December 27, 2013

Great stuff from other people

“What’s attention worth?” asks Seth Godin in his 12-17-13 blog. “Marketers that fail are often impatient and selfish.” (Think fundraisers!) “Impatient, because they won’t invest in the long-term job of earning familiarity, permission and trust.” (Think fundraisers and fundraising and your boss and boards that want money right now! Hurry up!)

Earn! Earn familiarity. Don’t pursue visibility, hoping that “everyone will know you and then send money.”

Earn permission and trust. Remember how important trust is to loyalty. Just read Adrian Sargeant‘s work. Read The Agitator. Read Jeff Brooks and Tom Ahern. Read all the great people.

Now think about Seth’s word “selfish.” So many nonprofit organizations and fundraisers and fundraising programs are selfish. Focused on the organization and all the good the organization does. Forgetting (or on purpose ignoring?) donor centrism and customer centrism.

Wow. Basic flaw. It’s not about you and your organization and your amazing staff. It’s all about the wonderful donor whose investment allows you and your organization and your amazing staff to do stuff. And without those donors, you won’t be able to do much.

You can’t demand attention, as Seth so clearly notes. It’s not about you. It’s about the person who is paying attention. “We call it ‘paying attention’ for a reason. It’s worth quite a bit, and ought to be cherished.”

That’s good fundraising.

October 17, 2013

Yet again, resources

I know. Maybe you’re tired of me recommending resources. But hey! I see myself as a curator of good info.

1.  I recommend that everyone subscribe to Roger Dooley’s neuroscience marketing e-news. A recent issue offers this very cool persuasion concept. (And then The Agitator people produced an e-news with more info, too. And, speaking of persuasion, check out Robert Cialdini, the influence guru. Read his books, too!)

Roger Dooley also tells us how to persuade people with BYAF (But You Are Free). This can double your success rate. Read this one and try it.

And – for amusement but also insight – read the newest Roger, “Women Can Be Irrational, Too.”

2.  Never forget those great agitator people, Roger Craver and Tom Belford. A must-read for all fundraisers (and their bosses and boards) is the October 3, 2013 myth-busting e-news from The Agitator is “Dangerous Myth #1: Too Much Solicitation Causes Poor Retention.” Read it. Destroy that myth in your organization. And raise more money.

3.  Check out Larry Johnson’s “Misplaced focus-misspent energy.” Also see Larry’s book The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising.

4. Look at the love pyramid from John Lepp of Toronto’s Agents of Good. The love pyramid can replace that typical donor pyramid. Just try it!

5. I subscribe to Seth Godin‘s daily blog. I read Seth for his general strategic approach to stuff. My most recent favorites:

  • “When to speak up,” September 28, 2013. Seth talks about decision-making and speaking up. The blog makes me think about conversation, which is inquiry not advocacy. Conversation, both formal and informal. Avoiding dysfunctional politeness. Remembering that silence is consent. Complainers complaining about decisions made when those complainers didn’t offer insights before the decision was made. So check out that blog.
  • And here’s one for sales people (which includes fundraisers): “The failure of the second ask,” September 19, 2013. Seth says: “Asking the first time might be brave. Asking again (more forcefully) after you get a no is selfish and dumb.”

6. Then there’s Jeff Brooks and his daily blog, Future Fundraising Now. My recent favorites from Jeff:

7. And today’s last recommendation, visit the new on-line learning community, the Knowledge Fountain. The Knowledge Fountain offers courses, and provides an on-line chat room about nonprofit topics. Take a look. Topics include social media and analytics, fundraising, marketing communications, personal productivity, and more.

Filed under: Resources / Research

August 27, 2013

Customer centric is the DNA of fundraising

Malcolm Sproull, Fundraising Manager  for SHINE, New Zealand, posted the following on LinkedIn:

“I came to the philanthropy/non-profit sector after 25 years in relationship selling and marketing in the commercial world. I never knew anyone could ask anyone for money if the asker wasn’t customer centric. It’s the fundamental DNA of relationship selling, which was the foundation for Ken Burnett’s book Relationship Fundraising.

“But your book [Keep Your Donors: The Guide to Better Communications and Stronger Relationships] was the first I came across in the non-profit sector illustrating the need to be so focused and to put one’s energies into seeking out the “pre-disposed”.

“It was the first time I had confirmation that the relationship selling principles I was then applying to the non-profit sector were not off the rails. At that early entry into the non-profit sector on many occasions I thought I had stepped into the Twilight Zone. Your books and those of Tom Ahern’s were and are a brilliant help.”

Thank you, Martin, for that marvelous testimonial about Keep Your Donors, written by Tom and me. But more importantly, thank you for your insights. Hey everyone, pay attention to what Martin says:

  • A donor is a customer. Think customer centric. Then you’ll understand donor centric.
  • No one can ask for money unless they are donor centric!
  • Customer centric and donor centric are the DNA of relationship building.
  • For heavens’ sake, read Ken Burnett’s seminal book Relationship Fundraising.
  • Focus. Identify those that you suspect might be predisposed to your cause. Avoid cold calling.
  • Once you’ve identified some predisposed, qualify them as prospects…or leave them alone! A prospect means someone who has actually expressed interest. Don’t confuse the predisposed and actual prospects.
June 3, 2013

The rich are irrelevant – and more thoughts about the pyramid

You might remember the blog below, from December 2012. A brief conversation between Tom and Simone. Well, Tom just sent out an e-news that explores this issue a bit more. Read my blog below. Then read Tom’s newest e-news, “Major gifts or more gifts: Which is better?”

Remember the Pareto Principle, 80/20? And now we know that, at least in a capital campaign, the rule is more like 90% of gifts come from 10% of donors. I want more love than that. I want more donors. I want that broader base. I want that broad base of donors to demonstrate community support. I want a broader base because I believe that philanthropy can (and should) be a democratizing act. I want that broader base to be so loyal that they will give bequests. Loyalty from many. That’s what I want.

So read the old blog below. And read Tom’s e-news. Think about it.

“The rich are irrelevant,” said Tom back in December 2012. And so started a very interesting conversation.

Tom is my life partner and a donor communications expert. We often talk about our shared experience in philanthropy and fund development. Our respective work takes us down similar paths, often diverges, and then reconnects. This philanthropy thing is our life’s work – each of us along and both of us together.

“The rich are irrelevant,” Tom repeats. “You and I are not interested in the rich people. We aren’t interested in the money and the transaction.”

“Instead,” Tom continued, “you and I see giving as the chance to balance the scales of selfishness. Of course, all humans are selfish. Our own biology demands self-care, self-protection, fighting for our own safety and our own way of living. And if history isn’t enough to show us this selfish truth, neuroscience now documents our selfishness.”

Tom continues. “Of course, human beings are insightful enough to know that we’re built for selfishness. Neuroscience proves this, too. So we try to balance the scales of selfish and unselfish.”

Think about it. People balance the scales of selfishness by giving. Giving friendship. Giving advice. Offering time. Investing money.

Philanthropy, voluntary action for the common good, is one way we balance the scales…selfish…unselfish.

But fundraising gets off track. Too often, fundraising focuses on money. Fundraisers and their organizations (too often desperately) search for money…and the bigger the bucks the better.

The bigger the bucks the better. “Fundraisers and their organizations keep searching for the top of the pyramid,” Tom said. “They don’t spend enough time moving the base up.”

Ah yes, the pyramid – and its top. The pinnacle of the pyramid where so few donors reside. And fundraisers focus on the top. Fundraisers and their organizations keep looking up. Too few fundraisers pay too little attention to too few people.

The fundraising pyramid focuses on the rich. The pyramid devalues people. Ascending the pyramid forces fundraising into a particularly narrow focus, big bucks – and only the rich have those big bucks.

There’s an irony in the pyramid…that the people at the top are special and better. The pyramid gives off a certain echo…royalty, for example. Slaves built the Egyptian pyramids for the pharaohs. Talk about “better” and “special!”

Why do we call it a “pyramid?” At least we could call it a “triangle.” There’s no negative echo with a triangle. Maybe we could somehow and somewhat avoid what I call “philanthropy’s moral dilemma” if we called it a triangle.

But more importantly, aiming for the top of the pyramid – or even the triangle – is so limiting. How about we re-conceptualize? Visualize the triangle with a big bulge somewhere in the middle, above the base and below the pointy top. Maybe the bulge looks like cloud cover surrounding the middle of the mountain. Maybe the bulge is like a big donut pushed down over the top, settling around the middle section of the triangle.

“A bequest is usually the largest gift a person ever makes,” noted Tom. And fundraisers know that loyal donors (not necessarily rich ones!) make bequests.

What if fundraising focused on rejecting the pyramid, embracing the triangle, and building the bulge?

What if fundraisers spent more time and energy and expertise and experience moving the base of the triangle into a big bulge right in the middle? Sure…if you can get to the top, go for it. Embrace the rich. Just don’t focus on them.

What a luxury for Tom and me. We can encourage our clients – and those who read our writings and attend our workshops – to transition from pyramid to triangle. We can promote a big bulge.

Yes, the rich can be irrelevant.

P.S. Watch for Tom’s e-news. I suspect he’ll be talking about our talk, too.

March 16, 2013

The power of vulnerability – for life and fundraising and…

This is an amazing video. For your personal and professional life and for my personal and professional life. I collected so many important tidbits… About the purpose of research. About the the concept of connection … which is, of course, relationship building … which is an essential part of fundraising and board development and nonprofit management and life.

Ms. Brené Brown describes herself as a research storyteller. She studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Her work has been featured on PBS, NPR, and CNN.

Her research and her stories can help us understand how and why people do or don’t connect. Her research and stories can help us as human beings – which helps us as professionals, which helps us as fundraisers… By the way, you’ll find a number of YouTube videos from Ms. Brown.

Filed under: Resources / Research

December 17, 2012

Social media in fundraising (and life)

Periodically I rant about social media, one of my pet peeves. Yes, sure, I know… Social media can be useful. Social media can be fun. Social media can help nurture relationships with some people.

But professionals – whether in fundraising or any other sector – are fully aware of the excessive hype about social media. Professionals are balanced and measured. Professionals read the research! So check out this information about social media:

1. Read for 12-15-11, “Which Mailbox Delivers Emotion?” Surprising, perhaps. 50% of U.S. consumers said they pay more attention to postal mail than email. 60% of U.S. consumers said they enjoy checking the mailbox for their mail. That’s an emotional connection. And the research found that the least trustworthy communications channels are social media and blogs. Only 6% of U.S. consumers trusted those sources! Read the rest of the research at the agitator or visit Epsilon’s Consumer Channel Preference Study.

2. Jeff Brooks ( reminds us to avoid excessive focus on social media. Read his blog of 12-14-11. Jeff remarks that “one of the cool things about email fundraising is how cheap it is.” So you just keep sending stuff cause there’s no postage or printing costs.

But watch out. “The longer an emailer goes without responding, the less likely they are to respond,” says Jeff. (And Jeff reminds us that the same holds true for direct mail.)

So why does this matter…you keep emailing and they don’t answer but it doesn’t cost you any real money. But what it will cost you is being labeled as a spammer. Here’s the bad news: Internet service providers are closely studying metrics. Internet service providers know which messages aren’t being opened. And when messages aren’t opened, the sender can get labeled as a spammer. Do you want that to happen to you? Because then your marketing messages won’t get there at all.

Read more at The Big Fat Marketing Blog, “Unscrubbed E-mail Files Pose Risks to Marketers: Study.”

 3. Read Seth Godin‘s blog of 12-11-12, “The trap of social media noise.” Being heard seems to equate with the number of listeners and readers and followers. How many follow you on Twitter? How many read your blog? How many subscribe to your e-news?

But who cares? Who is really listening? Who is really interested in what you’re saying? It isn’t the numbers, it’s the quality. It’s the alignment of like-minded people with similar interests.

Stop polluting the space with noise. As Seth says, “Relentlessly focus. Prune your message and your list and build a reputation that’s worth owning and an audience that cares.”

In conclusion: “Build a reputation that’s worth owning and an audience that cares.” That’s the truth for social media. And that’s the truth for fundraising, too. Measure the right numbers…like those who care, those who engage, those who are interested in your message…whether it’s social media listeners or donors. It isn’t the volume of numbers; it’s the type of numbers and what they represent!

October 7, 2012

Pink Ribbons, Inc.

An amazing documentary for fundraisers

A must-see for fundraisers – and anyone interested in marketing/communications. This Canadian documentary by Léa Pool (based on the book by Samantha King) puts cause marketing front and center…and questions its validity as a philanthropic tool.

This scary (yes, scary) story should force fundraisers to examine things like: corporate partnerships and who really benefits; picking partners (Do you really want a pink ribbon on a handgun? Do you really want to associate with a corporation that sells unhealthy food or whose products include harmful elements?); messaging (How do those with cancer feel about this “fight” and winning or losing it?) And so much more.

By the way, how much money does cause marketing actually produce? How does cause marketing increase philanthropy? Not so much. Not so good. Check out “The Hidden Costs of Cause Marketing,” by Angela Eikenberry. Hey, fundraisers. Watch Pink Ribbons, Inc.

October 1, 2012

Fundraising tips to share

With your boss, board, and colleagues

3 Far-out fundraising fails: Fantasy fundraising. Fad fundraising. And, fact-free fundraising. Read Jeff Brooks‘ blog of September 27, 2012.

Read Jeff’s blog today, 10-01-12, about what to ask for in your direct mail solicitation. Just the gift! Nothing else. Not volunteering. Not attending the event. One ask only. Don’t distract the reader!

July 14, 2012

What does giving online really mean?

Let's speak clearly

You solicit a gift from me – in person, on the telephone, in a print letter delivered by the postal service. I visit your website and pay my gift through the Internet. You solicit me through email and I click on “donate now!” and make my gift through the Internet.

There’s a difference! Speak clearly. Are you soliciting online and people are responding and giving? Then I’d call that online solicitation – and online giving,too. You solicit me through another means and I pay online. That’s not online giving! That’s online paying. Big difference. Be clear in your reporting and your analysis and your conclusions.

April 2, 2012

Memories from Saint Mary’s

Insights from colleagues in class

Every summer, I head to Winona, Minnesota to teach in the Masters Program in Philanthropy and Development. This is one of the most meaningful experiences in my life. Intense. Focused. Full of cage-rattling questions and deep conversation and soul searching.

And every year, my student colleagues say such interesting things. Raise such important questions. Wrestle and challenge.

Consider this  from Beth, Cohort 21:  “I now had to stare down the ugly beast of reality. As an organization we cared more about ourselves than those who supported us and we were not very coy about it either. Our messaging made it clear, our attitudes reinforced it, and worst of all our leadership practices it from the top down. Based on our class dialogue I was painfully aware of so many of our organizational shortcomings but this one was akin to a mortal sin in the development world.”

Thanks Beth, for reminding us that – too often – we are all like this. Our organizations, our fund development operations – everything we do – is not sufficiently customer-centered. Customer-centered includes focusing on our clients and focusing on our donors. Yes, we can be mission-centered and client-centered and donor-centered. We can and we must.

Consider these thoughts from Ryan, also in Cohort 21: “Today in class we discussed what philanthropy and a culture of philanthropy looks like…

“What came to mind when I heard the word philanthropist? An extremely rich business man with enough money to create a full-time job out of managing his donations – Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

“That’s pretty sad that I applied and wanted to get a masters degree in something that made me think of old, white men with too much money to handle.

“This lesson today helped me understand what philanthropy truly means – giving. A philanthropist is anyone who gives time and/or money, regardless of the amount.”

Thank you, Ryan,  for reminding us all of that essential truth: Philanthropy is not reserved for the rich. Good fundaisers don’t focus on the rich. Philanthropy (and its partner fund development) is about more than money.

Read Robin Hood Was Right by Chuck Collins and Pam Rogers, an important and beautiful book. Read “Philanthropy’s Moral Dilemma,” the final chapter of my book Keep Your Donors – and posted as a monograph on this homepage.

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