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

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Don’t Forget the Spouse!

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Let’s face it:  major gifts are major decisions.  Your prospects likely are very much like mine.  They reach a decision to make a major gift after a long process of cultivation, thought, and reflection.  This process involves the head and the heart.  Decisions are made based on what the donor thinks about your organization, its leadership, and its mission.  And decisions are made about how the donor feels about the impact of the gift and the good it will do.

In most households, the donor and spouse (or significant other) make major decisions.  So it is important that fundraisers, when appropriate, include the partner in the cultivation and solicitation process.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Address all correspondence to the prospect and partner
  • Include both in cultivation events
  • Remember the partner’s birthday as you do the prospect’s
  • Solicit the major gift from both of them, remembering to attend to both people with your eyes and ears!
  • Consciously plan your solicitation to engage both the mind and the heart of both people

Does this seem obvious?  You’d be surprised how many times I’ve coached those involved in a solicitation to pay attention to the spouse, only to watch them faun over the prospect while failing to really engage the partner!

On the other hand, I’ve also seen spouses step in and really turn the tide in favor of a major gift.  In one instance, I was told by the donor that “my wife really was the one to convince me” to make a $1 million gift.  On another occasion, we received a $1 million donation that surprised us because it seemed on paper that the donor was more connected to other institutions than to our own.  In this instance, the son of the major prospect (and ultimate donor) told me “my mom was really the one who decided to do this.”

Remember:  major gifts are major decisions.  And major decisions are seldom made by individuals in isolation.  Cultivate your prospects and their spouse or significant other.  You’ll be glad you did.

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, 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

What’s Your Why?

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Are you currently developing or refining your case for support? Maybe you are preparing for a capital campaign or defining the case for a major gift initiative. If you have recently completed a new strategic plan or finished crafting your development plan, you may be revisiting and updating the overarching case for your organization.

(By the way, for some great ideas on successful development plans, check out my colleague Susan’s post from a few weeks back, Does Your Organization Have a Development Plan?)

Two of my current clients are in the process of developing their case for support in advance of an upcoming capital campaign. For each, the identified campaign priorities come from of a recently completed strategic plan so there is a high degree of confidence in their merit and a solid rationale for the actions to be taken. However, the most crucial element in making the case for each is answering, “the Why?”

Or, as a donor we were testing the priorities with said recently, “And the impact will be… what, exactly?”

While it is still absolutely true that people give to people – not to organizations or to projects – it is also 100% accurate to say that without clear and meaningful impact, donors will look elsewhere with their philanthropic investments. Think about that for a second.

Today’s donors have access to more information and, quite frankly, to more charitable organizations than ever before. At the same time, donors are more sophisticated and/or discerning about where and how they want to invest in making the world a better place.

The days of donors making significant gifts simply because they know you and “you do good work” are over. They want to know what impact their investment will have in the lives of the people you serve, on the environment or in our communities. It is really no different than when making a financial investment in the market. In that instance the impact they are seeking is having their money grow and, in your case, they need to understand how their money will change and/or save lives.

IMPACT ⇒ INSPIRES ⇒ INVESTMENT

So, no matter what you are looking to raise funds for, whether it’s to support scholarships, restore an historic building, expand programming or whatever your goals may be, the case that will grab your donors’ attention and compel them to action is the one that offers a compelling vision for the impact their investment in your good work will have. Make it abundantly clear to them how their philanthropic support is going to help alleviate a problem they care about solving and I promise you, the next step you’ll need to take will be drafting a great letter of gratitude.

If you want to send me an example of an inspiring case for support that you and your team have created, I’ll compile the ones we receive and share them in a future post.

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

Are you “tough as nails” or “soft as cotton?”

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As a CEO, or Executive Director, how would others describe you? Charismatic…pushy…a visionary?

What would your donors and staff say about you?

I’ve worked with many nonprofit leaders. A few have fallen into one of two distinct camps: Tough as nails or soft as cotton.

So which is best?

The soft as cotton leader was magnetic, warm, and a great listener.  He ruled with his heart and hired individuals he knew and trusted to run the organization he founded. Some of the staff members were friends who lacked a nonprofit background.  But he was confident they would find a way to reach the organization’s goals.   He was a consensus builder and attracted donors that inherently trusted him to make the right decisions for the organization.

On the other hand, the tough as nails leader didn’t always entertain the opinions of everyone around the table.  She would not be described as a consensus builder, but was intelligent and made swift decisions.  People might call her firm, but fair. She too, put the mission of the organization first.

These two people are opposites in my mind, but it takes all kinds of leaders to make the world go round right? So which ED would you trust to use your hard eared, donations wisely? Who would seek to guide your organization into the future?

You see, the warm, magnetic leader didn’t put the right people into the right positions to lead the organization. He ruled too much with his heart and not enough with his head.  This jeopardized the mission.

The tough as nails leader earned my dollar, my respect, my time.

I trusted this leader to sidestep emotions that might develop during tough decision and keep the mission of the organization first. As an individual, her magnetism was easily rivaled, but as a leader, she was solid, believable, and trustworthy.

Each of us has an impact on the level of trust that donors have in our organizations. Find the style that works best for you.  Most importantly be the type of leader you would follow.

by: Michelle Jimenez, Senior Consultant HUB Philanthropic Solutions

Does Your Organization Have a Development Plan?

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For many of our clients, summer brings a bit slower pace…and with it, time to plan for the year ahead.  I am currently working with several clients on either updating or creating an annual Development Plan.  Do you have one for your organization?  If not, now would be as good a time as any to create one!  Here are a few things to consider.

Determine your fundraising goal for the year

This is often easier said than done!  Ideally, the Executive Director and Director of Development, in conjunction with Finance and the Board, should identify a realistic – yet stretch – fundraising goal for the year.  This goal should NOT be based on a “gap” in the budget.  Too often, when asked how the fundraising goal was identified, the answer I receive is, “Well, we determined the annual operating budget for the year, and there was a shortfall, so Development is responsible for “funding the gap”.  This almost always backfires and positions the Development office for failure.   This goal should be based on objectives and outcomes from the prior 1-3 years, along with an understanding of any specific needs in the year ahead.  A realistic stretch goal will challenge everyone to work a little harder – and smarter – to accomplish this objective.

Identify specific objectives and outcomes to ensure success

Events are an easy place to start.  Look at your revenue and expenses for each event from the prior 1-3 years.  Set a realistic target  – perhaps a 10% increase – to determine your fundraising goal for each event.  Next, identify ways in which you plan to attain those goals.  Are you doing enough to increase the number of sponsors for each event?  Is it time to raise the ticket price?  Are you giving away too many tickets?  Are there creative ways in which you can cut expenses?

The Annual Fund is another key component.  How many appeal letters are you sending annually?  Is it enough?  Are you sending too many?  What is the ROI on each appeal?  Once you have the facts, you can set your goal to increase your raise for the year.  Make sure you are considering all aspects of your appeals, which includes possibly segmenting and personalizing your letter.   Also, be sure you are telling a story about the work of your organization to make the letter more emotionally appealing.  Consider whether to incorporate Giving Tuesday into your annual fundraising process.  (Note, while there are a lot of great outcomes from Giving Tuesday, I do not feel it is the best use of time for every organization, so I recommend you do your homework and approach this thoughtfully and strategically.)

Consider other sources of revenue for your organization.  Do you have a Planned Giving Society?  Is your organization eligible for grants and/or corporate partnerships?  Set financial goals and specific objectives for each revenue stream.

And…I save the most important for last.  Your individual donors.  Have you defined your giving levels, including major donors (For example, those who give $1,000 or more annually)?  How are you cultivating donors at each level?  Once you have determined the baseline for each level, set a goal to increase the number of donors at each level and identify the objectives to ensure you meet these goals.  And here is the key:  Meeting this goal will require you to set aside time each week for donor cultivation.      

Be strategic

Look at all aspects of your Development operation to ensure that everything you do is supporting your fundraising goals.  Does your monthly newsletter highlight a donor?  Do you list your donors in the Annual Report?  Are you, your staff and/or your Board members calling donors to say Thank You?  Are you strategically publicizing your activities through press releases and other external communications?  How does the website highlight donors?

Creating a strong and realistic Development Plan takes time.  But by investing the time, creating the roadmap and ultimately working the plan, I am confident you can achieve your fundraising goals for the year.  Good luck!

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

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

Taking the Long View

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I was fortunate enough to see the musical Hamilton recently, and it reminded me to take the long view of our nation’s history.  Among its themes:  change is contentious, governing is difficult, and consensus is rare.

We fundraisers deal with change and governance in our organizations, and we seek consensus about our next moves.  If your organization has a history that spans several decades, I encourage you to take the long view of your fundraising efforts.

Maybe your CEO wants to know how s/he is doing with fundraising, and wonders whether the expectations that are set are realistic.  Maybe your board has become more active in recent years and needs some encouragement that their efforts are in fact paying off with improved fundraising results.  All of us—executives, volunteers, and fundraising staff—want to know whether the results we are achieving are positive for the organization.

Looking at an annual report will tell you some of what you want to know, but taking the long view will tell you more!  Here’s all you need to do.  Gather up all of your year-end numbers for the last twenty, thirty, or forty years.  Take only one number from each of those years:  total funds raised (at year end)Then make a second column, adjusted for CPI to 2017 dollars (you can find the formula for adjusting any calendar year into current year dollars anywhere on the internet).  From there, it is easy to group the results into decades, and to come up with a total for the decade and an average per year over each decade, all in 2017 dollars.

Fundraising is challenging work, but taking the long view may help your organization see the positive results that come from building your program over time.  As Alexander Hamilton would say:  “History has its eyes on you!”

by: Steven Murphy, Ed.D., Senior Advisor, 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

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