Stewardship of Social Enterprise Investors

Leonard blog TPF MMI
Fish Painting at The Folk School at Florida Maritime Museum

Successful social enterprise requires capital investment. I am honored to work with the organizations participating in The Patterson Foundation’s Margin Mission Ignitioninitiative. My role is to support their capital investment fundraising efforts. Social enterprise business planning is hard work and not coincidentally, raising the capital can be hard work, too. Once the business plan is complete, the hard work of implementation begins. At this critical moment organizations can be tempted to move on full speed ahead without thinking about their donor investors. Warning: this is a terrible idea. 

Just like other types of fundraising, capital investment fundraising requires careful stewardship of donors. How should you steward them? I’m glad you asked! There are 3 major steps: Appreciate, Engage, and Listen.

Appreciate
First, make sure they know they are appreciated. This starts with an accurate, well-crafted thank you letter. Be sure to spell the donor’s name right and use their preferred title. If it’s a business, ensure that the letter is addressed to the right person so it doesn’t get lost.

But don’t stop with the letter from the organization. Look for other ways to say thank you. For instance, if a board member helped secure the gift, ask that board member to write a personal note or send an e-mail directly to the donor. You can’t really thank someone too much.

Providing updates on your capital fundraising efforts is another way to appreciate donors. When you show progress toward your capital investment fundraising, you are reassuring the donor that their investment is being joined by others. For instance, the Margin Mission Ignitionorganizations had a stated goal and were fundraising to secure matching funds by a deadline. By providing timely updates, early investors got to share in the celebration.

Engage
Second, keep them engaged. By the time you raise the gift, you’ve probably had multiple conversations with the donor about your earned income venture. Don’t go silent at that point. Update them on your business planning and implementation. They want to know that you are still making progress and likely can help in one way or another.

You can also engage donors by asking them to share their expertise. For instance, if they have a marketing background ask them to review the drafts of your new website. If they are an accountant ask for their help in creating your new accounting system. Donors like to be valued for more than just the checks they write us. Keep in mind though, only ask for their expertise if you’re willing to listen to their ideas.

When appropriate, invite donors to participate as customers. You could offer a coupon and make it comfortable for them to invite family and friends to join them. If your new enterprise includes a “soft opening,” invite donors to be a part of that. Ask for their honest critique of their experience.

Listen
Third, listen. With each of these interactions suggested above, listen to how your investors respond and act accordingly. Some questions to consider:

  • Are they investment donors and might want to do that again?  Then keep them in mind if you need additional capital investment or if you embark on another business plan.
  • Are they committed to your mission and would be likely to support other parts of your organization? Look for the next big thing that will intrigue them.
  • Do they like numbers? Keep them updated on the business plan and the adjustments you are making throughout implementation. 
  • Are they more interested in the impact on your mission? Send them stories about how the proceeds change and save lives at your organization. 

Here’s a bonus tip: as you appreciate, engage and listen – a picture is worth a thousand words. Keep the photos coming. Every communication doesn’t have to be a major design work of art. Spontaneous e-mails with photos attached can be very meaningful. When your donor investors visit you, be sure to snap and share photos. When the proceeds of your enterprise impact your mission, share photos. As an example, the photo above is from Margin Mission Ignition 2016 organization Florida Maritime Museum’s Folk School.

According to research by fundraising expert Penelope Burk, donors (and investors) are most interested in knowing that you put their money to work as they intended and don’t mind if you made some mistakes along the way as long as you can show that used those mistakes as learning opportunities. That is reassurance that their money is well spent. Taking the time to steward your social enterprise investors will be time well spent.

A quick note: this blog was written for The Patterson Foundation’s blog. If you’ve never read it, you should. It’s loaded with great information.

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?

4 Steps to Keeping Your Give Day Tampa Bay Donors

Give Day Tampa Bay logo

Give Day Tampa Bay is May 5, 2015 – just one week away. Are you ready? Are you ready for what comes next? Give Day Tampa Bay is a 24-hours online giving challenge led by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the Florida Next Foundation. The midnight-to-midnight went showcases our local nonprofits and makes giving easy for first-time donors or long-time supporters.

To get the most benefit from your efforts, make sure you are thinking about how to retain donors after May 5. Across the nonprofit sector, donor retention is very low. Don’t believe me? You can see for yourself at the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. How do you beat those statistics? Donor engagement!

Just like with any fundraising program, you have to plan for the follow-up with your donors on Give Day Tampa Bay. Make sure your plan covers these 4 things:

  1. Say thank you – start with a timely, accurate thank you. Should it be electronic or written? Yes or what about both? However you do it, make sure you convey that you are happy to receive the gift and you will put it to good use accomplishing your mission. Be sure to find everyday language to describe how your mission will change a life and make the world better. For Give Day Tampa Bay, the donor makes the gift to the Community Foundation but that should not change the sincerity and timeliness of your acknowledgement. Make sure the donor knows that your organization is grateful for their gift.
  2. Engage – engage them in what you are doing. Invite them for a tour, tell them good stories about the beneficiaries of your work. Ask them to join you as a volunteer. Make them the superhero. Meet them whenever possible and listen to them. Ask questions like: How did you come to support us? What is special to you about the work we are doing? What other information would you like to receive and how would you like to receive it?
  3. Drip feed your mission – don’t pour it out fast like a fire hose. Organizations do many things and we are compelled to tell the donor everything we do in every correspondence. Stop that! Remember when you first starting learning about your organization? You didn’t understand it all at once so don’t expect your donor to do that. Tell them one story at a time that demonstrates your work.
  4. Tell a story – Stories are the best way to convey information. I had a professor in graduate school who told lots of stories and guaranteed his students we would remember the stories but not the theories in the textbooks. Now it’s 20 years later and I can tell you he was right. That’s what I remember. Your donors will remember the stories and that’s what will move them to make another gift.

I’m often asked, “How soon can we ask for the next gift?” There is no magic timeframe. More important than the number of days, weeks or months, answer this question: how have you thanked and engaged the donor? Once you have done that well, you’ll be ready to ask for the next gift.

4 Steps to Repair a Donor Relationship

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not every repaired donor relationship leads to a 5-figure gift but I know of at least one that did. A colleague listened to the concerns of the donor and worked within the organization to correct the problem. In an effort to reengage this donor, the fundraiser took her to lunch and was presented with a 5-figure gift. How did that happen?

Let’s look at the steps involved in repairing this relationship:

  1. Keeping communication lines open: this can be as simple as continuing to send them stewardship reports, newsletters and other communications. Make sure that you mail often enough to keep their address current. Also, check with people throughout your organization to see who knows an unhappy donor and might be able to help you figure out why.
  2. Listening to their concerns: many times an unhappy donor needs an opportunity to express their feelings to the organization. Listening without becoming defensive is challenging but worth the restraint. Something obviously has gone wrong. Listen with an open mind and find out where the breakdown has happened.
  3. Admitting to mistakes and apologizing: we are not perfect nor are our organizations. Admit the mistake without throwing anyone under the proverbial bus and apologize. Determine if an apology needs to come from someone else in your organization and facilitate that if necessary.
  4. Correcting the mistakes: this can take some time and may seem like a waste of time when there are goals to meet but don’t skip this step. In the case I heard about recently, the correction took months of coordination because it involved several parts of the organization. The development officer forged ahead – never knowing it would result in a gift – because it was the right thing to do. He knew that it was important to the donor.

The final step – and it’s really more of an ongoing process than a step – is to continue to communicate with the donor. There may never be an opportunity to ask for a gift again but you never know…for my friend, he didn’t have to ask. The donor was so pleased that the situation had been corrected that she made an additional gift without being asked.

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

What the Primates* Taught Me

Image: Center for Great Apes
Image: Center for Great Apes

*Really it was the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance’s dedicated members

I was there to teach but as is always the case, I learned, too. It was my privilege to provide a custom training program to those attending the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance (NAPSA) meeting in Tampa. They are a dedicated group of staff and volunteers from primate sanctuaries throughout the US and Canada. Their mission is “to advance the welfare of captive primates through exceptional sanctuary care, collaboration and outreach.” The organization is only 2 years old but active and growing. They met in Tampa for two days and discussed a variety of issues related to the care of their residents – chimpanzees, monkeys, apes – and the running of their nonprofit organizations.

As different as every organization may seem, we all face the same challenges and rewards. One of those in the group was quick to point out to me that raising money for their cause is harder than most other nonprofits. I can’t confirm or contradict that assertion. We all have challenges. Who am I to say if theirs is greater? What I can say with confidence: while it’s tough for all of us to raise money, the most critical ingredient for success is a passionate belief in the mission of the organization. What I learned from this group: they have that most critical ingredient.

According to Giving USA, animal nonprofits raise the smallest portion of funds in the US each year. Based on that data, the members of NAPSA do have unique challenges. But all donors have similar needs. By engaging qualified prospects, they will be able to raise funds and meet the needs of their residents. Each prospective donor seeks to be engaged in our missions.

Here are three keys to donor engagement:

  1. Show me – the work of these groups is very visual and provides opportunities for photos, blog posts, and social media interactions with prospects far and near.
  2. Tell me – we should examine our communications to make sure we are telling a compelling story about making the world a better place. Are we sharing our successes with donors, prospects and the world at large? Sometimes we are so close to the good work we are doing, we forget that those outside our organizations don’t get to see the progress being made.
  3. Let me – volunteer opportunities abound in our nonprofit organizations. When a person has a chance to participate in our work of changing the world, they experience the great feelings. This may be the most powerful way to convert a prospect into a donor: let them have a close-up, hands-on encounter.

At the end of our session, I was convinced that the committed and passionate people from the primate sanctuaries have great fundraising success ahead – and I’m pretty sure they believed it, too.

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