Talking to Different People

December 29, 2010

Different groups of people respond to radically different kinds of approaches. I am painting a broad brushstroke here for the sake of demonstration. When I meet with a business person for the first time they often want to have a short concise meeting that starts on time and ends in 30 to 45 minutes. They often want an executive highlight and a rehearsed elevator pitch. They typically want to know a lot about the purpose of each meeting and expect me to make my presentation and get on my way. When I talk with people who have been retired for a while they want to have a longer conversation. These conversations often involve listening and asking listening questions. It is important that I allow them time to talk about their life and where they are coming from. Being respectful of the flow of the conversation and trying not to rush things is important.

As we have conversations with different kinds of donors it is really valuable to be attentive to whom you are with. Do you get a feeling that they want you to talk more or listen more? Is being time efficient or taking your time more important?

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Question: How Much Acquisition?

December 22, 2010

How much major donor acquisition does your organization do? Do you ever struggle to know how much time do you spend you should spend building new relationships versus growing existing ones? I am working with a younger major gifts program and my role is to build new relationships. My goal has been to meet with one person every day to bring them close to the organization.

I would love to hear a bit about how much time you spend having in-person meetings with donors each week. How important is donor acquisition for your organizations? From where do the majority of your major donors come?
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Three to One Rule of Thumb

December 20, 2010

You probably already know about the three prospects for ever one gift rule of thumb when you are planning for a capital campaign. This rule has been around for a long time and it still holds true today. But too many organizations misinterpret what a prospect really is. I’ve had consultants look in an organizations database and come up with a handful of names that have been identified as major and lead prospect that satisfy the three to one rule for the top tier of donors. Unfortunately those prospects often have almost if not no connection to the organization.

Finding a name on another donor role or in a phone book does not make them a good prospect. Many organizations that I have worked for build their prospect list with names of individuals they would like to have a relationship with but do not. If you are planning on building your lead gift pool with a list of these kinds of names then you are going to have to look at more like a 40 to 1 ratio. You may get more gifts than that but you will rarely be able to secure a significant lead gift from a donor as their first gift to the organization.

My view on the rule of thumb is that you have to go to three people who already have a connection with and passion for the organization; people that believe in what you are doing and have a recent track record of giving. If you create your three prospects from this pool you will have a lot higher rate of success. You still will get some no’s on your lead gifts but you will probably get some kind of gift from the majority of your prospects.


Featured Fundraiser Bonnie Berry

December 15, 2010

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

Bonnie Berry PictureI am currently the grant writer at Bellevue College. Because the activities and programs at the college are wide ranging and various, I pursue federal, corporate and foundation grants that support innovation and advancement of student success, as well as teaching and learning excellence.

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

Development work is very exciting to me. It takes money to make positive change in the world and in people’s lives. Development work can drive that change. I used to do more events based fundraising and that is an important part of the whole development picture. But when I realized that the planning and preparation to prepare a compelling grant proposal can also help program staff collect their thoughts about program improvements, innovation or new programs that are crucial to helping those in need, I knew that is where I wanted to invest my skills and abilities.

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

The most important tip I can give is NOT to have concepts about who may or may not give to your cause. We can often have concepts about people by the way they look or how they live as to whether they will want to give to our cause. In reality, we cannot know whether our cause will touch someone’s heart unless we share about it. If we are passionate, and can create an honest human connection, more often than not, people will want to help. We will never know if we don’t ask.

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

One of the most frustrating things I have experienced in fund development is when a fundraiser gets so competitive with their team members that they lose sight of the synergy that can occur when the team works together for a common goal. I believe that a strong fundraising team that engages their full potential and works closely together to advance an organization will have the most profound results that will be monetary but also will build significant support for an organization that includes a strong board, volunteers and a broad base of donors that is enthusiastic about the cause.

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

I have had many memorable successes that have included mentoring program staff who have not been involved in the pursuit of grants before, working closely with the staff member to develop a response to a grant solicitation and then experiencing the excitement of receiving the grant award. I really enjoy mentoring others in the grant writing process. But my most treasured memory is before I was focused solely on grant writing, when I invited a woman to an event whom I did not believe would donate because she had her own very significant projects. I invited her because I thought she might enjoy meeting the founder and director of the organization I was fundraising for because they had a lot in common. My concepts were blown away when this woman made an ongoing pledge that has resulted in a six figure gift.

Who has inspired you as a fundraiser?

I would like to tip my hat to fundraising consultant, Susan Howlett. I have had the opportunity to take classes from her, see her at work as a consultant and get her feedback about challenges I am facing on a number of occasions. She is always upbeat and positive, encouraging and constructive and full of common sense about fundraising based on her long and deep experience. Susan is a great asset to the Seattle area development community. I am grateful for all I have learned from her.


Question: Responding to Wealth Managers

December 13, 2010

I have had a number of conversations with Wealth Managers and Financial Planners. It is starting to become a regular occurrence where I get a phone call or a meeting with someone wanting to talk to me about a new investment strategy that can be presented to the major donors at my organization.

I have never been a part of an organization where major donors regularly attend a wealth management workshop. Nor have I found an organization that sends a lot of wealth management related mailing to their major donors. So how do you work with wealth managers? What kinds of partnerships have you created that are beneficial to your organization?


8 Great Ways to Stay in Touch with Your Donors

December 8, 2010

Donor cultivation is part art, part science. At its most basic, donor cultivation (and prospect cultivation, for that matter), centers on communication: staying in touch with your donors and prospects to build a relationship of trust and mutual interest.

Big gifts, small gifts, recurring gifts, bequests… they rarely just “happen.” Most are the result of an ongoing process of cultivation and dialogue. Here, in no particular order, are eight great ways for your non-profit to stay in touch with your donors through the course of the year. For best results, mix and match based on your non-profit’s unique needs and goals.

1. E-Mail Newsletters
E-mail newsletters are cheap, fast, and non-intrusive, making them one of the best ways to stay in touch with your donor base and prospect pool. How often should you send them? At a minimum, quarterly. Once per week is probably the most you can send before they start to wear thin on the recipients.

2. Snail Mail Newsletters, Letters, and Magazines
These are more expensive than e-mail newsletters, but often seem more “real” to your donors. If you are a small non-profit, start by sending update letters to your list twice annually. As you grow, you can add newsletters, and eventually even a magazine to your repertoire.

3. Your Website
Think of your organization’s website as a constantly updated and evolving brochure for your non-profit. Keep it updated and engaging, so that donors will want to check it frequently to see how you are using their gifts for maximum impact.

4. Social Media
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networking sites can provide a vital space for two-way dialogue with your donors. Get online and get active in the social media spaces where your donors and target prospects congregate.

5. Cultivation Events
Non-ask events (where you don’t ask for money directly) can be a great way to build your reputation and get new people involved in your efforts. Put together a great host committee and task them with getting “new blood” through the door to hear about your efforts. You can also use these events to keep your current donors engaged and connected with your organization.

6. Public Relations / PR
You may not think of PR as a strategy for communicating with your donors and prospects, but it is. Donors love to open up the paper and unexpectedly find a story about a non-profit they have been supporting. You can also use press clips as a way to validate your work to donors and prospects.

7. Phone Calls
Have you called your donors just to say “thanks?” This strategy doesn’t work for all demographics, but for many donors, receiving a call from a board member or staff person, who gives them a quick update and says, “it’s all thanks to you… thank you for your support!” is a real motivator. Can your organization run a “thank-a-thon” to make these calls once per year?

8. In-Person Visits
Once the exclusive purview of large universities and hospitals, in-person visits to major (and even mid-level donors) are now successfully employed by many diverse non-profit organizations. This is the most personal and intimate of all cultivation methods, and requires a well-trained staff.
What methods are you using to cultivate your donors and prospects? All, none, or a mix of the above? Are there any methods you are successfully using that we haven’t listed here?


Joe Garecht is the founder of The Fundraising Authority, which provides free articles and how-to information on fundraising for small and medium-sized non-profits.


Ask Specific Questions

December 1, 2010

Specific questions have power. When we ask something that is too broad or too generic we get a broad and generic response that is typically not engaging. This works whether we are talking with a long-time donor or prospecting someone new. An engaging targeted question around an area of interest for a donor ignites interest in a much greater way than a compelling elevator pitch.

If you are trying to engage an existing major donor in a significant way, ask them a question linking their passions to the area you are interested in their funding. If it is really is an area of passion, they will start the conversation around how they can make a difference. When you are prospecting new donors try and engage them in a way that targets a specific area of interest.

For example if you ask someone about their passion for information technology, they might just give you a blank stare. But if you ask that same person what is happening with the future of IT in the area they work you might get a totally different answer. You can probably follow up your question asking them if that same kind of future thinking could impact the mission of your organization.