#whatgiveswednesday | young (non)donors week four | venting session

It’s time to air our grievances!

What are the biggest complaints about fundraising practices targeted at young people??? 

I asked people on Twitter and here are the answers I got back:

  • “I’m a small-sum monthly donor – I find big $$ asks are too much to handle in one go!”
  • “Lack of philanthropy education within the student market, impact reporting, and not customizing the ask are key to me […] Also think more needs to be done in terms of boosting online donation programs and infrastructure to support”
  • “Not saying thank you annoys us!!”
  • “They assume I’m hip and trendy. I assure you, I’m neither.”
  • “General lack of interesting, accessible gift opportunities that appeal to the change-making #millennial soul.”
  • “That I need something in return for my gift.”
  • “Anything that suggests an obligation or guilt. We need opportunities to help solve problems #inspiration”
  • “No opportunity beyond the ask for further engagement/involvement with the organization!”
  • “Bad stock photos”
  • “Giving info pages & donation forms that aren’t mobile friendly.”
  • “There’s a general lack of areas of support that pique my interest and inspire me to give.”
  • “Msgs that are too wordy, & too official/top-down sounding. Too many fields req’d to complete gift online”
  • “Emails that aren’t personalized, aren’t designed for mobile and calls when the caller has no info about me.”

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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 eight years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Cause vs. Cause

This past Monday, September 9, 2013, an individual named Hamilton Nolan posted an anna-netrebko_1355827carticle to www.gawker.com, entitled “Do Not Give a Dollar to the Opera”.

I encourage you to read the article in full, but my short synopsis is this: the New York City Opera will have to cancel the rest of its season and all of next year’s season if it doesn’t raise $20 million soon.  Nolan argues that no one should give the NYC Opera $20 million because “opera … will survive” whereas there are so many causes in greater need that save lives.

I’ve heard this one before.  I work in educational fundraising, and specifically I raise funds for an independent school.  Occasionally I’ve had a friend or acquaintance ask me whether I believe the school is really in need.  Well, first of all, I don’t consider the school on a global scale where it’s competing against causes that raise money for malaria nets.  I consider the school in its own market where it’s competing to offer the best financial assistance to the most deserving students.  It is in need in order to stay competitive, increase the size of its endowment, and offer the best educational experience to students.

Moreover, I’ll occasionally raise the argument that the people solving the world’s most pressing and live-saving problems are educated people.  So my work, albeit in an indirect way, is contributing to those bigger world issues.

But that’s education, so what about the arts?  It was once suggested to Winston Churchill that he cut funding to the arts to pay for Britain’s war, to which he responded, “Then what would we be fighting for?”

Because that’s the thing about the arts (and education, too): they increase quality of life.  Maybe they aren’t life-saving (though maybe some could argue they are), but they contribute to humanity’s happiness and enjoyment of life.

Now I’m not making the argument that the arts or education are more important than causes that do save lives, I’m just saying they are not frivolous causes to support philanthropically.  And I also don’t think we can compare these causes to each other.

I think just as with investing, you should diversify your philanthropic portfolio; make an effort to support the causes you love and the causes that need your support (if they aren’t one in the same).  If you don’t love opera, don’t give a dollar to the New York City Opera, but if you do love opera, then please support it!  And never forget the other causes that might need your help, too.

 

What do you think???  Share your thoughts in the comment section or tweet your thoughts to me @fundraisermaeve.

Commission

Are you a fundraiser who works on commission???  Do you know any fundraisers who do?  I don’t work on commission personally, nor do I know any fundraisers who do, but I’m asking because of a conversation I had with a friend last month.

My friend works for a non-profit in more of an administrative capacity and has no direct involvement in fundraising.  We were talking about the occasionally difficult dynamic between fundraisers and other staff working for the same non-profit organization; how fundraisers are sometimes thought to be sleazy.  My friend mentioned that it had something to do with fundraisers earning commission off of what they raise.

My jaw dropped.  Commission?!?  Oh no no no… I don’t earn commission based on what I raise, and I don’t know anyone who does.  I have heard of commission-based fundraising, but I’ve never seen it in practice.

My opinion is that it’s unethical.  It leads to fundraisers motivated by what they will earn rather than what difference those funds will make to their organization.  It takes the heart out of the work and makes it about financial transactions.

It’s like when you go to a clothing store and can tell right away that the employees there earn commission.  They jump on you when you arrive, hound you while you’re there, and it’s all in their best interests, not yours.

Having fundraising targets you’re expected to hit makes sense to me.  Everyone has a job they’re expected to do and some work is more quantifiable than other work, but to me commission and fundraising don’t mix.

Plus, it’s considered a reason to think fundraisers are sleazy.  It creates a myth that all fundraisers make commission, and that leads to the complicated dynamic between what we do and what others at our organization do.  They make the difference and we earn commission.  But no, it’s not truly like that at all; we raise the funds to help them make the difference.  And I think that’s the way it should be.

What do you think???  Have you seen positive examples of commission-based fundraising?  Do you passionately disagree with me?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section, or engage with me on Twitter @fundraisermaeve.

Happy 50th post from What Gives Philanthropy!!!  Thanks for reading!

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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:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

 

Young Alumni Fundraising – Part II

Young Alumni Fundraising - Part I (1)

On April 26th I wrote Young Alumni Fundraising – Part I, and shared with you the many reasons why you cannot ignore your young alumni.  I ended the post by promising to share how to ask your young alumni, so here is Part II answering “how?”.

Again, this post in two parts is the result of my passion for young alumni fundraising combined with the enthusiasm for this topic that I’ve developed, thanks in large part to the dynamic discussions I’ve participated in on LinkedIn.  Members of those discussions requested that I share with them some samples of solicitation techniques I’ve used and/or fundraising appeals.  I intend to share some of those pieces with you, too.

Here are five techniques I’ve found work best:

  1. A specific, manageable amount
    Back when I was a phonathon caller, I learned that asking for a specific amount is crucial.  If you leave it open-ended, potential donors feel uncertain and confused and may give much less than they’re able simply because they weren’t given any guidelines.  Young alumni are no different.  I find using a consistent, concrete, and manageable ask amount for young alumni across the board (I’m referring to GOLD – a.k.a. “Grads Of the Last Decade) yields great results.  What number do I use?  $25.  There’s something about that number that jives well with me, and it seems to jive well with the young alum, too, because 8 times out of 10 they give exactly that.  It’s reasonable, it doesn’t have much pressure attached to it, and it emphasizes the important message that participation is what counts, not how much you give!  For the record, $25 isn’t the only amount I include on our pledge cards, but it’s the one I use in my messaging and emails, etc.  It’s not scary, it’s specific, and young alumni feel comfortable with it.
  2. Regular updates
    My solicitation process with young alumni follows a particular plan, and last fiscal year (2011/2012) it went a little something like this:a) Direct mailing – In the Spring (there had been no solicitations sent out before then), I sent out a letter to every member of GOLD that we had a mailing address for.  More than that, I sent each of the past 10 graduating classes a letter customized for their class.  The bulk of it was the same, but there was a custom message identifying their participation rate from last year and their participation goal for this year. (Click here for a version of that letter).b) Two weeks after the direct mailing went out, I sent out a short and sweet email – again, customized per class – linking to a PDF version of the letter and letting them know they should’ve received it in the mail.c) Two weeks after that, I sent out another email.  The purpose of this
    message was to update them on the gifts made so far, encourage them
    once again to donate, and let them know how many people would have to
    give in order to reach their participation goal.d) A few weeks before our fiscal year-end, I sent an email to all of GOLD (not
    class-specific) to update them on overall GOLD progress, and encourage
    people to give in order to be included in our 2011/2012 totals.  It also
    featured specific class totals.e) And lastly, I sent a final email in August 2012, after the FY year-end, to
    update each class individually on their final totals.  I even mentioned each
    of the donors by name!  I thought this email was crucial; why push them so
    hard to meet their goals if I wasn’t going to tell them how they did? (Click
    here
     for a version of that email).For the record, I never received any complaints for over-soliciting these classes by
    email.  My purpose wasn’t to inundate them, but to regularly keep them posted on
    how they were doing. My sense was that it really got them uniting as a class, keen to
    meet their participation goal.  And with each email blast that I sent out, gifts came
    rolling in.  So in my humble opinion, the plan worked!
  3. A project they can rally behind
    We all know that donors are changing; people making donations expect their gift to go to exactly what they want it to go to, they expect follow-up, they want to know how they’ve impacted your organization, and they hold you accountable and expect you to do what you’ve said you’ll do.  Young alumni have the same expectations, and they only want to give to something they care about.  Of course, they care about your institution, but many of them don’t want to see their hard-earned money go to superficial things; they want to make a difference.So, when approaching young alumni, the project/gift designation is key.  I’ve found the best project is – and will increasingly be – financial assistance.  I’m not saying this is the only project that works, it just needs to be something that tugs at the heart strings and that they consider personal.  Whether they received financial assistance or not, they want to support the best, brightest, and most deserving students so that they can attend their alma mater.  And it’s a need that’s difficult to argue, and it’s only becoming more important.  Again, financial assistance isn’t the only project that falls into this category.  Perhaps their residence needs sprucing up, or the sport they were passionate about needs funding… whatever it is, you need to consider it.  I don’t think young alumni are interested in supporting the area of greatest need, so be creative, think hard, and put forward something they can really rally behind and believe in.
  4. Class-specific goals
    I already highlighted the importance of this when I outlined my solicitation plan to you, but I’ll say it again: customized and/or class-specific goals and appeals are great! When you present to them the fact that they’re part of GOLD or the young alumni society, or whatever it is, they feel a part of something.  When they then consider the fact that within GOLD, they stand with their classmates and have the opportunity to challenge themselves and make a difference, there’s power to that.  Sure, you can ignite some friendly competition, too, but something I like writing in letters to young alumni is: “Show GOLD what you’re made of.”  In other words, you are part of a smaller community within the alumni community, and within that community, your class can make the biggest and best impact together.
  5. Creating a young alumni giving culture
    I was getting at this with point #4: create a culture.  I talked in my last post about planting the seed and creating a culture of philanthropy.  But don’t just throw young alumni into the big sea of all your alumni; make them something different. Acknowledge the meaning of them giving back when they’ve only just recently graduated.  Recognize the difficulty of giving at a young age, when they haven’t yet established themselves.  Tell them you understand, but that they can still make a difference.  Treat them as a separate class within GOLD, but when GOLD does great, acknowledge the whole group!  As one class, they might be happy with reaching a participation rate of 5%, but they might not think their total dollars matter much.  Tell them the total that GOLD raised, and they’ll put it into perspective.  Create that culture and nourish it, with regular updates, consistent messaging during their years in GOLD, and constant encouragement and celebration.  They need it, and it’s worth your time and investment of energy and more, because they’ll deliver!

And that brings me to my last point.  I know you fundraisers, you want proof!  Well, last fiscal year (2011/2012) saw GOLD participation in the Annual Fund double.  Yes, double.  In fact, participation more than doubled.  The final participation rate for all of GOLD last year was 4.9%, and the year before that it was 2.2%.  The year before was my first year on the job and all I did was send out one direct mailing, and maybe the same letter via email, but no regular updates, no specific strategy, nothing like that.  So it shows that when you put the effort in, the young alumni respond.

This year is on track to be even greater.  I don’t know that we’ll see another doubling of participation, but it will grow, and the more the culture is established, the more growth we will see.

 

I hope you enjoyed part II of this post and that you found some practical, implementable ideas within.  Please comment here with questions, concerns, and ideas, email me at maeve@whatgivesphilanthropy.com, or interact with me on Twitter @fundraisermaeve.

Thanks for reading!

~~

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:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

 

National Philanthropy Day

Happy National Philanthropy DayWhat Gives’ readers!

As a Canadian and a fundraiser, I couldn’t be prouder that Canada has become the first country in the world to permanently recognize November 15th as National Philanthropy Day® (NPD).  Bill S-201 has given us the opportunity to officially honour the work of charities, donors, volunteers, corporations, and foundations.

I found this quote via the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), and I absolutely love it:
“What makes philanthropy so special is that no one is required to give of themselves. There are no national laws or regulations which mandate that you must volunteer or get involved. Philanthropy is so powerful and inspiring precisely because it is voluntary—that through the goodness of our hearts, through our need to connect, through our desire to see a better world, we come together to improve the quality of life for all people.”

Today I will be making an effort to tweet more than usual, sharing some great quotes about philanthropy that I find.  Be sure to tune in and follow me at @fundraisermaeve.

For more on National Philanthropy Day, the current state of philanthropy, videos, celebrations, contests, and more, check out Canada’s official NPD website (supported by AFP): www.nationalphilanthropyday.com.

Also, join the conversation on Twitter by tweeting what you’re doing to change the world in an online contest presented by AFP with support from TELUS. The five most inspiring, innovative and creative tweets sent to #npdTELUS will earn the senders a $500 contribution to the charity of their choice.

 

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:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

Lift your message above the torrent

Lift your message above the torrent (1)

I just read a great article via www.charityinfo.ca“Winston Churchill – a Twitter natural?”

Please enjoy Janet Gadeski’s piece for yourself, but in essence she is discussing taking the power of Twitter to what we do in fundraising. What is the power of Twitter? What some argue is the deterioration of the English language (or any language) and our ability to express ourselves, I would argue is actually a very positive and neat evolution of expression. On Twitter – if you didn’t already know – all posts (tweets) have to be 140 characters or less; it’s called microblogging. Yes, sometimes I take shortcuts by typing “U” instead of “You”, and yes, sometimes I use sentence fragments, but that’s just utilizing my precious characters carefully. Moreover, as Gadeski says, it’s about packing a punch in your tweets and turning them into “pithy, memorable” messages, and that’s not easy!

My high school English teacher once quoted Mark Twain (though I may be attributing this to the wrong author) from a letter he’d written to a friend: “I did not have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead”. My teacher quoted this after assigning us a 200-word paper — not exactly tough when I consider the lengthy papers I’ve written before, but as we all know, it’s easier to blather on with no word limit than it is to make a really solid point in a confined space.

When I say bringing the power of Twitter to fundraising, I don’t mean tweeting to your donors, though that’s good, too! I mean working to create short, to-the-point, concise messages.

As Gadeski writes, “Pithy, memorable messages – just what we want as fundraisers. In our accelerated world, even an elevator speech may be too long to remain in the brain. Every day, thousands of messages stream towards your donors, in every medium in the brain. You may be retreating as far as you can from the whole notion of Twitter, but you have to admit that conciseness will lift your messages above that torrent.”

Follow me @fundraisermaeve!

 

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:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email