Fundraising is Paper Towels

Thanksgiving was wonderful and I hope yours was, too.  So many things to be thankful for – like making new friends!

We met a lovely couple who are both donors and volunteers at various local nonprofits, so of course the conversation turned to stories from the trenches.

Our new friend spends some time volunteering at a local homeless service agency and went in recently to serve lunch.  Here’s how she put it:

I was asked to make sandwiches for bagged lunches they distribute, so I gloved up and headed into the kitchen.  In the process of preparing to make sandwiches, I spilled something on the counter.  “Where would I find paper towels?” I asked and the response I got was, “We are out of paper towels and they won’t be delivered until next Tuesday, so just use one of these kitchen towels.”  And, with that, she handed me a kitchen towel that had clearly been used before and, even with anti-bacterial cleaner, I didn’t think was very sanitary.  I was just so shocked they didn’t have paper towels.”

So, instead of making sandwiches, she hopped in her car and went to a bulk supply store and bought paper towels.  Great!  Thanks to a great volunteer and donor!

When she asked, though, why they didn’t just order more, the response she got was, “We just can’t afford them – it’s not in the budget.  We can only get x amount per year and we can only get what’s in our standing bi-weekly shipment.”

What potentially stood between a hungry person and lunch was a lack of paper towels.

Paper towels.

Because buying more wasn’t in the budget.

This is the Overhead Myth in action.  This is a highly reputable, well-respected, tightly run organization.  And yet one of their front-line people knows that sometimes what stands between a hungry person and a meal is a paper towel.

There is no metric in the world that measures Paper Towel ROI (PTROI).  There’s no report that indicates the ratio of paper towel to less food insecurity.  But I’m willing to bet Paper Towels never show up in any program budget or case statement.

Paper Towels are the Annual Fund.  (Which is not Annual and not a Fund, I know, I know.)

Paper Towels are operations, they’re overhead, they’re not sexy, they don’t generate results.

And yet . . . sometimes the lack of a Paper Towel stands between a hungry person and a meal.

And if that isn’t the most powerful case for general operational support, I don’t know what it is.  Fundraising is (very often) paper towels.

Why Candace, the Chewbacca Mask woman, is the best fundraiser in the world

A week or so ago I posted the blog below – Candace Payne, “Chewbacca Mom,” the best fundraiser in the world.  Now watch this:

“It is not lost on me that it is because of you guys.  I love you.”

She is NAILING this thing!  She just pours joy and gratitude into each post and, then, BAM!, turns it back to us.

That’s how it’s done, folks.

 

 

ORIGINAL POST:

Have you seen this video?

Hilarious.  Her name is Candace Payne and she’s the best fundraiser in the world right now.

Why?

She invited us in to her joy.  She shared a simple story and posted it online and it went from there.  It’s been seen more than 64 million times and I’m willing to bet you can’t find a Chewbacca mask anywhere.

She invited us in to her joy.

I have no idea who Candace Payne is but I totally want to hang out with her.  I had no desire for a Chewbacca mask but I DO NOW!!!

She is genuine and effusive and authentic and joyful.  She’s the best fundraiser in the world.

UPDATE: 5/24/2016

Since I first posted this over the weekend, Candace Payne is now a household name and has been on just about every morning show there is.  The video is into the hundreds of millions of views and you really, truly can’t find a Chewbacca mask anywhere.

Then this:

corden-chewie

“Chewbacca Mom Takes James Corden to Work”

Other people – celebrities, even – are joining in.

Because she invited them into her joy.  That’s fundraising. That’s the best fundraising there is.

Philanthropic Culture in the Annual Fund

human-1375474_1920

Building A Culture of Philanthropy! Does Your Organization Have a Culture of Philanthropy?  What’s Your Philanthropic Culture?  GET YOUR BOARD ON BOARD!

I dunno, sometimes I think the only culture I get is from yogurt.

yogurt-1039309_1920

Ba dum bum. *cymbal*

Discussing the development of a culture of philanthropy is absolutely the right thing to do.  Working towards a culture of philanthropy should be a high priority.  Tirelessly working towards it should be Job #1 in an NPO.

But it’s very hard to do when there are so many non-fundraisers who have negative views of fundraising.  Say “fundraising” to a non-fundraiser and they immediately think the multiple emails and hundreds of letters and tons of phone calls – i.e., primarily annual fund techniques.

Developing a culture of philanthropy begins with how we talk to our donors and prospects about giving in our acquisition and renewal process.

And how we talk to our colleagues and leadership about what the Annual Fund is.

The Annual Fund isn’t annual.

When you say “fundraising” to most people, even those in the nonprofit sector, they hear “being pestered for money.”  Rarely is the immediate impression that lovely lunch they had where someone asked their opinion and then they felt compelled to support an organization because they believed in it so much.

And, so, we get “focus on major gifts” and “let’s have more events” and “we should really be going after more grants.”  Because nobody wants to be a pest.

An “annual fund that isn’t annual” is about inviting people to be a part of something.  It’s about the donor’s interest and passions and it’s about embracing them where they are and opening the opportunity to them to be part of our mission.

This is what storytelling is all about.  It’s where donor-centered and data-driven intersect.  It’s creating a sense that we aren’t pestering the donor for money, but, instead telling the donor the incredible impact they can have.

And it’s about doing that through direct mail and e-solicitation and phone-a-thon and thank yous and a whole lot of transactional stuff that we have the obligation, the requirement, to make about them.  The Donor.  The Philanthropist.

It’s scale.  It’s doing everything possible to make that massive mailing sound like it’s written from one person to another.  It’s mimicking the best practices of major gift, one-on-one conversation in massive quantities (and massive is relative – 100 or 100,000, they’re still individual communications from one person to another).

It’s about me and you.  Mine and yours.  And what we can accomplish together.

Like any good journey, the development of culture starts with one step, one person and a passion to change the world.

 

 

What’s the Big Deal about Fundraising?

About five years ago, as I was transitioning responsibilities to a new colleague, I was asked the fundamental question, “So, really, what is the big deal about Fundraising?  I just don’t see what’s so special about it.  You just call and ask for money.”

And it stopped me in my tracks, because I couldn’t answer the question.

At this point, I had been in fundraising right at 20 years and considered myself a pretty strong expert.  I’d worked with over 200 different clients of all shapes, sizes and focus.  I had run annual funds, capital and endowment campaigns, helped build boards and crossed over the tens of millions in dollars raised.

And I could not answer the question, “What’s the big deal about fundraising”?

I could list techniques and process and best practices.  I could cite Si Seymour, Penelope Burk and Jerold Panas on a whim.  I could rant about retention rates and donor-centered acquisition and moves management.  But I couldn’t answer the question:

What is the Big Deal About Fundraising?

And I was indignant that this . . . this . . . this . . . neophyte, this marketer, this direct response-type person would even ask.

I’m an easy mark.  Once I’ve been challenged to do something – or told something can’t be done – I have to go and find the answer.  I had to prove that fundraising was not just about asking for money.  And I had to prove it to myself.

So began a quest – one that I am still on and that I hope continues for many years to come – to answer that very simple question.

One thing I have discovered in the process is that I love the $50 donor.  Or the $100, or the $1,000 or the $25.  These generous souls give what they can and without them, the house of the nonprofit doesn’t stand.  They are the base of the donor pyramid.  They are the foundation and the entry point of (almost) all support.

So, what’s the big deal about fundraising in the annual fund?

The big deal is that the annual fund – regardless of size, focus, goal or strategy – is about building strong, sustainable relationships with people who have the passion and commitment to fulfill your organization’s mission.

The big deal about fundraising is that it’s about relationships. And telling wonderful stories that build relationships.