Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Tis The Season!

It's that magical time of year again, a chill in the air, holiday parties, and the most magical thing of all, year end solicitations... Ha ha. I jest, but in all reality I am very serious here, at the end of the year we ask, ask, and ask some more.
Which leads me to ask YOU, are you thanking as much as you are asking, if not more?? Don't misunderstand, I know you are doing your best keeping up with acknowledgments and holiday party eggnog and such, but outside of that, what are you doing to let donors know you appreciate them??
Holiday cards are nice, I guess, but they're ridiculously expensive and time consuming... How many people need to see that list?? I still chuckle here at Yeshiva every time I get a Christmas card catalog and samples... Talk about mistargeted direct mail! Ok, I digress, back to the point, what are you doing at the end of this year, the beginning of next to appreciate your donors?

Here are some ideas:

1. How about a lovely holiday video or a tour of campus? Could be for new years as well- here are some samples 1 2 3 4 5
2. At this time, some orgs send a screensaver download that donors can use year round

3. We send the following card for Haunakkah, as part of my high end blanket stewardship program, inviting them to has a personal tour of our museum.

4. We turn that around and for our mid level donors, send them a link to a virtual tour of our exhibits

5. We are also planning our annual thank a thon for January, where we call and thank our donors... Look for an upcoming post on its execution soon!

6. For monthly or direct eft donors an email profiling one thing that happened at your org each month, a simple paragraph or image, that wouldn't have happened without private support!

I think the point that I am trying to make here is evident, are we thanking as much as we're asking?? Notice that none of these gas a tangible IRS FMV benefit, so I avoid jeopardizing their tax deductibility status as well... Hint hint!

In turn, you are showing donors that you think of them as more than a transaction, they are engaged partners in your success and they are appreciated. So what are you going to do???



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thank a Donor Week

Hello everyone!

I am writing this from my desk after leaving my thank a donor week tables in the capable hands of other staff and wanted to let you know what an amazing experience it has been! I generously stole the idea for thank a donor week from my friend Paige Eubanks-Barrow, the brand new AVP of donor relations at Oklahoma State, previously of Carnegie Mellon… she blogged about it here for me.

Basically, my goal was to collect 1000 hand written thank you notes from students in a one week period. We set up tables on both the boys’ and girls’ campus and made it easy for them! We offered a ticket to a raffle for $100, kosher candy, and wonderfully cheap tchotchkes!! On day one we had 444 notes!!I was overwhelmed by the student outpouring!! By day two we had 703 notes and on day three, yesterday we met and surpassed our goal, we were at 1012 notes!! I am eagerly awaiting our final numbers but am thrilled to say I took a calculated risk and it worked. Final Numbers are in!! 1428 notesin four days!! I think this is a program I would love to see cropping up at organizations everywhere. In addition to boundless meaningful notes from students, we also had the time to spend with them educating them about what private philanthropy means to them and to the university as a whole. It was inspiring. We got coverage in the student news papers and on our website here.

So here are some things I learned this week:
1. Most students are VERY grateful for donors, they just don’t usually know how to spell it! Ha!
2. The boys out wrote the girls 3 to 1… I was shocked by that!! Maybe it was the chance at the money
3. Some students faithfully came by every day to write a note and some took cards with them and returned with multiple notes completed!! (My guess is that they did them in class but if you ask me I will deny it!!) The most notes written by a single student was 15!!!
4. We received many great compliments from students about the idea, being innovative and inspiring them to think about their supporters.
5. Next week we will sort the notes and scan them and then mail them before thanksgiving, hitting the homes of donors at a particularly meaningful time.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about this effort, it was truly invigorating and exhausting but so worth the effort of myself and my team!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Story Telling Through Video

As many of you know, I love technology; but did you know I collect fundraising and stewardship videos all the time?? Well I do, now that the secret is out of the dark, I thought I would share two videos I recently received and tell you why the storytelling in each example is so effective and powerful.
The first video came to me through ESPN and also through my friend John Taylor at NC State. It is from Bowling Green State University and is absolutely cutting edge and brilliant. It takes risks, and does some very good storytelling using tactics that can be applied anywhere in any medium. Here is the link to the story and video. Now, let's examine a few of its best features:

1. It involves students- the rapper? He's one, the producers too... Brilliant!

2. It involves the donors directly- the older gentlemen in the jerseys? Yep, that's them, and I bet if you asked them they had the time of their lives!! Who needs a bronze bust when you have YouTube?? How fun! I bet there are other donors out there who would love to have this happen to them so they can tell their grandkids to "find me on YouTube".

3. The lyrics are on target and tell the story while having fun with an exciting new piece of campus! You might say, "That will never fly at my organization." Really? Have you tried taking a risk lately?? I bet not

4. Its catchy and educates all generations on philanthropy- brilliant!! - Do I sound like a Guinness commercial yet?

The next video comes to me locally from our friends building the new Chabad space serving NYU. Click here to see the brilliant storytelling.
This video tells a powerful story in a completely different manifestation than the BGSU video.

1. What it does, most brilliantly, is call the viewer to action- I want to go hop the subway downtown and sign the Bowery myself!!

2. It also involves students, those who will benefit from the gift. This is a powerful tactic that draws you even closer to the story.

3. I think far too often we all focus on the end version, the artistic rendering, or what could be, and we often forget that supporters want to be involved and see the project during its "ugly" construction phase, to see the reality in action. This video shows us the space as it undergoes transformation in real time! I often recommend to my clients that if they are building to do a time lapse video or slide show or even live web cams(if you REALLY trust your construction company folks) because the donors see the progress and can watch their gift literally come to life.

4. Finally, both videos tell their stories in a unique and refreshing manner. It makes you think, react, laugh, enjoy the time and want to share them. That is effective and brilliant!!

So what do you think of these two samples from my collection?? I always look forward to your comments. If you have a video you want to share and proudly add to my coffers, email me the link:

Don’t forget to catch me on the upcoming November 15th ADRP webinar on Acknowledgments click here for more information!