Thursday, December 29, 2011

15 Things I'd Do As the New Head Fundraiser - Part 1

So, you’re new on the job. The expectation is that you will raise a lot of money for your nonprofit – and fast. What do you do first?

Ken Burnett, intrepid Scotsman, fundraiser par excellence and author of The Zen of Fundraising, Relationship Fundraising and other key fundraising tomes outlined 15 Things I Would Do If I Were The New Head of Donor Development on the SOFII (Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration) website, an online fundraising resource site he helped establish.

Here are the first 8 suggestions with my comments in italics -- but I highly recommend visiting SOFII and reading the details of all 15. They are really terrific.

1.    I’d aspire to be the most learned fundraiser of my generation.
 The fundraising community is blessed to have at its disposal scores of superb educational resources. Few professions are populated with individuals so willing to share as generously of their knowledge. Blogs, podcasts, seminars, books, publications, and very lively and active professional associations – all result in a plethora of advice and inspiration.

2.    I’d teach all my fundraising colleagues to make the 90-degree shift and to aspire to be 15 minutes ahead.
        Put yourself in the donor’s shoes. There is no greater folly or act of hubris than to think that donors should give to your non-profit simply because you have told them they should. Truly, our job is to determine what is important to our donors and how philanthropy fits with their values and aspirations. Then we can match our mission with their priorities.

3.    I’d develop a culture of appropriate but high quality donor service in our organization, top to bottom.

As Ken Burnett states, “I’d make sure we are always a pleasure to do business with.” Think about your organization’s customer relationship management. Can you honestly state that every donor “touch point” is exceptional -- or even acceptable?

4.    I’d be very choosy.

      Focus your efforts on areas with the potential for the greatest return on investment. Is it really the multi-millionaire who was a guest of one of your donors at a recent gala and is therefore in your database? Or is it perhaps the “less sexy”, long-time supporter who has been a modest but consistent donor for 25 years?

5.    I’d cut out all short-term thinking, including all hard-sell activities.

If you have determined what the donor’s values and aspirations are, made a connection between your mission and these values, and provided a long-range strategic path that resonates with them– you don’t have to “hard sell”. 

6.    I’d switch our organization’s contact paradigm from “marketing” to “communication”.

It’s the difference between being sold or being engaged. Resist the temptation to be hoodwinked into thinking that slick graphics, uber-clever concepts, and double entendre laden copy presented to you as edgy marketing is good communication, or more importantly – good fundraising.

7.    I’d make sure we only send effective, imaginative communications.

Given the comments above, will your fundraising communication be dull? I’ll bet your non-profit’s mission isn’t dull! Concentrate on clearly communicating what you do that is important and special. Do it in a compelling and authentic way. Being authentic is really a lot harder than being clever. And it is far more effective!

8.    I’d make ours a listening and hearing organization.

Back in the donor’s shoes again. Talk to them. Survey them. Listen to them. Let them know you have heard them. Then act upon what you have learned.

Next, I’ll share the last seven suggestions from Ken Burnett with my comments. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Giving with the Head or the Heart?

Two superb blogs recently mentioned conflicting studies relating to whether a donor was more likely to give based upon logic or emotion.  Beth's Blog posted information about a study from Guidestar and Hope Consulting, Money for Good II and The Agitator cited a Boston Globe article Why We Give to Charity examining research behind giving motivations. The two studies arrived at diametrically opposite conclusions as to what drives the giving process – one emotion the other logic.

The Boston Globe article quotes a marketing and psychology professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, “What we find is that when people are thinking more deliberatively…they end up being less generous overall.”  The article’s author concludes, “…it appears that giving is driven by emotional motives, rooted in deep impulses, cognitive biases, and even our own selfish needs.”

On the other hand, the Guidestar Money for Good II study claims, “…if nonprofits and information providers are able to provide donors, advisors, and foundation grant-makers with the information that they want, where they want it, these donors would consider shifting up $15 billion in charitable dollars to higher-performing nonprofits.”

I would put forward that these elements are not mutually exclusive. Crafting a strong brand identity, communicating a compelling case for support and being credible is a necessary precursor to even be considered for a charitable gift. The actual giving “trigger” is more likely to be emotionally based in order to be effective. Many annual fund experts know that response to a direct mail appeal declines as a result of data overload. But in order to prepare the way for that all-important second gift, providing additional information that justifies the past gift is essential.  Donor follow-up after the gift is made that includes information claimed important by the Guidestar research such as the nonprofit’s impact and financials would be relevant at that point. This more detailed information will help justify the charitable investment just made and help prepare the way for subsequent gifts.

Data to prepare the way, emotion to overcome inertia, and more information to confirm a good decision -- perhaps it really comes down to a matter of timing. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Online Giving and Older Donors

A new study by fund-raising consulting firm Dunham + Company out of Plano Texas seems to suggest that donors that are 60 or older are beginning to defy the long-held presumption that they aren’t comfortable giving online.  They found that of the 524 donors who participated in the survey and had made at least one gift of $25 in the past year, 51% of those in the 60 plus age group made their contributions online. Additionally, once these donors gave online they tended to give more frequently than younger donors.
(Link to Dunham + Company Study Article)

Wow!  Or, to quote the study “We believe this study blows some holes in the conventional thinking about older donors and online giving.”

Or does it? Is it problematic that the survey was conducted online? Does this skew the results? I believe to a great degree it must.

Should we temper our enthusiasm for results that are generated by a study that requires that the participant have a level of comfort with the online process to even take the survey?

You betcha!

Nevertheless, there is some validity in the study statement, “This just reinforces the need to apply best practices around integrated, multi-channel communication strategies and give donors options on how they want to fulfill their gift.”

This should apply to all demographics. Make sure the online giving process is clear and simple. And perhaps most importantly, reassure the donor of any age that the transaction is secure.

Giving online, even though it receives a tremendous amount of attention, still pales next to more traditional offline giving. The more we improve the online process, the more donors of all ages will have the confidence to give electronically.

What do you think?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I Give Marriott the Customer Focused “You” Award

It's early December and I just received an email from Marriott Rewards with a subject line “Seasons greetings from J. W. Marriott”. It is a wonderful example of customer-focused communication. The salutation is personalized with my name and it is signed by Bill Marriott in his handwriting. It might seem to be a familiar “end-of-the-year” thank you missive but it excels at coming across as genuine and warm. Here is a link to the email.  Marriott email.

Note the use of such phrases as (I have added the underlining) “thank you for your continued loyalty”, “It is an honor to host you”, and “I look forward to welcoming you at any of our nearly 3,700 hotels in 72 countries.” In fact the communication uses you or your a dozen times.

Too often we are tempted to focus on our achievements and our needs – to use year-end thank-you letters and emails as thinly veiled self-promotion opportunities. The Marriott letter does mention that next year will be the company’s 85th anniversary but they deflect that potential self congratulatory trap by stating that the true benefit of this milestone is that it “uniquely positions Marriott with the insights and experience to serve you, our treasured guest, and make your stay memorable”.

Three short paragraphs and I feel appreciated. But this email is not just a feel good thank-you message. It also provides the opportunity for the recipient to take a number of beneficial actions. There is a link to customer email preferences where the recipient can update personal information, limit or expand electronic communications, or simply opt-out of future emails.

There are also three prominent links displayed in the message. Two links titled “Find a Hotel” and “Explore a Plan” lead to a colorful and interesting corporate website that can help a customer plan a stay at one of the aforementioned 3,700 hotels around the world. Another link leads to the Rewards page where the customer can see how they fare with this benefit.

What can fundraisers learn from this well executed email? Consider these possibilities:
·      A “you” focused message from your organization’s leader presented in a conversational and genuine tone
·      Links that direct the recipient to select giving or volunteer opportunities
·      A way for the donor to help craft their own communication experience

I think this would be a far superior relationship builder than the common and hackneyed “two weeks left in the year, send your gift now” approach. What do you think?