It was Machiavelli who first advised “never waste a good crisis.” By that he meant one could look at the opportunities afforded by a crisis to change, to innovate and to improve.
To paraphrase Machiavelli, we advise “never waste a good pause.” Whether it’s a lull in activity or a forced rethinking of business-as-usual, most nonprofits are experiencing a “pandemic pause.” At minimum, everyone should take a moment to consider how to effectively navigate in the new normal. For those who are experiencing a pause, the silver lining is that we can utilize this time to strategically prepare for the future.
We can explore ways to embrace the pandemic pause to PAUSE:
Every organization is approaching and responding to COVID-19 differently, but regardless of the approach – certainly, all have been considering what fundraising will look like in the coming months and year. We know a rough road lies ahead and no one can predict what this recovery will look like; however, there is some good news.
The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy tracks giving during disasters, and what they’ve seen so far with COVID-19 is record levels of seven-figure gifts being made to organizations. America is being more generous than ever.
In this time of quarantine, social distancing and wide-spread uncertainty, connecting with donors over virtual channels is more necessary than ever before. Across the country Americans are living in isolation, looking for opportunities to connect with others and give back to those communities being impacted by disruptions related to COVID-19.
Thankfully, new technologies make online connection easier than ever. There are many digital tools out there. This blog post will highlight a few that we have recently used with our clients and would like to share with you!
During this time of year, gratitude is front and center as the holiday spirit begins to take shape in our communities. However, we know that for nonprofit leaders like you, gratitude is not just felt during this time of year but infused in our work all year long.
In fundraising, we know that sending thank you letters within a few days of receiving contributions is an essential pillar of a basic development program. Additionally, there are countless articles on the internet with excellent suggestions for going further in expressing gratitude to your donors and I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you as you come up with new ways to further engage your most valued supporters:
Send a welcome packet to new donors with information about the impact of their giving
Set up board members to make thank you calls to a few donors each month
Engage donors as volunteers, especially with direct contact with your organization’s participants and programs
The idea is to bring people closer to your organization. These small gestures can have a positive and lasting impact on your donor retention – keeping your donors year over year and increasing the level of their contributions.
You’ve made it through the busiest time of year for gift-giving! The ever-challenging journey of Year-End Fundraising might have thrown you a curveball or two, taken you down a path that wasn’t anticipated, or went exactly as planned with minimal hiccups.
Now comes the time for reflection.
Like any experience, it’s important to assess it before the memory becomes fuzzy. Below are some questions to get the juices flowing. So, gather your team and sit down to have a candid, eyes-wide-open conversation.
I recently facilitated a panel of development professionals at the statewide Arizona AFP Conference in Flagstaff to discuss the ins and outs of preparing for and launching a major campaign. The session reinforced best practices along with the creativity and flexibility needed to adapt to the bumps in the road that come with any campaign.
Between the panelists and myself, we brought about a dozen or two campaign experiences, a half billion dollars raised and more than a few stories of how campaigns truly bring out magical moments – from motivated donors and serendipity occurrences, to inspired board engagement and giving.
What is a major campaign?
As we got going, the panelists were nodding their heads as I got us all on board with the definition of a major campaign.
While presenting at a recent AFP lunch meeting, I asked the audience, “How many of you have at least a few board members engaged in your major gift fundraising efforts?” Not to my surprise, only a handful of the more than 100 fundraisers in the room raised their hands. Then I asked, “How many of your board members are passionate about your mission?” As you would imagine, everyone in the room raised their hand! So, how do we turn that passion into fundraising action? Here are a handful of tips and tools to get results: Continue reading “Five Tips: Engage Your Board in Major Gifts Fundraising”
Don’t we all agree that the most precious things in life are worthy of our best attention, effort and care? In the fundraising world, the most precious “things” are our donors and their philanthropic dollars.
Who among us has the luxury of a daily schedule that is just waiting to be filled with new ideas and activities? Nobody that we know! So let’s take 15 minutes – only one percent of our day – to ponder ways to work smarter and multiply the impact of our efforts, and benefit the most precious “things” – our donors!
How do you make sure that your donor stewardship is intentional, timely and effective? You need to plan for it! Wonderful ideas for individual stewardship activities, timelines and plans abound on the internet, so we aren’t going to reiterate them here. The idea we are offering is a strategy for multiplying the impact of your stewardship planning process by also using it as an engagement opportunity for key donors, staff and board members. Continue reading “Multiply Your Impact: Enlist Key Donors to Create a Meaningful Stewardship Plan”
For many organizations the year-end push yields a significant portion of annual giving. By November you’ve likely already planned your appeal, written your letters and booked your mail house, but have you planned for measuring your success and course-correcting any shortcomings? If not, we’ve pulled together a few tips to guide you on your quest for the Iron Throne, errr….I mean, for a successful year-end appeal!
This past week I was away from Seattle doing client work for a national organization with many programs around the country and the world. They are doing incredibly good work for a large number of people and have significant volunteer and donor support. Over the past four years they have seen a decline in their giving to one particular program and they are attempting to discover why—hence our firm’s involvement.
One of their affiliates arranged for two focus groups. The first was comprised of people who did not support this particular program, the second was comprised of people who did. It was a wonderful contrast of communication, style, personality, trust and values.
A common trait was that both groups are generous and both groups significantly give of their resources especially for local programs. I find it very rewarding to be around generous people: they know who they are; they know what they value; they care about the community, their neighbors and people they may never know. It was enjoyable to discuss the programs with both groups, who asked specific, well-stated questions.
Here are several things I discovered from these two groups:
Some people just need more information than others. The donor group was trusting and required little information to respond to the need. The non-donor group needed a lot of data and felt they were not getting it.
Some people judge an organization as a whole, while others are selective in their judgment. The non-donor group had larger issues with the national organization and although those issues did not relate to the program being discussed, it kept them from responding to the financial need. The donor group had the ability to put aside any issues they may have around other national policies or procedures and respond to this particular need.
“Connectivity” is different for different people. The individuals in the non-donor group felt more connected locally and wondered why a national connection was necessary. The donor group felt connections both locally and nationally. They valued being connected nationally because they, as individuals, could do even more and have greater impact on people’s lives, than they ever could as an individual or local group.
After the time spent with both groups, I also discovered the importance of leadership around these three observations. Leadership (staff and volunteer) needs to take the observations above to heart as they communicate with both donors and non-donors. Why are these programs important? Why must we respond to the need the programs are addressing? What is the impact now? What will be the impact in the future? Will you join with me and the many others in our organization who financially support these programs in giving what you can?
As you reflect on the ideas and observations here, let me or the other readers know your thoughts or experiences around donors and non-donors. I look forward to reading your comments.
Thank you to my colleague, Debbie Marchione, for her post last week on communications. A simple concept – yet often over looked. She illustrated that we have many ways to communicate these days and we need to do our best to take advantage of those communication lines.
Communications is an active process, a thoughtful process and even a deliberate process. It does not come easy and requires work on the part of the communicator and the receiver. For the most part we are the communicators seeking to give information to the receiver. The receiver is mostly passive and we may not be sure (unless we take Debbie’s advice) that our message is getting across to them.
Last summer I was at a meeting with other consultants listening to a panel presentation comprised of significant foundation executives. One of the representatives told a story that the only time he heard from any charity is when it wanted more money. No one ever talked with him to ask for advice or counsel, to give him updates on the last grant or to provide data or information in a general way on the issues an organization may be addressing by fulfilling its mission. In other words, communication was very “thin” and did not allow for relationships to be formed in a meaningful way.
About 25 years ago (before the computer age) I was attending a workshop at an AFP Conference and the late John Miltner, who at the time was the Vice Chancellor for University Relations at UC Irvine, was speaking about donor communications and relationship building. During the course of his talk he opened his briefcase and took out 50 four by six index cards and indicated that these cards represented the 50 most important donors to UC Irvine. At the time I thought to myself, “Do I know who my 50 most important donors are?”
On each card he had birth dates, anniversary dates, children’s names, addresses, phone numbers, the last contact date with the donor, the next contact date planned and who would be the contact leader from the University. UC Irvine probably had over 10,000 donors, yet these were the Top 50 and John kept them with him all the time, working the list and utilizing the Chancellor or a Dean to keep the lines of communication open on a one to one basis. John knew how to “keep in touch” with those who had made or could make significant contributions to his University.
Who are your Top 50 current or potential donors? How are you “keeping in touch” with them? Share your ideas and strategies so that others might learn from you. I look forward to your thoughts.