Homeless youth

Homeless youth
People we don't see.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Your yearend fundraising campaign

My what?

If this is your reaction to the title of this post I urge you to read on.

If you have already begun your campaign, I urge you to read on.

As I wrote in my last post, we began our yearend campaign about two weeks ago. This past Monday our first mailing went out. The first online donation was made on Wednesday. The first check arrived Thursday.

The second mailing goes out this week. Just to be clear, my yearend campaign's first set of mailings includes three mailings to three different categories of donors and potential donors.

I am ecstatic to be seeing results of the campaign before Halloween.

Knowing that many who read my blog are way understaffed, and indeed may be the only staffer, please know that it is not too late to start your yearend campaign. Just start it this week. Get started on an action plan that covers you from this week all the way through December 31st. What will happen this week? Who will do it? How much money needs to be raised? All important questions.

The key, if you haven't yet begun, is to not to fret. Take action now and everything will be just fine.

If you have already begun your yearend campaign, keep in mind that I like to always stay ahead of the game. That means a reminder email to anyone who is receiving the mailing. That means making sure all of my future mailings go out on time. It also means that the board becomes more and more involved.

My board is totally involved. I loved how so many of them came into the office before our first mailing went out and wrote personal notes on the letters about to go out. I'll keep in touch with them on who responds to the first mailing, and they will be totally involved with keeping in touch with those who have not responded to the first ask. Remember, big or small, an active board is key to any yearend campaign.

Finally, remember to ask for help from other fundraisers. There is plenty of money to go around and my hope is that everyones yearend campaign is beyond successful! I love talking strategy with other fundraisers.

Thanks for reading. I'll keep writing about our yearend campaign. I would love to hear how yours is going!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Pick up the phone!

This past Saturday morning I was driving back from an event in Cheyenne, WY. I borrowed my husband's car, a 2009 VW Jetta TDI, and I enjoyed being able to listen to OUTQ radio and The Focus Group (One of my favorite radio shows). His car has Sirius radio, so it was a treat.

They were talking about communicating with customers (or donors in my case) in the 21st century. The focus was on email and the vast amount we all seem to get. They were kind enough to take my call. I suggested picking up the phone.

I admitted that I learned this lesson out of pure laziness. I found myself responding in length via email to a donor and thought "why don't I just call them?!?!". So I did. The result catapulted my relationship with the donor to a completely stronger level. And it continues to do that.

I got so used to email, to non-human contact. I realized that every morning I have a dozen or so emails and no voice mails. I realized that I had never even spoken with Ms. Jones!

My experience is that when I call a donor, a potential donor, or a potential partner, that relationship grows in a way that no email will allow. We can chuckle, I can hear the tone of their voice, I can sense their excitement (or their concern).

So try it! Many of you probably already do. If not, skip the next email and give them a call.

If you are interested in The Focus Group, their website is http://http://focusgroupradio.com/

I highly recommend the Saturday morning show.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Keeping the confidence - we can rock it!

Two polite "no's" in one week.

From potential corporate partners.

No nice letter. No phone call. All we get is a generic email saying what many others say these days: too many requests and not enough money.

The yearend appeal campaign is about to begin. (see previous post)

"After supporting you for several years we have decided to support someone else".

There are a ton of books and blogs out there telling me how, as a fundraiser, I can keep going and rock it no matter what happens.

And I agree. I am nothing if I lose my confidence in me as a fundraiser.

I can rock it.

Bring me your "no". Bring me your "maybe later". Bring me your generic response. Bring me a tough economy.

I will succeed. I believe in myself as a fundraiser. I believe in myself as a creator of life-long partnerships that sincerely matter and that honestly benefit both sides.

We can have tough moments, maybe even bad, discouraging moments. Let's not turn those into tough or bad days. We are fundraisers. We can rock it.

So turn on Lady Gaga's "Edge of Glory", tweet to one of your favorite folks on Twitter who is also a fundraiser, and make the personal decision that today you are going to ROCK IT!

Thanks for reading. I am totally grateful.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Yearend Campaign

It's only September!

I know, and by the time some people read this it will be October.

My goal is to have my yearend campaign begin the first or second week of October. November, to me, is far too late.

I have been thinking about the direct mail piece since summer. Taking notes. Adding ideas. What I came up with was an appeal that is part funny, part direct, and all ask! I am fortunate to have an ED (in the opera world we call it General Director) who came from Development and he took the one letter and created three letters, one each for a specific, targeted group. The letters will go to: donors who have already given once this year and we're asking for a second gift; donors who have not renewed their 2010 gift; and brand-new donors or donors who have not given in several years.

I love our appeal letter.

Our first of the letters will mail next week. Yep, the first week of October.

And that is just the start of a yearend campaign for me.

Just after the first appeal letter mails, I'll have the opportunity to speak with our board and invite each board member to participate in some way towards the success of the yearend campaign. Can you give me some personal contacts that I could mail the new donor letter to? Can you make some follow up phone calls from our office? Can you jot a short thank you note to someone who supports the yearend campaign?

One week after the first appeal letter goes out, we begin our social media campaign with an email similar to the appeal letter. We will support the email with Facebook and Twitter postings, and then a YouTube video.

A yearend appeal letter will go to every person who purchases tickets for our 2012 season between now and the end of the year.

And we'll have a yearend appeal packet for all events we have through the end of year. The packet will include the letter and remit, along with our 2012 Season brochure.

Add more follow up calls and BOOM, we are in the midst of an incredibly successful yearend campaign!

Thanks for reading! As always, I would love your feedback!

Monday, September 12, 2011

You have to make the ask!

I took a month off to work on our new blog and to focus on my agency's annual Gala which is in two weeks. So excited.

As many of you know, I love social media. I have made many incredible contacts through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This past weekend one of my new friends from Twitter was in Denver for the start of his vacation and we had lunch.

I am so excited to have met @zachinmotion He has been an inspiration since I met him on Twitter but now that I have met him face to face I am even more inspired.

And focused.

We had a lot of conversation around fundraising and how to treat donors. I told him that I believe there are many in fundraising who are uncomfortable with asking for money. And when we get money, there are many who just move on to the next ask without doing a big acknowledgement for the gift.

We have to ask for money to get it. And there is NOTHING to fear. First, I believe that a "no" is just the start of the conversation. I have NEVER received a "no, and I mean no, like never, like I will never donate to you, ever" comment when getting a "no". Usually, it's not the right time, not the right campaign, not the right opera (I fundraise for Opera Colorado), or they just paid their children's college bill and want to make a donation yet just can't.

I try to make twenty asks a day. That's 100 in a week. That's a lot. This may seem like impossible. For some groups it might be. Here at Opera Colorado we have amazingly kept donor records so I have a great resource.

If twenty is overwhelming, perhaps you could start with just one a day. Who donated to you last year that you haven't heard from this year?

Regardless of how many calls you decide to make in one week, you can start today! I realize you have that meeting and that luncheon and that report due and that event to plan, etc. Donations to me are our life blood. And if I am not making the ask, I am cutting off my agency's access to new donations.

Go for it! And let me know how it goes!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 12, 2011

10 things I do everyday as a fundraiser

This photo is not where I work. It's a photo taken near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, the site of a one-week condo stay we are auctioning off at our live auction for Opera Colorado's 2011 Gala.

Yet working in fundraising many times makes me feel like I'm on the beach. Living the dream. Fundraising to me is such an important part of a compassionate, caring, cultural world and I am so grateful that I get the opportunity to do it.

So what does a Development Director do every day? If you have read previous blog posts or follow me on Twitter, you most likely know that I am not a typical fundraiser. I have been only doing this for the past few years, and I have found success in fundraising going down roads that are not common in your average fundraising plan. So here is a list of 10 things I do, if not daily, frequently. Another list will come shortly, but this is a good start.

One last thing. I totally understand that what I do may not work for everyone. A great example will be number 1.

1. Have Pandora or my IPOD on. Music inspires me and gets me ready to rock-n-roll. Especially before an important call.

2. Maintain a sense of gratitude. The truth is that I have so much. My life is amazing.

3. Thank you co-workers/team. Together you can rock it.

4. Let your friends on Facebook and Twitter know what you're doing.

5. Connect with a donor. This should happen every day. No matter your position, no matter how "busy" you are, no matter that the grant application is due at 5pm. Do it. Make the call.

6. Connect with a second donor. I know, but seriously, these connections are the life-blood of your organization.

7. Respond to, delete, or folder your email. I try to have no more than 20 emails in my inbox at any given time.

8. Investigate a potential corporate sponsor. Yes, this is a daily activity. If you can do more that is awesome. The more you can reach out to or check into the better.

9. Read. A blog. The newest fundraising book. A book about the cause you fundraise for. Take some time and read. I am currently reading "Flash Foresight" and "Opera 101".

10. Have dinner with your spouse. For sure. Or your significant other. Or a good friend. If you are married, dinner every night is an amazing thing.

Happy Friday everyone. I hope each of you has a wonderful day. Thank you so much for reading!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Time with a donor/partner/sponsor

I recently met with a long-term supporter. We had lunch and walking into it I had a plan.

Before I begin I should say that although he has been a long-term supporter of my group, I have only known him for three months.

My plan was to increase his value of the partnership we have had with him and create a partnership for 2012 that will blow both of our hopes out of the water.

Let me back up. I did my research. I decided that although we had partnered for years, that they had not used their benefits to the extent that would make them even more successful, and we hadn't given them enough opportunities to show what their true needs in the partnership were.

Say what?

I know, reading it back I think the same thing. Yet this is a challenge for many non-profits who simply agree to a partnership then file it away until the next year. And if the partner isn't paying attention they end up reaping very little form the relationship.

Our lunch ended up taking almost three hours. When I left I felt that we had definitely taken our relationship to a new level and as we continue to discuss 2012 that the coming year would be the most successful year of our partnership ever.

The lunch ended up being a great success for us and them. A true partnership. The fires were re-stoked.

Take the time to meet face to face with your donors and partners. Make sure they know how important the relationship is to you. Make sure they know how much more you can do with their support. Make sure they know what they get out of it and how truly beneficial the partnership is to them.

Thanks for reading. I am honored that you take time out of your busy day to read my thoughts.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Is your big event worth it?

In the past year I have read about several different non-profit groups making changes to their annual event. Some groups have a huge Gala annually, others a breakfast, luncheon, or sports event. Across the board, it seems like groups are making changes from completely cancelling their event to reducing costs, changing the date, or changing the event itself (eg: from a full-out Gala to a luncheon). Meanwhile, others wonder if it's all worth it.

My first thought is YES! My immediate second thought is that is also depends.

For me, like any event, the BIG event of the year and it's success depends on the overall relevance of the event, your expectations around the event, and what the main purpose of the event is.

For me, our annual event is about building donor relations and introducing potential new donors (friends of current donors) to an amazing show of who we are and what we do.

It's not about raising money, although that is an incredible side-benefit if done well. When I look across the room at a Gala and see all of the happy people, not only engaged with the mission but with their friends and other donors, I can help to think how much of a success that is. How many of these guests are at the Gala for the first time? And for the first-timers, will they be more likely to financially support the mission after the Gala?

Our Gala is coming up in September and we are very much focused on creating an amazing event for our donors and potential donors. We have pressed the message to the committee and board that we want people to bring friends that have never been to one of our events. We want guests to look around the room and NOT know every person they see! This is another of the huge benefits of your annual event as you get long-time supporters with people considering support and magic can happen!

Consider all of this before making a decision to cancel your annual event. In some cases it might be best to cancel it and move on, yet if donor cultivation is important to your overall mission you may want to look at how you can make the event better on all levels before getting rid of it.

As always, I would love your feedback. I continue to be so grateful for all of your support!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dan Hanley with Opera Colorado

It's a beautiful morning in Denver, Colorado. I'm at me desk thinking about the day and also thinking of the reception I attended the other night. The event was a birthday celebration for a well-known catering guru in the community and I was thrilled to have been invited.

When I arrived I surveyed the space, an art gallery, and began to think of my plan to connect with others attending the party. As much as I was there to celebrate the birthday of a peer, I also wanted to take advantage of meeting people and introducing Opera Colorado to folks who might not know much about us.

I should add here that I love events like this. I love business, social, professional events where I have the opportunity to engage with my peers and introduce the world of opera to those who may not know about it. Many times events like this are called Business After Hours and I try to make at least one a week.

The key to attending these events, and the reason I try to attend them, is to, as Rupaul would say, work it. If you decide to attend an event like this it's important to not just be a flower on the wall but actually meet people and talk about your non-profit. We get into dangerous territory when assumptions are made that everyone in a given room already knows all there is to know about your non-profit. Opportunities like this are the key ingredient to "social" media: actually meeting face to face with other human beings.

I realize that this might be uncomfortable for smoe. In a world where we communicate with thousands of people via Facebook and Twitter, it can become different to actually converse, to talk about your non-profit's mission with somenoe who might actually want to support you. Yet this is all vital. I love facebook. I love Twitter. Nothing excites me more, though, than seeing a room filled with people who may or may not know about Opera Colorado and who may or may not even enjoy opera. The conversations I have are thrilling and no matter what type of social engagement I am attending, if I extend my hand to as many people as possible and simply say "I'm Dan Hanley with Opera Colorado", the magic of fundraising continues!

Try it! If you have been in fundraising for years, try it. If you are quite new to fundraising, try it.

No matter where you live, there are organizations that have some type of monthly or quarterly meeting. Check out your local Chamber of Commerce or regional non-profit agency. In the Denver area we have several opportunites to meet with peers monthly.

Attend, introduce yourself, follow-up with people you met. Then let me know all about it.

As always, thanks so much for reading my blog!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Changing the world

I am in the second week of my vacation and am having an incredible time. A lot of beach time, time with friends and family, long walks with my husband, and amazing vegan food.

I have also had a lot of time to think about how I can be a voice for the voiceless and how I can help make the world a better place by fundraising. My day job, as many of you know, is to fundraise for Opera Colorado, one of the best opera companies in the country. I feel so grateful to be able to do what I do as I believe keeping the arts (and opera) alive in our communities is so pertinent in keeping a vibrant community.

For those of you reading this blog who are fundraisers (and I know there are a lot of you!), you must know how important your work is in changing the world. We all work for so many amazing organizations that on a daily basis the world is a better place because of all the work our groups do.

Although this blog, Fundraising for Free!, is all about sharing fundraising ideas that work for me, the bigger picture is to help others making positive change in the world.

So back to that for a minute. My tip for this post goes back to you and your relationship with your donors. Make sure they know how important the mission of your group is to you, and why you think your group changes the world for the better. The more they know about this the closer your relationship will be.

Back to my vacation. Thanks to all of you for your amazing support. I'd also like to do a shout out to one of my readers, Jasmine, who has a Smoothie King shop in Port Orange, FL and invited us in. We loved it there and she made us feel right at home. Stop in if you're ever in the area!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Vacation time!

I have heard this many times from fundraising professionals: "I have so many vacation days saved I have no idea how to use them."

And every time I hear that my mind goes to the same thought:


Yes, many of our peers work, work, work. They completely rock at their job, they are stellar fundraisers, they make the world a better place for all, their eyes are always on the prize, etc. And, they have a challenge relaxing or taking a vacation. One of my core beliefs is that I cannot care for the world if I am not taking care of myself first.

So tomorrow, my husband and I are headed to Port Orange, Florida to visit my mother-in-law. And we're driving! From Denver! I am so excited I can barely stand it! Vacation to me is always some type of road trip, a new adventure (this time we are going to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis), trying vegan food where you think there would never be vegan food, visiting friends and family, and (number one) the beach!

What does my vacation have to do with Fundraising for Free!? We MUST take care of ourselves. Making sure you take vacation is a great start.

So I am off! I might write a blog from the road and might not. I will defintiely be in gratitude for many things, one of them being all of the support I get for this blog, and how many amazing conversations I have had with people who got something out of what I shared. It's just amazing how life works.

Friday, May 27, 2011


As I transition into my new job I have taken a couple weeks to really focus on that, yet have also been thinking about this next post and all of the folks who have been reading my posts.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. I have been blown away by the kind feedback I have received, and also by the editing feedback!!!

The topic of this blog is "ask". What I mean by this is that with everything we have going on, with everything that has to be done "right now", it is sometimes easy to forget that the easiest, least expensive way to fundraise is to simply ask someone for a donation.

We recently had an event and I was with one of my guests who is a potential corporate sponsor. One of our board members swung by and simply said "I hope you can help us". Amazing! I was so excited that this simple sentence that carried with it such a powerful ask.

I hope you can help us.

Can you support this program?

Can you buy a $10,000 table at our Gala to help us build energy around the event?

Would you be able to make your annual donation in June rather than in December?

I have met several peers in fundraising that are at times uncomfortable asking for money. If you are a funraising professional, you just have to get over any fear in asking for money. It's what we do. And you can rock at it! (This perhaps could be the subject of a whole other posting!)

Those lacking money to pay for their meds to fight HIV or cancer need us to ask. Those being killed and injured in the streets of Syria need us to ask. The abused animal needs us to ask. The beaten wife needs us to ask. The local arts organization needs us to ask.

Fundraising for Free! is all about sharing things I have learned about fundariaing that do not cost you anything, or cost very little. It can all start with a simple ask.

Who will you ask today? If you make an ask today, I'd love to hear about the response.

Big love to all of you out there raising money to make the world a better place for all living beings!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Be yourself!

Those of you who have been reading for a few months know that in April I started a new fundraising job. After 2 1/2 years at my last agency I decided to take a move and after one month there I am beyond ecstatic with this new opportunity.

Fundraising for Free! has been a great opportunity for me to share about my experiences with fundraising and share ideas that don't cost anything (or very little). My hope is to build a community of fundraisers who learn from each other and who change the world as we raise money for groups near and dear to our hearts.

I write often about the importance of face-to-face meetings with donors, as well as the importance of always working to build an even stronger relationship with your donors. One thing that I have recently learned with my new job (and have tried to do in my fundraising life) is to be myself when speaking with donors or supporters.

The photo here is one of my husband and I (I'm on the left. I know, my husband is handsome. :) ). We were married on April 30, 2005. I wanted to write this post about being yourself because in the last month I have had conversations with people I have just met and have spoken about my marriage. Regardless of the opinion around gay marriage of the donor/supporter, in each instance I have walked away having a better relationship with that donor. Some have even written a note and some Twitter followers have told me "good job" for being out about my marriage on Twitter.

This post is not about promoting gay marriage. It is everything about bringing the 100% you to the table when meeting with donors.

Another example is that when having a meal with a donor they inevitably discover that I am vegan. Questions are asked and through that process we get to know each other even better.

The other night I discovered that the donor I was dining with was a Civil War buff. Me too! What a great way to get closer to a donor.

Let your passion and yourself out and you will thrive!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hope for corporate giving (with action of course!)

In my past 2 ½ years at Boulder County AIDS Project the area of fundraising that has been the most challenging has been with corporate giving. Based on what I hear and what I read amongst other fundraisers I am not alone. On the other hand, I definitely do not embrace the doom and gloom scenario frequently discussed when talking about corporate giving.

All those who know more about these kinds of things than I do say that corporate giving has decreased. In many cases, corporate giving is still there, just very more specific, which may not include as many organizations as in the past.

As we continue to solicit the large, national companies, we have also been working on a plan to work more closely with local businesses and the success has been eye awakening. I think it is easy to look over local businesses, especially if you work for a huge non-profit. Don’t do it. Relationships with small, local businesses are just as valuable as a relationship with a large, national entity.

I suggest starting relationships in your own area with local businesses. When I was in hotel sales I would draw a circle on a map around a one-mile area from the hotel. You could do the same with your agency.

I am actually starting to think about business relations all over as I begin my new adventure. The first thing I need to do as I get settled in is to find a great coffee shop near the office and a great lunch place (already found the lunch place). Two business relationships right there. In my past position I built relationships with two local coffee places, both ended up becoming major donors.

We all frequent different businesses. Partner with them. Show them that partnering with your non-profit is not only an amazing thing to do but will also help grow their business.

The relationship all starts with you!

What can I do today? Make sure the people at your favorite coffee or tea place know that you fundraise for your agency and know the mission of your agency. The more they know about you and your organization the better.

Friday, April 1, 2011

It all goes back to our donors

I am enjoying my first day off in my transition from Director of Development at Boulder County AIDS Project to the new Associate Director of Development at Opera Colorado. It's a beautiful morning in Lakewood and I am feeling relaxed and very excited for my next adventure.

As I contemplate the two agencies I am in transition to/from, I keep thinking about individual donors. No matter who you fundraise for, no matter what cause you are passionate about, the individual donor is an amazing part of your agency or group's mission. Your donors are the life blood of all of the work your group can do.

I have thought about this a lot as I leave an HIV/AIDS agency (human services) and go to an opera group (the arts). It would be easy to say that the donors might be different, that there may be more or less donors, that the donors will have different need, etc., yet the reality its that donors are of equal importance to each group.

And how we treat donors are of equal importance. I know, we all have read and/or experienced the importance of a thank you. A prompt thank you at that. And many of us know the importance of making sure the donor knows how the agency spent the donor's money. Some folks stop there (if they get there). The relationship with your individual is ongoing, and I as a fundraiser have to make sure I know that and act on that.

Before this particular blog post becomes too long, I will simply end with one item that I do: weekly donor calls. Every week I make sure that I place a phone call to a list of individual donors. They can be folks who gave a year ago, six months ago, or a month ago. The call can be to thank, to say hi, or to give a recent update on the group's mission. The purpose is not as important as the call itself. Just say hi. Let them know how things are going and how their support is affecting your group that day.

More to come. Thanks for reading!

PS... On Twitter I am now @FundraiserDan !

Friday, March 25, 2011

From HIV and AIDS to the Opera

I have fallen behind in my goal to post one blog a week.

This blog is pretty much only about me moving from one fundraising position to another. Oh, and a brief note about donors!

Since my last blog I have accepted a position with Opera Colorado as their new Associate Director of Development. Completely different world than where I am at now, and I am super excited.

I don't know who actually said this or studied the data, but I have heard that the average length of time at an agency for Development Directors is 1 1/2 years. I have been at Boulder County AIDS Project for 2 1/2. I am definitely preparing to leave with hardcore emotion. I have been privileged to fundraise for an agency that supports those living with HIV or AIDS and to support amazing HIV prevention work.

Now I'll be in the arts. Many new adventures to come. Many new experiences to come. And I will share it all here.

While I prepare to leave BCAP, I am grateful to have formed so many wonderful relationships with donors. I realize that I write about donors a lot, and will most likely continue doing that as I am one who believes that your agency's donors are your agency's lifeblood.

Get to know them. Thank them. Tell them how you are spending their money. Have a board member drop them a note.

Off to meet with a donor! Until next time!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The all-important donor

An old remit envelope arrived the other day. I’m always excited to receive these. Not only do we mail them out with our two annual mailings and our Annual Report, but I also pass them out everywhere I go. At our Dining Out Days (see previous posts) every table gets one. So when one arrives back it brings a smile to my face knowing that yet another person wants to invest in our vital mission.

Donors are not cash cows, are not some unknown person far, far away, nor someone who wishes to support your organization and not be informed. Informed as to whether or not you received their donation and how your organization plans on spending their money. An active donor is (or can be) the lifeblood of your organization. In most cases, they want to invest in the work you do.

Before I proceed, my definition of a donor is one who has made two or more gifts to your organization. The first gift is a donation by someone who, for some reason, has decided to support your work. It is our job as a fundraiser to make sure that person goes from someone who has made a donation to a donor.

I open the remit envelope and it is a generous gift of $100 from a current donor. I know that once the check is entered into our database the kind person will receive our official thank you letter including tax information. Yet it is still important to me that I personally thank them. So I pick up the phone and give them a ring. Thanking a donor is key. And a timely thank you is equally important. I’m sure you here this all the time. That’s great, as long as you and your organization take action on thanking people.

In the future: A few months down the road I will make another connection with this donor. For this particular donor it will be a phone call but it doesn’t really matter how. I’ll call them to let them know how we spent their money. Imagine not only being thanked for your gift but being told how the organization spent your money!

Whew! So much more to write about regarding donors. This is a good start.

The next donation you receive pick up the phone and call them. Thank them. You will not only make their day but you will build (or reinforce) a great relationship.

One last thing. At our monthly board meeting my ED passes out recent donation information so that board members can make a call or send a note to make a thank you for the gift. This not only engages the board, it also adds a special touch for the person who made the donation.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Have a Book Sale

I love books. Love them. I have always had more books than I know what to do with. At any given time I am reading two or three, and then looking at buying another one!

This past February we decided to help donors and supporters who have too many books by asking them to donate their books to us for our first ever Humongous Book Sale. What a success!

The whole idea started when one of our local business partners, Joyful Furniture, asked us if we would like to do a fundraising event during the winter. The great folks at Joyful host our annual Humongous Yard Sale, and we decided to try something new with a book sale.

The basic premise is to gather books, CDs, DVDs and vinyls and plan a sale. We called ours the Humongous Book & Media Sale. This is a great way to engage your donors and supporters as well as raise a little cash.

Before you begin to ask people for donations for the sale, find a location for the sale and try to find a location where books and other items can be dropped off. If you can collect all of the sale items at the same place where the sale will be, you will save a lot of time.

Through an email blast, Facebook, Twitter, and a simple postcard announcing the sale, we invited people to donate books and media items. Our donor and supporter base is incredibly diverse, and you could see that in the selection of items donated. We were thrilled as boxes and boxes of books were brought in. As the items began to take over space, it was time to start organizing books into categories, an organization that continued while new books arrived and made the setup for the sale much simpler.

This type of sale can be labor intensive. The less you move around the books the better.

Our volunteers were crucial to the success of this event.

The day of the sale I was blown away by the roughly 3,000 books that had been donated. In hind sight, I realize that a book sale is a bit different in a yard sale in that people take much more time looking at books. In the future I would plan an event that was longer and that stretched over two days.

I'll create a check list for your book sale in the next post.

Start thinking about whether or not this idea would work for you and your organization or cause!

Monday, February 28, 2011

A voice for the voiceless

I love being a fundraiser. If you have met me personally or have read any of my previous blog posts you probably already know this. I feel incredibly privileged to be able to fundraise for an HIV/AIDS group, more specifically, for the HIV/AIDS group I fundraise for, Boulder County AIDS Project.

BCAP, like many non-profits, support many individuals who have no voice. I call these folks "the voiceless".

The voiceless includes almost an unending list. In our case it is people with HIV of AIDS who live in poverty and people who are at risk of becoming HIV positive. It can be animals, prisoners of conscience, women, trans people, people of faith in different countries, the marginalized in this country, etc, etc.

As fundraisers, we have the amazing opportunity to help those who help give support to the voiceless. The attached photo is of a young, Iranian woman protesting last year in Baghdad. I would like to add brave and courageous to my description of her. Her hand-made sign carries a simple message. If we thought she was voiceless, she might disagree. Yet although she had a voice on this day, she most likely has not protested since the Iranian government violently crushed the protests last year.

Where does this fit in with Fundraising for Free? I'm glad you asked.

No matter the cause, no matter the location, no matter the definition of "voiceless", fundraisers have the power to help make this world a better place for all by assisting those who make the actual change. The more tools we have to fundraise, the more relevant and successful our work is. And that is where I hope my blog can help.

An example of this is a Fundraising for Free! workshop I did this past weekend at the Colorado Queer Youth Summit in Denver. A couple hundred queer youth (mainly high school students) from around the state met for speakers, workshops, and other fun activities. I was thrilled to be able to present my fundraising workshop, and to work with you on creative ideas of fundraising for causes they are passionate about, mainly for the Gay-Straight Alliances in their high schools.

These youth are ready to make change. Now they have some tools to financially support making that change.

Here's to all of you out there raising money to help make this world a better place! I am completely honored to be your peer.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Social Media Part II - Twitter

After veering off the social media topic for a couple of posts I am thrilled to be writing about one of my favorite platforms for social media: Twitter.

Many of you know about this blog because of Twitter. I am one of those fundraisers who absolutely loves Twitter. Before I start about Twitter, please remember that everything I present may or may not be a good fit for you, your agency, or your cause. As I say in the workshop, "Different strokes for different folks". This definitely applies to Twitter. All I ask is that you check it out with an open mind.

The main thing for me and Twitter is always looking at my Twitter usage and making sure that it is relevant, that my messaging is relevant, and that the time I put into it is relevant. It's important to me that people actually read and respond to my tweets. It's important to me that my tweets mean something to the reader.

Our name on Twitter is @BoulderAIDS . Have a look at it if you want to see a non-profit in action on Twitter.

Twitter is different than many other types of social media. The writer has 140 characters to use for their message. It might not seem easy at first but you can easily get used to it. A Twitter post is called a "tweet". If you want to reach people who follow different types of groups or causes, you can use a hash tag ( # ) which will add your tweet to a list of other tweets with that same hash tag. For example, when I am tweeting about HIV or AIDS, or something that happened at our agency, I use #HIV, knowing that anyone reading HIV tweets will read mine. This is an incredible way to get your tweet read by even more people.

I tweet about our agency's work and mission, about HIV and AIDS in our community and in Colorado, and about fundraising from the smaller non-profit perspective. I do not tweet about very personal issues as I am tweeting in the name of Boulder County AIDS Project and want to make sure my tweets reflect a level of professionalism.

If you would like to have a Twitter "How To Guide", connect with @ConnectColorado on Twitter and ask for the Colorado Non-Profit Twitter usage study. Lots of great tips on how to use Twitter from the on-profit perspective.

Another great thing about Twitter is that you can connect with so many allies. I was honestly surprised to see how many AIDS Service Organizations there are out there doing amazing work. I have also been able to connect with others in an effort to collaborate in different ways.

I would love your feedback on Twitter, so please leave a comment. There is more to come so please keep that in mind. Meanwhile, check Twitter out. If you already use Twitter, think of ways you can increase your followers, and your relevancy.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Get pumped up!

Having begun the series on social media and what has worked for our agency, I am working on the next post which is about our use of (and success with) Twitter. Then of course life happens and I have decided to switch that around a bit.

I am sitting at my desk with my coffee, Black Eyed Peas playing ("I Gotta Feeling"), and getting excited about an agency site tour I am doing in a little while with some student bloggers from the University of Colorado here in Boulder.

My thoughts have been on my fellow fundraisers this morning. In order for us to rock-n-roll with fundraising, and to be successful with the ideas I present here, it is vital that we take care of ourselves. It is vital that we connect with people and causes that inspire us. For me personally it is vital to have a passion for the work that my agency does. It's vital for me to get pumped up about fundraising, which is why the Black Eyed Peas are playing in my office.

So for this blog post, I want to look at ourselves as fundraisers and make sure we are taking care of ourselves. Do you feel inspired? Do you feel pumped? Or are you exhausted and need a break? Can you take a walk at lunch time or perhaps meet with a peer over coffee outside of the office this afternoon? Can you meet with a client that your agency serves so you can be reminded of your agency's vital work?

This blog, Fundraising for Free!, is all about sharing experiences that have worked for me in my role as a fundraiser in the hopes that I can help others who fundraise or are working for their favorite cause in some way. Before we can totally rock for our cause, we need to look in the mirror and make sure all is well with us first.

Take a look. Take care of yourself. Whoever you fundraise for depends on you to totally rock it!

As always, I would love to hear from you!

By the way, camping is one way I take care of myself. This photo is from a camping trip we took last summer at Seven Mile State Park in Colorado. Suga is in the photo with me.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Getting in on the Valentine's Day spirit!

I know, I promised Social Media Part II next. Yet today is a special day. So here we go!

Did you know that on average, people spend $128.00 on Valentine's Day?!?!

This figure kind of blew me away.

How can I get some of that for my agency or my cause?

I realize that this posting is a bit late as TODAY is Valentine's Day, but I'm going to give it a try and I would LOVE it if you gave it a try too!

First, call your donors and wish them a Happy Valentine's Day! This might be your first verbal interaction of the year, and what a great way to interact with your donors! No need to make an ask, just call to wish them a wonderful Valentine's Day! This will be huge to them and deifnitely nurture your relationship with them. WHo doesn't like receiving a Happy Valentine's Day call!

Next, use your social media networks to let people know how much folks spend on Valentine's Day and make an ask for some of that. $25 would help us in feeding one of our clients through our food bank today. Something like that. Use Facebook, Twitter, even YouTube if you have the capacity. Work it! Make sure for Facebook and Twitter that you include a link to your donation page.

If you have a favorite radio station that takes live calls during the, call them and make a public Happy Valentine's Day wish from your agency!

There are many other options, from delivering those cute (elementary-style) Valentine's Day cards to baking heart-shaped cookies for local businesses who have supported you. The main thing here it to have as much human interaction today as possible. Let the world know who you are and let all of your supporters know how incredibly grateful you are for their support!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Can Facebook work for you and your cause?

I love Facebook. On a personal level I have connected with friends who I had lost touch with, friends who are once again in my life and whom I not only chat with on Facebook but call and visit now. It took me a while to get comfortable on Facebook with my personal account before I could take the jump into a page for our non-profit. As many staff, volunteers, board and donors of Boulder County AIDS Project that are on Facebook it just made sense to create an agency page.

The first piece of advice I can offer is to make sure that you create a non-profit page, and not a group page. When you have a non-profit page, anyone listed as an administrator can post using the agency name/logo. It looks more official that way with posts. The group page doesn't allow that.

Before you decide to create a Facebook page for your group, make sure that you have the time and can make the commitment to actually use it. I use ours to promote events, to promote an urgent need or an action alert, and to let readers know when one of our clients has passed away. I post links to information regarding HIV/AIDS and fundraising, and try to engage our readers into some type of action.

And all of this is free!

I would also like you to know that you can fundraise on Facebook through their giving program. We do not do this as the fee is a lot (for us) and we pay no fees with our online giving setup with Giving First.

The thing I love the most about Facebook is that people following you WANT to follow you and you can get news out to peole who are interested in an instant. We are currently promoting our upcoming Humongous Book and Media Sale using Facebook and the response is great.

Speaking of our event, from your non-profit profile you can create events and invite those following you plus any or all of your Facebook friends. Then those friends can invite their friends. Before you know it, hundreds of people know about your event.

There is a lot involved with Facebook so please take the time to have a look at whether or not this would work for you, knowing it does take a time commitment. For us it's an incredible asset to our fundraising plan and to our plan of staying in touch with people who care about our mission.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Did you hear what happened in Tunisia?

I am writing this post from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's annual Creating Change conference in Minneapolis. I am literally surrounded by activists.

Personal promo: If you're at Creating Change, please join me for my Fundraising for Free! workshop at 9am on Friday.

In the past several days, my eyes have been glued to whatever newscast I can watch regarding the protests in Egypt. As an activist, I am heartened by what I see. I also watched the protests in Tunisia, and the subsequent departure of their president. It seems that it all started with an unemployed graduate student setting himself on fire after being harassed by the police about his food cart. Within days, thanks to the use of Twitter, protest marches never seen before popped up in Tunis, the capital city. And they grew.

Tunisia. Egypt. Creating Change. Activism. Changing the world. Fundraising fits right in.

This week I am going to begin a several-post writing about social media. The Wikipedia definition of social media is: media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Social media use web-based technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.When I think of social media I think of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and even our monthly email blast. I use all of these to fundraise for free! (you knew I would fit that in somewhere!)

This post will be the first of many in which I write about my experiences using social media to fundraise for our agency (and other groups). We have had great success with all of the formats I just mentioned, and I honestly believe that any non-profit can support their fundraising efforts with social media.

There are many opinions about social media and all the platforms for social media. For this blog the ideas I share will always be ones that have worked for us in fundraising. I definitely urge you to have conversations with those you're fundraising with in regards to which methods would work best for you. I also ask that you keep an open mind about social media and allow you (and your fundraising effort) to have your own personal experience with social media. I promise there is something for everyone when it comes to social media.

Before I break down all of the methods we use, I would like you to take a moment and decide what you want to get out of social media. Do you want to put your brand out there more? Do you want to promote an event? Do you want to start an urgent action communication, or an advocacy platform? Who do you want to connect with, and why?

I ask all of these questions because social media to me is all about relevancy. Do people actually read my email blasts? My tweets? Do people who respond to a Facebook event invite actually show up, or do they take action if the Facebook posting is an ask to take action?

Think about all of this and stay tuned as we start Fundraising for Free using social media!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Donor conversations are free! Part I

I am a pretty outgoing person (many who know me would call that an understatement) and one of the things I absolutely love about my job is that I get to talk with people about our agency's mission all the time. And I get to ask them to financially partner with us, knowing that their support enables us to do even more!

As I considered what my next topic would be I kept looking out my office window, which means I have to directly look at what is lovingly called here as my "comfy chair". My comfy chair actually came to me free, an exchange for helping a local company with their Twitter and Facebook. Now I have this gorgeous, comfortable chair for donors, potential donors, sponsors, and co-workers to relax in while we converse.

Conversing with donors. Sounds easy, and yet I recognize for many in fundraising it is challenging. As I hear on Nike commercials, Just DO It! And it doesn't cost anything!

I try to have a face to face with a donor at least once or twice a week. The amount depends on how many donors you have and how easy it is for them to meet with you. You don't need a comfy chair (but it helps!). If you share an office use the staff meeting room or arrange to meet at a coffee house. I prefer my office, with the donor seated in the comfy chair, so they experience our staff and see all of the great things we are doing which are posted on my office walls.

Once we have a conversation I take them on the tour, and there are two places that make the entire visit worth while: our HIV testing room and our food bank. The "testing room" is on our second floor and once the donor is in the room I close the door and tell them what someone getting tested experiences. Many times the donor gets tears in their eyes. It is almost impossible to not get even more connected to our mission after a visit to the testing room.

Our food bank is in our basement and it is so important to show off to donors so they have a better idea of how important our food bank is.

If you are one who is uncomfortable meeting face to face or making a donation ask face to face, don't let that stop you! They are many ways to go about this that will make the experience better for you, and I promise that once you've done this once it almost becomes addictive! Include staff, and if possible, include a client.

The end result is that you will begin to build a lifelong relationship with your donor and they will become even more committed to your mission after a face to face meeting with you.

It works. I really does!

Consider what you have read here and create a list of five to ten names of people you can meet with. Part II will have a checklist and some tidbits that have really helped me in the past.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fundraising For Free!: Dining Out Days Part II

Fundraising For Free!: Dining Out Days Part II: We are in the midst of planning our 2011 Dining Out Days and there are several ideas that I am thinking about and want to share.

Your Dining Out Day can be a HUGE success for your agency AND the restaurant. Make sure you tell everyone. You can send an email blast, use Twitter, and use Facebook, all for free. In addition, we have found it helpful to design and mail a postcard to our donors. Many cities have newspapers that print events for free and you will definitely want to take advantage of that.

The bottom line is that you want the restaurant to be PACKED.

In all of your information make sure people know the date, the time, the percentage being donated, the address, and the phone number for reservations. Ask people to make reservations as that creates energy at the restaurant.

Communicate frequently with the restaurant and create a document that they can pass to staff. You want to ensure that everyone knows about your event and the importance of it. There is nothing worse than showing up at a restaurant to set up before the meal and finding out that staff have no idea what is happening.

If your local paper has a food section, send a press release to the food editor. An event that supports a non-profit and a local restaurant is a great story.

Make sure you check in with your contact at the restaurant several times before the event. Keep them in the know of everything happening around your event.

If having volunteers help you during the day, find people who are outgoing and know about your mission. More than half of the money we raise comes from people who have made an additional donation during dinner, and it's vital that the ask comes from someone who is really friendly and knows about your agency.

Speaking of making the ask, we use past remit envelopes and leave them at the table. When I approach a table I simply let the guest know what we are doing, that it's OK to eat a lot,including dessert because this is a fundraiser, drop off the remit and make the ask, then make my exit.

Dining Out Days can be so successful that you will be able to add it as a budgeted event next year.

Now create a plan and think of where you want to have your first Dining Out Day!

Dining Out Days Part II

We are in the midst of planning our 2011 Dining Out Days and there are several ideas that I am thinking about and want to share.

Your Dining Out Day can be a HUGE success for your agency AND the restaurant. Make sure you tell everyone. You can send an email blast, use Twitter, and use Facebook, all for free. In addition, we have found it helpful to design and mail a postcard to our donors. Many cities have newspapers that print events for free and you will definitely want to take advantage of that.

The bottom line is that you want the restaurant to be PACKED.

In all of your information make sure people know the date, the time, the percentage being donated, the address, and the phone number for reservations. Ask people to make reservations as that creates energy at the restaurant.

Communicate frequently with the restaurant and create a document that they can pass to staff. You want to ensure that everyone knows about your event and the importance of it. There is nothing worse than showing up at a restaurant to set up before the meal and finding out that staff have no idea what is happening.

If your local paper has a food section, send a press release to the food editor. An event that supports a non-profit and a local restaurant is a great story.

Make sure you check in with your contact at the restaurant several times before the event. Keep them in the know of everything happening around your event.

If having volunteers help you ruing the day, find people who are outgoing and know about your mission. More than half of the money we raise comes from people who have made an additional donation during dinner, and it's vital that the ask comes from someone who is really friendly and knows about your agency.

Speaking of making the ask, we use past remit envelopes and leave them at the table. When I approach a table I simply let the guest know what we are doing, that it's OK to eat a lot,including dessert because this is a fundraiser, drop off the remit and make the ask, then make my exit.

Dining Out Days can be so successful that you will be able to add it as a budgeted event next year.

Now create a plan and think of where you want to have your first Dining Out Day!