Tag Archives: tips

Don’t put ’em to sleep or tick ’em off – Make sure your event attendees get what they want

The October 7 edition of the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports on a new study on how organizations are working hard to make sure their special events and galas measure up to donor expectations while still accomplishing their overall goal – raising needed funds.   Organizations are going out of their way to create a memorable and – hopefully – special experience that will set their event apart from the numerous events being held this time of year.  This is especially challenging here in Washington or in other large cities such as New York, Chicago, Houston or Los Angeles, where there are wall-to-wall events, galas and benefits.

The Chronicle article focused on a study conducted by CharityHappenings.org, an organization that sells tickets to charity events.  They asked 850 event attendees across the country about what they thought when it came to event logistics, format, ticket prices, venues, menus and invitations.  It gave gala-goers a chance to weigh in on how they view their own experiences with these types of events.  One lesson: Be careful not to try to do too much, or you will wear out all of those good feelings your guests might be having…even with those glasses of champagne.  This usually starts to happen when the presentations and speeches begin.  Your annual gala might be your first, best or only opportunity to get your organization’s message in front of so many people, but you’ve got to think about your audience and their experience.  To use the words of CharityHappenings chief Justin Baer says, “Like every great sales pitch, it should be fast, lean and targeted.”

You can get a free copy of the 2010 Charity Event Market Research report at the CharityHappenings website.

Some interesting – but in some cases not surprising  – findings:

  • The biggest complaint about events and galas – long speeches!
  • The amount of the ticket price that most respondents felt should be going to the organization – 75%
  • The time during which most people buy their tickets – 1 to 2 weeks in advance
  • One of the least motivating factors in why they attended an event – celebrity appearances
  • Percentage of event attendees who say they prefer galas to have some sort of “theme” – 66% (2 out of 3)
  • The most popular nosh – sushi (no more scallops wrapped in bacon…)

So take some time and think about your upcoming gala, auction or benefit.  Consider carefully the experience you’re providing to your attendees.  Use the CharityHappenings survey to fine tune your approach.  Yours might just be the event everyone said, “Were you there??  You should have been!!”


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Filed under Events and Activities, From the Field & In the Trenches

What’s Fresh Today???

Our newest “News You Can Use” email is focusing on ways to take a “fresh approach” to familiar topics in fundraising, board development and nonprofit management.  Ideas raised included enhanced ways to do role playing, helping your donors to tell your story and enabling board members to stay busy while not asking.  For more information, or to get onto our mailing list, visit www.capdevstrat.com.

Now, it’s your turn.

Tell us what’s you’re doing that’s fresh, original, innovative or creative!  Use the comments section to share some of your ideas for how a new approach, a different tactic or a wild idea has made an impact on your fundraising and your nonprofit.  Are you doing something interesting with your fall appeal letters this year?  Are your major donor events taking on a special looking in the coming months?  Have you found a way to engage your board members that’s fun and memorable?  If so, share it with your peers.

Let’s recognize and celebrate your successes!  Tell us what’s fresh today.

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Filed under From the Field & In the Trenches, Philanthropy and Fundraising

Be Ready with an “Emergency” Ask

Picture this.  Your prospect is a very busy business leader. You’ve arranged a pre-solicitation meeting and you were sure that everyone understood that this was just going to be an opportunity to talk about the project, the need and the campaign.  About 2/3 of the way through the meeting, the prospect says, “This sounds really terrific, but I am leaving town for several weeks to oversee the opening of a new office facility across the country, so there will be no way that I can do a site visit.” 

It’s dawning on you that you’re not going to be able to see this prospect face-to-face for a long time, and she was rated as one of your top prospects.  You don’t want to waste this opportunity.  What happens now?

Even when you thought it was just going to be a cultivation visit you might need to quickly formulate an “emergency” ask.

When it comes right down to it, getting some form of ask out there might be better than nothing.  If you think an encounter like this is turning into your only or best shot at getting something from this prospect, go for it.

Now I’m calling it an “emergency” ask, but it really is something that you should have prepared in advance.  Take the time to practice this ahead of time.  If you need to make your emergency ask, you should be able to do it with confidence and without apologies.  Further, if you are going on a solicitation call with another person as part of a team, make sure you discuss this ahead of time.  Agree in advance who will say what, especially if the prospect goes off on a tangent or just cuts to the chase and asks for an ask, or as in this case, makes it clear that she’s not going to be around.

Here are some other possible responses…remember, you should make up one that feels natural for you.  So when the prospects says, “Just tell me what you want.” You can say:

“This effort is going to require meaningful stretch gifts from us all, and I hope you will agree that this project is critical.  I’ve gone the extra mile already, which is why I’m taking the time to talk to folks like you.  What I would like is for you to consider joining me in making a sacrificial gift to this campaign.”

“Thanks for being open to an ask already, but this capital campaign is very big project, and there’s more I want you to see before we get to that.  However, we would really appreciate your getting involved now as a donor to our ongoing programs.  Can we count on you today for a major donor level gift to the Annual Fund?” Make sure you include a specific $$ amount.

“We would like you to join the other community leaders who’ve already shown their support by making a gift to this campaign.  I know you care deeply about this issue, and I want to make sure you have the opportunity to play a part.  Can we count on you today to do something special?” 

Additionally, depending on which of these you might have used, you could simply follow up by suggesting a clear course of action for the prospect.  “Tell me what works best with your schedule.  Here are the next steps I see…First, visit our facility; second, meet with our CEO and third, consider financial commitment. Do you agree?  Are there other steps you want to take?   How do I best set these things up and communicate with you?”  Assume that there are going to be future contacts of some sort, and go from there. But be sure to suggest some form of action.

So don’t be afraid and don’t freeze up when all of sudden the script has to be tossed and you just need to get something in front of the donor.  Practice ahead of time and have that emergency ask in your back pocket.

This topic is one that we explored in “Just Tell Me What You Want: Answers to the Unexpected Things Prospects Say,” which was part of Extra Credit, a teleconference I hosted earlier this month.  Many of the participants agreed that taking the time to think through how we can respond when prospects go off-script and surprise us is well worth it.

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Filed under Events and Activities, From the Field & In the Trenches, Philanthropy and Fundraising

New Info Resource for AFP Members

I’ve written two pieces for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Information Exchange series.  The Information Exchange is designed to leverage the knowledge and experience of thousands of AFP members around the world.  Writers submit short papers on a variety of subjects.  The Information Exchange pieces focus on practical, “how-to” topics that can help fundraising professionals in their daily work.  The Information Exchange papers are available to AFP members at no charge as a member benefit.

The two papers recently posted are Talking About Your Own Gift and Those of Others – Including a Handy List of 12 “Ask Phrases” and Engaging Your Colleagues to Become Part of the Fundraising Team

While these papers are normally only available to AFP members, if you contact me directly at Capital Development Strategies, I can send you a copy.  However, if you are a fundraising professional, I highly encourage you to join AFP.  It’s worth the investment!


Filed under From the Field & In the Trenches, Philanthropy and Fundraising

Are your donors asking for a visit?

One of our clients held a gala this fall.  In response to an invitation, one individual sent them a reply saying, “I’m sorry I can’t make it, but here’s $5,000.”

“That’s a ‘come and see me’ gift,” I said to the executive director.  I encouraged this staff leader to get on an airplane and go visit this person who had just made such a generous, spur-of-the-moment gift.   From my perspective, if someone can simply write a check for $5,000 based on an invitation to a gala, they have the capacity to do a lot more.  A visit with that person could yield another gift, perhaps right on the spot.  The organization could secure a commitment from that donor to make a similar gift for a number of years in a row – a so-called “sustaining” annual gift.  At a minimum, they will have begun the very valuable process of effectively stewarding this donor’s relationship their organization.

Are your donors asking you to come and see them?  Do you take the time to look for those out-of-the-ordinary, unexpected gifts that come your way?  Is your annual fund staff trained to notice these special gifts?  Is there a system that flags extra large gifts from the direct mail program for special attention? What do you do when you find these donors? The answers to these questions can form base of a good, sustainable major gifts program.

Many donors want to be noticed.  All donors want to be thanked.  While it might seem extravagant to get on an airplane to go and visit that $5,000, think of the return on that investment.  For the price of a $300 airplane ticket and a $25 cab ride, you can help secure that $5,000 for future years – not a bad payoff to be sure.

Watch out for those “come and see me” gifts.   Your donors are calling…you better answer.

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Filed under From the Field & In the Trenches, Philanthropy and Fundraising

Year-End Fundraising Tip – Highlight Your Button!

 (I just got this tip from my colleagues at AFP/DC at our breakfast seminar this morning, so I’m passing it along.)

 Here’s a quick tip for enhancing your year-end fundraising: 

 MCj04414240000[1]Starting November 1st, move your “Donate Now” button to a very prominent place on your organization’s home page. 

 Don’t make potential donors waste any time trying to figure out how to make a gift.  

If your “Donate” option is on the navigation bar, create a special button on your home page.  If you’ve already got a button, increase its size, change its color, etc. – whatever it takes to get it noticed.

 This may take a couple of conversations with your IT folks or with the Communications Department, but it will be worth it.  This will be especially true if your year-end appeals are driving traffic to your website.  Your donors will appreciate it.

 If you want, you can put your home page back to the way it was on January 1st.

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Filed under From the Field & In the Trenches, Philanthropy and Fundraising