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.

~~

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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What if we are the problem?

what-if-we-are-the-problem

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

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

Assets.

I absolutely loved that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food for thought…

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
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#donorlove has its limits

donorlove-has-its-limits

There. I said it.

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

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

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

Let me backtrack.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because they’re asked, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREMIUM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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

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

What does your charity have in common with Louis Vuitton-

Imagine this: it’s pay day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
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What does a “culture of philanthropy” look like?

What does a -culture of philanthropy- look like-

I went out for a drink with a wonderful fundraiser the other day, Juniper Locilento.

We got on the topic of the elusive “culture of philanthropy”. We were talking about where Juniper works and how great the culture of philanthropy is there. Lucky her!

When she said how great it was, what she meant was that internally, staff – fundraising or otherwise – really understood the mission of the organization, felt its importance personally, and were motivated to give back, even though as a staff member they were already serving the organization so well.

How wonderful is that?! We find it so wonderful because unfortunately an internal culture of philanthropy can be hard to find. It doesn’t mean staff at an organization don’t care passionately about what they do. What it means is that there’s some disconnect between “the work” and “the money”. Staff members may not realize that the fundraisers are on the same team as they are. Or they don’t understand the importance of fundraising, where the money goes, how it all works, etc.

We’re focused – rightly so – on our external stakeholders; trying to get them to understand all of these things, but we ought to spend a little more time internally, too.

How could we do this?

Well, there’s always the strategy of putting together a slide deck and teaching people about fundraizzzzzz……

(If you didn’t get it, I’m suggesting the above strategy will make your colleagues fall asleep with boredom.)

LET’S GET CREATIVE!

One awesome idea Juniper shared with me was giving staff members the opportunity to tell their story. Why did they want to work for your organization? What matters most to them about the work that you do? What is an experience they had working there that really inspired them?

What does a -culture of philanthropy- look like- (6)

It’s not about learning the math of fundraising. It’s somewhat about knowing what the money does, for sure, but getting people thinking about their values, making it personal, and feeling inspired… That’s going to go a long way.

How do YOU inspire a culture of philanthropy?! Share in the comments below, or send me an email.

Thanks for reading!

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
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Let your guard down & let your donors in!

Let your guard down & let your donors in!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~

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

Connect with Maeve via:
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Why do donors give so little?

why do donors give so little-

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

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

Why is this?

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

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

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

category_dollar-a-day

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

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

I value all donors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Post: How to Turn Your Words into Money – A Book Review

How to Turn Your Words Into Money - A Book Review (1)

I am not a great writer.  If I am being super honest, even writing this book review caused me a bit of stress. That is why I am so grateful for Jeff Brooks.

Do you know Jeff? He’s the smarty-pants behind Future Fundraising Now, and the author of some pretty awesome books – and his newest book, How to Turn Your Words Into Money: The Master Fundraiser’s Guide to Persuasive Writing, breaks down step by step exactly what you need to do (and NOT do) to write fundraising copy that makes donors want to give..

The book has great practical tips (more on that in a second) – but one of my favourite things Jeff does is little “what not to do” and “what to do” before & after style examples throughout. I found them to be super-duper helpful. Here’s one example….

jb1 jb2

So, what did I learn? For me the book boils down to this:

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Audience is everything: Know your audience (donors), think about your audience (donors), love your audience (donors). Make content for your audience (donors) and no one else  – not your CEO, not your board and not yourself!

jb4

Giving is beautiful: Understand what giving does for the GIVER (the donor) not just what the gift does for the beneficiaries. Giving feels really good! And guess what?? That means that fundraising isn’t begging or annoying. When done right donors love well-written fundraising copy.

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The Donor is the Hero: Writing fundraising copy well means putting the donor at the heart of your good work. Talk about them – what they have accomplished. What the donor has done – and can do – to help others in need.

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Overall this book is easy to read (it only took me a day), incredibly informative and I really believe it will help you raise more money. It’s for sale on Amazon, and we may be giving away a copy or two at the #DonorLove Rendezvous. I promise you it is worth reading.

~~

Written by Rory Green

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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:
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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!

~~

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!

~~

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:
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Fundraisers & This Little Piggy

Fundraisers & this little piggy

Let me start this post with a cliché: fundraisers are storytellers.

“Wow, Maeve! Tell us something we don’t know!”

You’re right. We all know the best fundraisers are storytellers. We’re embracing that. We’re all recognizing the power of stories in engaging donors in our causes and showing them the power of philanthropy.

So how come the dollars aren’t pouring in?

Well, it’s not good enough to say we’re storytellers. They have to be the right stories. And they have to be told the right way.

So what are we doing wrong?

I’ll tell you one thing: we’re acting too much like the last piggy.

“Huh?”

Yes! You heard me right!

This little piggy went to the market

This little piggy stayed home

This little piggy had roast beef

This little piggy had none

And this little piggy went WEE WEE WEE all the way home

Fundraisers are the last piggy.

The one saying WEE WEE WEE.

We are doing this. We are achieving this.

We. We. WE!

It’s not about us. It’s about them.

It’s not about we. It’s about YOU!

You being the donor.

How are we ever going to show donors the power of their philanthropy if we keep telling them about the great things WE are doing?

We have to inspire donors by telling stories about themTheir impact. What they achieve.

Want to see what I mean? Want to see the power of those kinds of stories in action?

Here’s a recent example: Prime Minister Trudeau’s victory speech on October 19th.

I was following the conversation on Twitter on this momentous occasion and my fundraising friends were all saying the same thing: Prime Minister Trudeau is so donor-centric!

Watch this clip to see what I mean.

Are you noticing it? Here’s an extra clip to bring the idea home.

It’s the most powerful word in fundraising: YOU.

Prime Minister Trudeau was telling a story; not just to his donors, but to supporters, voters, and all Canadians. The story wasn’t about his success or the party’s success; it was about what YOU made happen.

Let’s all make sure that’s the story we’re telling our donors, too.

~~

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