While you are there…

I have very clear memories from my childhood of being in my room and my mom saying, “While you are downstairs, please get       fill in the blank    .”  Of course, I hadn’t planned to go downstairs anytime soon.    I was doing something else.   But, I learned (mostly by watching the ill-advised responses of my brother) that such a request was merely my parents’ way of telling me what they wanted.

I wasn’t bored and looking for something to do and at that moment it really didn’t matter what I was doing or what I was planning to do.  The reality was, now I’m going to be doing X.  Going to the basement was an inconvenience, but a minor one.  Dad could have just as easily (and did) say “While you are at the store…” or “While you are at your Grandmother’s…” (my grandparents lived nearly an hour away, in a different state) but off I went.

Christmas time at The Salvation Army is different from almost any other nonprofit.  I have worked with several over the years, and without a doubt, the demands placed on a Salvation Army development professional is beyond comparison.

Use your creativity to avoid getting sidetracked.

At a time when most development staff are preparing for their big year-end push…between Christmas parties and short days; The Salvation Army development team is already exhausted from long weeks and even longer days.   Everything from unloading the Angel Tree gifts to ringing the bell for a worker who didn’t show, and a thousand other tasks.

I have long said The Salvation Army loses millions of dollars every year by not spending a few thousand dollars in extra labor.   The money lost by keeping development staff too busy to capitalize on the amazing season with donors and prospects is far greater than what would be spent hiring someone to do the things piled on the development staff.  But that is a post for a different time.   No, this post is designed to provide a few ideas for things a local development professional might be able to do to cultivate donors WHILE digging out from under that pile.

Ringing Bells:  It isn’t uncommon for development staff to get pulled out to “stand kettles” for a couple hours.  Sometimes this happens at the last minute, other times you may have a few hours notice.  Either way, you can capitalize upon it all the same; but, not surprisingly, the more time the better use you can make of it.   Typically, when development folks are tapped to ring, it is in a better location the officer doesn’t want to leave empty.  So, take a few minutes to call or text some donors in the area to let them know you are going to be at the kettle and for how long.   Encourage them to come by and say, “Hi.”

The bell’s purpose is to draw attention. Capitalize upon that.

Chances are, your prospects and donors won’t come see you, but you will have made a contact with them that is closer to a friendship visit than to a fundraising visit.  And, because you selected donors who live (or work) in the area you are going to be in, you let them know that you care enough to know about them.  You may not get a kettle visit, but I bet it helps move your relationship forward.


Deliver Kettles:  “Hey ABC, I need you to run this kettle and bells out to Wal-mart to meet a volunteer.”  I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard variants of that request.  But, I learned to make the most of it.

With cell phones and their ubiquitous cameras, this is even easier.  When the volunteer (a group is even better) has their apron on, and a bell in hand, get a picture of them.  Ask about tagging them and post it to social media along with a call for additional volunteers or simply words of praise for volunteers.

Don’t forget to get a quote about why they are volunteering.   Even if you can’t use it right away, quotes about volunteering from active volunteers is a great thing to have a file full of.

Also, if there is another location nearby, stop by and do the same thing with them.   You can post it then or later in the day if you want to spread it out.

Angel Tree Table: Filling in at the table?  That is a great time to talk to donors.  Don’t miss the opportunity it learn about those who adopt angels.   Of course, you have the world in your hands, so be sure to share a donor spotlight on Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram and Linked In, etc).

Don’t forget your SA version of the photo frame:  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10209649013560931&set=gm.10154227608459916&type=3&theater&ifg=1 

Take time to talk to your Angel Tree Adopters. Treat them like what they are…great donors.

Talking to donors?  Awesome!   Be honest and seek their input.   Try to learn how to follow-up with them and fellow AT adopters.  “Hey, we would love to be able to follow up with folks like you, you know, the folks who make Christmas so bright for our kids.    But it seems like quite an undertaking.  Do you have any ideas on how you might like for The Salvation Army to follow-up with you about this year’s Angel Tree?”

Don’t have a donor right there?  Not a problem, take the opportunity to text a couple media contacts with something like:   “Sitting here at the Angel Tree Adoption Center right now & there are still lots of Angels to be picked up (or returned). I’d love to talk to you about it.”

Let your imagination run…

Make every effort to make it work!

There is no way I could talk about all the possibilities, and at the same time, I know that sometimes unrelated work is simply unrelated.   But, the majority of the time, you can use what you are doing to reflect what you should be doing.

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