If you are like me, you probably have some severe Zoom
fatigue right now. I long for a traditional in-person visit to a donor or even
an old fashioned in-person staff meeting. I even miss airports and TSA security!
But, we live in a new normal where virtual meetings and donor visits have
almost entirely replaced the in-person meetings of the past. While in-person
meetings can still occur (ex. outdoors, with masks, etc.) or will come back in
the future, the public is getting more used to virtual conversations. Stakeholders may prefer to hold a virtual
meeting at some point in the future donor engagement cycle. Like it or not, it’s time to embrace this new
normal and lean into technology as the future of fundraising.
There are some steps you can take to ensure success when
engaging with donors virtually. Below are what I’ve found to be the most
Virtual meetings may require more practice to ensure
that you are comfortable with both the technology and the format. Set up a
practice run with a colleague.
Send a pre-visit “context for conversation” message
as opposed to a PowerPoint
Start with donors who are engaged with your
organization and know you best.
Once in the meeting, your strategy will be the
same as usual: Open up with the warm conversation, connect with the donor, make
a support case, negotiate the ask, deal with objections, and close the gift.
What kinds of things matter on a virtual call (in other
words, what do you have to worry about with virtual asks that you never had to
worry about before?)
Setting up your camera in a way that frames your
face and doesn’t have many background distractions
You are paying attention to lighting and audio
quality. Make sure there is light facing you (that you are not backlit).
Consider investing in an affordable ring light. If your audio is not top quality,
consider a microphone attached to your computer (also inexpensive and readily
Make eye contact with your camera. Yes, this
sounds weird. But, not making eye contact is even more bizarre. It takes some
practice as you are used to looking down at your screen. Yet, as much as
possible, try to look directly into the camera.
And as Vice President Aaron Burr would advise, “talk
less and smile more.”
During any crisis, the temptation is often to hesitate, to take a safe approach – a “wait and see” attitude. Frontline fundraisers, by and large, did take this approach when the Covid-19 pandemic began, and this was an understandable reaction. There was a great deal of uncertainty and many of us believed that the abrupt changes to our lives were temporary and we needed to wait it out before taking action.
Fast forward six months and we now understand that this is
not a temporary situation, this is our new normal. One that will likely remain
for quite some time and one that will potentially inspire permanent change in
the way we do business.
So, as fundraisers, what should we do? How do we handle the
current crisis that we are in the middle of? Fortunately, I have worked through
several crises in the past – the aftermath of 9/11, the economic meltdown of
2008 being two examples. My experience has taught me that organizations that
continue engaging donors and asking for gifts despite the crisis not only make it
through but also become well-poised for success long after. Data is showing
that donors are continuing to give and want to be engaged right now. Yes, your
methods of engagement and solicitation will look different. But, that should
not slow you down. This is a perfect time to step back and examine your
strategic plan and assess your current structure. Unless it was created
post-Covid-19, your strategic plan is already irrelevant. It’s time to
re-assess your strategy and create a pathway that will allow you to continue
fundraising in a new environment with new boldness and clarity of mission.
Be bold. Ask for gifts. Lean into your work and your mission
– your organization likely needs support more than ever.
with all industries, there are both opportunities and challenges facing
healthcare at the moment. We’re going to break some of those issues down and
discuss how to focus more on the opportunities and strategize on dealing with
HEALTHCARE FUNDRAISING – TEN THINGS TO KNOW NOW
the good news there is no better time than now to be working in healthcare
fundraising! Healthcare is being viewed with great positivity, and most people
believe that healthcare workers are indeed heroes. In fact, according to a
recent Gallup survey which tracks Americans’ views of various business and
industry sectors, Healthcare went up 20 percentage points in positivity over
one year ago with the majority of people surveyed having a positive overall
view of the sector.
There are immense opportunities for healthcare fundraisers
Now is an excellent time to educate (qualify and cultivate
too!) donors eager for reassurance and information from medical experts.
Recruit physicians, nursing staff, or hospital executives to share facts about
things that matter to your donors. Keep the information local.
You may have more time to steward loyal donors – since
in-person meetings are still not happening on a broad scale, this should open
up time for gift officers to provide more attention to long-time donors.
Your context for conversation/elevator speech should include
compelling references about how critical your organization’s work is. Community
members and potential donors are responding positively to this messaging right
Non-essential medical procedures are coming back, which means
more opportunity for grateful patients. Ensure you have an active grateful
patient program in place and, now more than ever, cultivate those relationships
with your medical staff.
Your healthcare organization is likely getting lots of
donations – from much-needed cash to PPE, meals, and other gifts. Be sure to
capture all of these gifts and calculate the monetary value for your metrics.
The donors of these items must be thanked and appropriately stewarded.
What about those challenges that we mentioned?
Many hospitals are in challenging financial situations right
now, putting a strain on capital projects and, potentially, more pressure on
your advancement team to bring in funding. Philanthropy used to be “icing
on the cake” for capital projects. But, now, teams are expected to raise
all or most of the needed funding. This creates a perfect opportunity to make
the case to senior administrators that your philanthropy efforts will be more
effective if you work together in a coordinated and collaborative effort.
Recruiting leadership to help with the cultivation and solicitation of donors
is an effective strategy, and your case for this collaboration has never been
It isn’t easy to cultivate new donors right now. You don’t have
in-person events to invite them to attend, and you may not be able to meet in
person for a meal or a cup of coffee. But, as challenging as it is, donors have
been growing more comfortable with virtual meetings, and, hopefully, you have
been growing savvier with technology yourself. And schedules are generally
easier to navigate when the meeting is taking place online from the comfort of
your donor’s home.
Budget cuts are a reality of many industries, and healthcare
is not immune. If you are part of a healthcare system, look at the possibility
of shared positions and shared resources. This is a huge opportunity to save
money and offer a unique and flexible arrangement for some staff members. If
you are not part of a system, get creative with outsourcing some of your needs
to avoid the costs associated with FTE employees.
Since many healthcare organizations are a community asset and
are very rooted in their local community, many organizations tend to be very event
driven. In the past, events were a fantastic way to connect with your donors
and your local community. However, organizations have seen the tremendous
success of moving their events to a virtual format. Seek help from those who
have already demonstrated success and don’t be afraid to try this new
fundraising method. Another option is to re-assign staff members who typically focus
on planning events to other fundraising tasks, such as creating an annual
solicitation appeal, researching prospects, stewardship activities, or even
major gift fundraising.
There are still limitations on visitors to hospitals. What
can you do for patients and their families? Consider going back in time and
call the patient’s rooms to check in on them. Reach out to family members to
see if they need anything or if they just need support. Be sure that iPad and
other technology is available for family members to use when needed.
I challenge you
to change those five challenges into opportunities today!
By now you and your organization have likely already developed and started to implement a plan to address the concerns your staff, volunteers, and donors share as they relate to COVID-19. At TGC, we, too, are adapting to the current state of the world and have been working remotely, utilizing technology to stay in touch, and being creative in how we work with our client-partners to ensure consistency and continuity in service. While it may set us back in our development cycle when spring events are postponed or even cancelled and when we have to reschedule donor visits, it is a good opportunity to reach out and assure donors that their gifts are still being carefully stewarded and the impact is still being greatly felt. Drawing from our extensive and varied backgrounds, we have assembled a few lessons we’ve learned about helping donors feel secure in their investment when everything else seems uncertain. Here are a few of the big ideas we thought we’d pass along: 1. Be up front and share how your organization is reacting and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Communicate the steps you are taking to ensure the health and safety of your staff, volunteers, and those served.2. Remind donors that despite the cancellation of events, meetings, and other gatherings, your organization will continue to operate efficiently and will incorporate creative strategies to ensure your overarching mission and those it serves remain a priority.3. Communicate the importance of continued support and the vital role donors play, and will continue to play, in the success of your organization. Be sure to remind donors of the reason they support your organization and that despite any challenges it currently faces in light of this pandemic, their support and involvement is extremely valuable, now more than ever.4. Maintain constant communication – by phone, email, text – and reassure those associated with your organization that this is a temporary situation. Remind those you are in touch with that your organization has overcome other obstacles and this is simply a bump in the road and an opportunity to demonstrate resilience and creativity in managing the situation. We are hopeful that you and your teams are staying safe and healthy and we look forward to resuming our normal business practices soon. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to any of the TGC team members with questions or concerns you may have.
Giving Tuesday falls on December 3 this year. GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated in the US on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving and the shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday starts the charitable season, when many focus on end-of-year giving.
According to the GivingTuesday website: In 2018, 75% of those making financial contributions on #GivingTuesday were repeat donors, with a mean gift size of $105. Data shows that the holiday creates a net bump in overall yearly giving, and has proven not only to engage new donors, but to motivate existing donors to give more. Your organization will have the opportunity to join thousands of organizations around the world to encourage more generosity.
That is great news in terms of number of donors and gift amounts but it also presents a challenge as we are competing with thousands of other charitable organizations around the world. So we’ll want some creative ideas for our campaign that grab donors attention, are simple, and make it easy for them to give. Continue reading »
Part 1 of this series focused on the need to identify and recruit potential capital campaign chairs several years in advance of a campaign. If they are not already serving as leadership volunteers in your philanthropy program, you can take the following steps:
Invite these prospective campaign chairs and leaders to become involved in your program.
Teach best practices in donor cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship.
Emphasize the vital importance of listening to donors to better understand their interests and motivations.
Roleplay solicitations to demonstrate calling for an appointment, presenting your case, working as a team, making the ask, and dealing with objections.
Have them accompany you on solicitation visits so they can observe you in action, participate in the conversation, and become comfortable with the process.
When they are ready, allow them to take the lead during the visit, and then critique their performance afterward.
Evaluate their potential as leadership volunteers and donors.
Your CEO is informing you, the chief development officer, that your organization’s board just approved a major building project that hadn’t been on your radar. What also wasn’t on your radar: a $10 million capital campaign (or $25 million or $50 million) that’s needed to supplement other funding sources.
Maintain a good poker face, you think. After all, a well-planned, successful capital campaign will take your philanthropy program to a higher level.
And there’s more news: your CEO wants to break ground in six to 12 months if fast-tracked approvals can be secured. And who, she asks, should lead the capital campaign? Continue reading »
They spoke no English and hadn’t been shaving for too many years when they arrived in the United States soon after World War 2. The three brothers came here to build a better life for themselves and, once settled, they eventually combined their skills to open a small business carving cemetery monuments. They led quiet lives that didn’t include wives and children, and they were never known in their community much beyond the granite headstones that circled their business. Certainly, no one would have guessed that they possessed the means to leave almost $2 million to local charities. Continue reading »