Soft Touches

July 18, 2011

Most people do not like being asked to give money. Donors do not often look forward to the solicitation or asking experience. Many organizations don’t talk to their donors at all or the only time they talk with them is when they ask for a contribution. This kind of action is what makes people dislike fundraisers.

Develop a plan to talk with your donors throughout the year outside of asking for money. This is particularly important if you have major gifts donors who like to give at a specific time each year. Schedule a number of touch points throughout the year where you are updating your donors about the work of your organization. Take time to thank them for their relationship with you. Send them a note from one of your clients. Then when it comes time to talk with them about a gift they will be ready to have that conversation with you. With a good stewardship program by the time you ask for a gift a donor will be so ready to give that it will not be a challenge at all.

Everybody wants to know that their contribution is of value and that it is making a difference. When you do major gifts fundraising you have an opportunity to work 1-on-1 with people about their philanthropic priorities. Make sure to take the time to allow a relationship to grow. Some donors will want more of a relationship than others. You will be way more successful growing your major gifts program if you have regular soft touches with your donors than if you ask only once a year. What kinds of programs have you created to build relationships with your donors? Do you hold events?

Fundraising in World of Abundance

July 13, 2011

When it comes to fundraising, there are two basic types of people in the world:

There are those who see the world as a place of great scarcity, where a limited amount of money and resources are fought over, where one person competes against another for a dollar from a donor or an hour from a volunteer, and where, when one organization receives a donation, it lessens the pool of donations available to all other charities, and…

There are those who see the world as a place of great abundance, where there are far more resources available than could possibly ever be used, where there exists much more money, time, and talent than all of the non-profits in the world could possible use, and where, when one organization receives a donation, it does not at all lessen the total pool of donations available to other charities…

What type of fundraiser are you? Do you see the world as a place of scarcity, or as a place of abundance?

When I first started fundraising, I saw the world as a place of scarce and limited resources. I saw other organizations as competitors for donors’ time and volunteers’ efforts. But, as I have progressed through my career, I have come to see the world as a place of great abundance, with almost unlimited wealth, time, and talent for the asking.

I came to realize that there were thousands of people who would be willing to give to non-profits, but who didn’t, because no organization had cast a compelling vision for them.

I came to realize that there were thousands of current donors who could give more, but who didn’t, because the organization they supported hadn’t asked for more, or hadn’t developed big enough goals to support even bigger asks.

I came to realize that there were thousands of people with free time on their hands who would enjoy volunteering, but who didn’t, because no organization had given them a job worth doing.

You see… I came to realize that the reason many people didn’t give of their time, talent, or treasure (or didn’t give more than they already are giving) isn’t because they couldn’t afford to, or because they didn’t want to, but because no one had cast a bigger than life vision for them, and asked them to support that vision in a meaningful way.

Fundraising is different when you see the world as a place of abundance, not scarcity.

In a scare world, non-profits don’t hit their fundraising goals because no one has money to give, the economy stinks, or other organizations are “stealing” their donors. In an abundant world, non-profits don’t hit their fundraising goals because they aren’t thinking big enough, aren’t communicating with enough people, aren’t making big enough asks…

In a scare world, organizations don’t have enough volunteers because people are too busy, no one wants to get their hands dirty, and people like other organizations more than yours. In an abundant world, organizations don’t have enough volunteers because they aren’t giving people enough responsibility, aren’t getting them invested enough in their mission, aren’t saying thank you for their work.

Seeing the world as a place of abundance changes everything. How does your non-profit see the world? How do you see the world?
Joe Garecht is the creator of The Fundraising Authority, a free source of fundraising advice and tutorials for non-profits of all sizes.

Sharing Stories

July 11, 2011

Using stories is essential for all development work. Donors connect with stories often more than they connect with anything else. If you have a donor that is not involved as a volunteer, their most powerful connection to your organization will be the stories that you share.

Use stories differently with annual fund donors than with major gifts donors. When you are cultivating $100 gifts and reaching out to a crowd you need to tell lots of stories. Take the time to share lots of different stories that talk from many different perspectives. Use video and pictures to make these stories more meaningful and relevant to your audience. Work with your marketing department when creating annual fund stories so they are polished and persuasive. The most important thing to remember when creating stories for crowd consumption is that you need to be able to have fresh relevant content. This means that you need to have a good pipeline of receiving and publishing new stories.

When you reach out and engage with your major donors your use of stories are going to be different. These stories need to be personal. Because you are talking with these donors individually and often in-person telling someone else’s story has less meaning. It is important that you are able to convey the mission of your organization using stories that have been a part of your experience with the organization. If you do tell someone else’s story, make sure to tell that story from your perspective.

Regular Tours

July 5, 2011

The very best way to help people understand and find meaning in the work of your organization is to provide them with first-hand experiences; many of our greatest donors come as a result of volunteering with the organization. Another great way to give people this first-hand experience is to provide them a guided tour of your nonprofit.

Think through various program staff members that have been great advocates for your work. Who is always coming to you with an exciting new story or wants to show off a new idea? Find a few people in your organization who are excited about the work they are doing and ask them if they’d be willing to participate in a regular tour of your organization.

Choose just a couple of areas to highlight and plan on highlighting each of them for 20 minutes or so. Your tour should not last much longer than an hour and a half. Start the tour with some historical context of your organization and an overview of what your nonprofit does. This is a great chance for your chief development officer or one of your target major gifts people to say a few words. The rest of the tour should be given by program staff and program directors. A great way to close a tour is to have a few minutes for an update and Q & A with your CEO or Executive Director.

Set up these tours as a regular monthly occurrence. Let your board members and executive team members know that you are doing this. When you start a tour program you can get a little bit of pushback about a regular commitment. But it will be much more difficult to book everyone’s time if you do not have a regular schedule. It will also be much more difficult to get your board and staff to understand the need to invite their friends. It will take a few months to get them in the habit of inviting their friends and co-workers.