The Secret to Securing Long Term Support from a Foundation

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The Agitator Blog this morning has a thoughtful and poweful discussion of what "cultivation" really looks like. And they totally nail the key to developing a long term funding relationship with a foundation. Andrew Kramer, of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) in Houston, wrote in a long comment about his strategies for developing deep relationships with his donors. He focuses a lot on foundations because he raises a large amount of his revenue from these types of funders. He says "I’ve learned that most foundations treat honesty and candid feedback about what happened as their primary form of involvement in our organization. They’ve never come to us and said that we should run our program a certain way, they just ask us to think about what happened and there is tremendous value in that since most individual donors never do that. "Even with our foundations, the objective is never just to look at them as pools of cash for our benefit–the real value is in the fact that they require us to think about our programs and offerings, and then again that throughout the year they require us–sometimes in very thoughtful ways–to measure and assess what we’re doing." Now here's a fundraiser who knows what he's doing! How refreshing to hear that the foundations are not being considered as just "pools of cash" - but they also bring an added benefit to the orgaization. How refreshing again to hear that he does not consider the reporting back to foundation funders as a drag - but instead as a benefit, because thinking deeply about outcomes, and measuring what they are doing is USEFUL! How many organizaitons are prepared to offer frank and candid feedback about what happened to their funders? Are you willing to be so transparent? Or do you sugarcoat things when you report back? It's really hard to be totally frank with a funder. Funded projects almost always have breakdowns and challenges - that's part of trying to change the world! And during a project, sometimes we have to change course because the landscape has changed on us. But I have found over the years that if you go back with frank and candid feedback about the project, what you learned, what you'd do differently, what worked, what the challenges were - funders love this kind of honesty and realism. And they will trust you when you come back to ask again.

Reach Risk-Adverse Donors by Adding Credibility to Your Year-End Appeal

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I am such a fan of Kay Sprinkel Grace. She is one of the ultimate fundraising gurus who I have followed for a long time. The highlight of my summer was hearing her in person at the Bridge Conference in DC this summer. So I wasted no time asking her to be a part of the 09 Year-End Fundraising Strategies Telesummit. And, as usual, she had some provocative and pithy ideas to share. (find out more. . . ) Here's the deal: we have to know where our donors stand if we are going to successfully encourage them to contribute this year. So we need to drill down a bit into our donors' minds and hearts and understand their attitudes so we can craft the right kind of fundraising appeal. According to Kay ( and I do wholeheartedly agree), donors are feeling poor right now, whether they are multimillionares or not. So they are being more and more careful about their giving (and spending for that matter). Kay thinks the economy is starting to pick up. And she is also seeing that philanthropy is picking up as well. : ) So If philanthropy is starting to pick up, then this year-end is a golden opportunity to re-gain the fundraising losses we have seen in the past year. But we need to know how to talk to our donors. Right now. Responding to their current attitudes for fall/winter 09. Here's the issue - donors are less likely to take risks now. They are becoming more conservative. Gone are the days when a person might issue 30 checks at year-end, just because they cared a lot and also because they had ample income. Now, people are giving to fewer organizations - AND to trusted organizations. SOOOOO how do speak to your donors NOW? Remember that credibility is essential for your fundraising now more than ever. How do you establish credibility? Lots of ways:
  • track record - here are our results
  • transparency - how we are spending your money
  • who is on our board (what community leaders are standing behind us and our cause?)
  • 990 posted online
  • professional looking web site and marketing materials
  • good looking (ie, professional) fundraising appeal
  • longevity - we've been in business all this time
  • endorsements from well-known community leaders
  • funding from well-known sources (publicize this because it adds credibility)
Be sure you hit all these points somewhere in your web site and in your appeal. And you'll be more successful if you do.

Focus on "Friendmaking" to Take the Fear out of Fundraising

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Could fundraising be as easy as picking flowers? Maybe! I frequently tell my clients and audiences something rather revolutionary: that I'd rather have a "friend" of my organization than a donor. At first everyone is startled. Then they sit back and consider what it would mean to have "friends" rather than donors. What will friends do for you? They will introduce new people to the cause and bring new friends on board. They will spread the word. They'll help you in any way they can. And when the going gets tough, where are they? They are right there with you at your side. And will your friends contribute money?

Prevent Donor Attrition and Keep Your Donors

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I had the pleasure of interviewing Simone Joyeaux, one of the great fundraising gurus of all time, this morning for the Telesummit on Fall 09 Fundraising Strategies. When I asked Simone to comment on the difficult giving environment for this fall, she said it was really a "wake-up call" to us. Fundraisers have been able to get away with poor fundraising practices in the past because of a booming economy and plenty of donors. But now, when donors are cutting back, our bad habits are coming home to roost. Simone mentioned several bad habits and poor practices that are driving away donors. In fact, she noted that two out of three first-time donors DON'T make another gift! And that we are in a "donor retention crisis" right now with so many of our current donors slipping away because of bad fundraising habits. Did you know that it costs up to 10 times more to secure a NEW DONOR than it does to retain a CURRENT donor? So where do you think we should be spending our time, energy and our focus? Donors think we are treating them like "ATM machines," says Simone. When we go to them for money, money, money, they resent it and reward us by dropping off.