In this webinar, Lori L. Jacobwith shows examples of how other nonprofits have harnessed the passion of their community and their mission using authentic, clear word choices.

Full Transcript:

Steven:All right, Lori, I’ve got 1:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and kick us off officially?

Lori:I think that is perfect. I’m loving seeing all these people jump on, so we’ll just keep welcoming them as you say your hellos.

Steven:All right, cool. Well, I’ll say hello, then. Hello everyone, thanks for joining us. If you are on the East Coast, good afternoon. If you are on the West Coast, good morning, or somewhere in between, I should say. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Harnessing Passion to Cause Action.” And my name is Steven Shattuck and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion, as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we begin officially. I just want you all to know that we are recording this presentation and I’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on in case you didn’t already get the slides. So if you have to leave early or perhaps you want to review the content or share it with a friend, we’d love for you to do that, have no fear, I’ll send all those goodies out to you later on this afternoon.

And while you are listening today, please feel free to use that chat right there on your webinar interface. We’re going to save some time for Q&A at the end, so don’t be shy. Lori and I will be watching that for your questions and we’d love to get to as many of those as we can before 2:00.

And you can do the same on Twitter if you are a Twitter-type person. You can use #Bloomerang. I’ll be keeping an eye on that as well. You can send us a tweet right at BloomerangTech.

And if you have any problems with the audio, we find that these webinars are only as good as your own internet connection. So if you can dial in by phone, if you don’t mind dialing in by phone, try that. We find it’s usually a little bit better quality. So don’t give up if you can’t hear us through the computer, go ahead and try the phone. There’s a number that you can dial in right in that email from ReadyTalk that went out about an hour ago.

And just in case this is your first webinar with us, I want to say a special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars here at Bloomerang just about every week. We bring on a great speaker like Lori for a totally educational presentation. It’s one of our most favorite things to do, actually, at Bloomerang.

But other than that, we provide donor management software. That’s kind of our core business. So if you’re interested in that or maybe you’re looking for a new provider, coming up here soon, check us out. You can download a video demo right off our website and see the software in action. Don’t even have to talk to a salesperson if you don’t want to.

So right now I am super excited to introduce one of my favorites. It’s always a joy to have Lori Jacobwith with us on our webinar series. Hey Lori, how’s it going?

Lori:It is great, a little cloudy in Minnesota, but happy, happy, happy to be here with you.

Steven:Good. You always bring the sunshine, you’re one of my favorites. I kind of wish you would adopt me, honestly. When did we hang out? We hung out in March or April in Nebraska. That was really fun. It seems like too long ago.

Lori:Yeah, it does.

Steven:But thanks for being here. I just want to brag on you, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. But if you guys don’t know Lori, you’ve got know her. You’ve got to follow her blog. She is a nationally recognized master storyteller and a fundraising culture change expert, which we all need. I just love that title. It’s one of my favorite titles in the sector, I would say.

She’s got over 30 years of experience. She’s helped hundreds of nonprofits raise over $300 million and counting, that’s where she’s up to now. She’s got a couple of great books that you should check out, “Nine Steps to a Successful Fundraising Campaign” and “The Essential Fundraising Handbook for Small Nonprofits.” She had a great blog over on her Fire Starters website. You’ve got to subscribe to that, for sure. And she’s got a really cool system for storytelling. She really considers herself a storytelling master, and we’re going to see a lot of that come to life here in this presentation.

So Lori, I don’t want to take up any more of your time. Why don’t you take it away for us, my friend?

Lori:All right, thanks, Steven. I would allow you to adopt me. How’s that?

Steven:That’s better.

Lori:Then we can hang out together.


Lori:All right. So folks on with us, just as you’re joining us, I’ll ask you to keep typing in where are you, like tell me the city that you’re in. And I’d love to know the title of whatever it is you’re doing, whether you’re a volunteer, whether you’re a board member, whether you’re a staff person, I like to know the titles of the folks that we’re talking to.

And we’re going to talk about how to harness the passion you have for the work you do to really have it do all that you want it to do. And thanks to you for doing what you do, seen, unseen, behind the scenes, all of that work you do that makes sure the organization that you’re serving gets to pass laws or feed homeless folks or help veterans or children or make sure that education is doing what it’s supposed to. There’s every kind of organization you can imagine.

And I also want to thank the folks at Bloomerang for a couple of things. One, paying a lot of attention to quality and to the kind of use of data that we must have in order to do our jobs well. I love looking at a dashboard of Bloomerang just because it tells me so much in a glance, just kind of looking at the dashboard on my car.

So knowing that we’ve got folks from literally all over the world, it’s just looking like, and every title you can imagine, just thank you. I am easy to find on social media. I like to produce things every couple of days that are fresh and easy and helpful and fun to find. I don’t serve on any boards anymore but I am a former board member, former executive director, former development director, spent a lot of time in the trenches. And I usually tell folks, please make new mistakes. I can tell you this. I have made a ton of mistakes and as best I can, I attempt to tell you what they were so that you figure out a way to not do what I’ve done in the past.

And I like to talk. Though I’m a bit of an introvert, I like to share what I know about. So training and coaching and delivering sessions like this gets me pretty excited. I like to tell folks that what my passion is, is really to help every organization that I come into contact with raise as much money as possible. And what my vision really is that you get to do that with some ease and some joy and that it doesn’t feel like you’re pushing that boulder up the hill.

This happens to be the basement level or the main floor, actually, of an organization that I helped raise $5 million. What I tell folks I do is really what they were doing, and that is build a solid foundation that supports your work. And we do that through communication. The two teachers that I’ve had over the years that I really love to reference, talk about, quote, spend time with when I can, are Lynne Twist, on the right there. She’s written the book, “The Soul of Money,” and it was just re-released earlier this year.

And then of course there’s no one better in marketing than Seth Godin, who has prolifically written many, many books and blogs multiple times a day. And any chance I can to be in his presence, I like to glean a little more knowledge from him. He says about us in the nonprofit world, our job is to sell feeling good. We’re making sure that people know that when they invest in an organization, they feel better afterward. And that same is true in Lynne’s work, in “The Soul of Money,” really utilizing the power of what money can do to further our mission, versus trying to have a transactional relationship with folks.

Why I do what I do is the missions that I get to come into contact with, what we get to build, and the people that I get to meet. I am honored to eventually get a chance to call many of the folks that I have worked with friends. I got to visit the CEO of the Lowell Community Center, who’s now the former CEO. After she retired, I got to visit her and her husband in Japan, where she lives part time. But together, we raised this enormous amount of money. She raised $32 million before I got involved, and then $5 million for a campaign that I’ll tell you a little more about as we go through today’s session.

Before we start, though, I have two quick questions for you because as development directors and executive directors and marketing coordinators and board members and all that you do, I want to make sure that you understand what your role is and what it is that you want to know as you are fulfilling that role. So I like to know if there are any challenges in fundraising that I haven’t uncovered yet. So type into the question box, like the Q&A box there, what are your biggest fundraising challenges. What are the things that keep you awake at night? Be really specific, if you would. And know that because there are hundreds of you on, I’m going to read as fast as I can, I want to read some of them out loud so that you hear what other people are struggling with, challenged with.

Lack of a plan, donors don’t want to meet with us, donor retention. How do we get younger donors? Do people know who we are? We’re a start-up, we don’t have a service record, so foundations don’t look at our footprint because it’s too small. How do we engage with our current donors to increase their giving? How do we even just get started in our individual donor fundraising? Breaking down the corporate giving veil. Ooh, that’s a great way of putting it, Gina, thank you. Bad donor software. Well, I know where to go for really great donor software, and you’re on the right call, so talk to Steven when we’re done or click on that site, because there’s nothing better. You’ll love what you see that Bloomerang can do.

Writing grant proposals or writing great proposals. I will tell you, my first year as a development director, back in 19-we-won’t-say-the-numbers, I wrote 164 grant proposals. That’s the only way the organization was funding the work that we did at a crisis center and chemical dependency treatment center, and quickly moved them to having individual giving.

Just starting out, the board is made up of physicians and nurses, how do I help them ask for donations? Genevieve, I’m just going to tell you right now because we’re not going to spend a ton of time on this, you don’t. They will not be asking for money on your behalf because they’re really good at something else, and that is being a nurse or a doctor. So look for ways on this session today where they can be doing something that they’re good at, which might be talking to people and generating some interest and sharing what your message is.

We’ve got a do-nothing president, third one in a row, lack of a plan and a budget, just wants to meet once a year. So then we’re going to work around that president. We’re going to make sure that we’re running circles around him or her, and focus on what we can attack, which is loving on our donors.

Which leads me to the second question. How many active individual donors do you have? Type in the answer to that question, which should be a number. And I’m looking for the number of people who’ve given in the last 18 months. How many folks are active in your organization?

Fifteen-hundred, 25, 40, 30, 45, 65, 1 . . . yea for the one . . . 3800, 80, 54, 100-ish, 7500, 30, 30-ish, 7000 to 8000 . . . individual donors only, Wendy . . . 120-ish . . . got a lot of “ishes” on here . . . 2, 50 . . . love that you got 50, Dan, that’s great to see . . . 228, 400. All right. So you know some numbers. The good news is some of you have a lot, some of you have less than a lot. What I’ll tell you is our job, no matter what our role is, is to understand what the challenge is to having people want to give to us and share messages clearly that cause people to give to us, and knowing at least the names and faces of our top 50 donors.

So here’s what I offer you today. Quick touch on what the secret to success is, and if you’ve been on my campus at all, on my website, and any other webinars I do, you know what the secret is because I talk about it a lot. But we’ll just spend a moment on it. Then I want to touch on where do you focus your time, especially since your time is very tiny slices of time that you can devote to lots of things. I’ve got three success stories I want to share with you of organizations that have taken the “where to focus” very much to heart and seriously, and one organization that didn’t. And then some next steps in how to set a plan moving forward.

All right. So the secret, really not so secret, is that the way that we’re effective in our life, in our relationships with our children, with our neighbors, with our dog, with our community, and at work and especially with our volunteer leadership and our donors is what are we saying, how are we saying it in a way that’s clear for people if they want to take action, and how often are we saying it? Are we saying it regularly so people, no kidding, they know exactly what to do and they do it exactly when we need and want them to.

The truth is, I get your plate is full, I have been in many of the positions that you have. So if you are not remembering to keep it simple, today’s the day to remind yourself that. In my house, my nickname, unfortunately, is Hard Way Harry. I will find the most difficult way to do something and then I have to go to Mark, my spouse, and say, “How would you do this?” And he will show me the simple way, the easier way, the what you might call the lazier way, and I’ll find it’s usually much more efficient.

As simple as pulling the garbage can from the inside of the garage all the way up to just inside the door and then I did that after he said, “You know, move the garage garbage cans closer to the door so it’s easier to get to.” But he came out to the garage with me and turned it 45 degrees and said, “Lori, if you turn the opening so you can actually stand in the doorway and open the lid of the recycling and the garbage you don’t have to work so hard.” Especially in the winter here in Minnesota, where I live.

So yeah, I have to have help sometimes, doing things the simple way. So what I found over the years, in the trenches, in coaching thousands and thousands of organizations, these are the four areas that we want our time and our communication to focus on. So no matter what it is you’re saying or doing, you want to make sure that you’re learning more about your supporters or they’re learning more about you. The messages you’re sharing are really clear, really specific. What is it you want me to do today or how much will make a difference, and by when? Hold yourself and others accountable. We’ve got some board members and other community members on, staff on. What is it we said we’d do, and then do that. Take good notes. Take follow-up notes. Remind each other. And then no kidding, always, just continually invite participation.

So what I’ve got for you today are three success stories of organizations that have done this. They’ve focused on those four areas,q some who had little resources, some who had lots of resources. And I want to make sure as I’m sharing with some of these examples with you, feel free to ask questions. I’ll watch for the questions, Steven will watch for the questions. And if I can, I would like to incorporate your questions right into the session here today, especially if I touch on something and you feel like ooh, I want to know now rather than wait till the 10 minutes at the end, when we’re going to cover questions and answers. So the more engaged you are, the more engaged I am.

So here’s the deal, Caring for Lowell campaign. This was the foundation slide that I had earlier, this first floor of the building. In Lowell, Massachusetts, a few years ago, I was invited to help them with a $5 million capital campaign. And the truth was, they actually were going to or wanted to raise about a half-million dollars from the community. They’d raised, in this $42 million project, they’d raised about $32 million from the usual suspects, the corporations that they could, the Kresge Foundation, some of the larger historic tax credits. They were renovating a 100,000 square-foot mill and it was a 100-year-old building, and so they qualified for some things that other buildings might not have.

The truth is, though, if you work in community health, they don’t have a lot of fundraising. They had zero donors. They had one development/marketing/grant writing person. And they had a community awareness that really was zero. Most folks just knew about the organization because of the different storefront offices that they had.

What we did is we really embraced the clear messages, regular communication, and we went from zero to 3,000 donors in two years. We started a pretty big giving campaign with staff, and we invited them to participate. Now staff, some of them were making minimum wage all the way and up to our providers, but we had competitions between departments and they raised over a quarter of a million dollars.

We had more than 100 mentions in the newspaper and on radio in the local community. They generated their first . . . I’m going to tell you, Ronald, how you go from zero to 3,000 donors in two years. We got our first $1 million gift. And we closed that campaign on time and a little bit over. We raised $5,040,000, and that organization just completed their second capital campaign.

So what if you don’t have any supporters? What we did is we knew that we wanted everyone in the community to understand that this was a really important project. If you were living in Lowell, one in three people were using the community health center for a service of some kind. Well-checks for your children, or your grandparents or your parents were using their services. They for sure were receiving patients that had insurance, but many of their patients didn’t have insurance.

So we invited folks to come to the business community before we even were going to start construction, so it looked a lot dirtier than this. We invited 85 business leaders, some elected officials, some just movers and shakers, to a very exclusive VIP conversation. And we all had to wear our hard hats and the CEO talked about what was going to happen to this building and that the only way that it could happen is if we got the word out about what it would take to raise the money. The organization [inaudible 00:21:00] had raised about a half-million dollars from the community because they had zero donors.

And I said sorry, if we’re going to do this together, we actually are going to raise the full $10 million debt load that you have or I’ll reduce it down to $5 million, but we’re going to let folks know we don’t set a goal on what we are going to raise based on what we think the community can give. That’s not the only factor. The factor that we also have to include is what does it take to build the building. And we had most of it covered, but $10 million left, and so we were going to carry a debt load of $5 million and raise $5 million.

We already knew that the community didn’t know much about us and they didn’t know what we did or why it was important to give. So we started to share our clear messages about how much we had to raise everywhere we went. We had a banner printed or a large poster printed anywhere our CEO went or our development director or our doctors went.

And we made sure that even before we had a brochure, even before we launched the campaign, we invited those business leaders in. We had an hour-long conversation with them and asked them to partner with us to identify who would be willing to start to support the campaign. So there was really never a quiet phase because we couldn’t afford one. We only had two years with the federal guidelines of some of the money that we got. So before we even announced the campaign, we had raised about $600,000. We did not have a brochure, we didn’t have a pretty website. We visited with people one on one or in large groups in the building.

And we had what we called our Caring for Lowell Hard Hat Tours. We had them weekly, no kidding. We had them weekly. It was a little scary, but we had over 3,000 people come through. And of the people who came through tours, over half of them became a donor because we shared compelling stories about people whose lives were different. We made sure to talk about what things cost. We had time for Q&A. But almost every single time we had someone who was receiving service at the health center who was surprising to the community talk a little bit about what they loved about the health center.

And then the employee campaign, they did everything from dress-down Fridays to somebody gave up their Beanie Baby collection to car washes to bake sales. And then they did their own employee deduction, contribution. But we had contests to recognize folks and all-staff meetings quarterly to update on how the staff campaign was doing. So it was as integral as the public campaign.

This is a gentleman, Dr. Donald Miller, who decided he would run the Boston Marathon. He had been recovering from cancer and decided that when he was ready to run again, he wanted to raise money for the campaign that we had. And so he had his FirstGiving page and he ran with one of the staff people, the Chief Operating Officer from the organization. But the doctor sent out an email to a few of his former patients, family, and friends. Generated, I think he generated $10,000 or $15,000. But one person, who had moved away to Chicago, replied to him, and Sarah said I’ll give you $1,000 in support of you running this race, but I’d like you to come and visit with me because I’m really curious about this campaign.

So every Friday we would do an update to anybody who wanted to be a part of our, we called them the ringing-the-bell updates. And we would say something good. Some weeks we had to hunt for what good thing was happening for the campaign. But just after Valentine’s Day, Dr. Miller went to see Sarah and she agreed to pledge a half-million dollars because she was a former patient. She had just gone through a kind of messy divorce and she had some resources that she wanted to put towards good. And she said when you match that half-million dollars, I will match it again with another half-million, so she became our first million-dollar donor.

But her gift inspired people to give for the first time to the campaign. And as I said, their annual fund is now called the Wrap-Around Fund. They raise money for the things that insurance doesn’t cover, which is having 47 different languages spoken and having training for staff on how to be caring for a diverse population. And they’ve just completed their $250,000 campaign that will build an eye clinic and a . . . I’m not even remembering what the other . . . oh, a dental clinic.

So they’re on their path, and if I showed you how ugly their website was to start with, you’d be shocked. It looks gorgeous and fun now and engaging, but notice, there’s places to learn stories and understand what it is that the community health center is doing and find a way that we can be a part of making sure that others in the community are being served.

So an organization that’s an international organization, now let’s go there first. In fact, I wrote a post to [inaudible 00:26:35] on my website that talks a little bit about this. The thing is you have work that you do that’s really visual to you, probably, even though the work you do might be on the other side of the world. So collecting information is still the same. You have to ask good questions. You have to compile the information that you’re requesting from folks into a format that is understandable, whether it be pictures, but share what happens, those exact results that are happening in that other country.

The transformations are the things we can’t touch or feel, so you want to have me understand if someone’s feeling safe or strong or smart. You want to do that from, you have people on the ground, you want to do that through a Skype conversation that you record with maybe one of your suppliers or one of the people in the community that you’re training. And craft that story and share it everywhere.

The folks that are doing some work in Bangladesh are located, I believe they’re in Indiana, but they work alongside a church and they tell stories of some of the folks that used to be, once upon a time was an eight-year-old boy who is now an adult and graduating from high school so he can go ahead and become a doctor himself.

The thing that you want to do is find an example, and it can be just one, of work that’s being done on the other side of the world, and share it everywhere. You can share the same story, the same example, over and over again, little snippets of it, longer [contact-form][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”true” /][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”true” /][contact-field label=”Website” type=”url” /][contact-field label=”Message” type=”textarea” /][/contact-form]snippets of it. But use that framework that I was talking about at the beginning, and I’ll dive into the framework even a little bit more as we go.

Do you know who your supporters are and do they know who you’re serving? Are you sharing clear messages about what’s being done in that other country? You can create a virtual tour for me to understand the day in the life of someone, whether it’s [inaudible 00:28:50] clean water or a safe place to live. Promise that you’ll give regular updates and then do, and then invite regular participation.

So whether it’s direct service, whether it’s international work, or whether it’s human service, it’s the same tactics, the same structure. You just might have to work a little harder to collect those messages and those examples.

So I chose this example on purpose, Success Story No. 2, because I wanted to take you through a topic that is not as sexy. They don’t have cute kids. Clare Housing provides housing for people that are homeless who have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. And they’ve been in existence for 30 years. When I started working with them a couple of years ago . . . and they’ve graduated, they don’t need to work with me anymore, so they’re on their own . . . but we created something, rather than call it a fundraising committee, we called it a Sustainable Funding Committee.

They, too, have something that they call their tours, their experiences. So they take people through what a day is in the life of someone who was formerly homeless, who now has to manage 40 or 50 or 60 different drugs that they might have to take, showing us the baskets of empty pill bottles. They make sure that once a year they’re inviting a gift at their event, called A Place to Call Home. But they’ve made sure that they are engaging the community in understanding why helping this population is a big deal, and their mission isn’t for everyone. So they’re on a hunt to find the very people for whom this mission is important.

They were on track, the last time I talked to them, to exceed their goal that they set for this year, by more than 124%, which is huge. When I first did work with them, they had some of their first $50,000 gifts. They’ve now secured their first $100,000 gift. And some of the things they did and knowing who their supporters are, at their one event that they have each year, they make sure to take pictures of the folks that are there. This was my niece, Natalie, and I, two years ago in the fall. The key that we held was white, so they could place a message on here of any kind if they wanted to.

But they put these contact sheets on Facebook and on other places on social media so they could tag us so we could go talk about what we learned at the event. So not only did we as supporters get excited about going to the event and seeing our picture online . . . my niece is 16 and she certainly got excited . . . but they also now knew the faces of their supporters.

So one of the key things to do is sharing their money story. They update on what their goal is all year long . . . $705,000 was what they were looking to raise last year, and they did exceed that goal. This year it’s closer to a million. And I’m certain in their 30th year they will exceed it as well. But they have this message, visual display, all over the place. So we knew that we were on a Journey Home together and we were closing that gap together.

If you were hosting a table at their fundraising event, the fun thing that Debbie, their community engagement person does, is she always gives people really clear instruction. So when it was time to say yes, I’ll host a table, she let us know really what it is our job to do. We attend, we thank, we ask people for money, and we invite others to attend something, a Journey Home program, a breakfast, their ribbon cutting, their groundbreaking. And they were looking to have a certain number, a specific number of table hosts. I think their event has now doubled in size since I worked with them.

But this is the hilarious and fun and silly but truly serious focus that Debbie had put on making sure all of the table captains did what they promised, and that was to bring their guests that were going to sit at their table and attend this fundraising event in September, our job was to bring them to a Journey Home, one of those tours, those informational experiences where we learned about what it is in the life of someone to have this disease.

So one day I woke up as a table captain, there on my front lawn were all these flamingoes, telling me I’d been flocked, and that I could remove these flamingoes as soon as I chose my date and brought my guests to one of the events that they had set up for me. So they did this in the summer, prior to their fall event. And it’s how the income increased at their event, because so many people who were even new folks in the room, they knew more about what the need was, why we were raising money, what $1,000 would do, what $100 would do.

We made sure that Sustainable Funding Committee and the board know the names of our top 50 . . . I think they’ve expanded now to 100 . . . donors. We make sure to give updates visually on not only who are they but what amount have they given collectively and how long have people been giving. If it was the week of the meeting, we made sure that we let folks know who had given their monthly gift this week. And at board meetings or committee meetings, we took a five-minute break, got our cell phones out, and everybody made a quick thank you call to someone who had given that week. And then we would talk about how many and who are the people who have stopped giving. And this awareness was as important as program awareness, on knowing how many people were serving and how many beds we were filling each night or how many new buildings we were building.

We had continued to invite participation, so each year they do renovate a building and house more homeless folks. But we created this time capsule project, where if you were coming to this event and it happened to be that many folks in the neighborhood would come to see the new building, we asked folks to share your well wishes for the residents of this building, Clare Terrace, now and in the future. And the comments would be included in our time capsule that were actually, we put in the walls of the building. Now we also, of course, took a copy of what the visitors said, so we could use their comments and their phrases in our social media, in our appeal letters. But we made sure that it was both engaging, fun, and something easy to do.

And then what I’ll tell you, the website that they have makes it easy for people to understand how to take action. “We provide kindness,” they’ve got a scrolling slide here on different things that they provide. And if we are hosting a table, they’ve got resources if we want to understand stories of people living with HIV and AIDS and explain some of that to our guests that we’re bringing to an event, they had resources for us.

And then the last thing that they did communication-wise is we paid a lot more attention to the subject line of an e-news than even we did the copy. We made sure that our open rates were in the 60% and 70%, which is unheard of. So people were not only opening, but they were reading and then we were having them click on something for more information or the rest of the story, click here, and we would take them to the website.

We’ve built in a lot of accountability. If you’re joining the Sustainable Funding Committee, you had to be willing to agree to invite and thank people. That was the only job of being on that committee. So it wasn’t to show up and listen to minutes or notes or approve something someone else had done. We got people clear that it was to do what you said you would do, and that is make calls, be engaged, measure your own performance. We did silly fun things like a round of applause and we all clapped in a circle. But we really ramped up the level of accountability, which is why they’ve exceeded their goals by pretty substantial numbers over the past year-and-a-half.

All right. So questions, let me just see if I’ve got any that I didn’t answer. So far I got Blair’s, so if you’ve got other questions, just type them in. And let’s go on to Success Story No. 3. Remember, for those of you that might have joined a little late, what we’re focusing on are places to focus your time and your communication. And they are those four areas, knowing your supporters, sharing clear messages, holding yourselves and others accountable, and inviting participation.

And why I keep coming back to that is in my work . . . I’ve been a coach and speaker and trainer for more than 10 years now and working in the trenches for 20 years before that . . . those are the four areas that I know have made a difference in helping me help others raise more than $300 million from individual donors. Many of these practices will work with corporations and foundations because those are people, too, that are making the decisions about your giving.

So my last example of a success story is the folks at Volunteers of America, North Louisiana. I worked with them off and on for many, many, many years. We’ve together supported them in raising over $20 million from individuals. What I will tell you has worked is they really focus almost all their attention on major gifts. While they do one appeal a year, they invite people to join them at $1,000 a year for five years.

Now when I first started working with them, they had three people who could even possibly give at that level, and they had a handful of donors. They have hundreds of people who give at that higher level and above. We have a committee that we created, and their event, it’s called Cherish the Children, so their committee is the Cherish the Children of God Committee, more than 20 people. About six of them are staff. We have the CEO, we have a development person, we have, I think even their CFO is part of that committee. But we have former board, future board, young people, not so young people.

And we talk about the money a lot. What does it take to do our work? Notice I’m not saying what is it that we need. What does it take to do our work? And their event is a huge event that they have. They have more than 800 people in Shreveport that come to their annual event. But all year long, there’s continuity messages shared about in those four key areas.

What is a little bit more we could learn about you and why you’re giving to us? Or what is a little bit more about how we can share what things you might be doing to make a difference in the life of someone? And how do we have you invite others to participate with us? So the continuity is always around our major gift effort to close an annual funding gap of anywhere between $1.9 and $2.5 million.

And we’ve done a lot of the same things since about 2002 or ’03. We haven’t changed what has worked because it’s worked so well. We’ve just enhanced it with technology or expanded our reach. So one of the fun things that we do is you get to wear your badge of honor at the annual event. You have your name, this is the CEO, and you’re recognized by the different ways you’ve supported the organization. You’ve been a part of different matches, different gift matches. You get a ribbon every year that you participate.

And this year, the Grayson Match was a million-dollar match and we made sure everyone that was coming to the event knew that we had a million dollars on the table and we didn’t want to leave any of it sitting there. And we make sure that you get a button that says you’re active. You haven’t just given last year, in 2014, ’15, ’16, you’re actually active this year. And this same name tag is used at any event that people attend, whether it be an open house or the board meeting or the committee meeting.

We talk about money a lot. By money, I mean what does it cost, what does it take to do your work and what is it that you have in the door to close that gap today. Their fiscal year starts on July 1, and I know that if you ask Mr. Meehan, Chuck Meehan, he would know to the penny what has been raised already in July and part of August to close the gap. And because they work so hard in having people know and not be scared about the 1.9 or 2.3 amount, people call the office literally at the end of the year to say where are we at in closing the gap, I’d like to make my year-end gift really matter, how can I help?

Whenever anyone from the staff is talking to folks in the community, especially a new donor, a story is shared, the reason the program is needed, and a real person’s story with a real face. And we hear, we learn a little bit of statistics, so these are really simple, one-page overviews, we call them snapshots, about some of the key programs. We give these out at the meetings that we have with our committee members. We give them out at board meetings. I get a folded-up one in my thank you note from the CEO.

And not only are we inviting participation to give your dollars, but this is the annual executive committee meeting to plan how will we engage our 20-person fundraising or Cherish the Children Committee, and we again still wear those same name tags. But none of the people that you see standing up here talking are . . . well, this person is staff, but most of the others, these are volunteers. These are community members who are spending two days planning and preparing for how will we truly engage our volunteer pool, coming up with a good training plan, a good communication plan.

And then we share what we said we’d do. We have visual displays about what our goal is, where we’ve been in the past. So this is number of attendees, this is number of donors joining at a certain dollar level and above. We give visual display to anything that we said we would do. And this organization has gone from overall committee charts to individual report cards, where we decide at the beginning of the year, what are the things that we as a committee and a board will be doing, these are the activities, what do we agree to. We put that down on a piece of paper and that gets typed into our report card. And then it gets updated, put into our packet.

So we’re the only person that sees this. Nobody else sees your report card. But we make sure that we’re continuing to hold ourselves accountable. And you can only imagine at board meetings or committee meetings, people say, well, wait a minute, I don’t have a zero, I forgot to tell you. I brought two people to the seminar the other day. And there’s lots of wrangling about whether these numbers are true or not, because people want to win. They want to do what they said they’d do.

The last thing that this organization does really well is the day of their one annual event they hold in the spring each year, this email goes out about four hours later. It’s already been created ahead of time with a link to their video, ways to participate, like them on Facebook, give. But there’s an update that has been written ahead of time. The only thing that has to get dropped in is a picture.

And this was our volunteer speakers with the CEO from the event that day. This goes to every single person who attended the event and who is in the database. So it’s an update to have you think if I wasn’t there, I get a little slice of watching the video that people saw. They ask me to forward this on to others. And so they do generate more dollars after the event is over with because it goes out so quickly, so we’re continuing to invite community support.

So yes, those are the success stories. Good things can happen. Yes, Christie, if a person made a pledge at the annual event, we still send a year-end opportunity. But we tell them that we appreciate their annual pledge . . . their gift at maybe that $1,000 level, and it’s making a huge difference, and here’s an example of how . . . but that we’ve had so many requests from donors like me, a major gift donor, a Cherish the Children donor, that we wanted to let you in on the opportunity to invest in the organization at year end, because many people do like to make a year-end gift. So please read on for the story that some of your friends and colleagues in the community will be receiving. And thank you for helping us close our gap, our funding gap. When people pledge, doing five-year pledges like you do, we’re able to plan further out.

Marcia [SP], I love this question and I have a project about this that I haven’t completed yet. It’s a secret that I’ll tell Steven about it later on, and I bet he’ll be in on helping make sure this happens across the country on the same day at some point this fall. What about donor fatigue from too much emphasis on funding? We’re not talking about funding. We’re actually talking about what it takes to do the work of our organization to make sure that people’s lives are different.

So rather than talk about a transaction of your money, we are talking about what it takes to make sure that 150 people who speak whatever language they speak in Burma have someone here, trained to speak in that language. And thank you for making it possible to cover the cost of the $17 a person it takes to train someone to talk to that person. So just as you might be talking about how many people are served in the homeless shelter, we’ll say, we want to also talk about what it takes to have someone prepared, and that’s usually financially or training-wise, to serve that person.

I believe there’s no such thing as “donor fatigue.” Most people who gave to this campaign gave two and three times. And that’s how we got to the $5 million, because we asked for what we thought we could at the beginning. And then we realized people actually were inspired by the stories and wanted to give more and more and more. So we weren’t begging. We weren’t digging deep into their pocketbooks. We were making sure to inspire about the mission and really staying focused on what is your work doing to fulfill our mission. So more to come on donor fatigue, but thanks for asking that question.

So I’ve got one story, because it doesn’t always work. People don’t always follow in those four areas of communication in ways that I want them to. And frankly, I can’t rescue anyone from the barriers that they place in their own way. So I wanted to share with you a story of when it didn’t happen just so, and why.

So this organization that had asked for my help, really, they fed my ego and said we will love to have you, someone like you help us. We know that we have the most passion. And we’ve got our founder, who is the main driver of this, and his passion is so big. And we just really need some support.

Well, I didn’t pay attention to the sign. Ding, ding, they had the only staff person on payroll is the founder. They had occasional interns, they had occasional other folks, but there wasn’t anyone making sure that day-to-day thanking and admin work of the program, of fund development was happening. Because the founder was also the executive director and main program officer.

Board members didn’t quite understand their role, nor were they or should they have been the ones updating the website and posting on social media and writing the appeal letter. So when I helped write one, it sat for two weeks in the basement of someone’s house, no kidding, around Thanksgiving, when nobody knew that they had to actually pull a list and put postage on and get it out the door. They’d never done it before.

And then we had That Person who always, no matter what I said, had some reason why we couldn’t do that. That’s not how we’ve done it before. So doing things outside the box was not going to work there.

And I didn’t pay attention, didn’t pay attention, didn’t pay attention. The moral to the story is I finally paid attention when it became so uncomfortable and painful. So there’s an easy way and the hard way. I ended up divorcing them or they divorced me. It was amicable but painful. But now, what I can tell you is they are not doing the work to stand out in the crowd. They haven’t chosen a new path. And all they needed to do was make sure to tell the stories of the people whose lives were different because of the work of this organization and start to powerfully follow those four areas of communication that I touched on.

I put this example in from Charity: Water on purpose because I love a couple things about it. They put a face on my impact as a donor and your impact as an organization. They let me know that they sent something out. “Check your inbox! We recently emailed 411 campaigners with updates on water projects funded in Ethiopia.” Well, shoot, if I’m not one of those 411, I might want to know what it is and I may want to go give to projects funded in Ethiopia. So this was an engaging post that got 3100 likes, many comments, and engagement. That’s really the bottom line that we’re looking for, is people to be engaged, right?

So let me just wrap this up in a tidy bow before I dive into [inaudible 00:53:34] a few more questions. You want to keep it simple. Don’t take on 12 different things that are all . . . I feel your pain, Joelle [SP], I just saw your comments, I’m sorry. She was talking about the organization that has maybe That Person. Keeping our focus on these four areas. So I have a checklist that you’ll be able to download, I’ll give you the link to it in a moment. But really what you’re looking for is does our communication allow us to [thank 00:54:05] for something, ask a question and catch a response, entice or require some feedback, or allow us to learn something new about the other person?

[Do the 00:54:16] clear messages? Have we made sure that we’re sharing how we help one person, which is what I call your why, why you exist? Are you giving an update on closing that gap? It’s a fact, it’s not an ask. Are you informing about some growth or the vision for growth? So this gap closing isn’t about the budget. It’s about where we’re headed as an organization.

What I’ll tell you, at Lowell Community Health Center, the CEO would say from day one, she said I’m not a fundraiser, but I can tell great, engaging stories about our clients, and give me the one line I should keep saying over and over. And I said okay, your one line, after you tell the story, is I am on a mission to find the family or the person who would like to put their name on the building.

She said that until about 14 days before the end of the year, when we had only 14 days left to meet our goal and we had $1.2 million left to go, and that night at that opening event, when we opened the new building and we were still $1.2 million away, a family came up and said would it be okay to change our gift from the few hundred thousand to a million so we could put our father’s name on the building? Yeah, it would be okay.

So we were always making sure that our vision for growth and a specific next action was being informed in our messaging. Are you holding others accountable or yourself accountable, sharing updates, what’s our next milestone? Are you making sure to continually invite participation and making it easy for me to do whatever it is you want me to do next?

So to download the worksheet, pretty simple. It’s a case-sensitive link here. It’s a link, so you do have to type in, the word Ignited with a capital I, capital FR, dash, and then CommChecklist with a capital C and a capital C.

And I’m sure Steven will share that with you.

The second page of the checklist you’d want to use to create your new communication plan. What’s the one or two actions you’ll focus on, a measurable target, by when will we start to do that, and what are the six or two or five things we have to do to make sure we reach that target, and who are the partners on the staff to help us make that happen?

So if you want to go ahead and type in what is at least one take-away that you got from this case study session, of these three great examples. And while you’re doing that I’ll tell you just a couple of ways to stay in touch with me and ask for any more questions before I turn it over to Steven. So that is what I want to know. Go back and just tell me what is it that you will take on, what action.

You are welcome to follow me on social media. I love touching base with you there. This e-book, this “Nine Steps to a Successful Fundraising Campaign,” is a free download on the free training page of my website. Steven mentioned the system. This is a way to learn some of the communication that we did go through today. If you want to talk more, I do save a couple hours a week to have 30-minute conversations with folks, and there’s no charge, they’re just strategy calls. Again, this is a case-sensitive link, so go ahead and copy that down or note it on the slide so you can schedule time with me.

All right. So what are people going to do? Let people know what it takes to do what we do. Newsletters, we’ll aim for better open rates and pay more attention to subject lines. Great. Encourage those who run board and development committee meetings to be more bold in their asks. I would say be very specific in their expectations, Patty. Not a fundraiser. I’m on a mission to find the person or family or group that wants, yes, great language, Wendy, love it.

Getting one or two sentences that are clear and simply explain the impact of our various programs. Yes. We’re going to engage the local community and educate on what we do. And rather than, Genevieve, what you need, it’s what we do and why it’s needed. And the why is through the eyes of one person, so they can tell what you need. Because it’s really what they need. We can start to work smarter and not harder, focus on major gifts.

Keep it simple. Changing the concept of what we do. Like the term sustainable funding, yeah. Better . . . Laura says communicate our gap message. If that’s the Laura Lewis I know, you already know to do that, Laura, so good, and I hope you’re doing it a lot. Ann says communicate what our specific fundraising goal is and track it.

Give the URL for the form. I’ll give you, there’s the URL for the case-sensitive link of downloading that document. And then the URL to schedule a time with me. And I’m going to turn it back over to Steven. Thank you, all, for being so connected. I love it.

Steven:All right, that was great, Lori. Thanks for being here. I love the case study presentations. There were some really cool ideas there. I love that time capsule idea, too, by the way. I’d never seen that, so that was really cool.

We’re about out of time, and I know Lori took a lot of questions as you went along, but I’m just going to kind of flash your information here. Please do reach out to her, follow her on Twitter. Download that checklist. It’s obviously a really good resource. And Lori, I assume you’ll be able to take some questions offline as well? Is that cool?

Lori:I sure will. And Susie has a question about inviting the same people to annual events. I’ll answer that on my blog next week. I’m doing another “your questions answered” next week, so [inaudible 01:00:19] I’ll be sure and answer that [inaudible 01:00:20] on blog.

Steven:Okay, cool. Well, I’ll be sending out the slides and the recording and I’ll send those links in my email as well, just in case you weren’t able to jot them down. But thanks for being here, Lori, this was really awesome. We’ll have to have you back soon.

Lori:Well, thank you, my friend. I know that there’s important work that you guys do and I just encourage everybody to participate, participate, participate with Bloomerang. They are the best partners on the planet, really.

Steven:Aw, thank you. Well, it’s [inaudible 01:00:49] because we have such good speakers, like you, Lori.

But we’ve got some really cool webinars coming up here over the next month or so. We’re going to take next week off. I hope you don’t mind, but we’re going to be back for the last day of August, and then we’ve got some great presentations in September. Lots of different topics. We’ve got capital campaigns, landing pages, Tom Ahern is going to join us to talk about how to write for email newsletters and Facebook updates, kind of those micro-digital-type copywriting lessons. So lots of different topics.

Check out our webinar page, and hopefully you’ll register for one or all of those. I’d love to hear your comments and see your name on another one of these webinars. So hopefully we will see you again in a couple weeks if not a little bit later. Look for an email from me later on this afternoon, and we’ll hopefully talk to you again in a couple weeks.

So have a safe rest of your week, have a good weekend, and we will talk to you all soon.

Lori:Thanks everybody, thanks, Steven, bye-bye.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

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