Lori Jacobwith is a communications and fundraising coach, consultant and blogger. She founded the Ignited Online Fundraising Community and is author of the forthcoming book, Withism's from Lori: Boldness, Clarity & Wisdom for Fundraising Professionals Making a Difference. The interview was conducted by Don Akchin, a principal of Nonprofit Marketing 360 and a frequent contributor to the MKCREATIVE blog.
MKC: You’ve been a development director, an executive director, a CEO. So why did you shuck off all the power, the glory, the fame, the money and decide to be a trainer or a coach?
LORI: I love affecting change. When I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to help other people. I was able to help people as a development director and as an executive director, but I wanted to be able to help people at a larger scale. I got a taste of seeing what a trainer and a coach does by attending trainings, sitting in the audience, and I realized, I want to help a roomful of people at a time.
MKC: I’m particularly interested in your online fundraising community. What is that about?
LORI: It’s for people who would really love to have a coach and don’t want to either spend the time or lots of dollars for coaching. Through a monthly webinar, an e-newsletter that I share with that community, or some email exchanges, they get support, they get listened to, they get new tips and tools.
I’ve loved it, and it grows every day. I’ve got members from all over the North American continent right now. I believe they will tell you that the hour they spend live with the webinar speaker or listening to the one-hour webinar after the fact just jazzes them right back up to loving their job again. I have speakers other than myself, and I do master coaching four times a year, where we really dig into a topic.
MKC: Is that interactive?LORI: It is. The webinars where you’re just talking – I don’t know, I always imagine they’re checking their email and doing something else – so I have tons of questions I ask. They use the chat box, they raise their hand, we do polls, we do surveys, and then there’s always time for questions.
MKC: What seems to me unusual is that you emphasize both communications and fundraising. Why that combination?
LORI: It’s my belief that there is only one thing in life that causes success in all areas of your life: Are you being clear in your communication? Are you assuming they know what it is you want them to do or are you actually spelling it out? Are you articulating a real example of a human story, defining what the impact is with the donor’s dollars? All of it boils down to, what are we saying, how are we saying it, and even, what are the word choices we make. My broken-record, soapbox message is, be thoughtful about your word choices.
I listen for scarcity language at organizations, such as, “It’s really hard to raise money in this economy.” Well, it actually isn’t. Most of the groups I’ve worked with in the last two years met or exceeded their fundraising goals, but they were really thoughtful about communication. They communicated what their impact was, what it cost to serve that kid or serve that meals on wheels program or help that homeless person, and they talked about what it would take to end the year without having any funding gap, without having anyone who came to their door not be served. I had one group raise a million dollars over their goal – in this economy.Please visit MKCREATIVE to read the rest of the interview where we discuss fundraising readiness, what's keeping clients up at night, and social media.