Monday, October 7, 2013

Keeping Your New Donors!

Hooray!  Your conversion strategies worked swimmingly and you’ve received a glorious gift from someone who has never given!

No matter the giving level, you can do many things to thank and ultimately, retain this donor:

  • Yes, send the standard thank you letter.  Of course you would do this.  Personalize the text of the letter and hand-write a brief note.
  • A couple days later, send a hand-written thank you note, that’s personalized and customized
  •  Call to thank
  • Email a thank you – especially Gen Y or donors without phone numbers, but with emails
  • Text a donor, if you have the phone number and a ‘texting relationship’ with the person (or again, Gen Y)
  • Send a welcome/thank you email or letter => share how can your donors learn more, or understand your full scope of work, or become more engaged/volunteer
  • Invite to a free program/event
  • Have a Board Member write a note/make a call of thanks
  • Invite to a program milestone
  • Invite for a tour
  • Invite to volunteer
  • Send a thank you card from your recipient/client
  • Send photos of people you’ve impacted (or include photos in the welcome thank you email or letter)
  • Email or mail a survey; maybe you’re a multi-issue organization and want to find out your donor’s priorities?
  • If the gift is above a certain level, invite to an event for free or a lunch with your ED/Chair.

Spread these out a bit – don’t bombard your donor within 12 hours of their contribution. 
But don’t deliberately protract your thank yous over several months.  You can certainly follow up in a few months to invite the donor to a program milestone and include a thanks, but don’t send a welcome email four months later. 

Your touch points several months later are part of recognizing and cultivating, not explicitly thanking.

And, customize your response to the donor’s giving; we immediately reply to online gifts with impactful and personalized thank you emails. 

Yes, we follow up these emails with “standard” thank you letters and hand-written notes, but you were pinged with the donor's contribution, so take a hot second to share your appreciation. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Do’s for working with an outside (or new but experienced) grants professional

Do listen to our advice about your organization (and fundraising)
Successful grants are awarded to strong organizations. We can tell within 5 minutes of meeting you whether your organization is grant-ready.

We can read an audit. We know what a strong fundraising plan looks like.

When we recommend your ED attend the site visit with a program officer, we’re not monopolizing his/her time. 

When we tell you 100% of your board should be giving, please don’t ask “really?”

Do remember that in the first two months of working with us, you’ll spend a lot of time with us
We need to get up to speed on the ins and outs of your programs. We need to ask about organizational structure. We need your program leadership to talk about future plans. We’d love to attend any events (and volunteer) or program milestones.

We’ll ask many detailed questions. We’ll ask why your mission statement reads 3 completely different ways on your website. We’ll ask you tough questions. 

We’re doing this so we can do our best job in the beginning. We know what Foundations want to know.

And, we want to reduce the number of edits in the first couple drafts. If you don’t answer our questions up front, you will have many revisions/questions later. And, better to answer to us than to a Foundation!

This time will pay off. Our subsequent drafts will require less filling in from you, because you’ve shared your program goals for the upcoming fiscal year.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Don’ts for hiring an outside grant writer

You've decided to hire someone from the outside.  Naturally, we hope it's Arrowhead Management, but even if if not, we have some tips:

Don’t ask us for a complete list of all foundations and grant amounts we've ever received, broken down by client
That’s confidential. If we share our clients’ information, we’ll share yours (and when you’re not shocked by that, we’re looking for a way out the door!). 

Instead, ask us how much we’ve raised and ask for a list of clients (or look at our website). Ask for recommendations/referrals. Ask about the types of grants (capital, operating, program designated) we’ve received. Ask if we’ve ever worked with advocacy clients, like you.

Tell us you’re looking for multi-year grants. Tell us you’re looking for 5 or 6 figure grants and what’s our experience with grants in that range.  Ask our advice for your pitch to ABC Foundation.

Ask us our most frustrating grant experience and our most rewarding one.

Don’t offer to compensate us on a % basis
It’s unethical. We’re tired of answering this question. We’re even tired of our clever response (“We wish!”).

How do you expect to pay us when the proposal we’re developing is restricted to programs?

We know it’s a risk to hire someone. We’ve turned down clients because they’re not grant-ready. To that end, we’ve created a package that includes a grant calendar and a template LOI and proposal.

If you can’t afford to hire a grant writer for at least 6 months without generating any grants, then you can’t afford grants.

If you want us to work for free, put us on your board.

Don’t ask us to share a successful proposal, along with our resume and cover letter, in your ad on Craig’s List
Good grant writers won’t apply because they know you’re not serious about hiring someone, but looking for free work.

You can give small tests throughout the hiring process to test our writing skills and ability to think quickly. Scrutinize the cover letter and resume.

At the second interview, ask us to show a sample LOI during the interview, but don’t keep it – read/skim it in front of us and return it, so you can grasp our writing

Even a 30-minute writing exercise (not drafting a cover letter or LOI that you’ll actually use) at the 3rd interview is ok. Give hypotheticals in the interviews.

If you don’t like the writing style at any point, don’t hire the person. But, don’t ask for free work.

Don’t expect a rolodex of Foundation contacts
Grant writers have subject matter expertise in crafting a message and articulating your story. They’ll likely have experience writing successful (and unsuccessful) proposals to the Foundations you’re applying to.

They may even know the program officers at Foundations. But unless they are your employee, they really can’t offer access to the Foundations.  

Reputable grant writers want you to succeed for the long-term. It’s your responsibility (and opportunity!) to initiate relationships with Foundation staff.

We can prepare you for these phone calls. We can even join you on the call. And, we have plenty of examples where we know the program officers and a grant is still not funded - generally when there isn't strong alignment between the Foundation's mission and the organization's mission.

But, these relationships facilitate knowledge exchange and potential funding. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Outsource or hire an internal grant writer?

Naturally, we at Arrowhead Management are biased, as our services include outsourced grant writing!

But, here are a few things to think about as you decide whether to outsource or not.

Hire Outside
Any one of these alone is enough to justify hiring an outsider:
  • You’re not eligible for many grants. You may need to hire us to know that :), but seriously. Your organization may be terrific, but you may receive too much government funding to be eligible for many. Or, your operating budget is under $500K.  Or, you’re new (under 5 years old).
  • The few grants you can apply to are concentrated at the time of your gala and your staff is simply stretched.
  • You really don’t have enough money to hire someone full-time or even part-time, but you have some funds. Hiring an outsider for some time is a way to scale up to a full-time grants person, if there are enough grants.
  • Sure, you could add grants to an existing employee’s plate, but is s/he really qualified? If s/he messes up, what’s the ramification?
  • Are you between full-time staff?
  • You have a full-time grant writer but you have a bottleneck of several grants due on the same day/within a couple weeks.
  • If you’re applying for a complex government grant and you’ve never done government grants (and no one on your staff has). Trust us, every dotted I matters. It’s a waste of your time to apply if you’ve never done it before and you actually have other responsibilities for the three months leading up to the grant (oh, we kid. You’ll only have 6 weeks for government grants). Hire an expert in government grants.

An outside grant writer won’t solve your internal organizational failings.
A well-written proposal won’t compensate for the 30% of board members not giving. 

You’re noticing the incessant reference to 100% of boards giving - because it’s what we see and hear in too many nonprofits.

Hire an employee
Some reasons to hire an employee:
  • You have a consistent flow of grant submissions and grant reports.
  • Your part-time grant person is drowning and you’re missing grant opportunities because s/he is already working overtime. 
  • Your budget is somewhere around $5MM and at least 10% comes from grants.
  • You have a terrific communications person working part-time who wants to work full-time. You don’t have enough communications work for him/her. Send him/her to a couple grant writing classes and get him/her to spend some time with programs.
  • You have some communications work that isn’t getting done and if you hired a full-time person who can do 50% grants and 50% communications, you’ll be set.
  • Your average grant is $50K and you receive at least 4 such grants a year…not including the numerous $5K grants coming your way.
  • Your mission involves education.