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 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 | June 21, 2019

June 21, 2019

Cat butt art is a thing? Well, yes, if you’re Galveston Arts Center. See how Galveston Arts Center brings humor to their social media updates. PFLAG is working to make sure that all people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer are not only valued by society, but take pride in and value themselves. […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Galveston Arts Center brings humor to their social media updates

June 19, 2019

If you find cat butts offensive, then you should probably stop reading now. Galveston Arts Center, a Texas-based nonprofit, works to make visual art accessible to the general public. Through exhibitions and educational programming, GAC creates spaces where people can take time to enjoy and engage with art. They’re bringing art to the community, and […]

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The Power of Nonprofit Storytelling | PFLAG celebrates Pride Month through emotional storytelling

June 19, 2019

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re well aware that this month (June) is Pride Month. We’re all about celebrating it, but when it comes to spotlighting this phenomenal LGTBQ+ viral video sensation making the rounds, we’re slightly late to the party. For Pride Month, Verizon has partnered up with nonprofit organization PFLAG to bring […]

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Fundraising Friday | June 14, 2019

June 13, 2019

Toronto Wildlife Centre, a Basics & More alum, does social media storytelling right. This week’s Power of Storytelling. Tests consistently reveal this simple truth: enewsletters will never generate the kind of revenue that print does. What’s in My Mailbox. My eyes actually HURT this morning trying to read your reverse type email. Here’s the science […]

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The Power of Storytelling | TWC rocks their social media with great stories

June 11, 2019

Toronto Wildlife Centre is dedicated to building a healthy community where humans and wildlife can peacefully coexist. In addition to providing medical care to injured and sick animals and releasing them back into the wild, TWC also offers wildlife education and advice to the public. From their hotline and hospital to their many volunteering opportunities, […]

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Fundraising Friday | June 7, 2019

June 7, 2019

How can you write to your donor in a way that makes it personal and real? Download our free Donor Persona worksheet and give your fundraising appeals the personal touch.  Guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Don’t miss this fun and fabulous video from Basics & More Alum, Julie Edwards and HSNEG. What […]

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What’s In My Inbox | HSNEGA balances hilarity and heart for #AdoptaShelterCat month

June 5, 2019

In our What’s In My Inbox feature, we like to highlight all sorts of ways nonprofits communicate with their donors, including through digital. The Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, a Basics & More™ Alum, knows how to work their social media spaces because they understand how vital these platforms are as communication tools. As a result, […]

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Fundraising Friday | May 31, 2019

May 31, 2019

Fraser Green’s “You Can’t Take It With You” is the legacy giving guide you need right now. Want to learn more about starting your planned giving program? Plan to join us for next week’s Motivate Monday session.  What is your storytelling missing? On Storytelling – The Good, The Bad, The Meh, Whatever. New from T. Clay Buck.  Are you in the middle of nonprofit founder’s syndrome? Rachel […]

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“You Can’t Take It With You” is the legacy giving guide you need right now

May 29, 2019

You are going to see yourself in this book. Those words appeared within the first few pages of the foreword of You Can’t Take It With You, the latest book from the fundraising team at Good Works. Right away, I understood this idea not so much as an expectation, but as a promise. For a while […]

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Fundraising Friday | May 24, 2019

May 24, 2019

Are you doing digital right? Takeaways for the small nonprofit from M+R Benchmarks.  How long should your fundraising appeal letter be? This week’s Power of Storytelling comes with a free downloadable storytelling exercise.  Do your board members say they’ll do anything but fundraise? Grab your free downloadable fundraising menu and relax!  The Power of Savvy […]

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Are you doing digital right? Takeaways for the small nonprofit from M+R Benchmarks

May 22, 2019

When this email landed in my inbox recently, I almost cried… “Does anyone else ever feel like they’re always behind and never, ever, ever going to catch up? Do you ever feel like you’re the ONLY person in your department or organization who knows what’s going on and people are constantly coming to you for […]

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The Power of Nonprofit Storytelling | How long should my fundraising letter be?

May 22, 2019

  Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. -Leonardo da Vinci How long does my letter need to be? I get asked this question a lot. In fact, it’s one of the most frequently asked questions I hear when it comes to discussing the nonprofit fundraising letter. And the answer is always this: As long as it […]

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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

Preemptive Love Coalition works to help families who’ve fled from conflict and violence. PLC, through the help of their donors, brings relief to those who are in dire need. They help displaced families find work, reestablish their homes, and reclaim their lives. They’re doing vital work, and they’re bringing hope to those who need it […]

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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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