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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Don't Hire Me: Six Reasons to NOT Hire a Development Professional

If your organization is thinking about hiring a development professional for the first time, whether a staff person or a consultant, DON'T do it if the following are true!

(That may sound strange coming from someone who makes a very modest living raising money professionally, but stick with me here.)

1. You needed the money yesterday. It may seem counter-intuitive, but you do NOT want to hire someone dedicated to fundraising when you're desperate. The new person will not have the time to develop the relationships, won't be able to secure sustainable gifts, and either will end up raising less than you could alone, or will create a situation that will eventually blow up or burn out.

2. You don't have anyone else who's willing to participate in fundraising activities. Development professionals are there to structure the program, provide expertise, execute the support functions for the development process, and ultimately, to make the sure the fundraising strategies are actually producing money. This does not mean that the development staff person does EVERYTHING. The head of the organization and the head of the board, at minimum, need to participate.

3. You aren't willing to give the development professional some autonomy. No donor wants to hear, "I need to check with my supervisor." Provide structure, but then be willing to give some degree of authority.

4. You aren't ready to enforce accountability. On the flip side, you will need to monitor what's going on. This person is out in the community selling your organization's reputation and you need to know that he or she is saying the right thing and promising things you can deliver. You can't be totally hands off no matter who you hire.

5. You're not clear what you want the person to do. Be certain about the person's job description. Don't throw in everything that you don't have time to do. Furthermore, once you've determined scope of work for this position, do not let others try to do the job too, even if they used to be responsible for the task.

6. You aren't in a position to invest in this position long-term. Fundraising is about relationship development. That does not happen overnight. If you do not have the resources to keep this position in place for at least three years, re-evaluate. It will take 2-3 years for a new development program to take hold.

You want to provide the greatest chance for success for any new staff person, and a development staff person is no different. Create an environment for success and your investment will return many rewards.


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Alice Ferris, ACFRE LinkedIn Facebook Twitter pinterest Skype alice.ferris
Jim Anderson LinkedIn Facebook Twitter pinterest Skype GoalBustersJim

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Best Way to Use Social Media in Fundraising

The Best Way to Use Social Media in Fundraising


Social media is not the best tool to solicit a gift. There. I said it. So what’s all the fuss about? Social media is a very good tool for cultivation and stewardship. It has been said that social networking has created the largest cocktail party in the world and you can interact with any number of people without an invitation!
Here are some quick tips on what to do with your online presence:
  • Plan your content. You don’t want all your messages to be about selling something or about you—the majority of your posts should be information that establishes you as an expert in your sector. Your posts should also, on a regular basis, include references from other content sources so you don’t sound like you just talk about yourself.
  • Be consistent. Post something every day. There are many free apps available to streamline and schedule your posts, so you don’t have to be tied to the computer every day. If you’re not in someone’s stream on a regular basis, they will forget that you are there.
  • Establish your voice. Show some personality so that people want to be connected to you! Remember, you’re cultivating a relationship—try to make your organization likeable online.
  • Use positive reinforcement. If someone in your online network shares your information or advocates for you in some way, thank them for it. You don’t have to do this for every post, but periodically call attention to the fact that you’re paying attention. Also, regularly interact with people online. They need to know that you’re interested in them too.
  • Use calls to action sparingly. If you have a well-established relationship with your online connections, you can mobilize them, but if you’re asking all the time, they will tune you out. Calls to action should be time sensitive—deadlines that aren’t too far away will be most effective.
Most organizations cannot afford to ignore social media, but understand that no one will “get rich quick” using these tools. Position online networking tools to augment your existing marketing, cultivation and stewardship programs.
Alice Ferris is the founding partner of GoalBusters, providing philanthropic leadership services such as outsourced development operations for small shops; strategic, development and marketing planning; board development and staff training. Join her session at Congress 2012 and follow her on twitter @aliceferris


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Alice Ferris, ACFRE LinkedIn Facebook Twitter pinterest Skype alice.ferris
Jim Anderson LinkedIn Facebook Twitter pinterest Skype GoalBustersJim

Monday, August 13, 2012

When Life Hands You Lemons, Go Nuclear

My son and I were grocery shopping and I threw a couple lemons in the shopping cart. My son took one look at the lemons and said, “Mom, you know the saying 'When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Well, if Life handed me lemons, I would turn them into little lemon bombs and throw them back at Life saying, 'Take THAT, Life!'” 

My son paused for a moment, then said, “Or, if they're actual lemons, then lemonade might be a good idea. Freshly squeezed lemonade sure is tasty.”

This exchange was triggered by one of two things: I've been in a foul mood lately due to professional setbacks, or my son has spent too much time playing Plants v.Zombies. Maybe both.

There's something to be said, however, for my son's response. When you have a setback in your life, how should you react? Should you go nuclear with your lemons? For better or for worse, here's how I've been attempting to process my recent challenges:
  1. Understand that you are grieving. Even though it may not feel like a loss that “deserves” time to grieve, it is a loss and should be handled as such. I've been going through the stages of Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross' five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
  2. Identify what positive thing, however minor, can result from this. I've been reaching out to others to find new opportunities to fill in the space that I thought was filled. I think it's okay to initially express a little outrage, a little “I'll show you” instinct, as long as the end result is positive.
  3. Think back to other times when things didn't go as planned and you survived. On more than one occasion, things have not gone as planned. As someone who thrives on checklists, this is not usually something I deal with well! But in the past, good has come from things that I thought were disastrous. When I had to turn down a job that I had been working for years to get, I ended up starting my consulting firm. When I was stuck in a horrific job situation, I met someone who would transform my life.
  4. Lean on your social network. It's easy to retreat and lick your wounds in private, but setbacks are often the best time to discover the people who are truly your friends. I have been blessed by those who are incredibly loyal, genuinely supportive, and have differentiated themselves from the fair-weather friends.
  5. Give yourself time alone. Even though your social network is there for you, it's equally important to give yourself time to reflect, stew, cry, and otherwise process. Time in the car alone has been this processing time for me, and I've found that I value the quiet as much as I value the time to talk it out with my friends.
  6. Find time to be grateful. In The Happiness Advantage, author and researcher Shawn Achor cites many examples of the reality of “fake it 'til you make it.” By just moving your mouth into the shape of a smile, you light up parts of your brain that trigger dopamine, the “feel good” hormone. Pick something, no matter how small, to be grateful for every day.
So I won't be making lemon bombs any time soon. But maybe some margaritas are in order....

Special shout out to my Peeps who I have turned to in recent weeks for advice, counsel and comfort: Ann Hale, CFRE; Sean Hammerle, CFRE; Catherine Connolly, CFRE; Peter Drury; Nathan Hand; Leah Eustace, CFRE; John Dawe, CFRE; Susan Earl Hosbach, CFRE; Martha Schumacher, ACFRE; Jill Pranger, ACFRE; Christina Adams; Michael Delzotti, CFRE, CSPG; Richard Martin, CFRE; Andrew Watt, FInstF; Colette Murray, JD, CFRE; Barbara Levy, ACFRE. (I'm sure I've forgotten someone-sorry!) And a special thank you to my family, the GoalBusters team, and especially my "work spouse" Jim Anderson. Love you all.--Alice


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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Donors are from Mars, Fundraisers are from Venus

Do your donors feel like they give and they give, but you're always asking, "what have you done for me lately?" With apologies to John Gray, the way that donors and fundraisers "keep score" can be fundamentally different and affect our long term relationships. Here are a few things that donors and fundraisers may see from different perspectives:

What is a "current" gift? 
How many times have you received a call at your agency from someone who "donates all the time" only to discover that their last gift was five or six years ago? To a fundraiser, the definition of a current gift is usually a donation or gift commitment within the last 12 to 18 months. To a donor, it might mean that they've given a gift, PERIOD. The donor expects that their gift should count for a while. The donor generally doesn't care about your budget, your fiscal year, or your preset timeframe for donations. They give when they can and when it moves them, which may not be every 12 months. 

What is a "major" gift?
Members of our team once had an in-depth conversation with a donor who was insistent that she belonged in our major donor club. She very respectfully explained that over the course of several years, she had given well over the qualifying amount for the club. Of course, on our side, the qualifying amount was supposed to be given on an annual basis. She was absolutely right that she had given very generously over time, but our existing recognition programs had no way to recognize her.

Why am I an "annual fund" donor?
The term "annual fund" is irrelevant to your donor. Donors don't want to be put into silos; they want to help your organization make an impact on the community, and that's where they want to direct their gift. How can you tie the gift to an effect?

What to do about it:
Rethink your recognition programs
Figure out ways to recognize longevity, cumulative giving and quickly update donor recognition.

Tear down those silos
If you have multiple people engaged in donor cultivation and stewardship, make things as fluid as needed to make the donor feel welcome and a part of your organization. Always consider the donor experience, rather than your systems.

Every donor is a current donor, and probably a major donor
Even if they haven't given in years, if they consider themselves a donor, treat them as such. Never, ever, call someone a "lapsed" donor. Of course, feel free to remind them of giving opportunities on a regular basis, and ask for their leadership support!


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