The little things

Do you love what you do?

I hope you do. I know that no workplace is perfect, nor is every day a great day, but I feel privileged to do what I do, and I really love doing it.

Sometimes it’s big things – like a successful fundraising campaign, a really innovative project, or a very happy client.

But then there are a lot of little things that I think add up. Today I was looking at a classic direct mail piece; every paragraph was short and direct and indented.

Indentation is beautiful. Does it look sleek and corporate? No. But it makes it look like a personal letter, it enhances reading flow, makes it more scannable… the list goes on and on.

But this post isn’t about indentation, or even direct mail. It’s about loving what you do – not through massive successes, but little wins and small delights.

I love the days when something like indentation catches me off guard, or when I learn something new, or when I have a great interaction with a client or colleague.

What we do isn’t for the faint of heart, as my colleague Kimberley would say, but I think a lot of us have a lot of fun doing it!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives and has been working in fundraising for twelve years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Storytelling without stories

I recently found out I’m attending the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference this year – arguably the most fun conference I’ve been to – and it’s got me thinking about storytelling.

I don’t have to tell any of you that storytelling is critical to fundraising. But it’s one thing to say it and another thing to put it into action.

I’m fortunate enough to work with a number of clients ranging in size, scope, “industry”, who / what / how they serve, etc. They also range as it relates to their access to content a.k.a. stories.

For hospital foundations I work with, it’s arguably easier – they have a clear process for identifying patients with stories that will be compelling for fundraising purposes, and as long as they have consent, a good interview, and photos, we’ve got ourselves a story.

For healthcare organizations that aren’t hospitals, for example research organizations, they’re more removed from the patients they serve (organization –> researcher –> patient) and therefore it’s a bit harder.

Then there are organizations who have lots of content and stories, but their “voice”, so to speak, doesn’t lend itself to the traditional, tear-jerker, heartstrings-pulling direct marketing we know and love as fundraisers.

Now you could say, “Well they should change their voice!” And in some cases that may be the right thing or an option at all. But for some organizations, that voice – the voice that doesn’t lend itself to the usual DM storytelling – is authentic and right, so we have to tell stories another way.

It was in working with a colleague on a direct mail letter recently that got me thinking about this conundrum. So I asked myself, What’s at the core of storytelling in fundraising?

It’s about connection. The problems that charities are solving are compelling in and of themselves, but it takes a real story to bring it home, and really motivate most people to take action. How can we connect people with the cause in a deeper way?

So how can we do that without your standard patient/beneficiary story? How can we connect the donor/prospective donor to the problem, solution, and their role in it? We have to be creative!

Can we talk about sights, sounds, or smells? Approach it from a sensory perspective to bring the donor in?

What have you tried? What’s worked? What hasn’t? What conundrums are you facing? Share with me in the comments or on Twitter! I can’t wait to hear.

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Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives and has been working in fundraising for twelve years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Let it go!

What do the movie “Frozen” and donors have in common???

You’ll know by the end of this blog post.

I was in a meeting with a client and my colleague – the amazing, Rachel Hunnybun!

We were talking about a really cool way to segment donors (yes I actually called it “cool”, and I mean it!), and we talked about how this approach could maximize growth with donors ready to step up their giving, retain donors, rescue lapsed donors, and then there was one more word:

Release

You can call me out on semantics – feel free! But the point was, sometimes we have to let donors go. In fact, sometimes it makes donors feel a lot better to have an exit.

Here’s a life example to give this context: one of my pet peeves is when I have to leave a party and a friend gives me a hard time. “C’mon! Stay for longer! It’s gonna be so fun!”

No, thank you. I’ve made my decision, I was here, and now it’s time to go. Begging me to stay, or giving me a guilt trip, isn’t going to make me stay; it’s going to make me like you a little less.

The same thing can happen with donors! “Stop mailing me! I haven’t given in 7 years!” Sure, when donors actively opt out, it’s a little easier – you put a “DO NOT CALL” or “DO NOT EMAIL” or “DO NOT MAIL” tag on them in your database and they’re excluded.

But sometimes we need to pay a little more attention to donor behaviour. Or give them opportunities to say, “It’s been swell, but I gotta leave this party.”

When I have to leave a party and I say goodbye, and my friend says “Totally understand, get home safe!”, I love them a little more. I feel heard, acknowledged, respected.

And I think donors are the same! When you let them go – or give them an opportunity to opt out – you, the charity, feel more authentic, trustworthy, credible. It’s good for reputation, and it’s good for donor experience.

So whether that’s taking a look at donor behaviour and identifying donors who aren’t engaging with us, or whether it’s a stage of an onboarding journey for new email leads where they can say “Yes, I want to hear from you!”, or “No, I don’t!” Pay a little more attention, and be like Elsa from “Frozen”:

Let it go!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

A fundraiser’s best secret weapon

I’ve gotta tell you… I don’t want to brag, but I’ve been firing on all four cylinders lately. I’ve been thinking more clearly, focusing for longer periods of time, tackling a lot on my to do list, organizing my finances, completing things right away that I would normally put off… the list goes on!

Why? Mostly because I’ve been eating healthy and I’m exercising more regularly.

Don’t groan – please! This blog hasn’t changed from fundraising to fitness/food/lifestyle. I’m only mentioning this because I feel great right now.

And feeling great makes me work happier, harder, and smarter. It makes bumps in the road easier to roll with. It helps me keep up with my fast-paced workplace. It helps me get rid of the less important items on my to do list much more quickly, so I can focus on donor journeys and integrated fundraising campaigns and all the big and exciting projects that need my full and complete attention… and time.

But it’s not just about healthy eating and exercise – though that’s important and makes a big impact. It’s about the armour you put on yourself every morning (if this sounds familiar, I’ve touched on it before).

What do you do for yourself every day that prepares you for the insanity of fundraising? Do you wake up early so you can have a quiet coffee by yourself and some moments of peace? Do you meditate? Do you start your day a bit later to avoid traffic (and your tendency for road rage)? Do you exercise? Do you go for a walk? Do you spend time with your kids? Your pet? Your significant other? Yourself?

Whatever it is. Whatever takes a little bit of time but makes an enormous impact on your happiness and productivity. That’s your armour. 

Tell me what your armour is in the comments! And try to put it on every day. It makes things so much better!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

DX marks the spot!

I was sitting on my couch the other day and looked to my left and saw a stewardship piece that I worked on with a client, that my girlfriend pinned to my bulletin board.

I couldn’t stop looking at it, and all I could see – even from 8 feet away – was the word “YOU“.

“You” is the most powerful word in fundraising. Maybe in marketing in general. You’ve probably already heard this from me, or from some of my favourite people in fundraising (Rory, Jen, Shanon, Beth Ann, John & Tom, to name a few).

And I do believe in #donorlove like all those folks, but I’m also kinda past #donorlove…

Because not everyone wants to be loved. But everyone wants a good experience.

DX. Donor experience. (Think UX – user experience.)

If the donor has a good experience giving, guess what?! They’re very likely to give again, give more, and maybe even give monthly or at the mid-level.

#Donorlove. Donor-centric. DX. Maybe they’re all the same thing. Maybe not.

All I know is, when all I could see from the couch was “Thank you!” and “Your support”, I felt good.

How can you make your donors feel good today? How can you give them a great DX?

Tell me in the comments. I can’t wait to hear!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Process can mean #donorlove, too!

I had an “A-ha” moment the other day.

As we’ve been growing at Blakely, we’ve committed to better documenting – and refining – our processes. With more human resources – and more clients – efficiency is more important than ever.

I was in a meeting the other day, working out some of our front-end campaign planning processes, and I observed how we aimed to build the process not for how we’ve worked in the past, but for how we work now and how we want to work in the future, mostly as it relates to multi-channel, integrated fundraising.

And it made me think: processes aren’t just dull, lifeless things; they’re dynamic and can allow you to bring your ideologies and best practices to life!

Then I thought of a lot of the charities I work with – so many amazing fundraisers with all the right ideas in terms of inspiring and engaging their donors, but you know what gets in the way? Internal stuff. Politics. Silos. Barriers. Processes.

My colleague Stephanie Highfield has this great presentation she does called “‘We can’t do that here!’ – Yes you can, and your donors will f*@#ing love it!”

How often have you heard that at your organization? “We can’t do that here!”

The next time you hear that, think critically about what’s in the way, and if it’s process? I encourage you to see about breaking that process and starting again.

Share your experiences in the comments!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Year-End is Coming………

My colleague Mackenzie and I are responsible for Blakely‘s monthly internal campaigns. They’re internal marketing campaigns, really, meant to make our colleagues laugh, think, feel supported, or get inspired.

May’s internal campaign looks like this:

Year-End?! What?!?! It’s early May!!!

I hear you. We thought Christmas in July was crazy, but the truth is that if you’re planning on doing an integrated, year-end campaign that starts with your holiday mailing and ends with your final e-blast on December 31, it’s time to start thinking about it. Seriously.

Why does year-end matter so much? First and foremost, this is when donors think about charitable giving the most. They’re in the giving spirit thanks to the holiday time period — they’re thinking about family and time together, and maybe they’re feeling really grateful for what they have, and a little emotional about those in need.

And even though at the end of the day donors are not purely motivated by tax credits, it is an incentive to make your biggest impact when the calendar year is wrapping up.

What’s our role as fundraisers? Since we know where donors’ heads are at, it’s time for us to be out there — reaching the right audience at the right time with the right message. That’s becoming increasingly difficult to do; there are more charities than ever competing for donors’ attention. We used to be able to send a beautiful holiday mailing to donors and prospective donors and that was that. Now that mailing can’t stand on its own; your overarching message needs to be supported on different channels shared in different ways to different audiences. It needs to be big, strong, powerful, and integrated.

So what do you need to be thinking about? It’s still early days in terms of planning, but here are some of the things you want to start pondering:

  1. Organizational Activities: You’ve heard me talk about the gin & tonic approach before, I think. It’s about mixing all the different departments at your organization so that you’re working together — for your donors’ sakes. Too often your marketing department has something totally different going on than you at year-end. See what you can do about aligning efforts so that donors aren’t seeing messages that don’t look like they’re coming from the same place. And if you can’t get marketing on board, ask them what they’re planning and see if you can align with it — as long as it’s not sacrificing donor experience, fundraising best practices, etc.
  2. Fundraising Proposition: Start thinking about what area of funding you want to put in front of donors. What’s your greatest funding need right now? What will inspire donors the most when they’re thinking about you? Whatever it is, it needs to be able to be shared across a number of communications on different channels, so you’ll want to be able to talk about it – and bring it to life – in a few different ways over the course of the campaign.
  3. Story: What story/ies are you telling to bring that fundraising proposition to life? How can you put it into context? Whose story will you tell? What will tug at donors’ heartstrings? Like the fundraising proposition, this story needs to be big enough to tell a few times in a few different ways, so make sure you have a good one — and lots of content to support it (interviews, videos, photos, etc.).
  4. Channel Strategy: The above speaks more to the creative strategy, but you’ve got to be thinking about how you’re sharing your message — is it mail only? Mail and email? Mail, email & landing page? Mail, email, landing page, video, Facebook ads, Google ads, Search ads, and a TV spot? Whether you’re keeping it simple, or getting your message out everywhere, start figuring out what that looks like, for the sake of budgets, content planning, and donor experience.

That’s it for now! Not too painful, right? But if you start pondering the above, you’ll get yourself into the year-end fundraising game. Brace yourselves… but we’re all in it together!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

The 2-Minute Rule

This is a game changer, folks!

The 2-Minute Rule. 

I learned about this one from the one and only Rachel Hunnybun (yes, that is her real name), who I presented with last week at Toronto’s #AFPCongress.

We presented a session called “How to Make Waves Without Drowning”, which was about stress and burnout, how to combat both through productivity and self-care, and how to make changes when you need to through critical conversations and decision-making.

In the productivity section, Rachel talked about the 2-minute rule, which is:

If the task will take 2 minutes or less to complete, don’t even put it on your to do list. Do it now.

Let me backtrack. I am not good at estimating how long something will take me. I usually over-estimate; it’s why I can be incredibly and unnecessarily early for meetings.

It’s also why I can procrastinate. I think something is going to take an hour or more to do, and I don’t have an hour to do it at the moment I’m thinking of doing it, so I don’t do it… and then I continue to not do it until I get in hot water.

As a result, I’m working on working smarter and faster, and the 2-minute rule has become a tool (in just the past week) that is helping me do this.

As I build my daily/weekly/master to do list, I think hard about how long each item might take before I write it down, and if it meets the 2-minute rule, I just do it!

Short-term results? I only have four emails in my work inbox right now.

My inbox is typically a reflection of my short-term / urgent to do items, so four emails = @fundraisermaeve is a productive woman.

Try it out yourself! And let me know your results!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

What did Bernie Sanders do differently?

There are a lot of reasons why people give.

One of them that comes up a lot – especially in my FAVOURITE group of donors: mid-level – is this:

“I want to feel a part of something.” 

Donors don’t say this explicitly a lot, but their behaviour validates it. Here’s an example: Bernie Sanders’ election campaign.

I listened to a podcast recently that interviewed Mr. Sanders and I was fascinated when he spoke about fundraising.

These numbers might be slightly off, but he raised $137 million from 4.7 million supporters, which means an average gift of:

$29.15.

For those of us who work in annual giving or direct response fundraising, those numbers don’t necessarily make our jaws drop. However, when we think of American political fundraising, we think of the support coming from big insurance companies or the Koch brothers; groups or individuals that want to leverage their support for lobbying power.

If that’s the perception, then how could the average American – to my point earlier – ever feel a part of the process?

That’s what Bernie Sanders did differently.

In Canada, in national political fundraising, there is a cap on political contributions and donations to political parties can only be made by individuals (no corporations).

But in the absence of those rules in the US, Bernie Sanders created his own rules. The few fundraising events that he held had a maximum ticket price of $100 and he focused on individuals, thereby…

Making them feel a part of it.

So think about your organization. Is there a perception of who a donor to your organization is that excludes others? What do you need to do to make donors feel a part of your mission?

Food for thought this week.

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

SLOW DOWN!

At Blakely, we have a step in our process for every campaign called the “variable strategy review”. It’s a meeting when the fundraising strategist (me), the project manager, the data programmer, the production specialist, and one of our senior strategists or a member of our Insights team all come together. We look at the mail package or email or any creative with variable elements and review everything to make sure:

  1. We have the info we need in the data to feed into the variables
  2. The variables make strategic sense

It’s a critical step in the process to catch any issues or “gotchas” as my colleague Jeff calls them. But it’s also an opportunity to strengthen strategy and ensure it’s sound.

We have a busy workplace just like you, especially at this time of year. So you would think we’d have our minds elsewhere during this meeting or be rushing to get somewhere/do something else. But no.

We went through every item. We asked strategic questions. We changed variable copy. We put ourselves in the donors’ shoes and thought about whether what we were saying would really reach them.

I’m not saying all this to note how awesome Blakely is (though we are). I’m saying this to encourage you to slow down even when work is crazy. Yes, “done is better than perfect”, but sometimes we really need to stop, ask questions, and think strategically about the donor and how we can inspire them and motivate them to give.

Take an extra 30 minutes this week to slow down and work through something more strategically. And when you do – share it in the comments. Good luck! It’s fundraising season, baby!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email