Friday, May 23, 2008

Making it Easy for Donors to Give

It's been a while since I've had an opportunity to post -- the school year's winding down to an end and my family has been busy attending year-end awards nights, studying for final exams and preparing for 2 graduations.

In the midst of this year-end flurry, though, my husband and I have begun talking about making a small gift to our kids' private school in honor of our oldest child's graduation. I'm a donor who likes to stay off the school's radar screen, (and I suspect there are many other parents like me) and rather than give the Head of School a call to see how a gift might be best used, I visited the school's website. To my surprise, there wasn't any information on giving opportunities, ways to make a gift, or the school's needs.

To be fair, the kids' school doesn't employ a development director and because of its particular situation, doesn't have a mature annual fund program. But in this day and age, having basic giving information as an integral part of an organization's website is a must.

Providing giving information on a website, whether it's a simple statement, "To make a gift to the XYZ Organization, please contact us at ..." or a more detailed outline of an organization's long-range plans, needs, and ways to give, is an easy way to give potential donors the opportunity to give. Take it one step further and set up an online giving program through PayPal or through another gateway. With the cost of direct mail always on the increase, secure online giving is a way to cut costs while raising revenue.

Monday, April 28, 2008

4 Tips for Creating a Successful Major Donor Program

Looking to build or expand a major donor program? Figuring out the best place to start and getting it up and running with limited staff and agency resources may well be your toughest obstacle. So how do you make the move to major gifts?

1. Know Your Agency's Needs and Develop a Strategy to Meet Them: Effective fundraising starts with a realistic assessment of organizational needs, both now and in the future. If your board, staff, and solicitors aren't clear about what your organization's needs are, they can't effectively communicate them to anyone else.

Once you have consensus about the organization's need, you must tie it to your organization's mission, and then to the donor's interest. For example, "We need X because it will enable us to do Y which will help our clients do Z. While doing all this for your agency, your gift will enable you to do/feel/be A."

2. Don't Be Afraid to Ask for (And Maybe Pay For) Help: Many times, an organization feels it has the potential to raise major gifts, but concludes that it doesn't have a clue about how to begin the process. An outside consultant often has the objectivity, the broad knowledge, and experience to help your organization identify solicitors and donors, implement a system for managing the cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship process, conduct solicitation training, and provide guidance about how to manage the various constituencies involved in the campaign.

3. Develop a Systematic Strategy for Managing the Solicitation Process: Develop a system for capturing information about major donor prospects. Have your solicitors fill out call reports or give you the information verbally about their meetings with prospects. Know when prospects have been visited and when you need to call them. Keep track of your solicitors' progress, ask for specific follow-up dates, and hold your solicitors accountable for doing what they say they will do.

4. Develop a Communications Plan for Constituencies: As the number of individual gifts to your organization grows, it's important to make sure you're communicating regularly with your donors. Once a person makes a commitment to your organization, it's your responsibility to make sure that they're thanked appropriately, visited, sent invitations to events, etc. If you have individuals with a giving history, take a risk. Call to thank them for their gift and offer to meet with them to let them know about the impact it's had. Make it your goal to get to know your donors and prospects and focus on building your organization's relationship with them.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

3 Easy Fundraising Management Tips

1. Spread the Good Word: Build momentum in a fledgling individual solitication program by keeping solicitors informed of each other's successes. A quick "Congratulations to Mary Smith for her successful solicitation of Daddy Warbucks!" via email will celebrate successes and motivate others.

2. Pick up The Phone: Thank donors above a certain level with a personal phone call. Use the call as an opportunity to learn who they are, why they support your organization, and if they would be interested in meeting with you to learn more abour your organization's work. Your donors will appreciate the personal attention.

3. A Captive Audience: Use each board meeting and development committee meeting to educate board members on ways to make a gift ot your agency. Taking a few minutes to take about how to make a gift with stocks, gifts-in-kind, planned gifts, and cash remind your board members that these giving vehicles are available.

Got a tip of your own? Email me.

Special Events: Tips for Maximizing Your Fundraising Revenue

In the face of a faltering economy, increased needs in services, and diminishing sources of grants and federal funding, organizations that don’t reevaluate their fundraising plans are left struggling. Sometimes, however, the all-too-easy solution is “let’s throw a party!”

While there are many benefits -- increased visibility for your organization, the opportunity to involve a large number of volunteers and donors, and increased revenue (sometimes!) -- fundraising through special events isn’t always easy, nor is it the great panacea for solving the challenges of board, executive directors, and yes, even development directors who don’t like to do personal solicitation. On the surface, finding a location, sending invitations, choosing a caterer, sending invitations, figuring out a program that highlights the organization’s mission and services, and roping in a few sponsorships sounds easy. And sometimes, it is. But it can also be an expensive use of time and resources, and unfortunately, after figuring out all those costs, the return on investment might not be what the organization had hoped for.

In my experience, organizations that integrate special events as a part, not the whole, of its fundraising program, tend to be more successful in raising money overall. Making sure that you’re using your special events as a way to introduce your organization to new donors, following up with likely prospects after the event, and communicating the need for a strong annual fund and eventually a major gifts program to your board is essential.

Diversification in fundraising efforts, as in the stock market, becomes a strategic way to make sure your organization’s financial needs are covered.

Nine Tips for Maximizing Your Special Event Revenue

  • Not everyone has to, or wants to be, a worker bee. Create a “working committee” of people close to your organization who will actually make sure the work of planning and executing the special event gets done.
  • Create a committee-at-large whose job is to give above and beyond the price of admission, to encourage their friends to attend, and to attend themselves.
  • Create giving levels above and beyond the base ticket price and list the donors and their giving levels in the special event program.
  • Be sure you keep track of larger gifts and have a plan for following-up with those donors after the event. Have a board member or staff person call them to thank them for attending and gauge their interest in becoming involved in other ways.
  • Create different sponsorship recognition levels for corporations or vendors and be sure to feature them prominently at the event. Companies give to be noticed – make sure your organization’s recognition program lets that happen.
  • Be sure the event invitation has an option for making a gift, even if the person can’t attend the event.
  • Be sure to feature your organization’s mission and services prominently at the event. If your event attracts a number of people who are unfamiliar with your organization, you want them to leave remembering what it actually does.
  • Actively solicit donations of goods and services to keep costs down. This can range from food and drinks, decorations, printing, and take-home gifts for your guests.
  • Thank everyone – and then thank them again. Making sure people know that their time, their money, and their belief in what your organization does will keep them coming back