After seeing an inspiring story shared by old friend and colleague, Jamie Raynor, about an alumna of Western Carolina University working as nurse during this pandemic, I had questions.
You see, this incredible story is one of many uncovered by their Chatty Cat Phonathon callers during their recent “check-in” calls. I wanted to know how they took their phonathon remote, continuing to provide student employment during this crisis while also doing important work for the university.
Here are my questions and Jamie’s answers:
Tell me about how WCU is utilizing their phonathon callers during the pandemic.
"Within the Western Carolina University Division of Advancement, we’re using our best callers to conduct ‘check-in’ calls with our alumni during this quarantine time. They are sharing the student experience and listening to the alumni experience during these short, scripted calls."
What sort of stories have the callers uncovered and how is the university using those stories?
"The callers are finding that the alumni are pleasantly surprised by the call, and many are eager to chat and share ideas, stories, and experiences. The callers flag records of alumni who are doing unique and/or front line COVID work and those are shared with me for story leads.
I work with our Marketing and Communications colleagues on bringing the strongest of these story leads to them on a weekly basis. Completed alumni story profiles are used on our alumni website (alumni.wcu.edu), our social media channels, and our alumni e-newsletter.
Most of the stories that our Chatty Cat callers hear are about our alumni who are teachers, nurses, public administrators, hospital administrators, researchers, and manufacturers (particularly in areas for parts for ventilators and PPE, personal protective equipment), and we’ve had some who are specialized in unique areas like funeral home owners and leaders in cruise line sanitation.
The Chatty Cats have also spoken to several alumni who serve on our Board of Trustees, and those Trustees have provided very complimentary notes on their chats with these students. Overall these calls strengthen our Catamount community and allow for relationship building around a common struggle for us all. For those alumni who have said ‘how can we help’ the student callers reference one of our student emergency funds and guide the alumni to give.wcu.edu/relief for gifts."
Now to get down in the weeds a bit: what technology are you using to empower the callers to work from home. How are they being trained and supervised via distance?
What software are we currently using for the call center/remote calling?
Is there anything else you want to share about calling during this pandemic?
"Yes, our development officers have each used this same ‘check-in’ call model to call through their portfolios, and most have followed these up with emails for next steps. Our front-line fundraisers have noted the great ability to learn more about their donors and prospects with these simple calls, and have been encouraged by the donor’s willingness to really connect over the phone. Most have been happy to have someone to talk to.
Our Director of Donor Relations is mailing handwritten notes to hundreds of donors who give unrestricted gifts as an extra touch-point during this time as well. Our Alumni Engagement Office has partnered with Development Staff to create Alumni Zoom Socials, which we launched with our Triangle Alumni Club (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill area) last week. We have 16 additional Zoom social hours scheduled for the next 3 weeks to connect with our alumni."
Is there anything else you want to share about fundraising during this challenging time?
We have partnered with our Office of Community Service and Engagement to work with our local Jackson County non-profit organizations along with our Student Emergency Fund to raise money for COVID related needs on May 5, 2020 during #GivingTuesdayNow. We will stand up a webpage on the WCU website to share the WCU Foundation mission and student emergency fund giving link along with our non-profit partners’ mission and giving links, so our WCU alumni and friends can support our community in the area of their choice.
Also, our development officers started with phone calls, emails, and handwritten notes to their donors for stewardship and prospects for cultivation but have now moved to scheduling Zoom meetings for moving the donor relationship forward towards solicitations and gift negotiations.
About Jamie Raynor
As a higher education professional for over 17 years, Jamie Raynor gained early experience in academic affairs for several years before turning her focus and her profession to development and advancement initiatives. In her temporary role, she currently serves as the interim vice chancellor for WCU's Division of Advancement for Advancement Services, Alumni Engagement, and Development staff, also serving on the Chancellor's Executive Council. Her permanent role as Assistant Vice Chancellor includes the supervision of major, planned, and annual giving professionals in the development office. She also manages a portfolio of corporations, foundations, and individuals to secure major and planned gifts.
Have you been utilizing the unique talents of your phonathon callers during this crisis? Why or why not? Did this case study make you feel any differently about trying it out? If social distancing measures persist into the Fall semester, how do you plan to handle your phonathon? Let me know down in the comments.
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PS - If you liked this article, you might like:
PPS - Want to use your time isolating at home to become an All-Star fundraiser? Join me for my new course, All-Star Annual Giving. Registration just opened! All-Star Annual Giving is a fully online 12-week course with 9 modules covering all areas of annual giving strategy and execution. If you want to roll into the semester with a fully fledged plan to raise more money than you've ever raised before in your annual giving programs, you need to be in this course.
How you on-board any employee determines how welcome they feel, how quickly they get up to speed, and what assumptions they make about your organization for a long time.
Have you ever gotten a new job and when you asked what you should do the first day, they said, “Make sure you drop by HR and do your paperwork”?
The lack of even basic levels of training and orientation at some fundraising shops has left me absolutely flabbergasted as to how those places form even marginally effective teams or how they retain any employees. Preventing turnover starts at the very beginning of the employment relationship.
When I was in the interview process to serve as Vice President for Starr King School for the Ministry (the position I currently hold as of the writing of this post), I read the phenomenal book The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, by Michael D. Watkins. It helped me to craft my own on-boarding process as a new institutional leader. I worked with my new president to create a custom on-boarding process that gave me space in the first three months to learn the institution and craft a plan for the best chance of success. I met not only with key donors, but also with board members, former employees, communications consultants, and faculty members. I learned the values of the organization as well as the political mine fields to avoid. I found out what had and had not been tried in the past. Basically, it was priceless reconnaissance that played a huge role in my future success in fundraising for the school.
In The First 90 Days, Watkins emphasizes that the first 90 days is a pivotal time which can catapult a new employee into a vicious cycle of making early mistakes and never quite recovering from them OR those same 90 days can be the on-ramp of a virtuous cycle with early wins that increase confidence in both the new employee and the organization. That’s exactly what it did for me.
A similar process happened when I was hired at The University of Southern Mississippi. Five development staff were hired at the same time and our manager put us through a 3-week training program where we met with deans, directors, and prominent faculty to learn all the fantastic funding-worthy projects at Southern Miss. We also sat for presentations about planned giving and other more technical topics. Not only did we all bond together as a phenomenal team, but every single person went on to great success within their roles.
The Three As
As I see it, the three elements that every exceptional on-boarding process possesses are the 3 As: Alignment, Alliances, and Acceleration. (I’m simplifying and slightly modifying Watkins here.)
*Everything I am going to say in this post can be modified for our new distancing reality with coronavirus. Just because you can’t take a new employee out to lunch, doesn’t mean you can’t have a BYOB(L) – Bring Your Own Bag (Lunch) Zoom meeting to get to know them personally.
Getting your new folks into alignment means that you have a pre-determined process to get to know your employee and how that employee comes to know your organization. You must have formal sessions that communicate the organizational culture, including expectations and norms. Does everyone roll in anytime before 9:30AM? Or is this a shop where everyone is expected to be there by 8AM sharp? What are the expectations around dress? Around meetings and promptness? How flexible is the organization about working from home and handling things like illness and children? This needs to go beyond what Human Resources would tell someone. Your new hire needs to know how things work, not how the employee handbook says they should work.
Another often overlooked part of getting to know the organization is communicating organizational politics. Most people feel gossipy putting this into words but telling your new hire the truth about these things is a gift to them. Knowing that there’s one dean on campus that a true pain-in-the-ass but they are highly regarded by the president and all the faculty could be a career saver for a new person. Why wait for them to “step-in-it” to learn what you probably already know? Think through what you wish you had known when you started and be very candid and frank about the political climate of your organization.
Alignment is not a one-way process. The flipside is that you must also get to know your employee during this on-boarding period. During the interview process, you are learning about them but not getting to know them. In the interview, you are judging. Now, your only goal is to learn about them so you can support them as their leader and manager. You must know them to help them succeed. Take them to lunch and tell them they cannot talk about work. Have weekly check-ins for a while to uncover any issues with the training and early assignments.
The time invested in meeting with them will pay dividends when you jointly decide together (at some point during the first three months) what success looks like. You will set goals together. These goals will have grown out of their training and understanding of the organization and your understanding of their strengths and skills.
A key component of a virtuous cycle on-boarding program is it includes pre-set meetings with important partners within your office and throughout your organization (perhaps key vendors too). The hiring manager will have set all of these up before the new hire arrives and this introduces them to all the relevant colleagues and partners. These meetings end up being the platform where a ton of information gets downloaded but also every partner the newbie meets with becomes invested in their success. This is the secret. If the new hire calls one of these colleagues for help early in their tenure, they are likely to deliver that assistance.
Another thing that can promote alliances within your immediate team is to have strengths assessments and personality tests done on all members of the team. When a new person is hired, the team can discuss how their personalities complement each other and align with the new team member. This cements the team together.
Somewhere you probably have an employee handbook that explains how to submit expenses reports and how to take days off. You need to level up from that if you want your new hires to have mind-blowing success fast. Information accelerates success!
Your new employees deserve a binder full of process documentation that shows them how to make a data request, how to enter a proposal into the database, a list of all standing meetings they are expected to be involved with, and a yearly calendar of major work events and tasks for the entire year. (Of course, customize this for the position and your office. My list was just an example of the sort of things you would put in this guide.) If you have never read the E-Myth, I suggest you read my post about process documentation here and pick up that book, along with The First 90 Days.
Technical training is also crucial to assess. Many entry level fundraisers do not have the specific training they need to truly excel in their new roles. For example, while broadly our industry views annual giving as an entry-point into fundraising, it is one of the more technical and difficult areas of fundraising to get right. Invest in training for them. Big conferences full of new ideas and innovations may sound exciting, but as a new person without the fundamentals on board, I guarantee all those new ideas will feel overwhelming quickly.
The need for an in-depth course into the fundamentals of the art and science of fundraising is why I’m fast-tracking my plans to get my All-Star Annual Giving course up and running. For far less than the cost of an average in-person conference ($597), you can get your new folks trained in the science (data, analytics) and art (writing, strategy) of fundraising. It will take no time on your part, your new hire will be off to the races no matter what area of annual giving they work in, and you'll be an All-Star manager with a goal-busting team. This comprehensive curriculum is grounded in evidence-based fundraising and designed and taught by me, Jessica Cloud. You can check out my bio here as well as testimonials here.
All-Star Annual Giving is a fully online 12-week course with 9 modules covering all areas of annual giving strategy and execution. You can see a draft outline of the course here. Registration opens in the next couple of weeks. The course will open in May, Sign up today to get updates.
Enrollment in the course will include lifetime access to the course modules, which include dozens of lessons. Each lesson will be presented in written and audio formats, so you can read at your desk or on your phone. You can also listen to audio lessons on your commute. Every lesson will be enriched with videos (where appropriate), downloadable planning sheets, templates and examples. Enrollment will also include access to a Facebook group with your cohort (and later alumni of the program) for support and on-going questions and advice.
Finally, your new hire will be accelerated to success by you specifically telling them that you support them and letting them know where they need to go with their questions. If your employees feel comfortable letting you know that they don’t understand something or don’t know how they can achieve their goals, you’ve won! Because that level of trust between a manager and an employee is what will enable you to jointly find solutions that work.
What does your on-boarding program look like? How has that changed with isolating for coronavirus? Have you invested in any online training for your new hires? Let me know in the comments.
And of course, questions are, as always, encouraged!
PS – The photo for this is my daughter boarding for a big train ride to Chicago to see Hamilton! Clearly, I’m missing travel quite a bit. Also, if you liked this post, you might also like these:
PPS – No funds to invest in online training? For every 10 folks that sign up for my All-Star Annual Giving course, I’ll be gifting a full scholarship for course access to someone who would otherwise not be able to afford the course. You can apply here. Check out the entire course outline and other information about All-Star Annual Giving today too.
Self-Care: The Most Important Thing We All Should Be Doing Right Now (How to Build Your Self-Care Practice)
Brace yourself. I'm going to use a buzz word.
Maybe that’s two words.
Here’s a definition of self-care that I love from Psych Central: “Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.”
Deliberately. You have to do it deliberately. Plan for it. Schedule it. Make it part of your routines.
Also note, that it doesn’t just help you. It helps others because it makes us better partners and collaborators. You’ll be less stressed, healthier, more patient, and probably more kind.
Taking good care of ourselves now is perhaps the most important thing we can do . It will prevent burn out and boredom and restlessness that will help us stay home and flatten that curve. But, I would argue that for non-profit pros, it's absolutely essential. Here's why:
Non-Profit Professionals and Self-Care
Surely you know, that non-profit and fundraising roles can be extremely stressful and that was true long before COVID-19.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy ran an article in August of 2019 about new research showing that 30% of fundraisers plan to leave the field entirely in the next two years!
There are many reasons for this startling statistics, here are a couple:
I can guarantee that the "tremendous pressure to succeed" will only increase as we move through the coronavirus crisis and into the recovery phase.
What does all this have to do with self care? You might ask.
Well, in order to be the absolutely All-Star Fundraiser I know you can be, you have to be your best self. You can’t succumb to nonprofit burnout. The industry needs folks like you to stay in fundraising. With 3 out of 10 fundraisers planning to depart the entire sector (before this crisis), nonprofits will need YOUR unique skills. So, I’m going to encourage you to take care of you.
Shouldn't we be lobbying for a better budget, higher salaries, more cooperative leadership, and more reasonable goals?
bsolutely! In order to do that, you have to be in top form. You will need even more resilience to raise amazing amounts of money while also changing an industry. I’m going to challenge you just to go just a bit further in taking excellent care of yourself.
Self-care: it isn't (all) about crystals and bubble baths!
Self-care has this modern connotation of it being something over-worked wine mommies do. They're looking for a "Calgon-Take-Me-Away" bubble bath. (I just totally dated myself with that commercial reference, didn't I?)
While those sorts of indulgences and treats do have a place in a well-rounded self-care regimen, they are not the core of a self-care practice.
It is not our grand gestures that keep us healthy in body, mind, and spirit, but the small things we do daily. You can quote me on that one.
You need to identify small, sustaining daily habits that can be done on 80-90% of days to help you be in the best form for yourself and others.
To help you build that practice, I've created the Self Care Mind Map and the 90 Day Habit Tracker. (To download both files in PDF format, as well as view my entire Self-Care for Non-Profit Pros webinar, click here.) The process starts with the Self-Care Mind Map.
Self-Care Mind Map
The Self-Care Mind Map is divided into eight areas of our life and I want you to stretch yourself and think of three things you could do in each category that would improve your quality of life. You are not committing to doing any of these things at this point. Just write whatever comes to mind.
You need to fill your brain with a positive can-do attitude and your mind needs to just rest and be clear sometimes. For my Mind Map, I put that I could listen to positive podcasts, meditate for at least five minutes per day, or take periodic detox breaks from social media. Yours might include affirmations, visualization, reading self-help books, or audiobooks. There are so many options to build a healthy, resilient mindset.
Generate some ideas about how you can feed your mind. For example, I love documentaries, about the British Royal Family and World War II (bonus if it’s about both)! I also like to read on many different topics and I like learning foreign languages using the Duolingo app.
It might seem like we are having to give up too much these days. But think about what causes you unnecessary stress or takes away too much time. For me, I don’t consume news in excess and I’m working really hard to stop scrolling on my phone in the mornings.
If we don’t acknowledge and process our feelings, they either appear in the body as illness or they manifest in destruction behaviors (like addiction) and interpersonal patterns (codependency). I wrote on my Mind Map that could set firm boundaries about my needs, practice focusing on what I can control, and I free-write in my journal three quick pages most mornings. (Morning pages is a practice from The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron and I highly recommend this book for any creative person.) Yours may be committing to attend 12-step meetings (yes, they have lots of these online and via phone these days), visiting a counselor (also available online), or writing a letter to express a long-held grudge (even if you don't send it). What, if you were deeply honest with yourself, do you need?
There are endless options for this category: you could floss more regularly, lift weights, eat more vegetables, go for a daily walk, get 8 hours of sleep most nights, the list goes on and on. The challenge here is to narrow it down to what you most need and what will truly provide you with the most benefit. Oh yeah! And it has to be something that you can and will do! My two that make me feel amazing are daily yoga practice of at least 15 minutes and getting 10,000-15,000 steps on my Fitbit daily.
Even if you are a hard-core atheist, you still need to attend to your spiritual side (even though the word “spirit” might make you bristle a little). Hear me out: Even if you don’t go to church, do you have a community, a strong friend group that you can rely on. Do you sing daily? Singing is a powerful kind of psychological medicine. I also like reading poetry (and writing it too). What other things can you think of to nourish your sense of wonder and awe at this whole being human thing?
Play has a few particular characteristics. First, play is pleasurable. Sounds like “duh!” but things in this category should be fun. Second, we enter into play voluntarily and most often it is self-chosen and self-directed. So, no putting things you think you “should” do in this category. Play makes us feel like we can do it all day. There’s a feeling of time not moving when you play. My kids help me play. These days, we love having family game nights and family movie nights. Those are precious moments, yes. But I also enjoy them because they are fun for me.
Now, we are really getting into the nitty-gritty. This is where you can let loose a bit. What are three things you might call “guilty pleasures”, the things you are a little embarrassed to admit to someone you respect that you enjoy. I love a good bath. But, that’s become like the stereotype of the harried mother trying to do self-care. Still, it’s a happy place for me. I also love showtunes! And I have an entire collection of vinyl records from Broadway and movie musicals because no one else wanted to buy them! I also love really giant (like Alice in Wonderland-style) ridiculous cups of hot tea. This list will be your go-to when you are ready to indulge.
90 Day Habit Tracker
Ok, now that you’ve filled out your entire mind map, pick 3-5 that you know would improve your quality of life if you did them every day (or most days). If you do this with 80-90% adherence, I’m telling you it will completely change your life. Feel free to throw out a habit if it doesn’t work after a couple of weeks or a month, then replace it with something else. You can also change the duration that you do one practice. For instance, if you started off with 20 minutes of meditation and you find you cannot fit that in, drop the goal to only 5 minutes a day. Have fun figuring out what makes you feel the best.
Back in 2017, I set myself a challenge like this. I wanted to do #yogaeverydamnday and get 10,000 steps every day for 30 days. At the end of that month, my mind was sharp and clear, I had lost a bit of weight without much strenuous effort (and while eating pasta and cannoli when traveling), and when I woke up in the morning I didn’t creak with aches and pains. It was nothing short of remarkable.
When I described the amazing benefits I gleaned from this experiment to my aunt, she stared at me seriously and asked, “Well, why the hell did you stop?” I did not have any good reason. At that point I realized I needed to build this into my life in a sustainable way. There will be days that I twist my ankle and can’t achieve the 10,000 steps. There will be days that I'm too busy with meetings for yoga. That’s ok, too. But working toward 80-90% adherence to healthy habits bring tremendous results.
Also, please remember to find beauty and practice gratitude. I have been snapping pictures of flowers every day, because I’m so genuinely grateful that I can get outside and walk. The weather has been beautiful here (whereas my brother and his family are stuck in late season snow in Colorado) and I have other friends who are stuck inside their homes for the foreseeable future. So, the best thing we can do for ourselves and others right now is to look inward and tend to ourselves like one would tend a garden, cultivating compassion for self and others. The result will be grace.
Grace for ourselves, for our families, our kids, our elders, the healthcare workers, the UPS drivers, our neighbors, everyone we interact with. And please tip your cashiers and delivery drivers very generously, as you are able.
To get through all of this, we will need to take this extra time at home with our family to cultivate our best habits of self-care, which will fortify our body, mind, and spirit. These practices will give us the resilience we need to get through this crisis successfully and come out the other side of stronger in many ways.
If you already have a self-care practice, what does that look like for you? If you used the Self-Care Mind Map, what kinds of things did you come up with to try? Did any of them surprise you? In a couple of weeks, I want to know what benefits you've been able to garner from making some of those things habits? Please let me know in the comments below.
And of course, if any of this stirred up questions, send me your question in the comments and I'll address it.
PS – If you liked this post, you might also like these:
PPS - If you found this article helpful, please comment and let me know. Also subscribe to Real Deal Fundraising so you don't miss a post! I feature a new blog post every Thursday and when you subscribe you’ll start to receive my FUNdraising Friday emails where I bring you curated information and super cool freebies exclusively for my subscribers!
Having been kicked out of our fundraising comfort zones so suddenly and so thoroughly by COVID-19, what do we do now?
You’re maybe just getting your home office set up in a way that doesn’t drive you crazy and maybe your kids are finally settling into their new reality of homeschooling.
Now, how are we supposed to raise money in this new remote world?
To solicit or not to solicit?
That is the first question. I’m seeing a huge divide out there on blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. One camp says “Engage only. Don’t solicit.” The other camp says, “Keep soliciting.”
Don’t assume. Don’t project.
Let me probe the semantics with you for a moment. In your mind, change the word "solicit" to “presenting the needs of your institution” or “ask” for short. Now, doesn’t that feel a little bit better?
See, the problem with this debate is that we are making decisions from a place of fundraiser discomfort. We are reeling and trying to adjust and projecting our own uncertainty onto our donors. We shouldn't assume that they are uncomfortable or don’t want to give. We should not rob them of the opportunity to help during this crisis because we are uncomfortable.
So, where exactly do I fall in this debate?
Present the needs of the institution.
Ask when appropriate.
This is the same advice I would always give. Lead with relationship and deeply care for your donors as people. Connect with them over the mission and values of your institution. Communicate clearly the priorities of your organization right now. (Hint: the first should be the health, safety, and welfare of those your institution serves and the employees of the organization. Everything else follows that.) If you are at a point in the relationship where an ask seems correct and natural, ask.
Dangerous advice for small organizations
The advice to completely put all asking (and usually they use the word “soliciting” to make other fundraisers feel sleazy and uncomfortable) is dangerous, especially for small organizations. Check the work history of the person giving any advice to cease solicitation and if you work for an organization much smaller and more fragile than they have, feel free to keep scrolling. Large institutions with big endowments can weather this storm without asking. Small organizations won’t be able to do that.
Donors want to help in a crisis
The second reason that stopping all asks is bad advice is that donors often actually WANT to give during a crisis. I’ve been a phonathon caller after 9/11, ran a phonathon during the economic downturn of 2008, and did relief fundraising after an EF-4 tornado hit my personal home and the campus of the university I worked for. Donors, when they are able, rush in after a crisis and support the organizations that mean the most to them. They want to buoy you up right now.
Lead with care for people
Yes, you want to value long-term relationship over short-term revenue. That’s true. Patience follows naturally, when you value your donors as people. Donors may need to wait several months for the stock market to rebound. Others may not have head-space to talk right now, especially if loved ones are ill or vulnerable. All of that is okay.
Lead with care for people, but don’t let your fear and discomfort lead. You also have a fiduciary responsibility to your organization, especially if your institution is small and needs the revenue.
Again, it's pretty simple: lead with care for people. Present the priorities and needs of your organization. Ask if appropriate to the life-cycle of that donor relationship.
Ok, now what?
If you’ve decided to continue doing some fundraising, how exactly are we supposed to execute our plans? Here are 8 ideas that I’ve been trying out (or planning for) at my day job:
Even if your institution is one of those that has a large endowment and can get by without immediate contributions, are there immediate relief needs for those you serve and/or your employees? Many universities are starting emergency relief funds for students who cannot get home right now and perhaps have lost their sources of income. My institution will start relief campaigning next week. We will do it almost all digitally, with a letter later in the month (done through a mail house that is still in operation).
Giving Tuesday (COVID-19 edition)
Have you heard that there will be an extra Giving Tuesday on 5/5/20 to help donors and organizations respond to the COVID-19 crisis? Now is the time to be planning how your organization can participate. Here’s the info on that plan.
Facebook lives are a fantastic way to connect with folks. The president of my institution (a Unitarian Universalist and multireligious theological school) went live at the same time every day last week to talk with our graduates and friends. She discussed hope and resilience, offered prayers and support, and clearly presented the priorities of the school right now (the health, safety, and welfare of those your institution serves and the employees of the organization, followed by her long-range plans and vision).
Then, each day she did very soft asks for recruitment and fundraising (alternating days). (To be fair, we are better positioned to continue recruitment than most higher education institutions because we’ve been doing some form of distance learning since 2001.) The video replays of the lives that we have boosted are doing very well and it is driving folks to our virtual open houses and our giving landing pages.
Virtual Event Landing Pages
The school I work for relies on “house party” style events for donor acquisition and unrestricted support. When we had to cancel one of those in mid-March, we made the event virtual using Zoom and created a landing page specific for those prospects, with pictures, language, and a student profile video we already had from previous years. We also created a specific giving page associated with and linked to the landing page. While the actual virtual event had only around 12 folks, those folks shared it with the rest of their congregation, and we had over 60 visits to the landing page. It’s small but it’s a place to start and didn’t require much time or effort.
Boost the $h*t out of everything
If you’re a fundraiser, you’re not traveling right now. That means you have some money in your budget to boost EVERYTHING you do digitally. One or two saved plane tickets can pay for some tremendous boosts of your Facebook live replays and other digital promotions. You can also buy ads that push folks to your relief giving pages.
Zoom Meetings with Major Donors
Zoom provides a platform that is almost as good as being there. Offer your donors Zoom or phone as options. If they aren’t comfortable with Zoom, phone is good. I’ve had two discovery visits and a dozen or more significant other major donor visits in the last two weeks without leaving my house.
Here’s how most of these meetings have gone:
(Oh, and BTW, I secured millions of dollars from these visits because I didn't stop asking. Most are verbal commitments that will be finalized later but I secured hundreds of thousands of dollars that will come in by the end of this fiscal year.)
Presidential small group Zooms
For the next steps with my discovery visits and for several of my donors that haven’t had a significant amount of contact lately, I’m putting together a small group Zoom session with our president and 4-5 donors. This concept was uniformly popular among the donors and my president is very excited to connect in this way.
Digital Contingencies for Live Events
Our largest fundraising and acquisition event of the year takes place in June and we are worried that it will not happen in person. It is a highly structured fundraising breakfast event. We are developing our plans to make this event digital as a BYOB: Bring Your Own Breakfast on Zoom. We may use the webinar feature in Zoom to deliver this more seamlessly. I will post more as plans become clearer and we know about results.
This time is a tremendous opportunity to pivot and innovate in ways that will stretch our creativity. We can absolutely do this together!
What techniques are you utilizing to connect with donors? Are you raising funds for relief? What have you tried and what are you planning to try? Where do you fall on the debate of “to solicit or not to solicit?” Let me know in the comments.
Comments and questions are, as always, welcomed and encouraged!
PS – If you liked this post, you might also like these:
PPS - If you found this article helpful, please comment and let me know. Also subscribe to Real Deal Fundraising so you don't miss a post! You’ll start to receive my FUNdraising Friday emails where I bring you curated information and super cool freebies exclusively for my subscribers!
We are all scrambling.
The situation with COVID-19 changes day-by-day and hour-by-hour. Hopefully by now, nonprofits have taken steps to allow all but absolutely essential personnel to work from home. Fundraising, while essential, is a function that can be done from a home office. The big question is:
How can we keep our donors connected to our organizations in this unstable environment?
When it became clear that I would not be allowed to travel anymore for work, I fell back on a maxim I heard somewhere early in my fundraising career. It rhymes so that’s convenient and an aid to memory.
In any circumstances where rapid change is taking place, we must take great pains to keep our donors near, dear, and clear. What does that mean as a guide to practical action and how can we all undertake those functions while protecting ourselves and our donors from coronavirus?
Let’s take each part of the maxim in turn:
Near: Be in Contact!
You will need to leverage all forms of media at various levels to keep in touch with your donors.
First, for your major donors, set up as many one-on-one Zoom meetings as you can reasonably handle each week to check in with them and make sure their families are doing okay right now. Take it week-by-week so it will not be overwhelming but striving for 6-8 substantial phone calls or Zoom meetings with major donors per fundraiser seems appropriate.
Secondly, utilize digital means of connection as much as possible. The president of the institution I work for is doing a series of Facebook live discussions this week at the same time every day. Send email updates or text your constituents. Don’t bombard them with info but if you have meaningful information to report, do so on all available channels. If you have Facebook groups, use those to communicate too. Encourage your supporters to share info so it gets in more Newsfeeds and inboxes.
Third, for your mid-level donors or major donors that you cannot check in with immediately, don’t forget about good old mail and phone. You can do a quick check-in calling campaign one day per week and write some hand-written notes. (Of course, please be careful with your mail protocols for hygiene. Use self-adhesive stamps and tape if possible. Barring that, seal or affix with a sponge. And wash your hands well before handling mail to be sent out.)
Dear: Express Gratitude
Your messaging needs to let donors know that you care about them as people. It’s not just about expressing our usual level of stewardship and gratitude. This is thanking them for believing enough in your organization’s mission to hang in there in this time of great change and uncertainty.
Express gratitude not only as a staff member but express gratitude on behalf of those your organization serves. Let them know that because of them, your mission continues and will continue after COVID-19.
Clear: Have Clarity, Openness, and Honesty
Make sure your organization is crystal clear on its priorities. The first of which should be the health, safety, and welfare of those they serve and those who work for the institution. Repeat this often to your constituents.
However, do not shy away from honestly telling donors how this crisis is affecting your organizational needs and its finances. Your major donors and board members especially deserve the candid talk about what is needed, what might be needed, and why.
Did you find the framework of near, dear and clear helpful in thinking about how you are keeping donors connected these days? What other strategies have you tried in the last couple of weeks that keep donors near, dear, and clear? Tell me below in the comments!
Again, I hope this was helpful to you. If it was, please leave me a comment below.
Also, if you found this very helpful, I hope you’ll subscribe. By doing so, you’ll get my FUNdraising Friday emails every Friday with pick-me-ups, helpful articles, and cool freebies. Humor and a commitment to continual learning will no-doubt help us all through this crisis.
Take care and be well,
PS - If you are feeling stressed and anxious and burnt out due to coronavirus, you're not alone. Because so many are facing unprecedented challenges and pressure right now, I'm hosting a free webinar on the topic of Self Care for Non-Profit Professionals. It will take place April 1st. Register today as there are only 100 spots!
23 Effective and Enjoyable Work-From-Home Hacks (And a few sanity savers if you are suddenly homeschooling kids)
The first time I worked from home was honestly a miserable experience.
In a new job that was not front-line fundraising, with a 3-month-old baby and beagle at home, I was also mired in postpartum depression. I realize now that I made a lot of mistakes. When I got another remote position in 2015 (this time in fundraising), I decided I was going do things differently. At that time, I had a 6-month-old and a 5-year-old, and my husband was a stay-at-home dad. We were homeschooling my Kindergartener and would continue that until this past September.
Certainly, we made mistakes, but I’ve learned much along the way and I’m now so thoroughly adjusted to working this way that I can’t imagine going to an office everyday (that isn’t just up my stairs).
Let me pause to say that I understand how insanely lucky I am, and I do not take that for granted.
In this crisis, many must worry about whether they will get a paycheck, whether they will have to go into work and possibly contract the virus, and how they will feed their kids and get Wi-Fi at home so their children can complete their schoolwork. The transition back to having kids at home will be smooth for my family and I’m so grateful to work for a school that has embrace distance learning and remote work for a long time now. I’m able (because of my privileged position) to focus on finding innovate ways to connect with donors in this crisis and providing support for the community of non-profit fundraisers.
All of that acknowledged, for those of you who have information technology jobs and relationship-based jobs (like fundraising), I hope to provide some of the insights I’ve learned in the last 5 years to ease your transition into this new style of working. If you find one or more of these tips helpful, please let me know in the comments.
Give everybody grace: Everyone is struggling to adjust right now. People are having to learn new ways of being, as well as new skills. People are filled with worry, anxiety, grief, and many other emotions. Give yourself grace. Give your spouse or partner grace. Give your kids grace. Give your extended family grace. Give your co-workers grace. Give the people your organization serves grace.
Time: You will get a lot more done in less time. The big secret of working from home is that you work less but you get more done. (It’s true for your kids too but we will get to that.) Focus on tasks accomplished not on hours put in. Use the extra time for self-care.
Exercise: Get some. Get outside, if that is advisable where you are. If not, here’s a great YouTube channel with indoor walking activities that you can do even if you’re in a small space. You probably won’t realize how much incidental movement you got during an average workday before COVID-19. Working from home requires putting in thoughtful effort to move your body. My goals are to get my 10,000 on my FitBit and do at least 15 minutes of yoga daily. Both help my body, my mind and my spirit.
Boundaries: Communicate with your family about when you have obligations throughout the day and when you’ll be done. A family calendar is a good start. Stop working after a certain time. Just put it down. Because you are in your home, there is a kind of creeping that can happen where work ends up flowing into time that should be for yourself and your family.
Housework: Another benefit of working from home is you can blend your house maintenance in throughout the day. You can throw a load of clothes into the washer before a meeting and then switch it around after the meeting is done. The downside: with your whole family at home all day, the house gets into disarray faster and you’ll need to tidy it up more often.
Food: It’s easy to graze all day. Resist the urge. I like to use the Crockpot or the Instant Pot so I know dinner is taken care of and I do simple breakfasts and lunches so I’m not in and out of the kitchen quite as much.
Thinking-outside-the-box: As fundraisers, our job is to present the funding needs of our institutions as effectively as possible. We must ALL find new ways to do things now. That may mean a return to “old-fashioned” things like hand-written notes and cards or it may mean holding events virtually that you’ve done in person before. Working from home gives you the space to research, learn, plan and innovate.
Eat the frog: If one of the things you had to do today was eat a frog, when would be the best time to do it? At the end of the day, after you’ve spent your whole day dreading it? No! You eat the frog first thing! Your most taxing or unpleasant task of the day should be your first. Get it over with! Everything will seem downhill after that.
Batching: If I’m attempting to set up meetings with donors, I send out all the emails inviting people meet with me on one day during one two-hour period. If I need a day to write a serious report or proposal, I block that day and don’t schedule meetings then. If you must get some thank you cards out, do them all at once. Batching makes you more efficient and you’ll have more time for that all-important self-care.
The Pomodoro Method: You can google this and learn more about this method. If you have a big task and it seems too daunting to do all in one go, tell yourself you are going to work on it for 20 minutes and then take a 10-minute break. Maybe you repeat the cycle immediately after the break or later than afternoon or the next day. But setting a time limit helps you get started. If you feel like you’re in the zone at the end of the period keep going if you want. For the record, this works with personal stuff too. I use it for cleaning. I set a timer for just 15 minutes and then I can stop when the buzzer goes off - no matter how far along I am. Sometimes I stop, but often I’m making such great progress after 15 minutes that I just want to get it all the way done. It’s a win either way!
Three Things: If there is just too much to get done, writing a to-do list will make you more overwhelmed but a three things list forces you to prioritize deeply and then you work until those things are done. (I wrote an entire blog post about the Power of a Just Three Things list.)
Routine or Flow (not a schedule): I don’t have a schedule as such. Obviously, I have some standing meetings, but I can’t let myself get too attached to schedules. I have a natural inclination towards the Hermione Granger end of things (super type A) and if left to my own devices I would make myself into a neurotic mess trying to stick to a schedule. So, instead of that I focus on flow and routine. I follow how I’m feeling and what I feel I can best work on at any given time. I also have things for my own self-care that try to check off daily, though I am unattached to when or how they get done (exercise, yoga, cleaning, etc.)
PHYSICAL SPACE AND GEAR
Designate an office space: It doesn’t have to be a “room-of-one’s-own” but a small desk or one end of dining room table. Some place you can “set-up-shop” and feel comfortable and keep yourself semi-organized.
Decorate it (or at least have a good view): Rearrange the furniture to look out a window. Put a vase of flowers from your yard near your monitor. Move some of your art around so you can see it from your new home office. Bring beauty into your workday somehow.
Comfort: Find a good chair or put some cushions in whatever chair you’ve got. I like to put a large exercise ball under my desk to prop my feet on during conference calls. Get comfortable. It’s worth it.
Watch your posture: It’s so easy to slump at home because (unless we are on video-conference) we are relaxed and not trying to impress anybody. That’s good, but remind yourself to sit up straight sometimes and do some simple stretches during the day (because you can, you’re at home!). I love Adriene from the Yoga with Adriene YouTube Channel and not only does she have playlists including: Yoga for Uncertain Times, Yoga for Neck Tension and Yoga Practices Under 10 Minutes long.
Get a Lift: If you are working with a laptop, I highly recommend a docking station with a regular monitor. Realizing that you probably cannot access tech gadgets right now, get a big book, like a dictionary and prop up your laptop when you are on conference calls for sure (all the time, if you have a separate keyboard available to you). This will prevent you having to look down into the screen and therefore save your neck from soreness. (It will also make you look a bit better on video-conferences because the camera will be level with your face or higher than your face.
ZOOM (AND OTHER VIDEO-CONFERENCING SOFTWARE)
Have a sense of humor: If your kids interrupt your Zoom calls, you can just ask them to say hi (if appropriate) or just mute and shuffle them out. Then make a joke about it: “Well at least he had pants on!” No need to freak out or punish them. Just gently set boundaries. Your co-workers should be giving you and everyone grace right now. Same thing applies for pets. People love seeing your kids and your pets. Don’t worry about seeming professional right now.
Wear pants, please: Yes, you must wear pants on video-conference! Inevitably, you’ll have to get up to adjust your lighting, run to the restroom, handle something a child needs, grab a paper, or close a window. So, yes, wear some pants. That said, they can be comfy yoga pants or pajama pants. No one will fault you for that.
Touch Up Appearance Function: If the idea of looking at your own face in a little box on Zoom all day activates your perfectionist and self-critical tendencies (maybe it’s just me), you can use Zoom’s feature call “Touch Up Appearance”. Basically, it just removes any major blemishes and improves dark circles under my eyes. I still look thoroughly like me.
Use your mute button: If you are not talking or expected to talk very soon, for the love of all that is dear in this beautiful world, mute yourself. It’s the microphone button in the bottom left corner. If you are dialing in via phone and not video, please mute too using your phone’s features. Zoom can be the best of tools and the worst, improperly used. Mute yourself when aren’t talking.
Use your video on/off button if necessary: If you must leave a meeting a quick note in the chat “brb” for “be right back” and then turn your video off momentarily. It’s the button in the bottom left corner with the camera icon. Turn it back on when you return.
Be careful about chat: Zoom’s chat feature is a bit weird. You can message specific people directly, but then it doesn’t automatically switch back to all. Be careful with this and make sure you get the right not to the right audience. Otherwise, embarrassing situations could arise.
SCHOOLING FROM HOME
Ok, I’ve got one final category of tips for those parents out there who are navigating the un-charted waters of having their kids home all day for the whole workweek. You're probably thinking "How do I get them to do their work? How can I get all my work done too?"
First, let’s be clear: this is a highly unusual situation for everyone. Remember how we need to give everyone grace. That includes kids. They absorb all the unspoken worry and fear around them, and it can cause them to act…. less than pleasant and cooperative. Be kind and give them some leeway.
That said, I would not let extreme cases of defiance and disrespect slide. Otherwise, you are setting some precedence that will cause you trouble later, especially if this situation persists for months and not weeks.
Sound like contradictory advice? I’ll cop to that. That’s what parenting is: finding a balance amidst the many paradoxes of raising little humans.
On to the specific tips:
Again, I hope this was helpful you. If it was, please leave me a comment below. If you found this very helpful, I hope you’ll subscribe. By doing so, you’ll get my FUNdraising Friday emails every Friday with pick-me-ups, helpful articles and cool freebies.
At the end of this, I’d like to say again that I know how lucky I am to have the kind of job I have that allows me to work from home, especially at a time like this. So many don’t have this opportunity. Cultivating gratitude will help us all build resilience for this challenge.
Take care and be well,
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If there are other great resources for working through this crisis that you've found helpful, please comment below and let me know about them. If you found this post helpful, please comment and let me know that too! Also subscribe to Real Deal Fundraising so you don't miss the next post! You’ll also start to receive my FUNdraising Friday emails where I bring you curated information and super cool freebies exclusively for my subscribers! And don't forget to visit my store for transformative training and consulting products!
If you weren’t a finance major (I wasn’t), learning the ins and outs of endowments can be intimidating.
But fear not! Endowments are easy to understand once you know some basic terminology.
Becoming proficient with these terms is essential if you want to grow a career in fundraising. Being able to converse intelligently about endowment issues is a must for nearly all development professionals. Luckily, I worked with three phenomenal CPAs at my last job and I owe those ladies a lot, because through their patience I learned this essential information well enough to utilize it in my fundraising and to teach it to you here!
I find that it’s helpful to explain things in terms of a household budget so I’ll give the standard explanations and then I’ll give my liberal arts definition.
What is an endowment anyway?
First off, the main idea of an endowment is like a savings account where you never ever touch the original amount you put into the fund. Imagine you won the lottery and took the lump sum option and after buying a house and some cars and taking a big vacation, you put the remaining money into a savings account. You decide not to touch it and live off some of the investment earnings. That’s all an endowment is!
The original amount that you put into the account goes by several names in the nonprofit world: corpus, principal, or the permanently restricted part of the endowment. I tend to use corpus most often.
Surely it’s not that simple?
You’re right! It’s not.
As we all know earnings in the investment world are neither guaranteed nor constant. Thus, if you want to maintain your originally invested amount in perpetuity (that’s accountant-speak for forever), you’ll need to be careful with how much you spend year to year.
Let’s say that the market averages 8%. You would not want to spend all 8% of your earnings that year, because next year you could earn only 3% or *gasp* have a negative return.
This is why most nonprofits put a cap on the amount of the earnings that can be spent, often only 4 or 5%. That’s called the spending allocation. (This could be for scholarships or program support, anything that the donor and the organization wishes to fund. What the spending allocation gets used for is governed by a written agreement between the organization and the donor. I call it a fund agreement but other groups use different names for the same document.)
Anyhow, the spending allocation is the portion of the annual investment earnings authorized to be spent on the mission of the endowed fund. (One endowment can have many endowed fund under its umbrella. Think different scholarships or faculty support funds in a higher education context.)
In the metaphor of you winning the lottery and putting a large lump sum in an investment account to live off of, you might earn 8% but you’ll only spend 5%. So if your lump sum was $10,000,000, you’ll need to find a way to live off of $500,000 annually rather than $800,000.
What happens to the earnings not spent?
There are generally 3 things that can happen to earnings not spent.
Each organization will have an investment policy for its endowment and a target investment earnings that they hope to reach. You can see why: if you need 5% for the spending allocation, 2% for the administrative fee(s), and some to hold in reserved earnings for a rainy day (or a bear market year), suddenly your endowment needs to clear 8-10% every year for everything to remain viable and run smoothly.
Now here’s a mind bender for you: if a fund earns some returns but not all the way to your target and the total market value is over the corpus amount, you can’t give it a full spending allocation. That’s called underfunded. (Not to be confused with underwater, but seriously how could you not confuse them. This took me YEARS to figure out completely.)
Here’s the analogy: Your $10 million is still intact and you’ve banked another $100,000 in reserved earnings, you earn only earn 3%. Remember your usual allocation is $500,000. So, you made $300,000 and you have $100,000 extra without touching your original investment, but that’s only $400,000. Guess you better stock up on ramen until next year! And furthermore, it’s likely that as a good manager you wouldn’t want to wipe out your entire reserved earnings lest the situation of lower than expected earnings continue for another year. So, you might only allocate $200,000 be spent this year, leaving $200,000 in reserved earnings. That’s an underfunded endowment.
Whew! Now my brain hurts. Let’s talk about something else. I hear about divestment. What’s that?
Many organizations with long standing endowments managed their investment only for strong returns and with little regard to the greater social good. This means some prominent endowments are invested in things such as fossil fuel companies or private prisons or other things that are actually at odds with the organization's mission in some cases.
For instance, if you were an animal lover, and you hear from your financial planner that a significant portion of your $10 million nest egg was invested in cosmetic companies that cruelly test on animals but you’ve been making phenomenal returns. What would you do? If you told them to move to other companies that are cruelty free but to do it in a way that hopefully preserved returns, that’s divesting from companies profiting from animal cruelty.
Some organizations are so committed to their mission and values that they do not want their endowments to be utilized in ways that are contrary to their values as an organization. These groups can decide to invest in what are sometimes called ESG or environmental, social and good governance funds, ensuring that organizational monies are not used to exploit people’s labor, trample their rights, damage the environment, or other things that are negative. In some cases, ESG funds can be invested in companies that are not doing things the right way as part of a strategy of putting pressure on the companies as investors. This has been done successfully to influence labor disputes and to support the growth of clean technology divisions at fossil fuels companies, for example.
Constituents including donors, program recipients, the general public, students (in the education field) can lobby and put pressure on governing boards of non profits to divest from certain areas which they feel are in conflict with the values of the organization. Leadership can also chose to divest as part of a vision for the future of the organization.
How can I use this information as a fundraiser?
I’m going to cover that in an upcoming post “Fundraising and Endowments”. Stay tuned by subscribing. You’ll receive my FUNdraising Friday emails where I bring you curated information and super cool freebies exclusively for my subscribers.
Do you find endowment-talk intimidating? Did this post help to demystify it somewhat? What questions do you have for me to answer in my upcoming "Fundraising and Endowments" post? Comment below and let me know!
Comments and questions are, as always, welcomed and encouraged!
PS – If you liked this post, you might also like these:
PPS - If you found this article helpful, please comment and let me know. Also subscribe to Real Deal Fundraising so you don't miss a post! You’ll start to receive my FUNdraising Friday emails where I bring you curated information and super cool freebies exclusively for my subscribers! And don't forget to visit my store for transformative training and consulting products!
Have you ever felt it: that deep rumbling of self-doubt?
Have you felt that fear of failure, of being “found out” and of everyone knowing that you aren’t really as amazing as your LinkedIn page might lead them to believe?
I’ve felt this way at different points over the years and I’ve known many others who admit to these feelings. Research once thought it was a phenomenon exclusive to women. Now, it seems many demographics share this particular kind of anxiety.
The gravest consequence of imposter syndrome isn’t the personal anxiety, it’s the paralysis that the anxiety engenders. The “logic” in your head goes something like this: “If I try and fail, everyone will know I’m a fraud, so let’s do nothing.”
How do we as fundraisers and professionals move past imposter syndrome and start giving ourselves the credit we deserve? How do we begin to own our expertise and use it in positive action?
I’ve been working on this blog post for years, though I didn’t know it.
I was doing research for this blog post when I had many breakdowns in college from running myself into the ground in the name of achievement, afraid to “let everybody down”.
I was figuring out strategies for this blog post when I was passed over for a promotion when I was 27 and I thought I had “failed my family” which at the time was just myself and my husband.
And I was testing solutions for imposter syndrome, as I clawed my way back to normalcy after battling postpartum depression. I felt that old familiar feeling, in the guise of being exposed as a “bad mother”.
For me, achievement and confidence have often come at the price of near-paralyzing self-doubt, anxiety and fear of failure. My job now is to try and keep the awesome and give up the unnecessary shitty feelings that have come with it in the past.
I conquered this fear when I applied for a job with the title Vice President for Advancement despite not having any six figure major gift experience yet. And then I got that job.
I conquer this fear whenever I take time to do some yoga and tend to my state of mind first, before tending to deadlines.
And I conquer this fear every time I post on this blog, since I am positioning myself as an expert in this field.
The older I get the less I care about what other people think. And amazingly I am also slowly losing that frantic worried feeling that comes with being an overachiever. I know I can and will get things done and carrying around the baggage of stressing about it is pointless. I have more confidence that I always come through for myself and my family when it matters. These are very good developments.
So, what strategies have I found useful as I battled imposter syndrome? The variety of specific tactics fall nicely into 3 broader categories: mindset, environment and action. The majority of my suggestions focus on mindset but it is also important to manage your environment and media. And most importantly, to truly defeat imposter syndrome you must take action. Let’s dive in.
This is a journey of self-validation. Change your mindset. Manage your environment. Then, take meaningful action. Do not give in to intellectual or professional paralysis. You have something important to give the world.
Fight through the feelings and do what only you can uniquely do.
It’s worth it.
YOU are worth it.
Have you tried any of these suggestions? Are there other strategies to counter imposter syndrome that I missed?
Comments and questions are, as always, welcomed and encouraged!
PS – If you liked this post, you might also like these:
PPS - If you found this article helpful, please comment and let me know. Also subscribe to Real Deal Fundraising so you don't miss a post! You'll get my guide to Call Center Games for Free! And don't forget to visit my store for transformative training and consulting products!
Over this last year since I started Real Deal Fundraising, readers have sent me questions. I’m a believer that if one person asks a question, there are many others out there that are wondering the same thing but haven’t asked it out loud yet. So, in that spirit, I scoured my email and social media messages for some of the best questions I’ve been asked and compiled my response for all of you.
If you have a question you would like me to answer on my next installment, comment on this blog post or contact me here.
Question: What is your opinion on making a second ask in a thank you letter to donors?
In a letter, I'm not a fan. In a dedicated thank you call, I'm not a huge fan. In a thank you email, you can include a link and/or a PS with a passive pitch.
However, you can do some dedicated 2nd ask calls that are distinct from Thank You calls. You thank them for their past support and then pitch something different from their previous gifts. For instance, if you ask for general fund gifts in the fall, do a 2nd ask campaign for the colleges or academic departments.
Get very clear about the purpose of each communication piece you do. Stewardship should be 90-100% stewardship. Asks should be 80% asking but always with gratitude for past giving rolled in.
Question: What do you think about adding all students to our donor database upon enrollment instead of waiting to add them when they graduate?
If you have the capacity to keep that data up, it's not a bad idea. You'll have to load new students, remove those who don't stay from semester to semester and regularly update demographic info. That requires a strong advancement services staff along with a tight schedule and partnership with student data staff.
That said, if you can do it there are lots of advantages. You can:
Question: Do you send receipts to all donors?
Yes, all donors should get a receipt. In the case of online gifts, I use an auto-generated receipt sent via email after the gift is processed electronically. Those that make a monthly gift receive an acknowledgement the first time the recurring gift/pledge is set up and then a statement each January that covers the total amount of their giving for the previous calendar/tax year.
Question: I’m talking to our deans about fundraising for the first time ever. Do you have any advice for what topics I should cover?
When talking with the deans, you need to convey two things:
You should make sure to emphasize the importance of viewing this as a partnership. So for instance, you can tell them how you can help them raise more money (phonathon, direct mail, taking them on major donor visits, etc.) but also tell them practical ways they can support you in that work (doing an alumni newsletter, encouraging grads to update demographic information, regularly sending you good news about their programs and students, responding to emails, getting their student scholarship recipients to write thank you notes, etc.)
I would use this opportunity to tell them you will be happy to train them to do things like write thank you notes and talk to major donors but they must also trust you when you tell them that something isn't a good idea and they need to know the limitations of your staff.
If you have the ability to be a bit frank with them, gently convey the sense that trust is important and that this is a give and take partnership. If you can do this, you will be further along that most shops in terms of relationship with academic leadership.
Question: How can I improve our percentage of phonathon gifts given via credit card?
Improving credit cards is a simple (but not easy) thing to do. You must prime the mindset of the callers so that they genuine expect the prospect to give via a credit or debit card. You must emphasize that credit cards are THE default payment option for everything in our world today, right down to a sweet tea for $1 from McDonald's.
After addressing mindset, callers must do TWO credit card asks, according to this formula: assumptive ask then what I call the “reasons plus reconsider” ask.
The assumptive ask goes like this: "Which credit or debit card would you like to use?" If they give the credit card on this ask, of course, no need to keep asking.
If they balk on the first ask, you simply tell them why you are asking for a credit card and ask them to reconsider. Here’s an example: "The reasons we ask donors to make their gift via credit card is that it puts your gift to work right after for the institution. It's very safe and only takes a few seconds. Would you reconsider using your credit or debit card tonight?" This rebuttal ask can be customized to the most common reasons why donors might hesitate to give on their credit card.
Callers must follow this formula without fail. It's hard to get volunteer callers to do that and hold them accountable. But, you'll make significant strides by following the formula above. You'll notice it's very natural and not pushy. Just a question and then an explanation. I’ll do a more in-depth blog post on this topic soon, particularly covering the ways that you can modify the “reasons plus reconsider ask” to make it specific to the prospect’s objection.
That's all for today! What questions do you have for me? Post a comment with your question(s).
If you are interested in working with me directly as a trainer or consultant, contact me here and let’s chat.
Comments and questions are, as always, welcomed and encouraged!
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
PS - If you liked this post, you might also like these:
PPS - If you found this article helpful, please comment and let me know. Also subscribe to Real Deal Fundraising so you don't miss a post! You'll get my guide to Call Center Games for Free!
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.