Archive for ‘Guest Author’

April 25, 2018

Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins When Working with Volunteers

Given that this is National Volunteer Month, I want to acknowledge the often unsung heroes of the nonprofit sector.

Like monetary donors, volunteers are supporters. We need to recognize that and act accordingly. Volunteers are a valuable resource for nonprofit organizations. They provide essential free labor. They serve as ambassadors in the community for your organization. They donate twice as often as non-volunteers do. They are just as likely as donors to include a charity in their Will. People who volunteer and donate are far more likely to include a nonprofit organization in their Will compared to people who do only one or the other. Volunteers are supporters!

Unfortunately, volunteerism is on the decline in the USA. This will be potentially costly to the nonprofit sector.

As I pondered the problem of declining volunteerism, I had the good fortune to “meet” Kelly Ronan on Twitter. Kelly is an Indiana State University Bayh College of Education Scholars-to-Teachers Program Scholar and a candidate for the Certified Nonprofit Professional credential offered through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.

I’ve been impressed with the material about volunteerism that Kelly regularly shares on social media. So, I invited her to share some of her insights and wisdom with us. I’m happy to report that Kelly has generously accepted my request, for which I am grateful.

Her guest post below looks at some best practices in volunteer management that will help you more effectively recruit and retain volunteers:

 

There are three key best practice areas when it comes to volunteer management. By mastering these three areas, you will help your nonprofit organization to more effectively recruit and retain volunteers. You’ll also help ensure that each volunteer’s experience is a good one thereby developing a valuable ambassador and potential donor.

1.  Start Off Right

To get off on the right foot with volunteers, you need to avoid missteps. But, that’s not enough. You also need to understand what motivates each individual so you can meet their needs.

Let’s first look at the many potential mistakes we can make with volunteers. For example, let’s consider Energize’s “7 Deadly Sins of Directing Volunteers” with this listing:

  1. To recruit a volunteer for a cause or program in which you do not believe.
  2. To sign a person up even if he or she is not right for a vacant volunteer position you need to fill, or to ask a volunteer to take on a role that misuses or underutilizes that person’s talents.
  3. To restrict a volunteer’s effectiveness by not providing adequate preparation, training, or tools.
  4. To ask salaried staff to work as a team with volunteers if you yourself do not have volunteers helping with the responsibilities of your job.
  5. To be so concerned about your own job security that you do not stand up and fight for the needs and rights of the volunteers you represent.
  6. To offer volunteers certain opportunities and working conditions, and then not deliver.
  7. To waste a volunteer’s time – ever.

You need to be honest, ethical, and fair with volunteers, just as you would be with staff. You also need to understand what motivates them. Let’s get one thing straight: Volunteers don’t volunteer just to get that happy, fuzzy feeling inside. Everyone volunteers for their own reasons. So firstly, determine the motivation of your volunteers. VolunteerHub offers more in their post here, but these were the common reasons for volunteering that they found:

  • Individuals have a personal tie to a nonprofits mission, goals, and values.
  • Individuals are looking for opportunities to meet and network with new people.
  • Individuals have a moral compass to do good.
  • Individuals are in search of skill-building opportunities.
  • Individuals want to practice leadership capacities.
  • Individuals are looking for ways to build their personal resume.
  • Individuals were asked to participate in a volunteer opportunity.

All of this means, when it comes to motivation, that you’re going to have a diverse group of volunteers. I can see how the thought of communicating effectively with all of them may seem intense. So, let’s take a moment to look into forming a communication strategy.

2.  Setting Up a Communication Strategy

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March 6, 2018

3 Powerful Ways to Get Your Monthly Donors to Give More

A few weeks ago, I published the post “How to Get Last Year’s Donors to Give More this Year.” Guest blogger Joe Garecht shared some great advice for increasing giving. However, the post did not specifically address the issue of monthly giving. That led to a reader comment.

Larry Little, President of Guardian Angel Basset Rescue, raised some important questions:

Our revenues are in the $300k range but approximately 30% of that comes through our monthly giving program. My question is about asking monthly donors to increase their amounts. How often should that be done? And should you segment your list and ask that segment every 18 months?”

First, I want to congratulate Little for having a robust monthly-giving program. Well done!

Second, I thank Little for inspiring this week’s post. While I could have given him a quick, brief response, I realized the topic deserves more attention and that it would likely be of interest to many of my readers. So, I invited expert Erica Waasdorp, President of A Direct Solution and author of the best-selling book Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant, to share her wisdom to help us better understand how to inspire greater giving from monthly supporters. I thank her for her insights:

 

It’s wonderful to see how much the focus is shifting to monthly giving, and it’s starting to really pay off for nonprofit organizations. Here are just two recent statistics from the most recent Blackbaud Luminate Online Benchmark Report:

Expanding relationships with existing supporters was the name of the game this year as we saw a 20.4% growth in sustainer revenue.”

Viewing online revenue as one great big pie, we saw a larger slice of the pie—8.4% more—coming from sustainer gifts in 2017.”

Today, I’m not going to write about how to convert your donors to give monthly. Today, I’m going to focus on how to generate more money from your existing monthly donors.

Just because they’re now giving more money than as single-gift givers doesn’t mean it ends there. Oh no! There are three ways you can actually ask your monthly donors to give more money:

1.      Ask for a monthly upgrade.

2.      Ask for an additional gift.

3.      Ask for a legacy gift.

Ask for a monthly upgrade.

People typically ask me two questions: A) How soon after a donor starts giving monthly can I ask for an upgrade? B) How often can I ask for an upgrade?

Before I address the timing questions, let me just point out that donors upgrade because they have been stewarded effectively. Totally true. And this also pertains to monthly donors. That’s why I always “hammer” on the importance of sending a hard-copy thank-you recognition letter even if the monthly donor came in online.

So let’s assume that you’ve done this part right. And let’s assume that your donor gives monthly through his or her credit card. And let’s assume that you send the donor a quarterly newsletter with some great stories and updates on how the donor’s giving makes a difference.

I’ve seen organizations that started to upgrade right away. I’ve seen organizations that started to upgrade three months after a monthly donor joined. Frankly, I think that’s just too soon. Yes, you may get some donors to upgrade when you ask, but I think you’d also come across as much greedier than you may wish to. That could alienate some supporters.

Your donor has just started to get used to giving monthly. They’re just getting acquainted with your stewardship efforts. They have just started to realize the convenience of giving this way.

You pay taxes typically once a year; you update your budget once a year, so I suggest asking for an upgraded amount once a year, ideally between 10 to 12 months after the donor gave monthly for the first time. That’s when you can make a legitimate case for the increase in cost for xyz service, and ask the donor if he can “give just a few dollars more a month” to help the children/client/animals.

And, as Joe Garecht mentioned in his earlier post, the four elements of asking monthly donors to increase their monthly gift are indeed:

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February 14, 2018

How to Get Last Year’s Donors to Give More this Year

Showing donor love and asking for more money should not be mutually exclusive activities. Inspiring upgraded support requires both to work hand-in-hand.

Unfortunately, for many nonprofit organizations, stewardship is the poor stepchild of the fundraising process. It is often ignored or poorly implemented. It is usually an underfunded activity. As a result, donor-retention rates for the nonprofit sector are pathetic.

Development professionals who think about stewardship usually believe that it is something sandwiched between when a gift is received and the next appeal. In other words, stewardship and fundraising are separate functions. However, Joe Garecht, President of Garecht Fundraising Associates and Editor of The Nonprofit Fundraising Digest, believes that the next appeal is actually an integral part of a robust stewardship process. An upgrade appeal will not achieve maximum success without sound stewardship. Done well, an ask is an extension of the stewardship process.

Joe’s thinking makes sense. If we love our donors, why would we want to deny them the satisfaction of continuing to support a cause they care about? Why would we want to deny them the opportunity to make a larger commitment? Helping donors to continue feeling good about continuing to do good is part of good stewardship.

We want our donors to feel important, feel needed. One way to do that, is to ask and to ask for more than they gave last year. However, we shouldn’t make an upgrade appeal in a vacuum.

It’s not just about asking. As Joe explains in his guest post below, it’s about incorporating the ask into a sound stewardship system so that the upgrade appeal is a natural evolution of our relationship with the donor. Stewardship and asking are not separate activities; they part of a cohesive system.

I thank Joe for sharing his stewardship insights and his four-step strategy for asking for donation upgrades:

 

One of the most important fundraising systems you can build at your nonprofit is an effective donor stewardship strategy. Donor stewardship starts with thanking your donors for their gifts… but is much more than that.

There are three main goals for your donor stewardship system:

  1. Donor Retention: You want to make sure that your donors keep giving year after year.
  2. Referrals: You want your donors to introduce you to their friends and colleagues who also might want to get involved with your organization.
  3. Donor Upgrades: You want your donors to give more this year than last year, and to move to major gifts and planned giving, if they have the capacity to do so.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at that third goal. We’re going to answer the question, “How can you get your current donors to give more this year than they did last year?” To understand how to best upgrade your donors, we’re going to first explore why donors make the decision to upgrade, and then review a simple, four-step strategy for getting your donors to upgrade this year.

Understanding Why Donors Upgrade

If you want to successfully solicit your donors to give more this year than they have in the past, it is important to understand why donors decide to upgrade their gifts:

Donors upgrade because they have been stewarded effectively.

The most important reason why donors upgrade is because they have been properly stewarded. This means that your nonprofit has appropriately thanked and recognized them for their past gifts, and has continued to build a relationship with them. Your donors want to feel like they are an integral part of your team. They want to feel appreciated, valued, and heard.

If you are treating your donors well, keeping them updated on your work, seeking their advice and input, and reporting on outcomes in between asks, your donors will be far more likely to upgrade their gifts. If your donors are investing their emotional energy, knowledge, and time in your work, then upgrading their financial investment will be the next logical step.

Donors upgrade because you are casting a big vision.

One of my favorite maxims in fundraising is this: Donors don’t make big gifts to small visions. Your donors want to change the world. They want to make a difference. If you are not casting a big enough vision, your donors will make their big gifts elsewhere, investing in organizations and companies that are.

Every nonprofit can cast a big vision…even small, local organizations working in one small corner of the world. Start by asking yourself, “How are we changing the world? How are we changing lives? How are we saving lives?” Your answers to these questions will help you think through the real impact of your work. If you want your donors to give more this year than they ever have before, you need to cast a bigger vision this year than you ever have before.

Donors upgrade because they are asked to upgrade.

Donors only upgrade when you ask them to do so. Very few donors will upgrade their gifts without being asked.  Thus, if you want your donors to give more this year than they did last year, you need to go out and ask them to do so. While the majority of your stewardship system should be focused on cultivation, asking for donations from current donors (including renewals and upgrades) is an essential part of the fundraising cycle.

In order to be successful, the upgrade process should be systematic. This means that you shouldn’t ask for upgrades here and there, whenever the whim strikes you. Instead, you should have a defined plan in place to review your donors’ capacity and ask them for upgrades as often as appropriate.

How to Ask Your Donors to Upgrade

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March 15, 2017

Raise More Money with Smart Use of Apps and Online Technology

The right technology, used correctly, engaging the appropriate people, can help you be a more successful nonprofit manager or fundraising professional. Increasingly, younger people are using technology to gather information, connect, and even donate to the causes that move them. But, don’t forget about Baby Boomers; while they may not be the heavy users of technology that Millennials are, they’re still using and benefitting from a variety of tools that didn’t exist just several years ago.

One of the challenges for nonprofit organizations is to discover the apps and online resources that can benefit them in a rapidly evolving world. Another challenge involves being careful to avoid the potential pitfalls that technology can present.

To help you think a bit more carefully about deploying technology, Maeve Lander, CEO and Founder of PayNow, shares her thoughts below. PayNow for Stripe is a minimalist point of sales app, allowing you to accept credit card payments and donations on your phone. The Australian-based company serves clients in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

The companies mentioned in the post represent terrific examples. However, mention of these companies does not imply endorsement by this site.

You don’t need to be a technology expert to explore how your organization can best leverage technology. There are plenty of experts who can assist you when the time is right. However, you’re in the best position see how technology can benefit your organization and its stakeholders, including donors.

I thank Maeve for sharing some of her thoughts with us:

 

Technology is as integral a part of daily life as buying groceries, socialising with friends over a coffee or making the daily commute to work. In a recent study, the Pew Research Center reported that 74 percent of all online adults used social networking sites, and this number is expected to grow. One need only look at the massive fundraising effort and success for the Haiti relief fund, for which donors raised $43 million USD through mobile technology.

One significant trend is that users are increasingly accessing the internet by using mobile phones. In fact, as many as 63 percent of adult mobile phone owners use their phones to go online. The average busy person receives 121 emails per day, and checks their phone close to 150 times per day. Of particular relevance to charities, non-government organisations and fundraising organisations, 47 percent of Americans learn about charitable campaigns through social media or elsewhere online.

These statistics highlight a clear need for charities and fundraising organisations to ensure they are keeping up to date with online technology in all its forms, such as websites, mobile phone applications (or apps), email, software systems, and general online presence. If these key communication and operational assets are not utilized effectively clients, donors and other stakeholders may be discouraged from engaging with the organisation or making a donation.

This article explores some of the great benefits for charities and other organisations of using online technology tools and apps as well as some of the greatest associated risks and how to avoid them.

Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing is essentially using the internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. The most common cloud computing solutions are offered by Google and Dropbox. The benefits these systems have for charitable organisations can be dramatic. They are often simple, elegant, and easy to use which means a shorter learning curve for new staff and less time spent on IT-troubleshooting. They offer an organisation considerable efficiencies as staff can often use their personal devices after downloading the cloud-based application and the organisation providing authorisations.

Cloud-computing is also well suited to an organisation’s staff who do field work, as opposed to from a centralised physical office, as most systems simply require users to establish a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection. Invest in setting up these systems to make it painless and efficient for people to give their time and skills.

Centralising and Aggregating Data:

To analyse and make use of data with greater efficiency, a comprehensive technology platform can be useful. This system is usually termed a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool and can help you keep track of donor communication preferences, manage the frequency of correspondence, and aggregate information. There are basic, yet elegant solutions such as ProsperWorks, which is a general CRM, right up to charity specific CRM packages like SalesForce or Bloomerang.

The benefits of CRMs is that they can help organisations learn more about more people and, therefore, engage with donors to better understand how they want to give, which events are most rewarding for them to be a part of, or for clients, how their needs can be met.

Clear and Easy Information Communication:

Informational apps such as the Red Cross app have been downloaded by millions of people. This clearly shows an added demand for critical information that either wasn’t being delivered, wasn’t being delivered as effectively as it could have been, or is in a format that is more in keeping with modern demands. Creating an informational app might be useful to communicate your organisation’s messages, aims, and goals.

On the other hand, such apps can be expensive to develop and might be limited when compared to publishing information on a website or issuing regular newsletters. Make sure you weigh up the costs and benefits of creating an app against other options that might be more economical or simply more effective.

For example, a useful approach for publishing extensive studies or documents can be that instead of bundling your impact story into one big annual package, break it into small stories shared on an ongoing basis. This can be achieved through newsletter services such as MailChimp where you can even share photos or videos of the people you are serving.

Making the Act of Donating or Easy:

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December 16, 2016

Make Better Presentations with 10 Powerful Tips

Imagine if you could make great presentations. I’m not talking about merely good speeches. Instead, I’m speaking of truly memorable, meaningful, influential presentations at staff meetings, board meetings, professional conferences, and gatherings of prospects and donors.

Would taking your presentations to the next level help you more effectively guide your staff, inform your board, teach your colleagues, and inspire your prospects and donors? You bet it would. It might even earn you a promotion or better job.

Decades ago when I first began teaching at fundraising conferences, I asked Ted Hart, ACFRE, now the CEO of the Charities Aid Foundation of America, for some helpful tips. He told me, “If you want above average evaluation scores, start on time, end on time, and speak to the topic that the program book says you’ll be addressing.”

At first, I thought Ted was setting the bar a bit low. However, in practice, I discovered he had shared some essential, fundamental advice that I’ve always appreciated. Over the years, my evaluation scores improved as my speaking skills developed. As I became a more proficient presenter, the scores and comments I received from my audiences were usually quite good.

However, I still was not satisfied.

I do not want my audiences to simply enjoy my seminars in the moment. I want them to also remember and use the information I share when they get back to their offices.

Michael Rosen at PPGGNY Conference, starting at the podium before speaking from the audience during his keynote address.

Michael Rosen at PPGGNY Conference, starting at the podium before speaking from the audience during his keynote address.

Then, in 2006, I heard about a special educational program from the Association of Fundraising ProfessionalsThe Faculty Training Academy. AFP offers the program to teach good speakers advanced presentation skills. In short, the program was the most transformational workshop I’ve ever attended.

You now have an opportunity to have a similarly meaningful experience by being one of just 35 participants in the next Faculty Training Academy. The program will be held at AFP International Headquarters in Arlington, VA on March 30-31, 2017. The two-day, intensive workshop will teach attendees about adult education principles, learning styles, classroom management, assessment, and other related topics. AFP encourages fundraising professionals, with extensive experience who are also members of AFP, to learn more about the program by clicking here.

It’s a chance for you to learn how to be a more effective, inspirational public speaker.

Dr. B.J. Bischoff, of Bischoff Performance Improvement Consulting, will again facilitate the program she created for AFP over 15 years ago. Bischoff has also presented at the AFP International Fundraising Conference and Leadership Academies. She has also designed and presented train-the-trainers programs for the Fund Raising School at Indiana University, the US Central Intelligence Agency, the United States Agency for International Development, the Government of Romania, the World Bank, and many other nonprofit and government funded organizations.

Recognizing that not all of my readers will be able to attend the Faculty Training Academy, Bischoff has kindly provided a list of 10 powerful tips that will make you a far better presenter, no matter how good you already are:

read more »

April 6, 2016

Stop Showering All of Your Donors with Love!

[Publisher’s Note: This post is part of a series kindly contributed by guest authors who attended the 2016 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference. These posts share valuable insights from the Conference. This week, I thank Chad Barger, CFRE, Principal of Productive Fundraising, for highlighting the seminar “Relationship Fundraising: Where Do We Go From Here?”]

 

If you want to raise more money, stop showering all of your donors with love. That’s one of the key takeaways from the AFP International Fundraising Conference seminar “Relationship Fundraising: Where Do We Go From Here?”

I’ve been a longtime advocate for donor-centered fundraising. So, it might surprise you that I completely agree with that suggestion.

Chad Barger, CFRE, Principal of Productive Fundraising, attended the session and explores this key takeaway for us. Chad is a fundraising coach, consultant, blogger, and speaker. He is also a passionate arts advocate and raises vital support for the arts in his community as the Director of the Cultural Enrichment Fund (Harrisburg, PA). Here’s what Chad learned:

 

“Relationship Fundraising: Where Do We Go From Here?” was presented by a dream team of fundraising gurus: Adrian Sargeant, PhD; Ian MacQuillin; Jay Love; and Rachel Muir, CFRE — if you ever get a chance to see any of them live, do it.

The session reviewed research and case studies on the use and development of relationship fundraising since the concept was first introduced to the nonprofit sector in Ken Burnett’s 1992 book, Relationship Fundraising. There’s ample evidence that relationship fundraising works, and I think the modern fundraiser certainly knows this. It’s no surprise to us that building relationships with prospects and donors leads to more and increased donations.

RelationshipFundraisingHowever, my biggest takeaway from this session was that relationship fundraising and transactional fundraising can coexist in the same development shop.

Your first response might be, “Why would you want to do that? Every fundraiser worth their salary knows that relationship fundraising is the way to raise big dollars!”

Well, consider this: When we say that we only practice relationship fundraising, we are actually not being donor centric. The problem is that we are assuming that every donor wants to build a relationship with our charity. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Some donors give because they attended our event and they felt obligated to give more while there (e.g., the Fund a Need at the end of the live auction). Or, perhaps they gave because a friend asked and they couldn’t say no because that friend donated to their cause the month before. In both of these situations, the donor is happy to help out and make a donation, but they don’t really have a passion for your mission. The donation is simply a transaction to them. It’s not the first step toward a relationship like we fundraisers instantly assume.

It would be a lot of wasted effort to try to transform this transactional donation into a relationship. The donor simply doesn’t want it. The donor doesn’t hate you or think you’re a bad person; they just have a full life and our cause is never going to be a priority for them.

So, we as fundraisers need to get better at recognizing these transactional donors and stop wasting time and money trying to turn them into relational ones.

What’s the best way to do this? Easy … ask the donor what they want. A simple follow up phone call or email thanking them for their donation with an invitation to begin a relationship is all it takes. If they don’t respond (especially after a second prompt), then move them to the transactional side of the house. Still send them a thank you, prompt gift acknowledgment, and a report on the impact of their donation, but that is sufficient. Save the arsenal of cultivation tactics for donors who want a relationship with you and your organization.

Based on this newfound perspective, I’m now in the process of building out two different communication plans for my relational and transactional donors. While this initially seems like more work, I’m excited about the increased time that I will have to spend with my relational donors once I’m no longer chasing my transactional donors and hounding them for a visit. So please give it some thought and see if you too could benefit from stopping the chase and, instead, treating ALL of your donors the way they would like to be treated (not just your relational ones). After all, treating people the way they want to be treated is the core of donor-centered fundraising.

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April 1, 2016

3 Insights that will Change the Way You Do #Nonprofit Work

[Publisher’s Note: This is the first of a number of posts kindly contributed by guest authors who attended the 2016 AFP International Fundraising Conference. These posts share valuable insights from the Conference. This week, I thank Nancy Racette, CFRE, Principal and Chief Operating Officer at DRi, for highlighting the “Rebels, Renegades & Pioneers” education track.]

 

What if you could hear from some of the nonprofit world’s leading provocateurs, innovators, and big thinkers about the glories, the failures, and the future of the charity sector?

If you had attended the recent Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference, you could have. If you were unable to attend the program, don’t worry. I’m about to share some highlights with you.

Rebels logoDevelopment Resources Inc. (DRi) sponsored the new education track called “Rebels, Renegades & Pioneers. The track was designed to engage attendees in thought-provoking conversations about the nature and ultimate purpose of the nonprofit sector, in addition to providing tactical guidance. Business leaders, fundraisers, researchers, and activists who have spent their lives fostering these conversations shared their thoughts at the Conference.

Nancy Racette, CFRE, DRi Principal and Chief Operating Officer, attended the program. DRi is an executive search and consulting firm that builds nonprofit capacity through Board and leadership recruitment, strategic planning, and resource development both across the country and around the world. Here are some of the important insights Racette found:

 

What if social justice were a form of donor cultivation?

What if fundraisers used studies testing such propositions when they designed philanthropic programs?

How would the lessons of this research change participation in the nonprofit world?

The experts gathered for the “Rebels, Renegades & Pioneers” education track addressed these and other provocative questions. Here are three of the most significant ideas we heard:

1.  You’re not a fundraiser. You’re a catalyst for change.

The Rebels track opened with an inspiring call for fundraisers of all stripes to see themselves as agents of large-scale social change.

The fundraising vision of Roger CraverJennie Thompson,  and Daryl Upsall created a new model of social movement in the 20th century, one in which membership-based nonprofits made themselves central actors in some of the world’s greatest social transformations, from AIDS to apartheid, from voting rights to human rights.

Today, though, the challenge is to recognize that you don’t have to be a c(4) organization with a national membership to be an agent of social change. Fundraising is an inevitably activist enterprise, one that calls on people to remake the world — and that’s as true of art museums and homeless shelters as it is of Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club.

Art isn’t a luxury for the leisured; it’s a revolutionary prism through which humans re-imagine themselves and bring their new visions to life. That’s why the Urban Institute released a 2008 report on making the case for the arts as a space of collective community action. What’s more activist than that?

And we know that engaging people in social action ultimately creates new donors. People who see themselves as actors in a movement want to invest in that movement.

We got a live demonstration at AFP, when a woman who identified herself as a South American refugee stood up to say that the help she had received from Planned Parenthood had brought her to the Conference to learn how to raise money for the causes she believes in. If we see all the fundraising we do as a movement for social change, how would it help us engage people like that?

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October 27, 2015

The #Fundraising Life is Tough, so Laugh More!

Are you able to laugh at yourself?

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not always easy to laugh at oneself. At times, it’s not even easy to laugh at the challenges we encounter in any given day. However, finding the humor with ourselves, and the situations we encounter, can be enormously beneficial.

Consider what actor Salma Hayek has said on the subject:

Life is tough; and if you have the ability to laugh at it, you have the ability to enjoy it.”

Author Kurt Vonnegut emphasized another benefit of laughter:

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.”

We can all benefit by laughing more at the daily frustrations we face while trying to do our fundraising work. That’s where Phillip E. Perdue, MBA, May I Cultivate You?CFRE, CDM can help. A longtime fundraising professional, Perdue has written the book May I Cultivate You? Perdue’s book takes a humorous, insightful look at the various aspects of fundraising.

When reading the book, I recognized any number of frustrating/humorous situations I’ve seen over my long career. If you want to have some chuckles and gain some insights about the world of fundraising, I encourage you to pick up a copy. If you want to spread the cheer, you may want to get some extra copies to share with your favorite fundraisers this coming holiday season.

May I Cultivate You? is available on Kindle and paperback. To give you a taste of the book, Perdue has allowed me to share “Chapter Twelve — Your Fundraising Software is the Worst.” Thanks, Phil! This bonus chapter is not available in the print version of the book. Let me know what you think of this chapter:

 

When you begin a new job, someone will give you a log-in for the fundraising software. Moments later, one of your new co-workers will come over and say how much they hate the fundraising software and moan about how confusing, user-hostile and archaic it is. Everyone within earshot will nod agreement.

___________________________

 Your passwords go on post-it notes next to your computer.

___________________________

The software will seem to have caused more human misery than typhoid, small pox and opera combined. Which is strange because you thought the software at your last job was the worst. And it was. And now this new system will be the worst. Wherever you are, whatever you are using, it is the pits, the bottom of the barrel.

To be fair, the modern software industry has given fundraisers remarkable tools. But as you know, this is generally an awful thing for a lot of reasons.

Imagine using a 200-lb sledgehammer to kill ants. Or having a Swiss Army knife with 7,000 attachments the size of a pickup truck. Modern development software feels like that to the Liberal Arts majors trying to jockey it. It is too unwieldy for people who use words like “unwieldy.” Mostly, we use the software as a rolodex and a gift log.

It does not help that most of the computers running the software are nearly as old as the furniture they sit on.

And it does not help that as the systems have grown exponentially more sophisticated your organization’s training budget has not increased since 1950. Chances are no one in your shop has had any professional training or knows how to take advantage of all the wonderful features buried away in FundJuggernaut ’98 or whatever you are using. If newcomers are lucky, they will be taught to log-in and look up phone numbers.

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January 30, 2015

Donor Retention: Time for a Change

[Publisher’s Note: From time-to-time, I will invite an outstanding, published book author to write a guest post. If you’d like to learn about how to be a guest blogger, click on the “Authors” tab above.]

This week, I have invited international fundraising superstar Roger M. Craver, a direct-response fundraising pioneer, Editor at The Agitator, and author of Retention Fundraising: The New Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life to share his wisdom with us.

However, do we really need a book about something as fundamental as donor retention? I believe we do. And so does Ken Burnett, Managing Trustee at SOFII and author of Relationship Fundraising. Here’s what Burnett says in the Foreword to Craver’s book:

Our nonprofit sector is bleeding to death. We’re hemorrhaging donors, losing support as fast as we find it, seemingly condemned forever to pay a fortune just to stand still.

It’s time we stemmed the flow.”

While the latest Fundraising Effectiveness Project report, developed by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Urban Institute, shows that the nonprofit sector’s donor retention rate has improved for the first time in years, the number is still wretched. The nonprofit sector’s donor retention rate now sits at a shameful 43 percent! For every 100 new and renewed donors, 102 donors are lost through attrition.

As a sector, we must stop this donor churn. It’s expensive. It prevents organizations from building long-term relationships that lead to large current donations and significant planned gifts.

Sadly, doing business as usual is not working. It’s time to change the way we do things.

Retention Fundraising by Roger CraverFortunately, the solution to the donor retention problem faced by the sector is not overly complicated or pricey. It simply requires a commitment to change. Once you’re committed to enhancing your organization’s donor retention rate, Craver’s mercifully brief and easy to read text will show you the way. Based on science and decades of practice, Craver’s book will explore what measurements are important to track, what tactics you need to adopt, and what messaging secrets you need to learn.

Noted philanthropy researcher and author Adrian Sargeant finds that “even small improvements in the level of attrition can generate significantly larger improvements in the lifetime value of the fundraising database. A 10 percent improvement in attrition can yield up to a 200 percent increase in projected value.”

By following the advice found in Craver’s book and its companion website, you will be able to improve your organization’s donor retention rate. With increased fundraising effectiveness, your organization will be far better positioned to fulfill its mission today and well into the future.

Here’s an excerpt from Retention Fundraising that further reveals the problem faced by nonprofit sector:

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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. 

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