When Mosaic Non-Profit Development’s Heidi Hancock invited me to submit a guest post for the “Adventures in Fundraising” series, I couldn’t help but jump at the chance. It’s the least I could do since I’ve enjoyed so many of the past posts—some of them are seared in my memory because of the acute fundraising pain or triumph described by each contributor. As founder and publisher at CausePlanet, I have the unique pleasure of interacting with some of the best authors about proven nonprofit practices in their business books. My job is to recommend and highlight what we think are the most relevant books and inspire nonprofit leaders to engage in these amazing resources and ultimately apply them. John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensible to one another.” As leaders, we can never allow ourselves to get comfortable—we have to constantly stretch our understanding of essential nonprofit topics and relentlessly search for better ways of getting the job done. Prior to launching CausePlanet in 2006, I’ve had a long history of working in fundraising from many different angles, ranging from old school annual giving practices in the university setting to beating the pavement for major gifts on behalf of a new nonprofit. So with these thoughts in mind and in the spirit of adventure, I give you an express tour of memorable fundraising advice from the authors and books we’ve recently hand-picked that relate to fundraising.
Cause for Change: The Why and How of Nonprofit Millennial Engagement by Kari Dunn Saratovsky and Derrick Feldmann
“Even though Millennials are the next generation of donors and constituents, leaders spend far more resources focused on maintaining their existing supporters rather than trying to cultivate new ones—so much so, that they cannot see beyond their current donor strategies and systems to a future where those supporters are no longer around,” assert the authors. The next greatest generation There is a reason the authors call Millennials the “next greatest generation.” They stand to inherit the largest transfer of wealth; they are larger in size than the Boomer generation; they were raised on community service; and they put their money where their mouths are—with speed and efficiency online, no less. Managing fundraising expectations Feldmann says, “Boards should look at Millennial engagement from a lens of participation and action rather than dollars. I know this is not the answer most boards want to hear. Before estimating potential dollars raised, we should focus on how many will ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ campaign messaging, share it with their peers, and ultimately give. We know Millennials are giving in small amounts to roughly five organizations every year. Therefore, the goal should be for organizations to take a constituent engagement approach with giving as a pinnacle action of such engagement.”
Storytelling for Grantseekers [and Fundraisers]: A Guide to Creative Nonprofit Fundraising by Cheryl Clarke
Did you know that 70 percent of what we learn is conveyed through stories? Why should it be any different when we’re trying to capture the hearts and minds of donors? Tooth extraction or walk in the park? For some reason, many of us who write grant proposals or appeal letters take on the project as if it promises all the anxiety of a tooth extraction. Instead, we should be asking ourselves, “How can I build a story around my cause and draw in my reader so s/he feels involved?” If you’ve ever heard the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out,” then you know your approach to writing a grant, annual report, or appeal will have everything to do with how it’s interpreted by a funder. Cheryl Clarke says storytelling and development collateral can intersect with your elevator speech, case statements, appeal letters, brochures, website, annual reports, and even government grant applications.
Charity Case: How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Really Change the World by Dan Pallotta
Dan Pallotta says we’re working against a flawed philosophy reinforced for decades by donors and nonprofit executives alike. Fundraisers have to stop allowing donors to ask, “What percentage of my donation goes to the cause versus the overhead?” This question damages our efforts in several ways: 1) The question makes us think overhead is not part of the cause but it absolutely is. 2) It also promotes the notion that overhead steals from the cause, forcing charities to obsess over keeping short-term overhead low at the expense of long-term solutions. 3) This question ironically gives the donor really bad information. It tells nothing of the charity’s quality of work, shares nothing about how it defines the cause, leads donors to discriminate unknowingly, gives the wrong overhead figure because it’s measuring against the wrong result. New questions for a new age Help donors ask new questions like “What kind of impact are you able to accomplish with your cause?” or “What meaningful progress are you making toward systemic change?” Help charities break the starvation cycle of what feels like mandatory low or no overhead.
Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing by Michael Rosen
“If planned giving is so good for both nonprofit organizations and the donors who support them, why don’t more organizations have a planned giving program?” asks Rosen. This book addresses all the myths about planned giving that might be holding you or your organization back from tremendous opportunities. Rosen says, “First, there is a significant gap in what traditional planned-gift marketing is achieving and what people are willing to consider. Second, traditional planned-gift marketing is just scratching the surface of planned giving potential.” We asked Mosaic’s own Heidi Hancock if she agrees with Rosen’s five myths about planned giving, and if so, would she add any. Rosen’s five myths and then some 1) Planned giving is very difficult. 2) One needs to be a planned giving expert to be involved in gift planning. 3) All planned gifts are deferred gifts. (Some only take a few years, and gifts of stock are more immediate.) 4) Good marketing focuses on organizational needs. (It should focus on the donor and how to secure his/her loved ones while fulfilling his/her philanthropic aspirations.) 5) Planned gift marketing should be passive. (It’s simply another form of fundraising and should not be left to the donor to express interest.) Hancock: Absolutely, those five myths are pervasive when it comes to planned giving. I find Myth One (planned giving is very difficult) and Myth Two (one needs to be a planned giving expert to be involved in gift planning) are enough to stop 90 percent of causes from pursuing planned gifts. I would add, “I can’t talk to my donors about making a planned gift because it means my cause is looking forward to their demise” to the planned giving myth roster.
Leave Shakespeare out of your planned giving
Planned giving offers such creative ways for a donor and a cause to work together to achieve a donor’s personal goals alongside an organization’s goals. These goals are often reached during the donor’s lifetime. Not all planned gifts come about like a Shakespearean tragedy where everyone dies. Some of my favorite planned giving stories demonstrate tremendous impact; benefit the donor, his/her family and the cause; and nobody dies to make it happen! Welcome back—your express tour is complete. I hope you’ve enjoyed a glimpse into some of minds who are committed to improving your fundraising game. I encourage you to learn more about the books I’ve recommended. Each has contributed a great deal to the sector. The question is what new ideas are you going to contribute to the cause you care about most?