Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Infuriating Fundraiser Incentives

Recently, Marts and Lundy came out with an enlightening report on the state of incentive pay in Higher Education development programs. I was excited to read about this often hush hush realm of our profession. Of course, we’re not talking about bonuses paid based on commission or a portion of the gifts raised, that is unethical. We’re talking about performance incentives that are meant to retain employees and combat mediocrity in our advancement shops. With the average life span of a front line fundraiser currently at 16 months, I’m all for retention of staff and donors. As I read further and further into the report, I became incensed. This graph should tell you why I am upset.


As you can see out of the respondents that have incentive programs, only two of them contain anyone in advancement services and NONE of them have incentives in place for donor relations. I completely understand that fundraising is hard work with meetings and visits and strategy. But only incentivizing the fundraisers and leadership creates a massive divide between front line fundraisers and the rest of the advancement division. It places an unfair importance on one person’s work over another. And it’s insulting. In order to close a gift it takes an entire team, from researchers to proposal writers to data pullers to the people writing the gift agreements. And in most shops this does not lie solely with the front line fundraiser. They have help. So why then are they the only ones incentivized for fundraising performance? Never mind the people who help perform stewardship, pledge payments and donor relations after the gift is closed.

Fundraising takes a team, it is not an us and them business. The most donor focused shops heavily rely on their teammates in order to secure a gift from a donor. So why are they not incentivized in the same way as front line fundraisers? In this chart you can see the end goal of the incentive programs for these organizations. The primary one is retention. And I understand it completely, especially with the lack of fundraising talent and frequent turnover. But wouldn’t that be the same for all vital positions? What is the detriment done if you lose a database manager? Or the person who does your endowment reports? I would say that the loss of these two employees would be detrimental as well. So where is the plan and incentive for them? Or are we not incentivizing their retention because they’re traditionally more stable?

I don’t mean to sound bitter or angry, but I AM upset. All of these tasks performed by teammates bring value and bring in gifts as well. But because we aren’t directly meeting with donors and asking them for money, we’re not eligible for incentives and bonuses? If someone messes up your gift agreements, proposals or endowment reports, it could be costly, why not incentivize good work in these areas as well? Maybe not tied to a dollar goal but performance metrics? We don’t need additional help creating a divide between “front office” and “back bone/office” positions in advancement. And this doesn’t help. What are some solutions to this? How do I get off of my soapbox and do something about this program? Is the study faulty and many of you are being incentivized right along with your fundraising partners? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the subject, not just from us but also from our fundraising partners. I would love to open a debate on the topic. Let me hear your thoughts!



Thursday, June 23, 2016

Donor Relations and Campaigns

It's common for most organizations to be in one of the three phases of campaign at all times. Silent, public, and post/close. But when during the campaign should donor relations be in the spotlight. The selfish answer is all of the time. The reality is campaigns are changing and so is donor relations. Campaign staffing used to ramp up pre campaign and then fall off sharply post campaign with experienced staff scattering and new portfolios built and culled. But the reality is that most organizations are no longer "staffing down" anymore after a campaign concludes because retention of skilled staff is so important and crucial to future success. 

When I first started consulting I would receive calls and emails saying, "we've launched a campaign, we should probably think about donor relations now". That paradigm has shifted. Now, more and more calls are coming at the silent phase and also at the conclusion of the campaign. Let me state this clearly for those of you grappling with donor relations staffing and efficacy during a campaign: staff up early and ramp up as the campaign goes along. By the time a successful campaign closes, you should have many new donors and tons of new funds to care for. That's where an effective donor relations team excels. Many donors will be in 5 year pledge commitments for their campaign gifts and one of the missions and metrics of donor relations is pledge payment completion. 

There isn't much gap time anymore between campaigns, usually when one closes the organization is silent into another one. Fundraisers are constantly pushed to cultivate new donors for the next major gift. That's where good donor relations strategy shines. We can excel at maintaining those existing relationships, stewarding funds and engaging donors with their generosity. In addition a campaign allows us to examine our policies and procedures in a new way with a clear focus.

 Some of the activities I take on with my clients in order to prepare for a campaign are:
Comprehensive fund audit including criteria and financial/unspent fund review 
  • Naming and recognition guideline review or creation including his minimum amounts to name funds
  • Gift agreement template review
  • Acknowledgment level review and realignment
  • Event effectiveness evaluation
  • Giving society realignment

These are just some of the things that can demonstrate that a donor relations shop has its house in order and is ready for a campaign. Don't forget at the close of a successful campaign, the heavy lifting for donor relations begins! 

What else did you add to prepare for your last campaign? What needs are you seeing from staff and resources?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.



Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Power of your Network

Recently I was thinking about how important it is to have a great network of colleagues around you.

Sometimes you need a friend.  Sometimes you need some inspiration.  Sometimes you need a mentor.  Sometimes you need an idea. Sometimes you need a job.  Sometimes you need a boost.  Sometimes you need a kick in the ass.  All of these require something very important – your network – a group of people who you can turn to to help with any of these scenarios and millions more. 

When I started out in my career in higher education and fundraising – I went to a few conferences and began to meet people that I enjoyed for a variety of reasons – they were funny, smart, great presenters, asked good questions, asked the same question I had, or were quick with a smile.  It didn’t really matter how it happened but somehow these people became my network.  We gravitated toward each other because we all were doing the same work and wanted to be great at it. 

Over time and together we did some great work and began to change and define what stewardship is and how it could/should be done.  We learned a lot.  We inspired each other and then eventually we became the teachers helping the next generation.

My network has grown and I have been mindful about who is included.  It includes people like me but also people totally different from me.  Some are older.  Some are younger.  They are scattered all over the nation and even the world. I have a network of colleagues and friends who are there for me and know I will be there for them too.  I included people who are kind, motivating, respectful, challenging, and crazy.  Crazy gets things done and pushes me beyond status quo. 

So go out and find your network and let them find you.  Be bold.  Go up to someone at a conference who asked a great question and start a conversation.  Tell someone you love their style.  Read industry publications and see who is making things happen.  Keep in touch with those brilliant people who you once worked with but moved on to other organizations.  Sign up for classes or better yet teach a class.  Just get out there and find them!  Trust me you will be so grateful for them everyday – I know I am! 

And to those in my network who may read this …thank you!  You have made my life richer by being in it.  You helped me reach goals, solve problems, and succeed.  I am forever grateful for you.

This wonderful guest post is from Angie Joens from UC Davis and Door Relations Guru group member. She was inspired by a friend's recent job search. What are your thoughts on your network and who in it has helped you? I would love to hear your thoughts.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Strategic Partnerships in Donor Relations

My friend Mary describes donor relations as the octopus of the undersea creature development world. How apropos. We sit in the middle and have tentacles in all areas of our organizations, both within fundraising and outside of it as well. We're also a bit sticky, once someone experiences the true joy of making gratitude and impact possible, it's hard to deny us. Not to mention most of us in donor relations are truly tenacious and stick around longer than the average for front line fundraisers which is currently 16 months. In addition to front line fundraisers, who are our natural partners in donor relations? Here are just a few, please feel free to add more below:

Finance: We rely on our financial teams to help provide accurate information to our donors and ensure transparency in the use of their funds

Advancement Services: We're super users of databases and need our friends in technology and process in order to help us get the most basic thank yous done all the way to complex data requests and process implementation and improvement to better the donor experience.

Research: I always call the folks in research the CIA- they know tons about the donors and when tapped into in a meaningful way can provide true nuggets of knowledge that may go overlooked, it's beyond how much someone's capacity is and onto their preferences and personas are.

Program and Departmental Staff: They are the lifeblood of information we report back to donors. Donors want to hear most from those that use the monies they have so generously granted us, thus these folks are crucial to our success. From financial aid to programming staff to budget managers and administrative staff, these folks know how the money was spent!

Communications and Marketing: All communications are donor relations and all donor relations are communications? Maybe so, but having a great marcomm team who knows how to write for donors and who understands donor focused behavior is key to our success. Included her are the wonderful website folks and graphic designers who make our work come to life!

Leadership: We can't be strategic without help from our leaders, those who guide the way and help us plan the future of our relationships with donors. Anyone who has worked for someone who "gets it" understands the true value of servant donor focused leadership. When you have someone focused on just transactions, it can be bad bad news for donor relations.

Beneficiaries: No one is closer to the gift than those that receive it. Their stories are vital to our successes with donors. Providing a nurturing environment for them to tell their stories and interact directly with donors is crucial.

Board Members and Other Volunteers: These folks are generous beyond fiscal giving. We need to understand their value and the power of them giving their gratitude to donors. A phone call from a volunteer is a magical thing. Involve them in your donor relations planning and execution and get ready to soar!

Who else are your strategic partners? Who can you not live without? I would love to hear your thoughts on those that are essential to the donor experience at your organization. Need to make a partner? Free lunch or goodies always works and hey, how about a hand written note?


Thursday, June 2, 2016

9 Minutes Toward Fundraising Joy

At the AFP International Fundraising conference this year I had the good fortune to be interviewed by my friend and colleague Amy Eisenstein. I hope you will allow these 9 minutes to help influence your day. You will find my thoughts on donor relations, "thasking" and the joy of expressing gratitude. Please view it today and share with others, and know that this is what I tell others about our fantastic profession. That the joy comes from unbridled gratitude. Join me. Click my photo or head here:

I would love to hear your thoughts on my commentary below!

Thank you,