Posts made in December, 2011

Why Not Be Great?

Posted by on Dec 31, 2011 | 0 comments

If you sometimes find yourself in the dumps, feeling as if the state of the world is overwhelming and impossible to navigate, this message is for you and yours. It applies to individuals, as well as companies.

The bottom line message: So WHAT if life is crazy?”… stop thinking about how crazy the times are, and start thinking about what the crazy times demand.” Make a choice and stick with it. And while you’re choosing, why not be great?

Carry this message with you throughout the coming new year. And print it out and tape it to your mirror, or computer screen, or refrigerator. Whatever you do, don’t forget it when the craziness surrounds you.

2012 promises to be awesome, and crazy. Let’s all promise to be great.

Thanks to Seth Godin for his amazing blog.

Happy and GREAT New Year to all!

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Are You One Blog Post from an Oprah Invitation?

Posted by on Dec 22, 2011 | 0 comments

Life and the holidays are just full of surprises, but let’s be realistic: Oprah may not be one of them.

Enjoy this guest blog post by Sonia at CopyBlogger: If you’ve been reading the news headlines about social media for the last few years, you may be tempted to think:

  • Merely opening a Twitter account will triple your revenue this year
  • You’re only one blog post away from a guest spot on Oprah
  • If you build it (a Facebook/LinkedIn/Tumblr page), they will come (in hordes)

Then you look around at the real world and realize that, sadly, none of this is true. 

Continue reading here.

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10 Communication Lessons from Your Favorite Holiday Tunes

Posted by on Dec 22, 2011 | 0 comments

Today’s post is a wonderful holiday-related reminder of the importance of good communication. Neal Schaffer has shared the following post by Melanie Thompson of Radian6. Melanie has created this fun list of 10 Social Media Lessons from Your Favorite Holiday Tunes:

We all hear holiday songs this time of year and I can’t help but listen to the lyrics. What’s interesting is how the best tips and tricks of social media engagement ring true in these songs. How so? Take a look.

1. Little Drummer Boy: It’s all about understanding what you can bring to the table. When engaging on the social web, you might feel like you aren’t sure of what you can contribute, or that what you have to offer is not enough, but remember the drummer boy had nothing to bring, so he shared his gift of music. Think of the gifts or talents you have and how you can share them online.

2. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: Rudolph teaches us not to be the Dasher and Dancers of the world by leaving people out or making fun of them. You never know who might be leading the sleigh next week.

3. Santa is Coming to Town: He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good…social media knows all too. It’s very hard to take anything back that is posted online. Keep this in mind as you engage.

4. I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus: This is a friendly reminder that you never know who might be watching or how things might be interpreted. Consider all potential audiences before posting.

5. Baby it’s Cold Outside: Well this song sure says a lot doesn’t it? Can you really tell from the song whether the lady wants to go home or not? She’s kind of saying it, but also seems all too willing to stay. I mean why doesn’t she just leave already? We can all take this as a reminder to be sure that when we are posting on social media, we think about being firm in what we are saying. What do we want, believe and think? How can we share it in a way that’s clear and defined?

6. The Whoville Song (Welcome Christmas):  A reminder not to use corporate jargon. No one outside your small village will understand what you are saying!

7. Do you Hear what I Hear? As the title states, it’s very important to listen. Make sure you take the time to listen for big news and watch the social media landscape change so you don’t miss out on any announcements or changes.

8. Joy to the World: Bring on your joy to the world. Share your passions and make people smile. Think of ways you can draw them in.

9. It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: This time of year is great because it’s when we reflect on the past 365 days and think about past accomplishments and what you hope to achieve in the coming year. It’s the most wonderful time, because you can start fresh with a new plan and a new year ahead.

10. War is Over: This song asks, “So this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun.” Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, this is something we should all be considering as 2011 comes to a close. What have we accomplished in the last year and what will we be focusing on next year?

Happy Holidays!

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Do You Believe You Are An Effective Listener?

Posted by on Dec 21, 2011 | 0 comments

The following post is taken in its entirety from an email I received today from Kevin Gentry at the Charles Koch Foundation. It’s excellent and right on target.  I hope you’re listening:

Do you believe you are an effective listener?

We’ve frequently discussed how listening is so key to successful long-term donor cultivation.  It’s an important element of donor involvement, as well.

In The Artful Journey, Bill Sturtevant tells us –

The goal of the effective listener is to encourage the prospect to talk, then listen in order to understand his or her views, unique needs and fears relating to the gift decision.  To be effective requires that you listen without an agenda.  It is in this manner that you can truly become a partner and a consultant to your prospect as he or she works through the gift decision.

Maybe this arrives as you are scrambling to close out your year-end gift solicitations.  Or, maybe your activities are focused on processing all of those contributions that are pouring in right now.  Either way, hopefully you’re also in contact with your best supporters to convey your heartfelt gratitude for what they’ve helped you to achieve.

As you’re speaking with these most generous contributors, are you able to resist the temptation to talk, continuing to sell your program, and perhaps give these thoughtful folks the chance to speak, instead?

You may recall a story I’ve shared before: 

My very first donor meeting, more than two decades ago, was with the quintessential “Little Old Lady from Pasadena.”  She was a very dear, patriotic widow living in a beautiful old home perched on a hill in Pasadena, California overlooking the Rose Bowl.

I was fully prepared to make the case to her why her giving had been so valuable.  I was well-armed with lots of facts and figures, anecdotes and endorsements to pile on how our organization was the best there could possibly be.

Trouble was, this dear lady wouldn’t let me get in a word edgewise!  Try as a I might to make my case, she dominated the conversation for a full two hours.  Then realizing I had another appointment, I literally started sweating that I was going to have to end my very first donor meeting without uttering a substantive point about why our cause was the greatest.

Finally, I stood up to excuse myself.  I just had to go.  And I was leaving with a sense of utter failure and defeat.  But then, this generous supporter surprised me by giving me a big hug and exclaiming, “Thank you so much for coming over today.  I’ve learned so much about your good and important work!”

Funny stuff, huh?

You might consider this specific advice offered by Stephen Clouse.  As you may know, Stephen uses video in donor persuasion, and he has helped raise millions of dollars for groups such as the Reagan Ranch and Mount Vernon.  Here’s “Great Questions to Guide Effective Listening” that he sent me to share with you. 

Have you ever seen a master interviewer get a guest to open up on camera?  Active listening is the way you motivate another person in conversation.  It’s when we open up and reveal our deepest thoughts and hidden desires.  The need for thought-provoking questions is the key to great conversation.  These are the types of open-ended questions that require longer answers.  They almost always start with who, what, when, where, why and how.  Here are some examples of great questions that promote active listening.    

1.     Why are you interested in (organization or issue)?

2.     What brought you to get involved?

3.     Why is this important to you?

4.     In addition to that, is there anything else?

5.     If there was one thing and only one thing you wanted people to know about, why this issue was important to you, what would it be?

Another form of donor involvement that involves listening is asking some of your supporters for advice and counsel.  This has multiple benefits.

You might find value in this story shared by Gretchen Hamel of Public Notice –

Earlier this year, we contacted a supporter who is a nationally recognized entrepreneur to see how we could work together on messaging and advertising.  After starting in the advertising business in the 1950s, this gentleman went on to purchase a New York billboard advertising company in the early 1960s, building it into a major regional business in the Southwest.  He then went on to head a major American film production and distribution company before leaving to build the second largest convenience store chain in the United States. 

We scheduled a call with the donor with two goals in mind; first, we could explain the goals of our operation and second (and more importantly) to actively listen to him so we could use his wisdom and business knowledge to improve our organization.  Since our initial conversation our group, Public Notice, has had regular communication with this donor, giving him updates on our progress, soliciting his insight on outdoor advertising, and working together to ensure that our messaging is on the right track.  

This relationship has shown amazing returns for our organization, with the donor advising on which outdoor vendors to work with, his assistance in placing our outdoor advertising in high traffic locations, and garnering our group substantial discounts on pricing that has saved our group tens of thousands of dollars.  

And you thought development was all about simply asking your prospects for money!

Thank you, Kevin, for reminding us of the importance of listening effectively!

This isn’t the first T|R|T post about the value of listening. Earlier this year I posted Silence is Golden, and you might also remember a previous T|R|T blog post about listening where I mentioned a favorite sign that is over my desk. Let me share again:

“Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

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Twas the Week Before Christmas Poem

Posted by on Dec 19, 2011 | 0 comments

Twas the week before Christmas, when all through nonprofits
The workers were checking their end-of-year topics.
Holiday eBlasts were sent with great care,
In hopes that the donors would very soon share.

The supporters were promised an exemplary year,
While visions of 2012 brought some cause to cheer.
And intern in her sweater, and I in my vest,
Had just settled our brains after a pre-holiday test.

When out in the hallway there arose such a clatter,
I leaned in my chair to see what was the matter.
Away to the mail room I flew like a flash,
Tore open the letter and looked for the stash.

The stamp on the breast of the white envelope
Was Merry and Bright and gave me some hope.
Then what to my sparkling eyes should appear,
But a donation check and holiday cheer!

With a second look, it became very clear,
I knew in a moment the holidays were here.
Whether online or mailed, the donations they came,
And I whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Founder! now, Student! now, Donor and Friend!
On, Partner! On, Sponsor! on, on to the end!
You listened, you cared, you rallied the call!
Now thank you and thank you! And thank you to all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the bank with deposit I flew,
With my hand full of checks, and a hot latte too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard in my mind
“These friends are so generous and also so kind.”
As I sipped from the cup, and was turning around,
In the door St Nicholas came with a bound.

You know the rest, he was jolly and kind
Smiling and laughing he went straight to the line.
Then he looked back at me with a wink and a smile,
And dropped his big bag in a red velvet pile.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
Spreading good will, then turned with a jerk.

No words we exchanged, but the message was clear,
“We can’t rest now, it’s our busiest time of year.”
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, out the door he strode.

With thoughts of kindness, and mankind’s good will
Back to our jobs we scurried with a thrill
Knowing that giving comes from the heart,
Makes it easier for fundraisers to do our part.  

It’s the week before Christmas, when all through the world
Men’s generosity and goodness quietly unfurl
And fundraisers unite and take a moment to pause
In gratitude for those who support a worthy cause.

And now when I work through my long list of to-do’s,
I  stop for a moment from writing thank you’s,
To remember how he exclaimed as he drove out of sight,  
“Merry Christmas to all, now let’s do this right!”

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Did You Know….? (or how to get the biggest bang out of your EOY effort)

Posted by on Dec 13, 2011 | 0 comments

Did you know that 50% of donors will check out your website before making a donation?

Did you know that most online end-of-year giving will happen in the last week of December?

Did you know that there are amazing bloggers in the nonprofit world? Well, they do and there are.

This blog post on Maximizing End-Of-Year Online Giving, by Sandy Rees (CFRE) is a great reminder for those who need to tweak their website for optimum user experience and add life with pictures, color and storytelling.

You should also (you have time, just do it!) review your end-of-year online campaign:

  1. Are your EOY eBlasts drafted and ready to go? They should be short and to the point.
  2. If doable, have you personalized your automatic thank you reply to online donors?
  3. If you are sending an EOY direct mail, it should be going, going, gone!
  4. If you didn’t send an EOY direct mail, you should have your 2012 Annual Appeal direct mail ready to send in early January.
  5. Be honest with your donors. Let them know if you have a deadline, matching funds, special funding needs. Communicate this clearly and succinctly.
  6. Be thankful. I can’t say this enough. Show your gratitude with phone calls, emails, personal notes, automated thank you’s. Not just one, but several.
It’s countdown time. I hope this helps you finalize anything that’s not already completed for your EOY effort.
Let’s end 2011 with a bang!
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Back to the Top 10 Basics of Fundraising

Posted by on Dec 6, 2011 | 0 comments

It’s not even the end of 2011 and if you’re like me you’re already drafting content for your 2012 Appeal. Such is the life of a fundraiser.

And since we seem to cycle through the same development efforts year after year (granted, we are gaining and adding new expertise through personal effort, fundraising blogs, industry websites, networking, and such…), it seems like this is a good time to stop, breathe, and take a minute to remember the basics of fundraising.

In this fast-paced world of social media, sound bytes, instant messages, and a zillion tweets, those all-important basics can get lost along the way [in the cloud?]. Let’s start 2012 with a quick refresher on what’s important in fundraising, long before you add the snazzy subject lines, creative eBlasts and 140 characters:

Top 10 Fundraising Basics

  1. Develop a Plan – you can’t raise money without planning to do so. Set aside time and resources to create a comprehensive development plan and then follow it. Dedicate time every single day to this plan, and work it.
  2. Research Philanthropic Giving – figure out why people give: what motivates them, how they prefer to be contacted, what makes them write a check, why they increase their giving (or stop giving). Understand the motivation behind the people you will be approaching.
  3. Identify YOUR audience – determine who will care enough about your organization’s mission, accomplishments and goals to become a supporter. Not every member of your audience will become a donor, so it’s important to find the common denominators between your organization and your potential donors. Identify those with a common passion and develop a list of strong potential donors.
  4. Introductions  – fundraising is about relationships. You can’t just schedule a first meeting, hand the potential donor a one-page overview of your organization’s highlights, and ask for a check. Well, you can, but it’s rarely successful in the long-term, let alone during that first visit. Take time to introduce you and your organization through events, email, phone conversations, and written correspondence (including personal thank you’s for their interest, time, etc.). Take the time to get to know your donors. Build strong relationships.
  5. Tell Your Story – there is nothing more compelling to a potential donor (or existing donor for that matter) than a compelling story that illustrates the efforts and success of your organization. Take the time to create a succinct, passionate, true message about what your organization is doing, then share it using all the various methods of communication available today.
  6. Calendar Your Outreach – remember the development plan you created (step 1)? Follow it! Calendar your letters, emails, calls and visits accordingly, for both individual outreach and mass produced efforts. Make sure to build on the previous effort every time you “touch” a donor.
  7. Don’t Procrastinate – this is something we all struggle with as we juggle multiple contracts, names, databases and events. But as busy as we are, being prompt in our actions is a critical key to successful fundraising. Don’t delay making the phone call. Don’t put off sending the email. Don’t be late to the personal visit. Don’t wait until the last day to submit a grant proposal Simply put – get on it, don’t delay. You can lose a potential donor if you don’t follow up promptly.
  8. Say Thank You – so often overlooked, saying thank you is the single most important thing you can do once a donation is received from a donor. Prompt, sincere thank you letters are lifelines to your donors. Don’t delay them, don’t forget them. Send them promptly and include a quick 1 paragraph update on what your organization is currently involved in, or a sneak peak into an upcoming event. It takes very little effort to make the donor feel special and included, as well as appreciated in your thank you letter.
  9. Be Professional – When donors arrive at the office doors of an organization, there are typically two people they want to see – the CEO and the Development officer. Dress the part, and be prepared for these surprise visits. Remember, you’ve worked to make the donor feel a part of your organization, so impromptu visits should be welcomed and expected (although most donors will call ahead, we should always be prepared for when they don’t!).
  10. Watch Your Costs – It’s easy to forget the importance of ROI (return on investment) when you’re simply working down a checklist of approved fundraising actions within a development plan. Be careful of this. Time and time again organizations forget to work the numbers on direct mail campaigns, annual report publications, etc. There’s a fine line between appropriate and expected communication with your donors and over-the-top glossy outreach efforts that don’t quite pencil out at the end of the day.
I used the words “take the time” over and over in this blog post, but that’s what fundraising is really about, taking the time to do it right. Every dollar we raise for the worthy causes we represent is worth the effort.  Let’s get it right and work smarter next year, beginning with a strong foundation of fundraising basics.
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My Brain is Running a 5K (or EOY Mind Games)

Posted by on Dec 3, 2011 | 0 comments

I dream edits.

This blog post could end with those three words, because they sum up my current state of mind.

Wordsmithing content for direct mail, blog posts, eBlasts and other outreach efforts is one of my favorite things, but it can be exhausting.

Last night I fell into my bed after a zillion hours at my laptop – OK, maybe only 18 hours. I fell asleep almost immediately, but all night long I rewrote the direct mail piece I had worked on for over half of the previous day. In other words, I kept working in my sleep (and not all that effectively, I might add).

When I awoke this morning, my muscles hurt. I felt like I had run a 5K, and you know what? I think my brain did!

Wordsmithing for days on end can be compared to the training necessary for a 5K run culminating with a blazing cross over the finish line. Only, with wordsmithing, you aren’t done at the finish line.

There’s always one more edit, one last tweak, and sometimes (even after a valiant effort) you need a complete redo. Now that’s something you can’t do at a 5K: cross the finish line, decide you’re unhappy with your time, and head back to the starting point to run again that same day.

Effective wordsmithing, or writing, is an art, and a science, and sometimes even involves a little bit of luck. It takes planning, preparation, practice, focus and execution.  I’m not a trained journalist or creative author or professional blogger or technical writer. But here I am writing, here and there and everywhere.

I know many of you are in the same race. Here are 6 simple tips to help you succeed:

  1. Hit the ground running (pardon the pun) – in other words, do your research first, then write
  2. Push forward – if the words aren’t flowing start with an outline
  3. Take breaks when your mind goes blank – give your brain time to rest –  focus on something else for a while
  4. Finish your first “final” draft and walk away – your brain needs a pit stop
  5. Dream edits – take a break from writing and go back later when it will seem fresh again
  6. Cross the finish line – edit, tweak, sign off

My brain is exhausted, it feels like it has run a 5K. I must need better sneakers.

I dream edits.

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It’s December – You Have 30 Days to Meet Your Fundraising Goals

Posted by on Dec 2, 2011 | 0 comments

Where did the year go? It’s December! Wow.

There’s no time to waste. Look at your calendar. You have 30 days to reach your fundraising goals. (You’re welcome for the reminder).

S0, how ya doin’?

There’s no time to panic. Take a breath. Review your development plan. Check your calendar again, work with your team, use your database management system, and get to work.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Are you panicking even though there’s no time? Haven’t accomplished what you wanted to before December 1?

OK, stop and prioritize at least these 4 things:

  1. December EOY direct mail – if this isn’t already mailed, or drafted and off to the printer, do it now. Do not delay. Get this out the door ASAP.
  2. December EOY early eBlast – draft and send next week, make it a reminder of your 2011 accomplishments and EOY campaign
  3. December EOY mid-month eBlast – draft and send the week before Christmas, make it a holiday message with an ASK, reminding your audience of who you are and what you stand for. Maybe offer them an opportunity to subscribe to your newsletter.
  4. December EOY last week of the month eBlasts – send 2 – 3 during the week between Christmas and the New Year (12.27/12.29/12.31), have these eBlasts ready to go and set up to send in Mail Chimp, Constant Contact, or whatever you use before you leave for the holidays. If something new comes up, you can always edit. Make these emails short, snappy reminders that a donation to your 501(c)3 organization is a tax deduction, or maybe you have a matching grant that’s nearing the deadline, or possibly you’re within just a few thousand dollars of your December fundraising goal, and on the 31st of December, remind your donors that it’s the last day to give in 2011.

And when you’ve checked your list (twice), it will be 2012. And we get to start again. New goals, new experiences, new friends.

Don’t you love being a fundraiser? It’s a never-ending crusade for a good cause. When you think about it, what better way to spend your working (and sometimes personal) hours?!

Happy New Year!

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