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

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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:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

The 5 Most Interesting Things I Learned on Day 1 of #AGCongress14

 

the 5 most interesting things I learned on day 1 of #AGCongress14

Ideally I would save this blog post for next week, but my sanity relies on routine, so I’ll stick with my regularly scheduled “every other Friday at 10:00 a.m.”.

What’s today’s post about? Well, right at this very moment I am in a session called “Picasso & Edison: Learn how to be both an artist and scientist in today’s fundraising world”, led by Samantha Laprade, CFRE (a.k.a. @GryphonReport). No, I am not blogging in front of her rather than paying attention to her session! I am writing this post from the comfort of my hotel room in Toronto on Thursday at 5:00 pm. I have just attended Day 1 of the 2014 Canadian Higher Education Annual Giving Congress in Toronto a.k.a. #AGCongress14. Yes, it’s me and dozens of other Annual Giving nerds talking about what we do and how we can be excellent at it. I’m in heaven!

So on that note, today’s post is the five most interesting things I learned yesterday on Day 1 of Congress. Here goes…

  1. STOP! Be stupidly creative. The very inspiring Joel Faflak of Western University started the day off by telling us to stop doing what you’re doing and do something mindlessly creative. Draw, see a musical, do something! Our creativity is being threatened by the business of our every day work, but we can’t stop cultivating it.
  2. Don’t solicit young alumni with the traditional academic segmentation. My friend Ryan Brejak of the University of Guelph (and a guest blogger for this site) delivered a great session on young alumni giving and stressed that millennials need to be segmented differently rather than by their faculty. Segment them by the non-academic affinities they have.
  3. Why would they care? I attended a panel about “How to Write for Development” and asked them what’s more important in a fundraising letter, to emphasize need or success. Chuck Chan of University of Toronto replied that it’s most important to focus on why the reader would care about this. Would they care about a dilapidated building, or would they care about what’s going to happen in a new one?
  4. There are three types of donors. I attended my mentor Paul Nazareth‘s session about planned giving and he outlined three types of donors: (1) the DNA donor, where giving is in their DNA, and so is your organization; (2) the academic, who values your institution because of how they turned what they learned into success; (3) and the trouble makers and weirdos who had a great time at your institution who will give back because of their experiences.
  5. Everyone should be an annual fund prospect all the time. The last session of the day was led by two fundraising powerhouses: Lorna SomersBob Burdenski. They talked about the worlds of major giving and annual giving colliding, and Lorna stressed that major gift prospects/donors should never be taken out of annual solicitations. They should always receive the calls, direct mailings, etc. and major gifts should “opt out” of this if really necessary, whereas the default will be that they’re solicited annually.

What a great day Day 1 was. I bet I’m already energized by Day 2 and it’s only 10:00 a.m.

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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

Guest Post: Do you ask on the first visit???

Do you ask on the first visit---

It’s a question I get all the time!

And by the look on people’s faces, my answer must be pretty lame. Probably because I usually say something along the lines of “sometimes,” or “it depends.”

When I worked in leadership annual giving, I always asked on first visits. Gifts at that level tend to be a little more transactional. And for the most part, people got it. They weren’t offended that we just met and there I was asking for cash.

But with major gifts, it’s different.

So, I suppose a better answer would be: “I talk about philanthropy on first visits, but I don’t always ask for a gift of a specific amount to achieve for a specific outcome.”

But sometimes I do! It depends. On a lot of things.

The considerations involved are actually pretty interesting.  So, I decided to see if I could map them on a decision tree. Take a look!

Decision Tree_Asking On First Visit_Page_1 Decision Tree_Asking On First Visit_Page_2

And when you’re done, leave a comment letting me know if I left anything out.
What else determines whether or not you ask on the first visit???

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Written by K. Michael Johnson

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A self-proclaimed fundraising geek, K. Michael loves the nitty-gritty of major gifts work. By day, he raises money for a large research university. In his spare time, he blogs about things he’s learned the hard way at www.fearless-fundraising.com.

Connect with K. Michael via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Guest Blog: Top 5 Takeaways/Moments from APRA International’s 27th Annual Conference

From July 30 – August 2nd, we had the pleasure of attending the 27th Annual APRA International Conference in Las Vegas, NV. Nearly 1,000 attendees from multiple aspects of the profession – prospect research, relationship management, prospect management, data analytics, advancement services and fundraising – came together to network and participate in educational workshops. Like the prospect research sponges we are (okay, maybe a little nerdy?) we were eager to gain some knowledge and insights from fellow researchers.

  1. Proactive vs. Reactive Research. While both types of research are extremely valuable to development, the importance of focusing on proactive research was stressed in numerous conference sessions and keynote addresses. In the past, prospect researchers have been focused on reactive research (research profiles, answering reference-type questions, etc.). While this type of research is still a pivotal part of the prospect research field, there has been a large shift in the last few years towards proactive research, which is instrumental in the laying of a foundation for a successful campaign. What exactly is proactive research? This type of research includes establishing and tracking measurable metrics, generating project-focused new prospects, and effectively managing portfolio sizes. How is this done? Prospect research must identify and strive to forecast the needs of each individual development team member in order to best support them (see point #4 for more information on developing partnerships with fundraisers).
  2. APRA Canada Meet-up. Members of APRA Canada arranged to have dinner together one night while we were in Vegas, with 16 of us in attendance. We ‘inconspicuously’ (not!) met in the hotel lobby where a Canadian flag was proudly being waved. It was fantastic to compare notes from our sessions, and to swap stories from the prospect research trenches. It was beneficial and fun to share prospect research tactics from north of the border. And we finally didn’t get weird looks for our use of “eh”.
  3. Network – Use other prospect researchers as a resource! Best practices are generally transferrable from one organization to the other, no matter what country or type of organization you are from. We found that networking with fellow conference attendees, volunteers and speakers was extremely beneficial in taking ideas and concepts back to our organization. Coming from an academic institution ourselves, it was extremely helpful to interact with individuals from development offices of American institutions who have well-established and successful fundraising practices in place (Harvard University, University of California – Berkley, University of Pennsylvania to name a few).
  4. Strategic partnerships with Major Gift Officers. (a.k.a. Help us help you!) This ties in with proactive research (point #1) but deserves its own point. Prospect Research should understand the fundraisers’ benchmarks and their funding priorities, and on the flip side, the fundraisers should clearly communicate these goals. All too often, workplace silos can get in the way of productive partnerships and meaningful conversations that can result in success (ie GIFTS!). So, how do you develop these partnerships? It is important for the prospect research team to demonstrate to major gift officers that they are strategic partners in the fund development process. Some ways this partnership can be harnessed is through open communication with the fund development team, attending campaign/team meetings, having portfolio review meetings and integrating your prospect research work with their major gift goals (proactive research!).
  5. Smorgasbord of helpful tips and tricks. Investment advisors, real estate, public disclosure documents! Oh my! Between the conference sessions, keynotes, chatting with vendors, and networking we learned a lot of useful tips and tricks that will undoubtedly aid us on our quest to become prospect research superstars. We won’t go into great (and probably boring) detail about all the new and tweaked research tactics we learned; just know that we were in research and data bliss over the entire course of the conference.

We hope to one day return again to the APRA International Conference, to continue to gain knowledge and strengthen our skills in this field. Until then, we will continue to implement some of the great advice and suggestions to our own portfolios, and strive to practice exceptional research and support to our team.

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Written by Shannon Doherty & Sara Glover

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Shannon & Sara are both Prospect Researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Prospect Management at a Cocktail Party for Introverted Fundraisers

Prospect Management at a Cocktail Party for Introverted Fundraisers

I know I’ve spoken about being an introvert before. This is not a weakness of mine nor is it an area for improvement, but in a world dominated by extroversion, you do have to make a concerted effort as an introvert to determine your approach. Case in point: prospect management in a cocktail party setting.

In my role at Laurier, I am a prospect manager. I now have my own portfolio of prospects to cultivate, solicit, and steward. This occasionally involves a cocktail party-format donor appreciation event, one of which took place this past Tuesday.

Now, I wouldn’t say these kinds of events aren’t natural for me, nor would I say I find them difficult… I’d just say I find them draining. I might even say I find them very draining. So for a person who’s trying to strategically use their energy in that kind of event, what should the approach be???

Make a plan: One thing that helps me in these situations is making a plan in advance. I figure out how many prospects I have attending and write their names down on a list that I can reference throughout the event. On Tuesday I had 4 prospects who RSVP’d yes, so I wrote down their names and planned to connect with all of them.

Adjust the plan: Does everyone who RSVPs to an event show up?  Never.  On Tuesday I hovered near the nametag table a few times to see if my 4 prospects had shown up.  In the end, only 3 of them had.  I adjusted my list and now planned to connect with my 3 prospects throughout the evening.

Take breaks: I can mingle pretty decently, but as I’ve said, it takes a lot out of me.  In order to survive the cocktail party, I need breaks.  On Tuesday there was a room where the staff had put their coats and things, so 3 or so times during the event I escaped to the room to check my notes, take a breath, take a break, and then head back into the fray.

Quality over quantity: With 3 prospects at the event there was nothing stopping me from meaningfully connecting with them all, but that doesn’t mean I could expect a lengthy conversation with all of them, nor did I necessarily have the stamina for it.  My mantra for cocktail parties has become quality over quantity.  Small talk and glad-handing takes a lot out of me, so I try to find an opportunity for a meaningful conversation with even just one person at an event of this nature. On Tuesday I was fortunate enough to have that opportunity; one of my prospects – the one I knew the least of the 3 – was sitting alone eating at a table.  I approached him, asked if I could join, and we got to know one another over the course of about 30 minutes.  It was fantastic; I was sitting down, in a quieter area of the venue, and got to really understand the passions and interests of an unknown prospect.  These kinds of conversations do in fact energize me, and they’re what made me want to do one-on-one fundraising in the first place.

With all of those strategies in place, I was able to have a personally and professionally successful evening.

What are your strategies, for introverts or extroverts???

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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

Guest Post: 8 Fundraising Lessons I Learned from Beyoncé

8 fundraising lessons I learned from Beyoncé

#1. “Pretty Hurts”

pretty-hurts

 The message for fundraisers: what looks nice doesn’t always raise more money. Have you been at the mercy of a marketing department, brand standards, or a graphic designer who “wants more white space”? You will know that pretty does hurt – it hurts revenue. As Jeff Brooks says: “Fundraising is good, not bad, when it’s ugly”.

#2. “I can have another you by tomorrow / So don’t you ever for a second get to thinkin’ / You’re irreplaceable”

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The message for fundraisers: Your donors can have another charity in a minute! You are not irreplaceable. Your work needs to be focused on your donors, and your cause. The second your organization gets a big ego is the second “everything you own” will be “in a box to the left”.

#3. “My daddy taught me how to love my haters”

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The message for fundraisers: Don’t let complaints stop you from fundraising. I think this is especially true for direct mail complaints, which are an opportunity to start a conversation, and a sign that your materials are being noticed.

#4. “I’m a grown woman, I can do whatever I want” “And I’m making (all these racks, all these racks)”

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The message for fundraisers: this is a grown profession. We have, standing behind us, a body of knowledge and years of theory, research and testing. Don’t let your board, or volunteers, or your non-fundraising CEO/President undercut your confidence. Especially when your smart fundraising decisions are making “all these racks”.

#5. “My sister taught me I should speak my mind”

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The message for fundraisers: don’t be afraid of your beliefs. Speak up about what you believe, what your values are. Don’t be afraid of having an opinion, something worthwhile to say. Too many charities are focused on appealing to the “general public”.

#6. “Finally, you put my love on top”

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The message for fundraisers: love is what this profession is all about. Love for one another, love for humankind.  When you find yourself getting lost in spreadsheets, reports, meetings, office politics, find a way to put love of your donors and love of your cause back on top.

#7. “We Are Here”

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The message for fundraisers: There are big problems in this world – but we are here. It is our calling, our vocation, to understand those problems and challenges. To think big about the solutions, and to connect people to opportunities to make this world a better place.

#8. “I’m a survivor, I’m not gon give up, I’m not gon stop, I’m gon work harder”

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The message for fundraisers: Don’t give up.  This is important work, but it isn’t easy. The best, most exciting things in life will scare you, and push you. The obstacles, road block, and hard times will make you stronger. Take them in stride. Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done.

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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, I connect donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about my cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

On the hunt for fundraising priorities

I haven’t written my own blog post since I started my new job at Wilfrid Laurier University!  I’ve been lucky to have three amazing guest bloggers fill in for me over the past… nearly two months!  Wow.  It worked out well though because I’ve had my plate full with learning the ropes of a new position at a new organization.  Plus, one of the things I love about www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com is the range of voices that you get to hear from.  Philanthropy and fundraising can be such personal experiences, and so I’ll always emphasize the need for guest bloggers!

That being said, I’m excited to have this opportunity to reflect on my experience so far at Laurier.  As I think I’ve mentioned, my position is in Annual Giving, and my portfolio focuses on what we call Leadership Giving at Laurier.  It’s sort of the area that sits between the average annual gift and major gifts, which at Laurier start at $25,000.  We’ve got these amazingly committed donors who might be giving $1,000 a year, which is such a generous contribution, and so my role is to give them a little more dedicated attention.  Perhaps they’ve only ever given in response to direct mail appeals, so I get to meet with them in person, thank them for their giving, hear their story, and sometimes find ways for them to become even more engaged in the life of the institution… maybe through alumni programming, maybe through a new giving opportunity like a scholarship, or maybe just the personal touch of meeting with someone (me!) on an annual basis.  It’s a great position to be in!

However, something funny happened about 4-6 weeks into my position: I realized I wasn’t fully-equipped to speak to Laurier’s priorities.  I’m an alumna of this institution, I worked for 3.5 years when I was a student in the Annual Giving Call Centre, and I was on the Alumni Association for 2.5 years between graduation and returning to work at this wonderful university.  I would’ve thought I was perfectly equipped to speak to the university’s priorities, but I realized I just didn’t have a handle on them like I wanted to.  On top of that, unlike our major gift officers, who each focus on a specific faculty/department, I have to speak about all the faculties to some degree or another.  Of course, not in great detail, but I just really wanted to have my finger on the pulse of the high-level priorities to a greater degree than I did… which was not really at all.

So, I pulled up my socks and booked meetings with all of the major gift officers in our office, and I’m in the process of sitting down with them all to discuss their faculties’ priorities.  My approach has been to learn about the big updates and priorities so that I have an exciting story to tell, but also to find out specific opportunities that would be in my prospects’ capacities, too.  So far the exercise has been great, and cultivating strong relationships with the MGOs is never a bad thing, because I have no doubt they will be great supports to me moving forward.

So there you have it!  Things are off to a great start, and as each day goes by, I’m feeling more confident and capable in my role.  Most importantly, I’m loving it!  Fundraising for my alma mater is truly a dream come true!

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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 | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

5 Things I’ve Learned about Fundraising at Trinity College School

Today is bittersweet.  It’s my last day in my office at Trinity College School where I’ve served as Alumni Development Officer for 3.5 years.  The sweet part is departing TCS for an exciting new position at my alma mater Wilfrid Laurier University, but it is always difficult leaving an incredible work experience like TCS has been for me.

So, in honour of Trinity College School, its alumni, and all of my outstanding colleagues that I’ve had the pleasure to work with and learn from, I wanted to share with my readers what I’ve learned about fundraising at TCS (I’ve boiled it down to five things, but there are actually hundreds).

What I’ve Learned about Fundraising at Trinity College School

Young People Will Give
You know my feelings on young alumni by now – you must ask them to support your school.  Why do I feel so passionately about that?  Because at TCS I’ve learned that they will give.

Yes, they’re different.  They won’t just give because it’s a habit or because it’s expected of them.  They’re skeptical; they want to see how you provide value, to them or to your community.  They want to know what the impact of their gift will be, and they want to be told that their $25 will make a difference.

So what?  They have different needs than other donors.  So meet those needs, and ask. Because they will give.

Major Gifts Take Time
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a small taste of major gift fundraising while at TCS, which is an area of fundraising that I’m really keen to pursue further.  My first exposure to major gift solicitations was simply observing, listening to, and learning from my Executive Director.  What did I learn?  That these gifts take time and that you must be persistent.  It’s not just wining, dining, and schmoozing.  It’s not just having the confidence and courage to sit across from someone and ask them for $1 million.  It’s identifying, cultivating, researching, planning, strategizing, and then asking… and then waiting… following up, asking again… trying from a different angle, and then waiting again… and then following up again, and then – maybe – there’s a “yes”.

This has been a great lesson to learn, because it’s not really the attitude I went into fundraising with.  I imagined it being difficult, but not because of the time it takes.  This takes special skills that not everyone has, and if I’m to continue in the direction of major gift fundraising, I’m grateful that I learned from the best, and I intend to cultivate and sharpen those skills in myself.

Mobile Giving is Tricky
Mobile giving a.k.a. text-to-give or text-to-pledge continues to be a hot topic among fundraisers.  I had the opportunity to implement a mobile giving program while working at TCS.  Our program uses the text-to-pledge method, whereby a donor can text us with their name and the amount of their donation.  We receive an email with their name, donation amount, and phone number, and then we can follow up by phone to confirm and process the donation.

The nice thing about this process is that, unlike other programs, no percentage of the donation goes to the service provider and we receive the name of the person making the donation.  Normally with mobile giving programs, all you would get is the money, minus the portion that goes to the service provider.  That’s why mobile giving works so well for disaster relief.  An organization raising money to aid, for example, people after the earthquake in Haiti just needs money!  It doesn’t matter who’s giving it, it just matters that the money is coming in, and that it’s coming in fast.  That’s another key element to make mobile giving work: urgency.  When people sense urgency and a genuine need for money, they’ll respond quickly, and move on with their day.

So mobile giving is great for unique, urgent situations, but will it become an alternative to sending your cheque in the mail?  My feeling is no.  I don’t think mobile giving is another way of giving as part of a regular Annual Fund.  Giving online via your smart phone is one thing, but people still want a connection when they’re making a donation for the most part, so we still want to keep it as personal as possible.  My verdict is that mobile giving does not work for the average organization.

Customized Fundraising is the Key
What is the future of fundraising???  Customization/Personalization.  This is not a new insight, to be sure.  People are always more likely to respond to something if they feel it is written to them.  When you get a mass email, you feel no remorse in deleting it, but if you feel something has been sent specifically and thoughtfully to you, you may pause and give it more attention.

Fundraisers everywhere are getting really excited about new trends like crowdfunding and mobile giving, and there is certainly some great new technology out there that we can capitalize on, but I think our best bet as fundraisers is using new technologies to complement our existing programs, and take advantages of the ways that technology can assist in a customized and personalized giving experience.

I’m sure you want an example, so here it is: one of the coolest projects I worked on while at TCS was an animated video that we made with an incredible company called Switch Video.  The video was intended for all of our alumni and parents, to educate them on two capital projects that are the top priorities of the school’s current capital campaign.  There was hope that we would encourage more gifts to the campaign, but the main focus was building awareness of the projects.  The video was cool simply because it was animated; a totally different approach from a 150 year-old school that uses traditional marketing for the most part.

That said, the video’s “coolness” went far beyond animation.  The video was also customized for 5,500 unique recipients.  These recipients would receive a unique email with their name in the subject line, their name in the body of the email, and a unique URL to view the video.  Then the video was also customized to include their name (and grad year, if applicable) in different parts of the animation.  For example, when called to make a contribution to the campaign, an envelope popped up on the screen with the TCS logo in the return address spot, and the alumnus’ or parent’s name in the centre.  Pretty cool, eh?  Think of it as a mail merge, but for video.

This is the future of fundraising.  We need to focus on using new technologies to assist us in the age-old effective tool when it comes to fundraising: personalization.  When we’re looking for a big gift, we wouldn’t send a general letter to someone, would we?  We’d meet them in person.  So let’s take that idea and apply it elsewhere!  I’m glad TCS reinforced this idea for me through this amazing project (and many others).

Alumni Engagement is a Beautiful Thing
Finally – alumni engagement.  I don’t know where else I’ll work in my career, but in many ways it’s hard to imagine an alumni community more engaged than the alumni I’ve met at Trinity College School.  Perhaps it’s the significant tuition they pay that makes them feel more invested in the life of the school.  Perhaps it’s the formative years they attend TCS during (ages 15-18, in particular).  Perhaps it’s the extremely small community they’re a part of, and that the intimate size is easier to stay engaged with.

Whatever it is, it made working at TCS a total pleasure.  There’s a big event that I organize annually; it’s a shinny (hockey) tournament for alumni, parents, and friends of the school.  Coincidentally, it takes place tomorrow, and will mark my last day of work at the school.  Unfortunately, the event was created to honour the memory of an alumnus of the school who was tragically killed while cycling across Canada.  But, the goodwill it creates in the community, and the positive way it honours the memory of this alumnus, is a beautiful thing.  With many events, we have to work really hard to get good attendance.  With this tournament, I sit back and watch the registrations roll in.  People are delighted to drive up to the school for a day of hockey and a dinner at the end of the day.  It involves a lot of organization, but not a lot of “work”.  It’s a pleasure to be involved with.

There’s also the Alumni Association, a small volunteer group made up of a variety of alumni from different grad years.  I’ve gotten quite close to a lot of the members of this group, and seeing their genuine interest in and love for the school makes my work so meaningful.  They want to provide value for their fellow alumni, organize events that provide new ways to engage the disengaged, connect alumni together and celebrate the thing they have in common: that they attended Trinity College School.  It’s hard not to get excited about their passion.  It’s what makes the work I do so… fun!!!

The alumni engagement at TCS is something I will always take with me, and will positively inform the communities I work with in the future.  I’m forever grateful.

 

And with that, I sign off as the TCS Alumni Development Officer!  www.whatgivesphilanthropy.com will continue strong, always with the memory of TCS, but with new experiences and projects, too!

Thank you, TCS!

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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 | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email

Mid-Level Gifts

Happy New Year!!!  I hope that everyone enjoyed a lovely holiday season and that 2014 is off to a good start for you.  I am a person that really enjoys the promise a new year brings – opportunities for fresh starts, recommitting to goals, reflecting on the accomplishments of the last year, and considering with excitement the year to come.  Bring it on!

But on a totally unrelated note, I’d like to talk briefly about mid-level gifts.  When I attended the 2013 CCAE National Conference last June in St. John’s, Newfoundland, I attended a session on mid-level gifts.  These gifts, categorized differently by different organizations, are becoming a bit of a hot topic in fundraising.  We keep our annual funds running smoothly (they are the life-blood of our organizations, after all), and we focus our attention on those ever-important major gifts, but what about the area in between???  What about those people who are giving (or have the capacity to give) year after year in, for example, the $5,000 – $25,000 range?  These are meaningful gifts, making a measurable difference for your organization.  Are they getting attention?  Do you know anything about these donors?  Are you stewarding them?

What do we know about mid-level donors?  Some of the things I’ve learned from colleagues, at conferences, and in my own experiences, are that these donors don’t necessarily know the difference they’re making through their gifts.  They give loyally and consistently, and aren’t asking for much in return.  There’s not much of a culture built around these gifts.  6-figure and up gifts often have more fanfare – naming opportunities, receptions, gift agreement contracts, and expectations from the donors, but mid-level gifts don’t have that.  I’m not saying they should, but perhaps mid-level donors should have a bit of a community built around them.  I talked about a culture of philanthropy in my last post of 2013… perhaps there could be a culture of mid-level giving…

What would a culture around mid-level giving mean?  Well, it could mean that mid-level donors know that they’re mid-level donors.  They have “chinned themselves up”, to borrow a term from my current Executive Director, to a larger gift than the average annual donor, because they have the capacity to, and the passion to.  Their gifts are making a significant impact on your organization, and they ought to know it.  Perhaps this group of donors could have a name, and a way of being recognized, like an annual cocktail party.  Maybe instead of just passively watching those larger gifts come in, you could meet these people face-to-face; get to know them, have them get to know you, understand where their passion lies at your organization, and then let all that information simmer so that when the right project comes along… they could be the major donor.  

But don’t get me wrong, it’s not only about the donor pipeline.  Yes, these mid-level donors have the potential to be major donors down the line, but they’re also incredible just as they are… and we need to make sure they know it!

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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:
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Can an introvert be a good major gift fundraiser?

A week ago, I had the distinct pleasure of writing my own guest blog post for my friend Brock Warner‘s incredible new blog: www.iamafundraiser.com.  You might remember that Brock wrote a guest blog post for What Gives back in April 2012 entitled “Is storytelling really the answer for your charity???”  His post includes reflections on his experience giving a TEDx presentation, his thoughts on storytelling in fundraising, and it features a video of his TEDx presentation as well.  Please check it out if you haven’t already; it’s excellent!

So of course I jumped at the opportunity to return the favour on his blog, and I wrote a post called “Can an introvert be a good major gift fundraiser?”  My introversion is something I think about a lot.  It’s not something I’m ashamed of, nor do I think it needs to be worn as a badge of honour.  It’s simply a lens through which I can see my behaviours and actions, and it helps me make sense of my unique way of dealing with things.  It makes things hard sometimes, yes, but most of the time I see how my introversion is part of my strengths, and that’s what this post is about.

I’d like to share it with you here now, but I encourage you to check out Brock’s blog on a regular basis to see the amazing things he’s cooking up over there.  Thanks, Brock!

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Pretty soon after I decided I wanted to be a fundraiser, I knew I wanted to be a major gifts fundraiser.  Perhaps it was the glamour of it all, or perhaps it was the prospect of looking back one day on the millions I had raised for the causes I worked for.  Whatever the reasons, I was sure I wanted to do it.

And then I became a fundraiser, and I got nervous.  I noticed how my boss (and a major gift fundraiser) spoke in a loud, commanding voice a lot of the time.  I noticed how he seemed to be buddies with everyone he met.  I noticed how he never stood off to the side with the rest of the people in our office at events; he was always chatting with people, working the room, etc.

I noticed how I wasn’t doing those things, and then I had a horrifying thought: maybe I can’t be a major gift fundraiser.  Maybe my introversion – my need to refuel regularly, my allergy to small talk, my deliberate way of speaking – was my undoing in the career I had so intensely dreamed of having.

But then I had my first opportunity to make an ask for a major gift.  I prepared extensively, coached myself, planned the meeting out (including exactly what parking lot I would park in), and arrived early enough to save a good table and take a few deep breaths.  That’s when I realized that just like extroversion can be a perfect quality for fundraisers, so can introversion!

A one-on-one ask is my perfect scenario.  Here I am with a fascinating individual, with a passion for my organization, an interesting life story (everyone has one), and a philanthropic spirit so strong that this person is willing to part with hard-earned money for the sake of a cause they believe in.

My job is to talk to them, learn about their passions, and align them with our priorities.  I’m meant to get to know them, ask questions, but mostly just listen.  Listening is something I’m great at, as an introvert; it fuels me.

So the introverts among us, don’t despair!  Your qualities of quietness, sincerity, and thoughtfulness, and your love for deep conversations and socializing in small groups are perfect traits in a major gifts fundraiser.  Just like extroverts’ traits of boundless energy and a love for people are great traits for major gifts fundraisers, too.

Work well with what you have, because it’s perfect for what you need to do!

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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