When “No” is a Good Thing!

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Lately, I have been spending a lot of my time working with a client that is the midst of a capital and endowment campaign. It’s been an amazing journey for this client as they have raised more money than ever before AND they secured the largest gift they have ever realized in their long history of service and good work.  Truly, a lot to celebrate!

The team has followed a carefully crafted plan to get us to our finish line…and we are getting so close!  But, not without some bumps along the way.  As this business in working with our donors is all about relationships, I am reminded that some things – good and bad – are simply out of our control.  Even the best laid plans experience a curve ball here and there.

One particular bump in the road came when a donor had shared with us that he would make a significant gift to the campaign, but, when push came to shove, he decided his interest in increasing his current annual support was more important to him than backing the campaign.  While this was a bit of a blow to us at first…we realized that this wasn’t really a bad thing.  That this “NO” was actually a good thing!  The campaign afforded us the opportunity to get to know this donor even better.  Truly, we further cultivated his relationship with the organization, and while our hope was that he would give to the campaign, he became more engaged in the current mission.  At this time in his life, he wanted to see some of the impact that his gift would make on those the organization served.  But, he also shared another important tidbit…while he wanted to see the difference his gifts made today, he also wanted to ensure the future of the organization.  In fact, he told us that he had named this organization as a beneficiary in his estate plans.

This situation reminded all of us on the team that, in the end, we need to ensure that our donor’s intention is our top priority.  That sometimes, while WE see our biggest needs as one thing, our donors may not see it the same way that we do.  We can have the best case for support, the best laid plans, but, at the end of the day, it’s up to us to connect our donors with the opportunities and programs that inspire them.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

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It’s not business… it’s personal

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During the Q & A at an AFP Chicago workshop I attended last week, one of the presenters touched upon the notion that fundraising is not sales. I found myself leaning over to my tablemate and whispering, “I’m not so sure that I agree.”

While there are elements and nuances of the philanthropic relationship that extend beyond what we tend to think of with the transactional nature of sales, I have found that there is more than enough common ground. The goal in both cases is to help meet a need or to solve a problem that our donors/customers care about. At the end of the day, our success is linked directly to our ability to address those personal goals.

The truth is that I’ve discovered great ideas and lessons from practitioners that are directing their voices more towards the sales and marketing sectors. In particular, I have found a ton of inspiration from Seth Godin’s daily blog and wanted to share one of his recent posts. Seth does a fantastic job of framing the customer’s perspective in a very donor-centric fashion,

“Are you trying to sell me something?”  

“For a culture that spends so much time and money buying things, you’d think we’d be more excited when someone tries to sell us something.

But we’re not.

The semantics are important here. What we really mean is, “are you trying to selfishly persuade me to buy something that will benefit you more than it benefits me?”

We’re goal-directed, risk-averse and self-focused. We don’t care about the salesperson’s commission, of course. We care about our own resources.

The magic happens when the goals are aligned, when the service component of sales kicks in, when long-term satisfaction exceeds short-term urgency.

When someone acts in a way that says, “can I help you buy something?” or, “can I help you achieve your goals?” then we’re on our way. And of course, it’s the doing, not the saying that matters the most.”

The other presenter at last week’s workshop was a donor and volunteer. Her advice to the room not only reinforces Seth’s case, it is a great reminder of what is going on in the minds of our donors. She said that we should, “appreciate where your donor is coming from.” That, “This is very personal… I’m choosing to make an investment in your organization with money that I could otherwise be giving to my family.” We all have great reasons why we think people should support our mission, but at the end of the day, we’re making a big mistake if we lose sight of the opportunity to support their personal philanthropic mission.

Regardless of where you stand in terms of the relationship between the arts of fundraising and sales, I would suggest we can all agree that focusing our efforts on helping our donors achieve their personal goals is the path to success for everyone involved.

by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Partnership Boards: Effective Vehicles for Advancing Your Mission

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I’ve recently been helping a non-profit organization that wisely decided to form regional partnership boards to strengthen awareness and support for their mission.  It has given me ample opportunity to reflect on the characteristics of effective partnership boards and when they make the most sense for an organization to consider implementing such a strategy.

A partnership board is a group of organizational supporters from a region where your organization is active.  The primary purposes of such a board are to enhance awareness of your work in the region and to strengthen your capacity for fundraising in the community.  It is not a governing board, and it does not take the place of a board of directors or trustees.

Partnership Boards may be right for your organization if you are trying to build support in different regions of the country or different communities in an urban area.  Think of them as similar to the regional alumni organizations that are hosted by national universities.  At first the gatherings can be primarily social occasions, designed to bring people together to hear from organizational leaders about new developments in the region, and to learn of the impact you have or hope to have on people who live there.  Every such occasion should include a menu of “asks:”  to donate, to become more involved, to identify others who should be included in future events.

When recruiting for such a board, you will want to identify key individuals who are leaders in the community, who have a passion for your mission, and who are willing to commit to helping you strengthen your efforts in the region.  You will want some philanthropists on the board, but more importantly, you’ll need to identify those who want to see your organization have a greater impact in the local community.  Ask yourself the question:  who are the people who can help us get the job done in this community?  These are the people you will want to invite to serve on your partnership board!

A partnership board can provide valuable advice and counsel to your organization without demanding a lot of time from its members.  Since you may have several such boards in different regions, you’ll want to plan for them to meet just twice a year.  Between meetings, you can keep members informed of the assistance you need in a given region, but you can also hold up examples of effective support in each region that will inspire other regions to do the same.

Partnership boards can be excellent proving grounds for building your board of trustees.  Those who excel at advancing your mission at the regional level can be asked to make the greater commitment to joining your board.

Fundraising is seldom about radically new ideas; it’s always about the old idea that your mission needs support!  Partnership Boards may help you achieve that support at the local level.

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

Head out the Door!

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How many donors did you visit this week?  Did you get out of your office, away from your phone and computer, and get in front of your donors?  I recently had a conversation with a development officer who felt her major gift program had stalled.  She shared with whom she wanted to meet, what the strategy was for each prospect, and quickly outlined a wonderful plan to help launch a new program.

The problem was simple…she had a great plan, but, she wasn’t getting out of the office to talk with her donors!  Why?  We all know too well how busy we get with daily tasks that need to get done…maybe a grant to write, an event that needs to be tended to, or various meetings to attend?

It’s an age-old problem and one that I believe needs to be revisited at the start of every fiscal year.  How many calls will you make each day?  What is your goal for visits?  How can some of the other tasks be tabled or delegated to another staff member so that you can get out the door?

Many years ago, one of my mentors, Jim Stack, told me that development work is simple…it’s not rocket science.  We have to build relationships with our supporters and keep them engaged with the mission.  Every week, he was out the door asking for gifts, thanking donors for their investments and at every single meeting, he furthered the relationship the donor had with the organization.

It’s not rocket science…Jim was right!  And, it’s a good reminder to all of us that we need to make a concerted effort to get out the door and spend our time in a way that is most cost effective for the agencies we represent.

So, today, I challenge you…set your weekly goal for calls and visits and stick to it!  GET OUT THE DOOR and watch your major gift goals SOAR!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Summer Camp Learning

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It’s mid-July and I’m pretty much camped out. Since school let out in early June, I’ve dropped my kids off at dance camp, tennis camp, soccer camp, swim camp and drama camp and we still have six weeks to go!

As a child, I “went away” for seven-weeks to ONE camp each summer in the heavily wooded, hilly terrain of Northern Ontario several hours north of Toronto. My time as a camper in a cabin with no electricity from kids all over the world obviously was a positive one as I repeated this summer trek “Up North” for the next nine summers transitioning from camper to Counselor in Training and eventually to a Counselor the last several summers.

My experience of camp was much different than the experience my kids are having at camp here in the City of Chicago, however the one constant is the focus each of the camps strives to convey. With each of the camps I’ve associated with this summer, there is a clear understanding of what the end goal is by the end of camp.  Each strives to show the campers a good time, but each has an obvious objective for the campers to learn specific skills and improve on based on the programs that each of the camps is offering.

In my colleague David Gee’s blog post, To Be Interested, which he shared back in April, he challenges us to remain focused on the understanding of donors. Not necessarily on persuading them right from the start early in the cultivation and relationship building process, but by putting your energies into being interested in them first.

The summer months are an opportune time to re-focus on understanding how we can learn from our everyday donor experiences. Are we learning from our donors on their giving habits? Are we gaining wisdom from our donors on how they are communicating with us both in the frequency as well as with the specific vehicle? Are we constantly evaluating the changing donor landscape and how they may be changing their expectations of us as fundraisers? We get our news differently in 2017 as we did in 2007 so how will we stay ahead of the changing dynamic in how people donate and what their expectations are of us in how we report, share results and show impact?

What have you learned from a recent donor interaction? What have you done to learn more about or from a lapsed donor?

The summer camp season is almost over, but learning from our donors will never end.

by: Tim Kennedy, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Are you remaining curious?

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Recently, the founder of one of the world’s largest Public Relations firms in the world passed away. Al Golin, (the name of the firm that still bears his name) died at the age of 87 years after 60 years in the business and never having retired.

Al is best known for being the guy who made a cold call to the founder of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, asking Mr. Kroc if he needed help telling the story about this new restaurant business he was hoping to expand across the country.  Al was hired on the spot and became a pioneer as he helped the young company adopt a culture of getting involved in the community, partnering with local organizations and establishing charitable tie-ins….now a prerequisite in the world of corporate America.

Though Al is best known for that encounter with Ray Kroc and advising this corporate behemoth to implement what is now known as Corporate Social Responsibility into their business plan, what he’s truly known for was his integrity, thoughtfulness and curiosity.

As my colleague David Gee shared in a past blog post, Be Interested, focusing on understanding and striving to be interested not interesting will certainly help with building connections vs one-time encounters. Al Golin was notorious for building connections. He was always interested in others, and asked tons of questions learning their backgrounds, their story and about their families.  He was never too busy or too important to answer a question or talk with his employees about a project or client. He was always learning and pushing others to strive to learn more. Because of this, GOLIN still works for McDonald’s today….the longest PR agency and client partnership in history.

As you head in the summer months, I challenge you to remain mindful of being present with your key stakeholders, your most loyal donors (large and small), maintain the connections and touchpoints through the summer and at the same time strive to learn more about them as well as your own development efforts. Strive to learn more on how to enhance your donor recognition efforts, strive to learn more by brainstorming innovative stewardship practices, strive to learn more on how and when your donors want to be communicated with. Are you remaining curious on how they react to your appeals? Your annual reports? Your fundraising events?

Whether it’s with proposal submissions, appeal letters, general stewardship or board member interaction; maintaining the connections, being curious and always striving to learn more on how to be a better development professional are things we constantly need to be mindful of.

We all can learn from an old PR legend like Al Golin who knew how to maintain and keep long standing relationships.

by: Tim Kennedy, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions