Archive for December, 2017

December 29, 2017

Do Your Colleagues Know Something You Don’t?

Keeping on top of all of the latest fundraising, marketing, and nonprofit management information can be a real challenge. After all, you have a full-time job. Your boss expects you to raise a lot of money, probably more than last year. It keeps you busy.

Unfortunately, having a hectic work life could mean that you’ve overlooked some useful information that actually could help you achieve your goals more easily.

So, what’s the information that your colleagues found most interesting in 2017 that you should be sure not to miss?

Here is a list of my top ten most read posts published in 2017:

  1. Here is the One Word You Should Stop Using
  2. Delivering More of My Own Bad News
  3. 5 Mistakes that Could Cost You Year-End Donations
  4. What is the Most Important Thing a Donor Can Give You? … It’s Not What You Think It is.
  5. The Best Fundraising Blogs You Should be Reading
  6. Your Charity is Losing Big Money If It Ignore This Giving Option
  7. What are the Obstacles to Improving Donor-Retention Rates?
  8. What is the Special Ingredient that Leads to Fundraising Success?
  9. Philanthropy Will Increase in 2017 and 2018
  10. Do the Numbers Tell the Full Story?

Here’s a list of five of my older posts that remained popular this year:

  1. Can You Spot a Child Molester? Discover the Warning Signs
  2. Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?
  3. 5 Things Never to Do in Your Phone Fundraising Calls
  4. Special Report: Top 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants Identified
  5. 16 Tips for Crafting a Powerful Postcard Campaign

I invite you to read any posts that might interest you by clicking on the title above. If you’ve read them all, thank you for being a committed reader.

Over the years, I’ve been honored to have my blog recognized by respected peers. This year was no exception. I’m pleased that I was once again recognized in Bloomerang’s list of “100+ Fundraising Blogs You Should Be Reading in 2017.”

To make sure you don’t miss any of my future posts, please take a moment to subscribe to this site for free in the designated spot in the column to the right. You can subscribe with peace of mind knowing that I will respect your privacy.

To make finding interesting blog posts by others a bit easier, you might want to join the LinkedIn Discussion Group I created: Blog Posts for Fundraising Pros & Nonprofit Managers.

This is a LinkedIn Group for blog authors and the fundraising professionals and nonprofit managers who read them. Bloggers can promote their latest posts and readers can easily find those that interest them most and engage in thoughtful conversation, all in one place.

The site provides a welcoming environment for blog authors where they can freely promote their posts. It is also a safe place for readers who may not want to subscribe to multiple blog sites but who want to easily scan the great information that is available across blogs.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank you and all of my readers. I appreciate that you stood by my side during what was a profoundly challenging year for me. A fierce battle with cancer forced me to take a lengthy leave-of-absence this year. Now, I’m delighted to be back. You can read about my battle in the following posts:

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December 20, 2017

The Secret You Know but Do Not Know You Know

There’s a powerful fundraising secret you know. Unfortunately, you probably don’t know you know it. Yet, knowing it is essential to your fundraising and career success. 

While scanning year-end articles, blog posts, and webinar offerings about fundraising, you might be overwhelmed by the huge volume. You might also suspect that all you have to do to become a great fundraising professional is master the numbers and techniques involved in the development process.

Even my recent blog posts have focused on how-to information. However, your fundraising efforts and career are about more than numbers and skills. Don’t believe me? Let me ask you some questions. When you woke up this morning:

  • were you excited to get to the office so you could generate that report your boss asked for?
  • were you thrilled that you’d soon be listening to a webinar about donor retention?
  • were you energized by thoughts of the upcoming staff meeting?

When you accepted the job offer from your current employer, I suspect you weren’t thinking of reports, webinars, and staff meetings. Instead, you were probably thinking about the organization’s mission. You likely thought about how fun it would be to join a great team to help fulfill that mission.

That feeling might now be somewhat buried. You might not think about it much. However, at a deep level, it’s that feeling that probably gets you out of bed and to the office each morning. Passion for your organization’s mission is easy to forget when facing day-to-day demands.

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to reduce our jobs to a set of numbers. How many donors did you acquire? Renew? Upgrade? How many major donor prospects did you visit? How many of those prospects became major donors? How long does it take to send out a thank-you letter? How much money did you raise this year? You get the idea. It’s easy to get caught up in the process and begin to lose sight of what is most important.

You will never be truly effective unless you constantly remind yourself of why you really do what you do. You won’t be able to inspire prospects to give, and you’ll likely experience premature burnout.

So, if you want to more effectively inspire people to give and if you wish to have greater career satisfaction, spend more time focusing on what the money you raise will accomplish. For example:

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December 15, 2017

Avoid a Big Misstep Now to Raise More Money in 2018

Fundraising can be complex and challenging. We need to consider strategies, tactics, technology, staffing, budget, and so much more.

What if I could help you cut through all of the clutter, so you can avoid a big misstep now and raise more money in 2018?

Well, here you go:

If you want to raise more money, do not fail to send a proper thank-you letter.

It’s pretty simple, right? I think it is. Unfortunately, so many nonprofit organizations mess up this important step in the development process either by not sending a thank-you letter at all or by simply dashing off a letter with little thought. While professional fundraisers expend considerable effort to master the complexities of the fundraising process, many stumble when it comes to something as simple as the thank-you. Don’t be one of those fundraisers.

The thank-you letter is an essential part of a sound stewardship program. Every donor should receive a thank-you communication. It amazes me that some organizations still refuse to send thank-you letters to lower-level donors. Sending a simple receipt is not the same as a thank you.

A wise person once observed that the most important communication a donor will receive from you is the first thank you after the first gift. At that point, many donors will decide whether to ever make another gift to your organization.

So, what are the three essential principles of a great thank-you letter?

1. Immediacy.

The first rule of effective thank-you letters is: Be sure to send them. The corollary is: Be sure to send them immediately, within three to seven days of the gift coming in. If you delay, donors will likely think that you do not need their money or that you do not truly appreciate them. Wise organizations that don’t have the infrastructure to do this will outsource the gift acknowledgment process recognizing that it’s a worthwhile investment.

2. Caring.

Let your donors know you care. You can do this by sending a thank-you letter out on a timely basis. In addition, make sure you spell the donor’s name correctly, acknowledge the amount received, encourage the donor to contact you with any comments or questions, include an appropriate gift receipt and tax information. If your organization hosts events or programs for the public (i.e., a theater company that has a new stage show about to open), take the opportunity to share this information with your donor. These are just some of the things you can do to show you care.

You should also remember that a thank-you letter is not another solicitation piece. So, don’t appear ungrateful by asking for more money or enclosing a gift envelope. I know this is a controversial issue so, for more about this, read “Can a Thank-You Letter Contain an Ask?”

3. Meaningfulness.

Don’t just send a simple thank-you letter that shows you didn’t spend much time thinking about it or drafting it. One way to force yourself to be a bit creative when writing a thank-you letter is to not use the words “thank you” in the first sentence. This prohibition will slow you down and force you to be more thoughtful when writing the letter.

Another tip is to remind donors of the impact their gifts will have. Better yet, tell them how their gift is already being put to good use.

Whenever possible, hand sign the thank-you letters. Even better, hand sign the letters and write a short P.S. This will go a surprisingly long way in building a meaningful relationship with the donor.

For her book Donor Centered Fundraising, Penelope Burk reviewed hundreds of thank-you letters. Based on her analysis, she outlined 20 attributes of great thank-you letters. I felt so strongly about her list that I cited it in my own book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

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December 8, 2017

5 Mistakes that Could Cost You Year-End Donations

As year-end approaches, you are probably working feverishly to raise as much money as possible for your nonprofit organization. Unfortunately, you might be making some mistakes that could cost your charity enormous sums of potential donations.

Here are just five common ways you might unknowingly short-change your organization at this special time of year:

1.  Appeals by the Numbers.

Many of the year-end appeals that I receive focus on numbers. Often, the number is “31,” as in December 31. Other numbers tout the volume of people served or the amount of a challenge grant. As I wrote last week, numbers can tell part of an organization’s story; however, numbers can’t tell the full story.

For the most effective appeals, you will want to engage hearts and minds. While some numbers can be meaningful, telling an individual story makes your nonprofit’s work more relatable and easier to understand. Individual stories are also far more likely to engender an emotional response.

The Wounded Warrior Project is a great example of what I mean. The organization could tell us how many veterans suffer from PTSD and medical issues. The charity could simply tell us how many veterans they serve each year. Instead, the Wounded Warrior Project tells the story of a single veteran. The organization’s television appeals are mini-movies that tell us of a veteran’s war experience, the problem he or she came home with, and how the Wounded Warrior Project is improving the veteran’s life. You can watch one of the organization’s television spots by clicking here.

2.  Not Asking for Gifts of Stock and Other Planned Gifts.

If you want to maximize year-end giving, you must seek planned gifts. Planned giving allows donors to make more gifts and larger gifts than they might otherwise be able to do simply from their checkbook. This is great news for your charity. Even better news is that not all planned gifts are deferred gifts. Here are some types of planned gifts that will result in immediate cash for your organization:

Gifts of Stock. With the stock market in record territory, many Americans own appreciated securities. By contributing stock shares to your organization, a donor can make a generous gift, realize a charitable gift deduction, and avoid capital gains tax.

Gifts of Appreciated Property. As with stock, many individuals own appreciated real December 31st by TransGriot via Flickrestate, art, and collectibles that they can donate. Your organization can either use the item for mission fulfillment (i.e., a museum can accept a work of art for its collection), or the organization can sell the item and put the cash to good use. You’ll just need to be clear with your donor about which option you intend to exercise.

Gifts from Donor Advised Funds. An increasing number of Americans have established a DAF. Be sure to remind your donors that they can advise that a gift be made to your charity from their DAF account.

IRA Charitable Rollover. Since the U.S. Congress has made the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent, individuals who are age 70.5 or older can donate up to $100,000 from their IRA each year without having to recognize it as income.

Year-end is also a good time to ask for deferred planned gifts such as Gifts in a Will, Beneficiary Designations, and Trusts.

You can read more about planned giving options by clicking here.

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