Proven 1-2-3 to Nonprofit Fundraising Success

L O V E Sign behind a fenceUnderlying this 1-2-3 formula is a need for balance.

It’s obvious. I know you know it. But… do you do it?

I’m here today, just in case you need a little reminder.

  1. The first step is essential for success in anything.
  2. The second step is essential for success in any consumer-facing business.
  3. The third step is essential for success in reaching a fundraising goal.

When the world seems wildly out of balance, it is incumbent on us to begin with centering actions: for ourselves, others, and our mission.

Balancing Trick: You. Donor. Nonprofit.

I’m talking about balancing self-love with donor-love with mission-love.

You can’t help others unless you first take care of yourself.

This is a truism you should carry with you throughout your life, and not just when the oxygen masks come down on an airplane. It’s never been truer than in the times in which we’re currently living, when there are new things about which to worry seemingly daily.

How do you lead the way forward, helping yourself and others navigate through the tough times?

I’d like to suggest you heed this 3-Step Formula to nonprofit fundraising success.

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Giant gummy bear

The Giant Mid-Level Fundraising Opportunity Your Nonprofit’s Missing

Giant gummy bear escaping from smaller gummies

Bet you’ve got some giants hiding in your midst.

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to donor acquisition. Then?

They largely ignore these donors, unless…

They become worthy of attention by virtue of being ‘major’ donors. Then?

Nonprofits pay a lot of attention to major donor relationship building. But…

Between new donor acquisition and major donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship, what happens?

Usually not enough.

This is a BIG missed opportunity.

You’ve likely got great donor prospects hiding inside your own donor base, and you’re essentially treating them like, well, poop.

What if you were to begin to look at your mid-level donors as the transformational fundraising opportunity they are?

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Mythological Frieze

How to Overcome Nonprofit Fundraising Myths

Mythological FriezeIf you’re constantly encountering people on your staff or board who want to curtail your fundraising efforts, you’re not alone.

Generally, people hate fundraising. It’s an “F” word.

And folk can get creative telling you why it’s an “F” word; hence, something to be avoided.

Sigh…

I call these creative explanations, at best, half-truths.

“Beware of a half truth. It may be the wrong half.” – Danish proverb

I use this cautionary proverb a lot.

It fits a lot of circumstances. Half-truths, myths, “common wisdom,” and crowd-sourced beliefs all have the “ring” of truth; this ring, like all bells and whistles, can be distracting. Beware: the core of the matter can get overlooked and/or distorted.

What can you do to avoid basing your fundraising strategy on a lie?

How to Kill Persistent Fundraising Myths

I too often come across six fundraising myths – lies and half-truths — in my work with nonprofits. These myths exist because the word fundraising leads with “fund.” Fund means money.

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Expert Secrets; 80-20 Rule

3 Nonprofit Secrets to Rock Major Gift Fundraising

Expert Secrets; 80-20 RuleThere’s a treasure trove of knowledge and research around major gift fundraising. What works well.  What doesn’t work at all.  What’s, at best, half-baked.

It’s not rocket science.  But there’s definitely art, and some science, involved.

The gestalt way of thinking about the three secrets boils down to simply being:

(1) SMART,

(2) SYSTEMATIC and

(3) PASSIONATE.

But, I’m pretty pragmatic. So I’d like to give you something more practical.

If I had to pick the top three practical secrets to success, they would be the following:

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journey over rope bridge

6 Steps to Fuel Your Major Gift Journey

journey over rope bridgeThe major gift journey is a synergistic one. You see, it’s both your journey and your donor’s journey.

If you want to follow along the most direct pathway to sustainable philanthropy, you’ll want to consider the two-fold nature of the expeditious endeavor known as major gift fundraising. Or, as I prefer to call it, passionate philanthropy.

First understand it’s not just about the money;  it’s every bit as much about the experience.

Strive to become your donor’s favorite philanthropic journey guide.

If you do your job as guide well, they’ll find meaning, purpose and happiness being engaged with you.

  • If you make the experience a joyful one, your fellow traveler will become your donor.
  • If you continue to make the experience joyful, they’ll continue to travel the road with you by renewing and upgrading their support.

Major gift fundraisers, essentially, are in the happiness delivery business.

That’s right! It’s both  (1) a business, and (2) a donor journey toward joy.  You’ve got to treat it like a business if you want to make money. That means clarifying goals, setting specific objectives, planning strategies and tactics, and holding yourself accountable. Otherwise you’re just occasionally taking folks along for a stroll, without being thoughtful about what’s in it for both of you. And if you haven’t concretized what the benefits are, it’s hard to deliver on them!

Let’s take a look at the 6 steps you must take to build and sustain a winning major gifts program.

Expeditious Steps to Fuel Your Pathway to Passionate Philanthropy

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Cryptocurrency coins

Deep Dive into Cryptocurrency for Nonprofits

Cryptocurrency coinsI’m sure you’ve wondered about this: Should we be accepting cryptocurrency?

You may not want to be thinking about this.

But now that there are actual payment processing platforms (e.g., The Giving Block; engiven; Crypto for Charity by Freewill and Charitable Solutions, LLC) and at least two nonprofits serving as cryptocurrency wallets (every.org and givewell) dedicated to helping you with this, the time has come. [You can compare some of the platforms and wallets here; new ones are springing up.]

Opportunity is knocking. Will you open the door?

Changes in Major Gift Demographics

Here are some of the trends:

  • Dollars being given are moving from middle class to wealthy donors (especially from Boomers to Millennials).
  • Fewer donors are giving larger impact gifts. There’s a lot of money out there[1], and if your charity is savvy enough to attract it, you’ll likely find your donor distribution shifting. The Pareto 80-20 Principle is more 85/15, 90/10 or even 95/5.
  • More comes from appreciated assets than cash (stocks, bonds, land and cryptocurrency).
  • The availability of crypto for giving has spurred new waves of younger people to consider philanthropy.

Profile of Donors Holding Cryptocurrency

Of course, there’s no way to know for sure which of your donors hold crypto.  But we do know some things.

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Laptop, notebook, coffee

How to Write a Foolproof Nonprofit Grant Proposal

Too often grant proposals begin with some variation of “we want money because we’re a good cause and, since you’re good guys too, naturally this will be a match made in heaven.”

There’s nothing natural about this request.

In fact, it’s a version of “Alice in Wonderland Through the Looking Glass” thinking.

To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat speaking to Alice: If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

Or not.

In fact, Alice tells the Cat she just wants to get “somewhere.” Could this, perhaps, be like you just wanting to bring in ‘some’ money to balance your budget? Hmnn… The Cat tells Alice “Oh, you’re sure to do that. If you only walk long enough.

Guess what?

Most funders reading your proposal will not want to read long enough. In fact, if you’re not clear on your destination from the get-go, they’re likely to abandon you before you get there. If you get there. In other words, wherever you end up, you won’t arrive there together.

And that’s the point of a grant proposal, right?

You seek a partnership… a travelling companion… an investor who cares about the outcome.

Where you’re Going… How you’re Going There… and How Much it Will Cost

Right from the get-go, this is what funders need to hear from you.

No beating around the bush.

Get right to the point with the specifics.

If the funder must read through several paragraphs – or pages – before it’s clear how much money you’re requesting and what, specifically, you intend to use it for, they’ll be in a ticked-off frame of mind as they read your proposal.

Not good.

Get organized!

The 6-step formula I’m about to share is one I learned when I first entered this business decades ago.

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Major donor meeting

6 Strategies to Make a Powerfully Winning Major Donor Pitch that Gets Top Results

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?

Preparation 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 strategies 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 strategies I find perfectly aligned with what it takes to make a successful nonprofit ask. I’ve also suggested some action tips. 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!

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Interview exchange

How to Apply Job Interview Skills to Fundraising

When my daughter-in-law was interviewing for a job, she asked me for some advice. Here is what I found myself telling her:

Don’t focus on your needs. Focus on the employer’s needs.

Why are they hiring?

What problems do they need you to solve?

Which of your skills are they particularly looking for?

Can you describe to them how you might use these skills to help them?

Can you give a specific example, perhaps by telling a story, showing exactly how you’ll help them?

Are you clear what their values are?

CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOU AND YOUR WOULD-BE EMPLOYER (DONOR) SHARE THESE VALUES?

I realized this is the exact same advice I give to fundraisers!

Ask not what your donor can do for you, but what you can do for your donor.”

Meet your donors’ needs.

This is the heart of all effective fundraising, and the following should be your daily mantra.

Today I will meet my donor’s need by…

In fact, if you really want to become effective at your job, you will adopt this mantra for your interactions with co-workers as well.

Today I will meet my colleague’s need by…

This shift in your stance and approach may not seem like a lot, but it’s actually a game changer. By beginning with putting yourself in the shoes of another, you automatically open yourself to giving and receiving gifts.  And I often say if you want gifts you must give them.

Before you engage in any fundraising strategy, ask yourself:

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