Posts tagged ‘donor relations’

February 24, 2021

Are You Annoying Your Donors Without Even Knowing It?

If you’re annoying your donors, it could be hurting your fundraising efforts. The challenge is that you might not even know you’re annoying them. Let me give you a personal example.

One of my favorite charities, for well over a decade, has been annoying me lately. I don’t remember when it started, perhaps a year or so ago. For some time, I couldn’t even articulate why I was annoyed. Then, several weeks ago, I received a letter that made me immediately understand the reason for my irritation. Even better, the letter immediately made me feel better by making me feel closer to the organization.

The charity is the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance. The organization brings justice and healing to the survivors of child sex abuse. I have the utmost respect for the staff and the volunteers, including the board. They do heroic work helping children and their families cope successfully with a heinous crime. I’ve written about them here a number of times. I’ve shared insights from the PCA staff about child sex abuse. I’ve also shared their remarkable fundraising successes.

As a former PCA board member, I have remained a passionate supporter of the organization. Because PCA’s mission is so important to me, I have continued my support even when I became mildly annoyed with them. However, if other donors felt similarly annoyed, would they continue to give and, if so, how likely would they be to increase their support? The answer from psychology researchers reveals that it could be a big problem.

Let me tell you what was bothering me and how PCA was able to quickly and easily overcome it.

I had grown accustomed to receiving generic communications from PCA. I received the same cultivation messages and appeals as everyone else was sent. So, I was surprised one day not long ago when I received a hand-addressed, monarch-sized envelope. Inside (because of course I opened it) was a handwritten letter from someone with whom I served on the board.

While the letter was sent in December, I did not receive it until well into January thanks to problems at the US Post Office. Nevertheless, I appreciated the good wishes for happy holidays. I also appreciated that the letter went on to let me know that PCA’s spring fundraising event would take place either in-person, virtually, or as a hybrid. My former colleague, now the event co-chair, mentioned the date of the upcoming fundraiser and told me that more details would be forthcoming. He went on to say that he hoped to see me at the event. However, he did not make a specific ask and, therefore, did not include a response envelope. His communication was simply a cultivation piece designed to make me feel like an insider.

Yes, I appreciated the personal touch of this particular cultivation mailing. However, what I appreciated the most about the letter was that it acknowledged that I am an alumnus of the PCA board.

Bells went off in my head! I finally understood why I had been growing annoyed with PCA. Recent communications from PCA did not acknowledge my identity. I had been addressed just like every other donor. My former board service was rarely acknowledged, which made the handwritten letter particularly special to me.

By acknowledging my identity, PCA showed me they know who I am. They respect my prior service. They appreciate my support, not just my money. They rekindled the feelings I once had as a volunteer leader.

Should this matter? You might think it should not. Was I being childish or self-centered to be annoyed that PCA had not been acknowledging my identity? You might think I am. But, and I say this with full respect, your opinion doesn’t matter in this case. It’s MY feelings that determine which charities I support and how much I give them. As I learned by taking the certificate course Philanthropic Psychology, taught by the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, there is plenty of scientific research to back me up on this.

One reason most charitable organizations experience shamefully high donor-attrition rates is that they do not acknowledge the individual identities of donors. Let me give you a quick, simple example of what I mean.

When a donor contributes a $100 to your charity, do you thank her for her generous gift? Or, do you thank her for being a kind, caring person who made a gift. The former message describes the gift. The latter message describes the person. It’s a simple messaging shift that can have a massive effect.

In PCA’s case, an individual donor might identify as a Philadelphian, a parent, someone who cares about justice, someone who cares about children, etc. More generically, a PCA donor might identify as being kind, thoughtful, caring, concerned, angry, etc. In my case, one part of my identity as it relates to PCA is former board member. The key for you as a fundraising professional is to understand how your donors think of themselves. You can learn this through conversations with them, surveys, or their responses to appeals.

Here are four tips:

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December 29, 2020

What You Need to Know that You Might Have Missed

During the year-end holiday period, I usually find it a good time to reflect back on the previous 12 months and think ahead to the new year. With the wild ride that has been 2020, I’m enjoying the moment to catch my breath. I hope you’re able to do the same.

As I look back over 2020, I thought I would take a bit of time to share with you some items you might have missed during your busy, crazy year.

My Top Blog Posts:

First, because I recognize that you can’t read everything that crosses your desk, I’ve put together a list of my top ten most-read posts published in 2020, in case you’ve missed any of them:

Legacy Fundraising: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

How will Coronavirus Affect Your Fundraising Efforts?

What Can You Learn from “The Naked Philanthropist”?

New Charitable Giving Incentives in CARES Act

Listen to The Whiny Donor and Raise More Money

Coronavirus: 20 Survival Tips for You and Your Charity

10 Fundraising Strategies for Complex & Major Gifts During COVID-19

Is the AFP International Conference in Jeopardy?

Warning Signs You Need to Know About

Amy Coney Barrett Knows Something You Need to Know

Now, I want to give you a list of five of my older posts that remained popular in 2020:

Can a Nonprofit Return a Donor’s Gift?

Can You Spot a Child Molester? Discover the Warning Signs

Here is One Word You Should Stop Using

Get More Repeat Gifts: The Rule of 7 Thank Yous

We All We Got. We All We Need.

I invite you to read any posts that might interest you by clicking on the title above. You can also search this blog by topic using the site’s search function (either in the right column or below).

Blog Site Recognition:

Over the years, I’ve been honored to have my blog recognized by respected peers. I’m pleased that, among the thousands of nonprofit and fundraising sites, my blog continues to be ranked as a “Top 75 Fundraising Blog” – Feedspot, “Top Fundraising Blogs 2020” – Garecht Fundraising Associates, “Best Fundraising Blogs for 2020” – Future Fundraising Now.

To make sure you don’t miss any of my future posts, please take a moment to subscribe to this site for free in the designated spot in the column to the right (or, on mobile platforms, below). You can subscribe with peace of mind knowing that I will respect your privacy. As a special bonus for you as a new subscriber, I’ll send you a link to a free e-book from philanthropy researcher Russell James, JD, PhD, CFP®.

Special Projects:

In 2020, I was honored to have the opportunity to participate in four special projects:

White Paper with Dr. Russell James: “Legacy Fundraising: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?” (FREE)

Article for SEI Knowledge Center: “Charitable Giving 2020: COVID-19 and Politics Make a Play” (FREE)

White Paper with Rogaré: “Ethics of Legacy Fundraising During Emergencies” (FREE)

Article for the Association of Fundraising Professionals: “A Flight Attendant’s Advice Leads to Soaring Personal Success” (members only)

Best-selling Book — Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing:

This year was also another good year for my book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing. The book continues to be a highly-rated Amazon bestseller. Winner of the AFP/Skystone Partners Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy and listed on the official CFRE International Resource Reading List, it continues to be a relevant resource for fundraisers who want to start or grow a successful planned giving program.

A LinkedIn Discussion Group for You:

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November 17, 2020

Amy Coney Barrett Knows Something You Need to Know

This post has nothing to do with politics or judicial philosophy. Instead, I want to share an important story I heard during the US Senate hearings for Amy Coney Barrett. The hearings ultimately led to her confirmation as Associate Justice to the US Supreme Court with the support of a majority of Americans. That story can help you ensure the happiness of your donors, which could result in better retention and upgraded support.

Amy Coney Barrett being sworn in before the US Senate Judiciary Committee.

Laura Wolk, a former student of Barrett’s at the University of Notre Dame, testified during the final day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Wolk, who is blind, said that she uses adaptive technology and alerted the law school of her needs in advance of her attendance. Unfortunately, the University did not provide the needed accommodations, and Wolk’s own computer was failing. As she struggled to keep up, she grew increasingly frustrated. Not knowing where to turn, she approached Barrett, one of her professors, to ask for assistance navigating the University’s system.

A retinal disease in her infancy caused Wolk’s blindness. By the time she went to law school, she was certainly accustomed to having to be her own advocate. She didn’t expect much from Barrett, but any help would ease her burden. Wolk described Barrett during their meeting:

She sat silently, listening with deep attention as I explained my situation. She exuded calm and compassion, giving me the freedom to let down my guard and come apart.”

Wolk shared what happened when she finished explaining her situation:

‘Laura’, she said, ‘this is no longer your problem. It’s my problem.’” (3:00 minute mark)

Wolk said she expected to be directed to bureaucratic channels. Instead, Barrett made her feel comfortable to share all of her challenges and, then, she solved the problems. Wolk went on to graduate law school, clerked for Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, and now has a successful practice.

So, what does this story have to do with fundraising? Plenty!

If a donor comes to you with a question or problem, resist thinking of it as an interruption to your day. Instead, of passing them off to someone else or quickly brushing them aside, take the time to really listen. Don’t offer an automatic, institutional response. As an alternative, offer a warm, compassionate response. If it’s within your power, take on the donor’s issue as your own.

What might this look like?

Imagine you’re at your desk working on the final touches of your fundraising report to the board as your deadline draws near. Your phone rings. You answer, and are greeted by a donor. The donor wants to know how to make a gift of appreciated stock to your organization before the end of the year. Here are some courses of action you could take:

  1. You can put the donor on hold and transfer her to your assistant.
  2. You can direct the donor to your organization’s website where the instructions exist.
  3. You can thank the donor, commiserate about the somewhat complex process, explain the process to the donor and, then, offer to email a summary of the instructions to the donor, perhaps with a link to the appropriate web page as well.

While Option 1 would let you get back to your board report more quickly, which option would make the donor feel most loved? I believe the best course of action is Option 3.

If your donor feels you truly care about him, he will be more likely to care about your organization. He’ll be more likely to renew and upgrade support. Yes, loving your donors takes more time and effort, but it will yield powerful results.

What should you do?

When someone approaches you with a question, challenge, or problem, follow these five steps:

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October 13, 2020

Avoid Costly Mistakes and Raise More Money

A traditional formula for fundraising success involves having the right person ask the right person, in the right way, for the right gift, for the right project, at the right time. Another way for you to raise more money for your nonprofit organization is to avoid making mistakes that could prove costly by putting potential support in jeopardy.

The public’s trust in the nonprofit sector has been on a steady decline over the past several years. At the same time, the number of charity donors has been decreasing.

So, what can we do to rebuild donor confidence, and inspire much-needed support?

I’ll answer that question in a FREE webinar hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Delaware, Brandywine Chapter. Here are the details:

Avoid Costly Mistakes & Raise More Money

  • Date: Wednesday, October 28, 2020
  • Networking Time: 9:30 AM to 10:00 AM (EDT)
  • Program Time: 10:00 AM to 11:15 AM (EDT)
  • Audience: This webinar is open to AFP members and non-members everywhere.
  • CFRE Credits: This webinar qualifies for 1.25 CFRE education points.

During the webinar, I’ll cite real-world examples to identify seven common fundraising mistakes that can prove costly to your organization. You will get simple tips for avoiding those mistakes, and you will receive a decision-making model to help you avoid or minimize countless other pitfalls.

By avoiding mistakes and more consistently making solid decisions, you will be able to enhance the confidence that the public has in your organization and, therefore, you’ll raise more money.

August 14, 2020

Will Move to Dissolve the NRA Hurt Your Nonprofit?

This post is about the attempt of New York’s Attorney General to dissolve the National Rifle Association. However, this is NOT a political post. Whether or not you support the NRA, the legal fight over its future has potential implications for your nonprofit organization. Let’s take a closer look.

Doug White, a philanthropy advisor, author, and teacher, writes:

In a 169-page document made public earlier today (you can read the entire lawsuit here), [New York Attorney General] Letitia James alleges that NRA insiders have violated New York’s nonprofit laws by illegally diverting tens of millions of dollars from the group through excessive expenses and contracts that benefited relatives or close associates. The suit alleges that longtime CEO Wayne LaPierre and three other top officials ‘instituted a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement, and negligent oversight at the NRA,’ failed to properly manage the organization’s money and violated numerous state and federal laws.

The lawsuit asks for a dozen measures to be taken. The first one: ‘Dissolving the NRA and directing that its remaining assets and any future assets be applied to charitable uses consistent with the mission set forth in the NRA’s certificate of incorporation.’”

White further notes that the legal action has been filed against the 501 (c)(4) organization, and not against any 501 (c)(3) organizations related to the NRA.

So, how could the case of the NRA affect your nonprofit organization?

Erosion of Public Trust: The mere accusations against the NRA, whether or not they are ultimately proven in court, have the power to not only erode confidence in the NRA, they have the potential to erode trust in all nonprofit organizations. If that happens, it could make fundraising more difficult. A special report in 2018 from the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org found:

While the majority of respondents (73 percent) say it is very important to trust a charity before giving, only a small portion of respondents (19 percent) say they highly trust charities and an even smaller portion (10 percent) are optimistic about the sector becoming more trustworthy over time.”

Enhancement of the Public Trust: On the other hand, New York’s action could enhance the level of trust people have in the nonprofit sector. If the Attorney General can prove her case, it would show the public that government officials are exercising appropriate oversight of the nonprofit sector which could elevate the public’s confidence that their donations to any nonprofit will be used appropriately. We know there is a correlation between the level of trust people have and the likelihood they will give as well as the amount of their giving.

Impact on Support to Controversial Organizations: If New York succeeds in liquidating the NRA, it will have the power to disburse the organization’s assets as it sees fit. How will this affect support to other controversial nonprofits if donors know that their donations could be redistributed by the state? It’s possible that this could result in more cautious behavior by donors.

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August 4, 2020

How to Get Email Addresses and Build Better Relationships

While I have long known why nonprofit organizations should collect email addresses from supporters and potential supporters, I had much less of an understanding of how to accomplish that.

When you have someone’s email address, you can communicate with them at little cost and with great speed. For example, you can:

  • Send newsletters,
  • Share updates,
  • Conduct surveys,
  • Issue calls to action,
  • Invite people to programs and events,
  • Appeal for support.

Unfortunately, collecting email addresses is a challenge for every nonprofit organization. How can you get people to voluntarily provide you with their email? How can you ensure they’re happy with their decision so that they allow you to keep using their email?

Fortunately, we now have help from Ephraim Gopin, founder of 1832 Communications, an agency helping nonprofits raise more money through strategic and smart marketing and communications. He has written a book with the answers we need: How to Successfully Onboard New Subscribers to Your Nonprofit E-Newsletter. Ephraim’s e-book is FREE, and you can download your copy now by clicking here.

In his mercifully brief book – it’s just 38 pages – Ephraim packs in a wealth of fresh insights and useful tips. He addresses the following questions and more:

  • How do you build your nonprofit’s email list?
  • How can you use your website and e-newsletter to attract email subscribers?
  • Where on your website should you place your signup form?
  • What fields should your signup form contain?
  • Should you place an opt-in on your donation form?
  • What content should appear in your welcome email?
  • Why is it bad form to ask for a donation right after someone signs up?

With Ephraim’s help, you’ll learn how to gather more email addresses and how to ensure that your supporters value their relationship with your organization. Toward that end, with his guest post below, Ephraim generously picks up where his book finishes. He shares five tips for ensuring that your email subscribers receive the kind of consistent value that will lead to their growing support.

I thank Ephraim for sharing his wisdom with his book and now with his guest post:

 

I subscribed to your nonprofit e-newsletter and received your welcome email. Now what?

Just Getting Started

The initial email you send a new subscriber is their first touchpoint with your organization. As fundraising copywriting expert Julie Cooper says, it’s like a first date. You’re just starting to get to know each other. It will take time and effort to build the relationship.

How can your nonprofit use email marketing to create a connection that eventually converts me from subscriber to donor? Here are five elements you need to incorporate into your email strategy:

  1. Welcome Series

It’s not enough to send a welcome email. Your organization should prepare a “welcome series,” a series of automated emails intended to further introduce me to the organization. The goal at the end of this series? Make a small ask.

Each email in the series provides more information to new subscribers. A success story, program description, or detailing how volunteers impact your service recipients. Each email should contain one CTA (call to action): Watch a video, take a survey, read a blog post, follow you on social media.

As the new subscriber learns more and understands the impact your organization is having in the community, you can then begin to move them slowly from subscriber to donor.

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June 5, 2020

Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins of Fundraising [WEBINAR]

I don’t have to tell you that these are troubling times. We’ve had to cope with coronavirus (COVID-19), the economic fallout from the pandemic and, now, the heart-wrenching killing of George “Perry” Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

As nonprofit managers and fundraising professionals, we have a choice: We can allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the horrible events of 2020, or we can continue to do what we always do and help those who depend on us. While the suffering around us pains me, I take some solace in knowing that. like you, I am a member of a noble profession that seeks to make the world a better place. We are needed now more than ever.

That’s why I want to invite you to join me and your nonprofit colleagues for a webinar to help you be more of the fundraising professional you aspire to be. The program is hosted by the Association Fundraising Professionals – Greater Philadelphia Chapter. Here are the details so you can register now:

Avoid the Seven Deadly Fundraising Sins and Raise More Money

Date: Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Time: 1:00 – 2:30 PM (EDT)

Description: Surveys show that the public’s trust in the nonprofit sector has been on a steady decline for years. At the same time, the number of charity donors has been on the decline and, in 2018, total giving fell by 1.7% in inflation-adjusted dollars.

This webinar will use real-world examples cited by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and pulled from news headlines to illustrate seven deadly fundraising sins involving: conflicts of interest, gift restrictions, accountability, tainted money, donor privacy, compensation, and cooking the books. By reviewing these examples, you’ll be better able to avoid making the same mistakes.

Because there are more than seven sins to avoid, you’ll also get a decision-making model to help you sidestep blunders, build trust, and raise more money.

Tickets: $15 (members), $40 (non-members)

Registration: Webinar seating is limited, so register now by clicking here.

As I have written previously:

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May 20, 2020

Your Charity’s Greatest Opportunity is the Rising Need of Donors to Connect

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has presented fundraising professionals with a large number of significant difficulties. One of those challenges is trying to figure out where to get solid, actionable information to help nonprofit organizations raise much-needed funds.

Now, Prof. Jen Shang, Co-Director of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, comes to our rescue. On Friday, May 22, 2020, she will be presenting a special webinar: “How to Love Your Donors During COVID-19.” I recently received an email from Prof. Shang, along with three tips, that she is kindly allowing me to share with you.

Prof. Shang, the world’s only philanthropic psychologist, has found that the pandemic is causing donors to feel a lack of wellbeing. This is due in large part to a decrease in the sense of connection that people feel during the lockdown. Interestingly, this presents an opportunity for your charity.

When you help your donors feel a sense of real connection, you will help them feel a greater sense of wellbeing. When they associate that greater sense of wellbeing with your nonprofit organization, they will be more likely to renew and increase their support now and well into the future. In other words, by taking care of your donors, you will be taking care of your charity.

One of the things that will make this webinar a valuable experience for you is that it is based on scientific research rather than simply relying on war stories or opinion. In other words, the many bright ideas you’ll learn will be solid and safely actionable. As someone who has taken Prof. Shang’s Philanthropic Psychology course, I can personally assure you that you will get meaningful information that will help you enhance your fundraising efforts.

Here is Prof. Shang’s message:

 

COVID-19 has created such uncertainty in our lives that many are wondering how and when life will ever get back to normal and how we will survive it all in the meantime.

At the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, we have not stopped collecting data since the first country locked down at the beginning of this pandemic. And we have been collecting data on how good people feel every other week since.

This [post] will give you a first sneak peak of the findings, and three tips on what to do NOW that you’ll find at the end.

We will release the full results of these studies in a webinar that we will host twice this Friday, May 22 at 6:00 am UK time and again at 3:00 pm UK time.

We studied over 4,000 adults in the US and other countries.

We measured about 30 feelings that people experienced on a daily basis. We found that people’s feelings significantly worsened during the first six weeks of the pandemic. As the lockdown continued, people felt progressively worse.

Specifically, people felt less connected to others.

Psychologists have known for decades that feeling connected to others is one of the three most fundamental needs we have as humans. Our need to have this fulfilled cannot be changed. It is as certain as our life exists. Our sense of connectedness declines when we are isolated in lockdown, when we cannot physically see anyone or talk to anyone, and when we cannot hug anyone or kiss anyone. We have seen our connectedness score declining for over six weeks now.

There is no uncertainty in any of it. When humans are locked down, their need to connect rises. With data, we also know what they need and in what quantity.

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May 6, 2020

What is the Secret Sauce of Fundraising Success?

Once upon a time, there was a fundraising professional who found the recipe for the secret sauce of fundraising success. Through decades of dedicated work and careful research, she honed her skills. Now, she shares the secret with you in a book recently ranked by the BookAuthority as one of the “100 Best Fundraising Books of All Time.”

I’m talking about Lynn Malzone Ierardi, JD, Director of Gift Planning at The University of Pennsylvania. She offers her insights and wisdom in the 112-page book, Storytelling: The Secret Sauce of Fundraising Success. Don’t let the short length fool you. This is a volume stuffed full of valuable goodies.

As the official book description says:

Nonprofit organizations have amazing stories to share — stories of perseverance, fortitude, and generosity.

Stories give nonprofits a way to stand out in a world that gets noisier every day, where people are looking for ways to find meaning and connection.

Great stories engage donors and raise more money. Scientific evidence confirms good storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to engage stakeholders and influence behavior. Stories raise awareness, change behavior, and trigger generosity. Facts and logic are not nearly as persuasive as a good story. Stories penetrate our natural defense systems and become more compelling and memorable. As a result, great stories can be very powerful.

Like a good meal, storytelling can be delicious if it is executed with a bit of strategy. It requires planning the meal, choosing and collecting the right ingredients, and then sharing the meal with the right people, in the right setting, and at the right time.”

Throughout her book, Lynn uses a creative cookbook metaphor. This fun approach to a serious subject keeps the material from being dull and makes the tips easier to remember. Lynn does more than tell us why stories are important. She shows us what information is valuable (ingredients), how to gather the necessary information (shopping), how to effectively share stories (serving the entrée), how to craft the right story for the right situation (adding spices), how stories can be presented in different ways (side dishes), how to use stories to navigate change (the kitchen mishap), and the magic of success stories (a good dessert).

For years, we’ve heard that good storytelling is an important part of good fundraising. In Lynn’s practical book, you’ll find numerous, easy to follow tips for putting that notion into practice. Furthermore, you’ll learn how you can use storytelling to put board members and volunteers at ease when seeking to engage them in the fundraising process. I thank Lynn for her willingness to share some bonus thoughts with us along that line:

 

Snakes. Heights. Public speaking. Asking for money. Even worse: asking friends for money.

These things can make people really uncomfortable. In fact, for some people the mere suggestion of these things increases their heart rate or makes their palms begin to sweat. “Don’t even ask me to do that!”

So, it comes as no surprise that nonprofit CEOs, board members and volunteers (and even the unseasoned fundraiser) can sometimes be reluctant to ask for money.

It’s one thing to get people to roll up their sleeves to help, or to get those same people to donate to a cause they believe in. It’s another thing to find board members and volunteers who are willing and able to be effective fundraisers for your organization.

Too often, very well-intentioned board members and volunteers will say “I’m happy to give you my time and my money – but please don’t expect me to ask for money. I can’t approach my friends for money – and I certainly won’t ask them for an estate gift!”

In most cases, board members have no formal training as fundraisers. They may have the business and interpersonal skills necessary to ask for a significant gift – but have no practical experience in that realm.

Fundraising staff can struggle with making an ask, too – particularly for a planned gift. A new planned giving fundraiser visited with me over coffee earlier this year. She described meeting with the same donors and prospects several times, getting to know them and discovering their interests and passions, thanking them for their past support – but struggling to make the pivot in the conversation to ask for a planned gift. She asked me “How do you ask someone to consider their own demise – and ask whether they’ve included our organization in their estate plans?” It can be uncomfortable when you look at it that way.

But there are other ways to approach the conversation. Storytelling provides a different perspective. People are more attentive, more responsive, and more generous when they are engaged in a good story. In the noisy world in which we live – with constant news, updates, mail, video, social media, and more – the most effective way to communicate and influence is with stories.

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April 28, 2020

Warning Signs You Need to Know About

While the nonprofit sector continues to raise massive amounts of money, danger lies ahead for fundraising professionals as the coronavirus health crisis leads us further into an economic calamity.

As the COVID-19 pandemic gained traction, individuals, corporations, and foundations have responded with robust giving. For example, individual giving revenue through direct mail, processed by Merkle RMG, has increased 5.8 percent year-over-year even while the volume of donations dropped by 15.5 percent, according to Merkle RMG’s Impact Report, COVID-19: How the Coronavirus Pandemic is Impacting Direct Mail Fundraising (transactions through April 19, 2020).

The initial philanthropic response to the pandemic is not surprising for those who have experienced major challenges in the past. Giving lags changes in economic conditions. For instance, during the Great Recession (2007-09), we also saw a similar philanthropic pattern with revenue initially increasing while the number of donors declined. The following graph from Target Analytics, a Blackbaud company, illustrates the point:

Now, let me just mention that no one has a crystal ball or time machine. Therefore, no one, including me, can precisely predict what will happen and when it will happen. Nevertheless, we do know that during past crises, we saw that charitable giving fell after an initial surge.

The overall economy has a profound effect on philanthropic giving. We know that overall philanthropy correlates with Gross Domestic Product at the rate of about two percent. Furthermore, historical data shows that individual giving correlates with personal income at the rate of roughly two percent. In other words, when the economy is strong, giving will be strong; when the economy falters, giving will slow.

Because the coronavirus pandemic has caused a major global economic disruption, we can anticipate that this will eventually have a negative effect on philanthropic giving. Consider these warning signs:

As corporations see profits eroded, as foundations see investments decimated, as individuals see personal income slashed, charitable giving will likely decrease. However, there are some mitigating factors in play:

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