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Why Your Nonprofit Fundraising and Marketing is Outdated

 

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

For too many nonprofits something isn’t working. Change is happening at a rapid pace while people try to employ yesterday’s ‘best practices,’ seeming to work harder and harder to make do with less — while needing to serve more.

Before the digital revolution, an information imbalance existed.  This facilitated a one-way ‘push’ model of marketing/fundraising. We could define our own brand and sell it.  Guess what? 

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How the ‘It’s Not My Job’ Syndrome Pervades Nonprofits and Kills Fundraising

 

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

Are you confident your employees – all of them – are fully engaged in your mission so they don’t bungle openings to turn inquiries into interest, interest into involvement and involvement into investment? Do your workers just do their job, or do they understand their real job to be part of your greater vision-focused undertaking?

Unless you’ve created a culture of philanthropy in your organization – one where everyone who works there is fully informed and passionate about your work and the values you enact in the community – then you’re inevitably going to blow opportunities to garner vital support. Under-informed workers lead to disengaged workers. Disengaged workers lead to disengaged constituents.  And here’s how it happens.

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Are You Leading Your Nonprofit Backwards? How to Change

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

More than ever before nonprofit leaders must lead from vision, not mission.  Why?  The world is moving really, really fast.  Blame it on the digital revolution if you wish.  But why waste time laying blame?  It is what it is.  Instead, get into the 21st century. Now.

The present (what you’re doing) is nothing more than a springboard to the future (the change you’re endeavoring to bring about). That’s what folks want to invest in. Positive change.

Nonprofits have tended to forget their visions in order to justify continued existence.  Sometimes founders and other leaders become too wedded to the status quo.  They can’t let their babies grow up. 

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What Sherpas Can Teach Fundraisers

Earlier this week I posted an article talking about how fundraising professionals need to become Engagement Journey Guides. One of my readers, Amy K., suggested that was a mouthful and offered up the term “Engagement Sherpa.”  That got me thinking, so I looked up the word. Sherpa means “a member of a people noted for providing assistance to mountaineers… [and who] have achieved world renown as expert guides.” Hmmn. I really like that!

Think of your donors as mountaineers.  They’re on an ascent. It’s not just towards the top of your donor pyramid.

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Old MacDonald’s Theory of Outstanding Fundraiser Qualities: E-I-E-I-O

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

I’m about to reveal my Old MacDonald’s Theory of the qualities of outstanding fundraisers (you know how they say “the farmer is *out standing* in his field”)? Ahem.  Well… the outstanding farmer is surrounded by a chorus of E-I-E-I-Os.  The outstanding fundraiser is similar in many ways. S/he sings a similar tune and also works in a nurturing, productive space that enables cultivation and growth.

And that’s why I developed my E-I-E-I-O paradigm. Forget about all the nasty business of “it’s a jungle out there.” No, YOU (the fundraiser) work on a farm.

Weekly Clairity Click-it: Productivity, Psychology of Virality, Major Gifts, Leadership and Organizational Growth, Getting Email Opened

Here’s my return-from-vacation Clairity Click-it – and I’ve got some stuff that’s a little outside the box of your basic fundraising and marketing advice. Why? It’s good to take a little trip away from the usual every now and then! So… here come some easy-to-“click-it” links to posts I’ve found thought provoking. With, of course, a few comments of my own.

Let’s begin:

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Stop the Nonprofit Fundraising Treadmill: 3 Reasons I Want to Get Off

The treadmill is out of order. TIme to get off.Philanthropy; Not Fundraising

I’ve often wondered why we’re the only sector that defines ourselves by what we’re NOT. Nonprofit.  Why not what we ARE? Social benefit.  Rather than focusing so much on how to scrimp and save and be as cost-efficient as possible, shouldn’t we be focusing on how to spend and grow and be as big and effective as possible?

Nonprofits are stuck in a vicious cycle that jeopardizes their ability to raise the resources they need to succeed. Three “town criers” have recently shed light on the growing problem. Though they come at the problem from different perspectives, it is arguable that they’re headed in the same direction.  Let’s take a look at the underlying reasons for the sector’s inability to build sustainable capacity.

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To Sell is Human; To Give, Divine – Why We’re All in Fundraising Now

Philanthropy; Not Fundraising

I recently attended an inspiring talk by Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human, and found myself furiously taking notes.  Next thing you know I was impulsively buying the book (autographed, of course)! Do I have buyer’s remorse? Absolutely not. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Everything he has to say is so directly applicable to fundraising and the nonprofit sector that [IMHO] it’s a ‘must read’ for those of us in the philanthropy business. Here’s why:

We erroneously think “selling” is bad.   In fact, it’s probably even more of a taboo word in nonprofits than the word “fundraising.” People just don’t like it. Pink did an experiment where he asked people to give him the first word that came to their minds when they thought of “sales/selling.”  They answered with such words as:

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You Say "Potato," I Say "Patattah": Development vs. Marketing, Part 2, How to persuade your E.D. and Board that they’re the same thing

The fact that development and marketing are charged with making the same relationship-building and communications decisions means that it is time, once and for all, to actively align these functions.  Yesterday in Part 1 we discussed the natural linkages between these functions and that, first and foremost, everything we do is about the customer experience. Today,…

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Fundraiser Job Tips: How to Hire/Get Hired + Top Interview Questions

Wanted signIn my last article I talked about how to pitch yourself for a new job. My focus was on fundraising jobs, but it’s a paradigm you can use for any time you’re trying to make a persuasive case for yourself.

Today I’d like to get to the part where you’ve transitioned from “selling” to the interviewer, and have arrived at the part where they sell to you.  In other words, it’s your turn!

It’s important to prepare for this part of the interview. And, if you happen to be wearing the interviewer hat, you can use these tips to listen for important questions that will tell you a lot about your potential hire.

The Purpose of Question Time

Definitely come prepared with what you want (and need) to know to make a wise, informed decision.  You’ll want to ask about this organization’s history, its programs, its culture (don’t overlook this one!), this position, and the person(s) for whom – and with whom — you’ll be working. Think about what success would look like for you, and probe to assure the pre-conditions to achieve that success are in place.

The interview is as much an opportunity for the candidate to get to know the hirer as it is a chance for them to get to know you. There’s little point in selling yourself for a job you ultimately don’t want and won’t enjoy. Where you’ll just be spinning your wheels. Where you won’t have a chance to grow professionally. Life is too short.

POINT OF PERSPECTIVE: I’ve interviewed a lot of candidates in my day. And, truth be told, if they don’t avail themselves of this opportunity to ask questions I really wonder about them. How can they be so lacking in curiosity? Did they not prepare for this conversation? How are they going to learn things on the job so they don’t just do things the right way, but do the right things? If it’s a front-facing fundraiser position, how are they going to be when faced with the opportunity to build a relationship with a donor?

When I’m in hiring mode, I don’t need a broadcaster as much as a relationship builder. I don’t need someone who boasts ad nauseum about themselves as much as need someone who probes for my interests, needs and challenges. So, if you’re the hirer, listen to see how many of these questions your candidates ask; be prepared to answer these questions.

Top 20 Interview Questions

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Which Song from Fiddler on the Roof Describes a Nonprofit Fundraiser’s Job?

While you might be tempted to guess “If I were a Rich Man,” that’s not it.

Because that would be making fundraising mostly about money.

And, actually, fundraising is mostly about love.

So the correct answer is “Matchmaker.”

That’s right. Your job is to make the perfect match between the values your organization enacts and the values your donor shares.

Because when people connect, and care about one another, our world tips ever more slightly back into balance.

Right now we live in troubling times, where the world seems wildly out of whack and people seem further and further apart.

Philanthropy provides a perfect opportunity to bring people together.

And who knows the most about making people fit together?  Matchmakers!

And today’s matchmakers have more tools than ever before at their fingertips. Hence the success of online dating services. Though it would’ve been easy to assume matchmaking is such a personal endeavor technology could never touch it, that’s not the case at all.  Because the digital revolution means people today are more connected than ever. Successful matchmakers don’t eschew technology; they embrace it. So should you.

Emulate These 6 Things Matchmakers Do

14 Last-Minute Strategies to Boost Year-End Fundraising

Painting of baby in fetal position

Arrgh! Too crowded! Too competitive! Too much noise! I’m curling into a fetal position until it’s over!

Do you have that year-end feeling? You know, the one many fundraisers get around this time of year?

Kind of frenetic? Anxious? Stressed?

You’re not alone.

The average nonprofit receives 26 – 30% of all donations in December. And 10% arrive in the last three days of the year!  So, yeah, it’s really busy.  And a lot is on the line.

I was talking with one of my clients, who apologized for acting so frantic and rushed.  She said:

“Do you remember having that feeling? Did you get it when you used to work in the trenches? That worry that maybe you won’t hit your numbers? That people won’t give as much as they gave last year? That some of your major donors won’t renew. That maybe you’re not sending enough emails? That you’ll wake up on January 1st and be in BIG trouble?”

Oh, yeah. That feeling…

Of course I’ve felt it!  But over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to help overcome that feeling.

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10 Tools to Give You and Your Nonprofit Donor Space to Co-Create — and Change the World

Man pointing to ear and hearing aidA couple of years ago I wrote about 4 Strategies to Listen so Others Will Talk, noting the secret to building authentic relationships is to use your two ears and one mouth in that proportion.

It’s a good start, but there’s more.

You can’t just listen passively.

Active listening, supported by powerful, succinct, to-the-point generative questions – that’s what will draw you and your donor (or anyone with whom you’re in relationship) closer together.

But not all active listening is created equal. And you may think you’re actively listening, when really you’ve listened for a hot minute; then gone down your own rabbit hole of reality.

In that rabbit hole, you become the narrator. It thus becomes your story, not the donor’s.

Uh, oh.

Today we’ll explore how to draw your donor out so you truly hear their voice and sense their emotions, not your own.

10 Tools to Connect and Co-Create with Donors

1. Economy of language.

This is something I value, as an outsider looking in.

I’m not good at it.

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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:

Three San Francisco Hearts: What-We-Do-for-Love; Tales-of-the-City; ColorFall-of-Hope

4 Types of ‘PERSONAL’ Your Nonprofit Must Adopt Today

Three San Francisco Hearts: What-We-Do-for-Love; Tales-of-the-City; ColorFall-of-HopeEarly 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 One Word, ‘Personal,’ Should Become Your Mantra

Let it underscore everything you think about and do.

Your annual appeal writing. Your special events. Your newsletters. Your blog posts. Your proposals. Your reports. Your social media. Your donor cultivation.

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

  • This one word that can set you apart.
  • This one word can help you build relationships like nothing else.
  • This one word can sustain you, through thick and thin.

Also Make ‘Personal’ Your Spiritual Discipline

Though we we give lip service to the importance of practicing 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. Start there.

Visualize your person, and before engaging in any strategy or tactic, ask yourself:

Is there a more personal way to deliver this message?

Begin to build a PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE into your planning.

Make sense?

GETTING PERSONAL has always mattered.

Today, in a still-disrupted, socially distanced, increasingly virtual environment, with striving for greater diversity, equity and inclusion at the forefront, how you get personal and how you define people are more important than ever.

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.

Labyrinthine Heart, 2023 benefit for S.F. General Foundation

6 Top Reasons To Use Handwriting

Do you write anymore?

I don’t mean do you type.

I’m talking about good old-fashioned handwriting.

You know, that very human practice most of the world seems to have abandoned post digital revolution?

It may seem practical and smart. After all, using a keyboard is definitely quicker.

But something critical gets lost in translation.

Emotional Connection

Not just to your audience, but to yourself.

Could keyboarding be causing you to disconnect? To lose your passion?

This is why writers including  J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Danielle Steele, John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates have rejected word processors and computers in favor of writing by hand. At least for their first drafts.

CAVEAT: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking these “handwriting people” are all just “old,” “old school,” or “stuck in their ways.”  Rather, they intuitively discovered things about hand writing. All subsequently borne out by neuroscience. Once upon a time I intuited this as well. I couldn’t imagine giving up my yellow writing pad and pens of various colors.  How would I think expressively if forced to type everything? Gradually, I was persuaded (shamed?) to jump on the bandwagon of modernity and efficiency. And, lo and behold, it was incredibly efficient. So fast!  I got used to editing as I went along. Pretty soon I couldn’t envision ever going back. BUT…

But… after many years on the wrong track, I’m coming to understand the documented benefits of composing by hand.

Writing By Hand Offers Psychological Benefits

You can learn more about some of these benefits from specific studies here (improves memory and promotes deep encoding); here (bolsters learning), and here (advances idea generation), to name just a few.

Today I want to share six of these benefits I think you’ll find most relevant to your nonprofit work.

Three San Francisco Hearts: Love Sent. Received, Shared; Together Under the Stars; Justice

Are You Treating Your Donors Like Gumballs?

Three San Francisco Hearts: Love Sent. Received, Shared; Together Under the Stars; JusticeWant your donors to sustain you? Then you can’t consume them in five minutes.

Yet all too often nonprofits treat their donors exactly like a gumball dispensed from a machine. Chew it up. Spit it out. Done.

Oh, yeah… maybe you send a quick thanks to whoever gave you the change to buy the gum.  But that’s as far as your gratitude takes you. You’re over it. You never even think about that gumball again. You probably can’t even remember what color it was. You’re off hunting down your next snack.

Little snacks are nice.  But they won’t sustain you over time.

One-time donations are the same way.  And they’ll stay that way – one time – if you treat them the way you treat your gumballs.

Head and Heart

Easiest 7 Strategies to Get Inside Your Donor’s Head and Heart

Head and HeartHere is some wisdom gleaned from many decades of personal nonprofit work.

It derives from both my stints as an in-the-trenches development professional (five different organizations, wearing many hats, over a 30-year career), and my past decade as a coach/consultant for nonprofits of all sizes and shapes.

I will also be sharing quotes from donors Penelope Burk surveyed (also here), as these authentic testimonials provide great insight into how donors think and feel.

Finally, we’ll conclude with seven relatively easy things you can do to connect more meaningfully with your supporters so they’ll stick with you through thick and thin!

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Giving Tuesday: Don’t Take the Money and Run

Man running with money

The absolute worst thing you can do the day after Giving Tuesday is nothing.

As tempting as it is to let out a sigh of relief that it’s over, resist that temptation.

It’s not time to relax yet.

Nothing comes of nothing.

And a huge part of your goal with Giving Tuesday should be to strengthen your bonds with donors.

That’s the real something you’re after.

It’s not just about the money you raise today.

Your goal with any fundraising strategy is to retain and, ultimately, upgrade these transactional donors. The name of the game in the business of sustainable fundraising is lifetime donor value. [Here’s a great book on the topic: Building Donor Loyalty: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Increasing Lifetime Value.]

Run towards, not away.

Treat Giving Tuesday as a Special Event

Like it or not, Giving Tuesday is a ‘special event.’ With all the pre-planning and post event strategies events embrace. And I don’t really like it, which is why I recommend #GratitudeTuesday as an alternative.If you’re on board with a traditional #GT strategy however, you’ll likely put a fair amount of planning, resources and time into this event. This involves the attention of more than one staffer and/or volunteer. And it sucks time away from almost everything else in the week(s) leading up to it.

It can be a real drain.

Your job is to put a stopper in that drain so all your hard work doesn’t simply swirl down the drain and disappear. Would you work super hard to create a delicious soup you simmer over the stove for hours, maybe even days, and then take one little taste before you pour it out and start all over again with a new one? Endless work. And no one really gets to enjoy the meal.

Proven Strategies to Climb the Year-End Fundraising Mountain

Mountain climberHave you started working on your annual appeal and year-end fundraising plan?

It’s time!

I worked for 30 years in the trenches, so I know exactly what this time of year feels like.

It feels like you’re at the base of a mountain you’re about to scale.

  • Exciting, but also scary.
  • Exhilarating, yet also daunting.
  • There will be good days, and bad days.

And this particular year, you may feel you’re taking two steps forward and three steps back.

That’s to be expected during times of great uncertainty.

Expected or not, I know you’re still anxious and thinking “What if we don’t reach the top?”

Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

This year you may need the equivalent of a few extra granola bars for energy. And maybe an extra tool or two to help you get a grip.

Right now I want to give you a few specific, timely tips you might not be thinking about.

Here are some strategies I hope will give you a leg up, so to speak.

Ready to Put Your Best Foot Forwards?

Here are 11 tips I’ve learned over the years.

Master chef creation

Master Chef vs. Line Cook: How Do You Prepare Your Nonprofit Fundraising Plan?

 

I learned something many decades ago that I’ve never forgotten.

When I learned this, it made me very happy.

You see, I was transitioning from an unhappy, short-lived career in law and wasn’t really sure about my next chapter.  Nonprofit work intrigued me, but… was it really a discipline or just something folks “winged?”  How would I know I could be successful?

There weren’t a lot of role models around at the time, and I really didn’t know any other fundraisers.  And there certainly were no articles to “google” online!

So, I enrolled in a week-long course offered by The Fundraising School, then led by founder Hank Rosso (who I call the “Daddy of Fundraising”), which is now part of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

What a revelation! My eyes were opened to the very nature of fundraising. And the essential pre-conditions for fundraising success.

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What’s Going On? What Can We Do?

Love lettersI had a fundraising post all ready to launch today, but I just couldn’t do it.

The world seems wildly out of whack right now.  I can’t pretend it’s business as usual.

I try to stay away from “politics,” because I know that’s not why you read my blog. However, we live in a political world. And so do our nonprofits, our staff, our volunteers, our donors and our clients. Simply put, politics is about making agreements between people so that they can live together in groups.

Nonprofits cannot seal themselves off in little bubbles, pretending what’s happening in the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

That’s why, during the pandemic, I encouraged you to talk about how events touch those who rely on you. It’s why, all the time, I encourage you to relate your work to what’s in the news and top of mind to donors. Be it hurricanes, fires, famine, drought, social unrest, war, civil liberties, mass shootings, homophobia, racism, sexism, bigotry, or anything else horrifying to body, mind, heart and soul.

If it’s something you’re thinking about, you can bet it’s something your constituents are thinking about.

If you don’t address it, you risk coming across as unimportant, blind, shallow or out of touch. Being relevant, and meaningful, means getting inside your supporters’ heads and knowing what’s important to them. What are they thinking? How are they feeling? In what way do the emotions they’re currently experiencing interact with your mission? How can they help you, and you help them?

I don’t know how you’ve been feeling, but many folks I’ve been talking to have mentioned anger, outrage and fear. Even those who are happy about one or two things are deeply concerned about other developments. And this holds true for both sides. Listen to Fox News, then listen to MSNBC.  You’ll hear equal doses of horror. The pendulum has been swinging wildly, back and forth, and the world seems madly out of whack.

What can the social benefit sector do to bring things back into balance?

I keep coming back to the Golden Rule. What if none of us ever did anything to anyone else we didn’t want them to do unto us? What if we only treated others as we would want to be treated? It seems so simple. So logical. So in everyone’s best interest.

What is it about the human animal that leads the same people who don’t want government to impose mask or vaccine mandates on them wanting to impose no abortion mandates on others? Or, from the other perspective, those who don’t want government telling them they can’t smoke pot wanting to tell others they can’t carry guns? All of this “I can impose, but you can’t” is nonsense from the perspective of “do unto others.” Yet, we persist.

The only way to make sense of these things is through an understanding of balance. We must strive toward philanthropy (translated as “love of humanity”).

journey over rope bridge

6 Steps to Fuel Your Major Gift Journey

journey over rope bridgeThe major gift journey is a synergistic one. You see, it’s both your journey and your donor’s journey.

If you want to follow along the most direct pathway to sustainable philanthropy, you’ll want to consider the two-fold nature of the expeditious endeavor known as major gift fundraising. Or, as I prefer to call it, passionate philanthropy.

First understand it’s not just about the money;  it’s every bit as much about the experience.

Strive to become your donor’s favorite philanthropic journey guide.

If you do your job as guide well, they’ll find meaning, purpose and happiness being engaged with you.

  • If you make the experience a joyful one, your fellow traveler will become your donor.
  • If you continue to make the experience joyful, they’ll continue to travel the road with you by renewing and upgrading their support.

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

That’s right! It’s both  (1) a business, and (2) a donor journey toward joy.  You’ve got to treat it like a business if you want to make money. That means clarifying goals, setting specific objectives, planning strategies and tactics, and holding yourself accountable. Otherwise you’re just occasionally taking folks along for a stroll, without being thoughtful about what’s in it for both of you. And if you haven’t concretized what the benefits are, it’s hard to deliver on them!

Let’s take a look at the 6 steps you must take to build and sustain a winning major gifts program.

Expeditious Steps to Fuel Your Pathway to Passionate Philanthropy

Sign: Good News is Coming

How to Raise Money with Nonprofit Newsletters

Sign: Good News is ComingYes, nonprofit newsletters can raise money!

And they should delight, retain and upgrade donors too.

How does this work?

It works by using your newsletter to give credit where it is due.

To your donors!

  1. Great newsletters are the opposite of all about you and your organization.We did this.” “We’re planning to do that.”
  2. Great newsletters sustain the joy donors felt at the moment of giving by confirming for them their decision was a good one.You made this happen.” “Your gift gave a happy ending to this story.”

You see, a charitable gift is not the same as a purchase of a product or service. With the latter, you have something tangible to continue to appreciate (e.g., you use your laptop daily; you continually admire the new paint job on your house). With the former, you’ve got nothing but an initial shot of dopamine … and then a memory. For most donors, this becomes a distant memory.  Because most nonprofits don’t consistently and repeatedly report back. With donors, out of sight truly does mean out of mind.

Use newsletters to show authentic gratitude and demonstrate how the donor’s gift made a difference.

You see, once is not enough.  Research shows for gratitude to be deeply felt it must be repeated. Repeat gratitude and reporting back accomplishes the following:

  • Donor feels good

  • Donor trusts you’re good to your word.

  • Donor feels inclined to give again.

  • Donor retention increases

  • Average gift size increases

  • Your raise a lot more money over time

Be guided by the “virtuous circle.”

So, Your Nonprofit Donor Wants to Give Cryptocurrency?

Donor with cell phone, crypto

In Part 1 of this two-part series, I discussed cryptocurrency philanthropy basics.

Let’s say you’re intrigued, and want to dip your toes in the water?

How to Accept Crypto?

There is more than one way. These are listed in order of easiest to greatest need for tech and finance savvy.

  1. Donor advised funds and giving wallets. These are now being set up to accept cryptocurrency. If nothing else, you can alert supporters that if they have a DAF they can funnel crypto to you that way. Also, every.org and givewell are crypto wallets that act similarly to a DAF by accepting gifts from donors, then granting your nonprofit cash without you ever having to take custody of the asset. You never have to worry about accounting and legal concerns of accepting crypto.

 

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS solution) donor management platform. Organizations such as The Giving Block, engiven, Crypto for Charity by Freewill and Charitable Solutions, LLC are already set up to accept cryptocurrency on behalf of your organization (the list keeps growing). These dedicate crypto NGOs will sell the asset and transfer the proceeds to you. You can put a widget/button on your website to facilitate this. Crypto goes directly into exchange and is immediately traded for dollars (there is a small fee; around 1%). This is safe, secure and simple as generally the asset will be immediately liquidated (within milliseconds), which is super important with highly volatile assets like crypto. This protects you from a donor asking what you did with their $100,000, and you having to tell them you only realized $50,000 because you delayed a day to sell it.

 

  1. External custody. Behind the scenes, all platforms use a cryptocurrency brokerage or exchange. Three reputable ones are Coinbase Commerce, Kraken and Gemini. They typically charge 35 – 50 basis points per transaction. No donation processing or receipting is available. Nonprofits with expertise in asset management, trading and technology may consider building their own donation widget using these services. Be aware it can take many months to establish an account. Plus, you also need an “Alternative Asset Management Policy” [fold in crypto to your Gift Acceptance Policy; run this by your professional advisors and finance committee] to shield leadership.

 

  1. Self-custody. This is not for everyone and requires a hardware USB device that can be plugged into the computer when someone wants to make a transaction. They’re cold storage, kept off the internet, and highly secure. The downside is it requires a very savvy staff person and high security around custody. Plus it’s tricky to liquidate when you hold it in your hardware wallet. Some donors giving these digital assets like to see nonprofits holding those gifts as crypto, as part of an effort to see crypto go mainstream. If you have the ability to be strategic with investments, for example by building a reserve, you might consider holding onto crypto in its native form. UNICEF, for example, can receive, hold, and disburse cryptocurrency with its UNICEF CryptoFund. Again, you’ll want an “Alternative Asset Management Policy” to guide when you’ll sell.

How to Promote?

Photo of Claire

Top 10 Countdown: Most Popular Clairification Articles of 2021

This was another year of adaptation. Settling into some things, while feeling decidedly unsettled in others. Opening our eyes, minds and hearts to see, and be, things clearly.

This year continued to mark a shift in the direction of my content, as “business as usual” seemed out of sync with the times we found ourselves in. Much of the heart of fundraising remains constant, while much of the practice and culture is evolving. It is a time in which feeling our humanity, and coming from a place of love, seems more important than ever.

Today I summarize my writing of the year by sharing the articles that most resonated with readers out of the 70+ I created for 2021, including some popular oldies.

In case you missed them, here are last year’s blog posts with the most views, according to Google Analytics.

Plus, at the end, I’m sharing some photos I hope you’ll enjoy!

Counting Down…

Two paths converge

Ask Not What Your Donor Can Do For You…

I’ve recently been enrolled in some coaching courses, and it got me thinking…

What if you were to think of yourself as the coach and the donor as your client?

As a coach (aka “philanthropy facilitator”), your goal would be to help that client.

This is a very different stance than approaching them as someone who will help you. It completely shifts the equation of your interactions.

I’ve been working with donors, and organizations working with donors, for forty years now. Along the way, one of the things I’ve learned is your approach to your work matters. It’s why I talk a lot about reframing.

Today I’d like to discuss another type of reframing. It has to do with using your ears and mouth in the proportion in which they were given to you.

How to reframe the borders of donor meetings.

7 Magic Words that Increase Charitable Donations

You’ve still got time to sprinkle a little magic into your year-end fundraising!

Consider each of these seven words a magic potion unto themselves.

  1. You
  2. Because
  3. Thanks
  4. Small
  5. Immediate
  6. Expert
  7. Support

The more of these words you use, the more powerful a spell your appeal will cast.

Each of these packs a bigger persuasive punch than you might imagine.

Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

Proven Strategies to Climb the Year-End Fundraising Mountain

Mountain climberHave you started working on your annual appeal and year-end fundraising plan?

It’s time!

I worked for 30 years in the trenches, so I know exactly what this time of year feels like.

It feels like you’re at the base of a mountain you’re about to scale.

  • Exciting, but also scary.
  • Exhilarating, yet also daunting.
  • There will be good days, and bad days.

And this particular year, you may feel you’re taking two steps forward and three steps back.

That’s to be expected during times of great uncertainty.

Expected or not, I know you’re still anxious and thinking “What if we don’t reach the top?”

Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

This year you may need the equivalent of a few extra granola bars for energy. And maybe an extra tool or two to help you get a grip.

Right now I want to give you a few specific, timely tips you might not be thinking about.

Here are some strategies I hope will give you a leg up, so to speak.

Ready to Put Your Best Foot Forwards?

Here are 11 tips I’ve learned over the years.

How to Rock Donor Thank You Calls

7 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors

You’ve got to make donor retention more of a priority to survive and thrive in today’s competitive nonprofit marketplace.

Research shows the average nonprofit in the U.S. loses 81% of donors after the first gift!!!!!

In and out a revolving door is too expensive to be sustainable.

To make matters worse, the probability a donor will make five consecutive gifts is only 10-15%. These numbers are just not sustainable for most organizations. By the time you’ve added a new donor most of your previous new donors are out the door.

And, by the way, did you know donor acquisition costs you money?  Yup. On average, it will cost you $1.00 – $1.25 to bring in a new donor dollar. So… the value of a new donor to your organization is wrapped up in the concept of donor lifetime value. Once you have a new donor, the cost to renew them is much less expensive than the cost to acquire them. Just like in for profit marketing, keeping a current customer is easier than finding a new one.  But… you have to actively engage in customer cultivation and renewal strategies.

If you don’t energetically renew and upgrade donors over time, you may as well never have recruited them.

Allow that to sink in a moment.

Might you effectively be wasting a lot of time, energy and money on acquisition? Could some of your resources be more effectively deployed to donor retention?

I’m going to go out on a limb and wager the answer is a resounding YES.

Do you know what your donor retention rate is? If you do, there’s hope for you to improve it. Read on.

If you don’t, you don’t even know there’s something that needs fixing! Read on.

R.I.P. Donor Pyramid?

Swirling fractalThe modern model is more like a vortex — an energized circle where everyone is equal. People move in and out as needed, and your job is to keep the energy flowing.

NOTE: My article on the topic of moving away from the donor pyramid model for donor acquisition, cultivation and major gift solicitation recently resurfaced on social media dialogue, so I thought it was time for a reprint.

Why do we always think of donors with pyramids? The pyramids were built in Egypt. On the backs of slaves. It took a very, very long time. The cost, in human terms, was untenable and unsustainable.

That’s why you don’t see many pyramids being built these days.

Except in nonprofits, where building the donor pyramid is still the holy grail. Get ’em in. Move ’em up. Acquire through direct mail. Convert to monthly donor or sustainer. Acquire through events. Convert to mail. Up, up, up … to the pinnacle of major and planned gifts!

Except for one tiny thing.

It doesn’t work.

Pyramid building is so 2630 BCE. Nobody’s got 100,000 workers (aka direct-mail donors) building a solid pyramid anymore. Many so-called pyramids really look like hourglasses. Or upside-down pyramids. Or plateaus. Even the pyramid-shaped ones are resting on shaky foundations of donors who move in and out, in and out — eight out of 10 newly acquired bottom-of-the-pyramid donors leave — making the “foundation” more like a river than a solid, secure slab of mortar. The days of the donor pyramid model are gone!

Digital toppled the donor pyramid. Actually, it crumbled it … slowly, surely … until there was nothing left but an empty frame. A triangle on paper. The donors no longer fit inside of it.

R.I.P. donor pyramid. You had a good run.

The donor pyramid (sometimes call the donor ladder) was a great model for linear thinkers like me. It was neat and orderly. Engage folks from the bottom up, level by level, one step at a time. It was stable.

Or so we thought,

Top Strategies to Overcome Fear of Nonprofit Fundraising

How often have you heard someone say “I hate fundraising; I’ll do anything else,” or something along those lines?

Every time I hear this, my response is to get curious. “What makes you say this? How does fundraising make you feel?” Generally I’ll get a range of responses; mostly they boil down to some variation on the theme of FEAR.

Board members aren’t lazy because they’re afraid of asking for money. Your staff aren’t slackers because they fear fundraising.  They’re just scared, and need help overcoming their fears and anxieties. That’s your job if you’re the fundraiser!

Today we’re going to look at how to get around these fears, so you can turn reluctant fundraisers into ready ones. Honestly, it’s not rocket science; it’s just not something most of us are taught. Very few people are “natural fundraisers,” so falling back on “some people are good at this; others are not” is neither true nor helpful.  Everyone can become good at facilitating philanthropy – once their fears are addressed.

How to Overcome Fear-Based Barriers to Fundraising

It’s the job of a nonprofit’s leadership to work with insiders and stakeholders (staff and volunteers) to help them feel both passionate about the cause and confident in the fundraising process. Below you’ll find some top strategies to address challenges within your own organization so you can transform folks from fearful and reluctant to joyful and ready fundraisers.

10 Common Nonprofit Major Gift Asking Mistakes to Avoid

When 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?

SELF-EXERCISE: Okay, are you ready to close your eyes? Even if this feels a little weird, why not give it a try? (1) Pick your donor… (2) your meeting space… (3) your additional person supporting you in the room… and (4) open the conversation. What are you saying to them? What are they saying back? 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!

Girl dips toes in the water

12 Top Tips to Broaden Your Nonprofit Donor Community

Philanthropy should not just be about big checks.

That’s why you should never eschew small gift fundraising. Today I’m offering some tips for building and mobilizing your community to find, sustain and grow smaller 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?

Money.jpg

Money Matters: Why a Good Nonprofit Fundraiser is Hard to Keep

What’s love got to do with it?

Show me the money.

Some year’s ago the Chronicle of Philanthropy published an article about the need to Shake Up Development Offices and Curb Turnover. The article cites Penelope Burk’s five years of research which culminated in her groundbreaking book, Donor-Centered Leadership, as well as a revelatory study, Underdeveloped, by CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund that found half of chief development officers planned to leave their jobs in two years or less. And 40% planned to leave fundraising entirely.

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

Is it about money, or something else?

puzzle pieces

Bring Top Value to Your Donor Survey

I get lots of questions about what to include in donor surveys.  But that’s the wrong place to begin.

First you must have clarity on why you’re sending the survey. You can’t bring top value to your donor survey unless you’re specific about what value you want to receive and deliver. The great thing about donor surveys is they’re a genuine “twofer.”

  1. One is for you(useful information you will act on);
  2. One is for your donor(a way to usefully participate, other than giving money, and feel a part of a community of like-minded folks).

Donor surveys are an opportunity for a value-for-value exchange. This is at the heart of all successful fundraising and marketing. The donor gives something of value (usually time and/or money) and you return something of value (usually an intangible “feel good;” a sense of meaning, purpose and connection). Donors are focused on value; you need to focus there too. And value is understood as a clear ‘walking’ of your talk.

Never do something merely to check the task off your ‘to-do’ list. If you’ve had “do a survey” on your back burner for a while, now’s the time to move it to the forefront and give it a closer and more purposeful look. What pieces of the puzzle are you looking to uncover? Begin with asking: How will I know this survey was successful?

6 Strategies to Convey Your Most Emotional Fundraising Appeal Story

2020-10-11 14.40.58People are wired for stories.

We use them to understand our world.

But do the same stories work in any time? For any person? No.

You need to understand your SMIT story – ‘Single Most Important Thing’ – at this moment in time.

And that SMIT will change, depending on the environment in which you’re operating.

You need to know your audience. Today. The story you told last year may not work as well this year.

  • The story must be relevant to the donor – which will depend on what is top of mind for them.
  • And the need to give the story a happy ending must feel urgent.

Relevancy and urgency are the key to emotional appeals.

Master chef creation

Master Chef vs. Line Cook: How Do You Prepare Your Nonprofit Fundraising Plan?

I learned something over three decades ago that I’ve never forgotten.

When I learned this, it made me very happy.

You see, I was transitioning from an unhappy, short-lived career in law and wasn’t really sure about my next chapter.  Nonprofit work intrigued me, but… was it really a discipline or just something folks “winged?”  How would I know I could be successful?

There weren’t a lot of role models around at the time, and I really didn’t know any other fundraisers.  And there certainly were no articles to “google” online!

So, I enrolled in a week-long course offered by The Fundraising School, then led by founder Hank Rosso (who I call the “Daddy of Fundraising), which is now part of the Lily School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

And my eyes were opened to the very nature of fundraising. And the essential pre-conditions for fundraising success.

Family making noise on balcony to celebrate first resonders

How to Discover Your Unique Coping Strategies

I confess. I’m a sucker for a quiz. I love to test myself, and compare my answers with others. We all need a little distraction to keep our minds off the news right now, right?  Some of us more than others.

So I want to share some quizzes, exercises, and assessments that may help you discover some important truths about the most interesting person on earth. YOU!

The way you cope during stressful times has a lot to do with your unique personality traits. Do you consider yourself self-aware? Do you know why you may be feeling particularly panicky right now? Or inexplicably calm and at peace? Do you know what makes you feel creative and purposeful? Even joyful?

Every night at 7:00 p.m. my neighborhood goes outside and stands on the street, sidewalk or balconies to make a little ‘music.’ The other night this kid took a spatula to the iron balcony and managed to make a lovely racket! The hospital staff around the corner and up the hill has let us know via social media that they hear us and appreciate us. It feels like a beautiful way to cope, if even for just a few minutes each day. All it took was one neighbor to organize it, and… voila!  I am grateful to that neighbor.

What are you doing to cope? How are you adapting, personally and professionally, to our ‘new abnormal?’

Are you living your life in the best way possible for you to make a contribution that feels authentic, productive and true to you?

Now is a terrific time for some good old-fashioned introspection.

Everyone brings their own gifts to the situation at hand. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ personality. Now’s a time to get in touch with, and appreciate, what you bring to the table.

Maybe you can help someone else – a friend, family member, neighbor or even a donor – overcome some of their own weaknesses right now. And maybe they can help you as well. Yin-yang. Give-take. Mutual support. Empathy and understanding.

Are you game?

I’ve got four fun things for you to try!

Even if you don’t love doing exercises and taking quizzes as much as I do, you may find one or more of these interesting. None of them take a lot of your time. And it’s even more fun if you do it together (with friends, family, co-workers); then compare and discuss results!

hiking journey

6 Steps to Fuel Your Major Gift Journey

hiking journeyThe major gift journey is a synergistic one. You see, it’s both your journey and your donor’s journey.

If you want to follow along the most direct pathway to sustainable philanthropy, you’ll want to consider the two-fold nature of the expeditious endeavor known as major gift fundraising. Or, as I prefer to call it, passionate philanthropy.

First understand it’s not just about the money.  It’s every bit as much about the experience.

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

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

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

I cover this (1) business, and the (2) donor journey toward joy, in great detail in my online course, Winning Major Gift Fundraising Strategies. Please sign up for it, or get on the waiting list if the course is currently full. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the 6 steps you must take to build and sustain a winning major gifts program.

Expeditious Steps to Fuel Your Pathway to Passionate Philanthropy

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?”

Leverage Millennial Marketing Strategies to Woo ALL Nonprofit Donors

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

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

Fear no more!

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

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

Jar of penny coins

ONE Amazingly Simple Smart Fundraising Strategy

 

Invest more.

That’s it.

It’s simple. And it works.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sadly, this approach to fundraising is doomed to failure.

9 relatable reasons

9 Strategies to Make Your Nonprofit Fundraising Appeal Relatable

9 relatable reasonsThe inimitable Seth Godin recently posted some wisdom I want to share, because it applies directly to how you must ‘sell’ your nonprofit if you hope to inspire folks to join with you to solve the problems you address.

As is always the case with Godin, it is succinct. It’s also both common-sense and deeply insightful — critically so — when you take a moment to dig in a little. It relates to one of the most critical elements of any fundraising appeal:

The problem.

You see, folks won’t give to you simply because you exist.  Or because you’re nonprofit. Or because you’re ‘do-gooders.’

They won’t even give to you because you claim you’re addressing important issues or resolving a significant problem.

It takes more than that to capture people’s imaginations and inspire philanthropy.

The problem has to be vital, and the solving of it relevant, to them.

There are at least nine different ways in which a problem will capture a donor’s attention.