Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Gift Whisperer

Jerold PanasToday, I had the wonderful privilege of hearing veteran fundraiser Jerold Panas deliver the keynote address at the AFP Greater Dallas Chapter's monthly luncheon. The speech followed his morning workshop session, which focused on "Making the Ask." All of this was prefaced with a powerful introduction speech by Mr. Panas during our breakfast, which began at 7:00 a.m.

Somehow, by 1:30, Dr. Panas was still smiling!

Dr. Panas has been raising funds for over forty years. He is Executive Partner of Jerold Panas, Linzy & Partners as well as the founder & chairman of the board of the Institute for Charitable Giving.

Some of the key thoughts from the day:

  • Language is important -- do not use the word "prospect" or "suspect" in reference to donors; use the words "probable donor" and "possible donor." Your whole perspective on them will change.
  • Similarly, consider replacing the words "Development" and "Advancement" with "Philanthropy." Wouldn't you prefer to introduce yourself to a probable donor as the Director of Philanthropy than the Director of Development?
  • When making calls on donors, travel in pairs (and try to bring a volunteer or client instead of another staff member).
  • Thank your donors seven times: send a receipt from Finance, followed by a hand-written note from Development, followed by a hand-written note from program officer, followed by report from development on the impact of their gift, followed by thank you call from client, recognize them in an annual report, etc.
  • Fundraising is more art than science. But there are some helpful formulas to determine gift range for a major gift ... such as 10-25 times their annual gift size. However, the best way to determine possible gift size is to find out what other gifts they have given.
  • There are three basic things that motivate donors in relation to your organization: PIE -- Performance, Image and Exposure. Of these, more than 68% report that Exposure is the dominant influence... so be sure that you are getting in front of donors as often as possible. He recommended considering a one-page, front-and-back letter from CEO every 4 weeks that had a simple story in it that showed impact of your work.
  • The day after you talk with a donor, they remember less than 1/3 of what you said but more than 2/3 of what they said. Your goal, therefore, is to get them talking.
This last point really resonated with me. One of the first things that I realized after joining the Church of Phil Cubeta was that I am not a marketer. I am not even a fundraiser. I am a liaison between a donor and an organization; I am a counselor; I am a coach; I am a pastor; I am, above all, an advocate for the donor's dreams.

I cannot talk someone into donating... at least, not into donating substantially and for a long time. I might be able to hoodwink a few fools into parting with small cash, but I cannot fake a person into a transformational gift.

This is something that only they can talk themselves into.

My job is to be there to hear them do so.

Thank you to AFP for organizing the event, and to Dr. Panas for illuminating the obvious with just the right balance of humor and passionate sincerity.

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