In Take Heed Nonprofits: The Sky is Not Falling, but it’s Cloudy we loed at trends in giving and how this might impact your strategic fundraising planning. Some of the data-based take-aways included: Less Donors and Dollars Overall Less Individual Donors — Shrinking Slice of Fundraising Pie More Foundation and Corporate Giving Focus of Giving…Details
Philanthropic giving has been on a downswing for a while, but this past year’s data is notable due to distinct changes in donor behavior. I don’t want you throwing your hands up in despair. Rather, I want you to take a good hard lo at the data so you can develop a plan with strategies…Details
I’m a huge Seth Godin fan, always in awe of the plethora of wisdom he manages to pack into one pithy post. I save them up, building a collection I can draw upon for inspiration as life, personal and professional, pushes in.
Recently I looked back at What’s in the box? The point of the post is to make us question our quest for perfection and all the needless worrying we put into imagining everything that can possibly go wrong. Godin encourages us to worry less; just open the box and see what’s in it. Good to consider. Yet this presumes there’s a filled box to be opened.
When we’re in reactive or firefighter mode, we must open the box. The contents must be dealt with, generally with some urgency. So, definitely, perfectionism gets in the way. There’s simply no time for it! But, what about when we’re in proactive mode, building our own projects?
A Greater Challenge Than Opening the Box
Filling and delivering it! This means coming up with useful, delightful, meaningful content your recipient will consider a true gift. Once you’ve got a nicely filled box — a good gift — it’s time to deliver so the donor’s “feel good” can begin. Alas, this is where the concept of “done enough” vs. “overdone” can rear its ugly head.
Imagine This: You plan to send some cookies to your college sophomore. You make a batch of gorgeous macarons. Then you worry they’re too fancy. The next day, before putting them in a shipping box, you decide to add some chocolate chip since they’re ‘safe’. The next day you decide, as long as you’re bothering to ship these, you’ll add some brownies and oatmeal because then there’s some to share with roommates. The next day you realize it’s almost Valentine’s Day, so they’ll probably expect some heart-shaped sugar cookies. Now you’re getting into the “project-ness” of this endeavor, and decide you’ll make a few more kinds so it’ll be a really spectacular presentation! Great fun, yes… but, what has happened to the macarons by the end of the week?
The Old Stuff Gets Stale
While it’s true sometimes things are not ready for prime time, the reverse is also true.Details
The single most important lesson I ever learned.
Begin with the why.
If you don’t, you’re likely to work very hard and not achieve much of value.
Because you didn’t begin your endeavor by asking yourself:
“What’s the value in this work upon which I’m about to embark?”
“Why am I doing this?”
This may be the most powerful strategy in your entire toolbox.
So simple. So basic. So fundamental.
Yet it’s a step we tend to overlook.
The often-overlooked steps.
Humans are funny creatures.
Monkey see, monkey do.
Monkey be told what to do, monkey do.
We’re driven instinctually, by biology, to survive.
Don’t eat the berries no one else is eating. We take what appears to be the safest course.
It generally works in the short term. There must be a reason.
Sometimes, however, there is no reason.
There’s just habit.
Or the reason isn’t a good one.
Answering the why question requires two elements: knowing what and who something is for. Let’s begin with the what.Details
If you’ve never read management and marketing guru Peter Drucker, you must. I fell in love with him early on in my nonprofit career, and still regularly draw upon his wisdom. It hasn’t aged; he was ahead of his time, and remains a worthy sage for ours.
Perhaps the most important thing I learned from Drucker was you must begin with the “why” question. What is your purpose?
“It is defined by the want the customer satisfies when she buys a product or service.”
You want to think about your purpose both broadly and narrowly. But not so broadly as to only be talking about your category. The fact you’re a human services agency, school, arts organization or environmental charity does not answer the question: “What would happen if you ceased to exist?”
Most founders do not wake up one day with the epiphany “I want to start a nonprofit.” They have more explicit goals related to solving specific problems. “I want to provide homeless people with access to showers.” “I want to offer equine therapy to kids with disabilities.” “I want to find a cure for this degenerative disease my kid has.” And so on.
If a customer has no soap to buy, they can’t get clean. If a homeless person has no shower or toilet available, they can’t get clean. Whether the business is for- or non-profit, the sought-after impact is cleanliness – and all the ways being clean makes people feel, think and behave. Goals that answer the “why” question are focused on impact. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
Know your existential why — the meaningful impact you want to make — in order to build a plan to reach that goal.
A goal worth meeting is one other people share. Find out:Details
Have you been struggling with whether – and how – to incorporate generative artificial intelligence (AI; ChatGPT) into your work? Or perhaps you’ve been worrying your job will soon be obsolete?
You’re not alone.
Honestly, the whole AI thing scares the you-know-what out of me on most days. But, let’s consider the encouraging present rather than worry so much about the possibility of a bleak future (as in destruction of humanity?!).
You can’t control everything.
You can control some things. So, I thought I’d take a quick minute to send you some tips I’ve curated from others to help stimulate your thinking and planning for ways ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) and other AI-driven chatbots have potential to free up your time and revolutionize how you communicate with donors.
You can ignore all of this if you choose. But, it won’t make it go away. Nor will it stop your peers from figuring out how to get a leg up through use of these new tools. Remember, at first some of us were slow to adopt use of computers, the internet and social media (who, me?).
So let’s lead from curiosity, not fear.
I begin withDetails
Do you write anymore?
I don’t mean do you type.
I’m talking about good old-fashioned handwriting.
You know, that very human practice most of the world seems to have abandoned post digital revolution?
It may seem practical and smart. After all, using a keyboard is definitely quicker.
But something critical gets lost in translation.
Not just to your audience, but to yourself.
Could keyboarding be causing you to disconnect? To lose your passion?
This is why writers including J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Danielle Steele, John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates have rejected word processors and computers in favor of writing by hand. At least for their first drafts.
CAVEAT: Don’t fall into the trap of thinking these “handwriting people” are all just “old,” “old school,” or “stuck in their ways.” Rather, they intuitively discovered things about hand writing. All subsequently borne out by neuroscience. Once upon a time I intuited this as well. I couldn’t imagine giving up my yellow writing pad and pens of various colors. How would I think expressively if forced to type everything? Gradually, I was persuaded (shamed?) to jump on the bandwagon of modernity and efficiency. And, lo and behold, it was incredibly efficient. So fast! I got used to editing as I went along. Pretty soon I couldn’t envision ever going back. BUT…
But… after many years on the wrong track, I’m coming to understand the documented benefits of composing by hand.
Writing By Hand Offers Psychological Benefits
You can learn more about some of these benefits from specific studies here (improves memory and promotes deep encoding); here (bolsters learning), and here (advances idea generation), to name just a few.
Today I want to share six of these benefits I think you’ll find most relevant to your nonprofit work.Details
Okay, I recently let folks know I’d “finagled” a discount for them. After one reader told me the word “finagle” means “to obtain something by devious or dishonest means,” I sent an apologetic “Ruh Roh” email. I received a lot of forgiving feedback. Thank you! Many of you kindly supported my initial use of the word “finagle.” Apparently, there is more than one definition.
Susan sent me this:
finagle (third-person singular simple present finagles, present participle finagling, simple past and past participle finagled)
- (transitive) To obtain, arrange, or achieve by indirect, complicated and/or intensive efforts.
finagle a day off work
- (transitive) To obtain, arrange, or achieve by deceitful methods, by trickery.
finagled his way out of a ticket by pretending to be on the way to a funeral, distraught
I think the word has come to mean “using super-human negotiating skill to obtain a superior result“
Terry sent me this:
I thought you meant “obtain (something) by indirect or involved means.” I always felt it was sort of clever or creative negotiations to get something done when it seemed like it couldn’t be done.
Sam sent me this:
I always thought it was someone who could manipulate circumstances to achieve some goal. No adverse implications. No criminal intent. Just clever in being able to make something work that really shouldn’t have worked.
And there were more. I thank you all.
You made me think.
And not just about negotiation (which is a subject unto itself), but about being clever. And thoughtful. And about what it takes to obtain superior results.
All good outcomes require a little positive finagling to get there.
Lots of things can be good and bad at the same time.
I learned something many 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 Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.
What a revelation! My eyes were opened to the very nature of fundraising. And the essential pre-conditions for fundraising success.Details
In Part 1 of this two-part series of “Top 10 Strategies to Prepare for Fall Fundraising” we covered.
- Clean up Data
- Purge Mailing Lists
- Review Staff, Vendors and Freelancers
- Set Priority Objectives Based on Last Year’s Results
- Solidify a Multi-Channel Marketing Campaign
Today we’ll look at:
- Send Impact Reports to Set the Stage
- Stock Up on Compelling, Relevant Stories and Photos
- Connect with Major and Mid-Level Donors
- Prioritize Contacts with Mid-Level and Other Promising Supporters
- Plan Ahead to Welcome Donors to The Flock
Ready to get all your ducks in a row?Details