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Archive for November, 2010

Booster Shot for the Annual Appeal

Have you sent your holiday appeal to your donors? I don’t know about you, but I like to get the gift request out the door around Thanksgiving time. This is a most busy time: nonprofits all over tarnation are out asking their donors to give, and to please give a bit more this year because, of course, the need is a bit more.
But who needs what?
Nonprofits I work with hear from me this constant refrain: make the ask about the people you are helping. About the mission and how your community benefit organization is delivering that mission in a tangible way to your primary customers. The appeal should be all about the people benefiting from your service. Not about the poor, struggling nonprofit. Uh uh.
A few helpful tips as you Ready, Set, Ask:
HOW ARE YOU MAKING LIVES BETTER? Connect the donors and their $$ to the value you are adding to life.
ENCLOSE RETURN SLIP so your donor can indicate which of the options you present: a range of dollar amounts that include last year’s gift amount plus two or three “step up” gift amounts.
NEED MORE INFORMATION? is a question that needs to appear on the response slip, offering three or four kinds of things you are doing that might be of interest, and keep the communication going after the gift is made.
THANK YOU’S READY TO GO so when the donations arrive, you are able to respond within a 24 – 48 hour timeframe with your note of appreciaton.
DONATE BUTTON ON YOUR WEBSITE a good idea to reference in your mail appeal so those who are more inclined to give online can do so. Average online gifts are higher than via snail mail.
PLAN YOUR FOLLOW UP so right after the first of the year, you can write to donors who didn’t give this time around and ask them to please consider helping now.
If you’d like more ideas, please get in touch: s.p.99smith@gmail.com.
All the best to you, your nonprofit leadership team, and the fine work you do delivering your mission to people who count on you.

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Relationship Fundraising in the 21st Century: Social Media has Arrived!

Some of you may be familiar with Ken Burnett and his book, Relationship Fundraising (2nd. Ed., Jossey Bass, 2002) which I vamp shamelessly to my clients and my students in my marketing and fundraising classes at Northeastern. A fine book. If you raise money for a living, you want a copy by your side. Particularly his Essential Foundations of Fundraising: 28 bullet points that are quick, helpful reminders of important basics to fundraising best practice.
For example: “Don’t just ask people to give.”
It’s about the relationship first.
It’s my belief that if nonprofit staff start here (relationship first) with their boards of directors they’ll more likely get from square one to square two. And maybe three.
In this hectic life we lead, keeping the relationship alive with the donor is a challenge.
So, lucky we have Pamela Grow and Pamela’s Grantwriting Blog to help keep us on the right course.
Ken’s book. Pam’s blog. Simple.
Recently, Pam wrote “Five Simple Solutions” in response to a Blackbaud piece on “Five Troubling Nonprofit Statistics.” And a healthy part of Pam’s advice to us is about communication, keeping connected, shoring up the relationship.
Because if we take the time to keep connected, we’ll do better renewing our donors and make our donor acquisition and retention job more sane. Actually do-able.
Reading student papers this past weekend, I noticed this recurring theme: when interviewing fundraisers of a Baby Boomer persuasion, who’ve been at their jobs for a good while, getting acknowledgment of the potential of social media was clearly a real slog. For my younger (Gen Y) students. The exasperation was falling right off the pages of their papers.
So. If we recognize that Relationship Fundraising is a fundamental, we need to employ the newer 21st Century tools to help us bridge and maintain those relationships. With those younger donor prospects we yearn for.
So c’mon, folks. Let’s not write off a generation as disinterested in public benefit causes. Uh uh. Let’s reach out, form the relationship and work toward donor status.
On their turf.
Are you with me?
After you emerge from your tryptophan-induced fog after Thanksgiving turkey, start thinking about building that bridge between your board members and the prospective donors out there who need to hear your message, bond with you, take up the banner, raise and give $ to make the mission possible.
Can that work for you?

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Lessons For the Rest of Us

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is opening its new Art of the Americas wing having raised $500 million for this purpose. Quite an achievement, even for a big, successful museum like MFA. How did they do this? What was the secret to their campaign’s success? What lessons can the rest of us working the nonprofit beat take away from this accomplishment?
I believe it starts at the top. In 1994, the MFA board hired Malcolm Rogers to be their director. You can see him on this video from their website http://mfa.org/americas-wing. From the beginning, Mr. Rogers sought to make MFA more accessible. So people like US Reperesentative Mike Capuaono wouldn’t drive or walk or take the T past the museum and feel unwelcomed. So Mr. Rogers the director extended the hours, offered more free access time, reached out to the city to develop a more inviting atmosphere.
Early in the 21st century Ronald and Anita Wornick of San Francisco met Malcolm Rogers, over time developed a relationship, and decided that their $5 million collection of contemporary decorative art belonged in this new venture: the Art of Americas wing.
And closer by in Greater Boston, Penny Venik, a director in the Fidelity Magellan group, became interested in the Museum of Fine Arts and in 2000 became an overseer,then in 2004 joined the board and became a leading advocate and investor in the fund to build this new wing.
So from the Boston area, and from locations across the globe, people came to know Malcolm Rogers, other leaders at MFA including Patricia Jacoby who led the development effort, and shared in the vision for this new, ambitious project to show off American (in all senses) art in a commodious setting.
By 2008, just before the worst recession since the depression took hold, the campaign was complete.
The New York Times, the Boston Globe, media of all scope and stripe are writing now about this great achievement, which will open to the public November 20, 2010.
As we learn more about how the MFA board and staff succeeded in this project, we can see the vision they developed, their ability to convey that vision to interested people of wealth; as well as to people who enjoy art, take pleasure in seeing it in a fine setting, and in a small way want to help make it work.
There are thousands of nonprofits, community benefit organizations, throughout New England. Each has a unique story to tell. Those who have a vision and can communicate it well, and who make the story about the art or the human service and not about the institution seem to do best in getting that message to take.
Congratulations to the Museum of Fine Arts for accomplishing this great addition to cultural life for us in New England, and for tourists who come to enjoy it from across the USA and around the world.
For those of us working to advance nonprofit causes, we have much to learn from this shining example.
Let’s start finding those Lessons for the Rest of Us.

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Where There’s A Will,…

“Planned Giving” is an important area of fundraising that public benefit organizations need to learn about and then offer options to their donors.
Wills and trusts can become a significant segment of your nonprofit revenue stream. A will is a donor’s “final gift” to your mission; a gift that hopefully will be used to assure the work you do can be done in the years to come.
Public benefit organizations purposefully recruit an attorney with estate planning expertise and a bank trust officer who advises clients on investments that can be an ongoing source of income for family members and nonprofit organizations these clients feel a strong sense of commitment to.
Over time, as your nonprofit builds donors to your annual campaign or fund, you likely will have financial supporters who would consider making a “planned gift”…a will or a trust….to benefit the mission you deliver.
How can you bring these opportunities to the attention of your donors? You can mention it in your newsletter, and provide a contact person whom your prospect can get in touch with to learn more.
Some nonprofit organizations host seminars or informal meetings on planned giving to inform all interested persons in your community about the benefits of financial planning. Targeting people in your donor pool is the preferred approach that I recommend. Mentioning options to donors, and offering more detailed information if they request it can get people who already support you, who feel a strong sense of connection to your mission; who see the benefit you bring to their community, to want to do something that can have a long lasting impact on keeping the service alive.
I recommend that you check to see if you have an Estate Planning Council in your State or region. Learn from a professional. Decide how you’ll apply these opportunities to support your nonprofit.

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