As soon as I made it my intention to build relationships with Black donors, in that same year I raised close to $250k from 2-3 donors.
It was about: 1) Getting in front of them to let them know that they were important to the institution, regardless of race or color, and that we recognize that they are making an impact and are making a difference as graduates; 2) Letting them know that we want to connect them and get them involved in whatever way is important to them; and 3) Asking them how do they want to put their stamp on an institution where, if they didn’t feel connected, we have a whole group of students who we don’t want to go through the same experience. Tell them, “You have the ability to change that.”
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Situations of conflict with our donors and community members can lead to positive outcomes as long as appropriate conflict resolution skills are utilized. And yet, fundraisers and nonprofit organizations tend to avoid them.
As an experienced fundraiser once told me:
I’ll take a strong reaction, even if it is negative, over apathy any day.
Major Gifts Fundraiser
Lead with Active Listening and Empathy
Who are the experts in de-escalating highly agitated situations and lead them to constructive and safe outcomes? Even if your community members are probably not going to be physically violent, the techniques and research generated by the FBI can be helpful.
The Behavior Change Stairway Model was developed by the FBI’s hostage negotiation unit. This model offers five steps to get other people to see your point of view and change their behavior.
Listen to what they say. Don’t interrupt, disagree or “evaluate.”
Nod your head, and make brief acknowledging comments like “yes” and “uh-huh.”
Without being awkward, repeat back the gist of what they just said, from their frame of reference.
Inquire. Ask questions that show you’ve been paying attention and that move the discussion forward.
Additional techniques used by FBI negotiators:
Ask open-ended questions You don’t want yes-no answers, you want them to open up.
Effective pauses Pausing is powerful. Use it for emphasis, to encourage someone to keep talking or to defuse things when people get emotional.
Minimal encouragers Brief statements to let the person know you’re listening and to keep them talking.
Mirroring Repeating the last word or phrase the person said to show you’re listening and engaged. Yes, it’s that simple — just repeat the last word or two:
Paraphrasing Repeating what the other person is saying back to them in your own words. This powerfully shows you really do understand and aren’t merely parroting.
Emotional labeling Give their feelings a name. It shows you’re identifying with how they feel. Don’t comment on the validity of the feelings — they could be totally crazy — but show them you understand.
Vecchi, Gregory M. “Conflict & crisis communication: a methodology for influencing and persuading behavioral change.” Annals of the American Psychotherapy Association, vol. 12, no. 1, Spring 2009, p. 34+. Accessed 12 Sept. 2020.
Vecchi, G.M., Van Hasselt, V.B. and Romano, S.J., 2005. Crisis (hostage) negotiation: Current strategies and issues in high-risk conflict resolution. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 10(5), pp.533-551.
An expert in donor engagement and community-building, Patrick is part of one of the fastest-growing institutions in the country at Morehouse School of Medicine.
Brainstorm and Discuss this Topic With Peers During our September 16 Lunch Analysis
Lunch Analysis is a 45-minute meeting that is a part study group, part scholarly discussion, part brainstorming session, and part support group. Participation is open to all who fundraise or have fundraised at a nonprofit.
Each Lunch Analysis covers a specific topic in donor participation and has required preparation and discussion. This one will be on September 16, 2020 at noon EST.
Take a moment to jot down the answer to the following questions:
What is the percentage of alumni giving/participation for your Black and or Latino donors?
Has leadership placed an emphasis on engaging donors of color at your institution?
If yes, what are the strategies or best practices you’re utilizing to identify and cultivate this constituent group(s)?
If no, what do you perceive the barriers are to these discussions?
How has that impacted your desire to cultivate these specific groups if at all?
Have you experienced any success or rejection as a result?
I verify that all participants are from a legitimate nonprofit fundraising organization.
The document below summarizes the main points discussed:
The sector also needs a reliable way to know what is working well in the areas of donor engagement. In the current pandemic environment, especially in the area of digital engagement.
Angie shared a great thought:
Donor participation as it is sometimes defined can become a superficial numbers game. A deeper definition of authentic donor engagement is seen as necessary.
It is important that there is wide representation among donor constituencies. The current trend toward fewer donors making larger gifts feels undemocratic.
Q: What are the common threads among the organizations in your report that have been able to grow large communities?
“Community” is a word that is frequently used in an empty way, but we its true that we found a hunger for authentic community. This is different from something like “networking,” which can be valuable in its own right.
Q: Larger, more established nonprofits include a broad variety of interests under their umbrella. How can we connect with and leverage those communities?
In larger nonprofits, like universities, communities develop organically around different issues. Sometimes these communities have a separate identity from the main organization. How do we have those communities embrace the values of the “mothership”?
Angie: This reminds me of meetup.com. There are thousands of communities made possible by this platform but its members identify with each other not with meetup.com. Some suggestions:
Q: How do we message the values of the organization, especially to sub-communities that have their own values?
Angie: Messaging about values depends on the extent to which the “real thing” is happening. Naming “values” is more effective if they match what is already going on. Otherwise, they come across as empty.
People should testify to the values of their community, based on their experience.
This connection between what is really happening and the official “values” can break down as organizations scale and grow. Some organizations are so reliant on the founder for these values that they fall apart when he or she is not there. We’ve all been guilty of this: “Developing Leaders for the 21st Century” sounds empty.
Among Millenials, there is a noticeable search for community, accountability, and an authentic voice. Communities must engage their constituents to be active, be purposeful, and demonstrate value to their members.
Angie: What we found striking is that lot of people (especially Millenials) are looking for deep community. But they are hesitant to talk about it in those terms (there is still a stigma for “loneliness”). People are wary of hyperbole. What they find appealing is “come play live music for one hour.” In other words, they want to hear the unexagerated reality of what the offering is.
Messaging should come from this lense. What are you actually doing? In real-life terms? Why have you made the decision to do that? Corporate messaging has exploited the word community and other concepts so much that people are hungry for a sense of reality.
Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile discover and analyze successful communities with thousands of members (religious and non-religious, they include CrossFit for example) that bring meaning and purpose to its members, many of whom are Millenials.
As we struggle with how to involve people in general and Millenials in particular with our organizations, this is a surprising treasure-trove of ideas.
Brainstorm and Discuss this Report With Peers During our August 19 Lunch Analysis
Lunch Analysis is a 45-minute meeting that is a part book club, part scholarly discussion, part brainstorming session, and part support group. Participation is open to all who fundraise or have fundraised at a nonprofit.
Each Lunch Analysis covers a specific topic in donor participation and has required reading and discussion. This one will be on August 19, 2020 at noon EST.
To Take Part
Download and read the file above.
Choose one of the profiled communities and try it out: visit their website, sign up to their platform, join a newsletter.
Pick one element that you could apply to your own fundraising program right away. Prepare to share your thoughts!
Sign up here to get the Zoom details (I check that all participants are from legitimate fundraising organizations):