If you’re a small to medium-sized organization or movement, especially if you’re local, you’ve got an unfair advantage over your larger compatriots in the social benefit sector. Perhaps you’ve never loed at it this way. Perhaps you fret about not being able to compete with the behemoths. Perhaps you’ve been waiting to hire a major…Details
Getting in the spirit of acts of kindness
It’s been a rough decade thus far, beginning with a pandemic out there killing people. And then the hurricanes, fires, floods and earthquakes killing people. Not to mention the genocides, autocracies, global and domestic terrorists killing people. The list, unfortunately, goes inexorably on.
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 true 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 members — to create happier supporters.
Notice a lot of folks saying “This has been 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 (seemingly random, but not really) 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 Today, and BeyondDetails
A couple of years ago I 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.
Today we’ll explore how to draw your donor out so you truly hear their voice and sense their emotions, not your own.
10 Tools to Connect and Co-Create with Donors
1. Economy of language.
This is something I value, as an outsider looking in.
I’m not good at it.Details
Here 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 fundraising campaign thank you email.
It’s very simple, which is why I’ve selected it. Because simple can be deceptive. So much so, in fact, that putting it together may seem unworthy of a strategic approach. Gosh darn it — we had a successful campaign and now we’re simply closing the loop and letting our community know it was a success. How much time investment is merited here, really? Come on! Just the fact we’re sending this is good, right?
Wrong. Alas, as the old adage goes, anything worth doing is worth doing well. Otherwise, you might inadvertently create an unintended consequence.
You may think I’m picking nits. Perhaps. But if you’ve got nits, they’re pretty uncomfortable. And that’s how this email made me feel. Except… for the parts that didn’t make me feel that way. This email is a melange of do’s and don’ts.
We’ll take a look at the various elements; then assess what works/doesn’t work.
There’s (1) a subject line, (2) the email itself, and (3) what happens if/when you click through and are transported to the donation landing page.
I’ll ask you some questions.
- Would you open this email?
- If yes, why?
- If no, why?
- What looks good about the email?
- What looks not so good about the email?
- Would it inspire you to click through?
- If yes, why?
- If no, why not?
- Once you click through, would you be inspired to take action?
- If yes, why?
- If no, why not?
First, I’d like you to think about your answers and jot them down.
Second, I’ll tell you what I think.
Third, if you disagree with me please let me know in the comments below.
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.
“We did it!”
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 would have caused you to open the email or hit ‘delete.’ If you’d open it, why?
Okay. Ready to learn what I think thus far, and also see what else we’re working with?
Does this Email Say “Open Me?”Details
When You Can’t Get Up Close And Personal, How Do You Build Relationships With Folks Online?
Are you Linking In?
If not, it’s time to take a new look at this social platform to appreciate it for the beneficial research and relationship-building strategy it can be for you.
I find it to be a highly under-utilized tool when it comes to building your nonprofit brand, establishing authority and credibility, researching and recruiting new volunteers, donors and employees, and building stronger relationships with your current constituents.
Today we’re going to talk about how to use LinkedIn to uncover new donor prospects and build donor relationships.
Not too much. Just four no-nonsense strategies.
To begin, let’s look at two connection models:Details
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there” – Lewis Carroll This is actually a paraphrase of an exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I use it often to encourage people to develop and stick to a plan. Lewis Carroll, on the other hand,…Details
When you’re not aware you’re making a mistake, it’s hard to avoid it.
So let’s get curious. I’m going to ask you to close your eyes for a minute to imagine a donor you’ve been wanting to ask for a major gift. I’m going to ask you to visualize a space where you’re meeting. Put them in your office, their home, a café or even a Zoom screen. Choose what’s comfortable, and where you think you’d be most likely to meet with this donor within the next month or so.
Okay… do you have your donor and your meeting space in mind? Excellent!
Now, before closing your eyes, commit to visualizing these four things:
- You’re in the room together.
- You smile. They smile back.
- Someone else is in the room with both of you. Imagine you brought them with you. Who are they, and how does it feel having them there to support you?
- Bolstered by the smiles and good company, what do you say to open the conversation?
Okay, are you ready to close your eyes? Even if this feels a little weird, why not give it a try?
EXERCISE: You can do this by yourself, but it works better if you do it in a pair. Find a co-worker, friend or family member to prompt you to close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Notice if you’re holding tension anywhere in your body. Relax those areas (forehead; neck; shoulders; hands; belly; thighs; calves; feet). Now have them ask you the following questions:
(1) Pick a donor to meet with.
(2) Pick your meeting space.
(3) Pick an additional person to support you in the room (e.g., program director; subject matter expert; volunteer; executive director; board member; other donor). Describe who they are, and how it feels having them there.
(4) Open the conversation. What are you saying to them? What are they saying back? What’s their body language? Are their eyes lighting up? Are they smiling? Leaning forward? Play this scenario out just a bit, until you get to a place of comfort or discomfort.
Then open your eyes.
What did that feel like?
What felt comfortable to you? Uncomfortable? Did it feel more comfortable and pleasant than you may have imagined?
Smiling people, committed to the same cause, hanging out in a comfortable space together…. from such a space can come many good things.
- What did you say to open the conversation?
- How did that feel?
- If it felt good, why?
- If it didn’t feel good, why?
Take a few minutes to journal some answers to those questions. I guarantee this will help you shift the energy for the next time you move into this space – in real time – with a donor.
A Mistake is Just a Misjudgment
It’s not fatal; you can correct it. But first you have to recognize it happened!
Mistakes in major donor conversations generally arise when you don’t know enough about the donor, or vice-versa. That’s why there are two kinds of major donor visits:Details
You don’t just roll out of bed one day, randomly go visit a major donor prospect and ask for a random amount. At least not without a boatload of advance preparation. Right?
It’s a lot smarter to begin at the beginning.
And then take it step by step from there.
According to a plan.
A plan to secure BIG gifts for you BIG mission.
It’s always a great time to review what you can do to get yourself and your solicitors (staff and volunteers) ready to make win/win matches between your organization and your prospective major donor/investors.
Ready for some A, B, C’s?Details
Sustain the positive energy of love and connection
Are you throwing your former board members out like yesterday’s trash?
This may not be your intention, but you’re kind of guilty of this if you don’t continue to (1) let them know how special they are, and (2) build personal relationships with them. After all, one of the foundations of Penelope Burk’s groundbreaking work in Donor-Centered Fundraising is the finding donors want one thing first and foremost: “Show me that you know me.”
Are You Showing Former Board you Know, Love and Feel Specially Connected to Them?
- As board members, they got used to being treated as “insiders.”
- Now that they’ve stepped off the board, you’re treating them as if they mean less to you.
Every single communication with a former board member should let them know you know who they are.
If you treat them like they’re toast, don’t be surprised when they start sending you little bread crumbs instead of the whole slice – or loaf – they once sent. People want to be appreciated. It’s just human nature. And facilitating philanthropy (the word literally means “love of humankind”) is a very human endeavor.
Don’t stop loving your former board members.
Stop blaming them for stopping to love you. Blaming is a cop out. Instead, look in the mirror and see what part you may be playing in their changed behavior.
SPECIAL TIP: You can apply much of the suggestions in this article to former staff as well. I often marvel at the hands-off way I’m treated by some of the places where I once worked, sometimes for many years. Places where I donated too, because I believed in the mission. Now I’m just a “prospect” or “lapsed donor” to them, and the communications I receive come across a bit infantalizing. After all, I know this stuff. I wrote a lot of this stuff! It just feels like they’re telling me “since you don’t work here any more, you mean nothing to us.”
Why Former Board Merit Their Own Engagement Strategy
Former board should be one of your top segments for cultivation!
IN A NUTSHELL:
- They have a deep understanding of your vision, mission and values.
- For years, they made your nonprofit one of their top philanthropies.
- They have numerous connections with your cause, including relationships with staff, each other, and even beneficiaries.
- At one point you were part of their identity and family.
- You likely have a special place in their heart.
- They may even have included you in their estate planning!
Don’t stop making beautiful music together! Continue to treat them personally, unless they specifically ask you to stop. Don’t simply relegate them to your impersonal e-news mailings or mass annual appeals. Treat them like major donors and develop a love and loyalty strategy that invites them to stay engaged with you, albeit in a new way.
8 Strategies to Build a Former Board Member Love and Loyalty StrategyDetails
Early 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 One Word, ‘Personal,’ Should Become Your Mantra
Let it underscore everything you think about and do.
Your annual appeal writing. Your special events. Your newsletters. Your blog posts. Your proposals. Your reports. Your social media. Your donor cultivation.
If you take just this one word to heart — PERSONAL — you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
- This one word that can set you apart.
- This one word can help you build relationships like nothing else.
- This one word can sustain you, through thick and thin.
Also Make ‘Personal’ Your Spiritual Discipline
Though we we give lip service to the importance of practicing 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. Start there.
Visualize your person, and before engaging in any strategy or tactic, ask yourself:
Is there a more personal way to deliver this message?
Begin to build a PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE into your planning.
- DON’Tjust look at the masses (see left heart, above).
- DON’Tt just look at your environment, (see center heart, above).
- DO look at one person, embrace them, hug them and take them by the hand on a joyful philanthropic journey (see right heart, above).
GETTING PERSONAL has always mattered.
Today, in a still-disrupted, socially distanced, increasingly virtual environment, with striving for greater diversity, equity and inclusion at the forefront, how you get personal and how you define people are more important than ever.
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.Details