LOVE sign

4 Strategies to Dramatically Increase Nonprofit Donations

LOVE signTo be a donor-centered fundraising expert, you must:

(1) Know what donors love, and

(2) Offer these lovable things to them.

There are three things I’ve found donors love when it comes to making donations.

  1. To leverage their money.
  2. To be part of a winning strategy.
  3. To be in control of how their money is used.

Got it?

It’s that simple; yet very few organizations successfully offer these things to their donors. Instead, they fail their supporters by doing one or more of the following (take a look at your current appeal and see if you may be guilty of any of these sins):

  • Asking donors to do things they don’t want to do.
  • Offering limited giving options.
  • Making folks wonder where their gift will really be applied.
  • Failing to demonstrate to the donor what’s in it for them.

This is all wrong!

Today I’m here to tell you what works. I’ve not only found these four things to be true anecdotally, based on personal experience with a range of different charities, but there’s also research to back this up.

Ready to learn the four secrets that will dramatically ramp up your fundraising this year?

Let’s begin with the research.

Show-me-you-know-me.jpg

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

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

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

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

We’re in turbulent times.. Giving has surged overall during the pandemic, but there are fewer individual givers.  Some industries, like education, are losing support. As are many smaller charities not involved in addressing hot-button topics. And prior to the pandemic studies showed giving to be sluggish. Donors are less loyal. Donors may be distracted by emergencies. Or so-called rage giving. Or simply uncertainty about what lies ahead. So they’re giving less consistently. As a result, donor centered fundraising has never been as important as it is now.

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

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

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

Photo of Claire

How to Segment Nonprofit Donors: Identity vs. Identification

There are lots of aspects to a donor’s identity; not all are equally important to them.

Well, duh, you may say.

But this matters more than you may know. Because if you don’t really understand the difference between identity and identification you may be wasting a lot of time heading in the wrong directions.

Let me explain further.

If you loosely segment donors by aspects of their identity that are relatively meaningless as far as they’re concerned, you won’t improve your fundraising results.  You’ll certainly be busy doing all this segmentation – and you’ll be able to report back to your boss on all the great, ‘scientific’ work you did – but it will end up being a lot of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.

Perhaps you’re an organization that develops personas or avatars for your constituents. This is something marketers do to know who they’re selling to, and what that person may value. Sell sweaters? It helps to know if you’re creating messaging for “Chilly Charlie” (who wants warm sweaters), “Stylin’ Stella” (who wants fashionable, trency sweaters), or “Frugal Freda” (who wants discount priced sweaters).

So too it helps when you write to ‘Suzy Soccer Mom’ vs. ‘Funky Grandpa.’ You assume they’re interested in different things, and they generally are. So you tailor your appeal differently to different target market segments.

But wait…

Get even smarter about donor identity.

Ask yourself if the way you’re segmenting your donors is too generic. As helpful as it is to group prospective supporters by persona, it’s important not to go overboard with this strategy.

Why?  Because it’s non-specific and based on the most obvious common denominator. If you don’t drill down a bit, you may miss the forest for the trees.

Elvis

You Deserve to Rock Nonprofit Email Subject Lines!

Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

— David Ogilvy, advertising legend

Your email subject line matters. A lot.

So this article is all about learning how to rock your online ‘envelope’ – which is really what determines if your email will get opened.

When you stop to think about this, it makes a lot of sense. Your email subject line has a function! And its form should follow that function.

  • First, it must capture attention.
  • Second, it must convince people to open your message.

People’s inboxes are increasingly cluttered, so you need to stand out. Big time!  Really, you’ve probably got no more than two seconds to make an impression.

Do you think carefully about purpose when you create your email subject line?  Do you even craft it at all, or do you delegate this essential function to someone else, perhaps an assistant or someone in your marketing or digital communications department? Someone who perhaps doesn’t really understand the email’s primary purpose as well as do you?

If you’re like most nonprofit fundraisers and marketers, you likely spend a lot of time crafting the perfect email body copy, selecting images and figuring out just the right design that will entice someone to respond to your call to action.  Then, at the last minute, you’re ready to send it and hastily come up with a subject line.

Message painted on stairs - We are in this together

Nonprofit Social Media in Time of Coronavirus – and Any Other Time

Message painted on stairs - We are in this togetherThis is one place you don’t have to social distance.

In fact, this is perhaps the most opportune time ever to do exactly the opposite.

But, not to worry.

Getting up close and personal… getting connected to your supporters and potential supporters in an authentic way… this is among the safest things you can do to give people warm, virtual hugs. At a time when folks are missing human contact the most.

And guess what?

It will make people feel good!

And when you make people feel good, they’ll associate that good feeling with you.

This sets the stage for them to be receptive to your call to action when you’re ready to make it.

Social Media is Not a Stand-Alone Strategy.

Yet it can significantly increase the depth and breadth of your marketing reach.

You might think of social media as the new nonprofit advertising.

Per fundraising expert Tina Cincotti, donors are more likely to give, and stick with you, if you connect to them through multiple points of contact. In fact, they give at least 20% more than those connected through only one channel.

You don’t have to be everywhere, do everything, all the time.

When you think this way, you’ll never start.

Begin at the beginning.

Even Nonprofits Get the Blues

2020-06-07 15.39.42Times are tough. It’s easy to get demoralized. Especially if you work for a business, nonprofit or otherwise, that doesn’t feel ‘essential’ in today’s environment.

It’s human to feel depressed.

A survey conducted in June by the Kaiser Family Foundation found more than 30% of adults in the United States were reporting symptoms consistent with anxiety or depression since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Even our former First Lady revealed in a recent podcast:

“There have been periods throughout this quarantine where I just have felt too low… I have to say, that waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not responded, waking up to yet another story of a Black man or a Black person somehow being dehumanized or hurt or killed, or falsely accused of something, it is exhausting. It has led to a weight that I haven’t felt in my life — in, in a while.”

Michelle Obama

I know it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes.  And waiting for time to pass sucks.

Yet my Mom always said, “This too shall pass.”

I found it comforting.

It was like she was sharing some universal truth by telling me time-specific depression need not turn to despair.

There’s another path.

Mrs. Obama said she had benefited from keeping a routine, including exercise, getting fresh air and having a regular dinner time. I’ve found these things useful as well. Most important, I’m learning to focus more on what I can control than what I can’t. Plus I’m learning to accept there are some things I can’t do. Some things I can’t fix.  Not now.

Sometimes we have to wait.

Meanwhile, there are things to do to make the waiting bearable.

What Nonprofits Can Learn from the Blues

Chalkboard Menu

What to Put on Your Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Menu

A good fundraising strategic plan, like a menu, should be broken into component parts so it’s easy to wrap your brain around.

With a menu, it might be appetizers, meat entrees, seafood entrees, vegetarian entrees, sides and desserts.

With a fundraising plan, it tends to break down into strategies.

It might be annual giving, major gifts, legacy gifts, foundation grants, business sponsors, events and so forth.

Before you can get to determining your priority strategies, however, you need to do a mini fundraising audit.

When I begin working with a new nonprofit client, I always ask the same three questions.

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.

Laptop, notebook, coffee

How to Write a Foolproof Nonprofit Grant Proposal

Too often grant proposals begin with some variation of “we want money because we’re a good cause and, since you’re good guys too, naturally this will be a match made in heaven.”

There’s nothing natural about this request.

In fact, it’s a version of “Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass” thinking.

To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat speaking to Alice: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

Or not.

In fact, Alice tells the Cat she just wants to get “somewhere.” Could this, perhaps, be like you just wanting to bring in ‘some’ money to balance your budget? Hmnn… The Cat tells Alice “Oh, you’re sure to do that. If you only walk long enough.

Guess what?

Most funders reading your proposal will not want to read long enough. In fact, if you’re not clear on your destination from the get-go, they’re likely to abandon you before you get there. If you get there. In other words, wherever you end up, you won’t arrive there together.

And that’s the point of a grant proposal, right?

You seek a partnership… a travelling companion… an investor who cares about the outcome.

Where you’re Going… How you’re Going There… and How Much it Will Cost

Right from the get-go, this is what funders need to hear from you.

No beating around the bush.

Get right to the point with the specifics.

If the funder must read through several paragraphs – or pages – before it’s clear how much money you’re requesting and what, specifically, you intend to use it for, they’ll be in a ticked-off frame of mind as they read your proposal.

Not good.

Get organized!

The 6-step formula I’m about to share is one I learned when I first entered this business decades ago.

Me wearing a mask

Plan ‘Random Acts’ of Nonprofit Donor Kindness, Especially Now

There’s a pandemic out there killing people.

What can your nonprofit organization do to offer a remedy?

Kill ‘ em with kindness.

I’m talking about your supporters, of course.

In order for people to do good they have to feel good.

Seriously, philanthropy takes energy. It takes the ability to step out of one’s day-to-day grind and think about someone, or something, else. And it’s more difficult than usual for folks to find this generous space right now.

You can help.

Make this the giving season.

I often say “If you want gifts you must give them.”

Maya Angelou says “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Let’s talk about what you can give – as nonprofit staff and board — to create happier supporters.

Notice a lot of folks saying “2020 is a bad year?” People can use a bit of cheer.  They’re tired of doom and gloom.

Remember when “random acts of kindness” was a thing? People would buy a coffee for the person behind them in line. Or they’d pay the bridge toll for the next car. Their reward was simply imagining the unexpected delight their gift would give to someone that day. Ever have it happen to you?  Ever try it?

Now’s your chance!

I’d like to suggest practicing some creative planned (not random) acts of kindness.

Something to bring your donors and volunteers a bit of good cheer. It can be as simple as letting them know what they did to change someone’s life for the better. Or it can be a modest, human gesture showing them how grateful you are for their support. This is something you can have fun with.  And the rewards will be huge, both for you and your donors.

10 Acts of Donor Kindness For a Pandemic, and Beyond

4 Sculptures of torsos, Kristina May, Filoli 2020

4 Types of ‘PERSONAL’ Your Nonprofit Must Adopt Today

4 Sculptures of torsos, Kristina May, Filoli 2020Early in my career I received a piece of fundraising advice that has stuck with me to this day:

People are all people.

And what do you do with people if you want to build a relationship?

You get PERSONAL!

In fact, if I had to tell you how to win over donors with just one word, “personal” is the word I’d choose.

This word should become your mantra and underscore everything you do. Your annual appeal writing. Your special events. Your newsletters. Your blog posts. Your proposals. Your reports. Your social media.

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

This is the one word that can set you apart.

That can help you build relationships like nothing else.

Though we talk a lot about empathy and donor-centricity, truly valuable tools in building donor relationships, these terms are subsumed by the umbrella of the ‘person’ to whom they apply.

Make sense?

Today I’d like to flesh out the multiple meanings of this word, and discuss how getting personal can help you achieve your nonprofit fundraising and marketing goals.

This is something that has always mattered. Today, in an era of social distancing and striving for greater diversity, equity and inclusion, how we get personal and how we define people are more important than ever.

Playground art alien robot

Is Your Nonprofit Inadvertently Creating Stranger Danger Due to Coronavirus

Playground art alien robotI’ve been writing since this pandemic began about the importance of staying connected to donors right now.

Especially right now.

Empathically connected.

Humanly connected.

Dependably connected.

Now is no time to go dark on folks.

Not when they most need social connection!

Please take heed and, when it comes to your donors, don’t be a stranger.

Social Distancing Does Not Justify Donor Distancing

There are many aspects of staying connected with donors during this pandemic, and I’ve covered a lot of them in past articles. [See here, here, here and here for just some ideas; I have more!] Holding virtual events. Making thank you calls. Calling supporters to check in. Offering participation opportunities like town halls, community conference calls, zoom focus groups, engagement surveys and so forth.

But there’s one area I haven’t covered, because I didn’t think I needed to. Apparently, I do. Why? Because social isolation is changing us in unforeseen ways. And it’s messing with our minds in a way that comes out in our verbal expression.

Because there is so much emphasis on staying separated from others, and taking care of ourselves, this ‘separation mindset’ is creeping inexorably into our psyches. What do I mean?

REVEALED: Best Strategic Advice to Raise Money for Your Nonprofit, Crisis or Not

2020-05-31 16.07.25Is there a best way to raise money?

That question is really at the heart of what most nonprofits want to know.

And recently I was reminded of this when asked a question for a Virtual Summit for Nonprofit Changemakers in which I’m participating in the early Fall. [There will be a ton of useful content presented in this online conference – by 20 of well-respected experts over two days – so please check it out.]

Here’s what I was asked:

What is the best advice you can give to a fundraiser… and does it hold true in times of crisis?

I thought about this long and hard. Because I’ve lots and lots of advice!

But… my best advice?  Hmmn…

And then it came to me.

I recalled a favorite quote.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solution.”

— Albert Einstein

That’s the advice!

You see, one can’t really pick a best fundraising strategy without first fully describing the reason money is not already flowing in. In other words…

You must identify and define your problem before attempting to solve it.

The time you spend doing so will be well spent. And when it comes to fundraising, worth its weight in gold.

I like to go through an iterative process of asking why, why, why, why…. until I’ve exhausted every question. It looks something like this:

Sign StaySafeBeKind

Nonprofit Crisis Response Tip-a-Day-DO-Dah!

Sign StaySafeBeKindResist the temptation to throw your hands up in the air because you’re hearing people are giving less now. While it may be true(ish), it doesn’t apply to everyone. And it doesn’t need to apply to your nonprofit.

Also, the fact folks aren’t giving may not be for the reasons you assume. In fact, one of the biggest reasons this is true is because nonprofits are asking less.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Recent research shows:

  • Giving is increasingly seen as good – as is fundraising. Even donors who have been hit economically are remaining remarkably generous.
  • Charities with little relevance to tackling Coronavirus will still receive support from donors that value them – as long as they ask for help (otherwise they’ll be perceived as not in need of funds).

It all boils down to a need to put together both short and long-term plans to connect meaningfully with your supporters right now, using the correct approach and tone. Towards that end, I’ve put together five ‘to-do’s – one for each day of the work week.  I suggest you put aside a little bit of time this coming week to consider how you might actualize each of these suggestions, if not in whole at least in part.

Ready for your five timely tips?

Mural art, pointing finger

Philanthropy Trends Your Nonprofit Needs to Know Mid-Pandemic

Mural art, pointing fingerCould you be getting it all wrong when it comes to the what, who, where, why, how and when of your nonprofit’s communications and fundraising as this pandemic plays out?

You could.

Especially if you’re leading from opinion above knowledge. You know, going with your gut when it comes to what your donors want or need from you right now. Otherwise known as guessing.

That’s never a good idea for someone whose job is to facilitate philanthropy. Because a lot is known about how much joy it brings people to demonstrate their ‘love of humanity’ through philanthropic acts. Your gut telling you donors don’t want to be invited to become heroes? P’shaw.

Now, thanks to the folks at Blue Frog Fundraising, more is known about how donors feel about giving in response to the current pandemic. In the recently revealed Coronavirus Research Findings: What do donors think now? they focus on what donors have told them about how their approach to giving has changed. Or hasn’t.

These philanthropy trends are important to understand, so I’ve selected the most salient among their key findings (highlighted in the break-out boxes) and have grouped them according to the traditional journalist’s rubric of what, who, where, why, how and when.

Research Graph, Blue Frog, What Donors WantI’m going to explain what your nonprofit should do to show donors you do, in fact, understand where they’re coming from.

Before taking any marketing message or fundraising appeal off your plate, and before adding anything new, always make sure to ask yourself these six important questions! They will help you assess almost any situation, plus focus your efforts and aid you in telling more relevant, compelling stories.

Let’s get started…

Two bears wearing face coverings

10 Top Nonprofit Strategies to Get Through this Crisis

The times we’re in are extraordinary, and ‘business as usual’ isn’t.  Having strong coping skills today are truly important. As is being more thoughtful and strategic than usual, because you can’t rely on the ‘normal’ playbook.

I recently happened on a thoughtful article I want to share from the University of Colorado, Something for Everyone: 25 Tips to Get Through Your Day. I’ve selected what I believe are the Top Ten Tips for nonprofits.

Use these tips to help you make the most of this time into which we’ve been thrust. See if you find anything that speaks to you. Apply to both your personal and professional life to the extent you can. I’m quoting from the author in the highlighted segments, and following with a number of targeted fundraising and donor communication strategies you may want to consider.

Nonprofit’s ‘Unfair Advantage?’ You Deliver Meaning.

In whatever times we’re in, that’s what folks don’t have enough of. That’s what folks crave.

That’s what explained Nike’s daring move in 2018 to put forward a polarizing marketing campaign featuring the face of American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, most famously known for taking a knee during the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner.

In Why did Nike do what they did? Mark Schaefer of Grow, and author of several digital marketing books, explains why this was a brilliant idea. Despite the fact it generated controversy, including protesters burning shoes in the streets, Schaefer notes Nike’s move aligns with research highlighted in his book, Marketing Rebellion. The book explores how to connect with customers and build a brand in a world without loyalty.

The message of the book applies  to folks in the social benefit sector as well.

Social distancing grocery line

3 Nonprofit Crisis Appeal Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

I’ve already written encouraging you to ask supporters for help. Right NOW. This is a time people are actively looking for ways to make a difference. IMHO it’s almost criminal not to offer would-be philanthropists an opportunity to be a hero. And your mission doesn’t have to be engaged in what’s commonly considered a ‘frontline response’ or ‘essential.’ In other words, you don’t have to be directly engaged in COVID-19 prevention, mitigation or treatment.

Your mission matters! It mattered yesterday, right? That hasn’t changed. People still want to save the environment… rescue puppies… increase child literacy… listen to music… preserve architecture… help kids go to college.

Don’t go dark on folks when they most need to hear from you. Whatever your cause, your constituents deserve to hear from you about how this pandemic is affecting you and all those who rely on you. If you really don’t need donor support right now (perhaps thanks to a large endowment or huge ‘rainy day’ reserve), then… fine. Don’t send a fundraising appeal. I’m guessing, however, for most of you reading this article YOU DO NEED CONTRIBUTIONS to keep you afloat.

Since you need income now, your best communication bet for other than major donors is online. [With major donors you can set up a virtual visit or simply pick up the phone and talk to them.] For everyone else, digital is your best bet. Snail mail is too slow for crisis fundraising, plus some folks won’t have stamps at home or won’t want to go out to the mailbox right now. So… let’s take a look at how to put together a successful online crisis appeal.

UPDATE: My friend, direct mail guru Eric Waasdorp, tells me she’s actually been having good success with snail mail these days. Print shops and mail houses are apparently considered ‘essential businesses’ and are able to get you on their schedule faster than usual. Plus the post office can use the business. I stand corrected! Just remember there will still be folks out of stamps, so be sure to include your website donation page link in case they want to give online.]

Not Today Covid 19

Anatomy of a Coronavirus Nonprofit Email + Thank You

Not Today Covid 19Last week I shared a number of real-life examples from innovative nonprofits taking creative steps to connect meaningfully to their supporters during these trying times. While staying connected, some organizations are succeeding in stepping up both their marketing and fundraising communications to the next level.

Sometimes this means virtual events, online conference calls and hang-outs and, yes, asking for the philanthropy needed to respond to urgent needs and stay in business for the longer haul.

I promised today I’d share an example of a straight-up email appeal.  Actually, it’s more than an appeal.

Because every communication you have with folks today must be more than business as usual.

It’s got to be empathic.

Let’s face it. All folks are thinking about today is coronavirus. If you ignore this fact, you’ll come across as out of touch and even insensitive. So begin every communication with some acknowledgement of what people are going through. Not just you. Them.

Check in with people and ask them how they’re doing.  This is actually always a good way to begin. We do it more in our personal lives (oddly, particularly with strangers).  You ask the clerk at the counter “How’s it going?” You leave the store saying “Have a nice day.” In fact, one of the hallmarks of a culture of philanthropy is you’ll find staff always asking each other “How can I help you today?” [See “Fundraising Bright Spots”]

Silver lining of this pandemic? Rediscover the power of empathy.  Take this opportunity to connect the dots between the problem you lay out and the solution with which the donor can be helpful. This is solid, basic fundraising – the way it should always be practiced but too often is not.  Use this opportunity to be better.

It’s got to be innovative.

Remember, this is not ‘business as usual.’ Already every nonprofit and their dog are sending out messages related to this crisis.  What will get your messages to stand out? Lots of things come to mind, including great subject headlines, compelling images and graphics, engaging stories and an authentic tone. All the basics apply.

Practice solid fundraising, of course, but try to add in a little bit of something extra. Novelty. Fun. Inspiration. Prayer. Social action.  Whatever is best suited to your particular brand and community.

Silver lining of this pandemic? Many of your familiar, tired strategies were probably due for a change anyway. This is an opportunity to reject the status quo, develop new skills and consider fresh initiatives that may, ultimately, serve you far better than the ones you’ve been using.

TIME TO SHARE AN EMAIL EXAMPLE: APPEAL PLUS

The World is Changing

Coronovirus Fundraising: Steal these Ideas!

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

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

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

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

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

Stay relevant, or prepare to be ignored.

You can help people!

Here’s the deal.

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

Charities have the opportunity to answer this question.

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

Mona Lisa with face mask

How long… will this be going on?

Mona Lisa with face maskIf you’re like me, chances are every other email in your inbox has something referencing coronavirus. You can’t ignore it, avoid it or wish it away.

So… what is your organization going to do?

The inimitable thought leader, Seth Godin, recently had this to say:

React, respond or initiate?

That’s pretty much all that’s on offer.

What will you do next?

The first gives us visceral satisfaction and emotional release, and it almost always leads to bad outcomes.

Responding is smarter. It requires each of us to think hard about the action and emotion we seek to create after something is put on our desk.

And the third? Initiating is ever easier and leveraged than ever before, which, surprisingly, also makes it more difficult to move up on our agenda.

In normal times, it’s easy to get into a rhythm of simply responding. Someone else setting the agenda.

When things are uncertain, it’s easy to react.

But now, right now, is the single best time to initiate. We’re in for a slog, but there will be an end to it.

Make things better by making better things.

Taking this advice to heart, I’d like to share a couple of examples of organizations who have initiated some inventive strategies to stay connected to their supporters in these challenging times. Usually I would share these in my “Don’ts vs. Do’s” feature. But both of these are big ‘Do’s,’ so I want to highlight what’s brilliant about them. You can ‘sincerely flatter’ them through imitation — and a bit of your own innovation.

Ready to be inspired?

OMG, What Will We Do About Our Upcoming Event?

How Nonprofits Can Connect Virtually During Trying Times

Virtual meeting PixabayConnection is essential, especially during challenging times. When the going gets tough, we yearn to commune with people who will support us… teach us… commiserate with us… empathize with us… calm us… distract us… … entertain us… enable us to support them… and more.

Without connection, people can feel isolated. Yet today, as we prepare for the spread of coronavirus, we’re contemplating doing less of the things we normally do in person with others. And nonprofits are not immune.

What are you doing to reach out to your supporters when they need connection most?

Here are just a few messages received from local nonprofits in San Francisco within just the past two days:

Canceling a popular fundraiser that we depend on to cover the costs of keeping Public Glass open is not a decision we came to lightly, but it is critical that we do our part in helping to ensure that our Bay Area Community remains as safe as possible.

UNDER ADVISEMENT AND RESPECTING THE NEWLY ISSUED AGGRESSIVE RECOMMENDATIONS ANNOUNCED TODAY BY THE SAN FRANCISCO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH TO REDUCE THE SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19), THE MARCH 12, 2020 SFIC MONTHLY BREAKFAST IS CANCELLED.

We are very sorry to announce that, due to public health guidelines from the Mayor’s Office, our 2020 Benefit Art Auction, hosted in a city-owned building, must be cancelled. This event is a massive effort, involving over a hundred contributing artists, a dream-team of volunteers, and many beloved business partners. We were ready to create a wonderful celebration of creativity! We will continue to explore innovative ways to connect our community, but right now, this is the best way to take care of each other. 

How about this haiku from my cousin, who is hosting his son’s wedding this week-end (at least as of this moment):

Last year seemed so bad

COVID-19 is now here

How I miss last year

While apt, missing last year and wringing your hands won’t help. As in-person gatherings are indefinitely postponed or canceled, as public spaces are closing, and as people are working from home, what can you do to make lemonade — and quench your supporters’ thirst?

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LEAP Day Resolution: New Nonprofit Board Leadership Model

Tomorrow is “leap day” — that little something extra we’re given every four years, just to slow things down a bit and make February last a bit longer.

Leap day has something in common with nonprofit boards of directors — that little something extra we’re given — volunteers put in charge of the business; something that sometimes has an unfortunate tendency to slow things down and make decision-making take a lot, lot longer than it should.

Sound familiar?

Work in a nonprofit organization for any period of time, and you’re likely to hear yourself or someone else complain:

” My board is driving me nuts! 

When asked by BoardSource, more than 1,000 nonprofit leaders gave nonprofits boards a “B-minus” grade in overall performance. Almost a third of nonprofit CEOs reported being unhappy with their boards’ support of them in their role as leader, and many of these folks were considering leaving their positions.  When it comes to community relations and fundraising, CEOs rated their board members even worse — giving them a C!  This is barely a passing grade.

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Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Major Donor Cultivation Strategy

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoHere comes my occasional “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature, where I share with you something arriving in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity.’

Today we’re going to review a major donor engagement strategy.

It arrived as an email. There’s a subject line, preview pane, the email itself, and what happens if/when you click through.

We’ll take a look at the various elements; then assess what works/doesn’t work.

I’ll ask you some questions.

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

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

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

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

I promise you’ll learn a lot more this way. We learn best by doing.

Seriously, I mean it.

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Subject Headline

Claire, tell us what you think

Preview Pane

We’d like to hear from you

This may help: Take three minutes and jot down your answers to the first three questions on a piece of paper or your screen. I want to know if what was in the subject headline (“Claire, tell us what you think”) or the email preview pane (We’d like to hear from you”) would have caused you to open the email or hit ‘delete.’

Okay.  Ready to learn what I think thus far, and also see what else we’re working with?

Let’s begin!

Does this Email Say “Open Me?”

3 people with marching orders

3 Ridiculously Easy Strategies to Boost Fundraising by 27%

3 people with marching ordersI’m excited to share three easy tips with you, and the results are measurable.  Do these things and you’ll be able to tell if they impact your bottom line!

I was inspired to share these ideas with you based on a 2019 study by NextAfter and Kindful looking at how organizations are cultivating donors via email. They found plenty of data-driven ideas that can improve donor retention and boost online fundraising revenue — by as much as 27%!

Think about how much an increase like that could mean for your organization!

That’s right!

Make way…” for these ridiculously easy, revenue-boosting strategies!

If you raised $100,000 last year, you could raise $127,000 – or more – this year.

And that’s without having to apply for a new grant, hold a new fundraising event or even ask for a new major gift or two to reap these rewards.

All you must do is simply pay a little more attention to your follow-through communication with donors.

Did you know most of the top reasons donors give for not renewing their giving have to do with how you do/don’t communicate with them after they make a donation?– or fail to personally, meaningfully and promptly communicate –

Meaningful, regular donor communication can hugely impact your bottom line.

To make a demonstrable difference in donor behavior, however, your communication strategy must tick more than one box. It must be prompt, personal and relevant to what your donor cares about and how they want to hear from you. Don’t just guess what your donors might like from you. Ask them!  In fact, surveys, social media queries, online quizzes, solicitations for comments and feedback are all wonderful ways to communicate digitally in a manner that personally engages your supporters.

Never forget: The best fundraising is personal.

So… what are you waiting for?

Here’s what the research reveals, and I recommend: 

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Easy-to-Implement Legacy Giving Strategies for Small Nonprofits – Do’s and Don’ts

A society grows great... legacy quotationYou’re stretched thin.

Competition for philanthropic dollars has intensified. You know long-term survival depends on strengthening revenue streams.

What are you doing about it?

If you’re like too many nonprofits, you’re missing what’s right in front of your eyes: legacy giving.

The lion’s share of philanthropy in the U.S. comes from individuals. Nearly 70% of people make gifts to charity during their lifetimes; only 10% leave a bequest. Why? No one asks them!

It turns out that the act of asking makes a huge difference. And don’t tell me you can’t ask because you’re too small or understaffed.

Just because you can’t afford (or aren’t quite ready yet) to mount a full-on legacy giving campaign is no excuse to avoid the basics.

Donor-centered focus: Heart and Gratitude over WealthI find a widespread misunderstanding about the notion of what constitutes being donor-centered. It derives from two misconceptions:

  1. Assuming people don’t want to be asked.
  2. Spending all your time on cultivation, assuming folks don’t need an ask and will simply give spontaneously as a result of being wooed.

Both of these rationales short-change your would-be donors.

Why?

FIRST: Donors want to be asked because they’re starved for the love that comes from voluntary giving and receiving. Donors have love to give, but don’t always have an object towards which to direct their affection.

SECOND: Donors need to be asked because when they’re not, they don’t know how much you need their help.  Consequently, giving feels a bit empty. Almost a bit like a crap shoot.  Donors want to invest their money where they feel confident it will be most appreciated and will do the most good.

Let’s delve into both of these misconceptions more deeply, putting them into a donor-centered context.

In other words, what are your would-be donors feeling?

Donors are Love-Starved

(more…)

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll ask you some questions.

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

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

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

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

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

Let’s begin!

DONATION LANDING PAGE

scrabble tiles: fake news

FAKE Nonprofit News: 6 Fundraising Untruths

scrabble tiles: fake newsThere’s a lot about fundraising folks take for granted. And not in a good way. Because… much of it is untrue!

In fact, if you, your executive director, your board members or anyone else where you work subscribes to these fictions you’ll be in for a lot of pain and suffering. You won’t raise near the money you could otherwise raise. And you won’t enjoy your work.

But there’s a fix!

Previously I wrote about certain self-evident fundraising truths. Truths you want to hold close to become a fruitful philanthropy facilitator.  The problem? These tenets I call truths are too often not apparent at all.

Why?

A disinformation campaign is unconsciously being waged by leaders who:

  • Don’t understand how fundraising works.
  • Don’t understand pre-conditions must be in place in order for fundraising to flourish.
  • Don’t want to understand because then they’d have to step up to the plate and do things that make them feel uncomfortable.

Oh, dear. Guess what?

Like anything else worth doing, fundraising must be done well to succeed.

You get out of it what you put into it. And… the truth shall set you free!

If you believe any of the following untruths, your fundraising program is in jeopardy. And so is your mission. Let’s break these down.

Thanksgiving table

Not all Holiday Fundraising is Created Equal

Thanksgiving tableWho doesn’t love a holiday?

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

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

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

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

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

Except when it doesn’t.

A true holiday fundraising story

I am grateful

How to Cultivate Awe, Gratitude and Altruism to Boost Nonprofit Fundraising

I’m a huge fan of the Greater Good Science Center at U.C. Berkeley, and often apply their research to nonprofit fundraising and marketing.  A recent article really struck me: How to Find Your Purpose in Life.

Over my 30 years of practice as an in-house development professional, the fundamental thing I learned is this:

You serve your donors every bit as much as they serve your organization’s mission.

Please allow that to sink in.

You have a mission. A purpose. Donors can help you get there.

Your donors are looking for purpose. You can help them find it.

It’s a symbiotic relationship.  And you have a role in fostering that relationship.  What is that role?

Your job is to facilitate your donor’s philanthropic journey. Their journey to discover their purpose.

So what’s this really all about?

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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.

Do you know even know what percentage of donors you’re retaining?

According to Jay Love, founder of Bloomerang, less than 45% of fundraising offices know this answer!

So, you’re not alone.  But you can do better.

Because knowing your retention rate enables you to move it to something better.

And I’m going to guess, if you’re like the majority of nonprofits, you probably need to improve your donor retention.

At least if you want to grow.

Or maybe even just survive.

Just a small change in retention, up or down, can mean thousands of dollars.

It’s your choice whether they’re your gain, or your loss.

Walkathon participants

8 Secrets to Keeping New ‘Third Party’ Donors

By now you undoubtedly know you’re losing too many first-time donors.

In fact, the most recent Fundraising Effectiveness Project report shows you’re losing an average of 68% of these folks!

Today I want to talk about a subset of new donors who don’t renew.  They’re called “third party donors,” and they come to you through a variety of portals:

  1. Guests of event ticket buyers
  2. Online auction purchasers
  3. Donors who give to friends’ P2P fundraising pages
  4. Donors who give to crowdfunding campaigns sent to them via a friend
  5. Donors who make tribute gifts in honor or memory of a friend or loved one

The good folks at Classy know most nonprofits are not doing a good job cultivating donors who come to them through third parties, so they’ve prepared The Guide to Courting Third Party Donors. You can download it for free (40 pages), but let me give you the highlights – along with some of my own thoughts.

Interview exchange

How to Apply Job Interview Skills to Fundraising

My daughter-in-law is interviewing for a job. She asked me for some advice. Here is what I found myself telling her:

Don’t focus on your needs. Focus on the employer’s needs.

Why are they hiring?

What problems do they need you to solve?

Which of your skills are they particularly looking for? Can you describe to them how you might use these skills to help them?

Can you give a specific example, perhaps by telling a story, showing exactly how you’ll help them?

Are you clear what their values are?

CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOU AND YOUR WOULD-BE EMPLOYER (DONOR) SHARE THESE VALUES?

I realized this is the exact same advice I give to fundraisers.

Ask not what your donor can do for you, but what you can do for your donor.”

Meet your donors’ needs.

This is the heart of all effective fundraising, and it should be your daily mantra.

Today I will meet my donor’s need by…

Before you engage in any fundraising strategy, ask yourself:

Heading banner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Partner to Solve Social Problems; Stop Acting in Silos

Ask someone on the street if there are too many nonprofits addressing the same causes. Most likely, you’ll get a resounding “yes.”

When there’s a crisis, folks are confused as to which relief agency they should give their money. When a friend is diagnosed with cancer, they aren’t sure which organization will make the best use of their donation.

This confusion leads to “drop in the bucket” donations. Folks want to at least doing something, but don’t want to risk throwing their hard-earned money into a black hole.

This behavior stifles the entire nonprofit sector. Folks don’t trust their philanthropy will be effectively stewarded, so don’t give as much as they could. Even worse, folks with track records of investing — philanthropic (aka “social”) entrepreneurs — sit on the sidelines waiting.

Waiting for what?

Waiting for the social benefit sector to do something that, up until now, it has not done well. 

Hold these 4 Nonprofit Fundraising Truths to Be Self Evident

DeclarationOfIndepenceI’ve created for you a little “Declaration of Fundraising Independence” to help you become a fruitful philanthropy facilitator from this day forward.

This Declaration incorporates what I consider to be essential fundraising truths — four pre-conditions which must be met before you’ll be able to successfully exercise your fundraising strategies. Within these four pre-conditions are additional hidden truths (don’t worry; I’ll call them out for you).

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that not all charities are created equal, that they are endowed by their constituencies with certain unalienable visions, missions and values, that among these are visions, missions and values that some, but not all, members of the public share. That to secure these visions, missions and values, charities are instituted among the public, deriving their just powers from the support of the public. That whenever any form of charity becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to fail to support it, and to instead support those institutions as to them shall seem most likely to effect the safety, happiness, goodwill and public benefit of the populace.

Fundraising is not an end in itself. It serves noble ends.

(1) When those ends are ones valued by the people, and

(2) When folks trust you’re doing an effective job meeting needs they believe must be met, then

(3) You earn the privilege of fundraising and, in fact,

(4) You assume the responsibility to fundraise to assure those who rely on you to meet these needs are not left high and dry.

So… this is where you get your Declaration of Fundraising Independence.  You are ‘free to fundraise’ once you’re able to make a case to enough people that you deserve to exist.  For this to be the case:

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?”

Conscious compassion

4 Ways to Consciously Keep Donors Connected

Conscious compassionWhen people give to you for the first time, often they know very little about you. Perhaps they found you through a link on social media. Or organic search. Or through a friend who emailed them a link to your appeal.

They were inspired to give, once, based on whatever they saw or read.

What happens next is critical.

Either you’ll inspire donors to stick with you, or you’ll depress their enthusiasm through benign neglect.

I say “benign,” because I’m sure you don’t mean to mistreat your supporters. Nonetheless, I’m willing to bet many of you do.

  • Perhaps donors make a gift online, and are not immediately taken to a thank you landing page that reassures them their gift went through.
  • Perhaps you send donors a deadening thank you email that looks like a receipt.
  • Perhaps your generic thank you doesn’t tie back at all to the reason they gave.
  • Perhaps your thank you talks all about your organization, rather than about how your donor is a hero.
  • Perhaps your thank you focuses on the amount of their gift and its tax deductibility, and fails to mention specifically what it will accomplish.
  • Perhaps your email thank you lacks the personal touch you put into your mailed thank you letters.

Here’s the deal: Donors are looking for meaning. If your thank you and subsequent donor communications don’t give it to them, they’ll dismiss you and go look for meaning elsewhere.

All donors have questions they need you to answer for them. If you fail to answer these questions you fail to lay the groundwork for developing a positive, ongoing relationship.

4 Keys to Raise Money in Today’s Social Nonprofit Fundraising Environment

keys 4 Pixabay-791641_640Wondering where fundraising is heading in our highly networked, overly saturated, noisy-as-all-get-out post-digital revolution world?

It’s a bit of a jungle out there, with so much competition for attention — for-profits, other nonprofits, political campaigns, friends, family.

It’s a wonderful time to seize the opportunity to put in place a system that values multiple voices.

Truly, if you’re able to really show people how much you value them, you’re going to rise to the top of the heap.

Of course, sometimes it’s easier said than done.

Today we’ll explore 4 keys to raising money in our socially-revolutionized zeitgeist.

Bad News/Good News:

Persona

How to Use Donor Personas to Identify New Prospects

PersonaYou love your current donors, right?

You want more just like them, right?

The best way to find folks similar to your current supporters is to begin by creating a profile of who your best supporters are. So let’s go ahead and create a profile (aka “persona”) for your model donor.

Your Surprisingly Easy Way to Use Personas to Discover New Donors

Donor personas are hypothetical “stand ins” for your nonprofit’s actual donors. They enable you to stand in your donors’ shoes and think from their perspective – a pretty handy thing if you’re looking for people who might like to make an investment with your nonprofit!

Begin with demographics.  Then move on to psychographics.

Start with the basics.

Get out a sheet of paper and grab a pen.

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Fundraising Do’s and Don’ts: Email Sharing Strategic Plan

FR_Do's_and_Don'tsI’m continuing with my new, occasional feature of “Do’s vs. Don’ts.” Whenever something arrives in my mailbox that seems a good ‘teaching opportunity,’ my plan is to share it with you. Please let me know if you find it useful!

Today’s example is an email that includes a link to download this organization’s new strategic plan.

I’m a past donor, so I’m assuming that’s why I received it.

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

What’s wrong or right with the subject line?

The email arrived with the headline: “Claire, we have big, exciting news to share with you!”

The preview pane continued: “Announcing Opportunity Fund’s bold 5-year strategic plan and a new key partnership…”

  1. Would you open that email?

  2. If yes, why?

  3. If no, why?

I’ll tell you my own thoughts in a moment.  But first…

Impatience is Virtue: Key to Sustain Nonprofit Relevancy and Fundraising Effectiveness

The late Jerold Panas*, fundraising guru and author of a bunch of books (two of which, Asking and The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards, I frequently use with boards to inspire philanthropy), left us with a gem of a final article published on the Guidestar blog: Nurturing Your Potential as a Fundraiser.

It got me thinking.

All of the traits Panas lists (he calls them “verities” that distinguish consummate fundraisers from those who, I presume, just dial it in) are important. I encourage you to read the full list (or even the full book from which they’re excerpted: Born to Raise: What Makes a Great Fundraiser Great).

Today I want to focus on one trait that particularly struck me.

Impatience.

cheerleader

3 Ways to Remove Psychological Barriers to Philanthropic Giving

If you can remember this acronym, you’ll be able to persuade more donors to join you and stick with you. This is deceptively simple stuff.

And it really, truly works!

Give me a ‘D’ for DOUBTS!

Give me a ‘U’ for UNIQUENESS!

Give me an ‘E’ for EXPECTATIONS!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you must overcome to win over donors!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you owe your donors!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you must meet to show you’re worthy!

Ready to ‘D.U.E.’ it?

Let’s get started!

cat in tree

Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Useful Life Advice for Nonprofit Fundraisers

I happened recently on an article in the New York Times where the author, David Pogue, asked readers for their very best ‘life advice.’ I enjoyed it so much, I want to share some of my favorite pieces of wisdom with you.  And, of course, I’ll suggest how this might apply to your nonprofit work and work/life balance.

Let’s begin!

Are you over-worrying about a cat stuck in a tree?

cat in treeNot every problem needs to be addressed immediately. Some will work themselves out.

You’ve never seen a cat skeleton in a tree, have you?” When Alexandra Aulisi’s cat couldn’t get down from a tree, her grandmother reassured her with those words, predicting (correctly) that the cat would come down on his own. “This advice made me realize that, sometimes, you need to shift your perception of a problem to see a solution,” Ms. Aulisi noted.

David Pogue, NYT

While it’s tempting to drop everything (e.g., whenever a new email appears in your inbox, especially if it’s someone asking for help), it’s important to assess if this situation actually requires a rapid response. If not, you have options.

ADVICE/OPTIONS:

1. Lil’ Bo Peep: “Leave it alone and it will come home.”

Ever been on vacation and noticed a flurry of emails, back and forth, forth and back, from members on your team?  Often by the time you’ve returned the ‘problem’ – as urgent as it may have seemed at the time based on all the email hyperbole – seems to have evaporated. I’m not suggesting you ignore legitimate, pressing problems; just use common sense and exercise judicious restraint, as appropriate.

2. Could someone else handle this?

I’ll never forget some excellent advice I received (actually from one of the donors I worked with during the years I was a young parent).  While I was stressing about potty training, she told me: “Have you ever seen anyone at college who still wears diapers?  If you don’t potty train your son now, never fear.  His college girlfriend will!”  It was silly, yet made a whole lot of sense. I didn’t need to oversee and micro-manage every little thing. Sometimes things happen on their own time frame. This was a reminder that patience can be a virtue.

Are you having trouble getting started?

Museum painting of woman perhaps not living to her potential?

Are You Failing to Achieve Your Nonprofit Fundraising Potential?

Too often, fundraising is relegated to an administrative function rather than a mission-central function.  It’s viewed as a ‘necessary evil.’ As a result, either no one embraces it as central to their job description, or someone is hired and shunted off to a corner to do the ‘dirty work.’

Others don’t necessarily feel a need to cooperate or support the fundraising effort. It’s ancillary, not primary.

In fact, I’ll often hear executive directors or board members tell me, with some pride and a soupçon of defensiveness: “We can’t spend money on development staff right now; anything extra we have must go into the mission!”

As if fundraising doesn’t support the mission?  Seriously, that’s the entire purpose of what nonprofits call ‘development’ (aka fundraising and marketing). It derives its purpose from ends served. It’s never an end in itself.

What this so-called ‘mission first’ logic fails to acknowledge is that everyone associated with your nonprofit is guided by a ‘mission first’ philosophy and has a collective stake in your nonprofit’s survival.

And for most nonprofits, survival – or at least some level of mutually desired success – depends on philanthropy.

When fundraising is treated as an afterthought, relegated to the development committee, or delegated to the development director, it disenfranchises a huge segment of folks who care about sustaining the cause. This means you’ll leave money on the table and fail to realize your mission potential.

It takes a dedicated village to generate sustainable, meaningful philanthropy.

I’ve found four ways nonprofits don’t wholeheartedly commit to fundraising. They all have to do with typical priorities that aren’t standing them in good stead.