This year's NEAHP Annual Educational Conference played host to so many engaging and thought-provoking sessions that it was hard to choose which ones were our favorites. Luckily for you, the Gravyty team picked some of their favorites and compiled a list of their top takeaways from this year's speakers.
Here are the top sessions the Gravyty team attended at this year's event:
Pay it Forward, The Circle of Gratitude
In Monday’s Keynote, Jen and Joe Andruzzi of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation (JAF) shared their perspectives on philanthropy. After Joe’s career-ending bout with cancer, they committed to the financial support for New England cancer patients and families. As of now, they have distributed almost $8 million in assistance, helping over 30,000 patients and family members with the financial burdens accompanying cancer treatment. These burdens extend beyond healthcare; in fact, over half of the funding has been used to pay housing costs.
Their most resonant message was one of gratitude, which they defined as an affirmation of goodness. It’s not just appreciation, Jen said, but paying it forward one smile at a time. To make a culture of gratitude authentic, you must live it in both words and actions. To have it become part of your culture, you have to lead the culture. This means communicating however donors want to be spoken to with the goal of a connection, rather than a simple transaction.
The Surprising Gift of Doubt for Fundraising
Tuesday’s keynote featured Marc Pitman talking through leadership strategies for nonprofit leaders. Emphasizing how stressful fundraising is, and being pulled in many different directions, he provided a map for building leadership.
To apply strategies to your style, start with observation. It’s what we do when we’re new to something, trying to soak everything in like a sponge. The second step is experimentation with different tactics, tricks, or strategies. As you’re experimenting, you’re continually analyzing to see what fits with your internal model, the third step. Finally, when you find a system that works, you can be confident in your internal process and fully embrace that strategy.
Marc also stressed the importance of knowing yourself (through introspection, personality analyses, etc.) and communicating peer-to-peer with donors. By knowing your donors as well as knowing yourself, you’re able to connect via shared stories and a true dialogue.
Are You Leaving 97% of Net Worth Out of the Conversation?
Ultimately, through many examples, Vince provided some tips to securing planned gifts, which on average can be 400x larger than annual gifts. To include an organization in their will (where 80% of planned gifts are located), donors must feel deeply connected to an organization, and that doesn’t happen by accident. Fundraisers must uncover the “why” behind gifts through questions like “what motivated your gift?” or “what interests you most about our organization?”. In this way, the journey from an annual gift to a planned or even blended gift rests on communication after the initial donation.
The Magic Pill: The Secret to Securing Transformational Gifts
Short answer: there IS no magic pill! But at its core, fundraising can be broken down into ten fundamental pillars to focus on when looking to improve.
- Vision- Know it, make sure you can articulate it, and align your organization with it.
- Case- The WHY! Extraordinary gifts require extraordinary reasons.
- Plan- Organizations with a plan consistently raise more money than those that don’t. Know it and stick to it.
- Leadership- Is your board on board?
- Prospects- You don’t need new prospects, the next major donors are likely already out there, waiting to be reached.
- Diverse Portfolio- Make sure, through all the ways to acquire gifts, you’re focusing on the channels with the biggest ROI for you.
- Major Gifts- They’re the biggest ROI, considering a single major gift can increase revenue by more than 10%.
- Donor Centric Fundraising- Make it about them, not you. Ask what motivates them.
- Art of the Ask- Instead of a casual, nonchalant, or favor-oriented ask, look to make a specific ask with plenty of preparation. After the gift is made, give timely acknowledgement.
- Stewardship- You can never say thank you enough.
50 Hacks to Raise More Money for Your Annual Fund
Though 50 hacks is too many to summarize, Five Oaks’ Sarah Gnerre shared some of the main ideas to increase giving in annual fund and direct mailing campaigns. Focusing on donor attrition, not just dollars raised, is important. This includes asking questions about retention, follow-up gifts, and lapsed donors while looking for the “why?”.
To write and design an effective solicitation, make sure it’s donor-centric, sensitive to their situation, showcasing your specific problems, and asking for a specific amount. Overall, make it personal, both on your end (such as including a picture of the solicitor) and the receiving end (segmentation). Finally, timely stewardship, through letters, calls, and emails, helps retain donors and sets up for a second ask within 60-90 days.
Reimagining How We Introduce ‘Mental Wellness’
Fable, his colleague Gleason, and a young up-and-coming poet, Regina Cassese, shared perspectives, stories, and struggles that were intertwined with healthcare. Fable’s struggles provided a first-person account of the challenges of mental health treatment. He couldn’t see himself in his providers, and it led to ineffective therapy. He’s also intimately familiar with the struggles of modern cancer care, as his wife was diagnosed and is undergoing treatment. But in these “lemons”, he encouraged attendees to find the “sugar” in their lives to make lemonade.
The ABC’s of Grateful Patient Fundraising
Jessica provided a case study in successful grateful patient fundraising from her work at Albany Medical Center. To maximize efficiency, they do quarterly patient screenings to winnow down a large pool of patients into a few major gift prospects and another pool to include in future appeals. The rest are discarded, and time is not wasted on doing extensive research into them. Ultimately, their strategy of informed efficiency has allowed the team to qualify for gratitude and confirm capacity efficiently without wasted time, making lighter work of managing large prospect groups.
The Solicitation Process As Told Through Pop Culture Media
Jay and Tara provided six non-negotiables to major gift fundraising, bolstered by some catchy examples. Their non-negotiables included knowing your prospects, acknowledging and moving beyond an initial objection, making the most compelling case possible, distinguishing your solicitation, explaining that your organization cannot succeed without them, and sharing the names of other key investors.
Overall, Jay and Tara emphasized keeping an intentional path toward a major gift, which doesn’t happen immediately (many take 18 months or more). During this relationship, while building rapport is important, the fundraiser cannot lose sight of the purpose of the interaction. It’s closing a gift, not making a friend.
What’s New is Normal: Building Your Brand and Value in the Age of COVID
Despite the UConn Health Foundation being separate from the hospital, the Foundation staff described how communication between the organizations during COVID led to a unity of mission and great successes in fundraising toward their goal of establishing an inclusive community of philanthropy. Their work served as an example of increased transparency benefiting everyone: from fundraisers to caregivers to patients and families receiving the ultimate benefits.
What sessions did you attend this year? Connect with the Gravyty team and let us know what you have learned at NEAHP!