Mailbag: Donors at Parties (part 2)

Welcome to part 2 of my answer to a development officer who wanted advice on how to deal with donors when you see them at parties.  (You can read the whole question here, as well as my advice on interacting with donors when you run into them at social engagements where you’re not the host.)

But now, what do you do when YOU’RE the host, and all your organization’s major donors are in a room together, and you have to work the heck out of that room?  Totally different challenge. Read more

Back to School Week – How Much is Your Fundraiser Costing You?

I touched on this yesterday, but one of my pet peeves in fundraising is watching people work so hard to raise funds that they’re losing money.  And the biggest reason people fall into this trap is forgetting to value volunteer labor.  I’ve seen people put in hundreds – no exaggeration – of collective man-hours on a gala event that raises so little net cash that they’d wind up losing money if you docked minimum wage for every volunteer hour spent running the thing.

Forget extremes like that.  Any fundraiser you run should aim to do better than passing a plate on day one.  That’s the benchmark you should be measuring against.  If you’ve got volunteers putting in hundreds of hours on a fundraiser, that’s a serious investment.  Here’s how to make that investment count. Read more

Back to School Week – Who’s Your Target?

Here’s a challenge that many organizations have when it comes to choosing fundraising techniques: not spending enough time identifying their target donors for a given strategy.  For any initiative, you MUST be able to answer the question: who do you expect to give you money?

It matters, and when you don’t ask that question, you’re setting yourself up to damage morale, leave a bad taste in the mouth of community members without kids, and fall short of your goals.  Here’s a handy guide to help you figure out WHO you should be asking for money, and HOW you should do it.  These tips guaranteed* to make you sound super smart at the next PTO meeting.

*Development Shrink cannot be held responsible for your getting elected fundraising chair or given other leadership roles as the result of the wisdom contained in this post.

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Mailbag: Evaluating a Development Strategy in 3 Steps

Q: I’m on a Board for two different organizations.  One is having extreme financial difficulties, and one is just having run of the mill financial stress where fundraising seems stagnant so any program strategies keep getting delayed.  Both Development Directors are slick talkers with an answer and excuse for everything, so I’ve asked both to come up with a formal, written development plan for the year that can be reviewed by the Board.  But I’m not an expert, frankly.  I don’t know what I should expect to see in a good development plan vs. a bad one.  Can you tell me what I should be looking for?  I imagine it might be different for the organization in crisis vs. the one that’s just limping along, but I don’t know.

A: Great question.  There are probably as many formats for Development Plans as there are professional development officers.  You know I’m not a template person, but I have a checklist! (of course)  Read more

Mailbag: 11 Steps to a Case Statement

Q: I work for a pretty small organization.  We’ve been able to get started on government and foundation grants, and after two years working hard to build an Annual Fund, my board thinks we’re ready to add a major giving program.  I have never done this before.  I’m willing to try it, and I’m reading everything I can on how to do major gift fundraising, but I’m scared and I’m stuck.  I know I need a case statement, but I don’t know how to write one, and I have no idea what to say.  Do you have a template you recommend?

A: I don’t recommend a lot of templates.  They can be very very useful, don’t get me wrong, but templates too often give people implicit permission to literally think inside the box.  You’re so focused on properly filling in the blanks in your form (sorry – template) that you’re no longer thinking about what you actually need: what makes your story unique, what makes the way you tell your story unique, and what makes your audience unique.
So I’m going to do two things: first, congratulate you on asking for help, and two, encourage you to keep doing it.
Oh, and since I’m not totally heartless, I’m going to explain that, and give you a worksheet for how to create a case statement.   Read more

Things I wish Boards knew #1

A “prospect” is not “someone we’ve heard has money.”

Here are some things I’ve been told as a consultant:
  • We have a portfolio of prospects, we just need someone to manage the relationships.
  • We have more than 100 local prospects who are waiting to be contacted.
  • Each of our board members has provided a list of 10 prospects, but our development staff hasn’t been able to close a single gift.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a variation on this theme…and not once has it been what I would call “true.” Read more

Back to Basics: What is Cultivation?

When I was thinking of starting this blog, I asked friends and clients for questions that they’d like me to answer – anonymously (for them) so no one would think they were stupid.  This is the second most frequent question I got.  And since I put up some posts describing the very basics of major gift fundraising, I’ve been getting variations on this theme – now that I’ve met with a prospective donor, I know that I’m supposed to “cultivate” them and then “solicit” them…but what does cultivation really mean?  What am I supposed to be doing???  How will I know when I’m done cultivating and it’s time to solicit?

So let’s pick up where we left off: You get a meeting, you psych yourself up, you go, and you rock it out with confidence and good listening skills.  Congrats!  You are now in the cultivation phase. Read more

Mailbag: Glorified Panhandling

Q: How do I not feel like I’m just a glorified panhandler when I’m asking for money?

A: Oh, boy have you come to the right place.  However you want to phrase it, it’s a VERY common hangup for people in fundraising (volunteer and professional alike).  Let’s start with some praise: you clearly know how fundraising works.  You have to ask for money.
Does that seem too obvious?   Read more