It’s time for a hiatus…

Hi!

It’s been over a month since my last post. And over two months since I announced that this blog is going through a bit of an evolution.

As I said in January, I’m feeling less inspired about maintaining this blog. I felt like I was arbitrarily meeting these self-defined deadlines, occasionally sacrificing quality for the sake of frequency. I was letting my readers down and myself down… and for what? To keep a blog going? If that’s all it was for, was that enough?

For right now, it’s not enough for me.

I have built this blog over five years now, and I’m so proud of it. It’s been essential to my happiness and to my career and to furthering my love and passion for fundraising.

However, right now it doesn’t feel as essential to my life. I’m not quitting my blog, I just want to go on an official – and indefinite – hiatus. I’ve been in limbo since January and I don’t like that; it needs to be more formal for me (I’m just that kind of person).

I want to use this time off to throw myself even more deeply in my day-to-day work, which inspires me in the ways that my blog used to – and even more.

I also want to use this time to think about where this blog will go next. I know it has a role in my life and career, but I need time to consider what.

On the same note – I’m taking a less official but equally indefinite break from Twitter. For me, Twitter is along the same lines of my blog. It’s been a critical part of my career path and network, and I’m proud of the audience I’ve built, the connections I’ve made, and the content I’ve shared. But it’s a chore more than fun right now, and I just need a break. Again, I’ll be back, but I need to figure out how.

So thank you for your readership up until this point, and your patience with me as I sort out that big question of: what next?

Until then — Thank you!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
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What’s with the charity rebrand trend?!

You may have noticed a bit of a trend lately of charities “rebranding”. Canadian Diabetes Association is now Diabetes Canada. Heart & Stroke changed its logo and freshened up its visual identity in November of last year. Sick Kids launched their “VS” campaign last year, too. Big charities are bringing new attention to themselves and the important work they do by making a creative splash in the marketplace.

Why? Well, if you’ve been working in fundraising for the last 10 years or longer, you’ve noticed how saturated the Canadian (or any, really) marketplace has become with charities and their messages to Canadians to GIVE! It’s a competitive landscape these days, and in order to stay relevant and reach new audiences and inspire new donors, sometimes a new way to express your “brand” is the way to cut through the noise.

But don’t just jump on the rebranding bandwagon! A new brand or campaign is usually the tip of the iceberg. It’s a big investment for any charity – large or small – to make a big change to its look and name, so you have to give it some serious thought.

Here’s a few things to think about:

Does your brand need a facelift? Heart & Stroke was concerned it was perceived as “your grandmother’s charity” and that it was old-fashioned and not relevant for younger generations. Part of its motivation to rebrand was to modernize its look to reach new audiences. If you’re successfully connecting with donors of all ages, a rebrand may not be for you.

Does your cause need new attention? Diabetes Canada rebranded as much to end the stigma around diabetes as it did to freshen up its look. You may want to rebrand to position the important work you do in a new way, but if you’re feeling good about the way your brand aligns with you’re mission, it may not be the right move.

If you’re trying to reach new audiences, who are they? I did a few interviews on the radio the other day on the topic of charity rebrands, and a lot of the interviewers thought charities were motivated to rebrand in order to get millennials involved in their causes. Fortunately none of them could see me roll my eyes. Remember: millennials are a nut to crack when it comes to fundraising and philanthropy, but they are probably NOT your target audience. It will be a decade at least before millennials make up a meaningful percentage of your donor base, so don’t change your look for them. Think about who you really want to inspire, and make sure any changes you make will speak to them.

What will your donors think? I think that most donors want to see your work funded, and if you can inspire new donors to give more through a rebrand, then your donors may fully support it. But if you run the risk of abandoning your donor base by trying to unnecessarily change your brand, forget it! Don’t let the excitement of a new logo cloud your judgment when it comes to keeping your best supporters close!

So don’t rush into the trend! Make sure you spend time thinking about whether rebranding is right for you. It could be the difference. Just know for sure before you take the plunge!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
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Top 2 ways to give corporations #donorlove

 

You have heard it before: treat the company the same as you do an individual donor, and then BANG! you have a successful proposal, ask, and stewardship plan.

In my previous post, 3 things I learned at the #DonorLove Rendezvous, I said I “apply #donorlove principles to the main contact at my corporate partners”. So you are thinking, even better, I will grab my #donorlove stewardship plan and be done, RIGHT?

No!

To do corporate stewardship right, you need to think about two key parts.

You need to think person, your main contact, and company, where the money is actually coming from.

What do I mean?

Stewardship Plan Part 1 – Your Contact

When planning your stewardship for a corporate contact, be sure to think about the individual, what they need to be successful and how to address them personally.

This could include the standard holiday cards, and thank you notes, but if you are really on top of it, you could also include links to articles that will help them be more effective in their jobs. What about letting them know about a conference or speaking engagement you think will support them in building their personal brand? A few times I have even filled out applications for internal employee awards.

On the easy end, I always think about what a convenient time and location might be for our meetings. Sometimes picking a 3pm in the right location gives them a shorter day, or a break from a space with no windows!

Stewardship Plan Part 2 – Company

For the company, depending on the partnership, you need to be thinking about stewarding publicly – this includes the general public, their target audiences or their employees.

It is expensive and sometimes it is still nice to do the big newspaper thank you and traditional press release. But more affordable is digital PR, think social media “Thank You’s” and blog posts that articulate impact.

If the target is internal/employees, prepare an email for your donor to forward internally. Attach a simple photo of a success story at your charity. Highlight the impact of the company donation. MAKE IT EASY!!!

You start the process!

Don’t ask a whole bunch of questions about how they would like you to say thank you. Write a grateful, appreciative, brief email that is meant to be forwarded – they will either forward it, or they will tell you how it needs to be modified for use. But start with doing it, not asking questions.

At the root, stewardship of any person or group is always based on thinking about them. With corporate partners, it is just important to remember that “them” could be a very large employee group with different objectives.

So, back to the beginning, it is about applying #donorlove in that you say thank you, you make them the hero, you show impact… you just do it with two different donors in mind.

~~

Written by Heather Nelson

heatherstripesHeather is an experienced and passionate fundraising professional specializing in non-profit and corporate partnerships.

Connect with Heather via:
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New Year’s Resolution.

I’ve been writing this blog for over five years now and it’s gone through many evolutions.

I’ve written posts where an idea has fallen flat. I’ve written posts where an idea has started a conversation among fundraisers. I’ve allowed guest bloggers on who knew nothing about fundraising (and regretted it). I’ve invited some of my heroines and heroes in fundraising to guest post, and they have! I’ve titled blog posts for the purpose of being clickbait. I’ve shared personal things about my life on the blog…

It’s been a wild ride, and it’s not stopping yet.

But… it needs to change. Blogging is starting to feel like a chore rather than a needed outlet some of the time. I’m starting to write posts just to meet my (at the end of the day, arbitrary) deadline rather than to share something of real value with readers. I want to feel inspired about this blog again. And I want you to, as well.

As a starting point, I’m going to modify my blogging schedule from weekly posts (every Wednesday!) to biweekly or even monthly posts. I might not make an official schedule so as not to fall into the same trap I have already, but I will commit to posting once a month at least.

I will also commit to the best quality and value I can. I want readers to learn, be inspired, find practical and implementable ideas, connect with important fundraising principles, and do better fundraising as a result of this blog.

That includes guest bloggers! I will not accept random guest blog posts that fail to inspire readers the same way I’m trying to. And I’ll make more of an effort in reaching out to my heroines and heroes in the hopes that they’ll guest post.

And because I can’t help it, I’ve learned a lesson about fundraising in this reflective process of modifying my blog. Just because you’ve been doing it doesn’t mean you always have to… or that it’s “right”. Status quo is the enemy for donors, and it’s my enemy, too.

So get ready for something new, exciting and inspiring. I’m feeling more energetic just typing this!

Let me know what resolutions you’re making – for your donors, your work, and yourself.

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
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What’s your 2017 donor journey?

HAPPY NEW YEAR, READERS!

I am back to the grind after a lovely Christmas with family and friends, and a lot of much-needed rest. I took a break from Twitter, email, and this blog, and it felt fantastic! I hope you took some time to yourself, too.

All that rest meant I went back to the office yesterday feeling rejuvenated. I was ready to go! And do you know what the first thing I did was?

Mapped out a 2017 donor journey for one of the organizations I work with.

You’ve heard me say this before: all too often, the needs of our organizations – administrative, financial, bureaucratic, etc. – trump the needs of our donors. Our boss thinks something is important so we spend a lot of time on it, and our donors come second. We have a revenue goal, and we’re so desperate to reach it (maybe our job depends on it), that we treat donors like philanthropic robots and throw ask after ask at them without any thought of how it might feel, or how it fits into their donor journey.

It happens. We all do it. We have real pressures and budgets and deadlines – and bosses – and the donor falls down the list of priorities.

Donor journey mapping can help us get a handle on it. 

And remember – don’t plan your donor journey at the start of your fiscal year. Start it at January 1st. (If that’s the start of your fiscal year, you’re a lucky duck!)

January is the start of a new year for everybody, so it’s also the start of a new – or continued – donor journey.

So with all this in mind, yesterday morning I sat down with a big sheet of 11 x 17 paper and wrote 20+ segments down the left side of the page – current mid-level donors, lapsing mid-level donors, mid-level prospects, online only donors, monthly donors, 3+ year consecutive donors, current donors, lapsed donors, inactive donors… and so on and so forth.

Then I wrote the months of the year across the top.

Then I thought of each group and what made sense for them throughout the calendar year – for example, most current mid-level donors would’ve given in December, so maybe more of them should get stewardship in January vs. a renewal ask.

3+ year consecutive donors are really loyal, so even though they’re usually treated the same way other current donors are, I’d like to test a monthly conversion ask in early Fall.

It’d be great to convert online only donors to give through the mail, but not in the year-end time period when there’s a flurry of online activity; I’ll exclude them from the year-end mailing we do in December.

And on and on I go.

It’s an awesome exercise that puts donors first, and ensures their needs – and the best fundraising strategies – are set up and ready to go before they can be trumped by something else.

Try it! Especially when your energy is fresh, and your donors are feeling the same way.

Good luck, and Happy New Year!

~~

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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 ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Take a break.

I’m reading a book right now called Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection by Deborah Spar. I’m maybe a third of the way through, and in it, Spar is mapping out the impact of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution on women today. When women were told (and it was legislated) that they could do and be anything, there was soon this external and internal expectation that they could have it all. And the question that I think Spar is posing is (a) can we really have it all? (b) should we be trying so hard to?

It makes me think about myself, and any of you readers – no matter your sex or gender identity – who are balancing a number of different things in your life. Trying to stay healthy – eating the right things and getting exercise in. Trying to care for/be with your family. Trying to do life things – explore, travel, play, see new things, try new hobbies, read, etc. Trying to maintain friendships. The list goes on.

Never mind work! Trying to do right by the donors. Trying to meet your year-end goals. Trying to manage interpersonal relationships, navigate office politics, be a good colleague…

We have a lot on our plates, personally and professionally, at this time of year especially. There’s a lot to juggle and more often than not we’re left feeling that we’ve dropped all the balls.

But while reading this book on the plane last night as I flew into Toronto from a client meeting in Ottawa, I said to myself: Take a break.

Our office closes between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, so I’ll get to take an actual break from work, which is key. But also take a break from the pressure you put on yourself, and from the crazy high expectations you set for yourself.

Take a break from feeling guilty or thinking you’ve failed if you don’t “have it all”.

Whatever your cause, by fundraising for it, you do a bit of good every day of the year.

And if you’re lucky enough to have a family to spend the holidays with, maybe celebrating the season with a big meal at some point in a warm house, with people you love… if that’s not having it all, what is?!

So I’m going to take my own advice and this will be my last post of 2016. I need to disconnect from blogging and tweeting for a little bit, to recharge and relax. To take a break.

And with that, I wish you all a wonderful holiday season!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Best Practice is Test Practice

Let me set the scene: You’ve just attended a conference and your head is buzzing with new ideas. But there’s one in particular that you have to try! You know your organization’s donors will love it and really respond to it. So you go to your decision-maker and put the idea in front of her. She immediately shuts it down. “Our donors won’t respond to that!”, she says. You, deflated, go back to doing the same old, same old.

Here’s another scene: You just got an email from your favourite charity (but not the one you work at). It has a lot of copy, yet you’re captivated the whole time you read it. You get to the end and can’t help but make a gift. But there was so much copy! That’s not best practice! And yet… you gave. So you start thinking about the charity where you work. You only write short copy emails there; it’s “best practice”, after all. You consider making your next email a bit longer, but the digital experts in your office might say no. And what if it sacrifices revenue?

If you’re like most fundraisers, one or both of these situations is familiar to you. Revenue is precious, and if it’s coming in, then there’s not a revenue problem. If there’s no problem, there’s nothing to fix. If there’s nothing to fix, why try something new?! New ideas have no place in your charity.

But there is a problem! Status quo is a problem. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but at some point things will plateau if they haven’t already.

And chances are, the most senior people at your charity don’t want to see revenue go flat. They want to see it go up.

But how?

We use a quote from Albert Einstein a lot in our office to shake us out of status quo:

So how do you stop being insane? How do you challenge your known best practice without sacrificing (too much) revenue?

You test.

In my opinion, we don’t do nearly enough testing in fundraising. We’re so risk-averse – and understandably so. We don’t have money to just play around with, and for most charities it would be irresponsible to “play” with our money anyway.

But there’s so much to learn by trying new things!

Testing is the way. Testing is the way to convince your organization’s decision-maker to try something new. You go status quo with one group of donors – maybe send them the year-end package you always have. And then with another group of donors – send them the new package! Or the long-copy email you’ve been wanting to try!

6 Tips for Testing:

  1. Test ONE thing. To have a true test, you have to be able to identify the one thing that made one “package” more successful than the other.
  2. You don’t have to do a 50/50 test, you can do 75/25 or whatever you want! But – for the test to be conclusive, you want to have a minimum of 100 responses.
  3. Don’t just test for testing’s sake. If the element that you’re testing “wins”, the assumption is that you’ll roll out that element in future efforts, so it needs to have value.
  4. Digital testing is the same as testing through mail. You’re still testing one thing.
  5. You can test more than just creative/copy elements. You can also test data elements. What would happen if you mailed 50% of your inactive donors a totally different letter than other donors? Would they perform better? Or what if you tested your usual ask grid ($50 $100 $250) against something a bit more aggressive? Would that result in a higher average gift?
  6. Sometimes – even without testing it – it’s time for your longstanding control package to go. (Note: Your “control” is the package that keeps on winning against test packages.) Just because it’s “winning” doesn’t mean it should still go out in the mail. Sometimes it’s time for something new, with or without testing.

(Shout-outs to my awesome colleagues Laura & Sara for sharing their best testing tips!)

Good luck, and happy testing!

~~

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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 ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Turning off autopilot.

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Going on autopilot is sometimes considered lazy.

But I don’t see it that way.

Check out this definition of autopilot:

An autopilot is a system used to control the trajectory of an aircraft without constant ‘hands-on’ control by a human operator being required. Autopilots do not replace a human operator, but assist them in controlling the aircraft, allowing them to focus on broader aspects of operation, such as monitoring the trajectory, weather and systems.

Going on autopilot doesn’t mean you’re not focused on “flying the plane”, so to speak; it simply means you’re getting some assistance where you can so you can manage all the other big picture things.

I “go on autopilot” sometimes at work. I consider it a means of survival – especially at this crazy time of year. I spend less time doing some things in order to manage the myriad other things I have going on. I let some things be “status quo” so I’m not totally overwhelmed by my workload.

But you take a risk when you go on autopilot. You risk not doing the very best work you can… for the donors.

Because as crazy as it sounds, the donors are the first stakeholders to be neglected. When you’ve got performance reviews and a certain amount of money to raise, you run as hard and as fast as you can for your internal stakeholders, and – if there’s time – you spread a little #donorlove.

So here’s my unsolicited advice to you as we tip over into December:

PAUSE. Breathe. Get off autopilot! Even just for a day. Just for a few hours!

I did this last night. I was doing some work on some big picture creative planning for a client and preparing a slide deck to brief our creative team. I had a glass of wine and the slide deck and was feeling really relaxed and inspired. So I tried to get off autopilot as much as possible. I tried to ask questions that it’s hard to find time to ask: How can we do things differently? How can we surprise the donor? I tried to think of what I learned at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference. How can I implement what I know to be true? Not just successful revenue-wise, but also delivering the donor what inspires her.

It felt awesome! And I’m not going to just please the creative team when I share the deck with them, or the client when we share the ideas… We’re going to meet the donor where she is and motivate her to give! What could be better?!

~~

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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 ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

to five years of what gives!

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On November 23, 2011 – exactly five years ago – I wrote this post.

But the inspiration for What Gives Philanthropy actually came over a year before I wrote that post, in July 2010.

I was in my second professional fundraising role, and my organization sent me to the CASE Summer Institute in Educational Fundraising. That was my first real fundraising conference, and I couldn’t believe there was this huge community of fundraisers out there to connect with. Fundraisers who were kind, passionate, willing to share and collaborate, and a little bit nerdy – just like me. It might’ve been that conference that really sealed the deal for me. I knew that this is what I wanted to do as my career.

And the speakers! They were all so smart and enthusiastic about what they did. I loved soaking up all the information.

But it was one speaker in particular – Karen Osborne – who totally captivated me. Honestly, I can’t even remember exactly what she was speaking about that day, but I remember thinking to myself – I want to be like Karen! I want to throw myself completely into this work and build a wealth of knowledge for myself that I can share with others. I imagined myself speaking to fundraisers myself. I wanted to do what Karen did!

So I remember thinking to myself, “Maeve, if you want to be a speaker at fundraising conferences one day, how do you imagine yourself being introduced? What is going to be your edge? What are people going to say about you?”

And I think it was that conversation I had with myself that – around 16 months later – led to my starting www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com. Because I thought, what if I started a blog about fundraising and philanthropy? What if when people introduced me they could say, “Maeve Strathy has been writing about fundraising and philanthropy for XX years!” Writing has always been my favourite way to express myself, so a blog would be a good fit!

Now here I am. Exactly five years later. I’m in my fourth professional fundraising role, this is my 189th post for this blog, and I feel I’ve accomplished exactly what I had in mind five years ago. I have built a readership on this blog, a network of fundraising friends here and on Twitter, and I get the opportunity to speak about fundraising on a pretty regular basis.

I’ve never been more passionate about what I do, and my weekly blog post has – and will continue to be – a manifestation of that. It’s where I can share my musings, my experiences, my questions, and even occasionally my answers. It’s where I can rant, celebrate, and express my passion and love for what we do.

So thank you for being along for the ride with me, whether you stumbled across one of my earlier posts, or if you’ve joined me more recently! Although I have always gotten a lot out of this blog myself, I get even more out of it when I know it brings value to you.

Thank you!

~~

Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

5 storytelling tips from #NPStoryConf

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Last week I attended the most frustrating conference I’ve ever been to.

Why? Because the ideas that were shared were so good that I was frustrated I couldn’t implement them right away.

What I really mean is that it was one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to.

There were a lot of new insights, but even more than that, there were key messages that were reinforced by presenter after presenter. It really made me think about how we need to take a step back from our crazy day-to-day work, and focus on what we’re communicating to donors, and how important it is.

I know taking a step back is tough at this time of year, so I’ll try to make it easier for you with 5 storytelling tips + 1 silly bonus fact. Enjoy!

SMIT = Single. Most. Important. Thing. What’s the SMIT for your direct mail letter? What one thing do you really need to tell donors? That’s what Tom Ahern tells us to focus on.

“I try to write a letter with no speed bumps or brick walls.” This quote came from Leah Eustace. All the presenters urged us to keep our donor communications free of obstacles – write it at a 6th grade reading level, and avoid statistics or anything that takes the reader out of the story.

Donors don’t give to fund a process. They give to solve a problem. This line came from Jeff Brooks, but really everyone said it in one way or another. Don’t focus on what you’re doing to get there, focus on what “there” is. Donors want to be part of the solution. Inspire them to feel that.

Our job as fundraisers is to make gifts feel real for donors. This came from Steven Screen, a fantastic direct response fundraiser. He was differentiating between making a purchase and a donation. When you buy something, you get something. When you make a gift, you don’t. Our job as fundraisers is to ensure the gift still feels real.

If we’re fundraising on Facebook, we need to target the same people as we do with our other communications, and with the same kind of messages. Sean Triner presented first-thing Friday morning and I felt so validated by his message: “Old fashioned ads to older people online.” Don’t seek out young donors with fancy new messages (unless you don’t want money). Reach your main donor group, just on a different channel.

And finally… BONUS!

A lift note is called a lift note because it tends to lift results. This is a silly one via John Lepp, but I’ve been talking about lift notes, always wondering why they’re called that… Like, duh!

~~

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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 ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email