The Grass is Greener Where You Water It

I know we have all heard the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side,” but I recently heard someone say instead “The grass is always greener where you water it.” This is truth! How often are we a little envious of how well things are going for another person, or another organization? Do we stop to think about what things that person or organization might be DOING to have that success?

In working with nonprofit organizations for about 20 years, I consistently hear these types of envious remarks. Almost every organization I have ever worked with thinks it’s harder for them to raise money than it is for anyone else. They have lots of reasons – the other organization has a cause that’s easier to understand, more urgent, more tangible, more…whatever. They see another organization announce a large gift or grant or successful campaign and think, “I wish we could get money that easily.”

But is it really EASY for anyone? I don’t believe that to be true. The best predictor of long term, sustained fundraising success is developing relationships with donors over time. You have to find the people who care about your cause and then you have to communicate what you’re doing to make a difference for that cause. You have to tell your story in a way they can understand your impact, not just your outcomes. You have to thank them for being involved. And you have to do this over and over. Consistently. Like you water your grass.

Every organization has unique benefits and unique challenges. Maybe they are raising money for sick children…but maybe they also have to raise millions every year like a never-ending capital campaign. Maybe they have a strong membership base…but maybe they also struggle to convince members to donate above and beyond membership fees. The organizations that continue to succeed are working consistently to address their unique challenges and develop relationships with donors over time. They DON’T get by easily just because of their unique benefits.

Next time you find yourself thinking another organization gets donations more easily than you do, stop yourself, and think about how much that organization is watering their grass to get the green.

Posted in Culture of Philanthropy, Individual Giving

Donors, Fundraisers, and #MeToo

Did you know that 1 in 4 female fundraising professionals faces sexual harassment on the job? And that 65% of those women say that the Perpetrator was a Donor? I recently read the results of a survey done by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and The Chronicle of Philanthropy on the prevalence of sexual harassment in our industry, and the results were eye-opening.

I realize this is a tough topic. But before you move on, I ask that you don’t assume this problem doesn’t apply to you or your organization. As fundraising professionals, we are often surrounded by individuals with more power than we have, like donors, board members, and supervisors. Sometimes that power dynamic creates an environment with frequent opportunities for sexual harassment to occur.

The #MeToo movement has gained momentum and drawn attention to the prevalence of this problem in our society as a whole. In fact, the Time’s Up Fund to Fight Sexual Harassment has raised $21 million around the world in a matter of weeks.

This has the result of helping victims, including those in the fundraising profession, to feel more willing to share their experience with leadership, and to expect an appropriate response. Is your organization prepared for that scenario? If not, here are some steps you can take to be more prepared:

1. Talk about it. Share the results of this study with your leadership, your staff, and your board members. Say out loud that sexual harassment will not be tolerated at your organization, no matter who the Perpetrator is.

2. Create a process. Do your Human Relations policies tell an employee what to do if they have been a victim of sexual harassment at the workplace? If not, create a process for them to follow and make your employees aware of it. Also consider creating a crisis response PR plan you could follow if your organization is suddenly put in this spotlight.

3. Attend a training. Learn what you should do if you witness or experience harassment and how to respond if someone shares with you that they have been a victim. Some training opportunities are available with Zoe Training.

4. Say goodbye. Maybe you have a board member or major donor who is actually a Perpetrator of sexual harassment. These actions may lead to that person leaving the board or taking their donations somewhere else. Be okay with this possibility! You’re better off creating a safe environment for yourself and your employees, even if you lose donations as a result.

These are steps you can take now. Better to take them before a crisis than during or after. And even if you never have a crisis, the intangible benefit of a better culture for your staff is worth it!

Photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

Posted in Culture of Philanthropy, Fundraising Mistakes, Learning Opportunities

Goodbye Donor Pyramid, Hello Donor Lifecycle Map!

Do you ever read something and lightbulbs start flashing in your head like your brain just went to Vegas? This was my experience when I recently read about the Donor Lifecycle Map. Talk about changing the paradigm! The donor pyramid focuses on the organization and how many donors you have at which levels right now. The Donor Lifecycle Map focuses on the DONOR and where they are in the lifecycle of giving.

This gets my brain excited. I know, I’m weird to get this excited about fundraising! But this simple illustration does something very important: it helps you focus on retention. Going back to the donor pyramid – you know what this looks like, right? It has a bunch of donors who give a small amount at the bottom, and a small amount of donors who give a large amount at the top. For years I have talked about moving donors up the pyramid, but what the pyramid assumes is that as long as you have enough donors in each level, you’ll be okay. On the other hand, the Donor Lifecycle Map is focused on how long the same person has been a donor to your organization. The longer they have been a donor, the more committed they tend to be.

I heard about this brilliant map in an article I read in AFP’s Advancing Philanthropy. The article highlighted a book written by Deborah Kaplan Polivy called The Donor Lifecycle Map: A Model for Fundraising Success. I have ordered my copy and can’t wait to read it! I believe this shift in thinking will help my clients to really understand cultivation and retention in a whole new way.

There are two ways to use the Donor Lifecycle Map. One is to plot where a specific donor is on the map to gauge their engagement with your organization. Another is to plot your donors as a group on the map to see where you are losing donors in the lifecycle. What percentage of your donors do you lose after one gift? How about after two gifts? What percentage of your donors are multi-year active givers? This illustration doesn’t show lapsed givers, but what percentage of your list would fit this category? How can you engage those donors to get them back on the Donor Lifecycle?

Ding! Ding! Ding! Jackpot! This is where the money is. Active cultivation of your current donors. Focusing on what donors who have already shown interest in your organization might need to stay engaged over time — instead of always starting over with someone brand new. See, pretty exciting, huh? I hope lightbulbs are flashing for you now too!

Posted in Culture of Philanthropy, Individual Giving, Learning Opportunities, Uncategorized