Tuesday, April 21, 2015

5 Things Fundraisers Can Do to Enhance Public Speaking Skills, Part 1

This post begins a 3-part series of guest blogs written by Communications Coach Kealah Parkinson. Kealah has almost 20 years experience in the communications industry and is the founder of Kiki Productions, Inc., a communications coaching practice.

Kealah's got 5 things that you can do to enhance your public speaking skills. In this blog, we'll share the first 2.

1. Know your audience. While some fundraising presentations are meant for the general public, others are created for specific audiences, such as local community healthcare workers or regional hospital CEOs. How refined is your message to the demographic? What is that audience's relationship to your organization? 

Whether you're handing out awards in recognition to the group or strategizing a pitch for further involvement, your organization likely has some key information on the attendees -- more than just their names and contact info. Use the demographic research at your fingertips to learn about what's important to the donors (and soon-to-be donors) involved. When you speak to the audience's needs, wants, and wishes, you build a rapport based on trust and credibility. And that makes people want to give.

SKILL SET ENHANCED: Grabbing your listeners' attention.

2. Target your message. What you say is just as important as how you say it. Now that you know your audience, you can use that knowledge to pepper in keywords that resonate with attendees. Use trade words that make sense to them. Splash in some colorful phrases that underscore the theme of your event. Be creative! But don't overdo it and bury your message. Hooking your audience is important and so is keeping them interested. Remember that each aspect of what you say publicly during your presentation has a purpose. Take some time to write down that purpose so that it stays in the forefront of your mind. When you know why you're saying something, you're more likely to say it how it needs to be said in order to hit home with the receiver.

You can also use anecdotes to bring your stories to life. The better your storytelling skills, the more compelling of a speaker you will be.

Remember, memorizing your (short) speech or reading from a script may help you to stay on point if you're too nervous to retain information or if you are a natural ad libber who wanders frequently off-point or can't keep track of time. However, for more informal speech moments, these tactics can be barriers between you and your audience, so when it's time to be personal, simply speak from the heart. Knowing the purpose behind what you're saying will help you to do just that.

SKILL SET ENHANCED: Being a compelling speaker.

Tune in next week for more public speaking tips from Kealah!

For more information on Kealah Parkinson and Kiki Productions, Inc., visit www.kealahparkinson.com.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Got Passion? It's Fundamental to Fundraising Success.

An essential ingredient for fundraising success is passion. Whatever the cause you're raising money for, you need to really believe in it. It has to truly tug at your heartstrings.

Donors give to organizations with missions that match their own priorities. The same holds true for the people raising the money: fundraisers will have more success when their organization's mission aligns with their own personal philanthropy mission.

What's your personal philanthropy mission?

You basically know what you're passionate about and what's important to you, but have you written it down in a formal statement? Just like an organization's mission statement, having a clear, concise personal philanthropy mission statement will really sum up who you are and how you want to change peoples' lives with your fundraising skills.

In her book Inspired Philanthropy, Tracy Gary helps people come up with their personal philanthropy mission statements. These statements have two parts: identifying the causes you're most passionate about, and determining how your own giving will help to forward those causes.

We're only going to focus on the first part here - identifying the causes you're most passionate about - but feel free to go the extra mile and address how your giving will help!

To come up with your personal philanthropy mission statement, ask yourself the following questions:

What values are most important to you?
What issues are you most concerned about?
If you could change anything in the world, what would it be?
What are you most thankful for?
What are the biggest challenges facing our world or community that need to be solved?
Which accomplishments are you most proud of?
How do you want to be remembered?

When your personal philanthropy mission statement matches with the mission statement of the organization you're raising money for, then you've got something pretty special - and you've also got something that's crucial for fundraising success.


Gary, Tracy, and Nancy Adess. Inspired Philanthropy: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Giving Plan and Leaving a Legacy. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2008. Print.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

5 Things You Can Start Doing Right Now That Will Make You a Better Fundraiser

Last week we wrote about certain people skills that will help you achieve fundraising success. Here are 5 more things you can start doing right now to help you master the art of fundraising.

1. Cultivate relationships with donors that are based on honesty, integrity, and trust.

Fundraising is all about relationships, and healthy relationships are built on trust. When a donor makes a gift, it's an act of faith. The donor is saying, "I trust you with my money. I trust that you will invest it wisely and steward it appropriately." This is something that should be taken very seriously.

Think of how you feel after you've had a negative experience in a store with a bad salesperson. After that experience, you don't buy from that store - not because you don't like the store but because you had a bad experience with the salesperson.

How to build and nurture trusting relationships with donors? Always tell donors the truth. People can sense when someone is being insincere, so always be authentic with donors. Remember that trust doesn't happen overnight; it's about consistency. If you are inconsistent in what you say and in what you do, you are going to lose trust.

2. Hone the skill of story-matching.

As a fundraiser, you have to always be finding ways to match stories. How can you match your donors' stories with your organization? What's meaningful to a donor? How and why would he or she like to contribute to your organization? Listen for what your donors are compassionate about and find a way to match that with your organization. If you can do this, you've created mutually beneficial, win-win relationships between your donors and your organization. It's also important to be able to match your donors' stories with your own stories so that you can relate to your donors and build relationships with them.

3. Work on your organization skills.

In the business of fundraising, you need to be a good manager of your time and others' time. You need to be strategic and able to zoom out and see the big picture of 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, etc. Being as organized as you can be helps you stay on track and make the most efficient use of time.

See our blogs, 5 Time Management Tips for Development Officers and 3 Reasons Why You Need A Strategic Plan.

4. Tap into your innate positivity.

Go into everything with a positive attitude. People are drawn to and energized by positive people. Be open to new or different ideas (from your staff, or from donors who want to give to your organization in unique ways). Don't say, "Oh, I don't think we can do that." Say instead, "Let me get more information and let's see how we might make that work." Let people try new ideas. If they work, great. If they don't, they don't.

5. Enhance your presentation skills.

Fundraisers need to give great presentations, both in face-to-face conversations and in front of large groups. Before any public speaking opportunity, be sure to ground yourself in your goals for the event and reach deep down to tap into the reservoir of passion that you possess for your cause. A Greek rhetorician once told me, "Andrea (On-DREY-a) if you have passion, they will follow you." Best. Advice. Ever.

Stay tuned for practical tips on public speaking in the coming weeks!

Want to learn more or find out how we can help you work on any of the 5 items above? Contact Giving Focus today.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

4 Essential People Skills for Fundraisers

In order to be a great relationship builder, you first need to have an innate, genuine love of people. But what about interpersonal skills - certain things that you can develop or enhance - that will make you even better at the art of relationships (aka the art of fundraising)?

When we asked a group of high-performing development officers and consultants to talk to us about the skill set needed in order to be a successful fundraiser, one of the answers we got across the board was "people skills."

What kind of people skills do fundraisers need?

People Skill #1: Reading People

"You might have a list of objectives when you walk into a room of donors," stated one development consultant. "But you need to be able to read people, because sometimes it's not the right time or the donor is not in the right frame of mind for certain discussions on your objective list." You need to be very intuitive with people and be able to respond appropriately. Always try to read between the lines when you're with your donors and keep an eye on their body language.

People Skill #2: Connecting

Being able to connect with people - all kinds of people - is the starting point of relationships. When you are able to adapt to your audience, people will feel that they can relate to you, and this is often where relationships begin. When you meet someone new, ask yourself: "How can I find something in common with this person?" Practice this skill until you are able to do it easily, comfortably, and naturally.

People Skill #3: Listening

You need to be able to talk to anybody and everybody without intimidation and with a commitment to your mission. Make sure that you speak from an honest and genuine place. And don't forget that communication goes both ways. "We have a lot of development officers that just talk, talk, talk and they don't listen," said one fundraising professional. Being a good listener is essential in our profession. In fact, "good listening skills" was the #1 people skill mentioned by the fundraising experts that we interviewed. Always be listening when you are with your donors. Be "politely inquisitive" and learn their stories - what is meaningful to them? How and why would they like to contribute to your organization? The more you know about your donors, the better you'll be at matching them with your organization.

People Skill #4: Steering Conversations

"You can sit with someone for three hours and never get anywhere close to talking about what you need to talk about," said one development officer. It's really easy to spend a lot of time with prospective donors who may not be good prospects at all. Ask questions that get to the heart of what you want to learn, and develop a set of conversation mileposts - phrases that mark new direction in the conversation. This is the pattern: validate what you just heard; assert what you want to talk about next. Here are a few of our favorite ways to do this:

  • It sounds like you are really passionate/knowledgeable about ________. Would it be alright to share a way for you to financially support this work?
  • You have a lovely family. It's clear how much you adore them. If I could show you a way, would you be interested in creating a family legacy with our organization?
  • It seems like you have a lot going on in your life right now. When we originally scheduled this meeting, I had hoped we could talk about ________ program. Is now a good time to share this, or would it be better for us to meet in a few months (or after things settle down)?

Eventually you'll find your rhythm. Just keep practicing!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What does money mean to you?

Power. Happiness. Security. Freedom. Success.

In our last blog we talked about the importance of understanding your donors' feelings about money before you ask them for some. But before you start exploring your donors' attitudes about money, have you examined your own? 

It's important to understand your own feelings about money for two reasons:

1. You have to understand your own feelings about money before you can really understand someone else's.

Every time you ask for a gift, you have to put yourself in the donor's shoes - how would he or she like to be asked? There is no cookie-cutter approach; you have to tailor each ask to each individual donor, taking his or her unique attitude about money into account. How can you understand and empathize with a donor's emotions about money if you haven't taken an honest look at your own?

2. Your own personal feelings about money affect the way you ask for a gift.

The emotions that you attach to money are going to be present in you when you make an ask. Even if you're not aware of it, these emotions will be running in the background while you're talking to your donor about giving. According to financial expert Suze Orman, the three most common emotions surrounding money are fear, shame, and anger. If you're like most of us and you associate any of these emotions with money, then fear, shame, and/or anger are going to come up when you ask for a gift - and your donor is going to pick up on it, either consciously or unconsciously. If you haven't identified the emotions you associate with money, how will you be able to notice when they are affecting your ask?

So what does money mean to you? What adjectives describe your view of money? What words do you associate associate with the idea of money? What are some things that you feel money is or should be used for? Think about these questions and journal about them to really get to know the emotions attached to your idea of money. If you do, it's going to make you a better fundraiser.


Orman, Suze. The Courage to Be Rich: Creating a Life of Material and Spiritual Abundance. New York: Riverhead, 2002. Print.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Making an ask? You need to know THIS.

You've got great camaraderie with your donor. You know where her passions match with your organization's mission. You know that it's a good time in her life to ask for a gift. You've set up the appointment. You're going to make the ask.

But do you know how your donor feels about money - money in general?

Every donor has her own individual, unique attitude about money, and it's important that you know how your donor feels about money before you ask her for some.

In our culture, talking about money is considered taboo. We are taught that money is a private matter that should not be discussed in public. This cultural attitude sets the stage for people to attach some very powerful and emotional feelings to the idea of money.

Imagine that you ask Mary for money in the same way that you ask Bob for money. Mary smiles and eagerly takes out her checkbook. But when asked for a gift in the exact same way, Bob gets uncomfortable and shuts down. This could be because Mary and Bob have very different emotions attached to the idea of money. Mary may feel that money is a power and a tool for doing great things in the world. Bob may feel that money = self-worth, and he may feel inadequate because he doesn't think he makes enough money. So you can't ask Mary and Bob for money in the same way; you have to tailor your ask to each individual donor, taking their attitudes toward money into account.

In an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, fundraising expert Ian Wilhelm discusses a study done by British researcher Beth Breeze. This study, which surveyed people about their money beliefs and giving behaviors, concluded that fundraisers need to take into account donors' perceptions of their own wealth.

"It's fascinating that people who have exactly the same amount of wealth can either be relaxed and feel they have enough to spare to give a nice chunk away, or can feel uptight and worried about letting go of any of it," said Breeze. "Someone being targeted may not agree they have much to spare."

Moral of the story: understand your donors' feelings about money before you ask them for some.

Friday, March 13, 2015

3 Reasons Why You Need A Strategic Plan

"If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." - Yogi Berra

When you're at work, can you see how your daily tasks fit into the "big picture"? Are the different departments in your organization working together toward the same common goal? Is it challenging to get things done on time?

Earlier this year we wrote about one of the keys to achieving fundraising success.

Here's another key to achieving fundraising success: a strategic plan.

Strategic planning expert John M. Bryson defines a strategic plan as "a deliberate, disciplined effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide what an organization (or other entity) is, what it does, and why it does it.1"

Why is having a strategic plan important for achieving fundraising success? Here are 3 reasons.

1. A strategic plan gives a sense of orientation and direction.

The clearly outlined objectives in a strategic plan act as the roadmap that orients an organization so that everyone knows where they are, where they need to go, and how and when they are going to get there. Fundraising is hard work, and it's only made harder when you don't have a clear understanding of what is expected of you or if what's expected of you keeps changing.

2. A strategic plan creates an environment of efficient, focused teamwork.

It's hard to do your job as a fundraiser if you're going in one direction, your CEO's going in another direction, and your board is going in a third, completely different direction. With a strategic plan, everyone uses the same roadmap. This means that everyone - and every individual department - is on the same page and working toward the same goals. Instead of conflict and chaos, you've got a team effort. When everyone is using the same roadmap, your organization becomes an efficient machine - and fundraising becomes a lot easier.

A roadmap also helps you to avoid making wrong turns or being blown off course. If, for example, one of your superiors suggests something that doesn't forward your fundraising goals, you can politely say, "That's a great idea and it's something we should talk about in the future. But right now, it's not something I can address because it's not part of our strategic plan."

3. A strategic plan supports your organization's integrity (and that's really important to donors).

A main part of a strategic plan is a schedule or calendar with all deadlines mapped out. Having this type of timeline - and sticking to it - helps to ensure that promises are kept and outcomes are delivered in a timely manner. This builds your organization's integrity, which in turn builds trust between your organization and the public - and research shows that people give to organizations that they trust2.

Interested in learning more about strategic plans or how Giving Focus can help you with yours? Contact Andrea today.

1Bryson, J. M. (2004). Strategic planning for public and nonprofit organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

2Sargeant, A. (2001, November). Public trust and confidence. Charities Aid Foundation Annual Conference, London.