Forget about Building Nonprofit Loyalty. Deliver Meaning.

If you haven’t cottoned onto the fact that all marketing – nonprofit included – has vastly changed since the digital revolution, perhaps this incident will wake you up.

And I’m hoping it will persuade you to stop thinking so much about “engagement best practices” – all the social media tools and online strategies you read about every time you turn around, and where you’re directly competing with every business on the planet, instagramming friends, and whatnot – and begin to focus on an area where nonprofits have an unfair advantage.

Deliver meaning.

That’s what folks don’t have enough of.

That’s what folks crave.

And that’s what explains Nike’s recent daring move to put forward a polarizing marketing campaign featuring the face of American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick,

8 Reasons to Start a Nonprofit Monthly Giving Program NOW

One of the key annual fundraising strategies I recommend you add (or rev up) this year is monthly giving.

It’s one of the best ways I know to move the needle in improving your mid-level giving program, and to also serve as a pipeline to acquire new donors, upgrade current donors, and influence major and legacy giving.

To help you persuade your “powers that be” this is a direction in which you should definitely be headed, I’ve invited Erica Waasdorp, pre-eminent monthly giving guru, to write a guest article on this topic. Take it away Erica!

If you don’t have a monthly donor program yet, I highly recommend you start as soon as you possibly can.

This afternoon or first thing tomorrow would be good!

Let me share with you 8 reasons why.

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Declare Your Independence Day – Information Overload Be Gone!

It’s the new plague. And a highly contagious epidemic, from which no one is immune.

Are you showing any symptoms?

I feel like:

  • I’m working all the time, but not getting that much accomplished.
  • I’m working on 10 projects at once, but none get finished.
  • My ‘to-do’ list never gets completed.
  • I’m in meetings all day and don’t have time to work.
  • I bring my laptop to meetings and pretend to take notes while surfing the web.
  • I’m answering email all day and don’t have time to work.
  • I answer email during conference calls and in meetings.
  • I have less and less time to plan, not to mention free time.
  • I have less and less time to learn, not to mention creative time.
  • I can never get to things quickly enough.
  • I sit down at my computer and end up doing something different than I planned.
  • I am eating lunch at my desk, mired in my virtual inbox.
  • I make calls while driving, and even send the occasional text, even though I know I shouldn’t.

Informationoverloaditis.

If you checked off three or more, you’ve got the disease. 8 or more and we need to rush you to an unplugged vacation. All of the above and you need a sabbatical!

elephant and blind men

Use Stories to Knock Down Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Siloes

A recent article on Beth’s (Kanter) Blog by Miriam Brosseau and Stephanie Corleto was so well-written I was inspired to share some of it with you.  I 100% agree with everything it says – and strongly believe you absolutely must do what the article suggests.

What’s that?

Bust down your siloes!

Specifically, turn those puppies on their sides so they form a pipeline, and let the free flow of ideas between programs, marketing and fundraising begin.

Can you picture this?

Imagine your program staff is hoarding all the inspiring stories of impact, and failing to share them with your development team. That’s a silo that needs to be toppled. Because…

Why Creating Donor Engagement Opportunities Boosts Fundraising

I wish I had a dime for every time a nonprofit board or staff member told me “We’re the best kept secret in town; if people knew what we do, they’d give to support us.”

If I had all those dimes, I could make a nice contribution to your cause.  That is, if…

  • You endeavored to learn a little bit about me,
  • You engaged me personally,
  • Then you asked me.

You see, merely “building awareness” will not ipso facto raise more money for your cause.

Just because I care about something, and somehow learn you are involved in doing something about that thing, doesn’t mean I’m going to support you financially.

Why should I?  There are a lot of good causes out there, and making a decision to invest in you is something I need to act on.

I’m busy.  I’m overloaded with information. And inertia is just too powerful a force.

four people raise hands in support of your cause

Psychology of Securing Lasting Nonprofit Donor Commitments

I recently happened on an article by Otis Fulton and Katrina VanHuss of Turnkey, Trump Buyer’s Remorse? Not Likely…. It relates to one of Robert Cialdini’s principles of influence and persuasion: “commitment and consistency.”

The main point is this:

Once we make a decision, and strongly attach ourselves to an idea by agreeing orally or in writing, it’s more likely we’ll stick with that decision than change our minds.

Because we are wired to want to be consistent.

That to which we commit becomes congruent with our self image.

What does this mean for you as a fundraiser?

Man reading book to kids

Donor-Centered Storytelling Boosts Fundraising. Period.

Donors are always a bit nervous about their investment in your nonprofit.  More than anything, they want to know what their hard-earned money is accomplishing!

Bloomerang found that 8% of donors failed to renew their giving specifically because they weren’t sure what their gifts accomplished.

THIS SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN!

If you want more gifts, you must give them.

And in this article we’ll look at why stories can be the perfect donor gift!

For a lot of nonprofit insiders, this is a paradigm shift. Think about it.  I’m asking you to go from focusing on asking to focusing on giving.

Another way to consider this is to shift from focusing on selling to focusing on helping.

Light bulb on chalkboard

How to Modernize Your Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising

In Part 1 of this two-part series I reviewed the ways nonprofit marketing and fundraising have significantly changed in recent years, and what this means for your ability to succeed in raising awareness and money.

I talked about how easy it is for leaders to blame staff, and vice-versa. It’s also easy to get sidetracked, because we’re operating in something of a Wild West frontier.  And no one really is clear on the rules of the game.

Within the current zeitgeist, the job of the development professional becomes critical.  Your organization needs you to lead.  They need you to be an expert strategist, even if they don’t always know this.

If you’re just put into a corner and told to “go forth and raise money” or “go forth and make our name known,” you’re in for a bumpy ride. But you have the power to smooth the way!

angry man

What’s Ruining Your Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising?

There’s something killing your nonprofit’s marketing and fundraising.

Corrupting. Sullying. Debasing. Adulterating.

Yup, yup, yup, yup.

A silent killer. Insidious.

Know what it is?

I’ve crafted a two-part series of articles to tell you not just what it is, but also how to stop it from happening.

Before I tell you, think about this for a moment.

What’s holding you back?

Why aren’t you able to be more effective when it comes to raising both awareness and money?

I know you try. A lot.

But the progress just seems so incremental. Or, even worse, non-existent.

What’s the deal?

I’m going to give you both an answer, and a solution.  But first…

a cup of coffee a la heart

Why Would a Donor Give to Your Charity?

People do not give to the most urgent needs, but rather they support causes that mean something to them.”

This is the finding from a report done by the Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy at the University of Kent: “How Donor Choose Charities.”  They begin their study from the widely-accepted premise that charities exist primarily to help needy people and the desire to meet needs is a key criterion in the selection of charitable beneficiaries. Interviews with committed donors found this was not the reason they gave. In brief, the study concludes:

Giving and philanthropy have always been supply-led rather than demand-driven: the freedom to distribute as much as one wants, to whom one chooses, is what distinguishes giving from paying tax. Yet the methods used to encourage donations tend to assume that philanthropy depends on objective assessments of need rather than on donors’ enthusiasms. The tendency to overestimate the extent to which people act as rational agents results in fundraising literature that often focuses on the dimensions and urgency of the problem for which funding is sought. The assumption underlying this approach is that donations are distributed in relation to evidence of neediness, when in fact much giving could be described as ‘taste-based’ rather than ‘needs-based’.

If there was ever a time to commit to finding out more about the folks on your mailing list so you know what floats their boats, this report indicates that time is decidedly NOW. Otherwise, you’re just ‘spraying and praying’ as you buy into the conceit that “if only” folks knew about the need we address they would give.  Because they “should.” That’s not why folks give.

In fact, the study cites four criteria that influenced donor decision making, and they are not based on meeting your or your clients’ needs.

user tester

Create 5 Donor Experiences to Boost Online Fundraising

How do you create loyal donors? By creating satisfying engagement and amazing experiences.

At. Every. Step. Of…

The. Donor. Journey.

This is the trek you facilitate.  You’re a bit of a Donor Sherpa.  The way you lead will impact whether, and how long, donors will follow. Every step of the journey is important.

How carefully are you thinking through each step?

No matter what you do, the steps exist.  Your donor has to step through them. Forwards or backwards. Upwards or downwards.

Ascertain what these steps look like for your organization’s donors. Are they leading folks onward and upward? Or are they forbidding, dangerous and inherently unenticing? Honestly assess whether the journey is one that is donor-centered. Or one that is all about you, your convenience and your needs.

Before we get started with the creation of five donor experiences to boost online fundraising, I’d like you to being with one “to do.”

monthly calendar

Top 10 Nonprofit Monthly Recurring Gift Strategies

If a monthly giving program is not one of your key strategic annual fundraising strategies, this is the year you should add it to your development work plan.

Why?

It’s your secret to being sustainable, short-and long-term. Because recurring donors give more and stay more loyal over time.

These donors can become a reliable source of predictable annual revenue that minimizes stress and uncertainty.

This is something you should seriously consider, don’t you think?

And it’s really not rocket science.  It’s something you can and should do. And I’m about to give you a step-by-step process to help you maximize your annual contribution revenues.

Should you have any doubt that this will yield impressive results, take a look at

Girl dips toes in the water

12 Top Tips to Build Community and Broaden Your Nonprofit Donor Base

Philanthropy should not just be about big checks.

Last week I shared some reasons not to eschew small gift fundraising. Today I’m following up with some tips for building and mobilizing your community to find, sustain and grow these gifts.

This is important, because a donor’s first gift is seldom their largest.  It’s a starting point.

The majority of your gifts will be small, but the majority of your income will come from a small group of major donors.

You have to grow this cadre of loyal, passionate philanthropists by building relationships with supporters over time.

The lion’s share of major gifts come from previously small gift donors.

A client I’m working with told me 50% of their major donors began with very small gifts.  How about tracking this for your organization? Sure, some major donors come in at the top. But I’ll bet you a majority start by dipping their toe in the water. How can you get folks more fully immersed?

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Don’t Eschew Small Gift Affinity Fundraising

Did I ever tell you about the fortuitous happenstance that taught me about the power of small gift fundraising? A few years ago I went to research something online. Not surprisingly, I ended up viewing the first entry Google gave me – which was on Wikipedia.

As luck would have it, and to my delight, I ran into an awesome fundraising campaign. [This is an occupational hazard with fundraisers. We actually like and admire things like pledge breaks when they’re done well!]

Here’s what I found superimposed at the top of the screen:

DEAR WIKIPEDIA READERS: To protect our independence, we’ll never run ads. We take no government funds. We survive on donations averaging about $15. Now is the time we ask. If everyone reading this right now gave $3, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. We’re a small non-profit with costs of a top 5 website: servers, staff and programs. If Wikipedia is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online and ad-free another year. Please help us forget fundraising and get back to Wikipedia. Thank you.

I was then given the option to make a one-time gift of $3, $5, $30 or $50, or a monthly gift of $10, $20, $100 or other.

It’s not all about major gifts for everyone.

The Wikipedia campaign serves as a great reminder. Even though many nonprofits survive by the grace of 3% of their donors providing 97% of their contributed income (or something closer to the 80/20 rule) there are indeed nonprofits that are exceptions to this rule

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8 Top Ways to Send Nonprofit Donors Love on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day offers the perfect opportunity for donor stewardship!

And 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 whose donors only hear from you when you want something from them.

Be generous, and show them how much their support means to you. Do this frequently, like it’s part of breathing for you.

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.

There are 364 other days each year on which you can fundraise.

This year why not dedicate Valentine’s Day to giving, not asking? Think about those donors for whom you’d like to show some special love, because they showed you some. Show them you noticed!

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

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How Often Should You Mail to Your Nonprofit Donors?

I decided to write this post due to the number of times nonprofits ask me “How often should we mail to our donors?” The corollary question is “How often can we ask people to give?”

The answer?

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 two definitive things I can tell you:

Extreme paddle board

Risk vs. Reward: Rethink Nonprofit Marketing & Fundraising Best Practices

As you plan for the year ahead, it’s smart to think about risk vs. reward.

Sometimes you feel like a risk; sometimes you don’t.

If everything is going along swimmingly, and you want to take things to the next level, then taking a calculated risk may be just the thing.

If you’re not yet maximizing return using tried-and-true best practices, then going the risky route may make less sense.

If you’re wondering when to take risks with your nonprofit’s marketing and fundraising, here’s my answer: When you’re ready.

Begin by determining which current strategies are your most rewarding. Do you have good basics in place?

Are you reading your major donors right?

Are You Reading Your Major Donors Correctly?

A year 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,,,
  • The more you know what other things compete for your donor’s attention (not just causes, but also career and family)…
  • The more you know how your donor prefers to communicate…
  • The more you know how your donor prefers to be wooed…
  • The more you know how your donor prefers to be recognized…

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?

Painting of baby in fetal position

Last-Minute Strategies to Boost Year-End Fundraising

Do you have that year-end feeling? You know, the one many fundraisers get around this time of year?

Kind of frenetic? Anxious? Stressed?

You’re not alone.

The average nonprofit receives 30% of all donations in December. And 12% arrive in the last three days of the year!  So, yeah, it’s really busy.  And a lot is on the line.

I was talking with one of my clients, who apologized for acting so frantic and rushed.  She said:

“Do you remember having that feeling? Did you get it when you used to work in the trenches? That worry that maybe you won’t hit your numbers? That people won’t give as much as they gave last year? That some of your major donors won’t renew. That maybe you’re not sending enough emails? That you’ll wake up on January 1st and be in BIG trouble?”

Oh, yeah. That feeling…

Of course I’ve felt it!  But over the years I’ve learned a few tricks to help overcome that feeling.

Thankful for Thanksgiving

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

Little Things You Can Do 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 things you can do that 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…

Email taking flight

How Important is Email to Nonprofit Fundraising? Very!

Here come 15 steps to successful email fundraising.

I’m going to tell you (1) why you should care about this, and (2) what you should do.

Not long ago, I posed the question: Why Aren’t You Doing More Online Fundraising?  I hope it caused you to think and ponder a bit.

Now, as you’re no doubt planning ahead for the most giving time of the year, is a good time to turn those thoughts into action. How big a role is email going to play in your year-end fundraising strategy?

If you’re making your email campaign an afterthought, don’t.

Email is a critically important tool — especially at the end of the year when most of the money is raised,

Don’t worry that your donors will be annoyed. If you do it the right way, they won’t be.  In fact, they’ll thank you for giving them the opportunity to do something that makes them feel good — and for making it easy for them to do so!.

Let’s begin with the “why”.

Painting of three eyes

Boost Nonprofit Marketing Results: Message, Time, Place

As year-end approaches, you want to consider leveraging your message across channels. You also want to tailor your message to meet the needs of different target constituencies.

One-size-fits-all messaging seldom works as well as segmented messaging.  The former is all about you, your convenience and your needs.  The latter is about your constituent’s needs.

Successful fundraising and marketing is customer- and donor-centered.

Is your year-end strategy setting you up for success? Are you truly putting your best foot forward?

If you’re not inside your constituents’ heads, you need to get in there! To be constituent-centered requires you to (1) talk to the right people,  (2) with the right message, (3) at the right time and place. Recently, I enjoyed a post on precisely this subject. I share it with you here, and if you’re not yet hip to the Marketoonist, allow me to introduce you.

woman holding man's hand for safety

4 Nonprofit Strategies to Build Donor Trust & Lasting Relationships

Trust is the foundation of all lasting relationships.

If you don’t build trust, or if somehow you manage to destroy it, you’re going to lose your donor.

Sadly, this happens more often than not.  By now you’re likely familiar with the stats on donor retention from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project.  Only 23% of first-time donors renew. Only 46% of all donors, new plus ongoing, renew.

If you want to improve on these retention rates (and you definitely can!), I’m going to suggest you develop a plan to build trust.

Trust is built not simply by what you say, but by what you do.  Not just once, but consistently over time.

Donate Online

Why Aren’t You Doing More Online Fundraising?

You really must! Because the world in which we fundraise is changing rapidly.

Keeping up is challenging.

Yet that’s not a good reason to pretend that time has stopped. I’m not suggesting you neglect the tried-and-true fundamentals, of course (direct mail, telephone, events, face-to-face).

You need them! And they still work. But you’ve got to leverage them with today’s tools, within the context of today’s marketplace.

This is your time. This is our time. But, these times are different and what comes next is difficult to grasp. How people communicate. How people learn and share. How people make decisions. Everything is different now. Think about this…you’re reading this article because it was sent to you via email. Yet more people spend their online time in social networks than they do in email…Technologies such as social, mobile, virtual, augmented, et al compel us adapt our story and value proposition and extend our reach to be part of communities we don’t realize exist.

The people who will keep you in business or running tomorrow are the very people you’re not reaching today. Before you continue to read on, allow me to clarify my point of view. My inspiration for writing this is to help you augment, not necessarily replace, the programs you’re running today. We must still reach those whom matter to us in the ways they prefer to be engaged. .

Brian Solis, The End of Business as Usual

Your Hurricane is Coming – Will You Be Ready?

When disaster devastates lives, it affects us all. Seeing people hurting – so much – is hard to take.

It also reminds us of our human fragility. Whoever is strong today may be weak tomorrow. Whoever may give today may need help tomorrow.

Sometimes we feel helpless. Other times we can be helpful. It’s all part of the circle of life.

Which is why today I’m sharing, with permission, an excerpt from 5 Ways to Donate to and Support Hurricane Irma Victims from the Double the Donation blog.

I do this for two reasons. One of them may surprise you.

Apps on iPhone

An APPealing Strategy to Raise More Money for Your Nonprofit

Today we’re going to think outside the box.

I’m going to suggest your nonprofit consider creating an app.

Yes, one of those things people buy at the app store.

Lest you think I’m crazy, this is an idea I’ve been noodling around for some time now.

And I think its time may finally have come!

Okay, maybe not 100%.

But there’s something to be said for the mobile, app-based experience.

Not just for retail giants, but for social benefit causes too.

Personal APPocalypse

The idea began to glimmer for me

Humanitarian aid

Using Visuals to Enhance Nonprofit Marketing & Fundraising

Is your nonprofit using Instagram yet? Pinterest?

I’m going to suggest you give it some serious consideration.

Why?

We live in the age of information overload. A wealth of information creates a scarcity of attention and thus a need to efficiently allocate attention.

Visual to the rescue!

Visual is a huge trend in marketing, using the power of digital to communicate your message and stay within the diminishing attention span of today’s online readers –8 seconds (one second less than the attention span of a goldfish).

Glub, glub.

If human minds are adapting to information overload this way (to multitask, prioritize, and consume quickly and efficiently), it makes sense for your nonprofit to adapt as well.

Otherwise, you’ll work really hard to put messages out there – that no one will read.

Want to stop working just hard and start working smart?

PB&J

Nonprofit Marketing & Fundraising Are Like Peanut Butter & Jelly

They’re meant for each other. Yet it may take a while to bring them together.

Here’s what I mean:

Peanut butter was first introduced at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. It didn’t get mixed with jelly until 1901, when the first PB&J sandwich recipe appeared in the Boston Cooking School Magazine of Culinary Science and Domestic Economics. It was served in upscale tea rooms, and was exclusive food. Until the world changed.

The 1930 Depression made peanut butter, a low-cost, high-protein source of energy, a star. But not the combo sandwich. Not yet.

Then…WWII.

Peanut butter and jelly were on U.S. Military ration menus. Soldiers added jelly to the peanut spread to sweeten the sandwich and make it more palatable. When soldiers came home from the war, peanut butter and jelly sales soared.

Suddenly this marriage became the norm. Why separate them?  After all, they went together like… PB&J!

We never looked back.

How is Nonprofit Marketing and Fundraising Integration like the Marriage of PB&J?

They didn’t start out married, but they belong together.

Here’s what I mean:

Dylan Times they are a changing lyrics

Philanthropy; Not Fundraising: How Inbound Marketing Enhances Opportunity for Human Connection

Dylan Times they are a changing lyricsThis is not the first time I’ve channeled Bob Dylan, calling for a change in the way fundraising and marketing is practiced in the social benefit sector. Because the times truly are a changin’…

Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command, your old road is rapidly agin’…

THEN: When I grew up in fundraising I had a shoe box as my database.  I wrote grant proposals on yellow legal pads.  When we got our first FAX machine I complained that now folks expected us to mail and FAX them (so double the work).  When email came on the scene I complained that now folks wanted us to mail and FAX and email (so triple the work). But it was still the same old road of outbound marketing.  At least I understood what it was all about.

NOW: We’re on a new road entirely.  Because folks are coming to us.  They’re telling us what they want.  They’re defining our nonprofit brand.  And they’re doing so in real time via a multitude of online channels and using a multitude of Web-connected devices.

Opportunity is knocking.

Just as there's a first kiss, there's a first time for everything for your nonprofit.

How to Persuade New Donors to Join Your Nonprofit Mission

What makes us think a perfect stranger, who’s never given to our organization before, will choose to do so?  It’s highly counter intuitive.

People are more likely to continue doing what they’ve done before.
Commitment and consistency is one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence, and it’s useful in nonprofit marketing and fundraising. But only if you’ve got existing donors.
We talk a lot in fundraising professional circles about the folly of concentrating too many resources on donor acquisition and too little on donor retention. And for good reason. It’s significantly easier and more cost-effective to keep a current donor than to recruit a new one. Why?
It’s appreciably more difficult to get people to reach a new decision than to repeat an old one.
Whenever I coach volunteers to do fundraising, I always suggest they remind current donors how many years they’ve already been giving to the organization.  This acts as a decision-making shortcut for these folks. Aha! They already decided this was a good idea.  No need to sweat it out again.  Done!
But… what if you’re a start-up organization that doesn’t have many donors?

Chalkboard Menu

What to Put on Your Nonprofit Fundraising Plan Menu

A good fundraising strategic plan, like a menu, should be broken into component parts so it’s easy to wrap your brain around.

With a menu, it might be appetizers, meat entrees, seafood entrees, vegetarian entrees, sides and desserts.

With a fundraising plan, it tends to break down into strategies. It might be annual giving, major gifts, legacy gifts, grants, events and so forth.

Before you can get to determining your priority strategies, however, you need to do a mini fundraising audit.

When I begin working with a new nonprofit client, I always ask the same three questions.

Major donor meeting

8 Tips to Ace Your Dynamic Major Donor Solicitation

I could just say (1) prepare, (2) prepare, (3) prepare, (4) prepare, (5) prepare, and (6) prepare.

Did I mention that you really need to prepare?

Essentially, this is the meta-message of Shark Tank’s “Mr. Wonderful,” Kevin O’Leary, to would-be entrepreneurs seeking to get spots – and funding – on the television show.

In “How to Present the Perfect Pitch: From the Shark Tank to the Boardroom” he offers 10 tips to help you ace a fundraising pitch. Whether you’re seeking venture capital or a philanthropic gift, many of the principles are the same. I’ve selected six tips I find perfectly aligned with what it takes to make a successful nonprofit ask. Take them to heart, and you’re sure to make your next in-person fundraising presentation a winner.

Oh, and there’s one more important thing, says O’Leary:

“The number-one rule is to make your pitch incredibly dynamic.”

Let’s do it!

I”m going to offer you 6 guidelines and 8 really practical tips…

Cinderalla and Step Sisters

Is Fundraising Cinderella to Your Nonprofit Marketing Communications?

Cinderalla and Step SistersToo often ‘Fundraising’ is made to sit in the corner while her step-sisters, ‘Content Marketing’ and ‘Online Communications’, get busy dressing up for the ball.

Poor ‘Fundraising.’

Her step-mother and step-sisters think raising awareness is more important than raising money.

They think all they have to do is look pretty, and they’ll naturally get chosen. Nobody wants to be bothered to include Cinderella (aka Fundraising) in the planning.  After all, she’s “dirty.”

Is Fundraising Your Nonprofit’s Dirty Step-Sister?

customer experience

6 Ways to Create a Superior Nonprofit Donor Experience

customer experience

Are you aware that one of the hottest things in for-profit management over the past 5 – 10 years or so is “customer experience?” There’s an entire industry that’s grown up around it.

It’s something that goes beyond customer service.

Customer service is to an outbound marketing world what customer experience is to an inbound marketing world. The former you do to your constituents; the latter you do with them.

You may be asking why this is important.

Post digital revolution, nonprofits must adapt to the realities of inbound marketing. The way people find and engage with you in a constantly connected, networked marketplace has changed. Your constituencies crave interaction. And meaning. And, gosh darn it, they want you to make them feel good!

They want a full-bore, positive experience with you.

Fail to deliver?  They’ll go elsewhere. 

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5 Strategies to Improve Nonprofit Use of Donor Data

I cannot tell you how many times I begin a consultation with a small nonprofit, only to discover they have no real donor database.

They’re still using Excel or Filemaker or something that was developed for the program or finance department many moons ago.

I also find many nonprofits that do have a decent fundraising database, but they aren’t really using it to their advantage.

It’s the equivalent of having a 747; then using it to drive down the block to the corner store.

If you’re not exactly maximizing the resources you have, or if you simply don’t have the resources you need, it’s going to adversely affect your fundraising results.

We live in an era of ‘Big Data.’ Which means that understanding why data is important, what data is most meaningful to you, and how to prioritize data collection and evaluation strategies to help you reach your goals has never been more important.

If your fundraising and marketing strategy is not currently undergirded by data, I guarantee you’re missing opportunities, working inefficiently and leaving money on the table.

Could you use a bit of guidance?

Read on…

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.

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 Fundraising Effectiveness Project report shows you’re losing an average of 77% 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 Best Online Strategies are Multi-Layered

Essential Strategies to Succeed with Online Fundraising Campaigns-Pt.2

In Part 1 of this two-part article I described the importance of:

  1. Beginning with your well-oiled content marketing engine and plan.
  2. Building an intentional donor-centered content marketing plan.
  3. Building an online fundraising campaign strategy that’s integrated with your content marketing plan.

Part 1 also included links to a lot of articles I’ve written previously about mastering online social fundraising. Some of them are on Clairification. Others are guest posts I’ve done for other blogs.

I truly, passionately, want you to master the integration of a robust online communications and fundraising strategy with an equally robust offline strategy. In our digitally revolutionized world, they are two halves of a whole.

You need to rock them both.

Today we’re going to layer on with some other important essentials if you want to succeed with your online fundraising.

The art of online communication and fundraising

Essential Strategies to Succeed with Online Fundraising Campaigns-Pt.1

I’ve written a lot over the past several years about why mastering online social fundraising is critical to nonprofit success (e.g., here and here, just as starters).

A bit later in this article I’ll give you a link to a mini-guide for nonprofit online social fundraising. It really boils down to taking charge of the “customer experience” — which is a huge meme du jour in the for-profit world today.

If you need to persuade someone about why this is important, you can read up about how the digital revolution has changed the way people are influenced to give in Penelope Burk’s Cygnus Research studies from the past several years. Here are some of the indisputable truths:

I could go on and on about the why, but I’m going to assume if you’re reading this article you’re already sold.  You know you need to do this better than you’re doing it now.  You’re just not sure how.

A heartfelt story to tell

5 Guaranteed Ways to Raise Money Through Storytelling

Storytelling today is ‘hot.’

And why not?  It’s the fundamental human activity – we even talk to ourselves!

We tell ourselves stories all the time to inspire, goad, cheerlead and persuade.

“I’ve been knocked down, but I’ll pick myself up.”

“This cake will be even better than my mother-in-law’s.”

“The deck seems stacked against me, but I’m going to fight; I’m going to win.”

“Tomorrow will be a better day.”

Storytelling is something people naturally gravitate to. We’re wired that way.

Stories connect the dots.

They are the connective tissue that turns otherwise random acts into important sequences. Stories invite us in. When we add our own imagination, stories begin to acquire personal relevance.

Does this sound like something that might be useful for your content marketing strategy?

Painting of smiling person

5 Proven Content Strategies to Convert More Nonprofit Customers to Donors

Your nonprofit has a variety of different constituencies. You need to devise communication strategies that connect with all of them.

Because, guess what?

All of your ‘customers’ are potential donors.

Which is why you should take mastery of nonprofit content marketing seriously.  It’s not something you should simply delegate to marketing staff.

They need your input. And you need theirs.

Let’s consider your different nonprofit ‘customers’ for a moment.

They begin with actual users of your services… then range to volunteers… social media followers and advocates… community leaders with whom you interact… and philanthropic donors. Then there are your most likely potential ‘customers’ in all of these categories, including

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8 Top Ways to Send Nonprofit Donors Love on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day offers the perfect opportunity for donor stewardship!

And 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 more than 8 out of 10 first-time donors and more than 6 out of 10 ongoing ones.

Don’t be one of those organizations whose donors only hear from you when you want something from them.

Be generous, and show them how much their support means to you. Do this frequently, like it’s part of breathing for you.

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.

There are 364 other days each year on which you can fundraise.

This year why not dedicate Valentine’s Day to giving, not asking? Think about those donors for whom you’d like to show some special love, because they showed you some. Show them you noticed! It could be:

  • Major donors.

  • Monthly donors.

  • Donors who’ve given faithfully for five years or more.

  • Donors who increased their giving this year.

  • Donors who also volunteer.

  • Board and committee members.