Thank goodness the weekend is over

April 7th, 2014 by Penelope Burk

When my children were young, I used to look forward to Monday mornings so I could recover from the weekend. Saturday and Sunday were a whirlwind of shopping, cleaning, cooking, chauffeuring and an impossible to-do list that made the equivalent at work pale by comparison. I bet you’re thinking it wasn’t that bad – fun and relaxation on Saturday night, etc., etc. Are you kidding? That’s when I did the laundry while drafting another grant proposal.

The frantic work/life schedules of professional fundraisers, made even more challenging by the extraordinary amount of overtime they put in, actually mean an opportunity for employers. In one of five research studies with professional fundraisers that supported my latest book, Donor-Centered Leadership, we asked respondents to rate a long list of benefits for their ability to lengthen staff tenure and improve productivity. Four of the top five benefits they chose were connected with time.

Respondents rated these considerations above all else:

  • Option to work from home
  • Flexible work hours while on the job
  • Vacation time in addition to that provided by law or by practice in the not-for-profit
  • Cell phone paid for by the employer
  • Comp time for overtime worked

Benefits are both a Management and a Hiring Advantage

Fundraising is one of those rare vocations experiencing inverse supply and demand (too few trained, experienced Development professionals for too many available jobs). This situation makes it easy for fundraisers to move from one job to the next. Inverse supply/demand also drives up salaries, effectively preventing worthy not-for-profits who cannot meet wage demands, from assembling the best professional team.

As fundraisers move out of their twenties and into their thirties and forties, however, their priorities change. They start families or, to put it more vividly, they take on a second full-time career. Now time and flexibility are of monumental importance, often surpassing salary. Employers who understand this and offer a modern, flexible work environment, are helping their staff juggle their impossible schedules. But they are achieving so much more than that. When the boss hands over responsibility for managing time to staff, she is saying, “I trust you”. She is also refocusing the Department and her own management time on the thing that actually matters – reaching the goal.

In your next staff meeting, ask this question: What did you do last Saturday? Your fundraisers’ long list of time-consuming tasks is the beginning of a unique benefits program that will make your employees’ life easier and make you “boss of the year”.

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Too Busy Leading to Learn How to Lead

March 21st, 2014 by Penelope Burk

Leadership is a vast and much-studied subject. The next time you are in a library or bookstore, take a minute to peruse the business section. You’ll find that books on leadership far outnumber all other subjects.

But for all its importance, leadership training – both improving leadership skills for those already in positions of authority and grooming front-liners for management and leadership positions – is under-appreciated in our Development industry. 57% of fundraising directors surveyed by my company recently had no training whatsoever before assuming their first management job. Worse still, the majority still hasn’t. Most fundraisers, it appears, learn how to lead by trial and error.

While there is no teacher like real-life experience, learning to manage by making mistakes can have a disastrous impact on those being managed. And, in our industry where there are too few skilled, experienced fundraisers for too many available positions, mediocre or outright bad management is one of the top 3 reasons why fundraisers leave their jobs prematurely.

The problem can be traced back, at least in part, to a lack of respect for the importance of management training, underscored by the meager budgets assigned to this critical function. Among organizations that had any budget for training (about 75% of those surveyed), the majority allocated only 1% to 2% for that purpose, and most of that was for basic fundraising, not management, training.

But those who need the training also contribute to the problem. 30% of fundraisers managing staff said they did not spend the full budget allotted to them for training last year, inadequate as those funds were to begin with. Their number one reason – I was too busy to set aside the time.

That is literally true. Fundraisers in management-level jobs work extraordinary amounts of overtime – equivalent to adding one to two full workdays on top of a 40-hour week – every week. But, expert training can teach managers how to improve their own productivity and that of their staff so that everyone (manager included) can leave at 5:00, have a real life after work, and come back the next morning refreshed and ready to give their all.

Leadership and management are highly specialized skills. Yes, there are a few prodigies out there who come by their extraordinary ability to manage others naturally. Everyone else has to learn how to do it. Fundraisers in management and leadership positions today as well as those aspiring to those pivotal roles, need and deserve the specialized training that is essential to developing leadership skills – even if they have to be dragged out of the office to make sure they get it.

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Somewhere, Out There…In a Call Center

December 6th, 2013 by Penelope Burk

I attended university with someone who became a professional actor. We have been friends for over 40 years. Somewhere along the way, he married an artist. An actor and a painter – an amazing love affair but not the most likely formula for financial security.

In the rollercoaster ride that is life in the arts, my actor-friend treasured the good years and gave back when he could. For several years when he had a recurring role on a successful TV show, my friend sponsored a child overseas for $35 a month. As artists do, he felt a visceral and emotional connection with the child and her family that his and his wife’s contributions were supporting.

Everyone knows that success is a fleeting thing but artists live that reality every day. It was inevitable, then, that the TV show came to an end and my friend’s run of good luck evolved into an even longer run of the opposite — too many auditions, too few call-backs and even fewer paid gigs.

The household budget was revised and revised again to accommodate shrinking income until, finally, the $35 a month sponsorship was moved from the essential to the optional column. The payments could simply no longer be made. A new level of anxiety was added to my friend’s already stressful life as he worried about what would become of the child and her family that he had come to care about so deeply.

About 90 days later, a representative from the not-for-profit called to remind my friend that three payments had been missed.  Wracked by sorrow and guilt, he tried to explain why he and his wife would have to suspend their sponsorship. The caller listened quietly and, at just the right moment, gently interrupted.

First, I want you to know that your foster child and her family are fine. We have a reserve fund that ensures that sponsorship will not be interrupted if a donor is unable to continue his or her support. Please do not worry. But, equally important, I want you to know how grateful we are for the generous donations you have provided over several years. You came along just when your child needed help the most. You gave her and her whole family a new start in life.

The caller’s kind words and sincere understanding lifted the stress from my friend’s overburdened shoulders.

That was twenty years ago. Since then, my actor/artist friends have had more than their share of financial ups and downs, but today they are enjoying a modest but more stable existence. Earlier this week, I was at their house for dinner and, it being the season of giving, the conversation turned to philanthropy. He told me this story and that now they could once again afford to give back by making charitable contributions. I asked them about their interests and which lucky charity or charities would be getting their support.

“There is no debate about that,” my friend said. “We will be loyal forever to the sponsorship agency that was there for us when we could no longer be there for them.”

So, here’s to the dedicated fundraisers who start work each evening in call centers all over North America just as the rest of us are going home. And, a special thank you to the exemplary ones at the top of their field who have the presence of mind to go off-script and give a donor encouragement and support when he or she needs it most.

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Thank You Letters: Powerful and Profitable

November 13th, 2013 by Penelope Burk

When donors say, “the acknowledgement IS the recognition”, they are making a profound statement about what matters in their relationships with not-for-profits. And, nothing matters more to donors than thank you letters. Our research confirms that a beautifully crafted acknowledgement letter, promptly received, is all that it takes to make donors want to give again.

There is a huge difference, though, between thank you letters that fulfill the requirement of acknowledging gifts and letters that inspire donors to stay loyal [see Donor-Centered Thank You Letters Project].

In this year’s Burk Donor Survey, 40% of respondents said they had received at least one thank you letter in recent memory that they would describe as exceptional. Its warm, personal tone making the letter feel like it was written just for me was cited most often.  45% of donors said it was an outstanding thank you letter that inspired them to give again and 23% said they gave more generously because of the quality of the acknowledgement they received.

Exceptional Qualities of Great Thank You Letters According to Donors -  2013 Burk Donor Survey

 

That said, great letter-writing is an art, and creating art requires original thinking and constant practice. So, when inspiration just won’t come or when you start over-thinking everything you write, don’t you wish you had a creative resource by your side?

The Donor-Centered Thank You Letter Project is that creative resource. It’s a compilation of the best letters from fundraisers who modeled their acknowledgements on donor-centered principles. Each letter is notated by me to help the authors expand their letter-writing horizons. You can’t buy this resource, but you can get it for free if your thank you letter is selected for inclusion in Volume III (deadline December 15th). More information is available [http://www.cygresearch.com/DCF-TY/], including my popular “20 Characteristics of a Great Thank You Letter”.

 

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Take the rest of the day off

September 17th, 2013 by Penelope Burk

You listened…you did it…and it worked.

Over a decade ago, I investigated why donors stop giving to not-for-profits after making only one or two contributions. Donors in the first two studies I conducted in the United States and Canada told me: If fundraisers acknowledge our contributions promptly and meaningfully when we give, if they assign our gifts to something specific, and if they report on what has been accomplished before asking us to give again, we will stay loyal and our future donations will be more generous.

I published this straight-forward solution to high donor attrition in Donor-Centered Fundraising. This year, I went back to donors to ask them what has changed. A lot, it seems.

According to donors…

→ You’re getting thank you letters out faster. As a matter of fact, you’ve become so efficient that a two-week turnaround (two days for electronic thank yous) is now considered by donors to be the new industry standard. Well done!

→ Those thank you calls you’ve been making — donors have noticed – including when you leave voicemails — and your efforts are really paying off. 34% of donors who received a personal thank you call said they gave again because of the call.

→ And, Donor Recognition Events that take so much time and effort — they are definitely worth every creative moment you put into them. A remarkable 87% of donors who have attended a recent Donor Recognition Event have either already given or plan to give when asked by the host not-for-profit largely because of their positive Event experience.

Two things still exasperate donors, however, and they are the main reasons why attrition is still much too high. Over-soliciting and insisting on unrestricted gifts are largely why 65% of donors who make a first gift never make a second and why 90% or more donors who start giving are gone within five subsequent appeals. These problems are as frustrating for fundraisers as they are for donors because they are under pressure to ask too often and talk in general, rather than specific, terms about what happens with the money that donors give. Most fundraisers know they could make much more of it if top decision-makers had a better grasp on donor motivation and strategic alternatives to bombarding donors with frenetic appeals.

The researcher in me is fascinated by the numbers, whether or not they reflect the movement of fundraising in a positive direction. But, as the person who has been hauling myself and those numbers from city to city for the last fifteen years, I am very gratified. Everywhere I go, I have had (and continue to have) the privilege of interacting with professional fundraisers who already raise billions of dollars yet still strive to do better. Well, according to donors, you are doing better. Nicely done. Take the rest of the day off.


The 2013 Burk Donor Survey
updates the original Donor-Centered research and explores in greater detail how donors in each age group are reacting to new communications technologies as well as how donors’ giving patterns are changing. Click here, for more information.

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Understanding Donor Burnout

July 10th, 2013 by Penelope Burk

The phrase, “donor burnout” has been in use in the fundraising industry for as long as I can remember, but it is a misnomer. Attributing a slowdown in giving to donors running out of steam deflects attention away from the underlying cause. “Donor burnout” also implies a condition from which donors suffer that fundraisers cannot mitigate, which is certainly not the case.

The dictionary defines burnout as exhaustion of emotional strength resulting from prolonged frustration. To consider why donors might be suffering from prolonged frustration, it helps to understand what causes them to be in the opposite state – one of prolonged satisfaction. Satisfied donors can be easily distinguished from their burnt-out counterparts. Satisfied donors behave differently. They are loyal longer and they can be counted upon to make increasingly generous gifts over time. Frustrated donors, however, give once or twice and disappear, and the value of their gifts is often too modest to be profitable.

In our research studies on donor loyalty and generosity, respondents have described what it feels like to give, vividly articulating what it means to be a satisfied donor. They tend to identify two points of tremendous emotional connection – an initial rush when they make the decision to give (or give again) and an even greater exhilaration when, later on, they learn that their giving has helped achieve some meaningful outcome. This fluid cycle – considering a request, making the commitment to give, learning later that the gift achieved something, being ready to consider another request – is the process of progressive philanthropy that makes fundraising increasingly profitable.

When it comes to scheduling appeals, then, the question to ask is not, “Do solicitations work better in October or November?” but “How soon after putting donors’ gifts to work will our not-for-profit have something meaningful to report back to them?” This means that even if fundraisers do not re-solicit their donors for an entire year after they gave, it will be too soon if donors do not know what they have helped accomplish. It also means for some not-for-profits that can provide evidence of measurable results quite quickly after gifts have been secured, they are waiting too long to ask again.

Because information is what inspires donors to stay loyal and give more generously, there is an obvious connection between asking for unrestricted gifts and donor burnout. If gifts are not designated to a particular program, project or service, fundraisers are forced to communicate with donors in general terms, continuing to sell the brand or mission when only measurable results will satisfy their donors.

Donor burnout is real – the result of failing to stoke the fire that keeps donors’ philanthropic spirit alive.

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In her just-published book, Donor-Centered Leadership, Penelope Burk explores key myths and misunderstandings that hold fundraising back and which contribute to the high turnover rate of professional fundraisers.

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Little Gestures with Big Fundraising Implications

June 11th, 2013 by Penelope Burk

It’s the little things that count.

Everyone in fundraising knows what this well-worn but endearing phrase means — in theory. But in the rush to meet this month’s or this quarter’s ambitious goal, the little things are more often ignored or glossed over than recognized for the powerful fundraising tools that they are.

Years ago, I and my colleagues at a prominent arts organization were invited to a party in the penthouse home of a prominent major donor. A Picasso hung in the guest bathroom – need I say more?

During a lull in the conversation, I found myself gazing at our donor-host’s collection of books, quietly shelved in the corner of the den. I noticed an unusually large number of books of quotations and riddles, revealing a quirky side of this interesting donor’s personality.

One day several weeks later, I found myself in another city with a couple of hours to spare. I happened to wander into a used bookstore and came across four paperbacks full of brain teasers like, I am the beginning of the end, and the end of time and space. I am essential to creation, and I surround every place. What am I?

The books were in mint condition, possibly unappreciated stocking stuffers that eventually found their way via a garage sale to this dingy destination. They were selling for the princely sum of 25 cents each. I bought all four, tied them together with a brightly colored ribbon, and mailed them to my donor with a one-sentence note: These caught my eye while I was wandering through a used bookstore in Seattle.

A week later I picked up an animated voicemail message from my surprised and delighted donor. Two months later, he offered the lead, naming gift on our biggest ever capital campaign. Ah, the little things.

The little things can trip you up, too, and send a surefire win in the wrong direction.

A good friend of mine has become the full-time caregiver to his wife of forty years. While this role has limited his world, it has also intensified his empathy for others. One of the ways in which he shows that empathy is through giving. Not-for-profits who reach out to him through the mail, over the phone or at his door get his considered attention.

When his doorbell rang yesterday, my friend left his wife’s side to see who was there. A representative from a prominent not-for-profit was on the other side of the door…talking on his cell phone. When my friend said, “Hello, how can I help you?”, the rep raised his index finger as if to say, “Wait a minute while I finish this call”.

Ah, the little things…and the power they wield. They can jettison fundraising to new heights or bring it to its knees.

Share your little things that made a difference in fundraising – whether positive or negative — below in the comments section or on Twitter @penelopeburk

 

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A gift from donors to start your week

May 13th, 2013 by Penelope Burk

I just spent a few delightful hours reading comments from donors in the 2013 Cygnus Donor Survey. With 31,000 Americans and Canadians participating this year, I could have filled up several days scanning what they had to say about philanthropy, fundraising and the not-for-profits they love.

But as my colleagues in fundraising know perhaps better than anyone, everything is better when it’s shared. So, here are just a few of donors’ wonderful insights. If you have a tough week ahead of you, this will ease your load. If you’re enjoying one of those rare times when everything is going well, this will add to your pleasure.

There’s no doubt about it. I have the best job in fundraising.
———

To me, giving is an expression of fearlessness, releasing me from self-centeredness. Generosity is my grateful response to all that I have received.

I love being invited to volunteer for the organizations I support, to make a more personal connection in addition to the connection I already feel to the cause through giving.

Even though my giving is modest, it represents a financial sacrifice for me.  It’s important to me to support organizations I strongly believe in, even if I can only give an amount that probably won’t make much of a difference.

Everyone who can give should.  More people should volunteer, also.  It is so good for a person’s health to be a volunteer and to know they are needed.

Volunteering has changed my life for the better. I definitely feel that I am valued and I do very important work that has opened my eyes to families, single Moms, children & sick people. I have become less judgmental and more patient because I volunteer.

I feel a moral obligation to contribute to programs that assist those in need, even if it means temporarily going without myself. We should all be in this together — to give our fair share to the best of our ability to ease the burden of those with less, and/or to provide even a modicum of hope to ensure a better future for all of us.

Giving is a habit that needs to be modeled for us when we are very young, practiced and improved as we live our lives, and encouraged in our children.  Nothing satisfies me more as a mom than seeing my own kids get involved in causes they care about – especially when I care about them too.

Giving is something that, for me, is done with no expectation of anything in return.  A simple thank you is more than enough.

Giving to not-for-profits I admire is one of the most satisfying aspects of my life.

Philanthropy is about caring for others over caring about myself. Some people are motivated by the tax deduction, I suppose, but I think that they are missing the real meaning of giving.

Giving financially is only one way of supporting what I believe in….I give when I can, but I volunteer a lot of hours to non-profit organizations I believe in. To me, this is the essence of giving back to our society — to make it, and the world, a better place.

I actually enjoy giving generously to organizations that need my money and/or my skills in order to reach a goal that both I and they believe in. I give until it feels good!

I actually gave more money last year than I realized…and often more than I could afford. I don’t regret it, though. I would like to give even more if I could.

I am blessed in so many ways; helping others that are less fortunate is just the right thing to do.

I give more than I can actually afford to the causes that I support, because they are worth it.
I definitely do like the interruption of phone calls asking for donations. I will joyfully give when I see the need and have the means to do so!

I am so appreciative when I get a thank-you letter signed by a real person in the organization and when the letter makes it clear they are aware that I am someone who supports them as a donor. It’s very special when that happens.

Sometimes I feel taken for granted by not-for-profits that we have been supporting for a long time; so I was elated when someone called to express their gratitude for the gift I quietly make to them every month.

As governments move to withhold funds from not-for-profits that do legitimate advocacy work, it becomes even more important for me to step up and support them.

As a young professional, I am looking for not-for-profits that I can engage with and grow with in more than one way. I especially appreciate the ones that want more than just my money. The ones that also value my participation are rare, but those that do get my support.

I like interacting with other donors who are passionate about an issue or an organization. I find that being around like-minded people always gets me re-engaged. There’s just nothing like being in a room full of other supporters.

I am humbled when I see the generosity of other parents at my child’s school. It makes me feel I should be doing more. It’s easy for me to think, “I can’t afford to give X dollars”as I head off to see a movie or buy a luxury item at a store. Other donors’ generosity reminds me of what my own priorities should be.

Charities promising real change and not just addressing immediate problems get my more generous support. While I know that feeding one child is great, helping a community solve the problems that caused the child to be starving in the first place is even more important.

Someone once told me that giving and volunteering are the price one pays for living in a capitalist society; but I wish I lived in a “giving economy” where everyone’s status was based on the good they do for others.

 

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I’ve got a great idea for an event…and it won’t take any staff time (well, hardly any)

October 10th, 2012 by Penelope Burk

If you have never heard this at a Board or Committee meeting, you haven’t been in fundraising very long.

I started my fundraising career in an organization that earned 100% of its private sector revenue from fundraising events. The fact that I was hired as Director of Marketing and Public Relations, and not Director of Development, didn’t seem to faze the Fundraising Committee, though. On my first day on the job, they handed me a file marked, “Tribute Dinner, October 25″. Today was July 9th and even though I did not consider myself to be a wiz at math, I was able to quite quickly calculate how little time there was till the curtain was scheduled to rise.

“Who is being honored at this event?” I asked.

“We don’t know yet for sure,” a Committee member responded, “but we’re hoping that Fenella Davidson will say yes. We’re working through her aide.”

Fenella Davidson was a politician who had ascended the ranks into a very influential position. She was also universally disliked.

I continued. “Where is this tribute dinner being held?”

“At the Hilton, main ballroom. It holds eight hundred comfortably but we can push it to one thousand if necessary.”

As casually and carefully as possible, I asked: “What are your current projections on attendance?”

Committee members looked at each other to see who would answer. No one did.

Not wanting them to feel awkward, I inquired, “What is your breakeven point?” [Another prolonged silence -- definitely awkward. Great first impression, Penelope.]

Moving on, I probed, “How many tickets have been sold to date?”

Responding with an air of exasperation, the Chair of the Fundraising Committee walked me through the main points — no tickets had been sold because no tickets had been printed, and no tickets had been printed because the guest of honor had yet to be confirmed.

“But, the bottom line is that we’re moving forward. The hotel insisted on a 30% deposit so there’s no way we can walk away now. Besides, we’re already in the hole from last year’s Bowl-a-thon.”

That was twenty-eight years ago and, obviously, I survived. But I wish I knew then what I know now about what fundraising events can and cannot achieve for not-for-profit organizations. In case you are struggling with something similar at the moment, here are my criteria that make a fundraising event worth doing. As you will see, they have very little to do with the event itself and very much to do with everything else that happens in your organization to raise money.

What to take into account when considering a new fundraising event:

  1. It has the potential to attract a different demographic from the donors currently typical of your organization’s supporters. For example, it is very appealing to young donors whereas your current donor profile is considerably older.
  2. It does not add yet another obligation to donors who already give to you in multiple ways, avoiding the risk of over-solicitation, which can make them stop giving entirely.
  3. It does not run the risk of “downgrading” gifts from current donors. For example, if a donor attends your event for a ticket price of $100, will he say he’s already given when you approach him later in the year for a $5000 gift which prospect research tells you he is capable of giving?
  4. It genuinely affords volunteers an opportunity to be involved in a rewarding fundraising experience. By rewarding, I mean that it helps gel the group or builds their confidence which, in turn, makes them willing to get involved in more demanding ways, like opening doors with new donors or closing major gifts.
  5. Whatever staff support is required to plan and run the event can be contracted out on a fee-for-service basis. (I assume you’ll like this one; the worst downside of events is that they co-opt the time of professional fundraisers, which should be devoted to more lucrative relationship building and major gifts asks.)
  6. The event has the potential for long-term sustainability. No event remains popular forever, but an event done once and never again is a waste of time, resources and volunteer goodwill.
  7. The event is not weather-dependent or extraordinarily high risk in some other way. If it is weather-dependent, there is a Plan B that is not and which can be quickly moved into place.
  8. The not-for-profit is not dependent upon the profit from this event the first time it is run. This requires a very strategic Board to take this into account. Usually the reason why an untried event is on the table for discussion is because there is an anticipated shortfall. A first-time event should have a budget and the Board should be willing to lose money in order to test the concept for its appeal and future ability to earn ever-increasing NET revenue.

To that list I have recently added something else which extends from research we conducted earlier this year. We have found that sponsors of participants in athletic-type events like run-a-thons have a greater interest in the mission of the not-for-profit than one might think. And, a good proportion of them would be willing to give philanthropically (i.e. directly to the organization) if they were asked, and especially if the runner endorsed it. At the same time, donor acquisition through direct marketing appeals is becoming more and more difficult, so a fundraising event that has the potential to convert event attendees or supporters to direct donors is also worth doing.[1]

I look back on my first years in fundraising events now as a very useful experience because I now see that events can be truly valuable, though seldom for the superficial reasons that drive people to put them on. I do experience one or two long-term side effects, though. I shake uncontrollably whenever I am within two hundred yards of a bowling alley.

 

 

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Donor-Centered Cause Marketing

September 13th, 2012 by Penelope Burk

In the checkout lineup at my local grocery store, I’m bracing myself for what is coming when I get up to the front of the line. I’m going to be asked to add $1 or $2 to my grocery bill to support a worthy cause that the store is championing. And, once again, I am going to say, “no”.

I haven’t always been so direct. Corporate sponsorships of this ilk have been playing out in pharmacies, hardware stores and other retail shops I frequent for years. I used to take a different approach. I used to say, “I will happily give much more than a dollar if you can answer one question — How much is your company’s head office contributing to this fundraiser?”

Answers have ranged from “I don’t know,” to “I’m sure they are giving something,” to “You could call our head office and ask them yourself;” (this one from cashiers irritated with me for holding up the line.) But not once has anyone been able to answer my question. Nor have I ever seen a flyer or poster in the store explaining the sponsorship and how the company was compensating the not-for-profit for the benefits of associating themselves with a good cause.

Who Is Really the Sponsor – The Company or the Customer?

Some companies that do these small-dollar sponsorships may actually be great corporate citizens, matching dollar for dollar what their customers contribute. But if that is the case, they are missing a golden opportunity to showcase themselves brilliantly. By not paying attention where it really matters — at the point where their sponsorship program connects with their customers – they raise less money for the charity and settle for a mediocre attempt at brand-building through community engagement.

Companies that take the credit for supporting a worthy cause while making their customers pay the whole shot may think they are awfully clever. But, they miss a big opportunity to showcase themselves internally – to their own employees. Cygnus’ research studies with employees of corporations who give philanthropically or sponsor, confirm what other research has found – that their employees are proud to work for these companies because they give back. This pride translates into loyalty and loyalty has a direct impact on their employers’ bottom line.

Negotiate the Deal Your Not-for-Profit Deserves

If you are a fundraiser who negotiates corporate sponsorships where customers are asked to contribute a dollar or two, you have more power than you may realize. Your organizations have brands whose incredible reputations have been built over decades or centuries on the backs of dedicated volunteers and staff. Companies can only wish to have reputations such as yours, so negotiate from a position of strength knowing that you are the one with the priceless advantage. Just the association with your brand should mean a guaranteed fee that is not connected to what customers contribute. On top of that, you should get every dollar that customers give because they are giving that money to you. Do not settle for a maximum cap on the sponsorship fee.

You Are Still the Primary Steward of Your Donors

In return, you have much to offer – in addition to your excellent brand – in the area of customer relations. Your sensitivity to donors makes you the ideal partner to help your corporate sponsor think through the details at the customer end of the sponsorship. All customers, whether they give or not while in the store, should find a small flyer in their bags when they get home.  This vital communications piece should include a brief description of what the money raised through the sponsorship will accomplish — not just that it is going to your not-for-profit. Your website address should be prominently visible on the flyer, too, and copy should entice customers to go there to learn more about your alliance with this particular company and, of course, more about the work you do.

Driving customers to your site will produce a secondary fundraising advantage. In our recently published 2012 edition of The Cygnus Donor Survey, one out of three donors who were not intending to give when they visited a not-for-profit’s website, changed their minds and made a contribution online because they were impressed with what they learned[1].

If you remember that the corporate sponsor’s customers are all your donors or potential donors, you will be motivated to recognize corporate partnerships not just for the immediate revenue they generate but for their ability to acquire new donors and bring your existing supporters closer.

Next Week: How a recent experience with a small –dollar sponsorship had me unexpectedly jumping for joy.

 

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