Tag Archives: board development

What Do Donors REALLY Want? Information!

Reposted from eJewishPhilanthropy – May 21, 2012

Nonprofit leaders face tremendous pressures today: living, operating and succeeding in a competitive marketplace of ideas, programs and services presents innumerable challenges. Donors who are guided by a passion for certain aspects of an agency’s mission and vision might be unaware, or unconcerned, about the everyday deliverables the agency must produce to achieve certain goals. Keeping both supporters and constituents happy is often a delicate dance.

Nonprofit leaders must continuously upgrade and strengthen their abilities to translate their mission into a “selling proposition” for a variety of interest groups. This selling proposition involves creating a case for support that clearly communicates what the agency does, their goals, and the methodologies used to achieve these goals.

All of these complexities must then be translated into “everyday language” and communicated in the fundraising context to donors of all shapes and sizes, from national foundations to individual givers.

In today’s economy, customers drive the marketplace, and in the philanthropic world, donors drive the discussion around sustainable funding. The essential question then becomes, “What do donors want?”

What are their motivations to give, and what do they expect from the agencies they support and the staff who run them?

How are decisions made in the current giving climate, and what are the “deal breakers” today?

We thought that it would be most helpful to address these issues through questions that are often raised during our interactions with donors across North America. Let us predicate this conversation with two basic assumptions about why people give:

  • They care about the person making the “ask.” Despite advances in technology and the way people give to agencies (text to give, online fundraising websites, etc.) the dictum “people give to people” is still as true as ever.
  • They care about the impact of their gift. The vision of the organization and the resulting impact of the contribution are critical to encouraging a donor to make a gift. The difference that the gift will make in the lives of people, the life of the community and in the life of the donor remains essential parts of the “selling proposition.”

Now, let’s move onto the top three questions we receive as fundraising consultants.

DONOR QUESTION #1: Do you have a Business Plan?

We first heard this question more than ten years ago during a meeting with a prospective major donor to a prominent Jewish arts group in New York City. Nowadays the question seems intuitive enough, yet the organization’s Artistic Director who was leading the meeting was taken aback.

“Well, we have a budget,” she responded.

“I’m not looking for a budget,” the prospect responded. “I want to know that my investment will not be swallowed up because the organization – as much as I love what you do – won’t exist five years from now. Show me that you believe and can demonstrate that you will be around and in good health and I will make the gift that you are asking for.”

SOLUTION #1: Be prepared with current facts and long-term vision.

Be ready with the facts: your nonprofit is a business with a “selling proposition” that provides demonstrable benefits within your community. Know what those benefits are and how they will change over time. Luckily for our example organization, the Director had considered the long-term viability of the mission and vision and was able to communicate it to the donor, who then made a significant gift.

It is essential for nonprofit leaders to consider the long-term vision for your nonprofit: where it is today, where it will in five years, and in ten years. This long-term vision (which will often include grand plans such as new programs, services, and resources) will inspire and motivate your donors.

DONOR QUESTION #2: Why does it take so long to understand what you do?

“It is like I have ADD sometimes: I cannot listen to long explanations,” complained a leading benefactor to a growing Israel-based organization. This individual, a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist, made a good point.

In today’s fast-paced and hyper-competitive world driven by smart-phones, tablets, and the demand for instantaneous responses and results, donors want the information now. In addition, loyalty is an almost-dying commodity; unlike in decades past when someone picked one cause and stayed with it for a lifetime, today’s donors spread themselves around.

SOLUTION #2: Make your point quickly and use varied communication channels.

Modern nonprofits needs to be deft and nimble, framing their”selling proposition” in small, understandable bites through a variety of communication channels. Create an “elevator speech,” no longer than 30 seconds, that explains your organization’s mission, vision, and deliverables, and distribute it to your executive staff, Board of Directors, and leading donors. Utilize online tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as traditional media like newsletters, press releases, and direct mail.

You must always be ready to make your case quickly, because donors who notice that you are slow to respond to their interests might move on to the person or organization that best fills that philanthropic vacuum with easily digestible information.

DONOR QUESTION #3: I cannot ask my friends for money; can’t you just do it for me?

This is the question we most often receive from leading donors and Board members. For example, a committed Board member of a Jewish day school was recently approached to set up meetings with his contacts for the head of the school, who would then present the school’s “selling proposition” and hopefully engage these prospects as donors. The Board member was devoted and generous with his contacts but would not attend a prospect meeting with a contact he knew personally.

“Just tell him I said he should give,” the Board member offered. “If he hears that, and knows that I am also supportive, then he will give.”

“Come with us,” we implored him, knowing the power of personal connection. “We will help you prepare and role play for the meeting. Tell him yourself how much you support this cause, and he will be moved and surely respond.”

“I cannot ask my friends for money,” he lamented. “What if they say no?”

“He agreed to a meeting and knew why we requested the meeting. If he was going to say no, he would have done so already,” we advised.

We went to the meeting without the Board member and made our presentation.

“I really like what I am hearing and am interested in supporting the school,” the prospective donor replied, “but I really need to speak with my friend who set this up to know why he’s giving and how much before I’ll give you a final answer.”

SOLUTION #3: Conquer your fear of the “ask.”

So many leading donors do not want to ask their contacts to support their favorite charity. What drives this phenomenon? Fear! Leading donors are afraid that if they ask friends for money, these friends might then turn around and ask them for money. That sometimes happens, but is typically for a good cause, and should not be considered reason enough to NOT ask.

Secondly, leading donors fear of losing a friend when they ask for money. In our 21 years of consulting, this has never happened. Strong prospect research eliminates candidates who do not want to give, so that by the time a leading donor asks his/her friend to help support a cause, the answer is always yes. The amount varies, and sometimes it takes more than one ask, but at EHL Consulting we have never seen a friendship dissolve because of this situation.

Remember, the mission and not the market drives the donor, so know WHY your agency is in business and be clear and concise in how you communicate your “selling proposition” to your stakeholders. Use ALL of the tools that you have at your disposal … from online marketing to far-reaching contacts of your Board members and agency leadership. They all have their role in helping communicate long-term vision.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask others to support your passions. The real reason a donor supports a worthwhile cause is because he/she receives a formal request. Finally, if you want to close a major gift, take a deep breath and meet face to face.

Don’t rely on technology to do what humans do best.

Twelve Insights About Giving in 2012

Reposted from eJewish Philanthropy – January 4, 2012

2011 has ended and, while true challenges remain, dire predictions of especially troubled times in the nonprofit world never seemed to materialize. What lies ahead for 2012? We predict another year of growth in philanthropy and another year for more giving.

As we look at our crystal ball for the coming year, however, we find certain predictions difficult to make. The never-ending roller coaster rides in the U.S. and world economies, compounded by an election year likely to impact on policies, taxes, and other factors that directly affect nonprofits and charitable giving, will continue to shake things up regularly. We certainly hope that an improving economic landscape may help push charitable giving to an even more positive direction but recovering from the Great Recession will not be easy.

One prediction about which we can be certain is the content of our bi-weekly contributions to eJewish Philanthropy. Here is a preview of what we will address:

  1. The Modern Jewish Woman Donor
    The evolution and new-found power of the MJWD are often overlooked. Studies confirm that women are increasingly influential in decisions relating to charitable giving and they routinely give better and more passionately than do men. While Judaism honors women, we will identify ways that women address philanthropy and why women are such good donors.
  2. Networking: The Key to our Giving Future
    Although we have written substantially in the past about the benefits of social networking, we cannot stress enough the importance of face-to-face contact between nonprofit leaders and potential donors in the Jewish community. We will look at approaches other than social media, largely because fundraising campaigns succeed as they cultivate and draw upon the strong sense of community and interpersonal relationships. Why do people give and what impacts on their decision-making? The interests and emotional connections of Jewish donors to the agencies/projects they support and the way that they support, are changing along with our Jewish communities, so giving patterns are likely to continue to change in the times ahead.
  3. Planned Giving
    While every gift is a planned gift, testamentary giving through wills, trusts and estates accounts for about $30 billion annually in the U.S. We will examine how donors can efficiently plan legacy gifts that ensure their charitable intent lives on after death. With a focus on our synagogues, we will question why we have seen a very slow development of “legacy programs.” How do we encourage deferred giving in the synagogue world, enabling them to catch up to other nonprofits that continuously advance in this arena? Why do Jewish congregations tend to shy away from talking with their members about estate gifts?
  4. Dressing Up Your Campaign
    Just in time for Purim, we will talk about changing the face of a nonprofit. Experts contend that rebranding should be done every 10-12 years. While people will dress up like their favorite Purim characters, nonprofit leaders need to consider serious questions relating to presenting their agencies as contemporary organizations with crisp and meaningful messages. What does your logo convey? How can we keep the stakeholders and potential contributors “on the same page?” We will examine the many ways to make your mission and vision stand out and reach the right audiences. While successful fundraising begins with a compelling story and good packaging, we will ask some experts to address what approaches have worked in the past and what may work even better in the future.
  5. What Donors are Really Thinking
    With personal tax deadlines front-and-center in April and with Passover approaching, we will talk with several philanthropists and ask a number of key questions that every nonprofit professional would like to know: how do they choose where to donate? How can a nonprofit get the attention of major donors? What are the “do’s and don’ts” when approaching a major philanthropist?
  6. The Ideal Development Director
    We are familiar with the fundamental roles of an organization’s development officer, “one who implements a strategic plan to raise funds for their organization in a cost-effective and time-efficient manner.” But what sets apart the successful ones from the others? Which ones survive in the tangled webs of annual campaigns, foundation research, grant-writing and stewardship of major donors? We will dive into what we believe are the characteristics of the most ideal development director.
  7. Engaging the Board
    We often wonder why so many people want to volunteer for a cause bigger than themselves. In so many JCC’s, Federations and synagogues, we hear board members discuss the importance of the Jewish community. Yet sometimes the message and direction from the organizational Boards are not always “in sync” with the organization’s mission and vision. This post will examine the role of governance, leadership and strategy.
  8. The Results and Trends in Giving in 2011
    In June, The Giving Institute will confirm the annual figures on the levels of philanthropy during 2011. The annual report will include key facts and analyses of the 2011 numbers and we will use the report to highlight innovations that Jewish organizations are taking to enhance philanthropy.
  9. A Jewish Look at Foundations
    An essential principle in nonprofit work is that operational costs are limited but programs are limitless. Our goal in this article is to consider how important foundations and donor advised funds (DAVs) can serve the nonprofit world. While some critics contend that these funds are warehouses for dollars, we contend that Jewish donors are especially good at securing the future through their strategic decisions and that their intentions live on beyond their years.
  10. The Anatomy of a Synagogue
    As we approach the High Holidays, we will look at American synagogues and how they are addressing fundraising in new and effective ways. But are our congregations truly transparent and are they being operated as well as other types of nonprofits? Although we will not identify any one specific congregation, we will offer some insights on how a modern synagogue might and should operate in 2012.
  11. Jewish Volunteer and Professional Leadership
    Strengthening and fostering volunteer leadership has taken on a new emphasis, but salary studies of nonprofit executives seem to favor men over women. What are the profiles of both volunteers and paid executives and how are they impacting philanthropy? We will focus on some provocative findings.
  12. A Light Unto the Nations
    Israel-focused philanthropic support by Americans is changing, especially as research validates that younger Jewish donors look at Israel differently than did their parents and grandparents. How should Israel-based agencies actively seeking charitable support in the U.S. adjust their efforts to be more successful and relevant? As we consider social media efforts such as Facebook and Twitter and other types of technological methods to secure funds and build support, we will talk with some Millennial donors who are truly making an impact.

Because the Jewish philanthropic world is constantly evolving, we will sprinkle other topics into our bi-weekly contributions. We hope that 2012 brings growth, stability and strength to every Jewish organization. We are honored to offer our knowledge to thousands who subscribe to eJewish Philanthropy and always welcome comments, questions and suggestions.