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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Year-End Giving, Economic Downturns and the Wit of Douglas Adams

“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.” –Douglas Adams

As we enter the busiest time of the year for philanthropic efforts, there is, in the hearts of many fundraisers, fear and dread about how the economy will impact year-end campaigns.

Well, to cite Douglas Adams once again…“Don’t Panic.”

As noted in the article, Resilient Philanthropy, in the September/October issue of Advancing Philanthropy, throughout the years, giving statistics have remained level or have increased even in times of recession.

Now is the time to get back to basics:
• What is your connection to the donor or prospective donor? Do you have a strong enough relationship that they will go the extra mile for your cause? Or is your relationship strictly transactional, and easy for the donor to cut out of his or her budget?
• Do you have a solid case for support that demonstrates why your service or cause is needed, especially in tough economic times?
• Can you effectively communicate how your donor’s gift will make a difference, even more so now than before?
• Have you been fiscally responsible in the past and are you now so that you don’t have to panic?

Some suggestions for year-end campaigns:
• Make it easy for donors to give a contribution to your organization as a holiday gift. Have dedication cards, customizable e-cards, or other inexpensive but appropriately festive items for donors to present to their honoree.
• Be top of mind, which can be challenging amongst the holiday clutter. Send regular emails, use social networking sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or MySpace, think about increasing other traditional marketing, and be present at as many social functions as possible. In his column for Entrepreneur Magazine, Robert Kiyosaki notes, “When times get tough, your job is to promote more, not less.”
• Be realistic, but optimistic. All your donors aren’t going to stop giving, but there will be a few that you’ll need to “bless and release.” This is probably not the time to project huge increases in your program, but it is still the time when people are most generous.

We hope that your organization will be blessed with generous donors during this time of giving!

Connect with GoalBusters: LinkedIn - Alice Ferris / LinkedIn - Jim Anderson / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Myspace

Monday, September 29, 2008

Communicating Your Mission with Infectious Passion

It has been said that no one ever gave to an organization because of a Power Point presentation. Or a case statement.

Fundraisers talk about case statements a lot. It’s a document that outlines the history, mission and vision of the organization, plus gives the detail of the project that is the center of the fundraising campaign. Sometimes the documents are long, and sometimes they can be a bit dry.

The question becomes, “Will the donor even read it?” Maybe not.

So, turn your case statement into a “bedtime story.”

First, you have once upon a time. What was the situation that caused your organization to come into being?

Next, introduce your hero or heroine. This might be a founder, or a current leader, or a person your organization serves. Highlight the quest or mission—what do they want or need to accomplish?

Then, put obstacles in the way. Why can’t our hero succeed in the current state?

But don’t leave it at that. Describe what happily ever after looks like. Show how the world can be a better place if the hero accomplishes his or her goals.

Finally, put the donor in the story. Show how the donor can be your “deus ex machina” or “god from the machine.” Demonstrate that your donor can help make the happily ever after, happen.

It’s very easy to fall into the habit of putting together slides and charts to communicate your cause. While valid data is still critical to support your case, if you can develop a short “once upon a time” tale, you have a great way to immediately connect with a potential contributor.

This Tip is excerpted from “Storytelling: Communicating Your Mission with Infectious Passion,” soon to be presented in Tucson, Arizona. For more information on this workshop, contact GoalBusters or check our Workshops and Presentations page.

Also, for a great article on storytelling in fundraising by Alessandra Bianchi, visit Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Connect with GoalBusters: LinkedIn - Alice Ferris / LinkedIn - Jim Anderson / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Myspace

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Diversifying Your Donor Base

In a personal portfolio, you may have some money in stocks, some invested in bonds, and other resources in cash or checking. You may even have collections like art or coins that you are holding. Some tools provide regular cash flow, others provide long-term equity. The reason you have all these tools at your disposal is to even out risk.

Likewise, your organization’s philanthropic portfolio should be diverse. Foundations and corporations might be able to provide generous grants, but they are also highly sensitive to economic conditions. Special events great for a quick boost to your contributions, but are hard to rely on for a long-term base. Individuals and their estate plans are wonderful for long term equity building.

By not becoming over-reliant on any one contribution source, your organization can survive the ebbs and flows of our economy. This is critically important, because many nonprofit organizations have been asking lately, “Will donors still give during an economic downturn?” Historically, yes!

According to Giving USA, people in the United States gave $306 billion in 2007 to charitable causes. While we may not see enormous, record-setting gifts this year, we will probably see more people getting involved. Often people think, “If I’m having a tough time, others must be too.” The contributions may not be as large, but there will be more of them!

So if your organization has a solid, diverse base of support, you too can weather the economic storm. And, you can continue to do great things for your community!

This Tip is excerpted from “Fundraising Boot Camp: Diversifying Your Donor Base,” soon to be presented in Yuma, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information on this workshop, contact GoalBusters or check our Workshops and Presentations page.

Connect with GoalBusters: LinkedIn - Alice Ferris / LinkedIn - Jim Anderson / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Myspace

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring Flowers and Campaign Readiness

It’s Spring, a time of transition and surprises! Spring in northern Arizona usually means that my crocuses are just peeking out of the ground when they get squashed by snow.

Sometimes fundraising campaigns and development teams can be like my crocuses. They have early success but then don’t really gain the momentum to reach their goals.

But there’s another spring flower in my front yard—King Alfred daffodils. Every year they come back bigger and stronger than the year before, regardless of a Spring snowstorm. Some fundraising campaigns and teams are like my daffodils—resilient, persistent and successful.

Since you would like to have a successful and resilient campaign and development team, here’s what you can learn from your garden:

Well established roots and a good base. Flowers in their first year don’t always bloom. If your organization’s development function has been stable for a few years and has a good base of supporters, financial or otherwise, you have a better chance of a successful special gifts or capital campaign.
Proper care and feeding. Well-fed plants develop strong root growth. Take the time to invest in education and training for your development team before launching the campaign.
Good stock to begin with. Bad bulbs just don’t bloom. Make sure you have the right personnel on the team, or to mix metaphors and paraphrase Jim Collins, “the right people on the bus in the right seats.”
Plant in the right place. Most flowers have recommendations on what type of soil, light conditions, water levels, etc. will encourage the best growth. If your organization has at least the seeds of a “culture of philanthropy,” your development function has a better chance to thrive. (More on culture of philanthropy in a later tip.)
Plan ahead. Daffodils need to be planted in the Fall. Successful development teams and campaigns don’t happen overnight. Plant, be patient, and then enjoy the end result.

So in spite of unexpected storms, my daffodils are thriving. With proper planning and awareness, your development program and your campaigns can weather the storms as well.

GoalBusters’ note: Thank you to Ken Lain of Watters Garden Center in Prescott, Arizona, for inspiring this tip. Visit their website at to sign up for “The Garden Guy’s” e-newsletter.

For more on this topic, contact GoalBusters about campaign readiness assessment and feasibility studies.

Connect with GoalBusters: LinkedIn - Alice Ferris / LinkedIn - Jim Anderson / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Myspace

Monday, February 4, 2008

Keeping Your Goals on Target

It’s February. Are your New Year’s resolutions long gone by now?

It’s easy to lose sight of your goals, personally or as an organization, when you’re not keeping track of them on a regular basis.

This is particularly true when it comes to strategic planning. How many times have you written lots of ideas on flipcharts at an annual retreat, and then went back to your daily routine without giving those ideas another thought?

A more effective approach is to breathe life into your plan. Make it something you can use every day.

Here’s the start of a process to develop a tactical plan from your strategic plan:

List all the strategic goals that impact this year. Some of these should be “stretch” goals that may not be achievable this year, because reaching too far and making it half way is better than reaching too low.

Put your goals on a master timeline. Some goals will require multiple steps, like starting a new program. List the steps you will need to take and the estimated time for each. Add those to the timeline, starting with the end and working backwards.

Next to each item on the timeline, put ONE person’s name. This is the person who is ultimately responsible for the goal. Don’t put more than one name—that means no one will do it!

For the goals under your responsibility:
Pick a focus area for every month. That doesn’t mean you ignore everything else, but it gives you one goal area to emphasize.

Each week, pick specific goals to concentrate your efforts and list the tasks required to move toward your goal.

As you plan your week, ask, “How can I make progress toward one of our strategic goals this week?”

Keep your goals in sight, and your organization will achieve great things!

GoalBusters’ note: Thank you to Alice’s personal coach, Kristin Taliaferro, for inspiring this Tip. To find out more about personal coaching, go to

For more on this topic, contact GoalBusters about “Choose Your Own Adventure” or about custom retreat facilitation.

Connect with GoalBusters: LinkedIn - Alice Ferris / LinkedIn - Jim Anderson / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Myspace

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Some Bears Like It Hot

How do you know how much to ask for?

You can do what most people do. You can ask for a “safe” amount that you are sure will get you a “yes.” If it’s low enough, how can they possibly say no?

You: “Would you be willing to support us with a $1,000 gift?”
Them: “Sure. Who do I make the check out to?”

YEAH! You’re done! You little rockstar, you! WHEW! No rejection! What a relief!

But didn’t that feel too easy? Are you wondering if maybe they would have given more if only you’d asked for more? Is it possible they were capable, willing and interested in investing more?

The truth is, you may have just lost more than you gained.

When you “set your anchor” too low you risk making two major mistakes.

You fail to establish the real value of your organization in the eyes of the prospect. “Oh they’re not the type of organization that you give $10,000 to.”
You minimize their commitment for the life of the relationship. “But I always give $1,000.”

But how do you know what amount is reasonable to ask for?

Think about Goldilocks. Too Hot, Too Cold and Just Right.

Too Cold” is the lowest level of gift you’d be happy with and still feel successful.
“Just Right” is better than the minimum and the amount you really hope to receive.
“Too Hot” is more than you expected. It’s the level you’re truly dreaming for.

Think about the gifts your organization has received in the past. Do some research about the prospective donor. What have they contributed to before? What size of gift did they give? Why were they motivated to do so? This helps you to find a precedent and understand the potential of donor. Sometimes these and other questions are asked in the exploratory stage of your relationship.

When you are prepared to make the ask, make like a boy scout and “be prepared.” Have benefits, recognitions and naming rights tables available for all your levels.

And remember, "Some bears like it hot." - Jimism #135

(More Jimisms at


Connect with GoalBusters: LinkedIn - Alice Ferris / LinkedIn - Jim Anderson / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / Myspace


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