Thursday, November 21, 2013

In Memoriam and In Honor Gifts

Every now and then, life challenges us in ways unimaginable. This week, my friend's father passed away and I have been stewarding the family through the process. Was I prepared? Is this something I've ever done before? Nope. Did my skills in donor relations and stewardship come in very handy? Absolutely. As a part of the process, we identified two organizations and funds that would receive gifts in lieu of flowers or memorials.  It was a difficult process but in the end a very rewarding one. Do you have your ducks in a row for donors or families who choose your nonprofit to donate to?
If you don't, I highly encourage you examine your processes. When a bereaved family member or representative calls, who answers the phone and what is the process? Do you have something in place to make it less awkward and troublesome for them? What does your notification process look like? Can donors sends card or note from you to let the family know? Do you have notecards for families who want to send thank yous to the donors? Instead of just giving them a list of people who have contributed, why not also provide them with some beautiful notecards and a pen to help them complete their notes? 

I can tell you from a few days of experience that it's wonderful to have someone take care of the details for you, someone you can call at the nonprofit to ask questions and help you through the process. Are your notifications simply a modified receipt or is it truly a sensitive and meaningful touch point. Have you made sure that the donors who give in honor or in memory of someone don't receive a phone or mail solicitation the next month or quarter? 

Have you spoken with your development officers and front line fundraisers? Let's encourage everyone not to establish restricted or endowed funds in memory of someone unless you know there will be adequate gifts to fulfill the minimum. There is nothing worse than a memorial or honorarium fund that goes unspent or doesn't have enough money in it to award. Explaining that to a family is awkward at best. It's hard to tell a family that many their family member's death or loss won't raise the minimum, but it's better to steer them to unrestricted or scholarship or something and then think of recognition later to avoid those pitfalls. I've seen too many memorial gifts go wrong, it can reopen a horrible wound. 

Don't ask the family or representative to complete lots of paperwork in order to make this happen, especially in the beginning. Unfortunately death brings a great deal of paperwork with it, I was shocked by it, so adding one more thing is an undue burden to them. Help them and offer to be a resource but take the bureaucracy out of the process if possible. Many of these things sound like common sense, but you would be amazed at how many people get it wrong. 
What does your process look like? Have you been through this before? What are other tips and tricks you can share to help us all?


Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Great Gift Receipt Swap!

As many of you know, one of the things I pride myself on the most is providing a ton of free resources for others on my website. You can download thousands of acknowledgments, hundreds of reports, see tons of videos and other samples all here:
It's time to add to that collection folks! I am conducting the first ever great gift receipt swap! I have talked about receipts for your nonprofit twice:

So here's how it works: Email me a sample of your bank or redacted gift receipt for your organization to and I will compile them and post them like I do for the other samples. Let's build a huge repository of documents. So go ahead and flood my inbox- the deadline is November 27, 2013.

Thanks so much in advance for your contribution to help us all succeed.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

As donor relations and fundraising professionals, we are often faced with many decisions, some of them in rapid-fire succession. I love decision making, for the most part and I find it is what defines me. I am able to quickly assess a situation and make a decision that can turn the tide and create change. One of my alumni board members enjoys the way I’m able to make “executive decisions” and quickly delineate the direction in which we should head.  I consider all of the facts as they are presented to me and then forge a path ahead.  That said, it seems like decision making is really easy for me. It is far from easy, I’ve just honed my skills in this area so I can help my organization and many others move forward.  Far too often nonprofits are paralyzed by decision making, we find ourselves making the mistake of decision by committee, or we make no decision at all, sort of like ready aim, aim, aim, aim, aim, and we never get to fire. 

Decision making isn’t easy by a long shot, we live in a world of grey areas and I am definitely a black and white girl. So here are some of the tools I use to help me make decisions and help others to do so as well.
  •      I always start with a simple foundation of ethics. Does this feel smarmy to me? Is there a gray area I’m not ethically comfy with? If so, decision is made, avoid it!
  •    I tend to try to take the emotion and the person out of the decision. Don’t make decisions based on people or emotions. It will always cloud your judgment.
  •      My mantra remains: If it doesn’t benefit the alumni or the donors, we don’t do it. Follow that and you’ll never go wrong.
  •     Respect the hierarchy and rank of your organization. If the decision involves someone who is truly above your pay grade, your considerations are amplified.
  •      Make a pros and cons list. It’s a simple yet effective way to determine the ROI and the impact of your decision. I have these everywhere. I’ve gotten so good at this I can do it in my head.
  •    Go to people you trust and ask them for their opinion, especially those who are your mentors or work in your industry but not directly in your organization. That outside opinion is so valuable, I use it often, even if sometimes you feel like you are venting, you’re really seeking advice, tap into that network!
  •      Ask someone who thinks completely differently from you how they would handle it. I’m not exactly known for my huge glug of empathy, so I tend to balance my opinion with that of others who know the softer side, those who think people and emotions first, not systems, strategy and process first. I find they help me think about things I wouldn’t have otherwise.
  •      Trust your gut. Think with your head, especially at work, but don’t deny what your heart and gut tell you, especially in the case of human resources. You and only you know what the right decision is, and there’s nothing wrong with trusting your gut, your first instinct is usually correct.

What are your decision making tips? Have you ever faced an impossible decision (I’m facing one right now in my personal life)? What is your decision making process and how do you cope with the ramifications? I would love to hear your thoughts.