Get on the Phone

December 28, 2015

We live in a different world than 15 years ago. When I communicate with my friends a lot of it is done over email, twitter, and texting. I don’t pick up the phone and call my friends as much as I use to. In the development world I am constantly amazed at how much information is available over the internet. LinkedIn has been a huge resource in terms of finding some new prospects and connecting with local business people.

In spite of the power of email and LinkedIn, I have still found that prospects respond the very best to phone calls. It is too easy to ignore an email or a letter, with a phone call you can hear their voice and someone has to actually respond. Another advantage is you can deal in real time with someone’s questions, concerns, and objections. I try to respect the “no’s” and “I’m not interested” responses that I get when I talk with potential donors. But, I have often found that people want another touch point before they commit to a one-on-one meeting. You might catch an off-handed comment on the phone that turns into them attending an event you might have never talked with them about.

When building a new portfolio of donors getting on the phone and making a handful of calls is going to get a way better response than sending off a number of emails or letters. A strategy that includes an email or letter with a follow-up phone call can work really well. The individual has been given an opportunity to respond on their terms and they know if they do not they know you will be following up with them on the phone.

How often are you on the phone?  Thoughts and strategies?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog


Referral Asks

December 21, 2015

At every organization, there are many different kinds of relationships that community members can have with your organization. Community partners can be advocates, financial contributors, advisers, volunteers, and sometimes clients/patients. There is another role community members can fill that can be very effective. There is nothing quite as powerful as a volunteer who will introduce you to people that they know.

Nonprofits can only go so far in meeting new people and businesses. Most people do not respond as well to a phone call from someone they don’t know. Using a referral donor to help make an introduction for you can help you get past some of the awkward and difficult beginnings of a new conversation. You are both more comfortable because you have a friend in common that you both trust. The referral donor can even be a great ice breaker topic to start the conversation. I like to start that kind of a meeting with, “How do you know So and So? It is really amazing how she makes time to do all of the community work she does.”

Many referral donors are a different kind of person than your typical major donor. Many major donors are well-connected and can make some great introductions. There are also some people that could never give a major gift but have a lot of community connections and are really well respected. Those are the very best people to cultivate as referral donors. A great place to start cultivating referral donors is your board.

One last tip: whenever I ask for or receive a referral, I always take time to establish a connection and create a relationship. I do not ask for a gift right out of the gate or ask the new relationship to do anything extravagant for me. We are at the beginning of a new relationship and it is important that your referral donor does not feel like you are going to ask all of their friends for a gift right away. Gauge the interest of the referral and build a solid foundation before you start a conversation about giving.

Do you cultivate referral donors in your organization? What techniques do you use to engage your board members and referral donors to introduce your friends to your organization?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

Take Time to Make a Connection

December 14, 2015

I had a boss who once said that it is important to always take time to make a connection; there is a lot of truth to that. People have a strong desire to talk and building a relationship with other people. In a regular day I am surprised how many people it is possible to interact with and never connect. Something is hardwired into us that if we meet lots of people all of the time we need to keep them at arms length. It is very easy to make a list of donor phone calls and never really talk to the donor. Making a connection is really hard to do and some people are unwilling to do it.

Recently I started taking time at the beginning of many of my phone calls and interactions to have a conversation with the other person. It was counterintuitive at first and still is weird for me sometimes. I like to get down to the meat of a conversation and why I’m meeting as quickly as I can. This is especially true when I have a very specific purpose for which to meet. When speaking with someone for the first time or over the phone, this technique of “getting to the meat of the conversation” has worked particularly well.

However, I have found taking time to make a connection to be a technique that has opened up all kinds of new doors of opportunity. Making a personal connection puts people at ease and often makes a new friend. Making a connection can be as simple as starting by asking someone how their day is going. Use small talk to start a larger conversation. Share a few things about yourself and how your day is going and why that is important to you. Balance you approach between social and business and be aware of verbal or visual cues the other person may be giving you as to how much time they have or if they need to go. You don’t want to create a reputation for being someone who never gets off the phone or talks too much. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation about yourself that is seemingly unrelated to work. It is often in a trivial conversation that someone opens up to a deeper more meaningful conversation.

Are you currently making it personal?  What questions do you ask to get to know someone better?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

A List of Soft Touches

December 9, 2015

My last post featured the importance of soft touches over the course of a year in building a relationship with your donors. Here are a few examples of the kinds of touch points that you can use as a great way to build relationships.

  • Send a card on your donor’s birthday and have everyone in the development and executive office sign it.
  • Make a thank you phone call within a couple of days of receiving their gift.
  • Send an update on what your organization has done the year before. This update can be specific to a programmatic or regional area of interest and should include some insider information from a program manager or director.
  • Invite them to sit at your table at an annual event.
  • Offer them a tour your organization. This is a great way to help someone connect in a deeper way with the work that you are doing.
  • Arrange a meeting with the donor, one of your program staff members, and yourself to provide an in-person update.
  • Send them a handwritten note with a few words about a special interest they have.
  • Buy them a cup of coffee and tell them a story of something that happened because of their support.

What other soft touches have worked for you?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

Don’t Forget Your $1,000 Gifts

December 7, 2015

Every organization understands the value of their very top 20 donors. It is easy to see the importance of a $10,000 annual donor. Many organizations have a cut-off as to when the “major gift” starts; often times this is $1,000. Don’t forget the value of those donors that are right at and right before that cut off. This group knows they are not your top donors but are giving because your organization is an area of passion for them. They want you to keep in touch but don’t expect as much attention. (This group is a really great group to talk with about planned gifts. If a donor can give $1,000 a year, they often have the ability to give a larger gift at the end of their life through a bequest.)

I also mention this level of gift because it often represents an underserved area. Annual Fund Directors will build a great upgrading program where they might start a donor at $100 and over a few years build them to a $500 or even $1,000 gift. In the mind of the annual fund person they are extremely important. But once they reach a certain level they are given over to the major gifts people. When the major gifts person receives this gift these individuals are all of a sudden at the bottom of their list of donors and no longer considered the most important.

Many of your “secret gem” donors who have huge capacity will start at the $1,000 level. Many donors who can give $10,000 or even much more know that major gifts start around the $1,000 level. The $1,000 gift is a trial gift to see how you will respond and whether they really want to invest their capital. If you do not pay any attention or show a value for their $1,000 gift, you will lose them very quickly.

Are you prioritizing $1,000 level supporters?  Have you seen them grow?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

An Ask is An Ask

December 2, 2015

You may have heard a guideline, “ask for three times what you’d like a donor to give.” This is a mantra that’s often used as a technique to get a stretch gift. That guideline is a very poor rule of thumb. A good ask is one the donor feels they could stretch to make but does not feel like is out of their ability.

The magic of asking for a specific amount is that you can encourage a donor to think about a larger gift than they would traditionally do. If a donor has said yes to you soliciting them for a gift, then they have already indicated that they are very likely to give. People do not like to say no. Most of your “no’s” will happen because you’ve surprised someone and they did not know the purpose of your meeting. From a donors perspective in their heart of hearts they want to say yes to whatever you ask.

Most donors, especially if you’ve done a good job bringing them close to your nonprofit, want to do something that will be significant. Right after you ask for your gift the first thought of the donor is, “can I make that work?” That is why it’s so important that you give them time in silence to think about your ask (for more read my post: Be Quiet). If you ask for a number that is completely out of the realm of their ability, their first thought is, “how can I say no without disappointing them?” From the Development Officer’s perspective we believe that we’ve challenged them to make a stretch gift. Our hope, especially if we ask three times what we think a donor might give, is that they will give at a higher level than if we just asked for a gift at a specific level.

From the mindset of the donor the ask is the ask. Ask for a stretch gift but not one that is out of reach. When you ask for more than a donor has the capacity to do they leave feeling disheartened. If they are close to your organization, they will feel like they’ve let you down.

What tips would you suggest for an Ask?  Best Ask you’ve ever made?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

Making “The Ask”

November 30, 2015

I think that making “The Ask” is most people’s number one fear in fundraising. But in my experience making “The Ask” has been one of the easiest parts of fundraising. It does not have to be a scary or frustrating thing at all.

Many nonprofits make the mistake of spending all their time planning “The Ask” and no time cultivating and stewarding their donors. The key to making a good ask is proper preparation. Your donor needs to know who you are and have a relationship with you in order to make a good ask. Make sure that you are taking time with your donors individually and as a group to talk with them about who you are and who they are. Know what specific areas they are interested in, why they give, and why they give you your organization. Know when their birthday is or when they get a promotion. Send them a card, make a short phone call, send them an email, all these things are part of proper cultivation and stewardship.

When you get to the point that you have a relationship with your donor making “The Ask” is simple. You should know specific interests of your donor, where else they give their money (and approximately how much, see my article on prospecting), and their past giving as a result of your cultivation and conversation. You are not uncomfortable in relating with them because you have a track record. So all you have to do is ask. Ask for something specific and reasonable and you know interests them. Make sure you are thanking them for their past giving, volunteer work, etc. If your ask involves a sponsorship, grant, or proposal make sure that you have all that information to give them. I have found that many times donors are waiting for “The Ask” to come and that making a good ask is more of a compliment to them. Everyone likes to be asked.

Agree?  Thoughts?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog