No room at the inn (for seniors)

Having spent a morning with a group of “seniors” (their word not mine) talking about ways they can help charities other than giving money on an ad-hoc basis, I got to thinking about how organisations tap into what could be a very valuable source of support.

The group I met was made up of people who have supported various causes for a number of years, but who now felt they could do a lot more than they were doing financially. After a quick round the room chat about causes these people support, or would like to support, it became very clear that although in their later years these people still have a lot of “giving” in them.

We talked about things they are passionate about, skills they may have that could be offered to organisations:

Retired accountants  – these people could offer some advice to a charity’s board on accounting issues.

Retired lawyers  – what organisation doesn’t need legal advice.

Sales people  – maybe these could offer advice in communicating with donors.

Tailors / Seamstresses – restyling of donated clothes.

Although these people have skills that you would think would be welcomed by any charity, the issue was – how do we let charities know we are here and willing to help.

A couple of the people in the room talked about how they’d contacted organisations they had been long standing supporters of offering further assistance, but they had got the impression they weren’t needed. They spoke of how willing they were to roll up their sleeve and help – but all the organisations kept mentioning was their age and how important their financial contributions are. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with letting people know their money is needed, but to suggest to people that their other skills weren’t needed – to me is hogwash.

I’m sure there are valuable ways people like this group can help, and I’m determined to find a way to get them involved.

Don’t write people off because of their age, age is only a number, the skills these and many others have are useful – we need to find ways to help people help us.

Does your organisation offer people of an older generation the opportunity to volunteer, to act as advisors based on their experience?

Take your planning offsite

Having worked with a number of organizations on their annual planning, something I’ve noticed is those who take their planning offsite are more productive – the simple reason, no distraction which equals focus on the task at hand.

If you’re thinking of setting time aside for your future planning, looking at where you’re going, what you need to get there – then get away from your office; you’ll thank yourself for doing it.
When we’re working on plans in our normal work environment the chances are the phone will ring, we get distracted by emails and of course by “interruptions” from staff. How can this be any good for the task at hand, it surely can’t be.
Not only are we faced with distractions (caused by others) but we can also find our minds wandering away from the task at hand. Because we’re in our usual work environment we are aware of other things around us that need doing and our mind can easily slip away to thoughts about how these can be achieved.
Stop the opportunity of being distracted dead in it’s tracks by simply getting away from the office, find a neutral place you can work from; your home isn’t likely to be that – there’s distractions there too. 
If there’s a team of you, and hopefully there’s more than just yourself, look at hiring a small meeting or conference room – forget that this might cost you a hundred dollars or so, see it as an investment rather than a cost.  The added productivity that you’ll gain from being away from the office will soon outweigh any costs of a meeting room. 
Something that’s also important is to let all staff know that you are away from the office and not contactable, there’s always someone else who can handle those “urgent calls”, “urgent emails” – you don’t have to, and should there be any need for you to be contacted have one person in your office who will gather any information and call you, you don’t want everyone calling.
If at all possible phones and other internet capable devices should be switched off and only activated when you’re having a break, the only exception to this is for “those” calls from that one person in your office – so if at all possible suggest that they can only contact you when you know you will be having a break from planning. 
It’s a no brainer really, we call know that in our personal lives when we want to get something done we need to switch off from external distractions, and the same goes for your work life, to get to the end of your daily “to do list” you need focus and as minimal distraction as possible. 
So next time you’re planning to set time aside to plan – look for a venue, advise staff that you’re not to be disturbed and should they need you they’re to let your ‘contact person’ know – maybe that person can handle any queries/requests without you having to be disturbed.
Whatelse can you do to make sure your day is productive? If you have Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions drop a them in the comments below.


Donating and Sex

So you want that feeling you get when you eat or have sex – easy, make a charitable donation.

A study undertaken shows that donors experience similar feelings to eating and sex when they dip their hand in to help others. 

An article in the NY Times Our Basic Human Pleasures: Food, Sex and Giving” states:

“Brain scans by neuroscientists confirm that altruism carries its own rewards. A team including Dr. Jorge Moll of the National Institutes of Health found that when a research subject was encouraged to think of giving money to a charity, parts of the brain lit up that are normally associated with selfish pleasures like eating or sex.”  

Perhaps it wouldn’t be a good idea to use likes like “Want that warm feeling you get when you’ve eaten a great meal – make a donation” or “Sex isn’t the only thing that makes you feel good – donating does too, help us today” – or could you?

It’s always interesting to see why people give, what motivates them – but even more interesting is reading studies that show what effect giving has on donors.


You’re an interruption

How often do you get the feeling people just “aren’t into you” – daily I’d guess, maybe it’s because they see you for what you are – an interruption.

As Katya says in Remember you are an interruption  “No one is sitting around with nothing to do, just waiting for our email or letter or ad.  They are busy.”   And it’s so true.

Often when talking with organizations I hear things like “we didn’t get the response we would expect” “we haven’t had the click throughs to our site we thought we’d get” “we haven’t gained anything from our last email” – it doesn’t take a scientist to work out why – it’s simple – you’re an interruption, no one is sitting waiting for you, they’re busy doing other things.

When I coach people in tele-fundraising I always suggest that they say “I hope I haven’t caught you at a bad time … “ there’s a reason for this, anytime can be a bad time, but more than that, it leaves the door open for you to make another attempt. The same unfortunately can’t be said when using email or other communications means.

Set goals for your email and other campaigns, but be realistic – you’re not going to get a massive response unless people are expecting your communication, your email or other message, but you will get a response.

Something I suggest when organizations are doing an email campaign is to make sure it goes at a time you know recipients won’t be tied up with other things. Mondays are generally not too good, nor are Wednesdays – and forget Friday.

Also, remember to ask recipients if they’d could forward your message, plea for money or whatever else it is you’re send – to forward it to others they may feel would be interested, who knows someone may send it onto someone who if looking for an organization just like your to support.

Set goals – have a plan, and ask for help – don’t just send and cross your fingers, have a follow up planned, not the same week unless it’s really urgent, you don’t want to come across as being pushy.

And, remember to put yourself in the shoes of the people who are receiving your messages, would you like your message? 

Don’t abandon Social Media – change the way you use it

There’s been recent talk that businesses are abandoning social media, maybe some are, in my view it’s likely to be those that dived in without having any idea on what they wanted to achieve using it.

Don’t let talk of people ditching social media put you off from using it, even if you haven’t gained all you though you may from it, instead look at the way you’re using it – is there anything you can do differently?

Perhaps your feel you don’t have the time being time poor can be a reality, but there’s ways around that.

Something I often suggest to organizations I talk with about using social media is that you don’t need to be on Facebook or Twitter (or any of the other platform) all day everyday. What I suggest is that when you take yourself away from your core work to check emails etc, take an extra couple of minutes to check your social media sites. 

When you do it this way you’ll soon find that time isn’t really the issue, it’s more likely you didn’t know what (or how) you wanted to achieve using social media. Would you run an advertisement in the paper if you didn’t know what it’s goal was – no – social media is no different.

Have goals, plans and be part of the online community – talk about your organization yes, don’t only talk about “you”, talk about your donors/supporters. Their stories are likely to gain you more traction than talking about yourself.

If you’re not sure how you can better make use of social media – you’ll find a wealth of information and knowledge online – if in doubt ask, ask and ask some more. 

Commercial-style branding and charities

Changed your brand, the look and feel of your organization and seen a drop off in donations? Maybe there’s to this article “Commercial-style branding does not work for charities“.

Perhaps that new look and feel you’ve given your organization is to blame, remember it’s not always about you – it’s about your supporters; if they don’t like something the potential is for them to walk – can you afford for that to happen?

When you’re looking at any changes to your organization, don’t only look to those in your organization for help or advice, ask your donors – they should be your go to guys/gals for input. If they don’t like something they’ll tell you from the outset, you can’t afford to wait until you show your changes to see what impact (negative) it could have.

If in doubt about what you’re doing, stop, get some of your supporters in to talk about what you’re proposing – it’ll only cost you some time and a cuppa, and could save you heaps.

Making the most of the inspiration you’ve gained

Only a couple of days ago I was thinking how do people manage to keep new ideas alive, work toward implementing new ideas into their work; then I can across this from The Fundraising Funnel – “Making the most of your event inspiration“.

It’s all very good getting time away to attend conferences and workshops, but what’s the point if you can’t implement any of the ideas that you gleaned – in my mind there’s none, you might have just as well flushed the money you spent on it away.

We all can pick up something new, or maybe reignite an idea we’d long since shelved, anyone who attends anything and says they gleaned nothing must be in lala land, there’s always some takeaway, if not from the event itself then from interactions you’ve had with other attendees.

Have a read of “Making the most of your event inspiration” and I’m sure you’ll be inspired to try what’s suggested. As they say nothing ventured, noting gained – go on give it a go.


Donor Letters – I’m on the Hunt

Having spent what could be hours reading donor – appeal – letters, and seeing many that have made me cringe; I thought I’d put the call out for examples of letter you may have received, or if you’re an organisation sending out letters – why not send me a sample or two of your own.

When I see letters that are all about the organisation and little if anything about the importance of donors I wonder where the authors head was. 

Telling stories in letters, showing how the donor helped, how the donors support is important, is important. Bragging that the CEO won some golf tournament, that the CFO had been to a conference in some exotic location doesn’t interest me, and I’m sure doesn’t interest most; it’s more likely to raise questions about the use of money donated.

Donors want to know where their support has helped, how they can help in the future – impacts that the organisation are having in their area of work are important, those are the stories to be using to engage and encourage continuing support from donors.

So back to my request – please if you have any letters you’re willing to share, please do – scan them, or if they’re an e-letter forward to me

What will I do with the letters, probably have a bonfire – no seriously, I want to see what’s out there, and from what I see I’ll include comment in an upcoming conference I’m speaking at on fundraising, and will also likely use some for a blog – or ten.

So if you have letters you don’t mind sending through – send to by 10 October if you can – and thanks in advance.

Important – no personal information will be used in either the presentation or blog, you’re confidentially is guaranteed. 


Disconnect and Get Stuck In

The last couple of days has seen me hunkered down with the Board of a community organization working on their end-of-year appeal campaign, what’s been different about this planning period is that we’ve been disconnected from the outside world.

I got called in at the 11th hour to assist as the Board had been running round in circles trying to get the planning done, but were constantly getting interrupted, or more accurately were allowing themselves to become distracted.

Sometimes it pays to disconnect, to turn off the mobile phone, shut the internet down and focus on the task at hand.

On day one of the planning session I suggested we work away from the office, that staff were instructed not to interrupt us unless it was critical – one mobile phone was allocated for any such call.

All mobiles were put aside, the wireless internet shut down and out came to the whiteboard.

After only a few hours we had the core of the campaign sorted, we had established the “Wish List” – what was needed, why it was needed, from this we worked on who we could approach immediately to help tick items off the “Wish List”. Soon, a shortlist of potential donors, new and current, was drawn up along with a task list – who would do what, who would be responsible for keeping the ball rolling.

Day Two and we had all email promotion content sorted, a series of media releases were prepared and content update to the organizations website was ‘signed off’.

All this took about 20 hours, whereas prior to the planning days more than 60 hours had been spent on the planning for the campaign, with little movement made on the path to take – interruptions were the main reasons cited for the lack of progress.

Not only were we able to complete the end-of-year campaign planning, but we also managed to start the planning for a supporter get together, something that hadn’t been held in more than 5 years.

Getting away from it all – disconnecting and getting stuck into to tasks with little or no interruptions really works; if you’re struggling to get traction – disconnect and get stuck in, you’ll be pleasantly surprised as to how much you can achieve.

Do you shut yourself away to get tasks done- if not what’s holding you back from doing it?