Homeless youth

Homeless youth
People we don't see.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Passion for the mission

I think of this often.

Does a member of your fundraising team need to have a passion for the mission of the non-profit?

I say yes.

I bring it up often when interviewing. I believe hiring the right people for your team is the first key to a successful fundraising team. Or any team for that matter. And I talk a lot about our mission when interviewing.

After all, we serve youth experiencing homelessness, youth who have nothing. We don't do the mission or the youth any justice if we can have folks out there building relationships in the community who don't have a passion for our work.

It's not difficult to figure out in the interview process. As a fundraiser, I want my team to have as many tools as possible to take out and build relationships and partnerships with. Their work will be so much easier if they are passionate for the cause.

Another reason I want members of team to be passionate for the mission is that I will know that coming to work and rocking it will fulfill them personally. Between being personally fulfilled, working with other who are equally passionate for the mission, being empowered and supported on all levels, and working with an elite team of fundraisers they will inevitably love their work!

I would love to hear what other fundraisers think.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 26, 2015

I started using lists

There seems to be  a lot of solid opinions on whether or not making lists help with finishing tasks or don't help.

For years I have met folks, speaking of fellow fundraisers here, who make lists and they work from them. I always thought that this was a great idea for them and I'm glad it worked for them.

Then, last year, while preparing for our weekly development team meeting, I realized that I was one of those fundraisers who works from a list. Just like that! And I had been doing it for some time.

You see, every Monday morning I prepare for our weekly team meetings. I create a list of items I want to chat with the team about and during our meeting we go over those items. Then, that LIST becomes a check off of items I will work on for the week.

It could include meeting with a particular staff member, something to bring up with my boss, starting an event invitation or working and working on a direct mail piece.

The simple fact is that for me, starting the week with a list of items, regardless of whether or not they are already on my calendar or in notes or whatever else I use to plan, helps me considerably.

It shows me the intensity of the week.

It allows me to celebrate as I cross things off.

It keeps me focused, which does not come natural to me.

It allows to continually throughout the week check in with others about what we are working on, how things are going with those items, and how others can support.

I could on. I won't.

For me, lists work. Or should I say, a Monday morning list for the week works for me.

I have met many fundraisers and work with many fundraisers. I realize we all have our tools that support us and the successes we have. This may or may not work for you. I wanted to share it because it works for me.

Let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 23, 2015

January fundraising

Yes, I am aware that January is almost over! My has it flown by. I still think it's relative for fundraisers to talk about making January an awesome month.

As a fundraiser, January has always been an interesting month. In most of my positions I have breathed a sigh of relief in early January or been devastated by a failed end of year effort. In some cases I have been able to create a quite strong fundraising month in January based on rigorous efforts and relationship-building in December.

At my current agency we run a fiscal year that goes from October to September. No craziness in December as far as making budget but we still rock it due to it being an important month of giving for our donors.

So what do we do in January? Regardless of whether this is the start of your fiscal year or in the middle, all of these suggestions could help:

Make sure every donor from December has been thanked.

Make sure all of your recurring monthly donors have a received a letter telling them the total amount of their giving for the past year.

Personally call all of your major donors and thank them for donating last year.

(At this point you might be seeing a pattern. Basically, are you in relationship with your donors, do they know that, and are you in a position to continue that relationship this year.)

Send a year-end review to your Board of Directors. Let them know five or six highlights of the past year and a couple of things that surprised you.

If this is something that you can do, send the same type of email to the entire staff.

Meet individually with your team members and talk about how you want to rock it with them in the next couple of months. Be prepared.

Learning. Yes, most of us have a lot to learn. Hold a training for your team.Go to a training. Create a "101" for folks you lead.

Finally, it's important to not give up on lapsed donors from last year. You've run the numbers and you see that your donor retention rate was not that good. Just because you are in a new year doesn't mean you need (or should) give up. Create a plan to engage with those donors.

Let's make January an incredible month!

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Take a walk! With a donor!

Every year The Community First Foundation sponsors Colorado Gives Day, an online giving day created to increase giving in Colorado to local non-profits. Typically the second Tuesday in December, this day of giving has completely exploded into a $20 million + fundraising day for Colorado non-profits.

Each year I like to ride the coat tails of this day and have some sort of event. This past December we planned #WalktheBlock, a 24-hour walk to shine a light on youth homelessness through walking. We partnered with Saint John's Cathedral and for 24 hours walked around the Cathedral. We had a RV supplied from a donor, had lots of food and drink donated, and for 24 hours we walked, talked, laughed, visited and most importantly, got people thinking about homeless youth.

I was surprised by how many of our donors swung by to walk a few blocks. Some called ahead and asked if we needed anything, others showed up with food and drink. It was certainly an amazing day for us and for the youth we serve.

Something that I was not expecting happened. With so many donors coming by I had the chance to take a walk with many of them. Some walked for five blocks while others walked for longer. Each time I walked with a donor I finished feeling like our relationship had just been catapulted to another dimension.

It didn't matter what we talked about. It could have been about why we were walking or how the day was going. Many times it was about their day, their family, something personal about them.

And I learned. So much more about them than I could have ever possibly learned from a phone call, a site tour, or seeing them at a special event.

We had many successes that day. Learning so much more about so many of our donors certainly was on the top of the list.

Take a walk with a donor. Listen. Let them talk.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 9, 2015

How much have I given?

This week I excitedly sent our annual giving letters to donors.


Donors are busy. Their job is not to keep track of how much they are giving and when they gave. That's my job.

We start with those who donate monthly. When those donors set up a monthly donation, we ask them if it's OK that we send them an annual thank you letter as opposed to a monthly one. They love that, mainly because it saves time and money for us. So in the first week of January we send out those letters.

Then we go to our list of donors who have made multiple donations, or have donated a cash gift and perhaps attended an event. The letter spells out the tax deductibility of the event donation and includes any other cash donations, and of course the dates of the donation.

These letters help us, and the youth we serve, in so many ways.

We are not asking for a donation.

We are making a touch.

We are letting our donors know about their giving, which may or may not surprise them. I find that doing these letters adds to an increase in gift amount. It also helps in a decrease of lapsed donors. How many times have you met or spoken with a donor and their response to you telling them their last gift date is one of shock? Time flies, not only for your but also for your donors.

It's up to us as fundraisers to communicate with our donors and to support them in any way we can. Hopefully you are in good relationship with your donors and yearend giving letters will not be a surprise or something that they are not aware of!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

An awesome fundraising team

I think about this often.

As a fundraising professional.

As a leader of a team of fundraising professionals.

As a person who is responsible for raising funds so program people can do their jobs.

As a human being who is completely passionate about making positive change in the world and intensely passionate for the mission of the agency I fundraise for.

What makes an awesome fundraising team?

Several things:

People who give a shit about the mission.
People who have some sense of a work ethic.
People who aren't afraid to talk about the mission.
People who aren't afraid to build relationships.
People who aren't afraid to make a financial ask.
People who realize there is no box.
People who care about more than just themselves.
People who are creative.
People who can listen.
People who have the ability to set their own personal ego aside.
People who can lead if their in a leading position and who can mange if they are in a managing position.

This is a start.

We as fundraisers are changing the world. Our success makes a difference in whether or not the program folks can do their job, which in our case is saving and changing lives.

An awesome development/fundraising team is vital.

Thanks for reading.