The Nonprofit Executive Podcast with Joel Kessel and Mary Valloni is the podcast for growth-minded nonprofit executives looking to take their nonprofit to the next level through strategic planning and fundraising.
Fundraising FREEDOM Step 7: Make Your Difference
This step is what all of your hard work has been leading up to. You’re raising funds, asking people to be part of your team, building out your branding and the reason is that you’re trying to make a difference in the world. Once you get here, this is the time to celebrate! You’re seeing lives changed and now you get to tell people all about it and thanking everyone who took part. This is a really fun step and one that too many people miss.
How do we celebrate with the team?
If you haven’t read the book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman, you should check it out. In the book, the author outlines 5 different love languages which are, Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Everyone has a primary love language. You need to find ways to incorporate all these love languages with your team as well as donors. Thank you notes, awards or plaques, or even hugs and handshakes are ways to show appreciation to your people.
How do we know a donor’s love language?
People will typically tell you. It comes back to running your research and drawing broad observations from minute details. If they give you a gift, they like gifts. If they give you words of affirmation, they like words of affirmation. All you’re doing is watching how they communicate with you and that will tell you how to communicate with them. I had a donor tell me once that we should have given warm cookies at Christmas time – more than likely his love language is gifts.
What can we do to make sure we are thanking people the right way?
As much as I’m trying to pay attention to everyone, it is very challenging when you have hundreds of donors. It’s just not practical. So, I make sure at Christmas I do something special for the top sponsors like maybe a gift certificate and a bottle of wine as an example. And I hand-delivered them. After every fundraiser each year, I hosted a thank-you banquet. I had a chairperson for the thank-you party and they were responsible for printing out all the plaques, every sponsor got their recognition, anyone who gave over $10,000 got a special award, we incorporated all of that.
Do you have any other takeaways for success?
Freedom means to act, think, and speak without holding back. All 7 of my steps are leading to that. We talked last week about the power money has and I know how easy it is to go down a path because you had a donor who wanted to go down a path. I don’t ever want money to control your organization. I want your strategic plan to control your organization and you just happen to need money to fulfill that plan. My steps all come back to what freedom looks like for you and your cause. And then put your head down and go to work toward that. When it comes down to it, it’s about building relationships with the right people and inviting them to feel like this is their thing too.
Resources from this episode:
Strategic Plan Toolkit
Fundraising Freedom Roadmap
The 5 Love Languages book
Connect with Mary:
Mary’s book: Fundraising Freedom
Connect with Joel:
Fundraising FREEDOM Step 6: Organize the Ask
What do you need to organize to make sure you’re in the best position to make the ask?
Depending on how you’re raising funds, everyone has a demographic they serve and tend to raise funds from. There is a process for every group of people, and you need to think it through before you just go in and ask for money. You should never do a blanket approach to fundraising because you want to be well-received by every group you get in front of.
Tell us more about dating and fundraising.
When you talk to someone about how they met their spouse it usually goes something like this, “we were in the same place at the same time and started talking.” And it was a slow, progressive process. We as fundraisers and nonprofit executives tend to jump in and immediately “go for the kill” and you’re pushing those donors and potential donors away because you reek of desperation. No one wants to date someone who is desperate. You have to get to know your donors by asking questions about what they are interested in, what do they like, etc. and you start to figure out if you like the same things or if you are compatible. Now, I’m not saying they have to be your best friend, but I want you to make sure that you care about the same thing aka, your cause.
What do you say to that organization that needs a specific amount of funds in the next six months?
You need money and you needed it yesterday. This is a very common concern and why it is vital that you have a strategic plan in place so that you never put yourself in this frantic place ever again. You should not be asking for the dollars you needed last month. When you’re putting on a fundraiser of any sort, it’s easy to say you want to get it done in the next three months. You glue it together, slap a coat of paint on it and call it good. But what would happen if you planned that fundraiser 12 months out? You can start accepting donations today for a fundraiser that’s in a year. The urgency is whatever you place on it, which is why I like to use the calendar to create urgency. If you plan out farther in advance, you can get the sponsorship dollars and then you aren’t frantically trying to do things last minute like picking up auction items and selling tickets.
Can you talk about the mindset around money?
This is probably the biggest issue when people say they don’t want to ask for money. Somewhere along the way, they gave money more power than it actually deserves. I’m a big Dave Ramsey fan and I used his plan to pay off all my student loan debt. He has a seven-step process which is what ultimately led to my seven steps. One thing Dave shares is how money is amoral – it’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is. You have to remove the emotion from money.
If you’re building a building, you don’t actually need cash, you need bricks and people to put those bricks together. Remember, you don’t actually have to go after cash with each ask, you can go for goods and services too. Back in the day, people didn’t exchange cash for services and they rarely exchanged cash at all. But in today’s age, we’ve given so much power to cash and it’s not necessary.
When you’re ready to go in for the ask, who should you go to?
Roughly 70% of donations come from individuals, but I always tell people that 100% of donations come from individuals. You’re asking humans to give money and it all comes back to relationships. You have to build relationships with people so when you ask for money, I tell people you have to send in the person who has the best relationship with the person sitting across the table. That does not matter what kind of money you’re asking for, it’s all the same philosophy. This once again goes back to step 3, enlist your team. You will be able to raise WAY more money if you have the right team members. If you have someone on your team who has built relationships with people in the comm
Episode 16 | Fundraising FREEDOM Step 5: Deploy Your Team
In today’s episode we are talking about how to Deploy Your Team. This is where the momentum really picks up. Often, when you’ve been fundraising for a while, you’ve done the first two steps where you knew your vision and then went straight to asking for money. You jumped from steps 1 to 6 to 7 which gets you a little way, but then you run out of contacts, you run out of resources, and then your fundraiser dies. This FREEDOM process we are talking about here is to help you never run out of resources or contacts.
How do you know your team is ready?
It is important to walk through some training with your volunteers. You must sit down with your key volunteers and discuss what each of them is going to do versus what you, as the staff member, are going to do. We call this the volunteer-staff partnership. This allows for you to be that much more effective because you aren’t stepping all over each other’s stories and you’re presenting a united front. If you have a full staff, typically the executive director and development staff are responsible for fundraising efforts. When I’m talking about staff, I’m talking about paid positions. If you have a board member who is playing that staff role, I want to caution you to keep in mind that board members are volunteers.
Staff is responsible for knowing the statistics, the details of the organization – where does the money go, how are you going to spend the money, what impact are you actually making, the patient stories, the constituent stories-- any results-driven stories come from staff. The volunteer story is all about their personal experience and why they give their time to the cause. This is the story they should share with the donor. The volunteer should schedule the appointment, has a relationship with the person across the table, and if possible, make the ask.
Should your key volunteer “run the meeting"?
You have to sit down ahead of time and talk about the person with whom you’re meeting. Are they going to be a sponsor? Are their staff members going to work at the event? You need to understand the intention of the meeting in the first place, but I always want the volunteer to “go first.” Walls come down immediately and the environment becomes more comfortable. Plus, they were involved with the development of all the materials so they know all the details and can walk a potential donor through it all. When your volunteers are empowered, there’s a chance you are going to say very little during this meeting. You are there as "information" because you know the organization, you know how to collect the money, you know how they (the donor) will get the recognition, etc.
In your book you mention that titles are important, what do you mean by that?
I love titles because it gives people language. As a volunteer, you will feel so much more empowered when you can say, “I’m the chairperson of this event.” Instead of just telling people they volunteer with an organization, they are actually given a title that puts them in charge of their area. This is why I like making up titles because it makes someone feel like they have ownership, and no one is going to step in my space. I even had a “thank you chair” and that person was in charge of writing thank you cards. I had a print chair who actually worked for a printing company. Since she knew paper, she knew colors and understood stock so she could make decisions on what to print the invitations on. She thought about the logo being embossed, the kind of envelope the invitation was put in – she was able to think about all the details in a much different way than someone without the knowledge.
One other thing I want you to think about is the bio for your volunteers. If you go to a board member’s website and look at their bio, you want them to talk about your cause and if they don’t have a title, how do they tell people they volunteer for your
Fundraising FREEDOM Step 4: Enhance Your Brand
Today we are on step 4 of Mary’s Fundraising FREEDOM process, Enhance Your Brand. There are so many organizations that lean on their staff for branding. They hire marketing people to design a logo or to make sure that your message is en pointe. However, in this step, I want your volunteers to have a say in what you’re putting in front of the general public. So if you’re going to be doing a campaign around your fundraising efforts, I want to make sure your volunteers have an opportunity to review every piece of branding you’re putting out there. Of course, if you have a logo that your national organization has created, I’m not saying to just go and change it. What I am saying is that you have control over this fundraiser you recruited volunteers for so if you’re going to create a logo for that particular fundraiser for any sort of print materials, you want their eyes on it. This is why you recruit your team first and the materials come second – you can get their buy-in so they’ll want to share the information with those in their inner circle.
What do you say to the development director who isn’t willing to open up a discussion on branding to their team?
There are layers when it comes to your volunteers. When we’re talking about enlisting your team, we’re talking about the chairman of the fundraiser, the lead volunteers who are going to be spearheading this campaign. I’m not saying every single volunteer (such as event day volunteers) needs to be in the discussion; it should just be your top-tier people.
What materials do we need to pull together?
When you think about any kind of organization out there, any company you might have purchased a product from, they all have branding. They all have materials like a website, print materials, products, or whatever they do. But all of that encompasses their brand – the look, feel. Because we are getting information dumped at us all day every day, we make snap judgments based on what we see. And most of the time, you just have a few seconds to make an impression on someone. In the branding section of what we’re talking about here are your colors, logo, the look, feel, theme.
Just like walking into a restaurant, you want to know what’s on the menu. The same is true for charitable fundraisers. When you’re first getting started, you have to have a menu, or a list of options. For smaller organizations, I recommend a one-pager. This is very different from your strategic plan one-pager, instead, this is one page that is broken into thirds and answers the who, what, when, where, and how. The top third answers the who are you (logo, picture, cause). The middle third should tell how someone can be a part of what you’re doing. Why do you need help? How can someone get plugged in? And then the bottom third is a sign-up form. It’s a fill-in-the-blank where someone can get involved or give to your cause. The purpose of this one-page is NOT to send it out to the masses. This is a sales document.
Second, is the case document. I encourage people to do an eight-page case document that includes all of the details of your cause such as the mission and vision statements, the history of your organization, a letter from the chair or executive director stating why you have launched this campaign and why it’s important to give to it. All you’re doing with this document is creating credibility for why a donor should give to your cause.
What should we be doing online?
What you need to do with your website is to make it very simple. When I sit down with someone, I give them the one-pager and/or the case document and I want to be able to send them to my site. Most people are going to your website to give or find more information. You want to make sure the donate button is at the top, in the navigation bar, and throughout the site – AND you want to make sure it actually works. You don’t want some
Fundraising FREEDOM Step 3: Enlist Your Team
This is the step that changes everything. It’s how you go from raising thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions and so on. This is the meat of the entire Fundraising FREEDOM process.
Tell us about how to shift your mindset to know there are people who want to give to your cause.
When you first get started, you don’t know anyone because you’ve never talked to anyone to giving to your cause. As you’re getting going, now is the time to start thinking about how you want to form that conversation. How do you want to talk to people about your cause? And how can people be a part of it? Enlisting your team is all about attracting the right people that correlate to the kinds of dollars you want to raise. For example, if your goal is to raise $1,000,000 your team is going to look different than if you were planning to raise $10,000. You don’t have to have a hundred people working toward your cause, it really all starts with one person you believe could open the door to the next person.
First, I want you to think about the ideal person you want on your team. Do you want them to be a high-level executive at an organization or company? Do you want them to be well-connected, a motivator? It doesn’t matter if your organization is big or small because when we’re talking about enlisting your team, it all depends on your specific criteria for a lead volunteer or the person you want others to follow.
How do steps 1 and 2 of the FREEDOM process (Focus Your Vision and Run Your Research) factor into this step?
They are everything. This is why knowing your vision and running your research happen before this step. Let’s say you decide to host a black-tie gala based on your research. You really want to engage a certain population of the community who are currently not a part of what you do. So, if you’ve done your research, now you’re going to recruit a team that have that same vision. Or maybe instead of an event, you’re doing a building campaign and you’re planning to raise $3 Million for a building. Through your research, you determined you want a general contractor or someone in that industry on your team. You would not recruit that kind of volunteer if you were putting on a walk/run fundraiser. This is why you have to do your research before you enlist a team so you can make sure your volunteers are the right fit for the plan.
Once you have identified your list of potential volunteers, how do you make the ask?
Let’s say I’m trying to fill the role of the chairperson. The first thing I do is start talking to people in the upper leadership of an organization I’ve targeted. I talk to the volunteers who are serving on the board and in other places and ask them to recommend an ideal person for whatever role I’m looking for. All I’m doing is asking for verbal nominations. I put those names on a list and once I start to have those conversations with more and more people, someone starts to bubble to the surface. There’s always that one person who everyone thinks would be the best. So then making the ask is so much easier because now I’ve got all their peers making the recommendation. If you’re sitting across the table from someone who is telling you that all of your peers think that you are the best person for the job, you are going to be much more inclined to say yes.
However, if you take anything away from today, it’s this. If you’re sitting across from someone and they immediately say yes with no hesitation, you should probably be concerned. If you’re asking someone to serve in a strong leadership position, you want them to think about it and take some time to really process what they need to shut down in order to do this job well.
Now they’ve said yes, what happens now? How do you get the rest of your team?
After you’ve gotten your key volunteer, they are able to build their team. A lot o
Fundraising FREEDOM Step 2: Run Your Research
What kind of research are we looking for in this step?
Research actually allows us to gain confidence. Especially if you are trying to raise a larger amount of money, this step allows you to regroup and overcome your fear of fundraising. The data and numbers are important – you want to be as specific with the data as to be believable. You want to give enough stats to show that you know what you’re doing.
In this step, what you’re trying to do is evaluate what other people are doing. What’s working? What’s not? What is my competition doing? What are my allies doing? When it comes to charitable work, a lot of people don’t think they have competition because everyone is doing good work; which is true. Clearly, there are organizations and other individuals doing similar work to yours. Some of them are having great success while others aren’t. You have to make broad observations off minute details. Look to social media, local media, etc. and draw broad observations off the little details you’ve found.
How does the research help you decide where you want to focus your efforts?
After you’ve compiled a list of what your competition/allies are doing, start looking for patterns - when are they doing it, what location are they using, what months are they fundraising, etc. When I moved to St. Louis and started running my research, I realized that all of the elite charities were hosting their events at one particular venue. I realized that if I wanted to compete with the “big boys” I had to either book that location or come up with a different, completely unique location that no one else was using. It provided the opportunity to create a new environment that no one had been in before and I could create an elite experience for my audience.
Aside from allies and competition, what other things should you be looking at while running your research?
The last thing I want to address here is desperation. This is one of those topics I could rant on for quite some time. When you care about your cause and are so passionate about what you’re doing, you will say and do things that come across as very desperate. Picture a young man who badly wants to be in a relationship with a young girl and he ends up saying things to her that are a complete turn-off. Of course, she’s going to tell him to move along. It’s the same kind of desperation we give off when it comes to raising funds. I see it all the time – in print materials, on social media, on TV when people are doing interviews—and I think, why would you say that??? It comes out because there is this feeling as we need you so bad and it comes off as though we’re begging and pleading for cash. I want to encourage you that even though you may feel that inside, put the face on that you’ve got this together. Even if you don’t – sometimes you do have to fake it ‘til you make it.
We know being a nonprofit executive is a lonely job and we want you to know that you are not alone as you work toward your mission. If you like the content of the podcast, as well as the work we do, we invite you to join the Nonprofit Executive Club. The Executive Club is a monthly training program that gives you the ability to increase your influence through strategic planning and fundraising support. For more information and to join the Club, go to nonprofitexecutiveclub.com.
Resources from this episode:
Strategic Plan Toolkit
Fundraising Freedom Roadmap
Connect with Mary:
Mary’s book: Fundraising Freedom
Connect with Joel:
Worth every minute!
This is a fantastic podcast that is packed with useful and useable information. Every nonprofit can benefit from listening to Joel and Mary. I highly recommend it.