A Message of Thanks!

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As we near the close of the fiscal year, we development folks are often busy wrapping up loose ends, finalizing budgets for the new fiscal year as well as sending out just one more appeal or special mailing or e-blast to donors and friends.  While all of this is important and keeps us busy and on our toes, I’d like to propose adding just one more thing to your early summer to-do list…and that is, send a note of thanks to each board member and other special volunteers.

For many, summer tends to be a little slower paced, with folks taking time for a vacation or a weekend getaway…or maybe even a day off for a ball game, a concert or a day at the beach.  Wouldn’t it be nice for your board members and volunteers – key investors and leaders of your organizations – to come home to find not another to-do, or something they need to respond to or a request for help in their mailbox…but a simple note of gratitude waiting for them?

I was recently at a meeting and someone remarked on how nice it was to receive a handwritten note.  I heard the person say…”it felt so genuine…it wasn’t an email!…it made me feel great that they took the time to write to me!”

I promise you…it’s simple, this doesn’t take a huge amount of time, and your effort will not go unnoticed.

Some ideas…

  • Handwrite the note…keep it short and sweet…just tell them how much you appreciate their time work and energy to help your organization fulfill its mission.
  • Send a photo of a grateful client with a simple message…we appreciate you…you helped make this happen.
  • Share a win…a grant proposal awarded, a record number of clients served…whatever it may be. Tell your board member or volunteer that this would not be possible without their leadership and support.

The idea is simple…the message is simple.  But, this effort can go along way with our volunteer leaders.  It tells them that you are appreciative of their work…that you noticed…that you care.  So, pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade, turn on some tunes and start writing your notes!    Have a wonderful summer!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

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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

Quid Pro Quo

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Does your nonprofit provide gifts to your donors?

You know, things like coffee mugs to commemorate pledges, t-shirts for runs, keepsake glassware from a gala.

Quid pro quo is simply an exchange of goods or services, where obtaining the gift is contingent upon a financial contribution.

So should we be providing these items? Does it endear our donors to our organization? Do they care?

There may not be a simple yes/no answer. But I’ll give you a challenge.  Think about OTHER ways to make that same lasting impression.

At my client’s recent gala, each sponsor received a custom hand-made thank you card from a participant in the program. The cards were made by individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and each one was as unique as the artist themselves. They were handed to the sponsors upon check in.

My client received kudos for making such a great connection to the mission. I don’t think a wine glass would have received that sort of response.

We also have a few older donors who don’t come out for events and aren’t even comfortable with a personal visit for coffee.  Our exchanges are limited to the phone, email and letters. While this frustrates me as a development officer, I understand.

I need to remember to meet these folks where they are at. Not try to mold them to how I like to communicate, right? So this month I sent them a canister hand-painted by our art group with a note and cookies inside.  They absolutely loved it and the cost is in line with what I would spend on them if I took them to lunch.

So I challenge you to be creative. Think about what your nonprofit has to offer. Maybe a photo in a frame of children reading books purchased with recent contributions is more meaningful than a traditional give-away. Brainstorm with your program service staff to find memorable ways to make a lasting impression on your donors. And hint… it’s probably not a lapel pin.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Continuity in Your Development Office

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Recently someone posted a thoughtful message on Facebook, meant to provide a framework for social media messages:
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?

I gave this message a “thumbs up” response, I guess because so much of what people write seems to be not true, not kind, and/or not necessary!

All of this took on renewed importance this week, when I heard a couple of people describe their recent disappointment with a non-profit organization to which they had been exceedingly generous over many years.  The situation they described was essentially this: the leadership has changed; the people in the development office have changed; communication has been spotty at best; and no one seems to “get it” or care.

This is a devastating situation for a fundraising operation, and in my experience it is far too common.  New people come in to leadership positions and seek to boost their own credibility by discrediting the activities of prior leaders.  The new regime wants to start over with new prospects, new strategies, and new techniques. There is nothing wrong with taking a fresh look at all of that, but it is devastating if the most loyal and generous donors are neglected and lost.

The questions I saw on Facebook can be helpful as you think about your communication strategies with prospects and donors:

Your communications must be TRUE:  don’t buy into the narrative that nothing good every happened before the new leadership team arrived!  Seek out those who gave in the past and listen carefully to what motivates them to give.    Get a list of the top 10, top 25, top 50, and top 100 prior donors and reach out to every single one of them over time.  Make a phone call, write a letter, and ask for a face to face meeting.  Never ever fail to follow up!

Your communication must be KIND: don’t build yourself up by disparaging past leaders of the organization.  People give to people, and the donor thought enough of the prior administration to make a gift while those people were in charge.  Make sure you communicate to your past donors that, although the leadership has changed, the mission of your organization remains the same!

Your communication with prior donors is NECESSARY:  do not pick and choose!  Don’t listen to people who say “Oh you don’t to waste your time talking to that donor.”  In rare instances, a past donor may have specified in your records that s/he no longer wishes to be contacted, and if so that request must be honored.  But otherwise, attempt to reach all prior major donors.  You will be rewarded with great stories, new insights, and continued major gifts!

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

 

Are you loyal to your loyal donors?

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I’ve been a loyal donor to a several organizations in my lifetime.  By “loyal donor” I mean this:  I’ve contributed to these organizations regularly over a number of years, to the point where my contributions are what I consider substantial.

What I’ve noticed is that I’ve been treated differently by these organizations.  One of them sends me an annual appeal form letter, and asks me to make a gift to their annual fund.  After I make my gift I receive at thank you letter from the development office.  I’m not impressed.  Do they know that I’ve given before?  Do they know that I’ve given regularly for over twenty years?  Do they know that I consider the cumulative value of my contributions to this organization to be significant?  Do they even know that I value their mission and consider them one of my top three charitable interests?  Their behavior toward me would suggest that they know none of these things!

Another organization to which I have been a loyal donor has treated me very differently.  I receive an annual appeal of course.  And I get a thank you letter from the development office.  But in addition, I receive the following:

  • An annual invitation to breakfast with the CEO and leadership team, to receive the latest news on the mission of the organization
  • Membership in a loyalty society, recognizing donors who have given consistently for ten years or more
  • A monthly digital calendar showing pictures of the organization at work (I never use the calendar, but I know I’m being thought of!)
  • A Christmas card
  • A handwritten thank you note from a member of the Board of Directors following my annual contribution
  • A letter acknowledging when I cross a threshold (“your lifetime giving to our organization places you among our most consistent and valued donors…”
  • Written appeals to make a bequest and/or to join a planned giving society for the organization
  • A phone call from a member of the development staff, asking to meet face to face

Question:  which organization do you think I am now considering for a legacy gift, and to which one do you think I will just continue to write an annual fund gift?

Be loyal to your loyal donors!  They may not be your largest donors, but be sure to honor those who are consistent over time, recognize the value of their cumulative gifts, keep them informed about your mission and activities, ask them—face to face—to take the next step in the form of a campaign gift and/or an estate gift.  Your loyal donors will notice how you treat them compared to other organizations!

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

Our Champions

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January 15 is a special day in America…the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. MLK Day is observed on the third Monday of January each year as a day that we remember a champion.  It’s not only a day where banks and schools are closed, but a day to celebrate the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America. Dr. King’s values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service defined his character and empowered his leadership.

MLK Day is also a national day of service.  All across America over this weekend, people are volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutoring those who can’t read, mentoring at-risk youth…the list goes on and the projects are many.  Many of these volunteer efforts impact the organizations that we also work to support.

I encourage you to take pause on this Holiday and think about your leaders.  Who are the champions of your organizations? Many of us are so fortunate to have caring compassionate leaders who dedicate their time and resources to support our organizations.  Our board members, donors, committee members, volunteers and community partners are key to our organization’s success in carrying out our missions.

So on this day, one of hope and promise and celebration of service, take a few minutes to think about your leaders…your champions…and, this week, make the time to write them each a handwritten note of thanks for all that they do.  Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is…what are you doing for others?”  This week, remind your champions that their voice, their commitment and dedication to your mission that impacts others has great meaning and value.  That it makes a real difference and that we are grateful.

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

 

The Human Touch

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Recently, I had to purchase a new phone. The battery was shot, I had limited storage capacity and the service was spotty most of the time. While I was upgrading to a new version and getting a more “robust” phone, I realized every bell and whistle that was being sold to me had nothing to do with what the phone was intended to do, make a phone call.  I’m not a neo-luddite by any means, I just had a sudden a-ha moment that we don’t use the phone or the action of what the phone is intended to do anymore.

Last week, I was reminded how important and honestly how easy it is to pick up the phone and communicate the old fashion way. I was with a colleague who had shifted careers from fundraising to sales – (not much of a difference as we all know) and he was explaining his new role in generating new business, creating leads, cultivating customers, presenting the product and then the ever important follow up. All along the “cultivation” journey he highlighted that his “go-to” was the utilization of his phone to communicate. Not to text, not to email but to actually call someone is what he used as his personal outreach and human touch advantage.

As we head into 2017 and make our list of New Year’s resolutions, I know one of mine will be to take the time to put a human touch on the interaction I have…whether it be with donors, colleagues, friends or family. That human touch will be to make the phone call when it’s more appropriate than the email.  The human touch makes such an impression and just like sending a hand written letter, card or personal note it’s what we need to remember to do more often than not.

During the holiday season, we tend to take time to reflect on the joys of life, a time to be grateful for what we have,  a time to be mindful of what more we can do and what motivates us to keep us going. It’s important to always remember that putting a human touch on our communication is the thoughtful way to say hello, express your thanks and enjoy the human touch way. It’s way more real.

Happy Holidays!

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

Requirements and Best Practices – Organizational Gift Substantiation

by George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

As consultants, we speak often about “best practices.”  Those are the habits and behaviors that individuals and organizations should undertake to provide the highest quality and levels of service.  However, best practices are not requirements (typically).  Though many best practices are driven to ensure we do the best for our organizations as well as the donors who support them, they are simply conventions that allow organizations to be the most effective.  Over the next month or so, I will take a look at the requirements that reside behind best practices.  Today, I look at organizational requirements for gift substantiation.

IRS Publication 1771 provides an explanation of the requirements of Charitable Contribution substantiation.  The IRS imposes record keeping and substantiation rules of charitable contributions and disclosure rules on charities that receive certain quid pro quo contributions:

  • Donors must have a bank record or written communication from a charity for any monetary contribution before the donors can claim a charitable contribution on their federal income tax returns. „
  • Donors are responsible for obtaining a written acknowledgment from a charity for any single contribution of $250 or more before the donors can claim a charitable contribution on their federal income tax returns. „
  • Charitable organizations are required to provide a written disclosure to a donor who receives goods or services in exchange for a single payment in excess of $75

Though there are many best practices that would direct an organization to provide a gift acknowledgement in timely manner, the IRS does not impose a penalty on organizations that do not.  They instead say it is the donor’s responsibility to seek out the required documentation for gifts over $250.  However, if an organizations fails to provide written substantiation of a quid pro quo payment, the IRS can impose a penalty of $10/contribution, not to exceed $5,000 per fundraising event or mailing.

Example of a quid pro quo contribution: A donor gives a charitable organization $100 in exchange for a concert ticket with a fair market value of $40. In this example, the donor’s tax deduction may not exceed $60. Because the donor’s payment (quid pro quo contribution) exceeds $75, the charitable organization must furnish a disclosure statement to the donor, even though the deductible amount doesn’t exceed $75.

As organizations look to build or revise policies and procedures it is essential to know what you are required to do.  However, rarely will requirements alone suffice to build and grow donor support.  Once you have a firm understanding of your requirements,  build procedures that support your donors and build loyalty.  What follows are a few best practices regarding organizational contribution gift acknowledgements:

  1. Provide donors with written gift acknowledgements that specify if any goods or services were received and if so, providing detail and value of said goods and services.
  2. Provide gift acknowledgements in a timely manner, typically within 48 hours (business) of when the gift was received.
  3. For donors who provide multiple gifts to your organization per year, provide a year-end summary outlining all gifts made within that year and provide that prior to April 15th of the following year.  The closer to year end, the better.

 

Donor acquisition is only part of the equation

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by George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutoins

An organization that I know was obsessed with gaining new donors.  They had good reason to be so focused on this subject as their giving percentage from their constituent base was very small.   The need was so great that the “acquire new donors” mantra quickly swept across the department and the organization.  However, in their zeal to acquire donors they put little attention into retaining the donors they acquired.  As a result their donor retention hovered at the 40% mark.

The organization forgot about the basics of customer service. This organization wanted to acquire a donor above all things and neglected the  stewardship aspect of giving.  The organization invested highly in acquisition, the most expensive part of the process, but forgot to invest in maintaining.  They tried to invest in donors but squandered that investment when they didn’t broaden the investment beyond simple acquisition.

Three donor retention habits to acquire:

  1. Show donors that their gifts have impact and make a difference.  Sure we all send thank you notes that acknowledge a gift.  Do those who receive benefit  from the investment (clients, patients, students) ever reach out to donors, share their story and their personal thanks?  This is a way to really show a donor that his/her gift is an investment in someone.
  2. Communicate with donors.  I have heard the lament of donors who say “I only hear from you when you want money!”  Is it true?  Take time to communicate with your donors–share news, call and check in on their life.  Take an active interest in your donors and they will reciprocate.
  3. Provide appropriate recognition.  Do you recognize your supporters?  Do you give donors an opportunity to give anonymously?  We know that when donors allow us to recognize their gifts, it provides a powerful testament to our mission. For many reasons, some donors may not want to be listed or might want to be listed differently than what is normal.  Take the time to find out the donors needs and follow his/her direction.

Donor acquisition is hard, time-consuming and expensive, but it is also necessary.  Do not waste your investment.  Invest in donor stewardship and retention as well as acquisition and your organization will grow and prosper.

Thank you…Thank you…AND Thank you!

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by Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant – HUB Philanthropic Solutions

THANK YOU…Two little words, less than 10 characters and less than 2 seconds of typing time makes the world of difference to any communication, any interaction.

The other day, I was at a steering committee meeting for one of our clients and one of the members of the committee, who is also a major donor,  said to the Executive Director that she loves her letters!

She went on to say…

“You don’t know how much it means to get a letter from you that always has a special handwritten note on it AND you often send notes without asking us for anything at all.  You just want to keep us up to date.  That is so appreciated – thank you!”

After the meeting, the Executive Director and I talked about this and once again, realized just how important and meaningful it is to have “touch” points throughout the year with our donors and friends that support our mission.  We all know that the work of the development staff is busy all throughout the year.  There really isn’t any slow period…we are busy meeting with donors, writing grants, planning and executing events…as you know first-hand, the list continues!  What we do know is that one thing that cannot end up on the short list is thanking our donors and keeping them close to us.  This thoughtful comment of one donor the other day was a great reminder to us that our donors are our partners and investors in our missions.

Here are a few ways to thank your donors throughout the year…

  • Remember their birthdays – a phone call, email or a card goes a long way
  • If you have a wonderful update about a program – call or drop a note and share this with your donors
  • On Valentine’s Day – send a valentine with a special note
  • Thanksgiving – the day that gratitude is top of mind…send a note to your donors, board members and volunteers
  • Share a quote from a client that uses your organization so that your donor knows first-hand the impact their gift is making
  • Invite your donor to come for a visit and have the program staff share some stories about how your programs are making a difference in people’s lives
  • Share a news article tied to your organization or mission and jot a hand written note to go along with it
  • Your data is powerful – call a donor when they’ve made their 25th, 50th, 100th gift and thank them

There are so many ways to thank our donors.  Be creative and thoughtful.  Build your Thank-you’s into your annual development plan…this is one way to ensure that you stay on track.  When someone gives their time, advice, money, support…whatever they did – the bit that is most remembered is whether or not it was appreciated.  One final note…THANK YOU for reading this blog today!