The Weekend Briefing

" Rob, the Briefing last week gave me chills. You addressed so many concerns that I have faced over the past month. For many of us, it is easy to become very task oriented. Thank you for reminding me of the importance of connecting with board members on a more personal level!"

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Brianne Gerzevske is Assistant Executive Director for Mission Advancement at The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Here’s what she tweeted last Monday:
“Rolling up my sleeves to enter donations since our donors are out here pouring their hearts out and we can’t keep up.
“Daily gift count last week peaked at 1,600 gifts.
“Please tell me more about how you think people are just going to clutch their pocketbooks during this crisis.”
Somebody get me a glass of water. I’m feeling weak at the knees.
That is such a powerful message on so many levels.
One: Would you immediately associate Brianne’s organization among those donors would support in response to the pandemic? And yet they are.
Two: Despite all the naysayers, people who feel connected to this organization are giving! Really giving!
Three: These 1,600 gifts (I still can’t get over that) are not in response to an acquisition mailing. These gifts resulted from the relationships, deep relationships, longstanding relationships these donors have with this organization. Brianne and her team helped create those relationships.
If they did it, so can we.
I don’t know anything about the organization, so I’m just spit-balling now, but here’s what I think happens next:
Those donors receive an immediate, personal acknowledgement. Every member of the Advancement Team is calling donors to say thank you, top gifts down. Major gifts officers, administrative assistants, everyone. On one-third of the calls, they won’t get through. Another third, the donors are polite but brief. Sometimes even brusque.
The last third are conversations. Long conversations. As long as the donor wants to talk. “Thank you so much for remembering us! How are you doing these days?” “Well, my dear, we’re okay, we just really miss our grandchildren. We are marking the days until we can see them again and hug the living daylights out of them.” “I can imagine. Gosh, I hope that happens soon for you. Are you able to get to the store?”
“O, yes, we can still drive, and the store has a time when only seniors can shop and we wear masks and gloves. Say, tell me, how are all of you doing these days? Are you still able to carry on with your work?”
And that leads to sharing the impact of that donor’s gift, and good news about the organization that builds a pride of association, and the specific projects of highest priority, which leads to:
“My heavens, I had no idea! That’s wonderful. We would love to learn more. When we get the all-clear, Henry and I would love to have you stop by for tea some day.”
And it may well be the admin who makes that visit.
Phone calls:
Grow relationships,
Properly thank donors,
Explain the impact of the gift,
Create future visits, and
Uncover the diamonds hidden among your donor file.
One thing to mention. Younger people on your team, and perhaps you, may have less experience talking on the phone for any length of time. The default means of communication is often text, email, FaceTime, etc.
Advancement officers at a later stage of their careers grew up talking on the phone and can be a lot more comfortable, and a lot more effective, engaging with donors on long phone calls. If I can gently suggest; calling a friend, your mom, your grandparents, and staying on the phone for more than two or three minutes will really help you practice how to engage with donors now.
A study last week found that 43% of higher education fundraisers don’t expect to meet their goals this year. The study surveyed 418 gift officers at 48 colleges and universities. Just 22% expect to meet those goals.
Perhaps the remaining 35% aren’t sure. Or are sitting in the corner crying “Boo-hoo.”  I don’t care about them. And I don’t care about the 43% either.
The 22%! Those 92 gift officers! They are engaging with donors, asking for gifts and raising money. How are they doing that?
There is no new-fangled secret. These achievers are:
Trading on relationships developed over a long time,
Being respectful of their donors’ circumstances,
Asking about them and having long, deep conversations on the phone or in other ways,
Sharing good news that makes donors feel “THAT’S what I want to hear,”
When the opportunity presents itself, being precise about how donors can make an impact now,
Asking permission to talk with the donor about a gift, and
Being mindful of gift vehicles that can best serve the donor now, whether it be a donor-advised fund, donating IRA assets, or the giving opportunities created by the CARES Act.
Donors around the world have one thing in common:
Fundraisers who achieve can be realistic and positive, realistic and optimistic, at the same time. Being positive, looking for ways to connect now, is not looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.
It is smart. It is the view of achievers.
I promised words from two philanthropists, and we’ll have them next Sunday. To close tonight, I heard from my good friend Dom Calabrese, an award-winning public relations professional. Of course he would know the Associated Press has developed a new section of their famous Stylebook for the coronavirus.
To access it for yourself, just Google: AP Stylebook: Coronavirus Topical Guide.
Stay safe, and have a good week, my friends.
Rob Cummings led development shops through the 1987 Black Monday crash, 9/11 and the Great Recession. If you would like to talk about how Rob can help you and your team now, you can reach him at

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