Tag Archives: advancement services

Must read for our industry

Have you read Daniel Pink’s “To Sell is Human”? It is a great, quick read about the sociology, psychology, and mechanics of selling (defined by Pink as persuasion, rather than pure sales, per se).

The book (check it out here) presents some terrific tactics for increasing effectiveness of moving others. This book is especially valuable for gift officers and others who are learning how to best engage people. Happy reading and would love your thoughts on how you’ve been most effective at persuading people to move toward your cause.

 

 

Did you see this amazing New York Times story of manuscripts and other Timbuktu artifacts being stored away for protection? (click here, but may be subscription-based) While the circumstances there are dramatically more dramatic than any development shop, I was moved by the care in handling these materials. And, at the risk of seeming glib, I thought this fit well in the spirit of National Constituent Record Filing Month. What files does your organization most treasure? Are they safe yet still accessible? Give it some thought.

Photo courtesy: The New York Times
Photo courtesy: The New York Times

Facebook’s (continued) move into online giving

This month has focused on Business Intelligence, the process of gathering all your organization knows (typically through a centralized database and a cool data visualization tool, etc.) and improving your analysis and decision making. A key component to great BI is how to get at all of the data relevant to your constituents–bio-demographic, giving, activities, and, more and more, their online engagement. This means what Facebook, LinkedIn and others do matters to your fundraising operations.

Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) is delving deeper into providing a donor giving application function. The NonProfit Times offered a helpful synopsis of the Facebook’s plans. On its face, this is a neat idea and may hold promise for the charities involved. But it also has some risks. (How) will data be shared? What fees are involved (FB doesn’t have any now)? And, my personal favorite, what will be the real cost of handling such giving, particularly when the thrust of the tool appears to be tribute giving.

Money in mazeThis last point is important. On the one hand, I’ve written about the real costs of handling any gift. It’s pretty hard to do for less than about $7. No matter what. On the other hand, once a nonprofit loses control over data and deliverables, there can be substantial donor service costs. For example, a few years ago, as a result of a Facebook fundraising effort outside of its control, a client of mine spent dozens of staff hours trying to make a few donors-via-Facebook happy. This effort appears more structured than the example I shared, but the data-exchange-donor-satisfaction issue could be significant.

So, as technology marches forward, keep in mind the some innovations have costs that should be calculated. Want to see what it costs your team to process a gift? Check out my calculator here.

Are you using Infographics as reporting tools? You should be.

During National Business Intelligence (BI) Month, a number of top-notch infographics have caught my eye. These handy visuals are really reports, depicting data and details germane to a topic. But, they are also much more. They provide guidance about how to use the data. They tell a story. They provide business process guidance. In short, they’re quite helpful and you should be looking into how these can help your fundraising efforts.

I should note that I know this topic is not new. Infographics have been around for years and some folks have declared them irrelevant or unhelpful. However, any visualization of information that tells the story you need told can be valuable, so infographics likely have utility in your shop.

BWF Analytics Infographic

For example, our firm created a handy infographic (on the right) to present data from a survey we conducted on analytics. This image is really many reports in one. It presents the data in a logical order. In general, it is a useful guide to the topic of fundraising analytics, benchmarking for staff, and related information.

So, how should you set about creating an infographic?

  1. Determine your topic. Infographics can be great for 40,000 foot ideas as well as minutia, but generally not both.
  2. Find your data. What data do you have to display? What data would you like to go get?
  3. Lay out your story. The visual aspects of this process are important. Do you want the reader to “take it all in”, “follow along”, or just see some useful visual depictions of data and interpretation?
  4. Pick a infographic tool and get going. Many tools are out there. Check out this resource for some good and free tools.

Finally, I thought I’d take some of my own advice (for a change!). Below is the inaugural fundraisingoperations.com infographic. It uses data from a survey I did for my 2011 book An Executive’s Guide to Fundraising Operations. While my effort isn’t as amazing as this awesome college football bowl game pic, I created it in 20 minutes. Have any great infographic examples? Drop your links in the comments. Happy infographic-ing!

Data Quality and Quantity, v2
This pic presents data from Cannon’s 2011 book on fundraising operations, which shows how data quality expectations and perceptions vary.

January is National Business Intelligence Month…

…didn’t you know that? Of course you didn’t. With the holidays, closing some year-end gifts (not to mention the books), and learning an awful lot about Amazon’s post-holiday online return policy, how could you keep up with all of the information being thrown at you. It’s hard enough to have the right information, much less use it effectively. Plus, it’s not really National Business Intelligence Month. I made that part up.

So, why the subterfuge? We need to draw attention to the critical need in the advancement business for more and better reporting and analysis. Some of you already have what you need. Some stopped looking years ago. Some have that “special” report that some poor person spends hours to prepare. But, most of us want better reporting, the kind that actually helps us make decisions about the business and tells us things we otherwise wouldn’t have known.

Better reporting requires a few things. This flow chart shows the way to better reporting. But, even more important than creating reporting is turning it into business intelligence.

Report Development Cycle

Let’s work to get even better data into even more clear reports that drives even better decisions. Let’s stop with the ad hoc, don’t-really-learn-much urgent reporting and develop a thoughtful suite of reporting that allows you to direct the team. Let’s develop shared definitions and expectations, allowing our reports to mean the same thing no matter the audience. So, know that I think about it, let’s make January National Business Intelligence Month. Make sure to put it on your calendar for next year.

December 2012 is National Month Month…

…or so I tweeted a few weeks ago. My plan is to envelope the work we lovingly call fundraising operations, or advancement services, or “the back office”, or “you know, that stuff they do with computers” into 12, neat monthly categories. The purpose is to drawn attention to whole sets of work that we sometimes avoid but can never quite escape (I’ve tried).

So, for those of us so fortunate to be toiling away the day after December 25th, what “National _____ Month” would you designate and why?

Is 99-1 the new 80-20? And, if so, how do we deal with this?

Most of us have heard of the Pareto Principle, or the 80-20 rule (80% of production comes from 20% of the resources). For years, philanthropy experts have used this economics principle from Vilfredo Pareto to explain why so much giving comes from so few people.

Of course, for many of the “best” fundraising organizations, that ratio is more like 99-1. That is, in many cases, single, sometimes 9-figure gifts dramatically shift the fundraising landscape for an organization. These great gifts are frequently transformative and non-repeatable, making the replacement of such big gifts a driving and often maddening force for fundraisers. And, such huge gifts may have the unintended consequence of diminishing future, smaller donations from others whose future in the 1% is yet-to-be-determined.

How should you deal with your organization’s experiences with this rule? Here are two angles of approach.

First, your team (researchers, analytics folks, prospect management professionals, gift officers, etc.) need to know wealth, and particularly your organization’s profile. How is it generated? Who has it? Who had it? Who can get more of it, so big gifts are reasonable? Who has so much that they’d like to leave a legacy instead of being the richest guy in the graveyard. A great set of articles in the NY Times (click here) puts some perspective on how new wealth is being generated. Your team needs to know these trends, your constituent’s sources of wealth, and stay on top of it.

Second, and slightly related to the other 99-1 “Occupy” messaging so prevalent in 2011, your team needs to understand that the enormous gap between the super-rich and the rest of us has big ramifications for your programs and your mission. Sure, we need to devote more time to our best prospects. But, you cannot just focus on the super-rich, because it’s a fluid and sometimes cloaked group. And, for many nonprofits, mass-effort, grassroots fundraising pays the bills, even if less efficiently than 7- and 8-figure gifts seem to. So, your team should work hard to treat all constituents well, while employing effective annual giving, analytics and other tactics to maintain base building efforts that help the best bubble to the top.

So, our fundraising efforts need to efficiently direct energy toward the 1% while conscientiously engaging the 99% as valuable near-term partners, some of whom may matriculate into the 1% (or are already there!).

UPDATE: CASE provided some great data on this topic. Here you can see the impact of the top few percent of donors on campaigns. It appears this is a little more like the 70:1 rule, but the lessons are the same:

Quick Tax Tip

I’m no CPA, nor am I a lawyer. So, the tip here isn’t about taxes, per se. Instead, this quick note is to encourage your team to use tax time as  a stewardship touch. Advancement services, aka fundraising operations, gets caught at the wrong end of the 80/20 rule around tax time. We sometimes focus so much on volume (i.e., everybody gets a year-end statement) that we sacrifice quality. I’m not referring to accuracy but instead volume of effective touches. So, as April 15th comes along this year, commit your team to this top-focused, tax tip:

  1. Use tax time to ensure that every major prospect and donor gets a spring-time touch–in-person, call, or mail, in that order of preference.
  2. Create lists of “last fiscal year” donors who deserve a call to ensure that they have everything to support their giving.
  3. Engage portfolio managers to connect with every assigned individual along these lines. Non-donors could be contacted with a special script designed to engage them for the current year or reflect back on previous year’s giving.
  4. Make it a habit to go beyond any year-end giving statement for your best donors. Consider linking a tax message to a calendar year impact statement, complete with response devices for your donors.

Data suggest that donors claim that tax deductibility is  minor driver for gift decisions. Nonetheless, every American donor has potential gain from such tax issues, so your team should be prepared to engage every donor in the next few weeks to ensure that your organization’s gratitude–and ongoing worthiness and need for future support–are front-and-center.

“I’m calling on behalf of…”

Last night, 8:32 p.m. CT. A truncated transcript from a call (note: I’m sensitive to using a single anecdote to make decisions, but this was teachable moment):

(me): “Hello”

(some guy, about 10 second later): “Hello? Um, hello?”

(me): “What can I do for you?”

(some guy): “Is Mr. or Mrs. Cannon home?”

(me): “This is Chris Cannon?”

(some guy): “This is [name] calling for [top 10 national nonprofit]. I’m not calling to raise money. [really?] I’m calling to ask you to write10-15 letters…[script went on for another minute]”

(me): “Thanks. That’s not really how we like to participate in the organizations we suppo…”

(some guy): Click.

Seriously? I answered the phone, listened to some guy, and was interested enough in the organization to start to tell him how I might become engaged and that guy hung up. The reminder here is that we entrust dozens, maybe hundreds of people to our philanthropic brand each day. Are you doing all you can to train, engage, and otherwise prepare these folks to be good stewards of your good will? Are callers on quotas that diminish real discussions? If you’re not addressing these issues, your fundraising may suffer along with your brand.

The phone call didn’t provide the only lesson, though. After hang-ups, etc., I frequently call the organization back. I care a lot about nonprofits, and I’d bet management would like to know when their good reputation is being sullied.

So, in calling this organization back, an odd and maybe very dubious thing happened. The 800 line provided an opt-out (“press 2 if you do not want to receive calls like this”). I pressed “2”. Then, I had an option to add my number to the organization’s opt-out list. Terrific, I thought. I didn’t want more wasted calls like the one I had just experienced. Next, though, a very curious thing happened. I entered my phone number but the computer program didn’t register it correctly. I entered my area code but the computer-generated response indicated a different number. My wife watched me enter the correct number, only to hear the wrong number repeated back. I hung up and called back with similar results. I tried a third time and the computer program finally “figured” it out. Computer programs can fail, of course, but it sure felt like a purposeful, nearly endless loop to get off the list.

So, the second lesson of such a call is that, even if it’s an error or an oversight, you can lose potential donors forever by appearing to be too automated, too computer-driven, and too focused on your agenda rather than your potential donors. Fundraising is my vocation and I encourage groups to push their boundaries. For example, I frequently tell healthcare nonprofits that it’s patently irresponsible not to engage patients as potential donors. I do so because it can raise dollars and I truly believe in the power of philanthropy in the healing process (see a great application from Children’s Minnesota). This advice isn’t about limiting efforts but your strategy should mirror your constituency and stay away from gimmicks.

I’d love to hear your stories about these sorts of experiences. Together, we can help to keep our reputations strong and our (potential) donors happy.

3 Solutions to Prospecting Problems

After 1,000’s of discussions with gift officers and prospect development professionals around the world, I’ve come to a simple conclusion: we could all be doing more. More research. More discovery. More proposals. More prospect management meetings. More data entry and tracking. More, well, fundraising. What I have mostly learned, though, is that doing more through better partnership is attainable using three easy-to-remember tactics.

The Obstacles:

Discussions with prospect development professionals in research, prospect management and analytics typically include sentiments like:

  • “Sometimes I hear back from the fundraiser, but I usually don’t.”
  • “I don’t even know if they read the profile.”
  • “The meetings we hold are so frequently canceled or ignored, I don’t know why we bother.”

From frontline fundraisers, I hear all too often:

  • “I’m increasingly just using Google…”
  • “Prospect management meetings and other parts of the process really have nothing to do with how I operate.”
  • “It’s tough to be subjected to a barrage of questions from folks who’ve never asked for a big gift.”
The reality is that both sides are partly right and partly wrong. To move forward to deliver really extraordinary results, your team needs to overcome these obstacles. Here are the three ingredients to the solution:

The Solution

There are three simple tactics that address these issues:

  1. Respect: All sides bring value. Respecting each other’s strengths does not diminish our own. Instead, all parties need to celebrate what they do best and bring to the table. Every great organization succeeds through an effective division of labor, so make sure all divisions are respected in the process.
  2. Discipline: Neat and nifty tools and options are a distraction. So, new predictive models, meeting approaches, or discovery tactics need to be rooted in a disciplined focus on what’s best for donors and our organizations. This means no Blackberrys and iPhones in meetings and it means no “information for information’s sake” 20 page profiles.
  3. Planning: Fundraising is challenging because its not transactional. We cannot force (or even persuade) donors to give big gifts, so this means we must all be strategic planners. You must use every bit of intelligence, every database field, and every chance encounter with great prospects to build a team-wide plan to engage the best prospects. Then remembering the respect-discipline tactics, rigorously execute plans.

Team-based solutions for prospect development are best, but they are elusive. Many 1,000’s of conversations on the topic have convinced me, though, that the issue isn’t the database or the reporting scheme. It’s not the codes or other system details. The root challenge–and, consequently, the source of the solution–is more elementally embedded in how we respect each other, focus our energy, and plan for the future.