Archive for ‘Stewardship’

February 24, 2017

What is the Special Ingredient that Leads to #Fundraising Success?

Do you know the special ingredient for creating fundraising success?

You’ll notice I didn’t say “secret ingredient.” That’s because it’s not a secret. It’s actually common sense. The reason I’m writing about it is that it is not yet common practice to the degree it should be.

The special ingredient is: building relationships.

Gerry Lenfest, 21st century philanthropist and Giving Pledge member, explained the importance of developing relationships when writing the Foreword to my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

Knowing your prospects and understanding what motivates them are two critical steps in the [philanthropic] process. Quite simply, you cannot skip cultivation and relationship building and expect a successful outcome…. Do not make the mistake of forgetting about us once you receive our gift commitment. We may truly appreciate how efficiently and effectively you handle contributed funds so much that we entrust you with another planned gift. We are also in a position to influence others to do the same…”

While Lenfest’s comments were about planned giving, they certainly apply to any type of fundraising. Strong relationships are the key ingredient to a successful philanthropic process. By building meaningful relationships, you will:

  • Acquire more donors
  • Retain more donors
  • Upgrade more donors
  • Acquire more planned gifts
  • Generate more major gifts
  • Inspire donors to become ambassadors for your organization

Unfortunately, the nonprofit sector in general is terrible at building relationships. This is one major reason that donor-retention rates have been steadily falling for years, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. While there is no shortage of great how-to material out there, charities are still failing to grasp the importance of embracing a robust stewardship program as part of the philanthropic process. You can search this site for donor retention to get some great tips.

For now, however, I want to share a heartwarming story of what can happen when you establish strong relationships with donors and inspire them to be ambassadors.

John’s Roast Pork is a destination sandwich stand in Philadelphia. John Bucci’s family-owned establishment has been around since 1930 serving the best roast pork sandwiches in the city. (Hey, Philly is about more than john-bucci-of-johns-roast-porkcheese steak sandwiches, though they serve those, too.) The James Beard Foundation designated the establishment as an “American Classic” for roast pork.

Unfortunately, earlier this month, John’s was burglarized. The perpetrator(s) got away with a few thousand dollars. The burglary also shut down the business until repairs could be made. The stolen sum included $1,500 that had been collected to benefit Be the Match, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program. The charity maintains the world’s largest and most diverse bone marrow donor registry.

Be the Match is important to Bucci. Several years ago, he fought a fierce battle with leukemia and was ultimately successfully treated with a bone marrow transplant. Since then, Bucci has been a supporter. At one point when he contacted the organization, he requested to meet his marrow donor so he could thank the person. However, he was told that the organization’s guidelines did not permit this. Here’s what Bucci told Philly.com he did instead:

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 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:

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.

September 27, 2016

Are You Doing Something Wrong Without Even Knowing It?

Most fundraising professionals are good people trying to do good things. Most fundraising professionals believe they are ethical and, therefore, will routinely choose right over wrong.

However, what do you do when confronted with a situation where there is no clear right or wrong option? What do you do when you encounter a dilemma beyond your experience? What do you say when a donor or board member questions your actions?

That’s where fundraising ethics comes in. Ethical standards help us be the kind of people we want to be. Ethical standards guide us as we navigate fundraising challenges so that we can achieve the best results for our donors, beneficiaries, and organizations.

rights-stuff-cover-from-rogare(Toward the end of this post, I’ll tell you how you can get two FREE white papers that explore the ethics issue in greater detail.)

Unfortunately, many find that the existing fundraising ethics codes in use around the world are inadequate. That’s why Rogare, the fundraising think tank at the Plymouth University Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy,  has undertaken a major, new ethics project.

Rogare seeks to develop a new normative ethics theory that balances the interests of donors and charity beneficiaries. This will empower us to more consistently make good decisions and take the right actions. That’s good for donors, charity beneficiaries, and nonprofit organizations.

Ian MacQuillin, Director of Rogare, explained it this way on The Agitator blog:

Ethical theories are intended to help us think through how to make better decisions in doing the right thing, and this is what our work at Rogare, with the help of people such as Heather McGinness, is trying to do, particularly to ensure that we do the right thing by our beneficiaries as well as our donors. We need ethical theories to help us make better decisions every day in our lives, precisely because knowing ‘right’ from ‘wrong’ is often such a morally grey area. Fundraising is really no different.”

For example, we can probably agree that we should not tell lies. However, imagine the following scenario: You’re scheduled to meet a wealthy donor for a noon lunch. You arrive at the restaurant early to make sure everything is perfect. At 12:05 PM, the donor has yet to arrive. At 12:10 PM, the donor has not shown up, and you have not received any messages. At 12:15 PM, you begin to wonder if you have the wrong day and begin to get annoyed. Finally, arriving 20 minutes late, the donor comes through the door. After greeting you, the donor says, “I’m sorry I was running late. I hope it’s okay.”

In response to the donor in the scenario I’ve described, you could say, “Well, as a matter of fact, I was becoming annoyed. You know, you could have sent me a text message to let me know you were running late.” Or, to put the donor at ease, you might choose to lie and say with a warm smile, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal. I’m fine.” Hmmm, maybe lies are not always bad.

My example is admittedly a bit silly, even simplistic. My point is that things we think are black-and-white don’t always remain such. That’s why ethical frameworks and decision-making models are so important.

Okay, now it’s time for the FREE stuff.

August 26, 2016

Do You Know How to Take Criticism?

I received an extraordinary message recently.

With the permission of the author, I’m going to share her message with you. It’s a superb example of how to respond to criticism and turn it into an opportunity for positive engagement. It also raises an interesting issue that I want you to share your thoughts about.

Books by Aimee Rivers via FlickrEarlier this summer, my wife received an email appeal from Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum and Library. That email inspired me to write a blog post about fundraising by email (“Stop Making Stupid Email and Direct Mail Mistakes”). The post was admittedly harsh though constructive with eight useful tips for the Rosenbach and you.

While I alerted the Rosenbach to the post, I never heard back from staff, not that I had requested or expected a reply. That is until a few weeks ago when I received the following message from Sara Davis, the new Marketing Manager at the Rosenbach:

Dear Mr. Rosen:

I recently joined the Rosenbach staff as the manager of marketing, and I stumbled across this post while getting caught up on social media mentions from the summer. Criticism can be hard to hear, and I admit that I would prefer to have found it in my inbox rather than see the organization named in a public post, but your advice is constructive and I agree with many of your points. I will certainly pass these suggestions along to my colleagues; our future campaigns will no doubt benefit from your expertise. My thanks.”

Wow! I was impressed with Davis’ message. I thank her for allowing me to share it with you. Davis struck the right tone and managed to pack a lot into a brief communication. Here are some of the reasons her message works:

Respectful. Davis referred to me as Mr. Rosen, knowing and respecting my feelings on the subject of salutations, which I had addressed in my post. Davis and I did not know each other, so an informal form of address would have been presumptuous.

Introduction. Davis introduced herself to me, told me her title, and mentioned that she is new to the Rosenbach, hence the delay in contacting me. This established a personal connection while putting her message into context.

Honesty. Davis shared her honest feelings about seeing my post. But, she did so in a professional way, without whining, complaining, or being defensive. She did not take my criticism personally. She did not take offense or, at least, she did not show that she was offended.

Value. Davis acknowledged that my post offered constructive criticism. She went on to show that she valued the tips I provided in my post. She also mentioned that she would share my advice with her colleagues. By valuing my advice, she showed she values me.

Thank you. Davis then concluded her message by thanking me! How often do you thank people for having criticized you or your organization? I know that I don’t do it very often. However, by thanking me, Davis reveals an understanding that constructive feedback is an opportunity for us to improve. She also understands that when someone takes the time to passionately and constructively offer criticism, it’s probably because they care.

Engagement. By writing to me, Davis engaged me and opened the door for me to contact her directly. And that’s exactly what I did.

Because of my interaction with Davis, the positive feelings I once had for the Rosenbach were rekindled.

When choosing whether to respond to criticism and, if responding, how to respond, we would be well served by following Davis’ excellent example. Every interaction is an opportunity for cultivation.

Now, here is where you come in.

August 19, 2016

Could Your #Nonprofit be Forced to Return a Donor’s Gift?

Officials at Vanderbilt University got schooled. They learned, the hard way, that nonprofit organizations cannot unilaterally void the terms of a gift agreement without returning the donation.

This is a story that keeps on giving. It provides an important lesson for all nonprofit organizations about the requirement, ethical and legal, to honor donor intent.

The tale begins in 1933 when the Tennessee Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy donated $50,000 to the George Peabody College of Teachers to build a dormitory named “Confederate Memorial Hall.”

Confederate Memorial Hall (2007)

Confederate Memorial Hall (2007)

In 1979, Peabody was merged into Vanderbilt becoming the “Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University.”

After years of discussion, according to Inside Higher Ed, Vanderbilt decided in 2002 to drop the word “Confederate” and rename the building simply “Memorial Hall.” The University took this action without gaining the approval of the Daughters of the Confederacy or returning the gift.

After taking Vanderbilt to court, the Daughters of the Confederacy received a Tennessee Appeals Court ruling in 2005 that ordered the University to either keep the original name of the building or refund the donation … in inflation-adjusted dollars. That $50,000 gift from 1933 is now valued at $1.2 million.

As reported in Inside Higher Ed:

The appeals court unanimously rejected Vanderbilt’s argument that academic freedom gave it the right to change the name. Vanderbilt argued that the Supreme Court has given private colleges considerable latitude in their decisions. But the appeals court said that was irrelevant because the agreement to name the dormitory ‘Confederate Memorial Hall’ was between a donor and a charitable group — and the government never forced the gift to be accepted.”

In its ruling, the Appeals Court stated (emphasis is mine):

We fail to see how the adoption of a rule allowing universities to avoid their contractual and other voluntarily assumed legal obligations whenever, in the university’s opinion, those obligations have begun to impede their academic mission would advance principles of academic freedom. To the contrary, allowing Vanderbilt and other academic institutions to jettison their contractual and other legal obligations so casually would seriously impair their ability to raise money in the future by entering into gift agreements such as the ones at issue here.

It took quite some time but, with money raised from anonymous donors, Vanderbilt paid $1.2 million to the Daughters of the Confederacy and renamed the building this month in accordance with the Court’s judgment.

Unfortunately, this has not brought this story to a happy conclusion. Vanderbilt has damaged its reputation by revealing its willingness to “casually” disregard donor intent.

I stand firmly with the Appeals Court decision. How I feel, or anyone feels, about the old Confederacy or the word “Confederate” on the building is irrelevant in this case. Instead, there are two powerful governing issues involved here:

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