The key to successful fundraising is asking smarter questions. Harvey McKinnon and Andy Robinson will discuss how to build stronger donor relationships and how you can use this strategy to improve every kind of fundraising.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Andy, Harvey, we’ve got 3:00 Eastern. Is it okay, if I go ahead and kick things off officially? 

Harvey: Yes. 

Andy: Please do. 

Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon, everybody. And if you are watching this as a recording, I hope you’re having a good day no matter when and where you are. 

We’re here to talk about “Raising More Money By Asking and Answering Better Questions.” I love this topic. I’m so excited for you to hear from our guests. And thanks for joining. I know, it’s a busy time of year. We had Giving Tuesday this week, but it’s awesome to see a full room. 

I’m Steven, I’m over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always. 

And just a couple of quick housekeeping items before we get going here. Just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation. And we’ll be sending out the 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, don’t worry, we will get all that in your hands later on today. Just be on the lookout for an email from me before the end of the day. 

But most importantly, I know a lot of you have already done this, which is great, but use that chatbox on your webinar screen. We’re going to save some time for Q&A at the end. But we would love to hear from you throughout the hour or so. Introduce yourself if you haven’t already. 

There’s also a Q&A box specifically, your questions might be a little more visible there if you use that one. But we won’t discriminate either way, we would love to hear from you. 

Send us a tweet if you’re a Twitter type person, I’ll be looking at those as well. But bottom line is we would love to hear from you over the next hour or so. 

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say an extra special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars just about every Thursday throughout the year, I think we’re getting close to Session Number 47 or 48 on the year here. We love doing these webinars, we got great guest speakers, great content, today is no exception, by any means. 

But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang besides the webinars, we are a provider of donor management software. That’s what Bloomerang is. So if you are curious about that, or maybe you’re shopping before the end of the year, check out our website there’s all kinds of great resources. You can check out videos to watch to really get a sense of what we’re all about. 

But don’t do that right now, at least wait an hour or so because we’ve got, dang, two of my favorites . . . two living legends in the fundraising sector. We’ve got Harvey McKinnon and Andy Robinson joining us. Gentlemen, how you doing? You doing okay? 

Andy: Yeah, we’re good. 

Steven: This is great. 

Harvey: Great, thanks. 

Steven: Dang, Andy and I are even matching, it’s like this is going to be a great session. That was a good omen for things. Wow. Thanks for doing this by the way. I know both of you are super busy you’re speaking at conferences, and doing webinars, and workshops all the time, so it’s really a treat to have you. 

Andy has done a Bloomerang webinar for us before, he’s making his triumphant return. And Harvey making his Bloomerang debut here. So if you don’t know these gentlemen . . . 

Actually, I think that the two of you combined now hold the record for the most books written by a Bloomerang webinar guest. I think you’ve both got like, what? Five or six under your belts each. 

If I was in the office, I would hold up Harvey’s great new book on monthly giving, which is behind my desk and really awesome. So monthly giving if you’re interested in that, please, get that book. I’m sure . . . 

Harvey: Somewhere around here. 

Steven: . . . Harvey will tell you about that. It’s probably somewhere on that shelf, right? 

Andy also has written a lot of great books, especially one on training your board. So hey, everyone, you know, deals with that, right, so check that out. 

And we’ve got Vancouver and Vermont, so we’ve got both ends of the country covered. 

So you two are awesome. I’m going to pipe down because nobody wants to hear from me, we got you two here. So I’m going to stop sharing my screen. And I’ll let you bring up your beautiful slides, and the floor is yours, gentlemen, so take it away. 

Andy: So I have the privilege of starting things. First of all, let me do a shout-out to Steven Shattuck and Bloomerang. Steven is amazing. He is the most enthusiastic person in the world doing this work. So good news. Thank you so much for hosting us again, Steven. Also, a little shout out to our colleague Kevin Wilson who’s managing the slides for us at Harvey’s office. So, Kevin, we appreciate your help. 

Here’s how this is going to work. We’re going to do a little intro. 

Steven: [inaudible 00:04:20], Harvey? 

Andy: Then we’re going to . . . Harvey’s going to talk a little bit about getting inside the minds of donors. And then when that’s over, I’m going to talk a little bit about questions you can ask to strengthen and deepen the relationships. 

While you’re doing that, we’re going to be taking questions throughout, and we’ll be sort of stopping and trying to answer those questions as time allows. We’ll take questions at the end. And also, we will stick around into overtime and try and address as many questions as we can. 

So our goal is to be done at the top of the hour, but if we’re having more questions, we’ll just stay here and answer them till you’re done asking questions. That is our intention here. So welcome, everyone. 

Kevin, when you’re ready you can put the slide deck up. Perhaps we’re having a technical issue with that, so bear with us. And, you know, I’ll say in terms of outcomes . . . oh, good here they are. Nice to see them. We’re interested in what you guys want to learn today. 

So our topic, again, is how to engage donors better by anticipating their questions, learning to think like donors, and also how to ask better, more probing questions. That’s where we’re heading. 

If you want to throw anything in chat, in terms of what you’re after today, we’ll take a look at those and try and respond. So let’s go to the next slide while that is happening. Harvey, why don’t you talk a little about this, please? 

Harvey: As most nonprofits have these days is that renewal rates have been declining and that’s been consistent. There are a number of reasons, and you might know for your own organization what’s appropriate for you. But essentially . . . and we work with dozens of clients in Canada, States on an annual basis, and we look at all sorts of other . . . we do tests where we send dozens of donations to nonprofits to see how we’re treated as donors. 

And generally speaking, the donor appreciation engagement is not great. There’s less personal contact, more virtual communication, and there are consequences for this. The other thing that I think is happening globally is that there’s greater economic inequality. So what we’re seeing is a shrinking of the middle class that historically provided the base, the backbone of most donor programs. 

So what we’re hoping is, we’re talking about today is looking at things from a donor perspective, we’ll give you a better idea of how you can best respond. You know, you have to thank donors, you have to appreciate them, you know, you have to report back. But if you can get inside a donor’s mind, I think that is the secret to reducing your attrition, which means increasing the number of people who renew and give you gifts year after year. 

Andy: So we’ll see if the poll works. The question here is, how often do you actually meet with donors in person or perhaps virtually on Zoom for any reason? So this could be cultivation, this could be asking, this could be thanking. And I’m not talking about specific donor, I’m talking about in terms of your work calendar. Are you interacting with donors daily, weekly, monthly, never? Are you hiding and avoiding them? 

So the question here is, you know, when you look at your workflow, how much of your time is spent actually having these face-to-face conversations with your donors? 

So if the poll is launchable, launch it. If not, chat will work for this. And you feel free to go ahead and drop your answers into chat if that’s the way to handle this, and we’ll see what pops up. Yeah. Here comes the run. So this is good. 

Some more than others, yeah, that’s totally true. Yeah, we’re seeing sort of the whole spectrum here, which does not surprise me. Perhaps this is obvious to say to the group, but more is better, more often is better, deeper engagement is better. Being in thorough and honest relationships with people seems to work better in fundraising. So I’m appreciating all your answers in chat. This is great. 

Let’s go to the next slide, Kevin, please. 

So before I hand it over to Harvey, I want to do a little fundraising 101 just so we’re all starting on the same page. What you’re looking at is one of the modern theories of fundraising. And there are many, many versions of this in fundraising world. This one is called the cycle of fundraising. You may know variations, and they’re all good. 

And the idea here is that we generally start in the lower left by identifying potential donors. We want to get them excited about our work, we want to educate them, we want to cultivate them. At some point, we need to ask them to give. When they give, we want to thank them, appreciate them, love them, recognize them. And our goal in any relationship with a donor is to involve that person more deeply. 

If we’re good, we take the person we have involved more deeply, and we say, “Hey, can you recommend somebody else that we might be able to ask?” So we use the donors that we have to identify and perhaps introduce us to new donors. 

Anything you need to know theoretically about fundraising is in this slide. The theory is simple here, you learn it in 60 seconds. The work is implementing it, the work is actually taking the steps and carrying your donors through this process. 

And next slide. 

What we want to emphasize today that most of the work is relationship building. You’re going to see a slide that shows the time allocation of how we spend our time on this. 

Next slide, please, Kevin. 

And a little shout out to our colleague Tina Cincotti who’s a lovely consultant based in Boston, Tina created this. And what I’d have you notice is the slide at the bottom, excuse me, the slice at the bottom, where it says ask, may be 10% of the work in fundraising, and everything else, the other 90% is the stuff we do before, and the stuff we do after. 

So in terms of anticipating donors’ questions, engaging with them, responding to them, deepening the relationship after they give, everything we’re talking about this afternoon relates to those things. And the better you get at the whole suite of donor engagement, the more money you’re going to raise. The more intentional we are about this, the more effective we are. 

So part one goes to Harvey, let’s turn to the next slide, please. And, Harvey, take it away. 

Harvey: Thank you, Andy. So ultimately, if we know what our donors want, we will be able to provide them with what we can that matches with our values and their interests. Basically, all people spend all day long asking questions, even if we’re not conscious that we’re asking questions. 

So if you can remember back to when you were a child, and you’re just [inaudible 00:11:52] asking questions, like, can I do the work? Will the teacher be nice? Will I make friends? And teenagers constantly have a bevy of questions. Can I get tickets to the concert? Is that very attractive person in the front row possibly interested in me? Can I get these new clothes? 

And fundraisers are always asking questions as well, just like donors, and your questions might be along the lines of how can I meet this potential major donor? What do our donors really want? Or what is up with that chair of the board, and why are they doing all these things? So these things are floating through our minds all day long. 

So the reason we do the seminar and I wrote this book on questions is because my strong belief is, this is a methodology of approaching all kinds of fundraising, whether it’s major donors, direct mail, face to face, on the street, your digital work. 

Because if you can anticipate in advance what some of the barriers are, and ask the questions that a donor might have, every one you can diminish beforehand, or early on in the process of engaging them is one barrier that’s been reduced. 

So for instance, I would say that not every donor cares about every one of these 11 questions, but they will have some they care about. And the more you can reduce the barriers on those, as we’ll go through this, hopefully, and we’ll show you how to do that. It’s closer to the gift. 

Andy: Harvey, we’ve had a request for you to speak up a little louder. So go ahead do that [inaudible 00:13:24]. 

Harvey: Okay, I will try that. Okay. 

Andy: Thank you. 

Harvey: I’ll repeat everything I just said [inaudible 00:13:29]. 

Andy: No. no, no, no. 

Harvey: So your mind is endlessly busy processing questions all day long, just like your donors. And our general belief is that, as I said, that if you anticipate these things in advance, you get much closer to the gift. 

And so when you have these questions in your mind, you can put things on your website, you can throw things in newsletters, you can start conversations with some of the core questions that donors really care about. And that gets you, again, much more money in the long run. 

So generally speaking, I think the core question for a lot of people is, “Why are you asking me?” The donor wants to know, how do you see them? Is it just an ATM machine? Or is it somebody that you see them as a kind, caring, community-minded person who might be able to make a difference? 

They also kind of generally know, like most of us do, do I approve of the way you see me? So again, it’s a values proposition. 

If you go to the donor or potential donor, and you think this is somebody I just have to extract money from, people kind of will notice that in many cases. So if you care about the donors and their feelings and their contribution to the community, that makes a difference. 

Jimmie Alford, one of the great fundraisers in America, told me a story a few years ago, which was about this volunteer who had to raise money for mental health in a community. And they didn’t have many major donors, in fact, none. 

And so they looked at prominent people in the community, and she called one of them and was coached by Jimmie to ask for a meeting not ask for money. So the general proposition or principle in fundraising, which I learned decades ago, but does bear repeating, is that if you ask for money, you get advice, and if you’re asked for advice, you get money. 

So what this woman did was talk to the donor and convinced her to have a meeting. Initially said, “I have no interest in this cause.” And the volunteer said, “Oh, I’m not asking for money, I just want to get your advice. Who else in the community should we talk to? 

You know, what are the community priorities related to mental health?” And the woman begrudgingly agreed to have a half-hour meeting. The volunteer did not ask for money, but they had a nice pleasant half-hour conversation. 

At the end of it, the volunteer said, “My only request is, could I talk to you a month from now, report back on the people you said I should talk to see what they said?” And the potential donor said, “Yes, you can.” 

The charity got a $2,500 check the following week without any ask. Thirty days later, they met again, no ask, but also a request to report back 30 days again. A $25,000 dollar check came the week after the second meeting. And then after the third meeting, which again was not an ask, was a $125,000 check. 

The person became emotionally involved. People want to know why they should be the person contributing to the cause. And so fundamentally, it’s you care about this cause because of what you’ve already done in the community, you’ve met some of the people that we felt will inspire others to give, and you’ll solve our community problems or kind of summarizing this. 

“Why are you asking me?” So people also want to know who you are. If you are a peer, or a friend, or somebody who has a lot of power in the community that makes a difference. If you’re somebody they’ve never heard about, don’t know, that makes it much more difficult. 

But when you’ve given yourself, that gives you some power to ask for a gift from someone else. If you haven’t given, you are very unlikely to be successful. So you have to give to the cause that you’re soliciting for. 

And then you can possibly read that in the conversation as to why you’re doing this, and that gives you credibility. And they also often want to know who else has given in the community. So if you get permission from people to drop names of people who have given, that can make a real difference because people don’t want to be the only person giving. But if they feel like their peers are giving, it really helps tremendously. 

Third question, “Do I respect you?” So we have in our brains, the amygdala, the fear center, where you have flight, fright, and freeze as the emotional reactions to things that’s scare you. And we’ve all got it, it is very active. There are some great books on neuroscience I highly recommend you read from Daniel Kahneman to Robert Sapolsky to figure out how this affects, Robert Cialdini’s book on “Influence” as well. 

These are really important for fundraisers to learn this neuroscience behind asking, fear, and why people give, and why they don’t give. But the core thing here is trust, and it’s earned not given. 

So in Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” he said, there’s a five-step layer for trust. If people don’t know you, there’s no real, even my general attitude to life, trust people, it’s always worked out well, with some few exceptions, it’s still worth it. 

However, trust is built over time, and you know this with your friends and people you’ve met. That over time as they demonstrate their responsibility, and credibility, and kindness, you trust them more and more. 

So Fraser Green, great fundraiser in Canada who was working for an organization, left it. One day he got a call from somebody saying “I expect you to give $1,000 to our capital campaign.” 

And he was instantly irritated by this, needless to say, and he’s told me that like, Tony Soprano’s mom is calling to get some money. And then over the next 15 minutes of the conversation, the person just layered guilt after, you know, threat, “Other people will know if you haven’t given.” And finally, he said, “I’m not giving this and I will never give.” Hung up. 

Fraser was sitting in a restaurant with another potential major donor to this cause. And so in addition to being horrible fundraising, he’s told this story to many people, which has a negative impact on the organization and that individual doing this. 

So respect is earned. So if you treat all your actions as if I wouldn’t want this on Twitter, or the front page of “The New York Times,” then that’s a pretty good way to behave in life. 

Why you became a fundraiser is also a way to build trust. So if you can integrate why you’re doing what you’re doing, why you care about the cause, makes a difference. It could be, you know, my mom had cancer that’s why I’m doing this volunteer work for the cancer organization. 

It could be that somebody in your family has been in a hospice, got great care, that’s why you’re working for the hospice. Again, integrating your own personal stories can be highly motivating to people. 

So a core question everybody asks in every seminar is, “How much do you want?” And Lynn Grant, a great fundraiser working with Nature Conservancy in Canada, was going into a corporate office a number of years ago, they were going to ask for a quarter of a million dollars. And they decided at the last minute, what the heck, what have we got to lose? Let’s ask for half a million dollars. 

So they went in, made their presentation. And the person sitting on the other side of the desk said, “Wow, that’s great you only need half a million dollars, I could have given a million if you needed it, but let me write that check right now.” 

And did they go out of there thrilled that they doubled their donation? No, they were really disappointed they got half of what they could have. And perhaps if they asked for 2 million, they might have given a million and a half, we don’t know. So one of the most difficult things in major gift fundraising especially is figuring what to ask for. 

In direct mail and digital fundraising, you can often base it on money targets, $82.57 will do this. Or your last gift was $50, could you match it or maybe even give $65 this time? But for major gifts, it’s a tricky thing to do, figuring that out. 

And transformational gifts take time. David Dunlop, who many of you will know as from Cornell University, spent his life there, took 13 years to get a $100 million-plus gift. And because they trusted him at the university, because he was so successful, they were willing to wait for this. 

I know most of us don’t have that much time because we’re often moving on to another job beforehand. But recognize that if you really want people to give a large amount of money, you have to work with them to bring them along. It takes time. 

“Why your organization?” You have lots of competition, you know, there’s a million charities in North America, and then the nonprofits outside of charitable giving. There’s tons of competition. So there’s one thing that makes your organization stand out. And Canada’s 180 international development agencies, what makes you different from them? The only thing that makes you different is your stories. 

Some of them are, you know, doing child sponsorship, others long-term international development, others emergency work. But really, there’s a big overlap between these organizations. You have stories that are unique to your organization. 

We know that storytelling is powerful. It’s incredibly important, not the only thing in fundraising because you need great data, and great asks, and all this. But storytelling is fundamental, we’re hardwired for stories. And figuring out how to tell it well is, of course, the secret to success. 

Steven: Let me pause you for a second, Harvey. You’re talking to a donor, you’re telling stories, you’re having the conversation. What do you think the ratio is of you talking versus the donor talking? What’s the optimal division of time in that conversation? 

Harvey: You should talk minimum 33% of the time. And in fact, if you talk less, that’s probably a great thing. So fundamentally, I think for major donor conversations what you want to be doing is asking questions, then you reflect back what they’ve said. So if somebody says, “I’m really worried about high administrative costs in your organization,” your response should be something along the lines of recognizing what they said. 

So I understand that you’re really concerned about organizations spending a lot of money on internal stuff, you know, salaries, etc., and so money doesn’t go to the cause. That’s totally understandable when I make gifts, I feel the same way. So you’re reflecting back what they said, and then you essentially deflect it. 

That’s why our organization, when we’re going off to staff meetings, we never stay in hotels, we sleep on somebody’s floor or spare bed, which was what I was doing at Oxfam when I worked at Oxfam for a decade. So you essentially reflect, deflect, you show them that this is really good in your personal relationship too. 

You reflect what they said, so you understand and people feel heard. And that’s critically important. And then you are prepared in advance to have a counterargument to everything, although it’s not an argument. 

Steven: I will pick a fight with you on this one, and then we’ll move to the next slide. 

Harvey: [vocalization]

Steven: I think what I would say to the donor, in that case, that I would say, “You know, I hear your concern, a lot of people feel that way. And I want to say this, the money we spend on administrative costs is our financial accounting system. It allows us to use your money carefully. It’s staff training, it allows our employees to do their jobs better. It’s a good database so that we can keep track of all these relationships.” 

So maybe we have to stop calling it administrative costs. And we have to start calling it infrastructure or something like that because that’s the money that allows us to be effective at our work. And I’m on a crusade about this, so you triggered me. 

Harvey: I totally . . . 

Steven: So here I am. 

Harvey: Oh, okay. You’re easily triggered. No, I totally agree with that. And I’ve used that argument before. So it was probably a bad example of the reflex, deflect. 

Steven: Well, it’s a teachable moment for everybody and we’re getting . . . 

Harvey: No, it’s really important . . . 

Steven: . . . a lot of love in the chat on this, and understandably. Yes. 

Harvey: When I worked in international development, we said, okay, this org, we’re spending 8% on administration, this organization spends only 4%. But what’s happening is if you’re not monitoring projects overseas, and that takes money, the money could go astray. So by spending enough money to make sure we have people visiting these projects, to make sure the accounting level. So people get it. 

Steven: And I would call that evaluation, right, that’s us checking to see if we’re doing our work well, right. 

Harvey: Probably. 

Steven: So some of it is terminology, I’m going to send you back to the slide deck, so we don’t get lost here. 

Harvey: Okay. All right. So urgency is I think one of the three most important questions. If you are not making it urgent in some way, then what’s going to happen is people . . . I don’t know, if anybody got any emails on Giving Tuesday, I got a couple 100 million. So if you don’t have some sense of urgency, you’re in competition with all these other organizations. 

Urgency doesn’t necessarily mean the church roof is falling in, and it doesn’t mean there’s mass floods. It could mean a targeted . . . you know, we’ve got to raise $50,000 for this women’s shelter. Date by March 31st. Or we need 1,000 donors to chip in, or we need 150,000 people to sign this petition to the government to make sure they protect this wilderness area. Whatever it is, the milestones, deadlines, and the consequences if you don’t reach and stimulate people to give. 

Many times over the years, when I’ve had these urgent deadlines is I’m looking at, are they going to meet their target? Then I make a second donation in a very short window, period. And people need to be stimulated. And urgency is really, really important. 

I think the second most important question of these 11 is, “Is it easy to give?” So like everybody on this call, I’ve gone to websites to try and make a donation. And then, all of a sudden, I have to reenter everything again really irritating. And recently, even . . . and some of them don’t take auto-populate, which makes it even more annoying. 

So recently, I tried to give $100 to a food bank in Nova Scotia twice. And after I filled out the form a second time, and it just crashed, I thought, like, that’s it. That was about a year ago. Have I given any money since? No. Could I have been a long-term donor, possibly. So you have to make it easy. 

And when you have websites with lots of questions before people fill it out, when you have, you know, give us your phone number, that is a thing you can just see people withering away because they don’t want to give you their phone number, because they don’t want to be called. So simplicity is your friend here. 

And there’s lots of research. Great book by . . . well, there’s a bunch of great books on simplicity. And where they test, you know, 3 options or 20 options. Twenty options for your ice cream sounds great, you sell more ice cream with three options. So ease is really, really your friend. And . . . 

Steven: I’m going to pause you again. When you’re done with this one, I got another question. Go ahead and finish your thought. 

Harvey: Okay. Sure. And the key thing that make donations really easy, and to reduce attrition, is convert your donors to monthly giving. So Steven talked about the book I just did on that. Erica Waasdorp has two good books on it as well, I have three. But when people become monthly donors, you don’t have to ask them all the time to give, they give forever. 

In our analyses, which is in Canada, States, and in Australia, and Europe, people, when they become a monthly donor, were 7 to 20 times more money because they don’t drop off your programs at the rate that your single gift donors do. And they upgrade over time. So critically important to do this. 

Steven: So this is a interesting question from my friend Annie Payton. Hey, Annie, how are you? About if we’re raising money for endowment funding, how do we create a sense of urgency around that? 

Harvey: Well, the sense of urgency around endowment I guess the things you have are . . . you’ve got a target and a goal. You know, the community we have to get the community together to raise so much money. That’s the only way to kind of give that a sense of urgency. 

But I do have a personal thing around endowment funds is I don’t like them. And the reason I don’t like them . . . I used to sit on a board of a U.S. foundation that paid down their endowment. Was a major environmental foundation because a dollar spent on the environment today is worth five dollars a decade from now if we’re doing things like climate change or preserving [inaudible 00:30:02] forests. 

So the other thing about endowments is you’re subject to making, like, maybe 1%, if you’re lucky on GIC, or I’m not really sure the U.S. equivalent is, or, you know, risky stuff in the stock market where it could go up and down. If you invest that money in fundraising, the rate of return is going to be 10 times what it is in the stock market. And one of . . . 

Steven: What a great argument. 

Harvey: I was just doing a major legacy thing for a National Health Organization half a million donors, and they make about 22 million a year from legacies, and they have an $80 million fund that’s just sitting there as investment. So now maybe it’s averaging 6% to 8% on the annual . . . you know, because they’re not investing in cryptocurrencies or things that could be risky. If they took 5 million of that invest it in legacies, they would get hundreds of millions in return. 

Steven: Okay, so let me run with this. I’m going to take this back from you for a second, then be prepared because I’m going to hand it over. I want to make a distinction, which is, if people don’t know the language here, endowment is money that’s parked in the bank. And in general, you can’t touch the principal, you can spend the interest but not the corpus, as they say. 

On the other hand, if you are pursuing legacy gifts, when people pass away and leave you assets, like money, that doesn’t necessarily have to go to an endowment that could go to operations, or that could go to some other special fund. So I’m all about the legacy gifts as well, I feel like that’s where the action is moving. 

And I just want to say that legacy gifts do not necessarily equal endowment funding. And, you know, maybe we’ll do some more on this at the end about different ways to create urgency around legacy giving because I have some thoughts on that. [inaudible 00:31:45] Let’s go back to the deck. 

Harvey: Okay. Another thing that’s critically important is people want to know how they will be treated. And I have seen good organizations really mistreat large donors. 

Local university, my wife was working there as a major gift person. Somebody gave, I think, $350,000, and he never heard from them again about how they put the money in. After a year, because of staff changes he’s like, “What’s going on?” She built the relationship again. 

But, you know, it’s hard with, you know, staff being stressed and people’s priorities being dispersed, because you have to spend time on Twitter, whatever it is, to treat donors like they want to be treated. But we know that it’s critically important. So I just want to tell you one story that’s my favorite story about how staff treat a donor. 

In New Zealand there’s a woman, Kristin Castle worked for a women’s shelter. There’s a guy we’ll call Mr. Smith, and his wife supported them for a few decades. His wife died, and they were both on pension. So he wrote to the 30 charities they were giving saying, “I’m sorry, my wife just died. I don’t think I can support you in the future, I wish you the best.” And out of the 30 groups, only 3 sent back a note to him. 

And only one acknowledged the loss of his wife. That was Kristin Castle. So she took the initiative . . . this is a small dollar donor. Took the initiative said, “We really care, you’ve made a difference over the years, I’m really sorry for your loss.” 

And he wrote back a beautiful letter to her saying, you know, “You’re the only one who did this. I really thank you, and I’ll do my best to continue supporting you.” So whether or not he gave much more money or could leave a legacy doesn’t matter. It’s her attitude that’s really important. She was kind, caring, appreciative, and that makes all the difference. 

So when you hire people, if they have this kind of attitude, you will raise way more money because of the kind of people they are. And there’s a pretty good chance he went on told the story to dozens of his friends because that’s the kind of thing you do tell to people. 

So nine, “How will you measure results?” So I think there’s essentially two ways. Most people think of numbers. We served 8,800 meals this week. But there’s also another way stories are also reporting results. And a lot of major donors we found there’s a big research study and 50,000 plus donors. Actually 22% of which is significant, really care about the numbers. They’re kind of numbers geeks like all three of us. But they also want . . . most people want to hear stories as well. 

And John Wood of Room to Read, does one of the best jobs I’ve ever seen around this. So he created this organization that builds libraries, schools, girls’ scholarships around the world. And I was in a room with him. There’s like maybe 80 people in the room. He raised half a million dollars with a combination of showing $2,100 will build a library, $20,000 will build a school, $250 is a girl’s scholarship. 

But then he told stories to match with this, and it just was phenomenally successful. So figure out how you can match numbers and stories because you never know exactly what donors like even though they probably will tell you. 

If your donors want to have a say on how you use their gift, I think you have to be careful for lots of reasons. You don’t want them distorting the mission of your organization taking too much control. And I will say, though, if donors want to earmark their gift, I’m a big fan of accepting as long as it fits with your mission and the work that you’re doing. Because I think people are testing you out to see if you will do what they want, meaning, spend their gift wisely. 

And so what I’ve seen over the years, and people come in and say, I want my money to go to this. And then after a few years, they totally trust that you will spend their money wisely. And then they give you general funds that you can do whatever you want for the priorities of the organization. But increasingly, people want more control over the donations. It’s true for younger donors, it’s true for a lot of older donors now. 

In the old days of fundraising, when Andy started, people would just give you money and assume you’ll do the right thing. And now they’re a little more suspicious. 

Andy: Yeah, right. 

Harvey: So figure . . . 

Andy: Because of people like you in the industry, Harvey. 

Harvey: Exactly. Exactly. And lastly, I think the most important question is, “Will my gift make a difference?” So your donor has lots of options, keep that in mind. If you can make it more tangible and emotional, it makes a difference. 

So there’s a great book called “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath that said, and SOFII, which is the showcase . . . S-O-F-I-I, Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Ideas. They got a list of the top 40 marketing and fundraising books of all time, go to it. And that’s, I think in the top five. 

And it’s a book that’s not necessarily about nonprofits, but there’s a bunch of stuff in nonprofits. And what they essentially say is that . . . and they’ve got studies to prove this out. If you have a success formula, if things are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and story-based, you will have way more success. And when you incorporate these six elements, it makes a difference through donors, because the simplicity is key. We’re not very good at this. 

And we’ve got too many . . . I’m all in favor of intellectuals, and reading, and learning, and teaching. However, they’re not the ones that should be writing your copy, you have to make it simple, so people can understand what you’re doing. So I’m going to just stop there and see if Andy has any questions before we [inaudible 00:38:28]. 

Andy: Yeah, I’m going to throw you a question or two, and then I’ll take over the deck here. So this is a specific question from Diane, but I want to make it more generic. It says, “How is an easy way to communicate $300, $600 per couple donation as a special tax deduction?” And the generic question I want to pull out of this is, how do we think about tax deductibility as an incentive for giving? And is it powerful? Is it not powerful? Is it something we should lean into? What do you think? 

Harvey: Well, I think almost anybody likes to get that assuming they’re paying any taxes at all. 

Because many rich people don’t. But I think, generally speaking, people like to get that. However, I used to sit on Greenpeace’s board in Canada, and we lost our tax status because conservatives in the oil patch lobbied against the organization and it was taken away. 

But at the time, we had something like 50,000 donors, we didn’t see any drop in the money from them. There were major donors giving $25,000, and it did hurt them because they would be getting like a $12,000 deduction. So some of them would go down to 15 or 20. 

But fundamentally, the organization was not damaged at all. And it became . . . it’s a bit of a badge of honor, they said, “We’re not tax-deductible because we are lobbying, you know, against . . . you know, for the climate emergency and there are vested interests that are opposing it. So we need your support.” 

And there was a big study a number of years ago, and really, people can get a tax deduction over a million places. And so that’s not something to lead with. You lead with the great case you have that’s going to make a difference in your community. 

Andy: Thank you. And I think . . . you know, when we have studied sort of what inspires donors to give, the tax deductibility is on the list, but it’s like 10th or 15th on the list, it’s way down. 

All right, so I’m going to assume, based on Harvey’s great wisdom, and all the other work you have done, that you’re going to actually get some yeses, and you’re going to talk to some donors, and they’re going to say yes, and they’re going to want to give you money, which is brilliant. 

Then there’s a conversation that follows that, and what tends to happen in this moment is, you know, all the little pleasure centers in your brain go off and all the dopamine or whatever you’re like, [vocalization] and then you leave. And it’s, like, no, this is, like, the beginning of the conversation, this is not the end. 

So I want to give you about a dozen questions . . . and I’ve sent Steven a handout that includes most of these, and we’ll try and send it out afterward, along with the recording. And someone has also asked for the chat log. And I think we can save that as well and get that to you. 

So Kevin is doing slides for me. Next slide, please, Kevin. 

You know, this is an obvious question, how are you paying me? And, you know, what I tend to do in these environments is I have a pledge form with me. And I’ll pull it out of my briefcase or pull it out of my folder and say, okay, thank you for the yes, this is awesome. 

Let’s talk about all logistics, like, how do I spell your name correctly? And whose name are we…and do you want to be anonymous? Or can we list your name in our annual report? And oh, by the way, how do you want to make payment? Like, are you writing a check today? Am I swiping a credit card? Like, how are we doing this? 

Next, please. 

This reference is what Harvey said. And I will agree and disagree. At the end of the day, what our organizations need is unrestricted money. And we have to be good at pitching those unrestricted gifts. And we have to be able to say when you give us whatever the amount is, it supports all of our work. It supports a variety of programs, it supports the impact that we have across the community, it supports the partnerships we have with other organizations, all of that. 

Now, per Harvey’s note, if somebody really wants to make a restricted gift and it fits your mission, and you can handle it, amen. You need to have a gift acceptance policy. And that simply means we accept restricted gifts under these circumstances. And, you know, one example is a minimum amount. 

Most of the groups I’m working with, you know, if they’re going to take a restricted gift, it has to be at least $5, 000 or $10,000. Because if you are taking restricted gifts of 50 or 100 bucks, the bookkeeper, the accountant, will take you out back and shoot you. And I will testify on behalf of the bookkeeper, the accountant, because that is an accounting nightmare. So . . . 

Harvey: You got a gun problem in America, I think. 

Andy: We do have a gun problem in America, right on. You know, I haven’t used it yet in this circumstance. 

Anyway, let us learn to get better at pitching unrestricted gifts. I feel like as fundraisers, that is part of our work. 

Next slide. 

How would you like us to recognize you? Now, there are people who like to be anonymous, and we have to honor that and that’s lovely. And I will tell you, as someone who’s given to a lot of organizations, sometimes I let them have my name, and sometimes I don’t. And I don’t know that I have a strategy. I think it’s more intuitive than anything else. 

But the list of names is a big deal. And I think many of us had the circumstance where we get that annual report, or we get the newsletter, and they list the names. And we’re reading through the names to see if we actually know any of these people. Are these my peers? 

So I feel like it’s valuable. And what I would do, if I didn’t have another strategy, is I would do an opt-out rather than an opt-in, meaning we will publish your name unless you tell us otherwise. But what I’m envisioning here is an actual conversation with a donor where I can ask this question, “How would you like to be recognized?” Next slide, please. 

Is there someone we can honor with the gift? A friend, a family member? 

Certainly, there’s become a tradition with some of my family members that what we do for the holidays at this time of year is we give gifts to each other’s favorite charitable organizations in honor of each other, in lieu of buying more stuff that we don’t need. And that’s been lovely. 

And I’ll check in with my sister, or my sister-in-law each year and say, “Is it the same group this year, or who do you want us to give to in your honor?” And I will let them know it’s in their honor. And hopefully, these charitable organizations are sending a note to the people I am honoring, saying, FYI, we got a gift from Andy in your honor. 

So if you have a pledge form, definitely keep that option on the form so you have a way to track that. And oh, by the way, this implies that you have a database where you can park this information and have access to it. 

This is, I guess, a sideways plug for Bloomerang and, you know, which is a fine database company and there are many others too. But you really need to have a functional database to make this work. 

Next slide. 

Now, you may have already uncovered this before you got to this point in the conversation. Any good donor conversation is a discovery conversation. What do you care about? Why does this work resonate with you? How do you connect to our mission? Tell me why you care? 

And so this may be redundant, and it may be unnecessary. But frankly, if you haven’t gotten to this point of the conversation yet, you really need to go there. Because this is how you understand your donors’ motivation. And if you’re going to serve them, and get them to recommit and maybe increase their gift over time, you need to know who they are and why they care. 

Next slide. 

Now I have done this a number of times, and I’ve actually been this person too. Where I’ll say to somebody, “You know, you’ve been so articulate about why you care about the work, would you write a testimonial?” Or, you know, I don’t know if it’s appropriate, but I can even write down what you just said. 

And if I’m getting it accurate, and we can put your name to it, I would love to include it on our social media feed. Or maybe I can put it on the website, or I can send it out in our next newsletters, or some way that we can let people know that you care. Because this is peer to peer, right? This is one donor, basically talking to other donors, saying this stuff is good. You want to be a part of this. 

So I think it’s good to ask for testimonials. People are generally flattered. Sometimes they’ll say no, thank you. But a lot of times, they’ll say, sure. And occasionally they’ll say, yeah, if you’ll write it, I’ll sign it. So you have to make sure that you are accurately representing their views when you do that. 

Next slide. 

And, Harvey, I’m going to have you keep track on chat, and if there’s anything popping up in the chat or Q&A that’s relevant to this, feel free to jump in and interrupt me. 

Harvey: There is one which I’ll toss in, I didn’t want to interrupt you, of course, you can interrupt me. 

Andy: Yeah. Go for it. 

Harvey: It’s a very good question from Mary Corkery, “What are some ways to connect to donors when all their interaction has been with one person in the organization, but they want to start spreading donor relations across several members of the organization?” So a really good, important question. 

Andy: It’s a brilliant question. So I’m going to frame this in terms of risk management. If you have a primary outreach person who knows all the donors and all the funders, and it’s one person, your organization, maybe it’s the CEO, the executive director, the development director who’s been there for a decade, and you lose that person, right? 

If they take another job, or they move out of town, or, you know, God forbid, they get hurt or something, you have a problem because all of those relationships are invested in one person. So a classic thing you have to do as risk management is to start to spread those relationships across the organization. And the way that I would do it . . . 

And, Harvey, feel free to jump in. 

The way, what I would do it is consciously introducing people and saying, Martha, you’ve been a generous donor for 15 years. I want to make sure you know three, or four, or five people in our organization so that we can serve you better. And also, you can get a sense of who works here, and who’s on the board, and who cares about this stuff. This is like a peer group. So I would consciously do introductions. And what do you think? 

Harvey: Totally agree. And when I was leaving Oxfam after a decade, for the major donors I would go around, even after I left with the new staffers and, to make sure they develop some sort of relationship. 

And also, always a great thing, which builds up on what Annie said is, if you get your donors coming to events, or coming to your organization to see some project in action, they will meet other people, so it’s not just dependent on one person. Even if the person they’re meeting, say a project officer, or a volunteer coordinator, whatever it is, the more links they have with you, the safer you are. 

Andy: Yeah. So Emily here just said, “What if there’s only two people on staff?” And my answer is bring some board members, get them involved in this too. 

Next slide, please, Kevin. 

So how do we keep you informed about what we’re doing? How do you like to be communicated with? Are you an email person? Should I call you on the phone periodically? Are you active on social? Do we keep you informed that way? Do you actually reprint this stuff? Should we send you that? Can I come and visit you? How often can I come and visit you? So find this out, take good notes, get it in the database? 

Next slide. 

When I come back to see you, can we include your family members? And I think this is huge because you’re really trying to get a sense . . . especially for older donors, you want the offspring to know what Mom, or Dad, or Grandma, Grandpa cares about. And it’s a way to expand your donor pool. 

But also, if we’re going to start having the planned giving or legacy giving conversation, the heirs need to know this is what my father, mother, grandpa, whoever cared about. So let’s start to bring the whole family into the conversation. 

Next slide. 

Can you open the door to other donors? Who else cares about this work? Will you help introduce us? Will you send an email? Will you make a phone call? Can I drop your name? Would you like to host a little party for three or four of your friends who come over and learn about this? Yeah, I think the work of fundraisers is to find new donors, and I have found the easiest way to find new donors is through existing donors. 

Next slide. 

Who else do you support and why? Now, this may also be part of the discovery at the beginning of the conversation or earlier in the relationship. And I’m fine talking about other organizations. I don’t find that problematic. I might say, you know, tell me three or four of your favorite charitable groups and why? What do you like about them? Because you’ll learn a lot. But if you haven’t gone there yet, this might be an opportunity to go there. 

Next slide. 

Would you like to help? Would you like to volunteer? And this is not for everybody because, you know, as you know some people find fundraising to be scary, phobic, toxic, you know, etc. But there are people, you’re going to meet donors who are enthusiastic, and articulate, and ask you good questions, and tell good stories themselves. And you’re going to start thinking, wow, this person would be an awesome fundraiser for us. 

So I think it’s fine to ask that. And again, you have to have ways to manage these volunteers if they say yes. So don’t make this part of the conversation if you can’t actually use them. But if you think there is a good way to use them, bring them in. 

And one more question. 

I’m sorry, next slide. There it is. 

How often do you give? Now, this is a slightly awkward question because somebody just dropped a little money on you. And then you’re like, when do you give again? But I think it’s okay to say tell me about your calendar, when you think about this, so that I can be on top of that, so I know when to engage with you. So I know when to leave you alone. 

We assume often that our bigger donors are once-a-year donors and that is assumption, right? That is not . . . that’s us assuming without actually asking. 

And so there are donors who will say, you know what, I’m a once-a-year kind of person. But if you have a special need, or you have an emergency, or there’s some cool opportunity that pops up in the middle of the year, come and talk to me. And you’re not going to know this unless you ask. So I think it’s part of the list. 

Now, next slide. 

As mentioned, I did a book with my friend Andrea Kihlstedt called Train Your Board (and Everybody Else) to Raise Money. And we turned this into an exercise. 

And I will also do a shout-out to Harvey because these questions started as an article that we wrote for what, Harvey? “The Grassroots Fundraising Journal,” maybe. I can’t remember who published it. 

Harvey: “Grassroots Fundraising Journal.” 

Andy: So anyway, as a result of that, there is a tracking form. And I have sent this to Steven, and Steven will send it to you so that you’ll have a way to . . . when you’re meeting with donors to actually have something to write some of these answers on, which will make your life a little easier. So that’s the formal stuff. 

Next slide that we wanted to present. 

And we’re going to hang out and address as many questions as we can. Steven, you’re welcome to jump in because I know you’ve been paying attention to chat and the Q&A, and maybe you can help us manage this a little bit. Is there anything you want to ask? 

Steven: Well, first, I just want to say thank you. That was some awesome, awesome info. And like you heard a couple times, I’m going to be sending out all those resources that Andy mentioned, that handout, the checklist, the sample questions. I’ll send all that stuff out for sure. 

But, Harvey and Andy, before we get to questions, just want to say thank you. I’ll take some of your advice from the session and say, thanks before I do anything else. This is really cool. Looks like we got some agreement in the chat on that as well. 

Andy: And just so you’re tracking chat, Steven, so you know we had several dissertations on the definition of the word Hoosier. And I hope you’ll go back and read those [inaudible 00:53:18]. 

Steven: Oh, I saw those. Yeah, thank you. I’m going to show this to my wife. 

Andy: The most important thing that happened today is Steven, in Indiana, is grasping the term Hoosier for perhaps the first time. So that’s good. Anyway, give us some questions. 

Steven: So there are some really good ones in here. I’ll start with a practical one here from Cynthia, “As you’re talking to donors having those interviews, are you taking notes? Is it maybe a faux pas to actually bring a legal pad with you to the meeting? Or how should folks handle that? Because there’s going to be good information coming? Do they just need to handle it or what?” 

Andy: I have a take. And I think on counter . . . I mean, I’m not the majority opinion, but I think it’s okay to bring the legal pad or the clipboard, and say, “If it’s okay, donor, I would like to keep a few notes so that I can remember what you said. And then I can do a better job serving you when I leave the room because I don’t remember everything.” And I would ask permission. 

I know other major donor fundraisers who think that’s verboten, and they try and remember everything, and then they go in the car and they write down everything before they forget it. Or they get on the subway or the bus and they’re scrawling furiously, or they’re talking into their phone. So I don’t know, Harvey, what do you think? 

Harvey: I think if you go and say exactly what you said that you ask permission, and explain the reason why and it is a good reason. I want to make sure that I capture everything you care about, then relatively few people will object to that. 

I was in a major donor legacy meeting last week which I planned to tape and asked permission because I knew the donor would be okay with that for a letter I was, written for this university. But too noisy in the restaurant. I was shocked that there were many people out. So I did have to do exactly that, soon as I got back, make notes. But I think people are pretty okay if you ask and maybe even some of them flattered. 

Steven: Yeah. Sure. Love it. Always good to address the elephant room if there is one, right? 

Andy: A note here from Kasha. 

Steven: Yeah, Kasha Pearson. Go ahead, you read my mind, Andy. 

Andy: Kasha is saying, “If you ask for advice and you write down what they say, it’s a way of showing respect. Like, oh, yeah, you’re actually serious about taking the advice I’m giving you, so right on, good point.” 

Steven: Well, here’s one from Mary, I’m sure Harvey has some thoughts on this. But, “Any tips for generating monthly donations from folks who give one time kind of here and there?” 

Harvey: A million of them. I just did . . . 

Steven: Got a whole book of them. 

Harvey: Shameless plug but for my books, I give all the royalties away. But there’s a ton of tips in there on how to use different channels, how to renew people, how to keep people, how to retain people, how to upgrade people. And I just did a 20-part video how to, master class series on monthly giving. I didn’t bother telling you guys this, but maybe we can send it out to the participants afterward. 

So really, it’s four hours of modules on how to do this better. Because again, your average monthly donor worth $1,000 to $2,000. Fundamentally, you can do it at almost no cost on every reply form in a direct mail letter. Should you do that, have a box where you give people the option to join. Have one or two sentences in the letter. And by the way, one of the best ways you can give is this . . . 

Make sure it’s always on your website, one-time gift or gifts monthly. You can tell stories in your newsletters of how donors did this, it’s so easy. And it’s a way they can contribute to the organization all year round. 

So essentially, you look at all the tools to communicate with donors and give them soft asks. And I’ve also done this, launch programs for a number of organizations where they had no monthly donors, and in a couple of cases, no donors or 17 donors, and now they have thousands of these. So key thing is asking people persistently, making it an easy option. And again, some urgency and ease might go a long way with converting people to monthly. 

Andy: Yeah. And, you know, the other trick that I have seen used and used is a match or a challenge. So, you know, a donor has pledged $5,000 if we can find 50 new monthly donors in the next 7 days. So that stuff tends to work pretty well. 

Harvey: We’ve used different kinds of matches where they’ll match dollar for dollar the donation with a $35,000 match if you can get 88 new people, that sort of thing. So look at all the different variations you can use around match, but, of course, it does get that sense of urgency. 

Andy: While we’re doing this, Kevin, can we go to the next slide because we did have a question about books, and we’ll just put up the next slide for people. 

And, Steven, keep the questions coming. 

Steven: Yeah. I love this one. It’s from an anonymous asker. But it’s definitely speaking to me as a millennial, “Do you have any recommendations for how to overcome a large age gap between the fundraiser and the donor?” The person asking the question says, “I’m much younger than the donor often and find it hard to be taken seriously. Any tips for those younger fundraisers?” I bet there’s at least a couple folks attending that have gone through [inaudible 00:58:27]. 

Harvey: I dye my hair gray. 

Steven: Not a problem Harvey. 

Andy: Right, shave your head so you look bald. Ugh, God. So first of all, I’m going to add a layer to this because there is ageism in fundraising, absolutely. There is also sexism in fundraising. And there is racism in fundraising. And, you know, depending upon what your primary identities are, these things can all show up as a barrier with donors. So, you know, I’m expanding the question slightly here. 

Two answers real quick. Answer Number 1 is be yourself, you know, show up, show your commitment to the cause, prepare for the meeting, you know, be as professional as you can be under the circumstances, don’t be intimidated. Claim your power. 

And if your power is I’m connected to this amazing organization, this amazing organization has my back. And what you and I both have in common is we both care about this amazing organization. Carry that, mean that’s your superpower in that moment. 

The other thing I would say without being deferential is you can say to somebody listen, I know that you’ve been connected to this work longer than I have. Or perhaps, you know, you have some history here that I don’t. I’m here to learn from you. What can you tell me about the organization that would be good for me to know that will help me do my job more effectively? 

And here I am asking for advice instead of asking for money, right? So that’s not sucking up. It’s basically just saying I bet you have some experiences with this that I don’t have yet, and I’d love to work with you. 

Harvey, what do you think? 

Harvey: Excellent answer. And the only thing I would change slightly is . . . because we were once young fundraisers, and we’re still doing it as middle-aged fundraisers because [inaudible 01:00:18]. 

Andy: Old. 

Harvey: Thirty years for now. 

Andy: Old. 

Harvey: No, but we were in that age position where we were talking to donors in their 60s, 70s when we were in our 20s. And somehow, we kind of managed to not suck up to them in a demeaning way, and just, you know, and be very successful. 

So I think the core thing is the passion. I’ve seen lots of younger people come to me, they’re just so passionate about the cause it’s contagious. Everybody, whatever age, likes passion. And so we had that at the time for the cause, and we were working around environment, international, whatever, and people like that. 

So I think that I’d say bring your passion to the conversations whether you’re fighting racism, you know, sexism, or, you know, working for the environment whatever. That makes it an enormous difference. 

Andy: Yeah. Thank you. You have power, you are authentic, you are the real deal and people will resonate with that. 

Steven: Love it, shout out to the young fundraisers you’re awesome. Well, dang, this hour flew by we’re a couple minutes over. I want to be respectful of everybody’s time. And I know there’s a couple questions we didn’t get to. Andy and Harvey, are you cool taking questions maybe offline, online? I can’t remember the word. But I’ll send it to you . . . 

Harvey: Well, the ideal is that we continue with whoever wants to stay [inaudible 01:01:38] for another half hour or so. 

Andy: Yeah, we’re happy to hang around. It’s up to you. Steven, you may have childcare responsibilities here. 

Steven: That’s okay. The 3-year-old is still sleeping we’re good. 

Andy: Yeah, but we can go into overtime a little bit if you’re good with it. And if not, you can send us questions offline either way. 

Steven: Yeah, well, we’ll let folks roll off if they need to, but we’re going to keep recording, and we’ll send that to folks if they need to go. There’s a really cool question here from Amanda, “How do you think about building a relationship with a potential donor when they’re not meeting with me for me, they’re meeting with me as a gateway to supporting our organization? 

Amanda is saying the donor and me are very different and have little in common. They’re interested in the donor, but the donor probably isn’t interested in them. It seems like that is kind of what you’re recommending right to kind of put the organization at the forefront? Or am I kind of reading that incorrectly? What do you think? 

Harvey: Are you asking us, or is that a . . . 

Steven: Yes, I am. 

Andy: Harvey, you take the first bite at this, if you would. 

Harvey: Sure. Well, I’m not totally clear on what the question is here, so I’m interpreting and I may be wrong, and so if you’d like to come back on, Amanda, and clarify it if I’m incorrect. But I think, again, you figure out what they are interested in, where those circles overlap, and then work in the area to try and expand that middle where you overlapped. 

So if the donor is interested in the cause, and not interested in you, just as Steven was saying, focus on the cause, and how their gift and participation can make a difference. And then you will build a relationship over time. And again, as we talked about, listen to what they say. Ask them a ton of questions and everybody likes to be asked questions because it shows you’re interested in them. 

Harvey: Makes sense. 

Andy: And I think, ultimately, if you can make it about the cause, or the organization, and not necessarily about you and that helps. It’s imperfect, but it’s what we got. 

Steven: Cool. What about maybe kind of the inverse? Sally here is saying that they already know the donor kind of socially, and it sounds like from the question that they’re trying to maybe pivot that into more of a, I guess, maybe not professional is the wrong word. But they’re friends, right, they’re already buddies. 

Have either of you gone through that where it wasn’t necessarily a stranger or someone where there wasn’t, you know, that relationship existing, but they had to kind of move them towards that giving? Kind of an interesting question, I thought. 

Harvey: Your turn, Andy. 

Andy: What I would say to this person is, you know, you may know that I’m involved with organization X, and it’s a really important part of my life, and I’m excited about it. And so I’m sharing this with my friends. And if it’s something you’re interested in, I would love to have you participate. And if you’ve got other priorities, or you’re just not that interested, it’s cool, we’re still friends, regardless, right, I still love you. And I want to give you this opportunity, if you’re into it. 

And I would just sort of test it gently and say, you know, and you might say, you know, I’ve picked five of my friends to introduce to this organization, and you’re one of them, and I thought maybe this would be something you want to know about. So I think that’s how I’d handle it. 

Harvey, what about you? 

Harvey: I think excellent answer. And just a nuance on that I had a friend approach me about . . . who’s this, wealthiest person I know, found a gold mine, literally. And he wanted to talk about charitable giving. So I could have pitched all my clients that I really like, but that’s the wrong thing to do. So I actually asked him about, essentially what is near and dear to your heart? What do you emotionally care about? 

And then, tragically, it didn’t overlap with my client’s. But I sent them off to organizations that I thought did really good work in this area. And that’s the kind of thing that builds trust. And maybe there’s some other organization that in the future I can talk to him about. He’ll know I have his best interests at heart. 

I think especially you have to be careful with your friends to make . . . you know, I’ve had lots of friends over the years. You have to think about it very carefully because you don’t want to damage the relationship. But thinking of them first, I think is the way to get around that. 

Andy: The other thing you could do is you could host a party. I mean, you know, house parties are great when we’re allowed to go back into people’s homes and have parties. And you can, you know, invite 20 people you know to come to your house, and it can be a fixed price, it could be a pitch with a donation after it, right. And that’s a lovely way to introduce people to your organization. 

If you’re interested in house parties, I’ll try and remember . . . I’ll put in chat. There’s a guy named Mario Warshafsky who’s sort of the guru of fundraising house parties, and he wrote a nice little booklet about it. So I’ll go ahead and drop that in chat. 

Steven: Nice, I like this question from Olga, “How do you sound genuine when communicating urgency? Maybe you have a very pressing need that you want to communicate to a donor. But maybe you don’t want to, you know, panic them or, you know, make them kind of freak out. Any tips for when the need is kind of urgent, and you may need that help very, very soon?” 

Andy: Harvey, you write more copy than I do. I imagine you think about this a lot as part of copywriting for fundraising appeals and such, what are you thinking? 

Harvey: Well, they’re always . . . and I write lots of different letters for lots of different kinds of causes. But there always is something urgent, and the urgency is actually the ideal letter or copy, whether it’s an email, or even if you’re talking to people is you’ve got . . . every charity has a problem that they’re there to solve or multiple problems. 

So we work with groups like Covenant House, and we will tell a story of somebody on the street who, thanks to Covenant House, is now off the street, is going to community college, has a plan for the future. 

So we’ve already kind of solved that problem. But that’s the story, you illustrate other urgency because there are more people like him on the street. And your donation today can get somebody else off the street, and change their life, and strengthen our community. 

So you have to figure out for a particular cause, where you can kind of build a sense of urgency. But almost every cause has that. So if you want to identify your particular cause I could give it a shot if . . . you know, what I think might be some urgency for your organization. 

Steven: Any thoughts, gents, on donor challenges? Robert posed a hypothetical here in the chat where a anonymous donor says that hey if the organization can get 200 new monthly donors, they’ll give the organization $5,000. What are your thoughts on challenges in general? And for monthly giving, have you seen that work specifically, Harvey, as kind of the recent monthly giving guy? 

Harvey: Yeah. Andy mentioned this earlier, but it works really well. So we’ve even, hilariously now, show how well this stuff works. 

We did literally a door-to-door drop near the end of year for a hospital client, like mass mailing to just every household with a matching gift in it. And somebody gave, non-donor gave $50,000 because of the match. Psychologically, people like these matches. A number of our clients once, twice a year, will use them and they work. 

Andy: Yeah, and I’m looking at Robert’s question. Hi, Bob, I think I know who it is. And, you know, the answer is double down. I mean, sort of recommunicate with the people who haven’t given yet. 

And the other thing you could do is go to the donor and say, “Okay, you said we get $5,000 for 200 of them, we’ve already got 100 can we have $2,500, please, if we don’t make it all the way? And see what you can get, you know, on a pro rata basis rather than the whole thing if you don’t get to the total goal. See if you can get a match for the ones you do get to. 

So other questions? 

Steven: Yeah, there’s a question that came in, I think it was around the time you were talking about online giving forms and not creating a lot of friction, specifically around phone numbers. Natalie is saying, “Is there any, you know, context for when you might want to ask for a phone number?” 

It seems like it might be a good way to have that conversation. But you don’t want to prevent the donation because you asked for it? Is it putting it on there as an optional or maybe asking for a phone number afterwards? What have you seen work there? 

Harvey: Yeah. I think the core thing is you don’t ask for it, when people are possibly making their first gift. And the second thing is, you can go back to people and ask for their phone number, obviously, they’re great thing to have. But the way to do it is give them a reason to give you their phone number. 

So one of the reasons could be if you’d like to leave your phone number just in case there’s any problems with your credit card donation or your electronic funds transfer, we’ll know how to be able to get a hold of you. 

So that is a good rational reason for people to leave their phone number. And maybe for your organization, if you have their phone number, we can text you when the gala event is coming, so you’ll be the first person to know to make sure that you get a ticket before it sells out because it sells out every year. So again, give people reasons for all of these things that you’re collecting that people instinctively don’t want to give you. 

Andy: And I go back to the pledge form. If you’re actually sitting with the donor and you’re filling out the data, how do I spell your name? Make sure I have your mailing address, correct? What’s your phone number, right. And without even putting a charge on it sometimes people will say, you know, 555, and give you the number. And if they’re hesitant, then you can go where Harvey goes, which is, “Here’s the reason we asked for it, and it allows us to serve you better.” 

Steven: That’s cool. That makes a lot of sense. Tax deductions came up in the presentation. Anne was wondering if you had seen any research on that since the tax law change in 2017? 

For my part, we still see December 31st as the biggest fundraising day, that’s when the most revenue comes in. So it seems like there’s still something in people’s mind on that last day of the year. And I know there may not necessarily be that tax benefit anymore to doing that. But, well, what all do you see in there, have any impact of that over the last three or four years? 

Andy: So for those who don’t know, the tax law changed in 2017, changed deductibility. And for many people they got a better deal with a standard deduction, rather than itemizing their deductions. And so the theory was that was going to depress donations because fewer people were going to have access to deductibility. 

I will tell you, 20 . . . what year…did we just finish 2020? We’re in 2021 now. 2020 was a record-breaking year, right in the middle of the pandemic, we raised more money in the U.S., at least in the U.S., than we have ever raised. 

And I think that . . . you know, Steven, you’re better at these numbers than I am. But 2021 all the preliminary numbers we’re seeing is we have another kick-ass fundraising year, right? So the idea that globally speaking, or at least across the U.S. that the change in the tax law depressed giving, we haven’t seen that. There’s no data to show that. So I just don’t worry about it that much. And, Harvey, I know you’re an expert on U.S. tax law, not, feel free to weigh in. 

Harvey: We’ll take another question. 

Steven: It’s two days after Giving Tuesday, any Giving Tuesday hot tips about a couple questions around Giving Tuesday. Hot takes I should say. 

Andy: Yeah, I have a bad attitude, so I’m going to kick this one to Harvey. 

Harvey: I have a bad attitude, so I’m going to kick this one to Steven. 

Although, I do see the Bloomerang showed that I think this year went up 7%. What I’d be kind of curious is that . . . you know, every year you get increasingly more inundated with asks. So we were chatting about this with our account managers two days ago, and laughing at the subject lines that people would send out. 

So we write these things for a number of our clients, but when you get subject line saying it’s Giving Tuesday, exclamation mark, you know, delete, delete, delete. So you have to just, like, tease your copy on the outside of an envelope, you have to make these subject lines interesting, or teasing, to get people to open the email because otherwise, you’re not going to get a gift. 

The other thing I would say is that I found a lot of the copy was awful. Meaning just bad fundraising, writing dense paragraphs written by people in communications and marketing who don’t understand fundraising. Talking about how great the organization is, as opposed to how great the donor is, or how great the donor’s gift would be if it was allocated to this. 

So again, there’s lots of issues just like . . . because it’s easy and cheap to do email in a way compared to direct mail, you tend to have people who don’t know fundraising often writing a copy. And that means you’re just going to raise less money. 

Steven: Yeah, standing out does seem to be the key because, like you said, everyone’s inbox are full of emails with the same subject line. 

Andy: You know, I will use the nonvernacular. But a friend of mine says it’s like trying to get into a urinating contest with Niagara Falls, right, you’re not going to win that one. 

And so, you know, I’m glad it’s working for some folks. And I think Harvey’s correct if we were more strategic, and targeted, and had better pitches, we would do better with it. And I should also say . . . I mean, Steven, you have done content on this through the webinars, and I would refer people back to those because I know they’re in the archive. 

Steven: Yeah. When it comes to next September, October, look us up because there’s a lot of good stuff there for sure. 

And I will say, again, December 31st, that’s a much bigger day with less competition, if that’s the right word in the inbox. So if you don’t have something queued up for New Year’s Eve, sneaky, good day for sure. We have, you know, a dashboard of all the revenue coming into Bloomerang, and that’s when we see big time. 

Even after the tax . . . especially after the tax law change it didn’t seem to . . . it may have been an incentive. You know, I’m not saying it wasn’t. But not having that now, like you said, Andy, didn’t seem to be a deterrence. 

I see you answered about the books, Harvey. 

The only other question I see here is from Kelly that we didn’t get to. One person shop, I know you suggested having board members help out. But for someone who is a one-person, you know, team and they’re doing a lot of other things, other than, you know, getting additional help, which I think is really good advice. 

What do you think they should focus on and maybe that, to use the pie chart analogy, they’ve got that little sliver of time to do this kind of stuff, that there may be some low-hanging fruit that you recommend they focus on? 

Harvey: Well, I have strong opinions on this. Again, it depends if Kelly’s going to be around for a long time, it makes a difference. Because then you can focus on things that really bear fruit. But legacies for instance, as we know, many of our clients’ legacies are $70,000 to $125,000 a year. So anything you do, even if it’s a small part of your time, around legacies marketing, incredibly lucrative payoff, you just have to be patient for people to pass on. 

Then you can use some of that money to hire somebody else, and it’s generally always unrestricted money. So I’d say that’s one thing to focus on. Again, if they could build up their monthly giving program so they, if they say, have 3,000 donors, and they can convert, you know, 300 of them to monthly giving over a couple of years. Well, that should bring in $6,000 a month, again, money you can use as a basis to do more things, investing in fundraising. 

But fundamentally, when I used to be a one-person fundraiser when I was at Oxfam in British Columbia, Andy was too. And so the core thing is to set priorities where you’ll have the greatest impact. And I was doing a tour of Australia decades ago, to one person offices, and maybe sometimes two or three, but only one fundraiser in the office. And I asked everybody where they spent their time. 

And even the people who were the fundraisers, go through, well, 40% administration, you know, 20% on meetings that went nowhere. But then they’d be like 30% working with volunteers x, x, x. How much for major gifts, 3% of their time. These are the fundraisers, legacy stuff, maybe one hour a month kind of thing. 

So you have to take some of the time on administration and volunteers or other things that don’t instantly produce money, and cut them down as much as possible, because they will not allow you to grow to become a larger organization. 

Andy: I have a even simpler answer to this. Harvey’s excellent answer. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for naming that. 

And I will even be a little simpler here and say, pick a number of donors, 5 donors, 8 donors, 10 donors, right? And say my job over the next 3 months is to connect with these 5, 10, 8, whatever, 12 people and pick a slice that’s not scary. 

And, you know, maybe they are your most loyal donors, or maybe they’re the most generous donors, or maybe the people who’ve given the most number of years and just start to cultivate those folks. 

Like who are you? I’m going to come talk to you, like, I’d like to know more. You’ve been giving to this organization for 15 years. That’s amazing. We added up all your gifts, and it’s several thousand dollars, I want to know who you are and why you care. May we have a conversation about that? 

And just start at that level and do . . . you know, if you can do five in the first month then the second month, try and do six or seven and, you know, ratchet it up. 

Steven: I love that. That might actually be pretty energizing as a task or an activity [inaudible 01:20:14]. 

Andy: You know, you ask people why they give, and they tell you how much they love your organization and it’s mind-blowing. And we’re in the trenches doing the grunt work and being ground down, and we need to hear from the donors because the donors actually energize us. 

Steven: I love it. Speaking of energizing this was . . . I owe you two for doing all this extra work. This was really kind of you to go through literally every single question. This is really cool. And thanks to all the people who are asking and engaging. I appreciate that. 

Andy: Kevin, next slide. 

Steven: Yeah, let’s [inaudible 01:20:47] this. 

Andy: Kevin, final slide. 

Steven: Buy the books, by the way. 

Andy: Thank you. Oh, yeah, here we are. 

Steven: I can plug it. Yeah. Connect with these two, obviously. 

I can’t believe we did almost an hour and a half without Harvey dancing. Harvey has been known to cut a rug at conferences. So I know he’s feeling a little under the weather, so I’ll give it a pass this time. 

But thank you both this was really cool to have you. This is a real treat for me personally, I hope everybody else enjoyed it. Thank you. 

Harvey: Thanks, Steven, for doing it and, Andy. 

Andy: Nice to see you, Harvey, always, Steven, you are a hero. And thank you, everyone, for giving us a chunk of your day. We can’t do this . . . doing this ourselves is boring. It’s much more interesting when we have a group with us. 

Steven: Yeah, shout out to you. It’s a busy time of year. 

Andy: Yeah, shout out to all the participants. No joke. So, Steven, thank you for inviting us. Everybody, carry on, do your work, do it well. Yeah, we’ll see you perhaps at the dance party. 

Harvey: Hopefully. 

Steven: I’m going to check that out, Harvey. 

Hopefully, we can see everyone else on our next webinar. Same time, same place next week, my buddy Julia Ordonez is going to talk about those last-minute year-end tips. She’s got some cool stories to tell. She’s got a lot of really interesting case studies where she’s been able to raise a lot of money in those final days and hours of the year. Going to be a fun one. If you’re here, you will get an invite to that session even if you’re watching the recording so be on the lookout for that. 

And I hope you all have an awesome end of your week. You know, I know it’s getting to year-end, so hang in there. You’re all awesome. Stay safe, stay healthy, and we will hopefully talk to you again next week. Bye now. 

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.