Jeffrey Byrne| Nonprofit Expert

On this episode of Ask The Expert, Jeffrey Byrne discuss 10 valuable tips to fundraising for nonprofits! His firm Byrne-Pelosfky, provides uncommon local, regional and national leadership in philanthropy. Most importantly, Their expertise, experience, deep community connections and hands-on approach will enable them to offer their clients a more comprehensive and complete set of tools for fundraising success – helping them master the art of the ask and partnering with them to achieve their resource development goals.

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[00:00:00] Ruth Baum Bigus: Welcome to KC Cares, Kansas City’s nonprofit voice. We’re telling the stories of Kansas City, nonprofits and the people behind them. KC Cares is the intersection of the prophet and the nonprofit communities making Kansas City a better place to live, work, and play This KC Cares segment is brought to you by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, www.kaufman.org.

I’m Ruth Baum. Bigus fundraising is an. and part of the palette includes annual campaigns. Well, what comprises an annual campaign? What are the musts and how do you make them happen? Should every nonprofit do an annual campaign? Should you only rely on an annual campaign? And how have annual campaigns changed?

Well, as part of KC Cares monthly, ask the Expert series. We’re going to chat about all these questions and much more with our own Dr. Philanthropy. Jeffrey Byrne. Hi Jeffrey. It’s so great 

[00:01:02] Jeffrey Byrne: to have you back. Hi, Ruth and happy holidays to all of our listeners out there, and to you and your family. Well, 

[00:01:08] Ruth Baum Bigus: you as well.

All right, Mr. Guru. Dr. Philanthropy, before we really dig into this, I thought it would be good to define an annual campaign. You would think everybody understands that, but let’s just be clear right from the start, how would you define an annual campaign? 

[00:01:28] Jeffrey Byrne: Well, the annual campaign is where a nonprofit. Each year puts together a fundraising project or an appeal and sends it out to various constituencies of that not-for-profit.

So let’s say for instance, the Y M C A, the Y M C A will, , need to raise money to support operations. So they will put together a campaign, whether that is via volunteers direct one-on-one solicitations, , if they do some direct mail, some social media, some email. You know, I have been involved in the profession now for, this is my 34th ending, my 34th year, and I would say I absolutely hate the annual campaign.

So, you know, I think calling it an annual campaign is very depressing to donors. , they don’t want to think that you approach them annually. They want to think that you approach them on a thoughtful basis. And we can get into that in our conversation about how you, , title the appeal. But I would say, you know, reaching out to your donor base at least once a year is, , part of the overall fundraising breast practices.

[00:02:52] Ruth Baum Bigus: Well, I thought about this, , on our off the air conversation, and I think it probably was the driving force for many nonprofits just to start to be a nonprofit. There’s a problem. Or a cause and it’s like, okay, we gotta solve it. We gotta have money. , so I would be interested from your last three decades of knowledge, you must have been 10 when you started, of course, , but you know, how have annual campaigns changed over the years or over even the tenure of your own career?

[00:03:29] Jeffrey Byrne: Sure. , vastly, you know, I, I, I am not in the profession of implementing annual campaigns any longer having been on the consulting role now for the, my 22nd year. And, but we do advise organizations on overall, Fundraising plans and how you insert an annual effort to generate support for basically operations or general support, undesignated support.

And I think that, , that is, , an important component I think has changed over the years because of technology. And our use of technology in different ways today than we did. You know, I can think of many years ago when I was at the Visiting Nurse Association, working with, , luminaries like Bill Dunn Sr.

Or Adele Hall, or Anita Gorman. , we had not only a direct mail program. We sent out about 200,000 pieces of mail about four times a year, but then we had a telemarketing program that we followed up,  , to do telemarketing. Well, no one owns home-based landlines any longer, right? There’s such thing as a landline.

, I guess there are a few. So, you know, the technology and the, , ways of, , reaching out to donors has changed drastic drastically. So I still think the best way to approach a donor is by a personal touch. However, you know, when you’re thinking about an annual campaign, you’re thinking about a broader base of constituencies.

Just not a narrow group of potential donors for like, for instance, a major gift effort. So as we think about a larger group of donors, then we have to think about how to approach them so that they are responsive, they receive a message that touches them, and that they have an action, , item in that, whether it is clicking on a.

To a homepage clicking on a link to a landing page on the website, which is a donation form. It’s responding to a text campaign, or it’s a friends campaign where you are sending out. Via, , a vehicle, , a fundraising vehicle like Facebook or others that you’re sending out to your a hundred friends raising money on behalf of Children’s Mercy Hospital and the overall effort, my friend, , Jane.

She, , walks for St. Jude’s each year. Mm-hmm. , and they raise I think, like 15 million on this walk. Well, Jane and her team raise about $150,000. Oh. And it’s, , it is a friend to friend program. So those are a lot of different ideas that an organization should consider. And then there are nuances to each one of those approaches.

[00:06:51] Ruth Baum Bigus: Well, we kind of backed into, you know, what, what comprises a campaign, but I didn’t wanna leave your dislike of the annual kind of effort. When did, when did that kind of shift of there’s more than an annual campaign that nonprofits should 

[00:07:10] Jeffrey Byrne: look at. Well, I think it’s just terminology. A lot of times, a lot of times in fundraising we use acronyms and we use terminology that, , the average volunteer, our board members, our constituencies don’t understand.

So when we talk about the annual campaign, to me that is, that triggers, okay? It is a repetitive annual effort to reach out to donors, to bring, to provide them a cause. And ask them for a response of sending in a donation. However, you know, I think if you really want to think about how to communicate with donors, we know storytelling is the way that donors are motivated to give and.

I think that by creating a project for donors to be able to invest in that project could be your annual campaign, however you name it. And you describe it. Instead of giving, , my a hundred dollars to the Y M C A of Greater Kansas City, which has a budget of I believe, 70 million, my a hundred dollars is gonna go into a black hole there.

However, if I get a appeal to keep, swimming pools open and safe through lifeguard and swim education. And swimming lessons for urban core kids that helps to prevent, drownings in our community. Then I can see, and it costs $15,000, then I can see where my a hundred dollars or my $250 is impactful and therefore it is, , motivates me.

To wanna give. So as nonprofits are thinking, and I would think that every nonprofit who’s already doing an annual campaign is already underway with it, or else they’re committing fundraising malpractice 

[00:09:16] Ruth Baum Bigus: at this time of year. You betcha. 

[00:09:18] Jeffrey Byrne: Well, I mean we’re, , we’re into the middle of December now, and, , latter part of December and the holidays are gonna be at Bonis and gone.

And we know that people are most generous during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day period. , there are a lot of opportunities where families are coming together to think about how they want to give. I met with a family yesterday and it was a husband and wife. Don’t meet with a husband, don’t meet with a wife, meet with the husband and the wife and the family if they wanna give through family giving.

And we talked about options and programs that they might want to be investing in. And we asked for a gift before the end of the year. We asked for a specific amount of what they had given last year, and we will be following up with a letter confirming our conversation, the amount. And, , a way of, , a link to giving, , them an option.

We will send them an email and in that same email, we will put that into a letter and we will send that letter to them as well. So, you know, that was, an opportunity to, , think forward and give, , that, , donor potential option to invest before the end of. 

[00:10:38] Ruth Baum Bigus: You’ve already given us some great tips, so I’m gonna backend us up to the very beginning, you know, what are those things that should be in an annual campaign, but I can’t miss your holiday reference cuz you talked about that important window of Thanksgiving to the first of the year.

We’re all very benevolent and then I guess we all become grins for a while at the first of the year when all the bells come in and et cetera. So as you do this annual. Effort of some kind, you know, what are those kind of key steps that you should follow as an organization, whether big or small? 

[00:11:14] Jeffrey Byrne: I think that’s a good, , a good question and let me get to the step by step, , approach and just one comment later.

But my first comment is to say that the fourth quarter of every year of the calendar year is the best time for nonprofits to reach out to donors. Donors take a break around new. Another great time to reach out to donors is in early to mid-February because donors have taken a break. They are probably in the doldrums of the winter, whether you live in Florida, where , it is going to be a beautiful winter or you’re in, Minneapolis where it can be very cold and frigid.

However, you know, that’s another good time of year and then around the end of the school season a lot, another good time of the year. So those are three tips that I would provide around timing now to talk about exactly what we look for in a campaign. I think the number one thing, you have to pick the project.

You wanna raise money around. and I think you need to be specific and try to package it around a specific project or program that’s already in your budget so that you are raising undesignated dollars, but is being geared toward a budgeted item already that, , is part of your operating or program.

Budget Number two, I think you’ve got to share that with your development committee of your board or the board of directors. Number three, you need to ask the board of directors and your development committee and the volunteers that serve your organization to give to that cause and give early and upfront.

Number four, you have to decide how many, , vehicles that you are going to employ today. And with technology, I think you should think about a friends to friend campaign. You could think about, , social, , different types of social media. You can think about an email. You’ve gotta create a a website. On your website.

You’ve gotta create a page, a landing page that explains and reiterates the appeal that you’re making through whatever various forms of communication and solicitation. You also five when I have a good landing page. So if I am. I was asked to contribute to a senior services program that I have been involved in, , professionally for the last, , 18 years.

I am going to do that and I’m going to give an honor of the retiring c e o, who I’ve had about an 18 year relationship with. I asked them to send me a link to their giving page. and they said We don’t have a link and we don’t have a way of electronically accepting gifts. Red flag. Okay. Now I’m not gonna name who that is, , but you know, we have advised that they put together, , on their website a giving link, and then provide, , an access and the, and do the background work that they need to do.

To be accepting online gifts, , through of, , different forms. So I think that there are a number. I, I think then you’ve gotta launch your campaign. You’ve got to, , have a timeline for it. , number seven, I think you need a timeline for, , the effort. Are you going to send just one appeal or are you gonna send multiple appeals?

Are the multiple appeals going to be? A little different and tweaked to create urgency each time. A lot of times they say send three appeals, , for a cause, and each one, create a little bit more urgency. Number eight, do you have a matching gift that you could use to stimulate. That I, if for every dollar we raise up to a hundred thousand dollars, we will have a matching donor who will give a hundred thousand for a total of $200,000 or more that we wanna raise.

Well, you’ve gotta prepare that Mac in the summer to get ready for your fall or your fourth quarter appeal, and don’t forget that. A and then be responsive, , when, , number nine, you need to be responsive to, donor request. , number 10, you’ve gotta be a backroom operation to receive the donations and to process them in a manner during the holidays, , where you are processing the donation.

You’re getting, , , recordings, you’re getting updates. and you’re also receding the donor within a time period that follows your own fundraising policies and procedures. So it’s not an easy process, it’s a very complicated process, but it can be a real effective tool for, you know, some undesignated do contributed dollars to the overall.

[00:16:23] Ruth Baum Bigus: We’re talking to Dr. Philanthropy, Jeffrey Byrne. So it’s Jeffrey’s top 10 of how to get an annual campaign together and run. Well, I wanted to go back to your point about this one organization. You said you’re ready, you’re gungho to give, send me that link or tell me where to do it. And they were not set up.

, it kind of raises the question to me. You’re, you’re sitting in your nonprofit, it’s the staff, maybe some lay leadership, and you’re saying, oh, we need to go do this. And something comes up, let’s say in the news flow, let’s just go do it. And then your example of, well, that’s great, but we have no way then to, to get the money.

One organization I happen to work with, we had that discussion even this week. If we had a great opportunity and it was like, until we get a landing page, let’s not go there because we’ve created all this excitement and we want participation, but we really don’t have any way for them to. Okay. I want the, what are the most common mistakes that you see when folks are doing an annual campaign?

I think we already figured out, number one, don’t send out a pitch and have no way to respond other than it sounds like this organization was, you know, revert to writing a check and sticky in, in the mail. And this time of year, the mail is horrible. So what would be number two or three or four? Where, where do people.

You know, they take that misstep and don’t 

[00:17:51] Jeffrey Byrne: make it happen.

I think, , a common flaw is that. You are designing an effort and you’re asking for a donation, as I said, that, helps to support a black hole in your budget. You know, so be specific. and I think a lot of organizations aren’t specific. Around, , what they’re looking for. , I think at number two, a mistake is to use the end of the year as crisis fundraising.

Donors don’t like to give on a crisis basis. They don’t like to give to a losing organization. They don’t want to hear that you’re in crisis and that you need X number of dollars to keep the dollar, to keep the doors open or to keep programs continuing. If you have programs or projects that are worthy of contributed dollars, then you need to be, , raising money from strength, not from weakness.

I think a third area that I would mention, Ruth is. , not, , having best practices to respond in a timely manner with a thank you letter and a receipt. You know, it’s required that we do that, , for all donations, over $250 that we need to receipt, , the donor donation. Back to the donor, , so that they are able to utilize that, , on their tax forms.

I think also a timely response of, thank you. Regarding of what, regardless of what type of donation it is, an amount is respectful to the donor. You know, I was involved in an organization, , I still am very much. That, , I give, , and I give a multiple, I give to multiple causes with this and within this one organization, but I started at a low end, , as a low end donor.

And over the last 10 years, I have progressively increased my donations significantly because they treated me the same way as a, , thousand dollars Don. Versus a multi-thousand dollars donor. And I notice that they treat others that I know in the organization who give hundreds of thousands of dollars the exact same way they might give that thousand dollars donor or that a hundred dollars donor.

To me, that that is excellent development work where you have a platform and your customer service is providing, , thank yous and the types. , personalization at the a hundred dollars level as at the a hundred thousand dollars. Of course, at the a hundred thousand dollars you’re going to do maybe a little bit more, but that consistency across donor levels I think is really important and it’s part of the best practices as well.

I wanted 

[00:20:49] Ruth Baum Bigus: to go back to your comment for a minute on crisis fundraising. and I’m gonna challenge you for a minute. I understand you don’t wanna put out there, we’re gonna have to shut the doors if we don’t get your donation, but what about crises in the world? For example, the last year, plus we’ve been dealing with the situation in Ukraine and it’s sad humanitarian impact.

What’s your thoughts? If you’re an organization that’s supporting something like that or a, a massive tornado or a hurricane, can you use that to, to, to fundraise to say, you know, this crisis is happening and, and we need your support so that we can send food packets, or whatever it is that you’re, you’re trying to help as the nonprofit.

[00:21:35] Jeffrey Byrne: Absolutely you can. And let me back up and say the word crisis. I, in my context was, you know, we’re gonna go out of business and shut our doors or close down this program. If you don’t give money to me, that that is a real turnoff of a message. Absolutely. However, , with a disa, , a disa, you know, a natural disasters of hurricanes and buyers and, you know, volcanic eruptions in, , Hawaii, , those are really causes to raise money around.

And there’s urgency and there’s situations that you want to make available. Certainly the war in, , Ukraine has been a rallying. Fry around the world to support, , the Ukrainian people and their struggle. And I think that those are really legitimate, , opportunities to do, , crisis style fundraising.

However, even in crisis fundraising, which, you know, the American Red Cross uses a lot with disaster. The Salvation Army and their response to, , , situations of fires, , puts a family out of their home. They also have just limited bandwidth as well to rally the troops per se, to the cause. And so you have to be a judicious in the way you’re messaging.

, your appeal so that you don’t wear out your welcome and you don’t become so repetitive that the donor has, , fatigue with your organization. 

[00:23:21] Ruth Baum Bigus: Let’s say I am an annual campaign donor. I make a gift once a year to widget nonprofit. How many times should I anticipate? Hearing from the organization, or let’s flip it to our nonprofit audience as the nonprofit, how many times should I be touching that person that gave me that one time gift?

[00:23:44] Jeffrey Byrne: I think that’s a really excellent question, and I don’t know if there’s really a good answer, , textbook answer to that. I think it does. it does matter. , it is situational organization by organization how they want to approach their donors. I would say, you know, you approach your donors, a number of times a year with, , perhaps, , electronic newsletters, maybe electronic updates, maybe a paper update, , maybe a telephone call from the development office or a board member.

it might be, , email. I think that, you know, the old way of touching a donor 12 to 14 times a year, and, , using that as a solicitation process, I think a lot of that is, , best practices years ago. I’m not sure if those are the best practices today. You know, we used to, when I did a direct mail program, , many years ago for, , the Visiting Nurse Association, as I mentioned earlier, every time we received a donation, We would thank them and we would put just a business reply envelope in the.

Donation letter back to the donor, and we would see those come in and trickle in over the next few years and we would use a different envelope or we would code it differently each time. I think a lot of that is, , passive fundraising. It might be past. Fundraising as well, . So I, I’m not sure if I have a good rule of thumb.

I do think keeping in touch with your donors is important. If they only hear from you one time a year, , you’re gonna lose your base because probably about a third of your donor base is going to atrophy each year. So if you don’t continue to add people to, , donors to your overall general mailing, , a database.

Through utilizing your c r m, then, , you’re going to, continue to lose, , and have lapsed donors. We 

[00:25:55] Ruth Baum Bigus: have just a couple of minutes left. I want you with your best knowledge, what was kind of the best thing that you’ve seen recently in a fundraising annual campaign effort? Something that you went, yeah, that’s just spot on.

[00:26:14] Jeffrey Byrne: Come back. I stumped you . You did. I had to think about, , some of the appeals I personally, , give to, you know, , when a friend reaches out to me through a friend to friend campaign, I normally will give , a gift because I appreciate them reaching out to me and I wanna support them and their fundraising cause.

I’ll go back to my friend Jane. My friend Jane is, , has been walking now, , for St. Jude’s, , for eight years. This was her last walk. She said she’s going to put it to bed and go and support another organization, but what St. Jude’s does so well, And they have millions of donors, is that they can communicate with you electronically and by mail, , very effectively in telling stories.

So I think the best way I have been approached, , for fundraising appeals over the years has been to hear a story about how a donation changes the life. Of a person heals that person, provides a cultural experience to the community, maybe, , provides, , shelter and, , adoption services for pets and animals, , provides, you know, a good, , environment for our, for our world.

All those are different causes that I think are really important. I think that’s what we do in fundraising, we story tell. So I think the more I, the more you tell stories, , the better your message will be received. Jeffrey, as 

[00:27:55] Ruth Baum Bigus: always, this has been great and I just wanna say to our audience, there are so many nuggets in here that are so useful.

While we do the show live, you can always find the ask the experts on our website, which is KC Cares online.org, but there’s just great tips in here. Jeffrey, it sounds like overall, yes, you probably need to still do that annual campaign, but you need to be thoughtful. It needs to be part of your overall strategic approach to fundraising, and you have to be mindful, I think, from what you tell us of who you’re sending that to and why would that be important to them.

You know why it’s important to your bottom line, but why is it important to your audience? So thank you again for this wonderful advice. 

[00:28:40] Jeffrey Byrne: Thank you, Ruth, and happy holidays to you and all of our audience and their families. 

[00:28:45] Ruth Baum Bigus: And thank you for joining us for KC Cares Kansas City’s nonprofit voice. We’re produced by Charitable Communications, also a nonprofit.

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