AFP International Conference

Well, the AFP Conference is off to a great start. So many people from around the country and the world.  My goal is to write up blog post during the day and then post each evening.  I hope you will give me wide breadth on typos. I will go back through the post when I get back to NYC and clean them up. Ok, I am off to my first session.

BTW-  Be sure to tweet me at @thoughtfulappro if you are here. Or drop me a note at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Sunday, March 20, 2016

First Timers Orientation

This was a great session to simply get a feel for who was attending the conference and why. It was nice to meet people from every level of fundraising from all over the place.

I was amazed at the array of title and job descriptions that fundraisers use. As I talked to people, it seemed that almost everyone's job boiled down to just three area - Individual Giving, Foundation Support and Events. Of course, within each of those, there are lots of jobs. At any rate, it is too bad there is not some standard every organization should follow. If all the titles are a little confusing to me, imagine how confusing it could be to a donor or prospect.

The Art and Science of Fundraising Persuasion

Anne Melvin

This was a great session so glad I got there early to get a seat. Lots of people were locked out literally - the room reached capacity.

She started off reminding us that the ultimate goal id to get people to say yes. But how? On a twist on the old saying, persuasion is about the fact that you can not make a horse drink, but you can make it thirsty. Our job as fundraisers is to make our prospects thirsty.

This presentation uses the book entitled "Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways To Be Persuasive." We will only look a few of the 50, but she recommends that more of the ways could be helpful to fundraisers.

Each of these scientific ways will be paralleled by the art involved in being persuasive. I will just be talking about the art mostly.

LIKING: Being "likable" increases your the amount and number of gifts you can raise. Well, that I would assume is obvious. No fundraiser tries to be "unlikable." But being likable is hard and requires planning and an understanding of psychology.

You can appear more likable by mirroring your prospect. You can do this by just matching your prospects language both spoken and body. But you have to be authentic - that is the hard part.

SOCIAL PROOFS: You have to understand your prospect's motivations and how your organizations fit into those motivations. You can use both positive and negative motivations. Obviously, positive works better.

Example from the science side. The Home Shopping Network has found that they sell more products by telling people that all the operators are busy and you may have to call back then to say that "Operators are Waiting." If they are "waiting" then I guess no one is buying the advertised product. "So why would I want to buy it?"

The most obvious example of positive language are testimonials. But not just general testimonials. You need to match the testimonials to the audience you are trying to reach. The example she used was that your pet shelter might not want to use a photo of a chic expensively dressed women standing by her pool in front of a BIG house with her dog in a mailing to your average level donors. It is hard to relate to the women in the photo.

People like being a part of a movement of other donors. A Box Chart will show donors what has already been done. They want to join in. We will come back to this in scarcity.

A great sentence that I plan on using in my planned giving campaign to small long-term donors is - " Many donors who give like you have added us to their will; what are your thoughts about doing this?." Great huh!

RECIPROCITY: Doing something for someone because they did something so they will do something for you - creating an obligation to your organization and the donor/prospect. There were three important things to remember for this one -
Significance - A thank you letter followed by the second letter from a board member or a volunteer.
Unexpected - A handwritten note following a "significant" thank you letter.
Personalization - A phone call to follow up after the note.

Remember this is not a one-time thing you must do. The thank you notes are fine but for major donors and Planned Giving prospects need regular and significant touchpoints

COMMITMENT AND CONSISTENCY: The simplest form of this is a written pledge. Who cares how it comes the important thing is that it is tangible. You can also tie Advisory group members and volunteers closer to the organization by asking them to do real work and then documenting that work as part of the organization's fundraising/marketing plan.

AUTHORITY: People look to experts to show them the way - have to be those experts for charitable giving. There are simple things we can do to be perceived as an authority. Many are cosmetic like dressing the part. Being properly dressed can go a long way to make a donor/prospect trust you. In fact, When it comes to your trust and believability quotient 55% depends on how you appear to the other person, 38% is based on what you sound like and what you said only counted for 7%. Surprising right.

SCARCITY: The less there is of something there is the more we want it. Remember when Twinkies were going to stop being made and they were on eBay for thousands of dollars. Spend a google look Box Chart; I mentioned earlier. It is a great way to subtlety let prospects know that the opportunity they are interested in may not be available if they do not move now. An example: "If you make a $100,000 gift , it will be matched making your total gift equal to $200,000." But what about this instead -" We only have a 20% of the challenge grant money left and a number of people are considering these gifts. Would you be willing to make your $100,000 gift now to qualify for the match." Not subtle but persuasive.

If you are an AFP member, I believe you can access the slides for the presentation and learn about the other modes of persuasion that were discussed at this link.  

Relationship Fundraising: Where Do We Go From Here?

Ian MacQuillin

Jay Love
Rachel Muir

The first three speakers were great and were the perfect lead-in to Adrain Sargent. If you don't know his work, then shame on you. There are usually a couple of videos by him in the video share section of this blog.

Critical Fundraising - Ian
Under-researched and Under-Thought.

Our field simply has not been studied enough considering the vast amounts of time and money involved in fundraising and philanthropy. We need more people creating reliable data. Data will inform how we do things. At the same time, our thought leaders need to expand their conversations about how we do what we do.

Relationship Marketing - Jay
He started off with some great quotes the one that struck me hardest was "Everything we know about how to build a good relationship with a parent or friend we can apply to fundraising." How true and how awkward depending on how well we do those first two things.

He broke our world down to 4 stages.

Now I have heard lots of people use similar words to describe how we build donor relationships - or should I say relationships that happen to end in support.

We were asked to remember that most donors give THROUGH us not TO us. An important distinction that many fundraisers miss.

We should also remember that many people only want a transactional relationship with our organizations. These people make their gift appreciate their thank you note and the cultivation material they receive, but they have NO DESIRE to talk to you or meet with you. And that is ok. Others want a real relationship. The trick is knowing who is who. The best way to do this is to listen to what the donor says and follow the donors wishes. But remember that sometimes people change their minds.

The early relationship stages - Rachel Muir

Stage 1 - Awareness
Share information about each other invite them to share something they value. Something like their story. Try to figure out what will inspire the donor/prospect. Your organization can begin to share newsletters and cultivation materials but be respectful.

Stage 2 - Exploration
This stage is the creation of a relationship between you and the donor. The donor begins to feel something for the organization. Try methods like introducing beneficiaries to donors. This can be done in writing, in person or through video.

She brought out something that I have heard a good deal during the conference is the use of the "YOU" and phrases that refer to the donor. Important phrases like -

She also spent time talking about the use of surveys to gather information about donors and prospects.

The question you need to answer in the exploration stage is what will inspire the donor.

Deepening the relationship

He started off reminding us that some people do not want to have a relationship with your organization - at least not at this time.

You should try and figure out how well you fulfill the donors' needs. Try to shift your focus from what the donor means to the organization to what your relationship means to the donor. Measure the quality of your relationship - in other fields we would call this Customer Lifetime Value.

How does one measure quality? What is the donor's satisfaction with fundraising? What is their commitment to your programs Do the donors trust that you are doing the best job for your beneficiaries?

He gave examples of newsletters that went from an internal "WE" focus to an external "YOU" focus. The one he showed increased giving from $4,470 to $49,600. It is rather hard to disagree with that kind of success.

Showing the donor that your organization feels about them the way they feel about themselves. We seek to validate each other.

How people see themselves now but also into the future. People want to be seen as almost SAINT like. Our job is to help them feel that way through the support they provide our organizations.

People should not feel like they have lost anything by giving a gift but instead, they should feel that they have gained something by their support.

Don't forget to get the slides for this presentation by clicking here.  

 Monday, March 21, 2016

Loverizing: The lucrative Difference, a Few Well Chosen Words, will Make in Your Donor Communications

Tom Ahern

The session started off with what might be obvious - The write words are easy it is getting to use the right words that is hard. Whether it is your ED or fundraising director or a Board member sometimes getting them to change how they view your written materials is difficult. The use of organization-centric language is deeply inbred in our language usage. Changing that dynamic is hard. As the writer of fundraising materials, it is our job to push that envelope. Once your donations start to increase -some- of the doubter will come around.

Tom explains why "Loverizing" because if you love your donors, they will love you.

We need to see through the donor prism. The example Tom gave was the "Because of you ... " letter. The example shows us ways to deinstitutionalize our language. It includes language like- "Because you our beloved donor or Because of all that I am writing to thank you." See the handouts for full examples.

At it's basic our job is to keep the customer happy. It is important to remember that the industry average is that 8 out of 10 new donors will not renew. What do we do about that? We create a first-time donor contact schedule. What materials will your first-time donors get from you and on what schedule? There should be more emphasis put on connecting with these donors. We need to let them know how important they are to us as people not just as a donation.

Tom shared a Seth Godin blog post called "the story's about the donor."

He also reminded us to try to understand who we are writing to the image he showed us. It looked like a mid-life slightly affluent white women. What does she want and what do we need to do - She needs to sustain the good feeling that giving the gift gave her. People want to be helpful then it is about how they expect to be treated by you. How they feel based our their treatment determines if a second gift will be forthcoming.

Tom suggested that we ask ourselves - "are you hogging the credit or giving it to your donor?" Structure the language you use so that the donor gets credit for the success of your organization.

The website example Tom showed had wonderful information about the doctors, staff and even the board. And if you looked way down in one corner there was a little something about donating and donors. As his next slide showed, this type of language can make charities look like egotistical maniacs. Me Me Me Me!

Tom then quoted Jen Sheng, who recommends making the donor the hero of your organization’s story.

He gave a list of adjectives that Ms. Sheng stated are how donors see themselves ( again these are available here) they include kind, caring helpful fair generous and honest. Tom recommended that we ought to say these words back to our supporters.

“We can’t really over do loving the donor”

One way of thinking about these concepts is the following:

“We did this. We did that. We are amazing. Oh, by the way thanks.”

“with your help, all these amazing things happened. And without your help, they won’t.”

He concluded this section by reminding us to- “Say it loud. Say it proud.

Tom also spent some time talking about the use of negative imagery and wording. I found this interesting as I have always felt that success breeds success. But I can see how fro some organization’s that work with nature, it might be successful. Statistically, he showed that a photo of a sad child photo got a much better response then a photo of a happy child. I think one just has to be careful to always show the possibility of the happy child.

I did some work with an organization that did an entire sad child campaign where the agency was the “hero” of each child’s story. This campaign did not do well for them. In fact, a number of donors complained and the response from the acquisition prospects was very negative. I wonder though if each child story had been visually balanced with a happy result if it would have done better. Have any of you had similar experiences, if so, please leave comments?

The rest of the presentation showed examples of shifting Donor-NEGLIGENT materials into Donor-CENTRIC materials. He walked us through websites and newsletters and emails.

There is a great deal more, but I would recommend that you download the slides and if you ever get the chance hear Tom Ahern speak. You should also follow his blog.