In this webinar, Victoria Dietz will explain how fundraisers can manage their time, set realistic goals and focus on building meaningful donor relationships.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Victoria. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started officially?

Victoria: Sounds great.

Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon if you’re on the East Coast, I should say. Good morning if you are out on the West coast, or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Building Fundraising Capacity.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I’m the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating the discussion as always.

So just a couple of housekeeping items before we get going 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 today. So if you have to leave early or maybe you get interrupted by work or your boss, I know how it is, don’t worry, we’ll get you that good stuff this afternoon. Just look for an email from me with the recording and slides.

But most importantly, I know a lot of you have already done this. But please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy. Don’t sit on those hands. We want to answer your questions. We’d love for these to be interactive. So do that for the next hour or so. You can also do that on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed for questions.

And if you have any trouble hearing us through your computer speakers, we find that the audio by phone is usually a lot better quality. So if you got a phone nearby and you don’t mind using that, that’s going to be comfortable for you, try that before you totally give up on us. There is an email from ReadyTalk with a phone number in it. It went out about an hour ago. You should have that in your inbox. Just check that for the phone number.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say an extra special welcome to all of you folks. We do these webinars just about every Thursday throughout the year. Bring on a great guest speaker. Totally educational presentation. So hopefully this will not be the last webinar you attend if it’s your first. But if you are curious about Bloomerang, besides those webinars, we are a provider of donor management software. That’s kind of our cool business. It’s what we’re all about.

And if you’re curious about our offering or maybe want take a sneak peek at our software, just visit our website. You can even watch a quick video demo and see all the software in action. But don’t do that now. Wait at least an hour before you do that because we’ve got a very special guest making her debut on the Bloomerang webinar series. I feel kind of bad that we haven’t invited Victoria on before. But Victoria Dietz is joining us from beautiful Northern Virginia. How’s it going, Victoria? Are you doing okay?

Victoria: I am doing very well. Happy to be here and excited for my first Bloomerang webinar. And yes, I’ll second Steven. I hope this isn’t your last one also due to my performance.

Steven: Oh, no, it won’t be. No, this is going to be great. Victoria is awesome. She really knows her stuff. She’s over at The Curtis Group. If you don’t know The Curtis Group, check them out. If you ever need any help with your campaigns, with your nonprofit fundraising, anything going on, check them out. They do really awesome work. Their clients are super happy and they help them raise a lot of money too.

But Victoria is the VP over there. She has helped their clients with planning studies, training, campaign management, raised a lot of money, and also managed some pretty big campaigns upwards of 40 million. So she knows her stuff. She does a lot of training as well. You may see her or other Curtis Group people on conference presentation schedules I should say. So definitely check out those sessions. But I know it’s going to be a good one for sure. So Victoria, I am going to hand things over to you to tell us all about how to build fundraising capacity. So take it away, my friend.

Victoria: Great. So happy to be here with you all today. And I want to thank Bloomerang for hosting us. I’ll give a quick plug. We’ve got a lot of satisfied clients that I’ve been converted to Bloomerang users, and we find their software to be fantastic. So if you haven’t watched their demo video, please be sure to do so.

Today, we are going to talk about building capacity. But before we get into it, I want to tell you just a little bit about us. We as a Curtis Group we’re a mid-Atlantic regional firm. And we are proud to say that we’re celebrating our 30th year in business in 2019. And also really proud to say that over the course of that 30 years, we’ve helped our clients raise over half a billion dollars. So if you have any additional needs after this webinar, please feel free to circle back to me. I’d be happy to help you.

So today, I want to let you know, I’m really excited to talk to you guys about building capacity. We do a lot of different webinars and trainings for The Curtis group for our clients and really across the country. And this topic always comes up in . . . I don’t care if I’m presenting about board roles and responsibilities, or how to make an ask. The idea of how do we best use our time so that we can raise more dollars and to use an old cliché, you know, how do we work smarter and not harder comes up in every single session. And truth be told, we could do two days on this topic. But we know you’re very busy people, we’re going to spend the balance of this hour focused on it.

And so what we’ve done today is I’ve plucked out a couple of really hot button topics that always seem to emerge and generate a lot of discussion. So we’re going to talk about how to use our data effectively, how to make sure we’re tracking and reporting on our activity and how we’re holding each other. And when I say each other, I mean, in your staff accountable. Appointment setting. I must get more logistical questions about how to get in front of donors just from a time management standpoint than anything else. So we’re going to talk really quickly about some key ways to help up your appointment setting numbers and most importantly, as a result of that, increase your donor communication and increase your cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship metrics.

And then I will always say and I say this for every single training we give, one of the worst things you can do is spend an hour of your time and feel like you didn’t walk away with anything that you can really go back to your desk and execute. So the goal today, especially today with this topic is to provide practical suggestions for you. I will, again, say we invite you to join in on the Q&A box, because as we talk through this, if you’ve got any questions, I’ll answer them in real time, or will do so at the end as well. So let’s jump in.

So, we all know, hopefully we all know and hopefully you all have seen that giving through the Giving USA data that was released last month through the Giving USA Foundation, giving reached $427 billion last year. Now, adjusted for inflation, this is actually a slight dip following 2017’s numbers, I’ve actually seen a couple of questions in our Q&A box about the new tax law and implications. This is not a topic that we intended to cover today but what I can tell you is that that those tax laws and the implications following that are really sort of yet to be seen. And I think that we’re going to really know where that law stands next year.

That said, what are really things that we can point to on why there was a slight dip in this year’s number, really our market focus metrics. So those of you that follow up the market know that last December, the market really did take a dip in the last quarter of the year, especially in December when many people were making their giving decisions. But what I want to really focus on is $427 billion amid a very complex year for political, policy reasons, you know, just the general philanthropic marketplace. That is absolutely something to be celebrated. So when we talk about capacity, it’s really important to understand internal capacity. It’s really important to understand where these dollars are coming from and where we should be focusing.

Giving has always been dominated by individuals. I’m always surprised when people see this data for the first time. They’re blown away by the percentage of dollars that come from individuals. So, you know, right off the bat, you’ll see that 68% come from individuals. But when you count about half those foundation dollars, which are family foundations, and then the 9% giving from bequests, you’re really looking at almost $9 out of every $10 given coming and driven by individuals. So when we think about capacity and we think about who’s really moving the needle, we’re traditionally always going to want to focus the bulk of our time on individual donors.

There are certainly organizational exceptions to this rule, where your pie chart may look very different from the one that I just showed, and you’re really foundation heavy or really corporate heavy. For today’s purposes, we’re really going to talk about how to best use your time to build relationships. And all of these best practices can also be applied to corporations and foundations.

But what we know about individual donors, and we hear this around campaign meeting tables while speaking with donors, we know that donors, particularly major givers are really focusing in on fewer nonprofits. We know that people are making their big gifts to what we typically see are their top three philanthropic priorities. So always thinking about ways to move the needle and to position your organization as someone’s in someone’s top three is huge. Now in the top five is great, too. If you can make it to the top three, even better.

We also know that they’re seeing giving as an investment. I was actually meeting with a major philanthropist, head of a family foundation in the Richmond, Central Virginia market, who shared with me that when he receives a thank you letter that says, “Thank you for your gift,” he crosses out the word “gift,” writes the word “investment” and mails it back. Because that’s how, and if you’ve ever received one of those letters, you’ll know who I’m talking about, my friends from the Richmond, Virginia market.

That’s how he and that’s that foundation want to be viewed. They want to be seen as investors in the community. And therefore they want to be reported back on as investors. And that means building a relationship, showing impact and making sure that their dollars are used wisely. So we’re going to talk about how to do all that effectively and build our own capacity toward that.

So the Five I’s of Fundraising, I’m certain that you all have seen this. What we know is that, you know, really, this is the model that you’re looking to move people through in order to make move them toward get that at any level. The identification piece is what we’re going to talk about particularly around data. So how do we know who we should be focusing on I think is one of our, as a sector, one of our biggest challenges.

Because we’re always being brought new potential donors. We’re always being told we need to expand our base, which don’t get me wrong, we do. But we want to, again, think about how are we going to retain and upgrade our current donors always before we’re looking to expand. So we’re going to talk a little bit about that. We’re also going to talk about really smart ways to get them involved, to interest them, and eventually to invite them for support or just invite them for a meeting.

So I would imagine that the reason you’re here today is because your time pyramid looks a little bit like this. Your desk work, unfortunately, is what is taking up the bulk of your time, despite the fact that you know that cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship should be where you’re focusing your time. And that’s how, inevitably, you’ll be seeing the biggest return on investment for your time.

So we’re going to talk today about really ways to flip this pyramid so that your spending the bulk of your time on cultivation and stewardship, because we all know that really when it boils down to it, the cultivation and stewardship aspect should be somewhere in an effective organization, somewhere between 60% and 80% of someone’s time. The solicitation, the ask piece usually is a much, much, much smaller component of time. You’ve got to be spending time building those relationships and showing impact to move people toward a major gift.

And then the desk work component. These are the things that pieces of paper that pile up. You’ve got set appointments on the top of your list, to-do list, but somehow inevitably, it falls to the bottom, right? So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. How do we flip this?

Now one of the most important things to understand is how you spend your time before you can actually look to build your own internal capacity. So what I recommend, if you don’t already know this, maybe you’ve gone through this exercise before and really looked at how you divide your time, maybe in fact, you’re accountable for it on a monthly or yearly basis through your employer. But for your own peace of mind and understanding, I highly encourage you if you’ve never done it to go through what can be a fairly painful exercise and that is to keep a timesheet for two or three weeks and really see how much time am I out of the office? How much time am I donor or prospect facing? And how much time am I getting pulled into things that really either aren’t necessarily top priorities for me or my organization or are, quite frankly, just poor uses of your time?

Now, what’s difficult about this is sometimes those pieces of paper on our desk and, you know, the minutia that can take up our day-to-day time is oftentimes not directed by us. So I encourage you to actually share the data from your time sheets with your supervisor, be that the board of directors or the CEO of your organization, and talk to them about the ROI for every single component of your time, be it grants, be a board relations, or be it, again, donor stewardship, those things that you really need to be focusing on.

So let’s talk about our first key area. And that is knowing what to focus on, right? So if we’re going to have a plan, we’ve got to know where and on who we are going to focus. So what we need to do with our data is we need to gather it, we need to take a really strong, close look at it, analyze it, we need to plan accordingly. And then we need to evaluate. Report back and look at how we’ve been able to move that needle year over year or month over month even.

What I will tell you is that most people skip right to that evaluate bubble. They don’t take the time to gather, analyze, and plan properly, and they find themselves spinning their wheels. And I will say we work with clients. I was just sharing with Steven before we jumped live that, you know, we’ve got this small startup nonprofit in North Carolina first campaign ever, and they truly are, you know, just getting the engine revving all the way through.

We’ve done, you know, quarter of a billion dollar campaigns for higher ed. So we see it all, all sizes, all shapes in terms of clients. And everyone is guilty of this jumping right to the evaluate part. And what I will tell you is, though, the clients that we see that we’re able to work with, that we can really move the needle on their internal capacity are those that we say, “Okay, let’s take a minute. Let’s really look at what’s happening in your organization. And let’s make a plan, a realistic plan based on that on how you’re going to move forward.”

So what data should we be looking at? This is not, analyzing data does not just mean that in January or February, you’re pulling last year’s total. And from that you’re adding 5% or 10% to develop this year’s budget, or, you know, at the end of your fiscal year, you know, you’re just you’re picking a number out of the sky to try and work towards.

It really is a strategic look at a couple of different measurement points. And I’ve included for you some of the most basic but this was couldn’t be really long. So if you don’t know your donor retention rate, you really I would say the very first thing you should do after this webinar is go and pull it. Many of you probably know that the national average for this is somewhere between 45% and 47% depending on what study you look at. That is absolutely abysmal. When we think about the fact that half of our donors are choosing not to renew with us, that is a really staggering rate. And it’s incredibly expensive to acquire new donors. And I also read a study recently that shared that first time donor retention rate is somewhere around 23%.

So it’s incredible to think about the number of donors that we are losing. So when we’re thinking about how to work, again, smarter, not harder, focusing on retention has a much better ROI for your organization. So all that to say, pull your donor retention rate and make sure that you are managing that measuring it really every single year. If you can do it more frequently than that, we recommend that as well.

Another thing I wanted us to talk about, and I’m going to show you a sample gift chart in just a second is do you actually know the number of gifts in each donor category for your organization. I’m always surprised . . . we go through this exercise when we are orienting or starting up our work with a client. And I’m always surprised that most people really don’t focus on this. They don’t look at it in terms of a table of gifts year over year.

Maybe if they’re in special campaign, they’re focusing on it that way. But you should be treating your annual fundraising, just like with the same rigor and the same high standards that you would treat a major campaign. So you really need to know how many donors are in every single category and what your path to goal looks like. We’ll talk a bit about that in just a second, again, so that you can focus your time wisely.

I mentioned earlier, we saw the Giving USA pie chart. But how really how do you measure up compared to that? And make no mistake, I’m not suggesting that your pie chart should look just like the national average. In fact, it should not. But understanding where the bulk of your dollars come from, can help you identify areas of opportunity.

So we’ve done a fair amount of work in the community college sector. And what we’ve seen in that sector is that they tend to be very corporate heavy. They’ve got great workforce development relationships, and they focus on corporate asks and foundation asks. But we’ve had tremendous success after identifying that issue with certain colleges in growing their individual donor pool, but they were meeting their goals every year and often exceeding their goals. So they really haven’t thought about the potential of the individual, you know, as a constituency group. But growing that and strategically looking at their data showed them the opportunity. And it may be that corporate is where you’ve really got room to grow or foundation. So knowing your data is the most important thing to do there. Also we’ll focus a lot on the importance of setting attainable goals.

So let’s take a look at the sample gift chart. So this is something that, again, I recommend that you all pull on a highly regular basis and are always, always taking accountability for this. And if you’re not involved in the setting of your own goals, that is an issue. I find that if staff can provide data, then leadership, including C-suite leadership and board leadership can really accept measurable, incremental increases and goals. It’s when organizations don’t have a strong hold on their data that boards’ CEOs sometimes just pick a number out of the sky, meaning well, certainly, and probably also is a real need of the organization.

But seeing, for example, on this chart that you really do, in fact, if this were your organization, need to identify some additional $10,000 prospects and really need to look hard at that $500 and $1,000 prospect range. There’s a general rule of thumb that you need four prospects for every one gift. I will say that, yes, that’s a great guideposts. You know, if that’s something that you’re introducing to the board for the first time. You can use that metric. But what I will also say is, if you’ve got five really solid, strong prospects identified in a category in which you only need two, that’s okay. So make sure that you’ve got realistic . . . I’d rather see a lower ratio with stronger, more realistic prospect numbers identified than focus on a national metric. So see what fits for you.

And also, again, making sure that you’ve got time in front of leadership, especially in front of board leadership, to present this data and help them understand that it’s part of their role to really make sure that they’re assisting with this.

I just saw a question pop up about the color coding. So let me share that with you for just a moment. So if you’ll look across, you’ve got range, number of gifts needed to reach that goal, then your range total. And then this is a chart that reflects an increase from last fiscal year. So this chart tells me that I need one additional $25,000 donor, one additional 10 and so on down the list. If I’ve got four prospects identified, then I’m in good shape. So I’ve got four strong prospects for that $50,000 gift level, so they’re green. But if I come down to that $10,000 level and I’ve only got eight prospects identified for my 12 $10,000 gift, then that’s in red. So I would bring this to the board and I would not be scared to have some red on the table. So that way you can say to them, “This is where I need your help.” So good question.

So additionally, you will also see some reports here. I want you just to think to yourself, how, especially if you’re a director of development in that role, how often have you been meeting with your donors? Specifically, how many times have you been out of the office this week? I know it’s July, I know it’s a slower time of year. But if your answer is zero, that’s an issue. How many times have you been out of the office meeting with a donor this month? And we’re about midway through the month. If your answer is, you know, less than 10? That’s an issue. Again, it’s a holiday month. I get it. So maybe you were on vacation. And there might be some leeway there.

But we really suggest that directors of development or people that are in the development department that are donor centric, donor focused, should be out of the office, depending on the size of your organization, somewhere between at least one and five times per week. Really meeting with and sharing information, making asks of donors.

Your executive director or CEO should also be held to a standard in terms of number of meetings with donors. We typically see somewhere successful organizations, their C-suite leadership, be somewhere between one and three meetings per week. So, again, that’s one to five for your director of development depending on how many hats they’re wearing, and traditionally about one to three for your executive director.

So what else should we be pulling? I’ve talked a lot about donor retention and how important it is. So you’ve always got to be looking at your LYBUNT and SYBUNT report. Now, what I will say is that I find that these reports are most often pulled one month, two weeks before a deadline. Be that a fiscal year-end deadline, an event deadline, a calendar year end deadline, these reports should be pulled on a monthly basis, the LYBUNT and SYBUNT book. Because it’s too late if you’re two weeks or even one month out from an event or from a major deadline to really start cultivating and asking. Because what you want to do is you want to be talking about upgrade potential, right? And you can’t rush a donor into an upgrade potential.

Really quickly, I’ve seen a couple of questions on what LYBUNT and SYBUNT stand for. Great question. So LYBUNT is last year, but unfortunately, not this. And SYBUNT is some year, but unfortunately, not this, meaning this year. So these are people that gave last year, but haven’t given this year or that gave some year ago, but haven’t been renewed this year. This is where organizations can really be effective, particularly directors of development in renewals. So making sure that you are actively soliciting, upgrading, communicating with your past donors. And these are the reports that are going to help put it right in front of you and help you zero you in on who to be talking to.

Now, ideally, you also know and have other reports such as your top 100 donor lists from within the five years. I do that cumulatively. So who are your top 100 or if that’s too large or too small for you, adjust accordingly. But who are your top donors from the last five years? If you’ve only been in the position for two years and someone gave your organization $100,000 five years ago, and you weren’t there to see that gift happen, it’s shocking but it might not be on your radar, which is incredible. So making sure that at every year I would update this and I would always have it in front of me or in my file somewhere to be looking at. These are the lists that you should be showing your board and your executive director also to help make connections and help get them involved.

Now, in an ideal scenario, you’ve partnered with an organization and there are many, many great vendors out there can provide some prospect research and wealth screening data. This is particularly wonderful when you’re looking at that LYBUNT and SYBUNT list. So if someone gave you $100 two years ago but you run wealth screening data, and you determine that, “Wow, they are actually a mega millionaire,” or you know, have significant other gifts to other organizations out there, that’s a really strong indicator that you should be doing something to upgrade that donor. And we’ll talk a little bit about that in just a minute in terms of appointment setting and what to focus on them with in terms of communication.

But ideally, you’ve got some data behind it to help you even narrow the list further. I attended a conference in Maryland and was listening to a health system present on how they use their data I guess about . . . that was in June of this year. And they were talking about their major gift officers for this hospital system used to have upwards of 250 people in their prospects portfolios. Not unheard of. It’s a really big organization. A lot of grateful patients, a lot of donor prospects. After a really close analysis of their data, they decided to cut everyone’s portfolios from around 250 to 50 and really focused on relationship building and making meaningful asks.

And guess what? Their data shows that they increased overall fundraising, by reducing their portfolios and focusing on the right people, they increased their goals by 25% over 3 years. So incredible. And I should say their major gift officers and development directors reported being much happier because they were really able to think about impact. So we’ll talk a little bit about that in just a moment.

One other really important component is longevity donors, so making sure that you’re thinking about those people that have been sending you $25 a year, you know, for the past 10 years or 30 years, even sometimes, making sure that you’re building a relationship with them.

And one new category that I actually need to update this slide to reflect is recurring donors. So monthly givers. Their donor retention rates are astronomically orders of magnitude above the 45% average. So if you haven’t implemented a monthly giving program, I highly encourage you to do that.

One other really interesting component about monthly giving is that millennials and GenXers are far more likely to give in that manner. So they really like it. So everybody is talking about ideas to engage the next gen, that’s one of them.

So we know the list. We talked about a couple of different reports to pull in the last three slides. Make sure that you are establishing them as reports or queries in your database. So set these things up in Bloomerang or whatever database you’re using and run them frequently. So what that means mostly is run them monthly. And I know that might seem like overkill, but making sure that you are looking at this data with fresh eyes regularly is so important and will pay dividends in the end I promise.

Let’s talk a little bit about appointment setting. So it’s always amazing to me, even when I’ll go in and meet with people who have, you know, raised millions of dollars a year and have done this for a long, long time. Appointment setting is always something that either they just don’t enjoy so they put it off, or they just don’t feel confident around their skillset. And I will share with you that my very first job in the nonprofit sector was to be an essentially an appointment setter for the head of a hospital foundation. That was a position that he created. He came from a higher ed model where these positions are very common. And I thought as a great way to learn from a master which he was.

Now what did that do? I’ll admit to you, at first, I was a pretty nervous to just start cold calling a bunch of people that I’ve never met especially that were high net worth individuals. But it was the best start I could ever have to a career in nonprofit fundraising because it made me unafraid to pick up the phone. And I would use the word unapologetic to set an appointment. So I am encouraging you to think about it in that way, making sure that you are being persistent and that you are not shying away from this aspect of your job. Because this, my friends, this is how you raise more dollars by sitting in front of more people, building meaningful relationships and making, eventually when ready, a major gift ask.

So how do we do it? If you have the resources at hand to be able to hire or to dedicate some, you know, support staff time to this, I encourage you to do it. Making sure they are trained and ready to launch this aspect is really important. So making sure that you’re doing some role playing with them, giving them proper notes, telling them how to pronounce people’s names, all of that is a great idea if you’re going to set them up for success.

So some of my tricks of the trade, I always encourage anyone who’s looking to do this to alternate phone and email. I’ll save you the typing of this question. I do have people ask me what about text messaging. That was never my style and I never found it to be the style of 99% of the people that I was working with. But I have worked with a director of development who use that tool very frequently in athletic fundraising for a college. And so that works for him. So I would encourage you to steer away from that unless you know that the donor has identified that as the way that they prefer to be contacted. So I encourage alternating between phone and emails. Hold that thought. We’re going to get to some sample language in just a second.

So the next question I get is how often do you call? Because when we sit around the table with our clients typically every three to four weeks with their committees for their major campaigns, inevitably, someone says, “Oh, well, I called and left a message.” And they did. They called and left that message. And my very first question to them is always, “How long ago was that?” And I will tell you that more often than not, the answer is typically, “Oh, gosh, well, it was probably two or three weeks ago, and I just haven’t heard back from them. I don’t want to bug them.” That’s kind of the echoing sound throughout the room whenever I ask that question. The alternative answer is, “Yesterday,” because they knew the meeting was happening. But that’s another story.

We encourage and I highly encourage at least two touches per week. And sometimes people say, “Well, that’s far too often. I don’t want to bother them. I don’t want to bug them.” What I want to emphasize is that by . . . and I will also say you’re doing this very politely. Again, we’re going to talk about some sample language in a second. But by letting that prospect know that you are not necessarily going away until you get an answer is really effective for a couple of reasons. Two really important was. The first is that I guarantee you, I’d be willing to bet you any amount of money, my friend who’s joining us from Vegas, that you will set more appointments. The second is you will qualify your leads.

So if someone is not interested, but they know that you’re going to keep calling, they’re going to tell you, “Hey, Victoria, I don’t have time for this right now.” Or, “I’m not interested.” And that phone call back or that email back to tell you no will give you good information. So I would often say something like, you know, if it were, “Now is not the right time,” I would say something really casual like, “Well, I absolutely understand. Everybody is away with vacation. The summer is so crazy. Would it be okay, John, if I touched base with you again in the fall?” And inevitably, John is going to say, “Yes.” And then the cycle will begin again in the fall. Make sure you put that on your calendar, make sure you call him back in the fall. Or it might be two weeks or from that point. Or it might be one month from that point. Whatever it is, agree upon a follow-up timeframe and make sure that you’re following through on that.

And I also want to emphasize that you’ve got to treat this very seriously. You’ve got to treat it like an appointment. So 10 to 20 minutes per day. I did it every . . . and I still encourage my clients to put 10 to 20 minutes every single day on their calendar and alternate. You know, maybe on Mondays at mid-day and on Tuesdays it’s the morning. What I will tell you is that I found one of my most effective appointments setting time to be Friday afternoon between 2:00 and 3:00 because everybody else is kind of thinking, “Oh, I’ll just call on Monday.” And so people’s phones, they stop ringing at that point in the day on a Friday afternoon. You know, if the phone’s not buzzing with a bunch of other people, they’re more likely to pick up when you call.

So I recommend Friday afternoon. Put 20 minutes on Friday afternoon and treat it like an appointment, take it very seriously, create a sign that goes on the outside of your door that says that you’re setting appointments and not to bother you.

So let’s talk about some sample language. I talked about sort of this cycle, phone call email, phone call email that I really encourage. So traditionally, on a first call, you’re going to leave a message, right? That’s the world that we live in with caller ID these days. So my message might say something like, “Good morning, Mrs. Smith. This is Mary from the food bank. I would really love an opportunity to get together to update you on your incredibly generous investment in our Summer Meals Program. I’ve got a great story I want to tell you. But I know how busy you are so I’m also going to follow up with an email with some date options. I can’t wait to hear from you. Hope you in the family are doing well,” etc., etc.

So then after I leave that message right away so I don’t forget, I’m going to send her an email that says something very similar to that. I’m not putting my case statement in the email, I’m literally sending her three or four lines asking for some of her time and giving her date options. Then, guess what I’m going to say at the bottom of that email? I’m going to say something like, “I know how busy you are so I promise I’ll follow up next week if I haven’t heard from you. Hope you have a great weekend.” Again, whatever is the right fit for Mrs. Smith. Then the following week, I’m going to call her and then I’m going to email her and then I’m going to call her. And I guarantee you she’s going to respond to you either to set the appointment or to tell you when a better time to set the appointment is.

We got a great question from Sherry asking about gatekeepers. And how do you win them over? This is such a great question and it’s so important. So if you’re not friendly with the gatekeepers, and we all know, you know, the CEOs in town or the major philanthropists, you know, that have family foundation managers, they’ve all got people you have to get through, at least initially. Sometimes you’ll eventually get that private cell phone number and you’ll go from there.

My advice to you is to ask and it may sound silly, but to ask a couple of personal questions when appropriate, not that you’re going to be inappropriate on the phone really. But calling to share why you want to meet with Mrs. Smith. If they make an offer to . . . you know, talk about the weather, make some small talk that will allow you to move in to learn a little bit about the gatekeeper.

Then, hopefully, you’ve got some type of log system that you’re using to track or maybe it’s just you’re putting the notes in Bloomerang ideally actually. That’s what it what you should be doing is putting in your database. Next time you go to call Mrs. Smith, you’ll remember that John, her executive assistant, has two kids and was just getting back off vacation the last time you called. So what are you going to do? You’re going to ask John about his kids and you’re going to ask him how his vacation was. And I guarantee you, he’ll, if you build that relationship, work to get you in with Mrs. Smith.

So it’s really it’s funny because we talk a lot about this in another training. But fundraising is all about relationships. And it’s just like any other type of relationship you would build it. You know, a friendship, a romantic relationship, a business relationship. It’s about getting to know a person and trusting a person. And that also applies to those gatekeepers.

Someone asked about lunch meetings for the first time, we don’t traditionally recommend those. I would recommend coffee or getting them to come to you to really do some show and tell versus a lunch meeting for the first time. It can be a little sticky literally sometimes.

All right, we’ve got just a few minutes left so I want to make sure we get through the rest of the slides. What we know in terms of what successful organizations share is they’ve got a solid plan. And a solid plan means you’re not spinning your wheels. Again, you’ve got more room to be more effective.

So how are some of the ways that we do that? One of the very first things I do with a client is ask them for their annual development plan. And I have had people throw the book at me, literally. They will give me, you know, a file electronically that almost makes me run out of ink when I print it. We do not recommend you spend your valuable time on 20-page development plans or even 5 to 10-page development plans. I’m going to show you a couple of samples here in a second.

We recommend a timeline style, not narrative, easily tracks charts and easily measured metrics that set clear benchmark that you’re able to actually look at regularly because I can guarantee you that when someone sends me a 20-page development plan, the last time they looked at it, even if we’re in September of that year, was in January when they went to write it. So making sure that you’ve got something that doesn’t scare you every time you pick it up. And, you know, you need an index to figure out where the stat is that you’re looking for.

Your plan also needs to have clear assignments and accountability built in. So let’s look at some samples really quickly. And these are all available on the slide deck that you all have access to. So here’s a sample goal chart. And I recommend doing all of what . . . essentially, you would have all of the charts that we’ve talked about today. So you’d have that gift table to know where you need to focus in terms of growing your prospect list and what your real potential is. Then you can say, “All right, here’s what we did last year. Based on the number of prospects I’ve identified and the data from our wealth screen, we think it’s realistic to increase our number of donors by 10%. And also our annual revenue by 10%.”

In this example, it’s 10% per year over the next three years. So this is a longer-term plan for growth. To do that we’ve got to focus on in-person visit. Last year, we only did 20. We know that’s abysmal as an organization. We’ve got to do better. And that’s going to mean one each for the director of development and the CEO. Also, we know last year, the board went on about half of our 20 asks, which was great, but we need to increase board involvement. So we need to get them out on 20 visits. This is also something that you need to get buy-in from your board. So highly encourage you to do that. Present this to them, look them in the eye and tell them you need their help.

The number of gifts above $1,000. We had 75 of those last year. We know we want to realistically. We think we have the prospects to increase that by 15%. So this is the what we want to accomplish. See, it’s not scary and it didn’t take you an hour of reading to get to the number that you wanted to look at.

Now, your sample chart. So how are we going to do it? And really good question really quickly. Back on this chart, someone asks, “Is that board number per board member or a total for all?” In this example, it’s a total for all. If you’ve got every single one of your board members out on 20 visits per year, I want you to call me and I want you to tell me how you’re doing it because that’s fantastic.

But if the board of directors . . . I should say this is an example of an annual fund plan. This is not if you are in special campaign mode, these activity levels would need to be ramped way up. But for an annual plan, this is the level of overall board involvement, you know, depending on the size of your board and the engagement level, it’s a good place start. But you need to do what’s realistic for your organization.

So sample calendar. We always need to be focusing on three things. How are we cultivating? Meaning how are we bringing people to the point where they’re ready to be asked? How are we actually asking them? And then how are we reporting back to them?

We’re going to focus on the stewardship piece in just a moment with some specific examples. So I really like a calendar timeline, and I really see these be the most effective management tools for our clients. So some clients do it quarterly. This is a monthly example. But to cultivate, you’re going to be doing three tours. You’re going to host 10 or go on 10 meetings. Of those 10 meetings, 2 to 4 of them are actually going to be asks. And in January, you’re also going to get your board and staff involved in thank you calls to your year-end donors.

I won’t read the rest of it for you. You can read it on your own time. But making sure that you’re laying out specific numbers in terms of how many meetings, you know, how do events plug in here for you. That in fact, if you’re an event heavy organization, you could also have that a separate chart tracker for that. I recommend that all of these be done in one Excel file with different tabs. That way, you’re only ever looking for one document and you can see how everything overlays if need be.

So let’s talk about in our last 10 minutes how we’re going to communicate. The most effective thing to remember, again, this webinar is focused on how are we going to build capacity by using our time wisely? So we’ve got to keep it simple, right? The good news is that’s the best model for you, but also what your donors want. Well, I should say 95% of donors do not want narrative reports unless you’re talking about a grant report, obviously, or someone with a lot of time on their hands, do not want narrative style reports or big, bulky, expensive annual reports.

Remember, we spend our careers talking to major donors about what it is that they want. And what we hear from them is that they want quick, reliable, recurring update. So one model that we’ve implemented with our clients has been very successful is one story, one side of a sheet of paper every other month. So you design a template. If you don’t have internal graphic design, I actually do recommend that you spend a couple $100 to get this template developed professionally because people . . . and when I say template, I mean design template so that it’s branded towards your look and doesn’t necessarily look like something that’s been shot out of a cannon.

Even though it’s got good information, if it looks professional and polished, people are more likely to read it and pay attention to it. So, if you are . . . I’ll pat my client in North Carolina on the back. So this is an organization that helps people when they are in health crisis. So they take with the client’s permission, obviously, with the recipient’s permission, they ask permission and they share one of those stories every other month and they get a quote from the people, they have the family’s picture on the piece of paper. And they talk about the fact that they cannot do this work without the support of the donor community. This has been incredibly effective for that organization as well as I can say other health and human services, organization, cultural institutions. So it really is just a quick snapshot.

And this is a great idea is to really put the handwritten sticky on it. This I thought you’d really be inspired by the story of the Peterson’s. Take a look and let me know if you have any questions. So you can get really creative here.

Also eliminating those bulky you heard me say time consuming annual reports, I’ll never forget I called a client who shall remain nameless, probably about seven years ago and said, “Hey, how we doing on those appointments?” How many of you said, “How often have you been out of the office this week?” And her response to me was, “I haven’t picked up the phone once. And I haven’t been out of my office the entire month because I’ve been working on our very complicated annual report.” And I about fell out of my chair because this organization was a fundraising powerhouse and they could have been raising a ton of money with better time management. So really be thinking about that.

Some the neatest annual reports I’ve seen recently are either a trifold or a bi-fold with infographics and testimonials, really not focusing on a lot of paper or time because, again, you’ve been updating your donors every other month. So think about that.

Also, the donor list, you know, should you, could you print your donor list in your annual report? There’s a lot of data to support that you, in fact, don’t need to do that. It’s not as compelling to donors as we might think. If you’re not putting it in your annual report, I certainly encourage you to have a consistently updated or constantly updated donor roll on your website and make sure that that’s referenced in your annual report. The good news about that is that if someone calls with God forbid an error in their name spelling, you can update it in real time and make them feel better and move on with that relationship.

So also really quickly, board and programmatic staff calls to communicate with them. So this is, I will say, one of the most effective things that we’ve worked to implement with clients. As a development officer it almost always feels like all of this falls on you. I’m sure that if we were in a room together, most of you would be nodding your head. But what I can tell you is that donors want to hear from you. Of course, they want to build a relationship with you. But they really want to hear from what I would call the boots on the ground programmatic staff.

So if you were a hospital system, could you get a nurse lead to call and, you know, complete? And I’m not talking about them spending a full day, obviously. But could they take 10 calls a quarter? Your board members, could they do one call each per quarter? And you could think about how you want to divide those up. But it’s good for the board members, it’s good for the staff for them to understand the culture of philanthropy and the role that philanthropic charitable dollars play in their day-to-day work. But it’s also great for the donor.

And I would encourage you a lot of people will ask, “Okay, well, what level are we doing this at?” I’d say one of the neatest groups to focus on for this is new gifts in. So of course, if you get a big gift in, someone from the board should call and thank them. But what if, you know, if I were a new $100 donor had never given to you before and I got a call from one of your board members, you got to believe that would stand out. And hopefully, that will help you combat that, again, abysmal nationally reported donor retention rate.

So we could do a whole webinar on ways to engage board and programmatic staff. But I really encourage you to get them to help you with this. So always feel . . . I’m going to speak quickly through these last couple of slides. Always look for excuses. Success is to report benchmarks hit. Have you hired new staff? This next one sector issues and thought leadership. If something is coming up that you’re a piece of legislation, a new issue. We work with a client that helps us foster youth, you know, if there’s a new study that comes out that shows some data that you think donors would be interested in, use that as an excuse to pick up the phone and always be asking their advice. And obviously, you’re segmenting how you communicate. So you’re not talking with your top, top donors in the exact same way that you’re talking with, really your lower level donors to make sure that you are treating those groups appropriately.

Stewardship is so important. I’ve talked about this a lot. But big gifts very rarely come from new donors and donor acquisition is so expensive. So really focus on taking the time to build that relationship, getting in front of them using some of those appointment setting tools that we talked about.

These two quotes, I hear them all the time. You know, “I really haven’t heard from them since their last major campaign,” or “I really only hear from that group when they’re asking for money.” You want to be the exception to this rule. And sitting at your desk and focusing on paperwork, unfortunately, sometimes is at the top of all of our lists in terms of where we’re spending our time. But it’s really not what’s going to move the needle for your organization. So if your donors can say things like this, that’s not a great indicator So think about ways to move that.

So some a couple of capacity building pitfalls we’ve talked about, not understanding how you’re spending your time, take the time to measure that. You know, you put bad data and you get bad data out. Make sure you’re taking the time to keep your donor database up to date. Set some concrete goals that have realistic numbers behind them. And make sure you’re asking for help and holding your team accountable. And if you’re a team of one, find someone else in your organization to help hold you accountable. And maybe that’s your executive director or maybe that’s someone in programmatic staff.

All of this is to make sure that you’re talking to your donors regularly and that they feel appreciated and that they’ve got a relationship with you. So I will pause there with three minutes left. I’ve seen some questions rolling in. And Steven, I’ll turn it back over to you. Thank you all.

Steven: Yeah, that was awesome. Thank you, Victoria. That was really great, awesome presentation. I told you all it’s going to be good. It’s going to be worth your time. So thank you for doing this, and spending an hour or more than an hour because you had to plan for this. So thank you, thank you.

Looks like a lot of people are sharing my sentiments in the chat. That’s great. I know you answered a lot of questions as you went along. So I’ll kind of pick up where you left off. Looks like there was a question from Nancy in here. Nancy has got a small nonprofit, small travel budget. But she does want to get and visit those donors, you know, face to face. So the donors are all over the country. Any advice for her, Victoria? Have you ever done any sort of virtual meetings maybe with donors or potential donors?

Victoria: Yeah. Well, first of all, I’ll congratulate Nancy on having a national donor pool. That’s fantastic. I think a lot of people would love to be able to say that. So that’s great. I would really enjoy courage Nancy to consider some creative ways. So WebEx or, you know, video chatting. You could do a FaceTime tour. If that person has an iPhone of maybe something new. If you’re an environmental group, you could actually take them out on the river with you. You could also and this is where I would start talk to your board about that travel budget. We see this with our major campaigns. So you guys know . . . well, at least where we do the bulk of our work, a lot of folks are gone either up in Maine during the summer or down in Florida during the winter, and people kind of get paralyzed.

And our thought is, you know, you just got to buy that plane ticket because if you spend $300 or $500 on a plane ticket and go out and ask for a 5 or 6-figure gift, guess what? That’s an ROI that just about anyone would be okay with, including your board. So having a realistic conversation with them and getting them bought in on the importance of being face to face with your donors is where I would start.

Steven: I love it. You talked a lot and showed those really awesome scorecards, which is really appreciated. What about first timers who are maybe putting together those score cards for the first time? How would you kind of guide them in maybe creating those goals? Should they kind of start off really aggressive and kind of aim for the sky or do you think it should maybe be like stair steps as they go along? Or what do you think there, Victoria?

Victoria: I like the stair step analogy, Steven. I would definitely say you want to have realistic goals because the last thing you want to do is set yourself or your organization up for failure. So if you’re considering a major campaign, you want to be testing that number through a feasibility study. If this is an annual fund campaign you’re talking about, you really want to think, you know, what’s realistic? What are comparable organizations in my area doing? What is my board willing to give? And that’s really where I would start because if your boards not willing to invest and not willing to shore up your annual fund, especially in your startup years, then you are in trouble my friend and they should know that. So making sure that you’re having those realistic conversations and, again, to steal your analogy, Steven, that stair step approach is always what I would recommend.

Steven: That makes sense. And thanks for being a fellow champion of 100% board giving. I’m always kind of shocked by how many orgs don’t have that in place. And it seems to be where everything kind of flows from, right?

Victoria: Yes, yes. Very true.

Steven: I love it. Well, it’s a little after 3:00 and I want to be respectful of people’s time. But I know we didn’t get to every single question. But, Victoria, would you be willing to maybe take questions by email or offline?

Victoria: Yeah, absolutely. I’m really easy to reach. It’s Or you can go to our website and link directly to me or call me. I’m always happy to chat and talk through anything. So really happy to be with you guys today. Thank you for your great questions.

Steven: Awesome. Yes, thank you all for being so engaged in the presentation. Really great questions. This is a fun one. I knew it would be. Never had doubt. But great conversation. So thank you, Victoria. Thanks for doing this. And thanks all of you for hanging out with us. I know you’re probably pretty busy, new fiscal year for some of you so thanks. It’s always nice to see a full room even in July. So yes, definitely reach out to Victoria. If you’re in Virginia, look her up. And if you’re going to be at the VFRI conference next week, look for both of us because we’re going to be there. I guess we’ll see next week.

Victoria: That’s right.

Steven: That’s kind of fun, Victoria. I don’t get to say that to webinar guests very often but I will see you next week. Very cool.

Victoria: Fantastic. Thank you all so much.

Steven: Well, we’ve got some great webinars coming up. We’re going to take a break next week but we’re back August 1st with my buddy Brady Josephson. And he’s going to talk about how to kind of get ready for a year-end fundraising. It’s not too early to be talking about that. Actually, it’s a pretty good time to be talking about if you ask me. So if you haven’t started your year-end planning, especially if you want to do some digital campaign, maybe like around Giving Tuesday, definitely register for this one. Brady has a lot of really cool experiments and research into online getting pages and emails and things like that. So he’ll have some new research to share, which I always appreciate.

So hopefully you can make that in a couple weeks. If you can’t make that date and time, there’s lots of other sessions on our webinar page. We’d love to see you again on another session. So we’ll call it a day there. Look for an email from me with the recording, the slides. I’ll send that out in next hour or so and hopefully we’ll see you again in a couple weeks. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Stay cool out there. I know it’s been pretty hot. Stay safe 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. 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.