Acquiring & Retaining Millennial Donors: Part Two

4-ways-to-acquire-retain-millennial-donors

A while back, we wrote a post focusing on four ways to acquire and retain millennial donors. In order to provide the best advice we could, we drew from many of the best practices we had learned over the past two years, organizing our annual fundraising event in Boston, the Boston Fall Formal.

Our fundraiser is geared almost completely toward millennial donors, and has donated over $175,000 to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in two years!

To help you and your team with your next fundraising endeavor, we thought we’d expand a bit on our fundraising experience, and provide you with detailed information on how we improved our contribution each year, while still keeping our donors engaged. To help guide our conversation, we’ve answered questions from a fellow fundraising host (thanks, Elsa!).

Q: How much of your total proceeds from the two years (about $175,000) came from ticket sales versus pure donations versus opportunity drawing proceeds?

A: This is a great question, and brings up an important point to keep in mind as you plan your next fundraising event. Depending on the type of event you hold, different cost components could include:

  • Venue Cost
  • Food / Drink Cost (higher cost for open bar)
  • Entertainment (band, DJ, photographer, photobooth, etc.)
  • Décor
  • Ticketing Processing Fees

When planning your event, it’s always good to have a detailed estimate of the costs you will incur. This level of detail will give you a better idea of what your final contribution to your charity will be and will also help you understand what you can afford for your event.

For our event, revenue broke down as follows:

Revenue Item Dollar Amount Percent of Total Revenue
Ticket Sales $185,000 67%
Sponsorship / Donations $72,000 26%
Opportunity Drawing Proceeds $20,000 7%

You’ll see that our revenue was well over our total proceeds of $175,000, meaning we incurred about $117,000 in costs over the past two years of our event! 

Q: What was the breakdown among corporate sponsorships and pure donations?

A: As with costs, we find it to be extremely beneficial to track all of your sponsorship and donation amounts.

Surprisingly, we did not solicit sponsors in the first year of our event, meaning all of our proceeds from donations were from individuals, not corporate sponsors. While we considered the inaugural event to be a success, we clearly had a lot to learn.

Using this lesson from our first event, we put a lot more effort into attracting and winning amazing sponsors. (You view our Ultimate Guide to Sponsorship here!)

Shifting our efforts resulted in a much different breakdown than in our first year, and as a result, sponsorship and individual donations were at about a 50:50 split – a huge improvement from our prior year!

Q: What was your retention rate from year one to year two?

A: Our high retention rate played a significant role in the growth of our event. While we were very happy with the new attendees we attracted in year two, the return attendees helped spread the word on the event, and continue to drive awareness up until the night of the event.

Comparing year two to year one, we retained about 58% of our initial attendees!

More to come on our tips for engaging these attendees, further down in this post.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on engaging millennials as straight donors instead of as event attendees? Fundraising events can be expensive – are they truly necessary to engage millennials in order to garner donations from them?

A: While it is definitely possible to generate straight donations from millennials, we’ve found that the key to acquiring and retaining millennial donors is to provide engaging and unique experiences. Millennials constantly seek connections to the causes they support, and one of the best ways to create this connection is by building a relationship / experience through a special event.

Some of our additional thoughts on engaging and retaining millennial donors include:

  • Get Personal – Tell the story of your cause, and how it has personally affected yourself and your committee.
  • Utilize Technology – Millennials are very connected. In order to gain their donations, you must be, too! For your next fundraiser, be sure to embrace mobile technology through donation pages, mobile silent auctions and raffles, and even email campaigns.
  • Embrace FOMO – Play into millennials’ fear of missing a great time. Promoting your event through social media, videos, and other digital media will cause those in your audience to fear that they will be missing a great time, further convincing them to engage with your event and support your cause.
  • Show Your Appreciation – This is a staple for all nonprofits and fundraising events. Don’t forget to thank your attendees and donors for their contributions – this is their hard-earned money that you are asking for, after all!

Finally, while we do think that fundraising events are one of the best ways to engage millennial donors, this does not mean that you need each attendee to join your event each year. By putting together thoughtful email campaigns, social media updates, and utilizing mobile technology, you can keep your initial attendees engaged, even if they may not attend your event, or if you’re not planning on holding one each year.

  • Email Campaigns & Social Media Updates – Both of these tools are great ways to update your audience. We use these mostly to:
    • Update donors on progress made from our fundraising event.
    • Provide any updates that the organization or cause you support has made.
    • Thank your donors and attendees for their support.
  • Mobile Technology – Mobile technology allows you to reach your donors throughout the year, regardless of their geographic location or the timing of your event. With tools such as donation pages and mobile silent auctions and raffles, you can promote your cause or organization anytime throughout the year, and can reach a large potential donor base of people who may not be able to attend your physical event.

These elements combine to create a connected approach to fundraising that will keep your donors in the loop and donating year after year.

Conclusion

After reading this post, we hope you have a more detailed view into the numbers behind running a fundraising event. We’d love to answer some more questions, so ask yours in the comments section below!

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Written by Zach Hagopian

Zach is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding.  An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.

Connect with Zach via:
Twitter | Facebook

Guest Post: 4 Ways to Acquire and Retain Millennial Donors

 

4 ways to acquire & retain millennial donors

As many of you know, millennials are quickly becoming one of the most coveted groups in the fundraising community!

But why is this demographic so important to fundraising?

According to the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, a whopping 84% of millennials made a charitable donation in 2014. There is immense value in acquiring donors early (at the millennial age) and building a relationship in order to create lasting value for your organization.

While capturing millennial donors will surely help your nonprofit organization, many NPOs and fundraisers struggle to acquire and retain these donors.

That’s where I can help!

My background? I am a millennial with strong ties to the Boston fundraising community. Most recently, I have spent the past two years organizing a fundraiser geared completely to millennial donors. In our first year, we attracted 850 guests and raised over $65,000 for the prestigious Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

In our second year, we raised $108,000 from over 1,000 Boston-area millennials and young professionals.

Learning from this experience, I’ve put together a list of my four best tips for acquiring and retaining millennial donors. Enjoy!

#1 — Get Personal

Our first tip is to get personal with your potential donors – tell the story of your cause and how it personally relates to your experience.

While inclined to donate, millennials are seeking stories they can identify with. Affinity in values and social responsibility are extremely important for this group,whether it’s the restaurants where they eat, the stores where they shop or even the organizations they support.  

Conveying your story in a meaningful way will get you in the door with millennials, and the rest will be history!

#2 — Utilize Technology

One thing that we can all agree on is that millennials are very connected.

Whether we are checking our iPhones every 30 seconds, or sneaking a look at our Facebook news feed during a conference call, we millennials have the means to find and share any information instantly.

And fundraisers / nonprofits should be using this to their advantage!

In today’s world, millennials are willing to donate to charitable causes, but want to do so on their terms, which means embracing easy-to-use and accessible donation tools.

These can be anything from donation pages to mobile silent auctions and raffles and peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.

Regardless of the tools you decide to help you move forward, embracing technology will allow you to offer millennials a much easier channel for them to donate anytime they’d like.

#3 — Embrace FOMO

Our next tip is for your organization to embrace one of the strongest emotions felt among millennials – THE FEAR OF MISSING OUT (aka “FOMO”). When used with online and social fundraising methods, FOMO can become one of your best tools for millennial acquisition.  

The key here is to hold your donors socially accountable. Did your supporters just buy tickets to your next fundraising event? Has one of your donors just made a donation to support your cause? Provide them a means to share this to their social network!

When your donors share updates about your cause, they will be helping you acquire new donors, as these potential supporters will witness all of the passion and excitement around supporting your cause.

#4 — Show Your Appreciation (with a twist!)

Traditional methods of thanking your millennial donors work great, but your thank-yous are even more effective when you can add a twist!

One of our favorite examples of unique acknowledgements for millennials is Creating a Sizzle Reel.

Did you just wrap up a great fundraising event or have your best year ever in terms of donations? Spend some resources to create a great video or “sizzle reel” to share with your audience. An exciting video will stand out against the hundreds of emails your audience receives each day, and it’s also a great piece of content for your donors to share out to their networks!

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Written by Zach Hagopian

Zach is the co-founder and COO of Accelevents, a mobile fundraising platform that enhances silent auctions and raffles through online and text-message bidding.  An active member in the Boston fundraising scene, Zach focuses on improving traditional fundraising methods and increasing fundraiser proceeds.

Connect with Zach via:
Twitter | Facebook

Guest Post: 3 Ways to Use Stories to Provide Donors with Better Stewardship

3 Ways to Use Stories to Provide Donors with Better Stewardship

You’ve probably heard that donor stewardship is one of – if not the most – important parts of fundraising. Donor stewardship is the process of thanking and following up with donors after they have made a gift. It is also what helps increase the chances that they will stick around as donors for years to come.

There are many ways that you can steward donors. Thank you letters, special reports, newsletters, phone calls, and events are just a few of the options available. But what is more important than the option you choose is the content you use.

You see, not all donor stewardship content is created equal.

Just sending a thank you letter is not enough to improve donor relations and retention. If that were the case, our sector’s retention average would be significantly higher!

Donor stewardship content needs to inspire, demonstrate accountability, and show impact. Stories are the best way to accomplish these things.

Here are 3 ways that you can use stories to provide donors with better stewardship:

Idea #1 – Go beyond “your gift is making a difference” in thank you letters

I’m sure you’ve read your fair share of uninspiring thank you letters. I know I have. My biggest pet peeve with thank you letters is when there is a broad, general statement like, “your gift is making a difference,” or “you’re making an impact in the community.”

What’s the difference or the impact? Don’t just tell donors this. Tell them a story to give them deeper peek at their impact.

Here are a few tips for finding a story to tell in thank you letters.

Idea #2 – Refresh your thank you call script for volunteers

If volunteers or board members help your organization make thank you calls to donors, be sure to refresh their script at least twice a year. Specifically, you’ll want to make sure that they are telling current, interesting stories of impact.

Alternatively, you can also empower your volunteers to tell their own story during the call.

Idea #3 – Rethink your event program

Spring is when many non-profits start planning fall events. Rather than having the same old boring speeches at your donor appreciation event, think about how you can make the event experiential for donors. Maybe you can recreate a common experience your clients have, or you could have a client share their story. This is a great way to make a story literally come to life for donors in a way that deepens their connection to your organization.

What stewardship does your organization typically provide to donors? How can you incorporate storytelling into one of your touch points? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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Do you like what Vanessa has to say? Then register for her upcoming #DonorLove webinar! Vanessa will show you how to seamlessly incorporate stories into your non-profit’s stewardship touch points. You’ll learn how to use stories in impact reports and thank you letters. This webinar will discuss key ideas for telling stories that delight donors and helps them feel more connected to the work.

Learning outcomes:

  • Why stories are essential content for great stewardship
  • 4 keys to telling a great story, plus the most important element every stewardship story must have
  • How to tell a story in a thank you letter
  • How to tell a story in an impact report

Steward Your Donors With Stories
With Vanessa Chase Lockshin
April 12th: 10:00 EST / 1:00 PST (You will also be sent the recording)
Recording Available April 23rd
$24.99

REGISTER TODAY!

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Written by Vanessa Chase

VanessaChase15Apr2014-5-3198824182-O copy
Vanessa Chase is the President of The Storytelling Non-Profit – a consulting group that specializes in helping non-profits raise more money through communications. You can find out more about her and non-profit storytelling on her blog.

Maeve’s Top 5 & Happy 4-Year Anniversary, What Gives!

Happy 4-Year Anniversary!Wow… another year gone.

I am so proud to be going into my fifth year writing and editing this blog. For me, it’s been four years of learning, growing, tweaking, improving, reflecting, and feeling inspired.

I hope you have felt inspired, too!

MAEVE'S

To celebrate, I wanted to list my Top 5 Posts. They are in no particular order, and I used no criteria to choose them. Most of them have been more popular among readers, but what they have in common is that I’m proud to have written – or posted – them.

Enjoy! And thanks for making these 4 years so great!

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Young Alumni Fundraising - Part I (2)

5 Ways to Involve Young People In Your Organization

Although #whatgiveswednesdays was a short-lived series of posts about young constituents and how we can engage them and inspire them to give, it still had a lot of gems including this post. In fact, the whole point of this post was to summarize some of the learnings from the series. Check it out for a quick, concise read!

Customizationvs.Personalization

Customization vs. Personalization

You know why I love this post so much? Because John Lepp liked it! When someone I respect likes what I write, it makes me feel especially good about it. It may sound silly, but it’s not. I enjoy the process of writing this blog every week, but of course I write it because I hope it’s valuable to my fellow fundraisers. So I feel proud about this post because it resonated with John Lepp. It’s all about the difference between customizing (i.e. mail merge) and personalizing (i.e. taking the time to handwrite a thank you note to a donor). Key distinction, and a post I look back on with pride.

Prospect Management at a Cocktail Party for Introverted Fundraisers

Prospect Management at a Cocktail Party for Introverted Fundraisers

One of my most important discoveries as an introvert and a fundraiser is that those things are not mutually exclusive. When I first got into the field, I thought I had a disadvantage as an introvert, but I realized that wasn’t true. Being an introverted fundraiser is a great advantage… but you sometimes need survival tips when it comes to cocktail parties. Check out this post for some of my main tips, for example take breaks.

8 fundraising lessons I learned from Beyoncé

Guest Post: 8 Fundraising Lessons I Learned From Beyoncé

I had to include a Rory Green post in here because she’s written more guest posts for this blog than anyone, and the majority of the most popular posts of all time on this blog are Rory’s. I love this post because I love fundraising, I love Beyoncé, and I love Rory Green. She makes content so fun with gifs and snappy, effective messages. If you haven’t read this one already, do!

How to leave with #donorlove

How to Leave with #DonorLove

And lastly, this post. Beyond my love of working with the great concept of #donorlove, I felt it was really important to talk about leaving a job and how to do it gracefully, and in a way that shows love to your donors, instead of abandonment… which too often happens. The way we leave an organization should be a reflection of how we spent our time there… especially from the donors point of view. I’m very proud of this post.

So there you have it! Thanks for an awesome four years, readers! Onto the next one!

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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: How I Sold a Sponsor in a Single Call

How I sold a sponsor in a single call

This blog is a response to the blog: “How I Was Sold By a Fundraiser In a Single Phone Call” – which is definitely worth reading.

Event sponsorships are not my favourite thing.

In fact, I really dislike them. Set “Gold, Silver, Bronze” levels – all based on how much money the charity needs – the exact opposite of #DonorLove if you ask me.

So I do sponsorship a little differently. Every sponsorship proposal I create is unique and custom for the company. And it works. Here’s what sponsor WeDidIt had to say of their experience:

This approach to corporate giving is refreshing and effective! 

Rather than approach me with the run-of-the mill ‘sponsor levels’ sales pitch (you know the ones: platinum, gold, silver, blah blah blah), Rory did something blissfully simple and effective. She: 

  • asked questions about our business goals and listened. 
  • used those goals to build a compelling sponsorship proposal that was a no-brainer to fund!

Rather than be stuck with our logo in a booklet that no one would look at, we ended up more than tripling our original goals for the sponsorship and forming some valuable partnerships along the way.

I wish all charities knew how to fund-raise like this!

-Andrew Littlefield, We Did It  (A Sponsor of The #DonorLove Rendezvous)

Don’t you want all of your corporate donors to feel like that? They can! Here’s how:

STEP 1: Get to know THEM: The first step is to really learn about the company you want to work with. Go on their website, read how they talk about themselves. What services are they selling? What language do they use? Watch some commercials and look at some advertisements for the company and really get a sense of their brand.

When you have your discovery meetings, ask lots of questions – and listen really well. Don’t run through a sales pitch before you’ve really gotten to know the company. Key things I need to know about a potential corporate donor are:

  • What are their biggest challenges today? What do they think they will be tomorrow?
  • What are their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals and objectives?
  • What have they liked about past non-profit partnerships? What has worked well? What hasn’t?
  • What makes their company unique? Why do their customers choose them over their competitors?

STEP 2: Look for Return on Investment (ROI): Once you understand a company, look for areas where your goals and objectives overlap – and build partnerships based on those shared values, beliefs and objectives. Find creative ways to add value to a company through your partnership, by: helping them find new customers, engage employees, build a stronger brand – or more. Always keep in mind what is the ROI for the company you are working with – not just what’s in it for you. A partnership with the right charity can add value for the company by:

  • Helping them find new customers: 94% of people would switch from one brand to another if it was associated with a good cause
  • Engaging and retaining employees: 70% of people say making a difference in a good cause is a factor in where they choose to work
  • Building brand: associating a company with a good cause can improve their reputation and regard in the marketplace

STEP 3: Make a donor-focused pitch: In your proposal, talk about THEM. Restate what you’ve learned about their CSR objectives and business needs, and clearly explain how the program you’ve identified matches their interests and helps THEM achieve their business objectives. Too often charities make pitches based on their cause and their organization. Focus more on the opportunity of the partnership – and less on your need for money.

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Want to learn more? Be sure to check out the next #DonorLove webinar: Better Corporate Giving (…that raises MORE money & your sponsors will LOVE)

Tuesday October 13, 2015
1:00 pm Eastern (10:00 am Pacific) + Recording available October 14th – $24.99 CAD

Do you want your corporate donors to LOVE the proposals you prepare for them?

More importantly, do you want your corporate asks to be successful?!

If you want to learn how to create better – more successful – more profitable corporate proposals then sign up for this webinar today! Only $24.99 CAD!

Drawing from her experience in major and corporate giving Rory Green will look at how charities can do a better job of corporate fundraising – and how to engage in deeper, more meaningful, more PROFITABLE corporate partnerships.

This webinar will use real life case studies, and give you the practical information you need to improve your corporate fundraising efforts!

You will learn:

  • How to identify the RIGHT companies to build a relationship with
  • Rory’s list of questions you NEED to ask before you write a proposal
  • Creative ways to offer Return on Investment that Corporate Partners will LOVE
  • How to tap into budgets beyond Community Engagement to unlock MAXIMUM investment
  • Step by step instructions on how to structure a SUCCESSFUL corporate ask

Sign up NOW and you will also get a REAL LIFE corporate proposal that got a “yes” in a day!

Trust us, you do NOT miss this webinar. Sign up now – seats are limited!

Can’t make the webinar live? No problem! Sign up now and receive a recording after the webinar is over, to watch whenever you like!

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Parts of this blog were originally published on Phil’s Career Blog

Written by Rory Green

rory

 

Rory 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

 

 

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**SPONSORED POST** Email maeve@whatgivesphilanthropy.com for more information about advertising on www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com.

Guest Post: What Can Starbucks Teach Us About Fundraising?

 

What can Starbucks teach us about (1)

Today as I got my morning cappuccino, I noticed Starbucks is running a huge promotion – centred on buying beans, K-cups, syrups, cups and taking the Starbucks experience home.

Why would they do this? Isn’t the whole concept of drinking coffee at home Starbucks’ competition? Don’t they want me in their stores?

It’s because Starbucks has figured out something many charities haven’t tapped into yet: When you like something, you like doing it in different ways, and at different times.

I love going to Starbucks in the morning. I love chatting with the barista about my day as I grab my cappuccino. But I also love a cup of coffee in the office, a quick K-cup jolt in between staff meetings. I love a cup of decaf at 8 pm, enjoyed in my pajamas, on my couch. Having options makes me drink more coffee, not less.

If Starbucks was run like a charity, this promotion might not have happened. The director of In-Store Sales would be at the throat of the Director of K-Cup sales. “Those are MY customers, they come in the store every day – they get to know the baristas! It’s about relationships! K-Cups are a dumb fad you millennial idiot”… “No! In-store sales are dead! Convenience is the thing! K-Cups are the way of the future! MY customers want convenience, you dinosaur.”

As funny as that is, it is a sad reality for many charities – with annual giving, events, major gifts and planned giving all fighting over donors. “You can’t talk to event participants about monthly giving!” “Hey planned giving, back off my mid-level donors, you’re making them uncomfortable.” “Get out of here major gifts, no one invited you, you glory hog.”

It makes me sick.

When did we start thinking of this as a competition?

When did we become so entitled?

When did we start thinking we owned our donors? Like they are our property?

They are not YOUR donors, you are THEIR charity.

That means you have a responsibility to put aside the egos and the silos, and do what is best for the DONOR. You need to trust each other enough to help one another, and to make smart decisions about how to offer your donor the chance to give and be involved in all the ways THEY choose.

Because if your donors love your cause – the way I love coffee – they are going to choose to give in different ways, at different times and in different amounts.  Good customer service means you make sure those options and choices are there – when THEY want them.

Do you want to:

  • Understand how to overcome internal silos within your own organizations
  • See how four different organizations are leading the way in breaking down silos, driving integration, and thinking differently about their fundraising programs
  • Learn different strategies that you can incorporate into your own work to help address silo challenges in your own organizations

Then sign up for this webinar today: Breaking Down Silos: Great Ideas that Drive Integration & Results!

Out of the box creative is more than just a crazy concept from your Creative Director – creative innovation can help you connect with new audiences, help cement your relationships with the donors you already have and drive increased results. See how informed strategy and inspiring creative helps you to innovate and truly integrate channels and messages that resonate with your target audiences. See how you can break down internal silos and drive results for your own organization!

Seats are limited! SIGN UP NOW!

This post originally appeared on the GoodWorks Co Blog.

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Written by Rory Green

rory

 

Rory 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

 

 

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**SPONSORED POST** Email maeve@whatgivesphilanthropy.com for more information about advertising on www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com.

Prospect Management at a Cocktail Party for Introverted Fundraisers

Prospect Management at a Cocktail Party for Introverted Fundraisers

I know I’ve spoken about being an introvert before. This is not a weakness of mine nor is it an area for improvement, but in a world dominated by extroversion, you do have to make a concerted effort as an introvert to determine your approach. Case in point: prospect management in a cocktail party setting.

In my role at Laurier, I am a prospect manager. I now have my own portfolio of prospects to cultivate, solicit, and steward. This occasionally involves a cocktail party-format donor appreciation event, one of which took place this past Tuesday.

Now, I wouldn’t say these kinds of events aren’t natural for me, nor would I say I find them difficult… I’d just say I find them draining. I might even say I find them very draining. So for a person who’s trying to strategically use their energy in that kind of event, what should the approach be???

Make a plan: One thing that helps me in these situations is making a plan in advance. I figure out how many prospects I have attending and write their names down on a list that I can reference throughout the event. On Tuesday I had 4 prospects who RSVP’d yes, so I wrote down their names and planned to connect with all of them.

Adjust the plan: Does everyone who RSVPs to an event show up?  Never.  On Tuesday I hovered near the nametag table a few times to see if my 4 prospects had shown up.  In the end, only 3 of them had.  I adjusted my list and now planned to connect with my 3 prospects throughout the evening.

Take breaks: I can mingle pretty decently, but as I’ve said, it takes a lot out of me.  In order to survive the cocktail party, I need breaks.  On Tuesday there was a room where the staff had put their coats and things, so 3 or so times during the event I escaped to the room to check my notes, take a breath, take a break, and then head back into the fray.

Quality over quantity: With 3 prospects at the event there was nothing stopping me from meaningfully connecting with them all, but that doesn’t mean I could expect a lengthy conversation with all of them, nor did I necessarily have the stamina for it.  My mantra for cocktail parties has become quality over quantity.  Small talk and glad-handing takes a lot out of me, so I try to find an opportunity for a meaningful conversation with even just one person at an event of this nature. On Tuesday I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity; one of my prospects – the one I knew the least of the 3 – was sitting alone eating at a table.  I approached him, asked if I could join, and we got to know one another over the course of about 30 minutes.  It was fantastic; I was sitting down, in a quieter area of the venue, and got to really understand the passions and interests of an unknown prospect.  These kinds of conversations do in fact energize me, and they’re what made me want to do one-on-one fundraising in the first place.

With all of those strategies in place, I was able to have a personally and professionally successful evening.

What are your strategies, for introverts or extroverts???

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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 educational fundraising for the past seven years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

5 Things I’ve Learned about Fundraising at Trinity College School

Today is bittersweet.  It’s my last day in my office at Trinity College School where I’ve served as Alumni Development Officer for 3.5 years.  The sweet part is departing TCS for an exciting new position at my alma mater Wilfrid Laurier University, but it is always difficult leaving an incredible work experience like TCS has been for me.

So, in honour of Trinity College School, its alumni, and all of my outstanding colleagues that I’ve had the pleasure to work with and learn from, I wanted to share with my readers what I’ve learned about fundraising at TCS (I’ve boiled it down to five things, but there are actually hundreds).

What I’ve Learned about Fundraising at Trinity College School

Young People Will Give
You know my feelings on young alumni by now – you must ask them to support your school.  Why do I feel so passionately about that?  Because at TCS I’ve learned that they will give.

Yes, they’re different.  They won’t just give because it’s a habit or because it’s expected of them.  They’re skeptical; they want to see how you provide value, to them or to your community.  They want to know what the impact of their gift will be, and they want to be told that their $25 will make a difference.

So what?  They have different needs than other donors.  So meet those needs, and ask. Because they will give.

Major Gifts Take Time
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a small taste of major gift fundraising while at TCS, which is an area of fundraising that I’m really keen to pursue further.  My first exposure to major gift solicitations was simply observing, listening to, and learning from my Executive Director.  What did I learn?  That these gifts take time and that you must be persistent.  It’s not just wining, dining, and schmoozing.  It’s not just having the confidence and courage to sit across from someone and ask them for $1 million.  It’s identifying, cultivating, researching, planning, strategizing, and then asking… and then waiting… following up, asking again… trying from a different angle, and then waiting again… and then following up again, and then – maybe – there’s a “yes”.

This has been a great lesson to learn, because it’s not really the attitude I went into fundraising with.  I imagined it being difficult, but not because of the time it takes.  This takes special skills that not everyone has, and if I’m to continue in the direction of major gift fundraising, I’m grateful that I learned from the best, and I intend to cultivate and sharpen those skills in myself.

Mobile Giving is Tricky
Mobile giving a.k.a. text-to-give or text-to-pledge continues to be a hot topic among fundraisers.  I had the opportunity to implement a mobile giving program while working at TCS.  Our program uses the text-to-pledge method, whereby a donor can text us with their name and the amount of their donation.  We receive an email with their name, donation amount, and phone number, and then we can follow up by phone to confirm and process the donation.

The nice thing about this process is that, unlike other programs, no percentage of the donation goes to the service provider and we receive the name of the person making the donation.  Normally with mobile giving programs, all you would get is the money, minus the portion that goes to the service provider.  That’s why mobile giving works so well for disaster relief.  An organization raising money to aid, for example, people after the earthquake in Haiti just needs money!  It doesn’t matter who’s giving it, it just matters that the money is coming in, and that it’s coming in fast.  That’s another key element to make mobile giving work: urgency.  When people sense urgency and a genuine need for money, they’ll respond quickly, and move on with their day.

So mobile giving is great for unique, urgent situations, but will it become an alternative to sending your cheque in the mail?  My feeling is no.  I don’t think mobile giving is another way of giving as part of a regular Annual Fund.  Giving online via your smart phone is one thing, but people still want a connection when they’re making a donation for the most part, so we still want to keep it as personal as possible.  My verdict is that mobile giving does not work for the average organization.

Customized Fundraising is the Key
What is the future of fundraising???  Customization/Personalization.  This is not a new insight, to be sure.  People are always more likely to respond to something if they feel it is written to them.  When you get a mass email, you feel no remorse in deleting it, but if you feel something has been sent specifically and thoughtfully to you, you may pause and give it more attention.

Fundraisers everywhere are getting really excited about new trends like crowdfunding and mobile giving, and there is certainly some great new technology out there that we can capitalize on, but I think our best bet as fundraisers is using new technologies to complement our existing programs, and take advantages of the ways that technology can assist in a customized and personalized giving experience.

I’m sure you want an example, so here it is: one of the coolest projects I worked on while at TCS was an animated video that we made with an incredible company called Switch Video.  The video was intended for all of our alumni and parents, to educate them on two capital projects that are the top priorities of the school’s current capital campaign.  There was hope that we would encourage more gifts to the campaign, but the main focus was building awareness of the projects.  The video was cool simply because it was animated; a totally different approach from a 150 year-old school that uses traditional marketing for the most part.

That said, the video’s “coolness” went far beyond animation.  The video was also customized for 5,500 unique recipients.  These recipients would receive a unique email with their name in the subject line, their name in the body of the email, and a unique URL to view the video.  Then the video was also customized to include their name (and grad year, if applicable) in different parts of the animation.  For example, when called to make a contribution to the campaign, an envelope popped up on the screen with the TCS logo in the return address spot, and the alumnus’ or parent’s name in the centre.  Pretty cool, eh?  Think of it as a mail merge, but for video.

This is the future of fundraising.  We need to focus on using new technologies to assist us in the age-old effective tool when it comes to fundraising: personalization.  When we’re looking for a big gift, we wouldn’t send a general letter to someone, would we?  We’d meet them in person.  So let’s take that idea and apply it elsewhere!  I’m glad TCS reinforced this idea for me through this amazing project (and many others).

Alumni Engagement is a Beautiful Thing
Finally – alumni engagement.  I don’t know where else I’ll work in my career, but in many ways it’s hard to imagine an alumni community more engaged than the alumni I’ve met at Trinity College School.  Perhaps it’s the significant tuition they pay that makes them feel more invested in the life of the school.  Perhaps it’s the formative years they attend TCS during (ages 15-18, in particular).  Perhaps it’s the extremely small community they’re a part of, and that the intimate size is easier to stay engaged with.

Whatever it is, it made working at TCS a total pleasure.  There’s a big event that I organize annually; it’s a shinny (hockey) tournament for alumni, parents, and friends of the school.  Coincidentally, it takes place tomorrow, and will mark my last day of work at the school.  Unfortunately, the event was created to honour the memory of an alumnus of the school who was tragically killed while cycling across Canada.  But, the goodwill it creates in the community, and the positive way it honours the memory of this alumnus, is a beautiful thing.  With many events, we have to work really hard to get good attendance.  With this tournament, I sit back and watch the registrations roll in.  People are delighted to drive up to the school for a day of hockey and a dinner at the end of the day.  It involves a lot of organization, but not a lot of “work”.  It’s a pleasure to be involved with.

There’s also the Alumni Association, a small volunteer group made up of a variety of alumni from different grad years.  I’ve gotten quite close to a lot of the members of this group, and seeing their genuine interest in and love for the school makes my work so meaningful.  They want to provide value for their fellow alumni, organize events that provide new ways to engage the disengaged, connect alumni together and celebrate the thing they have in common: that they attended Trinity College School.  It’s hard not to get excited about their passion.  It’s what makes the work I do so… fun!!!

The alumni engagement at TCS is something I will always take with me, and will positively inform the communities I work with in the future.  I’m forever grateful.

 

And with that, I sign off as the TCS Alumni Development Officer!  www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com will continue strong, always with the memory of TCS, but with new experiences and projects, too!

Thank you, TCS!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
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Personalization pays!

Personalization Pays!

I know I’ve talked about compassion/donor fatigue before.  We have so many communication channels available to us, and every one of them – from email to Facebook to snail mail – are asking us to give.  These weapons of mass communication are powerful, and they’re a positive tool on the one hand, but we have to work that much harder to connect with people when using them.  What can we do, say, or design that will catch people’s attention???  Is a video enough?

The best tool I’ve learned to use is personalization.  I was working on an event recently – an art auction – and was brainstorming some ways to get more attendees there.  I didn’t just want more attendees though, I wanted people to attend who would actually buy the art.  So since this was the fifth time the event has taken place, I looked back at records to find out who had bought art in the past, which artist’s art they had bought, and whether the same artist was submitting again this year.  If they were, I wrote a personalized email to each of these past buyers, inviting them to the event, letting them know that “their favourite artist” was submitting again, linking them to the event website (specifically to where this artist’s piece was featured), and also letting them know that they could submit an absentee bid if they couldn’t make it.

This process was lengthy and tedious, but it comes with a great ROI.  A few of these individuals submitted absentee bids, many of them attended, and at least one purchased another piece by “their favourite artist”.  Regardless of the outcome though, this personal touch is a great way to engage members of your community.  One person I emailed was impressed we even knew what he’d bought before, and others were simply pleased to have been personally contacted.

This event is simply an example though, and the strategy can be even more effective with fundraising.  I’ve worked on custom proposal packages that include archival photos of an alumnus from when he/she was at the school, videos that have the head of the school addressing the major gift prospect who is meant to receive the video… the list goes on, and the result is always positive.  Personalized communication resulting in a large gift or a piece of art being purchased is really the cherry on top.  No matter what, personally connecting with people is always worth your while.

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Part of this post was inspired by Dan Allenby’s recent blog post, “Content vs. Distribution”, from his amazing website: The Annual Giving Network.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

 

Career Connections: teaching students about fundraising

I have to admit that this week I didn’t have the ease of inspiration that I usually do for writing my biweekly Friday posts.  Lately I’ve been so busy and have been lucky enough to have some incredible guest bloggers come in with their ideas, so when faced with coming up with one of my own… I uncharacteristically faltered.  However, I was saved by the fact that every once in a while I save a draft of a blog post on something while it’s fresh on my mind and figure that I’ll post it sometime in the future.  That’s why today I’m writing about an event I participated in back in November 2012 at my alma mater, Wilfrid Laurier University: Career Connections.

Career Connections was a combination of a career fair and a networking event: current university students had the opportunity to visit “exhibit tables” hosted by alumni where they could learn about a specific career they were interested in, or network with alumni in diverse occupations to inspire their own career paths.  Students were encouraged to ask questions about the alumnus’ current career, industry, and the path they took to get where they are today.  We – the alumni – were invited to share advice we have for students interested in pursuing a career in our field.  We were also encouraged to bring information about our organization and any other information that might be helpful for students thinking about a career in our industry.

Firstly, I was delighted to be asked to participate.  Being that I work in alumni relations, and organize events somewhat like this one, it’s always fun to be on the other side of the event.  Secondly, I was so grateful that – especially at a business-focused school like Laurier – the organizers were making an effort to include careers like fundraising, something that isn’t likely to spring into a 4th year student’s head when they’re thinking of what they’ll do after they graduate.  Thirdly, I was excited to have the chance to share the joys of my field with soon-to-be university graduates!!!

When I go to events like this, or networking events in general, my mission is simple: truly connect with a few people.  I’m not a mingle and small talk kind of girl; I would much rather invest in deep and meaningful conversation with 2-3 people than leave with 15 business cards of faces I can’t recall.  So at Career Connections, I didn’t pressure myself to have a line-up at my table, just a few students who I could have some good conversations with.  Thankfully, that’s what I’ve got.

I had three students come to my table and really stop to learn about what it is I do.  When asked by a student what I love most about my job, I said that every day is different; one day I could be out in Halifax hosting an alumni event, the next day I could be quietly working on a young alumni solicitation letter, and the next I could be calling a major gift prospect.

One student said that he was interested in education, but not in being a teacher.  I said educational fundraising is an amazing way to be involved in education if it’s something you’re passionate about; you might not be on the front lines teaching kids, but you’re actively working to raise funds so that the teachers can do what they do with the best resources available.

On the same vein as every day being different, I spoke to another student about how fundraising engages so many different “muscles” in you; there’s lots of opportunities to build and enhance interpersonal skills, many times I find myself using the critical thinking skills I learned in university to analyze fundraising communications materials, and when it comes to making the ask, it’s a great challenge every time!  You have to think hard to align the needs of the institution/organization with the passions and interests of the prospect.  It’s tough work, but rewarding, and fun!!!

Career Connections was a great experience, and I hope to have more opportunities in the future to share with others the joys of the field I love: fundraising.

 

Written by Maeve Strathy

livestrong
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email