Demystifying Predictive Analytics and Modeling for Fundraising

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When it comes to fundraising, your most valuable asset is your time. Predictive analytics and modeling help determine which prospective donors to focus on so you can secure more gifts faster. However, the initial complexity of the process can seem overwhelming for those unfamiliar with it. 

This guide describes what predictive modeling is, why it’s important, and how to get started. It’s based on a workshop led by Eric White, a Senior Principal Consultant with WealthEngine, during the recent WE Prosper Summit. 

Click here for a replay of WE Prosper Summit, a virtual conference exploring trends and best practices for finding high-potential donors in the COVID economy. 

What is Predictive Modeling?

“Predictive modeling is [the] analysis that allows organizations to evolve from a subjective approach to fundraising to a data-driven approach,” explains White. Instead of ringing up every prospective donor and seeing who bites, modeling offers fundraisers a clearer picture of who has the highest probability of making a major gift.

“Modeling gives a numeric value to categorical data,” White notes. “The formula delivers a score for your constituents based on the desired behavior, such as making a major gift….A raw score is a number between 100 and 1000 with those near 1000 having the highest probability of, in this example, making a major gift.”

The 3 Things Needed for Predictive Modeling

  • Refine Your Question

“The first thing you need to recognize is a model can only answer one question,” observes White. “Are you interested in who’s most likely to give you a gift of $25,000 or more? Are you interested in someone making a monthly gift of at least $25 or more? Are you interested in finding individuals that will include you in their estate plan? You want to refine the question.”

  • Clean Your Data

Improperly selected or entered data can derail your entire model. Just ask the crew of Emirates Flight 407. In 2009, during a flight from Melbourne to Dubai, they accidentally entered the weight of the plane and 270 passengers as 262 metric tons. 

“Its actual calculated weight was 362 metric tons,” notes White. “This is the equivalent of not calculating the weight of 20 African elephants stored in the belly of the plane.”

While the plane eventually got off the ground, it was almost the worst civil air disaster in Australia’s history. The moral of the story: you have to be meticulous with your data to get the desired results.

  • Choose the Right Variables

Predictive modeling involves plugging data into a formula. Each part of the formula is known as an independent variable, or the unique traits of the individuals being screened.

“For predictive models in the fundraising space, you need eight donation variables,” advises White. Those include:

  • First gift date
  • First gift amount
  • Largest gift date
  • Largest gift amount
  • Last gift date
  • Last gift amount
  • Total number of gifts
  • Total amount given

Depending on the type of giving you’re focusing on, you may need to include additional variables. For example, the age of donors is important to know when modeling planned giving over several years. You also need the data of at least 200 individuals in order to have a stable model. 

The 5 Steps of the Modeling Process

  • Model Design

White and his team spend time discussing what the client wants to achieve with predictive modeling. Knowing the end goal allows them to design a more accurate model.

  • Data Preparation

This is the process of gathering, cleaning, and inputting all the data into the model. “Paying the price on the front end and cleaning the data positions us on the kinds of returns on investment we’re all looking for,” advises White.

  • Model Building

“That’s when the data scientists come in and they start reviewing and working with the data,” explains White. During this step, they determine which of the included variables are most important for the model.

  • Performance Analysis

White’s team carefully checks that the model is accurate and effective. “We want to make sure that it’s a good fit, that it’s a robust and viable model,” notes White.

  • Modeling Scores

At the end of the process, White explains, “You get two things, a raw score and a major gift decile, along with best practices and continuing consulting issues around the best way to implement the scores and ratings.” A raw score is a number between 100 and 1000, while a decile places prospects into groups. 

“Let’s say you give us 100,000 records,” explains White. “We’ll score everyone from the first person to person 100,000 with a raw score and then we’ll rank order them and divide them up into 10 equal deciles. The individuals in decile one are the ones that scored in the 90th percentile or the highest level of the model.” 

Predictive Modeling Drives Results

To cap off the talk, White shared a case study of a university his team worked with.

“They gave us over 100,000 records for us to screen,” he recalls, “and we built them [a model] that predicted individuals most likely to give at least $100,000.” 

The result was a list of 220 individuals that were likely to give at least $100,000 to the organization. The major gift officers selected 10 random people from the list who had never given to the university and called them. 

“All 10 took the call,” notes White. “Out of those 10, three said, “Let’s talk.” Out of those three when they met with them, one of them said, “What took you so long to call?” They ended up working with this individual who had never given to the university.”

The story doesn’t end there. The organization put together a proposal asking for $150,000. The donor ended up giving even more than that. The university’s partnership with WealthEngine paid for itself several times over. 

Want to learn more about how WealthEngine can help you achieve similar results with predictive modeling? Get in touch at info@wealthengine.com or click here to schedule a free demo. 

Being Practical About AI for Fundraisers and Marketers

As our world becomes increasingly digitized, many companies are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to stay relevant as fundraising and marketing continue to evolve. 

Jim Manzi, a partner at Foundry.ai, speaks about how companies can utilize AI in a practical way. AI can be a huge asset to boost fundraising and create successful marketing strategies, so Manzi breaks down the basics.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

 

Brain map of what AI actually is

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AI sounds like a complex concept, and many businesses throw around the term without fully understanding what it is. Manzi explains that AI is “whatever is at the current frontier,” which means AI is simply the newest technology available.

Although this often invokes images of robots and cutting edge science, it’s much simpler than that. The AI basics for business are, as Manzi states, “data plus math . . . used to create statistical improvement.”

  • What is the Function of Artificial Intelligence?

The functionality of any technology is important when deciding how it can benefit your business. If you don’t know what the function of AI is, then you will be unable to implement it properly into your plans. 

In keeping with Manzi’s definition, the purpose of AI is simple, as it takes on a repeated decision process to help you receive accurate results. By outsourcing research tasks to AI, your company will have better data to work with.

  • Why Did Artificial Intelligence Become a Trend?

As industries continue to grow and evolve, finding ways to engage and cultivate your audience has proven crucial to a business’s success. As Manzi explained, “AI is simply technology that helps improve statistics.”

Why is this important? Before AI became the trend, collecting data had to be done on a daily basis by hand. This included reading articles, constant research, and deciphering news reports to strategize based on current events. 

Now, this information can be discovered quickly and more accurately. AI eliminates the amount of energy spent on research and reduces the error margin to create a precise strategy for audience reach.

Implementing AI in Fundraising and Donations

 

Graph of practical implementations of AI

 

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AI is a powerful tool when used in a practical way to expand your resources. The role of artificial intelligence in business intelligence creates a pairing that can accurately target audiences, as well as help you pinpoint your next move.

Setting realistic expectations will help your business realize the maximum amount of benefits. For example, Manzi uses automatic outreach trigger detection as a great place to start.

Being able to detect when something happens in the business world that will cause a positive reaction from your audience can have a huge impact. Instead of having a group of consultants searching the news to watch events unfold, AI can step in to determine these trigger points.

With this knowledge, it is easier to use your staff’s energy to plan and execute your next move correctly. AI can take things a step further by eliminating your need to manually search for the right potential prospects. AI is also helpful in identifying the correct messaging for your target audience.

While these applications may not be as flashy, this practical implementation of AI can make a huge difference in your fundraising tactics. 

Using this technology takes the guessing game away from reaching out to donors. It allows you to target your messaging to areas where you will see the most return on investment (ROI).

  • Donor Strategy and Artificial Intelligence

When working in fundraising, high levels of energy are constantly being spent on putting together the best donor strategy to raise money. This typically includes researching, cultivating prospects, and maintaining strong relationships with your current donors to avoid fatigue.

The key to a successful plan is analyzing data and using it correctly to benefit your company. Data, in terms of this industry, is more conceptual than a spreadsheet of numbers. Information needed for accurate donor strategy includes current events, lifestyle models, and wealth factors.

It’s no longer necessary to read the news and spend time on social media to identify what is happening in the lives of your prospects and current donors. AI can step in to make this process easier, quicker, and more accurate.

AI takes on these redundant searches and constantly collects data to help create accurate models. By implementing this technology, you can have a daily strategy that shows who to reach out to and what call to action to make.

  • Email Marketing and Fundraising

As a go-to method for fundraising, email marketing is one of the most used platforms for donor engagement. Manzi discusses the important components of email and demonstrates how practical implementation of AI can help.

To make the most of any email campaign, constant testing is needed. By changing variables and analyzing the results, it is possible to see what combinations of content result in the best response rate.

Rather than trying to do an entire overhaul with AI, try testing several factors to see what results in positive change. Manzi suggests testing the time of day emails are sent, as well as the length of the subject line. 

With AI, you can see exactly how these factors are affecting your campaigns. In return, you will be able to strategize and plan your emails efficiently. The job never stops, though. Using AI to constantly test your approach will contribute to successful fundraising.

Key Takeaways

AI is not an ominous thing from the future, but rather helpful technology that gets the job done faster. Embracing AI in a practical way can further your organization’s goals as you continue to target your audience more accurately.

Analyzing data and receiving quick results has never been easier. Instead of allotting employee energy to donor research, utilizing AI can free up time and deliver precise results.

Don’t stop testing. AI works best when you are constantly feeding it information, and examining the results. Once you find a strategy that works for you, move your AI focus to the next project. This encourages constant progress and maximizes the results you see with this technology.

 

The Digital Wave and Values-based Business

The digital wave has caused an evolution in business norms. Organizations are now more focused on values-based business and services geared toward maximizing the client experience. In this new era of cloud-based technology, the impact of the digital wave has intensified.

The world has changed as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which proved to be a major factor in spurring the digital wave. Organizations are constantly evolving based on how their services and products personally impact their clients. 

What is Salesforce.org? 

Pat McQueen is the Senior Vice President of Partner Enablement at Salesforce.org. Pat is the person responsible for driving Salesforce.org to focus more on clients while bringing about social impact through digital technology. The organization provides services to nonprofit and educational initiatives to affect positive change in the world.

Salesforce has partnered with WealthEngine, a global marketing leader specializing in technology that assists businesses and nonprofits in targeted, comprehensive data analysis. The WealthEngine9 (WE9) platform aids marketers and fundraisers within Salesforce.org in their search for investors most capable and interested in helping the organization achieve its goals.

This partnership is an essential component of Salesforce.org’s long-term strategy for providing cloud-based and customer relationship management (CRM) services. Salesforce.org also works to empower students across the globe by increasing access to online learning and driving graduation rates.

The Core Objectives of Salesforce

Salesforce.com and Salesforce.org differ in terms of their target service areas. The former provides cloud-based services to businesses and caters to their marketing and sales-related needs. 

In contrast, Salesforce.org provides free technology to organizations and community initiatives dedicated to educational endeavors and philanthropy. Salesforce.org offers a platform that enables these entities to identify and prioritize investors and donors who can provide the resources necessary to fulfill their respective missions.

Salesforce.org is active in the following segments:

Through these channels, Salesforce.org facilitates positive societal transformation. It also plays a significant role in the effort to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

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SDGs encompass the 17 global goals determined by the United Nations (UN) as necessary for the elevation of the standard of living across the world. These initiatives center on implementing efficient solutions to problems such as poverty, hunger, social injustice, and climate change.

For higher education, Salesforce.org’s Education Cloud integrates recruitment, student experience, alumni engagement, and marketing in one place. The Education Cloud also simplifies the processes of student admission and enrollment and facilitates communication with student families. 

For five years in a row, Salesforce has been noted as the world’s number one CRM service provider. The organization continues to focus on digital changes most likely to drive global endeavors. 

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The World Economic Forum has discussed the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which encompasses all of the biological, physical, and digital systems functioning around us. Technologies used in devices like Apple and Fitbit smartwatches are not just utilities, they are digital integrations able to sync with human movements.

These digital advancements provide us biological data regarding heart rate, blood pressure, and even footstep count in daily life. This is a part of The Fourth Industrial Revolutiona change in everyday life. The Fifth Industrial Revolution envisions not just change but also the capacity to reveal possibilities for influencing and controlling the change surrounding us. 

Data Creation and Statistics  

As the digital wave continues to progress, an abundance of data is being generated. This information is analyzed, processed, modified, and stored each day. 

In May 2019, WealthEngine launched the Salesforce Connector app to facilitate the effective use of the large data pool available. Through this app, WealthEngine and Salesforce are able to effectively streamline prospecting and update approximately 100,000 donor records at once using WE Direct Access API

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Collaborative efforts exemplified by the Salesforce Connector app can play a significant role in utilizing data at its best. Below are some interesting facts demonstrating the power of data in the modern world:

  1. On average, more than 490 million tweets are sent daily.
  2. 290 billion emails are sent each day.
  3. 65 billion messages are exchanged on Whatsapp every 24 hours.

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Data traffic generated from wearable devices such as Apple Watch, Google Glass, and Fitbit devices are on track to increase to an estimated 335PB per month in 2020. This is a marked increase from 2015 when approximate monthly usage was 15PB per month.  

The Impact of Salesforce’s Digital Revolution

The Fifth Industrial Revolution is an impact revolution. The challenge for Salesforce.org and other organizations is to correctly understand and respond to this fundamental transformation. 

A lasting impact can’t be centered on the needs of a single person. It must revolve around what is best for the collective good. That’s why Sustainable Development Goals are demonstrated as different segments of the same wheel, designed to affect a substantial impact on society. 

Corporate philanthropy is about helping and cooperating with others to encourage further growth and development within society. Cultural change, understanding of social responsibility, and alignment of work with technology are all important elements of a values-based business. 

Employees’ Expectations and UN SDGs 

Employees’ expectations are also changing. Millennials are looking for more than just consistent promotions, they also seek to understand the purpose of their work. Knowledge of values-based services is essential to making a positive impact on the next industrial revolution. 

Pat also emphasizes that a sense of purpose among Millennials is important for the emergence of values-based business. It can help in facilitating quality services and delivering impact in the next industrial revolution.

The aim of the UN’s SDGs is the creation of a better society and future for all. The world faces multiple challenges including poverty, inequality, climate change, health-related issues, etc.  Values-based businesses have a key role to play in developing effective strategies and technologies that will make these reforms possible.

Salesforce.org makes it possible for students from under-developed areas to access better learning through the internet. The Salesforce.org cloud-based education platform encourages increased student engagement and provides access to future career opportunities. 

Contribution of Worldwide Firms

According to Pat, organizations across the US are coming to the realization that an impact revolution is indeed coming and they must adapt to prepare for the inevitable digital wave. As proof of this widespread awareness, Pat points out, “38% of the largest companies in the US, two-thirds of the FTSE 100 all have a public statement of how they’re committed to the SDGs.” 

Together, Salesforce and WealthEngine have demonstrated that a commitment to making a social impact can align with a balanced business strategy. 

 

Building Distinctive and Authentic Strategies in the Era of Data Abundance

Data Strategy

In this era of data abundance, it can be tough to formulate a distinctive and successful business strategy that actually leverages data and gives you the growth you are seeking. Tom Monahan, founder and managing partner of Norton Street Capital and a board member of TransUnion,  shed some light on how to accomplish this successfully at the 2019 WealthEngine Prosper Summit.

How Data Changes Organizations

The way organizations use data to engage with clients and prospects in positive and helpful ways is constantly evolving. Companies shouldn’t look at data as a way to make money but instead, see it as an opportunity to genuinely help their clients. 

For example, if you’re an investment manager trying to help wealthy people better manage their money, you can use wealth screening. This is a powerful tool that enables you to pinpoint areas where your clients can be more efficient in their investing. Of course, you would make money off that data, but so would your clients, making it mutually beneficial.

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Not only are corporations using data to prospect or get new clients, but companies are also able to leverage data to develop better products and improve internal processes. 

How to Formulate a Strategy That Leverages Data

As a leader in an organization formulating a data strategy, it’s imperative to ask the right questions. Here are some questions you should ask to help build a successful business strategy:

  • How can we use the data we already have to help our clients?
  • What’s the last important thing you changed your mind about?
    • How did data affect your decision?
  • Where do we want to be in the data industry?
  • What are we good at?
  • What’s our ultimate mission?
  • How much risk are we willing to take?
  • How do we keep this data secure?

The point of asking these questions is for everyone to learn something new. It also provides an opportunity to think about how you can create a distinctive strategy for growth. Considering these things also helps to ensure you’re using the data you have available in an ethical manner.

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WealthEngine enables building a powerful data strategy with its WealthScoring data analysis. With WealthEngine’s Propensity to Give (P2G) Score, your organization will be able to correctly identify and prioritize those most likely to give. A P2G Score of 1/0 is optimal. 

The Principles of a Successful Business Strategy

As a strategist, it’s important to think about the compounding benefits of good strategic decisions, for long-term growth. How are you going to engage the customer so that you not only gain them as a client but are able to retain them as well? 

It’s not enough to simply have unique data either. You must have a plan for that data.

For example, the Union Pacific Railroad needs data that’s extremely valuable to them. However, for most people, this information would serve no purpose. The data in their positive train control system helps prevent derailments by taking in the track temperature, speed, and other important measurements throughout their system. This data makes it possible to predict situations before they happen. 

While it’s important for a train engineer to know what the temperature of the track will be four hours down the line. The average person does not need or know how to apply this information.

To successfully distinguish your organization within your industry, you should have data that’s unique for you, and have a way to apply it that generates genuine value. A recent webinar with Infutor, one of WealthEngine’s partners, examines the the hidden predictors that signal your top prospects. This information allows you to personalize your messaging to effectively target these donors

  • Proper Data Staging and Structuring

How you structure your data should help you understand this information in a way no one else can. You most likely have an abundance of data at your disposal, but how you stage and structure it is going to affect your strategy. 

The best thing you can do with data is to use it to predict something no one else can. Just as the Union Pacific Railroad has, find a way to use your data that makes it valuable to some and like magic to others. 

  • Value Creation

What can you do with data to help you truly excel? How is what you’re doing valuable to others? Figure out what specific value your data can create and see how that fits into your company’s strategy.

  • Extracting Value From Data

Of course, as an organization you want to make money, so how can you extract monetary value from this data? In a successful business strategy, you’re extracting data that helps people and brings you more income.

The Facts Behind “Data Is the New Oil” and How It Affects Your Business Strategy

The term “data is the new oil”, has been thrown around a lot lately. It was originally said by modern data use pioneer Clive Humby, and it has sparked quite the online debate. 

The prevailing online argument about this quote revolves around the question of whether data is indeed the new oil in terms of its value. Some take the position that data is not the new oil because data is renewable while oil is not.

Take a look at this Google trends map and you see blog posts on both sides arguing the simple statement “data is the new oil.” 

Blue= Data is the new oil

Red = Data is not the new oil

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What this really shows is how the internet can take information and then make large leaps,  instigating a heated argument. There are great points on both sides of this particular debate. However, it is important to note that what is being so vigorously argued is a shortened, clipped version of what Humby stated.

We believe accurate data is extremely valuable, and find what Humby actually said much more profound than the distorted quote that is often attributed to him:

“Data is the new oil, it’s valuable, but if unrefined, it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, et cetera. Create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity. Data must be broken down and analyzed for [it to] have value.” 

Essentially, like oil, data is nothing unless it is refined. If oil isn’t turned into gas, it can’t be used in your car. If data isn’t turned into something with valuable practical applications, it’s worth as little as salt. 

Ultimately, you as a business leader need to leverage your data and turn it into something valuable. The most important piece of a successful business strategy is the ability to take something that’s worth nothing to others and recognize its value for the right people.

Billionaire Donors Will Ask These 7 Questions Before They Donate

When serving today’s high-end net worth billionaire donor, you can expect them to have some questions before they decide to donate. Jim Lintott, chairman, and co-founder of Sterling Foundation Management spoke at WealthEngine’s Prosper Summit in 2019 to provide us with insight into what questions these billionaires might ask before deciding to donate to your nonprofit. 

1. How Can I Make a Difference?

One of the main reasons someone will consider donating is to make a difference. It’s not for their ego enhancement, or tax benefits, though those incentives do exist. Most wealthy donors want to make a difference in the world and genuinely help people.

The donor may or may not know how they want to make a difference. They’re coming to your organization to see how their donation can affect the world. 

It’s your job to support potential donors by helping them see how they can make a difference, and help them realize where their passion lies. People usually have a burning desire to do something good. 

At Jim’s firm, they came up with a great way to help people find their passion. Often, the families that come in aren’t sure what they want to do. The family is taken into a room where 50 headlines are on display heralding good things that could happen. 

These headlines are created after consultation with each family to get to know them and their priorities. Families are asked to take 20-30 minutes and walk around the room to read the headlines. Then, choose three of them they’d like to see come true.

2. What Won’t Happen if You Don’t Get the Money?

This question may seem simple on a surface level, but it’s important to be prepared to answer this question honestly and truthfully. This is necessary for your billionaire donor to understand the importance of their donation. 

Put together case studies of projects your charity has worked on that gave positive results and prepare to present them to your potential billionaire donors. The objective is to clearly demonstrate how their money can help and why they should donate to you. 

Jim Lintott shared an inspiring story at the WealthEngine Summit, about a family who’s 12-year-old daughter was suffering from epilepsy. The family wanted to make a difference in awareness and research into epilepsy. 

The Sterling Foundation Management came up with three projects for the family to consider. The family ended up choosing to participate in all three. 

Epilepsy.com

This resource was created to help guide families in their epilepsy journey. It’s a great first step for people who just found out their child has epilepsy. In only three short years, epilepsy.com became the largest epilepsy-related website that distributed information and helped build a community. 

 

Epilepsy Website Image

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Epilepsy Therapy Project

With thorough research, Jim’s firm found that potential new cures for epilepsy weren’t making it to phase two trials. The epilepsy therapy project worked with the pharmaceutical industry to identify ways to move drugs through the testing process and move forward. Six years later, 8 out of the 12 drugs in the epilepsy pipeline were driven by the epilepsy therapy project.

 

The Epilepsy Study Consortium Mission Statement

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Epilepsy Study Consortium

One of the major issues identified through research was the lack of people available for trials. The Epilepsy Study Consortium project helped find patients to sign up for new drug trials. Before this consortium, it took years to get a trial going. 

Through the family’s donation, they created a consortium of research hospitals in New York that kept potential candidates for trial in a usable database. When a new trial was proposed, they were able to shorten the recruiting process from 24 months to 60 days. Now, large companies are willing to focus on epilepsy treatments because the path is easier.

Imagine what the world would look like today if this family hadn’t decided to donate so these organizations could be created. How many more people would have suffered without this family’s generosity? This is the type of picture you need to paint for your potential billionaire donors to emphasize the gravity of their donation.

3. Who Can Give Me Expert Help?

Wealthy people and billionaire donors seek out experts for almost everything, including getting information about donating. If you’re putting together a proposal, be sure to show how you’ve successfully done this before.

It’s okay if you haven’t done this type of project. Be sure to show how you’re going to recruit new talent or how you’re going to educate yourself to provide the best results.

Prepare answers to these three questions so you’re ready when billionaire donors ask if you haven’t worked on a similar project before:

    • How are you going to find the expert talent needed to execute this project?
    • What are your requirements to make sure the new talent has experience?
    • What steps are you going to take to ensure the project will be completed on time?

Jim tells a comical, yet noteworthy story about how his firm was able to help their client redo a university library:

“Recently, we had a client come to us interested in redoing a university library. They had been pitched by the school. We sought out the nation’s three leading experts on technology in libraries, learning in libraries, and the future of libraries.”

Jim explains that finding and contacting these experts was done by a 22-year-old in his firm. Research costs were minimal“two salads and one sandwich.” The information gathered helped the client recognize the potential and completely reshaped the project.

4. How Do We Measure Results?

Talk is great, but eventually, your potential billionaire donor is going to ask how you measure and track project results. First, create a proxy measurement. If you can’t determine a number to go off of, you’re most likely not trying hard enough. 

Use tools like surveys audited results, or attendance records and search for third-party verifiable measurements. This is key to creating long-term relationships.

Jim’s company developed a program in the three rivers area of Nigeria to fight illiteracy. They had the extra benefit of being able to add Basic Aids Education as one of the subjects used to teach people how to read. A review of other studies showed if you can teach adults to read, you can eliminate illiteracy in an area forever. 

This makes perfect sense because no parent who knows how to read would allow their child to be illiterate. By measuring before, during, and after, literacy rates in the three rivers area moved from 23% to 85%. This is the type of information your donors are looking for. 

5. What Type of Flexibility Can I Expect?

Typically, your potential billionaire donor isn’t going to care about the nuances of your organization, such as whether you’re a nonprofit or for profit. They simply want to make a difference. Potential billionaire donors will want to make sure you’re going to be flexible.

As Jim puts it, “Your [donor] wants to make a difference. We need to think outside of our own organizations. Are there partners we should include? Are there investments we should make?”

Jim tells another story to relate how many charities work on the issue of using charcoal for cooking in third world countries. Charcoal is a concern because it’s bad for your health.

However, it’s not as simple as just providing people with better cooking materials, such as liquefied natural gas. It is necessary to change the market completely. 

If you’re in the third world and are impoverished, purchasing 30 cents worth of charcoal is your easiest option for finding cooking fuel. However, you can’t simply purchase 30 cents of liquefied natural gas. 

The smallest container available is five gallons. At least, that’s how it used to be.

Now, there’s a company that will provide the tank for free and sells gas as it’s used. This is a for-profit solution to a bottleneck the nonprofit world could not fix.

Don’t get trapped into repeating what you’ve done before. Think outside the box to solve the problem.

Flexibility Planning

The other part of being flexible with donations involves planning. For example, some depression-era givers have the fear that their personal funds will be depleted. They want to help, but they’re afraid of going broke.

Being flexible with how you handle their money can help your organization get money in the future without pressuring people now. Jim’s firm often works with clients to create a

large charitable remainder trust (CRT). 

Doing so ensures all donations are earmarked for charitable giving. However, donors can draw from the CRT if circumstances demand it. Using a CRT enables your donor to give with confidence.

6. How Can I Involve My Family?

Most wealthy families and billionaire donors want to keep the money in the family for generations, but they don’t want to simply give their children money. Instead, they want to give those inheritances responsibly to ensure the money is managed effectively. 

With an estimated 30 trillion dollars about to be passed from the baby boomer generation to gen-Xers, who will then leave inheritances for millennials, families are considering how they’re going to get the next generation ready to handle their wealth.

A lot of Jim’s clients have parents tell their children, “Why don’t you run the foundation before you run the company?” This practice makes a lot of sense because making decisions is difficult. Reviewing grants and choosing the ones that most align with the foundation’s mission is excellent training for business decision making. 

With a grant, you get to actually make a decision. And with most grants, you get to see if your decision was the right one based on the results. This gives children the confidence they need to make the right decisions in the future when they are in charge of the company.

Passion Finding

Jim explained he has been fascinated by a trend he has witnessed repeatedly in many wealthy families. The second generation has a propensity to find it difficult to identify their life’s passion.

These children most likely don’t want to compete with the fact that mom and dad were so wildly successful economically. Many succeeding generations have found they can find their own life’s passion through philanthropy.

 

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Jim tells yet another story, this one is about a passionate child of one of their wealthy clients. The child was very concerned about the siblings of cancer patients. 

The organization dubbed Sibs for Kids was created. This idea was taken to a children’s hospital, where the concept was explained and an agreement was made to get the funding necessary for set up from the family foundation. Being able to witness younger generations find a passion is one of the more rewarding benefits that come with working with your donors to help them realize the extent of the good their donations can do.

7. What Tax Deductions Can I Expect?

As Jim mentioned earlier, tax deductions aren’t the main reason why a wealthy donor decides to give. However, it’s still an important question you should be prepared to answer at your first meeting. Be sure to explain to them what benefits they can get based on how much they donate.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that the wealthy want to help you. 

As Jim suggests, “Get to know them, and I mean really know them. Know their backgrounds, know their likes and dislikes, and what really motivates them. Get to know what and why they want to make a difference and help them see that path toward change. Be prepared to change the world together. You will both be glad you did.”

How to Target Donor Advised Fund Givers for Fundraising

When your fundraising team looks for donors, they may look to those in the community with influence, connections, and wealth. An often overlooked group includes those with donor-advised funds. Check out the information below about donor-advised funds (DAFs) and their impact on charitable organizations: 

What are Donor-Advised Funds?

New York Community Trust created the first donor-advised funds in the early 1930s. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), “a donor-advised fund is a separately identified fund or account that is maintained and operated by a section 501(c)(3) organization, which is called a sponsoring organization.” The donor owns the account and grants funds to nonprofit organizations to manage. 

Donor-advised fund accounts are available at financial institutions like Schwab and Fidelity. Account managers who oversee DAFs inform members of charities to contribute to from their advised fund accounts. Any 501(c)(3) organization with a current, verifiable listing on the IRS website can receive contributions. 

These types of funding accounts have a unique benefit for nonprofit organizations. This is called what Amy Pirozzolo, Director of Marketing at Fidelity Charity, refers to as the “second power” or “sustaining power.” DAFs allow nonprofit organizations to use the allotted funding as they see fit over a long time period, including being used as a safety net on a rainy day. The funds continue to appreciate after being granted to nonprofits, allowing charities to receive more funds over time.

DAFs are sources of sustaining funds that allow nonprofits to thrive even during down fundraising times like during a recession. They also provide benefits to the donors. Some of the reasons people choose to start donor-advised funds include: 

  1. The desire for a generous legacy in retirement years
  2. They want to give back excess income  
  3. The continuance of giving throughout retirement 
  4. They have funds to give, but either don’t have the time to give or are uncertain about what organization to make their fund’s sponsoring charity 
  5. The ability to give appreciated securities 
  6. The opportunity to grow their donation tax-free 
  7. A donor had a windfall or a high-bonus year
  8. The ability to see all one’s grants and gifts in one area and better manage one’s giving 
  9. There is an immediate tax reduction on the funds inside the account  
  10. DAFs are easy to set up and manage 

How People Become Interested in Giving Through DAFs: Boston Healthcare for Homeless 

Michael Bradley felt an urge to give back when he received a $1,000 scholarship at age 13. Years later, he came across Boston Healthcare for Homeless, a nonprofit that provides medical, behavioral, and dental services for the homeless, and contributed. He was invited to tour the medical center and heard stories of some of the patients served. 

Inspired by Boston Healthcare for Homeless’ mission and the selflessness of the leadership, Michael decided to contribute through his donor-advised fund. Michael observes, “When you make a contribution to the donor-advised fund, you’re dealing with a system that really is built to make it possible for you to put 98% of your thinking into the giving and 2% into the execution.” 

Michael started with a small donation. After a tour of the facility and connecting with the mission of Boston Healthcare for Homeless, he decided to make the organization a sponsor for his donor-advised fund. Additionally, the appreciation of the securities in his DAF enabled him to make a larger and more impactful contribution than he could have made with cash or a check. 

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Who are DAF Donors and Why They Matter

DAF donors can make a significant fundraising impact on nonprofit organizations. Who are these donors and what difference can their donor-advised funds make? Below are some observed characteristics of these donors and why their giving is important.

Characteristics of DAF donors:

  1. They’re very engaged and involved. Generally, 79% of these donors volunteer. In comparison, only twenty-five percent of the general population volunteers.
  2. The average age is about 65, with most donors starting their DAFs around age 55
  3. They are close to or are recently retired and are thinking about the next stage in their life 
  4. These donors are at their highest-income-earning years, having paid off major expenses, and they want to “give back” excess funds 
  5. Most have modest amounts in their DAF funds (less than $25,000) though donors represent all income levels

 

DAFs have taken off in popularity relative to private foundations. A big reason for this is a donor with an advised fund can make an impact with their contributions during their lifetime. With private foundations, the donor’s name (and contributions) are designed to live on after they have passed. 

Fidelity Charitable, an organization that oversees DAF contributions for nonprofit clients, has noted the power of donor-advised funds. They have noticed that over the last 10 years, the number of grants in a donor-advised account rose from 5.8 to 10.4. Additionally, the average grant of $4000 has increased between 15-20% year over year.

Last year, Fidelity Charitable noted $582 million in grants coming from donors with advised funds. They have given $35 billion to charities over multiple years. The investment income and appreciated securities from DAFs contributed to an additional $11 billion for charities. 

How to Find and Engage DAF Donors

Donors with advised funds are audiences your fundraising team can’t ignore. While they can start with a modest $50 donation, they can become loyal, long-time supporters if they believe in your mission. Below are some things to keep in mind when identifying DAF donors:

  • Donor Modeling

In finance, modeling refers to predicting the future cash flow of an individual or organization based on their current earnings or payouts. When it comes to donors with advised funds, the modeling or predicting isn’t solely about how much they make or are able to give. Instead, it is looking at the donor’s age and the new life stage they are about to transition into.  

Major birthdays like 40, 50, or 60 are models to look at. When donors are at this stage of life, they are in the middle of or ending their careers. They are financially stable and have experienced a sudden boost in income and tend to make larger contributions.

If your organization waits to reach out to these donors after they see that income boost, you’re too late. Other charities are already in line asking for donations. That is where DAF modeling comes in handy. It enables you to have the donor on your fundraising radar before these life and income changes occur. 

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  • Successor Agreements and Automatic Grants

In many cases, wealthy donors will list a successor organization to become the beneficiary of their DAFs when they pass. Donors with advised funds will likely name the nonprofits they are currently contributing to as successors. This means it’s important to identify and pursue these donors early on. 

Besides setting up a successor agreement with a donor, allowing them to quickly and easily make grants from their DAF to the organization is another way to find and engage these types of donors. With automatic grants, donors with advised funds will come to you after learning about your organization. 

  • Engage and Welcome

Unlike other donors who can spare a one-time donation, those with advised funds have extra money designated specifically for charitable contributions. Additionally, these funds carry appreciation which increases their donation. These donors are looking for nonprofits to give funds to and need to be a top priority for your fundraising team. 

Like Michael and the Boston Healthcare for Homeless, the power of relationship-building with DAF donors is essential for your organization to stay at top of mind when donors are looking for sponsor organizations to contribute to. Start with a “Thank You” acknowledgment of their first gift. Then, create more touchpoints between them and your organization like a site visit.

As noted previously, donors with advised funds want to see and experience the impact of their contributions. A phone conversation, a video embedded in an email, a lunch meet-up or a site visit are ways you can show DAF donors the specific and detailed impacts their contributions have on those your organization serves. The more powerful and compelling your mission is and the greater the difference the contribution makes, the more persuaded potential DAF donors will be to give. 

Another example of the power of DAFs is the story of Dan and Jill Francis. They were able to give an additional $170,000 to a charity because of the appreciation and investment income generated through their DAF. This hefty donation enabled the Francis fund to educate an extra 79 at-risk preschool students. 

Donor-advised funds benefit the donor as much as the charity that receives the contribution. The appreciation of the securities of DAFs enables donors to give more to the organizations they care about. Donors can also see where their funds go and observe the immediate impact their gift has made.

These types of funds are meant to provide a convenient and more impactful giving option for donors. They also give the donor more control over where and how their contributions will be spent. DAFs also allow donors to give back when they have their highest income level.

  • Make DAF Contributions Easy With Direct Links 

Fidelity Charitable, Vanguard Charitable, and Schwab Charitable are the most common, national donor-advised funds. Pirozzolo notes, “There are around 468,000 donor-advised fund accounts in the US, with 50% of those in a major DAF. The other 50% are community foundations (30%) and single-issue donor-advised funds (20%).” 

Fidelity Charitable has found that organizations that allow donors to connect their DAF accounts make larger contributions. DAF Direct, a widget made by Schwab Charitable, allows nonprofits to do that. It connects a donor’s advised fund account directly to the specific charitable organization of their choosing. 

This widget creates a deep link a nonprofit organization can put on their donation page or letter that takes a donor to their DAF login page. From the login page, the contribution is populated with the nonprofit organization in the checkout process hosted by Schwab Charitable, Fidelity Charitable, or a similar DAF.  If you’re not familiar with DAF Direct, you can register on their website.

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A great case study where DAF Direct is used is The Pan-Mass Challenge bike ride. In the widget, a participant can send solicitations to friends with a link to use their donor-advised funds. The donor can select the rider’s name and he or she will get credit for raising those funds. 

  • How to Get Started With Donor-Advised Funds

The first step in setting up your nonprofit for donor-advised funds is getting it listed on the Internal Revenue Services’ website. Once it is in the IRS database and listed, it will be picked up by organizations like Charitable Fidelity. Businesses that connect donors with sponsoring organizations to receive DAFs compile lists based on IRS nonprofit listings. 

Being listed on sites like Charity Navigator with current organization information is another option as Charity Fidelity and similar organizations scrape this and similar sites for nonprofits to include on their DAF sponsor lists. You can sign up for electronic DAF transfers once you register. Once connected, donors will have the option to select your organization as the sponsor or recipient of their donor-advised funds.

Donors who have an advised fund need to be one of the key supporter groups your fundraising team prioritizes fosters long-term relationships with. Fidelity Charitable and WealthEngine have a unique partnership whereby nonprofits can identify, learn about, and engage with various donor groups including those with donor-advised funds. WealthEngine provides charities with software that includes details about the wealth, giving capacity, and other financial data of donors, including whether they have an advised fund. 

WealthEngine helps nonprofits by educating fundraisers on ways to get donations effectively and efficiently. Fidelity Charitable can help nonprofits get listed to become a sponsor organization for the donor-advised funds of their members. Together, WealthEngine and Fidelity Charitable help charities find and cultivate donors with advised funds. 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Find and Appeal to Today’s High Net Worth Donors

Hight net worth donors

Jim Lintoit is the founder and chairman of the Sterling Foundation, which has created over 350 nonprofits using funds from high net worth donors. On a regular basis, he interacts with the 1%, managing their money and finding ways for them to achieve their philanthropic goals. Below he shares wisdom and advice you can use to appeal to higher-end net worth donors, getting them to fund your organization. 

“Personalization in Today’s *World is Vital” 

We live in the age of the internet, personalization has never been easier. If you want to find donors for your nonprofit organization that has a higher-end net worth, you need to know as much about them as possible including their interests, dislikes, family members, financial situation, and so on, so that you can appeal to them in the most effective way possible. 

If you aren’t personalizing your appeals, then you are putting yourself at a complete disadvantage because the truth is, someone else is, and they will steal that donor right out from under you. You aren’t asking for pennies, you are asking for large sums of money, for missions that will change the world, so you need to put in the work. When it comes to donors, “Get to know them, and I mean really know them” because you need to “Be prepared to change the world together.” 

    • Personalize with WealthEngine 

Using Wealth Engine’s WE Screen feature you can easily personalize your campaigns through wealth and lifestyle indicators. Our comprehensive platform uses real-time intelligence to update donor profiles and automatically segments donors through wealth scores and ratings. 

Using the data on WealthEngine you can determine information about donors like: 

    • What is the giving level they are comfortable with? 
    • Where do they have houses? Do you have any events near those houses you can invite them to? 
    • What kind of investments do they normally make? How is your campaign similar to those investments? 

This kind of information will make or break your campaign, so you better have it. 

WE Screen feature to find donors for nonprofit

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Be the Difference Donors Want to Make 

Donors genuinely want a chance to make a difference. Of course, things like ego enhancement, tax breaks, and legacies matter to them, but in the end, the people who come to Jim want to donate to help fix problems and be a force of positive good in the world. 

They often come to him with a burning issue in mind, sometimes with just the general desire to bring about change, and what they want to know is: how? 

You have to be the “how.” 

Jim emphasizes there is one question above all others you need to be able to answer when donors come to you: “What won’t happen if you don’t get this money?” 

If the answer is nothing special, or not one that will personally appeal to the donor, then you have lost them. 

“Wealthy People Seek Out Experts for Almost Everything” 

If you want your campaign to be effective and find donors for your nonprofit organization, you have to show donors why they need you to accomplish their goals. Let’s be real, wealthy people are used to getting the best, so you need to prove to them why you are the best. 

Either show that you are an expert in what you are proposing, or that you have talent working for you that is highly regarded in their field. They need to feel secure that their investment is going into a project that is going to make the difference it sets out to. 

Welcome them in by offering the security of knowing they are working with people who have the skills and capabilities to achieve the donor’s stated goals, and once these are accomplished, keep reinforcing that feeling of security by sharing measurable results from the project. Transparency is instrumental in continuing the cycle of giving, ensuring more donations in the future. 

Get the Next Generation Involved 

Another great way to continue the cycle of giving is by getting the next generation involved in donating. It’s not just a stereotype, it is actually very common for the very wealthy to involve their children in managing their philanthropic contributions. 

After all, it’s excellent management experience if the kids are being groomed to take over their parent’s business. It can also relieve the head of the family of the additional responsibility of managing philanthropic endeavors. Additionally, Jim explains that most second-generation super-wealthy tend to have trouble finding their life’s passion and philanthropic opportunities can deliver that passion to them. 

Identify Next Generation Givers with WealthEngine

You can easily find donors for your nonprofit and utilize information about next-generation givers using WealthEngine’s WE Search feature. Its extensive database uses information from 60 sources, looking through 300 million profiles and 122 million households, covering past charitable contributions, stocks, assets, and more for high-profile donors and their family members. If a family member has shown an interest in a charitable organization similar to yours, WE Search can find them, their contact information, and an entire profile’s worth of other useful information. 

WE Search feature to find donors for nonprofit

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Don’t Get Trapped in the Short-Term of Your Organization 

You should be thinking about continuing the cycle of giving into the future, but you should also consider the future of your organization and how you can use the donations you are campaigning for to grow it, making it more appealing to other donors. 

The donors you are pitching don’t “care about the oddities of your organization versus another organization, or the fact that you’re a nonprofit versus a for-profit. Your client wants to make a difference.” You have to think outside your own organization and outside of what you have always done before to find donors for your nonprofit. Ask yourself what will appeal to your client and what will make the difference they want to make. 

Be Flexible With Your Gifts 

Be flexible, not only with your organization’s path but also with how you accept money. Jim explains, “You may need the money now, you may need the money in the future. There are all sorts of ways to be flexible with how gifts are given.” 

You can use charitable lead trusts, charitable remainder trusts, pledges, and so on, instead of just accepting gifts in one lump sum. Jim deals with a lot of, “depression-era givers” who genuinely fear becoming poor again, despite the fact they may have hundreds of millions of dollars now. A charitable remainder trust is a great way to put those clients at ease. 

Ready to Effectively Find Donors? 

Don’t campaign without doing your research. Try a Free Demo of WealthEngine Today! 

 

Let Some Fires Burn: What Software Product Managers and Product Marketing Can Learn about Triage from the COVID-19 Crisis

An arrow image pointing north, east and west to represent triage and decision making

As we reflect on COVID-19, and its evil cousin in 2020, and how it has impacted everyone both professionally and personally, one idea appears more vividly than others—the power of triage. Triage enables individuals to quickly assess a situation to determine what is urgent and important, thus deeming what is essential and nonessential. It’s clear healthcare workers across the country are triaging as they ruthlessly prioritize who gets care, who gets tested, and who should be a part of the workforce, in order to reduce the need of personal protective equipment (PPE) given its shortages. While it’s commendable that many startups and large corporations, even in unrelated industries (Tesla, GM, LVMH, etc.,) are racing to build masks, ventilators, and other PPE, might it be prudent to ask what were product managers (PMs) and product marketing managers (PMMs) doing as they watched this crisis evolve?

 I will leave the medical industry experts to solve the specifics of that particular problem, but there is a lesson here for us at WealthEngine and vendors of B2B software to take note from. PMs and PMMs should pay more attention to their daily grooming habits, establishing a triage protocol across their tribes (to use some SAFe jargon) in case of emergency. Ideally, this should be assessed on a daily basis, but organizations lack the foresight to do so. Why? Because they are busy tending to daily fires. Unfortunately for the medical device manufacturers, this lack of insight and action on early pandemic warnings has caused countries of various sizes and national wealth to be unprepared for the increase in demand for PPE, leaving them frozen and unable to adapt quickly. So, what can future PMs and PMMs learn from this emergency on how to triage empathetically, prioritize ruthlessly, and execute flawlessly?

But first a big salute and thank you to the first responders and health care workers – our real heroes we all are sincerely indebted to.

Triaging with Empathy, Prioritizing Ruthlessly, and Executing Flawlessly 

This pandemic should lead us to rethink how Product Roadmaps are constructed, prioritized, and aligned in light of rapidly changing environments and market needs. A pre-established set of post-crisis processes will allow for companies to remain calm, prepared, and adaptable amidst future crises. 

 I recognize that the scale and pace that this pandemic hit the world was unprecedented, yet I find myself questioning the priorities, inventories, and supply-chain resilience of the medical device manufacturing industries, and by extension, the effectiveness of the on-the-line product managers and technologists in charge of production and capacity planning. It seems as though this crisis has exposed an overwhelming, and rather concerning, lack of a formalized scenario planning structure in these large corporations. I am surprised to see that all apparent planning and envisioning has gone out the window as demand for PPE has skyrocketed and am curious as to how these corporations will adapt from this pandemic. I have no reason to place blame or judgment on these manufacturers’ market-product prowess or even on the healthcare system’s ability to stockpile PPE, but the severity of the problem does lead me to ask one very basic question.

 When do you know that your risk-adjusted assumptions to deliver on a product roadmap are no longer valid and when should triage begin? 

 Triage is all about deeming what is essential and nonessential. It forces companies to reassess what is important to their mission statement and success rate. In 1954, former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” What went on to be coined the “Eisenhower Principle” is a 2×2 matrix that distinguishes between what is important and urgent. Important activities lead to goal achievement, making them more long-term focused, while urgent activities demand immediate attention because they may lead to immediate consequences. It may be difficult to distinguish between what is important and what is urgent at first, but once this clear distinction is made, companies are able to focus on which activities are essential for success. Companies should constantly be assessing what is important and urgent, even during times of prosperity, so that when crisis strikes and a timely response is necessary, there is no time wasted on this. With their priorities already established, companies will not focus on unimportant urgent activities but instead save time for those that are essential. 

3 Actions PMs and PMMs Should Implement in Their Triage Protocol 

1. Consider Data as Fact

 Use data as facts for decision making.  It is one ear to the ground, listening to the changing market conditions, while the other tunes into understanding what is the hardest dollar to get from your customers and what is the most important dollar they could spend right now(and hoping it’s with you). Understanding what the hottest and wisest dollar a customer may spend is crucial for PMs and PMMs, and deciphering this allows for them to focus their time and energy on the activities that would yield the best outcome. In this current crisis, this may be intuitively obvious, but when things come back roaring, the discipline to chase after the hardest dollar will swing to the lowest available dollar, and thus begins the dilution of the product roadmap again. So, using data as facts is an important practice both in times of crisis and prosperity. After all, we are living in the data decade, as Morgan Stanley coined this era of data usage. This means all opinions that color facts or data that does NOT support your position, must be included in the decision making process.  This will help to eliminate conscious and confirmation bias, amongst other traps that we are all prone and succumb to often. 

2. Reenergize Your Team

Conduct an honest and unbiased assessment of the skills of your current team and how those skills support the company’s important and urgent activities. In my experience, I have found that most PMs and PMMs struggle in this department. Skills assessments may cause uncomfortable conversations with not only their teams but also their superiors, as they have to explain why a majority of their team is not relevant to the essential activities. Without an honest assessment, “sunk cost” may occur as companies attempt to maintain the status quo. Yet, a new normal has emerged, and thus new strategies and skills must be prioritized. Don’t let old patterns and unrecoverable costs freeze your company. Just as Action One stated, act on the new data you receive, not the old data that is now irrelevant. By aligning your teams’ skills and business projection to the new market conditions, your company will be more proactive rather than reactive.  

3. Analyze the Old and New with Your Customers

 Encourage your customers to think creatively with you. Crises tend to create a new reality, one where the old way of thinking may not be as effective. It’s important that your customers feel heard and that their priorities are valued, so instead of forcing them into doing something new, partner with them and think strategically together. Not only does this help both you and your client decipher what is important and urgent, but it also builds mutual trust and understanding. For example, perhaps we suggest to our customers that sending unsolicited emails and unsecured leads would cost more and instead they should rethink their workflow around digital fundraising or digital marketing. Therefore, it’s important to be prepared when approaching clients. Present a new plan of action, showing how this plan would increase positive outcomes more than the old plan of action. 

Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

I would urge fellow market-driven CEOs and VPs of Product Management and Product Marketing to consider asking themselves these three questions:

  • Is what I’m about to do important or urgent, are we doing the harder ones, with greater unknowns, first?

 

  • Are the business priorities aligned with the skills of my teams and have I been radically honest about their ability to deliver?

 

  •  Am I challenging my existing customers to do things differently? If not, how should your company approach their loyal clientele to partner with your company to think creatively and innovatively in times of uncertainty?

 

So, this is why it is hard to let some fires burn. In crisis, it’s our natural tendency to run into the flames and save whatever we can get our hands on, but just as firefighters do when faced with something aflame, we must stop and assess the situation, considering the best plan of action to protect our company and customers. That’s why we at WealthEngine believe triaging with empathy and prioritizing ruthlessly leads to flawless execution. Saving time, money, effort, and of course, lives! 

Bon Triage!

PV Boccasam

CEO – WealthEngine

The Art of The Uncomfortable Ask

coronavirus-sentiment-wordcloud

“Can you help me?” 

What seems like a simple question may prove to be the most difficult, especially given our current reality. In times of hardship and struggle, everyone seems to be in need of something, and it may not seem like the most appropriate time to ask for help. 

There are times when everyone, everywhere, will have to ask an uncomfortable question. 

With the novel coronavirus causing a worldwide pandemic, our reality is one of uncertainty. There is no set timeline as to when this will all end or how long it will take for businesses to recover. We don’t know whether it is going to be a “U”, “V”, or “W” recovery curve. All we know is that it won’t happen overnight, even though we all wish it would.

The “Art of the Ask”

So how can we adjust to this new normal? Businesses and individuals alike will need to master the “art of the ask.” 

From asking your teenager to socially distance herself from her friends; to enforcing a “no handshake” rule in the office; to proposing a moratorium on payments from the vendors you do business with; to requesting your top customer to pay their renewal so you can pay your employees; or even recognizing the unasked questions, like giving your college nephew or niece unsolicited money to pay their rent. 

Unprecedented times demand unprecedented questions, and although they may seem inappropriate or unnatural at first, it is important that these questions be asked, and heard. 

Why? Because we all must move forward. Although it seems as though the world has come to an abrupt stop, life and business must continue. We all have bills to pay, payrolls to meet, obligations to satisfy, and an indefinite future to plan for, whatever it may hold. This means asking for a shared sacrifice amongst people with shared values and a shared commitment to your teams’ success.

No company, nonprofit, or institution is able to escape the inevitable situation that will require a difficult conversation. Let’s start with the retrenchment discussions we recently had at WealthEngine. We believe our purpose is to provide unwavering support to our customers’ mission – both nonprofit and financial institutions- who are doing everything they can to survive, so they may continue to protect the health and wealth of their constituents during these turbulent times.

So we asked all our WE’rs, as they are affectionately called, for a shared sacrifice to protect their fellow associates and to prevent mass layoffs in a time of global uncertainty. Every single one of them obliged, with key c-suite executives going on a $1 paycheck indefinitely. This was truly a trust exercise, and we responded with an abundance of gratitude and humility. With a hopeful agenda, we view this pandemic not as a hindrance but rather an opportunity to grow as a collective company. WealthEngine is not unique in this, for we know many other organizations and institutions are hosting similar difficult conversations. The Chronicle of Philanthropy offers a blueprint for how organizations can work proactively in the face of recession. As a company, we are eager to learn how others are working to support one another in this new age of the “shared-economy,” or as some put it, “shared-pain!”

A decorative heart made up of synonyms for inspiration
A heart-shaped word cloud

Nonprofits and organizations, who have to keep their museums, theaters, kitchens, educational and healthcare institutions funded, are seeking creative ways to aid both their patrons and staff during this crisis. However, to support a staff of artists, researchers, teachers, janitors, nurses, security guards, technologists, and scientists is difficult when institutions are forced to close, causing financial downturn. It’s important to recognize that the “art of the ask” occurs both internally and externally. Even after asking staff to contribute to a shared sacrifice, sometimes that isn’t enough, and companies must turn to their communities for assistance. 

Be Your Own Lobbyist 

In Washington, it appears that lobbyists have mastered the “art of the ask.” They continue to be their client’s best advocates, seeking to maximize the government bail for the industries they respectively represent. They are unrelenting in their requests, and regardless of the crisis at hand, they appear comfortable asking, and demanding, what is best for their client. Yet, it seems as though no one is lobbying for the nonprofits across the country, or the local preschool chain, or the performing art houses. That is why these institutions must become comfortable with the “art of the ask” and lobby for themselves.  

What can nonprofits do to become comfortable with the ‘“art of the ask”? 

Be bold. Be fearless. Be shameless about the cause that you believe in. Now is the time to reach out to your donors and benefactors to solicit for help. With their doors shut, the Smithsonian and other institutions are putting their natural treasures online, fostering their patrons’ curiosity by creating online art galleries and historical exhibitions. And in return, these organizations ask that their patrons continue with their monthly subscriptions, and in some cases, ask their patrons and members to pay monthly dues in advance. José Andrés, world famous Spanish-American chef, responded to the “ask” by closing down his restaurants in order to support a make-shift kitchen to provide those in need of a hot meal. There have been innumerable cases of everyday heroes doing extraordinary acts of kindness. 

What can healthcare providers and managers do to become comfortable in the “art of the ask’”? 

Be the community organizer and ask with persistence for people to practice social distancing and good hygiene as well as encourage community members to volunteer their time and dollar to their local hospital. Ask benefactors and patients already identified through Grateful Patient Programs to consider donating a portion, if not all, of the stimulus check they will receive from the government. Highlight the fact that protective equipment is in short supply and that their donations will support the production of more masks, ventilators, hazmat suits, and the sanitary material that will help fight this virus. #EverydayGiving

What can educators do to become comfortable in the “art of the ask”? 

Be confident headmasters that demand their students (and parents) to be disciplined in their at-home studies. Encourage them to utilize the variety of free online resources to develop new skills and continue to pursue their education. This is new territory for both teachers and students, and educators must collaborate with their students. Maybe it looks like teachers having an open conversation with their students (virtually, of course), asking their students what would best support their learning. And in return, teachers may ask their students to uphold a daily learning routine while asking for parents and guardians to be more involved in their childrens’ at-home studies.

What can wealth managers do to become comfortable in the “art of the ask”? 

Be calm, cool, and a trusted advisor to them. Advise and assist your client to stay with the plan they have already devised and tweak things as you have new information. Remember that before this crisis began, your client chose you to provide long-term planning and thinking through turbulent and stagnant times. If there is anything to do right now, perhaps it is to take no action, thereby reducing the volatility of your clients’ own lives and their company’s status in the market.

Next Step: Ask with Gratitude, Humility, and Hope

On a personal note, as someone who is in constant search of personal and professional growth, I find myself in intentionally uncomfortable situations. From leaving my home country of India for an American graduate school only to drop out as a Ph.D candidate to join a small company in Redmond; to requesting to be in a big client meeting as a lowly developer, with a very thick-Indian accent, at Microsoft in the early 1990s; to proposing and being happily married to an Italian-American and boldly introducing her to my deeply-conservative, south-indian-brahmin family in Bangalore; to telling my Microsoft boss that I was quitting in order to start my first VC-backed business (@entevo) in 1997, even though my business partner and I had no clue how to run a business; to deciding that it was the right time to begin a brand-new software startup (@approva) and asking a band of loyal associates to join me the day after 9/11; to jumping at the opportunity to be in the complex world of venture-capital (@novakbiddle) and private equity, an industry that involves constantly investing in unknown risks with unpredictable outcomes, a month after the Great Recession of 2008! It seems as though uncertainty, chaos, and volatility have been my best friends for years. I embrace it when it happens, and try not to ignore it but rather face the realities head-on. It helps to focus on what’s now and what’s next.

However, the majority of people view uncertainty, chaos, and volatility as foes rather than friends, which is why we all need to become more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Whether it is an uncomfortable conversation with boards, colleagues, co-workers, extended family, or friends, these uncertain times will require all of us to ask difficult questions. And more importantly, be patient with the answers we may receive.

For now, all we can do is ask with gratitude, humility, and hope.

 

WealthEngine CEO Message – Business Continuity Amidst COVID-19

wealthengine covid-19 coronavirus

As organizations brace for the effects of COVID-19, I wanted to share what we are doing at WealthEngine to continue to provide you with our team’s full support and services.

We are monitoring the news carefully and following recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization to minimize interactions in group settings.

WealthEngine’s platform runs on the cloud and our staff at all of our locations, including our support team, has remote access to be able to work from home. We do not anticipate any downtime or delays in responding to your support or sales questions.

This is a trying time for our nation and the world. Like many organizations, I have requested our staff to avoid air and train travel for the time being and to schedule meetings online. Our team is also adding more articles, guides, podcasts and webinars in our Resources section to help you with ideas and strategies to achieve your 2020 plans, which may also be impacted.

We will keep you updated through our social channels and email regarding any issues should they arise. Please contact us using the Contact Us button below if you have any questions.

Stay safe!

PV Boccasam
CEO

Questions? Please Ask.