Clairity Click-it: Fall Extravaganza of Free Nonprofit Resources

It’s mid-September and we’re well on the way towards the year-end rush of “giving season!” Now it’s time to get serious about end-of-calendar-year fundraising.  It’s when folks are most generous, and you don’t want to miss out.  So while I’ll continue to offer links to articles and resources aligned with my top Dive the Fivefundraising fundamentals for 2016, and beyond, I’ll also include some practical, basic stuff that falls a bit outside these categories.

It’s all good stuff and, as usual, plenty of free resources too. I count seven freebies, and 17 great articles! I dare you not to find something you can use right now.

Clairity Click-it Long Week-End: Bounty of Free Nonprofit Resources

Welcome back from summer – at least for my North of the Equator friends.  I hope you had the opportunity to read through some of the resources I offered up in my Summer Click-it Extravaganza.  If not, there’s still time over this long week-end.

Now it’s time to get serious about end-of-calendar-year fundraising.  It’s when folks are most generous, and you don’t want to miss out.  So while I’ve continued to offer links to articles and resources aligned with my top Dive the Fivefundraising fundamentals for 2016, and beyond, I’ve also included practical, basic stuff that falls a bit outside these categories.  It’s all good stuff and, as usual, plenty of free resources too.

#ClairityClick-it – Links, Free Resources, Upcoming Training

Mixed #nonprofit links and free resources#ClairityClick-it is a bi-monthly publication linking to useful resources and insights I find across the web.  This year I’m also selecting articles that highlight the “Dive the Five” 2016 fundraising fundamentals we’re collectively digging into in depth over the course of this year. For more on this, read Want to Guarantee Fundraising Success? Dive These 5 Fundamentals on NonProfit Pro. Of course, I’ll add in other food for thought that I just can’t help but share with you as I come across it. As always, if you scroll to the bottom you’ll find some free resources and upcoming learning opportunities.

How to Handle Nonprofit Boards Who Won't Play Nice

Recently I posed the question “To board or not to board?

It was meant to be rhetorical. To get you to think about what may/may not be working with your board. And/or with the board’s relationship with your E.D. And/or with your board’s engagement with fundraising. Because unless you’ve got smooth sailing in these regards, it’s going to be difficult to “Dive the 5” Fundamentals I’m encouraging you to focus on this year.

Ah, pre-conditions. They’ve always got to be in place. First.

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Leap Day Nonprofit Dilemma: To Board or Not to Board

My board is driving me nuts!

Today 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, volunteers put in charge of the business, that has an unfortunate tendency to slow things down and make decision-making take a lot, lot longer than it usually should.

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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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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. 

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5 Things your Board and CEO Don’t Get about Fundraising and Donors

Donors feel good when they give. There’s plenty of research  showing  philanthropic giving is good for people. It makes folks happier, healthier and even more successful. So there is no need to apologize when asking for support where the need is authentic. In fact, asking others to participate in philanthropy is a great gift. Just don’t forget to thank them personally and promptly when they do, so they also experience the joy of having made the right decision.

Donors respond to sizzle, not steak.

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How to Take Charge of Your Fundraising Events so they Don't Take Charge of You: Is Your's Worth the Effort?

Before you hold your next fundraising event, ask yourself one simple question: WHY?

Take a minute, right now, to jot down all the things you’d like to happen by virtue of you having held your event.

I’ll wait.

Seriously, do it. Jot.

I’m waiting.

Okay, there are a few of you who don’t yet have pencils and paper in front of you. Yes, I can see you.  Remember ‘Miss Nancy’ from Romper Room? [I know; I’m dating myself on this one].

Now, let me guess what you’re writing (and/or thinking).

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Declare Your Independence Day – Information Overload Be Gone!

It’s the new plague. And a highly contagious epidemic, from which no one is immune.

Are you showing any symptoms? I feel like:

  • I’m working all the time, but not getting that much accomplished.
  • I’m working on 10 projects at once, but none get finished.
  • My ‘to-do’ list never gets completed.
  • I’m in meetings all day and don’t have time to work.
  • I bring my laptop to meetings and pretend to take notes while surfing the web.
  • I’m answering email all day and don’t have time to work.
  • I answer email during conference calls and in meetings.
  • I have less and less time to plan, not to mention free time.
  • I have less and less time to learn, not to mention creative time.
  • I can never get to things quickly enough.
  • I sit down at my computer and end up doing something different than I planned.
  • I am eating lunch at my desk, mired in my virtual inbox.
  • I make calls while driving, and even send the occasional text, even though I know I shouldn’t.

Informationoverloaditis.

If you checked off three or more, you’ve got the disease. 8 or more and we need to rush you to an unplugged vacation. All of the above and you need a sabbatical!

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The Keys to Nonprofit Blogging that Drives Engagement

How's My BLogging? bumper stickerI’m a huge blog booster for nonprofits.  So much so that tomorrow I’m offering a free webinar on the topic with the folks at Good Done Great.  I’ll also be posting a series of articles on this topic in the coming week.  If you don’t have a blog yet, you should get one. Pronto! Yup, I think they’re that important.

Here is an overview of what I’ll be covering in tomorrow’s webinar, plus I’ll have a special bonus offer for webinar participants. If you can’t make it, you’ll find a few actionable tips in this article. Plus you’ll find more actionable tips all week.  I truly want you to do this, and I don’t want it to kill you. So I’m going to give you some easy steps you can take to make your blog (1) doable, and (2) a super investment of your time and resources. I’m betting that pretty soon you’ll wonder what you ever did without it!

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How to Take Charge of Your Fundraising Events so they’re Worth the Effort: Converting Attendees into Ongoing Donors

Before you hold your next fundraising event, ask yourself one simple question: WHY?

Take a minute, right now, to jot down all the things you’d like to happen by virtue of you having held your event.

I’ll wait.

Seriously, do it. Jot.

I’m waiting.

Okay, there are a few of you who don’t yet have pencils and paper in front of you. Yes, I can see you.  Remember ‘Miss Nancy’ from Romper Room? [I know; I’m dating myself on this one].

Now, let me guess what you’re writing (and/or thinking).

Proven Strategies to Climb the Year-End Fundraising Mountain

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

It’s time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

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

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

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

Ready to Put Your Best Foot Forwards?

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

Ducks in a row

Top 5 Strategies to Prepare for Fall Fundraising NOW

Ducks in a rowYou’ve got one month before fall fundraising season begins in earnest.

What will you do with it?

I’VE GOT 10 TOP STRATEGIES TO HELP YOU GET ALL YOUR DUCKS IN A ROW!

We’ll start with the first five today.

  1. Clean up Data
  2. Purge Mailing Lists
  3. Review Staff, Vendors and Freelancers
  4. Set Priority Objectives Based on Last Year’s Results
  5. Solidify a Multi-Channel Marketing Campaign

Next week we’ll look at:

  1. Send Impact Reports to Set the Stage
  2. Stock Up on Compelling, Relevant Stories and Photos
  3. Connect with Major and Mid-Level Donors
  4. Prioritize Contacts with Mid-Level and Other Promising Supporters
  5. Plan Ahead to Welcome Donors to The Flock

Ready?

Hand-held Crystal Ball

S’WOT’s Up? The Future, That’s What: Your Crystal Ball for Business Success

Hand-held Crystal Ball

The reasons I love SWOT analyses is they’re all about looking at the present to divine the future.  And leaders need their crystal balls to:

    • Identify trends,
    • Anticipate change,
    • Be open to possibilities, and
    • Enable more effective, impactful work.
Sounds good, yes? But, let’s face it, it often seems easier to stick with the status quo. Crystal ball gazing and divining is not so easy. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.
Taking an honest look at what’s working/what’s not working can be a very liberating thing for an organization to do. Once people agree on what’s not working, there is a freedom to abandon time-consuming processes not yielding substantial results or significant satisfaction.  This opens up whole new possibilities for allocation of resources, and can be a very exciting time within an organization.

Leadership is key!

SWOTs help leaders prepare for the future systematically and strategically. We’ve a lot invested in doing what we’ve always done. It takes courage and determination to ask the hard questions that break us out of old patterns and ruts. A structured approach can help.
A good SWOT gets all the stakeholders engaged in moving forward strategically.  A good SWOT is not static.  It’s a multi-step process.  If you’re not familiar with a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), this is what it is in a nutshell:

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Be Your Donor Week

Mirror imageWhat I have for you is something you can do this week (or you can pick another week on your calendar that isn’t already overfilled with appointments, assignments, meetings and what-not).  It’s really simple and really powerful.  There’s one catch: you have to put aside 45 minutes/day for five days.  If you’re resistant to change, read no further. This post isn’t for you.  If, however, you have a hunch you might be able to move from good to great, then… read on (oh, and there’s a little bonus ‘gift’ at the end).

I’m going to show you how to become a donor-centered fundraiser in just five days. And by “donor centered,” I don’t mean pandering to donors, letting them abuse you or succumbing to mission drift in order to please them. That’s extreme. I’m going to show you how to simply follow the “Golden Rule,” and do unto donors as you’d wish them to do unto you.

Like I said, it’s simple. But you’ve got to dedicate the time. Go ahead.  Find yourself a week where you can dedicate just 45 minutes/day to find out what ‘donor-centered’ may mean to your constituents.

This exercise is something I hope will dramatically change – and improve – how you approach your donors.  And this change can happen for you in just five days.

In a nutshell, I’m going to ask you to:

  1. Make a list.
  2. Pick five things on your list.
  3. Do the five things.
  4. Consider what five things you’ve learned.
  5. Make an action plan to change how you approach donors based on what you’ve learned.

Ready to get started?

Major donor meeting, two women

Avoid these Key Obstacles to Successful Major Gift Asks

Major donor meeting, two womenIn Part 1 of this two-part series delving into the topic of major gift fundraising asks, we looked at a number of Proven Strategies to Take Charge of Major Donor Asks. Specifically, we covered (1) four elements of a successful visit and (2) four elements of a compelling offer. Feel free to refresh yourself before we move on.

Other Things You Need to Know about Asking

Now I want you to truly think about the offer from the recipient’s perspective.

As insiders, we often don’t stop to think about the outsider perspective. It’s just human nature to become so absorbed in a topic it starts to seem obvious. To us.

When crafting your compelling fundraising offer however, it’s important to stop and consider how it may be received. As noted in Part 1:

  1. If it’s too general or vague, it’s unlikely you’ll get the donor’s most passionate gift.
  2. If you offer something of little interest or relevance to the donor, they won’t give you their full attention.
  3. If the problem you describe is broad in scope, the idea of addressing it in any meaningful way may seem too daunting.

You can’t ask the donor to address your entire mission.

  • “Ending hunger” sounds awesome to you, but impossibly unrealistic to the donor.
  • “Curing cancer” sounds splendid to you, but too huge in scope to the donor.
  • “Eradicating poverty” sounds vital to you, but absolutely overwhelming to the donor.
  • “Becoming a world class symphony” sounds grand to you, but grandiose to the donor.
  • “Saving children” may be your priority today, but you also serve seniors and that’s what the donor most cares about.

2 Vital Things to Keep in Mind Going into Asks

When crafting and making a major gift fundraising ask, make sure you incorporate the following into your planning:

Homeless man and donor on street

Why Smart Nonprofits Focus on Growing Monthly Giving

Homeless man and donor on streetFor at least the past five years I’ve been actively encouraging nonprofits of all stripes to begin or ramp up their monthly giving program. It made sense then. It makes even more sense now.

Why?

If there’s anything the past couple of years have taught us, you need a dependable source of income in order:

  • To be able to sustain programming for problems that never go away
  • To be able to weather current storms, anticipated and unanticipated, and
  • To be able to plan for the future.

It turns out there’s nothing as dependable as monthly donors.

In fact, donors who give to you recurrently sustain you so well a monthly giving strategy is often called a sustainer program.

Do you deserve a group of people who will sustain you through thick and thin?

Of course you do!

But you don’t always get what you deserve – unless you make it happen.

How to Make Monthly Giving Happen

As someone poetic so eloquently put it:

“Nothing will work unless you do.”

— Maya Angelou

There are four steps to a successful monthly giving work plan:

LIght bulb

Are You Accountable? Or do You Suffer from Akrasia?

I’ve long advocated for incorporating accountability into nonprofit job descriptions if you hope to get, and measure, results. Without accountability, tasks have a serious likelihood of slipping to the back burner; then off the stove entirely.

Procrastination is just a human trait. 

We tell ourselves we’ll clean out the garage this weekend.  But no one makes us do it.  So the weekend comes and goes without anything happening.

We make a new year’s resolution to exercise more. We even join a gym. We attend a couple of times, but no one is tracking our progress on the elliptical machine. We fall back into our previous habits and, before we know it, we’ve stopped going.

We plan to get out of the office and visit a donor at least three times a week, but no one really pays attention to our schedule – after all, we’re grown-up professionals! – and it’s easy to get distracted by emails, meetings, and a host of other tasks.

I could go on with a zillion examples. You probably can too. Why?  Because human beings are wired this way. We get distracted. We procrastinate. We give in to habits that may not serve us well. And we’ve been doing it for centuries.  It even has a Greek name: Akrasia.

Rock star

Are You Getting the Best Bang From Your Fundraising Buck?

Studies show over 88% of all funds raised come from just 12% of donors. 

In fact, the top tier of donors account for the lion’s share of all philanthropy.  Just 3% of donors give 76% of all gifts.

If you’re not focusing your fundraising resources on these donors, this should give you pause.  You’re missing a really big boat.

Plus, chances are good you’re fundraising in a manner that’s not exactly cost-effective.

You’re not alone. I run into this problem all the time.

  • Board members want to do events.
  • E.D.s want to focus on grants.
  • New staff think the future is all in digital fundraising.
  • Existing staff are wedded to increasingly less productive direct mail fundraising.

There’s nothing wrong with any of these strategies. However, generally they won’t give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Where you do get a huge return on investment is from an individual major gifts program, which costs you roughly 10 cents on the dollar vs. 50 cents or more on the dollar for special events fundraising and actually losing money on direct mail donor acquisition.

If you know the Pareto 80/20 Rule, you might want to focus just 20% of your resources on the lower-yielding strategies and 80% on major individual and legacy fundraising.

What’s holding you back from doing something so sensible?

Usually I find it’s one of the following reasons:

3 Nonprofit Secrets to Rock Major Gift Fundraising

There’s a treasure trove of knowledge and research around major gift fundraising. What works well.  What doesn’t work at all.  What’s, at best, half-baked.

It’s not rocket science.  But there’s definitely art, and some science, involved.

The gestalt way of thinking about the three secrets boils down to simply being:

(1) smart,

(2) systematic and

(3) passionate.

But, the devil’s in the details. I’m pretty pragmatic, so I’d like to give you something more practical.

If I had to pick the top three practical secrets to success, they would be the following:

Nonprofit donor conversation

Top Strategies for Open Nonprofit Donor Conversations

Over the pandemic I took some time to enroll in an intensive coaching course. Over Zoom, of course. It was designed for people who don’t necessarily intend to become certified life coaches as a career path, but who want to incorporate a coaching approach into their daily life.

The heart of this approach, I believe, can be distilled into two words. And they’re extremely useful for donor conversations:

1. CURIOSITY

When you’re genuinely curious about another person you ask questions to draw them out. And questions to help them get to the place they want to go; not where you think they should go. Because what’s right for you is not always right for someone else. They’ll tell you what’s right – with you acting as their guide – but only if you’re interested enough to ask.

It happens some questions are better than others if you want to get to the core of the matter at hand. We’ll get to those in a moment.

2. LISTENING

There’s a better way to have dynamic, effective conversations than jumping in prematurely with your own opinion. I’ve always known this, but it turns out there’s more to it than adopting the old adage: “You have two ears and one mouth; use them in that proportion.” Because it’s how you approach the listening that matters.

Fork in the Road

4 Strategies to Connect Nonprofit Donors to Cherished Values

Your donor’s philanthropic journey begins with you. Your job is to steer them down the pathway to passionate philanthropy, making them feel joy and fulfillment every step of the way. When the gift is finally made, they should experience a true sense of victory in a job well done.

The cherished philanthropic outcome generally will only happen if you do your job well.

One of my favorite fundraising experts, who specializes in major and legacy giving, is Dr. Russell James. He knows everything there is to know about what the industry calls “planned giving,” but he knows so much more than most. Because Dr. James, while a skilled technician, is also a thoughtful and strategic fundraiser. And he knows the best practitioners guide towards a goal. I recently listened to a webinar where Dr. James spoke extensively about the universal hero’s journey and how this comes into play in fundraising. It dovetails so nicely with my fundraising philosophy I thought I’d write about it!

You see, once you know where you’re going with any particular donor (be sure to pick a goal!), your job is to advance their journey towards that goal with every step you both take. You’re like a “Donor Engagement Sherpa,” who supports your donor up their trek towards the mountain’s peak. Sometimes there will be more than one way to get there. Be open to your donor’s needs, not just yours. Lead with vulnerability, but lead.

Two people hanging out together

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):

Proven Strategies to Climb the Year-End Fundraising Mountain

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

It’s time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t worry, I’m here to help.

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

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

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

Ready to Put Your Best Foot Forwards?

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

How to Rock Donor Thank You Calls

7 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allow that to sink in a moment.

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

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

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

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

Woman breathing, sunset

Want a true philanthropic culture? Make it the air you breathe.

Woman breathing, sunsetYour organization won’t survive and thrive with only great fundraising technicians. Youand the entire social benefit sectorneed organizational-development-grounded philanthropic facilitators. In fact, you need a team – maybe an entire village – filled with them!

This is what it looks like in a culture of philanthropy. And it involves more feelings than tangibles. What does it feel like where you work?

Your organization’s culture can make or break your fundraising – and just about everything else. If you don’t foster a culture in which people want to work, great professionals won’t apply for, or stick with, jobs. You have to be intentional in creating a culture that attracts, retains and grows professionals. The kind who will inevitably build sustaining relationships with supporters.

Here are some things you can do to build a true philanthropic culture.

Say what the culture is, get buy-in; demonstrate it.

To foster an authentic values-based organizational culture, you must first identify and write down the main beliefs that make up the culture. This can be simple – as little as a sentence or single paragraph – but this written manifestation of the culture you want to foster is critical to helping people understand the culture.

Here are some questions to ask yourself or, better yet, to do as a group exercise with a team of staff and/or board.

So You Want More Major Gifts This Year? Here’s the Secret!

Dream anything, then think.All you’ve got to do is ask!

Seriously. The number one reason people don’t make a major gift – or any gift for that matter – is no one asks them.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Before you can ask, you have to know a few basics:

  • Who will you ask?
  • What will you ask for?
  • When will you know they’re ready to be asked?
  • Where should you ask?
  • How should you ask?
  • Why are you asking?

Let’s take these fundamentals one at a time.

Who will you ask?

Not everyone in your donor base is a major gift prospect. Even if they were, you probably don’t have the bandwidth to cultivate and solicit all of them right now. It’s just common sense to prioritize those donors with whom you’re most likely to succeed. There’s no hard and fast rule as to how to pick this priority group.

I generally advise starting with

fruit in basket

Where Are Our Nonprofit’s Legacy Donors?

fruit in basketLegacy gifts don’t fall from the sky.

Legacy donors aren’t delivered by storks.

You won’t find them hiding behind cabbage leaves.

You’ll mostly find them living in your donor database, volunteer roster, alumni mailing list, membership roll, client files and anyplace else folks connect with you and have a positive affiliation. An affiliation with you.

You see, the mere fact someone is wealthy does not make them a legacy giving prospect. Period. And the fact they’re wealthy and philanthropically inclined does not make them a legacy giving prospect for your charity.

The biggest indicator someone is a good legacy giving prospect for your organization is their affinity and loyalty. Generally this is demonstrated through affiliation (how they are connected to you) and behavior (what they do with you).

Of course, someone who simply shares the values your organization enacts can also be a viable legacy giving prospect. But they’re not likely to make a bequest or other type of legacy gift unless you first develop their affinity and loyalty — to your charity.  So let’s begin with the fruit already picked and in your donor basket.  We can look at the low-hanging fruit later. I do not recommend investing a lot of resources going after the fruit you’re hoping will just fall from the sky (though a little couldn’t hurt).

trust sign

Wrong Ways to Woo Nonprofit Donors

trust signWhat do you most need to sustain your nonprofit through thick and thin?

A steady, reliable source of income – natch!

For most nonprofits this means loyal donors.

How do you get them?

Alas, too many nonprofits act as if all they need to do is acquire the donor; then, magically, that donor will stick with them forever.  Sadly, the data shows otherwise. On average only 20% of first-time donors renew; only 43% of all donors renew. And there’s a very good reason this sorry state of affairs exists.

Most nonprofits woo donors the wrong way.

It may not happen all the time. But it happens enough. Too often, in fact.  Does this look at all like the trajectory of how you handle a newly acquired gift?

  • You badger the donor for gifts.
  • When they give, you warehouse them in your database.
  • You then send a form letter (pretending it’s personal because you use their given name and indicate their gift was earmarked for a particular purpose; in reality, most of the time you don’t know them from Adam nor do you try to get to know them beyond what they wrote on the flap of the remit envelope).
  • Next, they get on your newsletter list and receive mass mailings.
  • Before you know it – or know much about them — they’re getting another appeal letter.

There’s a better way.

Actively show donors love and trust. This is the best way to get them to love and trust you, and the two most important aspects of donor loyalty. Relationships that last are reciprocal. Penelope Burk, the queen of donor-centered fundraising, famously found through her research that donors’ number one desire is … please, please “show me that you know me.” If you want donors to trust you and be loyal to you, you have to trust them and be loyal to them.  Simple, yes?  Actually, no.

To earn trust and loyalty takes strategy.  And it takes work. Mark Schaefer makes a brilliant analogy

Philanthropy is a Team Sport

Team huddleNo one can do it alone, sitting in their own little corner.

Not the E.D. Not the development director. Not the development committee of the board. Not the fundraising consultant.

One-person shows don’t work in fundraising.

This isn’t tennis, figure skating or golf. You’re not one person trying to be the best you can be, with all the glory accruing to you. You’re part of a team, all pulling together in the same direction, with the glory accruing not just to your team but also to your fans and your community.

Siloes don’t work in fundraising.

You aren’t saving up grain for the winter. Besides, simply hoarding won’t help enough. Development operations must figure out how to grow and harvest as much grain as possible so you can feed more and more people in need. Hoarding in siloes is a scarcity, not an abundance, mindset. A status quo, not a growth mindset.

If you have vision and big goals you need a team to see you through.

How Do You Build Your Development Team?

Begin with recruitment of stakeholders.

Look around you. Who do you see? You see internal and external stakeholders. People who care about your organization winning.

Generally, you’ll see: