From the mouths of donors: Part 2

After more than 60 posts to this blog over the last few months, I’ve decided that many of you are probably tired of hearing me pontificate day-in-and-day-out. So, this week I am changing things up a little bit. Last week I launched an anonymous online survey via various social media channels and my email address book. I’ve picked four really awesome responses to share with you this week that I think provide excellent lessons for non-profit and fundraising professionals. Enjoy!!!

Again … the survey was anonymous because I wanted the truth, the whole truth and nothing up the truth. Here is what the today’s highlighted survey respondent said:

Question: Using the comment box below, please write a paragraph or two answering some of the following questions. Of the charities to whom you currently donate money, which one is your favorite?  How did you first learn about this charity? Why did you make that first contribution? Why are you still contributing? How do you know that your contribution is making a difference? What does the charity do to demonstrate it is having an impact?

Answer:  My favorite Charity is Boys & Girls Club of Elgin.  I am still contributing to BGCE because they keep the kids off of my lawn.

Question: Understanding that these are tough economic times and no donor’s contribution ever should be taken for granted, what does your favorite charity need to do (or show you) in order to renew your support and/or increase the size of your contribution?

Answer: I know it is a buzz word, but “sustainability” [is something I want to see in order for my gift to be renewed].  I mean that in a holistic sense.  Can they find the next great CEO, can they keep up the good fundraising work, and can they take their fundraising to the next level?

Hmmm … how interesting that this donor is looking at their charitable contribution as an investment? Here is what struck me about these responses:

  1. I am reminded that every donor has a unique reason for giving, and it doesn’t always match-up with your marketing and stewardship messages. Here is where listening to your donors might allow you to become a more donor-centered organization. I bet this donor would love to see some outcomes data on how after-school programming reduces juvenile delinquency and improves school behavior and performance.
  2. In this donor’s second response, I am reminded that one reason organizations that are seen as being “poorly run” (and I am looking at both board and staff) don’t do as well with fundraising because donors don’t like to throw their money away.

How does your organization demonstrate sustainability to donors?  What tools do you use to measure and then report your organization’s health? Do you track how successful these tools are? If so, how did you do that? Please use the comment box below to share because we can learn from each other.

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

Symbols and philanthropy

Yesterday was June 14th and that can only mean one thing — Flag Day — which got me thinking about the importance of “symbols” in philanthropy.

Quite simply, symbols are things that help us quickly and clearly understand for what something stands. For example, the American flag represents the historic formation of our country (e.g. 13 independent colonies) and stands for the values put forth by our Founding Fathers (e.g. freedom, justice, democratic principles, self-determination, etc).

Symbols are powerful communication tools for organizations according to Anat Rafaeli and Momica Worline in their paper titled “Symbols in Organizational Culture“.  The following are a few examples of symbols that I’ve seen non-profits use effectively:

  • Boys & Girls Clubs use a logo of two hands gasping each other. It is commonly known as “The Knuckles”.  It symbolizes hope and opportunity as well as a partnership between kids and those willing to extend a helping hand in partnership.  Donors see the logo and immediately understand in what they are investing.
  • The Boy Scouts integrated the fleur-de-lis into its logo. This symbol has had many meanings throughout human history; however, within a scouting context it is supposed to make donors think of a compass, which symbolizes scouting’s power in a person’s life to always keep them pointed in the right direction.
  • Getting back to Boys & Girls Clubs … this organization effectively uses its alumni assets as “symbols” and a way to effortlessly communicate to donors that the Club is 1) an effective after-school program that yields success stories, 2) all about lifting people up, 3) about forging positive kid-adult mentoring relationships, and 4) lots and lots of fun. Check out this Denzel Washington commercial and see if you can see those messages embodied in their spokesperson.

Many non-profit organizations also develop “signature fundraisers” or publicize “signature programs” that become symbols of their organization. I can specifically think of the United Way’s fundraising thermometer, poppies to support veterans causes, and cookie sales to help the Girl Scouts. Think of how powerful it must be for a donor to instantly understand in what they are investing.

In my opinion, the biggest challenge for your organization is integrating a sense of “mission-focus” into the symbols you construct. This is especially true for those non-profit organization’s pursuing cause-related marketing efforts. Who can ever forget when Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure affiliated their “symbol” (aka brand) with KFC’s brand (greasy, unhealthy food)?

Jump in and comment on other non-profit symbols that you’ve seen used very well or poorly by a non-profit organization in their resource development program. And enjoy this final link to the Chinese symbol for “philanthropy”

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847!/profile.php?id=1021153653