YOU are a valuable tool!

June 30, 2015

I had the privilege recently of participating in Jim Shapiro’s Better NonProfit Conference which was designed to help development professionals and other non-profit folks to grow, lead, and fund their organizations.  The speaker line up was solid, content really helpful, and the project reminded me of how valuable other development professionals are to me.

I have never come across a professional fundraiser who has it all figured out and I for sure  know I haven’t.  Each of us has unique perspectives that have been informed by years of fighting and flourishing and cumulatively, these years of experience shape our philosophy, best practices, as well as the way that we formulate and try new strategies.  All too often, we do not make these rich and cumulative experiences available to one another.

In my view, there is no risk is sharing our best ideas.  Understandably, if we are in consultative roles and our fundraising products and services are licensed and trademarked, that’s a different jam.  But for the most part, I am increasingly convinced that consistent and intentional conversations among fundraisers are among the most valuable tools that we have.  What we impart to one another in terms of things we see working well, successes we have been surprised by, and challenges we did not expect adds significant value in terms of how we plan and design our next moves and plans.

Prioritize time to meet with other fundraisers.  Share.  Ask.  Listen.  Encourage.  And do it again.  We can be invaluable tools for one another, it’s just a matter of making it happen.

Who are you connecting with?  What are you learning from other organizations?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog


A tool for inspiration: Mobile Giving

June 26, 2015

There are now more than 1 billion smartphones on the planet.  And, in a recent study, researchers learned that 9.5% of donations came from mobile devices.  Clearly, this is a huge opportunity for fundraisers and a seamless and user friendly mobile giving interface can be an incredibly helpful tool to increase giving.

I’ve done a little bit of testing, and found that there are some non profits out there who really have their mobile giving option dialed in, characterized by:

  1. Webpages that are designed to be mobile friendly
  2. A singular and integrated giving page that does not require being bumped to another site
  3. Limited fields in which to enter data
  4. An automated text or email confirming receipt

These are the basics.  There are lots of other great options like mobile card readers that scan credit cards and automatically populate fields, but getting the basics right is whats most important.

So, how do we know if we are mobile ready?  The Network for Good has recently come up with a helpful little survey to assist non profits in gauging their readiness as well as provided recommendations on how to answer important questions for which we may not currently have the answer.  Another really helpful way to gain a clear understanding of what’s working and what’s not is to simply test market some options, use your smartphone and go out and give $1 or so to a few of the big guys and see what it’s like.  And if it’s been while, go ahead and give a gift to your own not profit and objectively assess how easy and awesome the experience was.  If it wasn’t easy or awesome, or pales in comparison to what you found with other agencies,  it’s likely time for a new tool.

With mobile giving, what’s working well for you?  Join the conversations at @infosmallchange #ascblog

A valuable tool from the archives: Handwritten Notes

June 24, 2015

When was the last time you received a handwritten note? I can count on one hand the number of handwritten notes that I’ve received in the last six months. If you eliminate holiday cards and birthday cards that just have a signature on it, then it’s even less. Another remarkable thing about the handwritten notes I’ve received over the last six months is that I can tell you who they were from and what they said. Have you ever received a handwritten note that you didn’t read?

How many emails have you received in the last six days? Can you remember even half of them or who sent them? One of the advantages of a handwritten note sent during today’s digital world is that they are so rare. Emails and even phone messages will often be immediately deleted or forgotten. How many letters and emails do you get that you never even read?

Handwritten notes are a great way to say thank you. You can say the same thing (or even less) in a handwritten note than in an email and it often means more because you took the time to write it yourself. The thank you will often be kept and read again if it is in paper form, whereas in email it will just be archived or deleted.

Another great use for notes or invitations is to make an introduction. If I receive the same note in email and handwritten form, there is a better chance I will follow up with the handwritten note. Notes are a great way to invite a VIP on a tour or for an introduction meeting. Mention that you are going to follow up with a phone call.

That Crowdfunding though….

June 18, 2015

This year I have received many requests to participate in Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe campaigns.  And I mean, like a LOT.  There seems to be an interesting shift taking place and folks feel inclined to raise funds for just about anything, and some of them are amazing causes and products.  Some of them, not so much.

So it’s got me thinking about whether or not a crowdfunding campaign can fit into my toolbox and into the annual fundraising plan we have in place.  The answer is, I’m not quite sure yet.

Here are some upsides:

  1. Leveraged to raise funds for a specific purpose, crowdfunding is well suited to raising dollars above and beyond the annual income projections.  A new project or need perhaps.
  2. It is a great way to invite Champions for our agencies to get engaged in a more meaningful way, and raise some $ while they are at it.
  3. Some folks are really into it, and frequently share on social media.  I have seen a few efforts really gain traction locally and raise lots of dollars with very minimal effort.

Some concerns:

  1. The crowdfunding marketplace is super convoluted so I’m just not sure I want to jump in there.
  2. We have worked hard to design a fundraising program that is pretty high touch, so not sure how our support network would respond.

I’d love to hear what you are thinking about this tool?  Have you tried it?  Has it worked for you?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

That ole donor database

June 16, 2015

Last week we queued up an intro to our next series of blogs that will highlight thoughts on the tools we need in our Toolbox as fundraisers.  Some of them are old and familiar and may need replacing.  Some of them may be new and we are getting to know how to use them well.  Others may be missing and need to be added asap!  The goal here is to simply increase the likelihood of getting our jobs done more effectively.

So if you work as a fundraiser, and have raised any dollars, you have a place where this information is tracked.  It is the <drum roll please> Donor Database!  This promising but sometimes overwhelming and underperforming tool can significantly enhance our efforts but also really, really bog us down if we have not chosen a product carefully or do not know how to use it properly.  Raiser’s Edge, Salesfore, E-tapestry, Neon, Donor Perfect, and Kindful are all popular and helpful options, though some non-profits are still rolling Excel style.

In order to actually help us, Donor Databases should (at a minimum) provide:

  1. Intuitive and user friendly interface
  2. Easy and compelling reporting and query features
  3. Direct connectivity to our giving platforms (mobile and web)
  4. Access for multiple users
  5. Automated notifications between assigned moves management tasks and our calendars

But making this tool really work for us is a two-way street.

In order to ensure our Donor Databases operating at the highest level, we should (at a minimum) provide:

  1. Accurate data entry from our gift processing staff, volunteers, or gift officers
  2. Consistent, clear, and helpful notes, updates, and relationship information on all of our donor interactions
  3. Enough time and training to make sure we really get how these things work

So, a few questions to consider:

  1. Is your donor database really working for you?
  2. Are you really putting in the time to make it work?
  3. Is this tool in your toolbox or does it need to be replaced or used more frequently?

We’d love to hear what’s working and what’s not.  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

I need my tools

June 10, 2015

My daughter is a little bit of a hobbit.  She’s 5 & 1/2 and loves collecting leaves, seeds, sticks, flower buds, acorns and the like and bundling them up together.  It’s weird and wonderful and recently she’s been taking it more seriously as a craft.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been pulling together a few things to help her along:  a ruler, a tiny hammer, a dull pocket knife, a vintage tape measure.  She spreads them out on the top of a crate and does her thing.

Early this week, she plucked a few bundle ingredients as we walked through our little garden from the car to the front door.  We got downstairs and I said ‘Hey baby are you gonna go to work on your bundle?’  She replied:

‘Yeah Dad, but I need my tools first of course.’

Love it.  It hit me that for any craft, any work, any labor we need our tools to really make it happen.  She could have fumbled through it as she did early on, but now that she’d learned how helpful her tools were, there was no going back.

And so it is with us development folks.  We can fumble through our craft for years but when we discover a new tool, or use an old one effectively, there is no going back for us either.  In the next few weeks we’ll be kicking off a new series on Development Tools.  What we use, why, and how well they are working.

What are the primary tools you leverage to do what you do?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog.

One from the Vault: Relationships

June 8, 2015

Excited to share this straightforward and thoughtful reminder from Jason Dick:

Too often, we don’t ask the hard questions and share our real challenges, joys, and struggles. We do this because we are afraid of letting people into our worlds and of what they might think if they really knew who we are. What if people saw our weaknesses, understood our motivations, and witnessed our actions? How we build and manage relationships personally (and professionally) is often not all that different from how we manage our organizations.

Too many organizations are afraid of sharing actual struggles with their constituents. We have become really good at framing our weaknesses as strengths and focusing stakeholders’ attention on successful areas. This can be a valuable skill, but if it is all we do we miss a key opportunity to grow relationships with our donors.

Take time to really get to know your donors. Ask them who they are and why your organization is important to them. Share with them what challenges you are facing as well as the exciting things that are happening at your nonprofit. Elevator pitches are great if you only have a minute. But even more valuable is the ability to share honestly about what your experience with the organization is and why that is meaningful to you and those that you serve. When we take too much time to frame a response, we often lose the urgency and personal part of the message.

Are we sharing our struggles with our support community in a way that’s growing relationships?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog.