Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Donor Relations When Disaster Strikes

Hurricane Irma.  Hurricane Harvey.  Fires in California.  Mass shooting in Las Vegas.  Top university officials making headlines – and not the ones you want for your institution.  These natural and manmade disasters seem to be everywhere you turn and they greatly affect our donors and constituents.

Our donors are often look to us for answers and to do the right thing.  At UC Davis we just survived massive wildfires that destroyed entire nearby neighborhoods, burned wineries and vineyards to the ground, and many of our alumni, parents, students, and friends were affected.  It was hectic but thankfully we had a plan.  A plan to not only connect and assist those affected but also to modify our plans to fundraise in these areas. Here are 4 steps we took to ensure our donors, and our community, knew we were there for them:

1. We reached out to all of our managed donors and trustees to ensure their safety.  It took several attempts to reach them but we did and they were grateful to hear from us.

2. Our Vet School sprang into action to assist animals abandoned and injured during the fires.  We opened up our hospital to house and care for their animals until their owners could come for them.

3. We suspended all direct mail, email, phone and personal solicitation to the affected areas.  How inconsiderate would it have been to ask for their support of UC Davis at a time when they were uncertain of their own future? 

4. When people called to ask how they could help we directed their support to several emergency funds.  My favorite is our fund started by students to assist students in emergency situations.

The fires are out and people are beginning to clean up and rebuild.  We had a plan and a team in place to execute it.  We didn’t do anything heroic – we just did the right thing at the right time.  We were ready… are you?

I hope you enjoyed this guest post by DRG Group member, Angie Joens

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Improving Donor Relations Through Innovation: Think Like an Entrepreneur

There is a time and a place for benchmarking. Times often call for us to CASE our work – copy and steal everything. There’s no need to recreate the wheel when it comes to tried and true initiatives. But, the donor relations industry is increasingly needing its professionals to think like entrepreneurs. 

As our donors’ needs become more nuanced and specific, the campaigns reach into the billions, and record numbers of supporters expect to be stewarded in meaningful manners, we must begin to respond to these needs with a business-savvy mindset. We need to poise ourselves as innovative problem solvers within our organization. One of my favorite business tips is that being an entrepreneur is not a job, it’s a mindset. And a very deliberate mindset that we should curate and refine.

Donor relations professionals are notorious givers – we are people pleasers. That is literally our job. So when in need, we go to our friends and our peers and other existing programs. I do this myself, frequently. And we receive examples galore from our contacts. But there are also key characteristics of the entrepreneurial mindset that set us up for more innovative and dynamic output.
  1. Diligence and perseverance: dedication to trying, testing, failing, and starting over again; replacing fear with confidence and flexibility; thriving in the uncertainty and demonstrating willingness to take risks
  2. Resourcefulness: proactively looking for ways to answer your organization’s needs; don’t sit back and expect it to come to you; work the problem from a variety of angles and depend more on your own ingenuity than the ideas of others
  3. Vision: don’t just let the road take you where it will, envision the end goal and figure out how to get there; all great innovation comes from a solid vision
  4. Passion: donor relations is inherently personal – we are working to connect with our donors in ways that inspire trust and loyalty in big and small ways – this work should fuel our passion and the genuine pleasure we take in doing our jobs!

As you embark on your own 2018 professional adventures, I encourage you to consider the entrepreneurial mindset in which you can start each day. Need something? Go seek it out on your own. Don’t wait. Be bold, proactive, and passionate. Innovation always wins. Ask yourself, what am I building/doing/creating that others will want to copy and steal from me? And then give it to them!

If you're looking for more inspiration and direction to improve your donor relations program, join the DRG Group in Atlanta February 1-2 for the 4 Pillars conference

Thank you to DRG Group member, Sarah Sims, for this amazing post reminding us of the importance of innovation in donor relations. Have you created or implemented something new and exciting? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.