[sounds like 00:20:22] gifts. Yes, I love the face-to-face conversation. So it’s happening in a moment of communication either face to face or in written form. And so when you ask you have to have an offer every time you ask.
You can’t just say, “Hey, we’re this great organization in Los Angeles that helps people and we provide hope.” Or, “We’re this amazing organization in Boston that’s really unique and we’re going to help clean the harbor.” You can’t just have this kind of simple idea of, “Hey, we’re great. Give us money.” That’s how it used to be back in the early days, not anymore. It’s a competitive marketplace with 1.5 registered non-profits in the United States alone. So if we’re going to have clarity, if we’re going to raise money, if we’re going to honor our donor, we need to have an offer.
Here are four elements of an offer. These things must be present every time you’re asking your donor to change the world through their gift. So the first is a human-sized problem that is easy to understand.
You know a million starving kids in Africa is not a human-size problem. One child who needs a meal, that’s something that I can solve. So a human-size problem. The next is a solution that is easy to understand.
Someone’s hungry, I provide a meal. The water is dirty, I’m going to make it clean. Someone needs a home, I’m going to provide a roof over their head. So the solution needs to be easy to understand. And the cost of the solution seems like a great deal.
I’m going to talk about that here in a second using one of our local charities here in Seattle. The last element is there’s a deadline with consequences. So there has to be kind of a stake in the ground, a deadline that if a donor doesn’t respond by that date, something negative will happen or something won’t happen.
So let me just give you an example of a great organization here in Seattle, it’s the Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. Most of our cities have mission organizations, they’re serving our homeless population. Well, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission has really kind of cracked the code when it comes to their fundraising offer.
They use meals and food from about September to December and then they use housing and the cold weather from January until early spring. But their meal offer is this, someone is hungry, that’s a human size problem. One person, one story, one meal.
The solution is easy, we can provide a meal or you can provide a meal, donor. The cost of the solution seems like a good deal. So Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission says for $1.92, you can provide a meal to someone who’s hungry.
And there’s a deadline with consequences. You’ll see it come out in Thanksgiving from the Salvation Army to your local mission. Someone needs a Thanksgiving meal, you can provide it for $1.92 and Thanksgiving is only three days away or five days away. If you don’t make a gift now, donor, then that individual is not going to have their turkey dinner for Thanksgiving.
Now that’s a real simple offer. Most of your organizations do not have simple offers. It takes time to develop your offers but it’s important for you to understand the ingredients. We have worked with very complex organizations, Diabetes Research, CASA, the court appointed volunteers for kids in family court, from arts to you name it. There’s some, obviously, great organizations doing amazing work just like yours.
Somewhere in your organization you have a human-sized problem or a human-sized outcome you want to happen in the community. A solution that’s easy to understand, the cost needs to seem like a good deal, and a deadline with consequences.
Typically at this point in the conversation someone says, “Well, Jim, that sounds like designated giving. If I give a gift for $1.92 to provide a meal, that’s great, but what happens to the operation? What happens to keeping the lights on, paying the salary, buying pencils and paper?” Well, the beauty of it is you can use these offers to really tell a simple opportunity and then also make it undesignated.
I’m getting into the weeds here just for a second, but I just wanted to talk about this and then we’ll move on. You can ask questions later if needed. Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission says, someone is hungry, so for $1.92 you can provide a meal to someone who’s hungry and your money will also go to transportation, counseling, drug rehab, housing.
Technically, your gift is undesignated. You can go to the general operation including buying the meal but you’re just using the meal as the easy to understand problem or kind of the point of entry for the donor to engage in the conversation. If you communicate clearly and you include those other things, that’s a nice a way to make it undesignated.
There’s a whole conversation to be had there. We don’t have time but I just want you to understand that there’s a way to do it ethically and morally and clearly to your donors so that you can raise undesignated gifts.
So that’s the ask. Again I could probably spend two days with you teaching how to ask well. But for the most part you need an offer, you need a deadline, and you want to make it as simple, as clear as possible, for your donors.
Before I get into the thank I want to make it clear that you’re entering into the most fruitful time of the year for fundraising, between September and December. Most importantly, your November and December months.
Some of our clients raise up to 70% of their fundraising revenue in the months of November and December. This is the fundraising season, we’re entering into it. So if you’re going to be asking more and asking boldly this is the time to be doing it.
Okay, so now our donor has made a gift and actually, Steven, I just want this paused for a second prior to transitioning to thanking. Is there any hot question in the queue that we should answer?
Steven: Yeah. We’ve got one from Lydia here that is apropos at this time. Lydia is saying that she’s using a plan to introduce people to her organization, it stewards them for a number of months and then she invites them to an asking event. An event specifically designed to ask.
Do you think that, she’s wondering if you think we should be sending a “Because of you . . . ” report to people when all they have done is attended a tour. They actually haven’t made a donation, but would you still report to people? I guess the question is would you report to people that haven’t actually donated but have engaged with the org?
Jim: Great question, great question. I’m just going to name it, too. I think that’s the Benevon model, it’s a great model. In fact, Terry Axelrod who founded that is from Seattle. So a great model. We have found with that model, there is a whole bunch of hybrid between what they strongly recommend and some of this direct communication that we’re recommending.
We work with a handful or organizations that kind of create this best of both worlds. But yes, so here’s the thing. You can use this ask, thank, report, repeat when the currency is time. So the currency can either be time or money. I can ask someone to go to coffee, introduce him to my organization, not ask them for a penny but get to know them.
I can still thank them for their time. I can report back to them, you know, “because of other friends like you these amazing things have happened.” So I think within the model she’s talking about, there are definitely opportunities to be thanking promptly and emotionally.
There’s times to introduce them, via reporting, to the amazing things that happened because other donors have given a gift. So, yes, most definitely use the system, use the rhythm. So time and money can be the two currencies that we would use to be communicating with our donors.
Steven: Love it. Here’s one more Jim before you get back into it. We’ve had a few people in the chat who work at membership type organizations. Is this still applicable to members instead of donors. What advice would you have for those folks?
Jim: Yeah, I’m going to name it. We have a friend client called Wenatchee River Institute here in Wenatchee, Washington. They do a lot of work out of bounds and up in the mountains and the beautiful parts of Washington, and they are a membership organization.
So there again, think about what happens even in a transaction like renewing a membership. Give them the credit. “Thank you for renewing your membership. Because of you, kids can now go up in the mountains and experience nature. Because of you and your membership, we’re able to purchase a new van that will take people down to the river to go rafting.”
There’s so many benefits that not only return back to the member but also that their dues pay for other things that happened in the community. So most definitely, again, the transaction happened. It’s money. Let’s leverage this. It’s a great way to really appreciate and thank the donor, in this case the member, for making the world a better place.
The big pivot here, Steven, is to really take the eyes off the organization and put the eyes on the donor, the member, whoever it might be, and kind of remove the organization from the equation. It’s so counterintuitive but that’s really what we’re asking you to do.
Steven: All right. We have a few more but I think we can save them for the next break or at the end if that’s cool with you.
Jim: Sure. We’ll keep trucking here. So we’re going to go into thanking.
Steven: All right.
Jim: First of all, great questions. I love already the way that you’re thinking and seeing how this ask, thank, report rhythm can fit into your current model. So, thank, all right. So something happened, she’s given a gift, she wants to provide turkey dinners for folks that won’t get them or she’s going to clean the water in the bay.
So now we want to thank her promptly and emotionally and so this is really, this is free stuff. I mean most people really might not like to ask especially face to face, but darn near everyone can thank. We can write letters, we can pick up the phone, we can have visits.
Let’s just consider the positioning here. What a donor is thinking after they have made a gift. I’m so happy to have helped that person or to change the community or to clean the water, whatever the outcome is.
The non-profit, we’re typically thinking, it’s so great to have another supporter. That donor really loves our organization. They really don’t. They really want to change the world. They really want to help someone. They really want to have an impact on the community. In most cases, again in most, not all, because remember going back to the pyramid, there’s some people that know so much about you and maybe your staff or your board, that they do love you.
In most cases your donors really aren’t thinking that way. They want to help someone, they want to change the world. Think of your donors like Superman or Wonder Woman. They are the superhero of the story. They are the ones via their giving, that’s their superpower. Via their giving, that want to change the world one person at time, one cause at a time.
So it’s important to understand that positioning because we’re going to thank her well and typically this happens in your thank you notes and your receipts. So what we mean by “don’t acknowledge the gift” is most of our receipt letters sound very kind of CFO and bookkeeper kind of stuffy.
“Dear Jim, thank you for your $10.22 donation. It was deposited at the Wells Fargo Bank on 2nd Avenue last Tuesday. Because of you, we’ll be able to keep the lights on and pay the staff.”
It’s like okay, well, that’s not really emotional, that’s not really connecting with me. What if it said, “Dear Jim, because of you, 16 kids went to summer camp last Tuesday. And in fact, Johnny had never been to camp before. You’re amazing.” There’s a whole different shift there in the tone and the language of giving the donor the credit even in your receipts.
Thank you notes, I like the kind of the Hallmark version, handwritten if possible. Different colored envelope, different size, personalized. I would do that definitely for your major donors, but any time, especially a small organization. You can do this for most of your donors. If you have volunteers that can write notes, you can have your board members write notes.
We want to personalize and customize as much as possible to connect with our donors. So let’s do that for our thank you notes and receipts and let’s not acknowledge the gift. Let’s really be prompt and emotional in our language.
Okay, I’m going to rock your boat a little bit here because I’m going to ask you to include a reply card and a reply envelope in your receipts. And not in your thank you notes, not in your personalized, Hallmark style, but in your receipts.
Our goal as fundraisers is to make it as easy as possible for your donors to make their next gift. Remember, she felt great when she made her gift. Now you’ve thanked her promptly and emotionally. She very well could be moved to make another gift immediately, especially if the receipt letter is really well written.
Organizations that do this well raise up to 8% of their fundraising revenue just from receipt packages and the cards and envelopes that are in there. Now most of you are saying, “Well, Jim, you know, I can’t ask again.” I’m not asking you to ask again.
I’m asking you to make it as easy as possible for your donor to make their next gift. “Well, my board doesn’t want me to include response cards.” Remember, it’s not for them.
You might get a phone call from someone saying, “Stop sending me the mail. Stop sending me these cards.” That’s fine, we’ll listen to them. We’ll honor that request. But let’s measure net revenue and donor retention and, what we’re trying to do is raise more money to support the people or support the cause that we’re working towards.
So include a response card and response envelope in your receipt packages, you’ll raise more money.
Okay, answer her three questions. Again, she’s asking these questions all the time. Did you receive my gift? Did you appreciate me and my gift? Are you going to do what you said you were going to do with my gift? So here’s a real clear definition of what ask, thank, report, repeat.
Ask, is asking the donor to do something. Thanking them is telling them something is going to happen. And then reporting is showing them that it did happen.
So thanking, in this case using Union Gospel Mission, would be, “Thank you for your gift. Because your gift was received, ten meals will be provided on Thanksgiving day.” Hopefully you can see the difference. We’re going to tell them something is going to happen because we still want the chance to report back to them.
We’re also confirming, if I asked you for $1.92 for a meal I’m telling you a meal is now going to be provided because you gave a gift. We’re connecting the dots. Believe it or not, I’ve seen organizations, I’ll use international relief organizations as an example because it comes to mind.
But they might ask a donor for money to help build a well and then the receipt letter might talk about malaria or education. It’s like, “Whoa.” Total disconnect here. We want to connect the donor with the end outcome. So we’re going to thank her promptly and emotionally. We’re going to answer the questions she’s asking. We’re going to make it about her so that we can report.
We can report back to her. So we can show her how her gift made a difference, not how we’re great, not how awesome we are, not the bio of our board members or the color of the van we purchased. It’s not about us.
Our great reports are about her and our beneficiaries or the outcomes that were achieved because she gave a gift.
So report, this happens typically in newsletters. I encourage you right now, if you have your current newsletter or if you have a newsletter, take it out and take a red pen and circle how many times you talk about yourself. “Us,” “we,” “our.” And then like in a blue or green pen, circle how many times you talk about the donor, “you.” “You” made a difference. My guess is you got a lot of red in your newsletters. You’re talking about yourself. You’re reporting back to them about what you’re doing. And great donor-centered newsletters talk about what the donor’s gift accomplished, what they did.
The newsletters we create and write design are all about the donor. It’s all about their positioning in the relationship. Tell her what she did, not what your organization did, and give her the credit.
Also in newsletters we want to make sure that we’re telling the before and after. I’m going to kind of go back to this slide here for a second. We’re telling the before and after.
So if we’re going to tell her what she did we’ve got to tell the story. “Well, before you came along superhero donor, this person was hungry. But because of you . . . ” now show a picture of the person having a meal sitting down at the Thanksgiving dinner. “. . . Because of you this person now has a meal.”
So you kind of get the idea, it’s the before and after. It’s kind of cheesy but you can say it’s kind of like the diet pill commercials. What do they do? They show the before, kind of frumpy, you know, 40-year old guy that looks like he hasn’t got the couch for ten weeks. And then afterwards, my goodness, he has a spray tan, he has six-pack abs all because he took this amazing, amazing diet pill.
Great communication reports back the before and after and we want to do the same giving the donor the credit all along the story. So this is really true for most of us. Most non-profit say they want to have real relationships with their donors but they don’t want to talk to their donors more than a couple of times a year. And when they do they talk only about themselves.
What kind of relationship is that? Imagine if I met you for the first time at a dinner party and I trapped you in the corner. And you couldn’t get out and I talked to you for an hour about me. “Hi. My name is Jim. I’ve been married for 23 years. I got four kids, yada, yada, yada.” I go on and on and on and on, it’s all about me, me, me, me, me. I don’t give you a chance to say a word or interact in the conversation and I turn around and leave.
You would say, “Man, that guy is full of himself, he has such an ego. He’s rude.” And that’s pretty much what we’re doing in most cases, with our donors, we’re not engaging them in the conversation, we’re not talking about them, we’re not asking questions about them. We’re not answering the questions they’re asking.
So let’s really change that. Let’s talk to our donors more. Let me help you understand why we do this. Let’s just use mail or email as an example. If you send out a 1,000 letters to your donor file, maybe 200, if your lucky maybe 300 actually kind of get it out the mail box and they take it in their kitchen or living room. Maybe a small percentage of that gets opened. And out of a 1,000 you might get 30 gifts maybe.
Well, even using that silly math, I mean 700 or 800 if your donors didn’t even open your letter. You literally could mail another letter the next day and capture the attention of more donors.
Same with email. If you send an email out today asking for support, you might get an open rate of 30%, that is awesome. 30%, I’d take that all day long. That means 70% of your donors are not or did not open your email.
You literally could send another email the next day and probably capture more donors. So this idea of donors are not paying attention. They’re scanning, they’re not reading.
You don’t need to spend a lot of time on your communications and writing them because they’re not reading them, they’re scanning them. Shorter, simpler, clearer the better.
Bottom line is we got to be talking to them more often, on the phone, in written communication, at special events, face to face when possible. More communication the better.
One thing to note is that most donors are giving anywhere between to seven to ten different organizations. Their attention is split between multiple organizations and the organizations that communicate more, clearly and often, are those that build deeper relationships and raise more money.
Let’s get into reporting here with your newsletters. Newsletters can be anything from a one page, two sided note from your executive director. It can be a four page full-color spread. It can be 8 pages, it can be 16 pages.
We really tend to create, when we’re creating kind of best practice newsletters, it’s four pages. It’s what we call a tabloid fold. It’s kind of a long piece of paper folded in half. It gives you a title page, it gives you the inside for a cover note and then a couple of articles. And so let’s talk about how to best report.
This is somewhat counterintuitive. I’m going to ruffle your feathers here a little bit. Use stories not statistics. A million starving kids in Africa doesn’t really matter in the mind of the donor.
One story, one child, hungry right now, that’s going to make the difference. Four thousand homeless moms and kids here in King, Snohomish County in Seattle, Washington. I can’t get my mind around that, that’s not a human size problem I can understand.
One story of one mom sleeping in the car with her kids fleeing from domestic violence. Whatever it is, one story will do a lot better than multiple statistics. Now you can use statistics at the end of your story. If we’re talking about one mom who’s homeless, you could say, “There are 4,000 other stories like hers in Seattle” or, “There are a million other stories like his in Africa.” But we do not want to lead with statistics in most cases.
Now again, for your grants and for some of your major donors maybe but most cases we want to use stories of one person. Think of all of your communications, you’re asking, you’re thanking, and reporting like one to one communication. We don’t want to communicate from the executive director’s desk to a group of donors or to a group of people.
We want this to be one to one communication just like you’re communicating with your best friend. Use stories, not statistics. Use pictures, use captions, use titles, use things that are easily scan-able.
Another thing, actually my business partner, Steven, taught me about ten years ago. Donors fund outcomes not processes. Let’s go back to the meal for the person who’s hungry around Thanksgiving. The donor wants to fund the outcome of providing the meal.
They don’t care necessarily if the ingredients are organic. Is the chef a five star, culinary arts trained chef in the kitchen, with the top state-of-the-art equipment? They don’t care about those things. They care about the meal being provided.
So let’s not talk about how we go about the work or what our programs are actually doing, like the process of our programs being fulfilled. Let’s talk about the outcomes that happened because the donor gave a gift. A child went to camp, a house was built, a meal was provided. Talk a lot about the outcomes.
I’ve already let this cat out of the bag, but I want to tell the before and the after. This is the old there was a problem and you solved it. Now look at how great the world is because you gave a gift.
So there’s always conversation, typically, around newsletters. What the look is, what the style should be. In simple terms, your articles should be about 300 to 500 words maybe, lots of pictures, ideally a picture of one person where you can see their eyes and teeth.
There’s actually a study done with donors where they show the picture of one person, they showed a picture of two people, and they show a group of people. The individuals were giving this virtual money, and they said if you’re going to donate, where would you donate your dollar? The picture of one person raised 72% more money than the others. We are humans. We want to connect one to one with people.
We want to really show the story in both visually and in our copy, in our creative around their issue, and how the donor solved that problem. You’ll see here that the donor truly is at the center. The donor is the whole point of the conversation. This works both in donor retention, it also works in donor acquisition.
Just as our friend talked about, a few minutes ago, in her question. She hasn’t quite ask yet but she’s inviting them to events. She’s inviting them to hear more about the mission of the organization.
The donor is at the center, not you, not your board, not your program staff, not your organization. In fact, Steven Screen here, my business partner, won an award about ten years ago. It was the best direct mail letter in the country award, the best appeal letter award from Fundraising Success Magazine.
The letter he wrote didn’t talk about the organization at all. In fact, the only way you knew the organization that was coming from was mainly in the letterhead. It talked about how the donor can help someone in need. It was really powerful.
The whole point here is, the donor is at the center so let’s make her the whole point of all of our communications. My hope is now that you’re getting it. It’s not about you, it’s not about your organization, it’s about the work that you’re doing, that you’re facilitating. That really, the donor is the one making the world a better place.
Think of it this way. Typically we say, “Hey, donor. Will you give us a dollar so that we, the organization, can go help someone in need or so that we can go change the community.”
When really, what we should be saying is, “Hey donor. There’s someone in need right here. You can save their life. You can clean the water. You can provide the meal.”
Well, you’re saying, “Jim, well they don’t really cook the meal. They don’t really clean the water.” I get it. That’s the work you do. But from a fundraising perspective we need to connect them directly with the end outcomes and give them the credit along the way.
If they didn’t exist, you wouldn’t have the funding and you wouldn’t be able to fulfill your mission. Now that she knows what’s going on and she’s made a difference, she feels great. She trusts your organization and she’s more likely to give again.
The beauty of it is here is you can repeat. You can repeat the ask, thank, report rhythm and really help her understand what her gift will do. So we’re going to repeat it and improve it each time.
For your mass donors, those folks giving you $50, $200 one time, you’re going to take them to the rhythm multiple times a year. We had a client last April who we measured the number of donors that gave in April and then we closed the loop with them and we sent another appeal in May. And the people that gave the most money in May were those that also gave a gift in April.
It’s called recency and frequency. You are more likely to raise money from people that gave you a gift a few weeks ago, than you are from people who gave you a gift a few months ago. Let’s repeat the rhythm time and time again and I’ll assume as we’re thanking, reporting promptly and emotionally, and we’re giving them the credit.
For your mid donors and your major donors, I would definitely apply a different rhythm. I would like to ask my major donor one time a year maybe for the entire year for the campaign. Then take the other 11 months to thank and report, hang out, get to know, take tours, play golf, whatever it might be. There’s a different rhythm based on the segmentation. That’s why I said here treat majors and mass donors differently.
Then really evaluate performance. If you have Excel on your computer, start evaluating your performance for everything you do, special events, direct mail, how many people attended, how many letters did you send out, how many major donor calls did you have. Start to identify the things that are working and then repeat them in your annual plan.
So here’s your homework after understanding the basics of ask, thank, report, repeat. At first, look at your annual plan and then ask yourself, Are you asking enough? For most small to medium size organizations, let’s say your operating revenue is less than two million. It can be even as small as a hundred thousand. Let’s say you’re less than two million, you should be asking at least four times a year via the mail and email.
You should at least have one type of event where donors can gather and give gifts. Hopefully you’re writing a few grants and hopefully you’re out face to face maybe talking with your top 20 to a 100 donors face to face. That would be a real quick fire hose version of what your fundraising plan should look like in the calendar year.
If you’re at that level and feel like you could do more, do more. Don’t measure complaints, measure net revenue and retention. Ask yourself, are your receipt letters and thank yous fantastic? If they’re not emotional, if they’re not one to one connection, make them that way.
By the way, I teach a whole process on how to engage your board in fundraising, and most of it has to do with turning your board into the thanking and reporting team.
Challenge your board members to write notes, to make phone calls. Most board members do not want to raise money but most board members who have a heart for your cause are happy to write thank you notes, make phone calls, and thank and report back to your donors. It’s a great use of your board’s time.
Are you reporting well and often enough? And do your donors feel like superheroes? As I said before, are you measuring everything? How do you know if last year’s appeal letter worked? How do you know if last year’s special event worked?
You know what Salvation Army does in November? They take out last year’s appeal letter for Thanksgiving. They dust it off, they look at the data. It worked like gang busters, they change the date. They maybe change a name or two or a story or two.
They only do it about 5% change of the copy and they send it out again. No donor is holding last year’s appeal letter next to this year’s appeal letter. You can do the same with your videos at your special events. It’s up there for three minutes, it’s awesome. People are emotionally moved. Use it again next year at your special event. If it’s great, we’re going to repeat it and then measure everything.
The donor is really at the heart of this conversation, and obviously, hopefully these four simple words of ask, thank, report, and repeat makes sense to you. Odds are you’re already doing an amazing job. We’re doing a great job.
Many of you work in small shops. I know Bloomerang does a great job serving those clients that have, you know, operating revenue of a couple of million dollars or less. They are positioned to help you track all of these things, the asking, thanking, reporting. I’m sure in their CRM components and the data components. You can track the reports of retention rates.
There’s so much good that can happen through a system like Bloomerang. But my hope is that you can take these four words and look at what you’re doing currently, and put them in these categories when you’re asking, when you’re thanking and reporting, and find ways to improve them.
So Steven, I want to hand it back to you. I’m sure there’s probably a handful of questions in the queue so let’s maybe take some questions and finish on the Q&A.
Steven: Yeah. We have lots of questions, probably more than we’ll have time to get to but Jim, would you be willing to take questions maybe via email or Twitter or afterwards?
Jim: Yeah, I love the follow up email, email@example.com. Happy to answer them.
Steven: Cool, we’ll share that email address with you all, just in case we don’t get to your questions, but we got a lot here. I can’t actually remember having this many on previous webinars but we’ll get through some good ones here.
Jim, I have a couple of questions about recurring and monthly gifts. People who have maybe signed up to automatically maybe have their accounts withdrawn or a credit card charged. What do you do for those people? It seems like they get a lot of the, kind of automated messages anyway since they are making multiple transactions a year. What advice would you have for monthly givers specifically?
Jim: Yes, awesome. So this is a segment of your donor file. Monthly donors should be treated differently than your one time or maybe multiple time a year donor. We would want to make sure that your reports are very clear and compelling.
So if I’m a giver I’m giving you $30 a month every month for the next 12 months. I would want you to send me a newsletter at least three to four times a year. That gives me the credit for making the world a better place.
I’d want to make sure that the automated thank yous or receipts, if you send them out are still emotional, and maybe even customizable if possible. Then every, probably once if not twice a year I want to get out to them a special touch, a special thank you note.
Maybe for Valentine’s Day you’ll write a nice little ‘we love you’ or our beneficiary love you note. Something that’s really customizable and personalized for those monthlies is a great way to go about it.
Now if you have thousands of them in the system, just make sure they’re getting a great newsletter report about every quarter.
Steven: Love it. Boy, so many good ones in here. A couple of people have mentioned that they are just a one person shop or a one person development department so they’re kind of going it alone. What advice would you have for those people with limited time, limited resources, especially people who are just a one person shop?
Jim: Yeah. You one person shop people are so common. In fact, that same majority of the non-profits out there are you. So first of all, don’t feel alone. Second of all, I know that you’re going from marketing to executive director to janitor. You’re doing everything in the organization, so I just applaud your work first of all.
What I would do is I would spend a majority of my time on major donors. You’re going to raise most of your money through your major donors. I would identify who your top 10, top 20 donors are and making sure that you’re retaining those relationships and lifting those relationships by providing them very clear fundraising offers. That would be the first thing that I’d do.
The second thing that I would do is make sure that my thanking and reporting is really awesome, really fabulous. Because again, you want to keep the current donors you have. Donor retention is the number one goal, not donor acquisition.
So major donor interaction, communication, and then make sure that your thank yous and your reports are rock solid. If you have time then I would start to segment my communications, maybe just create two segments.
My mass or my lower-end donor and my major donor. Start the segment as much as your time can allow, and start to communicate with those folks in unique ways.
Steven: Very good. Here’s one from Nancy. Nancy has a question about handwritten notes. The author and the signatory of those notes, is it okay if it’s a volunteer or maybe kind of a lower level staff person, I use that term lovingly of course, versus a CEO or a board president. Does it always have to be the top of your leadership?
Jim: Great question. So here’s, ideally the communication is going out, so your mass communications, your appeal letters, your newsletters, those should be coming from your highest ranking official, so your CEO or your executive director. Now the actual personalized thank you notes, or those types of communications can come from your board, can come from a beneficiary.
Let’s say you are Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission and you’re someone who actually received the mail or you live in the housing complex here. That’s powerful, to send a note directly from a beneficiary to the donor and or a volunteer.
It could say, you know, “Hi, I’m Jim. I volunteer here at ABC Organization and because of you, you know, I witnessed last week someone receiving a meal for the first time.” So it’s totally appropriate in the thanking portion of it, especially for your lower side of your donor file, your mass and your mids to have it not be the highest ranking official.
Now as you get to your majors you want to make sure that you’re definitely connecting the right person with that donor.
Steven: Speaking of EDs and boards, my buddy Dennis [sounds like 00:53:12] here, has a good question. How do you get those folks out of the way when maybe they are sort of resisting the advice that you’ve given, specifically being donor-centric and making the donor the hero and all those good things?
How do you get them to buy into that concept, convince them rather than just kind of doing it without their blessing or maybe going around behind their back?
Jim: Well, first of all, I would say it’s very common. So don’t feel like you’re alone. Most boards don’t understand great fundraising and I love them to death. Most executive directors, especially founding executive directors are really anti-fundraising because it doesn’t talk about all the things they know.
First and foremost, I would share with them the organizational IQ slide and say this guy, Jim Shapiro from Seattle said, “We’re all up here and we’re uniquely unqualified.” The next honestly is the test. So do some A/B testing in your appeals, in your emails. Do it the way they want, do it the way you want. When and where possible test and if it’s done great, your test is going to win out over their test.
Another way is to just say, hey, if they would give you the flexibility and freedom say, “Hey, give me six months and we’re going to measure net revenue and retention. And if net revenue and retention goes up then can we make an executive decision to continue to do the fundraising that we’re doing?” So there’s multiple ways you have to prove yourself and testing is typically the way.
Steven: Very good. Well, we’ve got about, probably, a couple more minute for questions here but I don’t want to keep people too much longer beyond the lunch hour, especially if you have not eaten lunch and I know there’s a lot that we didn’t get to.
In fact I’ve still got about 30 questions that we did not get to. So I’m going to send out Jim’s email address here in the chat. So please feel free to email him if we didn’t get to your question. Jim, that’s just firstname.lastname@example.org? Is that correct?
Jim: That’s it, yeah, that’s my direct line.
Steven: Okay, cool and I’ll send that to everyone. Great. Here’s one from Marty. Marty is wondering if you can offer suggestions on an approach when donors know the organization has received major grants, from maybe federal sources or other sources, and they’re kind of resisting why they’re being asked.
So in other words, they’re kind of publicly aware that the organization has been funded and maybe funded well through a big grant or something like that. How do you convince those individual donors that there still is a need beyond that windfall that they had just gotten?
Jim: Yeah, this is common. You know we have this guy by name of Bill Gates that lives here in town with Microsoft and the Gates Foundation [sounds like 00:55:43]. There’s multiple times where an organization will receive funding from them and they want to shout from the mountaintop. They put it in newsletters, they tell everyone about it. Well, they’re sending a very strong message that well, we don’t need you anymore. The problem has been solved.
So it’s okay to acknowledge that you received some state or federal funding. It’s okay to say, hey, part of the fundraising plan, let’s say we have a million dollar fundraising plan and you received a $100,000 grant from the local city mayor. It’s okay to acknowledge the gift but you still have to have a bigger for the donor to solve.
Somehow in your communications, be it one on one or in written form, if you feel like you need to acknowledge you received some federal state funding, great. But then you also have to say there’s a larger need, there’s a larger campaign, there’s a larger issue to be addressed and this only get us so far.
So a problem is solved, it has to be the equation. If the funding truly solves your problem then you are not going to raise more money.
Steven: Yeah. Similar along those veins, from Steven here. Steven is wondering what’s the best way to ask for dollars that cover overhead? I know that’s sort of a sticky issue with a lot of donors, but we got to keep the lights on after all.
Jim: You do.
Steven: Is that’s something that you would recommend avoiding entirely? Is there a way to maybe ask for those administrative costs in a way that’d be compelling [sounds like 00:57:00] to a donor?
Jim: Yeah. This is a great question because it really goes back to having an offer. Odds are you’re not going to raise money to cover someone’s salary or to keep the lights on, but you can connect the offer. Donor could give $10,000 today. We’re going to be able to provide meals to people that are hungry and keep the lights on, pay a rent. But usually the operational ask or offer involves flat.
You need to really put it into outcome based language because the work that you’re doing in the office, the salary that you’re paying your staff, the lights being on allows you to fulfill cleaning the water in the bay, providing a meal, providing housing.
For some of you that’s going to be a really big jump and a really big leap but that’s a truthful leap, that’s a very truthful statement. That if the operation is not covered then the mission is not fulfilled.
A long way of saying, make an outcome based, develop an offer that’s easy to understand and connect those expenses to the offer. There is a time of the year where the operational expense request works. That’s at the end of your fiscal year. If you’re at the end of your fiscal year and you’re short, what you need to finish your fiscal year. We had a good example last June where one of our clients, their $100,000 grant funding did not come in.
By no fault of their own it didn’t come in so they had a great ask to go back out for the community saying, “Hey, by no fault of our own, this $100,000 is not coming in. Please help us finish the year strong.” They raised a $110,000 so there are ways. In most cases you need a better, clear offer.
Steven: Well, it’s about 2:00. I hate to leave it there because there’s so many good questions but I do hope you all will reach out to Jim if you did not get your question answered.
But this was awesome. I can’t remember having this much amount of discussion. So, Jim, I think you really got their juices flowing with all these great advice so thanks so much for spending an hour or so with us today. It was awesome.
Jim: Yeah, I love it. It just makes the world a better place helping these folks kind of, you know, bring things to a level that’s going to be productive.
If folks want to learn more or read more, you can go to our blog at askthinkreportrepeat.com. You can also follow me on Twitter, @jimshapiro.
So, Steven, thank you so much, and Bloomerang, for offering such a great service. I appreciate you guys.
Steven: Well, we appreciate you and I definitely appreciate all of you, over 300 of you took an hour out of your busy schedules to hang out with us. So thanks so much. Look for an email from me later on today. I’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides. You’ll get those this afternoon so have no fear.
We’ve got lots of great resources on our website as well. Just look at our resources page. If you go to bloomerang.co you’ll see the resources button there. Lots of good stuff you can take advantage of.
We’re going to keep on rolling with our weekly webinars. We’ve got a great one a week from today. It is not too early to start thinking about Giving Tuesday. It’s only a few short months away so we thought we get a jump on that and give you some ideas and maybe how you can start thinking about planning your campaign. Or maybe give you some thoughts to jump into that for the first time.
Dana Ostomel is our guest. It’s going to be a great presentation. Check that out one week from today if you’re interested in giving Tuesday. If you’re not there’s lots of other good webinars listed on our page. We’ve got some great ones scheduled out through the end of the year. We would love to see you again some Thursday.
So Jim, final thanks to you. I really appreciate you being here and thanks to all of you for tuning in today. We’ll sign it off there so have a great rest of your afternoon and a great weekend. Hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon.