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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Should Your Nonprofit Jump on the Artificial Intelligence Bandwagon?

Person holding AI post-it noteI confess I know virtually zip about artificial intelligence.

But I’ve been learning. Fast.

Because it’s hard these days to travel anywhere in the world, including the social benefit sector, without hearing enticing things about it.

  • How it can do all sorts of things faster and better than humans.
  • How it can create cost savings.
  • How it enables greater personalization.
  • How it leverages effective use of data for marketing and fundraising purposes.
  • How it tracks engagement and predicts future behaviors.
  • How it creates efficiencies for program purposes.

At first blush this sounds good. But… the devil is in the details, right?

Which is why people are equally thrilled or unnerved at the prospect.

I wondered if using it could create unintended consequences. New tools used as blunt instruments could cause unintentional harm. So, I thought I’d do a little research to know whether I should advise fundraisers to jump on the AI bandwagon.

Transform Annual Reports into Gratitude Reports for the Best ROI

Grateful signAnnual reports don’t have to be dry as dust. In fact, the most effective ones are not financial reports; they’re a story with the donor at the center. And they inspire action.

When you consider all the blood, sweat, tears and money that go into them, you want to assure they:

  • Resonate with people emotionally.
  • Paint a picture people want to jump into.
  • Showcase the value of philanthropy and what it does to create change.
  • Shine a light on how much the donor is needed.
  • Include specific areas where donors can help.

Towards getting the biggest bang for your annual report buck, consider renaming them (or at least thinking about them) as Gratitude Reports. Make them all about your donors, how grateful you are to them for making your work possible, and how appreciative you are for all the accomplishments they enabled.

Rather than “2023 Annual Report,” consider a more donor-centered title like “Generosity Report,” “A Gratitude Report,” “The Year of the Donor,” “Impact Report.” or “You Make it Possible.” I’ve seen all of these; feel free to get creative and let your title guide your content!

Top 5 Gratitude Report Strategies

Strength Weight Lifting

Play to Your Strengths: Where Do You Add Most Value?

Strength Weight LiftingHere’s the deal: When you match people to environments or roles congruent with their skills, knowledge and strengths, they’ll do better.

Reading this statement, it appears patently obvious. But… how many businesses operate this way. Does yours?

This post was inspired by one of Seth Godin’s thought-provoking, minimalist posts. As always, he manages to convey something important and provocative in very few words. This time, he got me considering the way nonprofits structure job descriptions and conduct performance evaluations. It’s not the first time I’ve thought about this, as in my three decades of in-the-trenches practice I wrote a lot of the former and conducted a lot of the latter.

In the early years, I made the mistake of putting people into rather rigid boxes. This was not good for the people stuck inside, nor was it good for the organization as a whole.  Later, I learned to be more flexible and play to people’s strengths.

Before I get specific, here comes the Godin post that stimulated this little rant.

Building, breaking, fixing

We spend some of our time building things, from scratch. New ideas, new projects, new connections. Things that didn’t exist before we arrived.

We spend some of our time breaking things, using them up, discovering the edges.

And we spend some of our time fixing things. Customer support, maintenance, bug fixes… And most of all, answering email and grooming social media. The world needs fixing, it always does.

You’ve already guessed the questions:

— where do you personally add the most value?

— how much of your time are you spending doing that?

What follows is a bit of thinking out loud.  I hope it will inspire you as well. If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!

The “Peter Principle” Problem

If you look at a nonprofit organizational chart, too often you’ll see job titles that no longer describe what the folks in them are doing.  Sadly, the “Peter Principle” is alive and well. Folks rise to the level of their incompetence, and the function they are supposed to be performing gets shoved to the back burner.

This can lead to hidden organizational inefficiencies. For example:

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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

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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.”

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How to Keep Nonprofit Employees Longer with Flexibility

Flexible workerIn my last article I talked about providing employees with praise, recognition and meaningful feedback in order to retain staff and build the type of job satisfaction and longevity that creates a sustainable nonprofit.

For nonprofit fundraisers, the “Great Resignation” was happening long before the pandemic. In fact, per Penelope Burk at Cygnus Applied Research, the average amount of time a fundraiser stays at his or her job is just 16 months.

“Oh, well” you say?  “No big deal” you say?

Need I remind you fundraising is a relationship-building business? Relationships happen people-to-people, not people-to-institution.

All that work I’m constantly exhorting you to do to personally nurture, reward and develop bonds with your constituents as you support them on their donor journey matters.

You can’t afford the typical nonprofit staff turnover, and you need to do whatever it takes to make working for you a positive experience.

Lose a Fundraiser; Risk Losing a Donor Relationship

Fundraiser turnover results in the ongoing work of reporting back, asking for feedback and offering praise getting abridged or abandoned altogether. Trust me, this is a genuine real world concern. I work with countless nonprofits, and staff turnover leads to downgraded and lapsed gifts. You may think this won’t happen to you, but it will. When a donor doesn’t get the meaning they need, they drift away to other causes offering them a better return on their engagement. Don’t blame the donors; it’s just human nature to want to feel connected to other human beings.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking you can’t afford to keep your fundraiser by providing a better salary and other benefits, such as additional vacation time. Penelope Burk surveyed 1,700 fundraisers and 8,000 nonprofit chief executives, and found it would cost just $46,650 to keep a good fundraiser happy.

The direct and indirect costs of finding a replacement are $127,650. Hmmn… being pennywise and pound-foolish is not what I would call working smart.

Employee retention costs a fraction of employee recruitment, training and on-the-job learning. So seriously consider what you can do to work a lot smarter by treating your employees like the true treasure they are. As noted in my last article, a decent salary matters. I’m all for offering living wages! But many more things than money are motivators.

It’s time for a closer look at how flexibility in the workplace will help you shine.

Retain More Nonprofit Employees by Being Flexible

A recent guest essay in the New York Times,

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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…

How Do You Keep Former Nonprofit Board Members Engaged?

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Sustain the positive energy of love and connection

Are you throwing your former board members out like yesterday’s trash? You are if you don’t continue to build relationships with them and let them know how special they are.

Every single communication with a former board member should let them know you know who they are. One of the foundations of Penelope Burk’s groundbreaking work in Donor-Centered Fundraising is the finding donors want one thing first and foremost: “Show me that you know me.”

If you treat former board members like they’re toast, don’t be surprised when they start sending you little bread crumbs instead of the whole slice – or loaf – they once sent. People want to be appreciated. It’s just human nature.

Stop blaming board members for stopping loving you. Instead, focus on not stopping to love them!

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

Former board should be one of your top segments for cultivation! They have a deep understanding of your vision, mission and values. For years, they made your nonprofit one of their top philanthropies. They may even have included you in their estate planning!

Former board have numerous connections to your cause; don’t lose them! They may have relationships with staff or even beneficiaries. They also have connections with each other. At one point you were part of their identity and family. You likely have a special place in their heart.

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

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Getting to Know You

Two people hanging out togetherTRUTH BOMB:

The key to successful fundraising is knowing your donors.

If you don’t know them, you can’t nurture them.

If you don’t nurture them, they won’t grow.

Simply staring at your bare patch of land waiting for flowers to sprout and blossom doesn’t work 99% of the time.

Why are you waiting to ‘get lucky’ the winds will just blow some seeds your way?

Likely, this won’t happen.

Even if it does happen, the seeds may not take root and grow.

Unless you do something to help them along.

In fundraising, the best way to nourish supporters is to know them better.

So you can give them what they explicitly need, not what you think they need.

You need to engage in “getting to know you” activities so you’re basing your work on knowledge, not just opinion.

Why Don’t Fundraisers Reach Out to Get to Know Donors Better?

There are all sorts of excuses.

Many come from a sense of ‘donors’ being primarily identified that way, rather than as the complex people they truly are. Staff are often afraid of, or at least uncomfortable with, ‘donors.’ Even many volunteers, who aren’t major philanthropists themselves, feel this way.

Have you ever heard (or felt):

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Top Planned Giving Myths and Truths Revealed

Building - motto about knowledge and stabilityWhat the heck are “planned gifts?”

For some reason, this term remains largely mysterious for many nonprofits. There’s a feeling planned giving is complicated. Not for the faint of heart or the small of budget.

This couldn’t be more wrong.

People wonder:

  • Are they deferred (i.e., you won’t receive them until after the donor dies)?
  • Are they outright (i.e., you’ll receive money now)?
  • Are they only for building an organizational endowment?
  • Are they just another term for major gifts?
  • Are they gifts where donors receive benefits like life income and tax avoidance?
  • Are they legacy gifts?

The Truth about “Planned Gifts”

They’re all of the above!

If there’s any overarching guideline, the truth is that planned gifts generally represent the largest gift a donor will make to you.

Top 10 Questions to Answer before Asking for a Nonprofit Major Gift

You can’t just call someone up out of the blue and ask them for a major gift to your campaign. Period. Full stop.

This won’t work any better than building a house before you’ve found the right location, created a blueprint, laid a foundation and brought in just the right crew to build according to your specifications.

In both cases, first you must lay the groundwork. I like to think of this as making sure all the pre-conditions to a successful ask are in place before I make someone an offer I know they won’t be able to refuse.  And I’ll know I’m ready to pop the question because first I’ll have answered “Yes!” to all of the ten questions that follow.

10 Critical, Powerful Questions to Lay the Groundwork for Successful Asks

1.  Is this the right prospect? 

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How to Transform Reluctant Fundraisers into Ready Philanthropy Facilitators

How do you help people afraid of fundraising become comfortable in what should be a mission-aligned role for everyone associated with your nonprofit organization?

After all, everyone benefits from increased philanthropy.  Not just development staff.

Increasingly, successful nonprofits are adopting cultures of philanthropy where everyone involved – administrative staff, program staff, board members, committee members, direct service volunteers and even beneficiaries – comes together as ambassadors, advocates and askers on behalf of furthering the organization’s mission, enacting its values and fulfilling its vision.

Facilitating philanthropy is not rocket science, yet folks unaccustomed to the relationship cultivation and solicitation required to land major donations are fearful because they don’t know how to do it. Actually, they do. They just need some guidance, hand holding and support along the way. Reluctant fundraisers tend to think fundraising is just about money. It’s a lot more than that.

It’s the job of a nonprofit’s leadership to work with insiders (staff and volunteers) to help everyone feel both passionate about the cause and confident in the fundraising process.

There are barriers to be overcome; first and foremost is fundraising fear.  This fear takes many forms, and is perhaps best expressed in some of the questions I frequently receive.  So I’m endeavoring to answer a few of these questions below.  Hopefully this will help you address these challenges within your own organization so you, too, can transform folks from fearful and reluctant “fundraisers” to joyful and ready “philanthropy facilitators.”

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4 Strategies to Listen so Others Will Talk

You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.

Ever hear that?

It’s the secret to building authentic, lasting relationships. Full stop.

Whether you’re dating, parenting, teaching, attending a conference or hosting a dinner party, the ability to be fully present – in listening mode – will impact so many things. For good or ill.

  • Whether people want to keep talking to you, or don’t.
  • Whether people feel relaxed and open, or anxious and stressed.
  • Whether people want to tear down walls, or build them up.
  • Whether you learn something, or don’t.
  • Whether you’re perceived as compassionate, understanding and helpful, or not.
  • Whether people like you, or don’t.

Donor loyalty and love are earned, and it begins with YOU listening.

If I had to boil down Penelope Burk’s two decades of groundbreaking research in donor-centered fundraising into one thing donors want, it would be this: SHOW ME YOU KNOW ME. There are lots of ways to do this, but we sometimes miss out on the most obvious one.

Become a Donor Coach

Your job – as fundraiser, nonprofit professional and philanthropy coach – is to help your donors see the way to greatness. Think of this as part and parcel of your job as a philanthropy facilitator. In donor coaching mode, you need to listen so you can find “coaching moments” – opportunities to motivate donors to engage with, and act on, their passions in a way that brings them meaning and joy.

“Coaching is a worldview that is driven by the intention to be of service to others.”

— Dianna Andersen, Cyliant

Your job is to guide folks over the river, through the woods, up the mountain and

Clouds and sky

How to Kon Mari Your Nonprofit Work Plan

This year it’s been easy to hoard.

You had all the strategies that worked for you in the past, PLUS you had to add a bunch of new ones when faced with the realities of the pandemic economy.

Then you had to add things to be relevant to supporters who were thinking about a million news stories. You needed to be relevant, and consider your stance on BLM, BIPOC, DEI and a range of political and social justice issues.

The extraordinary times could not be ignored, so strategy got piled upon strategy, got piled upon…

And your nonprofit work plan got super crowded.

Time to clear out some space!

You’re likely wondering if you have to do everything virtually as well as in person. You’re wondering if your messaging needs to change to be more inclusive? You’re wanting to connect with folks in ways they’ve come to expect, and to offer meaningful engagment opportunities, but… where is everything going to fit?!?!

Never fear. Help is here!

What if you were to look at your work plan this year from the KonMari perspective?

If you’ve been living under a rock, Marie Kondo’s KonMari is the art of “tidying up to transform your life.” It’s a popular book that’s become a Netflix sensation, and it may not be your cup of tea, but…

What if, through some simplification and organization, you could transform your life (at least at work) as well as your nonprofit’s life — so all involved felt greater inspiration and even serenity?

You. Can. Do. It.

Alas, I’ve participated in many a planning session, and seldom do I recall – if ever – really focusing first on what we could stop doing to make room for new endeavors.  If this sounds familiar, you’re likely also familiar with the unfortunate consequences.

There are some things that really should not be part of your work plan moving forward. Or, at the very least, they should be pared down. Quite. A. Bit.

Here’s how you know you need, as Marie Kondo might say, to tidy up.

  • Do you try to stuff too much into your work plan and end up doing nothing as well as you’d like?
  • Do you allow daily clutter to crowd your inbox so you’re often responding to the little issues rather than the big ones?
  • Do you keep working on things that no longer have the payoff they once had, causing you to miss out on newer and more cost-effective opportunities?
  • Do you allow inertia to divert your focus towards ‘make work’ transactional stuff that satisfies your need to feel ‘busy,’ while you know it’s not really transformational work?
  • Have you allowed your job to become overloaded with tasks you don’t enjoy, to the point where you feel a bit like a lobster in a pot?

"Conscious Soup" street art

Stop Writing Unconscious: Secrets to Inspire Action on Your Nonprofit Appeal

"Conscious Soup" street artYou want to raise money with your fundraising appeal, right?

Guess what?

However you feel when you sit down to write is how your readers will feel when they sit down to read.

Feeling anxious? Unprepared? Bored?

Your feelings come through in your writing. Or not.

So… first put a smile on your face! Think about what inspires you about your mission. What are you passionate about? What drew you here and keeps you here?

Passion is contagious.

You can do this – it’s just like talking to a friend about how important your cause is.

Yup.  Your donor is your friend.

Talk to them exactly that way.

Becoming a writer is about being conscious.

“When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader.” 

– Ann Lamott

7 Key Secrets + 16 Blooming Tips to Appeal Success

Transactional Nonprofit Work vs. Transformational Donor-Led Progress

Transactional Nonprofit Work vs. Transformational Philanthropic 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 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.

And how everyone feels about the endeavor.