Can we tap into technology without tapping out on our budget???

Working in educational fundraising in the summer can be equal parts wonderful and challenging.  On the one hand, the students are gone (at least at my 5-12 independent school), which takes a little life out of the campus, or at least alters the work environment.  On the other hand, the peace and quiet that summer brings makes it the ideal time for reflecting, researching, and planning for the school year ahead. One of my current projects is to do my due diligence on potentially implementing an app for our alumni community.  The way I see it, being perceived as “ahead of the pack”, “forwarding thinking”, or just plain “cool” by our alumni (especially our most recent grads) is worth its weight in gold, which is why I pursued this project in the first place.  That said, being cool comes with a price; can we justify spending money on this sort of initiative?  Will the ROI be worth our while?  It’s a friend-raising more than fundraising venture… can the ROI really be measured?  Perhaps it’s like my post on “impact per dollar raised”; maybe we should worry less about measurable results and recognize that a well-received, technology-related “gift” to the alumni community is priceless. What do you think???

 

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.

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Why I love what I do: reason #2

I’m reminded of why I love being a fundraiser in an educational setting every day of the week, but occasionally someone will engage me in a conversation about certain aspects of what I do, and a fire is lit inside me.  Just as I discussed in my first installment of “Why I love what I do”, it gets me excited to talk to people about how passionate I am about fundraising.  Getting excited about sharing with people what I love about what I do makes me even more excited to do it.  It’s a very happy cycle to get caught in.

So what’s another thing I love about what I do???  The fact that what I do seems to combine my passions together into one field of work.  For one thing, I love meeting new people and getting to know them – one-on-one (I’m an introvert, after all) – in a meaningful way.  I get to do that a lot as a fundraiser / alumni relations officer, and it’s a pleasure every time to chat with an individual about what they do now, how they stay engaged with their alma mater, and how their experience at my institution was.  Every story is unique and wonderful to hear.

I studied English in university and wasn’t sure if it’d be my BA that counted in getting my first job or my English degree, specifically.  Turns out it’s both!  A degree is important to get you in the door of the job you want, but I find my English degree – both in regards to my knowledge of writing and language, and my general critical thinking skills – is specifically valuable.  Plus, more than just knowing about writing, I love to write!  It’s my favourite and most efficient way of expressing myself, my thoughts, my intentions, and my ideas, and there are a lot of opportunities for writing in fundraising – whether it’s writing an appeal, writing a web article about exciting alumni news, or writing a customized proposal for a major gift prospect.

Secondly, I love words and language.  Word choice is an integral part of fundraising, both in spoken and written forms.  Sometimes it can come off as jargon (click here for an jargon-related, industry-specific laugh), but the truth is that the right word or phrase can evoke emotion, and emotion has so much to do with fundraising.

And that brings me to another thing I love about fundraising, I love the psychology of it.  It’s not just a business matter – although some donors prefer it to be that way – but instead an exchange of passion, emotion, nostalgia, and more.  In educational fundraising, a prospect’s memory of their time at the school, perhaps an opportunity made possible for them through a scholarship or bursary, can evoke such a strong sense of desire to give back.  If they see a current student who is only able to attend the school with the help of financial aid, they might reflect back on their own experience, and feel a need to contribute in order to provide this student or other students’ with the opportunities they once enjoyed.

Like I said, it’s not just a business matter or a transaction of money – it’s an experience.  An experience where a donor aligns his or her passions with their resources, matches their emotions up with their fortune.  And that’s another thing I love, it’s a feel-good industry to work in.  These aren’t static numbers on a spreadsheet.  I can see the look on people’s faces when they’re reflecting on the difference that they’ve made, and it’s magic.

This is once again a moment to share the perfect and eloquent simplicity of a child’s definition of philanthropy:

“Because if you help other people, you’ll be a good person, and you’ll feel good inside.”

And that’s another reason why I love doing what I do.

 

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:
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Do your prospects know where their dollar will go???

What is the biggest roadblock you face as a fundraiser???  I’m sure this answer is different for all of us and likely those answers touch on all sorts of different aspects of fundraising and philanthropy.  Perhaps it’s incomplete/invalid data on your prospects.  Maybe it’s having a tough time communicating your mission to a larger network.  OR, perhaps it’s that your prospects (or future prospects) don’t know exactly what you’re fundraising for.

I try to keep this blog pretty general, but being that I work in educational fundraising, it’s hard not to write from that slant.  However, I think this predicament happens for all fundraisers.  Your prospects/community may know that your organization has something to do with homelessness, or animals, or building wells in Africa.  They may even know more info about how exactly you help the homeless, which animals in particular you rescue, or which countries in Africa you focus your efforts on.  But, do your prospects know where their dollar goes when they donate???  Do they know what kind of projects their donations fund???

For example, working at an independent school (like I do!) or a university – your future prospects are your current students.  While in school, they’re not thinking about donating/fundraising.  If they’re university students, they’re overwhelmed as it is with tuition, and being asked to donate may even seem insulting.  So maybe we won’t ask you to donate as a current student, at least not until your grad year, but how do we educate you as a student on what exactly fundraising does for you, so that when you’re in a position to donate, you’ll know that it’s important???

That question is what inspired me to write this post in the first place, because schools like Wilfrid Laurier University (my alma mater) are attempting to answer that question with initiatives like Tag Day.  I highly suggest clicking the link to learn more, but in short: Tag Day was created to generate awareness of how donations and philanthropy positively impact Laurier and its student experience every day. Tag Day’s student volunteers attach purple tags to places and objects that are made possible or enhanced through donations.

This initiative is great because it presents a tangible way of illustrating the power of philanthropy.  Annual reports and web articles are all well and good, but a big, purple tag attached to a bookshelf in the library is pretty hard to ignore.  It grabs your attention and makes you think.  Kudos to Laurier for being innovative and inspiring with their fundraising and stewardship efforts.

What initiatives like Tag Day have you seen???  What efforts have you made to overcome roadblocks in your organization???

~~~
What Gives???
Trivia: 

The latin term alma mater, used to refer to any school, college, or university someone has studied at and, presumably, graduated from, means “nourishing mother”.

 

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:
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Why I love what I do: reason #1

I’ve been very topical in this blog so far, which was my intent, but I’d like to write a quick post about one aspect of why I love what I do.

As a fundraiser and/or alumni relations officer, you get to meet a lot of people. Sometimes you’re meeting them to ask them for a lot of money, but sometimes you’re meeting them simply to meet them; to engage them, to get to know them, and to find out what they’re passionate about.

Remember what James Fleck said?
Philanthropy is balancing your passion and your resources.

If you do your research, you might know that the individual that you’re meeting with has the resources to make a significant and meaningful contribution to your institution/organization. However, meeting and conversing with them is how you research their passion. Passion and resources; without the former, the latter will never be realized.

So that means that part of our job as fundraisers is to find out what our prospects are passionate about. That means that when you have a conversation with them, you try to get them talking about their passions. That is one reason why I love what I do; hearing people talk about their passions. Why? Because no one speaks more passionately than when they are talking about their passions. They have this energy coming out of them that is absolutely thrilling to experience as a listener; they’re emphatic and excited and happy!

It’s a wonderful thing to watch the transformation that someone goes through when they go from having a conversation with you about the weather, to talking about what they’re passionate about.

 

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.

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Enter email subject here

I just received an email in which the subject line was “Enter email subject here”. It seemed a funny subject, but then I thought, “Silly me! It must be about email subject lines and what is and isn’t effective.”

…it turns out that the email wasn’t about that at all. It must’ve been a slip-up, but either way it inspired me and helped me to conceive of today’s topic:

Email Subject Lines.

We’re all bombarded non-stop, all-day with emails. Emails from friends, family, co-workers, companies, groupons, airlines, etc. These emails are personal, commercial, and work-related. If I had to reply to every single email that I got at either of my email addresses (1 work, 1 personal), I wouldn’t have enough hours in the day. We have to prioritize: is this urgent? Who’s this from? What does the subject line say???

If a subject line says “urgent”, I’m more likely to open it faster. If I know who it’s from and they’re important to me, I’m more likely to open it faster. If the sender is not important to me and the subject suggests it isn’t urgent, then what other factors would get me to open it?

An exciting subject line.

But that brings me to my main question: What makes an email subject exciting??? How do we “Lift our message above the torrent” in order to break through the inbox? Is it customization? If our subject is specific to the person receiving the email, are they more likely to open it? And sooner?

“Mike — you’re going to want to be at this event!”
Will that do it?

Is it conciseness? Is short & sweet the key? On top of that, does excitement come from hyperbole or flashiness?

“The Best Event of the Year!”
Is that the trick?

The truth is, I don’t know the answer. My personal strategy is usually clarity over anything else; I want to know that the person receiving the email knows what it’s about before they even open it. But I’m no subject guru; I try different approaches with different emails, but haven’t really come to find something that always works.

In fundraising, we send out a lot of emails – solicitations, invitations, newsletters… the list goes on. Can we get someone to make a gift with a flashy subject line? I think we can, I just don’t yet know how.

What do you think??? Share your tips & tricks when it comes to email subject lines by commenting below.


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising since 2007.

Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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