Andrea Kihlstedt will offer a different view and give you some practical advice on how to use this topsy-turvy time to raise money.
Steven: Well, Andrea, it’s 2:00. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?
Andrea: Get going, okay dear.
Steven: Cool. Awesome. Well, thanks everyone for joining us. Good afternoon if you’re on the East Coast. Good morning, I should say, if around the West Coast. No matter where you are, I’m glad you’re here. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar. We’re going to be talking about five coronavirus fundraising myths and why they’re bad for your nonprofit. I’m so excited for this one. Obviously, very timely. Hope you’re all doing okay. Hope you’re all staying healthy and staying busy and productive. I’m Steven over at Bloomerang. I’ll be moderating as always.
Just a couple of housekeeping items real quick. Just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides. If you didn’t already get those, we’ll send those out later today. You’ll get them in an email from me. Just be on the lookout for that. In case you get interrupted or you have to bounce to another meeting. Or maybe a toddler walks in the room, that could happen here in a second. Hopefully, it won’t. But don’t worry, we’ll get all that to you. But most importantly, please feel free to use that chat right there on your screen. We’re going to save some time for Q and A at the end. We’ll try to answer just as many questions as we can, so don’t be shy. There’s a chat, there’s a Q and A tab. You can put them in either of those. We’ll find them. Don’t worry, we’ll see your messages. But don’t be shy. We love to answer your questions. You can also tweet us. You can send us a tweet. I’ll keep an eye on there. But don’t be shy.
If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars typically every Thursday, although we’ve been doing almost a webinar a day because we want to get some good information out to all of you. We love doing these webinars, but what we are most known for is our donor management software. So if you’re interested in that or just want to learn more about us, check us out and you can watch a video online, kind of get a little demo and see what we’re all about. Just giving you context on who Bloomerang is. But don’t do that right now. Wait at least an hour because we’ve got a friend of the program joining us from the beautiful Bronx in New York City. Andrea, how are you doing? You doing okay? You staying healthy?
Andrea: I am. Thank you so much, Steven. Yeah, my husband had the disease. He is through it and healthy. Thank God.
Steven: Okay, good.
Andrea: We feel fortunate.
Steven: Yes. I’m happy for you. Hopefully, it stays away from you also. And you’ve been so generous with your time. This was something you put together on short notice for us. You’re very generous in offering to do this because you’ve got a ton of clients that are going through this exact topic and you’re just one of my favorites. You’re my go to for capital campaigns.
Andrea: Thank you.
Steven: So whenever I hear capital campaigns, I just Andrea like right away. I’m like, “You got to talk to her because she’s awesome.” So if any of you are in the midst of a capital campaign, there might be a few of you or maybe thinking of starting one, you’re going to want to follow Andrea after this because they’ve got some really cool resources and software over at the Capital Campaign Toolkit. I can vouch for it personally. It’s really cool stuff. We’ve got some Bloomerang customers who also use it. She’s awesome. She’s written a book on capital campaigns, literally, and is just an awesome person. So Andrea, I’m going to stop sharing my screen so that you can bring yours up and we’ll get this going officially.
Andrea: Okay. Let’s see.
Steven: Here we go.
Andrea: Am I already sharing my screen here? Not yet?
Steven: I don’t think so. Not yet.
Andrea: Let me share my screen here with you.
Steven: There it goes. Looks like it’s working.
Andrea: There we go.
Steven: Oh, I see slides, nice.
Andrea: Excellent. I am going to start this slideshow.
Steven: Nice. And I’ll shut this down so I won’t be a distraction, but I’ll still be here. Looks like it’s working just fine.
Andrea: It’s working all right?
Andrea: Excellent. So Steven, thank you so very much. It is a pleasure to be here with you today. I think the folks at Bloomerang are so generous and Steven, I don’t know how you do it, but every time I email you, I hear right back and then it’s really remarkable. So my great appreciation for you and all the rest of the Bloomerang team and thank you for inviting me. I’m going to get my husband to stop talking to my daughter in the other room because it’s distracting. So Tyko, can you go into the hall, please? Or something? Tyko?
Andrea: Can you go into the hall or stop talking? How’s that for being professional? How many of you have dogs and husbands and cats and children at home? Well, I got a husband at home.
Steven: It’s okay, I’ve been that husband.
Andrea: You’ve been that husband. So I’m banishing him to the hall. I wish I could tell you this only happens in times of coronavirus but it doesn’t. Anyway, it’s so nice to be here with you today. It was fun and exciting to see how many people signed up for this session. I did put it together based on what my partner, Amy and I are hearing in the field. Amy and I run the Capital Campaign Toolkit and we have a lot of people who are in touch with us. We run a Monday sort of town hall style meeting. We’re hearing from a lot of people all over the country. And these five myths are the kinds of things that we’re hearing a lot about. So I thought I’d put together this webinar and talk a little about them.
Let’s see, “5 Coronavirus Myths and Why Believing Them Will Kill Your Fundraising,” and believing them really will kill your fundraising. So as Steven has told you, I am Andrea Kihlstedt. You can see all my wrinkles. And that photo was a few years ago. So yeah, I’m a crone. I’ve been around a long time. I did write a big book on capital campaign fundraising. If you’re in a campaign, I encourage you to take a look at it. That isn’t patting myself on the back, but it is probably the biggest and most friendly kind of book written on capital campaigns in the market. So worth paying attention to.
Amy Eisenstein and I created the Capital Campaign Toolkit about three years ago and provide a whole host of online resources through the toolkit. Again, something you might want to pay attention to. We have free resources and paid resources on the toolkit, but it’s an innovative way to get information about capital campaigns. I live in the South Bronx, I’ve got a husband and two grown children and four grandchildren, I must say. So that’s me.
Okay. Let’s get going. Are you confused about fundraising in this time? I’d be surprised if some of you weren’t because it is confusing, right? Are you getting conflicting advice? Perhaps some board members are saying, “We better get out there and ask,” and some board members are saying, “Oh, don’t ask for money now. Nobody has any money.” Right? I mean, you may be getting conflicting advice all over the place. I suspect you are. You may have mixed feelings yourself and if you’re in the fundraising business, you may not actually be voicing those, but it may feel a little awkward to you to go out and ask people when you see the stock market plummet as it has or when you see the future be less clear than you would like it to be. So you can keep those feelings to yourself. But I just want to acknowledge them that it’s hard not to have mixed feelings these days.
It’s likely you don’t want to be inappropriate. I’ve often thought actually that most of us, if we have a big fear in life, it’s that we don’t want to be inappropriate. We don’t want to be embarrassed somehow. It’s a fundamental human thing that we want to fit in and we don’t want to do things that are inappropriate. Right? And even when you talk to your donors, you don’t know what to ask for or how to talk to them. This is, quietly, I suspect some of you are shaking your head. Yeah, that fits me.
Let’s talk for a minute about your giving and I’m interested in having you think about that. So who are you giving to now? Have you pivoted your giving or maybe you are always give to essential services? You’re looking to see what your neighborhood and what your community needs now or what the country needs. Maybe you’re giving to help. Maybe you’re giving to the Red Cross. Maybe you’re giving to these big aid organizations. Maybe you’re giving to food and general shelter. Some people, when there are crises like this and this certainly is a crisis worse than anything I’ve lived through and I’ve lived a long time, some people pivot and shift their fundraising during these times to what they think of as essential services and that’s a perfectly fine thing to do.
Some people focus their fundraising on their local community, right? Who’s right there who serves the people right in their environment. I live here in the South Bronx in New York. It’s a super urban environment and there is a huge amount of need here, in fact, and I like to give to organizations that serve my local community. Some people feel more comfortable giving to national organizations. As I said, the American Red Cross or America, there’s . . . I heard about one that a hunger organization, a food organization that provides services nationally. Some people give to national organizations, they feel like the infrastructure is there to help and some of us give to organizations we already support. We just double down on the organizations we already support.
Which of those do you fit into? Do you tend to go one way or the other? Think about it for minute. You can chat into Steven. Steven is watching the chat and watching the Q and A. I’m curious how many of you are giving to organizations you already support. You can just pick a number if you want to chat that in. If you give to organizations you already support, put in a four. If you prefer to give to national organizations, put in a three. If you give to local organizations, a two. If you only are giving to organizations for essential services today, put in a one. Think about that. How are these things impacting your giving? Or maybe you’re not making gifts at all right now. If you’re not making gifts at all, put in a five. Right? There are people who really can’t make gifts now. Steven, what are we seeing? What kind of a spread are we seeing?
Steven: Lots of fours and twos right now? Yeah, that seems to be the majority.
Andrea: That’s interesting, huh?
Andrea: That’s interesting. So my partner in the Toolkit, Amy and I, you probably know who Amy Eisenstein is. So Amy and I had a really interesting conversation about this the other day because her own giving tends to be towards health, food and shelter, particularly now. And she said, “Now all of my giving, everything I give is towards immediate needs that I see. And I’m sure that’s what everybody’s doing.” I said, “Amy, stop. It’s not what everybody’s doing? I’m doubling down on the little arts organizations that I support. I like the little arts organizations. I support them year in, year out. I’m sending them all extra money because I know how fragile they are. I’m not getting to the food and health and shelter because I know people like you are going to give to those.”
So let’s not make assumptions about how people are going to give. And I’ve found it a good practice actually when there’s a question about fundraising to quiz myself first and see how I’m functioning and then have that help me begin to think about how other people might or might not be functioning.
So we’re going to go over five myths today and I’m going to tell you why each of them is wrong and why it matters that you know that. First, people don’t have money to give. Second, it’s bad taste to ask now. Third, your organization isn’t important. It doesn’t matter as much as other organizations matter right now. Four, your donors don’t want to hear from you. And five, if you’re having a capital campaign, you should stop. Those are five things we are hearing a lot of from the people we work with and the people who reach out to us. Let’s go through each of them one by one. As I go through these, if you have questions, feel free to type into the Q and A box. Steven is looking at those questions and Steven, after each of these myths, I’ll just give you a moment to ask a question if there’s one to ask. Otherwise, beyond that, we’ll just keep going and take, take questions at the end.
So people don’t have money to give now. Don’t you love that picture? I had fun finding these pictures for this webinar. Poor woman. So you might well think that people don’t have money to give now if you just were to look at the stock market. Right. That’s a perfectly reasonable assumption. And if all of your money were in the market and if you just sat there and watched the market plummet, I don’t even know what percentage it’s gone down. And Steven could probably tell you better than I, but even though it goes up and down a little, it is significantly down and the erratic nature of it makes you even more nervous. So even if people do have money, the myth is that that they don’t think they have money to give now. That’s an important myth.
Here’s the reality. Some don’t, and some do. Right? That’s the reality. Some people really don’t have money. The people who have lost their jobs, the people who don’t have any savings, the people who can’t see that they can pay their rent for more than a month or two, that’s serious problems and there are lots of people in that position. However, there are also lots of people who are in other positions. There are lots of people who still have money who aren’t going to have trouble paying their rent. You can’t make assumptions. Some people are about to have money. Right.
They may be about . . . they’re going to get but get some money from the government among other things. But there may be other ways in which they are about to have money. They may be, well, I hate to be to be bleak about this, but there are some people who are about to inherit a lot of money. If you look at what’s happening in nursing homes around the country, I know this is a little off, but if you look at the number of people who are old who are dying now. Some people are inheriting money and sometimes lots of it, right? Some people will give anyway even if they don’t think they have a lot of money. They are called to give, they are moved to give and they will find a way to do it. So here’s the truth. Some people have as much or even more money to give now.
Let’s look at who those people might be among others. First of all, people who are retirees. People who are in my situation, right. Over retirement age, we have tax-deferred money that we have squirreled away in investment accounts over the years. And when you get to a certain age and you young people don’t know this, but what happens is when you get to a certain age, the government says to you, “Guess what? You have to start taking money out of these tax deferred accounts and you have to pay taxes on them when you take it out and that money is going to be sent to you willy-nilly.”
So people like me are getting checks from our retirement accounts every month. We’re having to pay taxes on them because they were tax deferred when we put the money in, but we are getting just the same amount of money we were before COVID-19. We’re getting just the same amount of money that we were . . . from Social Security that we were before COVID-19. So my income from those sources hasn’t gone down at all. Guess what has changed? My expenses, right? That’s interesting to think about.
All right. Investors, right? Some investors are doing really well. Not everybody has lost a bunch of money on this, right? If you have an investment in Purell, whoever makes Purell, guess what? You’re doing pretty well. Right? And there are a whole bunch of other industries that are doing well. Some are doing badly of course, but some are doing very well, so don’t discount them.
So foundations, all right. A lot foundations have lost a bunch of money, but foundations tend to give over a rolling average of 12 quarters. So their giving this year might not go down. Their giving is likely to go down in three years, two or three years as the stock market plummet catches up with them.
And finally, I want to remind you all that a whole bunch of people very soon or maybe already are getting government money, right? Everybody’s getting what? Twelve hundred dollars per person then $500 per child. For people who don’t need that for immediate needs. Right. That is money that is ripe for them to give away. I was just talking to my husband today about where we’re going to give our money as soon as it comes in.
If there’s anybody on this call in Alaska, you will of course remember the oil, I don’t remember what they called it, the oil payment that everybody in Alaska got for a long time. And you better believe that the nonprofits banked on that. Right? They would ask people to pledge their oil money long before it came in. Right? You can do the same thing here. People are going to be getting money. Those people who don’t need it to live on have the sense that they’d like to help with it and you need to think about and take advantage of that. Okay. Questions, Steven, that I need should address so you’re keeping an eye on that.
Steven: I am. We’ve got a couple of questions maybe asking about the retirement account distributions since you touched on retirees. I’m wondering if you have any sense of those kinds of things that may be flooding accounts soon.
Andrea: Yeah. So retirement account distributions are real, right, and they happen. I mean, the way that works is that the government send . . . I am not an expert on this except that I know personally how it works. And what happens is that at the end of every year, the government looks at how much you have and they look at how old you are and they tell you how much money that you have to take out of your account in the following year so that you can pay taxes on it, right? This is that the government is finally collecting their taxes that has sat there unpaid in the account that has gotten bigger and bigger in the stock market since you put money into it 20 and 30 and 40 years ago. So government is saying, “Okay, your tax bill is due. Every year, we’re going to re-calibrate how much you were going to send . . . you’re going to take out of those and you’re going to pay taxes on that amount.”
That distribution was set up before COVID-19 ever happened. It’s going to continue right along except that I think now, just now with the COVID response, you actually can pause that distribution for a bit, but that’s a different story. Most people are going to keep getting their retirement checks in the mail. They’re just going to keep right on coming unless they use this opportunity to pause them for awhile. So what that means, again, is that people who live on that and who live on social security are going to find themselves in a position where they actually have more money because they’re not going out and they’re not eating dinner out and they’re not going to theater and they’re not going to movies and they’re not going out shopping and they’re not buying all kinds of things that they used to buy, right? They’re not spending money on credit card accounts. And lo and behold, they actually have more money in the bank than they had pre-COVID.
Now that may not be true of everybody. Obviously, if you gamble online, that’s probably not true. But for a lot of people it’s true. So don’t assume that retirees don’t have money. They probably do. Any other question we want to address here?
Steven: A couple others, but I think you’re going to cover them in the future. Okay, so I’ll hold them for now.
Andrea: Oh, okay. Great, thanks. So let’s go to myth number two. It’s bad taste to ask now. So a lot of people feel that. A lot of people feel like because things . . . times are so dire and you don’t know if somebody has lost a loved one or you don’t know who’s sick or you don’t know what’s going on, it’s just bad taste to call people up and ask them for money. I mean, in your heart of hearts, you probably have that kind of question too. So, but the truth is this, asking with a generous spirit is never in bad taste. Let me just read that again, asking with a generous spirit is never in bad taste.
And I’ve included here a wonderful quotation from a book by Amanda Palmer, “The Art of Asking.” I’ll tell you about it in a minute. Let me show you. Let me read this to you. She writes this, “Asking for help with shame says you have power over me. Asking for help with condescension says I have power over you. But asking for help with gratitude says we have the power to help each other.” And I think really that gets to the heart of such an important way to think about asking. Right? When we ask people, we don’t want to make people give, we want to let them give. We want to let them give to something that we feel is important and they feel is important because together we want to make something good happen in the world. When we ask with gratitude, there is never a bad time for that.
Now, let me tell you just for a minute before I forget about this book by Amanda Palmer, which I read several years ago. If you haven’t read it and you’re willing to read something with a fair amount of spice in it, I mean bad language kind of spice, this fair warning, I’m putting it out there. Amanda Palmer wrote a book called “The Art of Asking” or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help.” Here’s the deal with Amanda Palmer. She isn’t in the fundraising business at all. She’s a musician. She was one of those kind of big figures who would stand out in the park kind of frozen in one . . . dressed up in some kind of crazy costume and frozen in time and people would leave dollars in her cup by her feet.
So she started out that way. Then she became a musician. She became actually a fairly well-known musician and she wrote a book about what in the course of her career as a performer she learned about asking. I think it’s absolutely profound and I found it so refreshing to understand about asking in a language that is different than the one we often use. So if you’re up for an adventure, you have to be adventuresome and she does use a lot of spicy language, grab Amanda Palmer’s book, “The Art of Asking.” She also has done a TED Talk, which is worth watching. You can even try that out and then if you like that then you can get the book, but this I think is just a powerful quotation from Amanda Palmer and to me, anyway, sets the stage for how we need to be thinking about asking.
Now the question is this, if you have board members or even staff members who think it’s in bad taste, how do you address that? And I would do it this way. I always like to ask people if they like to help in a time of crisis. How does it feel when they help somebody in a time of crisis? How does it feel if you could buy a carton of face masks and send them off to your local hospital, how would that feel? Right? How would it feel to be able to buy a carton of Girl Scout cookies and send it to the people who are providing essential services? Right. How does it feel to help in a time of crisis? Of course, it feels really good, right?
These are questions you should be asking your naysayers. These are the kinds of conversations you need to make a parallel between giving people an opportunity to help and to make a difference and asking. So that asking feels like it’s being done from a place of generosity, of mutual generosity instead of a place of somehow picking someone’s pocket or stealing. And if you can make that connection for people, what you’ll find is that it will start to feel less like bad taste and more like you’re just helping people feel good because you’re giving them a great way to give. So you could practice those conversations the next time a board member says, “Oh, I feel really awkward about asking it this time.” Run through that conversation that parallels, that connects people’s desire to help with your ability to provide them with a way to help. Okay. Steven, any pressing questions?
Steven: Yeah, a couple of people . . . actually this question was my number one question for you when we got to the end, but a bunch of people already beat me to it, which I love. The stimulus money, I think some folks are intrigued with maybe how . . . would you directly mention that or would you maybe just assume that some folks are getting it and not using it? How can you kind of approach maybe paying forward that stimulus money? It seems like that could be touchy.
Andrea: Yeah. I’d be inclined to mention it directly. It’s a great question. I’d be inclined to mention it directly. I’d be inclined to go to people that you . . . to go to people and say, “These checks are about to land in your mailbox or in your bank account, your bank box. These checks are about to land in your bank box and I wonder if you’ve been thinking about what you’re going to do with this. If you were inclined, you could make a contribution through our organization that would do this in your community. You could use them to help your community or to help whatever cause you represent.”
I would try to be as specific as possible as you ask them, but I would have no hesitation at all to say, “You’re about to get to get an amazing windfall, you may need that money and if so, we hope you that you put it to great personal use. But if you don’t, if this feels like money that you actually could give away, boy, do we have a way that you could help with it? Would you consider, when that money comes, contributing to our organization to accomplish this?” Right. I wouldn’t hesitate at all.
I mean, honestly, in Alaska, and it’s been a while, but I worked in Alaska, but when I did, I know they had . . . organizations did all kinds of things to get people to pledge that money before it ever arrived. And it was very specific. They had whole campaigns around getting people to pledge their oil money before it arrived. And I see no reason that you shouldn’t do that now, right? Not for every one. You always have to be respectful of people who don’t have the capacity. Right? And for whom that money is going to be really important. But don’t assume that’s everyone. And always play into people’s better angels. Right? We all have better angels and we all want to help to the extent that you can ask for things that are specific and matter to your organization, to the community people will want to give. One more question from this group, Steven.
Steven: Yeah. Going back to retirees again. Folks may be on the list that they knew did have major gift potential, would you assume that they still do amidst of what’s transpired over the last 30 days? Would you think the confidence hasn’t changed? It’s what one person is asking specifically is if you should remain confident.
Andrea: Yes. So I think that it is a really good time to be talking to your major donors and you should not make assumptions one way or the other. You should be asking them. Really, in the end, every gift and the bigger the gift it is, the more true this is. But every gift is a process of partnership, of your understanding where they are, where your donor is, what they have to give away, what their priorities are, how they want to give, and helping to find a way if you fit into those for them to give the biggest gift that they are able and that doesn’t change. COVID-19 doesn’t change that. The stock market doesn’t change that.
It may be that somebody says, “I’m feeling so up in the air, so uncertain that this isn’t a good time for me to make a decision.” And then you can say, “Can I come back to you in three months?” But that doesn’t stop you from having the conversation now. Right? There’s no reason that you can’t have those conversations now. And we’ll talk more about why you should be in touch with your donors now in a minute, okay. But you just can’t make assumptions. You can’t decide where people are, how much money they have, how much money they don’t have. As I said, some people are going to be inheriting money. Some people have done well in the stock market. Some have lost everything, right? Some are just panicked because they don’t know how to evaluate the future and they see they’re old and their earning capacity is down, so it’s all over the place. Don’t assume, right. Ask. People will tell you. They’ll be happy that you were willing to spend time with them talking about their situation rather than just asking for your gift.
All right. Let me move on. Myth three, our organization doesn’t serve an essential need. So this is a really interesting one I think because I think it’s easy to get in that frame of mind, right? It’s easy to think that if you’re a botanical garden, for example, just to pick one. We’ve got a wonderful botanical garden client. It’s a very sophisticated, great organization, and of course, nobody can go there now. Right? Now when the world starts to open up again, botanical gardens are going to be places people go because they can still social distance. But at the moment, the botanical garden is shut down. And the what may trouble you if you were to run a botanical garden is whether your organization is still relevant even though it shut down as opposed to the people, the organizations that are providing daycare for the children of essential workers, for example, right, which is so immediate and important and relevant.
The same with arts organizations. Right? The theater. Right? Theater can no longer sell tickets. You can’t go to a theater. Are they still relevant? Do they still matter as much? Easy to fool yourself that you should stop asking because you don’t think your organization is relevant. But the question of relevance is something you really need to think about. How do you matter in these critical times? Who do you matter to? So who do you matter to? That’s interesting to think about, right? You don’t matter to everybody, but you do matter to some people. And are those people still going to care? The chances are pretty good that if people thought you were really relevant before this crisis, they still think you’re relevant and the chances are good that they want you to survive.
So whether or not you’re providing immediate services for immediate needs is relatively less important to them than your worrisome brain maybe telling you it is. Right? Think about your relevance. Think about how you know you are relevant in the best of times. The truth is, and if you are relevant before all of this COVID craziness, you are still relevant now. Maybe not because people can still go to your garden, but because it won’t be so long before the garden opens up again and then people are going to be so happy to be able to go back and they want that garden to continue to exist and they want that theater to continue to exist and they want to be reminded of the power of the arts to heal the soul at this time.
So it’s a wonderful exercise actually to sit with your board and sit even with your staff members. And say, “Let’s remind ourselves of why we matter even if it doesn’t feel like we are serving immediate critical needs. What is important about us?” And honestly, my belief is that when we go about business as usual, it’s easy to lose track of that. It’s easy to not to pay enough attention to why we really matter. And in these times when we’re at home and when we have a little more quiet to think, it’s a great opportunity to call some people together and say, “Let us remind ourselves of why our organization is in business and let’s make sure that we can connect ourselves to that super power of our organization so that when we talk to our donors now, we are as committed to it as we ever were. And we’re not undermining ourselves by saying that we’re not so important.”
So use this time to talk about questions of relevance. If you don’t come really head to head with that, with a clear, powerful understanding of why your organization matters, it will undermine the fundraising that you do now. So be sure you do an exercise to think carefully about that. Steven, a question before I go forward.
Steven: Not a question on this topic, but I just kind of wanted to echo your sentiments. I’ve seen this play out in many of our customers, folks that wouldn’t necessarily check that box as being a first responder or anything like that. We’ve had animal shelters, environmental groups, performing arts, just like you said, be very successful right now by kind of tapping into what you just said of sharing how they’re relevant now to their supporters.
Andrea: Yeah. And sometimes it just takes a little thinking. So I heard yesterday, talking about animal shelters, that for some animal shelters anyway, there aren’t enough kitties and dogs to go around because people are at home and they’re lonely and they are hungry to have company. So people are adopting pets in ways they never have before. Now I don’t know if that’s true everywhere, but that’s the story I heard about an animal shelter here in New York. And it’s interesting to think about reshaping the message there of not only providing help to the animals but providing help to the people who are home alone. So, I mean, that’s an interesting pivot, right, of how an organization can reconnect to its relevance as the situation has shifted and changed.
So yeah, I mean, organizations are . . . can do amazing work, but you have to let your brain really reconnect to your mission and why it matters to you. And if when you do that, you find that maybe your organization isn’t relevant or you can’t find the relevance, then honestly it’s time for you to think about getting a new job. And sometimes that happens. So there’s nothing nasty about that. Sometimes that happens.
Okay. Donors don’t want to hear from you, myth four. They don’t want to hear from you. If I had to face donors like that, I wouldn’t call them either. Right? If I thought that’s what they were going to look like if I called them up. So here are three good reasons to contact your donors. First of all, your donors are home now, right? They’re at home now. They have time. They really do. Some of them are sitting around twiddling their fingers or playing Scrabble or dealing with their kids or all the complicated stuff everybody is dealing with. They are at home. They may be wondering how your organization is fairing. Right? If they are steady donors to you, they’re going to wonder how your organization is fairing and it is up to you to reach out and to tell them. They may wonder how they can help. There it is again, that same idea that people want to help but they can’t help you or won’t help you unless they know what’s going on and how they can help you. Right?
Let’s see. The truth is this. It’s always nice to know that people are thinking about you, especially now, even if it’s the development director or the executive director. If they have a relationship and someone calls you and say, “How are you doing? How is this affecting you? Here’s what’s going on in our organization. I know you’ve been supporting us for a long time, thought you might like to know. Here’s some ways you might help if you’re inclined,” people will be happy. This is what they’re going to look like. Of course, they’re going to be happy. You thought about them, you reached out to them.
I’ll give you a personal story here. I have an organization that I support here in the Bronx. It’s a simple, it’s called the Bronx Documentary Center. It’s a terrific organization, little organization and I worry about them. In fact, the guy who runs it did a video piece for “The New Yorker” magazine on how the New York Housing Authority is not doing a good job of informing the people who live there about COVID. So he went and did a video project about it, which I saw and there he was with no gloves and no mask in this video sort of exposing the New York City Housing Authority. And I got to say, I worried about him. It’s like, “Oh my goodness, what’s he doing? Is he going to kill himself?” Right? That would be a disaster for this organization if Mike came down with COVID and he’s such a powerful guy.
And for some reason, the next day he called me up and honestly, I almost cried. “So Mike, I’ve been so worried about you since I saw that. I’ve been so worried about your organization. Tell me what’s going on. Tell me how I can help.” I mean, I look just like these people. It was like, “Oh, he thought about me. He thought about calling me.” And I was so interested to hear and I did send him a nice another check. Of course, I did. Of course, I did. Right. And I’m not alone. I give these not because it’s about me, but because this is the way people think. Right? If there’s an organization you care about, you want to know what’s happening and you want to know that they think about you. So don’t hesitate to get in touch with people, to Zoom with people, to call them. Not to say I’m calling you to ask for money, but to say I’m calling you to find out how you are and to share with you what’s going on here because you’ve been supporting this organization for so long. They will be really happy that you did that.
So let me get here to myth five. So many of you know that I’m in the capital campaign business. So I pay close attention to what’s going on in capital campaigns and myth five and we hear a lot of that is you can’t possibly go forward with your capital campaign. Right? Bad idea. Nobody’s going to want to give big gifts, donors who have big pledges aren’t going to want to pay them. They’re going to renege on their pledges. You don’t really want to build a new building, right? I mean it’s like, all right, everybody’s fears because now we’re talking not a thousand dollars, not $10,000. Now we’re talking gifts of a million dollars, $150,000. Now we’re talking real gifts that have to probably have to come out of the stock market, out of someone’s invested resources. So we’re hearing a lot of people say, “You got to stop your campaign.”
All right. Now this is a slightly more complicated question and I’ve put up here a slide that shows you the seven phases of a capital campaign. We, of course, talking to people who are in the very early pre-campaign planning stage on the left. This is the way most campaigns are laid out. If people know what they’re doing, where you go through pre-campaign planning, then feasibility study, campaign planning, quiet phase where you ask for the biggest gifts over 6 to 24 months. Then the kickoff, when you’ve raised a lot of money and you have a celebration, the public phase, and finally, the post-campaign. So how you should function, how you should deal with your campaign depends in part on which stage you’re in and we’re hearing from a bunch of people at different stages of their campaigns. So the answer is, it depends in part on that.
If anybody, let me go from the right backwards to the left, if any of you have . . . are in the middle of the public phase of your campaign. You’ve already raised a pretty good amount of the money. You’re sort of towards the end. You were hoping to finish it up this spring or maybe by the fall, maybe you have another 5% or 10% of your campaign to raise. So it’s interesting to think about that. This is no time for a public celebration, right? No time for a public kickoff. That’s not what you want to be doing in this time of physical distancing. There are a couple things that you should be doing.
First of all, you should be reexamining the financial planning for your project. It may be that you’ll be able to build it for a fair amount less going forward. That will be interesting to check out. It may be that you can borrow money at a fraction of the cost that you could have borrowed it a few months ago, right? Interest rates, you know, on money you borrow is they’ve tumbled. So I’d probably pull together some people to actually revisit some of the assumptions that you had made and see what difference that makes to the amount of money you still have to raise. So do a little kind of re-calibrating and see how much of those public funds you actually still need.
If the building project itself has kicked off and you have shovels in the ground and the building is going up, remember you can continue to raise money right until the time that the ribbon is cut on your building. So buildings often take 9 months, 12 months, 24 months to build depending on how big the project is. So you’ve probably still got some time and hopefully, in that period things will calm down a little. Things will be a little more predictable and you may want to just continue on after you’ve revisited some of those assumptions.
One of the things you will want to do, however, since most of your large donors will have pledged over time, probably over three years, some over five years, is that you’re going to want to call every one of them and you’re going to want to talk to them about how they feel about staying on that payment schedule, that pledge payment schedule. Some of them may want to extend the payment schedule. Right? Some of them may want help figuring out when you really need their money and when it would be best for them to pull it out of whatever their investments there are.
So you’re being proactive and talking to the people who have made big gifts to your campaign will do nothing but build trust between you and your major donors. You will find that a fair number of them are going to want to continue on just exactly as they said they would and some of them may want to shift and you’re going to want to help and work with them. Very few of them are likely to renege on their gifts or even diminish their gifts. It’s a question of what to do about a payment schedule. So be in touch with all of those people.
Moving back to the left here now into the quiet phase. If you were in the middle of the quiet phase of a campaign where you still have a fair number of people that you want to ask for large gifts, I encourage you to go out and be talking to those people about those gifts. It may or may not be a time when they will want to make a commitment to you, a hard commitment, but you should be asking them whether they’re willing to make a commitment now or whether you should come back in three months or six months. And you can be talking to them about what they hope that they will be able to give once the market stabilizes, right? So by all means, go have those conversations. Understand that they may not lead to a gift today or tomorrow, but that they are likely to strengthen your relationship and set you up for getting a nice gift as soon as we’re through this, this immediate crisis stage.
Going back farther to the left to campaign planning and the pre-campaign and feasibility study period. So sometimes your building project has a timeline that can’t be changed. Right? Maybe you have to be out of your current site and into a new site and that’s not variable. That means you’re going to have to move ahead in some way or other. Right? You don’t have the luxury of being able to delay. If you can delay without any particular serious consequences, it might be a good time to keep moving the planning process ahead, but understand that the timetable or the goal might change. You have a little more fluidity and flexibility in that process.
Should you just continue on with the feasibility study? Well, here’s an interesting story. One of the Capital Campaign Toolkit advisors, Xan, reported to us recently that she had done something like 34 interviews just over this past month. They had been scheduled. She was sent to do them. She carried on with the feasibility study interviews as their consultant and she set up all of those interviews, only I think five people said that this wasn’t a good time for them to say what it is they might be willing to contribute to the campaign. She said the bulk of them were perfectly willing to talk about that even so we’re in such challenging sort of no crystal ball moments. So that was interesting. If the interviews have been scheduled, go ahead and have the conversations, but understand that you may or may not, from people, get an accurate sense of what they’re going to do and they may encourage you to come back at a later date to talk to them again.
So that’s what to do about your campaign. Let me see if I can push ahead here. Don’t stop. Check in with your current donors, reconfigure your financing and other things and then extend if you need to. By all means, keep your campaign leadership engaged. Right. Don’t let them just go away. Call a meeting. Setting up a vacuum when you’re not in touch with people is always a bad idea. Check in, as I said, with your current campaign donors, talk to them about how they’re feeling, what’s going on with them, what they want to do about paying off their pledges and look for opportunities for savings, which I suspect you’re going to see a bunch of. Finally, if you’re in a quiet phase, easy to extend a quiet phase, often that’s what happens anyway, COVID or no COVID, where you thought you might take you six months or eight months and it’s going to take you a full year. Nothing wrong with extending the quiet phase of your campaign.
Now I have one more thing I want to talk to you about. I see I’m blabbing on here and time is flying, Steven. So I’m going to try to have enough time for at least a few questions. So one of the things you can do right smack in the middle of a campaign is to pivot your fundraising for immediate needs and I encourage you to do that. Right? These are not times as usual and even while your campaign is continuing on, if your organization has immediate needs, if your community has immediate needs, you can pivot and do a short-term, eight-week campaign to raise immediate money for immediate needs. And I would do it in the same way that you would do a capital campaign. It’s just very short, very sweet, very intense and very compelling.
Make sure it focuses on immediate needs. Have a specific dollar goal. So it’s not going to be $10 million. It might be $250,000 or a $50,000 for new computers or something short, something sweet, something doable right now. Have an 8 to 10 week timeframe and stick with it, come up with campaign leadership the same way you would in a campaign. See if you can get a campaign chair who’s going to kick in the top gift. Solicit gifts the same way you would campaign style from the top down, the largest gifts first, then the smallest gifts and the people who are closest to you first and then moving out. So your board members first, for example. And finally, you’re going to want to have personal, in this case, I mean virtual solicitation just like you would in a capital campaign. So take the campaign model, squeeze it together at 8 to 12 weeks for immediate needs and go back to the very donors who are giving you for your capital campaigns. It’ll keep them involved. It’ll give them a way to help. It’ll give you a really compelling reason to be talking to them. Right? And to even further build those relationships.
All right, five truths. People have money to give. They really do. People want to help. Now more than ever, people want to help. Your organization matters. It matters as much or more than it did before COVID. Your donors want to hear from you. And finally, your campaign should continue. Those are the five truths.
Steven, here, I’m going to go to this and then I’m going to take questions. Two things for you. Two free things for you. If you’re interested in this pivot campaign idea, you can go to capitalcampaigntoolkit.com/pivot-session and you can sign up for a half hour call with me or Amy or our colleague, Bosede, about how you might pivot your campaign to something immediate. It’s free. It’ll help you. It’ll help you think through how you might use that idea. And if you wanted to join us on Mondays at 2:00, I think, you can sign up for capitalcampaigntoolkit.com/townhall where we are having a lot of people come on and ask questions about their current fundraising.
Steven: Those are cool.
Andrea: They’re cool. So you can sign up for one or the other or both, in fact. Did that make sense, Steven?
Steven: I love it. I’m going to send this to so many people because I’ve been saying these things in emails for the past month and now I have someone else to say, “Look, she thinks that too.” All of you are so essential. It just breaks my heart that anyone would think that they’re not worthy right now. I’m giving to environmental groups and advocacy groups and then I care about them just as much as I cared about them last month. So go out there, follow these rules.
We don’t have a ton of time for questions, Andrea. I know we answered a lot going on, but reach out to Andrea if we don’t get to your question. She’s obviously a wealth of knowledge. She’s awesome. We had a lot of people actually, Andrea, ask about corporate donors and sponsors. It seems like with those folks, you might assume more. I know we don’t like to assume, but they are probably hurting. It seems like reach out to them same as you would reach out to anybody and just check in and how they’re doing. Same rules apply I would say.
Andrea: Yeah. It depends on how corporate gifts are given. Right? And I’m actually . . . when I first began on the fundraising business many decades ago, corporate fundraising was a big deal. Now it is less a big deal mainly because or because organizations don’t give in their communities in the same sort of way. I just think it’s a much harder proposition. They give for advertising reasons so, and I am way not an expert in that. If you have a really strong relationship with someone who is the giving person in your corporation, you should for sure be reaching out to that person. I mean, any broad organization is going to be flooded and usually that kind of effort in my opinion is not worth your time to do. You will do much better by working with foundations and individual donors who believe in you.
Steven: Makes sense. But if the relationship is there reach out like you would anyone.
Andrea: Yeah. If the relationship is there, by all means, but if it’s not, this is not the time to try to knock on corporate doors, believe me.
Steven: Yeah, that makes sense.
Andrea: It is not the time to do that. Well we’ve got your email address there. I hope folks jot it down, just firstname.lastname@example.org. I know we didn’t get to nearly all the questions. It’s almost 3:00. I want to be respectful of everybody’s time, but do reach out to her and take advantage of all the free stuff on their website, especially if you’re in the middle of a capital campaign because they really do it right. I’ve heard nothing but good things from the folks who work with Andrea and her team and Amy over there.
So Andrea, this was awesome. Thanks for doing this. This is a good pep talk, much needed. And hopefully, people got some confidence, I think, was my main hope, that they would get some confidence to go out there and reach out to folks and strengthen those relationships. Thank you, Andrea.
Andrea: You are most welcome. And Steven, today’s Capital Campaign Masters blog post. I wrote up a blog post on Capital Campaign Masters today that is essentially a little instruction guide on how to talk to your donors, what to say when you call your donors. So go to capitalcampaignmasters.com. The post that went up today I think has some really good practical advice in case you’re afraid and don’t know what to say. This will get you out of the gate.
Steven: Very cool. Yeah, you do that. Thank you all for being here, for taking an hour out of your day. I know you’re obviously super busy. It was nice to see a big full room here. And Andrea, stay healthy. I know you’re in New York City. We’re all thinking about you. We’re thinking of all of you. Please stay healthy because we need all of you. All of you are essential.
Andrea: Thank you so much, Steven, for inviting me to do this and thanks to all of you who showed, who came and joined me today for the hour. I wish we had more. I wish I could see you and hug you all.
Steven: I know. Soon, we’ll be back. We’ll be back in conferences. We’ll be back to hugging. We’ll send the recording. Just look for an email from me this afternoon. I’ll get it out to everybody. And hopefully, we’ll see you in another webinar. Check out our webinar page. We got a webinar tomorrow with Tom Ahern, similar topic kind of coming at it at a different angle, but hopefully we will talk to you again soon. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Stay safe out there and we will talk to you again soon. Bye now.
Andrea: Bye. Okay.