People Like Us Do Things Like That

May 11, 2022

It’s prom season and that always takes me back. The year was 1983. It was the beginning of big things to come, even though I didn’t know it yet. That was the year that my now-husband, Jerry, and I went to prom together. Well, technically, not together-together. We double-dated: He went with my friend Janet. I went with his friend Jimmy. And, although it was a memorable night, it wasn’t a great one. Jimmy got pulled over for speeding… and got a ticket—so it sort of ruined the mood. But that evening was just a precursor to 1984—when Jerry and I officially started dating and then later when we had our prom encore (promcore ๐Ÿ˜‚) and went to prom together-together <insert all the heart eyes here>.

Several hand-written letters, colleges, zip codes, and phone calls stood between that summer and July 1993 when we finally got married. How did those years move slower than dial-up internet, but somehow the last 29 years flew by quicker than a Jeff Bezos rocket to space? ๐Ÿš€ We’ve traded those long-distance letters for text messages, long road trips to see each other for making a home together, and selling our plasma to pay the long-distance phone bills for day jobs—for the younger readers out there, you used to have to pay for long-distance by the minute! It was brutal!

Those are fond memories I think of this time of year as we see prom-goers out at restaurants and their pictures flooding the pages of social media--especially knowing that some proms were cancelled during the pandemic and memories were missed. Maybe we really are getting back to a new normal and I’m tellin’ you, I’m here for it.

Pre-pandemic, we had traditions, habits, and even mini-milestones that we used to proactively celebrate and appreciate that fell to the wayside for a year or more. Getting out of the routine of enjoying all life has to offer is problematic! Why? Because people like us do things like that. In fact, this might be a good question for you to ask yourself. What things do people like us do? Answer that, then do them!

Ironically, many of those things we used to do pre-Covid without even thinking twice; but we got out of practice. And because of that, things just don’t quite feel ‘right’ yet—even now.  So, I did it. I asked myself that question, and I’ve taken some action. And there’s some left  brain and right brain action you can take, too.

Left Brain Marketing Methods: One of the best data sources you can mine doesn’t fit into an Excel spreadsheet or a binder on a shelf. Instead, it fills the chairs of your Board room. That’s right, your board members are one of the most under-utilized gold mines that every nonprofit has. Let’s leverage that.

Right Brain Marketing Moxie: One of the best ways to know how to communicate with donors is to provide them with custom messages that speak directly to them. But we can also help the people who help them…there’s a cool mirroring technique that hits the bullseye on this one.

Let’s do it, shall we?

Left Brain Marketing Methods: Nearly every week I do presentations to AFP groups, community foundation teams, and ad-hoc communication cohorts. I've done professional development webinars, Zoom meetings, nonprofit conferences, and lots of other speaking engagements where nonprofit ninjas hang out.  I find it so rewarding to talk to people who love this field we’re in and want to build their capacity to make their community even better than it already is. That’s really what your Board Members want, too! They love your mission, have agreed to donate time to you—the most valuable commodity any person can give—and they truly want the community you serve to create a better quality of life for all. So, why don’t we leverage that brilliance more than we do? Great question, I would love to tell you. (Little Elise Myers lingo there for all you TikTokers. She's a fellow IWU grad and I adore her!๐Ÿ˜Š)

So last week at one presentation, someone asked me how to know which professional advisors to target in a direct mail segment. Oddly enough, the answer is not every professional advisor in your community. Depending on what your mission is, a patent attorney isn’t likely a great candidate for your minimum viable professional advisor audience. So, "Who do you target?", they asked. That answer is easier than you might think. I simply suggested passing around an index card to each Board Member at your next meeting. Then ask each of them to write down what professional advisors they use for accounting, financial planning, and will/estate planning. They don’t even have to put their name on it—that’s not important. If your Board Members are utilizing those professional advisors, your donors are, too. That is important. What you’ll find will be the most active experts that need to know you better. You’ll also notice that all of them won’t be in your county. It’s common for donors to do business nearby, but not necessarily with their nibby neighbor. (Yes, we say nibby in Indiana.)

We’ve already discussed the Transfer of Wealth studies that have been done that indicate a huge transfer of funds from one generation to another over the next 40-50 years. That’s still going to happen. And now that the world is getting back to some semblance of normal, they’re talking to their PA’s. Make sure those PA’s know who you are, what you do, and how they can help their clients with their philanthropic goals through you. Their clients could be your donors! Most generous donors have accountants, lawyers, and financial planners—and they talk to them about extremely private money matters. If your PA’s understand your organization well enough, they can bring your philanthropic solution to their clients…it’s a perfect match. Giving can cause a revolution in your heart. Donors know this because people like them—generous donors—do things like that…donate to charity.

Right Brain Marketing Moxie: Another question I was asked last week was this: “How do you decide what message you want to send to your Professional Advisor donor segment.” Great question. I would love to tell you.

Sometimes we make it too complicated, when simplicity can get you some tangible results. So, what we do is determine what message we want to concentrate on each month. We choose one specific message and then customize that message based on how that donor knows us. Let’s take opening a new fund as the specific message we want to send one month.

If it’s a brand new donor, we might introduce them to an Acorn Fund—how to plant and grow a new, endowed fund over a longer period of time.

If it’s a loyal donor, we would suggest opening a named, endowed fund to honor their family or their business.

If it’s a Top 50 donor with a fund, we’d highlight the importance of leaving an estate gift to their existing endowed fund.

Then we execute a Mirror technique. This is how it works. You'll take the message conveyed to donors and mirror it with the high level details that PA's need to advise their clients. You'll tell them that you’ve been talking to your donors this month about opening and contributing to endowed funds at the community foundation. Then let them know that they may be getting calls from clients that want to talk to them about the best financial way to support an endowed fund. To better prepare them for any calls they may get, you can provide a cheat sheet for them. Something that will prove to their clients how knowledgeable they are about the foundation, when the client comes knocking. You might send your list of fund products you offer, your gift acceptance policy, your fee schedule, and your fund minimums. Donors aren’t ready for that kind of detail but PA’s are. In fact, providing them with a mirror message that complements what you’ve given donors, but at a more advanced level, shows the PA that you are working together for the greater good of their client.

Clearly, you're not asking the PA to open an endowed fund—although I bet you'd be happy to do that! Instead, you’re giving them a heads up. You’re telling them how you’re educating donors this month and giving them a play book to use when they get inquiries. Of course, you can always Surprise PA's with Gratitude occasionally, like I shared with you in last week’s Fridea. But the best thing you can do is arm them with knowledge and offer your support as a team, united to help solve the philanthropic dilemmas their clients may have.

This is what Adam Grant calls it--Collective Effervescence: The energy of being in a group with shared purpose.” It’s you, the PA, and the donor—the synergy is real! It’s the synergy that we missed through COVID. And it’s a great reminder that people like us do things like that. We once did and we still do.

Although it was difficult at first, staying home, social-distancing, and following the CDC guidelines became the routine. And, once you get used to a routine, it’s hard to break out of it—even if you don’t really like it. So, what do people like you do? Well, you’re reading this blog, so you’re a lifelong learner who wants to see your nonprofit thrive, your work/life balance maintained, and your limited resources invested wisely. You might enjoy a glass of wine with friends, go out to a movie, attend a concert with a live band, or visit a farmer’s market. All very post-Covidy things to do! You can exit the doors of your house and your office and get out there and live again. Take on the mantra of George Bailey when he told Clarence in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’I want to live again!” and do it!

It is a wonderful life. Think of it as a post-Covid encore. We get a second chance to do things we did pre-Covid, but this time with feeling! Because people like us do things like that. And in my experience, my promcore was even better than the original because it led to a smokin’ hot husband, two handsome boys, and one adorable Rocket, who is living the doggie dream. Five stars…would recommend.

Try it out and let me know how it goes.

All My best,

[email protected]
dawn brown creative, llc.

P.S. Fundraising is hard, even though you make it look
oh-so easy! ♥

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