Michigan Women's Foundation, 17177 North Laurel Park Dr., Suite 445, Livonia, MI 48152
telephone: (734) 542-3946; fax: (734) 542-3952; http://comnet.org/mwf
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Michigan Women's Foundation
Women's Road Map
A Technical Assistance Newsletter
November 1998


Fund Raising Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs
Don't Just Stand There, Say Something
Save the Date!


Fund Raising Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs
Mistake #37: Sending the Wrong Message to Prospects & Donors
by Ann Roecker

During the past decade the nonprofit community has become artful, even sophisticated, at marketing to donors in general and major donors in particular. We send out well-designed newsletters and reports, we hold receptions in nicely-appointed homes and public places, we tell our stories and state our cases all to articulate our bleeding need in a way that out distances the organization down the street that wants the donorís money and loyalty too.

One Problem. Spilling blood - telling a weepy story of how badly we need the money - doesnít work anymore. Not like it used to. Most donors have heard it before and theyíve heard it from everyone - in the mail, on the phone, at the office, over dinner with 250 other people. In a word, donors have become discriminating: theyíve become sophisticated too. Theyíve had to.

The marketing message which says, "Give to us because we need the money", must be replaced with, "Give to us because weíre making a difference," to be effective at marketing to donors, especially major donors. This is the marketing message of the 21st Century, a century the marketplace has already psychologically entered.

To assure a high impact marketing message that translates into a loyal gift, keep the following considerations in mind:

In your storytelling and case studies, highlight people whose lives have changed in tangible ways as a result of your efforts, not how your efforts put someone in a better mood.

Substantiate your case for support with facts (and include the source): how many people youíve been able to help in the past, the cost to deliver those serves, how many people you project will need your services in the future, the economic impact your services have on the community, etc.

State how your organization manages donor investments, where the money goes and how it is spent. Also who audits your financials.

State how you plan to communicate with the donor so they can see their investment at work.

While the dynamics have changed in the fund raising marketplace during the past decade, and are likely to change even more in the future, all indicators suggest one thing remains the same: donors still want to give. They still want to make a difference. We just need to do a better job of assuring them thatís what their money is doing.

Ann Roeker, CFRE, is President of the Midas Consulting Group, a fundraising, strategic planning and marketing firm headquartered in Denver. She may be reached at 303-322-3020.


Don't Just Stand There, Say Something
by Kim Klein

All over America, grassroots organizations are planning open houses, receptions, cocktail parties, and the like. Meticulously they work through the details: cleaning their offices, deciding whether or not to have the event catered, how much to spend, whether to serve wine and how dressed up everyone should get.

I recently went to such an event. It was an open house. Everything about it was politically correct: childcare was provided, no animals were sacrificed for the hors díouveres, the coffee was donated by a store that buys from an organic, worker-owned coffee plantation, and all the cups and napkins were made from recycled, unbleached paper. Dozens of people came, milled around and left.

The main flaw in this otherwise flawless party was the lack of circulation: the board members and staff members stood in clumps, talking mostly to each other or other people they already knew. Once in a while a board member would tear her or himself away and stand with a frozen smile at the food table trying to welcome strangers, but actually looking like he or she had just been struck with a tranquilizer dart and would fall over at any minute.

When, afterwards, the staff of this organization asked me what I thought, I told them they had missed a great opportunity to meet people. "But," they wailed, "how do you do that?" Since then I have talked with people in several organizations who have raised the same question.

So, here is a step-by-step approach for meeting prospects at events you organize with things to think about at each stage; ahead of the event, at the event and after the event.

Ahead of the Event

Before the event, form a committee of people who will be "greeters" from board members, staff and volunteers. Ideally, there should be one greeter for every 10 to 20 new people expected to attend. The greeters go over the invitation list or the RSVP list (if there is one), identifying for each other who may be coming and who is important to meet.

Generally, there are three kinds of people who come to open houses and reception-type events: 1) people who are friends of staff and board members, 2) people who work for other non-profits and want to be supportive or just want to see what your group is up to, and 3) people who are donors or donor prospects. Certainly many people fall into all three categories, but the greeterís job to focus on those people who are donors or prospective donors whom no one knows. Reviewing their names and whatever information is available about them will help in finding them at the event.

Next, the greeters assign themselves to "stations." Two people will be at the door or the sign-in station. They greet everyone as they come in, ask them to sign the guestbook, give them a name tag and tell them where to put their coats. Depending on the size of the event, one or two should stand near the food and drink tables, and one or two people should be at a table with literature about the group and anything that might be for sale, such as t-shirts, buttons, books or posters. Another greeter "patrols" any quadrant of the room that is not covered already.

Three or four other people are "rovers." One rover regularly checks in at the greeting table to note who has signed in, then goes to clue the others as to who has shown up who might be important to meet. People can take turns with this role, as it is a much easier job to be at the greeting table than to be a rover.

All the greeters should get small notebooks and pens that fit easily in a pocket. They should also have a supply of business cards with the name of the organization and a space for them to write their own name.

The greeters should plan to wear jackets or pants with pockets big enough to carry their notebook and business cards unobtrusively.

Each greeter should have a special name or tag or a flower or something that identifies them as ďofficialsĒ of the organization giving the event.

During the Party

From time to time, greeters should slip off to the bathroom or a back room and write a few notes in their notebooks after meeting a person and talking with them for a while. Notes should include the name of the person and any other useful information about them. That way, the greeter is not pressured to remember everything about everyone they meet.

Here is a sample from a greeterís notebook:

Keenan Reilly - Owns Reilly Lumber. Has given on and off because his sister used to be on the board. Said if ever needed lumber to let him know.

Mako Yashimura - Is a stockbroker down the street. Said someone at her gym wears our t-shirt all the time. Gave her a membership brochure.

Karen - Long last name beginning with T. I was embarrassed to ask her to repeat it more than once. Teaches high school civics and social studies. Talked about using our newsletter in her classes. Asked if we use volunteers for anything besides fundraising. I said weíd contact her.

Mary Oldmoney - Didnít say much, seemed glad I came up to her. Said the food looked expensive, asked if it had been donated. I told her we got a good deal on it, but had the feeling she didnít approve. Her final words were, "I donít hear as much from you now that Sarahís not here." Whoís Sarah?

Trading business cards is also useful. If a guest wants more information about your group, offer to send it to them and ask for their card. Or tell them to call you if they have more questions about whatever topic you have been discussing and give them your card.

Probably the hardest thing to figure out is what to say first. People expect the identified greeters to talk to them, so they probably wonít be surprised at being approached. Allow your opening line to be pedestrian and unthreatening: "Great weather weíre having for this time of year," or "The stuffed mushrooms are really good," or "Iím Betty Boardmember and Iím really glad you could come." You can admire something the person is wearing: "Thatís a lovely broach, pin, necklace, dress." Only do this if you really do admire it. It is important to remember that a person may be glad that you are talking to them without knowing how to respond. Shy people often donít know how to make small talk, so donít be discouraged if your conversational lines meet minimal responses at first.

After your opening, move to more direct questions. "Are you a member of Friends of the Cactus?" Or, "Do you work near here?" Or, "How did you hear about this event?" Have a couple sentences in reverse so that not everything you say is a question. "I have only been on the board a few months, so this is a great way for me to get to know people at these events because we were such a small group, but now we have a lot of new people, which is great." Or, "I work right down the street, so I came over early. It was nice to have an excuse to leave my office a little early." Or, "Iím so glad thereís so much food. I didnít have lunch."

After a few sentences back and forth use your common sense as to whether to move on or pursue more conversation. If the person is chatty, talk to them. If they have questions, answer them. If they answer all your platitudes with a one-sentence platitude of their own, move on. If you are talking to two people who have come together, you can move on without guilt because they have each other. If the person is alone, you may want to introduce them to someone or talk a little longer.

The point of all this is three fold:

a. To make people who came alone or who donít know anyone in your group feel welcome. You want them to feel that they would want to come to another of your events.

b. To make donors feel good about giving and thus plant the idea of giving more, and to make prospects interested in giving. This is done indirectly by answering questions, being friendly and steering people to the information table.

c. To meet some of your donors so they are not strangers. Later, if you decided to ask them for a bigger gift, you will have more of a sense of who they are.

There are two kinds of people who are difficult at these events: those who donít talk and those who talk so much that you canít get away from them. For the latter, the rovers are important. Rovers keep an eye on all the greeters and if they see a greet spending an inordinate amount of time with someone, that go over and join the conversation. By prearranged signal, if the greeter wants to be rescued, the rover says to the greeter, "Excuse me, I need to show you something" and pulls the greeter away with much apology.

After the Party

A day or two after the party the greeters meet and compare notes. They look at the sign-up sheet and note who they were able to meet. If they promised anyone anything, they send it. If they had a particularly good conversation with someone, they send that person a nice note. "Dear Mary, It was good to meet you at our Open House. I hope you will be able to come to our spring event. Vicki Volunteer."

Remember - the purpose of fundraising is not raising money, which is the end result of doing fundraising properly, but instead is building relationships. Every time you have a chance to meet people who are interested in your organization, take it. Maybe their interest was just free food, or maybe they just came to meet a friend and go out to dinner afterwards, but maybe they came to see if you look as good a group close up as you do in your newsletter, or to see if they might want to volunteer.

Friendliness will get you everywhere, and organized, planned friendliness will ensure that you donít blow this opportunity because you didnít think clearly enough about what to wear, where to stand and what to say.

Reprinted with permission from Grassroots Fundraising Journal, June 1995.


Save the Date!

November 17: Dearborn - November 18: Grand Rapids

MWF invites you to its annual Fall Meeting . A day for staff and board members of organizations who are planning to seek funding from foundations in the next year. Share your successes & challenges with peer organizations and attend workshops led by local experts. Register by calling MWF. (734) 542-3946. Cost is $15, lunch provided. Scholarships available.

Did you find these newsletters useful? You can request extra issues of Road Map from the Michigan Womenís Foundation by calling (734) 542-3946. You can also get articles from the web at http://www.lib.msu.edu/harris23/grants/privmich.htm#michwomen. Thanks to the Michigan State University Library.

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