Whew! 2020 is finally behind us . . . in the rearview mirror.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to occasionally glance back in the rearview mirror. Glance back on past obstacles and roadblocks and even those harrowing hairpin turns we successfully navigated.
2021 may have gotten off to a rocky start, but we survived 2020. We’re tough. We’re survivors. We got the job done.
Got the job done for our life-changing missions and ministries. Our missions and ministries were important before the pandemic hit, and as most have demonstrated, even more important than ever.
But now, it’s time to glance back in the rearview mirror as we continue to steer through 2021 . . . .
In other words, what did we experience in 2020, and how has it made us better fundraisers in 2021 and beyond?
Your organization is important and serves a critical need. Make sure donors, supporters, staff, and the community know this. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Tell the stories. Ask for resources necessary to support the critical need. Be proud of who you are and the impact on those you serve.
“Technology never goes backwards”, and the same is true for our fundraising. This is so true. “I sure miss dial-up internet” said no one ever. While “Zoom” and virtual connections are here to stay, they will never replace in-person connections. But we must admit that technology has made much of what we do a bit easier and more accessible. It certainly has opened our events and meetings to supporters and constituents who might not otherwise have the ability or inclination to participate in-person. If it works keep doing it.
A fully engaged board is more important than ever. Make sure the board knows what you accomplished (not just $$ raised) during 2020, how much more needs to be done, and be specific how their help is needed (and make specific assignments). The more cheerleaders you have on your team, the more storytellers and advocates, the greater your results. The more “good” you can do!
Flexibility is essential. The “way we were” is in the rearview mirror. “We’ve always done it this way” is in the past. Organizations who stepped up, tried new things and new strategies, learned that there are many more ways to accomplish their goals, many that even produce greater results. The Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step” truly sums up how this crazy pandemic forced us to be flexible and take that first step . . . forward.
Connecting with Donors and Supporters can be done. Many of us experienced the joy in talking with and listening to our donors and supporters, for the first time. We took the time to “check-in”, to see how the pandemic was affecting them. We gave back, because it was the right thing to do. And the concern was appreciated. Now keep it up. Keep checking in. Not just with your majors, but all donors, all supporters, all those who believe in your mission and ministry. Keep listening. Keep building those relationships.
Events can be “special” even when not in person. Over the last year, so many of you shifted to virtual events that are truly “special”. Laser focused on the mission and the message. Compelling and inspirational. All without fancy clothes, big ticket prices, and chicken dinners. You attracted new attendees, and even raised more money. Keep doing what works, tweak if necessary. Keep them “special”.
“Thank You” never goes out of style. Right now, all organizations, should be thanking donors and supporters for helping them through 2020. Not their 2020 tax receipt, but genuine thanks. Because of them, your constituents were fed, clothed, sheltered, cared for, educated, entertained, and inspired. Make sure you express sincere and frequent gratitude for making it all possible.
The pandemic is still gripping our community, our country, our world. The chaos and uncertainty of 2020 is in our rearview mirror. We struggled, we flexed, we adjusted, we struggled some more, but we came through in one piece.
But there is so much more to do. Let us take the lessons now in our rearview mirror, and let them help steer our organizations forward so we can continue to serve those who need us the most.
And remember, “the work you do is important; you are saving lives.”
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Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse . . . a bit of good news!
Good news, because of you.
Thank you for persevering through this time of upheaval and uncertainty.
Thank you for putting your mission front and center.
Thank you for reaching out to your supporters, telling your story and inspiring them to action.
The latest from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project shows that charitable giving in the first half of 2020 increased by almost 7.5 percent over the first half of 2019. The second quarter also marked a five-year high in the number of donors and contributions.
According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “While donors at all levels have stepped up in a big way during the pandemic, those who gave less than $250 were a major driver of growth. The number of small donations increased 19.2 percent over the first six months of last year. That may be due in part to the $300 universal charitable deduction that was enacted as part of the Cares Act.”
Additionally, the number of midlevel donors, who made gifts of $250 to $999, and major donors, who made gifts of $1,000 or more, increased year-over-year by 8.1 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.
So, how were your results?
Did your donors step up and help sustain your mission and those you serve?
We’ve talked to many of you over the past months.
Many of you have “pivoted” beautifully, reaching out and connecting with more donors with more personal communications and powerful and impactful messaging. Events in many instances, have become truly “special”, using new and creative strategies to draw in new attendees and actually raising more money as a result.
Others we spoke with are waiting, waiting for things to change, to improve, to go back to “normal”. I suspect they did not see such positive results.
So, where do we go from here?
We can’t rest on our laurels or expect what was will continue. One of the most important things you can do right now is to maintain the growth and retain your supporters is to build strong relationships with donors and inspire them to continue giving, what they can, when they can.
The best way to do this is to say “thank you” straight from your heart. There is nothing that makes another feel appreciated more than showering them with sincere gratitude.
Your mission is important. Those you serve have had their loads lightened a bit, because of the generosity of many. Let donors know how important they are now and in the uncertain future that lies before us.
And make sure there is enough gratitude to go around for your team (staff, volunteers, board). And most important, save a big helping of gratitude for yourself. You deserve it.
Join us on Tuesday, October 20 at 9am (EST) for a conversation “Gratitude and Stewardship: The Secret to Raising More Money”. Gratitude and Stewardship is key to any successful fundraising program. We will discuss how to make our donors feel appreciated and engaged not just during times of crisis, but all the time. Register here.
Be a part of the conversation!
Image by veronica111886 from Pixabay
It’s hard to believe that it’s been two months already. Two months since COVID-19 reared its ugly head and “Stay at Home” guided our lives, organizations, schools and businesses.
We send our condolences for the lives lost, and pray for those battling the virus and all those struggling with life’s challenges.
Our community institutions have definitely been impacted. Schools have quickly and exceptionally moved to distance learning. Organizations have been called on to dramatically expand their services to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities. Yet other organizations have implemented creative ways to deliver their mission to reach their constituents. All done at a distance and with fewer resources.
Thank you so much for doing your part by carrying on, in spite of the challenges and revenue uncertainties.
Even in this darkness, there has been an abundance of good. Generosity has become a driving force, a saving-grace for many of us. Individuals wanting to make a positive difference is commonplace. Volunteerism, donating food to pantries, sewing masks, shopping for the elderly and charitable giving is up. Charitable giving even in these uncertain economic times is going strong. Donors appreciate the outreach, the gratitude, and concern for their well-being they are receiving. And they are giving what they can and, in some instances, giving more. What a blessing.
Some early findings from the BBB Wise Giving Alliance tells us that more than 52% of donors expect to give the same this year as last and more than 30% expect to give more. That means it’s up to us, the philanthropic sector, the nonprofits to make sure our mission remains in the hearts and minds of those who make the mission possible . . . the donors.
Just like you, J. Milito & Associates has spent the last two months adjusting to a new way of life, of doing business. We have been blessed with opportunity. Opportunity to spend more time, talking with customers, and nonprofit leaders across this great country. Through our weekly virtual “Conversations”, “Philanthropy in Times of Coronavirus” Facebook group, e-newsletters, and good old-fashioned conversations, we learned much and shared more to make sure organizations felt supported and appreciated.
And on April 20th, we got back to doing what we do best – picking up the telephone and raising funds for life-changing missions and ministries. While setting up a remote call center was not without challenges, we took great care to assure that our telephone fundraisers are working in safe environments and customers campaigns are treated with the same high-quality standards and care as the last 22 years.
We are having great conversations with donors. They are grateful for the outreach and concern. Their generosity has not waned. Donors are eager and willing to share what they can to support the causes they love, and help the individuals and families needing access to important programs and services! The generosity has warmed our hearts.
J. Milito & Associates is truly blessed by the trust so many have placed in us. For more than twenty-two years we’ve walked together with many in support of amazing missions and ministries.
And know, we remain committed to our nonprofit colleagues and friends. We are here for you, because we believe that the work you do is so so important.
Hopefully the worst is behind us. The future is in front of us. What you do today will have an impact on your philanthropic efforts long after this pandemic is behind us.
Today, it’s time to adapt your development plan to address the many unknowns that stand in front of you.
Questions such as: How might our organization be impacted through the summer, into the fall and at calendar year end? What resources will be needed and how will goals be met? What about special events and other in-person fundraising? What are the best strategies and times to fundraise over the next six months? Addressing these now, with contingencies, will help you stay focused on what’s important – those served by your mission and ministry.
J. Milito & Associates can help you look at your plan, answer these questions, and assure that your philanthropy efforts and your fundraising activities are successful.
While our team continues to work remotely, our hope is to be back home in our offices after June 1st. There is much to do to get ready to make this transition, again. Better, smarter, more grateful.
Again, we’re thrilled that our current campaigns are showing positive results from donors including increased gift amounts, bequests, and an out-pouring of gratitude and support from constituents to their favorite charitable organizations. Telephone outreach can help you get through this.
Together, we will get through this.
Gratitude is defined as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
Gratitude to our donors -- those who support our organizations with their time, talent and treasures, should be about expressing our thankfulness for their kindness and generosity.
If we are serious about fundraising, gratitude toward all of our donors regardless whether they give us $5 or $5 million dollars, must be a priority. Our job is not just asking. Our job is also to shower our donors with genuine and plentiful doses of gratitude.
Every “ask” you make must be followed by a show of gratitude.
Until you’ve shown gratitude to your donor for their generosity, you should not ask them for another gift.
Gift Receipts Are Not Gratitude! They are a legal obligation. Period.
Gratitude isn’t about us. It’s not about our mission, vision and values. It’s not about why we need your money, why we think you should support us, or how you can support us. It’s not about our new approach; our new shiny thing. It’s not about the gap. It’s not about why we think we’re different. It’s not about how great we are or “we’ve been in the news”. It isn’t about our presence on social media.
Now don’t get me wrong, these are important. They help your organization run efficiently. But most donors don’t really care. And a newsletter twice each year filled with “we are awesome” is not gratitude.
Donor Relations Guru Lynne Wester reminds us that donors “are in a relationship with us and it is incumbent upon [us] to keep this relationship strong and vital. We must know what drew them to our organization. We need to know what will keep them loyal to our organization. We need to keep wooing them. We cannot take them for granted. We need to demonstrate our deep respect to them. We need to find new ways to show them we need them and are grateful for them.”
It is our job to keep the relationship with donors strong and vital. We must give them what they need or they will go away. Really they will. Current stats tell us that only 3 out of 10 donors will give a second gift.
The wise words of Simone Joyaux, ACFRE should remind us about what motivates our donors: “Donors don’t give TO your organization. They give THROUGH your organization to make a difference and fulfill their own personal aspirations.”
Our fundraising efforts must focus on the donor and their aspirations and how we can make them feel amazing about their generosity.
It has to be about amazing expressions of gratitude to all of our donors.
Expressing gratitude is as simple as
Sharing amazing and inspiring stories.
Asking our donors what inspires them to give.
Showing our donors that we value them and that they DO make a difference.
Remembering what our donors have done and said and using that to personalize our relationship with them.
Treating each donor like they are the most important and only donor we need.
Asking them for their honest feedback and not flipping out when they give it.
Saying “thanks” with passion and sincerity (before the check clears their bank or the credit card statement arrives).
It’s frustrating to see so many organizations treat their donors like ATM machines and their development efforts as merely bucket filling exercises.
Just imagine if you gave a little more time, effort and resources on gratitude and cut back on all the high cost low ROI acquisition and “special” events, your retention rates would soar and your impact would be off the charts.
Remember, if you can inspire your donor to give a second gift, “they are about three times as likely to stay with you.”
Until we understand what motivates our donors, what inspires them, and what they really don’t care about, we are doomed to fundraising mediocrity and abysmal retention rates.
All it takes is just a little Gratitude.