Donor Cultivation

AFP 2015 International Conference Takeaways

Merritt and I just returned from the AFP International Conference in Baltimore and it was a big time.

One of the best AFP jams I've been to in a while — the caliber of the speakers was impressive—and we met so many new, lovely people.

Just a quick post to share the goodies with you and encourage you to join us in Boston for the 2016 conference.

Some themes and good ideas that jumped out at us:

  • Thank you strategy. As in multiple thank you messages over a period of months. Worked better for retention than hammering donors with an ask every time.
  • Donors demand ROI. Of course the emotion needs to be there, but so does the proof that you're using their money wisely to do what you told them you would do.
  • Women in philanthropy. Fascinating stuff on giving circles, women's role in households across the country and what unique motivators drive giving for women.
And Isabel Allende! A dream realized. 

We were tweeting like crazy. Find us @mjtiffany and @merrittengel.

You can find the conference hashtags, blogs, etc here.

Thanks, AFP. We'll see you next year.

The Halo Effect

I'm on the board of a local nonprofit that had tax credits available to donors who gave over a certain amount in 2013. Since I'm not the chick that can donate significant cash to the cause, I try to amp up the   "Talent and Time" portion of the good board member's trifecta of contributions: Time, Talent and Treasure.

That said, I asked our executive director if everyone on our file of potential donors knew about the credit. Mentioned that perhaps we should send out a couple year-end emails thanking them for their support in 2013 and inviting them to partake of the tax advantages of a generous year-end gift to our group.

The exec didn't want to bother people with a lot of year end emails so I suggested suppressing those who responded to the initial drop.

Results were impressive, but unexpected. The Halo Effect strikes again.
Several things to keep in mind:

  • One Channel Can Drive Another. Several major gifts were walked in by donors as a result of the email. Others mailed them in. The point is they knew these channels were available and their preference drove the bus here. Everyone wins.
  • Staying Top of Mind Year-Round. This organization invests in excellent PR. Even those donors who come to one event and don't actively engage with us year-round know what we're up to and the difference we're making in our community. That makes a difference when you come asking for gifts at the end of the year.
  • Staying Top of Mind Without Every Touch Including an Ask. Of ultra importance, friends. There's an integrated annual plan that includes a lot of storytelling, chances to engage with the org in person, progress reports, accolades and yes, we ask for help, but in a judicious and considered fashion …
  • Excellent Reactivation Tool. We had donors come in who used to support us, but had moved away. We had their personal email on file—and permission to contact them—so their physical address change wasn't a factor. They moved back to the city and wanted to help out with gifts and volunteer time.

If You Love Your Content, Set It Free

Is that Sting song in your head now?

"Free, free. Set them free."

"If you loooove someone—SET THEM FREE!"

Thank you, Gordon Sumner (Sting's real name - let's just take it all the way).

I'm singing this in my head because of some funny conversations I've had about social media this week. It seems so weird to still have to get into the "yes, but you really want them to take your stuff and reuse it" conversation, but there you have it.

Nonprofits especially seem to get all tomcat territorial over their posts and content. I don't understand it. With acquisition being so difficult these days, their social networks are where they should be building the back and forth, warm and fuzzy goodness that will nurture those folks toward the next step: making a gift, volunteering, sharing posts, etc.

For my nonprofit brethren, this is for you.

1. Why Are You Using Social if You're Not Feeling Social?
The purpose of Facebook, Twitter, et al is to share, share, share. If you're not comfy with people taking your stuff - or bits of your stuff - and sharing it with the world, you need to consider why you're using this particular medium.

2. There Are Nice Ways to Get What You Want.
If it's super important to you that excerpts or blurbs are credited when retweeted or shared, say so — and make it easy. Ask them to link back to your site. Provide them with the text to use. Just be friendly and not finger waggy. Trust that people will do what you have respectfully requested. If they don't, they're still sharing your content and that's the name of the game. (Set It Free)

3. It's A Conversation with Real People - Not a Press Release Cannon.
It must bear repeating, y'all, cause I repeat it all the time. If you're in the fortunate position of having your donors and supporters take pride and ownership in your mission and want to spread it across the land in their own words to their people, you won. Don't quibble over the fact that they didn't quote your beloved mission statement exactly or edited your 500 word press release to one sentence. Be glad they care enough to read, engage with and distribute your goodies.