Donor visit, two women

Proven Strategies to Take Charge of Major Donor Asks

Donor visit, two womenBefore asking, begin by assuring you and your donor are on the same page.

The major donor journey is generally a long one. It’s important to craft a blueprint for the process and take time, along the way, to assure the journey is sparking joy and bringing energy. If you’ve never asked for a major gift, it can seem scary. Even if you’ve asked in the past, the process can still seem daunting.  This article is designed to help take the worry out of asking for a major gift. How? By putting it in context and framing it as an opportunity, not a burden.

As long as you’re providing value to the donor, you’re in a good place. Value can take many forms.

  • An opportunity to feel noticed and special.
  • An opportunity to offer feedback.
  • An opportunity to share wisdom.
  • An opportunity to learn new things.
  • An opportunity to get behind-the-scene information.
  • An opportunity to meet someone new.
  • An opportunity to create connection.
  • An opportunity for a fun and friendly chat
  • An opportunity to find meaning and purpose.

Lead with the value you provide and the benefit they’ll gain if they meet with you. The value you offer at any point in time depends on the donor and where you are in the process of wooing. Provided you’re generally (1) clear, (2) compelling, (3) courageous and (4) careful, you’ll surely succeed.

Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these important components.

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Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logo

Fundraising Do’s vs. Don’ts: Monthly Donor Appeal Strategy

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoHere 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 monthly donor campaign strategy.

It arrived as an email. 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.

We’ll take a look at the various elements; then assess what works/doesn’t work.

I’ll ask you some questions.

  1. Would you open this email?
  2. If yes, why?
  3. If no, why?
  4. What looks good about the email?
  5. What looks not so good about the email?
  6. Would it inspire you to click through?
  7. If yes, why?
  8. If no, why not?
  9. Once you click through, would you be inspired to take action?
  10. If yes, why?
  11. 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.

Subject Headline

Claire, here’s a simple way to do your part to repair the world.

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.’

Okay.  Ready to learn what I think thus far, and also see what else we’re working with?

Let’s begin!

Does this Email Say “Open Me?”

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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.

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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.

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How to Use Psychology to Pre-Suade Donors to Give

This time of year is what I call “presuasion time.”

Because if you’re thoughtful about it, you can presuade donors to give up to the moment you ask!

That’s what we reviewed in Part 1 of this two-part series, where I described research from Robert Cialdini, author of the seminal Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and the newer book, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuadeand discussed how you might apply this research to your fundraising strategies. We learned the importance of leading with a “gift” or “favor” that will incline your donor favorably in your direction. Even the smallest of favors can create significant goodwill, and there are simple ways to boost the likelihood your favor will be returned.

  1. Today we’re first going to look at a way to tweak your language to make a difference.
  2. Then we’ll explore some types of favors donors are likely to value enough to want to reciprocate.

First, a reminder: Every time of year is presuasion time. Everthing you do with supporters should be designed to prime the pump so people are pre-disposed to give to you the next time you ask. Whether that’s next week, the week thereafter, or any week of the year! Whenever you’re not asking, you should be in presuasion mode.

So, let’s get a little psychologically-minded, keeping in mind one of the six core Cialdini principles of Influence and Perusasion: Reciprocity. In brief, human beings often feel obligated to return favors, even if they are unasked for.

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Two paths converge

Ask Not What Your Donor Can Do For You…

I’ve recently been enrolled in some coaching courses, and it got me thinking…

What if you were to think of yourself as the coach and the donor as your client?

As a coach (aka “philanthropy facilitator”), your goal would be to help that client.

This is a very different stance than approaching them as someone who will help you. It completely shifts the equation of your interactions.

I’ve been working with donors, and organizations working with donors, for forty years now. Along the way, one of the things I’ve learned is your approach to your work matters. It’s why I talk a lot about reframing.

Today I’d like to discuss another type of reframing. It has to do with using your ears and mouth in the proportion in which they were given to you.

How to reframe the borders of donor meetings.

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heart hands

5 More Strategies to Get and Keep Donors for Your Nonprofit

heart handsFor this year’s appeal, are you shooting from the hip?

Going from your gut?

Simply repeating what was done last year?

That may or may not be a good idea. It’s a little risky to take a stab in the dark. Or throw spaghetti against the wall.

It might stick, and draw your donors in, but…

What if there was a more scientific approach?

There is!

In my last article I shared five strategies informed by neuroscience, psychology and behavioral science research to help you be more strategic with your messaging to donors.

Today I’d like to add five more. Don’t worry you’re being manipulative. There are ethical ways to apply these principles. In fact, using them likely will help bring donors more joy, meaning and purpose than if you just threw pasta at them!

Ready for some ideas that might not be intuitive?

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Happy donors

5 Strategies to Get and Keep More Donors for Your Nonprofit

Happy donorsPeople are unpredictable sometimes. They’re also predictable.

If you see someone yawn, you’re likely to yawn too.

If I tell you seats are limited, you’re likely to purchase a ticket now rather than later.

What if you knew donating to your nonprofit could be a predictable consequence of something you did?

It turns out you can encourage people to act in desirable ways simply by applying a few lessons learned from neuroscience, psychology and behavioral economics.

Scientists have learned a lot over the past few decades. It’s up to us to put that learning to good use.

As Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human, has noted: “There’s a gap between what science knows and what business does.”

  • The most successful for-profit businesses use what science knows to “convert leads to customers.”  The secret to more sales is knowing what the customer wants.
  • Your non-profit might convert prospects into donors, and donors into repeat donors, using these very same principles. The secret to closing more gifts is knowing what the donor wants.

Today I’d like to consider five specific strategies that will help you ethically take advantage of some of the psychology underlying human behavior. Once you understand these principles, you can begin to strategically apply them to your integrated development (marketing and fundraising) strategy. If you’re nervous about this, you can test what you did before against a new strategy informed by science. Break your mailing list randomly in half, send an “A” and a “B” version of your appeal, and see which performs best.

Ready for the science-informed strategies?

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7 Magic Words that Increase Charitable Donations

You’ve still got time to sprinkle a little magic into your year-end fundraising!

Consider each of these seven words a magic potion unto themselves.

  1. You
  2. Because
  3. Thanks
  4. Small
  5. Immediate
  6. Expert
  7. Support

The more of these words you use, the more powerful a spell your appeal will cast.

Each of these packs a bigger persuasive punch than you might imagine.

Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

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