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.


Why I Give: Annie, Handkerchiefs and Collection Plates

Why I Give | Tonya Taylor | The Gift Development Group |  L'amour Foto

Why I Give | Tonya Taylor | The Gift Development Group | L'amour Foto

This post is the first in our "Why I Give" series, in which we celebrate the joy of giving back. 

I first learned about giving something away on Sunday mornings when my grandmother Annie placed a quarter in my church handkerchief, tied it in a knot and instructed me to open my purse and place it inside. When the collection plate passed across my lap during service, I would proudly put my unwrapped quarter in, and I remember feeling like I was a part of something.  In fact, my cousin and I would have a fight over who could drop their quarter in the plate faster. 

As the music played and the choir sang, and the congregation tapped its feet and clapped its hands and we joined together to give, this memory made a powerful and indelible mark on my life.  From stained glass windows, to new roofs and organs, my grandmother’s church sacrificed for what they believed in, and, because they gave, many children had an opportunity to go to summer camps, vacation bible school, after school programs, and even received college scholarships in a building that still stands today.  

So, it is because of these sacrificial Sundays, and many other acts of generosity I witnessed over the years from a fairly simple soul named Annie, that I have never believed that anything that I actually had in this life was not meant to be shared in some way. I think I started to figure out I’d adopted this philosophy as I became older and realized that I was always the person that overdid it a little Christmastime, or sought out tough causes to use my life to fight for. Because I believe that to whom much is given, much is expected, giving back to the universe that has bestowed blessings upon you is inherent to the human spirit.  You owe the world your gift, whatever that might be, what you might have to spare. 

So as we think of the gifts we have to share this season, and the needs that we cannot conquer alone, considering why it is important to give back in our lives is essential to living. Give freely, without expectations, but only with love.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.”- Pablo Picasso

Tis the Season... to Give Online

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, and practice gratitude for family, friends and good food. This season of thankfulness leads into a season of giving, beginning with Giving Tuesday next week, and continuing through the end of the year. While end-of-year giving is a longstanding tradition, this year fundraisers and non-profits need to be prepared as donors break from tradition and give more online. 

According to Network for Good and the Chronicle of Philanthropy, online giving has increased significantly so far in 2016. Compared to this same week last year, donors gave 34.0% and made 37.4% more individual donations. These online gifts went largely to human services organizations — 505,386 gifts totaling $67,791,502. Donors also showed strong support for education this year, with 254,850 contributions totaling $44,540,910. This year's giving trends also demonstrate the importance of engaging a large audience in any online giving campaign, the most common gift amounts were just $25 and $50. 

This growth in online giving is not unsurprising given the increase in opportunities and platforms for online giving. After rolling out a Donate button for non-profit pages last year, Facebook recently launched a new fundraising tool that allows individuals to host fundraisers on their profiles for their favorite causes. The social networking platform also allows users to add a Donate call-to-action button to its increasingly popular Facebook Live video feature. Looking to boost giving internally? SwearJar is a bot for Slack, the popular team messaging app, that will automatically track swear words and team buzzwords in communication and make a charitable contribution for each offense. 

This year, we're thankful for online giving tools that make it easier to reach new donors and engage them with our passion projects. More importantly, we're thankful for the individuals who give back this year and every year to support good works. 

Words, Words, Words: The Language of Fundraising

Those of us working in philanthropy are all about jargon. We have LYBUNTs, SYBUNTs, 990s, planned gifts, legacies, CRUTs, foundations, public charities, annual donors, leadership annual donors, major donors, and principal gifts.  These terms are just the generic ones that don’t get into the great programs our organizations run. Those of us who have been in the industry a while think that the everyday language of our profession should be easily understandable, to everyone, but they aren’t.  I was reminded of this the other day when I was talking to a friend about several different fundraisers that I know, and he had to stop me when I was talking about leadership annual fund because he had no idea what I meant.

This reminded me that while industry specific terms likely will not come up that often with individual donors, something that we do have to watch is using the jargon of the programs we are using money for when interacting with donors, or even institutional funders such as foundations or corporations.  

Even if we work for the best organizations or best clients (like we do at The Gift!) it’s unlikely that even area-specific funders will know the intricacies of the everyday work that we do, and it is important to talk to them in clear and concise language.  When I first got into fundraising running annual appeals, the advice I was given was: “Write at a fourth-grade reading level, those are the letters that make the most money.” While I’m not sure if any science has been done that backs that up, the point is still a strong one  people want things explained in a simple manner that they can understand.  If your cause is good and it inspires them, they will want to know more and then you can have an in-depth conversation. The trick is getting them to that point first, and sometimes all the jargon can prevent that.


Your Giving Tuesday Planning Guide

Mark your calendars. Giving Tuesday is November 29th this year, which means your team has just over two months left to prepare for one of the biggest fundraising days of the year.

Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving, celebrated the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, after the big retail rush of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For fundraisers, Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to launch your appeals for the final month of the year, but if your organization has never engaged in a Giving Tuesday campaign before, it can be difficult to get started. Here's our guide to success: 

How can I plan for Giving Tuesday?

Even the smallest nonprofits with limited resources can participate in a Giving Tuesday campaign. Giving Tuesday offers resources for all participants, from nonprofits to schools to foundations to communities, and includes toolkits with templates, event ideas, and social graphics. Your organization doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel to engage your donors on Giving Tuesday, explore the resources and adapt what works best for your mission and goals. One of the best ways to increase the impact of your Giving Tuesday campaign is to get a donor to sponsor matching gifts for an online giving challenge. Start planning now to make sure your top donors and leadership are ready to participate and support your campaign.

How does Giving Tuesday fit in with my annual fund strategy?

When planning a Giving Tuesday campaign, it should fit in with your overall annual fund end-of-year campaign. Giving Tuesday can be an extra touchpoint of communication with your donors, and it can serve as an opportunity to reach new audiences. Giving Tuesday emerged in the era of social media, and the best campaigns depend more on getting supporters to share the organization’s mission online than focusing on number of gifts solicited. Giving Tuesday reminds your donors to start thinking about their end-of-year gifts, and could even be paired with a physical mailing to donors who still need to make their gifts.

Why is Giving Tuesday important?

In 2015, Giving Tuesday accounted for 116.7 million dollars raised online. If that’s not reason enough to want to get in on the action, the campaign attracted 114 billion Twitter impressions. Whether your organization is trying to find some more dollars before the end of the year, or needs an opportunity to spread some great storytelling, you can benefit from Giving Tuesday. Get planning.




The New Hire Honeymoon

Are you filling the empty seats on your team?

Are you filling the empty seats on your team?

It's taken months for you to find the perfect fundraising fit for your organization, to get through the hiring process, search committees, endless paperwork, phone calls, and all that is HR. You've meticulously planned your new team member's on boarding, organized the welcome committee and are ready to launch on the first day they float through the door. 

The Best Laid Plans

You've cooked up a master plan for the success of your new fundraiser, and if it all plays out as it has in your head, they'll be sitting in front of donors by Day 10 on the job, closing gifts by Day 30 and all will be right in your world. Well, on Day 11, you realize that you may have lost track of the reality of bringing new faces into your existing culture. The fact is, most of us need time to understand and discern in order to progress and move forward with any new endeavor, but not too much time. You notice that you are being hit daily with many questions by your new team member, most you are prepared to answer, and some you aren't. Acclimating your new hire to an environment of intersecting personalities, objectives, and goals needs careful navigation, and thoughtful leadership.  

Nurturing Your New Gift Whisperer

Most fundraisers are relentlessly curious, and emphatically driven. Getting your new hire's head out of some of the existing internal dynamics and out in the field meeting with prospects is paramount to their success, and yours as a leader. To do this, setting expectations is key. One on one weekly contact report meetings, regular goal setting, and building out a 6-12 month success metrics is the best way to build momentum with your new hire, once the on boarding honeymoon is over.

Motivating to Make Things Happen

In order to encourage and motivate, a strong professional development program that includes peer mentoring, education, and an authentic recognition plan is important. Ultimately, your role modeling as a leader, and your connection to the mission, will make the deepest impression on your new team member. Remembering that their job, and yours, is to always inspire investment in the mission will get you over the threshold of the honeymoon high.

Three Ways to Thank Your Donors Today

When we look closely at organizations struggling to meet fundraising goals, we find a major culprit is often donor attrition. According to the 2016 AFP Fundraising Effectiveness Survey Report, for every 100 donors gained in 2015, 96 donors were lost through attrition. With the rising costs of attracting a single new donor, it is much more effective to steward current donors to combat attrition. While donors leave an organization for a wide variety of reasons, often the simplest way to get them to stay is with a thank you. By incorporating more thank yous into your fundraising strategy, you’ll find more of your donors returning to you year after year.

1. Start every day with a thank you

We live in a world of busy. Busy is a beast that takes over even the most well-planned and organized days. Beat the busy by making it a priority to start every day with a thank you. By taking 5 minutes to pen a quick note or place a call with a donor before you get absorbed by your inbox, you will not only be sure to get in your daily thanks, but also always have that time to start your day on something positive.

2. Share your thanks online

Sometimes, particularly at large organizations, it can be difficult to thank every donor individually as often as we might like. Fortunately, tools like social media and email marketing give us the ability to reach our entire audience at once, or send targeted messages to specific groups. When planning social media for a non-profit organization, consider using the Three A’s to make your content strategy - Appreciation, Advocacy and Appeals. At most, only a third of your content should focus on asking your donors for money. Thank you posts are a great way to make sure your audience doesn’t feel overstretched and underappreciated.

3. Recruit a thank you army

Fundraising is more successful as a team, and the same goes for stewardship. Utilize staff members outside of the development team - think program officers who can share unique experiences in the field. Call upon board members and ask them to help send personal thank yous to donors, particularly those who they may have personally recruited to your organization. Higher education institutions often rely on students to make fundraising calls, but students can be even more impactful making thank you calls, creating opportunities for donors to interact directly with those who benefit from their dollars.


Making Room to Give


Most of the posts on The Gift blog focus on sharing advice for fundraisers, non-profit leaders and marketers to create and execute development strategies. We spend our days thinking as fundraisers and want to share that knowledge, but at the end of the day, when we go home and check the mail, we find messaging appealing to us as individuals. With so many great causes vying for our resources, how do we make room to give?

Being able to give is not about having a certain amount of money. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “I’ll give next year” when the annual giving envelopes come your way. Yet when you start thinking this way, somehow it gets easier to push giving to next year, even as your income grows. Instead, we need to focus on making room to give now.

We make room in our schedules for work and date nights or much-needed Netflix time, or whatever we value and makes us feel good. We will continue to make room on our shelves for just one more book, and room in our closets for new shoes every fall. Our lives, and our giving patterns, reflect on what we choose to prioritize. 

Making room for giving creates a system that can actually make it easier to give. When we consciously make room for philanthropy in our lives, the flurry of requests in the holiday giving season aren't as overwhelming, because we know the causes we have valued throughout the year and we've set aside the resources. When we make room for giving now, it becomes easier to say yes year after year.