Okay, So What’s the Plan?

January is one of those times when the whole world seems to be in “planning mode.” We’re making resolutions, we’re passing the budget, we’re optimistic about all we can achieve this year. But it’s one thing to say you’re going to do it…and it’s another thing to actually get it done.

I recently read a great article from my friends at Front Range Source with a general fundraising calendar for the whole year. This doesn’t take the place of your Fundraising Plan, but it could kickstart some discussions and thoughts about key deadlines and benchmarks. 

Here’s a quick summary of what they suggested, but I highly recommend you read the full article

January – Analyze your results and get your plan set for the new year.

February – Get your messaging straight.

March – Ask you LYBUNTs (gave Last Year But Unfortunately Not This)

April – Review your welcome packet.

May – Focus on stewardship and major gifts.

June – Make sure your website is up to snuff.

July – Analyze results from the year so far.

August – Pay attention to the board.

September – Plan out your year-end campaign.

October – All asks should be out.

November – Follow up on major gift asks.

December – Follow up on ALL asks.

This fundraising calendar helps you to see the year at-a-glance. You can do this! It doesn’t all have to happen this month. And with a detailed strategic annual fundraising plan, you will know exactly how to spend your time. Cheers to the New Year!

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Posted in Fundraising Plan, Individual Giving

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

Can you help us find people with a lot of money?

I actually get asked this quite a bit. And the short answer is – no! My job is to help your organization to better understand fundraising best practices, not to play donor to organization matchmaker. And remember that part about fundraising being all about relationships? Why do we forget all about that when we want to ask someone with a lot of money to support our cause?

Whether someone has a lot of money is not the only thing you should care about. When determining who you should focus your energy on for major gifts, you should be considering three things, or LAI: Linkage, Ability and Interest.

Linkage – Does this person have some link to your organization? Does anyone in your current network have access to this individual? Has this person ever heard of your organization?

Ability – Yes, it is helpful to know whether someone has the ability to give. But remember that this is only one of the three things we’re looking for.

Interest – Does this person care about what you care about? Sure, you can ask anyone. But if you want to spend your time wisely, you will ask people who have shown an interest in charitable giving, and specifically, and interest in what you care about.

When you look at all three of these, it becomes much more obvious who you should spend your time on when it comes to major gifts. Try going through your list of “prospects” and give each of them a subjective score in each of these areas. Spend your time on those with the highest total score when you add all three together.

But make sure you don’t forget about your existing donors. They have the highest possible score in at least two of the three areas. Don’t make the mistake of throwing away a donor who has direct linkage to and specific interest in your organization, just because they don’t have as much ability as that person with a lot of money.

So, no, I can’t help you find people with a lot of money. But chances are, you can help yourself find people who will really be dedicated to your organization long term by using this LAI formula. Remember that next time a board member says you should be asking Oprah or Bill Gates for money!

Posted in Fundraising Mistakes, Individual Giving