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

What’s on your $ 1 Million Wish List?

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During the campaign preparation process with one of our clients, a staff member recently offered up, completely unsolicited, a “$1 million idea” that she had developed. This particular individual knew that we were in the process of clarifying the campaign priorities and took the initiative to present a new program she wanted to see developed at the organization. It was an impressive move on her part, and one that also reminded me how important it is for organizations to have a list of potential funding options at the ready.

In my previous role as a development director for a public foundation, we talked with the executive directors and development staff at our grantee organizations about having just such a wish list on hand. The challenge was to have compelling and viable options at the ready and be able to answer the question, “Do you know what you would do with $1 million (or $5m or $10m) if someone came to you with that kind of offer?

There are a couple of things I specifically love about this exercise.

  • First, it is always a good idea to have a menu of funding opportunities on hand to offer your donors in the event they either have interests outside of your current funding priorities, or they are inclined to make an impact investment  beyond the scope of your current ask.
  • Additionally, going through the process of discovery and creating your “what if” menu is a great way to engage the people who care about and have a stake in your organization’s future and to get everyone thinking about impact.

Do you have such a list? Is it something you update regularly or share with your board members and key donors to get their feedback on?

In my experience, as long as the conversations are framed appropriately (so that everyone’s expectations are clear), discussing what ifs with your program staff, donors, current/past board members and other key folks in your organization is not only a smart planning strategy, it’s also a great way to engage people in thinking creatively about your future and focusing together on how you might have an even greater impact.  I mean, who doesn’t like to dream big, right?

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

Engaging the New Philanthropists

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Thank you to Just Write Solutions Senior Consultant Lisa M. Sihvonen-Binder, MS NMP, for today’s blog.

Millennials. It’s a term we hear a lot on the news, see on social media, and read about in professional publications. Studies show that older generations (Baby Boomers, Gen Xers) get frustrated when trying to interact with them. Who are they? What do they want? How do you communicate with them? How do you get them to communicate with you?

The answers are simple, really. They’re people. They’re people born between 1980-2000. They’re sometimes called “lazy” and the “Me Generation.” While I personally feel there’s some truth to that, we need to understand this generation was raised differently – with fast changing technology, helicopter parents, and a world where acceptance of others and personal freedoms really began to blossom.

For this Gen Xer, born in the late 1960s, I’ve experienced frustrations in communicating with Millennials. I know it takes extra effort on my part and as an individual, I can learn to adapt to the current climate. But how can nonprofit organizations engage this generation that moves fast, likes communications short, and gives to causes they care about if their needs are being met?

Here are some tips I found in “9 Insights on Millennials When it Comes to Philanthropy” (by Brady Josephson at re: philanthropy.com) that might make it easier or more successful.

Of 75,000 Millennials surveyed by The Millennial Impact:

  • More updates – 43% of Millennials want to hear from organizations they donate to monthly. 79% prefer to get updates on the agency’s programs and services while 56% are okay with getting information about fundraising events
  • Send them email – 93% prefer to receive information via email
  • Give them opportunities for monthly giving – 52% are interested in giving monthly
  • Matching donations spur interest in giving – 71% said they’re more motivated to give if their gift is matched by another source
  • Ask them to help fundraise – 70% are willing to help raise funds for an organization they like
  • Give them reasons to trust you – 84% said they are most likely to donate if they trust the organization. Is your agency maintaining transparency? Are you communicating impacts, successes, challenges?

Want more information on generational differences that might impact donor behavior or communication? Check out this “Generational Differences Chart” by the West Midland Family Center in Shepherd, Michigan. What do you think? Does it accurately capture the traits of generations from Traditionalists to Millennials?

We’d love to hear your take. What challenges have you experienced in engaging Millennials? How did you overcome them? What are your success stories?

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

Time for a Change?

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A few of my clients are in the process of reevaluating their major fundraising events, an exercise I think can be very beneficial, especially if it is approached in the right way and with the right spirit.  If your fundraising events are in need of review (or more importantly, a complete overhaul), here are a few steps you can follow.

First, be objective

The facts don’t lie.  Evaluate your event statistics going back at least 5 years: revenue and expenses, sponsors, number of attendees, etc. Identify trends, successes and areas of concern.

Then, be subjective

Our HPS motto is, “people support what they help to create.”  If you are considering making changes to your event (or more importantly, replacing it all together), it is imperative to seek input from your constituents.  Take time to meet with committee members, both current and past.  Consider conducting a survey or a few focus groups.  In addition to requesting feedback on this event, ask your constituents about events they have attended for other organizations and determine what they like (and don’t like) about those events.  What you will discover through this process is that, no matter what decision you make, your constituents will feel like they had a voice in the process.

Now what?

While change can be unnerving, it can also be refreshing.  Whether you are simply eliminating a silent auction or replacing an entire event, make the decision and move forward with gusto.  Communication will continue to be an essential part of the process going forward.  Recruit some “ambassadors” – key volunteers, staff members, etc. to help you share the good news.  Arm them with the simple facts regarding the change and provide them with some exciting details about the new event.

Give it time

If you are replacing an event or part of an event, it is a good idea to remind your Board members, your volunteers, and especially yourself that change takes time.  You may not net the same about of revenue in the first year.  You may also determine that the change you made was not the right decision or did not go far enough.  Consider this a process, be willing to objectively evaluate the outcomes and continue to make the changes necessary to grow your event and ultimately your constituent base.  And remember…change is exciting!

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

It’s Springtime… what are you hoping to grow?

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The tulips, trees, lilacs and just about everything else is in bloom here in the Chicago area. It is quite a welcome and energizing sight. And, while the natural blossoming of springtime is a spectacle worthy of enjoyment, depending on your circumstances–this is also the perfect time to seed and fertilize your lawn or to get after working the soil and planting your garden. In other words, now is a great time to get busy in preparation for summer and the eventual fall harvest.

In the world of non-profits… spring is also the time for gala season and, for many with a June 30th target, the final push to make our fiscal year-end a success. These are necessary and critical pursuits, for certain.

However, this is also the perfect time to look at our community of donors, volunteers and colleagues to determine who it might make sense for us to pay some extra attention to. Where can and should we be focusing some of our energies to help ensure our fundraising efforts will blossom in the months ahead?

  • Is there a current or former board member that you have been meaning to connect with, but the actual outreach seems perpetually stuck on your pile of good intentions?
  • Are there folks on your program staff that, despite your best laid plans, you never get around to talking to about what is new and exciting?
  • Are there a couple of donors that you feel – if you just had the time to get to know them better and discover a bit more about how their philanthropic priorities align with your mission – that they might be poised to make a significant investment?

If we fail to tend to our garden of opportunities we — and more importantly our organizations and the people we serve — will undoubtedly miss out on the potential bounty that comes with nurturing deeper connections and fostering increased engagement. So, by all means, keep on track with your near term goals. That is an absolute necessity. However, it is just as crucial that you don’t miss your chance to identify and cultivate relationships that could ensure a more impactful fundraising harvest between now and the end of 2017.

So, let’s all roll up our sleeves and get busy. And be sure to let us know how things work out for you at harvest time.

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

Are Cultivation Calls Becoming Extinct in an Age of Online Grant Making?

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Today’s Guest Blog is by Just Write Solutions Associate, Jennifer Rathburn.

Recently, I have noticed a distinct change in response when making cultivation phone calls for clients. When calling various Foundations, I have found conversations going something like this:

Me: “Hello! My name is Jennifer Rathburn and I am calling on behalf of Organization ABC. We provide X service to the Y community and are reaching out to see if your Foundation is funding. We believe we are a good match for your past giving and want to be sure that our focus areas still align.”

 Foundation Rep: “You can find all of the information about our grants online at our website. Do you have our website address?”

Definitely not an open door for conversation…

On a positive note, the rise in technology has allowed Foundations to put the majority of the grant information on their website including: Foundation history, Foundation Board of Directors, areas of interest, application process, deadlines, reporting requirements, etc. This allows grant seekers the ability to research funding opportunities with ease and provides the grant makers a streamlined approach to getting information out to the public and accept proposals online.

However, has the rise in online grant making made us lose the need for cultivation calls for relationship-building? As I am making phone calls and receiving the above response from many, I question the need to continue reaching out to funders who seem disinterested in engaging by phone. It is in these times that I go back to the words of a very wise women (Heather Stombaugh, JWS Principal Consultant and Grants Guru) who said “We know people give to people. Building and managing relationships through cultivation and stewardship are every bit as critical to the grants process as they are to major giving.”

We need to continue to reach out and foster partnerships with funders. Not for the good of our bottom line but for the good of the people we serve. So, let’s work to embrace technology in the grant making process while keeping alive the “dinosaur” of a relationship-builder that is the first phone call.

How are you cultivating relationships with grant funders?

 

Be Interested

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When my wife and I first found out we were going to become parents, I started collecting quotes and bits of advice that I wanted to share with our children as they grew up. Some are obvious, some silly and still others likely won’t have meaning for them until much later in life.

The other day, I found myself repeating to our youngest one of the nuggets I have shared on multiple occasions with both of our boys:

Instead of trying too hard to be interesting, put your energy into being interested.

 I won’t say it is my favorite quote of all time, but the number of occasions on which it was apropos of sharing over the years clearly indicates that it is a worthy reminder.  And, while I am unable to pinpoint who deserves attribution for the original idea – as evidenced in part by the variations here from Dale Carnegie and John Gardner – I am definitely an advocate of its practice.

“It occurs to me, Jim, that you spend too much time trying to be interesting. Why don’t you invest more time being interested?”                                                                                                                                                              -Advice from John Gardner to Jim Collins

While there has yet to be an occasion when I’ve offered up this advice to my boys regarding fundraising, it is absolutely a habit that can and should be embraced by every development professional–and fundraising volunteer for that matter.

We all know that we should be focused on our donors’ needs and on their agenda, but how often do we find ourselves in conversations where we are more focused on persuasion than on understanding? Whether it’s meeting someone at an event for the first time, a one-on-one cultivation meeting or a gift solicitation, there is little doubt that the most effective and engaging approach is to focus our energies on their interests/stories/needs.

If your focus is on being interested, you will have a much greater opportunity to Build Meaningful Connections. As part of our capital campaign preparation efforts, I once again have the honor of participating in engagement interviews for one of my current clients. It is an hour long conversation where I simply ask for their thoughts, ideas and perspectives. The conversations are designed to learn about what drives our donors and volunteers and how the organization’s work aligns (or doesn’t) with their personal priorities. And I can say with absolute certainty, that each of these encounters creates a deeper sense of connection to the organization because our donors feel valued and heard.

When you spend more of your time listening and trying to discover what matters most to your donor(s), the odds of experiencing a Successful Solicitation increase dramatically. If we come at our donors with an avalanche of information about our needs without ever finding out theirs, we all but guarantee that we will fail to inspire them to give a gift that matches the level of their personal philanthropic passions.

For consultants and other business professionals, the practice of being interested is also critical when you are working to Engage a New Client. Our team was recently awarded a new client contract after a fairly intense process. The CEO told us that one of the keys to our success was the fact that, to a person, everyone we talked with – from executives, to Board members to junior level staff members – they all said that we didn’t just come in an make a case for why we were the best, we listened and we were honestly interested in what they had to say.

So, the next time you’re preparing for an important conversation, make sure that you are focused on what the other person is most interested in. Making the conversation about their needs and their interests will undoubtedly result in you having more success in achieving your goals.

by: David Gee, Associate Vice President, 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

 

Countdown to the End of the Fiscal Year

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With spring weather approaching (we can only hope!), I find myself gearing up to clean out closets, wash windows and get things in order at home.  I want to be ready to spend more time outside…running (because it’s finally light outside in the morning), working in the garden, riding bikes and watching my son play baseball.

At the office, I also find myself readying for a new season…and also counting down to the end of the fiscal year.  As most non-profits close the year on June 30, we are in the final stretch to meet our fundraising goals.  It’s a good time to review our budgets…and see where we may be up a little (cheers!) or still have a ways to go.  Now is a good time to take a hard look at each revenue bucket and make final adjustments to our plans to reach…or maybe even exceed our goals.

Is your Gala just around the corner?  Maybe it would be beneficial to add a few more visits with potential sponsors or underwriters.  Enlist your committee or board members and ask each one to bring an additional prospect to the table.   If you have a major gift program, make a mini pyramid of prospects and list the potential gifts that you could work to secure from now to the close of the fiscal year.

How about a spring mailing?  Gone are the days when not for profits only send out one mail appeal at the close of the calendar year.  I’ve found that a spring mailing that asks for support of a special project or has a matching component can go a long way.  Some years ago, one of my clients mailed packets of Forget Me Not seeds to lapsed donors.  Another organization asked their alumnae to make gifts in variations of 3’s… a number special to the organization.  All of these direct mail pieces were complimented by email blasts that were sent before and after the mailing and included options for giving online.  These ideas were creative and not overly complicated, they didn’t break the bank, and, they made it simple for the donor to make a gift.

As we tweak our year-end activities, it’s also perfect timing to begin thinking about our plans for the next fiscal year.  What worked well this year?  What didn’t?  What projects were on the list that we weren’t able tackle?  I always find that a short-term plan with clear goals and specific metrics helps guide me to the finish line.  It’s my short burst to complete the marathon of the fiscal year.  As you gear up for spring, both at home and at the office, enjoy the sunlit mornings, warmer weather and, cheers to your well-mapped out trek to close another successful year!

by: Susanna Decker, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions