Wisdom Wednesdays: Daily (or Weekly) Gift REPORTS

by Michelle Janssen, CFRE

Recently I heralded the lifetime commitment of several of our donors in support of the mission of Berea College via a Facebook post.  My post led to an invitation to blog about the daily (or weekly) gift report and its many useful applications to our work.

I thought I’d give a nod to longtime ALDE member and Lutheran leader Rich Bimler, who loves using alphabetic mnemonic devices, to underscore the importance of giving reports.  So, with all apologies to Rich, here goes…

R – Regular

If you aren’t currently using a daily or weekly gift report pushed electronically to internal stakeholders, consider adding this to your practice.  I’d be happy to send you a sample of ours if you’d like a primer to get started.  Contact me here.

E – Effective

Think about what is important to capture in a daily report, tailored to your organization, and create it accordingly.

P – Prospects

For those of you with a research function, daily gift reports showing size of gift while denoting a first time donor OR an increase in the size of gift over the last contribution provide a rich prospecting field from which to launch further investigation and analysis.

O – Operational

While it is tough to draw strategic conclusions about the health of your program using a daily report, such reports can be useful, particularly when employed regularly over time, to spot rhythms in your program.

R – Recent (or frequent)

Organizations offering donors multiple giving channels encourage donors to give frequently throughout the year.  Daily reports capturing the date of last gift or a column denoting a multiple annual giver are instructive to colleagues.

T – (Life)Time

Our daily report shows the number of years a giving record has supported Berea College.  In one of last week’s reports three separate individuals/couples rang in at 50, 67 and 70 years of giving to the college.  Such a commitment is humbling and inspiring.  Consider using your report to celebrate a significant milestone in a giving relationship with your organization or institution.

S-Segmentation

Know your audience.  Does your CEO or President need to see a daily gift report or a separate daily or weekly report showing only gifts of a certain level, or gifts (at any level) from board members?  Think about how an expanded circulation list, after a primer on what each data point means, could enhance the culture of philanthropy across key bands in your organization.

In our business, metrics matter.  Daily reports are just one way to track and capture results — start using them!

Michelle Janssen, CFRE, is Vice President for Alumni and College Relations at Berea College in Berea, Ky.  She was ALDE President from 2003-2005, received the ALDE Virgil Anderson Award in 2011 and was recognized with the ALDE President’s Award for Volunteer Service in 2000.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Twitter so Much More Than 140 Characters

by Jon Nelson

Are you just tweeting?  Twitter is so much more than 140 characters, and that’s constantly becoming so much truer as Twitter continues to add more features and functionality.  Take advantage of the many ways to better tell and share your story by staying on top of the latest capabilities.

Are you using links?  If not, this one is really simple.  When you tell people about something you’re doing, or something they should do, include a link.  Whether you’re tweeting, posting to Facebook, sending an email or doing a mailing, include calls to action.  Potential stakeholders need to take actions in order to become engaged.  Plus, Twitter automatically shortens your links, so you don’t have to worry if a URL is as long as a tweet.

twitter profileBut there’s a lot more you can do than simply including links with your communiqués.  “Twitter changed their account profiles so you can visually tell the story of your business,” writes  in “How to Maximize Your New Twitter Profile,” from Social Media Examiner.  “With a little thought and planning, you can now create a Twitter page that performs like a business welcome page for existing and potential customers.”  At ALDE, we’ve already taken advantage of this added functionality by uploading a header image — see our profile and view the picture above (the header image is the view of the church).  You’ll want to add one, too.  Not only will it give your account a slick appearance, but since Kingston says that “Twitter will be forcing everyone to switch to the new layout in the future,” you don’t want to leave people with a big, black rectangle when they could be seeing the change you are for those you serve.

Be sure to read Kingston’s article for a step-by-step guide on how to add a header image, plus tips and tricks for making one that will look  like you hired a big bucks graphic artist.

Kingston also discusses modifications to the photo stream, and how it appears in your profile.  She notes, “The number of thumbnails increases from four to six,” and, “The size of each thumbnail increases.”  In other words, there is a “new emphasis on your photo stream,” and it will be more Nelson-Jon-webnoticeable if you don’t upload photos.  I’ll admit adding photos to tweets is something I’ve been needing to do more.  Now I really need to do that or visitors will just see boring gray boxes.  They could be seeing what ALDE is all about, instead of only hearing it.  So don’t just take pictures, share them, too!  Look for photos from the 2013 ALDE International Educational Conference in Indianapolis this February to be live tweeted as they’re taken … and (shameless plug) don’t forget to register.

Although photos are a bigger deal on Twitter, they’ve changed the way, and what you can use, to upload them.  There are also changes to background settings and the proprietary Twitter apps.  Read up on the whole article from Kingston to get the full picture of what you can, can’t and should do – plus the why and how of it.  It’s not short, but it’s packed with much more than 140 characters of valuable information.

Jon Nelson, of Beloit, Wis., is Associate Director for Communication Services with ALDE.  He is also Principal of Nelson Business Communications, LLC.

Wisdom Wednesdays: Don’t be Middling With the Middle

by Daniel Lee

This article, “What Went Wrong in the Middle?,” is a well-articulated observation stating that there is a lack of mid-level programs across the fundraising industry and recognizes that the consequence is a substantial amount of money not being invested in organizations.  The author, Curt Swindoll, Executive Vice President for Strategy at The Pursuant Group, offers many useful ideas that can help organizations improve or begin a mid-level program.

Luther Seminary started a mid-level giving program about six years ago.  My role working with this program is relatively recent, so I enjoyed comparing and contrasting the information in this article with how our mid-level program has developed over the years, alongside my own fresh perspective on managing the work.

Swindoll touches on some of the methods that have brought the Luther Seminary mid-level program success over the years, including his six reasons for why mid-level programs suffer.  In order to be successful, it’s not effective to have a strategy for all mid-level donors.  Rather, each household on a mid-level list needs a personalized plan of approach.  This suggests that it would be helpful to develop a list of donors who you would categorize as mid-level donors first.  In keeping with Swindolls’s recommendations, we have found that a focused strategy that has the ability to share compelling stories and develop a strong level of trust with donors is imperative to a high functioning mid-level program.

One argument Swindoll makes is regarding the absolute necessity of face-to-face visits.  The Seminary’s mid-level portfolio hovers around 400 households, so visiting everyone in person, multiple times a year, is nearly impossible.  In fact, one of the catalysts for developing our mid-level program was to focus the time and energy of staff who are on the road (we call them Philanthropic Advisors) toward the highest level of gifts possible.  In order to be good stewards of our resources we turned to a highly personalized version of phone and mail to connect with mid-level donors.  This is different than the traditional direct marketing program.

One of the things I’m learning about mid-level donors in my new role is that it comes down to knowing the list in and out and identifying individual trends so I can solicit and cultivate them accordingly.  As I mentioned before, it’s an individualized strategy of connecting with mid-level donors in a way that is meaningful and personal.  As Swindoll put it, “They require more trust than can be quickly cultivated through direct response mechanisms … ”  Once this trust has been established, and the relationship has been built, many mid-level donors will give routinely, without the face-to-face visits.  Basically, it’s a hybrid approach of major gift work and direct marketing.

If you are looking to begin raising mid-level gifts, but have a more limited budget, here are a few ideas that have successfully raised monies for Luther Seminary with mid-level donors:

  • In-house personal mailings that might include one or more of the following:  hand signature by the president, printed photos of students or hand-written notecards.  One note … don’t do these on a mass scale through a mail house or they will lose the organic, personal feel that triggers the strong response rates
  • Pick up the phone and call them!  Set aside time during the week to call donors to build that relationship and trust, whether it’s to solicit, cultivate or steward
  • Use existing wealth engine information to target donors with personalized proposals to upgrade them to a mid-level of giving

The core of Swindoll’s argument is accurate.  Without a focused mid-level strategy you are leaving money on the table.  Whether it’s baby steps or purchasing a package of third-party services, investing in a mid-level program will increase your ability to raise current gifts, planned gifts and cultivate those individuals who will one day be ready to make the ultimate gift for your institution and the mission you carry out through your daily work.

Daniel Lee is a Philanthropic Associate at Luther Seminary in Minneapolis, Minn.  If you have any questions or would like to discuss mid-level giving, please contact him at dlee002@luthersem.edu.