Thursday, September 21, 2017

Connecting with Donors Differently

I hope you enjoy this guest post from DRG Group contributor, Ashley Rowe. 

The DRG Group talks a lot about ways to surprise and delight donors. It’s easy to get caught up in daily tasks, but it’s important for us to take a step back and look for ways to genuinely connect with the people who support us.

What can we do to exceed expectations and put a smile on a donor’s face? How can we find unique and meaningful ways to express gratitude and nurture these relationships?
The handwritten note or a personalized video are favorites around here, but what are some other ways you can customize a donor’s experience with your organization? Often times, there isn’t a simple answer.

The best way to accomplish this is to know your donors as individuals. I’m not just talking about their name, profession, lifetime giving amount, giving capacity, or the last time they wrote a check. I mean really know them on a personal level and find ways to engage in meaningful interactions with them. Let me give you an example.

My institution works with many corporate partners. Recently, our primary contact at a company we work with often lost her husband in a tragic accident. He also happened to be an artist who had donated some work to be displayed in one of our buildings. Kudos to our Stewardship Manager, who came up with a unique way to express our sympathy. She asked me to create a heart-shaped collage made up of photos of his donated artwork.

This artwork was created from petri dishes, and the results were brilliant and beautiful. We used samples of the donor's work displayed throughout one of our buildings to create a framed heart collage for his wife.
Now, I’m not a graphic designer by any stretch of the imagination, but my focus was less on what I couldn’t do, and more on finding a way to create a simple gesture that would mean something to this man's wife. Along with the graphic, we included a short message about the impact of his artwork. We wanted her to know that we appreciated what he shared with us and that he would continue to inspire others.

Do you know what the best part was? They weren’t major gift donors. They were generous people who supported our mission in any way they could. Creating a moment of genuine, human connection cost us almost nothing. The result was that we made someone feel supported in the midst of a tragedy.

I’m not sure if this donor will ever make a major gift, and to be honest, I don’t care. I was glad to be a part of creating something different, personal, and meaningful.

At the end of the day, we’re all in this business for one reason - to help people and make a difference. Sometimes that means stepping outside the confines of our daily routine to do something special for those who support our work.

How have you personally connected with a donor? What unique ways have you expressed your gratitude for their support? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Upgrading a One tIme donor into a monthly sustainer in 5 simple steps- Using Donor Relations!

This blog comes in the middle of a few natural disasters those of us in the states have been facing and dealing with. For those of you that have consistent power, water and are safe and dry in your home, we have so many blessings to count. If you want to know what to do to help those that can’t say the same, Get out and GIVE! I’ve been giving to organizations since Harvey hit and I’ve had a remarkable experience. From food organizations to Universities to relief organizations across the spectrum I’ve had a pretty good experience.

Head and shoulders above the rest stands Team Rubicon, an organization I learned about from the venerable Beth Kanter, and I’m so glad she helped bring them into my life. Team Rubicon is an organization that specializes in disaster recovery and employs and empowers veterans to go into those areas most affected and has a huge impact. The way they demonstrate this to new donors is first class and top rate. Then they capitalize on their donor relations by working to convert donors who made a one time gift to monthly sustaining donors. It may seem quick for many of us and it did to me at first, but when you think about it, this organization specializes in getting help fast to areas that need it most. Even though the conversion for me was less than a month, I didn’t feel rushed. Why? Because Donor Relations.

Step 1: A fabulous receipt
Your gift empowers our veteran volunteers, by providing them with a sense of purpose, community, and identity through continued services to communities affected by disasters.

Thank you very much for your contribution and for being such a valuable part of the team.”


Step 2: Impact in action
WOW- this was sent to me via text only a day after I donated-

Setp 3:
Then a thank you email that was amazing, and honest and relatable- I felt like I really got to know Lissie

Step4: Two days later another impact report text- BAM!

Step 5: Then Jon Connors showed up in my inbox- and he told me what Rubicon had done for him. And he was the Clay Hunt fellow- I learned about Clay hunt four years ago thanks to a story on 60 minutes about his tragic death. And I was moved. I was moved because I realized that not only was Jon Connors giving back in such a meaningful way but that Jon’s life was so changed as well, I knew I had to do more. And there it was, right there- one click and my opportunity to help bridge the gap for Rubicon was staring me in the face. Usually I’m not a fan of impact combines with an ask but I have to tell you after two weeks and four examples of impact, I felt I was ready and I felt that Rubicon needed my help even after the news cameras were gone. I gave, I joined their monthly giving program.

I’m so proud of Team Rubicon, they’re my new poster child of doing it right. It took them five profound steps, five examples of doing it right and putting the donor at the center of your efforts and it produced. This is an example we can all model. Not only in their communications with their style of frank honest text that allows the donor to be special partners and part of the “team”. No one at Team Rubicon is giving us big words and sweeping generalizations from their ivory tower. Instead, they got right down to work, just like their team members do.

Here are my tips for conversion:
  • Have a plan
  • Go strong with impact
  • Don’t ask for more until you’ve delivered on the first gift
  • Put the donor at the center
  • Make your communications sound real
  • Name your monthly group
  • Set a targeted dollar amount
WAIT- it just got better--
Look what I received today--


What do you think? How do you convert one time donors to monthly supporters? Was this helpful for you to experience? How can we improve this process for our donors?


Thursday, September 7, 2017

10 Tips for Handling Complicated Work Relationships

We’ve all been there - an upcoming project requires you to collaborate with a person, team, or department that is consistently difficult to work with. Whether it’s personalities, politics, or policies causing tension, the good news is there are a few steps you can take to minimize the butting of heads:
  1. Be prepared - Do you work with this person often? If so, you can probably anticipate their response. What can you do to get ahead of the storm? Maybe you need to temper expectations of your own team members, or address areas that might be of concern ahead of time. Taking a few minutes to prepare prior to a conversation can help start a project off on the right foot.
  2. Tailor your communications - Most people respond better to being asked for something rather than being told what you need and when you need it. Take a few extra moments to craft your request. Think of this colleague like a donor and use what you know about them to tailor your approach.
  3. Make an effort - Get to know a person or team of people if you work together often. Whether it’s a simple conversation in passing or asking them to lunch so you can learn more about what they do, making an effort goes a long way in building relationships. Again, think of them as a donor prospect - ask thoughtful questions and, most importantly, be a good listener!
  4. Pick your battles - Look at the issue as part of a bigger picture - is it really worth the fight this time? Sometimes a tiny loss now is worth a big win later on. If you know you’ll be working with this team/person on a larger, more important project in the near future, it might be worth it to let a few smaller things go in the meantime.  
  5. Try to empathize - This one isn’t always easy, but try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Different positions often have different goals and priorities, and sometimes even different policies and guidelines to follow. Understanding where they’re coming from can help lessen the blow of an unfavorable response.
  6. Be a creative problem solver - Think outside the box. If you run into a roadblock or significant pushback, is there another way you can accomplish the same goal? This can be a powerful tactic, but a tricky one as well. Keep lines of communication open and let the other person know what you’re doing. They’ll likely appreciate you finding a way to get it done, but workarounds can get you in trouble. If I’m told something won’t work, I like to offer up alternatives I’d be happy with and let the other person choose the option they prefer. It often results in a win-win and a much less stressful interaction.
  7. Say thank you -  Cupcakes and donuts are great ways to make friends. You think I’m kidding, but I’m not. If a project goes well or someone goes above or beyond for you, say thank you! It can be a handwritten note, a gift card, a sweet treat, or anything that displays genuine gratitude (in other words, something more than just typing, “Thanks!” at the end of an email).
  8. Don’t take it personally - I like to assume best intentions, which means understanding that sometimes policies, budgets, and bandwidth play a role in these complicated interactions. If you didn’t get the response you were looking for, try not take it personally. There may be external factors playing a role that are beyond the other person’s control.
  9. Ask for forgiveness - It’s always good to try to play by the rules, but I firmly believe in taking risks and asking for forgiveness when necessary. Just don’t forget to actually ask for forgiveness.
  10. Keep calm and carry on - When all else fails, sometimes it’s best to accept a situation for what it is and move on. Not everyone can work effortlessly together all the time. Feathers will get ruffled and feelings might even get hurt, but at the end of the day you have to slap on a smile and keep doing your job.

I hope you find these tips helpful the next time you have to collaborate with someone you've found it difficult to level with in the past. If you're feeling wary, just bring donuts to your next meeting!

Thank you to DRG Group contributor, Ashley Rowe, for this helpful guest post. How have you managed difficult workplace relationships? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.