Help! This donor just won’t talk to me!

January 28, 2015

Ok.  You just had a great big unsolicited gift come in.  You’re not sure why, but super grateful and excited.  Could be a response to a splash in the media, friend of a friend, year end tax break, the list goes on.  You celebrate for a few minutes but then the work begins because as you know, our primary aim, mission, and priority is to secure that ever so important, ever so encouraging, ever so absolutely gotta get this done – second gift.

If you’re like me, the folks that have sent in unsolicited gifts that you typically prioritize pursuing are those that gave the most generously.  100% no brainer.  The size of a gift is typically a great indication that whoever gave it is totally into you, or actually and better yet, totally into your agency, your cause, and the great work you are doing.  Or, are they?

I mean, what’s going on when you send that timely and compelling thank you to folks that have given a major unsolicited gift thanking them, expressing you desire to get to know them, and genuinely communicating how much you appreciate their partnership and for a response you get nada?  Zilch.  Zero.  What does it mean when you don’t hear from them for a few weeks, and try again, and then, still, nothing?  A few months go by and you start to worry that you seem like a stalker.  You’ve done everything you’re supposed to do and still, nothing?   What now?

Well, at the end of the day, we just have to accept it.  We can’t make donors talk to us.  And, in the grand scheme, that’s ok.  Here are a few things to remember and perhaps be encouraged by:

  1. For donors we don’t know, that ‘big’ gift may not be that big for them.  If they are unknown and their capacity is unclear, it could be a drop in the bucket.  We might be one of many orgs they are giving to and the need to get to know us better simply might not be on their radar.
  2. While pursuing donors is our top priority, we simply are not always theirs.  Rules of the game.
  3. There are many, many other ways to evaluate the success of our fundraising efforts than whether or not we’re able to engage everyone who gives.
  4. Donors are the shot callers, not us.  Let’s go with what works, and focus on the doors that are opening not the ones that remain closed after repeated (hopefully not incessant knocks).

Thoughts on how to manage donors who never call us back?  Tweet a comment to @infosmallchange with #ascblog.


Growing your Existing Donor Base

January 26, 2015

Everyone is always looking for ways to grow their donor base so I thought I’d offer a few suggestions and tips that I’ve used myself. Feel free to add some of your own ideas. The first step would be to figure out what you mean when you say “donor base.” Are we talking about monthly donors or annual donors? If you want to grow your base you have to know what you are growing them to be.

  • Send an appeal to lapsed donors from a year ago and invite them to get involved again. You can highlight a new project or just tell them you missed them.
  • Ask your faithful donors if they could introduce you to some of their friends. I often let the volunteers, community advocates, and close donors know that if they ever want to introduce a friend of theirs to the organization that I am always available to give a tour or meet with them.
  • Look at other similar organization’s annual reports or donor recognition publications.
  • With local businesses I will often make sure I am watching the local news & skimming the paper for organizations that might be interested. I will often follow that up with a cold call or a letter.
  • Get your “unsolicited gifts” and fringe givers to be involved more closely in the organization through a tour or event.
  • An annual fundraising event can be a great way to bring in new donors.
  • Chambers, Rotaries, networking groups, and other associations can be a great way to meet new business donors and individual major donors.

What does your organization do? Anything you’d like to add to the list? Leave a comment.


Re-Prospecting Donors

January 21, 2015

There are always donors that have a personal relationship with other people in the organization. Often times the donors who have these friendships make judgement calls about their “donor friends” without consulting the individual donors.

When your major donors have family that is on staff or are part of your staffs private inner circle (we only have room for 3 or 4 close friendships), then I believe donor reps have every right to make judgement calls without consulting individual donors. However, many offices have teams where donor reps pooling relationships to help them meet the budget expectations that have been set. What often happens is that some donors start to be treated as annual donors even if they have not given in several years. For these reasons, and many others, it is important to have clear guidelines around donor retention. I’m advocating that if a donor gives a significant gift and then does not give again at that level they should be “re-prospected.”

Re-prospecting means that a donor is put back into the prospect pipeline and donor reps have a dialog about who is in charge of cultivating, stewarding & soliciting this donor. Different donor reps have different skill sets and different donors respond to different types of people. One rep might be really great at introducing people to the organization where as another might be really good about follow-up. Maybe one is a huge sports nut and connects well with those donors while another follows what’s new in IT. Some people are better at starting relationships that growing them.

Fundraising teams should be talking about their major donors on a regular basis, discussing new ways to engage and get them involved. Re-prospecting should be a part of this process. Start by taking a set of criteria for lapsed donors. For us our criteria looks something like an individual donor who historically gave an annual gift totally $5,000 or more who has given less than $3,000 in the last 18 months. Take this list of names and have a conversation with your major gifts officers about these names.


Raise Supporters Not Support

January 19, 2015

Everyone always talks about fundraising as having to do with raising money or providing funds for an organization. I think that it could be worth our while to expand this idea to include activism in a more general sense such as advocacy and community activism. Volunteers and community members can be such incredible ambassadors for an organization.

I’d like to advocate that “development” or “fundraising” should be focused more on raising supporters than raising support. Why? Because I think fundraising is about developing people (see All Donors as Major Donors) not farming money. I also believe that if you can raise the community profile of your organization the funds will follow. If fundraising is relationship building and changing then I need to spend more time thinking about the donor than thinking about their donation.

Do you think that fundraising should include activism? Does your organization do any activism? Many times we limit activism to what happens in local and national government. But really activism can simply be the spread and the discussion of an idea. I’d love to hear from you as to what you are doing and if your organization is involved in activism, please leave a comment below.


Ice Breakers Part Two

January 14, 2015

A couple of years back I posted about Icebreakers that we use in conversations with donors, prospects, board members, etc. You provided some really great ideas and feedback and I thought I’d include a few more that I’d heard from you and that I’ve used since my initial post.

  • What is the heart behind your gift?
  • Do you get joy from your giving?
  • What about our mission resonates with you?
  • Why do you give, what motivated you to reach out to us?
  • Are you a recipient of our services (have you been the the museum, listened to the radio station, been taken care of at our hospital, etc.)? What was your experience like?
  • One readers mentioned using directive statements like, “Tell me about your weekend,” or, “You need to give me the story on that necklace, it’s amazing,” or “We may know someone in common–here’s who I know at xyz corp.” (Thanks Chris!)
  • Did your parents participate in charity when you were growing up? Such as giving to a place of faith? (Thanks Beth Ann!)
  • How did you begin giving in the community? Did your family set an example? (Thanks Beth Ann!)

What questions are you known for asking? Do you use ice breakers when talking with board members and potential donors?


Take Initiative

January 13, 2015

I am not a particularly brilliant or innovative person nor am I fabulously talented or charismatic. Any success that I have had I’d contribute to a God that cares about me, great friends, and initiative. I am baffled by how many people will only do exactly what they are told or asked to do and nothing more. If you want to be successful, find a way to do more than is expected and asked of you.

Many organizations have a time where the office is less busy often times during the summer donors are less engaged as they are traveling. What a great time to think about a special projects you can work on that will make a difference at your organization. Think about doing a thank you campaign or working on a social media plan. Don’t take your extra time for granted or sit bored at your desk.

If you can create a habit of taking initiative, it will serve you your entire life. Bosses love hiring staff that they do not have to watch over and worry if they are working hard. Everyone will know you are a hard work and you will also get the benefit of the doubt when you make a mistake or when something you try doesn’t work.


Never too late for New Year’s resolutions….

January 12, 2015

Oh boy.  Here it is.  2015.  For those of you whose fiscal years close in December, my hope is that y’all got to celebrate meeting or exceeding your fundraising goals, and that you threw a party and savored the success a few days at least, before diving back in.  And, for those of us whose fiscal year will close in July, my hope is that your year-end giving boomed fast and loud and you’ve got a crested and dense wave of momentum to ride into the New Year.  Followups,  thank-yous, coffees, lunches, getting to know you’s, all that great stuff.

As always, I’ve seen a ton of people making resolutions in their personal lives (many posted on social media) since we’ve got the fresh start of a new year and well, that’s what people do.  I don’t typically make any New Year’s resolutions but it occurred to me that thankfully, I learned a lot about leadership and development in this last year and, that I would be foolish not to implement some of these lessons.  So, I’m making some fundraising resolutions for 2015.  Here they are:

1.  I will be with more donors, prospects, and bridge-builders more often.  A no-brainer perhaps, but in no uncertain terms I’ve become increasingly convinced that the more often I’m sharing about my agency’s work, the better.

2.  I will work longer hours than protocol requires when it adds value and does not negatively impact my family.  Hey, I’m turning 40 this year, and I figure this is as good as it gets.  My time to shine so to speak.

3.  I’m going to readily acknowledge to those that need to know when and if I don’t know how to do something, or how best to move forward.  Pretending that I do, when I don’t, has never been helpful for anyone, ever.

4.  I will ask questions of creative, talented, and innovative development professionals and leaders and leverage their ideas, as appropriate, to enhance my own efforts.  Collaboration counts, big time, and none of us know it all.

5.  I will blog here, and use #ascblog @infosmallchange to try and create some buzz for us good folks out there trying to raise money for amazing causes and am sincerely hoping you will too.

Would love to hear what you are going to do differently in 2015?