Habits of Highly Successful Fundraisers

BAL speaking BostonDid you have the opportunity to attend the international conference of AFP (the Association of Fundraising Professionals) in Boston?

So much fun! And I was able to see It was March 20 – 22, 2016 – the weather was changeable (sunny and then SNOW!), you just couldn’t predict what was coming next – except lots of great sessions from many of my professional heroes.

My BFF, Shanon Doolittle, and I prepped up a session on the 10 Habits of Highly Successful Fundraisers. (Which, we were delighted to find out, was chosen to be live streamed during the conference!) We created a highly interactive 75-minute session, with audience members invited to come up and join us on the couch for some one-to-two coaching.

With strict instructions of “No PowerPoint!” we kept it playful and crowd sourced typical challenge fundraisers experience and shared habits we thought would help. Afterwards, we had a lot of call for our “Habit Maker” handout and slides.

I want you to be able to sign up and be first on the list to get our goodies. Simply click here to opt-in to our Habit Maker and slides! (You’ll need to confirm your email.)  When ready we’ll send it along.

After I return from celebrating my mother-in-law’s 100th birthday in the UK! Check Rose out here – she’s looking at least as good as Her Maj, who is only 90!

Mum with her card from the Queen, celebrating 100 years!

Mum with her card from the Queen, celebrating 100 years!




The House of Yes

HouseOfYesImageIf you don’t know me well yet, then I want to tell you a bit about my philosophies that keep me going as a fundraiser.

Humble fundraisers need grit, grace & gratitude – perseverance and the ability to act with confidence and appreciation.

Appreciative fundraisers hug donors with all the arms they can. They welcome and encourage everyone to get into the act: colleagues, board members, volunteers and, if appropriate, those we serve. (Not receiving a thank you is one of the top 5 reasons donors leave.)

Thoughtful fundraisers are life-long learners. They learn from mistakes, they get more education (the paid and the free), they find mentors and seek advice and test.

Now let’s be honest: sometimes this wonderful, fulfilling, world-changing career isn’t a ride on a unicorn over a rainbow. (Spoiler alert: there are challenges in our sector.) Many nonprofits experience limited resources. Others operate on a ton of goodwill but not much strategic direction to deliver results. A few, sadly, operate in a fearful crouch of scarcity. Sometimes, it all can wear a person down.

That is why I believe that great fundraisers should live in the House of Yes. For me, fundraising is my calling. And I want to do better – all the time. I want our sector to be better. The work we do is uplifting and life-changing and affirming.

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The New Donor Pyramid

tweetLast month, one of the greats of fundraising died.

Tony Elischer was one of those amazing individuals, full of energy, drive, and smarts. I was fortunate enough to see him speak several times. The fundraising community really lost a great one when he died.

What resonated most for me was this donor pyramid, which he included in the program for his philanthropy extravaganza called “the Kaleidoscope of Philanthropy“.

I believe this is the most clear and true depiction of the Donor Pyramid.

It is about the donor and her engagement. It’s not about the size of the gift.

It’s about relationships.

And isn’t that how we should view supporters, not as the amalgamation of their transactions, but in the context of human relationships?

After all, fundraisers are in the business of creating connections, fostering affiliations, and strengthening relationships. Full stop.

When I speak to fundraisers about donors relationships, I often illustrate using the language of personal interactions. If we think more like this and less like categories (small donors, big donors), there may be fewer thoughtless nonprofit transactions and more authentic, lasting relationships.

Afterall, who sends a form letter of thanks to someone two weeks after a first date?

Let’s check out the pyramid.

Willingness, respect, trust. These are the foundations of many of our good relationships – even as customers. A donor may reach out with a first gift in willingness. Your team establishes trust by using the gift as they asked, but being respected members of the community, And those very first interactions build on what can come next. Are you making those initial interactions a delight? Is the language you use intriguing? Is it easy for your new friend to understand what you do and how she or he can be part of the cadre of heroes? And the relationship may just sit there if either side (your nonprofit or the donor) doesn’t move to the next level.
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All The Things You Wrote

Last year my grandma gave me a big envelope, the contents bulging. “What is it?” I looked in.IMG_3059

“It’s cards and letters,” she said. “I don’t want my kids having to clean things up,” she said in her no-nonsense way as I pulled out a card. They were written to her from me when I was a kid. I looked through it a bit when I got home, but feeling melancholy I put it in my box of mementos.

But last week I was tidying the shelf that had the box of old photos and keepsakes and this unmarked envelope rose to my attention.

There it was: everything I ever wrote to her. I sat on the floor and read every one. There were lots of thank you notes and chatty letters, postcards from travel, some get well cards, my birth and graduation announcements she had kept. I felt sentimental and happy she had saved them.

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Let’s resolve … to lead with gratitude in 2016

Welcome to 2016!

In the lead up to the New Year, did you see your inbox piling up with end-of-year asks? I sure did.

IMG_3030In those last days of the year, there was quite a bit of chatter on Twitter about that. But this tweet from The Whiny Donor struck my heart… “Sometimes we give in spite of the stewardship.”

Wow. So many fundraisers – or their colleagues – spent lots of time crafting “don’t-forget-us” or “please-give-right-now” year-end emails. Somehow, the same diligence doesn’t seem to apply to thanking quickly or with heart. Why?

As fundraisers, we all know that better thanking – prompt, heartfelt, sharing impact – leads to a stronger connection between a donor and the charity.

So why are there still so many courses and books and blog posts and conference sessions about thanking donors, crafting better donor stewardship, and reporting back to donors? Because thank yous still aren’t happening. (Check out this post by Lynne Wester about her Giving Tuesday experiences with gifts, thanks, and resolicitations.)

Don’t expect your donors to give in spite of the stewardship your nonprofit offers.

Thank you letter creation can end up being a process. Don’t let it.Instead, make 2016 the year you lead with gratitude… and here’s how. Continue reading

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