Question: How Much Acquisition?

December 22, 2010

How much major donor acquisition does your organization do? Do you ever struggle to know how much time do you spend you should spend building new relationships versus growing existing ones? I am working with a younger major gifts program and my role is to build new relationships. My goal has been to meet with one person every day to bring them close to the organization.

I would love to hear a bit about how much time you spend having in-person meetings with donors each week. How important is donor acquisition for your organizations? From where do the majority of your major donors come?
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Social Media Planning: It’s All About Engagement

September 8, 2010

Do you run the Facebook page or Twitter profile for your organization? Have you ever experienced the moment where you are asked to explain what your plan is? I recently had a group of volunteers I was working regarding social media, and the first thing everyone wanted to do was create a fool-proof plan. It really bugged me at first, and I couldn’t figure out why. I realized that it was because everyone was viewing social media in the same they viewed any other marketing project–create a plan and push it out to your audience.

Social media is all about community-building and engagement. Running a successful social media campaign can take significant planning. But in the first several months of using a new social media tool it will take time to build your community. The first three to six months of using social media is all about building your network and growing your community. Until you have a good group of people, a critical mass, having a comprehensive social media plan does not do a lot of good.

If you are starting a project and everyone is asking for a plan, ask them if they would commit to engaging in the medium as you get started. Most people want a plan because they are unsure of how to use the medium. A social media plan will be more successful if it is modeled by its implementers than if it is imposed upon an audience. Ask the volunteer or staff group that is helping you get things started to “like” your status updates, retweet your twitter messages, and leave comments on your blog. This is the best way to get your community started and to a point where you can do some big planning. You will also be able to use your volunteers to get things jump-started and everyone will be more comfortable with the work when they see how easy it is to promote your content.

Do You Talk or Do You Listen?

July 26, 2010

I have met a lot of extroverted fundraisers; they are people who like to talk and be listened to and can often speak eloquently and persuasively about the causes of their organization. However, I’ve always enjoyed listening more than talking. I have found that many donors want to talk about themselves, why they do or do not give, and what they do.

One of the most valuable lessons that I’ve learned is that a person feels a lot more of an affinity with your organization if it feels like they have been able to share about themselves. This has left me with a question inside. Which is a more valuable trait for a development officer to have– to be able to speak with charisma and eloquence. or to ask good questions and be a good listener? We obviously cannot have one without the other. In fact, a good relationship is built on give and take, on two way conversation. It is important to be able to make your case and persuasively tell your organization’s story. But, it is equally as valuable to be able to understand what a donor’s interests truly are and how the organization links to them.

How do you go into a donor visit? Do you go in with questions or with answers and a presentation? I imagine that you probably do both depending on what stage of the solicitation process you are in. I know quite a few outgoing development professionals but not nearly as many introverted ones. What kind of development professional are you? Any introverts out there that share my story?

Building Your Event Menu

May 19, 2010

My boss knows her food and has provided me a number of tips that have helped me as I’ve developed menus for my events. Here is a checklist I go through when ordering food. This has helped keep the food at our events diverse and relevant to a large group of people.

  • Have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
  • Chicken is a great option, but make sure every dish is not chicken.
  • Don’t let all your vegetarian options be only cheese options. Often the standard vegetarian dish is a meat dish with cheese replacing the meat.
  • The standard vegan dish is often grilled vegetables.
  • Make sure to have something for your vegan guests. Grilled vegetables are a great fallback if you cannot come up with other options.
  • Try and have both healthy and unhealthy options. For example, don’t only have greasy fried foods, but also have some fruit and other options. Also, try to make your healthy options more exciting than just fruit or vegetables a la carte.
  • Think about the colors and textures of all of your dishes. Are you going to have 3 dips that are all the same color? Do you have all red food? Try to mix it up.
  • Serving something on a cracker can make a great appetizer, but don’t let all your appetizers be different things on crackers or bread. Add some satays or dips.

Jennifer Maxwell: Featured Fundraiser

March 17, 2010

This month’s Featured Fundraiser is Jennifer Maxwell.Thank you Katherine Wyatt for referring her to me. If you ever would like to nominate someone for Feature Fundraiser just send me an email. – Jason

What kind of fundraising do you do and who do you do it for?

Photo of Jennifer Maxwell
I am the Executive Director for the Warrick Dunn Foundation. Our mission is to reward single parents who have taken the necessary steps to become a first-time home buyers by providing additional down payment assistance and home furnishings to qualified recipients chosen through a closed nomination process with our housing partners. We pride ourselves on keeping administrative costs low; therefore, our staff consists of two people (myself included) who fundraise through grant writing, events, corporate/individual gifts, planned giving and social media.

What keeps you going? Why do you keep working in development?

As Executive Director, I wear many hats and I consider development the most critical component of my job. We have a mission, program, measurable objectives, participants, funding and volunteers; none of which can work in isolation. Development is the glue that holds the design together; without it, no one aspect alone would succeed.

What tips/advice do you have to other fundraisers in your field?

A professor of mine once said in reference to cause marketing and development, “If you’re not the best at what you’re doing, or at least second best, you shouldn’t be doing it.” Many nonprofits duplicate services and this makes fundraising almost impossible. Donors want to feel good about their contribution. Make it easy for them to know what you do and be able to communicate why you are the best at doing it (clean accounting, statistics, testimonials, donor benefits, etc.).

What is the most frustrating or difficult thing about fund development?

I think a main challenge of development is staying mission focused. There are endless grants and funds available and many times nonprofits chase them without doing the proper research on whether or not it’s a proper fit with what they are trying to accomplish. Watering down a mission or straying from it will not secure funding.

Do you have any memorable donor visits or solicitations that you’d like to share?

Recently, at an event, a potential donor approached me and said, “Your enthusiasm is contagious and I can tell you’re genuinely passionate about the work you do. Tell me how I can help.” While this was a flattering observation, it is important to note that enthusiasm and passion are key to fundraising. When people sense your commitment and excitement, you’re half way there. This sort of energy comes from perseverance and patience when job hunting, don’t settle for less than the job you want.