Friday, October 31, 2008

Donor asks.

Part of connecting with donors is tailoring your ask to the specific donor with whom you are speaking. Specific donor asks take many factors into account, but the most obvious ways of making a donor specific ask remain the same regardless of who
You are speaking with.

Some things to take into account are:

• Sex.

The differences between male and female donors has been extensively covered here. Suffice it to say that exceptional fundraisers will attempt to master these differences and make them a part of their fundraising asks.

• Age. Quite simply donors interest in an issue varies by age and experience level. Tailoring your ask to the interests of your donors age group ensures that at least your donor will listen.

• Interest Level

This subject has also been touched on in other posts. Some donors are more receptive than others. When soliciting telephone philanthropy, there is no need to to engage in a long, drawn out donation request if the donor has already indicated a deep interest. Additionally, it is unwise to attempt to ignore the negative signs given by donor expresses reluctance.

There are an endless number of potentially successful strategies to employ when making your donor ask. The keys to successful telephone fundraising are creativity and responsiveness.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Asking High; the art of the proper fundraising ask.

When asking for a pledge, the fundraiser has many informational advantages over the donor. Simply asking for the proper amount ensures that a donor will consider giving at the level you request. Starting out with a sufficiently high donation request amount allows you to find your donors preferred level of giving as rather than targeting the amount which is the lowest possible amount that a donor can possibly give to your campaign.

If a donor could give more to their charity, they probably would. When donors who maintain a strict charitable budget and give a fixed amount annually hear requests for support that are above the amount which they are willing to give, they let fundraisers know just how much they are willing to give and when they intend to give it. In the rare event that a donor is offended by large or additional requests, a skilled fundraiser can apologize for the offense and leave the donor feeling good about the level of support which they do give.

There is no downside to “asking high”.

Becoming a better fundraiser is a continuing process. There is always more to learn and more skills to master.

The conclusion to this article will be posted here in the coming days.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Battle Of The Sexes (who gives more?)

Good fundraisers typically stick with what works in a fund raising campaign choosing not to ask to many questions about why it works. While intuitively, many fundraisers know that women tend to make more donations in a given campaign or series of campaigns and perhaps if the fundraiser is intuitive enough, that men who give, generally tend to give higher amounts overall.

It’s not always easy to understand why this is so, and therefore for a fundraiser to take full advantage of this information.

Many studies have been done on philanthropy; fewer have been done on telephone fund raising, however the research on this subject is not insignificant. Two studies that we will highlight here at onfundraising are one commissioned by the Share Group Inc on fund raising and direct mail campaigns, and the other is “The Effects of Race, Gender, and Marital Status on Giving and Volunteering in Indiana” as published in the Nonprofit and voluntary Sector Quartley, in 2006 while report focuses on Indiana, much of the reporting is general in nature and therefore suitable for this post. The study’s main purpose was to examine whether factors like race, age, education or marital status make a difference to philanthropy of volunteering.

Both studies are available on line, and are linked to at the bottom of this article.

In 2006, Share Group. Inc, of Massachusetts participated in a comprehensive study on donor characteristics .Among other things this study quantifies some of the major difference between male and female donors; something that many people knew intuitively but lacked the hard data to validate. The study also measured donor contributions by age, and gave some general insights into what age group is the most supportive of charitable organizations.

According to the study, when contacted, women are more likely to support a charity campaign than men.

This data corresponds with past studies on philanthropic giving, but is limited to telephone fund raising The data indicates the women generally are more likely to donate to fund raising efforts and are also more likely to leave bequests to charitable organizations. The research indicates that woman as a whole are more likely to donate than men are.

However, the study found that based on the statistical evidence, men who do give to a campaign are likely to make larger contributions than female donors. This information as well is corroborated by independent research.

The study observes that the optimal donor age is fifty years old. Contributions tend to dwindle as donors reach retirement age. Donors ages sixty five to seventy five were most receptive to and renewal of support campaigns.

Interestingly for fund raisers, the study found that female callers secure pledges less often than male callers, but the average size of the pledges female fundraisers secure is larger than their male counterparts.

In general, women according to the research in both studies, are more likely give a larger contribution than they have previously given (upgrade). Men who could be convinced to upgrade generally upgraded at higher percentage versus female donors.

Breaking down the data further showed that when it comes to the actual giving of money, single women give twice as much as single men. These results are consistent with what has been published in the past. Furthermore, single women are more likely than men to give to a variety of charities and philanthropic efforts. A not so surprising finding was that married men also were 2-3 times more likely to give as much as single men or single women. However, the amount of money donated by single men was found to be far greater than that of married couples.

When the race factor is assessed for donation, there is little or no difference. Whites, Blacks and other minorities are no more or less likely to give relative to each other. The one obvious finding is that donations are significantly increased when the donor is educated, earns a higher income, and is older. This finding was again observed in all ethnic groups.

The Indiana study also looked at another aspect of giving-volunteering. The results are not much different to the philanthropic study. Again, single females are more likely to volunteer their time when compared to single men. Infact single females are more likely to volunteer for many more hours (>146 per year) than single men. The one surprising finding is that there is no difference in volunteering between married couples and single individuals when it comes to volunteering. It would be expected that married couples would have less time due to their familial obligations but this is not so.

Race did not reveal any differences in volunteering- Blacks, Whites and other minorities were just as likely to volunteer.

Volunteering was found to decrease when the levels of income and education were low. In fact, there was a sharp drop in volunteering levels for those with less than a high school education relative to the general population, and this was seen across all age groups.

However, increased income did not correlate with the numbers of hours volunteered. Individuals with low income were just as likely to volunteer for longer durations of time and vice versa.

The one curious observation from the study is that when individuals were asked if they had volunteered in the past, women were more likely to recall this act. Minorities could not recall if they had volunteered. Why someone can’t remember a dignified act like volunteering is a mystery- perhaps an error in how the questionnaire was set up or comprehension difficulty. The writers of the Indiana study surmised that often minorities do volunteer work without formally characterizing it as such.

Most of the results of these studies are also supported by many previous national surveys which have also found that education and higher income are the strongest and most consistent predictors of philanthropic activity.

Why single women volunteer more is not fully understood but it is speculated that because single women have less social and financial means, they compensate this by giving more of their time as volunteers while at the same time establishing their social networks.

These studies provide some insight into differences in donors by sex, marital status, race and income. Both men and women are motivated to give to charity for different reasons therefore when communicating with donors, fundraisers are advised to take this into effect and structure their solicitations accordingly.

We can take from these studies the fact that most Americans do give to charity in one way or another. Fund raisers can best serve the causes they work for buy understanding the broad characteristics of donors and structuring their donation requests accordingly.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Emotional Manipulation In Fundraising

BethDunn just wrote a great post about mail fundraisng appeals and two schools of thought that are applied to them throughout the industry.

On the one hand there is the practical appeal to a donor's sense of logic and decency. On the other hand, there are the emotional appeals dripping with manipulation sent out to shock or shame a donor into action.

While On Fundraising's primary focus is telephone fundraising, this subject matter is relevant to On Fundraising for two reasons.

Mail appeals and phone appeals are generally part of the same campaign. Sometimes a donor is called first, other times they'll get a mailer and then a follow up call.

Increasingly donors are savvy enough and self-aware enough to take strong offense at the manipulative tone of fundraising letters. We live in an age where almost any information is available to those who want to find it. Todays activist donors do just that.

Donor's often know more about a subject than the front line people raising money for it. As well they should. So sending out these mail broadsides is certainly no good way to show respect for a donor's intellect or for their prior support.

The second reason this issue applies to On Fundraising, is that many telefundraisers mirror or amplify the sentiments expressed by these letters in a misguided attempt to manipulate donors into reactionary giving based solely on emotion. This works for now, however donors are self-aware and savvy enough to know when they're being manipulated. Surprisingly enough, they don't like it.

Todays donors aren't simply tithing blindly in the hopes that some good will come of it. More and more, donors support organizations as active participants in an effort to improve our world. How does a person like this feel when they receive a dunning letter dripping with sensationalized woe? Like a patsy.

All in all, these medieval scare tactics don't belong in modern fundraising. Yes psychology has its place in fundraising, but too often psychology is a euphemism for manipulation. Fundraisers who are good at their jobs are masters of speech, language, and persuasion. Its better to convince someone to give than to trick them into it .

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fundraising 102. going from good to great.

Fund raisers working in outsourced call centers, or directly for just one non-profit, face many of the same problems. While non-profit fund raising can be a very rewarding career choice, it can also be very stressful at times.

Donors who support a given charity don't always feel that being contacted by their non profit whether by phone or by means of a direct mail campaign, is something that they want to have any part of.

Often times, a fundraiser will feel that the campaign they're currently raising contributions for is a perfect and fool proof campaign. Donors have other ideas. At times it seems that donors who give to groups like The Humane Society Of The United States or PETA are far more receptive to a general appeal for animal welfare than those donors who support Oxfam International, or Habitat or Habitat For Humanity, when considering helping out on an emergency appeal.

Why should this be so? A quick answer to this question is that those fund raisers who are less emotionally invested in a campaign are better able to communicate the wishes and needs of an organization. Quite frankly, believing that one particular type of campaign is less important than another, will limit your ability to do well on either type of campaign in the long run.

After a year or so of professional, fundraising I had an epiphany; it doesn't really matter so much what you say on the phone to a donor. What matters is how you say it. My attitude changed at that point. I became less concerned with asking and more concerned with communicating. My performance improved, I felt far less burned out at the end of the day, and I began to raise more money.

There are certain truths that are universal to all campaigns. Mastery of these axioms of fund raising can only bring about better performance from fund raisers, and better results for the non profits we work for. Scientists who look deeply into the universe become mystics, fund raisers who strive to perfect their craft do as well. This is the first in a more abstract series of posts known as Fund Raising:102

The first is: Always regulate your mood.

No matter how enthusiastic a fund raiser is about a charity, or a campaign, being in control of ones emotions at all times will provide the best results. Donors can hear our emotions on the phone. Most people would rather hear a calm and compelling fund raiser map out the key strategies of a fund raising campaign than unbridled enthusiasm that borders on mania.

There is perhaps no better skill a fund fund raiser can have than the ability to match their tone, their emotional state, with that of the donor's.

Be enthusiastic, but remember that you are a complete stranger to your donor. You've interrupted their life and what always seems to be a critical time, and you want them to give you money!

So build your enthusiasm during the course of the call. Allow the donor to catch up to you rather than bowling them over. A single moment in a good fund raising call is like an eternity. Donors are compelled to listen the the truth of a good pitch.

Fund raisers who speak slowly and clearly, with a mastery of their fund raising campaign, are far less likely to be hung up on at all. Knowledge of the subject matter of a campaign, confidence in the virtue of the cause you are fund raising for, and empathy with the donor with whom you speak, create instant gravitas.

Instead of a rambling mendicant, a skilled fund raiser personifies the true meaning of the word solicitor; An authoritative figure who by virtue of the truth of their cause, and the strength of their argument, compels those who hear to listen, and those who listen to act.

This brings us to the second rule; focus on listening at all times, even while speaking.

If a donor shows a high level of enthusiasm for your campaign then by all means match that enthusiasm. Always strive to be listening to the donor listening to your voice. This concept surpasses what can be taught about fund raising, it must be experienced first hand; an experienced professional fund raiser can measure the attitude and attentiveness of a donor.

Listening to a donor while speaking at the same time is done by knowing, and believing in your campaign enough to stop listening to yourself say the words, and focus solely on the fact that you are speaking with another human being. Not a name, or a telephone number on a screen, not a statistic in a database, a person. The donors can hear this in your voice.

This strategy can change the outcome of virtually any fundraising call in a positive way. If a random donor plucked out of a database somewhere in an autodialer in the belly of your call center can tell what kind of mood you're in, how much better at doing the same thing should a fundraiser who makes 500 to 1000 calls each week?

Anyone who's had even limited success at fund raising through telephone campaigns has had life changing and inspiring conversations with people from all walks of life. Great fund raisers enjoy these moment several times per day.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Myanmar Crisis.

Philanthropy online has recently published an article on the initial charitable response to the cyclone disaster in Burma. unfortunately bureaucratic red tape has slowed the initial response some; numerous organizations are preparing a herculean response that will save lives, and perhaps improve the domestic situation in Myanmar over the long term.

Events like these confirm the importance of fund-raising in general and telephone fund-raising specifically. Its one thing to hear about a tragedy on television and remind oneself to try and make a donation. Its quite another to receive a phone call as a situation is unfolding and have an opportunity to directly influence the outcome of that situation.

I participated in campaigns after hurricanes Rita and Katrina. I also worked on the campaign to provide relief to the victims of the Asian Tsunami, and issue of personal significance to me as I lived for many years in Indonesia. It is in times like this when innovative fund raising strategies can truly make a significant difference by fully funding humanitarian emergency relief efforts before a crisis can intensify.

There is nothing like a call to action.

I give online

An objection that is increasingly encountered by fund-raisers is the dreaded "I only give online" response. As with any objection, it seems insurmountable and absolute to those fund-raisers who don't know how to handle it. The good news this objection is by no means insurmountable.

The internet is quick and easy. The internet doesn't ask donors to drop what they're doing and give right now. Raising money by direct mail in a world that doesn't the obvious perceived advantage to of internet giving for donors into account, is a strategy that can only produce diminishing returns.

As with any objection, donors often use this one not out of reluctance to support a charity. Fund-raisers learn to hear "the objection behind the objection" and provide solutions to the problems a donor has with giving to a campaign.

Here then, are a few strategies to over come the overcome this increasingly common objections.

Giving online isn't a "no" its an absolute yes. The best part of hearing the giving online objection is that a fund-raiser can be sure that they are speaking with a qualified prospect. A second ask at this time is critical, be prepared for this response and to reply with something that may overcome it.

People forget.
  • Let your donor know that giving over the phone today is a sure way to get the donation over and done with.

Are there any special incentives that your telephone campaign is offering that my not be available if a donor gives online?
  • A Matching Fund,
  • A Member Card,
  • Perhaps a discount on the membership itself.

As calmly as possible, people can sense your mood over the phone line, inform the donor that you'll be able to take care of their donation right now by phone in 1 minute or less.

  • People prefer to give online because they don't have time to do it by phone.
  • At least they imagine that they don't.
  • Being prepared with this response and delivering on your promise to be brief can in fact increase a donor's respect for you and the organization you are calling for.
  • One of the most beneficial things you can say to a prospect is that you respect their time and will be brief with it.

  • Is it a security issue? Many donors prefer the internet alternative for the sake of protecting their information.
  • Let the donor know that your call center and credit card processor are secure. If they aren't, work for another company.
  • Know your security processes and repeat them to the donor.
  • Donors are protected by state and federal laws; tell them this.

How about the absolute truth?

  • Tell the donor you've reached that your working with a team of fund-raisers and that giving to you, today by phone would not only support their cause; it would be a sign of support for all the hardworking fund-raisers on your team (this works!)
  • Be frank, not rude; donors like being talked to, not talked at or talked over.
Think fast.
  • A donor can hear the wheels turning in your head.
  • Professional fund-raisers should know the answers to common objections before they arise.
Is your pitch any good?
  • If you're coming across an unusual amount of objections, listen to yourself.
  • Tweak your words. You already know what doesn't work right? Try something else.
These are only a handful of the possible responses to this objection. Creative fund-raisers will develop far more.

The only possible outcome of not clearly presenting a counter to an objection is failing to secure a pledge. Donors realize for the most part that its a fund-raiser's job to ask. So Ask.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Now and then I hit a wall with my calling. That's when its time to hit the bookstore. Two of my recent purchases are: "The 7 Seven Triggers To Yes" (The New Science Behind Influencing People's Decisions),by Russell H. Granger, and Perfect Phrases For The Sales Call" by William T. Brooks.

I'll write a short review of each in another post; its enough to say now that each of these books affirmed my experience as a fundraiser. phone donors give to people who can quickly establish rapport and credibility with them and, if time is short, then by all means choose rapport only.

So how does a Fundraiser build rapport in the first ten seconds of a call and secure a donation by the third minute? Here are my thoughts.

10) Speak with people, not at them. Telling strangers what they should do hardly ever works.

9) Allow the donor to speak. Don't interrupt or override, especially if a person is initially hostile. become a sounding board and allow the donor to vent long enough for you to understand their mindset. understanding and confirming a persons concerns is the quickest way to alleiviate those concerns.

In the case of repeat donors, you're allowing a person who has committed themself to a cause having little to no input over how their chosen organization carries out its work. A Fundraiser is often the only point of contact with an organization that a donor will ever have.

8) Know your cause. inside and out. study the issues and be prepared to be questioned on them. Memorizing a script isn't enough. internalizing key points won't allow you to speak with the authenticity of someone who knows a cause. In the first minute of a call many donors can tell the difference between a fundraiser who has memorized talking points and one who is a kindred spirit.

More to come...