Tag Archives: fundraising

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!

One sure-fire way to alienate your customer

I received an email yesterday with the greeting, “Dear Valued Customer.”

This came from a vendor advertising their new Summer/Fall Catalogue. Less than a month ago, I registered on this vendor’s website – gave them my name, address, phone, company name – everything but my blood type. I talked to the President of the company on the phone. We made an appointment to talk about buying their product in December. And yet a few weeks later my new best friends write …

Dear Valued Customer!


This was a good reminder to me of how crucial it is in fundraising to personalize your message. Customer or donor – it’s all about relationship, relationship, relationship.

The only thing worse than a Dear Friend letter is spelling the name wrong. A certain publication that shall remain nameless (but to which most of us in development subscribe) has just started emailing me with the greeting “Dear Connie.” I’m fascinated. I can’t wait to see how long they keep this up.

Your donors or customers want to feel that you know them, your business matters to them and you would miss them if they were gone.

Here are 3 easy ways to personalize your message and retain your donor:

  1. Mail merge your solicitation whether it is a letter or email. Technology exists out there to help you with this. Your printer can personalize your mailing. E-mail marketing firms personalize your emails to your donors.
  2. Use your database to its full potential. Do random checks to make certain that you have the correct names in the correct places.  Keep a record of all contact with your donor and enter notes into the database.
  3. Expand the personalization. Find ways to use a personal touch. In letters to your donors, mention a last gift. In reports to them, tell them what impact their donation made. When you call to thank them for their gifts, reference your last conversation.

Finally, when you email or text your donor or customer – don’t call her Connie if her name is Jolynn. It’s just too easy for her to hit the delete button.


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!

Same old, boring Charity Fundraiser? 3 easy ideas from digital marketing to add a spark.

At a recent fundraiser, guests were kept apprised of the upcoming event through social media.

You nailed it! You have sponsors, great auction items and a respected honoree…  Is it even possible to make your upcoming event any better?

Before you answer, let me guess what you want out of an event:


Donations NOW.                    Donations LATER.

Am I right?

You’ve achieved the NOW – don’t forget about LATER.

You want to keep these donors so that they give again, either at your next mailing or at the next event. You want to become their friend, their confidante. You want them to take your phone calls/emails/letters.

Use digital marketing and your event to make that happen. The following suggestions are easy for anyone to do. Basically, all you need is email and a website.

It’s all about communication.

# 1    Set up a website to show off the auction items. Or use a page on your own website to display the items.

  • Use this as a great way to pull people into your event. People love to look at the items that are being auctioned off. They can make a list of items to bid on at the event or even pre-bid on-line, if you allow it.
  • A big plus is that you’ll make your auction item donors happy that they are highlighted on-line and that links are provided to their websites.
  • I have used Auction Maestro at my events for many years. This is software with which you can develop a database, enter all of your auction items and run the auction on the day of the event. There are different packages with some amazing bells and whistles. I’m sure there are more of these companies out there – I’m suggesting this one as an example since I know it well and they’ve always been great to work with.

#2  Get the word out – to everyone.

  • Four weeks ahead of the event, send out an email to a list made up of attendees, donors, supporters and friends. It’s a simple, personalized email that can be sent through a service such as Constant Contact or Raiser’s Edge’s email module. I recommend using something like either of these services because the emails can be personalized and are less likely to be discarded as spam. Introduce yourself as their contact to the event and invite them to go onto your Auction website to see the great auction items that await them at your event.
  • Regularly, every few days or once a week, an email goes out to remind them to check back on the website to see new items. Different items are highlighted on the landing page every week. Best of all, they may take a moment to read the blurb about your charity.
  • Create a big-ticket raffle and offer it to attendees and non-attendees alike. This is a raffle ticket your committee will be selling ahead of the event. All of the tickets should be sold by the week prior to the event. The ticket costs anywhere from $50 to $200. Since a limited amount of tickets are sold – it’s a great buy and a great chance at a trip or car or? … the sky’s the limit. More about this in a future blog, but for now, a word of warning: Raffles are not legal in every state – check the regulations.
  • Provide information on directions, parking, weather, dress, speakers, celebrities attending or any other specifics to the event. This will be directed specifically to the attendees, so make certain that you have your list coded to pull those people into the distribution.

 #3    Follow-up. Thank them and send pictures of the event.

  • Send your new friends and donors a thank you for coming to the event the very next day. Include a picture or two. Give them an idea of how terrific the event was and include a few highlights. Tell them to watch for more pictures. If you know how much the event brought in for your charity – tell them the news and thank them for helping to make it possible.
  • A few days after the event, personally email photos to your biggest sponsors and donors. These are photos that you had taken of them at the event. Of course, you’ll know which of them need hard copies sent through snail mail.
  • Within a week, send out another email with more pictures to your whole list and tell them that a lot of pictures are up on your Facebook page. Provide the link. Ask them, while they are there, to “like” your page.

Your donors will like the attention because it’s about them. You’ll be reporting back to them on the success of their event. They will be more willing to consider another gift at a later time.

Three simple Digital Marketing tools at your fingertips!

Jolynn Reid