The Best Fundraising Database (Podcast Interview)

In February of 2019, @fundraiserchad was honored to be a guest on Simon Scriver’s Amazingly Ultimate Fundraising Superstar Podcast.

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE

Simon spoke with Chad about his Ultimate Guide to Fundraising Databases, tips for selecting the right fundraising database for your organization and one of Chad’s favorite topics, personal productivity.

Consent Agenda Template

free resource board meeting consent agenda

Does it seem like you spend your entire board meetings going through reports?  Do you spend all your time talking about what has already happened and very little on the future?  You need to get those reports out of your meeting discussion, read in advance and just accepted at the meeting.  What’s the tool here?  A consent agenda.  Give @fundraiserchad‘s free template a download, tweak it for your organization, and reclaim your board meetings in the name of strategic discussion!

How to Find Time to Read as a Busy Fundraiser

How to Find Time to Read as a Busy Fundraiser

I’m often asked by nonprofit board members, “What’s the most important skill to look for in a fundraiser?”  My answer is always the same … a relentless passion for learning.  A successful fundraiser always needs to be seeking new ideas and improving their fundraising knowledge base.  One of the best ways to acquire this knowledge is through reading.  There are so many great books, magazines, and blogs dedicated to nonprofit fundraising.  But many fundraisers state that finding the time to actually read is quite difficult.

So, here are my six hacks for fitting more reading into your daily schedule

1) Keep a list of what you want to read

When you hear about a great book or article, make note of it.  I add books I hear about to my online wishlist (at either amazon.com or paperbackswap.com).  When it comes time to look for new reading material, I have a list and don’t have to waste time browsing.  I can use that time for actual reading.  [Here are @fundraiserchad’s top book recommendations]

2) Save posts & articles to read later

When I’m spending time on social media, I do my best to get in and get out.  I don’t read articles or follow link trails.  But fellow fundraisers post lots of great content that I do want to read at some point.  That’s where Pocket comes in.  Pocket is a service that lets me save articles for later (in my pocket).  Then when I have a few minutes (e.g. waiting for an appointment, standing in line, before a donor meeting, etc.), I can read these articles — on ANY of my devices at ANY time.  It’s like having your TO READ pile with you at all times, but without the clutter or the weight.

3) Stop reading if you aren’t getting value

If you start reading something and it’s not what you thought it would be, STOP.  There is no rule that says you have to finish what you start reading.  We aren’t in grade school anymore.  We choose what we read.  This is especially important with books.  Reading an entire book is a big commitment – make sure it’s worth your time.  I will admit that I only finish about half the books that I start reading.  Once I can tell that I’m not going to get enough value out of it to justify the time, I’m done.  It’s that simple.

4) Read during all the little moments of extra time

Surround yourself with things to read.  Fill your Pocket with articles.  Keep books and magazines that you want to read on your coffee table, desk, night stand.  Keep reading material in your briefcase and in your suitcase.  Make sure you are never in a situation where you have time to read, but nothing to read.

Then instead of hopping on Facebook on your phone when you have a spare minute or two, pull up something to read.  Even if you only read a page, you are making progress and being inspired.  Don’t let these little moments go to waste, they add up.

5) Schedule a lunch with yourself

When I have something that I really want to read, like a book written by my favorite speaker at a conference or the latest edition of AFP’s Advancing Philanthropy, I schedule lunch with it.  I literally go to my calendar, find an open lunch slot, and plug in “Meeting | Advancing Philanthropy.”  It’s a lunch date, with reading material.  The key is that it is blocked from any other commitments (and it looks like a real meeting to the folks that help manage my calendar).  It’s a great way to make progress on beefier items which really require time to digest (puns intended).

6) Try audiobooks or podcasts (especially in the car) 

Driving is one of the least productive uses of time, but you can change this.  Listening to audiobooks or podcasts is a great option.  Almost any book is available in audiobook format these days and there are countless podcast options — even a few about fundraising.  You can also turn up the speed on audiobook or podcast apps to have them play at 1.5x or 2x speed.  This can allow you to finish things in half the time, and it is often times still very easy to understand.

Productive Fundraising: It’s Both WHAT You Do and HOW You Do It

Productive Fundraising: It’s Both WHAT You Do and HOW You Do It

Productivity is a two part process.  It requires the perfect balance of efficiency and effectiveness.  It’s not only the outcomes that matter, but also the process for reaching those outcomes.  It’s both WHAT you do, and HOW you do it.

The WHAT

As a professional fundraiser, there is a constant temptation, and sometimes expectation, to try to raise funds every way possible.  The suggestions come from everywhere:  articles, blogs, conferences, etc.  My favorite is the “helpful” (and insistent) board member …  “I’m involved with XYZ organization and they just held this great event that raised a lot of money, we’re going to do that too!”  Don’t get me started on non-strategic special events!  Regular readers of this blog know that I recommend holding no more than two big special events per year.  The flip side of this board member is the one that says “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” at every single meeting.  One wants to do the wrong thing and one doesn’t want to try anything new at all.

So what’s the problem with these two mindsets?  Whether you try every tactic possible, or try nothing new at all, you will get the same result … mediocrity.  Things will be fine, but you’ll never really fulfill your mission and change the world.  You’ll be stuck in slow growth mode or maybe even stagnancy.

So how do you do better than mediocre?  The key is to figure out what will work best for your organization, and to do it well … really well.   Buy how? In my opinion, the number one skill for today’s fundraiser is the desire to always be learning.  Read every day … make it a priority.  Keep up with the latest trends.  Attend industry leading conferences.  Expose yourself to other sectors and see what’s working there.  Then bring those ideas back to your office and apply them to your work … INNOVATE.

But don’t just blindly innovate, you have to test what you put into place.  Is it really working, or is does it just make your organization look good?  Charities don’t fulfill their missions by looking good … they do it by raising vital funds and delivering programmatic results.  So, make a commitment to innovation.  Try one or two new strategies at a time.  Keep the ones that work and kill the ones that don’t.  After a few development cycles, you’ll find a few strategies that really elevate your fundraising and charity to the next level.  And you’ll get really good at saying “NO” to the things that you know will take you back  down to the land of mediocrity.

The HOW

Something must also be said for HOW you work.  Are you an efficient worker?  If meeting your goals requires that you put in 60 hour weeks every single week, there’s a problem.  It could be unrealistic expectations or it could be bad work habits.  It’s most likely a combination of both.  By being in touch with your personal productivity habits and constantly seeking ways to improve them, you can take back your life and still be an effective fundraiser.

Developing a personal productivity system that you can trust is a key to success (and sanity).  Managing time, email and social media use are also key skills.  You also need to know how to limit and maximize meetings, travel smart and properly integrate your work and home lives.  And finally, you have to do it all with a great attitude by managing your mood and energy level.

And let’s not forget … you have to actually leave the office to meet with donors, network and build the pipeline.

This has been my framework for success in the nonprofit sector: constant innovation (and testing) with a major focus (okay, addiction) on working efficiently.

The Secret to Sending Prompt Thank You Notes

The Secret to Sending Prompt Thank You Notes

When we meet with a donor, prospect or volunteer, especially for the first time, we fundraisers have the best of intention of sending a thoughtful hand-written thank you note. We truly appreciate the gift of time that the individual has given us and we want to sincerely thank them for it.  Plus, we know that most people don’t get many thank you notes, especially hand-written ones, and we know the impact that they have on the recipient.

But what typically happens?  That’s right … life happens.  We go to back to the office and get buried in the flood of emails that piled up while we were away.  Or we head home and go right into dinner prep and homework help.  Even if we add “Write thank you note to Susan” to our to do list, three days often go by before we get to it — and promptness is a big key to success with thank you notes.

So, what’s the solution?  Keep a set of thank you cards and pre-stamped envelopes with you at all times (in your briefcase, car, purse, etc.).  Immediately after a meeting, do not create an electronic reminder to send a follow up note, which inevitably will be postponed so many times as to become late and ultimately obsolete. Instead, at the very moment you think of it, reach in your bag, grab a ready-to-mail card and complete it. The details of your message will be fresh in your mind and it will be effortless.  If you struggle with what to write, here’s my guide to writing three sentence, three minute thank you notes.

One additional tactic that I often use is to pre-address the thank you note while I’m waiting to go into a meeting and lay it on my passengerPicture1 seat.  Then it’s the first thing I see upon returning to my car and it’s easy to quickly rattle it off.  When I get back to the office or home it is immediately dropped in the outgoing mail.

Having a supply of pre-stamped thank you cards with you at all times will make sending your thank you notes much easier — almost effortless.  It will be one less point of stress in your day that will make a big difference with your donors.

How to Put Fundraising Ideas into Action

How to Put Fundraising Ideas into Action

I find that fundraisers spend a lot of unnecessary time chasing the next great thing and worrying about how they’ll come up with new ways to raise dollars for their cause.   A productive fundraiser does not do this.  For the productive fundraiser, idea generation is an ongoing and innate process.  They are constantly collecting ideas and therefore have a fundraising tactic treasure trove constantly at their disposal.  It’s not a switch that you turn on at conferences or as your campaign year wraps up — it’s an ongoing process.

There’s a great quote by business guru Seth Godin that shows the value of this approach: “You probably don’t need yet another new idea. Better to figure out what to do with the ones you’ve got.”  [sidebar: I had the pleasure of seeing Seth live at AFP’s 2015 International Conference in Baltimore — he’s the best public speaker I’ve ever seen.  Don’t miss the opportunity if you get the chance to see him live.]

So, once you take on this mindset, you’ll never have to go searching for great ideas again.  You’ll already have them stored away somewhere for future use.  Personally, I have a notebook in my online note taking application of choice (Evernote) simply called “Idea Bank.”  It’s a collection of ideas, articles, photos, etc. taken from conferences, books, articles, blog posts, conversations, etc.  Anytime I think “I like that … that could work for us,” the idea is captured and sent to the “Idea Bank” for future consideration.

Each year I begin the fundraising planning process by scanning my “Idea Bank” for the best two new ideas to implement in the coming year.  Yes … two.  Not five, certainly not ten, not one, exactly TWO.  The key is to find the best two ideas that are immediately actionable and include them in your plan.  One should be started right away and the other a few months later.  You should also have a few ideas in reserve in case one of the first two don’t work out.  As you implement, you should constantly be testing and evaluating how things are working.  Don’t be afraid to pull the plug if something isn’t working, but have another idea in your pocket to take its place.

Every successful fundraising plan that I’ve seen has had two new innovative strategies in it … every year.  Not two ideas that didn’t work out … two ideas that successfully raised increased funding for the organization.  They might not have been the two ideas that were in the plan at the beginning of the year, but they were the two that got the job done.

When you’re always learning, have a system in place to capture great ideas, and are constantly testing new innovative ideas, your fundraising will automatically become more innovative and successful.  You won’t even have to think about putting fundraising inspiration into action — it will be second nature.

How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes

How to Write 3 Minute Thank You Notes

We all know the importance of a prompt, genuine, hand-written thank you note after a donor visit or other key interaction.  However, getting that thank you note written and in the mail can be a challenge given the other demands on our time.  Here’s a key tip and a simple process to make it easier …

First of all, make sure you always have a stack of thank you notes with you.  Keep a stack in your office, keep a stack in your briefcase, keep a stack in your car, etc.  Also, pre-stuff them in their envelopes with a business card (but don’t seal them), and pre-stamp the envelope.  One of my favorite hacks is to pre-address the envelope before going into my meeting and then leave it on the passenger seat of my car.  It’s the first thing I see after my meeting and it takes just two more minutes to finish the note.

But what do you write in that note?  You want something that’s efficient, but doesn’t make you sound like an insincere robot?  Here’s a simple three sentence formula for foolproof thank you notes:

sentence 1 = what you saw / what happened
sentence 2 = the impact of what you saw on you or your organization
sentence 3 = what you appreciate about the person’s role in what you saw

Let’s take a look at an example that I actually wrote last week:

Image

Putting these steps into practice will turn writing a thank you note into a three minute process for you.  One minute of prep (pre-stuffing, pre-stamping, pre-addressing) and two minutes of efficient writing.  And those will be three minutes well spent that make quite the impression with your donors and key contacts.  Just think, when was the last time you actually received a hand-written thank you note?