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Archive for February, 2015

Your Major Donors Are More than Dollar Signs

Posted by Scott On February 26th

As a Professional Benefit Auctioneer I often run into real life situations that scream out, “WRITE A BLOG ABOUT ME!” This just so happens to be one of those real life situations.

Scott RobertsonA short while back I was talking with a wonderful philanthropist that supports so many charities. He and his wife are very giving people – very caring. This couple has a real compassion to help those families that need help in their community.

During our conversation with this gentleman I happened to mention that I missed seeing them at a particular auction which had taken place months prior.

His response was somewhat startling. He said, “I love the event. It’s always a lot of fun. But, I got to tell you, I feel the charity likes our money more than they like us.”

Boy or boy does that speak volumes! Donors should never, ever feel as if they are just dollar signs.

Just as wealthy people consider money a tool – money which they put to good use – the charity also has tools which they could put to good use – especially on their wealthy donors. And the best news of all these tools would cost the charity very little – if anything.

 

So, what tools does a charity have that it could share with a major donor so they feel appreciated – and not feel as if they are simply dollar signs? Here are just a few examples.

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  • Hand written notes. This simple gesture goes a long way in telling your donors they are appreciated.
  • Send a great photograph to your donor which shows them contributing at the last event. And make sure it’s in a nice frame.
  • Take that great photograph of your donor – duplicate it – and put it in a visible area within the charity’s offices. Nothing would say we appreciate you more.
  • Take donors on a personalized tour of your facility so they can see firsthand where and how their donations are being utilized. Better yet, give them a personalized tour of a facility, connected with the charity, that’s usually off limits to the public. (An example of this could be a shelter for abused women.)

It’s the charity’s responsibility to make their donors feel as if they are a part of the charity. These donors are gracious with their money. The charity needs to be gracious and give something back and not just be there with a hand held out.

Now here’s something charities don’t often adhere to: Audience development is a year-round program.

 

Charities should not just suddenly appear before a donor every time they want someone to write them a check. Charities are not being very grateful or gracious if that’s what they do.

Charities need to love and appreciate their donors 12 months a year. In return, donors will love the charity come the night of their next auction.

In conclusion, make the donors feel they are valued, show them their gifts are used in a meaningful way and appreciate them for the people they are – and not just dollar signs.

 

 

 

In an earlier Blog I talked about the need for some charitable organizations to spend some of their money to hire and retain competent and quality employees. I realize donors want to see – and prefer – 100 percent of their donations going to the “cause” and not into “operation costs” which includes the hiring of a staff.

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However, as long as the money is spent wisely, the hiring of a competent staff – and that includes everyone from the Top Brass to the receptionist – more than pays for itself in the long run.

Simply stated, “Employee turn-over can easily turn into fundraising turmoil.” There is a price to pay for consistency. But considering all the benefits – it’s a small price to pay.

Staff turn-over is a constant problem in the fundraising universe and perhaps nowhere is that more true than in the Not-For-Profit world. The departure of Development Directors and CEO’s is fairly common place.

The reasons for their departure vary widely.

But, one of the main reasons is – they are forced out. This usually happens when new members of the Board of Directors are brought in with “change” on their agenda.  No Development Director or CEO of a charitable organization wants to continue working feverishly for a Board that questions their methods, their role – or even worse – simply doesn’t unanimously want them there.

Another main reason for their departure is a new job opportunity. When a better position opens up at another organization – and if a Development Director or CEO doesn’t feel he or she has the full backing of the Board of Directors – they can’t pack their boxes and depart their old office fast enough.

Now, here are the three primary motivators for people leaving a Not-For-Profit organization.

  • Not feeling fulfilled by their work
  • Require more money to sustain their family
  • Perception of lack of teamwork by other staff members or volunteers

So now the question arises, “What can be done to retain these top staffers?

Scott Robertson

Well, it all begins with hiring the “right fit” in the first place. CEOs and Development Directors are a bit like fundraising auctioneers. If you hire the best fit for the organization they’ll pay for themselves many times over.

From my experience, the “least expensive” hiring option, which many organizations do as a way to save money, is often the most expensive in the long run due to a lack of talent and the inability of that person to bring in the necessary “donor dollars.”

There are two other things the organization must do to retain the right person in this leading role.

First, the Board needs to exhibit confidence in its CEO or Development Director and the direction he or she is taking the organization.  Secondly, the Board needs to show appreciation for the job being done. Nothing creates “happy feelings” like a good pat on the back.

The lack of confidence and the lack of appreciation are two leading causes of employee loss.  And each time a CEO or Development Director moves on to another position, most of the momentum they generated is lost. That’s because the new CEO or DD comes in with a different attitude, a different set of skills – and all of these require time to overcome.

I realize Not-For-Profits are businesses and should be run as such. But they also need to hire the best they can afford, support those they hire and do what is needed to keep them engaged, productive and happy.  It’s a winning formula for both parties.

Audience Management

Posted by Scott On February 12th

I’d like to take you back in time to your classroom years. Can you hear the school bell ringing signaling the start of a new school day?  Can you smell the food being prepared in the cafeteria kitchen?  Can you hear someone running down the hallway trying to get to class before the teacher closes the door to begin his or her lesson?

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Now, I’d like for you to think of your favorite teacher.  You know the one.  It was the class you looked forward to attending every day because the teacher had a passion for what they were teaching.  And their passion became the student’s passion.

What you might not have thought about back then is that the teacher, because of his or her passion for and knowledge of the subject they were teaching and his or her preparation prior to starting the lesson, had total control of the classroom.  It was a control fashioned through positivity – not negativity.

In many ways a benefit auctioneer is exactly like your favorite teacher.

If a professional fundraising auctioneer is doing his job correctly, he or she has great control over the audience. They don’t gain control by being in the guest’s faces, slamming books on a desk or having someone stand in the corner. They do it through their presence, their experience, their knowledge of the charity and their passion for raising money for a great cause. If the auctioneer is good, this should all appear effortless.

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Personally speaking, I won’t work with a group if I don’t believe in their cause. I also won’t conduct an auction until I’ve done my homework and have a total understanding of the charity and its motive and purpose for needing the funds.

Hopefully, during the auction, the auctioneer communicates his passion through body language, facial expressions and gestures, and of course through the words he speaks while on stage or on the event floor.

An auctioneer, like a teacher, should never demand control of the room. It should always be earned without the audience ever being aware of it.  And the best way to earn control is through Presence, Preparation and Passion.

By demonstrating these 3 P’s, you can add to more to your event when it concludes – Perfection and Profitable.

 

Over-Serving Guests Leads To Under-Serving Cause

Posted by Scott On February 5th

There’s no doubt some of you have spent a little time in a casino or know someone who has. At the very least you’ve heard stories about slot and table players receiving free drinks as an enticement for them to continue their play – and because of the alcohol – spend a little more money than they had originally planned.

Serving free drinks is a great marketing tool for casinos. And they do it for a specific reason – to make more money. However, when it comes to charitable fundraising events I highly discourage the practice for a number of reasons.

 

Drinks-delicious-recipes-23444788-1024-768What I’m about to describe is an actual event which occurred recently. I think it will serve as a prime example of how over- serving the guests at your event will actual hurt your bottom line – not increase it.

During the cocktail hour and silent auction the charity had a raffle for a cooler of alcohol. The contents of the “Cooler of Cheer” were all donated bottles of various liquors. Guests were invited to buy raffle tickets with the winning ticket taking home the entire cooler.

It sounds like a great idea – except for one twist. When a guest purchased a raffle ticket they were also given a shot.  If the guest bought 3 raffle tickets he or she was given 2 shots.

No one likes to drink alone. So those who bought 3 tickets and had 2 shots in front of them usually invited a friend over to join in on the festivities. The friend who just came over now decides to reciprocate and purchases 3 tickets too. Now he’s given 2 more shots which of course he shares with his friend.

By the time the raffle is over the room has a good number of people with 3 to 4 shots in them – and that’s not counting what they consumed before this all began.

Now, the meal comes and a little later the live auction is about to begin. The guests who consumed the straight alcohol are now “three shots to the wind.” Not only do they feel over-served, they are tired, sometimes disruptive during the live auction and pay less attention to what’s going on. As a result of being some guests being over-served – the fundraising effort of the live auction suffers.

In an earlier Blog I talked about non-alcohol events. My conclusion was they are not the way to go – not even if the charity deals directly with the social issues that come from drinking.

 

You want your guests to have fun. Non-alcohol events tend to be quiet and dull and a real challenge to build emotion in the room. And fundraising is all about emotion.

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On the other hand an event should never be set up where guests could be over-served.  Remember, your goal is to make sure your guests have fun, remain happy and healthy throughout the course of the evening and perhaps most importantly, make good decisions at your event.

A little bit of alcohol is wonderful.  Too much alcohol has the real potential of backfiring on your fundraising efforts.

Remember, too many “bottoms-up” leads to “bottom line down.”