Withisms from Lori

Boldness, clarity and wisdom for fundraising professionals making a difference.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

5 Tips Fundraisers Can Use to Cultivate Positive Energy

Jerold Panas is THE fundraising guru in the US, possibly the world. He was recently honored by the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) for Outstanding Service. Jerry's many, many years of service and fundraising experience make him one of my "go to people" for insightful and useful fundraising inspiration. 

When I read Jerry's Energy is Contagious post, I had to smile. I, too, am a huge fan of the idea that we create the energy that is around us.

I find that the more positive and enthusiastic we are, the more likely our volunteer leadership and other staff will follow with similar energy.

The Energy is Contagious post has a long list of tips for shifting your energy. Here are five of my favorites:

  • Smile. It’s contagious. It affects everyone around you and makes a difference in your own attitude.
  • Surround yourself with positive thinkers. You want to be around people who share your passion and commitment.
  • Take your job seriously, but not yourself.
  • Set objectives for yourself. Keep raising the bar. Meet your objectives.
  • Make certain you’re having fun with your work.

I'd love to hear how YOU stay energetic? What tips do you have for generating positive energy when you need it? 

Here's mine: start the day with exercise – not email! :-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mission Possible: Engaging Your Board in Fundraising

I’m often asked, “How do we get our board to help us with fundraising?”

And my answer is: Not all of your board members should or are able to help you ask for financial gifts. If you want them to speak about your organization with passion, sharing stories about those you serve, invite others to do specific things AND feel great about their board experience, then YOU have to make sure to support them and communicate clearly how they can best serve.

“The total process by which an organization increases public understanding of its mission and acquires financial support for its programs.”
~ Source: AFP Fundraising Dictionary, (Association of Fundraising Professionals)

I believe development is everyone’s job: Staff, board, volunteers, clients, neighbors, vendors, donors.

Rather than finger pointing about what’s NOT getting done, my coaching is to notice and give a shout out to what IS working. Find time to thank, acknowledge, fist-bump, or high-five those people on the board who ARE doing exactly what was outlined in their orientation.

Communication is key to creating a board experience that’s interesting, exciting, and enjoyable.

My motto: “It is 100% staff responsibility for board members to be great. AND 100% board responsibility to do what we said we’d do.”

There are many, many good resources to help you train, excite, and engage your board. Taking time to add in some professional development training for THEM is as important as it is to add in time to train your staff.

Join me August 7 at 2 p.m. EDT when I take a deeper dive into this topic over at Asking Matters.

And here are some of my picks for good reads with some terrific resources:
8 Characteristics of An Outstanding Board Member - Bloomerang
Terrible Board Members are Created, Not Born – GuideStar
An Open Letter to Nonprofit Boards from Your Staff Leadership
10 Tips for Engaging Your Board
Board Members’ #1 Job: How to Be A Personal Advocate for Your Cause – Gail Perry

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Giving USA Report Reinforces Importance of Individual Donors

Just last week the annual Giving USA report was released with data on philanthropic giving stats for 2013 in the U.S.

The single largest source of charitable contributions continues to be individual donors:  Here's the overview: 

The exciting and interesting news: four areas where giving significantly increased over the past year:

  • 8.9% to education causes
  • 7% to public-society benefit causes
  • 6.3% to arts and culture causes
  • 6% to animals and environmental causes

If you are not focusing a large percentage of your fundraising effort on individual donors you can't ignore this large source of funding for your organization any longer. Focusing on individual donors is key to growing your annual fundraising, this year and ANY year. 

It is true: Individual donor fundraising takes focus and at least one staff person designated to building relationships with people, real people who are making the giving decisions. Giving USA has compiled a short three-page Free Report Highlights (download it here). Take the time to read and discuss the findings with your fund development team, other key staff & your board leadership.

I have collected a few posts that do a great job of recapping the numbers and providing context for fundraisers.

  • "The single largest contributor to the increase in total charitable giving in 2013, over 2012, was an increase of $9.69 billion in giving by individuals (in current dollars)," from Forbes.
  • "Giving by individuals rose to $228.93 billion in 2012, an estimated 3.9 percent increase (1.9 percent adjusted for inflation)," from Michael Rosen Says.
  • "This also means, with the economy brightening and donors more comfortable giving again, there is tremendous opportunities for fundraisers to connect and engage with individual donors, foundations and corporations alike," from Fundraising Success

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Keep Your Donors Engaged & Informed Over the Summer

As the days grow longer, the weather gets nicer, and the school year comes to an end, many of us start to yearn for the lazy days of summer. I know I do! Even though summer usually means long weekends and vacations, it doesn't mean you should take a vacation from your nonprofit's donors.

Donors might not be as accessible from June through September, but you can still make an effort to stay in touch with over the summer. As we know donor retention is down to 39%, and 46% of donors stop giving for reasons connected to a “failure to communicate” according to Penelope Burk's book, Donor Centered Fundraising.

What does that mean for you? 

I suggest a year-round communication plan that ensures supporters know you are thinking about them and that their gifts are helpful and appreciated any time of year. Make a plan for keeping people informed and stick to it, even this summer. 

Here are my summer suggestions:

  • Stay in touch via a monthly eNewsletter with updates that are 250 words or less. These short, compelling messages should cause the readers to feel something about your work while also providing factual information. Less is more in length. Format to use:  Share a short story or quote from a client. Tell what's working, briefly. Give an example of what's missing (i.e what you need more of to serve more people).
  • Maintain your schedule of donor thank you calls as financial and in-kind contributions arrive. Ideally these are made by a volunteer within 48 hours of receiving the gift. Leaving a voice mail message can have as much impact as speaking directly with the person. And now they know for sure you noticed their gift and it matters to you that they made a contribution.
  • Invite a selected group of supporters to participate in a summer event. Invite them to your client picnic, a special day at camp, or to stop by for a short visit in the morning when people are lined up to be served by your food bank. It's the personal invitation that counts. Keep the amount of participation time short and allow the donor to bring their family or a colleague. Most importantly make sure the time spent is meaningful. Have a client shake their hand and thank them for their support or have them arrive just in time to see the kids get their end of camp awards. Remember: The donor doesn't have to attend the event to have the invitation be of value. The phone call inviting them keeps you on their radar and reminds them of how important they are to your organization.
  • Have some of your clients create handwritten thank you notes to send to selected supporters.This is a great exercise in teaching youth about the value of thanking others or giving elderly clients a feeling of helping out. The note reminds your supporters that there are real people being touched by their contributions.
Best of all, by creating connections that keep your work on your supporters minds all year wrong will increase the impact of your all-important year-end appeal.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Increase Board Engagement with a Fun 4-Step Scavenger Hunt

Often, I encounter staff of nonprofit organizations saying, “our board isn’t very engaged.”

Here’s a quick, easy, and fun way to create an atmosphere of engagement at your fundraising events, performances, and any gathering where board members and supporters of your organization are present.

Prior to the event, performance or meeting:

  1. Provide each board member with the names of up to three supporters: donors, volunteers, anyone who has done something in support of your work.
  2. Let them know what that person has done to support your work and invite them to “find” that person at some point during the event.
  3. Once they find their designated supporter, this is the time your board members can give a personal thank you to the person.
  4. Invite your board members to learn something new about each person they “find” during their scavenger hunt AND relay some of what they learned back to you to enter into your database for future reference.

The impact is two-fold:

  • Board members feel useful, with a true purpose at your events.
  • Supporters feel “seen” and acknowledged…something you can never do enough of.

My suggestion is to make this powerful, fun exercise standard operating procedure for ALL events to create a more engaged community.

I’ve heard some amazing stories about how well this works. Let me know how it goes for you!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Introducing the 2014 Fundraising Technology Trends Survey

Guest Post by Adam Bluemner, Managing Editor, Find Accounting Software

Recently I was asked to contribute to 13 Expert Ideas on Using Technology to Improve Fundraising. The post is filled with solid, practical tips you can put to use right away. So when Adam Bluemner told me about a new survey for fundraising professionals asking about what technology has worked for them and what hasn't, I was excited to share! Check out Adam's post about this exciting new survey.

"What works and what doesn't?" Whatever you're looking to improve, isn't that the fundamental question?

Well, that question is finally being asked specifically about fundraising technology. The "2014 Fundraising Technology Trends Survey" has just launched!

We want to hear which technologies you've adopted and how they're affecting your ability to successfully connect with donors and secure contributions.

The study collects critical data for fundraisers on the adoption rates and effectiveness of traditional tools like donor management systems and CRM software, as well as emerging tech like Bitcoin adoption and web chat integration. By collecting benchmark numbers on which web communication channels are most effective, we're looking to help fundraisers make data-driven decisions on where they should spend time and energy to inspire the most contributions.

Also, in order to encourage as many survey takers as possible to share their insights, we're pledging $1 per survey response to a charity you'll be able to select after taking the survey.

To take the survey today and pre-register to be alerted when the study is published, click here. If you have any questions, email me at adamb@findaccountingsoftware.com.

Author Bio: Adam Bluemner is the Managing Editor for Find Accounting Software, a service providing free software selection assistance. Over the last decade Adam has spoken with thousands of companies and non-profit organizations, helping them invest wisely in software.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Three Tips for Happy & Productive Meetings

Meetings. They're a fact of working life. Something we all have to participate in, whether we want to or not. 

Creating engaging, stimulating meetings can be challenging or something we give little thought to. I like to look at meetings as an opportunity to create an interaction that leaves all attendees feeling motivated, informed, and eager to tackle everything we discussed.

Recently, a Facebook group I'm a member of comprised of hundreds of national and international fundraising consultants tackled the topic of how to effectively start a meeting. That engaging online discussion resulted in this terrific post by Dennis Fischman about three questions to ask to make your meetings run better.

Here's a little spoiler on what the three questions are, but you'll have to read the full post to get the story behind each question.

  1. How did you get here?
  2. What is an awesome thing that happened this week?
  3. What will you remember about our work here today?

What sorts of strategies and techniques do you use to ensure productive and engaging meetings? I'd love to hear your tips!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

3 Top Tips for Identifying Potential Major Donors

Guest Post by Amy Eisenstein

This week I'm honored to share this guest post by my friend and colleague Amy Eisenstein, a fabulous fundraising consultant and author.

One of the major quandaries my small-shop clients bring to me is that they don't know how to identify whom they should be asking for major gifts. Generally (though not always!) these shops have minimal staff, and both the executive director and the person in charge of fundraising (if they have one!) already feel overwhelmed between mailings, grant writing, and fundraising events.

When it comes to determining major gift prospects, they feel lost. “What if we don't have any connections with the wealthier people in our community?,” they ask me.

The question of how to identify potential major donors quickly and efficiently is one of the topics I cover in my new book, Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops: How to Leverage Your Annual Fund in Only Five Hours per Week. If you're working on this issue right now, though, and need some quick advice, here are my three top tips for identifying people who are the most likely to be both willing and able to make major gifts to your organization.

1. Look in Your Database
First, run a report to find your largest donors. That’s the obvious part. Be sure to query cumulative giving. In other words, do not simply pull records by individual gifts, because if you’re only looking for one time gifts of $1,000 or more, you might miss a donor who gives well over $1,000 each year, but in smaller increments throughout the year. Second, run a list of your most loyal donors – measured in frequency of giving. This means donors who have given repeatedly over many years. The big difference between these two lists is that it doesn’t matter how much loyal donors are give – it could be as little as $10 per year. Review these lists with your board and staff member and pull out your top twenty prospective donors, based on what you know about them in terms of their capacity to give in the future and their interest in your organization.

2. Use Existing Networks
If your organization does have any donor history to draw from, it's time to bring your board and staff together for a brainstorming meeting. You are probably not ready for major gifts quite yet, but it’s time to friend-raise for the organization, which is a precursor to major gifts fundraising. Ask board and staff members to identify approximately five people from their current networks who have some capacity to give (don’t think major gifts at this point) and the potential to be interested in your organization. Start out by inviting them on a tour, to an event, or to volunteer.

3. Use the Internet
Once you've identified your top twenty prospects (through steps 1 and 2), turn to the Internet to learn a bit more about them. Between Google, LinkedIn and sites like Zillow and Salary.com, you'll be able to get a solid idea of your prospects' net worth and personal and professional interests – all from public information, much of which they themselves have provided. Having this information on hand ahead of time will prevent you from asking at the wrong time, or for asking for either too much or too little. This research will also help you refine your list of top contacts and allow you to use your limited time where it has the most chance of paying off for your organization.

Major gift fundraising is not easy – but it is simple, and not just when it comes time to identify your major gift prospects. If your organization hasn't started a major gift program yet you're leaving money on the table. I urge you to get started soon!

Let me know how you identify major gifts prospects at your organization. I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Amy Eisenstein, ACFRE, is an author, speaker, coach and fundraising consultant who’s dedicated to making nonprofit development simple for you and your board. Her books include 50 A$ks in 50 Weeks, Raising More with Less, and her latest book, Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops.

Get copies of Amy's free eBooks here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What If Leadership Doesn’t WANT to Talk About Our Money Story?

Part II of Answering Your Money Story Questions

Last week I answered some terrific questions about sharing your money story or as I like to refer to it: Your Funding Gap.

There were so many thought-provoking questions I’ll answer a few more this week:
Q1. If leadership is not ok with sharing funding gap, do you have any tips for getting them excited about the idea?
Q2. Would telling the funding gap potentially limit the 'give' from your donors?

A1&2. I find it is a common occurrence that new concepts are met with fear, uncertainty and push-back. Talking about money in a way that is much more transparent than you’ve ever done before, well, that’s one of the more challenging things for an organization to take on.

Here’s a list of my 5 tips for how to start sharing your “Money Story” regularly:

  1. Tell the truth. You have an amount of funding you seek from contributions every year. Talk about. it Invite supporters to ask you about it. All year long.
  2. Break your funding gap or fundraising goals into “mini-campaigns” throughout the year. Get your leadership and your donors excited to help you reach smaller goals much earlier in the year.
  3. If there has been a change in your funding streams, e.g. you lost a large contract or grant, you have even more reason to share your “funding gap” update regularly.

    How will your community KNOW to give more or regularly if they are not “in the know” about your funding situation.
  4. The WAY you share this message with your leadership and your supporters makes a difference. It’s a positive message about how much you’ve raised so far. It is not a message about how “badly” you are doing.
  5. You are simply sharing “what is missing” so that others can see how to support you. Your donors are giving to other organizations throughout the year.

    Why wouldn’t you want to invite & inspire supporters to give to you on a monthly or multi-year basis by showing them how to increase their own impact with a larger gift?

Watching CEOs, board presidents, finance committee, and fund development staff embrace sharing their money story is one of the most rewarding parts of my work.

When it’s done thoughtfully and well I’ve seen $100 dollar contributions turn into $1000 dollar contributions. I’ve watched occasional donors turn into monthly or multi-year donors, pledging many more thousands then they ever imagined.

The results I’ve observed in hundreds of organizations: The more you talk about your impact (people stories) combined with your money story (funding gap) the MORE money your organization will actually raise.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Answering Your “Money Story” Questions

During my first Live Stream workshop on Advanced Storytelling we had hundreds attend from around the world…thank you! And a special thank you for dealing with the technical difficulties. We learned a LOT about how to make this a smooth experience for you next time.

There were many great questions asked during the live stream. I'm inspired by your passion to be the best fundraisers you can be. Since you asked such great questions, I'll be answering them today and through the coming weeks. Today I'll start with defining and sharing your “money story.”

Your money story or your “funding gap” is: What you project in expenses for the year, minus what you have received to date from individual contributions, corporations, foundations, United Way, ticket sales, fees, government, and other known sources.

Q1. Does "funding gap" sound like jargon to the average listener or reader?
A1. Yes! Great that you are asking this. You want to define this term for people when you use the words 'funding gap.' Let them know you will now be sharing your “money story” more regularly. And then take just a moment to define it in your own words. One example: It’s the difference in funding from where we are now to where we must end the year.

Q2. Does the funding gap translate to an "aspirational" budget: meaning that the year is planned around money we hope to earn, rather than money we already have?
A2. Your gap is what you must raise to meet all of your expenses AND any other plans for the year. What it takes to get from where you are TODAY in your outside funding support, to where you MUST BE to end the year in the black. So, in some organizations this might feel like an aspirational goal if you’ve added some new programming or a new position into the mix.

Many organizations make changes to the budget throughout the year to balance their budget so they feel like they DON’T have a funding gap to talk about. The reality is you always have a gap in what you must raise until you have reached all your fundraising goals for the year; which for many organizations is in the final weeks of the calendar or fiscal year. 

So, if you have an appeal that has not been mailed yet, a fundraising event not yet held...while you may have budgeted for those to raise something...the amount you expect to raise is a part of your "funding gap" or money story. The more you can show the community that there is more to do WHILE you keep them emotionally connected to your people stories...the faster you can raise the dollars required to close your "gap."

Q3. If I'm raising money for scholarships, we would give out as much as is raised. . . how do you know the funding gap then?
A3. Ah yes. This is where the sense of urgency tends to drop off the radar. I believe and coach organizations to always set an annual goal for funds to be raised, even if you are in an education foundation setting where you give away what you raise.

The questions I would ask you:
How many scholarship applications do you receive each year?
What percentage are you able to fund?
What % of scholarships is your board, staff and foundation leadership willing to commit to funding?

Once you have the answers to those questions you can now figure out your “funding gap” or money story. It will now be a story that has urgency and specific impact. To be most effective, combine your money story with a story of a real person who will get a scholarship or someone you won’t be able to provide a scholarship for due to lack of resources.

Click here to view the full Advanced Storytelling Live Stream workshop (with technical issues removed!) for just a few more days, and watch for Part II of Your Money Story Questions Answered next week.

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