Man pointing to ear and hearing aid

10 Tools to Give You and Your Nonprofit Donor Space to Co-Create — and Change the World

Man pointing to ear and hearing aidI recently wrote about 4 Strategies to Listen so Others Will Talk, noting the secret to building authentic relationships is to use your two ears and one mouth in that proportion.

It’s a good start, but there’s more.

You can’t just listen passively.

Active listening, supported by powerful, succinct, to-the-point generative questions – that’s what will draw you and your donor (or anyone with whom you’re in relationship) closer together.

But not all active listening is created equal. And you may think you’re actively listening, when really you’ve listened for a hot minute; then gone down your own rabbit hole of reality. In that rabbit hole, you become the narrator. It thus becomes your story, not the donor’s.

Uh, oh.

Today we’ll explore how to draw your donor out so you truly hear their voice and sense their emotions, not your own.

1. Economy of language.

This is something I value, as an outsider looking in.

I’m not good at it.

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Big earred deer

4 Strategies to Listen so Others Will Talk

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

Ever hear that?

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

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

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

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

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

Become a Donor Coach

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

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

— Dianna Andersen, Cyliant

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

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Girl dips toes in the water

12 Top Tips to Broaden Your Nonprofit Donor Community

Philanthropy should not just be about big checks.

That’s why you should never eschew small gift fundraising. Today I’m offering some tips for building and mobilizing your community to find, sustain and grow smaller gifts.

This is important, because a donor’s first gift is seldom their largest.  It’s a starting point.

The majority of your gifts will be small, but the majority of your income will come from a small group of major donors.

You have to grow this cadre of loyal, passionate philanthropists by building relationships with supporters over time.

The lion’s share of major gifts come from previously small gift donors.

A client I’m working with told me 50% of their major donors began with very small gifts.  How about tracking this for your organization? Sure, some major donors come in at the top. But I’ll bet you a majority start by dipping their toe in the water. How can you get folks more fully immersed?

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Transactional Nonprofit Work vs. Transformational Donor-Led Progress

Transactional Nonprofit Work vs. Transformational Philanthropic Progress

Greg Warner of Market Smart writes a lot about the difference between “work” and “progress.” I appreciate the distinction, both professionally and personally. I think you can use this notion, so I’m going to suggest a way to extend this idea to your nonprofit fundraising.

Warner notes in Why You Should Never Get a Job and Go to Work: “work” is tedious and negative; “progress” is inspiring and positive.

This is about being intentional about where you’re going.

It’s somewhat about perception and desitnation, but I’d argue it’s largely about the journey.

Your journey. Your donor’s journey.

And how everyone feels about the endeavor.

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Photo of a cobweb

4 Timely Nonprofit Fundraising and Communications Strategies

Photo of a cobwebSpring is always a good time for rebirth and dusting away the cobwebs.  And what a grave, dusty, cobwebby year it’s been.

As I sat down to write today’s article, I found my mind jumping from idea to idea. After all, it’s been pretty hard to focus with everything going on. So I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tried to pull together the various challenges I’ve seen nonprofit leaders, and fundraisers, grapple with in the past year.

I thought: what can people do now to set themselves up for success as we move forward into high fundraising season at the end of this coming year.

It’s not too soon to be thinking about this.

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

1. How to Message During Uncertain Times

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

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puzzle pieces

Bring Top Value to Your Donor Survey

I get lots of questions about what to include in donor surveys.  But that’s the wrong place to begin.

First you must have clarity on why you’re sending the survey. You can’t bring top value to your donor survey unless you’re specific about what value you want to receive and deliver. The great thing about donor surveys is they’re a genuine “twofer.”

  1. One is for you(useful information you will act on);
  2. One is for your donor(a way to usefully participate, other than giving money, and feel a part of a community of like-minded folks).

Donor surveys are an opportunity for a value-for-value exchange. This is at the heart of all successful fundraising and marketing. The donor gives something of value (usually time and/or money) and you return something of value (usually an intangible “feel good;” a sense of meaning, purpose and connection). Donors are focused on value; you need to focus there too. And value is understood as a clear ‘walking’ of your talk.

Never do something merely to check the task off your ‘to-do’ list. If you’ve had “do a survey” on your back burner for a while, now’s the time to move it to the forefront and give it a closer and more purposeful look. What pieces of the puzzle are you looking to uncover? Begin with asking: How will I know this survey was successful?

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Wish hanging from a tree

Warning Sign: A Post-Trump Digital Divide Between Nonprofits?

Believe it or not, this guest post appeared originally on my blog 3 1/2 years ago. I happened on it today, and thought it was still appropriate so wanted to share. One of my Clairification School students, Matt Patchell, had begun an important discussion in our online Subscriber Forum about what he termed the current “digital divide.”

He was referring to the chasm between nonprofits who are facing the digital revolution head-on, adapting their strategies to embrace its’ opportunities, vs. those sticking their heads in the sand and hoping it will go away.

Folks, digital engagement is not going away. Rather, it’s exploding.

As of late last year, one study found 43% of U.S. adults get political news online, rather than via television, radio or print media. A report from the Pew Research Center found one in five Americans get their news from Facebook. For the first time in the Center’s surveys, more than half (55%) of Americans age 50 or older report getting news on social media sites. That is 10 percentage points higher than the 45% who said so in the previous year. And that report is now three years old!

If you continue to ignore the channels your supporters frequent, and the ways they prefer to receive their information, the only thing that will be going bye-bye are your supporters.

What digital means for nonprofits.

It’s a sea change in how your marketing and fundraising team(s) operate and cooperate. Adopting is a far cry from adapting.

What does this have to do with Trump?

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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?

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"Doing the right thing isn't always easy" storefront art

How Humanity and Trust Supercharge Nonprofit Fundraising

"Doing the right thing isn't always easy" storefront artEveryone is saying it.

Just about daily.

“These aren’t ordinary times.”

We’re living in the face of a firehose of breaking news, and most of it is pretty difficult to digest. Let alone know how to face, handle and get through it with safety and sanity intact.

We can either retreat, live in limbo or figure out a way to navigate through this reality and find opportunities to do our work in new and better ways.

It’s a difficult assignment, because it’s not easy to know where to begin.

We want to come from a donor-centered and community-centered place, but… what exactly might that be in this extraordinary time?

“We’re not only longing for the normal that was – we’re grieving losses yet unaddressed and ignoring some of the most obvious. I know for sure: if we don’t find a way to consciously engage with our losses, when this pandemic is finally over, the soul of our country will still be locked down”

– Oprah Winfrey

I’ve been thinking a lot about what the world most needs right now.

I think it’s humanity and trust.

Usually we have to guess at what will feel relevant to our supporters. Today, we pretty much know. Because we hear it all the time. On the news. On social media. When we zoom with colleagues. When we talk to our friends. When we’re sheltering in place with our family.

  • People want to know who they can trust!
  • People want their fellow humans to act the part!
  • People want to consciously engage — with humans they can trust — in a meaningful manner.

‘Philanthropy’ means ‘love of humanity’. Yet today it sometimes seems all we’re hearing and seeing is hatred of humanity. Us and them. Insiders and outsiders. Democrats and Republicans. Left and right. Young and old. Good and evil. I could go on…

There’s a better way.

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