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!


Fundraising Friday | August 16, 2019

August 16, 2019

Planning on doing a monthly giving email ask? See how one of my favorite organizations did it in this week’s What’s in My Inbox. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a shocking 51% of Fundraisers Plan to Leave Their Jobs by 2021. Why does it matter and how can you keep them? Download Encouraging Longevity in […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Preemptive Love shows how to do a monthly giving email ask

August 14, 2019

I first became aware of Preemptive Love Coalition when one of my Basics & More students told me that she was impressed by the thank you that she received after she made a donation. PLC’s mission is to provide safety to families who are trying to escape violence. They help them reclaim home and rebuild […]

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Fundraising Friday | August 9, 2019

August 9, 2019

When Palmetto Animal League ran their matching gift campaign, they were disappointed. They only raised roughly $3500 of a $10,000 match. But look what happened this year when they implemented a few simple tweaks (including incorporating the power of direct mail)! Analysis paralysis is a real thing. And, in fundraising, there’s power, real power, in […]

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[CASE STUDY] Palmetto Animal League’s Matching Gift Campaign sees a 220% increase

August 6, 2019

Located in South Carolina, Palmetto Animal League (PAL) is a key player in the no-kill animal movement. This Ridgeland-based nonprofit is an animal rescue organization dedicated to saving the lives of neglected and abused animals. Their facility includes a community clinic, adoption center (which serves as PAL’s headquarters), and thrift store. PAL facilitates fostering and […]

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Fundraising Friday | August 2, 2019

August 2, 2019

Is Ritchie Torres exactly who New York needs right now? We think so! This week’s Power of Storytelling with an inspiring video. There is an “art” form to creating an effective direct mail fundraising appeal. See how an ask from my local art center fell terribly flat in this week’s What’s in my Mailbox. Do you ever wonder […]

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Power of Storytelling | Ritchie Torres is exactly who New York needs right now

July 31, 2019

It’s often said that New York is the tale of two cities. There’s the gilded city, and then there’s the other city.  -Ritchie Torres Ritchie Torres is the youngest elected official in New York. He became a member of the New York City Council in 2013, when he was just 25 years old. Two weeks […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | Your fundraising “appeal” from a donor’s perspective

July 31, 2019

Imagine it for a moment…  Your organization’s fundraising appeal lands in your donor’s (or prospective donor’s) mailbox. She’s had a busy day and she’s looking forward to kicking back and putting her feet up. You have but a few short moments to get her attention (I always envision my prospect sorting their mail over the […]

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Fundraising Friday | July 26, 2019

July 25, 2019

Where do you start when it comes to creating your most essential communication pieces? It’s easier and more basic than you might think. These seven communication pieces are critical to your nonprofit’s growth. Lately, I’m noticing a disconcerting trend on nonprofit donation pages. The ask string starts at a very high figure (I recently noted […]

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Seven communication pieces every nonprofit needs

July 24, 2019

You’re busy! At any time of the day, you’re working on developing moves management processes, entering data into Quickbooks, launching an endowment campaign, scheduling “friendraiser” events, putting the final touch on next week’s gala, getting a “massive number of grants” submitted, starting your monthly giving program, building the infrastructure of your development office, working on […]

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Fundraising Friday | July 19, 2019

July 19, 2019

How are you letting your supporters know that they’re valuable partners and giving them the tools they need to take action? Anchorage-based nonprofit Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis in this week’s What’s in my Inbox. How can small shops use the power of personal to set their organizations apart from the pack? Here’s how! Are you missing important donors? Probably! New from […]

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The Power of Personal for Small Shop Fundraisers

July 17, 2019

There are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States. Some of the bigger nonprofits have nationwide (and global) appeal. Their names and brands are instantly recognizable to the masses. UNICEF. Big Brothers & Big Sisters of America. St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Smaller nonprofits can often feel like little fish in a big ocean. […]

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What’s In My Inbox | AWAIC knows “we” can light the way through the dark…together

July 17, 2019

Anchorage-based nonprofit Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) is the largest safe shelter in Alaska, and their mission is to help women who are facing domestic violence. Through intervention and prevention programs, they attempt to save women and their families from the ongoing cycle of violence. The work that they do isn’t just life-changing, it’s […]

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Fundraising Friday | July 12, 2019

July 12, 2019

Each donor is different. How can you use data to show all your donors love, while still being strategic? During a Motivate Monday from earlier this year, T. Clay Buck, CFRE, joined us to present Focus on What Matters (A data-inspired look at setting fundraising priorities), where he provided some insight on data, an invaluable […]

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Lessons From Motivate Monday | Focus on What Matters (A data-inspired look at setting fundraising priorities)

July 10, 2019

Each donor is different. How can you use data to show all your donors love, while still being strategic? During a Motivate Monday from earlier this year, T. Clay Buck, CFRE, joined us to present Focus on What Matters (A data-inspired look at setting fundraising priorities), where he provided some insight on data, an invaluable […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Heifer nails interactive, humorous fun in fundraising!

July 3, 2019

I’ve spotlighted nonprofit communications from Heifer International before, and I often discover great pieces from them via email. Based in Little Rock, Arkansas and founded in 1944, this global nonprofit is dedicated to ending hunger and poverty. Heifer’s solutions are rooted in sustainability, social principals and values, and transforming communities. Teaching communities education and self-sufficiency are […]

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Fundraising Friday | June 28, 2019

June 28, 2019

The latest GivingUSA report is out and the news ain’t good. How will smart fundraisers cope? We’ve got a class for that! Giving USA 2019 | How to fundraise smarter, not harder. We see our students experience their biggest fundraising campaign success through the power of multichannel. But how can you compete with the big […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | Ten Oaks goes multichannel with blazing success

June 26, 2019

You create intentional magic. I received an email from Ten Oaks Project in my inbox yesterday. Those four words served as the email header, and they were followed by (punctuated with) a rainbow. A symbolic reminder of June being Pride Month, as well as the very special work TOP does for the 2SLGBTQ+ (two-spirit, lesbian, […]

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Giving USA 2019 | How to fundraise smarter, not harder

June 26, 2019

It’s out. Giving USA has released its annual report highlighting the state of American philanthropy. And the news ain’t good. Giving overall declined by 1.7%. Some other key highlights include: Total giving was virtually flat compared to the preceding year Giving by foundations and corporations saw healthy growth Bequests were flat, and Contributions from individuals […]

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OrangeTheory musings that actually relate to your fundraising right now

June 26, 2019

These days, every Tuesday and Thursday morning, you’ll find me in the middle of an OrangeTheory class. I’ve been curious about the workout that’s taking the country by storm ever since a friend of mine used it to get in shape for her wedding (and did she ever!).  My usual workouts hadn’t been cutting it […]

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Could This Be Your Organization’s Fundraising GPS?

June 26, 2019

As a kid during the heyday of the American road trip, it helped to have two parents who each knew their way around a map. For my mom and dad, navigating the 50 states by maps came instinctively to them. I don’t remember ever once getting lost, though my mom did have to occasionally nudge […]

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