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!


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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What’s In My Inbox | How to work your monthly giving program with an email campaign

September 25, 2019

Monthly giving is especially great for small nonprofit organizations. It provides reliable, recurring income, and monthly donors have upwards of 90% retention rates. But let’s get a few things straight. Monthly giving is not a simple “if you build it, they will come” option. And it’s so much more than a tick box on your […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | Can a card mailing exceed fundraising goals?

September 25, 2019

Can a simple card mailing exceed targets? Yes, when it’s part of a thoughtfully integrated campaign and includes a personal touch! And a Mother’s Day appeal that Intervale Center sent out earlier this year is a terrific example of this. Mandy Fischer (she/her/hers), Development and Special Projects Director at Intervale, had this to say about […]

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Sandy Hook Promise reveals a back-to-school take that’s nothing short of terrifying

September 19, 2019

The video, called “Back-To-School Essentials,” begins like a thousand other back-to-school commercials. It could be an advertisement for Kohl’s or Target or even Wal-mart. One by one, three kids excitedly show off their brand new school items. The perfect backpack. Colorful binders. Headphones perfect for studying. But around the 12-second mark, you notice that something […]

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Encouraging Electronic Funds Transfer for your monthly giving program: make it easy for your donor

September 18, 2019

When it comes to nonprofit fundraising, monthly giving packs a lot of power. Even for the smallest organizations, a monthly giving program makes sense. You should be not only discussing it, but doing it, and if you’re not yet doing it, you need to go forth and figure out how to make monthly giving happen at […]

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Building your organization’s culture of philanthropy: a tool

September 18, 2019

Culture of philanthropy. You’ve probably heard these three words before. We’ve discussed at length the critical importance of a culture of philanthropy to the success of your fundraising success. For a reminder of what a culture of philanthropy is and what it involves, these archive reads are definitely worth revisiting… Creating a Culture of Philanthropy […]

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Fundraising Friday | September 13, 2019

September 13, 2019

“10 Hour Bus Ride” is a short (60 second) video that packs a huge storytelling punch. A Power of Storytelling that will WOW you. A few weeks back I finally got to meet the famed @EphraimGopin when he passed through Philly. Ephraim was kind enough to share a direct mail appeal he did for a […]

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Filed under: the more things change, the more they stay the same

September 11, 2019

Just last week, in an article titled Five CEOs of Wealthy Foundations Pledge to Do More to Help Charities Pay Overhead, The Chronicle of Philanthropy giddily announced an effort in which five of the wealthiest foundations have joined forces to help their grantees pay their costs, including rent, decent wages, technology, and other overhead. To […]

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The Power of Storytelling | Females are strong as hell, and we want them for Congress!

September 11, 2019

Do you remember when we spotlighted MJ Hegar’s brilliant campaign ad, “Doors,” last summer? The video served as my introduction to the incomparable Hegar, an Airforce veteran, politician, businesswoman, teacher, mother, and certified female badass. Well, surely you remember the minute-long gem that is 10 Hour Bus Ride. We showcased it within this space just […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | A small, four year-old nonprofit shows you how to rock direct mail

September 4, 2019

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. In fact, I’ll even shout it from the rooftops… DIRECT MAIL IS NOT DEAD! In fact, it’s a necessary communications tool, especially if you’re a small shop fundraiser. And when you do direct mail the right way, it packs a lot of power. It has the […]

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The Power of Storytelling | Former female Marine’s campaign ad tells an emotional story through revealing the truth

September 2, 2019

Amy McGrath is a former Marine fighter pilot, US Naval Academy and John Hopkins alum, mother to three children, and all-around badass. In 2018, she ran for Kentucky’s 6th congressional district and narrowly lost to Republican incumbent Andy Barr. Now, McGrath is running for Senate, and she’s challenging Mitch McConnell. Her latest campaign ad, “10 […]

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Fundraising Friday | August 23, 2019

August 23, 2019

What’s one of the best systems your digital fundraising program can have? A welcome series for new donors, that’s what. Lessons from Motivate Monday with John Haydon. The second you hit “send” you see it — that glaring error. Relax. Here’s how you can make it right. This week’s What’s in my Inbox. Truth: What threatens daily wellbeing is NOT the same for everyone. This […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Yes, three simple words *can* still save your butt

August 21, 2019

We all know that sinking feeling. You hit send on an email and discover promptly after that you’ve made a typo. Or worse. Here’s the reality, though. I muck up. You muck up. We all muck up. It’s part of being human. Whoever you’ve emailed, whether it’s one person or a group, most likely understands. Deep […]

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The Power of Storytelling | Twitter storytelling that packs a colossal emotional punch

August 21, 2019

Kimberly Manning, MD, is someone I’ve followed on Twitter for a while now. Based in Atlanta, her Twitter bio is as follows: Doctor, mother, wife, blogger, writer, teacher, thinker, doer, believer, laugher, live-er, lover. All of the tweets that have been posted to her account are her own. A couple of days ago, she used her platform […]

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