Tag Archives: nonprofit fundraising

The importance of processing nonprofit gifts within 72 hours

first 48 investigation,  fundraising, gift processing, gift acknowledgement, donor attrition, donor retentionAsking for a donation to your nonprofit is one component of fundraising. How that gift is processed once it is received is another. Both are important. Your actions can strengthen a donor relationship, or contribute to its demise. “The First 48” is a TV crime show that stresses the importance of the first 48 hours to the overall criminal investigation. Create guidelines for “The First 72” to keep fundraising on track. Letting gifts “pile up” and processing them once every week or two may appear efficient, but this process may require investigation!

Here are questions to answer when creating your First 72.

Is this a new donor or returning donor? If a new donor, ensure all contact information is entered or imported into database. If you know who solicited or referred the donor, record that information. If a returning donor, ensure contact information is up to date, name is spelled correctly, and you are not inadvertently creating duplicate donors. (Don’t laugh… Andrea Johnson, Andrea Tammy Johnson and Tammy Johnson may all be the same person!)

Who should thank the donor? Is an email enough? When should you send a letter? Who should sign it? Should a telephone call be made? By whom? Figure these things out in advance, and be consistent.

Is the gift an “unrestricted” or “restricted?” This refers to the wishes of the donor. This issue typically arises with larger gifts, when a donor requests that funds be used for a specific program or purpose. Make sure you honor your donors’ requests. More on this topic in a future column. For now, be sure to document gift restrictions and honor them.

What information will this donor receive in the future? Will they receive all communications? General communications plus those related to a specific area of interest? Add them to appropriate lists. Make sure they receive appropriate, timely print and electronic information going forward.

Does the donor have questions or concerns? Who will call or email the donor in order to respond? Don’t let these slip through the cracks! Related to this, was a premium promised? If yes, make sure it is sent out quickly. When a major gift is received make sure staff and leadership know the gift’s impact. Don’t keep good news a secret!

Finally, run gift reports each week and share with leadership and fundraising volunteers. This helps build fundraising momentum, and lets solicitors know who has made a gift so they can personally say “thank you.” Leadership can review these reports and make decisions regarding future cultivation and potentially increase a donor’s gift.

The First 72 is critical to sustaining and growing your donor base. Treat donors well from the beginning to avoid a donor attrition investigation.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Evaluate your nonprofit from a funder’s perspective

Empty Conference Room --- Image by © Bill Varie/CorbisDonors and funders don’t necessarily tell you why they won’t fund your nonprofit. Many will make their evaluation based on your organization’s presentation and reputation without sharing their objections. But, if you know the criteria by which you will be judged you can proactively prepare.

We recently had a candid conversation with corporate representatives to learn what they look for when investing in a nonprofit. Not surprisingly, the conversation started and ended with a focus on the role of the board of directors. Funders assess the board in determining whether or not to give, and the level at which they will give. That assessment includes a look for corporate representation. They want to know who is on the board, how they are involved, what they collectively give, and how much they raise. They look at small cues that communicate an organization’s capacity and board engagement: who circulates throughout the community with the executive director? Is he or she accompanied by other board members or senior staff when attending meetings or events? Do board members identify themselves as such  they circulate personally and professionally?

The funders we talked with see the board as the party responsible for sustaining and growing a nonprofit. They want to know if the board can provide the resources and funding to grow the organization, with or without the executive director. They won’t invest in nonprofits where the board does not demonstrate the leadership required to guarantee growth. Having a strong executive is not enough.

Related to current board involvement is the issue of “the bench.” Funders want to know how the current board is engaging and cultivating future board members. For community-based organizations the questions relate to the process of growing from a community board to a diverse board that integrates, welcomes and engages professionals and corporate representatives. Those we talked with mentioned the importance of boards knowing what type of leadership model they seek to emulate. While concerned about funding for today, these funders are equally focused on an organization’s ability to succeed in future years. They want to know about succession planning: who is capable of ensuring continuity of operations should the executive abruptly leave. They want to know if and how the board surrounds the executive director with professionals who can help attract people resources.

Finally, they made it clear that they invest in nonprofits where their employees provide board leadership: funding and resources follow employee board engagement.

The bar is set very high. But you can’t meet the mark if you don’t know what it is. If you have been struggling to grow your organization to a new level of operations, and seeking corporate support, you may want to consider looking at your nonprofit from the perspective of a corporate funder. What will they see?

Preparing to Ask for a Gift

Making the Ask-Part Two

Preparing to Ask for a Gift-Saad & Shaw

Fundraising provides nonprofits with the money they need to deliver on their missions. When you ask others to join you in giving you become part of the nonprofit’s success team.

In part one of this series we discussed how to prepare to solicit a gift. In this column we cover setting the appointment and what to say when asking.

Here’s what we believe: asking for a gift should be done in person whenever possible. Make an appointment to talk with your colleague, family member or friend about giving. Let’s use an example of asking Jesse for a gift. “Jesse, would you have time to meet with me about All In For Children? I am committed to working with them to raise money for their new programs and I want to share that information with you and explore how you would like to be involved.” All you want from the conversation is a time to meet. If Jesse says, “Oh, we don’t have to meet. Put me down for $100,” you can respond with, “I understand. Would you make some time for me just the same? You might want to give even more after we talk!” Keep the conversation light, but get that appointment.

As you prepare for your meeting, make sure you have brochures or online information you can share. Practice your presentation. You will want to talk about the organization’s history, current activities and vision for the future. You will also want to cover what specifically you are raising money for and how the money will be used. Be prepared to communicate using emotion and facts.  Talk about what the organization means to you and why you are involved.

During the solicitation be sure to ask for a specific, reasonable and challenging gift.  Know the amount you will ask for.  It shouldn’t be too small an amount, nor too large.  Remember to talk about the gift you made.  If your gift is similar to what you would like your prospect to give, state the amount you gave and why.

Always remember to make the ask. Be very clear and specific when asking: “Jesse, I would like for you to make a gift to All In For Children.  Would you be willing to contribute $___?”

Pause after you ask for the gift.  Do not rush to fill the silence.  Give Jesse time to respond, for he will. If he says “yes”, thank him and ask how he would like to make his gift. If he says “no”, ask what would be the right amount at this time. If Jesse says this is not the right time, ask what would be a good time. Regardless of the outcome, thank him for his time. After the meeting, send a thank you note.  You can do it! Your nonprofit depends on you.

Get all the details in “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” 

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.”  They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them @saadshaw.

How to Solicit a Gift

Making the Ask – Part One

Money

How do you ask someone to make a gift to a nonprofit that you believe in? What do you say? When do you ask? What if the person says “yes?” What if she says “no?”

When it comes to soliciting a gift for a nonprofit here’s what you need to know. First off, if you are new to fundraising, it is natural – and healthy! – to feel a bit nervous. One way to reduce nervousness is to prepare and rehearse. Think about what might encourage a potential donor to give, and what his or her objections might be. Be prepared to overcome potential objections with information. And don’t worry – the most important thing is to ask. You can’t predict the response, but you can prepare your presentation. And, once you start getting a few “yeses” you may get addicted to fundraising: it is fun to secure resources for organizations and institutions you believe in.

Here are a few suggestions for getting started. First off, don’t work alone. If you are asked to solicit a gift for a nonprofit, college, or hospital ask who on the staff will work with you to get you prepared. When you meet with the staff person be sure to discuss who you should solicit. You may have several people in mind, the organization may also have a few people they would like for you to ask. In general, you should solicit people you know or have a relationship with.

You will want to learn about the relationship between the organization and the people you will be soliciting. For example, will you be soliciting current donors or volunteers, or people who don’t yet have a relationship with the nonprofit? You will want to know how much money the organization is seeking to raise in total, how much has already been raised, as well as what size gift you should ask your prospective donor to give. Make sure that you have access to printed and online information about the organization, its mission, vision, impact, programs and leadership. Ask for a brochure to take with you. Be sure you can communicate how the funds raised will be used. Ask as many questions as you feel the donor may have. It is most important that you are both knowledgeable about the organization and comfortable answering questions that may arise.

If you are new to fundraising, or feel uncomfortable making the ask, request that the staff person spend some time role playing with you. You may also want to accompany a staff person or more experienced volunteer or board member as they solicit a gift. This can help decrease any nervousness or discomfort you may feel.

Most importantly – make your own gift before you ask someone else to give!

Next week: details on what to say when soliciting a gift.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.”  They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them @saadshaw.