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Season 2, Episode 10

Amy and Andrea talk about the various ways to figure out if your organization is ready for a capital campaign. They’ve found that the process of looking at your fundraising systems and board can be done simply and is often remarkably effective. Assessing various aspects of your organization will give you focus and a way forward whether or not a campaign is imminent.

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This episode was recorded as part of a live webinar held Monday, October 18, 2021. To participate in future webinars, register at ToolkitTalks.com.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
I actually spent a chunk of the weekend writing a post about various things to assess before you go into a Capital Campaign. And it made me think about the process of assessing most anything. And I think we often all, both personally and professionally go on for way too long without standing back and actually taking a good hard look at various things. And moving in the on-ramp to a Capital Campaign is a wonderful time to assess a whole bunch of stuff. It is almost always the case, the campaigns that look totally smooth and as though they’re just magical turns out that the reason they’re so smooth is because they have all their systems in place. People know what they’re doing, people are lined up in their right jobs. The board knows what it’s doing. They have a CRM that works and multiple people know how to use the CRM.

They have a major gifts program. They have… I mean, all of the things that can cause bottlenecks like the shipping bottlenecks, the world is facing all the things that can cause bottlenecks have been taken care of through a long period of getting everything in order and in place. And in most organizations, these things tend to go in cycles, right? We get in pretty good shape and then we use the systems that we have in place and then the organization grows and then the systems tend to fall apart a little, right? The systems aren’t big enough to handle the next phase of growth. So periodically you need to step back and take some time to actually look at the basic systems and see if they’re working. And because capital campaigns are so big, right? They’re so time-intensive and labor-intensive and the stakes are so high.

It is a time to get people’s attention. As in the run-up in a campaign, it’s the time to get the attention of your board, of your executive director, of your staff and to actually say, “We are going to take the next month and we’re going to evaluate and assess some of the systems that we know need to be in place if we’re going to have an effective campaign.” So we wanted to raise that as a topic and find out from you how often you do assessments, the assessments we’re talking about in the post. I think with this four of them, one is a development office assessment. One is a board self-assessment, which is really important. One is a tech assessment, are all the various technical aspects of your organization functioning well? Do you have the right sorts of systems for communications for your website, for your CRM, are the systems in place and do they still serve your organization well and if not, what can you do about them?

And there are a bunch of other systems, your telephone telecom systems, do they still function well and given how we’ve changed over COVID particularly, are they functioning well, do you have what you need? So, Amy, what do you want to add to that?

Amy Eisenstein:
Right. So Andrea’s referring to a blog post that she wrote that’s coming out tomorrow, actually. So you will be able to download for free all four assessments. So just look at the capitalcampaigntoolkit.com blog and you will be able to download the four assessment tools that we’re providing. But you started to ask a question, so I’m curious in the chat, how often do you step back and do an assessment either of your board, how is your board functioning? Of your development office, how is your development office functioning? And it’s not that you’re going to get an A or an F usually somewhere, most organizations are probably in the B, B minus, B plus, C, C plus range. And so, the real objective of these assessment tools is to figure out, what do you need to improve?

What are you doing really well, first of all, and does everybody in your organization agree? I mean, if the executive director and some of the leadership team members take the assessment and there’s wild disagreement on some of the areas like how you’re doing in terms of communication, how your staffing is, how your systems are running, it’s an opportunity to step back before you go into a campaign and say, “You know what? We need to work on these,” right? Or maybe everybody agrees that they’re great or that they need some work. So, anyways Scott is asking in the chat, has anyone used the Dove Preparedness Index as an assessment tool? And I’m not familiar with that. So I don’t know if that’s something you’ve heard of, Andrea but —

Andrea Kihlstedt:
No. I don’t know about it but I will look into it, it would be interesting.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah.

Using Simple Tools to Assess Campaign Readiness

Andrea Kihlstedt:
One of the things that I like about simple assessment tools is that the best way to do an assessment in my opinion, is to get the people who are being assessed to participate in the assessment process. It’s one thing to come in and tell everybody that you’re going to look over what they’re doing and see if it’s good enough, that’s one kind of assessment, but a way better kind of assessment is to say, “It’s time for us to take a good look at ourselves and see how we’re functioning.” And that’s particularly a really good idea for your board and your board periodically should do a self-assessment. Now there are a bunch of different self-assessments. You can get big ones and little ones, complicated ones and simple ones. But if you can get your board going into a capital campaign to fill out each one of them to fill out an assessment questionnaire and then collate what it is they’ve said and schedule a special meeting to discuss it, it will by nature of the process, get your board thinking about what they should think about.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. So the one that we provide on our blog is simple. It’s actually in the Toolkit, of course, as well, but we’re offering it on our blog for free starting tomorrow. So go ahead and grab it. It’s about 10 questions and basically board members have to check off yes, no, in process or I don’t know, those are the four choices, right? So it’s not complicated answers, but it asks about board participation and readiness and agreement and whatever the… There’s about 10 pretty simple questions. They should be able to do it in five minutes.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah. And simple things like, “Do your board members attend meetings?”

Amy Eisenstein:
Right.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
But the reality is that if your board members don’t attend meetings and that’s what shows up on the assessment, that’s something worth discussing, right? Do all of your board members contribute to your organization? That’s something you can ask in an assessment. It takes a dicey topic and puts it out there for everyone to discuss. I mean, there are a bunch of simple questions that when you put the question on the table for all of your board members and then you have them discuss it, sometimes very interesting things result from those discussions.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. If plenty of board members checkoff that, no, you don’t have good attendance at board meetings, it’s an opportunity to sit down and discuss why, what’s going on with the board, with the board meetings. What can you do about it? Because if you… Maybe the white elephant in the room, but when you do an assessment, it’s going to be right there smack in front of you that something isn’t working. And then it’s an opportunity to sit down and say, “How can we do this better?” All right, we can talk about this for another minute or two, but basically I just want to remind everybody that we are inviting questions either on this topic or any topic related to capital campaigns or fundraising. So please go ahead and open your Q$A box right now and type in your questions or topics, anything that you hoped that we would address today.

Educating Your Board in Preparation for a Campaign

Andrea Kihlstedt:
So Olga is asking an interesting question and it’s one that I can shift over to the assessment issue. She says, “What do you do when your board’s only idea of fund development is an event or a gala and how do you educate the board about that and get them involved?” Olga, I know you are not alone, I can first tell you, I know you’re not alone. It’s scary how many boards think that and really the reason many of them think that’s the most comfortable place for them in fundraising. They know how to sell a ticket, right? They’re afraid to ask for money, but they feel like they know how to sell a ticket. So it’s not uncommon. I wonder if you can… If you could craft some an assessment or an assessment question around boards roles in fundraising, right? What do you think are the most important roles the board plays in fundraising? Right? You could actually… If you knew there was an issue on your board, you could shape your assessment to draw some of those topics and it would be interesting to think of that. How would you handle that though, Amy? We know this happens lot.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, it definitely happens a lot. So, I mean, I think that I would ask or somehow try and get from some of the more experienced board members to talk about how they’ve experienced fundraising, either at my organization or other organizations and maybe share some statistics about where the biggest money comes from. I mean, maybe your board members don’t have any idea that events and galas are actually the most labor-intensive and costly types of fundraising. I mean, board members don’t want to do things that cost a lot of money. Now they don’t want to do things that scare them either. So the question is how do you create a combination of training and support and reassurance. But I would have other board members maybe talk about the way they’ve been successful fundraising for your organization or other organizations have a discussion with them first one-on-one and make sure that they are there to stand up and talk about those other ways.

I think the other thing that I recommend is asking board members who want to do events to draft a very basic revenue and expense budget and it has to be realistic. So if you sold X number of tickets, if you got X amount of sponsorship, how much would the event cost? And then really look at them with… And look at the budget that they’ve come up with and say, “Okay, is this worth all the time and energy that’s going to be put into it in order to do that?”

How do you get past the, “we don’t need to meet, I’ll support you? Should we keep trying or move on?” Christine’s asking. So I’m curious if people in the chatbox want to address this as well as we can. But what do you say to people when they say, “We don’t need to meet, I’ll support you?” Do you have a good answer for that?

Andrea Kihlstedt:
I mean, what would I say? If you were to say that to me and you’re asking me for a gift and I say… And I’m asking you for a… What would I say if you actually… You said to me, I was saying, “You know Amy, I know we don’t need to meet, but I’d really like to meet. I’d really love to hear what’s going on with you. I’d love to hear your views of what we’re doing and to have a little time to share with you what’s going on and to ask you in a serious way for your gift this year.” I would up the ante.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
I know we don’t have to meet. I know you’re generous. I know you’re going to support it, but I think we should meet.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. I think… Yeah, being honest… Honesty is always the best policy. So listen, say, “You know what? We’re doing some big things this year and we are out talking to our biggest and best supporters and we count you among them and we would love to have the opportunity to ask you some questions and let you ask us some questions. And of course, we’d be delighted with your support and we don’t have to meet, but we would really appreciate.” You can say 15 minutes, keep it short. All right. What’s the next question we’re looking at here?

Putting Fundraising as a Top Priority

Amy Eisenstein:
All Right. So Ellen’s asking, “Do you have any tips on how to help the communication department focus their attention on fundraising and encourage them to put fundraising in their top priorities?”

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yes. I have some tips about that, Ellen, you will be happy to know. Listen, here’s the deal. Fundraising, if you get down under the money stuff, fundraising the most awe inspiring thing anyone can write about because you can write about the stories that the money… The people’s gifts made possible. You can write about generosity. You can write about the spirit of giving. You can write about the wonders that money that is being raised actually enables. So you have to get your communications people to understand that fundraising isn’t really about money. You have to help them get past that, right? And once they do, they will want to write about nothing other than fundraising. They just need to have a brain shift. You need to help them understand that there is more interesting stuff to write that relates to fundraising than to anything else that they’re going to be able to write about.

And once you connect them to those stories, once you connect them to the generous impulse, why a donor has been generous, right? That’s always amazing to write about and to read about. So you need to translate that beyond the money for them because they can’t do it. They think about fundraising, they just think about money. You have anything to add to that Amy?

Amy Eisenstein:
No, I think that was perfect. Dana’s asking or sharing that they have a director, she has a director at the organization who has been there for years and has taken on the website, phone, email management but they don’t have any time to update things, I’m guessing. So they’re falling down on the job. Dana’s hoping one of the assessments addresses the issues, any ideas on how to carefully navigate this topic without hurting the feelings or stepping on toes. So yes, Dana, I would download the assessments and you can, as an office together, evaluate the programs. And without pointing fingers say, “Look, here are our areas of strengths, here are our areas of weakness, here are things we’re working on,” and decide in terms of which are the priorities. You don’t have to go into a campaign being perfect on every area on the assessments, by the way, we should have probably said that Andrea. Some of these things are always going to be a work in progress.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Right.

Amy Eisenstein:
And that’s okay. What you’re going to look at is the whole list of things that we’ve identified as things that are important to be working on as you go through a campaign. And you’re never going to have everything where it’s in the best shape you hope it could be in. So the real question is which things can you focus on? What are the priorities and what needs to be left in the dust. And I think those are just decisions that you need to make as a team. The other thing that I would say in terms of stepping on toes and hurting feelings, I mean, obviously depending on who this person is it can be a delicate conversation. Sometimes we have to manage up, right? That expression, whether we’re sharing with board members or your boss but there’s… I’ve seen it all sorts of ways.

Andrea talks about it as an Oreo Cookie approach. You can talk about it as the “compliment kebab” or I don’t know. So two compliments surrounding a recommendation. So in order to not hurt somebody’s feelings or step on toes, you say, “I’ve noticed these are the things that look really good. These are the things that I’m curious about or wondering about or noticed,” and then follow up again. “You know what? I know we all have so much going on here, you’re doing an amazing job with XYZ.” Now depending on who you’re talking to your boss, you have to think about how you’re framing that. But I think that really thinking about making sure that it’s not just criticism so that you are noticing what they are doing well.

Handling Burnout

Andrea Kihlstedt:
There are some questions about burnout here and I’m thinking about that because I’m thinking about assessment. I’m thinking that you don’t need to download anybody else’s assessment, you can make up an assessment, right? And when you sense that there’s an issue around burnout, you could actually put together a little COVID burnout assessment and put together five questions. How are you feeling post COVID? We’ve had a huge complicated time. Let’s take a minute to fill out these five questions about how we’re feeling about COVID and then let’s come together to what we might do about that, how we might… If it’s a problem for most of us, how we might recover from it. It’s amazing what happens when you take a topic, take an issue that you believe is an issue and raise it so that people can look at it together and can come up with a solution together. Right?

And that’s oftentimes not always, but oftentimes that in itself begins the solution because people feel… Because the air comes out of this over-pressure filled balloon, right? Just by having a conversation about it. And you may come up with various creative ways that people can actually recover from this really, really challenging period we’ve all been through. So I love the idea that some of you would actually create an assessment about post COVID functioning, how are we functioning post COVID? What are we left with? What learnings have we had from COVID? How are we feeling as a result of it? What healing do we need to do? And then follow the energy and see where the energy takes you to coming up with some solutions. You may be surprised. I mean, this is… What I’m thinking about now is an assessment mindset not download or an assessment, but a mindset of taking a challenge and putting it into a frame that people can participate in. So it becomes not your problem, but it becomes something everyone is happy to wrestle with and think about. I should rewrite that blog post Amy, that’s a better topic.

Amy Eisenstein:
Well, I think you can write it. So I think part of the point is taking a step back and saying, “You know what, we need a timeout. We need to assess what’s going on. We need to review things and we need to take a break from the day-to-day hustle.” I mean, that’s what an assessment is, is figuring out where you are, where you’ve been, and then you’ll be able to plan where you’re going. I don’t know if this is the same. Yeah.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
But you can even go to your staff. For example, if your staff… You have 10 people in your staff feeling burnout and you can say, “I have a sense that all of us are struggling now and I’d like to put an assessment together. What questions would you put on the assessment?” So you can begin it by asking for questions, right? You can begin the participation way back and then people will feel like they will have had input into it. So —

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, that’s an excellent idea. I mean, I think nonprofits in general, nonprofit leaders are always struggling about the best way to use board members and use is a strange word, but to engage board members to involve board members. And so if you sent out an email that said, “We’re going to do a self-assessment of the organization of the board of our campaign readiness,” say, “What questions should we be asking? What are you curious about? What are you concerned about?

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Right.

Amy Eisenstein:
What should we…” I mean, that is a great way.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
That’s interesting, right?

Amy Eisenstein:
Yes. Yeah. That is super interesting. So, all right. Jennifer, it seems to me, I see your question but it seems to me that it’s about a startup organization. I’m not quite sure what you’re asking. So if you could maybe narrow it down to one particular question. It seems like you’re ready to launch a nonprofit and you’re struggling with that. So if anybody has any thoughts or wisdom in the chat for how to begin your board I think —

Building a Self-Sustaining Endowment

Andrea Kihlstedt:
We can go to Marsha’s question, which is in the chat. Remember if you can to put the questions in the Q$A for us, but in the chat, it says, “We’d like to leap from 10, $25,000 giving to several million dollars to build a self-sustaining endowment. None of our team has worked to attract such large donors. Can you address how best to go about bridging those many millions of dollars?” I think that’s what you’re asking. Now that question has embedded in it some things you need to know, right? So one is this, that for the most part the biggest money that goes into endowment for most organizations grows out of a well-developed fundraising program that yields plan gifts, that create money that goes into an endowment over a great many years.

And it usually doesn’t work for an organization to go from raising $25,000 a year, for example, to raising millions of dollars in a few years so that they don’t have to raise money anymore, right? Which usually isn’t an effective strategy, honestly, because most people aren’t going to want to take their investments, the money they have invested that they think they’d done pretty well with and transfer them to your bank account when they probably don’t have very much confidence in your ability to invest them half as well as they’ve invested them. I mean, think about it, right? It takes a fair amount of sophistication to actually run that kind of an investment. And unless your organization’s been around for a long time, right? So to that end, I don’t know if anybody saw, there was an article about the growth of endowments at some of the major Ivy League institutions. Did you see this, Amy?

Amy Eisenstein:
No.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
They were comparing the growth of endowment at Harvard and at Princeton and I don’t know, a couple of the others and one of them hadn’t done as well. Now they all had huge growth, but one of them hadn’t done it as well as the others. And I thought to myself, “I wonder if that fund person, that funding investment person is going to be canned because they didn’t build that endowment.” And that’s a very sophisticated activity, right? Investing in endowed funds is a sophisticated activity unless your organization is that the chances of anyone taking their wealth and passing it onto yours tomorrow is not great.

Amy Eisenstein:
So the other challenge is that, think about it if you need… If you’re going to spend 5%, which I guess is the typical out of an endowed fund, how many times —

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Twenty.

Amy Eisenstein:
Twenty times the amount you need to raise, right? So if you need for your programs and services, a million dollars, there’s a huge difference between raising a million dollars and $20 million. Is that the right factor?

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah. That’s the right factor.

Amy Eisenstein:
So to me work towards raising a million dollars a year, don’t worry about the endowment. Yes, in concert, do some plan giving efforts, talk to your biggest and best and most loyal supporters about considering including your organization in their will but focus on today and raising more money from today. So talking to those 10 and $25,000 donors and seeing if they will give $50,000 or &100,000 so that you can do significantly more on an annual basis than worrying about creating that big endowment. I think the longer and more sophisticated an organization is been around and gets, you will start to raise plan gifts and we encourage you to do that, but don’t worry about raising cash for an endowment. It’s very unlikely that you will do it successfully. And donors just aren’t interested in doing that. So talk about what kind of programs and services they want to fund today and then you can talk about legacy gifts. Those are two separate but together conversations, right? Does that make sense?

Communicating Sensitive Matters with Donors

Andrea Kihlstedt:
I think that’s a good answer, Amy. Amy, I want to go to Terry DiMarco’s chat because it sounds like Terry’s organization is in a pretty serious pickle. And I raise it not so much because of Terry’s organization but because I think there’s some interesting things to think about when your organization has things go awry and sometimes things do go awry. So in the chat, as you can see, she says she’s had… The board president resigned and new head of a school and four new board members with no grievous experience, capital campaign is halted, it is on-hold until further assessments. How do they communicate with their current donors? There’s a lot of uncertainty. What do they do about that? Right and it’s a really good question. This stuff does happen. Organizations go gangbusters with a campaign and halfway through the campaign, they’ve raised all this money and all of a sudden they don’t get their zoning approval. Or I mean, there are all kinds of slips between, what’s the expression? The lip and the cup.

And you have to have a way to think about how to make lemonade out of lemons when stuff like that happens. Right? And I think for that is when there is a problem like this, when there is a… Things haven’t gone well, there’s a lot of uncertainty. There’s some things you really shouldn’t do and some things you should do. So one thing you really shouldn’t do is to hide your head, right? You shouldn’t be an ostrich. You can’t pretend everything, but if you just don’t say anything, everything’s got to be fine. And that is, of course the temptation, right? The temptation is to go to bed, put the pillow over your head and hope that when you wake up, either not tomorrow or in three months or in six months, they will all be better and then you’ll be able to talk to your donors again.

And that is not an appropriate strategy. So let’s take that one off the table. And I bring it up only because it’s so natural and I’m not trying to say anyone is a fool, but that’s what one wishes one could do because these things are hard. So what if we jump to the other end of the spectrum, which I think is what we need to do, which is to take the people who have contributed already, take the donors who have given to your campaign and look at the list carefully and probably work from the top down. So you’re talking to the largest donors first and actually meet with them either individually or in small groups to talk about what’s happening, to have focus groups, to take the challenges or the questions that are on the table and involve them in coming up and helping to come up with a solution. You’ll notice that I’m on this, everything looks the same to me today, right? Which is that you should involve the people where the… In coming up with solutions. It’s amazing how powerful that is actually. It’s a very gestalt approach to the lights.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. I mean, who else is going to be literally and figuratively invested in your organization then your biggest fans, supporters, funders, right? So go to them. I think you’re right, Andrea, the instinct is, don’t say anything, right? Because we don’t want the public to know what a disaster we are. We don’t want our biggest donors to know that we’re having serious problems. And they know your executive director or your CEO turned over.

So go and say, “Listen, we’re in this pickle.” You don’t have to say we’re a total disaster in all areas, right? You don’t have to say that. You can say, “Listen, this is one challenge and we’re coming to you as one of our key supporters and long time investors to help make suggestions.” Now you want to be careful because if the donors make a suggestion that you’re not going to go with or that doesn’t work for your organization, you need to be able to deal with that. But you can say, “Listen, we’re doing a survey,” either a paper survey, an email survey, right? Or better yet go talk to them in person and say, “Look, we’re going to a few people for ideas and then we’ll knock them around and see what bubbles up to the surface.” And so… Yeah, go ahead.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Harry has a great opportunity also, there’s a… With a new head of school, right? You have a great opportunity for that person to lead the charge. There is a period of time when that person can be talking to board members, donors, key stakeholders and saying, “Here’s where we are,” right? “Here are the things that I’m considering.” Right? Give me your… Share with me your wisdom. What does it look like? How have you felt about the school? What are the directions you think we should be going in and that’s a fantastic way to go.

Amy Eisenstein:
Right. So there isn’t even a major issue. They can just go say, “Look, I’ve put things on pause while I get my bearings.”

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Right.

Amy Eisenstein:
Right? And so I have to meet the key players and figure out what’s going on before we continue to move this forward. So we’re on a three month pause, a six month pause while I get my sea legs and help figure out what we’re doing. So I’m coming to you to get your help and your advice and your suggestions and your thoughts.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yeah. Now of course you couldn’t do that even more, right? Let’s say that now I am not talking about Terry’s organization until… Because I don’t know about that organization really, I’m making it up, but let’s say you had a new head of school who really came into the school with some pretty clear ideas about the direction he or she wanted to take the school. So that person could say, “Well, we had been… Your school had been working on a $20 million campaign and I’ve halted it for a bit because I wanted to assess the lay of the land. From my early discussions, I think we probably need closer to $30 million to know what really needs to happen. So I want to talk to you, here’s what it looks like to me. Right? Even think bigger that would really accomplish what the school needs, right?” So someone might actually take a very forward looking positive approach to this rather than worrying about uncertainty. You can grab uncertainty and say, “Here is a plan that might work. But because I knew I really need to test it with key stakeholders.”

Amy Eisenstein:
Right. So it’s almost like doing a mini informal feasibility study again.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
It’s amazing how you can turn disaster into opportunity if you just lift your brain a little.

Amy Eisenstein:
Sometimes we need to noodle it here for a while to figure out what the best opportunity is when you’re in the eye of the storm, it certainly is hard to come up with some of those solutions. But I think that that is the opportunity to go to your closest supporters. Everybody’s afraid to tell funders and foundation funder that the program didn’t work or something didn’t succeed or that you’re stalled or whatever the case may be. But you know what? You are trying to solve some of the biggest challenges in the world, whether it’s feeding the hungry or saving animals or cleaning the environment or providing education or whatever it is, it’s not an easy thing to do. If it was easy, somebody else would have figured it out and done it already and you wouldn’t have your mission necessarily. So anyways —

Andrea Kihlstedt:
And I spend a lot of time and probably not even enough time with the Capital Campaign Toolkit thinking about what it should be and what the future direction should be and what opportunities we’re missing and I always find that those conversations where we really are willing to wrestle with ideas, incredibly healthy and —

Amy Eisenstein:
Therapeutic.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Therapeutic. And that’s right. They are. And we often shift directions slightly or come to a new understanding that we haven’t had before. And I think that it’s tempting in nonprofits to think that you are fully responsible for making the decisions. And if you can get beyond that and trust the discussion of ideas to lead you where you need to be, trust stakeholders, trust the people who are involved to involve them, you might be surprised.

Amy Eisenstein:
I got an email earlier today that says… My son’s a senior in high school and I got an email saying that, “School is canceled for seniors on Wednesday.” So if any of you are in this high school age you know that college applications are due soon, the first deadline’s coming up and they just canceled school only for seniors on Wednesday. And they basically said, “Sleep in, do something relaxing, don’t come to school.” And it’s sort of a reset.

I mean, there are some traumatic things happening at the school with the seniors and faculty shifts and all sorts of crazy stuff. But I thought it’s similar to the assessment, right? Everybody needs to step back once in a while, especially if you’re in the eye of the storm of a capital campaign or thinking about a campaign, whether it’s quarterly or annually, how often do you just stop and say, “All right, we need a day off. We need a mental health day and then we need a planning assessment day before we keep running on this treadmill.” I think it’s something that’s super interesting. I was shocked to see it. So no school on Wednesday for seniors only, well what’s happening here.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
I like that. Amy, you will take tomorrow off.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah, that’s crazy, right? Anyways…

Creating Engaging Emails

Andrea Kihlstedt:
I want to hop over to Jacqueline Anthony’s question which was having some… A bit of time ago in the chat and she says… Where is it? “How often should your communications be about fundraising so as not to risk unopened emails?” Now, here’s why I want to pick that up. I want to pick that up because if what you are writing is interesting and inspiring and fun or a surprise that people will open every email you send them. It has nothing to do with how many emails, it has to do really with how engaging the emails are and how engaging the subject line is. And that should be your goal. And it’s not easy, I should say, right? I mean, none of us, even those of us who were pretty good writers, don’t succeed at that all the time. But that’s… The goal is to make every communication with donors, email communication with donors, feel like it’s a little magic and feel like you are happy you read it, right? Put something in there that will make someone happy they read it. And then if that’s true, people are going to be eager to read your emails, right?

Amy Eisenstein:
And it doesn’t mean that they’re going to read every single one and that’s not a problem either, right? And that’s probably why you’re writing them on a frequent and hopefully somewhat regular basis so that if they miss one or two you will be right there back in their inbox. But to Andrea’s point quality, right? Think quality over quantity and, yeah.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
And take a writing class, learn how to write, look and see who writes really well. Look and see someone who writes so that you can’t resist their writing and then see how they do it and mimic them.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. That’s a good point. How many nonprofit email lists are you on, right? Go to your favorite three charities or other organizations in your community and see what they’re doing. Some of the things you’re going to love, other things you’re going to say, “I hope our communication doesn’t look anything like that. It’s awful.” And see what you can learn from others in the field who are doing similar or the same kinds of things that you’re doing. Sign up for an organization —

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Follow Marie Forleo. Amy, sometime ago I took a course she’s just now reoffering called Copy Cure. Marie Forleo does things really well and the course is really quite good. I mean, I learned a fair amount from it of course, by this time I’ve forgotten what I’ve learned, but I hope I’ve just incorporated some of it, I don’t remember it in learning anymore. But set yourself up to learn how to write well. It’s not easy to write well and there’s always learning to be gotten from it, which reminds me —

Amy Eisenstein:
It’s a discipline.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
My most recent favorite book, it’s a novel. It’s called The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. Talk about writing well, this man can write. He is just amazing. It’s totally engaging.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. And yes. Okay.

Amy Eisenstein:
You know what? What we used to do at… Yeah. We’re all burned out. Mary, I appreciate that. Let’s say… You know what we did, we used to do frequently at the beginning of the pandemic, what are you doing for self-care? Let’s talk about that in the chat. I think that that is a major and realistic issue in the nonprofit sector. So Kathy’s saying none. That’s not good, right, Kathy? I think everybody’s goal this week should pick one thing to do that really feeds their soul and isn’t about work and isn’t about your kids or cleaning the dishes or cleaning the house or whatever it is. And yeah, we’ve got some good suggestions, lots of walks with your dog.

Amy’s doing daily journaling by hand, Mary right, away from screens. Olga, I puzzle, you know what? I do the mini New York times crossword every night with my kids and it is… I mean, we’re still on the screen because we’re doing it on the phone but doing a puzzle. And we do the Monday New York times puzzle, which I think is the easiest one of the week. Sometimes it takes us two or three days to get through it, but yes. I love puzzling. I think that’s such a… Darleen, you’re exercising. Good for you. Andrea, you always exercise. You’re —

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Yes. I like exercising and curling. Curling is a fantastic sport. You’re in a curling league Misha. That’s great. Attending a rolling stones concert. Oh my goodness, that’s spectacular.

Amy Eisenstein:
I didn’t know they were touring, that’s… I mean —

Andrea Kihlstedt:
No, me neither. They’re getting long in the tooth. Singing a chorus, finally able again. Fantastic. Swimming.

Amy Eisenstein:
Somebody’s saying they hired a cleaning person once a month and —

Andrea Kihlstedt:
That’s great.

Amy Eisenstein:
Yeah. I mean, sometimes you have to do things for yourself, right? We’re all working and sometimes you need help with some of the daily chores and I think that that is perfectly important and legitimate if that’s something that you can do and that would help take that burden off.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Right.

Amy Eisenstein:
Excellent.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Amy knows that I’m CrossFit aficionado. So on Saturdays at the gym, I stand on my head.

Amy Eisenstein:
Andrea can probably outjump rope all of us combined. So anybody who wants a CrossFit competition with Andrea come to New York and she will outCrossFit you no matter your —

Andrea Kihlstedt:
I can’t do it all very well, but I can jump rope pretty well and I can stand on my head now. I really can. It’s fun.

Final Thoughts

Amy Eisenstein:
All right. So listen, everybody for next time, I want you to come prepared with questions. I find it hard to believe that more topics and questions didn’t emerge today. Maybe everybody is just burned out and we just need to wrap up a few minutes early so that you can go do some self care. Hopefully you think of these calls every week as a little bit of self care and therapy. It’s super interesting. Our weekly Wednesday calls with Consultant Toolkit, Non-Consultant Toolkit members, Nonprofit Toolkit members. Every week we have a call with them, a Q&A session. And the two things that we hear most frequently from people that attend those calls are that they get questions answered that they didn’t even know they had.

So it’s so helpful when you ask questions because other people who are listening and learning don’t even maybe know to ask some of the questions that you’re asking and they learn from you. The second thing I hear all the time is it’s really like therapy. It’s fundraising therapy just being in a community where everybody is going through some of the same things. So we so appreciate you being here.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
And I have to say that well, I totally appreciate being reminded that we need to get on with it at the beginning of the webinar, there is a reason that we call out people by name in the beginning and besides the fact that I really have fun at it, which I do. But the reason is because we are a community, it is not just Amy and Andrea spouting off, that we are a community. And we really like to give… We like to give credence to that. And one of the ways to do that is by noticing who’s in the room. So it’s not that we’re just idling away time though I think three minutes after now is about the limit of what we can do, but there actually is wrapping this whole session today together, where we are inviting people to help with assessments.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
We are inviting people to help us bring up questions that we should be thinking about and talking about, right? And in some ways that’s what we try to do here. We invite you to help us bring up questions that are important for everybody. And we encourage you to take this strategy and take it forward, right? Use it in your organization, use it with your board, when there’s a problem, go to your board and say, “Here’s what’s going on. Let’s have 10 minutes of a conversation about it. What do you think we should be doing about it?” You’ll be amazed at how that openness and seeing board members and recognizing their value and opinions will make a difference to how people function in the world. It really is true.

Amy Eisenstein:
So if this feels like fundraising therapy to you, we would so appreciate you inviting others to join us as well. It’s just Toolkittalks.com. So send people to us because we’d love to grow the community and have more people participating, responding, joining in with questions and topics. So we so, so appreciate you being here with us every single week. All right, Andrea, thank you so much for being here. It’s been a pleasure as always.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Amy, always a pleasure. Yes. Thank you, dear.

Amy Eisenstein:
All right. Bye everybody.

Andrea Kihlstedt:
Thanks to all of you who have been here, we really do feel as though you are… We are in a big community with you. So thanks for being with us.

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