Development: It’s a team sport!

teamLet’s face it, there is a lot that goes into each and every gift that comes in to our organizations.  It takes a multitude of moving pieces to put the development puzzle together.  At least if you’re going to be successful!

In a perfect world we would understand how each member of the team contributes.  We would all be aware of the organization’s goals and work together to achieve them.  We would gladly share the spotlight with everyone on the team when successes come our way.

After all, there’s no I in TEAM!  Right?

Unfortunately, we don’t always live in that perfect world.  There is intense pressure to achieve personal goals and metrics that can turn on the ugly side of our competitive nature.  It’s easy to lose perspective and just be out for ourselves.

That tactic might seem to work in the short term, and even make us feel better about ourselves temporarily.  But it spells failure in the end because it shows everyone that you’re not a team player.  Instead, we should all be personally responsible for the success of each member of the team.

Here’s a few ways to accomplish that:

  • TALK to your team members! Really, it’s that simple. Communication should not be something that is scary or intimidating. When you take the time to really talk to people you can educate yourself on what they do, how they contribute, and acknowledge them for their contribution to the effort.
  • Share the wealth! If the TEAM is going to be successful then each team member has to have the tools they need to succeed. Each team member should have promising prospects and projects. Each person on the team needs to have successes early on. Generosity of self is a valuable asset!
  • When you successfully bring in a large gift, make sure that everyone knows it was a team effort. We don’t work in a vacuum. Each person contributed in some way and should be commended for their part. So when someone congratulates you on your success, your response should be “thank you, but I couldn’t have accomplished it without the hard work of my team”. Not only does that motivate the team, it means even more successes in the future!

This may seem like common sense to many of us.  But, for many others, it’s not.

Fundraising is a team sport for sure! The good news is that when this is successfully accomplished in your organization, it makes for a much more enjoyable work experience for everyone!

I’m looking forward to hearing your comments and thoughts.

Photo credit:  TEAM

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This week’s post that made me stop and think

surprisingI read a lot of blog posts each week.  And, the more I read, the more difficult it seems to be for me to be truly impressed and intrigued with a post.

This week, however, I read “The Surprisingly Simple Way to Keep Donors” by Allison Gauss.  First of all, I found it interesting that Allison wrote this post back in August 2014, and it’s still being re-tweeted!

And, the post really did talk about a surprisingly simple way to keep donors…….are you ready?  It’s  PROACTIVE CUSTOMER SERVICE!  Actively listening to your donors and doing everything you can to improve their experience with your organization.  Often BEFORE they ask for it or call in with a complaint.

It all starts by making a conscious effort to notice your donor’s reactions.  You’d think that would come naturally, right?  But it doesn’t for most people.  And, in my experience it’s no different in the field of development and fundraising.

It means going above and beyond the call of duty for your donors. And, this applies to everyone in the organization, because everyone plays a part in the donor’s experience, even if you don’t talk directly to the donor.

This well-written blog post discusses the concept of listening proactively.  This is drastically different from listening reactively.  It means taking the burden of initiating the interaction off the donor, because many will simply never mention their concerns or problems.  They will just disengage, and move on to the next non-profit, and take their donations with them.  So, instead, it’s important to use proactive listening that is initiated by the organization.  One example is sending out quick surveys to determine the level of satisfaction of your donors.

As pointed out in this post:  Don’t be afraid to ask for criticism!

Another example is to personally call donors whose donations have fallen off.  Find out what the reason is and use the information to improve your process.

Or, use your social media sites to actually ASK for feedback from your donors.  And then respond!  Too many organization put content out on their social media sites, but forget to monitor the sites for the conversations that are taking place.  You can get valuable information from these discussions whether it’s good or bad.

Retaining donors is the goal!  So make the effort to improve your social and emotional IQ.  It will help you to provide the exceptional – PROACTIVE – customer service that your donors deserve.

Do you send out surveys to determine your donors satisfaction level?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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Summer is the perfect time to analyze your development efforts

For me, and for all of you who work in an educational non-profit, summer is a time when things slow down just a bit.  The semester is over, commencement was a success, and campus becomes a little quieter.

Even if you don’t work for an educational organization, many prospects and donors travel over the summer.  So, why not take some time to review your game plan and re-strategize for the year ahead.

One of the most important things to analyze is your use of time. This process can be enlightening  and even surprising!

Start by going over your calendar for the last several weeks and make a list of all the ways you spent your time.  This information will help you to determine the percentage of time you spent in the office versus how much time you’re out talking with donors.

Look at your list….how many solicitations did you make – how many proposals did you submit?

How much time did you spend entering your moves into your database?  Or, determine how many moves you failed to record in a timely fashion.

Did you spend time stewarding your donors?  And, if so, was it an appropriate and balanced amount of time in comparison to your other activities?

How many meetings did you schedule?  How many requests for meetings did you send out?  What was your percentage of success in getting meetings?

Did you commit enough time (or any at all) to identifying new prospects?  Or strategizing next steps to move current prospects to the next step?

Your list will also help you determine patterns in your daily, weekly, and monthly activities.

Are there things that you do every day that could be condensed into once per week?  Often you can be more thorough and focused if you allow a few hours to complete a project instead of attempting to do a little every day.

Probably the most important information you’ll glean from this process is whether or not you’re prioritizing your time wisely.  And, if you’re like most people, you will discover that there is room for improvement.

If you use your down time wisely, you can re-strategize and re-energize your development efforts!

Watch the video for more information on analyzing and improving your development efforts.

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Making the ask: Is your prospect ready?

Making the ask is the ultimate goal for every development director.  We spend countless days and weeks (sometimes even months or years) getting to this point.  So, making sure your prospect is ready is crucial to getting the “yes” that we all are hoping for.

Of course, each prospect comes to this point at their own pace.

However, if you wait too long you risk over-cultivating them and ultimately wasting precious time and resources. If you ask too soon, your prospect won’t be ready and may be put off from your organization and your mission.

Determining just the right time is an art form, to say the least.

One way to assess your prospect’s readiness is to review what steps you’ve already taken in your relationship with them.  Have they moved from interest, to awareness, and on to engagement?  Usually the next step is investment.  If the answer is yes, start planning the ask.

Another theory involves the engagement pyramid that helps to determine which level of engagement your prospect is at, and which levels they need to move through before they’re ready to contribute to your cause.   Beginning at the bottom of the pyramid, the levels of engagement are as follows:

  • Observing
  • Following
  • Endorsing
  • Contributing
  • Owning
  • Leading

A prospect’s level of engagement increases as you move up the pyramid.  And, as the shape of the pyramid suggests, there are more people involved in the lower levels of engagement.  This is true in any organization.  There are many people mildly engaging at the bottom and a few dedicated and deeply engaged people at the top.

When determining when to make the ask, your prospect should have gone from merely observing, to following, and on to endorsing your organization before they should be considered as candidates for contributing.

While neither of these two methods is foolproof, they do provide at least a guideline to help determine your timing.  Some prospects move quite quickly from being mildly interested to contributing, while others move at a much slower pace.   That’s OK.  That’s why development is more of an art than a science!

If you want to learn more about each step in the engagement pyramid, I invite you to watch the video!

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How your board members can help fundraise without “Asking”

fundraising_2Do your board members embrace the opportunity to assist in the fundraising effort of your organization?  If the answer is yes, then you should be commended!  It was probably you who made the case for their assistance and put together a variety of ways that would appeal to their unique personalities and circumstances.

The reality for most of us, however, is that our board members don’t participate in fundraising to the extent that they could.

And the main reason is that we have not asked them!

It all starts with making the case for their fundraising help.  That’s step #1!

Do a little educating and let them know that fundraising does not necessarily mean “making the ask”.  Many people, board members included, don’t want to actually ask people for money.  GOOD NEWS….there are so many other ways to help!  That’s step #2!

Provide a “menu” of sorts, listing all the possible ways they can help fundraise – and don’t forget to include an approximation of the time commitment involved.  This way they can choose what they might feel comfortable doing, and what works with their already busy schedules.  That’s step #3!

Some of the menu options to consider include:

Thank donors

  • Sign thank you letters to major donors and add a personal, handwritten note. Time commitment: 1/2 hour/week
  • Send thank you e-mails, and share their personal commitment to the cause. Time commitment: 1/2 hour/week
  • Make thank you phone calls to major donors. Time commitment: 1/2 hour/week

Make introductions

  • Coordinate meetings between an acquaintance who is interested in your organization and the development team. Time commitment: 1-2 hours/month
  • Bring friends or colleagues to fundraising events to increase your organization’s potential prospects. Time commitment: 2-3 hours/event
  • Give tours of various areas or programs to those in your social network. Time commitment: 1-2 hours/tour

 Spread the word

  • Forward an e-mail invitation or newsletter to 5 friends. Time commitment: 5 minutes/e-mail
  • Tell your story for the newsletter or appeal letter. Time commitment 1-2 hours
  • Throw a small social gathering at your home to expand relationships. Time commitment: dependent on type of gathering

If you take the time to put together specific ways that your board members can help, I think you’ll be surprised how many volunteer their services.  They WANT to help!

Check out these articles for more information on board participation:

8 Ways Your Board Can Fundraise Without Asking

9 Ways Board Members Can Raise Money Without Fundraising

6 NO ASK Fundraising Strategies for Board Members

Let me know how your board handles fundraising.  It would be great to hear your ideas and suggestions!

Photo Credit:  Fundraising

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Current students are our future donors!

As the busy development professionals that we all are, I know how hard it is to get everything done every day.  There are new prospects to meet, current donors to steward, and events to plan…..just to name a few of the many tasks in an average day.

It’s easy to overlook the donors that are a captive audience for those of us who work at educational institutions: our current students!  Students are the donors of the future and it’s important to have a plan in place to cultivate them as future alumni while they are still on campus.

The College of Science recently had an event that specifically focused on our students:  the College of Science Graduation Celebration.

From a development perspective our plan for this event included the following goals:

  • Create a sense of community and connection with the university
  • Build a culture of loyalty and philanthropy that will last a lifetime
  • Build awareness of what it means to be an alum
  • Provide information on the many ways to give back
  • Stress participation and that it’s not just about monetary donations

Here are some of the ways we achieved our goals:

  • Students signed a banner specific to their graduation year. This banner will be used at all future events as a symbol of their unique community. At future events, students who didn’t originally get to sign the banner can add their signature – and the connections will grow!
  • Each student received a button that said “I’m a Young Alum”. These were a big hit with the students, many of whom put them on and wore them throughout the event.

At the graduation celebration students had their parents with them who delighted in taking their picture while they signed the banner.  Other students took selfies of themselves and their friends as they signed.  And many students took the time to find their friends signatures so they could sign near them, or found a unique place on the banner so they could leave their mark.

We followed up the celebration with food trucks serving hot dogs and ice cream, and plenty of places to gather one last time with their friends before walking across the stage to accept their degree.

The event was a huge success for many reasons.  But, for the College of Science development team, it was an important piece in our donor pipeline.

Watch the video to see more about this important development event.

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This week’s post that made me stop and think

SnailMailI almost passed right by this post.  It was Ann Green’s post titled “Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Direct Mail”.

I subscribe to Ann’s blog because she gives no-nonsense, useful, and timely advice.  So when I saw this piece I was intrigued.  After all, direct mail is a thing of the past…..right?

Not necessarily.

I just had a conversation with our Director of Annual Giving recently on the very same topic.  We’re working on an entire annual giving program – from student philanthropy, to engaging young alumni, to bumping up our annual donors to a higher giving level.  Basically, we’re building our donor pipeline, one step at a time.  It’s been her experience that direct mailings often result in more donations than other options.  Interesting!

In today’s social age of communication, most organizations are jumping on the social media bandwagon as the primary way to get their message out.  Everything you read points out that if you aren’t already communicating via social media, you are missing out!

Actually, both are true.  Direct mail is still a viable option AND social media is a very effective form of communication also.

That’s why I picked “Why You Shouldn’t Give Up on Direct Mail” as this week’s post that made me stop and think.  It very clearly points out that direct mail is still a viable option when considering various communications with donors.

Here’s a snapshot of what I learned from this post:

  • The importance of asking your donors how they prefer to hear from you – and how their answers can impact your effectiveness.
  • Use various methods, but communicate by direct mail at least 4 times per year.
  • Personal communications such as thank you notes and cards are better received via direct mail.
  • Printed newsletters shouldn’t be overlooked, especially for older donors or prospects who may not read it online.
  • Consider sending various, short program updates, sharing accomplishments and successes.

Here’s the bottom line.  Mixing up communications to your constituents is the key.

Thanks Ann for reminding us that we shouldn’t throw out the direct mail option just yet.  It’s still an effective option… least for now.

Is direct mail still effective in your organization?  Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Photo Credit:  Snail Mail

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