Nonprofit Nation with Julia Campbell

How to Fundraise In A Pandemic (or Any Other Crisis) with Pamela Grow

April 20, 2022 Julia Campbell Season 1 Episode 33
Nonprofit Nation with Julia Campbell
How to Fundraise In A Pandemic (or Any Other Crisis) with Pamela Grow
Show Notes Transcript

This episode is sponsored by the Donor Participation Project Conference! Join me and dozens of others for a different kind of fundraising event.  Register at

In 2020 a tsunami in the form of a global pandemic hit us all. Too many nonprofits were left scrambling, trying to pick up the pieces. Wondering how they were going to replace the $600k their spring gala typically raises. Often left afraid to fundraise, disempowered by well-meaning boards and directors.

We’re still dealing with the changing landscape of fundraising and our sector. But the good news is, donors stepped up. Big time. And thanks to the disruptions of the past two years, we know what works in the midst of crisis!

In the latest episode of Nonprofit Nation, I ask Pamela Grow how we can best fundraise and ask for support in the midst of a crisis, and how to make this fundraising sustainable in the long term.

Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, a must-read weekly email for small shop fundraisers, the author of Simple Development Systems: Successful Fundraising for the One-Person Shop, and founder of The Fundraising Calendar.

Her Basics & More classes have trained nearly 10,000 nonprofits all over the world. Pam was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants. 

Connect with Pamela:

Do me a favor? Rate, Review, & Follow on Apple Podcasts (or your podcast player of choice) - it helps this podcast get seen by more people that would enjoy it!

About Julia Campbell, the host of the Nonprofit Nation podcast:

Named as a top thought leader by Forbes and BizTech Magazine, Julia Campbell (she/hers) is an author, coach, and speaker on a mission to make the digital world a better place.

She wrote her book, Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits, as a roadmap for social change agents who want to build movements using engaging digital storytelling techniques. Her second book, How to Build and Mobilize a Social Media Community for Your Nonprofit, was published in 2020 as a call-to-arms for mission-driven organizations to use the power of social media to build movements. Julia’s online courses, webinars, and talks have helped hundreds of nonprofits make the shift to digital thinking and raise more money online.

Connect with Julia on other platforms:

Take Julia’s free nonprofit masterclass, ​3 Must-Have Elements of Social Media Content that Converts

Have you ever felt like the fundraising advice out there was disconnected from reality? Are you a curious fundraising professional who wonders why are things done this way? And are you looking for network of peers to share challenges, not just successes? Have you discovered a strategy or tactic that could help other nonprofits? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, and if this sounds uncomfortably familiar, you'll want to join me at the 2022 donor participation project conference built by and for the everyday development professional. Together, we will identify strategies to disrupt current fundraising practices that do not work. Discover fresh ideas from relatable innovators, including you and share actionable advice that you can apply right now no matter how big or small your shop is. You can join me and register now at join d p p dot o RG forward slash conference that's join DPP dot o RG forward slash conference, scholarships and group rates are also available. And I hope to see you there. Hello, and welcome to nonprofit Nation. I'm your host, Julia Campbell. And I'm going to sit down with nonprofit industry experts, fundraisers, marketers, and everyone in between to get real and discuss what it takes to build that movement that you've been dreaming of. I created the nonprofit nation podcast to share practical wisdom and strategies to help you confidently Find Your Voice. Definitively grow your audience and effectively build your movement. If you're a nonprofit newbie, or an experienced professional, who's looking to get more visibility, reach more people and create even more impact, then you're in the right place. Let's get started. Hi, everyone. Thanks again for joining me on nonprofit nation. This is your host, Julia Campbell, and today I have a special guest. She definitely needs no introduction. But I'm going to introduce her anyway. It's Pamela grow. Pamela grow is the publisher of the Grow report, which to every fundraiser out there is the must read weekly news for small shop fundraisers. She's the author of simple development systems, successful fundraising for the one person shop, another absolute must have on your bookshelf, and the founder of the free fundraising calendar, you can get your copy right now just go to the fundraising and sign up that's another must have resource or basics and more classes have trained nearly 10,000 nonprofits all over the world. That's amazing. Pam was named one of the 50 most influential fundraisers by civil society magazine, one of the 40 most effective fundraising consultants. And Pam, I just have to say you've been a huge mentor to me and a huge inspiration, especially your basics and more classes, your blog, your E News, the way you show up so consistently all the time, and give of your advice and generosity. So thank you and welcome to the show. Oh my gosh, I can tell you we're a great fundraiser because you really know how to make people feel good. That's what it's all about. Right? I just love having conversations. I like being curious. I think I read this in a blog post that you wrote or an E News that you wrote about being curious. Yes, it's huge. It's absolutely one of the most important characteristics of a good fundraiser. But I want to talk about how you got started in your story and how you got involved with the work that you're doing right now. I love hearing people's stories. I love your story. What you just shared right before we started recording, yes, everyone on the podcast has heard it 1000 times. Well, with me, I started back in the 90s. I had two little kids at home. One was I think my my one daughter was seven my other daughter was two and I really needed to supplement the family income. I'd been big on staying home with both my girls and second one didn't didn't really need me. So I was looking for a job that was maybe two or three days a week and I started working for a family grantmaking foundation here in Philadelphia and it was kind of it was a really interesting experience actually because although this foundation had been founded back in 1956, the founder had just passed away And so they were in the process beforehand. It was like the founder and his wife, they just throw checks out the door organizations they liked, right? If you needed money, you went to them with your with your hat in your hand. And that's the way it operated. So we were in the process of becoming an actual grant making organization with grant application guidelines. And we didn't have a website, of course, it was it was the 90s. And it was just, it was such a great time to be there, because I loved learning the behind the scenes, and it was just really cool. I worked on their first website, I handled actually all the initial proposal reviews, and I handled all the declinations. And like I said, it was a great experience. And one of the most interesting something that taught me like my first lesson, it was kind of rare that a first time brand new organization got funded. And we had declined this organization. And usually when we declined an organization that was the last we heard from them, a lot of times they didn't bother reapplying this particular organization send a really lovely thank you letter. We know that you are balancing a lot of different organizations, and we really appreciate the thoughtful time you put into reviewing our proposal. And I remember the vice president of programming she and she was actually the founders daughter was a Family Foundation. She was gobsmacked. Really she said, This is so lovely. And she felt heard. You know, Julia, it's like, you think well, what could be better? You know, than being a daughter of a billionaire businessman and giving away money to worthy organizations, what fun, but she felt really hurt because she did put a lot of time into reviewing proposals. And don't you know, of course, that organization came back the following year, and they were funded. So that was something once I once I went over to the other side, the dark side, I always remembered, I always said, Thank you, even if I did get declined. But yeah, just the whole seven years I was there, I really loved getting to know the various Philadelphia organizations because we were very regional. So then I wanted to go over to the other side. And I kind of started as a dedicated grant maker or grant writer. That's how I started do. And what did you learn in all your years of grant writing that you take with you now? Well, one thing I kind of learned early on, because that was all I did. Actually know, I learned it when I became a development director and was supposed to, you know be doing at all, it was just me was that general operating support was the way to go. I always tell the story of being in Philadelphia for how many years now? 20. Some years. And despite that fact, I've only written one proposal to the Pew Foundation, which is one of the most well known foundations here. And finally, we were actually one organization I was working with, we were invited to apply. So we did, and it was a royal pain. The proposal took at least two weeks working exclusively on this proposal. And we did get funded I think it was I think it was a $75,000 grant, which for our tiny little $500,000 organization was was a lot of money. It was a three year grant. So it was 25,000 every year. But you know, the reporting took up so much of my time. Oh, the reporting. It's insane. The hoops that some foundations make you jump through? Oh my god. And that's why I started really building a core base of general operating support for every organization I worked with in Philly. And the thing of it was that here in Philly, doing that was pretty easy. Like I get grants ranging, the lowest would be 5000. The highest might be 25,025 might be small for this foundation. Typically they were between five and 10. And I build up a nice core where I'd have like 150 to 100,000 in general operating support, so easy to report on. Everybody gets the same report. It's I mean, that's what Valais talks a lot about on his blog is creating more standardized reporting and standardized proposals, because the amount of time especially like you just said you are a one person shop. So for the small shop fundraiser, grant writing can take away from things like major gift development The donor development, the annual fund, and then there's events, and then there's all sorts of things like that. So I think that's a huge thing that we can advocate for in the sector. So if there's any funders listening, streamline the process. Exactly. How did you get into consulting? Oh, that's interesting. How did I get into consultants? Oh, no one says they want to be a consultant. I think some people do now, but most of us are accidental consultants. I think I was an accidental consultant. For sure. I think I mentioned earlier that I initially got into nonprofit work because I needed to supplement the family income. By the time I became a consultant, I was divorced. And I, I really needed to be making more money than being development director of a one person shop is gonna pay me to just be totally honest with you. And yet, that was where my that was where my heart was. My heart has always been with a smaller nonprofit. So I was working for a probably the largest organization I've ever worked for, in a job job. And I'd been there maybe six months, and I was put on medical leave, and I ended up hospitalized, and they laid me off. Oh, my God. Yeah, oh, I was laid off eight months pregnant. I mean, it's horrific. That's unbelievable that they did that. No, you were eight months pregnant. Oh, my God. Yeah, some pretty, some pretty bad stuff. And then you wonder why we didn't want to go back. We just wanted to go off on our own. But what I what I want to talk about today, I want to talk about the last two years, how we thought maybe the pandemic would be over? And it's certainly not. And it looks like it's going to be with us for some time. So we keep talking about the next normal, the new normal the future. And just from your perspective, because you do so much writing on this topic. And I know you work with a lot of small organizations really hands on, what are some of the things that some of the big changes you saw in the fundraising field in the last two or so years? And then what do you think we should take with us? Like, what was positive? And then what were you glad to see changed? You know, I feel like organizations really focused in more on their donors. I saw I saw a lot of organizations that maybe they had, they had a big event. And, you know, they canceled the event and instead sent out another appeal, and did better than their event has had ever done. Saw that a lot. And I think more of a focus on individual giving. Also, I you know, I think really focusing in on the basics. I have this one organization, this one student that was very, very heavily event based. And she came in as their new development director, and she came in. She had been a consultant, she came in telling them yeah, we're going to pare down these events. She took them from maybe eight, nine events to one or two. And she had put together her plan for the year and part of that plan included a spring fundraising appeal, which they had never done before. And then her Ed said, Absolutely not. You know, we're not going to ask people right now. And so I was working with her. She was one of our students. We actually wrote the letter and presented it to her. And it was framed in such a sensitive way that her IDI agreed to go with it. And it just, it was huge. Yeah, I can't remember I should have written it down. I saw a lot of that we're not going to fundraise. How can we fundraise if we're not pandemic facing? If we're not health care for non emergency services? What do you tell people when they when they have that block? In a word, we're still in the middle of it. And it's what I call it name by post like it's, it's this tsunami, I mean, every day, every day, we're faced with what's going on, not just here, but all across the world. And you're giving your donors something that they can do that they'll feel good about that they can feel positive about. That they can feel like they're making a difference in the world. You know, we saw we saw so much good stuff. We saw an increase in online giving for a lot of my students. It was their first real dipping a toe in the water. And they did great experimentation. Yeah. And it was all about communicating more with our donors. One on one, I think. I think during the last couple years, we've really seen the importance of individual giving. broad based individual giving. Yeah, expand on that. So do you feel like that is, across all channels? So individual giving campaigns that are sort of hybrid now maybe a little in person, mostly online, maybe on Zoom? What are you seeing? What do you feel are the channels that people are using right now, maybe doing things that are hybrid, I've seen a combination of maybe some smaller in person meetings with donors, but then also a lot of zoom meetings, a lot of phone calls, old fashioned phone calls, coming back. Old fashioned phone calls, is anything better and more underutilized. I've also seen a lot of innovation just with my clients, because I of course, I focus on social media, and digital marketing, but willingness to get on video or willingness to try new things or get out of your comfort zone, or do an interview with a client or a staff member, go behind the scenes and talk about what's going on. I mean, we saw so much innovation, especially with museums, right, and art, art organizations, theater organizations, because their doors were closed. But they had to stay in people's feed, and they had to stay in people's inbox and stay in people's minds and hearts. And some of the organizations that I saw, I mean, really the most successful ones. They didn't necessarily ask for money. They had had some appeals, but they just stay top of mind. They just said, Hey, we're here. The arts are still important. I know we're in a pandemic. Theater is still important. Historical Preservation is still important. The environment still important, like a lot of land Trust's, did you see that too? Absolutely. Absolutely. We're actually right around the corner here. I featured them in a couple of policies a an organization called the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. And what this is, is a it's a little tiny movie theater in downtown Bryn Mawr, just about two blocks, and went through the changes that a lot of theaters have gone through and most of them have closed. And they converted I'm going to say about 10 years ago into this independent nonprofit. And of course, their doors were closed for for well over a year. And they just, I hate this word, Juliette but they pivoted Paralia absolutely brilliantly. And the cool thing about it was it seemed like it happened right from the get go. Like they didn't even need any time. And I found out when I interviewed her that there's some sort of organization that works with these kinds of organizations in particular, they're really good at developing strategies for for dealing with communicating during times like this. So they have that support. It was great. And now a word from our sponsor. I'm here to tell you that this podcast episode is sponsored by my newest free training social media in 20 minutes per day. This is where I give you my exact framework and process to schedule and organize your time, so that social media does not take over your entire day. And to do list, watch the replay for free at social media in 20. That's to zero the numbers to And be sure to tag me on social to let me know what you think. That's social media and Thanks for listening and enjoy. Now, you wrote in your, in your blog about predictions, make 2022 The year of stewardship. So what are some tips you can give us around that? And what is stewardship mean? Just really thanking your donor and thanking your donor. Well, because yeah, it's it is your best opportunity. What happens when an individual stumbles onto your website and makes a donation? I wanted to ask you something, actually, could you share a personal experience of maybe a recent donation that you made to a new organization and why you made it you don't have to name the organization? I'm just curious. Oh, right. Well, a lot of my listeners know I talk about an organization very frequently called Amira Incorporated, I'm a monthly donor to them. And I started learning about them actually. So Several years ago, when I was researching case studies on who uses social media and storytelling around difficult topics, and they help survivors of sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, right here in New England, which is something that I didn't know was going on. So it caught my eye, first of all, a topic that I thought, wow, this is a shock to me, I didn't know this was happening in my own backyard. And then the genuine communication they have, their executive director is always going on video and sharing updates. And during the pandemic, they were just sharing updates checking in, you know, Hi, how are you what's going on, how's everyone doing? How's everyone feeling? It's just, it's a beautiful, beautiful organization. That is really cool. And they sent me my summary of all my monthly gifts in 2021, with a nice little video. And I actually became, became colleagues and friends with the development officer. She spoke at the nonprofit Social Media Summit, talking about how they use social media to build their community. And it's a really small organization under $2 million budget, and what they are able to do in terms of donor communication. And in terms of just genuinely creating this community around a really tough topic to talk about, is pretty amazing. Oh, wow, I definitely have to check that out. And then I maybe know where you're going with this, then I think I know what you what you're trying to get out. And yes, I have the opposite experience as well. Of course, I gave $25, I'm not going to call them out to a local organization, during the pandemic, and did not get so much as a thank you. So yes, there's that side of it as well. I'm going to tell you about a situation I had, I'm gonna say it was four or five years ago. And you I know we both follow Honi Humans of New York. I was reading reading one of their stories, I think I believe it was right on Facebook, I was reading it. And it was about an ex offender who was trying to get his life back on track on the streets of New York City. And there was the usual Honi posts where you're in tears. Yes. And someone in the comments mentioned this nonprofit in New York, that works with ex offenders. And she couldn't say enough good about them. And I very impulsively went over to the organization's website, and I made a monthly gift. And I don't usually make a monthly gift just from the start. But with this organization, I did i and it wasn't a lot. It was maybe $20 a month. And I'm gonna say about three years past. I never got oh my gosh, did you donate monthly for three years? Yeah. And then my credit card was expiring. So I just let it go. And I never heard from them. So I was moved by the story. Yes. The story, the Honi story. But Why else did I make that gift? I made that gift because prior to getting into nonprofit fundraising, I worked for the Chairman of the Corrections Department for the state legislature and Michigan and probably visited a good three quarters of the prisons in Michigan. And just walking inside a prison is a devastating experience. If you've ever been in one, the first the first time I went to a prison in Michigan, I came home it was a Friday. And I cried all weekend. I'm I'm a very sensitive soul can tell you, but you know so. So these kinds of organizations are very dear to my heart is my point here. And understanding why your donors give is so critical. And you can you can build it helps you it helps you develop your communications and helps you develop a deeper relationship with the donor. So one of the best things you can do early on. And I think this was actually in the book, keep your donors by Tom Ahern. And Simone is to call new donors. And just if you get a chance to engage with them, just to say what prompted you to give today, after you say thank you. So simple. It's so simple. And you'll get really good intel, like you said, for your communications but you'll also I mean if they had called you and talk to you, they would have learned that you really Do just from a practical perspective, probably have the your like a hidden gem, what Steven Shattuck calls the hidden gems in your donor database. It's like the people that make your monthly gifts. But then if you talk to them, you find out their personal connection to the cause. And I think we spend so much time getting mad about Facebook, not giving us our donor data. And not enough time, really cultivating the hidden gems in our in our donor database, calling new donors even just emailing new donors writing a little note to new donors. I used to do that when I was a development director, I would always write a note. So I would work on the weekends. And just always, always write a personalized little note, we had that tax receipt and everything that went out. But I just think that making 2022 The year of stewardship, because we're all on edge still, we're all feeling anxious. We're all feeling a little bit lost. I mean, did you make resolutions this year? I didn't make resolutions. I did not make resolutions this year. Now. Nobody did. They were just like, who cares? You make resolutions and the world falls apart. I don't even have a word for the year. I mean, I guess it would be stewardship, but I I'm really not fond of the word stewardship because it sounds so I don't know. It sounds kind of Stabia it does cultivation donor donor love like John Hayden's book. Yeah. Donor love or donor care. Sorry, is the title of his Yeah, donor donor care donor car. It can be really simple. You can just make it a practice to call a donor every day, just to say thank you. And and I've done this because you know, when I know that, you are not going to reach a whole lot of people. But even a voicemail, it's been shown makes a huge, huge difference. I'm going to ask your listeners, if they're listening to this podcast, Google a woman by the name of Elizabeth Verto. Ve R D O W. She was an 86 year old former school teacher who left behind a gift of nearly 2 million. I will put that in the show notes. Ve R D O W. I saw that story. I love that story a long time. Tell us more about that story. If people don't know, it's really beautiful. It is beautiful. It is beautiful. And I think we I think we just put we put so much focus on the money on the money. Who were you asked to write a grant to the Gates Foundation? I don't know. I mean, I can probably all the big ones in Boston. John Hancock anyone with money? was always Bill Cosby, right? We can see how that worked. Oh, gosh. Also, just on a complete side note. I'm watching that documentary. We need to talk about Cosby. Oh, I haven't seen that yet. As a good. It's on Showtime. It's it's like heartbreaking. I used to love Bill Cosby so much. But anyway, so I just that's a totally different conversation. But I think I know exactly what you mean, when you say people just focus on the money. and not enough on the actual connection. The actual connections, the personal connection, the Yeah, and this all you know, it takes time. It takes time to build. So what do you say to the executive directors and board members out there? Who don't see it as their duty to fundraise? What can the little small shop development director say to get them to get them motivated? It really is part of your organization's culture. I know that that and you know, pre notes you asked about examples. And one of my absolute favorites is a gal and he didn't when I say gal that sounds so old. Now, she she had started with her organization about six years ago, she actually moved to work for this organization. She was thrilled to be having the job. And she found out early on, right that she was like something like the fifth development director in three years, something like that. So she knew she had to start out with her organization's culture really transforming the culture. And that's what she did. And she made she made it clear. I believe she met individually with everyone and said, you know, look, this is how it's gonna go down. And if you'd like I can send you a link to the article on my site because she actually developed these culture of philanthropy one pagers that she uses to train her new board members, new staff members to make it really clear that yeah, this is everybody's job. And it's it's it's program staff job to get your stories So as your board members job in your, your EDS job to participate in stewardship, it's the best the best place you can direct them. Today, she's still there, by the way, she is how many years? Six years ago. Now she has a team of five. And they grew their monthly giving significantly during the last year. And it offset the the loss of their life. They do have some live events, and community events. That's a really practical tip, I think for the listeners is that culture of philanthropy, one sheet, whatever that looks like, for your organization, it's almost like a statement of your values. But it's not your mission statement isn't your vision statement? It's not your strategic plan. It's a statement of your values and what everyone can bring to the table. I love that. I'll post that link in the show notes if you send it to me. I mean, I think that's a really practical tip for the listeners. Well, anything else that you wanted to add? Before we before we adjourn? Anything you wanted to say? It's mostly small shop fundraisers and marketers listening? Mostly small shop? That's a lot of my audience. So yeah, what do you want to leave them with? I love our small shops. I would say don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. We really know. We do know what works. And building those very strong ask think repeat systems. They're gonna help you survive anything. It's really important to have the basics down the fundamentals. Now, follow Pam on Twitter at Pamela grow tweets all the time. Fabulous, fabulous information. Great questions. I love how you use Twitter, actually, Pam, because it's very conversation based. It's not just sort of sharing out links, which I do way too much on Twitter. But it's really asking for feedback, and engaging with other people. I mean, it's the way it's supposed to be used. So definitely follow Pam at Pamela grow on Twitter, and then go to the fundraising. Get your free copy of the fundraising calendar. And yeah, thanks so much for being here. Pam. I hope we can see each other in person sometime. Oh, God, I hope so too. All right. Well, thanks for being here. And everyone else. I will see you next week. Same time, same place. All right. Thank you. Well, hey there. I wanted to say thank you for tuning into my show, and for listening all the way to the end. If you really enjoyed today's conversation, make sure to subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast app, and you'll get new episodes downloaded as soon as they come out. I would love if you left me a rating or review because this tells other people that my podcast is worth listening to. And then me and my guests can reach even more earbuds and create even more impact. So that's pretty much it. I'll be back soon with a brand new episode. But until then, you can find me on Instagram at Julia Campbell seven, seven. Keep changing the world. Non profit unicorns.