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:
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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!

~~

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:
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Pick your battles… but do battle!

 mar·ket·ing (märkədiNG)
the action or business of promoting and selling products or services
In oh so many ways, that’s what we do as fundraisers.
We share with (promote) donors and prospective donors the things (products or services) a charity is doing to better the world in some way, and inspire and motivate (sell) the donor to take action and give.
We’re lucky that the products or services we’re “selling” are more than running shoes or soap, but the concept really is similar.
And we face similar obstacles as marketers, too. Our stakeholders – programs people, communications colleagues, senior management – can have a very different idea of how to “promote and sell” (read: fundraise) than we – the professional fundraisers – do.
Or more specifically, when moving our fundraising communications up the chain of approval, our messages can become so diluted that they lose their ability to inspire, to motivate, to “sell”.
Case in point: a totally made-up sentence I’m writing off the top of my head:
  
Why? WHY?!?!?
No, but actually – why? The stakeholders are thinking of other stakeholders – staff and faculty. They’re acknowledging them, and being accountable to them, and trying to be proactive in not downplaying their part in doing better for students. I get it.
But see how it waters down the message? See how the donor is taken out of it? Or at least, there’s now an arm’s length between the donor and the beneficiary?
It’s also no longer about a student but instead students.
Straight up? It’s not as powerful.
And as fundraisers – as marketers – we know this. We know the emotion and directness of the first sentence is more powerful in promoting and selling what we do. But too often we cowtow to our stakeholders for their stakeholders.
And we lose our donors in the process.
I’m not telling you to get aggressive with your colleagues or the powers-that-be. But I am encouraging you to know when liberties in messaging are worth taking for the greater good. And I’m encouraging you – not to pick all battles – but to pick the right ones.
Good luck!

~~

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

Leading when you speak

Last week I talked about “that dirty ‘M’ word” (micromanagement) and the fact that we’re all leaders and need to acknowledge our accountability, and the responsibilities our colleagues have that impact that.

Today I want to go further and talk about one way we can assert ourselves as leaders:

In the way we speak.

I just finished reading “Speaking As a Leader” by Judith Humphrey. My dad (an amazing speaker!) lent it to me. It’s all about how no matter where you are – an elevator, an informal meeting, writing an email, presenting formally, etc. – or who you are (junior, experienced, CEO) – you can present yourself as a leader.

How? It’s about the way you speak. And I don’t mean the words you use or the voice you have (although the book touches on that, too), but the way you share your message.

It uses a simple approach. And I’ll summarize it here:

Introduction: Grabber, Subject, Message, Structure
Body
Conclusion: Restated Message, Call to Action

This approach is scalable, in that it can expand or contract depending on how much time you have, or what kind of format you’re speaking in.

Even in the week since I finished it, it’s been a game-changer. I used it immediately last week in a presentation I shared at an AFP Workshop in Toronto on the combined power of marketing and fundraising.

I don’t want to steal Judith Humphrey’s intellectual property – and I could never do the book justice – but in short it’s about grabbing your audience with something inspiring, powerful, personal, relevant, etc., stating your subject (what are you here to speak about?), stating your message (what’s your argument in regards to the subject?), and then explaining to the audience how you’re going to support that argument (the structure).

I can’t stress the importance of structure enough. You’ve been there: at a presentation and you may be genuinely interested, but you’re a bit bored or tired or distracted and struggling to pay attention.

As a presenter – or a leader – we need to help our audience follow along. We need to say: here’s my point, and here are the three ways I’m going to prove it to you.

They don’t talk about this in the book, but my dad expanded on this part for me; keep going back to that structure. Say, “So now I’m done with my first point, X, and now I’m going to share my second point, Y.” This does a lot to keep people engaged, and when you’re truly leading, it will hammer your points home.

The body of the presentation/talk/phone call/etc. is self-explanatory.

The conclusion is all about bringing people back to the message by restating it. But restating it isn’t enough; what do you want people to do? Finish with direction, action, a rallying cry!

It’s just like donors. Inspire them? Yes. But don’t leave them hanging. Inspire them to act.

I hope this helps you organize your next presentation, meeting, or whatever it might be. Approach it this way and you’ll be doing more than speaking; you’ll be leading.

~~

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

That Dirty “M” Word: Micromanagement

So I’m back. You know. I said this last week.

But something I want you to know about me being back, is that it’s going to be different this time.

I’ll still blog – and have guest bloggers blog – about all things fundraising and philanthropy.

But I also want to talk about leadership, management, organizational development… all within the fundraising/philanthropy/charity context, of course.

I had the privilege of spending last week with Simone Joyaux. It was truly a privilege. Simone is a powerhouse, a visionary, and very passionate about organizational development.

I’ve always been into leadership and all that, but now I’m particularly charged up about it. So let me share something I learned recently to think about in a new way. Not from Simone, but from Kesheyl van Schilt – the President of the company I work for, Blakely Inc.

Kesheyl is also a powerhouse and a visionary and an incredible leader, fundraiser, mentor, and friend.

Kesheyl and I were talking about leadership. As a Fundraising Strategist at Blakely (think: Account Director at an ad agency), I am not a manager, I have no direct reports, but I am a leader. I’m accountable for my clients, and my colleagues who work with me on client teams.

Kesheyl challenged me to ensure I was always thinking ahead when thinking about clients – asking my colleagues the right questions, anticipating issues, ensuring projects were on track.

I challenged Kesheyl back: “But the teams I work with are so competent! I know my colleagues know what they’re doing and I don’t want to step on their toes. I don’t want to micromanage them.”

Micromanage. Now that’s a term with negative connotations. What do you imagine? A manager breathing down your neck? Undermining your competence? Questioning your work?

That’s what I think about. I don’t want to be that leader. I believe in my colleagues and trust that they’re doing their jobs.

But Kesheyl put it in a different context: “By asking the right questions, you’re not micromanaging. Your colleagues have a lot of different balls in the air, and if they drop them, you’re accountable. By asking the right questions, you’re supporting them. You’re being a leader.”

Ohhhhhhh. Now that sounds different!

So I’ve put the approach to work. When I go into meetings – even if it’s not my meeting to lead – I come in with questions. I ask if my colleagues have everything they need to do what they’re responsible for. Because what they’re responsible for, I’m accountable for.

What do you think? Can you show your colleagues more support without breathing down their necks? If you’re accountable for a program or donor relationships, I’ll bet there’s other people responsible for work that impacts your accountability. Maybe you have direct reports or maybe they’re colleagues on the same level as you, but they’re responsible for the telemarketing portion of your annual program. Or they’re responsible for sending out tax receipts and thank you packages to donors you work with. Are you ensuring they have what they need to do what they do that impacts you?

Think about it! Happy Wednesday!

~~

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

5 things I’ve learned about fundraising – and myself.

Hi.

How are you?

It’s been a while.

As some of you know, I’ve taken a long hiatus from this blog; around 6 months. It was starting to feel like a chore and the posts were feeling a bit uninspired, so I took a break – for 3 reasons.

  1. I didn’t want the blog to go to s*&t only for me to never return.
  2. I wanted to throw myself even more into the job for which I’m actually employed (at Blakely).
  3. I needed a break.

But recently – for the past month or so – I’ve had an itch. Incidentally – but not ironically – it is the busiest time of year for fundraisers…when it rains, it pours.

I think the itch was particularly itchy about a month ago when I celebrated my 2-year anniversary at Blakely. I can’t believe that the time has gone so fast; it feels like only yesterday I made this bold move for my career.

And yet I’ve learned and grown so much, and so I’m inspired to take a moment to reflect on…

5 things I’ve learned about fundraising – and myself.

CREATIVE COUNTS. Yes, you have to segment your data well and make the right ask to the right people. But without creative that catches the eye and stands out in the mailbox, inbox, Facebook newsfeed, etc., your organization doesn’t stand a chance. And this isn’t just about good design or nice stock for your OE (outer envelope), it’s about a compelling story, too. No matter what channel you’re telling your story on – mail, email, a few lines on a Facebook ad, video, etc. – it needs to be emotional, compelling, and motivating.

PROPOSITIONS PUSH. But those compelling stories? They need to tie back to the need. The need is expressed through the fundraising proposition: why do we need the donor’s support now? What’s the problem? What’s the solution? How can the donor be part of it? What’s their role in all of it? What will their impact be? How will they know they’ve made a difference? The story moves donors emotionally, but the proposition can trigger that rational part of the brain, which can be critical in the decision to give.

INTEGRATION INSPIRES. Direct mail isn’t dead, but it doesn’t stand alone. Our donors are engaging with us in many ways – they’re getting our mail and emails, maybe they’re seeing our videos on TV, YouTube, or Facebook, they’re searching us on Google, they’re going to our website… they’re everywhere! So we’ve gotta be everywhere, too. But we need to be integrated. If they’re seeing us everywhere, we want what they see to have a common thread; they saw our mail and forget about it. Then we came up on their Facebook feed and they scrolled on. Then, it’s nearly December 31st and they want to make their year-end gift, so they Google us. Is what they see connected to what they saw? Ideally it is so they feel seen and heard and what originally caught their attention is seen through to the end. Give thought to the full journey; it matters.

PASSION PERSEVERES. But none of these learnings matter if you don’t love what you do. I love my work and the company I work for, but things get crazy and stressful. I have weeks where I feel on the ball, and weeks where I feel like I’m dropping balls, and then I have days like a month ago when I was on a video shoot for a client and we interviewed a family impacted by the organization’s care and donors’ support. The gratitude was so palpable and I thought: “This. This is why I do this.”

CULTURE CUTS. Unfortunately passion doesn’t persevere through everything. I’ve worked in fundraising for almost 11 (!!!) years now. I’ve worked in super inspiring environments, and mediocre ones. My passion hasn’t been able to lift me out of the mediocre ones. Now I work for a company where culture is our competitive advantage. My booming voice is celebrated (mostly), not quieted. My habit of distracting all colleagues from 2:00-3:00 every day (my worst time for productivity) is tolerated, not discouraged. My ideas are always welcomed. My humour is encouraged. My stress is worked through. My hard times are comforted. I – as an individual – am fully valued. So on the hard days, I feel I am working with people who love me, and so I can always make it through.

It’s been an awesome 2 years at Blakely, and an amazing 11 years in fundraising, and I am ready to get back to this blog.

See you soon!

~~

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

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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

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:
Twitter | LinkedIn

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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email