The Mikuska Group  

Getting people to give in June

I’ve been annoyed whenever I see social impact organizations asking me on social media or in emails to vote for them to compete for $10,000 (or whatever the amount). They’re not engaging donors this way, and not even raising money.

However, The Great Canadian Giving Challenge has helped organizations use the power of their networks to encourage donors to give. In June – one of the slowest times of the year in fundraising.

In 2016, in its second year, the results were impressive. According to givingchallenge.ca:

52,000 Canadians participated, donating more than $8 million to over 8,600 charities, representing a 48% increase in donations compared to June 2014 and a 28% increase compared to 2015. Charities involved in #GivingChallengeCa for 2 years in a row earned 164% more vs. the 28% average increase.

It works like this: During June, donors give either through givingchallenge.ca or CanadaHelps.org. Every dollar donated to a registered charitable organization gives one entry into the contest for that organization.  (Minimum donation of $3).

Organizations have access to a toolkit to help them create customized campaigns, with logos and strategies. The hashtag #GivingChallengeCA helps keep people up to date and gives them a chance to share.

The draw for the $10,000 is July 1. Now go work your social media!

Julie Mikuska.

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Why are we doing this event?

“Let’s do an event – we need to raise more money!”

Board members and/or staff come up with this idea often, with the notion that businesses will be on board with sponsorship, friends, family and acquaintances will buy tickets and loads of donated goods will be auctioned off, resulting in a healthy bottom line.

But does it?

There are reasons for holding an event, but typically raising money isn’t one of them. When you stop to examine the actual return on investment, what are you measuring? You need to be clear on your objective for holding an event before you can measure its ROI.

If your objective is to raise awareness, does your event align with your mission and perceived brand? Will people associate the event with your organization and support it because they believe in your mission? Or are they buying a ticket because they want a fun time out and won’t ever think that they’re supporting your good work?

If you are hoping to raise money, take every cost into consideration, including staff time. Many organizations claim to have raised a tidy sum without revealing that it actually raised half or less when the time taken by staff is factored in. You must also consider what is not being done while your fundraising staff is picking out menus and napkin colours and running around begging for donations for the auction table. With all that busy work, there’s no time to talk to your donors!

So ask yourself first, “Why are we doing this event?”

Laura Mikuska

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What’s the cost of a lost opportunity?

We often hear people talk about the return on investment related to particular fundraising activities. (We often hear people never talking about ROI, but that’s for a different post!). But how many consider the opportunity costs of their decisions?

In other words, what are you not able to do if you do something else? Consider:

  • Spending time at board meetings reading routine reports means lost opportunities to talk about board members’ roles in connecting with donors. (Hint: use a consent agenda.)
  • Planning events that bring in little money means you’re not out building relationships with donors that may lead to larger gifts over a long period of time.
  • Spending your time on internal reports means less time meeting with donors.
  • Not sending a donor newsletter means you’re losing out on the revenue generated from that mailing.

Maximize your time and opportunities to meet donors, thank donors and ask people for gifts. Measure your activities against opportunity costs. Always ask yourself: do you need to do something or is it time to move on to a different activity with higher potential?

Julie Mikuska.

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It pays to keep your donors

We hear all the time from organizations about getting new donors. Yes, it’s important to bring new donors in, but it’s even more important to keep the donors you have.

The 2017 edition of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project results was recently published. Here are some of the sobering findings from 10,829 non-profit organizations:

  • Every $100 gained in 2016 was offset by $95 in losses.
  • Every 100 donors gained in 2016 was offset by 99 donors not giving again.
  • The greatest gains were in new donors.
  • The greatest losses were in new donors not giving again.
  • The average donor retention rate was 45%.
  • The average dollar retention rate was 48%.

(Gains are gifts by new donors + recaptured lapsed donors + increases in gift amounts. Losses are decreases in gift amounts + lost gifts by lapsed new and lapsed repeat donors.)

What does this tell us? Organizations do a poor job at keeping their donors, and as a result, they are continually chasing new donors, at great expense.

It’s much more cost-effective to keep the donors you have than to continually chase new donors.

The results vary by size of organization. Smaller organizations fare much poorly that larger organizations, which means resources dedicated to retaining donors make a difference.

The FEP site has tools to help you analyze your data so you can make decisions on where to put your time and money in keeping your donors engaged. It’s not just about the bottom line of how much comes in. You need to know who your donors are.

Don’t treat all your donors the same. Heap more love on your loyal donors and ask them to give more. But do make sure new donors know they are valued and welcome, and chances are some will give again and again.

Julie Mikuska.

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Volunteers strengthen your organization

Volunteers can strengthen your organization if you’re able to define your needs and how they can be filled by them. You have to have a plan to oversee the volunteers, and to evaluate and assess the effectiveness of your volunteer program.

Your volunteers must be an integral part of your organization, not just “those people in your boardroom stuffing envelopes”. While that is a worthwhile endeavour, chances are people willing to give their time have some talent that you can tap into to help even more.

Some examples:

  • offer training in researching potential donors for a major gifts program. Curious people who love research appreciate this type of opportunity. They can even do it at home, on their time.
  • many professionals are willing to help on a short-term or project basis in areas such as:
    • communications and marketing
    • mentoring staff and board
    • graphic design
    • human resources or legal advice
    • technology and social media
    • strategic and management planning
  • relationship management – make the most of your database by using volunteers to record your ongoing relationship with your donors and friends. Training on not only how to enter data, but how to produce reports will help you better manage your fundraising program.
  • ambassadors – the volunteers you have most certainly talk about your organization outside of their volunteer hours. Make sure you equip them with the key messages you want to convey and empower them to use them!

How can you use volunteers in your organization?

Laura Mikuska

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Silos hold grain, not donors

Have you encountered these scenarios?

  • You want to get a receipt to a donor within a couple of days, but your finance department batches receipts and sends them out once a month.
  • You want to create a donor-focused newsletter but the communications staff insist on making it a marketing piece instead.
  • Your donor wants a meeting with program staff and when you try to set it up, staff are suspicious of the donor’s motives and say no.

In all of these cases, staff are working in silos. They are protecting their turf because they don’t see how it’s in their interest to open their processes and departments to be donor-focused.

What can you do to knock down the silo walls?

  • Talk about why and how donors are so important to your organization – revenue and engagement.
  • Help staff learn about why donors give, why they give again and why they don’t.
  • Tell staff why their actions or inactions affect donor loyalty.
  • Share the 7 Principles of Donor Love. (with thanks to Agents of Good.)

And don’t keep your donors in your own silo. Share stories of joyful giving with others to show them that donors care.

Julie Mikuska.

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In a world where everyone gets enough

Do you have enough? What does having enough mean?

Having enough means you can participate in society with dignity. Those that don’t have enough have to rely on the charity of others. And that can take away their dignity.

Think about those who don’t have enough – they’re panhandling for food, visiting a food bank to pick up a few canned goods, sleeping at the shelter or on the street, and looking for donated clothing and shoes. Their Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) cheques aren’t enough to have enough to eat, find adequate and safe housing or buy warm clothes. And it’s even worse for those that have to provide for their children or those with a disability that prevents them from participating in the workforce. Most are deeply ashamed.

Now let’s think about providing everyone with a basic guaranteed income. Instead of panhandling, they’re going to the grocery store and buying the food their family needs. They’re clothing their family and finding safe and affordable housing. They’re going to school.  All without having to rely on the charity of others. They’re participating in society and contributing to the economy. With dignity.

We need to take care of our citizens, so everyone can realize their hopes and dreams. Canada is a caring country and we’ll all be richer for it.

Laura Mikuska

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Ask how to communicate with donors

I recently made a donation in memoriam to honour a friend who had passed away. I made it to an organization that I wouldn’t ordinarily support as I have little interest in their mission, but because the family had asked for donations for that organization, I honoured their wishes.

Imagine my surprise when the very next day, I received their email newsletter! I haven’t even received a receipt, yet they feel they know me sufficiently to further communicate with me. Plus the e-news has three separate asks to give, give and give again.

This organization made the mistake of assuming it knows how a donor wants to receive communications. They didn’t ask me, and I believe they have a default setting that automatically sends their e-news to anyone with an email address. I would have been pleased to be offered a choice about how they could keep in touch with me, or not.

Perhaps you’re scratching your head about how many of your donors don’t give again. Making one small change to how you engage with your donors will make them feel appreciated and part of the organizational family.

Ask. You may be surprised at the response.

Laura Mikuska

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Thank you never gets old

I recently received a call from the chair of the board of a museum I support, thanking me for my monthly gift and giving me an update on the new executive director.

It was a delightful call and it made my day. I felt appreciated and close to the museum and its people.

A few days later I was invited to attend a fundraising tea for another organization I support, to raise money for a scholarship in memory of the founder’s mother. As I was not going to be able to attend, I sent my regrets and made a gift online through their website.

Almost as soon as I hit “submit,” my phone rang and I got a heartfelt thank you from the development director. Wow! Talk about making me feel good about giving!

It didn’t stop there. After the tea was held, I received a package with two packages of tea (pina colada and African chai!), a handwritten thank you from the founder and a response card for me to send back to wish the scholarship recipient well.

It’s important to say thank you, over and over. It really never gets old.

Julie Mikuska.

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The RFP shake-down

Why do charitable organizations think it’s appropriate to ask for a donation or pro-bono work in an RFP?

Not that we have any intention of responding to a request for proposal, but my blood still boils when I read an often used clause that goes something like this:

“X Organization is a registered charity which provides funds for research, programs and other activities which promote and advance the health of all members of the community. Our organization is able to engage the citizens of the province in philanthropy by working with donors and partner suppliers. As such, we ask that you please indicate your company’s interest in supporting our organization through philanthropy or sponsorship: e.g. direct discount, no-charge services, etc.”

I call it the RFP shakedown. Where else do you see the beginning of a business relationship where you’re already being asked to do free work (ok, I know graphic designers get this all the time, too) or give money back?

Consulting work is similar to philanthropy in that both are based on trusted relationships. When you engage a consultant, you’re making an investment in your organization. In turn, we provide guidance based on our experience and expertise, and we are fairly compensated for the value we bring.

If, in the course of our relationship, we are moved to make a donation, we may do so, and we often do. But don’t ask us to make that part of any proposal or contract.

Julie Mikuska.

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