The Secret Sauce: Passion + Heart x Affinity = Success!

time talent treasure

My church launched its annual stewardship campaign recently.

This is a time when every member of our congregation is asked to reflect on our individual time, talent and treasure and determine how we want to give back through one of these gifts. While we’re supposed to reflect on the use of all of our resources, stewardship campaigns eventually turn into fundraising drives, because at the end of the day, churches – like other nonprofits – need MONEY to pay for programs, salaries, rent, etc.

Let’s not begrudge this fact. Let’s simply become better fundraisers!

So how do we ensure that our stewardship and fundraising campaigns are a success?


Repeat after me. “Fundraising is all about tapping into another person’s PASSION for a cause.”

It doesn’t matter what the cause is – feeding the poor, finding alternative sources of energy, or healing broken hearts. PASSION is the underpinning of all philanthropy.

Thus, a first step for all fundraisers is to LEARN what makes our donors feel great! What fuels their passion?

  • Why are they excited about our work?
  • What makes their hearts’ sing?
  • What inspires them to be more generous?

In the for-profit sector, we conduct market research to understand what people want, how they want it, when, and why.

We need similar analyses of donor motivation in the charitable sector.

Money for Good: The U.S. Market for Impact Investments and Charitable Gifts from Individual Donors and Investors by Hope Consulting is a great start. Check out this excellent report to learn more about what motivates donors and use this information to segment your database and create relevant communications, activities, and events that inspire more giving.

Here’s the point:

Don’t fly blind when it comes to understanding why your donors give. Instead, ASK about and LISTEN to your donor’s concerns and fill your appeals with more PASSION!

Happy Fundraising!

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    Giving from the heart…

    I just read a great post online and they stated the following in their first paragraph – go here to read the article

    As any strong fundraiser knows, donors give from the heart. They must be emotionally moved and connect to the mission, the cause, the campaign and/or the organization in some way to compel them to donate. And a big part of giving is having faith – a faith that the organization will do what it says with the donors  money.

    I think there is a lot behind this statement. Don’t you?

    I mean, the fact that donors give from the heart is key for sure – there is no question… but there is a lot more to the the first paragraph, let alone the rest of the article.

    Donors give to organizations they believe in… period.

    There is an emotional, or familial or intellectual reason, they give to something they believe in and that they have a desire to support. This is even more true as the size of gift grows. People will only support and give to organisations they are in alignment with. The greater the alignment, and their corresponding passion, the greater the potential gift and overall commitment.

    It’s a simple formula that we MUST be in tune with = affinity to your organization TRUMPS everything else. It’s that simple.

    Affinity is the single most important factor.

    Capacity and propensity mean nothing if there is no affinity. The greater the affinity the greater the commitment.

    What do you think?


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      Combining Big Data, Storytelling and Engagement with Your Secret Sauce

      As we all know, either from experience or otherwise – the ground has shifted under our feet. And it’s unsettling. Have you ever been out on a bridge or other structure that juts out over a ravine of some sort – like the glass bottom walkway at the Grand Canyon or a metal grated “see-through” bridge?

      Well, if you have you know what I’m talking about – for me and perhaps many of you, there is a total and almost helpless feeling of instability or wobbly leg syndrome from the jitters you get from the experience. We like the view, marvel in the beauty and relish the thrill of it – but we can’t wait to get off off the platform to more stable ground. And the higher up we are the greater the feeling of uncertainty.

      Unfortunately, in the new world of customer engagement, a world where the consumer is in charge in many ways, we are permanently stuck on that bridge and simply need to deal with it. There is no safe haven, no solid land to retreat to, no alternative but to embrace the experience and adapt our habits and emotions and simply readjust our perspective – at least if we want to avoid crawling off the overhang on hands and knees or desperately clutching the rocks like in the photo above.

      Times have changed. We can no longer rely on simple paid advertising and promotion to get our message or product out to the public.

      So what exactly is the point I’m making? The point is that we are in uncharted territory. We feel it in our bones but more importantly we may see it in the results (or lack of) in our marketing, communication and fundraising efforts. It’s no secret – its harder then ever to acquire, upgrade, retain and reactivate a donor – in all channels. There’s more noise, more competition, changing demographics and habits, and many, many other factors converging to make our lives miserable…

      But there is hope. And we should always consider the challenges we face as opportunities to succeed. After all we were hired, and are expected, to find solutions and make a difference.

      The solution can be found in leveraging “Big Data”, conveying a compelling story, understanding what motivates our constituents  and most importantly seeking out the most effective way to engage people and inspire them to take action – donate,  buy, volunteer, advocate, participate, etc.

      But that engagement will only be successful and fruitful for both parties if we go beyond data, results and storytelling. If we leave out the secret sauce our approach will become mechanical, impersonal, and god forbid – cookie cutter.

      What’s the secret sauce?

      I have my thoughts on this for sure – and I will share them in my next post. In the meantime, do you have any thoughts on this topic?

      What is your one indispensable ingredient?

      Please share them!


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        How Should Social Impact Be Measured?

        I have written about this topic before but it’s worth revisiting. Many of us in the nonprofit field believe it’s more important to measure and be judged by the financials (program, administration and fundraising) than it is to measure our success, as an organization, by the impact being made; particularly impact that is measured against the stated mission and goals of the nonprofit.

        Shouldn’t we be most concerned with fulfilling our mission? Making an impact that is measurable and distinct while changing lives of those we serve. 

        As the great Peter Drucker stated many years agoNon-profit institutions are human-change agents. Their product is a cured patient, a child that learns, a young man or woman grown into a self-respecting adult; a changed human life altogether.

        It’s not the nonprofit leaders fault that they focus on the financials. The pressure comes from other forces – such as the charity rating organizations, donors, the general public, and even our government who often paint a negative picture of charities.

        In fact, most nonprofit professionals would prefer to be judged by the good work they perform for society. That is why so many entered the profession in the first place. But the pressure to focus on numbers can be overwhelming a board of directors asking why the charity doesn’t have a four-star rating, or a donor calling and asking why salaries are so high, or even a watch-dog group that makes it a point to “uncover” presumed financial inefficiencies in new donor acquisition programs.

        The challenged faced by well-meaning and ethical leaders is exasperated by the IRS regulations such as the Form 990, which must be filed yearly, these regulations do bring a level of transparency and accountability, which is a great thing – it’s just that it’s all about the numbers and not the outcomes. Who earned what, the functional allocation costs, and so forth.

        As a consequence the donors are being trained to look at the financials and not probe deeper into results. It takes a well-informed and savvy donor to ask the much more important question regarding impact and outcomes of the services or product provided.

        The great news is there are many nonprofits making a huge impact. Unfortunately, some that are making a huge impact may have what appears to be poor financials – and at the same time, there are nonprofits that look good on paper but aren’t making nearly the impact donors believe they are making.

        It’s all a major conundrum that needs to be addressed. And it will need to start at the nonprofit leadership level. It will require bold and visionary leaders that are willing to focus on results and not fund allocations.

        The best approach will be to measure and highlight in an analytical and illustrative way the actual impact a nonprofit is making.  Call it your Impact of Mission Equation.

        For an excellent example of an organization reporting Social Impact effectively visit the Building Markets website. They are a US based charity dedicated to building markets, creating jobs, and sustaining peace in developing countries.

        As pointed out in a great Wall Street Journal article “Measuring the Bang of Every Donated Buck” – perhaps what Lucy Heady said states it the best: “Social return is about making charities and funders more effective based on firm evidence. Social return looks at the value created by the activity rather than just how much it costs to deliver.”Well said Lucy!

        And finally I strongly suggest you take a few minutes to watch this speech by Dan Pallota at the March, 2013 TED conference – Simply spectacular and spot on.  WATCH THE VIDEO

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          What Does “Acceptable Charity Fundraising Copy” Mean?

          In a recent BBB article it was announced that the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance, which is the Better Business Bureau’s charity watchdog arm, will begin a new initiative to verify the truthfulness of charitable appeals.

          The article quotes H. Art Taylor the President & CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance – He says: We are concerned about the extent to which charities are not providing sufficient oversight over paid fundraising firms, said Taylor. These firms sometimes employ more aggressive and potentially misleading tactics to increase donor response.

          He added, The BBB Wise Giving Alliance believes that drawing a line in the sand for what is acceptable, and cleaning up the tactics that charities use to raise funds, is vital to the health of the charitable sector.

          Taylor cited the following examples of problem appeals:

          • Exaggerating financial need
          • Sending appeals that look like invoices
          • Omissions of material facts about the charity’s major programs
          • Inaccurate financial ratio references

          Although I agree that there are often challenges around all four of these examples, most notably exaggerating financial need or providing inaccurate financial ratios, both in my opinion are unacceptable; yet they remain somewhat subjective in nature… but the other two are unquestionably very subjective – appeals that “look like invoices” and “omitting facts about major programs”.

          Who is going to be the arbiter of these two?

          Additionally, the language used by Mr. Taylor is a condemnation of what isn’t right in the nonprofit sector versus affirming all that is going well – the latter category being the one most charities and their business partners fall into. With words like “draw a line in the sand” and “cleaning up the tactics” I can’t imagine he will receive much collaboration from the sector.

          In my work with charities of all sizes around the U.S. and Canada I have not come across one charity or one staff member at any of these organizations that wants to or endorses or attempts to present the charity in anything but a truthful manner.

          If anything, it’s the exact opposite. Most charities are constantly minding the store and ensuring they are honest with their supporters with every communication – and in many cases being overly resistant to effective fundraising techniques. There is nothing more sacred to them. They realize that the reputation of the charity, and even them personally, is at stake. They won’t jeopardize this – nor will the board.

          For myself, as a fundraiser and nonprofit consultant, I wouldn’t want to work with a charity that doesn’t embrace high standards of accuracy, honesty and integrity.

          As they say, cream does rise to the top – and charities, and their consultants or fundraisers, are no different; we all want to present our organizations in a positive light – at least the vast majority of us do.

          I am concerned about an entity, like the BBB, determining what is acceptable and what isn’t.

          What do you think? Should the BBB police the strategic and tactical methods used by charities and their business partners?

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