Generosity Fitness–a New Year Resolution for 2017!

Happy New Year text with cookies on the wooden background from aboveIt’s time to add Generosity Fitness to the list of our New Year Resolutions, for the spirit and expression of generosity enhances and deepens all the other aspects of life. Generosity matters.  It inspires giving and brings happiness to our lives.

This tradition of New Year Resolutions arose eons ago, inspired by the legend of the Roman god Janus, who is depicted with two faces. One of the faces of Janus looks to the past and the other to the future. The Romans believed Janus could forgive their transgressions, so they made offerings and promises at the beginning of each new calendar year.  Janus was believed to take notice of these gifts and bless the peoples’ lives for the year.  That’s where the month of January gets its name.

According to a recent NBC News poll based upon Google search terms most used in 2016, the Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions for 2017 are:  Get Healthy, Get Organized, Live Life to the Fullest, Learn a New Hobbies, Spend Less/Save More, Travel, Read More. Not surprisingly, these resolutions are about improving one’s life through good health, learning and see new things, and effectively managing money and material possessions. Essentially, this boils down our drive to experience happiness.

A good deal of research has been conducted about the correlation between altruistic behavior and happiness.  Experiments have been conducted at various universities, including the use of brain scans that track the various pain and pleasure centers affected by altruistic behavior, such as charitable giving, helping others, and volunteer service.

OFireworksur pleasure centers light up not only when we receive money or kindness, but also when we give money away or help another out of compassion. Studies show that those who receive money are more likely to give money away, and in larger amounts than those who have not received money before being asked to give.

One Harvard Business School study looked more closely at the cause and effect relationship between giving and happiness.  Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).

So, how might we fulfill our resolution for greater Generosity Fitness in 2017?

  • Make a commitment to a regular practice of giving and volunteering
  • Contribute the cost of your daily coffee to a cause that matters to you–or better yet, the cost of your monthly fitness or golf club membership!
  • A Month of daily acts of giving and kindness
  •  $5.20 or $52 per week for 52 weeks of the year given to your faith community or other worthy organizations
  • Sponsor a program or scholarship that will benefit to those in your community
  • Make a planned gift or bequest to a cause or organization that matters most to you
  • Organize a social fundraising event that brings people with common interests and a desire to make a difference in their community
  • Most of all, use your imagination.  Be creative.  Experience the joy of cultivating generosity in the world!

May this new year bring you many blessings and great abundance~ 

Laurel Amabile portrait 2   Laurel signature

 

 

 

References and Resources for this article:

Anik,  Aknin, Norton & Dunn.   Harvard Business School working paper, Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior.   2009.  http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/10-012.pdf

Brooks, Arthur C. Who Really Cares.  Basic Books.  2006.

Chan, Amanda L. Huffington Post. 2013.  7 Science-back Reasons Why Generosity is Good for Your Health.

Firestone, Lisa. Huffington Post. 2014. The Benefits of Generosity.

Feeling Good about Giving: The Benefits (and Costs) of Self-Interested Charitable Behavior. Authors: Lalin Anik, Harvard Business School Lara B. Aknin, University of British Columbia Michael I. Norton, Harvard Business School Elizabeth W. Dunn, University of British Columbia

Smith, Jordan Michael. New Republic. Sept. 2014. Want to Be Happy? Stop Being So Cheap!

 

Before Asking for Money–Listen!

Happy businessman in glasses holding money over gray background

Everyday conversation in the United States begins with a customary greeting that goes something like this…

“Hi! How are you doing?”

“Fine.  How are you doing?”

“Fine.  Life is very busy.  Have a great day!”

“Yeah, you too!”

This is often where the communication ends, if it goes this far at all.   The greeting is automatic; listening–really listening–is rarely involved.  Research, however, indicates adults spend about 80% of their daily time communicating, with 93% being non-verbal communication.  It is estimated that adults engage in listening about 45% of the time.  This is the same proportion of listening time estimated in the 1929 research by Dr. Paul Rankin.

Interestingly enough, with the rise of mass media communication between 1950 and 1980, the amount of listening time increased to over 50%.  Since then, the advent of email and social networking has caused a slight increase in reading and writing over listening.

Seasoned fundraising consultant and author, Mal Warwick underscores the importance of listening in fundraising:

Is she a good listener? I’ve never met a fundraiser who was truly successful without being a dedicated and effective listener.  In face-to-face solicitations, listening is essential to understand the way that a donor’s personal values and interests might be linked to a particular project. But listening is just as effective in direct mail, telefundraising, or other forms of direct response: how else could she really come to understand what a project or issue is about, or what motivates donors?

In congregational fundraising, face-to-face conversations are an effective way to build relationships and financial support.  Strong relationships are central to a healthy and flourishing community.  Money and energy flow in community.

Those who are gift stonesinitiating the conversations on the part of the organization must practice active listening, which is an essential practice in fundraising and annual stewardship.  One place to start is to find out more about what matters most to the prospective giver, listening for ways they connect with the mission and priorities of your congregation.  When we ask questions that elicit the positive emotions an individual has about the congregation and its faith values, the more likely he or she will commit to financial support.  Only after you listen and learn can you connect the person’s values, commitment, and monetary resources into a compelling reason to give.  This practice of intentional and positive communication is called Appreciative Inquiry.   Appreciative Inquiry should be a central aspect and practice in congregational stewardship and fundraising.

Listening Tips for Congregational Stewards and Fundraisers:

  • Focus on the people and relationships–learn what is important to them about their involvement, their interests, priorities, and values.
  • Listen attentively–let them know they are worthy of your attention and a valued part of the community.
  • Ask questions that elicit positive feelings about the congregation and the faith values–listen carefully for ways to explicitly connect their positive energy, time, and resources to advancing the mission and potential of the organization.
  • Be mindful that there are generational differences, theological perspectives, and tenure of membership factors that may affect your ability to listen and identify with those you talk with–be open to new perspectives and ask for clarification.
  • Take notes on key points for follow up–let them know their input is valued and will be taken into consideration.
  • Ask for their contributions and commitment, then allow time for them to respond.
  • Express appreciation–Thank!
  • Follow up on any key points and report back–this builds trust and accountability.
  • Thank again.

If your stewardship volunteers would benefit from training and practice in the art of donor conversations, contact Giving Speaks consulting today to schedule a web-based or onsite training:  givingspeaks@gmail.com

Wishing you success and prosperity~

Laurel Amabile portrait 2

Laurel signature

Resources to Develop Listening Skills for Fundraising:

Holden Leadership Center.   Active Listening.  http://leadership.uoregon.edu/resources/exercises_tips/skills/active_listening http://leadership.uoregon.edu/upload/files/tip_sheets/active_listening.pdf

Warwick, Mal.  Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth from Your Fundraising Staff? 2005.  Mal Warwick Associates.   http://www.malwarwick.com/

Wilson, Thomas D.  Winning Gifts: Make Your Donors Feel Like Winners. 2008.  John Wiley & Son.  An excerpt from the book devoted to the importance of listening in fundraising is found on the Association of Fundraising Professionals:  http://www.afpnet.org/ResourceCenter/

Appreciative Inquiry Resources:

Central East Regional Group (CERG).  Stewardship for the 21st Century.                                                                                                    http://www.sld.uua.org/pdfs/2011/SLDStewardshipFor21stCentury.pdf

Fundraising When You Are Feeling the Squeeze

cutting moneyIs your organization feeling the squeeze in its funding? Are you having to focus more on cutting expenses than on developing your programs and services?

You are not alone. Here are some tips from professional fundraisers that can help…

Fundraising professionals agree that success unpredictable economic times involves intentional planning and attending to foundational philanthropic practices.  The following is a list of core elements for your organization to have in place to build resiliency and help manage the challenges as they arise:

  • Compelling Mission Statement—a clearly articulated, dynamic and impactful mission appeals to people’s interests, creating value for the organization and its mission in their minds and hearts.  

Most people want to make a positive difference through their actions and their charitable giving. They want to know their contributions will make a difference because your organization is making a difference in people’s lives and communities. Leaders must be prepared–individually and collectively–to articulate the organization’s mission, purposes and vision in appealing and compelling ways to elicit heightened levels of engagement and generosity among your supporters.   

  • Assess and acknowledge your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges (threats), building on your strengths and opportunities while strategically managing your weaknesses and challenges.

Self-awareness is key. Conduct a thorough and candid analysis of your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats/challenges (SWOT). Translate the results into an action plan that will maximize your strengths and opportunities–these are your organizational assets. As leaders you can use this self-awareness and knowledge to plan realistically and work effectively to navigate the challenges and overcome the barriers to success.

  • Avoid dramatic shifts in fundraising methods and staffing.

Most organizations rely on their professional and support staff to maintain week-to-week functions, particularly record-keeping and finance. Some organizations have a smaller infrastructure and leaner staffing. At times of heightened financial anxiety, the needs seem to increase and feel more urgent, sometime prompting desperate actions. Staff and Board leaders must work with intention to employ effective fundraising methods and stewardship practice that will sustain the organization over time. 

  • Keep public relations and marketing strong.

Work to increase your visibility through a well designed website, public witness, media coverage, and partnering with other organizations with common values. Experiment with social media venues, crowd-funding, and other innovative and lower-cost technology. Pay close attention to what modes of communication people elicit the best response–do more of what works best with your constituents and donors.

  • Build support by spreading the enthusiasm about what the organization is doing.

As leaders, it is essential to talk in positive ways about your organization:  what you are excited about, how the organization is supported financially, and what you are doing to make good things happen. Avoid the vortex of negativity or doom and gloom about your financial limitations. You are the public face and voice of the organization and its mission.  Your enthusiasm for your mission and the positive difference your organization is making will catch peoples’ interest and inspire their generous support.

  • Inspire trust in the leadership of your organization. Practice accountability and authentic communication.

Share information about how contributions are used to fulfill the organization’s mission and purpose.  Educate donors and volunteers about the importance supporting your mission and the causes you stand for over time.  Don’t gloss over the rough spots, but don’t over-focus on your limitations. This information should be readily available upon request or in general ways on your website.

  • Meet and communication with donors regularly, informing them of the organization’s needs.  Invite questions, feedback, and ideas for improvement.

A relational approach to fundraising is essential to sustain the highest levels of generosity and giving to the organization.  Regular personal contacts throughout the year via phone, email, and postal mail are critical to promoting strong relational ties to the organization, the wider faith, and partner organizations. Individual volunteers and donors need to know they are valued and important to the organization beyond any financial contributions they make.  Saying “Thank You” in as many ways possible is a priority. 

Remember that fundraising requires a highly relational approach that demonstrates your organization’s commitment to its mission and to those whose lives are touched by its mission.

inter-connectedness hands around the world

DEFINING YOUR FUNDING PRIORITIES–Identify up to 6 fundraising priorities, with 3 action steps for each priority area:

Priority #1

Priority #2

Priority #3

Priority #4

Priority #5

Priority #6

Once you have identified your funding priorities, put your annual development and stewardship plan in writing using the following format and information:

  • Generate your compelling case for funding support
  • Write up a concise one-page description of each priority area/program for sharing with donors and funders
  • Estimate the costs of funding your programs and operations
  • Identify your funding sources–individual, groups, businesses, grants, foundations/corporate giving programs–estimating the revenue goal for each
  • Create materials or presentations about your funding priorities with the interests of each donor or group in mind
  • Develop a timeline for your plan
  • Know what you will track and measure for successful outcomes
  • Evaluation of the plan at regular intervals
  • Adjustments that could be made if necessary
  • Celebrate any and all successes!

Wishing you great prosperity and success,

Laurel Amabile portrait 2

 

Laurel signature

 

 

 

Laurel Amabile, Giving Speaks

 

Other Helpful Planning Resources:

Fundraising When Money is Tight, by Mal Warwick. 2009. Jossey-Bass.

Raising More with Less, by Amy Eisenstein, CFRE. 2012. Charity Channel Press–“In the Trenches” series.

Creating a Compelling Case for Funding

Development Planning Template