What did Bernie Sanders do differently?

There are a lot of reasons why people give.

One of them that comes up a lot – especially in my FAVOURITE group of donors: mid-level – is this:

“I want to feel a part of something.” 

Donors don’t say this explicitly a lot, but their behaviour validates it. Here’s an example: Bernie Sanders’ election campaign.

I listened to a podcast recently that interviewed Mr. Sanders and I was fascinated when he spoke about fundraising.

These numbers might be slightly off, but he raised $137 million from 4.7 million supporters, which means an average gift of:

$29.15.

For those of us who work in annual giving or direct response fundraising, those numbers don’t necessarily make our jaws drop. However, when we think of American political fundraising, we think of the support coming from big insurance companies or the Koch brothers; groups or individuals that want to leverage their support for lobbying power.

If that’s the perception, then how could the average American – to my point earlier – ever feel a part of the process?

That’s what Bernie Sanders did differently.

In Canada, in national political fundraising, there is a cap on political contributions and donations to political parties can only be made by individuals (no corporations).

But in the absence of those rules in the US, Bernie Sanders created his own rules. The few fundraising events that he held had a maximum ticket price of $100 and he focused on individuals, thereby…

Making them feel a part of it.

So think about your organization. Is there a perception of who a donor to your organization is that excludes others? What do you need to do to make donors feel a part of your mission?

Food for thought this week.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
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Asking the Right Questions

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What do you need to know? 

What are your BHAGs? Your big hairy audacious goals?

What’s preventing you from achieving them?

When it comes to these things – the big topics that come with big questions – it’s time to have a real conversation.

This post is inspired by my recent experience attending the International Fundraising Congress a.k.a. #IFC2016 (which was amazing, by the way).

Asking the Right Questions was the theme of IFC, and for me that theme came to a head at a session run by the amazing Simone Joyaux.

Simone talked us through those big topics that come with big questions that I mentioned above.

There are questions in the office that we don’t need a real conversation for: When should we have our next office social? What food should we serve at our next meeting? How often should we schedule staff meetings?

Then there are other topics that do require a real conversation. And in order to have those conversations, we need to ask the right questions.

What are the right questions? They require openness. The right questions force us to remove our biases and assumptions. They cannot be yes or no.

So, if your organization has some money in the budget for something innovative, that might be when you need to have a real conversation.

What might you ask? Maybe, “What opportunities do we see for growth in the organization?”

Which could lead you through a winding conversation full of more questions that arrives at finding an opportunity to invest in innovation.

By asking these questions, we generate learning, which generates change, which builds stronger organizations.

So what are your big questions that require real conversations? 

Answer in the comments below! Or better yet – create the space for a conversation about it in your office, and let me know how it goes!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

5 fundraising lessons I learned from causing a stir

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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!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: 5 reasons we LOVE Cathy Barrick… and you should, too!

5 reasons we LOVE Cathy Barrick (a.k.a. @savinggrace)...and you should too!

Have you heard the news? Cathy Barrick, CEO of Alzheimer Society of Toronto, is coming to the #DonorLove Rendezvous. Here are five reasons why Cathy is an amazing fundraiser, and an even more amazing human being.

She puts donors front and centre.

We all know it, we all feel it. Donors are at the core of our business. But, from time to time, we let budgets and goals creep into our thoughts and determine our actions. We get wrapped up in how great our charities are, without consideration for the incredible people who make it all possible. We don’t have time to make that phone call, or write that letter. We sometimes let it go just a little too long before we thank our donors.

For Cathy, donors really are at the heart of it all. Cathy is in the business of people, first and foremost. A long-time social worker, fundraising is a natural fit for her. She seeks to understand what motivates each individual person she meets, and it’s her mission to make donors feel amazing.

Cathy’s own philosophy of #DonorLove is to express gratitude for donors thoughtfully and genuinely. Cathy lives by this mantra by finding authentic touch points, with a sprinkle of surprise and delight. She appreciates the value of each gift, from each donor, and she makes sure they know it.

She’s an amazing leader.

To achieve her vision of an organization that embraces #DonorLove, Cathy is building a thoughtful, donor-centred team from all corners of the office – so much so she has signed her entire team up for the #DonorLove Rendezvous!

Growing #DonorLove from the inside out takes time, that is true, but it is time that Cathy is willing to invest. In a sector so often plagued by bad leadership – it’s refreshing and inspiring to see Cathy’s commitment to her team.

She’s a Pisces.

Pisces are compassionate, adaptable, accepting, devoted and imaginative.

She has a super cute cat.

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Look at that face!!

She truly cares.

When Cathy isn’t working hard at her day job, she volunteers with seniors. She’s one of those kind, caring people who seem to have endless love to give. She says her role at the Alzheimer’s society is her “dream job”.

Cathy is exactly what is right about this industry. She sees ways to be better, and makes it happen by being an attentive and curious donor-lover. To her, fundraising is not about money. It’s about connecting incredible people to causes they are passionate about. It’s about solving real problems and meeting real needs. Money is just the tool.

Amen, Cathy!

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Are you someone who truly cares about donors?

Do you want to spend a day with like-minded fundraisers, having great conversations, learning and sharing?

Do you want the chance to add amazing people like Cathy to your tribe?

Well then check out the #DonorLove Rendezvous.

It’s not a conference, it’s a meeting of the minds. On Wednesday, May 11, 2016, we want you to join us in Toronto for a day of dynamic discussion, energizing conversations, inspiration, passion, and fun!

Registration is open! For a very limited time, you can register for $99. I highly encourage you to register ASAP because this is going to sell out!

Visit www.donorlove.ca now to learn more and register today!

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Written by Tayler Halonen

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Tayler is new on the fundraising scene. She discovered a love for making people feel good at a young age, and she is thrilled to grow that passion in her work as a donor-loving fundraiser. In addition to philanthropy, Tayler is enthusiastic about animals, books, food, and health.

Connect with Tayler via:
Twitter