Tag Archives: Annual Fundraising

Should you Include Stories in Your Case for Support?

Should you Include Stories in Your Case for Support?

Recently, while writing a case for support for a client, I interviewed 3 board members. When I asked why they got involved, they each gave vastly different answers. One was passionate for the work, one had lifelong family connections, and the third thought the nonprofit was essential for the community.

And this is true of most nonprofits. Everyone gets involved for a different reason, but they all understand the importance of supporting the organization.

Then the question is, how do you write a case for support that is compelling but  speaks to different people with various motivations? Over the years, we have found that there are many different ways to go about it. Here are two options.

Option 1: Reasons to Support Temple Sinai

Temple Sinai has been a part of our community for 71 years. We have had hundreds of bar and bat mitzvahs, education from 2-year-olds to senior adults, and more simchas and funerals than one can count. We are here for you through every life stage, life cycle, and life event. We are a community, thanks to you.

Options 2: 3 Stories in Your Case For Support

Andrew went to the Bar Mitzvah on Saturday morning with his family. As he looked around the room, he realized he had created an amazing community through the congregation. And, he was so thankful he and his wife chose Temple Sinai’s preschool.

As Michelle presented the Kiddush cup and certificates to Adam, the boy who had just become Bar Mitzvah, she was incredibly proud to serve on the board. It had been fifteen years since her own children went through the religious school. But she still remembered the unbelievable feeling of being surrounded by friends and family during this momentous rite of passage. Through the years, Temple Sinai has continued to provide her with a spiritual center, a place to gather to play mahjong with the Sisterhood, and education for everyone from her 2-year-old neighbor to her own Torah study. She sees the benefits of a strong congregation every day.

Rick came to the Bar Mitzvah because his wife takes a class with the Bar Mitzvah Boy’s Grandmother. And his wife wanted him to go. He thought about the last time he was in the sanctuary with a mask for Yom Kippur (don’t get him started on the sermon). But then he looked back at the many b’nai mitzvah he’d attended through the years – including his own children’s many years ago. He remembered his friend’s funeral and his daughter and son-in-law’s Auf Ruf. He remembered why it is so essential to keep the congregation strong. His own generation depends on it, but so do the people he will never know in the future.

In case you haven’t guessed, we have started to include stories in our case for support – and our end-of-year letters.

People will strongly identify with one story and understand the other two. Which is what we think the beginning of the case for support is all about – to create the emotional response which will open minds to the facts. Emotions, like feeling you are a part of the community, that you are passionate, and that the nonprofit is essential, are how you will encourage giving.

Now you just have to explain what the outcome and benefits will be from the fundraising that the case justifies. 

Is Executive Coaching A Good Investment?

Fundraisers talk a lot about donor retention. But, what about employee retention and how it impacts donors? Many nonprofits have a revolving door of development professionals. The average tenure of a fundraiser is less than 2 years. And the donor pays the price.

Consider a new development professional who starts a new job. Immediately, she wants to build relationships with major donors! But the donors have seen this cycle too often. They don’t want to spend the time gearing up to befriend another new development person. It shifts the work to the donor who has to meet more often so the development person feels comfortable. Which, let’s face it, is not why donors give to your nonprofit.

The new development person is set up for failure. Making it more likely they will leave sooner. Keeping the revolving door moving.

Then the question is, how do you get an employee to stay? One way is by helping them grow and feel successful with Executive Coaching.

Investing in your staff will help employee retention, which will help donor retention, which will help your bottom line.

Is Executive Coaching A Good Investment?

Executive coaching means different things to different people. 

  • A sounding board to enhance self-assurance
  • Short term strategy partner for new initiatives
  • Developing new skills like
    • Volunteer or board management
    • Governance oversight
    • Annual fund growth
    • Capital campaign planning
    • Prepping for a Strategic Plan
  • Building confidence so they are ready for the next challenge around the corner
  • Learning the skills to move up in the organization

If you, or someone you know is thinking about Executive Coaching and how it could help provide professional and personal development, send me an email. Or sign up for a free consultation on my calendar.

It’s Nonprofit Fundraising Crunch Time – 17 Ideas You Can Still Do This Year

Director of Individual Giving - Temple Emanu-El
It’s Nonprofit Fundraising Crunch Time 
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

The next 7+ weeks may make up 30 to 40% of your annual revenue. Here are ideas to help this fundraising crunch time!

#GivingTuesday There are many ways to encourage giving on this day – it is the unofficial start of the giving season so don’t let it pass you by.

  • Use social media to create a campaign
  • Create a match to encourage giving
  • Use it to thank donors who have already given this year
  • Highlight impact
  • Find more ideas by clicking here or Googling #GivingTuesday ideas 2021

Make calls (From you, your board, or your development committee)

  • Call LYBUNTS who gave last year above a certain level
  • Make thank you calls. It’s never too early to start stewardship for next year

Send emails (From you, your Executive Director, CEO or board chair)

  • Solicitations
    • We are all busy during fundraising crunch time but removing donors each time is best practice. If you can’t be consistent about updates (most CRMs will help), acknowledge that if they have already given, it might not have been recorded in the system yet.
  • Updates on the organization
    • Send these to everyone – especially those who gave earlier in the year. This will help with stewardship and offer another way to donate this year (always include a way to give in any email to your list).
  • Updates on giving this year
    • List your fundraising goal.
    • List the number of days until you reach the end of your match.
    • List their previous gifts and what you hope they will give this year.
    • List anything such as what a gift of various amounts will mean or anything you think will encourage someone to hit that donate button.
  • Send reminders
    • Many people wait until the last minute to give. Don’t hold it against them – make it easy for them
  • Send Thank you videos. What you do now will impact how your donors will feel in December.

Send letters

  • You can still squeeze in 2 letters by the end of year. But start planning today.
  • Tip: Use all the ones you are receiving as a template for what you like, what you don’t like, and what yours should look like.

Fundraising crunch time will be busy, but done correctly, it can boost your results significantly.

A New Year Is Cause For New Goals For Your Nonprofit

2019 is coming to a close, so let’s talk 2020. A new year, along with a new decade, is cause for new goals for your nonprofit. Nonprofits should not have to struggle for funding nor beg board members to show up. And, if you are financially stable, you can think about what can you do to improve your programs, the experiences of members or beneficiaries, and the appreciation of donors and funders.

If you have goals for your nonprofit, I would love to hear what they are. If you don’t, consider the following:

  • Raise your annual fundraising by 10%
  • Retain 11% more donors overall each year for the next three years
  • Bring on two new board members in 2020 that will increase diversity – that can be age, gender, color,  background or any category that would improve the way you help your nonprofit be more representative of the population you serve
  • Start planning your capital/endowment campaign (let us know if we can help)
  • Evaluate your staff to understand how well you are deploying each person to achieve your goals
  • Hire an executive coach. It can seem expensive but it can be much more cost effective to train staff you like than let someone go and hire a new staff person with their own deficits
  • Plan two new ways to identify prospects
  • Inspire your board to be more supportive and help in fundraising (even if some won’t solicit they can still participate in development)
  • Identify three new ways to steward your donors
  • Evaluate your committee structure to ensure effectiveness instead of continuing to do it the way you always have.

I hope this helps you start your planning. And don’t forget: create a timeline to achieve your goals for your nonprofit so we are not having the same conversation when 2021 comes around.

December Appeal Strategies – Should you follow best practices?

December appeal strategies are on every nonprofit’s mind at this time of year. Questions keep popping up like:

  • Should your annual appeal letter be a one page or two?
  • Is it better to have one, two or three mailed letters?
  • What is the best time to send the letters?
  • Are there certain envelopes or return address features we should be considering?
  • What –and how many–categories should we use on the response card this year?
  • Should you send six follow up emails or three?
  • Is a letter more impactful if it comes from the nonprofit’s executive director, a beneficiary or a board member?
  • How do you incorporate social media beyond #givingtuesday?

And this is a list of generic questions.

If you don’t have a nonprofit consultant on retainer (let’s be in touch if you would like to change that), there are different ways you can answer your questions.

December Appeal Strategies Due Date

Best Practices for December Appeal Strategies

I find that best practices have to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. An international health NPO may not be dealing with the same type of supporters as a community religious organization.

Rely on your board, your staff, your beneficiaries, and your donors for advice.

Calling donors to thank them may not increase future donations for Public Television stations who outsource their calls, but may increase donations for your organization. How will you know? Ask the people making the calls if they are getting through to people? If they are getting through, are they having conversations? If they are having conversations, what are the recipients saying?

Those six emails may be expected from a large organization, but if you know the person sending the emails, it feels different. I have heard a donor wonder whether the sender will be insulted if they delete them all or don’t respond.  Will sending that many emails increase donations or simply increase “unsubscribes?” 

Can you afford to send your entire list 2 mailings? Your organization’s budgetary needs have to be considered as do previous response rates. Can you segment the list to major donors, those with highest upgrade potential and those who have responded via mail in the past and send it only to those individuals? We know that some people get the letter and then give online. But, that also means you will have an email address for them and can potentially take them off the (snail) mail list altogether.  How will you know?  Ask them.

This article may have asked more questions than it answered, but that is because there is no one answer for all nonprofits. Call up a few donors at different levels and ask them how they feel about different types of solicitations. Send a quick survey to the nonprofit’s board as well as to a select group of donors. Ask the staff what they have heard in the past. Use your resources to improve your December annual appeal and you will see the benefit. It will deepen relationships, engage prospects, and, hopefully raise more money for your nonprofit.

For year-round annual appeal tips consider reading:

Or download 37 Nonprofit Tips to Ensure a Strong Year End

Last Minute Ideas for #GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday Ideas

I think this #GivingTuesday will look different than previous years.

Many nonprofits will be asking for money and often forgetting basic fundraising rules – you know, like making it about the donor or telling a story.

Instead, consider some ways to up your game during a crowded time period and excite your donors.

  1. Lead up to #GivingTuesday as an event. Remembering that the goal is still to make the day about the donor – not just your nonprofit. What would interest them in a trickle campaign? – How about a “Have a poll/naming game” for a mascot, new lounge or title for a new program? Silliness, creativity, and/or something useless that intrigues people will play well because they know that you are trying to engage them and have fun – not just ask them for money. Announcing the results on #GivingTuesday with an ask will give people a reason to open your email (instead of the 50 other emails and social media asks).
  2. Ask people to give something besides money on #GivingTuesday. Whether you need volunteers to fill backpacks with winter necessities or people to work at an event during the holiday season – asking for something besides donations can be a strong strategy for deepening your donor relationships.
  3. Use peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising. The easiest way for you to get people’s attention might be to ask others to help. Facebook will help by matching donations and eliminating fees, so make a plan to creatively encourage your donors to fundraise on your behalf.
  4. Don’t have your act together for this year? See if you can figure out a giving event in December or even January, that you can promote on #GivingTuesday.
  5. Team up with another nonprofit for a challenge. While in theory, you are all competing for donations, in reality, there is more money being donated than either of you are getting. Embrace the giving season by working together to create something fun, engaging and somewhat connected. It can be a contest to see who can get more people to like a picture, donate a pair of socks (or some other small but valuable to your organization donation that can be given in person or online), or write something nice on an online “wall.” And, you guessed it, the winning organization and the results will be announced on #GivingTuesday.
  6. Thank donors before #GivingTuesday. I worry that nonprofits will have low open rates on the actual day. This is not based on fact, only on the huge number of organizations that will send me emails, social media messages and posts. – Because it’s hard to break through the clutter, you have to be different if you want to stand out. If you are not geared up to do a huge campaign, consider that you can use the time to steward donors and encourage giving during December – when a disproportionate amount of giving takes place. Whether you thank them with a creative email, a small gift or phone call, the point will come across that you are giving on that day and not asking.  While it may be tempting to send that on #GivingTuesday, remember that they will only see the thank you if they open the email and don’t automatically hit delete.

And please let me know what you discover!

Why Giving to Charity Will Make You Happier Than Buying a $1.6 Billion Lottery Ticket

Giving to Charity vs Lottery TicketMy brother-in-law has said that a lottery ticket is really a stupidity tax. While I know that logically he is right, I buy them from time to time.  Usually, it is when I am in a store that sells lottery tickets and it is over $100 million.  That turns out to be approximately 5 times a year. Yes, I will pay the $10 stupidity tax in exchange for the possibility, hope and fun with which it comes.

This is not the only $10 that I will basically throw away this year. Other times will include:

  • Taking my kids to any place where they win tickets for prizes (recently it was a neon orange inflatable smiley face emoticon for only $40!)
  • Buying bottled water (I try not to but every time I do I think that is one strike against the environment and one strike against my wallet.)
  • That pair of jeans that almost worked but not quite and now it’s too late to return.
  • The lipstick I buy and lose within a week.
  • ________fill in your waste here_______

Then, there are my donations. It is kind of like the lottery – I am giving someone money and getting possibility and hope in return. Sometimes I think it is fun, depending on the nonprofit.

How can you help prospects see that giving to charity = hope, possibility and fun?

One way is to use a social media campaign to offer them the lottery dream of hope and possibility. If they match what they have or would have spent on lottery tickets (a $2 donation is still a small initial gift – but it is still an initial gift). Offer them pictures of the possibilities their “lottery ticket” will provide. And tell them why it feels like winning the lottery for your beneficiaries.

And they will have health benefits too!

As I have referenced before, giving has physical benefits for the donor.  You can explain to every prospect that their gift has the potential to improve their own sleep, digestion, memory, learning, appetite, motivation AND counteract the effects of stress hormones. Yes, you can give them access to 3 naturally-created, feel-good hormones (aka Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin) for just $25.

Ok, that is more than a lottery ticket. But it is less than an inflatable at skee ball.

Why Every Board Member Should Write An Annual Appeal Letter

board write an annual appealHere is a great (and relatively short) exercise to encourage donor-centric thinking among your board and/or committees. Use this with anyone and everyone you can.  In addition to a new way of thinking, you can improve donor retention and have new ideas about what to write in your donor appeal letters for the coming year.

The “Why every board member should write an annual appeal letter” exercise

Take 15 minutes at a board meeting and ask everyone present (whether board member, volunteer, or staff) to write a donor-centric, annual appeal solicitation letter.  And include the following instructions/reminders:

  1. These letters will not be sent out right after the meeting, so don’t worry about grammar or structure.
  2. You are looking for their point of view and what they think are the reasons people give to the annual fund- not wordsmithing or perfection.
  3. Strong donor-centric letters include:
  • The word “you” whenever possible
  • The benefits for the prospect and why it will be beneficial for the reader to give to this nonprofit (not why the nonprofit should be a recipient)
  • Creating connections for the prospects and the organization
  1. Consider whether a story should be featured and, if so, whose story should it be?
  2. Think about who is writing and signing the letter.

This exercise will help you:

  • See what motivates the board members to donate their time and money
  • Generate board awareness of what the development team is focused on each day and what works.
  • Determine what your board views as donor-centric
  • Find new ideas for your letters
  • Create connections between board members and staff (and maybe even uncover some hidden development skills among your volunteer leadership)

Should this be homework to bring to your next meeting?

You may want to tell your board members that you will be doing an exercise about fundraising letters and stories so they can consider ideas ahead of time.  But, the majority of volunteers will not sit down ahead of time to write anything out.  If some people do, it will be the people who already feel comfortable writing and excited about fundraising. This exercise is about generating ideas from everyone, because that is what will help your nonprofit look at fundraising in new and different ways.

And new ways to look at your fundraising will help you raise more money. Which, of course, is always the goal.

Email me  if you would like our help in facilitating your next board meeting or retreat.

Q. Our nonprofit holds an annual fundraising gala that raises about $40,000 gross, $25,000 net, towards a $800,000 annual budget. The executive director and some board members feel that this fundraiser is ‘too small’ and ‘not worth our while’; how do we decide whether it is or not, and what then?

Annual fundraising gala by Jacek Dylag at Unsplash

A. We are often asked versions of this question. Annual fundraising galas and other similar benefits are wonderful friend-raisers and community builders, but rarely do they find balance on the financial scales when you consider the time and energy that could be spent on other methods of fundraising instead of the event. They are, in fact, one of the least cost-effective ways or raising money.

That is not to say you should never host a fundraising gala. Galas:

  • introduce new people to the organization
  • give people an excuse to celebrate and honor individuals, and
  • have a high-end cache that high-end volunteers want to be associated.

Just consider the tradeoffs.

When we recommend against a fundraising gala for an nonprofit, we often here these common objections:

“The administrative work is done by someone who was hired with this event listed in his/her responsibilities.” That may be true, but are there other areas that could use the extra dedicated hours? Could that person spend the same hours, intensively for months, working on stewarding, upgrading, and retaining donors? How would that impact your budget?

“Our annual fundraising gala is run by volunteers. It doesn’t really cost us anything to produce.”
What else could your volunteers be helping you achieve? If those who are committed to raising money were to join the development committee and work with major donors, it could easily exceed the $25,000. And how much staff time is used supervising the volunteers?

“But our volunteers like working on the annual fundraising gala because they like being a part of a marquee event.” There is no doubt that this aspect of their commitment is valuable to your organization, but it is valuable as community building and strengthening. If you have the staff, volunteers, time and funds to support these events, then, continue the event.

But, consider how to grow the relationships with the attendees. Starting with getting the contact information for everyone who attends by sitting at a donor’s table. Then you can think about how many of those in attendance are major donors or have the capacity to be? How can you turn each one into a major donor? And how you can you deepen their involvement beyond the event? 

Ultimately, the decision is yours as to whether to proceed or stop the event. Just make sure you know what the true benefits are for your organization.

Q. Can we run multiple campaigns simultaneously without cannibalizing the annual campaign effort?

Multiple campaign pathsA. The biggest problem with running simultaneous campaigns is the potential for confusion.

The Donor

If a donor is asked to donate to 3 different campaigns from the same organization, he/she is unlikely to give to all of them – or at least not at a meaningful level. If you announce all of the options at once, are you asking the donor to pick the one that appeals to them most and just donate to that one? If you announce the various campaigns over a few months or a year, you are opening up the possibility that a donor gave a check last month for the new chairs initiative but would rather have funded the new organ drive that was just announced.

How are you going to handle the frustration of a donor who just wrote a 4, 5 or 6 figure check but now feels their money would have been better directed elsewhere? It doesn’t seem to be a long-term engagement strategy.

The Staff

And the confusion has the potential to extend to staff. Not only does a staff person need to determine how and when to approach the donor, but for which cause. If they turn you down for one, do you offer up another potential campaign? By the third option, is the donor thinking you are wonderfully diversified or simply desperate for any money from them?

Where should the development office focus? Is there a campaign that is more or less important? If so, why are you asking donors to invest in a third-priority campaign that may never reach its goals?

Keep it simple, most particularly with the donor as the center of your attention. It will be easier—and, ultimately, far more lucrative—for everyone involved.