Everyone’s a Fundraiser

January 31, 2011

No matter what your role is at an organization, you are involved in fundraising. One of the biggest mistakes that organizations make is limiting the development process to fundraising staff. Because people are afraid of fundraising it is easy to set an organizational position that raising money is the sole task of the development office and that no one else needs to be involved.

Many executive directors, executive leaders, board members, and managers often take the perspective that they do not need to get involved in fundraising. Without the support of these individuals, a development office is dead in the water. Donors need to be able to connect with what is actually happening at an organization. Key donors need to be able to meet the senior leadership and talk with the staff running programs. Senior leadership needs to have an understanding of how money comes into their organization and what matters to the key supporters and community members.

Not every staff member needs to be willing or able to ask for a financial contribution. But, every staff member should be prepared to talk about why their job is important to the organization. I would not encourage you to surprise staff when you are bringing a donor around your office. Educate your staff on the value of your supporters and what they do and mean for the organization. Ask staff to be prepared to say a few words about their work and think about how they can positively represent the organization externally.


Nine Cold Prospects

January 26, 2011

There are a number of different theories on cold calling. Very rarely will you meet someone who enjoys cold calling but if it works 1 time out of 10, then you are bound to try it again. One theory on cold calling is that it is a great tool to reach into new markets where you do not have any connections. If you do not know people in a specific neighborhood, then one of the only ways to reach out to them is through a cold call.

Another theory on cold calling is that if you call 10 people and have 1 success then you have turned off 9 people to your organization. Most people do not enjoy receiving cold calls much more than we enjoy giving them. As a result, a cold call can leave a bad impression on the individuals who were not receptive.

What do you think? Are you for or against cold calling? Is it a great way to develop new opportunities in untapped areas? Or, does a cold call turn off a majority of people to your organization?

Organizing Your Acquisition

January 24, 2011

Over the past few weeks I have had a number of conversations with new donor prospects. My goal has been to meet with a number of new people each week and begin a relationship with them. Here are a few tips and ideas to help in setting up a larger number of meetings with multiple new prospects. I’d love to hear some of your tricks of the trade.

  • Book back-to-back meetings in the same location on the same day. This allows you to cut off transportation time between meetings. I often spend as much as 15 to 30 minutes commuting between meetings.
  • Set up all of your meetings on one or two days each week. This way you have time on the other days to prepare for the meetings that you have coming up.
  • Book meetings at your organization. You can show off your facility and the prospect can see first-hand what you do.
  • Get at least one additional name of someone with whom you should talk. When your meeting starts to close, ask them if they know anyone they would recommend your talking with or if they are willing to make an introduction for you.
  • If you have a nice meeting room or space in your office, meet at your organization. This gives you an opportunity for an individual to see a little bit more about the organization first-hand. It makes the entire experience more authentic.
  • Offer to buy coffee, lunch, or a snack. This gives an incentive and in some ways is a reason for the other individual to meet you and is a great ice breaker.

Featured Fundraiser Jody Waits

January 19, 2011

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

Picture of JodyI am the Director of Community Giving with Pride Foundation. Pride Foundation is a community foundation, focused on LGBTQ equality, providing grants and scholarships across the Northwest. We have about 3,500 donors and volunteers every year – who pool their resources together at Pride Foundation – to make those grants and scholarships possible. I work on our overall fundraising strategy and donor communications plan as well as major gifts work and planned giving. I also provide fundraising coaching and training to our grantees. We just hired five new staff members to have a person in every state we serve. Supporting their work will be really exciting! I am lucky to work with a smart and caring team of people – and with a Board of Directors who believes both in the power of philanthropy and the importance of bold action.

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

Laughing. Hearing stories from our donors. Finding out that one person’s life was made better because of something that your organization was able to provide. I am the child public school teachers, so to some degree, a professional life that has social impact is just part of who I am. Yet, there are hard days, as is the case with any job. Today we received a note from a 14 year-old who had attended a camp for LGBT youth last summer – a grantee of Pride Foundation. The summary would be that her week at camp was the first time she ever felt safe, comfortable and applauded to be herself and proud of her accomplishments. Just wanted to say thanks… those are the emails and notes you keep for a hard day. By and large, I can’t think of any other job that would as interesting and fun!

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

Follow-through every single time, use the phone and listen more than you talk. Remember that your donors are just people who want to make a difference, and you’re the conduit. Only work somewhere you do (or would) volunteer or be a major donor. Be authentic. Figure out what the very best of your development skill-set is (be it major gifts, events, research or database management) and then find an opportunity where the majority of what is asked for, comes from your best. Have a good story in your pocket. Be grateful. Build a community of other development professionals to count on as your brain trust for idea-bouncing, double-checking instinct, venting when needed and the occasional pep talk over a glass of wine. Be sure to have hobbies or regular activities away from work! I am a culinary nut (pun intended) and committed pinball player.

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

The nights I stay up fretting are always when there isn’t enough time. Too many things to do and not enough time… trying to delegate or prioritize… very hard. I also think there are times when you just have to let an idea go. It isn’t the right time, or the best use of resources… Just for me? I have to admit that the first word out of my mouth when I read this question was: “auctions.” Ha!

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

One of my very first major gift solicitations, I got myself so worked up, I got sick in the car. I had a whole new outfit, shoes and lipgloss ready to go. Changing in the bathroom at Starbucks was humbling. However, the visit went well in the end! On a less gross note – I remember visiting with a Board member while at a different organization. We chatted about her leadership, hoped for impact with the organization, learning goals and passion for the mission. I asked her to double her gift. She replied before I could barely finish the sentence… “Yes, sure, absolutely!” To which we both giggled and she admitted she’d never been asked directly before, so she was just as nervous and was relieved it was actually kind of fun and exciting. She has continued to be an major gifts advocate for them!

Committee Recruitment

January 17, 2011

Getting the right people involved is one of the most challenging parts of any project. In major gifts and capital campaign fundraising, committee recruitment is one of the most important elements to success. The first few meetings of a new committee are often focused on who needs to be in the room. It is easy for this conversation to start to feel repetitive. Like any kind of fundraising project, you need to have a number of committee prospects in order to create a good committee. It is better to have one solid committee than three small committees without the right people.

When committee recruitment starts to get difficult it is really easy to make a decision to focus on the next stage of the fundraising process. Committees often jump into naming fundraising prospects, talking strategy, or brainstorming ideas. It is foundational that you take enough time to recruit the right people for your committee. If you do not take the time to recruit the right people, every other task you try to complete will be twice as difficult.

If you are really struggling with committee recruitment, take some time outside of the committee meetings to have a strategic conversation with your key leaders. If you are not able to get the right people in the room, think about restructuring your committee to meet less often or maybe offer up a teleconference to get the right people there. Another option might be to see if you have another committee that could be wrapped into this project.

What Does it Mean to Be a Development Professional?

January 12, 2011

As fundraisers, we often refer to ourselves as “development professionals” or “development pros.” I like this terminology, because at their best, fundraising staff members, consultants, and development directors are professionals. But it got me thinking… in terms of fundraising, what exactly does it mean to be a “pro?”

To many people, the term professional just means someone who is paid to do something, or someone who has been doing something for a long time. For example, when we say “sales pro” or “professional poker player,” we often mean someone who is experienced, and who is paid a living wage (or better) for what they do. I find this definition severely lacking, however… we all know people who get paid for what they do, or who have been doing it for a long time, who are anything but professionals.

The True Development Pro
To me, a true development professional is defined by two things: a commitment to the profession, and an ethical and mission-based approach to fundraising. Much as with the cream of the crop in other true “professions,” such as doctors, lawyers and teachers, the best development officers and managers make a long-term commitment to fundraising, and exhibit true passion for what they are doing.

Let’s take a look at each of these two components of professionalism to see how they apply for modern fundraisers:

A Commitment to the Profession
True development pros see their profession as a “calling,” and make a long-term commitment to the role. They don’t see this as a “job,” they see it as a “career.” They learn, attend seminars, find mentors, read books, and figure out ways to become better fundraisers and better non-profit employees.

Likewise, they try to advance the profession by getting involved in professional organizations, mentoring other, younger development staff members, and being not just good, but phenomenal representatives of their organizations and their profession to the curious public.

An Ethical and Mission-Based Approach to Fundraising
The best development professionals uphold high ethical standards in their fundraising work. They play by the rules, because they know the rules work. They respect donors, because they know that disrespecting donors hurts not only their organization, but other non-profits as well.

Similarly, fundraising pros bring a mission-based mindset to their work. They know that their non-profit’s mission matters, and use that mission as the basis for all of their prospecting, cultivation, and appeals. For them, fundraising isn’t just a numbers game, it is an effort that has a very real and very positive effect on human lives.

It’s Time to Step Up to the Plate
Here on A Small Change Fundraising Blog, Jason often highlights development professionals in his Featured Fundraiser posts. I love these profiles, and often find inspiration in the work of others in the non-profit field. Use stories like these as inspiration for your own work and career.

If you haven’t yet made the commitment to becoming a true development pro, now is the time to step up to the plate. You may be hoping for a 40 year career in development, or you may be looking for a “2nd act” of 10 years in fundraising before you retire. Whatever your career path, now is the time to make a commitment to the profession. Start learning, networking, and growing, and bring your love for your organization’s mission into everything you do.
Joe Garecht is the creator of The Fundraising Authority, a free source of fundraising advice and tutorials for non-profits of all sizes.

Where are the Philanthropists?

January 10, 2011

There are so many generous people in the world, and it is amazing how selflessly people will give. It is incredibly meaningful to see what people will do to make a difference. But, as often as I am surprised by generosity, I am surprised by how few people are invested in philanthropy. There are a lot of reasons why people don’t give, and in the economy we live in everyone is struggling to get by, but many of us still live with a little bit extra. For many organizations, grassroots giving is their foundation, and they receive a large portion of their funding out of $50 and $100 monthly gifts.

In fact, the majority of organizations I’ve worked for treat $1,000 as a major gift. Even large organizations with Major Gifts Officers cultivating $100,000 gifts like World Vision will cultivate $1,000 givers in a more personal way. I am always surprised at how few Major Donors many organizations actually have. Many people’s coffee budgets are larger than their charitable giving. How many people make a fuss about recycling, the environment, or not wasting food, but never give a dime to an organization serving those purposes? Giving $80 a month will make someone a major donor with the majority of organizations and will often do way more for the environment or wasting food than any personal advocacy ever will.