The board of directors plays many roles in a ministry, from visionaries to decision-makers to guardians of the ministry's public trust.
At board meetings we might be evaluating the chief executive or creating competitive benefits packages, making sure our staff is compensated justly. But outside of the board room we have a role just as vital: Ambassador.
Many of our constituents will judge our ministry by more than the newsletter, the events or even what they perceive to be going on inside our doors on a regular business day: They will evaluate our ministry based on the board members and the way we represent the organization.
So what are a few ideas on how we can be effective Ambassadors?
Name TagsReally? Is that all there is to this? No, but this is a beginning: Every board member should have his or her own permanent name badge (not one of those cheap, plastic badges—let's go for metal) telling constituents at events: Mary Jones—Board of Directors. This is a seemingly small touch, but a first impression like this makes a difference. At any ministry function where the public is involved, we ought to wear these in order to send a message of credibility.
Tweet this: At any ministry function where the public is involved, we ought to wear these in order to send a message of credibility.
As an Ambassador, why not write a note to those friends who support the ministry financially, once a year? Each board member should have a list of donors (some ministries will include amounts for board members, others may choose not to do so). Pick out a number of friends who we can thank, and jot a note to each. Most Christians give to seven ministries but in times of economic uncertainty, this number drops to three. These notes will likely make our ministry one of the three.
Invite othersAn Ambassador makes introductions. Pick three friends in 2015 who are not currently giving to the ministry, but whom you believe could, if they knew more. Invite them to lunch (or perhaps have an evening of dessert at your home for all of them) and include your executive director. Make the introduction, allow them to begin a relationship with your ministry's leader. This could lead to long-term ministry funding.
Three short ideas, none of which are time consuming. An Ambassador does all three and the ministry is stronger for years to come.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement Trends in the Life Community.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
Our donors have earned our thanks. They are partners in the ministry in every sense of the word and we can't say this enough: Our donors sacrifice their hard-earned resources so that babies will experience life and moms and dads might experience abundant life.
These friends not only deserve our thanks, but our regular appreciation and celebration, too. So what might we celebrate?
AnniversariesIf someone has been faithful to our ministry every month throughout an entire year, let's let them know. Whether through a special card or a small gift—they need to know that we know they are faithful.
Many ministries have donors who have stood the test of time for five, ten, even twenty or more years. Think of creative, cost-effective ways to let them know. Try to think of something thoughtful they will remember, and keep.
By the way, "cost effective" is important. Let's not turn our appreciation into, "If you give for 12 straight months we offer a gold-plated . . ."After all, our supporters usually shy away from recognition—this isn't to be commercialized.
MilestonesKeep a database of the most faithful; those who have stayed with the ministry over time in different ways. Many will be monthly supporters; others will be those who give regularly in other ways, or who can always be counted on to major gifts.
This is a subjective list; you will know best as you begin to put the list together.
When our ministry reaches a milestone (1,000th client, 500th baby born—you get the picture), let's make sure our most faithful friends know.
We can create a little card with our announcement, send it to these friends and say, "Dear John and Jane . . . Just thought you would want to know—you've played such a major role in this milestone!"
The bottom line? Stay in touch with those who mean so much to us—building relationships that last.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement Trends in the Life Community.
Each month, Advancement Trends in the Life Community brings you a sample "Thank you note" to send to your supporters. December's letter is below:
Dear Brad & Angelina,
Whenever one aspires to a great work, there are naysayers. These are the people who can always find a reason why an idea will not work.
They pride themselves on being the first to have discovered the down side of a great endeavor. And if the idea by chance does not succeed, those golden words, "I told you so!" are first out of their mouths.
We have big dreams here. We want to see our community free from abortion. We want a city where every woman or couple facing an unplanned pregnancy chooses . . . Life.
There are naysayers out there, I'm sure. Some will think this goal is too audacious. Others will use words like "not feasible," or "unrealistic."
Your gift however, reminds me that many of us still believe the unthinkable can become reality and that the impossible is only impossible until someone accomplishes the task. And that with God, all things are possible.
Thank you for being a part of our team. Together, let's keep focusing on the impossible—until it is proven . . . Possible.
Click here to download this thank you letter as a word document.
Okay, so you've got just 10 minutes. Perhaps it's almost time for lunch. Or the day is almost over. Or you are between appointments. Maybe you are at an appointment in the waiting room. And there are those 10 minutes.
What are a few ways to use those few ticks of the clock to build a long-term development plan?
Run a reportIf you are in the office, use your donor software to run a quick report. Here are some ideas:
Jot a noteIf you have your Top 100 list, pull out a note card and write that quick note. In 10 minutes you might be able to write two!
Google, Bing . . .Yep, think of a financial partner you don't truly know. Find out more by Googling this person. You might find employment (Linked In), relationships (Facebook), where they live, interests and more. You may even find out why your ministry is important to them, who knows? As in any strong relationship, the more we know about a person, the stronger the relationship can be. Google is only a starting point, because relationships grow through conversations. But it is a 10-Minute Start.
Break down a major projectWhat is that major initiative the ministry is working toward? If there is one on the drawing table, write down the cost figures and break them down into bite-sized pieces. You might be creating an effective ask for a future appeal letter.
Ten minutes is not a lot of time, but if we use these increments of time to be more effective in our work we will not only free up space in our calendar, we will also build our long-term funding in the process.
While time is always at a premium in our work, thinking long-term will not only save time over the space of a year; it will also bring powerful results that can begin even now.
As we look at 2015, let's consider some ideas that will benefit our advancement plan for a long time to come.
Scour that database!Regularly searching for information in our donor software isn't just for the nerds and statisticians. It's vital for anyone who wants to see relationships and our bottom line improve.
Placing time in our regular schedule for research should be an integral part of our day in advancement. So what are we looking for?
Forgotten monthly donors—Check back a few years and find those who were giving monthly, but are no longer doing so. Some drop off because of moves or financial issues, but many either forget or lose interest because they feel forgotten. Our job is to remember!
Make a list of these friends, and if you know, jot down reasons why they stopped their monthly giving ("The Jones family moved"). Then, find those who might be motivated to give again, prioritize and plan ways to reconnect with these families, either by an appeal letter, a face to face visit—or whatever we need to do in order to begin rebuilding a relationship. Rebuilding doesn't need to start with an ask; it can be as simple as saying hello on the phone and telling our friend that we simply want to reconnect. Work on relationship, then the time to ask will be clearer.
One check and that's it—Go back 1-2 years and find those who wrote a check for $50 or more from an appeal letter or out of the blue. Consider an appeal letter to these friends, giving them a specific need and asking for a gift at least equal to, and perhaps 1.5 times the amount of this person's most recent gift.
A Google A Day—Might be the answer for getting to know those who give to us. I once Googled a major donor and found out that he split his time between the public sector (working for a University) and the private sector (researching energy issues). Gifts soared as he worked in the private sector, then flattened as he moved back into the university setting. We found that the best time to ask for major gifts was when he was working with major corporations—a valuable piece of information.
Many of those who can give major gifts can be found on Google, Bing, Yahoo or other search engines. This isn't stalking; it is vital research that can help us understand occupations, interests and more as we build good relationships. I even found one to be an author and we had the opportunity to talk publishing, information I never would have known without research. Knowing our people well builds relationships. The stronger the relationship, the more likely our friends will think of us when they give.
Commentary with Kirk
We're told that less is sometimes more and when it comes to a third fundraising event (or 4th or 5th), we need to think critically about its benefits and possible consequences to our long-term funding success.
So why not have a discussion? Let's look at questions and answers, and see if we can find some ground to stand on when we are questioned about whether a third event is always needed or necessary:
If we are going to build our budget, our third event is necessary. Look what we would lose if we eliminated this fundraiser!Generally this third event means we have either two events in the spring (January through May) or two in the fall (September through mid-November). Because events rarely occur in the summer or in the Christmas season, having two events in either spring or fall means that we are going to have a season where we are constantly in "event" mode.
This is not to say that we always eliminate a third event. We do however, need to look at this event in light of whether it is actually advancing our overall fundraising plan. Keep in mind: Every minute spent on a third event is time not spent on other revenue enhancing projects.
We already have a third event. If we are going to drop one of our events, how do we choose which one goes?To answer this question, let's throw out a principle. Unless an event is raising a significant percentage of your overall revenue, we must improve it or remove it. The word "significant" will have different meanings for different organizations. Here is a rough idea:
If we are not reaching these rough benchmarks, we either need to fix these events, or get rid of them as they are eating up one of our most vital resources: Time.
My guess is that if we look at each of our three events, we will find one that falls close to these numbers and needs a good look.
One caveat: If your banquet is falling below our suggested numbers, choose this one to fix. A fundraising dinner should be your strongest overall event; if it is not, there is great room to grow.
How do we replace the lost revenue?Most of our ministries miss opportunities in two areas: Monthly Support and Major Gifts. By shifting our focus toward building these two revenue streams, we might find a long-term, foundational increase in funding.
For instance, adding 25 monthly supporters over the course of a year (at about $40 per monthly gift) adds $1000 per month or $12,000 each year . . . And this will only increase in years to come as we add more supporters.
Consider major gifts, too. If we create a strong strategic plan (For the coming 3-5 years) and show a major supporter specific ways a major gift will be utilized, we will see these friends of the ministry respond.
What if we took the time we spend on that third event and met with one major supporter each month and asked for a gift of say, $5,000, what might happen? We are told that when we get to know someone who can make a major gift and truly build a relationship, when we make a reasonable, well-thought-out ask, the odds of a gift are more than 80%. At an average major gift of $5,000 then, twelve meetings would, in one year, likely mean some $50,000 in funding.
Different centers will see varying results, certainly. But perhaps we need to shift our thinking from "event" to "let's simply lay out a major vision and ask."
Should we always seek to eliminate a third event?No, we're not giving a hard and fast rule here. We do however, want to help us consider whether a third event is necessary to move toward a higher income figure.
On the other side of this, many centers have a third event that is totally unrelated to other events and in fact, reaches a different group of people. A golf event is a good example here. Some ministries are raising $50,000, $75,000 and more through golf events—completely separately from banquets, walks, baby bottle campaigns and other events.
The point? A third event is not automatically "bad," but we do need to make sure it is a significant fundraising avenue. And as we look at three events, let's make sure we do not lose focus on our other revenue streams.
A successful, effective advancement plan is not an overwhelming task; nor is it one that requires extraordinary fundraising skill.
Frankly, a winning plan for raising funds and advancing the ministry to a new tier is all about consistency and . . . Smart planning that is based on incremental improvement.
Here is what I mean:
Often we look at our finances and declare, "We need another event" or, "We must make major improvements in this area or that one in order to raise these funds!" On the idea of another event, in this issue we will blow that myth out of the water. If your ministry has two events, you have plenty. A third can actually be a detriment to a winning plan.
And when it comes to "major" gains in fundraising, most of the time we will find that it is step-by-step, small improvements that make the biggest difference to our overall success. This month, let's take a look at seemingly slight changes that can bring us powerful results, over time.
If we look long-term, we will find three avenues for success:
EvaluateTime spent evaluating our current fundraising plan is always time well spent. Give our events a second, and third, look. Let's make sure each event is a wise use of our time.
PlanSpace events, appeal letters and in-person asks so that we are not constantly in an overwhelmed rush. Back-to-back events burn out all of us. And running an event (such as a baby bottle campaign) nearly year-round never gives us a chance to breathe.
Focus on the long termImplement long term funding streams such as building monthly support and regularly meeting with those who can give major gifts, setting up your ministry for success long into the future.
For instance, did you know that adding just two $40/month donors each month will result in more than $55,000 in yearly funding over five years? That's success. Check out other articles in this month's issue that show us the way to a winning development plan, in good time.
By Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
The Year End Appeal can be one of our most successful development initiatives of the year. This is our opportunity to tell our story, unveil new plans, and invite those who are in a giving frame of mind to join us in launching a successful 2015.
Ministries and organizations that forgo this opportunity miss out not only on gifts that can make a major difference in the bottom line, but also lose a great chance to begin building relationships with those who receive our other mailings.
There are reasons some ministries decide not to send a Year-End Appeal, but any objections to this endeavor are easily answered.
With mailing expenses, the Year-End Appeal costs too muchLet’s say we send 1000 letters, a $490 investment in postage. With envelopes, paper and ink, let’s say we spend as much as 50 cents per package on color printing. That’s about $1.00 per mailing. That’s $1,000. If ten out of 1,000 recipients send us $100, we’ve already broken even. A well-written year-end appeal will not lose money.
No one reads appeal lettersWe can’t expect 50% response rates, because it is true that many people throw away appeal letters. Yet, every major non-profit sends appeal letters; they do so because they know this is a great way to reach new, and existing financial partners. In addition, many—especially the home-bound—only give to appeal letters.
We do appeal letters at other times of year. We do not want to overwhelm our donors with junk mail.Take it from someone who signs up for newsletters from pregnancy help organizations all over: While you keep close track of your appeals, your recipients do not.
Occasionally someone will send a ministry a note saying, “You send too much mail,” but we absolutely cannot base our mailings on one or two complaints. People are busy—they don’t have time to worry about our number of mailings.
Most ministries do not send enough appeal letters. The Year End Appeal is at the top of the list. This month, let’s make it happen.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement TLC.
Our Year-End Appeal is not simply a fundraising letter; it is our opportunity to impart our vision to the hundreds of people (thousands?) on our mailing list. This is why it is so important that we paint a large vision in this letter.
So consider, what do you want to accomplish in 2015? What is the big picture for your organization? What initiatives are new? Which initiatives are due for a major upgrade?
If there is nothing new or there are no major changes, consider emphasizing several key areas that are most effective in changing and saving lives.
When we ask, let’s think big
The simple truth is that our response rate on our Year-End Appeal is not going to be 20% or something like that. We all know many of our letters go in the trash. That’s certainly okay, and not a reason to fail to send out a letter.
What this means however, is that we need to think big.
This is not our “diapers and wipes” letter. In fact, let’s stop for a moment here and make it clear: We never need to use our newsletter, e-blast or any other communication to ask for layette items. When we do this, we are proclaiming to the world that we are a small organization, doing small things. Major donors see these asks and quickly decide, “They have no need for the gifts I am considering.”
Therefore, our asks need to be significant, with one exception. Sometimes when we are asking for a first or second gift in a specialized appeal letter, we might ask for a small amount ($15-$30) to gauge interest in our work.
In this letter it is certainly fine to let people know we would be thankful for any gift, but overall let’s be looking to help fund initiatives that require larger gifts.
Click here for more of this month's Advancement TLC.
Sometimes it is the small touches that make a big difference with our Year End Appeal. As we prepare to connect with our constituents at this crucial time, let’s consider these ideas:
1. Get rid of “Friends”We never want to start a letter with “Dear Pro-Life Friend” or simply, “Dear Friend.” Mail merge is simple; we need to make sure our recipients see a salutation addressed to them.
2. Consider a teaser on the outside of the envelope“200 more lives saved in 2015?” might catch the eye of a reader, and inside we can promote any of a number of initiatives: marketing, a fatherhood initiative, ultrasound. Give readers a reason to look inside, starting on the outside.
3. Stratify, stratify, stratifyWe can’t say it enough; we must be sending different letters to different people. While the main content of the letter will likely be the same, our ask should be different based on the person reading.
For instance, those who have never given might see a phrase such as, If you haven’t yet had an opportunity to give to First Choice, now would be a perfect time. The monthly supporter might read, Thank you for your continued support of First Choice. If you are considering a special gift to First Choice, now would be a perfect time. The difference is small, but someone giving each month wants to know you know that fact when they read your letter.
Stratifying our list, breaking down our mailing list based on support given, is vital in a letter like this. It can make the difference between an average return on our Appeal Letter, and a great return.
4. Something extra with your signatureIn appeal letters, the “P.S.” has gone the way of the Dodo. However, this doesn’t mean we can’t write a quick note at the bottom of our letter, just below our signature. Without writing the actual “PS,” we can jot down a short phrase such as “Thank you for reading” or, “I look forward to hearing from you.”
The better you know a recipient, the more personal the note can be. Anything at the bottom of the letter—in ink—tells the reader that you took a little extra time for them.
When they see your note, they may take a little extra time for you, too; the time to write a check.
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