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Jennifer Vigne

Jennifer Vigne, CFRE

Anecdotal stories abound about non-profits that have raised significant money.  “ABC organization receives largest gift in its history.” “Generous donor bequeaths biggest gift to her alma mater.” “Charity X endowment grows by double digits.”  You get the idea.

These accomplishments create tantalizing headlines that singularly focus on highlighting a non-profit’s new revenue.  Yet as successful fundraisers well know, there’s always more to the story than what’s mentioned in the headline and much more work involved that got them to that success.

As President of the AFP Southwest Florida Chapter, our association is committed to advancing ethical and effective fundraising.  We recognize that fundraising is a long-term investment that needs daily shepherding.  If done well – thoughtfully, consistently, and strategically – then non-profits will transition from survivability to thrivability.

Listed below are ten things each of us should know about successful fundraising.

  1. Have a Vision:
    Be willing to dream big and create ambitious goals.  As Jim Collins, author of Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, remarks “Have a big, hairy audacious goal (BHAG) and seek progress toward an envisioned future.”   Donors are inspired by a compelling vision and they want to see your vision in action which is evidenced by your passion.

  2. Create a Plan:
    A recent post in the Stanford Social Innovation Review highlights research that suggests the clearest predictor of successful fundraising is the existence of a formal fundraising plan. Creating a clear plan of action with quantifiable metrics, timelines, and goals will keep the lens clear and help you remain focused on your objectives.  As Stephen Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind.”  Don’t let your plan get dusty on a shelf, use it! And, if you don’t have a plan, begin one today. It’s really that important.

  3. Master the Art of Communication:
    People remember 10%-30% of what they hear, and 80% of what they will say so allow your donors to share their story before you tell them your story. Before you know it, they will be telling your story if you actively listen to them. Isn’t it ironic that the word listen has the same letters as the word silent?

  4. Value the Relationship:
    It’s important to understand fundraising trends and general fundraising principles, but it’s equally important to understand your donor as a remarkable individual.  They are each wonderfully unique, thus understanding their individual values and giving preferences is key.  Giving USA reports that in 2014, 72% of all giving was by individuals and 8% came from bequests.  That’s a whopping 80% of all giving that can be attributed to the individual donor.  In short, this is an area worth your time and investment.

  5. Appreciate the Donor Cycle:
    Solicitation is only one part of fundraising. Sure, it’s an essential part of raising money, and no organization will be successful without it.  But successful fundraising strategies include all components of the donor cycle (identification, qualification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship).  This moves management system requires the element of time, and gifts will harvest at varying rates.  Just remember, long-term fundraising within a true philanthropic culture will not be effective if the donor only hears from you when you are asking for money.

  6. Leverage Fundraising as a Shared Responsibility:
    Philanthropic support thrives when fundraising is a shared responsibility.  With the changing philanthropic landscape and heightened sophistication of donors, the most successful organizations are now expanding beyond the development staff and involving their entire community – the CEO, board members, staff, and even volunteers – in their fundraising efforts.

  7. Recognize Fundraising is a Relational Business:
    If you’re dedicated to successful fundraising, then you already “get this.” Yet, this simple term is often misunderstood.  It is a fundraising approach that puts the donor right in the center.  That’s right, the donor.  If you’ve followed tips 1-6, then you’re already well on your way.  The donor will notice your authenticity and transparency.  Focusing on the donor relationship means that you are also willing to invest in the personal touch. Start your day by writing handwritten notes, thank your donor more than once, and by all means, don’t under-estimate the power of a personal face-to-face meeting.  A donor-centered approach will pay dividends.

  8. Collaborate with Others:
    Collective impact is a buzz word these days, and for good reason.  Donors want to see more shared vision and we need to perpetuate generosity for our community’s benefit, so collaborating just makes sense.  No singular organization “owns” a donor anyways so be willing to work together and exchange ideas.

  9. Remain Flexible and Adaptable:
    If you truly have your donor’s best interest at heart, then be patient, flexible and adaptable when they respond with a “no” to an ask.  Timing is very important.  Use your discernment.  Perhaps they need more time to understand your mission, or maybe they have other pressing needs to address.  How you respond to a “no” can speak volumes to your donor.  Until they tell you “No, not ever,” continue your efforts with them.  They will appreciate your long-lens view, and the donor relationship will be preserved.

  10. Be Your Best Professional Self:
    Ethics and professional knowledge matter and donors value the consummate professional who is committed to doing the right thing.  It builds trust.  In order to serve our donors well, we need to invest in our own professional development.  Commit to taking continuing education courses, obtaining professional certificates, or attending conferences and seminars.  Read professional fundraising books, follow fundraising blogs, and join AFP! We look forward to seeing you!

Jennifer Vigne, CFRE is the president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Southwest Florida Chapter and the executive director of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

IMG_1283Most of us long for a quiet week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, except for the sound of the mailbox being filled with year-end donations.

If you have a bit of spare time in the next day or two, be sure to check out these links for some gifts of knowledge, courtesy of some super smart, dedicated, and attentive people in the nonprofit sector. These are all great resources to have and think about.

  1. 15 Lessons for the Nonprofit Sector We Learned in 2015
    Nonprofit with Balls
  2. Week of Freebies! Multi-Channel Campaign Fundraising Worksheet
    Nonprofit Marketing Blog
  3. Free Webinar: 10 Tips for Impact Without Burnout
    Wild Apricot
  4. Mapping Out Your Donor Communications Plan for 2016
    John Haydon’s Blog
  5. 20 Standards: How We Accredit Charities
    BBB Wise Giving Alliance
  6. Lobbying Do’s and Don’ts for Nonprofits
    Florida Nonprofit Alliance
  7. 15 From 2015: Important Nonprofit Governance Stories
    Nonprofit Quarterly

I love a good read. Even better when I can take something away I can immediately use. If you find some recent nonprofit material we should be sharing, email it to Susie(a)CFSarasota.org, and we will post it.

Enjoy the last few days of the year, and thank you for the difference you make.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

24hours
A Giving Challenge campaign that garnered attention from the beginning–and was ultimately selected by a local panel of media judges as one of two Best Overall Campaign recipients–belonged to the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast.

“Make 24 hours equal forever” was its very apropos call to action, considering the organization’s work to protect the environmental character, biodiversity and natural integrity of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

But beyond this mission, we can’t help but love its implications for every organization that took such time and effort to prepare for a record-breaking day of giving in Florida on September 1 and 2.

By now we all have the numbers firmly engrained into our consciousness. In just 24 hours, more than 36,400 individual donations were made to 449 local nonprofits serving Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and Desoto counties yielding $6.7 million from online gifts, matching funds from The Patterson Foundation, and funding from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, and the Knight Foundation.

Long after the media attention, Donor Lounge fanfare, and Leaderboard addiction melt away, we have opportunities of a nonprofit lifetime in front of us.

On this first week of Fall, it’s a perfect time to consider how we can harvest the Giving Challenge and its treasures for all they are worth.  Here are three plans your team should be jotting down furiously, while all of this is fresh and exciting.

  1. Your plan for retaining the donors who contributed to your organization in the Giving Challenge.
    Whether your organization had one new donor or hundreds of new donors, don’t let them be “first and only” gifts. Let’s also consider the long-time supporters who gave during the Challenge. Going forward, how will your nonprofit make sure these donors feel appreciated, are engaged, and give again? For first-time donors, getting that second gift is both a challenge and an opportunity. Meet it!

  2. Your plan for sharing the impact Giving Challenge donations will make.
    I bet you have a plan for how your organization will spend the funds it raised in the Giving Challenge. How will you share the impact those dollars will make on real people, on animals, on important issues, or our environment? When donors can see their gift tied to a real result in the community, they are more likely to give again. Consider videos, newsletters, media relations, your website, social media–all of the different ways you can share the outcome created by so much generosity.

  3. Your plan for harvesting what you learned.
    Every time we host the Giving Challenge, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County learns a little more about our internal capacity, what we could do better, what worked really well, what surprised us, how we could be more efficient or effective using technology differently. We capture these comments from our team members and from external feedback and use them in multiple ways. We know there are similar nuggets about your team and about the fundraising/communication strategies you tried. Apply them to your work throughout the year, outside of the Giving Challenge, to build your fundraising strength and experience.

Thousands of people were part of the $6.7 million success our community owns. We owe it to them and to the important missions that were part of the Giving Challenge to carry that success with us into the future.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

llama

Let’s say a treasured, long-time donor wants to give your organization a gorgeous piece of property. Or a car, a boat, a big pile of cash, a piece of art, or even a pet llama (it’s happened, we promise).

As a caring nonprofit professional who wants to heap the love on your thoughtful donor, of course you want to say yes. And as an advocate for anything that could deliver more resources for your organization’s important programs, of course you want to say yes.

On Wednesday, April 1, 2015 from 9 am to 11 am, we have an offer your fundraising committee chair, executive director, and development director should be all over. (It’s not an April Fool’s Day joke either.)

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is joining forces with the Southwest Florida Planned Giving Council to offer “Llamas, Diamonds and Dollars, Oh My: The Gift Acceptance Policy Your Nonprofit Needs” to share some extremely important considerations that will keep your nonprofit out of a pickle when it comes to accepting gifts.

The session promises to be informative and interactive, but most of all, to save your organization a lot of heartache and headache. You will leave poised to think through the considerations your organization should make now so that when that unusual gift is offered, you will have an easy answer substantiated in writing. We will provide sample gift acceptance policies and other tools you can share with your whole team.

Our presenters will tell some real stories, how they were handled, and what you can and should be doing now to make sure your nonprofit and your relationships with donors stay in only the best graces.

Learn more and register, and spread the word to your other colleagues with profiles in The Giving Partner. There is no cost to attend.

“A good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.” ― Thomas Edison

How often do hard-working nonprofit staff members get to experience a “bubble bath for their minds?” We know, not often. But making time to discover, to embrace our fans, and to share invigorates us and keeps new ideas flowing into our organizations.

We are fortunate that award-winning marketing and communications professional Sam Davidson shared an insightful re-cap of the recent PINC.Sarasota event. As your year is winding down, consider how you can make some space for creativity.

 

Sam Davidson

Sam Davidson

It’s been a month since PINC made its American debut with PINC.Sarasota and it was, by far, the most inspiring day I’ve had in the “creative coast” since I arrived five years ago. Sixteen speakers from around the world told stories about their passions while the day was sprinkled with surprise after surprise. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the audience. Never had I seen such a wide range of people at one event in Sarasota. I saw retired corporate types talking with Ringling College students in one corner while explorers and photographers spoke with journalists and ad execs in another corner. It was a day to remember, but more importantly, it was a day we should learn from and use to push the needle forward in this dynamic community.

“PINC is like a bubble bath for your mind,” Nadja Schnetzler, speaker at PINC.Sarasota and Founder of BrainStore, said.

And wouldn’t we all like a nice bubble bath to clear our thoughts and get ready for the next day? Well, the next day is now and it’s safe to say that everyone who attended PINC is well prepared for whatever projects, both personally and professionally, that lie ahead.

For those who couldn’t attend, here are a few takeaways from PINC.Sarasota that stuck with me.

Never Stop Discovering

While PINC doesn’t technically have a theme, a common thread between many of the speakers was “discovery.” David Gallo spoke about discovering underwater Earth. Alexander Kumar charmed the audience with comedic anecdotes about his explorations in the Polar Regions.  Jon Jefferson left us amazed about his mid-life discovery of a new passion – forensic anthropology with a side of crime solving. And Rob Swan won the crowd over with his inspiring tale of becoming the world’s first person to walk to both the North and South Poles. All of these men have a “never stop discovering” attitude, and it’s paid off. Their lives have all found purpose at different ages, and they are all changing the way we see the world because of the way they are discovering it. One promise we have every day is that there is always something new we can discover. Whether it’s at an unknown part of the ocean or an unknown purpose of existence, for many of us, our greatest discoveries are still out there. By following the “never stop discovering” attitude, it’s only a matter of time before we find them.

You Don’t Have Consumers. You Have Fans.

For those looking for business lessons at PINC.Sarasota, speaker Alan Moore, author of No Straight Lines, resonated with me the most.  He told stories about innovative companies like Lego and Tesla. When speaking about how Lego redesigned their brand, he said, “They realized they didn’t have consumers. They had fans.” This struck a major chord with me. That statement is so appropriate when it comes to one of Sarasota’s top industries — our very own nonprofit community. Business partners and individuals who support nonprofits are not acting as consumers. Instead, they are simply fans of their favorite nonprofit. While sports fans have their favorite teams, and consumers have their favorite brands, philanthropists and volunteers have their favorite nonprofits. If the nonprofit community can find creative ways to tap into this fandom, they’ll find a connection that will thrive for years to come.

Share. Share. Share.

PINC is all about sharing. Speakers sharing stories. Audience members sharing conversations. And the PINC tradition of sharing a glass of champagne with a new friend at the end of the day. The concept of sharing has stuck with me the past three weeks, and it’s changed the way I converse with others – friends and strangers alike. Because of PINC, I have found myself starting conversations with strangers while waiting in line for a cup of coffee. This time of the day was usually reserved for checking my phone for new emails and keeping up-to-date on my Facebook newsfeed. Sharing with each other is very precious, and PINC reinforced the benefits of this lost art. There are hundreds of organizations trying to solve problems in this community – from the arts and animals to nature and children. Some will find great solutions this next year while others continue looking for new ideas. If we learn anything from PINC.Sarasota, let it be this: by sharing with each other, we will unlock the creative doors in our minds, look at problems in a new way, and eventually solve them quicker and more efficiently than if we kept our thoughts and ideas to ourselves.

Sarasota is poised for greatness, and because of PINC we are one step closer to reaching our full potential. Let’s see if we can use what we learned from the first PINC.Sarasota to discover new ideas, embrace our fans, and share our successes. With that, there’s a lot that will be accomplished before PINC comes back for round two in 2015.

-Sam Davidson

Sam Davidson is an award-winning marketing and communications professional. He has served on The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and has received numerous accolades like Sarasota’s Young Professional of the Year and Biz941’s People To Watch. He is currently traveling the globe and has recently launched The Wanderkiss Project where he interviews couples from around the world.

NOLA

Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu Talks About Building Community at the Southeast Council of Foundations Annual Conference

Our community is rich with opportunities for nonprofit leaders to connect with each other and learn from colleagues as well as local and national experts. Foundations convene many of these gatherings as a way to build the strength of the sector.

We’re all familiar with the big, recycled topics of conversation—fundraising, finding committed board members, managing program demand with limited resources, and balancing the needs and expectations of funders and donors.

But when foundations have the opportunity to meet with colleagues at fellow grant making organizations, what do we talk about?

Here’s a glimpse from our participation in the Southeast Council of Foundations annual conference in New Orleans last week. The gathering draws people from private, family, community and corporate foundations all over the southeastern United States to discuss the issues impacting our region.

It’s no surprise that we spend lots of time reflecting on the complexity of issues in our region and the deeply rooted economic and educational disparities in the South, all of which require a systemic approach involving other foundation, government and nonprofit partners.

Similar to the nonprofit collaborations we’re always encouraging you to explore, we experience how rewarding but tricky partnering with each other can be when we approach solutions with different expectations.

Though social issues are similar across our region and we strive to learn from each other, we also recognize that each community is different and requires different approaches, ideally shaped by the people who are closest to the issues we are seeking to address—meaning non-foundation human assets living in these communities. Yes, foundations do recognize this!

In Richmond, Virginia, community health workers raised in the public housing projects are now transforming health in their own communities. Citizens in Halifax County, North Carolina have co-designed community playground projects and other resources to improve the quality of life.  Work in both areas is made possible through foundations and their successful partnerships. (Read more about the work of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable trust here.)

A highlight for me was hearing from Susan Desmond-Hellmann, president and CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who discussed the organization’s annual strategic planning processes and their approaches to education work in the United States, deeply driven by building teacher excellence.

The programmatic aspects of the Gates Foundation’s work was fascinating. But perhaps what I enjoyed most was hearing Susan describe the kindness and sincerity with which Bill and Melinda approach their work and foundation philosophy–that all lives have equal value.

At the end of the day, those of us who are working most closely to improve the human condition should remember to maintain compassion for each other as we interact with foundation and nonprofit colleagues. Even the best of us can get lost in outcomes, reporting, impact and other mechanical aspects we commonly use as the currency of our work.

Wes Moore, Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow and author of The Other Wes Moore, (who also visit Sarasota for The Patterson Foundation’s Veterans Legacy Summit this weekend) left us with three very compelling thoughts that even the most academic of participants could be heard discussing in the hotel corridors:

  • Potential may be universal, but opportunities are not.
  • Who do you choose to advocate for when it isn’t easy? Be the champion for those who need you.
  • When it’s time for you to leave this planet, make sure it matters that you were ever even here.

Yes, we should always be the best human beings possible while serving in our privileged positions.

With every passing conference, we learn that there are no easy answers. There are seemingly infinite ways we could do better in our work, and just as many shining examples of incredible feats accomplished through philanthropy and our nonprofit partners.

Special thanks to the staff, board and volunteers of the Southeastern Council of Foundations for making this opportunity for learning and recharging possible. Our president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County Roxie Jerde is a proud trustee of SECF, representing our region.

And there you have it, nonprofit friends. We’re a lot like you.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

As we continue discussing nonprofit communications, we wanted to share some of our online favorites with you–blogs and online resources that have stood the test of time, generating excellent content just for nonprofits over the years.

On each of the following blogs, remember that you can subscribe and have new posts delivered straight to your inbox. You can also follow each on Facebook and Twitter for fabulous links on the social media sites you are already living on.

  1. Kivi Leroux Miller’s Nonprofit Marketing Guide & Blog
    @kivilm

  2. Nancy Schwartz’s Getting Attention Blog
    @NancySchwartz

  3. John Haydon’s Blog
    @johnhaydon

  4. Beth Kanter’s Blog, Beth’s Blog
    @kanter

  5. Big Duck’s Blog, Duck Call
    @bigduck

Who isn’t on our list that you would include? We love to share your resources with others.

Subscribe, follow, and learn from these dudes and divas of nonprofit marketing and communications. We’re always learning new things from them and staying up-to-date on the latest trends and research.

Of course, if you’re not getting The Giving Partner blog delivered to your inbox, you’ll find the magic “subscribe” field in the upper right hand corner.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County