As we approach the end of 2022, we want to dive into the state of the social good sector with two of our personal fundraising coaches at Bonterra and Network for Good.
In this episode, Chany Ockert and Cherian Koshy share trends they’re hearing among nonprofit fundraisers and executive directors at organizations of all sizes and mission areas. They share their advice on what to think about for 2023, how to fundraise and engage supporters in a more personal way, and advice for avoiding burnout through the holidays and beyond.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Why you shouldn’t only ask for donations during the holidays
- The importance of thanking first-time donors
- Why you should share your needs even if there’s a decline in giving
Bonus Episode Transcript
Cherian Koshy: Get people around you, whether it’s inspiration from clients or donors, but even taking and leveraging those donors, those board members, those volunteers, other people that you work with to help carry those burdens for you to delegate responsibility or activities to other folks and invite them into the journey as much as possible so that you can develop an army of people who.
Raise awareness, who will engage other people on your behalf so that you don’t have to carry it for others.
Kimberly O’Donnell: Sometimes in fundraising, you have to step outside of your comfort zone, dive in, and learn something new. I’m Kimberly O’Donnell and this is Accidental Fundraiser, the show from Network for Good and Bonterra that shares radically authentic stories from the trenches. As we approach the end of 2022, we wanted to dive into the state of the sector with two of our awesome personal fundraising coaches at Bonterra and Network for Good.
In our conversation, Chany Ockert and Cherian Koshy share what trends they’re hearing among non-profit fundraisers and executive directors who are at organizations of all sizes and missions. They share their advice on what to think about for 2023, how to fundraise and engage supporters in a more personalized way, and they give some final advice for avoiding burnout through the holidays and beyond.
Dion and Shawn’s. Welcome to Accidental Fundraiser. We are so excited to have you on today’s episode. So why don’t we go ahead and get started. I think our audience would love to hear a little bit more about each of you. You are both personal fundraising coaches with Fontera and Network for Good, and you have been for quite a few years now and we appreciate the partnership with you, but that’s not the only thing that you do.
So I’d love for you each to share a little bit of background. Annie, why don’t you go. I’m
Chany: excited to be a part of the Fontera team. I’m also excited to work with nonprofits across the United States, and one focus that I do have is working with small to medium sized nonprofits. In Montana, though I really do bring an experience of rural nonprofits and what they are experiencing while also seeing nationally what some of the more suburban and some of the more urban non-profits are seeing as well.
Kimberly O’Donnell: Cheer. I know you have been globetrotting it over the last few
Cherian Koshy: months. I have, and a lot of that has to do with my sort of recent transition. So I have been involved in fundraising for about 25 years and recently took my series 66. So I’m gonna be very careful about what I say because I’m federally regulated now, which is very odd.
But I work for an investment management. Firm that only works with nonprofits. So our clients, they transact gifts of assets with us. They reserve accounts and investment accounts like that, and then they also have true endowments. And so we work with them on regular fundraising as well as long term.
Legacy or plan giving work as well. So it’s been really interesting to see particularly small and mid-size organizations be able to compete with the big kids in that way, but also to see how donors are reacting to the contemporary situation that’s affecting all of us.
Kimberly O’Donnell: Share with our audience what series
Cherian Koshy: 66 is.
So that means that I’m licensed to offer financial advice. It’s through finra, a federal agency that was sort of necessary for me to be a partner in the investment firm. That means that I have to be very careful about what I talk about in terms of the markets and economies and, and all of that. So that’s been a learning experience all its own.
Kimberly O’Donnell: That just leads me to my next question, which is there’s an organization that is looking to make investments, uh, grow out their endowment. Should they seek out someone who has this series 66 certification or licensure, what other advice would you give them?
Cherian Koshy: What I would suggest is that you want someone that has experience with nonprofit organizations.
There are a few different licenses that make sense in that space. Some are selling proprietary goods, so proprietary funds where they get bonuses or commissions based upon what they sell. We do not, we’re a fiduciary, so we invest in whatever. Appropriate for nonprofits, but low cost, I would say for nonprofits in particular, they tend to work with someone that has been on a board or has that sort of experience, which isn’t wrong, but nonprofits are different from you and me and and Shawn in that we get taxed and we die.
So, uh, sorry if that’s , like all the bad news, right? We’re at the, at the end of the year, we’re gonna be taxed. Nonprofits are not taxed. At some point, hopefully a long time from now, we’re all gonna die. And so we have to think about what money we need for a certain period of time. But nonprofits will outlast all of us as a sector, but it would last for a long time.
So as organizations are thinking about. Whether it’s to transact gifts of assets, which is a really straightforward starting point, we wanna do that and we’ll get into that in more detail for any size organization, really, that it’s beneficial to both you and the donor. The gifts are larger and it actually helps out the donor when you’re thinking about reserve funds or endowments, organizations that have a long term focus and a.
A, an appreciation of sustainability are ones that are best suited to kind of grow out those programs and to think about what does that look like for their longer term? Cause it’s not money that you would use in a given year, or maybe even in a couple of years, but you’re looking 3, 4, 5, 10, 50 years out.
What does that look like? Great
Kimberly O’Donnell: insight and you know, really I think steers us in the direction of major giving. If we start and really dive into the state of, of the sector right now and giving, one of the stats that I heard recently was that there’s a declining number of billionaires who are signing the giving pledge five in 2021.
There were 14 in the prior year. I haven’t had a chance to truly dive into that data to see are we running out of billionaires who wanna sign the giving pledge? Is that part of it? You know, the big ones, at least I doubt that, , but when we think of mega and major giving, what are some of the things that you’re seeing and hearing?
Chany: the things that I am seeing, and I would love to have Ion’s perspective on this, is that with giving this year from those major givers is the issue of appreciated stock that the stock market has been in decline is declined most of this year, if not all of the year. And so the. Appreciated stock option for many of those donors is not available the way that it had been in past years, and that’s typically an easy way that these donors give.
Same thing with cryptocurrency, that that has declined significantly. So for those major donors who were giving through crypto, that it’s just not available in the same way that it was last year. But love to hear Ion’s perspective on this
Cherian Koshy: as well. I’ll definitely agree on the crypto front. Ft. X’s collapse is really in the news right now, and so we’re seeing a pretty significant decline in crypto and I think what Pat Duffy and colleagues at the Giving Block would agree with is that there are kind of two instances of people in crypto in particular.
One are people who. They love to hold that asset. It has a lot to do with who they are as people, and so giving it to charity is not the forefront of their thought process, especially because they’re, they’re younger. Their high net worth individuals. They have not necessarily figured out what their charitable giving plan or strategy looks like this point.
So there’s opportunity there for, for that kind of, I think this translates into your question, Kimberly, around billionaires. I think there’s a lot of fluidity in the billionaire status that’s happening right now, and I think that’s leading to a reticence around signing the the pledge, whether that still has the cache as a separate issue that.
Probably only billionaires can answer. I don’t really have insight there, but we have seen a lot of celebrity billionaires sort of lose their status in the last several of months, and I think that will continue into 2023 as part of the recession. Sort of new billionaires that are on the cusp or worried about where their, their portfolio will end up through 2023.
I think there’s an opportunity for nonprofits to continue to talk about the importance of philanthropy, but the thing to remember, and I’m regardless of when you look at the market, I just pulled it up for today, the Dow Jones is at 33 for 33,000 for reference. And I’m being very careful because of my limitations.
For reference, right before the pandemic in uh, February of 2020, the market was at 29,000 and change. So the market has net increased 10%. Now be mindful of the fact, and this is what I talk to donor communities and nonprofits a lot about, that’s in the last two years, a net increase of 10%. Your donors didn’t start investing in 2020.
Some of them started investing in 2000 or in 1980. So their appreciated assets. So Shawn’s right? There are certain folks who are concerned. Retirement, they’re concerned about where their portfolios will be in 2023 and appreciated assets may not be right for them. There are folks for whom those assets have significantly appreciated, and this is really the right opportunity for them because they care so much about the cause and what they’re seeing in their checking account is very different from that capital gains exposure that they have.
The other kind of cool fact that I did not know as a fundraiser, Quite literally learned when I was taking my exam is that if you are invested in the kind of Dave Ramsey approach of low cost mutual funds, which millions of Americans are, any mutual fund, has a capital gains that occurs inside the fund every year that you’re responsible for paying tax on.
So, If you are in that strategy almost every year, regardless of how the market performs, there’s almost always a pretty significant capital gain that occurs through that mutual fund portfolio. So there’s almost always then an incentive for you to give a charitable gift if you have a mutual fund portfolio, which I was like, oh my gosh, that’s gold, that’s great.
Like from a charitable giving perspective. And I had no idea as a fundraiser, I wish I had known that cuz I would’ve marketed the heck outta.
Kimberly O’Donnell: That is a great point that I, you know, just to truly simplify it, we cannot generalize where our donors are in their financial picture and how they will give to us.
And the point that you’ve just made perfectly is that we have supporters and donors, prospects who are at all different levels, who this may be an ideal time for them to give. Uh, maybe they’ve sold a company, uh, you know, there still are successful companies and businesses out. Now tech is not that area.
And, and if you are heavily weighted by, you know, corporate donors from the tech space, you may be looking to diversify your base. Um, but that’s just a reminder, you know, at any giving time you should have a diverse base of supporters. It can be hard to do based on your mission area, but it’s something, um, that requires focus and, and takes a little bit of time.
Could, but can really help to sustain the organization long.
Cherian Koshy: That’s a really good point. I, one of the fun things to do, like after you’re done listening to this podcast is to Google businesses that were started in a recession. And I think there’s sort of a, this mean culture out there and everybody on Twitter says like the wor the sky is falling, everything sucks.
And you know, it’s terrible out there. It doesn’t for everyone. There are lots of people who. Either doing okay or there’s some people, as you mentioned, like billionaires who are doing real well and nobody’s missing a meal in their family. So that’s not to downplay the fact that some people are really struggling right now, and we wanna be mindful of that.
But as I think of it from a overall, Philanthropic ecosystem from a giving perspective. There’s sort of this natural arc, right? Some people who were pseudo engaged with your organization, big, chunky, middle of people who were really involved in what you’re doing. And then some folks who are giving a lot, but maybe sporadically and what a recession or any kind of financial issue we’ll do is compress that.
Some people at the big end will stop giving. Some people at the small end will stop giving, but you need to continue to communi. That there is a fundraising need to that big, chunky middle because some people will continue to give to your organization cuz it’s the thing that wakes them up in the morning, right?
It’s the thing that makes a difference for them and their identity is so fused with the work that you’re doing that they’ll quite literally miss a meal in order to give you 10 bucks a month or cut back on Netflix or something like that in order to give you 10 bucks a month. I’m not saying that you suggest that to them, but they will do that on their own, right?
Kimberly O’Donnell: It’s their choice. And we have to remember that we should be always asking for support and putting our organization out there to be supported. I know that in the past, a lot of organizations had their fundraising campaigns just a couple times a year, and I’ve heard a lot and seen a lot around a. De izing giving and just, you know, making sure that you are asking for gifts year round, that you’re targeting owners of all different types of backgrounds and connections to your organization.
And I think another thing to remember, I heard this recently. I’m trying to remember who, who said it, but I just love it, which is that we should remember that most donors don’t see themselves in your specific donor box. As an annual fund donor, as a major donor, as you know, a, a monthly donor, right, or subscriber, they don’t see themselves that way, so you shouldn’t talk to them that way.
Cherian Koshy: I’ve had that conversation with a lot of my network for good clients in particular because they’ve learned all the best practices, and I love that they have listened to all the webinars and workshops and whatnot that we present. But your donor doesn’t consider themselves a lapse donor. They think that they’ve given so, When we use that language, even internally, certainly we would never use it externally, but when we use it internally, it can often shape our thinking about who they are in their interaction with the organization.
And I think the pandemic has taught us a lot. There was a recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a. And I’m super biased cuz I was the chair of Volunteer Iowa. But they talked about how there was a huge interview with some Iowa organizations and volunteer Iowa staff in particular around organizations that did not encourage or engage volunteers during the pandemic.
And what happened was a lot of non. Profits got rid of their volunteer management staff and the impact on organizations was that they were a, a much slower start, a slower recovery in getting volunteers engaged in donations back up and all of those types of things. Because of that, I think that’s, True and going to be true throughout 2023 for organizations that stop asking, that ask seasonally, as you mentioned, like we’re just gonna ask at the end of the year or twice a year or something like that, and organizations that trim back on fundraising staff or resources.
I think a lot of organizations are gonna fall into that same exact trap and they’re gonna be further and further behind. Cuz unfortunately, I think it’s gonna be the same organizations that make the same mistake.
Kimberly O’Donnell: We’ve talked about major donors. Let’s dive into smaller donors, the everyday donor as they’re sometimes called.
Are you seeing and hearing anything from the organizations that you’re working with in terms of a decrease in giving from the everyday donor? Uh, what are you hearing?
Chany: So I am gonna pop back to the major donor piece. One of the things that is important for nonprofits to do is to educate both our donors and also.
Financial professionals because oftentimes financial professionals do not have the information that Sherion has. And so when donors are looking at the market, they’re seeing a decline in the market. They assume that they can’t give appreciated the stock in the way that they have in past without realizing the intricacies related to their investments and related.
And so they don’t necessarily know to talk with their accountants. That type of giving. In terms of what I’m hearing about everyday donors, we are seeing a decrease in the number of donors. Now, as we’re thinking about the decrease in number of donors, we’re seeing that decrease go back to pre levels. It was a 5%, 5.6% decrease in donors.
Now, here’s the thing that we have to be aware of during the. There were a lot of donors who came to nonprofits wanting to give because of the what was happening in the world. It is really important that we take a moment right now and run a report of those first time donors who gave during the last two years and take some time to thank them so that they understand that the impact that they had during the pandemic, but also.
That they can continue to see that the impact they’ll have moving forward, and that is an important engagement of our donors, but especially important right now as we do run the risk of not retaining those donors that we gain during the pandemic.
Kimberly O’Donnell: Donor retention is expensive. That’s what I often hear from organizations is that while donor retention is declining, they’re also really expensive to retain Charian.
What advice would you give? Or how would you respond to someone who would
Cherian Koshy: sh say, So it is no activity that we do in fundraising is zero cost. There’s nothing that we can do, even if it’s volunteer time. Independent sector tracks, average volunteer time at 30 bucks an hour, just under 30 bucks an hour.
That might not be explicitly the case for your scenario, but we have to get out of the mentality that there’s some magical ATM where we can go to without any cost and it will dispense money for us. While I’m not a big fan of saying, Everybody faces this same circumstance. I think in general, retention costs less than acquisition does, and that’s intuitively true, right?
It’s harder to get someone to become aware of your organization, engaged in what you’re doing, decide to make a gift, like that’s a longer time period, as well as more effort that is involved rather than saying you’ve already pulled out your credit card. Will you continue to do that activity? So I think what’s really important for each organization, regardless of the industry data, is to be benchmarking your own data, right?
Understand where you were in 20 20, 20 21, 20 22, and. Very importantly, don’t take for granted that a donor has given to you before. So how do we engage those people in giving again, which we can’t take that for granted or using segmentation to identify the folks who are most engaged and might give more so that we can over.
What would be natural donor attrition, people not giving for one reason or another. And then obviously thinking about what does acquisition look like. I think we gotta be mindful of what that looks like. And I, I think there are really simple and inexpensive things that people can do around both retention and acquisition.
Like personalization, like segmentation. It doesn’t cost more money to do a mail merge. It doesn’t cost more money to do. Personalization and email, but it does make a big difference. There are little things that, that do make that difference, and I, I would just encourage everyone to, to do what you can when you can in order to improve that.
But I think to your larger question, are we seeing a decline in giving? I think some organizations very much are, you know, regardless of the industry’s statistics, but I wouldn’t discourage you from putting your needs out there because they are important. What your organization does is important. You gotta figure out who are the right people to talk to because it’s not everyone.
Kimberly O’Donnell: That’s a great point because right now predictive modeling, artificial intelligence, prospect research can all be highly valuable tools in segmenting and personalizing, like you said, and they don’t have to be wildly expensive. It just helps you focus your efforts so that you are communicating in a one-to-one way, be it through video, text, email, direct mail, and.
Seeing and hearing from donors. A real appreciation for organizations understanding who they are and their, their unique needs, and talking to them as people as opposed to this blanket donor. Shawn, what would you like to add?
Chany: I think a key there is consistent and frequent, that we consistently share what our needs are, give consistently.
Give the opportunity to the donor to give however they want to give and give freaking opportunities because they’re faced with other ass and other messages in their lives where it’s important that we break through some of that messaging so that they understand. Another piece of something that Ion had said is talking about letting donors know what our needs.
In the last two years, there was a constant look at what the needs were, especially human services, but across arts and culture. What was happening when the theaters were shutting down, the museums are shutting down. All of that information was a constant, constant information in in the media. What we’re seeing right now is that a lot of nonprofits are struggling with inflations.
The cost of their supplies have gone up significantly. But the same amount of coverage, media coverage is not there. So it is incumbent on us to inform our donors what the impacts have been. Not to assume that our donors automatically know what those impacts are. So it is important to share what is the real impact that these economic concerns are having for us today, and share those.
And oftentimes, donors will then step up because they want to be a part of the
Kimberly O’Donnell: solution. Terrific point. Do you have an example or two of an organization that’s done that successfully and, and either the, the language that they used, or how can we make this very practical for our listeners?
Chany: One example would be a animal shelter.
So the cost of serving the animals have gone up. So in terms of, uh, food, some of the, uh, vet care that they need has gone up. And so they were sharing with their donors that, as you’ve seen, expenses increase, so have we, will you help us care for these animals as you have in the past,
Kimberly O’Donnell: smart and simple, right?
Cheering. Where are you finding inspiration?
Cherian Koshy: From my clients, they’re doing such amazing work and, uh, just continuing to go out there. And Johnny mentioned being consistent about sharing what opportunities there are for people to be involved in their community and what real needs there are. I think that’s really the critical piece.
And I continue to be inspired by the stories that they’re telling, by the work that they’re doing, both internally and externally. And, uh, that’s what what gives me the most inspir.
Kimberly O’Donnell: Shawn, how about you?
Chany: I don’t wanna feel, feel like a broken record because I’m gonna say exactly what Chian is saying. It is my clients.
It is seeing that they’re trying new things and talking with their donors and seeing their donors respond and seeing how their donors actually wanna be a partner, not just somebody that is treated as an atm, but as an actual partner in solving whatever the mission is for the organization. And then donors just really responding to that idea of being a partner.
Kimberly O’Donnell: What advice would you give to a fundraiser? An executive director who says, yeah, but I’m burnout. I’m tired. , you know, we’ve been going through this for a few years now. I’ve been doing this a long time, or I’ve just started doing this and I don’t know where to start. What advice can you give them that will enable them to take one step at a.
Chany: when I’m working with a non-profit leader who is feeling burned out, I tell them to do one of two things. One is to spend some time with whoever is in the program that they’re working with. So oftentimes at an executive level, you can get a little bit removed from the actual clients, so spend some time reengaging with the mission.
The second is to meet with a donor who has been a long time. May not be a significant donor. Let the donor know that you’re not coming there to ask, but just go and meet with the donor and ask them why they continue to give to the mission in that type of a meeting. Oftentimes that joy that the donor has for the mission can reinvigorate the the executive director,
Kimberly O’Donnell: great advice, cheering how.
Cherian Koshy: I was trying to find the book on my bookshelf, but I can’t, is there a nonprofit leader or anyone in nonprofits right now that doesn’t feel burnt out? Like, honestly, I have not met one. I feel like everyone is burnt out after pandemic and recession and some sort of recovery and recession again, and inflation like, it’s overwhelming.
So first and foremost, I would. I hear you. I feel you. I guess the advice that I would give is what my friend Jen Love said at a conference. There’s no guilt like mom guilt except nonprofit guilt. And I feel like for every nonprofit person that I’ve talked to, there’s so much on their plate and so much that they’re carrying.
My advice is twofold. First of all, you’ve got to let go of the things that you don’t need to do, and there’s a book called Essentialism by Greg McEwen that helps framework out what does that look like. But let me encourage you with the truth that not everything that’s on your plate needs to be done or needs to be done now.
So just put it down, let it. Right now, just let it go. Say that’s not going to get done right now. It might not get done ever. It may be that you have to say no more often, which is the thesis of Greg’s book. The second piece of advice is get people around you. As Shawn mentioned, like. Whether it’s inspiration from clients or donors, but even taking and leveraging those donors, those board members, those volunteers, other people that you work with to help carry those burdens for you to delegate responsibility or activities to other folks and.
And invite them into the journey as much as possible so that you can develop an army of people who will raise awareness, who will engage other people on your behalf so that you don’t have to carry it for others. So that’s what I would say is my advice. I don’t know that that’s perfect advice, but it’s what I’m working with right now.
Kimberly O’Donnell: Fantastic advice from two true coaches. I hear your words, and they sit with me as well. I think another thing that I would add on is just the power of partnerships and leveraging those incredibly valuable relationships, uh, within your network of peers. If you don’t have many peers, uh, who are also in the nonprofit sector.
Our executive directors are fundraisers. Make that a goal for 2023 to do more of. Network because when you speak with your peers, they can lift you as well. You can brainstorm ideas, you can hear what’s working, what isn’t. If you’re not involved with, uh, some of your local fundraising groups or just other non-profit groups, that’s something to look into for 2023, help to expand your network.
And then as you’re thinking about, you know, leveraging partnerships, Personally to help maintain your endurance. Another thing to to consider is leveraging some of your partnerships that you have to showcase to donors and supporters. All of the amazing work that you do with your partners and, and that you’re doing, um, together to support the community.
Uh, a lot of. Individuals really love seeing the, those partnerships, they can be very powerful catalysts for future giving and future support. Let’s do just a quick lightning round with some predictions for 2023 cheering. And Shawn, what do you see happening in the world of fundraising in 2023?
Chany: Maybe unexpected one that I’ll bring up is that during the pandemic, of course, we saw a decline in volunteers.
Independent sector showed a decline of 19. Those nonprofits who reengage, uh, with volunteers, short term, limited type of volunteer opportunities, will see some gains. Again, in terms of giving. We know that 70 to 85% of volunteers donate at the nonprofit they serve. It will also strengthen their organization, the foundation of the organization by reaching out through volunteers to more of the community.
So re-engaging those volunteers is a source of.
Cherian Koshy: I have a lot of predictions that I think someone once said, you can be a futurist if you say what or when, but not both. And so what I will say is unfortunately, I believe the K shape recovery in the nonprofit sector will continue to be exacerbated. By that I mean like as Shawn just said, there will be some organizations who make smart strategic moves in 2023 to reengage volunteers to invest in relationships to.
Continue to fundraise and all of those other associated things and will succeed in 2023. There will be some organizations who retreat, who make knee jerk reactions and will suffer as a result of that. And I, I feel really bad that that will happen. But I think the important thing to remember is whenever the recession happens and however long it lasts, that this is a natural part of the economic cycle and there will.
Expansion, there will be a peak after recession. That’s how the economic cycle works. So if you invest in relationships, invest in volunteers, invest in good fundraising practices and tools and those types of things, now you will be ready for the expansion and the peak later and be able to take advantage of that per se.
But if you don’t, you’re gonna be in a worse off shape as the economy recovers whenever it.
Kimberly O’Donnell: A hundred percent agree. If our listeners wanna get connected with you and learn more about the work that you do, where’s the best place for them to go? I would love to connect
Chany: with folks. My website is serving nonprofits.com
Kimberly O’Donnell: and I’m sure that you’d be happy to link in with them as well.
Correct. Cheer in. If folks wanna get in touch with you, how can
Kimberly O’Donnell: Thank you both for being part of accidental fundraiser and sharing your insight and experience with us. I think we’ve all learned a lot today from this episode.
Please join us again. Here are some key takeaway. First, we cannot generalize where our donors are in their financial picture and how they’ll give to us. You have supporters, donors, and prospects who are all at different levels, and for some right now may be the ideal time for them to give in that same vein.
Ask for gifts year round. Don’t just ask around the holidays. Secondly, it’s really important that we take time to run a report of those first time donors who gave during the last two years, and then go back and thank them so that they understand the impact that they had during the pandemic. But also so that they can continue to see the impact that they’ll have moving forward.
The third takeaway is even if we’re seeing a decline in giving, don’t shy away from putting your needs out there. They’re important. What your organization does is important. You have to figure out who are the right people to talk to. Because it’s not everyone. Yes, you can. I’m Kimberly. See you next time on Accidental Fundraiser, and be sure to follow along wherever you get your audio.