Successful fundraising is all about the donor. Better understanding, engaging and connecting with donors is the single most important investment need for any organisation that wants to grow and strengthen its fundraising program.
US training firm Advancement Resources are world leaders in evidence-based professional education and breakthrough thinking in philanthropy. Their CEO, Joe Golding, has personally delivered more than 1000 workshops for organisations throughout the United States and Canada. His unique, research-based approach – based on over 4000 hours of interviews conducted with donors, university Vice-Chancellors and Deans, non-profit CEOs and Development Directors – provides an unprecedented insight into donor motivations.
On the October 29th 2015, Philanthropy Squared will welcome Joe to Australia so that he can deliver his seminal one-day workshop, Breakthrough Concepts in the Science and Art of Donor Development. This is an opportunity for Australian organisations to learn from the best of the best.
In preparation for Joe’s arrival, Philanthropy Squared is publishing a three-part cluster of blog posts. This week, Joe gives us a taste of his workshop in this interview on how to approach and engage donors. Next week, we’ll test Joe’s principles on one of Australia’s most influential and generous donors, Betty Amsden. Finally, we’ll hear the perspective of Mary Vallentine, CEO of Melbourne Recital Centre.
FRANKIE: The Australian philanthropic market is probably where Britain was maybe ten years ago, and Britain ten years ago was where the USA was twenty-five years ago. So we’re still learning how to fundraise and donors are still learning how to give.
JOE: Yes and the beautiful thing about Australia is that you are in the perfect situation because you can bypass the last 20 years of mistakes and learning curves that happened in both Britain and the US!
…the beautiful thing about Australia is that you are in the perfect situation because you can bypass the last 20 years of mistakes and learning curves that happened in both Britain and the US!
FRANKIE: That’s a good point! In the sector here, it’s still very divided. CEOs think that fundraising has nothing to do with them and many major donors wouldn’t go to an event where there’s a fundraiser in the room. There isn’t that trusting relationship or sense of partnership.
JOE: Whenever I think of Australia I think: What a goldmine of opportunity for organisations! Because it’s perfectly poised to capitalise on the benefits of experience elsewhere.
FRANKIE: Organisations that are new to philanthropy often say: ‘I don’t know anyone, who do I ask?’ So, when an organisation is setting out for the first time into the philanthropic market, where should they begin?
JOE: I believe they should start by stepping back and asking themselves – “how can we understand the philanthropic world differently by focusing on donors and what drives donor behaviour?” So before they go out and start doing something, let’s step back and say: “can we understand how donors think and therefore drive how we approach them so that we’re more effective in meeting their needs.”
Advancement Resources began with comprehensive research that’s primarily North American based, because that’s where the biggest philanthropic world is, but it applies to people everywhere. The research conducted was the most exhaustive, we believe, that’s ever been done around donors and donor motivation. So, when an organisation wants to get started the first thing to do is to understand what the target market looks like and how it thinks. So that’s what Advancement Resources brings to the party.
The second thing we offer is how to then engage those people to lead towards ever-growing amounts of philanthropy. So before you go out and explore who the right people are, we need to figure out who the potential right people are, how they think, and how can you segment them into groups. Then we consider what you can do that’s different to others so that they’re attracted to you and your mission.
FRANKIE: How do you balance donors’ priorities with those of the organisation?
JOE: The priorities need to come from the organisation’s strategic plan. For instance, “we need to add a new wing to the museum”: that is the funding priority. The leaders of the organisation need to articulate that funding priority in a way that appeals to donors. It’s not about stating why it’s important for the organisation, but rather how it is a chance for the donor to be involved in an experience that is transformational and meaningful.
We specialise in helping organisations articulate these priorities. We then help organisations decipher how these priorities relate to donors’ life experiences and, therefore, why they are important.
Everything we do is based on science, but there’s one thing we refer to as ‘magic,’ which is when a donor’s life story and life-changing experience directly connects to the philanthropic priority of the organisation. We are big on donor passions, but it’s not just whatever passion a donor happens to feel on a particular day. What we look for are the passions that match your priorities and bringing those two together is where the magic lies. That’s what this workshop is about – being able to convey the vision and opportunities and then having the techniques to get the donor’s story on the table so that you can connect the two. That’s where the most meaningful opportunities for donors take place – and it really transforms organisations.
What we look for are the passions that match your priorities and bringing those two together is where the magic lies.
FRANKIE: So how ‘close’ do you bring a donor into the organisation? How do you remain inclusive and responsive while also staying true to the strategic plan?
JOE: There are several answers to that. Some donors don’t actually want to get close to the organisation. A lot of this comes down to how you understand your donors – how do you work with them to figure out what kind of engagement is meaningful.
Some people say philanthropy is all about relationships, but we like to say it’s all about engagement; which means different things to different people. For some people it means they send their money and want to see a report once a year. For others, they want to be at every board meeting. This is one of the challenges for non-profit organisations who are increasingly dependent on philanthropy, where you have some big donors who want to give big money but want control of how it’s used. This comes down to what we call ‘managing donor expectations,’ so throughout the entire process we need to be aware of this.
FRANKIE: Thanks Joe. We look forward to hearing more on the October 29th.
For more information on the workshop, Breakthrough Concepts in the Science and Art of Donor Development, Woodward Conference Centre, University of Melbourne, or to book tickets please click here.
Stay tuned for next week’s interview with Betty Amsden to see what she makes of Joe’s principles for donor development.