impact stories blog

#WednesdayWisdom: Give cheerfully, accept gratefully

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”

― Maya Angelou




Photo credit: Jeanne Menjoulet Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) license

Tagged , , |

Philanthropy’s New Frontier

I can’t stop thinking about a session I attended at Planned Giving Days this spring. Why? Because Avery Tucker Fontaine of BNY Mellon painted a picture of how today’s potential donors think . . . and let’s just say, it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile.

By next year, the population of Gen X and Gen Y combined will be 139 million, and the number of boomers will decline to 79 million. So it’s important to understand how these younger donors think about impacting change. And, the bottom line is, these younger donors are just as likely — or even more likely — to invest in a social impact business as a charitable organization.

According to Tucker Fontaine, “Yesterday’s wealthy investors were more willing to make their money in evil ways and then give it to charity to absolve their sins. Now, people want to make their money, invest their money, and give it away along the same spectrum with a consistent set of values.”

Unlike their parents, today’s investors believe that the financial markets can work for the people and the planet, as well as investors. It’s becoming mainstream to think about achieving social change outside of traditional nonprofits. There is a continuum of options available:

  • Traditional nonprofit
  • Nonprofit with income generating model
  • For profit social venture
  • Socially responsible business
  • Traditional for profit

(Click here to see a nice visual depiction of this continuum by Mission Capital.)

How can you position your organization with opportunities along this entire spectrum?

The Global Impact Investment Initiative, GIIN, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting social impact investors. They report that global impact investment has doubled in the past two years to $114 billion. Compare that to the $410 billion contributed to charity in 2017—and it paints a very clear picture.

If your nonprofit is not thinking about how to appeal to these new impact investment-minded donors, it’s time to start.

Here are some resources for further exploration:

How Nonprofits Can Tap Into the Impact Investment Market

The Impact Investor

What You Need to Know About Impact Investing

-Kathy Swayze

Photo credit: Pictures of Money Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) license

Tagged , |

Donor profiles: Tell one story at a time

It’s common knowledge in fundraising that people give to people. Therefore, donor testimonials and profiles have become a fixture of fundraising communications.

But often, organizations will try to profile couples in their newsletters, websites, or other materials. For stewardship, this makes lots of sense. However, in telling a story that will inspire others to give, the “we” gets clunky.

“We give because the cause is important to us. It was something we bonded over when we first got together. We recently looked at our finances and decided to put our money where our mouths are.” Details are smoothed over such that they apply to both parties. Even the grammar of the “we” feels not quite right.

When using the first person, you can get a fuller picture of the individual. For example:

“I’ve always lived an active life. Sports have remained a constant since I was a kid – to this day, I ice skate and play softball and golf. I love going to different car shows all around the country – even though I don’t work for a car company, I will always be interested in them. I turned 83 years old in March. And as long as I’m capable, I’ll continue to push myself to live my fullest life. Thanks to AARP Foundation and the annuities I’ve created with them, I plan to keep living as fully as ever.”

The single-person focus allows that person to appear before the reader in more detail. You see what’s at stake, you see the direct impact the organization has had on their specific life. You even get a sense of their language and vocabulary. Essentially, they are more “human” on the page . . . and therefore more inspiring for prospective donors.

10-Point Checklist to Improve Response Rates

With fall and year-end campaigns being planned, NOW is the time to think about how to boost the response rates for your direct response campaigns.

Fundraising can be a bit like baking—with lots of different ingredients combining for a winning result. So just like in the kitchen, check your copy against this list to make sure you haven’t missed any key ingredients.

When drafting or reviewing a draft of your copy, ask yourself the following 10 questions. If the answer is no, go back to the copy and revise until you can answer yes on as many as possible.

  1. Did you ask for the gift at least three times? Is your first ask on page 1 of your direct mail letter and in the first three paragraphs of your email?
  2. Have you articulated a compelling offer?
  3. Did you tell me why more money is needed and outline the consequences of inaction?
  4. Have you considered a matching gift? “Your gift will be doubled.”  Or a challenge goal? “If 100 people donate, we will get a $5,000 gift.”
  5. Does your request sound urgent? Have you explained why it’s needed NOW?
  6. Have you personalized your letter or email with the donor’s name and other donor data?
  7. Have you included an involvement device for the donor to return with their gift, such as a petition, survey or note?
  8. Have you pre-tested your subject line to maximize success in email? Or tested teaser options (including no teaser) for your outer envelope in the mail?
  9. Are all your paragraphs shorter than four lines on the page?
  10. Did you use “You” in your copy? (Bonus points if it’s in your first line.)

Fundraising Fraud – Presidential Style

The New York attorney general filed suit against President Trump and his three eldest children Thursday, alleging “persistently illegal conduct” at the president’s personal charity, saying Trump repeatedly misused the nonprofit organization.”

As a lifelong fundraiser, it is always distressing to read stories about financial fraud within charities. But when the fundraising scam article you are reading in the Washington Post is about the U.S. President’s foundation, we have entered a whole new realm of insanity.

During the course of my career, I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of organizations that raise funds from the public while upholding the highest standards of ethics. I work with nonprofit leaders who willingly and religiously abide by the laws of their states and our nation in administering charitable dollars.

And, now, the person holding the office of the President is alleged to have made a mockery of this worthy profession and the entire philanthropic sector. According to the suit filed by the New York Attorney General, Trump raised $2.8 million at a fundraiser in Iowa to benefit veterans. Some funds did go to veterans groups, but the suit alleges that the vast majority was used to support the Trump campaign. The Trump Foundation is also alleged to have used Foundation dollars to pay Mr. Trump’s debts, legal settlements, and even purchase a large portrait of the President.

This is the last thing our sector needed. Another story about misuse of funds by a charity. Now is an important time for all of us who work in this crazy and wonderful fundraising world to speak up. Let it be known that even when the news fills with stories of charitable fraud, that there is a mountain of good work happening in the nonprofit world. The funds we raise every day are protecting the environment, feeding hungry children, advancing treatments for cancer and Alzheimer’s, protecting the arts, ending discrimination, and so much more.

Stand up and say how proud you are by posting on social media this week. Here are some suggested hashtags: #proudfundraiser #closetrumpfoundation #charitiesmatter #weusefundswisely. Come up with your own. But let’s get the message out there that the big media story about fraud in the Trump Foundation is an anomaly and not the norm in charitable fundraising.

-Kathy Swayze


Photo credit: Damian Gadal Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) license.

Tagged , , , , , , |

Using Direct Response to Close Planned Gifts

So often we hear from our clients that there is just not enough time in the day to follow-up with all the leads generated by your planned giving marketing. However, for planned giving success, quick and consistent follow-up is very important.

One way to stay in front of those who indicate an interest in leaving a gift is with additional mailings and emails. We call it moves management through the mail. By continuing to communicate with your hand-raisers through targeted, high touch and strategic packages, you can supplement your personal outreach and move more leads along the pipeline to a closed gift. Let’s discuss a few techniques:

  • Letter of Appreciation:  The decision to leave a gift for charity in your estate plans is a HUGE deal. The donor is basically saying,“Hey you are part of the family”. A decision of this magnitude takes time to think about. So, take the time to acknowledge the importance of their decision and thank them consistently. A simple Letter of Appreciation might be just what you need. Thank them and let them know that your team is available to help. Offer them multiple ways to connect with you: by phone, by email, by requesting a call back. This same technique works well as a Listing Letter asking them to let you know if they have left a gift so that you can recognize them in the upcoming annual report or newsletter listing.
  • Newsletters:  Donors want to be reminded why they love your organization and feel more connected to your work. If you have a planned giving or a general newsletter, adding a versioned cover letter for those that have already shown interest in planned giving can be very effective.
  • Multi-Channel Survey:  You already know that surveys are a great tool for generating new leads. But it’s also an excellent way to move existing leads along in their consideration process. Simply version the questions for this audience including asking how they liked the materials you sent, find out where they are in their process of consideration, etc. If you are using the survey for lead generation, it is extremely cost effective to tack on another version for your hand-raisers group.

By continuing to speak with your hand-raisers through the mail, you can further qualify them for a visit – saving you time and money. And remember, since most of these people came to you through the mail, they may never want to take a phone call or visit from someone at your organization. By communicating with them in the channel they are comfortable with, you can continue the conversation and even close gifts. So, start planning your next moves management campaign now and call us if you need help. We promise you will be amazed at the results.

#WednesdayWisdom: Ripple of Hope

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” -Robert F. Kennedy



Photo credit: OiMax. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) license.

Tagged , , , , |

4 Quick Tips from Planned Giving Days

As always, the Impact Team learned a lot at Planned Giving Days last week. We wanted to share a few of our top takeaways for anyone helping their donors make an impact through planned gifts:

  1. We all know that Baby Boomers have changed the world in a number of ways. But David Huffine and Drew Nelson from St. Joseph’s Villa gave some clear advice to follow when branding your planned giving program for Boomers: DROP THE FORMALITY. Boomers don’t care for those stodgy words like “perpetuity” “legacy” “heritage.” They use action-oriented terms like “Connect your life to future generations” or “Your values can live on.” And when naming your planned giving society, look towards the future instead of the past…so no more Legacy, Heritage or Founders Societies!
  2. Laura Gobbi from the Smithsonian did a session on donor stewardship, an incredibly relevant topic for their organization that has recently completed a capital campaign raising $1.8 billion.  She said to create great donor experiences, ask yourself, “What makes me proud to work at this organization? What are the moments when I have felt most proud?” According to Gobbi, those are the stewardship moments you want to recreate for your donors.
  3. Beth Herman of EBH Consulting, LLC did a wonderful session on how coaching is different than advising or mentoring for advancement leaders. And with between 30-50,000 thoughts a day, we are always looking for what’s missing or wrong. She suggested in coaching moments to encourage us to reframe…What am I doing right? What small step will you take next? What haven’t we thought about?  She shared we only take 25% of the advice we receive. So rather than telling with lots of repeating or using questions as hammers, practicing presence will lead to less frustration. After all, we pick up the energy around us and mirror these neurons — and “all beings want to synchronize with energy in a state of peace.”
  4. Nicole Engdahl’s presentation on “Starting a Planned Giving Program: Where to begin?” was informative and tactical — and energetic! Impact has always know that your best planned giving prospects are your loyal, sometimes lower dollar donors. Nicole reported that at the National Park Foundation the majority of their planned giving donors give less than $10,000 in outright gifts over their lifetime. Your planned giving donors are not your major gift donors!

What planned giving tips do you have to share?

Photo credit: Pete O’Shea. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) license.

Tagged , , |

#WednesdayWisdom: Bring It

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” ― Shirley Chisholm






Photo credit: James Calder. Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) license.

Tagged , , , |

Who’s excited for Planned Giving Days?!

Impact is looking forward to being out and about at tomorrow’s annual Planned Giving Days conference.

Here are just a few of the things we’re excited about:

  • Laura Gobbi of the Smithsonian Institution reports back on Smithsonian’s most recent and largest campaign to date! Having played a small part with the Planned Giving team back in 2014/15 we are excited to hear some of the results.
  • John Kendrick of The George Washington University discusses one of our favorite planned giving campaign techniques that’s quickly becoming a hot topic: matching funds for new bequests through outright gifts.
  • Beckie Cairns and Impact’s own Kathy Swayze will present on moving your planned giving prospects to a closed gift through the mail. Come check out some the innovative moves management and cultivation techniques that have made waves over at the ACLU.

We look forward to seeing friends and colleagues alike at this year’s Planned Giving Days!

-Amanda Marcucci


Photo credit: Bruce Guenter Used under a Creative Commons (CC-BY-2.0) license.

Tagged , , |