Tag: leadership

Your fundraising plan – reaching out to donors

Back to your fundraising plan!

As your donors, and your relationships with them, are critical parts of your fundraising success, making personal connections with your donors are actions you can take to support your fundraising plan.

When I speak with fundraising teams about this, there seems to be a little trepidation. In our world of nonprofit fundraising, it’s not possible to build lifelong relationships with donors without personal connections, and this includes actually meeting with your donor.

This is my favorite part of the job, and a great tool for your fundraising plan. Meeting in person with a donor can be as simple as meeting for coffee all the way to having lunch and a tour of your program facilities. I’ve played racquetball with donors and gone on hikes with donors. I wouldn’t suggest racquetball unless you’re better than I am!

In our field there are still many who feel uncomfortable meeting with donors. Our work is all about relationship building, and one really needs to be comfortable with all aspects of meeting with donors. Talk out your plan with a co-worker before you meet. Play a favorite song (I do this sometimes before a big donor call). The assumption is that you know the mission, the needs, the impact of their upcoming donation, and are passionate for the cause.

Aside from meeting in person, there are several other actions that can be part of your fundraising plan that include connections with donors. Thanking them of course is important. Let them know the success of a campaign they supported. You can also call or email just to check in. Contacts that have nothing to do with asking them for another donation are super important, and help grow the relationship. Even if all you can do is leave a voice mail, that’s a good step.

Your fundraising plan doesn’t need to include every action you want to take with donors, but do create some type of calendar for connecting with them. Remember that you can include your executive director and board in these communications. They don’t all have to come from you.

Go ahead… give a donor a call or send them an email inviting them to meet. No time like the present!

Thank you for reading!

Reignite your fundraising

I’ve presented conference sessions called “Reignite your fundraising” and love engaging with other fundraisers and development peers about my ideas regarding what we can do to take our fundraising to another level.

Before I begin it’s important to note that although the title of this post is about reigniting your fundraising, all of this starts with you. He’s a short story about what I mean by this, one from several years back:

I recently ran into a donor who was volunteering at our office. I shouldn’t say “ran into”, as I heard her voice and immediately got up and went to greet her. I was ecstatic to see her and thanked her for a recent generous donation. Of course that wasn’t the first time I thanked her as I called her the day of the donation and then sent a thank you letter. Nonetheless it was my excitement in seeing her that made her day.

“The person before you didn’t even know my name. Every time he saw me I had to re-introduce myself.”

Reigniting your fundraising will only work if you are on board, if you have endless energy and passion for your cause, and if you are willing to be the main cheerleader.

Let’s start.

My first idea is to respond to a donor email with a phone call. You will surprise them, and your relationship with them will be stronger. In other words, you are investing in the donor relationship. Building these relationships is key in reigniting your fundraising. Try it.

Speaking of the phone, I suggest getting used to using it. Email doesn’t show emotion. A donor can’t hear your excitement over email. So call them. Once you see their donation pick up the phone. It changes everything.

Another reason to use the phone more and email less is that, especially in huge cities like Los Angeles where I live, face to face meetings with donors don’t happen as often. The phone call brings at least a little bit of a personal touch to the relationship.

More to come.

Thanks for reading.

The great resignation

I read about this every day. Whether this is affecting you and your organization or not, it gives us a chance to talk about fundraising staffing and making sure your organization can be seamless in fundraising and relationship building during team transition. Any steps taken now to ensure a great process will certainly pay off.

I’ve seen many development teams go through transition and have some thoughts, that if acted upon, could make the whole process a lot smoother for you, your supporters, your team, and your mission.

Keep in mind that this post is not about how to keep an employee. This is about when that ship has sailed.

There’s a lot written about hiring right. We of course want to do that, and I’ve seen many organizations do it. And then the brand new person is not what had been imagined, or there is just not a fit. This means a few months (or less) after the hire, everyone is back to the drawing board after having spent time and money on a placement that did not work.

I’ve been there. I highly recommended a candidate. I did everything right, so I thought. There can always be a situation where one does everything right and the outcome is still negative, however what I have learned from my own personal experience is that there were things I could have done better, and different.

If I want a major gifts officer, I need to spend a lot of time talking about that in the interviews. Talking about their personal experiences, how they feel about this kind of work, and setbacks and successes they have had. I talk about expectations, not only mine but theirs. If during the conversation something tweaks me, I need to pay attention to that and talk about it.

Experience also tells me to keep job descriptions up to date. Many nonprofits are still using job descriptions from way back when, with very little in common with what the position actually looks like today. While we’re on job descriptions, three pages of what they need to do is too much. Shorten it.

Benefits matter. For people like me, a fair salary is important, and time off, real vacation time, is equally important. Why on earth would I apply for a job that offers one week of paid vacation after one year of work. No thank you. Four weeks of paid time off, with accrual beginning on day one, is a good place to start. Time off is important for many reasons and acknowledging that at the start sends a great message.

While in the process of hiring, keep in mind that the fundraising and relationship building cannot cease. Ensure donors are being thanked, communications with everyone around fundraising are continuing, and any appeals that were being planned are happening. It’s not uncommon that all of this doesn’t happen while a new person is sought, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Take your time. I know, you need someone now. Rushing this process doesn’t help.

Follow through with all candidates. I know, this can be time consuming. Even if right now you’re saying out loud “you have no idea!”, try it. No one else is doing it and you never know if a future position may be the perfect fit for someone who applied for this one.

Lastly (for now, this may become a series of posts!), be working in a fundraising plan. I see many job requirements that list creating a fundraising plan. One needs to be in place already. Relying on a brand new person to do this doesn’t make sense.

More to come. Thank you for reading!

Overwhelmed and exhausted

I recently spent time working with a client who described themselves as being overwhelmed and exhausted. There are other things they said, which aren’t really appropriate for a professional blog post!

I’m not surprised. Many nonprofit fundraising professionals reach out to me because they are feeling the exact same way, and like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

I know it’s easy for me to say this (keep in mind that I’ve been there), and I can tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it shouldn’t be this way.

Here are some ways to support your nonprofit’s fundraiser(s) and if you are the main fundraiser, some tips for you:

Don’t throw them off of the bus. If you as an organization’s leader have challenges with your head development person, speak with them about it. Don’t share about the challenges with others while not informing the person.

Don’t create unrealistic revenue budgets then expect your head fundraiser to be accountable for it.

If you’re on a nonprofit board, send a quick email asking what you can do to support their efforts. Ideas are great, if you want to take on the work to implement the idea.

For both leadership and fundraising professionals, create weekly or bi-weekly meetings to connect with your team. Just having the time set aside creates a more open, communicative environment, even if you only meet for ten minutes.

It’s OK to ask for help. Build relationships with your team, board, volunteers, and others and when the need arises, ask them for help.

Practice self care. You know what to do when it comes to self care. Make time for it.

I never really liked lists, but in the last few years I have begun using them. They have made a difference for me.

Hire right. Honor your expectations when hiring.

You have quite a list now. I hope it’s helpful. Please try some of these.

Thank you for reading!

Your 2022 development plan

This post shares ideas that can be used for both nonprofits and for-profit organizations. It focuses on development/fundraising, and many of the ideas can be incorporated to a business plan.

First things first. If you haven’t created a development plan yet for 2022, begin work on it today. It’s as simple as creating a document titled “2022 Development Plan”. The key in starting now is that you’ve started the process.

In my mind, a development plan, or fundraising plan, is a road map for how we will fundraise this year, who participates in it, what are our goals, what are our challenges, and what we need to accomplish the goals. I’ve seen plans that are dozens of pages long with small type and ones that are simple Power point documents that are specific ideas and goals. Choose which one best suits you and your organization.

Keep your plan positive. Keep in mind you want a plan that can be accomplished with your current capacity. Keep your plan realistic with the goals. For example, if you raised $50,000 from individuals in 2021 and your 2022 development plan is to raise $500,000 there is an issue, unless you already have committed donations close to that amount.

I like to break down my plan to revenue-generating categories: individual giving, corporate, civic/faith, and institutional (foundations) are some for a good start. Some organizations like to have specific line items for board giving and major gifts. Others may have some type of income, which I would keep out of a development plan. If you have special events, there are different ways to have that in the plan. The two most common are to have that revenue separated out completely, or (#2), have event revenue within the other categories based on the category that generates the revenue.

Be sure to have a part of your plan that includes who is participating in what. This can be super helpful, especially when presenting to groups, like your board.

Every revenue area comes with a fundraising goal. Like I mentioned earlier, keep it realistic. I’ve seen many nonprofits toss a ridiculous amount into individual giving because they had to add revenue, with no reality in that amount. If you know your annual fundraising event will be different because of , say COVID, keep that in mind when creating your goals. I fully encourage thought-out growth and positive thinking, just keep it realistic.

What are items, events, people, situations that can possibly keep you from reaching your goals? I usually create a one-pager listing these.

Lastly, consider all of your ideas you have, and others have offered, to reach the fundraising goal of each revenue category. This becomes your check-off list. For example, under individual giving you may have the following: expressions of gratitude, impact sharing, phone calls, one-on-one meetings, video calls with the director or a program manger, increased direct mail, increased e-appeals. This list can go on and on. I’m sure you get the idea.

I realize this all may seem over-simplified. For me, it’s not. A development plan does not have to difficult or complicated. After all, this document is your plan for the year, the plan you will use to be successful.

Thank you for reading!

Year-end fundraising begins now

I’ve been excitedly waiting to write and share this post.

Yes, I’m writing about year-end fundraising. Yes, I know you just finished your year-end fundraising efforts and you probably don’t want to read anything about year-end fundraising for at least a month or two.

The fun thing about this is that success with a year-end campaign really begins now. You can have the best, most strategic plan and appeals and e-appeals, written by the best people and supported by the best staff. All of this and you can still struggle.

That’s because if you lose your donors during the year, it’s difficult to get them back for a year-end gift. Not impossible, just difficult.

So let’s make it easier for us, and better for those who support us, (and those we serve!) by taking care of the donor part now, and all year!

Experience has proven that we cannot ignore our donors, volunteers, and other supporters all year and then expect a donation when we ask.

What works well for my clients is to add donor contacts into your development plan for the year. Contacts can be an email, a Thanks for Giving Day call, an impact update, a thank you note or call, etc.

Creating practices of gratitude expression and sharing impact strengthen relationships with those who support you.

If you haven’t created a development plan yet, see my next post!

Thank you for reading!

Keep thanking

The photo is of a thank you card for donors.

It’s already mid-December. You’re watching donations come in supporting your appeals, attending holiday gatherings, and trying to get in front of as many donors as possible for that ever-valued year-end donation.

With everything that is going on, keep thanking your donors. Keep the calls up, keep the impact stories going, and keep making sure that your donors know what it means for them to donate.

That their donation changes the world. For someone. Or something.

As my family makes donations this month I’m unfortunately surprised by how many organizations, especially the ones we have donated to for many years, don’t take the time to just say thank you.

I get it. They are busy. There’s a lot going on. And at the same time the proof is in the pudding: when we thank donors right away, let them know how we spent their donation, and then how that donation impacted our mission, we have a huge chance that the donor will donate again.

And our life-long relationship begins (or continues!).

Some of my clients have a couple of people on staff who make calls, others engage their volunteers (Including board) to help with the expressions of gratitude. You don’t need to do this alone. Ask for help if needed.

The time you spend doing this is definitely worth it, and will make a difference.

Thank you for reading!

Start today

Everyone is busy. And many of us find it difficult to believe that it’s already November, let alone Thanksgiving time!

Meanwhile we read on social media about perfectly created plans for year-end fundraising, complete with actions and calendars and more. Then we look at our list of things to complete before hopefully having a holiday meal with family. Self-judgement begins as we realize we haven’t even sent our direct mail piece to the printer.

Don’t freak out. Set the self-judgement aside. Start today.

This isn’t a fluff piece. Next year you can have the awesome plan ready (you’ll begin in January – see upcoming post). For now, rather than consider all you haven’t done, start taking actions today.

Is it too late to send a direct mail piece? That depends on your printer. Give them a call. Meanwhile create your appeal knowing you can use it as an e-appeal if you can’t get one mailed.

Connect with your team and gather stories for your donors. Begin sharing them on social media in preparation for year-end donations. Add some posts about tax laws, bigger needs, and impact.

Take a deep breath. Then keep going.

Ask the board if they will chip in to create a matching fund for year-end donations. That can be used in your direct mail appeal and e-appeals.

You know what to do. Time catches up and mission work is overwhelming. It’s easy, and not uncommon, to get behind. Start today and you’ll see that you can still have successes with your year-end fundraising.

Thanks for reading!

Caution with capacity

The client had invested thousands of dollars in a planned giving package. They had boxes of items to mail and everything possible to build conversations with donors about making a planned gift.

Another client invested in a wealth search software so they could look up donors in preparation for a donation request. There is a list of other reasons this would be helpful, but they would start with their current donors.

Before I continue, I want to make clear that I believe there are many amazing products and services out there for nonprofits to aid in fundraising and relationship building.

The challenge with the nonprofits mentioned above is that there was no capacity on the team to engage in the work they had invested so much in. There was no one on their fundraising team who could connect around planned giving or take the time to use the wealth search continuously.

I see this too often. In some cases a product or service is sold and then nothing is heard back from the company that made the sale. No support. Nothing. In others, the excitement of the possibilities with that product or this service blinded the awareness that purchasing this would mean someone on the team has to take on another project. It all comes down to capacity.

Please consider capacity when making a decision about services and products. Talk with the salesperson about it. Reach out to other fundraising professionals to see how they worked with this system or product. The more time you spend talking about this and doing research, the more you will get out of your upcoming investment.

Thank you for reading!

Key to year-end fundraising

Final drafts of year-end appeals are being sent to printers. Heads of development are being asked for year-end projections. Statistics are continually being shared on how many donors give in December, and during the final week of the year.

And you’re ready to bring it these final weeks of the year.

Unfortunately for some, the key to success during year-end fundraising does not occur during the year-end campaign. It starts at the beginning of the year (or before). It’s all about building relationships with your donors.

If you’ve been doing that, if you and your organization are in relationship with your donors, then you have a great chance at a successful year-end campaign. If not, it could be difficult these next few weeks. It could also be a chance to learn and move forward in a different way.

It’s never too late to begin growing relationships with your donors. For some, it’s just starting that is the difficulty.

Thank more, ask less. Share impact more, ask less. Of course if you aren’t asking at all, the action plan is different. But many are only asking, which is problematic and is not helpful in building relationships.

Keep this in mind not only now but throughout the year. The more effort you put into building relationships throughout the year, the stronger your year-end fundraising campaign becomes.

Social media tips for smaller nonprofits

If you are reading this blog post you’re on social media. Based on my Altrui website data, you’ve most likely found me because of my presence on social media platforms. My favorites for Altrui and for being part of the nonprofit world are Twitter and LinkedIn.

I’m one who believe social media can be a relevant tool for nonprofits, especially in marketing, fundraising, and communications. Like everything, some nonprofits work and hustle on social media and you can tell. Others, well they have a ways to go.

I’ve recently been looking at social media from smaller nonprofits, and have some ideas on how they may grow their presence and possibly their mission impact through social media. If you don’t know this yet, there are as many opinions to how or if social media can be beneficial to nonprofits as there are nonprofits. This is simply my opinion based on a good amount of time working in social media for causes that are super close to my heart.

This post is specifically for the smaller nonprofit, or the nonprofit that has very little capacity to take on social media.

First, you have to start somewhere, but not everywhere. Pick one platform and give it a go. Before deciding which one to start with, speak with people you trust, staff, supporters, donors and friends at other nonprofits. See what they think. Side note: Your donors will LOVE that you asked them!

For the purpose of this post, you’ve chosen Twitter. You create your account, add the two photos (put some thought into this), and post your first tweet.

Many nonprofits then post again in a month, follow a dozen orgs/people, and then decide that Twitter is not working for them. Like any social media, one has to give it some hustle, time, and careful consideration. The posts need to be posts that people can learn from or feel engaged with, and have to be consistent. One or two posts here and there, without any thought, will not grow an audience.

The biggest lesson I learned that I can share with you all is that growing social media takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight, or even in weeks. It’s definitely a growth process. Before starting in social media one has to have a commitment to see it through. That means time and effort.

Post about what you know. Become a resource. If you serve people seeking asylum at the border, become a resource on that. You serve survivors of domestic violence, well you know what to do. Become a resource.

Share from others. On Twitter it’s called retweeting. Find articles that you learn from or feel could educate others and share them.

Connect with others. Keep doing that. It’s rare that I find social media accounts that are that good, that don’t have anyone that they follow. Everyone has something to learn.

Put a link in your profile to your website. Get people there.

Share your fundraising campaigns.

Don’t use twitter to share your Instagram photos. I’ve seen amazing nonprofits whose missions I love post only their Instagram photos, which comes up as a link. Imagine what that feed looks like.

I use social media to get in front of more people and to share nonprofit missions and Altrui work. Sharing good content helps. Sharing crap content doesn’t do anything for nonprofits or my business. Share content that can help people learn, grow and take action.

Thanks for reading! Questions or comments? dan @ altrui.org

Small donations add up

Most of the work I do is with small, grassroots nonprofits. They all have some donors that give at the higher level, but where they really rock it is with continually receiving a large amount of smaller donations. These smaller donations add up, and allow the organizations to have even greater impact.

I know, a lot of what you hear about is major donors this and major donors that. I’m sure most of what you hear is true, at least for the nonprofit saying it. This post isn’t about major donors and isn’t saying anything negative about them. The point here is to open anyone’s mind around the value of all of your donors who are giving smaller amounts.

Most smaller donations come from e-appeals. They also come from people who have some level of interest in your mission. If you have the capacity to grow your smaller-donor base (and the desire!), the e-appeal is a great place to start. The organizations that have built their base of smaller donations begin here. Then they ensure quick thanking coupled with shared impact.

Once these have been done the next move can be to invite these same donors to become monthly donors. Share the impact of their moving to monthly giving. Keep in mind that growing your list of monthly donors takes time, both time to grow and time to work those relationships. Capacity is key to starting this.

Keep in mind that some of your appeals targeting smaller donations will be for the one-time donation and others will be to create donors from those who give. Regardless of where a specific donor lands, their donation can be the start of an ongoing relationship.

Relationship? With someone who donated $10.00?

Definitely. At first look remember that you know nothing of this donor, have no clue why they gave, and that it’s up to what the next step is. My idea is to start building the relationship as soon as you receive their first donation.

What can you do this week to connect with your donors giving at smaller amounts?

Thank you for reading!

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