The end of November is not too late! In this webinar, Alice L. Ferris, MBA, CFRE, ACFRE and James Anderson, CFRE discuss key strategies to maximize your year-end fundraising that you can still do now.
Steven:All right, Jim and Alice, okay if I kick us off officially?
Steven:All right, great. Well, good afternoon to those of you on the East Coast and good morning if you are on the West Coast or somewhere in between. Thanks for joining us for today’s Bloomerang webinar—”Procrastinators Unite! Last-Minute Strategies for Year-End Giving.”
My name is Steven Shuttuck and I am the Chief Engagement Officer over here at Bloomerang and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion, as always. And just a couple of housekeeping items before we begin officially, just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation and we’ll be sending out that recording, as well as the slides later on today. In case you didn’t already get the slides, you’ll get both of those today again. So if you have to leave early or perhaps you want to review the content later on, have no fear, we’ll get all that good stuff in your hands today. You can even share it with a friend or a colleague if you want to, that’d be awesome.
As you’re listening today, please feel free to use that chatbox right there on your webinar screen. We’ll be saving some time at the end for questions and answers, so don’t be shy. Send us your questions and comments throughout the hour. We’ll all have our eyes on those and we’ll try to get to just as many as we can before the 2:00 Eastern hour. And you can use Twitter to do the same thing. I’ll be keeping an eye on the Twitter feed as well, so don’t be shy there at all.
And one last bit of technical advice, if you have any trouble with the audio, we find that the audio by phone is usually a little bit better than the computer audio. So if you can dial in and don’t mind doing that, give that a try before you completely give up on us. We usually find that the quality is much better by phone.
And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, I want to say an extra special welcome to you. We do these webinars just about every Thursday. We bring on a great guest like Jim and Alice today. Totally educational, really great content, it’s one of my favorite things that we do at Bloomerang. But in addition to that, our core offering is donor management software. So if you are interested in learning more about our offering or maybe you’re looking to switch some time in the next year or so, check us out.
You can download a quick video demo and see the software in action, don’t even have to talk to a salesperson if you don’t want to, so check it out later on. Wait until the end of the presentation to do that, for sure, but we’d love for you to learn more.
But for now, I am especially honored to introduce not only two of my favorite people in the nonprofit sector but two of the best. This is a very special webinar that Jim and Alice are going to join us on. They are world travelers, they literally just got back to their office from being on the road minutes before doing this so it’s really nice that they have fit this into our webinar schedule. So, Alice and Jim, how’s it going? Thanks for being here.
Alice:It’s going well.
Alice:And we’re stationary, that’s a good thing.
Steven:Yes, I appreciate that. Thank you again for doing this. World travelers, like I said. In case you guys don’t know Jim and Alice, I just want to brag on them really quickly. I’m going to try to get through this as quickly as possible because if you don’t know Jim and Alice, you probably don’t realize what caliber of people you’re about to listen to over the next hour or so, so I’m going to try to do that justice. They are both partners over at GoalBusters, great agency, both conference speakers. They have a combined 55 years of fundraising and marketing experience.
Alice alone has 25 years of experience. She is the chair of the ACFRE Credential Board. She’s a board member for CFRE International. She’s an advisory board member for the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the Wisconsin School of Business. She’s a past member of the AFP International Board of Directors. This goes on and on. I can’t even get through all of this stuff. She is awesome. She is the 90th human being ever to get the ACFRE designation, I got that right? Is that right, Alice, number 90?
Alice:That is correct.
Steven:Out of what, like only 105 or something? So that’s a really big deal, by the way.
Alice:A hundred and ten.
Steven:A hundred and ten, okay, that’s pretty good. And if you are a PBS fan, you’ve probably seen Alice. If you’ve seen pledge drives, if you’re a big fan of “Downton Abbey,” you might have actually seen her on TV already. So you already know Alice.
And Jim, actually today, just made his PBS television debut. I heard it went really well, so great to also have Jim with us. Thirty years of experience, he specializes in marketing and branding strategy, big into radio pledge drives, so it was kind of a big deal that he had his TV debut today. He has been past president of AFP Northern Arizona Chapter. He has served on the AFP International Communications and Marketing Committee. He’s also served on the Committee for Directorship, and he’s also an AFP Faculty Training Academic graduate. He was AFP Professional of the Year for the Northern Arizona Chapter back in 2010, and he’s also got his CFRE, which he’s had for a few years as well.
I didn’t even give it justice and I feel like I just talked for an hour about how awesome these two people are. But I’m going to finally shut up because you guys are the experts and you’ve got some really awesome advice and I’m going to let you two take it away. So tell us all about year-end giving, my friends.
Alice:Thank you, Steven, and thanks for the very generous introduction. So I’m assuming that if you are on this webinar, that you are in a panic because it is, yes, November 30th when we’re recording this, and you have to do year-end giving. “Oh my dear, what are we going to do?” So one of the things that we like to do is, first of all, to enable procrastinators.
Jim:Alice has been doing it for me for years.
Alice:Yes, exactly. So what we’re going to give you is a whole bunch of different strategies to think about for your year-end giving. One of the things that I’m going to just give you as a caveat before we get into this is that we’re going to give you a lot of tools. Do not try to do them all, because that is going to be next to impossible and you will be really frustrated. So we’re going to give you some ideas and by the end of this hour, we’re going to ask you to focus in on one or two strategies that you think are most effective for your organization.
So with that, why do we do year-end giving anyway? Well, it’s because this is when people give. So why do they give now? The reason that a lot of people give are these three. It’s either going to be because it’s tradition and maybe it’s a transactional decision, or maybe it’s just a timing issue.
So what do I mean by these three things of why people give now? Number one is tradition. So think about your own family giving, some of your own holiday traditions. Is this something that your family just does on a regular basis every year? Is this the time of year when your family considers doing some kind of giving?
Jim:Are you somebody like me, who my family has a history, my grandmother was a sergeant in the Salvation Army, and when I hear that bell ringing, I reach for my wallet before I see the bell sometimes?
Alice:Absolutely. So maybe it’s based in family tradition, maybe it’s based in religious tradition, but generally the concept here is that people give this time of year because it’s the right thing to do, this is the right thing to do.
But another reason why people might give this time of year is that it’s coming up on the end of the calendar year. Maybe you need a tax deduction. Now, fundamentally, do people give because they need a tax deduction? No, not really. But it is something that can be that thing that sends them over the tipping point, so to speak, when they’re thinking about their giving at the end of the calendar year.
Or maybe they’re that type of person who says, “You know, I have too much stuff. I have plenty of stuff and I don’t want any more stuff for the holidays, so I want you to make a contribution in lieu of a gift.” Or maybe you are that type of person. I mean, how many people have given away something from Heifer International, where you’re giving away a chicken or a sheep or a goat or something? Which you’re not, literally, but . . .
Jim:Raising my hand. My family and I have given away goats on more than one occasion.
Alice:Absolutely. So maybe it’s just a practical thing to do this time of year. Or maybe it’s a timing issue. Maybe, hey, you got a year-end bonus or you got a special gift from someone in your family, and so it just feels good to do something good with that money. It’s money that you weren’t expecting and maybe the idea of taking this gift that you got from someone and using it to pay bills just seems really boring, and so you want to do something good with it and so it feels good to do that.
So those are three of the reasons why people may be giving at year-end.
Jim:Well, why is it that we specifically ask at this time of year? As we were talking about, it is the season of giving and spending, and frankly what that means, and I think most people have a similar experience, you do end up spending a little more this time of the year. You are out buying gifts and just that habit of making those transactions and thinking of making other people happy also makes it a time that you might reach beyond your family to give.
But you might also be facing in your job, you might be facing year-end budget issues. Maybe you’re a little short, maybe you’ve got a specific goal that you’re not quite there yet and you need to do what you can to make sure you don’t leave any money on the table. And if everybody else is doing it and you don’t, you will not get your share of that pie. And that’s something that motivates a lot of us. It’s like this is the time we know people are giving and we have to make sure that we remind our supporters that they could be making the choice to include us in their generosity.
But before we do this, it’s really important that you pick a specific goal strategy. As Alice was talking about, there’s a lot of different goals that you might have, a lot of different ways that you might choose to approach your year-end giving. And be specific with them. So if your goal is to raise money, then make sure you’re specific about the tactics and strategies that you will use to raise cash donations. But you might be looking at this and maybe you don’t have a goal issue or maybe you don’t have a budget issue, but maybe you know that this is a great time to acquire new donors. We’re going to talk about some tactics to do that in a few minutes.
When you’re making these efforts of acquisition at this time of the year, think about how you might stand out differently from others. If everybody else is asking for cash and you’re doing an awareness campaign, those type of things, you might bring in new people that you wouldn’t have otherwise. And you might have donors who, if you ask them, “Do you support my organization?” odds are they’ll say, “Yes, I do,” even if they haven’t made a donation to you in three or four years. So it’s a great time to reconnect with those existing donors.
Obviously you want to make sure that you continue to cultivate and provide stewardship and reward for those donors who do support you to make sure that they continue to have those strong positive feelings about you. I mentioned building awareness. There’s a number of tactics. We’ll talk about social and more traditional tactics shortly.
And also, this could be a great time to get your board more involved in what you’re doing. They understand the concept of year-end giving. They are giving to other organizations and here’s a great way for you to get them to participate even if you’re not asking them to make contributions themselves or to help raise contributions.
But let’s look at some of the strategies to achieve these goals. First, you’ve got using traditional mail. So if you still have an opportunity to get a direct mail piece out, it would be a good idea to be working on that today and tomorrow because time is drawing short if you’re going to get anything out and give people an opportunity to give you returns.
Online and social, if you are not currently using online or social giving, it’s too late. But if you do already have these platforms in place, it is relatively easy, and I don’t want to encourage you to be haphazard with it, set your goals, think about what it is you want to do, and then implement those audiences that you have that you have access to through their online connections with you.
It’s not too late to do traditional advertising. Odds are you could still get something on TV, on radio, in print within the next couple of weeks. But, again, you really need to be doing that within the next week or it will not happen before the end of the year.
Should you consider events? Well, maybe, but it depends upon the nature of the event, and Alice is going to touch on that a little bit more shortly. Major and planned gifts. Remember that when you ask big and you get a “no,” it doesn’t feel much worse than if you asked them to buy a raffle ticket. So don’t be afraid to swing for the fences once in awhile at this time of year as well.
And then your donor relations, make sure that you are consciously thinking about the interactions that you are going to have and the responses that you hope to elicit from your donors.
Alice:One of the things that we didn’t touch on for these last minute strategies is text to give.
Jim:Absolutely. This is something that, like social media, if you don’t have text to give already set up for your organization, it may be too late to find a vendor and to have that occur. And so definitely a good time to start thinking about it so that you don’t miss the opportunity if it’s right for your organization in the next year. But if you do have text to give set up, you want to make sure that you’re using these other platforms, specifically online and social, to drive that text to you.
Alice:So let’s go into a little bit more detail on some of these strategies, and I’m going to start with direct mail. So even if you haven’t planned out a campaign yet, as Jim mentioned, you can do a campaign but you better do it fast.
So one of the things that we have used successfully in the past with organizations is just doing a postcard campaign. So the interesting thing about direct mail is that sometime we, as charities, make it far too complicated because we’re thinking, “Oh, we have to go this copywriting and we have to go to all of these various vendors and have it designed and all this stuff.” No. You can actually do a lot of stuff that’s low budget and really quick on your own and postcards are one of them.
One of the things that we like to do is you have to make this visual because it’s a postcard. What does a postcard normally look like when you get it personally? It’s something with images and it’s something to catch people’s attention in their mailbox. So one of the things that we like to do is highlight the achievements of our organization. Sometimes that’s an easy thing because you have pictures of impact for your organization. Put those pictures on the postcard.
One of the things we’ve also done in the past is that we just have each one of our team members for our small organization hold up a dry erase board that says, in their own handwriting or their own expression, “Thank you.” Then we take a picture of them with this small dry erase board in their hands and then we do a collage, a mosaic of all of the pictures of our team with the little, “Thank you,” held up. That postcard has done incredibly well for this organization because people like connecting with you as a charity.
So, again, it’s a postcard. It was really inexpensive, so we made it visual and we put a very brief ask on the other side and we sent them to our website to fulfill the contribution. So this is not about sending out an envelope or anything, it’s just catching their attention and sending it out.
The other thing that you could try to do is just a simple letter. Again, these do not have to be highly designed. I think we get trapped into this idea that it has to be multicolor and it has to have pictures and all this stuff. You can make it look like a letter and make it be friendly and have it be just as effective as something that’s a little bit more designed.
Another strategy for the letters that we’ve used successfully in the past is you know all of those Christmas and Hanukah and Kwanza and whatever newsletters you get from your various friends that you sometimes, depending on the friends, you may not read it all. But for others, you may at least look, “Oh, look, I’m catching up with what’s going on in this person’s life.” We did that as an essentially family newsletter for one of the organizations that we worked with.
And we had each one of our team members, again, this is a small organization, write what their most favorite thing that they did or that the organization did over the past year was. Then we had them each sign . . . well, we scanned each one of their signatures, then we put them in different colors at the bottom of the letter and we put it on the kitschy kind of holiday paper with the border on it and that we tested against a traditional direct mail package that we were going to be doing that year. And truthfully, we did it that way because my boss disagreed with me as to which way we were supposed to go with this campaign, so just did them both.
What we discovered was that the family newsletter, the friendly informal package actually produced better. It had a higher average gift and a higher response than the traditional direct mail package. So this is your opportunity to kind of think simple and think friendly with the letters.
The other thing you can do with direct mail is to send out some kind of low-cost premium of some sort. So one of the things that we suggest that you can do is something like a calendar. Send out a calendar, especially if you have a monthly giving program. If you have a monthly giving program, this is a great thing to send to your donors, and it doesn’t have to be something that you have produced yourself.
Even now, you can use online vendors and that sort of thing to turn around a calendar pretty quickly with some kind of customization on it. It’s amazing how fast these can be turned around sometimes. So if you don’t have time to put together your own calendar, which it’s November 30th, you probably don’t, you can still probably find some kind of online vendor that can put your logo on something and you send them out to your monthly donors to remind them about, “Thank you so much for supporting us every month,” or some other kind of low-cost premium thing that you can send out. Position it as a thank you but of course do a soft ask inside.
One of the things about direct mail is that the list is the most important thing. Whether you’re using an acquisition list that you’re renting or you’re using your in-house list, if you don’t have confidence in your list, then don’t do this. One of the things that an organization that we’re working with now is a relatively small organization and it just started out about a year and a half ago, so they don’t have much of a list. So for this organization, I am not encouraging them to do direct mail because it will be costly for them to send to a relatively small list that they don’t know has an affinity towards their organization. So, again, if you feel pretty good about your list, then go ahead and move forward with this, but you don’t have to spend a whole lot of money on it.
Jim:Okay. We talked about the importance of using your online and your social accounts, your social platforms, and one thing that I want to remind you of is that no one is going to take an action until they have an interest in your organization, and no one can have an interest until they have awareness. So depending upon your goals, keep in mind that awareness drives interest, drives action. And your social platforms can totally do that for you. It’s one of the best things they do is to generate that awareness and of course get them to have interest because they now know about you and if you had done that job well and if they have an affinity or have a connection with your organization, you can then get them to take an action.
But on your website itself, it’d be great if you have the availability, if your website has the sophistication, you can do lightboxes, so little pop-up boxes that will highlight the action that you want them to take or draw their attention to something in particular.
Also, you can use sidebars. So if you don’t have the ability to do pop-up boxes or something like that, set up a sidebar on your website with a nice visual to draw their attention to it, or a nice little “Donate now” button or something like that so that they are paying attention to what it is that you want them to focus on.
Don’t forget, you must secret shop your website if you haven’t done so before, because go through, make a contribution, it could be a modest contribution, even if you do $5 or $10 or whatever it is, make a modest contribution and walk yourself step by step through the process of making a donation to your website. If you find that this is not as friendly as you would like it to be, then guess what? There’s going to be plenty of other visitors that feel the same way and will probably get discouraged before they make the contribution.
Any step that you ask people to take in order to give to you means that some people won’t. So ultimately what you want to do with any type of website giving is remove all barrier for participation. You want to make it extremely simple. Give them a single button where they are automatically taken to the page where they can make their contribution. Don’t make them fish, don’t make them go through multiple steps.
You want to make sure you balance how much it is that you ask. You don’t want to be that kid who cried “wolf,” you don’t want to be that person that all you ever do is ask. I mean, think about it yourself. How many pages have you quit following? How many friends have you stopped following because they’re a one-note song? They are always talking about the same issue, and in the case of pages or organizations, they may be the people who are asking you to take an action every day.
Now, I know that might be heresy. There might be some other organizations out there that are like, “Well, you might still make the money. Keep asking, keep asking. The few people that you lost weren’t that connected to you. I don’t know that I ascribe to that because the cost of acquiring a new donor is substantially higher than the cost of retaining one. So you want to try to strike that balance.
This is also an excellent opportunity to engage your board a little bit more. If you want them to participate in helping you, you can help them use their own social networks, if they exist. They might not know what to say, though. You may have board members that might be using Twitter. Do they know what they should be tweeting? Put together a sample page of what you want shared and send that out to your board, share it at a board meeting, whatever it might be, so that all that they really need to do is to copy and paste the content into their own posts, whether that is in Instagram or Twitter or Facebook or whatever it might be.
But they don’t have to originate the content either. Most of them are going to have personal accounts. If you can get just them to share your content, you accomplish multiple goals. You extend the reach to that greater circle of influence that they have and you also are increasing the likelihood of your posts to be showing up in those social media feeds because based on who shares them, especially with Twitter and with Facebook, based on how they’re shared or how many likes you get, Facebook and Twitter is going to use an algorithm that pushes those posts up that are more popular. So you want to be able to provide that to them and make it easy for them to participate in.
So do they inform, entertain, and activate? Every one of the posts that you do should do one of these three things, if not all three.
Alice:So we have a quick little poll for you. Based on your understanding of social media, what do you think you should do the most—inform, entertain, or activate? So what should you do the most? Inform, entertain, or activate? It looks like we’re getting there. And the winner is . . .
Jim:Oh, it’s getting close.
Alice:Those last votes sneaking in.
Jim:We’re closing the poll.
Alice:Okay, we’re going to close the poll.
Jim:Three, two, one.
Alice:So people think you should be informing the most, followed by activate, followed by entertain.
Jim:Okay. Well, what we’ve found is that informing the most is frequently what you want to do. That’s your standard. That’s your year-round percentages. So these numbers might vary, depending upon your organization, but you should typically be informing more than you entertain and you should be activating the least of all three of these things.
But during the holiday season, that changes a little bit because the holiday season is a lot more about making personality and having personal connections. So what we think is that when you’re in this time of the year, you want to entertain a little more than you inform. But then you still want to make sure that you’re activating less than you are either informing or entertaining.
Quick examples, information is sharing your knowledge. It’s sharing your expertise. It’s sharing your connection in the community. Entertaining, you’re showing your personality, showing the voice of your organization and the culture of your organization. And the occasional cat video, that never hurts. But don’t go overboard with trying to be too clever.
But when you are entertaining, it could be very simple things. It could be photos of your Christmas party, things like that. Lots of different ways that you can be entertaining and still get people to have an awareness and interest in what you’re doing and make sure then that you are asking periodically.
It’s going to vary, depending on the organization and depending upon the platform, but if you follow these basic percentages, it’ll probably set you on the right path.
Alice:So don’t forget about emails. That’s one of the things that I think in the world of social media that we have kind of forgotten about, especially since this particular webinar is being recorded shortly after Giving Tuesday. If you are like me, you may have gotten a little scrooge-y on Giving Tuesday because of the volume of emails that you are receiving. I know I receive quite a bit and one of my friends on Facebook, she posted, I think that she got 177 emails on Giving Tuesday.
So even though we can be a little jaded about email nowadays, it does still work. But the thing that you need to think about with email is that you need to treat it like it is direct mail because that is what it is. It is some method of asking for direct response. So use the same kind of copywriting techniques that you would use for email. Think about it as how many times are you saying “you” rather than “we” and “I.”
If you’re a Bloomerang user, you can check this through the Ahern audit using their little button on the letters and the messages that are built into the software. And I’ve used this a lot lately because I tend to get a little egghead-y. I’ve had far too much work in public broadcasting, so I get a little full of myself sometimes. So what you want to do is make sure that your copy in your email, just like it would be in direct mail, is relatively simple and you’re trying to keep it to the point.
The other thing about the email that you want to do is make sure that, as we are going to mention several times, keep the offer simple. One of the things we sometimes tend to do is make things far too complex for ourselves and also far too complex for the donor. So try to make it as simple as you can.
Again, the list is the most important thing. If you don’t have confidence in your email list, if you don’t know how good your email addresses are, you may want to skip this strategy, or if you haven’t accumulated a list that’s robust enough to think that you can get some gifts off of it, then don’t necessarily do this.
One of the young organizations that we’re working with now is in this situation where, yes, they have an email list, but unfortunately, the demographics of that email list are not the demographics of the donors. These are the people who are more of the potential recipients of their services rather than the people who would potentially support them. So we’ve kind of moved away from doing a direct email solicitation with this organization because it’s not going to go to the right audiences.
The other thing about email is that this is a great strategy to use with your board members because this is something that they may be more comfortable with than social media. So if you have a slightly older demographic on your board and you think that you could get them to send out a couple emails, maybe five or six emails to their associates and their friends and family and give them the tools, give them the template of, “Here’s what I’d like you to write and here’s where you can customize it for your own family,” I think that’ll be a great opportunity to get them involved in this solicitation process.
Jim:We mentioned that it’s not too last to advertise, especially not for social media. However, traditional media, you may already have relationships with traditional media at television, radio, print, etc. I don’t think you can get a billboard up in time, but you never know. And if you have those relationships, odds are you know what the turnaround time is, so you’ll know whether that will be realistic or not, but again, go back to your goals.
What are your goals with the traditional media that you might use? Do you want them to take an action? Where do you want them to go? Is it about getting them to your website? Is it about sharing a specific message? You need to set those goals before you start to put this together.
When it comes to social media, if you’re not already using a paid promotion on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, I encourage you to start right away, because this is something that can have immediate impact because of the time of the year, as well as the rapid response that you are able to get through these paid advertisements. But if you are going to do this, make sure that you clearly understand who you want to talk to because you will be most effective if you target those ads.
So if you want to acquire new donors, then you might stretch your demographic and you might broaden who you want it to appeal to, but that’s not necessarily going to convert into immediate donors. You’re increasing awareness, you’re increasing interest, but they may not donate now. If you want to get donations before the end of the year, it’s wiser for you to target people that look like your existing donors because past behavior is more indicative of future behavior than anything else. So if you look at people who support you now and you target those in your ads, you will have a more refined Facebook or Twitter ad and you will be more likely to get donations right away.
But one of the things that is really important, as Alice pointed out, is to keep your offer simple. If you have not read Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink,” I encourage you to give it a shot. Most of Malcolm’s books are a relatively short read. They are not about fundraising, but you’ll find many of the books Alice and I recommend aren’t fundraising books, they’re communication books, they’re relationship books. They’re motivation, psychology books.
Malcolm points out that people are making decisions these days in a blink. You may or may not have seen an ad on television recently about the attention span of a goldfish. The attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds and it is sad to report that today the attention span of a human is eight seconds. We have an attention span one second shorter than a goldfish. Just about 10 years ago our attention span was 12 seconds. We lost four seconds of attention span because of things like social media where we are bombarded with information all the time.
So keep in mind if somebody’s going to make the decision based on your social posts, they are going to make that decision in a matter of a few seconds. So keep the offer simple, make it very clear what you want, and when you’re trying to decide what you want to ask them to give, think about what your average gift is and then add 5% or 10% or something like that to the dollar amount you want them to give you because you will be surprised. Don’t mention what your average gift is, but if your average gift is $100, ask them to make a $119 contribution. And keep in mind that people have a price point aversion, so don’t ask for $120, ask for $119 because they don’t jump to the next dollar level.
So if your average contribution is $125, you might ask for $139 or something like that. But keep it under the round number and stretch a little bit, 5-10% probably over what your average gift is.
Alice:So the other thing that you may be surprised to see on this list of potential year-end strategies are events. Seriously? You want us to do events? Because events can be, as we all know, very labor intensive. We’re not talking about pulling together a gala between now and December 31st.
But what we are talking about are smaller, kind of friends of the family type events. So these are ones where maybe your board member is going to have a holiday party anyway and can we have some kind of awareness building built into that event? Or maybe you have an opportunity to pull together some of your larger donors and have a thank you event. We’ve done that before.
One of the times we did pretty much a reception. It was more a cabaret performance but kind of a reception for our donors with a particular organization where we brought in a friend of one of our staff members had a band and so we brought them in and we did charge a modest ticket fee, but then people came in and got to mingle with other donors of the organization and listen to music and have some nice hors d’oeuvres. It really wasn’t that hard to pull together but it ended up being a nice social event for our donors.
The other thing that these are good for are, again, back to what your primary goal is. Maybe your primary goal for year-end giving is not necessarily to generate a whole lot of cash. Maybe you’re doing okay for an organization but you would like to do something so that you’re not forgotten in the whole year-end giving picture. Maybe you do some of these more cultivation and stewardship-focused events like the one I just mentioned.
But again, use some caution here because as you and I all know, this is a really busy time of the year. I’m sure many of you are already looking at your December calendar and just for your own family and social lives have really crammed in a lot of things already in your calendar. So make sure that you take some thoughtful consideration here as to whether you want to add something to the calendar. But if there’s something you’re already doing that you can kind of turn into that’s more fundraising-focused, or if there’s something modest that you can add into the schedule, think about it and keep it simple.
Again, we’re trying to say, with all of these strategies, don’t make it too complicated because, again, it’s a very short timeframe between now and December 31st.
The other thing that you can potentially do here is do some kind of events where you’re asking for people to make a donation in lieu of a gift. So maybe there’s some kind of family gathering for one of your board members and they would normally do some kind of Secret Santa thing and maybe they’re all sick of stuff. The key thing is everyone has to be sick of stuff to make this work. So think about how you’re going to have this whole group work together on providing a donation in lieu of a gift.
The other thing you potentially can do is think about your major gifts. For those of you who already have a major and/or planned gift program in place that is active, this is a time of year to think about closing existing gifts in process.
Back to the transaction idea, while we want to make sure and hope that most of your major and planned gifts are motivated by a philanthropic intent, this may be a good time to give it a little sense of urgency because of the year-end tax deduction. So even though people’s primary decision on making a gift is not going to be driven by a tax deduction, it might be an extra incentive to get them to close it before December 31st.
The other thing about this is that you can potentially cultivate new donors in this process. So this is the time to ask some of your existing donors if there’s someone that we should meet before the end of the year, if there’s someone that we should be introduced to when it’s a time of year when people are maybe reconnecting with their friends and family that they don’t normally see on a year-round basis. So is there a way to meet some new potential donors in this process?
The other thing is to look at the people who have been major donors over the years and have not actually made a gift this calendar year. So this is a great time to go out and reach out to them and double check to see if they do want to renew their contribution for this year. One of the cautions about major and planned gifts is that very often we, as charities, think, “Oh, this is a really busy time of year and I don’t want to bother them. And I’m sure they have a lot of other requests,” so we don’t want to say “no” for people.
Jim:This is one of the biggest mistakes. My background before working with Alice and learning the world of fundraising was I was a salesman salesman. I used to sell data and software to television stations and sports franchises and the like. Then I would train their salespeople. And one of the biggest mistakes that I heard some salespeople make is they would assume that they knew why the person who they were trying to persuade would say “no.” So they would say “no” for them and miss the opportunity to let that person speak for themselves.
I encourage you to take the same action when you’re considering your donors. Don’t say “no” for them. Don’t say that they’re too busy. Don’t say that they’re being asked too much. Let them tell you and then that way you will not have missed an opportunity.
Alice:So the last thing that we’re going to talk about, and then we’re going to touch on a couple of the questions before we get into planning, is donor relations. Even if you decide that all of these other strategies, “I just don’t have time for that, I can’t add that to my schedule right now,” we do want to encourage you to use the next month to connect with your donors. In fact, I would suggest that you connect with a donor every day.
Obviously you don’t have to connect with someone on a day that you’re not working. But for the days that you are working during the month of December, connect with someone. It can be as simple as picking up the phone and actually talking to a donor. It can be a quick email. It can be a quick holiday card that you’re sending to someone. But every day, just put that as your first thing in the morning thing to just connect with someone and say, “Thank you.”
This is not about solicitation. This is about “thank you.” The thing that I like about this is there have been any number of times that Jim and I have reached out to a donor and just to say “thank you” during the holiday season, “We really appreciate your support, it’s been wonderful to have you as a supporter of this organization and the impact that you’ve made,” and the next day a check appears.
Jim:It’s amazing. They are reminded how much they love you when you remind them how you much you love them. And frequently, it’s the non-ask that incites generosity and a deeper relationship and a better stewardship experience.
Alice:The other thing you can potentially do, especially with your major donors is give them gifts, but make them modest. What a major donor generally does not want from you is something elaborate, because that’s a feeling for a lot of people who are investing high levels in charitable organizations, they may think that you’re wasting your money. So maybe it’s something that is a low priced item or low cost item, but it’s something that’s connected to you, and that’s that thing that I would encourage you to think about. Do you have something that you can give them that’s connected to you?
One organization that was actually thanking us at one point just gave us a wine glass that had been painted by the participants in one of their programs, and it’s Down syndrome organization. And then there’s the scarves or the tie.
Jim:Yeah. There’s an organization in Las Vegas, Nevada called “Opportunity Village.” I’m not sure if you’re familiar with them by name, but you probably have an awareness of the scarves that Alice is talking about because at the Opportunity Village you have adults with mental and physical handicaps and some live on residence and others visit during the day and they have this elaborate craft arrangement where they dye these scarves and they dye custom ties and they do carpentry and paint and everything that you can imagine.
And you know these scarves because if you’ve ever seen one of those old Vegas Elvis Presley concerts or a clip of it and you see him at the end of a song take that colorful scarf from around his neck and wipe his sweaty brow or kiss it and toss it to an audience member or hand it to him, every one those scarves came from the Opportunity Village. And when we presented for the Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter, they held it at the Opportunity Village and they gave each of us a gift of one of these items. I received a tie, Alice a scarf, and they were very meaningful because of the connection to the organization and the story behind it.
So if you have that type of ability to give someone something meaningful, again, without being too elaborate, it can, again, deepen the relationship and provide a story for that donor to tell.
Alice:The other thing you can do with donor relations is make it easy for them to give a donation in lieu of gift. So perhaps they want to support you and be able to say, “This gift is in honor of my mother or my sister,” or whatever. Make it easy for them to do that type of tribute gift. Very often we make it far too complicated and I know this because usually around this time of year I do give a couple gifts in honor of friends or family members. Sometimes I will abandon giving a gift to a particular organization because they don’t make it easy for me to say, “This is in honor of Jim,” or Steven, or whatever.
So, again, back to the secret shopping your website, make it easy for them to make a comment or even have a separate tribute page, if you can, on making a gift in honor of someone else. And related to that is creating some kind of gift package.
Sometimes you just want to give something physical to someone. Think about Amazon gift cards. You have an option of giving an actual physical gift card and this time of year at Amazon, you know, they have all those cute little boxes for the gift cards. Sometimes you can put it in a Santa tin, all of these things. You could just as easily send an email with that gift card code, and other times of the year, you might do that. “Hey, I’m sending you an Amazon gift card. Here’s an email.”
And while they do have a cute little e-card animation, it’s still not the same as handing someone a physical card. So maybe you have kind of in your back pocket some way to create a simple package where you can include some kind of token of appreciation from your organization and put the letter in a nice presentation package, etc.
For example, and Jim, when he saw this slide, he said, “What is that?” This is the welcome kit for the Intercontinental Ambassador Program. It is very simply a membership card, a welcome letter with a list of my benefits, and a luggage tag. But it comes in this lovely box and it just seems really hefty, really weighty, and so it gives me a sense of being a VIP, so to speak. So come up with something not necessarily this elaborate because I’m sure this package costs a lot of money. But come up with something that you can use as a physical representation of what you are doing and the donation.
Now, before we get into the next section, which is our last section, which is about planning, I do want to touch on one question that came up from Kelly. Kelly says, “In the reception for your donors,” when I was talking about special events, “I assume you invited prospective donors as well. Without charging a fee for entry, what fun ideas have you seen work to get attendance during busy times of the year?”
Okay, one of the things is it has to feel like it’s something out of the ordinary. So if it’s something where you think, “That event is something I could do any other time of the year,” it’s not special enough to cut through the clutter. The other things is that typically for events like the one we did, we were kind of doing the whole Rosso concentric circles. We were starting with the friends of the family first. Our loyalists got invited first and so those are the people who generally show up for our stuff anyway and we’re like, “Bring a friend. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Alice:Do you have anything you want to add on the . . . Okay. So that’s one of the things to think about is that is it something that is not something you could do another time of the year. Some examples of this were that holiday concert that we did with the reception and all that stuff, it was entirely holiday themed music, it was actually a Brazilian Christmas, so it was kind of fun. The other thing that you might want to think about is how do you make it so that it’s tied in with something they have to do anyway?
Several organizations have done things like giftwrapping parties, which may seem really inane, but it actually does work to get people out. “Okay, great. I can bring my stuff here and I can actually socialize and wrap gifts at the same time.”
Okay, so I’m going to get into timing issues and then we’ll touch on a couple more questions at the end. When you’re thinking about all of this stuff that we just dumped at you, the timing is, first of all, this week—like right after you get off of this webinar—pick one strategy, one primary strategy that you think you could implement before December 31st. We provided several suggestions here, so this is not, again, a laundry list of checking off everything.
So pick one thing and pick a secondary. So this is your backup plan. So if you have selected your goal of, “We need to hit budget by December 31st. Here’s the primary strategy that’ll help us get there and here’s the secondary strategy.”
And as a reminder, here are the things that we covered. You could do direct mail. Again, a quick one. You could do online, and that’s several different things. That’s your website, that’s social media, that’s email, that’s all sorts of things that you can do in that category. You can do traditional and social advertising. You can do modest, small scale, simple events. You could do major and planned gifts in terms of closing or meeting new donors, and you can do those donor relations things we just talked about.
So, again, pick one primary and then one secondary. Don’t try to do it all. So let’s just say you’ve decided, “I’m going to do a mailing. I’m going to do a postcard mailing and I’m going to do an online campaign. I’m going to do a Facebook ad campaign or something.” Then what you do is you pick those two things, block the time off. This is going to be probably the hardest thing that we’re going to tell you to do is to actually block out an hour of time each day, preferably two hours if you can get away with it, but just block out an hour if that’s what you need to start with.
I’m actually going through a productivity training program, I’ve been doing this for the last couple of years, which based on the introduction picture of me, you will probably find this funny because I find it funny. It’s a program called “Asian Efficiency,” which Jim teases me about all the time because I’m Asian. But with Asian Efficiency, this program tells you to block out an hour focus block on your calendar every day. And Jim has tried to schedule things during my focus block and I say, “No, that’s my focus block. That’s when I’m working.”
So usually it’s better to have that be early in the day, so block out one hour early in the day where you’re going to say, “Hey, I’m going to get this tomorrow. In this hour I’m going to get this postcard created,” or, “In this hour tomorrow, I’m going to contact three major donors,” or, “In this hour tomorrow, I’m going to touch base with a certain number of people and say “thank you.” So block it out so that you have time to actually implement the stuff that you’re doing.
So, again, one more time, remember to keep it simple because done is better than perfect. I’ve had this argument with so many people who want it to be perfect and this time of year if we’re working on essentially a 31-day timeline, keep it simple because done is better.
And the other thing is don’t take yourself too seriously. Try to keep it light because maybe Boxing Day is the new Giving Tuesday. So the day after Christmas, December 26th is traditionally Boxing Day where the tradition of Boxing Day is that you would package up gifts that were not necessarily meant for you or maybe not necessarily as useful and in aristocratic homes they would use Boxing Day to give those gifts to their servants. It was essentially the official re-gifting day. So who knows? Maybe that’s the day when everyone’s going to say, “I’m going to make my charitable contributions for the year.
So the other thing we want you to think about over the next 31 days is how are we going to do this better next year? How are we going to make this a little less last minute next year? So when you’re thinking about some of those planning things, here are the things to think about.
One is, is the goal you picked for this short term timeframe the same goal you would have picked if you had had more time? Maybe your goal was at this point that you picked doing donor stewardship because you just don’t have time to do a solicitation campaign. Maybe that’s what you want to do for this 31-day period but you realize that next year, if I had a little bit more time to plan, I would rather just bring in a lot of money.
So come up with a goal and then create this list of, “Here are the tactics that I would do to make that goal happen. And then based on that list of tactics, what time and resources do I need? If I had more time to do this, how much time, realistically, do I need for this?” So if direct mail is your thing, do some thinking about this to say, “Ideally, I would have liked my direct mail package to drop before Thanksgiving and if I had to do this again, when would I have started that planning?”
Give yourself a deadline, which is related to that. What is the drop dead moment of this campaign? What are the things that you have to work towards to get this done? Then, again, as I said, back time to the start of this year efforts. So do a little bit of thinking about this, actually spend most of your time focusing on implementing this, but do a little bit of thought of, “Gee, how would I do this differently if I had more time?”
Which is related to my last recommendation, which you may find a little bit surprising, but I am a real proponent of just having an old school wall calendar. And I am not talking about one where you have to flip through the months. I’m talking about the year-at-a-glance thing, and in fact, Jim is standing near my big 2018 year-at-a-glance calendar and it is a great way to be able to map out the entire year, even if you’re on an online calendar, even if you prefer to have a written planner, get yourself something visual to say, “Here’s how I can see the deadlines that are coming up,” because very often with electronic calendars it’s easy to lose track of those deadlines because you can only see a certain timeframe at a time. So put a big old old school wall calendar on your wall and use that to start planning out 2018.
So, with that, we are in the season of giving, so hopefully we’ve given you some tools that might work for you. Again, pick one or two and run with it. If you figure out pretty quickly that that one or two that you picked out are not working for you, then move on to something else and see if you can make something else work. But it is not too late. You still have an opportunity to use some of these tactics to be able to do something for your organization.
So with that, a screen grab of our 2017 JibJab video. So I guess at this point we will take any questions that may have popped up.
Steven:Yeah, that was great. Thank you both so much. Great information there. Lot of tidbits. That was awesome. And we do have maybe time for one or two questions. So if you’ve been sitting on it, now is the time. I know you guys answer a couple questions along the way. But I just want to take the time to say thank you for fitting this into your schedule and giving all that good info.
And thanks to all of you for also listening in. I know it’s a busy time of year so I definitely appreciate all of you attending, and we are going to send out the recording and the slides. I’m going to get those to you in the next probably hour or so, so don’t worry at all about that.
Alice and Jim, where can people find out more about you? How can they get in touch with you, email, Twitter, website? I’m going to flash your JibJab one more time if you don’t mind.
Jim:Well, it’s pretty easy. If you search for “GoalBusters,” just do a quick Google search or whatever browser you use. You will find that we are pretty much the first six pages of search results, with the exception of some middle school soccer and hockey teams. Yeah, on social media you’ll find us @goalbusters. I’m @goalbustersjim, @aliceferris is obviously Alice Ferris. Easy enough to find us.
We believe in providing as many resources as possible just to help you do your job a little better. Visit our website, goalbusters.net/free, you will find a treasure-trove of templates, of forms, of suggested reading lists, of presentations. We’re not trying to sell you anything. We don’t even ask for your email, so we’re not going to be spamming you or anything like that. We just want to give you the greatest access to the tools that you might need, and so you can check them out there as well.
We do hope that you’ll connect with us on social media and hopefully you’ll find something on goalbusters.net/free that is useful to you.
Steven:Yeah, do check it out.
Alice:I’m going to just touch on a couple questions that just popped up because I think I can answer them quickly. One is from Susan, who says, “How do proposed tax changes impact this year’s final ask?” I think they don’t at this point. They may affect asking for next year but at this point I don’t think there’s any impact.
Beth asks, “What if there aren’t any funds for advertising?” Then I would say probably not do that strategy or get in-kind contributions. Sometimes you can do a trade with a traditional media source to be able to trade sponsorship for free advertising.
Jim:And let me touch on that as well. If you do choose to do this via social, social advertising is relatively inexpensive. A $10 or $20 or more bump or a promoted post can generate very strong returns. I mean, how many contributions would you have to get to offset that cost of $20 or so?
Alice:And then Aaron was asking, “When should you launch your year-end campaign?” I would say that normally I would launch it right around Thanksgiving and I would actually not necessarily launch it on Giving Tuesday. I think at this point we’ve built too much clutter on that day, so I would say try to launch it prior to Thanksgiving traditionally, or in the context of this webinar, I would say launch it as soon as you can.
Steven:I love it. Well, we’re about out of time. I just want to be respectful of people’s schedules, especially if they hadn’t eaten lunch, I don’t want to get in between anyone and a sandwich or a salad. I’ll say a final thanks, Alice and Jim, this was really awesome. Thanks for being here today.
Jim:Absolutely, and we see a few of our friends that are commenting. Thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate you spending a little more time with us.
Steven:Yeah, it was fun. Do check out their website, download those goodies. We’ve got some free resources on our website as well. We’ve got BloomCon coming up in February, so register for that if you haven’t. You can look at our BloomCon page and learn more about that. It’s going to be a really cool conference.
And we’ve got another webinar coming up. We’ve got two more through the end of the year. Next week, one week from today, we’re going to hear about building a culture of philanthropy. Good timing, as always, to do that. So check out our webinar page. We’ve got a lot scheduled even into 2018 already, so we’d love to see you again on another Thursday.
So we’ll call it a day there. Be on the lookout for an email from me with the recording and the slides and hopefully we will see you next week. So have a good rest of your Thursday, have a safe weekend, and we will talk to you again soon.
Jim:Okay, thank you.