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Yes, The Donor Pyramid is Really Dead

An Open Letter to Andrea Kihlstedt — Part 1

[I am responding to Andrea Kihlstedt’s Open Letter to me, Is The Donor Pyramid Really Dead, in the Guidestar blog. She was responding to my recent posts on the death of the Donor Pyramid in Fundraising Success Magazine: R.I.P. Donor Pyramid? and Maximize Social Business Blog How Social Media Toppled the Donor Pyramid – What that Means for Nonprofits.]

First, let me say this is a great dialogue to be having. The donor pyramid is a sacred dinosaur, and it’s good to challenge old assumptions from time to time. After all, the dinosaurs had a very good run, but even they became extinct.

Andrea says “no, the pyramid is alive and well,” making the case that (especially in capital campaigns) not all donors are equal. She also finds use for the pyramid in other campaigns, noting a Kickstarter campaign she recently worked on in which the biggest gifts came from donors who were approached face-to-face rather than via online strategies.

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You’re Not Alone: What To Do When You Start To Fail at Fundraising

Once upon a time (around about 2008) a big mean recession cast its dark shadow over many a nonprofit. Grantors cut back on funding. Donors zipped up their wallets. Salaries and benefits got cut. Seasoned professionals were laid off, or left voluntarily. Others lasted awhile, but became increasingly discouraged.

Six years out from the biggest stock market crash since 1929, I’m beginning to hear a lot of organizations crying “Uncle!” These are the ones that, for reasons unbeknownst to them, have not rebounded. And they’re desperately trying to beat back the wolf at the door.

The thing they fear most? Failure.

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Just Puppy Love? 4 Ways Nothing Beats It When it Comes to Donors

Do you know why your dog is not only your best friend, but your exuberantly best friend – a Best Friend Forever on steroids?

Can anything be as joyous and lovingly loyal as a dog? Picture Snoopy doing the ‘Ode to Joy’ dance. Unbridled ecstasy. Happy, happy, happy. What makes Snoopy Charlie Brown’s BFF? My guess is that it’s the same thing that makes your pooch pop with pleasure as you poke yourself across the threshold at the end of the day.

Chances are 9 out of 10 that your doggie is your BFF because you are hers. You treat your pet like royalty. How are you treating your donors?

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If it's Broke, Better Fix it: Two Disarming Truths

Truths: Today, there are two things broken from my perspective: (1) my arm, and (2) the donor pyramid.

Yup! I’m really not much of a camper, but had a momentary lapse in judgement over the week-end. Kaboom!

Luckily, I managed to type up an article about the sad state of the donor pyramid prior to being reduced to a one-handed hunter/pecker (because this method is SLOW, baby)! That article, “R.I.P.Donor Pyramid,  is gracing the cover of the May/June Fundraising Success Magazine, so I hope you’ll check it out over there and let me know what you think. Here’s my bottom line:

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Why Your Nonprofit’s Events are a Waste of Time

Fun events may bring in hundreds of attendees, but a fundraising event is not an end in and of itself.  Often the charity never sees these folks again (or at least not until the next event) because these folks are golfers or ‘thoners, not donors. These events are a waste of your precious resources.

Don’t tell me that you “raised awareness.”

Unless you raised awareness towards a particular end (usually generating greater philanthropic support) – and you have a plan to intentionally build on this awareness — then everything your attendees may have learned about you will go in one ear and out the other. Awareness that isn’t reinforced lasts about two seconds.

Don’t tell me that you “raised good money.”

Did you really? Well, think again.

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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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Creating a Donor Communications Plan to Woo Your Supporters: Part 1

You want to be the favorite child, don’t you?

Did you know that half of donors give 2/3rds of their annual giving to a single charity. That’s why you want to become the “favorite.” Wouldn’t it be terrific if your donors adopted you and thought of you as a member of their family?

Truly, that’s how important you want to become to your supporters. But it won’t happen just because you’re a “good cause.” There are oodles of great causes out there.  Oodles.  It will happen only when

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Stop Boring Folks with Your Nonprofit Website. Wake ‘em Up with a Blog!

Keep telling yourself you need a better website to build greater awareness for your cause?

You can certainly do this.  But are you asking the more important question?

Why the heck do you want greater awareness?  And why would anyone want to be aware of you? Those are the questions too many nonprofits fail to ask.  So ask.  Seriously. Take a moment.  I’ll wait.

Because we want more people to know about us.”

WHY?

Because we want to educate them about what we do.

WHY?

Because we want more people to support us.

AHA!  Now you’re getting somewhere.

Now ask yourself how getting a better website is going to get you more support.  Chances are it won’t. Not really. Because folks are on a journey towards you that builds – from awareness… to interest… to engagement… to investment. And the kicker is that the latter two are where all the action happens. Awareness and interest alone are passive. They won’t get you the active investment you need to sustain your mission.

Engagement precedes investment!

Sadly, most nonprofit websites are lousy engagement vehicles. They’re especially lousy when compared with a blog.

Let’s look at 4 reasons why blogs trump websites for creating engagement:

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Yes, there’s a way to Get Your Nonprofit’s Email Opened

You had me at hello.

That’s what your constituents should think and feel when your email arrives in their inbox.

Hello is a way to call attention… a greeting… an invitation to a dialogue. Does your email do that? Does it easily capture your intended reader’s attention? Does it greet them warmly? Does it encourage interaction with you?

If your emails aren’t getting the open rates you’d like, it’s time to take charge!

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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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It’s Not All about Major Gifts: 10 Ways to Succeed with Small Gift Fundraising

Small giftsToday I went to research something online and ended up viewing the first entry Google gave me – which was on Wikipedia. To my delight, I ran into an awesome fundraising campaign (this is an occupational hazard with fundraisers – we actually like and admire things like pledge breaks when they’re done well)!

Here’s what I found superimposed at the top of the screen:

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

 

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

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

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

Clairity Click-it: Compel, Kvell, Sell – Your 3 Keys to Year-End Fundraising Success

This week it’s about the three things that will boost your year-end giving: (1) social media done well will drive awareness of your cause and the current opportunity to make an impact; (2) creative, compelling content presented in the form of a story will trigger emotions that inspire philanthropy, and (3) your user-friendly, up-to-date website will make it easy for would-be donors to connect with you, donate and then continue to stay connected – and feel good about it – over time. This week’s links will give you food for thought – plus actionable tips.

Clairity Click-it: Invest in Fundraising, Fundraise, Thank and Steward

Are you muddling along because you don’t have the resources you need  to invigorate your fundraising? Are you working hard, but maybe not so smart?  Are you making the most of opportunities to steward donors so they’ll repeat their gifts?  And what about your donor thank you’s – are they good enough to get you a second gift?  Take a look at this week’s links if you could use help in any of these areas.

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8 Ways to Find Your Nonprofit’s Perfect Holiday Email Subject Line

We’re entering prime gift giving season.  The tinsel is up, the craft fairs and sample sales are on, and the retail stores are gearing up for what they hope will be huge crowds. Whether this makes your blood run hot or cold, there’s no stopping it. The “hunt” for the perfect gift is on!

Guess what?  Your nonprofit has the perfect gift! All you have to do is sell it. Here’s how…

Clairity Click-it: Tweak Your System to Improve Year-End Fundraising

As year-end fundraising approaches, just doing it the way you’ve always done it – or imitating the way others do it – may not be enough to set you apart from the crowd.  So… our theme this week is to think outside the box – just a little. Teach yourself a few new tricks, and get outside — literally! —  to invigorate your fundraising.  So… let’s start with a post of almost the same name!

Clairity Click-it: Planned Giving, Twitter for Nonprofits, Visual Trend, Google Glass, Thanking Year-end Donors

Just a few links this week, since I know you’re winding down after Halloween revelries and may be in a sugar-induced coma.  Grab a cup of coffee and check these out. They’ll get November off to a good start!

Planned Giving

Click-It: Year-End Planned Giving Ideas to Include in Tips to Donors. Today is Dia de los Muertos  — a time for honoring departed souls. What better day to

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5 More Things Your Board Doesn’t Get about Fundraising and Nonprofits

I unlocked Pandora’s box with my last post, 5 Things Your Board and CEO Don’t Get About Fundraising and Donors. Especially when it comes to board members, many of you say their behavior has you scratching your heads much of the time. So, here are 5 more things that too many boards simply don’t seem to understand:

1. It costs money to make money. This one is odd, since many of these folks seem to understand the concept of ‘investment’ when it comes to their day jobs. 

Clairity Click-it: Events; Mobile; Social Media vs. Social Business; Acknowledgment Plan; Email Appeals; Corporate Sponsors

This week’s links are a real potpourri of pretty darn interesting stuff. Check ‘em out!

Events

Click-It: The Secret of the Five Top. Simply brilliant advice from Seth Godin.  I dare you to try it at your next fundraising event. And if you’ve done it, let us all know how it worked!

Mobile

Click-It: Top 5 Reasons to Use Mobile. This post has all the data you need to

Future of Fundraising Clairity Click-it: Social; Mobile; Listening; Autoresponders; Nonprofit Websites; WIIFM Sponsorships

Wondering about the future of fundraising? Check out this week’s links!

Social and Mobile

Click-It: Nine reasons why social and mobile are the future of fundraising. I bring this to you because there’s been debate going on, instigated by our provocative friends at The Agitator.  Tom Belford wrote a post — Crafting vs. Producing… Writing Songs vs. Jingles — somewhat dissing email appeals in favor of traditional mail appeals. Why? Supposedly a more rewarding, bonding emotional experience to ‘open’ rather than ‘click.’ I don’t buy it.  I’ve seen plenty of moving email appeals. They’ve inspired me to give; I’ve seen others inspired to give. Sure there are too many that are dry as dust. But there are dull, flat snail mail appeals as well. Good email appeals work. Heck, there’s no one right channel for all people anymore. Far from it.

As fundraising professionals it’s up to us

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Get Your Nonprofit Email Opened – Take a Quack at it!

A quack at it?

Yes! Because I’m guessing you don’t have your ducks lined up to make this year’s email appeal worth all your effort.  What do I mean? I mean the lion’s share of folk receiving your email is simply going to hit ‘delete.’ And that’s just not going to pay your bills.

You need to get all your duckies in a row. And I know exactly which two are missing.

Weekly Clairity Click-it: Year-End Planning; Online Donations; Storytelling; Social Media; Sample Fundraising Letters

Planning your year-end fundraising? Check out this week’s links!

Year-end Planning

Click-It: 5 Things to do now for year-end fundraising success. From Network for Good  comes this checklist of all the stuff you should be thinking about. Now! Here’s my favorite: Now is the time to put yourself in your donor’s shoes and thoroughly test your donation process, website, emails, and any other donor-facing elements. Identify any pain points and fix them now while you have some time. None of the above steps will matter if your supporters get hung up on your donation page, are stymied by your website, or can’t reach a real person when they attempt to contact you.

Online Donations

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 Leading Your Nonprofit Backwards? How to Change

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

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

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

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

Labor Day Week-end Clairity Click-it: Planning/Calendaring, Development Director Mistakes, Time Management, Writing, Psychology, Gratitude

First, some words:

  1. Time to say thank you for your labors.  And thank you for reading Clairification. Your work inspires me and truly creates a more caring community and better, more humane world. Your readership makes my days, months and year. Truly, I appreciate you. Please… rest, reflect and recharge this week-end. You deserve it!
  2.  Last chance to get your highest ROI fundraising management tool (see below). Yes, I’m charging a bit. But not too much (especially given the fact my prodigal son has returned and is eating me out of house and  home!), and way less than what you’ll get out of it. I promise. Guaranteed.

Now… on to this week’s great links…

Weekly Clairity Click-it: Body Language, Purpose of Social Media, New Tools, Fundraising Basics, Thanking

This week’s Clairity Click-it – your eclectic array of easy to-“click-it” links to posts I’ve found thought provoking. With, of course, a few comments of my own.

Body Language

Click-it: 4 Body Language Cues You Need to Know When Networking. It’s important to remember that first impressions count. A lot. You may be unconsciously giving the wrong one. This article by Ivan Misner in Entrepreneur describes how to avoid this. I myself have to constantly remind myself not to keep my arms folded (signifying boredom or being closed off). If you’re up for the challenge, try this suggestion from Misner:

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What Sherpas Can Teach Fundraisers

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

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

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How the ‘Diva of Dollars’ became the ‘Engagement Journey Guide’

 

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It’s about the journey, not the money.

Philanthropy, Not Fundraising

Here’s a true story.  Some years ago, while working for a family service agency, we became involved in a discussion about job titles.  Should folks stay as directors or become v.p’s? Should my title remain ‘Director of Development’ or switch to ‘Advancement’ or ‘External Relations’? I researched titles elsewhere. Yada, yada, yada.  I finally said I really didn’t care.  Just call me ‘Maven of Money’ or ‘Diva of Dollars.’

I didn’t get it.

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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 that 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.