What do the best fundraisers do differently? Who are the top performers and what’s the secret to their success? Watch this webinar from Rachel Muir, CFRE to learn their strategies, tips and tools that you can put into effect immediately!

Full Transcript:

Steven:All right, Rachel. Is it okay if I get us started officially here?


Steven:All right. Cool. Good afternoon, everyone, if you are on the East Coast, and good morning if you are on the West Coast, or somewhere in between. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “How to Get Donors to a Yes—Revenue Boosting New Year’s Resolutions for Fundraisers.” And my name is Steven Shattuck and I’m the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion, as always.

Just a couple of housekeeping items before we begin officially. Just want to let you all know that we are recording the webinar, and I’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon. So, if you have to leave early, I hope you don’t, but if you have to, I definitely understand and you’ll be able to review the content later on. And if you want to share the recording with anyone, that would make me happy, so, feel free to do that as well. Just look for that email from me in a couple hours after we finish up here today.

Most importantly, please do send us your questions and comments throughout the hour. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A, just as much time as we can, so don’t sit on those hands, you can type them in the chat box, you can send them over on Twitter. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Twitter feed as well. So, don’t be shy, we want to get to as many questions as we can.

If you have any trouble with the audio, don’t give up on us completely before you try dialing in by phone. Usually the phone audio is a lot better than the computer audio. So, if you’re having trouble there, check the email from ReadyTalk that went out around noon today, and it’s got a phone number in there that you can use. And it will probably sound a lot better than coming through your computer speakers.

And if this is your first webinar with us, I just want to say an extra-special welcome to you. We do these webinars just about every Thursday. We bring on a great guest like Rachel. Great content, it’s always a lot of fun. Probably my favorite thing that I do here at Bloomerang, but it’s not the only thing we do. We also make some really awesome donor management software.

So, if you are in the market for that this year, maybe just curious about Bloomerang, check out our website, you can watch a quick video demo, you can see the whole software in action. You don’t even have to talk to anyone over here if you don’t want to, although, we would like to talk to you of course. But check that out, don’t do that now, wait until after the presentation, if you want to learn more.

But for now, I am excited to bring back one of my favorites. I don’t think we’ve ever gone a year at Bloomerang without having Rachel give an awesome presentation. Hey, Rachel, how’s it going?

Rachel:It’s going awesome. I’m so excited to be with you today.

Steven:Yeah. I’m excited for this one too. I got a peek at the slides earlier this week, going to be awesome. I just want to brag on you Rachel. Although, I doubt you need much of an introduction, seeing as though, you are an awesome person, one of my favorite humans. If you guys don’t know her, she is a speaker, she’s a trainer, she’s a nationally recognized, nonprofit founder. If you see her name on a conference agenda, definitely go to that session.

Not only is she a consultant now, but she’s been in all of your shoes. She actually founded her own nonprofit, Girlstart, back when she was just 26, which is incredible. I don’t think I even knew how to make scrambled eggs when I was 26. So, that is super, super impressive. She has raised over $10 million in her fundraising career. She has been named AFP’s Outstanding Fundraising Executive of the Year. Super smart, I’ve seen her speak at conferences, she’s obviously done Bloomerang webinars for us, it was an easy add to our schedule. And you’re going to see why here in a second. So, Rachel, I don’t want to take any time away from you, why don’t you tell us all about how to get those donors to a yes, my friend.

Rachel:Awesome. I’m so excited. I’m so honored to be with you guys today. As Steven said, we’ve got time at the end to answer questions. So please, feel free to just type them into the questions box any time today. I’ve reserved lots of time to answer your questions.

I’m thrilled to be with you today. I am a tolerable wife and the kind of mom who live to play April Fool’s jokes on my kids. I’m a recovering executive director. As Steven said, I started my own nonprofit that turned 20 just last fall and, boy, did I learn a lot from doing that—everything I know about fundraising and a lot more. I absolutely love and adore fundraising. And I want to live in a world where you have delighted, ecstatic, happy, satisfied donors who stay with you for life and Girl Scout cookies have absolutely zero calories.

And as Steven said, I do a lot of custom training. I do board retreats and keynotes, I absolutely love doing webinars, and I do a lot of workshops too. I have an upcoming workshop that I’m mentioning in just a few minutes here that I’m excited to share with you guys. And this is my website if you want to learn more about me. I’ve got a lot of goodies up here, that I’m going to be sharing with you today. I actually have a new goody, a guide called, “Get the Visit, Nail the Ask.” And I do, do a lot of webinars. So, if you want to get invited to webinars, you can sign up on my website and I will send you a front row invitation the next time I do one.

This is you. If you’re struggling, feeling like you’re on a hamster wheel of grants, some events, some galas, and you want to be more effective in 2018, you want to figure out what donors you should focus on and have a thoughtful intentional plan for how much you can raise, and even get your board members fundraising, then you are in the right place, my friend, because I have a new course. It’s a seven-week self-paced course, “Makeover My Fundraising,” dedicated to giving you a map to your best prospects, donors say yes to a visit with you. It is the largest collection of fundraising strategies, and tips, and tools, and tactics, and hacks on planet internet.

And I have a special opportunity for everybody today, if you sign up and join my VIP list, you will get invited when the course is available. And you will also get, if you choose to take the course, a 20% discount, just for signing up for the VIP list. So, I want to invite everybody today, including my Girl Scout on the call. I’ve got someone from the new Director of Fund Development for Girl Scouts of Greater South, Texas. Hello. I’m the Girl Scout mom. I am also proud to report my daughter’s already doubled her cookie sales and cool. And I’m also proud of the point that we are selling more cookies than we are eating.

But, hello, oh my goodness I’ve got it, we’ve got a Girl Scout Gold Award winner here on the call with us here today. Oh my goodness, it’s so fantastic. And you guys, today it’s a cookie booth, tomorrow it’s the world, I’m so excited and so proud to be a Girl Scout mom. And I hope everyone is out there enjoying their Girl Scout cookies, and if you hadn’t had some and you like cookies, you get a chance to go get one.

But, on to, on to our webinar here, Makeover My Fundraising, if you guys are interested in, and really upping your fundraising game in 2018, eliminating the mystery and the myths, and the guesswork, I invite you to sign up. Like I said, you will get a 20% discount if you join the VIP list should you decide that you want to take the class. So, I invite you to sign up.

And here is my first goodie for you guys today. This has a lot of great tips for overcoming objections, to getting the visit strategies, for getting the visit and how to nail the ask. And I’m going to go through a few of these today, but this is a cheat sheet for you and you can find this goodie and many more up at rachelmuir.com/guides. But I want to throw that out there. I like to bring my own party favors when I do webinars and that’s a great one for you guys.

So, here’s what we are we talking about. We’re going to talk about, how to get donors to a yes. I’m going to be talking about, seven things great fundraisers do differently, and I’m going to dig deep into a few of those. Some strategies and tools to help you get the visit, upgrading, the best discovery questions you can ask, and we’ve got time for Q&A. Caitlin asked what was the website for the course, it’s makeovermyfundraising.com, Caitlin.

And here are the seven things great fundraisers do differently. They focused on the highest return on your investment for your fundraising. And my friends, that is major gift fundraising. We’re going to talk about that a little bit later. They prioritize their donors. They set a revenue goal and a cultivation plan for the donors that are in their portfolio. They ask their donors’ opinions often, they’re very curious. I have some of my all-time favorite discovery questions to share with you guys today and some bonus ones too. They make their donors feel like heroes, and they do really fantastic stewardship.

So, this is one of the first things that great fundraisers do differently from everyone else. They realize it is not about them, it’s not about the organization, it’s about the donor. Donors give for their reasons, not ours. And it’s up to us to figure out what those reasons are and to figure out what’s important and meaningful in our donors’ lives.

And we have to understand what our donor’s story is. Why do they care about our cause? Why does it matter to them? Why is that important to them? We have to find out what their story is. It’s about their story, not ours.

Giving says a lot about who we are. I don’t know if you remember this commercial from the Super Bowl a few years ago. I love this commercial, actually had my son, like, reenact it, and because of course we have Darth Vader costumes at home. But no one ever bought a car because the dealership needs the money. Giving says a lot about your donor, about who they are, about how they see themselves, and about how they see the world.

Sure, a car gets you from point A to point B, but it also says a lot about who you are. And your goal when you’re with your donors isn’t it to impress them. And in fact, if you do that, if you trying too hard to impress them, they’re going to be sitting there wondering, “Why are you here? Why are you asking me for money? Why do you need me? Because you’re doing so well on your own. So, why do you need me?” So, the goal isn’t to impress them, but to let them impress you, to let them impress you with how generous they are, to let them impress you with how much they care, how they want to see the world, what stuff matters to them, what’s their values, what’s important to them, how they want to be significant.

So, I’m going to give you some tips to ask great questions with donors to help you be able to do that. So, these are kind of like opening discovery questions. These are kind of like, just ground floor discovery questions. And I have a photo here of a guy on the phone, because these are also great discovery questions that you could have board members say when they call to thank your donors. If you don’t have board members calling to thank donors, I encourage you in 2018, set a New Year’s resolution that take five minutes and beginning of your board meeting, give your board members the names and the phone numbers of donors who have made gifts. And have them take a couple minutes, give them a script, make it easy for them, give them a nice thoughtful script, a script that sounds like it came from a human and not a robot, thanking them for their gift, welcoming them to your donor family, telling them how overjoyed they are to have received such a generous gift from you. And prepare them with a few discovery questions too.

Of course, you can do this also, but it is really, really special and studies have proven that not only how dramatically giving goes up when people get a phone call, thanking them. But also especially hear from a board member because our donors are smart, and they know that those board members are volunteers. And it’s something really special, to get a phone call from a volunteer who’s just taking time out of their day to call and appreciate and thank a donor. So, those are just some ground floor discovery questions.

And I love these leading questions here. “Is there any way we can make your experience more positive? How can we get you more involved?” and then, kind of these are some next steps questions. “Can I invite you to this? Can I introduce you to this?” These are these are some great next steps. I believe every moment with a donor is a golden opportunity to do discovery and I want you to be super prepared to be able to do it. So those are some ground floor discovery questions. These are great for fundraisers. These are also great for board members making thank you calls to donors.

Now, these are some first date discovery questions. So, these would be great, great discovery questions to ask. You could ask these if you were calling and you had a donor on the phone. You could ask them in person. You could ask them when you saw a donor an event. These are just great, like, “Hey, what motivated you to make that first gift to us?” And you know, I’d love to learn . . . Now, I would preface these next questions with, “I’d love to learn more about your philanthropy. Can I ask you a couple more questions?” That way you get the donor agreeing, you get them nodding, you get them, like, in a real positive place.

It might seem awkward if Steven donated to, let’s say, the Girl Scouts of Central Texas and I saw him and I said, “Steven,” and I asked him all five of these questions at once. He might feel like it was the Spanish Inquisition. But if I said, “Oh my gosh, Steven, I would love to learn more about what inspires your philanthropy. Can I ask you a couple questions?” and then I ask him a few of these questions.

These are great questions. I love asking, “Of all the great agencies you generously support, who does the best job of keeping you engaged?” That tells me a lot about, how my competition is doing, what my donor is like. I also like, “What’s the most satisfying gift you’ve ever made, and why?” That is, to me, a really intimate question. And I can learn a whole lot, a whole lot from this.

Now, these are my deserted island, like I’m on a deserted island kind of questions. When I was a kid, my dad had a sailboat, and my dad had this, like, depth sounder thing that would tell you how deep you are going. And so, these are kind of like, way deeper discovery questions. You know like, like my friend has like a depth sounder chart of babysitters. It’s like, okay, who am I going to get to babysit tonight? Am I going to get like the college student? Am I going to get the high school student? You know, is Disney Channel going to watch my kids while I run to the pharmacy? You know, it’s like, it’s like different layers of, like, desperation in terms of like, we need a babysitter and this is short notice.

So, these are like deep, rich discovery questions, kind of like great icebreakers, almost. But I think these are really, really fantastic ways to really intimately get to know your donors and get to know more intimate details about their lives, about their decisions. I love this, “What makes you happy despite anything?” These are just great, these are great questions for dinner party, these are great conversational questions. And I think these are great ways to really peel back the layers. If you’re ever feeling stumped with a donor and you want to get know them, these are awesome rapport-building questions that you can ask your donors.

So, great fundraisers are super curious people. They also have a knack for remembering the little details about people’s lives. But they’re really curious people, and they take those details of people’s lives, and they use them to build relationships. The best way to have a meaningful relationship with a donor is to be meaningful to them. So, I’m going to give you an example of a time in my life as a fundraiser that really developed a lot of meaning.

I had a board member whose daughter was going away to college. And she had a lot of, like, separation anxiety, a lot of empty nest syndrome. They both did and I had a note, I wrote a card when she was driving her daughter to college. And I wrote a card that was there for her when her daughter . . . when she came back to the house after dropping her daughter off at college. And I just acknowledged, “You’re going to come home today and the house is going to feel different. And it’s always going to feel different than it did before.” And all I did was just acknowledge, this really significant transition in her life.

And you know, how many of us, we might find something like that out about a donor, and we might think about it, and if we’re lucky we might remember and say, “Oh, how is so-and-so doing off at college?” You know, “How is so-and-so enjoying Harvard?” But it’s something special to take the time to acknowledge that. And it’s those little things that make a difference, especially with your donors.

So, I’m going to talk with you a little bit now about some strategies that you can use and some tools that you can use to get the visit. So, I mentioned this guy when we first started, there’s lots of goodies in here on help for you to get the visit, help for you to nail the ask. So, these are just a few strategies to getting the visit. You know, calling to say thanks is a great opportunity for you to get the visit. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about your donors. All of these are great opportunities to get the visit.

You know, LinkedIn, email, phone, introduction from other folks, those are just a few strategies. How many times should I ask to get the visit? Way more than you think, because donors are extremely busy and they have a lot going on in their lives. So, way more than you think.

Here’s another reason to work hard to get the visit with a major donor, if you can get the visit, you’ve got an 85% chance of getting the gift. If you haven’t read “Asking,” this is the number one selling fundraising book. It’s sold, like, a quarter of a million copies, and it’s a very short book you could read this book in maybe 30 minutes. It’s a short guide but this is some great advice, and a great incentive for you to work hard to get the visit.

So, here are some tips for making phone calls. All these things matter. This may sound like, “Oh my gosh, what a simple hack. She’s telling me to smile the whole time I’m leaving a voicemail message?” I am because your voice will sound so much more enthusiastic and positive than if you don’t. So, smile the whole time and these are some great scripts that you can use. “I’m calling our most loyal, faithful, generous donors to [inaudible 00:18:34] calling to discover something or invite them. I’m inviting my favorite closest, smartest friends, you know, etc. So, those are just a few openers from making calls.

Now, these are some things, some strategies for what to say to get the meeting. It isn’t, “I want to give you some important updates on what’s happening around campus.” Now, they never drop what they were doing for important updates. Your donor has a story, you want to get to know, “Why was going here important to you? Who was your favorite teacher? How did they impact their life? What advice do you have for incoming students?” So, one strategy is the advice visit, another strategy is a thank you, get to know you visit.

There’s an old saying in fundraising, “Ask for money, and you’ll get advice. Ask for advice and you’ll get money.” So, that’s a good option asking for advice, I think, and always a perennial favorite, never goes out of style, is just thanking them. You know, “It’s my job to get to know our most loyal friends. I’m going to be in your area next week, which day works best for you?” If you give people two choices, there’s more likely they’re going to have a positive response to them than if you leave it up to them.

So, this is one of my tools that I love to use. So, I like to joke that I find the tool so you don’t have to. Tom likes to joke I read the books so you don’t have to. I’m always out there scouring the interwebs for fantastic tools that we can use as fundraisers. And if you have not tried Bananatag, it’s amazing. You can have . . . you get five free emails a day. And what it basically does is track your email sends. So, I know this is the part where you’re like, “Wait, I was really enjoying Rachel and she was so awesome, but this is a total stalker move now.” But you need some of these moves with donors because you want to know if they are reading your emails.

This has been a lifesaver for me because, you know, if I have someone that wants a custom training and I send them a proposal and then they don’t respond, and maybe I would think that they really don’t want a training or they really don’t want to work with me. This has actually saved me a few times where I followed up with someone because I noticed they hadn’t read my email. And they told me, “Oh my goodness, our servers went down, everything crashed.” But basically what this is is a service that will tell you, it will track your emails for you. There’s other services out there, this is just one.

But this will track your emails for you if they open it. You get an email when they open it. And if you send someone a grant proposal, this will tell you if they read your attachment, how many of the pages they read. I don’t work for a Bananatag, but this will give you up to five a day. And this can be helpful if you’re out there like, pounding the pavement. I’ve got some great folks in here chiming in other tools they’re using for this. HubSpot, there’s definitely other tools that you can use for this that are out there. But this is one, so if you want to know if your donors are reading your request for a visit, these are some tools that you can use to make that happen.

So, I’m going to talk about some tools to help you upgrade, and prospect, and build a portfolio. So, I mentioned your ROI, and great fundraisers focus on where on . . . Bloomerang. Yeah, Bloomerang does this too, yippee. Great fundraisers focus on where they can turn the greatest profit, and there are lots of great fundraising opportunities out there. But major gift fundraising does have the highest return on investment. Acquisition is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long game. Events cost money to put on, but major gift has the highest return on your investment.

So, my advice when it comes to major gift fundraising, and my advice for you in general in 2018 is to stay focused. Start by looking at the donors that are already given to you. This is like, start by shopping in your own closet. If you want to get laser focused on what donors you should focus on and setting a revenue goal and a cultivation plan for them, start with the donors that are already giving to you, not with strangers you would love to meet like this fantastic woman right here. Of course, if you and Oprah are BFFs, start with Oprah. But if you’re not, start with the donors that are already giving to you.

So, it’s tempting to look at the people that we wish we knew or are really wealthy billionaires. But the truth is, you have a lot of donors who are already giving to you who would give more if you responded, if they got more thoughtful intentional communications from you. So, start with your inner circle and move out from there. There’s a difference between prospecting and fantasizing about all the donors that you wish you knew but don’t yet know.

My second goal for you is to have a revenue goal in the cultivation plan for the major donors that you have in your portfolio because without a goal, you’re shooting in the dark, and if you don’t know where you’re going, any path can get you there. And so many times, as fundraisers, we get so overwhelmed with so many competing demands, really limited time, maybe you have a board, or maybe you have a CEO who, like, kind of, maybe you have whiplash from their attention deficit disorder and then changing direction or priorities at such a quick pace. And it’s really important for you to be clear on, who you’re cultivating, what your goals are, knowing who your donors are, and when you’re going to ask them, and what you’re going to ask them for.

So, this is one of the things that we’re doing, just a little plug here for my course in Makeover My Fundraising is working with . . . everyone’s working on creating a thoughtful intentional plan for how they’re going to reach their fundraising goals. What are the donors they’re going to put in their portfolio? What are the goals that they’re going to set for that donor? What is the communication plan for that donor? Break it out by month. What communications are they going to get from you? When are you going to do to ask? How much you’re going to do the ask for? Because you need to be teeing up your communications and your visits, and what those owners experience, so that you can be successful with your solicitation.

So, if you, I know a few of you joined in late, a couple of you asked, what the website was. That’s one of the things that we’re doing in the class. And if you want to be on the waitlist, I will let you know when the class is available. And if you sign up, you get a 20% discount. So, that is what we’re doing in the class. I’d love to have you join me.

Another thing that great fundraisers do differently, and one of the resolutions that I want you to start for 2018, is resolve to learn from your data. We are sitting on so much data as nonprofits that we don’t leverage to inform our decisions. And it’s a missed opportunity, it’s not as sexy as many other things that we . . . or maybe as fun digging way, way deep into the math and into the numbers. But there are so many valuable insights that you can glean.

And this is really important because some donors will give more to you, and you need to find out who those donors are. And I want all of your donors to have a great experience with you. But the truth is, some donors will give more and it’s up to you to figure out who those donors are. Not all donors are equal to you as revenue sources. Not all donors will give more. So, we have to figure out who they are. And we also have to be thoughtful about the donors that we’re bringing in to the organization as well.

So, type in if you know your donor’s lifetime value. Type in if you’ve calculated what your donor’s lifetime value is? If you haven’t, I’m going to be talking about this, you can Google “lifetime value calculator” and figure this out. There are many different ways to calculate donor value. This is one of them, it’s donor lifetime value. And that’s basically what your donor contributes after you subtract the expenses, the expenses of acquiring them, the expenses of your campaigns to them, because as I said earlier, all donors are equal achievements but not all of them are equal as revenue sources.

Sometimes we spend a lot of money to go acquire a donor, and that donor might give one gift and become lapsed and we can spend a lot of money trying to get them back. So, that’s why, and I’m going to talk more about lifetime value, a little bit later.

I want to invite you guys just to type in where you’re getting your best donors. So, maybe it’s direct response, like email and direct mail. Maybe it’s collecting names at events, maybe it’s getting referrals of donors from some of your donors, or from staff, or from board members. Maybe it’s using social to drive signups, or, if none of these, if you have a different way of getting your best donors, there is not one right answer. There’s only the answer that’s right for you.

So, I see a lot of people telling me that it’s referrals. A lot of people are saying, referrals, that’s probably most popular one. Some folks are saying direct response, a few people are saying social media. So, I see it neck-and-neck now. I see like, kind of like, half-and-half between direct response and referrals.

So, I’m not surprised that referrals are where a lot of you are getting your best donors because that makes sense. But the thing that I want you guys to know, especially for people who said direct response or anything else, is to really be thoughtful about where the value of the donors that you’re bringing in. Because you might acquire a lot of donors from one channel, but if those donors give one gift and never give another gift, and you spend a lot trying to get them to come back, that wasn’t a really profitable group for you. So, be thoughtful and intentional about where you’re bringing in donors, and bringing in the right ones.

If you know what your donor’s lifetime value is, and you know what acquisition channel they came from, you can go on and replicate that acquisition channel to go out and get more of those donors. So, it’s important to understand your donor’s lifetime value, it’s important to also understand the lifespan of your donors by acquisition channel, because that really informs a lot about their value.

So again, if you want to calculate your donor lifetime value, there are lots of free calculators out there. It’s simple to do, it does require that you know your cost for acquiring that donor which might take a little bit of math for you guys on the back end. But I want to encourage you because I know, how many demands are on your time. And I know how distracting it all can be. And so, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about, where am I getting the best donors so you can go out and replicate those efforts.

And then, you know you, might have gotten a lot of donors by one channel, but if they weren’t valuable donors, and you spent more money acquiring them or trying to get them to come back in a lapsed owner campaign, then you don’t want to replicate that again.

So, Starbucks estimates the average lifetime value of their customer is $14,000 now. Me, I think I’m, like, triple that because I love coffee so much. But it’s important. If you know your donor’s lifetime value, you can make educated decisions. Just like Starbucks makes super educated decisions about acquiring customers, you know, okay, I can spend a $100 to go out and acquire a new annual fund donor because their lifetime value to me is $1,000.

If you know, what your donor’s lifetime value is, you can make thoughtful informed decisions about what you’re going to spend on acquisition. And that’s important because acquisition is really seductive and it’s really distracting. This is not stock photography. I’m not above using my own family members as stock photos. This is my daughter dressed up as Dorothy, and my niece, and my daughter, as you can see, cannot take her eyes off that green cupcake.

Acquisition is really, it’s like the pretty person at a party and here’s another, my family as a stock photo, that red arrow is my husband at an actual party. Acquisition is like, you know, the pretty person at the party that we want to meet. And it can be really distracting, so, make and form . . . And my goal for you in 2018, your New Year’s resolution, is that you’re making really informed decisions about acquisition. You know what channels bring you the best donors, and you know what your donor lifetime value is so that you can be thoughtful, and intentional, and strategic.

Retention which is something Bloomerang and Steve and I, are really passionate about, retention is, you know, it’s not as glamorous as acquisition but it is your best source and a prime way for you to shore up lots of fundraising revenue, keep your donors, and upgrade your donors. So, type in if you know your retention rates. Since you guys are using Bloomerang and we have lots of Bloomerang fans, and advocates, and customers. I’m guessing a lot of people on here know their retention rate.

Fifty-one percent, awesome, way to go, 40%. Oh, I’ve got a few 59%, 41%, 20%, so lots of people typing in, lots of ranges here. It’s okay, someone said, ugh, 25%, it’s okay. This is your goal for 2018. You can do this, you can up this, you can absolutely up this, you can figure it out. Courtney, I’m about to show you the math, it’s pretty simple math on how you can figure it out. It’s really just gifts from your donors in a calendar year, divided by the same gifts the previous year.

You can calculate retention in many different ways. You can calculate it by gifts, you can calculate it by number of donors, you can calculate it by gift officers, and who’s doing the best at retaining their donors. You could calculate it by programs. I like doing it by gifts, because that tells me how much money I’m losing, and how much money is on the table. And I think it helps you make a more impassioned, unforgettable argument for investing and retention if that is one of your goals. So, that’s why I like to do it by dollar amount.

Now, for my friends over here, who said, you know, 25%, take heart, it’s okay. You know, hey, the good news is you know what your retention rate is. I’m going to give you some examples of some ways that you can help with your donor retention.

And that is by having a thoughtful, intentional, stewardship business rules where each donor there, there is a plan that is decisive, it’s organized, it’s structured, and everyone follows it to make sure that when your donor makes a gift they don’t just fall off into this black hole in the universe. So that your donors actually hear from you, and they get thoughtful communication from you that advances the relationship, that moves the relationship forward, information that helps you better understand who they are, and what they want to give, and what’s important to them, and what their interests are.

Now, I’m going to show you the worst stewardship plan I’ve ever seen in my life. Here it is, don’t do this, do not do this, do not copy this, do not replicate this, this is awful, please don’t do this. This is the most non-donor, non-stewardship plan I’ve ever seen. The poor donors that are giving to this organization, they have to give $5,000 in order to get a personal note from the grants manager. They have to give $10 grand to get a note from the VP. They have to give $20,000 to get an invitation to an event.

This is not going to incentivize any kind of ongoing relationships, there’s no pursuit of learning about these donors. It’s really written from the perspective of I think, whoever wrote this may have had a background in like corporate sponsorships and things that were important or that they perceived that were valued were recognition, logos, you know, name recognition, things like this. But, this isn’t what motivates donors. Of course, you’re going to have donors who want their name on the wall, capital campaign donors, you know, some corporate donors.

Of course it’s your job to figure out what’s important to your donors, but in general, with annual fund and with major gift donors, I don’t give a gift so there can be a big check recognition ceremony, or that my name is going to be in the annual report. It’s really not important to me. I give because I want to make a difference. And the more that you let me know that my gift made a difference, the better I’m going to feel, and the more likely that I’m going to give another gift. So, please don’t do this. I mean, they don’t get a phone call from the president until they get $50,000.

Your donors aren’t giving to be listed in the newsletter. They may not even read the newsletter. Of course, I want you to spell their names right and everything else. But they’re not giving to be listed in the annual report. Of course, you’re going to have some sponsors who want kind of levels of recognition like this, but this isn’t what inspires everyone else.

And in fact, by rolling out the red carpet and giving lower-level donors, more recognition, especially for a first-time gift, with a welcome call or some kind of acknowledgment that just calls them out as, “We’re so overjoyed to have such a generous first-time gift from you,” that’s giving your donors a gift of feeling known by you, and that’s a really great one.

Now, it is, this is, I love Penelope Burk, I love her research, she does her a really great robust donor survey every year. And fundraisers rely entirely too heavily on gift value as a determinant of future potential. The truth is we are totally holding back with the love and attention that we could give our donors because we’re waiting for them to give a bigger gift amount. And the funny thing about that, or not so funny, is that donors are doing the same thing. They’re waiting to see what do you do with the gift that I give, how will I know that it made a difference, before they give another gift. We know from research that donors are holding back with their first gift and it’s really up to us to roll out the red carpet.

So, this is an example of a stewardship plan and one thing I want to call out about the stewardship plan is that this is structured by the longitude of the donor on your file. It’s not structured by gift amount at all. A lot of these steps are determined by if they’re are new donor, or if they’re a repeat donor, we know that once we can get our donors giving three gifts or more, their longevity and their retention goes way, way up.

So, there’s a lots of lots of these steps in here and if you know me already, you know, I’m kind of an overachiever. And so, these are pretty ambitious. If you do half these things, you’re going to be doing better than the average bear. So, I encourage you to go out and do as many of these as you can. You can gain scale and efficiency by doing a lot of these things digitally, by being prepared, volunteers help with a lot of this. We have students prepare all of our thank you cards and we just have a data signature and they were like ready to go.

A lot of these are digital surveys, to get to know them, to get to know more about them. But think about it in terms of really welcoming a new donor, and letting them feel like a hero early on, for what their gift did. “You’ve only been giving to us for one month and already you blank.” Or, “You only gave your first gift three months ago, and already you blank.” That would really make me feel like a total hero.

And the lowest hanging fruit in fundraising, I really believe, is the “donor-versary,” that’s celebrating the anniversary of your donor’s first gift to you. You can’t go wrong by celebrating this, and practically no one does it. You can make it easy, it doesn’t have to be like some, you know, handwritten. It could be, it could be an email, but it’s the gift of letting your donors know, “Wow, five years ago, you joined our family and since then, you’ve blank.” But even know that you know, and it’s making them feel like a hero. So, that is some low-hanging fruit.

I’m really passionate about stewardship and so is Steven. I didn’t plug this earlier but I have to mention we are really proud to be sponsoring some new research that’s going to be coming out on stewardship of research projects on gift acknowledgment that will be released in 2018. So, stay tuned, we’re really looking forward to sharing more of that with you. Our passion for stewardship knows no bounds.

So, I’m going to wrap things up and please type in your questions because I’ve reserved time at the end here for questions. So, I’m going to wrap this up with the biggest mistake that most fundraisers don’t even know that they’re making. And I kind of alluded to it earlier, but when you walk in and you’re totally nervous, and I get it, I’ve been there. I mean, we’re all terrified. But when you walk in to ask for a gift and you talk too much about how great the organization is and all the accomplishments the organization has had, and it’s like this report card of how awesome you are, and how great you’re doing, the donor’s sitting there wondering, “Why are you here? Why do you need me? Why do you need my help? It sounds like you’re doing great already.”

They’re more interested in the impact that they can have with you than in the good that you’ve already done. So, don’t forget, like, without a problem you’re to solve, your donors don’t have anything to do. So, I want you to manage your enthusiasm, and I want you to spend your time, that precious time that you have with your donors, getting to know them and getting to know what matters to them, and their story, and why they’re connected with you, and how they want to leave a legacy, and how they want to be remembered, and why philanthropy is important to them.

These are all opportunities for you, so, I want to encourage you, resist your urge to talk about how great the organization is, and resolve to learn more about your donors, and how they’re connected to you, and how they can make a difference. You want to go in there painting that picture of how they can make a difference.

We’ve had so many awesome questions and I am super excited to dig in and answer them. So, I’m going to do that right now. And I encourage you, I’ve reserved lots of time here for questions and these are meaty questions that you guys have asked. This is my website in case you missed it at the beginning. If you want to learn more, I have a lot of the guides are up here that I mentioned. There’s a whole section called “Guides,” and all of these guides, the stewardship plan, get to visit, nail the ask, they’re all up there.

I’m going to read some of these questions, and answer these questions. A few of you asked about the course and you can sign up there. So, this is a great question from Raleigh. “What are best practices for engaging with my board’s fundraising committee?” That’s a great question. I’m not sure if Raleigh’s question is, “What should I have my board fundraising committee do?” or, “How should I work with them?” I’m assuming, it is, what are best practices and what they should do. But you can type it in if I’m not interpreting that right.

I’m a big fan. I believe that all board members have a role to play in fundraising. And I really, okay, yes, “What are best practices for them to do?” So, here’s what I love to do, Raleigh. I love and you can, this is . . . there’s goodies on my website. So, here’s that. On my website there’s a Makeover My Board, an e-book, and it has a sample board contract in there.

So, I love giving board members an a la carte menu of all the ways that they can support fundraising. Board members are put off when you circulate a list of prospects and ask them to put their initials next to people they know. They don’t like that, that’s like intrusive, and they don’t enjoy that at all.

You need to list . . . you have some board members that are introverts, you’re going to have some board members that are extroverts, and you need to think about all the different ways that board members can support fundraising. Whether it’s hosting an event, whether it’s making thank you calls, I mean, whether it’s contributing wine for the wine toss, all the different ways that your board members can support fundraising, and give them the opportunity to find out for what most appeals to them. So, I’m a big fan of giving board members a really, really big, diverse list of all the different ways that they can support fundraising.

And then, once you get them engaged in it, Raleigh, it’s really your job to be their cheerleader and be their coach. You know, just like you would with a major donor. Like with a major donor, you’re getting to know them, you’re getting to know what their interests are, you’re matching them with the opportunities to be significant with the organization. It’s really the same thing with your board member. You want to be praising them, you want to be bragging about them, you want to be making them look good to their boss. I mean, we have an obligation.

Having a board is a lot of heavy lifting. Great board members are developed, they don’t come out of the cereal box like that. And it takes educating your board, and it takes empowering your board, and it takes nurturing your board. So there’s giving them the opportunities to be involved, and there’s being their cheerleader, and bragging on them when they do it. I hope that is helpful.

There are so many great questions and I’m going to grab a few. So, Emily asked a great question. And for every person out there from a small shop, I was in your shoes. I know what this is like. She says, “We’re a relatively small nonprofit, we’ve been around for 15 years.” Kudos. “And we have a large donor database.” Good for you. “But I’m the only person who is responsible for fundraising efforts. What should I focus my time on?”

So, this is, like, a great question. So, what I coach people and what I coach people in my course is, you know, based on how much time you have to dedicate to fundraising, that kind of determines how many donors you have in your portfolio and what you can do. You’ve got to really do the best with the time that you have, and the donors that you can cultivate. I would say, number one, I would focus your time on major gift fundraising, because that’s going to be, for you, the biggest opportunity to move the needle.

So, you really, you have limited time. You need to be focusing on donors who can make the largest gifts to your organization—individuals, maybe there’s some corporations or foundations in there as well. The nice thing about individuals is you can get, like, repeat gifts from them, versus corporations and foundations, a lot of time it’s a one-time gift, and they’re not going to continue it. So, that would be my number one first piece of advice for you.

You only have so much time in the day and for someone like you, it’s really important to focus on the largest, highest yielding fruit donors that can make the biggest impact. Getting them, getting them to give, and as you do that, you can kind of expand your network and bring in more donors, and upgrade more, and more donors from there.

There are so many great questions. This is a good one from Marissa. Marissa asked, “When is it considered too late to thank donors, be it a personal call or email who gave, is six to eight weeks after their gifts far too late?” Okay, it is never too late, it’s never too late. But I don’t want you to make a practice of thanking people six to eight weeks after they made their gift. I want this to be a routine for you.

Steven and I have a colleague in the space that you guys may have heard of. Mark Pittman, he does this Follow-up Friday where he sends you this email and tells you to follow-up with people on Friday. And Follow-up Friday has this nice ring to it. I want you to have a Stewardship Power Hour, I want you to block like one hour on your calendar every week where you pick up the phone and you thank and welcome new donors, and you thank your big rocks, your big donors, and you give them updates, and you tell them great stories.

You are going to reach, like, silly donors, my friends in one hour because you’re going to get voicemail for so many of them. But you can do this, you just have to make the commitment and do it as a practice. It’s never too late, you can always eat crow, and just say, “Oh my god, I’m so embarrassed, you know, I’m sorry that I didn’t get the chance to thank you for this generous gift sooner. I cannot express the magnitude,” or, you know, go on and on from there. I just actually did a webinar recently just on thank yous, and I did thank you makeovers, and lots of great scripts.

I think it’s great to recognize donor-versaries, I think it’s great to acknowledge when it’s a first-time donor in your thank you. I think it’s great to tell stories. When I do thank you makeovers, a lot of times people send me these thank yous that it looks like a robot wrote it. You know, it says like, “Here’s our IRS letter, thanks for your gift. On behalf of the board and staff and all of the, you know, puppies in Calamudha County,” and it’s like, you know, this is the time to rejoice.

Like, write something that really makes your donor, takes them to the action, you know, “The screams and squeals from the kids in class room 401, when they found out, thanks to your generous gift that they were going to get to go tour the nation’s capital, were deafening. My ears are still ringing, I can’t thank you enough for your generosity, we’re so thrilled to have your support.” Like, take them to the action, make them feel like they’re there, make them feel like the heroes that they are. I hope that help.

There’s so many great questions. This is like, just question-palooza here, you guys are awesome. Keep them coming. Oh, I love Dawn has a 24-hour thank you note rule in the mail, with a handwritten note from our executive director, then we make calls within a month. I think that’s awesome. I think it’s really, really great.

You can gain a lot of scale and efficiency by writing great copy, change your copy out every month. If you’ve got, you know, whoever you’re serving, they can write notes. Their parents can write notes, you can have inanimate objects write thank you notes, the basketball in the gym that the donor made possible by their gift to the YMCA, etc., etc.

“So, I have a question. I’m a new board member in a small nonprofit. I want to introduce myself in a thank you letter, from my position, what I learned and how their contribution helped from my viewpoint.” I think that’s great. I think that’s great. You can absolutely, yeah, you can, former intern, you can introduce them in a thank you note. Hopefully there’s a lot of thank you notes that you are writing there. That’s a very personal thank you, but yeah, I’ve never had a donor complain that they were thanked too much. I’ve never had that. If any of you are donors out there and you were thanked too much and you want to complain about it, let me know. I’ve never had anyone complain.

So, Sarah asked, “Is monthly giving program a good avenue to focus on?” Monthly giving is a great thing to focus on. Monthly giving can do a lot to bring very high value donors to your cause. It’s a good thing that you can promote just on your giving form. You can say, make it monthly. Monthly giving is great, those are very high value donors. If you do monthly giving and you’re thanking monthly donors, make sure that you’re not sending them the same exact thank you every time.

Let’s see. Tanya asks, “We do a lot of peer-to-peer fundraising online which is harder to nurture relationships because we don’t already have any connection with that donor. I understand that many organizations that are doing peer-to-peer fundraising are have that challenge. What’s the best way to cultivate that relationship when someone else procures that donation?” This is such a great question, I love this question.

So, I would tell you Tanya. You, more than anyone else, for you, that initial experience of them making the gift needs to really wow that donor. They need to really feel like, “Wow, I really made a difference,” because they’re not giving to the cause, they’re giving to Steven because Steven’s their neighbor, and Steven said, “Hey, will you help me out with, you know, Bike for a Cure?” So, they don’t have a connection to the organization necessarily or to the disease. They have a connection to Steven, so, it’s up to you to make them feel really, really great.

Of course you can motivate great team captains too, but it’s also up to you to really make them feel right off the bat to know that the lives that they touched, to understand what an impact they had and feel fantastic for doing it and for you to learn more about them. So, for you, an awesome acknowledgement right away, a personal acknowledgement, a meaningful acknowledgement, and the pursuit of learning more about that donor and who they are and what they care about, you more than anyone else have to have all of those things really clear on the fund in so that you can be able to convert that donor into becoming a repeat donor and supporting you again. These are such great questions.

So, Marilyn asked a really tough question. “If you’ve not communicated with your alumni for 30 plus years, what’s the best way to connect and engage with them?” Marilyn, what happened? That is a long, long time. I would do storytelling, I would do, “We want to hear from you.” Maybe you have a story of an alumni that’s really beautiful, and that’s really amazing, and that’s really touching. And you want to share that story, and you want to inspire them to tell their story.

Maybe it’s sharing what advice they have for other students. I don’t have an example of this in this presentation. But a great organization that I totally adore that I was just bragging about with Steven before this webinar started, the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, it’s a small organization, they don’t have a big budget, they’re here in Austin, Texas and they did a fantastic engagement campaign where they said, “Our girls are graduating high school today and they’re going to college. What advice do you have for them?”

“Oh, my goodness, do I have a lot of advice for you? Yes, set your alarm so you don’t sleep through your math final. Macaroni and cheese is not its own food group. Call your mom.” There’s a lot of things that I want to say. So, there was alumni, there’s so many stories that they have about what their experiences were, who was their best teacher, what’s their most incredible memory? And you could do a really powerful engagement story. I would say, I hope those are some good strategies that are helpful to you.

So, Christina asked, “How do you feel about gratitude boxes, providing volunteers with donor’s names on a weekly basis just to call and thank them? That’s kind of a small touch. And then you can reach out again.” I love the idea. I don’t know if these are board member volunteers. You know, I think it’s great to have people call and thank donors. Donors want to have a relationship with you.

So, I’m not sure if you have volunteers of calling them because staff don’t have time. But I would, I would say, in order of priorities, having a staff member call bank a donor, having a board member volunteer and make a note. My top choices, you want to develop relationship with your donors, you want to know your donors. So, that would be my hesitation on just having volunteers. Do it only because you want to get to know them, Christina, and develop relationships.

I’m not sure about gratitude boxes. I’m not sure, maybe that, is that like maybe a gift that . . . you can type it in and tell me if that’s a gift that you are going to be like making them. I would say, when it comes to gifts, keep it simple and inexpensive. You know, I got a thank you card from an organization again, I just did a webinar just on thank yous. Maybe we could do that in the future of Steven. And I had a photograph, this is so awesome, this organization that I support sent me a photograph for the project of a kid.

It was to fund like a program connecting low-income communities with improving parks, and specifically pools, and the aquatics department. And they send me this photograph of all these kids jumping into a pool, and on the back of the photograph, in a marker they’d written, “Thanks for always jumping in with us.” And I was like, “Wow, that’s so awesome.” I mean, I kept the photograph. I have it up on my desk. It’s just some kids jumping into a pool. What an inexpensive, thoughtful way to make me feel like special and appreciated. I thought that was really cool. So, this doesn’t have to break the bank or cost a lot of money.

There are so many great questions. You guys are so fantastic. Emily asks, “How far back should we celebrate donor-versaries? We have people who donated five years ago, but not since. Should we still try and reconnect with these people?” So, that’s interesting. I mean, the math on lap starters, I mean, I’m going to tell you, there’s only so much time in a day. I don’t know how many how far back, how much time you have.

Five years is a long time, but you could say, I mean, if you have the time, it wouldn’t hurt to say, “Five years ago you gave us your first gift and thanks to that gift, we blah, blah, blah.” That could certainly help remind them, because here’s the thing about donors, we don’t remember when we made our last gift. And we don’t remember how much it was, either. So, you know, you, because you have a great CRM, know when that donor’s last gift was. And you know what it was. But they don’t and they don’t remember.

And, you know, the donor might not give to you one year and you might be thinking, “Oh, I’m not a big priority to them.” But maybe your email fell through the cracks, or your appeal fell through the cracks in their mail. Or they just got busy, and it wasn’t thoughtful, it wasn’t intentional. So, I would, if you have a time to do something, I would say do something, and that could definitely be something that you do.

Okay, I’m going to try to grab one more here. So many great questions you guys. Oh, my goodness. Poor Tammy says she’s got a board that doesn’t want to think outside the box and do things differently. I understand. I understand. And they don’t have a big donor base. And she’s wondering what advice do I have.

So, you know, I would say, I would reassure you that you are the executive director or development director for the organization. And your board, I feel like you may have more power to do things, and maybe you’re having a hard time getting your board engaged in fundraising. But I would say that, that doesn’t mean that you can’t think outside the box and do things differently. And I would empower you to try to explore the things that you want to do because, you know, it’s great to have board members thank donors.

You know, the most common complaint that I get from fundraisers and executive directors is their boards aren’t more engaged in fundraising. But I believe that there are many, many things, and many things you learn today, and many things and some of the tools that I talked about, and some of the guides that could help you reinvigorate, and be able to do things out of the box, and be able to do things outside the box that are totally within your purview as a staff member, and that you have the freedom and the ability to do as a staff member. I hope that is helpful because I want to empower you to go out, make your donors feel loved, and appreciated, and acknowledged, and important to your organization.

So, I’m going to answer one more question here. I’m only one minute over but this is a great one that Darcy asked. She asked, “On average, how many touch points after the first face-to-face meeting before you make the ask?” It totally depends on the donor. Some donors, you might make an ask in that face-to-face meeting. But on average for major gift donors, it is two to three visits total before the ask. So, you may have to face-to-face visits and then a solicitation with a major gift donor.

On mid-level donors, those are like, donors who are giving maybe a little more than annual fund donors, but not a major gift donor, those are gifts that might be for many organizations, for again, you define what a major gift is and you define what a mid-level gift is, but a mid-level gift that might be a thousand dollars, you might ask for that face-to-face on a first-time visit. So, in general, however, for major gift fundraising, two to three visits and they are ready for an ask. And especially if you do your discovery right, it’s all about rediscovery. Every visit with your donors is an opportunity for you to do great discovery.

I love getting to be with you. I hope I get to see some of you in my course. I hope you enjoyed the goodies today. I’m going to hop over here to Bloomerang’s resources and pass the mic back over to Steven. Thank you so much for having me.

Steven:All right. No, thank you. That was an awesome hour of awesome advice. I told you, always going to be good. I hope you all enjoyed it, I did. I learned a lot of new things. I had never seen that stat from Jerry, it was 85% of asks, if it’s in person, that is nuts. That’s awesome. I’m going use that one for sure, I might steal that one from you Rachel. Sorry.

Rachel:Go for it. Go for it, hey, steal from Jerry.

Steven:Yeah, sure. Jerry is a good guy. Wow, thanks for being here all of you as well. I know you’re probably busy with maybe year-end acknowledgments and all of that good stuff. So, thank you for being here. I do hope you will at least follow Rachel on Twitter or sign up for a newsletter. Consider that course. Definitely going to be a good advice, if it’s anything like it was today, which it will be. So, do take advantage of that.

We’ve got an awesome webinar coming up one week from today. All you grant funded organizations or aspiring grant funded organizations, check it out. We’re going to talk all about it with Micki Vandeloo, awesome grant expert, really sharp lady. It’s going to be a good, good presentation. One week from today, totally free, 1 p.m. Eastern.

We’ve got a lot of other webinars scheduled throughout the whole rest of the year. I just scheduled a really awesome one for March 29th, look for that one. I don’t want to give it away on this one. I want you to go to the website and see, that’s going to be a really good one. Just as good as this one from Rachel. So, look for an email from me later on today with the recording and the slides, all that goodies. And hopefully we’ll see you again next week. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a safe weekend. Stay warm out there. And hopefully we’ll see you next week.

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.