Every F***ing* Thing Works

They do.  All of them.

Every Fundraising Thing Works

 

There’s a lot of great advice out there about fundraising – countless blogs, webinars, articles, white papers.  And they all have very, very good guidance and examples of a program that worked.  And they leave a lot of front line fundraisers thinking, “I should REALLY do that, but . . . ”  And it becomes daunting and de-motivating, when experts disagree with each other or the realities of your shop de-rail the implementation of that Really Good Idea.  And we grapple to implement THE thing that’s going to make our fundraising better.  Because whatever it is you’re doing, somebody else is doing a different Thing that is generating better results.

And so we try to implement everything to make our fundraising better and we become the masters of Widespread Mediocrity vs. being the champions of Strategic Excellence.

In so many ways, implementing a fundraising initiative is about context.  What can you do, really well, with relatively few pain points?  Which technique is the most important thing you should be doing?

So, here’s a definitive list of the fundraising strategies that work best:

Direct Mail
It works.  In context.  People are still sending in gifts in response to direct mail acquisition.  Direct Mail is not dead.

Telephone/Telefund/Telethon
Not everybody’s gone to cell phones.  Some people LIKE to hear from the charities they support. Some people are still answering their phones.  And many organizations are still raising great dollars on their telefund programs.

You Should Be Focusing on Planned Giving
Yes, you should.  But not to the exclusion of everything else.

If You Don’t Have a Major Gift Plan You’re Failing
That’s true.  As long as it’s in context of your overall strategy and not your sole focus.

Focus on the Mid-Range
Absolutely! But to have mid-range, you have to have an entry level and a high end, so . . .

Donors Respond Better to Restricted Funds 
True story! But what are you supposed to do? NOT raise money for annual operations? Good luck.

You MUST Tell The Donor How Their Funds Were Used
Yes. You absolutely must.  It’s in the Donor Bill of Rights and a whole bunch of other stuff, too.  It is the ethical thing you must do.  But, breathe.  Tell them how their gift fulfilled your org’s mission. We kept the doors open and the lights on and we fed people.  That’s what donors want to hear.

You Have To Be Digital
Yeah, you really do.  At minimum you need internet presence. But not to the exclusion of everything else and if you throw all your energies into digital, what are leaving behind?

Get Your Thank You Letters Out in 48 Hours!
Absolutely ideal.  But could you shoot for a week?  Maybe a quick email within a day or two that says “Your letter’s on the way! Here’s a quick THANK YOU/YOU ROCK before it gets there!” Just please say thanks as fast as you can, set expectations with your donors and cut yourself some slack.  Make it a little simpler.

Get Your Board Engaged if You Want to Succeed!
Oh my god, yes!  Oh, wait, you’ve only been there 3 months and your predecessor only lasted 16 months?  And the Board Members weren’t recruited to give?  OK, chill.  You’ll get them there.  Can you focus on other donors and show them how much people love your org?  Do what you can in context of the whole; the love will follow.

Major Gifts, Major Gifts, Major Gifts
“You so suck if you’re not doing major gifts right, what the hell is wrong with you?”  Yeah, shut that voice DOWN.  I know an org who considers $500 their major gift threshold and they do really, really well.  Bravo, I say – Bravo!

Make Your Donors Give Monthly
Please do!  They can give more by making a monthly/recurring gift, they’re easier to renew, you can focus more on stewardship.  Ohhhh, but your CRM doesn’t support it and/or your payment processing system gives you nightmares?  You WILL be ok if not all your donors are on a monthly gift.  Don’t force it if you don’t have the infrastructure to do it well.

You Have to Be Data Driven Or You Ain’t Jack, Jack
Yes. Data will help you.  A lot.  Wealth screenings are sooooooo much better than they used to be.  But not to the exclusion of everything else.

We Should Do Another Event!
Do you already have a good one in your arsenal that generates good money AND encourages attendees to continue giving after the event?  Then no.  No, you don’t need another event.  Stop.

But I Just Went To This Great Event and They Had Bendy Acrobats!
Fabulous.  I’ll RSVP for you for next year.  Don’t do another event.

We’ve Got to Get On Crowdfunding
Crowdfunding sites and programs are great tools, a wonderful addition to our toolbelts.  Do you have time to manage one?  Do you have the resources?  It’s ok if you don’t.

Get on Social Media
Stop thinking the intern can manage social media just because they’re a Millennial.  If you can’t do it really well and have it support your fundraising efforts, it’s better to not have presence than to have weak or intermittent posts just when you’re trying to hit goal.

Focus on Millennials!
And Gen-Xers and Boomers and every other generation.  Focus on identifying the people, regardless of their generation, who are passionate about your organization, tell them great stories, encourage them to get involved in other ways (i.e. volunteering) and they will come along for the ride.

Here’s the ONE f***ing* thing you must do.

You must love your donors.  All donors.  Even the corporations and foundations.  It’s their vision, it’s their passion, it’s their concept of how they see themselves that they’re putting on the line.  Your job is to steward that with love.

You must cultivate them, you must ask them, you must thank them, you must steward them and you must Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel.

And it must follow, as the night the day, your fundraising will be a lot easier, a lot less painful, a lot more full of love and you’ll be able to use what you can from the list above as effectively as possible to nurture the great relationships you have with all those donors.  Whose information is stored in a CRM and not an Excel file.  Because that’s another must.

Create the best possible plan from everything we know about fundraising that works, do those things you can do REALLY well, focus on the donors and it WILL happen.  I promise.

*Fundraising.  Geez.  This is a family blog.

p.s. It’s also really hard when you have leadership or boards saying, “What you SHOULD do is this . . . .”  You’re the expert.  Learn what really works for your organization (TRY doing a direct mail appeal – if it fails, now you know) so that you can respond with, “Yes, we should, but right now we’re focusing on this, this and this that are generating great results for us.  Let’s talk about investing in additional staff and resources to make that great suggestion of yours work.”

p.p.s.  I am very proud to serve on the Advisory Panel for Rogare, who has launched their Theory of Change for Fundraising today.  A key component of this theory is helping fundraisers ask the right questions.  Same is true for implementing the best fundraising program – ask the right questions of your organization, implement what’s best for you and let go of the things that don’t.

 

That’s Not a Major Gift

At least five times over the last week or so I’ve heard the statement, “$x level is NOT a major gift; don’t waste your time on those” or “Those low-level donors aren’t giving major gifts.  They’re nice gifts, sure, but they’re not major gifts.”

Let me tell you about Jane.  I adore Jane.  She was accidentally invited to a recognition event that her donation technically didn’t entitle her to.  She gave $50 per quarter, over one year, for a total of $200.  On a credit card.  For five years, faithfully.

Jane LOVES . . . no, she LIVES the mission.   And at this event she said to me, “I so wish I could do more; I’m retired and I know I can do the $200, but anything more and I’m worried I wouldn’t be able to pay it off, but I WISH I could do more.”  I reassured it that she was appreciated, we had a lovely conversation and now every time I see Jane – which is frequently – we talk about grandkids and dogs and wonderful, wonderful things.

We did have a brief conversation, early on, about giving $50 monthly.  Which she realized she could do very easily, she’d just never thought about it from a monthly perspective.  Jane now gives $600.

And that’s a major gift.

For Jane.

Does it meet the minimum institutional major gift threshold?  No.  Is Jane recognized as a major donor?  No; she doesn’t want to be.  Does Jane get a yearly stewardship lunch at a fancy restaurant?  No.  Sometimes I run into Jane at Starbucks and I do buy her coffee.

But everybody in administration knows Jane.  And sometimes we talk to Jane about ideas and upcoming ideas.  And we know that Jane is giving, right now, at the highest level she can.  And, oh my gosh, do we appreciate her.

There are plenty of other $600 donors who just write a check in response to direct mail.  And there are some major gift donors who do the same – they don’t want lunch or courting or schmoozing, they just respond.  God love ’em.  And they’re at or above the “identified major gift threshold.”

Can an Annual Fund Director afford to invest in every $100 donor to find their Jane?  Of course not, absolutely not – especially in large-volume shops.

But Janes – like cream – ALWAYS rise.  There’s always a Jane, popping up like a prairie dog going, “Anybody paying attention to me?”

And to say, “Don’t waste your time on Jane” means you missed out on a really lovely relationship.  That may – or may not – turn into a deeper engagement for both of you.

The trick is to recognize the Janes when they come your way and not have a preconceived idea that says, “Well, can’t do anything for her because it’s not a major gift.”

For Jane it’s a very major gift.