Posts tagged ‘ask’

October 1, 2018

Here are 3 Simple Steps to Avoid a Year-End Appeal Disaster

We’re now in the fourth quarter of the calendar year. It’s that special time of year when most charitable giving happens. That’s due, in part, to the fact that charities are out in force soliciting contributions as the year nears a close.

While there are many things you can and should do, I’m going to keep it easy. I’m going to give you three simple steps (and a bunch of useful tips) that will help you avoid a year-end appeal disaster:

Step 1 – Make a Year-End Appeal: You should test doing a beginning-of-the-year appeal in January/February since tax-avoidance is less of an issue for more people under the new tax code (see my post about this by clicking here). However, the fourth-quarter season-of-giving certainly remains the traditional time to ask for support. So, unless you have data for your organization that suggests otherwise, make sure you have a year-end appeal. The surest way to have a disastrous year-end fundraising appeal is not to have one.

As you plan your appeal, be sure to segment your prospect file. Treating your prospects as one homogeneous group may make your job easier, but it won’t help you keep your job. You’ll achieve much better results if you segment your prospect pool and target each segment with a tailored appeal.

For example, your message to existing donors will be different from your message to acquisition prospects. For starters, you’ll want to thank existing donors for their support before asking for another gift. Other segments might include monthly donors (You do have a monthly-donor program, right?), volunteers, past service recipients, event participants, etc.

In addition to tailoring your message to each segment, be sure to customize the ask. It’s inappropriate to ask an acquisition prospect for $1,000. Conversely, it’s also inappropriate to ask a $500 donor for $50. Just as bad, it’s a horrible mistake to not ask for a specific dollar amount or not to ask at all.

Step 2 – Have a Solid Case for Support: If you want people to give money to your organization, you need to make a compelling case for support. This is particularly true at this time of year when virtually every other nonprofit organization is out there looking for donations, too. Why should people respond to your direct-mail appeal (or phone solicitation, or face-to-face ask, etc.) instead of the appeal from another organization, perhaps one with a similar mission to yours? Address that question, and you’ll have greater success.

A strong case for support is particularly important when appealing to folks who have already contributed this year. They’ll want to know how you spent their money, the impact they have already had, and why you need more. Tell them those things, and you’ll increase the chance of getting another gift.

In addition to having a solid case for support, you’ll want to create some urgency. Why should people give to your organization now? If you’re the Salvation Army, people automatically get why you’re asking around holiday time. For pretty much any other organization, you’ll have to give prospects a good reason. And if that reason magnifies the impact that the donor’s gift will have, so much the better.

For example, you can have a challenge grant that matches all gifts received through the end of the year. Or, you could have the cost of your appeal underwritten by a major donor so you can legitimately tell prospective donors that 100 percent of their contributions to the appeal will go toward mission fulfillment. Both of these ideas will create urgency while magnifying the impact your donors can have.

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August 3, 2018

Fantastic News and Opportunity for the Nonprofit Sector!

The nonprofit sector received a major piece of good news at the end of July. American Gross Domestic Product in the second quarter of 2018 grew at the annualized rate of 4.1 percent. This represents the economy’s fastest growth rate since 2014. GDP growth in the first-quarter was a healthy, though unremarkable, 2.2 percent.

I don’t really care if you love or hate President Donald Trump. I’m not making a political statement. I’m simply reporting on an economic fact that has profound implications for nonprofit organizations.

The news is fantastic for charities because overall-philanthropy correlates with GDP. For more than four decades, philanthropy has been between 1.6 and 2.2 percent of GDP. In 2017, philanthropy was once again at 2.1 percent (Giving USA). This means that when the economy grows, we can expect growth in charitable giving.

Think of it this way: For more than 40 years, the nonprofit sector has received about a two percent slice of the economic pie. It’s safe to say that that approximate proportion will continue. So, if the economic pie becomes larger, that two percent slice becomes larger as well.

While I’m oversimplifying, my fundamental point is sound: When the economy grows, so does philanthropy.

Some economists and commentators believe the robust GDP growth rate is not sustainable. However, if the impressive economic growth continues, or even if growth continues at a more moderate pace, we can still expect 2018 to be a good year for charitable fundraising.

Given the positive economic environment, you have an opportunity to successfully raise money for your organization. But, it’s up to you to seize that opportunity while the positive economic environment lasts.

Here are 10 things you can do to raise more money while the economy is good:

1. Hug your donors. Ok, maybe not literally. However, you do need to let your donors know you love and appreciate them. Do you quickly acknowledge gifts? You should do so within 48 hours. Do you effectively thank donors? You should do so in at least seven different ways. You should review your thank-you letters to ensure they are heartfelt, meaningful, and effective. Have board members call donors to thank them in addition to your standard thank-you letter.

2. Tell donors about the impact of their gifts. Donors want to know that their giving is making a difference. If their giving isn’t making a difference or they aren’t sure, they’re more likely to give elsewhere. So, report to your donors. Tell them what their giving is achieving and that their support is being used efficiently.

3. Start a new recognition program. One small nonprofit organization I know started a new, special corporate giving club. CEOs of the corporate members are placed on an advisory board, receive special recognition, and are provided with networking opportunities. This new recognition program generated over $50,000 in just a few months. While enhancing existing recognition efforts is beneficial, starting a new recognition program can yield significant results.

4. Ask. Your organization is providing important services. It needs money. Give people the opportunity to support your worthy mission. When you ask for support, just be certain not to limit the ask to cash gifts. Research shows that organizations that receive non-monetary donations (e.g., stocks, bonds, personal property, real estate, etc.) grow significantly more than organizations that receive only cash contributions. Partly as a result of the new income tax code, the number of Donor-Advised Funds has grown significantly. So, make it easy for your supporters to give from their DAFs.

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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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December 8, 2017

5 Mistakes that Could Cost You Year-End Donations

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

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

1.  Appeals by the Numbers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 3, 2017

5 Tips for Raising More Money in a Difficult News Environment

Nonprofit organizations already face many challenges when it comes to raising money. So, it’s unfortunate that numerous charities must now deal with a fresh, difficult situation.

In a recent article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, reporter Rebecca Koenig explains:

Charities always find it difficult to capture attention, but some nonprofits fear that their donors are distracted by President Trump’s policies. ‘Backlash philanthropy,’ the trend of donating money to express frustration with the new administration, has benefited select organizations like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union but not necessarily nonprofits as a whole.”

If Trump Administration policies directly affect your organization’s mission, fundraising can be relatively easy. Indeed, some charities have benefitted microphone-by-yat-fai-ooi-via-flickerfrom record philanthropy since Election Day. However, what can you do if your organization’s mission has little or nothing to do with the debates capturing media attention?

Koenig’s report provides great tips, insights from nonprofit professionals, and helpful detail. If you’re a Chronicle subscriber, you can find the article by clicking here. I thank Koenig for interviewing me for her article. If you’re not a subscriber, fear not. I’m about to share some highlights with you.

As I told the Chronicle:

The most important advice I could give an organization not directly impacted by the current political environment is to embrace fundamental practice and keep moving forward.”

So, in that spirit, here are five tips to help guide you along with my comments, in quotations, from the article:

Tip 1: Avoid obvious attempts to connect your organization to causes that don’t relate to your mission.

“If it’s a stretch, then the recipient of the appeal is going to see through it and see it as a gimmick, It’s not going to be particularly effective.” Instead, think of what has been motivating your donors all along, and continue to tap into those feelings.

Tip 2: Maintain good relationships with current donors.

Steadily declining donor-retention rates over the past several years suggest that the nonprofit sector has been doing a terrible job of building relationships with donors. Now, perhaps more than ever, it’s essential for charities to do a better job in this area. This is particularly true for organizations over-shadowed by news events. You can search this site for donor relations to find posts with helpful advice. However, here’s one useful idea: Report to donors how their contributions have been and will be used.

“The more specific an organization can be with a donor, the more that donor will feel like they’re making a difference, If a donor feels he or she is bringing about change, this will help drive further philanthropy to that organization.”

You also want to ensure that your prospects and donors understand that the challenges you’re working on are not going away even if the media spotlight may not be on your cause.

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May 10, 2013

Why “Ask”?

At Michael Rosen Says…, I listen to my readers. And, I even sometimes take requests.

Recently, I received an email from Anton Wishik, a professional editor who recently transitioned to the development world. I thank him for the message. He wanted to know why I insist on using the word “ask” as a noun.

The inquiry caught my attention for a number reasons:

1. As a former newspaper editor, the proper use of language continues to matter to me.

2. According to the good folks at Merriam-Webster, the word “ask” is indeed a verb, not a noun. So, Mr. Wishik has a valid point.

3. Mr. Wishik’s inquiry gives me the chance to write about one of my favorite topics: The “ask.” (Ooops, there I go again.)

With his permission, here is the email I received from Mr. Wishik:

As a longtime editor who just recently started working in the planned giving industry, I cringe at the use of the word ‘ask’ as a noun, which I had never seen/heard before. So do many other writing professionals; here’s one comment made at Merriam-Webster’s site: Marianna Zhabokritsky · Court Reporter at Ministry of the Attorney General (Ontario), ‘So ‘ask’ is now being used as a noun? ….  Please tell me that it is still considered to be an improper use of the English language! Highly irritating!’

I’m not a stuffy editor and I realize fully that the language is constantly evolving, with new words joining the lexicon almost daily. I’m not even saying that ‘ask’ shouldn’t officially join the language as a noun, much like ‘tell’ has come into wide usage as a noun from poker. Maybe the words ‘request,’ ‘query,’ or ‘solicitation’ don’t quite describe the action taken by a [Planned Giving Officer].

I see that you use ‘ask’ as a noun, and I’m sure you have an opinion on the subject — and thought you might want to blog about it!”

Well, as I’ve said, I’m happy to take requests from time to time.

To help me explore the issue of “ask” as a noun, I’ve enlisted my good friend Laura Fredricks, author of the best-selling book The Ask and the new e-book Winning Words for Raising Money. Here is what Laura had to say:

It is so common that when anyone wants anything in life…they ‘ask.’ We have grown up to ask, politely, for what we want. We don’t ‘request’ we ‘ask.’

Taking this to our professional fundraising level, we have taken the ‘ASK’ to a sophisticated level. Asking for money takes organization, structure, focus and follow up. Comparing our ‘ask’ to a ‘request,’ ‘ask’ wins hands down because it has more impact and meaning. A ‘request’ is fleeting but an ‘ask’ has presence and attention. The person being asked knows that an important decision is about to be made.”

Click here to see The Ask at The Nonprofit BookstoreI agree with Laura. When a development or sales professional puts forth an “ask,” he or she has already done a great deal of work. The prospect has been identified, educated and cultivated. The professional has evaluated the prospect’s situation and has determined the most appropriate thing to ask for.

For their part, prospects usually understand that the “ask” will likely lead to some type of negotiation rather than a simple yes/no conclusion.

The noun “ask” implies more than just the sentence making the “ask.” It refers to the sentence and everything that has led up to it.

In development, we ask for donations. So, it seems silly to me to use a word that is different from the verb when we need a noun. When we talk about the act of asking for a donation, we are talking about the “ask” not the “request” or the “query.”

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