The job of the smart fundraiser is inspiring passionate philanthropy to make people’s lives better. I know you’re smart, because you’re reading this article! But none of us is born with a fundraising gene. And no one ever really teaches us how to write a smart fundraising appeal. We copy from our predecessors. Or maybe read…Details
I know you’re working on calendar year-end fundraising right now.
And if you’re not, start immediately!
Per Mobile Cause:
- 30% of annual donations occur in December
- 12% of annual giving happens on the last three days of the calendar year
- 53% of nonprofits start planning their year-end appeal in October
Before it’s too late, I want to share with you four almost magic strategies that have worked well for me for decades!
Yes, there are ways to tweak these strategies to conform to the current zeitgeist and recognize we live in a digitally revolutionized world. This can be super helpful, and I highly recommend you pay attention to the ways fundraising and nonprofit marketing are evolving. It means new skills are needed, more money must be invested to yield your most positive returns, and you’re no longer going to be able to rest on your laurels.
That being said, I don’t want you to get so caught up in bells and whistles you neglect the fundamentals. Nor do I want you to throw up your hands in despair, culminating in a decision that you just can’t compete or do a better job because… (fill in the blank).
The magic strategies below have worked for me, and countless nonprofits, over generations. They’ll work for you too.
Truly, I promise if you do these things you’ll raise more money this year.
Ready to get started?Details
Whatever side of the political spectrum you’re on, the photo below is triggering.
Note: I can’t show you the photo because it’s copyrighted, but if you click on the link you’ll recognize it immediately (unless you’ve been living underground over the past week).
Why am I sharing this photo I can’t even show you?
I want to make an important point.
One I feel too few nonprofits give much thought to.
Could you be among them?
If so, I don’t fault you. No one teaches us these things.
Most of us didn’t go to journalism school.
But, let’s face it, journalists really do know how to grab attention!
You want to grab attention with this year’s fundraising appeal, right?
I’m going to share a simple tip that will boost your fundraising returns this year by leaps and bounds.
Again, it’s super simple.
But you’ve got to start now. Or maybe even yesterday.
Are you ready?Details
What the heck are “planned gifts?”
For some reason, this term remains largely mysterious for many nonprofits. There’s a feeling planned giving is complicated. Not for the faint of heart or the small of budget.
This couldn’t be more wrong.
- Are they deferred (i.e., you won’t receive them until after the donor dies)?
- Are they outright (i.e., you’ll receive money now)?
- Are they only for building an organizational endowment?
- Are they just another term for major gifts?
- Are they gifts where donors receive benefits like life income and tax avoidance?
- Are they legacy gifts?
The Truth about “Planned Gifts”
They’re all of the above!
If there’s any overarching guideline, the truth is that planned gifts generally represent the largest gift a donor will make to you.Details
Have you started working on your annual appeal and year-end fundraising plan?
I worked for 30 years in the trenches, so I know exactly what this time of year feels like.
It feels like you’re at the base of a mountain you’re about to scale.
- Exciting, but also scary.
- Exhilarating, yet also daunting.
- There will be good days, and bad days.
And this particular year, you may feel you’re taking two steps forward and three steps back.
That’s to be expected during times of great uncertainty.
Expected or not, I know you’re still anxious and thinking “What if we don’t reach the top?”
Don’t worry, I’m here to help.
This year you may need the equivalent of a few extra granola bars for energy. And maybe an extra tool or two to help you get a grip.
Right now I want to give you a few specific, timely tips you might not be thinking about.
Here are some strategies I hope will give you a leg up, so to speak.
Ready to Put Your Best Foot Forwards?
Here are 11 tips I’ve learned over the years.Details
Are you in the right pond?
Alas, nonprofits spend too much time thinking about the right way to ask people for donations, yet not enough time thinking about who the right people are to ask.
It’s like buying a perfect fishing rod and reel, learning how to cast, and then casting off into empty waters.
Folks, success — in fishing and fundraising — takes more than toiling, tackle, and time.
If you are fishing in the wrong place, nothing else matters.
When You Need to BAIL on a Donor ‘Prospect’
Determining who to include in your major donor prospect portfolio takes work. It’s not something to be done on a whim (or on the whim of a board member who throws out the name of a celebrity who resides locally or a nearby venture capitalist or tech CEO.) That’s why I put “Prospect” in quotes, because So-and-So is not a viable prospect for you in any of the following circumstances.Details
One of my secret pleasures is watching the show “Chopped” on the Food Network. Today I watched an episode that just had me bawling at the end. It was the most heartwarming show I’ve ever seen. And it reminded me of why all of you do the work you do in the social benefit sector.
So please allow me to share.
I don’t know if I can adequately convey the pathos I felt, but if you haven’t had a chance to see this episode I would strongly recommend it. It will make you feel very good. At the same time, it will make you understand — even more than ever — how much work there is to be done.
And why YOU, toiling in the vineyards of the social benefit sector, are just the person to do it!Details
You’ve got to make donor retention more of a priority to survive and thrive in today’s competitive nonprofit marketplace.
Research shows the average nonprofit in the U.S. loses 81% of donors after the first gift!!!!!
In and out a revolving door is too expensive to be sustainable.
To make matters worse, the probability a donor will make five consecutive gifts is only 10-15%. These numbers are just not sustainable for most organizations. By the time you’ve added a new donor most of your previous new donors are out the door.
And, by the way, did you know donor acquisition costs you money? Yup. On average, it will cost you $1.00 – $1.25 to bring in a new donor dollar. So… the value of a new donor to your organization is wrapped up in the concept of donor lifetime value. Once you have a new donor, the cost to renew them is much less expensive than the cost to acquire them. Just like in for profit marketing, keeping a current customer is easier than finding a new one. But… you have to actively engage in customer cultivation and renewal strategies.
If you don’t energetically renew and upgrade donors over time, you may as well never have recruited them.
Allow that to sink in a moment.
Might you effectively be wasting a lot of time, energy and money on acquisition? Could some of your resources be more effectively deployed to donor retention?
I’m going to go out on a limb and wager the answer is a resounding YES.
Do you know what your donor retention rate is? If you do, there’s hope for you to improve it. Read on.
If you don’t, you don’t even know there’s something that needs fixing! Read on.Details
Your organization won’t survive and thrive with only great fundraising technicians. You—and the entire social benefit sector—need organizational-development-grounded philanthropic facilitators. In fact, you need a team – maybe an entire village – filled with them!
This is what it looks like in a culture of philanthropy. And it involves more feelings than tangibles. What does it feel like where you work?
Your organization’s culture can make or break your fundraising – and just about everything else. If you don’t foster a culture in which people want to work, great professionals won’t apply for, or stick with, jobs. You have to be intentional in creating a culture that attracts, retains and grows professionals. The kind who will inevitably build sustaining relationships with supporters.
Here are some things you can do to build a true philanthropic culture.
Say what the culture is, get buy-in; demonstrate it.
To foster an authentic values-based organizational culture, you must first identify and write down the main beliefs that make up the culture. This can be simple – as little as a sentence or single paragraph – but this written manifestation of the culture you want to foster is critical to helping people understand the culture.
Here are some questions to ask yourself or, better yet, to do as a group exercise with a team of staff and/or board.Details
The modern model is more like a vortex — an energized circle where everyone is equal. People move in and out as needed, and your job is to keep the energy flowing.
NOTE: My article on the topic of moving away from the donor pyramid model for donor acquisition, cultivation and major gift solicitation recently resurfaced on social media dialogue, so I thought it was time for a reprint.
Why do we always think of donors with pyramids? The pyramids were built in Egypt. On the backs of slaves. It took a very, very long time. The cost, in human terms, was untenable and unsustainable.
That’s why you don’t see many pyramids being built these days.
Except in nonprofits, where building the donor pyramid is still the holy grail. Get ’em in. Move ’em up. Acquire through direct mail. Convert to monthly donor or sustainer. Acquire through events. Convert to mail. Up, up, up … to the pinnacle of major and planned gifts!
Except for one tiny thing.
It doesn’t work.
Pyramid building is so 2630 BCE. Nobody’s got 100,000 workers (aka direct-mail donors) building a solid pyramid anymore. Many so-called pyramids really look like hourglasses. Or upside-down pyramids. Or plateaus. Even the pyramid-shaped ones are resting on shaky foundations of donors who move in and out, in and out — eight out of 10 newly acquired bottom-of-the-pyramid donors leave — making the “foundation” more like a river than a solid, secure slab of mortar. The days of the donor pyramid model are gone!
Digital toppled the donor pyramid. Actually, it crumbled it … slowly, surely … until there was nothing left but an empty frame. A triangle on paper. The donors no longer fit inside of it.
R.I.P. donor pyramid. You had a good run.
The donor pyramid (sometimes call the donor ladder) was a great model for linear thinkers like me. It was neat and orderly. Engage folks from the bottom up, level by level, one step at a time. It was stable.
Or so we thought,Details