1. 20th Dec 2013

    Notes: 1

    CFRE Study Guide 2/6: Securing the Gift

    This post is a continuation of the study guides I created as I was studying for the CFRE exam. The source for most of this information is the AFP Review Course Book for the CFRE Exam, summarized and reorganized to match the format of the CFRE Test Content Outline.

    My Notes on “Securing the Gift”

    A. Develop a compelling case for support by involving volunteers, staff, and other groups in order to communicate the rationale for supporting the organization’s fundraising program.

    • The content of a Case Statement should come from mission/vision and strategic plan of the organization.
    • The Case Statement shows how the goals of the fundraising program support the institution and lead to its’ goals.
    • A case illustrates the ways the institution will remain significantly productive, and will be able to have an impact on the organization’s mission. It should explain why the organization’s plan will work.
    • A case should explain the impact a donor has if they contribute to the organization.
    • A case must answer why the organization is important to society, and why it is important to the needs/goals of the donor. It should evoke a sense of long term importance.
    • There’s one institutional case from which smaller case statements evolve, some for unrestricted support, some for capital campaigns and major gifts, some for special needs or planned giving.
    • Once a case statement is developed it serves as the basis for websites, brochures, foundation proposals, appeal letters, press releases, newsletter articles, speeches and all communications.
    • Cases should focus on all the constituents’ needs, and be reader oriented.
    • A case statement should have emotional as well as rational reasons to donate.

    There are five main uses of a Case Statement:

    1. Obtaining consensus
    2. Recruiting volunteer leadership.
    3. Testing the market.
    4. Telling the story.
    5. Creating fundraising materials.

    When Writing a Case:

    1. Secure feedback and create ownership - use case development as a tool to engage volunteers.
    2. Test the market by sharing the case with various stakeholders, and revise it based on their input.
    3. Use key employees and volunteers to create a formal basis for case material review and revision.
    4. Adapt the case to constituent groups, and test different draft options, to further define the way the case can be used effectively based on constituent motivations.
    5. Systematically gather reactions to the draft with the markets that seem most likely to become donors. Create a checklist to obtain feedback and conduct focus groups.
    6. Specialize the case to fit specific constituent groups, listen to what matters to them, this helps you better understand the audience for which it is written.

    B. Design and conduct studies and/or surveys to plan and evaluate specific aspects of a fundraising program.

    A Development Plan should include:

    • The institutions mission statement
    • The case statement for the organization and for each project for which funds are being raised
    • Overall development goals such as donor acquisition, retention, upgrading, awareness of charitable mission and philanthropic need for capital
    • Fundraising projections of income and expenses for each development activity
    • An organizational chart that outlines the roles and responsibilities of staff and volunteers by project
    • Strategies for each target audience and project.
    • Include an outline of how you will evaluate the success of the plan, based on the campaign and previously identified goals

    Data Analysis of a Fundraising Program:

    • Gift reports are used to track fundraising results, increase understanding of fundraising performance and help us prepare and justify budgets
    • An organization must monitor fundraising results to quantify the return on investment (ROI) of its’ fundraising activities.

    In order to measure a fundraising program, the fundraising plan must create specific goals, job descriptions, action plans and budgets for each development staff and department to map success against.

    C. Design a comprehensive solicitation program in order to generate financial support for the organization’s purpose.

    There are a variety of different fundraising techniques and programs to consider when creating a comprehensive fundraising program. From Annual Fund to Corporate Giving to Capital Campaigns to Planned Giving. There are a variety of considerations to make when determining which combination of programs best fit an organization, and which of the many solicitation tools to use when talking to a designated audience.

    Annual Giving’s Purpose is To: - Acquire donors - Renew donor support annually - Cultivate donors to higher giving levels - Build donor loyalty - Identify & involve leaders - Identify major gift prospects

    Simply stated there are three primary objectives donor acquisition, donor renewal, donor upgrade.

    • Individuals are unlikely to make a significant gift to a organization if it is new to him/her.
    • The demographic profile of your current donors is a good indicator of the profile you will find successful in the prospect list.
    • Integration of sound personal, financial and estate planning concepts for the individual donor’s plan for lifetime or testamentary giving
    • planned giving includes any type of out right or testamentary provision made by a donor in which the donor retains some kind of income or life estate interest either for oneself or someone else
    • Every donor has a capacity to make a bequest or other planned gift
    • Planned giving encourages the donor to think about gifts of assets as well as income
    • Nonprofit organization should encourage donors to make provisions for the organization in their estate while they’re still alive
    • This is the logical upgrading of donors, engaging them in a long-term relationship with the org.
    • provides future funds the org can count on

    Two kinds of planned gifts

    1. Outright or current (high intent immediate impact) -Complete transfer or realized gift of cash or stock as part of an estate plan
      • cash or assets that impact a donors estate
    2. Deferred- Testamentary giving or life income arrangements to be realized in the future such as
      • bequests (high intent, future impact): The provision made in a donors will through which charitable organization receives cash and/or other assets at the time of the donors death
      • charitable gift annuities (high intent, future impact): a legal contract between the donor and charitable organization through which the donor exchanges cash, stocks or other assets for an agreed-upon income for life
      • charitable remainder trust (high intent, future impact): Used by donors to transfer assets to a trust, which then goes to the charitable organization after the death of the last beneficiary. The donor retains a fixed or variable income for life.
      • life estate contract: Agreement established by donors transferring a deed of real property to a charitable organization while reserving for themselves and/or someone else the right to live on or use the property for life. Charitable deductions for life estate contracts are limited to properties that are either personal residences or farms.
      • charitable lead trust (high intent immediate impact): Established by a donor transferring assets to trust that provides income to a nonprofit organization for a period of years. At the end of that, the trust assets revert either to the donor or someone else the donor designates.
      • life insurance policy (high intent, future impact: a) transfer of ownership if an existing policy to the organization b) purchase of a contract by the donor, in which the institution is named the beneficiary or owner
      • pooled income fund (high intent, future impact): A common trust to which many donors make contributions, and retain for themselves a pro rata share of the funds earnings each year. As each beneficiary dies the value of the fund attributed to that death is severed and paid to the organization. It is similar to a mutual fund
      • donor advised funds: donors give cash, stock or other assets to a community foundation, the donor claims an immediate charitable deduction, the money is invested while the donor determines what charities to contribute to

    Benefits to the donor:

    • Increases opportunity to give and receive a current income tax deduction
    • income tax deductions
    • provides a source of fixed or variable income and retirement income
    • reduction of capital gains tax potential for increased income
    • asset-management
    • some allow donor to pass asset to an heir (e.g. A charitable lead trust)

    When determining best giving method planned giving officers should ask:

    1. Are you looking for income? Now or in the future?
    2. Are you looking to pass an asset onto an heir?

    How to market planned giving:

    • Planned giving usually involves transferring assets, this is a difficult decision for donor to make therefore it is important for the planned giving officer to use a repertoire of activities to keep donors educated about giving opportunities
    • most planned giving prospects are current donors, so target people who already have a relationship with the org.
    • not necessarily just donors who have given large gifts, giving from assets or estates allows those with less liquid income to make a substantial investment with less immediate ramifications than a outright gift
    • planned giving officers should NOT give advice, that’s the job of accountants and attorneys, they instead should just provide the options available.
    • direct mail : allows education in a cost effective way - it should outline benefits to the donor and allow donor to indicate further interest
    • newsletters : allow you to highlight donors who have already chosen to make a planned gift while providing info about the opportunities
    • will clinics and estate-planning seminars: gives donors benefit of expert advice, allows prospects to be easily identified by attendance
    • educating the professional community: share with people who work in accounting/law knowledge about planned giving options and give them ability to share info with clients.
    • phone calls: use calls to qualify donors and build relationships
    • An intensive organized fundraising effort to secure philanthropic gifts for specific capital needs or major projects executed within a specific time. Usually over one or more years
    • requires careful planning and review of donors before beginning
    • lays the groundwork for involvement of new volunteers and donors and sets the stage for increased annual giving
    • generally used to secure funding for facility construction, renovations, equipment purchases, endowment development, special programs and scholarships
    • this funding is usually restricted
    • makes more use of personal solicitation focused on major gifts
    • Both planned giving and special events are used significantly during capital campaigns

    Benefits of capital campaigns

    • they allow donors to become familiar with specific needs of org -“think big” about the impact they can have
    • push annual giving
    • build volunteer leadership
    • increases orgs visibility
    • enables multi year pledges
    • grows donor base
    • secures funds for major endeavors
    • increases visibility and credibility
    • Builds development staff skills
    • strengthens partnership with board and the administration
    • unites constituency in a common cause

    Role of Board in Capital Campaign

    • determines if the need for funds is justified
    • determines if a campaign is needed
    • the board is required to make their gifts first and set the standards and pace
    • must be willing to participate in solicitations and act as a peer leader through gifts and actions

    Institutional Readiness

    • requires a substantial commitment from senior staff ( CEO should expect to play a major role in cultivation)
    • must develop a compelling specific case which comes from strat plan and board identified priorities
    • must have necessary admin mechanisms in place to track gifts and interactions (e.g database, systems)
    • must conduct an internal audit and feasibility study to determine if its the right time. Look at reputation of institution, donor trends and pool potential, identify volunteers, look at external landscape and SWAT analysis, build from the strategic plan.

    Feasibility Study

    • tests the concepts of the campaign, gathers data for the plan, and is preceded by an institutional plan.
    • asks a range of donors for input, but not the whole pool so campaign can maintain secrecy before being officially announced
    • Tests the case and the climate for giving
    • determines availability volunteer leadership
    • determines the availability of prospective donors with the ability and interest to support the proposed campaign
    • determines realistic goal
    • good thing for a consultant to help with
    • aids in the development of a gift range table to drive specific targets for amounts and number of gifts

    Developing a Capital Campaign Plan:

    1. Make clear and agreed upon policies about how campaign will be run, how funds will be spent, and how gifts will be counted
    2. Clearly define roles for staff, board and volunteers
    3. Define communications plan
    4. Define budget and duration of the campaign
    5. Determine guidelines for types of gifts accepted
    6. Establish recognition methods

    Phases of a capital campaign

    1. Planning - The development phase where a statement of preliminary goals and a plan of action is established
      • prospect screening is important part of this phase and allows a gift chat to be created- typically done in two phases 1. staff conducts prospect research then 2. volunteers (board and peer affinity groups) as a group rank prospects and divide them into proposed giving levels (e.g $100k vs. $10k) based on research and their personal knowledge about the donor - this determines the sequence for cultivation and solicitation
      • a capital campaign must be first achieved on paper before it can be achieved in reality
      • a specific timetable for the campaign must be created to set out volunteer expectations and drive campaign forward
    2. Cultivation - interested prospective contributors are developed through exposure, this involves major marketing and relationship building - this is the longest phase and can take from 18 months to several years
      • volunteers play a major role as advocates during this phase
      • the public marketing phase should not begin until after quiet phase when most likely prospects and largest gifts create a base which gives the campaign confidence - want to secure 50% of goal before public announcement of campaign begin PR and media relations
      • once media relations begin use all the groundwork laid in planning to show momentum (announce major gifts, highlight public endorsements, share press release of the volunteer campaign team)
    3. Solicitation - This is when volunteers and staff ask for contributions. includes asking for gifts from corporations and foundations as well
      • each volunteer should be responsible for no more than 5 prospects which should be divided according to their place on the gift chart - gift charts are determined by potential giving ability as assessed by board and key volunteers
    4. Pledge or fulfillment -generally takes 3-5 years to collect all funds pledged

    D. Design and conduct training programmes for volunteers, staff, and other groups using various training methodologies in order to increase solicitation effectiveness.

    Volunteers are one of the greatest asserts to any fundraising program.

    • They amplify an organizations donor pool.
    • They enable peer to peer fundraising.
    • They serve as leaders to other donors through their giving.
    • They are the greatest advocates for an organization.

    When training a volunteer in fundraising it is important to give them all the tools necessary to feel empowered and able to succeed.

    • Volunteers should not only be engaged in the Case Statement creation process they should be trained in how to use it.
    • Volunteer fundraisers should be educated in the organizations history.
    • They should be coached in how to make an ask of their peers.
    • It is the job of the Development Staff to create briefings for volunteers on any solicitation they may be asked to do.
    • Volunteers should receive job descriptions and have opportunities for evaluation and feedback.

    For more notes on volunteers see the upcoming post Volunteer Involvement CFRE Study Guide Post 4/6.

    E. Ask for and secure gifts from prospects in order to generate financial support for the organisation’s purpose

    • When asking a donor to contribute to an organization you need to be sure you have the right person asking the right individual for the right gift, at the right time, for the right amount for the right reason - prospect research and cultivation calls help you determine all these criteria.
    • Donors contribute because of various motivations (see my first CFRE Study Guide post on current and prospective donor research for list of motivations) the ‘ask’ should be focused on those needs more so than the needs of an organization.
    • Before setting up an appointment to ask for a major gift the donor should be aware that such an ask will likely take place at the meeting.
    • Volunteers who are also donors make the best solicitors because they can relate to the donor and testifying to their experience as a donor.

    F. Prepare donor-centred solicitation materials in order to influence and facilitate informed gift decisions.

    Marketing and PR principals

    • Marketing attempts to bring out voluntary exchanges of values
    • Marketing makes constituents want to participate
    • It must be mutually satisfying
    • It must present an organizations products in terms of the desires of the target market.
    • Marketing plans must segment markets to better target messages to specific constituent groups.
    • It should not compromise values.

    Elements of Marketing process

    1. Identify opportunities for prospect involvement
    2. Know public/ markets.
    3. Research who public is and their priorities.
    4. Answer “what specific investment are you asking?”
    5. identify ways we can make these opportunities for involvement known and open for participation.
    6. Answer “How do we communicate opportunities to the public?”
    7. Create a plan to grow & maintain relationships / cultivation
    8. Define how to monitor progress.

    A Marketing Plan Should:

    1. Sets achievable goals
    2. IDs target markets
    3. Articulates messages
    4. Outlines strategies
    5. Assigns resources
    6. Defines time frames
    7. Establishes indicators of success & determines tools for monitoring success

    Use and application of market research

    • must remind people 3-10 times about opportunity
    • must learn market language and cater to that

    Marketing and PR principals

    • it is the fr job to define your product in terms of its most important benefits from the buyers point of view
    • it’s not what you’re selling , it’s what they’re buying
     
  2. 1st Oct 2013

    Notes: 1

    CFRE Study Guides 1/6: Current and Prospective Donor Research

    Most of this content is derived from the AFP’s Review Course for the CFRE, summarized and repackaged by me in the context of the Test Content Outline.

    So without further ado…

    Current and Prospective Donor Research

    Prospecting is the systematic acquisition and recording of data about donor and prospects, and forms the basis for establishing, maintaining, and expanding long-term gift relationships with the ultimate goal of converting donors into major gift donors. It includes the functions of donor research and cultivation (or the 3 Is - identifying, interviewing, involving). You move an individual from prospect to qualified prospect through research.

    There are several different components to a comprehensive fundraising program, all of which require different elements of current and prospective donor research:

    • Annual Fund: Annual fund is the primary means by which an organization acquires new donors. The goal of annual fund is to renew donors support annually and cultivate donors to higher giving levels through greater engagement. It is from this pool where one can identify and involve new leaders and identify major gift prospects. The demographic profile of your current donors is a good indicator of the profile you will find successful in a prospect list, so proper analysis of annual fund donors can help you identify more prospects. It generally takes 3 to 5 years of work to build a broad base of predictable annual dollars.
    • Capital/Major Gifts: A capital campaign is an intensive organized fundraising effort to secure philanthropic gifts for specific capital needs or major projects executed within a specific time (usually over one or more years). These campaigns and asks require careful planning and review of donors before beginning, and makes more use of personal solicitation focused on major gifts from a select group of pre-qualified individuals. These campaigns and asks generally require the engagement of volunteers in the fundraising process, and can help build volunteer leadership. These efforts allow donors to become familiar with specific needs of your organization and encourages donors to”think big” about the impact they can have. Major gifts require similar amounts of prospect research and volunteer involvement, but unlike a capital campaign they are not as time-restricted. (There are more differences between Capital and Major gifts, but for the purpose of this section and the CFRE test as a whole, they’re treated as ostensibly the same thing.)
    • Planned/Legacy Giving: Planned giving is the “integration of sound personal, financial and estate planning concepts for the individual donor’s plan for lifetime or testamentary giving” Every donor has a capacity to make a bequest or other planned gift, opening this conversation invites donors to enter into a long-term relationship with an organization and encourages the donor to think about gifts of assets as well as income. Planned giving usually involves transferring assets. This is a difficult decision for a donor to make, therefore it is important for the planned giving officer to use a repertoire of activities to keep donors educated about giving opportunities, and help them access information that can allow donors to structure a gift in the most beneficial way to meet their current, and future, needs and goals.
    • Corporate/Foundation/Government Giving: Funding can come from a variety of entities that are not individuals including corporations, foundations, religious organizations, federations and clubs. The same basic steps that one undertakes to build an individual donor relationship translates to institutional giving. Inquire about their interests, approach them to build a relationship, identify their motivations and possible mission connections, finally ask them to become involved in your organization based on mutual needs and goals.

    A. Develop a prospect list by identifying individuals and groups who have the capacity and propensity to give in order to qualify candidates for further research and cultivation efforts

    7 Steps for Constituency Development

    1. Identify fundable projects.
    2. Match prospect to projects.
    3. Conduct research using online systems, volunteer input and examine previous interactions with the organization.
    4. Create a system for cumulative research so you can track donors info over time.
    5. Organize prospect info in database or some sort of donor data management system.
    6. Handle all donor info ethically and confidentially.
    7. Involve prospects.

    B. Analyse the prospect list using characteristics such as interest, values, giving history, and relationship to the organisation in order to select potential donors for particular projects.

    Identifying Target Constituencies

    • Rank audience groups based on linkage, ability and interest.
    • Those with the highest potential will have the strongest ties, have given on a regular basis, and have the greatest potential to give again.

    To organize research activities the organization should define ahead of time:

    • What staff will participate
    • What types of information are needed.
    • Identify sources of information, such as records, public information and peers.
    • Design a research system, such and tools (worksheets, profiles etc.)
    • Identify policies and practices to manage information.

    When researching prospects there are numerous sources of info:

    • Personal contacts (surveys, conversations)
    • Participation records (who came to what event, have they given in the past)
    • Public information (social directories, annual reports of other orgs, SEC data)
    • Peers/board connections

    C. Implement and utilise a data management system that stores information about prospects to enable retrieval and analysis.

    • A donor records profile should include all information available on a donor or contribution.
    • The information maintained in a data management system should enable tracking of sources of donors, and who is the contact person responsible for converting that prospect to a donor.
    • It is crucial to make sure all donor records are accurate, and remain confidential.
    • Ideally a data management system will enable the tracking of in-depth information that will facilitate the rating and tactics for potentially upgrading donors engagement.
    • A donor has a right to access any and all information recorded about them, nothing in a donors record should be more than you would be comfortable with a donor finding.

    It it crucial to have a donor tracking system and gift processing systems in order to:

    1. Ensure a donor is thanked properly
    2. Know the amount of a gift and and be able to recognize that individual.
    3. Report, review, and evaluate development efforts
    4. Notify the donor and provide documentation for tax purposes

    D. Rate prospects in categories of giving potential in order to prioritize and plan solicitations.

    • Check each prospects financial data and giving patterns before deciding the highest realistic amount for a donation request.
    • Check each prospect’s affiliations before deciding the appropriate volunteer to assign as solicitor
    • Plan communications and special events around particular areas of interest to selected prospects, use responses to qualify donors for next steps.
    • Design involvement opportunities to use the talents of your best prospects to deepen their engagement with the organization.

    Once a gift is made retain donors through stewardship:

    • Thank donors promptly
    • Monitor gifts
    • Keep the donor involved in the organization
    • If you have a system that will track reporting, recognize gifts with a personal touch

    E. Present the list of current and prospective donors and relevant information to organizational leaders in order to establish consensus for action.

    • It is important that all interactions involving donor data remain confidential and respectful.
    • This process is primarily used for larger gifts, such as qualifying major donors or large Planned or Capital gifts.
    • When conducting prospect screening for Capital or Major Gifts, volunteers (board and peer affinity groups) as a group rank prospects and divide them into proposed giving levels (e.g $100k vs. $10k) based on research and their personal knowledge about the donor. This information can be used to determine the sequence for cultivation and solicitation when soliciting funding for specific projects.
    • Any research or tactics determined in these conversations should be recorded in a data management system, and used with respect to confidentiality during further planning meetings.
     
  3. 15th Aug 2013

    Notes: 1

    Taking the CFRE Test

    Realizing I needed to come up with a study plan for my CFRE exam (after my last post), I asked some of my grad-school cohort-mates who had already passed the test what they did. The universal answer was buy the AFP CFRE Review Course book and study it from end to end.

    Although I had hoped to save the money, my test anxiety got the best of me and I bit the bullet and bought it. It is a tome that you get a certificate just for buying, but it does provide a thorough overview of everything fundraising.

    Instead of going section by section through the CFRE Test Content Outline, which would have allowed for more timely study guides posts, I instead postponed the blog posting and crammed up to the last minute.

    I took the test. It wasn’t pleasant. It was in fact one of the more unpleasant experiences I’ve had in recent memory.

    Testing centers are very unhappy places. Everyone is there to take a test, and no one likes tests. You get metal detected before entering the testing room, and every time you want to re-enter, and you can’t bring anything into the testing center, watches and water included.

    The test was close to what I had expected. All multiple choice, but tricky for multiple choice. I can’t understate the number of questions where all the answers are correct, but you have to choose which one of the right answers is the most-right.

    When I entered the testing room I scrawled in big letters on my scratch board "Be Donor Centered", based on advice I had heard from one of my friends who had recently passed the test. That was my mantra whenever I encountered one of those “But all of these are right!” questions.

    As far as test-taking strategy, I went through the whole test and marked answers for everything. For the ones I was unsure of, I made my best guess and marked it for “review” so I could go back and double check. It took me just under three hours to get all the way through my first round of the test. Then I took a break and tried to recharge myself for the final hour push.

    After returning through the elaborate security system, I did one final pass-through the test to double check my answers on the hard ones. As the timer ticked down to the last minute I hit “complete”.

    My heart pounded as I waited for my immediate results to pop up. I held in my muffled scream of elation as the extremely anti-climatic notification told me I had passed. I got my stamped paper of CFREdom and called my Mom to tell her the good news.

    I decided to award myself with a CFRE break. Unfortunately for you dear readers, that has meant I didn’t put my CFRE study guides into legible order…until now!

    Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting my CFRE study guides for your studying pleasure. Although they won’t be able to help you escape the terrible testing center, maybe they can cut down on your studying anxiety in your quest to be CFREed.

     
  4. 28th May 2013

    Notes: 1

    Tags: CFRE

    Test Time!

    Ever since I decided to be a fundraising professional, I started thinking about pursing my CFRE. The certification that if achieved says; “Hide yo’ wallet, hide yo’ check-book, because she’s raisin’ from everybody out here” ( kidding, your wallet is safe with me ).

    Beyond adding intimidating letters to the end of my signature, my main goal in pursing my CFRE is to show my commitment to the professionalism of the sector.

    Professionalism denotes a few things:

    1. There are ethics.

    2. There are best-pratices.

    3. People who are certified in this profession understand 1 & 2, and know how to do their job.

    After months of slowly filling out the application forms, I got the final push I needed, one of my grad-school classmates passed. I hit submit on my paperwork and after a few weeks I got my permission-to-test letter (I never thought I’d be asking permission to take a test). I was locked into a test date for the end of June. THE END OF JUNE!

    I am a procrastinator. I hate standardized tests. My study habits leave something to be desired. That, dear readers, is where you come into the equation. I have 30 days until I need to pass my CFRE test. I have six subject areas I need to make sure I’ve mastered.

    So, for the next month, every five days I’m posting my study-guide/cheat sheet for each of the main content areas of the CFRE test. This will not only make me create a study guide (which I would never do if left to my own devices), but may be of some use to you.

    If I pass, and you too are thinking of taking your CFRE test, you’ll know this is a useful guide. If I fail, I’ll be super embarrassed and delete these posts, but you’ll know my secret and may be able to use it against me to your advantage. (But please, if you read my study guides and think I’m going to fail, because you’re a fundraising ninja or have already taken your CFRE exam, do let me know so I won’t.)

    Ok enough procrastiblogging, time to hit the books, as soon as I check Facebook one more time…

     
  5. 3 Tips for Starting Small with Social Media

    If you follow @philathrolab on Twitter, you know last week I was the lucky attendee of Social Media for Non-profits’; New York conference (lucky to be in NY at the right time, and even more fortunate to be granted a last minute scholarship). Arriving straight from the airport after my red eye, I was looking for quick and easy lessons; lessons that wouldn’t overwhelm my exhausted brain, and be implementable upon my return.

    Although some of the sessions went deeper and bigger than a small nonprofit could handle (or my mind could absorb in its diminished state), there were some powerful suggestions that seem manageable for even the smallest of teams. Here are my top three:

    1. Social proof is sticky. There will always be more donors than development officers. The power of social media is harnessing the energy of donors to propel fundraising efforts. Nonprofits go to a lot of trouble to get their message out, but the goal of social media engagement should be to get your donors’ message out.

      One of the easiest areas to encourage donors to broadcast their support, is asking them to share when they’re doing something supportive. Bought a ticket to an event? Help them share that they’re going to the event, and make it easy to invite their friends. Just donated? Let them shout to the world their passion for your cause at that moment. Working easy social media sharing into these powerful moments of transaction lets donors share their pride, and encourages their friends to follow.

    2. You can’t fundraise without fun. A number of the sessions talked about the power of gamification and social gaming. While the stories of custom made Zynga games were daunting, there are easy ways to work elements of games into your communications. Have a newsletter? Do trivia about your org or cause. Use Facebook to share pictures and do caption competitions. Prizes don’t need to be big, just something fun to keep constituents engaged.

    3. You’re closer to Justin Beiber than you know. While the talks on social CRM made my head spin, the key lesson: know thy influencers and talk with them, is sage advice. Use the rarely used Lists on Twitter functionality and make a list of people who are influencers in your field. Set aside twenty minutes every few days to go thorough those tweets and converse.

      Is there a celebrity you want to see your message? Figure out who they’re following that you have a natural connection with and engage that less famous connection first. Once you start conversations your messages will spread and trickle up to your targeted celebrity.

    Want more insights from the conference? Check out the @philathrolab Twitter stream for my favorite ideas. Also check out Social Media for Non-profits; for more great ways to easily implement social media in your organization.

     
  6. Dream Big

    This winter I was proud to be elected as a member of the AFP Golden Gate Chapter Board of Directors. We had our Board retreat in early February and since then I have been continually inspired by my colleagues big dreams for our chapter.

    At our most recent meeting we narrowed down our long list of BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) for our chapter to our top three.

    1. AFP GGC is prestigious, recognized and inspiring- we lead the way!
    2. AFP GGC embodies inclusivity in all we do.
    3. We create impact, and are a force for greater good.

    Looking at that list is certainly inspiring, but more inspiring is the list of metrics we came up with to achieve these goals.

    Often when I hear people talk about creating SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound) Objectives, I feel like they put a damper on the dreaming party. Yet, this exercise of dreaming big, and then finding real objectives that can make them achievable is actually empowering.

    The only thing better than giving yourself room to dream big, is finding ways to make those dreams become reality.

     
  7. Appealing to the Brain: What neuroscience can teach us about data in annual appeals.

    The Chronicle of Philanthropy named DATA the #1 nonprofit buzz word in 2012. While the importance of effectively measuring performance and ROI for nonprofits cannot be understated when it comes to building a case for continued support, a new study suggests that making data an element of every appeal may not be the most effective tactic after all.

    The new study that came out of Case Western Reserve University (my alma mater) found that attempting to engage both the emotional and analytical sides of a donor at once may be a loosing battle:

    When the analytic network is engaged, our ability to appreciate the human cost of our action is repressed.

    At rest, our brains cycle between the social and analytical networks. But when presented with a task, healthy adults engage the appropriate neural pathway, the researchers found.

    The study shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time.

    While tips for writing end of year appeals recommend beginning an appeal with emotion and then turning to data, if both analytical and emotional thought can’t be triggered at the same time why complicate the message? If a great story has someone emotionally invested in an organization, why turn their attention to analytical reasoning that may switch off the emotional appeal’s effectiveness?

    I’ve written in the past about keeping messages simple to keep donors engaged, this is even more true if this study’s findings about the mutual exclusivity of empathetic and analytic thinking are correct. Keeping emotional appeals focused on emotion, and more data driven appeals away from storytelling may not only make the message clearer, but also make it work better given the brain’s physiology.

    So as we ring in 2013, no matter how buzz-worthy data may be, don’t forget that one of the keys to being a good fundraiser is being a good storyteller. As the video below (2012 winner of the DoGooder Award for Best Video Storytelling) shows, you don’t need much data to show the amazing impact a nonprofit can have.

     
  8. Last Call!

    Urgency and Simplicity Provoke Action

    Working on a campaign is exhilarating and exhausting. Waking up this morning on election day there’s a small part of me that misses the political fundraising lifestyle. When you believe in your candidate, every reporting deadline does feel like the most important day of your life, and on election day having your candidate win feels like matter of life and death (even though we all know it isn’t). That’s why when I received emails months ago with the subject line URGENT I only shook my head, the people on that campaign really do think it’s urgent.

    Since I started saving campaign emails in the beginning of October, over thirty of the eighty-nine have some mention of last chance or final or don’t wait. As someone on the outside it’s hard for an election to feel urgent for months. With campaigns getting longer and longer many voters (and donors) are getting fatigued.

    However, although I’ve gotten more invites for THE ELECTION IS OVER! parties than election night parities, political campaigns are great at using urgency to keep the momentum going.

    Today is election day. Anything that happens after today doesn’t really matter. So, just like my IndieGoGO Campaign was easier to push because of the real deadline of classes starting, campaigns have the benefit of a real event pushing people to action. Although it’s not always easy to tie annual campaigns to real-life deadlines, finding ways to capitalize on deadlines is certainly one helpful tactic.

    In addition to making action urgent, campaign emails make action easy. Every campaign email I received was short, it didn’t go below the fold, and it only called for one action. Since the campaigners really wanted multiple actions, it meant I got several emails a day, which I think is over-messaging and annoying. However, simple messages, calling for an immediate action, with an easy tool to help the donor act is what all donor communications should strive for.

    So as the final hours tick away until the polls close tonight we bid farewell to our campaign friends with this last gem of an email (super personal, super urgent, super easy):

    So, goodbye for now Rufus! I’m going to VOTE!

     
  9. Easy Access

    A recent conversation with fellow fundraisers at an AFP Unplugged turned, as things often do this time of year, to the topic of the election. The general consensus was the main difference between political and non-profit fundraising is the motivation for giving. While giving to a non-profit can provide a certain degree of access or notority, the millions of dollars in campaign donations are flowing, many think, because of the access those dollars can provide after the election is won.

    The millions of big donations brought in by Super PACs show the validity of this perspective, however what isn’t fully explained is the millions of dollars brought in by small donations, under $200, that come from normal people and go directly to support the candidate.

    Campaigns are indeed about selling access, but not just access to back-door deals and pork-belly projects; campaigns are also about selling access to a personality.

    Many recent campaign emails have a lottery aspect to them, if you donate now you could get invited to X exclusive event. This kind of marketing is what non-profits do when getting high profile celebrities to chair galas; You get to hang out with these famous people if you donate and come to our event. Unlike galas however, these campaign events are usually much more low-budget and far more “mission focused.”

    Many campaign events simply center around sharing the platform, and allowing those in attendance to get a hand-shake or a picture with the candidate. There’s no silent auction, no live-auction, rarely any sort of a performance beyond a few speakers. Yet non-profits, with smaller event budgets, undertake huge event productions. We also often go looking for celebrities while forgetting we have our own. How often to be fail to think of access to our Executive Director or one of our clients as noteworthy? Candidates meanwhile are bringing Joe The Plummer to the stage.

    Further beyond selling access to a candidate, campaigns are also selling access to a way of feeling about one’s self. If I donate I can be the sort of person who:

    • Is active in the political process.
    • Stands up for my beliefs; and
    • On election day can say I did my part to ensure my candidate did the best they could

    This is the sort of personal motivation that non-profits can tap into if they use similar messaging to support their campaigns.

    Here’s one of the many recent emails I’ve gotten asking for my support in the final days of the campaign:

    "10/31/2012 7 Reasons You Shouldn't Ignore"

    Although three of the big reasons listed to give to the campaign have to do with gaining physical access to a celebrity “once-in-a-lifetime” event, the other four reasons have to do investing in an idea about one’s self.

    Few non-profits are able to get the multi-million dollar Super PAC size donations, but understanding the motivations for smaller-dollar donors can help us better activate people to support our missions. What is the personality you’re selling, and how are you selling the access you can provide short?

     
  10. Your Friend

    When I get an email ‘from’ President Obama I have a split second flash of ego. I know the chance that the President remembers the wide eyed intern who shook his hand when he was still a Senator in 2006 is basically nil, but a girl can hope.

    Although the President’s emails never recall our extremely brief interaction, his jovial greetings and remarkably personalized mass emails never cease to make me think I’m an important part of his campaign. No matter political affiliations, who can help but feel important when receiving:

    Dear Brittany, I hope I made you proud out there explaining the vision we share for this country. Now we need to go win this election — the most important thing that will happen tonight is what you do (or don’t do) to help in the little time we have left.

    If you can resist the urge to think for a moment “Oh-my-gosh! The election is riding on my shoulders!” you are more strong willed than I.

    Language like “I believe in you!”, “I need you to take ownership” or “All the things we’ve accomplished” abound in all political messaging. Making the donor feel invested has a funny way of making them invest. This is something all non-profits need to remember when writing their communications, YOU is a powerful word.

    Tom Ahern, non-profit communications expert and author of (among other things) How to Write Fundraising Materials that Raise More Money, writes in his “Nine Step Communications Self-Audit” about the importance of being donor-centered and using the word ‘you’;

    You is the most powerful (and warmest) word in advertising. (If you’re turning your nose up, please note: technically speaking, fundraising communications are just advertising by another name.) Frequent repetition of the word you keeps readers involved. While infrequent use leaves readers cold.

    Putting the elections results on my shoulders makes me committed. It makes me think “I DO care about this! I need to act.” It also makes me feel special. The President may not remember who I am, but he still knows I’m pretty important. Maybe if I make one more donation it’ll jog his memory.

     
  11. Politics as Usual

    I am bad at keeping my inbox clean.

    I rarely bother to unsubscribe from the many lists I’ve somehow joined, I never set up enough filters, and I take way too long to properly archive messages leaving my inbox crowded. With election season well under way, this has proven an even more confounding weakness since emails of real importance get buried under the avalanche of updates and ‘urgent’ campaign appeals.

    Political fundraising simultaneously fascinates and infuriates me.

    I began my development career in political fundraising, so just like e-blasts from nonprofits I support, I am one of the few who actually reads those incessant messages. The millions of dollars raised by politicians provides no direct service to our communities, a point of great frustration for me knowing the impact one one-hundredth of that money could have on the community my organization serves. Although the outcome of any given election has obvious impacts on our Nation, one can’t help but think the millions poured into advertising could be put to better use in the hands of CBOs.

    At the same time, I’ve seen first hand that it is often the person with the biggest purse who wins the pot. I can’t deny the urgency of political campaign appeals; if you want to get elected you need to raise the most money. So although the state of the United States election system can be nauseating, I appreciate the efforts of campaign fundraisers.

    The thing that most shocked me about political fundraising, is how quick and easy it can be.

    When I left the campaign world and began working for nonprofits I was surprised people weren’t clamoring for a place on our $10,000 a head event host committees. Granted the nonprofit hours are far less grueling, but the conversion time from total stranger to big supporter are shockingly accelerated. I quickly learned that there was something about the access that politics was selling that could enchant adults into opening their wallets faster than a kid blowing their allowance at the candy store. Rather then resent the success of political fundraisers, nonprofits should learn from their tactics.

    With just over three weeks left in this election season, I want to take the next three weeks to break down my three big lessons from my observation of and experience in the world of political fundraising.

    Although the best practices of fundraising still apply, sometimes it takes looking at the tactics through a different lens to appreciate new ways to apply old lessons. Besides I need to do something with these emails crowding my inbox.

     
  12. Last month I shared my insights about creating an IndieGoGo Campaign to recover the laptops that were stolen from BAYCAT.

    Happily in the last hours of our campaign we not only made our goal but surpassed it raising $51,060 through our IndieGoGo page and substantially more with the $25,000 San Francisco Foundation matching gift, several off-line and MANY in-kind donations.

    As we wrap up the fulfillment process, the sheer number of perk packages that we need to send makes me realize the magnitude of this success. Three-hundred and twenty-four online donors later we can not only continue our programs, but we have a bigger more engaged donor pool than ever before.

     
  13. Flash Fundraising: From Crisis to Campaign in Under a Week

    I always thought crisis fundraising would be an interesting challenge.

    What I didn’t fully realize was how hard a real crisis would be.

    Several weeks ago I came into the office and saw a blue rope hanging from the ceiling. I knew that something strange was going on at BAYCAT. We had been burglarized.

    As people started trickling in, we somberly greeted each person as we assessed the damage. Someone had climbed in through the sky-light, cut the pad-lock on our laptop cart, and carried every one of our students’ laptops out the window. My desk was in disarray. All the cords had been pulled out of my laptop, and there were cut marks in the laptop cable lock where the thief had tried to cut through, but failed.

    Whoever did this had to have been pretty desperate, but I could not help but be furious that someone would rip-off a non-profit. Our laptops, and all the technology at BAYCAT, are a resource for everyone in our community. We need them to teach class, to host our open lab, and to have off-site workshops at schools and with community partners. How could one person be so selfish to take a community resource and use it for personal gain? No matter how much the laptops would sell for, it would not be close to the value they could create by being in our students’ hands.

    As our team scrambled to put together make-shift work stations for the youth who were coming in for class that afternoon, I began trying to think of ways to raise the money to replace the $50,000 worth of equipment that was now lost. Something had to be done to rebuild, and prove that a community working towards good is stronger than one working for self.

    I have done many annual campaigns, and I was in the process of building BAYCAT’s first summer fundraising campaign, but I quickly realized I was going to have to scrap all the carefully calculated collateral, and focus on building a different sort of fundraising effort. We didn’t have time to create a new platform to run this sort of a drive on our site, so began researching crowd-funding sites. After a bit of research into tools and funding options we decided on IndieGoGO and The Show Must Go On Campaign was born!

    After fifty days of PR blitzing, social media updating, special events and other fundraising efforts, there are now only 30 hours left in the campaign. As we push to make the final $10k (so we only have 4% deducted instead of 9%) I look back on this experience and am thankful for the lessons I’ve learned.

    1.Don’t be afraid to share bad news.

    Having your space burglarized is a very violating experience. It not only threatens your sense of security but also makes you doubt yourself. “What could we have done to stop someone from breaking in and stealing our equipment?” With this self doubt comes a reluctance to speak out. At first, the idea of doing a major campaign around a negative event seemed risky. But, as we listened to our students talk about the way the robbery impacted them, we knew we could not remain silent. The second we started telling people our story, and let our students voices be heard, they immediately wanted to help! Sharing our bad news immediately led to good news as people stepped forward to help us rebuild.

    2. Find creative ways for people to get involved.

    Once we started telling people about the theft, there was a ton of energy around the rebuilding process, but not everyone who wanted to help could give money.

    Our students don’t have the resources to donate much, but they do have the ability to be advocates for BAYCAT. Students served as our spokespeople for the campaign, helping to create the videos we featured and speaking to press and friends about their experience and the impact of BAYCAT’s programs.

    Many of our friends from local restaurants and businesses wanted to get involved, so we harnessed their energy by asking them to provide the perks for our campaign. This allowed us to attract more donors, and save on costs.

    Twitter wanted to do something to help, so in addition to donating we asked them to give our students a tour of their space. It was an inspiring and fun treat for our students who had been through so much, and gave our friends at Twitter a chance to meet first-hand some of the students their gift would help support.

    3. Go beyond your list.

    We would never have been able to raise as much if it weren’t for the media attention and the network-effect of our friends. We did a HUGE media push the day we launched the campaign, notifying everyone we knew about what happened and our response. This got us some of the immediate media attention that helped our campaign take off. Throughout the rest of the campaign we tailored our weekly updates around different themes, and sent press releases and emails to bloggers and influencers who would be interested in the topic.

    Every ask we made focused on the ideas of sharing and giving. Individual donors are incredibly valuable, but not nearly as valuable as donor advocates. We had some amazing success with companies, schools, and community partners organizing pools to support our campaign.

    4. Roll with the punches.

    Not only did the laptop theft force me to scrap my perfectly planned summer fundraising campaign and write a new one, it daily required me to adapt to changing circumstances. From the San Francisco Foundation’s generous offer to provide a matching grant for the campaign, to new in-kind donations being added up to the last minute which we needed to try to leverage, running a campaign like this requires a lot of flexibility. The fun thing is it never gets boring; the hard thing is you have to be willing to tailor your messages to what’s going on in the moment. This means you can’t plan that much ahead of time, but plan as much as you can, so you have something to go out when the campaign needs that extra push.

    5. Don’t get discouraged!

    About 20 days into the campaign, we stalled at around $22,000. We sat there for days with no donations, no comments, and no real response to any of our social media appeals. Rather than get discouraged and resign ourselves to falling short of the funding we needed to replace the laptops, we hung in, started reaching out to our inner circle of supporters and found new ways to get our message out. The middle of a campaign is hard, the initial excitement has worn-off, donors are getting tried of the same message, and there is no real urgency if there are still 20 days to go. Just keep communicating and finding new ways to prep the donors you already have to become advocates in the final days.

    Although the robbery was devastating, this campaign has shown the amazing power of community to turn a tragedy into a positive teaching event. And as I said, there are still a few hours left :-) so let’s work on tip #3 and see if we can help this amazing organization reach their goal!

     
  14. Nerd-alert!

    I have a confession, I am a speech and debate nerd.

    I grew up in a speech and debate family, both of my parents were coaches, and despite the 2,500 miles and three hour time difference, I still help coach my high school’s speech and debate team. I would not be the person I am, nor in the non-profit field, were it not for the sense of civic responsibility that this extracurricular activity taught me. However, my confession is not about paying tribute to the wonderful world of the National Forensic League, it’s part of a much longer and nerdier story.

    Earlier this year, I was at a speech and debate tournament on the national circuit (for those non-speech-ies reading, this is the Major-Leagues of speech and debate competition), with a small group of students from my high school’s team. Since traveling to compete on the national circuit is prohibitively expensive, my team only participates in at most two of these tournaments a year. This is more than many teams have the opportunity to compete in, but less than many of the schools who dominate this elite group.

    When I was in high school, among other categories, I did a form of debate called Lincoln Douglas Debate (LD), which is originally based on the format of the famous debates of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. Just as Lincoln would be shocked to see what became of his debate style if had he witnessed any of my debates in high school, I was shocked to see how dramatically this category had devolved since the halcyon days of my youth.

    The speech and debate eco-system is extensive, and can be either confusing or totally uninteresting to an outsider, so to simplify I’m going to be blunt. The reason the LD rounds I saw looked nothing like what I did in high school was because the elites had taken over. Now that I sound like and Occupier rallying against the 1%, let me explain…

    In addition to a national debate circuit there are a series of debate camps that, for a premium, will teach you the circuit way of debating. The best way for debate camps to make their training exclusive, is to teach a style that can only be understood by those who also have gone to debate camp. They also then insist the only judges who are “experienced” enough to judge these debates, are the ones who also work for these camps, or at least approve of their recommended style. Unfortunately, since these are the people who run the national circuit tournaments, their strategy works. The kids who go to these camps win, because they’re voted-up by the camp-approved judges who support this camp-sponsored style. What you end up with is something that looks less like a communications event, and more like what you might see in an insane asylum.

    As a speech and debate nerd, seeing this degradation of my beloved event, was cause for several extensive rants culminating in the tweet:

    This pay to play model infuriated me, and after returning to my real-life, kept popping up in various ways.

    Want to go to a talk that will help you become a more effective non-profit leader? That’ll be $80.

    Want to become a CFRE? The only way to pass the test is to learn how to take the test, here’s a practice course for $400.

    Want to join an organization that can expand your network and amplify career opportunities? I’ll send you the information about dues.

    I understand that running trainings costs money, membership organizations need dues to provide other services, and you can’t get anything for free. But, I wonder how putting big price tags on important opportunities limits those who are most in need of them.

    Unlike the speech and debate camps who are teaching questionable practices, most of the opportunities I am discussing are in fact very valuable, but out of reach for many non-profit professionals (especially those who work for smaller organizations with limited budgets). If we truly believe in the American dream of pulling oneself up by the boot-straps, why do limit sale of the boot-straps to only those who can afford them at a premium, and then ask why change isn’t coming from those who cannot.

    I have been the beneficiary of some great programs that recognize pay-to-play limits the players who can play the game. The Chamberlain Scholarship given to me by the AFP Golden Gate Chapter allowed me to attend the AFP annual conference, something I would have never been able to experience without their support. Unfortunately, they can only send one scholar a year, and there are many more organizations who could benefit from such an experience. How can we amplify community success by finding innovative ways to open these educational opportunities?

    At BAYCAT, I see daily the amazing results that can come from providing access to opportunities that might otherwise be unavailable. Our free classes allow youth to explore fields of work and study that they may have never considered possibilities. Transforming communities by providing access to resources which allow for learning that challenges stereotypes and opens the doors for new opportunities.

    I know I would not be where I am today without my speech and debate experiences, but had I been one of my students competing against one of those national circuit camp trained students speeding through their case, I might have thrown in the towel. Allowing my learning to be limited because I was discouraged by not having access to the same training as the elites. Fortunately for me, I am a proud speech and debate nerd, and will continue to fight to give all youth the opportunity to be as nerdy as me.

     
  15. I’m not going to beg…

    Last weekend I ventured to Winona, MN for my graduation from my Masters program in Philanthropy and Development. Following the ceremony I stood in the field house of the gym, drinking punch and receiving the congratulations of fellow-cohort-mates, friends and family. My Mom, after loads of mushy accolades said jokingly, "It’s official! You’re a master of begging!"

    I looked around frantically, hoping none of my classmates were in earshot, and quickly admonished her for her remarks explaining that everyone would be deeply offended if they heard that comment after three years of study. She apologized, dumbfounded by my rebuke, I apologized for my testy tone, and we continued the festivities.

    I had all but forgotten the remark, until yesterday when I received a letter from a museum at which I was formerly a member. When I moved to California I let a number of my NYC centered memberships lapse, since I obviously wasn’t going to get that much use out of them from 3000 miles away. So, when a museum representative called to ask about my membership, I explained I had moved and would not be renewing.

    I’ve been on the asking end of enough phone calls that even when I’m busy I try not to give the cold shoulder (or ear) to those who make calls on behalf of non-profits I support. Despite my polite, and throughly logical reason for lapsing, the caller was undeterred and went on to explain potential benefits of membership for out-of-staters. I said I understood, but wasn’t really interested and had to go because I was in the middle of work. He asked if he could send me some mailing materials about the benefits of out of state membership. I said sure, and our three minute call ended pleasantly.

    Fast forward to yesterday, I received in the mail what I thought might be marketing materials about the benefits of out-of-state membership. When I opened it I was surprised to find a form letter thanking me for my $150 pledge, no description of reciprocal member benefits in sight, and a return envelope.

    At first a felt a little bullied, being invoiced for a pledge I never made. Then I felt a little swindled, as though development people were purposely trying to pull a fast one, falsely claiming I made a pledge. Then I felt guilty, both for suspecting the worse of a development department, and for the fact that someone thinks $150 is committed that’s never actually going to be received.

    I have been the recipient for more than one, hold onto your wallets, comment when I walk into a room, and I laugh it off. I know better, but that was still one of my first reactions. Public opinion polls show I’m not alone, not everyone trusts non-profits or those who fundraise for them.

    For most fundraisers, this topic of trust is a worn one. We talk so much about being donor-centered and ethics principals it’s obvious that we’re here for the good of our communities. But if people, like my mom and myself, who know better still default to less than trustful stances when talking about fundraisers, it shows how far we still need to go when it comes to public perceptions about our profession.

    I decided to email the director of member services to let them know what happened, figuring I’d want to know if supporters of mine were receiving letters trying to collect on pledges that were never made. This morning I was delighted to find in my inbox a response. One sentence in the email particularly resonated:

    "As a development professional I know you understand that our donors are the heart and soul of an institution, it’s so important to hear if they aren’t being treated the way they should be."

    I made my donation this afternoon; no begging required.