Halloween is my kind of season. The changing leaves, the crispness returning to the air, pumpkins in various stages of fright and delight greet you at every turn.
More than that, I’m a Halloween baby! And a fundraiser.
Let me share my six insights to how fundraisers can be more treat than trick for donors.
What do donors see when they meet you?
When you arrive for an appointment with a donor, does he see a smiling face, radiating warmth? Or does your donor avoid you like a black bad-luck cat? Or does the couple get the distinct impression of grasping, bony hands, outstretched toward their wallets?
I hope you have a friendly, relaxed demeanor, glowing from the inside with pride for your work as a fundraiser and for the work of your nonprofit. Even when meeting a donor for the first time, practice smiling before you meet and chase away any negative thoughts crowding your mind – the flat tire, the spat at the office, the morning tantrum at home. Be present and be focused on this discussion at this moment. This prospect or donor may be ready to entrust your charity with their valuable investment and dreams to create a better world – offer him or her the same thoughtful attention.
Ensure your donor feels like he is number one!
Not everyone keeps a whole bunch index finger candles around to remind them of this point, but here it is… as a fundraiser, you need to treat your donors as if they are ALL very special. Whether you are a major gifts officer with a portfolio of 100+, a manager overseeing a multi-channel direct response program, or the head honcho in a small shop, you need to tell those precious supporters how important they are to solving the problems that your nonprofit addresses.
So how to make all those donors feel special? Don’t just focus on the size of the gift the donor makes – although those donors need love too. The truth is that most charities have systems in place to treat big donors like a big deal. But you also have supporters making monthly commitments – are you remembering what trust they have given, reaching into their accounts or credit card every month? What are you doing to thank them for their demonstrated loyalty? How about your long-time supporters who have been faithfully giving for 10, or 15 or even more than 25 years? They are true believers. Or the one who gave her first gift today? Pick five today. And five everyday. Pick up a pen and write a note or pick up the phone and make a call. Give an extra “thank you” from the heart.
Don’t hide behind a mask, be yourself.
Be authentic. You don’t need a costume to meet with a donor. Yes, donors may be wealthier (or stronger, smarter, wiser and older) than you are, but as Penelope Burk noted in her book, donors enjoy talking and working with interesting fundraisers (please cultivate outside interests!). Your donors want to change the world. They are looking for a partner.
Your donors enjoy meeting the real you. Yes, you may have to adjust your style a bit to ensure your donors are comfortable. But be authentic. Be a genuine representative of your organization, and the partnership will come more easily.
Designated gifts…. accept that the project makes the donor’s heart sing.
Being born on Halloween means that my grandma and aunts just LOVE buying me all sorts of serving wear in the shape of pumpkins. Or black cats in pumpkins. The picture on the right shows just some of the items – a soup tureen, salt and pepper shakers, a pitcher, teapots… and these are not even the real decorations (and I have boxes). These are not unlike the designated gifts you get… used for a specific purpose.
Donors are attracted to designated gifts for a few reasons… they are often projects where impact is easily measured. Or it simply aligns more strongly with their values. And sometimes we fundraisers, have a hard time talking about the total investment we need (aka Overhead). [Peter Drury shows how to discuss with your donors.] So thank those donors for completing that needed project. Then determine how you can better explain the overall funding you need… and earn their trust for unrestricted gifts further along in your relationship.
Share your candy.
After trick-or-treating, the first thing I wanted to do is to see what I got. Then divide it up into those candies I preferred and those I didn’t. Usually around that time, my mom came into my room and said something like, “You may have two tonight and then we will save some for the lunchbox and share the rest.” Panic would set in. It was MY candy! I would get gripped by a feeling of scarcity. I had worked so hard for it. No. In our house, the three children could keep some candy, save some to put in our lunches for school the next few weeks, and the rest was gathered for a snacks the family would share.
Now as a fundraiser, sometimes I see that same “I don’t want to share!” attitude on fundraising teams. Some people hog all the credit. Others choose to withhold information (which is very damaging to the team). In fact, as a fundraiser, even in a one-person shop, you are working on a team. Share. Share information, share your successes, share the credit for wins. We may track revenue up by source, but if we are only working for our own selves and not for the donors, we won’t be much of a success as an organization.
Finally, savor the moment, prepare for the next season.
Yep, many of us will take any excuse for a party. And it’s easy to celebrate the successes. ONe place I worked we rang a bell when a gift of $10,000 or more came in. We had a quick huddle and learned about how it went. Then went back to our work.
But what about the failures? Celebrate them too. You learned something from that.
And then, get ready for what’s next. Because when you are a fundraiser, you have a lot on the go. One campaign is finishing, another is starting. Where are you in your cultivation, solicitation and stewardship cycle? Blow out the candle, have a slice and a laugh with your colleagues and then go!
Be a great fundraiser and have a Happy Halloween!