In this webinar, Simone P. Joyaux, ACFRE, Adv Dip will lead an exploration of qualitative measures rather than numeric data into how we commonly measure fundraising success.

Full Transcript:

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

Simone: It certainly is.

Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon, everyone if you’re on the East Coast. I should say good morning if you’re out on the West Coast. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar “Measuring More Than Money.” Money is good but we want to measure other things. That’s what we’re going to talk about. I’m excited. My name is Steven Shattuck, I’m the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get going here. Just want to let you all know that we are recording this session, and I’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on this afternoon. So, if you have to leave early or maybe you get interrupted during the broadcast, I know how it is, don’t worry, we’ll get you that recording later on this afternoon, I promise.

Most importantly though, use that chat box. I know a lot of you have already chatted in where you’re from, I love it. We’re going to try to save some time at the end for Q&A, so don’t be shy, don’t sit on those hands. We love to answer your questions live towards the end of our hour. You can also do that on Twitter, I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed for those questions and comments.

And one last thing, if you have any trouble listening to the audio through your computers, try the audio by phone. We find that the audio by phone is usually a lot better quality, kind of keeps up with slides better. So if that’s comfortable for you, if that’s not going to bother you or bother a co-worker, try that. There is a phone number you can dial into in the email from ReadyTalk that went out about an hour or so ago. Give that a try if you have any trouble.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra-special welcome to all you folks. We do these webinars just about every single week throughout the year. We really only miss a couple weeks, usually for holidays or if I’m traveling. We love it, but what we love even more is our donor-management software. That’s what we do, that’s what Bloomerang is. And if you’re interested in that, check our website, you can even look at a quick video demo and see the software in action.

But don’t do that right now, wait at least an hour because you’re all in for a real treat. We have a friend of the program, more than a friend of the program, a family member of the program, I would say. We’ve got Simone Joyaux joining us from beautiful Rhode Island. How’s it going, Simone? You doing okay?

Simone: I am, I am. This is a day in the office, which means that I’m just in my like almost my pajamas, which I like.

Steven: That’s perfect for the webinar I think. I mean, why bother? Well, I just want to brag on you real quick. It’s very special to have her with us, she travels a lot. She was in Boston earlier this week. She’s heading overseas. She does a ton of speaking, she teaches up in Minnesota. What can I say about Simone? I mean she’s the best. You got to get her book, especially “Firing Lousy Board Members,” it’s one of my favorite books. It’s right here on my bookshelf behind me. She’s an ACFRE, which is a big deal. I think there’s only like a hundred of you. Is that right, Simone? Maybe . . .

Simone: Yeah. Something like that.

Steven: Yeah, big deal, for sure. She’s been doing this a long time. She’s been in your shoes, which I know I say a lot but that’s kind of the number one thing I look for in webinar presenters. She’s been, not only a frontline fundraiser, but board chair, an ED, been doing this her whole career. She’s the best and she’s going to tell us all about measurements and maybe what could be more important or in addition to measuring money. So, Simone, I’m going to move the slides for you so you just tell me when. But the floor is yours, my friend, take it away.

Simone: Well, thank you, and welcome everyone. So I get quite frustrated when, whether it’s your boss, our bosses, or whether it’s the board chair, or whether it’s the board’s sitting at a meeting, you know, sort of saying, “We need more money. We need more money.” And I’m wondering if any of you were ever told that, if you didn’t make goal, that, you know, you might be let go, fired. And we got to stop this. We have to think about there are many other things to measure besides money. And so, many of those other measurements actually are the foundation of raising more money.

So, next slide, when I think about what other measures . . . so I’m going to think about it, you’re going to think about it and you should feel free to send a little note and Steven will call it out. What do we really want to measure? And how are you going to convince your boss, why this? So of course, yes, you do have to measure some obvious things when it pertains to money. Yeah, you do need to look at the total dollars raised. But what else do you think you want to look at? And how will you justify it to convince your boss and your board?

So think about this first when we’re talking about trying to convince people. We’re all reading articles, reading books, etc. You really have to be if you’re going to be a professional. And we’re looking at, “Well, what makes money in a philanthropic organization?” Well, it’s those donors. Right? And what is the research telling you and me right now about what donors expect? So think about that a moment, what do donors expect? And I’m assuming, and pretty darn sure, that every single one of you, on this webinar, are donors somewhere. Maybe to your mosque, your synagogue, maybe to your alma mater, maybe to the YWCA where your children go. All these different places. And so, what do you expect as a donor?

Imagine just for a moment what if you did a few focus groups with donors and said to them, “What do you want from us?” Now, there’s a lot of research on this but imagine if you asked a few donors periodically, I’ll bet all of us, on this call right now, would say, “Well, I want to thank you and, I don’t know, do you think that the gift receipt is a thank you?” So what kind of measures would we have, for example, about thank yous? And imagine having that conversation with your staff colleagues even. What kind of thank you do you expect?

So I’m thinking, we might want to be talking with our boss about people need a prompt thank you. And then, what’s the prompt? And so, you’re going to share that thought with your boss. We have a rule of thumb, in fundraising, that the thank you needs to go out within 48 hours of gift receipt. And so, how are you going to convince your boss of that? Which might mean that, you know, we need to have, I don’t know, a little bit more staff or a part-time volunteer or someone who’s just helping us get those thank yous out.

So remember, our job, as leaders, our job is to think about the right things to measure, and then, to justify it to whoever we have to justify it to. And just as an aside about that 48-hour thank you, okay, the reason why we say 48 hours . . . and all right, go for 72 if you have to, but not more. Just imagine, I’m sitting home this evening here in Rhode Island, in Foster out in the country, and I’m writing checks. Several of them, of course, are to people like the phone company or the oil company, you know, that’s I’m not actually donating to them, you know, they kind of sent me an invoice and said, “Pay now.” But I’m also sending some charitable gifts.

So today is Wednesday, so I’m going to put them in the mail tomorrow, Thursday. That’s going to fly to you, right? And so, it might get to you on Friday but it might get to you on Saturday, and the office isn’t open on Saturday, and then, Sunday no mail comes. And so, by the time you get it, it might be Monday. Now, remember, I sent it on Thursday. You received it on Monday. If you waited 48 hours, if you did it within 48 hours, let’s see, Monday, then that means you would send it on Wednesday. And by the time it gets to me, it’s Friday or Saturday. So, that’s more than a week potentially. I’m not worrying about when you got it, I’m remembering when I sent it.

So that’s just an example of what are the sort of things we might consider measuring, the timeliness of our thank yous, the content of our thank yous as in, “It’s kind of really a letter and it’s kind of nice and it’s hand signed by someone with maybe a personal PS, if they know me.” And you’re justifying this, you’re convincing your boss why this is the right stuff. So that’s just one example.

So let’s go on to the next. Looking at the next slide, it’s a lot of hard work. It really is. What needs to be in place for you to be able to measure anything? Think about that. What needs to be in place? Well, for sure, the organization has to be committed to measuring. And again, not just fundraising stuff but, if you’re serving dogs, cats, people, trees, there needs to be a way to measure the outcome of your work. You know that any number of foundations want to know what was this measure, what was the result of this action, “What about these two measures?”

We do know that, in general, people, individual people like us, aren’t all that interested in statistics. If you look at any kind of donor-centered communications, if you’re reading, you know, Jeff Brooks, or Tom Ahern, or Mark Phillips, or anybody, you know, it’s not the stats, it’s the emotions that matter. But even the emotions, there’s some story that came out of you measuring. So we have to have people committed to measuring. And since we’re all, at this moment, thinking from a fundraising-perspective, it’s going to be us. It’s going to be the fundraising department, office, person. And even if you’re a one-person shop, as in there’s the executive director and that’s it, then she has to also do the fundraising and she has to be committed to measuring.

In the olden days, when I was first in a development office, our information-management system was three-by-five cards. So I mean do any of you even know what a three-by-five card looks like? I bet a bunch of people do. And then, you know, we typed stuff on or wrote stuff on to the three-by-five cards, they were in these big huge drawers. I have this traumatic memory of when someone dropped one of the drawers . . . these were long drawers. So then we had to put them back, and of course we had to re-alphabetize them, and the person who was doing the putting back in didn’t seem to understand the alphabetizing, so then we had to redo that.

So how would we, with that information-management system, what would we do? I can imagine sitting on a floor, okay, with all these three-by-five cards, counting how many people have given in consecutive years. Don’t we want to measure donor retention? And how does donor retention affect fundraising? Let’s look at all these things and link them. If we don’t have people committed to measuring, and then, reviewing the results and identifying the trends, how do we make decisions? How do I justify, as the chief development officer going to the CEO, to say, “I need another staff person, and here’s why.”?

Sometimes I find that when we report information, so when we have decided to measure something and we put it together, you know, with like the budget and the financial report monthly, that’s measuring. Right? But notice that I say here on the screen, “Committed to reviewing results, identifying trends, and implications.” When we have measures and we review the results, someone has to interpret the meaning of those results, has to identify the trends and explain that to whomever we’re sharing the measures and results with, and what the implications are.

So, for example, one favorite measure I have is the percent of people who gave a first-time gift, okay, and then, didn’t give a second gift. So we have research that says, “Eight out of ten first-time donors, in the United States of America, don’t give a second gift.”

Now think about that for a moment. You acquired 100 new donors last month because of that dynamic, great direct-mail letter you wrote. And then, 12 months from then, 8 out of 10 didn’t renew, didn’t give again. So you now have 20. Right? Now you have 20. And the year-on-year average retention rate, in the United States, according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project that measures that every year, it’s like now I think it’s up to 48%. You know, like that’s not even 50%. So, over the 20 we have left, right, we keep like 8 or something like that. And it costs 10 times more money to acquire a new donor than it does to keep a current one.

So think about this. It’s your job, you’re the leader. Or you’re the leader by virtue of being on this webinar, you get to go back to the office and say, “I think we need to talk about some of our measures.” Now, I think we kind of need to prioritize them. Roger Craver, who’s one of these leading gurus in Direct Mail and built the direct mail programs for all kinds of charities like Greenpeace, etc., etc., Roger has a blog called “The Agitator” and I remember years ago him saying, “The holy grail of fundraising is loyalty.” And I would say to all of us, the holy grail of any business loyalty is customer-donor retention. And with that, okay . . . everything depends on that, especially because acquisition gets expensive. So how much time do our development offices spend on loyalty? And what are you and I reading about donor loyalty?

So there’s a man named Adrian Sargeant, I’m sure many of you know him, and he talks about seven things that build donor loyalty. Now I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that because I’m not going to remember all seven off the top of my head and, furthermore, I don’t have the handout that I’ve developed that actually tells me. But if you went to my free download library on my website, you would find a handout called “Basic Principles of Fund Development.” And in it are the seven researched loyalty issues. Some of them are trust, shared values, two-way communication, that sort of thing. So you want everybody at your institution to know that possibly perhaps, from a fundraising perspective, the most important thing we should be measuring is donor loyalty.

And then, there’s this other little thing that goes along with donor loyalty, which is lifetime value. So I’ll give you a personal example. Right? I’ve been heavily involved with my community foundation, the Rhode Island Foundation. You know, I do workshops for them, with them, and everything. And about 35 years ago or so, I initiated, and told my partner Tom, that we were going to initiate, at my initiation, a bequest, a gift in our will to the Community Foundation. And we’ve changed it a couple times, etc., etc., but 100% of our estate goes to charity. We don’t have children. We’ve been very fortunate in our lives. So 100% goes to charity, 30% are some specific, you know, gives to an alma mater, that sort of thing. But 70% goes to our Community Foundation.

Now, they don’t want to lose that gift. Our current gifts to them, you know, maybe it’s $1,000 for a small project or something, but they need to nurture the relationship with us so they get the 70% of our estate. I talked with them about this, we’re joking about it all the time. Our lifetime value will only come through when Tom and I die. So our lifetime value . . . you know, whatever our estate, let’s just pretend, okay? So the lifetime value of our estate, there’s 70%. I mean it could be $750,000 maybe or 500,000 or something like that. So our current value, right, is like 500 here or there, not much. But by golly, it’s the lifetime value.

So think about that. Think about weighing all these things. I watched an organization, at one point, come up with . . . they came up with something like 10 different measures in fundraising only. And, you know, then there’s all the other measures about service, etc. And they were [inaudible 00:21:50] measures, right? So if you want to come up with 15 or 20 measures, that’s okay. Just say, “But we can’t do all those 15 or 20 measures now. We’re going to,” as the slide mentions, “we’re going to come up with measures for multiple years. And as we develop our skills in the measures and our capacity, we might ditch some because, gee, it wasn’t a very good idea, I guess. Or we will add more.” And where are we getting our ideas for measures? It’s because we read articles. People like . . . so with Adrian Sargeant’s seven loyalty factors, I want to figure out how to measure those.

All right, so moving on to our next slide and thoughts. Here are the kinds of, as far as I’m concerned, all right, none of these, in all their multi-colors, can be avoided as measures. And we also can’t say, “Well, we’ll get into that later.” Really the first most important measure, whether you’re a non-profit charitable organization or a restaurant, has to be relevance and quality. I always think of strategic planning as the process whereby we assure that we are relevant. You can go out of relevance. So how do we measure our relevance? Whether it’s the number of people who use us, the number of people we serve, whether we, every few years, look at what’s happening in the marketplace, in our community, and say, “Oh my gosh, there are now three organizations doing what we do. Should we get all three to merge? Is somebody better quality than we are so we have to fix that?” It’s the whole, “Do we matter?”

I always like to think about the March of Dimes. So I remember that from years ago, the March of Dimes . . . anybody remember what their purpose was, what their relevance was? It was to eliminate polio. And they did, although it is now coming back apparently, but they did. So imagine what could they do. They go to that, let’s pretend it’s a board meeting, a strategic-planning meeting, and we’re drinking champagne and saying, “Yay, we got rid of polio. We can go out of business. We were a quality organization, we pursued relevance, we fixed it. We can now go out of business,” because, in fact, many nonprofits exist in order to go out of business. Don’t you wish that every lung association, cancer, everything, don’t we wish they’d all go out of business because they fixed it?

But the March of Dimes apparently had a chat and said, “Are there other things we do? We’ve been measuring our relevance, we are no longer relevant to fixing polio. But we have these systems, we have all this stuff, we are a quality organization, we do quality work.” And so, they decided to stick around and they moved on to birth defects.

So anyway, relevance, quality. We should be measuring these all the time. Donor royalty, lifetime value. Right? Just talked about those. I decided to add a new thing to the list, I always think of donor loyalty, right, lifetime value, that’s sort of thing. I think we should be really talking a whole lot about organizational culture. I’m going to make a guess that almost everybody on this call has worked or experienced a toxic culture at some point in your life. Toxic, really awful, a terrible place to work. People talking behind other people’s backs. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Right?

And there’s a man named Peter Drucker, or there was a man named Peter Drucker, he is dead now, a major business guru. And part of his whole thing was, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Apparently, he never actually said that but that was his concept. If you do not have a good organizational culture, nothing else will work. You can have marvelous strategies but they won’t work. So think about that. Fundraising is one of those kind of awkward weird things. I mean I can remember my first office at the theater company where I worked as the new development officer. My office was at the end of a dead-end hallway. This is a beautiful metaphor for how many of the people, including all the actors, and the marketing-communication staff felt about fundraising. “We’re never going to go visit your office, if we can possibly avoid it, and happily, you’re at the end of a dead-end hallway so we never have to pass by your office on the way to anywhere.”

We talked about wanting a culture of philanthropy. You can’t have a culture of philanthropy if you don’t have a good organizational culture, a culture of philanthropy is a subset. So how can we measure organizational culture? Morale surveys. Conversations. Search the internet and see if there’s one already developed. How is our organizational culture?

So for me, these are the minimum things that we have to measure. But of course then there are other measures. So, on the next slide, there are some other measures. Well, I already talked about donor retention, I want to know attrition. Won’t you be thrilled if you can go to your boss, and your board, and the staff and everything, and say, “Eight out of ten first-time donors in the United States of America don’t give a second gift.” And I believe . . . so one of the things you want to check if you’re not from the United States of America is is that the same in your country.” So if it’s 8 out 10 but you only really lose 6 out of 10 from first gift to second, you can say, “That’s great.” Right?

Acquisition rates, I don’t know, acquisition rates? Well, the quality of the list, we know it’s the quality of the list. So what kind of measure would we have around the quality of the list, or where we get the list? And remember, not all measures are numeric. You have to have what soft measures. Trust is not a numeric measure, yet we know it’s a major measure for donor loyalty.

I think the number of donors who give multiple gifts per year could be pretty cool. On the other hand, for charities that I’m very close to and love and where I give what I consider to be a larger gift . . . and remember, it’s what the donor considers is a larger gift. I probably don’t give multiple gifts per year because I don’t respond to direct mail, they personally ask me face to face and I say, “I’m pledging this much money and I want that to go to the annual fund, if that’s what you call it, although that’s a terrible phrase and let’s get rid of it. If you want me to go to an event, then I want two tickets out of this whatever pledge I’m giving them.”

I’d like to know the percent of donors who increase or decrease their gifts. And I want to find out if it’s because we’re not doing a good job in relationship building or if there’s been a change in their circumstances. I want to know what their customer satisfaction is. In the for-profit sector, there is tons of consumer-satisfaction research going on. We don’t do much of that in our sector.

There, and we’ve already talked about the last two, year-on-year donor retention rates and the percent of first-time donors. So think about that, what other measures? I have another list, another side with more measures.

Okay, monthly donors. Monthly donors are another Holy Grail. Monthly donors are like absolutely marvelous. So if you don’t yet have a monthly-donor program, then read people like Harvey McKinnon, in BC, Canada, read people like Erica Waasdorp in the U.S. Read all the people who are developing monthly-donor programs. So what can we measure about that? Well, the first thing is we’d measure that we have a monthly-donor program, right? And another thing we’d measure is it follows the body of knowledge and best practice because it’s not Simone Joyaux’s ideas about monthly donors. I’m not an expert in it.

Okay, now this whole donor satisfaction. All righty. So they’re at the bottom, donors’ trust in your organization. Oh, alignment of donor values with organizations. Those are two items from Adrian’s list for loyalty. And another one is customer service. So again, how would we measure customer service? Well, how many times do you get passed around, “Oh, I’m sorry I can’t answer that for you but I’m going to connect you with Bob.” And then, Bob says, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t but I’m going to go try to find Sara.” All right? Customer service.

Imagine collecting customer-service stories. Imagine talking about the experiences you’re observing your customers, your donors, have. How about sharing? You know how we have a mission moment at the first of each board meeting and we could have a mission moment at the start of our staff meetings too. What if we had a customer-donor service story, good or bad? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

Again, the thank you process, we talked about that earlier at the start. Honestly, receiving a receipt is not a thank you. Think about the recognition program. In my years in this business, what I have seen over and over, the major recognition program is an alpha listing of donors within gift amounts. You don’t even have to have a cute name for the gift category or amount because what you really have to put is the dollar, obviously not the gift of each donor but people have given 250 to 499, etc., etc.

Now, we do that apparently because of course the people who give the most money are more special than the other people. You understood that was a snide comment, right? This whole major-donor, minor-donor . . . so, as soon as you say, “Major donor,” or “major gift,” that means there are minor donors and minor gifts. It is so awful. If, in fact, as I’ve said and top people say, if you will, the most important thing is loyalty, then why aren’t we recognizing loyalty?

So if you are firmly committed and you just have to list donors by gift-amount categories, at least also have like an asterisk to put after the donor’s name, which means “They’ve given for 5 years.” I’d use probably 5 years. And then, right, there are some donors who got three asterisks after their name because that’s really cool. Okay? Alignment of donor values with the organization’s values. Again, an interesting one. And how do we ever find that out? Well, we find out by talking with our donors, by talking with them.

So, oh my gosh, this is endless. I even have more on the next slide of measures. All right. My first bullet is I actually want us to measure that we’re adhering to the body of knowledge and best practice in donor communications. Now, I already named people we can all be reading. And so, if you’re the donor-communication specialist, right, then you read Jeff Brooks, Tom Ahern, as I say, Mark Phillips, Lisa Sargent, all these different people. And you are explaining a whole lot of the stuff to your boss, your board. And you’re saying to your . . . and I’m sure any one of us has had, all of us who who’s had this experience, you have just learned the best way to write direct mail letters.

And you know you’ve been reading these books going to these workshops, and so, you write a new direct mail letter and you take it to the CEO, executive director, to sign it. And you, of course, start out with, “So, Ms. Boss, one of the new measures that we need to use in our fundraising is adherence to the body of knowledge and best practice in donor communications. So I’ve been going to workshops, I’ve been telling you about them, so here is the first letter. Now, I just want to warn you, ma’am, that I know you’re part of the grammar police and the grammar police say that you can’t have a one-word paragraph but we’re going to. Our first paragraph is, ‘Thanks,’ with an exclamation point. And then, we’ll have a next paragraph. And you can’t have a bunch of commas in the sentences, you know, we’ve got to be writing at sixth-eighth grade reading level, etc., etc.” I want us to measure our adherence to the body of knowledge.

Now again, this is going to be a soft measure, it’s going to be a conversation measure. But how many of you just think about this? How many of you have to fight with your boss or your board chair or the marketing communications department who don’t know how to write for donors? So we got to start measuring that.

Okay one of my measures that I put in every fundraising plan is that third bullet there, staff and board-member behaviors that demonstrate a culture of philanthropy. So, again, that’s not going to be a numeric measure, it’s going to be a conversation. It’s going to be, you know, “Do we treat all donors well?” or, “Are we really only interested in major donors?” “Do we all understand that the largest gift most people ever give is the gift in the will?” And who has most likely prospects to give a gift in their will? It’s your loyal donors. They’ve maybe been given 100 bucks a year but they’ve been doing it for several years. They’re the prospect, not Bill and Melinda.

So are we recognizing, are we adhering to the body of knowledge and are we, as staff and board members, thinking about the value of every human being and thinking about that donor who’s been giving us 25 bucks a year for a decade? Or for 20 years? Do we thank everyone? Do we do all these things?

Okay. So another measure, board-member participation in fundraising. So in good governance when we recruit board members, we tell them that they have to attend board meetings, that’s actually the single most important thing a board member does is attend board meetings. Because a board member is supposed to do governance, it’s a collective activity, and you have to be at board meetings.

We also want board members to . . . what? Give a gift, every year, to the best of their personal ability. More and more another measure I’m hearing is people saying, “If you’re going to be on our board, we have to be one of your top two to three philanthropic best friends.” In other words, “You give 500 to us a year, 1,000 to that other nonprofit who is . . . you’re not even on their board.” So, and in addition, every single board member has to participate in fundraising.

Now, that means that all of us who are the fundraisers, the executive directors, we have to help them. I’ve created a menu of choices where, at the start of every fiscal year or at the start of every board year, every single board member fills it out saying what they’re going to do.

Now, I hate special events, I hate them a really lot, I mostly don’t even want to go to one but, when I’m on the board, of course I do go because I’m supposed to and I mingle, but I don’t want to plan one. So I have been known, on boards I’ve served on, where I’ll say, “Please, I don’t want to be on the special-event committee. Please. I’ll make thank-you calls, donor thank-you calls. I’ll write notes on direct mail, if you want me to, I’ll go with the fundraiser, and I’ll make up,” you know, “a call and meet face-to-face and everything, but please, don’t make me be on a special-event committee because you’re going to be evaluating me.” And by golly, that’ll be another measure. And if board members aren’t playing and they’re not giving, well, I wrote a book called “Firing Lousy Board Members.”

Okay. So let’s see. The last thing . . . I think that’s it, isn’t it? We just want to do good things. Measures are weird and strange and whatever. So what’s in with this statement from Seth Godin? If you don’t subscribe to Seth Godin’s daily blog, you just have to, it’s fantastic. So here he says, “In a metric-minded organization, it’s very tempting to focus on things that are easy to measure instead of those things that are important to measure.” So get control of this because the last thing that you deserve, the last thing that ever should be done to any decent fundraiser is, “It didn’t hit the goal we invented for you this year, and so you’re going to be fired.” They just can’t do that, those board members, those people. It’s a bad idea.

So those are my thoughts today, if you will, about measuring more than money. And there is actually, in my free download library, a two-page list of all of this. So many more things than I shared with you today. So, questions? Comments? Thoughts?

Steven: Yes, that was awesome, Simone. We got some time for questions. So if you haven’t asked a question in the chat already, please do. We probably got maybe 10 or 12 minutes, if that’s cool with you, Simone.

Simone: Oh, absolutely.

Steven: But first, thank you. Thank you, great presentation. Lots of people are chatting in, “Great presentation, loved it.” “Best I’ve ever heard.” Wow, that’s nice. I love it.

Simone: Thank you. Thank you.

Steven: So here’s the question. I know you mentioned some names throughout the hour, Simone, but would you mind listing again maybe, or in addition to some of the things you mentioned just some of the people you follow, some of the experts you mentioned, Jeff Brooks. Who are your favorites? Who are you reading, subscribing to? What do you think?

Simone: So, from a donor-communications point of view, Jeff Brooks is wonderful. He’s got several books. He also has a great blog called In one of his blogs, more recently, you know, he says, “Here are all of the things you should never say in a direct mail letter,” something like that. Okay, so Jeff is great.

Mark Phillips, owns a company called Blue Frog in the UK, really good stuff, really good stuff. And he does have a blog that you can check out. Tom Ahern is one of the great donor-centered communications people. He is also . . . I feel I have to disclose this. For those of you on the phone who don’t know, he’s also my life partner. But I didn’t have anything to do with making him good at, you know, donor-centered communications. He’s really good at that. And he has a monthly newsletter.

Let’s see. Another really cool place to go to look about donor communications, okay, is SOFII. This is Showcase of fundraising innovation and inspiration, S-O-F-I-I .com. It’s a compiler site by a guy named Ken Burnett, Ken Burnett is the man who wrote “Relationship Fundraising,” which if you haven’t read it, you have to read it because it is the first book that moved us from marketing as a transaction to marketing as a relationship activity. And so, there are learning programs there like from Jerry Huntsinger who’s a great donor-communications person. And then, they have compiled like old direct mail letters, like, you know, one of the best direct mail letters ever written, and it was written in 1938 or something like that. So that’s all the donor communications kinds of stuff.

I also, as I said, I subscribe to Seth Godin. Seth is a serial entrepreneur, a marketing-communications person. Not in fundraising, just in general life. And I mean his books are fantastic, things like “Permission Marketing.” He’s got a new marketing book out. So those are some of the things like that I would be reading. I’m careful about . . . you know, we can get so into all of the reading stuff then we have no other life. So you have to be careful. But those are just some of the things that I read regularly.

Adrian Sargeant, foremost academic researcher in the world in fundraising. And Jen Shang, S-H-A-N-G is his partner and associate and she’s the world’s first philanthropic psychologist, and still only. So they have research, if you just look up Sargeant, S-A-R-G-E-A-N-T, it will take you to their website where all the research is, so how to make great fundraising, research on great fundraising events, which proves my whole point around how awful golf tournaments are, unless you’re a golf organization. Anyway, so those are some.

Steven: I love it, great list. Here’s a great question, Simone, I think you’re going to love it. I’m going to leave the actor’s name off just in case, for confidentiality. But this person’s ED, she says he’s a control freak and, if it isn’t his idea, then it’s trivial. How can we convince him? How do you convince that boss, Simone? He just doesn’t get it. [inaudible 00:49:56] advice. I’m sure you’ve had experience with that.

Simone: Yeah. Oh yeah. So my first . . . so I’m going to write eventually a blog about anticipate and . . . Wait a second, I’m looking at my . . . Okay, anticipate and preempt. I believe that our job is leaders, whether we’re fundraisers, or the executives, or whatever. Our job is to anticipate what the boss, the board chair, the board, the whomever, okay, is going to say or do or not like or whatever. And then, before they can say anything against what we’re proposing or doing, we have to preempt them. And we do that graciously.

So it was like my example of, “We need to write our direct mail letters,” you know, “differently,” I know my control freak boss is going to hate it. So what I do is I’ve been sending him a few little interesting mini blogs about writing for fundraising, like the one where Jeff Brooks says, “Don’t say this, don’t say this, don’t say this, and don’t do that because it’s really dumb,” or something like that.

Try to raise these things, sometimes informally. Like I used to go to lunch with my boss and so over little dessert treats, I would start drippingly nagging him to do something, and eventually, he would. So it really is preempting. Anticipating, and then, preempt. And, you know, if you have to do it with a candy bar or a glass of wine to make it go down easier, try that.

Report at every staff meeting, at every whatever, “Oh my gosh, there’s this new research that is,” you know, “going to double gifts but only if we do it exactly like this.” Right? So for example, Adrian Sargeant and Tom Ahern are doing a joint day-long session in September in Baltimore, Kansas City, and Seattle, or something like that. They’re talking about how you can double your money by helping from the same donors, by following the psychology research around identity, and then, writing it correctly.

So all you can do is keep anticipating these problems, and then, explaining things to them. And then, if they choose not to allow you to do things, then I recommend you find another job, if you can, if you can, you know, afford to leave there or whatever. Because you’re being treated poorly. If you’re working in a place where they’re not going to learn how to do things better, you know, they would never behave that way, we would hope, around their mission but they do it around fundraising and there’s this whole business of power dynamics. So again, anticipate, you know they’re going to come up with this crap. Preempt before they could ever even say it, with my example of, “I know you’re part of the grammar police, but . . . ” And then, look for another job.

Steven: Yeah. Sometimes that’s all you can do, right?

Simone: Exactly.

Steven: Well, we probably got time for one more question but there’s a lot of unanswered stuff in here. Simone, would you be willing to maybe take questions by email or Twitter. I know you’re on Twitter, so you . . .

Simone: Oh, absolutely.

Steven: Is that cool with you?

Simone: Yeah, absolutely. Tell them to, you know, to tweet me or something . . . and email. You know, and my email is right there.

Steven: Cool, yeah. Check out her website, you can get a hold of her. Maybe a good question to end on from my buddy Lynne here, “Any advice, maybe first steps, for brand new nonprofits, Simone?” We’ve got a lot of new nonprofits listening, lots of small shops are part of the Bloomerang crowd. Where should people start if they don’t have any of this in place? What do you think?

Simone: Right. Okay, so the thing is, first, you have to make a commitment. And it really needs to be an organization-wide commitment, a leadership commitment, which is, “We want to build as good an organization as we want to build great mission. We want to be lifelong learners. And so, we have to be committed to professional development.” And that means then that there needs to be money allocated for professional development, no matter how small you are. So it’s to take a blog, you know, to go to a blog . . . I am sorry, go to a webinar that’s, you know, $50, go to a conference, do these sorts of things. Don’t spend lots and lots of money on conferences until you know the people you should be going to listen to. Because if they’re not at those conferences, then [you know 00:55:37].

Read certain books. So if you’re starting out in fundraising, the first book I would read would be Sargeant and Shang’s “Basic Principles of Fundraising.” No, “Fundraising Principles and Practice.” It’s big and thick, okay? You know, and it’s not like a novel where you have to read it from start to finish in order. Just skip around, okay? You have to commit to lifelong learning and you really have to read the stuff, which means you get to do a lot of this on your own time.

Look for workshops in your community, look at your community foundation, if you have one, because there are a number of community foundations that give grants for capacity building, as in building your organization’s capacity to do fundraising, to do planning, that sort of thing. A lot of community foundations offer trainings, which are nominal price or free. So that’s what you have to do.

Steven: I love it. Well, they’re on the right track by listening to this webinar, right?

Simone: Yep.

Steven: Good place to start. Well, this was awesome, Simone, and we’re about out of time but thank you so much for doing this. I know you’re super busy, you’re getting ready to travel. So thank you for working this into your schedule, a lot of fun.

Simone: Well, you’re most welcome. This is my life’s work. It’s why I exist, as far as I’m concerned. And which is why I give so much free stuff in my free download library.

Steven: Yeah, check that out.

Simone: It’s articles, and policies, and guidelines. And, you know, and I see them being used around the world. That’s the whole point, they’re there. You don’t need my permission, that’s why they’re there. Unless you’re going to use them in a book or something, and then, you have to give me credit. But otherwise, if there’s something you like, download it, photocopy it, and talk about it at a board meeting. If there’s something you like and you want it on your own letterhead because it’s going to be like a rule at your organization, rekey it and just put it on your letterhead. That’s why it’s there. I also have a weekly blog . . .

Steven: Do it. There’s really good stuff there.

Simone: Yeah. I’ve a weekly blog that talks about different things, it’s sorted into categories. Do not read the social commentary category if you don’t want to hear about social justice, gender bias, and all the other things I get pissed off about. And I also have a monthly e-newsletter, so there are two different subscriptions. And you can email me a question.

Steven: I love it. Sign up for all that stuff, really good downloads in that resource library. I send people there all the time. This was fun. Thanks, Simone. We’ll have to have you back. Hopefully, you’ll come back.

Simone: You’re most welcome, everyone.

Steven: Well, and thank you all of you for hanging out with us for an hour. So we’re going to send out slides and the recording later on today. Just look for an email from me. And hopefully, you’ll join us again next week. Next Thursday is going to be a good one. My buddy Robin Cabral is going to join us to talk about year-end fundraising. It’s time, you know, it’s almost July. Got to start thinking about it and she going to give you some ideas to get a good start on all-year year-end stuff that you got going on. So join us next Thursday, 2:00 p.m. Eastern, a week from tomorrow, totally free. And Robin’s awesome, you’ll get some great advice from her.

Another New Englander, Simone, she’s up in . . . she’s just over in New Bedford, Massachusetts, not too far from you. So we’re keeping [inaudible 00:59:30]. Awesome. So, we’ll call it a day there. Look for an email from me, and hopefully, we’ll see you again next week. So have a good rest of your week, have a good weekend. We’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.

Simone: Thanks, bye.

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.