Mission or Opportunity

November 25, 2014

Do you work for your non-profit because you believe in the mission of the organization or because it is a good opportunity for you? I do for a combination of both but let me make a brief case for each.

Mission keeps the direction clear and gives you another reason to get out of bed. You have to have at least a little bit of passion if you want to be a fundraiser. People have to be convinced that you really believe in what you are doing. If the mission of your organization really makes you tick that is a great thing. Having mission can clarify and motivate you to do the work that you do.

The field of fundraising has grown a great deal in the last number of years and more and more people are calling their jobs a profession. More and more organizations are paying attention to best practices and strategic fundraising than ever before. For these reasons and more the non-profits we raise money for deserve a tried and true fundraiser. Opportunity means that your organization challenges you and that staff are valued and given the chance to grow. If you feel like your job challenges you and you see new areas of work for yourself it makes you feel comfortable with your future with the organization.

In order for us to be content in the job that we are in we need to have a little bit of both in the very least. I hope we can continue to provide environment for people to learn and make a difference.

Email Merge Secret

November 18, 2014

I wrote earlier about how writing informally can be a great strategy to personalize a donor letter. We all use email and receive way to many mass emails. We have become experts at figuring out what is an email we need to read and what we can delete right away.

If we put in the subject of our email, “December Newsletter,” or “Seeking Volunteers for Such and Such,” people will know we are emailing a number of people and not just them. Often we will try and say way too much in one message. Volunteers and donors will not respond to an email that asks them to do 3 or 4 different thing but they might respond if you ask them to do one little thing.

So here is my secret. Create a spreadsheet and put the first name of who you will be sending the message to in one line, and their email in the other. Use Word and do an email merge. Type a short message asking a specific informal question:
We are having a breakfast for new volunteers on Friday, can you attend?
And then do an email merge with their name and stick your email signature at the bottom.

Mr. Formal or Informal

November 11, 2014

When communicating with donors how we talk with them, especially in mass mailings, is really important. Some people really appreciate formality while others want you to tell a compelling story with simple language. A good general rule is the more that you know someone the more informal your writing can be.

When writing a solicitation letter if you have never met the individual it is a respectful practice to address them as Mr. or Mrs. I’ve seen many organizations that do this in the address block no matter how long they’ve known the donor. I have found that generally individual donors respond better to colloquial language than a formal request. Using conversational language makes an individual feel like they are being address personally instead of as one of hundreds of people.

Today a well-written informal letter often will get further than a formal won. If I see Mr. in a letter I receive I throw it away almost immediately.

Business Before Pleasure

November 4, 2014

Everyone has a different way of connecting with people. Often times you will use a different strategy when you connect with a donor versus a co-worker or a friend. In fundraising because relationships are so important there is quite a bit of time committed to getting to know donors, volunteers, and staff members. But how much time is too much?

I am the kind of person that likes to get a project done so I always have advocated socializing with my co-workers after we’ve finished the projects we are working on. When talking with volunteers often times I know I will see them several times over the next couple months and can build the relationship over time. I take the opportunities between working and for a few minutes at the start of a meeting to continue to build the relationship.

With a donor I find that sometimes we lean so heavily on making a personal connection that we lose the opportunity to connect them to our nonprofit. It is vitally important that we take enough time to know what passions our donors have are i.e., kids, family, jobs. I often find this is where the best prospect research happens. But don’t forget to find ways to connect the donor personally to your organization. Have stories, quotes, or bring them on a tour, just make sure that they are connecting to more than just you.

What do you think? How much time is too much? Do you have too much small talk or too little? What is your connection strategy?