Practical Advice for Modern Fundraisers

Update from the 2018 AFP International Conference

What do your donors and prospects really think about your cause?

During the 2018 AFP International Conference, I was struck by the number of sessions that emphasized: "personal relationship" with your donors.  Now we have all been talking about being donorcentric for some time.  But these sessions were talking about really getting to know your donors at a different level. One example that Adrian Sargent gave was to use morality words to reinforce donors and prospects sense of themselves.  These are words like kind, hardworking, compassionate, caring, and thoughtful - you get the idea.

Another idea that floated around the conference was trying to be more targeted in your ask and appeals to what your readers already believe about your organization or what they want your organization to be.  Reinforcing already established beliefs makes your reader feel good about supporting your cause.  

Now the question becomes in our already hectic work life how do we figure out the morality of our donors and prospects,  and how do you figure out what people think of your cause?  Well, you have to ask them. There are many ways to do this, but I decided to try a survey. 

I sent an eight-question survey to a randomly selected group of our donors. We sent it via email using a popular survey tool.  It was designed to take no more than five minutes to complete.  I didn't expect to get a ton of responses, but I hoped to get a sense of who our donors are and what they thought about our organization.

And boy did I. We got a lot of great information from people including the words that they would use to describe themselves - the morality questions. Why they "believe" in the organization and what they felt the organization ought to be doing more of programmatically. Obviously, we only asked questions that were within the scope of what the organization already does or is planning to do it the future.   


We also asked for a couple of pieces of personal information. We asked their name, zip code and email - that was all.  
Now we are using what we found out to write copy and articles for the newsletter,  and decide who to invite to quarterly visit to our programs.  

We are looking forward to seeing how this new information affects our donations.  Also, it makes people feel good to be asked for their opinions.

Update from the 2018 AFP International Conference

Case for Support: Not Just for Big Campaigns

Leah Eustace - Blue Canoe Consulting 


The following is a recap of the first session of AFP International Conference, I attended on Cases for Support.


The essence of the presentation was that a good case for support focuses on the "WHY" not the "How."  We are again encouraged to put the donor at the center of the story.  If we use strong emotional language and good storytelling, then we will "sell" our campaign.
Speaking of campaigns many times we only think of Cases for Support regarding campaigns, but they are useful for general organizational support. In fact, I would say that a good case for support keeps us honest about who we are and what we are doing. It keeps us as Leah said "Singing off of the same song sheet."


She recommends a 5 to 6-page document as a start. This document can serve as the base for a longer case as well as an Annual Report, website, brochure or Gratitude Report. I could also see using it as the base for a Major Donor annual gift request.
Leah recommends the following seven parts to a case for support.

1. Emotional Powerful Opening ( You might want to write this last.)

2. Mission and vision

3. History of Impact (brief)

4. Problems that need solutions

5. Outcomes/solutions

6. Sense of urgency

7. Call to action

She also recommends, and I heartily agree that you should get your designer involved early. You may find that the design can help drive the project.  Your case shouldn't look and feel like a term paper or dissertation.  She actually drew a little schematic of the finished piece. You don't have to be a designer to do this you just need to figure out how many pages you want your case to be and then divide the seven parts among the pages. I would then add a couple of pages for attention-grabbing and emotional pictures.  Once you add the pictures your 5 to 6-page document might be 10 to 12 pages. 


The other big take away from the session was the following: If you need money, ask for advice. If you need advice ask for money.


If you would like the slides from this presentation click here.


I will be posting recaps of other sessions from the 2018 AFP International Conference in the future.

Looking back at last year's AFP International Conference while looking forward to this year's conference next month in New Orleans.

 

Live Blogging for AFP International Conference in San Francisco 

Here we go. The crowd at the Moscone Center is primed and ready to go.

 

Five Donor Love Languages: The Secret to Lasting Donor Retention

Tammy Zonker - Lead Speaker 
Major Gift Strategist, Trainer & Keynote Speaker - Fundraising Transformed

Here we go. It is all starting out well we got thank you letter and a cookie. Can't get better than that. Tammy

46% retention rate on average for nonprofits. What do they want / What do they say-
54% No longer afford to give
36% Other's more deserving 
15% Bad Communications
13% No Thank you
9% Don't remember making a gift
8% received no information on how their gift was used.
9% Charity doesn't need me

Knowing what donors want we could keep them and raise more money.

With that in mind, Tammy recommends looking to the self-help book 5 Languages of Love by Gary Chapman. In it, he gives five categories for doing things that show love.
1. Acts of Service
2. Words of Affirmation
3. Gifts of Appreciation
4. Physical Touch
5. Quality Time

Donor "love" is the cake, not the icing. LOVE is the Currency of lasting love.

She takes us through each of these but from a non-profit donor perspective. (She promised her slides would be posted soon, and then I'll attach them here.)

She takes us through each of the categories and show us how they would correlate to non-profits. She gives examples like:

"Acts of Love" include all forms of volunteering. This includes any hands-on opportunity to see the organization's mission in action.

"Words of Affirmation" include personalization on thank yous, handwritten notes, phone calls & board interaction. These include using sincere compliments, "Your" impact, non-monetary calls to action, and gratitude calls. Again, you can do this with handwritten notes, holiday cards, special moment cards, copies of meaningful articles with a note.

"Token of Appreciation" this one can be tricky it doesn't mean sending a set of address labels or some other premium that people may not want or need. These are tokens that are usually one-of-a-kind items created specifically for donors. It could be cards made by clients/participants or photo cards of a program that you know interest the donor.

"Quality Time" simply equals engagement. It must leave donors feels appreciated, create a better understanding of the mission, understand the "need," site visits, give them "inside" information.

You want all of your communications to be personal and show proof of impact.

These ideas can revolutionize the way you interact with donors.

Direct Response vs. Major Gifts: Overcoming the Culture Clash

Vicky Barrett-Putnam

Rachael Muir, CFRE

Mark Rovner, MBE

I can't wait to get into this subject. In my pre-session experience, these two functions have to work together. In fact, I have always felt that these are arbitrary categories that in most case mean more to us than they do to the donor.

This session turned you to be more about interpersonal relationships between staff than about specific techniques to increase Direct Response or Major Gift. Now in all honesty, if there is a better relationship between these departments you will make more donors happy and leave less money on the table.

It all comes down to creating an environment that is not competitive, but that prompts mutual success. That means looking at evaluations and cross-department education. As the head of your department if you treat Direct Response as a second class citizen then your staff will too. In an ideal situation, a donor can pass seamlessly through your giving processes without the donor is aware of the shifting.

The donor gives to the best of their ability or at the level they think you expect them to based on your mission and your ability to share that mission. They don't give by the department. As leaders, we have to stop pitting these areas against each other and support them equally.

Your Comments

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How many eyes does a typical person have?

 

 

 

Are you thoughtful in your acknowledgment process? 

Every year at this time I like to remind people that this is the perfect time to review your acknowledgment process. Do you do enough? Is it possible to do too much?

First and foremost every donor should get a letter that acknowledges their gift. At a minimum, it must include the amount of the gift and a statement telling if any "goods or services" were exchanged for the gift. That isn't my rule it's the IRS's rule.

We produce seven different letters; New Gift, $.1 - $99, $100 - $249, $250 - $499, $500 - $999, $1,000 and up, Special Letters.

Every new donor gets a welcome letter that also serves as their thank you letter. Ideally, this would be two different letters, but for the sake of expediency, we combine those letters. This system works out ok because mid-level and major donors get additional contacts via phone, email or a handwritten letter.

A different letter is sent depending on the gift's level. Each letter is different and each one emphasis the donor's role in helping the organization fulfill its mission. Also the higher level donors get live signed letters. The lower levels get digital signatures on their letters. We also try and put personal notes on as many of the letters as time allows.

Donor's giving $1,000 or more get a totally different letter that is signed with the board chair's name. This one is the most personal. Finally, we have special letters these are written when a gift is exceptional, unexpected or different in some way.

We produce over 10,000 letters a year the largest number during the year-end season. We could not do this if our CRM / donor database didn't allow us to automate the process. But even if you don't have full automation you can still do a great deal with a spreadsheet and a word processor.

What else do we do? Well as I mentioned before we send personal notes and make phone calls to donors. Besides their thank you letters, donors who give at $250 to $999 get a personal phone call, and donors at the $1,000 level and above get a handwritten note and possibly a special letter.

Every individual giving program is different, but one thing that should be the same for everyone is thanking your donors.

Any Thoughts?

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Short Thoughtful Post

It Occurs To Me

May 21, 2018

At Blackbaud's Vision Marketing day I saw a great presentation by Steve MacLaughlin on may things including on Donor Pyramids and how we should be thinking about moving our donors from one level to the next.  I plan on bringing my take on this concept and approach to the THOUGHTFUL APPROACH next month.  Be on the lookout for it.

April 14, 2018

I am getting ready for the 2018 AFP International Conference in New Orleans.  There are a number of great sessions that I want to recap for you. Look for the first one on Cases for Support the week of 4/23. I'll do my best to keep them coming after that one on a regular basis. 

January 11, 2018

If your fiscal year ends on December 31st how long do you keep the books open so that you can collect every dollar that is meant for the previous year?  I usually hold the books for three weeks. If a check comes in dated after December 31st then we count it in the new year.

December 15, 2017

Do you have your thank you letters ready?  If not you had better get started. Acknowledgement letters are just as important as your solicitations. Do you put as much thought into them? 

October 11, 2017

It is time to make sure your plans for "GIVING TUESDAY" are all set. Here is a link to a previous blog post on the subject. 

What's up with Giving Tuesday

Enjoy and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment here. 

September 5, 2017

What do you think? Will the deserved generosity being shown to victims of Harvey affect year-end giving to none hurricane related charities? My thoughtful opinion is that those who have supported your organization for a couple of years will still support your year-end appeals. I do believe there will be weakening in the renewal rates of your newest acquisitions. As for this year's acquisitions, these will be soft. How soft is the question? Some of the softness may depend on how close to the affected area you are located. But I will certainly thoughtfully adjust my goals with all of this is mind.

August 1, 2017

August is a great time to review your stewardship program. We all know it is important to thank our donors but do you have a strategic stewardship program.  What I mean by "strategic" is one that thanks, donors appropriately based their donor level. It should also acknowledge things like a first gift, increased gifts, and multiple gifts. Does yours do this?  I also recommend handwritten notes and phone calls for donors at certain levels.  Here is a link to a post last year about thanking donors for your review.

June 5, 2017

Fundraising Day New York (FRDNY) is only a couple of weeks away and it looks like it will be another great day.  I will be blogging from the event. I anticipate writing about 4 sessions. The goal is to pick sessions that cover a few specific topics - cultivation, planning and, of course, technology.

This is always such a great conference and one of the great resources of the day is the exposition.  I always get great ideas and if a vendor you use is presenting at the conference it is a great time to meet them in person. Don't let this opportunity pass you buy.  If you are in the New York area I hope you get a chance to attend FRDNY.

May 18, 2017

 

It was great being a part of today's AFP Workshop on Direct Mail.  It is always a pleasure to share advice and ideas with other fundraisers. During the workshop, we talked about everything from acquisition to thank you letters. Yes, Thank you letters. Sometimes when we think of direct mail we only think of the "Ask, " but the "Thank-You" is just as important.  Don't ignore the second part of any ask the thank you.  You can not thank people too often or in too many ways. So take a few minutes today to review your thank you process.

April 14, 2017

 

We will be live blogging from the AFP International Conference in San Francisco. Last year, this was one of the most popular blogs so don't miss it. It should be a great conference there are a lot of great sessions. The first post will hit late on Sunday, April 30th. I'll be sending a reminder on Monday, May 1st so look out for the email.

 

February 17, 2017

How did your year-end appeal turn out?  What was your retention rate and attrition rate? These two rates are just as important as knowing how much money you raised. If you don't track these you might want to do so. You will be surprised by what you find.Or hopefully, you won't be surprised.

November 9, 2016

So the election is over. We have a winner and a loser. Putting basic politics aside will the results change your Year-End giving results? So far the markets are looking like they will stabilize and  millions of people are happy about the results. Well, millions are also scared.

I wonder if your results will depend on where your charity is located. I work in a very Blue part of my state and my charity only works in that area. What if you work in a very red part of the country. Will you do better or worse?

Also, will the election change average donors,mid-level donors or major donors more? What do you think? I don't have any answers myself and unfortunately, I won't know until January when the year-end result are tallied. Please click on the comments section of the site to leave your thoughts.

October 17, 2016

October is half over so I hope your Year-End Appeal is past the planning stages. By now you should have at least updated your base Acquisition Appeal materials and be well on the way with your renewal appeal. List should be have been chosen and the process of renting them should be underway.

If you are not this far along - no worries- take a deep breath and dive in. You'll get it all done but why not calendar out 2017 to give yourself more time to plan and write.

September 1, 2016

So you made it to September. I know it seems like August is the longest month in the year. It precedes what is the for all practical purposes the shortest two months - November and December. So much of our fundraising year depends on the out come of those two months. So Sepetember and October are all about prep work. In fact, I would say that September is the most important month because by the time October gets here all your year-end work needs to be complete. If those "Giving Tuesday", Year-End Appeals and follow-ups are going out on time your September is going to be quite busy. What do you think?

June 17, 2016

I'll be live blogging from FRDNY so tune in. As always, this is a great day.

May 16, 2016

The next blog is will be posted on 5/23 don't miss it.

March 9, 2016

We will be blogging from the AFP International Conference in Boston starting on March 20. The Thoughtful Approach to... blog will be updated daily after the last session but we will be tweeting during the conference. Be sure to follow us at @thoughtfulappro and to check the main blog each day.

Just 11 days and counting until the fun begins.

2015 Notes

December 2, 2015

So you survived GIVING TUESDAY, now what? Well, it is not the time to start planning for next year. Nope, it is time to take a page from retail and follow up with people.

Let us assume you sent and email to all of your prospects, constituents and donors. If you used any of the primary email systems like Mail Chimp, Raiser’s Edge, Patron Mail et. al. you can pull a list of people who opened your email but did not click on the donate link.

I’d recommend emailing all of those people today to thoughtfully remind them that they can still make a gift to your organization. Rather like the "Your Carts Not Empty" emails some retailers send when you pick out times but do not complete a sale on their sites.

Try it you have nothing to loose. Just don’t be obvious about how you know they visited your site. Treat the email as a reminder ask. Sell the "why" of your organization.

Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.

 

October 2015

Well, the feed back on my two part series on videos has been great. I know that a lot of people were interested in the subject but I had no idea just how many. I look forward to hearing more from people who decided to add videos to there annual appeal and those who changed their mind.

But what about those annual appeals? Are you ready and where are you putting your emphasis on acquisition, renewal, lapsed or what exactly? I have decided that renewal should get the bulk of your time as for money acquisition always eats that up.

 

September 2015

So in a little more than two months your annual appeal will drop- right? We'll have you thought about how to use videos as a part of the overall appeal. The right video can be embedded in your website and tied to a Google ad, posted to your Facebook Page and on Twitter. You should even be able to add it right to your email appeal. Just about the only thing you can not do with it is mail it. Unless you create a QR code for the video and include that in your mailing. Just a thought.

But what qualifies as a successful video. I would say like many things in fundraising you won't know know if you have gotten right until the appeal is over and you look at the analytics and crunch some numbers. But you can see what like agencies are doing and take a chance pick up the phone and call a colleague. In fact, my thoughtful tip isn't really about videos it is when in doubt call a colleague. That and read my September post about best practices concerning videos.

 

August 2015

-How ready is your Annual Appeal? Yes, I know it is August but if you want them to drop before Thanksgiving you should have already gotten started. Remember acquisition, renewal, lapsed donor, major gift and e-solicitations need to all work seamlessly - don't you think?

Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.

-The shared articles section has gotten the second largest number of hits of any area on the site. Thank you. If you have article suggestions please leave it in a comment.

July 2015

I have gotten a lot of great feedback on the TedTalk video on pecking order. What were your thoughts?

Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.

 

 

 

 

Thoughtful Stewardship

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