In this webinar, Tom Iselin will show you how to reshape your personal brand into one of “Donor Concierge” that will increase your likability and “memorability,” help you raise more money, and create greater donor loyalty.

Full Transcript:

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

Tom: We’re good to go.

Steven: All right. Well, welcome, everyone. Thanks for being here. Good afternoon if you’re out on the East Coast. Good morning, barely if you’re out in the West Coast. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Concierge Fundraising: Five Winning Tactics to Raise More Money by Doing the Unexpected.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I’m the chief engagement officer over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion, as always.

Just a couple of housekeeping items for you, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session, and we’ll get that recording out to you later on this afternoon, as well as the slides. If you didn’t already get the slides, that’s my bad. This is a new system for us so we’re still working out those bugs. But we’ll get both of those things to you this afternoon. I promise. Just be on the lookout for an email from me later on this afternoon with all that good stuff. And, most importantly I should say, please feel free to chat in any questions you have. I know a lot of you are already doing that, letting us know who you are. We love that. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy, send in your questions and comments along the way. I’ll keep an eye on those, and we’ll try to answer just as many as we can before 3:00 Eastern.

And if this is your Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra welcome to all you folks. If you don’t know Bloomerang, we do these webinars just about every Thursday. Sometimes, we double it up. We got a couple next week. We’ve got lots of webinars coming up. It’s one of our favorite things we do here at Bloomerang. But in addition to that, we are a provider of donor management software. So, if you’re in the market for that, check us out. You can watch a quick video demo, check out our website, and see the software in action. Don’t do that now. At least wait at least an hour because you all are in for an awesome presentation. We got a first timer here, my buddy, Tom, from beautiful Idaho. Tom, how’s it going? You doing okay?

Tom: Yeah. It’s a beautiful day. I hate to tell it, but after I finish this webinar, I am going skiing. I live about 200 yards from the main ski lift. So it’s sunny and 30 degrees. It’s perfect snow condition. So that’s what I’m doing after this webinar.

Steven: Well, that’s good. This will be a good way to get your heart rate up because you’re an awesome guy. We kind of became fast friends. We met in person when I was out in Idaho, and I’m just really happy to have you here as a first timer. Hopefully, it’s not the last. But, if you all don’t know Tom, wow, not only has he been in your shoes, but he’s been in your shoes six times. He started six nonprofits. He’s written six books. Now, Tom, do you write a book every time you start a nonprofit? Is that kind of a . . . do you bounce and forth . . . ?

Tom: Oh, no. That’s funny. That is funny. I am starting a new book, just on board engagement, specifically just on board engagement within a cartoon-like fashion. So it’s going to be fun, the board members will actually read it, and then but also have some meaty and meaningful material. Be on the lookout.

Steven: That sounds cool. Yeah. We’ll keep you up to date with that. I got one of your six books, and it was a real page turner. I read it on the way home from Idaho in one flight. So it was awesome. So we’ll get all that good stuff to you all. He is a frequent speaker. He’s trained hundreds of thousands of nonprofits. He’s been all over the place. And I don’t really want to take any more of your time, Tom, because you got some awesome information for us. So I am going to stop my screen sharing and let you start your screen sharing, and hopefully that all works. So bear with this while we make that transition.

Tom: All right, we’re working on this new technology. Let’s do a quick . . .

Steven: I think it’s working.

Tom: All right, we got it. I see, we got to make sure we get a new slide here.

Steven: Go for it.

Tom: All right. Hey, real quickly, everybody on this call, by the way, everything I talk about today will be in, and is in, my book called ‘”Cloudburst” on fundraising. And all my books are at cost. The 2020 versions are out right now. And 100% of the money goes to nonprofits. I don’t make a dime on my book. So I’m very blessed that way. And you can go and sign up for my video blog, and you’ll also receive a $500 coupon for any board retreat or strategic planning session you might be thinking of, if you’re interested in that. That’s one of the things we’ll be doing.

Next up . . . so you can come back to that slide, I’ll show it again. I just want to give a quick background of how I got in the nonprofit space because it is applicable. So, back in the 1980s, I was a trader at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and I traded S&P options, and I had it all. And I traded through the crash of ’87. I was actually on the floor the day of the crash. And at 29, I wrote a pioneering piece of software that managed trader’s risk, and I sold it to Continental Bank. And they wrote me a big check and I was on top of the world. I had this penthouse, and the sports car, and all the toys, and a vacation home in Northern Wisconsin. I was living the dream.

And then I went to this party. It was kind of like a Wolf of Wall Street-like party, and there’s booze and drugs there. And the next morning, I woke up in a pool of drool about a millimeter from death and I almost died of a cocaine overdose, and it was one of those wake up calls most people don’t get a chance to answer and I did. And very soon after that, I decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life in social service. So I sold all my toys and dedicated my life to building nonprofits and helping others.

And so, as Steven said . . . and he’s now on my public relations staff, thank you very much, Steven, but I’ve gone on to build six nonprofits and done a lot of other work. And the reason why that’s appropriate and why I want to share that is because I really do know what it’s like to be in your shoes and be in the trenches and give you first-hand experiences, not only about the successes I’ve had, but the blunders. And my goal today is really to help you, just one little snippet about how you can raise more money by being a great customer service concierge fundraiser. That’s what we’re going to talk about today in this next 40 minutes or so, and we’ll leave time for questions and answers here.

All right, the fundraising environment, we’re going to talk about that, what is that like, what does it look like right now, what is concierge fundraising, and let’s talk about some first-class service tactics and how you can do the unexpected to raise more money.

What is going on? You want to make a difference. For you, it’s not about Wall Street or State Street, it’s about those side streets and the back alleys. You want to help kids with disabilities, you’re helping improve the environment, you’re helping women have been abused, on and on. You have noble intentions and a worthy mission, and I shout out a big hooyah to all you for all the work and sacrifices you’re making to make the world a better place. But this world is fierce. This nonprofit world and the fundraising world is amazingly tough, and you know that if you’re in it.

So as you know, there’s about 1.5 million nonprofits out there. But you might not know that 85% of those nonprofits have budgets less than a half a million dollars, and more than 90% have budgets less than $2 million. Now, the top 400 nonprofits receive 20% of all giving. Let that sink in for a second and think about that. The top 400 nonprofits receive 20% of all giving.

Now, if you take that 20% from the 100%, you’re left with 80%. And of that 80%, 60% of that money goes to large institutional organizations like hospitals, and universities, and large cultural institutions like museums, and zoos, and libraries, and religious organizations. That doesn’t leave a lot of money. It leaves about 20% of the money going to organizations probably like the ones you’re running. Plus, you’re facing all these limited resources. I mean, who doesn’t want more time, and money, and people, and skills, and expertise, and influence, and general resources for their nonprofit?

It’s really hard. It’s like David versus Goliath. Now, let me open up my check because this is all new to everybody. So, really quickly, how many fundraisers, how many paid fundraisers do you think USC has on their staff? Try throwing out a number there. How many paid fundraisers do you think USC has on their staff? Let’s see. Here we go. Look at that, 60, 50, 25, no one’s even close, 225 is the higher number, go higher, 500, higher. They have 750. Think about that, 750 people. And you know how I know that? Because my daughter’s a junior there, and I swear I’ve received a phone call from every single one of them asking for money. No, but the truth is, it’s tough out there. It is very, very competitive.

I’m having a little trouble. So I want you to take note. Part of this day is I hope you leave with this mindset of way to think about raising money and maybe changing your perspective on a couple of things. So, as you know that 80% of all money donated to charities comes from people, but you might not know that 80% of this money comes from face-to-face meetings. That means that 65% of all money that comes to charities in the country is coming from people sitting down and having face-to-face meetings.

So Harvard did this big study once about the most effective methods of communication that lead to giving. And look at what came up first, one-on-one meeting. And second was small group meetings and parties, meaning people sat down and met with people and created relationships. And this is one of the things that I want you to take note of today is how important it is because most of the time, most people are not spending enough time just in face-to-face meetings. And this is all going to set up for what concierge fundraising is all about.

So I’m going to ask you, and you can publish it now or you can just take a screenshot of this, because if you do, this is a really great page to fill out on your own time because it will probably be shocking if you’re really honest and candid about it. But just off the top of your head and try to be really honest about it, how much time are you spending in face-to-face meetings, one-on-one meetings with your donors? Toss out some numbers to me. Be real. What do you have? Give me some numbers, 5%, 20%, 5%, 10%. These are great. Thank you for sharing, 1%.

Okay. All right. Well, let’s go. Let’s look. Now, I work with an organization just recently. The average, and I work with hundreds and hundreds of organizations, it’s 5% to 10%. Now, I want you to think about this because this is one giant takeaway I want you to walk away with today is this, if you’re only doing 5% or 10%, or even 15%, or even 20% but the average is 65%, and that’s the highest probability of giving, then there’s a huge opportunity gap for you. So, yes, grants, and galas, and solicitation letters, they’re are all amazing, but if the most effective method of communication is one-on-one giving, and it’s the highest probability, and it shows that that’s where most of the money’s coming from, you should be walking away with this today as, “Hey, we need to do more face-to-face fundraising because it’s the most effective way to raise money.”

All right, so let’s look at some more startling statistics that’ll help set this up. So conducting an ask in a face-to-face setting is how many times more effective than sending appeal letter? Throw out some numbers to me. How many times more? Six, 10, 5. It’s 20. So think about all the times that you’re out there, you’re spending time, all the hours, all the time you spend on appeal letters and end of year appeals and look at one face-to-face meeting, it’s 20 times, not 5 times or 10 times, but 20 times more effective.

In fact, if you haven’t thought about this, 70% of people will say yes to a face-to-face ask if they have any connection to your organization, even if the words fall out of your mouth like ice cubes, “Hey, Jim, would you be willing to get $500 to support the new hunger coalition soup kitchen?” So these things are really, really important to get set in your mind because you are in a competitive environment with limited resources and you need to do what’s most efficient and effective to raise money. You want to be able to beat Goliath with your stone. You’re David.

Here’s some other ones. What percentage of donors don’t make a second gift? You’ve probably seen that 100 times. And what percentage of donors stopped giving after four years? Throw out some numbers to me, 60, 50, 75, really great. Exactly. The numbers are anywhere from 40 to 70, but the most important thing to take away with is why people aren’t making second gifts is the fact that what is going on, it’s not how many donors that you bring in on the top, it’s not how many donors you find, it’s how many donors you keep, and why are donors leaving at these enormous rate. I don’t care if it’s 50 %, or 60%, even 40%, people are leaving, they’re not making second gifts, and a lot of it has to do with what kind of service we’re providing. And what percent of donors stop giving after four years? Like 90%. Think about that for a second. That’s an incredible statistic, meaning you’re turning over your database every four or five years.

And so, you know, grants and galas aren’t bad, but take a look at a grant for a second. The average grant last how long? One or two years, right? But how long can a donor last? They can last three years, five years. They can last into perpetuity. And a donor can provide so much more value to your organization. They can provide time, and money, and skills, and expertise. They can be mission ambassadors of your organization and tell people about the great work that you’re doing and influence people in the community to make more connections to people and resources that leads to more what? Time, money, skills, and expertise.

So why did donor stop giving? Well, we already know these things. Most of the reason why people stopped giving is because they’re not thanked, they’re not valued, and they’re taken for granted. And people are annoyed with too many letters, not enough letters, too much information, “I’m getting too many emails. I don’t get informed anymore. No one’s following through, and I’m treated rudely.” And you think, “Well, we’re not doing that,” but maybe, you know, if you really are honest, take it from a donor’s perspective is how are you really treating your donors, and how can we treat our donors even better because, again, it’s not about how many donors we put into our funnel to ask them for money, it’s how many donors we keep. And we want to add that longevity. We want to have donors who are loyal and faithful fans of what we’re doing.

So, real quickly, as we build this case now for why concierge fundraising and the benefits of it is so important is why do donors give? We’ve read this. There’s hundreds of ways, a hundreds or reasons why people give money to organizations. But, fundamentally, from my experience, they give to issues they care about, missions they believe in, organizations they trust, people they like, very key, first rate performance and impact, and outstanding customer service and donor relations.

Let’s come back to these, the issues they care about. See, if I invite you to the hunger coalition, one of the organizations I founded, and I said, “You know, you came out to Idaho, and you went to the event, and you’re like, ‘Wow, Tom invited me,’ and you gave $250 because you were moved by some amazing talk by someone who was living in a dumpster and now they’ve found a way to go through the hunger coalition and move from dependency to self-sufficiency by getting some of the skills, and life, and food that they needed to move on and matriculate, either whether it’s college or into a job,” all right, that’s great. But, next year, you probably won’t make a gift because you’re giving to the issues you care about. You care about domestic violence, you care about kids with disabilities, you care about women who’ve been abused. This is what you’re doing. This why everybody on this call is probably giving to two, three, four organizations because they care about the issues.

But let’s say you care about poverty, let’s say you care about hunger, well, look at your community, how many people, how many organizations are working on that issue? Well, now it becomes a case of your mission. How does your mission differentiate from the other missions so people will actually say, “Hey, I want to give to your organization,” and that’s where it comes down to, “Hey, do they trust what you’re doing? Do they trust who you are?” And we all know when it comes to giving, that we give to not just organizations that we believe in but also the people we like. That’s why we go to our favorite restaurants, that’s why we go to our favorite hairdressers and other things, and, you know, that you probably have given to an organization specifically because of the person who was asking you for money. You liked them. And we’re going to be talking about that.

First-rate, performance and impact, I would love to give another webinar on that alone and how important it is to be able to make your case, not only short-term benefits to the beneficiary but the long term-benefit to the beneficiaries and how you make that case and what you need to do there. But that’s the topic for another day. And outstanding customer service and donor relations, and that leads me to why donors continue to give. All of us are making gifts and continue to make gifts because we want to know, “Did my donation make a difference?

And how have you made me feel and if you made me feel valued and appreciated for the monetary gifts I’ve made and the non-monetary gifts I’ve made? And this is the essence of why people continue to give. And if you treat people badly, you don’t follow through, you’re a dud of a person, people are going to pack up their bags and go to another nonprofit down the street. They have choices. Think about yourself. How would you feel if someone didn’t send you a thank you card? It’s amazing what can happen in this space when you treat people well because donors are scarce resources, and it’s our jobs to make sure that we make donors feel like they’re amazing, and that they’re valued, and that we really care about them, and how can we do all this in a way that separates us from everyone else, and that is what we’re going to lead into.

So if anybody out there is an empty nester, write “yippee” to us in the chat room. If you’re an empty nester, write “yippee” in the chat room. There’s a couple of you out there. Look at that. I love you guys. The next time we’re all together, if Bloomerang ever puts together a big conference and you come, I’m going to take everybody out and buy them champagne. Wow, there’s a lot of empty nesters.

Well, last year, my wife and I became empty nesters. And so we wanted to celebrate. So listen up to this story. So we were going to go to Switzerland and celebrate. We love Switzerland. My family is from Switzerland. And we ended up, we’re all excited, and at the very end, we ended up having crappy weather. So we changed our plans. We decided to go to Palm Desert and go to this really nice fancy resort down there called The Renaissance.

So we show up, and when we show up, the valets came up and opened our doors and said welcome, “Mr. and Mrs. Iselin,” and then the bellman came up, and took our bags, and said, “Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Iselin,” and opened the door. We turned to our left, and there was Olivia with a warm smile and a big greeting, saying, “Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Iselin. Here is your key.” So we walked upstairs, and we went down this hallway. It was beautiful and brand new and just the smell of new carpet. We walked into the door and there it is, this beautiful 1,500 square-foot suite with a view of the mountains, and the golf course in front of us, and all these people sipping margaritas at the pool. And we were like, “Wow.”

We turned around behind us and there’s wine, and champagne, and fruits, and vegetables, and chocolate, and all these wonderful things. And my wife looked over to me and then said, “Wow. They went above and beyond and made our experience here in the first few minutes unexpectedly pleasurable.” And I said to myself, “Wow. That’s exactly what donors want.” They want us to go above and beyond. They want their experience to be unexpectedly pleasurable, and the things that we can do to make them feel unexpectedly pleasurable are the things that are going to create these lasting impressions, create loyal donors, and help us raise more money.

And so let’s go into this. I want to talk now about how you can become an amazing concierge fundraiser so you can make this experience with the donor unexpectedly pleasurable, differentiate yourself from all the other nonprofits down the block, raise a ton of money, and you need to do this by going above and beyond.

So concierge fundraising is rooted simply in the basics of who you are and what you do. And who you are is rooted in your personality. Those are kind of the outward expression of yourself, you know, happy, gregarious, and being friendly, and your characters, the inner things like being humble, being a good listener, and being a person that follows through, those kinds of things, and, of course, what you do, the actual actions that you take every day to interact with the donor. So we’re going to go into this a little.

You can also think of concierge fundraising in a sense it is about your brand. It’s how people think of you because you’re making impressions on people every time that they meet you. So, if you look at The Nature Conservancy, what words come to your mind when you think of The Nature Conservancy? Probably environmental, or green, or doing good for the environment. Now, Ferrari, fast, powerful, those kinds of things. Tiger Woods, what do you think about of Tiger Woods? There’s lots of varieties of thought on Tiger Woods, you know, is he a great golfer? Is he a terrible husband? But all these images and your image is creating powerful, powerful images and impressions in people’s mind, and that’s what a brand is fundamentally.

Brand is an image, an impression, idea, or belief that’s formed and held in a person’s mind. So what is your brand identity? What is the top of mind ownership that you have in your donors’ minds? What are they thinking about you, or feeling about you when they meet with you, or talk with you on the phone, or receive a letter from you? And this is one of your exercises I want you to do, not now, but I want you to take a screenshot of this because you’re going to get a little homework, and you can come back to this again and look at the slides. But I want you to do a realistic inventory of what you think that donors really think of you. What do they think about your personality? What did they think about your character? What are their impressions of you or their beliefs about you? And what differentiates you, good or bad, from other people that are raising money in your community?

So that’s what I want you to do. This is just one little exercise, and it will certainly help because when I do this in workshops, a lot of light bulbs go on. So here it is, your homework is what can you do to refine and improve your brand? So you take what we worked on in the page before, and then you say, “Okay. How can I close those gaps? What are the things that I can do?” And that’s beyond the scope of today, but I just think it’ll be a really helpful and useful exercise for you. Let’s go into this one, how can you make a standout first impression on donors?

And one of the things . . . I’m going to tell some stories now. I met a wealthy donor, and I’m not going to provide the name, but they have a multi-billion dollar foundation. And I wanted to meet this person for a year and a half, and I just could not get a meeting with her. I knew she supported wounded veterans, and I ran one of the nation’s largest wounded veteran programs, and I just couldn’t get meeting with her. But I knew that she loved to fly fish and that she was a National Skeet Shooting champion. That’s pretty amazing. This lady was just outstanding.

And so I finally, through the gatekeeper, got a meeting with her in Orange County. And I flew to Orange County and I met with her. And I spent 1 hour and 45 minutes talking about nothing but fly fishing and skeet shooting because I do both. And we had the most amazing, fun conversation about and got to know each other. And at the very end, she said, “You know, Tom, I know you’re doing an amazing work for wounded veterans there in Sun Valley, and I want to support you.” And she said, “What can I do?” And I said, “Well, you could sponsor a camp for women who’ve lost their eyesight in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it costs $50,000 to bring these five women and their spouses.” And she said, “No problem. I’ll write you a check tomorrow.” And then a couple years later, she was donating a couple of hundred thousand and it went up to $450,000.

And the point is this, it made an outstanding impression on her because she wrote me a letter telling me that so many times people treat her like a cash machine even at the highest levels. And it was one of the first times where people sat down, a person sat down and really got to know her and all of her interests. And I can tell you, if you want to make a first good impression on people, that’s one of the things you can do.

And then for the sake of time here, I want and was going to ask . . . we’ll go through it on another slide, but here are some other ways that you can make an indelible impression. You know, you should always meet someone with a friendly smile and a handshake. That’s a given. One of the small things that you can do is you can arrive on time and even ahead of time to a meeting.

What I like to do is if I’m taking someone out to lunch or a coffee, I show up ahead of time and provide my credit card and make sure there’s a 20% tip on it so when we’re finished, that the check comes to the table, it’s already paid for. These are the little things that you can do. Always having a positive attitude, I mean, who wants to be around a dud, you know. You don’t have to be jumping up and down and doing back handsprings, but people can sense someone who has a passion for the mission and a spirit and a positive attitude, and we can work on these things.

Having good eye contact, and another one that no one ever wants to talk about but it’s so important because we have a family foundation and it’s important that . . . well, I should say we have a foundation and that we hear a lot of information from other major donors about what bothers them about fundraisers, and I can tell you good hygiene and a neutral smell is positive. You might love your perfume or your cologne, but I can tell you, it might annoy someone else and that also some people are allergic. And also, hey, we don’t always think about our breath, but no one wants to sit across the table from someone whose breath smells like garlic. So I’m always, always carrying my toothbrush with me to make sure that I have fresh breath.

And this idea of writing creative emails, and I don’t mean just like writing an email but if you want to make a standout first impression, if you want to go above and beyond, how can you craft an email to someone that is really different and exciting, you know, addressing something about their hobbies, or interests, or something that’s unique. These are the little things that you can do to make a standout first impression.

But we also want to talk about how do we make a lasting impression? And that has a lot more to do with our character and the things that we do. Now, I want to tell you another quick story. So, to make a lasting impression, here’s one of the things I like to do. I like to take my donors to where our programming is taking place.

I ran an organization called Sun Valley Adaptive Sports, and we did different events and therapy for people of all ages with disabilities. And every Tuesday, we had some skating for kids with disabilities, Down Syndrome, and this is amazing. So this ice rink in Sun Valley is one of the only ice rinks that’s outside, and it’s beautiful. It has a mountain view in the background. And so the kids would be out there learning how to ice skate.

Now, right next to this ice skating rink was a restaurant called Gretchen’s, and I would bring my donors there, and I would spend time getting to know them, not just talking about the organization. And then, after we had lunch, I’d walk them down and have them meet my amazing staff. And then, after talking with my amazing staff . . . which is a great tip in itself because that is if you have amazing staff, it will make a very positive and lasting impression on the donors. So my staff would meet these donors, and then you get them out on the ice, and they would have them take the hand of a small child with Down Syndrome and go skating with them and just walking around on the ice. And I can assure you that when they walked off the ice, they would come up to me and go, “Tom, how much money do you need?” And it was always kind of fun because it just had such a big impression on them and then they would tell other people about that impression and what it was like to be around those kids that day. And these are some of the things that I love to do is just to get my donors to touch the programming to make that kind of lasting impression.

So we have a couple minutes here, what you would like to do, what could you do to make a lasting impression on a donor? Toss me some things here quickly. I’m waiting. What could you do to make a lasting impression on donors? Birthday cards. Love that. Surprise Valentine deliveries. Perfect. Bring a story or photo. Oh, yeah, and here we go, yeah. Visit a project, stories from patients. These are great. Gosh, this is awesome. My god, they’re coming in so fast. Poinsettia, stories from kids. Those are really great. All those things. I love them. I wish we could print the notes because these are really good. I don’t know, maybe Steven has a way to be able to capture all these notes and send them out because there’s some really good ones coming through. I can’t even read them fast enough. Introduce a donor to a student. Oh my gosh, these are amazing. So terrific.

Part of it making a lasting impression besides doing those specific things is always following through. I can tell you that being a major donor that people do not follow through. They don’t send receipts on time. They don’t send thank you letters. I’m not getting phone calls from board members or even beneficiaries. At times, even when I show up at a gala where I just . . . no one’s really greeting me, and I just don’t feel valued and appreciated. And it’s just not me, these are other donors in the room.

One of the things you can do is really know your stuff. A lot of times that we don’t spend enough time really studying because we feel like we know our programs, but really knowing the history, knowing some of the financial statistics about the organization, being able to tell a great case for support, really knowing that and making it come off or roll off your tongue very easily.

Many times, and this is one of the biggest faux pas that fundraisers make that really is a lasting bad impression is they talk too much and they’re not listening enough. And it’s really easy because we’re so excited to talk about all the great work that we’re doing it’s we’re not listening to the donor. We’re not asking personal questions about their family, and their background, and their hobbies, and interests, and the entertainment they like to watch. We’re not asking them philanthropic questions like why do they give, where do they give, how did they start their family foundation, what was their best giving experience, what was their worst giving experience? We want to know what their worst giving experience was so we don’t make it and providing some unexpected perks and assistance. I mean, showing up with them when you have a gala, having some of your beneficiaries or your board members being out there to escort people in from their cars or even doing valet, doing things like that, providing unexpected perks, tickets to events and things like that.

There’s a lot of little things that you can do. But it’s important to have it in your head and this is the mindset, “Am I making a good first impression? Am I making a good last impression?” These are the kinds of things that you want in your head.

And here, number four, concierge tactic number four is personalize everything. And you’re going, “Oh, Tom, I’ve heard this a million times,” and you’re thinking, “I got this.” But the truth of the matter is how are you really making a donor feel like they are the only donor? What are some of those things that you’re doing where you can really personalize the service? And I’m talking about going to the next level here. And some people already wrote like you’re doing custom postcards. But I’m talking about, like, going to the next level, having one of your beneficiaries write something on the back of a note instead of you or the executive director, having framed pictures, which I’m going to show you in a second about someone in here that’s gone through one of your programs or even a donor, anybody that would be really powerful and emotional, and then frame it in something really, really nice and maybe have it signed by the beneficiaries.

This idea of handwriting invitations and thank-yous, you hear this all the time, but I’m telling you, we get dozens of these and they’re so boring and so scripting, and if you want to go above and beyond and make that experience unexpectedly pleasurable, write me something that’s personal about my daughter at USC, about fly fishing, or skiing, or something that I like to do or my family does, or my background, or the school I attended, or anything but personalized in a way that’s truly, truly personal and that’s how you’re going to win the hearts and minds of donors.

Custom videos, if you have the ability. You can put together a little custom video that says, “Hey, Tom, thank you so much for all the wonderful work you’re doing to support the hunger coalition,” and maybe that’s shot there and you have a couple of shots of the kids but it takes 20 seconds. That is amazing if you have the ability to do it. It’s pretty simple to do something like that. You already know about maybe putting together photo albums. But the idea is to keep it classy, especially with your major donors because, remember, probably 80% of your money is coming from 20% or fewer of those donors. So it’s really, really important to keep them involved, but you need to touch all of your donors at all levels in different ways. All right.

And here is a photo that we sent. This is Anthony Smith, who actually was shot in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lost his arm and half of his leg. And he went back while he was injured and pulled three other men out that were injured. Amazing man. And we had this photo, we have a lot of photos like this, and Anthony signs and writes thank-yous to our donors for their contributions and how much it saved his life and changed the way he thought about himself and helped build his self-confidence that he could take back to work and school and his community. And now, he sits on top of the world and gives a lot of the credit to his health and wellness from his time in Sun Valley.

And these are the kinds of things and we do this. I can’t show the donors, but we’ll have Anthony or some of our wounded warriors with these really powerful pictures of them with the wounded warrior, maybe skiing, or fly fishing, or doing something. And I’m not saying, “Hey, well, you might not have the ability to do that because maybe you’re helping women who’ve been abused and you can’t do that, but sometimes, people who are being benefited by your work want to give back, and they’re willing to do anything to help you.” And you can come up with some powerful pictures.

And also, I helped started an organization that helps kids who’ve been abused, like six-year-old girls who have been raped. And we come up . . . and sometimes, you know, we send photos. This isn’t a photo of an actual girl, but you know, this idea of sending out powerful thank-yous or letters to people and saying, you know, that kids are worth fighting for. But the point is this, it’s making it emotional and powerful so it makes an impression on the donor and doing the things that go above and beyond.

Another thing that you can do is really saying thank you differently. And I’ve said it a couple of times before, but I’m going to say it in a little different way here to give you an example. There is a picture in the upper right. That’s Charlie Annenberg of the Annenberg Foundation. And he’s a great guy, and he supports a lot of organizations, does wonderful work around the world. And he said, “You know, Tom, I know you’re doing great work out there. Would you mind if I came and saw what you’re doing?”

So we took them to one of our events, where there were some blind veterans learning how to fly fish. And he goes, “My God, I am so moved by this. I would love to come back with my film crew and try to put together a movie.” And so he brought a film crew, and we got approval from all the veterans, and we put together a movie. And that movie actually ended up winning the Telluride Film Festival Audience Award.

So, by saying thank you because he wanted . . . we said, you know, this was a way . . . I’ve kind of skipped that, so I wanted to say thank you to the group, and also to Charlie to have them say, “Hey, come out and see one of our events,” it led to a movie, which led to national attention. We got on CNN after that, which led to millions of dollars in funding, and in the end, really helped build our brand and awareness throughout the state and around the country that launched the organization to a whole new level, all by saying, “Hey, let’s invite Charlie to one of our events to say thank you so he can see what we’re really doing and see how his money is making a difference.” And these are some of the things that I want you to think about and challenge you to say, “What can we do differently to say thank you to engage the donor,” because there are so many little things that we don’t think about to be able to say thank you.

And I’m going to go through some of these, and I would like everyone to try to toss out some ways they say thank you that might be different that we can share with other people. You all know like taking a donor to lunch, but do it with a beneficiary. I love that. Honoring a donor maybe at a special event in a certain way maybe because not only they’ve given money but maybe for their volunteer work, doing something like that. Inviting them on a radio show, or a podcast, or even on TV for their work and also their contributions and what impact that had.

I love to cook. My grandmother was a famous chef. I actually make dinner for some of my major donors, and it’s a gas because, again, it’s not about me. I’m not there to just like pitch the organization, I’m about deepening the relationship, doing the little things that make a difference to this concierge, thinking about how can I go above and beyond and make the experience with the donor unexpectedly pleasurable. And I can assure you that every single donor that I’d made dinner for told all their friends, and it created more awareness about what we were doing and just helped build the brand.

We talked about the thank-you video and also coming where the donor is, meeting them where they are and what they like to do. I mean, if you live in a place, it’s tough in a city, I get it. You might not live in a place like Sun Valley, where you can take . . . I mean, I like to go hiking, and fishing, and playing tennis with my donors, and, you know, that’s not necessarily . . . you might not be able to do that, but there might be something that you can do that matches what they do, and you might have a deep enough relationship where you actually could do it together. That’s a little difficult for some people. I understand that. But if there is an opportunity and you have that kind of relationship, it can deepen that relationship, and you can do the small little things that really propel the relationship that can deepen the mission and improve your brand with those people. These are the things.

Is there anything that you do, let’s see, that’s a little different? I see, “We made gingerbread loaves and delivered them to our top donors for the holiday.” I love that. “We have a Volunteer of the Year award given out at the annual event. And it’s a surprise to the recipient.” I love that. Donor appreciation cocktail hour where client shares testimonials, oh, I love that. That’s a really good one, too. These are amazing. Steven, I hope you have some way to share this in a PDF besides the PDF that you’re going to put together for these slides because I think these things would really, really help people. What does everyone feel about that? Would you love that if Steven can put that together? Oh, Steven wrote and said he’s going to keep them. Okay, perfect. Yes, everyone wants to be part of that. Sweet. All right, terrific.

So here are the takeaways before we get into some Q&A. So fundamentally, you have to think on the big picture in your mind, you are in the people business, fundamentally. It’s not about raising money, you’re in the people business. Yeah, your programming is assumed, you’re doing great work, you have high impact, but you’re in the people business. So you only have board staff and volunteers to do the work, and these relationships are so important because, fundamentally, people like to do business with people they like besides supporting issues they care about. And so you have to think over and over that it’s competitive out there, and what people think of you matters. And you need to be thinking about what can you do differently, this idea of your personality, and your character so you can make these first impressions and make lasting impressions by doing things that are very personal, the small thank-yous.

And most of all, one of the biggest things that you can take away from today, more than anything else, is to spend more time face to face with your donors. I cannot tell you . . . people ask me all the time, “How am I able to raise millions of dollars for my organization and organizations that I’m helping?” And it’s like, “Hey, all I need to know what the mission is and go see it a few times and sit down and talk with people and make the case why we are making a difference and why there’s social investment is worthy because it’s going to get a big social return on that investment and that we’re doing great work.”

And this is one of the things that I like to specify is making sure that when I’m with that donor and I am face to face, that that moment is something that they’re going to remember whether I take them out and they’re watching kids, and they end up going watching kids skating and they end up going skating with kids, if I invite someone to watch some wounded veterans learning a sport, or it’s talking about an issue about children who’ve been abused, or drug and alcohol prevention.

Whatever it is, I want to make sure that I’m sitting face-to-face so I can have that connection with them, that they can see my passion, that I can build trust with them, that I can be in a dynamic two-way conversation so they can ask questions, and I want to make sure that my follow through, the stewardship, not only the cultivation before they make a gift, but the stewardship after they make the gift that they’re just thinking about, “Wow, Tom is different. That guy is amazing. He cares about the organization. They’re kicking butt, and I want to support it because I know that my gift is making a difference.”

And fundamentally, in last words that feeling appreciated starts with you, and deep down we all want to feel valued and appreciated, not for just what we do but for who we are. And there’s a lot of donors out there of all sizes, they want to be appreciated for the contributions they’re making to your organization because they have choices. And what we want to think in our head is we want to be concierge fundraisers. We want to . . . at every touch with them whether it’s at a gala, face to face meeting, in a thank you letter, whatever it is we’re doing, how can we go above and beyond and make that experience through that medium unexpectedly pleasurable, that will have a lasting impression on the donor and create more loyal and faithful fans so you can raise a ton of money.

And that’s it. I really appreciate your time today. And, again, everything I talked about today is in my book, “Cloudburst.” You can get it at cost. Not one dime comes to me. All the money goes to nonprofit organizations. And if you want to sign up for my blog at the bottom down there, you can get a coupon if you’re interested in having a board retreat, or strategic planning session, or something like that. You can give me a ring, we can stay in contact, and I would love to help you out. So that’s it. Steven, take it away. I’d love to answer some questions. This has been a great call.

Steven: Thanks for doing this. It’s awesome to hear all those great ideas. And thanks to all of you for chatting in, and being a good sport, and sharing your ideas as well. That was fun to see.

Tom: That was fun.

Steven: I’m going to leave the slide up, Tom, while we do some Q&A so folks can get a hold of you. But we do have some questions here. And if you haven’t asked a question yet, now’s the time. We probably got about 10 minutes for questions.

Tom, a couple of people asked about getting that face-to-face meeting. Some people are struggling to do that. They want to do it, but donors are saying, “No,” they’re not getting ahold of folks. Is there kind of a way to approach them? Maybe they think they’re going to ask for money and that’s what they’re saying though. I don’t know. But what tips do you have for getting that face-to-face meeting?

Tom: Well, that’s a really great question. Okay, you have to think about the bigger picture. First of all, a couple of people are asking how they get the books. It’s right there in the center of the screen. It says visit If you’re going to get books, get them on my site because that’s where the 2020 versions are. I should have said that. Amazon has, like, old editions. So all the newest additions are on my site, and they’re only $6. So

So how do you get these meetings with donors? Well, first of all, you know, you have to really think about how you’re segmenting your donors because you have small and medium and then say major donors. And so, of course, you want to start out with your larger donors. And to get meetings, now, you know, it could be a whole webinar in itself because what I do is, like, you know, I want to have cultivation-type events that get them connected emotionally to the organization. And I know there’s so many and not everybody has the ability to bring a donor. You’re not going to bring a donor to a domestic violence shelter necessarily. It might not be appropriate, or it could be depending on how the shelter is set up.

But what I want to do is create the relationship. Let’s say, you have a gala, then possibly a phone call to follow up. So there’s a lot of combinations and permutations here, but sometimes, it’s really just picking up the phone and just asking to have a meeting. I prefer to do it in a casual setting. So let’s say you have a gala or a meet-and-greet, then at that meet-and-greet or some, like, volunteer opportunity, or some area where they can, like, observe the programming depending on . . . there’s so many different combinations here because there’s so many different kinds of programmings. But if I see that person and then I can say, “Hey, I would love to get together with you over coffee, or meet with you at your office, or at your home to chat about, you know, what we do and how we do it. And most of all, I want to learn more about you and, you know, what your interests are, those kinds of things.” So that’s great. Maybe that could be another webinar because there’s so many combinations and permutations there. I hope that was helpful.

Steven: Yeah. We’ll definitely have you back for another webinar, Tom, if you’re up for it. So we’ll give you a chance to go 60 minutes on that topic if you want. Here’s one from Lyn, “What do you think about gifts on the anniversary or a milestone in their giving? So maybe 10 years of giving . . .

Tom: Oh, I love those.

Steven: Yeah, Lyn is not so sure. Convince her.

Tom: Totally. Oh, yeah. No, I think that’s a great idea, and does it have to be big? No, it can be acknowledgement. It could be . . . I mean, it all depends on your type of organizations. It’s really hard. So let’s say you’re helping kids with disabilities, and maybe you have some older children that . . . you know, adults actually that have disabilities. And so they’re very smart and making . . . and they might want to contribute.

So I can think of some person myself in our organization. And I can’t use his name, but let’s say his name is Steve. And, you know, Steve would have been more than happy to call the donors and say, “Hey, you know what, I just want to thank you for your 10 years of giving to Sun Valley Adaptive Sports and all you’ve done. And it just means so much. It’s changed my life in some ways, blah, blah, blah,” but you have that impact.

So I think the answer is yes. But here’s the caveat, do it in a way that makes it unexpectedly pleasurable. What can you do, whether it’s a card, or a letter, or photo, or meeting, or whatever it is, put on your creative hat and say, “Okay. I’m about to do this. How can I do it and go above and beyond? What can I do differently?” That is what’s going to separate you.

Steven: I like it. Okay, so here’s a question about all of these special things you want to do for donors. I got a concern in here about maybe how the donor perceives the cost of those things versus the cost of, you know, the programs and services. How do you kind of sidestep that potential issue where they think, “Oh, gee, they’re spending all this money on me . . . ?

Tom: Oh, yeah.

Steven: This is a tough one but . . .

Tom: That’s really good. Like, there’s a lot of questions . . . No. It’s an easy one. I mean, if you’re sending swag, you know, that’s going to be seen as an expense. All the major donors are going to see the amount of money you spend on someone, say going out to lunch or spending like $50 on a beautifully framed photo, they see the value of that because it’s going to sit on their mantle and people are going to talk to them about it. And so, you know, it’s not . . . part of it is having the boards because sometimes boards really aren’t aware of what the value of an expense is because everybody wants to spend money on programming. So it’s like, “Okay, we have to spend money on programming, and then we’re going to have some staff. Okay, so we have to spend money on staff.”

And then the next thing is, “Okay, well, we have to raise money so we’ll invest some money in fundraising.” But they don’t really realize that great fundraising is rooted in outstanding marketing and marketing costs money. And they all say, “Oh, we don’t want to spend money on marketing.” And it’s like, okay . . . you know, I could easily make the case on the ROI on something that is high value and it doesn’t even have to cost a lot of money, a phone call cost nothing, or sending a little gift to somebody.

But if you’re going to spend, you have to really think about . . . you do have to think about the ROI and make decisions. You won’t be able to do it every time, like some big gift because not all gifts require money, but you definitely should have a budget. And, you know, if I were sitting in front of the board, all my boards are big time into doing these kinds of things because they have seen the ROI. They know not only the ROI directly in giving, but also what people say and remember what people say about your organization and about you as your brand. You’re a walking brand as a person, and your organization is a brand. And if donors in a community, especially if you’re in a small community, are talking about how amazing your community is . . . I mean, your organization is based on the people and how they’re being valued and treated without being like spoiled with junk, that’s going to spread and it’s going to bring about more donors and more money.

But you do have to make the call because if you send them something cheesy, and it’s not high value, then they’re going to see it as something cheesy and high value and a waste of money. And there’s always going to be . . . real quickly, there are always going to be a few people who are like, “You should never spend any money on, you know, thanking donors because that’s a waste of money.” Okay, well, that one person, forget them, you know, because the other 99 people are going to go, they’re going to say, “Thank you so much,” because Grant wrote this beautiful letter about how you changed his life, and we spent five bucks on that frame and now it’s sitting in their house, and they love it, and it reminds them of all the great work that you’re doing and that they’re supporting.

Steven: I love it. I’m right there with you on that philosophy. Here’s a fun one from Lori, Tom . . .

Tom: So many great questions here. Thank you. Wait, I got to say . . . Steven, I have to say, everybody, there’s dozens of questions coming through, and we won’t be able to get to them all, but they’re all really good. And I’m super grateful because it’s showing me that everyone on the call still is really thinking about these things and how important they are.

Steven: I told you it was a good group. The Bloomerang webinar group, they’re usually on it, so I love it. This may be a good last question, Tom. But Lori here is wondering what’s the favorite way you have ever been thanked as a donor? Maybe you can kind of flip the tables a little bit on the other side. What’s knocked your socks off personally?

Tom: Yeah, knock my socks off. Well, I made a contribution to an organization that helps kids get off drugs and alcohol. And the person who founded it, because he lost two brothers to cocaine overdose, he’s had a very successful company, and he takes these trips every year. He goes to Indonesia, and he has a surf ranch up in Santa Barbara. And he invited me to go surfing at his private ranch home in Santa Barbara. And it was very unexpected. It was all expenses paid, of course, but it was a super spoily thing, but it was a great way to be thanked for my work and contributions to the organization. So how’s that?

Steven: And that worked because they know you’re kind of an outdoorsy guy. I think the thing there is that it made sense for who you are. Would you kind of agree with that that was a smart move?

Tom: Absolutely. Yeah. And, you know, he had . . . so for them, it’s a little . . . you asked me the question, but, of course, the person had the means so he did it out of his own pocket book. So it wasn’t like, “Oh, here’s a poor, like, struggling nonprofit and then they spent, you know, five grand sending me on a surf trip.” But I think the point is made. It was a great experience.

Steven: Well, this is a fun time. We’re about to the hour here, and I know you got to hit the slopes. You’re going out skiing. But, Tom, people should visit your website, check out your books. They got the coupon. Can people ask you questions to your website? I assume they can do all that. You got a good newsletter too.

Tom: Yeah. I have a video blog. I’m flying out of town to go speak at a conference, but I just can’t wait to be connected. Thank you so much for joining. Steven, thank you so much for what you’re doing to promote kind of education around the world through this webinar and all that Bloomerang is doing. In fact, I actually have a lead for you. I had been asked to build a new foundation in Southern California. So I already have a done deal. I was going to say that in the beginning. So I actually have a done deal for you all. So I’m going to throw you some business. It’s a great product, everybody, if you haven’t used it. And thank you again.

Steven: This is fun. And thanks to all of you for hanging out for an hour or so, always good to see a full room. I’m going to bounce into my slides here, Tom, because I want to tell people about some upcoming webinars. We got some cool ones coming up. Check out our webinar page. It’s just on our resources tab on the freebies button of our website. We have a lot of sessions scheduled all the way through the summer already. But we got one on Tuesday, and I know it was kind of short notice, just four days away. But if you’re free next Tuesday afternoon, my buddy, Sarah, is going to talk about budgeting. And I promise she’s going to make the topic of budgeting fun, and interesting, and worthwhile.

So maybe if that’s something you struggle with in your organization, kind of dealing with where money should go and where we should make investments, and things like head counts, and technology, and all that good stuff, this is going to be a good one. Sarah is awesome. I got a peek at the slides earlier, and it’s going to be a good session. So check that one out if you’re free. If you’re not free then, we got another one coming up a week from today, and then basically every Thursday through the end of the year. So check out that page. We’d love to see you again on another Bloomerang session.

So we will call it a day there. Look for an email from me with the slides and the recording. I’ll send all that good stuff to you today. And hopefully, we’ll see you again on another session. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Stay warm, and we will talk to you all soon. Bye.

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.