Transcription of Interview:
Bobby Keys: [00:00:12] This is KC Cares, Kansas city’s nonprofit voice. We’re telling the stories that Kansas city’s nonprofits to the nonprofit community and and beyond. I’m Bobby keys.
Ruth Bigus: [00:00:22] I’m Baum Bigus. It is good to be back in the studio. I’ve been out and about.
Bobby Keys: [00:00:27] We got the, we got to go to some pretty cool places. We did fire
Ruth Bigus: [00:00:31] Prairie fire museum.
We were at learning all about the great robust STEM stuff that they do, and. Tom Bahali joined us, and then we were at the library for our usual monthly gig down there, which was great. But now we’re back and we’re back. Hi Sterling. We’re yet to give a shout out to Sterling. He’s so fabulous. He keeps us going.
He keeps us going. But we have one of our stalwart regular guests who we haven’t seen for the show for a while because he said, dog gone busy, and that’s Jeffrey burn, dr philanthropy
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:01:04] bellow audience and hello Bobby, and. Ruth, it’s good to be back.
Bobby Keys: [00:01:12] Yeah. Great. Having you here, we’ve got a lot of stuff going on with, uh, you know, everybody’s obviously in a giving mood.
December’s everybody’s giving nonprofits they’re collecting or they’re supposed to be. So how do they do it? How do they do it and who do they do it from and how do they get it? So, you know, and so we come to you for those answers. All the, all the,
Ruth Bigus: [00:01:31] all the. Oh, the skinny, well,
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:01:33] maybe we only have for three more days of the year.
So you know, you better run out there and choose your favorite charity and make a gift or do some volunteerism or drop off some, uh, items and, uh, uh, do some good.
Ruth Bigus: [00:01:46] And it’s the last push of the decade. Right. I’ve been hearing that used a lot, a last flush of the decade, the last time to give. You can give next year, but enlighten us about year end giving.
I was sharing before we started some statistics that I found interesting that nearly one third of annual giving takes place in the month of December. That’s amazing. Why does everybody wait?
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:02:12] Well. I believe that there is a psychology among Americans to give during the holiday season when, uh, uh, families and, uh, take time to reflect about the year, think about their own, uh, abundance and their own situation, and then think about others.
So it’s very, uh, it’s very traditional to give at year end. And we’re fortunate that, uh, Americans are trained to really open up their pocketbook. Plus every nonprofit, you know, is out asking for a gift, uh, during the month of December, how many of us get our emails booked. And hour a filled filled at our, uh, mailboxes full of direct mail during the month of December.
Ruth Bigus: [00:03:07] Everybody, so absolutely. That being said, how do you, as the fundraiser, the organization, how do you differentiate them? How do you grab in all that noise?
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:03:23] Well, you’ve got to be very intentional, number one. And by intentional, I mean, you have to really know who you’re going to reach out to and, uh, you can’t do it just once a year.
You can’t do it just in December. You should be thanking your donors or alerting your prospective donors throughout the year. And, uh, because if you’re only going to do it once a year, they’re not the yield drop off. They will drop off of your a donor list. So you can invite them into your organization.
You can go out to see them, you can send them an email, you can make a telephone call to them. You can send a hallmark card. Okay. We want to send only hallmark cards and the . Absolutely. And, uh, so there are a number of different ways of touching, uh, your, uh, friends at the end of the year and reminding them about number one, how important they are to you.
And number two, how important they are to your cause. And then a third about what you continue to, uh, have a need for.
Bobby Keys: [00:04:30] So if. I guess going forward into that new year with that thought, is it better to, you know, do what I see some nonprofits doing and wait until the end of the year and then reach out to people.
But it, it’s more, is it better to, to consistently nudge people and send out reminders utilizing your email lists and say, Hey, you know, you know, just touching base and showing kind of like maybe some progress or impact throughout the year. Is that something that would help them as opposed to just dropping it on the last minute, you know, in December and saying, Hey, you know.
We’re here. We’ve been here all year. Can you help me out?
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:05:07] Absolutely. Bobby, I think you should be in contact with your donor and the friends who support your organization throughout the year because they, uh, have, yeah, they’re thinking about your organization or you want them to make them think about your organization.
Uh, you don’t want to do it just during the holiday season because there are so many other times. I mean, a lot of times what we do for. Back to school efforts, uh, for educational efforts as we time at around August, September, when kids are going back to school or may, June when kids are out of school. And that’s a good time.
Another good time is a w w. Late January and early to mid February to late February to remind your donors who you are, maybe remind them that, uh, that the end of the year was a good year. But we have, uh, the start of a new year. And by placing that solicitation in the month of February, you’ve given them some time to relax in the month of January, but then you reminding them and putting your organization in front of them for.
The, uh, February time period. We used to do that with some direct mail programs that I was involved in. You know, some organizations like the salvation army, they might be soliciting you 10 to 12 to 13 times a year. Some organizations are going to do at once. You know, our religious institutions going to ask you every single week when you’re in the parish, the synagogue or the church.
Bobby Keys: [00:06:33] Is there any research that shows, like that magic number is there? I mean, is that.
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:06:38] Times to touch a donor. Well, you know, I say you need to touch a donor at least six to seven times a year. So you know, you can thank them for their gift. You can ask them for a gift, and then you can remind them four times about what their gift did and what your other needs are and don’t ask.
So there’s lots of opportunities to touch, uh, families and individuals throughout the year.
Bobby Keys: [00:07:03] Yeah, and that’s a good point. Is it that you said don’t ask it just kind of, is that what you mean by more, more or less? Just show your impact. Here’s what we’ve done,
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:07:11] you know, we call it friendraising versus fundraising.
You know, fundraising is when you make the ask. Friend raising is a, when you’re talking to your friends and just letting them know about your organization. So, you know, um, individuals and families are very caring people that we give, we give on the national average above what other cities and communities around America gives.
So we’re a very generous community here in greater Kansas city. But if you go back and look at the corporations and foundation gifts during the holiday season, it is not like they’re not on a cycle of a annual. End of the year appeal. They’re more throughout the year. They’re more steady. They have sort of a giving throughout the year a process where individuals and families are really impacted during the holidays.
Bobby Keys: [00:08:00] information. That means dead really helps out with it. With your, you know, you basically, you marketing, I mean, you need to, you need to understand that rhythm for as a nonprofit to help push
Ruth Bigus: [00:08:09] in. Something that I think is interesting is in some nonprofits they’ll put development and marketing as one person, which I think it’s nearly an impossible thing to do because they are so much in each.
At the same time, they almost do have to be at least working together because. Ying and yang. I mean, you got to tell your story in order to raise the money is do you see that as a challenge for nonprofits trying to get their head around that kind of an approach?
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:08:43] Well, fundraising is storytelling and you know, you have to be able to convey in a comprehensive but understandable way what, how you’re impacting whatever your cause is and why it’s worthy of support.
You also have to be able to listen. You know, as I like to tell a nonprofit leaders is that 90% of fundraising is what question Mark. It’s listening because you now, you listen, you present, and you listen and you take in and you have a conversation then about what the donor, uh, our prospect is interested in.
And then through a really thoughtful conversation, you can lead the donor then to your objective of talking about the project that you’re there to fund. So I think that, uh, you know, storytelling and listening is very important. Lot of CEOs and executive directors of nonprofits are talkers. They think that they’ve got to talk, and anytime you have a, a silence or a moment of, uh, of pause is very uncomfortable.
I pause a lot in my conversations with potential donors to see sort of, to stoke them out to see what they want to say next.
Ruth Bigus: [00:10:06] Does it ever end up as a very quiet conversation.
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:10:10] Lemons to lemonade? Absolutely.
Ruth Bigus: [00:10:14] We talked last year at this time about tax changes and impact. Now we’ve had 12 months. What have you seen out there as you talk with colleagues and with donors and organizations?
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:10:30] While the Trump, the Trump tax cuts of December of 2019 did a few things. Number one, it put a lot of money into the wealthy, into their pockets. And uh, many of those wealthy did turn around and give money, uh, out. It also provided some significant. Tax support, uh, in the year for, uh, families. But the, the, the, uh, the lack of optimization for middle Americans did reduce giving last year by about 2%.
And what we see in this year is that we. See that there is much more effort being put into trying to get an average individuals, middle-class individuals to give money. Because the number one area where philanthropy is coming from is the super rich and the super rich are giving about 50 to 55% of every dollar.
And what we’ve seen is diminishing returns on average Americans giving. Both in amount and number. So that’s really what we have to work on, get average Americans out there as our listeners to this program to give, um, to a program. So, um, that’s what we need to continue to focus on is those individuals and those middle Americans that, uh, can make an impact.
Ruth Bigus: [00:11:57] How do you do that?
Bobby Keys: [00:12:03] Where’s the
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:12:03] man that was a pregnant pause. Ruth and Bobby, how do you do that? Well, you just intentionally go out and you, you need to go out and intentionally plan about how you’re going to reach, uh, the average donor. And you can do that through email, the direct mail, through personal solicitations, through inviting them to your organization.
You know, invite them in, you know, uh, invite them in to see what you’re doing. And those are all proven, uh, best practices that have worked for literally decades and generations,
Ruth Bigus: [00:12:37] we know are a philanthropic community. And we’ve got great fundraisers here. What about fundraiser fatigue? I mean, I know I have friends who are in development.
It’s like they’re sweating bullets still the end of the year, and then they may be get 48 hours to breathe and then they’re sweating bullets again.
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:12:55] You know, I think fundraising fatigue is a, in a way in the mind of the donor. Um, we as fundraisers can’t necessarily put ourselves in that position and say, well, since there’s donor fatigue, we shouldn’t go out and talk to our donors.
We must go out and continue to talk to our donors. But I think that a healthy. Organization of a nonprofit is when staff have time to take care of themselves as well. And I hope during the holiday season that you know, those hard workers, whether they be executive directors or frontline workers in programs or the fundraising staff, they have time to take off a little time, re-energize themselves, uh, get with their families and friends because they’ll be much more productive.
At the start of 2020. And, uh, they will be much more, um, advantageous for the organization. So I think from a fundraiser’s perspective, there can be fatigue on our side, uh, as well as the donor side. And I think both have to take a little bit of a time to take care of themselves.
Ruth Bigus: [00:14:01] 20, 20, the new decade and election year.
What, from your vantage point, dr philanthropy, what are, what can we expect? What can we maybe plan for as nonprofits or supporters of nonprofits?
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:14:17] Well, I’m very optimistic about 20, 20. Uh, first of all, our economy is a, it’s up. The market continues to go up. A job market continues to go down. Then unemployment.
And, uh, our economy overall, I do not believe will go into a recession in 2020. So, uh, during presidential election years, normally the president, whether they be Republican or Democrat, and now president Trump is going to try to do everything he and his administration can to prop up the economy during 2020.
So I believe it’s going to be a really good year for nonprofits and for fundraisers in general.
Bobby Keys: [00:14:53] Now, do you think. You know, you get, you get a lot of people who talk about, right now we’re on that cusp, right? They can only balloon so much, or the economy can only be so good for so long with possibly that in mind.
Is that almost, is that. All right. Would that be almost a MTV ego, I guess, an empty economy coming the, you know, with that a, is there a higher chance of, if bottoming out with those, with that kind of tactic?
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:15:23] Well, Bobby, we can’t plan for a recession from a fundraiser standpoint. So recession is, I believe, a defined as two quarters of negative growth.
And we’ve had a quarter this year, but, uh, it seems like we are, uh, we’re out of that. Yeah. And as we respond to what the market and the economy does, then we just have to do better from a fundraising and a nonprofit standpoint. And of course, when we go into a recession, then those hurt the most, uh, are the lower, uh, or the, um, people who are served by nonprofits, they’re going to need to be even be focused, uh, uh, focus more on those individuals in.
Ruth Bigus: [00:16:02] So get out and give at the end of the year, there are still some benefit to some donors in terms of tax incentives.
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:16:11] Yes.
Ruth Bigus: [00:16:11] But certainly big benefits to our hearts,
Bobby Keys: [00:16:14] right? Yeah, that’s right. Hard incentives.
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:16:15] That’s right. And we all feel good when we give. That’s right. You know, you talk to any philanthropists, Warren buffet, uh, bill and Melinda Gates.
It’s a, it’s a really good, it’s good for your body. Yeah. It’s not only good for someone else, but it’s good for your body, mind, and soul.
Ruth Bigus: [00:16:32] And I will quote from a theatrical source. When Dolly Levi says, money is like manure, it does no good unless you spread it around. So spread the money around. Give generous, show wide.
KC Cares. Thank you, dr philanthropy. Jeffrey
Jeffrey Byrne: [00:16:48] Bird. Ruth.