Development Fatigue

August 26, 2014

Are you experiencing “Development Fatigue”? Many donors go through “Donor Fatigue” when they have been asked too often for a donation but that’s not what I’m talking about. Do you ever feel like you have been asking too much and just don’t have any more “development” left in you?

I think this happens to the very best of us. We have to wear a lot of hats in the development world from motivator to advocate, solicitor to coach, and many more. Often times we have more to do than we can get done in any given day. I know sometimes I am overwhelmed just at the number of things I have to do even before I have started them. When it gets to this point it is important that this kind of workload and stress does not get conveyed to the donor. The donor should always feel like you have time for them. It is also important that we learn to respond to this for our own personal and professional health.

Here are a few things that I do to stay compassionate, keep a steady mind, and keep from burn out.

  • Make sure that as often as you can you take lunches for yourself. Make time in your calendar a couple times a week to eat with your co-workers, friends, or on your own. It is important to take some time away from your desk every day. This also helps you connect with other staff in the organization outside of asking them to help you in your fundraising.
  • Keep perspective on what you are doing. Remember that you are part of a team, none of us can do this alone. Don’t forget what cause or issue you are working for. If you do not feel connected to what you are raising money to do then call a client or alumni and ask to hear their story.
  • Do your best to keep work at work. Try not to think about what you are doing tomorrow after you have left work. Try not to bring things home or make calls from home. Sometimes you can’t do this but if you can this helps keep you centered.

I have been doing these things for a number of years and have found that they make a huge difference. There are always times when you will be too busy but I have found that when I’m able to make time for these things it actually makes me more productive. Leave your little trick of the trade or story as a comment below.


Sample Solicitation Semantics

August 19, 2014

Try to say that ten times fast. Sample solicitation semantics… Sometimes we get lost in the semantics of how to ask for a gift so I thought I’d provide you with some examples of ways you can ask for money.  There are thousands of unique programs and partnerships that you could create to help in asking for a gift but I’m talking here about one-on-one solicitations.  Below I’ve included several different “asks” this would be the part of the solicitation where you actually ask them for their gift.

  • I’d like to invite you to give a gift in the range of $1,000 to $2,000 over 2 years
  • Would you consider a leadership gift at the level of $5,000?
  • Would you match my gift of $1,000?
  • We are talking with you today about two gifts.  One, we would like you to maintain your annual gift of $500.  Second, we invite you to consider a stretch gift of $1,500 to the campaign.
  • Would you consider a challenge gift of…
  • We are going to a handful of lead givers to secure the initial lead gift for our campaign…
  • Would you give a lead gift in the range of $25,000 to $50,000 to this campaign?
  • We would like to invite you to consider a gift of $100,000 to name the new computer lab.
  • Your gift will encourage giving among the other board members.  Would you be willing to set the bar for others and for this campaign with a gift of $10,000?

You can also try a combination of any of the sayings above.  I’m sure that you have many other ways that you have asked for a gift, leave a comment and share them.

A Day in the Life of a Major Gifts Officer

August 12, 2014

One area you asked me to write a little more about is: What is it like to be a fundraising professional?  Many of you already know exactly what it is like in your specific department but maybe you are thinking about going into a different area.  Today I’m going to focus on Major Gifts fundraising.  There is more to it than flashy events, big names, and large gifts.

In the major gifts fundraising I’ve done I have spent my time doing three things: talking about asking for money, looking into asking for money, and asking for money.

Talking about asking for money: depending on where I’ve worked this has taken up the majority of my time in major gifts.  Because major gifts involves working with large amounts of money and often times influential people it can be a very political world.  Especially in the nonprofit world there is a lot of discussion around what the action plan with a specific donor is going to be.  This can be a very good thing as it allows you to gather information and insight from other people and come up with a more informed stronger plan.  But sometimes it means that you never ask for money at all, be careful not to fall into that trap.

Looking into asking for money: if you do major gifts work at a larger organization you will probably have a prospecting staff of your own.  Regardless it’s probably a good idea to do a little of your own research into who you will be talking about and where their money comes from (check out my section on prospect research).

Asking for money: this is a really general term that I am including the entire cultivation process in.  As a major gifts officer you will be writing notes to people, making regular phone calls, taking them on tours and many other kinds of cultivation activities.  Asking people for money is more than running a successful solicitation it is about building a solid relationship and understanding the passions of your donor.

Being a major gifts officer can be a really fun job, you get to meet a lot of really interesting people and hear about big things that are happening in your community.  I have been really touched by the hearts of a number of major donors that I’ve worked with.  These people can enact profound change in their community and often have a heart to make a difference.

I’m sure other many of you are Major Gifts Officers what is your experience like?  What do you do on a daily basis?  Leave a comment with a bit of your story.

Ask Out Loud

August 5, 2014

I have set-up and counseled quite a few board members on how to do a successful solicitation. One of the best pieces of advice that I was given is to “practice the ask out loud.” This means that once you have set-up the solicitation pair and figured out who is doing what piece (ie. Who is acknowledging, who is soliciting, etc.) then practice actually saying the solicitation. Often times people think this is a little silly but it can make a huge difference. Even if it takes asking a board member to humor you, say the ask out loud it is worth it and can make a huge difference.

The ask is the part of the solicitation that you want to go the very smoothest. Sometimes if the number is really high when you actually ask for it you might have a hard time getting it out. Saying it out loud helps you to become comfortable with the wording and make it your own so that it doesn’t sound like someone else’s script or ideas.

Many times the part of the solicitation that you are the most worried about is the ask (see a post from early on in my career: Ask and You Shall Receive). If you’ve had the chance to recite exactly what you are going to say it can make a world of difference. The ask is usually only a small amount of time at the end of the solicitation and yet it is what everyone is worried about throughout the entire solicitation process.

Have you ever used this trick before? How has it worked for you? Do you have any other tricks that you’d like to share?