What if we are the problem?

what-if-we-are-the-problem

On Monday, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Evelyne Guindon, CEO of Cuso International. I was recording a podcast for Blakely and Evelyne was my interviewee this time around. (Stay tuned for the podcast, by the way!)

Evelyne said something that really resonated with me. She referred to the beneficiaries of their work as “assets”.

Assets.

I absolutely loved that.

Here’s an example: one of Cuso’s focus areas is Livelihood, including the development and financing of enterprises for individuals living in poverty. So if a young woman has the spirit of entrepreneurship and wants to start her own business, Cuso’s programs – supported by donors – can help.

But this young woman isn’t the beneficiary of donor support; she is an asset that’s been tapped into through donor support.

It’s like she’s a natural resource that just hadn’t been discovered yet. I find that it’s a much more empowering way of talking about it.

Besides just loving the way Evelyne spoke about assets, it made me pause and think about the language we use as fundraisers and whether the gap between where we are and what we really want to accomplish is created by ourselves.

I once heard someone say that donors don’t give to charities that have needs, they give to charities that meet needs.

I also often think about the ripple effect millennials have had on the world of charitable giving. No I don’t have the silver bullet to ignite millennial giving, but I do know this group is skeptical about where their money goes when they give, and therefore when they do give, they expect to see a return on their investment, shall we say.

Some donors have always been like that, but I believe millennials as a group really do think this way, and that’s spread to more demographic donor groups over time.

So as fundraisers, if we don’t adapt to be seen in that lens donors are now looking through, we won’t accomplish our big goals.

This is all to say that donors are – and have for a while – thinking differently about their giving. And like Evelyne, we need to change the way we’re talking about our work and our “beneficiaries” to meet donors where they are, and inspire them more than ever before.

Food for thought…

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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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My problem with awareness campaigns

my-problem-with-awareness-campaigns

When I worked at the Canadian Cancer Society as a corporate fundraiser, I had a sign on my desk that read:

“You are here to:

(1) End cancer

or

(2) Raise money so we can end cancer”

It guided everything I did.

Could I work with a corporate partner who wanted help changing their workplace to a healthy one? Even if it didn’t raise money, it met the criteria for #1 so I’d happily pass them along to our cancer prevention team.

Could I help write a letter to go to all employees asking them to give during the staff campaign? It accomplished #2 so you bet!

But it also helped when a board member would suggest something like this: “Let’s get all the taxi companies in the city to put our logo on the side of their cabs” (real suggestion).

I’d run it through my test: does it accomplish #1? Nope. Does it accomplish #2? No. So it’s not worth my time. Because ultimately those “awareness” campaign ideas often came from someone’s ego, not an honest desire to give generous donors the opportunity to help people with cancer.

Because at the end of the day, the family who can’t pay their rent because mom had to quit her job to drive her daughter to chemotherapy… There’s not much she can do with “awareness”.

highres

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Written by Rory Green

roryRory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Connect with Rory via:
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#donorlove has its limits

donorlove-has-its-limits

There. I said it.

You are probably not happy I said it – and I know my besties in the fundraising world won’t be – but I had to.

You know how much I believe in #donorlove. I think it’s such an important lens for us to look through when it comes to our fundraising practices. Putting the donor at the centre of what we do is critical in our work.

But #donorlove is not the be-all and end-all of successful or right fundraising.

Let me backtrack.

You probably know that Rory Green – a.k.a. Fundraiser Grrl – is one of my best friends. So you can imagine that when I get a fundraising appeal in the mail for one of my clients that I’m really excited about that Rory is the one I want to tell first.

So I did just that the other day. I took a photo of three envelopes for a client’s campaign (one control, two test packages) and sent it over to Rory for us to gush over together. The first thing Rory said was –

“It doesn’t say the word ‘you‘ on any of those envelopes.”

If you’ve learned anything about #donorlove, it’s the power of the word “YOU”. And Rory is right in that the word “you” is an incredibly important thing to look out for in fundraising. Traditionally organizations have spent far too much time in their fundraising talking about what “they” – the organization – do, rather than about what “you” – the donor – do. If we want to inspire – and even more importantly, retain – donors, we must celebrate them. We must make the donor the hero.

I am not questioning the importance of this type of #donorlove principle. Or any #donorlove principle.

What I’m questioning is the interpretation and application of these principles.

We need to acknowledge that there’s more in successful fundraising than #donorlove.

Let’s think about the donor journey. Why does the donor give to our organization in the first place?

Because they’re asked, yes.

But donors give because they believe in the need our organization meets, and that our organization needs their financial support to meet that need.

The vast majority of donors out there do not give because they need more love in their life. 

Now don’t get me wrong – some donors actually do give to create a relationship and a connection between them and an organization. We often see this among our older donors, and this is an important donor need to acknowledge and to meet. #Donorlove is especially needed here.

#Donorlove is also needed to retain donors. There are a lot of great charities competing for donors, and if your gift to one of them goes unacknowledged for an unforgivably long time, I don’t blame you for saying, “No more, charity! No more gifts for you! I’m giving all my money to the charity that treats me right!”

But speaking of a lot of charities competing, let’s talk about acquisition.

And let me start by saying the dirtiest word there is in #donorlove:

PREMIUM

That’s right. I’m talking about something included in a mail pack beyond a letter and maybe an insert. Maybe it’s a bookmark, maybe it’s holiday cards, maybe it’s a luggage tag.

If you believe in nothing but #donorlove, you’re not having this. Because you believe that donors just want to know they matter.

But if we go back to why donors give, then we’re talking about the fact that donors give because we need their support to do what we do. And so donors want us to do what it takes to get the funding that helps us do what we do.

And unfortunately – in this saturated marketplace, with this competition – we sometimes require premiums to get the package opened and the responses we need to bring in the new donors that we need.

No – I agree that it’s not ideal. And I really agree that it can create a transactional relationship that we need to work extra hard to change once the donor first gives to us.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. We work hard to make the premium at least mission-based, and we can make strategic decisions about what the premium is and test which ones lead to a longer-term relationship between the new donor and the charity. We also work to choose a premium that’s less costly so that we’re not bringing donors in on some kind of ridiculous trinket, but this is our reality.

Does it align with the sometimes rigid principles of #donorlove?! NO.

But does it align with the principle of getting as much funding as we can to meet the need that our donors care about?! YES.

So what’s my moral here? Walk the tightrope of #donorlove, my fundraiser friends. Don’t let your principles cripple you, but never let the donor out of your sight.

~~

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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 over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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What does your charity have in common with Louis Vuitton?

What does your charity have in common with Louis Vuitton-

Imagine this: it’s pay day.

You pay your bills, you set aside money for groceries, you put a little money away in savings, and you generally make sure all your needs are met.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to do that, and even more fortunate that you have money leftover, then you might think to yourself: what else can I do with my money?

Maybe there’s some work to do on your house. Maybe you want to go out for a really nice dinner. Maybe you love purses and you’ve been saving up for a designer bag.

Or maybe… maybe could you consider giving to a charity?

This is the noise we’re trying to cut through, folks!

This post was inspired by a client the other day, who compared charities to luxury brands. Obviously people have many views about charities and the importance of giving, but my client was right; for many, giving to charity is a “nice to have”. It’s one of the potential ways you can spend that extra money that you’re lucky enough to have.

But there’s a lot of noise! There are flashy, highly-produced car commercials. There are glossy pages in magazines with beautiful people holding beautiful bags. There are a lot of temptations, and charities can’t afford to get their ads everywhere that a luxury brand is advertised.

Now I know this isn’t the way we need to think of all donors, especially current ones. Obviously the work we do is more important than the noise we make, and a lot of donors are so committed to us, our mission matters to them, that a Louis Vuitton bag couldn’t tempt them away from us.

But when we think of the world beyond that, and the people that might be interested in giving to our cause that aren’t right now, we need to think about what “the market” is saturated with. Not only are we competing against luxury brands, but we’re competing against other charities, and the competition can be fierce.

Let this be the reason you take a risk. Let this move you to try something you’ve been wanting to but haven’t made a strong enough business case to your boss yet. Think about a digital media buy. Think about a more creative envelope with your next acquisition mailing. Think about trying something new!

Because the charity next door is doing it… and Louis Vuitton definitely is.

~~

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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 over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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4 tips to survive the year-end fundraising extravaganza

pace yourself. (6)

OK – Why am I talking about year-end? It’s August!

Well because that’s how our weird world of fundraising works… at least for direct response.

I started presenting holiday campaign ideas to my clients back in July.

Literally Christmas in July. 

That’s what makes the world of direct response marketing agencies extra weird. Because of the lead time needed to do our work, we are generally thinking about campaigns three months in advance of when they drop.

Disadvantage for you, the fundraiser? I may be talking about it to you too early. Fair enough.

Advantage for you? Since I’m already in it, I can share some tips with you on how to survive it.

Here they are:

pace yourself.#1 – PACE YOURSELF — Don’t look at your solicitation schedule for September to December and start pulling your hair out! Take it one campaign at a time. Lay out your critical paths. Get the important approval dates in your calendar. This time of year is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t lose your mind in one go, and don’t forget to hydrate.

pace yourself. (1)

#2 – THINK ABOUT THE DONOR — Don’t lose sight of #donorlove when there are dollar signs in your eyes (because let’s face it – this is the time of year when the revenue pours in more than any other). When you’re looking at the potential creative for your holiday campaign, remind yourself “I am not my donors”. Think about what donors have responded to in the past. What’s inspired them? What’s filled them with the warm, fuzzy feelings of the giving season and moved them to impact your organization when there are so many other non-profits clamouring for their attention? Deliver that. I’m not saying don’t be innovative or try something new, but don’t do it for your sake. Do it for the donors.

pace yourself. (2)

#3 – SELF-CARE — I know we all give the idea of self-care lip service, but seriously. It’s August and I’m already feeling the first bit of burn-out. You need to check in with yourself and make sure you’re giving yourself what you need. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you putting good stuff into your body (and I don’t mean wine and coffee, although there’s a time and place for that, too). Are you finding time to be active? A 30-minute walk (ideally outside) would do you a lot of good. Are you taking time to do things that bring you joy? Cooking? Reading? A favourite TV show? A bath! I know we can’t spare as much time as usual for ourselves amidst all the work, but maybe carve out… an hour a day? Two hours? For you! Because if you aren’t happy and healthy, it’s going to be a much longer season.

pace yourself. (3)

#4 – KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE — #DonorLove is absolutely crucial to what we do. But let’s admit it: to allow our amazing organizations to do their amazing work, we need funding. And the year-end time period brings in the majority of our funding for the year, so that’s a huge driver of why we work so hard and have so much output at this time. When you’re tearing your hair out and wondering why you do this, look at last year’s results from September-December. Calculate what percentage of the total year’s revenue it was. Write that percentage or dollar amount on a post-it and let it motivate you when the sheer love of the work doesn’t do it. That impact is worth hustling for.

Good luck!

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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What did Steve Jobs have to say about fundraising?

What did Steve Jobs have to say about fundraising-

Curated choice. 

I said this in a meeting with a client recently and my boss seemed to really like the phrase.

Anything she likes, I like, so I’ll say it again.

Curated choice.

That’s what Steve Jobs had to say about fundraising.

Although, he wasn’t specifically saying it about fundraising… and he may not have said it at all. But that’s what I learned from him.

Have you ever heard of Steve Jobs’ product matrix? Or Apple’s “Four Quadrant Product Grid”?

I’m not sure what to call it, but it looks like this:

Untitled design (19)

Without having done too much research on it, and just recalling from my memory, this grid represents Steve Jobs’ simple – yet brilliant – approach to products.

He wanted to give customers choice. But not too much choice. 

If they were looking for a work computer, they could get one… of two. Either a portable one, or a desktop one.

If their computer purchase was for personal use, they had choices! Just two choices: the iMac or the iBook.

It’s so beautifully simple. And it’s so important to business, whatever your business is.

Do you ever go to the pharmacy and get overwhelmed? I do! My girlfriend goes to Shoppers Drug Mart for me (the popular Canadian pharmacy) because when I go there and I walk down the shampoo aisle, for example, my eyes get blurry, I get overwhelmed, and I want to leave.

Why?

There’s too many choices! How the heck am I supposed to pick a shampoo?!

Then again, what if there was just one shampoo brand? I’d feel cheated! I’d have no agency. I wouldn’t really be making a choice; the choice would be made for me.

But what if there was a happy medium? A situation that felt – as Goldilocks would put it – just right?

That’s what Steve Jobs’ product matrix is about. Enough choice to feel like you’re making a decision, like you have agency, but not too much that it makes you feel overwhelmed.

Curated choice.

So how does that apply to fundraising?

Well let me take you back to that client meeting I was talking about. The client was really keen to move their mid-level donors to monthly giving, for consistency of revenue, to streamline renewal processes, etc. It was a sound desire, but my boss was saying that we can’t just pull the rug out from under these donors and give them only a monthly giving option.

What we had to do instead was two things.

First, we need to stop thinking about why WE want donors to start giving monthly, even though it’s reasonable, and instead think about why they could want to give monthly. And not those administrative reasons, and not even reasons having to do with ease, convenience, etc. The reasons have to be inspiring. They have to be donor-centred.

Second, we need to offer the donor – you guessed it:

Curated choice.

It’s our job to make the case for monthly giving, and then sit back and let the donor decide. In this case, the curated choices are likely to be monthly vs. one-time giving.

Don’t go crazy adding in quarterly giving options or anything like that. Keep it simple.

How do YOU offer curated choice? Let me know in the comments!

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

The 4 habits of highly engaged donors

the 4 habits of highly engaged donors

When you think of the most engaged donor at your organization, what sets them apart?

Do they volunteer? Do they attend events? Do they donate a lot of money?

Those are fantastic indicators of engagement, but I’m here to tell you about four habits that some of your donors demonstrate that don’t immediately flag their deep level of engagement, but should.

#1 – The habit of RSVP’ing to events

Attending events is one thing, but RSVP’ing – even to say no – is an awesome indicator of engagement. If this donor cares enough about you to let you know they’re not coming – and they feel that YOU care to know? They love you. They really really love you.

#2 – The habit of providing multiple pieces of contact info

If this donor gives you their work phone, cell phone, home mailing address, business address, and more than one email? They want you to get in touch with them. If you can’t reach them at work, try their cell! They like when you reach out!

#3 – The (RARE!) habit of updating their contact info with you

Have you ever had a donor proactively update their mailing address with you because they moved? If you’re like me you’re probably chuckling to yourself because this so rarely happens. More often than not, we know a donor moved because our letter to them is returned to us. But I bet at least once in your fundraising career you’ve had this happen. And let me guess: that donor is one of your most engaged. I’m not surprised. A donor who does this is a donor who cares.

And finally… the least fun part of our jobs…

#4 – The habit of complaining

It happens to all of us. It’s no fun, but it’s a part of our jobs: when a donor calls in to complain. It’s hard to look at it this way sometimes, but the donor who calls in to complain is the most committed, caring, and loyal donor we have. Think of all the people out there who used to give to your organization but something frustrating happened to them and they stopped giving… and now they’re just a lapsed donor. We don’t know why they stopped, just that they did. However, when that “something frustrating” happens to a donor and they care enough to call in and tell you? We can work with that. Complaining means you hope for – and believe that there can be – a solution. That donor wants us to fix the situation. And when – not if – we do, they will continue to be the most loyal donor we have… if not more loyal than ever before.

What are your other unconventional flags for donor engagement? Share in the comments below! Or tweet me @fundraisermaeve.

Thanks for reading!

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Let your guard down & let your donors in!

Let your guard down & let your donors in!

What walls are you putting up between your organization and the donors who support you? 

You might be thinking, “None!” But I challenge you to really think about it.

I was lucky enough to be part of a session Derek Humphries did yesterday for the clients of the company I work for, Blakely. Derek talked about his background as an artist; he used to design books and they were on display at a gallery. The gallery staff wanted to put his books under glass, but Derek wanted people to actually be able to touch them, read them, interact with them.

The gallery staff were worried people would rip the pages. For Derek that wasn’t a problem! It meant deeper engagement; people could change the book, and therefore be part of the art themselves.

The compromise was people being provided with white gloves to flip through the book…

Derek was brilliantly using this analogy yesterday for our fundraising and the way we interact with donors.

So again, I challenge you to think about this: what do you put between your organization and your donors?

Do you make a point of keeping donors far away from the work that you do? Do you sanitize the problems you’re solving in the world so that donors don’t hear the dirty details?

Or do you offer opportunities for donors to get their hands dirty?

Do you invite donors to meet the people their gifts are impacting?

If your organization changes lives in other countries, are there ever opportunities for donors to travel there? To see the well their generous donation built?

Sometimes the walls we put up are more subtle. By now you know the importance of using the word “YOU” in your direct mail appeals. Any time I’m editing a solicitation letter, I’ve got Jen Love on one shoulder and Tom Ahern on the other encouraging me to make the donor the hero of the story.

That’s another great example of the walls we put up; why must we say “WE” so often? We accomplish this, we change that… Why can’t we say that the donor did it? Why do we have to put some sense of formality in our appeals? Something between the work and the donor.

Why can’t we give donors opportunities to feel more a part of our organization? To allow for deeper engagement… even if they get their hands dirty!

I’ll finish this post off with a story from when I was working as a mid-level gift officer at a school. As often as possible, we would try to create opportunities for bursary/scholarship donors to meet the recipient of their award. It was a great chance to let our guard down and really let the donor see the impact of their generosity.

However, it was also a risk. How could we be sure the student would act appropriately? Would they represent the university well? Would they be professional and courteous and grateful?

Well, I invited a donor to meet the recipient of his award over coffee on campus one day. This donor had had a few negative experiences with the school; having to reach out to find out who the award recipient was rather than the school telling him, feeling ignored, not stewarded well… the works! So I was determined to make him feel better about his giving, and make sure he knew how much it mattered to the school, and to the students.

So we were waiting in my office for the recipient… and we were waiting… and we were waiting… and then finally – a good 45 minutes late – the student arrived.

The donor didn’t seem too shaken, so we went to have coffee, had a great time, and then I walked him back to his car.

Let me also say what this award was. It was an award in honour of the donor’s son who had tragically committed suicide years before. His son had a passion for writing, so it was an award for a student with the best short story submission, judged by the English faculty. It meant a lot to the donor, understandably, and he loved meeting students who shared his son’s passion.

On the way back to his car, he said to me, with tears in his eyes, that his son would’ve been late for the meeting, too.

Letting your guard down is a risk… but the reward is deeper engagement, and that is well worth it!

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Why do donors give so little?

why do donors give so little-

I heard Mark Phillips talk about this once and I want to wax philosophical on it for a few minutes.

We seem to hear year after year from research like what Penelope Burk does that donors didn’t feel they gave as much to charity as they could the year before.

Why is this?

Put simply: We’re not asking enough of our donors.

We’re not asking them often enough. We’re not asking them for enough money. We’re not giving them enough ways to engage with us more deeply.

On the point of not asking donors for enough money, Mark has a great illustration of this.

category_dollar-a-day

Why do donors give so little? Because we ask them to.

Now don’t think for one second that I don’t think every gift is important, that every donor is important, or that every person who supports a cause with a dollar a day is stupid.

I value all donors.

But we have been part of this misconception that that’s what charity costs: a dollar a day. That’s all a donor needs to give to make a difference and feel engaged.

We have been doing ourselves – and donors! – a disservice by perpetuating this falsehood.

And when it comes to mid-level donors – or potential mid-level donors – who you know I love talking about, this is part of the reason why we have disengaged and uninspired donors in the middle: because we aren’t giving them a special enough opportunity to engage with us.

We aren’t inspiring them with a big problem for them to solve through a big investment.

Donors give us a lot and they are so amazing and we are so grateful.

However, donors seem to be telling us that they aren’t giving as much as they can.

So let’s find ways to inspire a new level of giving among our donors.

And then steward the hell out of ’em so they know how much they mean to us.

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: [INFOGRAPHIC] 5 reasons (that aren’t Christmas) to send a donor a handwritten card

5 reasons

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Written by Rory Green

roryRory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, she connects donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about her cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Connect with Rory via:
Twitter