Once upon a Time…Adopting a Narrative Approach to your Case for Support

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” ~ Robert McAfee Brown

If there was one message that came across loud and clear throughout the plenary presentations at the 2014 CAGP national conference it was the importance of knowing how to shape and share stories to celebrate and promote philanthropy.   As a professional storyteller and former journalist – and someone who has been promoting a ‘narrative approach to fundraising’ for years – it made my little heart sing.

It also dovetailed nicelypaint by numbers 2 into the topic I’d chosen for my conference session: Paint By Numbers: The Ultimate Story Script for your Case for Support.  

In my experience, most organizations follow a traditional approach in developing their Case for Support (Case) and create a four-colour, ‘one size fits all’ document. While this approach can work, I believe it often falls short on delivering a compelling and convincing narrative that invites prospects to play a key role in helping the organization’s beneficiaries. Continue reading

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Report Confirms: It Takes A Whole Charity To Successfully Raise Funds

Working together gets results.

Working together gets results.

Thank you to those who contacted me in response to A Fundraiser Bill of Rights.  I had no idea it would create such a response – and uncover a wonderful report.  Read on…

I received a note from Simone Joyaux in praise of the bill of rights, and she kindly directed me to this 2013 report, UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising.  It highlights the need for organizations to fundamentally change the way they lead and resource fund development to create a workplace that supports fundraising success.  The report contains the results of a joint project between CompassPoint and The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund.

“Fundraising can’t be a priority for just one individual. It has to be a priority, and a shared responsibility, for the board, the executive director and the staff alike.”  Linda Wood Senior Director, Leadership and Grantmaking The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

Is it really such a novel idea that in order for charities to be successful in raising funds, everyone – staff and volunteers – need to play their part?  With such a high turnover rate of fundraising staff, and the resulting costs in donor relations, staff time and budgets, surely this is an area that needs our attention.

The goal of this report is to serve as a ‘conversation starter,’ so what are you waiting for?  Dive in

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A Fundraiser Bill of Rights…why not?

For years, I’ve taken copies of A Donor Bill of Rights with me when I meet donors face to face. Along with a copy of my professional ethical code, I’ve found it useful in explaining what donors can, and should, expect when working with fundraisers.

Well, something happened a couple of weeks ago to make me think about the need for a companion piece, A Fundraiser Bill of Rights.  Let me explain…

Did You Say A Fundraiser Bill of Rights?

Did You Say A Fundraiser Bill of Rights?

I was asked to speak at a fundraising workshop – to share some ‘tips and techniques’ about being successful. When preparing for this, I started writing a description of the ideal working environment – one that supported fundraisers and instilled in them a high level of comfort and confidence in approaching donors, regardless of whether that meant writing proposals, direct marketing, or meeting them face to face).  I had a donor bill of rights sitting on my desk as I was jotting down ideas and voila, a fundraiser bill of rights was born.

While it was crafted in the spirit of fun, after presenting it, I realised that perhaps it’s not such a bad idea after all. And now, it’s over to you. What do you think?

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Everything You Need to Know About that Fundraising Project…but were afraid to ask.

Over 20+ years of fundraising, I have been asked to write grant applications and funding proposals for operating grants, projects, corporate sponsorships, naming rights for buildings– sometimes as a ‘one off’ or as part of a capital campaign or a major gifts approach.

Are You a Tortoise Hare?

Are You A Tortoise or a Hare?

Unfortunately, I was often put in the position of having to prepare for donor meetings or write proposals in the absence of crucial information.  So, over the years,  as my confidence grew, I developed a questionnaire for those requesting the funding (here it is:Fundraising Project Checklist).

I admit that asking for this level of detail didn’t always make me popular, but, it shortened time spent completing grant applications and proposals or preparing for donor meetings – and more importantly, made me more successful in raising funds.

It also provided wonderful fundraising project summaries for board members, other fundraising volunteers and staff in a consistent and timely fashion.

Yes, it does require an injection of time and energy ‘up front’ and could be seen as a ‘tortoise vs. hare’ approach, but I have found it to be a very worthwhile investment.  And, having access to this information means a quick turnaround in delivering information to prospects who show interest during initial, exploratory discussions (so valuable from a donor relations perspective).

And, to help all fundraisers be successful by creating a supportive workplace environment, I’ve also created a companion piece: A Fundraiser Bill of Rights.

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Confessions of an Unethical 9 Year Old Fundraiser

A Story of Cemeteries, Snowdrops and a Philanthropic Epiphany

One of the golden rules of major gift fundraising is that before you ask others for donations, you should donate yourself.   Now that this has proven to be a successful step in fundraising, perhaps we should delve deeper and discover our true philanthropic selves – both roots and wings.  If the memory and experience of a single gift can provide a greater level of comfort and confidence in asking others to donate, then just imagine what might happen after discovering the whole story!

Alice Through the Looking GlassAs part of my approach in teaching fundraising, I always recommend such an exploration. So I thought I’d share my own ‘first step into philanthropy’ story.  If you want to skip the story and head straight to the handout I developed to help you on this journey, then here’s the link: Discovering Your Philanthropic Self Template

But, if you’re interested, have a bit of time (yes, I’ve probably blown all known blog rules and written a complete story versus providing a list of bullet points), then here’s my first recollection of anything linked to both asking for donations…and, well, eventually, making one.

And, now if you’re sitting comfortably, I’ll begin…

Cemeteries, Snowdrops and a Philanthropic Epiphany

What do you want to be when you grow up?  Like many children, I was asked this question by adults and becoming a fundraiser was nowhere on the radar. Continue reading

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The Parachute Club…The Evolution of Planned Giving Committees?

As part of a workshop I taught a couple of years ago, I shared the story of the Parachute Club.  Afterwards, Lee-Anne Camlin, Planned Giving Officer at Lakehead University said she was interested in setting this up and asked if I would send her additional information.  Well I didn’t really have anything written, so I crafted the following overview.  I met her recently at a conference and she told me it’s working very well.  So, I thought I’d share with others – who knows it might also work for you.  By the way, Lee-Anne said it would be okay if anyone wanted to contact her to see how it’s going. 

In the world of fundraising, we know the value of being ‘donor-centred’, but perhaps we should pay more attention to this concept when asking professional advisors to get involved in our planned giving programs.  I think this approach reflects what Dale Carnegie was talking about when he said:

“You’ll have more fun and success when you stop trying to get what you want and start helping other people get what they want.”                             Dale Carnegie

The Story of the Parachute Club (tagline: a mutually-beneficial relationship). Continue reading

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Tap into the Power of Narrative Medicine when wrestling with Dragons

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”  ~G. K. Chesterton

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ~G. K. Chesterton

Have you needed to deal with any dragons in your life – or the life of your loved ones?  Possibly, by adopting a more narrative approach to medicine, this might help you to beat them.  Interested, then read on…

I first came across the term, narrative medicine, in 2005 when working with a healthcare charity.  At the time, I was developing my narrative approach in helping non-profit organizations ‘tell their story’ to generate funds and recruit volunteers.

I had been searching for information on the role empathy plays in listening and gathering stories when I discovered an article by Dr. Rita Charon, A Model for Empathy, Reflection, Profession and Trust.

It was a bit of a eureka moment as I had previously spent a few years incorporating stories into my work in the health promotion sector, but had never heard of this pioneering work.  To my delight, in 2006 she published, Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness and while written for medical practitioners, it’s a fascinating resource for any student of narrative.

And, it encouraged me to dust off and build on my earlier health promotion work. Continue reading

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