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 advertising, 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 ultimately 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. How are you making your donors feel?

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!


Power of Storytelling | RAINN, with one of our most powerful storytelling examples to date

December 5, 2019

Chances are, you’ve heard of RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) before. Founded in the mid-90s, this nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization is the largest in the United States. They’re dedicated to preventing sexual assault and providing resources to help victims. In addition to operating the National Sexual Assault Hotline and The Department of Defense […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Elizabeth Warren keeps her messages real, warm, and…furry?!

December 4, 2019

You may already have an idea of how Elizabeth Warren communicates with her supporters. We’ve posted about it in this space before. Whether she’s taking time out of her busy schedule to call donors who’ve given “just $5,” or showing off pictures of her pup, Bailey, Elizabeth consistently keeps it real, and we love her […]

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Building trust for your nonprofit

December 3, 2019

Just as it seems that every institution we’ve held dear over the years is crumbling, The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported that, according to a survey by the Better Business Bureau, “only 19 percent of people highly trust charities.” Declining trust in the nonprofit sector has been a trend for a while. In a post […]

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The 2019 Biscuit Tragedy: What My First World Problem Says About Your Fundraising!

November 21, 2019

Has it happened to you, too? You’ve been looking forward to something for ages. Maybe a special night out, or a vacation, or seeing that show you got tickets for last year. And then the actual moment arrives and… It’s disappointing. It doesn’t match up with your anticipation. Or, worse, it doesn’t happen at all. […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | The Post-it Note…Revisited

November 20, 2019

Many moons ago, I wrote a blog post about the possibilities of the humble Post-It note. Also known as Post-its and sticky notes, chances are, you’ve seen this small piece of paper with an adhesive strip on the back many a time. Created especially for attaching notes to documents and other surfaces, their little adhesive […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Oxfam’s matching gift campaign for World Toilet Day is serious business

November 20, 2019

Happy World Toilet Day! November 19th marks this little known holiday, which is an official United Nations international observance day. On its face, the idea of World Toilet Day sounds strange. Why are toilets worth celebrating? Well, you might not think of toilets as serious business, but they are. Especially to those who live in […]

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Fundraising Friday | November 15, 2019

November 15, 2019

The Agitator’s Nick Ellinger has a new book out! Read my review to learn why it should be on every fundraiser’s bookshelf. “Nearly 59 percent of nonprofits said live events are critical for attracting new donors, but just 18 percent of donors said they’ve learned about a charity through a live event.” Guess what? Nonprofit Communications Don’t Resonate With […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Intervale’s warm-up email keeps gratitude front and center

November 13, 2019

Pre-suasion is a method of priming an audience to receive your message more openly. It’s a powerful tool, and one that must be used in an ethical and just manner. -Robert Cialdini Brady Josephson, Vice President of Innovation & Optimization at nonprofit digital fundraising resource NextAfter, notes that communicating with your donors prior to an […]

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I put out a Twitter call for best thank you video. This one is gratitude gold.

November 6, 2019

Recently I put out a Twitter call, asking followers to pass on the best thank you video they’ve ever seen. Emma Jenkin, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at University of Toronto Schools, was one of the people who reached out, and I’m glad that she did. The video she sent clocks in at just over one […]

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13 Ways to Write Better Fundraising Asks

November 6, 2019

No one sets out to write crap. But when you’re only six weeks into your new fundraising job and your boss suddenly assigns you the task of writing your organization’s year-end fundraising appeal, due tomorrow, what the heck are you going do? Instead of copying and pasting last year’s letter, how about you carve out […]

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Want to fundraise big? Then Nick Ellinger’s book is what you need during these tough times…

October 31, 2019

Like Roger Craver says in his foreword, The New Nonprofit by Nick Ellinger “could scarcely be more timely.” You probably already know this, but it bears repeating: as time goes on, fundraising is not going to get any easier. If we want to face this reality head-on, then we need to figure out new ways […]

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Is your EOY Strategy Ready? Download Your Free End-of-Year Fundraising Checklist Now!

October 30, 2019

The year-end fundraising season is upon us! And, while our students and clients started on their year-end campaigns in August and September, there’s still time for you to rock EOY! According to NEON CRM: 12% of all giving happens in the last three days of the year Nearly one-third of all annual giving occurs in […]

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Fundraising Friday | October 25, 2019

October 25, 2019

Fundraising & Communications We all know this simple truth: it takes money to make money. Yet getting your board to invest in fundraising and donor care can be next to impossible. Here’s how to make your case — for your budget. With the retention rate for monthly donors running at 90% and up, establishing your […]

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Lessons from Motivate Monday | How easy are you making it for your donors to give?

October 16, 2019

Did you know that 83% of people who land on your main donation page won’t end up making a donation? Luckily, with a few surprisingly simple tweaks, you can turn this sad number around. Does your online donation form make it easy for your donors to give? During a Motivate Monday session late last month, Abby Jarvis, […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | How are you upgrading your monthly donors?

October 16, 2019

With retention rate for monthly donors running at 90% and up, establishing a solid monthly giving program makes sense. But many organizations take a set-it-and-forget-it approach. For monthly giving to work, you still need to communicate consistently, continue to ask, and upgrade. I recently received a mailing from Southern Poverty Law Center, and it is […]

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You won’t survive without a compelling case…but how are you making your case for funding to your board?

October 15, 2019

I was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  Eight weeks into my first job as a development director, I was about to present before my organization’s board on our annual campaign. For the past five years, their appeal had gone downhill, losing dollars and donors. The mailings had been […]

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What’s In My Inbox | CFES’s sticker campaign to win mailing addresses

October 2, 2019

Every American citizen over the age of 18 deserves the right to vote. In this day and age, voting is often viewed as a civic duty rooted in personal responsibility. To vote is to participate in the political processes that shape our lives. To vote is to use our voices. But because of voter suppression […]

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Power of Storytelling | World Vision’s new child sponsorship program is so perfect for right now

October 2, 2019

World Vision is a global humanitarian organization founded in 1950. Through their wonderful work, they show love to the poor and oppressed and serve every child they can. World Vision is engaged in the sustainable development of poor communities. They provide emergency relief in times of conflict and disaster. They raise public awareness that leads […]

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Fundraising Friday | September 27, 2019

September 27, 2019

Is today’s fundraising climate more complex than ever? Are trends like challenge proliferation, generational change, culture wars, tax law changes and more giving us more than we can handle? In Lessons from Motivate Monday, “fundraising heretic” Mark Rovner of Sea Change Strategies joins us to show how leaders can develop the skills to thrive in an increasingly complex environment. You’ll want […]

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Lessons from Motivate Monday | What is Complexity and Why Should I Care?

September 26, 2019

Is today’s fundraising climate more overwhelming than ever? Could it be that it’s also always been more unpredictable than we’ve imagined and that the very nature of fundraising makes this so? In this Motivate Monday session, “fundraising heretic” Mark Rovner of Sea Change Strategies joins us with his presentation, “What is Complexity and Why Should I […]

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