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Fundraising for Non-Profits: Six-Figure Fundraising in Silicon Valley

In This Episode:

Silicon Valley's non-profit landscape is marked by intense competition and technological challenges. With over 2,000 registered organizations, only 10% manage to secure the majority of grants and donations, highlighting a fierce battle for funding. Compounding this issue is that 40% of these non-profits, despite being in a renowned tech hub, need more resources or expertise to utilize digital tools for fundraising and engaging donors effectively. Additionally, around 60% rely on a single funding source, significantly heightening their risk of financial instability.

Non-Profit Fundraising Problems in Silicon Valley:

  • Competition for Funding: In Silicon Valley, over 2,000 registered non-profits fiercely compete for funding, with just 10% securing most grants and donations.
  • Challenges in Adopting Technology for Fundraising: Despite their tech hub location, 40% of Silicon Valley non-profits need more resources or expertise for effective digital fundraising and donor engagement.
  • Lack of Diversified Funding Sources: Approximately 60% of Silicon Valley non-profits rely on a single funding source, increasing their vulnerability to financial instability.

“Have a strategy for before, during, and after the event so you can have measurable results and make it scalable and repeatable.”

About Dee Dee Kiesow:

Dee Dee Kiesow is a non-profit Executive Director with 30+ years of experience in fundraising and community engagement. She uses her passion for enrolling donors by inspiring joyful giving to elevate and transform those in need. Dee Dee excels in fund development, strategic partnerships, vision and engagement, board mentorship, and developing pathways to bring grassroots to greatness. Working on a regional and national scale, Dee Dee possesses in-depth knowledge and experience in leading both the complex day-to-day operations of an organization as well as guiding its vision, growth, and financial reserves. Dee Dee is also a benefit auctioneer and raises tens of millions for numerous organizations using her Six Figure Fundraising Framework®. She holds a B.A. in Radio/TV Journalism from San Jose State University.  Her speaking engagements range from keynotes to numerous college lectures inspiring young adults to consider careers in the non-profit sector.

“You never run out of inventory regarding goodwill and what you can do for others.”

Show Notes:

  • Background of Dee Dee Kiesow: A fifth-generation Santa Clara Valley native with a history in fundraising and community development, starting from their time at San Jose State University. 
  • Transition to Nonprofit Development: The guest shares their journey from being a top salesperson to starting several nonprofits, influenced by the concept of unlimited ‘inventory' in goodwill and community service. 
  • Unique Fundraising Approach: Describes a non-fearful, fit-based approach to fundraising, comparing it to the different attitudes of ‘Chicken Little' and ‘Paul Revere'. 
  • Six-Figure Fundraising Framework: A detailed explanation of a proven fundraising method developed from 20+ years of experience, focusing on ideating outcomes, strategic partnerships, and donor development. 
  • Balancing ROI and Donor Experience: The importance of balancing financial return and donor experience in fundraising events, emphasizing efficient spending and impactful donor engagement. 
  • Emphasis on Donor Appreciation: Discusses the crucial role of donor appreciation in maintaining long-term relationships, likening donors to beloved family members. 
  • Elements of Successful Fundraising Events: Insights on creating fundraising events that satisfy donors, including understanding donor profiles, focusing on storytelling, and providing diverse giving opportunities. 
  • Monetize Your Minutes Concept: Explains a three-step process for maximizing fundraising efficiency by detailed planning, strategic execution, and post-event analysis. 
  • Ensuring Event Scalability and Repetition: Strategies for making fundraising events repeatable and scalable, focusing on choosing the right person for money requests and authentic representation of the cause. 
  • Maximizing Lifetime Donor Value and Organizational Buy-In: Discusses strategies for increasing lifetime donor value and ensuring all organization members are aligned with fundraising approaches.

“The return on investment will bring you lots of money, but the return on experience will turn those donors into evangelists.”

Episode Transcription

Give us a brief background about yourself. Who do you serve, and how did it all begin?

Well, thank you. I'm actually a fifth generation Santa Clara Valley native. I have three children and they're all young adults now, all educated here as well. And I graduated from San Jose State University and even at San Jose State I started doing fundraising and community development when I was there. I've had a lifelong love for doing things for the community. And so how it got started was I also tend to love sales. And so I was a top salesperson in a major corporation and we were always out of inventory. And I thought, what could I do where I could go full speed and never run out of inventory? Well, you never run out of inventory when it comes to goodwill and what you can do for other people. And that would be nonprofit development. So started a few nonprofits, raised lots of money the hard way for 20 years, walking in the shoes of people who do it the hard way. You know, and you join many organizations and think you're learning how to raise money. But then I met a woman named Kathy Kingston and it changed everything for me, because she wrote a book on the ‘one-to-many asked’ on how you would have people come into a room and be educated and given an opportunity to make a joyful gift and not only have just this event, but also do fundraising in a multifaceted way to raise the most money. And I was absolutely hooked. She insisted I quit my full-time job and come to work in the industry and everything changed then.

I can. Being in sales and knowing that there is an offer for a person that you want to find a proper fit and have a perfect sale, I think that's what's unique about my approach to fundraising. It's not fearful; it's reaching out and finding your right fit with a joyful ask, and we don't worry when it's not a fit and somebody says no. So, I call it the Chicken Little versus Paul Revere. You know, are you afraid to ask for money? Are you fearful? Do you have stress or anxiety? Or are you more of a Paul Revere individual who believes in the cause and will go out and tell the world in an evangelistic style and welcome people? To make a joyful gift to create prosperity for the organization and those they serve.

Well, the six-figure fundraising framework method works. And it comes from my 20 years of working in nonprofits and knowing exactly how you can go wrong in the nonprofit industry when raising money. This is also derived from the National Auctioneers Association, the training and benefit auctioneer specialists, and the steps we know can guarantee results. So, for instance, a couple of the steps I'll tell you about is ideating the best outcome. The outcome beyond just let's raise 50,000 and if we raise 55, if we did a great job. Let's shoot for 100 or 150. We need to look before the event and look at sponsors and opportunities to bring strategic partners in.

We don't want to throw a party, cross our fingers, and hope we raise money. So, the following steps are about getting the right people and telling the right story of transformation. We don't want a sad sob story that we will be out of business if you don't give money. We want to bring people an opportunity to invest in beautiful outcomes that elevate our people, places, pets, and all we serve. And then, finally, we ask and invite joyful giving in the moment. And then I always believe the most important is when that event is over, the donor development and cultivation is an opportunity now to take you into the future with lifetime donors, rather than to have what statistics tell us 72% are out after their first gift. You have to go out and reinvent the wheel. So, the six-figure fundraising process. It looks at everything so you can scale and repeat, raise more yearly money, and bring in lifetime donors. 

That is a great question. I'll tell you why. So many organizations want to look at their fundraising events or galas as parties. They want entertainment and decorations. And they're going to spend so much money that when you go to the very end and look at gross versus net, a lot of money may have gone into an area where you had no return on investment. There's one return on investment that you can always get your money back, or you had better, and that is the person you're investing in to ask for the money. But finally, put yourself in the donors' shoes and imagine the experience they're having. What are they thinking? What are they taking away at the end of the event? What are they talking about in the car on the way home? Let's hope the return on investment will bring you lots of money, but the return on experience will turn those donors into evangelists and people who will tell others about your cause.

Donor appreciation is vital to having a lifetime donor. Imagine you're a kid, and you get a Christmas gift or birthday gift every year from Aunt M, and she never gets thanked. I mean, how does she feel? That's how our donors feel. So I like to. I've always thought of my donors as relatives when working in nonprofits, you know? This is a relative, and how would I treat them to see they've been appreciated? That hard-earned gift came that they could have spent anywhere else in the world, but they chose to invest it with us for the work we do. And we need to let them know that their gift is appreciated. So they have the opportunity to understand how their money is spent. And treating them, I believe, like a relative you love will keep them attached to your donor family.

That's another excellent question. And much of it goes back to the question we just answered about donor appreciation—putting yourself in the donor's shoes. Imagine walking in and seeing what they are seeing. And have you spent too much money on decorations? What are they going to be thinking? So, we want to look at the profiles of the individuals attending the event. Some people… you know, like to get something for nothing. So that's your silent auction. But since we're looking at return on investment, we will focus more on not the bargain hunters but people who might like to buy raffle tickets. And those are gamblers. If you do your raffle correctly, you don't need to spend a dime on a raffle item, but you want people to spend lots of dimes and dollars on the raffle tickets. So everybody has an opportunity to win. Then we have the competitive bidder. You have live auction items that are unique to your cause. So you can allow these people to enjoy raising money how they like to give. And that is winning an item being the biggest bidder. And then, finally, the very best way to raise funds at these events is to tell the transformation, the change that you provide for hurting individuals and for the planet, for animals, whoever it is you serve, how is… a joyful gift for them in the audience going to change everything. Then, we offer them opportunities to give at lively levels that match their heart at that time. And there you see, we have something for everyone.

Yes, it's a three-step process. First, we will create a show flow by the minute and make the entire fundraising event with all the episodes we want to cover and the evening chapters from which we can raise money. Then, the second step is to execute it according to that strategic plan. We're not going to cross our fingers and throw a party. We have a strategy for each of those minutes. And then when we execute it during that time, for instance, there'll be 30 minutes of raffle, and maybe there's 45 minutes of another opportunity to raise money. Then, we look at the live auction. I may have sold three or four items: $90,000 in the first two minutes, $45,000 in the second minutes, and maybe $2,500 in the third set of two minutes. We can go back and look at by the minute how many dollars per minute we raised. Then, we analyze the post-event by examining its execution and the dollars per minute we presented. This is critical data for next year's event.

Well, the most important is to have a strategy. A strategy for before, during, and after the event so you can have measurable results so you'll know how to increase those results and make it scalable and repeatable. You'll want to do some things again, some things you won't. But the one… thing that you must always invest your money in is the right person asking for the money. I used to do radio and TV, and I thought I was great at using the microphone and talking, which I was. But I knew nothing about asking for money, doing an auction, having the proper chant, the voice inflection, knowing the rules in different states, requirements. It isn't straightforward, and it's taken me years to get to the level I am now, raising six figures in an event and knowing how far I can go—being respectful, using the right tonality, and keeping the cause of the organization front and center. Right. And it's never about me. I am an evangelist for their cause that the night I take that microphone, so I must also have a passion for what they do. So I can be authentic when I speak and offer opportunities to support the cause. 

Let me answer that by first telling you about lapsed donor value. I worked in an organization where I came in, and in my first days, they'd given me a list of lapsed donors. And these are people who weren't thanked or somehow felt disenfranchised and had stopped giving. And I decided to go in and look at each one and their lifetime donor value going back to their first gift. And I added these up; some were $300,000 or $400,000. These were people who just needed to be touched and reached out to. But do you see how their lifetime donor value added up? That there was an amount of money they gave over and over again, over a mass of years, and the value of an individual is a lifetime donor value.


Well, I think that's the number one thing nonprofits are getting wrong, is looking at collecting money and looking at the bottom line at the end of the month, and not looking three to five years ahead and imagining that you could be a donor that could make a huge difference. It is donor appreciation, and you know, for so long, the best practice has been this donor pyramid where the people at the top have a smaller amount, but they give the most money. Let's do the opposite. I think you take that lifetime donor value, flip it upside down, and spend more time on your new smaller donors and allow them to grow. The people giving you the most money don't need the most attention. They already love you. If they are respected and kept in the loop, they will continue to give, but if you want to grow lifetime donor value, you must increase the amount that some of these smaller givers are giving. You want to keep them giving longer and more frequently. 

Well, it isn't easy all the time. And to get everyone on board, you want everyone to know that their work is for the outcome you serve. It is vital to have onboarding or kickoff meetings for events so everybody can see how important they are to the success and how they can give in a meaningful and joyful way with their time and talent.

Absolutely. You know, there are so many things to go back and look at, but one overlooked so often is the people coming to the event. So if you were to go in and look at every bid card, every seat, see what every individual brought in. There are several that will have given nothing. They need to be released. So those board members and the people bringing the new faces to your organization can replace those seats with givers or new people interested in the cause. You see, I see seats like real estate, and we don't want to leave them empty or have the wrong people in them because there's a complete loss of income. It is zero. So, let's get the right buyers in the seats to maximize our profits. And this is something you can improve and look at year after year.

I like to start with how they did the year before or the two or three years before so we can see exactly where they might be missing the mark for our improvement. I had one that was very interesting. They hired me to come in, and they'd only raised $30,000 their first year. And this is what they had usually raised. And the strategy to work with them was pretty different from a group I would have worked with for many years. So, they planned to change three dials instead of just one. And for instance, we changed their silent auction. We changed the way they were asking for money. They were having everybody go to the center of the floor to give their money, and I knew that would be the worst way to ask for mass money. So, the strategy for the first two things was immediately changed. Then, a third one was letting people come to the event for free. So then they had a lot of partygoers and not people who were serious about the organization when the real reason for having the event was to raise money for everybody, to lift all the boats at that school. That strategy worked because we took it to $67,000 the first year. We knew strictly at that event what I needed to do to take it to the next level, which was $128,000. Then, the following year, we went to 160, and I believe, in our fourth year, we raised 180,000. So that's what I like to see. Knowing what it is we need to do, and everybody's different. So, it takes that number analysis to determine which of my tools I will use.

You know, we are living in such a volatile time it's tough to make predictions in the future. Still, I do see a lot more digital fundraising happening, social media kind of fundraising, and this will stay transactional if we don't have a way to reach out and connect with these donors—also women. Women are rising in the workforce. Women will control two-thirds of the wealth in the US and Canada by 2028. And I'm seen all over the board at every event. Women are leading in the live auction, which they never did before. They're standing up; they're giving large sums of money. And it is believed now that women influence 82% of all gifts to nonprofit organizations. Remembering this information, you will be prepared to hit it out of the ballpark. 

Well, thank you for that. I am professionally trained in radio and TV, so I know how to speak. I've been to auction school, and many people skip that step. I'll tell you what I learned about the chant, the talk, the reading, the people, all of these things behind the scenes that I never knew in the nonprofit world that the auction industry had already figured out for me. And when I started using these, I was able to take my first client, who had raised $33,000 and spent $47,000. The following year, they hired me, and we raised $201,000 and paid less. And that all came from the benefit auctioneer courses I took with the Auctioneers Association. I also speak there, coach auctioneers, and coach and do asking courses for nonprofits. So it's my passion. I've got 30 years of it, and I'm ready to reach out and help you.

Connect with Dee Dee Kiesow:

If you’re interested in becoming a Six-Figure Fundraiser with mindset and skills transfer training for professional development, contact Dee Dee Kiesow:

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“Dee Dee's innovative approach transforms fundraising, turning donors into community builders, not just funders.”

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