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.
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.
This 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.
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.
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?
- Determine your topic. Infographics can be great for 40,000 foot ideas as well as minutia, but generally not both.
- Find your data. What data do you have to display? What data would you like to go get?
- 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?
- 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!
It’s 2013…a lot transpired in recent months that may affect healthcare fundraising. New and different taxes. New and different healthcare provisions. New and (potentially) different court rulings. But, one this hasn’t changed: your organization must get serious about installing and leveraging an effective grateful patient program.
Great grateful patient and family programs have interrelated components–physicians and other care givers, admissions, development, and compliance folks are all in the mix. None of your internal sensitivities should be ignored, but none should be allowed to derail an effort to put a great, HIPAA-compliant process in place. We also know that some parts of a program matter more than others. In particular, physician referrals seem to make the most difference. A robust, end-to-end business process will cement the behaviors needed to capitalize on, or start to create, such referrals.
So, what does a great process look like? Much like great fundraising campaigns, details of the process will vary from organization to organization. I submit that a great process for some could be completely paper-driven and manual while others must be automated to be effective. All of them share key core process and technical components, though. The following diagram depicts each element that must be in place.
A few points about this process:
- Patients can include outpatient and clinic visits, but you might want to start with the smaller data set of in-patients.
- Nightly screening matters most when there is a subsequent daily review and triggers.
- In-patient visits are permissible, but a philanthropic culture must be in place first.
- If you don’t record and analyze the data and activity generated from the process, you are missing a big part of the process.
- It will take time to yield big results, but some of our clients processes leverage annual giving channels to provide immediate financial benefit, and identify potential major donors.
- There are dozens of other considerations not covered here but important to the process…so many issues, to be honest, that I joke this should be the subject of my next book.
Your team may not have the technical ability to build real-time data exchanges from the patient database to the screening company to your donor database. If API and SQL are foreign concepts, your process can still be rigorous and daily. However, automating visit ticklers, introduction letters, and other elements of the process, it is typically worth the effort. Ultimately, this business process should generate big-ticket leads while greatly expanding your solicitable constituency.
Remember that developing a business process here is the responsible thing to do. The law allows it and your organization’s competition may already be doing it. If you already have a process in place, could you make it even better? And, if you don’t have a process, now is the time to get going? Get the data, people, and processes in place and start delivering better and better prospects to support you fundraising efforts. Good luck and feel free to share any challenges or successes you’re experiencing.
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:
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):
(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.
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.
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.”
There are three simple tactics that address these issues:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Fundraising operations is a tough business. The many moving parts, the level of detail, the (mis)understanding across different departments and donors…these all make it a difficult area to effectively manage.
Perception is particularly challenging to handle. Sometimes, a single anecdote shapes our colleagues’ entire view of operations. One bad gift, one bad report, or one bad training experience can spoil the lot. But, you can avoid some of the pitfalls and improve perceptions. Have a look at this video (it’s a little long but worth it) to get some ideas on the common culprits and best solutions.
What issues have most shaped your perceptions?
The Association of Donor Relations Professionals (ADRP) is a terrific group of dedicated professionals helping our industry focus on the essential element of great fundraising–stewardship. I had a chance to conduct a webinar for a few hundred ADRP members on the topic of balancing donor relations with operations. This is a vitally important issue. The stronger the integration between the two efforts, the better stewardship your donors will receive.
This depiction illustrates the overlap. High-volume, high-tech donor relations is heavily reliant on operations. That is, receipts and acknowledgments generated from the database, accurate gift and recognition recording, and many other areas of great stewardship require great operational effectiveness.
So, what are the top 10 tipping points for, or prohibiting, integration of the two? These ten areas, when coordinated well, bode well for synchronized fundraising:
- Technology: ultimately these are means to an end, but using these tools well will improve the partnership.
- Online Engagement: some organizations would disagree, but, like technology, this is more of a channel than a strategy. It can be a valuable channel, though, and is often a little too technical for the stewardship team to manage alone.
- Prospect Development: operations often plays a bigger role on the front-end, leading to a two-stage process, but coordination is critical.
- Internal Reporting: operations holds the key to great reports. The more accurate, complete, and timely, the better donor relations can leverage information to build relationships with donors at the time of and between gifts.
- Data: accurate data are the basis for good reports, good receipts, and generally convincing your donors that you are an organization with its act together and worth supporting.
- Receipts and Acknowledgments: these are vitally important because they are often the first step in a chain of stewardship activities. Quick and accurate completion is often the responsibility of both teams.
- Impact Reports: reporting back to donors requires many sources. Operations and donor relations should work together here to ensure every donor gets the information they deserve.
- Recognition: the outward expression of gratitude for giving is mostly in the donor relations portfolio, but really great operations teams are vastly improving how that information is gathered, stored, and analyzed.
- Front-of-the-Line: I developed this idea to focus attention on top donors and prospects. The 80/20 rule is an axiom adopted by stewardship but operations folks sometimes just start at the top of the pile and work down. Instead, great partnerships should develop plans like the BIDMC team. Their SIRP (Stewardship Immediate Response Plan) ensures donors get the attention they deserve. And, the operations folks created solutions in their donor database to handle and streamline their process.
- Exception Management: Stewardship is essentially about exceptions. Operations is sometimes too, though it is more on negative exceptions (errors).
An integrated team will use points 1-9 to develop a thoughtful process that allows for disciplined handling of good and bad exceptions, so that your best donors and prospects always receive the lion’s share of your resources.
This last point is depicted here. The balance between operations and stewardship can be best summed up as a partnership to maximize donor experiences (partly by minimizing errors) in the upper right quadrant. Don’t sweat the small stuff in the bottom left quadrant.
Synchronizing operations and stewardship requires attention to data, technology, reporting, and business processes. To get these parts, pieces, programs, and processes spinning like a top, take a careful look at these ten areas of integration. The tighter the partnership between operations and stewardship, the better it is for you, your organization, and, most importantly, your donors.
It seems that 2012 will be a year for change in fundraising operations. The proverbial dust is starting to settle on one of the two biggest fundraising operations stories in months. In January, Datatel and SungardHE finalized their merger (click here for details). January also held the other big story about the purchase of Convio by Blackbaud (click here for details).
The Twitterverse has been abuzz. ListServs, blog posts, calls to account managers…the volume of attention to these issues has been significant. How much does it matter? In total, not much.
Fundraising is still a predominantly top-down, inside-out business (with some exceptions). Grass-roots, high-volume, high-tech fundraising is neat and (somewhat) new, but the essentials–asking engaged people of means for very large gifts–is where most campaigns are won. And, frankly, an organization’s database of choice affects these sorts of gifts less than we might think. For example, have a look at this technology transition cycle. What you will notice is that it’s a loop: you’re never quite finished because you should be constantly learning and adapting the use of your technology. Without long-range, comprehensive implementation plans to fully leverage our technology, we tend to have databases that house name, address, giving, and a few other details.