In-Person Meetings

February 28, 2011

Talking on the phone or over email has its limitations. In both situations you are unable to read a person’s facial expressions or you may miss nonverbal communication cues. People are a lot harder to read on the phone than in-person. You can learn a lot more about someone when you are face-to-face with him or her. There are certain rules that apply to in-person conversations that do not apply to phone conversations. You have to give someone more of your complete attention. The conversation is expected to continue for a certain period of time. People will often say more about themselves or offer up information they would not have otherwise offered if you were on the phone.

It is important for any fundraiser to have a good story and be able to clearly articulate what an organization does. It is also foundational to be able to show donors where their money is going and why that is valuable to the organization. Another key factor that motivates giving is if donors know the development staff. People who are making a major gift like giving to other people. They will even make a gift because they trust and like the staff member.

Not every meeting needs to be in-person, and many people are not willing to meet in-person for their first meeting. Meeting in-person is a great tool to engage internal and external people. Know the value of talking with someone face-to-face.

Connection Meetings

February 23, 2011

I have been truly amazed what a meeting can mean for an organization. People really do give to people, and once you have sat across from someone and heard his or her story, the possibility of receiving a gift from that person increases exponentially. I completely understand the reasons behind cold calls and meetings “just to talk” because they do result in hard dollars.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is framing a connecting meeting. Sales and business development people are willing and understand the value of just connecting. But, business owners, CEO’s, and senior managers don’t really see the point. Under what pretense do you meet and introduce people to your organization? In my initial meetings I almost never talk about money. But, money seems to be what everyone expects us to talk about.

How do you frame a connecting meeting with someone new? Under what pretense do you ask to meet with them? How do you ask them to meet with you and what do you ask to meet about? What do you say when they ask for an agenda?

Stop the Madness!

February 9, 2011

Many small and medium sized non-profits face a common problem… they only have one, or maybe two development professionals on staff, and yet they have a seemingly endless amount of fundraising work to do.

There are calls to be made.
There are letters to be written.
Someone has to do follow-ups.
You can’t forget about cultivation calls.
And our big event is only 3 months away!

Time and again, I’ve seen small development shops pulling their hair out trying to get everything done. At these organizations, desks are usually piled high with unorganized work. Dozens of ten minute meetings get held, where the Executive Director tries to get everyone on the same page, and the development staff tries to figure out where they stand on any of the dozens of plates they have spinning at the moment.

If this sounds like your organization, stop. Right now, drop what you are doing and stop. Gather your development staff, put the phones on hold, and cancel your afternoon meetings. You are going to spend one afternoon – THIS afternoon – getting organized and ready to be an effective fundraising operation. Here’s the 5 step plan:

1. Get Organized
If you’ve got a million things going on, papers piled high, and calls waiting to be made, chances are no one person at your non-profit has a good handle on the overall status of your efforts. Have everyone take an hour to go back to their desks and sort through what they are working on. This does not mean that they should try to get anything done. On the contrary, the only thing they should be doing is sorting papers and keeping a list of the 5, 10, or 50 projects they are currently engaged in.

2. Hold a 30 Minute Meeting
Get your team together, and tell them to bring the lists they created in step #1. Each member of your development staff should take a turn explaining, as briefly as possible, what they are working on. There should be no discussion. Just a list. The goal of this meeting is for the Executive Director or Development Director to get a handle on every single thing that is going on in the organization. At the end of the meeting, allow 5 minutes for people to ask questions and get answers. Keep this meeting to 30 minutes or less.

3. Prioritize Your Projects
After the meeting, everyone goes back to their desks. At this point, it’s time for the Executive Director or Development Director to lead the way. One of the key responsibilities of a leader is to prioritize the work of his or her team. The director should sit down with everyone’s lists, and rank priorities.
Use the 80/20 principle here – what 20% of the work is going to result in 80% of the benefit to the charity? The end goal is for the director to come up with a priorities list for the organization that includes all of the important tasks that must be done. For each task, the director should list what person or persons are responsible for the project, and what the deadline is for completion. Project priorities are no good without deadlines, and won’t get done unless everyone knows who is responsible.

While the director is sorting priorities, the team should take an hour to go back to their desks and clean up their work spaces, file papers that have been sitting around, and clean things off. Assuming that they have given all of their tasks over to the director on the sheets they brought to the 30 minute meeting, they can throw out all those to do lists and post-it notes on their desks.

4. Hold a Timeline Meeting
You’ve got your priorities. You know who is responsible. You’ve got deadlines. Now, hold a 45 minute meeting with your entire team. Hand out a spreadsheet showing each of these items. Run through the list. Ask for problems, concerns, suggestions, changes. Get your team invested in this spreadsheet. Tell them why it is important. Take their feedback seriously, and revise the list as you deem necessary.

Tell your team that, instead of trying to hide it when projects are behind schedule, they should bring it to your attention. They should ask for help if needed. They should speak up if something goes wrong that affects their ability to meet a deadline. Let your team know that everyone (including the director) is expected to meet their responsibilities on this sheet, as well as handle the day to day tasks that are in their job description.

5. Execute the Plan
Now, perhaps for the first time, your team has a well-defined plan. It’s time to execute that plan. Your team should have a 30 minute priorities meeting every week to discuss how everyone is progressing on the plan. As things change and new projects emerge, make changes and additions to your list. You may be surprised at just how effectively your team works once things are organized and prioritized!
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.

Feasibility Study or Principal Gift

February 7, 2011

In capital campaign fundraising, a feasibility study can really set you up for success. It helps you to figure out who some of your key givers really are going to be and what kind of top gift you can really expect. However, you can figure out your fundraising capacity by taking a close look at your top donors. Do you have someone close to you from whom you believe you can get a $1 million gift? $3 million? This is going to be your top gift, and you can build a gift chart from there.

There is a strong value in raising a specific amount of money for a specific task, but if you do not have the donors to accomplish that project you will not be successful no matter how important the project is. If your organization only has one prospect who can stretch to give $1 million, you can probably raise around $5 or $6 million but will struggle a great deal to raise $10 million. Do not convince yourself that you can raise more money than the capacity of your donors.

If you have a need to raise more money than your organization has the capacity to raise, see what you can do to postpone that project or segment it into smaller pieces. Run a campaign for the first part of the campaign. Each campaign will grow your fundraising capacity. If you are successful in raising money for the first segment, then you will bring in new major gift donors and pull existing donors closer to the organization. It will be easier to go back to them in the future.

Being A Gracious Person

February 2, 2011

I received an award a couple of months back for some of my volunteer work with Northwest Development Officers Association (NDOA), our local fundraising association. I had no idea that I was receiving the award. A couple of my friends strategized together to bring me to the event, and during the announcement I was shocked. It so happened that one of the board members at the foundation where I work was at the event and she sent a covert email to my boss. As a result my co-workers surprised me with an acknowledgement and I received congratulations throughout the week from other board members and executives at the hospital. It was a great honor and I really appreciate NDOA and all of my friends and colleagues’ acknowledgement.

I realized that I am not as gracious a person as I thought I might be. I was dumbfounded as to how to be appropriately thankful for the respect and commendations from so many people. So I thought I’d put it out to you.

What do you do to thank people in a gracious way? What kinds of actions do you take to show your appreciation? What kinds of things do you say to the people acknowledging you?