Introducing: The Authentic Fundraiser

In a world where we talk A LOT about building relationships with and loving our donors, very few charities are actually putting donors above their own organizational needs. I believe that is because we are paying lip service to buzz words but still using traditional sales techniques in the trenches. Our sector needs more authentic fundraisers, more authentic fundraising and more authentic people. Our sector needs more authentic fundraisers, more authentic fundraising and more authentic people. Before we start throwing around yet another new buzzword, it is prudent to stop and ask ourselves: What does authenticity mean? What does it mean to be a truly authentic fundraiser? And what does authentic fundraising look like? The problem with the traditional approach When I first started raising money for charity sixteen years ago, there were a few books that formed the basis of my education. They were: “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie.. “The seven habits of highly effective people” by Stephen Covey and “The art of persuasion” by Robert Ciaidini. – far be it for me to go up against Covey, Carnegie and Ciaidini! These are still best selling business books. You should read them; I just encourage you to read them critically. Not all of their techniques apply to our sector. Time for a new approach to “sales” After considerable thought I now believe that how we are applying these principles in the espoused books is dead wrong. Let’s take a closer look at the language being used: Influence: the power to change or affect someone or something : the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen[1] Persuasion: the act of causing people to do or believe something: the act or activity of persuading people[2] Reciprocity:  a mutual exchange of privileges; specifically:  a recognition by one of two countries or institutions of the validity of licenses or privileges granted by the other[3] I would like to banish the words persuasion, reciprocity and influence from the fundraising lexicon. Donors are more cynical, educated and are expecting us to do better. They want to be more engaged, are thinking more critically and are giving differently than they were twenty years ago. The fact of the matter is our sector is falling behind and our profession is grossly misunderstood. According to some work that I participated in as part of the advisory panel for Rogare, many fundraisers are paying lip service to the idea of building relationships and being donor centred. It is easy to stand up and cheer for our donors when we are at meet ups – but how do we operationalize that in the trenches? Many organizations in our sector simply are not...

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Student research spots a flaw in planned giving perceptions

This article first appeared in Hilborn Charity eNEWS here. Did you know that there is a small army doing research on the charitable sector in Canada? Okay, not an army exactly, but a group of very committed, curious and enthusiastic fundraising management students at Humber College in Ontario. As part of the one-year graduate certificate program, students are assigned research projects focused on the charitable sector. Important questions are being asked about a plethora of subjects, including: donor retention, gender dynamics in the charitable sector, refusing donations, and measuring the impact of volunteers to name a few. Perceptions around planned giving Rebecca Farrell, a student in the Humber program, wanted to find out more about how many charities were talking to their donors about bequests. She also wanted to understand what the barriers were for charities that did not have planned giving programs in place, since planned giving can be such a lucrative fundraising channel. As part of her research Rebecca conducted a survey and received responses from 128 charities in Canada. Of those, 44.53% said they did not have a planned giving program in place. Almost half! Which of course then begs the next question: WHY? It turns out that: –           66.67% charities indicated they did not have staff with knowledge of planned giving. –           77.78% did not have the budget to implement a program. When the perception is that there is no time, knowledge and resources to implement a planned giving program – it is understandable that so many charities in Canada are missing out on what I consider to be the most rewarding and satisfying relationship an organization can have with their donors. Moving the needle I know that a modest Planned Giving program can be simplified and integrated into your existing body of knowledge and workload. The key is to decide that it is time to make it a priority. Here are some actions you can take today to get you started: Start to educate your board about the importance of this revenue channel. According to Rebecca’s research, over 53% of those who responded to her survey were unsure whether the board of directors would be supportive of a legacy (I prefer this term to “Planned Giving”) program. Unless you believe that you will be able to deliver your mission in one board term, help your leaders to see that it is their responsibility to invest in the future of your organization. At least start the conversation with them. Let your donors know that you are willing and able to receive their bequests. A simple buckslip sent with your tax receipts or an advertisement in your newsletter will let donors know that you are available...

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Tell your board of directors NOT to ask for money

This article was first published in Hilborn Charity eNEWS Is your board of directors reluctant to help with fundraising? That’s okay. Tell them they don’t have to fundraise. Instead as them if they would be willing to build authentic meaningful relationships with people who love your mission as much as they do. Imagine what it would be like to live in a world where your board of directors was engaged in and excited about raising money for your cause. If this were your reality you would probably receive frequent phone calls from board members about prospective donors. You might see your board members in person between board meetings to have strategic discussions. You might have frequent visitors in the office to help make thank you calls and at events your board members would lift spirits by helping donors feel welcome and appreciated. What would it be like to work with board members who were out in your community acting as ambassadors for your cause and providing opportunities for people who care about your mission to get involved? Believe it or not there are actually organizations that work this way. Perhaps not with 100% of the board members, but, it is possible to get the majority of your board involved in and passionate about your fundraising program. This transformation starts by completely changing the organization’s expectations of board members. No solicitation required Has anyone in your organization ever said the following? “I would rather give the organization $20,000 than go and ask four of my friends for $5,000.” “I’m not asking my network anymore. They are tapped out.” Imagine how it must feel to be alienated from your friends because they don’t want you to ask them for money. Or worse, to be pressured into giving to causes you don’t care about because you need to pay back the favour. Time to change the conversation I’d like to start a movement where we tell our board members that: “It is okay, you do not have to open your Rolodex. You do not have to ask your neighbours to support this cause.  You do not have to do anything that you do not feel 100% comfortable doing.” In order to be more “donor centred”, let’s start with being more “board centred.” The pressure to fundraise is often the most avoided, misunderstood and onerous task for board members. When you grant permission to NOT ask for money, a beautiful thing happens: people visibly relax. Their eyes soften, they breathe and start to listen. When you literally tell your board they don’t need to ask for money an enormous weight is lifted and the relationship between staff and board changes and immediately becomes...

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What kind of a world do you want to live in? A story about a trip to the grocery store.

This post originally appeared in Charity Info’s eNEWS on December 12, 2014 Last Thursday night it was snowing pretty heavily. Begrudgingly, I had to stop and pick up a few groceries on the way home. As I rushed into the store to get out of the cold I saw a family doing the same. The mother was putting on a happy face, the tween looked miserable, as kids that age tend to, and the toddler and baby were a bit dishevelled and dazed. The baby’s clothes were soaked through, obviously from a leaky diaper. None of them had any coats on. It was a shocking sight and I politely tried not to stare as I suggested to the mother that a grocery cart from inside might not be as cold for her children to sit in. While shopping I crossed paths with that family several times. Each time we met I observed something different: The baby was relieved of her wet clothes and given a dry diaper – just a diaper – now she was naked. I heard the adolescent asking for chips and mother saying she didn’t know if they had enough money. Another woman had entered the scene and seemed to be providing assistance. As I started checking out I reflected on my shopping choices. Why did I buy THREE bags of chips if I was intending on starting another diet? Should I really get an $18.00 bottle of Canadian maple syrup that I had no immediate plans to use? AND what on earth could I do to help that naked baby? After all it was the week of Giving Tuesday and in spite of all the prompts for me to donate I had not been motivated to give anything…until I saw raw need right in front of me. “Could I please get a gift card as well?” I asked the cashier. Over my shoulder people were circling like hawks and staring at a woman with three cold tired children, one new, dry set of pyjamas and a small pile of groceries – no chips. The store was tense. Everyone was looking away, pretending not to see what was obvious. When I finished my shopping I bashfully cut across onlookers and approached the family. “I hope you don’t mind,” I said to the mother as I met her gaze head on “I wanted to buy you a gift card.” Her response: “Are you just…are you just…” (This is where I thought she would punch me.) “Are you just so nice? “ She quickly told me that her family had fled their home five hours north and just arrived in our town with only the clothes on their backs....

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Confessions of a conference addict

It is time for me to make a public confession. Are you ready? If I attended your conference anytime between AFP Fundraising Day 2009 and AFP Toronto Chapter Congress 2011 I did not recycle my name badge. I stole it. I’m sorry. I love my wee collection of name badges and the story they tell. My Canadian Association of Gift Planners Conference name tag has little stickers all over it. The stickers remind me of a networking game we played that involved meeting board members. It was so smart.   At the 2009 International Fundraising Conference in Holland Howard Lake, John Lepp and I started tweeting with a conference hashtag for the first time that we were aware of. My nametag reminds me of this because I handwrote my twittername @kimberleycanada on it. At the Bridge conference in DC I attended on behalf of Canadian Fundraiser and I have a little “press” ribbon that I am very proud of. (Identifying yourself as press is always a good thing to do by the way 😉). The Association of Fundraising Professionals of Toronto Chapter conference name badge – my home chapter – reminds me of close friends and colleagues and how proud I am of the way that Congress has grown over the years. The South Asian Fundraising Group Conference name badge in Jaipur India holds perhaps the most  happy memories. Warm welcoming delegates, insatiable appetites for learning and Bollywood dancing to a live band during a steamy Indian night. Obviously it isn’t the memento of the lanyard and plastic name badges that I love so much. It is the conference experience itself. Meeting together with other fundraisers, exchanging ideas, supporting each other, learning from each other, getting better at our craft, that is what I love.  In fact, as a self-proclaimed conference addict this year I promised to give myself a bit of a break. This is a promise I cannot keep because recently I found out about an extraordinary week being planned and I simply couldn’t help myself. I had to raise my hand and ask how I could get involved. I am proud to be a small part of The Extraordinary Donor Journey…A fundraising Odyssey of the Future. My small short term role as Global Training Ambassador is possibly the easiest one ever. All I will be doing is talking about something I believe in and providing you the opportunity to attend – any one of the four workshops at an additional discount of 10% using a special code. The code is JOURNEY12 and you can register and use it here now. Why is it so easy for me to support this project? So many reasons: Nothing like this...

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The world needs you to be EXCELLENT

  How one fundraiser secured her place at an international conference.   In my years as a fundraiser I’ve come across many inspiring stories. But without doubt the most inspiring tale of commitment to attend a conference is the story of my friend, Sudeshna Mukherjee. I first met Sudeshna at a conference in Jaipur India. I was a volunteer SOFII Country Ambassador at the time and Sudeshna was considering a similar role in India. The second I met her in that hotel lobby I knew that someone very special had just entered my life. Sudeshna was intense, anxious to know what to do and extremely motivated to get started. She also had an amazing smile, a bright lightness in her eyes and an extraordinary amount of energy. Perhaps what I was most taken with was the amount of space she took up in the room. Sudeshna is a small person but her energy and enthusiasm filled that large hotel lobby. I was completely in awe of her and liked her instantly.   After seven years working as a fundraiser for Oxfam India and the Resource Alliance Sudeshna was awarded an Atlas Corps Fellowship and now finds herself working with Global Giving in Washington DC. When Sudeshna was invited to attend AFP’s 2012 Conference in Vancouver she had a problem – how to get there. Living on a small fellowship makes a trip from Washington DC to Vancouver almost impossible to imagine. ‘Almost’ being the important word in that sentence. Because you see – Sudeshna is one of those remarkable people who always views the glass as half full. Instead of seeing her attendance at AFP as impossible she asked herself – how can I make this work? The solution to her was to practice the very skills she is working on honing – she would raise the money. Sudeshna launched an online campaign.   In her own words on the boostive website:   What is the issue, problem, or challenge? Every day I help nonprofit organizations develop their own online fundraising strategies. While I’ve learned a lot working with GlobalGiving as an Atlas Corps Fellow, I’d still like to grow and learn more about how I can help nonprofits raise more money and be more effective. The AFP’s 2012 edition of the International Fundraising Conference in Vancouver, BC is happening in April, and it will be a great opportunity for me to learn how I can better serve nonprofit organizations. I have been invited to the conference, but I am still required to cover my own travel expenses.  I’m currently living on a fellowship with a limited budget, so it is difficult for me to afford this conference all by myself.   How...

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