Fairway Fundraising

Driver. Fairway woods. Hybrids. Irons. Wedges. Putter. Each of the clubs in my golf bag has a specific purpose, a set of shots it is designed for, and they all work together to get my ball to the hole.

Leadership gifts. Major gifts. Annual fund. Donor relations. Development communications. Each of these fundraising programs has a specific purpose, and they all must work together to get to the fundraising goal.

 

Whether you’re a one-person development shop or a large team of specialized fundraisers, if you’re looking to build a comprehensive fundraising strategy, take a few tips from the golf course:

  1. Drive for show, putt for dough. Every golfer loves to spend time on the driving range whacking balls as far as they can go. It’s exciting to see a pure drive sail off the tee and compete to see who can hit the farthest. But the shortest shots, the ones that you can make consistently, will be most critical to keeping scores low on the course. A huge leadership gift, much like a monster drive, might get the most attention, but a good golfer knows that is just one shot per hole. Good fundraisers know that in most organizations, the majority of gifts come in through the annual fund, even if they aren’t raising the bulk of the total dollars. These gifts are an important part of the fundraising pipeline and a strong fundraising program needs to know how to consistently close on annual gifts just as well as they go after the big shiny major gifts.

  2. Know the course. Before I step up to the tee box on any given hole, I’ll check the yardage to determine club selection, and maybe even use a range finder to get a more accurate distance and target to map out my strategy. Then I’ll choose the appropriate club and take my shot. Similarly, if you have a new prospect, you wouldn’t just throw a generic $1,000 proposal at them without doing some research to see if that was within their giving history or capacity. You may need to adjust your ask amount, or learn that your proposal is more likely to be accepted if you customize it to your donor’s interests.

  3. Don’t forget the follow through. I am particularly guilty of decelerating on my putting stroke and not having a clean follow through, causing me to miss putts that I should otherwise be able to make most of the time. Too often, we neglect to follow through on the simple gifts, resulting in donors feeling neglected and missed opportunities that should have otherwise been a sure thing. Follow through throughout the gift closing process, as well as ongoing stewardship, is just as critical as making the initial ask.

Building a comprehensive fundraising program that utilizes all the tools and strategies you have available means a more sustainable gift stream and less time worrying about making goals and more time to squeeze in a quick nine holes.

 

From the Conference to the Current Situation

UNC Advancement Symposium | The Gift Development Group

UNC Advancement Symposium | The Gift Development Group

From the Conference to the Current Situation

Last week, we traveled to Asheville, N.C. to the UNC Advancement Symposium, a collective of fundraisers, communicators and advancement professionals from North Carolina and beyond. We returned to the office after several days and nights of intel infusion, hanging with the like-minded. During those days,  it's an amazing haze of reaffirmation, high-fiving with our tribe, and just getting time in with those doing the good work of fundraising just like us.

You check your email, you still get it done, but it feels different because you're developing your skills for a few days, so you listen, learn, engage and wonder about the what ifs for a few days. You're with your people in a dream ahead state. Really, borderline fundraising euphoria.

Cut to the first day back at the desk. You realize the truth.  You have six weeks to meet our goals. You need to focus on high priority activities.  A brick just hit you hard. The conference notepad goes on a shelf or in a cabinet somewhere and you get back to work. This is not an ordinary day anymore.

 Keep that Dream Alive

Think on the strategies and energies that you learned that can be applied right now! Yes, You learn some things. Use them today! Data use, strategic annual fund email and mailing segmentation, millennial giving, endowment building, and planned gift strategies can be applied in real time at the end of a fiscal year to meet that mark and above. The others you'll pick up after you meet the goal. Reach out to pals, friends and mentors you made and do this better. That's called a trajectory. 

Let's do this, together, tribe and all.

When the Tough Get Going

Sometimes things get tough in fundraising when you least expect it.  This has happened throughout my career, when there is a dip in your valley when you at your highest peak.  One might say that is because you are on the cusp of making something even bigger happen, and that is when chaos often ensues.

Often times, new ideas come with fear of unknown outcomes, and when you are a creative thinker it sometimes comes with a tornado that ends with a rainbow. In fundraising, we set the bar high if we believe in a cause that we feel deserves the enormity of support we’ve imagined it could garner.

Capturing The Moment

When a prospective supporter is engaged, it is important to give them the opportunity to find ways to help. Some are more interested in helping through giving advice at a meeting or two, or through joining a group of thinkers like them. We used to push people who weren’t ready to make the leap into a Board seat into something called, “committees” and we now call them advisory groups. Some are more interested in working on a way to invest in the organization immediately, or may need consistent followup.  Reading these cues are important, and learning which direction to go in is key to nurturing relationships.

This isn’t a job for the impatient.  People give to people and what they believe in.  It takes time to build the trust to encourage the sacrifice and investment of time, energy, and funds that make things happen for what we believe in.

 

Teaching Philanthropy

Tonya Taylor and Mary Elizabeth Entwistle | The Gift Development Group | Siobhan Lorraine Photography

Tonya Taylor and Mary Elizabeth Entwistle | The Gift Development Group | Siobhan Lorraine Photography

Recently The Wall Street Journal published an article titled "How to Raise Your Child to Be a Philanthropist." A panel of experts gave feedback on the role of parents in instilling philanthropic values in their children from a young age, citing the particular importance of showing that no matter how little you have, there is always room to give. 

Parents, however, are not the only ones with the responsibility of teaching philanthropy. In fundraising, we often first turn to the known donors, the ones with easy-to-research giving histories and patterns we can analyze and prepare for. But what happens when these donors have been already asked, or more likely, already asked 17 times for different projects in your organization? That is when fundraisers have the opportunity to teach philanthropy, to find the people in their audience who have never thought about giving and emphasize the importance of giving back. 

In higher education development, we often see this with students and young alumni - often overlooked in initial rounds of fundraising because they don't have giving histories that make them ideal targets - but full of potential to build a culture of philanthropy. By spending time with these donors, targeting your messaging in a way that is less about the size of the gift and more about the impact of participation, development officers can play a significant role in building the next generation of major donors. 

While no one can replace the impact of a parent's role in philanthropy, it is also important to remember that one's education does not end the moment they turn 18 and leave the house. Everyone who interacts with a potential donor, no matter their age, has the opportunity to be a teacher. 

Roses Are Red: Valentine's Day Relationship Advice for Fundraisers

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While Valentine's Day messaging often focuses on celebrating couples, donors deserve a lot of love as well. Fortunately, the best relationship advice for V-day also applies to stewardship and donor relationships. Here are three Valentine's Day lessons we can apply to our fundraising:

1. Plan Ahead

Last minute valentine's day shopping often means trying to revive the last bouquet of poor crumpled flowers, and hunting for a box of candy that doesn't have gross flavors. As well-intentioned as such gifts may be, their recipients can often sense the lack of forethought. Similarly, donors can often tell when they've been sent an appeal as an afterthought, when we really want them to feel like the star of the show. Planning appeals ahead of time can ensure that you're getting a quality message to donors. 

2. Make It Personal

You wouldn't draft a love note to your sweetheart and address it "Dear Significant Other," so why would you address a letter "Dear Donor"? Particularly when creating mailings to ask for a significant gift, make sure you're calling donors by name. If your donor management software has a preferred name/nickname option, use that. Whenever possible given the size of your staff and donor base, use a handwritten note to capture a donor's heart. If you're short on resources, add a quick personal note to the bottom of pre-printed letters to your key donors, and recruit other staffers or board members to add personal touches to letters to their connections. 

3. Don't Stop the Love

While we may pull out all the stops on Valentine's Day, it shouldn't be the only day we show our love. Many organizations are great about sending lovely and personal donor thank yous after an annual gift is made, but neglect to continue the love the rest of the year. Whether it's setting calendar reminders to check in on donors, sending birthday cards or scheduling trips to meet with non-local donors, make a plan to continue the donor connection year-round. 

Refreshing Your New Year in Fundraising

Refreshing Your New Year In Fundraising | Tonya Taylor | The Gift Development Group | Siobhan Lorraine Photography

Refreshing Your New Year In Fundraising | Tonya Taylor | The Gift Development Group | Siobhan Lorraine Photography

The end of year push is finally over and the new year has begun. Many of us walked back into our offices earlier this month hoping that we were on target with our goals.  The brand new year in fundraising has kicked off.  It’s time to thank those that sacrificed for our causes, and connect with those who may be considering our cause for a gift.

Last week, I had the honor of meeting with a donor who was engaging with one of our partners in setting up one of it’s largest endowments.  During the dialogue, I asked the donor what more our partner could do to nurture the relationship between them.  Her simple answer was communication. Often times, we forget that a simple phone call or note in the mail could be the fresh start we need in reconnecting a relationship, or continuing to move a cultivation forward.  

Admittedly, as fundraisers we manage many relationships and there are very few ways to do this without being thoughtful about how we communicate. Often there is a simple reason why donors fall away, and it’s contact. Restart your year by reaching out to donors personally, and making it meaningful for them, and for you.  Remember that people, ultimately, give to people.

 

Why I Give: Everyone Can Give

Why I Give | Mary Elizabeth Entwistle | The Gift Development Group | L'Amour Foto

Why I Give | Mary Elizabeth Entwistle | The Gift Development Group | L'Amour Foto

As we close in on the end of the year, we are wrapping up our Why I Give blog series with one final reflection on the importance of giving back:

Everyone can give. Even in the smallest of ways or the simplest of moments, we all have something we can share with others. 

I give as a small way that I can support the organizations and institutions that have made an impact in my life. My alma maters gave me more than a degree, they shaped my worldview, enabling me to grow into the person that I am today. I want future students to have those same experiences, to have opportunities for internships, mentoring, all the out-of-the-classroom experiences that donor support can provide. 

I give to invest in the future. There are so many organizations tackling the most critical issues facing our world today. If I want to see a world with more educated women leaders, strong journalists, healthcare for those in need, a better North Carolina, I can make an investment by giving. 

Giving is not always easy, especially when there are so many demands on our time, talent and treasure. I give because I have been given so much, and I know that there is always something for me to share if I make giving a priority. In the words below, I am reminded of what I have been given, how everyone can give, and why I give:

“Every morning a million North Carolinians get up and go to work for wages which leave them below the poverty line so they can pay taxes that finance the education you receive in North Carolina. Your job is to figure out how you’re going to pay them back.”   Dr. Bill Friday, President Emeritus, UNC System

Why I Give: To Whom Much Is Given, Much is Required

Why I Give | Michelle Rouse | The Gift Development Group | L'amour Foto

Why I Give | Michelle Rouse | The Gift Development Group | L'amour Foto

Giving defined: to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; bestow

I was in a conversation recently with a good friend who asked me why I give. She was asking me why I give so much of my time, talent and treasure without reservation. My answer to her was simple: it's what I know. My Mother was giving and so was her mother. I was taught at an early age, "to whom much is given, much is required." Luke 12:48 says in part "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded"
I watched my Mom, who had very little, not only took care of her family, but somehow managed to help others. It amazed me how she made it all work. I recall her reciting that verse from Luke 12:48. It wasn't until I was an adult that I fully understood its meaning.

It feels good to give, to know that I have done something or made a donation that will make a positive difference in someone else's life. Whether it's helping to plan or organize a fundraiser for The Boys & Girls Club of Durham and Orange Counties, helping to feed those less fortunate at The Durham Rescue Mission, organizing closets at Families Moving Forward (Genesis Home), or serving and celebrating those who have completed the life skills program at Step Up Ministry or donating to a worthy cause or charity, giving simply makes my heart feel good. Giving is something that we can all do. And I know that it makes a difference in those receiving the gift. In your own way at your own pace find a way to give. Find that cause, charity, group that you know will benefit from your gift of time, talent or treasure and share your gift with them. I guarantee you that it will feel great to know that you made a positive difference in someone else's life.

Why I Give: Impact

Why I Give | Chris Lambert | The Gift Development Group | L'amour Foto

Why I Give | Chris Lambert | The Gift Development Group | L'amour Foto

I give because it has real impact.

At my church, you can see the lives that are changed and the buildings that are able to serve people because of giving.

With our clients, you can see the impact scholarships have on students and measure the value their education has on their lives.

With hospitals you can see the number of people treated and the lives saved.

Giving philanthropically is one of the most impactful ways to change the world for good. I am not a skilled builder or welder or doctor or dentist. My volunteering would only do so much good, because I lack many of the technical skills needed to help the people in most need. By giving, I have an impact beyond that which my skills alone would allow.

I give to help change the world.

Why I Give: Find the Need, See the Good

Why I Give | Felicia Gressette | The Gift Development Group | L'amour Foto

Why I Give | Felicia Gressette | The Gift Development Group | L'amour Foto

Giving is not mysterious or complicated. We humans are inclined toward good. And so:

I give because I can – I have more than enough and so many others have less than they need to live with dignity.

I give because I should – our better angels call us to do our part to make our world less broken and to help those in need or distress.

I give because of my father’s example – he lived a big, generous life of leadership and philanthropy, and I am inspired by the good he did.

I joke sometimes about “the warm glow of doing good” as my reward for donating or volunteering. Turns out, this notion has been studied extensively by economists and behaviorists, and it’s real. Doing good makes a person feel good. There is an emotional return to altruism.

Earlier this summer, I completed nine years of service on the board of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina, which helps people in 34 counties who don’t have enough to eat. I was a food writer earlier in my career, and fighting hunger resonates for me. The Food Bank continues to hold a special place in my heart and is the focus of my giving; I’ve seen its impact and know its leaders and staff work from a deep sense of calling.

With time to do something new, I became a volunteer at The Green Chair Project, which is across Capital Boulevard from the Food Bank’s new central facility in Raleigh. In a nutshell, the Green Chair repurposes donated furniture and household goods to help Wake County residents emerging from homelessness. My usual volunteer task is sewing table runners and shower curtains from donated fabric, and I like to imagine families enjoying them in their new apartments. I like to know I have helped, and I like being part of a dedicated corps of volunteers.

All of which is to say: Please give. Open your hearts, your hands and your checkbooks and give as freely and generously as you can. Discern what unmet needs touch you deeply, find reputable nonprofits working to meet them and introduce yourself with a gift and an offer to help. And then, see how good that feels.