John Boyle: Fundraiser of the Month

August 27, 2008

This month’s Fundraiser of the Month is John Boyle! I will be highlighting a different fundraiser every month and asking them to talk about what makes them good at what they do. Last month I highlighted Patrick Sallee. Feel free to refer someone you know of that’s a great fundraiser in the comments section below.

What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?

I’m an Associate Director of Development for the Children’s Hospital Foundation in Washington, D.C. The Foundation is the fundraising arm of Children’s National Medical Center, one of the top children’s hospitals in the country. I focus on donors who have made high-end direct mail gifts and who may consider a major gift in the future. I also direct the Foundation’s online giving initiative.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?

What keeps me going? Our mission, of course! My life was saved by a similar institution when I was less than a year old, so I know just how important philanthropic investment in pediatric healthcare truly is.

As for why I keep working in development, there are a hundred reasons. But the first one that comes to mind is seeing that glow in donors after they’ve written that check or signed that gift agreement. It’s pride, excitement and more all rolled into one. There’s nothing quite like it.

What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?

Even if you have a dedicated researcher, make sure that in advance of a call or a visit to a new prospect, do a quick online search of him or her. Even if they’re not connected to potential treasure-troves of information such as LinkedIn or Facebook, spending a few minutes on Google can give you great nuggets of information that can really drive your relationship. Oh, and make sure that you understand Boolean search mechanics so you can get the most out of your searches!

What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?

Knowing that I probably won’t be here (at Children’s National) 20 years from now when some of the young donors I’ve worked with reach their ultimate goal and make the institution-transforming gifts that I know they’ll someday make.

Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?

While having an in-depth conversation during a discovery visit at a donor’s home, the donor’s toddler daughter climbed up on my lap and insisted that I read her favorite book to her. Switching immediately from steward to storyteller (complete with voices), I completed my task a few minutes later, whereupon she promptly climbed down, and toddled off. Pausing only to make sure that I was still dry, her mother and I switched back from talk of happy animals to peer solicitation. It was surreal and yet perfectly natural at the same time.

What is next for the world of fundraising?

I’ll be curious to see how our industry approaches the youngest generation of donors, the “Millennials,” as they come of age. Thanks to factors such as increased community-service requirements within their schools and the advent of online giving, I believe that their non-profit involvement and philanthropic giving has started earlier than that of the Boomers, or Gen Xers. At the same time, we’re going to have to move faster than ever before to keep their attention and to form meaningful bonds.

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Cultivating Supporters

August 25, 2008

I hope you had the chance to read my previous post, Raise Supporters Not Support. So what does this look like? How can we start activism within our organizations? Here are a few simple ideas that I have that you could try. If you have a few others leave a comment.

  • Connect with interested supporters through the Facebook Causes application: this tool is a great way for your supporters to connect with others that believe in what your organization does.
  • Start a regular e-news or paper newsletter: this provides you the opportunity to discuss a topic and what your organization is doing. An e-newsletter is a great way to keep your constituency informed.
  • Start a blog: I have been amazed at how blogging allows you to dialog with a really diverse, informed, engaged group of people in very safe medium.
  • Create a volunteer committee that talks about your issues online: online media and online community is growing more and more. Why not represent your organization where the people are at a low cost.
  • Start a speaker’s bureau: this is a great way for you to use high-level volunteers to engage with ideas and issues that your organization supports.

I’m Not Here to Raise Money

August 18, 2008

Have any of you heard this sentiment from a board member, “I’m not here to raise money?” What do you think of that? I’m always a little bit frustrated when board members say they will do anything for an organization except raise money. Yes, I certainly think they raise the profile of your organization in the community (last week’s post) as I wrote about last week, yes I think they help you understand how you are perceived in the community and can be invaluable in crafting your message. But, if they are not willing to raise any money what are they really doing?

I have often found that in terms of running programs and providing good services that board members traditionally cannot speak with much experience. Usually program staff can speak with more experience regarding their programs than anyone else. And if your board member is not there to support the mission or program of your organization or raise your community profile what is the board member there to do?

This is probably more of an opinion column than I usually write but I’m very curious what your thoughts are. What value outside of fundraising do your board member serve?


Would You Like Fries With That?

August 13, 2008

Apparently I’m learning a lot in my new job because over the last few months my posts have reflected lessons learned at work. Well for your reading enjoyment I am adding another lesson I learned: serve your board members. I used to treat board members simply as kind-hearted community volunteers. But I was surprised when I realized I have not gone far enough in my valuing board members.

We need to serve our board. When they attend a meeting we should bend-over backwards to make them feel at home (etc. get them a glass of water or a cup of coffee when they arrive). The experience they have will translate to the caliber of organization they see you as. If they feel like you know how to treat them they will be more willing to bring their friends. Board members want to show off their work. If you can be a place they’d like to show off it will do great things for your organization.

If your board members are bringing their friends they are more willing to recruit new board members, they are more connected and willing to give themselves. What has your experience been with your boards? Have you found that serving them makes a difference?


Eat Well – Give Well

August 6, 2008

Earlier this week in my post, Tuna or Caviar, I talked about serving good food to your donors. Today I’m going to talk about how much and how almost any nonprofit can do this. Eating well does not mean eating a lot. Appetizers are a great way to serve high quality food at a lower cost than a full meal. If you have tasty food and enough quantity to give everyone a sampling there is no need to gorge everyone on appetizers. Donors want to be “wined and dined” but they do not need to think that you have an endless food budget.

It’s all about being strategic with the money and guests that you have. It does not take a lot of food or large portions to accomplish your goal. Food is not present so that your donors have the chance to chow down. In fact if they come for the “free food” then they probably are not coming for the right reasons and are not going to be a significant donor.

Unless your charity involves cooking or preparing food or you have a celebrity chef you do not want food to be at the center ring at your event. When people leave they should be talking about your organization and what they learned about you.


Grants Update

August 4, 2008

Another update for the grants section I wanted to make you aware of. Feel free to contribute awards and grants that you hear about.

The Puget Sound Grantwriters Association will award a $2,500 grant at their “Sweet Sixteen” Annual Fall Conference. The deadline is August 29, 2008 and to find more information about their guidelines visit their website.

Artez has a conference coming up in Toronto, Canada, on September 9, 2008.  The conference will be about online fundraising and will discuss Facebook and Google and other popular tools you can use.  If you are interested in more details or would like to sign up visit their website.


Tuna or Caviar?

August 4, 2008

One new lesson I recently learned is that the food at your events needs to be at the “level” of your donors. What I mean is if you want “wealthy people” at your events your food needs to be high-caliber and gourmet. Peanut butter and jelly slices or Costco platters just will not do.

If your donors and board members attend your events with great food and a beautiful set-up they will be eager to show you off and give to you as well. Your donors will turn into advocates by inviting their friends and associates. If your donors are going to invite their friends then you better not have cheese cubes and deli meat slices.

This simple little trick can put your organization in the same league as your local hospitals, universities, or United Way. You do not need to have a huge budget or a lot of food present; you just need to present yourself well. And if your guests see you as a major player they will start acting (and giving) like major players themselves. This will also set the stage for you to keep and attract high-level community members to your organization.

What kind of food are you serving your donors? Do you usually have food at your events? Have you ever used this strategy before? Leave a comment and let us know.