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

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
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 learned at Laurier

5 things I learned at Laurier

As some of you may know, I’m starting a new career adventure, and on July 24th I worked my last day at Wilfrid Laurier University. Like when I left my job before Laurier, it was bittersweet saying goodbye to such a great work experience. And, also like when I finished my last job, I think it’s important to reflect on some of the lessons I learned in my time at Laurier, so here we go!

Mid-Level Giving has OODLES of potential
I hope you know by now that my focus while at Laurier was on mid-level giving, which we called Leadership Giving. The program had been in its infancy when I started, and I had the opportunity to further build and formalize the program. I was so lucky to have that opportunity! Mid-level giving is this funny area of fundraising that hasn’t been fully established yet. At Laurier, I was part of the Annual Giving team, which I think made a lot of sense, but I also had a lot in common with the major gifts team, so I was like the awkward middle child, not totally sure of where I fit in. But, over time the program made more and more sense to me, and became a really happy hybrid of both annual and major giving at the university. And it has so much potential! Not only in filling the pipeline between annual and major gifts, but in giving generous mid-level donors the best donor experience they can possibly get. That only ever does good things for fundraising!

Booking meetings is the hardest part
One of the more major giving-y components of the mid-level giving program at Laurier was face-to-face meetings with donors, which I loved (see: “I LOVE DONORS!”), and which also had – unsurprisingly – the highest ROI (pardon the corporate speak) for the program. That said, booking meetings is hard! I thought the meeting itself would be the hard part, but it’s not; it’s getting the meeting in the first place! I definitely learned some tips and tricks along the way (future blog post for sure!), but that was a big lesson for me.

I love analysis!
I love how a job can teach you what you don’t want to do and also what you LOVE doing! Laurier taught me that I love analyzing programs. When asked what I was most excited about with my program when I started, I said “completing a full fiscal year” so that I could actually look at the program and see what was working and what wasn’t. Once I finished that first full fiscal year, I absolutely loved the process of poring over the data and figuring out what it meant, and how the program should operate moving forward based on that. I think in my new job, I’m going to be able to enjoy that kind of work a lot!

The people make the experience
We all have our good days and bad days at work, but what tends to matter most is who we work with and who we can celebrate the good days – and talk through the bad days – with. I worked with INCREDIBLE people at Laurier; from colleagues who became lifelong friends to mentors who I idolized (and sometimes both at the same time). That’s one of the most bitter parts about leaving: not seeing those incredible people everyday. Fortunately I plan to keep them close in my network, and I’ll never forget what I learned from them.

I LOVE DONORS!
Finally: the donors. Oh, the donors! I sent many of them goodbye notes in my last week, but they were really love notes. Aside from the great people I worked with, the donors are the ones I’ll miss most. They were so inspiring, so kind, so generous, and all so amazing to talk to. Some made me cry, some made me laugh, and all of them made my day! I remember leaving a donor meeting, bounding up the stairs to my office, and one of my good friends Sharline exclaimed, “You look so happy! Where’d you come from?” And I proudly said, “A meeting with a donor!”. As fundraisers, working with donors is something we’re so fortunate to do, and my work at Laurier made that clear to me in a major way.

So that’s it! On to the next adventure! Thank you, Laurier!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy


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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: Not Your Momma’s Fundraising — The New Must Have Skill for Fundraisers

Not Your Momma's Fundraising - The New

Graduation season is in full swing, and with it comes an endless parade of advice (solicited and unsolicited) for grads entering the workforce.

For fundraisers, much of this advice centers on relationship building and the art of conversation. Good skills to master for aspiring fundraisers, to be sure.

But in our connected society, there’s an often overlooked skill that can help the new generation of fundraisers conquer the brave new world of online fundraising.

That skill? Data-crunching.

Check out this SlideShare presentation from WeDidIt that explores this new, in-demand skill, and what actions fundraisers can take to be P.D.D.D. (“Pretty Damn Data-Driven”).

~~

Written by Andrew Littlefield

unnamed

Andrew is a marketer and nonprofit fan for WeDidIt, a startup based in Brooklyn, New York dedicated to helping nonprofits raise more money and reach new donors.

Connect with Andrew via:
Twitter |  WeDidIt Blog

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week thirteen | case study: ted livingston

case study- ted livingston

What makes a 23 year old donate $1,000,000???

Meet Ted Livingston. Ted is the Founder & CEO of Kik Interactive, whose app – Kik Messenger – allows users to send instant messages to each other from any smartphone in real-time. He was a student at the University of Waterloo (located down the street from where I work at Laurier) studying mechatronics engineering, but dropped out in 2009 to focus full-time on his company.

Fast forward less than a year and a half, and Ted made a $1 million donation to the University of Waterloo.

One. Million. Dollars.

Drevil_million_dollars

 

What makes a 23 year old university drop-out support his (unofficial) alma mater? 

Well I don’t know Ted Livingston personally, but from what I’ve read about the man, in 2011 $1 million represented a big portion of his bank account. It sounds like he lives simply, but still… with that money he could do a lot for himself, his family, his friends, or any other organization for that matter, and yet he chose to give it to University of Waterloo.

Why?

Well, Ted got his start in Velocity, a program at his university that offers help to students trying to start their own businesses. Clearly he had some success in the program, because he soon dropped out of school. But he had seen the value of the program, and it launched him and his company into great success.

So, his donation was used to provide similar funding to companies in Velocity, along with office space, mentoring, and more. Ted said:

“Unfortunately, few investors are willing to bet on young entrepreneurs, especially in Canada, so getting the startup funds they need is a huge challenge. This fund is a step towards changing that.”

That’s it. Ted received support, saw value, experienced success, and paid it forward.

Do you have a great story of a young donor giving back??? Share it in the comments.

Source: “Young startup CEO gives $1-million to his university” – The Globe and Mail

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

headshot

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week twelve | guest post: prospect research & gen y

Prospect research — the art of identifying and connecting potential donors with your cause. How does this translate to Gen Y donors? Is there a secret formula to identify this group of donors? Not really. There are however, a few points to keep in mind when researching this unique group.

As mentioned in other posts in the #whatgiveswednesday series, millennial donors often give to causes that they believe in and can sink their teeth into. They want to know that their time and money are going towards an initiative that is making a measurable difference. So how does prospect research relate to that? Simple. Keep the donor in mind when connecting them with an initiative you believe they would be passionate about.

So what do I mean? Working in Higher Education, I will often consider a few factors when determining if an alumnus would be interested in getting involved in a particular project. What faculty did they graduate from? Were they involved in any academic competitions? Were they a member of any clubs? Did they participate in any extra-curricular activities while they were a student? Considering these types of questions might help to identify where their passionate lies or what they would be interested in supporting or getting involved in. This is sometimes where you hear of those exceptional stories of a donor in their 20s making a $1M gift– it’s usually designated to an initiative that they have a direct connection to and are passionate about.

It’s also worthy to note that this doesn’t just translate to getting young alumni involved as donors. Could they be a guest judge or a guest lecturer? Would they be interested in being a chapter volunteer for your organization in a specific geographical location? These individuals could be excellent champions for your cause in their community if given the right opportunity.

Consider start-up companies led by the millennial age group — their approach to corporate social responsibility is going to look a lot different than what we’ve seen in the past. They won’t just see a donation as a tax break for their company, but rather an opportunity for their company to get behind an initiative where they can really add value to on a local, regional and even national or international level. Getting behind a cause that is meaningful to their company and their clients can make an impact, as it is a valuable marketing opportunity by creating a positive perception of the company, and in some cases, can likely lead to company growth.

Gen Y individuals are worthwhile to have on your prospect research radar. Strive to find ways in which your organization can utilize their constantly growing networks, experience, and insight. Keep open communication between your prospect research team and your development team, so that prospect researchers are always aware of what your fundraising priorities are. This open communication will ensure these golden Gen Y individuals aren’t missed.

~~

Written by Sara Glover

Sara Glover

 

Sara is a Prospect Researcher at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Connect with Sara via:
Twitter | LinkedIn 

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week eleven | 5 ways to involve young people in your organization

Young Alumni Fundraising - Part I (2)

It seems appropriate to write about volunteerism during National Volunteer Week, doesn’t it?

One of the big lessons learned in #whatgiveswednesday so far is: involve young people in your cause. As Sheena Greer told us“We are going to give our time first and our money second.” 

Does that mean that millennials are rushing to volunteer for us and soon after giving us money? No! So, how do you get them to give their time?

Here are five ideas I came up with:

  1. Find your young champions. Chances are you’ve got at least one young person involved with your organization. Take her out for coffee. Ask her why she cares. Ask her what involvement gets her most excited about your org. Ask her if she can bring some friends the next time she’s volunteering!Find your young champions.
  2. Create a young council / board / focus group / whatever. Sarah Kathryn Coley created a GOLD (Grads Of the Last Decade) Council at the university where she works. Sarah Kathryn says, “These volunteers are eager to help with peer-to-peer solicitations and educating young grads on how to get involved in the life of the university.” Like Carolyn Hawthorn told us, millennials don’t want to hear from your organization, they want to hear from their friends.Create a young council - board - focus
  3. Have volunteer opportunities. Before you try to get any young people on board with your organization, are there opportunities to be involved? Can they plan an event or do some meaningful work for you? If so, you better…Have volunteer opportunities.
  4. Make volunteering fun! Sheena told us that volunteer experiences should be moving, fun, and highly social. I’m a big fan of Students Offering Support (not just because it was founded by a Laurier grad). SOS has chapters at different universities and students pay a nominal fee to participate in an “Exam-AID” group review session, getting support from senior students (volunteers) in advance of their exams. The money raised is spent creating sustainable education projects in developing nations. Everyone wins! You connect with peers, benefit from the experience yourself, and impact others. Wouldn’t you want to be involved in that? (And make sure there’s a hashtag. Everyone loves hashtags!)Make volunteering fun!
  5. Hold an event. It sounds cliché, but it works. The Canadian Opera Company has Operanation and the Royal Ontario Museum has Friday Night Live. In both cases, young people buy tickets to go to a fun party (with hashtags!) that make people think, “This organization is cool!” These are big events by big organizations, but you can replicate this coolness (because seriously, cool matters) for your organization! I worked at a small independent school before Laurier, and we used to hold young alumni pub nights. Wings, nachos, and a free drink ticket goes a long way! I used to make a lot of friends among the young alumni when I was the one with the drink tickets. Building those relationships had huge value, and I saw the money come in from those engaged young alumni later. It works!Hold an event

What awesome ways have you involved young people in your organization? Share in the comments.

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

headshot

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

What are we accomplishing???

I’m a bit obsessed with the people in the photo above. For anyone who doesn’t recognize them, it’s the cast of The West Wing. I’m currently working my way through season 5 of 7 and I just love it.

I couldn’t find the actual quote from the show, but I believe it’s C.J. Cregg, played by Allison Janney, who reflects one episode on the fact that on that day she actually got to accomplish something. What a notion! But I feel that in many workdays, too. I do a lot of work, but am I actually accomplishing anything? It’s not an indication of not working hard enough, but we spend so much time discussing things, following up on things, that how often do we complete things? How often do we get to point to something and say, “I did that for the organization!”? Or, even better, “I did that for the donor!”

I’m writing this post because I had that moment very recently. I met with a donor back in September who had generously started an endowed award at the university. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons that were no individual’s fault, the award hadn’t been given out to a student last year. Naturally, the donor was unhappy about this, and keen to find out how I was going to rectify the situation. As a result, was keen to rectify it.

So I worked… I met with people, I followed up on the student award application process, I checked in with the appropriate departments once, twice, and even more times… and guess what happened? The award has been given out this year! And, there were two eligible recipients, so since it hadn’t been awarded last year, it was given to both students this year! I feel so proud. I even had the pleasure a few weeks ago of going out for dinner with the donor and the two recipients. Delivering on our promise to the donor, and giving them the opportunity to see the impact of their generosity in the success of two great students? Priceless.

Some days we actually get to accomplish something. I’m going to work to see if that can become most days.

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

headshot

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: 11 things I learned about fundraising/philanthropy when I fell into the field temporarily

11 things I learned about fundraising-philanthropy when I fell into the field temporarily

  1. There are people who actually enjoy asking others for money

  1. Fundraisers WANT to help people help others

  1. There is an art form to fundraising

  1. Prospect researchers remember EVERYTHING about donors

  1. Apparently, the most successful solicitations are long, story-based letters sent in the mail… who knew?

tumblr_m33u1yraQ11qk8t2to1_500

  1. Non-profits are desperately trying to figure out young donors

  1. Every donor communication needs to have an ask

  1. Scholarships, research, etc.… all the great work non-profits do for communities doesn’t just happen out of thin air. There are teams of people working hard everyday to help people achieve their goals

  1. There are major debates about seemingly minor word choices in solicitations

  1. Who needs Christmas when December 31 is the best fundraising day of all year!

  1. Fundraisers really really like what they do!

~~

Written by Kimberly Elworthy

VR6X0087_1Kimberly is a communications specialist, and recently worked in fundraising and alumni relations for 18 months. She is currently on the Board of Directors for the Grand River Film Festival. (Click here for more).

Connect with Kimberly via:
Twitter | LinkedIn

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week nine | guest post: boom! what? harness the millennials!

I recently attended a conference in Seattle, WA (Academic Impressions Young Alumni: Establishing Lifelong Relationships) and was inspired to “guest blog” about my trip.

Full disclosure: When I was in high school, the Macarena was the biggest dance craze. As such, I am fully aware I can never be part of the Millennial movement (although I’ve seen some great mashup-revivals of those moves recently…)

However, just as I can appreciate great feminist literature or how Bill James could influence major league baseball without ever playing pro ball, I’ve been turning my professional attention to this next great generation: The Millennials (aka Gen Y) despite not being “one of them.” I’ll try not to focus on the myth that they don’t give (and get off my lawn, you meddling kids!) because it’s simply not true (87% of millennial employees donated to a nonprofit in 2013) but rather how our collective mindset and paradigms need to change to allow this group of highly creative, socially motivated folks to connect their money with their passions.

First, this is the #ShowMe generation. Having instant access to information (accurate or not) has trained them to expect to see the impact of their gifts immediately and in a way that aligns with their passion or sense of self. Thank you Facebook and Google Analytics! Make sure your donor relations strategy allows your students and younger alumni to access stats and metrics on the direct impact of their gifts. Also, tie their support to tangible projects that will impact their donor experience. Disinterest in donating to general funds is also trending.

Second, this group has been connected via the internet most of their lives. They know how to navigate web and mobile devices and have no patience for multiple click thrus or ugly websites. Is your content accessible and mobile friendly? 83% of Millennials currently use a SmartPhone and in 2014, mobile access surpassed desktop access. Invest in your marketing and communications online strategies for this group and be intentional.

Third, remember when commercials used to be 30 seconds and YouTube videos were 5 minutes long? Now, we see 6 second Vines, video viewing rates dropping off after 48 seconds, and if it doesn’t fit in 140 characters, it’s not worth saying. Be clear, be concise, and be honest. Every generation has its own vernacular, be sure to use images and short videos for millennials. User-generated content is great and sometimes preferable to “institution-produced” adverts. When Arthur Brisbane said, “a picture is worth a thousand words” I’m not sure he was ready for Instagram, where 8 million pictures and videos are posted every hour. Every HOUR!

And finally, keep in mind that Gen X and Millennials are set to inherit $40 trillion (with a “T”!) in the next 50 years. Can you afford not to speak their language?  

The better we all do as an industry to change our stewardship and donor relations strategies, the more connected, engaged, and INVESTED this key demographic will be. Boom! What? Harness the Millennials!

~~

Written by Ben Seewald

unnamedGrowing up, Ben Seewald wasn’t like every other kid, who dreamed about being a doctor, or a kangaroo, or an astronaut – he always wanted to work with phenomenal people in Alumni Relations at a University. Ben is living his dream at Queen’s University as an Alumni Officer, working on student and recent graduate engagement programming.

Connect with Ben via:
LinkedIn

#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week five | guest post: five ways we increased our young alumni giving participation rate

5 ways we increased our young alumni participation rate

We did it! We finally stopped talking about young alumni and started talking to them. At The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), 30% of our alumni base are considered “young”, or graduates of the last decade. This is a large enough percent to make us blink twice and get to work.

Since we began focusing on young alumni, we have seen an increase in our young alumni giving participation rate of approximately 50% compared to this time last year. There are so many different ways you can engage this group of alumni, but here are five ways that have worked well for us so far.

  1. We established a GOLD Council (Graduates Of the Last Decade). This group serves as an advisory board for young alumni initiatives in the areas of philanthropy, programming and marketing. These volunteers are eager to help with peer to peer solicitations and educating young grads on how to get involved in the life of the university.
  1. We segmented our email appeals for young alumni. In a world of texts and tweets, most young alumni don’t take time to read an entire email. We started using shorter sentences, more photos, and began sharing our calls to action in the form of infographics.
  1. We completed “check-in calls” in our telefund/phonathon instead of soliciting them for donations over the phone. Our student callers contacted the most recent UNCG graduates who have been out of school for six months or less. We asked how they were doing, updated contact information, and connected them to our career services center if they were still looking for employment.
  1. In May 2014, we launched our very first 24-hour giving day. We knew these were all the buzz, but didn’t know if it would work for us. It was a great success and allowed us to talk about giving in a new way. Our alumni were given the chance to make a gift, wear our school colors, and tell the world why they #BelieveInTheG on social media. We are continuing the campaign this year but for 48-hours and hope to get even more donors.
  1. We beefed up our alumni club events and networking socials. By offering more opportunities for alumni to gather, we learned that we do have a lot of young alumni who want to get more involved. They just need to know how to get plugged in. Taking time to make personal connections with young alumni at these events is key in making sure they stay engaged and eventually give of their time and their treasure.

Yes, we have seen growth, but we have a long way to go. We have learned that if you take time to invest in alumni while they are young, then you have a better chance of retaining them as donors in the future. How have you targeted young alumni in your annual giving strategy???

~~

Written by Sarah Kathryn Coley

Sarah-Kathryn-Coley-114x160Sarah Kathryn Coley is an Associate Director for Annual Giving and Alumni Engagement at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is passionate about helping young alumni understand why it is important to give back.

Connect with Sarah Kathryn via:
Twitter | Email