By chris

[Guest Post] How Modern Fundraising Tools Can Help Increase Donor Acquisition/Retention

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. To diversify our subject matter, we like to feature the work of our friends and colleagues in the community. Join me in welcoming Zach Hagopian, the co-founder and COO of Accelevents. Please enjoy his post on the role of modern fundraising tools in donor acquisition and retention.

How Modern Fundraising Tools Can Help Increase Donor Acquisition / Retention

Few things are more critical to the success of a nonprofit organization than donor acquisition and retention. While many NPOs do have some form of acquisition and retention strategy in place, most are not dedicating sufficient resources or time to make headway in their annual donor goals. Furthermore, most nonprofit organizations are not taking advantage of the amazing online and mobile fundraising tools available to them. Online and mobile strategies not only help improve donor acquisition and retention, but they make the process easier and more efficient!

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By donorsearch

[Guest Post] Engaging Your Major Gifts Officer

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. To diversify our subject matter, we like to feature the work of our friends and colleagues in the community. Join me in welcoming Casey Woodard of Casey Woodard Consulting. Please enjoy this post that covers six steps you can take to engage your major gifts officer.  And when you’re done reading this, don’t forget to check out our Major Gift Officer Survival Guide

Engaging Your Major Gifts Officer: 6 Steps to Optimized Performance

To sustain your agency’s programs long term, you need to go after major gifts, which typically account for 40% of funding. The Major Gifts Officer (MGO) directs this goal by raising the lion’s share of gift income and cultivating donors for continuous, decades-long giving. This means having a strong MGO who is committed to your mission and has good reasons to stay with your agency. A high-performing MGO is a major asset, but it takes an average of 24 months for him to reach his stride in a new organization. Most MGOs also stay only 16 months on the job, putting many agencies in a revolving talent deficit for this mission-critical role. Repeat MGO turnover can cost millions of dollars in replacement fees and lost opportunity.  For example, the average health care foundation spends $66,500 to find a new MGO and forgoes $2.7 million in major gifts during MGO replacement and ramp-up. That’s a loss of almost $2.8 million for failure to retain a high-performing MGO. MGOs rarely jump ship because of salary. Rather, they seek a new company whose supervisors better understand what it takes to do the major gifts job, and where energizing programs, tools, and support are in place to motivate a good MGO to become even greater. Grooming and retaining a top MGO takes total engagement — a six-step, systematic approach that the best philanthropic managers follow to motivate and retain their direct reports. If you commit to these steps, you can help your MGO stay keen to your agency and quickly rank among the top 75% fundraisers in the country.

1. Plan for long-term career growth, from Day 1

Optimizing talent is a journey not an event, and smart managers match career planning personality. The best MGOs are self starting, go-getter types who love a mission, a challenge, a lot of variety, and an opportunity to make a difference in something important. Set an evolutionary path for your MGO for her first two weeks, the next six months, 24 months in, and so on. Review the plan and her progress regularly and adjust as her interests and skills grow. If your MGO has been onboard awhile, first fill in any gaps from her first months on the job, then move forward with a career path from there.
  • Outcomes: Encourages long-term MGO commitment; keeps her continuously engaged; supports her way of interacting with her work.

2. Focus on the right tasks, with measurable goals

Top-notch managers of top-notch MGOs know that success is about relationships and trust. They set clear, specific expectations that stretch the MGO just enough, and they have consistent evaluation standards and methods to reward the stretch. This means forming measurable daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly objectives that create accountability and feed off of your MGO’s natural drive to excel. “Bring in more money” isn’t measurable or motivating. “Add fifty new $25,000 donors by end of Q4” and “Always have one third of your portfolio ready to be asked for a gift, one-third being stewarded for a future gift, and one-third being thanked for a recent gift” are concrete and actionable. Have follow-through that dials in on specific metrics questions. Don’t just ask, “How are things going?” Delve instead: “Did you make 25 portfolio prospect contacts a week? Did you convert at least half of them for future appointments? Is 10% of your portfolio still at the A level?” If your answer to these questions is “I don’t know,” you’re not engaging enough with your MGO’s goals, process, and success.
  • Outcomes: Builds trust in your ability to support your MGO; helps you understand the activities and responsibilities; motivates him toward ever-higher standards.

3. Provide meaningful, exciting options for the MGO to present to donors

Unless your MGO is emotionally connected to her goals, she will leave after six months. Your job is to create meaningful value propositions that engage her and your donors, making it easy for them to “connect the dots” between your program’s need and the donor’s ability to support it.  Give the MGO the best, most compelling projects, with some degree of urgency and momentum for fundraising. Develop a menu of projects that has something for every kind major gift donor. Demonstrate how each program connects to your mission and how the money will be spent, so donors can seize its value: “If I give $100 to this program, I’m helping this group provide free exams to 25 at-risk, low-income women.” MGOs are not magicians or miracle workers — they need the best programs you can provide to draw in the biggest funders.
  • Outcomes: Improves MGO longevity and personal buy-in; establishes vital system support so she can pitch your cause with concrete data and value-add.

4. Be available to your MGO at “hot points” of the prospect cycle

The top performer is always the one who knows his boss “has his back.” You can do that for your MGO by leaving (and telling your MGO about) five or six openings on your calendar a month that he can automatically use to plug you into a meeting with a potential donor at a moment’s notice. Sometimes all that’s needed to swing a top prospect over is a concerted approach to the value proposition.
  • Outcomes: Reinforces mutual trust and alignment; displays your organization’s high level of commitment to donors.

5. Let the MGO work the way she thinks is best

Micro-managing destroys high performance: your task is to provide guidelines and target outcomes, not instructions. Let your MGO spend the budget you set, and don’t nickel and dime, on a meals and entertainment budget, on a path to achieve a $500,000 gift. Major gifts are a marathon, not a sprint.  Payback is not immediate, and at times the expense is not commensurate with income as your MGO builds her major gifts pipeline. The long-term returns, however, can be tremendous once the “turbo” kicks in. Give your MGO the budget, the tools, and the freedom to operate within the framework of what she must do.
  • Outcomes: Motivates your MGO to do her job well; establishes mutual trust (rather than antagonism); gives her the time and resources to land the best prospects and largest gifts.

6. Support the Major Gifts Office with a “core of champions”

Top-ranked MGOs spend nearly 80% of their time leveraging the time and energy of core program champions on behalf major gifts. Core champions can be:
  • An entire board of directors.
  • An individual board member.
  • Your company president.
  • A successful client.
  • An advocate.
  • A volunteer.
  • Anyone else closely involved in your program.
Champions can support your MGO by accompanying him on a donor call, contacting donors, providing a referral for the MGO, writing letters to prospects, and so on.
  • Outcomes: Motivates your MGO through unanimous excitement for his plans; engages key players in major gifts; shows donors your organization’s depth and breadth of commitment.

Pulling it all together

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By chris

[Guest Post] Using Research to Jumpstart your Major Gift Program

This blog focuses on the world of prospect research and various related fundraising topics. To diversify our subject matter, we like to feature the work of our friends and colleagues in the community. With that said, join me in welcoming Chad Peddicord, the Executive Vice President at Averill Fundraising Solutions. Please enjoy his post on research and major gift programs.

Using Research to Jumpstart your Major Gift Program

It’s no secret that a successful, cost-effective fundraising program is built on a foundation of major gifts.  But what are the elements of an effective major gift program?  At its core, the keys to major gift success are the right people, asking the best prospects for the right amount, for the right project, at the appropriate time, often enough to generate sufficient activity that results in gifts to meet the identified needs.  But if someone gave me that as an answer, I would ask for some specific action steps.  Following are seven results-proven strategies for using research to jumpstart your major gift program:

1. Prioritize donors in the database

The first step for an efficient major gift program is segmenting and prioritizing the donors in the database. Previous major gift donors are obvious – keep them on the priority list.  But do a little digging and look for donors that have been consistent over the past 5 years and have increased their giving.  This is a signal they believe in what you are doing and might have more capacity.  Is there an individual in the database that has made at least one gift annually during the past 5 years and started at $50 and is now at $500?  Or maybe their first gift was $500 and now they give $2,500 annually?  That’s a clue, and they should be marked as a potential major gift prospect because of their increasing affinity.

2. Find the capacity

Affinity alone is not enough to prioritize efficiently. Discovering which donors or prospects have the capacity for a major gift is important.  The simplest and most effective way to determine that is through an electronic screening.  If done right, the screening will create more work, but it will also narrow the field of donors and prospects that you have to include to create an efficient major gift portfolio.  Focus on philanthropic behavior and political giving – data shows these two indicators most accurately reveal major gift capacity and willingness.

3. Do the research and develop a strategy

Once donors and prospects with major gift capacity have been identified through screening, the real work begins. The screening helps to narrow the field, but now research is required to confirm that the screening information matches the person in your database. (If you have very clean data and several components of personal information on each individual prior to the screening – you will save a tremendous amount of time in research and get much better results from the screening.)  With more information from research, narrow the major gift pool further and begin to develop individual cultivation and solicitation strategies for each prospect that can then be implemented.  The strategy step is where the right people, the right project, the right ask amount, and the appropriate request timing need to be discussed.

4. Don’t work in a vacuum – talk to people

The real research begins as you have conversations with individuals about exciting projects. Invite potential donors for a tour, or talk to them about the strategic plan, or get their advice on a new idea.  This opens the door for discussions on how to accomplish the important mission at hand and the gifts required for success.  Nothing can replace the “shoe leather” research and the most helpful information always comes from asking questions and dialogue.  These personal conversations then inform the strategy moving forward and determine how to ask for a major gift.

5. Add prospects to the list

In addition to your current donors and prospects, take this opportunity to add new prospects to the list. There is a plethora of ways to find individuals that might be prospects for your organization and this process could be its own blog post.  But an easy way is to use a database that catalogues charitable gifts to not-for-profits and will allow a search to find individuals with philanthropic interest and demonstrated giving to “relevant” organizations to your mission.

6. Assign the donors and prospects

Now that the major gift prospect pipeline is narrowed, each must be assigned to “someone” to manage the relationship. I say “someone” because depending on the size of your professional fundraising staff – “someone” could mean many things.  For example, with a small staff, major gift prospects might be assigned to board members or volunteers.  And while the professional fundraiser will play a role in the process, the board member might be doing all of the outreach to the prospect and building the relationship.  The data is clear, in order to successfully cultivate and solicit a major gift – the prospect has to be managed by someone.

7. Ask for the gift

The last piece to an effective major gift program is as simple as asking for the gift. If all the above steps have been accomplished, there is nothing left but to ask.  Capitalizing on all of the work done to prepare for soliciting major gifts requires creating some activity benchmarks that drive the program.  The benchmarks are different for every organization, but they always involve personal visits and requests.  Track the activity against your goals and the major gifts will follow. For more information, read our other resources on major gifts

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By chris

5 Ways to Use Mobile Fundraising Solutions For Your Next Event

Spring is around the corner, which means now is the time for nonprofits to start planning their spring events! From run/walks and luncheons to golf tournaments and galas, there’s no doubt that events of every kind are a great way to fundraise for your cause. However, many nonprofits are missing out on a key solution that can help make their event more successful than ever: mobile fundraising. Incorporating mobile giving has been shown to increase donations by 35% and is easier to integrate into your fundraising event planning than you might think. Mobile giving provides a true, end-to-end solution for event fundraising that can help reduce admin time for your organization while boosting donations and engaging supporters. From invites to donation thank-yous, here are 5 ways you can use mobile fundraising solutions for your next event:
  1. Send invitation and reminders with text messaging
  2. Allow supporters to register for events and purchase tickets from their smartphones
  3. Promote live pledging with an on-screen fundraising thermometer and text-to-donate keywords
  4. Collect out-of-town donations
  5. Follow up with donors after the event
Are you ready to amp up your fundraising events with mobile giving? Let’s get started!

1. Send invitations and reminders with text messaging

Did you know that text messages have a 98% open rate in the first 3 minutes? Since texts are so regularly read, they are the easiest (and most effective!) way to reach out to your network of supporters. If your organization has a list of phone numbers, you can easily upload them to your mobile giving software and start sending supporters updates and alerts. Additionally, you can expand your organization’s contact list by conducting prospect research to find even more potential donors. Text messages are the perfect medium to keep donors in the know about: 
  • Upcoming fundraisers
  • Ways to register for events
  • Send invites to guests
Using links to content and donation forms, videos of your organization in action, and messages that engage your supporters, you excite your donors and get them interested in attending your events. Tip: Searching for a text messaging software for nonprofits. Look for a tool that lets you not only communicate with donors but also accept contributions via text message.

2. Allow supporters to register for events and purchase tickets from their smartphones

There’s a common misconception that people don’t respond to event invites on mobile devices. The truth is nearly 20% of event registrations come from mobile devices, meaning your registration form needs to be mobile responsive and accessible from any device or you’ll be missing out on potential RSVPs. When setting up an event registration page, keep in mind that donors on all devices should be able to easily fill out your forms and purchase tickets. Here are a few things to consider:
  • Limit your registration forms to one page. A single page form not only reduces your donor abandonment rate but also requires less scrolling for mobile users.
  • Avoid large visuals. While having stunning visuals can look great when your forms are viewed on a desktop, they can cause a mobile user a lot of frustration.
  • Capture only essential information. Filling out forms on a mobile device can be difficult and time-consuming, so you should only make donors enter information that is absolutely necessary.
Make purchasing tickets easy with mobile-friendly forms that use AutoFill on Android and iOs devices to process and fulfill ticket sales as they happen.

3. Promote live pledging with an on-screen fundraising thermometer and text-to-donate keywords

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By chris

5 Ways Prospect Research Can Help You With Donor Solicitation

Prospect research is a valuable tool that many nonprofits use to learn more about their donors, their prospects, and their giving patterns.
  • It helps fundraisers determine who to invite to a fundraising event.
  • It allows nonprofits to discover hidden connections between donors and potential major gift contributors.
  • It helps nonprofits fill in the blanks with their existing, and perhaps incomplete, donor data.
But one of the main ways that prospect research serves nonprofits is with donor solicitation. Whether you’re asking for donations via email, on the phone, or in person, prospect research can help give you the edge when making those appeals.

Here are five ways prospect research can help with donor solicitation.

  1. Fill in the blanks.
  2. Segment your asks.
  3. Know how much to ask.
  4. Determine other giving opportunities.
  5. Find major gift donors and planned giving donors.

1. Fill in the blanks

It’s going to be tricky to ask for a donation if you don’t have a prospect’s phone number, email address, or home address. =&1=& Let’s say that Donna Donor submitted her email address at your last gala as part of a raffle that night. But an email appeal doesn’t seem to be the best way to ask Donna to give to your organization. She might have the potential to be a major gift donor and would need an in-person meeting if you really want to make an impression. =&2=& Besides, it’s a good idea to have accurate donor data anyway. When you send out invites to fundraisers, volunteer opportunities, or other events, you’ll want to make sure that you’re sending out those invitations to the right addresses. =&3=&
  • Address a donor by their correct name.
  • Have the right address on the envelope.
  • Include relevant information that is appropriate for that particular donor (i.e., an acknowledgement of a previous donation)
=&4=&Use prospect research to fill in the blanks on your donor data when sending out those event invitations and when you go to make your donation appeals.

2. Segment your asks

Not every donor is going to respond in the same way to an email or a direct mail appeal.
  • Some people prefer the ease of donating online.
  • Others like giving over the phone.
  • Still others prefer more traditional methods, like sending checks by mail or giving in person.
=&5=& Once you’ve filled in the blanks on your donor data, you’re in a better position to segment your supporters into different groups depending on their giving preference. If you notice that some of your donors regularly respond to the email appeals you send out, continue sending them those email appeals. You might notice, on the other hand, that some donors have never responded to an email appeal but donate every year when you send out your annual appeal in the mail. You’ll know that you can take them off your email appeal list and make sure they receive the annual appeal and other campaign information in the mail. =&4=&Use prospect research to learn more about which communication channels donors prefer and segment your donation appeals accordingly.

3. Know how much to ask

Not every donor is going to give the same amount on a regular basis. Some may prefer donating $10 a month while others might be able to give $5,000 in one annual check. Knowing how much donors have given in the past to your organization, other organizations, and political campaigns can give you a pretty solid indication of how much to ask in your future appeals. And prospect research can give you all of that information! Donors are always going to have the final say when it comes to actually making a donation. But having information about their past giving patterns puts you in a great position to make suggested giving amounts that are appropriate. Additionally, knowing how much a supporter has given to your organization in the past allows you to thank them for that donation before making your appeal for another contribution. Being thankful is one of the most important facets of donor solicitation. Before asking for another donation, make sure that you’re saying thank you for those previous contributions! =&7=&

By chris

Mobile Fundraising Campaigns: The Basics

With mobile fundraising technology, your organization never has to worry about not knowing when to send a message.

Using the data collected during a text-to-give campaign, your nonprofit can learn everything it needs to know (well, maybe not every fundraising metric) about present and future donors, volunteers, and event attendees.

In this article, you’ll learn all about 6 things your nonprofit can learn about donors and 5 things donors can learn about you through a text-to-give campaign:

#1. Preferred Donation Channels

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