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3 Keys to Rethink Fundraising Risk and Reward in 2014

When should you take risks with fundraising? When you’re ready. Here’s what I mean:

You Can’t Riff Without a Guitar. News flash: You’ve got to do the basics before you improvise.

What’s on your playlist for 2014?  The rewarding gold standards like prospecting, asking and stewarding? Or riskier new events? Special campaigns? Extra social media?  You’re to be congratulated if you’ve got innovative ideas. It shows you haven’t lost your creative spark, and you’ve got gusto and passion for what you do. Bravo! But… wait… hold on a minute…

Before you get lost in the creative process,

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How Google Works for Your Nonprofit Blog -Easy SEO and Search – S.S.T.S. Series Part IV

Share, Shareable, Talk, SearchIn Part I: Share, Part II: Shareable  and Part III: Talk of this S.S.S.T. Series we covered the importance of sharing your blog, making it shareable by others and getting folks to talk about you with their online networks.  But there’s one important component of your super-sonic blog promotion strategy that we’ve missed.  Here it is:

SEARCH

Let’s begin with why it’s important to talk about search. Because you want more readers for your blog, right? Well, the people who are your friends, plus the people who are their friends, are not all the people in the world.  They’re not even all the people who may be interested in what you do!  Search is how most people find you.  Search is the most common online activity after email, and that fact cuts across generations.

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4 Ways to Turn Your Nonprofit Blog Into Action – RCA Series Part III

Call to Action SignR.C.A. is about getting folks walking; not just talking.  It’s about good content and conversation that leads to your desired action. It refers to Relatable, Part I, Conversational, Part II, and Actionable. You remember this acronym by thinking about an RCA Victrola – that old-fashioned phonograph contraption that helped transport your grandparents and great-grandparents — and fire their imaginations — through the music that inspired them.

You want to transport your constituents with inspiring values and stories in the same way.  The reason you want to transport them?  So their inspiration will lead to engagement — action that helps to further your mission. So, today that’s what we’re going to talk about!  Ready for action?

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The Keys to Nonprofit Blogging that Drives Engagement

How's My BLogging? bumper stickerI’m a huge blog booster for nonprofits.  So much so that tomorrow I’m offering a free webinar on the topic with the folks at Good Done Great.  I’ll also be posting a series of articles on this topic in the coming week.  If you don’t have a blog yet, you should get one. Pronto! Yup, I think they’re that important.

Here is an overview of what I’ll be covering in tomorrow’s webinar, plus I’ll have a special bonus offer for webinar participants. If you can’t make it, you’ll find a few actionable tips in this article. Plus you’ll find more actionable tips all week.  I truly want you to do this, and I don’t want it to kill you. So I’m going to give you some easy steps you can take to make your blog (1) doable, and (2) a super investment of your time and resources. I’m betting that pretty soon you’ll wonder what you ever did without it!

Two paths converge

Ask Not What Your Donor Can Do For You…

I’ve recently been enrolled in some coaching courses, and it got me thinking…

What if you were to think of yourself as the coach and the donor as your client?

As a coach (aka “philanthropy facilitator”), your goal would be to help that client.

This is a very different stance than approaching them as someone who will help you. It completely shifts the equation of your interactions.

I’ve been working with donors, and organizations working with donors, for forty years now. Along the way, one of the things I’ve learned is your approach to your work matters. It’s why I talk a lot about reframing.

Today I’d like to discuss another type of reframing. It has to do with using your ears and mouth in the proportion in which they were given to you.

How to reframe the borders of donor meetings.

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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:

Happy donors

5 Strategies to Get and Keep More Donors for Your Nonprofit

Happy donorsPeople are unpredictable sometimes. They’re also predictable.

If you see someone yawn, you’re likely to yawn too.

If I tell you seats are limited, you’re likely to purchase a ticket now rather than later.

What if you knew donating to your nonprofit could be a predictable consequence of something you did?

It turns out you can encourage people to act in desirable ways simply by applying a few lessons learned from neuroscience, psychology and behavioral economics.

Scientists have learned a lot over the past few decades. It’s up to us to put that learning to good use.

As Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human, has noted: “There’s a gap between what science knows and what business does.”

  • The most successful for-profit businesses use what science knows to “convert leads to customers.”  The secret to more sales is knowing what the customer wants.
  • Your non-profit might convert prospects into donors, and donors into repeat donors, using these very same principles. The secret to closing more gifts is knowing what the donor wants.

Today I’d like to consider five specific strategies that will help you ethically take advantage of some of the psychology underlying human behavior. Once you understand these principles, you can begin to strategically apply them to your integrated development (marketing and fundraising) strategy. If you’re nervous about this, you can test what you did before against a new strategy informed by science. Break your mailing list randomly in half, send an “A” and a “B” version of your appeal, and see which performs best.

Ready for the science-informed strategies?

7 Magic Words that Increase Charitable Donations

You’ve still got time to sprinkle a little magic into your year-end fundraising!

Consider each of these seven words a magic potion unto themselves.

  1. You
  2. Because
  3. Thanks
  4. Small
  5. Immediate
  6. Expert
  7. Support

The more of these words you use, the more powerful a spell your appeal will cast.

Each of these packs a bigger persuasive punch than you might imagine.

Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

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Securing Matching Gifts: What Your Nonprofit Needs to Know

You drop your quarters into the slot, tap a couple of buttons, and the machine gives you two candy bars for the price of one. Hallelujah! You’re rich!

The concept of matching gifts works just like that vending machine.

You get twice the money at no additional cost to your donors.

Think of it this way: If someone offered to give your organization free contributions each time someone donated, would you say yes? Of course!

But where is all the free extra money coming from?

The extra “free” money comes from corporations!

Over the past several years, social responsibility has become a phenomenon that’s taken over the for-profit and nonprofit sectors alike. Corporations have quickly become aware of their responsibility to do good in their communities. Each day, more companies are building their initiatives to include new programs to support their employees’ philanthropic efforts. Among these programs are matching gifts that empower donors to double, triple, or sometimes quadruple their gifts to eligible nonprofits.

Here’s what’s new: the digital revolution has made it incredibly easy to determine eligibility and submit match requests.

Here’s what’s sad: a mere 7% of donors at companies with matching gift programs actually submit a request. That equates to more than $4-7 billion in unclaimed revenue every single year, according to recent matching gift studies.

Aware man

Do you wish you had a dime for…

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

Nonprofits tell me this all the time! If I had all those dimes, I could make a nice contribution to your cause.  And I would, if…

  • You endeavored to learn a little bit about me,
  • You engaged me personally,
  • You discovered my values match yours,
  • You offered me opportunities to connect with your mission and supporters that involved something other than money,
  • You showed me you knew what most engaged my passions, and
  • Then you asked me for a gift!

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.

You’ve got to do better than just hope I’ll stumble upon your website, see your social media post, hear about you on the news, or even open your direct email if you want me to really sit up, pay attention, and actively engage.

Especially if you want me to engage as a philanthropist.

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Fundraising Appeal & Thank You Strategies Your Nonprofit Needs NOW

Heart with stick figureI know you’re working on calendar year-end fundraising right now.

And if you’re not, start immediately!

Per Mobile Cause:

  • 30% of annual donations occur in December
  • 12% of annual giving happens on the last three days of the calendar year
  • 53% of nonprofits start planning their year-end appeal in October

Before it’s too late, I want to share with you four almost magic strategies that have worked well for me for decades!

Yes, there are ways to tweak these strategies to conform to the current zeitgeist and recognize we live in a digitally revolutionized world. This can be super helpful, and I highly recommend you pay attention to the ways fundraising and nonprofit marketing are evolving. It means new skills are needed, more money must be invested to yield your most positive returns, and you’re no longer going to be able to rest on your laurels.

That being said, I don’t want you to get so caught up in bells and whistles you neglect the fundamentals. Nor do I want you to throw up your hands in despair, culminating in a decision that you just can’t compete or do a better job because… (fill in the blank).

No excuses!

The magic strategies below have worked for me, and countless nonprofits, over generations. They’ll work for you too.

Truly, I promise if you do these things you’ll raise more money this year.

Ready to get started?

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Is Your Finger on the Nonprofit Appeal Trigger?

Finger pointingWhatever side of the political spectrum you’re on, the photo below is triggering.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-58654351

Note: I can’t show you the photo because it’s copyrighted, but if you click on the link you’ll recognize it immediately (unless you’ve been living underground over the past week).

Why am I sharing this photo I can’t even show you?

I want to make an important point.

One I feel too few nonprofits give much thought to.

Could you be among them?

If so, I don’t fault you. No one teaches us these things.

Most of us didn’t go to journalism school.

But, let’s face it, journalists really do know how to grab attention!

You want to grab attention with this year’s fundraising appeal, right?

Okay then.

I’m going to share a simple tip that will boost your fundraising returns this year by leaps and bounds.

Again, it’s super simple.

But you’ve got to start now. Or maybe even yesterday.

Are you ready?

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Top Planned Giving Myths and Truths Revealed

Building - motto about knowledge and stabilityWhat the heck are “planned gifts?”

For some reason, this term remains largely mysterious for many nonprofits. There’s a feeling planned giving is complicated. Not for the faint of heart or the small of budget.

This couldn’t be more wrong.

People wonder:

  • Are they deferred (i.e., you won’t receive them until after the donor dies)?
  • Are they outright (i.e., you’ll receive money now)?
  • Are they only for building an organizational endowment?
  • Are they just another term for major gifts?
  • Are they gifts where donors receive benefits like life income and tax avoidance?
  • Are they legacy gifts?

The Truth about “Planned Gifts”

They’re all of the above!

If there’s any overarching guideline, the truth is that planned gifts generally represent the largest gift a donor will make to you.

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What “Chopped” can Teach Fundraisers about Productivity and Passion

passionOne of my secret pleasures is watching the show “Chopped” on the Food Network. Today I watched an episode that just had me bawling at the end. It was the most heartwarming show I’ve ever seen. And it reminded me of why all of you do the work you do in the social benefit sector.

So please allow me to share.

I don’t know if I can adequately convey the pathos I felt, but if you haven’t had a chance to see this episode I would strongly recommend it. It will make you feel very good. At the same time, it will make you understand — even more than ever — how much work there is to be done.

And why YOU, toiling in the vineyards of the social benefit sector, are just the person to do it!

How to Rock Donor Thank You Calls

7 Keys to Rock Thank You Calls and Retain More Donors

You’ve got to make donor retention more of a priority to survive and thrive in today’s competitive nonprofit marketplace.

Research shows the average nonprofit in the U.S. loses 81% of donors after the first gift!!!!!

In and out a revolving door is too expensive to be sustainable.

To make matters worse, the probability a donor will make five consecutive gifts is only 10-15%. These numbers are just not sustainable for most organizations. By the time you’ve added a new donor most of your previous new donors are out the door.

And, by the way, did you know donor acquisition costs you money?  Yup. On average, it will cost you $1.00 – $1.25 to bring in a new donor dollar. So… the value of a new donor to your organization is wrapped up in the concept of donor lifetime value. Once you have a new donor, the cost to renew them is much less expensive than the cost to acquire them. Just like in for profit marketing, keeping a current customer is easier than finding a new one.  But… you have to actively engage in customer cultivation and renewal strategies.

If you don’t energetically renew and upgrade donors over time, you may as well never have recruited them.

Allow that to sink in a moment.

Might you effectively be wasting a lot of time, energy and money on acquisition? Could some of your resources be more effectively deployed to donor retention?

I’m going to go out on a limb and wager the answer is a resounding YES.

Do you know what your donor retention rate is? If you do, there’s hope for you to improve it. Read on.

If you don’t, you don’t even know there’s something that needs fixing! Read on.

R.I.P. Donor Pyramid?

Swirling fractalThe modern model is more like a vortex — an energized circle where everyone is equal. People move in and out as needed, and your job is to keep the energy flowing.

NOTE: My article on the topic of moving away from the donor pyramid model for donor acquisition, cultivation and major gift solicitation recently resurfaced on social media dialogue, so I thought it was time for a reprint.

Why do we always think of donors with pyramids? The pyramids were built in Egypt. On the backs of slaves. It took a very, very long time. The cost, in human terms, was untenable and unsustainable.

That’s why you don’t see many pyramids being built these days.

Except in nonprofits, where building the donor pyramid is still the holy grail. Get ’em in. Move ’em up. Acquire through direct mail. Convert to monthly donor or sustainer. Acquire through events. Convert to mail. Up, up, up … to the pinnacle of major and planned gifts!

Except for one tiny thing.

It doesn’t work.

Pyramid building is so 2630 BCE. Nobody’s got 100,000 workers (aka direct-mail donors) building a solid pyramid anymore. Many so-called pyramids really look like hourglasses. Or upside-down pyramids. Or plateaus. Even the pyramid-shaped ones are resting on shaky foundations of donors who move in and out, in and out — eight out of 10 newly acquired bottom-of-the-pyramid donors leave — making the “foundation” more like a river than a solid, secure slab of mortar. The days of the donor pyramid model are gone!

Digital toppled the donor pyramid. Actually, it crumbled it … slowly, surely … until there was nothing left but an empty frame. A triangle on paper. The donors no longer fit inside of it.

R.I.P. donor pyramid. You had a good run.

The donor pyramid (sometimes call the donor ladder) was a great model for linear thinkers like me. It was neat and orderly. Engage folks from the bottom up, level by level, one step at a time. It was stable.

Or so we thought,

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Reframe Fundraising: Responsibility, Privilege and Opportunity

Frame in front of ocean view Fundraising is too often seen, at best, as a ‘necessary evil.’

When viewed this way, folks – staff and volunteers alike – understandably prefer not to touch it with a 10-foot pole. Who wants to place themselves on the side of ‘evil?’

Yipes stripes!

But that’s not what fundraising is at all.

The tagline for my business, Clairification, is “philanthropy, not fundraising.” I often talk to folks about how the word philanthropy comes from the Greek and translates into “love of humankind.”  Nothing evil about that!

In fact, if you ask folks to throw out the first word that comes to mind when you say ‘fundraising,’ and then ask them to do the same when you say ‘philanthropy,’ you’ll see it breaks down pretty neatly between good and evil.

Why it’s Important to Reframe Fundraising

If you’re coming at fundraising from the perspective of ‘necessary evil’ or ‘no pain, no gain,’ you’re never going to be effective. Especially when it comes to asking individuals, one-to-one, for passionate gifts.

As long as you hate it, donors will be able to tell you hate it. I call this wallowing in the pain. Never a good approach. Distaste for asking begets distaste for giving.  It’s done grudgingly, not passionately.

When donors can sense you’d rather be doing anything else than asking them for a gift, guess what happens?  They follow your lead!  In other words, they feel they’d rather be doing anything else than making a gift.

But there’s more to reframing fundraising so it’s seen as a really, truly good thing.

I like to reframe it thusly:

  • It’s a responsibility.
  • It’s a privilege.
  • It’s an opportunity.

Fundraising is a Responsibility

If you’re fortunate enough to be a successful nonprofit, this means you’re helping solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.

Top 10 Questions to Answer before Asking for a Nonprofit Major Gift

You can’t just call someone up out of the blue and ask them for a major gift to your campaign. Period. Full stop.

This won’t work any better than building a house before you’ve found the right location, created a blueprint, laid a foundation and brought in just the right crew to build according to your specifications.

In both cases, first you must lay the groundwork. I like to think of this as making sure all the pre-conditions to a successful ask are in place before I make someone an offer I know they won’t be able to refuse.  And I’ll know I’m ready to pop the question because first I’ll have answered “Yes!” to all of the ten questions that follow.

10 Critical, Powerful Questions to Lay the Groundwork for Successful Asks

1.  Is this the right prospect? 

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:

fruit in basket

Where Are Our Nonprofit’s Legacy Donors?

fruit in basketLegacy gifts don’t fall from the sky.

Legacy donors aren’t delivered by storks.

You won’t find them hiding behind cabbage leaves.

You’ll mostly find them living in your donor database, volunteer roster, alumni mailing list, membership roll, client files and anyplace else folks connect with you and have a positive affiliation. An affiliation with you.

You see, the mere fact someone is wealthy does not make them a legacy giving prospect. Period. And the fact they’re wealthy and philanthropically inclined does not make them a legacy giving prospect for your charity.

The biggest indicator someone is a good legacy giving prospect for your organization is their affinity and loyalty. Generally this is demonstrated through affiliation (how they are connected to you) and behavior (what they do with you).

Of course, someone who simply shares the values your organization enacts can also be a viable legacy giving prospect. But they’re not likely to make a bequest or other type of legacy gift unless you first develop their affinity and loyalty — to your charity.  So let’s begin with the fruit already picked and in your donor basket.  We can look at the low-hanging fruit later. I do not recommend investing a lot of resources going after the fruit you’re hoping will just fall from the sky (though a little couldn’t hurt).

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Wrong Ways to Woo Nonprofit Donors

trust signWhat do you most need to sustain your nonprofit through thick and thin?

A steady, reliable source of income – natch!

For most nonprofits this means loyal donors.

How do you get them?

Alas, too many nonprofits act as if all they need to do is acquire the donor; then, magically, that donor will stick with them forever.  Sadly, the data shows otherwise. On average only 20% of first-time donors renew; only 43% of all donors renew. And there’s a very good reason this sorry state of affairs exists.

Most nonprofits woo donors the wrong way.

It may not happen all the time. But it happens enough. Too often, in fact.  Does this look at all like the trajectory of how you handle a newly acquired gift?

  • You badger the donor for gifts.
  • When they give, you warehouse them in your database.
  • You then send a form letter (pretending it’s personal because you use their given name and indicate their gift was earmarked for a particular purpose; in reality, most of the time you don’t know them from Adam nor do you try to get to know them beyond what they wrote on the flap of the remit envelope).
  • Next, they get on your newsletter list and receive mass mailings.
  • Before you know it – or know much about them — they’re getting another appeal letter.

There’s a better way.

Actively show donors love and trust. This is the best way to get them to love and trust you, and the two most important aspects of donor loyalty. Relationships that last are reciprocal. Penelope Burk, the queen of donor-centered fundraising, famously found through her research that donors’ number one desire is … please, please “show me that you know me.” If you want donors to trust you and be loyal to you, you have to trust them and be loyal to them.  Simple, yes?  Actually, no.

To earn trust and loyalty takes strategy.  And it takes work. Mark Schaefer makes a brilliant analogy

Philanthropy is a Team Sport

Team huddleNo one can do it alone, sitting in their own little corner.

Not the E.D. Not the development director. Not the development committee of the board. Not the fundraising consultant.

One-person shows don’t work in fundraising.

This isn’t tennis, figure skating or golf. You’re not one person trying to be the best you can be, with all the glory accruing to you. You’re part of a team, all pulling together in the same direction, with the glory accruing not just to your team but also to your fans and your community.

Siloes don’t work in fundraising.

You aren’t saving up grain for the winter. Besides, simply hoarding won’t help enough. Development operations must figure out how to grow and harvest as much grain as possible so you can feed more and more people in need. Hoarding in siloes is a scarcity, not an abundance, mindset. A status quo, not a growth mindset.

If you have vision and big goals you need a team to see you through.

How Do You Build Your Development Team?

Begin with recruitment of stakeholders.

Look around you. Who do you see? You see internal and external stakeholders. People who care about your organization winning.

Generally, you’ll see:

Sign: Amplify Your Voice

Digital Fundraising Revolution: Annual Benchmarks Study; Trending Behaviors

Sign: Amplify Your VoiceYou’ve no doubt become familiar by now with the term “digital revolution.” It’s something that’s been dawning on us, slowly but surely, over the past few decades, and particularly in the past ten years with the advent of social media. How far has your nonprofit come? Far enough?

It’s hard to believe, but a mere ten years ago so few nonprofits had jumped on the digital bandwagon I began blogging about it. I even wrote monthly for a national social media blog, becoming their guest nonprofit expert. It makes me chuckle now, because use of technology is by no means my sweet spot.  But I was just so troubled by the elephant in the room too few nonprofits were naming.

Today, most nonprofits have a digital strategy. Some are even going so far as to discontinue direct mail entirely. I don’t recommend this; still, it’s testimony to how far we’ve come in a short period.

NOTE: I find abandoning direct mail a bit extreme and precipitous. A classic “leaving money on the table” rookie mistake. Merely substituting an online for an offline channel ignores today’s reality. What’s that? It’s a multichannel world. Sure, it’s more work than in the past. Where you used to just have to communicate in one space, now you must show up in many. Yet there’s good news: layering your strategies can result in richer engagement than before, because you’re meeting folks where they are and reaching people you’d never have before reached. And donors cross channels! The lion’s share of philanthropy still comes from direct mail, but things are evolving. Online giving may be precipitated by offline fundraising strategies. Even if you engage in direct mail, you need to consider the convenience of your prospects and donors. What makes giving easy, convenient and likely for them? Simply sticking to online fundraising may narrow your chances for success. Did you know average email lifespan is 17 seconds vs. direct mail’s average of 17 days?  Also, did you know 31% of offline-only first-time donors are retained for over a year, versus 25% of online-only first-time donors? So you’re going to want to hedge your bets and not just fundraise in one place.

Okay, back to the revolution.

Nothing accelerated the transformation to digital like the past year.

Is your digital adoption of a transformational nature? Has it fundamentally altered how you do business? We’re at a transformation tipping point, and transformation doesn’t move backwards.

Going digital is now an in-your-face proposition that can’t be ignored.

I’m about to share some data with you to demonstrate how online engagement and revenue grew in 2020. But first I want to share some broad perspective strategic thinking on the subject.

Truth: newspaper headline

Fundamental Fundraising Truths: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Truth: newspaper headlineThe Lilly Family School of Philanthropy projects total giving will grow by an estimated 4.1% in 2021. So you can’t use the pandemic as an excuse for raising less money in the year ahead.

Nor should you ever adopt a sky-is-falling stance of “we can’t compete in this environment, so let’s lower expectations and cut back.”

Did your organization cut back on development expenses last year?  Did you lay off fundraising and marketing staff? Did you send fewer appeals?

If you did, chances are you didn’t tell, and sell, your case for support.

At least not as effectively as possible.

That’s a sure-fire recipe for raising less money than you could or should.

Here are three evergreen, fundamental fundraising truths:

1. It Costs Money to Make Money

"Conscious Soup" street art

Stop Writing Unconscious: Secrets to Inspire Action on Your Nonprofit Appeal

"Conscious Soup" street artYou want to raise money with your fundraising appeal, right?

Guess what?

However you feel when you sit down to write is how your readers will feel when they sit down to read.

Feeling anxious? Unprepared? Bored?

Your feelings come through in your writing. Or not.

So… first put a smile on your face! Think about what inspires you about your mission. What are you passionate about? What drew you here and keeps you here?

Passion is contagious.

You can do this – it’s just like talking to a friend about how important your cause is.

Yup.  Your donor is your friend.

Talk to them exactly that way.

Becoming a writer is about being conscious.

“When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader.” 

– Ann Lamott

7 Key Secrets + 16 Blooming Tips to Appeal Success

Transactional Nonprofit Work vs. Transformational Donor-Led Progress

Transactional Nonprofit Work vs. Transformational Philanthropic Progress

Greg Warner of Market Smart writes a lot about the difference between “work” and “progress.” I appreciate the distinction, both professionally and personally. I think you can use this notion, so I’m going to suggest a way to extend this idea to your nonprofit fundraising.

Warner notes in Why You Should Never Get a Job and Go to Work: “work” is tedious and negative; “progress” is inspiring and positive.

This is about being intentional about where you’re going.

It’s somewhat about perception and desitnation, but I’d argue it’s largely about the journey.

Your journey. Your donor’s journey.

And how everyone feels about the endeavor.

Photo of a cobweb

4 Timely Nonprofit Fundraising and Communications Strategies

Photo of a cobwebSpring is always a good time for rebirth and dusting away the cobwebs.  And what a grave, dusty, cobwebby year it’s been.

As I sat down to write today’s article, I found my mind jumping from idea to idea. After all, it’s been pretty hard to focus with everything going on. So I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and tried to pull together the various challenges I’ve seen nonprofit leaders, and fundraisers, grapple with in the past year.

I thought: what can people do now to set themselves up for success as we move forward into high fundraising season at the end of this coming year.

It’s not too soon to be thinking about this.

I ended up with four tips I hope you’ll find relevant and timely.

1. How to Message During Uncertain Times

Whether it’s a marketing or fundraising communication, keep these four basics in mind.

Girls sharing secrets

5 Secret Nonprofit Donor Retention Action Strategies

Girls sharing secretsGiving is an emotional experience. It deserves an emotional response.

Be human.

Ever notice how sometimes when we put on our work hats we cease to be human? How we somehow morph into little robotic “professionals” and become enamored of jargon?

“Lybnts.” “Sybnts.” “Recaptures.”

Not that those things aren’t important. You need goals and objectives.

And given the dreadful state of donor retention in the U.S. today (and in the U.K and Canada as well), it’s vital you be able to measure how you’re doing. Because growth in giving is a factor not just of how many new donors and dollars you acquire, but also of how many donors and dollars you lose.

If you lose as many current donors as you gain new ones, you’re getting nowhere. Fast.

Treadmills Are Only Good in the Gym

Slow down.

Think about what you’re doing and why. You may need to change your frame of mind.

When you acquire a new donor, is it for that one-time transaction? If so, that’s not a very thoughtful strategy, because it costs more money than you make to acquire new donors. In fact, you likely won’t make back your investment for 18 months or so. You won’t make it back at all if you don’t renew that donor.

Nonprofits, sadly, have been on a non-stop treadmill. Donors in. Donors out. Donors in. Donors out. So… something about just measuring this stuff isn’t really working.

Hope mural

How 13 Nonprofit Donors Yields a $1 Million Philanthropic Legacy

Hope mural13 happens to be my lucky number. I want it to be lucky for you too.

Today, I’m going to reveal to you how you can make this happen.

A recent survey of wills reported on by the Chronicle of Philanthropy reveals the average bequest by everyday donors is $78,630.

Some people will leave less; some people will leave more. What this survey reveals, however, is you only need 12 to 13 donors making a provision for your organization in their will to reap $1 million.

If a major gift for your organization is $1000 (or even 5000 or 10,000), I imagine this sounds off the charts to you. Guess what?

Legacy giving is off the charts!

In fact, bequest marketing produces the highest ROI (return on investment) of any fundraising activity.

The first step to making this happen for your organization is to encourage bequests. Actively.

Promote Charitable Bequests, or Else

If you don’t actively encourage charitable bequests, people are unlikely to make them.

Why? There are three primary reasons:

puzzle pieces

Bring Top Value to Your Donor Survey

I get lots of questions about what to include in donor surveys.  But that’s the wrong place to begin.

First you must have clarity on why you’re sending the survey. You can’t bring top value to your donor survey unless you’re specific about what value you want to receive and deliver. The great thing about donor surveys is they’re a genuine “twofer.”

  1. One is for you(useful information you will act on);
  2. One is for your donor(a way to usefully participate, other than giving money, and feel a part of a community of like-minded folks).

Donor surveys are an opportunity for a value-for-value exchange. This is at the heart of all successful fundraising and marketing. The donor gives something of value (usually time and/or money) and you return something of value (usually an intangible “feel good;” a sense of meaning, purpose and connection). Donors are focused on value; you need to focus there too. And value is understood as a clear ‘walking’ of your talk.

Never do something merely to check the task off your ‘to-do’ list. If you’ve had “do a survey” on your back burner for a while, now’s the time to move it to the forefront and give it a closer and more purposeful look. What pieces of the puzzle are you looking to uncover? Begin with asking: How will I know this survey was successful?

Clouds and sky

Legacy Gifts Don’t Usually Fall From the Sky

If you’ve been around ten years or more, and have demonstrated you have staying power, it’s time to start thinking about promoting legacy giving. And not just a little. A lot.

Even during a pandemic. Why?

Because once you have a steady stream of legacy gifts maturing, you’ve secured your nonprofit’s future — in good times and bad. Not 100% of course. You’ll still need to continue with annual fundraising. But you’ll be confident in the knowledge that every year or so unanticipated income will flow into your nonprofit’s coffers, like a windfall from heaven. In fact, after a while you’ll even be able to conservatively budget for a certain amount of bequest income (based on your averages) each year.

Legacy gifts can be quite transformative for the financial trajectory of your nonprofit. Think about this for a minute. While not every bequest will be six or seven figures, it’s rare to see a two or three figure bequest. They’re all major gifts!

Except… legacy gifts won’t usually fall from the sky unless you seed the clouds.

So let’s take a look at how to do that.

calendar

9 Things Your Nonprofit Needs to Know About Monthly Donations

It’s the time of year when nonprofits are evaluating their recent fundraising results and making plans to bring in more contributions in the coming year. But… how?

What will move the needle for you this year?

This question came up in a recent call I was on, and the subject turned to this organization’s monthly giving program. It was doing okay, but they weren’t persuaded it was worth the time and effort compared with focusing on major donors. What I tried to tell them was that many monthly donors are major donors or major or legacy donors in waiting!

If you’re not thinking about your monthly donor program this way, this year is your opportunity to reframe how you think about it.

CONSIDER THIS: A $50 monthly donor is a $600 donor. A $100 monthly donor is a $1,200 donor. PLUS… monthly donors are exceedingly loyal. One-time donors renew, on average, at a rate of 45%. Monthly donors renew, on average, at a rate of nearly 90%. And the fact they give consistently over time means they truly identify with your charity. You are so important to them you are like one of their children to whom they give a monthly allowance! So there’s a good chance they may also leave you a legacy gift.  Wouldn’t it make sense to double down this year to try to grow and cultivate more of these loyal supporters?

On my recent call with the charity feeling uncertain about how much resources to devote to monthly giving, I remembered this conversation I had a few years back with expert, Bill Sayre, CEO of Merkle RMG. Since he works with hundreds of organizations to help them build and manage their sustainer programs, I’d asked him to give me his thoughts on what you can do to begin and/or better manage your monthly giving program.

Chances are you already have some sort of monthly sustainer program.  But… is it the best it can be?  Could it do more heavy lifting for you?

Today I’m re-running this article in the hopes it will help you plan for the year ahead. You’ll learn not only why monthly donor programs are a good idea, but how you can put management systems in place, grow your revenue, keep donors happy and maximize return on your investment.

December 2020 calendar page

Last Minute Strategic Year-End Email Appeal Tips

December 2020 calendar pageYou are a philanthropy facilitator. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to persuade people to act now, during the most giving time of the year.

Studies show nearly one-third of all charitable giving happens in December. While you absolutely should be using multiple fundraising channels to get best results, right now whatever you’ve got planned for offline is pretty much cooked. So your best bet for boosting year-end results is digital.

What do you have planned between now and December 31st?

Network for Good and True Sense Marketing found a third of all online giving occurs in December, and more than 20% of all online giving for the entire year occurs on the last two days of the calendar year. And, among digital strategies, email rules. According to M+R’s Benchmarks Study, email was responsible for 16% of all online revenue for nonprofits.

For at least the last decade, the last week of the year – and particularly the last day of the year– have been huge for online fundraising.

To boost your year-end fundraising success, you need to craft an email offer your donor can’t refuse.

How will you best convey your offer?

In a nutshell, you need three things for any fundraising offer:

  1. Problem you’re addressing — made real and relevant to the prospective donor.
  2. Solution you’re proposing to address the problem – with your donor’s help.
  3. Ask showing how the donor can help– the specific purpose and amount of the gift you’re requesting.

1. How to describe the problem.