Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Consecutive/Loyalty Donors

As I was preparing myself for my upcoming travel schedule- back to back trips, including speaking at the ADRP/SEDRC in Raleigh, NC; I received a great piece of mail right before I put my mail on hold for the 7 days. I am a proud supporter of my alma mater, The University of South Carolina. And every year, I make my annual gift. After I make my gift, I receive the usual receipt and acknowledgment, but I also receive something special, I am a member of the Carolina Circle, something USC reminds me of every year. I receive a postcard and the back of it is a vinyl decal, when I had a car these decals were proudly displayed on my back window along with my gamecock club membership decal, now that I take the subway, they reside on my fridge or office bulletin board, a constant reminder of their acknowledgment of my consistent giving. The Carolina Circle is for those of us who have given consistently, at any amount, for the past three years or more. This simple gesture enhances in me the feeling that USC values me and knows that my gift matters, its just good donor relations. And so that leads me to ask you, what are you doing for your consecutive donors? Do you know who the are? How many you have? What do they "look" like? If you haven't thought about these folks, I challenge you to take a new look. Every time I visit with one of my consulting clients during their donor relations audits, this is one of my consistent areas of focus.

Here are some reasons for focus you might not be aware of:
1. Consistent donors are the BEST planned giving prospects. Period.
2. Consistent donors are usually present at many of your events, and make sure to support you in their community.
3. Consistent donors make GREAT volunteers, spokespeople and helpers.
4. They are deeply committed to your cause and I would argue that telling their stories is MORE valuable than your "major donors".
5. Consistent donors make GREAT focus groups and survey folks. They have been around for a while and can tell you what has worked and where you can improve.
6. The ROI on these efforts is HUGE. Remember its 7 times cheaper to keep the donors you have happy than to go out and acquire new ones!

So now we go back to the central question, what have you done for them lately? If you hesitate or have no idea, this might be a good time to start recognizing them. You don't have to create a society or a big to do around them, but you should recognize their importance and build this group into your strategic donor relations planning.

A few simple ideas:
1. A postcard like USC's, with or without a decal or magnet.
2. A special email or video for them. A communication that let's them know they are valued and you know who they are and why they matter.
3. Invite them to the same events your major donors are invited to, remember its the thought of inclusion that matters for them.
4. Feature them and tell their stories in your publications, have one of them speak at your next event, etc. A lifetime of good will is headed your way, and other donors will identify with them more than they can the mega million trustee type donor.
5. Run a thank a thon just for them. Have staff, volunteers, students, anyone call them to thank them, and JUST thank them(lol), for their loyal support and devotion to your mission!

NOTICE: I didn't say mail them a random tchotchke or have an event just for them. That's not the idea here folks, if you need to clean out your closets, do it some other way, if you want another event to plan, find a different strategy- honest tough love. :)

Now I ask: What are you doing? What would you like to do? I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, questions!


Thursday, July 7, 2011

New Year, New Ideas?

As the end of the fiscal year quickly approached last week, I was thinking about what it meant to have a new year, at Yeshiva, I get to celebrate three each year, the Jewish new year, the calendar new year and the fiscal new year- try to keep that straight in your head!! The nice thing about the new fiscal year is that it often allows us to begin to think about or implement new ideas. The trouble with that is that for many of us, innovation in our bureaucratic organizations can be very challenging and sometimes impossible.
In order to help with this effort, I created a presentation called "Dancing on the Edge: Pushing the limits of Innovation in your Program". When I presented this topic at the CASE Donor Relations conference, there was standing room only and a crowd that was receptive and open to my way of thinking about the way we can effect change. If you are the kind of professional that is happy with the status quo, warning, this post isn't for you. This post is about how to become an advocate of innovation, someone who can then deliver that message to leadership with a vested interest.
For many years now I have been seen as a leading innovator in the field of development and donor relations, this didn't happen by accident, I make a conscious effort to have innovation at the forefront of everything I am and everything I do. So below you will find a link to my slides and I will expound on a few key steps to success here.

1. You MUST own being innovative and plan for time to do so. If you don't, no one else will. It is your job to look at a process and be able to ask the question, How can I make this better?. That is the core of the innovative spirit. Set aside time in your busy schedules for innovation, if you don't you will continue doing the same old things over and over.

2. Understand innovation. Innovation is when a good idea meets implementation. You must define what better looks like and how you will strive to achieve it. It is wonderful to have a visionary idea, but if it is not able to be implemented, what is the point?

3. Do a risk vs. benefit analysis. What is this? As my father would put it, "its a pro/cons list silly." You need to balance the equation and make sure that the new innovation is worth any risks involved. There is NOTHING wrong with calculated risks.

4. Embrace failure, in fact, give it a big hug and a smooch! I learn more from my failures than I Ever have from a success!! We have to stop being afraid to fail, and I will put this in its simplest terms, if you fail, no one will die. Thankfully what we do is powerful and meaningful and does a great deal of good in the world. However, thankfully, we don't hold anyone's lives in our hands like say, uhm, a brain surgeon or rocket scientist- did you like those creative examples?- I thought so.

5. Innovation is possible at EVERY organization, I have yet to find a leader, both in my daily work and on my consulting trips, who, if you present them with solid ideas and a plan for implementation, does not want things to be better. If you are reading this and shaking your head saying, "you don't know my VP/boss" this thought is for you: maybe it is not your message but it is the messenger. Tough love, yes. But it applies to everyone, even me. I talk candidly that I am not everyone's cup of tea, however I know my strengths and weaknesses and often have other people present my ideas to leadership because I know that they are the right person to perform the approach. In football it's called an end around, in the military it's called flanking, take your pick!

6. Finally, and most importantly, innovation is not about YOU. Check your ego at the door. If the idea gets credited to a lunar eclipse or to another team member, who cares!? It makes the organization better, if you are working in non profit and don't understand that by now, get a job in the for profit sector, Steve Jobs pays well for innovations. I will happily let anyone take credit for any idea I come up with if it benefits us all in the end. Then, I quietly go back to my office and give myself a high five and add the innovation to my resume and move on to the next!

Click here for the presentation.

I hope these tips help you the next time you come up with the next improvement or innovation for your organization. As always, I am open to criticism and comments, and I look forward to hearing from you!