Category Archives: Board of Directors

4 Ways to Make A Site Tour Magical!

The site tour is the Shangri-la of fundraising. It’s where the magic happens. It’s a destination we all try to reach and when we’re there – we are rewarded. It’s well known that if you persuade a potential donor to visit your site, they are more likely to donate to your organization.  There are probably statistics somewhere to back this up, but I think that all I will say here is … “duh.”

You have a tour set up – the important thing is not to waste the opportunity. Make donor magic!

It’s difficult to get the attention of donors in this economic climate. If you have a board member who is finally bringing two of her best friends to visit your organization – it is a big step. Foundation visits can be especially complex since the program staff is constantly visiting agencies. They have seen it all –  it may take some extra planning and preparation.

To make a site visit productive for any visitor and to ensure a future gift, don’t forget these four steps.

#1 Know your guests

Do your research. Know their potential for giving and their interests. Know their names and make certain your staff and president know them as well.  There is nothing worse than hearing the headmaster mispronounce a potential donor’s name for an hour. It happened to me. I made the mistake of letting it go the first time – then I couldn’t correct him the next 15 times. It was agony.

Discover and take advantage of your guests’ connections to the organization. If they know a board member, try to have that person attend the tour as well. If they are a fan or friend of a professor, teacher, clinician or staff member, put that program or office on the tour.

#2 Take care of the details

Make use of your event planning skills. Start a few days before by sending out personal, friendly, confirmation emails. Make certain that you provide thorough driving directions. Is there enough parking for your visitors? Put up signs if necessary or provide someone to direct them to their parking. Will it be a hot day? Provide them with water or plan for periodic rest breaks. Be sure to let them know what to expect so they wear the correct clothing and shoes. Make it easy on the guests – the staff should wear nametags.

 #3 Plan the agenda carefully, just not too carefully

There are some consultants and ‘experts’ who recommend a scripted tour with canned speeches and heartrending videos. I am of the opinion that a visit should be natural and heartfelt. I like to be just as entertained and touched as the visitors. A savvy Foundation officer will know whether it’s all too rehearsed.

That doesn’t mean that the tour shouldn’t be well-planned, though.  The following is a check-list for organizing a tour.

  • The Talent – this is the tour guide, someone with charisma who knows the program and can explain it clearly. I ask my guides to provide examples or stories as often as possible. For example, I have one guide at a program to which I just love to take visitors, who stops during the tour and points to a telephone… and tells a story. This was the phone where one very confused man, brought in by police as homeless with suspected mental problems, was able to call home to Peru. He wasn’t homeless, he was lost. This particular program deals with 1200 homeless and mentally ill people a year. They were happy to help a regular tourist.
  • The Client – this can be a student, teacher, patient, parent, whoever can bear testimony to the service that the organization has done for them. I try to speak with them a few days before to tell them that we would like to hear how they came to the organization and how they’ve been helped. However, it doesn’t always work out that I can run through their presentation with them. It is sometimes a roll of the dice. However, I must tell you that I have never, in all my years of putting tours together, been disappointed. I attribute that to two things: 1) I have worked for amazing organizations and 2) I have learned to manipulate the heck out of a situation. If it doesn’t seem that the client is providing the right information – I start interviewing them. More often than not, they get on the right track and begin to tell some amazing stories. (Be sure you have tissues ready for your guests – and for you.)
  • The Donor – (Notice I’m already calling them a donor – they will be, soon.) The most important thing to remember about your guests – listen to them very carefully. They will give you clues that can lead to gifts. Be aware of their questions, their demeanor. Stay near them to catch any nuances thrown your way. If you are the tour guide, it may be a bit more difficult, but it can be done. Walk with them, not in front of them. It allows you to establish rapport with them and you’ll be ready when they begin to talk with you.

Your connection with your guests allows you to be prepared for changes or trouble enroute.  Did they suddenly show a lack of interest or disagree with something you said? Do they want to linger at one spot or seem to want to go off in an entirely different direction?

#4            Follow-up

This is one of the most important issues and yet sometimes the most difficult. You are tired, busy, ready to move on to the next project, but you must follow-up. Have your next step ready before the tour. Know when you will next be in touch. Make certain that everyone associated with the visit is thanked. Finally, write-up the visit and record it in your database.

When there is a site visit scheduled, give your guests a memorable tour and be prepared to dazzle them with your magic!

Building Donor Relationships – one tweet at a time.

Here’s a classical frustrating moment in Fundraising: Have you ever heard this from a board member?

“If only we were better known! If people knew who we are – they’d give to us.”

Here’s another one: “We are the best kept secret in [insert state, city or category].”

We know that fundraising is about building relationships. As fundraisers, we are, often as not, trying to accomplish that one person at a time. How can we expand that effort?

Recently, a volunteer told me that I could take a lesson in “PR” from Coca Cola, “…a company known ALL OVER THE WORLD, Jolynn!”

Do you want to know why?! Coca Cola’s marketing budget is currently around the $11 billion mark. I could get a lot of awareness and catchy tag lines if my marketing budget was… well, it can’t be helped. And, they are right. We need awareness.

So what can we do? Here one quick idea around social media and awareness:

If your board members, volunteers and staff have facebook pages or twitter accounts – you can work on a campaign of word of mouth advertising.

Ask your board, your volunteer support group and your staff to take 5 minutes to put a message up on their wall. This isn’t about fundraising, it’s about sharing the mission of the organization. They would be acting as ambassadors, not solicitors. Provide the message – maybe in a couple of different forms – to your ambassadors.

An example would be:

I work (volunteer) for such a great organization. ABC Charity just won a prestigious award for outstanding research and I couldn’t be more proud. They are saving childrens’ lives! Go here to see a great story.

(The link must land on some quality content on the ABC Charity website.)

Provide a message to them once every couple of weeks. Again – drive them to your website where you have some fabulous content for them to see!

It’s an easy way to encourage engagement on your website, participation by your supporters and awareness of your cause.

A real-life example of how this works:

In a recent meeting with a great board member, I was going over his portfolio of contacts to determine strategies for approaching them. We were stuck on two – one is a well-known radio personality. The other was in the entertainment business – again, well-known. My volunteer was hesitant to approach either of them for donations. I quickly changed tack. Do they have twitter accounts? We looked them up and they do – with quite a few followers. How about asking them to tweet a message from us when we have something great to share? My board member loved the idea and was perfectly willing to do this.

Of course, we hope that while they are tweeting out our message, they get to know us and will be ready to attend events, go on tours and become supporters.

Isn’t it nice that we have so many options open to us now, fellow fundraisers? Social media and content marketing is a great way to build relationships.  So get out there, label your campaign, enlist your volunteers and send out your message!

Working with your Board – one quick tip for orientation or a retreat.

Remember elevator speeches? How often have you drilled your staff or your board on condensing your mission, vision, purpose or case into a 30-second mouthful? Well, in today’s world of short messages and even shorter attention spans – 30 seconds is too long.

I got this tip from Warren Riley of NPO Solutions at breakfast last week in Pasadena. He held a retreat for a board and after all the hours of orientation and reams of material – he asked them to sum it all up … in a tweet!

What a great idea. I loved it. Not only do you get your best fundraisers and ambassadors – your board members – sitting around parsing through your mission, but you also get to teach the less progressive ones about twitter.

Tweet at the retreat. Sweet!