Fundraising Freedom is a growing community of men and women who are raising funds to support the causes they love. In each episode, fundraising coach and award-winning author, Mary Valloni, takes a deep dive into topics like volunteer recruitment, event planning, major gift fundraising, and personal development. Episodes include featured interviews with top experts in each of these areas. Mary delivers motivating and thought-provoking messages while sharing stories of fundraisers who have found success that will inspire you on your journey.
Episode 181 | What It Looks Like to Focus Your Vision
If you have been following the Fundraising Freedom Podcast, when I first started it I actually called it the Mary Valloni Show. And if you've been following for a while, you know that I follow the steps that I teach in my book, Fundraising Freedom. Those steps follow the acronym FREEDOM because what I want for you, and what I want for me, is freedom. So, I have been spending the last several weeks and really the last several months thinking through what my vision is. What does it actually look like to focus your vision? 2020 has obviously caused us to have to take a step back and really look at everything. What is your vision for your life; the passion and purpose that you have for the work that you do? If you're anything like me, you've probably had some moments where you're like, ‘what am I doing? What is happening? Where do I even fit into all of this?’ I’ve spent a lot of time journaling and walking through my vision for this podcast, my vision for my business, and trying to really pull back the layers and remind myself why I do the work that I do.
In chapter one of Fundraising Freedom, I share with you that I really want to make sure that you have your mission, your vision, and your timeline in your budget. I also want to make sure that you know exactly why you're doing what you're doing. If you don't have a passion for the work that you're doing, people will see that. Usually, that means that your donations will run parallel to that. You may see that your donations declined because the people just don't follow this movement that you have created for your cause. At the top of every podcast episode, I talk about how I want to educate, encourage, and empower fundraisers to raise more funds and have more freedom. And I do believe that that is at the core of what I do. That is my mission. I want to teach you, I want to encourage you, and especially this year, I want to encourage you to keep going and to not give up. I want to empower you to know that it's possible to take that education and really step out into a new place in the work that you do so that you can speak on behalf of the people you serve. Those three core tenants are what I believe, and I spent several years really trying to nail down what that mission was. Of course, on the vision side, I've always wanted to end the lack and scarcity mindset. In the nonprofit sector, even the word nonprofit means not for profit. And so many people look at our nonprofits and say, ‘well, you can do this on less, you don't need that much.’ As nonprofit leaders, you are told that you maybe shouldn't make as much as you make or that you shouldn't be compensated well for the work that's being done and I just do not believe that I believe that you should be compensated well.
I also believe that your charity should have every dollar that it needs to actually end whatever problem you are trying to solve. I would say 100% of you are trying to raise dollars for your nonprofit because whatever you're trying to fix wasn't fixed by the for-profit sector. So not only do you have to do this on limited resources, you have to follow the government guidelines and you have to do it with very minimal income. I understand the challenges that you are faced with and I get that, and I feel your pain deep within my soul. I mean, I have been doing this for 20 years, and I know that you guys sacrifice, and you do this with very minimal rewards. I just think you guys are absolutely incredible; the heart that you have for the people you serve is just off the charts. I just want to tell you how much I appreciate the ability to share with you some of the things that I've learned in the nonprofit space. Of course, we know we can always do better and that there's always more that can be done. But the thing is that you guys are showing up every single day, doing the hard work that somebody else couldn't accomplish. For that, I just want to give you the biggest high five and virtual hug and to let
Episode 180 | How to Create a Personal or Organizational Budget That Actually Works for 2021
Today we're talking about how to create a personal or an organizational budget that actually works for you coming into 2021. I know that budgeting is something that some people love, and other people hate - there's a love-hate relationship with the budget. And for many of you, you've probably already gone through the budgeting process. Usually, that happens in the fall time as you're preparing for the next year. But you may be in a season where things are changing every single day. We never know what tomorrow is going to bring. Today's conversation is probably not going to be this brand new information that you've never heard of before. But I think that what we can do today is we can actually talk through making your budget work for you.
As I work with organizations, what I find is that so many of them do not have a fundraising number that they're actually working towards. Many times, they get into this cycle where they just want more. However, it’s important that you actually have a clear number, an actual fundraising goal that you're working towards. I don't want you to randomly pick a number, that is not a great way to budget, it's not a great way to fundraise or to invite other people to be a part of your work. Here are some tips I want to share.
If you look back and reflect on 2019 and consider how much you raised as well as the work you did, you’re probably going to pick up about 50% of that normal behavior, and 50% of 2020, after March, where we had to modify everything. So 2021, you're probably still going to have online events, you're probably still going to have the social distancing, and possibly doing a lot of things on Zoom, and working through major gifts, shifting that fundraising around so that you can modify your behavior to fit the season that we're in. As we move into 2021, I want you to look at where your money went.
I work on my budget every single week. I know that some people don't look at their budget very often, but I am a stickler for the budget because the budget tells you where your money is going, and it tells you where it went. As you put numbers on a sheet of paper when you budget, you're just randomly putting numbers down on a sheet of paper, right? Because you're just trying to get a good 10,000-foot view of what your budget looks like. So, as you're putting those numbers down on paper, the best way to budget is to look at where did we spend the money last year. Now you may be a first-year raising these funds or bringing in these dollars and so you may not have past years to look at so the best you can do is really just take a good guess at what it's going to take. When you start assessing and you look at where the dollars went, where did we end up spending money? Maybe we didn't spend in certain categories like travel conferences or training because, in 2020, some of those things just didn't happen. So for 2021, we're going to modify that and start to add a little bit of that back probably for the second half of 2021. Hopefully, after we do get some sort of vaccine in the process, that'll allow us then to start looking at, well, maybe we can do some events in the fall of next year, but maybe not huge ones, just small things that you can start to engage people back into face-to-face communication with your organization and with your cause.
Number two, look at what your priorities are, what is most important, and in the previous posts, I've talked a lot about going back to your vision of what is it that we're trying to do as an organization, what's the ultimate end result. Now if you are a fundraiser, you're not responsible for the mission side of the organization, you obviously are just given a number from the mission side, and they're telling you “Hey, this is how much it's gonna cost for us to do the work we're doing on the mission side, here's your number.” Now, that is actually an easier position to be in. That's the position I was in for many, many years, where I just was to
Episode 179 | The 20 Ways to Thank Your Donors in 2020
Today, we are jumping into the topic of thankfulness. As we gear up for our Thanksgiving holiday this week, I wanted to be sure that we talked about how we can thank our donors. So, we're going to talk about the top 20 ways to thank your donors in 2020.
As you know, this is such an unusual year. In the seventh step of my Fundraising Freedom process, Make Your Difference, it’s all about thanking people and getting people engaged in the work that's being done so that they keep coming back year after year. In that chapter of my book, I discuss the five love languages. Many of you are familiar with Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages, but if you're not, those five love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Those five areas are really the areas that we're looking for as we're thanking our donors and inviting them to continue to give year after year.
A study that came out from Merci Chocolates shows the fact that we actually say “thank you” over 2000 times in the course of a year. This means that most of us are saying thank you at least five times a day. But the deal is, that based on their study, over half of the people said that they were insincere when they actually said those things to us. So, when you say thank you nearly five times a day, up to three of those times that you said thank you actually didn't mean much of anything. Sometimes we say thank you, but we don't always get it across. I would love for the study to be able to actually address how many times a nonprofit or ministry leader actually said thank you because I would say that we are probably in the 10s of thousands, if not more because we're always saying thank you to our volunteers and donors. That's where I want to kind of shake those things out for our conversation today. How can we make saying thank you a little bit more sincere so that our donors really do feel like they mean something to them?
In that final chapter of my book, I specifically tell a story where a lady had donated something to an auction that we were we were doing, and she saw that I showed an interest in a ring that she had donated. I made a comment about potentially bidding on that item at the auction. Of course, I worked for the organization and was obviously not able to bid on it. She came back a few days later and gave me another ring that looked just like the other one. And she was very kind to do that. As an organization, we aren't allowed to receive gifts like that and so I actually took the item and donated it back to the organization. But later on, I saw her at an event where we had a booth set up. She approached me and was really upset with me because I hadn't sent her a handwritten thank you specifically for that item that she had given to me. Now she had received a thank you in the past, we had thanked her for her donation of the ring, she just was locked into the fact that I personally did not send her a handwritten thank you showing my appreciation. And at that moment, she gave me a what for; she got on my case, as I was trapped behind a booth space. She told me that she was going to make this a teachable moment for me. But in return, she actually made me feel really hurt because a volunteer of mine had invited this lady in and so I was more concerned about another volunteer’s feelings around this situation and that I had upset this potential donor who was a friend of hers. I immediately left the space and went and called my volunteer that I really did have a relationship with, and I told her I was so sorry that this had happened. And of course, it was a teachable moment. I'm still sharing it today and it’s a moment that I really reflect on quite a bit. But the thing is that it comes back to how people like to be shown appreciation, how they like to be thanked. As I talk about the five love languages, it's really apparent that some people really like and really need those words of affirmation, they
Episode 178 | How to Pivot with Sarah Olivieri
My guest today is Sarah, Olivieri. Sarah is the founder and the heart behind the company Pivot Ground. She's a nonprofit business strategist, an author, and a former executive director. I think she's going to bring just a huge wealth of information to you on how to pivot during this season.
Tell us a little bit more about you and the work that you do.
Well, I come from a nonprofit background and I've worn so many hats from secretly fixing the toilet after everybody left so nobody knew and that didn't become my job officially, to Program Director, conference coordinator, graphic designer, teacher, you name it, I probably did it at some point. I've been executive director and founder. I was once the first executive director of a foundation. And then I actually shifted over into marketing and I built a marketing agency for nonprofits. That led me right back into the heart of what makes nonprofits tick - how they're organized and how they bring their people together so they can really make the biggest impact possible.
Tell us about your “impact method” and how affected the lives of the nonprofit leaders you work with.
The impact method is really based on three things that I think every nonprofit needs, and every for-profit to be successful, which is a process of improvement. That's how we deal and adapt to change in an ongoing way. And also, how we root out the issues that are getting in our way in a proactive manner. So many nonprofits are stuck in reactive mode and they're running to put out fires all the time. When you dig out your own issues proactively and address them, you don't have to be in that firefighting mode all the time. Then, your issues become opportunities instead of challenges. The second thing is an actionable strategy. Strategic planning is one teeny piece of making your organization run properly. It's actually making that plan actionable, where a lot of work comes in. And the third thing is, I call it your modus operandi. It's how your organization is structured, what glues everybody together. What is the core belief that your organization holds? What are your values or guiding principles? How is your team organized? What are your systems and processes? How is everybody collaborating and coordinating to work together, and there are some traditional ways of doing this that actually aren't that effective. And yet, they're very prevalent. There are other ways to organize your people that are much more enjoyable and much more effective.
Based on your own personal experience, what do you think is working in the organizations that you see?
The ones who are doing it really well who are following the things that they should be doing, and letting go of the things that aren't really making a difference. This can be hard because sometimes the things that don't make a difference for our nonprofit are still really impactful. But the organizations who are doing it well, right now, in the middle of the pandemic, they're raising more money than ever before. They're hiring people not firing people, they are growing, they're expanding their impact their reach, and their base of supporters. So all of this is really possible right now. And they're also they're not overwhelmed. They're not burnt out, they're taking time to address the pandemic, one of the things we do in the impact method is every month, we assess how much time we are spending on each area of our organization on routine things. And we're monitoring our total capacity as human beings.
What advice would you give to someone who's just getting started or someone who's trying to raise more funds, trying to get to that next stage of their organization?
Well, staying focused is one thing that I'd really recommend. A lot of people ask me, well, Sarah, if I'm the only one, how do I get out of being overwhelmed? How do I stay focused, and the first step is to take things off your plate and throw them in the fireproof garbage can that I am now virt
Episode 177 | The #1 Reason Fundraisers Fail
Today we're talking about the number one reason fundraisers fail. Contrary to popular belief, it's not because we didn't work hard enough. The number one reason fundraisers fail is from internal conflict. As you know, right now we are dealing with a pandemic, more than likely about to be hit with some economic challenges because a lot of people are without jobs at this point. And so there's still a lot of uncertainty in the environment that we're in.
For those of you who are familiar with a SWOT analysis, this may be something that you need to sit down and do so that you're aware of what's going on. A SWOT analysis stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It's really just sitting down with a sheet of paper and writing out your strengths, where your weaknesses are, what opportunities you have, and what threats are out there. Once you do this, you can start to see what's actually going on behind the scenes.
Sometimes, I think that we forget that our volunteers, our donors, and the people who are in our inner circle all have to work. Collectively, they all have to work together for the common good of your cause. And if you have any conflict that's going on, you're going to have to address that before you send your volunteers out to share the great reasons why people should give to your cause. If you cannot address conflict you're going to have a really tough time raising funds. Let's talk through that.
Conflict typically comes up because you've had a disagreement or a power struggle. You've got people who have money, you have people who have influence, and they're used to being in charge. Then you put them in a room together and you try and get them to work as a team and sometimes, the power struggle ensues. Also, a lot of people you recruit may have an ego and so pride and/or jealousy creeps in. Or, maybe when you're dealing with conflict with staff you've got people who think that they should be compensated more, and they're not, or you don't have the funds to increase their finances. Whatever the reason, there are two main reasons that conflict can arise - communication and emotions.
When you think about communication, you may think that you're doing a fairly good job sharing with your people. But if you are lacking that communication, if you are giving either poor information, no information, lack of information, misinformation, or even say you give really good information but for some reason, the other side is not receiving it, you're going to still deal with conflict. To really get through, you just need to be clear, concise, accurate, and timely. You've heard the story so many times from people where you visually start to create colors and create locations as someone is telling you a story. You created this elaborate picture inside of your mind to fill in the gaps of this story that's being told. If we don't give a clear story and don't give someone all of the information that they need, they will fill in the gaps. If a volunteer feels left out, they feel like their voices aren't being heard, or a staff member feels like they're disposable, they're going to start to find alternative places to go and they're going to leave and quit. And that is the last thing we want to see is our volunteers drop off, the people that we love and care about our staff members, we don't want to see any of them leave during this time, because of uncertainty or lack of communication.
Number two is emotion. Emotions can sometimes take over. And then all of a sudden you find that your people are angry. So then they rise up verbalize that. If you put somebody in a position where they don't have the information that they need and communication is not great. They're not going to put themselves out there because they don't want to be put in a position that they could possibly feel shame. Fear is obviously huge. Many of us deal with fear. Those people who really process things in their heads deal a lot with
Episode 176 | How to Build a New Relationship with Money
We are talking about how to build a new relationship with money today. In the last couple of episodes, I have been really practical in my messaging. But today, I wanted to take a little bit of a different turn on our conversation and talk specifically about money itself. Now for those of you who have read my book, Fundraising Freedom, I talk specifically about our relationship with money (on page 103) and that is what I want to dive into. Some of us have had really good experiences with money, some of us not so much. And so I'm just going to share a few stories and ideas that you can think about and figure out whether or not some of this stuff might be holding you back.
First of all, I'll just share a little bit about my upbringing. I'm the youngest of seven and we all have names starting with the letter M. If you have read my book, I talk about my older brothers and sisters who were in college, who were really a catalyst into my fundraising because I just enjoyed spending time with them. Having such a large family, I was never really alone. And that was really incredible. I never thought much about the things that we had, because I valued time so much. I had a lot of hand-me-downs, pretty much everything was secondhand stuff, and we always had food on the table. There were really no complaints. But we did not live, what I would consider, an American wealthy lifestyle. When I was in the second grade we moved across the state of North Dakota and that's really where so much of my life changed. We lived in this really great house when we were in Dickinson; the whole family was there. Then all of a sudden, the kids all started going off to college and so we then picked up and moved to the same college town that all my older brothers and sisters were in. Now instead of living in a house, my mom and dad decided that they were going to rent a two-bedroom apartment. We instantly went from having this nice big house to then living in this small apartment complex where I was sharing a bunk bed with my sister. And as much as I love my sister, that was probably the worst thing for our relationship. The four of us were on top of each other but more importantly, I saw how my friends lived. They had these nice big houses with pools - all the stuff that I so wanted. It felt like this poverty versus abundance way of life. I wanted to be around people who were living an abundant lifestyle.
My dad, although he is the catalyst to what I do today, was the most charitable person but he was also an extremely frugal man. I mean, if he could fix the car, he would keep that car for as long as possible until the wheels were falling off. We drove the worst clunkers you could ever find and he was always just so proud of the fact that he could turn something that might have been worthless to somebody else into a usable thing. It's such a quality that I appreciated about him. But at the same time, I just remember as a kid spending so much time just begging him to move into a house. I would look through the newspaper to see what houses were for sale because that's how people sold houses back in the day. They built these beautiful townhomes a block away from our apartment and I wanted to live there so badly because they were so much better than this apartment.
By the time I graduated from high school and I was figuring out what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life, it was so important for me that money never stopped me. I would get the scholarships, I worked the job at Sears, I would sell the most. I just never wanted to feel without or never wanted to feel that lack and scarcity again, which drives me so much. When it comes to fundraising, I don't want any charity to feel that lack and scarcity. I don't want you to feel like you can't keep your doors open or do the work that you've been called to do. I want you to be able to see that when it comes to your own personal finances, and the finances of your organization, there are all of thes
Hooked on Learning from Mary
I recently discovered this incredible source of fundraising wisdom. Mary’s voice exudes not only self confidence but assurance that no matter the challenge, or whether you’re a professional or volunteer, we are capable of navigating our way to new opportunities and securing fundraising success for the organizations we love. Thank you, Mary for being that little voice of confidence in my ear-buds that I so often need, especially during this pandemic.
Entertaining, insightful and actionable! 🔥
Whether you’re well established as a fundraiser, or just getting started identifying the impact you want to bring to the world through your organization - this is a must-listen podcast for you! Mary does an incredible job leading conversations that cover a huge breadth of topics related to the ins and outs of building a thriving fundraising career, and life you can be proud of - from leaders who’ve actually experienced success themselves. Highly recommend listening and subscribing!
The Mary Valloni Show
Mary is an invaluable resource for nonprofit and ministry fundraising. You’ll hear ideas and learn about mindsets that you haven’t heard from most of the other experts in this field! The icing on the cake is, she’s positive, encouraging, and has a very pleasant voice!