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Wednesday, 15 April 2020 19:47

Donor Communication: Ongoing Communication is Key

Part 1

Know Your Donor. Share Your Mission.

When you stop talking, you've lost your customer. When you turn your back, you've lost her.” ~ Estee Lauder

Now is not the time to stop talking. Not the time to turn our backs on our donors. We might think staying away is appropriate even thoughtful. That staying away is what is best for now --- for our organization and our donors.

Have any of you heard or said anything like this?

“People are scared and financially hurting. Asking them to donate now is just plain mean! There'll be a massive backlash with many, many donors vowing to never give to us again in their lives! Our entire fundraising program could collapse!”

We have this idea that we know best what is best for donors right now during this crazy crazy time . . . but unless you’ve initiated communication and asked them directly, you don’t really know . . . for sure.

There seems to be a bit of a gap right now between what we – philanthropic organizations – think is the appropriate time for fundraising – and what we are hearing from donors. Information that is being shared by donors themselves.

While we haven’t had enough time to do thorough scientific studies of donor behavior during a crisis of this magnitude, we do have some data that came out of the last great recession and more important is some encouraging information that’s been gathered over the past months.

During previous recessions, the average philanthropic organization surprisingly saw only a “2-3% revenue drop”. Those organizations who kept their mission alive, saw less of a drop – some even saw growth.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance recently released a survey measuring sentiment of both donors and organizations. While the sample was small – 118 organizations and 1000 individual donors, the findings are incredibly telling.

Here’s what organizations surveyed shared . . .

  • 80% anticipate 2020 revenue to be lower than expected
  • 93.5% believe that donors will be able to give less
  • 69.6% believe they will be less able to host fundraising events
  • 54.4% believe donors will redirect their support instead to individuals in need.  

And here is what individual donors shared . . . . .

  • 46% said they lost income due to the pandemic. 
  • 52.5% say they expect to give the same as before the virus hit.
  • 52% say they feel they need to be financially conservative. But did not say they aren’t giving.
  • 30.8% say they plan to give more.
  • 47.7% of millenials and 60.8% of genZers say they plan to give more
  • 23.9% say they plan to give directly or through crowdsourcing to give to small businesses
  • 24.5% say they will look for ways to help the unemployed directly.

As my favorite blogger the Agitator says about these findings ---

Clearly, there’s quite some daylight between what the charitable organizations believe will happen and what individuals say they intend to do. Part or all of this gap will be closed– or not– by the charities’ skill and willingness to seize on the empathy and generosity of donors who are signaling they intend to rise to the challenge.”

 Our job now is to begin to close the gap. The gap between our perception and the donor’s reality (as best as we know it right now).

 We can close this gap by not turning our back on donors but rather by “talking” with them . . . communicating with them about our life-changing mission.

I hope you are up for the challenge!

The future of your mission and its beneficiaries depend on it.

“You never know when a moment and a few sincere words can have an impact on a life.” ~ Zig Ziglar, author, salesman, and motivational speaker

Donor Communication is about just that. Sharing a few sincere words to impact and inspire another . . . the donor . . . to take action . . . make a philanthropic gift . . . on behalf of the mission and its beneficiaries.

It ALL starts with your mission.

Your mission is your unique purpose. It identifies the beneficiaries of the service and the value delivered.

 Your mission is the reason you get up every morning and go to work.

 Your mission is the good you do. The good you do every day to make the world a better place.

How has your mission, not your organization, been impacted by the pandemic?

It’s important to remember, if your mission was important in December 2019 and important in February 2020, it is still important today . . . during the pandemic.

Now is not the time to take a mission vacation. To wait for the right time to talk to your donors and supporters. To be polite, passive and apprehensive. Now is the time to put your mission front and center in the hearts and minds of your donors and supporters.

We have a lot on our minds these days. The pandemic. The quarantine. Holidays without loved ones. Close quarters. No privacy. Too much privacy. Finances. Jobs. Etc. Etc. Etc.  It’s overwhelming. It really is.

The good news is most Americans want to help. They want to do good.

Of those 1000 individuals in the BBB survey, no one said “Go Away.”

So, our job is to wave our flag, tell our mission story and inspire action.

How do we do that? The quote from Winston Churchill answers that question . . . .

If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time - a tremendous whack.”

 Now is the time for us to make our point. To pull out our pile-driver and hit our point, once, twice, three times --- with passion, urgency and appreciation.

Now is not the time for the faint of heart.

Now is not the time for over thinking, over planning, over pondering.

NOW IS THE TIME to take action. Craft your messages. Inspire generosity.

The airwaves are starting to get very very crowded.

How will you make sure that your mission stands out?  That your mission gets the attention it deserves?

Wise men [and women] speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” ~ Plato

Let’s use this opportunity to say something WISE and amazing.  Let’s use this opportunity to communicate the following message . . .

 “The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the mission of  (name of your organization)  in the following way(s) ______________________________________________”


Next week . . . Part 2

Published in Blog
Thursday, 02 April 2020 20:25

Special Appeals: Asking with Purpose and Urgency

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”

These are crazy crazy times. The philanthropic sector is being challenged. While the challenge doesn’t feel good right now, we need to look at this as an opportunity. An opportunity to implement the extraordinary . . . with extraordinary results.

If our mission was important last month, it is important today. Maybe even more so. That said, it is critical that we not stop philanthropy and all that goes with it.

  • Our fundraising appeals must continue.
  • Our fundraising appeals need to adjust to this extraordinary and crazy time.
  • Our fundraising appeals need to be courageous and kind.
  • Our fundraising appeals need to be direct and talk specifically about the impact COVID-19 is having on those served by the mission. And
  • Our fundraising appeals must have a bold and inspiring ASK.
  • Our fundraising appeals must appeal to the heart first and then to the head.

If we do this, we will have success and our mission will do more good. Because “DOING MORE GOOD” is what it is all about.

Let this quote from Helen Keller guide you through these difficult times -- “Be happy with what you have while working for what you want.” We can’t change the crisis, but we can change how we manage our organizations through it.

Many organizations feel they should take a step back and delay sending their Spring Appeals or other fundraising communications. We’ve heard organizations say, “we don’t want to be insensitive during this uncertain time by asking for money.”

Now more than ever, it is important to stay connected to your donors and supporters and engage more deeply and significantly. This is an opportunity to share our mission stories with those who have expressed an interest in the incredible work we do.

In the words of the late great Jerry Panas, “there is no perfect moment to raise money. The fact is that in good times and bad, Americans give to worthy causes. When times are difficult, they seem to respond with even greater dedication, generosity, and a genuine sense of sacrifice.   They will allow nothing to interfere with their fervor in supporting worthwhile causes.”

Tom Peters tells that “If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.” During these trying times, we need to not "pull down the shade" on our missions and those served as a result. We need to embrace the opportunity (however horrible it is) to DO GOOD.

Many organizations who have decided to move forward with their Appeals find themselves struggling with “do we go with our original theme for the appeal or do we change it to reflect the times”.

It is important that moving forward with our appeals means that we must:

  • Be compassionate. Acknowledge that these are uncertain times for everyone, including your donors/supporters. Ask your supporters how they are doing? Wish them well. Offer a prayer (if appropriate). Make sure you acknowledge the stress this must be having on them. Provide an opportunity for them to share their story of how the crisis is impacting their lives and LISTEN. Be empathetic.
  • Address the elephant in the room. There is no need to dance around it. The coronavirus has put your mission in peril. The more perilous the more imperative it is to talk about it. Be sincere. Be truthful. It’s ok to be vulnerable. Just don’t be desperate.
  • Talk about those who you serve . . . not the awesomeness of your organization. Your supporters, your donors, the community need to know that just because we are embroiled in this coronavirus pandemic, the need, the needs of those we serve has not stopped. It’s likely that the need for your services is greater now than ever before. Tell their stories, use powerful visual images about why those you serve need services now more than ever.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a gift of support. Giving feels good. People want to do good right now. They want to do good because they can and because it’s something they have control over. Ask for what you need . . . and be able to justify it. Don’t just ask for a $100 gift . . . tell what the $100 gift will support. Most important – make it clear that the decision to give or not to give rests solely with your supporter – and either way you are ok with their decision.
  • Show how their gifts will be used. Be clear, be organized and share your plan. It’s about transparency and being good stewards of the gifts you receive.
  • Talk Tax Benefits. The good news is that the stimulus bill passed last week is really good news to donors!!!! Donors will be pleased to hear that giving is good for them financially. This is a perfect “P.S.” in your letter.
  • Be appreciative. Thank them in advance for their prior gifts, support, and making it through to the end of your letter. Be genuine. Be authentic.

Philanthropy is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.” ~ Hank Russo

There is joy in giving. Give your supporters the opportunity to be joyful in these less than joyful times.  

When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.

How will your organization look at your upcoming Appeal as an opportunity?

We’d love to hear how your Appeal turned out.

Published in Blog
Thursday, 26 March 2020 15:52

We're Here For You!

In the US, there are approximately 1.3 million organizations in the philanthropic sector.  The organizations feed, house, heal, rebuild, educate, inspire and nuture people in every demographic and socioeconomic status.  Every day, these organizations "foster civic engagement and leadership, drive economic growth and strengthen the fabric of our communities."

If you are reading this right now, you are likely one of those organizations.

THANK YOU for all you do.

We know that this is a difficult time for our partners in the philanthropic sector. Organizations must continue to serve the community throughout this pandemic. While social distancing has interfered with service delivery, you carry on anyway because access to food, clothing, shelter, safety, health, and wellbeing must continue.

Our hearts and prayers are with those who are personally affected by the coronavirus. At a time when we need our friends and loved ones close by, we press forward together, apart. Because that is who we are.

There’s work to do. But you don’t have to do it alone.

We are here for you. Here for you, because the work you do is so, so important.

For more than twenty-two years, J. Milito & Associates has partnered with hundreds of amazing organizations across our country in support of their mission and ministry. For that we are truly blessed.

Because you are important and because we care about you, here are a few tips to help you get through the next weeks/months. What you do today will have an impact on your philanthropic efforts long after this pandemic is behind us:

  • Don’t stop fundraising. The work you do is important and your donors and supporters know it. Generosity is in abundance right now. People are looking for ways to stay connected to the organization. Keep your Spring Appeals on target. Change up the message to address the current situation. Give donors the opportunity. Let them make the choice. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
  • Reach out to your donors. This is an excellent time to check-in with your donors of all giving levels. Write personal notes, or call them. Express your concern for their well-being. Pray with and for them if appropriate. Your kindness will be appreciated.
  • Take care of you. There is so much to be anxious about right now at home and work and with our families. Make time to rest, enjoy the spring air, listen to music, create, eat well, exercise, and let your faith bring your comfort.

Remember, J. Milito & Associates is here for you, here to be of service to your organization.  No strings attached.

Whether it’s through the Facebook group “Philanthropy in Times of Coronavirus”, or weekly interactive conversations for fundraisers, J. Milito & Associates is here for you. This is our opportunity to give back to the philanthropic sector, to help make us stronger and focused on our missions and ministries.

In accordance with Michigan’s “Stay at Home Order”, we have suspended our call center operations until at least April 14, 2020. However, our leadership team is working remotely to assure that we can be here for you need during this time.

Please feel free to reach out if you have questions, concerns, need resources or someone to bounce ideas off, or maybe just talk.

We will get through this . . . together.

Stay well.

Published in Blog
Thursday, 19 March 2020 13:37

Philanthropy In Times of Coronavirus

These are indeed trying times. Our world is faced with a pandemic that has all but stopped our daily lives. Around the world our fellow humans are coming together (apart) to defeat this deadly disease.

 The philanthropic sector has a great responsibility at all times, and especially during this pandemic. The sector has the responsibility to hold together the safety nets so many in our communities rely upon. Beyond providing for the basic needs -- food, clothing, shelter, safety, health and wellbeing -- the philanthropic sector also provides the cultural enrichments that enhance our lives with vibrant and meaningful experiences. The pandemic has made these the safety nets and cultural enrichments vulnerable. 

 So what do we do?

How do we keep our eyes focused on our mission and those benefiting from our good work?

 We can choose to panic, or we can keep calm and look at this as a time of opportunity. A time to be creative in how we invite others to partner with us to keep the mission afloat.

 People, so many people, are asking “how can I be of service?” 

 We, the philanthropic sector can answer that question. And we don’t need to feel guilty. We shouldn’t feel guilty, because helping feels good and there are many out there who are eager and willing to help. And the need is great.

 During the coming days and weeks, J. Milito & Associates is here for you, here to be of service to your organization. No strings attached.

 Whether it’s through the Facebook group “Philanthropy in Times of Coronavirus ”, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on topics of interest to you, J. Milito & Associates is using our years of experience and willingness “to be of service” that is prompting our activities. This is our opportunity to give back to the philanthropic sector, to help make us stronger and more focused life-changing missions. 

Let's get through this together.

Published in Blog