Fundraising Lessons From Yogi Berra
You don’t have to be a baseball fan to love Yogi Berra. Originator of many popular "Yogisms," including “When you come to a fork in the road, take it” and "It's déjà vu all over again,” Berra was known as much for his malapropisms as his MLB career.
One of my newsletter subscribers reminded me of my favorite "Yogism" just the other day. Her organization has considered enrolling in a big-ticket, sustainable-fundraising coaching program. To be honest, subscribers have frequently come to me with questions about this particular program over the years. And, while my own encounter with its somewhat rigid methodology was not earth-shattering by any stretch of the imagination, I do recognize that everyone’s experience is different, and your mileage may vary.
So I told her I’d ask around (and now I'm passing my thoughts on to you).
As you might imagine, there were pros and cons.
“I had a good experience and would recommend considering the program," one consultant wrote me. "It offers a structured system for converting to individual, multi-year giving. It's very 'Ordnung muss sein.' Very German. That structure is good for a low- to mid-capacity nonprofit. There's so much scripting and worksheets that it's hard to mess up.”
And then there were the naysayers.
“It was alright for me, nothing earth-shattering, but lots of testimonial about how great the experience was and how much was raised," my colleague said. "The organization I was with did the program for two years faithfully and ultimately was kicked out because they weren't doing it right (read: were screwing up the company's stats). Their results were much lower than expected, and I'm not even sure it was enough to re-coup the costs, not to mention staffing. Their coach quit over the fact that the organization was being pushed out. It just was an ugly mess at the end of the day, and not much better in terms of fundraising."
My colleague closed by saying, “So, then my message would be that there is no quick fix, but there are expensive fixes, and this is an expensive one. It will still take a lot of work.”
I'm a big believer in turning off the noise, ditching the free stuff once and for all, and investing in training. But you don’t need to buy into a $120,000 coaching program to turn your organization’s fundraising around. All you need to do is make a plan—and make a commitment. In fact, I’d venture to say that if you just spent the next 90 days following this simple plan, you’d experience success beyond your wildest measure:
1. Decide exactly how much you want to raise between now and Dec. 31, 2016.
2. Master donor-centricity. Trust me, this never gets old. It works for individual giving. It works for foundation giving. It works for corporate support. You’ll always be learning new things (I know I am). It may go against the grain, but you are not mission-focused, you are donor-focused.
3. Create your habits (this is paramount), and make a vow to stick to them every day and every week, like glue. The habits?
- Calls: Every morning—before you check your email or voicemail, but not before you’ve had your coffee—make it a habit to spend 15 to 30 minutes on the phone calling donors. Call them just to say "Thank you."
- Donor Visits: Depending on your organization’s size/staffing, schedule one to five donor meetings a week. Here’s the deal: You’re not taking your donor out to coffee or lunch for the purpose of blurting out, “Would you be able to make a $100,000 gift?” So let out a giant sigh of relief. These are intended to be thank-you/listening visits. Your sole purpose during this 90-day plan is to lay on the gratitude, learn what motivated your donor to give, find out what is his or her connection to your mission, ask for advice and, above all, listen.
4. Endeavor to get everyone in your organization on the same page. Now, this will take some time—definitely longer than 90 days. Here are some resources to get you started.
Try this simple little plan for 90 days. I guarantee you’ll get results!
Remember, as Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.