

I received an email with the headline: Want to enjoy lunch with our kids next Thursday?

The preview pane continued:

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.

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…

Ask sign

How to Choose the Most Effective Fundraising ‘Ask’ Words

Words matter.

You know this when it comes to your personal life (surely you can hear your Mama’s voice in your ear). You certainly know this when it comes to political correctness (surely you know the words to avoid, at all costs). You even know this when it comes to your professional life (surely you take pains to avoid certain acronyms and jargon).

Well… guess what?

Words matter when it comes to fundraising too!

When asking people for a charitable gift, choose your words with care.

Which Fundraising Ask Word Works Best?

Here are some common ‘ask’ words:

  • Give
  • Donate
  • Contribute
  • Provide
  • Invest
  • Pitch in
  • Chip in
  • Participate
  • Join
  • Bestow
  • Bequeath
  • Leave a legacy

I have strong favorites, as you may be able to infer from the words I’ve boldfaced.

Let me tell you why.

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.

2 Secrets to Prepare for a Fundraising Job Q & A

In my last article I offered 7 out of 9 interview secrets to prepare for your next fundraising job. Today I’ve got 2 more biggies!

 

  1. Pump yourself up
  2. Ask others to pump you up
  3. Strike a Super Hero pose
  4. Refresh your research and review the job description
  5. Prepare talking points
  6. Demonstrate how you’re a good cultural fit
  7. Avoid talking salary at first interview
  8. Prepare ahead to answer common questions
  9. Prepare ahead to ask important questions

 

Together, these 9 secrets are all you need to ace your next interview and land the job of your dreams.

Let’s begin!

Time to Reframe How You Do Nonprofit Fundraising

Or else.

Reframing how you’ve done fundraising in the past is not optional.

It’s time for a change.

You must do it, because fundraising and nonprofit marketing have changed a LOT over the past ten years.  There is absolutely no denying this at this point. You need to adapt. Or suffer the consequences.

If you’re still doing the same exact things you did ten years ago, or even five years ago, it’s time to rethink. If you have leaders who doubt there’s a need for change, simply explain the reasons as I’ve outlined below:

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. 

Are you reading your major donors right?

Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

Some years ago I had the opportunity to present a major gifts master class where Jay Love, Founder and President of Bloomerang (and a board member and major donor himself) offered his thoughts on major gifts development from the donor’s perspective.

SO important!

The more that you know, the less they’ll say “No!”

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.”

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?

Show-me-you-know-me.jpg

Show Me You Know Me* — 5 Strategies To Sustain Donor Relationships

Let’s pretend you and your donor are not connecting meaningfully right now. You’re not sure why. Could it be they feel financially insecure…  they’re worried for their kids… they’ve been let down by politicians… they’re just feeling cynical and/or hopeless? For whatever reason, things aren’t singing between you and them. They haven’t renewed. They haven’t upgraded. They haven’t responded to any of your outreach. They seem to have other priorities.

So, you decide to go to counseling to reinvigorate the relationship. The therapist makes a wise observation: Sometimes in life, one partner feels strong; the other less strong. In such times, the stronger partner has resources to support the weaker partner. Other times, neither partner feels they have coping resources. During these times, we have to depend more on ourselves, be patient, and accept that our partner is not currently in a strong position – even though we really need their support.

Are you being a support for your donor? Are you helping, not selling all the time? Are you being patient, yet persistently showing you care?

We’re in turbulent times. Studies show giving to be sluggish. Donors are less loyal. Maybe they’re distracted by emergencies. Or so-called rage giving. Or simply uncertainty about what lies ahead. So they’re giving less consistently. As a result, donor centered fundraising has never been as important as it is now.

People are feeling a need to be nurtured. In other words: Ask not what your donors can do for you, but what you can do for your donors. Recognize they don’t serve you; you serve them. They don’t owe you; you owe them.  Your job is to help them experience the joy of giving. It is through you they will achieve their most meaningful work.

Embrace the true meaning of philanthropy as love of humankind.  Remember your donors are humankind; you must love them if you want to be a part of philanthropy.  Otherwise, you’re just transacting business.

So… what can you do to embrace the love and thereby keep your donors close?

Not all Holiday Fundraising is Created Equal

Who doesn’t love a holiday?

The very word conjures up notions of celebration, warmth and love.

If you’re a donor-centered fundraising practitioner, you’d be a fool not to take advantage. Why not tap into pre-existing positive vibes to increase the chances your appeal will be warmly received?

After all, if you can channel something positive that’s more or less universally felt, this gives you a leg up. It puts your donors in a giving mood using familiar symbols and traditions.

Except when it doesn’t.

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5 Truths: How Often Can You Mail Appeals to Nonprofit Donors?

Most nonprofits don’t mail often enough.

How often is enough?

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

I know you want a definite answer.

And I could give you one. But it wouldn’t be the truth. Because the truth is different for every nonprofit.

And the truth will even be different for your nonprofit at different points in your life cycle.

There are five definitive things I can tell you:

  1. You are not your donors.
  2. Your donors lie.
  3. Opinions don’t matter; tests do.
  4. Out of sight is out of mind.
  5. What, how and who you mail to matters.

Wooing couple

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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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…

Transactional Nonprofit Work vs. Transformational Donor-Led Progress

Transactional Nonprofit Work vs. Transformational Donor-Led Progress

Greg Warner of Market Smart writes a lot about the difference between “work” and “progress.” I appreciate the distinction, both professionally and personally. I think you can use this notion, so I’m going to recommend some of his articles to you and also suggest a way to extend this idea to your nonprofit fundraising.

Warner notes in Why You Should Never Get a Job and Go to Work: “work” is tedious and negative; “progress” is inspiring and positive.

This is about being intentional about where you’re going.

It’s somewhat about perception and desitnation, but I’d argue it’s largely about the journey.

Your journey. Your donor’s journey.

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Adopt a Gratitude Culture: 5 Ways to Stop Losing Donors

It’s common for retail businesses to adopt the mantra: “The customer is always right.” But when’s the last time you heard “The donor is always right?” Too often, the opposite is true.

I hear a lot of complaining about donors. They should do this (e.g., give because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do; be compliant and not make us work so hard); they shouldn’t do that (e.g., give any way other than ‘unrestricted’; require reports that take us hours to complete). I don’t hear enough of “What can we do to delight our donors today?”

What can you do to delight your donors?

four people raise hands in support of your cause

Psychology of Securing Lasting Nonprofit Donor Commitments

I recently happened on an article by Otis Fulton and Katrina VanHuss of Turnkey, Trump Buyer’s Remorse? Not Likely…. It relates to one of Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence and persuasion: “commitment and consistency.”

The main point is this:

Once we make a decision, and strongly attach ourselves to an idea by agreeing orally or in writing, it’s more likely we’ll stick with that decision than change our minds.

Because we are wired to want to be consistent.

That to which we commit becomes congruent with our self image.

What does this mean for you as a fundraiser?

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?

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.”

Girl dips toes in the water

12 Top Tips to Build Community and Broaden Your Nonprofit Donor Base

Philanthropy should not just be about big checks.

Last week I shared some reasons not to eschew small gift fundraising. Today I’m following up with some tips for building and mobilizing your community to find, sustain and grow these gifts.

This is important, because a donor’s first gift is seldom their largest.  It’s a starting point.

The majority of your gifts will be small, but the majority of your income will come from a small group of major donors.

You have to grow this cadre of loyal, passionate philanthropists by building relationships with supporters over time.

The lion’s share of major gifts come from previously small gift donors.

A client I’m working with told me 50% of their major donors began with very small gifts.  How about tracking this for your organization? Sure, some major donors come in at the top. But I’ll bet you a majority start by dipping their toe in the water. How can you get folks more fully immersed?

How Positive Feedback Boosts Nonprofit Fundraising

Recognition. Appreciation. Acknowledgment. Gratitude.

Psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, economists and historians have often studied and documented this phenomenon. It’s part of our quest for meaning and connection.

  • Darwin talked about “survival of the most loving.” Communities who took care of each other were the “fit” ones.  Similarly, those members most sensitive to group feedback survived. It’s difficult to make it alone.
  • Maslow talked about the need for love, community, esteem and self-actualized identification with a higher purpose.
  • Psychologist Matthew Lieberman, in “Social, Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect,” writes about how MRI scans reflect that our brains are hard-wired to respond to positive recognition from others.

I like the way

Event guests wearing masks

Nonprofit Event Fundraising Part 2: They’ll Never Forget How You Made Them Feel

In Part 1 we looked at establishing event goals and objectives; then determining if an event was the most efficient and effective way to achieve desired outcomes.

We recognized most events are less about actual monetary return on investment (ROI) than they are about return on engagement (ROE).

In other words, if you’re doing an event purely to raise money there are other more cost-effective fundraising strategies. However, events done right are an excellent awareness-raising, branding and donor cultivation tool. You just have to go into events fully cognizant of what success will look like, both from your organization’s and your donor’s perspectives.  Only armed with this understanding can you create events that will be worth your while.

Today we look at ways to make events – once you’ve decided to hold them – fulfill both your and your donors’ dreams.

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How Often Should You Mail to Your Nonprofit Donors?

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

The answer?

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

I know you want a definite answer.

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

There are two definitive things I can tell you:

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. 

Are you reading your major donors right?

Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

A year ago I had the opportunity to present a major gifts master class where Jay Love, Founder and President of Bloomerang (and a board member and major donor himself) offered his thoughts on major gifts development from the donor’s perspective.

SO important!

The more that you know, the less they’ll say “No!”

  • The more you know what floats your donor’s boat,,,
  • The more you know what other things compete for your donor’s attention (not just causes, but also career and family)…
  • The more you know how your donor prefers to communicate…
  • The more you know how your donor prefers to be wooed…
  • The more you know how your donor prefers to be recognized…

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?

Not all Holiday Fundraising is Created Equal

Who doesn’t love a holiday?

The very word conjures up notions of celebration, warmth and love.

If you’re a donor-centered fundraising practitioner, you’d be a fool not to take advantage. Why not tap into pre-existing positive vibes to increase the chances your appeal will be warmly received?

After all, if you can channel something positive that’s more or less universally felt, this gives you a leg up. It puts your donors in a giving mood using familiar symbols and traditions.

Except when it doesn’t.

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…