The Weekend Briefing

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Here’s a question for you. Your Annual Fund goal for next fiscal year: Is it lower than this year’s goal, about the same (that is, within 5% up or down), or more than this year’s goal? Can you let me know? If we get enough responses to have a representative sample, we’ll report in next week’s Briefing.
We have been at this “new normal” long enough now to see the strategies that succeed come into clear focus.
Some are new. Virtual events, for one. They work. We’re going to explore why that is, in a couple weeks. When our world returns to a happy “old normal” we may see that the strategy of virtual events remains a permanent element of our fundraising landscape.
But my friends, so much of what works today is nothing new. Smart fundraising, cutting edge fundraising is an understanding of the power of relationships, making donors feel appreciated, and helping them know the impact of their giving.
Everything old is new again.
Lisa Pieper is Director of Individual Giving at the Milwaukee Public Museum:
“As usual I am loving your Sunday evening reflections and wholeheartedly agree.
“Fundraising is never an ‘easy’ profession but connecting with people and really listening is the best part of what we do. In my 28 years in this field, I have never felt closer to our donors.
“Don’t get me wrong, some of the conversations have been tough. Hearing the sadness, loneliness, and stories of loss and confusion can take its toll. But having the chance to hear each person’s story and really listen and try to comfort them is an honor.
“As are the calls where an enthusiastic friend says ‘thank you for calling and giving us this opportunity to help!’ And those that say ‘we believe in your mission and are fortunate to help you now and look forward to supporting your vision of your future home.’
“Our team has been working hard and supporting each other every day! We know how blessed we are to be working from home and still connecting with our supporters. On April 30th we had our most successful MPM Giving Day ever (ok there have only been 2!), with 670 gifts totaling $428,252.48.
“Giving Day was a success because of our colleagues who handled all of the logistics so others could easily execute personal notes and calls. We had a lovely video that our President, Ellen Censky, sent to all which helped inspire.
“All the best to you, Rob. Keep up your incredible work!”
We’ll try our best to do that.
Just like you I imagine, I am on the phone these days – a lot.
One of the highlights of last week was a 45 minute call with a brilliant major gifts professional who has been my friend for 25 years.
“Our major annual gala was going to be next month and of course now will be a virtual event. We are trusting, and confident, that our legion of donors will look past the ‘how’ and continue to support the ‘why.’
“But Rob, I have to tell you about a call I had. I’m on the phone every afternoon, just to stay in touch, to check in, to let our donors know we care about them.
“There is a palpable sense of loneliness in so many of the conversations, which only reminds me how important these calls are.
“I was on the phone with an elderly donor who lives alone. He has already made a generous gift to us in his estate plan. We were talking about all sorts of things, for 90 minutes actually, and toward the end he started telling me about a $100,000 annuity that he intended to gift to his nieces and nephews.
“He told me, ‘You know, the more I hear about what you’re doing, how you’re still making a difference, I realize my nieces and nephews don’t need my annuity that much and I’m going to give it to you.’
“And he called three days later to confirm the switch on the forms.”
I believe that is called doing well by doing good.
The Robin Hood Foundation of New York City held their annual Gala last Monday evening, also transitioned to a virtual event.  Tina Fey hosted and it was streamed via iHeart Media. Corporate donors, musical performers, Broadway legends, human interest stories, Robert De Niro, Lin-Manuel Miranda and a bunch of other nobodies came together to raise $115 million to support more than 20 organizations fighting poverty in New York.
What did we hear a couple weeks ago? “Somebody tell me again how donors are clutching to their wallets during this pandemic.”
Next Sunday night, a fundraising story for our times.
Until then be safe, and have a good week, my friends.
Rob Cummings Consulting is helping advancement shops right now develop relationships and uncover fundraising opportunities. If you would like to talk about how Rob can help you and your team, you can reach him at

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