Tag: philanthropy

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!

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!

be inclusive in fundraising

I recently met with a development person from an organization that we support financially. We are new-ish to LA and they were one of the first organizations we donated to upon our arrival one year ago. Our first donation was not our last, and now we are “members” as well as being vocal supporters.

NOTE: As long as I have been writing about fundraising and as long as I have had my professional social media accounts, I have gone out of my way to keep my fundraising world separate from my personal world. With this encounter that I am writing about, I believe it’s necessary to bring in my personal life. I won’t necessarily make a habit of it.

Donors come from all walks of life. We are different genders, races, martial statuses, gender identities, orientations (as in sexual), faiths, classes and this list could go on and on.

We as development professionals and fundraisers need to be inclusive. Yes, there are some non-profits that might not want donations from certain parts of society, yet for me, serving and agency that advocates for abused kids, I work to be as inclusive as possible, and as honorable as possible to all donors.

I say “I work to be” because I give it an honest try. I may not always succeed.

From how we use salutations in our donor letters to how we refer to a donor’s significant other, to how and who we thank, this is something we really need to pay attention to.

As a donor and a huge supporter, I was pretty disappointed when the development person I was meeting with referred to my husband as my partner. In our conversations prior I had used the term husband and even in that same conversation I had used the word husband twice.

I’m sure it was not her intention, but in one swift sentence, she demeaned my marriage.

Too sensitive, no way. This is a new world. Yes, gay people are actually married these days (and have been for over 12 years.) Let the donor inform you as to how you should be referred to or as, and I did that.

Yes, not all gay couples are married, or want to be. I am, and I very much do.

We have to pay attention to this. And not only this. Gender pronouns are important, as is making sure we thank the wife if she is the donor or at least both people in the couple. Too many donors are thanked via their spouse and their spouse only.

If you don’t know, ask. I assure you there will not be any offense taken. In fact, you might just catapult the level of your donor relationship.

Thanks for reading.

Thanking donors

When boards and non-profit leadership talk about fundraising, individual donors are typically, and easily, talked around or even not thought about. Meanwhile, so many of us have donor retention rates under 40% and direct mail response rates are under three percent. I can see why many in our world don’t see the intense value of individual donors, or even think that there is a way to increase the amount of individual giving for their non-profit.

Although I subscribe to the philosophy of donor-centered giving, I’m not even writing about that. I think many non-profits have a lot of work to do even before they start working within the ideas of being donor-centered.

Here’s an example. A few months ago I attended a luncheon that was a fundraiser for a popular LA-based non-profit. It was my first time attending one of the events and I was blown away by what they presented, so much so that I made a donation.

First donation to them ever. I felt so good about being part of their incredible impact.

Time when by and one day we received their newsletter. It reminded me that I hadn’t received a thank you letter or a tax letter yet. 

More time went by, and six weeks after I made the donation I received my thank you/tax letter.

Six weeks! Seriously? I couldn’t believe it.

Even though I am now on their mailing list, I don’t feel any more a part of them as I did before I made the donation.

I like what we do at the non-profit I fundraise for. Once we see a donation we call the donor to thank them. This happens within 24 hours of receiving the donation. Then a thank-you letter goes out within three days. Three days is the absolute latest it will go out, that’s our goal. It doesn’t mean that we don’t do all we can to get the letter out earlier.

Individual giving can change your mission and impact. It’s much more sustainable than corporate giving and even foundation giving. Growing your donor relationships will be totally worth your while. You can start by thanking them.

Thanks for reading.

Three quick actions for today!

It’s Friday. Well, almost! I’m giving you time before Friday to think about this. We all have our own rituals throughout the week, and on Fridays I like to have a long list of action items for the day. I try not to schedule any off-property meetings and focus on one thing: donor relationships. Three actions that are consistent for Fridays with me are: Call a donor. Or several donors. Not a donor who is getting close to their time for the annual donation. A donor who you just want to say hi and thank you to. Do a site tour with a donor. Some of you might not have this option. In that case invite a donor for a coffee. Yes, face to face time with the donor is the key here. Spend some time on your next current-donor mail appeal. It might not be for another few months, but some creative time spent today will totally pay off. Remember, donor-centered. I absolutely love time with donors. If you are new in fundraising and still uncomfortable with calling a donor or meeting with a donor, I promise that the more you do the more comfortable and even fun it gets. Your passion for the mission of your agency and the donor’s passion/vision for the mission can only grow stronger when you spend time with them. Thanks for reading!

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