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.

 

 

 

 

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.

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