We’re in a Campaign…Help! What’s my Elevator Pitch?

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We’re in a Campaign…Help! What’s my Elevator Pitch?

I have been working with a not for profit organization that is about to launch its first capital campaign. It’s been a very exciting and busy time for the leaders of this organization as preparation for the campaign has been full steam ahead! In just a short few months, interviews and vision sessions have been held to gain buy-in and advice from supporters, staff and other key friends of the organization. A fundraising goal has been carefully determined. The campaign has been named. Leadership has been recruited to be the “eyes and ears” of the effort. Plans for an inaugural event to announce the campaign and engaging support from top donors is in the works. A campaign logo has been designed and campaign materials are being prepared. And…the list continues.

As you know, a campaign has a lot of moving parts and takes the time and energy of many of the staff and volunteer leaders such as the board and members of a steering committee. In particular, the leaders of an organization must add campaign work to their already full schedules. The bottom line is…it takes a lot of extra time, work and effort to successfully launch and fund a campaign.

Beyond the gifts that will be celebrated as they are secured for this effort, a particularly poignant statement was made by a client that shared why this campaign is so important. Simply put, she said…”This organization saved my life.” As we get so caught up in the details…and we must…so that the effort is a success, we must remember why we work to move the needle forward with a campaign.

Quite often, we hear from board members and volunteer leaders of a campaign from many organization that they get “stuck” on how to talk about the important work of the agency. They feel that they need to have all the stats and facts to “sell” a potential donor on a project. And, the stats and facts are important…but often can be shared by a staff leader and not necessarily the board member. This client reminded me of just that…sometimes a simple message from someone directly impacted by the agency is the best way to convey the important work of the not for profit. It’s the story we can share of this client and thousands of others who, without the care and safety net of this agency, would not be able to live their best lives. So, my message today is simple to volunteer leaders…go for a simple elevator pitch…one that you are comfortable with and that is easy to share. Tag team with your staff leaders so that they can share the nitty gritty details. And, when the work gets cumbersome and intense during a campaign, remember who will benefit from all the hard work and how it will help impact or sometimes even save a life.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

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Everyone Wants to Feel Appreciated

The Development Process

Have you begun started work on your holiday appeal yet? No???

Me either! That’s OK. Some say it’s still summer until September 22.

But one thing I am doing NOW is getting plans into place to make sure my donors feel appreciated before the Fall appeal is mailed.

It can be a struggle to find creative ways to nurture our donors.  So I want to share a fun and easy way to make hundreds of calls to your donors so they know you are thinking about them, and appreciate them.

We are planning a fall Thank-a-Thon to do just that. If you haven’t done this already, there’s still time and it’s fun and easy.

First, Get the right volunteers – We are inviting parents whose children benefit from our program this year. Nobody can speak to the value of our services more than these devoted men and women. Hearing their voices will lend instant credibility for our organization.

Second, Select a good date – Mid-November is an optimal time. Donors should be thanked before receiving the holiday appeal.

Don’t Forget the Snacks – This is just a nice thing to do for your volunteers and improves their energy and enthusiasm.

Share a story of Impact – After volunteers arrive and sign in, provide a brief overview of how the night will go, and share two heart-warming stories of impact. I ask the volunteers to choose one and share it with people they reach on their calls.

Suggest a script –Calls work best when they start by saying, “Hello, this is Jane.  I’m a volunteer  from ABC nonprofit. I’m not calling to ask you for money today, but rather, I just wanted to say thank you for your kindness to [ABC] and let you know what great work we have been able to do this year thanks to you. Do you have a minute for me to tell you about [insert program recipient name here] who has benefitted from our program]?  When we assure the donor that they are not being asked for a gift, they will be more eager to hear what we have to say.

Provide good “intel” – Each volunteer should get a packet of 20-40 Call Sheets that contain donor names, phone numbers and, if possible, some brief “intel” on the donors they will be calling.   This might include how long they have been giving or if they’ve served on a past committee, etc. This will take the conversation more personal. I do not share the value of the donors’ gifts.

Gather feedback – Volunteers should write notes about their calls on the Call Sheets, and return those notes the office when the calls are complete. Any notes or updates are then captured in the organization’s database.

The Thank-a-Thon is a fun activity that our volunteers and families love to get involved with each year. This is a fun and instant way for your donors to experience high-quality interactions that foster long- term engagement and their investments. Since Stewardship is such an important part of the development process, make sure you set aside time for it among your activities this year.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Teamwork

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TEAMWORK

Your next fundraising campaign will be more successful if you emphasize teamwork in getting the job done.  Whether you are launching a major capital campaign, planning your annual gala, or setting goals for your annual fund, strive to put together a team for the effort and the results will be more satisfying and more substantial.

Your team can consist of colleagues who work in your non-profit organization, volunteers, donors, and even Board members.  Here are a few strategies for building successful teams.  Include these elements in your effort, and you will have more effective fundraising teams.

  • Let everyone involved know that this is a team effort. Resist the temptation to make the effort a reflection of your personal effectiveness as a fundraiser.  It’s not about you!  Make sure everyone knows that you need them to be involved, and that the success of the endeavor depends upon all of you working together.
  • Create a listening environment. Don’t rely on the fact that “this is the way we’ve always done it.”  Make your planning session a free exchange of ideas.  Create an exhilarating vibe by wiping the slate clean and starting from scratch.  You may end up replicating a lot of what you’ve done before, but there is nothing wrong with that! In so doing, the group will more clearly understand the importance of the strategy and will buy in to its success.  They will also come up with some new approaches that would not have surfaced if their ideas were not heard.
  • Serve together. Get everyone involved actively in direct service of achieving the goal.  Make sure everyone has a role suited to his/her individual talents and interests.  Don’t simply invite them to serve on a committee, but make sure that a primary responsibility of committee members is to actively assume a role in seeing the plan through to completion.
  • Laugh together. The success of your efforts is crucial to the mission of your non-profit, but resist the temptation to make fundraising a somber, do or die endeavor!  Working shoulder to shoulder, remember to enjoy the collective effort and the worthy   Fundraising is a joyous activity because the focus is on your mission and the on the lives that will be changed by your efforts.
  • Celebrate together. Never forget to celebrate the success of your collaboration!  Be sure to plan a victory celebration that includes your results.  Emphasize the dollars raised, but more importantly, emphasize the impact those dollars will have on the people your organization serves.

Fundraising should never be a lonely effort!  Pay attention to teamwork, and you will love the work and your results will be better too.

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

An Unexpected Lesson from the ER

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An Unexpected Lesson from the ER

My family had the great good fortune to enjoy a week’s vacation in the north woods of Wisconsin a few weeks back. (And I sincerely hope that you too have had an opportunity for some rejuvenating down-time and/or adventure this summer.) The only hiccup to the week was the early morning fishing trip with my oldest son that ended with a trip to the ER for a quick fish hook removal from my index finger.

Beyond sharing that the fish got the better of me that day, it was the call I received the following week that inspired this post. Yep, that’s right… the hospital called me seven days after my visit to “check-in” and make sure that I was doing well.

Now let me be really clear here, while necessary, my treatment was about as inconsequential as it gets. In my opinion, there was certainly no need for anyone to reach out afterwards. Nevertheless, it was a priority for them. And they didn’t just call once. In the message they left on the first call, they said they would try again in the next day or two. They provided a callback number, but made it clear that they wanted to make sure everything was okay and said they would try again. Sure enough, the next afternoon they called, as promised and I had the chance to assure them that I was indeed, just fine.

Honestly, I was taken aback by the care and attention I received and their outreach absolutely enhanced my already positive experience with the hospital.

So, what does a call from the ER have to do with fundraising?

Everything!

Their efforts made it clear that I mattered. Even though I live 400 miles away and will likely never set foot in their facility again, their example of customer (read: donor) care was sincere and impactful. Even though I’m certain that every visitor to their ER gets a call, their efforts created a connection and a sense of relationship.

We all know that past giving is the greatest predictor of future giving. We know that focusing on donor retention is a much more effective strategy than acquisition and we know all about the value of our current donors’ lifetime giving potential. These are just three of the reasons why paying attention to the people who support our mission is always a priority.

We also know that our donors have other philanthropic interests and, if we are not talking to them, we can be assured that someone else is.

Unfortunately, grant deadlines, event planning and the other time-sensitive elements of our daily grind too often prevent us from following through on our donor outreach strategies. Too often our plans for calling and visiting with our donors get pushed aside and find a resting place in our pile of good intentions.

Fortunately, if we can avoid or reverse that trend, we will quickly begin to build more meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with our donors and, subsequently, also improve our retention rates. By making an effort to invest in them, we can learn their story. We can discover what motivates their giving and, if our mission truly aligns with their philanthropic goals, we can nurture a relationship that will move them from making donations to making investments in our work.

While you likely already have a donor outreach plan in place, just in case, here’s a very simple strategy for you to jump start your efforts and to help you change your habits:

  • Commit to making two donor calls every day. (That’s 10 calls each week)
  • Commit to having two face-to-face donor meetings each week. (That’s 8 – 10 visits a month)

Start there. All in, that’s probably a four-five hour commitment each week. If you are already executing at or above this level, congratulations, that’s great! Now challenge yourself to increase your weekly efforts by 10% or work on further engaging your Board members in the effort.

Regardless of what you specifically commit to, please do it. You can start with major donors, first-time givers, donors who have given for 3/5/10 straight years… whatever works for you.

We know that our individual donors are everything when it comes to building sustainable funding to advance our mission. Give yourself and your organization the opportunity to focus your time and attention on connecting with your donors. I promise that you’ll quickly see the fruits of your efforts and, in the end, they’ll thank you for it!

If you have a great donor outreach story or a strategy that works really well for you, we’d love to hear about it. Send them along and we’ll share your experiences in a later post.

Thank you, as always, for the amazing work that you do! 

David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Special Events – how to increase your revenue

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Don’t we, as develop professionals, cringe when a board member or a volunteer suggests we host more events to raise more money for our not for profits?  Events do serve a purpose.  Beyond raising money, they help build relationships with new donors, enhance relationships with current friends and allow organizations to showcase their mission to a broad audience in a very visible way.

Yet, while hosting events is important, they are also labor intensive for the staff.  If you have a board or a volunteer committee that is really pushing for more events, consider suggesting enhancing the efforts of a current event that is already on the docket.  And, engage your board and committee to help with this new effort.

One way to increase revenue of an event is to secure more sponsorship dollars.  And, while it would be awesome, these sponsorships don’t have to come from large corporations.  One local organization that I have worked with did an amazing job enlisting their board and volunteers to increase sponsorship from local community businesses.  Each board and event committee member was charged with a new task…bring in three sponsorships to help increase revenue for the event.  How did they do this?  Well, for starters, we, the development team,  made it easy.  We provided sample emails and sponsorship materials that were easy to either mail or forward electronically.  We took the leg work out of it and made it as easy as possible for our volunteers to ask for support.

We also provided ideas of how easy it is to secure sponsorships – and this proved to be extremely successful.  We shared that Board Member X asked her insurance agent, her realtor and her neighbor who owns a local business to see if they would consider sponsorship.  She had success on all three fronts…ranging from sponsorship gifts of $250 to $1,500.  Just think…if every board member and volunteer brought in three new sponsorships…that could really add up quickly.

For this organization, this was a huge success.  With this simple strategy, they more than doubled their sponsorship from the prior year.  It was a real win – both financially for the not for profit, but, also for the volunteers who secured the gifts.  They felt a real sense of empowerment and those who were successful at the onset, became ambassadors to the rest of the group and encouraged them to follow suit.

I strongly encourage you to take a look at the ROI of each of your current events and ask the questions…are these events worth doing?  What new strategies can be implemented to maximize the fundraising results?  And, how can you engage your board and volunteer committees to tap into their networks?  As event season is just around the corner, I wish you good luck and encourage you to try some new strategies!  Three cheers for no new events…just refined and enhanced strategies for the winningest event in town!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Starting a Giving Circle / Major Gift Society

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Does your organization have a giving circle? We recently started one with one of our clients and it’s been a lot of fun. In a few short months, we have raised nearly $200,000 and have about 170 members. Here’s how we started.

First, we identified the need — what project did the organization need to raise money for? It turned out a costly roof replacement was needed to protect a beloved facility that all members benefit from.

Then we created a name for this group. We brainstormed. We crossed off a lot of our entries, and finally arrived at a name that most agreed with.

Then, came the solicitation materials. We included the following items:

First was a personalized letter inviting recipients to join this “esteemed group of members.” Each letter was signed by the CEO of the organization and many contained a personalized note. The letter contained a request for a specific (minimum) dollar amount. There was also a personalized response form with the recipients’ name and contact information. It included a description of the benefits we were excited to offer members such as “member only” gatherings, periodic updates on how their contribution was being used, and special admission to an annual signature event put on by this nonprofit. Of course, a response envelope accompanied all of this, and a live US stamp was used instead of the indicia from the postage machine, for that final, personalized touch.

We called the recipients within a few days of them receiving the letter and asked them to please consider joining. Then, the responses started rolling in!

But we weren’t done yet.

Several other waves of solicitation letters were needed. This time, we included the names of the members who had already joined. Our prospects saw other community members whose names they recognized. This added even more legitimacy to the program.

Today, we are in our final solicitation phase for this project, and have nearly reached our goal. These memberships were created as one-year commitments. So what will we do when they have expired?

Solicit…..acknowledge…..share impact…..repeat.

Solicit…..acknowledge…..share impact…..repeat.

I have found that most people who care deeply about causes want to surround themselves with other like-minded people. So, by creating a giving circle (or giving group) you will bring people together for a common cause, without the expenses of a traditional fundraising event.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Building a Stronger Board

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A client of mine has been preparing for a campaign for the past 12 months.  Together, we have been working to get the organization “campaign ready” by ensuring they are following best practices and addressing identified shortcomings.  One of our priorities during this time has been making sure that the Board of Directors is at full capacity, and that it is compromised of the right individuals.  What does this mean, exactly?

Often times when my colleagues and I speak with Board members from various organizations, they tell us that they enjoy being advisors and providing guidance to the Executive Director and other key leaders.  While this role can be beneficial at times, it is imperative for individuals to have a clear understanding of their comprehensive role as a Board member.  Every nonprofit should strive to have a Board comprised of individuals who have the traits highlighted below.  Prior to inviting a prospective Board member to join the Board, the Executive Director and Board Chair should make clear these expectations and confirm the prospective member is a good match.

A willingness to invest in the organization

Some organizations have a “give/get” expectation for all Board members.  This could be a specific dollar amount (i.e.: $10,000 give/get) or a sentiment (i.e.: make the organization your “charity of choice” during your Board tenure).  While my personal preference is a specific dollar amount, I also recognize that this may be prohibitive for some organizations and individuals.  One sentiment that rings true for me is “equal sacrifices, not equal gifts”.  Communicating and following this guideline ensures that all Board members are giving what they can to further the mission of the organization.

In addition to supporting the organization financially, Board members must be willing to give of their time.  Attending Board and committee meetings (ideally, in person) must be a priority.  It is also imperative to show up for events and invite guests as appropriate.  Finally, each Board member offers a unique perspective and skillset.  Share these talents by participating in the conversation and offering to assist in ways that benefit the organization.

A passion for the mission

The mission of the organization should be meaningful to each Board member.  It may be difficult to garner enthusiasm – and even more difficult to share that enthusiasm with others – if the work of the organization does not excite the individual.  Over the years, I have been declined a number of invitations  to serve on Boards – not because I didn’t believe they were doing good work, but because I couldn’t get excited about dedicating my time and resources.  Be discerning; it should be a good match for both the individual and the organization.

A strong understanding of what is – and is not – the Board’s area of responsibility

Simply put, the Board’s responsibility is to provide financial support, fiduciary oversight and to hire, evaluate – and if necessary, fire – the Executive Director.  That’s it.  And while that may sound simple, it often gets complicated.  For example, if the Board makes the decision to fire the Executive Director, they may choose to appoint a Board member to step in and serve as an Interim Executive Director.  While it sounds like a simple solution, the Board then becomes more involved in the day-to-day operations and may have a hard time stepping back once a new Executive Director is in place.   Keeping these key responsibilities (financial, fiduciary, ED oversight) “front and center” should provide a clear guide for the Board.

It is also beneficial if the Board has a good sense of governance.  Board meetings should follow a formal protocol, such as Robert’s Rules of Order, to ensure that there is a quorum and that there is time to effectively address issues, answer questions and ensure healthy dialogue.

An openness to different points of view

Finally, Board members should be willing to hear a variety of viewpoints before making a decision.  This openness will ensure that the organization benefits from a diversity of thinking and will help make the organization stronger.

by: Susan Bottum Matejka, Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Patience

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You’ve made The Ask for a transformational gift.  But then:  silence from your prospect.  Weeks go by.  Months go by.  It happens to all of us.  What do you do now?

Fundraising demands enormous patience.  But patience is not the same as inaction.  Here are a few things to consider while you wait for your prospect to respond to your proposal.

First, review the steps you took that led up to The Ask.  Of course you itemized and totaled the donor’s giving history to your organization, as well as the donor’s capacity for a major gift.  You set the meeting at a place conducive to comfort, with enough privacy to allow The Ask to be made without interruption.  You prepared the case and presented it clearly.

Next, review what happened during The Ask.  Did you give the donor the opportunity to reaffirm her/his commitment to your organization?  Did he or she state again that your charity is a top priority for giving now and in the future?  Did you ask the donor if the amount seemed right?  Did you leave written material behind that reiterated your case and your request?  Did you set a timetable for follow up within the next two weeks?

Third, review what has happened since.  Sometimes, nothing happens.  Your follow up calls are not returned.  The silence is deafening!  But take heart that you feel confident about the donor’s commitment and capacity, you’ve affirmed that your charity is a top priority for the donor, you’ve presented your case and followed up professionally and courteously.  This is where Patience comes in!

I’ve been told to “give up” on a donor when this happens.  My advice to you is never do that!  Unless something went terribly wrong in the steps above, be patient.  Continue to communicate as appropriate with your prospect.  He or she is already a major donor, so continue to send birthday cards, holiday cards, invitation to special events, annual appeals, thank you notes, and so on.  Above all, remember this, now seems to you like the perfect time for the donor to make a major gift, but only the donor knows what the perfect time is for him or her to make a major gift.  It’s their money.  It’s their decision.  Your role is to be persistent and above all, Patient!

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Show your donors their impact

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Lisa Bertagnoli from Crain’s recently wrote an article about the CEO of Guaranteed Rate Victor Ciardelli. The Guaranteed Rate Foundation gives money directly to families that have come across an unexpected hardship, to help them in such tough times.

I was fortunate to be interviewed and was quoted as saying “There is a much stronger appetite for donors to know exactly where their money is going. All donors really want to see their investment at work. They want to touch it, feel it, see it truly have an impact.”

So what does that mean?

Simply, shine, in bright lights the impact their donation is having on your clientele.

A major donor for one of our clients has buildings named after him at a major university but has shifted his focus from this particular institution to a small non-profit in Park Ridge. I asked him why recently and he said….”because I know EXACTLY where my money is going. I trust it is changing lives.”

There is so much power in those words. Trusting, seeing and feeling the impact. Bring that impact to your donors, they will appreciate it!

The other key in word in my quote is “investment”.

There is an old adage, if you want your donors to make an investment in you, make an investment in them!

Think creatively about how you can make an investment in your donor. That used to come in a way of a thank you or acknowledgment. While that’s important, think creatively how you can show impact. Could you share impact stories using multi-media, host donors for an “insiders” breakfast, have a Board member invite a donor to a site visit? There are a wide variety of possibilities.

Your donors will feel and truly appreciate your efforts and ultimately, that will result in additional investments!

by: Michael Bruni, Partner, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

How are you spending your summer?

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Summertime brings a period of more relaxed schedules and an opportunity to take a breath in our hectic fundraising worlds right? Thank goodness!

For many of us, tight deadlines are finally loosened like neckties and “to do” lists become more manageable.

So how are you spending your summer?

I spent time with a few key donors this month since their schedules are also more relaxed now. I want to share what I learned.

1) First, I met with a Board member whose son receives services from the nonprofit I represent. We had a great, fun visit. We discovered we both enjoy iced coffee. Yum! I thanked him for his past giving while providing him a personal update on the organization. What I found out:  He had an important question about services for his son and hadn’t asked until now. He also admitted he didn’t understand many of the acronyms that staff often reference in Board meetings. He and his wife are excited about closing on a beautiful summer home property in early Fall. How I followed up: I connected him with the right person to answer the question about additional services for his son. Then created a cheat sheet of those acronyms he mentioned. I gave him a copy and will including it in future on-boarding materials for Board members. I also will follow up on that beautiful summer home, when the time is right. I will encourage him to donate it as a future auction item. It could easily garner $5,000 which will help provide services for more deserving individuals like his son.

2) Next, I met with a past Board member and enjoyed salads overlooking the Chicago River. Ahhhhh. Yes, there is nothing like Chicago in the summertime! I thanked her for her past giving, provided an update on our services. Then asked for another gift for a specific project we are working on.   What I found out: She has a beautiful condo overlooking Millennium Park, and works from home. But she finds that it can be isolating. She is looking for ways to connect with others. She enjoyed her time on our Board and is still willing to help. She offered to host events at her home or at her club in the city. How I will follow up: Well, she made the gift I asked online. So of course I called to thank her. Yeah!! I also am brainstorming with other staff about how to leverage her offer to host a gathering. Maybe we will plan a small fundraiser this Fall for a select group of donors.

So, make a call, go have lunch or iced coffee with some of your favorite donors! They will likely take the time to meet with you — and it will create a deeper connection to your organization, and likely spark new ideas too.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions