Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Giving/Blitz Day Donor Relations that Wows

Giving Days/ Blitz campaigns are an established and successful fundraising trend. I wrote about them back in 2012 and they are still going strong. As more and more institutions take on the concerted fundraising efforts, we must also be aware that while planning them, we need to plan the donor relations right along side the effort. Many of you know I am a proud University of South Carolina alumna and donor, but this week I'm giving open kudos to my rivals over at the University of Tennessee. And believe me when I say this is difficult, I don't like orange all that much (ahem ahem). But wow, have they done the Big Orange Give, from start to finish the RIGHT way.

First, I gave online to them and it was an easy form, didn't cause me stress and made gift giving easy. Next I received a really nice email to confirm my gift, the only downside was that I then received a paper receipt- Bummer- and they need to invest in their receipts or just go all digital, remember if I give online, send me an email receipt or a printable PDF as an attachment...

I also a few days later received this very nice postcard from a student at UT.

But then I was wowed. I received a phone call from a UT student the next week!! They just wanted to check in on me, thank me for my first gift and let me know their fundraising total from the day and how they couldn't have done it without me.
Then, what do you know, they sent me an email with a video- NICELY DONE!

So they hit every single channel of communication with a different message and special touch!

Kudos to you vols for your efforts, I am duly impressed. And in comparison to another challenge giving day I gave to two days later where I haven't heard a peep and haven't even received a gift receipt, you're doing an amazing job!
I now want to give again and feel valued for my first gift. It doesn't mean I'll be playing rocky top any time soon, but amazing execution.

What do y'all think? How are you planning to execute donor relations for your giving days/blitz campaigns?


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In Desperate Need: Translators

As an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina (Go Gamecocks) my first major was genetic engineering. After discovering that Calculus 4 and the laboratory life weren't for me, I changed my majors to foreign languages, with the goal to one day be an international translator. Well, although I don't do that for a living, my translational skills are not lost nor do they go unused on a daily basis.

I find that one of the most essential positions for fundraising success is someone who can translate the communications between fundraisers and those that help make them successful. I'm talking reporting, advancement services, donor relations, research etc. I think there is a fundamental difference in the way these two groups of people talk about donors, data and its impact on fundraising for the organization. 

Let's take a look at this relationship and communication dynamic. Paint with a wide brush with me and allow me some grace here:
Fundraisers, for the most part are extroverts, building relationships and working in the cerebral space of relationships. Our data folks, are introverts by nature, and they work in the process oriented space and the cerebral space of data's impact on the greater picture. Often times, fundraisers struggle with the ability to communicate to the data folks WHAT they need and WHY they need it. Data folks are concerned with outcome of the data and ensuring that its value is not underestimated. Thus, the role of the divisional translator becomes inextricable from the operation. Someone who can understand the delicacies of fundraising and as I say "speak geek" and understand data. 

This is an art and a science and can be found in folks in all types of roles. I'm a hidden data nerd. Data drives everything I do and informs many decisions for me. It is helpful that in alumni and donor relations I can balance the relationships with the data.

Here are some tips I have learned to help the translators:
- find a common vocabulary and set of definitions, what's a non donor to someone is not to others.       This is ESSENTIAL
-  explain the use of the data and the need for it, WHY do you want the report and HOW will it be used once provided
- appreciate that data doesn't just arrive at your feet, it takes work, time and effort just like cultivating a gift does, and sometimes just a long
- understand that both individuals have unique skill sets and that's ok. A database manager may shudder at the thought of asking someone for money and a fundraiser may get nauseous at the site of a query. 
- work together for the common good and try to find points of mutual understanding in order to better serve the one population we all share: donors

What are your thoughts on divisional translators? Who serves in this role in your organization? What tips and tricks do you have to add to this list?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My ALS Bucket Challenge Post- Opportunities and Next Steps

I am sure that many of you have read at least a few blog posts on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. 
Many of you have participated, many of you made donations. Many people have commented on whether this kind of fundraising is good etc etc. I'm not going to get into that here-- just the facts as I see them so far... I made a donation, first to support the cause but also to find out what the response from the Association will be.

I am pleased to tell you that the online donation process was very simple and almost donor friendly. They even had a button to say I supported the ice bucket challenge and this is why I am giving. I received immediate email confirmation of my gift that served as a receipt. And then I waited.

Happily, on September 18, 2014 I received an email thanking me for my support. Here is a screenshot of the email:

Here is the link to the video:

Nice, sincere, a great first step.  Last week I received an email entitled "This is your #IceBucketChallenge donation at work‏"
Here is that email:

SO they've thanked me and told me the impact of my gift, kudos and good first steps... I was a bit disappointed to hear they weren't setting up an endowment with even some of the funds.

 So then I watched this video from the Chronicle of Philanthropy. 

I was really disappointed in Ms. Newhouse's views on endowments, on donor relations (especially with the antiquated notion of starting with major donors first) staffing (they don't have anyone in donor relations) and some other things within, I'll let you make up your own mind on it. 

Until then I will be checking my email to see how they keep donors involved. I would love to hear your thoughts on their donor relations, not whether the challenge was good or not, but what next steps would you advise them to do? How can we as the greater donor relations and fundraising community help them?


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Bridesmaid Dress- A Thank You that Includes an ASK?!

Lately, I've been on the receiving end of some pretty confusing donor communications from non profits and universities. I get a pretty envelope with the words Thank You printed on the front in appropriate colors, and I giddily open the envelope, expecting an amazing donor relations piece and a sincere thank you and then BOOM- I'm smacked upside the head with a solicitation-NOT COOL.

I am a strong proponent that a thank you should be pure, sincere and unadulterated. And a solicitation should have nice appreciative language, but the two should not form some mutant species like the liger. Let's face it, some things have only one purpose in life.

Take the humble bridesmaid dress for example. No matter how much the sales clerk and your soon to be married friend try to convince you, no piece of that "apple green" or "lavender" taffeta or organza is getting near your body again for another purpose. You might as well have just set that $300 on fire. You're NOT going to wear it again for a "special occasion".  It will just sit there in your closet and taunt you, saying "you could have had a vacation". Bridesmaid dresses are like asks, just let them be what they are. Don't sew a fake flower on them and pretend that it is what it isn't. It's a solicitation, not a thank you. Keep the lines clean and clear.

Just remember- someone thought these were a good idea too-

For a concrete example, let's go back to my claim that receipts and acknowledgments are two separate things. The same goes for a solicitation and a thank you:

Dear Aunt Shirley,

Thank you so much for the cabbage patch doll, valued at $49.99. I will love Xavier and hug him and keep his clothes nice and clean. I really appreciate my birthday present. I am, however growing older and I think that Rainbow Brite is the next hot thing... Christmas is coming, what do you say, send me one of those?

See you next year,


The text in bold is just as tacky as taking a solicitation to an ask. It may be an exaggerated version of reality, but how many of us have received a thank you letter or receipt with a reply device in it? And then we professionals wonder why first time donor retention levels are so low...
2 + 2 = 4... most of the time. Remember the #1 reason donors stop giving is because they are over-solicited. Let's cut them a break and decide that we're JUST going to sincerely thank them and tell them the impact of their gift, WITHOUT shoving a link to the giving website or a reply device down their throats.

So just like picking the perfect bridesmaid dress, don't go down without a fight! Keep on advocating for your donors and remember that the most sincere and meaningful thing we can do is to thank someone. Sometimes, simplicity is best.

What are your thoughts? I always welcome your responses (and bad bridesmaid photos too)