Question: Why mailings over phone calls?

September 30, 2009

Why do we do mail campaigns over personal telephone calls?

Almost every nonprofit sends out letters to their donors asking for money. It is a tried and true method and a great way to get support from a large group quickly. Doing major gifts solicitations, I have been really surprised at how large of a gift many people will give if you just ask them for it. This made me wonder why don’t we do more calling of our donors to ask them for money?

I know many organizations are quick to use a fundraising call company, but why aren’t we doing it ourselves? We send the letters out and spend a lot of time thinking through how we will ask for money. So why don’t we call our middle level donors and ask them over the phone?


Results Oriented Fundraising

September 28, 2009

My favorite thing about blogging is reader comments because they challenge me to look at information and opinions from a different perspective. I wrote a post for the Jolkona Foundation and received a thoughtful response for a reader, Bill.

Bill made the argument that is not always possible to measure donor impact (read his comment). I have heard this argument and been on his side of the table a number of times. I understand that we cannot always have direct 1-to-1 impact with donor giving because not every donor can afford to drill a well or build a building. But even those impacts are 1-to-“a specific number.”

I’m going to play the devil’s advocate. Bill mentions that the story of the Good Samaritan is an example of a situation where results oriented fundraising does not work. I think it makes the opposite point. At the heart of results oriented fundraising is not the cost of making a difference, but the value of seeing exactly what your gift did. The Good Samaritan had a unique opportunity to see exactly what his gift was able to do. How many of us actually drill a well in Africa and then taste the water?

But I think Bill makes a very strong point. Making a difference is not always cheap. We can’t say that feeding a homeless man and drilling a well is going to cost the same amount or that making a difference is only valuable if it costs less than a certain amount. Sometimes making a difference is going to be a very steep investment. When that is the case, results-oriented fundraising is important because it allows donors to make a decision about what investment is a good steward of their money.

Bill, great comment. I really appreciate your thinking on this. Thank you for challenging us to think outside traditional ROI that the business world asks us for and give value back to individual needs. Any other thoughts, agree or disagree, I’d love to hear it.


Letters or In-Person Solicitations

September 23, 2009

We only have so much time every day as development professionals, so we need to make sure our time is well used. When do you send out a letter, and when do you meet with someone in person? I’ve starting a full development process with every donor making sure they are adequately researched and that they are fully cultivated without any thought about ROI. This is not always necessary or cost effective. You will have some donors that want to and need to be cultivated in a grassroots and annual fund way.

If you have to raise $1 million a year you, can’t spend all of your time asking for $500 gifts in person. And on the other side, if someone regularly gives you $10,000, you should probably make sure you are meeting with them in person. In fact, if you have a donor that gives you $10,000 from a mail campaign – and you ask them for a specific gift in person – that individual’s gift size will increase. I find that can often be a hard line to draw; it is easy to get caught up in going through the motions of major gifts cultivation without think about the cost benefit.

What is your cut off for asking for a gift in person versus in a letter? Does your organization make regular practice of both ways of asking for money?


Musings on the Future of Fundraising

September 21, 2009

Today’s generation connects in a different way than other generations. We live in a time where even email is becoming outdated for our youth today. As our culture changes our nonprofits need to respond or worry about being left behind. Here are a couple of my musings about the future.

  • There will be very little one-way marketing. Direct mail, telephone fundraising, and thank you letters will all be done electronically in such a way that the donor can have a conversation with the organization.
  • Boards will have a technology or social media committee. No longer will the marketing committee on the board have the job of bringing the website up to standard and then move onto other projects. The technology committee will spend time making sure that your organization has good reviews on Guidestar, Razoo, and Network for Good. This committee will be constantly promoting you to various blogs and online forums.
  • Volunteers can be of help all over the world with or without the organizations knowledge using remote access, online advocacy, and through client and donor referrals.
  • Many of your every day annual fund donors will lead personal campaigns amongst their friends, using social networks. These campaigns will result in larger cumulative gifts than many of your major donors.
  • Paper event invitations will be a thing of the past as everything will be emailed, posted to Facebook, and tweeted about on Twitter.

Those are a few of my musings about the future. Do you have any of your own you’d like to share, leave a comment.


Solicitor Center Donor Plans

September 16, 2009

Earlier this week I wrote about donor-centered solicitation plans. Today I want to talk about a plan that is solicitor-centered. In writing a solicitation plan, don’t forget to consider who is doing the solicitation. If you are doing the solicitation, you will already write from your perspective. You will write a plan that speaks in your voice, uses your strengths and allows you to speak to areas you are passionate about. However, many solicitations include more than one person, and you will not be there every time. So it’s important that we write a solicitation plan in such a way that uses the strengths of the solicitors.

What areas do your board members have the most knowledge and speak about with the most passion? Use the traditional rules (giving level, friendship, etc.) of using solicitors with a link to the donor who have given at similar capacity. This means that there are already connections between your donor and solicitors. Talk about and use those connections whether they are relationships, topics of interest, or gifts they have already made. Allow your solicitors to talk about areas of the organization and stories with which they are familiar (and fit the donor’s interest).

Make sure that you have given equal speaking time to all solicitors so each has an important role. If you have a board member who is really good at making the ask, then put him with someone who is really good at telling your story or building your case.


Donor-Centered Solicitation Plans

September 14, 2009

When writing a solicitation plan for a donor, it can be easy to get caught up in your classic elevator speech. You’ve spoken about your organization so many times—filling up a page with boilerplate information about how great your organization is—why someone should give comes as second nature. However, for your closest donors and board members, this information can become repetitive. Whether you ask or are being asked for money, you need to cater to each specific donor in a unique and fresh way.

The strength of one-on-one solicitations is in your ability to speak to an individual donor. You have a unique opportunity to tell the story of your organization through a lens that appeals directly to that person. It may be obvious to you, but when I am writing a number of solicitations for multiple donors I can get into a routine of using the same information each time.

When writing a donor-centered solicitation plan, start by writing down what you already know about the donor: what do you know about their family, where do they work, what school did they attend, what other nonprofits have they given to? Use this information to inform a personal ask targeted to their interests. Talk with them and engage them in the areas of the organization they are passionate about. If you do not know the donor all that well, it is too early to ask them for money. Bring them on a tour of your nonprofit and ask them open ended questions that help you better understand their passions.


Whom Do You Serve: Donor or Organization?

September 9, 2009

There is more to fundraising than raising money for a good cause. One reason I enjoy fundraising is that we have an opportunity to come alongside people and help them give away one of their most valuable resources: money. Money is often very close to people’s heart. When we give it away to a nonprofit or a specific cause it has great meaning.

I spoke with a local foundation executive a few weeks ago and she offered some advice that has stuck with me. As we talked about our opportunity to serve donors, she said one of the keys to successful and meaningful fundraising is to remember to serve both the organization and the donor. It comes naturally for most people to serve the organization they work for. How often do we look out for the best interests of the donor?

We should treat each donor in the same spirit as we would care about someone our nonprofit is serving. This has to be deeper than donor stewardship. People can tell when you genuinely care for them versus when you are looking to receive a donation from them. This comes naturally to many people, but not everyone. Organizations that I give the very most are places where the executive director is my friend.