If Its Not Broken

November 23, 2015

I’ve worked in three very different fundraising shops in my career and have found that they all have done things very differently and raised very different amounts of money. I know we have all looked enviously at other organizations and how well they can raise money and lamented why people are not knocking down doors to fund our programs. But the truth of the matter is growing a fundraising program takes a lot of work.

It is important that you rejoice in the fundraising strengths of the organization that you work for. I worked for a children’s hospice that was closely tied to a professional hockey team and they raised most of their money from hockey enthusiasts and businesses that wanted to align with that organization. I recently worked for a social services organization that had fantastic grassroots support. Currently I work for an organization who’s development program has great connections but is still relatively young. Every one of these nonprofits has it’s own strengths.

I want to take a moment to encourage you to improve on what you are already doing well. If you have great community support learn how to maximize it. If you are connected to a sports team then see what kinds of partnership things you can do to raise more money. I’m a huge advocate of trying new programs and having a well-rounded development office. But, don’t forsake your strengths as you continue to improve. Take a close look at what you are doing successfully right now and find ways to grow your successful programs. Once momentum has begun with a program you can often raise a lot more money improving it than starting over and trying to build momentum again in another area.

What are you doing well?  How can you grow what’s currently working?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog


Party On.

April 20, 2015

Alright, you’re in good shape.  You’ve identified some champions for your organization and you’re excited, encouraged, and relieved that you’ve got some folks to help broaden and diversify your support network.

There are a number of ways that your champions can actively participate in the acquisition of new donors.  One of the most traditional and familiar ways that is hosting or captain(ing) tables at our galas and auctions.  This is KEY.  But, for champions, this can be just the tip of the iceberg.

I was having coffee with a new supporter the other day, and I was guiding her through some ways that she could continue to partner with us, having recently given generously as a guest at our auction in November.  We talked about her hosting a table herself this year, attending our spring awareness event, scheduled a time for her to check out our new Drop-In Center on a tour.

Then, she said, ‘and what about if I just invited some folks I know to over to my house for food and wine and you could just share a little bit about REST and leave some giving envelopes?   Just like a party with a purpose?’

The clouds parted, sun beamed in, the music resounded in the back of my mind, champion stuff is happening!  The House Party model that my friend above suggested is one of the most effective, valuable, and fun ways to mobilize our champions to help us acquire new donors.  The model is simple:

  • Champions invite folks to their place for a party lending expectations regarding the little bit of ‘purpose’ behind the party
  • Guests arrive and mingle, we mingle too
  • Drinks and food are served
  • After an hour or so, we invite our champions to share why they care and why they give to our cause
  • We give our 5-10 best overview and let folks know that we’ve left a response card for folks who want to learn more or give, and invite questions
  • We thank our host (champion) for the few minutes, and mingle more
  • At the end of the night we collect the envelopes
  • Following week, we thank our champions, gather feedback, talk about doing it again next year, and send thanks and followups to those that gave or want to learn more

Easy, straightforward, scalable, fun.

Are you game for doing parties like this?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

How to create a monthly giving program.

April 8, 2015

Terrific follow up post on the ‘how to’ of monthly giving from our friend Josh Collier at Tacoma YFC:

Okay, you’re sold, monthly giving should be more than an option on a response card. But then, what should it be? Here are three keys to a successful monthly giving program:

  1. Invite people to join something (don’t merely ask them to give monthly):

Now we’re talking about branding: creating a monthly giving program with a unique name and voice that fits with the mission of your organization. A great example of this is IJM’s Freedom Partner program: “As a freedom partner you can send justice – right now.” IJM is asking you to join a special group of people whose efforts together accomplish a goal.

  1. Offer a simple and attainable value proposition (don’t throw out random gift numbers):

Invite people into something amazing, something larger than themselves, but also something an affordable monthly gift can impact. The best method for this (although not feasible for every cause) is to list giving levels with what they accomplish. But even if you aren’t able to develop that level of clarity, it is still essential that you clearly spell out what the giver’s monthly gift will do – and it’s equally important that you relate that not to ‘things and stuff’ but to the end beneficiaries of your programs.

  1. Thank with an impact story every month (don’t just send them the same receipt letter everyone else gets)

Remember that you’ve invited these people into something amazing, so treat them that way! Every month it should be your mission to help those monthly givers understand that their gift is without doubt impacting lives. And always fit that message into your mission of your organization and the branding of your monthly giving program. If I was crafting a message for IJM, for example, it would read something like this: “So and so was in trouble, but because you sent justice this month, we were there to help… here’s what happened.”

With this intentionality, monthly giving can be moved from a checkbox to a program that is accessible and exciting for more givers. And the bonus point: monthly givers are some of the most dedicated and consistent givers and advocates.

Would love to hear the names of some of your monthly giving programs?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog.

10% Battery Life

April 1, 2015

I recently saw Big Hero 6 with my daughter at her school’s movie night.  It was awesome.  The main character’s older brother was an incredibly gifted designer and built a relentless, multi-functional, adaptive, and engaging robot whose only barrier preventing his unceasing efforts to complete his mission was – limited battery life.  Without his batteries fully charged his performance radically deteriorated and when his batteries died, well, so did he.  That is, until he plugged into his charging station and got replenished and refueled.

A pedestrian analogy, perhaps, but man, I know how that robot feels.  My hope is that as a development professional I am indeed relentless, multi-functional, adaptive and engaging as I unceasingly pursue cultivating supportive relationships for my agency.  And there is no doubt, when my batteries are low I’m a hot mess and when I’m done, I’m done.

There is a lot of leadership and management speak about self-care and getting unplugged, refreshed, and refueled.  But I wonder how many folks are actually doing that?  I mean, there is always urgency in the fundraising game and getting our batteries charged just doesn’t always seem like a priority.

Folks, we have to make it one, because no one is going to make us take a break.

I’ve committed to taking at a minimum, every Saturday, to completely disconnect from work and do something that I enjoy.  Something that fills me up.  I have found that it takes discipline and determination because if i’m not ‘on,’ I don’t feel quite myself.  Kinda like a robot and not in a good way.

Let’s get rest, get recharged, walk in the sun, watch a good show, work out, try something new.  The supporters, calls, emails, prospects, and priorities will be there when we get back.  And, we’ll be in much better shape to get after them.

What are you doing to recharge your batteries?  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.


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