I love(rize) you!

BackgroundHEARTLIGHTS-01Love. A simple word. A powerful word. A word chockablock full of emotion.

Yet not a word we tend to use when referring to donors or supporters or others who are critically important to the success of our organization. Which is weird, when you think about it, because you generally feel “deep affection” for people who make you successful, right?

Likely the word love is too loaded. And too closely associated with behavior that would be (ahem) inappropriate in the context of a professional relationship.

So let’s give Dr. Jen Shang Sargeant a great, big THANK YOU for coming up with an entirely new, entirely appropriate, and entirely awesome word: loverize!

Listen to this week’s podcast and fall in love with the word loverize…

How will you show the people who help you succeed (or just make you really, really happy) that you loverize them?

Are you a first impression flop?

New supporters are often your loudest supporters. This makes them really super duper important. They are like new converts–singing the gospel of awesome at the top of their lungs. For a brief period of time, you are that gospel of awesome.

Do you motivate new supporters to sing your praises by making a fantastic first impression? Do you make them feel like VIPs?

Most organizations miss the boat on this. New donors often start out at the bottom of the proverbial pyramid. Smaller donors tend to get less organizational adoration. If you’re  looking at short-term ROI, this makes some sense. If you take a longer view and/or are looking at both your cash AND beyond cash goals (as Peter Drury helps you do with his Beyond Cash Fundraising Dashboard), it makes no sense. Zip.

Acquisition is WAY more expensive than retention. One of the lowest cost ways to keep someone happy (and singing your praises) is to shower them with luv early and often–that first volunteer gig, donation, trip to the capital is a key happy-making-shower-them-with-luv moment. And yet many non profits let this opportunity pass them by.

Shanon Doolittle, brains behind the ‘Do good. Feel better.’ blog and generator of 22 Delightful Ways to Say Thank You is possibly The Best Thank You’er Ever. She is a Gratitude Goddess.

What did Shanon do to garner these coveted accolades?

She’s creative, consistent and lightening-fast with her gratitude goodness. She spreads gratitude up and down the donor pyramid…and is especially generous with newly minted supporters. She makes you feel grateful you had a chance to give to whatever cause you just gave to. (In addition to her day job at Group Health Foundation, Shanon raises money for many other causes in her spare time…she’s that kind of gal).

We should all channel our inner Shanon when it comes to making a fabulous, gratitude-infused first impression.

Are you making a fab-tastic first impression? Or are you a (gulp) first impression flop?

photo credit: SnoShuu via photo pin cc


5 Small & Deadly Mistakes to Avoid

MistakesA few weeks ago, Harvard Business Review blogger Kyle Wiens wrote a post about why he won’t hire people who use poor grammar. The comment section became a veritable grammar smack-down, with over 1,400 people weighing in.

As a non profit focused follow-up to Wiens’ post, I did one on why I wouldn’t give to non profits that use poor grammar. Based on how much traffic that post got, it’s clear this grammar stuff gets people all hot and bothered.

Why would posts about things as mundane as commas, semi-colons and apostrophes unleash such a fervor?

Because in people’s minds, sloppy grammar amounts to sloppy work. And few people want to support a sloppy org, let’s be honest.

Grammar isn’t the only small thing that turns out to be a big turn-off. Here’s a list of the Top 5 Small but Deadly Mistakes to Avoid (if you want happy supporters):

  1. Failing to honor someone’s request to not receive direct mail: Really, seriously take them off your list. No excuses.
  2. Not sending timely thank you notes: If someone can’t remember making the gift for which you are thanking them, you’ve missed your window for a gracious, heartfelt, “we value you” moment with that donor. Bummer. Ditto for volunteers, advocates or anyone else who has done something nice for your organization. Apps like Red Stamp and the ongoing consistency of the US Postal Service can help you make this happen.
  3. Misspelling someone’s name (yeah, I know this is close to grammar but it merits its own spot): One time? Okay. More than that—especially for your most committed supporters—is poor form. Nothing says, “I can’t be bothered” like consistently writing Addams instead of Adams.
  4. Poor phone etiquette: If someone has taken the time to pick up the phone to call you, they should be treated well. From the first “hello” to a smooth transfer to a courteous sign-off (“Thanks for taking the time to reach out. It means a lot to us!”), the phone experience matters. Basic phone etiquette can go a long, long way to happy supporter-dom.
  5. Cross-channel inconsistency: Okay, this one isn’t exactly small, per se, but it’s deadly if you don’t get it right. With the advent of social media, keeping consistent across channels is a challenge. If I first meet you on Facebook and then I visit your website and it looks like it was last updated in 1999, I’m going to wonder what the heck is going on with you. Facebook says modern. Animated gifs not so much. (If you’re stuck on this, this post might help.) Ditto for messaging. If your board chair describes what you do in a way that is inconsistent with the brochure she’s left behind for you to peruse, this doesn’t instill confidence. It erodes it. Confidence leads to trust and trust is the cornerstone of both initial and ongoing engagement.

Some of these traps can be handled with process improvement, some are a question of culture and values and others are a matter of carving out time to get your house in order. Can’t tackle all five? Prioritize them from most egregious to least and, over time, work your way through the list.

Here’s to sweating the small stuff!

Thermodynamics, Ironman, and Ambassadors for Good

thermodynamics, mission, non profits

We can convert energy to make the world a better place.

Yesterday morning at 6:30am, I found myself bobbing on a dock watching 1,000+ wetsuit-clad people of all shapes, sizes, and ages hit the water as they began Lake Stevens Ironman 70.3. My husband, Rod, was among these kooky cats.

It makes you wonder what motivates people to do it.

For Rod, the answer was heart-breakingly straight-forward: he was doing it in honor of our friend, Sean Murphy, who had passed away doing the Coeur D’Alene Ironman a few weeks ago.

But most people there had never met Sean. (For the record, Sean was one of the most exuberant, awesome, full-of-life guys you’d ever have the great good fortune to know.) So why do something that grueling?

We often wonder what’s possible–physically, emotionally, mentally–but we don’t often push ourselves to find out. Every single one of the athletes yesterday was pushing themselves to find out.

As organizations, it’s even easier to convince ourselves to play it safe. Too risky, we tell ourselves. The funders/donors/supporters wouldn’t like it if we failed.

Is your goal for people to say that you’re cautiously plucking your way toward moderate mission impact? Likely  not.

In his ‘Eulogy from a physicist’, Aaron Freeman makes a moving case for seeking solace in the first law of thermodynamics:

“According to the first law of conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.”

This thought brought me a lot of peace as I watched all those athletes yesterday. It gave me a way to understand that Sean was there, even if we didn’t see him leap into the water.

That we can convert energy should be a call to arms–if the goodness that is you and your organization already exists and will always be here, shouldn’t we do what we can to harness as much of the universe’s energy so that those particles become Ambassadors of Good, forever on a mission to make the world a better place?

Sean was an Ambassador for Good. Rod did him–and all of us–proud yesterday when he raced on his behalf.

The Ironman may not be your thing. But making your supporters proud and doing good by your cause is. Please do so without ever apologizing for the boldness of your efforts and the limitless potential of your impact.

Mission-Motivated Messaging Checklist

mission, messaging, checklist. non profits

Got your why? Check!

This morning, I got to spend time at the PNAIS Advancement Conference. I did a session on Marketing Your Mission in 3 Easy Steps. No matter how many times I present on this topic, I’m always 1) humbled by the AMAZING work being done to make the world a better place and 2) reminded how little time we spend on the Why of it all.

Directly after my presentation, I got to hear Susan Howlett speak. Susan is responsible for transforming thousands of organizations through her work with boards. Her book Boards on Fire is setting the world of fundraising on fire!

In her session, Susan encouraged us to heed Simon Sinek’s advice to start with the why–and to keep going back to the why. Not just start with why, but to lead with why from start to finish. Sprinkle in some what and how, sure, but elevate the why.

For some reason, the mission-motivated of the world shy away from sharing their why. Why be shy about your why?

In an effort to stop this “Shy About Why” epidemic, I created a Mission-Motivated Messaging Checklist. The next time you are going to communicate about your organization, run down the following list:

  1. Why? Why does your organization exist? Why should someone care about what you’re doing?
  2. Why you? Of all the organizations out there, why should someone engage with you? What makes you special? Compelling?
  3. Why now? What makes now the time for someone to take action?
  4. What  now? What, specifically, do you want the person to do? Make it clear and make it easy. (Note: If you’re writing a Thank You note, for instance, the “action” might be to feel really, really good about the impact they’ve had. This isn’t a plug to always make an ask. It’s a plug for always being clear on what you hope the person on the receiving will feel and, when appropriate, do.)

If you address all of these, you’ll be in good shape.

Are you shy about your why? If so, why?