If you’re new to to face-to-face fundraising, you’re probably focusing on “the ask” and how to frame your request in the most compelling, inspiring way. Without a doubt, a strong pitch is one of the keys to successful fundraising—but then what? When you hear the words “Yes, I’d like to help,” how do you respond?

In this webinar, Andy Robinson will discuss the “after questions.” Use them to strengthen donor relationships, serve your donors better, and set the stage to raise even more money in the future.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Andy. My watch just struck 2:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Andy: I look forward to it.

Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, good afternoon, everyone, if you’re on the East Coast. I should say. Good morning, if you’re on the West Coast. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “12 Questions You Can Ask Donors After They Say Yes.” I love it. We talk a lot about before the ask and the ask, but what about after the ask? I’m excited.

Andy: Yeah.

Steven: Thanks to all of you for being here. My name is Steven Shattuck. I’m the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get going here. Just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation. We’ll be sending out the recording later on today. So, if you get interrupted or if you have to leave early for a meeting, something comes up, no worries, we’ll get that to you this afternoon. Just look for an email from me with all those goodies. I’ll send the slides again. There’s a nice worksheet Andy’s put together for us. You’ll get all that this afternoon, don’t worry.

But most importantly, if you are able to, please chat in your questions and comments here throughout the hour. We’re going to try to save some time at the end for Q&A, so don’t be shy. Send in those questions and comments. I’ll keep an eye on those throughout the hour, and we’ll try to get to as many of them as we can before 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

You can also do that on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed, if you want to send us a Tweet, but we’d love for it to stay interactive.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to all you folks. We do these webinars just about every week throughout the year. One of our favorite things we do. Quite a popular webinar series. If this is your first one, I think you’re going to want to be able to be on some future sessions.

But what Bloomerang does beyond that, what we’re most known for, is our donor management software. And if you are interested in that or maybe thinking about switching this year, check us out. You can even watch a quick video demo on our website. You don’t even have to talk to anybody, not even a salesperson if you don’t want to, to see the software in action.

So check that out. Don’t do that right now, because you all are in for a treat. Like I said at the top, my buddy Andy from beautiful Vermont rejoining us. Andy, how are you doing? Are you doing okay?

Andy: I am well, Steven. How are you?

Steven: I’m great. This is a bright spot in my week for sure. I know it’s been a kind of a harrowing week for a lot of folks, but I’ve been looking forward to this one.

We’ve been planning this webinar for a while, and it seems like the world has changed a lot since this webinar came up, but I think this is going to be a really timely topic when it comes to securing those big gifts and maintaining those relationships.

Andy, you did a webinar for us last year. It was awesome. It was one of my favorite sessions, so I’m really glad to have you back.

I just want to brag on you really quick. If you guys don’t know Andy, check him out. We’re going to give you links to his website. You’re going to want to get on his newsletter. He sent out a great newsletter, I think it was yesterday or maybe on Tuesday, about what’s going on in fundraising.

Author of several books. I don’t know how you find the time to write six books, Andy. I can barely read six books in a year. But he is all over the place at conferences, doing lots of trainings and facilitations, and has been in your shoes, which I like a lot for our guests.

Andy, I don’t want to take up any more time away from you, so I’m going to stop my screen sharing and we’ll see if we can get your slides up here.

Andy: So, before we do that, I want to give a shout out to Steven Shattuck, who is . . .

Steven: Aww.

Andy: No, you are, like, the most enthusiastic human being on planet Earth.

Steven: Thank you.

Andy: This is a dude who loves his job and it shows.

Steven: It’s true.

Andy: So, Steven, all praise to you. You found your calling. That’s a beautiful thing.

Steven: Thank you.

Andy: All right. Let’s see if I can share my screen here. I’m going to try this.

Steven: We’ll make it happen.

Andy: We will make it happen. How’s that? Can you see the slide?

Steven: Looks like it’s starting. Yeah, you got it man. Go for it.

Andy: Sweet. All right. So today’s topic is “After the Yes and How You [inaudible 00:04:04] When They Say Yes.” As Steven was talking about, we spend a lot of time figuring out the ask, which is huge and we have to figure that out, but then what happens after that?

So, another shout out here. I want to acknowledge my friend Harvey McKinnon, who co-wrote an article with me on this subject many years ago. We have some folks on the call from Vancouver, BC, which is Harvey’s hometown, and he’s one of the great fundraisers in North America, and perhaps the world. So, love to you, Harvey. Thank you for helping me put this together when you worked with me on this years ago.

So one of the challenges we face as fundraisers is a decline in renewal rates. And there are a number of things going on here. I think the biggest problem is that we don’t engage with our donors effectively after they give. We maybe send them a thank you note, we put the name in the newsletter, or we post it on the website, but we’re really not in their lives as much as we could be or should be. That’s one issue.

A lot of the personal contact [inaudible 00:05:09] that it’s bringing. But the basic rule in fundraising is the closer you get to the donor, the more money you raise And the more engaged you are with a donor, the better your chance of renewing and perhaps even upgrading that gift.

The third issue that we’re dealing with is economic inequality. And when I started fundraising, I think the number was about 70%-ish of North Americans were giving money. That number is down closer to 50%. Now, I think it’s 53%, 54%, 55%.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the reasons is the change in income and greater income inequality. So, as a fundraiser, as a nonprofit leader, how do we deal? How do we respond?

So Steven is going to practice his poll skills today. We’re going to do a couple of polls here. I want to know how often you engage face-to-face with donors for any reason. And this could be an ask, which is awesome, but it could also be cultivation meetings. It could be thanking donors in person. How often do you meet with donors?

So you’ve got options there. Obviously, it’s everything from all the time, multiple times per month, to almost never, to I don’t know. So go ahead and respond.

Steven: Looks like a couple times a year is the prevailing winner here, Andy.

Andy: Okay. And do you have the ability to show us the answers?

Steven: I’m not sure. I’m seeing them, but I don’t know how I can get them to you. So I’ll read them off here. Looks like 40% are saying a couple times a year. Twenty-two percent are saying multiple times per month. So, wow, good job for you.

Andy: Nice.

Steven: So almost a quarter of folks here are saying multiple times a month. And then the rest of them are pretty evenly split, maybe about 10% each. But the winners seem to be a couple times a year and multiple times per month.

Andy: Excellent. So, without being obvious here, more is better. And so I’m queuing this up, and in a little while, we’ll ask you another poll question about what kind of results you’re getting. But we’ve got to get out there and talk to folks.

All right. I’m attempting to advance the slide. For some reason, it doesn’t want to work with me, but it will in a minute I hope.

One of the things we talk about in the business when we’re training people on webinars is technical difficulties, and they’re sort of inevitable, so you sort of have to roll with it.

Steven: Would maybe your keyboard work, Andy?

Andy: I’m working the keyboard. There we go. Let’s try this. There we go. I think I solved it. Do you have the slide deck, Steven?

Steven: I do. Yes.

Andy: Okay. Well, while I’m figuring this out, Plan B is we might hand it back to you.

Steven: Okay.

Andy: Which is fine. I’ve done that before. It never bothers me.

So the genesis of this webinar was the idea of “How do we serve our donors better and more deeply? How can we make that work?” And I feel like a lot of us are so busy and so overworked and we have not enough bandwidth to do the work we need to do, and therefore, a lot of this stuff falls off of our radar. And so I’m hoping that part of this comes out of this as we work our way through is that you’re developing a plan.

And one of the things we’re going to send you when the webinar is over is a checklist. And the checklist is something you can use in an actual donor meeting with an actual donor to ask these questions and make sure that you’re capturing the data you need, getting into the database, using it effectively.

Steven: I wonder if you exit full screen, Andy, and then come back into presenter mode if it’ll get out of that [inaudible 00:09:58].

Andy: Yeah, I’m frozen. I’m not sure why, but let’s just try this. Beautiful. Yeah, I’m not sure why the screen froze up. I’ve got video, which is good. Do you have the ability to take the screen back?

Steven: Yeah, let me take it back and then we can just . . . I can run it for you.

Andy: Just do it. You take it back. We’ll share yours.

Steven: There we go. How’s that?

Andy: Yeah, is this the next slide?

Steven: I think so.

Andy: Great. Yeah, so I’ll just ask you to advance the slides for me and that’s fine.

Steven: No problem.

Andy: Okay, excellent.

So one way to think about this is what we call the cycle of fundraising. And there is a model, and many of you have seen variations on this model, where we think holistically about donor relations.

Typically, we start by identifying potential donors. We want to educate them, get them excited about the work we do. Cultivation is a word we use in fundraising. We want to ask for their support. When they give, we want to thank them. We want to recognize them. And our goal in any relationship with a donor is to involve this person more deeply.

Go to the next slide, please.

Now, in terms of where we spend our time . . . and this is borrowed from my colleague Tina Cincotti. Thank you, Tina. You can study this for a second. Two points here. First of all, the slice where we ask for the money that’s on the bottom is maybe 10% of the work in fundraising. And the other 90% is the stuff we do before and the stuff we do after.

The second note I would give you here, and we’re looking on the left side of the circle, is when you add up the part where we thank and the part where we involve more deeply, that is 40%, 45% of the work. So we’ve got to be better on the back end. We have to engage our donors more intentionally and more thoughtfully, and I think in a more personal way, if we’re going to renew them and increase their giving over time.

Next slide, please.

So second poll, I am curious about what is the largest ask you have ever made in-person. And notice that the verb here is “ask.” It isn’t “get.” So you can ask for the money and not get it and you still get points in my book. And this is individual donor, but it could also be a foundation ask, a corporate ask. If you went in and pitched a government agency to try and get a grant or a contract, I would totally give you credit for that. But I want to know your biggest for face-to-face ask.

Steven: Andy, it looks like the winner right now at 30% is $10,000 to $100,000, so right there in the middle.

Andy: Rock and roll.

Steven: And then it’s pretty even amongst all the other answers, pretty interesting, but $10,000 to $100,000 is winning.

Andy: That’s interesting. Okay. Nice. We have some sophisticated fundraisers with us today, so nicely done.

Steven: Yeah. The Bloomerang crowd is usually pretty sharp.

Andy: I like it. Okay, so let’s get into the meat of this. You can shut down the poll. And let’s look at the next slide here.

I get asked this question all the time. The question is “What do donors want?” And my answer is always, “Which one are we talking about?” And so I will quote another colleague, and I’m forgetting who taught me this, but somebody said, “If you know one donor, you know one donor.” And if we’re not personalizing, we are failing in this work.

So what follows is the 12 questions that I would have you ask, and the goal here is to personalize your engagement with that donor. So let’s jump into the questions here.

Oh, look at this. We are already there. Design to engage. Let’s go to the next one place.

I have to emphasize before we get into the question that when you get the yes, be happy, show appreciation. If you’re one of those people who likes to cry at happy news, please feel free to cry in front of your donor if you are so excited and so pleased that that’s how you feel.

And then when you’re done with that, collect yourself and let’s have a conversation with the donor about how we can serve them better.

Next, please.

First question. And I’ll stress here that the sequence is up to you and maybe you don’t use all 12 of these because they’re not appropriate, but this is one order that you can think about.

The first question if somebody says, “Yes, I’d like to give” . . . Say you asked them for that $10,000 gift and they said, “You know what? I can do that.” It is helpful to know what that means. Like, “How would you like to pay?” Are you writing me a check today? Am I sending you an invoice? Would you like to fill out a pledge form and then send it in later? And this will feel awkward for some of you, but I think it’s okay to ask the question, like, “How are we doing this? What is the exchange here?”

One way you can handle this is to have a pledge form with you. And a pledge form is the traditional stuff. It’s the name, the address, the contact info. And then, one of the lines on the form is terms of payment, and you would put check or pledge or credit card or whatever those terms are. So I would have you bring that with you.

I am a fan of being able to swipe people’s credit cards. So there are many tools. The one I use is Square, but there are others available. And if somebody says, “Yes, I want to pay,” you have the option of pulling that out on your phone and saying, “If you’d like, I can take a credit card payment now.” And it’s often easier to get money in hand in that moment than it is over time.

Bigger gifts, people may be paying off in installments, and that would be another option that would be on the pledge form.

Next slide, please.

Second question, “How do you want us to use the money?” Now, I’m assuming, in the case of a face-to-face donor, you will have had some conversations about this leading up to the solicitation. So you may know, but you probably want to confirm that.

And so, if somebody had said previously, “I’m so excited about your youth programs, and I really want to invest in youth in our community,” then you would say, “Based on our previous notes, it sounds like you’re really excited about the work we’re doing with youth. Is that where we should invest the money?”

The underline, underline, underline is that you want those unrestricted dollars whenever you can get them. So, if you’re not clear about this, you can start there. You can say, “The best use of the money for us is to be able to apply it to the wide range of programs that we provide. So my goal is to use your money to support everything that we do. Are you good with that?”

And lacking any information otherwise, I would not start restricting gifts. I would leave that to the donor to do that for you. But you want to be clear about that.

Next one, please.

So there is the, “Do you want to be anonymous or may we recognize you?” question. And you can even talk with them about how you like to do that. For example, you might say, “Can we publish your name in a list of donors on our website?” or, “Can we publish your name in our newsletter?” Perhaps you have some recognition options for larger donors and you’re working with someone who is a larger donor.

And the argument for doing this is it inspires people. A lot of us, when we go to the theater and they hand us a program or we get a nonprofit newsletter and we open it up, we go right to the list of donor names and we start reading through those names to see if there’s anybody in there we know. And that’s something that is useful for us, to have a donor list that we can share.

Having said that, there are some donors who would prefer to be anonymous, and we always want to honor that. So I want some clarity on that as part of this conversation. “May we use your name? And if not, that’s fine.”

Next slide, please.

So a classic use of a gift is to honor someone who is with us or perhaps someone who has passed away. I’m a treasurer of an organization in Vermont where I live, and I get the automatic notices in the mail when people make online gifts. A longtime member of our community passed away recently, and I’ve been getting memorial gifts, and it’s been lovely. It’s a lovely way to honor somebody and it makes me remember this man very fondly that other people loved him as much as they did and wanted to support an organization that was important to him.

So you can offer this as part of the conversation. For sure include this on the pledge form. And then the etiquette here is you want to notify the person who’s been honored, assuming they’re still around. If it’s someone who’s passed away, you want to honor the next of kin and say, “FYI, we received this donation from so and so in honor of your mom or your brother,” or whoever it is.

So track this. People who ask for this feel strongly about it, so you want to make sure you have good database systems to be able to track and honor this request.

Next slide.

Now, we often assume that we know why people give to us. Especially if it’s a donor you know well and you’ve had conversations previously, maybe you think you know. I want donors to verbalize that, and I want them to do this for a couple of reasons. And you’ll see what’s coming up is I’m looking for testimonials from our donors as well.

But when I hear why they care, as a fundraiser, I have a lot more handles and opportunities to serve them better and to strengthen their relationship with the organization.

So this is one that I sort of have to overemphasize because we work from a place of assumption, like, “Fred used to do this, and therefore, Fred cares about this.” But, you know, Fred has changed over time.

The other thing I find is that when donors talk about why they care in their own words, they’re reinforcing their commitment to the organization. You’re not selling them. They’re selling themselves.

And especially if you have, for example, a couple or a family and they’re sitting around talking about . . . you’re meeting with a couple and you know that one of them is more connected than the other, you might start with the one who is more connected and say, “I’d love to hear you say a little more about why you’re so generous with us. Why is this important to you?” And then one spouse can hear the other spouse talk about why it’s important to them, and that’s a meaningful conversation for everybody. So don’t skip this step.

Next slide.

I think this was Steven’s favorite when I sent him the slide deck. Donors are our best advocates. People who give can say so much more about why they give than we can. So I think it’s really important, as part of the conversation, to ask somebody, “Will you give us a testimonial? Will you say something nice about us?”

And I have, frankly, as a development director, when I’ve gotten permission, I have ghost-written these based on what they’ve said, and then show it to them and say, “I took some notes. Is this something we could use and put your name to?”

Now, I want to give you a quick story about this. Many years ago, when I was certainly younger, I made my first will. My spouse and I sat down and we wrote a will, and our daughter is in it and some other family members, but we designated some nonprofits into our estate plans.

These were six groups and I contacted them all and I said, “We have made a will and you’re in it.” And they said, “Oh, my god. That’s awesome.” And I said, “We are willing to be poster children. If you want to put something in your newsletter or on your website that says, ‘Middle-aged couple writes will and remembers us,’ and put our photo in there and we could give you a couple of sentences about why we did it, we’re happy to promote that as an idea.” And they’re like, “Oh, my god. That’s awesome. Thank you so much.”

And of the six organizations that got this offer, five of them never followed up. The one that did follow up took two years to do it. I mean, in their defense, these were small, grassroots organizations. They didn’t have a lot of bandwidth. I don’t hate them for dropping the ball. But I will tell you I did feel a little bit of disrespect. And when I ended up redoing the will 10 years later, the list changed somewhat based on who I felt close to.

So the point here is if you offer to do something like this, then you really have to do it and follow through and share it with a donor and close the loop.

So, Steven, I want to pause here because you’ve been tracking chat. We’re halfway through the list of 12. What’s coming up that people want to hear about?

Steven: Yeah, there’s an interesting one here from Karen, Andy. It might be a little bit of a timely question. “Our major donors haven’t been eager to hold meetings, but they do quickly respond to emails. Does that count as a meeting?” Can this sort of be done virtually, or maybe by correspondence? What do you think?

Andy: If that’s your only option, go for it. I mean, the alternative is to get them on Zoom or Skype or FaceTime or whatever you’re using, and try and have this sort of conversation with them so you can actually ask them questions and talk to them face-to-face, even if it’s virtual.

Steven: Makes sense.

Andy: Yeah, I have collected some of these answers by email. Absolutely.

Steven: Cool.

Andy: Anything else that’s coming up that’s worth talking about?

Steven: Yeah, here’s a comment from Rob regarding recognition. “It seems many take the humble route, whether or not that’s actually sincere, and don’t want their names used in recognition.”

So going back to . . . I think it was your third question, Andy. Do you hear a lot of folks say that they want to stay anonymous or do they say, “Yeah, I want the recognition”? What’s kind of the split there?

Andy: I chaired a capital campaign a few years ago in my community. And I’m thinking of the plaque on the wall of all the people who gave, and I think we had, like, 300 donors. And of the 300 donors, 6 of them were anonymous.

Steven: Oh, wow.

Andy: Seriously. I mean, you can do the math. That’s 2%, right? Or whatever it is. Five percent? Anyway, I don’t know if that’s typical, but my experience is that it’s cultural and it’s also regional. I’m based in Vermont. I’ve worked all over the country. A lot of people in New England are more modest and don’t want to be recognized depending on where they are.

But I do work in the Adirondacks, which is northern New York, a resort area, a place where people go for the summer, and there are a lot of New Yorkers, meaning people from New York City, and it’s a different culture there. And my sense over there is that people do like to be recognized and like to see their names on lists.

But I don’t know how deep it varies. I think it’s worth asking. And I wouldn’t assume that people want to be anonymous, I guess is my answer.

Steven: Interesting. Cool. Okay.

Andy: Good. Give me one more, and then we’ll go back to the list.

Steven: Okay. Here’s one more from Michael. “What methods/tips do you have to inspire current donors to identify and introduce new prospects to the organization?” So maybe these folks who are saying yes to you could bring new people on, too. Or can they?

Andy: That’s excellent. That’s on the list of 12 questions, so let’s just get there when we get there.

Steven: Yeah, they’re sharp. I told you they are sharp.

Andy: That’s good. Yeah, they’re very [inaudible 00:26:49] on this. And somebody made a point . . . Kelly made a point that the Adirondacks is also an awesome place in the winter, not just the summer, so I will underline that.

Steven: That’s true.

Andy: Yes. So let’s go to Question 7 here. “Will you share with our board why you give?” Now, I work with many boards. I do a lot of board training. And board members seem to think that “donors are a different species and they don’t know any of them.”

So one thing I’ve been encouraging is a mini donor panel where you invite three or four of your most loyal donors to come to a board meeting and you take 20 minutes, and each of them takes a turn and talks about why they love your organization and why they give. And then maybe there’s a little Q&A from the board members.

And it doesn’t necessarily have to be “major donors.” I mean, maybe it’s the person who’s been giving $50 a year for the last 20 years, which is just great.

I want to demystify fundraising, and I think if you can actually have a donor talk to your board and say, “This is why we love you, and this is why we give,” that’s powerful for everybody. It’s a way to flatter the donor to be invited to the board, but I think it’s also a way for the board members to understand that donors are just folks, too. They’re not in a different stratum. They’re not scary. They’re our neighbors.

Next one.

So, “How do we keep you updated about what we do?” And again, we assume that we send out an e-blast and everybody reads it, or we do the quarterly printed newsletter, and generally, it ends up on somebody’s coffee table and put in the recycling bin.

Everybody has a different communication preference. So, in my fantasy world, you’re asking this question, and the donor says, “I like email.” And you say, “How often?” And they say, “Well, I don’t know. Like once a month.” And so you’re trying to stay in touch based on their schedule.

Again, this presumes that you have a database and you can code into the database how people like to be contacted and how often. And the more efficient you are at this, it saves time because you’re not sending people communications they don’t want, but also they feel heard and respected. And if somebody says, “I like X,” and then you do X, then they feel like, “Okay, that person heard me. I’m in a partnership here. This is good.”

Next one, please.

So this is fairly sophisticated. “When I come back to talk to you,” assuming I’m allowed to come back to talk to you, “can we have somebody in your family participate in that conversation?” And it’s good, especially for older donors, for their offspring to know that this is a priority for them. It does not presume that the kids are going to be interested if the parents are, or vice versa, but at least it’s a way to share that information.

And if you are talking to the older folks about planned gifts . . . and by the way, planned gifts are for everybody. They’re not just for older folks. But if you’re talking to someone who has offspring about planned giving, it’d be good for the kids to know, just so that if that gets into the will at some point, they’re not surprised or offended. Maybe they even know and like your organization and want to support it, too.

So somebody asked the question about having donors introduce us to other prospects. This is a variation on that. This is, “Introduce me to your family, because if you care, there’s a pretty good chance that they’re going to care, too.”

Which leads us to Question 10, “Will you recommend us to other donors?” The highest form of fundraising is generally peer-to-peer. It’s one donor asking another donor to give. And I would argue this is the best form of prospecting or identifying new donors, is having one donor introduce you to another.

So, if they’ll recommend names, that’s awesome. Like, “Who do you know that might be interested? “Well, you could talk to my friend Martha.” “Okay. Will you introduce me to Martha, please?”

And it might be that you just have a name drop. And so you’d call up Martha and you’d say, “Hi, I was just visiting with your neighbor, Tony, and Tony suggested that you might be interested in this.” A name drop is good. A direct introduction is even better.

The other thing, and maybe this is obvious, but we tend to have circles of friends that have the same interests and the same values that we do. And the way I tend to think about fundraising is the concentric circles. We start with the people who are most connected to the mission and then we work a little bit further out and then we work a little bit further out from there. And this is a way to use donors to help you work further out in those concentric circles.

Next one, please.

Now, if somebody is super enthusiastic, they really love your organization, it’s clear that they’re down with it, and they want to participate, you can ask them to help raise money. And you can say, “Would you host a house party?” or, “Would you come with me when I’m meeting with a donor and talk about why you give?” or, “We have a development committee. Would you consider joining it?” or, “We’re getting ready to start a capital campaign. I’m putting together a campaign committee. Would you consider serving?”

And maybe it’s as simple as, “We’re doing a fundraising mailing. Would you come in and stuff envelopes in the office for an hour?” And so you can scale this based on how committed they are, what you know about them, what their skill set is.

But if we’re going to assume that fundraising is a team sport, then we need a bigger team. And I have no problem with asking donors, “Will you volunteer?”

The other thing I’ll say, and this is a total side note, is people who are already volunteering are good candidates to be donors also. And many of our organizations are uncomfortable with this. They say, “Oh, they’re already giving time. We can’t ask them for money.” But there are a lot of data that shows a correlation between volunteerism and giving. There’s a high likelihood that people who volunteer for your group will also give if they are asked and they are asked well.

Which gets us to Question 12, “How often shall I approach you?” And this might feel awkward, but it’s okay to ask and say, “Thank you for your gift today. This is awesome. I am planning for the future. I want to serve you well. How often should I be in touch about a gift? Are you a once-a-year kind of person? Do you give as needed? If we have a special need, should we come and talk to you? What works for you?”

Now, you don’t start here, but I think if you’re having a conversation that’s significant, this is a good place to land.

And this is also worth noting that if you can do these meetings and use them to sign up monthly donors, recurring gifts, sustainers, whatever you want to call it, then that question is pretty much answered. If somebody signs the pledge form and says, “I am pledging $100 a month,” you have answered that question. And then we’re back to an earlier question, which is, “How do I keep you updated?”

So I bet we could come up with a few more. Twelve is a pretty good number. Let’s look at the next slide, and then we’ll take some more chat questions.

So, Steven, you want to unmute? Show me what you’ve got.

Steven: Yeah, we’ve got we got some good ones here. Let’s see. Here is one from James. “Would you send a donation back if the donor had some bad press associated with them?” Maybe you got the gift and then something comes out. This tends to happen. I think there were a couple higher end stories kind of along these lines recently. What do you think?

Andy: Well, there’s also Jeffrey Epstein and Harvey Weinstein, right?

Steven: Yeah, absolutely.

Andy: And there were some higher end stories. I think Jeffrey Epstein was one of them. It depends, right? A lot of people are concerned about what we call dirty money and the source of the money. And my response to that is you have to work upstream and eventually you find there’s a lot of . . . I don’t know. Some person you didn’t know sends you $100. You don’t know where they got that money, right? That could be “tainted.”

So my rule of thumb here is if it’s going to create a PR problem for you, a public relations problem, to have the money, then it’s worth considering not raising it, or, in some cases, as you suggest, giving it back. But I would look at each case separately. I don’t think there’s one rule about that.

I mean, another example of this is if you’re doing tobacco prevention work, you don’t want to be raising money from tobacco companies, right? That would make no sense. That would look corrupt and stupid. But it’s often more subtle than that. 

You have another one for me?

Steven: Yeah. Here’s one from Sherry. So going back to my favorite one, number six, what do you do with those donor stories, Andy? Do you put them in your newsletter? Do you make videos? Have people at events? It seems like you could put those great things everywhere.

Andy: Yeah, the answer is all of the above. We’re all carrying really good cameras around in our pockets, and I would suggest shooting . . . maybe even on the spot if you’re having that donor meeting and you say, “Would you give us a testimonial?” The donor says, “Yeah.” You say, “All right. I’m going to take out my camera. Give me a minute to think about it. Give me a great 30-second pitch about why you support our work.” And you shoot the video, you edit it, and then you can put it up on your website, or you can put it in your social media feed.

And what I’m envisioning is Story of the Week, that you would actually have something refreshed periodically and you’re always generating new content that you could use that way.

But, yes, you can write it up, and it could be in the print newsletter, it could be an e-blast, it could be on social media, it could be a written with a photo on social media. All of the above, right?

So I think we all know at this point that fundraising is based on storytelling. We are always in story collection and story distribution mode, and this is just another way to collect and distribute those stories.

Steven: I love it.

Andy: So let’s show them the tracking form and then we’ll talk a little bit more about questions and answers.

What Steven will send you, probably this afternoon because Steven is very efficient, is a two-page tracking form that we produced. I did a book called “Train Your Board (and Everyone Else) to Raise Money,” and we turned this into an exercise in that book. And so this is excerpted from the book.

Literally, all the 12 questions I have given you today are on this form. The first two aren’t numbered, and then the rest of them are. So this is the first set, and then you can go to the next page, and we’ve got six more questions on the second page. And so we’re making this as easy as we could possibly make it.

So the idea here is you print this out and you bring it with you when you go to meet a donor and you pull it out when the donor says, “Yes, I’d like to give.” You’ve got your clipboard or your notebook or whatever, and then you just work your way through the questions that seem appropriate for that donor in that moment.

I will emphasize this again. This is not rigid. This is not the stone tablets coming down the mountain. These are 12 useful, interesting questions, and you’re going to pick and choose amongst them based on what your needs are and what the donor’s needs are. And I bet you can come up with a few that we haven’t thought of that would be appropriate to your situation and your organization, and that’d be great.

So next slide. Beautiful.

So chat is your friend. We have a little time here. Jump in and chat your questions and we’ll do our best to answer some of them.

Steven: Yeah, we’ve probably got about 15 minutes or so. Andy, I got a question of my own if you don’t mind me jumping ahead of everyone.

Andy: You get to have questions. Yes.

Steven: I’ll only do this once. I’ll only pull rank once. Maybe some people are wondering this. Do you ask all of these questions in the same interaction, or can they perhaps be split up amongst multiple post-gift interactions?

Andy: Yeah, that’s a great question. The answer is whatever seems appropriate to you. I don’t want to turn this into an interrogation. You don’t pull out the bright light and shine it in their face and say, “Where were you Thursday evening?” And if 12 questions feels like an interrogation, yeah, you probably want to break it up into pieces, but it depends on the circumstance.

You might go see somebody to ask for a gift, and you’re the social highlight of their month. I mean, I’m thinking of the little old lady with the tea and the cookies and the pictures of the grandchildren and you’re going to be there for a while. That’s somebody who may have the time and the interest and not be in a hurry and want to have a longer conversation. So I think it’s feasible you could go through most of these in one conversation.

But I absolutely take your point. And if you were to break this up into smaller increments, I think that would work well, too.

Steven: It seems like if you’re having a nice, organic sort of conversation they could all certainly flow from that interaction. I don’t think it’s . . .

Andy: Yeah, I would agree.

Steven: Cool. Okay. There are some really interesting questions coming in here, Andy. I’m getting excited about some of these things.

Here’s one from Nikki. They haven’t always seen that correlation between donations and volunteerism. In fact, they’re saying that there has been some pushback where they’ve asked volunteers to donate, and they’re kind of saying, “Well, I’m already giving my time. Why are you asking me to also give?” Have you seen that? What’s a good response to that? And is the inverse true of maybe asking a donor to become a volunteer? What have you seen in terms of the pushback?

Steven: First of all, every person is different. And my experience is we’re wired to hear negative feedback more strongly than we hear positive feedback. The classic example of this is you send out a fundraising letter and you get 100 checks and you get two complaints. And then you spend 30 minutes of the next staffing meeting trying to figure out how to manage the two people who complained instead of celebrating the 100 people who sent in a donation and said, “You guys are awesome.”

So I’d be curious about the ratios here. I mean, if you’re asking 10 volunteers to contribute, and seven or eight of them say no, well, that’s data and that means maybe you shouldn’t. But if you have two or three who are very upset and the others either give or don’t complain about being asked, that’s a much smaller percentage.

And one way you could play this if you wanted to is you could identify a donor . . . this could be an individual donor, it could be a foundation, it could be a business, or whatever. And you would have that donor issue you a challenge gift or a challenge grant contingent on raising money from your volunteers.

And then you go to the volunteers and you say, and I’ll make up numbers here, “A generous donor has given us $1,000 on the condition that 20 of our volunteers contribute financially at whatever level they are comfortable giving, because this person wants to inspire giving and sees what amazing work you’re doing as well.

“So, if you’re willing and if you’re able, this is a chance for you to double your impact. You can have impact as a volunteer, you can also have impact as a donor, and we can leverage that into even more money. So, if you’re into that, that would be great.”

Steven: Do you think a good response, Andy, if someone kind of bristles at you is to say, “We understand. We just wanted to give you additional opportunities instead of continuing to ask for money”? Should you downplay one side? Does that make sense?

Andy: Yeah, I would back off. I think if somebody says, “I give my time. Isn’t that more important?” my answer is, “Absolutely. Thank you for your time. It is the most powerful thing you can give.”

Steven: Nice.

Andy: Now, we want to acknowledge there’s a subset of volunteers we haven’t talked about yet, which are board members, right? And it’s a slightly different situation with board members. I am one of those people who preaches 100% board giving, meaning everybody on the board needs to contribute financially at whatever level is meaningful to them, meaning some people will give more, some people will give less.

One of the reasons we want 100% board giving is we’ve reached a point where a lot of funders and a lot of donors will ask you that question. They will say, “Is everybody on your board a donor?” And if you can’t say, “Yes, absolutely,” they look at you and they say, “Well, why should I give? Your own people aren’t giving.” So I want to inoculate everybody against that question.

I want to separate board members into one bucket and other volunteers into a separate bucket. And I think with the general volunteers, if they say, “No, thank you. I’m already giving my time. That’s what I have to give,” you say, “Great. That’s lovely. Thank you so much.”

Steven: I love it. Andy, more than a couple actually have asked kind of variations of the same question, and it’s all about recognition gifts. Some folks seem sensitive to maybe giving the donor something as a thank you where perhaps it could be seen as, “Well, why are you spending this time and money to thank me. I want you to spend the money on the kids,” or whatever. That seems something we hear a lot about. What’s a good response to that, and should you shy away from the thanking?

Andy: Well, I’m back to question whatever. I guess it was Question 3 or something, “How do you like to be recognized?” And then you might say to them, “For donors at your level, we’re able to offer X benefit.” And donor might say, “You know what? I don’t need it.” Talking for Andy here, “I don’t need another tote bag.”

So, when I give my money to the local public radio station and they say, “Would you like the premium?” my answer is no. But they ask me that question. And for some people, that premium is important.

Let’s acknowledge it’s also marketing for the radio station, because then people are walking around with a tote bag with their logo on it. So there is that argument.

But again, I’m back to what I said earlier, which is if you know one donor, you know one donor. And the whole point of asking these questions is not to have a broad scale, “This is what all donors want,” but, “What does this particular donor want?”

Steven: Makes sense. Here’s what one from Ann. I love this question, Ann. So you’re having this conversation, you’re asking these questions, maybe you’ve gotten the gift. Ann’s wondering if the donor says, “Hey, you know what, Andy? This is a one-time thing. I’m happy to give the gift, but probably not going to be giving again,” what should you say? Should you push back? What should you do in that situation? It’s a tough one.

Andy: So what I’m going to say is, first of all, “Thank you for this awesome gift today. It’s a significant gift. It means a lot to me. Even if there are no further gifts, this is big.”

The second thing I’m going to say is, “Can we keep you updated on the impact of your gift? May I add you to the mailing list? Can I send you an email? How would you like to be . . .” Once again, it’s one of these questions that is already on the list. “How do we keep you updated on the impact that your gift has had on our work?”

Again, I want to make this about the donor, right? This is Fundraising 101. It is not about you. It is about the donor. It’s not what we’re doing. It’s about the impact of your gift as the donor. So I’m going to ask that question.

If the donor wants to be updated, or get the newsletter, or whatever, then I have a way to keep them engaged. And what I might do after a certain period of time of keeping them updated is to say, “You told me last year . . .” and maybe it was last month or three years ago, whatever. “You told me last year that this was a one-off. I want to respect that and I want to check and see if you still feel that way. And if you still feel that way, God bless. Thank you so much. Bye,” or they might say, “I’d like to reconsider.”

I mean, this is a side trip into planned gifts, which is not my greatest expertise. But I’ll tell you what I have heard and what I know a little bit of, which is something like 10% of the planned gifts you get you know about in advance. Most people do not reveal that your organization is in their will. That’s deeply personal for a lot of people, and I get it.

The people who are most likely to remember you when they pass away are the donors who’ve been giving small amounts of money for many years. But there are also the random people who have given once or even haven’t given at all while they’re alive.

So one way to think about this is everyone is a potential planned giving donor. And it doesn’t mean you have to cultivate them with that in mind. What it does mean is that you have to treat everybody with dignity and respect.

And so I want to keep people updated on what their gift has done for us and for the community, and then let the chips fall where they may. And if they say, “No, I said once and I meant once,” I’d say, again, “Thank you.”

Steven: But the beauty is, if you get that opt-in, maybe something you send them moves them.

Andy: Bingo.

Steven: And then you don’t have to have that conversation.

Andy: Or you can go to Question 7 on the list and you can say, “Would you come and talk to our board about why you made this one-time gift?” And then they’re in front of the board and they’re seeing what’s going on, and maybe you can pull them in a little closer to the organization.

Steven: I love it. Here’s a similar question from Sheila. So let’s say, again, the donor says yes, but they want you to use the money in a different way than maybe you had thought or maybe the designation changed or maybe they bristle at how you’re going to spend it. How do you kind of navigate those waters?

Andy: Just so I’m clear, is this after the gift has been given?

Steven: Yeah, after . . .

Andy: I mean, you don’t know because you’re not Sheila.

Steven: Well, Sheila says after they say yes, so maybe before it’s been given.

Andy: I’m listening and I’m hearing. What I would do is to say . . . I’d sit down with them, preferably face-to-face, and say, “Just so we’re clear, tell me how you would like this gift to be used.” You want to hear that first.

And then if it’s not what you had intended, you might ask gently, “How much flexibility do you have in that?” or you might try and reframe it and say, “I hear that you want to give to our environmental programs, which is awesome. We have three of them. Let’s talk about the one that you’re most interested in, and let’s see if it aligns with what our greatest needs are.”

Steven: Love that.

Andy: Yeah, what I’m trying to do here is the thing about asking open-ended questions. It’s not, “Do you want to support this or this?” It’s, “Tell me what you want to support,” and giving them a chance to expand on why the organization is meaningful and what they care about. And I think if you listen and you ask good follow-up questions, you can usually reach someplace where you’re both satisfied.

Steven: And if perhaps you can’t come to an agreement . . . you know, maybe they want you to do something with the money that is totally off brand, off mission. It seems like that’s another time where maybe you would just say no, similar to perhaps some of that dirty money or however you phrased it before.

Andy: Yeah. I give you all permission to walk away from gifts that are not worth the pain in the butt that’s associated with them.

Steven: Makes sense.

Andy: And there are some needy donors who need a lot of attention, and you figure that out pretty quickly. It’s hard to do, and certainly it depends on the amount of money we’re talking about, but it’s possible to say to a donor, “I just don’t think this is a good fit. I’m glad that you’re generous, but what you’re asking us to do with the money is just not something we can do, or we don’t have the bandwidth to satisfy your needs in this case. I wish you well, and I hope you find an organization that can do what you want them to do.”

Steven: That makes sense.

Andy: Yeah, it’s hard because nobody wants to walk away from money, but sometimes the strings are so great that you say, “No, thank you.”

Steven: Yep, it’s not worth it.

Andy: I mean, I will say . . . and then queue up another question here. This is not that different from looking at people’s grant guidelines and trying to figure out which grants fit your mission and which grants do not fit your mission. And sometimes, there’s a gray area in there.

We don’t apply to every grant because we look sometimes and the guidelines are not what we do. And I think it’s the same thing with an individual donor. Sometimes what they’re interested in is really not the work we’re doing. It’s the same thing as not applying for the grant because you don’t fit the guidelines.

Steven: Make sense. Here’s a timely question from Rob. Rob is saying that about 40% of their support is coming from group events, so I assume in-person events, and those are starting to get canceled now. So they’re hoping to reschedule or postpone, not outright cancel. But what can folks do to kind of fill that gap, Andy? I know it’s a little bit off topic, but we’re talking about perhaps in-person or virtual conversations, phone calls. What can you do to have these conversations?

Andy: I’m going to offer three or four alternatives. Number one is either meeting with them individually. Picking out the key donors who come to the events and trying to develop a one-on-one relationship with them. And that can be in-person, if people are comfortable with that. That could be virtually, or however that works for you.

The second thing you might consider, though I don’t know if this is going to work with the health protocols, is maybe we drop the big events and we start thinking about smaller events, like house parties, where we have 15 or 20 people in a home as opposed to 300 people in a hall.

Steven: Maybe like a board member’s house or something?

Andy: Yeah. There’s a lot of great stuff on house parties. If people want it, I can send you, Steven, some stuff about fundraising house parties that you can share with the group.

Again, I don’t know, given health concerns, whether that’s a better alternative than the big group or not.

The third thing, and some folks have heard of this, is the idea of the phantom event. This was a thing some years ago. A phantom event is an event that you get invited to that doesn’t exist and you pay money to stay home.

So here is the true version of this. I got a beautiful engraved invitation once upon a time. And it said on the cover, “Don’t come to our party.” And then you open it up and it says, “There won’t be a party. You know all these people already. You’ve heard the spiel. The food will disappoint you. Please send in $50 or $100,” or whatever the number was, “and spend the evening home with your family.”

Steven: Oh, wow.

Andy: And I’m like, “Dude, that’s great. I totally want to do that.”

What we don’t think about is the opportunity cost of going to an event. If you’ve got kids, you have to get a babysitter. There’s the transportation. Maybe you have to get dressed up. Depending on the event, it might be four or five hours out of your life to show up and wave the flag for your favorite group. And if there’s a chance for people to stay home and contribute and giggle about doing that, I don’t see the downside.

I guess the risk is you’re not building the family of people that you’re building when you have an event and you have all the believers in the room together. But for me, I think, because of what’s going on health-wise, you’re going to see another spike in phantom events, where people are asked to send in a donation and have an event at home.

Steven: It seems like we’re in that window. Whether that’s six weeks . . .

Andy: We are, and that window is going to be here for a little while. Yeah, I think you’re right.

Steven: I love that advice. Andy, any last thoughts? I know there are a lot of questions in here we didn’t get to, but is it fair to maybe let people ask you questions by email? How can they get ahold of you?

Andy: Yeah, that’s fine. The last slide is my contact info, so we’ll get there in a minute.

Back up. Let me do the advertising here. I have two upcoming webinars very soon. The very timely one I’m doing next week is “Training and Facilitating When You’re Not in the Room.” So that’s how you do webinars, and how you handle Zoom meetings, and those sorts of things. And then I’ll be doing one on the 1st of April, “Creating and Using Your Fundraising Plan.”

Steven, do you send out the slide deck to people? How do you do that?

Steven: Yeah, we’ll get folks the slides, that handout. They’ll get all that this afternoon for sure, and the recording.

Andy: Sweet. Second plug is the next slide. I’m an author of several books, as Steven said. One of them is called “Train Your Board (and Everyone Else) to Raise Money.” And there are a lot of awesome training exercises in there, which we sort of crowd-sourced from a lot of the really smart people in the fundraising universe. So that’s something you might want to look at.

And then, finally, last slide is my contact info. So I am more than happy to try and follow up by email if you have questions we didn’t get to. You can go to my website, which is andyrobinsononline.com, and you can send me the email through there, and I’ll do my best to try and address unanswered questions.

Steven, you are awesome and Bloomerang is awesome and the fact that . . .

Steven: Aw, thanks.

Steven: Well, what you guys don’t know, because you’re on the call, is we had like 1,400 people sign up for this. That’s insane. And many of them will view it later. We don’t get for 1,400 live, but we do have the recording available. Is that correct?

Steven: Absolutely.

Andy: Sweet.

Steven: Yeah, we’ll get all that to you, folks. And definitely reach out to Andy. Sign up for his newsletter if you do nothing else, if you don’t have a question right now, because he’ll give you some good stuff. And register for those webinars.

Andy: Yeah. The warning here is that Steven will send me a list of all the people who registered and then I will send all of you a little notice saying, “Hi. Welcome to Train Your Board,” which is the website where I post the blog, etc. So you’ll be added to my list. I hope you’ll find it useful.

If you’re getting too much stuff and you want to unsubscribe, I’m totally fine with that. But hopefully, you’ll find the content is something that you can use and benefit from.

Steven: Yeah, it’s good stuff. I mean, we’re pretty selective about who we bring on, so you won’t be disappointed. And that webinar on the 19th, you might want to jump on that because I think that’s . . .

Andy: It’s going to be popular. I think we’re going to make some friends that day.

Steven: Yeah. That’s going to be something unique.

Andy: We all have to get better at that.

So let me also thank Steven for addressing my technical difficulties on the webinar.

Steven: Oh, no problem.

Andy: Yeah, we cleaned that up pretty quick, so that was great.

Steven: No problemo.

Andy: And thank you, everybody, for joining us and for the work you’re doing all over North America and beyond. It’s awesome to have a network like this.

Steven: Absolutely.

Andy: The world needs you now. Keep doing what you’re doing.

Steven: Yeah, we’re needed. I know times are going to get tough out there for all of you, so I always appreciate a full room. I think we had over 300 today. So thank you for taking the time.

We’ve got some special sessions coming up. We scheduled some sort of emergency webinars here for next week. We’ve got our normal Thursday webinar. You’ll see that on our webinar page. But we added two more, so we’ve actually got three free webinars next week, which I think is a new standard for us at Bloomerang. I don’t think we’ve ever done more than two.

Monday, our buddy Sean Triner is going to come on board to just kind of talk about the current events and what folks should be looking out for. We’re going to do a lot of Q&A. He’s only going to come prepared with maybe 20, 15 minutes of content there, but the rest will be Q&A. So, if you’ve got any worries, doubts, concerns, or you want to bounce some ideas off of him . . .

What’s great about Sean is he is based in Australia, and he does a lot of work in Europe as well. So he has a lot of clients that have been dealing with this for maybe a week or two before us in the States. And he is awesome, so that’s going to be a good one. We can only allow 1,000 people, so get in early.

And then after you do Andy’s webinar on the 19th, or if you can’t make that one, join us on the 20th, because we’re going to be talking about a similar topic, “Turning Your Events Into Virtual Events,” with Nikki and Simon. They are the organizers of one of the best virtual events in the nonprofit space, so they are experts in doing that. They were gracious enough to come on, on very short notice.

I’m pretty excited about these two sessions because they’re going to be very timely for you. So check them out if you’re free. If you’re not, we’re going to record them. Don’t worry. They’ll be on our blog. You’ll see those, for sure, if you can’t make it live. But we’d love to see you live if you can make it.

So we will call it a day there. Andy, thank you. We will have you back if you are ready and willing. You always have an open invitation at our table. So thank you for doing this. And thanks all of you for hanging out.

Like I said, be on the lookout for an email from me, and Andy will reach out, too.

Andy: Great. Steven, you rock. Everybody, you rock, too. Thank you all for joining us, and I guess we’re out.

Steven: We’re out. Have a good rest of your Thursday. Stay safe out there. We’re all looking out for each other. We’re thinking about you all, and hopefully we’ll talk to you again next week. See you.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.