An important part of any fundraising campaign is how you plan on recognizing your donors at different giving levels. While donor recognition opportunities do not motivate all donors, the fact is that some are. And, you need to be prepared to offer this valuable tool to inspire the sights of your donors who are motivated by public forms of recognition. Different things motivate different donors. So, always begin by knowing your donor.
Below I share with you a step-by-step method to creating Donor Recognition Opportunities that will inspire your donors to set their sights higher. And, public recognition inspires all donors from big to small and for all kinds of fundraising campaigns, not just capital ones.
There are several important guidelines that one should consider first before actually coming up with the recognition opportunities.
First, it is important that you have several recognition opportunities available for your donors to select.
Second, the top-level gift should be larger than the largest gift projected during the fundraising campaign.
Third, the cumulative values of the donor recognition opportunities should add up to significantly greater than the overall fundraising goal.
And, lastly, the donor recognition opportunity should be two to three times the costs of construction, furnishings, or overall costs of the opportunity.
Once you have given these guidelines consideration, here is how you can establish your donor recognition opportunities step-by-step.
Step #1 – Invite key staff and volunteers to a Donor Recognition Planning Meeting and review your building plans or fundraising campaign outline.
Step #2 – Brainstorm all of the possible named gift opportunity “places” or “things” i.e. main lobby, flag pole, endowed department, scholarships, staff positions, etc. Think expansively and creatively remembering that nothing is off limits.
Step #3 – Write each possible brainstormed building place on a sticky note and put them on the wall in random order.
Step #4 – Look at your campaign gift range chart and determine how many gifts are needed at each level to reach your goal.
Step #5 – Determine the “Curb Appeal” gifts. These gifts are those that provide value for the opportunity and are not necessarily just based on gift size. For instance, a lobby will hold more “curb appeal” than say a large industrial kitchen located in the back of a facility hardly ever seen by the general public.
Step #6 – Match the top “Curb Appeal” gift with naming opportunity that is the largest on the list, etc.
Step #7 – Be sure to present this Donor Recognition Plan to the Board to ensure that they approve of your plans. Ensure that the Board votes to approve this plan. Don’t skip over this step! You need the Board’s support.
There are also other ways that you can recognize your donors. For instance, you can recognize mid-level to lower-level givers with a group plaque, listing in the print donor honor roll, or on the organization’s website. You may also choose to run brick and pavers or wall tile program. And, inevitably, you will recognize all of your donors at a post-campaign celebratory event.
One thing that you do need to ensure is that you are consistent with how you recognize your donors. Everyone needs to be treated equally regarding what his or her gift will afford in a named gift opportunity.
And, now the organization is ready to begin asking for gifts from donors using these different named gift opportunities as a way to motivate donors to step up their giving to the campaign.
I often get asked from my clients, how many touchpoints do you need to give to a donor at a certain level?
And, my answer – it varies.
There is some science to the whole matter. In fact, after I conduct a rating and ranking session, I will combine all of the numbers and come up with a formulaic cultivation quotient. The number of touches estimated for a particular donor’s rating score and ranking.
To me, that is a guide. What we must remember is that each donor is an individual. They have different motivations for giving, different ways that they would like to be recognized, and different things that they are interested in giving to support. And, that means that they all have different cultivation and stewardship needs as well. So, while I could say that the cultivation quotient for Mrs. Smith came out to 20 touches per year, she may not want to be contacted or that involved with the organization.
I advocate that each necessitates a thorough review and a particular strategy custom and unique for them. And, often, it takes a wise fundraiser who has been in conversation with the donor to recognize what is or is not important to them.
Now, I am not advocating that we throw the “moves management” system of relationship-building out. However, what I am recommending instead is that we seriously advocate instead for a very donor-centered process that takes in the uniqueness of each donor into the “moves management” equation when developing strategies for cultivation and stewardship. Let’s not reduce our donors down to formulas, quotients, or tactics. They are people – unique and compassionate!
Best practices. We hear that phrase often. This week, I even read a question asking if “best practices were misleading?”
Are we throwing that phrase around to legitimize our field? Our do we have best practices and what are they?
Well, I contend that the only true best practice is one that is grounded in research. Those are harder to find that than the other so-called “best practices.”
While studying for my Masters Degree in Philanthropy and Fund Development, I learned that philanthropic research has many gaps. However, there are people now making a study of philanthropy and conducting research. Folks like Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang. More research is needed in our field to support our work.
I can tell you that when research is grounded in actual studies, it works. Eye motion studies, philanthropic psychology, etc., etc.
Recently, I have been working on many appeal letters. And, each time I craft one for the client, I get pushback. Why do you indent paragraphs? Why do you repeat yourself often? Why is there bold and underline? Do we need to include a P.S.? And, can’t the letter just fit on one page? Must we send more than one appeal?
Pushback that is unfounded. And, I push back with research. When the client allows me to use those best practices, the results speak for themselves.
When those results speak for themselves, it is magic. Campaigns get funded, new projects begin, and donors have the opportunity to make a greater impact.
We forget that the fact (and it is a fact) that we are not beggars. Donors want to give. And, to give, they must be asked. Asked in a way that moves them to feel connected to their core beliefs through your organization’s mission.
Know the difference between unfounded best practices and best practices backed by scientific research. Read blogs, stay current with trends, and keep furthering your informal and formal education. When you do, and you practice it, your results will show all the difference.
Fund development does have a researched body of knowledge. Don’t allow anyone to convince you that it does not.
This past weekend, I embarked on an event that frightened me. Literally and figuratively.
You see, several months ago, I entered a lottery. And, the drawing was for a chance to run up Mt. Washington in the Mt. Washington Auto Road Race. I got in. At the time, it seemed fabulous. Then as reality dawned, I realized that I need to step up my training, if I were to tackle this 6,288-foot peak, and not hiking it, but running it.
So, many months ago, I set out and found a hill. I went up and down that hill over and over again. Then, searching online, I found mountain races. And, I entered them. And, I began running up to the summits of mountains. First smaller ones, and then larger ones. But, nothing greater than 3,000 or so feet.
When the week dawned, and I made my trek to New Hampshire, I began to have second thoughts about what I was doing. Most everyone in my life, asked me, “Do you know what you are getting yourself into?” Admittedly, I thought I did. But, when the mountain physically appeared on the horizon, I began to wonder, if this is something I should attempt.
Race morning dawned, and I was feeling more than butterflies in my stomach. This day was the moment given to me. I had trained for it, and now it had arrived. All my “new” mountain running friends told me that this was going to be the most difficult thing that I was going to do. But, they all told me I could do it. I wasn’t even sure of the weather conditions that I would encounter at the summit. I packed a hat and gloves just in case.
The race cannon fired, and off we all went. I had a strategy; I worked it. Slowly but surely, I chipped away at the mountain and tenths of miles passed. It got hard. No, it got downright painful. As the 5,000-foot mark appeared, my upper body felt like lead. Then 6,000 feet. And, I knew that if I kept going, I was going to do this. Slowly but surely,run-walking all the way to the top. When the summit appeared, one last obstacle presented itself. A 22% percent grade in the road and then the finish line. Nothing stopped me at that point.
What does all this have to do with fundraising? Well, a great deal. Courage. I honestly believe that the most significant characteristic of a fundraiser is courage. These exceptional individuals know that even in the most difficult times, perseverance is key, and that “this too shall pass.” Courage to get a lot of “no’s” and to be able to ask for a gift without hesitation. It is the ability to do this, with rumblings and butterflies floating around in your tummy.
I now know that I climb any mountain. There is no project, no tasks, that I cannot do. Courage is something that no everyone has, but surely, the best fundraisers do.
Someone remarked to me recently, “The thing I like about you is that you live life to the fullest. You don’t live on the edge looking in.” And, truly, that is what we should expect of all our fundraiser. They are making the mission possible. And, you can’t make an organization’s mission possible by looking in from the fringes. You need to be in the field, each and every day, living life to the fullest, in the thick of it all.
While I did know that Mt. Washington would change my life, I didn’t realize that it would give such professional perspective and insight. Courage. A life worth living for causes life-changing and life-saving. Isn’t that the characteristic you want for your organization?
Let’s cut to the chase. I know, and you know that one of the biggest things that stop us from being effective in our fundraising is fear. Good old, heart pumping, nail biting, fear.
Recently, I had a conversation with some folks, and I asked them the question, “what is your number one concern around fundraising?” And, time and time again, folks responded, “fear of being rejected.”
Let’s face it; we just don’t like being told no. And, while no may not be personal, it sure feels that way, right?
So, then I have had to ask, are we projecting onto our donors and making assumptions about how they will respond? Meaning, are we projecting our fear of rejection onto them. I am sure that we have all thought at some point, “Oh he won’t give anything to support us, so why even ask in the first place.” Are we projecting our thoughts, fears, and assumptions on a donor, so that we won’t have to attempt to ask or even just develop a relationship with him or her?
There once was a very insightful book I read. It was Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. He spends a whole chapter on “Making Assumptions.” Here is a quote that I think will help you in your work with donors:
“The biggest assumption (in my opinion) is that we assume everyone sees the world and each circumstance the way WE do. We assume they think, feel, and even judge the way we do. This assumption sparks our internal fear of being ourselves around others we think they will judge, victimize or blame us; just as we do to ourselves. So before someone has the opportunity to accept or reject us, we have already rejected ourselves. The way to keep from making assumptions is to ask questions.”
I urge you to take a look at your fears before embarking on major gift work. Are you fearful of rejection personally? And, how is that fear allowing you to make assumptions for donors, just so that you won’t suffer the slings and arrows of rejection in the asking?
This question that I pose is a tough question to think about, but I am asking you to dig deep, not for me, for you, or even for your organization, but for all those in need that you can help by clearing away your fears and your assumptions.
Recently, I had some conversations with a former co-worker. Her outlook and atmosphere had changed so dramatically that I had pause and ask, what is different. Well, she set me on the course of all of her “research” on the importance of human body language. And, I realized that there was profound applicability for me personally, but also for me professionally as a fund development professional, particularly as it applied to major gifts work.
So, I set out to view some of these suggested videos on research from my friend. And, I wanted to put some ideas in practice.
The first important concept I learned about is “setting your intention.” When I Googled setting an intention, I came up with many entries. The practice of doing so has deep historical and religious roots. However, it is about stating what you want the outcome to be for a given encounter. The second concepts that I am learning about are the importance of non-verbal body language and how to “command”
your territory. Use facial gestures that indicate happiness, open up your chest area, use hands to illustrate your words, etc.
With an upcoming major gift visit, I decided to put some of these concepts into practice.
For this particular major gift solicitation, I knew that there was an ideal gift in mind. So, before I arrived at the meeting, I had decided that I was going to set the intention. The intention of this particular meeting was to obtain a gift of a pre-determined amount. I also made a conscious effort to use some of these body language techniques. Sitting with shoulders back, feet planted, a smile on my face, conversations “easers,” and the most important topic, using hand gestures.
What was the result? Well, evidently I felt more confident and at ease. I held the attention of those I were meeting. They and I were both at ease with each other. And, most important when negotiation started regarding the gift amount, that intention was there, and it propelled me forward. So when an objection popped up, I found myself more purposeful regarding setting the donor’s heights higher than what they were even thinking.
The question remains will the gift come in at that amount? Truly, it is up to the donor to decide, and they are going to take that time to do so. However, what was most important is that these “new” techniques gave me greater confidence to be able to ask for my intention with much greater ease. Subconsciously set, the intention moved me forward in a way that I had not been before.
So, I see where my former co-worker is getting her energy. There is something to this science of body language. Others have spent work studying the importance of what we say and the emotions in which we say it in fund development, but I have seen little on the non-verbal study of people and their behaviors and how we interact. I suppose if we are involved in major or individual gift work that it would behoove us to learn more about these techniques for ourselves and to study what they mean in others.
Off I go to watch more TED Talks. And, you need to keep track of this gent…Mark Bowden, the leading expert on body language!
I enjoy asking for gifts. I like to connect a donor with a mission and see magic happen. Indeed, when you ask one for a gift, the giver gives.
When I have broached this topic as of late, I see faces cringe and heads nod, “no.” The body language says it all. But, what is the aversion? It has to do with how we value money and the beliefs and, ultimately, the power that money has over us. Some feel awkward. Some even feel a little embarrassed about it. Some ask “who will give us money?” and others ask “how will we ask them?”
We need to look carefully at ourselves. What is our relationship to money? We will never be able to move forward to ask for money if we do not know how we relate to it ourselves.
How important is money in our lives? What is your past around money? How do we spend the money we have? Where are we giving our money? How does having money affect our self-esteem and self-worth?
Money is about security and that is surely about a very vulnerable place in our lives.
Until you examine your beliefs and thoughts are around money, you will be adverse to ask others.
We must realize, that we are helping others by our asking. We are enabling them to do great work for our clients, our community, and our world.
But, this must begin with you. Take time to reflect on truly what money means to you. And, that will prepare you to embrace asking others, and allowing for changed and transformed lives.
The fundraising audit is a major step in fundraising planning. When you think about planning, you think about where are we, where do we want to be, and how are we going to get there?
The fundraising audit helps you to determine, where are you. And, it is probably the most important step of the entire planning process. If you don’t know where you are today, how can you even plan for tomorrow? And, it is important to not only look at internal things that will impact your fundraising success i.e. Board of Directors, etc., but it is also critical to examine external factors as well. Some external things that may affect the success of fundraising include political factors (i.e. election time), economic (a down economy), sociocultural (changing demographics), and technology (changes in the web, social media, etc.). Development audits also tend to examine others in the industry including nonprofits serving the same type of causes, similar sizes, potential collaborators, and other market factors).
Also, one can examine the feasibility of conducting a future large-scale campaign. Currently, I am conducting a development audit for a nonprofit organization, and as part of that review, I am asking initial capital campaign feasibility questions to determine if a proposed future capital campaign would be a success.
An audit is just that, a systematic attempt to gather tons of data, and then analyzing and synthesizing this data against professional best practices. While it is best that an objective third party person conducts this process, it can also be accomplished by a new in-house development staff member who still has an objective “eye.” It is also helpful to have someone who has their finger on the pulse regarding what is shifting and changing in the philanthropic landscape.
A development audit is also a great way to engage key stakeholders i.e. Board members, donors, etc. who may need more cultivation. It is just as much about the product as it is about the process.
How are you looking at your fundraising rate of return?
It is critical that you develop a variety of ways to measure your performance and report these results to the board.
In doing so, you are ensuring appropriate stewardship of your resources through demonstrating that your fundraising is efficient and effective. While it does cost money to raise funds, as professionals, we need to be assured that we aren’t spending excessive amounts to do so. While our board should be looking at these types of benchmarks, we can be sure that our donors and public is. Take a look at the recent issue surrounding the Wounded Warriors national charity.
It is important that we do invest in fundraising and administrative costs in these functions appropriately, even though there is much criticism for doing so.
What constitutes a reasonable amount?
James Greenfield wrote several important books several years ago, and I regularly still find myself turning to his outline on how to best measure the costs of fundraising. One book, in particular, has been especially valuable. It is titled, Fundraising Cost Effectiveness: A Self-Assessment Workbook and was written in 1996. He highly recommends the importance of benchmarking to other similar organizations in the sector both aggregate and on an individual fundraising level. What are best practice and industry standards and how does your organization compare?
It is only through this analysis that we can say that our fundraising is within acceptable boundaries of efficiency.
As a fundraising consultant, I spend lots of time auditing organization’s fundraising effectiveness through auditing their development function comparing it to industry standards.
Yes, I have a motive, and it is a bequest. As a young woman with no children, I have already created my estate plans. Yes, I have. And while those I love will be taken care of as they should. There is a time after they are gone when my assets held in trust will be given to a charity which will receive the bulk of my estate.
You may ask, why?
Well, undoubtedly motives for donors are all different. Some decide to leave money in their estate to avoid taxes, some choose to leave money to obtain recognition. There is a whole host of other important motivations. For me, it is because I want to give to a charity which has given so very much to me. And, this gift that I make on my death will be impossible for me to make during my life.
We all tend to live on a set amount of disposable income. While I have had saved and invested, surely I am not willing to take a chance and spend down a considerable amount of my assets while I may still need them. I still have a long life yet to live. However, after my death, who cares! At that point, I will be able to make the single largest gift that I will ever make. For me, that is enough. More than I could do while alive.
I should add that at one point, I had a significant number of charities in my estate to benefit from my death. And, that is where stewardship comes into play. For you see, some charities are so intent on “chasing” the big donors that they forget about those little folks making small gifts out of their disposable income. What they fail to think about is that for some, this giving may just be the tip of the iceberg. Since estate gifts are surely revocable, all donors whether large or small should be stewarded in some way appropriate to each.
I can’t tell you how many times during my career that an organization I was working with received a bequest from a donor who may have made one $10 or $25 gift during their lifetime.
I have thought long and hard about those local charities and have narrowed it down to one – one that is extremely near and dear to my heart and one that treats me like a person when I visit, call, or make a gift.
This week, I had a conversation with one of my very first clients. And, I wanted to share their success story. You see, too many groups don’t want to invest in donor acquisition because they know that they will lose money – in the short-term. Who intends to invest in that, particularly if you are only thinking of the organization’s short-term success.
Well, this group had a total of 700 names in their donor file. And, they were in serious trouble operating in crisis mode. Person after person told them that they should not invest in donor acquisition, but really what choice did they have. They knew that their donor file was suffering from natural attrition, and if they didn’t do something, they might as well not do anything at all.
They bit the bullet and against all odds decided to invest in donor acquisition. They hired a professional list brokerage and donor acquisition company who then supplied recommendations and advice on the records that best met their needs and premiums well suited to and representing their mission. Lists are usually anywhere from around $80 to $150 per thousand names and addresses for a single use. They also invested heavily in the acquisition renewal process, so that these first-time donors, would give again through a very intensive mail series. And, in fact, for the first seven donor acquisition pieces that they sent they did lose money. But, then the tide turned, just like it should with donor acquisition, and they began to see positive returns. And, not just with donor renewals, but with the acquisition mailing itself.
Now, several years later, they make money with their donor acquisition efforts. In fact, they are seeing donors who are sending in substantial donations as a result. In fact, they have received donations from donors renewing at $25,000 or more.
Further, they recently sent an urgent appeal to their donors in need of upgrading their sprinkler system. The result of this appeal mailing – net over $100,000.
So, when they started back in 2011, they had a donor list that had no more than 700 names. Today, that list has grown to well over 40,000 names.
Do you think that donor acquisition is way too costly for your organization? For this one small organization, it was, but if they wanted to be around, they had no other choice. While you may think that you cannot afford to invest in donor acquisition, imagine what could be achieved for your mission if you had a donor file that increased by over 5,500 percent in five years time!!! How long has your donor file remained at the same stagnant number?
Donor Acquisition is THAT important to consider, and I know that you don’t want to, but to move your organization forward, you must. Your data file is declining just by merely being. What are you going to do about it?
More on donor acquisition in future blog articles.
Younger donors don’t give as much. You can chase the Millennials and the generation whatever’s, but if you don’t take into consideration the family life cycle, then you are misdirecting your energies.
What is the family life cycle I hear you ask?
Wills and Gubar (1966) identified nine distinct life cycle stages of a family. 1966 – and this information is still relevant! They believed that that the age and composition of the family unit has a direct impact on the buying patterns of families. And, as the family moves through the life cycles, these stages change as well.
For instance, at certain points, giving decisions are made jointly with spouses, starting a new family impacts discretionary spending patterns, and levels of disposable income vary over the lifetime of a family. That is why you see younger people not giving as much – while raising a family, they have less disposable income to give away, saving for their child’s education, and their retirement. As folks age and their children grow up, these same folks have an improved financial position with more disposable income and fewer demands on the future and tend to give more.
Since 1966, there have been changes in the family unit that bring to mind some questions – what about single parent households, families having children later in life, and other family units? How do those impact philanthropic giving patterns?
However, overall, I think it is fair to say that looking at where a family is in their particular life cycle stage is an important indicator of their propensity to give, and why I believe that younger folks, while wanting to be, just cannot be as generous as their parents.