GivingTuesday 2013 – a Gift for Fundraisers

I’m so excited to be part of an unique and excellent virtual conference – maybe the first of its kind – where fundraising colleagues will share their expertise all day December 3, 2013. Each hosted session will be one hour in a “tweet chat” format with a host and one or more experts. There will be 9 different topics covered. Knowledge at your fingertips. #micdrop

UntitledWhy are we doing this? Clare McDowall had this brilliant idea as a way of fundraisers giving back to colleagues, virtually.  She gathered some of her colleagues (I’m lucky to be included!) and we considered some of the best topics to help your fundraising all year long (and some year-end tips too).

Then we contacted giving people who are offering their expertise – for free, for fundraisers like you. You can bookmark the site (short term) so you are ready to join in on Tuesday.

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AFP Congress 2013

AFP Congress 2013

Ligia, Leah and me

I got inspired, recharged and schooled at the 2013 Association of Fundraising Professionals conference in Toronto, the official Congress of the Toronto chapter of AFP.

Holy smokes it was good!

The opening session was led by Ken Burnett and Alan Clayton (ClaytonBurnett) and spoke about emotional fundraising. “Let your emotional experiences you feel when seeing your mission at work fuel your fundraising.” “Fundraising is not about money, it is about giving donors more time with the people they love.” “Brilliant fundraising is always about change!  After all nonprofits are offering to change some current or future state. ” How do donors feel when they give, when they feel that they are going to change the world? Something like the end of this video Canada v USA 2010 Olympic Hockey Finals. Fundraising Femmes FatalesThe conference is also about connecting with people you know, people you admire, people you cannot wait to meet. Follow them on Twitter: Alan and Ken.

Here I’m hanging with Leah Eustace, Ligia Pena, Amy Sept, Rory Green, Dani Mailing, Sarah Lyon, and Claire Kerr. Lots of knowledge, experience and energy with this group!!

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The Surprise Birthday Message

I have two phones. One for my American life and one for my Canadian life. Sometimes when I am in one country, I miss a call from the other if my phone is on vibrate, is off or in the hotel.

CharityWaterCanThat is how I missed the call to thank me on my birthday.

“Hi! This is — from Charity: Water and I wanted to thank you for donating your birthday to us!” There was some more patter, another thanks and she was off. Friendly. I might have even smiled if I hadn’t been puzzled.

Don’t get me wrong. I love engaging people and I think fundraisers should do more of it. But I was pretty sure that was a while ago. I couldn’t really remember when. I recalled starting a campaign…

I logged into my Charity: Water account. Ah yes… at the time I was obsessed with Charity: Ball and how fun the event was: different, image-intensive, interactive, exciting. I loved the behind the scenes teaser, everything (this was back in 2010, it is even bigger now). It looked as if they used best practices to engage and steward donors. So in 2011, I set up a campaign for Valentine’s Day. I sent a few requests out. I was curious about how they helped supporters about with the friend-to-friend requests, the messages, sharing, etc.

I made a gift to my campaign. I received an email thanks very quickly.

Beth Ann Locke

Thanks for your donation to Beth Ann Locke’s campaign.

We’ve seen the amazing impact that water projects have on people’s lives and we can’t thank you enough for your contribution. 100% of your gift will directly fund a sustainable water project for a community in need, and you’ll receive a formal tax receipt from charity: water within four weeks.

Many companies match their employee’s donations; all you have to do is ask. To find out how you can double or triple your impact through your workplace, click here.

Want to start your own campaign and start bringing clean water to those in need? Visit to get started now.

Questions about mycharity: water campaigns? About our unique model in general? Check out our FAQs here:

–the team at charity: water

Tips? Suggestions? Need help?
Talk to us at:

I thought: No, my nonprofit can do better than that. It was NOT what I had expected:

  • “Beth Ann Locke” at the top of the email – Just merge <name> at the top and go? No. Use a salutation – anything – to move the reader into the message.
  • “Thanks for your donation to Beth Ann Locke’s campaign.” – No one (not even the computer) noticed my name was the same name or even the same email linking the donor and the campaign creator?!
  • “… a formal tax receipt in four weeks …” – What? Surely donation processing and acknowledgements are automated. Maybe setting an expectation of a month means never having to say you are sorry…
  • We, we, we – I felt a lot of the language was about them.
  • Asking if I wanted to start a campaign – No. I had just done that.

I took my lessons (there was some good stuff too, like suggesting the donor check out matching gifts). I didn’t hear too much over these nearly three years… the annual report that year, the occasional promotional video. But nothing again to thank or engage. No email saying, “Hey Beth Ann Locke! Your support was appreciated, how about doing that again this year?”

But they are very successful, so they might not need my support.

And then this message, October 2013, on my birthday. Thank goodness I didn’t actually receive the call; I might have replied, “I don’t think I did that.” Why did they call? I’m not sure. But I do know why I didn’t respond favorably:

  • To be effective, reactivating lapsed donors cannot feel random – Likely Charity: Water was wanting to get me re-engaged – a good idea. But was it right for me? Or just easier for them? Did they lump the lapsed campaigners in with the current ones?
  • Cross-channel communication – How did they contact me before? By email. So why not use that channel? I was puzzled by a missed call from the other side of the country. Although VoIP makes calls cheap, is it the way to go?
  • The method was too personal for the length of time that I had lapsed and the depth of the relationship.
  • The call seemed out of proportion to the money raised – $100.
  • My US zip code (at my brother’s) might have tipped them off – My brother’s church raises big money for Charity: Water. And Rachel Beckwith’s family attended EastLake Community Church – you may have heard her story. So maybe they thought I would be a great lapsed donor to have back in the fold.

If I had given last year, created a campaign for my birthday last year or this, this may have been a brilliant strategy. I may have felt closer to them, as if I mattered to their success and to the lives of the people who need clean water.

When you are thinking about how to engage your supporters you need to segment… don’t just use a one-size-fits-all plan. You likely aren’t doing that with your solicitations, so don’t do that with your attempts to re-engage either.

What No Means for Fundraisers

Brilliant post by Seth Godin.  Say-NO

Fundraisers, this is for you:

What “No” Means – from your donor

  • I’m too busy – You haven’t prepared me for this conversation, or I’m not ready to make this level of commitment
  • I don’t trust you – You or your charity have not created a feeling of trust personally or organizationally
  • This isn’t on my list – Your project does not align with my values
  • My boss won’t let me – I don’t have enough of my interest invested in this project to convince my partner/ spouse/ members of the family that this is a project for us
  • I’m afraid of moving this forward – If I say yes to this project, will you continually come back with additional solicitations, although I will not have seen the outcomes on this project
  • I’m not the person you think I am – You overestimated my capacity, or this project does not align with my values
  • I don’t have the resources you think I do – You overestimated my capacity, or I have commitments (philanthropic or otherwise) you haven’t taken into account
  • I’m not the kind of person that does things like this – You overestimated the increase in giving you expect from me or the depth of my commitment to your organization or nonprofit, you asked me to do something extraordinary, but didn’t inspire me enough to follow
  • I don’t want to open the door to a long-term engagement – Right now I have other commitments or am unsure about a financial situation and prefer to make a one-year gift
  • Thinking about this will cause me to think about other things I just don’t want to deal with – Exactly that

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Working the Room – When it’s a Challenge

Recently I’ve been talking about Working the Room – how to get the most out of donor relationships during event. Then I wrote a post about getting the right people to the event.  The posts outlined practical steps about how fundraisers, board and staff can focus on the donors and not the event.

As fundraisers, we are always looking to more deeply engage our donors as supporters of our nonprofit, and one easy way is by leveraging the time they are with your nonprofit at events. Rather than just enjoying the auction or golf tournament or stewardship luncheon, you can connect donors to important people, hear the gratitude from the front-line staff, and meet leaders or those your nonprofit serves.

But even the best laid plans go awry. Let’s talk about how to overcome challenges you may encounter when working the room.

Challenge: Board members stick together and don’t circulate. After my first post, many expressed frustration at this. And it perhaps board members only get together at meetings and therefore find events a great time to catch up or talk shop. But that doesn’t help guests feel included, nor does it help build relationship bridges with donors and prospects.

Solution: Break them up yourself by bringing a donor over to meet them, “Ari! Have you met members of our board yet? This is our Chair and immediate past Chair. They have offered crucial leadership during….” Or go to the group, select one and ask if s/he has been able to meet Donor A (as agreed). “Donor A is over here and introduced that new prospect to us who made a new major gift. Donor A, have you met Maria, a member of our Board of Directors?” Don’t berate them, just show them what needs to be done and introduce a donor or prospect to them.

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