At your event, make sure the Ask is right.

February 25, 2015

We’ve had some really great feedback and thoughts on a recent post highlighting the importance of caring for the little things to make your big fundraising events awesome.  Really excited to learn it has been helpful!  As a result I’ve been thinking more about the not so little things that are also critical to ensure we knock our guests socks off.

Arguably, one of the biggest things to absolutely get right at your fundraising dinner, gala, or extravaganza, is the Ask.  This is the part when you Ask for the dough.  Ask for the partnership.  Ask for folks to believe in your mission’s agency by investing financially.  It’s kind of the whole point.  I’ve been to a number of events and seen this done really well, other times, not so much.  So, while these may be no-brainers for some,  to increase the likelihood of folks responding well to our Ask, I’ll offer the following guidelines/reminders:

  1. Consider carefully who you will invite to do this.  A Board Member, major donor, individual whose life has been positively impacted by the work your agency is doing are all potentially good choices.  Keep in mind you are NOT looking for a keynote speaker.
  2. Keep it short.  Depending upon how you have framed the rest of the program, at this point, folks are ready to be asked.  It is not likely they need more information.
  3. Keep it clear.  Provide specific value offers.  Consider sharing your annual budget.  Let folks know what a gift of $10,000, $5,000, $1,000, and even smaller amounts can do – practically.
  4. Keep it compelling.  Building upon the emotional crest that has been built, and articulate in a spirited way the impact the gifts given will realize.
  5. Create a match.  If you have a generous donor willing to make a pre-negotiated match, share that with your folks.
  6. Provide clear instructions on how the response, giving, or pledge card works.  Take a few moments to walk through it as you do not want guests in the seats to have questions.
  7. Make sure that folks have time to fill out their pledge card.  Background music is great.  Don’t rush them.

Would love to hear other thoughts on how to create a world class Ask?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog.


The Power of One

February 23, 2015

Every board I’ve worked with has board members who are more involved and board members who are less involved. Some of your board members are doers and others are not. If you have a smaller board of 5 to 10 people, then you probably have a board that is almost full of doers. If you have a board of 25+, then you probably know which board members are doers, which ones are only there for the meetings, and which ones you are surprised if you ever see.

Every development person loves the doers on their board. I’m not talking about the doer that gets in the way and is always pushing their own agenda. I’m talking about the doer who wants to help out and is always the first person to volunteer. Finding a way to sustain that kind of engagement is important. You want your board members and volunteers to have a good experience; those that are doers you want to have an even better experience so they will keep helping. Do not overwhelm these people with a thousand different projects and a dozen different action items that is a guaranteed way to burn a volunteer out and keep them from volunteering again.

Give your doers one big task at a time to accomplish. If you must, give them two or three; but don’t give them any more tasks than that. When you give someone just one task you will find that the task gets done quicker and more comprehensively. The less tasks the higher likelihood they will be accomplished. Fewer tasks also mean you have an opportunity to thank and praise your volunteers more often for their essential work. This creates a cycle of good experiences where volunteers know you appreciate the work that they are doing and feel a since of pride that you can count on them to get the work done.

How is your Board doing?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

Are you taking notes?

February 18, 2015

It’s always a win during in-person meetings when our supporters and prospects share about their families, work, interests, passions, and other colors that shape their story.  As development professionals, hopefully we have taken some time to craft and consider good questions to get folks talking when we have the opportunity to connect for coffee, a meal, or a tour.  Establishing personal trust and rapport can be a significant factor in gaining favor for the cause and agency we represent, and can at times also play a significant role in a positive giving decision.

So, if things are going well, we are asking questions, and the folks we have the privilege of talking with are responding in detail.  Then, panic can ensue as we realize that there is no way we are going to remember all of the key things they are saying like how they heard about our agency for the first time, what volunteers they know, how long they’ve been at their job, how many kids they have, what they are most excited about, where they go to church, and things of that nature.  ARGH!  I should have been taking NOTES!

Enter the art of subtle but meaningful note taking.  The reality is the no matter how highly we prioritize each supporter or prospect meeting, because we connect with so many folks, we just can’t keep it all in our brains.  It’s imperative that we briefly jot down important takeaways that will serve as anchors for ongoing conversations, and bolster the personal data being entered into our donor databases.  So, to keep it from feeling weird, here are a few easy tips on the subtle art of note taking:

  1. Do you best to be the first to the meeting, and have your notebook open and pen ready.  Eliminates the weirdness of reaching into your bag for it when your folks arrive.
  2. Ask permission.  ‘Hey I’m just gonna jot a few notes as things come to mind, that ok?’  Again, all about establishing trust.
  3. Use a small notebook, its just tidier and less of a distraction.  Moleskines are great.
  4. Write thoughts and takeaways briefly, enough words to trigger the recall when you return to them, ensuring that you can expand when entering that information into your database later.
  5. Try to maintain eye contact when writing, this helps keep the momentum going.
  6. If you are not taking notes – start!

Other tips on the art of note taking?  Join the conversations at @infosmallchange #ascblog.

Showing Off Your Non-Profit: A Word About Tours

February 16, 2015

A donor tour is possibly one of the most exciting parts of fundraising. Tours give you the opportunity to show off your organization and talk to your donors face to face. They provide you the chance to share all your organization’s wonderful stories and provide a context for the work that you do. In a solicitation letter you might have a brief story, or at an event you will often share a few facts about your organization, but in a tour you can explain more in-depth exactly who you are and what you do.

Here are a few things that I do on my tours that might help you as you give tours.

  • Have a key program staff lead the tour or make sure to stop by a number of program staff members desks and ask them to talk about what they do (make sure to let them know you’re coming). This allows the donor to hear a “hands on” tale of what the organization is doing. And who knows their project area better than the staff member in charge of it.
  • Practice your tour. Make sure that you know where you are going to go next and what you are going to say. If this means you walk through a practice run then do it, for me I take a minute at my desk and mentally think about where I’m going to go and what I’m going to say.
  • Schedule enough time and take a deep breath. Pause for a minute as you go through each stage of your tour. I tend to get excited about what I’m talking about and who I’m touring. A deep breath before you get started and as you go can help you to take your time. A donor wants to see the organization unfold before their eyes not have it thrown at them all at once.
  • Let the donor talk. Make sure you are allowing the donor time to ask questions and reflect on what they see. A tour should be an interactive two way dialog.
  • Have a meeting room. Have a place where you can start and end the tour. This allows the donor to take off their coat and set their purse or briefcase down. It gives you a place to give a brief introduction to the organization (make sure your introduction is brief as the donor is there to see the non-profit not just hear about it). After the tour is finished bring them back to the meeting room and ask them their reflections and talk about how you can partner together.
  • Have a “Tour Packet” to give to the donor at the end of the tour. Pull together a recent newsletter, your general agency brochure, and/or your annual report. At the end of your tour take out the packet and give it to them briefly mentioning what is inside. This allows the donor to have some information to take home with them if they want to learn anything more about the organization.

Tag your agency’s twitter handle in a response to @infosmallchange #ascblog and post a pic of your where you tour your donors!

I really need some new material!

February 11, 2015

As Development professionals, we are story tellers.  We are deft and creative about sending messages to our supporters and prospects that generate a response.  Our hope is that the messages we send will be so compelling that those that hear and receive it will respond by giving financially to our cause.  This is a simplified description of the nature of our work.

It is good, right, and helpful to have the vision, mission, and history of our agency 100% dialed in.  So much so, that we can do it in 30 seconds or 30 minutes. In an elevator, over dinner, at the podium, in a tweet, or in an appeal letter.  And, if things are going well, we’re doing it over and over and over again.

There have been a few times in the last year when my schedule has been packed with donor visits, calls, and a host of speaking engagements.   This is a good thing, but as a result of being away from the office so much, I became a little out of touch with what was happening on the ground.  I realized that I was telling the same old story, and while it is a good story, I was reminded of the unique privilege and responsibility I have to ensure I’ve got new material.

In seasons like this, it becomes increasingly important for us to ensure that the narrative we are providing is fresh.  New stories of progress.  New evidences of the dollars that supporters are giving are doing amazing things.  New confirmations that the mission of our agency is being actualized in real time and the vision we have is coming to fruition.

So, I came up with a few very simple strategies to ensure that I’ve got new material:

  1. Engage with those on the front line of our agencies and directly solicit stories of what’s happening now in the lives of those we are serving.
  2. Connect with volunteers and ask them what they are most excited about.
  3. Carefully investigate our monthly and quarterly service statistics to ensure I’m up to date.
  4. Take stock of what new partnerships are developing.

Depending upon the nature of the work our agencies are doing, there are likely many other ways to enliven and refresh the narrative we are developing with our network of support and prospects.

What are the ways that you keep the story fresh?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog.



Cold Calling or Networking

February 9, 2015

We are all looking for new donors and new partnerships. And how else do you find these relationships without networking or cold calling? Below are a few advantages to each.

Networking can work extremely well if you have active volunteers or you have a lot of personal connections. It is always smart to let board members and community volunteers know about your appeals and who you are talking with as often they will know someone at those organizations or have some kind of “in.” LinkedIn can be a great tool.

Cold calling takes a lot of work and is a technique if you have a small board that is not very connected or you are a new organization. Cold calling should complement other kinds of campaigns that you are doing. You never know who will be interested in your organization. I have found that oftentimes it takes 100 calls to get a lead and that can be a bit frustrating. But sometimes it can be worth it to grow your organizations networks.

It is a good idea to have an integrated strategy that involves both cold calling and networking. Have some of your board members help you with your phone calls. Get creative about the way you create partnerships.

Any tips on cold-calling or networking?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog.

Phone calls, and emails, and Facebook, oh my!

February 4, 2015

So, maybe not scary, but, the technological choices that we have to make in terms of how best to engage, followup, and seek to connect with supporters, prospects, and partners are becoming increasingly diversified.  With social media anchoring so many interactions we have with people, the penchant for more personal connection that the phone affords, and the ease of which supporters can respond to email, we find ourselves with lots of different options for connecting with our prospects and support community.

It felt like a bit of a risk when I began firing friend requests on Facebook to guests at our fundraising events, trainings, and other awareness engagements where I had the privilege of speaking.  What I found though, is that many, many folks are very active on Facebook (duh) and that most of them get a kick, like we all do, out of a friend request.  I’ve also leveraged my personal page primarily as a platform for my agency and regularly post updates, articles, and invitations there.  What has been especially helpful about this, is that folks are all about sharing.  It catches on, keeps our agency in front, and helps build connectedness.

Nothing beats a good phone call with a prospect or a supporter.  You know the good ones.  You catch them at a great time, they are open to talking, excited to hear from you, and rapport is clicking and the call ends in an ask or a call to action that everyone is excited about.  Winning.

And those emails are easy to craft, easily to personalize, and can be sent in bulk with the hopes of netting a number of responses.  It seems to me that email is a favorable option for those supporters I’ve discerned would prefer being in the driver’s seat in terms of setting the tone for frequency and nature of interaction.  I’m ok with that, and have flagged follow-ups to kick out if I don’t hear back.  Sometimes, it months later.

I also have relationships where I’m running  combo of all of these, a tri-fecta of sorts.

So, with a lot of different ways to connect and reach out, and a lot of different kinds of folks, how are you blending your technology and media options to connect with your prospects and community of support most effectively?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog.