Building Allies

December 30, 2015

I find the first few months are so important at a new job. I recently read the book The First 90 Days. One of the key items that the book talks about is building allies. This is so important for us in fundraising as we often end up touching the entire organization. We call on people at every level in the organization for information, ideas, and assistance. Here are a few ideas I had, and I’d love to hear some additional ideas from you.

  • When I first started I began to try to figure out where natural ally relationships would be. Orientation is a great place to start. Everyone in this group has being new in common. As a new employee you want to find your way in the organization= you don’t know the existing attitudes (positive or negative), and have little ingrained thinking about the organization.
  • Your immediate work team is a great group in which to build relationships. They already know good people to connect with and build solid relationships.
  • Natural internal partners. Who does your team work with regularly that you might want to take a special effort to get to know?
  • The executive team. A good time to meet them is when you are new, as they want you to be excited about the organization and know you are not going to ask anything of them. (Some bosses feel pressure if their staff talk with/meet the executive team. A good practice is to ask your boss if he/she would be willing to introduce you.)

Where do you find allies? How did you build up your relationships internally and externally? Building allies is happening all the time. What are you doing to continue to develop ally relationships in your organization?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog


Get on the Phone

December 28, 2015

We live in a different world than 15 years ago. When I communicate with my friends a lot of it is done over email, twitter, and texting. I don’t pick up the phone and call my friends as much as I use to. In the development world I am constantly amazed at how much information is available over the internet. LinkedIn has been a huge resource in terms of finding some new prospects and connecting with local business people.

In spite of the power of email and LinkedIn, I have still found that prospects respond the very best to phone calls. It is too easy to ignore an email or a letter, with a phone call you can hear their voice and someone has to actually respond. Another advantage is you can deal in real time with someone’s questions, concerns, and objections. I try to respect the “no’s” and “I’m not interested” responses that I get when I talk with potential donors. But, I have often found that people want another touch point before they commit to a one-on-one meeting. You might catch an off-handed comment on the phone that turns into them attending an event you might have never talked with them about.

When building a new portfolio of donors getting on the phone and making a handful of calls is going to get a way better response than sending off a number of emails or letters. A strategy that includes an email or letter with a follow-up phone call can work really well. The individual has been given an opportunity to respond on their terms and they know if they do not they know you will be following up with them on the phone.

How often are you on the phone?  Thoughts and strategies?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

Sometimes Donors Just Give

December 23, 2015

I have always held the belief that it is important to help a donor to understand what their gift can mean to the organization. I get excited when I have the opportunity to partner a donor with a specific need. I love being able to tell a story about the difference that their gift or giving made. But what happens when your donor does not have that same interest?

I’ve started a number of donor prospecting conversations talking with donors about how they would like to make a difference in their community discussing what issues they are the very most passionate about. This is a great conversation starter for a lot of people enabling me to have a conversation about the kind of change that gets them the very most excited. But some people don’t think this way. Many don’t take an objective outsiders look at how they would like to impact their world. Talking about specific stories seems to have greater success in these kinds of conversations.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had a few conversations where I’ve discovered that I am rather limited in my understanding of how I’ve traditionally classified donors. I’ve spoken with a number of donors who make a regular gift in memory of a loved one who has passed away. My first expectation was that these individuals would want to give to improve the program or make a situation better for individuals who had a similar experience as them. But I have found, in this situation, they would like to be left alone and hearing to many details regarding the impact of their gift is too sensitive of an area to discuss.

I would love to hear from you. What conversations have you had with donors that did not happen in the way you expected? How do you handle ongoing donors that are made in memory of a loved one? How do you talk about impact with a donor who does not think that way?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

Referral Asks

December 21, 2015

At every organization, there are many different kinds of relationships that community members can have with your organization. Community partners can be advocates, financial contributors, advisers, volunteers, and sometimes clients/patients. There is another role community members can fill that can be very effective. There is nothing quite as powerful as a volunteer who will introduce you to people that they know.

Nonprofits can only go so far in meeting new people and businesses. Most people do not respond as well to a phone call from someone they don’t know. Using a referral donor to help make an introduction for you can help you get past some of the awkward and difficult beginnings of a new conversation. You are both more comfortable because you have a friend in common that you both trust. The referral donor can even be a great ice breaker topic to start the conversation. I like to start that kind of a meeting with, “How do you know So and So? It is really amazing how she makes time to do all of the community work she does.”

Many referral donors are a different kind of person than your typical major donor. Many major donors are well-connected and can make some great introductions. There are also some people that could never give a major gift but have a lot of community connections and are really well respected. Those are the very best people to cultivate as referral donors. A great place to start cultivating referral donors is your board.

One last tip: whenever I ask for or receive a referral, I always take time to establish a connection and create a relationship. I do not ask for a gift right out of the gate or ask the new relationship to do anything extravagant for me. We are at the beginning of a new relationship and it is important that your referral donor does not feel like you are going to ask all of their friends for a gift right away. Gauge the interest of the referral and build a solid foundation before you start a conversation about giving.

Do you cultivate referral donors in your organization? What techniques do you use to engage your board members and referral donors to introduce your friends to your organization?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

All About Relationships

December 16, 2015

People want different things. I am often surprised how different a conversation can be between someone I know and/or like and a stranger or someone I dislike. We all have those friends who get away with everything or those friends we will do anything for just because of who they are; development is all about relationships.

Meeting new people and making new relationships is a challenge for every organization. You often have to start from the very beginning justifying the work that you do and why it needs support. You have to figure out what resonates with an individual or group and build a case to them as to what kinds of projects would interest them philanthropically. Everyone has heard the statistics about how much easier it is to retain a donor instead of find a new one.

When I first started doing development work I thought people responded to the best proposal and to proving that your organization really has it all together and is a good steward of your money. I still think those values are very important but they often come as assumptions. The most valuable technique I have ever found is to become friends with my supporters.

If you have an opportunity to sit in front of someone and have a 30 minute conversation, their willingness to make a contribution is exponentially increased. People are way more open to being asked for anything if you spend even just a little bit of time getting to know them.

How highly are you prioritizing building relationships?  What’s working for you?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

Take Time to Make a Connection

December 14, 2015

I had a boss who once said that it is important to always take time to make a connection; there is a lot of truth to that. People have a strong desire to talk and building a relationship with other people. In a regular day I am surprised how many people it is possible to interact with and never connect. Something is hardwired into us that if we meet lots of people all of the time we need to keep them at arms length. It is very easy to make a list of donor phone calls and never really talk to the donor. Making a connection is really hard to do and some people are unwilling to do it.

Recently I started taking time at the beginning of many of my phone calls and interactions to have a conversation with the other person. It was counterintuitive at first and still is weird for me sometimes. I like to get down to the meat of a conversation and why I’m meeting as quickly as I can. This is especially true when I have a very specific purpose for which to meet. When speaking with someone for the first time or over the phone, this technique of “getting to the meat of the conversation” has worked particularly well.

However, I have found taking time to make a connection to be a technique that has opened up all kinds of new doors of opportunity. Making a personal connection puts people at ease and often makes a new friend. Making a connection can be as simple as starting by asking someone how their day is going. Use small talk to start a larger conversation. Share a few things about yourself and how your day is going and why that is important to you. Balance you approach between social and business and be aware of verbal or visual cues the other person may be giving you as to how much time they have or if they need to go. You don’t want to create a reputation for being someone who never gets off the phone or talks too much. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation about yourself that is seemingly unrelated to work. It is often in a trivial conversation that someone opens up to a deeper more meaningful conversation.

Are you currently making it personal?  What questions do you ask to get to know someone better?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

A List of Soft Touches

December 9, 2015

My last post featured the importance of soft touches over the course of a year in building a relationship with your donors. Here are a few examples of the kinds of touch points that you can use as a great way to build relationships.

  • Send a card on your donor’s birthday and have everyone in the development and executive office sign it.
  • Make a thank you phone call within a couple of days of receiving their gift.
  • Send an update on what your organization has done the year before. This update can be specific to a programmatic or regional area of interest and should include some insider information from a program manager or director.
  • Invite them to sit at your table at an annual event.
  • Offer them a tour your organization. This is a great way to help someone connect in a deeper way with the work that you are doing.
  • Arrange a meeting with the donor, one of your program staff members, and yourself to provide an in-person update.
  • Send them a handwritten note with a few words about a special interest they have.
  • Buy them a cup of coffee and tell them a story of something that happened because of their support.

What other soft touches have worked for you?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog