non profit

Engage your donors at a higher level - week long series: part 2

(If you need a chance to catch up on the conversation you want to start by reading Monday's post!)

Why do people give financially to anything?  Why do people give to your organization?  What would cause someone who has worked hard for their money to give it away?

This conversation could go on for days.  Yes, some people give because they feel like it's a spiritual responsibility.  Yes, some give because they earn enough money they need to give to a non-profit for the tax credit.  These are true but a large majority of donors, regardless of their financial make-up, give because they are motivated to give.  The motivation is there because they have witnessed a non-profit do what it's created to do.  This is where we find generous people connected to an idea and that changes everything.

Why does a connected donor change everything?  A connected donor will be around much longer than the person who needs to give for a tax credit or the person who feels like they need to give for services rendered.  For the most part, retaining connected donors is more valuable than fishing for the next big gift.  Typically, people who give really big checks are always looking for the next really big thing to give to.  Operating budgets are not something they typically look for.  So how do we keep donors connected to the daily idea our non-profit exists for?  It has everything to do with taking leadership in telling great stories...OFTEN.

Non-profit leaders need to remember the new non-profit world is highly competitive as I mentioned in the first post.  Were you aware the non-profit sector outgrew the business sector and government sector between 2001 to 2011?  To start the millennium non-profits grew by 25% according to a study by The Urban Institute.  The work your organization was started to do has to be first, the story you tell about your work has to be second.  Over the next ten years the way you tell your story will reflect in the donors you have.

So what can you do to connect donors to story, or the central idea of why your non-profit exists?

1.  Know who's in the tribe - One of my least favorite things is telling a story to someone who doesn't care.  We were throwing money away on paper, printing, and postage hoping people were paying attention.  There had to be a better strategy.  The awareness of our story got better when we focused on our top 30% of donors and community members who consistently opened our mass emails.

2.  Have a strategy - We could categorize these people who were paying attention, in our case it was top donor, alumni, and current parent. Therefore, we wrote once story a month specifically to these larger categories, which meant three stories a month.  Using this strategy we kept every audience in our tribe engaged.

3.  Know how to tell a story - Everything I've learned about storytelling I've learned from the Dan Portnoy.  You owe it to yourself to watch his presentation on how to share your non-profit's narrative.  It's important to learn how to communicate your non-profit as a hero in your community.  Dan can teach you how to do this.

4.  Use a blog - A blog continues to tell previous stories after you've moved on to telling the new story.  If you send an email or paper update they are limited in a sense of time.  Few people will revisit either of those.  Few people will also share an email or paper update with everyone they know.  However, a post on blog people can come back to all the time.  They also can share a post across social media to every person who follows them.  Your blog should be the home base of every story you share.  This way when someone new enters your tribe and wants to see the entire story, they can find it just by browsing through your blog.

Connecting donors doesn't happen overnight, it happens through many stories over time.  Consistency in story telling is important because once you begin to share, your tribe will expect even more stories.  Remember, they are easily distracted just as much as you and I are.  But you will become a financially healthier organization if you identify who's in your tribe, create a strategy to share stories with them consistently, know how to tell great stories, and use a blog as home base for every story you share.

I hope you'll continue on with this series on Friday as we look at the third component of "Tribe" leadership: connecting donors to one another.



Engage your donors at a higher level - week long series: Part 1

Can you imagine if there were people in your community who constantly said positive things about your organization?  What if these same people were financial donors and what if they were physically involved as well?  What if these were people you trust and you can go to for input around high level decisions?  What would you give to have a community that cheers for your organization?

A few years ago I felt like people weren't interested in the organization I led, or even worse they didn't care about what we were doing.  We sent four updates a year in the mail with little blurbs about all the good things we were doing.  There was a financial report and a small pep talk from me about opportunities to be involved.  A team of people would put on a large event in the fall every year to highlight what the organization was doing locally but less people began to show and it was requiring even more work out of those who wanted to help.  Ultimately, the amount of labor required from such a small amount of people began to turn away other potential volunteers, which caused the event to suffer.  Less people knew what was happening.

Any of this sound familiar?

This week I want to help you engage your donors at a higher level.  Although most of us in non-profit leadership hope our story will be like a billboard for everyone to see and respond to, it rarely works out that way.  And it doesn't work for a couple of reasons:

1.  People are distracted - Come on, right now you're struggling to finish reading this without being distracted.  It's become a norm in our culture.  So even if you are good at telling a story or have a large audience the message will only last for a short amount of time.  Then the distractions come.

2.  The market is saturated - You want to give so other people can have clean water?  You want to sponsor a child internationally?  You want to buy this product to help someone else?  You want to text to give to this crisis?  You want to keep animals from being euthanized?  You want to give to that political figure?  You want to give to your alma mater?  You want to buy girl scout cookies?  You want to give to this building project at your church?  You want to give to that local mission?  We used to know organizations that were non-profits, now we PERSONALLY KNOW people who start non-profits.  The non-profit market is heavily saturated and people are splitting giving money across a greater number of causes.

3.  We have a smaller filter - The information boom because of the internet has given us the opportunity to be interested in everything.  Instead, it has given us a narrow ability to be interested in about four to five issues or causes.

So what can you do to engage your donors at a high level?  The same donors who are distracted in a saturated market of giving opportunities. The same donors who will face the choice of what to pay attention to?

Become a tribe leader.

Seth Godin, the master of marketing, says a tribe is: 1. Connected to an idea, 2. Connected to a leader, and 3. Connected to one another.  Could you say this  is true for your most significant donors?  If you can't, here's what's lacking: You're not leading them.  That may feel like a punch to the gut but if you aren't leading them to be connected to the "idea" of your organization and you are not working to connect them to one another then you're not leading them.  And they will find someone who will lead them because every person, even those with high giving ability, want to be connected to a story bigger than themselves and they want to feel like they are part of a team.

You can do this.  You can become a tribe leader and it's easier than you think.  It will require a willingness to change from an old model to a new model but it can change.  Don't give up!  BE BRAVE.

On Wednesday we will talk about how to make sure your tribe is connected to an idea!


Can you be the leader we need for the next ten years?

The constants are disappearing for non-profits and business alike.

What does that mean?  It means 10 years ago we had far more constants in the daily functions of our work.  Systems, or processes, were created for consistent results.  The tools we used developed much slower, which meant we had more time to adjust to the processes we need to get work done.  Think about it.  How often was Microsoft Windows updated?  There was five years between Windows 3.0 and Windows 95.  Then three years later Windows 98 was released.  Windows XP was released in 2001, four years later.  And this is just software.  I can remember having a desktop computer in Elementary school and still had one on my desk for my first job after college in 2000.

For our organizations, teams, or businesses to flourish in the next 10 years we have to adjust to having far less constants.  "This is the way we do this."  As leaders we can't take this stance trying to make any process, training method, or work flow a constant. Because the tools change too quickly and the learning styles of each new generation change as well.

Please realize the current high school kid is more familiar with Google Docs then they are with Microsoft Office.  They are more familiar with Gmail than they are with Outlook.  They get information from Twitter instead of the newspaper.  They submit their homework through email and Blackboard instead of hand writing their homework.  They are also a Mac based generation.  Our local school district supplies every high school kid with a MacBook Air.  Change will not be a phrase anymore, it will be the daily work flow.

As a non-profit director I used to view the world this way: Processes or work flow are a constant.  People are the variables.  But it's time to adapt because now I view the world this way: Core values are the constant.  People and processes, or work flow, are variables.  And I feel this way because tomorrow a new app can be released, which changes the way I daily work.

On a weekly basis I use tools like:

  • Boomerang - A application added to Gmail allowing me to schedule emails and set time limits to resend emails if they aren't opened.
  • PicMonkey - A free photo editing software online.
  • Dropbox - Additional computer memory through cloud technology.
  • MailChimp - A mass email system to communicate well to multiple audiences.
  • Podcasts - I have probably learned more in two years from podcasts than I did in my Undergrad studies.

I didn't use any of these two years ago.  Whereas I once had five years to be familiar with work flow between Microsoft updates.

If you want to flourish in the next ten years you can't afford to dig your heels in and pour concrete around them in regards to creating constant work flow systems.  Nor will you be allowed to lead and bury your head in the sand to protect yourself from changing technology. It simply will not work.  We are not dealing with generations expecting constants.  We are dealing with a generation that expects apps on their phone to be updated monthly.  These generations will either find a more efficient means around your attempt at creating constant work flow or jump ship to another team or organization who is adapting to change.  Create an environment where people are rewarded for creating change according to core values instead of people being rewarded for creating safe and trackable work flow.  This is how you can begin to succeed in the next 10 years.

Episode 007 - What story telling can do for your leadership | Interview with Dan Portnoy

Contest for a free book!!!

Before we get started with the show notes here we have a BOOK GIVEAWAY! Dan has offered a free copy of The Non-Profit Narrative to a lucky listener of the Creative Leadership Podcast. Two simple things get you entered in to the contest and I will randomly select a winner, the contest ends by 11pm (CST) on January 24th. Here is what you have to do to enter:

1. Leave a comment below for Dan letting him know what you got out of the interview. (If you're reading this on the homepage, click on the post title above to get to comments)

2. Share a link to the podcast on Twitter BUT it must include @danportnoy and @bradvoigt.

The winner wil be notified on January 25th.

Now to the show notes!

Show Notes:

In this seventh episode of the Non-Profit Narrative I interview Dan Portnoy about what story telling can do for our leadership. The conversation has a lot of helpful tips for those working in the non-profit sector. However, I wouldn't not pay attention if I was in any other line of leadership because Dan's words resonate across profit/non-profit lines.

(Trust me, Click the book)

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