Homeless youth

Homeless youth
People we don't see.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Lapsed donors

A lot has been written about lapsed donors and how to continually keep an eye on how lapsed donors affect one's overall fundraising plan.

A plan around decreasing lapsed donors can be worked on throughout the year, not just towards the end of your fiscal year.

For me, it all starts with donor relationships. How does your organization treat donors? Are they just an ATM? Do they get thanked quickly? Do they know how you spent their donation? Do you try connecting with them other than when you ask them for a donation? Are they kept up to date regarding your mission and their part in it?

I think any fundraiser could add more questions. This is enough for the purpose of this blog post.

If my organization and our mission is frequently in front of the donor, then we have a better chance of keeping them as a donor. If we thank them quickly and let them know how we spent their money, our chances are even better at keeping them as a donor. 

Inevitably for some us, including me, we end up at the start of our year end campaign and haven't paid 100% attention to potential lapsed donors.

This is what I do:

I send out the year end appeal. The direct mail piece. It goes to everyone, including those who have not yet made a donation this year.

I create a list of any potential lapsed donors for the year and it goes on my office wall. As donations arrive, I call them to thank them and cross their name off.

A few weeks after that first direct mail piece went out, I bring in volunteers to call every donor who received the year end appeal, with focus on those who have not yet made a donation.

Come December, bring in as many folks to help as possible. Your ED, the board, co-workers. Make sure every donor has gotten a call. OK, if you have tens of thousands of donors you can't do this. But you can still make the effort.

This totally works. In my first year here we lowered the amount of lapsed donors by 60%!

Try it. And remember that the best way to maintain a donor is how you treat them, not just an end of year ask.

I would love your feedback and would also love to learn about what you do around lapsed donors!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Loving persistence pays off

Don't give up! That's what I really wanted to call this blog post. I went for the current title because it tells a better story.

Persistence definitely does pay off! I added the word loving because angry, inpatient or hurried persistence does not pay off!

This thought will not be a surprise to those of you who have been fundraising for a while. Yet it is always a great reminder for me! As one whose focus is always on the ongoing relationship and never on a one-time gift, relationship building can take time.

One area of fundraising where I really have to keep this in mind is in corporate. My great example is this:

A couple months after starting at Opera Colorado I found a potential corporate partner on LinkedIn. I connected with him and sent a message simply introducing myself. A couple of months later I had a one on one with him and it went amazingly well. I kept checking in with him once a month (not too much!) and when I planned a corporate partner event I invited him. He couldn't make it but a few folks from his office came. A couple of months after that I found myself sitting for lunch with one of his associates talking about a partnership.

They bought a package to our Gala. This was their first gift to us and it took over a full year. This is an example of when loving persistence paid off. I knew all along that a partnership between them and us would totally benefit both organizations. Now we are meeting to discuss a multi-year partnership plan.

This is my experience with corporate giving and corporate partners. I try to use the same wisdom with major gifts. I try to never rush, and to always keep my eyes on the prize: a long term, true partnership.

How does each organization benefit from the partnership? What does my agency have to offer within the realm of a corporate partnership? These are great things to discuss when working with a potential new corporate partner (and also potential major donors!).

I hope this is of some benefit to you. Thank you very much for reading!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A simple thank you

I frequently think about what Miss Manners would think about the decline in the use of thank you cards these days. Or thank you emails. Or calls.

I recently had a conversation with a person who I had donated a couple of tickets to an opera. They wanted to get a couple more tickets for their upcoming auction. I politely declined.

I clearly remember going back and forth with this person regarding a donation. All the time I took and the true generosity from our organization to theirs. They made money from the donation.

Yet the gift to them did not warrant a thank you note.

It's not uncommon. Unless you have donated to me or made time for me. Then you will be nicely surprised.

Thank you card's are so important. Especially if you are a fundraiser! Any time I meet with someone the first thing I do when I get back to the office is jot a quick note on our stationary and pop it in the mail. It's important to me that people I visit with know how grateful I am that they took time out their busy schedule to meet with me. Or that they decided to donate something to our auction.

And it only takes a few minutes.

The other great thing about thank you notes is that hardly anyone takes the time to write them, and as a fundraiser anytime I can stick out is great!

But the bottom line is that in our business, it's simply the right thing to do.

If you have agency stationary, use that. Every time I can get out our brand is good. If you do not have stationary, buy some inexpensive note cards or have some printed at FedEx Kinkos.

You will definitely not regret sending a thank you card!

Thank you for reading!

Monday, September 17, 2012

A day in the life of a fundraiser

I am one of those fundraisers who lives a charmed life. I share my home with my husband and our four dogs, so every start of the day is filled with love.

I live about 25 minutes from my office and I use that time to get pumped up for the day. I go back and forth with radio stations that include NPR (I need to know what is happening in the world), a local Mexican music station (dancing!), and some talk show to get a laugh.

Once in the office the music goes on and I go through emails. I don't subscribe to a whole lot of email lists so those I have are mostly work related. It makes it easier to focus. My goal is to always respond to emails just as soon as possible. Many times I like to respond with a phone call. If it is regarding a donation or partnership, that is a great way to respond.

Staff arrives and I check in with them. As our big Gala is approaching, we have daily morning meetings just to see what is going on and to see how the team can support our events manager as much as possible. As many of you know, the closer a Gala gets the more fine tuning has to happen. It's all very exciting to me as we count the days.

It's yearend appeal time so I am working on a direct mail piece that will support our yearend campaign. I like to have it mail by mid-October and right now I am tweeking the text and making sure I have the right photos, photos that will inspire our supporters, in place.

Mid-morning is the perfect time to call donors or folks I am working with on a gift or partnership.

I am one of those fortunate development/fundraising folks that has a General Director/Executive Director who is totally accessible. This makes a huge difference for anyone in fundraising and I take full advantage of this by meeting with him almost daily. In the bigger picture we do have a standing meeting every Monday morning about what I am working on. Communication with staff, and especially your boss, is huge. I would also say that making sure the Development Committee of your board or, if you don't have one of those, those board members who support fundraising efforts, get updated on what you are working on as well.

Lunch is with a donor. Maximize time with donors. If you're having lunch, make it worth your while and the donors while. Nobody wants to waste their time. If I'm having coffee with a prospective donor or corporate partner I make sure that when they walk away they have everything they need to get them pumped up about a potential partnership AND they know what they get our of that partnership.

After lunch I edit an upcoming grant application. Then more calls to donors.

Social media time. I have a Twitter account for fundraising and help with the Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest accounts of my organization. Supporting our social media outlets is crucial in connecting with folks and building our brand. Whether you feel social media is worth your time or not doesn't really matter. Your potential donors and partners do, so get on it.

Communication throughout the day is key. It's important for me that my team knows what is expected, that what is in my head is what I have communicated to them. It's also important to me that anyone working in fundraising knows I am always there to support them. I am very fond of a team effort and not so interested in individuals whose only concerns are themselves or what they have to accomplish. It's a team effort for sure. Fundraising is not for an "I" person. Those folks are better suited elsewhere.

Everyday I take a break to get away from everything I am working on. I might read a favorite blog, or the New York Times, or pull out a book I am working on. I  might even go for a walk around the block. We are human. We have to do things that take care of ourselves.

As the day winds down I make sure I have responded to all emails and make sure I have done everything I have promised to my staff.

There are a dozen things I can add, and I'll write about those in another blog. All the above make for a fun day, never a dull moment. I would have it no other way!

My email is dhanley@operacolorado.org

Thank you for reading!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Changed blog title

When I first started this blog I had created a set of ideas of how to help non-profits with very little money to fundraise. I loved the title "Fundraising for Free" and have even been able to do many workshops at conferences about fundraising for free, or close to free.

As I continue to grow as a fundraiser I have come to realize that I want to write about many more parts of fundraising than just the cost or "how to" do something. I find that my life as a fundraiser is filled with excitement, ups, downs, laughs, engagement, challenges and especially that incredible feeling of making the world a better place by raising money to support something bigger than yourself.

So I decided to change the name of my blog to "Adventures in Fundraising" and this is my first post!

I work for an opera company, Opera Colorado, and we are getting ready to put on our 30th Anniversary Gala. I am super excited. I wanted to share this with you as I know there are conversations in the fundraising community being had around whether or not it is helpful to have a major event like a Gala these days.

I believe that it is totally important to have this conversation, and if it is decided to pursue the event, to go at it at an energy and commitment level that has never been seen.  

More to come on this.

So welcome to Adventures in Fundraising! Thank you very much for reading!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Why should I donate to YOUR non-profit?

At my day job, I'm in the end stages of planning my yearend appeal. I am thrilled so far. My plan is to have my first letter mail by mid-October.

I spoke with a fellow development person today who said they were a bit behind with their yearend campaign. They were hoping to get their letter out by Thanksgiving.

If you haven't begun your campaign yet, please note that it is getting late. And don't let that get in your way of rolling out a plan right now. I realize that many of my peers in fundraising also have a myriad of other responsibilities at their agencies. Some are a one person office. No time for regret in what is not done. Just do it. (have I heard that somewhere?)

What all donors are asking themselves is:

How much can I give before now and the end of the year?

Which group(s) do I want to support?

Which group(s) address what I am most passionate about?

Who treats me like a partner, not an ATM?

Where does my money have the strongest impact?

How does my gift directly affect the agency?

There are many other questions. These are some of my personal favorites. It's key to address these questions, and others, when reaching out to your donors and your community for a yearend gift.

I am answering these questions in many ways through our yearend campaign. The letters are just the start. Phone calls from board members. Facebook and Twitter posts keep the community at large updated. Our website is chock full of all the information our donors need, and we have a strategy to use our email list. I'm also considering a final postcard mailing in mid-December to all of those current donors yet to respond.

Are you doing anything different with your yearend appeal this year?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A challenge in fundraising

I have caught myself saying many times that if fundraising at my current organization was easy, then I would be bored at not happy. I have always loved the challenge that come with fundraising, whether the economy is tough or I fundraise for a cause that is not well known, I love the challenge.

There is a difference between challenge and desperation.

I can be as successful as the next person with creative fundraising campaigns, energetic meetings with donors, constantly in communication with everyone who supports the organization and bringing in new corporate and individual partners.

Yet the first question I have to ask is whether or not my organization is viable. Is it financially sustainable? Standing alone, a sole fundraiser cannot change the financial direction of an organization. That takes a team which includes a strong development team, an out of the box thinking Executive Director, a staff that gets it and a board that is 100% committed not solely to the mission but to the viability of the organization.

And just to be clear, if you do not have all of that in your current organization is doesn't mean you are doomed to fail. It simply means that the challenge you were hoping for is full throttle and one that cannot be met with your fundraising skills alone.

What I have found that is so important in viability is having honest conversations with the most generous donors of an organization. Long term donors want to keep giving and in many cases want to give more. Yet they need to know that their money is not being wasted. That the organization is going to be around in the next five to ten years (and more!).

I have also found that it is important from a fundraising perspective that long term donors see new donors coming in, that all of any challenges are not only being met by the same people who have always been there. I would say that this means not only individual donors but includes major donors and new corporate partners.

Show me the money before I show you the money, in other words.

I totally get this. It makes complete sense.

I am going to continue writing on this topic for a while and would love your feedback. And ideas. And experiences. Feel free to leave a comment or email me directly at dhanley@operacolorado.org

Thank you very much for reading!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Desperation fundraising

I'm sure there is an official term for this. Desperation fundraising is just my term. It basically means that a fundraiser is always up against a wall, constantly getting calls or drop-ins from the ED or finance person about how much needs to be raised RIGHT NOW!

Don't do it. Don't buy into.

Instead, create a plan.

Do you have a budget? I don't mean the agency's budget. I mean you personal or team budget for development or fundraising. An example is: Your agency budget says that in July you will raise $25,000. That's in the official budget. That means that in order to keep going smoothly, and to not adversely affect the rest of the year's budget, you must raise $25,000. Your personal/team budget says exactly how you plan to do that:

Major gifts:                    $5,000
Gala sales:                     $10,000
Summer campaign:        $2,500
Corporate partnership:  $2,500
Foundation gift:             $5,000

And then you work it, or as a dear friend and supporter of mine says, werq it. You and your team have specific ideas around how you are going to raise each specific amount.

I like to have this plan all set when I present my development budget to my boss the year prior. I never want to just fill in numbers for a budget; I want to know how those numbers are going to materialize.

The better plans you have, the better off you are with your overall fundraising goals. It's not easy when you're getting pressed to raise more and more and more. Knowing how you plan to raise that money is key in not becoming a desperation fundraiser.

More to come on this! If you would like to give me feedback rather than leave a comment, my email address is dhanley@operacolorado.org

Thank you for reading!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Get out there!

It seems like forever since I last wrote a post for this blog. Starting a new job and creating two other blogs have been taking time away from this, my original, blog.

I decided to stop procrastinating and just write. Attending an incredible luncheon this week helped.

I know many fundraisers and people in non-profit development and we are all so busy. Unfortunately some us are too busy to get out and meet people and promote our cause.

I attended the annual Women With Hattitude luncheon this past week as a guest of one of my donors. She suggested I wear a hat and thanks to my production manager at Opera Colorado, Hally, I arrived in style with a hat used in one of our Sideshow opera, Trouble in Tahiti.

My hat was an instant hit and I was able to say Opera Colorado literally hundreds of times.

Not only did I have a blast, I met many people who love opera, many who have never been to an opera, many who have never heard of Opera Colorado, and many who were really excited to have met me.

And all I did was decide I wasn't too busy to accept a kind invitation from a donor to go to a luncheon.

Get out there! Go to a luncheon. Or an after hours. Or a local non-profit event. Talk to folks about your group's mission and why you love fundraising for them.

You'll be glad you did!

Keeping it short this time. Thanks for reading!