Tag: fundraising

5 steps to take to rock Thanks for Giving Day

Thanks for Giving Day will be here before you know it. Although some nonprofits do this type of thanking day earlier in the year, I have done Thanks for Giving Day the Thursday before Thanksgiving Day (in the US) and this year it’s November 21st.

That means you have a little time to plan. Remember, if you need help, we’re here! And for those of you new to TFGD, here are five steps to take to ensure your event is meaningful:

  1. Send a save the date to all of your board members asking them to take a shift for calls. I have done 4pm – 8pm and asked board members to sign up for a two-hour shift. Let them know how important this day is and what it will mean for donors, and let them know that all you are doing is thanking people.
  2. Have lists of all donors who have given this year, with their phone number. Do not list their donation amount.
  3. Plan a dinner buffet. I have used Chipotle. Also, if you are ok with having alcoholic beverages, ask board members to bring wine and beer.
  4. Make sure you have work spaces for the board members, complete with a phone. This could be desks throughout your agency or one table with several phones. I like board members to call from the agency as then your agency name pops up for caller ID.
  5. Create a social media plan to promote TFGD the week of and to do some live posts while board members are calling donors.

There is more to do, and this list covers the basics. Any questions, email us at helloaltrui@gmail.com.

If you let us know you are doing Thanks for Giving Day, we will share that information on social media.

Thanks for reading!

Your favorite nonprofit still needs you!

Before I begin, I’d like to be transparent and let you the reader know that I have lead fundraising efforts for nonprofits for 12+ years. I love the world of nonprofit fundraising and value the impact of donors like you.

Now that you know this, you won’t be surprised that I am writing about nonprofits, and in particular, to share the idea with you that your favorite nonprofit still needs you. Remember them? They caught your attention several years ago. It might have been at an event you were invited to, a fundraising run, or simply from your other half or a close friend who had gotten involved and couldn’t stop talking about them. Regardless of how it happened, you made a decision that you wanted to support this nonprofit. You wanted to be a part of making the world a better place with them.

Fast forward to today. Life is busier than ever. There are many more issues you are involved with, and it seems to be an endless task keeping up with what you can do to make the world a better place. Then you remember them. That wonderful group you trusted with your hard-earned cash, knowing they were making an incredible impact. You remember the kind staff, the quick thank you letter, the social media post about some wonderful success, and so on. The letters asking for continued support arrive at your business and they end up in the trash. There’s just too much going on.

In December of 2017 the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 became law. In short, what this meant for you who donate to non-profits was that unless you donated much more money, you would no longer be able to itemize your donations. A year and a half later we know that donors are giving less in one conservative estimate, the number was $54,000,000 less in 2018. Those who itemize their taxes for non-profit giving purposes have dropped from 30% of taxpayers to just 10%. Meanwhile, in reality, your favorite non-profit is busier than ever and their mission, most likely, has become even more important in making the world a better place.

This scenario can be an even bigger challenge for small nonprofits and for local, non-nationally supported, nonprofits. Many of them do not have a large marketing budget or even the financial capacity to hire a development/fundraising team. Small and large donations are the lifeblood of their organization and they rely on you, the donor. These organizations make up the majority of nonprofits working to make the world a better place, and their mission, work and impact is seen all over.

Know that your favorite nonprofit still needs you. In fact, we need you now more than ever before. Check them out online.

See what they are up to. Consider donating or volunteering. Together we will continue to make our world, a better place.

Thanks for giving day!

Save the date! The 2019 Thanks for Giving Day is November 21st!

I created this day several years ago while working as my first director of development, and it was love at first site. I know there are other forms of this, like the thank-a-thon, etc., and this day in particular was created to coincide with the start of the holiday season. I decided to do it every Thursday before Thanksgiving Day (in the US).

The idea is to gather board members and staff that day to thank every donor that has given in the last year. I like to begin late afternoon and do something like 4pm – 8pm. I provide lists of donors, phone numbers, a taco bar and adult beverages.

There’s a nice amount of planning that goes into this before hand, but nothing that can’t be accomplished in a couple of afternoons. I like to have everything all planned out for those willing to come in and make phone calls. Typically I ask board members to sign up for a two-hour shift, and I confirm shifts a couple of days prior. This is an awesome opportunity for your board to get into the arena of fundraising and donor relationship building, and they do not have to make an ask.

What? No ask?!?!

No ask. The purpose is to express thanks to your donors. That’s all. I have loved walking by board members on the phone engaged in a great conversation with a donor. It warms my heart. And it strengthens the relationship with the donor.

That’s the basic idea. I like to do this in-house as I like the phone number of the agency to show up on caller ID. I ask board members to take any relevant notes and we add those to the donor data. And I live-Tweet and post on all social media platforms during the event. Also, there are other ways to do a Thanks for Giving Day if an evening doesn’t work.

Will you join us for Thanks for giving day? Your donors will love it. If you want to do it but the thought overwhelms you, we at Altrui be offering a discounted package to help you plan it!

Thanks for reading!

give Donors a human touch

Today I want to share something that is important in donor-centered fundraising; treating your donors and supporters as human beings.

Thank them.

Call them.

Ask them how they are doing.

Ask them for their opinion on something.

Ask them to pre-read a direct mail piece that you want to send, getting their opinion.

Call them. Yes, I am writing this again.

Invite them for a tour of your facilities.

I could go on and on.

There is a reason why people donate to our causes. We need to know why. And we need to ensure that our donors know how grateful we are and that we don’t just see them as a human ATM.

Short but sweet. What will you do today to treat your donor as a human being?

Thanks for reading!

Don’t fear the ask

I’m attending a nonprofit conference on planned giving and am super excited for it! I have had the chance to meet with former colleagues and the topic of fundraising professionals fearing the ask, asking a donor for a donation, came up as still being an issue in nonprofit fundraising.

I smiled while listening to this topic. It brought me back to my first major ask in the world of nonprofit fundraising. I had just begun as director of development and began looking at past donors. I created a list of donors to call and introduce myself to, including some who had not donated in over a year.

This was the case with what we call a lapsed donor. The last donation was more than two years past, and the size of the donation was in the top ten of our our annual donations. I knew I had to call them, and was petrified! New to nonprofit fundraising and new to making a direct ask. I wasn’t new to the mission, I was new to passion and I wasn’t new to building relationships. These all helped.

Rather than put this particular call off for another day, I decided to make the call. First, I called a fundraising peer and talked through the upcoming call. I also shared my fear. Speaking about fear with a peer made a lot of the fear go away. Then I listened to one of my power songs (I highly recommend having power songs) which I believe was a Rise Against song and got settled into my chair. I dialed the number and on the second ring the donor answered.

I could immediately tell that the call was welcome. They were excited to hear of my new position and began to tell me why they had donated in the past. We spoke for over ten minutes and it was completely natural. I enjoyed every minute of it and it seemed they did as well. We wrapped up the call after they told me that they still love dour work and had simply forgotten to donate. Would I prefer they mail a check or take their card number?

Since that call I have loved the ask. It’s vital to our success and to the mission of your nonprofit. And every donor realizes it’s simply your job. In the hundreds plus asks I have made, never once has a donor told be to bug off and never call again. Not once.

Go for it!

Thank you for reading!

Pick up the phone

It’s so easy.

In donor-centered fundraising, it’s crucial.

Every day I try to respond to emails by picking up the phone and calling the person who just emailed me. They are usually happily surprised.

Then we get to talk. How is their day? How are we doing in our programs?  Yes, our Gala was incredible. Our relationship just got stronger.

Calls don’t have to be reserved for donors. Call your vendors too. Build relationships everywhere you can. Your development and marketing efforts can only get stronger because of them.

Plus, in some cases, who will make someones day.

It’s easy. Just pick up the phone.

Thank you for reading!

Passion with purpose means successful fundraising

What are you passionate about?

One of the traits I immediately see when looking at someone I consider to be an amazing fundraiser is the amount of passion they have for the cause they fundraise for.

It makes sense. Work for an agency that serves in an area that you are very passionate about and your passion is bound to support your fundraising efforts. This has certainly proven true for myself. Yet it’s also true that passion alone might not be enough. I also need purpose.

There are many in our field who are in fundraising for some other purpose other than being able to allow their non-profit mission to totally rock.. Perhaps they believe it’s a good stepping stone to something else or perhaps they needed a break from the corporate world and this position fits for them at this time. These scenarios don’t really benefit the agency, and they could detract from successful fundraising. There is little we as fundraising professionals can do about this except ask more questions when hiring and keep the passion alive on our teams.

I would personally much rather have someone on my team who is hugely passionate about the cause, and whose constant actions and thinking will be focused and purposeful on the success of their work, not thinking into the future about what might come next. Focus is huge in fundraising.

I have met all types of fundraisers since I entered this world and those making the biggest change have passion and purpose.

Just something to think about when considering a new staff member or when thinking about what makes for success in fundraising.

It’s also something to think about when you are thinking about a move. It’s always something good to consider when taking a look at yourself in the mirror, whether for a new position or your current one.

Thanks for reading!

Is LinkedIn helpful?

Like many parts of social media, LinkedIn seems to have it’s positive and negative moments for people. I recently have seen some peers in non-profit fundraising post about their challenges with LinkedIn and after reading all of the comments on their posts (by far negative) I thought I would share some of my experiences.

Just to be clear, I’m not an employee of LinkedIn nor am I paid to write positive things about them.

I have been on LinkedIn for many years. Three years ago I decided that I wanted more from LinkedIn and decided to put more effort in it. Before creating strategy around that I decided to clean it up. I wanted to be connected with people I actually knew, people in my field (non-profit development and fundraising) and people in fields I could collaborate with (corporate leaders, recruiters, activists). This took a while as it was before one could delete from the profile. I had to go through each profile and decide if there was relationship or partnership potential there.

All of that time totally paid off. I ended up deleting almost half of all of my connections, quickly realizing that I had too many connections with people I didn’t know and couldn’t think of how we could benefit each other.

I started fresh. My goals include building relationships with people in my field, those who I can learn from and those who I potentially might want to work with one day. Another goal is to engage with people and businesses who might want to partner with me and the non-profit I work for. By partner I mean that they get something out of the relationship and we get something out of the relationship, not just me as a non-profit wanting them to donate and then see you later. A true partnership. Finally, and this can be inclusive of the partnership part, I want to engage with the community around the children served by my non-profit, specifically who we are as a non-profit and why we need to exist.

In other words being on LinkedIn for me can’t be all about me.

Additionally, like all of social media and most things that end up being good for you in regards to goals, I need to work it. Seriously work it. That doesn’t mean being on LinkedIn 24/7. It simply means that I need to be proactive if I want results or if I want to feel it’s worth my while. On LinkedIn that means adding posts and articles that might benefit my connections and/or my goals, liking peoples posts, engaging with their posts (writing a comment), introducing people and sharing job openings/searches.

In the last three years my LinkedIn experience has totally changed. I hope what I have shared can be helpful to you!

Thanks for reading!

ignite your fundraising

Although I love nonprofit leadership and being able to dive into program work, at heart I am a fundraising nerd. I’m writing this post while embracing my nerdiness.

If you would like to ignite your fundraising, here are a few ideas:

Revisit your passion for the cause and for the agency you’re working for. Remember why you do what you do and what you are doing that is making the world a better place. This could mean talking with your program team or visiting with someone your agency serves. Get back into that passion.

Share your passion. Share stories of the difference your agency makes. Hop onto social media and tell a story. Create an email blast about anything you learned today that your agency had something to do with. The other day I was sitting in one of our empty meeting rooms and was inspired to write an email about what would it be like if this same meeting room, about to be filled with volunteers, stayed empty. A couple of hours later that email was being read by donors and potential donors.

Spend time in your data base. This could be an entirely separate blog post. Who has been donating forever? Who hasn’t donated in a while. You get the idea.

Call a donor. Then call another donor.

Invite a donor for a tour. If you don’t do tours, invite them to coffee.

Ask your program team for stories, good and not so good ones.

Now you’ve started. Thanks for reading!

Tips for the fundraising professional’s job search

A quick personal note (which I try to stay away from on my fundraising blog): We moved here after years of wanting to be in southern California for the warmer climate, the culture, the food and of course to be able to surf more often!

Being a fundraising professional on a job search in a city where nobody has ever heard of you isn’t an easy task. Yet for some amazing reason I have had the chance to interview for some pretty incredible non-profits doing life-changing work in the Los Angeles area.

I wanted to pass along a few tips I do during the job process here. Some of these I realize are just :

Do not be in a hurry.

Get very comfortable with working with recruiting firms, especially ones who don’t necessarily show that much respect for fundraising professionals or non-profit professionals as a whole.

Focus on getting in front of those who would actually hire you. This means rocking it through the recruiters.

As with any job, write an eye-opening cover letter specific to the position. Remember that you want to get in front of the person who will actually decide to hire you.

Be early to your interview.

Study the budget before the interview. For fundraisers this is crucial.

Don’t promise the world. Focus on your past experiences and successes.

Dress for success.

Have a list of seven professional references that includes folks who you have reported to, who have reported to you, board members and professional contacts.

I think that’s a good start!

Thanks for reading!

Donor relationships

I have said many times that I love the “R” word, meaning that I love the word “relationship”.

It is a word that too often is overlooked by fundraisers and professionals in philanthropy.

And that really needs to stop.

If you are passionate about your organization’s mission, get into solid relationship with your donors.

If you want to rock your budget, build relationships with your donors.

If you want to build a source of revenue that that your organization can count on, make sure your donors know that you care about them.

How does one go about this?

Call them. That’s right. Next time you get an email from a donor asking a question, call them with the response.

Invite them on a tour of your facilities.

Email them a video thank you note.

Send a personal note.

Send them an impact report, or annual report. When we send these out we add a big “Thank you” on the back with signatures of our team.

These are just a few ideas of many. Start here and I assure you your relationships with donors will change.

Thanks for reading!

Working on your next annual budget?

Another budget season is upon us and although this is the time of year where many in non-profit leadership go crazy, I must admit that I am a budget geek. I love creating budgets. After inheriting a couple of budgets that seemed unrealistic at best and after several years of experience in creating budgets that support programs without putting board members in a position of saying “where in the heck is that money going to come from”, I’d like share a few thoughts that might make your budget process a little more fun, or at the least help create a process that doesn’t leave you dreading the next one.

These might be oversimplified for some, but even then they might be a good reminder.

For me, budgeting is an ongoing process. Every team member in development has a budget sheet that they add to throughout the year. Whether it’s a training they might want to attend next year, new staff, a new fundraising event or a new fundraising campaign, everyone keeps a list and we go over the lists throughout the year. We also make notes about whether the current budget we are working in made sense.

An easy way to start the budget process is to simply ask program folks how much money they need to do the mission and development folks how much money they think they can raise. If those numbers match (ha!) then you are good to go. My experience is that there will be a good amount of money in between the two. But at least you have a start.

In the non-profit world we do not create target budgets. We do not set a goal for fundraising and hope we get there. This is one of the key difference between us and the for-profit world. This means no pie-in-the-sky revenue budget. If a non-profit isn’t making budget, cuts have to made. You never want to be in this position.

Have a plan for any increase in revenue. I have seen budgets where individual giving increased 200% with no plan in place as to how that was going to happen. It sure is easy to just add revenue here and there, but someone is going to have to raise that money, and if they don’t then we’re in a situation like I mentioned in the prior paragraph. There are many times when it’s easier in the moment to just add revenue here and there to make up the difference between revenue and expense. Don’t do it unless there is a clear, realistic action plan to raise that revenue.

Have a finance committee go over your budget. This typically happens as part of the budget process. I want finance committee members to particularly pay attention to increases in revenue based on forecasted revenue for the year, not budgeted. This is very important because if you have a budget line that is below in revenue yet create a line item for next year based on what was budgeted, you are comparing apples to oranges. This can easily happen with events and individual giving, and create tough times for you next year.

Here’s an example: You have $500,000 budgeted for individual giving and are forecasting ending the year with $350,000 in individual giving revenue. When working on next year’s budget you increase your line item to $600,000 which means next year you need to raise $250,000 more than the year prior! Don’t do it!

Finally, someone needs to support decisions made by the development team in regards to revenue. If something really doesn’t feel good in reference to revenue and your ability as a team to raise, don’t budget it. That’s not always easy, yet in the end you, your team, your staff and those you serve will be so much better off.

Thanks for reading!

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