Archive for ‘donor relations’

February 10, 2017

What is the Most Important Thing a Donor Can Give You? … It’s Not What You Think It is.

What is the most important thing a donor can give you?

If I were to ask that question at an Association of Fundraising Professionals conference, I suspect most members of the audience would respond by saying, “A big check!” If I were to pose the same question at a National Association of Charitable Gift Planners convention, participants might shout out, “A Charitable Remainder Trust!”

In other words, we tend to think that the most important or valuable thing a prospect or donor can give a charitable organization is money, and preferably lots of it.

However, do we have the wrong goal in mind?

Maybe.

Amy Cuddy, a psychology professor and researcher at the Harvard Business School, says that successful professionals must first earn an individual’s trust and respect. “Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence, respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both,” according to a report in the Business Insider. The article continues:

Interestingly, Cuddy says that most people, especially in a professional context, believe that competence is the more important factor. After all, they want to prove that they are smart and talented enough to handle your business.”

However, Cuddy’s research demonstrates that earning trust is more important than proving competence. She shares her findings in her book, trust-by-dobi-via-flickrPresence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. She also provides plenty of proven tips for engendering trust.

So, we see that the most important, valuable thing a prospect or donor can give you is their trust. Still not a believer? Keep reading. Cuddy’s research findings are in alignment with the studies completed by professors Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang, of Plymouth University, who have stated:

There would appear to be a relationship between trust and a propensity to donate…. There is [also] some indication here that a relationship does exist between trust and amount donated, comparatively little increases in the former having a marked impact on the latter.”

In other words, the research demonstrates that the level of trust one has in a charity and its representatives, affects both willingness to give and the amount of giving.

Cuddy says:

If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative. A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”

If you’re like most fundraising professionals, you instinctively understand the importance of establishing a trusting relationship. However, what are you doing to build and maintain them?

Here are just five helpful tips for earning and building trust with prospects and donors:

February 1, 2017

What are the Obstacles to Improving Donor-Retention Rates?

I’m disgusted and frustrated. You should be, too.

Once again, the already horrible existing-donor and new-donor retention rates in the USA have further declined, according to the 2016 Donor Retention Report issued recently as part of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and Urban Institute Fundraising Effective Project.

Among new donors, the report says:

An alarming finding in this research is that the New Donor Retention rate has been steadily declining since 2008, averaging a reduction of -3.4% year over year.”

The new-donor retention rate in 2008 was a terrible 29.35 percent. By 2015, that dropped to an even more pitiful 22.93 percent!

red-alert-by-bash-linx-via-flickr

Red Alert time for the nonprofit sector!

Among existing donors, the retention rate has dropped by an average of 1.68 percent since 2008. In 2008, the existing-donor retention rate was 67.88 percent compared to just 60.23 percent in 2015.

I’m puzzled. Since 2008, there have been books written about how to effectively retain more donors. There have also been seminars, workshops, webinars, articles, and blog posts offering superb advice on the subject. Yet, despite the wealth of available information, the numbers are steadily declining.

In the past, when I’ve been confronted by poor retention data, I’ve offered helpful tips. You can search my site for “donor retention.” However, for now, I’m too fed up to offer more tips here. I don’t even believe you need more information to retain more donors. Something else is going on, and I want to understand it. I hope you’ll help me.

It’s your turn now. Please tell me, as a comment below or via email:

January 20, 2017

Now is the Time to Grow Up and Show Up!

Recently, pollster Frank Luntz, Founder of Luntz Global, said, “Grow up and show up.”

While the phrase has been used in a political context, it certainly applies to the philanthropic world as well.

Luntz was speaking about the nearly 70 (at the time) members of Congress who have decided to boycott the Presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2017. He suggested that by failing to show up, these members of Congress are breaking with tradition, exacerbating an already divisive atmosphere, and failing to represent the portion of their constituencies who voted for Trump.

Luntz is not the first to use the line “Grow up and show up.” While I don’t know the origin of the phrase, I do know that liberals have used it as well. For example, a number of liberals used the phrase to encourage people to go to the polls and vote for Hillary Clinton.

I find it interesting that both sides of the political spectrum have embraced “Grow up and show up.” Ah, common ground! So, what does this mean for fundraising professionals?:

1.  Sometimes, we need to work with people (e.g., staff, board members, prospects, donors, etc.) we don’t particularly like or agree with. To me, grow up means we need to have the maturity and professionalism to separate our personal selves from our professional selves. We need to do what is best for our organizations and the entire nonprofit sector.

2.  We need to take action. To me, show up means it’s not enough to feel one way or the other; it’s not enough to pay lip-service to an issue or cause; it’s not enough to sign a petition; it’s not enough to participate in a protest. We need to back up our words with substantive action.

Let me share a personal example with you:

Years ago, the CARE Act was under consideration by Congress. The Act bundled a variety of charitable giving incentives including the IRA Charitable Rollover. At the time, I served as a Board Member, and eventually Chair of the Board, of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Political Action Committee.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) with Michael J. Rosen at CARE Act rally.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) with Michael J. Rosen at CARE Act rally.

The lead sponsor of the CARE Act was Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), He didn’t just lend his name to the Act or pay lip-service to it. He passionately believed in helping the nonprofit sector and, therefore, he actively worked for passage of the bill and partnered with Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) as lead sponsors.

At the time, Santorum was not popular among a large group of AFP members. As a conservative, he was anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage. I was contacted by a number of angry AFP members who did not want the AFP PAC to contribute Santorum’s re-election campaign and who did not want me working with him for passage of the CARE Act.

Despite the objections of some AFP members, the AFP PAC contributed to the Santorum campaign. The AFP PAC also contributed to Lieberman’s campaign although some AFP members objected to that as well. The AFP PAC exists to promote philanthropy, period. In the Senate, Santorum was the most supportive of the nonprofit sector. The contribution was appropriate.

I also continued to work closely with Santorum on advocacy efforts to secure passage of the CARE Act. It was the right thing to do for the nonprofit sector.

January 10, 2017

Here is One Word You Should Stop Using

Would you like to be a better writer?

Would you like to be a more effective public speaker?

Would you like to engage donors in conversations that are more meaningful?

I have some good news for you. Being a more successful communicator is easier than you think. Here is just one simple thing you can do immediately:

Stop using the word “very.”

A few weeks ago, Greta Vaitkeviciute, Advertising Manager at Altechna, shared the following terrific graphic on LinkedIn:

words-to-use-instead-of-very-via-greta-vaitkeviciute

Reviewing the graphic reminded me of a conversation I had with my editor when I was writing my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing.

I confess that I was a frequent user of the word very. My editor called me on my lazy writing habit, and pointed out that very is a modifier that does not truly enhance the text. She went on to strike virtually all uses of the word from my draft manuscript. With some effort, I began to make the necessary edits. Soon, dropping very became second nature, much to the relief of my editor. I still included very in my book a number of times for tone and style. However, I used the modifier far less than I would have otherwise. As a result, my writing was much stronger, and I was able to communicate more effectively with my readers.

December 29, 2016

You Don’t Want to Miss These Worthwhile Items from 2016

As the frenzied year-end fundraising and holiday season draws to a close, we have an opportunity to catch our breath this week. Like me, you’ve probably found that, between work and family, a 24-hour day just isn’t long enough to accomplish everything we want to do. We need a break every so often.

im-drowning-in-data-by-quinn-dombrowski-via-flickrWhen trying to stay on top of the latest fundraising and nonprofit marketing news and ideas, I know it’s time consuming just to sift through the wealth of articles, blog posts, and books that are published each year. It’s easy to drown in all the information. That means it’s also easy to overlook useful information.

With this blog post, I aim to save you some time and link you to some valuable material by listing some of my most popular posts of 2016, showing you where you can find other excellent bloggers, and by telling you where you can find books recommended by readers who are fundraising professionals and nonprofit managers.

Here is a list of my top ten most read posts published in 2016:

  1. Stop Showering All of Your Donors with Love!
  2. Stop Making Stupid Email and Direct Mail Mistakes
  3. Do You Know that “Planned Giving” is Bad for #Fundraising?
  4. Avoid a Big Mistake: Stop Asking for Bequest Gifts!
  5. Donors Say: Enough about You. Let’s Talk about Me!
  6. How Can Nana Murphy Make You a Better #Fundraising Professional?
  7. How to Avoid a Disastrous Political Debate with Donors
  8. 6 Great #Fundraising Tips from a 6-Year-Old Boy
  9. Do You Know How to Take Criticism?
  10. Stop Pretending that You Work for Stanford!

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

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.

You might also be interested in reading about my guest blog posts on the Bloomerang site:

Recently, I was interviewed twice for the MarketWatch site. You can find links to the articles as well as my elaboration on my comments here:

November 30, 2016

Want More Donors and More Money?

Would you like to find more donors?

Would you like to have more donors renew and upgrade their support?

Would you like to raise more money for your nonprofit organization?

If so, avoid de-motivating people by making them think their support is insignificant, unnecessary, and unwanted.

Donors want to feel their contributions are making a difference. If they do not feel that is the case, they’ll take their support elsewhere. Consider the following representative comment voiced in a focus group hosted by researchers Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Dr. Jen Shang:

[W]e feel this strong sense of wanting to make a difference.”

Yet, despite this simple truth, many charities regularly alienate prospects and donors. Although the alienation is almost always unintentional, it remains a very real problem. Reflect on the following representative comment heard in a focus group study conducted by The George Washington University:

When you see bequests given to universities they are substantial. You really feel embarrassed that you don’t have that money.”

So, what are nonprofit organizations doing that is embarrassing and alienating donors? Well, many things. For now, I’ll focus on just one action that underscores the point raised by the GW alumnus.

money-in-hands-by-401k-2012-via-flickrMany organizations celebrate the support of mega-philanthropists. They profile these individuals in institutional publications; they recognize them on donor walls; they thank them at public events. While all of this is perfectly appropriate, a problem arises when an organization recognizes mega-donors to the exclusion of all other supporters.

When people see that only mega-donors are celebrated, they can begin to think that their support is unnecessary and not genuinely appreciated. This is true for annual giving, planned giving, capital campaign giving, and other types of campaigns.

If you want a diverse group of supporters, be sure to celebrate a diverse group of supporters. When people see people like themselves supporting your organization, research shows they’ll be more likely to support as well. When I speak of cultivating a diverse group of supporters, I mean in every sense of the term: gender, race, religion, age, philanthropic means, etc.

That’s an idea that the folks at the Arizona State University School of Nursing and Health Innovation understand. As I shared in my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

November 18, 2016

How to Avoid a Disastrous Political Debate with Donors

[Publisher’s Note: This is not a political or partisan post. Instead, this post will explore how you can successfully navigate potentially controversial, post-election political debates with your donors. As always, civil and on-topic comments are encouraged, whether or not you agree with the points covered in the post. However, overtly political or partisan comments will not be published nor will the rants of internet trolls.]

 

We have just gone through a long, controversial, historic, passionate election cycle in the USA. People continue to take to the streets to protest. The election continues to be a topic of robust conversation that should make Thanksgiving dinners around the country a bit more interesting this year.

Matt Hugg, of Hugg Dot Net LLC, wrote on LinkedIn:

Okay, I’ll admit it… I’ve now voted in 10 US presidential election cycles. In all of those, I don’t ever remember such post-election discussions (and other means of expression) from both sides, as I do this one.”

megaphones-image-via-shutterstockHugg went on to ask how we should handle conversations with prospects and donors when they bring up the election, especially if they voted for the person you did not support.

Hugg raises an important issue. While I rattled off a quick comment, I’ve since given the issue more thought. Because of the significance of the issue, I’ve put together a list five of points for you to keep in mind when speaking with prospects and donors if you want to avoid problems and raise more money:

●  Remember, no one ever won a debate with a prospect or donor. Even if you technically win the argument, there’s an excellent chance you’ll lose the donation. So, it’s generally a good idea to avoid engaging in controversial conversations.

●  When speaking with donors, it’s important to remember that you do not represent a political cause (unless you actually do). When possible and appropriate you should steer a neutral course that puts the emphasis on organizational mission. There are any number of ways you can avoid engaging in a political conversation started by a donor. For example, you can side-step the discussion by using one of the following phrases or others:

“That’s an interesting point.”

“I’ve heard from a number of other people who have raised the same issue.”

“I suspect I’ll talk with a number of other people who share your view.”

“That’s an important issue. What do you think?”

“That’s an interesting concern. One of the things we’re concerned about is how the new policy agenda will impact those we’re trying to serve.”

The key is to provide a neutral response, and bring the conversation back to the organization’s mission and case for support.

October 26, 2016

Want to Inspire More Donor Loyalty? Do What Marriott Does.

Marriott gets it. The nonprofit sector, not so much.

I’m talking about fostering loyalty.

Marriott has built the world’s largest hotel company, in part, by knowing how to cultivate a loyal customer base. By contrast, nonprofit organizations continue to hemorrhage donors, according to the 2016 Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report from the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute.

To help you more effectively cultivate donor loyalty, I’m going to give you one excellent, easy to implement idea inspired by a recent email I received from Marriott:

Show your donors gratitude.

I know. I know. You already send your donors a thank-you letter when they make a gift. As a donor, I expect that, just like I’ve come to expect a thank-you email from Marriott following each of my stays.

gratitude-cartoonBeyond that, I’m talking about surprising people with an unexpected message of gratitude.

A few days ago, I received an unanticipated email from Marriott. The subject line read: “Happy 24th Anniversary!”

I had no idea what the email was about, so I had to open it. When I did, I read:

Congratulations! Celebrate 24 Years with Marriott Rewards

Michael, we appreciate your loyalty and thank you for your membership!”

Yes, I know I’m a Marriott Rewards member. However, I did not realize that I’ve been a Marriott Rewards member for nearly a quarter-century. I enjoyed learning that. In addition, I appreciated being thanked for my overall loyalty, not simply for a recent stay.

Throughout the year, often in surprising ways, Marriott shows they appreciate my business. The fact that Marriott shows its appreciation is not the only reason the company is my preferred hotel company. There are many other factors. But, the fact that Marriott makes me feel valued is one important reason I value Marriott.

This Thanksgiving, send your donors an email, card, or letter expressing your appreciation. However, don’t simply thank them for their past support; thank them for caring about whatever your organization’s mission is. Also, thank them for their loyalty.

October 19, 2016

What Can You Learn from Trump’s Faltering Campaign?

This is not a political post.

Instead, it’s about you, your nonprofit organization, and those who benefit from its services.

As I write this post, Donald Trump’s bid to become President of the USA is faltering. With three weeks left in the campaign, he still could pull out a win. However, he’ll need to run a radically different campaign to do that.

As a former newspaper editor, I’m still a political news junkie. So, I’ve carefully observed the political campaign for months, okay, for years. Not long ago, I even had the opportunity to participate in a focus group facilitated by renowned pollster Frank Luntz for CBS News; it provided great insights into the thinking of undecided voters in Pennsylvania. Along the way, I’ve discovered an important lesson that can be of profound value to you.

Donald Trump holds up magazine cover featuring himself.

At a campaign stop, Donald Trump holds up magazine cover featuring himself.

It’s simple, really. Trump rose in the polls when he talked about what he would do for us, the American people. His numbers fell when his campaign became about him. For example, in recent days, Trump has had to respond to the “locker-room talk” video revealing his misogynist thoughts. He’s also been talking about how the media is against him, and how the election is rigged. Even more strangely, Trump has renewed his attacks on fellow Republicans, which has nothing whatsoever to offer the American people other than more drama.

The media analysis is overly complicated. I get it. The media have to fill column inches and hours of airtime. However, the political situation is really rather simple. Voters want to know what the candidates will do for them. At the very least, voters want to know that the candidates are thinking about them and understand them. The more a candidate focuses on the voter, the more likely he or she will be to gain traction.

October 10, 2016

Stop Pretending that You Work for Stanford!

It’s big news.

Stanford University has shut down its annual fund telephone fundraising program. You can visit the university’s official web page announcing the decision by clicking here.

It’s all over the blog-a-sphere. It’s made headlines in publications for the nonprofit sector. For example, here’s a headline from The Chronicle of Philanthropy:

Stanford Hangs Up on Telemarketing — Will Others Follow?

I’ll leave it to others to speculate about whether other charities will follow Stanford’s lead. I’ll also leave it to others to consider whether or not Stanford made a wise or foolish move. Instead, I’ll focus on whether or not you should also discontinue your organization’s telephone fundraising effort.

Simply put, you should probably keep your own telephone fundraising program. Here are just five of my random thoughts that lead me to that conclusion:

1.  You do NOT work for Stanford, so don’t act like you do!

Unless I’m mistaken, you don’t work for Stanford, or Harvard, or Yale, or Cornell, etc. Such prestigious universities have built-in, loyal constituencies and, therefore, have a massive advantage over your charity. Not only could Stanford eliminate its phone program, it could fire nearly its entire development staff and still raise much more money than the average American nonprofit organization.

Your challenges are vastly different than those faced by Stanford. So, your challenges require different solutions. If you don’t work at Stanford, don’t make the mistake of acting as if you do.

2.  Telephone fundraising is less effective than it was, but it still works.

Since the early 1980s, I’ve heard so-called experts predicting the extinction of telephone fundraising. Interestingly, many of those same folks also predicted the demise of direct mail.

phone-and-moneyThey were wrong then, and they are wrong now. Neither mail nor phone are as effective as they once were. However, smart organizations have evolved their use of both. The outcome is that these organizations are still able to produce worthwhile results by both mail and phone. It’s not about extinction; it’s about innovation and evolution.

Colin Bickley, writing for NonProfitPRO, provides superb analysis of some of the telephone fundraising challenges faced by the nonprofit sector. However, Bickley concludes:

The telefundraising business is never going away, but it is changing. And right now, it’s clear that its changing more than ever.”

3.  Don’t judge all telephone fundraising by looking just at bad programs.

I’m amazed at how many TERRIBLE telephone fundraising calls I receive. I suspect that the charities responsible are either disappointed with their program results, don’t know enough to be disappointed, or think they’re doing the best they can.

Let’s face it. If your calls are bad, your results will be bad. Remember the old adage, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Not all calling programs are of equal quality. If you’re not getting the results you want, look for opportunities to improve before abandoning the entire medium. You wouldn’t stop your direct mail efforts because one mailing didn’t do well, would you?

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