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.

Three Strategies That Will Engage Women Donors' Hearts and Their Wallets

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I'm wildly interested in what Margaret May Damen had to say about appealing to women donors in her 09 Year-End Strategies Telesummit interview with me last week. iStock_000006752189XSmallAfter years on the big-time university fundraising scene, I know all too well how so many development folks focus waaaaay too much on the men. I know I used to do it too. But now, take a look at her statistics: According to the Harvard Business Review, 84% of all women make ALL the financial decisions in their households. My oh my. Too many development officers are missing the boat if they are talking to men. Here are Margaret May Damen's top three strategies to engage women donors' hearts AND their pocketbooks.
  1. Gather a group of top women donors across generational divides. Ask themiStock_000000258399XSmall for their best ideas on how to succeed with your mission. And ask them to be the pebble in the pond. To go out there and tell the story of what our organization is doing. Ask them to increase their gifts by 10-20% - not for a dollar goal but for a specific need. And then ask them to go out and ask two or three other women for the same thing.
2. In your next newsletter - put a photo or a testimonial in it from a female donor. There are TOO MANY photos of men in our materials - and it matters to women! Why are they being left out? 3. Call your female donors and ask them outright - for a specific need, not a general goal: "Our students need meals - with another $100 from you we can buy 20 more meals. Can we count on you?"

What Exactly Will Motivate Women to Give This Fall?

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Hi! I'm a bit behind in my goal of one-blog-post-per-day on year-end giving strategies during the month of October - because of a heavy travel and event schedule last week. BUT, watch out, I'm getting caught up this week. So be prepared for an onslaught of strategy ideas this week! It's time to talk about the ladies. And why women are likely to be the demographic group who can put you over goal this year. In the Year-End Fundraising Strategy Telesummit interviews, Margaret May Damen, founder of the Institute for Women and Wealth, shared some fascinating information about how to appeal to women donors this fall. She said thiStock_000007802393XSmallat women definitely give for different reasons than men, and outlined how to create an appeal that will speak directly to a woman's interests. (Women actually buy cars differently than men too!) According to Margaret May, women give for both pragmatic and passionate reasons.
  • Pragmatic: Women want to give to fund a certain specific outcome or result. They are less likely to make general unrestricted gifts than men are. Damen says that women want to know what the results of their giving will be. They've had to run businesses and households and can be pretty exacting when it comes to expecting a return on their investment.
  • Passionate: Women also respond very well to emotional appeals. Damen says that we need to "speak female" and talk to the heart. The facts need to elicit feelings. Instead of: "be a benefactor for $100, and an angel for $1000;" try something like this: "buy 5 bags of food and save three dogs;" or "$50 will buy three kids lunch for a week."
Damen says that men's talk is more like report talk. this is what we do and how well we have done. She says that women's talk is more about rapport - how it feels and what it's like. Men are more about getting a job done. Women are more about the best way to get the job done - the process as much as the results. Women like to build a relationship before buying or giving. They want to know you and feel comfortable with you. And talk about "community" in your fundraising appeals. Concepts like the "greater good" are especially important to women. Fundraising can sometimes seem too self interested, and this doesn't appeal to women. They would rather hear how the project connects and supports the overall community. Language like this generates trust and compassion, which can help open the hearts of your generous women donors. And it will help you raise a lot more money to help your cause.

Plan to Use Multiple Channels for Your Year-End Appeal to Raise More Money

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How can using multiple communications channels dramatically enhance…

On-Line Gifts Can Put You Over the Top in the Last Days of December

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In our 09 Year-End Fundraising Strategies Telesummit interviews,…

How to Segment Your Donors for Year-End Fundraising Success

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Hi! Here's Year-End Fundraising Strategy #3 for the third of October. Looks like I just may be able to make my goal of 31 days - 31 blog posts on year-end strategies. I've gone through my notes from all the 09 Year-End Strategy Telesummit interviews and have organized them into categories that I think you'll find very, very useful. Just as a preview, here are some of the topics I'll discuss in October to help you reach your year-end fundraising goals: (Of course you can find out ALL the strategies by downloading the Telesummit expert interviews when they are posted on October 9):
  • how to talk about the economy so it doesn't backfire;
  • how to prep your donors for the ask;
  • 15 parts of the right appeal letter;
  • a followup strategy that will double your results
  • how to use social media to support/enhance your year-end fundraising;
  • creative ways to ask and receive;
  • lots of roles for board members that will help you raise more money
  • last minute strategies for the end of December;
  • how to make sure your face-to-face asks are successful.
Today, however, we are still in planning mode. iStock_000001923167XSmallWe have about 10 weeks to zoom in on our year-end fundraising goal and there's no time to waste. Let's start with segmenting your appeal list. You'll want to plan different appeals to different sections of donors. The whole idea of segmenting is to help you personalize your appeal to your dear, wonderful donors. You divide your donor list into groups with similar characteristics. This allows you to create a more customized appeal that reflects the personality profile of that group of donors. Let's just think about all the ways you might want to segment your list.

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.

We're in the Dream Business

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Do you ever consider what we fundraising folks are really up to when we appeal to our donors? Is it hype? Is it promises that we will keep? Is it mission, vision and values? Is it changing the world? Last month at the Bridge Fundraising Conference in DC, I kept hearing a theme echoing through many of the presentations I attended. MLK“We are in the dream business.” It really means that we are selling a happy dream of the future. Of a better world. A better community. People being helped. Smiles. Comfort. Happiness. But in our appeals for help, we forget this all too often. Instead we focus on problems, what's wrong, what we will do to fix things. But the most successful approach - whether you are doing fundraising, sales, bringing together groups of people for a common purpose, teamwork - whenever leadership and inspriation are required - is to picture your dream for the future. Think Martin Luther King, one of the greatest inspirational leaders - and orators - of recent times. His "I have a dream speech" is a spectacular example of inspired dreaming. The dream is so powerful that it's like a great river sweeping everyone up in its path, surging inevitably downstream to a much happier future. When we paint a picture of our dream for happy students, healthy children, cared-for elderly, majestic symphonies, clean sparkling water - whatever we are raising money for - we also capture the power of that mighty river of energy sweeping everyone together. When I work with boards, we talk about dreaming. I tell them they should always be standing high on the hill sharing their vision of a happier world with everyone they know. When they are standing on that hill, solid in their dream, focused on the future, they are more powerful than they can imagine. When you, your board members and your volunteers take a firm stand on the mountain, that's when you have the energy and the power to change the world. That's when nothing can stop you.

After You've Asked for the Gift, What Next?

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So you've popped the question to your donor. You've said "We were hoping that you would consider a gift of $XXX to make something wonderful happen."

The Moment of Truth Now, what's next? Did you know that the next person who speaks loses? You've got to allow your donor plenty of time to think it over. The donor is mulling, mulling, not saying anything. And there you sit! Nervous - and as jumpy - as a frog in a frying pan. I know, the urge to start babbling is strong, mighty strong! But KEEP YOUR COOL! The donor may take as long as a full minute to think this over. He or she is considering lots of issues: can I make this gift?' do I really want to make this contribution?; if I donate money to this cause, will they spend it wisely?; what is my cash flow?; can I sell some stock?; can I ask other family members to go in with me?; what's the timing of all this; do I really believe in this project?

How to motivate board members who are uncomfortable opening doors or making connections

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But you CAN change your board members' nervousness and fear. You have to take them through a specific "attitude adjustment" process. You have to change their mind about fundraising - that it's NOT asking for money.