Posts tagged ‘Hands-on Fundraising’

July 13, 2015

Perfect is the Enemy of Good

The 18th century French writer and philosopher Voltaire wrote, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Whether he originated the sentiment or was referencing an earlier Italian proverb, Voltaire’s powerful observation is one that remains relevant for today’s fundraising professionals.

While it’s certainly understandable that fundraisers strive for perfection in cultivation, solicitation, and acknowledgement, the reality is that that quest is problematic for several reasons, including:

1.  Perfection is unattainable. There is good. There is excellent. However, perfect does not exist. W. Edwards Deming, the father of Total Quality Management, believed in a process of never-ending improvement. Seeking improvement is very different from seeking unattainable perfection.

2.  If you wait until you have developed the mythical perfect cultivation piece, appeal, or acknowledgement, the reality is you will never deploy your message. Sir Robert Watson-Watt, who developed early warning radar in Britain to counter the rapid growth of the German Luftwaffe during World War II, stated, “Give them the third best to go on with; the second best comes too late; the best never comes.” Releasing a good or excellent message is far better than never releasing a near-perfect communication.

3.  Seemingly near-perfect communications do not necessarily work any more effectively than less ideal messaging. Let me explain.

The way to cut grass perfectly is not exactly the best way to a nice lawn.

The way to cut grass perfectly is not exactly the best way to a nice lawn.

I have a client, an international social service agency. A few months ago, one of the organization’s fundraisers traveled to Central America to meet with an affiliate agency and see, first-hand, how services were being delivered. Immediately upon returning to headquarters, the fundraiser sent emails to her key major and planned gift donors and prospects. Attached to the emails were a few snapshots she took during her trip.

In response to the cultivation emails, the fundraiser received a number of thank-you messages from recipients. How often do your donors and prospects thank you for cultivating them?

I believe that the emails and snapshots were effective for a number reasons including:

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August 23, 2013

5 Words or Phrases that Can Cause Donors to Cringe

Words have the power to inspire. They also have the power to alienate. Words can touch us or they can fall flat.

In my previous post, I shared seven words that, when used together, can earn you the respect, trust, and appreciation of prospects and donors.

Word by Whatknot via FlickrMary Cahalane, of the Hands-on Fundraising blog, looked at words from a different perspective in her excellent post “7 Words and Phrases that Should Die.” 

Inspired by Mary, I now want to share my list of planned-giving and major-giving related words and phrases that, at times, make me cringe:

Planned Giving. I know, I just used the term “planned giving,” and now I’m telling you it makes me cringe. Let me explain. The term is jargon. As such, I think it’s fine to use with other nonprofit professionals in the office. It nicely encompasses all of the various ways of planning a gift. Unfortunately, most donors have either no idea what the term means or only a vague, partial notion.

When speaking with a prospect, avoid talking about “planned giving.” Instead, talk with your prospects about their “legacy” and the specific gift structure(s) you want to suggest. For example, talk about a gift in a will or a Charitable Gift Annuity rather than using the confusing and, for the context, overly broad term “planned giving.” If you need a generic term to use with prospects, I prefer “legacy giving,” while I acknowledge that that phrase is not completely without its own problems.

Bequest. When you read the previous paragraph, you might have noticed I avoided this word. You might have guessed that I don’t particularly like the word “bequest.” If you did, you’re right.

First, many people don’t really understand what a “bequest” is. Second, many of those who do understand the word think it is something only rich folks do. Third, the word sounds funereal to some.

Instead of using the word “bequest,” talk with prospects in simple, easy to understand terms. Don’t ask them to make a charitable bequest commitment. Ask your prospects to include your organization in their will.

Philanthropy. This is a great word. It comes from a Greek word literally meaning “love of humankind.” Unfortunately, some prospects, and even some donors, find the word alienating.

I remember speaking with a woman while we were waiting in the wings at a National Philanthropy Day luncheon. I was about to present her with the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning of Greater Philadelphia Legacy Award for Planned Giving Philanthropist of the Year. She told me she was honored to be present, but she wanted me to know, “I’m not really a philanthropist.”

I explained to the award recipient what the word “philanthropy” means. And I explained that it is not a term that is exclusive to the wealthy. I made sure she understood that she is indeed a philanthropist. I’m glad I had the chance to explain “philanthropy” to this caring donor. Sadly, we don’t always have such an opportunity.

If you’re thinking about using the word “philanthropy,” know your audience and know whether the term will resonate. Just keep in mind that 70 percent of people with investible assets of $1 million or more do not consider themselves wealthy, according to The UBS Investor Watch. If your prospects think “philanthropy” is only for the wealthy, and they’re not wealthy, you’re going to have some problems if you toss around the word. Words such as “legacy” or “support” might do nicely instead.

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