Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Demystifying the Dreaded Program Audit

For some, just the mention of conducting an audit of their donor relations program sends chills running up and down the spine.  “Audit” seems scary – like the IRS – and often viewed as questioning an individual’s or a teams’ capabilities. Or it evokes dread for a process and tasks that seem to have questionable value, take too much time, and don’t guarantee change. But audits can lead to success with leadership. Our bosses don’t necessarily want to just hear that we need more help or why we can’t fully accomplish all things for all people all the time (that is called whining).  Budgets are always tight. But most leaders do genuinely want to know how their organization fares in comparison to their fundraising peers and aspirations, and increasingly in the area of donor relations.  After all, competition is healthy, and everyone wants to be part of a top-notch winning team. What does resonate with leadership is the ability to talk-the-talk about what the donor relations program does to support the organization’s overall efforts around donor retention and increased giving – even with the current resources you have.  So the better prepared you are able to present the facts, the clearer the limitations will also be.
My best advice for promoting and advancing your donor relations program is to conduct an internal audit. It will not only be worth your time, it will also keep you on track and updated with donor relations best practices. The key to making this exercise beneficial (and palatable!) is to approach it knowing you will use the results to increase you/your team’s value and credibility with leadership and other staff.  If your organization chooses the option to engage an external audit, it need not feel threatening to you or your team. In my experience, it sometimes takes that outside “voice” and objective assessment to move leadership in a wanted direction and to lend credence and support for your program and unbiased recommendations for next steps for further enhancement (staff, resources, budget, restructure, etc.).
Some of the success with an audit, either internal or external, will depend on the maturity of your organization’s fundraising efforts.  But if you don’t take charge of your program’s fate....someone else will.  Here are some tips to get started with an internal audit.
Be disciplined and determined  
·       If you are a team manager or a one-person shop, schedule regular blocks of time to collect and review the deliverables you produce, evaluate the criteria around each practice and the timeliness of your processes, reassess staff roles and re-read job descriptions, identify individual and team strengths and note areas for improvement or additional skills and training needed. Be honest and accepting about what you discover.
·       If you are a team member or a one-person shop, track for 3-4 weeks how you spend each day, how much time each activity/task takes, the quantity of deliverables you produce, the quality of interactions you have with front line and other staff. Create an calendar of the projected annual ebbs and flows associated with your work area (ex: acknowledgements, reports, etc) 
Be strategic and confident
·       Use the 4 Pillars of Donor Relations as a guide to measure your program’s quantifiable and qualitative data, and as a roadmap to set goals and plan for the future.  Hold an annual retreat if you are a team.
·       Benchmark your program against 5-6 organizations that your leadership identifies as peers and aspirations.
Be positive and team building
·       Look for meetings and communications to highlight what you/your team does well for the organization and what you strive to do in the future.
·       Promote capability of each team member and the DR practice/area each is responsible for.

When the timing is right, don’t be afraid to say that you are ready to do more. Make your case with the quantitative and qualitative data you’ve collected and is ready at your fingertips. Good luck!  

Thanks to Maureen Donnelly, a member of the Donor Relations Guru Group for this amazing post!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Is there a magic dollar amount for donor retention?

I'm passionate about donor retention, some might even say obsessed. I hope you are too. I'm not only a champion for donor relations, but also an advocate for the profound importance of keeping your donors even closer than you knew possible. You see, the ask, a solicitation, only works every once in a while, but a thank you works every time. But how much is the right amount to ask for? Does the amount of a donor's gift translate to their retention. In a recent AFP article citing the Fundraising Effectiveness Report, turns out there is. There is evidence of a direct correlation between giving amount and donor loyalty.

The amount may surprise you. It's not the thousands of dollars that we chase in major gifts, to the contrary, it's about $250 for most donors. I thought this was intriguing research, so I tested the theory with a few of my favorite clients. In fact, when they dug into the data, we did find an amount at which donors gave more loyally once they gave that amount. At one organization it was $150 and at another it was $200. Seems like to me its a bit more than $10 a month, enough to be a sacrificial gift for many. Have you thought about this at your organization?

Is there an amount that you can find in your data retains donors at a much higher level than the rest? What percentage of your donor base gives at this amount and above. It's not good enough just to know about this data or your "magic number". Now you have to act. You have to partner with your friends that do the asking and ensure that they target this amount. Picture it like this... life is like a box of chocolates, and you don't wanna just take a bite out of every one, you wanna know that the one you chose is the winner. I know a certain someone who dug their thumbnail on the underside of each chocolate to tell their inner secrets but that's another story for another day. Rather than having silly giving levels like founder and guardian and bronze and pewter, why not target the amount that "sticks"? 

This gets us even further into the idea of mapping out who your loyal donors are and what they "look like". What are their giving patterns, when do they increase and decrease and what is the journey along the way? As you get to know some of your larger donors better, ask them about what makes them loyal. One of my favorite donors recently said to me on twitter: "I will give once because a friend asks but sustained giving requires a belief and commitment to the cause".  This struck me as profound because not only is he and his wife's giving broad in the community it is also very deep. They receive such joy from their ability to be generous and are deeply involved in the causes they care about. I understand that not all donors are the same, but the more we get to know them, the better we can perform our essential and important functions.

I agree there is no silver bullet to donor retention, but information empowers us. For example, in your retention patterns, is there a year of loyalty where you see a steep drop off? Can you tie it to leadership or climates in the economy or other uncertainties? Or is there a true fatigue point? Have you taken the time to examine these things? I would love to hear about your ideas on the "magic number". What other data points tied to retention are you examining?


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Finding talent. Growing talent. Encouraging talent.

Did you know that there are about 1 million fundraising positions posted at any given time? 

Competition for the best people is fierce.  To address this issue many of the large higher education institutions are building talent management teams in house to help them discover the best employees and recruit them to their organizations.  The University of Florida, Penn State, Boston University, University of Rochester, UCLA, University of Michigan, University of Iowa, and UC Davis are just a few institutions who are building these talent management teams. All day, every day these professionals think about finding the best talent. They also think about how to grow their own talent, and how to retain their best employees. 

If you are someone who works hard, has some talent, or gains any kind of name recognition you can quickly become a hot commodity.  Many of us receive calls from recruiters and head hunters nearly every day.  Last week I received 3 in one week.  Sometimes they are calling for me and other times they are looking for leads for great talent. 

Here are a few things you can do to get noticed:

Be a problem solver - do you see something that could be done better, more efficiently, or that your organization should stop doing?  Every employee can go to their boss with a problem but the best ones come with a solution or a plan.

Become dependable - everyone likes to have those go-to people on their teams. You know the ones. They are creative, they follow-through, they are positive, they stay late or come in early to make sure the project is complete on time. 

Be creative - I love when my team members come to me with great new ideas.  The bigger and bolder the better. We have a motto at UC Davis - if you are going to go for it then swing for the fences.  Even if the idea is not all the way hatched I love that they are thinking about what more we could do. I make sure I have someone who is creative and a big idea person on each team. They are the first ones I go to when I have an idea and need someone to help me tease it out a bit more.

Market yourself - if you have planned an incredible event, if you have created a brilliant donor impact report, if you have found a smarter way to work - then tell others.  If it's innovative submit it for an award, present at a conference, share your donor feedback up through the ranks so senior leadership is aware of what you are doing.

Build a Network - find a group of awesome colleagues that you admire and get to know them better. When you are stuck call or email them for advice. If you have done something great that worked well for you tell them about it. And they do not have to just be in donor relations field. I have an incredible network of professionals across the country and the world that I have built over my career.   Some serve as advisors, some as mentors, some are amazing colleagues but they are all generous friends.

Tell Your Story - you cannot just do your job well and hope a promotion and raise comes your way. You need to tell others (your leadership, your HR team, head hunters or search firms, or me) that you want to grow personally and professionally.  Tell us what you have to offer and what type of next step you want to take.  Just because you do not see something posted right now does not mean there will not be something perfect very soon.  I talk with my employees regularly about their goals and plans for their career.  Do you?  If you do not – believe me some great recruiter will soon!

Thanks so much to Angie Joens for the wonderful guest post. She and the others in the DRG Group can be reached here:!drg-group/c1v3w

What do you think of this topic and the ideas? Comment Below!