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Building Nonprofit Board Development Skill in Stages

I’ve written frequently about the importance of building relationships as fundamental to effective fundraising. This is the development part of the fundraising equation: if our goal is to build a solid, active donor database consisting of lots of folks committed to our mission, the effective part starts with our Board of Directors. The core of our nonprofit organization and its mission.

OK. So groan if you must. I know that many of you have knocked your head on this door a number of times, and come up against resistance. “I didn’t sign up for that.” “I give you my time; it’s your job to raise the money.” I think all of us at one time or another have been there and lived that.

So how do we get to that transformational place that Kay Sprinkel Grace, fundraiser extraordinaire, talks about in her books (e.g., High Impact Philanthropy) and workshops?

It happens step-by-step. In Stages. Ages ago, I cited a Guidestar piece, “Five Fundraising Mistakes We Make with our Boards.” Heck. Only five? here’s a link:

We start by talking about and acting on building relationships. It takes that interpersonal connectivity around our mission, around the good we are doing for our primary customers, that builds the commitment we need to move the mission and our nonprofit forward. Think about the emotional energy we draw from stories about success around the mission. Take time at board meetings to get the stories on the table, talk about them and share the good feelings that come; the bonding that can happen around these stories. This is the source of energy, and we build it deliberately over time from meeting-to-meeting. When we get this momentum around our mission, the concept of asking our friends who share our commitment to contribute to the cause feels like a natural next step.

In State of the Union messages to Congress and the USA, President Obama frequently closed with stories to illustrate points he wanted to hammer home. Following the mass shooting in Newtown, CT gun violence was the story. I thought his five minutes of story telling was far more effective than the previous hour and ten minutes of listing all the goals he wanted to accomplish.

So don’t forget to tell the stories.

Asking for money to advance a cause we share is a natural progression. Build the Fundraising Board: but do it in stages, over time. So suggesting that a member of the Board ask a friend for a gift doesn’t feel alien, uncomfortable, out of line. Asking becomes a logical next step.

Give it a go.

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The Thank-You: Key to Effective Donor Stewardship

For most nonprofits, January is an important month. For the majority, the annual appeal for donor support was mailed in November, gifts began arriving in December, and for some, a respectable portion of donations come during January.
Each nonprofit organizes its “thank you” process at the same time the appeal hits the street. Some will get a note via card or letter, some will get an email, some will get a phone call, and in some cases, a board member will visit the donor to express thanks in person.
Some nonprofits conduct a board “thankathon” (see Kay Sprinkel Grace in High Impact Philanthropy) for special/major gifts.
The important thing is to let each donor know that s/he is appreciated. That it‘s more than the money. Confirm the relationship by letting the person know you remember something about him/her; how the gift will help those you serve in some specific way. Help make a link happen. Cement the bond.
I remember when I worked with the American Lung Association in New Hampshire, board members agreed to thank major donors to the Christmas Seal campaign. They called donors. The first year we did it, some donors thought we were calling for more money. Board members were coached to let donors know, “no, we just want to let you know how much we appreciate your recent gift of ___ to help fight lung disease. We are interested, if you care to share, in what inspires you to give. It helps us to know.” Well. Our donors were pleasantly surprised to get the personal touch and usually had something to tell us. Log this information in your database. It’ll come in handy for your next appeal.
In this way, the “thank you” helps affirm the relationship.

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Getting Started with a Legacy Gift Program

Nonprofits of all sizes, shapes, and durations should consider instituting a planned (or legacy) giving program…so donors can learn how they can make gifts through a will or trust or other method, to further the long-term purposes of a nonprofit organizations they care about.

I recommend this article published by Wiley in 2003 as a good basic document for nonprofits to read, discuss, and use to get a legacy program started.

You will find it through an online search.

0787962562). Copyright © (2003) by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. This material is used by
permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc

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Follow Up Lapsed Donors Early in 2017

The New Year will soon be upon us. Our Annual Campaign has been sent to all donors and some warm prospects. Their gifts have begun to come in. We will know soon if this campaign is a success. For the accomplished fundraiser, are we satisfied?
Maybe not quite yet.
Early January will be a good time for staff to scan the donor list for those who received the appeal but have not responded.
The task: Identify lapsed donors who did not respond to our December 2016 fall appeal. Particularly those with a history of being (to this point) steadfast donors.
Time to send a follow up appeal to lapsed contributors.
The outgoing package is a bit different from the initial appeal. You may want the ask to focus a bit differently. For example, consider re-stating the appeal in different terms. You may want the letter to come from a client who depends on you and your donors to deliver.
Make that follow-up ask.
It should bump up your appeal by about 10% net.

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What Are Our Donors Telling Us?

We are in peak season for appeals from nonprofits to our donors. And many of our supporters are hearing from several nonprofits they follow and support. How do we attract attention of our donors when they are getting so many appeals from so many nonprofits?

Our Initial Appeal Message needs to be distinctive, and…appealing. The message inside needs to be unique and an attention grabber. The email transmittal or outer envelope if snail mail needs to get the donor’s attention.

We must listen. There may be a message or a phone call from some donors with a question or a comment about the appeal…or, about what we’re doing for our clients and how we’re doing it. We need to collect this feedback and every couple of weeks sit a few folks down to review these messages to us and hear what’s on donors’ minds. We need to pay attention.

It’s not just about what we’re communicating. It’s about what our donors are communicating back to us.

Hear it. Take it into account. Respond.

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