Value Offers

March 25, 2015

What a privilege and help it is when our supporters and prospects provide candid feedback to us.  I mean, really candid feedback.  The kind that can sting a little bit, but, will without a doubt help us to strengthen our relationship with those that are giving said feedback as well as help us improve our efforts to connect with others.  Here are some helpful examples:

  1. ‘I don’t have a lot of time, just tell me what’s new.’
  2. ‘A couple email updates a year will suffice for me, no need to keep in touch.’
  3. ‘I don’t do events.’
  4. ‘We’re giving to a lot of different places, so our giving will remain modest.’
  5. ‘You need to help me understand more clearly how my gift is being used.’

You get the picture.  This is good stuff.  Especially #5.  Giving our supporters and prospects clear value offers is a critical way to frame an ask, as well as communicate the gifts they are giving are impacting those we seek to serve in real time, in real ways.  It’s imperative that we have crisp, clear, and up to date value offers at our fingertips.  Some very basic examples might be:

  1. A gift of $100 provides 25 meals to families in need
  2. A gift of $250 provides one month of medical and dental services for our clients
  3. A gift of $500 provides 5 welcome baskets for new residents at our emergency shelter

Tangible.  Measurable. And hopefully, compelling.  These should be the ways that we describe our value offers and doing so will increase the likelihood of positive giving decisions, and, candid feedback that is positive.  A win-win.

What are you value offers?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog.


Good question!

March 23, 2015

I’m always impressed and grateful when a current supporter or prospect asks good questions.  First and foremost, it indicates that they are really considering our agency and mission carefully which means if I answer these questions well, a positive giving decision may follow.  Secondly, the questions the ask create opportunity for our relationship to deepen.  Lastly, good questions keep me sharp!  Some examples I love to hear, and aim to respond to carefully and creatively are:

  1. What impact are you actually having on the people you are seeking to serve?
  2. How are you measuring success?
  3. Who are your collaborative partners?
  4. What have been your biggest challenges in the last fiscal year?
  5. How did you (Edward) get involved in this work?
  6. Instead of just throwing money at this, are there other ways I can get involved?
  7. What role does your Board play in moving the organization forward?

I never want to be scripted, but having ideas and responses to questions like these that are well formed, polished, and accurate can really have an impact on our supporters.  In fact, top to bottom, having these responses crafted can culminate into really effective way to represent our agencies even if the questions don’t get asked.

Earlier in my career I sometimes lacked the humility to acknowledge when I didn’t know the answer and would end up scrambling at times because I thought that pretending to know everything was always the best bet.  It’s not.  If a supporter or prospect asks a great question you don’t know that answer to, acknowledge you don’t know, appreciate them asking, and commit to getting back to them with a well researched response.  The bonus here, is that it gives you another reason to follow up which is always a win.

What questions do you love to hear a supporter or prospect ask?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog.


But you said you were going to give!?

March 18, 2015

Ok.  This is a real time situation.  Happening now.  I’ve got 4 or 5 folks that I’ve been building relationships with and over email and in person they have committed to giving a gift to the agency I have the privilege of representing.  We’ve had some great interactions, they are supportive of the mission and aiming to respond by investing financially.  Awesome stuff.

But, here’s the thing, it’s been weeks and in a few cases months since these commitment were made and well, no gift yet.  No meat in the pan so to speak.  I’ve sent a few reminders but find myself becoming resigned to the reality that maybe they won’t be giving after all.  But, if that’s the case, why did they say they would?  And, do I throw in the towel here?

A few things I’m reminding myself of today:

  1. People are super busy.  These gifts are important to me, and hopefully important to them, but may low on the list of priorities.  Taking the time to literally write the check or go online to give might be a challenge or ‘just one more thing to do and I’ll get to it next week.’
  2. Financial changes occur.  Cash on hand or anticipated household revenue may decrease rendering folks less inclined and less able to give, and, donors who have verbally committed a gift may not be excited about telling me this.  I totally get that.
  3. They might have legitimately forgotten.

The other reality is that as a relationship manager and ‘development guy’ I can take responsibility for letting them off the hook so to speak and simply asking whether they are still able to give.  ‘Hey really appreciate your commitment to giving, just wanted to check in and see if that was still something you’d like to move forward with?’  Nip it in the bud perhaps.

Would love to hear how you respond to lagging gifts?   Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

That first impression.

March 16, 2015

Last week my colleague here at A Small Change, Jason Dick, wrote up a great piece on how wearing something that’s got a little color can impact donor interactions.  I couldn’t agree more.  In fact, I think there are a number of other small things, when considered, we should also commit to as we are representing our agencies and aiming to make a great first impression.  We should also stay committed to these things when we are meeting with supporters that we have the privilege of knowing well.

  1. On the fashion front, do think about what you are wearing (speaking to the guys here – and apologies as I can’t offer much fashion advice to our female counterparts).  If the individual, couple, or group you are connecting with is young, be a little fashion forward.  In addition to bright colors, a pocket square, tie clip, fun socks, polished shoes, and thoughtful play between tie and shirt patterns all add a little zip.
  2. This might go without saying, but personal hygiene is really key.  Smelling good is always nice.  Being well groomed goes a long way.  And never, ever be without a piece of gum or mint especially after coffee.  Trust me on this.
  3. Be on time.   Things happen, but running late is just a bad scene.  Leave early so you don’t have to rush.  Take the time to plot the route on your GPS.  And never leave home without the contact information of our prospect or supporter so you can ping them if you are running behind despite doing everything to keep it from happening.
  4. If you are meeting over coffee, lunch, or dinner, make the decision prior to getting there as to whether or not you will be paying.  This can go either way, and typically varies from relationship to relationship, but you can squish the awkward if you are already know what you are going to do when you get to the from of the line or when the check comes.

Would love to hear what other little things you do to make a big first impression?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog.


Colored Shirts

March 11, 2015

There’s no doubt about it, color makes everything more fun. Would you rather sit in a dark and colorless room or a well lit one with a vibrant painting?  We are all drawn to color.

Color also makes you more noticeable. I am so glad that we are moving away from a culture where men can where only grey and blue. You watch a show like Mad Men and the only difference in their suits is the cost, the color schemes are all the same.

I’ve always enjoyed wearing colors because again, its just more fun. But, there is some practical value here also as color is more memorable for donor meetings. You will remember the donor rep you met with who was wearing a red shirt over the donor rep who’s wearing a grey or blue. What about at an event? You want to be picked out in a crowd and easy to find.

Don’t get me wrong I still wear greys and blues. But it can be fun to mix it up a little bit. Our female counterparts figured this out a long time ago and have been doing it for a long time.

But let’s not stop at color. I try and think about who I’m meeting with and dress accordingly. Sometimes a tie or a suit jacket just isn’t the right thing to wear. I spend a lot of time with IT professionals wearing jeans and a t-shirt to work. When I wear a tie to those meetings it makes them feel awkward.  So, I’m thinking about what I wear because it can add some value.

What do you think? What do you wear to supporter or prospect meetings? Have you noticed color?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

It’s not all about the cash.

March 9, 2015

We work in a context of mantras.  Lots of do’s and don’ts, lots of rules to live by, and lots of sage advice from folks who have raised lots of money for lots of different great agencies.  Over time, we gather these bits and pieces together and develop our own philosophy.  This is good.

One of the most helpful observations I gathered from a wealth manager and estate planner some years ago is that folks that are wealthy, monied, affluent, or have great capacity typically ‘have assets that FAR exceed their cash, like 99% assets and 1% cash’.   A few years later, a seasoned fundraiser for who I have great respect also lamented ‘most development folks I know spend all of their time going after people’s cash while folks primary wealth assets and capacity lies elsewhere.’

These things are true, and as a result, I’m committed to creating opportunities for supporters and prospects to give in ways that do not limit their giving to cash on hand.

At my current agency, three of the largest gifts we received in the last fiscal year were gifts of appreciated stock.  These gifts provided a tax benefit for the donor, enabling them also to invest cash they might have otherwise given back into their portfolio, and increased their overall gift size to us.  A win/win proposition.   Likewise, at fundraising events, you can create opportunities for folks to give directly from a donor advised fund instead of from their debit or credit cards.  It works.

Would love to hear how you are creating opportunities for folks to give gifts other than cash?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog.

Waiting for Disaster

March 4, 2015

“The health of a relationship, team or organization is best measured by the average time lag between identifying and discussing problems.” @JosephGrenny

How long does it take you to talk about a challenge with your team or a co-worker? One of the indicators of a healthy organization is how long it takes for problems to be discussed. I heard Joseph Grenny at the 2014 Willow Creek Leadership Summit and he had some great advice.

Joseph calls these discussions Crucial Conversations. I’ve been amazed at the impact this kind of dialog can have in an organization. Communication starts to open up, management is able to make better decisions, and gossip starts to become less prevalent in an organization.

So how do you have these conversations? You can find a lot of great information from his book, Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High.  His key recommendations include:

  • Suspend Judgement (hold off on drawing conclusions)

  • Describe the Gap (use facts not opinions to describe the situation)

  • Get Curious (use open ended questions to seek to understand someone else’s perspective)

I think what’s most important is making sure to have these conversations and trying to keep an open mind when you do. Steven Covey says, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” It is amazing the quality of dialog you can have if you really try and listen and understand someone else’s perspective.

Are you having crucial conversations?  Would love your thoughts @infosmallchange #ascblog