What I learned about fundraising from a terrifying experience

what-i-learned-about-fundraising-from-a-terrifying-experience

Something really scary happened to me last night…

I was driving home from a meeting around 7:30 pm, and rolled up to a very sketchy intersection in Toronto very close to my home. The stoplight was red, and there was one car between me and the intersection.

All of a sudden, a man darted across the street. He ran up to the car ahead of me and tried to open one of their back car doors. He couldn’t get in, so he headed over to my passenger door. I hurried to lock my door but I wasn’t able to do it in time, and suddenly the stranger was sitting in my passenger seat next to me.

What happened next felt like an out-of-body experience. I calmly told him to get out of my car. He begged me to drive him, as he’d just been “jumped” and needed to get out of the area. I – again, calmly – told him I was not driving anywhere and that he needed to get out of my car. He said he was being threatened by people on the street and needed me to take him away. I said that was not my responsibility and that I needed him to get out of my car.

“Get out of my car,” I said. “Please get out of my car. You need to get out of my car.”

I kept repeating myself until finally, he opened the door, got out of my car, and ran away.

I gathered myself and drove home. Although I’m still feeling shaken, I’m OK and I’m safe.

I recounted the story a few times afterwards – to my girlfriend, a friend, and two of my sisters. Everyone seemed impressed with my calmness in the situation.

The truth is, I’m impressed, too. I didn’t urge myself to be calm in the moment. I just was.

I simply requested that the stranger get out of my car. I was calm, I was assertive, and I was serious. I didn’t scream, cry, or get emotional. I didn’t make a spectacle of it. I simply told the man what I wanted and eventually he did just that.

I don’t want to trivialize the situation that I experienced. I genuinely was shaken by it,

But when I sit down to write my weekly post on Wednesdays, I draw from experience – sometimes very recent, and sometimes unpleasant – to inspire my posts.

And so, I can’t help but think – what could I learn about fundraising from my experience last night? 

We talk a lot about storytelling in fundraising. Inspiring donors through stories is such an important technique in what we do.

But sometimes a story isn’t necessary. Sometimes flowery language, emotion, and a spectacle isn’t required.

Maybe it’s because of the ask you’re making, or maybe it’s who you’re making the ask to.

But sometimes, the best ask is one that’s calm, assertive, and serious. Sometimes you have to make the ask a few times in order for the donor to really feel the impact of what you’re asking. Sometimes they need to know you’re really serious before they consider responding to your ask.

Have you had any experiences that have inspired your fundraising lately? Hopefully they didn’t shake you as much as mine did, but maybe you learned something nonetheless.

Share in the comments below!

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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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What do you need for your mid-level giving program?

What do you need for your mid-level giving program-

If this is your first time on this blog, first of all – WELCOME!

Second of all, although I – and guest bloggers who join me – write about anything and everything related to fundraising and philanthropy, there’s one topic that’s my favourite.

Mid-level giving.

Yes, mid-level. That awkward middle child between the well-oiled machine called “annual giving” and the refined big sister called “major gifts”.

Many organizations have been playing in the mid-level sandbox for years now, but for many others it’s a new frontier.

If you’re one of those “many others”, I’ve got a piece of advice to get you started.

Just one thing, that’s simple to understand, but by no means easy to perfect.

Here it is:

To have a successful mid-level giving program, you must use a hybrid approach of direct response fundraising and personal solicitation.

Translation: You can’t just reach mid-level donors through the mail, and you can’t just try the major gift approach with them.

Why?

Well, we’ve conditioned most of our donors to be inspired to give via the mail, and so we can’t just take that away from them. Moreover, in my experience, a lot of mid-level donors just don’t want to meet with you. When I was running the mid-level giving program at Wilfrid Laurier University, I would reach out to donors and ask them to meet and they would be (a) very nervous about why I wanted to meet with them, and/or (b) appreciate the thought, but were very happy giving the way they always had.

Fair enough! So you have to keep up with the direct response approach. Although, the mail you send your mid-level donors can’t be the same ol’ appeal you send everyone else. But that’s a topic for another day.

But mail on its own isn’t enough. A lot of these donors are dying for more engagement with your organization, and reaching out to them personally, to meet with them one-on-one, is exactly what they need to stretch their giving to the next level.

This approach has worked wonders for major giving for years, and there’s a good reason. It’s personal, it’s intimate, and it gives you a chance to really understand your donor.

However, of course we can’t justify the resources it takes to travel to meet a donor, take them for lunch, etc. when they make a $1,000 gift at the end of it all. So, these face-to-face meetings have to be done a bit differently than they are with major gift donors/prospects. But that’s a topic for another day, too.

So that’s it, folks! The essential approach to start your mid-level giving program.

Let me know in the comments what you want to know more about.

And thanks for reading!

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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

What are we doing wrong with mid-level donors?

what are we doing wrong with mid-level donors-

We haven’t been treating our mid-level donors right.

They are the neglected middle child among our donors.

We dedicate time and other resources to our major donors and we feel we understand them. After all, we get to know them individually, one-on-one.

And our annual giving programs are well-oiled machines. Maybe we could be doing better, but we’ve spent years reaching out to these donors in this way, and we generally know what we’re doing.

But what about mid-level? 

We’ve tried to fit them in both groups. We assign them to a major gift officer… and they fall to the bottom of the priority list. After all, we’re measuring our major gift officers on how much money they raise, so it’s in their best interest to chase after the 6-figure donors, not the $1,000 donors.

So we dump mid-level donors in our annual donor stream, with nothing but a variable paragraph to acknowledge their “leadership” or “generosity”, and maybe they get a closed face envelope with a real, live stamp on it!

Neither of these experiences speak to the mid-level donor. None of this inspires and engages this unique group of donors.

We’re doing it all wrong!

So – the question has to be: how do we do it right?

Well, I’m speaking about that at Cause Camp on Friday in Lincoln, Nebraska. Cause Camp is an annual 2-day “nonprofit extravaganza” hosted by Nonprofit Hub and the Lincoln American Marketing Association. I also spoke about this at the Women in Philanthropy Conference a few weeks ago, and I’ll be speaking on it again at AFP Fundraising Day in Toronto in June. It’s a topic I’m really passionate about, and I can’t wait to wave my arms on behalf of mid-level donors in front of groups of other passionate fundraisers.

With all that said, tune in next week to hear my thoughts on how to treat mid-level donors right!

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Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

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

My most awkward fundraising moment EVER

My most awkward fundraising moment EVER! (1)

Let me set the stage for you.

I’m in a meeting with a mid-level donor. She had very positively responded to my meeting request, and actually invited me to visit her at her home!!!

So we’re in her house – her kitchen, to be exact – drinking tea together, and talking very comfortably. I’m getting to know her, learning about why she’s giving to my organization, finding out what she’s passionate about…

It’s the most perfect mid-level donor meeting ever!

Then it gets better.

I ask her for her continued support of the organization, and make a specific ask for a gift today.

She says yes! And decides to give more than I ask her for.

WOO HOO! I’m feeling really good now.

After thanking her profusely, we get into the specifics and I tell her I’m happy to bring a cheque back to the office, or I can take down her credit card number and process the donation when I get back.

But this is a modern woman, so she says, “No no, how about I just make the donation online while you’re here?”

I enthusiastically say, sure! She pulls out her iPad and I tell her the URL.

And that is when things go sour…

The online donation page is barely mobile/tablet-friendly.

There are SO MANY fields to fill in!

The designation drop-down box is so long and has so many designations, but it still doesn’t have the one this generous donor wants to support.

As she struggles through the overly complicated online giving form, I’m sitting next to her CRINGING! It’s taking so long, the process is clunky at best, and even though this donor is patient and gracious and says nothing about it, I am holding my breath next to her feeling as awkward as I ever have in a donor meeting.

We barely made it to the end of the process. Her gift was made, but it’s a miracle she got through all the obstacles our online giving process threw her way.

Looking back, I can’t help but think what would’ve happen if she’d tried to make her gift online without me there.

If I go to read an article online, one of the first things I do is scroll down to see how long the article is. I need to know if I have time to read it now because if not, “I’ll do it later.”

That’s what I would’ve done if I was this generous donor. I’d go to the online giving page, be totally overwhelmed by how long and clunky it is, and decide “I’ll do it later.”

Only to never do it later. Or at all.

Who are we turning off giving? Who is deciding to “do it later” but never does? 

An awesome and slick online giving page and process isn’t a nice-to-have anymore. It’s a must-have. And it’s not about just looking good; it’s about being donor-centric, and ensuring we put no obstacles in the way of their giving.

Don’t put yourself in my position and sit cringing behind your generous donor. I can tell you from experience that it’s very awkward.

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Sign up for my email list and get a FREE E-BOOK on mid-level donors!

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