Jesse Lane will share the super-simple process for raising more money for your nonprofit.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. Jesse, I got 1:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Jesse: Let’s do it. I’m excited.

Steven: All right. Awesome. Well, good afternoon, everybody. And good morning, I should say if you’re out on the west coast. And if you’re watching this recording, I hope you’re having a good day, no matter when and where you are because we are here to talk about the four-step plan to get more donations and greater fundraising results. Who doesn’t want that? It’s going to be a fun one. Thanks for joining us. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always. And just a couple of quick housekeeping items, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and I’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon.

So if you have to bounce early, or maybe you get interrupted, or just want to review the content, don’t worry. You’ll get the recording from me later on today. I’ve already sent out the slides, but I will resend them later on today. So there shouldn’t be anything that you missed out on. Don’t worry. 

But most importantly, as you’re listening today, please feel free to chat in. A lot of you already have. That’s awesome. Introduce yourself. Tell us where you are, what your organization does. We’d love to hear from you. And we’re going to save time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy. We’ve got an expert on here over the next hour or so, and we’ll try to answer as many questions as we can before the 2:00 Eastern hour here. You can also send in your questions on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on that as well. The bottom line is we would love to hear from you, so don’t be shy. 

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, welcome. We do these webinars just about every Thursday throughout the year. We love doing them. One of our favorite things at Bloomerang. But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, we are a provider of donor management software. That’s what Bloomerang is. And you can check us out, go to our website, learn about us if you’re interested in that. Thinking of shopping, maybe before the end of the year, all kinds of videos and stuff that you can check out. But don’t do that right now because my new friend, Jesse Lane, is joining us from beautiful Northwest Arkansas. Jesse, how’s it going? You doing okay?

Jesse: Oh, so good. Yeah. It’s going great.

Steven: Yeah. Really awesome to have you. We got introduced by some mutual friends. I think there’s already some of your folks in the chat. That’s awesome to see. And yeah, I’m so excited to hear from you because I’ve been learning about Jesse over the last few months or so. He and his team over at Branches Mission Lab do really awesome work for a variety of nonprofits, especially those of you in the ministry space. You’ll definitely want to perk up and perhaps connect with Jesse later on. He’s been doing this for many, many years, in addition to running his own agency. Most recently he’s been head of marketing and organizations. He’s raised hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients and his employers over the years. And what can I say? He’s a girl-dad, three daughters. I mean, you know, juggling that alone is . . . kind of shows you the strength of the character there. So I don’t want to take any time away from, Jesse. So I’m going to pipe down. I’m going to stop sharing my slides here and I’ll let you take it away.

Jesse: Yeah. Well, before I share my screen and you can see my face, hi, everybody. Wish we could hang out in person and shake your hand, or, you know, fist bump, whatever your style is these days, but I’m grateful to be here. I know that you’re nonprofit leaders and for that, I want to say thank you. It means you’re doing important work out there every day, and it’s not easy. It’s often thankless. And so I want to say thank you. Thank you for the work that you’re doing. Hopefully today’s helpful. We’re going to move really fast because I’ve got a lot to cover. My goal here is to give you as much value as possible in lots of different ways. And so I’m going to pull up my screen here and start sharing that, and then we’ll jump right into it. But totally agree with what Steven has said.

We want to hear your questions and we want to see your comments. And so stay focused in so you can engage in the chat. I’ve even got a few team members from Branches there to interact if I can’t catch it all. But thank you for being here. So everybody seeing my screen okay? Steven, everything look good on your end for I jump in?

Steven: Yeah. It looks like it’s working just fine.

Jesse: Okay. Fantastic. So like you said, the four-step plan to get more donors to grow your fundraising results. These four steps, I think, they’re simple but they’re really powerful. And so I’ll jump into that. But before I do, there’s a couple of things I want to cover first and I, unfortunately, have to start with a confession. And I say this because I feel like you need to know this about me. So I have this confession to make. Gosh, I always hate talking about this because I know someone out there, they’re not going to like it. So before I give the confession, I actually I want you to like me a little bit more. So I’m going to tell you a little bit about myself. You’ve already gotten started there, but then hopefully when I do make the confession, you don’t hate me as much, but we’ll jump into so who I am real quick. 

So like Steven mentioned, got the chance to start Branches Mission Lab, and also our education arm, Goodmaker U, where we help educate nonprofits. Essentially, what do we do? We help nonprofit good makers, which is kind of what we call world-changing nonprofit leaders. We help you all tell your story to the masses and raise more funds faster. We love to bring together communications, marketing, digital strategy, and fundraising all together in a strategic integrated way. That’s kind of what we do.

And so I’m also the creator of an online course called the Marketing Anatomy of a Growing Nonprofit where we bring together all of our knowledge in this space to eight modules to really give you the full training that you need to be successful. I’m also a girl dad and I can’t miss an opportunity to show photos of my three daughters. I really just literally can’t pass up an opportunity. So this is Nora, Ruby, and Mabel, and I’m just so blessed. They’re incredible. So much joy hanging out with them. Also a lot of screaming and, you know, diapers, at least with that last one. But a lot of fun. Love them so much. And these are my cute, sweet, awesome girls.

So now I can get to that confession because you know, you’ve seen my daughters and you got to be nice to me and all of that. Thanks for the comments about my girls. Appreciate that. So back to that confession. I have to admit, I hate asking people for money and I know you’re like, “Wait a minute, I’m a development director. You know, it’s not cool. I that’s what I do for a living or aren’t you teaching us about fundraising today, Jesse?” And yeah, and I think that’s hopefully why I have even more to talk about, is because this is where I’m coming from. I mean, it’s the honest truth. I don’t know. Maybe some of you secretly don’t like asking people for money. And, you know, you can join me in that, but I’ve been able to overcome that by making some massive shifts in the way I see things and the way I approach fundraising. And I’ve been able to see other people’s make that shift in their minds, other nonprofits and leaders. And so I’d love to share some of that with you today. That’s kind of a part of my story.

So I want to ask you a question. I always like to ask this question. You’re a group of passionate people. I just know it. But on a scale of 1 to 10, put in the chat. We can see your chat comments here. How passionate are you about your cause and mission? If you just had to rate it on a 1 to 10. Look at all those tens. There’s an 8, there’s a 10, 11. What? That’s not even legal. So yeah, huge numbers coming in. Love that. So I’m actually not surprised, and that’s because you guys are passionate. You’re people who are doing what you’re doing because you believe in the mission, right. And that really separates the nonprofit industry from any other space out there and I think it’s really . . . it’s a special thing. It’s worth recognizing and leaning into that passion. 

But one of my big questions is and has been, is passion enough? Right? And so we’ll talk about that, but passionate group of people. Another quick question, on a scale of 1 to 10 now, how happy are you with your current fundraising results? One to 10, how happy are you? Okay. Numbers are a little lower now. Okay. That’s probably why you’re here, right? I saw some ones. So yeah. That’s room for improvement. We’ll say it that way. So lots of numbers under five. I do see a couple high numbers, so way to go. We’ve got some people new in their role. Okay. Okay. So day two on the job. Okay. Well, awesome. Welcome to this new season that you’re in.

So obviously the numbers are way lower and that’s maybe why you’re here. And I want to talk about that. You’re passionate and that’s huge. But is that enough? And to be successful in fundraising, it’s not, I don’t think. So one of the things I wanted throw out there upfront is we have a little tool kit. I’m going to reference throughout the presentation a couple of tools that we’ve made available for free. If you want to download those and check those out while I reference them, you can go to another tab real quick and download those. Won’t take long at all. You can do it at brancheslab.com/kit. I’ll reference this a couple more times throughout. So I just thought I’d give you a heads up early on. It might have some helpful tools and everything will make a little bit more sense when I get to those parts of the presentation.

Okay. So back to this question, is passion for your mission enough? And I’ve come to learn that you know, you need more than passion, right? You really need some knowledge. You need some experience, you need some community, you need others with you. And I think this day I took this picture was the day that I really started to ask this question. That was my first day officially working at a nonprofit. And this was, I think, over 10 years ago or about 10 years ago and I was flying across to the country. I was flying into DFW and I had my laptop out and I was preparing a presentation and I was wondering, you know, “Do I know what I’m getting into?” I have a lot of passion for this mission. I really believe in it, but I’m going to have a fundraising goal and I’m going to have some responsibilities that I’m not sure I’m ready for it. And I had this kind of moment where I really had to wrestle with, is my passion going to be enough?

Over the next few weeks I developed a new F-word. It’s not that I use the other one, but, you know, this one, fundraising became something. I didn’t love to talk about. And really, it wasn’t that I hated the idea of it, but I was uncomfortable because I all of a sudden was responsible for this fundraising goal that I hadn’t ever had before and it really stressed me out. I mean, I was I was really young, just a few years out of college and thinking like, “How am I going to do this? I just don’t have the experience here.” Had the passion but not the know-how. 

This is the day it hit me, I was actually surrounded by incredible leaders in a leadership team meeting when I had to present my goal, and plan, and forecast around fundraising. And I was so nervous because I was putting this out there in front of everybody. So much accountability, but had no idea how I was going to get to that goal. I had no idea how I was going to accomplish it. And the truth is I started hated fundraising because of a lot of fear. I don’t know if you’ve ever felt fear in that, but I had fear that I would receive a criticism on the way I approached it, a fear, rejection from donors, from my peers, my boss. Just feared that we would put an ask out there, we’d put campaigns out there and just get rejected. And I was really anxious about that and ultimately just feared failure in this space. This was a new space for me and fundraising was just scary for me for a while.

You know, being at a nonprofit, maybe you can relate to this, but just almost instantly, within a matter of weeks, some of you starting in this space right now, maybe are on your way there, but I just felt so busy. I was wearing so many hats which I’m sure, especially those of you at small nonprofits, you have to wear so many hats and juggle all the things. And I just felt busy, distracted, always putting out fires, right? There was a new fire to put out constantly which kept me from working on some of the more important things and some of the fundraising strategies that I needed to employ. And so just left me feeling overwhelmed. 

So I don’t know if you guys have experienced these feelings. I’m actually curious to know that. I started doing wonder you know, is it impossible to get people to donate and give their hard-earned money? And so can anybody relate? I think it would just make me feel better if I’m not the only one. Okay. You’re already putting it in there for real though. Okay. So yeah, there’s a lot of you that can relate. Okay. Grateful for that. Loving your comments, by the way. Keep them coming. A lot of personality in this chat box, all about that. So glad I’m not the only one. So I think that’s a part of being a fundraiser. I think that’s part of being in the nonprofit space. However, my story didn’t end there, and I want to kind of quickly tell you what happened next.

So thankfully I wasn’t in it alone. Those same people that I was nervous about and had accountability with, they were around me helping me and supporting me. Some of them are just incredible experts and I had mentors and I had community and I wasn’t in it alone. And I hope you’re not either. And so fast forward with me, really fast through several years of time, and I stuck around and I started learning a lot sometimes by making mistakes, you know, mostly by making mistakes. And I got the chance to lead this nonprofit through a rebranding experience. And we started by discovering what our why was, and like that’s so core to anything and everything you’re going to message, market, or fundraise with. And we crafted a whole new brand message and then we started communicating that in a lot of creative ways and pushing the boundaries. And we won actually a lot of awards for that and it was really fun to see that come in. And we started having events and fundraising events based on that message and that brand and raising way more than the organization had ever raised, $20 million, $30 million at events. And it was really fun to experience that.

So I started to look back and say, “We’re having a lot of success in this marketing and fundraising, but so many nonprofits are struggling here. So many, they’re at a bottleneck. They can’t grow because they can’t raise money. They’ve got great dreams and vision and passion, but they don’t have funds.” So I started reverse engineering what was working for us and other nonprofits, really becoming a student, studying other nonprofits, like what’s working for these organizations that are finding success. And then I started to kind of document that and using some of those strategies for clients and we saw really great results, and that was encouraging. So I tested the ideas, tweaking, fine-tuning, kept playing with them, and then seeing more results, even better results. And that was a lot of fun and exciting for me and our clients, obviously.

And then eventually we felt like we needed to put this into an online course so that as many people as possible could engage with it because obviously I was limited in how I could teach it. And so we built this course out based on this framework called the Marketing Anatomy of a Growing Nonprofit, which is the course I mentioned earlier. So then I’ve had lots of opportunities to share these concepts with hundreds of nonprofits. Like I mentioned, we developed this course based on this framework. And you’re maybe wondering, “What about those four steps you said?” Well, those four steps are based on all of that experience, based on my years of trial and error, based on studying this space, right? And it’s taken me years to learn it, but if you pay attention and you’re not multitasking too much, you’re not over there sending you emails off, you can learn them in the next 30 minutes. Okay? 

So I say all that to say I really hope you can listen in and gain something. And you may be wondering, “We’re a little bit different, our nonprofit. How do we know it’s going to work for you?” Well, we’ve worked with a diverse group of organizations and we’ve got some really cool stories. Hundreds of organizations have been able to kind of take these steps and we’ve seen some great results like this . . . a small nonprofit who serves children with disability, raising $91,000 on a regional giving day. Before they raised maybe less than $10,000 in a similar day. Another small nonprofit, foster care, raising $30,000 in one day. Their goal was only 15. We saw a nonprofit in cancer care raising, you know, almost three times more at their annual event because they did these four simple steps. And then, of course, this was right during the pandemic. So we’ve seen a lot of cool results.

The last story I’ll tell you is one of our partners and friends over at Mercy House, they had an end-of-year campaign where they raised $17,000 without us and didn’t work with us. They invited us in the next year in 2019 and we took these four steps and we set a goal of $50,000. Felt like a big stretch from $17,000 to $50,000 but we executed the plan that I’m going to share with you guys and we ended up raising over $93,000. Way exceeded the goal as you can see the year before. Well, we continued to do that and then the following spring, 2020, we set a goal of $70,000 for their annual giving day. Took these four steps, the things I’m going to teach you today, and raised $163,000 over that actually. And that was obviously a huge, huge lift over their goal and what they’d done in the past. So $17,000 campaign to almost $170,000. We’re talking like a 10X increase, right?

And so my point in all of this is saying I really hope you guys can take notes. Some of these things you maybe have heard before, some of them are new, but I want you to really, you know, take these simple steps and think about how you can apply them because it can make a massive difference for your organization like it has for some of these. 

So with that, I’m going to jump right into the four steps and move quickly through them. So number one, step one, craft your core story. So you’ve heard a lot about story, I’m sure of it. You’ve heard a lot about branding and messaging and how important it is, but have you taken the time to really work on it? And do you even know how? Well, today I want to help you think through some of the practical steps you can take to craft that core story. And that core story is going to be essential throughout everything you do, not just fundraising, but especially in fundraising.

All right. So moving right along here, let me ask you this question. You’ve been super active in the chat. I would love to know, on a scale of 1 to 10, how clear and consistent do you feel like your message is? I’m going to take a sip of water while you put that in there. Five, 7, 9, 6. Okay. We’re kind of all across the board here. It’s interesting. So, okay. Yeah. This is great. So, okay. Some of you obviously have a lot of room for improvement in this, and it’s a big deal. It’s a big deal. Some of you, you’re doing great. You’ve got high scores in this and that’s awesome. That means you’ve got a good foundation to build on some of these other strategies we’ll talk about. But this is so important. And let me talk about why. So we always say that in the four steps, you know, a lot of people focus on the ask. A lot of people in step one, I mean, they focus on the ask. They’re like, our message is all about how do we present that ask in the right way? But the truth is there’s a lot that comes before the ask that’s as important or more important.

And the way we talk about it is it’s your proof, your plans, and the heart. Okay? And so all of these come together to make up this core story. So let me unpack what I mean. If you can’t clearly communicate your heart or your organizational identity, you can’t expect people to give. Okay? So if you’re scoring low on this, if you gave yourself like six or under, five or under, you got to stop everything and work on your story. Okay? Because it’s like this invisible barrier to success that you may not realize because people won’t necessarily tell you they’re confused, but if it’s not clear, people aren’t going to respond, they’re not going to give. And so you’re not going to reach the heart of others if you can’t start with the heart of your organization. So you got to start with your heart and get that clear.

And I’m going to unpack what I mean by that. If it feels a little ambiguous, let me unpack it here. So in our course, we, you know, module one, it’s all about your brand identity, your heart, your why, and who you are in that message. This is our back to our framework, right? And we always start with the heart. We always start with the heart. And so you may be wondering, “Is he talking about logo, or the tagline, or our mission and vision?” These are all important things, believe me, but that’s not what I’m talking about. This is not what I mean when I say your core story. They may be a part of it, but I’m wanting to push further and get even more clear on your core story. 

So what I’m talking about is your why. Maybe you’ve heard Simon Sinek’s really famous TED Talk on the why. That’s what I’m talking about, what is the why behind what you do? Your promise, your brand promise. What are you offering or promising to your donors and your audience? That value proposition, what kind of value are you bringing to the table? And your voice and your unique personality that no one else has.

So I want to make this super simple for you. And this isn’t everything you need to do to craft your core story, but this will get you a really good headstart. If you could just fill in these blanks and really feel good about that and own it, and lean into that in all your messaging, it’ll take you really far. So what’s the reason you exist? In a short, concise few words, why do you exist as an organization? And once you can kind of define that, you can start to meet people in that space, not just about what you do and your programs, but about the why behind it. You can tell those stories in a whole ‘nother way. What’s is the problem that you solve, right? That gets into your promise and saying like, “We promise that we are going to work, you know, day in, day out to solve this problem.” What is that problem? What is the value that you give to supporters, donors, volunteers? How are you bringing value to their lives? Okay?

Notice how I said they’re getting the value, not you, right? Oftentimes we get focused on them giving us money because we are a nonprofit, but what value are they getting from their donation? What value are they getting from being a supporter and an advocate? And if you can’t articulate that, if you can’t really speak to that, then maybe you’re not bringing much value for them and maybe your retention rates are not going to be great. Maybe you’re struggling to fundraise because of that. And so this is the transaction of value, right? They are giving funds, but what do they get in exchange? Okay? So you need to ask those hard questions, maybe talk to your board, your donors about this specific thing. 

And then what’s your voice? What do you sound like out in the world? In a very loud world where there’s a ton of competing voices, what’s your voice and how has it kind of stand out in that space? And then what’s your personality? How do you make people feel? What is your brand expression feel like to the world? At this point, you’re starting to get your heart defined. There’s more we could talk about there, but I’m just going to keep moving, but you got to work on your heart, okay? Start with the heart.

Then next, we want to get into some plans. And now we get real practical. Okay? And we have actually two plans that we like to work on before any fundraising campaign. And let me show you what those are. Okay. First is your fundraising plan and number two is your impact plan. This is super simple. I know a lot of people like to make like 20-page plans for fundraising. And that’s fine if that’s your kind of thing. I love one-pagers. I love a one-page simple plan. Sometimes that’s harder, actually, but it’s focused and I like that. So keeping it simple and focused. This is the core elements that I would be looking for in a fundraising plan. Your who, when, where, what for, and how much. Okay? If you can document this, then you know what you need to go out and accomplish.

And again, it seems simple, but it provides focus. And so let’s unpack each one of these real quick. Okay. Who are you asking to give? And a lot of you, maybe you’re thinking, “Well, I would love anybody and everybody to give.” But that is so unfocused that you’re actually going to get less giving because you’ve broadened it so much. Instead, focus on a target audience, focus on the most likely to give. And so define who that is. 

When are you going to give? You’re fundraising all the time, the same way without any ebbs and flows without any pushes or campaigns, that’s not the best strategy unless, you know, you’re a development director and you’re kind of making those one-on-one asks, but digital spaces, you know, you need to have a rhythm in your fundraising. And so this could be as practical as saying, “We’re launching a campaign on September, you know . . . ” Today’s the first, right? Second? September 2nd. “We’re launching a campaign on September 2nd and it’s going to go through the end of year and that’s our end-of-year fundraising campaign.” And that’s what I mean by when.

Where, where will you make the ask? So is this something you’re doing in person, or is it online, email? 

What for, wherever the funds go, this starts to get into your impact plan and we’ll talk more about that in a second, but where are these funds actually going to go? And I’m not necessarily talking about designated or un-designated, although it gets into that space, but I’m saying, what’s the impact that’s going to happen here? Why should someone give because what’s going to happen with their funds? You know, what’s the point of it? 

And so how much? What is your goal? And a lot of people shy away from setting a goal, but I have seen a lot of power in setting specific goals for each and every campaign you do. It can really encourage people to go to that next level in their giving, especially your team, your board, and your advocates. 

Okay. So in case you’re just wondering some examples of what this looks like, you know, here’s a few I’ve already kind of read off and rattled through some of these. But, you know, it could be this, it could be something completely different. This is not some gold fundraising plan. I’m just showing you an example of what you could answer on these questions.

All right. Next, your impact plan. So this is probably something less than you have considered having as a part of a fundraising campaign, but I think it’s essential. So we’re asking the same questions who, when, where, what for, how much? So who’s going to be impacted? When will they be impacted? Where will we focus the program? And then what for, like, why does this matter? Why is this the thing we’re going to work on? Is it because it’s a sustainable solution? Is it because it has a long-term impact on generations to come? Like, what is it that you’re choosing this for? And then how much work, time, and impact is expected? 

Okay. Why is this important? Well, obviously people give for the sake of impact. And you know that, but if you don’t have some of these questions answered even internally, like on a document, something that you’ve kind of thought through, then when people ask questions or when you message in your story out, it’s not going to be very clear. It’s going to come across vague and people will give when it’s more concrete, clear, and trustworthy, right? And so that’s why you need an impact plan so that you can back it up with, “Hey, we’ve got a plan. We’re not just wanting your money because we need more money. No, we’ve got a plan. Here’s what we’re going to do and here’s when we’re going to do it, here’s who’s going to be impacted.” Right? It makes it way more concrete.

All right. We’ve talked about the heart and the plans. Now I want to get into proof. Proof is huge. A lot of people think about data. And that’s fine. I’m not anti-data. Maybe a little bit. Some data can really be impactful, but I actually believe, firmly believe. And there’s a lot of research to back this up, that people’s decisions are going to be made because of emotions and because of story more than data. 

So I believe there’s no form of communication that’s more powerful, more memorable, and emotive than just good old-fashioned story. And so I want to encourage you that if you’re not telling stories, sadly, so many nonprofits have great stories, they’re just not getting them out there. At least not very effectively. You need to get better at storytelling, like strengthen those muscles and practice it and do it over and over again. It’s really easy to plop a data point out there from you pulled from spreadsheet, but craft those stories and they’ll go way further, literally as people share them across the internet. 

So let me ask you a question. Yes or no in the chat, do you have a go-to story? One or two, maybe about your nonprofit’s impact? Most leaders do. If it’s your second day, maybe you’re not there yet. Okay. I’m seeing a lot of yeses. That’s good.

Okay. You guys have stories. That’s good. You need a go-to story. My other question, I don’t have this on the slides here, but are you are you telling that and retelling that in different, creative ways? Because if you have a good story, it deserves to be told and it’s okay to hear it twice, right? And that means you can tell it in lots of ways. And I’m going to give you some specific examples here in a second. So a great story and impact story provides proof and it demonstrates the impact of your organization through an individual. Key word here, individual story of transformation. 

Okay. What I mean by that is like your story . . . the kind of story I’m talking about here is like, you know, Bob’s life was transformed and here’s, you know, his specific story, his timeline, this is what happened, there’s a character, there’s, you know, a rise, and fall, and a climax. That’s a story, right? I’m not talking about 10 years ago, our organization was founded and since then we have worked with 1,000 local, you know, people to impact the X, Y, Z. That’s your organizational story as in like that’s your history. I’m not saying that doesn’t matter. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about an individual story of transformation. Okay? And that can be written, videos, photos, audio, there’s a lot of ways to tell a story and it’s okay to take the same story and retell it in all of these ways. Okay? It’s actually a really smart thing to do. So maybe you’ve got that go-to story. Maybe it’s even from a few years ago. That’s okay. It’s still powerful. It’s still relevant. Maybe you need to make a video about that story. Maybe you need to get some professional photography to tell that story. Lean in to those good stories that you have.

All right. Now we can talk about the ask. And it’s funny, if you’ve done all of this, if you’ve thought about this and defined your heart, you’ve got the plans defined for fundraising and impact and you know this amazing, compelling story and how to tell it well, then the ask is actually really easy. In fact, sometimes you don’t even have to make it. Now, don’t forget to make the ask, but sometimes the donor, if you’re sitting across the desk or the coffee table from them, or maybe it’s a virtual thing and they’re reading your emails, they’re just so ready to give because you’ve done such a good job. But either way, it’s time to make the ask at this point. And it becomes super simple. It’s just a simple invitation to ask. I’m sorry, invitation to impact to join the story, right? So they’ve heard this specific story, they’ve heard who you are, what’s unique about you, and it’s exciting, right? It’s like, “Wow, I want to be a part of this.” Well, an ask is simply, you know, you can join into this. You can be a part of this and here’s how, and that’s it. It doesn’t have to be long, doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to use all these big buzz words. In fact, don’t do that. Just keep it simple and don’t be afraid to make the ask.

So like I said, clear, simple, concrete and focused. Let me hang out on focus for a second. You do not want to ask for 10 different things, right? And this could apply to email, social, face-to-face. Don’t, for instance, on your email, say, “Here’s our amazing story now. Would you like to be involved? We would love to have you be a volunteer or donate $50. Or if you can afford it, donate $5,000, or maybe you can, you know, just be an advocate, share on social media.” So all of a sudden they’re going, “Oh, I was excited by the story, but now I don’t even know what to do. Do you need me to be a volunteer or do you need me to donate? Or what do you want from me?” So focus. One call-to-action. One simple focused call-to-action. Okay? Tell them what you need. And it’s not that the next email can’t be about volunteering or the next one be about an advocacy type of thing, but one at a time. Okay? Promise me. You can do this.

All right. So I’m back to this confession, right? And I saw some people in the chat kind of already figuring this out, maybe spilling my secrets, but, you know, I don’t like asking people for money. I really don’t. I still don’t. However, maybe like you, I love inviting people into impact. We all do, actually. When we’re seeing something amazing happen and lives are being changed, the world is being impacted, cool things are happening, we love to talk about it, right? It’s very natural and we want to invite people into that. So if you reframe your fundraising to being about impact and about inviting people into that and the value that they’re going to get and joining into that story, it really makes fundraising fun. It makes it easier to invite people and make the ask. It doesn’t feel like an ask anymore. It feels like an invitation to a fun party, right? A life-changing story that they get to be a part of. So reframe it. And it could . . . If you’re like me, you don’t like asking people for money, it might change everything. 

So I talked about an ask. I talked about how it’s clear, simple, concrete, and focused. And if you’re ask like that, it doesn’t have to be difficult. You don’t have to worry or be afraid of it.

All right. So moving on, we’ve gotten through step one. That’s the one I talk about the most because so many people skip right past it. And I don’t want to, I don’t want you guys to ignore those essential things. So moving on now to step two and moving quickly. So, you know, take notes. Step two is activating your A team. Okay? You may be wondering, “What in the world is A team?” Who are you talking about? There’s a few A teams out there that he could be talking about.” 

Let me explain. So your A team is your board members, your staff, your volunteers, your past donors, sponsors, existing relationships. The A stands for already. Okay? They’re already involved. They’re already engaged. Can sometimes be over-obsessed with new, getting the new donors, getting the new audience. And that’s not bad, and I get it. However, your A team is your best bet for getting fundraising traction and results. And, in fact, oftentimes your A team who are already involved, who’ve already raised their hand and say, “I love what you do. I’ve given you money before,” they are your best path to the new, okay? They are the route to the new. They can help you . . . introduce you. They can help share the stories. They can get the word out, right? But you have to equip and activate them or they won’t know how. Okay? Does that make sense?

So your A team is so important, especially if you want them to stay involved. You can’t just be like, “Oh, great. You’re giving every year. I’m going to just ignore you and move on and find somebody new.” That doesn’t sound very kind, right? But we do that sometimes. But even in your next fundraising campaign, maybe it’s end of year coming up, start with your A team. And let me tell you some specific ideas on how to start with that team. 

Oh, real quick. Sorry. Remember I mentioned a kit earlier of downloading that? In that kit, there’s an A team spreadsheet. Okay? And that’s like . . . it gets you started, creating your A team. So if you’re like, “Oh, man, this sounds important. Who’s my A team again and how do I find them?” Well, this spreadsheet, it’s super simple, but it will help you start to ideate who your A team is. So if you’ve downloaded it already, you can go and reference that. If not go, feel free to grab that right now.

Let me say something. This is this is kind of a big deal. Fundraising is not only 10 times more effective, but it’s also 10 times more fun when you focus first on your fans. This is actually a tongue twister. Fundraising is 10 times more fun and effective when you focus first on your fans. Okay? Wherever you’re at home, in an office, in a coffee shop, I want you to say that 10 times because you’ll look really funny but it’ll also maybe help you remember. Fundraising is 10 times more fun and effective when you focus first on your fans. It’s true. It really is. And so focus first on your fans, the people that are already engaged. You don’t have near the heavy-lifting to do when they already are in. Okay? So it’s more fun and more effective. Even if that’s a small group. I know some of you are like, “We only have five people that have ever donated to us, or we’ve only got 100.” Even if it’s a small group, focus first there to grow. Okay? 

So how do you activate them? You’re like, “That sounds great, but what do I actually do?” Well, I’ve got you covered. Don’t worry here. So let your A team, your board, the donors, the major givers, all those, let them be the first to know stuff, okay? Everybody likes to be the first to know stuff. Let them be in the know. And not only that, here’s my favorite bullet point on this. I know it’s a lot of bullets, but this second one, this is my favorite. Invite their input. Ask them for feedback. 

Okay. What does that mean? It means don’t get it polished, don’t make it perfect, don’t get everything buttoned up and then send it out to your A team. Get the raw version in their hands, okay? I know that’s scary. It’s vulnerable, but what it does, it says, “Hey, I don’t have this figured out yet and I would actually love your input. I know you’ve donated in the past, you’ve been a big fan and supporter, and I’m so grateful. And because of that, I would actually like to get your feedback on this fundraising campaign, or this ask, or this this plan that we have. Do you think we can raise this much money? Do you think this person would respond?” Get their input on whatever it is and what you’ll get is not just their input, but you’ll get their ownership. And believe me, you want their ownership because if they own it, they’re going to help you hit those goals, which is another reason why you’ve got to set a fundraising goal so they can help you cross the finish line. Okay? So your A team gives input, gives their feedback, but they also start to buy in and say, “Yes. I’m on the team. I’m now on the field with these guys helping them succeed. Not an outsider, I’m an insider.” Okay? That’s a big deal.

So you’ve crafted your core story. You remember, step one, when we worked on that? You know, share that with them and get their input on it. You know, don’t forget to tell stories to your A team. Just because they’ve heard some before doesn’t mean they don’t need to hear them again. And then they deserve, in my opinion, personal communication. Personal communication goes a long ways. And so you can do that one by one and it’s worth it. There are ways to kind of mass communicate in a personalized way, and I’m all about that, but make it personal. And I think these people are worth a phone call, worth a one-on-one email or a coffee meeting or lunch because they’ve proven that they’re in, okay? They’ve invested. You know, invest in those relationships. This is huge.

And then the last thing I’ll say is strategic opportunities. Your A team is a great place for any kind of strategic opportunity, especially, and my go-to is matching funds. Okay? So I want to talk about that for just a second here. I don’t know if you’ve ever done a matching funds campaign, but if you do it right and you promote it correctly, it’s like magic. I’ve seen it over and over again. And just having them alone is powerful, but you can do so much more when you start to really message it correctly and promote it. Well, the timing matters, but it would really be like magic because it motivates everyone involved, right? It motivates the let’s say the A team member, maybe it’s a board match and they’re saying, “We are excited about this now because our money is more strategic. Our gifts are going to go further.” But then also everybody else in your audience who’s hearing about that match gets excited because they’re giving goes further as well. So it’s motivating to both sides. It’s magic, right?

And so if you’ve got a fundraising campaign coming up, I highly recommend kicking it off with a board match. It’s so powerful. Maybe you challenge your board chair to give that first gift and then ask them to challenge your whole board to give a matching pool of money. And maybe that’s 50% of your goal, or 20%, or 30% of your goal as a whole. And what an incredible way to kick off your campaign. You’ve got gifts already pledged or committed, you’ve got matching funds to promote, you’ve got your board excited, and they’re invested, they’re going to want to tell their friends and contacts, and that’s huge. So lots of value here and getting your board match to start things off. So maybe some of you have done that. Highly recommend it.

Okay. I want to ask you a quick question again. On a scale of 1 to 10, how active is your board in fundraising and giving? Okay. I’d love to hear this. Numbers are coming in so fast. Zero. Ooh. Sorry about that, Alison. Yeah. A lot is you got a one, a two, or three, ones. Okay. There are some good numbers. Wow. Look at that 10. That’s great. Awesome. You don’t hear that very often. You guys are all across the board. Yeah, Alison that is too bad. I’m sorry. That’s a hard place to be in. You can get out of that hole, but it is a hard one. It takes a while. Okay. So thanks for sharing your answers. I’m going to look at something real quick in the Q&A. Awesome. All right. So, yeah. Thank you. I appreciate this. 

So your board is essential, guys. Like they’re so important, no matter what type of organization you’re with or how big or small is, and when it comes to fundraising, they need to be involved. They need to be not just giving, but they need to be fundraising. Even if they can’t give much, even if their fundraising capacity is small, even if their time is limited, got to get them involved somehow. Okay? And there’s a lot of ways to do that. It’s one of the missing pieces. It’s kind of the breakthrough opportunity for so many organizations. And yeah, it’s hard to kick that off, but if it’s not happening, if you’re scoring low on this, if you just wrote five or below or six or seven or below, there’s a big opportunity on the table and I highly encourage you to focus because on it.

And so one thing that might be helpful is just real quick, because this isn’t the topic necessarily for this webinar, or we could go deep into this, but if . . . I love to just say there’s three things every board member needs to know, they needed to be able to tell an impact story. Easy, right? They’ve probably heard it, but can they tell it? That’s fine, right? Who doesn’t like to tell stories? So make sure they have an impact story. They need to understand their role on the board and specifically, like are they on the board to give, are they on the board to connect dots? Is it because of their skill set, their technical know-how? That’s pretty important. Give them clarity there and expectations. And then lastly, the got to know how to fundraise, and specifically what can they do to fundraise? Maybe it’s different than the other board members because each person brings a different skill set and different network to the table, but how can they fundraise? Okay? 

And, by the way, if you do want to go deeper in this, I know it’s not the main point of this webinar, but we do have a mini course dedicated to this. It’s an online course. You can find it on our website. And it’s just a way for getting your board more engaged in donating and fundraising. And I think it’s super simple, quick. We’ve got a lot of downloads and cheat sheets and things, and you can actually send the videos to your board and be like, “Hey, I didn’t say it. This guy did. Listen to him. You need to be giving. You need to be fundraising.” But anyways, it’s kind of a jump starter in this conversation. Okay?

All right. So that’s step two. We’ve talked about your core story, now you understand what I mean by activating your A team. So that’s all really good, but what else? Step three. Okay. Clear and constant communication. All right? We’ve touched on this, but I want to go deeper. And this is super important. So this is why. I say this all the time. The confused mind always says no. Okay? Someone’s confused about what you do, if someone’s confused about how it all works and adds up, they’re not going to give, okay? Or at least they’re not going to give as much or as willingly because they don’t quite understand what they’re giving to and so they’re going to have a hard time really getting excited about that, really selling that to their spouse, or their family, or their company, because if they can’t even understand that themselves, how do you expect them to kind of explain it to others?

Confused mind always says no. All right? So you got to have clear communication. But you also have to have constant communication. People need to hear something 7 to 14 times before they’ll take action. Our attention spans are shorter and shorter, the volume of messaging and advertising that are hitting us these days as more than ever, so it’s such a crowded environment that you’re entering into that people need to hear something multiple times. It’s just a fact. And so because of that, constant communication is key. I don’t mean spamming people. Okay? Please don’t hear that. If you’re communicating effectively about these important things that you’re doing and you’re thinking about your story and your audience and bringing value to them, helping them bring legacy to their family, helping them transform lives and be a part of a bigger story, this is not spam. Okay? Just want you to know that. You’re not spam.

So communication is such a big deal these days, right? In fact, when you look at our framework that we have and our course is based on several of our modules are based on communication. We talk about social media strategy, email strategy, your website, advertising, all of that’s communication, right? It’s such a big deal, but just, I want to give you the short version because we don’t have time to go into all of that. And I just want to, unfortunately, sadly, remind you that you have the curse of knowledge and that curse is, you know, this curse that you have, it’s not your fault that you have this, it’s just part of the job, but you know too much. You know more than your donors need to know and you know more than anybody’s ever going to ask. You know more details and in the weeds information and that type of detail can overwhelm someone, right? And so not only that, but it can confuse them.

And so back to this slide, that last sentence here, you have got to simplify your communication and repeat yourself often because people need to hear it multiple times. Okay? Remember that. It’s okay to repeat yourself. And you need always simplify. I would say 99% of the time when we’ve worked with nonprofits, that’s the need, to simplify your message. Simplify it. You overwhelmed people with too much and it’s confusing them. Okay? All right. So you know about your curse now. Sorry about that. So you’ve got to avoid these things. You cannot use jargon that people won’t understand. If you communicate in ways they only get it if they’ve worked at your organization or been involved for five or 10 years, you know the words I’m talking about. Go check your website and make sure you don’t use those.

Don’t use those insider baseball terminology and phrases. It’s going to confuse people. And they’re going to make them feel like they’re not, you know, welcome here, in a sense, not a part of the inner circle. And then, guys, like you got to shorten those paragraphs. I see it on too many nonprofit websites. Just long paragraphs. And I know you’ve got a lot of passion. Remember that passion, but people aren’t going to read that. It’s just too long. And so shorten those paragraphs and use some formatting, space those things out, bold and make some headlines so that people can skim it and scan it quickly because that’s how the world operates today. And they’re usually on their phone, multitasking on the go when they’re on your website. And so that long paragraph’s just not going to work. It’s not that that information isn’t important and you don’t need it in your back pocket, but it doesn’t need to be front and center. Okay? 

So then no death by detail. And this . . . I already talked about this, but whether that’s in a face-to-face conversation, or on your website, or a social media, or an email posts, don’t overwhelm people with detail.

Okay. Real quick. I know some of you are small organizations, but it’s best to work in multiple channels. And I don’t mean like every social media outlet, I just mean in social media, but also email and your website and integrate those messaging into a cohesive, consistent voice, design, and call-to-action. Okay? Because that’s what people need these days. They need to see it and hear it from multiple places to be able to respond. And even a one man or woman nonprofit can pull this off. One person organization can do this. And so if that’s you, I don’t want to discourage you. You can do this. I’ve seen it. 

And so just a quick word on this, if your social media and you’re putting it out there, but it’s not a part of a bigger ecosystem, a digital ecosystem, you’re probably wasting your time on it. And I’m a fan of social media when it comes to . . . Not everything on social media, but I’m a fan of the power it can have in communications, marketing and fundraising if done correctly. But if it’s not a part of that bigger system, you may be wasting your time. And, in fact, email marketing is one of the best online strategies for driving donations. And, oftentimes, that’s neglected for the sake of nonsocial media, but you need to be investing in both and in multiple places.

And you may be thinking, “Oh, I’m sending so many emails. I’m sending a monthly email already.” Most nonprofits aren’t sending enough to get the fundraising results they want when it comes to email. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be spam. You know, don’t go too far, but I think most nonprofits are not sending enough email just based on my experience. This isn’t real data. As you can see down below, this is just me saying based on my experience, this is what we see. Because just because you send an email, it doesn’t mean everybody knows, okay? Remember your open rates aren’t 100% and even from there, the people that actually read it and clicked are even lower, right? So remember that, that’s why you need to communicate multiple times. 

But when you communicate, don’t make it an ask, an invitation, a constant, you know, sales pitch, right? This is bringing value most of the time. It’s okay to make an ask, but don’t just make asks all the time, right? So bring value in your email, bring value in all your communication channels. And then, of course, during a campaign, like a fundraising campaign, ramp up your communication, right? Send more, as you get closer to the deadline, as you get closer to the big day, or whatever it may be. So it’s okay to ramp those up and then dial it back.

All right. So we have our secret weapon email that seriously is going to be your best appeal email you’ve ever sent. I highly recommended. And it’s an email that’s not spammy at all. It’s very personal, relational, and super clear. And if you want the formula for that, it is a part of the kit that we’ve been telling you guys about. So if you go download that, if you haven’t done that yet, go to brancheslab.com/kit and you can download this. But this guide is going to help you send a really effective appeal email. And there’s a lot I could say about that. I don’t have time. So go download the kit and you can get this there, but we’ve got subject lines, screenshots, and examples, everything you need there.

Okay. So the fourth step, here we are, radical gratitude. And you cannot forget this step. You need to plan in advance for your thankful campaign, your impact, and response, and stewardship. Okay? Because how you respond to that donation is actually more important than how you ask for one. Yet we sometimes spend all our time thinking about the ask and no time thinking about the how we’re going to say, thank you. And I really want to encourage you, we can do better than these retention rates. So I believe these numbers are from Bloomerang, maybe a couple of years old, but look at this. Like we can do better. We can do better. So one of the best things you can do to increase your retention rate is to really plan out in advance an incredible thank you campaign that really shows radical gratitude. It can make you stand out in so many different ways.

So get creative. Don’t just do the same old same old that everybody else is doing. Okay? I love a good handwritten thank you note, but that’s, that’s kind of the bare minimum, in my opinion, because a lot of people are doing that. Some people aren’t even doing that, but to me, that’s a starting place. But make people feel noticed, like use their name, use personal communication so that they know that their gift was noticed, even if it was small, it matters. Showing that their gift mattered. It’s actually going to have impact. There’s a lot of creative ways you can do this. Talk about that impact, share the stories, going back to those, the feel-good stories that you love, that you hear, got to pass those onto your donors. Okay? Don’t leave them in your inbox, share those out with your donors.

And stay in touch, right? Keep the communication going. Keep bringing value to the table year-round and so your donors will give again, so that they’ll feel like they’re a part of something, right? So that’s this fourth step, but there’s a couple things, one big thing that I haven’t mentioned much, and this was a big part of my story. If you think about going back to my story, there was one piece that really kept me in the game and it was that I wasn’t alone. Okay? If you try to do this alone, if you’re the only person in your organization focused on fundraising, you’re going to really struggle. You need support, you need others. And I would recommend, you need an expert. You need a mentor, you need, you know, education.

So you’re here, so you get that, you’re learning and growing. And I appreciate that. But if you need another option, we would love for you to consider our course, the Marketing Anatomy of a Growing Nonprofit. It says marketing, but it’s all leads to fundraising, right? That’s the end goal with this. It’s marketing that leads to giving. And so this is this is our full course, basically everything that we know about marketing and fundraising is packed into this course. It’s eight modules. You’ve got lots of free downloads that’s going to help you get started on your marketing and your strategy. And then the support you need from us and from a community that you’ll be joining into. 

You’re going to create lots of stuff. I’ll rattle these off, but you’re going to work on your brand, your audience, this A team list, we’re going to walk you through this, marketing strategy, your funnel, if you don’t have that defined. Your website, we want to help you improve your website. It’s the face of your organization. Going to map out your donor journey, your fundraising plan, your social media strategy, email marketing plans, influencer marketing program, and targeted advertising. All of this is in the course. We walk you through this. We’ll give you downloads. We make it easy for you. We want to help you deliver this.

I also wanted to offer a few special bonuses. If you buy the course and enroll in it by next Friday, that’s the deadline for this. It’s just a kind of a special little short-term thing. We want to invite you into this Goodmaker U Facebook group, and this allows you to have some of that support you need, the other people involved. We know support is so important, so we also want to allow you to invite two other team members. So total of three people in the course for free. So that means you can invite your boss, or someone on your team, or a board member to join you in the course and that way you can take it together at no extra costs, because, again, I feel like that accountability and that community is essential. 

And then you know that board engagement mini course I mentioned earlier about getting your board involved, we’ll throw that in for free. It’s normally $300. Again, if you buy the course by next Friday, we’ll throw that in for free. And then the last thing is we have monthly Q&A sessions that are only available to people who’ve purchased the course and we’d love to have you in on those.

And that’s usually with me or another expert on our team where you can ask direct questions and get kind of some really intimate small group kind of coaching and help. So you get all of this value over $3,500 of value if you enroll by next Friday, but the course costs $997 or $99 a month for 12 months. And if you get that . . . do it by Friday, you can get over $3,500 of value. So if you’re interested in that, we’ll put a link in the chat if we haven’t already, but you can also find it on that same kit page and just scroll down a little bit and you’ll see that. 

Okay. I know we’re running out of time, but if you have questions, I would love to answer one or two and then also just want to make myself available. You can see my email address here. I love answering questions. So if we’re out of time, you’ve got to go, but you want to ask a question, send it to me over email and I’ll do my best to get back to every single one of them.

Steven: Nice. Jesse, that was awesome. Thanks, man. This is jam-packed. You may hold the record for the most amount of slides in 10 years of Bloomerang webinars.

Jesse: That’s my goal.

Steven: Yeah. I made it as a compliment. There was so much good stuff in there. I hope you all enjoyed it. I’m seeing some chats here to that effect, but yeah, definitely reach out to Jesse and download that kit if you haven’t already. I know his team has been helping folks out with the URL there. Maybe one or two questions, Jesse, if you don’t mind. I know it’s a little over, but I’m seeing a couple of people ask you about kind of volume. What’s your take on kind of the amount of messages you should be sending out there?

Jesse: Great question. I mean, I think one of the biggest . . . It’s hard because it depends on a few things, like what have you been doing? If you have not emailed your list in three months and then all of a sudden you’re emailing them every day, it’s going to feel like you came on strong, right? So I think there is a bit of a ramp up, but I would say just a steady drip of email, social, whatever the channels are that you have is going to be important. But the key to not being too much is that your messaging is value-packed, it’s creative and it’s unique and different, right? And that’s why we start with the story. That’s why we start with your heart. If every email’s just, “Come to our event, come to our gala, donate, come to our gala,” you know, it’s like, “Okay. I’ve heard it. I’m done engaging.” And so mix it up, get creative, tell a story, have fun with that, bring value to your audience, and then you can ramp up your communication to be more and more.

So specifically on email, I would say a lot of nonprofits are sending monthly emails. I would say move that to every other week and then maybe eventually to weekly and I think you’ll see the opportunity to communicate more, Keep those messages short, simple, and focused. They don’t have to be long. They shouldn’t be, in fact. And I would move away from the kind of traditional newsletter where you’ve got all the 10, 20 things that everything’s happened and click here, or click here, or click here. I think it’s overwhelming people. So focus your messaging on one thing at a time and you can actually send more and it could actually get better responses because people know what you need.

Steven: Yeah. That’s right on in my experience whenever the volume has increased, that’s always had a positive effect. So I love it. Hey, Jesse, this was so awesome to have you and get to know you. You know, we’re a little over. So I think we want to call it a day, but please do reach out to him and download that kit if you haven’t already. They do a lot of great work. And I think they could be a good partner for you later on. So thanks for doing this. Thanks for taking the time to share all this wisdom with us.

Jesse: Absolutely. Yeah. It was a lot of fun. I’m grateful for what you guys do. Yeah. And it’s an honor to be here.

Steven: And thanks to all of you for hanging out. I know it’s . . . hey, it’s actually getting close to year end. It’s hard to believe. And school starting and maybe you got some events cranking up. So I always appreciate seeing a full room here with us. But we got a great webinar coming up next week. Capital campaigns. We’re going to talking about capital campaigns with my buddy, Aaron and Brian. If that is something on your horizon or maybe something that’s new to you and you want to kind of brush up on your knowledge, join us next Thursday, 2:00 p.m. Eastern exactly one week for right now. It’s going to be a quick turnaround with the Labor Day holiday here in the States, but register for that. You’ll definitely get an invite. And if you can’t make it, register anyway, because you’ll get the recording, no big deal. It doesn’t bother me. We got a lot of other great sessions you can check out on our schedule. 

So speaking of recordings, be on the lookout because I’ll send today’s recording and the slides in just a little while here. You’ll have it before dinnertime, I promise. So we’ll call it a day there. Thanks again to all of you for joining. Hopefully we see you next week, but if not, have a good rest of your Thursday, have a safe weekend, especially with the holiday for you folks here in the States, and we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.

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.