Posts tagged ‘donor relations’

May 29, 2015

Avoid the Pitfalls to Raise More Money

Yesterday, I made my first public speaking appearance since my successful battle with cancer began just over a year ago. I served as the plenary presenter at the Philanthropic Planning Group of Greater New York Planned Giving Day Conference. My topic:

Ripped from the Headlines: Learning from the Planned Giving Mistakes of Others”

It was a particularly moving day for me. You see, I was scheduled to speak at PPGGNY’s conference last year. Unfortunately, because of my health, I had to cancel. It marked the first time I ever canceled a professional appearance.

Meryl Cosentino, the Vice President of PPGGNY and Senior Director of Planned Giving at Stony Brook University, was very understanding and kind. She stayed in contact with me during my recovery and, when she learned of my return to professional life, she invited me to speak at this year’s Planned Giving Day. I thank Meryl and her colleagues for the invitation to present.

So, PPGGNY Planned Giving Day marked my first speaking cancelation and, now, my return to the speaking circuit! I’ve come full circle!

To help me celebrate the happy occasion, The Stelter Company generously sponsored 20 copies of my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, so we could give them away to random winners during my presentation. I thank Stelter for its thoughtful support. I also thank Stelter for contributing valuable material to my book. The company’s commitment to the nonprofit sector is remarkable, though not the least bit surprising.

Michael Rosen at PPGGNY Planned Giving Day Conference.

Michael Rosen at PPGGNY Planned Giving Day.

During my talk, I shared several stories about well-known nonprofit organizations that have stumbled. I also shared plenty of useful tips, and a story that provided the overarching theme to my presentation. The story contains an important lesson for all nonprofit professionals:

Several months before my surgery, I visited southern Utah with a good friend. We went hiking in Escalante National Monument, a spectacular wilderness. On the more treacherous trails, I was particularly cautious. I carefully placed my feet with each step. I looked at where I was going to step next so I could pick the best spot. Because I exercised great caution, I didn’t stumble once.

Coming off one challenging trail, I found myself on a wonderfully flat, gravel path. I gave a sigh of relief. I was pleased to be able to spend more time looking at the lovely scenery rather than the trail and my feet. However, as soon as I had that thought, I stepped into a small gully, a tiny wash. And I went falling straight over. After grabbing my camera to make sure it was undamaged, I checked myself. With the exception of a skinned knee and bruised ego, I was fine.

From that experience, I learned a profound lesson.

May 25, 2015

Discover 5 of the Latest Trends Affecting Your Fundraising

Leading up to the 2015 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference, a number of my readers contacted me to request that I gather information about emerging fundraising trends. (Yes, I take requests, so feel free to make one.)

It’s not surprising that development professionals understand the need to stay on top of the evolution that takes place in the world of philanthropy. After all, as Benjamin Disraeli has said:

Change is inevitable. Change is constant.”

Recognizing that ongoing change is part of our life is one thing. Understanding what that change means and how to capitalize on it can help even good fundraisers become stars. As John F. Kennedy has stated:

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

None of us wants to miss the future.

So, with that thought in mind, I attended the session “Latest Trends in Giving and What They Mean for Your Organization” with presenters Stacey Palmer, Editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Jeff Wilklow, Vice President of Campbell & Company. Here are five of the key trends they cited:

Mega-Donors:

Among very wealthy, very generous philanthropists, much of their giving does not go directly to existing charitable organizations. While their philanthropy will eventually find its way to charitable purposes, it will first be funneled through special funds or foundations that the mega-donors create or contribute to.

Money by 401(K) 2012 via FlickrMany of those who earned their fortunes through entrepreneurialism will gravitate toward entrepreneurial philanthropy. This is particularly true with younger technology entrepreneurs. With a do-it-yourself attitude, these individuals may choose to create a charity or socially-responsible business rather than donate to an existing, mainstream nonprofit organization.

In any case, big donors are interested in funding big ideas. They’re interested in big solutions to big problems. To attract the support of mega-donors, your charity will need to focus on creative solutions for large challenges.

Legacy Donors:

Many charitable organizations embrace the idea that planned giving equals endowment building. For example, many charities have adopted policies that direct bequest revenue into the organization’s endowment fund unless otherwise designated by donors.

While your organization might have a bias in favor of building endowment revenue, donors have a keen interest in their own legacy. Donors want to make a lasting difference. So, they will likely be more interested in funding your programs and initiatives that help establish their legacy than they will in simply having their money deposited into your organization’s investment pool.

Just as we see that current donors have a growing interest in gift designations rather than unrestricted giving, we see a similar interest among planned giving donors who want to ensure their legacies. Some donors want to be assured of having a long-term, definable impact while other might be content with having their name, or the name of a loved one, on an endowment fund. The key is to understand what motivates the individual.

Social Donors:

Donors communicate with your organization in a variety of ways thanks to new technologies. They also communicate with each other like never before.

Donors are online. And it’s not just young donors. They view your website, they engage in crowd funding, they give online, they take surveys, etc. Here are a few simple things you need to do to make sure those experiences inspire support:

May 15, 2015

I’m Sorry, but Mother Theresa was Wrong!

Have you ever heard a nonprofit professional, speaking of prospective donors, say:

They should give until it hurts.”

Recently, I once again came across this phrase. I shuddered. Nevertheless, I realized that this person was not alone in his thinking.

The Rev. Jimmy Swaggert, echoing the sentiment of many church leaders and paraphrasing the Bible, is reported to have said:

Give, even at all costs, ‘till it hurts.”

Even Mother Theresa, who has been Beatified by the Roman Catholic Church, reportedly said:

Give, but give until it hurts.”

So, with this blog post, I know I’m going out on a limb. However, I must emphatically state that, on this point, the nonprofit professional I mentioned was wrong. Rev. Swaggert was wrong. Mother Theresa was wrong.

Unless you’re dealing with a population of masochists, asking people to give until it hurts is not a sound strategy. Most people tend to run from things that cause pain and toward things that give them pleasure.

I believe we should inspire people to give until it feels good.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in this belief. Recently, Michael Kaiser spoke at Drexel University and stated:

Make giving fun!”

Michael Kaiser

Michael Kaiser

Kaiser is the Chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland. He is also President Emeritus of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. When Kaiser speaks, people listen. And rightfully so. He’s a masterful nonprofit leader and a gifted turn-around expert. Whether you work for an arts organization or not, you owe it to yourself to listen to his remarks. You can find the video by clicking here.

Here are some additional key points that Kaiser made:

[Donors] don’t join our family to be whined at.”

“They join because we’re inspiring and fun.”

“The donor doesn’t owe us allegiance. We need to earn it.”

“Donors get fatigue when we get boring.”

In other words, all nonprofit organizations, whether involving the arts or not, need to make giving a pleasure. We need to recognize that people will be more willing to donate if giving is enjoyable, and they’ll be more willing to continue their support as long as giving continues to be gratifying.

So, how can you more effectively inspire prospective donors by making giving fun?

May 5, 2015

Will You Help Me Celebrate My (Re)birthday?

On May 2, I began my month-long (re)birthday celebration. One year ago, I underwent a 14-hour surgery to remove the rare cancer that had spread throughout my abdomen. The surgery was a success, and I am now in remission!

First Birthday Balloons by akadruid via FlickrPrior to surgery, I was told my life expectancy would be about two to five years. Following surgery, my doctor told me I can expect a full life. That’s why I consider May 2 my (re)birthday.

Having gone through what I have during the past year, I’m returning to professional life with a reinvigorated commitment to help the nonprofit community be more efficient and effective so we can make the world a better place.

I’m doing a number of private and public things this month to celebrate. While I normally ensure that my blog site remains largely non-commercial, I’m making an exception with this post because I want to enlist your help as I mark this important time in my life.

There are a number of ways you can join my (re)birthday celebration:

New Clients. I’m looking for at least three new clients. If you’ve found my blog posts helpful, imagine what we can achieve by working closely together, as some readers have already discovered. If you work for a nonprofit organization, I can help you with annual fund enhancements, donor retention efforts, ethics education and policy development, phone fundraising improvements, planned gift marketing, and training for staff and/or boards. If you work for a for-profit company serving the nonprofit sector, I can help you with service/product enhancements, new service/product development, and marketing.

Please contact me if you would like to discuss how I can help you achieve your goals.

Paid Speaking Engagements. As part of my return to professional life, I’m looking forward to getting back out on the speaking circuit. I’m an experienced, well-reviewed presenter and AFP Master Trainer. I’m also an adjunct faculty member at Drexel University where I teach Advanced Fund Development to graduate students. For your organization, I can facilitate a variety of training programs for your board, staff, or volunteers. For your professional associations, I can offer a variety of seminars or keynote presentations to meet the group’s needs and particular interests.

May 1, 2015

Do Old Dogs Really Have What It Takes?

I recently heard from an old friend, Bob Crandall the Founder/Consultant at Crandall, Croft & Associates. In addition to being a terrific fundraising professional, Bob is the kind of guy who instinctively knows how to weave humor and wisdom together. The latest story he shared with me is a great example of this:

 

The Old Dog

An old German Shepherd starts chasing rabbits and before long, discovers that he’s lost. Wandering about, he notices a panther heading rapidly in his direction with the intention of having lunch.

The old German Shepherd thinks, “Oh, oh! I’m in deep s… now!”

German Shepherd by perlaroques via FlcikrNoticing some bones on the ground close by, he immediately settles down to chew on the bones with his back to the approaching cat. Just as the panther is about to leap, the old German Shepherd exclaims loudly, “Boy, that was one delicious panther! I wonder if there are any more around here?”

Hearing this, the young panther halts his attack in mid-strike, a look of terror comes over him and he slinks away into the trees.

“Whew!” says the panther, “That was close! That old German Shepherd nearly had me!”

Meanwhile, a squirrel who had been watching the whole scene from a nearby tree figures he can put this knowledge to good use and trade it for protection from the panther. So, off he goes.

The squirrel soon catches up with the panther, spills the beans and strikes a deal for himself with the panther.

The young panther is furious at being made a fool of and says, “Here, squirrel, hop on my back and see what’s going to happen to that conniving canine!”

Now, the old German Shepherd sees the panther coming with the squirrel on his back and thinks, “What am I going to do now?” But, instead of running, the dog sits down with his back to his attackers, pretending he hasn’t seen them yet, and just when they get close enough to hear, the old German Shepherd says…

April 26, 2015

More on the Art of Sending Appeals

In my last blog post, “Is It Better or Worse to Send More Appeals?,” I acknowledged that sending multiple appeals to donors can raise more money for your organization, if you do it right. However, I also recognized that determining the correct number of appeals, raises more questions than answers.

Some organizations are not appealing enough while others are sending too many solicitations. As you might imagine, the post inspired a lively conversation in the comments section and in a number of discussion groups on LinkedIn.

One of the last comments I received came from Erica Waasdorp, President of A Direct Solution and author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant. Her insights and recommendations were on target and excellent. Because I did not want readers to miss what Erica had to say, I decided to share her message with you as a guest blog post. In turn, she was kind enough to add some additional material from her own blog:

 

 

I love this discussion. Super!

Whenever I present a webinar, I ask the question: how many times do you appeal to your donors. The answer typically is once, twice, maybe four times a year, if you’re lucky. Very rarely is it more than that. Now, these are usually the smaller organizations.

When I ask those same nonprofits what their retention rates are, they’re usually around the median, 43 percent.

When I ask those same nonprofits what they do with donors who just gave, the answer typically is, we’ll take those out of the next mailing of course.

WRONG!

When I ask them how deep they mail into their lapsed donors, they typically cut that off at three years. In other words, if someone has not responded in three years, they’ll never receive mail again.

WRONG!

I have extensively tested the following over the years:

1.  Always include those donors who just gave to you in the next appeal. Many of them will give again, especially if you have a great appeal that hits on all cylinders, namely, you thank them, you show them the impact of their donation, you have a great story and a good call to action.

I’ve seen, time and time again, that this is the best responsive group. Recency, Frequency Monetary Value has not become the standard in segmentation for nothing.

2.  Always include your lapsed donors in your appeal at least once a year, preferably in the fall/holiday appeal time frame. With the National Change of Address required by the post office, you’ll know you’re mailing to mailable addresses.

I’ve seen time and time again that this group responds at higher levels than a prospecting/acquisition campaign.

Michael’s numbers are correct: for acquisition of new donors, in fact, in some cases they might even be a bit worse, like perhaps $2.00 to $3.00 to raise $1.00.

No Junk Mail by Rupert Ganzer via FlickrBUT, when you bring these new donors in and you mail them as donors, you’re typically looking at $0.20 to raise a dollar. That means, you’re investing $1,000 to get $5,000 back. Where do you find that in the stock market?

Not to mention the opportunity to convert these donors to give monthly and upgrade them (and certainly increase their retention rates further that way, leading up to the ultimate gift down the road since monthly donors are seven times more likely to leave you in their will).

What I typically see with small organization: if your appeals don’t work, you may not mail enough, or not mail to the right donors, or you may have spent too much money on your direct mail and it’s not looking like a letter any longer.

Direct mail letters still work, but it’s all about which donors you target.

And if you have the right stories and the right mix of gratefulness and love for your donor, you can send them as many appeals as you’d like and they’ll respond every time.

Speaking of monthly donors, a question fundraisers often ask me, is:

Can I send appeals to my monthly donors?”

April 17, 2015

Is It Better or Worse to Send More Appeals?

Part of me is definitely a fan of conventional wisdom. Come on. What’s not to like about wisdom?

On the other hand, part of me hates the notion that we should continue doing things because that’s the way they’ve always been done. All too often, conventional is code for mediocre.

In other words, I think it’s wise to regularly challenge conventional wisdom, so long as we do so thoughtfully and preferably with good data.

So, being a good fundraising nerd, I enjoyed reading a number of articles this week that explore how often charities should send appeals to donors.

Let’s start with the conventional wisdom:

The more appeals you send, the more money you will raise.

Change in Hands by Randy Willis via FlickrAndrew Olsen, CFRE, Vice President of Client Services at the Russ Reid Agency, tested the conventional wisdom. In his blog post “Fundraising Myth Busters: Solicitation Frequency,” Olsen concludes, “Don’t be afraid to add a solicitation or two to your annual line up. As this case shows, you stand to make a lot more money for your cause if you do!”

In his post, Olsen shared testing that was done for two nonprofit organizations:

  • In the first case, the organization went from five to 10 solicitations, and year-over-year revenue increased 123 percent.
  • The second organization increased from three to six solicitations, and year-over-year revenue increased 110 percent.

Given that the highly respected Russ Reid Agency conducted the tests, I had to take notice. However, Olsen’s post raised more questions for me than it answered:

  • While gross revenue increased in both test cases, did net revenue increase significantly?
  • What impact does increasing the number of appeals have on long-term donor retention?
  • How does increasing the number of appeals impact donor Lifetime Value (LTV).
  • If revenue went up, why stop at six or even 10 appeals? Why not send an appeal out monthly, weekly, daily, hourly? When should we stop?

With these questions nagging at me, I was relieved to see that direct-response guru Roger Craver wrote a four-part series on the subject for The Agitator blog (Note: The Agitator is now a paid subscription site.).

Craver looked at solicitation frequency a bit more closely than Olsen did. For example, he reported that the net income from successive appeals goes down after a point. He also showed evidence that some donors on a file are more receptive than others to multiple appeals. While not surprising, it is nice to see the data on this and have a chance to reflect on how screening for solicitation-frequency preference can affect net revenue. Craver shows that sending fewer appeals, particularly to certain individuals, can lead to greater net income.

April 3, 2015

Whoopi Goldberg: “A Little Freakdom is Not Bad”

During her recent appearance at the 2015 AFP International Fundraising Conference, Whoopi Goldberg shared her thoughts about fundraising and how to inspire people to donate. At one point, the comedienne summed up her thinking on the subject with the simple line:

A little freakdom is not bad.”

In other words, dare to be different. Don’t be afraid to be creative.

As an example, Goldberg talked about fundraising galas designed to attract wealthy supporters. She pointed out that to get support, you have to be willing to give. She went on to say that while chicken might be an inexpensive dinner choice, gala goers are tired of chicken. She advised:

Less chicken! … Give them something they’re not expecting.”

When cultivating the support of donors, it’s important to differentiate your charity from others, particularly those with a similar mission. Doing something simple, and still inexpensive, such as serving Chinese food at a gala, can show people that your charity is different. It will also help people remember the event and the charity. For frequent gala goers, an unexpected, fresh menu will be a welcome change, according to Goldberg.

Whoopi Goldberg by Archman8 via FlickrYou can apply the same idea to all aspects of your interaction with donors.

Tom Hopkins, the sales guru, says, “Be different, but believable.”

Michael Kaiser, the arts consultant and former head of Kennedy Center, says, “Make giving fun.”

What all three of these folks are saying is that it’s important to be creative when working with people in order to stand out, to engage, and to make sure that the engagement is enjoyable. Doing so will attract and retain more support.

Think of the ways you can surprise your prospects and donors in a positive way. It doesn’t have to be Chinese food at a gala, as Goldberg suggested. But, think of what you can do. For example, you can surprise donors with a thank-you phone call after receiving their donations. You can invite new donors above a certain level to join you for a special behind-the-scenes tour. What can you do for your donors to bring a smile to their faces? It doesn’t have to be expensive to leave a positive impression.

Reflecting further on gala events, Goldberg says:

March 25, 2015

I Wish I’d Thought of That!

Have you ever stumbled upon a brilliant fundraising idea that inspired you to say, “I wish I’d thought of that!”?

Light Bulb Moment by Kate Ter Haar via FlickrSome of the greatest tactics and strategies we will implement during our careers are ideas that originated with others. Fundraising and nonprofit management ideas surround us. The challenge is not that there is a shortage of ideas; the challenge is knowing which ideas are truly great.

Now, the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration have teamed up to make that task easier. At the AFP International Fundraising Conference (Baltimore, March 29-31, 2015), AFP and SOFII will host the session “I Wish I’d Thought of That!”

IWITOT is a unique seminar that will be moderated by Ken Burnett, Founder of SOFII, and involve 16 top-notch fundraising professionals who will each have up to seven-minutes to present his/her IWITOT brilliant idea. The fundraising ideas must be those the presenters admire or envy — an innovative replicable idea that we can all learn from. The proviso is that the idea cannot be their own or from their own organization, says Burnett.

The presenters include:

  • Adrian Sargeant, Plymouth University
  • Derrick Feldmann, Achieve
  • Tom Ahern, Ahern Communications
  • Amy Eisenstein, Tri-Point Fundraising
  • Simone Joyaux, Joyaux Associates
  • William Bartolini, Wexner Medical Center and Health Sciences Colleges
  • Valerie Pletcher, Brady Campaign & Center to Prevent Gun Violence
  • Daryl Upsall, Daryl Upsall Consulting International
  • Stephen Pidgeon, Stephen Pidgeon Ltd.
  • Amy Wolfe
  • Laura Fredricks, Laura Fredricks, LLC
  • Robbe Healey, Simpson Senior Services
  • Alice Ferris, GoalBusters, LLC
  • Frank Barry, Blackbaud, Inc.
  • Missy Ryan Penland, Clemson University
  • Tycely Williams, American Red Cross

“Each speaker will have a maximum of seven minutes each focused on a single big idea. This means that it’s a fast, colourful, entertaining, and inspirational session with much to learn for everyone and lots of fun, too,” says Burnett. “The speakers have been carefully chosen to give a balanced mix of seasoned professional leaders, sector gurus, and new, fresh ‘rising stars.’”

Here’s a limited preview of some of the ideas you’ll learn about during the IWITOT session:

March 18, 2015

Bernard Ross Reveals the Next Big Thing in Fundraising!

Have you ever wondered what your donors are thinking? Life would be so much simpler if you could read their minds.

Now, we’re actually a step closer to knowing.

To understand what your donors are thinking, you first need to understand how they think. That’s where veteran consultant and author Bernard Ross, Director of The Management Centre, and fundraising consultant Alan R. Hutson, Jr., Principal and Managing Partner of The Monument Group, can help.

Thinking-Please Wait by  Karola Riegler Photography via FlickrIn a preview of their session “Behavioural Economics: Everything You Know about Donor Decision Making is Wrong” at the AFP International Fundraising Conference (Baltimore, March 29-31, 2015), Ross told me the duo will show attendees how they can apply the work of Dr. Daniel Kahneman, author of the bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow, to better understand their prospects and donors and, thereby, enhance their fundraising efforts.

Kahneman, a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, says we have two complementary processes by which we make decisions in life, including fundraising decisions. He refers to these as System 1 and System 2. System 1 operates automatically and quickly, like an autopilot. System 2 allocates attention to effortful, conscious mental activities. We think System 2 is at work most of the time; however, Kahneman has found it is, in fact, System 1.

Ross asserts:

Hutson and I believe that Kahneman’s insights are the next big thing in fundraising.”

Ross observes that most fundraising professionals think donors are making rational judgments when they are not. Think of the old sales axiom: “People buy based on emotion then justify, after the fact, with logic.” A similar process is often involved with philanthropic decision-making.

Donors make philanthropic decisions based on six to eight key mental heuristics — or System 1 short cuts — that we all use. Ross says that fundraisers can learn these heuristics and use them to transform response rates, gift sizes, and more. In their session, Hutson and Ross will introduce participants to these key heuristics and show them how that knowledge is being used to remarkable effect by charities around the world.

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