Permission To Re-engage


Hello, everybody! My name is Heather Frank and I am the President of STUDIO 4Forty, and I am excited to be live and in-person with you guys today!

What a thought to be back in person with our friends, families, colleagues, and communities in ways we just did not see happening this time last year. We are grateful for 2020 and what it brought us as communities, what it taught us as nonprofits, what it is continuing to teach us as community stewards and donors. And as we look forward into 2021, I am just soaking in all the information that is being brought to us by our partners and colleagues across the country. Today, I wanted to talk to you about some of those questions, some of those concerns, some of those wins we are seeing with our partners.

I think number one is communication. This is not a new conversation. This is something you guys probably have read blogs on, and seen webinars on, and been taught on how to handle our donors, and our community stakeholders, and our colleagues in our organizations. Nonprofits are on this teeter-totter right now between the electronic communication and old-school, back-to-basics, World War II communication where we wrote letters, where our grandparents and our predecessors walked the streets, greeting and meeting people across this great country. Philanthropy was built on relationships. And now, as we’re coming out of 2020 and look forward to what the future is going to bring us, we are grateful for go time, and Zoom, and FaceTime, and webinars, and conference calls. We also need to go back to our roots. And the time is now.

I had a call with a colleague yesterday discussing what her next step should be. She was gun-shy in the idea that she needed to approach her board and how to do that in a way that didn’t feel suffocating or too in-their-face with a conversation of need for her nonprofit. I think it’s important that we identify that it’s ok to go back to our supporters, to our donors, to our boards, to our volunteers, and put in front of them, now, what we need as an organization, and communicate to them how we need it. And we also need to be good listeners. In all of this, we forgot to listen. 2020 taught us to be proactive and lean in. 2021 is showing us the importance of putting our listening ears back on.

I feel like I’m talking to my 5 year old and telling him he needs to sit down and listen to the conversations around him. At the same time, I need to do the same thing. I need to pay attention to what people are saying. I need to ask them questions on how they’re handling and dealing with, coming out of this pandemic. But, mostly, I need to ask them and listen to what their new vision for their community is. I need to identify how we can find that alignment, that partnership, and that stewardship.

So, close your laptops, that’s my advice. Close your laptops. Shut Zoom off. Go have a coffee again. Go meet them for a walk at the park again. People miss personal interaction. And now that we can go live, take the opportunity to reconnect. Building relationships with donors is key to raising money. We all know this. Often, the conversation is, is that enough? Is that the only thing we have to do is build those relationships? The answer is no. The reality is, we have to actually ask for the gift. We have to be comfortable enough. We have to build relationships well enough. We have to have identified what the donor’s needs are in a place that supports and aligns with our mission. But, in the end, we need to sit down and be able to make the ask. So, as you sit back and you really think about what’s important and what’s next, identify who’re you building those relationships with, what the next step for that donor is, and are you communicating in a way that is effectively supporting you raising and increasing your funding?

That’s what’s next. That’s the importance as we look back on 2020, and the significance of looking forward into the future. I know communication is a big beast and we all have our own ways of handling it, but just remember, sometimes shifting how you think about something, or the way you have been communicating so long, give it a fresh spin. Identify that maybe there is something we can do to improve ourselves, even if it’s not comfortable, and it feels like a risk. Donors need to see that from us right now, so be the forefront of it. Be the one who says, “I’m going to take extra steps today. I’m going to communicate extra effectively today. Today my nonprofit is going to lead the charge in being donor-focused and donor-forward.”

You guys are amazing! You’re doing amazing work in your communities right now. We’re so proud to support you and to be behind the scenes encouraging and watching this great country do great things to bring us out of this. It is incredibly exciting for me to be here today and I am thankful for your guys’ time. Again, my name is Heather Frank. It’s been a pleasure.

*If you would like to learn more about how to make an effective ask, join our next digital course called, “The Art of the Ask,” on May 20thRegister today!