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Hand Written Notes: Why?

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Image courtesy of Simon Howden at freedigitalphotos.net
I completed an experiment recently:
I saved all of the mail that came into our household for one week. You would be amazed!
So much junk mail. Several bills. A few medical items.
I collected our mail to create a hands-on learning experience in a class I was teaching at the Nonprofit Leadership Center.
Tom Ahern, in his book Keep Your Donors, says we divide our mail into three categories:
  1. “Stuff I canNOT ignore, or something bad will happen to me.”
  2. “Stuff I can SAFELY ignore, and NOTHING bad will happen to me.”
  3. “Stuff I could be interested in. I’ll save that for a second look.”
As a class, we dug through the Leonard family’s week of mail and sorted accordingly.
We found several hand addressed items: a wedding invitation, a birthday card, and a post card thank you note from a favorite charity. While we were sorting it became crystal clear to me what I’ve been teaching for many years: hand written items are very powerful. Their power/value has grown even more in the age of electronic communication.
Let’s be honest, the mail we send from our nonprofit will never be in stack one. The “stuff I can’t ignore” stack is for bills, insurance information, and items from my children’s schools. No matter how much our donor may care about us, our fundraising communications can be ignored without consequence. That leaves us fighting for a spot in the pile of interesting things.
The next time your procrastinate sending handwritten thank you notes, ask yourself how you are going to move from stack two to stack three? (another way to say it: how do you keep from getting thrown away?) The answer is: write something by hand. How can we make this practical?
Try this experiment:
  • Create a list of 200 donors who have supported your organization.
  • Print the list.
  • Each Monday morning put 5 notecards on your desk.
  • During the week, look for reasons to write a personal note to one of those donors.
  • Each time you do, put a check mark on the list.
  • Before you go home on Friday, make sure you have written your five notes for the week.
  • Repeat.
If my math is correct, after 40 weeks, you will have written 200 notecards. Watch what happens. Your relationships with your donors will begin to grow and from that your fundraising will be more successful in the long run.

Plan Leads to Fundraising Success

 

 

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Exciting news: new online class is approved for 3 points toward CFRE certification

Not all online classes are created equal – I get that. Many online classes involve watching slides and listening to a lecture. Our class is completely different. We call it discussion-style because the class is a series of video conversations between Louanne Saraga Walters and me. We walk through the steps to create a fundraising plan and include worksheets. This isn’t just watching, it’s doing.

3 times you’ll benefit from the new Fundraising Succe$$ class:

1.  Need a new development plan
If you are raising money without a plan, STOP. Well don’t stop raising money but stop trying to get it done without a plan. I’ve got the help you need. Fundraising Success: The Complete Development Plan will walk you through step by step to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. Feel like you are out there on your own? Creating a development plan can fix that. One of the key steps is defining your team.

2.  Time to update your plan
If you have a development plan but it’s been a while since you looked at it, that’s a sign that you need to update it. A development plan should be a living, active document (printed or digital) that everyone on your fundraising team uses to know where you are going and how you are going to get there.

3.  Need CFRE points
Fundraising Success: The Complete Development Plan is applicable for 3.0 points in Category 1.B – Education of the CFRE International application for initial certification and/or recertification. Once you complete the online videos, we’ll send you the points tracker. If you are already certified (congrats!), use the points toward your next recertification. If you are pursuing it, use them toward your initial certification. Not sure what I’m talking about? Click her for CFRE info

But don’t take my word for it, take the class and let me know what you think. The Udemy platform allows for student/instructor interaction (that’s you and me). This is the first in a series that provides the tools you need to experience fundraising success in your nonprofit.

If you’re reading this blog, I’d like to offer you 10% off your registration of Fundraising Success: The Complete Development Plan. Register now and let’s get started.

You Are Here

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It happened again last week: I got turned around at the new outlet mall. My son and I were shopping for some new items at the Disney Store and we parked in our usual place near Starbucks. But I can never seem to remember which row of shops to head down. What did we do? Used the mall map and found the “YOU ARE HERE” indicator so we could map out the best route to the Disney Store. What does this have to do with a development plan? Everything!
Many nonprofits stay plenty busy with fundraising activities. Enough to do is never the problem. The problem is usually doing the right things. The place to start is by determining where you are currently. Here’s how to start: make a list of everything you are currently doing related to fundraising and development. It’s not complicated but it’s a step that many people skip.
3 Steps to Find “You Are Here”
  1. Make a list – begin with a brain dump. List everything you do related to fundraising and development…everything. If you are part of a team, ask the rest of your team to help you. Look back at your calendar from the past year. Think back to the items on your to-do list.
  2. Examine the results of those activities – now that you’ve made your list, write down the results. Look at the revenue and expenses for each activity. Now take that a step farther: were there other benefits? For instance, a stewardship event doesn’t show a positive net income but if it gave you an opportunity to engage your donors, be sure to list those benefits. Examine the results in terms of deeper engagement with your existing donors.
  3. Determine what you want to keep, delete, add – based on the results, what is worth keeping? Make notes on how it can be improved. Now look at the things that didn’t raise much money and didn’t provide other benefits. Make the (sometimes painful) decision to eliminate those activities. At this step, take time to note the things that are missing from your development program.

Once you determine where you are, you’ll be better ready to decide where you want to be and how you will get there. That’s what a development plan can do for you: identify where you want to be and map out how to get there.

I’ve created a new online course with Louanne Saraga Walters of The Philanthropy Show. The discussion-style course will walk you through creating a complete development plan. It includes video instructions and valuable tools to create a development plan that will increase your fundraising results.  I’m delighted to offer a discount to my blog readers.
Click here for more info and to get your discount.

What 3 Things?

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was meeting with an Executive Director and a newly hired Development Director to work on a development plan for their organization. The development director had extensive experience in the for-profit sector and had volunteered with the organization. However, this was his first adventure in professional fundraising. As we wrapped up our meeting, the ED turned to me and asked, “What three things would you tell him as he gets started?” What a great question! At first I was taken by surprise. After a quick minute of thought here’s what I shared:

1. Always have a story
We know our organizations so well but have to remember that the people we meet everyday won’t know it as well as we do. Telling an impactful story is the most effective way to demonstrate your mission in action. Forget the statistics about impact. Don’t bother saying that you are a 501(c)3. Tell me a good story to pique my curiosity. Invite me for a tour. That’s how you will begin to build relationships for your organization.

2. Listen more than you talk
Now that you’ve got a story to tell, tell it well then shut up and listen. Especially when we are new to an organization, we are compelled to demonstrate how much we have learned. Stop that. Tell your story, then stop and listen to the responses. When you are meeting donors who already support your organization, ask them questions and learn from them. (Not sure what questions to ask? My favorite resource for that is from fundraising expert Karen Osborne here

3. Write it all down
In the busy life of a professional fundraiser, we are tempted to move quickly from one task to the next without taking the time to record important information. I warned my new colleague not to skip that step. For instance, when we are meeting with a donor and practicing “listen more than you talk,” we will probably learn new information that we think we will always remember. Unfortunately, we won’t. Write it down so that it will be recorded and available for you (and the development staff that follows you – and the data shows that you won’t be with your organization forever).

Some months have passed since this interaction and I’ve had a chance to reflect on the three things that came to mind.

Would I change my answers?

I wouldn’t. I still think these are the three things a new development director should keep in mind as they get started.

This blog originally appeared on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay’s blog. 

How Late is Too Late for a Holiday Message? Part 2

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Is an e-mail holiday card the right way to go? My opinion on this is no and yes. Here’s what I mean:

NO – an e-card is not the right means of communication for your top donors and prospects. This group should be receiving a personal (hand-signed, hand-addressed) message from whoever in the organization has the closest relationship.

YES – an e-card is an excellent way to communicate with the larger audience of supporters (annual giving donors, alumni, volunteers). Use photos, artwork and whatever best demonstrates your mission. Use the holidays as a way to communicate with your social media audiences too – post, tweet, and all the other things you are doing.

Because development is about building relationships with individuals one at a time or large groups via mass communication – your message should focus on how the support of your donors changed the lives of your constituents and how much you appreciate them.

The challenge – and this is true with any development communications – is to make it meaningful to the donor and representative of your mission. As with many things, holiday e-cards have become pretty common. You have to make yours stand out. My favorite example of this is an e-card the College of William & Mary sent to donors and alumni a few years ago. They showcased students and used images that were meaningful to their audience. You can see the video portion of the message below.

Don’t let time be your excuse for not communicating with your donors and prospects. As I said in my last blog, it’s never too late. Send an e-card for the new year, Valentine’s Day, the start of a new semester or whatever fits with your organization’s culture and mission.

Why? Your organization’s supporters are like family: they want to see those pictures and hear those stories. Use the holidays to do that.

How Late is Too Late for a Holiday Message? Part 1

Holiday stamps
Image courtesy of nirots at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

It’s happened again at my house: the lovely photo cards have arrived in plenty of time to get them out but the busyness of school programs, shopping and family activities have distracted me. My friends and family will tell you that our family card is rarely (OK, maybe never) received before December 25. One year it was mailed around January 4 – ugh! But I always mail them anyway because I’m so proud of my adorable children and know that their aunts and uncles want to see their photos.

So how late is too late for a holiday message from your nonprofit to your donors? NEVER!

A Thanksgiving message would have been great but it’s too late for that in 2015. So instead try a New Year’s card to thank donors for the great 2015 they made possible in the lives of your constituents. If you think mailboxes are too crowded at the end of the year, send a “welcome to 2016” message that arrives around January 4, the first Monday of the new year. A few years ago, one dear friend was running so late with her family Christmas cards that she dressed her kids up in beads and made it a “Happy Gasparilla” card. It’s a Tampa thing and I loved it! It stayed on my refrigerator most of the year. What’s going on in your organization that you can celebrate?

Some of you may be asking, ‘should we even send one?’ I say YES and here’s why: development is about building relationships and sending cards on special occasions is a natural relationship action. What about the idea of offending some of your audience? Don’t! You know your audience; pick a theme and message that reflects your organization and it won’t be offensive. Faith-based organizations have the leg up on this issue. They can celebrate their sacred holidays, but what about the rest of us? Pictures are the best way to communicate what we do so pick one great “money” shot that illustrates what you do and use an online ordering site like Shutterfly or Vista Print. If the card focuses on the good work you are doing, it won’t be offensive.

If I’ve convinced you this is a good idea, your next questions should be ‘who should get them and who should sign them?’ Send them to your board members, top donors, volunteers, vendors who give you generous discounts, and your organization’s friends. They should be hand signed by whoever knows the person best. What do I mean by hand signed? Signed by a human hand with a real pen. If you are sending too many to hand sign, you are sending too many. While you’ve got your pen out, they should be hand addressed. If you are sending too many to hand address, you are sending too many.

Does all of this sound too complicated? Don’t have the time to create a custom card? Then run to a drug store at lunch today, buy a box thank you notes and send them to the 20 most important donors to your organization. Write a note that says something like, “when you made a gift to us earlier this year, you didn’t know who your gift would help. Today I was reminded that it helped someone like…”

Your organization’s supporters are like family: they want to see those pictures and hear those stories. Use the holidays to do that.

Inspiration from Under the French Fries

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Image courtesy of phasinphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Inspiration comes when you least expect it. While having dinner with my children at McDonalds, I was challenged by the verbiage on the tray liner. You know the tray liner – that piece of paper lining the tray that usually contains a special offer for an amusement park or a promotion of the latest McFood. But this time it was a statement about McDonalds’ corporate beliefs, starting with “We believe that when you say something people should be able to believe it.” They concluded with this statement: “To be the best company we can, we have to create the best opportunities. And we’d like to believe that some of the best ones around, are right here.

So here’s the challenge to us in the nonprofit community: do we offer our employees the best opportunities around? Do we invest in their training and development? Do we let them try new things? Do we listen to their ideas?

Many – maybe even most – of our employees took their current positions because they believe in the mission of our organizations. Sure, they need the paycheck but there are plenty of places to get those. Do we capitalize on their commitment to our organization?

Although we often blame ‘tight budgets’ for our lack of employee development, some opportunities are free. Even the opportunities that require some budget are worth it. By investing in an employee’s next step – through training and opportunities – we develop the next generation of nonprofit leaders.

Training and education
The nonprofit sector has a language all our own and some basic training will benefit employees at every level. Watch for web-based trainings, share interesting articles or invest in training from a professional association like AFP.

Opportunity
Find where their interests lie and let them work on a project, try out a skill or pitch in when things are exceptionally busy. Look for areas where your organization is lacking talent, social media for instance. Challenge an employee to become a specialist in that area by researching best practices in other organizations.

Feedback
One of the most valuable things you can provide aspiring leaders in your organization is honest feedback on their performance. Find places they can improve and be proactive in providing the opportunities needed to make those improvements. Don’t wait for annual reviews, provide ongoing feedback so your team can be constantly improving.

I have no idea what kind of workplace McDonalds truly is. But I’ve been in the nonprofit sector for over 25 years. Can the employees in the nonprofit sector agree with the statement on my McDonalds tray liner: “we have to create the best opportunities. And we’d like to believe that some of the best ones around, are right here“?

10 Free Giving Tuesday Resources

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Happy October! Now that we have entered the last quarter of 2015, you should be working on your year-end fundraising plan. I highly recommend integrating the celebration of Giving Tuesday into your plan.

What is #GivingTuesday? Here’s how their website explains it:
“We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

It’s a simple idea. Just find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to come together to give something more. Then tell everyone you can about how you are giving. Join us and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity.”

One great thing about this open source movement is the spirit of cooperation among the founders, corporations, nonprofits and donors. This has led to a valuable set of FREE online resources. If you work for a nonprofit organization and want to be a part of this, check out the resources below for lots of help.

Giving Tuesday Tools
From #GivingTuesday: toolkits, case studies, logos, and much more! And it’s all FREE.

Easy Communications Timeline: Planning Your #GivingTuesday and Year-End Campaigns
Timeline from Network for Good helps you organize all of your communications are very helpful to integrate your year-end giving plans with #GivingTuesday efforts.

#Giving Tuesday Trends Report
and many other resources from Blackbaud

Everything You Need to Know About #GivingTuesday
from Salsa Labs, includes a link to a campaign planner

Central Florida provides a great example of an entire region getting together to make a greater impact:
Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership at Rollins College
Giving Tuesday Central Florida Facebook page

Several innovative organizations from the Tallahassee area have teamed up to create
Big Bend Gives Back

HOW TO: Tap Into the Power of Cause Awareness Days
Heather Mansfield of Nonprofit Tech for Good

Give Local America Nonprofit Toolkit
I especially like the “Social Media Toolkit” and “Sample Messaging for Nonprofits.”

Giving Day Playbook 
The Knight Foundation

Do you know of other resources? Please share!

I’ll be watching (and giving and retweeting) on December 1st to see how creative you can get.

Comfortably Accountable

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I recently worked with Steve King, Executive Director, and Dennis Pitocco, Board Chair of Meals on Wheels of Tampa to present an educational session on increasing board members’ participation in their fundraising efforts. Like many boards, this board sees the opportunity for improvement in this area. One of the challenges expressed by many: how do we hold board members accountable when they are just volunteers, not staff members. The next question is often, who should hold them accountable?

In our preparation for the educational session, Dennis said that as board chair  his goal was to hold board members “comfortably accountable.” I love that phrase! We want to hold board members accountable but in a way that is comfortable for the board member, the board leadership and the staff.

Here is the goal: comfortably accountable. Here is the What, Who and How of “comfortably accountable.”

What?
Comfortably accountable is an approach that allows board members to hold each other accountable, not with an atmosphere of intimidation and guilt but with an atmosphere of encouragement and celebration.

Who?
The best person to hold a board member accountable is another board member. Board member to board member is a peer to peer relationship. Both are volunteers.

How?
How do we achieve comfortably accountable? I recommend these 5 things:

  1. Clear expectations – start with clear board expectations during recruitment and revisit them at least once a year.
  2. Focus on the mission – make sure each board member sees how their involvement and investment helps the nonprofit reach their mission.
  3. Thorough follow-up – insure that board members are communicating on their progress.
  4. Collegial atmosphere – find opportunities for your board to get to know each other and build trust as a group. Often a board retreat or social gathering is the way to encourage that collegial atmosphere.
  5. Celebration of successes – make sure that board members appreciate each other and celebrate the successes of the board and the entire organization.

No one wants to serve on a board that is ruled by guilt and fear. Conversely, no one wants to serve on a board that doesn’t really need them. The way to make sure you don’t face either of these extremes is to seek an atmosphere of “comfortably accountable.”

4 Things to Remember in Year-End Planning

Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of amenic181 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pumpkin flavored lattes have arrived. The Halloween costume shops have opened. Labor Day has come and gone. What does all of that mean for fundraising? Even though it’s still 90 degrees in Florida, this is the time to get your year-end fundraising plan together.  Make sure you think about more than how you are going to ask for money. Remember that the fundraising cycle includes these steps: identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. For year-end giving, we tend to focus on solicitation but you can make sure you touch every step. Here’s how:

1. Identification – look back over the first 9 months of 2015. Who has been newly introduced to your organization? Look for ways to reconnect with them. Ask board members to help make these connections.

2. Cultivation – The end of the year is fast approaching but you’ve got four months left to engage your prospects in your organization’s good work. What is coming up in your organization’s activities that could be cultivation opportunities? Are there any celebrations? Do you have holiday related activities? Make sure you are inviting your prospects to see your mission first hand.

3. Solicitation – More than half of all charitable giving takes place in the last quarter of the calendar year. Remember that is you aren’t asking your donors for a gift, many other organizations will be. Make a plan to ask your supporters for a gift in the last quarter of the year. Find a way to work Giving Tuesday, December 1, into your year-end solicitation strategy.

4. Stewardship – The last quarter of the year provides many natural opportunities for saying thank you to your donors. Thanksgiving is our national holiday for this purpose. Be sure your donors know that you are thankful for them. National Philanthropy Day is November 15. This is a national event with many local celebrations including these Tampa Bay area AFP Chapters: Suncoast, Nature Coast, Polk County and Southwest Florida. In December the media will be flooded with ‘best of’ lists. Use that idea to tell your donors that they accomplished great things through your organization. Be sure that your communications are more than just asking for year-end gifts.

With four months left, you have time to wrap up 2015 in grand style. Don’t forget that the end of the year is more than asking for one more gift. It’s a chance to engage your donors in your mission.