Keeping Track

Many, many years ago, my first husband bought one of the first models of the IBM PC, hooked it to a modem, and waited for it to do something.  Which, of course, it didn’t.  I often think of that as I talk with clients—those (alas, too few) who actually have donor databases—about how they are using their constituent relationship systems (CRM).

By and large, they are not. They are either using these systems as a mailing list, and/or as a secondary accounting system.  Neither are what these systems are meant to be.

A CRM is a way for you to learn about your donors, understand what they care about, how they respond to you, create meaningful relationships with them.  But the CRM itself doesn’t do a thing.  It’s how you configure it; populate it; use it that can make a true difference in your fundraising.

To begin, you must make clear decisions about how fields are defined and what you will using various elements of the database for.  Data entry has to be standardized and you must have a regular accuracy check.  I always recommend weekly reports showing what has been entered, by whom, with an eye to catch and fix errors immediately.

Typically, in a CRM, you are looking at Constituent records and Gift Records.  The more information you put in your constituent record, the more helpful your database will be.  Not only can you with most software packages identify who you are sending something to, you can personalize the way you address them. The more personal you can get, the more likely someone is to pay attention to what you are writing.

Fundraising is all about getting up close and personal.  Your CRM can help you do that, but only if you are inputting important information. Think about all the things you’d love to know about your donors—and then think about where you would store that information so you can get it out.

Getting information out is one of the big issues with CRM software.  Wrongly input, information can get “stuck,” unable to be extracted in helpful ways.  While some things will only be important for that particular constituent and used only when you are developing a specific donor profile, other information you’ll want to be able to query on and pull reports. These will not only go into different places in your database, they will be stored differently.

A contact report can be written in paragraphs or bullet form.  You’ll want that information as you are creating a cultivation plan or looking to reconnect with that donor.  Who was a former board president, however, is probably something you’d like to be able to query and pull out a list of all former board presidents.

As you consider what CRM to buy, how to update what you have, whatever your database situation, first consider how you will want to use this tool.  And from there, you can build a roadmap to help you to get there.

Just remember, IT won’t do a thing without your guidance.

Janet Levine works to help nonprofits move from mired to inspired.  She can help your organization increase its fundraising, empower your board, train your staff.  Find out how at http://janetlevineconsulting.com.  While there, sign up for the newsletter and do contact Janet about a free 30-minute phone or zoom consultation.

 

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End of the Year Fundraising

It’s almost Thanksgiving. Will you be able to give thanks that your end of year campaign has already been launched or ready to go?  Or will you be panicking that (once again) a great opportunity is being lost?

Whether it is because this is when we all ask for support or because it is the time of year when people think about giving (or some combination of the two), end of the year is when most of a nonprofit’s charitable revenue comes in.  Over 30% of all giving happens in December, and most of that in the last three days of the year.

The good news, for those of you who haven’t done your end of year appeal, is that there still may be time. The bad news is that without careful planning, you don’t have time to develop a full-blown campaign.

In fundraising parlance, a campaign is a time-limited effort to raise funds in a variety of ways for a specific purpose.  That purpose can be your operating funds.  If you only send a direct response letter, you will be lucky to get a 4% effective (number of yeses relative to number of asks) rate.  The more platforms you put your appeal on and the more carefully you send out your various appeals, the higher that number will go.  The higher that number, the more you will be bringing in.

End of the year shouldn’t just be about asking, however.  It is such a great time to tell your donors (and would-be donors) what their support has meant over the year.  Telling success stories in emails, e-blasts, newsletters, letters, on social media (you get the picture—and while we are here, pictures are often worth 1,000 words) helps donors feel connected and, understandably, that their support really does matter.

It’s also a good time to clue your community in about what you are planning for next year.  What new things are on the horizon?  What things will you be enhancing, continuing…or stopping? What changes are happening in your staff, in your board, with your programs?

The more you can engage and involve your donors, the higher your retention rate will be.  And that means the more successful your end of the year campaign!

 

Janet Levine helps nonprofits move from mired to inspired. Inspire your board by bringing Janet to do a training.  Stop being mired by hiring Janet to help your fundraising team plan a successful next year. Email her directly or go to www.janetlevineconsulting.comto learn more.

 

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Inspiring, Fundraising Words

Words are critically important in fundraising.  They must inspire, excite, and educate.

Just as no one wants to give to a mission they don’t understand, they are not likely to giveto something that is “pretty good,” or one that does “an ok job.”

To inspire you must touch a person’s heart and link to that person’s values.  That means you must get to know your prospects and donors, and understand what matters, deeply, to them.  You have to bring them close and make them know your organization—though stories about the people or the cause you serve, the difference they can make in the world.

Think about that.  Are you inspiring because you offer after school tutoring to underserved children aged 8-15?  Or are you inspiring because the students, like Kayla, have learned to study, are loving school, have bright futures ahead of them.  That your clients go on to success and don’t end up dropping out of school and into lives of poverty and worse?

Donors care about what happens; nonprofits want to tell them—in excruciating detail—how they do what they do.  Inevitably donors, prospects, people who might be interested in your work, shut down. Their eyes glaze, they cease to hear. They are done and you are still telling them about the six programs in 4 different buildings throughout the area that offer………..

Sometimes it is laziness that makes us talk about our programs instead of what happens and the changes that take place.  Mostly it is being too close to what you do, living and breathing it day after day after day.

Maybe what you need is a break!  Get out from behind your desk (which a good fundraiser should not be sitting behind for most of any day) and take a long walk, go visit a colleague, have someone tour you around your own facility and try seeing and hearing with your “outside” eyes and ears.

Think about what you always say, then think about how to say it differently—from a different perspective or using different words.  Does it tell you about the things you do or does it focus on those that you accomplish? Do you feel inspired or insipid?

As you speak these new words or consider this new way of thinking about what happens at your organization, open your mind to other new ideas and thoughts.

Make what you do new and bright.  Get excited again, and then go out and share that excitement with others.

Janet Levine Consulting takes pride in moving nonprofits from mired to inspired.  Let Janet inspire you.  Check out her services at www.janetlevineconsulting.com.  While there, sign up for the newsletter and contact Janet for a free, 30-minute zoom or telephone consultation.

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Fund Raising–What’s It All About?

What part of fundraising does not make sense?  It is the things you do to raise funds for your fabulous organization so it can do the important things it does.  It should be something you are proud to do; something that you know—and want others to understand—is important.

It is not begging, or hitting on someone.  It is asking them to partner with you, to invest in the work you do, to be part of the programs that make a difference.

As part of that, you are asking them to make a financial commitment.  To give a charitable gift, yes.  But more.  To become a part of what you do and beyond the money, to become an ambassador, an advocate.  Someone who tells others about the important stuff that happens because of your organization.

 None of that happens by magic.  It takes time and process.  It takes getting to know your donors, and finding out what it is they hope to accomplish (hope you accomplish) through their generosity.

That means you must be clear about costs.  To do this, costs that.  To have this outcome we must spend. To make a difference, please consider a gift of.

Of course, you must have specific numbers attached to all those conversations. And you must ask for a specific amount.  That amount should not be too small—that not only will defeat your purpose but may make your donor think that her gift really won’t matter very much at all. But it also should not be ridiculously large.  It should be an amount that your donor, based on everything you know, can afford.  Something they can do.

How do you know what that number is?

You get to know your donors.  You find out what matters to them, what they care about, how they like to be talked to and recognized for what they do.  That means asking questions and keeping your mouth shut.  It means listening,and then asking them to tell you more.  It means probing—and it always means talking about money.

To do this we must raise that.  If you were to give to this, do you think you would consider a gift that is equal to half of that?  More?  What would it take for you to make that commitment?  What do you need from me?

You are never coy when you fundraise.  You are clear.  Your are specific.  No doesn’t factor into this.  No just means not at that amount.  No means not yet.  It might mean not for this project.  Mainly, No means you haven’t done your job yet.  

Above all, you must keep the importance of what you do foremost in your mind.  You must always show your prospect why this gift matters; how they will make a difference. Show them, regularly, what you will, have been, or might be able to do because of them.  

Because they are what fundraising is all about.  Getting to know your donors.  Getting them engaged and committed.  Helping them to make the gift that is right for them—and that works for you.  And always showing them how they are the key that opens all these wonderful and amazing doors.

Janet Levine Consulting works with nonprofits, moving them from mired to inspired.  See how Janet can help you to increase your fundraising results, get your board more committed and move your organization to the next step.  Go to http://janetlevineconsulting.com and sign up for the newsletter 

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Should Boards Have Give and/or Get Policies?

The man was defensive. “I wouldn’t serve on a board,” he told me, “if I was told it was dependent on my making a gift of a certain size.  It would make me feel like an ATM and that the only value I had was to write a check.”

While I can understand that reaction—I would feel that way, too if that was the only requirement for board membership—the man was looking at the issue through too narrow a lens.

There are a number of roles and responsibilities board members must play, one of which has to do with the financial stability and viability of the organization. Typically, that translates to the need for board members to both give and get charitable gifts.  Do note the “and” in that phrase.  I do not believe that a board member can ask anyone for something he or she has not done or given; nor do I believe that the capacity to make a substantial gift equates to a specific number.  Substantial to me may be chump change to you.  Or vice versa.

Having already tipped my hat, let’s discuss the all-important issue of amount.  How much should the board be giving?

Some private foundations are now saying that board giving should equal 10% of the operating budget. That brings up two questions to me:

  1. What constitutes Board Giving? Is that everything a board gives during a year or just the amount that the board members gives as part of his or her board responsibility?
  2. What does “operating budget” in this context mean? A client of mine, applying for a grant to one of these foundations was horrified—about 75% of their budget comes from government grants and contracts—was that part of the operating budget?  If so, there was no way they could comply with the funders requirements. I would say that as with most things in life, the answer is “it depends,” and it will be different for each organization. You must carefully consider these issues and come up—with your board—the answers that make sense for your organization. Note that I said sense for your organization and not necessarily what is comfortable for your board!

As I noted above, I don’t believe in putting a solid number as a board give (get is another story). Two reasons for that:

  1. What you decide is the floor for board giving often becomes the ceiling and there may be board members who could and would give much more if asked.
  2. The floor may be too high for some people who bring other value to the board. For example—someone with deep reach into a community you want to engage; a specific skillset you need; a reputation that is important.  You may lose these people because of an artificial price tag.

What I do believe in is treating your board members as major donors.  That means you learn as much about them as you can—via research, conversations with others who know them and, most importantly, with the board members herself. As with major donor prospects, these conversations must include the topic of money—specifically, what this organization is worth to them. And every year, the board chair and the CEO should have a one-on-one meeting to ask for the decided upon board gift and, once that is secured, to ask “who else do you know who might join with you to support our organization at this level?”

Those names begin the work of the board member to also honor his obligation to get.

 

Janet Levine works to help nonprofits go from mired to inspired.  Learn how she can help your organization increase fundraising capacity and energize your board at http://janetlevineconsulting.comor email Janet at janet@janetlevineconsulting.com.

 

 

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