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 llmdevelopmentservices@gmail.com