Sunday, March 17, 2013

Planning for Development

Why plan for development?  Well, the answer is pretty simple.  When you don't plan, you don't achieve and "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants" development work is seldom successful and always frustrating.  There are a number of reasons why a "Development Plan" is a good thing:

A Development Plan helps you plan to meet your revenue goals (your physical needs in your organization and your planned costs)

A Development plan helps you to avoid "mission creep" which is what happens when a great opportunity comes along unexpectedly.  When you don't have a plan and that great opportunity comes along you may say yes to something you don't have time, money, or volunteers to carry out.  If you have a development plan and the great opportunity comes along, you can see that you do have the time, money and volunteers and say yes or that you do not and you can comfortably say no knowing that you are making the best decision for your organization.

A Development Plan helps your organization to raise your level of professionalism among your volunteers, your donors, and your major funders as well.

A Development Plan lets you know, clearly, which funders you can approach for renewals and at what intervals.

A Development Plan allows you to carefully schedule events and such around those that are already in place in your community which will help you work with competitive events rather than suffer because of them.

A Development Plan can feed all other planning such as your Marketing and Communications Plan, all of which, helps your organization work at a pleasing and comfortable place.

Ever a proponate of planning in general, in a nonprofit organization which relies on fundraising, a Development Plan is crucial to your long-term success.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Relationship Building: Cultivation and Stewardship

As a part of what I do, I'll be attending a college basketball game tomorrow along with some key donors and friends of our organization.  What a delightful opportunity!  

Think about it...every board member, donor, and prospect has been invited to attend with a guest to see a great basketball game, enjoy some great food, etc.  

So, what is the plan for this very unique and treasured opportunity?  I plan to meet and greet all of our guests,  obviously.  In addition, I've got a plan for each of our staff there to connect specifically to two or three of our guests.  I've got a little gift for a few children who are joining us and three hours of my undivided development attention.  

This is a fun event light on planning and enjoyable by all, including staff.  The key is in the connections made at the event and the follow up.  This is where we will focus our attention come Monday.

Connections can be as simple as introducing one person to someone else they might not otherwise intersect with in daily life.  These introductions create a great synergy because they learn that they both have a love for your organization, they begin to talk about life events, who they know, etc. and begin to find their own points of intersection.  Before you know it, they've made a connection because of your event. 

Follow up is key to the event's success, too.  Beginning Monday, there will be personal thank you notes written and sent with personal notes regarding the day's events and any details.

Is that it?  Are there other ways to follow up?  Of course!  Let's say this team advances in competition then you've got great reasons to make contact and place that reminder of their game attendance.  

Were all the guests previously known by you or were your donors in attendance graciously bringing potential donors to your door, so to speak?  If so, then follow up will be a little more in depth and include a coffee meeting or more.

The little things you do to make even an easy event successful and memorable make the biggest difference.  Do these little things such as connecting and follow up well.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cultivation equals Relationship Building

How are you at making new friends?  That skill alone can make or break your development efforts...seriously.

Your organization hosted a Trivia Night and had 40 "guests" in attendance who came with a friend or colleague.  These 40 guests were not previously in our data base and therefore not on our radar.

At your event, as all good development people should,  you made an ask of attendees beyond the auction and ticket sales, to donate to your cause.

Of those 40, ten did make a small contribution and two individuals made a more substantial first gift.

These 40 should be added into your data base and proper research done; however, your primary attention should be given to the 12 who gave.

Depending on your time and staff, you might choose to meet each of twelve in person but definitely you must, you must meet the two who gave larger gifts in person.  Invite them and the person who invited them to the trivia night to coffee one morning to get to know them better.

The remaining ten need, in addition to their formal tax letter receipt, a personal thank you note from  YOU.

Finally, the next time you do an email solicitation or direct mail solicitation, include the remaining trivia-based contacts and reference in the solicitation the trivia event where they first came in contact with your organization.

Back to your 12 now hot prospects.  These folks are you newest donors.  They need to be stewarded carefully.  This is why you would want to visit the two (I would visit the 12) in person.  

Why a visit you ask?  You need to get to know them...truly.  Begin to build a long-lasting relationship.  In most visits, you need to come prepared to give any additional information about your organization.  Your primary purpose, though, is listening.  Do they have a story which connects them personally to the purpose of your organization?  Share a bit about you and listen to a lot about them.

Follow your visit with a personal thank you.  

Stewardship at this point will also include the added things you would do for a friend.  For example, did you see something in the paper that Susie Supporter, one of your two larger gifts from Trivia Night, mentioned when you visited her.  Cut that piece out and send it to her with a note.  If it is electronic, email it to her with a note.  

When the next Trivia Night rolls around, you can count on Susie to return...and hopefully bring more friends.  

In addition to Trivia, you will want to include Susie and all of your new donors in your complete development plan and roll them into your planned communications for current/new donors.  

The remaining new friends who did not make a donation fall into your prospect pool which also deserves attention to turn your prospects into donors.  

You will never turn them all into donors but you will gain some, you will also gain publicity that only word-of-mouth can grant.  Susie, and all of the 40 for that  matter, will share what they did Friday night and this new organization to which they were introduced.  

Development relationship building really is like making a new friend...finding out more about them and in the process point them to areas of funding that most closely reflect their goals and desires for giving.


Monday, February 11, 2013

The Development Process: Cultivation

Cultivation is where it all begins, so to speak...

How do you even begin?  How do you get to know folks who may be interested in your organization who who have never even met...yet?

Here are some ideas that will get you going:

1.  "Who-do" cards/mailings/emails - The best advertisement is word of mouth, right?  It is.  Send a postcard or mailing with a way to reply to your current donors, friends, etc. and ask them for the names and basic contact information for five of their acquaintances that might have an interest in your organization. 

2.  One up that idea and go electronic - Send your email list an email to the same effect and on every outgoing email be sure it is forwarding-friendly and encourage everyone on your list to pass the information along.  Send out a special email two times a year with the intent of picking up new constituents.  Include basic information in that email making it appropriate for your donors and friends to pass along saying, "this is an organization which I believe in and I would like to share some information about them with you."

3.  List Share - Collaborate with like-minded organizations in your area to share lists of donors/friends.  For instance, if you are one type of arts organization and there is a similar arts organization in your area where you might have an overlap of constituents but you might also be able to pick up new ones, ask if they would like to exchange lists. 

4.  Chamber of Commerce Lists - Most chambers offer their members access to mailing lists and most already in an Excel format to merge into a letter.  This couldn't be easier!  Get the list, work through it to remove what you need to and mail out an introductory letter with a reply option.  Then, follow up on those letters by phone about 7-10 days after mailing.

5.  Event follow-up - At every event, be sure to offer guests a way to get on your list so to speak.  Many of your guests will be first-time friends who have come with an existing donor/friend so don't lose those valuable new friends by letting them slip out the door with out getting their contact information and asking for a contribution.

Getting newbies on your list is just the beginning.  Next time, we'll walk Susie Soon-to-be Supporter through the process.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Development (Fundraising) Process

As a small nonprofit that is just beginning or even a nonprofit seeking to build up your donor base, it is vital to keep the steps to successful fundraising in mind.

Development (Fundraising) is a process and it is equally a full set of systems that comprise that process and we'll explain that in more detail later.

Your overall objective is raising money, correct?  Your goal (which is best matched to your budget and vice versa) determines your measurement for whether or not you've achieved that objective.

In some respects you are introducing people to your organization and helping them to learn more about it by engaging them in organizational activities.  As you meet people through a variety of events,  opportunities, even mailings, etc. you begin to "cultivate" these prospects.  

  • Cultivation is step ONE in the development process.  Cultivation occurs in every meaningful contact related to your organization and that individual, foundation, or business/corporation.  From a solicitation done through direct mail because they were on a list of businesses from your local chamber of commerce to a lunch you scheduled with them to share more about your organization to an event for your organization to which you invited them.   Cultivation can also include birthday, anniversary, and Christmas cards as well as sending a newspaper article about a common interest to say, "hey, I thought about you when I saw this."  All of those steps are cultivation.

As you determine a specific strategy for a prospect, you begin to be more involved in steps that could better be described as Solicitation.  Solicitation starts when you begin to introduce your prospect to a specific way or ways they can help support your organization.

  • Solicitation is step TWO in the development process.  Solicitation occurs when you realize that Mr. Jones is very interested in private, Christian education and he and his family attended Christian schools.  His business is close in proximity to your school and does business as a vendor.  He has both the personal affinity to your organization and is related to it through business.  You may need a new Scoreboard in your gym that would cost approximately $5,000 and based on your research, that would be a gift he could make.  Your job now is to determine your strategy for soliciting Mr. Jones.

After you've successfully asked Mr. Jones for his gift of $5,000 to purchase the scoreboard in the gym, you need to be sure to steward this donor and the relationship he has with your organization.  This is a common sense step unfortunately all-too-often overlooked.

  • Stewardship is step THREE in the development process.  Stewardship can also involve birthday, anniversary, and Christmas cards but it also includes a photo of that beautiful scoreboard with Mr. Jones and your students with the press release sent to the local papers.  It includes continuing the connection and continually working on the relationship so that the donor feels connected to his gift after it has been given.  All of these details will ensure that the next time you have a need which fits with Mr. Jones' giving interests, he will be more likely to help again.

Check back next week and we'll unpack the cultivation step a little more.  

Have a good week and happy fundraising!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

How Did We Do? Evaluating a Fundraising Event

The questions have been asked and answered.  The prizes have been awarded and auctions won.  The clean up is over and now it is time to reflect...

There are some key questions to think about when reflecting on your event to determine how successful you were and what things you might do differently next time.  One of my friends refers to this reflection as, "even better if," as in the event will be even better next time if...

1.  the obvious first question is did you make your monetary goal?  Any reasons for the fact that you did or did not that are important to note such as weather on the day of the event, unsuccessful marketing of the event, etc.

2.  did you sell out, were all your tables sold and filled?  Did you actually have to turn anyone away?  Was the price appropriate or did anyone balk at the cost?

3.  Did you have a successful auction?  Were there ample items of varying values and were they all sold?  Was check out smooth and were they any problems with check out?

4.  Did everyone have a good time?  You might have (hopefully you did) provide your attendees with an evaluation form to complete before leaving.  What were those results?  Did everyone love a certain round?  Was everyone able to hear/see the questions, etc?

5.  Did staff and volunteers complete their work before and during the event as expected?  Did anyone go above and beyond or did anyone stand around and not work?

6.  Were sponsors happy with the benefits/recognition that they received for their sponsorship dollars?  This is absolutely essential to their willingness to sponsor again in the future.

7.  Did your volunteers "show up" in support of the event, table sales, etc?  Did your staff and/or families also show their support in table sales, spreading the word, etc.

8.  Were your expenses realistic?  Did you seek to have donations for goods/services to lesson your out-of-pocket expenses?  Did you purchase something to make money?  Please don't do that.  Purchasing an item for the auction makes little sense when you will not likely get your cost back much less make a huge profit.  It is an unnecessary expense.

9.  Was there a community response to the event?  Were there table sales representing the community that would be evidence of a good marketing plan carried out well?

10. Did you and your team feel that the time and effort you put into the event was worth the outcome?  Using 400 man hours at $25 per hour, or $10,000, to make $10,000 does not really make sense, either.  Keep your time cost in line with your outcomes.

If you are interested in more information or consulting help for your next event, please contact me at

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Do I Really HAVE to Follow Up on Event Fundraising?

In a word, "yes," you really do have to follow up and when you do, you'll reap some great rewards!  

Your letters have been sent complete with a great sponsorship opportunities page and you've got your script in hand to do those follow up calls.  Here are some thoughts on how to proceed.

1.  Think strategically about specific businesses to ask for your larger sponsorships and do that by phone.  You might consider doing that BEFORE the letters go out and then, as a part of your telephone conversation, let them know to expect the letter.

2.  Call EVERYONE on your list, EVERYONE and follow up.  Divide your list into manageable volunteer lists, provide them with a script, and ask your board of directors, parents, and/or other volunteers to make five to ten phone calls for you.  

3.  Keep a really good list (I personally prefer excel for project-based follow up) so that I know who said yes, who said no, who I need to call again, and when follow up such as picking up an auction item is needed.

4.  Delegate more than just the phone calls, delegate the follow up items, too, such as picking up those auction items.

I would add a note here to say that I truly believe that people are hesitant to ask someone for something and even more so when they have to do it by phone or in person.  The internet via Facebook and email are so much more "incognito," so to speak.  If you are making the calls or if you are managing volunteers making the calls, the strategy is the same.  Be the cheerleader and encourage your folks.  Five phone calls in a day.  You can do this!  I once heard an author say that she struggled to do her five required pages each day for a particular book so she put five candies across the top of her computer and as she finished a page, she enjoyed a candy.  Provide for yourself or your volunteers a nice, small, gesture to say that you appreciate the work.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Event Sponsorships Part III

Event Sponsorships Part III

Thanks for checking back again.  Let's jump right in and talk about the pathway to your overall event goal and then scripting for follow up on an outstanding sponsorship request letter.

So, contemplating and planning the pathway to your goal is vitally important. To say, "let's have a trivia night; it will be so much fun and we'll raise some money," is not good enough.  How much do you want/need to raise?  What expenses will be involved that may bring down the total amount raised from the event?  

Here is how it might look...we previously stated an assumed goal of $20,000 for this first event.

We also said that we, just for an example, sold the following sponsorships (from that fantastic letter, remember?)

One Gold Sponsorship at $5,000
One Silver Sponsorship at $2,500
Two Bronze Sponsorships at $1,000
Five Table Sponsors at $500

Those would total $12,000.

Now, let's think ticket sales.  An expected cost per ticket is most likely $25 per person and some offer a discount that would allow a couple to come for $40.  For simplicity, let's go with individual tickets at $25 per person.

We're going to have our event at a venue that will seat 250 easily so if we sold out, we would have $6,250 in ticket sales; however, didn't we just say yesterday that those who donated sponsorships would get a table as a part of their benefits?  We did and it's a great benefit for a lot of reasons.  

So, let's take out nine tables of 10 or 90 people so now we're at 160 available tickets to sell for a total of $4,000 in ticket sales.  There is a possibility that the ABC company which gets a table of ten for their sponsorship donation will decide to "donate" the table back.  In that case, you can sell those tickets or you can use them, wisely, to invite potential donors, etc. to your event free of charge.  

That's only $16,000 and we really wanted to reach our goal of $20,000, didn't we?  

Most trivia nights, golf outings, galas, etc., now incorporate the idea of a silent and/or live auction to increase the funds raised. 

Your auction needs to bring in $4,000 in order for you to make your goal.  You can include on your sponsorship letter and opportunity page mailing the opportunity to donate a gift item from their business. 

Auctions take on a life of their own and really require someone to specifically manage that piece.  With good  management, your $4,000 goal will be achieved.  More about that in another blog...

Now, you've sent those great letters and you're expecting boxes and checks to come rolling in, right?  Well, that's not EXACTLY how it works.  I remember someone once saying, "the devil is in the details," and this is a prime example.  

You absolutely have to follow up on every letter you send out whether it is for your annual appeal, a scholarship initiative, or an event, follow up is the most essential part of your business and will determine your success.

Here is the simplest of scripts and you will be amazed at how much you can gain from using it.

"Hi Mr./Ms. XXX, I am XXX with XXX school and I am calling to follow up on a letter we sent recently to request a donation for our upcoming  auction and trivia night."  Answer questions and provide needed information.  At some point in your conversation ask, "can we count on you to support our Trivia Night with a sponsorship?"  If they are not interested in a sponsorship, work your way down to a Gift In Kind auction item.  Be sure to include in your conversation their opportunities for recognition.

If your contact person is not there, ask for voice mail and leave a message with a person as the last option.

Most people would say that telephone follow up is their least favorite but yet most effective form of communication to getting the dollars in the door.  Don't think of this as cold calling because it really isn't.  This is following up on a letter that you sent out to see if their interest fits with your opportunity.

Next time we'll chat more about following up on your solicitations for events...

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Event Sponsorships Part II

Event Sponsorships Part II

Thanks for checking talk about some specific examples of sponsorship levels and recongition opportunities for your potential donors.

Remember the trivia night event idea from yesterday?  Let's set a goal of $20,000 for our first time.  How are we going to achieve such a lofty goal our first time out with this event. 

Let's consider this...

Sponsorships can help you achieve goals, provide income to help you spread the word, and you are helping the sponsor to get their name out, too.

Try this as a possible Sponsorship Opportunities piece:

$5,000     Gold Sponsor
$2,500     Silver Sponsor
$1,000     Bronze Sponsor
$  500      Table Sponsor

But, think about what you can offer these sponsors at the various giving levels.

At $5,000, the exclusive Gold Sponsor would receive One table with premier seating for 10, Logo recognition on your website, logo recognition in the event program (250), recognition in your annual report (or similar publication listing all donors), logo recognition on table, verbal recognition by emcee during the event, logo recognition on slide during event, recognition via a press release distributed to X number of media outlets in your community.

At $2,500, a Silver sponsor would receive One table with premier seating for 10, Logo recognition on your website, recognition in the event program (250), recognition in your annual report (or similar publication listing all donors), logo recognition on table,  recognition on slide at event, recognition via a press release distributed to X number of media outlets in your community.

At $1,000, a Bronze sponsor sponsor would receive One table with seating for 10, recognition on your website, recognition in the event program (250), recognition in your annual report (or similar publication listing all donors), recognition on slide at event, recognition via a press release distributed to X number of media outlets in your community.

At $500, a Table Sponsor sponsor would receive One table with seating for 10, recognition in the event program (250), recognition in your annual report (or similar publication listing all donors), recognition on slide at event, recognition via a press release distributed to X number of media outlets in your community.

If you sold one Gold Sponsorship at $5,000, one Silver Sponsor at $2,500, two Bronze Sponsors at $1,000, and four Table Sponsors at $500, you would bring in $11,500 in revenue.

Add to your sponsorships, the cost of ticket sales and your auction piece and you will most likely reach that goal! 

Another thought is to allow one of your $1,000 sponsorships to perhaps be a gift-in-kind grocer who is willing to donate food and drink to the event. 

Tune in next time for Part Three where we'll break down the pathway to your event goal and discuss tips and tricks for getting in touch with your potential sponsors.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Event Sponsorships Planning

Event Sponsorships and Fundraising Efforts (PART ONE)

It has been suggested that your organization try an event to raise funds this year.  What to do?  Where do you start?  Here are some tips to help get your inaugural event off the ground with great success.

1.  Select your event and determine who would be most likely to be interested in attending...what audience would enjoy a golf tournament, a trivia night, a bowl-a-thon, a gala, etc.  The list of possible events is quite literally endless.

2.  Determine the financial goal of the event.  If you are hosting the first ever Trivia Night to benefit your child's school, you might set a goal of $15,000.  

3.  Find the location, determine total capacity crowd, set a reasonable price for individual tickets and then ponder sponsorship possibilities.

4.  Generally speaking, a place to start with sponsorship levels looks like this: "Gold Sponsor" $5,000; "Silver Sponsor" $2,500; "Bronze Sponsor" $1,000; Table Sponsor $500.  Individual tickets for this same event might be $25 per person for a total table cost of $200 to $250 depending on table size.

5.  Develop your sponsorship prospect list.  Who, corporately speaking, would be interested in sponsoring something with your intended audience?  If the event is for your child's school in your local community, your likely prospects would include local community businesses as well as businesses related to education and perhaps vendors to your school (those who sell their services to your school).

6.  Develop and send your first mailing with a personalized letter and a "sponsorship opportunities" page. Your "sponsorship opportunities" page also needs to include ways in which the company can and will be recognized for their gift.  Suggestions include:  a table of 10 with premier seating, logo recognition on website, printed publications, a placard in your school, etc.  Think outside the box for options that are free and inexpensive but will definitely give your funder bang for their buck.

7.  Be sure to do phone follow up a week to two weeks following your letter's drop date.  Get a "yes," a "no," or a "maybe," for each company to whom you mailed a solicitation letter.

8.  Depending on your event, you may want to also solicit auction items for a silent or live auction option to raise additional funds.  This is attractive to attendees of a trivia night, gala, and golf outing.

9.  You will be marketing your event as you progress toward your date so be sure to tout your fundraising success thus far.  For example, you might include in a press release announcing the event, "The Super School is hosting a Trivia Night sponsored by XYZ Corporation, ABC Company and others who have contributed to evening's events."  

10.  Be sure to follow up with your sponsors throughout the process and be sure to mix and mingle with them on the evening of the event so they can see how beneficial their gift the school as well as to their own business.

Coming in part two of this post will be a breakdown of sponsorship levels with recognition as well as scripting for follow up calls...check back!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Announcing...a new fundraising blog!

LLM Development Services is proud to announce our new blog!  Great news and a wonderful opportunity to share tools and tips to help you reach your fundraising goals. 

Recently, a client asked us to write their appeal letters to individuals, corporations, and foundations.  The proposal we provided to them included a script for volunteers to use when calling to follow up on the letter as well as a timeline for mailing, follow-up phone call, thank you letter (s), and an additional letter for non-responders. 

Additionally, we wrote a letter for both renewals as well as prospects and included updated giving levels.

Their results were fantastic!  Their goal for individual renewals alone was exceeded by 33%.  That's great to hear.  What was even better was hearing the following:

"We are thrilled!  We will definitely use your [LLM Development Services] services again!"

Woohoo!  This is exciting stuff! 

What is the first thing you can do to improve your fundraising bottom line?  Simply start...start researching, start asking, start evaluating, start, start, start...

The one thing that will hold you back is the fear of starting.  So, don't let one more day go by without doing something, anything, to move your business forward.  Tomorrow or even tonight before you go to bed, send one email, take a look at one website, and say that you did something rather than nothing to take a step in the forward direction!

Happy Fundraising!