Monday, September 28, 2015

New Book Released Today

I am thrilled to announce today the publication of my second book on donor relations and fundraising.
T-Rexes vs Kangaroos: and Other Stories: Improving Your Fundraising and Donor Relations is now out. Now you can get a peek into my head (it's scary in there) and have a compilation of four years of my work in this blog and elsewhere. 

I will have the first 50 copies available for purchase at my book signing at the ADRP International Conference in Memphis on Wednesday. To purchase your copy, you can head to this link on Amazon

The 342 page book is broken into sections on the following:
  • philosophical musings on fundraising
  • the donor relations profession 
  • the practice of donor relations
  • unique donor populations
  • professional skills and management
You don't have to be a donor relations professional to enjoy this text, purchase a copy for your boss, your team, anyone involved in fundraising. There is also a wonderful appendix of gratitude quotes if you're like me and always looking for a great resource.

I would also be happy to have a book signing and give a presentation in your area. Complete this form if you would like to have me come to your area and present or do a training for your staff or volunteers. 

This is truly another dream coming true for me and I could not have done it without your support. Special gratitude to Debbie Meyers, contributor and Tyler Wessel, editor and designer for their hard work. 

Thank you to everyone for your support.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Event Attendees or Donors?

Events, most of our non profit organizations have them. They come to your soirée and may even bring a friend. But are they donors or event attendees? My argument would be that not all fundraising event attendees are donors. When someone signs up for your luncheon, dinner, cocktail party or race, do they simply pay the fee or do they also buy an auction item, make a donation on top of their ticket or demonstrate other charitable behavior? Or do they come and go without additional support?

We know that event fundraising is the least effective means of fundraising, and often times it doesn't bring the awareness that a nonprofit might want. See this article on event fundraising here.

So how do you focus your time on those who come to your events that can turn into charitable donors and not just remain event attendees? You must examine their behavior. Do you have someone that purchases a seat every year for say 4-6 years but never anything else? That's an event attendee. Their engagement isn't as deep as someone who purchases a ticket, makes an on site donation and also buys an auction item. Better yet someone who does all of that and buys a table or brings guests every year, expanding your potential. 

You have to prioritize your time. Are you spending all of your time speaking with people who repeatedly attend an event as a "guest of" someone but never contribute? Place your focus elsewhere. In order to grow your donors and expand your base, you have to spend time and effort on those who are philanthropic, not those that just buy a ticket. Some of these folks are a net loss to our organizations, meaning their ticket doesn't cover the cost of their attendance. This is not raising awareness, it's costing us money. 

Have you evaluated your events in these terms? Have you prioritized the folks that have spent time at your events?

I hope you will think about this the next time you survey room chock full of event attendees. Is it better to have 500 attendees or 250 donors in a room. I would take the latter. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Gift Acceptance and Due Diligence- the $100M Mistake

At times, it can seem that our job is a bit thankless, upholding donor intent, protecting our organizations from the IRS, and refusing to grant gift terms that can go unfulfilled. But I will tell you from experience, holding the line when others want to blur it is one of my great pleasures. When it comes to fundraising and accepting gifts, I am very risk adverse. I believe strongly in policies and procedures, gift acceptance among them. In case you haven't heard, recently, a university found this out the hard way. 

Portland State University was all set to announce a $100M gift from an "anonymous" donor. The only problem was that this $100M didn't exist, the donor was insolvent, and a simple google search and/or research profile, not to mention gift acceptance committee vetting would have saved them from this embarrassment. Now heads are rolling and the University is under huge media scrutiny. Here are just a few stories about the situation from the press:

What a nightmare. But I have to shake my head and say that someone (many people) was a bit too eager to land a mega-gift. Instead of doing due diligence, vetting the donor properly and sending the proposed gift through a gift acceptance committee for review, they simply ran for the finish line.  We know that transformational gifts take tons of time and effort, years of preparation and relationship building, many discussions and internal vetting, etc. How did this happen? Did greed overtake reason? Where is the research department in this process? 

Donors of this magnitude don't just pop up out of the blue with pots of gold, and if they do, you should be skeptical. As we invest further in donor relations and compliance at many of our institutions, a new position is starting to appear, one of vetting. Whether your organization uses an outside firm to vet potential donors, or does the investigative research in house, it has to be done. 

With all of the media scrutiny it isn't worth it to accept a gift from an unknown entity, we have enough trouble dealing with gifts from individuals that can go wrong (Madoff, Lay, Sterling, Cosby, Petters, Cosby) why accept a gift from someone we haven't researched? What is your gift acceptance policy? How do you go about protecting your organization? Are you involved in the process? It pays to be nosy and not needy.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this massive multi-million dollar mistake.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Glass is Half Full

Direct Mail isn't dead. That's for sure. I think what has happened with the communications we send is that at times we are afraid to take a risk and break out of the #10 envelope. I often say if it comes in a #10, and doesn't have IRS at the top, I'm unlikely to read what's inside. Especially true for those of you who send those 2-4 page letters. I mean, really, who has time to plow through those letters?

The same goes for the way we thank our donors. It doesn't have to be on letterhead to be effective. I want to show you an amazingly clever communication I recently received from Texas Health Resources. It's a great way to say thank you and demonstrate impact at the same time, and it makes me thirsty, thirsty for more!

It's a combination of gratitude and impact, it reminds me of the recipe post cards I used to send at Yeshiva and is a whole new take on the idea that when you put something in the mail, it needs to be folded and shipped in a #10. Some of you might be saying, how much did that cost? You know what, you may have a point but it is a WOW piece. This really inspires me to think about giving again, to realize that they embrace their Texas culture and at least thinking outside of the glass! The only thing I would have done to make this piece even better is remove the ask at the bottom of the back of the piece, then it would have been a pure thank you and impact piece without an ask.

What kind of mailings have you done that have inspired you? How can you stretch beyond an 8 and a half by 11 piece of paper to inspire your donors. Our designers are more talented than ever, allow them to be creative and embody your mission. If you need inspiration, check out Pinterest and Instagram, I've devoted my September on Instagram to posting direct mail pieces that are worth the postage- come join me my handle is @donorguru.