Is your organization’s fundraising ready for for 2019?

For the past several years, we’ve been advising smart fundraisers to zero in on their individual giving program with a laser-like intensity. And despite the current political and fundraising climate — or perhaps especially because of the current climate — that’s still sound advice.

How will you be increasing fundraising revenue AND strengthening donor relationships in 2019? Make plans to:

1. Think in terms of your systems.

W. Edwards Deming said “Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your product and service, and that bring friends with them.”

Develop your rinse-and-repeat systems for growing individual giving. How are you transforming first-time donors into regular donors, as well as mid-level donors into major donors? What systems do you have in place to collect the stories that move your donors? How are you capturing your donors’ stories?

Think through every step of every process with the end in mind.

This isn’t the kind of thinking that will generate excitement at your next staff or board meeting. They’ll be more enthused about the latest bright shiny object. But systems thinking is the oftentimes critical missing piece in growing your donor base.

What are your organization’s processes for new donors, in-memoriam donors, Facebook fundraiser donors, monthly donors, etc.?

2. Create your monthly giving program — and most importantly, work it.

Remember, you won’t grow your program by merely including the option to give monthly online. Your organization’s monthly giving program isn’t an afterthought. Go through the process of developing your monthly giving case for support and create a named program. Review your donor data with an eye to loyalty and include at least one monthly giving appeal every year to your target audience.

3. Communicate consistently and well through all available (and suitable) channels.

Are you using text-messaging simply because you CAN? What is your end goal, and are you getting permission? Don’t abandon direct mail, particularly your print newsletters. As Lisa Sargent notes, “Print newsletters are your retention engines.” And, when done well, they perform as well (and in some cases, better) as an appeal.

Whatever you do, do not dump direct mail. Think multichannel. Online giving is growing but still, less than 10% of US charitable income is now raised online. One of our subscribers noted that the result of ditching direct mail in favor of digital three years ago was a loss of nearly two-thirds of their donor base! Tina Cincotti notes, “By receiving a letter and then giving online, that supporter has become worth more to you. Donors connected to you through multiple points give at least 20% more than donors connected through only one channel. They also have better conversion rates. And higher retention rates. So you’d best be fundraising both online and offline.”

4. Factor regular acquisition tactics,

such as Facebook fundraisers, small house parties, email list-building, direct mail acquisition, and crowdfunding, into your yearly fundraising planning. Keep it focused to one or three and you’ll see greater success.

5. Create your organization’s planned giving program and schedule in a legacy mailing every year.

As I speak daily with nonprofit organizations, one of my first questions is always “do you have a planned giving program?” Nine out of ten times the answer is no. Bequest giving accounted for 9% of all overall philanthropic giving in 2018, more than corporate funding. Even a tagline is better than nothing.

6. Know your data inside and out. 

Our students and clients are experiencing their greatest success through the power of increased donor segmentation. When it comes to your data, plan to dig deeper.

Segment, segment, and then segment some more. Click To Tweet

Who are your most loyal donors, and how are you rewarding them? When you’re making thank you calls, are you remembering to ask new donors what prompted their gift — and making a note of it? Are you utilizing only 10% of the capacity of your donor database (I’ve been guilty of this myself). Make it a point to schedule regular time for training on your CRM.

Twenty-four percent of nonprofit emails end up in spam folders. Keep your list clean. Quality trumps quantity. Use solid, permission-based marketing to grow your email list and never add names manually. Create your organization’s email welcome series. Implement a reactivation campaign once a year.

Embrace abundance and invest. Click To Tweet

7. Embrace abundance and invest.

It’s the truth: as a sector, we’re accustomed to dysfunction. We’ve gotten used to the squirrels and accustomed to a mentality of lack, rather than embracing the abundance that surrounds us. We create our year-end fundraising appeal letters using printers that routinely malfunction. We write using inefficient donated computers. We select our donor database based solely on price point. We love the thought of raising millions with our donor newsletters…until a discussion of printing and mailing costs comes up.

8. Lead with gratitude. 

When it comes to your fundraising systems, you’ll want to begin with stewardship, Create the systems to ensure that your thank you letters are out the door within 48 hours. Make gratitude a daily practice, whether by making daily thank you calls, or writing thank you notes, or a combination of both. Did you know it takes just 28 days to make a habit?

9. Love your donors.

Master the tenets of donor-centricity. Know that you’ll achieve your full fundraising potential once you recognize that your donors absolutely share your goal of wanting to create a positive difference in the world — and understand that your job is not to educate, but to delight and inspire.

10. Adopt a storytelling culture and create your storytelling systems.

Storytelling is the heart and soul of your fundraising. Yes, surprisingly, even for foundation grant seeking. Make it a practice to capture yours regularly.

What else will keep you grounded you in 2019?

Focus on employee retention. With all of the sector’s talk about donor retention, have we been ignoring a critical component (employee retention)? How on earth can we expect nonprofits to create lasting donor relationships when employee attrition is so high? Download Encouraging Longevity in Nonprofit Development to discover how other nonprofits are retaining staff.

Practice self-care like your life depends on it. You’re not a saint. How can you reasonably expect to do the critical work of saving the world if you’re not taking care of yourself? Take a cue from Beth Kanter and Aliza Sherman. The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit is a manifesto for a culture shift in the nonprofit sector, starting conversations about the importance of individual self-care and WE-care in the workplace.

Improve your mindset. It sounds trite, but it couldn’t be more true: the most important thing that you bring to the table in fundraising is your attitude. Plan on joining us every week for Motivate Monday, where fundraisers share their wins, gain a quick “Aha!” moment, and get motivated for the week ahead. Every Monday at 1:00 pm EST. Be there!
Invest in your systems. Invest in the Basics. Nonprofits are investing in the training needed to create their diversified fundraising program. And smart nonprofits are investing in Basics & More training, the only online fundraising training courses that encourage you to enroll your entire team.

Download your free calendar

Our 2019 Fundraising & Marketing calendar will start you off on the right foot. It’s jam-packed with useful tips, ideas that you can integrate into your work, ways that fundraisers just like you are loving their donors, important events that you won’t want to miss, and more.

Dive into 2019 right, and download your 2019 Fundraising and Marketing Calendar now!


What’s In My Inbox | Is this the best email thank you I’ve ever received?

May 16, 2019

Trócaire is the official overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Since 1973, they’ve supported vulnerable people in the developing world, while also raising awareness of global injustice and poverty in Ireland. A few days ago, I made a donation to this organization. In return, I received a thank you email that really spoke […]

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Power of Nonprofit Storytelling | Your grants won’t get far without this key element…

May 13, 2019

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to regularly review grant proposals from nonprofit organizations? I’ve been there. For nearly seven years, I worked in programming and communications for a major Philadelphia grantmaking foundation.  And what did I discover over the course of my tenure, after reading thousands of grant proposals? Well, you might be […]

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Fundraising Friday | May 10, 2019

May 10, 2019

If you haven’t seen it yet, this PSA from March for Our Lives is not to be missed. This week’s Power of Storytelling. How are you celebrating Mother’s Day? My mom’s getting the Zingerman’s Reuben Sandwich kit (she raved about it last time and Zingerman’s never disappoints). How is your organization celebrating? A few examples of Mother’s […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Mother’s Day is a day for celebrating moms *and* donors

May 8, 2019

We’ve talked about it time and time again: each and every day is an opportunity for you to communicate with your donors in a meaningful way. And if you start off with gratitude? It won’t steer you wrong. Need some inspiration? Download our 2019 Fundraising & Marketing Calendar. It includes all of the traditional holidays, […]

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Power of Storytelling | A compelling story drives March for Our Lives’ PSA home

May 7, 2019

If you’ve watched TV or used the internet, chances are, you’ve come across a Public Service Announcement or two. PSAs are tools intended to educate the public. These short, impactful videos cover a range of topics and aim to feature compelling content that resonates with audiences, and some have been very successful at doing what […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Preemptive Love shows you how to reach your audience

May 2, 2019

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Lessons From Motivate Monday | Mobile bidding, yay or nay? Sherry Truhlar shows us the way…

April 30, 2019

In the age of the internet, we have this idea that online works better for accomplishing what we want. It’s quicker, it’s easier, and it gets things done. When it comes to silent auctions, it’s easy to understand why so many nonprofits would be drawn to mobile bidding. We’ve become so used to doing things […]

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Fundraising Friday | April 26, 2019

April 26, 2019

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve landed in the *perfect* fundraising job, only to learn within the first few weeks… you’re the fifth development director in three years the organization you’re working for is running nine events a year with no end in sight your organization has let their database contract lapse and is keeping […]

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Power of Storytelling | Philly’s story, told through a captivating photo display

April 24, 2019

Guest Post by Samantha Lynn Philadelphia Magazine, also known as Phillymag, is one of the oldest regional magazines in the United States. This monthly magazine has hooked audiences since its inception in 1908. The publication has also won multiple national awards over the course of its life. Topics covered include dining, entertainment, special events, politics, […]

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Interview Questions for Development Director Candidates

April 23, 2019

It’s happened again. You’re only three weeks into your dream development director job when you discover that you’re expected to be some sort of miracle worker — with little to no support. You’ve learned that… you’re the fifth development director in three years the organization you’re working for is running nine events a year with […]

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Fundraising Friday | April 19, 2019

April 19, 2019

We talk (a lot!) about the Simple Development Systems’ model of Ask, Thank, Report, and Repeat. But what’s missing from the equation? Engagement and feedback, of course! Check out this oh-so-unique and wonderful engagement strategy from presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg in this week’s What’s in my Inbox. US bequest giving far lags far behind the UK and Australia. But […]

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What’s In My Inbox | A political trailblazer works non-financial engagement like a pro

April 16, 2019

We’ve talked about non-financial engagement before, and why it’s so important. You know your donors are unique individuals with a variety of personalities, ticks, and reasons for giving. You also know your relationships aren’t all about the money. They’re about so much more than that. You want to let your supporters know that you care, […]

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Fundraising Friday | April 12, 2019

April 12, 2019

Is your nonprofit fully compliant? Through Lessons from Motivate Monday, and with the expert help of Brock Klinger, you’ll discover what you really need to know (and have the opportunity to sign up for a free webinar!). How are you making your donors feel? And how often? Take a cue from Mike Dooley’s Notes from […]

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Motivate Monday | What does your nonprofit need to be compliant?

April 8, 2019

What does your nonprofit need to be compliant in the eyes of the law? Last year, when Brock Klinger, Account Executive and Team Leader over at Harbor Compliance, joined us for a Motivate Monday session. Harbor Compliance provides the tools that organizations need to manage their compliance. Brock has experience working with organizations to ensure […]

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Fundraising Friday | April 5, 2019

April 5, 2019

How are you bringing your organization’s founding story to life? Here’s a stellar example from The Andrew Goodman Foundation. This week’s Power of Storytelling. Can a deodorant company’s story warm your heart? Surprisingly yes! Check out this story in this week’s What’s in My Inbox. And, if you’re looking for an aluminum free deodorant that […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Long live Lume: how deodorant company’s story warmed my heart!

April 3, 2019

I recently purchased Lume deodorant online after hearing good things about it (including that it’s aluminum-free). Now I’m on their email list and I loved this recent story they shared. Yes, a deodorant company shared a great story. Not only was the content great, but the way they shared it — from email to blog — […]

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Power of Storytelling | AGF brings their founding story to life

April 2, 2019

The Andrew Goodman Foundation is dedicated to empowering young people within the space of politics. The foundation encourages young people to use their voice and exercise their right to vote. AGF’s work is important and urgent, especially here and now, and especially for ensuring a democracy. Active participation and engagement is a great way to […]

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Power of Storytelling | Yes, it’s really Elizabeth Warren…with a lesson in gratitude!

March 26, 2019

Elizabeth Warren is fiercely blazing the campaign trails. And right now, she’s here to teach you an important lesson: Your best starting point is always gratitude. This recent video clip she released, which is just under five minutes long, made my heart sing. You must check it out, no matter how you feel about her […]

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Fundraising Friday | March 22, 2019

March 22, 2019

Do foundation reviewers’ eyes glaze over while they’re reading your latest grant proposal? What can a theoretical physicist teach you about…grant proposal writing? You might be surprised. This week’s Power of Storytelling. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has come up with a fun way to attract donors. This week’s What’s in my Inbox. Your monthly giving […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | From first gift, to lifetime…AGF’s letter shows you how!

March 21, 2019

Last year, The Andrew Goodman Foundation participated in our Basics & More All Access Ticket, and judging by their current communications, they’re still putting the lessons to great use in 2019. AGF’s mission is to empower young people by encouraging political participation. They’ve helped make young voices and votes a powerful force in our democracy, […]

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