Rants

Slow Your Roll, Fundraisers…

Real talk… nonprofit development people need to not be so development-y all the time. We should always be aware, and we should always be mindful, but this isn’t Glengarry Glen Ross — we need not always be closing.

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I recently volunteered at a friend’s fundraising event. My tasks were simple… greet donors, tell them where they’re sitting, and direct them to the restrooms. Sure, I recognized some donors to my own organization, and some of them recognized me, but I was there as a traffic cop, not a nonprofiteer.

At one point, a fellow volunteer we’ll call “Clementine” (also a fundraiser for another nonprofit) veered away from the table and began chatting up guests. How nice, I thought. So friendly, I thought. Until I realized Clementine was being smarmy and development-y for her own organization.

It was gross. And worse than that, it was transparent. The donors were there to enjoy a great event for this nonprofit, not Clementine’s nonprofit. Stuff like this happens a lot, especially with fundraisers who can’t “turn it off.” It’s the kind of behavior which gives nonprofits a bad name.

What’s the point? Well, I think donors and stakeholders deserve better. It’s as if you went for a haircut, and there in the waiting area was a salesperson pouncing on you about Lasik. It’s a great big sector out there, and we’re all vying for the same resources. It might seem counterintuitive, though I don’t believe the way to get those resources is to pounce on every seemingly available contributor you see.

So everybody calm down. Especially you, Clementine — slow your roll.

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Rants

A Day in the Life

Non-Profit Organization: *sends print invitation for a program*

Donor: *doesn’t RSVP*

NPO: *sends email reminder #1 for the program*

Donor: *doesn’t RSVP*

NPO: *sends email reminder #2 for the program*

Donor: *doesn’t RSVP*

NPO: *sends final email reminder for the program*

Donor: *responds, declining the invitation*

Donor, arriving at the program anyway, the next day: “Why don’t you have me on the list?”

NPO:
WompWompFace

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Thoughts

Got ABS, bro?

Abs are great and all, but have you ever tried being a great steward of the trust your donors put in you by contributing to your organization?

See for me, that’s abs: Always Be Stewarding. It’s somewhat of a lifestyle for me, the way exercise might be for others. I write about it a lot, though I’m not sure it can be overstated.

Over 15 years in and around nonprofits, one sees myriad ways of demonstrating appreciation. Some organizations barely scratch the surface (thank you letters/emails) while others are utter rockstars with full stewardship programs (donor newsletter, event invitations).

Forever I worked in arts and culture, before transitioning to other types of nonprofiteering. Different sectors appreciate their donors differently, though I’ve consistently found a foolproof practice of sharing what you might consider “mission moments.” In this way, rather than telling donors what they get for their giving, show them how their generosity makes a difference.

I tried this at the end of last fiscal year a simple one-page letter with five short paragraphs, each spotlighting a different area of our work. I titled it simply, “impacts and benefits.” Nowhere in the letter did it ask for anything, rather, it was straight appreciation. This wasn’t novel, and in fact, it was a lightbulb idea after talking with a friend who’s a donor to the organization. And something funny happened.

A few weeks later, we started getting checks in the mail. And most of them were additional gifts beyond what the donors had already gave — not renewals of previous gifts, but increases. Again, we reinvented no wheels, but we put some gas in the car. This was sort of wonderful, and rather affirming to know people felt strongly about our efforts.

So how are y’all getting your abs?

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