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3 Secrets of Great Fundraisers

You know who they are.  

The fundraiser who makes it look easy.  Getting the big gifts.  Loving their job.  Always smiling.  At the cocktail party they’re surrounded by all the donors you want to know.  From across the room it almost looks like donors are rushing them like shoppers at a black Friday sale.  What’s their secret?  

Today is your lucky day.  Buckle up, buttercup!  I’m spilling the beans.  I’m ALSO giving you 10 rapport-building discovery questions to turn you into a great conversationalist AND reap you unforgettable nuggets of wisdom about your donors that if used properly can deepen your relationship with them in a matter of minutes.  Too good to be true?  Try me!

3 Things The Best Fundraisers Do Differently

#1 They know it’s not about them (or the organization).  It’s about the donor.  
They don’t start a conversation with “I have important updates!”  They don’t dominate a conversation by talking about themselves or the organization.  In real life we get sidetracked with all the great things we want to tell our donors and it’s easy to forget that the heart of our communication should be the exact opposite.  Donors give for their reasons, not ours and the more you find out about their passions and interests the better you can craft an ask.  

#2 They are intensely curious people who genuinely care.
They have a knack for remembering seemingly innocuous details about a person’s life.  They are genuinely curious about what matters most to their donors and they don’t hesitate to celebrate and honor it.   

#3 They ask the great questions and quickly build rapport.
Great fundraisers recognize that time with donors is a precious commodity and they make every second count by being prepared with great questions to build rapport and deepen the relationship.  I could talk all day (and sometimes do when people hire me to lead a custom training or board retreat!)  about how to do great discovery with a donor.  Here’s a few of my favorite discovery questions PLUS some “depth charge” bonus questions to quickly build rapport.   

1.    What motivated you to make your first gift to us?
2.   What is the most satisfying philanthropic gift you ever made and why?
3.   Of all the great agencies you’re involved with, who does the best job of keeping you involved?  How?
4.   What legacy do you most want your giving to have in the world?
5.   What do you love about what you do?

Bonus questions “depth charge” questions
6.    Which do you wish you had more of…time or money?  What would you do with it if you got it?  
7.     What makes you happy despite anything?
8.    What is something new you’d like to try or learn?  
9.    What mistake or failure in your life taught you the most?
10.   What was the hardest choice you ever had to make?  
These discovery tips are a SNEAK PEEK of the goodies my students will be getting in my new course, coming soon, Makeover My Fundraising.  Join the VIP waitlist and you'll get 20% off if you  decide to sign up.  Want more help with discovery?  I got your back.  This discovery guide is loaded with all the soft skills, tips and scripts you need to nail discovery.  

Stay classy,

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Fundraisers

We have a brand new year in front of us.   A clean slate.  The chance to make it our best year ever.  Are you ready to say goodbye to what isn't working and supercharge your fundraising efforts to make it your most profitable year ever?  

  1. Get clarity on where you can turn the greatest fundraising profit – retaining your current donors

The best source for your next gift comes from your last gift.  Not events.  Not even acquisition, although most people would probably say their strategy for raising more money in 2014 is by getting new donors.  Every year the Fundraising Effectiveness Project gives us more bad news on donor attrition.  The money we make from new donors barely covers the donors we lost.  We make a profit in fundraising three ways: 1) extending donor loyalty 2) increasingly generous giving and 3) realizing higher gift values sooner.  Follow steps 2-5 to achieve these profit drivers.

2.  Evaluate your portfolio of donors

Occasionally clients hire me to searches for them and I am always surprised by the number of major gift officers I interview who boast about portfolios of 300 – 500 donors.  One major gift officer working full time cannot possible manage 500 donors, there is not enough time in the day.  While all donors deserve meaningful thank you’s, touches and updates you have to invest the time in understanding which donors want to have a deeper closer relationship with a major gift officer.  Typically 30% will, which means you have to get to know your donors and their interests, capacity, and communications preferences to determine if they belong in your major gift portfolio.  Roll out the red carpet to your donors this year! Call on them to formally introduce your role as their representative who lets them know how their giving is making an impact.  Find out why they are giving and what they are passionate about.  You’ll gleam critical data to determine what donors should be on your portfolio.   Once you know who should be on your caseload you are ready for step #3…

3.  Set a revenue goal and cultivation plan for every donor on your caseload

Lewis Carroll said “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”  If you don’t have a revenue goal and a plan for each donor you’re working in the dark.  You are also not alone, according to a recent donor retention study by Sage, now Abila, a whopping 69% of nonprofits lack a formal strategy for managing donor loyalty.  Now that you know which donors want to have a relationship with you and more about their interests and capacity you can apply your relationship fundraising goals to a calendar with dates for each touches and your ask.

4.  Thank meaningfully, early and often

Properly thanking your donor by being prompt and meaningful determines if that donor will give again.  With 8 out of 10 donors not making a second gift, don’t underestimate everything that is riding on your thank you.  A good thank you sets up the next gift!  Knock it out of the park with some of these fantastic tips on crafting a killer thank you letter from Gail Perry.  Thank within 48 hours, make it personal, have a board member call to say thanks, and always make the donor the hero of the story.  Congratulate them on what THEY will make happen because of THEIR generosity.

5.  Manage up

I talk to a lot of frustrated development directors.  They may feel unsupported because their CEO or board, or worse, both are not engaged in fundraising.  Several complain their CEO or board approving a budget that includes a blanket increase in funding without a strategy or additional investment in resources.  Discussing these issues with leadership requires delicacy and diplomacy but it’s critical that development directors confidently make the case to their CEO to invest in a donor centered strategy and maintain realistic expectations.

Your clean slate is waiting, time to get on your way!

Happy New Year,


Set an Email Out of Office that Inspires Your Donors

About to set your out of office for the holidays?  This is a golden opportunity to put a warm glow on your organization right at end of year when people are thinking about giving back.

A couple of weeks ago I got the gold standard of all automatic out of office responders from my friends at Greenlights who were away from the office after their big gala.  We all know how exhausting and demanding events are.  After months of planning, recruiting sponsors and table captains, selling tickets, organizing seating charts, making name-tags, finding auction items, and writing speeches most folks are ready for a vacation, if not retirement.  But while you may be ready for some well deserved time off your constituents are at the peak of their adoration of you and positively buzzing with goodwill about your organization!  Ironically this is when they are the most likely to reach out to you - when you are taking some well deserved time away from the office.  It may be a couple of days or a week.   Usually when I reach out to a staff member after an event or around a holiday I get no response or a very brief one sentence autoresponder.  That’s exactly why Matt’s message stood out like a rose in a bed of thistles.

Here’s what I love about his message:

1)      I was thanked immediately for supporting the event – in the subject line and the first sentence.

2)      I got important “insider” info about the events success – I was told in second sentence how much they raised that night.

3)      He shared important program information – revealing the award winners were.

4)      He ended with a call to action to donate.

Whether you craft a thoughtful holiday out of the office or a post gala out of the office message, put some thought and preparation into it.  Leverage this communication to thank your constituents for their support and share a brief quote or story of thanks from a client you serve.  Include a link to give in your closing or as a p.s.

Special thanks to Matt Kouri and the great team at Greenlights for letting me use their email in this post!

Happy Holidays!