Do you have trouble getting your sponsors to sign on the bottom line?
Planning a fundraising event is challenging and time-consuming. You need a minimum of six months to plan an event (yes, I know it can be done in less, but it begins to get ugly if you have less time than that) and, ideally, nine months or more.
Lining up sponsorship commitments is usually something you do early in the process because that way, you can offer your sponsors maximum benefits—they can be in all of the pre-event publicity like participant registration or ticket sales and event promotional materials.
What if your sponsors delay making their commitment decisions?
I don’t know who first wrote about virtuous and vicious cycles, but gratitude, the practice of pausing to think about what we’re grateful for, is a practice that creates a virtuous one.
Study after study shows that there are innumerable benefits from “counting your blessings” or keeping a gratitude journal or simply stopping for a moment and considering what you are thankful for. Many of the rewards of reflecting on the things for which we’re thankful are results that make it easier to be thankful in the future. For example, the practice of gratitude makes us less envious and less self-centered, qualities that, arguably, make it easier for us to experience future gratitude. It is a practice that is self-reinforcing, that creates a virtuous cycle.
The Year We Almost Didn’t Get the Gift
For many years, I worked as an Executive Director for a counseling center in Northeast Georgia. Almost all of the staff were mental health professionals except for me and almost all the work other than therapy—fundraising, communications, IT, HR, maintenance, grant writing—fell to me (along with just one or two others).
If our donor newsletter was going to go out, I wrote it personally. It was challenging sometimes to get it done. One year, it just seemed like it didn’t get done and it didn’t get done and it didn’t get done. We sent out a few electronic newsletters, but the print one just never got written or sent.
We had an incredibly supportive major donor who annually made a very generous $10,000 gift. Looking back, I appreciate her even more now than I did then. She demanded very little attention. She just gave and gave and was incredibly supportive. With no effort on our part and no fanfare on her part, her generous gift would just appear on our administrative assistant’s desk one day each December.
Then, the year we were too busy to communicate with our donors, our Board President got a call from her. She asked to meet. When they got together, she said she wasn’t sure she was going to give that year. She just didn’t feel connected, she said. She couldn’t remember the last time she had received a newsletter from us and she felt like she didn’t know what was going on with the organization.
In a recently concluded survey of 1200 fundraisers, Gail Perry of Fired Up Fundraising asked “What Keeps 1200 Fundraisers Up at Night?” The answers were almost all were management related, painting a picture of pretty unpleasant places for many fundraisers to work.
With the average tenure of Directors of Development now being less than two years and major gift officers being sixteen months according to a Nonprofit Times article out earlier this week, it seems fundraisers have good reasons for imitating the Runaway Bride, bolting out the door at the thought of making a long-term commitment to the organizations they serve.
In Gail’s survey, fundraisers mentioned too much to do, too little assistance, too little support from management, confusion about priorities, changing priorities or changing goals mid-year, and an absence of a coordinated fundraising plan. Yuck!
No wonder we’re unhappy with 57% of us planning to leave our current positions and 40% of us contemplating exiting the development profession altogether, according to Compasspoint’s oft-cited Underdeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising. study.
A FUNDRAISING PROGRAM’S SECRET INGREDIENT: A PLAN
In fundraising, there is no silver bullet, no pixie dust to sprinkle, no incantation to chant and the only potion I’ve ever known anyone to brew entailed a strong portion of tequila. I own two wands, both pink and sporting Disney princesses, but I suspect neither contains any actual magical properties. Fundraising is about relationship building, hard work, and a good plan.
In fact, according to the Third Space Studio, it’s a whole lot more about the plan than we may have realized in the past.
When I first went to work at the Children’s Center for Hope & Healing, a counseling center in Northeast Georgia, I longed for the staff I worked with to tell me clients stories. I knew I needed to be able to share our clients’ stories with donors and volunteers to inspire giving and volunteerism and, given that the organization was in dire financial straights when I began working for it, being able to motivate people to give was essential, but I just couldn’t—at least not initially—get the staff to share stories about the clients.