Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Laugh or Die? Cry? Just Laugh!

I absolutely love what I do. Fundraising and donor relations isn't just a job for me, it is my chosen career and more than that my vocation (auto correct tried to make that vacation, irony). I think it is absolutely essential you love what you do for a living, not just collect a paycheck. If you're going to collect a paycheck, go to the for profit world, at least your paycheck will be bigger! That all being said, at times I find myself in my travels and at conferences thinking, boy do these folks take themselves a tad bit seriously. It's true our jobs come with risk and reward, anytime you deal with money, sensitive legal and ethical issues abound. But in all honesty, one of the great joys of my life is being able to say that if I send one too many thank you notes to someone, they don't die. It helps now that I've stopped mailing things to dead people. 
 I do take offense when someone says, "it's donor relations, not rocket science", and I quietly point out that while the concept is simple, the execution is not. Well, that and then I tell them I can do differential equations in my head and ask them to do one with me... I digress.

It sounds overly simplistic and quite contrite, but it's true. I don't have the stomach or nerves to be in the brain surgery business. I'm happy and passionate about supporting those folks though. What I want most for us is to enjoy ourselves in our work, especially during the stressful times like fiscal year end. I don't want you to think that I don't take my work seriously, I do, nothing causes me more pain than a crooked label, but at the same time do it with good humor.

For those of you who have heard me speak, you know I love a witty joke. Especially if it is ill timed and inappropriate! But in all truth, I make my audiences laugh because far too often I see them leave sessions looking like they ate something bad inside. I want them to leave mine feeling laughter and energy. Most people appreciate it, some don't... Like the attendee who once wrote that "I'm not here to be entertained, I'm here to be informed". Yup, I still remember it word for word. It hurt for a long time and now I use it as a powerful motivation to do both.
Why can't we do the same with our donors and our constituents? We can. Let's spend a little more time laughing and enjoying the work that we do. Not all of them are stiff and no fun...in fact most of them are a blast! They're human remember?

My former VP Dawn always fondly recalls her favorite stint at a job saying, "we worked like dogs all day and all night but boy did we have fun and laugh a lot". That's the kind of job I look for. And every now and then we need a break from the tension. So here's my gift to you, a few wonderful pieces of humor:


This video just came out from my fiends(autocorrect strikes again, although if you met Brent you might say appropriate) FRIENDS at EverTrue... A hilarious video enjoy...


Here's a great short video about donor recognition, aptly in Hebrew and you don't need to understand Hebrew to get the joke.

Here's a great tumblr feed on our wonderful career choice:

A great meme that explains exactly what it is I do all day, if you had a gun to my Dad's head and asked him, he would be done for, but his basic understanding is that I'm in the business of people with lots of money but I don't make any... Oh irony.


I think we need to start our own page about the best fundraising jokes you've ever heard. Contributions welcome. In other words, I need more material for my gigs.


Thanks for listening, I hope you're chuckling or giggling or forwarding this on to your boss.




Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fiscal Year End Trend

As many of you loyal readers know, I have covered blitz campaigns before here, with Florida State University and Skidmore College being pioneers. Yesterday, two more organizations launched successful year end blitz campaigns. A blitz campaign is about the closest thing I've ever seen to social media fundraising done right. The idea is that you have a donor put up a challenge grant for a certain number of donors or an amount of money, number of donors works much better in my opinion, within a short amount of time, ideally 24 hours. Last year Columbia University raised $7M in one day. Wow.


Yesterday one of the best blitz campaigns I have seen done yet occurred. Wake Forest University had a #Wake500 campaign, a combined goal of 500 donors and $100,000 dollars and they would score a huge match gift.
The launch of the blitz was by far and above one of the best things I have ever seen. This video was created in house by their communications department in tandem with their annual fund folks and WOW at the brilliance.
Simple, powerful, humorous, and effective, instead of being stuffy they knew their audience and took a calculated risk by being creative. Who doesn't want to slap the IRS' hand?  By midday they already had over 500 gifts.

So another generous alum stepped up and added more money to the pot if they could reach 1000 donors. Staff members, even those without direct fundraising duties sent texts, social media posts, calls and an all out email blitz. Rumor has it that their AVP of special events was texting and face booking fellow alumni at 10pm! Well, hard work reaps amazing rewards! At midnight Wake Forest had almost tripled their goal! Over 1800 donors and over $380,000 later the staff sent out congratulatory emails, tweets and web posts. An amazing feat.
 I hope they all get a day off or a margarita party after the Herculean effort and success. I have sent their team some questions and will post answers later today for more information. If you have questions for the team, post them in comments and I'll send them along as well!


Hollins University is also launching a unique blitzcampaign called #Hollinsrocks and in the next ten days are looking for $100,000 in gifts.
Theirs is playful, creative and a completely new effort for them. They have some great interactive features, like a "Hollins Rock" coloring Instagram incorporation and a "Donor of the Day" feature. Brilliant and sure to bring in a new population of donors who like the inventive and the sense of urgency of a blitz campaign. Here is a link to their page and creative communications. Well done.


Thinking of launching your own blitz campaign, here are some tricks of the trade:

1. All hands on deck for this effort, not just the annual fund...that means everyone for the whole time
2. Be edgy, creative, fun, now is the time to bring your ideas from left field and embrace your quirk
3. Set a realistic goal and have a great match behind it
4. You need a hook or an angle to get them engaged... why now? Why us? What does the money go for?

5. If you're directing all of these people to give online, you better have a great giving website, need help? Attend my webinar here in July! Make sure your gift processing team is involved from the beginning and you give them extra love and energy drinks or free lunch to keep them going...

6. You should have a good donor relations plan in place for these donors, especially for those who have never given to you before. Need an annual giving donor relations boost, attend this webinar here
7. Report frequently via web and social media your progress
8. If you meet and or exceed your goal keep going then celebrate the accomplishment
9. Motivate your donors and volunteers with recognition and promotion throughout the day
10. Don't be afraid to share with non alumni or supporters! I'm not an alum of Hollins or Wake Forest, but by writing about their blitz campaigns they are reaching my 7000 person weekly audience and all of the people in my network


A final thought on blitz campaigns, they're wonderful and effective, but don't let someone get carried away and think you will run one of these monthly or more than once a year even. The novelty will wear off and people will become miffed.  I would love to hear from you about great blitz campaigns you've been involved in or heard of... Share below.





Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fundraising Summer Reading List

People often ask me what great donor relations books they should read to help them in their positions in fundraising and donor relations. I read a book or two a week during my commute so I have some thoughts here.  I can never point them to a definitive donor relations text, great ones just don't exist...yet... But I can give you a great summer reading list that will help you greatly in your career in nonprofit work. In reading these books I have found so much that applies to my daily life and my work life that I want to share them here with you. I don't get any royalties here so just enjoy them!

This book is a must read for anyone who works with people. Since that's 99.9% of us, that means you! I think so many of us have never been taught how to have difficult yet important conversations with people, our teammates, supervisors, etc. this book really helped me and I have attended some of their workshops and they were fabulous as well!

I don't care about your politics or your thoughts about the author, everyone, especially women in the fundraising world, should read this book. It has great points on mentoring, commitment, picking your battles and other topics that I just keep rereading over and over. It's my book of the year and just brilliant.

I just finished this book and boy did it help me a great deal to further understand some complicated relationships I have with people. Basically it's about how some people are givers and some are takers but by far the givers are both the Least and most successful people in the world. Many life an work lessons here and a great read about philanthropy too.

My first Vice President Cynthia Wood had our entire division read this wonderful little 100 page book. It helped change the culture of our internal workings and really some back office/front office dynamics that weren't that healthy. A great read for a group or retreat.


Another great read for a group activity or retreat, my good friend and mentor Denise Howard suggested this book to help more concretely assess my strengths and it delivered. I learned a great deal about myself and others through learning my strengths. A great idea is to map your team's strengths so you know who to go to for specific projects and their working styles.


I have mentioned it here before but Judge John Kralik's book on how writing 365 thank you notes changed his life is a phenomenal read and one especially powerful for those in fundraising and nonprofit work.

This book, written by the folks at Zappos is about customer service based culture and can truly be transformational for office culture and dynamics.

The three books recommended to me that I'm reading this summer are the following:


What are your must reads, besides a snappy weekly blog, ahem? I would love to have you share some titles in the comments below.

Thanks as always for your readership and participation!



Thursday, June 6, 2013

First time donor retention

We talk a great deal about impressions here on this blog. I often discuss how we are judged, whether we like it or not. This week I'd like to touch on a specific area of donor relations, first time donors. I believe it is imperative that you build and implement a first time donor program for your organization. Most organizations have a 40-45 percent retention rate for their first time donors. This is simply unacceptable. The first question for you is what is your rate? The second is what are you doing about it? If you moved the needle on first time donor retention say 5 or 10% it would mean a great deal monetarily to your organization. In addition, it is a measurable way to tell if your donor relations program is performing well. If your retention rate is less than 60 percent, you've got work to do. Imagine if you were a restaurant and only 4 out of 10 of your customers left after their first meal. You'd be out of business within months.

So what can we do? The first step is to do something! But here are examples of a first time donor program that in three years has raise retention from 48% to 72%. This has impacted many dollars and hundreds of donors each year.

Here's the great thing about these programs, you only have to print or design these things once, after all there is only one first gift! In addition to their regular receipt and acknowledgment based on gift level and giving medium, they also receive the following. The first thing is the first time donor postcard, it is sent within 30 days of their first gift!

Within the next quarter or so they receive a phone call thanking them for their gift and specifically recognizing them as a first time donor. Then the next quarter they receive a hand written note from a student through our thank a donor week program. Finally a month before the anniversary of their first gift they receive a final impact piece telling how we used their money with a soft ask for this year's gift.  It is all coordinated and it all mentions their first gift being meaningful to us. It is done REGARDLESS of amount! You could replace any of these with a creative video or touch, maybe a link to resources on your web page. We also feature one or two first time donors a year in publications and online.
It is crucial we show that their first gift was meaningful and had an impact on our organization. Here's what we don't do: send tchotchkes or widow decals, add them to a giving society, ask them again for a gift the month after they give, and other silliness. Many first time donors are just engaging with you and see their gift as sort of a test to see how you will treat them. I once heard from a donor at an ADRP SEDRC conference (next month click here to join us!) that when he first started giving he sent out 10 $1000 checks and didn't give to those anymore that didn't write to him or treat him well. His giving is now in the millions for the organizations that did.

It's true that we want every donor to feel special and wonderful about giving, that's one of the aims of donor relations. But this first time group needs special attention when they give their money and trust to us for the first time. I hope this is something you can implement this summer before the next fiscal year begins. I would love to hear your suggestions as well. I will be covering first time donors and more in my upcoming webinar on annual giving. And I'm doing a special webinar in July on online giving website best practices, more info here, I hope you join me for any and all! As usual, I welcome your thoughts.