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Fundraising

Fundraising Trends in 2018

By | Fundraising, News You Can Use, Nonprofit Marketing, Technology | No Comments

Don’t let your organization miss out on fundraising opportunities in our ever-evolving field. This month we are looking at five small-scale strategies that can be achieved through embracing technology.

  1. AmazonSmile – Make sure your organization is registered to accept gifts from your Amazon-friendly supporters. This program allows a portion of all Amazon purchases to be donated to the user’s preferred nonprofit organization, thanks to the AmazonSmile Foundation. Inform your donors of this easy way to support your organization while buying the things they need. You can register your organization here. While you are there, don’t forget to make a Wish List for your organization. Having a Wish List allows those who want to help get the best possible products for your organization’s needs. Donors can add your preselected items of need to their cart and they will be delivered to your door with no extra hassle to your donor. Advertise your Wish List and AmazonSmile profile on your website and remind donors around Black Friday and other holidays when they will be buying more things online.
  2. Crowdfunding and Giving Days – Crowdfunding projects are becoming more successful because they combine a specific fundraising goal with an urgent deadline. Campaigns in this manner have elements of fun and social sharing that create a mix with the potential to raise serious money. Social circle fundraising is becoming more common as donors who are beginning their giving are deciding where their money goes. Your organization can capitalize on social circle funding by meeting a new donor base. Don’t have a specific project to crowdfund at this time? Host a giving day for your organization and get a flood of new volunteers and first-time donors. Make sure to capture these new donors and send personalized thanks following the day of giving to reinforce your organization’s connection with them. Small and mid-sized nonprofits can have bigger impacts with less monetary commitment with these campaigns – all you need is a little social media “know-how.” Be sure to check out JB+A’s post on crowdfunding.
  3. Facebook Live and YouTube – According to Cisco, by 2019, video content will be responsible for 85% of all U.S. internet traffic. Videos allow nonprofits to have stronger connections with their donors by showing the personal side of your organization. Videos are easy to digest by the viewer and can be shared in your donors’ networks through their social platforms. Showcase your organization and what makes you different and separate from others in your community. Try hosting a YouTube or Facebook Live video to reach your donors as a thank you or progress report. Make sure to showcase your organization’s impact and unique personality. Check out additional tips for using Facebook Live.
  4. Digital Transactions – Here is another way Facebook and YouTube can help your organization fundraise. Digital payments on Social Networks, Facebook Fundraising Tools, Periscope Coins and YouTube Donation Cards are all new ways to make it easier for donors to connect and donate to your organization. With an increasingly large donor base who primarily donates via technology, now is the time to consider accepting these newer methods of payment.
  5. Let your Organization Speak – Be “in the moment” with your donors using communication via Twitter. Twitter can allow organizations to be more transparent with donors by communicating what your organization is doing day-to-day. Having your CEO or President send a message or sharing a client testimonial can help your donors feel informed and like they have an “in” to your community. Add up-to-date progress on campaigns and events to make donors feel more included and involved. Have a gala or special event occurring? Send live in-the-moment updates as your event takes place.

These trends will never replace more traditional methods of fundraising but as competition for donor attention and investment in your organization becomes more difficult, having multiple and varied ways to reach donors and allow them to interact with your organization is becoming more important. The above listed trends have many benefits – including the fact that they require minimal front-end cost and can have an added impact to your already scheduled development plans.

Moving the Needle: What Might Be Possible for Philanthropy in America?

By | All Posts, Commentary, Current Events/News, Fundraising, Giving USA, Legislative + Advocacy, The Giving Institute, Uncategorized | No Comments

Leaders in the nonprofit and fundraising sector are gathering soon, through an effort spearheaded by The Giving Institute, to begin developing a plan to help increase charitable giving in America.

American individuals, estates, foundations and corporations contributed an estimated $390.05 billion to U.S. charities in 2016, according to Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016. Total giving rose 2.7 percent in current dollars (1.4 percent adjusted for inflation) over total giving in 2015, and giving to all nine major categories of recipient organizations grew, making 2016 just the sixth time in the past 40 years that this has occurred.

This growth in giving is good.  Yet total giving as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) continues to hover around 2.0 percent as it has for the last six years. So, The Giving Institute is coordinating discussions about a national plan to “move the needle.”

JB+A President + CEO Jeffrey Byrne, who served as Board Chair of The Giving Institute from 2015-2017, is among several nonprofit thought leaders who are part of an initial “working committee” to start dialogue about an examination of giving practices and how to increase giving while incorporating input from several people from several sectors (nonprofit, government, corporate, etc.)

Approximately two dozen people will be meeting in Dallas on February 7 to continue developing components of the plan:  focus of the work, organization as a legal entity, potential leadership and staffing, funding, research, information dissemination, federal recognition, communications and building support.

This national examination of giving practices is similar to “The Commission on Private Philanthropy and Public Needs” in 1973-1975, most commonly known as “The Filer Commission.” This historical effort was spearheaded by John Filer, chairman of Aetna Insurance, and initiated by John D. Rockefeller, III, after the Tax Reform Act of 1969 was passed.  The Commission’s report, “Giving in America,”  contained recommendations that fell into three categories: 1) proposals involving taxes and giving, 2) interaction among donors, recipients and the public – those who affect the philanthropic process and 3) a proposal for a permanent commission on the nonprofit sector. The commission scrutinized government inducements to giving and considered alternatives such as tax credits and matching grant systems. Members felt the charitable deduction should be “retained and added on to rather than replaced by another form of governmental encouragement to giving.”

There were six main objectives for the commission’s final report: 1) increase the number of people who contribute significantly to and participate in nonprofit activities, 2) increase the amount of giving, 3) increase inducements to giving by those in low- and middle-income brackets, 4) preserve private choice in giving, 5) minimize income loss of nonprofit organizations that depend on the current pattern of giving and 6) be as efficient as possible (meaning, the new levels of  contributions stimulated should at least approximate the amount of government revenue foregone in order to provide this stimulus.) thought leader and participant in this critical/revolutionary time for philanthropy.

JB+A is excited to be part of this exciting and pivotal time for philanthropy – and discovering what might be possible for philanthropy in America in the years ahead.

*Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy in America, has produced comprehensive charitable giving data that are relied on by donors, fundraisers and nonprofit leaders. The research in this annual report estimates all giving to all charitable organizations across the United States.  Giving USA is a public outreach initiative of Giving USA FoundationTM and is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Giving USA FoundationTM, established in 1985 by The Giving Institute, endeavors to advance philanthropy through research and education. Explore Giving USA products and resources, including free highlights of each annual report at its online store at www.givingusa.org for more information.

Tax Reform is Here, but without the Universal Charitable Deduction

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Boards + Leadership, Commentary, Current Events/News, Fundraising, Legislative + Advocacy, News You Can Use, Strategic Planning | No Comments

Through its membership in The Giving Institute (our President + CEO Jeffrey Byrne served as Board Chair for two years) JB+A is a member of the Charitable Giving Coalition (CGC). Below is the statement from the CGC on the final tax reform bill. Join the CGC in reaching out to your Congressional Representatives and U.S. Senators to let them know of the positive impact the charitable deduction has on philanthropy and your organization. 

12/20/17 – CGC DISAPPOINTED CONGRESS FAILS TO ENACT UNIVERSAL CHARITABLE DEDUCTION IN REFORM; VOWS TO CONTINUE PUSH IN 2018

As Congress moves to enact tax reform legislation, lawmakers are failing America’s charities. Instead of preserving a tax incentive that for the past century has helped build a strong and vibrant charitable sector, the final tax reform bill effectively eliminates the charitable deduction for 95% of all taxpayers, dealing a harsh blow to organizations on the frontlines of serving those most in need.

In real terms, more than 30 million taxpayers will no longer be able to deduct their charitable gifts, which will translate to a decline of more than $13 billion in charitable contributions annually. This decline represents between 4% and 6.5% of contributions according to studies by Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and Tax Policy Center.

Along with leaders from charities across the country, the Charitable Giving Coalition has spent the past year urging members of Congress to address the negative impact on giving that will be triggered by increasing the standard deduction. Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers recognized this reality and its negative consequences. Unfortunately, despite clear and convincing evidence that the plans as introduced will reduce giving, the final tax bill does not include a “fix,” such as a universal charitable deduction for all taxpayers who will take the standard deduction. A universal charitable deduction would not only help recoup the anticipated loss of charitable contributions, but would also promote fairness by allowing all taxpayers to deduct their contributions.

The CGC recognizes that the final tax reform bill maintains the charitable deduction for the limited number of taxpayers who will continue to itemize. The bill also makes two positive adjustments for those taxpayers. First, it allows itemizers to deduct charitable contributions of cash up to 60% of their adjusted gross income (AGI), increasing that limitation from the current 50% level. Second, it repeals the Pease limitation, which had reduced the value of itemized deductions for higher income taxpayers.

While these changes are positive adjustments for the charitable deduction, they will, in no way, make up for the limited availability of the charitable deduction and the loss of billions of dollars in charitable contributions annually.

The stark reality for most charities is that, as government budgets continue to shrink, especially for social services and other programs that benefit communities, charitable contributions are a critical lifeline. Given this reality, it is extraordinarily short-sighted to limit incentives for private contributions to charity. Charitable contributions and the charitable tax deduction are critical for organizations doing vital work in our communities, particularly the small, local charities and congregations already being run on a shoe-string budget that are likely to be hardest-hit by reduced giving. Losing 4-6.5% of their annual budgets will be devastating to these charities and to the vulnerable communities they often serve.

The CGC is deeply committed to pursuing a universal charitable deduction when Congress reconvenes in 2018. In recent months, a groundswell of support has grown among both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and House. Several members demonstrated they understood the implications on charitable giving of tax reform proposals. And, they acted, introducing both legislation and amendments during consideration of the tax bill. The CGC is deeply grateful for Members’ outspoken support and will build on this momentum to expand the charitable tax deduction to all American taxpayers.

To learn more about the CGC, visit protectgiving.org

See more analysis of tax reform from Dr. Patrick Rooney with the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Avoiding the Thask

By | Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, News You Can Use, Stewardship | No Comments

The end of the year brings with it two distinct “seasons” in the continuum of our donor relationships within our organizations.  The first of course begins in November with the season of Thanks. This is a time in which we take a moment to truly acknowledge those who have supported us throughout the year by giving of their time, talent and treasure. It is important to be thoughtful in crafting meaningful communications across multiple channels to support your stewardship program.  Hopefully you are doing this all year long when donations are received, however it is worth not letting this seasonal opportunity pass you by.

The second season that we run into immediately following the season of Thanks is the season of Giving. Kicked off the Tuesday following Thanksgiving with #GivingTuesday and running through year end giving campaigns.  We are all aware that December is the highest giving month of the year, weather that is due to the spirit of the holidays or the last month to make donations for tax deduction purposes.

Thus we come to the point of this article. It should be considered a fundraising faux pas to combine these two distinct messages with each other, creating a THASK or a thank you/ask.  While this may seem efficient through perceived cost and time saving benefits to your organization a “Thask” is the antithesis of a donor centric model, with negative impacts on your organizations culture of philanthropy.   Please enjoy the poem by Stephanie Vorhees entitled “The Thask” to fully understand the ramifications a Thask can have to your nonprofit.

By combining a thank you message with a request for funds, you have thus negated the appreciation of past support, as the donor will immediately focus on the new request for funds.  According to industry best practices, a donor should be thanked or acknowledged between five to seven times before they receive another solicitation from you.  These can be as simple as phone calls, hand written thank you notes, e-cards, social media shout outs, listings in newsletters, annual report materials, appreciation events, or any other creative way that aligns with your mission and donor preferences.

As we look towards the end of 2017 and beginning a new year in 2018, remember to take the time during this busy season of fundraising to truly acknowledge the impact your donors have to your daily operations, programs and services.  By taking the time to express gratitude you deepen the relationship with your donors. Let’s together agree to make “Thasking” a thing of the past.

#GivingTuesday Is Right Around the Corner

By | All Posts, Annual Giving, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, News You Can Use, Nonprofit Marketing, Social Media, Technology | No Comments

A little more than a month away, #GivingTuesday falls on November 28th this year. In 2016, #GivingTuesday raised more than $177 million through $1.64 million gifts in 98 countries around the world. Be sure to watch for #GivingTuesday billboards throughout Kansas City: for the sixth year in a row, Lamar Advertising  is collaborating with JB+A to support this global day of giving, by generously providing pro bono digital billboards throughout the Greater Kansas City Metro.

Here are three important steps to take now for a successful #GivingTuesday this fall:

  1. Identify your #GivingTuesday Program/Theme Focus
    Highlight a specific program or immediate need to create your communications talking points and grab donors’ attention. Setting a fundraising goal that is attainable and clearly ties back to what it will help your organization accomplish increases excitement and participation.
  2. Create your #Hashtag
    Identify your unique #hashtag for your #GivingTuesday campaign based on the program or theme you have selected. Be sure to make it short and relevant to your organization and something easy for people to remember.
  3. Alert donors, volunteers and other constituents
    Let folks know via email and your website (and in any already scheduled correspondence) about your #GivingTuesday plans and educate them about the social media channels your organization will be using.  Don’t forget to arm them with your #hashtag.

For more tips about creating a solid #GivingTuesday campaign, download your own “JB+A #GivingTuesday Guide.”

Corporate Giving – Are You Tapping This Resource for Your Nonprofit?

By | All Posts, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Giving USA, News You Can Use | No Comments

Katie Lord, Vice President

It’s once again that time of year when our corporate partners/prospects are beginning to look at budgeting and goal-setting for the next fiscal year. It’s also the time of year when we, as nonprofit fundraisers, should be setting up cultivation touch points with this donor segment.  Notice I did not say “annual meetings with our corporate partners.”  As with all of our donors, we should not only be meeting with them to make the “ask,” but to also “take the temperature of the relationship” to further grow the partnership.

According to the Giving USA 2017: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2016, Corporate Giving made up 5% or $18.55 billion of the $390.05 in total giving in the United States last year.  While Corporate Giving is the smallest segment of the sources of giving, there has been an increase in Corporate Giving over the past several years: it is up 3.5% from last year alone.  With Millennials emerging as the largest generation in the workforce, it is important to understand the continual emergence and changing attitudes of the corporate sector on social responsibility.

When approaching a corporate entity, be sure you’ve done your research.  Learn as much as you can about the business, the products/services, who customers are, earnings, etc.  This research can be done by looking at the company’s website, LinkedIn page, local business publications and a quick Google search.  Most importantly, do not go into a meeting with your own pre-conceived notion of what the corporation would want or a “standard” offering or sponsorship menu for them to choose from.  Each corporation or business, just like each individual, is unique – with its own identity, goals and needs.

With the continued evolution of the fundraising and business landscapes, one size no longer fits all when building corporate relationships and donor growth.  There are now multiple ways that nonprofits can benefit from corporate philanthropy, including paid volunteer time for employees, matching gift programs, sponsorship dollars, peer to peer internal fundraising campaigns, cause marketing opportunities and corporate foundations just to name a few.  Be sure to explore all of these possibilities and combinations with your prospective/current corporate partner to ensure the optimum outcome.

Be prepared for your meeting.  Before your meeting, have thoughtful and tailored specific questions, be able to discuss what a charitable partnership looks like and how both parties can measure outcomes and success.  Ask open-ended questions and then LISTEN to the answers.  It is important to be able to articulate how a partnership can be mutually beneficial, by helping the business achieve its goals internally while simultaneously having an impact on your organization and the community externally.

If you are renewing a relationship, be able to illustrate the outcomes of your partnership or projected outcomes.  Include numbers such as digital impressions, value of corporate volunteer time to the organization and what sponsorship dollars were able to achieve.   Also share personal results, quotes from any employees about the impact the partnership had on them or stories of people who directly benefitted from the financial support the corporation provided the organization.

Corporate Giving is a vast resource in our nonprofit communities.  Creativity is important and it is mandatory to think outside the proverbial box in order to meet the changing landscape of corporations, their employees and social responsibility. Gone are the days of offering corporations a set menu of charitable options.  We, as nonprofit professionals, have to be able to entice corporations to build sustainable relationships with the positive outcomes of our partnership.  We have to learn and grow with them by offering innovative ways to contribute to the nonprofit organizations in their communities with their donor dollars, the support of their employees and the positive impact of their contributions in time, talent and treasure.

Leadership is Fundraising, Says the Philanthropy Professor

By | Commentary, Fundraising, Organizational + Personal Development, Uncategorized | No Comments

JB+A is pleased to share this blog from Dr. Amir Pasic, our friend and colleague.  Dr. Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean and Professor of Philanthropic Studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, joined us in Kansas City on September 14 for a special presentation on the value of research and how it informs leadership and fundraising success.

I like to praise the virtues of excellent fundraising in pursuit of a great mission conducted ethically by leaders of exemplary integrity. Seasoned fundraisers, wherever they sit within an organization or in its supporting environment, understand the virtuous cycle that appears with a successful fundraising program. There is focus on strategic priorities, buy-in from inside the organization and throughout the community of supporters, clear plans for interacting with donors and friends across all segments and phases of engagement, and there is celebration of the people who provide the resources that enable progress in pursuit of the organization’s vital vision.

I often wonder if leadership that does not emulate the process of fundraising even makes sense. When does a leader not ask others to do things differently, or to stop doing certain things, or to let go of possessions or practices, which they then do willingly and happily? And not only do I like to think of leadership and fundraising as synonyms in many ways, but as fundraising practitioners well know, your title or your position does not necessarily reflect your ability to succeed. Indeed, virtuosos of leadership and fundraising manage to make a difference regardless of their official position.

In such challenging and often ambiguous situations how does one grasp what to focus on and decide where to direct one’s activity? One key resource that any leader needs is research. How do we know what works, and just as importantly, what does not? How can we understand the complexity of what motivates a donor? How can we assess the impact of our efforts? And, in the bigger picture, how can we hope to address societal problems or develop effective strategies unless we have reliable insight into new developments in our field and into the patterns and trends that help us understand the ever-changing context within which we work. Rigorous, high quality research is an important component in virtually all aspects of the work of philanthropy, and it is through better research that we will achieve even better results.

Check out a recap of Dr. Pasic’s presentation in Kansas City.

Dr. Amir Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean and Professor of Philanthropic Studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Joined us in Kansas City

By | All Posts, Commentary, Events, Fundraising, News You Can Use, Organizational + Personal Development | No Comments

Dr. Pasic spoke to a captive audience at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center on September 14 as part of Nonprofit Connect’s 501(c)Success National Speaker Series.  Dr. Pasic, the Eugene R. Tempel Dean and Professor of Philanthropic Studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, shared his expertise and experience in the value of research, and how we can use this valuable tool to improve fundraising and philanthropy.

Dr. Pasic reminded us that essentially, leadership is fundraising, and asked the poignant question, “If a leader isn’t fundraising, is he really a leader?” Dr. Pasic pointed out leadership and fundraising both involve 1) building relationships, 2) engaging, asking and recognizing and 3) creating vision and buy-in. Check out Dr. Pasic’s blog on this very topic.

Key highlights from Dr. Pasic’s presentation included some great examples of people putting research into action:

  • Jane Chu, PhD, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (Rockhurst grad, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy alum and previous director of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts Center) and how she used research to illustrate the impact of the arts and cultural industries on the nation’s gross domestic product.
  • Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy, measures the financial scope of philanthropy in the U.S. and is fundamental to fundraising. The seminal report on charitable giving, Giving USA is the longest-running and most comprehensive evaluation of philanthropic trends in the United States. Giving USA is published by the Giving USA Foundation and is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

Dr. Pasic also pointed out that in addition to utilizing research for evaluation or benchmarking purposes, we can also use research to help identify impact, areas needing funding and other issues in our sector, such as recruiting and retaining talent.

Jeffrey Byrne (JB+A), Dr. Amir Pasic and Lewis Gregory (US Trust)

Dr. Pasic also address some of the “hot topics” in fundraising research now, such as Crowdfunding, Donor-Advised Funds and disaster giving. Crowdfunding is on the rise, and in 2015, $34.44 billion was generated in Crowdfunding, with $2.8 billion of that total raised for formal charitable purposes.

The prevalence of Donor-Advised Funds is increasing as well, both in the number of funds and the total assets held within them:  in 2006, there were 140,000 DAFs holding assets of $33.6 billion.  By 2016, those figures had grown to 269,000 and $78.6 billion respectively.  And in 2015, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund unseated United Way Worldwide as the largest fundraising charity, having collected $4.6 billion. And three of the Top 10 largest fundraising charities on the list are commercial DAFs: Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, Schwab Charitable Fund and National Christian Foundation. More than half of all DAFs are held in commercial funds and this hot topic is raising questions about their usage: what are the benefits versus the costs to society and the nonprofit sector?  What is the overall impact?  Are DAFS displacing other forms of giving?

The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy has been tracking disaster giving since the attacks of 9/11.  Typically following a disaster, we see a sharp uptick in donations in the first six weeks, with continued moderate growth through six months then finally leveling out.  Celebrities are very prominent in disaster giving (J.J. Watt raised more than $30 million for Hurricane Harvey relief) and the key element in disaster giving is mass participation.  And in times of disaster, we overcome our differences and unite as one force to help those in need.

Dr. Pasic discussed the different types of research:

  • quantitative studies (such as Giving USA, Million Dollar List and The Salvation Army Human Needs Index)
  • experiments (take us away from our “rules of thumb” and comfort zones, but help us discover more effective ways of doing things)
  • humanities (qualitative exploration – such as the Smithsonian Exhibit on Philanthropy (Giving in America is a permanent exhibit that looks at the historical role of philanthropy in shaping the United States)
  • studies of the profession (gender composition of the field, diversity in the field and other issues like compensation and tenure
  • public policy (tax reform, regulations, ethical guidelines for dealing with grateful patients and better educating legislators about our field)

Research asks the questions, in a variety of ways, “Why do things fail? Why do things succeed?”  Bottom line, research helps us cultivate judgement, create communities of discovery and develop leaders – all of which will help us strengthen philanthropy and our world.

Join JB+A, U.S. Trust and Nonprofit Connect for Dr. Amir Pasic on Thursday, September 14

By | All Posts, Boards + Leadership, Current Events/News, Events, Fundraising, Organizational + Personal Development | No Comments

Dr. Amir Pasic is the Eugene R. Tempel Dean and Professor of Philanthropic Studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Pasic leads the world’s first school devoted to the study and teaching of philanthropy.

The school is an internationally recognized leader in philanthropy education, research and training and is dedicated to improving philanthropy to benefit the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change.

Dr. Pasic will address how an organization’s leadership and fundraising staff must be focused on the same things to make fundraising efforts successful. How do leaders and fundraising practitioners grasp what to focus on and decide where to direct their activity? One key resource that any leader needs is research:

  • How do we know what works, and just as importantly, what does not?
  • How can we understand the complexity of what motivates a donor?
  • How can we assess the impact of our efforts?
  • How can we hope to address societal problems or develop effective strategies unless we have reliable insight into new developments in our field?

Rigorous, high-quality research is an important component in virtually all aspects of the work of philanthropy, and it is through better research that we will achieve even better results.  Join us to meet Dr. Pasic and discuss how research can inform success.

Reserve your spot and register here.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

7:30 – 9:00 a.m.
7:30 a.m. – Breakfast | 7:55 a.m. – Program
Kauffman Foundation Conference Center
4801 Rockhill Road
Kansas City, MO 64110
JB+A is a proud sponsor of the 2017 501(c)Success National Speaker Series,
a program of Nonprofit Connect
501(c) Success National Speaker Series

Do Your Homework, Sit Still and LISTEN

By | All Posts, Donor Cultivation, Fundraising, Major Gift Solicitation, News You Can Use, Organizational + Personal Development, Prospect Research, Volunteers | No Comments

Jeffrey D. Byrne, President + CEO

We know to do our homework on prospective donors. You’ve heard me say time and again “Don’t commit fundraising malpractice!” (See my blog piece on the benefits of prospect research here.)That means do your research – because it reveals information about the wealth and capacity of prospects as well as information about philanthropic giving history, community involvement, natural partners and connections. And your donor database should contain important notes about your prospects and interactions with them. Prepare for your visit.

Sitting still tells your audience you really care about what they should say. Don’t shuffle your papers. Don’t check your phone. Don’t fidget. Sitting still lets you hear what your prospective donor should tell you about their life story and experiences – maybe even how a single instance changed their life. You can learn why they are passionate about your organization and its mission.

I believe in order to be a great fundraiser, you have to be a good – if not great – listener. Human nature might urge you to fill quiet moments with a remark or an anecdote. Of course you are nervous, and anxious to impress. You certainly want to make a connection you can build upon later. But it is in those quiet moments that you, as a volunteer or professional, can learn the most.  Waiting for the prospective donor to share might result in hearing firsthand how your healthcare institution saved their life. You might learn a relative was a long-time volunteer. You might learn how an agency similar to yours provided their mother with safety and refuge from domestic violence.  Resist the urge to talk about yourself.  Ask prospective donors about themselves…and then listen to what they say. Some good lead-ins might include:

  • “Tell me more about that …”
  • “What did she/he say about that…?”
  • “What happened next …?”
  • “What made you decide to …?”

You get the idea. You can think up your own list of “conversation engagers” that will help you get to know your prospective donor and involve them in the meeting. The bottom line is this: regardless of with whom you are meeting, when you get your prospective donors talking about themselves – when you ask about them – your prospective donor will come away from the visit feeling much more satisfied and positive about you and your organization than if you had used the time trying to tell them the 50 wonderful things you are doing to make a difference.

However, all of this doesn’t mean you should not educate your listeners about your organization and your mission. I’d suggest you use the 80/20 rule. Inform 20 percent of the time and LISTEN the other 80 percent.

In training staff and volunteers to make major gift solicitations, we place considerable emphasis on setting the appointment, sharing the vision and asking for the gift. Think about all the times we practice the script for the call or role-play the visit.  But how often do we practice listening? If you have volunteers who are reluctant to go on solicitation calls, think about how can coaching them on listening style can help them overcome their jitters about making the “ask.”

And finally, care about what’s being said and commit it to memory. Make notes when you leave if you need to capture details. This kind of active listening and remembering stems from truly caring about the donor. Don’t let the lure of a gift keep you from truly caring and listening to the prospective donor’s words. If you are listening and caring (and, of course, remembering to ask for the gift,) the gift will come.