We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak

After reading 10 TRAITS OF TERRIBLE MAJOR AND LEGACY GIFT FUNDRAISERS and seeing some comments, with one in particular referring to the show up and throw up fundraiser, it reminded me on a couple of “professional” fundraisers I have met.

Their modus operandi was to make an appointment with a potential supporter and talk the whole way through the meeting, the wouldn’t give the person they were speaking with the opportunity to talk.

They also forgot the old expression “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak” – yes, they really did like the sound of their own voice.

Often when speaking with them about why they weren’t gaining support, they would say that they had no idea why people weren’t attracted to the organisation; after all they had talked about the successes of the organisation, how it was meeting goals, how important the staff were. But, they didn’t talk about the beneficiaries of the organisation, nor did they talk about current supporters and how they gained from being associated with the organisation.

I recall helping some organisations gain new major sponsors in a nice simple way. We invited some current major sponsors and some we were trying to woo to meet with us. All we did was give an update as to what we had been doing, some of our successes. Then we invited the current sponsors to talk about why they were supportive, what they were doing and let them answer any questions the prospective sponsors had.

At the end of the meeting, two of the prospective sponsors pulled out their cheques books and signed up, the third did the same a few days later.

You don’t have to be the one doing all the talking, actually you should be keeping your mouth shut as much as possible, let the prospects ask questions, and if you can get current supporters to pitch for you.

It works, why not give it a shot.

And, remember – less is more.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak”

End of Year Giving

Hard to believe that there’s less than 100 days to go until the end of the year; have you finished your end of year fundraising planning?

As we know people do give at Christmas time and, often they will plan who they will give to rather than make ad-hoc donations.

There’s been numerous stories over the years where families have sat down and talked about what they’d like to do in the way of charitable giving, rather than buying presents for each other.

So, if you plan your end of year campaign right and let your current supporters know (and encourage them to share your message with their family and friends) that they can make a Christmas gift to your organisation, you have the potential to gain additional support.

If you are in the habit (which I hope you are) of regularly communicating with your supporters (not just asking for money every time), but letting them know about the work you have been doing since the last update, your successes etc, you should use your next communication to let them know about your end of year plans and how they can be part of it.

Take the time now to finalise your end of year campaign, perhaps double check any plan you have and see that it encompasses everything you need to ensure a good outcome.

What are you doing for your end of year campaign, have you changed the way you are doing this on other years?

If you give to charity, what do you want to see in an end of year message from those you support?

Do you make planned gift giving at the end of the year?

See also

Charities and Christmas

Donors Women v Men

Don’t just answer the immediate question

How often do you get asked, or how often have you made an enquiry to an organisation or business about the services they provide and how you can help them or they help you – only to get a stock answer, nothing specific and nothing that actually invites you to want to ‘do business’.

By only answering the immediate query there’s a chance that an opportunity for more dialogue to be lost; there’s often something deeper to why people ask questions, it could be that they want to do business, that they need your help or that they want to help you.

Unless all communications include the opportunity for further discussion – the door is closed, don’t be the one closing the door.

If you have a potential supporter contact you about the work you do, don’t just answer that question – answer it, then add additional information that may not be immediately available, perhaps you’ve recently done something that you could share – if so do it.

You should also be giving the person more reason as to why their support is important – do you have a new project that you could tell them about?

Before hitting send and signing off the response – STOP – have you asked them if there’s anything you can do to help them make the decision, the commitment to support you?

Don’t leave it for them to have to do all the work, you have to put your thinking cap on and find a way to keep engaging with them, to build the environment for them to decide you’re the right fit for the support they would like to give an organisation.

Do you answer only the immediate questions, if so why – and will you look at changing how you handle all enquiries?

Recognise Regular Donors

Your regular donors generate your regular passive income, don’t ignore them and the contribution they are making to the success of your organisation.

Praise, praise, praise … it may sound trite but it is the best thing you can do to help retrain and recognise the importance of donors in your regular giving programme.

That’s not to say that they are better or more important the your one-off donors, it’s simply to recognise the importance they have in allowing your to manage the work you do, knowing that there is regular income that allows you to do what you do.

When communicating with regular donors; ask for feedback, feedback about who, why and how they give through the regular giving.  These can be used to help entice others to your programme.

Regular givers should be segmented in your database to allow for specific updates to be sent to this group.

Some organisations develop donor reports specifically for regular donors, and hold events for regular givers to give them the opportunity to invite others who may be interested in joining your regular giving programme (think Tupperware without the commission).

Remember that you should also bear in mind that, although any donor can be converted to a regular giving programme, you should never stop asking anyone for a one-off donations. Even though you’re receiving a regular contribution from your regular donors, this group are known to give more when asked for a one-off contribution to something specific.

Regular giving programmes can help with increasing donor contributions and can help to reactivate delinquent donors.

When talking with regular givers, make it personal, using this style of communication can help not only retain donors, but can also help reactivate those who have stopped giving.

Often the simple messages of how important regular giving is to help maintain the work carried out, who is benefiting from regular giving, and that regular giving allows work to be carried out with reduced administration and fundraising costs can too help regain donors.

Some organisations make a point of restating regular giving levels to help retain and regain donors, perhaps a donor who offered $50 per month has had a change in their personal circumstances, but by suggesting a lower level they will come back on board, what have you got to lose by asking for less when they’ve stopped giving altogether.

All donor communications are important, just because someone has said they will give on a basis doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you – perhaps they may even need to hear from you more often.  But, don’t make your communications too frequently – this could be a turn off.

How are you communicating with your regular donors?

Could you be communicating with regular donors more frequently or change your message?

Are you a regular giver through a regular giving programme – if so, what is your experience?

Fundraising Manners

Fundraising can be hard enough without your fundraisers alienated themselves from the very people they’re trying to gain support from.

How often have you come across a fundraiser, either face-to-face or over the phone who has talked at you – not with you, has cut you short when you’re speaking, or perhaps just don’t seem interested in any dialogue – they’re just going through the motions?

It would appear that this happens all to often; why, there’s no need for it, it all comes down to selecting the right people to “front” your organisation, the right and timely coaching and training and, then it’s up to you to monitor how they are doing.

If you’re organisation undertakes tele-fundraising, do you have the ability to either listen into calls while they’re happening or to listen to recorded calls? Are you reviewing calls with those on the phones?

Doing face-to-face fundraising, do you have people who can act as “mystery shoppers” – people who can listen to what the fundraiser is saying, their actions, manners – it’s worth getting some “unknowns” to monitor on your behalf.

It’s vital that you know what your fundraisers are saying, how they’re interacted and most importantly – how they are representing your organisation.

It only takes a few disgruntled people to start talking openly about their experience with your organisation to cast doubt in the minds of others. They could be thinking – if that’s how those on the “front line” – they’re quite possibly the only people supporters have regular contact with – any bad experiences can quickly turn support off.

You owe it to your supporters and your organisation to be monitoring your fundraisers, even where you’re using an external agency you need to have monitoring in place.

If you support and organisation, what are your experiences and expectation of fundraisers?

ASKphobia – A Great Term

When I first started out in fundraising, I wasn’t always comfortable making the “ask”. I was afraid of being turned down, and sometimes questioned the amount I was endeavouring to ask for.

Why – I guess in those days you could say I was Ask-phobic. I was afraid of the “no’s” and couldn’t understand how people could have the sums I was intended to ask for.

Somehow, one day I shook the fears I had and asked. Sure I was rejected, but at least I was asking, and the more asks got me more “yes’s”

This article on 101Fundraising is a must read if you’re involved in any level of fundraising.

The tips offered are great, and are the types I offer when coaching people in fundraising.

Read ASKphobia: How to Overcome Ask Aversion and see what you think, can you add any more tips to help people with an ask aversion?

See also:

It’s not you they’re turning down

Tele-fundraising Tips

Fundraisng – Planning is Needed

Why you suck at fundraising

It’s time to tune in – and listen

Its often been said we need to listen more, that we have two ears and one mouth and should use them in equal proportion.

Seth Godin has even recently written How to listen, and ends it well when he says “Good listeners get what they deserve–better speakers.”

We all need to listen more, we need to hear and understand what’s being said; without this we’re on a road to nowhere.

This reminds me of when we analyse a fundraising or awareness campaign and we see that it hasn’t gone as well as we’d hoped; why we ask, we ask ourselves and perhaps a focus group and close friends. But this only perhaps gives us what we “want” to hear, a sanitized version.

It’s all good and all hearing what we want to hear, but it’s probably only ego – ours, we don’t want what we’ve worked weeks, months or maybe years getting off the ground and those closest to us don’t want to hear our feelings; tough, sometimes feelings have to be hurt.

When was the last time you listen, no not heard but listened to what others outside our normal “feedback zone” had to say about the campaign? Probably very seldom if at all. Some would say NEVER.

It’s time to change that. 

There’s so many opportunities to hear what is being said, it could be in a casual conversation that someone says something, maybe not overtly, but something is said – with some subtle probing you could find out more that will be useful for future reference. Maybe you’re in a cafe and hear something; again file it away for future reference, but firstly is what’s been said in a similar vain to what you may have heard before?

You should also be using such tool as Google Alerts to monitor what’s being said about you – but, not only YOU, but your sector as well; it’s important to have a broad picture.

When I was talking about charity collectors and there being more than one option for people to support causes, and mentioned this on Twitter I got a few responses from people who felt they only had one option to support, and others who knew that it doesn’t only take money to support a cause.

One person summed it up well in her experience with colleagues, they make it clear that money is an option, but it’s by no means the only option to supporting an organization, a cause.

If one person is saying this – how many others are?

If the people organizations are having to explain to others that there are alternative ways of supporting, are organizations forgetting to and only focused on the “cash ask”?

Are organizations forgetting that people may want to volunteer a few hours to muck in, to roll up their sleeves and help. Maybe there’s some who would like to speak about the work you do where they work, play or socialize – have you asked them, do they know you’d welcome this kind of support as much as you would hard folding notes?

Charities are already likely missing out when it comes to street collections when people walk by because they don’t have cash on them, don’t let other chances to gain other support – open your ears, and listen – don’t just hear what’s being said, but tune in and listen. You could well get support you may never have gained before.

Ask yourself these questions – would you support you?

It’s always interesting to hear people talk about community organizations and how they don’t appeal to them, it could be the cause or it could be the impression the organization gives the public; does your organization have sex appeal, the wow factor or is it simply sitting their chugging along.

Grab yourself a cuppa, pen and paper and answer these questions about your organization, based on what the public sees of you – your website, the message you give about the work you do:

  • Would you give to your organization?
  • Would you volunteer for your organization?
  • Would you want to work for your organization?
  • Is what we stand for clear, is it easy for people to see what we do?
  • Are we seen as trustful?
  • Are we committed to what we do?
  • Have we made a difference?
  • What can we do better to gain more support/awareness?
What did you come up with, are there things about your public face you will/must change, and how will you go about it, what time frame will you set yourself for any changes?

This is a good exercise to do from time to time – do it again in a few months to see if you come up with different answers to what you came up with today.

Do you know why people lose interest in your organization?

When an employee leaves a company generally an exit interview is conducted to find out why, what the employee thought of the organisation – should nonprofits be doing some ‘sample exit interviews’ when people lose interest in them and stop supporting them – would it be of benefit?

Would it be beneficial to see why people stop supporting your cause?

We all know it’s the active members of an organization that are its lifeblood. Without them, the organization could easily wither and die.

As soon as supporter or membership numbers start to decline and organization should be taking action to see what is causing the decline and take steps to reverse it. The reality though is that many organizations don’t know why people are losing interest, what’s driving them to abandon their support. Without know this the “fix” won’t be easy or perhaps even possible.

To reverse any decline organizations need to know why – with an understanding as to why people are leaving it would be possible to take steps to retain supporters and to look at ways to attract new ones with longevity.

Perhaps one of the main reasons people are not continuing to support is that they’re not being told how important their support is, that without their support they organization is unable to do its work. When was the last time your spoke to your supporters about how important they are? If you haven’t for some time, change that and start talking to them – remember it’s not all about you, it is about your supporters, so next time you pen a newsletter talk about “the supporter” more than you do about yourself.

Organizations also need to understand who their supporters are, where they come from and what attracts them to your organization; again if you don’t know this – take steps to learn what it is about you, your work that attracts supporters, this will help in attracting new supporters and retaining those you have.

Supporters want to know what other ways they can be “part” of an organization, some will be happy to send a regular financial contributions, others might want to meet with other members of the organization – do you offer opportunities for people to get together and learn first hand about the work you’re doing, and for supporters to meet other supporters?

Another thing that could be causing a decline in your supporter base could be that you’re not conveying where you’re at with your goals, if you’re working to help homeless people off the streets – are you letting your supporters how many people now have accommodation as a result of the work you’ve been doing? Also, let those you’re supporting tell their stories; hearing first hand the difference your organization is making could be all it takes to retain people who were considering moving their support to someone else.

We all know it costs more to gain new supporters than it does to retain those you already have – do you have the resources to continuously replenish your supporter base, probably not; so why are you not askign your supporters why they’re leaving? Why are you not inviting supporters to see you in action? 

If you don’t know what makes your supporters tick, what drives them to leave – it’s time to make a change, the next time someone withdraws support why not give them a call – no not a letter, a phone call to thank them for their support, to say how sorry you are to see them go and to remind them of how valuable the work you do is and that their support has enabled you to achieve xyz.

If you would be interested in a donor retention interview for your organization please get in touch, I’d happily talk you through how to tailor one for your organization. 

Remember – let your supporters know that they are important, that you wouldn’t exist without them.


Won’t support local causes

“We won’t support New Zealand charities, our support can do more good overseas”

“We don’t know why we should support New Zealand charities, none have given us any real reason to support them”

These are two comments I’ve heard recently, and I’m now wondering how widespread these views are.

There’s the old saying that charity begins at home, but unless people feel there is a real need to support local causes they won’t, instead they’ll support those that they see and hear about more often, the one’s they perceive as doing greater good, and in all honesty if someone choses to support a cause outside of their country it is their right, we can’t and shouldn’t judge them for it.

We can’t judge people for their choice, we need instead to look at how local causes can better get their message across that they need help from the local community. 

Local causes, those who work in the country often don’t have the ability to run large scale campaigns to raise awareness or aren’t on the radar of media like the big international ones are – the larger ones have the means to keep their message out there, to tell their stories, to show what impact a few dollars could have helping others.

There are many local causes who are doing great things in the country, but unless they have the means to get their stories heard – they will be under the radar. 

No, this is not a beat up of local causes, quite the reverse.

We live in a global community, the world is one – whether you’re in New Zealand, Australia, USA, Asia, the UK – we are all part of the one community – the global community.

The choice to support a cause is a very personal one – and there’s no way I or anyone can tell people who they should or shouldn’t support.

Often people have said – why should I support XYZ, it’s the Governments responsibility – sure, in some respects this is right.
However, there’s a downside to that. If any Government were to channel funds to causes like some would suggest, where would they draw the line, how would it be funded, what would suffer as a result – the Government, any Government doesn’t have an endless supply of money. Ok, maybe they do – our taxes, but taxes only go so far, would you want a higher tax rate so as to enable your Government to support everyone? 

By giving to causes you’re helping – you don’t have to be contributing huge amounts, a little can go a long way; and every contribution does help.

Organizations need to find a way to communicate at a local level, sure there’s a resource issue, but by tapping into current supporters to help build a supporter base is one step that could be taken; who better to help get others on board than those already on board.

So, when are you going to start using your current supporters, your board to help grow your supporter base; to show those in your local area that their support is needed – that without them you can’t do what you’re doing?

See also