Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Is Your Job To Serve Or To Sell?

Back in 2011,  one of my favorite fundraising blogs, Passionate Giving, penned by major giving experts Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry, posted about a new year's resolution they suggested all fundraisers adopt for that year. Make sure you are serving your donor, not selling them. Jeff shared an experience he had in an Apple store when it was clear, to his chagrin, that he could have been easily "sold" a solution to a computer problem he had by chucking his old computer and upgrade to a more expensive and newer model, but wasn't. He asked the salesperson why he wasn't trying to sell him a new iPad? The salesperson's said he was there to make his experience the best it could be, show him the product and let the product sell itself. He added, "We don't get commission on sales. It is all about serving the needs of the customer." Jeff continued, "I didn't buy the iPad that night, nor were they able to fix my software problem (it was a Microsoft product), but I left feeling so good about my experience that I can't think about NOT buying an Apple product in the future."

Do our donor interactions leave them with the same sort of feeling? If the moment was not right to make a gift, do they walk away feeling they couldn't even think about NOT giving to our organization when they are ready to contribute? If our objective is to sell them, put another notch in our "closed deal belt", then it will likely fail. Serving our donor demands more listening, research, and interaction. It will be necessary to unearth what our donor's goals or interests are that need to be served.  It must be more than just identifying financial capacity or finding out about their other philanthropic giving.

Listening, really listening, demands putting aside our egos and our objectives and really concentrating on the prospect. Listening, not to find a window to "pounce" but to find a connection between what our organization does and how that aligns with the donor's aspirations. Listening. So important, and seemingly so hard to do. Which reminds me of a fantastic TED talk by deaf Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie titled "How To Truly Listen". But that is for another post.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Back to the Future

Roger Craver, one of the founders of the fundraising agency Craver, Mathews, Smith & Co, currently provides insights through his fundraising blog, The Agitator. Back in 2011 he posted an article titled The Future of Fundraising. It was based upon Blackbaud’s recently released report Growing Philanthropy in the U.S.  The report contained reams of helpful recommendations and insights. A lot has happened since 2011. Osama Bin Laden is off’d, Occupy Wall Street begins, Muammar Gaddafi is killed, the Sandy Hook massacre takes place, the Japan tsunami wrecks havoc, Prince William and Kate Middleton marry, and NASA’s Mars rover detects evidence liquid water once flowed on the red planet. Where stands fundraising? Were the Blackbaud recommendations heeded? You be the judge.

Here are a few of the top takeaways from the report and Craver’s analysis (minus some of his entertaining but salty language):

     Redefine Relationships. Stop being selfish. Focus on giving for giving’s sake.

     Re-orient toward longer-term measures of fundraising performance. Immediate measure of ‘success’ (response rates, immediate ROI, giving totals for the year) doom us. Look at long-term values.

     Enhance focus on retention and building supporter loyalty.  Listen up! With retention rates in the dumper too few nonprofits really understand that a 10% improvement in retention results in a 200% improvement in lifetime value.  Time to get real.

     Develop a more integrated approach to fundraising. It’s not the method, stupid, it’s the message. And the message must focus on the donor’s concerns, not yours.

     Break down organizational silos and encourage greater collaboration between teams. The authors are too kind to say it, but you should be ashamed of your territoriality.

     Give supporters greater control over the relationship. Ken Burnett, The Agitator, DonorVoice and scores more have been preaching this for years. This is the arena where you can quickly add the most value.

     Tackle high turnover rates in the fundraising profession. Face it. It’s not the pay it’s the lack of respect from CEOs and board members that drives folks out of this trade. We have an identity crisis and have to deal with it.

  Educate all stakeholders about the necessity of a longer term and integrated approach. I know, I know, it’s like playing Mozart to a cow, but we have to do it. It’s a real challenge, but we must not allow Boards to be stupid about fundraising, stewardship and philanthropy.

     Empower the regulators to enforce 100 percent filing of Forms 990 to increase their utility. Hey, I know this seems picky, but the fact is that some organizations don’t file, some lie, some don’t.  Transparency is key to the future of philanthropy. Get with it.

     Blow the whistle on organizations claiming to have zero costs of fundraising. As long as watchdog organizations reward ‘zero’ costs, organizations will lie. It’s time to call out the phonies in the watchdog groups and blast the nonprofits that play this game. There simply ain’t no thing as ‘zero’ fundraising costs.

     Encourage nonprofits to develop complaints schemes. Anyone who knows anything about donor retention and commitment is familiar with the importance of feedback. (See http://thedonorvoice.com)  This report reminds us of the absolute necessity to provide multiple methods for donor feedback.

     Develop new and more appropriate measures of performance.  Efficiency and cost of fundraising sucks as a measurement of anything.  There are far more appropriate measures.

     Develop the self-regulation of fundraising. Ethics be damned.  There’s a whole host of scumbags out there. But, we can do something about them.

     Encourage the adoption of monthly giving. Serious Monthly Giving or Sustainer programs produce 600% – 800% more revenue. Get to it. Now!

     Encourage and promote best practices in social media.  Importance of social media isn’t $, it goes to building loyalty and commitment.

     Encourage asset-based giving. The Report claims that 93% of a person’s giving potential is realized with a bequest or other planned gift.  Get at it!

     Improve the quality of bequest fundraising practice. Death is our friend. But, with at least 8% of our donors willing to make a bequest, this just has to be taken out of the incompetent (marketing-wise) hands of planned giving officers and placed in the hands of those capable of selling.

     Redesign the system of professional development and certification for fundraisers. Important stuff here. Knowledge and understanding of donor behavior is key for the future, not the number of AFP merit badges.

     Educate board members about the intricacies of fundraising.  Among all the barriers to successful fundraising and philanthropy, the ‘board’ is the mightiest barrier and pain. This report rightly targets the boards for education and improvement.

I’d say all of these would make the list of priorities for 2014.  What say you?