Who Talks to Your Donors

January 27, 2010

I have seen major gifts fundraising done in two significantly different ways. One involves an active fundraising board who participates in all the major gifts solicitations for the organization. The other involves staff cultivating and growing these relationships themselves. Each of these two models focus on a different component of the traditional linkage, ability, interest concept I mentioned earlier this week.

Using your board to fundraise leans heavily on linkage as the major tool for fundraising. As community and business leaders, board members are a great connection to the community and to new donors. Board members can speak as peers with donors urging them to give at a similar level, as board members are often already major donors themselves. This method of major gifts fundraising focuses on the relationships board members have with the community as the primary way of soliciting gifts.

Other organizations do the majority of their major gifts fundraising through giving officers. These staff members are assigned a portfolio of donors with whom they grow and establish a relationship. This kind of fundraising focuses more on the interest and ability continuum of fundraising. Major Gift Officers use events and 1-on-1 interactions with these individuals to further connect them to the organization. Giving focuses on areas of interest within the organization as the primary way to sustain and grow financial support.

How does your organization operate? Do you primarily use board members or staff? Or, do you mix it up a little bit and use both?


Linkage, Ability, Interest

January 25, 2010

Linkage, ability, interest are terms often used to describe a donor’s relationship to an organization; they do a pretty good job illustrating the key relationships donor’s have with an organization.

Linkage– You have a connection, or link, through past giving or through a board member or volunteer. Finding this link is often your key to getting a meeting with a donor prospect and the key to closing the gift. Often, whoever you link is should be a part of the cultivation and solicitation process.

Ability– A donor has the wealth or capacity to give a significant gift right now. Especially in difficult financial times, money can be tied up in many different ways. Knowing if a donor has recently sold a business or experienced a financial setback is helpful in rating prospects.

Interest- What issues resonate best with a donor? It is important to know a donor’s interests and if they connect with your specific organization. If a donor is interested primarily in education and you are an arts organization, it will be more difficult to generate giving to your organization.

Without any of these connection points it is difficult to receive any kind of major gift. Often, you will find your major donors will have more than one of these connection points when they first come to your organization. These three categories are the foundation behind much of prospect research and solicitation planning. When connecting with people in your community, try rating them in this way and targeting the individuals you have rated the highest.

Does your organization use a rating system to prospect and differentiate between donors? What system do you use? Have you made it a priority to be on the lookout and search for new qualified prospects for your organization?

How to Make Your Fundraising Efforts Go Viral

January 20, 2010

Viral marketing is the holy grail of online salesmanship. Having a product, game, or website go viral… that is, be passed on and promoted by word of mouth, personal e-mail forwards, and social media recommendations… is the quickest, cheapest way to spread the message about your product or service.

The benefits of viral marketing don’t stop with online retailers, however. Non-profits of all sizes can use the same tactics to make their fundraising campaigns spread like wildfire, being passed on from person to person and group to group.

If you’d like to see your fundraising campaign go viral, either online or off, be sure to follow these important tips:

1. Make Your Ask Bite-Sized
$10,000 asks don’t go viral. $10 asks do. If you’re trying to start a viral fundraising campaign, make your asks bite-sized and concrete: $10 to buy a mosquito net and stave off malaria… $27 to send 3 kids to school for a week… $5 to feed one family for one day.

2. Find “Sneezers”
There’s nothing a virus likes more than a good sneeze, spreading the germs far and wide. The same is true for your viral fundraising effort. Find supporters who are good sneezers… that is, who have a broad network and aren’t shy about promoting your charity. Task these supporters with heading up your viral campaign and spreading the word about your efforts.

3. Boil Down Your Message
Viral marketing relies on good, succinct, easy to explain concepts. Make sure that everyone who is working on your fundraising campaign can quickly, accurately, and passionately describe the need. Instead of, “Our organization was founded in 1924 by three Philadelphia social workers for the purposes of collaborating with…” use, “We save kids from starving. $12 will feed a child for a week. We have a child who needs your $12 today!”

4. Make it Easy to Give
Be sure that you make it as easy as possible to give. If you’re running a viral fundraising effort, set up a separate web page that allows people to give directly to the campaign easily and in the right chunks. For example, if you’re raising $25 donations to pay for vaccinations, this campaign-specific page should ask how many vaccinations the donor wants to sponsor… 10 for $25, 20 for $50, etc.

Interdisciplinary Work

January 18, 2010

We all benefit from a diversified approach to our projects and donors. Last month I built the case that we are moving away from being solely advance practitioners into having a main area of experience and a hobby area. This kind of experience can benefit every area of fundraising. For example, the skills and perspectives of an online fundraiser finding connections and links to donors can be extremely beneficial to a Major Gifts Officer.

One benefit can be the use of your co-workers opinions and expertise on some of your major projects. If you’re writing a solicitation letter ask a Major Gifts Officer what messages are resonating with the donors they are talking with on a regular basis. Talk to your copy writer in annual fund about what kinds of letters are getting a better response. Pull in someone who works with your database to talk about how to segment your approach with different donors.

We all work with donors in a different way using methods and techniques that illicit different responses and information. Your introverted staff will have a different kind of conversation with a donor than your extroverted staff. You might find that your introverted staff has learned what questions get more focused answers from your donors. With your extroverted staff you may find they’ve found what stories and messages best reach your donor population.

Featured Fundraiser: Dan Smith

January 13, 2010

This week’s Featured Fundraiser is Dan Smith. Check out his blog where he advocates and fundraises for cystic fibrosis.
If you ever would like to nominate someone for Feature Fundraiser just send me an email.
– Jason

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

Photo of Dan SmithI really consider myself a sort of “blue collar” fundraiser. By that I mean that I don’t do a lot of work on the foundation or organization level. Most of my fundraising is simply on the level of a concerned individual. I am a father who’s daughter has a disease called cystic fibrosis, so I raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. My fundraising efforts include the annual Great strides event, which is our main focus, and then raising money with other odd events, like a half marathon I’m training for at the moment. In all, my wife and I (through our team), have raised more than $12,000 for the fight against cystic fibrosis.

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

A little 4 year old named Samantha keeps me going. Honestly, I don’t want her to die, and if the law of averages holds, she’ll need a double-lung transplant by the time she’s 25 or so and her life expectancy is 37. That’s not good enough for me. And while I’m not in development with the Foundation, I am always trying to develop my team.

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

Get passionate about it. Honestly, at our level…the level of the concerned individual…there isn’t anything else to know. Strategy and all things associated with it are secondary to passion, at least that’s my belief. Credibility is paramount, and you build credibility partly through your passion. People have to see how much it means to you.
There is a guy on my ship whose son has a very nasty disease. The immediate effects of the disease on his son’s life are more detrimental to the slower attack of cystic fibrosis on my daughter’s body. However, he is just not passionate about fundraising (he’s a very good father…these are not related issues). Because I am, people know about my organization…no one knows about his. People know immediately that I am serious and honest about what’s going on. Our efforts have gained credibility with those around us.

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

I speak only as a father, but I think the thing that frustrates me the most is that any real fund development that I’ve attempted didn’t want to deal with me. The organization only wanted to accept proposals from the Foundation. In fact, the only major corporate donor we’ve gotten so far is the company my dad works for. The others I contacted were very gracious (most of them) and wanted to help, but informed me one way or another that I needed to have the headquarters contact them. This was unfortunate, although I accept the fact. So I would say that getting people to take you seriously as a fundraiser is a difficult process.

How do you set a goal as an individual fundraiser?

The most important thing is to be cautiously risky. This is especially true if you are personally affected by whatever you are raising money for. I freely admit that I can be a bit reckless when it comes to setting a goal. When I learned that the average team raised $1,500 for cystic fibrosis research each year, I set out to raise twice that much. We ended up as a team raising just shy of three times that much. The next year, I set out to best that by 20%. We actually bested it by 31%. I plan on attempting another 20% this year and see where that takes us.

Eyes on the Party

January 11, 2010

Events can be one of the best ways to meet and connect new people to your organization. Cultivation events allow a new person to learn more about the organization in a low pressure environment. Often we pack our event programs so full it can be hard to actually talk to our guests.

I love meeting new people and learning their philanthropic and community interests. However, one area I’m not as skilled at is greeting everyone. I’d rather have an intentional conversation with a few people than just say a quick hello to everyone, but that is not always what is needed. The very best time to engage a new person is when they first arrive. We all feel a little funny when we enter a room of people we do not know, and a good welcome makes us feel comfortable.

Before your event has started, have a system worked out with your staff to always have someone by the door to welcome and take jackets. If you are that person, then make sure you are able to stay by the door. Be willing to pause a conversation, mentioning you will be back in a couple of minutes, so you can greet each guest.

I am finding the ability to keep a pulse on the party to be an art that I’m still learning. What techniques work for you? We have all met people who do a spectacular job at this. I’d love to hear any good examples.

Online Campaigns

January 6, 2010

A few months ago I started a page on my blog to capture advice from fundraisers all over the world who are using social media and the internet to fundraise. I have been really impressed with the feedback that I’ve received and wanted to highlight a few of the contributions that have been posted.

  • Get a volunteer commitment from the key people who will be driving forces for the campaign before it even starts. (Submitted by Jayson, The Wellspring Foundation)
  • When approaching multiple donors in different ways with your online campaigns diversify your approach to fundraising beyond soliciting donors to converting donors to fundraisers. (Nina, Dare to Dream Fund)
  • Sponsorship can be of great value; be creative in creating partnerships with local businesses. Maybe you could ask an online businesses to donate a portion of their online sales? (Micky, Innovative School Funding)
  • Asking for a specific donation amounts and encourages shorter timeframes for an online campaign. This gives donors a target and an incentive to give now. (Christine, Social Actions)
  • Build strong genuine relationships with the people who are promoting you over social mediums. (Colleen, Flower Power Fundraising)
  • Create a fun and “sticky” YouTube video. “The viral components (video and website) effectively cut through the noise, sparked discussion, controversy and attention.” (Beau, iwantagoat.com)

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