On this episode of Bloomerang TV, high-fiving fundraising coach Shanon Doolittle stops by to chat about her new project with Vanessa Chase: The Stewardship School!
Shannon: I wanted to turn off my outlook in everything. OK! I’m good.
Steven: Cool. All right. We’re good. Hey Shannon, how are you doing?
Thanks for joining us for Bloomerang TV. This is awesome.
Shannon: Yeah. Absolutely. I’m excited to be here.
Shannon: Especially to be super cool Steven.
Steven: Thanks everyone for watching too. We do this once a week. And
Shannon, a couple of weeks ago, I told Derek Feldman, that he was the
most rock star person we’ve ever had, but I actually think that you
are the most rock star person.
Shannon: Derek Feldman. He’s pretty awesome but no, I think I’m going to
give him a run for his money.
Steven: Yeah. You speak at AFP events. You’re all over the place. Tell
folks what you do. You’re a fundraising coach, right?
Shannon: Yeah. I’m a fundraising coach that’s really focused on donor
happiness, which is a little bit different because there’s not a lot
of people out there that focus directly on kind of retention or
stewardship, and that’s where I primarily focus a lot of my work. So
when there’s organizations that want to take better care of their
donors or essentially they’re just looking at how to create a more
happy culture at their organization, that’s the kind of organization
that I work with. It’s really fun work. And it’s a little bit
different because I transitioned over. I used to do a lot of event
fundraising work, which is where I first started, but I soon got into
donor retention and donor relationships, because I was doing all that
work, and it was so exhausting. Right. And then, no one was paying
attention to what we would do after the event and I was like, ‘There’s
got to be a better way.’ There has got to be a better way. Because you
don’t put like all of your heart and soul, in like in the entire
office into something like a Boeing 747 engine that an event is and
then not do everything that you need to on the back end to make sure
that your event donors stay with you. So, I started transition in
donor relations and I found my calling.
Steven: That’s good. So, you’re doing all this coaching but you’ve also
got this really exciting new project coming up on the horizon. A
partnership with Vanessa Chase, who’s a friend of ours and been on the
program. Tell us what you two gals are up to with the stewardship
Shannon: Yes. Vanessa, also a rock star. Vanessa and I started something
called stewardship school, and we had our very first program. We
actually launched it, just in March, I think. We had our very first
program which is awesome, and we’re re-launching again after all the
amazing things that we heard from our students, so we’re going to
launch it again in September. Stewardship school is really cool. The
whole idea around stewardship is that Vanessa and I, we will pow-wow.
You know, just like you get together with a co-worker and you’re like,
‘Gosh, what are you seeing? What’s trendy?’ Vanessa and I continue to
get asked by people that we work with, ‘How do we do stewardship? I
just don’t get it. I get stewardship as a word, but I don’t
necessarily how I’d go about implementing some sort of plan.’ Or ‘How
do I actually take good care of people?’ So what we wanted to do is
actually develop a program to help people understand what stewardship
is and develop a very unique stewardship plan that is specific to
A lot of times we have webinars and we have a lot of DIY products out
there, where non-profit organizations can download something and they
kind of have to work through it themselves. But it’s really kind of
broad, and it’s very blankety. It doesn’t really speak to the nuances
and the personality of your organization. So stewardship school is a
really cool six week program where we walk people through specifically
their organization, their culture, and how to develop a stewardship
plan for their donors that speaks specifically to their own needs. So
for instance, if you realize that, ‘You know what, we’re not really
doing a good job with our mid-level donors, but for some reason for
our first time donors, we’re kicking butt.’ Then you know what? We’re
going to help you develop a plan that focuses on that mid-level donor.
So that particular segment. And someone might just not have a really
good track record with their major donor, so they want to do a little
bit more, because they want to move them up to legacy donors.
So that’s the specific, core donor that they’ve focused on. But you
could tell, like a mid-level donor versus a major donor. They’re going
to have different needs. So we really teach them how to identify the
needs, understand who their donor is, you know, what are they doing
now? But more importantly, how do you slice it up, and how do you make
it fun for your donor? But more importantly, how do you make
stewardship fun for yourself? Because I think that’s where we get
stuck, right, in the non-profit world is. I always like to say this,
‘You can be professional and fun at the same time.’ They don’t have to
be exclusive, yet at the same time, we really hold ourselves back from
being creative and just being putting more personality in our work.
Literally, that personality is what’s going to make you stand out.
That’s what’s going to make you unique and different from anyone else.
So we really try to teach that in stewardship school as well. What is
your own personality and how do you put more fun and delight into a
process, which shouldn’t really be a process. It should be more about
people anyway. Stewardship school is fun.
Vanessa is awesome and I have a lot of fun sort of teaching. She does
a lot around getting to know your donors and being donor centric and
putting your donor first. I do more of the, how do you really create
stewardship, that’s incredibly fun, that is surprising, that is
unique? So basically, what is the personal brand of your organization?
And how do you weave that through? How do you take care of your donors
throughout the year? It’s really fun and we’ve gotten a lot of great
feedback, and that’s why we’re launching it again because people are
just really excited about it. The other thing I want to say too is,
some people in the course are people that are from a small itty-bitty
organization that have never done stewardship before, and they’re
really looking for, ‘How do I do it? I’m hearing it’s like a thing.
The thing, and how do I do it?’ Then we’ve got other people that have
been stewardship officers for twenty-five years. And they’re just
like, ‘You know what. I’m burned out. I’m tired I need more ideas. I
need fresh perspective.’, and they’re getting just as much out of
stewardship school than the person that’s never done stewardship
before. It’s lovely and it’s a lot of fun. In class too, there’s two
other things that we really like to reinforce, is one, Vanessa and I,
we’re also available throughout the whole course.
You could email us. You can call us. You can do whatever because we
really want to teach people, especially in the non-profit or our
world, that you can ask for help. You should ask for help. You should
never get in a place where you’re so stuck, we don’t want you to feel
embarrassed to ask people for help. I think a lot of times is young
fundraisers or people in the business it’s like I’m supposed to know
this stuff. And you’re not. So we really reinforce ask for help. And
then the other thing is that fundraising in general, and you know this
Steven, our community is amazing. I like to call us the ‘The League of
Extraordinary Do-Gooders.’ We really are super big fans of the work
that we do and other people like us who do our work. Really we want to
build community. So that’s part of it too in our course, is we don’t
want you to just talk to us, but we want you to talk to the other
students because they’re on the ground. They’re in the trenches.
They’re doing the work that you do so really cross pollinate, and find
a community that even after school, you get to go back to them and be
like, ‘Oh gosh, I’m stuck.’ Like whose had this experience and how
have you worked through it. That’s also what’s unique about it. We
have a lot of fun with.
Steven: Yeah. You get a lot of attention for this. Obviously, it’s made
a big splash. You and Vanessa, you’re experts. You’re well-known. Why
stewardship? Why did you choose stewardship to have a school about
among all the other myriad topics and other buzz worthy type things.
What is it about stewardship that makes it that hot topic like you
said? Why is it so important?
Shannon: I think that’s a big question and, you know, this is why I love
Bloomerang and what you guys do because it’s your number one topic as
well. I just think what holds us back in terms of keeping donors with
us is that we just don’t understand the playing field. We don’t quite
get it. We think of ourselves a lot of times, which is perfectly fine
as a non-profit, and we have to be really nimble. We also have to be
really careful about how we spend our money. Yet at the same time, and
I’m not one of those people that says, ‘You know what. You need to go
look at for-profit companies and you totally need to emulate what
they’re doing.’ However, one of the things that I teach and talk about
is, one of the ways that I get inspiration and always have in terms of
how to take care of donors, is there are a few places that I shop all
the time. I am loyal to them because of the way they take care of me.
And you know what? They do kind of a few things. They’ll send me fun
cards and little things in the mail, or they’ll send me a little gift
like every now and then. The thing is, it costs money to do that. But
at the end of the day, I will go back to them day after day after day
whenever I need someone. So it’s about customer retention, right. But
I think in the non-profit world, we don’t look at it that way. We
don’t look at, ‘Oh. I need to spend money on taking care of our
donors.’ It’s a taboo, right? But it has to be done. I did this
webinar on how to create a simple donor retention plan. One of the
questions that I asked of the 80 plus people that were in that
webinar, is I asked, ‘What’s your retention rate? Can you tell me what
your retention rate is?’, and 99% of the people in that webinar did
not know their retention rate, yet they’re in there because they want
to figure out how to stop losing donors. But they’re not kind of
baseline knowledge is not there. It’s almost like I can have you do
your overall donor retention rate and that’s going to be helpful, but
if you don’t know the donor retention rate of some of your donor
segments, how are you going to know where to spend your time? How do
you know when you’re doing a good job so you can take some of those
practices and scale it over to another donor segment? Or how do you
know where you’re not doing a great job, and that’s really where you
need to focus your time.
I think that in a lot of interviews that you do and even in a lot of
the webinars and awesome resources that you have there, you know,
there’s Professor Stewardship himself. Dr. Serget