Clairity Click-it: Year-End Fundraising Planning Edition

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Click it!

The Click-it is early this week since year-end is fast approaching, and I couldn’t wait to share these awesome tips to help you plan your year-end campaign! I’ve got a bit of everything here –  from finding email addresses to build your online mailing list… to tips on getting appeals read… to making sure you’re not missing any tricks… to social sharing strategies… to best email subject lines… to Giving Tuesday — and more! I’ll no doubt have even more for you before the end of the year, but now is really the time to get started. Don’t delay. [If you really want to assure you don’t miss a trick, scroll down to the bottom and check out the webinar I’m offering with the Foundation Center on the 17th]

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How to Magically Multiply Your Donors

By now I hope you’ve read the latest Fundraising Effectiveness Survey results and know that, on average, U.S. and UK nonprofits are retaining only 41% of their donors. This is abysmal, and it makes me sad.

When I started out in fundraising, many moons ago, I consistently retained 60 – 70% of my donors. And I thought that was insufficient!

While there are all sorts of reasons this is happening, what matters most is stopping the attrition before your nonprofit withers and dies. Because at these rates, after seven years you’ll only have 10 out of 1,000 new donors you acquire today. You read that correctly! Did I mention that first-time donor retention rates are only 27%?

Time for some magical math.

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7 Storytelling Tips to Inspire Nonprofit Donors to Act

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Ways to Revolutionize Your Nonprofit Culture to Stop Losing Donors

Do you have a "top service" donor-centered culture? If not, you're losing donors you could keep. Time for a revolution!
Do you have a “best service” donor-centered culture? If not, you’re losing donors you could keep. Time for a revolution!

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?

Clairity Click-it Future of Fundraising Edition: Culture of Philanthropy, Donor Retention, Gratitude, Nonprofit Change + Learning Opps

Catch this Special Edition!
Catch this Special Edition!

This week is all about what we need to do, collectively and within our organizations, to assure a bright future for philanthropy. I’ve gathered articles from some of the leading thinkers and researchers in the civil sector. This is important stuff — and one “Click-it” you won’t want to miss! Plus, as always, some great learning opportunities for you (scroll to the bottom).

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6 Secrets to Getting Your Donor Thank You Out in 48 Hours

In my work with nonprofits, especially the small to medium-sized ones (but sometimes the big ones too!) there’s one question many of you struggle with:

Gosh dang it! How on earth do you develop a system that assures thank you’s really get out in 48 hours?

The good news is: You’re not alone.  The even better news is: I’m going to give you the answer to your question.

HERE’S THE BIGGEST SECRET:

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The Heart of Effective Major Donor Development: It’s Not Money

The heart of major donor development is customer service
The heart of major donor development is demonstrating impact and showing gratitude. Continually.

Everyone wants to develop a major gifts program. Or to strengthen their existing major gifts program. Why? Because they want to raise more money.

If you approach major gifts development solely from this perspective you’ll ultimately fail.

You might raise more money for a little while. But over the long-term you’ll lose more support than you gain. Because it’s not just about money.

Successful, lifelong major donor relationships are about two things:

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9 Amazing Secrets You Need to Get a Major Donor Meeting

Did you know you’re 85 percent on your way to securing a gift if you can get your prospect to agree to a visit? So says veteran major gifts fundraiser Jerold Panas in his iconic book, Asking. He also says, “If you want to milk a cow, sit by its side.”

But … how do you get the cow to cooperate? Ay, there’s the rub.

Why is it so hard to get a visit with a prospect?

It just is. People screen phone calls. They don’t answer emails. They’re busy. And, let’s face it, they know what this is about. Once you get in the room with them, you have your chance to win them over. But how to get there?

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Philanthropy, Not Fundraising: I Have a Dream 2015

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I have a dream…

I have a dream for 2015 – 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 think big, because thinking small will not get you where you need to go. You will understand there is great power in a big, wildly exciting vision. You will share this vision broadly to attract people — and financial resources — to your cause. You will no longer be content to remain a “well-kept secret.”

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 that 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 push yourself and your organization towards transformative change.

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Plan a Donor-Centered #GivingTuesday Next Year. Start Now.

How did your #GivingTuesday go? I’m hoping it was a great success from your perspective, but what about your donor’s perspective? What can you do to assure your donors feel like the heroes they are for making your mission possible?

Right off the bat, make sure you have a robust gratitude program in place. Thank them. Then thank them again. All through the year. The more consistently you practice gratitude, the better. If you don’t have a documented donor acknowledgment program in place, now’s the time to begin.

Whatever you do, don’t just stuff your “#GivingTuesday donors into your database, send out automated receipts, smack your lips and count up the results to report to your board. Really, truly make sure these folks feel thanked for having done something selfless and special.

Then, next year…

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Here's How Often You Should Mail to Your 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:

Clairity Click-it: Donor Communication; Ethics; Donor-Centered Leadership

We’re fast approaching the giving season. What better time to think about ways we can give back to our donors? If you’re developing a gratitude culture, you’ll do this by being donor-centered with every communication to your supporters. You’ll do it by acting ethically and putting your donors needs first. And you’ll do it by honoring your donors and rewarding them for being the amazing people they are.  Here are some articles to help you be the best you can be.

Clairity Click-it: Think; Fundraising Habits; Donor Retention; Landing Pages

Here are a bunch of October goodies for you. Treats to get you thinking about the role of philanthropy in society…  habits of the most effective fundraisers…  what it takes to grow loyal supporters… how to assure your website visitors don’t run from you screaming in horror…  and much more. And these treats won’t even give you cavities!  Don’t miss the special offers at the bottom of the post.

Clairity Click-it Donor Communication Special: Eliminate Silos; Customer Service; Social Media; Content Marketing; Using the Phone + Call for Submissions

Donor Communication Special Edition

I cannot say this strongly enough. Do not segregate marketing and fundraising as separate silos.

When it comes to fundraising, communication with your donors should not be an “add-on.” Nor should it be relegated to the marketing department. As the guru of donor-centered fundraising, Penelope Burk, states:

It is a core fundraising function that produces long-term income security. Make meaningful communication with donors your development department’s top priority.

Here are some tips from experts across the web to show you how to do a more effective job with your donor communications.

Clairity Click-it: Donor Communication; Donor-Centered Leadership; Call for Submissions

Here’s a timely October Click-it to help you get ready to communicate in a donor-friendly fashion with all your supporters this fall.  It’s giving and gratitude season, so grab yourself some great advice and be thankful — for the wisdom of the experts and for your donors.  May the force be with you.

And don’t miss some timely October announcements below.

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What My Mother Taught Me and How it Informs My Fundraising Practice

 

Why and How to Invoke the Power of Thank You

My mother was known for having impeccable manners. At her memorial service, it seemed as if every other person who shared a memory talked about her manners. They did so not in a nitpicking way, but in a loving way.  It seemed she always knew just the right thing to do to show her appreciation.

Maybe that’s why I love writing thank you notes.  Seriously, it’s my favorite thing to do in all of fundraising.  And it’s undoubtedly why, when I first heard Penelope Burk speak in 2001, it completely changed my approach to the practice of development.

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3 Rules for Thanking Nonprofit Donors that Should Never Be Broken

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

You’re Not Thanking Donors Properly.

I’m serious. How you handle donor acknowledgements is that important. Yet, sadly, most of you do an absolutely rotten job of showing your donors how much they mean to you.

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

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

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6 Traits of Relationship-Building Nonprofits + 4 Most Effective Ways to Retain Donors

Donor retention has continued to plummet every year for the past seven years.  It’s really, truly an awful problem. For some unknown reason, all that hard work you put into acquiring new donors is, seemingly, being wasted. Why?

I recently asked folks what ONE word they would use to sum up what is needed to transform donor loyalty. I received some interesting answers and thought I’d share them with you, along with my comments, here. First, let me remind you of my own Big Secret — the one principle I’ve found that makes the greatest difference to long-term, sustainable fundraising success:

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A Guide to Really Making Your Donors Your Heroes: Case Example

You’ve probably heard this advice before. “Make your donors your heroes.” It’s a lot easier said than done.

As Jeff Brooks opined in You and your donors: Who’s the sidekick?, too often we get it backwards and tell donors how awesome we are; then we ask “How’d you like to be my sidekick?” Rather, we should think of ourselves as their sidekick.

One nonprofit director who truly understands this is Julia Wilson, E.D. of One Justice. [A former client of mine, I keep my eye on them like a proud Mama hen watching her little baby chick fly boldly off on her own). After their most recent, highly successful fundraising event, Julia wrote to me saying:

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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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9 Key Nonprofit Communications Tools to Woo Donors: Part 2

In Part 1 we covered 5 steps to woo your donors with a communications strategy. Today we’ll look more closely at 9 key communications tools you can use effectively to build closer relationships with your supporters. Some are extraordinarily simple. It’s just that many nonprofits fail to use these tools consistently, or well. If you make a practice of doing so, you’ll be well ahead of the game.

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Your Secret to Mindblowing Fundraising – Improve Donor Retention Just 10%

Imagine what it would mean to your mission if you doubled the lifetime value of all of your current supporters.

I recently listened in on an interview between Gail Perry and Jay Love of Bloomerang. It’s a great listen, and the two of them fired me up to write another post on the importance of focusing your efforts on donor retention.

Do you know even know what percentage of donors you’re retaining? According to Jay, less than 5% of fundraising offices know this answer!  So, you’re not alone.  But you can do better.

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Nonprofit Donor Retention is Not as Hard as You Think

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What do you do to let your donors’ love blossom?

At least if shouldn’t be so hard.  After all, the commercial sector manages to retain 94% of their customers. Then why does the nonprofit sector only manage to retain 41%? Even worse, new nonprofit donor retention is only 19%, down from 27% in 2011. That’s abysmal. What’s going on?

Why are our for-profit brethren beating the pants off of us when it comes to retention?

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10 Reasons this Fundraising Appeal Hits it Out of the Ballpark

It’s not about the money. It’s about the mission and the impact.  This year-end fundraising blog post from 2013 by a recent nonprofit client of mine, One Justice, absolutely nails why we ask folks for support. It’s about what will happen if we don’t engage in fundraising.

I encourage you to read and consider the full post. For while we may be at the beginning of the calendar year, there’s no reason you can’t use the key elements of this approach year-round. It’s not just about the prose; it’s about the attitude.

THANKS(for)GIVING: 8 Mistakes Nonprofits Make When Thanking Donors


Are you focused on the gift or the giver?
Thanking donors is the one thing most nonprofits do not spend enough time thinking about. Too often I find that staff spend 95% of their time crafting the fundraising appeal and getting embroiled in project management – design; layout; printing, postage, etc.  Finally, the letter (or e-appeal) is ready to launch.  The mailing is dropped/the button is punched and… voila!  Gifts start to arrive!  But then what?!

Weekly Clairity Click-it: Corporate Partnerships, Street Fundraising, Fall Fundraising, Online/Young Donors, Major Gifts, Email Fundraising

Such great links this week. Let’s get started!

Corporate Partnerships

Click-It: Safeway Foundation: 6 Tips on How to “Partner” with a Corporation Thanks to the folks at Third Sector and guest blogger Christy Duncan Anderson, E.D. of The Safeway Foundation for this great insider perspective on the sometimes mysterious business of securing business sponsors.

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Are You Treating Your Donors Like Gumballs?

Want 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.

The Clairity Click-it: Your Weekly Potpourri of Nonprofit Management, Marketing, Branding, Social Media and Fundraising

I’m trying something new. I must read over 100 articles every week, and many of them say things with which I agree.  In fact, some say them better than I could have said it (Yup!). So I’m putting together the very best in an easy-to-“click-it” format with links to this week’s best and brightest in fundraising, marketing, social media, leadership, change and all the good stuff. You’ll find it to be an eclectic array, often sourced from more than one discipline, as I believe we can learn a lot from our colleagues in other sectors.

Of course, I can’t help but add in a few comments of my own. I hope you’ll find it useful. Let’s begin:

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7 Ways to Build Rapport with Donors Using Creative ‘Thank You’s

To build authentic rapport with folks you must show them you care.  And the simplest way to demonstrate affection is through a heartfelt ‘Thank You.’ It can be in person, in writing, over the phone, through a text, via video or any which way you choose.

The key is to begin with thank you, and make it personal and prompt.

Here’s a personal example.  Recently my son found he’d have an unexpected layover in San Francisco.  I jumped at the opportunity to join him for dinner, though it meant cancelling plans with my friends.  The next morning, as he was getting on the plane, he texted them: “Thanks for changing your plans so I could see my Mom. I appreciate it.”  You may be thinking ‘no big deal.’ But it IS a big deal. He showed my friends he saw their flexibility as a gift. And someone (who?) taught him to always send a thank you for a gift. My friends were touched. Mama was proud.

Look for the hidden gifts and thank folks for them. (Click to Tweet) My friends gave me and my son a hidden gift. I’m guessing your donors do this too. They remember to send in a matching gift form. They agree to make a few phone calls. They send you their alma mater’s newsletter as a sample. All these things are worthy of acknowledgment.  Send great thank you letters for cash donations too, of course. But endeavor to touch your supporters whenever and wherever you can.

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Show Me That You Know Me — 5 Things You Must Do To Sustain Donor Relationships

My recent post about showing your donors you know them* through personalization struck a big chord.  Folks have asked for more tips on the subject of building and sustaining meaningful, loyal relationships, so I’ve taken the liberty of sharing this article originally published in The Bridge. The 5 tips are towards the bottom, so scroll down if you’re impatient. Okay…

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Purely Practical SMIT for January: Philanthropy, Not Fundraising – How to Begin the Transformation

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Change happens

Here comes this month’s *SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you):

I’m still using the word fundraising.  In fact, my most recent post was To Sell is Human; To Give, Divine – Why We’re All in Fundraising Now.  I received a lot of feedback (mostly embracing) on the first post in my 2013 Series: Philanthropy; Not Fundraising.  But there’s evidently some confusion.  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 I’m hoping you’ll grasp. The point is to come from a place of love; not need. A place that centers on our donor; not us. A place that is deeply relational; not one-sided.

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

Don’t Put the Fundraising Cart before the Friendraising Horse:Think Inbound 'Pull' vs. Outbound 'Push'

It can’t all be about ‘push’. We’ve also got to ‘pull.’ Recently I’ve been writing a lot about social media. It’s an important tool for engaging with our supporters.  But let’s not forget that what makes technology sing is not the technology; it’s the people behind the technology.  Successful technology is about bonds, not bells…

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3 Little Understood Factors Affecting Your Nonprofit Blog Readership – and How to Quickly Fix Things – Part I

C.P.A.  That’s the three things.  Huh? Your accountant?  Well…. sort of.  What do you want from an accountant?  My guess is that you want someone who is:

  • Passionate about helping you.
  • An authority on their subject.
  •  Focused on you and your situation.
  • Working from a plan; knows how to help you.
  •  Accessible to you; easy to understand; there when you need them.

Gosh, golly… that’s exactly what your blog readers want from you! So if you’ve got passion and authority (and I certainly hope you have that about your mission and the work of your organization) then you’re already ahead of the game. Woo-hoo! Now you just need to package everything, and make sure you’re Constituent-centered (focused on your readers); Planful (you know what your blog’s goals and objectives are and how you can use your blog to be of value to your constituents), and Accessible (folks can easily connect with you and understand what you’re sharing with them).

Once you understand the principles of C.P.A. you’ll be well on your way towards having a blog with content that knocks the socks off your readers. Today, let’s begin with how to put the ‘C’ in C.P.A.

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What Does Early Spring Mean for Nonprofit Communications Strategies?

Photo of a cobwebThis week the groundhog told us it’s going to be an early spring!

Spring is always a good time for re-awakening, rebirth and just plain dusting away the cobwebs.  And what a dreary, grave, cobwebby period it’s been.

We’ve got a lot to clean up, reorganize and rethink. So much, in fact, it’s downright overwhelming. So, as I sat down to write today’s article, I thought about what you actually have within your power to do. Right now. And all throughout the coming months.

I know it’s been pretty hard to focus with everything going on in the world.

So I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tried to pull together the various challenges I’ve seen nonprofit leaders, fundraisers, and marketers grapple with in the past year. Actually, the past years. Through elections, pandemic, climate catastrophes, shootings, war, unprecedented demonstrations of cruelty and inhumanity, and more. It’s a LOT.

But, the show — your good work — must go on. 

In  other words, your mission must move forward. People rely on you to do the critical work of the social benefit sector.

I thought: what can people do now to set themselves up for success as we move forward into high fundraising season at the end of this coming year? It may seem early to think about this, but it’s never too soon to put your best foot forward.

I’ve ended up with four tips I hope you’ll find relevant and timely.

  1. Big Picture
  2. Your Role as Helper
  3. Practical Guidance
  4. Strategic Advice

4 Timely Nonprofit Fundraising and Communications Strategies

1. BIG PICTURE: Message Confidently During Uncertain Times

Whether it’s a marketing or fundraising communication, keep these four messaging basics in mind.

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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