The Secret Life of Board Gifts

birthday bow box card
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Many times in my career I resented the money we were spending on board gifts. Looking back, that was short sighted of me. Board gifts – those little things with your organization’s logo that you can use to express gratitude for their service – actually pay a dividend to your organization.

I’ll use my favorite Yeti knockoff as an example: it was a thank you gift for my service on a board (it was actually leftover participant gifts from a golf tournament – so check the supply closet). At the time I opened the gift, I thought “oh this is nice.” But now 5 years later, it is a powerful tool that opens many conversations about the organization.

Yesterday I took it to my daughter’s high school softball game. Lest I sound like a complete nonprofit nerd, let me assure you I selected that tumbler because I can sit in the hot Florida sun and the ice won’t melt in my Diet Dr. Pepper. But, because the Young Life logo was on the tumbler, one of the other parents asked me about it (the organization, not my cold beverage). I had the chance to talk about the mission of the organization and why we support the organization. I didn’t have to bring it up – they asked me. In any fundraising book, that’s a win-win.

Here are some ideas on how your next board gift can be a win-win for your organization:

  • Do they write with your organization’s pen? Do they keep an extra on hand so when someone needs a pen they can share it?
  • Do your board members have name tags they can wear at your events? These are cheap and easy to order, so make sure it looks nice.
  • Do your board members have shirts (a collared shirt for casual Friday or golf)? Hats? Some kind of apparel that makes it apparent they are on your team?
  • Do they drink from a coffee mug or insulated cup with your logo on it? It could also be used on their desk to hold pens.

Board gifts are a valuable tool in helping board members share the mission of your organization and allows a soft introduction to the people they see when out and about.

We’d love to hear about the best board gift you have given or received – please share in the comments below or Tweet us @SaraTampa.

Hand Written Notes: Who to Write

Blank notecards
Image courtesy of phasinphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Here you sit, pen in hand with a blank note card – now what? In my last 2 blog posts I’ve extolled the virtues of writing hand written notes and talked about some of the occasions that would warrant a hand written note. This time I’m shifting my focus to who should receive those handwritten notes.

I believe that hand written notes should go to more than just donors. Consider these suggestions:

Donors

  • write to a donor who makes a significant gift, remember not just significant to your organization but significant to the donor. Even if the official thank you letter comes from someone else in your organization, send your appreciation for their generosity.
  • send a note to a donor who made a program accomplishment possible bonus: send a photo with the note for extra impact.
  • create a list of donors who have given for a significant number of years and send them occasion notes throughout the year.

Prospects

  • send a note to someone you’ve identified as a prospective donor but haven’t been able to meet in person. Send a photo of something meaningful that demonstrates your mission in action.
  • write a note to a prospect who has indicated interest but you’ve had trouble getting a face to face meeting to follow up. Invite them again for a tour or a visit to your program.

Volunteers 

  • send a note to every volunteer, eventually. Depending on the size of your volunteer workforce, this could be a monumental task. But make a list and get started with a few notes a week. You’ll get to everyone, eventually.
  • look for people who are helping you but you might not have classified them as an official volunteer. For instance, someone who provides valuable advice when you are planning a special event.

Colleagues

  • write a note to the people who report to you thanking them for a job well done. Appreciation should be expressed throughout the year, not just at annual review time, and a personal note is a gracious way to deliver it.
  • send a note to the staff in other departments who make your work possible. None of us could do what we do without the people in surrounding departments. Even if it’s part of their job descriptions, your colleagues will appreciate your appreciation.
  • write a note to your bosses recognizing their dedication. Don’t forget to thank up the chain of command, too.

This list is by no means comprehensive. Look around to discover who else will benefit from a sincere expression of your gratitude for their part in your success.

Happy writing!

Hand Written Notes: What to Write

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Image courtesy of Simon Howden at freedigitalphotos.net
In my last blog post, I extolled the virtues of handwriting notes. (Click here to read that one) If I convinced you that writing notes is a good idea, you might be wondering “what should I write about?” I’ve got some ideas for you.
Appreciation for volunteering – many of your donors also volunteer for our organizations. Think about board members, event volunteers, program volunteers and all of the other unpaid labor that keep your nonprofit functioning.
Impact of a program a donor supported – because we are there everyday, we sometimes forget about the impact of our organizations, the magic that happens. The next time you see some of that magic, think of the donors whose gifts enabled that to happen. Write them a quick note to tell them about it. Bonus: enclose a picture with the note.
Celebrations – send a note for a donor’s birthday or anniversary. If you know they’ve accomplished something, send them a note of congratulations.
Condolences – if a donor has experienced a loss, send them a card expressing your concern.
Newsletter with a note – the next time your organization is sending a mass mailing newsletter, pull a few key donors off of the list and send theirs first class, in an envelope, with a personal note.
When you haven’t had personal contact in a while – if a donor has been out of touch or hard to reach, send them a quick note and tell them they are appreciated.
Writing notes is habit-forming. Once you get started, it will become more natural. Let me know if I missed any good reasons for a hand written note and I’ll add it to my list.
Happy writing!

If You Can Read This . . . You Aren’t Out Meeting With Donors

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Image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many years ago at a conference I picked up a give away from Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners, a large fundraising consulting firm. It was a table tent – a piece made of card stock that folds in order to stand up. It had a simple saying: If you can read this…you aren’t out meeting with donors.

I think this should be the mantra of every fundraiser, especially those who are responsible for raising major gifts for their organizations. But it is easier said than done. There are many things in the jobs of fundraisers that keep them from the most important tasks.

Here are some things you can do to make sure you are focusing on the most important work.

1. Take a hard look at your calendar – I’m not one for dwelling in the past but look at your calendar over the past 6 months and evaluate where you’ve spent most of your time. Was it out meeting with donors? For the times you were in the office, did you spend quality blocks of time reaching out to donors for in person meetings? Once you have reviewed your calendar, commit to making changes for the next 6 months.

2. Make calling on donors your top priority – create a list of your top prospects and commit to contacting them on a regular basis. Contact should include writing to them, meeting with them, and bringing them to your organization for tours. It takes time to plan and execute donor cultivation. It will include many phone calls and correspondence.

3. Be relentless in protecting your priorities – after you commit to making calling on donors and prospects your priority, there is a danger that other things will creep back onto your calendar. Things like internal meetings, special events, and temporary assignments. Don’t let that happen. Always give donor interactions the highest priority.

4. Be open with those you work for and with – sometimes fundraisers are tethered to their offices by the expectations of those around them. Talk openly with your supervisor and explain why you aren’t always at your desk. Be sure they are clear that this will lead to increased results for your major gifts efforts. Same goes for those who report to you or are on your team. Help them to understand why you are often out. If those people are also fundraisers, work as a team to encourage each other in being out more.

5. Don’t judge your productivity by how much time you spend in the office – when you create a ‘to do’ list (and I LOVE lists) make sure that your meetings with donors are at the top. Don’t fall into a trap where your productivity is judged by things that are accomplished inside the walls of your office. In major gift fundraising the most effective thing you can do is get out and meet with people.

So let’s get started now. Who should you call first and ask for a meeting? What are you waiting for?

Crash In Turn One of a Major Gift Cultivation

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“Crash in turn one” – that’s one of those phrases that no race fan wants to hear. At this year’s 99th running of the Indianapolis 500, it was a crash in turn one of lap one. That means that after spending the month of May getting ready, the 500 mile race was over for one team after less than one mile of driving. This brings to mind a famous quote, “You can’t win the Indianapolis 500 on the first lap but you can lose it.” The whole race is about patience. That has to be hard for drivers who are going 200+ miles an hour. But it’s a long race and in order to lead the last lap you have to get through the first lap.

This philosophy also applies to major gift fundraising. Major gifts can’t be raised the first time you meet a prospect but they can certainly be lost. If you make a misstep on that first meeting, you will never gain the trust of your prospect and never find yourself at the finish line: a major gift. Here’s what a major gift cultivation “crash” looks like:

  • too much talking about yourself or your organization and not enough listening to your prospect,
  • making it all about raising money and not looking for ways to engage the prospect in your organization’s mission,
  • asking too soon.

If there were an announcer in my career, I think that I would have heard those disappointing words a time or two: “Sara Leonard has worked hard to get this meeting and engage this prospect but she has crashed in turn one.” Fortunately I learned from those mistakes. Has this happened to you?

A Lesson About The Ask

Image: BN.com
Image: BN.com

My then ten year-old daughter asked to go to Barnes and Noble on a school night after we had gone out to eat. Her younger brother’s baseball game was the impetus for the dinner out so we were already behind schedule for homework, baths and bedtime. My answer was “no.” When I asked if she thought I’d say yes, she admitted she knew the answer would be “no” but asked anyway just to be sure.

Does that sound like something we may do with our donors sometimes? We are pretty sure it’s the wrong ask but we do it anyway. What makes it the wrong ask? It could be the wrong project, the wrong amount, the wrong time for the donor.

So why do we go ahead with the wrong ask? Often it is the pressing needs of our organizations. We are doing good work. There are people to help, animals to save, diseases to fight. While all of this is very important, we can’t put it ahead of the donor.

By spending time on cultivation and creating the right proposal – we move closer to a yes. When we go ahead with the wrong ask, it will be a bad experience for the donor, for us and ultimately for our nonprofit’s mission.

Cultivation – by getting to know the prospective donor, we learn more about when the time will be right for them to make a gift. We learn where their passions lie and can work together to find the best fit for them in our organizations.

Creating the proposal – by carefully crafting a proposal, whether it’s formal or informal, we paint a picture of how this prospect can join us in making the world a better place.

My daughter knows that some nights I will happily go to Barnes & Noble. It has coffee, books, we see friends. What’s not to love? That was the proposal and she knew it had a shot with me. But she also knows that on a school night, we have to get home and don’t have spare time for browsing through a bookstore sipping lattes. But she chose to ask when she knew the answer would be no because she put her needs as the top priority. Since she was only ten, we can’t fully blame her. As development professionals we know better.

Search for the place where the prospect’s values and passion intersect with the mission of the organization. When you find that intersection, ask. You will get the answer you want – YES!

Originally posted on the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay blog.