Giving Societies: The Field of Dreams Myth

giving societies- the field of dreams myth

“If you brand it… they will come.”

 

There is no magical key to donor engagement.

If you brand it, they won’t come.

Or, at least, it doesn’t guarantee that they will. Giving societies can be an amazing way to engage donors, to make them feel part of a community. There are some giving societies out there that are so strong and full of engaged donors, so it’s a great “tool” in fundraising.

However – it’s not always the right tool. And again, it’s not a magical key.

Let’s say you’re starting a mid-level giving program.

A lot of organizations start the process with a giving society. They create a name, a brand, letterhead, and a great brochure.

And then they sit back and wait for the donors to join the club!

And they wait… and wait… and wait…

And the donors don’t come.

Too often as fundraisers we’re motivated by what makes most sense to us internally. By what’s easiest administratively. By what seems like a quick, cheap strategy.

“We can’t feasibly call all our donors and find out what they want and need. But it’d be really convenient to have a name to refer to our mid-level donors as, so let’s call them the 1986 Society. The donors will identify with that!” 

This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes, written by a total heroine of mine: RuPaul Charles.

You can call me he. You can call me she. you can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don't care! Just as long as you call me.

That’s RuPaul’s attitude towards what pronouns you choose to refer to him with. The truth is that he doesn’t care! What he cares more about is that you call him! Acknowledge him!

Donors are the same! We spend too much time thinking about the “other stuff” – the giving societies, internal naming conventions, letterhead – and not nearly enough time acknowledging the donors themselves.

And maybe if we spent more time on that, we’d find out more about what the donors actually want.

Maybe they DO want a giving society, a group to be part of. A sense of being a VIP. Access to behind-the-scenes at your charity.

Or maybe they DON’T want a giving society. Maybe they won’t identify with a separate, special brand. Maybe they’d prefer you spent more time on the mailings they receive; add more content, give them more giving opportunities that inspire them.

The truth is we can’t know until we ask. And donors love to be asked!

Don’t look for the easy way out.

Give your donors the #donorlove they deserve!

Call a donor today to find out what they do and don’t want from you, and let me know what you find out!

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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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Guest Post: Do Your Donors a Favor — Stay Compliant    

do you donors a favour -- stay compliant

Everyone likes giving to a good cause. But how do you separate the “good” from the “not-so-good?”

Part of a donor’s decision to give comes from their positive intuition about your organization and its people. However, good vibes only get you so far!

One clear way to demonstrate your worth is to stay compliant. Compliance isn’t all that sexy, but it’ll help you secure donations and inspire confidence in your donors.

What is Compliance?

Nonprofits are highly regulated at the federal and state levels, and for good reason. Governments want to make sure the funds you raise actually go to the charitable mission you set out to do. At the same time, the state and IRS want to make sure the citizens you solicit funds from are protected from illegitimate or sketchy organizations.

Compliance is staying on the right side of state and IRS requirements by keeping good records and keeping current with required registrations.

Let’s take an example. Most donors are familiar with the term “501(c)(3).” If an organization has its 501(c)(3) status, generally, donors can make a gift and get a tax deduction at the end of the year.

Many nonprofit leaders think that being 501(c)(3) tax exempt is all there is to it. In reality, it’s not.

Forty-four states regulate charitable solicitation (a.k.a. fundraising) inside their borders. Forty-one of them require your nonprofit to file a separate registration before you even ask for a donation. Chances are, your charity operates and solicits in one or more of these states, and so you have to pay attention to applicable registration requirements.

Penalties for noncompliance, whether intentional or not, can be several thousand dollars in state fees, or you could lose your right to fundraise in a state altogether. If you solicit funds in a state, be sure you understand your state’s requirements.

Why is Compliance Important?

Besides avoiding state penalties, think of who really matters: your donors. Help them know that you’re one of the good guys.

Most states have a database where donors can search for your organization before they give. They can see if you have registered or not. If your charity is delinquent, your donors can see that too.

They may even ask you directly! Individual donors, corporations, and foundations (who give grant funding) very often ask for proof of registration with your state, along with your IRS Determination Letter. Without either, you’ll walk out of the room with your tail between your legs!

Compliant organizations make much of their program, financial, and leadership information public. As a donor, it is reassuring to know that the charity you wish to support plays by the rules, and as a charity, it’s good to show your supporters you have nothing to hide.

So, show some #donorlove – stay compliant. You’ll make their decision to give much easier.

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Written by James Gilmer

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James is a compliance specialist for Harbor Compliance, which establishes 501(c) nonprofits and helps them stay compliant. Harbor Compliance assists charities in every state and several countries abroad. James serves on the Board for two nonprofits in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Connect with James via:
Email | Twitter

How to leave with #donorlove

Before I say anything else: Happy Birthday to my girlfriend Kate! 

Now — onto the post!

How to leave with #donorlove

I’ll say it again: you’ve probably noticed me writing and tweeting and talking about #DonorLove a lot lately.

As I described in this post, my definition of donor love is this: a lens us fundraisers need to look through to ensure our donors are at the heart of what we do.

In that same post, I also mentioned that donor love is a lot about stewardship, but that’s not all it is. We can show donor love at every stage of the donor journey.

We can be loving in our identification of donors… does this person just have a lot of wealth, or are there clues that they could be inspired by our charity’s work?

We can be loving in our cultivation of donors… are we barging into their home with an agenda, or are we asking pointed questions and listening to find out what inspires their philanthropy?

We can be loving in our solicitation of donors… are we telling them what we want, or aligning their passions with our needs, based on the conversations we’ve had about what they want to impact?

And, of course, we can be loving in our stewardship.

You know where else in the donor journey we can show donor love? When it ends.

I’m not talking about when the donor stops giving (God forbid!). I’m talking about when you – the fundraiser – leaves the organization. Again – God forbid! – but it happens. In fact, as you know, it happened to me just recently. I left my fabulous post at Wilfrid Laurier University for a new gig, and in preparation for transitioning out of that role, I thought about my donors.

I imagined them receiving a bounceback email from Laurier when they are checking in about their annual gift, saying “this email address no longer exists”.

I don’t know about you, but I was horrified at the thought of this! I spent so much time building relationships with my donors, strengthening their connection to the university. It could all be for nothing if this happened.

It’s not about me. It’s not about me being a great fundraiser and the only reason my donors give to the organization, because that’s not true, and it’s not what it’s about. But I’m a representative of the cause, and if either of us – me or the cause – disappoint the donor, we have to start from square one. I didn’t want that to be the legacy I left behind.

So I sat down with my donor list and put a star next to the name of every donor who I’d made a meaningful connection with, who had unfinished business with the university regarding donations (i.e. was thinking over an area of support, had an upcoming pledge to fulfill, etc.)… that sort of thing. These were the people I needed to inform of my departure.

But it wasn’t an announcement; it was a touchpoint. It was a chance to thank the donor, show them how much they mean to the organization, and ensure a smooth hand-off to my successor.

Again, it wasn’t about me; it was about the donor, and it was about #donorlove.

So there you have it! You can even leave with love.

Do you want to know what my #DonorLove Goodbye Note looked like?

Sign up for my email list by the end of September and I’ll send you the #DonorLove Goodbye Note template!

(Don’t worry – if you’re already signed up for the list, you’ll get it, too!)

Thanks for reading!

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Written by Maeve Strathy


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

Connect with Maeve via:
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5 things I learned at Laurier

5 things I learned at Laurier

As some of you may know, I’m starting a new career adventure, and on July 24th I worked my last day at Wilfrid Laurier University. Like when I left my job before Laurier, it was bittersweet saying goodbye to such a great work experience. And, also like when I finished my last job, I think it’s important to reflect on some of the lessons I learned in my time at Laurier, so here we go!

Mid-Level Giving has OODLES of potential
I hope you know by now that my focus while at Laurier was on mid-level giving, which we called Leadership Giving. The program had been in its infancy when I started, and I had the opportunity to further build and formalize the program. I was so lucky to have that opportunity! Mid-level giving is this funny area of fundraising that hasn’t been fully established yet. At Laurier, I was part of the Annual Giving team, which I think made a lot of sense, but I also had a lot in common with the major gifts team, so I was like the awkward middle child, not totally sure of where I fit in. But, over time the program made more and more sense to me, and became a really happy hybrid of both annual and major giving at the university. And it has so much potential! Not only in filling the pipeline between annual and major gifts, but in giving generous mid-level donors the best donor experience they can possibly get. That only ever does good things for fundraising!

Booking meetings is the hardest part
One of the more major giving-y components of the mid-level giving program at Laurier was face-to-face meetings with donors, which I loved (see: “I LOVE DONORS!”), and which also had – unsurprisingly – the highest ROI (pardon the corporate speak) for the program. That said, booking meetings is hard! I thought the meeting itself would be the hard part, but it’s not; it’s getting the meeting in the first place! I definitely learned some tips and tricks along the way (future blog post for sure!), but that was a big lesson for me.

I love analysis!
I love how a job can teach you what you don’t want to do and also what you LOVE doing! Laurier taught me that I love analyzing programs. When asked what I was most excited about with my program when I started, I said “completing a full fiscal year” so that I could actually look at the program and see what was working and what wasn’t. Once I finished that first full fiscal year, I absolutely loved the process of poring over the data and figuring out what it meant, and how the program should operate moving forward based on that. I think in my new job, I’m going to be able to enjoy that kind of work a lot!

The people make the experience
We all have our good days and bad days at work, but what tends to matter most is who we work with and who we can celebrate the good days – and talk through the bad days – with. I worked with INCREDIBLE people at Laurier; from colleagues who became lifelong friends to mentors who I idolized (and sometimes both at the same time). That’s one of the most bitter parts about leaving: not seeing those incredible people everyday. Fortunately I plan to keep them close in my network, and I’ll never forget what I learned from them.

I LOVE DONORS!
Finally: the donors. Oh, the donors! I sent many of them goodbye notes in my last week, but they were really love notes. Aside from the great people I worked with, the donors are the ones I’ll miss most. They were so inspiring, so kind, so generous, and all so amazing to talk to. Some made me cry, some made me laugh, and all of them made my day! I remember leaving a donor meeting, bounding up the stairs to my office, and one of my good friends Sharline exclaimed, “You look so happy! Where’d you come from?” And I proudly said, “A meeting with a donor!”. As fundraisers, working with donors is something we’re so fortunate to do, and my work at Laurier made that clear to me in a major way.

So that’s it! On to the next adventure! Thank you, Laurier!

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Written by Maeve Strathy


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

Connect with Maeve via:
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Guest Post: What is “loverizing”?

what is loverizing-

Loverizing means reflecting on the emotional journey between you and your beloved. Yes, your donors!

What was that first meeting of your new love like? Was it flowers and chocolate? Intense conversations about the things that mean the most to you both?

What happened next?

During the second and third dates—what stories did you share? Did she stare deeply in your eyes and nod along and share her own angst, frustration, desire to help out—or did she check her Facebook?

When was the last time you brought her flowers? Just because…

When is it time to go steady? What signs does she give you that she is ready for a longer commitment?

As time passes, does it seem like the love and respect you have for one another grow and go deeper? How do you know that you share the same core, personal values?

Are you ready to take the walk down the aisle and spend the rest of your days together—‘til death do you part?

Are you still following along?

Good donor care is a romance, a courtship. It is a conversation, a dialogue.

Folks, this is no longer about ROI, process and report writing.

Loving your donors is a lot like loving the other humans in your life. It takes time, respect, surprise and delight, adventure and love.

Hopefully you can join us, Agent John and Agent Jen, on May 13th, to talk about “loverizing” your donors. We will discuss the 6 key principles of donor love, with a specific activity you can use right now to put it into action. And then we’ll share integrated campaigns that you can steal today to raise more money tomorrow.

Hope you can join us, Lovers! Click here to register for the webinar – How to Loverize your Donors with Direct Response: Secrets to Boost your Revenue.

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Written by John Lepp & Jen Love


John and Jen are the Agents of Good.

Connect with John & Jen via:
@johnlepp | @agentjenlove | Web

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

A shocking concept!

You know what I hate? When every other Friday comes along (that’s when I post on here) and I have no clue what I’m going to write.

You know what I love? When every other Friday comes along and I have one awesome post ready to go, and then something happens and I schedule that post for later and write another even more awesome post. That’s what happened this week, and I hope this energizes you like it energizes me.

This week I got to have a beer with John Lepp. John Lepp is awesome! John is a Partner at Agents of Good. Please check out his Twitter and the company’s website. The work they do is so inspiring!

Last week I had a coffee with Paul Nazareth. I think you already know how awesome I think Paul is. Anyway, when I met with Paul, he mentioned John, and I said, “Funnily enough I have a beer scheduled with John next week!” Paul was delighted to hear it, and referred to John as a “disruptive leader”. That made me even more excited for some one-on-one time with John.

So John and I met at a half-way point between where we both live, and we started talking shop, of course. John’s expertise is in direct mail, so we talked a lot about that. He shared the truth, which is that every single organization is doing the same thing. We talked about that for a while, and then I commented that somehow I didn’t find that discouraging, but the opposite – encouraging. John agreed and said it was exciting! It means it’s not hard to surprise people with something different.

So I said, “John, what can we do? If you could distill your knowledge and insight down to a few actions, what are they?” John replied with a number of things, but one of them stood out the most for me. Hold onto your seats, because this is going to come as a bit of a shock:

Call your donors.

Get on the phone, call them, and see how they’re doing. It doesn’t have to be an ask, it’s not even really a thank you call – though we should take every opportunity to say thank you, I think – it’s just a personal, meaningful check-in.

When I worked at the Annual Giving Call Centre, even the longest calls barely took five minutes. John gave me a soft challenge of spending one hour a week calling donors.

Here’s the thing, and this is a shameful secret of mine: I hate making phone callsThis is a personal and professional challenge. I’m great at communicating via email, I feel confident and comfortable in person, but the thought of getting on the phone is just… I don’t like it.

One of my mentors – not John or Paul, though they’re both now on my personal Board of Directors (great blog post about that concept from Paul here) – reminded me recently that the way to get comfortable with something is to do it repeatedly.

So here’s my personal challenge, and please take the challenge yourself, too, if you need to: Call donors. For one hour a week. I find making my challenges public always gives me the extra drive to achieve them, so I will. I can’t wait to share the results!

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Donor Fatigue

As you may know, I got my start in fundraising with a job as a student caller at Wilfrid Laurier University, calling alumni of the school as well as parents of current students, sharing updates and asking for their financial support.  Many friends of mine would comment on how tough it must be to make those “cold calls” to alumni, but I always replied saying, “They’re not cold calls, they’re warm calls”.  I don’t know where I’d picked up that term, and you could call it kind of corny, but it seemed applicable.  Calling alumni or parents was never cold, because at the very least – whether they were an enthusiastic supporter or not – they had some connection to the institution. I’m thinking about this because I recently read an article from The Globe & Mail entitled “Toronto hospitals are about to find out just how deep donors’ pockets are”.  The article begins by telling the story of Harvey Walker.  In short, Mr. Walker’s wife, Joan, died of pancreatic cancer and he wanted to find a way to honour her memory.  He decided the most fitting tribute would be to donate $100,000 in her name to the Scarborough Hospital, which provided compassion and care to Joan and her family.  According to the article: “Two years later, Mr. Walker has become something of a darling on the mailing lists of hospital foundations across the city.  Appeals for money arrive in his mailbox constantly.  He’s never donated to most of the hospitals asking for his cash and doesn’t even know how they got his name.” As someone who has only worked in educational fundraising thus far, this is a very interesting concept to me – contacting people who don’t have a clear connection to the institution I work for.  I’ve been to a few prospect research workshops where so much discussion surrounds making a prospect list based on other institutions’/organizations’ annual reports (for example), and for a while I didn’t even understand why.  It’s not as if I’m opposed to this because I know other organizations work differently, but when this article brought up the idea of “donor fatigue”, I could understand where that stems from. “But what about the risks? Hospital fundraising campaigns have become an incessant year-long event with appeals coming in the mail, online, on the radio and TV. Yet, as the fundraising pitches become increasingly enormous in size and scope, so too grows the worry that potential donors are beginning to tune out.” My point is not that one type of institution is better than the other, not at all.  It’s just interesting where our prospects come from and how that differs from organization to organization.  The truth is, too, that many of a school’s most generous donors are also turning up on other organizations’ – including hospitals’ – lists and so despite having a clear, personal connection to their alma mater, “donor fatigue” is still a concern. What are your thoughts? How do we combat donor fatigue???

 

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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