Question: Who Asks for Money?

February 24, 2010

In a recent post, Who Talks to Your Donors, I mentioned two different styles of fundraising. One style involves board members soliciting donors, and another style involves staff cultivating and soliciting donors.

Does your organization primarily use Board Member or Staff to ask for donations? And, how do you think it should be done?

I see advantages to both sides. Can Board Members really know an organization like a staff member can? Is it sustainable to have staff solicit gifts when the average staff member stays at the organization less time than the donor?


March Goodness & Pepsi

February 22, 2010

March Goodness

Razoo is doing it again, this is year 2 in their March Goodness competition. But this year they are only letting in a small number of nonprofits. Check out the requirements to sign-up and submit your application before February 26. Grand prize is $20,000 with a number of prizes based on region around the $1,000 level.

Pepsi Refresh Project

If you are a person, business, or nonprofit with an idea to make a difference you should check out this project. Every month Pepsi will pick 1000 ideas which will be voted on and the top 2 will receive $250,000. For more information and to submit an application.

Duplicate Solicitation Letters

February 22, 2010

I’ve heard a lot of recommendations for nonprofits to rehash their old and current website content on their blog and through their social channels. This is a great way to find some information you can use to publish, but make sure to take a strategic look at your communications. Every organization has donors who are receiving more than one kind of update from the organization. There is a significant amount of overlap between donors who receive solicitation letters, and donors who become fans of your Facebook Page. (In fact, you should let your donors know that you have a social media presence and how they can sign-up.)

When you run a solicitation campaign, using multiple mediums can be a great technique to be successful. But, do not send the exact same information in the exact same format to each group of donors. Don’t send your solicitation letter at the same time as you send your Facebook update and email announcements.

Think through each touch point with your donors and use them to your advantage. If all of your communications happen in one day, then they can feel overwhelmed, like you spent too much time and money on them. If you send off a letter, and a week later follow it up with an email, then the email acts as a reminder. Often, people take one or two reminders before they follow through with what you’d like them to do. Make each communication a little bit different but with a unified message. No one wants to read the exact same words every time. Use your mail campaigns to go into more detail, and use your email to catch their interest and point them to your website or previous letter for more information.

Social Media Etiquette

February 17, 2010

I spoke with a local consulting firm a couple months ago about social media, and we started talking about social media etiquette. Because social media is so new and just starting to be widely adopted, there are not a lot of standards in place for etiquette. I was intrigued to find that one of the creators of Twitter has written a book that is becoming sort of the Strunk and White for Twitter, 140 Characters: A Style Guide for the Short Form.

Social media etiquette is still so new we are creating and breaking the rules all of the time. I’m often asked by nonprofits, “What should I or should I not post?” And it varies in each community. As you grow and develop your community, it is important that you provide consistent messaging and that you set the style and expectations for your community. If your community is used to seeing new content and thought provoking conversation, and you start posting a bunch of books people should purchase or sponsorship information, your community may react poorly.

I’m also finding that people are still figuring out how they like to receive information. With so many different mediums, you can update your fans, followers, donors in many ways. From a Facebook Page update to a group email, from a causes announcement to a LinkedIn group update, there are many ways to send out information about your nonprofit. Because we are so early in the adoption of these technologies, we do not always know which one works the best or what kind of etiquette to use with each different way of communication.

My advice is to listen to your community members and ask them what they think. What lessons have you learned in social media etiquette?

Characteristics of a Model Board Member

February 15, 2010

I’ve worked with a number of board members over the years. A number of readers are board members and we could all benefit from thinking through valuable traits of board members. This is by no means a comprehensive list.

These characteristics are ones I have come to value. Leave a comment and share a few of your favorite traits of board members.

  • Acknowledge the efforts of others: Whether it is the work of staff or of another volunteer, I love it when a board member shares the credit they receive with others.
  • Are clear with staff about what they can and cannot do: My favorite board members are very clear about what they can and cannot do, about how much time they have to volunteer and, in-turn, how much time they can spend in meetings.
  • Ambitious about creating success: The very best board members want to participate in making the organization successful, so they are often introducing new people to the organization or being diligent about making sure the organization is out talking with their community. (This same trait can become a problem if a board member wants to move before staff is ready to move or wants to work as a lone wolf without the strategic involvement of the organization.)
  • Follow through on their assignments: My number one favorite trait of a board member is when they complete the assignments they have taken. There is nothing better than a board member you know will make a list of follow-up calls, write a personalized notes, or finish other action items.
  • Consistent in personal giving: This fits with my last point on follow-through, it is wonderful when a board member gives his annual gift with minimal regular reminders.

Satisfied Sponsors: Under Promise & Over Deliver

February 10, 2010

I grew up in Colorado and was very excited when Bob Burris, former Denver Broncos Executive, offered to write a guest post on sponsorship. Bob has recently started an organization to help nonprofits engage businesses, The Burris Group. You can find more information about the Burris Group and his new book “How to Sell Sponsorships, Tickets and Popcorn” on their website or twitter. – Jason

While corporate sponsorships are a great source of revenues for non-profit organizations, look at the partnership as more of a business relationship in which two entities exchange things of value and support. Selling sponsorship packages to corporations and businesses is motivated by an expectation of a specific exchange for a particular business advantage.

In this recession, companies are taking a closer look at their overall spending and giving before committing to anything. Companies want to know what’s in it for them. The principle of a non-profit organization over-delivering is what most decision-makers desire. Is your organization presenting what it takes to address the needs and benefits that a partnership will bring to a company?

That is why it is very important to listen very carefully to the companies you are trying to sell a sponsorship package to. If during the course of the discussion or negotiation you’ve said “no” to some request, make a mental note to make sure that, if it can be done, to deliver it later, usually later during the event. An extra sign or banner somewhere is an example of how to over deliver by giving more. It is not about squeezing every dollar you can out of someone and their company. In fact, it’s okay to leave a little money on the table, which is very good for the cultivation of the relationship. Renewals are much easier when the sponsor feels that no matter how well the event went, he or she was treated fairly — and they were “over-delivered.”

When companies look at a sponsorship proposal, they are motivated by several factors. Will the sponsorship deliver the following:

  • Increase Brand Loyalty
  • Increase Visibility
  • Enhance Image
  • Drive Retailer Traffic
  • Stimulate Sales
  • Experiential opportunity
  • Client Entertainment

Next, companies are going to assess whether the benefits of the sponsorship proposal are attractive enough. Does the sponsorship proposal recognize and address the following:
Demographics of Audience — Does this sponsorship hit our target audience?
Category Exclusivity- What exclusive rights does the sponsor have?

  • Hospitality Opportunities
  • Exposure
  • Media Value
  • Charity or Cause
  • Product Sampling
  • On-Site Product Sales

Rochelle Zeidman: Featured Fundraiser

February 8, 2010

This week’s Featured Fundraiser is Rochelle Zeidman.Thank you Katherine Wertheim for referring her to me.
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 Rochelle ZeidmanStrategy, campaign, foundation, corporate, individual major and principal gifts, and board fundraising are the kinds of fundraising I do for local, national, and global non-profits. Also develop fundraising products.

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

Development is a means to an end. I work in development because ultimately services depend on organizations acquiring resources. Development professionals keep the lights on in theatres, ensure food reaches those in needs, advance education for youth, help achieve solutions to pressing global health issues, and tackle so much more.
Conceptualizing and designing sustaining solutions keep me going.

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

  • Ours is a rapidly changing profession — stay tuned in to change so you will be an effective leader.
  • Have a plan a, b and c for your organization and monitor closely.
  • Your success is interdependent. Be active in your organization’s plans and actively network.
  • Create opportunities for growth within your own organization.

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

A challenge about fund development is how other factors may affect results. That’s why it’s wise to take a broad view, look at trends, etc. Also your organization’s financials, visibility, reputation, relevance, social marketing, quality of programs, customer service, and technology can affect your fundraising.

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

My first week on a new job, our top donor passed away, and this gift was not endowed, which was a huge problem. I immediately created a challenge to five donors who were one level below to increase their gifts, which they did. In fact, several stayed at the new level. Long-term solution is to endow annual gifts to avoid this situation.

What is a funny story you’d like to share about a solicitation?

Funny story was a visit with president of my institution to a wealthy prospect who graciously offered us a beverage to quench our thirst — glasses of 150-year old scotch. I was eager to try this beverage but felt a quick small kick and urgent look from my president…and we politely refused. You guess: did we ultimately receive a gift?