Posts tagged ‘marketing’

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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January 20, 2021

How Can You “Vaccinate” Your Nonprofit for Good Financial Health?

It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has caused death and economic destruction around the world. The nonprofit sector has not been immune from the ravages of COVID-19.

While some charities have held their own when it comes to fundraising, or have even managed an uptick, others have experienced a downturn. If the economy doesn’t fully recover, and quickly, all organizations may find fundraising more difficult in the months and years ahead. With a corresponding drop in earned income, the financial health of charities is in danger.

Richard Radcliffe is the Founder of Radcliffe Consulting based in the UK. He recently wrote a passionate article explaining how charities can ensure their financial health and security in the years ahead. Because he is kind and cares deeply about the wellbeing of the third sector, Richard has given me permission to share his wisdom with you:

 

Legacies are the “vaccine” for good, long-term financial health for your nonprofit organization.

Legacies are a security blanket, a treasure trove to dip into to GROW or to protect your charity in times of emergency.

Individual giving does not build reserves.

Trusts and Foundations give for projects.

Statutory funding is project or service-based.

Corporate funds are largely restricted or for dual interest.

What is there NOT to like about legacies? The answer is simple: It is wanting money NOW – rather like a baby screaming to be fed NOW.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The future depends on what you do today.” But legacies are not gained today or tomorrow. And bad leaders only think of today whilst in their seats of power.

Investing in legacies is like dieting: “Great idea but let’s leave it for another day.” And then a pandemic hits and all hell breaks out. Furloughed staff, redundancies, reduction in services.

Good leaders are visionaries who plan to fulfill their charity’s vision and mission AFTER their own lifetime as leaders.

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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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December 16, 2020

Should Charity Begin in the Office with Employee Giving?

Should employees donate to the nonprofit organization they work for? Should they be asked, or even required, to give? Should employees never be asked to give?

Over the decades, I’ve had a number of clients ask me about the issue of employee giving. Over the years, my feelings about employee giving have flip-flopped any number of times. On the one hand, I’ve considered it a good idea to express one’s support for the organization before asking someone else to give. On the other hand, I’ve also recognized that nonprofit employees are frequently paid far less than they should be and often work many uncompensated overtime hours.

It’s a complicated issue.

Fortunately, there is now a new e-book that closely explores the subject of employee giving. Employee Giving: Does Charity Begin in the Office? is a free e-book by Ephraim Gopin, founder of 1832 Communications, an agency helping nonprofits raise more money through strategic and smart marketing and communications.

As part of the e-book project, Ephraim conducted a survey of nonprofit employees and consultants so he could explore all sides of a very contentious and complicated topic. The result is an e-book that will help you learn about:

  • Employee giving: The case for yes, the case for no, and why it’s complicated
  • Attitudes about Board and C-level giving
  • How employees working overtime affects giving
  • Can employee giving help when asking donors to give
  • And much more!

Learn from the survey data and over 30 sector experts. Whether you’re in the “oh hell no!” or the “let employees enjoy being a donor!” camp, this e-book will open your eyes to both sides of the issue. Reading the e-book might just change your mind. You can download your free copy by clicking here.

The topic of nonprofit employee giving doesn’t get much attention. So, I was intrigued when I saw Ephraim had written his e-book. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions related to the project. Here’s what he had to say:

 

What workplace ask have you experienced that stuck with you, good or bad?

Here’s how I open my introduction to the e-book: “The honest truth? I never gave. Even when I was a CEO.”

No one ever asked me and I never asked my employees when I was CEO. (It could be cultural as where I live it is definitely not the norm to ask employees to donate.) For me it would have been double-dipping: “I give way more hours to the organization than what’s stipulated in my contract. Now you also want to take a portion of my salary check away?!”

In the survey, I asked how much overtime (unpaid time) employees work in an average month. 41 percent of survey respondents said they work 11+ hours of overtime each month. That’s A LOT!

So, you’re overworked and underpaid, certainly in comparison to the for-profit sector. How would you feel if, now, you also are being asked to donate back to the organization that “steals” your precious few off-hours of family and friends time? There’s a reason why people are very vocal about their opposition to employee-giving programs.

At the same time, the e-book includes a few stories of internal-giving programs done right. No pressure, employees can decide not to give and it won’t be held against them in any way.

As a consultant, I have given back to some of my clients. The truth is that while preparing the e-book, vendor fundraising did come up and I added it as a topic for thought.

However, if I were an employee, would I also be a donor to that organization? Tough one for me to answer.

Why did you decide to write the e-book?

As many things do nowadays, it all started with a tweet. I was curious to hear from my followers whether they donate/d to the nonprofit they work/ed for. My assumption was they did not.

Why would I assume that? Many nonprofit workers are underpaid, overworked and underappreciated. The thought of these employees also being givers — forced or not — never even crossed my mind.

Yet, the responses to my tweet surprised me: Most of the respondents were in fact donors to the charity they worked for! Obviously, it’s a big world out there and there are many nonprofiteers who did not answer my original tweet.

That’s how the ball got rolling. A year after that initial tweet I published a survey that aimed to measure attitudes related to employee giving and numerous issues surrounding it. My goal was to use the survey data as a backdrop to an e-book on the topic.

Post survey, I conducted almost 60 follow-up interviews via phone or video chat. Every single person I spoke to had very concrete opinions about the topic. Should employees be asked to donate? Plenty of NO! and plenty of YES! to go around.

Why write the e-book? It is a complicated topic I was interested in exploring and learning more about. Besides a blog post here and there, no one has really looked into it to understand why employees should or should not be asked. I feel my e-book can bring the discussion to nonprofit leaders who can make wiser and more informed decisions when considering an employee-giving program.

What do you hope to accomplish with the e-book?

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December 15, 2020

Listen to The Whiny Donor and Raise More Money

If you want to raise more money, you need to listen to your donors. Unfortunately, many of your donors do not feel comfortable giving you feedback about your fundraising appeals. Or, if they do feel comfortable, they won’t put in the time and effort to tell you what they think.

Fortunately, The Whiny Donor can help you. “The Whiny Donor” is the name of a Twitter account belonging to a woman who, along with her husband, is a significant donor and who has served on a number of nonprofit boards. Whiny is passionately committed to the philanthropy world making her a fantastic resource for fundraising professionals.

“The Whiny Donor”

Whiny lovingly tweets about charity issues, especially what works and what does not when it comes to fundraising. She provides meaningful, often actionable, insights from the perspective of the donor that she is. She’ll give you feedback that your organization’s donors won’t. Also, she’ll answer questions you would never dare to ask your own donors.

Recently, Whiny and her husband went through the year-end appeals that have inundated them. Then, she shared her thoughts in a valuable Twitter thread. With her kind, thoughtful permission, I’m going to share her helpful insights with you now.

Despite the name of her Twitter account, Whiny seldom whines. Instead, she provides insightful critiques, positive and negative. Here are 10 insights about some year-end appeals she has received recently:

COVID-19 Pandemic: Fundraisers should not be afraid to honestly tell prospective donors about the challenges their organization faces. Whiny says, “A couple of the appeals make a very clear case for their need for funds during the pandemic, and we are increasing our donations to them over last year’s amount. I am actually dumbfounded by appeal letters that DON’T mention anything about being affected by the pandemic. Where have you been all year?”

Mission: When a nonprofit organization has a well-articulated mission that is meaningful to donors, missteps will more readily be excused. For example, Whiny says, “There’s one local cultural nonprofit that always sends a reply form  with no appeal letter at all, and I’m so offended by that, I want to cut them off, but my husband insists that we continue to support them.” Whiny had this reaction to another appeal, “We keep donating to them, but I never read the very long, small-print, no-margin, weird-font appeal letter from a small local nonprofit. I simply don’t have the fortitude to tackle it.” Just be aware that, for most organizations, a clear, powerful mission will work best when paired with a well-crafted appeal, particularly one that is easy to read.

Fake Deadlines: Many charities like to use artificial deadlines for giving as a way to create a sense of urgency, especially at year-end. However, donors tend to care little about your deadlines and more about when they want to give. As Whiny says, “I don’t know how long it’s been sitting unopened in my stack of appeals, but one letter mentions a deadline of December 4, which seems weirdly arbitrary. I think they’ll still accept my gift, though. Don’t you?” I suspect they will. So, what’s the point of the fake deadline? Arbitrary deadlines just come off as hucksterism. When a fake deadline is impractical, it can become downright annoying. As Whiny has observed, “Another one I’m just opening, and it says ‘Nov 30 deadline!’ right on the envelope. But the postmark is November 23! C’mon!”

Postage: Unless you’ve tested a postage-paid response envelope versus one requiring a donor to affix a stamp, you should opt for a postage-paid response envelope as your default. You’ll likely get a better response rate. When requiring the donor to affix a stamp, avoid being condescending in the envelope’s postage box. For example, Whiny doesn’t like statements like “Place Stamp Here” or “Postage Stamp Required.” Whiny says, “I do know how to mail an envelope, you know.” A postage-box statement she likes is “Thank You for Your Support.”

Gift-Amount Suggestions: It’s almost always a good idea to suggest how much you would like a prospect to contribute. If you’re asking a past donor, the amount you seek should be related to what the donor has given in the past. In other words, don’t ask a $5,000 donor for $25; conversely, don’t ask a $25 donor for $5,000. When presenting a gift chain, make it legitimate. “The four choices on this gift chain are $250, $260, $265 and $275, which has got to be the narrowest range I’ve ever seen. They had the good sense to add a ‘Surprise Us!’ box, just in case I want to bust loose,” says Whiny. Generally, your gift-chain amounts should vary by more than $5 or $10.

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October 27, 2020

So, Wake Me Up When It’s All Over

There’s a line in the well-known Avicci song that goes, “So, wake me up when it’s all over.” It nicely sums up my feelings about 2020. It’s been a stressful year for us all in so many ways. Yet, despite the strain, I keep seeing articles and webinars full of unfounded optimism, particularly as they relate to fundraising in the post-COVID-19 world. Here are just a small number of the titles I’ve come across:

  • Rebooting and Managing After COVID-19
  • How to Keep Your Donors Once the Crisis Ends
  • Fundraising Predictions for After COVID-19
  • Fundraising Post-COVID-19
  • How Nonprofits Should Approach Grant Makers Post-Covid-19
  • After the Pandemic Fundraising

So, when is this post-COVID-19 time supposed to arrive?

No one knows. However, we do know it’s not going to arrive anytime soon. As I write this, the USA, and much of the world, is experiencing a coronavirus pandemic resurgence following efforts to reopen economies. We still don’t have a vaccine. While there might be a viable vaccine by the end of this year, experts say broad distribution will not be possible until probably the middle of 2021, at best. In the meantime, we still do not have solid, reliable therapeutics to treat the disease.

Even once people are vaccinated and the pandemic is brought under control, economists tell us it will take months, if not years, for the economy to recover. The Federal Reserve says that the jobless rate will remain elevated through 2022. The Congressional Budget Office believes it will take two years for the economy to recover to a pre-pandemic level. Even once things do return to “normal,” we do not know what that new normal will look like. For example, “about 2 in 5 Americans in a nationwide Bankrate survey from May, for instance, said they expect to shop less at traditional in-person retailers.”

While it will take time for the overall economy to recover, it will also take time for individuals to recover from financial as well as other physical and mental health issues made worse during the pandemic. For example, the percentage of individuals experiencing depression doubled even during the early months of the pandemic, according to the US Census Bureau.

So, if the lovely post-COVID-19 world is not going to arrive anytime soon, what should you really be focusing on over the next several months or longer? Here are just a handful of ideas:

September 18, 2020

Should You Forget about Planned Giving as 2020 Closes?

Garvin Maffett, EdD, a strategic consultant in the nonprofit sector, recently asked the members of the CFRE International Network on LinkedIn:

What’s on the horizon for Gift Planning during this uncertain time in our economy?”

It’s a good question, and I thank Maffett for starting a needed discussion. Some fundraising professionals have wondered whether they should rollback planned gift marketing during the pandemic, or whether they should boldly engage in more robust charitable gift planning efforts.

My simple answer is this: You should definitely NOT forget about planned giving as 2020 draws to a close. While the economic future is definitely uncertain, now is a fantastic time for charitable gift planning. Let me explain.

The stock market, while volatile, continues on an upward trajectory. Most Americans own stock. Many of those who own stock have seen appreciation this year. This means there is a great opportunity for you to secure gifts of appreciated stock for your organization.

Motivated by the coronavirus pandemic, many more people have chosen to write a Will. With more people making end-of-life plans, there is an opportunity to encourage them to include a gift to your charity in their Wills.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has people contemplating their own mortality, life insurance sales have increased. This presents you with an opportunity to encourage beneficiary designations for your nonprofit.

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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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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.

read more »

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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