A Pro Baker Knows 3 Things that will Help You Raise More Money

Chef Stefan Zareba is an award-winning baker and successful businessman. His tasty, artistic creations have impressed visitors at leading resorts around the world. My wife and I recently met Zareba, and learned three keys to his success. Interestingly, those three things can also help you be a more effective fundraising professional.

My wife and I recently spent a few days relaxing at the New Jersey shore. Beautiful weather and the Monarch Butterfly migration made our visit special. At the suggestion of a family member, we visited Blue Dolfin Sweets, a European bakery in Marmora, NJ. When we entered, Zareba greeted us as if we were regulars despite it being our first visit.

When Zareba saw that we were a bit overwhelmed by our options, he began offering us free tastes. When I remarked about the intense flavors, Zareba shared his baking philosophy. He believes in using carefully sourced, natural or organic ingredients. His flour comes from Minnesota, his chocolate from Belgium, his fruits from farmers he knows, his butter from Europe. At the Blue Dolfin, you won’t find agave syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, or chemicals and artificial additives.

Zareba believes pure, wholesome ingredients produce products, when crafted with skill, that taste better. He’s right. Not only do his creations taste better, the flavors he produces are more intense and bright than you would ever experience from a bakery chain.

So, here is what I learned during my visit with Chef Stefan that can help you:

Intense Passion. Zareba spoke with my wife and me as if we were the first customers he had seen that day. As it was well into the afternoon, I know that definitely was not the case. Nevertheless, Zareba was energetic, friendly, and helpful. He patiently answered our questions, and told us about himself and his baking experience. That’s how we learned about his baking philosophy. Seeing someone so passionate about his work was remarkable. I don’t know quite how to make my point vividly. Let me try this. Instead of simply selling baked goods, Zareba shares his creations. Moreover, when he sees you enjoying a bite, he smiles with his entire being.

Do you have that kind of passion for your organization and its mission? Do you believe that your organization is the best at what it does? Are you proud to work for your organization? If you’ve answered “yes” to each of those questions, do you convey that feeling to those with whom you interact?

In many cases, prospects and donors will take their cues from you. If they sense that you have lukewarm feelings for your charity, they likely will as well. However, if they sense your passion, they may very well be more receptive to your appeal.

Years ago, I co-owned a pioneering phone fundraising company, The Development Center. Over the years, we employed some callers who did just about everything wrong despite trying their best. They got tongue-tied when talking with prospects. They had difficulty handling questions and objections. They were awkward. A casual observer would think we should have terminated those callers. However, we didn’t always do that because a distinguished few were extremely successful. What made them successful fundraisers, despite their shortcomings, was their passion for the organizations they represented. Their passion was infectious. When prospective donors heard how passionate these callers were, they became excited about the mission and became supporters.

Passion cuts both ways. If you do not passionately represent your organization, alarm bells will go off in the minds of those you contact. Conversely, if you exude passion for your organization’s mission, that enthusiasm will be infectious and excite others.

Superior Skills. Unfortunately, passion alone will seldom lead to success. For Zareba, years of training and working in some of the top kitchens around the world developed his skills. When looking at his display cases, you can see the result. He turns out a huge variety of confections. In addition, he renders each beautifully. His wedding cakes are works of art.

The framed newspaper and magazine articles mounted on the bakery wall attest to Zareba’s skills and the awards he has earned. He’s a world-class baker who, thankfully, has chosen to make his home in a small town in New Jersey.

As the number of nonprofit organizations grows, there is increasing competition for philanthropic support. It’s unlikely that your charity is unique. More likely, there are other nonprofits with similar missions. To attract, retain, and upgrade support for your organization, you need to have well-honed skills. Good enough is not good enough. You need to work continually to enhance your skills. You need to master the fundamentals while remaining receptive to the right fresh ideas. You need to continue your education by attending conferences, participating in webinars, reading books and blogs, and more.

Music experts have long regarded Pablo Casals as the world’s greatest cellist. When he was about 80 years old, Casals agreed to be the subject of Robert Snyder’s short documentary movie. The filmmaker asked why Casals continued to practice playing the cello four to five hours each day. Casals replied, “Because I think I am making progress.”

The fact that the world’s greatest cellist continued to hone his skills late in life is a great example for the rest of us. As professionals, we have a responsibility to always strive to enhance our own skills. The more effective you are, the more support you will be able to attract for your organization. That means, depending on your organization’s mission, more lives saved, more people better educated, more spirits uplifted.

Extraordinary Experience. As I’ve mentioned, Chef Stefan exudes passion and possesses award-winning skills. But, there’s something else special about him. Zareba ensures that every visitor to his bakery has an extraordinary experience. It begins immediately when you walk in the door, and he warmly greets you. In my case, any number of things contributed to make my visit exceptional.

Here’s one example. Chef Stefan placed an irresistible scone I selected into a pastry box. Before he could close the lid, I reached my hand toward the scone intending to break a piece off to taste. I couldn’t wait until I got it home. Did I mention it was irresistible? Well, Zareba wouldn’t allow that. I don’t remember exactly how he handled it, but I do know that I was not permitted to have a taste of that scone. Instead, Zareba insisted that the scone must first be warmed. Then, he pulled another scone off a tray and told me to wait just a moment while he warmed it. Once gently heated, he presented the scone, and sliced it for me. I ate and savored the entire thing. There was no charge for the bonus scone.

My wife and I left the bakery with more treats than we intended to buy, yet not enough as it turned out. We were experiencing a carb rush. We were also feeling the exhilaration that comes from meeting a true master of a profession. Just try having that experience at one of the mass-market places.

My experience at the Blue Dolfin was so extraordinary that I’m even blogging about it!

It’s no secret that nonprofit donor attrition rates are high. Donors come in the front door, and promptly walk out the back. What are you doing to make donors feel special? What are you doing to show donors the impact they are having? How do you engage donors? What do you do to treat your organization’s donors better than other charities do?

I’m not suggesting that you should provide the same level of attention and engagement to all of your donors equally. Given limited time and budget resources that would not be wise. However, you should still ensure that all of your donors have an extraordinary experience that escalates as the situation justifies. In other words, don’t treat small, first-time donors like dirt while treating major donors well. Instead, treat small, first-time donors well and major donors even better. Provide an appropriate, wonderful experience for your donors, and you’ll retain and upgrade more of them. Every contact with a prospect or donor is an opportunity to make them feel good about the good they can do.

Chef Stefan Zareba is a successful baker and businessman. By letting his example guide you, you can be an even more successful fundraising professional. I encourage you to think about how you can exhibit more passion, hone your skills, and provide an extraordinary experience. In addition, I encourage you to visit Blue Dolfin Sweets whenever you’re anywhere between Atlantic City and Cape May at the New Jersey shore.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

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