Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is Public Relations Part of your Fund Raising Strategy?

We put together a fund raising master plan that includes annual appeals, major donor cultivation, special events, etc.  But one thing too many small organizations omit is a public relations strategy!

Oh sure, you get someone to take a photo of the special event committee planning your special event.  But do you routinely issue press releases – not only about what you’re doing and new personnel and/or board members, but also about issues of the day that impact your particular mission? 

The better known you are and the better your image is, the more likely you are to obtain gifts from individuals you’ve never even heard.  The Boston Foundation many years ago received a multi-million dollar bequest from an anonymous source who had been impressed with the organization’s mission and activities.  That’s a public relations payoff!

Here are a few tips:

  • Make a plan.  Set a goal.  Perhaps your mission is to find something newsworthy to issue a press release about every week.  Don’t overlook what to you might seem mundane.  Nothing is too minor!
  • Build your media list.  It should consist of the e-mail addresses of editors and reporters who cover your category.  Don’t know who to send to?  Call and ask! 
  • Don’t omit the broadcast media.  I once had a local television reporter call and ask to use my organization for a feature story.  She had heard about us from the press releases we regularly sent to her station – even though she had never used any of the stories we had sent.
  • Just as with prospective donors – cultivate those reporters who routinely cover your category.  Get to know them.  Ask them what kinds of stories they look for.
  • When something related to your mission makes national news, issue a release with a local connection.  Local media love to localize a national story.  Plus, you’re positioning yourself as an expert in your field.
  • Include your donors on your media list.  They should know what you are telling the public.  Remember, this is e-mail and thus costs nothing extra to use a bigger list.

Your media strategy is vital to the overall success of your fund raising.  Don’t neglect it.

Need a short one to two hour consultation?  We offer both telephone and in-person consults at very reasonable rates.  Or sponsor ABCs of Fund Raising!  Contact me for a quote to bring a half-day or full-day seminar to your community. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Don’t Cross the Line from Persistent to Pesky!

What is the difference between persistent and pesky fund raising?  One can successfully encourage donors to give and keep on giving while the other can have just the opposite effect.   

I believe in frequent contact and repeated requests for donations from current donors.  Your best potential for new funds comes from current donors because these people have already demonstrated interest in and support of your mission, and they are more likely to be responsive to requests for additional funds.  This is especially true when these requests are for special projects outside your normal operating expenses.  So, if you are holding a special event or conducting a capital campaign or looking for those extra dollars to meet a budget shortfall, be sure to include you regular donors on your prospect lists. 

Further, when asking for annual renewals, be prepared to send at least three reminders to most regular donors.  This allows for the fact that people who fully intend to renew their support will not forget.  As you know, sometimes those renewal reminders get misplaced.  Follow-up reminders do not offend and are actually appreciated – especially if they are worded appropriately.  Your second and third reminders might lead off with something like, “We hope you haven’t forgotten us…”  This lets the recipients know that you’re just issuing a friendly reminder.

There are, however, organizations that go too far.  Instead of persistent, they are pesky.  I gave to one such organization once, and have never given again, even though I believe in the organization’s mission.  They’ve become pesky.  For example:

  • I receive some e-mail almost daily from this group.  In addition to clogging my in-box, it always asks for more money.  If you are going to send regular e-mails to your donors, space them appropriately and make them informational, not simply requests for extra gifts. 

  • Before my first year was even up I received a renewal contact via telephone.  If you use telephone solicitation for renewals, at least give the mail/e-mail route a chance and save the telephone contact after all previous mail contacts have been exhausted. 

And make sure your telephone solicitors are trained to say something that demonstrates this is the last resort.  It might begin with something like, “I’m sorry to bother you this way.  We have sent you several reminders about renewing your support, and I just wanted to follow up in case those reminders had gotten lost.  I can take your renewal right now if it will save you time and trouble…”

If your fund raising crosses the line between persistent and pesky you risk losing more than you gain.  Evaluate your processes, your scripts, and your techniques.  If you’re not asking often enough, step up the process.  And if you’re being a pest, tone down the contacts.  

Need a short one to two hour consultation?  We offer both telephone and in-person consults at very reasonable rates.  Or sponsor ABCs of Fund Raising!  Contact me at klima@faroenterprises.com for a quote to bring a half-day or full-day seminar to your community. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fund Raising – Don’t Put Off Until Tomorrow . . .

Why did a local social services agency have to face with the proposition of having to cease operations after only two years?  The organization, although only a couple of years old, had all the right things going for it.  It filled an unmet need in the community.  It did not duplicate the services of any other organization.  So, why were they having to close?  What had they failed to do?  Why was their existence being threatened?  How can your favorite cause avoid the same fate?  
Read on.
This organization was initially formed with a five-year grant from the state.  Although nationally affiliated, this was the first chapter in our county and the need for its services were not being met by any other local agency. 
It obtained office space, hired staff – including a social worker – and began operations.  Right away a waiting list developed of people in need of this service, and the agency was up and running!
Then, after only two years of successful operations, this agency learned that its state funding was being terminated due to the state’s poor fiscal condition.  Immediately, the social worker was terminated and the agency’s managers began to recruit a volunteer board of directors who would raise money from private sources.  Unfortunately, this was too little too late.
                What did they do wrong?  What should they have done differently?  Here are a few suggestions that any agency should take heart to avoid making the same mistakes and threatening its mission. 

  • First, they started the program before putting the organizational structure in place.  If they had recruited a volunteer board right away, and implemented a cohesive local fund raising plan, when the state funding dried up, they would already have had in place a resource of help, ideas, and community ambassadors to whom they could turn when the going got rough.
  • Second, they made a dangerous assumption – that the state grant was secure.  Consequently, they relied on a single source of income.  As any savvy investor knows, diversity is the key.  The same applies to fund raising.  They should have begun development of a comprehensive fund raising plan immediately.  It is important to plan ahead.  Even if the state grant had been secure, they should have begun planning for the day the grant ended.

What’s the message here?  Sometimes, in our haste to get started we overlook the importance of laying the groundwork for elements – such as boards and fund raising plans – that need to be in place before we need them!  One of the biggest obstacles for successful fund raising is the failure to do today that which you might not need until later.  Because when you need it, it may be too late!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Waste Not those Mail Solicitations

In this era of social media, is anyone still using “snail mail” to solicit donations?  Short answer – yes they are!  Although not as prevalent as it used to be, real mail, on paper, delivered to the home of a donor or prospective donor remains a valid solicitation technique.  One of the first rules of sales, marketing, and fundraising, is to use as many different types of communications as one can afford, and that includes direct mail. 

But mail can be expensive.  And for that reason, any organization with a limited budget needs to be careful to structure its mail campaigns as efficiently as possible. 

A few years ago I made a memorial gift to an out-of-state charity. For quite a while after that one-time gift, I continued to receive regular correspondence from the organization, including a bi-annual newsletter, which was a very nicely done piece and not inexpensive to mail. However, I never made any follow-up gifts after that single memorial gift, nor do I intend to make additional gifts. This charity was wasting money by keeping me on its mailing list.

Here are a few suggestions to make sure your mailings are worthwhile and likely to elicit contributions:
1. Regularly examine your mailing list and highlight everyone who has not given a gift in two or more years.
2. Of that list, highlight those who live out of state and determine why they gave in the first place -- was it a memorial one-time gift? Have they moved away from your service area?
3. Delete anyone from this list who has never lived in your area and made only one gift.
4. Send a personal correspondence to anyone who used to give regularly and has stopped. Ask if they wish to continue receiving news of your organization.
5. Devise an inexpensive communications piece, such as a postcard, to send to those you want to stay "in front of" but who do not give regularly. 

Mail remains a viable solicitation tool.  Just be sure to maximize that investment and keep your lists up-to-date.