INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 14)
Getting Board Members to Give • By Jerold Panas
Paul Folino is Chair of the Performing Arts Center in Orange County, California. Recently we had a conversation about the importance of board members giving to their organizations.
What Paul tells me may surprise you.
“Here, the stated expectation is $50,000 a year,” he says. “If they can’t meet that, they’re asked to serve in some other capacity, perhaps on a committee.”
I’m incredulous. “Do you mean every trustee gives $50,000 a year?”
“Yes they do,” he says emphatically.
But that’s not all. Paul says each trustee is expected to bring in at least that much from others in the county.
“We follow the dictum: Give, Get, or Get off!”
My first thought is, Good grief, you must have trouble recruiting trustees. But as I learn from Paul, there’s actually a waiting list. Imagine – people lining up to give $50,000!
|This is an excerpt from Jerold Panas' book, The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards. For more information, click here.
What has happened is that by raising the bar, there’s a certain social caché to belonging to the board of the Performing Arts Center. It’s considered an honor. I’m reminded of what Groucho Marx said: “I’d never belong to a club that would have me as a member.”
In your own particular organization, $50,000 may be too high. But don’t let the figure scare you. I know of many organizations where the expected level of trustee giving is $10,000. For others it’s $5,000. Many are even lower. But the Performing Arts Center example does forcibly deliver the point: as a board member, you must give.
Especially if you hope to get!
Judy Jolley Mohraz, who heads the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, the largest foundation in Arizona, makes that very clear.
“We wouldn’t consider a grant to an organization if the directors weren’t 100% in their giving. Why would we? If they don’t care enough for their organization to give to it, why should we?”
This isn’t unusual. We find most foundations now look carefully at board giving. And for some, it’s not even a matter of 100% participation. They want to examine whether some directors are giving to their potential.
Claremont-McKenna College (California) has a brilliant way of helping trustees understand their responsibility in giving. Their minimum gift is expected to be a student’s tuition (now $51,000 a year). Thomas Mitchell, chair of the College’s Advancement Committee, tells me most trustees give more than that.
Don’t worry if your organization’s level is lower than this. But aim high. Ask trustees to stand on tiptoes.
Trustees who fail to give place their organization in manacles – forged and fashioned of a rigid spirit and lowly aspirations.
Martin Luther said God divided the hand into fingers so the money would slip through to worthy causes. As a trustee, you must spread your fingers wide!
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 13)
The Goals of Your Next Planned Giving Mailing • By Larry Stelter
An essential early step in developing a planned giving mailing is to agree upon its purpose. In my opinion, six pivotal goals stand out:
Goal #1: Give Thanks
In his book Mega Gifts, Jerry Panas, a grandmaster of philanthropy who probably knows more about donors than anyone in America, stresses the principle of thanking individuals at least seven times for each gift they make. Seven times! I suspect most of us think that once or twice is enough. But Panas makes a valid case and his advice is certainly worth heeding, as a thanked donor is often a loyal (and increasingly) generous donor.
Goal #2: Educate
Planned gifts are sometimes called “stop-and-think gifts.” They require more understanding and thought than it takes simply to write a check. Unfortunately, most people have little understanding of, and devote even less thought to, this type of giving. So before they can even consider making a planned gift, they need to be educated about estate planning. That’s Job 1.
Goal #3: Generate Response
What can you offer donors that reflects your mission and will prompt them to respond now? An invitation to a free seminar on estate planning? Extended-access hours at your clinic? A white paper on how to cut taxes? A private tour of the museum’s gardens?
The underlying motive here is to create an opportunity for a one-on-one conversation with your best prospects and to build the kind of trust and understanding that could eventually lead to a planned gift.
|This excerpt is from Larry Stelter's book, How to Raise Planned Gifts by Mail. For more information, click here.
Goal #4: Motivate Donors to Seek Professional Advice
Another way to open the doors to more planned gifts is to motivate your potential donors to seek the advice of their professional advisors. Many people who receive your mailings won’t respond directly to you; rather, they’ll first call their attorney or financial advisor to discuss estate planning and gift options. That’s why it’s key to build relationships with professional advisors in your community and educate them about the value of gift planning, as they may be fielding questions on your behalf. If you get a call from an attorney asking for your legal bequest language or for more information on giving opportunities, take notice.
Goal #5: Break the Ice
Direct mail programs serve to break the ice with your donors. Those who are receiving your regular communications are normally more open to your request for a planned gift. Take a lesson from business studies on lead generation, which have found that companies with a high level of awareness have a far easier time generating leads than companies that continually have to introduce themselves to prospects.
By integrating your tactics – making “soft” phone calls, sending direct mail, sponsoring events, and keeping touch via emails – you’ll be warming the prospective donor to respond positively to your “ask.”
Goal #6: Drive Readers to Your Website
Many donors find the anonymity and self-service aspects of the Internet quite appealing. They can read gift planning articles at their leisure, access online gift calculators, make online donations, and learn more about the needs and successes of your organization.
As seniors discover the Internet in ever-increasing numbers, the Web has emerged as an important and cost-effective way to educate donors about gift planning. Cross-promote your website in your mailings and you’ll create a powerful partnership between Web and print.
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 12)
Connecting with your donors • By Kay Sprinkel Grace
Whatever vehicle you choose – email, newsletter, direct mail appeal, or even postcard – here are nine things you should always communicate to your donors.
1) Communicate good news even when it’s out of cycle.
Don’t hold off on good news until it’s time for your regular newsletter. If something momentous happens, let people know right away. An award, early completion of a campaign, other recognition, or simply a story that lets people know good things are happening to the people you serve.
2) Communicate bad news, too.
If we regard donors truly as investors, then we’ll also be willing to communicate bad news.
You didn’t get the NEA grant. You didn’t make the matching fund goal (or are in danger of not meeting it). There has been a financial irregularity discovered by the auditors.
You’ll find donors are much more willing to help if they’re not surprised. Further, it makes them feel more important to be included in the early news, even if it’s bad.
3) Be sure donors hear from a beneficiary of their giving at least once a year.
The letter and drawing from a child, the phone call from the high school student, the appreciation from a dancer for keeping the lights on and the audiences in their seats – these are powerful reinforcements for donors.
Investors measure the impact of their investment in many ways – but the anecdotal feedback from people who benefit directly is one of the most memorable.
|This article is an abridged version of a chapter in Kay Sprinkel Grace’s book, Over Goal! What You Must Know to Excel at Fundraising Today. For more information, click here.
4) Whatever your message, frame it in gratitude.
You can never thank people enough. Preface every communication with continued thanks to the donor for their investment in your work. And make sure your appreciation is specific to their gift and its impact
5) Mirror the donor’s values in your messages.
Remember that all philanthropy is motivated by values. People give to you because they share your values and it’s important to continue mirroring these in your messages.
6) Let them know how they can help.
When communicating with investors, offer other opportunities for them to participate. Ask if they’ll participate in a focus group. Send a survey and ask them to respond. Inquire whether they’d be willing to take a look at your new mission statement or case statement before it goes to print.
They may not be interested in helping, but if they are you’ll be well-rewarded by the heightened sense of involvement they’ll feel.
7) Tell them how important they are.
While all of the above techniques will help your donors feel important, sometimes it’s good just to tell them. Directly.
“As a key supporter of our Home Help Program for the Elderly, you’re very important to us. Each time we help an elderly person remain independent, we reflect on how important the support is that you and others provide. Quite simply, we couldn’t do what we do without you, and we just wanted you to know.”
8) Let them know how their support attracted the support of others.
Gifts leverage other gifts. I know from years of experience how big gifts attract other big gifts. But do we remember to let the majority of our donors know that their support has attracted other support? Not often enough and it costs us many potential gifts.
9) Let donors know they are your investors and stakeholders.
Ultimately, our fiscal health will be assured when our donors move from viewing their giving as an annual transaction to viewing their investment as ongoing opportunity to participate in the transformation of an organization or the community.
Back to index
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 11)
Nine Mistakes to to Avoid • by David Lansdowne
Call them what you will - gaffes, blunders, oversights, or errors - mistakes creep into everyone’s professional life. But in fund raising - unlike other fields - where thousands if not millions of dollars are often at stake, mistakes can be especially hazardous.
While there are many others, nine potentially costly fund raising mistakes stand out. They can’t really be ranked, since circumstances alter their impact. But here they are in an effort to ward you away from them.
Thinking your organization will attract support simply because it’s a good cause
Just because yours is a good cause -- one of thousands, really -- doesn’t mean money will wend its way to you. Organizations must attract support the old fashioned way -- earn it.
That means explaining exactly why you seek the funding, why your project is compelling, who will benefit, and why the money is needed now.
Failing to recruit the right trustees
Of all the groups important to an organization, none is more vital than the board of directors.
|This is an abbreviated excerpt is from David Lansdowne's book, The Relentlessly Practical Guide to Raising Serious Money. For more information, click here.
There are exceptions, to be sure, but in 99 out of 100 cases an organization that consistently attracts the funding it needs has a board that accepts fund raising as a major responsibility, despite any other governing duties.
Put another way, an organization’s ability to raise money is almost always in direct proportion to the quality and dedication of its leadership.
Not asking for a specific gift
The need to ask for a specific gift is one of the most misunderstood -- or it is feared? -- principles in raising money. “Will you join me in giving $500 to the Wakefield Symphony?” leaves no doubt as to the size of gift the solicitor is requesting.
Most prospective donors need and want guidance. By requesting a specific amount, you show that you’ve given thought to your drive and you put the prospect in a position of having to respond.
Thinking that others can contribute most of the money
Successful fund raising abides by the “rock in the pond” principle. That is, you can’t expect others to contribute until those closest to the center of your organization do so. The farther from the center, the weaker the interest.
In short, solicitation starts with your inner “family” -- most notably the board. Only when these individuals have made proportionately generous contributions, do you reach out to your external constituency.
Believing you can raise money by the multiplication table
People new to fund raising often get it in their heads that all you have to do is divide your goal by the number of likely donors, then ask everyone to give an equal amount.
But you can’t raise money adequately by the multiplication table -- trying, for instance, to get 1,000 persons to give $1,000.
There are several inherent problems here. First, not everyone will give (which throws a wrench into the whole approach). Second, we all tend to give in relation to others. If someone, five times wealthier than you, pledges $1,000, are you likely to feel a $1,000 pledge from you is fair? Third, seeking $1,000 from each donor in effect sets a ceiling on what an unusually generous person might wish to pledge.
Failing to research and evaluate prospects
Rarely do meaningful gifts come from strangers. Most major donors are either associated with an organization or have logical reasons to give.
It is the role of prospect research to reveal these logical reasons by focusing on three elements, namely, linkage, ability, and interest.
Is there any link between the prospective donor and your organization? Does the prospect have enough discretionary income to justify your soliciting him or her for a major gift? Finally, what is the prospect’s interest in your organization?
Thinking that publicity will raise money
Publicity, despite our best wishes, doesn’t raise money.
If you have solicitors and prospects, a strong case, and a campaign plan, you won’t need any publicity.
Those who do insist on a big splash are, more often than not, people who don’t want to face the rigors of a campaign. When the publicity push fails to create a stir, they use it as an excuse for not working.
Failing to cultivate donors
Cultivation, a sustained effort to inform and involve your prospects, is needed for practically every gift -- the bigger the gift, usually the more preparatory steps needed.
The best cultivation, which uses a mixture of printed matter, special events, and personal attention, takes place slowly over a period of time, sometimes years.
Donors give more when they can visualize an organization not as an organization but as people. Achieving that end is, in essence, the goal of all successful cultivation programs.
Failing to find the right person to ask
Pinpointing just the right solicitor is critical to successful fund raising.
Some prospects expect to be asked by the president or the chairperson of the board. Others are less formal and would welcome the person they know best from the organization to ask for the gift.
Still others may need the ego stroking of a team of solicitors. Reading this dynamic correctly is the key to success.
In a large campaign, solicitor/prospect matching can consume hours. But it is one of the very best uses of time.
Back to index
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 10)
The Gift of Silence • by Andy Robinson
If you think asking a donor for a specific amount of money is difficult, try asking for the contribution and then remaining silent. It’s surprisingly hard to do, but if you’re going to succeed, it is essential.
Novice solicitors tend to stammer out the figure and then immediately backpedal before the prospect has a chance to consider the request. If you’re not careful, your mouth will open against your will and all sorts of inappropriate comments will come out.
• “I know that’s a lot of money. You really don’t have to give that much.”
• “I know this is a bad time for you, because it’s certainly a bad time for me.”
• “You don’t have to decide right now.”
• “Of course, if you’re as broke as I am, there’s no way you could even consider a gift of that size.”
• “I’d like to crawl under a rock and die from embarrassment. Care to join me?”
Let’s look past your discomfort for a moment and enter the mind of the prospect.
|This excerpt is from Andy Robinson's book, Big Gifts for Small Groups. For more information, click here.
Because of your transparent approach, this person knows – long before the meeting – the purpose of your visit and roughly how much money you’re seeking. He or she will be neither shocked nor upset when you ask for the gift. Indeed, the individual may be wishing that you’d gotten around to the point ten minutes earlier.
So you ask. And you wait. And while you wait, your prospective donor is silently juggling the following questions.
• Is this a priority for me? Is my interest in this group or this issue worth this much?
• Do I have the money now or will I need to budget this gift over time?
• If I choose to make the gift now, do I have to transfer funds between accounts?
• How will this donation affect my other financial obligations, including the other charities I support?
• Do I know of any unusual expenses (car repair, tuition payment, home improvement) that are coming up soon?
• Who else do I need to talk with to help me figure this out?
It’s a lot to think about, and it takes a while to work through all these questions. Rather than fill the space with your anxious chatter, sit quietly and give the prospect the gift of silence to figure it out.
If you feel the need to occupy yourself, sip your drink. You don’t have to stare the person down; it’s fine to break eye contact and look away. If necessary, dig your fingernails into your kneecaps to distract yourself.
The main point is this: ask for the gift and wait with your mouth shut. If you take nothing else from what I’m saying here, please remember to ask and then be quiet.
Back to index
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 9)
Top 10 Truths about Raising Money by Mail • by Stephen Hitchcock
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to study results of thousands of individual fundraising appeals and to review fundraising programs for hundreds of organizations.
In the process, I’ve learned there are some things that are almost always true. These are “rules” you should break after only careful consideration of your circumstances and your organization’s tolerance for risk.
Here are my top 10 truths about direct mail fundraising:
1) Sending out thank you letters as quickly as possible is the single most important factor in insuring the success of your direct mail fundraising program.
2) Those organizations that raise the most money year after year have direct mail fundraising programs - not just a collection of appeal letters. What makes the difference is not the response rate or total income of any one mailing but rather the total number of gifts and the overall income generated by an annual schedule of mailings - with adequate time between mailings and with a variation in the format or content of those mailings.
3) Asking your donors or members too often increases the rate at which those donors or members lapse, but organizations that don’t send enough appeals see even more donors lapse.
|This excerpt is from Stephen Hitchcock's book, Open Immediately! For more information, click here.
4) Fundraising appeals work best when there is a letter, a separate reply device, and a reply or return envelope. All three are essential.
5) Enclosures - especially brochures - always slow down the process of getting out your mailing, increase your cost, and rarely generate enough income or increase response rates enough to justify the time and money you spend on them. In many instances, enclosures reduce response rates. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, and often enclosures make executive directors and board members happy - and they’re the ones who approve your fundraising budget.
6) Organizations that send out newsletters and informational mailings - not just solicitation letters - generate more income from their direct mail program.
7) Appeals related to true emergencies or a pressing crisis always bring in more gifts and more money than appeals for institutional purposes or for support of ongoing programs. However, direct mail programs that include institutional appeals - membership renewal, annual giving clubs, and annual report mailings - have higher donor retention and higher overall income.
8) Very, very few donors upgrade their giving. The first gift you receive from an individual is likely to be the amount written on subsequent checks. And a significant minority of donors decrease the amount of their gifts (in other words, an individual makes an initial gift of $100 but her next gift is only $50). Fortunately, gifts from the precious few donors who do go on to increase their giving more than offset those who decrease their giving.
9) Your organization’s donor-base must include both “large” and “small” donors - those who regularly contribute $1000 as well as those who send in $10 bills. Fundraising is democracy in action - you have to let everyone participate at the level he or she wishes.
10) Testing random samples of members with variations in letters or packages (for example, testing yellow reply envelope against a standard white reply envelope) almost never produces statistically valid differences in response rate. Yet, if you are regularly mailing more than 10,000 pieces of mail at any one time, testing will always provide valuable information that will reduce your mailing costs and, in some cases, boost your overall income.
Back to index
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 8)
Don't swaddle your communications with these interest-draining veils • by Tom Ahern
For the most part, nonprofit communications are boring. Not on purpose, mind you. Still, they are almost always uninteresting, my vast exposure to them suggests. And why? Because they swaddle themselves in one or more of the following interest-draining veils.
Veil #1: They reject any mention of conflict.
Ditto: controversy. Ditto: uncomfortable truths. Ditto: “anything that might upset people.”
Conflict and controversy are the essence of drama. Drama automatically engages and intrigues readers, because our brains are wired to respond to such stimuli. Drama moves people. Drama overcomes indifference and inertia. And indifference and inertia are your real enemies when you’re trying to communicate, particularly when you’re trying to fundraise.
An absence of drama leaves readers bored, cold, unmoved, indifferent.
|This excerpt is from Tom Ahern's book, Seeing Through a Donor's Eyes. For more information, click here.
Does your mission naturally lack drama? Doubtful. Many, maybe most, charitable missions are in some way a solution to a serious problem: teenagers in trouble, disappearing natural habitat, disease, ignorance, chronic poverty. Problems like these are inherently dramatic.
Bear in mind, too, that the problems you’re attempting to solve are exactly what makes your agency seem relevant to donors, prospects, the media and others. If you climb aboard “the Happy Talk Express” and avoid drama at all costs, your communications ring false and your organization seems less relevant.
Veil #2: A tendency to prefer weak, bland words to bold, vivid words.
Consider headline verbs, for example.
Here’s a collection of verbs plucked from headlines in The Wall Street Journal: mauled, devour, looms, spark, threaten, embrace, sputters, sowing, surge, reject, retools, blames, loses, clash, expand. What characterizes this collection of verbs? Vigor, sound, fury, sharp action. In sum: these verbs have impact.
Newspaper editors have a saying: The verb is the story. Surges? The trend is up. Collapses? The trend is down. Verbs are fireworks, motion, attitude.
Here’s a collection of verbs, though, that I scoured from headlines in nonprofit newsletters: establishes, listed, use, unite, reach, give back, plan, unifies, build, sets, visits, shares, administer, awards, help, benefits.
What characterizes this collection of verbs? They are inconclusive (shares), weak (administer), loftier than need be (unifies), and flat (visits, as in visits an issue). In sum: no impact.
Veil #3: Faint (if any) appreciation for the emotional basis behind all human response.
Instead of fear, anger, hope, and salvation, we are served extra helpings of pontification.
As noted earlier, with modern MRI diagnostics, we can now watch the brain fire as it makes a decision. It fires first in the emotional seat, then the impulse routes through the rational seat. Imagine the rational part of your brain as a flunky armed with a rubber stamp that says, in formidable letters, APPROVED. The emotions decide what to do. The rational part of your brain seconds the decision: Approved.
The old thinking held that emotions and reasoning were opposites. They struggled for dominance. The well-informed thinking now knows that emotions initiate the decision, and the reasoning area of your brain struggles to keep up with a “Yes, dear.”
Veil #4: Jargon.
Allowing jargon into your case is a faux pas. It’s a mildly disgusting habit, something you don’t do in front of guests, like flossing at the dinner table.
Here’s a United Way of my acquaintance explaining itself: “Our awareness and efforts now focus on community impact goals, and how we feed into that. In other words,” [my emphasis added], “our work has become driven more by mission than by function. We need the multi-pronged approach to move public will, and there has been an exponential benefit of working more closely and in concert.”
In other words? This writer needs help. Real “other words” would have said something obvious like, “We’ve changed the way we do things. We hope to get better results this way. Our first attempt was a big success.”
Jargon is not public language. It’s for specialists only. Words like “interdisciplinary,” that bring to mind all sorts of positive connotations among educators, do not resonate the same way for the average person.
And the average person – not a specialist – is your target audience. When the University of Toronto raised a billion dollars recently, 112,819 people made gifts. It’s safe to assume that very few were specialists conversant with academic jargon.
Return to the example of non-conversational writing that opened this chapter. The full text reads as follows:
“XYZ University’s strategic plan is designed to amplify the university’s academic excellence. The result of a 13-month planning effort, the plan identifies strategies to enhance the university’s work for students on three fronts:
• Reinterpreting the liberal arts skills of communication and critical thinking to take into account 21st-century challenges and opportunities
• Multiplying connections between students and faculty members by building on the faculty’s record of original research and creativity
• Building on XYZ University’s strong sense of community, locally and globally”
What’s wrong with this sort of writing? At least three things: (1) it’s freighted with jargon, the kind of bureaucrat-ese only insiders understand; (2) it mentions no emotional goals; and (3) the donor is nowhere in sight. Here’s a rewrite that covers the very same ground, but eliminates all the flaws:
“Within a decade, if all goes according to plan, XYZ University will emerge as the top school in its class, leaving behind our ‘peer schools’ of today. Admittedly, the plan is ambitious. And it won’t be cheap: excellence in education at this level never is. But we will get there, thanks to your vision, your commitment, and your help.”
There’s no jargon. The donor is given all the credit in the last sentence. And what are the “emotional goals”? (I.e., goals that touch the heart of the target audience.) There are several: emerging as the top school in its class, leaving behind its peer schools, and pursuing an ambitious (as opposed to ordinary) plan. These are all things the alumni understand, appreciate, and want. How do I know? I’ve asked.
Final word goes to the brothers Heath, from their business bestseller, Made to Stick:
“Concrete language helps people, especially novices, understand new concepts. Abstraction is the luxury of the expert.” What does “concrete” mean? “If you can examine something with your senses, it’s concrete. A V8 engine is concrete. ‘High-performance’ is abstract. Most of the time, concreteness boils down to specific people doing specific things.”
Back to index
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 7)
To raise more money, sharpen your niche • by Joseph Barbato
What do people think when you call? Do you have to explain what your organization does? Must you do so at length? Does that trouble you? It should.
Not every nonprofit can be world-renowned. Few are. But when you reach out to talk to the movers and shakers who matter to you, you don't want them to say, Huh? If they do, you have a problem. You need a higher public profile. And getting that profile is hard unless you have a specific niche.
Your niche is that highly focused corner of society where you do your thing. The Red Cross saves lives. Amnesty International safeguards human rights. The Getty Museum showcases great art. Well-known organizations generally do one thing very well. That one thing may have many components. But it forms a secure and overarching niche.
|This excerpt is from Joseph Barbato's book, Attracting the Attention Your Cause Deserves. For more information, click here.
If your organization's work has a scattershot quality - if it does a little of this, some of that, and a few things in particular - that's not surprising. Organizations evolve and add new programs over time.
But it may be necessary to refocus your niche. Sometimes that entails changing your name - a major step. Or maybe you have to look at your programs and determine which really matter - which ones are making a significant contribution. Maybe some should be folded into others.
Fortunately, most organizations don't need a complete overhaul to sharpen their niche. They just have to trim a few loose ends to get sleek, simple - and memorable.
Back to index
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 6)
Triggering emotions to raise more money • by Tom Ahern
I had a bracelet made for my wife, Simone.
She's a fundraising consultant, and teaches a lot. But she was always forgetting one or more of the emotional triggers (those tingly feelings that motivate donors to give).
So, as an easy reminder, I had a bracelet made with the seven top emotional triggers stamped into the stainless steel links. There are many more than seven emotional triggers, mind you. But these seven are revered - nay, worshipped - by the direct mail industry in the United States.
|This excerpt is from Tom Ahern's book, How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money. For more information, click here.
On her wrist Simone wears a bracelet bearing the following words:
If she ever has to go to a hospital, what will people think?
Back to index
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 5)
How to raise a lot more money with your direct mail appeals • by Mal Warwick
Which of the following methods do you use to sort the mail when you return from a vacation or a business trip?
1) Immediately discard anything that's not personally addressed to you.
2) Set aside anything that looks interesting or important and toss out the rest.
3) Put all first-class mail in one stack and "junk mail" in another (to be glanced at casually if you have the time and the inclination sometime later).
4) Separate the mail into four piles: bills, personal mail (if any), solicitations, and commercial advertising matter.
No matter which approach you might follow, your package to high dollar donors needs to stand out enough to be selected in to the pile that actually gets read.
|This excerpt is from Mal Warwick's book, Raising $1000 Gifts by Mail. For more information, click here.
Forget the trappings of standard direct mail: the lurid teasers, the bulk rate postage, the raggedy ink-jet addressing systems, the barcodes, the window envelopes, the cheap 50-pound paper stock. High-dollar direct mail packages must avoid the look and feel of junk mail at all costs.
As a practical matter, this usually means:
- An oversized carrier envelope
- First-class postage stamps that are hand-affixed and include at least one colorful commemorative
- Addressing, whether by laser-printer or by hand, that appears to have been done by a human being
- High-quality paper stock for all package contents
- Personalization on both the letter and the reply device to match that on the carrier, and,
- A reply envelope bearing a first-class stamp (or no postage at all) - but NOT a Business Reply Envelope.
Back to index
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 4)
Identifying your audience for bequests • by David Valinsky & Melanie Boyd
When promoting your bequest program, take care to avoid the following myths:
Myth 1: People who make small gifts aren't prospects for bequests
This simply isn't true. Many "smaller donors" don't have the current means to provide a $5,000 or $10,000 annual gift, even though they admire your organization and are philanthropically inclined. Their bequest gift could very well be 100 or 1000 times greater than their current income allows.
Myth 2: Only the elderly make bequests
On the contrary, a recent study by the National Council on Planned Giving found that more than 50 percent of the identified bequest donors were under the age of 60 and 28 percent were under the age of 45. Including younger donors in your mailings will help you strengthen your relationship.
|This excerpt is from David Valinsky and Melanie Boyd's book, Raising Money through Bequests. For more information, click here.
Myth 3: Lapsed donors should be removed from your mailing list
Don't automatically rule out those who haven't given in recent years. Our colleague Wayne tells a cautionary tale. He was surprised when one of these lapsed donors, a woman who upon her husband's death felt she couldn't continue her annual support, left the organization with a significant bequest. In her mind, she wasn't a lapsed donor. She was simply delaying her gift.
Myth 4: Only the wealthy make bequests
As we've said, bequests (from assets) allow donors to give much larger gifts than they can during their lifetime. While wealth and income are factors, a deep connection to your organization and belief in its mission are the key indicators of a potential gift.
Back to index
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 3)
Tapping previous donors • by Jerold Panas
"You can't keep going back to the same well," declared the trustee.
I was at a board meeting recently at an independent school in western Pennsylvania. One of the board members was adamant: they couldn't keep going back to the same old donors.
And in truth this is a well-worn maxim. It's as old as fundraising itself, repeated often, and usually with the same satisfying finality as a Bach cantata.
The only trouble ... it's absolutely untrue. A hoary saw that's totally baseless.
You can indeed keep going back to the well. As a matter of fact, that's where your greatest potential is.
|This excerpt is from Jerold Panas' book, The Fundraising Habits of Supremely Successful Boards. For more information, click here.
What's really difficult is getting someone to give who has never given before. Or worse, has no philanthropic intent and gives to nothing.
If you want the real maxim, here it is: Givers give. Which explains why at the end of your campaign if you're short of goal, you call on those who have already given. You don't go to those who earlier said, "Call on me later." Chances are they'll put you off again.
Follow one of Pope John Paul's last Encyclics to his Bishops: "Go deep, go deeper, go deeper still."
Back to index
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 2)
The first gift often leads the way • by Harvey McKinnon
"How much should I give?" is a question that continually runs through a donor's mind.
Some want to give the least possible amount, and they'll plumb for that level.
But even generous people will sometimes refuse, for fear of embarrassing themselves.
Take my friend, Lucinda.
She regularly contributes $1,000 to causes she knows well. But her comfort level with unfamiliar groups is $100 to $250. Should she offer this smaller amount and be viewed as a Scrooge, or is it safer to say, "Not at this time"? Unless Lucinda is made to feel that her "initial gift" is a generous gesture, she does the latter - she begs off.
|This excerpt is from Harvey McKinnon's book, The 11 Questions Every Donor Asks and the Answers All Donors Crave. For more information, click here.
Too many organizations are insensitive to people like Lucinda. Sure, you want the big gift right off, but that rarely happens. Better to view the first gift as one of many, as an overture on which to build a lasting relationship.
Capital campaign expert Kent Dove once told me that a donor's largest gift is often their 7th, 8th, or 9th gift. If there's a more powerful reason to start the giving process, I don't know it.
And if doing so means welcoming $100 as you would $10,000, take comfort in the fact that philanthropists from Andrew Carnegie to Booker Washington to Bill Gates have long used "test" gifts before committing much larger sums.
Back to index
INSIDER'S GUIDE TO FUNDRAISING (ISSUE 1)
Making the foundation program officer your ally • by Martin Teitel
Rarely does a real-life foundation head offer advice to grantseekers.
But Martin Teitel, Executive Director of the Cedar Tree Foundation, once sought grants himself and has genuine empathy for those who apply.
He urges grant applicants to ask these FIVE QUESTIONS when meeting with foundation program officers:
1) "Are there things I can add that will strengthen my proposal?"
2) "Do you see things in my proposal that could be left out in a revised version?"
3) "Do you think I'm asking for the right amount of money?"
|This excerpt is from Martin Teitel's book, "Thank You for Submitting Your Proposal" - A Foundation Director Reveals What Happens Next. For more information, click here.
4) "Is there anything else I can do that would help you in your deliberations?"
5) "Can you give me an estimate of your timeframe for deciding upon this proposal?"
Do your best to make the program officer your ally, counsels Teitel. It will pay off handsomely.
Back to index