Tag: fundraiser

4 easy actions to build relationships with donors

I believe fundraising is not about money, it’s about relationships. This is what Altrui is centered around: relationships. These 4 easy actions can support your relationship building.

Donor relationship building can be the easiest thing to “not have time for” when considering fundraising for your nonprofit, or even for business owners wanting to grow.

Yet time and time again I have seen where very small investments of time put into building relationships with donors end up having a large payoff (and not only in regards to giving). I see this with every client we work with, that creating systems that include building relationships with donors, and really all stakeholders, support that donor knowing more about your impact and seeing why they want to keep supporting your mission or even supporting you at a higher level.

This could mean more meals for unhoused youth, more attorneys for free legal aid for survivors, more emergecny health care for animals at your shelter, etc. It can also mean that your staff has all they need to successfully carry out your mission, and that your staff is taken care of with liveable salaries and amazing benefits.

Here are a few tips to build your relationships with donors. For some of you, these will be reminders, and for others, these can be added to your routine:

Calendar time with donors. I know, you calendar a lunch or coffee. I mean calendar time to make quick calls to check in, so the calendar item is actually “check in calls” rather than just one donor name. Make this part of your weekly actions. I know for me having it on my calendar means it gets done, or at least has a better chance of getting done.

Next, when a program staffer shares a challenge or success with you, share that with your donors, individually. Of course you may share on social media and perhaps a newsletter, but I mean share one-on-one with your donor. A quick email to share impact.

Everyone in nonprofit fundriasing talks about thanking donors. Definitely. And remember you can keep thanking them, it doesn’t have to stop after the original thank you for their donation. You can even ask a board member to call a few months after the donation to say thank you.

Lastly, keep your donor data clean. This could be a whole series, and there are many in the nonprofit arena who specialize in data who know much better than me. Focus on correct spelling. Keep an eye out for formal names vs. what you call the donor. Does Mrs. Jones have a name? Have you updated addresses from your latest NCOA list?

Building relationships with your donors can become part of your weekly actions, and can pay off in ways you never imagined.

Thank you for reading!

If you found this post helpful, I’d be thrilled, and grateful, if you shared it!

My work from home dilemma

This post is less of a “tip” and more of an inside look into the world headquarters of Altrui. And the dilemma I have in the office.

Several months before COVID came upon us, I created Altrui, my nonprofit fundraising consultancy.

Having led nonprofit fundraising teams for several years, I was excited to be in the world of consulting, being able to help many nonprofits at once (rather than just one) build life-long relationships with their donors while increasing fundraising.

We have a spare room which became the world headquarters for Altrui. Desk, laptop, calendar, notebooks, library of nonprofit fundraising books, etc.

I had spent months preparing for “opening day”. I had my check list alongside my five-year business plan.

There I was, at my desk, super excited, committed, and solidly typing away on a new blog post.

Then it happened.

Agnes the Maltese came into the office. She was soon followed by Ludwig the Yorkie who wanted immediate attention.

I stopped writing, deciding to take them outside. Nadia the terrier joined us and we all enjoyed walking around the back yard enjoying the gorgeous, southern California morning.

Twenty minutes later, I was back at my desk, trying to remember the amazing thoughts I had had while writing the blog post.

A few sentences in, Nadia was at my feet staring up.

I’m working, so I ignored her.

After her staring didn’t work, she started hopping up and pawing at me.

I cleared room on my desk and moved one of her beds (she has several) on the desk. I picked her up and set her in the bed. Back to work.

Nadia soon perched up, surveying her world though the office window.

Then she started barking. She doesn’t like people walking in front of her house. The bed on the desk worked for half an hour, then down she went.

She left the office, and while she left, Ludwig came back in.

Six tips for new nonprofit board members

Joining a nonprofit board of directors can be an exhilarating and life-changing experience. Not only do you get to work with others who hold a similar passion to making the world a better place through the mission of the organization, you can support the mission in many ways.

Here are six action items to consider when joining a nonprofit board of directors:

First, since you are reading this on social media, add this volunteer experience to your LinkedIn profile. Let your professional network know that you are on the board of the nonprofit.

Next, send a note to the ED/CEO and ask them to coffee or lunch. You have probably already met them, and this is your opportunity to get to know them a little better and to see where they see you best fitting.

Next, do the same with their head of fundraising. In some cases, this may be the same person! Nonetheless, get to know them as well, and find out how best you can assist with fundraising for the nonprofit. This meeting will be welcomed by the head of fundraising, and they will most assuredly have some action items for you.

Now connect with the CFO or whoever handles the finances and budget. If you don’t already have a copy of the current budget (by this I mean the full budget, not a limited version of one), ask for one. Then ask if you can attend the next finance committee meeting. The idea here is to get to know the budget, why this is that and that is this, and have a better understanding of the organization. The main thing is to ask questions around any uncertainties. You will do the nonprofit a huge service if you fully understand the budget.

Make a commitment to attend 100% of the board meetings. These are typically scheduled for the year, and whether you can be there in person or join via phone or Zoom, your presence as a board member is critical, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Keep in mind that many foundations expect a certain percentage of board members attending board meetings, and your organization could miss out on grants if that percentage is not high enough. Board meeting attendance is also just part of being a board member, and whether you can make meetings or not would be part of deciding whether you should join the board.

Lastly, create some type of “elevator speech” about the nonprofit which includes why you are on the board. This part is important when sharing with friends and colleagues as your passion with purpose for the mission of the organization will affect how or if they want to support the cause. Of all the nonprofit boards you could have joined, why this one? Your first two meetings with staff from above can be helpful in creating this language.

Thank you for volunteering to join your board of directors. Have fun, make good trouble, and I wish you and them the very best.

Your business and philanthropy

When I created Altrui, I decided I would work with clients (nonprofits) that are working in areas closest to my heart and passions.

This means nonprofits whose missions are in the realms of human rights, animal rights, domestic violence, refugees, border/immigration work, homelessness, and a few others.

Working with nonprofits whose missions I have intense passion for, my work in helping them build relationships with donors and increase their fundraising, is easier. I want them to have what they need to serve who they serve. I want them to excel in their mission.

Here’ where the reader comes in. Who do you donate to? What missions get you going, touch your heart, or make you feel better about the world. Who do you share your time and treasure with?

Many reading this are small business owners. I can relate, being in that category. Philanthropy is one of our values at Altrui, it’s not only the “why” in regards to us existing as a business, it’s also how we see our part in the world. We know nonprofits make the world a better, safer place. We want to financially be a part of that.

Starting philanthropy for you and your business can be pretty simple. You most likely already have an idea of what causes you are most passionate about. You may already donate to several charities.

I tell clients that a donor is someone who has donated two or more times. A donation comes from someone who donated because their neighbor asked them to sponsor a walk they were doing for a charity. In some cases the person donating may not even know their mission.

They become a donor if they donate again.

The point here is to use your treasure to support nonprofits that you are passionate about. Ones making change that is important to you.

Consider making a donation to at least one nonprofit from your profit, not just from your extra spending money. Make a donation that is more than the neighbor supporting neighbor donation. This is especially important if you are finding success in your business, which based on so many stories on Medium and LinkedIn, you most likely are.

It will also make you feel better, like you are part of the solution. That your donation is making the world a better place.

If you want to donate to a charity and have no idea where to start, and would like help in figuring that out, let me know. I may be able to help based on my years in the nonprofit world both fundraising and donating.

One suggestion that will catapult your small business

As a nonprofit fundraising consultant, I created Altrui so I could use my love of nonprofit fundraising and of relationship building to work with nonprofits whose missions mean the world to me, supporting them in strengthening relationships with their donors and building their fundraising.

I had little knowledge in starting a business or running a business once it was off the ground.

Just as I found value in having a great relationship with my CFO wherever I was head of fundraising, I realized I needed the same type of financial brilliance for Altrui. For me this meant hiring an accountant/CPA to not only do my taxes but to take a look at everything financially to keep me going in the right direction.

My one suggestion that will catapult your small business is along these lines.

Hire an accountant/CPA who you trust, who you enjoy working with, and who will take the time needed to keep an eye on your financials while teaching you how to be better.

I did this last year, in preparation for my tax work for 2021 and it completely changed Al trui for the better. I started with the same CPA that did our family taxes, and that was good, but I didn’t feel the focus on Altrui was good enough. When they moved, I had the chance to speak with other CPAs, and found one I really wanted to work with right in my local chamber of commerce monthly breakfast!

Once it was official, they asked for access to my QuickBooks. I immediately said yes, warning them that it was a mess. Yes, everything was in there, and most items were most likely coded incorrectly. They soon confirmed my thoughts on the status of my QuickBooks and offered to help with two suggestions.

Let them clean up my QuickBooks to their standards.

Teach me how to add data so it matches their standards.

“Yes” I said to both. These two ideas, which may be common, made me feel like ALtrui was now areal business, with super-accurate financials, and the knowledge to keep that going.

Other things I love about this CPA is that they sent me an app to download all of my documents, from my phone! Again, this may be common but it was a lifechanger for me. I had everything downloaded for family and Altrui by the end of January, and a meeting with my CPA and their team by mid-Feburary completeling everything. The app helped so much!

They also offered to check in at the end of June, go over my bank statements and QuickBooks, and let me know how it all looked to them. I loved that. And there were only three data entires that I had put in the “ask my accountant” file! Everything else was good to go.

Like my time in nonprofit fundraising, hiring the best people for areas in which I don’t excel can by critical to my success, and the success of the organization. At Altrui, I want to know every line of my financials, just like I wanted to know what every line of my nonprofit’s budget meant. It makes a big difference in both arenas when you are commfortable with knowing all about the financials.

If you don’t have a CPA like mine, consider one. If you’re in California I’d be happy to recommend mine!

Thank you for reading.

Keep thanking: How to keep donors using thank you cards, phone calls, and emails.

There is constant chatter on thanking donors on LinkedIn and Twitter. It’s the topic of amazing sessions at conferences. Around every corner is a reminder to thank our donors.

Here’s another one. Please remember to thank your donors.

Remember that to me, as a consultant and as a donor, the auto-email from an online donation doesn’t count as a thank you. That’s a receipt. I suggest you consider a more personal way to thank someone who has just given. I also would add that these suggested ways to thank donors work really well for any type of thanking, including, say receiving a check.

“A check?”, you ask. Many still donate this way, and a thank you upon receipt is a great way to express gratitude but also lets the donor know that you have received their donation.

Thank you notes are wonderful. Yes, there is a cost and time capacity for them, and I think the payoff is worth it. I have been surprised by how much I love receiving a thank you note. My all time favorite was from a board member I know who took the time to write the most gracious, kind note.

Phone calls are personal and super easy. I make thank you calls in between other work projects. I often suggest to clients that a great time to make a phone call to thank a donor is right after a program meeting one attended when so much of the mission’s impact has been talked about.

Email definitely works, and is the least personal of these. But it does work, and is definitely better than no thank you at all. Perhaps attach a photo or a report of some sort that exemplifies the impact of your mission so the donor gets a reminder of why they give in addition to the thank you. Some of my clients create a quick video thank you with their phone and add that to the email.

Thanking is not overated, and you can always make time to do it. It defnitely makes a difference as you build a life-long relationship with your donor.

Thanks for reading!

Fundraising during team transition

We’ve all been there. Someone on the fundraising team, (or the one person on the team!), is leaving. In the best of times this is well-planned out and a new hire begins quickly. In reality, especially these days, it can take forever to find a new fundraising team member and overall fundraising can be affected.

In many cases we can’t control a team member leaving (this will be another post!). We can control actions we take as son as we know someone is leaving.

First things first, have an updated job description avaialble for all team members. As one who checks job openings every week, I see many job descriptions that come across old, and I wonder how realistic they are to the position being offered. Responsibilities change and it’s important to include those when beginning a new search. Keeping job descriptions up to date will make it easier for you to begin a search, without having to have several people go over it before posting.

Next, ensure donations are being entered into your data system. For some organizations this may be simple as the head of devevlopment may have staff doing it. For one or two person teams make sure you take time to keep all data up to date.

Equally important is ensuring the process of expressing gratitude continues. Typically the head of development is the one doing this, so during transition have others making calls and sending emails, even if you need to bring in board members to help.

Lastly, create a list of outgoing fundraising appeals that were to go out or in the planning stages. It’s critical that any direct mail or e-appeals that were in planning stages continue. The main point here is that direct fundraising cannot stop during development team transition.

Thanks for reading. And if you find yourself in need of help during a team transition, let us know!

Another quick tip for nonprofit fundraising

A theme I’ve been working with on the Altrui YouTube site is “Reignite your fundraising”. These ideas are based on a conference session I used to do, and now a fundraising tip.

In nonprofit fundraising we talk a lot about thanking donors. This tip is after the thanking, basically the next step: share your impact. Here we let the donor know how we spent their donation, and the impact it had. Sharing impact is critical in building your donor relationship.

Depending on your organization and your capacity, try to share impact within four months of the donation. This can be an email or even a phone call. Keep in mind when donors know how their donation impacts your programs, your relationship with them grows and they have a chance to become even more interested in your mission.

Try it out!

If you’d like to see the videos about reigniting your fundraising, you can click here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCttkHw_iEiM5WXlBP-rqjIg If you get somehting out of any of our videos, please subcribe!

Thank you for reading!

Helpful ideas for a nonprofit job search

As a nonprofit fundraising consultant, I’ve been fortunate to meet many nonprofit fundraising professionals who are in the midst of a job search.

Each of them have personal reasons for wanting to leave their current position, and there are many common denominators linked to their nonprofits. That’s for another post!

At Altrui, we have had clients ask us to support their efforts in finding a new member of their fundraising team. After being a part of many searches, there are ideas I’ve come up with that will help with your current job search.

First, there are always actions you can take before you begin your search. First is to completely rock at your current position. Nonprofit fundraisers who excel with their work, are trusted leaders, and make people feel positive create reputations that make a job search so much easier.

Another action you can take now is to strengthen your professional social media presence. For me this is LinkedIn and Twitter.

Also, unless you are in an awful situation at your current job (awful can mean all sorts of things), it’s typically best to search for a new job while currently employed.

Here are some ideas to assist you in your job search.

Resumes are still important. Typos still reflect badly on candidates. Also, long resumes become boring. Use your resume to highlight experiences that are helpful with the position you’re applying for. Keep it simple, clear, and direct. A resume should not create questions.

Bring in your personal and professional circles. Let everyone close to you know that you are in a job search and let them know what your perfect new position looks like.

Have three professional references ready. Don’t send them until requested.

Be fully prepared for an interview. I can’t express the importance of this enough. Know the nonprofit you’re applying with. Know their mission and their 990. Speak to the experiences required in the job description and your success in those areas. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you are offered that opportunity. This is especially important if concerns come up during the interview.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to apply for a position that doesn’t exactly fit on paper. Passion with purpose and expereince go a long way. I have excitedly suggested a couple of candidates that were then offered the job even though on paper it did not seem like a perfect match.

Thank you for reading! I wish you the best of luck!

Tips for an amazing conference

Many of my colleagues and friends in the nonprofit world are in Las Vegas attending AFP ICON. I’m very new to AFP (just joined last month), and although I won’t be there I do have some ideas of how to make this conference even more amazing for those attending.

My tips for an amazing conference have mostly to do with actions to take once you get home. Conferences are filled with awesome speakers and an endless flow of information, ideas, and actions to take. What happens many times though is that, upon returning to the office, reality sets in and the business of the work takes over. Soon all of the wonderful notes, ideas, and business cards are in a drawer.

Here are my tips to help make your conference even more amazing!

First, keep track of everyone you meet. Take their card, connect with them on LInkedIn, or simply make a list to refer to. Once you get home calendar in contacts for all of them. It could be two or three a day, or a week. Don’t let all of these amazing contacts go. Reach out to them, and plan it.

Next, those notes! My last conference I typed notes right into a document. For the first time, I have actually referred to them many times. Take action on what you hurriedly typed in. Calendar ideas to take action on or meetings to present the possibility of these actions with your team.

Next, take time to connect with companies and people on social media. I am on Twitter and LinkedIn, so I focus my efforts there. If anyone I meet is on one of those platforms, I make sure I connect with them either during or after the conference.

Once social media is done, another tip in making your conference experience amazing is to calendar thank yous to people who taught you something mind-blowing or had some intense affect on you. Send a personal, hand-written note to thank them and let them know the affect they had on you.

Lastly, hold on to the excitement you felt during the conference. Don’t let anyone take that from you. If you learned a great way to plan your next direct appeal, try it!

The key with all of these is to keep the conference going, to take what you learned and those you met with you as you continue to make the world a better place back home at your nonprofit.

I hope this helps! Any questions, just email me at dan@altrui.org

Thank you fo reading! And if you’d like to see me in action at a conference, I’ll be attending the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference in San Antonio in October: https://nonprofitstorytellingconference.com/

An unforgettable thank you

Thinking about my experiences of how my organization has thanked donors, or how organizations I support have thanked me, there is an unforgettable experience that is at the top of the list.

I had made an ask of a donor who had not donated in three years. They hadn’t responded to anything I had sent. Add to this that they had donated before my time with the organization and didn’t know me.

One day I was making a call and the donor accidentally picked up the phone. They were in a rush to get out of the house with the kids, and could not speak. I asked if I could email them what I was going to speak about, and they said yes!

I emailed the ask. They had a couple of questions which I responded to quickly and soon they decided to give again. They doubled the size of their already large first gift. What a wonderful experience.

I asked my board chair to call them to thank them. This was a common occurence for me and them, so my board chair knew what to do and made the call.

The donor answered!

Immediately after the call, the donor called ME!

They said they had given hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past many years, to several organizations, and had never received a thank you call from a board chair. This of course made my heart swell, mainly because they were taking the time to thank me, and share how they felt about an action that was common place for our fundraising team.

I left that organization to create Altrui, and am ecstatic that that donor continues to generously give.

A simple thank you can catapult your relationships with your donor.

Thanks for reading!

Your fundraising plan – tips on donor retention

The basic idea around donor retention, and why I like it included in any fundraising plan, is that it is easier (and cheaper) to keep a current donor rather than try to find a new donor.

Of course we’re not talking about just one donor. We want to think about donor retention in a way of treating our donors that we have in a way that they will donate again. And again.

This post could go on and on about donor retention, and I’ll leave you with just a few ideas about what has worked for me.

First, I highly recommend a database for your donor data. There are many options, and I’m sure there is one to fit your capacity and budget. Having a database with your donor information allows you to track donations, notes, contacts, and anything involved with you and your organization building a relationship with your donors.

Next, thank your donors. When I first started in nonprofit fundraising, a phrase I heard often was “thank before you bank”. Super simple idea. These days, many nonprofits count their online auto-thank you letter as a thank you. I don’t. That’s an acknowledgement of a donation. Your donor knows you received their donation. You still want to take a step to thank them, either by letter, email, or phone call.

Find out why your donor gives. There are several types of donors, and there are also people who simply just make a donation, with no intent to really give again. An example of this is a neighbor you’ve asked to sponsor you ina 5K run for a cause. They are giving because of you, not the cause. If they give again, now you have a donor and perhaps it’s more than just you!

You also have the donor who just loves your mission. They think that what your nonprofit is doing is making the world a better place, or another way of putting it is that you’re creating a world that they envision. These are donors who are with you, and easy ones to build life-long relationships with, if you take the time to do that.

Another idea that works for donor retention is to be transparent with your donors. That means sharing the good, the not so good, and the difficult. Donors don’t always need to know how awesome you’re doing or that all you have are successes. They definitely want to know your challenges as well, along with what gets in the way of your organization being able to have the most impact. Share it all with them. Whether it’s in a newsletter, a personal email, or over lunch, keep your donors in the loop.

My last idea for now is to share your impact. As a donor, I want to know that my giving makes a difference. Your donors are the same. Let them know what you’re doing with the funds you raise and what impact that has. Even if you try something and fall short, share it. Your impact changes things, things your donors want to see changed.

There you go! Try these! I’d love to hear about how you implement them.

Thank you for reading!


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