Friday, July 29, 2016

The Fundraising Office of the Future

Yesterday, I had the amazing pleasure of attending the Raise 2016 conference hosted by industry leading technology provider, evertrue. It was a conference unlike any other I've attended before and what a positive affirming experience. I was asked to sit on an amazing panel of industry leaders to discuss what the advancement fundraising operation of the future will look like. Questions like, is direct mail dead? Is phonathon dead? How do we solve declining alumni participation rates? 

What do you think the fundraising office of the future will look like? Some of the ideas I proposed were that direct mail isn't dead, but letters in #10 envelopes certainly are. So is segmentation based on LYBUNTS and SYBUNTS and not donor behaviors. If you're still dumping thousands of dollars into phonathon and direct mail, but have you invested one tenth of that into social and digital media? Small investments in those channels can have massive ROI. So that's one avenue of the future. 

Another surrounds personalization. One of the items discussed was how donors want to feel special and known and we do a very poor job of that as an industry. "Dear donor" and "Dear Friend" or sending reply envelopes to donors who have ever only given online are examples of the lack of personalization in our field.

Another trend of the future and one that is already here in most shops is that 10-15 years ago there was one software in the advancement shop, the database. Now, there are multiple software platforms involved in advancement: email software, business intelligence, social media integration, event registration, research software and more. But in order to manage all of these software platform integrations with our massive databases, has your infrastructure staff increased in size in order to handle the complexity and vast reach of these additional programs? If not, think about it. One of my favorite partner VPs says that for every fundraiser he hires he hires two infrastructure staff to support them. This is the model of the future.

Speaking of staffing models, the advancement shop of the future will not have this engulfing divide between back office and front office functions. Nope, none of the upstairs downstairs mentality that currently plagues us. Instead we will function in pods or collaborative teams. Imagine a triangle of effectiveness. With a gift officer, a researcher and a donor relations professional all provided excellent data by an analyst and an alumni relations specialist. Working as a team, they will share in the credit of the incoming gift and share in the incentives and the struggles as well. Imagine if they all had similar salaries and responsibility for the donor experience but were able to specialize in their area of expertise? Working collaboratively they can be more efficient and more effective in securing gifts. No longer siloed into their departments and colleges and units, their sole focus will be the donor. This is the model of the future. No more "major" gifts or annual fund silos, we will do what's best for the donor and the organization. Imagine the possibilities if we actually worked as teams in a cohesive manner, no more walls, no more barriers. 

What do you believe the future will be like in fundraising? What will we value? What will organizations look like? How will we communicate with those closest to us?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Your Samples Needed! Great Acknowledgment Swap 2016!

Calling all fundraisers, writers and thank you artists!!

As you know, my website is chock full of FREE resources for you. One of the traditions is the Great Acknowledgment swap. You can view past acknowledgment swaps here. To continue the tradition, I'm asking for your help. Please send me your acknowledgment templates, custom letters and verbiage to share with the thousands of people that read this blog weekly. Simply email your letters to me at or you can share them with me on my dropbox! 

Ten lucky random submissions will receive a free webinar for you and your fundraising team to watch at any time!

I'm looking for letters of all types but if you have these, bonus points:
Non Letter acks
Unrestricted acks
Digital acks 
Healthcare acks
Memorial and honorary acks
Stock or DAF acks
Faculty or staff acks
Athletic acks
Corporate and foundation acks
Pledge completion acks

Last time we collected over 1000 letters to share with others, you can't send too many- but this only works with your support! Keep them coming, the deadline is Friday August 12, 2016. But if you have yours already, please send them my way today! Also, please redact any and all donor information. I would prefer to receive them as PDF or Word documents if possible.

I look forward to reading your best work and sharing it with thousands of others- now go ahead and copy and paste off of your shared drive! Thank YOU in advance!


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Gift Announcements are Everywhere. Where are Donor Loyalty Announcements?

I apologize for my absence last week. I couldn't find it in me to discuss trivial matters of donors and money when what happened here in the US was all around me and impacted me so deeply. I'm back, but my thoughts are still with my country.

How many of you in your lifetime working at a nonprofit have done a gift announcement? You know, when a company or individual gives you a large amount of money and you rush to have a big Styrofoam foamcore check created, you iron out your photo background filled with your logo and you gather all of the key stakeholders so they can be in the photo. This is great, this is good, your donor is happy, you've served punch and pie and you've attempted to get some earned media in the local press out of it and goodwill everywhere. It looks a little something like this:

Not bad, right? But boy it sure is filled with sameness. I call these the Happy Gilmore check moments. In the classic movie Happy Gilmore wants all of his earnings paid to him in giant checks he keeps in the back of his car. They become a novelty item. Is that what they are to our donors as well? Do they have a collection of big checks somewhere? Is this the best way to recognize our donors' generosity? But wait, there's something else bothering me. 

How many of you know the donor who has given the MOST amount of money? I'm sure most of you. How many of you know the donor who has given the longest consecutively to your organization? These loyal donors, this few, these generous souls they are the bedrock of your organization. For me, names like Hal, Eugenia, Bert and Tillie and Clifford come to mind. they give small amounts but they give year after year so I decided to search for the gift announcements for them. I looked for stories of big signs celebrating their loyalty and photos in newspapers and the like. Lo and behold, images of these donors began to appear as well here are their photos:

That's not a mistake. I couldn't find a single presentation of an organization with a big foamcore sign and tons of fancy looking happy officials memorializing 50 consecutive years of giving by a donor or the like.  I liken myself to be an expert Googler so this isn't an error of the interwebs, it's OUR error. We are not always valuing the right thing. We're valuing the easy thing, the thing we believe others will follow. If we show other donors someone who has given a big amount, they will too, right? NO. It may have the exact opposite effect. Not everyone can write a big check, but everyone can be loyal. We need to change our worldview about what we value and start making these donors our heroes. I challenge each and every one of you to create at least one of these public celebrations of loyalty in the next year. Show our generous populations that loyalty matters, and that we are willing to reward it right alongside big amounts of money. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and what you and your organization are doing to value and announce that loyalty matters, not just big gifts. Let's send a new message to our supporters, not just the ones that write the big checks about the value that every gift provides. Post a link below of your loyal gift announcement or your stories of your loyal donors, these folks are my donor heroes. I look forward to hearing your commentary and opinions on this topic.