This is what a Vigilant Fundraiser looks like: Victoria White

Victoria White is a story teller. Always involved in marketing, Victoria went into the non-profit sector and has completed numerous Cases and collateral materials, such as major gift letters for a diverse range of non-profit organizations. She has a gift for the written word, claiming that her “passion for words has shaped my life.”

The Vigilant Fundraiser: 12 Steps to Fundraising Success, is a step-by-step guide of best practices for organizations when creating fundraising success stories. As Step 1 on the road to vigilant fundraising, she realizes that every organization has a story to tell.

This is her story on creating those narratives, or Cases for Support, which resonate with donors.

Why is the Case for Support a cornerstone for all fundraising campaigns?

I am reminded of the French word raison d’être, or “reason for existence”, when thinking of a Case for Support. The Case is the argument for a campaign, a cause and the organization. It’s a narrative. A Case for Support builds support for the organization and expresses the need by explaining what the organization does and why it should be supported. It is a living document that can be adapted according to need.

What is the number one mistake when creating a Case for Support?

Not giving it the attention that it merits or viewing it as ‘just another document’. It’s not a strategic plan; it’s a story. Organizations need to give it their all and invest the time and money in doing it right. I read somewhere that a Case for Support is a team sport. I disagree. I encourage inclusivity, and various parties need to provide input. However, a document made by a committee will never be a compelling story. You need a story teller.

What should be the primary consideration when creating a Case for Support?

A Case for Support written by a committee is not the way to go. I suggest clients conduct a Case audit, periodically reviewing their Case. Many times, documents are riddled in management speak and internal jargon, or use words that outsiders don’t understand. You don’t want people to lose interest. It’s not about your organization; it’s about the people.

Who should be your target audience when creating a Case for Support?

“Who will be reading this?” and “Who do you want to reach?” are always the first questions I ask. You need to target the demographic you want to reach.

What type of information should be included in the Case for Support?

You want to ground your Case internally to a certain extent, provide context about the organization and its founding. Statistics have their place  people like numbers, as well as testimonials, quotes and stories. Always put things into context and make sure that it is balanced. In terms of structure, length can vary. For capital campaigns, keep it relatively short and sweet and ensure that the target audience learns about the organization and why the campaign is critical to its mission. But ultimately, it needs to be as long as it needs to be.

What is the key takeaway in your chapter, “Writing a powerful Case for Support” of The Vigilant Fundraiser?

A Case for Support shouldn’t be bland. It needs to be a compelling read and a story for the donor who’s reading it. Don’t write it like a strategic plan. There needs to be a blend of emotion, research and professionalism, since people want accountability, truth and transparency.

What does a ‘vigilant writer’ look like to you?

A ‘vigilant writer’ is aware of the reader. He or she is constantly aware of the outside world, beyond the cause and organization. A vigilant writer in the not-for-profit sector ensures that the messaging will make a positive impact. Always be aware of how your message could be perceived. In sum, it’s about anticipation: anticipating what the reaction and response to your message will be.

Julie Dorsey is a Writer for The Goldie Company. She interviewed Victoria White for her thoughts on creating a Case for Support.

This is what a Vigilant Fundraiser looks like: John VanDuzer

As one of the most accomplished creative directors in Canada, John VanDuzer has worked on marketing campaigns from Ford and Pepsi to branding and advertising for SickKids Hospital and Sunnybrook. John thrives in complex situations where there are no easy outcomes and answers. He specializes in branding and website development, almost all of it for charitable foundations.

In addition to his passion of “creating the greater good,” John has helped people reconcile their faith and finances in his recently published book, LOONIE: Crazy Talk about Faith and Finances, which has received great acclaim.

What has changed the most in the not-for-profit sector?

Recently, I believe that the not-for-profit sector has been sidelined by the issue of ‘cost per dollar raised.’ This pertains to the percentage of money an organization spends on marketing as compared to the dollars it raises with those marketing dollars. The CRA has focused on keeping that percentage as low as possible. Why? If you donate $100, you don’t want $50 spent on marketing. I’m all for that level of accountability, but in reality, most charities are well under the threshold, spending 10-15 percent when they could go as high as 33 percent.

That said, charities are panicking about the ‘cost per dollar raised,’ as they spend a lot of time trying to make their numbers look good for prospective donors. Often times, instead of spending money on creative, they recycle what they’ve already done with untargeted messaging. They also cut back on production and printing, making their audience smaller and smaller, which results in less money being raised. This causes further anxiety as they seek to increase the percentage for marketing, but panic when the percentage appears too high.

For fledgling charities, it’s a bad spiral.

Ultimately, ‘cost per dollar raised’ has taken many charity’s eye off the ball. Their focus should be on meeting their mission by focusing on their vision. When all but a few charities are spending far below the generous limits CRA has set, I believe there’s little sense in focusing on the dollars and cents of spending when the real issue should be on the revenues, not the expenses; how much money will you raise and what good will it do to further the goals of your organization.

THAT’S what fundraisers need to concern themselves with first and foremost.

How should not-for-profits compete in the consumerized world?

I think charities think they are different than consumer products – and in many ways they are – but they’re fooling themselves if they think they’re unique. Charities need to accept that they are in a consumerized world, whether they like it or not. The 5 P’s of positioning (product, price, place, packaging and promotion) are now the 5 C’s of creative (consumer, clear, credible, competitive and consistent) and this will help charities move forward and raise more money so they can fulfill their mission. There is good intention and altruism at play in the charitable sector, but there are also 88,000 worthy charities competing for your attention. For better or worse, it is supply and demand; there is only so much money being donated. In reality, there is competition.

Yet, despite this competitiveness, I’m happy to say that there is camaraderie amongst organizations. Take, for instance, AFP’s Fundraising Day and Congress. These events allow for everyone to share tips on engaging donors and raising money.

We’re all in this together!

How do you specifically target a donor? What should you consider when targeting a donor?

This is what I call the ‘Cinderella Complex.’ The glass slipper can only fit one person. For instance, although the event is huge and massively popular, CIBC’s Run for the Cure encourages people to run for a single person, like a mom, daughter and so on; each runner is running for one person. Most charities don’t ask donors for anything but money, but if they asked donors something about themselves, they would then round out their donor profile and target them.

Although I’ve used this example before, it serves to make my point: if I were the SPCA, I’d ask donors whether they’re cat lovers or dog lovers and then target mailings accordingly. I have two cats and a dog but the dog wins hands down; no contest. It’s about personalization and charities can do a lot better in this regard.

How do you stand out amongst the noise and clutter?

It is really about the creative. Charities have so little to distinguish themselves from the others. You need to standout by making your message compelling, clear and ultimately creative. Also, as I mentioned earlier, they need to focus on the 5 C’s: the client/consumer, be clear, be credible, be competitive, and, above all, be consistent. If you haven’t communicated with a message that cuts through the clutter, you’re wasting your money!

What is the biggest mistake?

You can’t be in the middle of the road. If you’re in the middle of the road, you run the risk of getting hit by cars going in both directions. The biggest mistake is being too ‘vanilla,’ too boring or copying the creative of another organization and having no originality.

What is the biggest takeaway from your chapter, “The ‘C’ Change: Making the Case for the Creative?” in the book The Vigilant Fundraiser?

You need to think like Cinderella; your creative needs to fit one person.

What does it mean to be a ‘vigilant fundraiser’?

To be a ‘vigilant fundraiser’ is to really apply these lessons that have been taught and to reapply and relearn them so you can do better and better. When the 12 steps of The Vigilant Fundraiser are followed, vigilance is bound to happen.

Julie Dorsey is a writer for The Goldie Company. She interviewed John VanDuzer on the importance of being creative in the non-profit world.

This is what a Vigilant Fundraiser looks like: Ed Sluga

For Ed Sluga, “an organization is positioned for success only when it is operated as a legacy for those it served”. As one of Canada’s most experienced planned giving professionals, Ed realizes that it about more than raising money, it is about advancing the organization’s mission to serve its community.

Ed is currently the Managing Consultant for PGgrowth. After helping hundreds of international, national, regional and local organizations develop and benefit from sustainable fundraising and planned giving programs, Ed is motivated to help organization’s achieve the goals of their mission within their communities. He has shared his incredible insight through various writings, including publishing, Planned Giving: Making it Happen, editor of Canadian Gift Planning Journal and co-author of Worthy and Prepared.

For Ed, the value of a newsletter cannot be undervalued. It is, for many organizations, the primary means of formulating ever-lasting bonds with key stakeholders and advancing the organization’s mission. Ed provides us insight into newsletter creation and how it can be used in an organization’s marketing mix.

What do you need to consider when creating a newsletter?

Before beginning with a marketing and communication discussion, you need to think of your target market. You need to see if the target market will respond to the type of communication you’re going to use. Internally you need to see if it will meet the need such as reinforce the brand, connect to individuals and create understanding in the sector. If you want to enrich an audience, articulate who you are and what you are trying accomplish in the world to make it a better place, then we might decide on using a newsletter.

Who should your target audience be when circulating a newsletter?

The target audience should be those who take an interest. You have to ask yourself, “How do you define a donor”? This will give you a dividing line of who and who shouldn’t get a newsletter. A donor for an organization can be defined as someone who has donated for three years, or educational institutions may define a donor who is over the age of 60. The key is to define the target by those who believe in your cause, are really interested and can utilize the knowledge and expertise in the field and seen as someone who is giving in depth and thoughtful comment on a particular issue or organization.

How can you use a newsletter in your marketing mix or as a means to brand your organization?

You need to publish your brand and interact with the individual instead of marketing the brand. A newsletter asks for feedback, is more in-depth and interactive than other engagement tools. It allows you to build more deeply and enrich and solidify your branding. It must be seen as something that is a peek into your organization that is greater than standard messaging.

Why does new media and social media fail when used in isolation?

Social media is outward facing information. It is a monologue, not a dialogue. Some cases are exceptionally emergent, for instance social media can be exceptionally powerful in communicating that people are desperate and need help after a hurricane in South America. However, social media could be difficult in showcasing the need of library services being cut if it doesn’t receive funding. Social media is not a place for engagement, it may grow into that, but doesn’t foster dialogue. For the most part, major gift donors want a discussion on what their partnership is, their need and how their dollar will be spent. A newsletter is targeted and provides richer information.

What are the advantages in circulating a newsletter?

The main advantage is its ability to tell richer and deeper stories that people can engage in. There is a design and format that you can’t get on screen, it is more tangible. It is not immediate, it comes in the mail, but it contains the “linger factor”. It’s like the magazine methodology, where Vanity Fair have powerful images on their front cover, because it lingers on the book shelf or coffee table for months or years. It’s all about longevity.

Has the newsletter changed in the last 25 years? What will be the fate of the newsletter within the next 25 years? Will it be obsolete?

It is currently more publication oriented. Newsletters used to be like a letter, it was text heavy and very detailed. Now they are much more engaging to the eye, with colours and photos. It tries to give an in-depth view with snapshots. In terms of fundraising, the donor is key as you can engage with the donor with fresher and broader use of design. I don’t know what will be the fate of the newsletter in 25 years. I think it will be a much more digitized conversation with the donor and public, but the concept will remain the same. The channels may be different.

What does a “vigilant” fundraiser mean to you?

A ‘vigilant fundraiser’ is a thoughtful professional; doing the job in a thoughtful and proactive way. They build skills, show professional ability, focus on the donor and build relationships. They are constantly reinventing their own abilities to represent the organization they are charged with in circulating its mission to the world.

Reinvention. Thoughtfulness. Professionalism. Like a vigilant fundraiser, a newsletter performs the same functions.

Julie Dorsey is a Copywriter for The Goldie Company. She interviewed Ed Sluga for his thoughts on creating a sustainable newsletter.

This is what a Vigilant Fundraiser looks like: Peter Barrow

Steeped in the marketing and communications industry for over 35 years, Peter Barrow’s experience is unmatched. The industry is his classroom, and he’s the teacher. Creating meaningful messages that resonate with the audience, Peter shares his wealth of knowledge as author of the chapter “Communications: Why you Need a Plan” of The Vigilant Fundraiser: 12 Steps to Fundraising Success.

As a former marathon runner, Peter realizes that a communications plan needs to be focused, durable and goal-oriented. Peter shares his insight about creating successful communication plans for non-profit organizations, even in the absence of a communications department.

What is the purpose of a communications plan?

The purpose of a communications plan, generally, is to create an environment for the organization that will not only build their profile, but will encourage an environment where giving can take place. This is about branding and creating a profile, but mostly about telling a story that will resonate with people and encourage them to give. Without a plan, the chances of that happening are pretty remote.

What makes a communications plan successful?

A plan is measured by how quickly and easily money is raised. You can measure it in typical branding terms, for instance the amount of placements on social media, the number of newspaper appearances, and so forth. But typically, it is gauged by how much and how easily money was raised.

What makes a communications plan fail?

Generally most organizations try to do too much. They try to cover every target group and tell every story. We encourage clients to do three or four things really well and make that the focus of their plan and not run the risk of being everything to everybody. Failed plans try to do too much and of course this takes a lot of resources. If you don’t have focus, don’t do a few things really well and don’t follow through with them, it makes the plan fail.

What type of people do you have in mind when creating a communications plan?

It depends on who the target groups are. Most plans try to tell a big picture story of why the organization is important. But the best plans will focus on major stakeholders, and these are not always donors. Sometimes this could be other partner organizations. Usually, the four main groups include donors, key influencers, the media (both traditional and social) and very often the staff. You have to write the plan in such a way that the organization feels that they can do it. The plan can give them self-confidence.

How do you keep a communications plan focused?

Do a few things really well and give yourself some good measuring tools, whether it is twitter feeds or money. To keep focus is the desired outcome. For each client or market, you need to decide where or who will generate the most money. For instance, an organization may focus on retrieving money from wealthy philanthropists in the region. If this were the case, chances are that one-on-one meetings will be successful and this becomes the focus and priority.

If you start from ground zero, your focus will be different. You will want to develop a strong social media presence, create events, and ultimately try to get people to know you. Therefore, the focus will be on creating a profile and identity. Ultimately, whatever the desired outcome is, will determine what you’re going to do.

What if you don’t have a communications department?

If you don’t have a communications department and don’t understand the principles of media or print advertisements, events, or media releases, you need to seek professional help. You should hire or train staff to become experts in communications, and there are many consulting firms that can help you with that. In terms of getting volunteers to do your communications plan, you need to walk a very fine line. The trouble is that it is difficult to have leverage over volunteers, they are not accountable since they are unpaid. Paid staff are accountable, and it’s better to invest some money to ensure accountability.

What does being a ‘vigilant fundraiser’ mean to you?

I think it means three things, first keeping up with trends. Organizations need to keep up to date with the most current trends in giving and philanthropy. There have been major changes lately, for instance the moving away from large galas and golf tournaments to more personable lunches and socials. And of course, social media has changed the landscape.

Secondly, build, network and grow relationships and maintain them. The success of an organization is determined by the strength of relationships.

Thirdly, you have to be ready as an organization to receive money. Meaning, you need to have a strong board, good processes to manage the retrieval of funds, good financial discipline, stewardship and a strong mission that people identify with and understand.

Julie Dorsey is a Writer for The Goldie Company. She interviewed Peter Barrow for his thoughts on creating an effective communications plan.


This is what a Vigilant Fundraiser looks like: John Phin

John Phin lives and breathes fundraising. As a professional fundraiser, consultant, staff member, teacher and volunteer, John has served a variety of charitable and community-based organizations, in addition to his role as part-time lecturer in Fundraising and Fund Development at Mount Royal University.

Professionally curious about fundraising, fund development and non-profit management, John is an advocate and true leader of the profession.

John shares his expertise on the “dos and don’ts” in creating a fundraising strategy.

What is the first step in developing a fundraising strategy?

First thing is to really understand the mission. The Strategic Plan must, above all, be rooted in what the organization is trying to accomplish. If you understand this, then the Fund Development pieces – the activities and tactics – will fall into place. To keep everything fresh, I think leaders of the organization should review the mission regularly, even annually, so they can give the charity its best direction and continue to validate its purpose in the community. An organization can change over time, so it is important to examine its mission regularly.

What makes a successful fundraising strategy?

Being true to the vision. The mission defines ‘why we exist’ and the vision gives it shape. In fundraising, the vision is what donors buy into most. Build strategies on the back of what the organization hopes to accomplish for the community and you will have a pretty good chance of fundraising success.

What should you avoid when creating a fundraising strategy?

Don’t abandon your professional responsibility. Writing a fundraising strategy is a piece of work that shouldn’t be delegated to just anyone because it’s too important to be crafted outside the knowledge and experience of professional fundraisers. Professional fundraisers know this, so we need to stand up and enthusiastically defend our Strategic Plan’s recommendations because we know they’re based on sound principles.

What makes a great fundraiser? What does the perfect fundraiser look like to you?

Curiosity seems to define great fundraisers. The best fundraisers are constantly looking for improvement or new and effective ways to do things. They’re not afraid to change up or energize their development plans with a tweak here and there. So they read, research, explore, prod and poke at things that might help their organization. It’s embedded in the idea that this, truly, is a profession.

What do you expect fundraising, or the means in which it is conducted, to look like in the next 25 years?

I’m seeing the pendulum swing back to the fundamentals of fundraising; that it’s about the relationships donors have with the organizations they choose to support. It was never about the organization’s needs but, rather, what the donor wanted to accomplish and how they could help a particular organization achieve its mission and vision for the community. So, I suspect donor stewardship will become increasingly important and I’m seeing smart organizations paying attention to this.

The messages we use and the way we convey them is changing. Social media is a great communications tool that we’ll continue to use because everyone seems to have a Twitter or Facebook account, but I think we’ll have figured out a role for these tools as facilitating fundraising and not as a means to extract money.

What is the key takeaway in your chapter of The Vigilant Fundraiser?

I would hope, broadly, that readers recognize that the Development Plan and its collection of fundraising strategies must be approached as an integrated piece of work. To me it’s a three-legged stool and fundraising is just one part. Forgetting to incorporate community engagement and communications activities means fundraising will just hobble along and never really achieve great results.

What do you think a ‘vigilant fundraiser’ looks like?

A ‘vigilant fundraiser’ is constantly thinking about improving fundraising for their organization. They live and breathe their profession, constantly massaging scenarios and thinking of ways to do things better. To be a ‘vigilant fundraiser’ means that your switch is always on.

Julie Dorsey is a Writer for The Goldie Company. She interviewed John Phin for his thoughts on creating a Fundraising Strategy.

This is what a Vigilant Fundraiser looks like: Lee Pigeau – Part 2

In part one of our interview with Lee Pigeau, we discussed the importance of developing a fundraising committee.

In part two, we talked to Lee about “making the ask”. From working in healthcare to education to housing, Lee is seasoned at “making the ask” and providing advice on successfully asking a donor to give to your organization.

What do you mean by “making the ask”?

“Making the ask” is just fundraising jargon for initiating a financial transaction; asking for a donation or sponsorship.

How do you train volunteers on “making the ask”?

It is important that you give volunteers information they need, such as the case for support. Volunteers who are asking for donations are generally passionate but need the confidence that information and practice will give them. They need the stories that will capture your prospective donor’s attention, which will allow them to identify with your organization.

The next step is to prepare them, which can include scheduling visits, doing a run-through, and provide sales training if needed. But in preparing “the ask”, it is critical that you talk to your volunteer about the reasons they are asking for a gift. A well prepared volunteer will know the outcomes and results of a gift will and they will know how to handle a rejection appropriately.

Some donors will make you work for the money, so you need to prepare the volunteers for almost any response.

What is the biggest mistake in “making the ask”?

A sense of entitlement. The idea that your charity deserves the money. This isn’t respectful to the donor, a gift is their choice and there are many deserving charities. By feeling you deserve the gift or by using guilt as a tactic you aren’t doing anyone any favours. You need to be respectful and appropriately steward each donor.

How do you respond when the prospect says “no”?

If you prepared the volunteer and had all of your bases covered and the donor still says ‘no’, then you need to try and find out why the prospective donor did not give. If you understand the rationale for the “no”, respond respectfully and then say thank you anyway. Ask if the charity can still keep in contact and then start stewarding them in a different way that will help change the no to a yes.

As professional fundraisers, it is our job to remind volunteers that that if it was a “no” this time, it could be a “yes” next time.

How do you successfully make an “ask”?

Preparation is important. You need to know that the volunteer is prepared to make “the ask”. Volunteers need to be confident but humble, relaxed and sounding positive that the donation is going to make a difference. You need to prepare for the donor’s manner and potential responses and obstacles.

A donor will be happy to give when they are shown the impact of their gift and are thanked appropriately.

What do you expect fundraising, or the means in which it is conducted, to look like in the next 25 years?

Over the next 25 years, the basics are going to be the same, just as they have stayed the same over the past 25 years. It will be the same in the sense that the donors who care will make the biggest difference. Individuals will still be the major donors and corporate philanthropy will have less impact. At the core of fundraising, you will still need passionate volunteers who can connect with others.

In 25 years the decision makers will have grown up in the electronic age. The techniques will need to change; we are a society that trains young people to connect electronically, but charities don’t use technology to its fullest potential. Charities don’t drive technological changes but we must embrace it, which is all part of being vigilant.

Julie Dorsey is a Writer for The Goldie Company. She interviewed Lee Pigeau for his thoughts on “making the ask”.

This is what a Vigilant Fundraiser looks like: Lee Pigeau

Step 5: Develop a Fundraising Committee

From urban metropolises to rural enclaves, Lee Pigeau helps non-profit organizations raise funds and manage their operations efficiently and effectively. With extensive experience as a leader and volunteer, Lee is passionate in helping organizations realize their potential.

Lee is dedicated to community building throughout Central Ontario. He has been a keynote speaker at various Canadian and provincial conferences, speaking on strategic planning, volunteer management and motivation, board and staff relations as well as fundraising and goal setting. Lee teaches Volunteer Management, Annual Giving, Planning for Fundraising and Capital Campaigns at Georgian College.

In our two-part interview, we caught up with Lee for his thoughts on creating a fundraising committee.

What makes a good fundraising committee?

The committee itself needs to understand that they are a team, but a team of individuals. When you go out and raise funds, you don’t do it at the same time, en masse. It’s not a soccer team, it is more of a competitive gymnastics or NASCAR team. Your performance is individual but you lean on everybody else for support and in the end everyone’s success is your success. A good team will consist of leaders, doers, and information gatherers who will be well-supported by the organization in terms of motivation, support, resources and leadership.

What types of people should be on the fundraising committee?

The people on the fundraising committee must be committed to what your organization is doing. There needs to be support from the charity, and the volunteer members need to respect the best practices, protocol and expertise that is brought to them. A good member of the committee would know the community, audience and have charisma, leadership, the ability to communicate persuasively and technically as well as the inclination to report results. You do need action-oriented people but they must be good listeners, not just great talkers

How do you find the best people to work on your team?

It depends on the organization’s life cycle. First, look at people who donate or currently volunteer. Current donors appreciate the need for a systematic approach to giving and can understand the ways to ask and not to ask. Volunteers can bring passion, but you have to train them in fundraising. A great way to get volunteers is through your professional network. For instance, most banks encourage community involvement from their managers, so if you have a local bank that funds your projects, get to know the manager. You can also look at past board members, service clubs, and Chambers of Commerce; where you will find motivated individuals who are involved in the community.

What has caused the shift from having warm hearted individuals to hiring for skilled volunteers?

I don’t think it is so much a shift as it is a recognition of the need for skilled volunteers, therefore, recruiting has become more formal and professional. Successful volunteers can be skilled and have a warm heart. When you look at charities being held accountable, they are looked at as businesses. The donors want to know that the volunteers and staff have skills and that they can be trusted, especially if they’re investing $5,000, $10,000 or $1,000,000 into capital campaigns.

Are there disadvantages in hiring skilled volunteers? Do they have the same compassion for the cause?

Normally, no. But there is sometimes a risk when skilled volunteers are there to broaden their networks or have a personal agenda. If they aren’t there for the good of the cause, then the organization can be tainted.

For you, what does it mean to be a ‘vigilant fundraiser’?

To be vigilant is to check every step and always looking for ways to improve. A ‘vigilant fundraiser’ always questions if he or she is “doing it right?”, “did I say thank you?”, “am I putting the organization at risk?” and so on.

Julie Dorsey is a Writer for The Goldie Company. She interviewed Lee Pigeau for his thoughts on creating a fundraising committee.

This is what a Vigilant Fundraiser looks like: Liz Rejman

Step 7: Identify your key stakeholders

Liz is about efficiency and consistency. Spending her entire career in healthcare, education and the arts, Liz Rejman’s professional focus has been on database management and prospect research for large and small fundraising initiatives. Always on the cutting-edge of technology and using resources to its fullest potential, Liz is interested in social media, media monitoring and the effect of the internet on balanced research. Liz is a frequent speaker for the Association of Professional Researchers in Advancement.

We spoke to Liz on the importance of data management and technology and its place in an organization.

How do you identify your key stakeholders?

I always say “look internal before you look external”. Look at those who are the closest to your organization and have an affinity to it, such as board members, volunteers, current donors, those who attend events, and so on. These people have a first degree relationship or connection, either through participation and events, volunteering, or donating.

From there, take a look the connections your board members and volunteers have within the community. They may be willing to be ambassadors or door openers to those who have yet to engage with your organization.

How important is data management to an organization?

It’s like when you look at home renovation, it is not the pretty and frilly things that truly matter; it’s the structural integrity of the foundation. If you don’t have a solid foundation on your house, the décor and furniture won’t matter because there will be leaks and cracks – ruining all those beautiful things.

The database should be the single source of information for your interactions with your key stakeholders. A database with minimal information guarantees missed opportunities. Great data that is accurate will help you be efficient and effective in your fundraising. I always tell frontline fundraisers “If it’s not in the database, it didn’t exist.”

What sorts of data should you keep track of? What information is important or relevant?

You want to think about a database as the “institutional memory” for your organization. You need to think about the unique pieces of information about your key stakeholders that you should be tracking in order to have meaningful relationships with them. This would include interactions with a donor such as a meeting, conversation or customized document. You also want to think about what you want to report to donors and key stakeholders to demonstrate impact –that will guide what data points you will want to track in a consistent way. Lastly, especially in the context of gifts, the database needs to comply with the CRA regulations who monitor and audit charities to ensure that they are compliant with the law.

How do you ensure that the data is consistent with little error?

It requires planning and questioning of what you want to do with the data and how it will be used. I always like to work backwards – what pieces of data do I need to easily export a mailing list or prepare a report to the board. Data can tell some great stories about your organization but it take front end work to set up how you want to track the data and what story do you want to tell based on the data kept. From there you have to be ever vigilant about data entry – a database is dynamic and will always require monitoring to ensure accuracy. There is no cookie cutter answer or formula, what data you track and how you track it is unique to each organization. The key is to plan ahead.

What is the biggest mistake one can do when inputting data?

Inconsistency. You need to ensure that where and how you enter data is the same format for each stakeholder within the database. As long as it is consistent, you can extract it. You need to think of “how can I reduce manual manipulation and make it consistent?”

How can organizations use social media as a research tool?

This is a tricky answer because within social media there is a lot of noise. You have to try to differentiate the noise from what is real and that takes time.

I think LinkedIn can keep the organization up to date on business information of key stakeholders. LinkedIn, Twitter and sometimes Facebook can highlight where someone’s interests are which can be used to find volunteers down the road. With all social media: “reader beware”, just because you read something doesn’t mean that it is true.

Should every organization use social media and new technology?

It depends on the organization and staff resources. For instance, having Instagram and Facebook to post artwork would be appropriate for a museum, but may not make sense for a women’s shelter.

Social media is becoming more systematic. There are some organizations that do it really well, and others that don’t. If you’re going to be active on social media, make sure you have an editorial calendar and engage with people. There is nothing worse than collecting a lot of likes and going silent.

What does it mean to be a ‘vigilant fundraiser’?

A ‘vigilant fundraiser’ means that you are constantly learning, thinking about how to move your organization forward in a positive way..

Julie Dorsey is a Writer for The Goldie Company. She interviewed Liz Rejman for her thoughts on creating a functional database.

This is what a Vigilant Fundraiser looks like: Paul Nazareth

Step 8: Planned Giving: The Philanthropic Philosopher’s Stone

He’ll be the first one to tell you that he doesn’t like the “fundraising machine”, yet this is one of the reasons Paul Nazareth is a fundraiser.

Paul’s mission is to “empower Canadians to have greater social impact through well planned charitable gifts today and estate gifts tomorrow”. As a networking wizard with a strong professional and personal interest in social media, Paul is dedicated in discovering how such channels can be implemented in the for-profit and social-profit setting.

He spoke to us about the changing landscape of fundraising due to the presence of philanthropic and resource development programming in educational institutions and shared tips for successful planned giving.

How has academic programming in fundraising and philanthropy changed the fundraising and not-for-profit landscape?

It has changed it quite a bit. This kind of programming never really existed in the 1970s and 1980s. It adds a new dimension to fundraising, but they’re still not mandatory for success. These educational offerings are there if you want to commit to them for work or to grow in your career. If you want to get into fundraising and philanthropy, you just need to start at the bottom, as with anything else in life. It’s like getting married. Most people wouldn’t marry someone they think would be a good partner, it helps to date a bit. To get into fundraising, you need to test the waters. Volunteer, join a campaign, join a board, but most importantly, network your way in.

What are your thoughts on the “fundraising machine”?

I really don’t like it. It’s the reason why I am a fundraiser, because I don’t like how fundraising has permeated our lives so much. I acknowledge that I’m being cranky and biased, but I don’t want to grow a mustache, or walk and ride a bike for charity. It bothers me that fundraising consumes so much of our lives. People never consider that asking less will get more money, but it’s true. On the other hand, I respect the passion that people have when they do these things and have passion for the cause and passion for the people they help.

Sometimes fundraising campaigns disconnect us from the cause. More fundraisers need to be allowed to walk their shop floor, meaning spending as much time in the mission and understand the organization. If you are fundraising at a homeless shelter, get in the shelter and understand the story, mission and people. The machine makes us disconnected, so you need to spend as much time with the people as possible. It is true, we will never be free of chocolate almonds, but the space between the volunteer and fundraiser is growing. There is a danger there.

What should organizations do to combat the “fundraising machine?”

Charities, as they grow, need to be strategic. Hospitals are the most diversified shops. They have bake sales, runs and so forth. Other organizations may not have the staff, but that means they have to be more strategic about how they invest their time. Meet the donor where they are. Diversification is good but not at the loss of connecting to the cause. I met a board member who was bragging about a golf tournament that made $25,000. When I included the staff time and lost volunteer hours, it actually lost money. When a student fundraiser from a college program volunteered to help them, their board chair held a small private dinner with donors for one night and they made $50,000 with minimal staff time.

Has philanthropy and planned giving changed in the past 25 years? Do you expect it to change in another 25 years?

The world has changed in 25 years. What hasn’t changed is that relationships drive gifts, which create the stories for an organization. In 25 years, relationships will still be the key and legacy gifts will continue to be the stories. What has changed is the speed in which it is done; rather than phone, it will be email or whatever we use in the future. Due to the speed of our daily lives, busyness is making relationships fleeting and meaningless. People don’t value relationships. Creating meaningful relationships is a strategy, it isn’t about being nice. This is why I believe in digital media, it allows us to create and steward relationships in a busy world.

What is the secret to “planned giving?”

Planned giving is a collection of stories, and a donor’s feeling on a story is going to reflect how much they give to you. There is an understanding that it is someone’s life story being told in your mission. The charity has a need and the gift has to align with that need, but the motivation is switched as planned giving is about the donor’s need to create a legacy and impact.
The secret is, there IS no secret. Giving is giving, we need to dispose of the mystery and jargon.

What is the key take away from your chapter, “Planned Giving: The Philanthropic Philosopher’s Stone” of The Vigilant Fundraiser?

I’m a realist. Board and leaders want fundraisers to make the most amount of money in the least amount of time. In the book I explain three things that are vital for planned giving: first, cover your bases. Make sure there is a bucket to throw money in. You would be surprised by the amount of organizations that don’t have a bucket. If you’re a busker, you will always have a place to throw money into so make sure giving money in all forms is easy. Secondly, integrate your ask. Make sure gift planning and training is included in every facet of fundraising and keep your language and material simple. Thirdly, partner with advisors. Having expert fundraising consultants and professional advisors in law, accounting, financial planning and insurance is key.

What does a ‘vigilant fundraiser’ look like to you?

When you think of the word ‘vigilant’, it is one who is always on guard to protect and serve the donors and advance the profession. Always learning, networking and acting. A ‘vigilant fundraiser’ is someone who walks their talk.

Julie Dorsey is a Writer for The Goldie Company. She interviewed Paul Nazareth for his thoughts on planned giving and the future outlook of fundraising.

This is what a Vigilant Fundraiser looks like: Gina Eisler

Step 4: Donor Recognition and Stewardship: Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Gina Eisler, an avid sailboat racer, lives for speed, intensity and the desire to win.  On land, she takes these qualities and successfully applies it to fundraising.  Similar to life on the water, Gina realizes that capital campaigns, major gifts, annual appeals, special events and planned giving, are competitive and require hard work from a team of dedicated individuals, yet the thrills of victory are worth the effort.

Gina’s life on land has led to tremendous opportunities and achievements.  She has incredible experience working with health charities including two children’s hospitals, long-term care, teaching and research facilities and community hospitals.  She has managed and directed major gift campaigns from $1.2 million to $100 million.

Gina shares her experience with giving and stewardship, serving as a reminder that fundraising and philanthropy are about one thing: the people.

How does one with a degree in English Literature and Sociology stumble upon the not-for-profit sector?

It’s interesting because it was 1988 and there weren’t a lot of jobs available. I managed to fall into it through a friend of a friend telling me about a grant available by the Manitoba Arts Council and Literary Arts Resource Centre. They hired me for a small fee to create an arts calendar to promote the gallery, theatre and other subscriber’s events in Winnipeg. Unfortunately when the money ran out, so did the calendar.  Then I worked at the Manitoba Writers’ Guild writing proposals and grants and from there I went to a hospital foundation to work on a capital campaign.

What is the greatest concern regarding stewardship programs in Canada?

Board members don’t understand the need to invest.  If you invest today, the rewards come later.  I see donors not seeing their recognition or impact of their gift, or where organizations take the money and never properly thank the donor.  It is much easier to build long term relationships than it is to constantly seek new donors.

What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned regarding recognition and stewardship?

The biggest lesson is that you can’t expect people to keep giving if they have never been stewarded or thanked. You have to do it.  You also have to really know your donors.  I recently had an experience where a donor got upset about his recognition being across from a washroom. Given Canada’s multicultural donor environment, we have to remember cultural sensitivity—including feng shui.

What is the main factor that you need to consider when creating a donor stewardship program?

The number one factor is talk to the donor. You need to have a good enough relationship to have a sense of what they would like, ensuring time and money are not wasted.  You also have to know your community and work within the confines of your own organization, its mission, budget, and long term goals.

What are the best ways to show appreciation for a donor?

They are all different, so you have to listen to them. Honesty is above all things and you have to say thank you. It is like a form of show and tell, you have to show them their impact and tell them about it. Everyone wants to believe they have changed a life, or lives, through their gift, so we need to have stories to share about the organization’s mission.

Do you have any tips or advice for being an effective steward?

You have to be sincere and make them realize that there are many stakeholders.  Meaning, a person who accepts the gift may be different than the person who implements it.  You have to be honest with the donor about what’s going on and tell them if their gift will be utilized in a different way.  And you have to learn to write very short thank you cards; in a few words let them know their impact and how important it is to give.

What does a ‘vigilant fundraiser’ look like to you?

A ‘vigilant fundraiser’ never gives up and doesn’t get discouraged. For instance, you can ask a lot of people but secure a small number of gifts. You need to have your eyes and ears open at all times.  You’re like a Nancy Drew looking for clues.  So you need to be a cross between a private detective and a matchmaker.

Julie Dorsey is a Writer for The Goldie Company.  She interviewed Gina Eisler for her thoughts on stewardship and donor recognition.