5 Questions To Maximize Your Time With Donors

5 Questions to Maximize Your Time with Donors

What’s your favorite question to ask when meeting with donors? Here are my five favorites which always lead to enlightening conversations …

  • What do you know about us?

  • What first led you to become involved with our organization?

  • What excites you about our current programming?

  • What could we be doing better?

  • How did you come to be so generous?

Hate Networking? Try These Fun, Provoking Questions

Hate Networking? Try These Fun, Provoking Questions

Networking events…most fundraisers either love them or hate them.

We’ve all heard the basic tips, like don’t try to break into a big group and to seek out the loners off to the side. But then, what do we ask about? We ask about work! (It’s what everybody just finished doing, after all). But, even if you love your job, you probably don’t want to talk about work at this point in the day.

So what should you talk about? In a bit, I’ll share two great networking questions that I use a lot, and will point your conversations in the right direction.

But first, let’s take a step back. What’s our goal at these events? It’s not to get donations. It’s not to talk about business. Our goal, really, is to build connections with people. To find common ground and start a new relationships that we can deepen later. Maybe it’ll lead to donations or other connections down the line, but that’s not our primary goal at the event.

So if it (work) is not our primary goal, why are we talking about it?! Instead, let’s talk about HUMAN things – interests or hobbies that allow us to build common ground. Our favorite sports teams. Our kids and families. The good stuff!

To start these kinds of conversations, my favorite question is: “What do you like to do when you’re not at work or events like this?” Bingo – instantly they start talking about their hobbies or their family or something important to them. Then you can find common ground and have a conversation about that.

My second favorite question, if it’s somebody a little more fun or we just have some good initial conversation, is “What are you nerding out to these days?” The word “nerd” itself kind of creates a chuckle, and fun. And then they just get into what they’re interested in.

So those are my questions. Use those, or come up with your own. There’s lots of great lists of other networking questions online, but the key is not not talk about work at networking events. Talk about interests. Talk about stuff that’s fun. You’ll be memorable and you’ll build stronger connections.

Donor Relations Guru: A Treasure Trove of Event Collateral Samples

Lynne Wester, the Donor Relations Guru, and her team just completed their annual Event Collateral Swap. 

They’ve amassed an amazing collection of nearly 1,200 pages of samples from nonprofits in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. They hope you’ll use these FREE samples for benchmarking and to inspire new ideas for your organization’s events.

So, check out this treasure trove today …


Quit Searching for the Fundraising Fountain of Youth

In this post I’d like to address a growing pet peeve of mine…

It seems that every time I go to a fundraising conference these days there is always a session on ‘engaging millenials,’ or ‘generational changes in giving.’ At first, that sounds great. Yes … we should probably adjust or tactics over time and adjust to changing donor preferences.

But then it goes a step further, and there are sessions on ‘how to get a younger donor base,’ or my all time favorite ‘my donors are getting older, what do I do?’

This is where I pause andsay “that’s always going to be the case!” Our donors are always going to be older. At what stage of life do you have the capacity and the ability to really make major gifts to charities? It’s going to be when you’re at the peak of your career or just past. Our major donors are typically going to be in their sixties and seventies. It’s just how it is. Yes, they will change over time with the generations and new preferences. But this whole idea of trying to get a younger donor base … I don’t think it’s really that worthwhile.

So, I don’t spend a lot of time doing that. Yes, we want to incorporate new technologies, be multi-channel, and adapt to the times. But doing that specifically to target a much younger donor base, one that’s really not going to have the capacity to make major gifts for another 40+ years? No.

Do we still do some things like monthly donor programs and social media engagement to try to get them involved? Yes. But really trying to target that group at the full engagement level, I don’t think so. It’s a lot of wasted effort that’s not going to pay off anytime soon.

So, what do we do? We know who our major donors are. We know what generation are they a part of and we know how to speak their language. Let’s focus on that. And then yes, let’s try to talk to everybody else as well. But, our donors will always be older. It’s just how it is. It’s how our economy works and how philanthropy is going to be, at least for the foreseeable future.

So fundraisers, give that some thought. Think about what you are spending too much time worrying about. And maybe instead you need to get out there and meet with some of those older donors who make a big difference to your organization.

Donor Update Call Script [free download]

Are you calling your donors to thank them for their support? Are your board members helping out? I certainly hope so, if not you are losing out as other nonprofits in town are connecting with your donors this way!

With donor thank you calls becoming more common these days, how do you stand out? Try donor update calls.

These calls are very similar to donor thank you calls, but they take place three to six months after the donation is made. We are once again calling to say thank you, but this time we have results to share. We have the proof that their donation made a difference and we simply want to share that with them.

Sound good? Read to pick up the phone? Nervous … here’s my Donor Update Call Script to help you out. Now go call some donors!


Veritus Group: Get Rid of the Word ‘Annual’

One of my most common recommendations to clients is to start a monthly giving program.

It’s hard to believe, but I don’t think I’ve ever shared a Veritus Group article with you all.  That’s a crying shame because they are awesome!

Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels deliver great content on a regular basis.  Much of their content is major gift related (and is sometimes a stretch for the tiny fundraising shops that most of you run), but there are also gems like the post I’m sharing today … “Get Rid of the Word Annual.”

I’m sure you see where this is going.  Why do we use this counterproductive term?  We’re essentially training our donors to only make one donation per year!  Richard has some other examples of ways that we do this and some alternative language that you can put into use immediately.


Block Time for Donor Visits (and for Scheduling Them)

Donor visits are the one fundraising technique that we all know we should be doing, but they’re so hard to pull off on a consistent basis. 

There are just so many demands on our time, and donor visits take us out of the office and away from other activities.  We must have dedicated time to do them! But, especially if you’re running a small shop, it’s just so hard to find that time.

So here’s what I did as a small shop fundraiser and what I encourage my clients to do: block time on your calendar each and every week for donor visits

Now, you need to do a little math. I like to allow 2 hours for a donor visit, including travel time. How many do you need to do each month? Multiply that number by 2 (2 hours per visit), now divided it by 4 (4 weeks per month). The result is how many hours each week you should block for donor visits.

So for me, that was four hours per week. I typically split that into two, 2-hour blocks spread throughout the week. And I always liked to schedule these for when I was least effective in the office.  For me, that’s mid-to-late afternoon time. So, I blocked Monday and Wednesday late afternoons as recurring appointments, marked as busy, so nothing else can be scheduled during that time.  It is a time I held sacred for donor visits.

Did all my visits happen on Monday and Wednesday afternoons? No, of course not. But I had held that time so I had the margin and wiggle room to move other things around to accommodate them. You can’t schedule donor visits if your calendar is already full.

But, is that good enough? If you just have that time blocked and you go through the everyday hustle and bustle of your job, you’ll get to the next week (and your donor visit time block) and you’ll still be in the office. That’s because you didn’t take the time to actually scheduled those donor visits.  So, the other key thing that I recommend is to have a time block set aside for scheduling donor visits each and every week. I have always had a half-hour time block where I was simply sending emails, making phone calls, and following-up, to try to get those donor visits scheduled for the next few weeks.

That’s the key to make this (or almost anything) happen — you have to set aside the time and protect it from other less important, yet still “urgent” items.  Now, quit reading this and make some contacts so you can get out of the office and have those visits that we know are so effective!

Should You Give Your Donors an Incentive for Giving?

Video Transcription:

I want to talk a little bit about donor incentives … the stuff you get when you make a donation. If I get asked about this, I almost always say, “It’s not a great idea.” Because you don’t want to set that precedent – you don’t want your donors to think that in order to make a donation there has to be something tangible in it for them. You want them to give because they want to make an impact, because they want to change the world. That’s what we’re after. But sometimes there are exceptions….

The most notable exceptions are my friends at public media stations. They have fallen into that trap where it’s, “Make a donation and you get this boxed CD set,” or, perhaps at Valentine’s Day, “Make a donation and we’ll send a dozen roses to a person of your choice.” They are deep into that and they have some donors who won’t give unless they’re going to get something in return. So using that as an example I almost always say, “Don’t do it!” But, you have got to know your audience, which brings me to something that happens in my house every year. A campaign where we actually give to get the stuff.

In the video I’m out camping with two special guests. They are my boys, and I asked them about when we give to a certain fundraiser specifically in order to GET something. They go on to explain how every year they participate in Jump Rope for Heart. Jump Rope for Heart knows their audience well and they give very specific “bling” incentives for giving and participating! So, they go into the schools with activities and they know that the kids want the “bling,” or prizes. You have to give to get. My boys have lanyards and in the video you can see their extensive collections of these incentives. And then we talk about maybe we should just give to the food pantry or something like that. And we do, but we still give to get the bling. We love that bling!

So, there you have it. Ultimately, you’ve got to know your audience. For some of you it may work, but for most of you it’s a trap that you really want to avoid.

Super Simple Elevator Speech Template [free download]

How do you talk about your nonprofit organization?

How do your board members talk about your organization? Are they nervous? If so, they’re probably trying to recite your mission statement and totally butchering it.

Make it easy for them … give them a super simple elevator speech to recite that leads right into a story about the impact your organization has had on one person.

Here’s the super simple formula …

  • “We help [who],”
  • “So they can [do what].”
  • “Let me tell you about [first name], [story]”

This is far easier to remember than our boring, jargon-filled mission statements. And exact words aren’t important … just get the basic concept and you’re golden.

Better yet, let your board create the elevator speech. Download my Super Simple Elevator Speech Template and have your board members complete it as an exercise at your next board meeting or retreat.

It’s amazing what can happen when everyone is telling the same story out in the community. You just have to give them the tools to do so.

Sandy Rees: How to Start a Monthly Giving Program for Your Small Nonprofit

One of my most common recommendations to clients is to start a monthly giving program.

Often times the response that I receive is “we already have a monthly giving program.” To which I reply, “simply having a checkbox on your online donation page (to make the donation a recurring gift) does not qualify as a monthly giving program.”

You need to do more. Create a program and a system to actively market it and you’ll build the momentum you need to make it something that your supporters want to be a part of.

To help you out, here’s great article by fundraising guru Sandy Rees on “How to Start a Monthly Giving Program for Your Small Nonprofit.” Because, even if you already have a program (meaning more than just a checkbox), there are still some great tips on growing support for this important part of your fundraising program.


Twice a week Chad sends out quick tips, free fundraising templates/samples, links to articles by industry gurus and top notch recommendations.  Want in? Subscribers are also eligible to win his monthly swag bag drawing featuring great fundraising books, gear and a $100 donation to your cause!

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