Homeless youth

Homeless youth
People we don't see.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Would someone please return my phone call?

Getting a message like this is a fundraisers worst nightmare.

Well, one of them. At least to me.

As one who works daily to build strong relationships, when I hear a message like this I cringe. It doesn't say much about the value of a relationship when a donors call or email is not answered quickly.

On my team, our rule is within 24 hours. Return a call or respond to an email within 24 hours. Of course a call that came in at 5pm on Friday means a Monday return. I'm not crazy. I'm simply paying attention to building a lifelong relationship with our donors.

It is critical. It says a lot when you return a call quickly. It says even more when it takes you a couple of days.

I know, you're busy. So is your donor.

Return a call soon. Respond to an email soon. This will change your relationships with donors for the better. They know you're busy so the quick reply means even more.

While I'm on the subject I'll share a few other ways I like to communicate with donors.

Every Monday I change my voice mail. I let folks know which days of that week I am in and which days I'm not in. I would like to get to changing my voice mail every day yet for know the weekly change works.

I use my "out of office" for email not only when I am out for a day or more, but also on days when I know I am going to be slammed.

I also have sued my "out of office" email to support a campaign. For instance, leaving a message that says "I hope you received our Winter Appeal. If you didn't please let me know." can remind a donor to make their donation or entice someone to ask about donating.

A lot rides on our being successful in relationship building. The entire mission of our non-profit depends on our success. The people we serve depends on it.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Relationships are the key

I use the "R" word a lot.

Peers on my fundraising team have heard this word so much that they incorporate it into many of their conversations and actions.

Fundraising isn't about a check. It's not about a response to a direct mail appeal or a company saying that they will purchase a table at your annual Gala.

Fundraising is all about relationships.

Having a problem with lapsed donors? You wouldn't be  alone. Many non-profits aren't even paying attention to those donors who once used to financially support the organization but for some reason stopped.

Having a challenge with taking a one-time donation to a long-term donor? I wonder how many non-profits are even paying attention to this.

Fundraisers are vital to the mission of a non-profit. I hear all of the time that fundraisers are too busy to do this or that. Too busy to call a donor. Too busy to actually sign a thank you letter. Yes, I was honestly shocked when I received a thank you letter letter from a local major non-profit I had donated to and the signature was pre-printed on the letter. Seriously?

We cannot be so busy that we don't make time for relationships. Relationships are the key to any fundraising successes we will have.

And you have time for them!

Every donor receives a tax letter/thank you letter. Call them the second you receive their donation!

Send something to a new donor. Perhaps a note signed by the board or perhaps an invite for a tour.

Use all of your social media to thank a corporate sponsor.

Sign every thank you letter. Add an additional note.

Call a few donors every week. Not for an ask, just to check in.

Build relationships. You won't regret it.

Thank you for reading!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The "What can you do for me?" relationship

I work for an organization that serves youth experiencing homelessness and youth on the verge of experiencing homelessness. We serve in in every way, from bringing food, clean underwear and other necessities to them wherever they are on the streets to providing emergency shelter, GED training, transitional housing, employment training and placement, case management, mental health services and so much more.

Some mornings I have to step over youth you have camped out overnight in front of our door way as I make my way into our building. The youth we serve come from trauma-filled lives, lives that have included sexual trafficking, drugs, alcohol, sexual, physical and verbal abuse and many things that you just don't want to read about right now.

Fortunately, there are thousands of people, companies, places of faith, foundations, civic groups and governments that want to support the youth we serve. These folks support us in so many ways. They might have different reasons for supporting us (every donor has their own very personal reason for supporting us) and in the end they all wish to give hope to the hopeless and a voice to the voiceless through our organization.

If you have been in fundraising for some time, you might be able to relate to what comes next.

Then there are those people who call me or send me an email, and I get at least one of these a week, and begin by saying how much they love our organization and then quickly move into wanting to do something "for the kids". I know that they mean the youth we serve who are ages 15 -24. They want their group to meet our youth, they want to "help" our youth, etc., etc.

I call this masking.

Someone masks as one you really wants to help our organization, and after being presented with the myriad of ways they can do that, passes on all of them.

They really want something from us. They want to know if we can support them.

A recent caller wanted to help, had never been here, and couldn't make time to come down to see what we do. Too busy.

I get that. We are all busy. Seriously.

If you want to make a difference in the world and support a non-profit, make sure that your support is unconditional in that you have considered this and truly want to support the non-profit, without any benefit for you. Businesses and organizations that want to purchase  table sponsorship for an event or sponsor an entire event obviously probably want to get something out that and when someone is donating $10,000+ I want to make sure they get something too.

Volunteering for a non-profit and financially supporting a non-profit changes the world. We need more people who want to change the world with us and less people who want to know what non-profits can do for them without care of who a non-profit serves.

Thank you so much for reading!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Is your year-end appeal out?

I am already getting year-end appeals in the mail at home.

Hopefully, your agency's appeal is either already out or is at least at the printer.

Mine is at the printer. My goal is always to have it mailed the first week of November, yet creativity got in my way and it took a little longer.

I have learned over the years that an annual appeal needs to go out in early November. There are those that send it in late October which I think is great too. Gone are the days when a year-end appeal is mailed the first week of December.

So your appeal is out and you're done, right? No way!

Follow up is crucial for a successful appeal. I realize that is you are mailing to 10,000 folks, connecting with all of them after they have received the appeal would be nearly impossible. Our year-end appeal is going to 1900 donors. One week after the appeal mailed we start calling donors to make sure they received the appeal. Just another touching point. We do this with volunteers, and it makes a huge difference. No ask, just confirmation that they received our appeal and asking if they have any questions.

Then, the first or second week of December we send a reminder to donors who have not yet replied to the appeal. The reminder is a colorful postcard bringing a friendly reminder.

Board calls? You bet. Board members can help by calling donors, especially their friends. Another idea is to have the printer drop off all of the appeals before they are made and invite board members to come by and write a personal note. This of course would have to happen in October if you want your appeal out by the first week of November.

I would love to hear what you're doing for your year-end appeal!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Keeping my eyes on the prize

We have all heard this before.

In fundraising, the prize is our budget. We have to ensure that our agency (or whoever we are fundraising for) gets to the amount of revenue that is in the budget.

I do that by constantly creating, growing, nurturing and sometimes letting go of relationships.

Relationships are key to the success of my development plan and to my goal of getting to the prize. When I put focus and energy into relationships, challenges I seem to be having go away.

When I lose focus and start getting bat crazy about this thing or that thing or this person or that person, I totally take my eyes off of the prize.

I do this a lot. Not all of the time and certainly not most of the time, but I do get drawn in to drama, sometimes drama of my own making. There is honestly no place in fundraising for drama. It is toxic.

Less drama, more eyes on the prize.

Get that year end appeal out.

Thank the donors who donated yesterday.

Meet with my team about what we are all working on, even though we just met a couple of days ago.

Call a donor just to chat.

Put some time into the fundraising dinner.

Ask team members if they need any of my support to ensure success in what they are working on.

There are many things we have no control over as fundraisers. In the end, we have to raise money. In the end it's the relationships we have created that matter.

Now you've seen what my list is to keep my eyes on the prize. What does your list look like?

Thank you for reading!