Two Touches

Advancement professionals think about our donors and prospects regularly – whether we’re wondering if a prospect will fund a gift proposal, a donor will take our meeting request or a faculty partner will tell us if she identifies a new potential prospect. But as much as these prospects and partners may be top of mind, our actions can send a very different message. We get busy, or focused on just a few relationships, and can let months go by without communicating with those we want to draw closest.

This pattern is why I’m a champion of a Two Touches exercise: starting every workday with two outreaches, or touches, to donors or organizational partners. This habit is an easy way to ensure we start every day the right way: focused on relationships! When we begin each day this way, we’re reinforcing discipline and a focus on our most important work: building, enhancing or growing our relationships and the strategies that support them.

These daily touches are simple:

  • A hand-written note card of congratulations on a recent achievement (personal or professional)
  • An email sharing some news that might be of interest (our organizations are diverse, our outreach should be as well!)
  • A note in a birthday card that is truly personal
  • A news release that provides follow-up while rekindling the fire for your institution/organization
  • A text message with a photo of something happening at your organization (e.g. a commencement ceremony, a new wing opening or a new program opening)
  • A message celebrating a program milestone

Every strategy we build relies on a relationship, and every relationship requires interactions both big and small. Focusing on the moves is important, but our strategies need both moves (active fundraising) and interactions (passive fundraising) to truly be successful. The Two Touches technique, when implemented habitually, creates ten small interactions per week – or over 400 per year.

How would these touches strengthen your strategies?

Begin by keeping a stack of organizational note cards on your desk as an easy reminder to keep this important activity front and center. You’ll be glad to see the results of making sure your donors, prospects and partners actually know when you’re thinking of them!

Who are you going to outreach to today?

A Winning Partnership With Your Dean

When you consider your most valuable allies in higher education fundraising, whom do you think of? I’m willing to bet that for the vast majority of you, your dean came to mind quickly. And that’s because the dean’s role is irreplaceable as an influencer with prospects, advocate across campus, and champion for our cause in the larger community.

However, many fundraisers struggle to create the kind of relationship with our dean that maximizes these roles and leads to greater success. How many of us have felt that our dean didn’t understand our work, provide development enough time, or have all the tools to shine with donors?

There is good news here – these challenges can be overcome to create a strong, mutually-beneficial partnership by using techniques like those below.

  • Cultivate your relationship with your dean just like you would with a prospect – get to know his/her communication preferences, goals, and values, and celebrate his/her non-development successes.
  • Use written strategies to demonstrate a clear thought process, purpose, and outcomes for prospects, events, and projects. For example, if you are planning an introductory event, what is the realistic expectation for new prospects identified – 2 or 20?
  • Be clear with your dean about your manager’s expectations for your work – what are your metrics, are you responsible for alumni relations or pure major gift strategies, etc.
  • While it may not be fun to play the “bad cop” by adhering to naming gift policies, identifying fundraising projects that may not be viable, etc., it will help your dean save face and time in the long run.
  • Make it a standard part of prospect meetings to provide and receive thoughtful feedback afterward.
  • Get to know what your dean enjoys and excels at in dealing with prospects, and adjust accordingly. Is s/he good at making small talk with prospects, or do you need to always facilitate the rapport building? Can or will your dean make a solicitation?
  • Additionally, set your dean up on campus to capitalize on strengths, and try to avoid situations that highlight a weakness. For example, if your dean actively dislikes conflict with other deans, first flesh out the details of a shared donor strategy with another unit’s development officer before bringing all parties into the same room.
  • Protect your dean’s time by drafting donor communications and even internal communications under the dean’s name.

How many of these tips do you currently practice, and how do you think your dean would respond if you implemented more? Share your thoughts in the comments!

KDD Philanthropy offers hands-on sessions to support you doing your best work with faculty/physicians and internal leadership. Check out our offerings here, and sign up here for more insights delivered to your inbox.

Fundraising Myths and Folklore

“I’ve been called a shark, a vulture, a barracuda…all by faculty who are supposed to be my partners!” – Development colleague

“I’m sure my fundraiser has a rolodex of prospects she can reach out to for donations if she really wanted to.” – Faculty partner

Let’s face it – if you’ve been in the fundraising field, you’ve heard misunderstandings like these and more. To our institutional partners, their understanding of securing philanthropic gifts can be more unpleasant myths and folklore than a fulfilling and important reality.

None of these myths are more important to overcome than the impression that our work is less noble and nuanced than it is. As long as our colleagues don’t understand the value of our work and our professionalism, it will be a barrier to successful fundraising.

Let’s look at how this misunderstanding can manifest in the minds of faculty, physicians and other partners – and what we know to be true instead. Do you recognize any of these misconceptions?

  • Myth: Fundraising is like sales.
  • Fact: In philanthropy, the donor is not driven by a need for an item, but rather by values and goals. Unlike sales, where there is an item or activity to be purchased, fundraisers offer opportunities to act upon personal beliefs about philanthropy, community and issues of concern to prospects. Most fundraisers do not receive a “commission” based upon amount of money raised.
  • Myth: Fundraising is about begging for money, and people don’t like to be asked to give.
  • Fact: Giving to a cause that is personally meaningful is a rewarding activity. Fundraising is the process of getting to know prospects’ values and ability to donate, and then offering gift opportunities based upon this information so that donors can act in alignment with their beliefs and values.
  • Myth: I could never do what you do – asking for money is so hard and awkward. And, I don’t want to offend someone by asking for such a large amount…it seems crass.
  • Fact: Once you’ve practiced and seen some success, you’ll be surprised how much less awkward or impossible this work feels. When done correctly, the solicitation is a natural next step in the conversation, rather than a surprise, and the amount is a reflection of the prospect’s ability and desire to have an impact.
  • Myth: Development staff are often pushy with prospects and will make prospects uncomfortable.
  • Fact: A fundraiser is successful by building prospects’ trust in the institution and its ability to impact a cause, and by developing respectful and purposeful relationships – so it is counterproductive to make prospects uncomfortable. However, fundraisers are often in the role of keeping philanthropic conversations on track to allow faculty, physicians and other experts to play different roles.

Perhaps one of our most challenging and rewarding opportunities in this field is to educate and inspire our partners to see the facts about fundraising, and then to welcome those partners more fully into this irreplaceable work. Imagine how your results would increase if you could move some of your colleagues from myth to fact. In fact, I would argue that we should regularly ensure that our interactions are serving this very purpose, by demonstrating our integrity and communicating clearly.

If you’d like to ensure that your faculty, physicians and other colleagues are prepared to be full partners in the philosophy and practicalities of fundraising, KDD Philanthropy’s unique approach to training may be the right fit for your institution. Our focus on providing hands-on, real-world scenarios allows our partners to gain true insight and appreciation for fundraising, and their role in it.

Contact us today to learn more about our offerings!

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Powerful Probing Questions

Is there anything more impactful to a meaningful philanthropic solicitation than truly understanding your prospect’s motivations, feelings, and values – not just about our organization, but about their lives?

These factors are the very foundation of helping our donors achieve their fullest giving potential, and in turn create the greatest impact.

The use of probing questions is one of the best tools in a fundraiser’s kit to make such solicitations. These questions are critical to the three keys to bringing allies on board for our organization: Assume less. Accept more. Listen well.

What are probing questions? They are follow-up questions that ask for additional information on what your prospect has said, or ask your prospect to give even deeper insights into her thoughts. By “going deeper,” you demonstrate your interest and desire to understand your prospect, and you are able to:

  • Set the stage for a successful strategy by obtaining information that will lead to better decisions and outcomes
  • Assess situations from a variety of vantage points
  • Move a relationship from conversational to transformative, built on creating trust with your prospect
  • Ensure you see issues from your prospect’s perspective, including anticipating objections to a solicitation
  • Open a dialogue where your prospect asks you questions, allowing you to best match her passions with institutional priorities

Probing questions are transformational. Imagine if we all accomplished each of the items listed above in our prospect meetings – our giving conversations would increase in both efficacy and frequency! So ask yourself in your next meeting, “Am I truly seeking to understand? Did I ask How did you decide…, Tell me more about…, Why do you think…?”

We should remember that when we authentically ask and listen,

  • We are fully attentive to the other person
  • We ask questions that are not leading, diagnostic, or confrontational
  • We listen to comprehend
  • We expand our ability to match the passion and mission of our donors to the passions and missions of our organization

The more we ask thoughtful questions, the more thoughtful our donor relationships become … and the more effective we become in raising the critical funds that our institutions rely upon to do their good work.

I will be sharing more about probing questions in my book, Productive Conversations with Donors: A Handbook for Frontline Fundraisers. It shares specific questions that I’ve seen used to great success, discuss how these questions can help overcome objections, and more.

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Transitions: The Power of the Shadow Visit

When was the last time someone on your team joined another fundraiser on a visit with a prospect – not to collaborate on a strategy, but to learn from each other?

Shadowing on prospect visits is a powerful tool we can use as fundraisers and leaders, and one we can implement immediately.

Why should you incorporate shadow visits into your team’s professional development?

  • These visits give a platform for our best talent to share their “secret sauce” with members of the team who are hungry to learn more.  Our high-performing professionals who have honed their skills often want an opportunity to mentor, and shadow visits are a perfect venue!
  • Want to onboard new team members in a meaningful way? Partner them with the development staff who tell your story best, and help them rapidly grow their ability to represent your institution.
  • When you need to expand the approach or style of an employee, having him or her watch another professional in action is a holistic way to do this. Remember to have them build in a debriefing conversation to discuss what they learned.
  • Reverse shadow visits – having a more seasoned team member shadow a junior colleague – are a great way to provide meaningful feedback to our growing team members on their skills.

Shadow visits can support a changing culture in a meaningful way, by facilitating a culture transparency, collegiality, and ongoing learning. It will also support high performance: those who role model strong frontline skills will provide leadership through this tool, and you will see both metrics and numbers of visits grow.

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Transitions: Moving from Conversational to Transformational

Every fundraiser I know has left at least one meeting with a prospect and asked themselves, “What just happened in there?”

One of the most common ways we get sidetracked, and leave without accomplishing something meaningful, is when the conversation gets off track and we are unable to bring it back. This is usually accidental – although we’ve all known prospects who seem quite skilled in diverting the topic from philanthropy!

We’ve also seen our leaders and allies get sidetracked in prospect meetings. Our faculty, volunteers, physicians, and others can be hesitant to move from the comfortable warm up to the business at hand, or from business to philanthropy.

When we lack the ability to make progress in our meetings that move a strategy forward, we lose the momentum in our strategies. Transitions give us the ability to create momentum, focus, and ultimately – more successful strategies AND meetings!

These transitions for common conversational road blocks will help you make the most out of your prospect meetings, whether you’re representing your organization alone or staffing a leader through the dialogue:

  • I know you said you only have 20 minutes, and I want to be respectful of your time.
  • It’s wonderful to get to know more about you, and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our work at our organization.
  • I promised when we spoke on the phone that I wanted to discuss how you can be a part of this, so may I share some ideas?
  • Would you be comfortable if we shifted the conversation to this project we’re seeking community support for?
  • Your feedback on this new initiative is critical to our next steps, would you tell me about…
  • You’re right, it is a big project. Would you be open to learning how you can be a part of it?
  • It sounds like you’re excited about this program – I’d love to share how you can support it.
  • It’s been great to hear about your story as an alum/patient/etc. May I ask about you as a supporter/community leader/etc.?

Transitions are most effective when they match your style and feel natural. As you noticed in the examples, asking permission to transition can be an effective technique if it suits your approach.

Regardless of style, however, the skillful use of transitions can lead to more impactful prospect meetings – and ultimately, more success.

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The Art of Listening

A development colleague recently relayed a story to me. She had invited a faculty member to join a prospect meeting, and as they sat down with the prospect, the professor immediately launched into a discussion of the initiative at hand.

After a few minutes, the prospect interjected and said, “I’m sorry if I seem particularly effusive today. My granddaughter was just in town with her fiancée, and we spent the time together hiking and catching up. It was wonderful.”

The professor paused, took a breath … and then picked up the spiel on his initiative right where he’d left off! Some serious coaching about getting to know our prospects occurred on the car ride back to campus.

What does this story have to do with those of us who think we know better? Our stories don’t matter as much as our prospects’ stories, and we forget that all the time.

We say that we know this. We talk about “story listening” and “asking strategic or probing questions.” But let’s be honest – how often do we talk on in meetings, doggedly committed to our talking points, to making the case, to wowing the prospect with just one more exciting ranking or award? This is no better than the professor’s mistake.

Our role is to assist donors realize their passions, dreams, and interests through meaningful giving. To do so we have to understand their passions, but also their concerns, what motivates them, their self-perception, and more. The only way to do that is to ask the right probing questions and listen.

The following techniques will help you make sure you’re not talking your way out of a meaningful donation, and more importantly, a meaningful relationship for our organizations:

  • When developing talking points for a prospect meeting, or a larger prospect strategy, ask yourself, “What don’t I know?” Identify the gaps in your knowledge, and then write out the questions you need to ask. Draft your meeting talking points around the story you need to hear, not data you need to deliver.
  • Practice asking questions that go beyond the surface. You can do this by reflecting after each prospect meeting – what did you learn about the prospect’s deepest interests and concerns, and what gaps still exist? And then ask yourself what questions you could have asked in the moment to forge a deeper understanding and connection. Begin to notice whether there are themes to the type of questions you wish you had asked.
  • Develop your own question-asking style. We are asking prospects to open up to us in very personal ways, and we should each have techniques to encourage this. How do you develop this kind of rapport? Some fundraisers share an aspect of their own personal story before asking a similar question of the prospect. Others may explain their curiosity – prefacing a deeper question about giving with an explanation such as “Can I ask more about that? There are so many great nonprofits in town, and I love learning how people choose where to share their generosity.”
  • Watch your prospects when you’re talking in a meeting, and be mindful of how they’re responding– are they engaged, nodding, enthusiastic? If so, stop and ask about what’s resonating. Or has your prospect leaned back, crossed his or her arms, started looking around or down rather than maintaining eye contact? If so – stop talking even more quickly! Give space to your prospect by stopping and saying “I don’t want to go on and on – what are your thoughts so far?”
  • Teach your faculty, leaders, physicians, and volunteers to listen. How often do we tell our allies that their role is to persuade, endorse, or explain – and how often do we tell them their role is to demonstrate curiosity and seek to understand our prospects?

In my recent Golden Rules blog, I recommended that we speak for only 25-30% of a prospect meeting, and that we help our prospect fill the rest of the conversation. By using the techniques above, you can help ensure that this conversation provides the type of deeper understanding that is foundational to the most effective strategies.

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Donor and Prospect Meeting Essentials: The Golden Rules

Many fundraisers thrive on the feeling of walking away from a prospect meeting having made a meaningful connection and envisioning the possibilities before us.

This dedicated, thoughtful time to build a relationship face to face is irreplaceable – which is why we so often ask ourselves, “Am I at my best in these meetings?”

Over the years, I’ve seen my colleagues be successful in meetings across many individual styles in working with donors – new and experienced, extroverts and introverts, creative dreamers and practical thinkers. And, they’ve been successful because they’ve built their styles on a shared foundation of key behaviors.

What shared foundation do the best fundraisers have in common in how they meet with donors and prospective donors? They all practice these four Golden Rules of Prospect Meetings:

  • Silence is golden. Not once have I seen a development officer, physician, or organizational leader talk someone into making a gift. No well-crafted sentence, researched data point, or honed appeal will lead someone to make a thoughtful gift they do not truly want to give you.What does work? The age-old concept of story listening. Let your prospect tell you what they care about, what motivates them, what deeply held belief your organization can align with. You can’t get there without asking questions and listening. But that answer is always the prospect’s story, and that story is the roadmap to a gift.Research shows that we remember what we say in a conversation, not what someone else says. So ask the questions that allow your prospect to tell you how your organization supports their vision for the world. Ideally, you should speak 25-30% of a meeting, and allow your prospect to fill the rest.
  • Materials just don’t matter that much. I know this statement may meet with strong disagreement from some corners. But here’s what I can tell you from first-hand experience: materials do not make a case. Not even expensive, glossy case statements truly make the case. Brochures, white papers, proposals – these tools are at their most impactful when specifically used to underscore a meaningful conversation.If you hope your written material, or your video or web site, will have an impact – set them up accordingly. Use them as take-aways to underscore a conversation you’ve had, a visual aid to illuminate the finer details of a proposal, or in some other manner that is secondary to the dialogue. Plan in advance for when you present materials in a meeting. If you put a brochure on the table, does that facilitate the dialogue, or distract from the person-to-person connection?
  • The institutional relationship matters immensely. Development officers tend to be pretty friendly – we enjoy talking with our prospects, forming connections, and building relationships.However, no relationship matters more than that between the donor and the institution we represent. Therefore, our interactions with donors must always represent this fact.What does that mean? It means representing the institution’s interests over any personal or short-term interests. It also requires us to think about the longevity of our donors’ relationships. Perhaps you’ve been with an organization for six months – your donor may have been involved for six years. Be sensitive to how often they’ve had to tell their story, and that they may perceive themselves as more expert on the organization and its cause than you are.No matter the circumstances, your first and last responsibility is to represent your organization professionally – and we should commit to being as organization-centric as we are donor-centric.
  • Respect the value of time. Whether during a meeting or at other points in the relationship, demonstrating your commitment to the value of time, and keeping to time commitments, demonstrates integrity to your prospects.How does this play out? When you tell a prospect that you want to visit for 30 minutes, you demonstrate that you are conscientious and trustworthy by keeping to 30 minutes – making it more likely that you’ll get the next meeting.When you promise to follow-up with a key next step or information in a certain timeframe and you do so, you demonstrate that you are reliable – allowing your donor to feel that he or she will be well-stewarded throughout the relationship you are building.When you are thoughtful and strategic about timing, you build momentum into your strategies – leading, ultimately, to more gifts.

There is no one “right” way to be a fundraiser. Our individual styles and personalities can be our greatest assets when we build from the Golden Rules.

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3 Ways to Provide Growth Pathways for Retaining High-Performing Fundraisers

Throughout my career as a fundraiser and manager, I have interviewed countless candidates who told me the reason they are leaving their current position is a lack of opportunity for growth. Whether the individual works for a non-profit, healthcare institution, or university, I’ve heard that statement time and again.

Don’t let this happen to you and your organization! As you recruit and retain high-performing fundraisers, take steps to advocate and create pathways for these valuable team members. They want to know they make a difference and have a future with your organization. You can use these three strategies to provide growth opportunities for the employees you want to stay with your organization.

  1. Identify whether your high-performing development officers are ready to take on more of a leadership role. Opportunities to lead can come in several forms, not simply giving someone the title of “director.” For example, assign a team member to lead a taskforce or work group. Or, perhaps you can charge the individual with best practice development, such as standards for fundraising travel. Looking externally, are there community groups or committees the individual can join to represent your organization?
  2. Use the power of mentorship as a growth pathway. If your employee aims to eventually supervise staff and become a manager – but they need to expand their approach or style first – ask them to serve as a mentor to a colleague or new hire. Or, perhaps you can put them in charge of developing the on-boarding process for your department. If management is not a goal, identify a mentor for the development officer who is a leader in ways outside of management. For example, provide an opportunity for them to your high performer can shadow you or another leader on an important project to see how you staff a board, build a fundraising initiative, or partner with programmatic staff.
  3. Carve out ten percent of your high performer’s job description for special projects. This is a great way to invest in your super stars while benefiting the larger team. And, your employee will know that you are willing to make a true investment in her when you specifically make time for it. For example, find projects that grow skills in management, volunteer leadership, mentoring, or complex gift strategies.

Your most valuable employees are in high demand in the development community, and regularly see outside opportunities that will allow them to grow. This environment demands that managers be proactive, creative and dedicated to these employees in order to retain them and best serve their organizations. Creating growth pathways is one of the single-most effective ways to ensure your top players will want to stay and continue performing at their best.

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5 Strategies for Retaining High-Performing Fundraising Staff

It seems like every few months, a new survey reveals that the top concerns of nonprofit chief executives is the loss of high-performing development staff. It’s a sad state of the industry when the majority of development officers plan to leave their position within 12 months of being hired. And there’s plenty to suggest that more fundraisers are leaving the industry than joining.

Yet even with this information presented to us, our industry continues to focus on recruiting rather than retaining the very staff we say we want to keep – the staff that know our organizations, our donors and leaders. If building a high-performing team is a priority for you and your organization, you must shift your culture so your team members actually want to stay.

But how does an organization do that? These five strategies will change the way you retain skilled staff in a culture that demands high-performing fundraisers.

  1. Add “WOW” into onboarding. Most new staff will decide within 90 days if they made the right decision in joining your organization, so make those 90 days count! Onboarding new staff is much more than providing a parking space and keys on a first day. Meaningful onboarding means creating “WOW” (Welcome, Ongoing, Warmth) tools that make new employees feel they are set up for success. If you are not formally ensuring introductions to key colleagues, access to mentors, and clear best practice tools, your new employees will quickly wonder whether they made the right choice.
  2. Agree on clear plans and expectations. Staff do best when you are in agreement about what is expected of them. When welcoming a new staff member, create a 90-day plan to define where they should spend their time, and what deliverables are expected. Add an annual plan to ensure that you both have a clear, shared vision. This also ensures an objective way to check progress, reinforce expectations, and build accountability and growth into their performance. Asking your employee to develop an annual plan is an excellent way to facilitate growth and buy-in.
  3. Don’t just review – discuss! Performance reviews should not be a one-way conversation. They are most productive when they are a mutual reflection on the past and they set a roadmap for the future. Asking employees for their opinions, along with accomplishments, hurdles and opportunities for improvement, makes them feel invested in the process and to give you invaluable insight as a manager. Make sure to pose specific questions to them in advance of the review so they have time to reflect and come prepared for the conversation.
  4. Put away your cookie cutters. Every staff member is different, which means you need to adapt your management. Actively assess the management tools you use, and whether they are equally effective for each employee. Where you lack efficacy, think about how you can change your approach. In managing employee differences, identify the individuals’ unique strengths and techniques to help them maximize those strengths. Remember that the crucial act of celebrating those individual strengths requires understanding differences too!
  5. Create and customize professional development. High performers want to continually up their game. Obvious opportunities exist in conferences, webinars and online learning. But think the less apparent approaches: site visits, small group cohort conversations, time with peers, and fundraising coaching. Employee milestones – meeting goals, tenure in position – are perfect for providing special opportunities to grow their talent.

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