4 Sculptures of torsos, Kristina May, Filoli 2020

4 Types of ‘PERSONAL’ Your Nonprofit Must Adopt Today

4 Sculptures of torsos, Kristina May, Filoli 2020Early in my career I received a piece of fundraising advice that has stuck with me to this day:

People are all people.

And what do you do with people if you want to build a relationship?

You get PERSONAL!

In fact, if I had to tell you how to win over donors with just one word, “personal” is the word I’d choose.

This word should become your mantra and underscore everything you do. Your annual appeal writing. Your special events. Your newsletters. Your blog posts. Your proposals. Your reports. Your social media.

If you take just this one word to heart — PERSONAL — you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.

This is the one word that can set you apart.

That can help you build relationships like nothing else.

Though we talk a lot about empathy and donor-centricity, truly valuable tools in building donor relationships, these terms are subsumed by the umbrella of the ‘person’ to whom they apply.

Make sense?

Today I’d like to flesh out the multiple meanings of this word, and discuss how getting personal can help you achieve your nonprofit fundraising and marketing goals.

This is something that has always mattered. Today, in an era of social distancing and striving for greater diversity, equity and inclusion, how we get personal and how we define people are more important than ever.

'Wearing is Caring' Street art

Fool-Proof Nonprofit Crisis Fundraising Communications Templates for Every Audience

'Wearing is Caring' Street artDuring a crisis is no time to be passive. Build a list of audiences, prioritize contacts among those lists, and develop a step-by-step written PLAN to reach out. With updates, engagement opportunities, little gifts of content folks can use, and opportunities to contribute and make a demonstrable difference.

Sharing is caring too.  Do you have a plan in place to regularly share what you’re up to, and offer opportunities for donors to engage?  Are you communicating with donors as if they’re a part of your family or favorite group of friends? If not so much, what are you waiting for?

Establish templates with talking points in advance of your communications; then let the reaching out begin. First determine your purpose.

  • Do you want to say thank you?
  • Do you want to simply check in to see how your donor is doing, and whether they have any questions about your organization’s status and work right now?
  • Do you want to ask them to volunteer their time?
  • Do you want to ask for a philanthropic gift?
  • Do you want them to complete a survey?

Figure this out first, because the more you know where you’re going the more likely you are to get there! If you’re light on staff right now, ask your volunteers and influencers for help.

These communication templates can be used for phone (or other online) conversations and emails. Got that? Conversations! Merriam Webster describes a conversation as “oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas.” In other words, you want to prompt two-way participation on some level. This is not about you delivering a monologue or formal dissertation. Think of your communication as you raising an issue for discussion. You want to pique your donor’s interest and ask open-ended questions that invite their engagement.

Start with your top priority donors who have the highest likelihood of making an additional gift to get you through this crisis. I suggest

REVEALED: Best Strategic Advice to Raise Money for Your Nonprofit, Crisis or Not

2020-05-31 16.07.25Is there a best way to raise money?

That question is really at the heart of what most nonprofits want to know.

And recently I was reminded of this when asked a question for a Virtual Summit for Nonprofit Changemakers in which I’m participating in the early Fall. [There will be a ton of useful content presented in this online conference – by 20 of well-respected experts over two days – so please check it out.]

Here’s what I was asked:

What is the best advice you can give to a fundraiser… and does it hold true in times of crisis?

I thought about this long and hard. Because I’ve lots and lots of advice!

But… my best advice?  Hmmn…

And then it came to me.

I recalled a favorite quote.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solution.”

— Albert Einstein

That’s the advice!

You see, one can’t really pick a best fundraising strategy without first fully describing the reason money is not already flowing in. In other words…

You must identify and define your problem before attempting to solve it.

The time you spend doing so will be well spent. And when it comes to fundraising, worth its weight in gold.

I like to go through an iterative process of asking why, why, why, why…. until I’ve exhausted every question. It looks something like this:

Sign: We Miss You, We Love You

Monthly Giving! Not-so-Secret Strategy to Keep Your Nonprofit Afloat Today

Sign: We Miss You, We Love YouFor at least the past five years I’ve been actively encouraging nonprofits of all stripes to begin or ramp up their monthly giving program. It made sense then. It makes even more sense now.

Why?

You need a dependable source of income in order to be able to plan for the future.

If that sounds good to you, please continue reading. I’m going to share some best practices and examples to help you somewhat magically raise more dollars from individuals, both today and tomorrow.

Guess what?

Once donors sign on as monthly givers they tend to stick with you.

In fact donor retention of monthly supporters averages 80 – 90%, compared with just 65% for annual donors.  That’s huge!

So huge, in fact, you’re missing a gigantic boat if you don’t currently promote monthly giving as a key fundraising strategy. In other words, you’re leaving boatloads of cash on the table.  If you could use a boatload of cash right now, never fear.  All you need to do is…

Nonprofit’s ‘Unfair Advantage?’ You Deliver Meaning.

In whatever times we’re in, that’s what folks don’t have enough of. That’s what folks crave.

That’s what explained Nike’s daring move in 2018 to put forward a polarizing marketing campaign featuring the face of American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, most famously known for taking a knee during the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner.

In Why did Nike do what they did? Mark Schaefer of Grow, and author of several digital marketing books, explains why this was a brilliant idea. Despite the fact it generated controversy, including protesters burning shoes in the streets, Schaefer notes Nike’s move aligns with research highlighted in his book, Marketing Rebellion. The book explores how to connect with customers and build a brand in a world without loyalty.

The message of the book applies  to folks in the social benefit sector as well.

Heart sculpture

Should Your Nonprofit Participate in #GivingTuesdayNow?

Heart sculptureIf you feel too busy to contemplate adding one more task to your plate right now, you’re not alone. A pandemic is no vacation!

Not to worry. I’m here to help.

But first, in case you haven’t yet heard, the folks at GivingTuesday.org are organizing an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. I believe it began as more a rallying cry than a fundraising call to action, as you can see from the GivingTuesdayNow landing page and press release with suggestions you can share with your constituents, as appropriate (e.g., (1) Support healthcare workers by donating supplies, advocating for them, and staying home; (2) Combat loneliness by reaching out to a neighbor, relative, seniors or, veterans, and (3) Join a local mutual aid network and come together to help neighbors in need).

Lately, you may have seen a rash of articles and webinars designed to help you launch a #GivingTuesdayNow campaign. I shared some of these in last week’s Clairity Click-it, so if you want to turn this into ‘#GivingTuesday in May’ (the next ‘regular’ GivingTuesday is December 1, 2020), don’t let me stop you. It may work.

However… I’ve got another idea for you. Because a single day of fundraising during a period where crisis (flashing lights!) is permeating people’s every thought doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I hope, if your organization and/or those who depend on you are at risk, you’re asking for urgent support on more or less a weekly basis. So please don’t interpret this article as a caution against asking for money right now. I absolutely want you to ask!

Just not necessarily on May 5th.

Of course, I’ve never been a fan of using the ‘Hallmark’ opportunity as an impetus for fundraising. It’s a bit generic, and everyone and their dog is fundraising on this day. If you want to stand out, I’d advise doing something different.

Family making noise on balcony to celebrate first resonders

How to Discover Your Unique Coping Strategies

I confess. I’m a sucker for a quiz. I love to test myself, and compare my answers with others. We all need a little distraction to keep our minds off the news right now, right?  Some of us more than others.

So I want to share some quizzes, exercises, and assessments that may help you discover some important truths about the most interesting person on earth. YOU!

The way you cope during stressful times has a lot to do with your unique personality traits. Do you consider yourself self-aware? Do you know why you may be feeling particularly panicky right now? Or inexplicably calm and at peace? Do you know what makes you feel creative and purposeful? Even joyful?

Every night at 7:00 p.m. my neighborhood goes outside and stands on the street, sidewalk or balconies to make a little ‘music.’ The other night this kid took a spatula to the iron balcony and managed to make a lovely racket! The hospital staff around the corner and up the hill has let us know via social media that they hear us and appreciate us. It feels like a beautiful way to cope, if even for just a few minutes each day. All it took was one neighbor to organize it, and… voila!  I am grateful to that neighbor.

What are you doing to cope? How are you adapting, personally and professionally, to our ‘new abnormal?’

Are you living your life in the best way possible for you to make a contribution that feels authentic, productive and true to you?

Now is a terrific time for some good old-fashioned introspection.

Everyone brings their own gifts to the situation at hand. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ personality. Now’s a time to get in touch with, and appreciate, what you bring to the table.

Maybe you can help someone else – a friend, family member, neighbor or even a donor – overcome some of their own weaknesses right now. And maybe they can help you as well. Yin-yang. Give-take. Mutual support. Empathy and understanding.

Are you game?

I’ve got four fun things for you to try!

Even if you don’t love doing exercises and taking quizzes as much as I do, you may find one or more of these interesting. None of them take a lot of your time. And it’s even more fun if you do it together (with friends, family, co-workers); then compare and discuss results!

Not Today Covid 19

Anatomy of a Coronavirus Nonprofit Email + Thank You

Not Today Covid 19Last week I shared a number of real-life examples from innovative nonprofits taking creative steps to connect meaningfully to their supporters during these trying times. While staying connected, some organizations are succeeding in stepping up both their marketing and fundraising communications to the next level.

Sometimes this means virtual events, online conference calls and hang-outs and, yes, asking for the philanthropy needed to respond to urgent needs and stay in business for the longer haul.

I promised today I’d share an example of a straight-up email appeal.  Actually, it’s more than an appeal.

Because every communication you have with folks today must be more than business as usual.

It’s got to be empathic.

Let’s face it. All folks are thinking about today is coronavirus. If you ignore this fact, you’ll come across as out of touch and even insensitive. So begin every communication with some acknowledgement of what people are going through. Not just you. Them.

Check in with people and ask them how they’re doing.  This is actually always a good way to begin. We do it more in our personal lives (oddly, particularly with strangers).  You ask the clerk at the counter “How’s it going?” You leave the store saying “Have a nice day.” In fact, one of the hallmarks of a culture of philanthropy is you’ll find staff always asking each other “How can I help you today?” [See “Fundraising Bright Spots”]

Silver lining of this pandemic? Rediscover the power of empathy.  Take this opportunity to connect the dots between the problem you lay out and the solution with which the donor can be helpful. This is solid, basic fundraising – the way it should always be practiced but too often is not.  Use this opportunity to be better.

It’s got to be innovative.

Remember, this is not ‘business as usual.’ Already every nonprofit and their dog are sending out messages related to this crisis.  What will get your messages to stand out? Lots of things come to mind, including great subject headlines, compelling images and graphics, engaging stories and an authentic tone. All the basics apply.

Practice solid fundraising, of course, but try to add in a little bit of something extra. Novelty. Fun. Inspiration. Prayer. Social action.  Whatever is best suited to your particular brand and community.

Silver lining of this pandemic? Many of your familiar, tired strategies were probably due for a change anyway. This is an opportunity to reject the status quo, develop new skills and consider fresh initiatives that may, ultimately, serve you far better than the ones you’ve been using.

TIME TO SHARE AN EMAIL EXAMPLE: APPEAL PLUS

The World is Changing

Coronovirus Fundraising: Steal these Ideas!

Now more than ever you must, must, must invest in your fundraising efforts.

Rather than spending time worrying – panicking? – why not turn your mind towards positive things?  Like creative ways to invite others to help keep your mission afloat?

In my post earlier this week, I shared some ingenious ideas implemented by other nonprofits  — all so you can resourcefully borrow their ideas. I will keep sharing, because that’s how we learn. And… that’s what Clairification School is for, right? [If you’re not yet enrolled, there’s no better time than the present!]

It’s a blank slate now when it comes to fundraising. Yes, use tried-and-true principles of donor-centered fundraising. But don’t be tone deaf to the unprecedented times we are in.

Coronavirus is all folks are thinking about right now. Even while they try not to think about it.

Stay relevant, or prepare to be ignored.

You can help people!

Here’s the deal.

I’ve never in my lifetime heard so many people asking: “what can I do to be of service?” 

Charities have the opportunity to answer this question.

Living in a pandemic sucks, but you’d be remiss if you didn’t avail yourself of this opportunity to (1) keep your mission, and those who rely on you, afloat, and (2) help would-be helpers feel helpful!

Mona Lisa with face mask

How long… will this be going on?

Mona Lisa with face maskIf you’re like me, chances are every other email in your inbox has something referencing coronavirus. You can’t ignore it, avoid it or wish it away.

So… what is your organization going to do?

The inimitable thought leader, Seth Godin, recently had this to say:

React, respond or initiate?

That’s pretty much all that’s on offer.

What will you do next?

The first gives us visceral satisfaction and emotional release, and it almost always leads to bad outcomes.

Responding is smarter. It requires each of us to think hard about the action and emotion we seek to create after something is put on our desk.

And the third? Initiating is ever easier and leveraged than ever before, which, surprisingly, also makes it more difficult to move up on our agenda.

In normal times, it’s easy to get into a rhythm of simply responding. Someone else setting the agenda.

When things are uncertain, it’s easy to react.

But now, right now, is the single best time to initiate. We’re in for a slog, but there will be an end to it.

Make things better by making better things.

Taking this advice to heart, I’d like to share a couple of examples of organizations who have initiated some inventive strategies to stay connected to their supporters in these challenging times. Usually I would share these in my “Don’ts vs. Do’s” feature. But both of these are big ‘Do’s,’ so I want to highlight what’s brilliant about them. You can ‘sincerely flatter’ them through imitation — and a bit of your own innovation.

Ready to be inspired?

OMG, What Will We Do About Our Upcoming Event?

How Nonprofits Can Connect Virtually During Trying Times

Virtual meeting PixabayConnection is essential, especially during challenging times. When the going gets tough, we yearn to commune with people who will support us… teach us… commiserate with us… empathize with us… calm us… distract us… … entertain us… enable us to support them… and more.

Without connection, people can feel isolated. Yet today, as we prepare for the spread of coronavirus, we’re contemplating doing less of the things we normally do in person with others. And nonprofits are not immune.

What are you doing to reach out to your supporters when they need connection most?

Here are just a few messages received from local nonprofits in San Francisco within just the past two days:

Canceling a popular fundraiser that we depend on to cover the costs of keeping Public Glass open is not a decision we came to lightly, but it is critical that we do our part in helping to ensure that our Bay Area Community remains as safe as possible.

UNDER ADVISEMENT AND RESPECTING THE NEWLY ISSUED AGGRESSIVE RECOMMENDATIONS ANNOUNCED TODAY BY THE SAN FRANCISCO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH TO REDUCE THE SPREAD OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19), THE MARCH 12, 2020 SFIC MONTHLY BREAKFAST IS CANCELLED.

We are very sorry to announce that, due to public health guidelines from the Mayor’s Office, our 2020 Benefit Art Auction, hosted in a city-owned building, must be cancelled. This event is a massive effort, involving over a hundred contributing artists, a dream-team of volunteers, and many beloved business partners. We were ready to create a wonderful celebration of creativity! We will continue to explore innovative ways to connect our community, but right now, this is the best way to take care of each other. 

How about this haiku from my cousin, who is hosting his son’s wedding this week-end (at least as of this moment):

Last year seemed so bad

COVID-19 is now here

How I miss last year

While apt, missing last year and wringing your hands won’t help. As in-person gatherings are indefinitely postponed or canceled, as public spaces are closing, and as people are working from home, what can you do to make lemonade — and quench your supporters’ thirst?

Valentine-Monterey-Aquarium-300x300.jpg

8 Strategies to Celebrate Nonprofit Donors on Valentine’s Day

I love a good celebration.

And nothing is more worth celebrating than a holiday, and your donors!

With Groundhog Day in the rear view mirror, and Valentine’s Day on the horizon, it’s the perfect opportunity for a holiday/donor celebration mash-up!

You’ve still got time to send a little love your donors’ way!

Why might this be something for you to consider, amidst all the other “to-do’s” on your plate?

If you don’t do a lot more donor loving, you’re going to do a lot more donor losing.

I hope by now you know donor retention is the name of the game. It costs so much more to acquire a new donor than to keep an existing one. Yet too few nonprofits have serious, intentional donor stewardship programs in place. Because of that, on average, nonprofits lose nearly 8 out of 10 first-time donors and close to 6 out of 10 of all donors.

Don’t be one of those organizations!

If donors only hear from you when you want something from them, they’re not likely to give more. Or even give again.

Be generous! Show donors how much their support means to you.

Really, donor love should be like breathing for you. In and out. Out and in.

  • They love you, and show you.
  • You love them, and show them.

You’ll be amazed at how a little love can go a long way.

This year why not dedicate Valentine’s Day to giving, not asking?

If you can’t send valentines to every donor, pick a segment or two.

Think about those donors for whom you’d like to show some special love, because they showed you some. Show them you noticed! They could be:

  • Major donors.
  • Monthly donors.
  • Donors who’ve given faithfully for five years or more.
  • Donors who increased their giving this year.
  • First-time donors of $100+.
  • Donors who also volunteer.
  • Board and committee members.

3 people with marching orders

3 Ridiculously Easy Strategies to Boost Fundraising by 27%

3 people with marching ordersI’m excited to share three easy tips with you, and the results are measurable.  Do these things and you’ll be able to tell if they impact your bottom line!

I was inspired to share these ideas with you based on a 2019 study by NextAfter and Kindful looking at how organizations are cultivating donors via email. They found plenty of data-driven ideas that can improve donor retention and boost online fundraising revenue — by as much as 27%!

Think about how much an increase like that could mean for your organization!

That’s right!

Make way…” for these ridiculously easy, revenue-boosting strategies!

If you raised $100,000 last year, you could raise $127,000 – or more – this year.

And that’s without having to apply for a new grant, hold a new fundraising event or even ask for a new major gift or two to reap these rewards.

All you must do is simply pay a little more attention to your follow-through communication with donors.

Did you know most of the top reasons donors give for not renewing their giving have to do with how you do/don’t communicate with them after they make a donation?– or fail to personally, meaningfully and promptly communicate –

Meaningful, regular donor communication can hugely impact your bottom line.

To make a demonstrable difference in donor behavior, however, your communication strategy must tick more than one box. It must be prompt, personal and relevant to what your donor cares about and how they want to hear from you. Don’t just guess what your donors might like from you. Ask them!  In fact, surveys, social media queries, online quizzes, solicitations for comments and feedback are all wonderful ways to communicate digitally in a manner that personally engages your supporters.

Never forget: The best fundraising is personal.

So… what are you waiting for?

Here’s what the research reveals, and I recommend: 

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Easy-to-Implement Legacy Giving Strategies for Small Nonprofits – Do’s and Don’ts

A society grows great... legacy quotationYou’re stretched thin.

Competition for philanthropic dollars has intensified. You know long-term survival depends on strengthening revenue streams.

What are you doing about it?

If you’re like too many nonprofits, you’re missing what’s right in front of your eyes: legacy giving.

The lion’s share of philanthropy in the U.S. comes from individuals. Nearly 70% of people make gifts to charity during their lifetimes; only 10% leave a bequest. Why? No one asks them!

It turns out that the act of asking makes a huge difference. And don’t tell me you can’t ask because you’re too small or understaffed.

Just because you can’t afford (or aren’t quite ready yet) to mount a full-on legacy giving campaign is no excuse to avoid the basics.

Donor-centered focus: Heart and Gratitude over WealthI find a widespread misunderstanding about the notion of what constitutes being donor-centered. It derives from two misconceptions:

  1. Assuming people don’t want to be asked.
  2. Spending all your time on cultivation, assuming folks don’t need an ask and will simply give spontaneously as a result of being wooed.

Both of these rationales short-change your would-be donors.

Why?

FIRST: Donors want to be asked because they’re starved for the love that comes from voluntary giving and receiving. Donors have love to give, but don’t always have an object towards which to direct their affection.

SECOND: Donors need to be asked because when they’re not, they don’t know how much you need their help.  Consequently, giving feels a bit empty. Almost a bit like a crap shoot.  Donors want to invest their money where they feel confident it will be most appreciated and will do the most good.

Let’s delve into both of these misconceptions more deeply, putting them into a donor-centered context.

In other words, what are your would-be donors feeling?

Donors are Love-Starved

(more…)

Are you reading your major donors right?

Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

The more that you know, the less they’ll say ‘No!’

Such is the advice given by Jay Love, Founder of Bloomerang and a seasoned board member and major donor, some years ago at an online conference where we both presented major gifts master classes. His was on the topic of major gifts development from the donor’s perspective.

Do you think about your donor’s perspective before you ask for a major gift?

Here’s what I learned from Jay:

The more you know:

  • what floats your donor’s boat,,,
  • what other things compete for your donor’s attention (not just causes, but also career and family)…
  • how your donor prefers to communicate…
  • how your donor prefers to be wooed…
  • how your donor prefers to be recognized…

… the more likely you’ll get a “Yes.”

This advice is SO important I want to dig deeper into ways you can get inside your donor’s head and build the type of relationship that will be a win/win. When your donor gets what they want and need, you get what you want and need!

If you can’t show your major donor prospect you really know them, how can they trust you’ll be a good steward of their passionate philanthropic investment?

We all want to be known before we enter into a major engagement.

Which brings us to the crux of successful major donor development. Not surprisingly, it begins and ends with the same thing.

Can you guess what that might be?

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logo

Fundraising Don’ts vs. Do’s: Giving Tuesday Email +Donation Landing Page

Fundraising Do's & Don'ts logoIt’s not too late to use these tips to help with your year-end fundraising.

This new “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature is popular, so I thought I’d share another one that seems like a good ‘teaching opportunity.’ It’s a twofer, as I’ll discuss both the appeal and the donation landing page to which it takes folks — should they be inspired to click through.

Please note: Sometimes I can’t omit the name of the charity in the examples I use. Please know I’m coming from a place of love, and don’t mean to shame anyone. As with almost anything you can think of, there’s good AND bad in the examples I share. We learn both from mistakes and stellar efforts. Our own, and others.  Kudos to all who put things out there and make an effort. The only way you learn is by trying. Believe me, I’ve sent out some real clunkers in my time as a development director! If I ever use you as an example, and you disagree or want to clarify, feel free to contact me directly.

Okay. Let’s move on.

We’re going to evaluate every element methodically.

I’ll ask you some questions.

  1. Would you open that email?
  2. If yes, why?
  3. If no, why?
  4. What looks good about it?
  5. What looks not so good?
  6. Would it inspire you to give?
  7. If so, why?
  8. If not, why not?

First, I’d like you to think about your answers and jot them down.

Second, I’ll tell you what I think.

Let’s begin!

Do you think this email is a “Do” or a “Don’t?”

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Happy Days of Thanks(for)Giving

Thankful for ThanksgivingThis Thursday folks in the United States will celebrate what I consider to be the social benefit sector holiday of the year:

So it’s time for my annual Thanks(for)Giving post!

Just think about what ‘Thanksgiving’ means.  Literally, it’s a day for giving thanks for blessings.

Who, and what, do you count among yours?

I know when we go around the table at my family Thanksgiving, saying what we’re grateful for this year, most folks respond with a people-based answer. Sure, they’re happy about the feast in front of them. But they’re most grateful for caring friends… loving family…. and for being together sharing the warmth of good company.

Who are you grateful to at your organization?

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Your Secret to Mindblowing Fundraising – Improve Donor Retention Just 10%

Imagine what it would mean to your mission if you doubled the lifetime value of all of your current supporters.

Do you know even know what percentage of donors you’re retaining?

According to Jay Love, founder of Bloomerang, less than 45% of fundraising offices know this answer!

So, you’re not alone.  But you can do better.

Because knowing your retention rate enables you to move it to something better.

And I’m going to guess, if you’re like the majority of nonprofits, you probably need to improve your donor retention.

At least if you want to grow.

Or maybe even just survive.

Just a small change in retention, up or down, can mean thousands of dollars.

It’s your choice whether they’re your gain, or your loss.

Walkathon participants

8 Secrets to Keeping New ‘Third Party’ Donors

By now you undoubtedly know you’re losing too many first-time donors.

In fact, the most recent Fundraising Effectiveness Project report shows you’re losing an average of 68% of these folks!

Today I want to talk about a subset of new donors who don’t renew.  They’re called “third party donors,” and they come to you through a variety of portals:

  1. Guests of event ticket buyers
  2. Online auction purchasers
  3. Donors who give to friends’ P2P fundraising pages
  4. Donors who give to crowdfunding campaigns sent to them via a friend
  5. Donors who make tribute gifts in honor or memory of a friend or loved one

The good folks at Classy know most nonprofits are not doing a good job cultivating donors who come to them through third parties, so they’ve prepared The Guide to Courting Third Party Donors. You can download it for free (40 pages), but let me give you the highlights – along with some of my own thoughts.

Group boosting the team effort

Easy Ways to Boost Your Nonprofit’s Monthly Giving

Group boosting the team effortDo you have monthly donors, or a monthly donor program?

If you don’t have a program, you’re likely leaving monthly donors on the table.

This is hurting your bottom line because, on balance, the net value of a monthly donor to you is more than that of a one-time donor.

So let’s look at how to turn your handful of monthly donors into a full-fledged program.

1. Begin with Proactive Strategies

If what you have right now is simply a checkoff box on your remit piece or donation landing page, you’ve got a passive strategy.

In other words, if donors don’t know why you want them to give a monthly gift there’s nothing to persuade them to check this box. Try to get inside the donor’s head and imagine what they’re thinking. It could be any of the following:

Question mark of people

How Jargon Destroys Nonprofit Fundraising & Marketing

I hate jargon. With a passion.

Hate it. Hate it. Hate it.

Just. Can’t. Stand. It!

Yes, I guess you could call it a pet peeve.

But, really, why would you ever use jargon if you wanted to truly communicate with someone?

Just check out the definition:

“language used by a particular group of people, especially in their work, and which most other people do not understand”

— Cambridge dictionary.

Jargon = Failure to Communicate

When you talk to people in words they don’t understand, really, what’s the point?

Are you just trying to make yourself look smart?

Because, trust me, that’s not how it comes across.

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3 Ways to Get More of Your Donors to Match Their Gifts

Heading bannerFighting the good fight for your nonprofit’s cause is what you do best.

Funding your mission, however, is always challenging. The planning, the lists, the headaches, the inevitable snafus that arise at any given moment… it’s a lot of effort to solicit a single donation.

And while seeking out new donors is vital to raising money for your cause, what if you could double your donations with your current donor list?

With the 3 E’s⁠—education, ease, and encouragement⁠—you can maximize your donations by getting more of your donors to match their gifts.

  1. Education: The Power of Matching Gifts
  2. Ease: The Tools to Matching Your Donor’s Gifts
  3. Encouragement: Increasing Donor Retention

Ready to help your donors make the most of their gifts to your cause?

Let’s dive into what makes matching gift fundraising such a powerful way to tap into the hidden potential of your supporters.

language of love alphabet

Nonprofit Gift Planning: Do You Use the Language of Love?

language of love alphabetI recently listened in on a thoughtful webinar by Scot Lumpkin for The Stelter Company. It’s all about meaningful conversations with donors who (you hope!) may contemplate a gift to your organization.

To get folks to “YES” you just need to learn the language of gift planning!

It’s not just about HOW people give, but WHY.

Scott was speaking of what is often called ‘planned giving.It’s a term that’s unfortunately come to mean giving vehicles, which is a decidedly non-donor-centric way of framing things.

Anyone who contemplates a major, or stretch, outright gift plans ahead.

No one just gets up one morning and decides to give away $10,000.

Or let’s just stipulate it’s relatively rare.

Rather, would-be philanthropists consider how making a particular gift at a particular point in time may match their values and helps them accomplish their objectives, personal and philanthropic.

It’s seldom a spur of the moment action.

For purposes of this gift planning article, let’s consider your audience to be prospective major (outright) and legacy (deferred) gift donors.

Let’s try an experiment.

10 Email Hacks to Increase Nonprofit Productivity

We live in an age of information overload.

As a result, many of us (me included) have gotten into some really bad habits in an effort just to “keep up.”

These habits are not only killing your productivity, they’re killing you!

So today I thought I’d take a step back from offering fundraising tips and tools, and offer up some brass tacks advice to lighten your load.

And I want to take on the killer of all time sucks.

Email.

Hold these 4 Nonprofit Fundraising Truths to Be Self Evident

DeclarationOfIndepenceI’ve created for you a little “Declaration of Fundraising Independence” to help you become a fruitful philanthropy facilitator from this day forward.

This Declaration incorporates what I consider to be essential fundraising truths — four pre-conditions which must be met before you’ll be able to successfully exercise your fundraising strategies. Within these four pre-conditions are additional hidden truths (don’t worry; I’ll call them out for you).

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that not all charities are created equal, that they are endowed by their constituencies with certain unalienable visions, missions and values, that among these are visions, missions and values that some, but not all, members of the public share. That to secure these visions, missions and values, charities are instituted among the public, deriving their just powers from the support of the public. That whenever any form of charity becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to fail to support it, and to instead support those institutions as to them shall seem most likely to effect the safety, happiness, goodwill and public benefit of the populace.

Fundraising is not an end in itself. It serves noble ends.

(1) When those ends are ones valued by the people, and

(2) When folks trust you’re doing an effective job meeting needs they believe must be met, then

(3) You earn the privilege of fundraising and, in fact,

(4) You assume the responsibility to fundraise to assure those who rely on you to meet these needs are not left high and dry.

So… this is where you get your Declaration of Fundraising Independence.  You are ‘free to fundraise’ once you’re able to make a case to enough people that you deserve to exist.  For this to be the case:

Conscious compassion

4 Ways to Consciously Keep Donors Connected

Conscious compassionWhen people give to you for the first time, often they know very little about you. Perhaps they found you through a link on social media. Or organic search. Or through a friend who emailed them a link to your appeal.

They were inspired to give, once, based on whatever they saw or read.

What happens next is critical.

Either you’ll inspire donors to stick with you, or you’ll depress their enthusiasm through benign neglect.

I say “benign,” because I’m sure you don’t mean to mistreat your supporters. Nonetheless, I’m willing to bet many of you do.

  • Perhaps donors make a gift online, and are not immediately taken to a thank you landing page that reassures them their gift went through.
  • Perhaps you send donors a deadening thank you email that looks like a receipt.
  • Perhaps your generic thank you doesn’t tie back at all to the reason they gave.
  • Perhaps your thank you talks all about your organization, rather than about how your donor is a hero.
  • Perhaps your thank you focuses on the amount of their gift and its tax deductibility, and fails to mention specifically what it will accomplish.
  • Perhaps your email thank you lacks the personal touch you put into your mailed thank you letters.

Here’s the deal: Donors are looking for meaning. If your thank you and subsequent donor communications don’t give it to them, they’ll dismiss you and go look for meaning elsewhere.

All donors have questions they need you to answer for them. If you fail to answer these questions you fail to lay the groundwork for developing a positive, ongoing relationship.

Leverage Millennial Marketing Strategies to Woo ALL Nonprofit Donors

Marketin to MillenialsDo you ever worry you’re not doing enough to attract the donors of the future?

Does thinking about how to market to Millennials (who already are the largest segment in the workplace, will be 50% of the U.S. workforce in the next two years, and who will be 75% by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) fill you with anxiety, because it’s just one more thing to add to your overflowing list?

Fear no more!

Today I’m going to tell you how you can have it all – and with very little extra work.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not dissing a multi-generational strategy. If you can manage to treat different types of donors differently, you absolutely will get the biggest bang for your buck by so doing.  However…

Persona

How to Use Donor Personas to Identify New Prospects

PersonaYou love your current donors, right?

You want more just like them, right?

The best way to find folks similar to your current supporters is to begin by creating a profile of who your best supporters are. So let’s go ahead and create a profile (aka “persona”) for your model donor.

Your Surprisingly Easy Way to Use Personas to Discover New Donors

Donor personas are hypothetical “stand ins” for your nonprofit’s actual donors. They enable you to stand in your donors’ shoes and think from their perspective – a pretty handy thing if you’re looking for people who might like to make an investment with your nonprofit!

Begin with demographics.  Then move on to psychographics.

Start with the basics.

Get out a sheet of paper and grab a pen.

cheerleader

3 Ways to Remove Psychological Barriers to Philanthropic Giving

If you can remember this acronym, you’ll be able to persuade more donors to join you and stick with you. This is deceptively simple stuff.

And it really, truly works!

Give me a ‘D’ for DOUBTS!

Give me a ‘U’ for UNIQUENESS!

Give me an ‘E’ for EXPECTATIONS!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you must overcome to win over donors!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you owe your donors!

What’s that spell?

That spells what you must meet to show you’re worthy!

Ready to ‘D.U.E.’ it?

Let’s get started!

Clouds and sky

To Be or Not to Be: What Goes in This Year’s Nonprofit Work Plan?

I’m wagering you’re too busy.

That means you’ve little space for adding new projects to your work plan for the coming year.

Never fear. Help is here!

First, let’s clear out some space.  

I’ve participated in many a planning session, and seldom do I recall – if ever – really focusing first on what we could stop doing to make room for new endeavors.  If this sounds familiar, you’re likely also familiar with the unfortunate consequences.

There are some things that really should not be part of your work plan moving forward. Or, at the very least, they should be pared down. Quite. A. Bit.

Here’s how you know you need, as Marie Kondo might say, to tidy up.

  • Do you try to stuff too much into your work plan and end up doing nothing as well as you’d like?
  • Do you allow daily clutter to crowd your inbox so you’re often responding to the little issues rather than the big ones?
  • Do you keep working on things that no longer have the payoff they once had, causing you to miss out on newer and more cost-effective opportunities?
  • Do you allow inertia to divert your focus towards ‘make work’ transactional stuff that satisfies your need to feel ‘busy,’ while you know it’s not really transformational work?
  • Have you allowed your job to become overloaded with tasks you don’t enjoy, to the point where you feel a bit like a lobster in a pot?

What if you were to look at your work plan this year from the KonMari perspective?

Painting of a photographer

9 Secrets to Prepare for a Fundraising Job Interview

Think of a job interview as finding what you like doing best and getting someone to pay you for it!

Sounds pretty cool, no?

Here are some secrets to help you nab the job of your dreams.

  1. Pump yourself up
  2. Ask others to pump you up
  3. Strike a Super Hero pose
  4. Refresh your research and review the job description
  5. Prepare talking points
  6. Demonstrate how you’re a good cultural fit
  7. Avoid talking salary at first interview
  8. Prepare ahead to answer common questions
  9. Prepare ahead to ask important questions

Let’s review these one at a time…

Time to Reframe How You Do Nonprofit Fundraising

Or else.

Reframing how you’ve done fundraising in the past is not optional.

It’s time for a change.

You must do it, because fundraising and nonprofit marketing have changed a LOT over the past ten years.  There is absolutely no denying this at this point. You need to adapt. Or suffer the consequences.

If you’re still doing the same exact things you did ten years ago, or even five years ago, it’s time to rethink. If you have leaders who doubt there’s a need for change, simply explain the reasons as I’ve outlined below:

Parking Lot

Strategies to Leverage Donor Advised Fund Philanthropy

The use of Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) as a means for individuals to make philanthropic gifts continues to rise. So much so, in fact, I felt it imperative to help you understand how they work and how they may be of benefit to your charity.

Why?

  1. You don’t want to leave money on the table.
  2. You want to best serve your donors.

Today we’re going to take a look at:

  • What a DAF is/is not
  • Who DAF donors are/common characteristics
  • How you can best serve DAF donors
  • What you can do to leverage DAF philanthropy

Let’s begin at the beginning.

Two business people meeting

How to Use LinkedIn to Give Donors a Reason to Connect with You

Are you Linking In?

If not, it’s time to take a new look at this social platform to appreciate it for the beneficial research and relationship-building strategy it can be for you.

I find it to be a highly under-utilized tool when it comes to building your nonprofit brand, establishing authority and credibility, researching and recruiting new volunteers, donors and employees, and building stronger relationships with your current constituents.

Today we’re going to talk about how to use LinkedIn to uncover new donor prospects and build donor relationships.

Not too much. Just four no-nonsense strategies. We’ll look at two more in my next article.

Boost Gift-Giving with These 5 Donation Page Improvements

Asking for donations from your supporters is hard work. While face-to-face asks tend to have the highest success rate, it’s often a struggle to meet fundraising goals with face-to-face asks alone.

Since this is the case, many nonprofits have developed an online system so supporters can donate remotely. Plenty of organizations do great work in the design and optimization of their website so that donations can be made easily and quickly.

However, despite your nonprofit having a sleek donation page, you can probably make lots of improvements to your form that will streamline the process and improve your organization’s efficiency when asking for gifts online.

Even small organizations with low overhead costs can:

  1. Improve your donors’ experiences.
  2. Customize your giving experience.
  3. Empower your mobile donors.
  4. Leverage peer-to-peer fundraising.
  5. Encourage donors to create accounts.

These five improvements can do wonders in maximizing both the number and size of gifts that your organization receives.

Let’s get started making your donation page the best it can be.

Are you reading your major donors right?

Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

Some years ago I had the opportunity to present a major gifts master class where Jay Love, Founder and President of Bloomerang (and a board member and major donor himself) offered his thoughts on major gifts development from the donor’s perspective.

SO important!

The more that you know, the less they’ll say “No!”

The more you know:

  • what floats your donor’s boat,,,
  • what other things compete for your donor’s attention (not just causes, but also career and family)…
  • how your donor prefers to communicate…
  • how your donor prefers to be wooed…
  • how your donor prefers to be recognized…

… the more likely you’ll get a “Yes.”

If you can’t show your major donor prospect you really know them, how can they trust you’ll be a good steward of their passionate philanthropic investment?

We all want to be known before we enter into a major engagement.

Which brings us to the crux of successful major donor development. Not surprisingly, it begins and ends with the same thing.

Can you guess what that might be?

woman helping man

Major Donor Fundraising: What to Know about New Tax Law

When the new Tax Bill passed, I wrote How Worried Should Your Nonprofit Be? That was back in January, when the impacts of the new law on philanthropic giving may have seemed remote. Now the end of the calendar year is closing in, so it’s worth taking a look at some of the ways you can help your major donors get the biggest bang for their donation.

Keep in mind, of course, the primary reason people give is not to get a tax deduction. It’s to see themselves reflected in a mirror as the person, deep down, they really want to be.

That being said, if you want gifts you must give them.  Help more than you sell.

And one gift you can offer is a little bit of wisdom about ways donors can maximize the impact of their gift and minimize the cost to themselves. Especially when you’re talking to major donors.  Because, for most of them, the impact of the new tax law will truly be icing on their philanthropy cake.

Elvis

You Deserve to Rock Nonprofit Email Subject Lines!

Five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

— David Ogilvy, advertising legend

Your email subject line matters. A lot.

So this article is all about learning how to rock your online ‘envelope’ – which is really what determines if your email will get opened.

When you stop to think about this, it makes a lot of sense. Your email subject line has a function! And its form should follow that function.

  • First, it must capture attention.
  • Second, it must convince people to open your message.

People’s inboxes are increasingly cluttered, so you need to stand out. Big time!  Really, you’ve probably got no more than two seconds to make an impression.

Do you think carefully about purpose when you create your email subject line?  Do you even craft it at all, or do you delegate this essential function to someone else, perhaps an assistant or someone in your marketing or digital communications department? Someone who perhaps doesn’t really understand the email’s primary purpose as well as do you?

If you’re like most nonprofit fundraisers and marketers, you likely spend a lot of time crafting the perfect email body copy, selecting images and figuring out just the right design that will entice someone to respond to your call to action.  Then, at the last minute, you’re ready to send it and hastily come up with a subject line.

Thankful for Thanksgiving

Happy Days of Thanks(for)Giving

Thankful for ThanksgivingThis Thursday folks in the United States will celebrate what I consider to be the social benefit sector holiday of the year: Thanksgiving!

Just think about what it means.  Literally, it’s a day for giving thanks for our blessings.

Who do you count among yours?

I know when we go around the table at my family Thanksgiving, saying what we’re grateful for this year, most folks respond with a people-based answer. Sure, they’re happy about the feast in front of them. But they’re most grateful for caring friends. For loving family. For being together and sharing the warmth of good company.

Who are you grateful to at your organization?

Boy and Little Red Wagon

Do One of These 12 Strategies Before Year’s End to Raise More Money

The biggest fundraising time of the year for most nonprofits inexorably approaches.

It can be stressful.

Don’t succumb to the stress. You’ve got this!

Perhaps you can’t do everything you’d like to do this year, but you can do some things.

Here are 12 strategies for you to consider. Each will pack a big punch.

Some you can do on your own. Some will require support from technical and/or marketing staff.

Here’s the thing:  Often it’s the little things that count. That pack a surprising wallop.

So don’t save all your energy for writing your appeal. Help your appeal along by putting some of the dozen suggestions that follow into effect.  Even just one or two will make a difference.

Let’s get started…

Man running with money

#GivingTuesday: It Ain’t Over ‘Til it’s Over

The absolute worst thing you can do the day after #GivingTuesday is nothing.

As tempting as it is to let out a sigh of relief that it’s over, resist that temptation.

It’s not time to relax yet.

Nothing comes of nothing.

And a huge part of your goal with #GivingTuesday should be to strengthen your bonds with donors. That’s the real something you’re after.

It’s not just about the money you raise today.

Your goal with any fundraising strategy is to retain and, ultimately, upgrade these transactional donors. The name of the game in the business of sustainable fundraising is lifetime donor value. [Here’s a great book on the topic: Building Donor Loyalty: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Increasing Lifetime Value.]

Treat #GivingTuesday as a Special Event

Like it or not  #GivingTuesday is a ‘special event.’(And I don’t really like it, which is why I recommend #GratitudeTuesday as an alternative).You likely put a fair amount of planning, resources and time into this event, involving the attention of more than one staffer and/or volunteer. And it sucks time away from almost everything else in the week(s) leading up to it.

It can be a real drain.

Your job is to put a stopper in that drain so all your hard work doesn’t simply swirl down the drain and disappear. That’s like working super hard to create a delicious soup you simmer over the stove for hours, maybe even days, and then you take one little taste before you pour it out and start all over again with a new one. Endless work. And no one really gets to enjoy the meal.

#GivingTuesday or #GratitudeTuesday? Choose!

I’ve long been an advocate of turning the tables on #GivingTuesday and using the “giving” part of the day to give to donors rather than add yet one more ask from them in an already crowded solicitation season.

If you want gifts, you must give them. 

#GivingTuesday is one of those things that sounds good on paper, but in actual implementation it can be less than ideal.

Why?

Because it comes smack dab in the middle of most folks’ annual campaigns. So there’s often little time to do it right. And it can suck your energy and focus away from other critically important year-end fundraising efforts.

I’ve got a better choice for you.

Flip the idea and rather than asking folks to make a symbolic gift to you, why don’t you make a heartfelt gift to them?

Show-me-you-know-me.jpg

Show Me You Know Me* — 5 Strategies To Sustain Donor Relationships

Let’s pretend you and your donor are not connecting meaningfully right now. You’re not sure why. Could it be they feel financially insecure…  they’re worried for their kids… they’ve been let down by politicians… they’re just feeling cynical and/or hopeless? For whatever reason, things aren’t singing between you and them. They haven’t renewed. They haven’t upgraded. They haven’t responded to any of your outreach. They seem to have other priorities.

So, you decide to go to counseling to reinvigorate the relationship. The therapist makes a wise observation: Sometimes in life, one partner feels strong; the other less strong. In such times, the stronger partner has resources to support the weaker partner. Other times, neither partner feels they have coping resources. During these times, we have to depend more on ourselves, be patient, and accept that our partner is not currently in a strong position – even though we really need their support.

Are you being a support for your donor? Are you helping, not selling all the time? Are you being patient, yet persistently showing you care?

We’re in turbulent times. Studies show giving to be sluggish. Donors are less loyal. Maybe they’re distracted by emergencies. Or so-called rage giving. Or simply uncertainty about what lies ahead. So they’re giving less consistently. As a result, donor centered fundraising has never been as important as it is now.

People are feeling a need to be nurtured. In other words: Ask not what your donors can do for you, but what you can do for your donors. Recognize they don’t serve you; you serve them. They don’t owe you; you owe them.  Your job is to help them experience the joy of giving. It is through you they will achieve their most meaningful work.

Embrace the true meaning of philanthropy as love of humankind.  Remember your donors are humankind; you must love them if you want to be a part of philanthropy.  Otherwise, you’re just transacting business.

So… what can you do to embrace the love and thereby keep your donors close?

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5 Truths: How Often Can You Mail Appeals to Nonprofit Donors?

Most nonprofits don’t mail often enough.

How often is enough?

Well… if there was one quick answer I wouldn’t have needed to write a whole article. I’d just have given you a headline with a definitive response!

I know you want a definite answer.

And I could give you one. But it wouldn’t be the truth. Because the truth is different for every nonprofit.

And the truth will even be different for your nonprofit at different points in your life cycle.

There are five definitive things I can tell you:

  1. You are not your donors.
  2. Your donors lie.
  3. Opinions don’t matter; tests do.
  4. Out of sight is out of mind.
  5. What, how and who you mail to matters.

Greek woman wearing laurel wreath

How to Fight Nonprofit ‘Resting on Laurels’ Syndrome

Are you planning to do, more or less, the same thing you did last year for your annual fundraising push?

I mean things like:

  • Recycling the exact same appeal letter
  • Mailing to the same list
  • Failing to segment your list
  • Failing to clean up addresses and de-dupe your list
  • Using the same donation landing page
  • Mailing only one appeal letter
  • Sending only one or two emails
  • Failing to link to your appeal on social media
  • Failing to ask your influencers to share with their peers
  • Failing to encourage recurring gifts
  • Failing to suggest specific ask amounts
  • Failing to ask major donor prospects in person
  • Failing to send a prompt, personal thank you
  • Failing to have a donor love & loyalty plan in place to retain these supporters
  • … the list goes on!

I was moved to write this article after recently attending an excellent production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George” at the S.F. Playhouse. I found it surprisingly moving, especially the final musical number: “Move on.” And, being me, I was able to relate it to something I find all too common in nonprofit work.

Something insidious that kills innovation and inexorably drains spirits.

It’s almost a disease.

10 baby toes

10-Step Annual Appeal from Start to Finish

The end of the calendar year is prime fundraising season. For most nonprofits, September through December will make or break your annual campaign. So… I want you to do the following:

  1. If you’re just sitting down to write your appeal letter, use this as your step-by-step guide to crafting a winning fundraising offer.
  1. If you’ve already written your appeal letter, use this as your step-by-step checklist to assure your fundraising offer is truly one a prospective donor won’t be able to refuse.
  1. Vow next year to have at least your appeal letter draft written and approved by September 1st. Put this date in your calendar, and work backward to create a timeline of all the steps necessary to meet this deadline. This will give you plenty of time to tweak your appeal language for different mailing segments, prepare your email and social media campaign using messaging and images from your mail appeal, get the letter to the printer and mail house, and prepare your carrier envelope, remit piece, donation landing page, thank you letter and overall acknowledgment plan.