I’m loving this very short, very sweet post from Future Fundraising Now. Enjoy! With or without your caffeine.
… and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no collaboration.
Interagency collaboration. Organizations with different boards, budgets, and slightly different mission statements — working together on a common problem and collaborating on a fundraising project. Everyone wins. The organizations achieve their fundraising, outreach, and constituent engagement goals. No one gets hurt.
Is this a fantasy… or a state worth working towards?
If you believe in the isolationist model of development (“Are you an isolationist or relationship builder?”), then you would answer that this type of interagency collaboration is just not possible, nor a good idea.
But have you heard about the Seattle AIDS Walk and 5K run, scheduled for Saturday, September 22? Even though the walk is sponsored and organized by Lifelong AIDS Alliance, they have partnered with a number of other local organizations whose missions also focus on serving those in the community affected by HIV and AIDS, including Gay City Health Project, Bailey-Boushay House, and my good friends Rosehedge/Multifaith Works. According to Rosehedge Development Director Elizabeth, there have been arrangements of this sort in the past, too.
Everyone shares the ultimate goals of stopping HIV infection, helping those who are infected/ill, and finding a cure. It really is that simple, and it makes sense for them to work together. Doesn’t it?
It’s inspiring to me — though this type of arrangement may make the isolationist development person experience an anxiety attack.
And speaking of Rosehedge/Multifaith Works, they put together this little recruitment video for their team. This is proof that one does not need the expensive video production company to create a one-minute viral piece. This video reveals that they are trying to be careful with how they spend money and are trying to put together communication tools using the resources they have available. It’s engaging. And it’s fun! And cute! And CJ gets to push his boss-lady Elizabeth to the ground and beat her to the finish line!
“Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something. They’re trying to find someone who’s going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” — Tony Robbins
A high school friend posted this quote on Facebook yesterday — and it stuck with me all day. It stuck with me all weekend, really. Robbins was referring to intimate/romantic relationships, I assume, but this can be true of all types of relationships: teacher/student, customer/vendor, parent/child, and even donor/organization.
There are some development people out there who believe that donors are to give; that’s their “job” as defined by the very word that marks them (the etymology is the Latin word donare, which means to give as a gift). But surely there must be more to it. When someone makes a gift of time, talent, and resources to an organization, it is because they have formed a bond — a relationship — with the organization’s mission, services, role in the community, staff, and board. The organization is giving to the donor through this relationship in some profound way (and there are many different ways, depending on the circumstances). The donors trust that the organization will work to fulfill its mission with the support. The donors feel satisfaction that the gifts will make some difference in the community. The donors feel connected on a personal level with a cause or issue important to them.
We all know how vitally important stewardship is in development programs, and we know the golden rules of properly acknowledging gifts and support:
- Send a thank you letter signed by a meaningful person from the organization within 48 hours.
- Address the letter to the donor by name.
- Include a handwritten personalized note, if possible.
- And so on…
Here are some great posts by others on the topic of stewardship:
- I really love what Andrew Olsen wrote on Fundraising Fundamentals: “When I think about the word stewardship, I think of the responsibility of taking care of something that belongs to someone else.” He lists some best practices for stewardship, including creating a plan and sticking to it, and to keep communication open (and engagement high).
- Penelope Burk’s classic 20 things that make a thank you letter superior and donor-centered, including not asking for another gift and or asking the donor to take any additional actions at that time.
- Joe Garecht summarizes good stewardship practices into three parts: communicate with them, get them involved, and ask them what they want.
The bottom line is that stewardship should not be seen as just writing good thank you letters. Stewardship is the act of honoring and respecting the gifts of the donor, and helping the donor engage with the organization at a higher lever. What steps do you take to engage your donors and respect their desires and intentions?
I was reminded by a friend this morning that there is a part two to the cupcake parable:
Everyone loved both versions of the cupcakes, some even saying that the first super-messy, hard-to-eat batch tasted better than the second, prettier batch.
What to take out of this, besides the reminder to research, contemplate, come up with work-arounds, deal with issues as they come up, consider earlier attempts and improve upon them, go back to the books and incorporate “classic” strategies, and don’t give up and opt for letting someone else do your job for you? The new lesson is that maybe the first attempt was not the failure you think it was, no matter how frustrated you were with the process or how you personally saw the resulting product.
We threw a birthday luau for a close friend today, and one of my responsibilities was to make pineapple upside-down cupcakes — her favorite Hawaiian dessert. I was happy to oblige.
I spent at least a week thinking about pineapple upside-down cupcakes. I had never made them before. In fact, I’m pretty sure I had never eaten one before (the big version, either). So I poked around in the world’s largest cookbook (Google) and found two recipes that were popular in the blogosphere: one from scratch and one using a box of cake mix as the base. Naturally, because I am an aspiring foodie, I chose to make the scratch recipe.
I swear, those cupcakes were cursed. First, a giant jar of maraschino cherries jumped to its death in the parking lot right outside the doors of Cash ‘n Carry. Then, it was discovered that I bought a can of pineapple chunks and not the crushed pineapple called for in the recipe. No big deal, except that my husband was standing next to me when I made the discovery, grabbed them from me, and pureed the heck out of them with our hand mixer before I could stop him. It was sweet of him to try to help, but he turned the pineapple chunks into pineapple baby food (try draining that!). Can you believe that after the pineapple baby food incident, I then discovered that our teenager went through a dozen eggs in less than 24 hours… and I didn’t have the six eggs I needed? So the score thus far is: one jar of dead cherries (but kindly replaced by the store), 16 ounces of pineapple baby food, and a midnight run to Safeway for eggs. Once the eggs are mixed into the batter, these cupcakes should be smooth sailing…
These cupcakes were an absolute mess! They rose too far above the pan and melded together, they were stuck to the inside of the pan, and they seemed to look much more “cakey” than the photo in the recipe looked. It was already after 1:00 am at this point, so I decided to throw in the towel and go to bed. I would have to buy a store-made cake on the way to the party, and chances are the cake would NOT be pineapple (we are in Seattle, after all).
My original intention was to follow up yesterday’s post about (re)engaging your community, key stakeholders, prospective donors, and constituents with a list of suggestions to help as you brainstorm what (re)engagement means for your organization. I realize now the folly of trying to create such a list, honestly, in direct violation of advice I myself gave — every organization is different and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. So why would I then come up with a list of suggestions that may have absolutely no value to your particular org, culture, or situation? So let me take a step back and discuss some of the overall concepts of engagement, and then it would be great to hear your ideas and what has worked for you. For the most part, these are common axioms in the development community, but they are worth repeating (and to cut down on the wordiness and need for inclusiveness, I will use “constituents” to mean your target audience, donors or otherwise):
- Have a plan. I cannot stress this enough. Make. A. Plan. It can fit on a single sheet. It can be scribbled on a cocktail napkin and held together with tape. But write down your strategy and refer to it often. What happens if things change and you must deviate from your plan? Don’t throw it away! Remember that this is how life works: reassess the situation and revise the plan accordingly. In some ways, the plan will not only help you see where you are going, but it will help you track where you have been. What happens if you don’t have any written plan? (Re)engagement strategies as an ad hoc venture sounds about as efficient as running a development program with no strategic development plan. Here are some basic parts to your (re)engagement plan (and these could be categorized by activity/effort):
Who are your major players and what are their duties?
Who is your target audience?
How are you keeping track of contact reports?
What are your goals and objectives? Continue reading
Lately, I have been hearing about organizations that are feeling lonely due to a perceived lack of “friends” (consistent annual donors, community supporters, etc). Some of these orgs have let their development/outreach programs hibernate due to crisis budgeting, some never had programs to begin with, and some seem to be spinning their wheels because “what has worked in the past” in no longer efficient in keeping friends engaged with the organization. This must be frustrating and probably a bit depressing… especially for those orgs that do not have much of a donor base.
In the words of Uncle Miltie: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Start small, start building one door at a time, but you must start doing something. And you really should strategize – what are your goals and what are your capabilities?
Development professionals: how do you describe the work you do? Do you tell people that you raise/earn money for a good cause? Or do you tell them that you build relationships on behalf of a good cause? Do you find prospective donors and “sell” the organization to them? Or do you help connect prospective donors with opportunities that match their passions and interests?
Here is the crux of my post: do you see other nonprofit organizations that serve a similar clientele or focus on similar issues as yours as competition or partner? Foe or friend? Are you an isolationist or a relationship-builder?
It almost seems that the isolationist fundraiser sees the work they do and their arena in very limited terms, as if the community of prospective donors and friends can be likened to a birthday party pinata. When the pinata breaks, children scramble over each other to grab as much candy as they can, knowing that there is only a limited amount and once all of the candy is grabbed… it’s gone.
I will admit that my entrance into development was through events. I was doing nonprofit development work as a volunteer years ago, before I even knew that’s what I was doing.
Before I went to grad school, before I started college, even before I graduated from high school, I was a waitress. The most practical skills I learned, beginning at around age of 15, were customer service skills, being able to greet and talk with anyone, juggling 62 tasks at once, learning the timing and flow of programs and service, developing the extra sense of anticipating the needs of guests, and just being on the service-side of major events/banquets. My step into planning events was as an undergraduate student when my department needed to organize a dinner of some sort… I don’t remember what it was. I watched the faculty struggle with making decisions, offered to help, and they dropped the entire event on me. No problem! Since then, I have found myself running some element (or the entire event program) of countless auctions, receptions, conference sessions (and two full conferences), campaign events, house parties, promotional appearances, and concerts. I know events.
But here are some things I have learned over time that I wish more nonprofits would consider (and this has come up a LOT lately as I have talked with various orgs):
Brand new major events are not $ilver bullets that will make you lots of money in a short period of time, and should not be considered quick fixes for your revenue problems.*
If your organization is struggling financially, think long and hard before you decide to host a new event for the sole purpose of bringing in an infusion of cash. Events rarely work that way, especially when the event is brand-spanking new to your organization.