Sometimes Donors Just Give

December 23, 2015

I have always held the belief that it is important to help a donor to understand what their gift can mean to the organization. I get excited when I have the opportunity to partner a donor with a specific need. I love being able to tell a story about the difference that their gift or giving made. But what happens when your donor does not have that same interest?

I’ve started a number of donor prospecting conversations talking with donors about how they would like to make a difference in their community discussing what issues they are the very most passionate about. This is a great conversation starter for a lot of people enabling me to have a conversation about the kind of change that gets them the very most excited. But some people don’t think this way. Many don’t take an objective outsiders look at how they would like to impact their world. Talking about specific stories seems to have greater success in these kinds of conversations.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had a few conversations where I’ve discovered that I am rather limited in my understanding of how I’ve traditionally classified donors. I’ve spoken with a number of donors who make a regular gift in memory of a loved one who has passed away. My first expectation was that these individuals would want to give to improve the program or make a situation better for individuals who had a similar experience as them. But I have found, in this situation, they would like to be left alone and hearing to many details regarding the impact of their gift is too sensitive of an area to discuss.

I would love to hear from you. What conversations have you had with donors that did not happen in the way you expected? How do you handle ongoing donors that are made in memory of a loved one? How do you talk about impact with a donor who does not think that way?

Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog


All About Relationships

December 16, 2015

People want different things. I am often surprised how different a conversation can be between someone I know and/or like and a stranger or someone I dislike. We all have those friends who get away with everything or those friends we will do anything for just because of who they are; development is all about relationships.

Meeting new people and making new relationships is a challenge for every organization. You often have to start from the very beginning justifying the work that you do and why it needs support. You have to figure out what resonates with an individual or group and build a case to them as to what kinds of projects would interest them philanthropically. Everyone has heard the statistics about how much easier it is to retain a donor instead of find a new one.

When I first started doing development work I thought people responded to the best proposal and to proving that your organization really has it all together and is a good steward of your money. I still think those values are very important but they often come as assumptions. The most valuable technique I have ever found is to become friends with my supporters.

If you have an opportunity to sit in front of someone and have a 30 minute conversation, their willingness to make a contribution is exponentially increased. People are way more open to being asked for anything if you spend even just a little bit of time getting to know them.

How highly are you prioritizing building relationships?  What’s working for you?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog


The Art of Phone Follow Up

November 25, 2015

Follow up calls use to be the least favorite part of my job. It can be a lot of mental work to sit down with a list of phone numbers and make call after call after call. But, the more I started to make follow up calls the more I started to like them.

How else can an organization keep in touch with a large number of constituents in a short period of time? You might say I can reach thousands of donors via email, direct mail, or blogging (if you read an earlier post). I think those are great tools but none of them are as personal as a phone call. Before I go on don’t use phone follow up as your strongest platform for solicitation. Especially for your major gifts program it is important that you meet in person with your donors.

Before starting your phone follow up make sure you have all the information you will need to answer questions within immediate reach. Have all the phone numbers, names, donor statistics (do your research before your phone call), and program details. Then rehearse a few times what you are going to say. I have often found that it takes a few messages or conversations with a few donors before my message is really polished. It is important that you speak plainly. Do not try and be smarter or more articulate than you naturally are. Donors know when you are reading a scrip or if a message is not your own. Ask questions while you are on the phone don’t do all the talking. This is a great time to learn why someone gives to your organization, how they first found out about you. This kind of conversation helps your future solicitations because you know more about what interests a donor has.

If you have a really long list of people split it up. Get a few board members to help you make calls. Set aside time to make these calls. Plan ahead a few hours every day for a week or set aside an entire afternoon to make calls. One final pointer is a little bit corny, so forgive me, but I have found that it does make an actual difference. Donors can tell by the tone in your voice if you are smiling, frowning, or bored when you are on the phone. I am not sure what it is but if I am having a conversation with someone, especially after I have said the same thing 15 times before, a smile on my face creates a better message.


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.


Take Initiative

January 13, 2015

I am not a particularly brilliant or innovative person nor am I fabulously talented or charismatic. Any success that I have had I’d contribute to a God that cares about me, great friends, and initiative. I am baffled by how many people will only do exactly what they are told or asked to do and nothing more. If you want to be successful, find a way to do more than is expected and asked of you.

Many organizations have a time where the office is less busy often times during the summer donors are less engaged as they are traveling. What a great time to think about a special projects you can work on that will make a difference at your organization. Think about doing a thank you campaign or working on a social media plan. Don’t take your extra time for granted or sit bored at your desk.

If you can create a habit of taking initiative, it will serve you your entire life. Bosses love hiring staff that they do not have to watch over and worry if they are working hard. Everyone will know you are a hard work and you will also get the benefit of the doubt when you make a mistake or when something you try doesn’t work.


Happy Birthday to Me!

January 5, 2015

If you haven’t figured it out yet, it’s my birthday. Birthdays seem to be the only day of the year everyone is okay with someone tooting their own horn. So here it goes…

A Small Change has sort of been a life’s work for me. There have been incredible moments, I’ve met amazing people and its been a fun ride. To be clear I’m not giving it up. But I am no longer going it alone either.

I wanted to take a minute to introduce you to a good friend of mine and a talented fundraiser, Edward Sumner. Edward is taking over A Small Change and will be the voice you hear from most often. I will still regularly be posting and involved. You will love Edward. He’s got some great ideas and a wealth of experience. Not to mention he’s a lot of fun.

We are going to try a few new things so make sure to check out the site for updates and changes. To give you a glimpse into one of them, in effort to generate better dialog with everyone all of the comments are going to be managed through Twitter. If you’ve got a question, want to join the conversation, or just want to say hi, make sure to hashtag #ASCBlog or @infosmallchange on Twitter.

This is going to be a great and exciting year. I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Edward Sumner.


Who Likes Meetings?

December 23, 2014

I have talked a lot about meetings in my last couple posts. Why does everyone hate meetings? Too often not enough work has been done before the meeting so everyone sits around getting nothing done. Sometimes the one chairing the meeting has not “rallied up enough support” before the meeting and everyone spends the entire time in conflict over smaller issues. I think people dislike meetings because too often they take too much time. Here are a few ideas you can try:

  • Keep meetings as short as possible; unless it is a quarterly or one time meeting an hour and a half is probably too long.
  • Start and end your meetings on time, even if everyone is not there. If you make this a habit after a couple meetings people will start to show up on-time.
  • If you consistently find you do not have enough content for the meeting – meet less often.
  • Make sure your meeting chair is not surprised by what is on the agenda.
  • Provide an annotated agenda or short talking points that the key presenters can use, this serves as a reminder of the key items to cover (this works well for volunteers).