Now that it is January, you may think that it is time to relax a bit after that hectic holiday season. However, now is the time to ensure that you have strong follow-up to your calendar year-end appeal.
If you have closed out one fundraising year completely by doing the needed follow-up, you have established a strong base and set your organization up well for success in the upcoming calendar year’s fundraising efforts. As they say, it is not over until it is over! And so, I have outlined several steps below that you can take this month to ensure that you have appropriate follow-up to maximize your calendar year-end efforts.
Examine your largest donors who gave in 2018 and ensure that they made their gift by calendar year-end. If they have not yet made their gift, then it is time to contact them. You do not want your largest donors to lapse, as this will significantly impact the results of your campaign. Time to pick up the telephone or visit in person.
Consider sending out a follow-up mail and/or email to those who did not respond to the year-end appeal. You should send this appeal out no later than late January. Perhaps your direct mail appeal got lost in all the holiday mail or in the flurry of appeals that were sent in. Now, as things have quieted down, is the time to send out one last appeal. Be sure to segment out all those who did give, whether doing mail or email or even both.
Be sure that you send out all of your acknowledgements. Ensure that these acknowledgements are donor-centric and include the necessary updates and impact statements to demonstrate the impact a donor has had through their giving. Please do not mention that they helped you to reach your fundraising goal. This kind of wording will not inspire donors to give!
Begin to assemble a late winter/early spring edition of your newsletter. As we all know, fundraising cannot be all about asking. We must share important updates, especially on the impact that a donor’s gift has made. Now is the time to get this newsletter ready. I urge that you send out both a print and online version. Many donors still read print!
Prepare a Valentine’s or other such stewardship greeting to be sent sometime between now and the next appeal. Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to send a simple greeting of thanks “from the heart” to all of your donors, letting them know what they have made possible. This is a great way to engage clients in creating messaging for donors, whether it is through video, handmade cards, or notes. Use your creativity and be sure to connect messaging to your mission.
Consider holding a phone bank around Valentine’s Day to call donors who have given to your calendar year-end appeal to thank them for their support. Again, “major” holidays are important stewardship times that you can use to have a significant stewardship impact.
So, while your thoughts may be on the new year ahead, let’s not forget the importance of doing a thorough clean-up job on last year’s appeal efforts. Now is the time, when mailboxes have “cooled down” and donors are back from their holidays, to ensure that you have maximized your efforts. Follow these steps above and you will set your organization’s development up for success in the coming year.
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When organizations create their direct mail appeal letters, the remittance envelope is often an afterthought. Far too many organizations put little thought into how the envelope or reply device should appear and what it should say. Many believe that a generic reply envelope will do just fine for their purposes or others want to “use up” their existing reply envelopes and what better way?
Well, time to start thinking otherwise. Your direct mail appeal reply device can help boost your direct mail appeal returns.
If designed correctly, you can inspire donors giving sights and increase charitable income towards your mission.Below are a few simple steps to help you begin to segment your major donors and start to ask them more personally to support your calendar year-end appeal.
Below are a few simple steps to help you begin to segment your major donors and start to ask them more personally to support your calendar year-end appeal, just by making a few simple and easy tweaks.
1 – You want to be sure that your reply device mirrors the messaging of the direct mail appeal including using similar wording and themes.
2 – Ensure that even your reply device includes your mission statement and perhaps even a donor impact statement. One reply device that I created for my client states “She had nowhere else to turn…but, you gave her hope and a home.”
3- I long ago advocated against the use of Business Reply Envelopes (BRE’s). You know the ones where the organization pre-pays them up front and then uses them to entice donors to give. Do you think saving money on a postage stamp is going to make all the difference in the world to a donor? Not a big incentive. Save your organization money and have the donor place the stamp.
4- Include monthly/quarterly or any recurring donation option on your form by simply stating, “I/we would like to provide ongoing support. Please charge my credit card $ _________ per month until ________.” Or even better “continue indefinitely.”
5 – Include a section where donors can make gifts “In honor of/In memory of…”
6 – Ensure that all email captures are “permission-based.” If you have a line to capture email addresses and you plan on sending out newsletters or updates, be sure that you ask the donor permission. Consider having a check-off box that states something like, “Yes, I would like to receive periodic updates from the organization.”
7 – Consider having a check-off box to encourage volunteering, i.e., “I would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities at the organization.”
8 – Surely, have a check-off box where folks can indicate interest in making a planned gift to the organization and a separate one noting employer matching fit programs.
9 – Always have contact information on your reply device. If donors have specific questions, they need to know whom to contact, and your job is to make it easy and simple for them.
10 – You may also want to consider adding gift strings. Don’t leave the giving up to the inevitable “other” giving category. If you can do personalized gift strings, at least have suggested amounts that mirror the copy of your direct mail appeal letter.
So there you have the simple steps that you can immediately take to supercharge your reply envelope and increase your direct mail appeal returns to your calendar year-end campaign.
These are the same steps that I ensure I use when I create my client’s direct mail appeal package. And, they work!
Join me fora FREE webinar on Thursday, November 16 at 1 p.m. on “How to Develop a Gift Range Chart and Customized Gift Strings to Maximize Your Year-End Giving Efforts.” – Don’t delay register today! Registration limited to the first 100 registrants.
You have just been offered a job as a Director of Development and now what?
Well, over the past twenty years, I have had my share of jobs and have started some fundraising offices within nonprofits as part of my consulting practice. As a result, I have gotten pretty good at figuring out what the first steps need to be when setting up your development office.
I am going to share with you some of these first steps on what to get started with immediately to make your first three months a success. These first three months are a particular time of “newness” that you can use to your advantage.
Step #1 – Get established on your working location and equipment. Ensure you set up your office area so that it will be conducive to your work style and habits and ensure that you have all of the hardware and software you need including training.
Step #2 – If you don’t have the required software, don’t skimp by using Excel. Start right out by determining what your current and future needs may be and begin to research and present options for a donor database/CRM system that will meet those needs. You cannot build a successful development program without this foundational component. It is the “brains” behind your program.
Step #3 – Begin conducting a development assessment of the past fundraising efforts of the organization.
Step #4 – To carry out this assessment and to get acclimated to the new organization, use this time to meet with
Key leadership staff
Board of Directors
Any past and/or current donors
Anyone else deemed important to the organization
Step #5 – Use the data that you obtain during this development assessment process to begin to put together a series of recommendations based on best practices that you can put into place during your tenure. Share these recommendations with key leadership and Board members to obtain approval and “buy-in.”
Step #6 – Begin to immerse yourself in the new organization’s programs and services.
Step #7 – Begin to craft a Case for Support if your organization does not already have one in place.
Step #8 – Determine the key projects that need attention in the immediate future and begin to manage them. Get a handle on your development calendar including your annual fund and grant application and reporting deadlines.
Step #9 – Begin to put into place some of the recommendations that you outlined after conducting your development assessment whether they focus on major gifts, planned giving, individual giving, direct mail, etc.
These are some easy and straightforward ways that you can get up to speed quickly and efficiently in your new role and have an immediate impact on your organization’s fund development program. Early wins=your success.
Often, I get asked, “What is the magic behind a successful fundraising campaign?”
Well, it is not all magic. There is some science. And, with over twenty years of experience, I am going to share the top tips that have made it all “seem” like magic so that you can too.
How to ensure a successful fundraising campaign
I am going to share with you step-by-step the formula that I use with all of my clients to ensure that fundraising campaigns are as successful as can be.
#1 – Ensure that you have the best fundraising team possible. Be selective in whom you choose, develop expectations and responsibilities in advance, and seek the chair of your fundraising effort first.
#2 – Once the Chair is in place, then have them assist you in the search for the rest of your fundraising team. Be sure that you only select folks who do what they say they are going to do. Test them with small tasks first. Be sure to select high-performing people to have a high-performing team. And, don’t be afraid to say “no” to someone who just can’t meet the expectations or pass the “test!” Never recruit as a group – always person to person. Ensure you have a good mix of influential and effective candidates.
#3 – Divide up your fundraising team into different divisions i.e. events, mail, personal solicitation, phone, prospect rating, etc.
#4 – Create a fundraising goal that includes the costs of the campaign in the total. It costs money to raise money so be sure that you calculate those costs into the overall campaign goal. You can estimate campaign costs at 10% of the fundraising goal i.e. materials, staff, events, donor recognition, etc.
# 6 – Develop a prospective donor list from both your current donors as well as by conducting overall research to find new ones. Once you have your prospective donor list, then you will need to rate and rank them. Get a committee together who will focus on rating prospects according to capacity, affinity, and interest.
#7 – Once you have rated your prospects, then you can tier them into an “A List,” “B List,” etc. This ranking will allow you to focus your efforts on those who have the greatest capacity and interest in your cause.
#8 – Modify the gift chart as your campaign progresses depending on the level of gifts that come in. If you have fewer major donors than expected than you need to adjust your lower tier of donors, etc.
# 9 – Employ a sequential model of fundraising. Classify prospects according to assessed giving potential and start solicitation with the Top Giving Levels and move down.
#10 – Start with your “Family/Nucleus” gifts first. Your Board, staff, and volunteers must demonstrate a commitment to the mission before you begin asking anyone else. If they are not committed, how can you expect anyone else to be committed? You should conduct all Top Giving and Family/Nucleus levels by personal solicitation.
#11 – Develop strategies to solicit the lower level donors i.e. direct mail, events, telephone, etc.
#12 – Be sure to develop a realistic month-by-month timeline to ensure that you keep the momentum of the campaign fresh and have key benchmarks to meet.
#13 – Develop ways to recognize donors of all giving levels to the campaign. Donor recognition levels can inspire donors to give more than they may usually give.
Sequential fundraising is THAT important. Once you violate the “Top Gift” solicitation sequence, your entire fundraising campaign is in jeopardy. Failure to follow this approach lowers giving standards across the Board.
If I could choose the number one reason why most campaigns fail, it would be that they did not follow this sequential model of fundraising including asking their “family” first. In fact, I have seen campaigns languish for years never reaching their goal.
So, maybe you have been operating without a plan up until now. And, that is ok, but it is not strategic, and to meet your goals, you need to have a plan that you follow, monitor, and correct if needed.
Here are some simple instructions on how you can quickly create a development plan if you have been operating without one.
Once you have your gift chart created, it will guide your strategies. Take that gift table and think about how you are going to raise your top gifts.
Then break out all the possible fundraising strategies into key categories. Those key categories may be major donors, individual donors, Board giving, special events, corporation and businesses, private grants, government grants, and earned revenue.
Plan on how many you are going to solicit from each category and how i.e. individual donors you may send out a lapsed donor appeal, an annual renewal appeal, and perhaps a prospective donors appeal using direct mail appeal and maybe phone follow-up. Your complete mail out will be close to 1,000. You can even go a step further and calculate the average gift amount if you are able.
From the numbers that you will be soliciting and the calculated average gift amount determine what your estimated income will be. Know or have any expenses, calculate those and subtract them from your expected income, and you have a net income number.
Then the last key element of this plan is to determine when you will complete each strategy by and who is responsible for the strategy i.e. development staff, executive direct, Board of Directors, etc.
Then implement your plan. But, most importantly use this plan as a monthly monitoring tool. Share it at your Management Staff meetings and with your Development Committee or the Board of Directors. If it appears as if you are “off” on projections, make mid-course corrections and adjust your budget.
But, don’t let this sit on a shelf. Get it in action.
You may want to consider putting all of the key plan information in a spreadsheet to have it all in one place. Or you can use a Word document table. Whatever format you use, start with the gift table, develop the plan, keep this plan in a prominent place, share it and monitor it, and make mid-course corrections.
You can’t operate successfully without a plan in place to drive and focus your effort
Then you will be on your way to reaching your yearly fundraising goals.
One may think that there are only a limited number of donors to go around, but think again.
In my work, I assist small to mid-sized organizations in running their first capital campaigns. Many do not have established donor bases to tap into for an already existing pool of major donors. So, I assist. And, I am here to say that yes, you too can, even in your small nonprofit, develop a list of 25 or more possible major donors to your organization.
I am going to take you step by step on how to begin establishing that prospect list for your nonprofit organization and then share with you some next steps on how to prioritize that list.
Here are the steps you can take to develop your prospect master list:
Use informal organizational networks including organizational friends and family members i.e. Board members, staff, volunteers, etc. to identify prospects within their respective networks who have both wealth and affinity for the cause.
Ask your current donors when meeting with them if they know of anyone else who may support the cause.
Research prominent donors to other similar organizations who may be making small gifts to your organizations. It is helpful to obtain copies of their annual reports, newsletters, and even event programs to see the giving levels of the prospective donors. Annual reports may be found online or hard copy by request.
Research who has been attending your events. There are folks here who already know of your mission and may be willing to deepen their relationship with you.
Research others who live in your community who might give to you using voter, property (Grand), the local chamber of commerce, houses of worship, and other lists.
So now what do you do when you have all this information?
Here is what I recommend:
Cull through all these lists to create a Master List of prospects whom you think “make the cut” regarding any possibility of capacity, affinity, or connection.r
Let me define these for you.
Capacity – ability to give
Affinity – philanthropic to a similar cause or interest
Connection – involvement in your organization
Once you have this Master List developed then work with the fundraising/development committee, Board of Directors, or other volunteers (they should know folks in the community) to rate and rank each donor during a rating session to determine potential giving capacity, interest, and affinity.
And, from there you have a Master List of the top 20-25 prospective donors to your organization. Even the smallest of non-profit organizations should be able to come up with a Master List of at least 25 potential donors after following these steps.
One might think that gift range charts are just for large projects such as capital campaigns or for significant fundraising efforts. And, while, yes, there is some truth to that, gift range charts can be used effectively in even the smallest of fundraising shops.
A gift range chart will tell you exactly how many gifts AND prospects you need at each giving level to reach your goal. And, it also shows you the potential to reach your fundraising goal.
So, first, how do you create one?
Well, you can use any online calculator to do so. I highly recommend the simple and easy to use Blackbaud gift range calculator. You can find that tool here.
A gift range chart calculator is only going to provide you with an estimate. If you want to be more accurate, you may want to create the chart on your own using the given realities of your organization. So, how do you go about creating your own? Well, you will want to identify the highest level gift to your fundraising efforts. That will probably be somewhere in the area of 20% of goal. Estimate 3-5 prospective donors per gift. Fill in your chart downwards based on what you know about your donors and their capacity. Gift amounts go down, and the number of donors increases.
So, here is what a $100,000 fundraising goal would look like: https://www.blackbaud.com/nonprofit-resources/gift-range-calculator
How do you now use this information to inform your strategy?
I would first look at the top gifts needed. Here in this example, you would need 1 – $10K, 1 – 7.5K, 2 – $5K, and 3 – $3.5K for a total of $38K. There are several options, right? You could write several grants. In this case, you would need 28 grant possibilities, or you could approach a few major donors.
Then if you look at your next tier of gifts, you would need $34K in gifts. Perhaps you have a fundraising event, or maybe a direct mail campaign or a series of direct mail campaigns. Or perhaps you continue to ask for gifts at this level.
Maybe you look even further down and realize that you have a series of direct mail appeals, or that one appeal will do it for the remainder of the $28K or so.
The fact of the matter is that any possibility of a strategy will work, as long as it is realistic and fits for your organization. The key thing to remember is that you want to secure the top gifts first. If you don’t raise those, then you need to readjust all the lower levels of the gift range chart below to “make up” for the difference.
Then, you can use this gift range chart as a monitoring and reporting tool. Let’s say that you are not hitting your “lead” gift targets. Well, you can certainly adjust this gift range chart mid-course and make the necessary adjustments to your strategy BEFORE your fundraising efforts get too far off track. And, this would be a great tool to share with your Board of Directors to educate them on the process of raising money and how your particular efforts are progressing towards projections.
So, though you may think that gift range charts are for the “big shops,” think again, a gift range chart can provide even the smallest campaign with focus and goals based on actualities and realities.
So, this next fiscal year why don’t you first start by creating a realistic gift range chart for your annual fund campaign and develop strategies to get you to your goal.
As a nonprofit organization, you are here to meet a mission to your stakeholders. Maybe long ago, or not so long ago, you were founded to assist a particular group or meet a critical need. And, months go by, years go by, and you are still in existence. But, is the need still there? Are you still relevant towards meeting that need?
Sometimes, we just don’t want to answer this question. Because in answering it, you may find, that yes, indeed, you have met your mission or, in fact, are no longer relevant, or facing a crisis, or maybe even just plain exhausted and lack energy as an organization.
Is it time to dissolve perhaps? Maybe merge with a similar group? Shutting down is not the only option, but it is one.
Let’s face it, was it ever our intent to be here forever?
In admitting that you have met your mission, you have done exactly what you have set out to do. And, more and more nonprofits are choosing this route, admirably I may add.
Ultimately, though, this is a larger Board discussion.
Because the Board of Directors is directly responsible for the organization’s future: whether to grow, change, downsize, merge, evolve, or close. This is governance at its most important and highest level.
Here are some important questions to explore as a Board before you do:
Are we meeting our stated mission?
Are we helping our intended audience?
Are we still relevant to our community?
What is the situation that is precipitating this discussion? Are we tired, lack energy? Financial constraints? No longer needed?
What would be the implications if we did no longer exist?
Do we want to continue? Can the organization be saved?
Have we simply run out of steam and need to close down?
Is it time to let us fail instead of always trying to “right” the ship?
Do we have adequate human resources to keep things going and are they the right people?
After seriously reflecting on these questions, a nonprofit Board can choose to take several routes.
You can choose to change your mission statement to reflect who you are and what need you are truly meeting.
You can choose to restructure your operations, programs, and activities to lead to a better functioning organization.
You can find a similar nonprofit organization in mission and merge.
If under undue financial stress, you may consider filing for bankruptcy
Or, if you are just tired or having met your mission, you can cease to operate and dissolve.
Ultimately, the Board must recognize that a crisis situation exists, focus efforts on addressing this issue, and come to a consensus-based conclusion on which path is most appropriate to your mission, to the community you serve, and to yourselves as individual Board members.
Technical skill or personality, which is most important when hiring a new director of development?
That is a great question.
And, while ideally, both would be great, that is not always a guarantee.
So what do you look for in this case?
While just about anyone can have the skill set of a fundraiser, not everyone can have the temperament to be a superior director of development. It takes personality to make a professional difference. And, let’s be honest, not everyone has personality.
What kind of personality?
Well, development professionals must have a temperament suited to serving people’s needs. They must be attentive, persistent, and flexible. They need to have a thick skin and be willing to give others credit. A huge piece of the job is making others look good while taking the back seat to their ego. When they do their job well, no one knows it. They make an indirect not a direct contribution to accomplishments and very rarely if ever take the credit.
The best development professionals are servant leaders, putting the needs of the organization and those that they serve ahead of their very own. They are the voice of the donor within the organization and as a profession as a whole.
Since they are that voice for the donor, I then ask, what is it that donors expect in that person?
A recent article published on Guidestar stated that donors want someone who is passionate and enthusiastic about the mission, has high standards of integrity, authenticity, self-confidence, and most importantly someone who loves their work and shows it by their willingness to pay the price to get the job done with joy.
So don’t hire based just upon skill sets or certifications alone. You might not be satisfied with what you get. Delve deeper to determine if this person has the right attitude, temperament, and belief that will take your organization to the next level and meet the needs of your donors.
Shall I dare say, good development directors are not as easy to find? But bad ones are!
There are quite a number of groups seeking to test the feasibility of a possible capital campaign.
And, so naturally being a consulting firm catering to small fundraising shops, I tend to get asked to talk about these, and I am currently in the midst of one now.
What I find is that groups think that feasibility studies only test for one thing and that one thing is a financial goal.
I assert that there are many different types of things that a feasibility study tests for as a result. Financial goals being just one. In fact, more importantly, feasibility studies look at both internal and external perceptions and find areas of opportunities and challenges for an upcoming campaign. Things such as “what about that large endowment the organization has?” or “it doesn’t have strong fundraising leadership?” or “you need to ensure that so and so is on board and committed to launching a full-scale effort.”
Through a feasibility study, a group also finds out about potential campaign leadership, which by the way, can make or break a proposed capital campaign, other competing campaigns currently or just recently completed within the same community, and potential prospective donors to a capital campaign. Also, a capital campaign feasibility study will unearth the general economic outlook both nationally and locally and how will that impact the success of a capital campaign.
So, as you can see, a feasibility study done correctly will provide lots of data that can then be used to refine the case for support, determine if it is time for the organization to mount a significant campaign, and what is the recommend campaign plan based upon findings as part of the study. Oh, yes, and what fundraising goal will be feasible.
If you or your group is considering an upcoming capital campaign, I urge you NOT to skimp on the process of conducting a feasibility study. You will learn more than just – can this campaign make a go of it. You will find out exactly how much and how it can or cannot!
A question that I am asked a bit. When can our capital campaign go public? When can we put a thermometer out on our lawn? When can we start to ask our constituents and the general community? When can we have a special event and invite everyone?
The all important question, “is it time?”
My answer? Not until you have a certain number of lead gifts in hand. And, not before you have your institutional family committed to the campaign – folks like your Board of Directors, staff members, Campaign Steering Committee members, and your leadership donors.
Only when you have the majority of lead and family gifts in, is it time to broaden the focus and extend the solicitation process to more prospects through a more public campaign. Some say that you should have at least 50-70% of the entire gifts needed for the campaign in hand. But, one thing is for sure, the “Quiet” Phase is that indeed – quiet. There is no general advertising of the campaign or overall campaign fanfare.
Once you have a significant number of advanced gifts in hand, it is at this juncture that you should plan a campaign kickoff celebration event to aid in your project going “public.” This “public” phase is when the work of soliciting the organization’s broader constituency begins.
Then and only then should you put that “Community Thermometer” in the ground and start having your special shindig events.
So, is it time to go public – maybe or maybe not. It all depends upon the science of campaigns and it is not something that you want to rush.
Best practices. We hear that phrase often. This week, I even read a question asking if “best practices were misleading?”
Are we throwing that phrase around to legitimize our field? Our do we have best practices and what are they?
Well, I contend that the only true best practice is one that is grounded in research. Those are harder to find that than the other so-called “best practices.”
While studying for my Masters Degree in Philanthropy and Fund Development, I learned that philanthropic research has many gaps. However, there are people now making a study of philanthropy and conducting research. Folks like Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang. More research is needed in our field to support our work.
I can tell you that when research is grounded in actual studies, it works. Eye motion studies, philanthropic psychology, etc., etc.
Recently, I have been working on many appeal letters. And, each time I craft one for the client, I get pushback. Why do you indent paragraphs? Why do you repeat yourself often? Why is there bold and underline? Do we need to include a P.S.? And, can’t the letter just fit on one page? Must we send more than one appeal?
Pushback that is unfounded. And, I push back with research. When the client allows me to use those best practices, the results speak for themselves.
When those results speak for themselves, it is magic. Campaigns get funded, new projects begin, and donors have the opportunity to make a greater impact.
We forget that the fact (and it is a fact) that we are not beggars. Donors want to give. And, to give, they must be asked. Asked in a way that moves them to feel connected to their core beliefs through your organization’s mission.
Know the difference between unfounded best practices and best practices backed by scientific research. Read blogs, stay current with trends, and keep furthering your informal and formal education. When you do, and you practice it, your results will show all the difference.
Fund development does have a researched body of knowledge. Don’t allow anyone to convince you that it does not.