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.
An important part of any fundraising campaign is how you plan on recognizing your donors at different giving levels. While donor recognition opportunities do not motivate all donors, the fact is that some are. And, you need to be prepared to offer this valuable tool to inspire the sights of your donors who are motivated by public forms of recognition. Different things motivate different donors. So, always begin by knowing your donor.
Below I share with you a step-by-step method to creating Donor Recognition Opportunities that will inspire your donors to set their sights higher. And, public recognition inspires all donors from big to small and for all kinds of fundraising campaigns, not just capital ones.
There are several important guidelines that one should consider first before actually coming up with the recognition opportunities.
First, it is important that you have several recognition opportunities available for your donors to select.
Second, the top-level gift should be larger than the largest gift projected during the fundraising campaign.
Third, the cumulative values of the donor recognition opportunities should add up to significantly greater than the overall fundraising goal.
And, lastly, the donor recognition opportunity should be two to three times the costs of construction, furnishings, or overall costs of the opportunity.
Once you have given these guidelines consideration, here is how you can establish your donor recognition opportunities step-by-step.
Step #1 – Invite key staff and volunteers to a Donor Recognition Planning Meeting and review your building plans or fundraising campaign outline.
Step #2 – Brainstorm all of the possible named gift opportunity “places” or “things” i.e. main lobby, flag pole, endowed department, scholarships, staff positions, etc. Think expansively and creatively remembering that nothing is off limits.
Step #3 – Write each possible brainstormed building place on a sticky note and put them on the wall in random order.
Step #4 – Look at your campaign gift range chart and determine how many gifts are needed at each level to reach your goal.
Step #5 – Determine the “Curb Appeal” gifts. These gifts are those that provide value for the opportunity and are not necessarily just based on gift size. For instance, a lobby will hold more “curb appeal” than say a large industrial kitchen located in the back of a facility hardly ever seen by the general public.
Step #6 – Match the top “Curb Appeal” gift with naming opportunity that is the largest on the list, etc.
Step #7 – Be sure to present this Donor Recognition Plan to the Board to ensure that they approve of your plans. Ensure that the Board votes to approve this plan. Don’t skip over this step! You need the Board’s support.
There are also other ways that you can recognize your donors. For instance, you can recognize mid-level to lower-level givers with a group plaque, listing in the print donor honor roll, or on the organization’s website. You may also choose to run brick and pavers or wall tile program. And, inevitably, you will recognize all of your donors at a post-campaign celebratory event.
One thing that you do need to ensure is that you are consistent with how you recognize your donors. Everyone needs to be treated equally regarding what his or her gift will afford in a named gift opportunity.
And, now the organization is ready to begin asking for gifts from donors using these different named gift opportunities as a way to motivate donors to step up their giving to the campaign.
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.
What? That seems like something so mundane. Well, it may be, but it is so critical to fundraising.
Throughout my professional career, I have been victim to bad databases, and I have been asked to work with bad databases.
One thing is for sure, without an initial thought out structure, problems are inevitable. I often come into organizations that have no rhyme or reason as to what they call their Campaigns, Funds, and Approaches. You know, one year it is called Spring Appeal 2016, and the next it is labeled the Mother’s Day Appeal.
Consistency is key. I see so much inconsistency that why bother having a database, to begin with at all. The way names are entered i.e. Mr. and Mrs. Smith or Bob and Laura or even Robin and Smitty or Robin & Smitty.
It drives me mad.
Having a database procedural manual developed with consistent data entry standards specified is critical. How do you pass this institutional information along when staff transition or do you? Do you let them sink or swim?
Hey, garbage in is only garbage out.
The most important thing is the question of who has access to this database? Who does the main gift entry? Moreover, I pray that your answer is a development staff person. Please, do not say that it is a member of the finance department, or even worse, a volunteer or an intern.
Provide those using the database with training in the software itself and budget for it every year. Moreover, don’t think that a cost saving is ignoring software updates and the resulting costs.
I cannot stress enough how important the database is to your fundraising efforts. It will allow you to be donor-centered in your work regarding recognizing donors and their giving the exact way that they want to be recognized. It lets you accurately report on giving and make comparisons that will affect the future of your fundraising efforts, and it will allow you to become more strategic in your endeavors through segmentation and greater personalization.In all of my career if I had to answer the question of “What impacts the success of fundraising THE most, besides the Board, of course,” I would have to answer, the database.
Moreover, folks EXCEL is not a database; it is a spreadsheet tool used by those in the finance department. Please don’t say that you cannot afford a database. Some great databases are available for a very fair and affordable price.
Pay close attention to your database – this is the brain behind your efforts.
Development Consulting Solutions is announcing NEW interim and project-based service offerings:
Who is “DCS”? There are limited Certified Fund-Raising Executives (CFRE) providing outsourced fund development services and serving as interim fund development staffing. What most organizations need is someone who can do the work for them!
“DCS” recognizes this need and has provided this service to a variety of small to mid-sized nonprofits throughout the New England region. Some of these nonprofits have included Malta House of Norwalk, CT, Friends of Buttonwood Park of New Bedford, MA, and United Methodist Elder Care of East Providence, RI.
“DCS’s mission” “DCS” does not engage with everyone! We have a rigorous eligibility requirement and screening process and only work with four select clients at a time.
What are our requirements? We only work with small to mid-sized organizations that are ready, receptive, and willing to take their development program to the next level through outsourced assistance. These organizations have an engaged Board of Directors, an open-minded and willing staff, and leadership ready to support the organization.
We only work with organizations that are willing to invest in their development function, value established service costs, heed professional advice, and strategy, and act respectfully in the client and consultant relationship.
By selecting those clients most ready to embark on taking their organization to the next level, “DCS” provides you with the tools and staffing to raise more money in support of mission!
To provide outsourced development expertise to organizations that do not want to hire someone in-house.
To assist busy executive directors with taking a few things off their plates.
To reassure donors during a transition or vacancy in your development office that your fundraising efforts will continue
If time is needed to do a search for a permanent development director, and you do not want to be rushed to make a selection
When you are seeking a new executive director and you want to be sure that this leader has an opportunity to select the permanent development director
Because as interim development director, I can have more candid conversations with the executive director, board, and other leaders about why there are problems with keeping development staff or staff is underperforming
When your organization has never had a development director and needs an experienced professional with a proven track record to start up the development office and pave the way for a more junior development officer to be successful.
Here is what “DCS” can do for you:
Assess current fundraising activities and make recommendations to improve strategy
Improve your fundraising efforts
Model what a good development officer does
Enhance systems and processes within the development office
Troubleshoot development problems
Coach the Executive Director and Board in fundraising to boost confidence and skill
Help with the hire of a permanent development director
“DCS” helps with:
Direct Mail Appeals
Development print publications – your newsletter, annual report, brochures, etc.
This weekend I took a little vacation of sorts. I ran a marathon. The Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC. Running a marathon is exhausting, but also, reflective. For you see, you run for 26 miles. That is a long time on your feet – sometimes, three, four, five, six, or even more hours.
Over the course over the weekend, there were approximately 3,000 marines – some of our countries finest armed service men and women. And, as I reflected on my experience, I was reminded of how important it is to take care of our donors. You see, the Marines took care of me while I was running.
They were there to welcome me when I arrived – how often do we welcome donors for their first gifts to us or even their second or third?
They directed me through the maze of marathon logistics – how often do we try to make our experience of being a donor easy for our donors? Do we point them in the right direction? Do we connect them with aspects of the charity that they care deeply?
And, then when I was running, those Marines were out there cheering me on as if I were the hero – how often do we cheer on our donors in their act of giving? How often do we make them feel like the superheroes that they are?
When the going got tough, they were there for me, telling me that I could do – when things get tough for our donors, are we still behind them cheering for them? Perhaps they can’t give us as much, do we abandon them as people? Or do we still treat them the same, cultivating the relationship?
And, at the end of it all – they placed the medal on me and made me feel accomplished – “Congratulations, Maam” – do we treat our donors like they are the real heroes, even though we are doing the actual work?
Interesting questions. I was awed and inspired by this display of honor at the marathon. The Marine’s know how to put on a good race. And, they also know a lot more about how to treat people. There are lessons learned here on how we should go about treating our donors.
Giving is MORE like a marathon than a sprint. It is about cultivating relationships with our donors over weeks, months, years – just like a marathon is about training for days, weeks, months, and years.
So, go out and run the race. And, even though it is your organization that is doing the hard work, take some lessons from the Marines and treat your donors like the superheroes that they are. After all, the Marines are making this sacrifice for our country, just as our donors are making another kind of sacrifice for our organizations.
Let’s get rid of our printed newsletter and just send an e-newsletter.
Our donors don’t like personal solicitations.
We are only going to send out one appeal a year because we don’t want to send too much mail to our donors.
I hear statements like this all the time. And, I wonder if we are making decisions for our donors. I know that this goes for some groups.
When I surmise this is the case, I often ask, “Have you asked your donors?” And, the response is “No, how do you ask them?”
Well, quite simply you meet with them, or you call them on the telephone, and you ask them questions. Questions like, “how much mail would you like from us?” or ” how do you prefer to be called upon to make a gift to us?” or even, “how do you prefer to get information from us?”
There are other ways to ask donors what they prefer.
Try a donor survey. You may design a questionnaire that asks things such as:
Why does he/she support the organization?”
Which programs, projects, or issues you address are the most important to him/her?
Is your organization one of his/her top philanthropic priorities?
Do he/she actively use email and do does he/she prefer to get emails from you?
Is he/she planning to remember your organization in his/her estate plans?
How old is he/she (hint ask for a birthday or date range)?
Etc., etc., etc.
Before mailing to your donors, be sure to test the survey and solicit feedback from other folks like your colleagues, friends, or family members, and include an envelope, a personalized letter, a brochure, and a self-addressed reply envelope as part of a survey package.
Then send this package out and be sure to analyze and document these returns. Don’t just let them pile up.
Then and only then will you be able to understand truly who your donors are, what motivates them to give to you, and what decisions you should make regarding your strategy, approach, and appropriate communications.
For instance, after you analyze and track the returned information, you can then segment your donors and mail materials that interest them.
But, the adage of “you don’t know until you ask” is such a critical element of driving all that you do in fund development.
We surely cannot begin to make assumptions for our donors based on our thoughts, interests, and profiling.
Are you looking at your donor retention rate? It seems like this is old hat in the field, but yet, it is such an important metric to be measuring in your development office. The question is, are you?
It is more expensive and difficult to obtain a new donor than it is to keep a loyal donor. Do you know that it costs an average of twenty cents per dollar raised to renew donors via direct mail? It costs about $1 to $1.25 to acquire a donor using that same method. That is five times more. And, on the converse, these new donors tend to give substantially less. It is much easier to upgrade an existing loyal donor to a higher level of giving.
Are you running regular donor retention reports to determine what your rate is? How does your donor retention rate compare to industry standards? How does your donor retention rate compare to organizations in your area? Is your rate going up, or is it going down? If it is going down, what steps are you taking?
Here are a few ideas to boost your retention rate:
Consider decreasing the time required to send out an acknowledgment letter. Best practice is 24-48 hours.
Call higher level donors and thank them for their gift or why not try calling everyone new.
Send out a welcome package to new donors making them feel a part of the organization
Send out regular updates either via email or printed news or both several times per year that are no solicitations.
Report back to the donor what their gift was able to make possible.
Develop a formal stewardship plan with donors of different giving levels getting different touches.
If you are not looking at donor retention, start. While donor acquisition is still important, you can’t overlook the importance of keeping your donors interested in your work and supporting your mission.
What ways are you keeping your donors happy, satisfied, and giving?
The fundraising audit is a major step in fundraising planning. When you think about planning, you think about where are we, where do we want to be, and how are we going to get there?
The fundraising audit helps you to determine, where are you. And, it is probably the most important step of the entire planning process. If you don’t know where you are today, how can you even plan for tomorrow? And, it is important to not only look at internal things that will impact your fundraising success i.e. Board of Directors, etc., but it is also critical to examine external factors as well. Some external things that may affect the success of fundraising include political factors (i.e. election time), economic (a down economy), sociocultural (changing demographics), and technology (changes in the web, social media, etc.). Development audits also tend to examine others in the industry including nonprofits serving the same type of causes, similar sizes, potential collaborators, and other market factors).
Also, one can examine the feasibility of conducting a future large-scale campaign. Currently, I am conducting a development audit for a nonprofit organization, and as part of that review, I am asking initial capital campaign feasibility questions to determine if a proposed future capital campaign would be a success.
An audit is just that, a systematic attempt to gather tons of data, and then analyzing and synthesizing this data against professional best practices. While it is best that an objective third party person conducts this process, it can also be accomplished by a new in-house development staff member who still has an objective “eye.” It is also helpful to have someone who has their finger on the pulse regarding what is shifting and changing in the philanthropic landscape.
A development audit is also a great way to engage key stakeholders i.e. Board members, donors, etc. who may need more cultivation. It is just as much about the product as it is about the process.
It has been almost ten years since I moved into my home.
At times, I just can’t believe that it has been THAT long.
Where does time go?
I do know this, when I moved into my new home it was a monumental thing.
I had neighbors knocking at the door, welcoming me, introducing themselves, inviting me to share in their lives.
I received the inevitable “welcome to the neighborhood” advertising package.
I got all kinds and sorts of offers for my new home.
And, I will never forget when my neighbor said to his young son “say hello to Mrs. Cabral!”
WOW, that made me feel really special, like a part of something – a neighborhood, a tribe.
The question I ask is, do we treat our NEW donors the same way?
Do we make them feel special, part of a tribe?
Let’s face it, the donor retention rates in the industry are abysmal. We hear all about the statistics.
And, the pure fact is, it costs more to get a new donor then it does to retain one.
So what are we really doing to make our new donors feel welcome. Sometimes, I hate to say it, we do anything but that.
It is time that we start welcoming our new donors with open arms, just like my neighbors did to me and I am sure yours did to you when we first moved in.
Find out why they “moved” in, what motivates them to give, what does your organization mean to them?
In fact, I advocate developing a new donor stewardship plan just for new donors. And, YES, you should have a stewardship plan in place for all your donors. If you don’t, make that priority number one on Monday morning!
And, why not send them a new donor “welcome package” as one of their initial contacts with you after their first gift.