Lindsay Simonds will address the fundamentals and trends to set the stage, and then dive into examples of how nonprofits are framing their thinking about sustaining long term donor partnerships.
Steven: Yeah. I told you it’d be a good one. All right. We’re rolling. So okay if I go ahead and get this party started, Lindsay?
Lindsay: Get it started, Steven. Let’s do it.
Steven: All right, cool. Well, welcome, everybody. Thanks for being here. Happy Thursday. We’re here to talk about stewardship as the strategy. Thanks for joining us. Good afternoon to, I guess, almost everyone if you’re here in the continental States. Good morning, if you’re out way West in Hawaii, wherever you are, I’m just happy to see you. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s a little discussion.
Just a couple of housekeeping item, just want to let you all know that we are recording this. We’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on today. So just look for an email from me later on today. You’ll get all that good stuff. If you have to leave early, if you get interrupted by a toddler . . . that might happen to me. So forgive me for that, but we’ll get you all that good stuff later on. Don’t worry.
But most importantly, chat in your questions along, along the way here. We’re going to save some time for Q&A. There’s a chat box and a Q&A box. If you’ve put your questions in the Q&A box, they might have a little bit more visibility, but I’ll keep an eye on both. So we’d love to hear from you. Introduce yourself if you haven’t already. We’d love to know who you are, where you’re from. You can even tweet us. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed as well if you’re into that.
If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say an extra special welcome to all you folks. We do these webinars just about every Thursday, although lately we’ve been doing multiple sessions a week. We love doing these webinars, but if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang, we’re a provider of donor management software. So if you didn’t know that, now you know it. I just say that for context so you know what Bloomerang is. You can check out our website if you were interested in that. But don’t do that now because my pal, Lindsay Simonds, is joining us from beautiful San Francisco. Lindsay, how’s it going? You doing okay?
Lindsay: Hey, I’m fantastic. Sun just broke through the fog of San Francisco and I’m really excited for this conversation.
Steven: I’m excited too. We got introduced a few weeks ago by a mutual friend. Our friend, Renee, who did a webinar for us a couple of weeks ago and said, “You got to have Lindsay on.” And I’m happy for that because Lindsay’s awesome and you all are in for a real treat. I’ve seen your slides and we’ve been talking about this presentation. We have rearranged a lot of conversations in light of the past two weeks, but this is one we kept, and I think you’ll see why here in a moment.
But check out Lindsay. She’s over at LSC. She’s got a really awesome podcast. Check out her podcast if you’ve got, you know, 20 minutes to burn while you’re cooking, or cutting the grass, or whatever you’re doing, because that time is going to fly by. Really cool conversations. Really interesting topics that I haven’t heard explored on other sort of, you know, “nonprofit podcasts.” She used to be with CCS. She’s raised a lot of money over her career, and I want to hear from her. And I don’t think you guys want to hear from me. So I’m going to pipe down, Lindsay. I’m going let you share your screen. Let me give you control there. And then, yeah, I think you should be able to bring up your slides now. Is it working? Let’s see.
Lindsay: Steven, that was a very generous introduction. Thank you so much. You’re my hype man, man, officially. I will take it. I appreciate it. And let’s see. Now, I am sharing my screen.
Steven: There it goes. Looks like it’s working.
Lindsay: Can you see the questions and answers box too?
Steven: I can. Yeah.
Lindsay: You can. All right. So why don’t I move that out of the visibility so you can actually see the presentation. And can you still see me?
Steven: Yeah. I can see you, your slides. It looks good.
Lindsay: Okay. So we’re ready to rock and roll.
Steven: I think so. Yeah.
Lindsay: Let’s do it. Okay. So thank you all for joining. I’m so pumped that I have this opportunity to speak with you and to offer my thoughts. So I will say that that’s what this is. It’s an offering. It’s coming from a place of care, concern, love, passion. I’m deeply passionate about philanthropy, the love of humankind. We’ll get into the details as why I picked this topic. We’ll get into facts, and figures, and stories. I’m seeing that we’ve got about 552 participants live at the moment with 1,500 registered and the count keeps going up. So thank you for joining and thank you for tuning in today. Let’s get started.
This is a little bit more about me. I don’t want to bore anyone. I feel like Steven already hyped me up enough, but the point is to say what . . . the key takeaways would be are that I got some awesome training at CCS. I left as a vice president about three years ago and started my own consulting firm. I focus on major capital campaigns, major gifts, stewardship, absolutely, which is the topic today. And I do a lot of coaching. I do coaching with executive directors, board members, new hires. I look at org charts and what’s working and how do we staff appropriately? What are the communications going to donors? And I’m always looking for awesome clients. I only take a few on at a time, so I’m not taking any at the very moment, but please ping me if you’re interested in any of these services or if I can point you in direction of some other, my peers and my colleagues in this space.
I started in 2008, which meant the Great Recession. So time of change is when I was learning either to sink or swim. And I figured out how to swim, and what I will tell you is if you take nothing else from this, it’s just keep going. Keep going with your fundraising.
One of the early participants on this podcast or on this webinar, excuse me, just typed in a note saying, “Hey. Never done professional fundraising before and we launched our campaign basically the same week as shelter and place was put in place.” So we’ve got your moral support, sending that to you, Jill, and know that those who persevere, those who continue on, even if you slow down or delay, continue with communication and continue on with your fundraising, it will be much easier to build your momentum over time than if you do a full halt stop and then try to re-get back into the game.
I know that some of you are seeing headlines that are negative and doomsday. I want you to know that that’s not a comprehensive scope and those are early numbers. I’m actually seeing giving is increasing and I’m talking to many donors who are giving now more than they had in the past, or they’re giving at least some giving, even if it’s not the same level. People are activated, people are listening, people are compelled.
Finally, yes. Definitely check out creating communityforgood.com. That is my podcast. It’s 11 episodes deep, and I would love more listeners and I’d love more feedback on what would be helpful. So that’s that. That’s about me. Some of my awesome clients’ affiliations are here. I’m going to give a special shout out to the Scandinavian School and Cultural Center. It’s really wrestling with philanthropy in a different way than they ever have before and also in their representation of Black Lives Matter. So every single one of these organizations has made a statement declaring their support of Black Lives Matter and an end to injustice, an end to racism, an end to violence. I’m proud of them and I’m proud to have served them.
Why this topic? So when Steven and I were talking about what would be the most compelling for people who are tuning in, we were really thinking about what is really the heart of fundraising right now, and I would say that it’s all about supporting each other. It’s about seeing the interconnectedness and taking the money out of the middle, taking the money out of the conversation, but instead, figuring out how you can support those who supported you.
If philanthropy is the love of humankind, well then fundraisers are conduits of love in action. And it’s a symbiotic relationship because you’re serving each other, you’re helping each other, right? And we all need more love and action right now, more than ever. So that’s the heart of why we’re doing this. Why I’ve selected this topic. I hope it’s a meaningful one to you.
We do have the chat bar open. And please let me know if things are resonating with you, thumbs up, smiley faces, or question marks, that all works for me too. I’ll try to tend to it, but I’m also going to try to stay pretty disciplined and not getting off course. So if there’s something that comes up, I can’t address in the moment, I will ask Steven to help me to bring it back at the end.
It looks like this is a little blurry when it’s all I’m zoomed out. But the message here is by Maya Angelo, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” Ultimately, this is what’s behind the topic today. When you lead with a heart and start with gratitude and abundance as a fundraiser, as a board member, as an executive director, everyone wins. Moreover, when people in nonprofits present abundance and opportunities, solutions, and gratitude, your organization is undeniably appealing, even in times of scarcity. So my message to you is cut out any tones of guilt, deficiency, or fear in fundraising. Focus more on the positive relationships as your key priority, and then funds raise will be a byproduct of that engagement and that behavior.
In summary, this webinar aims to demonstrate how gestures of gratitude, aka stewardship, will engage the donors for a lifetime of philanthropy. If you hear nothing else, here are my three takeaways and then you can hop off and do whatever else you want. Although I’m seeing the numbers are still rising, so hopefully this is good. While my recommendation is to drive forward with fundraising, in most instances, not all, the strategic planning that you should be doing right now as a leader is really focused on deepening your relationships with your key stakeholders and integrating a sense of gratitude. Oops. My bad. Gratitude as well as culture of philanthropy. So for that person who I’ve mentioned earlier, who jumped in early on saying that philanthropy is new to their organization, think about philanthropy as a mentality, as an integrated culture, rather than a list of check marks.
All right. So here’s how this is going to go. I’m going to weave this all together. If you’re still online, give me a thumbs up, let me know that you’re on and this is working for you. What we’ll do in this hour, it’s going to be woven together. So we’re going to go over some of the trends, some of the fundamentals. I saw a great post from Bloomerang last night, actually, that I threw into the deck, so some good stats on positive reports of engagement that’s going well. We’re going to explore how stewardship is intrinsically connected, ultimately, to the culture of philanthropy, including tips and strategies that are being used right now. I’m definitely going to highlight what I’ve been doing with my clients. I sit on boards, I volunteer. Philanthropy is my life. I’m fully engaged as a professional and as a human.
So we’ll do a lot of story time. I’ve got some specific language I’m going to share with you. And at the end, I’m going to throw in a couple of slides that are sort of like the bonus, the fun stuff that’ll keep you thinking and think about other sectors and how some of what we can learn other sectors, in particular, the service industry, which I’ll talk more about shortly here.
One more quote from Maya Angelo, because I just could not decide which one I loved more, “I found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” So in other words, giving is human nature. You can see that it is a service, ultimately. So shifting your mentality as a fundraiser, as a board member, as an advocate, you’re actually allowing others to have the opportunity to be liberated or to express their participation, their efforts, and to contribute towards movement.
So now let’s move in. The fundamentals. Okay. I’m not going to spend too much time on this because I know many people have the basics of fundraising for joining us, but just to set the stage, so we’re all talking using the same language here. In fundraising, this is a classic donor lifestyle cycle. Okay? So you have identification. I like to talk about the golden triangle. So we’ve got affinity, access, and ability. If you’ve got donors who are fitting into those three in your Venn diagram, then those are good prospective donors that you’ve identified. Next, you want to start cultivating them. So cultivating their interests, rallying them behind exactly what you do or what your project is then solicitation stage. Now, of course, you might be in cultivation mode for one or two calls, maybe 18 months. With major gifts, we talk about an average of anywhere from 6 to 18 months. With online giving, anything from a couple of days. So definitely varies. But the next stage, after you get the gift, that’s the stewardship phase. That’s what we’re going to be focusing on.
So donor stewardship is the process that occurs once the donor has given to your organization. After stewardship moves are made, you can easily move back into cultivation mode, and in fact, that’s what you should be doing. Occasion, you might go up to the identification again and say, “Does this person still align with what we’re trying to do? Have we shifted? Has our mission shifted in any way or has this donor’s priorities shifted in any way? Then you might pop them back into the identification. Otherwise, it’s really just this circle of cultivation, solicitation, stewardship. Cultivation, solicitation, stewardship.
So the classic forms of stewardship that I want to hit on now, but then we’re going to get into what’s happening today and what am I seeing in real time. So, obviously, it’s all about reports, receipts, recognition, notes, phone calls, personal connection at the core of these stewardship concepts. Yeah. We’re doing more video chats. We’re doing more virtual events. I get it. It’s weird, but that’s what’s happening and you got to keep it up. I think everybody on this call has probably heard that 17,000 times. I know I have. Every time I open any advice from a philanthropy advisor, it says, “Keep communicating.” So, yes. Keep communicating.
Why stewardship. Let’s just take a step back and remember, why do people give in the first place? Okay? So that’s going to help inform your stewardship strategies. It’s human nature to give. If you remember what motivates giving on a human level, you can use that information to direct how you’re receiving and sorting donations. In summary, people give to people and they’re inspired by big ideas that can have a big impact using their giving, their philanthropy. Therefore, stewardship must, and it should demonstrate merit for continued philanthropy, obviously.
Think about some of the business terms of ROI, which means return on investment. So what are you doing with the investment that the donor has given you such as their money? So that’s the impact. How many people you’re serving, how much land you’ve preserved, you know, what kind of programs are being developed, how you’re securing your future with building a reserve of funding so that you can weather storms. Talk about the impact as the front and center of any stewardship so that folks can feel like I’m making a difference and I’m getting my mission fulfilled through you, simply by funding you, right? That’s the heart of stewardship.
And ultimately, it’s going to deepen your trust, hopefully you get some referrals for future donors. You get your donors to continue to give, right? I mean, that’s ultimately that life cycle that I was just speaking to, is that after you’ve stewarded somebody very well, they feel that there’s a tangible impact, they feel good about their giving. They want to see the next program move forward. They want to see the ball continue advanced on the field, well then they’re ready for their next gift.
So what is the problem? Ultimately, what’s happening with stewardship was a major, major problem that I’m seeing all across the board with many foundations or organizations, is that they get into transactional fundraising because they’ve got pressure, right? So if we focus too much on statistics, how many asks are you getting? How many gifts you getting? How many new donors you acquire? What’s the average gift? That is all very important. And believe me, as a campaign manager, I look at those numbers every day. I love that stuff.
But ultimately, you have to make sure that your community, your entire nonprofit, that is, so volunteers, staff, beneficiaries, even, that they have a culture of philanthropy, that they see that this is an ecosystem in and of itself. Right? We also see that the average retention rate is low. It’s 45%. And I also saw some stats supporting that on Bloomerang. So thank you, Steven and Bloomerang team, for having some really good resources on your website. I loved that as I was preparing for this.
New donor acquisition is about five times the cost of retaining donors. So think about that. What that means is you’re better off really diving deep into stewardship of your current donors than hunting for new donors in a major way. Seriously. So that’s something that I want to pause on because I see a lot of directors, especially folks who are new hires that come in and they say, “We got to shake it up. We’ve got a lot of bad eggs in this pipeline. Let’s get rid of them. Let’s bring some new people. How can we be fresh and be creative?”
I’m asked a lot, you know, as a consultant, you know, “We want to hire you, can you bring donors to us?” And really the answer is like, no, and that’s not really the best strategy. Yes, you should always be inviting new people to support your organization. Yes, you should always be hunting for new relationships that are very deeply meaningful, but you also want to go to the donors who’ve already been giving to you and ensure that they continue giving and hopefully even upgrade their giving.
So how can you do that? And go back to the basics. If you’re new to fundraising, if you’re new to a nonprofit, go through the files and really check that those who’ve been parsed out and have been removed from lists that they deserved to be removed. And that’s okay. I’m not saying that everybody who’s been removed needs to be coming back onto your list. I’m just saying that, make sure you’ve gone through and you’ve really had meaningful outreach that is totally removed from a solicitation.
So solutions, you know, like I just said, segment your pool and create plans. That’s pretty simple. Now, it’s a big overhaul. So it’s easy to say, but it’s a big overhaul. I know that. I would say it’s worth spending time on though. And increase your mission-centric communication. So throughout the year, you should be talking about all the great things that your organization is doing and the impact that you’re having. Train all of your employees to treat your volunteers, your donors, your guests like VIPs using the Ritz Carlton Gold Standards. And that’s one of the goodies that I’m going to share at the very end, is what the heck does that mean? But they’re actually 12 points that you can easily integrate into . . . it’s take the language from service and put it into nonprofit. It’s awesome to do a side by side, and we’ll get to that at the very end.
So I’m going to start with a fun, embarrassing story of myself. Now, I’m presenting to six or whatever. We’re at 700 people is nerve wracking, as you can imagine. So why not just start with something embarrassing about myself? I figured I’d get myself some humor. Hopefully, it makes you laugh too. All right. So here was the deal. Right out of college, I just wanted to be a ski bum. Okay. So my life goals may not have been grand yet. They were essentially to stop thinking about my studies. I went to University of Denver where I grew up, studied international studies, politics, conflict resolution, gender issues, and equity, as well as economics. And I was ready to take a break. I was ready to be a hardcore ski bum. And just get that dog I always wanted, I got a Subaru as you do in Colorado, and I was ready to go. Rearing to go.
And then real life, of course, I needed to earn a living to make this happen. So after years of high-end sales and retail and real estate while in college, as I worked my way through, I landed a job as a manager on duty at a fancy membership ski on/ski off club in the mountains of Colorado. My objective, my MO as the manager on duty was do the job, check the list, make everyone happy, and then go skiing.
So what did I do? I went around with my clipboard, I thanked to everybody all the time. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Oh, this is done. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” And what could possibly go wrong? Here I was going out of my way to thank everybody and make sure that I had done my job. I was really annoying. That’s really, really annoying for people.
So what went wrong? Well, it was like very transactional. My thinking was not complex. It was not thinking about the relationship. I moved too quickly, and clearly, I lacked maturity as a 22 or 23-year-old. What I could have done better was slowed down to demonstrate impact and show partnership and learn from their experiences.
So what I could have done as an example is I could have said, you know, to the front desk person, “Thank you so much for your awesome work today. What I noticed was this couple was talking about how happy they were that you’re back. They loved the way you greet you. I just overheard them and wanted to share that story with you.” Or I could have said something like, “Sales are at an all-time high today, or they’re at a peak this week, and that means you must have greeted a number of people. That’s great. And it looks like we’re going to hit our metrics this week. And I know that that means that we all get an extra hour off or pay increase,” whatever it may be. So if I can actually attribute some value or some meaning, giving specific and meaningful feedback and thanks, then I’m sure that I would have improved my relations with these folks that I was, you know, too young to be managing, honestly, as a little pipsqueak.
So why that unconventional story about my work at a ski resort? Well, the point is to say that we should be thinking about stewardship as a process and a mentality, not just a checklist or tedious quarterly reports, which I know are tedious. And there are organizations out there that are trying to figure out how to improve that because funders really want you to be doing your work rather than filling out reports. But the way our ecosystem of nonprofits works is that we do have a lot of reporting to do. So as you are reporting, try to integrate the mentality of stewardship throughout.
So now let’s fast forward to modern day, and I’m just going to do a time check because I don’t have a clock up for some reason. Looks like we’re doing well. We’ve got 25 minutes down, 35 to go. I’m going to save some room for questions at the end. I want to talk about what I’m seeing today as a funders and consultant in this crisis mode, of course. It’s not all about perfection and polish right now, it is all about personalization, authenticity, humility, community, and partnership.
So stewardship in time of crisis looks like this. Bloomerang, thank you for giving me this awesome report. It looks like a random sampling of about 4,000, Bloomerang customers found that those who reached out to donors personally, like with a phone call, personal email, text message, I’m seeing a lot of that, and in-person interactions, or maybe that’s video . . . socially distance interactions in March and April, 2020, they’re seeing significant year over year increase in revenue compared to those who didn’t.
So take note of that because like I said earlier, there’s a lot of doom and gloom out there, but the truth is that there’s actually some comprehensive reports coming out, talking about the positive responses that nonprofits are seeing in terms of donors and engagement. And I’m just going to pause, I’m seeing some Q&A here. Hope I’m not disturbing.
Okay. I’m seeing awesome questions. I am going to just ask Steven to remind me of this at the end because it’s going to just throw me off a little bit too much if I’m pausing at this moment. So let’s look at that as an end. Thank you for your questions. Keep them coming. Thank you also for those in the chat box, who are encouraging me along, and just like everybody else, human trying to figure out how to provide [inaudible 00:26:08] is providing relevant and timely communication. It’s so important right now that you’re really being proactive and you’re not waiting for your board members, your donors to say, “And what are you doing about Black Lives Matter? And what are you doing about the summer? How are we supposed to approach what’s happening in terms of the shelter in place? And should we be marching and then coming the organization?”
So I’ve got a school that I work with and they have a big debate about that. You know, “How are we managing reopening the school when we’ve got people who are doing the high exposure?” And they’ve got board meetings every night, it seems, to really talk about these questions. And then they’re coming up with statements and giving directions. So being proactive and timely is making a big difference.
Use your authentic voice and tone. Okay. So you’re not going to get everything perfect right now. You probably don’t have time to hire a writer or a communications expert, instead, speak from the heart and speak with your best voice, your highest intentions, your mission-centric work, your service-oriented work, and you’ll really demonstrate your humanity. That’s going to go a long way in terms of building trust and showing that we truly are all in this together.
So another thing that I want to recommend, and we’ll talk about a great example in a few minutes, is that you’re showing up and offering help to your beneficiaries. You’re not just asking them to help you. You’re not just asking them to fund you. You’re not just telling them about the crisis. They know about the crisis, but you’re also asking them, “And how are you doing? And is there anything that we can do using our mission to help you as a person, or your family, or your community? What do you need?”
Finally, try . . . Excuse me. I almost missed the fourth point. I do really like that there are high value conversations to be had right now, and I’m going to share some language that really dissects what that means. And then I did get a request for this comment just the other day as I was preparing for this presentation, it was, you know, “How do I balance making a solicitation as well as stewardship in this time? Because, yes, I want to steward everybody, but also, yes, I need to fundraise.”
So we get that. And if necessary, and you only have a limited time with your donor, then do a tandem conversation. So spend early part talking about . . . maybe if it’s a 60 minute meeting asking them, “How are you doing?” Level setting, giving them updates, ” Here’s what we’ve done, here’s what we’re planning on doing, and this is what we’re going to do to address the unknown that we’re walking into. How can we help you? Does this meet your expectations of impact?”
And then when you’re ready, you can use specific language that transitions you. So you might ask permission, you might say, “Have we answered all your questions?” Is now a good time to transition to another part of the conversation, which is how you might be able to support us during this time?” And get their feedback. They might instantly say, “You know what? I really don’t think I can. I’m at my max.” And then what you do is thank them and move on. Right?
So you’re really hearing them. You’re knowing when people are at their threshold, otherwise you’re going have others saying, “Yeah. Let’s talk about it. What do you need? I don’t know exactly what I can give right now, but what do you need?” And then you, as that fundraiser or the board member, whatever your role is, you can start transitioning to talking about, you know, “As you know, what we’ve just laid out is going to require this, and so what we’re looking for is this. Are you interested in helping us?” So asking these permission questions will help you to handle these awkward questions and conversations in this time of heightened sensitivity and urgency.
Now, crisis communications. This is a pretty dense slide. I realize that, but I wanted to be clear and knowing that not everybody is going to actually listen to this recording, but they might just see the deck. So this should be a takeaway. You can print this screen, this deck. Just so you know, all this is going to be shared with you, and I’ll put it on my website too, in addition to Bloomerang sharing it out. So this information isn’t going to go anywhere that you can’t access. But if you find this helpful, you might print this out and have a team meeting about this and say, “So here’s what others are doing. What can we do? Are we checking in with our donors?” We’re asking them how they’re doing. We’ve talked about that, of course.
Are you showing the impact on your social media, your website? Are you writing handwritten notes right now? Because that’s going a long way. Are you texting? Some people cannot stand being texted, others like it. Check in with your donors, check the vibe, know your audience. But I’ve found that a couple texts I’m getting, I sit on a board of that build.org, which I love and I love to promote too, I got such an awesome text from the executive director of the Bay Area, Ryan Oliver, just the other day after our board meeting that was sent to me and the other three of our executive committee saying, “Thank you so much for your guidance and anticipation of this board meeting. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
That text . . . I mean, I’m still talking about today. It was six days ago, really buoyed to me. It really lifted my spirits as a donor and as a advisor, as a volunteer. I give a lot of time to that organization and that simple expression of gratitude, where he was clearly relieved that the board meeting went well and that the advice we’d given him was helpful, that really went a long way for me. I have to say. So take that into consideration too. How are you texting people?
The fourth item here is celebrating people. Yeah. Like awkward birthdays are happening. I’m seeing a lot of birthday celebrations and houses decorated. Think about if it’s appropriate for you to do that. Perhaps for a few of your very close longtime donors, you might. Also, if people have given for X number of years, maybe call that out and just say, “Thank you so much for being, you know, a long time supporter of us. We’re hitting our five-year mark of, since you joined our donor pool.” Don’t say donor pool. Since you joined our forces of supporting us.
Send a kindness kit. I love this. So coloring books for kids, coffee table books of your project or the impact, favorite snacks, that’s been a fun one I’ve seen going around if your organization has anything to do with food or culture and community. Share your favorite recipe books or quotes. I know I was sending to another peer volunteer some quotes for a little while, while he was in the midst of chaos with three kids and juggling act of work.
Send puzzles. I used to work at UCSF Medical Center as a consultant when I was with CCS and one of my favorite stewardship gifts was creating a puzzle that was of the rendering of the future buildings that we were building. So it was to one of the major donors. We sent him this customized puzzle. He loves it. He had it on his table, his coffee table for many years. And when people would come in for meetings, it would be a conversation piece where he could get a chance to talk about his investment and how much it means to him and they might fiddle around with filling in the pieces. So it’s a great conversation piece. I know we’re not all popping into each other’s offices yet, but we will, eventually and for nothing else, your family can have something to work on and play with that’s customized and reminds them of the organization that you are and that they support.
Now, sending video, I love this one. So I’ve been recommending to all the executive directors that I’m working with, that they send a short video, whether it’s 30 seconds or 5 minutes, 3, 5 minutes. I wouldn’t do much more than that, really. Yes, record board meetings and send them out for those who can’t make it, but doing a quick and short update in video is going a long way. I’ve seen Soapbox and Thankview as being helpful and efficient, feel free to use whatever works for you. I’ve actually just picked up my phone and recorded myself and posted it on social media when there are updates that I want to share. And I’ve seen that with other nonprofits too doing that. It’s candid, it’s real, and it’s easy to digest. I definitely recommend it. There’s an inundation of emails and there’s a lot of reading going on. There’s just a lot going on and human to human connections still seems to be the number one way of engaging other humans. It makes sense. Right? So consider, if you want to do that.
Also, for sure, sending statements, and articles, and guidance so that your donors feel informed. That’s a great way of stewarding donors to say, “I am a donor to X, Y, and Z, and this is what they’re doing in this time of crisis.” Or, “This is what they’re doing to support BML.” Or, “This is what they’re doing to support the program right now.” When your donors are armed with information and expert resources, they feel empowered to talk about you. And that is the best way to gain momentum, get new donors, and make your current donors feel reinforced by why they give intrinsically. So they’re doing it for themselves. All you’re doing is resourcing them, arming them with information.
And adults love to continue learning. Just like kids do, you know, once we get out of school, we love information, and especially information that’s not just, you know, headliners and some of what we’ve got going on in the media right now is just a little too intense. So giving some good, tangible, and digestible expert information is really helpful.
Finally, I love this piece of advice, the last one. And this one was one that my former boss and current mentor and friend, Rick Happy from CCS, he shared this with me on one of my podcasts called . . . what was it? “Fundraising during the time of crisis.” It was a couple of weeks ago. I think it was like number eight. So if you want to listen to that, I think it was our best performing podcast because it was so well done and Rick Happy is just such a wealth of knowledge, as well as CCS. I’m grateful for that.
One thing he shared with me was, as a fundraiser, as a nonprofit leader or board member, your duty is to not only advance your mission and your beneficiaries, but it’s also to support your benefactors and to give them sound guidance. So when a board member calls and says, “I don’t know what to do. I want to support the first line, the frontline workers. I want to support the hospitals. I want to provide food to those in need, and you are an arts organization. I really don’t know how I can support you right now when I have all these competing priorities.” That’s an example.
As your arts organization, you might say, “Yes, and we do that too. Here’s who we’re supporting or here’s who we’re recommending you support. And also we need funding in order to maintain our program, make sure that we’re open when we can be open, make sure that we’re paying the staff of those employed and that we’re not laying people off. Here’s why it’s important for you to also support us.”
So, again, it’s getting out of your own way, getting out of your metrics and really thinking holistically about what does it mean to have stewardship at the center as your strategy and philanthropy, a culture of philanthropy. A culture of philanthropy means it’s not a zero sum game and that we’re really all in this together to elevate society. You’re doing it through your mission, but ultimately, you want everyone to win. We all win when we all win. Another friend of mine says.
So here are some examples of what I’m seeing. And just a time check, looks like we’ve got 20 minutes. We’re right on time. BUILD, I mentioned earlier. Now, they’re national organization. I’m here in the Bay Area, and I sit on their executive committee of the local board, but check them out. What they’ve done is a really quick response. This was a couple of months ago, actually, when COVID first hit, was creating this BUILD Heroes campaign. The idea was it would be an honor roll for all of the donors and a recognition wall for volunteers and employees also. So folks who are supporting and giving to this organization, they were highlighted in social media and tagged, and they had this mini campaign. It was really ad hoc. It was super quick. It was pulled together with a lot of thoughtfulness, but speed as well to just shout out to as many people as you can. Spread the love.
I think it went a long way. It showed the mentality of gratitude and it recognized that there was a robust and abundance community that was supporting them. When other people see that there’s a winning group or that there’s a lot of movement in one direction, then they want to join that. That’s why I talk about coming from a place of abundance and opportunity rather than scarcity and lack because people are naturally just drawn to what’s working, and how can I be a part of that? So showing that you celebrate, recognize, and appreciate the people from, you know, the service to the beneficiaries, the benefactors all the way through, it’s a great strategy.
Here’s what another of my clients has done. And I was just on the call with them this morning. They just won another major gift. They’d never done major gift fundraising before. They just got another one today, which is awesome. I’m proud of them, the Scandinavian School and Cultural Center, they were very quick to respond. And their executive director, Mimmi, has been constantly bringing to every question or every conversation we have and how are we serving our families and how are we serving our community? And how are we extending ourselves to those who don’t even know about us? How are we of service right now? Because we will be okay, but will everybody else be okay? And they had regular communication. Immediately after COVID-19 hit, they started with a phonathon and it’s a nurture campaign.
In the next slide I’m actually going to go through the specific language we use there, but it’s to say that they gathered about 10 volunteers and in a couple of days, they were able to call over 200 families, donors, and families that are part of their community and ask them how they’re doing.
They added a brand new tab with resources, for how to talk about the shelter in place, how to work remotely, what resources there are online that were educational or buoying in whatever way, talking PPP funding, so as a resource. And then there was . . . their virtual gala is really fun because they actually doubled their goal. Their in-person gala was set and obviously couldn’t happen, so they postponed, it, made it virtual. They made it dynamic, they had surveys, they had music, they had video, they showed their beneficiaries, showed the numbers and in one hour, they actually doubled their goal. It was pretty exciting to see.
Then when we had the crisis and tragic death of George Floyd, they rallied immediately to say, “How are we going to stand up and say, we don’t condone this and we’re not complicit and we make a statement against violence, racism, and injustice.” So they added that as a pop-up on their website. They also presented a statement and then they launched a diversity and inclusion working group that they just launched the other day. I mean, talk about being responsive and, you know, listening and looking in the mirror, figuring out, how can we, as an organization really tackle this injustice that’s deeply embedded?
They provide weekly updates. They also . . . when the school was closed, they had a meal program. And so, because they already were paying the folks who were providing the produce, it’s plant-based and local, they said, “We need to support this small business as well. We’re going to give this food away for free because it’s already part of our budget, it’s already been paid for.”
So every Friday, they had people come by and pick up their bag of produce. The company is called Mumsa. If you’re in the Bay Area and we like to check them out. They’re awesome. I’ve started using them as well. And so they gave free food way. And if you couldn’t come to the school, you couldn’t get it, then they would deliver it to you. That was while there was a shelter in place and they weren’t able to provide the food anyway.
So you can see that it’s a going above and beyond, but not in a way that’s outside of what’s authentic and part of their natural culture. And it really didn’t cost much more than time and thoughtfulness. So think about how you can bake in stewardship to your operations, especially as you’re asking for funds, think about what you’re giving back.
As I said, I wanted to hone in on this phonathon concept and the nurture campaign. So it’s not a nurture campaign like you would see like an email marketing jargon, but nurturing the community, is what was intended here. So this is the script that was used. It was about five-minute conversation. It was a typical phone tree. And my belief is that with this, the empathy and human connection, people immediately felt heard, they felt cared for, and resoundingly, the results were super positive. People all said they were fine, all things considered. They were grateful. They were appreciative of the phone call. They were appreciative of the human connection. And I believe it actually changed their mentality from being one of fear and concern to actually feeling a sense of unity, connection, and positivity. And that’s what drove them to respond, to say that things are good, all things considered, you know, which is pretty surprising because, you know, in the moment, I know most people, including myself, you know, we all have moments of tremendous fear and change is very hard.
So it was a really cool experience to go through this and walk through this with the Scandinavian School and Cultural Center here, and I just want to shout them out. Also, we just got word just two days ago that somebody, without having been asked at all, sent an email to the executive director and said, you know, “I want to make a $10,000 gift,” which is one of their top gifts in this organization. And they said, “I just really, really appreciate how proactive and regular you’ve been with your communication. Your decisions are progressive, and they’re focusing on safety, inclusivity, and a path forward. And I want you to know that we support you.”
Furthermore, more over rather, this family is leaving the community. They’re moving. So it’s a parting gift, which is sort of the best case scenario of philanthropy. Oftentimes, people give because they’re part of the community, this family gave as they were leaving. So it’s a testament to how stewardship is the strategy, well then fundraising is the byproduct. You will receive funds. And when you go to make the ask, it would be a much easier conversation and much more a natural dynamic and your donors will want to give and they’ll want to support you.
So here’s another example of a way that nonprofits are supporting their beneficiaries. What happened was this nonprofit reached out to a board member and asked them to pay their dues early. Said, you know, “We’re in crunch time for cash flow. Would you consider making your pledge payment sooner, and also will you help us get to the corporate funding that you’ve done in the past?” Because this person was responsible for corporate, being the liaison to the corporate giving, where he worked. He said, “Well, I would love to, but unfortunately, I was laid off this week. My entire team was.”
So instead of simply empathizing, and consoling, and moving on, they had a quick meeting offline and said, “What can we do to help this person and other people who are also going through job loss, experiencing job loss or uncertainty?” So what they did instead was, and now this has happening live. I don’t know that it’s actually been sent yet. It may be, so I can’t say what the results are, but I can say that there’s no doubt, goodwill be incurred for this organization.
It’s a Google doc that will simply say, “Put your name down.” It’s optional. You can opt in and for any board member. So it’s in a community of people that feels like they’ve been working together and they’ve got that sticky power already built and being reinforced here with this exercise. “Put your name in, and then what’s your status. You have opportunities and you’re willing to talk. You need an opportunity or you’re willing to help in whatever way possible, please feel free to reach out.”
Then the next column is here’s my LinkedIn bio. Here’s the hyperlink to LinkedIn. And here’s my contact information. So whether it’s best to text me, email me, LinkedIn me, whatever it may be, and then any other notes that you want to give.” So it’s an optional opt-in for board members across the region. And I love this because it’s really showing that we’re asking our donors to give all the time, but we’re actually giving to them too and we’re helping them to maintain their basic needs of career and job.
So those are my examples. And now we’ve got 10-minutes ago, which is perfect timing. This is quote from Lynne Twist, from the book, “The Soul of Money: Transforming your Relationship with Money and Life.” I highly recommend this book. It’s awesome. Sterrin Bird was just on my podcast the other day and referenced her as well. Take the money out of the conversation, focus on the relationship and the money will come. And so that’s my parting quote for you. And I want to open it up to questions. Steven, are you still there? I know you’re probably on mute, but I’m going to ask you to unmute yourself.
Steven: I’m here. I love that last slide with all the board ideas. Board members feel so underutilized in stewardship, I feel like, so that slide alone was worth the price of admission, which is zero.
Lindsay: All right. It’s really nice.
Steven: This is awesome. Lindsay. Thanks for that. I know you’ve been doing this a long time, you know, coming from CCS, if folks aren’t aware with that agency, that’s a serious agency, so I know she’s done this stuff and, you know, has seen it all come to life. We had a lot of questions, so I’ll dig into them here. One stood out to me because, Lindsay, it’s the question I’ve been asking all of my guests for the last three months or so. So I’m curious to hear your take on it. And we talked about this before, but it seems like there’s been a lot of, kind of resistance to fundraising among some organizations and sometimes that comes from the board saying, “We can’t fundraise right now. It’s not right. People are losing their jobs. We’re not the right kind of charity. You know, we’re not feeding people.” And I think folks know how I feel because if they’ve been listening to webinars, they’ve heard my opinion. But what do you say, especially with coming from the board who says, “No, we shouldn’t fundraise.” And the fundraisers are kind of like, “Well, what are we going to do then?” What do you think about that?
Lindsay: Yeah. So what I think about it, and I also talked to Rick Happy about this, who, as you mentioned, is . . . or as I mentioned, we just mentioned, principal at CCS. So his recommendation as well as mine is to actually keep going with your fundraising. Now, you might approach the question. I was just in a solicitation two days . . . no, maybe one week ago. We had our follow-up today and we walked through the typical protocol of checking in, talking about the impact of the organization, talking about where we are today, what we’re planning on doing, and then transitioning, is it okay if we start talking about what it’s going to take to get us there? They said yes.
They said, you know, of course, here’s the phrase. “I don’t know how you’ve been impacted by COVID-19 by the Black Lives Matter. I don’t know what your family has been dealing with. I don’t know what your capacity is, but I do know that our organization will continue to have opportunities to serve the community that we both support. What we’re continuing to do is X, Y, and Z, and it takes funding to do that. Would you consider making investment of $10,000,” as an example, “This year and for the next three years for a total of $30,000?” Then you’re silent. You wait for the response.
So that is going through the ask training, right? So there’s your training in 30 seconds. Then what we did is allow that person to say, you know, “It’s terrible timing, no, like I can’t.” Or, to say, “Yeah. You know what? I wanted to give and I sort of anticipated, that’s what this call was about, but I’m nowhere near that. I’m actually getting like $100 gifts right now. Not anywhere near thousands, let alone 10,000,” even though that donor had given thousands in the past, right? So, as a fundraiser, I would say you would still want to aim high, but preface it with, “I don’t know your circumstances. I do know our opportunity. Would you be willing to do this?” Those three points, every time, allow grace and space.
Then we had our follow-up call today. What they said was, “I know you wanted me to stretch. I know you asked big and then it was a little bit uncomfortable. I tell you what we can do. And it’s X, Y, and Z. It’s not what you asked for, but it’s more than what we thought. Will that work for you?” And we said, “Yes, will it work for you though? Because we don’t want you to be in a bad position. We want you to be feeling good and feeling able to do this.” She said, “No. I am able to do this and I am excited and proud of this giving.” That was an awesome way to round out that experience for her.
So, in summary, my recommendation is yes, go forward with solicitations, make them meaningful, make them personal. I would not say that that you have to stretch on every ask, but I would say that if you preface, like, again, “We don’t know your circumstances, would you be willing to do this?” I think that’s really all it takes to have a real human to human communication about how we’re all moving the needle.
And furthermore, that if you’re an arts organization, if you’re a school, if you’re somebody who’s not in the front line, who’s immediately addressing the very high crisis that we’re in, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to fund your programs. You still have employees that you’re paying and most likely they’re nonprofit employees, which means that they’re not getting paid that much, which means that they don’t have a big nest egg. So it’s important to make that case for support too, is that we’re wanting to keep our employees paid, we’re wanting to keep the program in motion. We are in a time of uncertainty, but we need to be resilient. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the fall. We don’t know, you know, how things will continue to unfold. We do know that we need to have some resiliency with our finances. Would you be willing to ensure that as well as supporting these other ones? How’s that?
Steven: I love opening with, “We don’t know your situation,” because it just seems like it disarms, and in a good way and just opens up the conversation. I love that. Yeah. We’ve got another question here from Carmen. Also jumped out at me because I don’t think I’ve ever gotten this question before. And as I’m reading it, Lindsay, you’re the perfect person to answer it. So Carmen’s wondering, for someone who is new to an organization where there are already existing major gift relationships but there isn’t a relationship between that donor and the new fundraiser, what should that person do? You know, maybe there was a connection with the previous fundraiser or maybe someone else in the organization. What advice would you have for someone in that situation?
Lindsay: Boom. Thoughtful dialogue. Okay. So this is what I’m going to offer to everybody listening, is this entire deck. And I’m happy to go into specific modeling of this dialogue right here. But if you’re brand new to an organization and you’re reaching out to an existing donor, what you should be doing is a listening campaign. So go back to that concept of a nurture campaign. Call them up, introduce yourself. Just say, “Hey, I just wanted to check in. I’m new to the organization. I want to learn more about you and our other value donors. Can we have a conversation for 10 minutes? We have an hour.” You know, ask them what they’ve got to spare and then go through eliciting the donor’s opinions, feelings, values, and beliefs. Asking them questions like, “What’s made you support us over time? What’s the most important part about our mission? If you could predict the future, where will we be in five years after we’ve gotten through some of this hard time? What’s your vision for the organization? How would you like to continue to be involved? How do you want to relate with me? Is it okay if I text you? Do you want me to send you short video clips of our program in action? And what’s going to feel good to you?
These kinds of questions are what you should be doing right now. So if you’re that new employee and you’re not really sure how to broach, you know, this donor, just start by getting to know them in that way, then they’ll guide you in terms of like, if they’re ready for an ask or not. Don’t make an ask on that first call. Say, “This has been so helpful. Would it be okay if I reach back out to you in another week or the coming weeks?” So that you don’t have to pin it down. You can give yourself that wiggle room if you want. “Is it okay if I reach out in the coming weeks to, you know, make sure that I’ve understood your priorities and our mission and how they work together?” Then that donor’s inevitably going to say yes, of course. And then you can call them at that time and say, “I’ve really thought about what motivates you and what we’re doing and I’ve had this opportunity I want you to consider, would it be okay if we talk about that?”
So that’s how you can really expedite the cultivation stage and go straight into stewardship if you have that urgency for cash flow, which I know a lot of you do. And then it’s that immediate follow-up with, “Thank you. Here’s why you’ve made an impact. Here’s what we’ve done with your money.” And then making sure you add it to your calendar, add it to your reports, to follow up again in 1 month, 6 months, 12 months, and tell them what you’ve done with their funding. It’s so important as a new employee to get that in your calendar so that you don’t go crazy with all the newness that’s going on.
Steven: I love it. This was fun. And I can’t believe it’s almost 4:00 here, Eastern. And I want to be respectful of people’s time, but recognize we didn’t get to all the questions here. I’m so sorry for that, because there’s some good ones in here, Lindsay. Do you mind maybe taking questions by email later on if people message you?
Lindsay: I definitely do not mind. Here’s my contact information. You can find me on LinkedIn, email me lindsaysimondsconsulting.com. My email’s firstname.lastname@example.org. And like I said, there was this bonus. So this is something that if you have time to read through in the PowerPoint deck for those of you who are interested, this is the gold standard for Ritz Carlton. And you could really make this your own. If you shift the words and you put your employees in here, it’s pretty awesome how this could be a great way to create stewardship at the center and a culture of philanthropy for your organization.
Steven: That’s cool. I’ve never seen that. But, yeah, just a couple of tweaks and that could be really powerful.
Lindsay: Totally. That’s it.
Steven: Yeah. Reach out to Lindsay, definitely connect with her. Obviously, she’s a wealth of information. Check out our podcast and yeah, connect with her on LinkedIn because she’s going to put some good stuff out that you’re going to want to see. Lindsay, this was awesome. Thanks for doing this.
Lindsay: Cool. Thank you so much. I’m so grateful that I was able to. It really is a . . . it’s an offering and it makes me feel good to be able to provide this. So thank you so much. I see my cousin just sent, “Thanks, Lindsay.” Aww. I’ve never read all the chats yet, but I appreciate you, family.
Steven: Yeah. We’ll get them to you. We’ll get you the Q&A you can kind of see what we didn’t get to, but . . .
Lindsay: Super cool. Yeah. Reach out to me. I’m happy to continue these conversations. Have a great day, everybody.
Steven: Thanks to all of you. Yeah. It’s good to have a full room. I’ll send you the slides, the recording later on today. Just be on the lookout for that. Might be around dinner time for you East Coasters. And check us out next week. We’ve got a great webinar coming up next week with our buddy Pamela Grow who’s going to continue this conversation, honestly. So same time, same place next Thursday. You’ll get an invite to that. Don’t worry. You’ll see all that good stuff. And hopefully we’ll see you again next week. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Stay safe, stay healthy. We’re all thinking about you. And we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye now.
Lindsay: Awesome. Thank you. Am I still live? I don’t know. I’m just reading all the comments for those of you who are still seeing me. I’ll get offline here, but I’m just loving all these comments and questions, giving me good food for thought. Thank you all.