Tips & Advice with Janice Chan

July 30, 2009

Yesterday you heard from Janice Chan, this month’s Featured Fundraiser. Here are a few more tips and thoughts from Janice.

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

Our job is to support programming – to give our program staff the resources they need to effectively serve our clients, accomplish our mission, etc. So I think it’s very important to make sure that we as fundraisers (and marketing/communications people) have a solid understanding of what our organizations are actually doing and how and why. Certainly, good internal communication helps, but sometimes the best thing is to go see (and do) things for yourself. Obviously the way in which you do this will depend on the types of programs and services your organization offers, but go help out at camp or read books to young patients or share a meal with the clients in your soup kitchen. If you can talk with the clients and/or spend a day in their shoes, even better. So often, we’re busy and we’ve memorized the mission statement and our elevator speeches, but it’s easy to get distanced from the actual work of the organization. Not only does spending a day in a program staff member’s shoes give us a better understanding of what we’re raising money for, it also reminds of why we’re doing it.
In addition, you build rapport with your coworkers and stop coming off as another out-of-touch development/marketing person who just doesn’t get it. I work at a fairly small organization (at least small for a national organization), and we couldn’t do some of the events (fundraising or programming) as successfully without “all hands on deck,” as we like to say. And I’m sure it is the same for many similar sized and smaller organizations, but the bigger the organization, probably the more important it is to step out of our usual roles and into someone else’s. Teambuilding isn’t about three-legged races and group exercises: it’s about knowing that at the end of the day, you’re all one team with one mission, and that when you need help, your teammates will have your back and vice versa.

What past experiences have provided helped you do your job better?

I was a writing tutor in college, and the class we had to take to become tutors was probably one of the most broadly applicable classes that I took in college. The generic model we worked with was the persuasive essay, since that is the type of essay most students would be presenting. That class and my experience as a tutor (working with students at all levels and with various goals) really drove home the importance of audience and of building your case or message specifically for that audience—the understanding of which is critical to marketing, communications, and building relationships. There are probably lots of other helpful little things I’ve picked up along the way, but this is something I think about with almost everything I do. The other thing I use all the time is oft-repeated advice on planning: start with what you want your end result to be, and work your way backwards.


Janice Chan: Featured Fundraiser

July 29, 2009

The featured fundraiser this month is Janice Chan for the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation. Always feel free to send me an email if you want to nominate someone.

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

As a development associate for the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, I work with direct mail, manage our donor database, write grant proposals, write copy for marketing materials, and support our online efforts and special events.

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

I am incredibly fortunate to have two loving parents, and my dad has always been really good about giving me advice and supporting me, but letting me make my own decisions regardless of how he felt. I’ve also had some great teachers and other people who gave me the push I needed–like my third grade teacher, Mrs. Morillo, who encouraged me to write (something for which I will be forever grateful). I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for those people. Unfortunately, a lot of kids don’t have that kind of support system, and that’s what keeps me going. Ultimately, what the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation does is not about giving kids equipment or a chance to go to summer camp–it’s about getting them into something positive, where they can connect with adults who will provide that guidance and support and teach them how to make good decisions for themselves.

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

This isn’t really specific to fund development, but the lack of time. There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done as soon or to the degree that I’d like. I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a perfectionist, but when it comes to development and building relationships with people, you have to get those details right, you have to do your research. But at the same time, constantly working into the night and on the weekends just isn’t healthy, and it ultimately affects your work if you aren’t spending any time with your friends and family or otherwise taking care of yourself. I know work-life balance is a big buzz word (buzz phrase?) these days, but it’s so true and I think people in the nonprofit sector especially struggle with it because it seems selfish to prioritize yourself and your personal life over people who are a lot less fortunate.

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

Not a donor visit or a solicitation, but awhile ago we were notified of someone who had recently passed away and that his family had asked people to donate to us in lieu of flowers. Normally we get a few memorial donations in the next week or two. Donations in memory of this man started coming, and they kept coming for a solid month and a half. Not just relatives and close friends, but people in the community, his coworkers, his business partners. We had received a copy of his obituary, but some people also included notes speaking of the kind of person he was–a great father, coworker, volunteer coach, and so on. It was just amazing how many lives he had touched. I wish I could’ve met him.

Just Showing Up

July 27, 2009

Have you ever wondered if you were specially qualified for your work? Or wished you had another great skill and ability to get the job done?

The other day I had a moment where I felt rather amateur and inexperienced. Every so often I have an experience where it feels like all the skill, talent, and experience I have (or think I have) means nothing. And, this can lead me to question whether there is skill or talent there at all. Fundraising can become such a game of egos and such a juggling act of priorities it can be hard to know really what to do next. This economy and regular struggles of the job can sometimes seem unbeatable.

“I looked around the crowded ballroom wondering why all those people were making such a fuss over me. The only thing I could come up with is that I show up a lot.” –Bill Gates Sr.

I had a revelation, I’ve been reading Bill Gates, Sr.’s new book Showing Up for Life and I realized I can be successful in those difficult times just by showing up. Many people do not stay in fundraising very long and just by consistently being present you can make a difference. It is rather easy to become less diligent and slack off a little bit, if you consistently work hard you are showing up for your job.

Next Generation of Philanthropy: Jolkona Foundation

July 23, 2009

Yesterday your read about the motivation behind Jolkona Foundation and a little bit more about some what they are trying to accomplish with the ability to measure the impact of each donation. Today they have some really great things to say about the next generation of philanthropists.

What is an example of the kind of partnerships you create with the Jolkona Foundation?

Our partner projects do work in one or more of our five different categories: 1) Public Health 2) Education 3) Environment 4) Empowerment 5) Cultural Identity. One of our first partners is an organization in Bangladesh that provides artificial limbs for a little over $200. Bangladesh has 15,000 cases of amputations per year (mostly caused by traffic accidents, polio, congenital diseases, etc.) and this organization can do about 1,000 cases, only 100 are done for free. More than 10,000 new amputees go un-served every year. For every gift that organization receives through Jolkona Foundation, they will send before-and-after photos of the person receiving that specific gift. So far the Jolkona Community has caused a 10% increase in the number of free limbs provided by that organization. Find out more about this project.

Why are you choosing to focus on people from 15 to 35?

The main reason is that is the group that we identify the most with. As I mentioned before Jolkona Foundation was started and inspired by 20 something year olds who felt they didn’t have a way to see the impact their donation would have. Therefore, it made sense for us to focus on that at the start. Additionally, targeting the youth makes the most sense for what we are doing due to our use of technology, social media, and “microdonations.”

How will giving change as more people from this demographic become philanthropic?

Although Americans in general are very philanthropic, we have been seeing a decline in American’s giving patterns. By targeting the youth and young professionals and inspiring them to give back at a younger age even with less resources, we hope to build a new generation of philanthropists and move the declining giving trend to an increasing one. Additionally, by creating a platform that allows non-profits to easily report back and show proof for individual donations, we hope to act as a catalyst for other non-profits to strive to improve their reporting back and showing of proof to donors via technological advancements. Last, we hope to change the idea of fundraising in dollars to fundraising for impact. For example, getting people to think that they want to raise funds to help educate 50 girls in Afghanistan instead of wanted to raise $2,500 for a cause. We think that building a connection between donor and recipient is key to improving philanthropic giving.

What role would you like Jolkona to play in changing philanthropy?

There are various reasons including lack of resources to do splashy ad campaigns, lack of technological know how to take advantage of available tools, or simply not enough hours in the day to do outreach after getting through the field work. We refer to these organizations “as little guys doing amazing work”. One of our major goals has been (and will continue be) to find ways that we can help these organizations do more of what they are doing. For example, if we can help them give exposure to more people (i.e. via our website), then, that hopefully frees up just little bit of their existing resources for their actual work. We will continue to find new innovative ways we help our partners go further with their hard work. We have been experiencing a decline in American’s giving patterns. By targeting the youth and inspiring them to give back at a younger age and with less resources, we hope to act as a stepping stone for future philanthropists and help to move the declining trend to an increasing one.

Jolkona Foundation: Measuring Impact

July 22, 2009

Jolkona Foundation has some great ideas about how to measure donor impact. I had a great opportunity to meet the founders Adnan and Nadia Mahmud (see photo below by Photo by Trevin Chow Photography, a couple of weeks ago and I was so encouraged by their vision for young philanthropists. Today and tomorrow I’ll be interviewing Adnan, if you have any questions feel free to leave them as a comment below or connect with Jolkona through their website or with me.

What inspired you to start the Jolkona Foundation?

Photo of Adnan and NadiaCouple of years ago, I was at a cemetery in Bangladesh paying respect to my grandfather. When I was leaving, I came across a gentleman bringing in his dead son who was probably 6 or 7 years old. Muslim tradition requires a dead body be wrapped in a white cloth for proper burial. It was clear the gentleman did not have the means to afford such a cloth, which was probably no more than a few cents. I realized I could have given him that cloth. By the time I realized that I was back home. So, I decided to look for ways to give back now and not wait until later. I looked for sustainable things I could do within my capacity. After looking through various options and ideas, my wife and I realized there was no existing model for connecting individuals to causes that would show a one-to-one proof – connecting EVERY donation to an impact. After many hours of interviews and conversations, we decided to build a platform that other non-profit organizations can leverage to effectively connect with a new generation of philanthropists who want to give small donations.

What does a “one-to-one” mean and why is that important?

“One to one” refers to the fact that all donations via the Jolkona Foundation website make a specific impact with which the individual donor can identify. Jolkona Foundation focuses on establishing “one-to-one” impact in order to help address this problem. Moreover, because Jolkona Foundation focuses on targeting the youth and young professionals, (15 to 35 years old), one of the best ways to encourage anyone to get into philanthropy is to show the impact that their donations can have. Traditionally, this idea of seeing the impact of your gift was reserved for the “big donors”. They are able to sit on the boards and determine how their donations would be spent. People with smaller donations (less than $500) rarely had this kind of control over how their donation was spent. We are very committed to measuring impact and providing our community with as much transparency and feedback as possible. We are trying to push this transparency idea beyond just a personal impact. In our Impact section, we show the aggregate impact the whole Jolkona Community is having.

How is technology changing philanthropy?

We use technology to effectively show our donors the impact every donation is having. Traditionally, only few organizations like World Vision or Save the Children were able to set up programs that would send the photo of the child you are supporting. We believe technology can really allow almost any nonprofits to set up these programs. Couple of trends today are 1) digital cameras are very easily accessible and 2) Internet is spreading to more remote places every day. Those 2 trends alone allow us to build a richer donor experience than just getting one printed photo and a letter, at a very low cost.

Are you looking for more nonprofits to join your work?

We are constantly looking for new partners. One of the things we enjoy is learning about the wonderful and highly effective work that folks are doing around the world and figuring out the best way our platform can help them. Our website provides some good details about how to become our partner. Some benefits include, increased funding to provide more services, increased visibility for their organization, partner tools for tacking and monitoring funding, new source of potential donors, a web portal to easily report back to donors, and more.

Question: Building Community

July 20, 2009

How many of you view fundraising as community building?

Have you built annual giving programs that allow your donors to have conversations with you about what their money is doing? Do you partner with your donors to provide them opportunities to engage their friends and community in your cause?

There are more and more opportunities through social media to engage our donor communities and I’m curious if you’ve had a chance to do just that? Is strategic dialog a part of your communications plan?

The Multi-Year Gift

July 15, 2009

How often do you talk with your donors about what a multi-year gift could mean for their giving? Everyone likes to be a part of a plan and be giving to something specific and personal.

Multi-year giving is a great opportunity to talk with a major donor about what difference they want to make with their donations. Obviously they are giving because it connects to something that it important in them. Ask about what the value is or what it is about the organization they are passionate about or would like to see grow. Next, go talk with a couple of the program staff in your office about what a significant gift related to this donor’s interest could mean for the program. Understand what more money could mean so you can outline a couple of different options for your donor.

Then have a conversation about how a gift of a specific size could impact the program. Talk with them about how a gift give over a few years allow the donor to increase the size of their overall gift and make a big impact in a specific way to a program that interests them.