SLOW DOWN!

At Blakely, we have a step in our process for every campaign called the “variable strategy review”. It’s a meeting when the fundraising strategist (me), the project manager, the data programmer, the production specialist, and one of our senior strategists or a member of our Insights team all come together. We look at the mail package or email or any creative with variable elements and review everything to make sure:

  1. We have the info we need in the data to feed into the variables
  2. The variables make strategic sense

It’s a critical step in the process to catch any issues or “gotchas” as my colleague Jeff calls them. But it’s also an opportunity to strengthen strategy and ensure it’s sound.

We have a busy workplace just like you, especially at this time of year. So you would think we’d have our minds elsewhere during this meeting or be rushing to get somewhere/do something else. But no.

We went through every item. We asked strategic questions. We changed variable copy. We put ourselves in the donors’ shoes and thought about whether what we were saying would really reach them.

I’m not saying all this to note how awesome Blakely is (though we are). I’m saying this to encourage you to slow down even when work is crazy. Yes, “done is better than perfect”, but sometimes we really need to stop, ask questions, and think strategically about the donor and how we can inspire them and motivate them to give.

Take an extra 30 minutes this week to slow down and work through something more strategically. And when you do – share it in the comments. Good luck! It’s fundraising season, baby!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
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Pick your battles… but do battle!

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

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

That Dirty “M” Word: Micromanagement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ohhhhhhh. Now that sounds different!

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

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

Think about it! Happy Wednesday!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

What I learned about fundraising from a terrifying experience

what-i-learned-about-fundraising-from-a-terrifying-experience

Something really scary happened to me last night…

I was driving home from a meeting around 7:30 pm, and rolled up to a very sketchy intersection in Toronto very close to my home. The stoplight was red, and there was one car between me and the intersection.

All of a sudden, a man darted across the street. He ran up to the car ahead of me and tried to open one of their back car doors. He couldn’t get in, so he headed over to my passenger door. I hurried to lock my door but I wasn’t able to do it in time, and suddenly the stranger was sitting in my passenger seat next to me.

What happened next felt like an out-of-body experience. I calmly told him to get out of my car. He begged me to drive him, as he’d just been “jumped” and needed to get out of the area. I – again, calmly – told him I was not driving anywhere and that he needed to get out of my car. He said he was being threatened by people on the street and needed me to take him away. I said that was not my responsibility and that I needed him to get out of my car.

“Get out of my car,” I said. “Please get out of my car. You need to get out of my car.”

I kept repeating myself until finally, he opened the door, got out of my car, and ran away.

I gathered myself and drove home. Although I’m still feeling shaken, I’m OK and I’m safe.

I recounted the story a few times afterwards – to my girlfriend, a friend, and two of my sisters. Everyone seemed impressed with my calmness in the situation.

The truth is, I’m impressed, too. I didn’t urge myself to be calm in the moment. I just was.

I simply requested that the stranger get out of my car. I was calm, I was assertive, and I was serious. I didn’t scream, cry, or get emotional. I didn’t make a spectacle of it. I simply told the man what I wanted and eventually he did just that.

I don’t want to trivialize the situation that I experienced. I genuinely was shaken by it,

But when I sit down to write my weekly post on Wednesdays, I draw from experience – sometimes very recent, and sometimes unpleasant – to inspire my posts.

And so, I can’t help but think – what could I learn about fundraising from my experience last night? 

We talk a lot about storytelling in fundraising. Inspiring donors through stories is such an important technique in what we do.

But sometimes a story isn’t necessary. Sometimes flowery language, emotion, and a spectacle isn’t required.

Maybe it’s because of the ask you’re making, or maybe it’s who you’re making the ask to.

But sometimes, the best ask is one that’s calm, assertive, and serious. Sometimes you have to make the ask a few times in order for the donor to really feel the impact of what you’re asking. Sometimes they need to know you’re really serious before they consider responding to your ask.

Have you had any experiences that have inspired your fundraising lately? Hopefully they didn’t shake you as much as mine did, but maybe you learned something nonetheless.

Share in the comments below!

~~

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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 ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

5 fundraising lessons I learned from causing a stir

5-fundraising-lessons-i-learned-from-causing-a-stir

Sometimes I equate my blogging schedule to SNL. SNL doesn’t go on air because it’s ready to go on air. It goes on air because it’s 11:30.

Similarly, I post a blog every Wednesday. I do it because it forces me to write on a weekly basis. I do it because I think consistency in a blog is important. I do it because I believe there are some readers out there who really value what I write, and I appreciate that, and don’t want to let them down.

Sometimes I’ve spent weeks of careful thought on my post, and sometimes it’s a quick post in the morning based on something that I was recently inspired to think and write about.

Case in point: last week’s post — What if we are the problem?

I wrote this post quickly the morning I posted it. Not to say I hadn’t thought about it, but I didn’t carefully choose my words or re-read it a million times.

When I clicked “Publish”, it didn’t occur to me that this post would start a conversation, only that it would make readers think.

In fact, I was a lot more worried about a post I wrote a few weeks ago — #donorlove has its limits. I thought that one might cause a stir.

But lo and behold, I get into the office Friday morning (two days after the post was published) and I get a message from John Lepp letting me know that my post has started a conversation on the Facebook group, Fundraising Chat. A conversation that, for the most part, is very much in disagreement about what I wrote. Then my boss gets into the office and she’s apparently been given a heads-up from another fundraiser who spotted the Facebook thread. So I caught up on the thread and inserted myself in there, too.

At the end of it all, it was a very fruitful conversation, and an interesting one, to be sure. Also, it was a conversation I’m proud that my blog post initiated, even if my ideas were argued against.

In retrospect, I would not have done a thing differently, and I’ve learned some lessons in the process that I can apply directly to fundraising.

Here they are:

#1 – Done is better than perfect

If I hemmed and hawed about every post I wrote, trying to perfect every word, make every thought complete, and ensure it was critic-proof, I’d (a) never post anything, and (b) write really boring posts.

Similarly, sometimes our donor communications go through so many hoops and levels of approval that they end up sterile and totally uninspiring.

Sometimes what we write – for readers or donors – is better a little bit messy. If I had defined every term in my post and been more careful with my ideas, it might have never started a conversation.

#2 – Words matter

That being said, words do matter. If it had ever occurred to me that the word “asset” could be defined so differently by readers, I would’ve chosen a better word, or done a better job defining what I meant by asset.

We can’t expect our donors to give us the benefit of the doubt or interpret what we mean if we aren’t clear enough, so we do have to sit back and consider some critical messages we’re conveying, and make sure it’s clear what we’re trying to say.

#3 – Be part of the bigger conversation

This experience reminded me just how glad I am that I converse with so many amazing fundraisers around the world. Sure, in this instance, they were arguing against what I was saying, but that doesn’t phase me. What I loved was that I was part of a bigger conversation, one that had people debating and challenging each other and sharing new ideas.

At the end of the day, this conversation strengthens our work as fundraisers. Hearing different opinions, participating in debates, connecting with different people, learning about fundraising trends in other countries… this all makes us better fundraisers. We can’t stay in a little bubble. We’re better together.

#4 – Have fundraiser friends

Although I wasn’t personally hurt by disagreements with my ideas, I was buoyed by the fundraiser friends I have out there who gave me the benefit of the doubt and interpreted my blog the way I meant it. There were some great people that I respect who spoke out on my behalf in the conversation and I was so grateful.

Like with #3, it’s important to build relationships with other fundraisers – from different organizations, sectors, and places. These are the people you can vent to, talk through ideas with, gain inspiration from, and more. Again, we’re better fundraisers when we have fundraiser friends.

#5 – Just because someone disagrees with you, doesn’t mean you have a bad idea

Like I said, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I learned some things as I’ve shared above, but the disagreement and the conversation that was started doesn’t make me take back what I said. I still think my point was sound; people didn’t like the word “asset” and that’s OK. I still think it works!

And that’s why we have to have thick skin as fundraisers and sometimes charge through, even when others are in disagreement. There are a two outcomes – your idea could work and lead to great success! Or it fails. And who cares if it does?! Surely you learned something along the way. I did last week!

~~

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

Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

If I won the lottery…

That’s dumb. I’d give to some of the 85,000 registered charities in Canada alone. They’re doing good work. I’d help them do what they’re good at. Just because I’m a new multimillionaire doesn’t mean I’m suddenly an expert in things.What I would do though? Create a fundraiser watchdog organization. Recent conversations at AFP Congress, The #Donorlove Rendezvous and Fundraising Day have reminded me that the charitable sector employs thousands of loving, generous and empathetic people. We are people who care and want to give back and help things get better for everyone.But that has a dark side. It means that we sacrifice our work-life balance to achieve goals. It means we don’t push for fair working hours or fair salaries or more support staff because “that’ll affect the cost per dollar raised”. Because there’s always MORE to do! To raise! To help! We think in the short-term. We don’t invest in our people. We burn people out at an alarming rate.

We are vulnerable employees because we are often contract, non-union, and full of HEART.

Which is unfortunate. First, because most charitable sector employees chose to work here because they wanted to do good. And we harm them? Second, because fundraising is built on relationships. And this sector is built on fundraising dollars! Churning through staff every two years is not reassuring to a donor with whom we’re trying to build long-term, loving relationships, nor is it the way to build fundraising programs with long-term strategies and goals. 

So.

A watchdog organization. Here are some components that would be important:

  1. Educational sessions for employees and employers on the Employment Standards Act (ESA) or whichever employment act is applicable where you live. We often don’t have Human Resource departments. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to follow proper Human Resources Policy. I’m not an expert, but from poking around in the ESA, I’ve learned that in Ontario, employers need written permission to make you work over 44 hours a week, and that salaried, non-managerial employees are entitled to time and a half for every hour over 44 hours worked a week, or 1.5 hours of lieu time. I had no idea.
  2. An anonymous forum to air grievances and warnings: Other groups, like journalists, have done this. Fundraising in particular is a small, close-knit community. But there are some terrible bosses, some terrible work places and there should be a space for discussion. Ken Wyman, Fundraising Education Godfather, has spoken many times about this – what do we do to warn others? Nothing right now, just word of mouth.
  3. Legal Aid: Because I’ll have won $50 million from the lottery I never play, I would employ employment lawyers to support charitable employees in making their employers comply with the law.
  4. Board member education sessions: Hey dummies! If you don’t pay your staff enough to do the MASSIVE AMOUNT of innovative work you want them to do, they’ll leave! Pay them what they’re worth. You invest in your employees at your companies. Why don’t you think charities should do the same?
  5. A certification program that verifies workplaces as being ESA (or local employment act) compliant.

But unfortunately, I’m not a newly-minted lottery winner. I don’t even buy tickets.

So what can I do? I’m 30, I’m 8 years into my fundraising career, and I’m now a strategist at an agency. I’m not a CEO. I’m not a VP. I’m not even a manager. I’m not in charge. I’m just someone who gets sad and frustrated when I hear the same stories about charities over and over.

I never want to hear a CEO say “Oh we don’t do lieu time here, because we all work overtime.”

Nope.

I never want to have a colleague respond to my rants about too many weekends with “well, I mean, I don’t care because I want to further my career and being agreeable and doing the work will help me. Why rock the boat?”

Nope.

I never want to spend months with a sore heart, full of worry about a wonderful co-worker who has gone on sick leave because of stress and anxiety and depression and exhaustion, all stemming from terrible leadership.

Nope.

I never want to be held to the same commitment standards as a director who makes 10 times my salary and gets double my vacation time. You can hire a cleaning service, afford a car, and get away from it all at your cottage. I can’t.

Nope.

I never want to leave a job at an organization I love because I am totally and completely burnt out. Spent. Done.

Nope.

I would describe myself as a fundraiser to the core. I am not interested in being in charge. I feel lucky that I’ve found a role that suits my skills and a team that embraces my quirks, and I hope I can support the sector! I work with fundraisers everyday in my new role as a strategist and while none of them are dealing with major dysfunction like in some charities, I can still see that these amazing, dedicated fundraisers still have their own struggles.

Why are they so prevalent? And what are you doing to change the culture at your organization?

I wish I was ending this post with a bright and happy solution. An easy takeaway for you to take back to your charity to implement and make things better. I can’t. I can support my peers. I can be kind and loving and giving to my coworkers. I can be firm in setting my own work-life balance. I can mentor.

But, I’m not in charge.

Maybe you are.

Maybe you can start changing things from the top.

~~

Written by Stephanie Highfield

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 6.12.02 AMStephanie is a fundraiser, a thinker, and a maker. Currently a Fundraising Strategist at Blakely, she’s spent the last 8 years working for a variety of charities across Toronto, raising funds for and telling stories about everything from fully digital hospitals to children’s choirs to family-centred addiction treatment. Click here to learn more about Stephanie.

Connect with Stephanie via:
Twitter | LinkedIn

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!

~~

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

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.

~~

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

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

4 things I learned at #AFPFC

4 things I learned at #AFPFC

I’m back from AFPFC a.k.a. the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference, and I’m ready to share with you my top learnings.

Take little bets.

Take little bets. What I loved about a lot of the sessions I went to was that the presenters looked at the small ways we can innovate, make change, and show #DonorLove. In Steven Shattuck‘s session The Art and Science of Retaining Digital Donors, he talked about 3 opportunities to thank, engage, and – as a result – retain digital donors.

  1. Through the “Thank You Page” a.k.a. the webpage donors land on after successfully making an online donation.
  2. Through the confirmation email a.k.a. the “receipt” we send donors after they make an online gift.
  3. Through the formal acknowledgement we send them later.

Mark Rovner also took this approach in his session called Why midlevel donors are sweeter than Christmas morning, which I sadly wasn’t able to attend since I had to head to the airport, but which I followed on Twitter. Mark shared 3 great tactics to show mid-level donors some #DonorLove.

  1. Put your business card in their donor welcome package.
  2. Pick up the phone [and call her/him].
  3. Send him/her a handwritten note.

Get donors to DO something.

Get donors to DO something. Steven Shattuck talked about this in his session, too. When donors land on your Thank You Page, for example, does it just have a nice (or not so nice) message they can read (or not read) before just clicking the “X” and forgetting about you? OR do you give them a way to further engage with you?

A company called Abila in their session Digging Deeper Into Donor Behavior & Preferences: 2016 Donor Engagement Study, shared some recommendations on how to do this:

  1. Through a short video (2 minutes max.).
  2. Through a short note or article.
  3. Through a short Facebook post.

(See a pattern? It must be short!)

-If you always do what you've always done, you'll always be who you've always been.-

Fundraising = Impact Investing. Fundraising as investing is not a new idea to me, or to any of you, I’m sure, but it was definitely discussed a lot at AFPFC. It was discussed quite a bit in the Tuesday general session, and it was a big chunk of Kay Sprinkel Grace‘s amazing session: Where is the Sector Headed?. Kay urged us all to be nimble and to take risks. People are sick of giving to charities when they could give through venture philanthropy and make a bigger, more direct impact faster. We’re seen as a sector focused on scarcity, and nobody wants to give to a desperate organization. They want to give to a winning organization! We need to make change if we want to “win”!

Don’t be a bad houseguest. After many years of admiring him from afar, I finally got to see Tom Ahern speak in real time/real life in his session titled “Loverizing”: The Lucrative Difference a Few Well-Chosen Words Will Make in Your Donor Communications. Tom inspired the audience in so many ways, but a quote that really resonated with me was:

-A lot of charities could be mistaken for egotistical maniacs.- - Tom Ahern

Tom asked us to think about it like we’re a guest in a donor’s home, even when we send them direct mail. Do we want to go to their house and talk about US – the charity – non-stop? We did this, we did that, we we weOR do we want to talk about them and how great they – the donor – are? I think the latter.

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

Guest Post: Three Strategies to Improve Donor Retention

3 strategies to improve donor retention

The truth of the matter is, there isn’t one fundraising metric to hold high above the rest. The evaluation is holistic.

The challenge with tracking metrics is that our limited time and resources are being funnelled towards development, marketing, program services, and other important endeavours.

Additionally, no organization’s data is perfect. To ensure accuracy, your nonprofit is going to have to clean the data in your CRM prior to delving into performance analysis.

All that being said, metrics are still extremely important. To make the most of when you do study up, strategically map out which metrics make the most sense for your nonprofit with an eye for metrics that address numerous potential pain points at once.

Donor retention rate is one such metric.

From finding faults in your stewardship process to recognizing that your acquisition efforts carry too much of the workload, a poor donor retention rate says a lot.

Acquiring a first-time gift costs roughly five times more than it does to retain a donor. Couple that with the fact that The Fundraising Effectiveness Project found that increasing donor retention rate from 45% to 55% has the potential to double an organization’s donation revenue, and there’s no fiscal argument against solidifying your nonprofit’s retention strategies.

The strongest indicator of future giving is past giving. Leverage that opportunity!

So how do we do this? You surely have standard retention-related stewardship policies in place (drip email campaigns, acknowledgment techniques, etc.), but you’ll have to think creatively to kickstart your retention. Let’s close out by offering a few retention strategies to add to your pre-existing processes.

#1 — Promote matching gifts.

Almost two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies have matching gift programs. These programs match donations made by employees to a wide range of nonprofits. The matches often double the original donation size which is a huge boon for your nonprofit.

In terms of retention, donors who know that their gift size can grow through very little effort on their part are going to be inclined to give again and again.

Donation impact is critical; stress how impactful one gift can be!

#2 — Research your donors.

You can benefit from turning the prospect research microscope toward your donor pool.

A screening fills in gaps regarding both the financial situation and philanthropic interests of your donors. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn more so you can segment your donor pool for better, personalized stewardship practices.

#3 — Engage with donors without asking for more money.

Hopefully, this item is already on your list. But it warrants emphasizing that donors are cause advocates and not piggy banks.

Give donors opportunities to contribute in non-financial ways. Those are powerful, firsthand experiences that stick with supporters, influencing their decisions to donate more later.

Next time you study your data, ask yourself — what are we doing to make our donor retention dreams a reality?

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Written by Blake Groves

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With more than 20 years in technology solutions and consulting, Blake has knowledge of sales, consulting, product management and marketing. For the last 10 years, he has narrowed his focus to how Internet technologies can help nonprofit organizations, and prior to joining Salsa, he held positions at Convio and Charity Dynamics.

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