Tag: fundraising

My first donation

Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit meant Friday nights at our local skating rink. Not ice skating or anything connected with hockey (please don’t judge me for not being your typical, mid-western hockey fan) but your regular roller skating rink. One Friday night in particular stands out in my memory.

It was the night I made my first, non-religious, donation. As an eighth grader out with friends, my mind wasn’t on saving the world, or in this case Harp seals. That evening a couple of folks from Greenpeace were tabling and projecting a video about their work. I was horrified with what I saw and donated $1.00 at the table.

As time went on, I didn’t think much about Greenpeace, but I did think often about the Harp seals. To this day I take small actions when I see a campaign to support these seals. Unfortunately Greenpeace hasn’t taken up the same amount of space in my mind.

Then three years ago I was back in Denver hanging out with my cousin and the door bell rang. It was a young man talking about Greenpeace. My memories swelled and because of that and his kindness, knowledge and lack of pushiness I donated $100.

By that evening I received an email thank you from Greenpeace.

There was a 35+-year span in between my first donation and my second. I’m not an annual donor to Greenpeace but have given again since the afternoon at my cousin’s.

I’m not sure there was an opportunity at a life-long donor when I spoke with those folks at their table at the roller rink. More of a chance with the young man at my cousin’s house.

The mission, even though it was such a small part of their overall mission, is what got to me both times. From Harp seals to the environment overall, I donated because I wanted to help them with their mission. I especially remember being in eighth grade, wanting to do whatever I could to help those Harp seals.

As you read about this memory of mine, I hope you find something here that strengthens your work in relationship building with your donors and with your fundraising.

Thank you for reading.

Volunteers and volunteering

Volunteers play such an important role in the nonprofit world, and as I write this post about volunteers and volunteering, I’m taken back to my college days. I studied Spanish and Latin American Literature at the University of Colorado Denver, which meant I had a lot of reading. As a volunteer at one of our local animal shelters, the Max Fund, I typically spent my volunteer hours cleaning cages and walking dogs. As college progressed and I had more reading, I found myself volunteering in a different way, sitting in the FIV cat room reading my assignments while loving on all of the awesome cats. The photo above is of a FIV cat room, but the one at Indy Humane. I couldn’t find one from Max Fund.

I loved volunteering at the Max Fund, and always felt appreciated. I felt that way because I was thanked often.

These days I volunteer for other organizations in southern California and in Tijuana, and I receive the same amount of joy.

I got super excited during one volunteer time in Tijuana when one of the employees doing training for us actually made an ask for donations!

But, wait, you were volunteering and they asked you to donate?

YES! It made me so happy and of course that evening I went online and made a donation. Since then, about a year and a half, I have made four donations.

There are always discussions among fundraising staff and leadership about volunteers and whether or not it’s OK, or even appropriate, to ask them to donate. It is indeed. And in case you might be concerned of an ask to volunteers being off putting, I have asked hundreds of volunteers to donate and not once has someone been offended.

If you work hard on your relationships with your volunteers, not only will your volunteer force increase, you will see your donor base increase as well.

Thanks for reading!

Nonprofit careers

Several years ago I was talking with a friend who had just been laid off and the topic of nonprofit careers came up. Well, I brought it up. I basically told my friend that in the world of nonprofit careers, there is pretty much everything that exists in the for-profit world.

Huh? That was the reaction.

All of my time in the nonprofit world has been leading development teams. For those unfamiliar with that term, it means fundraising. So when I write about nonprofit careers, keep in mind that my personal experience comes from a small part of that world.

That being said, I have worked with people in all areas of nonprofits, whether they were in finance, engineering, program work, marketing, building managers, public relations, and the list goes on. Some had been in nonprofits forever, and some made the change from the for-profit world and realized this was where they belonged.

If you’re in the for profit world and are looking for a meaningful change or are in between jobs, I definitely recommend checking out positions in the nonprofit world. If you Google your area plus nonprofit jobs, you will most likely find a nonprofit organization that has a job board. An example is the Colorado Nonprofit Association’s job page which usually has a hundred or so open positions in all areas of the nonprofit world.

There are also plenty of nonprofit job opportunities on Indeed and Idealist.org.

The nonprofit world can be a wonderful experience for anyone, especially those who want do more to make the world a better place.

If you’re considering a move to the nonprofit world and have any questions, let me know! dan@altrui.org

Thanks for reading!

Light at the end of the tunnel

Since the first days of Altrui, we have offered a “dollar a minute” call to ensure any nonprofit professional, no matter their nonprofit size or budget, could use our services. Since then we have met met nonprofit professionals from all of the country and even abroad.

The best thing about this call is that it’s sixty minutes of what the client needs. This could be me mostly listening or 60 minutes of pure strategy. By the end of the call the client feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

What possibly could happen in an hour? Well, most of the time the person on the other end has intense feeling happening around work, budget, giving, staff, mission and anything else you can think of. They are overwhelmed and are sharing urgencies sometimes for the first time. They feel alone.

In every call there is a feeling of relief. Just have an honest conversation about revenue and expenses, about donor giving (or not!), about board issues. Many of these challenges seem to go away by simply talking through them. The power of challenges definitely lessens.

There is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. If your mission was important and your impact was clear before this pandemic, then all of that is still true.

You’re not alone. Sometimes just having an honest conversation about where we’re at, what is urgent, what we’re afraid of, and where we go from here can make us stronger and more focused.

Thank you for reading!

Donor meetings on Zoom

I’ve been working on Zoom even before the pandemic hit, and I’m happy to report that I still use it frequently for meetings with donors and clients.

I decided to write this post about Zoom, and how we as fundraisers use it with donors, after getting feedback from two people I know well who are donors and had feedback to share with me about being asked to give on a Zoom meeting.

Their feedback was the same: they both felt uncomfortable on the call and felt like the ask was a cold call.

I have found that making a phone call is my preferred way when talking with a donor about their next donation. And before I continue, it’s also important to note here that what you have done and how you have treated the donor prior to the Zoom call definitely comes into account (see past posts about relationship building).

Before you have your next Zoom meeting with a donor consider these:

Keep the meeting between you and the donor. Two of you and one of them can be overwhelming for the donor.

Make sure the donor is not surprised; they know the purpose of the call.

Be clear, kind, engaging. Yes, just like a face to face visit.

Remember throughout the call that you are in relationship with this person, that they care deeply about the mission of your organization. Treat them as such.

Keep in mind that Zoom isn’t the only way to keep in front of donors and to have a donor meeting. You, like I have, might encounter donors that still prefer a phone call.

Thank you for reading!

Small business housekeeping

I found myself in the same spot. Again. I had stopped doing Altrui housekeeping every Friday and was all of a sudden overwhelmed.

Background. Altrui Consulting is just over one year old. For the first several months all I did was hustle to build the business. Nothing could take my eyes off of the prize, which was making sure Altrui would make it.

I soon realized that although I had years of nonprofit fundraising experience and relationship building experience, I had not run a consultancy. Taxes were rather simple for me as I had learned all I could about them and when I needed to pay them. In Q2 of my first year I subscribed to QuickBooks which helps significantly.

If I enter the data.

Working with clients, for whom I am super grateful, is my passion. It doesn’t feel like work. It’s wonderful. It’s all of the “business” upkeep that I get behind in.

I wanted to write this post so that those just starting with their own business, whether a consultant or something different, realize that they’re not alone. There’s a lot to do, and it’s not all as fun as your work. I’m finding that if I just calendar a couple hours a week to do business housekeeping, then I’m good and I don’t have to experience that feeling of falling behind.

I also have found, which may sound pretty obvious, that keeping my workload list up to date really benefits me. My list includes any project due to a client and when it’s due. I use an Excel spreadsheet but there are also programs out there that can help you make this process easier.

Lastly, being a member of my local chamber of commerce helps me a great deal with all of this because I get to meet with other small business owners and share stories of what’s going on. As I often say, I’m always learning, and being surrounded by others who consider themselves always learning and who also have their own small business is beneficial to me.

I hope this was helpful. Thanks for reading!

People are donating

As I read of more nonprofits laying off fundraising staff, I thought now was a good time for a reminder.

People are donating. People who have a lot are donating and people who are struggling are donating.

People are trying to figure out how they can make a difference during these trying times. They want to help. Many feel powerless.

That’s where we in the nonprofit fundraising world come in. It’s up to us to let people know what we’re doing, the impact we’re having, and most importantly, how our mission matches how people want to make a difference.

We have to keep building relationships and honor those who give.

We have to ask.

Nothing new with any of this.

Thank you for reading.

Stay in today

A lot of recovery programs promote “one day at a time”, meaning stay in today, stay in the moment. As nonprofit year-end fundraising campaigns go into full throttle mode, this thought can be super helpful. Stay in the moment.

Do everything you can to rock your campaign, and while working on it stay in the day. Don’t let negative thoughts hang out (or at least too long), and focus on what you can do that day.

Then do the same the next day. Some times taking deep breathes help too. I’m in no way saying that whatever you are experiencing isn’t important, my point is to focus on what you do best, and let the rest go. You’ve been here before and you’ve rocked it.

The world is different. And you’ve pivoted. What hasn’t changed is that your donors still want to support your mission and impact, and they want to be asked to help.

Surround yourself with others working their butts off in the arena. Don’t listen to naysayers. Remember all of the work you have done throughout the year to support this year-end campaign.

Wishing you the absolute best! Thanks for reading.

Thanks for Giving Day!

Time flies, and here we are already in mid-November!

That means that Thanks for Giving Day is here! Thursday, November 19th, nonprofit board members and staff members will call donors to say one simple thing:

Thank you!

That’s it. It’s all about thanking the donor.

If you haven’t done a Thanks for Giving Day before, here is a quick list to help:

Ask board members to sign up to make calls/send emails.

Create a list of donors who have donated in the last year.

Create a quick script for board members.

Send each board member a list of donor names and contact information, along with the script.

And go!

Something that has helped me in the past is asking board members to send anything they learned about the donor during the call. Had they moved? Do they have a new email address?

Give it a try. Thanks for Giving Day is a great way to support you in building life-long relationships with your donors. It also a great way to get board members engaged with fundraising in a fun way.

Thank you for reading!

Action 3: Share stories

Part III of a four-part blog series on building relationships with donors and customers.

A few months into COVID, one of the small, local businesses we support posted on their Facebook page that thanks to all of their customers, they had been able to keep 80% of their staff on payroll. We gave them more business the next day.

Share important and impactful stories with your customers and donors. It will make differences beyond your wildest dreams.

For nonprofits, many of us already have an email list we use to communicate with donors. Whether it’s an email blast or newsletter, share current successes and struggles with your donors. We are well into COVID now, so how has that affected your programs and mission? Or has it? How have the recent elections around the country affected your work? Are you in a field or geographical area where winter makes it more difficult?

Donors want to hear about this. I have found that especially these days people are very much interested in taking action to support others. They want to know how their donation or volunteering has made a difference. You hold that key. Share the stories.

In the world of small business it may be difficult to do this. Pre-COVID many businesses we support didn’t have a Facebook page, website or email list. Figure out how you can best communicate with your customers and start sharing what is going on. Many smaller communities have a Facebook page where businesses can share items on a certain day (or any day). Take advantage of that. If you have the capacity to do so, start gathering emails of your customers and send a monthly note about how things are going, offers to support your customers, and any news that might remind them you’re there.

Stories add a lot to building relationship with your donors and customers. Keep them going and those relationships can only grow.

Thanks for reading!

Action 2: Express gratitude

Make sure everyone who supports you, in whatever way, knows how grateful you are for that support. This is our second action to take in building stronger relationships with donors or customers.

Gratitude can be expressed in many ways. An instant email after a donation or sale does not count. A quick check in upon leaving your restaurant or their volunteering at your nonprofit do count. Knowledge of your gratitude goes a long way.

In the world of nonprofit fundraising some of my best practices include a thank you call as quickly as possible after the donation has been received. This delights the donor, and instantly strengthens the relationship between donor and nonprofit.

Another way to express gratitude is to let the donor know how their donation was spent. Donors love to know their impact, and a quick note from someone at the nonprofit letting them know of their impact goes a long way. Remember that we are talking about building a lifelong relationship with the donor.

An example of gratitude expressed I love sharing was an experience at a restaurant when a manager swung by our table to thank us for supporting them. This is a place we have continued to order from since the start of the pandemic, and the manager thanked us for all of that and let us know what that meant to them.

You don’t need a budget line item to express gratitude. It doesn’t have to cost you financially. And it definitely pays off.

Thanks for reading.

Action 1: Strengthen your social media

Last week I wrote about celebrating one year of Altrui and shared four actions I am working with clients on that are turning out to be successful. Now I’m going to break each one down.

First is to strengthen your social media. The first thing to do is to write out all of your platforms on social media to include platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn along with others like email blasts and your website. Once you have that, take a long, honest look and rate them, most used on the top and least used on the bottom. This is important because I like thinking about where we invest time, and on the flip of that, if we might be better off investing time elsewhere.

Regardless of where this lands on your list, having a website that is always kept up to date is vital. There are books written about this and so many other consultants thrive in the world of what a fantastic website looks like, so I’ll just add a small bit here. As a fundraiser, it’s important to me to have a clear option to donate. And to be able to donate in a click or two, without any complications or silly questions. Some people just want to donate. Make it easy for them.

One other point about websites is in regards to a blog. If you have a blog on your website keep it up to date. There’s nothing like being excited about a nonprofit blog just to see the last post was written two years ago. Only have a blog if you have the capacity to keep it current.

Share your impact. Share your ups and downs. How can I help? What do you need? What are you doing that stokes the passion of why I support you? Keep these things in mind. And remember to respond to questions and comments.

Capacity is key. If you can excel on every platform, go for it. If you have time for just one or two, keep it there.

On Twitter I am @fundraiserdan. You have my website, and I try to post a new blog post every week. These are my top two social media platforms. I have a presence on others, and these are the two that are on the top of my capacity list.

Thanks for reading!


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