Are we living the new normal?

First, a pandemic and too many nonprofits left scrambling, trying to pick up the pieces. Wondering how they were going to replace the $600k their spring gala typically raises. Often left afraid to fundraise, and disempowered by well-meaning boards and directors. And now an invasion of idiocracy that knows no bounds and the changing landscape of fundraising and the nonprofit sector.

But the good news is, when it comes to individual fundraising, we’ve got the data and we know what works.

The better news is, donors stepped up. Big time.

Thanks to the disruptions of the past three years, we know what works. Even in times of crisis.

The best news of all? When you implement what works, your donors will always come through for you. After all, they love you and want to see you succeed.

As we move into 2023, know that, while digital fundraising will continue to grow, in the end, relationships matter most. Keeping on top of the basics, with an awareness of the trends that matter most will keep you continue to serve you best.

Here are my predictions — as well as several trusted colleagues — on what will serve nonprofits in 2023:

Focus on Individual Giving

Individual donors continue to make up close to 80% of all philanthropic giving.

Begin with an understanding of the fundamentals of permission-based marketing. No, you cannot “force” offline donors to give online. “Subscribe to our Enewsletter” is not a compelling reason for someone to give you their email address.

As Beth Ann Locke notes, “donors remain eager to give to solve problems, lend a hand, and create lasting change. The fundraiser must tell the story, involve, ASK + report. That creates relationships + life-long givers. Or they give elsewhere.”

Communicate better, and more frequently. Make a plan for how you’ll be engaging and attracting more diverse donors in 2022. Of all racial or ethnic groups’ giving, black families have contributed the largest proportion of their wealth.

Your Plan and Case for Support

Your fundraising plan and case for support is more important than ever before. T. Clay Buck said it best.

“Your fundraising plan is your commitment to your organization, your community, & your donors on how you’ll fulfill mission.” Click To Tweet

Your emotional case for support drives all donor communications, from grant proposals to web copy to fundraising appeals.

Stewardship is Key

Make 2023 the year of stewardship. Do what we’ve been recommending for decades and make a daily habit of calling one donor. Just to say thank you. 

Copywriter Julie Cooper recommends re-writing your thank you letters.

Make your donors feel they’re part of a community.

The Basics. Implemented Well

Our subscribers and students with strong “Ask/Thank/Report” systems in place not only weathered the past two years, but their fundraising also thrived!“Your lovely donors want to help make the world a better place. Give them plenty of opportunities.” @DenisaCasement Click To Tweet

Continuing Education

Understand Your Donor’s Big WHY

All donors are not created equal and capacity does not equal commitment.

In 2023, make a point of knowing why your donor gives. Ryan Levesque, author of Ask: The Counterintuitive Online Formula to Discover Exactly What Your Customers Want to Buy…Create a Mass of Raving Fans…and Take Any Business to the Next Level, notes that “the right way to use surveys is counterintuitive.” Raise More Money with Your Donor Surveys from Basics & More provides fundraisers with the right way to implement a supporter survey. And it includes ways you can engage and create feedback opportunities throughout the year.

Your Organizational Culture

An inclusive culture is made not born. Incorporate a plan for your culture into your fundraising plan and implement it.


If you’re a one-person shop, consider engaging the services of a grant professional so you can focus on growing individual giving. If you don’t believe you have the funds to hire a grant professional, develop a strong case for general operating support and put your focus on unreserved funding.

Planned Giving

Roughly 5% of people leave a gift to a nonprofit in their will, but research shows that up 33% would consider leaving a gift if they were properly asked.

No time for creating a planned giving program in 2022? Create your organization’s tagline and ensure that every staff member and board member use it.

For Small Nonprofits, Outsourcing Rules

Small to mid-sized nonprofits: rather than hiring your fifth development director in five years, consider outsourcing your creative and/or grants, freeing up your fundraiser’s time for growing relationships. A good consultant can build your Ask+Thank+Report+Repeat systems, allowing your staff the time for stewardship and data.

Keep Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

My last piece of advice comes by way of Grow Report subscriber, Jennifer Janus:

“My win this month is more of: I’m managing to keep showing up one day at a time without losing my shizzle kind of win right now. I have three kids, two of them twin boys who are on the cusp of driving themselves places but for now I am the primary chauffeur, and my work is about to start a new $3 million capital campaign and I am feeling really burned out and exhausted. So my win is that I keep coming back and most days have a relatively positive outlook. People are so amazing — they just need to be cared for and told they’re good! So that belief sustains me! That, and faith that things will get better even when they feel rough.”

Lastly, download your own 2023 Fundraising & Marketing Calendar for monthly reminders of what’s working now.

(You’ll also receive your personal subscription to The Grow Report, the weekly newsletter for smart nonprofit professionals like you.)

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

The Best COVID-19 Resources for Donor-Centered Nonprofits

March 25, 2020

This page is updated regularly to include new resources. If you have a resource that you’ve found helpful, please email me at General Nonprofits and the CARE Act | A Motivate Monday Webinar (direct link) Facebook: COVID 19 Charity Preparedness Group: A private Facebook group of nonprofit organizations around the world Covid-19 Nonprofit & […]

Read the full article →

5 Tips for Recruiting More Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers

May 25, 2023

Whether you’re planning a 5k fundraiser, dance-a-thon, or social media campaign, you know a lot goes into preparing for a peer-to-peer fundraising initiative. You may have to secure an event venue, recruit sponsors, and spin up a marketing strategy.  But one of the most challenging aspects of peer-to-peer event planning is recruiting supporters who will […]

Read the full article →

What’s in My Inbox | Every Day’s a Reason to Celebrate: Leveraging Holidays for Nonprofit Marketing

May 10, 2023

When it comes to marketing, holidays have long been recognized as powerful tools for for-profit businesses to engage with their target audience. Holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Halloween offer excellent opportunities for building comprehensive marketing campaigns that appeal to a broad audience. Nonprofits can also leverage the spirit of holidays to effectively engage their supporters […]

Read the full article →

The Numbers Are in and They Ain’t Good. Will Nonprofits Continue to Turn a Blind Eye?

April 29, 2023

The latest numbers are out and it’s not looking good. According to the latest data from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, nonprofits continue to face a concerning decline in donors and donations. Their latest report showed the number of donors dropping by full 10% in 2022. And new donor contributions decreased by 8.7% overall. Nonprofits struggled […]

Read the full article →

Power of Nonprofit Storytelling | The Power of Emotion in This Super Bowl Ad

April 5, 2023

The winner in this year’s Super Bowl Commercial contest? Hands down it was The Farmer’s Dog’s ad. If you’re a dog owner, you know. You want them to live forever. To provide their unconditional love. Forever. The commercial “tells the story of a human, Ava, and her Labrador retriever, Bear, as they grow up. In […]

Read the full article →

How to Make a Graceful Exit from Your Nonprofit Job

March 1, 2023

If you’re considering quitting your nonprofit job, you’re not alone. GiveButter reported that burnout is affecting more than half of all nonprofit employees. And a recent study found that the average tenure for new development directors was roughly 16 months. There’s nothing better than finding the right fit for you. Some of my favorite readers […]

Read the full article →

Make it Monthly! | The Key to Building a Robust Monthly Giving Program

February 15, 2023

Monthly giving programs are crucial for nonprofit organizations to establish a reliable, consistent revenue stream. They provide predictable cash flow that helps with budgeting and planning for the future. And these programs also offer an opportunity to enhance donor retention, as they encourage long-term investment in the organization’s mission and programs, creating a more engaged […]

Read the full article →

What’s in My Inbox | How are you celebrating your donors on Valentine’s Day?

February 14, 2023

Valentine’s Day. Over the years, February 14th has become a cultural and commercial celebration of romance and love throughout the world. Valentine’s Day is also the ideal day to celebrate your donors. See how these nonprofits have remembered their donors: Palmetto Animal League Who could resist opening an email with the subject line “Handsome Hunk Seeks Soulmate?” […]

Read the full article →

Lessons From MotivateMonday | The Secrets Behind the Best Nonprofit Development Plan

January 22, 2023

Did you know that the odds of increased revenue are 148% higher when your nonprofit has a written plan in place? Nothing will get you further faster than making a plan. Unless it’s implementing that plan! In this MotivateMonday session from January 16, Fundraiser extraordinaire, T. Clay Buck, CFRE led us through the eye-opening session, […]

Read the full article →

What’s in My Inbox | We don’t need more AI. We need more human.

January 3, 2023

The other day I saw a video about an AI app that writes fundraising letters for you. How cool. Can you believe it? Sad to say, the app appeared to feature letters cribbed from a godawful book I remember from the 90s, “101 Fundraising Letters.” Or something like that. It was left behind on a […]

Read the full article →

What’s in My Mailbox | Dr. Suess says “Thank You!”

December 14, 2022

Long-time reader Cindy Timmerman is in a very special fundraising league. She not only makes the time to learn, but she also does the work. And then she goes forth and implements! Who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas? Answering a call for great donor stewardship, Cindy, who is the Development Manager […]

Read the full article →

Lessons from MotivateMonday | Why is Understanding Email Trends Important?

December 14, 2022

Tim Sarrantonio is a lauded and engaging presenter at too many conferences to name, a Fundraising Effectiveness Project Steering Committee Member, the Director of Corporate Brand at NEON One — and one of my audience’s favorite MotivateMonday guests. He also loves data. And Tim was back this past Monday to share some of the most […]

Read the full article →

Lessons from MotivateMonday | 5 Things You Can Do to Start the New Year Strong

December 1, 2022

We’re winding down the year. Hopefully, you have all your plans completed between now and the end of the year. But, what do you do when the holiday’s are over? In this week’s MotivateMonday, Jeff Schreifels, Principal of the Veritus Group, shared five tips that as a fundraiser will help you start your new year strong. […]

Read the full article →

Lessons from MotivateMonday | 16 Last Minute #GivingTuesday Tips

November 27, 2022

It’s the day before #GivingTuesday. Have you done everything you could possibly do to maximize impact on the biggest giving day of the year? Carve out 30 minutes to watch 16 Last Minute #GivingTuesday Tips featuring one of the US’ leading digital fundraisers, and author of the guide for small nonprofits, The Digital Fundraising Blueprint: How to […]

Read the full article →

Lessons From MotivateMonday | Does a development plan lead to fundraising success?

November 9, 2022

Does a development plan lead to fundraising success? That was the question Barbara O’Reilly wanted answered. So, together with Dr. Adrian Sargeant and The Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, they embarked on the first study of its kind to examine just how fundraising planning is undertaken — and what the impact on revenue raised really is. […]

Read the full article →

Lessons from MotivateMonday | Changing the Racial Composition and Culture of Your Board with Christal Cherry

October 26, 2022

When you reflect back on the best board you ever worked with, what comes to mind? Of course, boards are wonderful. They’re a group of people who are giving unselfishly of their time and talents. But we all know how frustrating boards can be. So when I think back to the most effective — and, […]

Read the full article →

What’s in My Inbox | Anatomy of the “perfect” email ask

October 25, 2022

Your donors, like you, are under many pressures from a rapidly changing world. How do you capture their attention in the almost grotesque distraction of the online space? “We’ve had enough.” Hey, haven’t we all? This subject line made me pause…and open. And when I did, I read an email that simply and powerfully made […]

Read the full article →

Nonprofit Financial Statements: An Overview + Top Insights

October 19, 2022

Accounting can vary widely based on industry, and nonprofit accounting is one of the most unique approaches to the subject. Instead of focusing on generating a profit for the organization, the core of nonprofit accounting is accountability toward supporters and toward the mission. Nonprofits track the amount of funding allocated to different programs, projects, and […]

Read the full article →

Lessons from MotivateMonday | Are You Forgetting the Most Important Piece of Your EOY Campaign?

October 11, 2022

  In the nonprofit sector, we talk (a lot) about how to write an effective fundraising appeal letter. We even talk (not enough) about how to design a pack that gets your envelope opened, gets read, and gets responded to. But what’s missing in this equation? Exactly WHO is reading your letter? When you’re sending […]

Read the full article →

What’s In My Inbox | How One Nonprofit’s Newsletter Gets a 51% Open Rate

October 10, 2022

This isn’t the first time that I’ve featured the weekly newsletter from the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection in What’s In My Inbox — and it probably won’t be the last. Take a look at the Coalition’s homespun weekly email and see exactly how it quite perfectly embraces best practices in nonprofit email marketing and […]

Read the full article →

8 Fundraising Best Practices to Boost Donor Engagement

October 5, 2022

As a nonprofit, your fundraising approach has to be as airtight as possible in order to stay afloat. If you want to take it a step further and really soar, you have to dazzle your audiences with your programs and offerings, but every nonprofit is doing that. So, what will set you apart from your […]

Read the full article →