I'm incredibly honored to have been appointed to the City of Albuquerque's Arts Board last week, and to celebrate the remarkable history of this public art program in the US! As the 100th person to ever accept this role of public service, I'll join 10 other Burquenos in advising Mayor Tim Keller and the City Council on public art acquisitions and programmatic funding.
ABQ was founded -- amazingly -- in 1706, so it's no surprise we have one of the oldest public art programs in the country. I adore that! It might surprise you though that our city has one of the largest departments of Cultural Services in the US. Pretty phenomenal for a mid-sized metropolis.
ABQ Journal article on the history of the program here:
It’s the peak of summer and for many working in nonprofits, there’s breathing room in the schedule. The high seasons of spring and fall events have settled down. Staff, board members, and donors are rotating in and out of town on vacations. There are fewer formal meetings on the calendar and it’s an ideal time to step back, grab a glass of lemonade, and look ahead to the next several months.
Not to ruin your lemonade sipping session, but I bet I can guess the next two big things you’re looking at to the end of 2018: you have to convene that post-summer board meeting, and you need to run the fall annual fund campaign through December.
Both these things take a lot of preparation, and I’m going to suggest some steps now to make the last one smoother and more successful. Why? Because chances are, more than 30% of your contributed revenue comes in between October and December. If you’re rushed to run your fall campaign, you’ll get jammed up, run late, or take shortcuts. And any of those will increase frustration and lose money.
1. Plan to launch in mid-September to early October. This gives you more time to ask for the gifts and more time to follow-up on those asks. It also means less competition when every donor is inundated with requests starting right around Thanksgiving, and you can make adjustments along the way depending on response.
2. Start mapping out the fall campaign timeline. Which channels will you use? Snail mail? Online page, with a popup on the front page? Email blasts? Social media? Pick two or more and think about the prep time you need to get ready. Are there important calendar dates you need to integrate or work around? Can you line up a match or two from a faithful donor to boost response and give donors deadlines in October or November? Those are proven revenue boosters.
3. Clean up your donor lists now. Purge bad emails and the unsubscribes. Update the physical mailing list. Look at your main donor segments – is it members versus outright donors, alumni versus current parents, leadership level versus smaller gifts -- run the lists and check that they’re clean.
4. Craft your storytelling. This is the mojo that makes this year’s pitch different from last year’s pitch, and it takes time to develop. Pull together your key program people and a few highly engaged volunteers/board members, and brainstorm stories from this past year that can articulate the WHY of this year’s goals. Shift into different perspectives. Play with the narrator voice. Create a big list of ideas and work from abundance. You’ll need to craft the messaging and choose images for the winners -- then pair them with the communications channels where they make the most sense. This also gives your board members a better way to solicit their personal contacts for a renewal – they have a few great stories to share about your organization’s impact this year.
See, you’ve totally got this. Now for that hammock.
How could I possibly resist a Buggs Bunny pun?
After many months of providing my major gift training slide deck and sample briefing memo for free download, I've decided it's time to charge a price for them over on the new DOCS page. They're valuable tools that several people have told me they reference all the time for requests. That's really wonderful to hear. Here's to seeing big gifts make magic happen in New Mexico!
About a year ago, a colleague recommended that I look into The Cycle, Michael Kaiser's management method for running high-performing arts organizations. At the time, I was just starting up my practice and needed to focus on other things, so I put a mental pin in it. This spring, after finishing up a house renovation and moving in, I was hungry to focus on some meaty professional development while *not* thinking about the miles of trim that I have yet to paint.
I was DELIGHTED to see that The Cycle isn't just a book now -- it's a free online course on Coursera. And WOW. It's excellent work well worth the time to watch the lectures, if not complete all the exercises.
Who's Michael Kaiser? He's the executive director that brought Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater back from the brink. And then he ran the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, for about 13 years. He started a management institute there, honing this method of focusing tightly on making great art (the easy part!), marketing institutionally, and building relationships with what he calls the "family." Guess which part is my favorite? As Kaiser acknowledges, the lessons apply to all sorts of organizations beyond arts and culture - that just happens to be his bailiwick.
The institute how lives at the University of Maryland, and has expanded its scope. I can't say enough about the quality of this course. And hooray for free!
Talking with clients and potential clients, I'd say that these are without question some of the most common comments that come up in our conversations:
- No one on our board fund raises. We don't have anyone who wants to.
- Our board members don't seem sure what to focus on. I wish they'd do more.
- Our board meets a few times a year. That's about the extent of their involvement.
- We want everyone on our board to give, but they don't always. It doesn't seem like we should have to have the same conversation every year.
Comment below with your most common board-related frustrations, and I'll pick a couple to focus on in subsequent posts!
For those who took my recent major gift solicitation training at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence, here are the downloadable slides. Thanks again for being a part of it!
I'll be giving a training on making the major gift ask this month on April 19th at Albuquerque's Center for Nonprofit Excellence! Would love to see you there.
Details and registration info are available here: Click me!
I saw this article in the Harvard Business Review today and had to share it. Its findings:
People tend to overestimate the power of their persuasiveness via text-based communication, and underestimate the power of their persuasiveness via face-to-face communication.
In person requests are a whopping 34 times more powerful, in fact. Mathematically, that means, "you need to ask six people in person to equal the power of a 200-recipient email blast."
Here are the documents from the Making the Major Gift Ask training session. Thanks again for participating. Feel free to reach out with questions.
I'll be presenting a training session on Making the Major Gift Ask for AFP's New Mexico chapter next month. April 13th! Solicitation coaching! Networking! Lunch + cake! Details here: AFP Link.
Emilie, Principal and Owner