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Fondsenwerven, een vak of een hype?

Menigeen zal zich afvragen, fondsenwerven een hype? Dat kan toch helemaal niet? Nee natuurlijk niet. Maar toch gedragen veel fondsenwervers zich wel zo en niet alleen de juniors.
Fondsenwerving is een vak, laat ik daar geen misverstand over laten bestaan. Een vak waarbij je veel technieken moet kunnen toepassen. Zonder goede samenhang tussen die technieken en zonder aandacht voor de mens achter de donateur gaan we het echter niet redden.

Haaks hierop staat een fenomeen dat ik spreadsheet marketing zou willen noemen. Een spreadsheet met daarop alle kengetallen van de actie, als rechtsonder geen positief bedrag verschijnt dan werkt het dus niet. Dat past misschien wel bij marketing, maar daarmee doen we onze doelen en onszelf tekort.

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What can fundraisers learn from product marketing?

Last fall I attended my first IFC. Being a bit of a data geek, I most looked forward to a workshop entitled “new product development.” I expected to go and hear about all of the fabulous new database and CRM tools on the European market. Silly me. The session turned out to be about the process of developing fundraising “products” – as in ways and benefits of giving – within your own organization. What I had always heard termed simply a “gift type” in America.

Fast forward six months and I am writing a paper on product marketing for a management course. Here it was again. So I had to ask myself, “How can I, as a fundraiser, use any of this in my program?”

It turns out that product marketing has a lot to do with the way that we think about raising funds. And applying a commercial marketing “checklist” to our fundraising strategy can give us some valuable insights about the way that our donors experience our service. So it is useful to consider each of the seven “Ps” when designing your fundraising strategy. Following are some questions you can ask yourself in your planning.

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Sofa cushion forts and fundraising

When I was a kid, I used to spend hours building forts: in the living room (generally of sofa cushion construction), outdoors (up a tree or in a bush), my bedroom, even once under the sideboard in the dining room. My setting never really changed – my sphere was limited to my family home and our backyard – and yet I spent years of my childhood doing this, always trying to build a better fort, or adapting the imaginary story that involved me seeking refuge in said fort. My most imaginative was probably pretending to be a cow escaping the slaughterhouse – you’ll be relieved to know I escaped thanks to a hiding place built in my closet that functioned as a railway car.

(You’re probably wondering how this relates to fundraising. I swear, I’m getting there.)

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FREE: 10 years of fundraising experience!

This month exactly 10 years ago, I started my first job as a fundraiser! And from the beginning I was hooked. I love fundraising, because it enables change. Vision and passion combined with great fundraising enables important change. And as a fundraiser you play an important part in that change.

So, looking back over those 10 years, what did I learn? I’ve listed the most important strategic ingredients for a successful fundraising program. Ten years of fundraising experience summarized in one blog post. You only need 3:49 minutes of reading to catch up with 10 years. Now that seems like the bargain of the decade!

(A big thank you to all my fundraising colleagues from Médecins du Monde, Médecins Sans Frontières and Greenpeace who made me the fundraiser I currently am. And a special thanks to Roger and John for the teachings in the early days!)

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Missie en passie

Als ik terug denk aan de dag waarop mijn baan als fondsenwerver ook mijn passie en missie werd dan weet ik dat nog goed. Ik ging op mijn eerste dienstreis: India. Met privé voldoende vlieg- en verblijfsuren in het Verre Oosten op zak verheugde ik me op deze trip. De geur, de mensen, de drukte, de warmte, alles aan het Verre Oosten boeide me.

Uiteraard besefte ik me dat dit een heel andere ervaring zou gaan worden, ik was immers aan het werk. In een tijdsbestek van maar liefst 5 dagen moest ik alle verhalen en beelden voor onze “Zeg NEE tegen kinderarbeid” campagne zoeken en vastleggen. Een uitdaging.

En toen stond ik opeens nog geen  24 uur na mijn vertrek uit Den Haag op mijn slippers in een sloppenwijk. Ik probeer te begrijpen wat mijn Indiase vriend Ravi allemaal tegen me zegt maar ik moet de aanblik van deze armoede en de geur even verwerken. Ik weet de professionele modus gelukkig snel weer te vinden. Ik vraag, interview en fotografeer. De 5 dagen vliegen om, het verzamelde materiaal is top. Daar kan ik mee naar huis, daar kan ik fondsen mee werven.

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Staff like donors? Recruit, develop, retain them…

101fundraising…OK, so back to the basics of fundraising, hey?!  Let me think, should I speak about ROI, LTV, DRTV, hum… yeah, why not! But something more “CORE”?

Found it! Let’s talk about PEOPLE.

I can see your face, but don’t worry, I won’t tell you for the 102nd time that “People give to people”. You know all about it yet. So, let’s have a look at us fundraisers, after all, we are people … and perhaps the best assets of a fundraising program (OK … just after donors).

So, my first post is dealing with what I spent more time on since I became a Fundraising Director some years ago: human resources! How to recruit, retain and develop the good fundraisers for your program. Because, let’s face it, you can be a real genius, but you need people for implementing the strategy you’ve designed for  your organization. The good news is that dealing with human resources can be compared with dealing with a direct marketing program: you need to recruit staff, engage them, develop their contribution, and get the best of them as long as you can retain them.

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Op zoek naar de beste leads?

Fondsenwervers: altijd drukdrukdruk op zoek naar nieuwe markten, nieuwe middelen, nieuwe slimmigheden, the next big thing. Van de bobbel in de envelop naar scherpe listbrokers naar het perfecte callcenter.  Fondsenwerver: take a break! Adem in… adem uit… Wat gebeurt er om je heen?

Er komt een e-mail binnen, een vraag over je de campagne. En hee, een telefoontje. Een donateur wil een verhuizing doorgeven.  En kijk eens: weer een deelnemer erbij op je actiesite. Wat blijkt: tijdens je zoektocht naar de best-werkende-en-toch-voordelige  prospectlijst en het ultieme belscript blijken er gewoon mensen vanuit zichzelf (!) naar jouw organisatie toe te komen. Zomaar, vanuit het niets! Hoe is het mogelijk…. Zeg eens fondsenwerver, hoe ga je hier eigenlijk mee om?

Best interessant om eens naar te kijken, deze ‘inbound leads’. Warmer dan dit zal je ze niet krijgen. Donateurs en niet-donateurs die jou weten te vinden. Die actief contact zoeken met vragen, meedoen aan je campagne, administratieve wijzigingen doorgeven en (ja, die ook) opzeggen. Allemaal personen die wachten op jouw reactie.

Maar hoe ga je hier mee om? Het is een heel diverse groep mensen met heel diverse vragen. Het lijkt bijna onmogelijk om hier één, of enkele, programma’s op in te richten. En om hoeveel mensen gaat het eigenlijk? En om wie?

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Phone first!

As a relationship professional, I’m a big fan of Alexander Graham Bell’s electronic speech machine(*), the latter-day telephone.

My mantra when communicating with major donors: phone first. Phone first. Ph f. (Soothing, isn’t it?)

Email and letters don’t allow for the bilateral conversations our donors and prospects deserve for their generosity. The best “touches” by phone aren’t end-games of trivial information or data collection, either. The goal of every call you make should be to begin, advance or deepen a new or long-term relationship between your prospect/donor, you the fundraiser, and your organization.

The secondary goal of every phone call is to move beyond the business at hand – the hook – to get your donor/prospect to articulate what they need from you to further engage with your organization. The language and approach can be the same for loyal donors and discovery prospects: “I welcome the opportunity to update you on where we stand today, and our goals for the year.”

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The importance of annual plans in fundraising

Everyone just started fresh with a new annual plan… hopefully! Annual plans are great. As a fundraiser you can’t live without them, because it’s your blueprint for fundraising success. Below a few reasons why I think you have to spend at least 10% of your whole year working on next year’s plans.

What do I mean with an annual plan in fundraising? In short, I would say a narrative document which explains all of your fundraising activities, and answers all why, when, how, who and how much questions. Obviously the annual plan should be linked to the overall organizational strategy. And attached to the narrative there should be a kind of Excel document explaining the numbers in detail per activity per month…

That sounds like an awful lot of work and, to be honest, it is! But it’s only the most important document in your fundraising department, so let’s do it anyway…

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Give that gift back!

Hey, did you hear the one about the donor who wanted his money back? In January Robert Burton, a longtime supporter of the University of Connecticut’s athletics program asked the school to return his $3 million gift. From all appearances, Burton’s disagreement with the school is profound, personal and insurmountable.

He plans to cease all support to the University. Burton wants the family’s name removed from the “Burton Family Football Complex”, he won’t renew his luxury suite at the football field ($50,000/year), he won’t purchase an advertisement in the football program ($8,000/year), and he will cease funding a summer coaching clinic to the tune of $20K per year. Finally, he requested the funds from his two endowed scholarships transferred from athletics to the business school.

Certainly this is a problem that brewed for some time. Can any amount of customer service on the part of UCONN fix the relationship between it and the Burton family? It seems unlikely. It’s not unheard of that donor relationships sour to the point that a donor requests the return of his gift, but this level of acrimony is uncommon. Occasionally someone other than the donor requests a return of funds.

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The next big thing in fundraising is closer than you think

A few weeks ago at the Institute of Fundraising Direct Marketing and Fundraising Conference, the question was asked of the panel: What do you think is the ‘next big thing’ in fundraising? Their answer wasn’t entirely surprising, but was particularly refreshing.

They unanimously said that it’s better to use traditional direct marketing but to hone the skills so you’re doing it as well as possible. Sticking to what you know, but doing it better than it’s been done before, is more important than some fad.

Personally, I agree, but it’s interesting that in spite of no fundraising panacea, as a sector we still talk about ‘the next big thing’. And we’re still worried about jumping on the bandwagon too late. Take door-to-door fundraising. It’s been hugely successful for years for a number of UK charities, mobilising a core base of Direct Debit donors. It generates largely Gift Aid-able, predictable, unrestricted income from a large base of donors that can tend to absorb the effects of a bad economy. There’s strength in numbers.

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One-night stands ruin your fundraising

“Originally, a one-night stand was a single theatre performance, usually by a guest performer(s) on tour, as opposed to an ongoing engagement. Today, however, the term is more commonly applied to a single sexual encounter, an example of casual sex, in which neither participant has any intention or expectation of a long-term sexual or romantic relationship.” (source: Wikipedia)

Hope I caught your attention. Sex usually does, so I guess you’re still reading. Being new to blogging I recently found out that metaphors usually do the trick. In this blog post a one-night stand opposes the long term focus in fundraising, which is trying to engage in meaningful and lasting supporter relationships.

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Love is in the air: corporate fundraising

Bij veel goede doelen is het besef gekomen dat bedrijven een cruciale rol spelen bij het creëren van een betere wereld. Maar voor veel goede doelen is het bedrijfsleven een grote, wat bedreigende onbekende. Een beetje zoals Monty Python’s Merchant Banker.

Het goede nieuws is dat het bedrijfsleven meer en meer open staat voor samenwerking met goede doelen. Dit bleek uit de instemmende reacties naar aanleiding van mijn presentatie onlangs tijdens een bijeenkomst van het TopMarketeersNetwork.

De vraag tijdens de bijeenkomst was: hoe moeten bedrijven en goede doelen met elkaar omgaan om echt impact te hebben? En de vraag die goede doelen zichzelf hierbij mogen en stellen: hoe kunnen we onze missie dichterbij brengen en tegelijk onze (financiële) doelen bereiken door samen te werken met het bedrijfsleven? (more…)

So you want to learn how to do fundraising, eh?

As 30-year veteran of fundraising, I get asked a LOT of, well, silly questions about fundraising. But the most obvious one that shows someone is just learning the field is: “So how DO you do fundraising?”

The (obvious) answer is: well, that depends on what kind of funds you want to raise. So the first thing you need to do if you’re starting in this field is to learn the nomenclature, the language. That way, you can tell the difference between a TYPE of fundraising, and a TECHNIQUE of fundraising. For example, a charity run is a technique. So is a $500-a-plate dinner. But each of these goes after a different TYPE of donor. (more…)

Major gifts: Fundraising from the frontlines

Years ago when I stepped on the tee box to play my first round of golf, I assumed success. My swing, short game and putting were decent after months of practice at the driving range. But that day my game never took off to even be able to fall apart. I knew the rules and had reliable shots – all the necessarytransactions to the game. I did not, however, know the etiquette of golf: the social behaviours that enhance the experience and sport, and expose a novice like I was then. I talked. A lot. I constantly walked in front of others’ lines on the green, and my club must still be at the bottom of that pond. Of course I was never invited out by that group again. In recreational golf, technique is necessary as a point of entry but is not enough.Values-based behaviour is as important to succeeding at the game as having a consistent fairway shot. (more…)