Homeless youth

Homeless youth
People we don't see.

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!