[VIDEO] 12 First Principles of Fundraising

In this webinar, Martin Leifeld will focus upon a philosophy and 12 foundational principles upon which fundraising activities should occur.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Martin, my watch just struck 1:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get us started here?
Martin: Of course.
Steven: All right, cool. Well, good afternoon, everyone if you’re on the East Coast and good morning, I should say if you’re on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks so much for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “First Principles of Fundraising.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I’m the chief engagement officer over here Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.
And just a couple of housekeeping items before we begin here, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon. So if you have to leave earlier, maybe you want to review the content or share it with a friend or colleague, I’ll get all that good stuff in your hands this afternoon I promise so have no fear.
Most importantly, as you are listening today, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen, your webinar window. A lot of you already have. I love it. Thank you so much. We love for these webinars to be as interactive as possible. So send us your questions and comments. We’re going to try to save a little bit of time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy. I’ll keep my eye on that throughout the hour so for sure. Also keep an eye on the Twitter feed if you want to send us a Tweet, we’d love to have that. So check out and do that. I’ll be watching for sure.
And if you have any trouble with your audio through your computer speakers, we find that the audio by phone is usually a little bit better. So if you have any trouble, try dialing in by phone if you can, if they if you don’t mind doing that, if that’d be comfortable for you before totally giving up on us. There is a phone number in the email there from ReadyTalk that went out about an hour or so ago today. So try that in case you have any trouble with your computer audio.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to stay an extra special welcome to all the folks. If you never joined us here on a Thursday webinar, you’re in for a treat. We do these webinars every single Thursday except for maybe a couple Thursdays throughout the year. We bring on a great guest speaker. Usually it’s really well received. I can’t remember anyone complaining about our webinars. It’s always educational, always insightful.
But if Bloomerang is also new to you, we are a provider of donor management software so maybe you’re interested in in changing software, just kind of curious about us, check us out after the webinar, don’t do that now. Wait an hour because you all are in for a treat. We’ve got a kind of a heavy hitter joining us today. Martin Leifeld is joining us from beautiful Logan, Utah by way of a St. Louis, right, Martin?
Martin: You got it, Steven.
Steven: Yeah, I should say right at the top that Martin made some very special arrangements to fit this into a schedule. He’s traveling this week doing workshops in Utah and was really gracious to fit this into his schedule. So Martin, I want to thank you first for being here. Again, I just want to brag on you real quick before I turn things over to you. If you guys don’t know Martin, you got to know him. He has a ton of experience. If there’s any higher ED folks listening today, Martin is your guy for sure. He’s got over 24 years of experience in direct professional fundraising. He has raised a lot of money through his career, over $500 million. Him and his team have accomplished that.
Most recently, he was the vice chancellor for University Advancement at the University of Missouri St. Louis, he was there for 10 years. Raised a lot of money there, about $26 million per year. Knows his stuff for sure. He’s got a great video series on his website. I’ve been enjoying that, seeing those videos on LinkedIn. Definitely check that out after the presentation and a book that you should all check out. I’m going to buy this book myself, I need to read it. But we actually saw Martin at an AFP event and people were just mobbing him for this book. So I’m pretty sure it’s very good. He’ll tell you more about it later on, after he tells you all about his first principles of fundraising. So Martin, I’m going to hand things over to you, my friend. So take it away.
Martin: Well, thank you, Steven. It’s really an honor to be able to have this time as your guest and to be a presenter to everyone who’s in the audience today who was able to take some time and think about fundraising. And, you know, when we talk about what we’re going to do today is spend a couple minutes on actually what I would call the philosophy of fundraising. But we’re going to really focus on first principles of fundraising and there’s a dozen of these principles. And let’s keep going. So what is a principle? You know, basically, a principle is a proposition that serves as a foundation for a system of belief.
So when we think about principles of fundraising, we’re thinking about kind of that infrastructure, that undergirding, if you will, the foundational thinking that basis our activity. It’s kind of our intellectual framework with which we go forth and we engage in the fundraising profession or, you know, in fundraising volunteering. And, you know, philosophy, what do we what do we mean here? Again, with philosophy, we’re talking about something fundamental, and we all operate with a philosophy. It’s our guiding principles of behavior.
And we as fundraisers, we operate with one whether we’re conscious of it or not. To give a good example is we think of a continuum between people in performance and fundraising. If you’re on the far side of performance, you’re driven by metrics, you’re driven by outcomes, okay? There’s people, but we’ve got goals, we have to get to. We’re going to use those people to raise as much money so that we can achieve our goals, and so on. Then you go the other end of the spectrum and we’re focused on people and building relationships. And sometimes, you know, we respect people and revere people so much, we hesitate to ask, challenge them with doing great gifts of philanthropy.
But, you know, we somewhere rest in there consciously or not and it’s important that we take the time to think about what is fundraising all about and how do I see it? How do I want to engage in fundraising? So, you know, some bullet points in pursuit of the greater good seems to me to be essential as part of one’s philosophy.
Developing donors versus developing people. I’m one who believes that by our developing donors over time engaging them with our organization and leading them to be generous and perhaps increasingly generous over time, what we’re really doing is we’re also developing them as people. We’re helping them to become more powerful people.
Gifts of greater significance ennobles people I believe. And when I say a gift of greater significance, I’m talking about something transactional, someone writing you a check, they’re going to get you out of the office. I’m talking about gifts that matters to donors that it’s a way for the donor to extend who they are, what their values are, with the hope to impact the world and to make it a better place. Well, that process with the donor changes them. They grow, they change, they become greater people, if you will. I think that’s really cool. That excites me about our profession.
I believe, you know, philosophically, we should be donor centric. We want to be about the donors and we want to be focused on building the relationship. Again, this isn’t a transactional business. This is a highly personal business when people are giving money, and we want to be thinking about the donors’ aspirations and goals as we go about our service.
So with that said, let’s focus on a dozen fundraising principles. And these are principles that over my, you know, couple 24 years of being in the fundraising side of things and really 40 plus years of being in leadership positions in other dimensions of nonprofit work, these are principles that have kind of, you know, risen to the top, if you will. Now you might think about, “You know, these align well with me, but Martin, you’re missing this, that, and the other principle.”
And I’m not trying to suggest that these are the only 12 principles believe and accept them or not. I’m simply suggesting that during the course of my work and my learning and experiencing in the work of philanthropy that, you know, these matter to me.
So first principle, funding is limitless. Now I hope you’re shaking your head up and down and not left and right. Funding is limitless. Do you believe that that funding is actually limitless? Well, I do and it’s been my experience that funding is limitless but there’s a catch. The catch is for those who go and get it. It’s really rare that, you know, some extraordinary gift is just going to drop in in our organization unannounced. I wish that would happen every day. The funding is limitless if we go and pursue it, if we organize ourselves, if we’re serious about it, if we’re intentional about it, funding is limitless.
I also believe that, you know, all seasons are good seasons for fundraising. Now, again, I hope your heads going up and down and not back sideways. But all seasons are good seasons. And I have an example for you. When I joined the University of Missouri St. Louis, this was back in August of 2008, I was coming into the Vice Chancellor Advancement position there and the university was three years into its first comprehensive campaign and it was scheduled to be a 7-year campaign and I was to finish that campaign, reach the $100 million goal, it was at 48 million after 3 years and, you know, take it public in that year.
Well, if you remember those of us who are alive, I think we all were back in 2008. What happened was we hit the Great Recession. And then September, October, it was like the economic sky fell. And, you know, I was talking to my colleagues and to other organizational leaders in the St. Louis area and, you know, somewhere deciding to suspend campaigns, others were deciding to put off campaigns because, you know, overnight seemingly, people lost. If they were in the market, they lost substantial resources, property values plummeted, retirement funds dropped significantly, and there was just so much insecurity.
And so yeah, I just arrived at the University of Missouri St. Louis. What am I going to do? I wasn’t here to counsel our chancellor and say we need to back off. I sure didn’t want to do that. And I remember reading an article, a comment by Robert Sharp, Jr. Those of you who know him, a brilliant contributor to our profession. And he made written comment that, you know, during the Great Recession there were some organizations that actually raised more . . . the Great Depression, I’m sorry the Great Depression. Some organizations raise more than they did before the depression struck and that was all I needed. It kind of gave me that extra permission and boost to say, “My gosh, if it could happen for organizations during the Great Depression, it could happen for our university for the Great Recession.”
And we went on to not just reached $100 million goal but we raised $154.3 million. And in fact, in that first year of the Great Recession, we raised 54% more than the best prior year ever for the University of Missouri St. Louis and that got some attention in our community too by the way. We had bragging rights about philanthropy that year over in St. Louis.
Second principle is it’s all about the donors. It’s all about the donors. It’s about the donors. Now, I know it’s about our organizations and certainly I know it’s about us and our roles, which are very important in the whole fundraising process and then support of our organizations, but it’s about the donors. To raise significant funds for our organizations, we need to be all about the donors and we need to spend time with our donors and come to appreciate their needs and their aspirations.
What we want to do is, as it were, be facilitators of philanthropy, place ourselves before organization and on behalf of our organizations, before our donors and our prospective donors and engage them and to facilitate acts of philanthropy. As I said, what we wanted to do is bring donors into such a relationship that their aspirations or needs will be met through their giving support to our organizations, gifts of greater significance, that’s what I call them. And again, this is not a transactional gift, this is a gift of meaning. This is a gift where the donors in effect are telling the world expressing themselves of what matters most of them. Their highest values are being demonstrated through such acts of philanthropy.
When we bring this kind of mindset that it’s not about us, it’s not at least just about us, it’s not about our organization, at least not just about our organization, it’s all about the donors. How we engage begins to shift and donors are aware of it and how they respond is with terrific generosity.
The third fundraising principle is every donor, every contribution matters. I think everyone who’s listening to this would embrace this principle. Every donor, every contribution matters. And it’s not the size of a gift, it’s the what’s behind the gift, the expression that the donor is making by giving us the gift. But every donor, every contribution matters. You think about, and this, of course, has been proven that most planned gifts, the majority of planned gifts come from, you know, perhaps the more modest donors who are making more modest gifts, but they’re giving them year in and year out.
Over at the University of Missouri St. Louis, one of our organizational pieces in advancement has been St. Louis Public Radio, the local NPR affiliate, and great organization doing great work and the university overseas its work, and they have people who have been giving 30 plus years, and this is who they’re lining up now to be making planned gifts. So for all those modest gifts, year in and year out, what they’re going to see is a terrific harvest, if you will, of planned gifts. So we can’t underestimate a more modest donor, although we certainly can’t ignore, we want to attend to donors who have a greater capacity, but every contribution matters.
So when we think about being relationships centered and thinking about donors, we know we cannot get in front of every one of our donors, at least if we have a robust donor base. But we have to think about being as personalized as possible. You know, whether it’s an email, whether it’s a direct mail piece, whether it’s a solicitation piece, whether it’s a phone call, how we construct events in which we invite donors or prospective donors. We want to personalize it for donors as much as possible. So let’s not send letters that say, “Dear, Mr., or Mrs.” Let’s send letters that are Mr. And Mrs. Martin Leifeld with Ellen Howe. Ellen is my wife, by the way. And in the body of the letter, “Dear, Martin and Ellen,” and personalize it as much as we can. This is again an expression of respect, donors and prospects deserve to be respected, but also it’s appreciated in turn.
The fourth principle is the principle number . . . not everybody likes this principle actually in our work but I call it give then ask, give then ask. Those of us who are in the business or this role, this responsibility of soliciting funds, whether we’re a paid employee, whether it’s our full time job, or we’re called upon at times to the support fundraising in our organization, whether we’re volunteers, board members, or just enthusiasts for our organizations, we need to give before we ask.
Now what we found out is taking someone through the gift giving process, the donor fundraising process requires our careful thought and our energy. But to bring them along, we must give first and for us to appreciate what it takes for them to make a gift of greater significance as a donor, it’s so helpful if we’re similarly committed to our organization. So again, it’s not a transactional gift I’m talking about. I’m talking about a gift that we make of greater significance, doing the best we can, perhaps drawing upon our assets in a significant way, thinking about a planned gift as part of our support for our organizations. That gives us a kind of gravity and integrity when we go into make solicitations, bar none.
Then we’re leading by example. When we call upon volunteers to help support in the fundraising process, we can say proudly, “We’re in. We’re committed. This is what we’re doing,” and it sets the tone. It sets the example.
Which, by the way, speaking of volunteers, when we bring a volunteer out on a call and they’re going to help us engage with someone for a solicitation, make sure that the volunteers have given in a meaningful way beforehand. If you want to kill a call, kill a donor visit, have that prospective donor ask the volunteer who they may know well. Well, you know, “John and Mary, what are you in for? What are you doing for this organization?” And what we don’t want to have happen is John and Mary being, “Well, you know, we’ve had a couple conversations about it. We’re getting close. We’re not really sure.” Well, what’s that going to do for someone quote we’re approaching personally with our time and energy? Man, it’s going to sink the call. So we need to challenge our volunteers as well to give significantly and I’d advise you to not deploy volunteers until they’ve done so.
What we’re after is around and within our organization is growing a culture of philanthropy and awareness and appreciation and a participation in the gift giving of philanthropy. At the University of Missouri St. Louis, when I arrived, the University was about 46 years old. And in terms of universities, that’s a very, very young institution. And its oldest graduates were just kind of coming into that time in their lives when they could consider more extraordinary gifts and legacy kind, planned gifts, legacy gifts. And we had an opportunity for many alumni, to engage with them and really to introduce them into significant philanthropy.
And as we did that, graduate upon, upon graduate, upon graduate as well as communitarians bringing them into significant giving and organizations of course this understanding about the University of Missouri St. Louis and its philanthropic life and the role of philanthropy emerged and clarified and was embraced by many. I think about the faculty of staff at the University of Missouri St. Louis over my 10 years, I don’t think there’s a more dedicated group of people working in the university anywhere in the world. But, you know, it was tough financial times, many years at the university. And, you know, some years people were, you know, not being able to receive raises and so on. And, you know, that could challenge people’s dedication.
So we launched a campaign called The Be Inspired campaign and what we focused upon is we asked our faculty and staff, “Well, what is it that inspires you about working at this university?” And it was amazing what came forth from the faculty and staff as a result, how passionate they were about their jobs, about their students, about their responsibilities and executing them in a way that made a real difference at the university.
And it was in that context we ask, well, if you can, please give, please participate. It makes a difference when we can go out and tell proud prospective donors that, you know, most of our faculty and most of our staff are supporting and, you know, they did but it was around trying, it was around appreciating the importance of their work and their contributions at the university that helped shape this culture of philanthropy within the organization. Very, very cool.
The fifth principle, make fundraising a priority. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Make fundraising . . . of course it should be a priority. Well, I’ll tell you what, it’s so easy to let it slip from being a priority. Why? Well, to do fundraising the right way to raise major gifts, you don’t do that by a phone call, you do it by spending time with people. And time is something that’s perhaps our greatest utility to dispense day in and day out. And the thing about our time is there’s only so much of it and we can only direct so much of it to fundraising.
And what competes for our time directed to fundraising is everything else. These incredible distractions. The tyranny of the urgent, just the weight and the amount of responsibilities we shoulder in our important responsibilities in our nonprofit organizations. They keep us so often from keeping fundraising a priority. So it takes great discipline and focus and determination on the part of organizational leadership and that lets fundraising staff an organization may have to keep fundraising a priority in the light of all that’s coming one’s way day in and day out.
Secondly, to keep fundraising a priority to make it so we have as organizational leaders have to invest resources to raise significant sums of money. And we have only one fundraiser and the fundraiser is supposed to do the direct mail, get volunteers to make phone calls, write to grants in order to raise money, coordinate the communications for the organization, coordinate the events for the organization and go out and make donor calls. Man, now as somebody who does all that extremely well, you know, I want to meet them and I want to shake their hand because it’s a terrific challenge.
So by investing resources, and we got to persuade our board sometimes why this is a good investment by investing resources to pay back over time can be most significant. Now we also have to realize yes, sometimes we can get some quick wins, but to build and maintain a fundraising program that’s strong and vibrant, we must have patience and perseverance. There’s really no shortcuts to it. It takes this willingness to be determined over time, focused over time, keeping fundraising as a priority. And over time, what should emerge is more funding and more dedication on the part of people as they engage with your organization and make gifts of greater significance.
Now, the fact of the matter is, we can’t personally spend time with every donor to our organization or with every prospect that we would like to engage with volunteer and convert volunteers to be donors if they’re not already. It’s very difficult to do. So what we must do is focus on to keep it simple — capacity, affinity, and propensity.
If you look at this quadrant graph, which you see on the upper right is where highest affinity and highest capacity intersect. And when we think about all those we could possibly engage with, we need to get very clear on let’s focus on those with the highest capacity and the highest affinity. Now, affinity is loyal to the organization, identity with the organization, volunteering, participating in advance, people who perhaps are donors are ready to the organization.
And then capacity has more to do with their financial wherewithal, you might say. You know, what is their abilities? What do we believe to be their abilities? Do they have the wherewithal to really move the dial for our organization with a substantial major gifts or you know, with a future history of significant financial gifts? And then in the middle of it all is we determine, you know, 1 to 100, who are those with highest affinity and highest capacity and we begin engaging with them one by one. We discover their propensity, what they really think about the organization.
How they view philanthropy and giving. Whether the timing would be right for them to support our organization in an increasingly meaningful way, and so on and so forth. It’s only by getting in front of folks that we discover their propensity and whether it’s opportunity for us as an organization to really build an intentional relationship with that person or a couple and so on in order to raise this . . . gain a significant gift and more profound relationship with them.
The sixth principle I suggest is what I call gifts beget gifts. Gifts beget gifts. In my years of doing major gift fundraising, one of the things I always did as I established the first few minutes of the call and giving a briefing, a brief update about where our the University of Missouri St. Louis, for instance, was, is I would always include stories about major gifts. And if I was setting up this relationship for a solicitation, I would look at the donors who had given major gifts recently around the size of what I was hoping to ask these donors to make. And I say, “Well, you know, we’ve got some really good news. In the business school, John and Mary who are graduates of the business school, they’ve made $100,000 gift. And not only that, Judy and Frank, they made a gift of $150,000.”
Well, it could very well be the person I’m in front of knows both couples. And what that does is, I’ll say more about in a moment, it establishes a floor, an expectation so that when I present later on in that call or in a future call, a solicitation for, you know, $150,000, they already know that two couples that matter to them in some respect or another, who are their peers, perhaps, in the local community have already given at that level. And that can be very, very powerful.
When I talk about establishing floors, when we were putting in position this Gateway for Greatness campaign years ago at the University of Missouri St. Louis, there was the Auguste Chouteau Society. And at that time the Auguste Chouteau Society was a recognition society for those who cumulatively were committed to $100,000 or more for the university.
And, you know, that could be a combination of annual giving, a future promise of giving, planned giving commitments and so on $100,000. And, you know, upon my arrival as good as that was, I realized that was not going to empower us to raise significant funds. So with a wise and smart team that I had around me, we created what we call Partners for Greatness. And this was for donors or organizations that would commit a million dollars or more to the university. Now, in the three years of the silent phase of the campaign prior to my arrival, the university had received three seven-figure commitments to the campaign and to the university. And, you know, remarkable. I mean, a million dollars or more is a great deal of money. It was then. It still is today.
However, by establishing this Partners for Greatness and this floor to go and engage would be donors, individuals, alumni, communitarians, organizational leaders about these Partners for Greatness, it created a expectation, a floor for giving that challenged them. And the first three years as I mentioned of that campaign, there were three seven-figure gifts. The next four years of the campaign, we added 28 more. So from going from $1 million plus gift a year, the first 3 years, we went to averaging 7 in those next 4 years for a total of 31 major gifts of a million dollars or more. So gifts beget gifts. Establishing floors, telling a story is very powerful.
Now in June of 2012 actually that campaign ended, the Gateway for Greatness campaign ended and the Partners for Greatness as a campaign device ended too. So we spent the year thinking and consulting with donors, our chancellors, council members, which is a senior most advisory group at the University of Missouri. St. Louis and others, and we recreated the Auguste Chouteau Society into a series of milestones from $100,000 was the entry point but then we added $250,000, $500,000, a million, $2.5 million, $5 million, and $10 million. Now, we hadn’t any donors. We had one donor that given more than $10 million and outside of that donor, no one had given cumulatively $5 million to the university. That’s where we were.
And it was amazing to watch as we put these milestones in place what happened. And the university has an annual founders event. And it’s not an event where money is solicited from those who gather. It’s at the Ritz Carlton in St. Louis. It’s like sardines, all the UMSL folks are gathered, 700, sometimes as many as 750 are squished into the room and it’s a rousing good time for the university and those who are attending.
And one of the things we began to do and still do at the university is recognize those who reach milestones at that event. There’s this time within the event where we call forth up on the stage those contributors that had reached these milestones. And we would recognize and honor them and they were received a modest gift and have their picture taken with the chancellor and most often the president of the University of Missouri system.
People loved it and it challenged everyone else in the audience to think about the University of Missouri St. Louis and their philanthropy differently. Not only that, among some of our alumni in particular, it got kind of competitive and people thought, “Well, John and Mary, their giving is up to $500,000 now? Man, you know what? Yeah, we’ve got a lot more resources than John and Mary. You know, let’s get up to $500,000 too.” Well, you know, perhaps being competitive isn’t the most noble motivation in, you know, being philanthropic. But, hey, it works. But this idea of leveraging gifts to beget future gifts is very, very powerful. And I encourage us all to be very thoughtful about it.
Seventh principle is time belongs to the donor. Here is the fundraising cycle. I would guess most all of you have seen it and I’ve added the word “Time” in the middle of that cycle. And the reason I’ve done so is because time belongs to the donor just as the resources do. And when we ask a donor to make a gift to our organization, where they are in time makes a difference. They may or may not have the capacity to be generous at that point in time. If we asked him to do a major gift and they’re agreeable and it’s a gift of great significance, you know, from the time they say yes, it might be many months, a year or more before the gift is finalized because of the complexities around the gifts and they’re engaging investment advisors to help them pull that gift together.
So time belongs to the donor. And in one way, we need to be aware and somewhat deferential. But, you know, we operate within time structure ourselves as organizations. We have, you know, calendar years, we have fiscal years that we operate with and time matters. Our ability to get things done on behalf of our organizations to fulfill their missions, that operates in the context of time. So we need . . . with having a relationship with a donor we can engage with the donor and talk about time and reach agreement with the donor about when they will conclude that gift.
We can use the end of the fiscal year as a motivator. We can use the end of the calendar year as a motivator. It’s a great motivator because many donors make their gifts at the end of the calendar year. We can make the end of a campaign as a motivator. We can make an urgent request and the urgency meeting having great meaning in order to for us to do something essential for our missions. We can make that a motivator. We can bring to this discussion around time, motivators to help the donors align their time with the time constraints and goals of our organization.
The eighth fundraising principle focuses on stewardship and recognition. Communicating gratitude. First and foremost, we have to communicate gratitude. Do it in person, do it in writing, do it frequently. Whenever I’ve gone to see a donor, I know what the doctor has done most recently for us. I know what the donor has done overall in their lifetime of commitments. And I acknowledged that as I’m establishing rapport on that call.
And some people have said over the years but rarely, “Oh, Martin stop, stop sending us thank yous. We don’t want to receive so that thank yous.” Well, I tell you, my friends, that’s a rarity. Most people appreciate gratitude. And when I hear that comment on occasion, I’ll say, “Geez, I don’t want to, you know, annoy you but we can’t thank you enough and often for your generosity to our organization. It means so much.”
So we want to think about how best to recognize someone. And certainly when we see some donors doing something extraordinary for our organization, we may want to think about doing something above and beyond our ordinary approaches to gratitude and recognition and do something personalized. A quick example, some donors reached the milestone, the University of Missouri St. Louis, we said, “The chancellor and the dean would like to have you at the St. Louis Club for a dinner in your honor.” They were agreeable. “Who would you like to have there?”
And they mentioned their children and their children spouses, a faculty member, some of our fundraising team. We had a marvelous evening with great cocktails, wine, a wonderful dinner. There were toasts made to honor these donors by several of our executive team and then the donors took some time to talk about what it meant for them to be associated with the university, to have made such gifts of significance and why being philanthropic meant so much.
Now, we were all touched by this and energized and proud of working for this university. But think about their children, what that said to their children, conveyed to their children, a challenge, if you will, to be philanthropic like their mother and father were, very powerful.
Stewardship is the most powerful step in the recognition. Russell James is somebody who’s a faculty member of Texas Tech who has done extraordinary work in this field and has gathered, collected the insights from others in this whole field of the psychology of fundraising. In fact, the physiology of fundraising. And Russell and others talk about that. When significant gifts are made what happens is oxytocin is released within the contributor and this is the family bonding, social bonding enzyme, if you will, that is released.
And what that does is it attaches a donor to our organization more powerfully than ever before. You know, I used to think solicitation was the most important powerful step of the cycle, I should say. I love to raise money and I love to close gifts. But as I watched donors over the course of my career, and how after they made a gift of the significance, suddenly they were the greatest cheerleaders for the organization seemingly overnight, they were bringing friends to every event, they wanted to volunteer more, they wanted to support other areas, additional areas within our organization. It made sense that this is something, you know, the axiom that it’s better to give than receive comes to mind when I think about how powerful philanthropy can be for people.
Stewardship and recognition, you know, to be brief, you move on along a continuum of publicity and anonymity. Up in the upper left-hand corner is an example of an organization that wanted maximum publicity, Emerson is a great Fortune 500 company in St. Louis, very philanthropic. Their company is headquartered in Ferguson, Missouri, back a few years ago, when the tragedy around Michael Brown took place in the St. Louis region and all that ensued. You know, Emerson wanted to be responsive and they believe that education was a primary tool to be able to bring about transformation in St. Louis, in Ferguson, and in the communities surrounding Ferguson where there are so many economic challenges and so forth.
And so with a number of organizations, including the university, they contributed significant sums of money and they established a powerful, wonderful scholarship program at the University of Missouri St. Louis and they wanted the world to know. So they designed this ad, they had, you know, gathered the press and made the announcements. They wanted to publicize it so that the community would know Emerson was committed to, not just Ferguson, but to the people in that community and surrounding communities and committed to their youth to make the future different. So that such situations around Michael Brown’s would never happen again.
On the other hand, you look at anonymity and, you know, we had great donors who contributed money for a golf course. And this was the signage that’s being used, but I brought a mock up with their names, John and Mary Smith on the bottom, John and Mary Smith Park and presented it to them and they said, “Well, Martin, you know, we’ve allowed you to recognize our gifts publicly in the past,” but they had reasons why they didn’t want to this time. I was disappointed. I wanted the world to know about their generosity, but by gosh, that gift was made several years ago and very, very few people know about it and it will remain anonymous until the point where they choose otherwise. But a great gift on the part of some marvelous donors.
Catalytic volunteers is a nice fundraising principle. You know, George Paz is somebody who is a graduate of the University Missouri St. Louis, rose to the position of Chairman, CEO and President of Express Scripts and Express Scripts became during his leadership of Fortune 25 company. And Express Scripts you may know in the last 30 days or so was acquired by Cigna. Well, George came out on maybe a half a dozen upwards to a dozen calls during the campaign and told his power powerful story and gave his opinion about the value proposition of the University of Missouri St. Louis. It was catalytic to have someone like that go and engage.
First of all, he got us in front of prospective donors that we probably could not have gotten in front of otherwise. And then secondly, his powerful story and his personal commitment of he and Melissa as well as his company to the university was very, very powerful. Using volunteers can be catalytic. And I encourage you to think about how to strategize and use them. We emphasize having our volunteers do the storytelling and we as staff as those who work full time for the organization would ordinarily do the asking.
Hence this measurement helps. If you’re in a big sophisticated shop like a major university, you’ve got metric upon metrics upon metrics. But there should be for even that are simplest organizations. You know, we want to . . . measure helps, having annual goals, program or project goals that we’re raising money for, and striving to reach those goals, measuring our progress against those goals, the number of personal visits we want to do a week, a month, a year in order to engage with donors to raise more money and the number of proposals we’ve submitted and accepted and the dollars raised are, you know, a small group I think of manageable metrics. I would encourage everyone to use if you’re not doing so already.
The 11th principle is ask specifically and close. We’re not going to raise much money saying, “Gee, John and Mary, we could really use your help. Would you make a contribution?” They may make a contribution but asking specifically tells them a whole lot about our expectations is about the level of our need for the project, the program, the purpose. Now closing can be difficult. I found that closing gifts is the most difficult part of the cycle because people may be very willing and want to make a gift but they’re extremely busy, they travel a lot, the demands on their time are incomprehensible to us, and bringing a gift, which could be very complex as we talked about earlier, can be difficult to conclude. And so it takes, you know, again, determination and dedication and follow through on our part to stick with the donor, to bring the gift to being documented of being given outright.
And finally, I think this is a very important principle of the long view. It can take a long time for us to bring a donor to a point of making truly a major gift. I’m thinking of Chancellor George. He’s in the 16th year and for 15 years, he built a relationship with an entrepreneur who was growing a great company and for 10 years, I was involved in that engagement. Towards the end of that campaign in 2011, they made a gift of $100,000 over 5 years. And after many more years of gift discussion and engagement and appreciation, these donors this past June made a seven-figure gift of 1.3. And in the press release, agreed to be quoted as saying that they were good for another $8 million in the years to come.
Fifteen years of the chancellor’s dedication, 10 years of mine for us to have a gift. Some gifts only mature over a long period of time and we have to have the long view when we sometimes are disappointed along the way.
So those are the 12 principles and I hope they’ve resonated with you. I hope that, you know, you can put some of them to use, assimilate some of them. Again, you may have your own dozen and hopefully they, you know, align well with this dozen that I’ve selected today. If you want to learn more, you know, as Steven mentioned from the outset, “Five Minutes for Fundraising” is a book I produced very recently. It’s a great book from my point of view and there’s 25 chapters and an additional essay at the end of it.
But what makes him book really special is 26 different collaborators in addition to me have made this book — experts in fundraising from every walk of fundraising. And if you’d like, you can go to martinleifeld.com and buy a book with a credit card for 25 bucks and I will personally personalized and autograph that book for you today. You can go to Amazon, pay a couple bucks more and have the convenience of Amazon, perhaps a quicker delivery than what I would be able to do but that’s available to you. I think it’s a great workbook.
As I said, those who have read it have been very, very positive, encouraging. And it’s not because I wrote it, it’s because the material I believe, like the 12 principles we talked about today, can be helpful for us to raise more money in the most impactful way, honoring your respective donors in the work that we do for the great and important organizations that we’re associated with.
Well, Steven, I hope I didn’t go on too long. I’m going to turn it back to you. I know you mentioned there may be some questions that we could chat about.
Steven: Yes, but first, thank you, Martin. That was awesome. No, you did not go too long. Although I feel like I could listen to some of this stuff all day. You definitely speaking my language about donor centricity. Lots of things you said resonated with me. I’m sure everyone who listened would agree. So thank you. Thanks for doing this. Thanks for taking an hour out of your day and fitting this into your travel schedule. I know you’re kind of hunkered down in a hotel room right now doing this so I really, really appreciate it. And definitely, do check out the book because obviously Martin knows his stuff. But we do have some questions here. We’re probably got some time, maybe time for, you know, six or seven minutes of questions here.
Martin, a lot of the people that that tend to listen to this webinar series tend to be a smaller shops, you know, small to medium sized nonprofits. It’s a lot of, you know, one-person shops listening in. How do you recommend people make time for all this, you know, personalization and stewardship and appreciation and being donor centric when there’s so many other things they got to get done? They got to do events and manage volunteers and all the other things that come along with being a nonprofit. Any advice for those smaller shops listening today?
Martin: Well, sure. And I’m very sympathetic. My first fundraising job when I arrived there was a part-time gift processor and I was the first and only fundraiser hired. So I started there. And so I appreciate what it is to be in a modest situation. So, you know, one thing you need to do is think about time, again, as we talked about, talk with your leadership and get assessment, get agreement from them, you’re your spending time out of the office, if you will, in front of people is valuable and should be a priority because if you don’t have that support, it’s going to be really difficult to, you know, go about the business of relationship building and personalized solicitation.
Secondly, with that agreement in mind, you got to schedule it. You know, how many hours a week are you going to devote to it? Let’s say, you know, five hours. Let’s say, 8 to 10 hours. Then you schedule it out, you block out blocks of time and you do your best to fill in those times with calls and interactions with people. You got to start somewhere. But you got to start with your leadership support and then you have to build the discipline into your calendar to be out of the office and doing something.
Steven: It makes sense. Here’s one from Heather. Heather is curious about maybe some tips for how to recognize donors when they give to a very, very specific project or a fund, maybe it’s a designated gift or maybe, you know, they’re passionate about a specific thing that the organization does. Do you think that you should have very specific things sent back to them in terms of communication? What advice you have for sort of those designated gifts?
Martin: Well, you know, it begins with profound appreciation. But when someone makes a gift like that, of course, you know, as we’ve been talking here, their relationship can deepen with the organization. And your conversations can deepen as well. You know, what I found is donors are more inclined to do additional self-disclosure. And so we arrive at greater insights as to what the donors are about. So, yes, we thank them appropriately but we continue to engage in relationship building, which will lead them oftentimes, by the way, to support not only make additional gifts to their area of interest, but broaden their interest to other dimensions of our organization.
Steven: It makes sense. Here’s one from Mashonda. This is one we get asked a lot since we’re kind of talking about stories and reporting back to the donor. What about confidentiality and maybe sensitive cause types maybe when children are involved? Or, you know, I think one that comes up a lot is, you know, sort of domestic violence survivors. Any storytelling tips when you have maybe a kind of a sensitive cause, but you definitely do want to show appreciation to the donor and tell a story and make them see the impact?
Martin: Well, so I think the first thing that begins is if you have a donor story that you would like to in a sense elevate in order to, you know, persuade others to be supportive, you want their permission to do so. So, you know, and it doesn’t to suggest in any way that you didn’t have permission. And you talk about how you would refer to their gift in whatever format, forum that you would like to do and so that they have a full say and are fully on board.
Secondly, you know, when it comes to those who are the recipients of the benefaction who perhaps have been through very difficult things and your organization perhaps in some respects, life saving for them, if we want to elevate them, I’d be very, very careful. I’d be very thoughtful about that. Certainly, you would want their permission.
You know, I think you can tell the story and say, you know, as I’ve done here, refer to John or Mary or John and Mary in some of these stories with an asterisk below that says, you know, we’ve withheld the name out of respect for the sensitivity of this story. And you know, a donor . . . that won’t, I think, in any way to limit the impact of the story because it sounds like Mashonda, you probably have some powerful stories to work with.
Steven: Yeah. Definitely. This maybe a good way, good one to end on since we’re getting close to the 2:00 hour. I like this question because, Martin, you come from the higher ED world and this question is curious about engaging maybe younger donors who are still kind of growing and in their maybe household income and maybe don’t have a lot of capacity. Any tips for maybe engaging those younger donors who might be passionate about you, but maybe don’t have the capacity to give, you know, the kind of gift that may show up on your radar? Is it volunteerism? Is it maybe monthly commitments that are sort of modest gift amount? Is your advice not to worry about those people at all and focus on the maybe the older donors who have more capacity? What do you think for that sort of millennial and maybe even kind of tiptoeing into the Gen X donor range?
Martin: Well, you know, back to the principle of every donor matters, every gift matters. Yeah, oftentimes, you know, your time gets skewed to the oldest generation with the greatest resources and capacity to give. But, you know, there’s tools to engage your younger donors. Volunteer opportunities, having a young adult group that’s volunteers that has regular meetings, perhaps provide some volunteer services for the organization. What we’re really talking about is building attachment.
And as you mentioned, Steven, you know, monthly giving, they do a gift of let’s say $150 at one time can be a lot for somebody whose resources are sparse. But if you divide and make it $8 and change a month, well, that’s less than going to McDonalds. And there’s ways of doing monthly giving that to make giving more possible and larger for more modest donors. But the relationship building is more important here than the gifts. It’s about engagement. It’s about association with your organization. That matters so much among younger donors.
Steven: I love it. And you speak my language, Martin. I’m almost upset that the hour is over because I feel like you and I could be talking about this all day. But we are getting close to 2:00 and I know we didn’t get to all the questions but, Martin, do you mind taking additional questions over email?
Martin:Sure.
Steven:Is that okay with you? You got your contact information here.
Martin: Cool. Yeah, martin@martinleifeld.com. I’d welcome any contact from those who are listening today or will listen in the future.
Steven: Awesome. This is great. Thanks so much, Martin, for being here. This was a lot of fun.
Martin: Steven, it’s been a lot of fun and, as I said, I felt honored to have this opportunity. Thanks for inviting me.
Steven: Feeling is mutual for sure. And thank you all for listening. I know you’re quite busy as well but all of you took an hour of your day to hang out with us so this was a really fun. Do drop Martin a line. Check out his book and check out that video series. I think it’s also really good and you might get some more nuggets out of that beyond just this hour. So, Martin, have a safe trip back to St. Louis. Thanks for doing that. Please drive and fly safe.
And all of you, hopefully, we’ll talk to you again next week. We got a great webinar coming up about board governance and how that relates to fundraising, how it can help or maybe hurt your fundraising if you don’t have good governance in place.
We got Brian Saber joining us. Super smart guy, one of my favorites. I like to have him least once a year on the webinar series. So if you’ve seen him before, you know it’s a good session so be here same time, same place next week, next Thursday, 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
If you’re not quite into board governance, that’s okay. There’s other sessions you can register for on our webinar page. We’ve got a lot of good stuff coming up. We’ve got a lot of first time guests like Martin that I’m really excited about. So check out our schedule and hopefully we’ll see you again next week. So look for the recording and the slides coming for me later on this afternoon. I’ll get that in your hands, I promise, and hopefully see you next week. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a safe weekend, and 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. She also serves as the Director of Communications for PRSA’s Hoosier chapter.
Kristen Hay
By |2019-01-29T10:14:33-04:00January 31st, 2019|Webinars|

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