In this webinar, Tammy Zonker will teach you the fundamental process of building trust and watch your relationships and fundraising results soar.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Tammy, my watch just struck 1:00. Is it okay if I go ahead and get us started here officially?

Tammy: Yes, please do.

Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon, everyone if you are on the East Coast, and good morning, if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Building Trust to Skyrocket Fundraising Results.” 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 some housekeeping items before we begin, I just want to let you all know that we are recording this session. So if you have to leave early or maybe you want to review the content later on, we’ll get you that recording this afternoon, I promise. We’ll send you the slides once again as well in case you don’t know how to get those. So have no fear, we got a lot of good stuff to you this afternoon so be on the lookout for that. But most importantly, as you’re listening today please feel free, use that chat box right there on your webinar ReadyTalk screen. I know a lot of you already have it.

That’s great. We’ll try to make these sessions as interactive as possible so don’t be shy, don’t sit on those hands. We’d love to hear your questions and comments, and we’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. We’ll try to get to as many of those questions as we can before 2:00 Eastern. You can also do that on Twitter. Send us a tweet. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Twitter feed there.

And if you have any trouble with the audio or your computer, we find that the audio by phone is usually a lot better. So if you’ve got a phone nearby, if you don’t mind using that to listen in so you won’t bother a coworker or anything, try that before you totally give up on it. There is the phone number and the email from ReadyTalk that went on our around noon Eastern today. So give that a try if you have any technical troubles with the audio.

Now, if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars every Thursday, almost every Thursday. We only miss a couple of Thursdays out of the year literally. One of my favorite things to do at Bloomerang for sure, but what we are most known for is our donor management software. So if you’re interested in that or just want to come check out what Bloomerang has to offer, you can visit our website. You can watch a quick video demo even. See the software in action, it’s pretty cool. You don’t have to talk to anyone if you don’t really want to, which is fine. Don’t do that right now though because you are all in for an extra special treat.

We got one of my favorites here, a long time guest of the Bloomerang webinar series. It would not be a whole year without having Tammy Zonker with us. Hey, Tammy, how’s it going?

Tammy: It’s going great. Thanks for having me, Steven.

Steven: Yeah, I would not dream of not having you, one of our favorites, one of a good friend of Bloomerang like I said, And I just want to brag on Tammy real quick. In case you guys don’t know her, you should know her. She’s awesome. She is one of the leading experts. In fact, she was named one of America’s Top 25 Fundraising Experts, and you’re going to find out why here real soon in this presentation. She has raised a lot of money during her career, over $450 million through an organization she has worked for through her clients. In fact, she also raised $27 million. Is that right, Tammy? A single gift of $27 million? That’s pretty good. That’s more than most people raise in their lifetime. So I’s say that’s pretty good.

Like I said, if you see her on a conference schedule, check her out. She does lots of other webinars. She’s got e-courses out there. I’m sure after today you’re going to see her name if you weren’t already seeing it, but she’s going to tell us all about trust. I love trust. That’s not something we hear a lot of fundraising. So this is definitely a unique presentation that I know all of you are really going to enjoy. So Tammy, I don’t want to take up anymore of your time. Take it away. Tell us all about building trust, my friend.

Tammy: All right, awesome. Thank you, Steven. So we are going to talk all about building trust and why that is so important in our donor relationships, and there’s actually quite a bit of science behind it. But not the boring kind of science, the kind of science that is engaging and intriguing and you can actually apply to skyrocket your fundraising results to retain your donors, to inspire them to give even larger gifts and more often, so let’s kind of dig into the content.

The first thing is to just notice that there is a whole trust economics. There’s a report, a very recent report an Influencer Marketing Study that said that lack of brand trust is costing U.S. companies more than $2.5 trillion, a trillion dollars each and every year. And in fact, if you’re a student of Patrick Lencioni, who wrote the book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” he identified the pyramid that you see here in front of you. This is the five dysfunctions in a pyramid style, and this very basic dysfunction within teams is having an absence of trust. So you can even grow your trust or build or strengthen relationships whether it’s within your team, and I say this also applies to your donor relationships. You simply can’t build and strengthen them without having robust trust. And the only way to build that trust is to really overcome our own fear as fundraisers that fear of being vulnerable.

So what we know is from all of the research is that without trust, we conceal our weaknesses. We conceal our mistakes. We hesitate to take to ask for help or to help others outside our own teams or our own area of responsibility. And without trust, we are suspicious of people. We jump to conclusions. And here’s another really important criteria. Without trust, we dread meetings, and we avoid spending time with people. So when we think about some of the challenges that we have — engaging donors, meeting with board members, you know, giving updates to some of our major donors. Oftentimes it’s hard to get to an appointment, and at the core of that could actually be an issue of trust, so more research for you.

“CEO Magazine” published a fascinating article about trust in the workplace and the research says that people who work in a workplace where they say trust is high, they experience a greater sense of purpose. They have more energy and joy. They’re more collaborative both within their work groups and within other workgroups inside that company. They’re more loyal both to the corporation, to their teams. They’re more loyal to their direct reports. They’re more loyal to their supervisors. They’re just must more loyal. And they experienced much more happiness and in fact, 74% less stress.

So I know everybody on the phone would love to experience a greater sense of purpose more energy and joy, more collaboration to feel more loyalty, more happiness, and certainly to feel less stress. So I say that this study and all of this data that’s coming out of the for-profit world absolutely has an implication for the nonprofit world, both our internal teams and our relationships with our donors.

So I have to ask a question, you know, what causes us to trust each other anyway? And I would actually love to hear from you. So in the comment box I want you to just jot down, tell Steven and I what causes us to trust each other. And I’ll read a few of those out. Honesty, yes. Predictable behavior, dependability, accountability, transparency, I’ve got to know you’ve got my back. Allow actually following up and doing what you say you’ll do. Amen to that. Leadership, openness, communication, credibility, integrity, authenticity, relationship longevity. Yeah, sometimes we just have to build that relationship and build that trust overtime.

Dianne says, admitting when you’re wrong. There were a lot of comments too about what causes us to distrust each other is keeping secrets. Loyalty inspires trust. Vulnerability inspires trust. Consistency, yes. So you’ve got it. Those are definitely the manifestation of trust. When we feel trust, when we see trust, when we experience it, that is exactly how we see it. But inside our brains what actually causes us to trust one another is oxytocin.

Oxytocin, so it’s a chemical which is also known as the love hormone that causes us to trust people and, of course, the things that you described, being authentic, experiencing sincerity, you know, sharing an open communication, integrity. Those things actually help produce the oxytocin. So it’s the oxytocin that originates in the brain and makes its way through the bloodstream that actually creates that feeling of trust. It promotes attachment and affinity for one another. So mothers who, you know, if I can tell tales, Steven, Steven is a brand new daddy. So when mothers give birth, they have an increase, a skyrocketing amount of oxytocin that’s produced in their brain that goes through their bloodstream and that’s how the attachment happened.

So all that to say, we want more oxytocin being generated within our donors so they feel that same sense of attachment and trust and affinity for us as representatives of the organization and as the conduit to feeling that affinity and attachment to our mission.

So what increases the level of oxytocin in the brain really boils down to four things. It’s empathy, connection, generosity, and joy. So how can we on purpose create this experience for our donors so that we can accelerate the depths of the trust and the speed of the trust and loyalty that we’re able to co-create with those donors? So I took that research and kind of formulated it into what I called the trust and loyalty wheel. So you can see how empathy, connection, generosity, and joy lead the donor to feeling that trust and that loyalty.

So what’s interesting, the data says, in fact, Penelope Burk of Cygnus Research, of course, is such an amazing source of research and insights into donor behaviors beliefs and values, and she has said that it takes about two years for a donor to trust you enough, to give you their most generous gift, and of course, what we sadly know in our industry is that the average tenure of a development officer is 18 to 24 months. So just when those donors are on the cusp of really trusting us and having that affinity for our work, we leave and then the, you know, that brick wall goes up, donor trust plummets, and they have to start all over again with the next development officer.

So you can see why it’s so important that we somehow accelerate this trust building process so that we can get to those feelings where the donor is experiencing more empathy, more connection, where they can make that maximum generous gift and feel and experience ultimate joy as a result of making that gift.

I’ve sprinkled in a few quotes throughout the presentation that I think are especially meaningful, and I love this one, “When trust is gained, loyalty is returned.” And I think that shows up even in the comments that you shared when you were answering the question, “Why do we trust people anyway?” And that’s what we want. We want loyalty and generosity, of course.

But, you know, it’s no secret based on the fundraising effectiveness project, studies, all the great data coming out from Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Bloomerang, we know that donor loyalty, donor retention, is a huge problem in our sector, right? So less than half of our donors are staying with us year over year, and when it comes to first time donors, depending on the study, the data says that 70% to 80% of first time donors never make that second gift. So how can we gain their trust so that that loyalty and their retention that they stay with us?

All right, so I’ve created this matrix. On the right are the responses that we’re talking about that we want to evoke and inspire within our donor. We want them to feel empathy to the work that we’re doing and those that we’re serving. We want them to feel deeply connected to our work and our mission. We want them to make their most generous gift and experience the joy of that generosity and how we can actually inspire that is through our own behaviors. The truth is we are in the driver seat. You see because when we are vulnerable, whether it’s telling our own story, whether it’s by telling the story of those we serve or whether it’s by telling what our organization can’t yet do. What are our gaps? What are our challenges? When we are vulnerable with our donors we inspire empathy.

When we keep our promises and do what we said we would do, we inspire connection. When we empower the donor through giving choices and really creating opportunities for them to align with our work in ways that they value that aligned with their beliefs, their generosity come. And when we engage in reflective dialog, like, it really does maximize the donor’s joy. So we’re going to do a deep dive into each of these behavior response set and give you some tools so you can begin really building trust and loyalty at a much faster pace.

All right, I do see a couple of comments that folks, a few folks who can’t quite hear, so if you are having problems hearing, dial in, and I’m sure Steven will pop in if we get anymore of those feedbacks and just comment and let us know how to make certain that you can hear.

Okay, the first one, when we are vulnerable the donor response is typically empathy. And this all drives towards creating that trust and loyalty. Brené Brown who, of course has written many, many brilliant books, one of my favorites is “Braving the Wilderness,” and she really spends a lot of time talking about the research of vulnerability and why it’s so important to relationship development and loyalty long-term. So I encourage you to read her books, but she says, “Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.”

So I want to have a conversation about what is your why. And, of course, Simon Sinek wrote the book called, “Start with Why.” I love that book. So I will share with you my why and, you know, really why I do this work and find such purpose in it. And that is that unfortunately I was one of those kids that grew up in a home that was filled with alcoholism, domestic violence, and child sex abuse. And they say that you don’t remember days, you remember moments. And for me, one of those moments was when I was about nine, and I was on the sofa late one night with my father and bad things were happening, and my mom walked in and she saw. And that was, you know, a very traumatic experience. I felt completely scared. I felt ashamed. But for me, probably the most lasting trauma was the next morning when I got up and I walked into the kitchen and sat down at the kitchen table with my brothers, and my mom walked in behind me and she told my brothers what she saw, and she asked me why I let my father do that, and in that moment I felt profoundly alone.

Now as an adult I know that’s not unusual for a mother, a woman to, or anyone who has been a victim of domestic violence to feel less powerful than their child. And that is in of itself is a tragedy. So that’s my why. It’s why I do this work. And there’s a quote that has really inspired my life and that is that no one can go back and make a brand new ending, but anyone can start now. Or no one can go back and make a brand new start, but anyone can start now and make a brand new ending. And that’s what we do in the nonprofit sector. We create brand new endings for children, for seniors, for students, for the environment, for animals, for whatever the cause is that you’re so passionate about there is something possible because you do this work.

Now, I will say it does not have to be born out of a trauma, a personal trauma. Your why could be something that you saw that inspires you. In fact, I remember working with an executive director of a literacy organization, and she fortunately had a lovely childhood, very, you know, functional family, and she always had this love of reading. But when she was in the second grade and they would, you know, the teacher would have them read aloud in front of the class, her dear friend Suzy struggled. Suzy would become so humiliated because she just couldn’t get the words out, and my executive director friend her heart broke for Suzy, so much so that on any given recess, you could find Suzy and my friend, Judy under the slides reading a book. Judy would tutor her on her recess time because she just wanted Suzy to be able to read and to be proud of herself, and so now, of course, she heads up and has devoted her life to this literacy organization.

So what’s your why, and how can you articulate it? So all that to say, you really need to break it down into some key components, which I hopefully demonstrated for you. So first of all, you really have to be vulnerable to share your truth. Find one moment, just a single moment that was profound for you. For every one of us, our moment had many chapters, many different avenues that we could have told, and it’s tempting to tell them all. But the truth is you want to do this very briefly, two minutes or less. So get to one moment and make certain that it has a significant connection to your mission. That the connection is very clear.

So when we do that it does connect with the donors. They feel that empathy and that is one step closer to really having trust and loyalty in that donor relationship. So you can start with what’s your why, but then there are many other ways that you can create that empathy by telling testimonial stories or introducing the donors to some of your success stories, those testimonials who we’ll share from the heart. Now, of course, many of us have confidentiality issues that we have to navigate, but it’s worth the work to navigate them.

Volunteerism or other opportunities for hands-on engagement is another way for our donors to firsthand see, feel, and experience the stories of those we’re serving, again, whether you’re a Meals on Wheels driver and you’re delivering the meal and an encouraging word to the homebound every Wednesday, and you have a donor who doesn’t ride along. Or whether you are a volunteer who’s giving a day of service at the, you know, summer day camp for the kids with disabilities, regardless those experiences are priceless and really do change the hearts of the participant, the donor who’s participating and the really powerful stuff and, of course, experiential tours.

Now, at The Children’s Center in Detroit where I have the privilege of also serving as the Chief Philanthropy Officer, we do have a one-hour tour. In the deck that you’re going to receive after the session, you are going to see this video, which is on your screen now. It’s a little four-minute tour trailer, if you will, of our full one-hour tour and just a really powerful way. You’ll see the vulnerability in all of it and how it really does touch and move and inspire donors. All right, so that’s the first step in creating trust and loyalty.

The second is keeping promises. When we keep our promises, the donor has an increased experience of connection to our mission. So one of the keeping promises tools or definitions that I use on my team and with the teams that I have the privilege of working with comes from Landmark Education. And their definition of keeping your promise is simply that you do what you said you were going to do, by when you said you were going to do it. And if you see that something has changed and you can no longer keep that promise, the timeline or the actual, you know, that context of the promise, then you get back in communication and you re-promise and you get agreement about the new deliverable and the new terms. So it really does speak to integrity. Also doing things the way they were meant to be done. Not taking short-cuts.

So whatever your definition is of integrity or keeping promises, you want to have that common language throughout your entire development team and ideally, your entire organization so that people really understand what it means and what commitment you’re making when you make a promise to a donor. And there are a couple kinds of promises, right? There’s the stated promise, and then there’s the implied promise, and we’re going to talk about that.

So some of the implied promises, when someone makes a gift to us, although we don’t say, “I will promptly and accurately send you a gift recognition letter,” right, but we do imply it. So when they make a gift, they certainly expect and deserve a prompt and accurate gift letter.

Honoring donor intent, especially around gift restriction. Complying with the donor’s communication preferences. So one of my donors, Leonor, I love Leonor. Leonor is this feisty, little 80-year-old, 80 plus. Well, no one really knows her age. But Leonor is in her 80s. She swims every Tuesday. She’s a night owl, and she tells me, “Tammy, sweetheart, never call or text me before 10:00 a.m.” And so you better believe I never call or text her before 10:00 a.m., and that information lives in the database. I mean, you’ve got to have a great database and keep all of this information, you know, in there, so that, heaven forbid, you leave your organization, the person who steps in to steward and cultivate and own that relationship knows those preferences as well. And, of course, that’s one of the reasons that Bloomerang is such an amazing tool.

Following up on commitments as agreed. Reporting on gift impact or outcomes. Fulfilling recognition commitments. We owe it to our donors to align their interests with the associated meaningful engagement opportunities. So my friend, Judy, who has a love of literacy, I’m going to absolutely invite her to be a reader at The Children’s Center “Read with Me” program.

Other implied promises are promptly returning emails and voicemails and I suggest you have kind of a integrity timeline within your team. Within the team I’ve worked with, we like to do that within 24 hours. Even if we say, “Gosh, that’s a great question. That’s going to take me a little bit of time to get the answer, but I got the question, and I will call you back, or I’ll email you depending on their communication preference on Thursday.”

And then just being, you know, respectful of the donor themselves. Remembering their name, noticing and acknowledging that they just had a new grandbaby. You know, even for my donors that I know most of them. The ladies, I know their favorite flower. I know their birthday. So maybe you don’t promise to recognize and give a nod to those kinds of things, but if you’re really looking to build lifelong relationships, to build trust, to build loyalty, and for your donors to know that they are so much more than just a source of revenue, these are the things that we have to do. These are the promises that we need to keep whether they’re stated or implied.

Okay. Albert Einstein says that whomever is careless with the truth in small matters, cannot be trusted with important matters. And that really went in saying when I say know their birthday, know their favorite flower, and if not their favorite flower, for sure, know their favorite program, know what area of your work is the most meaningful to them.

Okay, the third area, the third component of the trust and loyalty wheel is really empowering the donor, giving them choice. Empowering them and giving them all that they need to make their most generous gift in the fastest timeframe possible. So what does that really mean? So when I talk about empowering the donor so they can make their most generous gift, I’m really talking about connecting them to the most meaningful opportunities, and meaningful is in the eye of the donor, right?

So co-creating with them, those giving opportunities, asking them a series of discovery questions to know what would be most impactful to them. And I’m going to give you a list of those questions here in a moment.

Another way to empower the donor towards them making their most generous gift is to induce what we call challenge stress. So not all stress is negative. I know some of our day-to-day work is stressful, and maybe that’s not good for us. But challenge stress can be very positive, so challenge stress is really based on a somewhat stressful or urgent request that’s perceived as an opportunity through the donor’s eyes. So a request related to what an individual or donor in this case values or deems important.

So it could be something like we are looking for a handful of leaders. We’re coming to you because we’re looking for someone who is willing to make a significant gift as part of a challenge for our yearend campaign or for the breakfast fundraising event that we’re having in July. It could be, you know, we are . . . it could be associated with the capital campaign. You know, we’re really looking, here are the naming opportunities, here are the things, the opportunities that program areas that we think are the most meaningful for you and we need X in order to do Y.

So the challenge stress really creates an opportunity for them to bridge the gap in a way that will really fill their heart with joy. It’s not necessarily, you know, an easy thing to do. It could require them to do a little finagling, but it’s a positive thing. It absolutely fills them with joy and has them be a part of something that’s meaningful.

Another part of empowering the donor is knowing them well enough and giving them a choice between unrestricted gifts or restricted projects. Again, knowing what do they gravitate too. If you are a student of donor personas, we know that certain personas love restricted projects that have a big impact. Others have such a high degree of trust with you and such an attachment either to a board member or to you CEO or to your chief development officer or maybe even to you that they say, “Here’s my gift, and I want you to spend it on the greatest need. You know far better than I do what that might be.” So empowering the donor and, of course, giving again that discretion on restricted projects.

So when we do that it really does empower them to make the most generous gift that they can make. Here are those sample discovery questions that I mentioned a moment ago, and I love when I’m going to meet with a major donor, I’ll pick two or three questions that I’ll have in my back pocket. I won’t ask all of these questions, but I’ll have two or three that I strategically use in that meeting. Because before going into any major donor visit, I have already identified what I want the donor to know, see, feel, or do as a result of that experience, that meeting, and I also know what more I need to know about them and their giving priorities.

So, of course, asking them what do you want to accomplish through your giving? What are your proudest moments or your biggest regrets with us? And typically, those regrets are that I wish I could do more. I like to ask that when it comes to nonprofits, who does it best and why? What’s the most meaningful gift you’ve ever made and why? And it’s okay if it’s not been to us. What’s the most meaningful way you’ve ever been recognized for your gift? So this really does help you understand the donor’s preferences to really empower them in the opportunity that you’re going to create for them. And when you ask these questions and truly listen to the answers and craft the offer based on the donor’s feedback, they will make their most generous gift whatever is possible for them, and they will absolutely experience that ultimate joy.

So Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust someone, is to trust them.” And I think we’ve probably all learned that either in positive way and sometimes in a not so positive way. But I do think we have to give people the benefit of the doubt, and that’s actually one of the attributes of building that foundation of trust when we look at Patrick Lencioni’s, you know, “Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” One of the criteria is not jumping to conclusion but actually giving someone the benefit of the doubt and believing that their intent is basically good.

All right, so the last behavior that we can demonstrate that we can engage our donor in is reflective dialog. And this kind of behavior ultimately inspires the joy for the donor. It really is an acknowledgement tool so that they are present to the impact of their gift either whether it was their last, a specific gift or their cumulative giving depending on the scenario, and, again, what you’re trying to present to the donor. So some ways, some tools that you can use as you’re creating this reflective dialog is what I called the, “Memory Lane” approach. So sitting down with that donor and just kind of going back to the beginning.

You know, I actually met with a donor last week, her name is Jean, and I said, “Jean, it’s remarkable. Like, you have been giving to The Children’s Center for more than 40 years not only with, you know, financial support, which has been amazing and changed a lot of lives. But you’ve been on this IT committee and when I think about the transformation that we can witness in 40 years of IT going from, you know . . . and she jumped in, “Yeah, punch cards to electronic medical records.” I mean, what a journey. But really pinpointing those key milestones in the relationship that you’ve had with the donor over how many years.

And this also works even with the donor who’s been with you for a year or less. There’s still those milestones moments in that relationship, and for you to say to the donor essentially “I see you. I know what you’ve done. Here’s the impact you’ve made not only on our organization but most importantly on those served. Remember this, remember that? You know what else comes to mind?”

And really have them share what some of their proudest moments are. It’s this is priceless in deepening that relationship, building trust and really inspiring loyalty and trust me, the donor will really, really feel acknowledged and experience that ultimate joy which is what we want for every donor. Which is so funny because after that meeting with Jean, of course, I sent her a handwritten note and our notes actually passed in the mail. I received within . . . .so that meeting I think was last Thursday and Monday I got a handwritten note from her thanking me for thanking her. It’s amazing. So I want this for you.

Obviously, impact reporting, whether it’s a specific impact report of a gift that was made, private family foundation, individual major gift, whatever you put out there as the solicitation mechanism. So if it was, for example, a year-end appeal and you said, you know that here was the challenge you were looking to meet. Letting them know even in the gift acknowledgement letter, you know, what their gift will be accomplishing. So any kind of impact reporting that talks about the impact on those you’re serving will help inspire that joy, an affirmation that they did the right thing and you are trustworthy.

Clearly, immersion in a success. So if you have anything to do with education inviting your donor whose passion is education to attend the graduation, you know, even at The Children’s Center, we do a little graduation recognition for any client who served. Again, these are children and youth who really have experienced some pretty unimaginable challenges whether it’s abuse or neglect or the trauma of poverty or they’re in the foster care system. And believe me, to see a young person who has overcome so many challenges at such a young age to celebrate graduation, to announce that they’re going off to this community college or this university or this culinary school and to talk about their future and hear them thank The Children Center or their clinician, and then ultimately our work is to translate, “You made that happen Mr. or Mrs. donor.”

Overcoming challenges, again, when we’re doing that memory lane to talk about the challenges that our organization has faced and how the donor has been there every step of the way and then, of course, expressing gratitude, just pure gratitude. I think if there’s anything that we’ve learned out of all the research on our donor retention challenges is that our gratitude must be personal, specific, and frequent. So all of those activities and tactics, strategies, if you will, in that reflective dialog mechanism will really have the donor experience ultimate joy, and when they feel that kind of joy, they want to give again and again and experience that joy again and again.

Here’s a video of a testimonial, you’ll see it in the deck that you’ll actually get, but I just love giving my major donors, especially a front row seat to any of the video testimonials or live testimonials that are a part of any of our events because they can see firsthand how they’re changing lives. So again, when it comes to expressing gratitude, Penelope Burk and Cygnus Research, they’ve done some amazing research that has given us amazing insights.

So this gratitude expression is not just mushy love stuff, right? This actually produces a result based on the research. So you know annually Cygnus Research surveys over 30,000 donors in North America, and then they culminate that feedback and provide us with insights. And some of the most recent insights include 95% of those survey respondents saying that they would appreciate a board member calling to say thank you within a few days of making a gift. And if they received that call from a board member, 85% of them would definitely or probably support the charity again.

Now, compare that to the data that less than half of our donors are staying with us year over year. Compare that to the data that says 70% to 80% of our first time donors never make a gift to us again. Eight-six percent of those that were surveyed, so they would definitely or probably give even larger gift if they received that thank you call. So, again, this is one of the ways that donors will experience joy. It’s one of the things that drives their trust and their loyalty. So we absolutely have to leverage our amazing board members in this manner.

And not every board member will do it, I know, I’m a realist. I’m a fundraising practitioner in addition to being, you know, a trainer. But those that will will make a difference. So don’t expect everyone to make the call. Find those vital few who will do it and do it well and partner with you. And, of course, all those goodness, those voicemails, those conversations, all get recorded in your donor database.

Steven Covey said that trust is the glue of life. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships. And that could never be more true than in the world of fundraising. So here’s the deal, you can do this. You have the tools to build a culture of trust within your organization, whether it’s with your colleagues, whether it’s with your specific team, and certainly with your donors. It is a process, and all we really need to do is to be intentional and to make the time to do it, which might mean that you have to create a stop doing list, a gold old-fashioned Jim Collin’s Good to Great, stop-doing list or do-differently list.

If you find that you don’t have the time to take care of donors in this manner, at least your top, your major donors. You know, if you could identify your top 50, 75, 100 donors and be this intentional with them, you would see the retention rate skyrocket. You would see their gift values increase. You would see them introducing you to their networks because they can trust you with those relationships.

Now, we know that trust gets broken sometimes. Here’s a quote that I . . . it wasn’t attributed to anyone, but I love the quote. And the quote is that trust is like an eraser. It gets smaller after every mistake. So I included a little video clip that will be in the deck that you receive from Steven, and it’s just a clip from “Meet the Fockers.” Right? Remember when Mr. Focker is talking to Jack, his daughter’s fiancé, and he’s talking about the circle of trust, “And once you’re out of the circle of trust, Jack, it’s very hard to get back.” So it’s a cute little snippet. You’ll love it.

But here’s the deal, you can course correct when trust has been broken or when trust is at risk. So the first thing is to be transparent about whatever is going on and take it to the donor. You want to tell it to them before they bring it to you or worst yet, they hear about the issue, and they simply go away and don’t even give you an opportunity. Right, because trust was broken. So you want to tell it to them.

Engage in that reflective dialog about all the good things that happens along the way. Thanks to them. And now we find ourselves at a crossroad. Introduce whatever thing is suspicious, broken, disturbing, maybe it’s ending the year, unfortunately, at a net loss. Maybe it’s, you know, an aha moment out of a program. Maybe it’s some unfortunate press you received. You want to bring it to your donors first and provide those insights, those ahas, and here’s what we’re doing moving forward, and ask for their feedback. And in some cases when it’s very personal, you may need to apologize, sincerely apologize, and maybe some of the higher ups in your organization need to apologize too. So it’s really on us to clean messes up before the donor brings them to us.

Penelope Burk, she did some, again, some really fascinating research and had some insights. She said, “You can strengthen donor trust in challenging times by anticipating and overcoming barriers before the donor brings them up.” So she affirms what we’re talking about, but her data goes on to say that if you bring it to the donor before they bring it to you, their trust of you will go up higher than it was before they even heard about it, because they’re like, “Wow, like, we really are partners. They are bringing this to me. They are being transparent.” All the things that you said, “They’re being vulnerable. They’re being transparent. They have integrity. They’re in communication.” Right? So that’s really on us, and it’s within our power to turn something that can be challenging into something that can be very positive in the end by taking ownership.

So Bloomerang, their amazing blog, I’m sure you’re on the blog or you probably wouldn’t be on this webinar, but if you’re not, sign up. They did a great “Top Ten Ways to Damage Donor Trust,” and so I included it here. Obviously, slow gift acknowledgement or lack of personalized communication. Right? So in my book that means I want to have a signed letter with a PS handwritten. I don’t want, you know, Dear Donor communication, I want Dear Tammy communication. I want you to recognize my favorite areas of your work. Ignoring my communication preferences is a sure way to damage trust. Right? So if I call Leonor at 8:00 a.m., she’s going to be upset. She’s going to say, “Tammy, doesn’t know me at all. I told her don’t call before 10:00.”

If you do surveying, which can be such a powerful tool, ignoring responses or not providing that feedback on the essence or themes of what the survey has said with your top donors. It can damage trust. Again, not offering opportunities to support specific projects, if that’s what the donor is really excited about. Not reporting on impact, results, campaigns, even results, not recording meeting details or details about the donor. I’ve heard this again and again and again from donors, “Gosh, it’s so upsetting to me when Joanne left the organization. The next person came and asked me the same questions that Joanne had asked me a year before. Like, can you guys just keep notes on this? Could somebody read the notes please? Because it really erodes my trust when I have to go through this again and again, and it makes me feel like I’m not really that special to you.”

Not recognizing volunteerism exclusively recognizing donations. Here’s the thing, for most of our donors money is precious. Time is even more precious so we really need to recognize all of the contributions that donors give to us — their expertise, their time, their financial support, their emotional support. And certainly, if you treat a referral that I sent to you poorly, if you don’t follow up with them, if I introduce my friend to you and they made a gift and they don’t get an acknowledgement letter for weeks and then it’s generic or poorly written, boo, like, I’m probably not going to send someone else to you again in the future.

And then again, lastly, not associating a gift if I gave through the community foundation or through my business or outright, recognizing them somehow is separate when really they’re all my gift. Right? So looking at the whole person.

So if our donors were here on the call and I’m sure every one of you is a donor of multiple organizations, here’s what the donor says, right? “Trusting you is my decision. Proving me right is your choice.” And as fundraisers it is our choice if we are going to affirm that donor trust, if we are going to affirm their decision to invest in us. It’s on us to let them know you made a great decision. Your investment was a wise one. We get you, we see you, you’re making a difference.

So, again, please, please if nothing else print this particular page out, pin it up in your work area, tuck it in your moleskin, and really begin, before you meet with that next donor or you send that next letter or you invite someone to the next event, consider how you could begin intentionally engaging the behaviors on the left, the vulnerability, keeping your promises, empowering the donor or engaging them in reflective dialog so that they have that experience of feeling empathy, feeling that connection to you and to the organization, really tapping into their highest level of generosity and as a result, them experiencing the ultimate joy.

It’s not normal. We’re so busy. It’s almost like we’re like a production line because of the volume of work we’re doing. So to slowdown and be intentional in this way is not normal. It will have you standout, but here’s the thing, “If you’re always trying to be normal, you’ll never know how amazing you can be.” And you are amazing, so choose wisely.

I want to go to the questions but I definitely put up this resource, suggested reading and resources. If you’re interested in more details about the data that I’ve shared or do deeper reading on trust, here’s just a great source list, and I encourage you to check it out.

All right, Q&A, so type in your questions, and Steven, if you’ve got questions coming in from Twitter land, then by all means let us know those too.

Steven: We’ll do, but first we owe you our gratitude, Tammy, for sharing all this wisdom with us, so thanks for being here. Great information. Just love hearing from Tammy because she has been in your shoes. She knows what she’s talking about. Yeah, we do have a little bit of time for questions, so if you haven’t already sent one in, please do so. I know we got a lot of good comments from people and thanks for those of you who are chatting in.

So, Tammy, how do you do this in an organization that’s never thought about this before? What do you think is the best way to sort of get started or shift that mindset?

Tammy: Yeah. Well, there’s that old saying like “Let it begin with me,” right? So I definitely share . . . Bloomerang is so great to create these recordings and share these recordings, you know, call the lunch and learn and go through the recording and then talk about what would it takes for us to start small? Let’s pick our top ten donors or two donors from, you know, just start small and figure out how you can create, how you can leverage these strategies to really have the donor have that experience. And part of it, let’s just say that you’re going to be focusing on impact, look at what you’re doing between now and the end of the year programmatically that if you invited two or three donors to witness would leave them feeling like they had just made a world of difference.

They would know firsthand what their gifts are accomplishing. Start small, start with you being the one that leads this and then report out on some of those wins, and it will kind of, I think it will self-generate.

Steven: I love it. Along the line of reporting out, Nicky is wondering if you should use newsletters for that, or would you limit it to just individual groups of donors. Do you think that everyone on the newsletter would she get those stories, or would you maybe save some for segmented donors? How do you kind of divide up that storytelling and reporting aspect?

Tammy: Yeah. Well, I’m a big believer in segmentation, and Steven, I know you are too.

Steven: Yeah.

Tammy: So I absolutely, you know, would include these stories in the newsletter. What I like to do is look at all the donor communication whether that’s a digital communication, print communication, that you’re reporting outcomes, whether it’s events or face-to-face opportunities and kind of stratify them by emotional impact. So in other words, the different segments can receive the higher emotional impact.

I would love it if everyone could meet a success story, but not everyone can. So let’s have those face to face, you know, coming to graduation or reading with kids in the Read with Me program. Save those for maybe some of your higher end donors or donors who have the capacity to be a higher end and look at some of those other communication channels like the newsletter for some of your other donors who are giving at lower levels. Yes, send it to everyone but let that newsletter be more of an affirmation like, “Oh, yeah, I read with those kids. How great to see them highlighted in the newsletter.”

But I’ll also say don’t underestimate, of course, your monthly donors because we know those are the folks who are so likely to become legacy givers. So even if their gift is $5 a month, $10 a month, we definitely want to segment and be strategic about the kind of immersive experiences and outcomes reporting we give to each of those segments.

Steven: I love that advice because you may already be sending 12 receipts to monthly donors. You might as well throw out some stories in there and not make them so [inaudible 00:58:16], right?

Tammy: Yeah, exactly. I mean, one of the things I learned even from, goodness, Simon . . . I’m trying to think of Simon’s last name, you know, Simon’s last name.

Steven: Simon Scriver?

Tammy: Thank you. Simon Scriver who we love from Ireland. He introduce something that we called “paper clip magic” so it’s just printing some photos like Polaroid type photos and attaching that to a gift acknowledgement letter. You know, my goal when I send those out now, inspired by Simon, is when I do a major donor visit, I hope to see that picture on their refrigerator.

Steven: Yes. Or the mantle, yeah. absolutely. Yeah, the paper clip is like the secret weapon. I love that advice.

Tammy: Yes.

Steven: Well, we’re running out of time Tammy, I know you and I can talk about stuff all day, but I want to be respectful of everybody’s time. We got your contact info. What should people do? Visit your website, follow you on Twitter, all that good stuff.

Tammy: Yeah. Please, sign up on my website to get access to other free resources. Follow me on Twitter, but if you’ve got specific questions about really how to build trust both within your inside the organization and with donors, you can always send me an email. I’m happy to support you in whatever way I’m able.

Steven: Please email her, obviously awesome, and if you’re up in Detroit, poke her up.

Tammy: Yeah, come to me in Detroit.

Steven: Tammy, thanks for being here. This is fun.

Tammy: Thanks for having me. Thank you so much.

Steven: And we are going to send out the recording and the slides specifically so you can watch those videos. You definitely want to watch that first video. It’s a really cool story, something that your . . . I think every organization can make a video like that should. So be on the look after that. I’ll get you all that good stuff this afternoon I promise. Checkout our website as well. We got some cool resources there as always, and we got some great webinars coming up as well. We’re going to keep going every Thursday. One week from today, no exceptions, the annual appeal time. I cannot believe it. It’s mid-September. You’re probably already thinking about annual appeals. Maybe you’ve already shipped those off to the printer.

If you haven’t, it’s not too late, join this webinar. We’re going to talk about how to use psychology and neuroscience in your annual appeal. It’s going to be a fun one, kind of nerdy, but there’s cool stuff in that I promise. Claire Axelrod is awesome, one of our favorites. So be there, totally free, totally educational, register for it now. There’s other webinar you can register for. We even got them out until 2019 already, which is cannot believe, but it’s true. So hopefully, we’ll see you again some other Thursday, if not this week. So have a good rest of your day. Have a safe weekend. If you’re on East Coast, we’re thinking about you with the storm coming. Please stay safe and hopefully we will talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

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