The fundraising landscape is changing rapidly and the way funders want to work with nonprofits is too. Mallory Erickson will help you start your 2022 off fundraising in the right way.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Mallory, I got 1 p.m. Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started officially?

Mallory: Do it.

Steven: All right. Well, welcome, everybody. Good afternoon, good morning if you’re on the west coast or somewhere in between. Thanks so much for being here. It is our first webinar of 2022. Hard to believe, but we are really going to kick things off on a high note here because we’re going to talk about how to raise 25% more from the right funders. That’s the keyword there, this year and beyond. So excited that you’re all here. Awesome to see a full room. I hope everyone had a nice year-end giving season. I hope you got some rest maybe in the last week or so. Hopefully, that happened. And yeah, just really excited to kick things off in our webinar series for 2022. I’m Steven, I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always. 

And just a couple of housekeeping items, just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation and we’ll be sending out that recording as well as the slides later on today. So, if you have to leave early or maybe you get interrupted, or you just want to review the content, maybe share it with a colleague, don’t worry, you will be able to do that. Just look for an email from me a little later on today with all those goodies. 

But most importantly, we love for these sessions to be interactive, so feel free to use that chat box and the question box throughout the next hour or so. We’re going to save some time at the end for Q&A. So we would love to hear from you. Introduce yourself now if you have not already because we always like to know who we’re talking to. But don’t be shy, don’t sit on those hands. You can even send us a tweet. We’ll keep an eye on that. But the bottom line is we would love, love to hear from you. 

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, welcome. This is a really good one for you to join in on for the first time. But if you haven’t ever heard of Bloomerang besides our webinar series, we are a provider of donor management software. That’s what Bloomerang is, that’s what we do. And if you’re interested in that, maybe you’re shopping for a new system this year, check us out. Visit our website. There’s all kinds of goodies on there you can check out, watch videos and really get a good sense of what we’re all about. But don’t do that right now because my buddy Mallory Erickson is joining us. Mallory, how’s it going? You’re doing okay?

Mallory: Oh, great. And I just realized it’s my first webinar of 2022 also. So I’m really thrilled that I get to spend it with all of you. Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Steven: This was a choice by me. I wanted to start things strong. I thought Mallory can do it because Mallory is awesome. If you all don’t know her, check her out over at the Power Partners Formula. She’s got a really cool training program. I think she’s going to tell you about it later on. And I’ve sat in on her trainings. In fact, I have heard this presentation before and I thought after finishing, we got to have her on to talk to the Bloomerang crew because it’s a really cool presentation. She’s done tons of training. She’s trained a ton of people. She’s a former fundraiser herself. She’s served as an interim ED. She’s been in your shoes and definitely knows what she’s talking about. And she’s got a really cool podcast, which I think we’re going to link to afterward so you can listen to all that good stuff, too. So dang. I’m excited and I want people to hear from you, Mallory. So I’m going to stop sharing. I’m going to turn off my screen share here, and we’ll let you bring up those beautiful slides.

Mallory: Amazing. Okay. Yes. Thank you so much for having me, and thank you for that super warm introduction. I am really happy to be here with you guys today. And yes, I love that you pointed out that it’s about raising 25% more from the right funders because that really is a huge piece of what we’re going to be focused on today. Who are the right funders? How do you find them? How do you outreach them? How do you get them to respond to your emails? All of those pieces. So just really thrilled to be here with you all. 

And so, as you saw, here is what we’re covering today. We’re going to talk a little bit about some of the primary barriers that hold organizations back from fundraising effectively. We’re going to talk about the difference between securing a one-time gift versus reliable, recurring, major funders. So we all know the rise of monthly giving, there’s so much more focus on recurring sustainable fundraising right now, which is awesome. We’re going to be talking about it particularly from a major funder standpoint. So both major donors, but big corporate partners, foundations, all of those things. 

We’re going to be talking about how to leverage your authenticity as you’re building these relationships, and we’re going to talk about one of the things that gets in the way of so many fundraisers and being able to fundraise effectively, which is perfectionism, and I call myself a recovering perfectionist. So if you identify with this, no problem, but we’re going to talk about it a little bit today, and what it looks like to build true win-win partnerships.

But we’re going to start with something just a little fun. Actually, the whole thing is going to be fun. Because it’s 2022, things are crazy. We need to have a little bit of fun. I like to laugh, so I’m going to move quickly through the content. I want to give you as much as possible as I can today, but like Steven said, you’ll have the recording if you want to go back and visit. But let’s just start with something fun. So who here wishes that they could have been on the original Oprah Show? Anyone? They’re always looked so, so fun. She’s obviously just amazing, and I’m all about energy. And Oprah is just the epitome of good energy. Kind of obsessed with her. 

So let’s say that Oprah with her big personality said, “Honey, I want to give you $50,000 dropped into your nonprofit’s account, but you have to have a little friendly competition with someone else in order to get it. And the first fundraiser to get 10 donors to increase their annual gift wins.” So you have two choices around how to approach this contest, right? You can choose Sandy. One of them is Sandy. I call her Scattered Sandy. Sandy gets straight to work. She hustles her face off, she scavenges around her CRM system, she runs report after report on her donor data and prospect list, she sends out an email to her board members to see who they’re connected to, she starts talking to her staff members about running a campaign. She’s constantly moving from thing to thing, and it’s leaving her a little bit scattered. In fact, maybe even a little bit of a hot mess of a situation. She is stressed to the max.

The other option . . . oh, here are the bullets. The other option is Maggie. So Maggie approaches this challenge so differently. Maggie doesn’t dive right into the nitty-gritty. She takes a step back and she creates an engagement strategy that she knows will engage and inspire a huge group of donors. She creates a five-minute personal selfie video talking about her idea and the challenge and sends it out without second thought to 20 donors who she knows are going to be excited. Her confidence and engagement methods and authentic relationship buildings get 10 donors on the phone fast, and they all participate in the challenge. This is how Maggie approaches fundraising. 

And here’s the thing, we get this choice every single day. When we wake up, we decide, “Am I going to be Sandy or am I going to be Maggie? Am I going to be that scattered fundraising spray fire system or am I going to be a funder magnet?” Believe it or not, it is less scary to do the scattered approach, to be Sandy spending more time, which we think will raise more money and become more reliable. Choosing the Maggie route seems uncomfortable and unfamiliar at first, but that is the route to success. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. 

So, as Steven gave me such a nice introduction, my name is Mallory Erickson and I am here to help all the Sandy fundraisers of the world become Maggies so that they can hop off that hamster wheel that they call fundraising, that we all call fundraising, and actually help build organizations that are going to change the world.

Like so many of you, and you can raise your hand if this applies to you, I became an accidental fundraiser as a nonprofit executive director. I just started working my way up in the nonprofit sector. And before I knew it, I was a managing director and then an executive director. And I had these massive fundraising expectations in my work. And I’ll be honest, at the beginning, I feel like I had big dreams about the type of fundraiser, the type of leader that I was going to be, but the reality was something a little bit more like this. I was having to put this appearance everywhere that I had it all together. And I don’t know if you’ve been there, but this is literal proof that I was there. I was pretending like everything was running well, but in reality, the nonprofit was a constant hustle. I didn’t have a donor pipeline that I trusted, I was working 12 to 15-hour days sometimes, I was choosing my organization over my family, my friends, my health. I was really miserable and I felt really alone. That’s where Sandy comes from. I was Sandy. I would spend my days daydreaming of everything my organization could do if only I could get the funding to do it, but I was spending 10 to 15 hours a day scattered.

So I did what a lot of nonprofit professionals do and I gave up, which actually meant that I switched organizations thinking that it was going to be different somewhere else. But before I knew it, I just became Sandy again. And I got to a really big breaking point where I was like, “A year from now, I cannot be doing this anymore. I either want a thriving nonprofit where fundraising is easier and less stressful and doesn’t make me feel so uncomfortable all the time or maybe I need to leave the nonprofit sector.” And I really didn’t want to leave the nonprofit sector, so I spent the next few months iterating and creating a reliable fundraising method with the tiny bit of time that I could sacrifice. And that is really what created what I now call today the Power Partners Formula. Everything that I’m going to be teaching you today comes straight from this formula. I am actually going to walk you through all of the steps of the formula today as well. So you can take it, you can implement it right away. And then as Steven said, if you’re interested in having more support, we can talk about that at the very end if you want support in the program and the course. But I’m actually going to just give you the roadmap. I’m going to give you the blueprint today that you can implement into your organization right away. So before and after I started using it. But let’s dive in to some of the meat here.

So when I was in that constant hamster hustle wheel, I was making three big mistakes that led to my fundraising burnout. And you may recognize these mistakes too. And if you do, do not feel bad because guess what? All of my students did too, all of my clients did too. So I want to go over these mistakes with you and how to fix them. This is where you are going to want to take notes. And again, you can revisit the recording if I’m moving quickly. I just want to give you as much goodies as possible during our time together today. 

So, okay. Mistake number one. So I’m going to probably start with the one that has you screaming, “No way.” But I want you to hear me out, especially as we are launching into 2022 with all the uncertainty that surrounds us. So tell us in the chat if you’ve been told that cold outreach is never successful, that nonprofits need to have a warm introduction to a new funder. And I know Steven is watching the chat, and I’m staying focused on the content. But I think it’s important for you guys to recognize some of these trends that we all see and just know that you are so not alone in doing these things or hearing this advice because you guys, the amount of time I wasted over 13 years waiting for a warm introduction or sending the wrong cold email. So I’m actually calling BS on this entire thing. And here’s why. Your goal is getting in front of the right people regularly.

So the old-fashioned fundraising gurus, they focus so much on a warm introduction, but what we actually need to be focused on is the right person strategy. I say the Power Partners Formula is an alignment-first strategy. So the old-fashioned way of doing prospecting and outreach is that we do a search based on wealth or loose mission alignment. We look for that warm connection forever. We get an introduction, maybe, and then crickets, or maybe they’ll respond to that first email from the connection and then the ghosting begins. These are not Power Partners, these are not the right people and this is how you know. 

Something I love to do in webinars and for you to know you’re so not alone is to answer how many unanswered emails are in your sent folder. Take a wild guess and throw it in the chat. And don’t worry because we’ve all been there. I think I had over 10,000, probably in my 13 years. And this is because we’ve all been told and taught the same old-school strategies. 

So when we talk about wasting time, here’s a sample of the numbers that I see with folks in terms of how they’re spending their time. They’re doing broad LinkedIn mining for eight hours, they’re emailing their board of directors and volunteers asking for introduction, ghostwriting email outreach that sometimes never goes out or sometimes it does, they’re emailing donors for listening tours, and we’ll talk more about listening tours later. But they’re emailing donors for listening tours, and they’re doing funding searches based on warm leads.

So this is like 45 hours of work that sometimes leads to . . . this is just a sample of what I saw with some of my clients, 67 outgoing emails on average which then was leading to 10 response emails, eight ideal prospects identified, five meetings with an ask, and one yes. So this is crazy. This is not linear at all and it is a completely broken strategy. But if you focus on the right person and the win-win, successful cold outreach is actually really easy. 

So this is how we do this inside the Power Partners Formula. This is how prospecting works and what it will take to get you in front of the right people regularly. So the first thing is understanding your goals, the gaps, and opportunities. That’s easy. I don’t even have that on here. Then we do something called funder lenses. So what this is, is really about activating your deepest empathy, which is how can you see your organization through the lens of different types of funders, how does a foundation view your organization versus a corporate partner versus an individual. So really starting to understand and view your organization through the lens of a funder. Then we use my signature asset mapping system that helps you identify both what your partners are looking for and what your assets are beyond your programming. And then you funder match based on alignment. 

So I’m going to walk you. If you’re like, “Wait a second, I’m not following.” I’m going to walk you through this step by step. So, like I said before, the very first step is to start bucketing your funding opportunities. What are all the programs you need to fundraise around? What’s the gap?

And I want to be really clear here for a second. This has nothing to do with restricted or unrestricted funding. By understanding your program budgets and how much you’re trying to fundraise around different areas, this is not so that you’re raising restricted funding for that program, but it’s so you can start to understand where you need to have and find the most alignment. If one of your programs costs $500,000, and one of your programs costs $50,000, then your prospect list around alignment, the funders who lens is most aligned with that $500,000 program is the priority. And we’ll talk more about how you prioritize and focus later on. But this is the purpose because sometimes people ask me that like, “Well, what about unrestricted funding?” This is unrestricted funding, but it’s just about helping you figure out how do you prioritize alignment areas? 

So you understand the different programs, different opportunities, then you need to understand funder decision-making for different types of funders. What are individuals looking for versus foundations versus corporate partners? I actually have a number of episodes in “What the Fundraising,” my podcast where I’m meeting with folks, I’m meeting with a grantor at a big foundation. I meet with a corporate partnerships person to help you all start to see how you would think about your organization through the lens of different types of funders. So you think about the lens of these different types of funders and areas of your organization they’re likely the most aligned with.

The third piece of this is that you identify your assets so that you can see everything that you’re bringing to the table for different funders. Some examples of assets are things like thought leadership on your board of directors, the skills that your staff have, your newsletter and distribution, volunteer workdays. Each of those are assets. They’re things of value that different types of funders are interested in for different reasons. And every organization has these assets and tons of them, but you might not have realized this until now. And so sometimes we focus so much of our outreach on our mission and our vision of our organization, but that’s through our lens. That’s not through the lens of the funder. And when we really understand and we match against the assets that we have as an organization and the funder lens, then when we’re outreaching to folks, we’re able to really speak their language, tap into that empathy and leverage our assets in a way that gets them interested and wanting to respond at a much, much, much higher rate. 

So I want to give you an example. Actually, let me say one more quick thing. So when you’re engaging them, you’re really highlighting the win-win relationship in all of your communication. And the thing I want to say is that this strategy, this whole strategy is called funder mapping. This strategy, you can use this with warm connections too, obviously. If you get that introduction from your board member, still use this strategy. Still, really focus on that alignment there. But what I’m saying is that if you prospect in this way, it actually doesn’t matter if the prospect is warm or cold because you’re making it about them. Not about them doing you some favor for their friend by meeting with you. You’re really tapping into where the alignment already exists. 

So I hear people ask their board all the time, “What’s your Rolodex? Who do you know who’s a philanthropist?” But the question to be asking instead is, “Who do you know that cares about blank? Who do you know that wants to see our community do X? Who do you know that cares about X audience?” Those are alignment-based questions instead of just wealth-based questions that have a much, much, much lower conversion rate. So I want to give you an example of how funder mapping worked for one of my clients.

So let’s just call her Annie. She has a dog rescue organization. We did asset mapping, and one of her key assets that she wasn’t leveraging at all is that she had these amazing dog trainers on her staff. So we set up these monthly free training opportunities for people who have fostered through her organization and others. She had been wanting to do this for a while anyways. But we set up these monthly free trainings that these staff members were leading. She set up sponsorship tiers for this monthly free training. She focuses her time on using the effective engagement strategy around alignment for cold outreach to companies who are also trying to get in front of dog owners and new dog owners. She books 10 to 15 meetings a month, and she brings in $10,000 to $40,000 a month from this one power partner offering. 

So this is a different alternative to what you can do with fundraising, and it’s a lot easier because it’s focused on the funder lens asset alignment and then you’ve created this map and you know where to focus. Okay. So what makes all this work is that it’s all about true win-win alignment. Cold outreach works when we’re mapping our funders and we’re speaking to the win-win in our outreach. So that is mistake number one around cold outreach.

Mistake number two . . . actually, I’m going to take a sip of water. It takes 12 to 18 months to cultivate five, six, or seven-figure gifts. So I understand why you think this because all of the old-school fundraising gurus talk about this crazy long relationship-building phase. But these cultivation strategies worked when the biggest fundraisers looked like this or like this. So, if we’re not planning to raise the bulk of the money for organizations by doing this anymore, then why are we cultivating funders in this old-fashioned way? Which is totally outdated too and it’s rooted in a lot of the language we hear around like, “Don’t be transactional.” And so we have related transactional to be something quick. Don’t be transactional, be focused on the relationship. And that leads to all these limiting beliefs around how early in a process we’re allowed to talk about investment, or money, or what we want to do together. But that’s all rooted in these very old-school messages. Times have changed, but most fundraising training hasn’t caught up. So let’s talk about the transactional piece a little bit because the old-fashioned fundraising led to what I call the car salesperson way.

So who in here has had a fundraising meeting and walked out of it and been like, “Ooh, that did not feel good”? You can raise your hand or you cannot, but you could know that you have to because everybody . . . I’ve never met a fundraiser who hasn’t had that moment. But that is not actually the only way to fundraise. And so I want to tell you how to fix this with what I call the fearless fundraiser way. But first, let’s talk about the car salesman way, which is literally how we’ve all been trained to fundraise. 

So we avoid going car shopping without knowing exactly what we want because car salespeople make us uncomfortable. Why do they make us uncomfortable? They make us uncomfortable because the car salesperson is focused just on what they want, selling the car. And it feels like they want to sell the car no matter whether or not it’s truly the right car for us. That’s why it feels pushy and uncomfortable. So we’ve been taught to do this in many ways in our fundraising too, but even more subtly, which creates even more awkwardness because we’re helpers. You guys in the nonprofit sector, and I can totally identify with this too. We have really strong helper energy. So when we’re taught to be on these listening tours to pretend like we’re just interested in building a relationship with the donor, and we have this goal underneath that we’re listening for clues around whether or not they’re going to give a gift or not, but we’re not allowed to say that. We feel really inauthentic.

And so this car salesperson strategy always has our objective top of mind, even when we’re asking the funder questions about them. And the funders can feel this energy. Think about it. Think about a time when you’ve been with someone and you can tell they have something to say that they just aren’t saying. You can feel that. And again, this is not our fault. The truth is that we’re not showing up as our best selves because our energy is messed up by this end goal that we’re anxious about, but not totally honest about and that doesn’t sit well with us as helpers. 

So that’s the meeting that we have, this sticky, uncomfortable meeting that checks some box on our old-fashioned to-do list. But then what happens? We try to follow up. We’re totally ghosted, and we’re sitting there like, “Wait, I thought we had a connection.” But did we really have one? So here are a few ways to know if you’ve been taught to cultivate the car salesperson way. One is that you aren’t being totally transparent about why you actually want to meet with the funder. Two is that it always feels uncomfortable and you’re constantly getting ghosted by donors. And then three is that your fundraising is not consistent. So you may be fundraising like big spikes here and there, but you can’t rely on it. And again, remember, if you are relating to one or all of these things, you are exactly like I was and exactly like all of my students were and basically, 99% of the fundraisers that I see. But the car salesman way is what is keeping us stuck in where . . . in these feelings and in these results.

So, if we’re wanting to fundraise more with less self-doubt and fear and discomfort, we have to ditch those old-school strategies. And that requires us to focus on that win-win like we already talked about when we’re busting myth number one, to be transparent and authentic in our communication, and to bring our power partner energy to the meetings. 

So it’s funny because people think Power Partners are all about the funders, the funders to the power partner. No, you guys are the power partner. Two, you have so much to offer your partners and bringing that energy, understanding all of your assets is going to help you bring that energy into every conversation. So you really recognize all the value that you’re bringing to that table. And it’s just about figuring out, “Is there a win-win here? Is there alignment here?” 

This also helps with a lot of the feelings of rejection we deal with as fundraisers. So much of those feelings become personal for us. But if we focus on our alignment, then it’s like, “Oh, no, this just wasn’t aligned.” Has nothing to do with you as a fundraiser, it has nothing to do with how amazing your organization is, it just wasn’t aligned. No problem. So much easier to move on from. A huge way to help move through some of the perfectionist tendencies that many of us face.

Okay. Mistake number three. Oh, my God. Okay. I’m fired up about this one because I think this is what stings so many organization. So tell me if you feel like you’re constantly finding yourself jumping from one shiny fundraising opportunity to another because you’re being told, “Okay. You need to do this type of event now, or you need to do this type of activity or this type of programming or shift your programming this way to get this foundation grant.” So that is happening to so many organizations that I see. And we believe that if we want to raise more money, we need more events or we need more programs because old-school fundraising has been really built on this. And some of this has shifted a little bit since the start of COVID, but not nearly enough. Because if you’re already maxed out on time, which you are, then how can you fundraise more? Because you need more time in order to do more events in order to fundraise more, which is just mathematically impossible. You can’t do it. It’s impossible. 

So let me explain. I’m sure you listen to a lot of podcasts, read blogs, watch videos on how to fundraise. I know that I did and I do when it comes to business. And I even put out all these things and so does Bloomerang. So many amazing materials.

But sometimes what can happen if you’re over absorbing different suggestions or different types of information is that you could constantly come up with new fundraising ideas because you have a lot of ideas, you’re a visionary, you’re a creative person. And so you’re coming up with all these different ideas, but every idea turns into a bridge. The bridge is focused on how do you bring the donor in or how do you get the donor to give. So what happens is, is that we create a lot of half-built bridges. Maybe Giving Tuesday as a bridge, or a gala is a bridge or a walk is a bridge or some peer-to-peer campaign is a bridge. But when we’re trying to do all of these things at once, it’s building these half-built bridges. 

And there’s another way to explain this, which many people refer to as context switching. And this is what I see and how fundraisers run their day-to-day. As they’re adding more bridges, the percentage of time throughout the day switching from thing to thing starts to get sucked into this black pit. Switching back and forth takes time, and it’s literally disappearing into this not very fun pit. And so then at the end of the day, we’re left with a bunch of hours put into all of these half-built bridges.

So another way I think about this is like it’s opening up so many tabs in our brain. And I don’t know how many tabs you have open on your computer. I’m a little bit embarrassed to talk about mine, but that is happening in our brains too when we start to follow these shiny objects back and forth. So all of that fundraising time, then when we’re running from bridge to bridge to bridge, it means that only 20% of it is productive. 

So I really need you to hear this. Having more events or programs does not actually mean that you’re going to raise more money. And instead what you need to do is you need to focus on one fundraising strategy at a time. You don’t need to do it all, you need to look at where you’re wasting time and where you’re wasting energy and really complete a bridge before you move to building the next one. And so that’s what’s super important when I was saying back at the beginning about understanding your needs in different areas. If you have a program that needs $500,000 and another that needs $50, well, my recommendation is that the first reliable bridge you’re building is for that $500,000 program. And so you’re prospecting based on alignment as close as possible with that program.

So one of the ways, and this is like a quick tip too, I mentioned that some people focus on this like shifting back and forth thing is context switching. So one of the ways to address context switching is by bucketing your time, bucketing your funding opportunities, and bucketing your types of funders. So an example of this would be something like, on Tuesdays, you focus only on leveraging the assets associated with your sixth-grade math education program through corporate social responsibility programs because let’s think about that for a second. If you’re focusing on one program and one type of funder, then that time that you spend fundraising in that time block, all the language is going to be really similar, you’re going to be using the same funder lens, you’re going to be leveraging the same assets. Just think about how much more optimized your energy is going to be if you bucket your time in this way. And the funder map is what leads you to figure out, “Okay. This is what’s going to be my first bridge.” And then start bucketing that time on your calendar. Tell your team that you’re not available during that time, and really stay focused. Okay. So I went through these three mistakes really quickly. We’re going to move into three tips that relate to these as well.

But we talked about, first, how to how to address these three mistakes. So prospect for win-win alignment using funder lenses and organizational assets. Showing up as your authentic and vulnerable self, it is 100% your superpower and the way to get out of that car salesperson feeling. And then the third one is focus on one bridge at a time, no more context switching, use that time bucketing strategy, but really focus on bucketing by funding opportunity and type of funder so that all of your communication, content creation, prospecting like your brain is in the same space. 

Okay. We are going to move into these tips, but I want to just take three minutes. Steven, I don’t know if there are any questions. I haven’t been watching the chat so that I could stay focused on the context. Are there any clarifying questions that are out there that would be helpful for me to answer before we move on?

Steven: Just a couple, but I think from what I know about your slides, Mallory, you may cover them in subsequent slides. So why don’t we keep trucking? You’re doing awesome.

Mallory: Okay. Okay, great. Okay. All right. Then we’ll just keep rolling. Okay. So let’s go into these three tips. Take some water again, you guys. Okay. So I didn’t say this at the very beginning. I’m a trained executive coach. So a lot of the work that I do focuses on the relationship between what’s happening in our brains and our bodies to the actions that we’re taking or we’re not taking. I’m also trained in behavior change and habit design. So the first thing I really want you to understand about all the things we just said and went over is how critical is to be aware of your thoughts and beliefs so that you can harness your energy to be able to activate and get into those donor lenses or do that asset brainstorming. Because when we’re feeling depleted or defeated, or quicksand dread, it is so hard to access those types of feelings. 

So what’s really critical here is to understand that everything starts with awareness around our emotions. So this is something called the cognitive behavior loop. This is the idea that our beliefs and our thoughts inform how we feel, and ultimately how we show up. So I’m going to say that again. Our beliefs and our thoughts inform how we feel, and ultimately how we show up.

So oftentimes we say things like fundraising is stressful. And before you just leave the presentation, just hold on for a second. We have this belief that fundraising is stressful. But let me give you a non-fundraising example for a second. I talk about this a lot. I was talking to a group of students and parents around test anxiety many years ago. I said to the room, I said, “Chemistry is not stressful.” And everyone was like, “What is she talking about?” I was like, “Chemistry is not stressful. What’s stressful are the thoughts and the beliefs that you have about chemistry.” “I’m bad at science, so I’m going to be bad at chemistry. I did poorly on the last test, so I’m going to do poorly on this test. The teacher likes Johnny so much more than me. Argh, I can never understand concepts like this. My brain just doesn’t work that way.” And gosh, I think I’m just spewing out what I thought about me and chemistry when I say all those things, but the thing to take away here is that those beliefs and those thoughts, that’s what actually makes chemistry feel stressful. 

And actually, the exact same thing is true about fundraising. Fundraising is not inherently stressful, it’s just a thing. What’s stressful are the thoughts and the beliefs that we have about fundraising. “That donor didn’t respond to my last email, they must be really upset. This donor didn’t give last year and so they must not want to work with our organization anymore. I must have done something wrong in that meeting because the donor said we weren’t a fit for them anymore. How are we ever going to reach our 2022 fundraising goals?” 

Those thoughts, those beliefs, that’s what’s actually impacting how you feel as a fundraiser right now. And what I want you to understand is that those feelings then impact how you show up. If you’re feeling . . . if the thought and belief is how are we ever going to reach our 2022 goals, or if your thought and your belief is I must have done something wrong in that last meeting to get the no. If that’s the thought and the belief, just think about how that thought and belief might impact your willingness to meet with other donors. 

But what if your thought and belief was instead, “Oh, it just wasn’t aligned. We just didn’t find that alignment there.” Think about how differently each of those beliefs would lead to one how you feel, and two, how you take future action. This is why it’s so much fundraising and why I do so much coaching around this, and we talk about this so much on the podcast is because so much of what keeps us trapped in these fundraising cycles is this sort of predictive emotions, predictive. We predict something bad happening in a way that makes us feel horrible, and also holds us back from taking the actions that we need to take in order to finally create that sustainable, reliable revenue model. 

And that’s why I said at the very beginning too, it’s actually easier to do the Sandy hustle wheel than Maggie because the Maggie piece requires you to really look inside and to really challenge some of these thoughts and beliefs and make the choice to choose different ones because you see the difference it’s going to make and how you feel and how you show up. 

And I will tell you when I first started doing this work for myself, really looking at my own cognitive behavior loop, one of the biggest things that I took away was that one of the biggest thoughts and beliefs that switched for me was that great fundraising is not an ask, it’s an offer. It’s about partnership and opportunity, it’s about vulnerability and connection, it’s about two people or two groups wanting to achieve the same goal together. This is my new belief. This is my new belief. Before what I believed is that I was begging people to give me something they didn’t want to give me. Think about how that belief was probably impacting how I fundraise versus then when I adopted this belief. Well, I’ll tell you actually. It helped me take an organization from a million to $3.8 in 18 months. This belief, really, this belief shifted everything, and Power Partners is really based on this mantra too.

Okay. Tip number two, build trust through transparency, not perfection. So we focus a lot on this idea of this know, like, trust factor. That in order for anyone to give, they need to know, like, and trust us. But oftentimes we take know, like, trust to mean we need to be perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect. And I will tell you, did an episode on “What the Fundraising” with this woman, Heather Sager. She talks about how actually when someone appears too perfect, we do not trust them nearly as much. That is not actually how we build trust. And so what you need to actually be focused on is building trust in a more authentic way, which means that they know you through real stories, that they like you based on vulnerability, and that they trust you based on your sharing of real challenges and real opportunities. 

And when I talk about transparency, I don’t just mean budget transparency, I mean organizational transparency. How do you let your donors in? How do you let them feel like they’re a part of your inner circle? Do you have enough trust in them to let them see behind the scenes, even the challenges and trust that they won’t just jump ship right away? And if you don’t have that trust, then how do you expect them to trust you? Because trust is a two-way street. And so we cannot achieve the trust we’re looking for with our donors when we do this perfectionist, know, like, trust.

Okay. And then tip number three, which you’re probably like, “Okay. You’re a broken record, Mallory.” But I cannot stress this enough. Tip three is around focusing on alignment. So one of the questions I get asked the most is, but who are the right funders for us? And this goes back to this piece, letting go the right funders for you have nothing to do with whether or not they are a warm or a cold connection. The right funders for you have to do with who are the people that are trying to accomplish the same goals as you? Who are the people that care about the same audience and community as you? Who are the people who are really your teammates in this ecosystem of trying to address this problem? And is there alignment there and is there an opportunity to partner to achieve your mutual goals? So this is the process I outline before really understanding that funder decision-making, doing that asset mapping, and then aligning based on who the funders are, and the assets that you have that are the most impactful for them.

Okay. Now, I’m going to just give you the blueprint for how do you take these pieces and use the Power Partners Formula? So the Power Partners Formula is this three-step process. So funder mapping, we’ve already talked about this, but if you want to write it down so you know the three steps. Funder mappings to doing that alignment around assets and funder lenses, effective engagement roadmap. This is about how do you talk to funders in their language? How do you highlight that in your email outreach, not make it so centered on the organization or the mission and the vision, but really see them and see what they’re trying to do that it’s in alignment with your organization? And then I call the third part of this process a simple yes system. The reality is, if you are doing funder mapping and effective engagement really well, the meetings that you have and the relationships that you build, and the opportunities that you create are actually going to be just so much more of a routine.

So the thing I want you to understand about the funder mapping framework because I know one of the stories that we tell ourselves a lot in the program is that . . . or like in this sector is that we don’t have time to do X. The reality is inside my course, funder mapping takes one and a half hours. This is not a crazy thing. And you want to be doing this for foundations, for corporate partners, for individuals because there is nothing more important than knowing who the right funders are and how to talk to them because this is how I felt oftentimes, and honestly, I just got off a call with a discovery call with a prospective client and she was just bouncing from thing to thing to thing to thing and trying to figure out what’s the first step? What’s the first thing? And I know that beginning of the year energy that can really activate are like Scattered Sandys. So I want you to just take a step back and start with the four-step process that we talked about. Start with mapping funder lenses, mapping your assets. Really understanding what are the true win-win offerings that you have here. 

Okay. I want to make sure we have time for questions at the end. So, look, I’m a teacher by training. I taught middle school as my first career, so the repetition is intentional because that’s how many times it can take for us to really learn something. 

But I want to just say this piece around creating the funder map and the alignment. The results we see in Power Partners when people do this, when they actually take the time to do this is wild. It is wild. The biggest feedback we get is, “I cannot believe how quickly these huge companies are responding to me. I cannot believe how quickly I’m getting meetings or getting yeses.” And that is because all of the communication and the meetings are focused on alignment and then prioritizing based on the most alignment, communicating about assets and funder goals in a unique way. 

So I’m going to get us . . . I’m going to make sure that we have 15 minutes at the end for questions. So the one thing I really, really want you to know is that if you take one thing away from this, it’s that you can have consistent fundraising success without hounding funders for money. And you don’t have to feel so defeated, frustrated, and uncertain all the time. If that is how you feel, it’s because of an alignment gap, an alignment gap. So I normally don’t do this. I know Steven said this. So usually, the only way to get into Power Partners is to watch this other webinar and things like that.

Anyways, I’m doing something special for you guys today because I know it’s the beginning of the year where I’m actually inviting you . . . you can actually enroll in Power Partners today, and you can get 10% off if you just use the code Bloomerang. And what I’m wondering is, did I actually give you the URL to do exactly that? Oh, yes. I did. Okay. So If you want support moving through these pieces, that’s what Power Partners is all about. It’s 12 months. We do group coaching calls, and there’s a Facebook group where you can ask questions at any time. There are over 100 organizations inside of it right now. The results we’re seeing are amazing. And it’s such a privilege to get to work with so many incredible organizations. So don’t tell other folks that I’m doing this. I usually don’t give away this link on webinars like this, but I just want to invite all of you because I really love Bloomerang and everything that you guys do to support organizations and the way they fundraise and have good data, which I know we’ll talk about later this year and all of that. 

Okay. So what if we move to questions so I make sure to give you guys some of that personalized time.

Steven: Yeah. Sounds good. We got a lot here, Mallory. But first, thank you. That was a lot of good stuff. And just the energy we needed to start the year. So thanks for being here and sharing all that wisdom with us. That was fun. Yeah. And if you haven’t asked a question, now’s the time because like she said, we’ve got almost 15 minutes. There are some good ones in here. One jumped out at me, Mallory, was from Nicole. Could you talk a little bit about what it looks like to be vulnerable as an organization? Can you define vulnerability and maybe some examples of what that actually looks like in practice?

Mallory: Yeah. So I think one thing about vulnerability is just recognizing. So one thing that can be really helpful when you’re trying to figure out how to be vulnerable with a donor is, what are the things that you feel like you might be hiding? So I’ll tell you just a little example story. When I was the managing director, I was really struggling with the executive director. He had started the organization when he was 22 years old, didn’t have a ton of leadership skills. The organization was being wildly successful. 

What they found was that in these meetings with these donors I was really close with, I wasn’t comfortable sharing that. And so what vulnerability looks like for me in that example was starting to talk to my biggest donors. “I’m trying to figure out the best way to support blank and his leadership development. I’m curious if you’ve worked with any other organizations that have had young founders,” and just letting them in. 

Or let’s say you’ve piloted a new program, and the results are not what you expected to see. I just did this interview for a podcast. You have some early results that are really different than what you thought you were going to see. Sharing that with a funder, talking about that with a funder, that’s another way to show vulnerability to be like, we’re human, we’re iterating, we’re trying to figure this thing out. It doesn’t mean that we’re getting it 100% right, but we’re driving towards the score and we’re not going to pull the curtain back and just finish this year of the program when we already see it’s not working for whatever reason. Instead, we’re going to be really vulnerable and to say we were wrong. Here’s the reasons we made this decision, and here’s what we’ve learned so far. And we think the most respectful and transparent thing to do is to shift in this way right now. That’s a really vulnerable thing to do. So those are some examples. I hope that’s helpful. And let me just turn my screen sharing off so maybe you can see me better.

Steven: Yeah. That made a lot of sense to me, Mallory. That’s awesome. And there’s a question here that I think is a good dovetail off that from Dina. And Dina, if I’m pronouncing your name wrong, please forgive me. Just yell at me in the chat. But they want to do all the things you just said, but a lot of the folks here listening, they’re not on the front lines. And Dina’s question is, how do we get some of those stories, that info, from the program people because they are on the front lines? They see all that, and this is a common question I see a lot of people struggle with. What have you seen work in your experience, Mallory, of getting those stories from those folks to use in fundraising?

Mallory: Yeah. So much of this depends on kind of the structure of the organization, the relationship between programs and fundraisers, but I’ve seen everything from the lead fundraiser doing site visits every so often and capturing the stories because there’s a real capacity issue. Other times I’ve seen organizations who have hourly staff, for example, that haven’t typically been compensated for administrative work, have to shift an operational or administrative package like the way they work with folks to make sure they’re really being compensated for their time sharing back this data. Sometimes it’s going to happen with billable hours where the tracking of certain things isn’t worked in. And so I’ve watched organizations subsidize that and pay hourly for people sharing those stories. 

The other thing is ask your program staff what is feeling the hardest about sharing these stories with us. What’s feeling the hardest? Maybe they’re going to tell you sitting down at the computer after a 10-hour day is really hard. And maybe the solution to that is they send you a quick voice memo and you transcribe it and you take care of it, or you guys record your team meetings every week, you spend the first seven minutes, five minutes, three minutes, sharing out a few quick stories, you record it, you send it to Temi or whatever, you transcribe it. There you go. 

So I think when I do habit-building and behavior change, the question to ask yourself is, how do you make that action easier to do? Whenever people are not taking an action, the first thing to ask yourself is, how can I make this action easier to do? And so that’s the first thing I would think about when you’re struggling to get certain data from folks inside the organization.

Steven: I love that. That makes a lot of sense. Here’s one from Holly. Holly is considering getting rid of sponsorship levels for their events and instead matching funders with an area of interest. Intriguing idea. Have you seen that?

Mallory: Yes.

Steven: Does that make sense to you? Have you seen that work?

Mallory: Yes. So, inside Power Partners, we do this too actually. I talk about corporate sponsorship from an annual sponsorship perspective really focused on a program area as well. And then sponsorship benefits sometimes if they’re good, are retained in benefits. So I think I’m like a maybe with that comment. I think sponsorship packages are really important. And the assets, if you brainstorm assets with your staff, you want to be converting those assets into benefits. 

So an example of that would be, let’s say an asset of your organization is thought leadership on your board of directors, for example. So, if you think about that as an asset, the corresponding benefit to that might be a networking event with your board of directors, a special networking event with your board of directors. That’s how it would appear as a sponsorship benefit. So my answer is yes. I think aligning corporate partners with program areas is awesome. I highly recommend it. And I still think you want to have sponsorship tiers and benefits that are related to your asset. So this goes beyond like a table tent at an event. Those are sponsorship benefits that really make an impact is when they’re aligned with the asset that that type of funder is the most interested in.

And if you don’t know the answer to that, ask them. The thing I would say to a funder is, “Hey, I really want to get out of the way we’ve done these gala sponsorships every single year.” And I want to think about, “What does it look like for us to really build a win-win strategic partnership here? What are ways you’ve worked with other organizations that have felt really good? Or what are some things you’d love to see or be involved in?” And let them talk to you about that. My favorite question to ask a funder is, what problems keep you up at night? What is keeping you up at night right now? And is there a way our organization can support in addressing that? That’s really when you ask those more open-ended questions instead of, do you like the benefit of your logo on a welcome sign? That’s a binary question. But if you can start to get into the dreaming mode with your funders, that’s where you’re going to really figure out how to build those sponsorship levels related to that program sponsorship.

Steven: That makes sense. That’s cool. I like this one that just came in from Keith. Basically, Mallory, what about walking away from a donor? And maybe it’s not a good fit. The relationship exists, but it’s no longer healthy, equitable, or maybe they’re pushing themselves onto things too much. And curious what you think if you have encountered that in your work and maybe what you’ve done with telling those people maybe it’s not a good fit.

Mallory: Yeah. I will tell you. So the students inside Power Partners have raised millions of dollars. But the best, my favorite metric of last year was a Power Partner member who told me they turned down a million dollars from a funder because what she understood was that it wasn’t aligned. It was going to run her staff ragged, it didn’t feel good, it wasn’t maximizing their best assets. They were going to need to build all this capacity tangentially that wasn’t a part of their core offerings. That, if you recognize that, you are already seeing what I’m inviting you to see here. 

So is that going to be a challenging conversation? Potentially. And I don’t think you have to say . . . if you’re ready to let go of a funder, you don’t have to just break up with them over text and whatever, but you can say, “Hey, it’s been feeling recently like we’re missing an alignment piece here. And I want to be clear about where we’re going and what we’re looking for in terms of our partnerships, and I want to make sure that that is in alignment with what you’re looking for and how you work with an organization. And if it’s not, no problem. No problem. Then maybe I could help you find another organization that’s better suited or make some recommendations for you. But I just want to make sure we’re on the same page about what we’re hoping for in this partnership moving forward.” You can do that with compassion, with empathy, still with the win-win in mind. Because if the win-win is always in mind, then even if alignment isn’t there for your organization, you can help them recognize that and that they can find win-win somewhere else.

Steven: What about communicating that internally, Mallory? I can imagine maybe a co-worker or a board member being like, “You want to turn down a million dollars? What are you talking about?” What have you seen for maybe getting other people internally on board with this philosophy, which I think is the right one?

Mallory: Yeah. I think a mantra that we also use a lot inside Power Partners is like not all money is created equal. And like money, I think sometimes in the nonprofit sector we get so tunnel-visioned on money above all else, just the money. And that’s why I say . . . I just started to say this. I’m like, “Power Partners is an alignment-first methodology, not a money-first methodology. Because the money-first methodology is what leaves us scattered and chasing and doing these things that don’t feel good, and that we feel like we’re prioritizing things that aren’t around our core mission. There’s plenty of money out there, let me tell you. There’s plenty of money out there. There is no scarcity. The possibility for the sector is endless. There’s no market here even, it’s just about how much generosity we can inspire. And especially with new tools around online fundraising, there’s so much possibility. So, but is board culture hard to shift is like all those things 100%. 

So I think you just need to start . . . One of the ways I encourage . . . I have a board mobilization training inside Power Partners, and one of the pieces of that that we do is we do the cognitive behavior loop with board members. What are the thoughts and the beliefs that board members are holding about money, about philanthropy, about funders? And how are those beliefs impacting the way that the organization is showing up? That the organization is feeling, that the organization is showing up? And do we want to keep those beliefs or do we want to adopt new ones?

Steven: I love it. Dang. That might be a good way to end on. We’ve only got a couple of minutes left. I want to give you the last word, Mallory, and give folks another chance to get in touch with you. Would you mind sharing that last slide again with that link on there?

Mallory: Yes. Yes, yes. Hold on one second. And I’m also going to say, if you are like, “Oh, my gosh. She didn’t answer my question. I’m going crazy.” I just put my IG in there, you can send me a direct message on Instagram and I’d be happy to answer that too. So I don’t want folks to feel like I’m disappearing. But yes, if you want to join me inside Power Partners Formula, I would love to have you there. It is really just such an amazing group of nonprofit leaders and fundraisers. So, and you get 10% off with the code Bloomerang, because I just really love you guys. And we’re going to be announcing so many other cool things. It’s 12 months of access. There’s even a 60-day guarantee. We’ve never had anyone use it, so I don’t talk about it. But if you’re like, “Oh, what if it doesn’t work for me?” Well, then you can ask for a refund. But it will work for you because I care about this sector so much.

Steven: That’s nice. You can’t beat that.

Mallory: Yeah. Yeah. I know. I was like, “Okay. 60 days.” Yeah. You’re going to see real results. It gives you plenty of time. And you know, I do not subscribe to the old scarcity mindset mentality. And so I really . . . I love this sector so much. I’ve spent my entire career here. I believe so much in nonprofit leaders, and I just really believe that there are these limiting beliefs that surround the sector, that surround the organizations that are holding us back from being able to be the powerful embodied, embolden fundraisers that we deserve to be. And I really believe that fundraisers are like the unsung heroes of the world moving money to address the problems that we all want to see solved. And so my goal is that you recognize how important you are, how special you are, how critical the work that you’re doing is, and how grateful I know like Steven and I both are for you, and to be in community with you.

Steven: I love it. Couldn’t have said it better myself. I love what you said about there being money out there. There’s so much capacity that you don’t have to settle for misalignment. That was my big takeaway among many others. Thanks for doing this, Mallory. I know we didn’t get to all the questions. I’m so sorry for that. I wasn’t trying to pick favorites, but do reach out to her. Real active on Instagram. I love that too. So really do send her a message. I get messages there too and it works. And thanks to all of you. I know it’s a new year, maybe you’re doing some year-end wrap-up stuff. So it was awesome for you to invest in yourselves and us for an hour. I really appreciate that as well. We have some awesome, awesome webinars coming up this year. Schedule is almost complete. And every Thursday, we are back at it. We got some cool sessions coming up for sure, including one week from today, my buddy Valerie Harris who is a working MGO, she’s going to talk about stewarding major donors. It’s a nice dovetail from this presentation. 

So, if you’ve got some major donor relationships, but maybe they’re not where you want to be, that is the presentation for you. And if you don’t have major donor relationships yet, you’ll still get a lot out of it because she’s going to talk about how to generate those. So register for that if you’re free. Even if you’re not free, you can still register because you’ll get the recording, even if you’re not there. I don’t care. Don’t matter to me. You’re going to get the recording to this as well as the slides. And there’s lots of other sessions already scheduled on that page. You can check it out. Pretty interesting topics coming up, something might catch your eye. So visit that and hopefully, we will see you again on another Bloomerang webinar. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Stay safe, stay warm, stay healthy. We need all of you out there like Mallory said, and hopefully, we’ll see you again next week. See you.

Mallory: Thank you.

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.