Posts tagged ‘donor suggestions’

March 18, 2014

Get More Repeat Gifts: The Rule of 7 Thank Yous

Donor retention is a worsening problem for the American nonprofit sector, according to Jon Biedermann, Vice President of DonorPerfect. In 2011, only half of first-time donors to a charity could be counted on to make a second gift. As bad as that retention rate was, it dropped to 49 percent in 2012.

Something must be done.

It’s challenging and expensive to acquire first-time donors. Charities must do a better a job of hanging on to those donors. Cost-efficient annual fund campaigns as well as major and planned giving efforts depend on loyal donors.

MG Fundraising CoverFortunately, guest blogger Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE  offers a simple idea that can help: “The Rule of Seven Thank Yous.” Her rule will help you retain first-time donors, loyal donors, small donors, and major donors — in other words, all donors.

Amy is an author, speaker, coach and fundraising consultant who’s dedicated to making nonprofit development simple for you and your board. Her books include 50 A$ks in 50 Weeks and Raising More with Less.

In her current Amazon bestseller, Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops, Amy takes the complex subject of major gift fundraising and distills it down to its essential elements. The book provides a clear, methodical approach that any organization can follow. Great tips, real-world stories, check lists, sample forms, and more make this a book that you will keep on your desk and refer to often, that is if you want to raise more money than you might have thought possible.

I’m happy to share Amy’s advice about how to more effectively retain donors. Here’s what Amy Eisenstein says:

There are two main reasons that donors, including those who make major gifts, provide for not making a repeat contribution:

1. They didn’t feel thanked; and/or

2. They were never told how their first gift was used.

Fortunately, the answer to this dilemma is a simple one: donors give because doing so makes them feel good. This includes feeling appreciated for their gift and knowing that their check has fed more children, cleaned the environment, or in whatever way has made a measurable, positive difference to a cause they care about.

Your job, no matter how large or small your budget, is to make sure your donors are satisfied on both counts. Over the course of working with dozens of nonprofit organizations, I’ve developed a simple process to help you do just that whenever you receive a major gift.

You may have heard that you should thank a donor seven times before asking for another gift. Here is my version of “The Rule of Seven Thank Yous” works:

1. Thank the donor at the ask meeting (once they say “yes”).

2. Have a board member call to say thank you after the meeting.

3. Send a tax-receipt thank-you letter within forty-eight hours of receiving the gift.

4. Have the executive director write a thank-you card as a follow-up to the ask meeting. 

September 20, 2013

I’m Sorry

Eventually, we will all do something for which we need to apologize. So, it’s essential that we all know the right way to do it.

Unfortunately, one of my readers reminded me recently that many people find it extremely difficult to say simply, “I’m sorry.” She told me about a secular charity that had scheduled an event to be held during Yom Kippur, the holiest holiday for the Jewish people.

Sorry by butupa via FlickrIf the nonprofit organization with the bad scheduling sense was based in North Dakota, there might not have been much of a problem. However, the charity is based in Philadelphia, home to a large and philanthropic Jewish community.

Ironically, the organization’s mission honors an individual who pioneered religious and ethnic tolerance in America.

My reader emailed the charity to alert it to the conflict, to let it know she would not be attending this year despite having attended in the past, and to express her displeasure with the organization’s scheduling decision.

Here is the response my reader received via email:

The choice of this date was not meant to offend anyone or exclude anybody. This event has been held on this weekend since its inception. . . .

[We] apologize for any offense you may take from us scheduling these events on Friday and Saturday.”

Let’s closely examine the message.

Regardless of whether or not the organization intended to cause offense, it did. The scheduling mistake was either a result of outright intent or oblivious carelessness. By excluding an important part of its donor base for this once-a-year event, the charity caused offense.

The nonprofit organization further offended my reader by lying to her in the email response. The charity claims the event has been “held on this weekend since its inception.” However, as someone who has attended the event in the past, my reader knows otherwise. She documented for me that, in recent years, the organization has hosted the event on a variety of different weekends. Even if the organization’s statement were true, it’s still no excuse for failing to consider a different date.

The person who responded to my reader then concluded by apologizing “for any offense you may take.” That’s not an apology! It’s a deflection. With this statement, the organization has not taken responsibility for its actions. Instead, of taking responsibility for causing offense, the charity put the blame on the donor who took offense.

July 12, 2013

6 Ways to Run Your Fundraising Efforts Like an Ice-Cream Parlor

[PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Michael J. Rosen, CFRE will be presenting "How to Launch and Market a Planned Giving Program at Your Nonprofit," a webinar for the Fundraising Authority on July 25. A podcast will be available following the webinar. To learn more and to register, click HERE.]

Based on the headline of this post, you might be wondering: “Why should I run my fundraising efforts like an ice-cream parlor?”

Fair enough. I might have ice cream on my mind because it’s been so consistently hot in Philadelphia this summer. While we’re not setting any local records, we’ve Little Baby's Ice Creamstill had more heat and humidity than I like. So, yes, my thoughts have been turning increasingly to ice cream. But, not just any ice cream. Great ice cream.

As I have thought about my favorite ice-cream place in Philly, Little Baby’s Ice Cream, I got to thinking that a lot of their philosophy could help nonprofits raise a lot more money from happier donors.

So, let me share six ideas inspired by Little Baby’s Ice Cream that can definitely enhance your fundraising efforts:

1. Give people what they want. On a typical day, Little Baby’s sells a dozen, or more, unusual flavors of super-premium dairy ice cream and non-dairy coconut-milk based “ice cream.” Some of the inventive flavors include: Cardamom Caramel, Coffee Toffee, Earl Grey Sriracha, Peanut Butter Maple Tarragon, Chipotle Chocolate, Balsamic Banana, and even Pizza flavor. Well, one day, I planned to buy some, but I also wanted to taste every single flavor they were offering.

So, I asked the gent behind the counter if I could have a taste of every flavor. He smiled at my enthusiasm, and told me it wouldn’t be a problem. Then, he started cheerfully serving up small spoonfuls of creamy heaven.

Contrast that with an experience I had many years ago at a TCBY frozen yogurt store. I told the person behind the counter that I wanted to buy a cone but was torn between two flavors. I asked for a tiny taste. I was told, “I’m sorry. It’s not our policy to give out tastes.” I responded, “Well, it’s not my policy to buy a frozen yogurt without knowing whether I’ll like it.” After a chilly but polite exchange, I walked away without buying anything, and I never again entered a TCBY store.

Here’s the take-away for charities: If it’s in your power and it costs little or nothing to make a donor’s wish come true, take advantage of the opportunity to put a smile on your donor’s face. It’s a great way to begin and build a relationship. The more often you can give prospects and donors what they want, the more likely they will be to feel good about your organization. If they feel good, they’ll be more likely to give, continue giving, and give more.

For some ideas about what donors want and don’t want, read my post “8 Valuable Insights from a Major Donor.”

2. Provide options. At Little Baby’s, they offer many flavors, both dairy and non-dairy. You can get your favorite flavor in a cone or cup. You can get it as a milkshake or ice-cream sandwich. You can even buy pints. You can eat in. You can take out. You don’t even have to go to their store; you can get their products at select retailers or at festivals the Little Baby’s cart attends.

When you provide options for your prospects and donors, you engage with them on their terms. You also give them a dimension of control that will make them feel more comfortable. So, give your prospects and donors choices. For example, on the “Contact” page of your website, allow folks to communicate with you via a form on the web page. In addition, give people the option of contacting you in other ways by providing your mailing address, email address, and phone number. By the way, provide the actual name of a person for them to contact as well.

Another way to give people options is to include your donation web page URL in your direct mail appeal along with a response envelope. Some people might prefer giving online rather than by mail.

While you certainly do not want to overwhelm people with too many choices, providing some options will make your prospects and donors more willing to engage. Be flexible and accommodating. People will appreciate it.

3. Be friendly. At Little Baby’s, my extreme request to taste every single flavor was met with a cheerful, friendly response. The guy behind the counter could Little Baby's Ice Creamhave rolled his eyes in annoyance, sighed at the extra effort required, or told me no. But, that’s not what happened. Instead, he appreciated my excitement and reflected it back.

This gave us the opportunity to talk about the product, how it’s made, where it’s distributed, and more. In other words, the staff’s friendliness created an environment to build our relationship. I felt so good about the experience that my wife and I even helped convince some retailers to carry Little Baby’s products.

Yes, donors can call us at inopportune times. Board members can be demanding. Prospects can be full of questions. But, these are not interruptions to our work. This is our work. If you’re friendly and helpful to your prospects and donors, they’ll reciprocate. Even if you’re dealing with an angry prospect or donor, simply being friendly and professional can sometimes be enough to soothe the person.

April 5, 2013

If You Don’t Care About Them, Why Will They Care About You?

A reader of Michael Rosen Says… recently contacted me with her/his own unfortunate experience with a nonprofit organization. S/he provided me with a copy of an email exchange s/he had with a theater company. I’m going to share this person’s story with you because it contains a worthwhile lesson about the importance of reciprocity.

Photo by Shira Golding via FlickrBefore I get to the story, however, I want you to know that I am editing the emails for brevity and any identifying information. I’m protecting the name of the theater company, the name of the Managing Director of the theater company, and the reader who contacted me because neither party knew, at the time, their one-on-one communications would find their way into the press.

From time to time, I write about the blunders that some nonprofit organizations make. I’ve done this, not to shame them, but so others can learn from someone else’s mistakes. It is much less painful if we learn from someone else’s missteps rather than our own.

The story begins when my reader — let’s call her/him “Sam” — received an email from a theater company. Sam, who had purchased two season subscriptions, immediately opened the email. The message promoted an interesting lecture by a well-regarded nonprofit leader in the community. The lecture dealt with leadership and tied-in with the company’s current play.

The event appealed to Sam. Just before clicking through to the organization’s website to accept the invitation and purchase tickets, Sam noticed the date of the lecture: Monday, March 25. Unfortunately, this meant that Sam would not be able to attend because that date was the first night of Passover, an important Jewish holiday.

Annoyed that the theater company would schedule a special one-time program on Passover, Sam wrote to the theater company:

Disappointing scheduling of an otherwise appealing, academic lecture.

So, add this to your discussion: Does a good (nonprofit) leader ‘dis’ a large portion of the region’s top arts patrons through thoughtless event scheduling?

We’ll be celebrating first Seder.

We really would have enjoyed hearing the address on this topic. The speaker is a dynamo.

Sam”

The theater’s Managing Director responded the next business day. This was very good. The Managing Director did the smart thing by responding soon after receiving the complaint:

Dear Sam,

Thanks very much for writing. I’m very sorry for the scheduling inconvenience. We truly do our best, but we present special events all season long and it is not possible to avoid all holidays on the calendar. For example, this event takes place on the first night of Passover, we have a performance of XXXXXXX on Easter, etc.

If you’re interested in history, I hope you’ll consider joining us for the talk on Monday, April 1 with ZZZZZZZZ. He’s truly fantastic.

All best,

Fran”

The response was good in three ways:

1. A high-level person sent an immediate, personal response.

2. The message contained an apology.

3. The author suggested another program that the individual might enjoy.

Unfortunately, the goodwill these positive points might have earned was largely negated by the defensive and dismissive tone of the email. Sam responded:

March 29, 2013

What Can Your Nonprofit Learn from a Fortune Cookie?

Have you ever had a Thai fortune cookie?

Until recently, I never even knew they existed. Over the years, I’ve eaten more than my share of Chinese fortune cookies. However, I had never experienced the Thai variety.

Thai Fortune CookieBefore anyone comments below, let me just say that I’m completely aware that Chinese fortune cookies are not really Chinese. They’re Chinese-American with possible Japanese roots. As for Thai fortune cookies, I have no idea where they were invented. But, they’re certainly tasty. They’re crunchy, flaky, light as air, toasted coconut goodness in the form of a little tube wrapped around a parchment-like fortune.

Anyway, my wife brought some Thai fortune cookies home one evening. While I was enjoying one of the cookies, I read the fortune it had contained:

Feeling gratitude without expressing it, is like wrapping a gift without giving it.” 

I immediately recognized that my cookie contained a valuable lesson for all nonprofit organizations. If we want to build strong relationships and secure passionate philanthropic support for our  organizations, we must thank our supporters and show gratitude.

I know you’re grateful when someone gives your organization money. But, beyond a simple thank you letter, do you do anything to show your gratitude?

Henri Frederic Amiel, a 19th century philosopher and poet, commented on the difference between thankfulness and gratitude:

Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”

Some nonprofit organizations do a better job than others when it comes to expressing gratitude. Unfortunately, as a sector, we have a long way to go. We can and should be doing much more.

October 26, 2012

5 Fundraising Lessons from a 10-Year-Old and UNICEF

As Halloween approaches, I’m reminded of my childhood years trick-or-treating. I was good at bringing home a huge haul of candy. And, I was also pretty good at collecting money.

Let me explain.

In elementary school, my teacher distributed UNICEF boxes to students. I think I was around 10-years-old when I received my first orange-and-black box. The colors of the box immediately caught my attention because they just happened to be our school colors.

When my teacher explained that UNICEF helps children in need around the world, my friends and I were revved-up to help by raising money from our neighbors.

Collecting for UNICEF was not my first fundraising experience, but it did teach me five valuable lessons that continue to serve me well all these many decades later:

To get, you have to ask.

As a kid, I knew I had two choices on Halloween; I could 1) sit at home and not have any candy, or 2) put on a costume, knock on doors, and ask for candy. Even as a 10-year-old, it didn’t take much effort to figure out that if I wanted to eat candy, I had to get off my rear-end, and go ask for it.

Well, the same principle applied to UNICEF. If I wanted to have money in my box to help kids in need when I returned to school, I’d have to ask for it.

I think you’ll agree that I discovered a pretty simple principle. But, if it’s so simple, why do so many development professionals avoid asking?

At one major, prestigious university medical school, the major gift officers would not get out from behind their desks to go visit prospective donors. Sure, they’d go on the road occasionally, but they never saw as many alumni as they could or should have. To solve the problem overnight, the head of advancement got rid of the offices. Yes, it was an extreme move. No, it was not a particularly elegant solution.

The thinking was that the major gift officers couldn’t hide in their offices if there were no offices. When they were on-campus, they could work in a bullpen to set appointments. Without an office or even a desk of their own, being on campus wasn’t very comfortable. So, some of the major gift officers quit while the others went out and started asking more people for donations. The school started raising much more money.

Give first.

When my teacher distributed the UNICEF boxes, she explained what the organization would do with the money. Then, she asked us if we would agree to raise money to help kids in need. When we all agreed, the teacher added something else. She said that she wanted us to ask others to give only after we had donated first. She told us that we couldn’t expect others to support UNICEF if we weren’t willing to do so.

Peter Benoliel, Chairman-Emeritus of Quaker Chemical, is a generous philanthropist and recipient of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Philadelphia’s Legacy Award for Planned Giving Philanthropist. In my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, I share five suggestions Benoliel offered to development professionals to help make them more effective. One of his suggestions was that “staff and volunteer fundraisers should be morally armed by making their own donation first.”

It was a great lesson to learn early. When I was standing in a neighbor’s doorway with my orange-and-black box, I was able to say something like, “I’ve donated what I can to UNICEF. Can you please give something to help needy kids, too?” There was no way an adult was going to say “No” to a little kid after that.

September 14, 2012

How Would You Like to Win a Free Cookie?

The job of every nonprofit development professional is to build solid relationships.

That’s what distinguishes fundraising from begging. The more engaged prospective donors are, the far more likely they will be to become supporters. The stronger the relationship with donors, the more likely they will be to give again and give more.

In the performing arts world, effective engagement is also important because, in addition to the performance product, it can lead to ticket sales.

The development and marketing people at A Noise Within Theater Company in Pasadena, California understand the importance of solid engagement and strong relationships. They also understand the power of a tasty cookie.

Let me just make two points perfectly clear:

 

  1. I’m not talking about just any cookie. I’m talking about a delicious cookie from Wildflour Bakery in Sierra Madre.
  2. I’m not the one awarding the free cookie. The creative minds at A Noise Within Theater Company are making the offer.

 

Antony and Cleopatra, 2012

The Company’s “mission is to produce world-class performances of the great works of drama in rotating repertory with a resident company; to educate and inspire the public through programs that foster an understanding and appreciation of history’s great plays and playwrights; and to train the next generation of classical theatre artists.”

You might think that a theater company that performs the classics would be dull and stuffy. But, you’d be wrong if you thought that about this Company. While the Company’s performances are rooted in the classics, its marketing is 21st century. You’ll find the Company on:

The Company’s new website has recently launched. On September 6, the Company made this announcement on its Facebook wall:

The WEBSITE is LIVE! While we are still in ‘Preview Mode’ we encourage you to go exploring! In fact, each [Facebook] fan who finds a new TYPO gets a certificate for a FREE COOKIE the next time they’re at the theater! Email marketing[at]anoisewithin.org to submit your typos and enjoy the new Website!”

This isn’t stuffy at all.

Rather than hiding from potential mistakes, the Company has boldly announced there may indeed be typos on its website. They revealed their interest in hunting down those typos. They engaged the public in a fun, and possibly rewarding, copyediting exercise. They encouraged the public to not just visit the website; they invited folks to spend time there actually reading.

August 17, 2012

What NOT to Do in Your Email or Direct Mail Appeals

Writing an effective email or direct mail appeal is not as simple as writing a note to a friend. It’s a real challenge. Sometimes, organizations hit the mark. Sadly, this post is about one of those other times when an organization misses the mark.

A short time ago, I received the following email from a performing arts organization (which will remain nameless) that my wife and I care about and have supported in the past:

Subject: We’ve Missed You!

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Michael J. Rosen,

With just a few weeks to go before the end of the [ABC Organization’s] fiscal year, we are writing to ask for your support of the [Organization] at a time of increasingly good news. As you have undoubtedly read, the [Organization] is no longer in bankruptcy. We officially exited from financial reorganization on July 30, 2012. As we look to the future with confidence, we hope that you share our excitement about the beginning of [John Doe’s] tenure as [artistic director]. With [John’s] first season coinciding with the 100th anniversary of [John Smith’s] arrival in Philadelphia, the stars truly seem aligned!

We are grateful for your generous past support of [the Organization]. Several seasons ago, you helped us make possible all the outstanding performances … and the extensive educational and community partnerships that enable us to engage, inspire, and serve Philadelphia.

Today, we ask you to rejoin the thousands of Philadelphians and audiences worldwide in demonstrating your love for our magnificent [Organization] by making your gift. Now, more than ever, we need to have you with us!

“Donate Now” [button]

Sincerely,

Senior Director of Individual Giving”

While it was smart of the organization to send an email appeal to lapsed donors, there are several serious problems with the appeal that will negatively impact results. My wife and I are among those who have chosen not to renew our support.

By providing a detailed critique of the email appeal, I hope to help you avoid some of the same mistakes. When you do, you’ll get stronger results.

To begin, the email is not donor centered. I created a Worlde using the text of the email:

A Wordle is a graphical representation that makes words that are emphasized larger than the words used less often. In the Wordle I created, you can see that the following words are most emphasized:

  • organization
  • ask
  • now
  • support
  • Philadelphia

Of the five emphasized words, only “Philadelphia” reflects me and my community. The other four words are all organization focused.

Now, let’s look at the subject line: “We’ve Missed You!”

My wife has spent the past several months engaged in a fight with cancer. As a result, we have refocused our philanthropy. In addition, we haven’t been getting out as much as we once did. However, with my wife’s health returning to normal, we’re looking forward to the start of the new performing arts season.

When I saw the “We’ve Missed You!” subject line, I was excited because I saw the email was from an organization my wife and I have an interest in. I assumed the email would tell me about the upcoming season. And, as it’s been awhile since we’ve been able to attend performances, I thought the email just might also contain news of a special performance or ticket discount offer to entice us back.

Then, I opened the email. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the organization really did not miss my wife and me, it only missed our money. The email contained absolutely no information about the upcoming season and did not even include a link to the 2012-13 performance schedule.

I’ll give the organization credit for crafting a powerful subject line. Unfortunately, the subject line merely sets the reader up for a letdown.

The organization missed a great opportunity to leverage reciprocity and inspire gratitude. If the email had invited us to make plans to attend an upcoming performance, if the organization had supplied a link to its 2012-13 performance schedule and, especially if the organization had included some sort of promotional offer, it would have inspired a sense of appreciation.

By giving us something small, even just information, we would have been more likely to reciprocate with a donation.

Instead of beginning the email with something of interest to me (i.e.: upcoming performance information), the organization chose to write about the upcoming close of its fiscal year.

Guess what? Very few prospective donors care about an organization’s fiscal year. We care about our own fiscal year. The line used by the organization is quintessentially organization-focused and not the least bit donor-centered.

Rather than focusing on the end of its own timeline for giving, the organization would have been wiser to focus on the impending start of the new performance season. That would have been more donor-centered as it would have involved future engagement of the reader. As a result, the message would have been more inspirational and giving would have been more likely.

The next sentence in the email is just a bit strange and, perhaps, pointless. The sentence begins, “As you have undoubtedly read…” If I’ve “undoubtedly read” about the organization’s emergence from bankruptcy, why is the author telling me about it? If I had not read about it already, the phrase would make me feel foolish for not having read about it. If I had read about it but forgot, the phrase would make me feel silly for not having paid more attention.

Phrases like “As you have undoubtedly read” or “Of course” or “As you know” serve no possible useful purpose. Instead, they can actually be offensive to readers. When using such a phrase, you’re either about to waste the reader’s time or make them feel ill informed.

The email expresses confidence in the future now that the organization has emerged from bankruptcy. However, the email does not explain why the organization is confident. Many of the organization’s board members who led the way into bankruptcy continue to serve. While it’s certainly good news that the organization has emerged from bankruptcy, it’s unclear what changes have been made to ensure the organization’s strong management and long-term viability.

It’s not enough for the organization to say things are better. It needs to prove it. I’ve given them money before, but they still ended up in bankruptcy. How do I know it won’t happen again?

The email shares more good news by reminding readers that a new staff leader on the artistic side will be taking the helm in the new season. The email tells me this news is exciting and suggests, therefore, that I should be excited. However, I’m not told why I should be excited.

What follows is insider-speak about the new guy coming on board 100 years after a famous other guy came to town. Some supporters might not really know the historical figure or why he’s so important. I have no idea what “the stars truly seem aligned” means. It’s a mildly interesting historical coincidence. But, beyond that, so what? Will the new guy be doing some sort of tribute to the old guy? I don’t know, but I’d certainly like to know if that’s the case. If it’s not the case, why mention it at all?

The organization did do something correct in its email. It thanked my wife and me for our “generous past support.” That’s good. You want to thank past supporters before again asking them to give.

Unfortunately, this email takes things a bit too far. While my wife and I have been supportive, we certainly have not been generous enough to have “helped [the organization] make possible all the outstanding performances … and the extensive educational and community partnerships that enable us to engage, inspire, and serve Philadelphia.” I’ve heard of stretching a dollar, but this is just silly. By telling me I’ve made all things possible when I know I haven’t, the author really isn’t telling me anything at all.

Organizations should tell donors how their money was really spent. Or, organizations should tell donors what their money, when combined with gifts from other supporters, made possible.

August 10, 2012

8 Valuable Insights from a Major Donor

I recently had the opportunity to spend some quality time with a major donor. He was kind enough to visit with my graduate students in the “Advanced Fund Development” class I teach at Drexel University. Daniel (not his real name) shared a number of valuable insights about how some philanthropists think.

I thought you might like to learn what Daniel had to say since it might very well help you when working with your own donors and prospects.

Daniel and his wife personally contribute generously to a variety of nonprofit organizations and serve on a number of nonprofit boards. Daniel also administers a family foundation established by his parents.

Daniel told the class that he believes “donors see their giving as an extension of themselves.” He indicated that the more involved he is with an organization, the more personally he’s connected, the more likely he is to donate. In addition, he said that he is motivated by the notion of “giving back.” If he, or a family member, has benefited from the services of an organization in a significant way, he’s more likely to contribute.

However, for Daniel, it’s not all about involvement and reciprocity. He needs to also have confidence in an organization’s leadership before he’ll provide a significant gift. Two of the things that help build his confidence in the leadership are:

  1. the quality of the organization’s products or services,
  2. the demonstrated efficiency with which the organization provides those products or services.

One of his sources for information about organizational efficiency is Guidestar.

If an organization has a good relationship with a prospective donor, Daniel doesn’t really believe there’s much of risk in accidentally asking for too much. He says, “People aren’t really offended by being asked for too much if they were properly cultivated first.”

Daniel understands nonprofit organizations. He expects to be asked. If he’s asked for too much, he simply lets the development professional know. He doesn’t get offended because he assumes the development professional has made a good-faith attempt to ask for something appropriate. Sometimes they miss; sometimes they hit the target.

When discussing particularly large or complex gift arrangements, Daniel doesn’t rely on the expertise of his development contact. Instead, he turns to his lawyer for advice. While he wants his development contact to be knowledgeable, he has no expectation of or need for that person to be an expert in the area of complex gifting.

Organizations that approach Daniel should also understand that he and his wife consult each other before making philanthropic commitments. While they don’t necessarily support all the same organizations, they’re both involved in most philanthropic decisions.

When he gives, Daniel really doesn’t expect to receive any tangible benefits. Daniel says such benefits or little recognition gifts are not very important to him, though they’re sometimes nice. What’s more important to him is access. For example, when he contributes to a theatre company, he enjoys the opportunity to meet the actors and directors.

While Daniel likes having the option to meet with a development professional, to visit an organization’s home, or to observe its programs, he doesn’t usually require a lot of hand-holding before making a philanthropic decision because, in part, he doesn’t have the time for it.

“Someday, I may have more time, but I won’t necessarily want to spend it with a development person,” he says with a smile. He’s happiest when organizations respect his time while giving him the option of how much contact he will have.

Much of what Daniel shared with my students was nothing new. Researchers have found many donors feel the same way. But, his insights serve as terrific reminder for all development professionals.

When working with your major donors and prospects, keep these tips in mind:

July 6, 2012

Two Major Factors that Demotivate Donors

I recently spent a fair bit of time teaching graduate students, in my “Advanced Fund Development” class at Drexel University, about what factors motivate major and planned gift donors. Much research has been done and much has certainly been written on the subject. I even felt strongly enough about the topic to have devoted a full chapter to it in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

While it is critically important to understand what motivates people to donate money and, more specifically, to make major and planned gifts, it is also necessary to recognize how individuals can become demotivated.

While an organization’s being polarizing (see my previous post about The Salvation Army), self-centered, or running afoul of the factors that motivate people will certainly demotivate prospective donors, there are two particular demotivating factors that are especially noteworthy. The George Washington University discovered the two factors in a focus group study it commissioned involving university alumni.

Taking care of family is a primal need.

One of the biggest deterrents to making bequest commitments is the universally held belief:

Family comes first.

That’s to say, family comes before any nonprofit organization. The priority for most individuals is to take care of their loved ones. This often means keeping wealth within the family. To respond to this concern, organizations need to show prospects how a meaningful gift can be made, at a minimum, without asking loved ones to suffer. When possible, prospects should be shown how a planned gift can actually benefit loved ones. Consider this example from the Smithsonian Institution that was shared with me by John B. Kendrick:

When I first arrived at the Smithsonian Institution as Director of Planned Giving, a colleague recommended that I contact Cliff, a person who had responded to a [Charitable Gift Annuity] advertisement in Smithsonian magazine a few months before. Cliff wanted to make sure the Smithsonian was strong financially. At age 96, he was still incredibly alert mentally, and he wanted to provide a lifetime income for his wife, who was nearly 20 years younger.

He appreciated the Smithsonian, but frankly was more concerned about the safety of her guaranteed payments than supporting a particular charitable purpose. A consultant to the Smithsonian had traded more than 20 e-mails with Cliff, who originally inquired about a $10,000 CGA.

As he became convinced of the Smithsonian’s financial strength, he quickly increased his inquiry to a CGA for $1 million. But no one had ever called him—they had simply been trading e-mails! I telephoned Cliff, and the discussion quickly progressed; within another two months he sent in stock certificates to establish a $500,000 CGA for his wife. Over the next year, he created two additional $500,000 CGAs for his wife—for a total of $1.5 million.

But that’s not the end of the story.

He had a son who was not strong with money management. Cliff still actively managed his own finances and made periodic distributions to his son. I suggested setting up a CGA or Charitable Remainder Trust now for the son, but Cliff insisted that he wanted to manage his money outright for as long as possible. We agreed, however, that a testamentary CGA for his son would meet his desires. I provided sample language, and Cliff’s lawyer modified his estate plan to include a $2 million testamentary CGA.

From a $10,000 inquiry, we received $3.5 million in gifts because we took the time to show Cliff how we could help him take care of his family.”

The other major demotivator discovered by The George Washington University is:

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