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 absolutely 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.

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 | Yes, it’s really Elizabeth Warren…with a lesson in gratitude!

March 26, 2019

Elizabeth Warren is fiercely blazing the campaign trails. And right now, she’s here to teach you an important lesson: Your best starting point is always gratitude. This recent video clip she released, which is just under five minutes long, made my heart sing. You must check it out, no matter how you feel about her […]

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Fundraising Friday | March 22, 2019

March 22, 2019

Do foundation reviewers’ eyes glaze over while they’re reading your latest grant proposal? What can a theoretical physicist teach you about…grant proposal writing? You might be surprised. This week’s Power of Storytelling. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has come up with a fun way to attract donors. This week’s What’s in my Inbox. Your monthly giving […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | From first gift, to lifetime…AGF’s letter shows you how!

March 21, 2019

Last year, The Andrew Goodman Foundation participated in our Basics & More All Access Ticket, and judging by their current communications, they’re still putting the lessons to great use in 2019. AGF’s mission is to empower young people by encouraging political participation. They’ve helped make young voices and votes a powerful force in our democracy, […]

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What’s In My Inbox | NRDC excites and delights supporters with the help of Pete Davidson

March 20, 2019

The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is one of the best-known environmental advocacy groups, both nationally and internationally. The communications they regularly send to their supporters are on point. I’ve been subscribed to their email communications for awhile, and they consistently make me sit up and take notice. NRDC follows the top rules of nonprofit […]

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Power of Storytelling | Try the Feynman Technique for your next grant proposal

March 20, 2019

Do foundation reviewers’ eyes glaze over while they’re reading your latest grant proposal? Do you picture them, upon reaching the very end, looking up and muttering, “WHAT, exactly, do they DO?” Perhaps you fumbled the ball on the storytelling front. You probably already know that strong storytelling is crucial to philanthropy. In fact, it creates […]

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Fundraising Friday | March 15, 2019

March 15, 2019

Legacy marketing from Guinness? Who knew?! This week’s very fun Power of Storytelling. “Thank you for believing in WORT. And thank you for being a little bit odd, peculiar, and different. We couldn’t do it without you.” Made me feel all warm and fuzzy. This week’s What’s in my Inbox. How are you stewarding your […]

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5 tips for becoming a foundation grants prospect research detective

March 13, 2019

One of my pet peeves is reading advice in a fundraising book that instructs the reader to spend one or two days a year at a Foundation Center Cooperating Collections Library and consider their foundation prospect research a done deal. To truly build a base of solid foundation grant support (preferably general operating support), you’ve got to be […]

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The Power of Storytelling | Legacy marketing from Guinness? Who knew?!

March 13, 2019

Ask Direct is a direct response agency in Ireland. And Caoileann Appleby, Strategy Director at Ask Direct, recently published a blog post, Masterful Legacy Marketing in 90 Seconds, which I happened to catch on Twitter. Caoileann explained: At our Fundraising School legacy event the other week, there were a few ‘aha’ moments for the audience. But I […]

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What’s In My Inbox | WORT speaks directly to their WORTlings

March 13, 2019

WORT 89.9 FM is a longstanding listener-sponsored community radio station, based in Madison, Wisconsin since 1975. The station broadcasts an eclectic mix of music genres, along with a range of news and public affairs programming. WORT has won a slew of awards over the years, for everything from individual programs, to documentaries, to mid-2000s election […]

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Fundraising Friday | March 8, 2019

March 8, 2019

Amara, a Tacoma-based nonprofit organization, is dedicated to finding loving, supporting families for foster children. And they’re sharing beautiful stories. This week’s Power of Storytelling. How are you showing your donors that you care about them beyond their financial support? This week’s What’s in my Inbox with a terrific example of non-financial engagement. Fundraising was […]

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What’s In My Inbox | NRDC shows you how to do non-financial engagement right

March 6, 2019

You care about your supporters, and you want them to know. You see them as more than mere financial transactions. In fact, you see them as cool, varied, individual human beings, rather than an entity — a “donor base,” or a collective of people. If you want your donors to understand that you appreciate them […]

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What’s in my Mailbox | Free downloadable templates for writing your best fundraising appeal

March 6, 2019

Have you ever, despite your best efforts, produced a fundraising appeal letter that made you cringe in embarrassment? The kind of writing that, let’s face it, tends to be typical of many nonprofit organizations. Yes, the fundraising appeal letters featured on SOFII and in some of our best examples were crafted by copywriters with years […]

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Power of Storytelling | Amara’s storytelling page showcases an amazing story-by-video series

March 5, 2019

Amara, a Tacoma-based nonprofit organization, is dedicated to finding loving, supporting families for foster children. Amara’s goal is to help children to realize their full potential and thrive. Their emphasis is on family, love, stability, security, and permanence. This amazing nonprofit, a Basics & More Alum, is a graduate of our Nonprofit Storytelling class.  Check out […]

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Fundraising Friday: March 1, 2019

March 1, 2019

Print newsletters are your retention engines — and revenue generators. But email newsletters have a place in your fundraising as well. See a stellar example of how to engage and steward (hint: I read it from beginning to end!) in this week’s What’s in my Inbox. What is the biggest mistake today in nonprofit fundraising? […]

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What’s In My Inbox | How to do an enewsletter right: The Smithsonian’s enewsletter delights and fascinates

February 28, 2019

The Smithsonian boasts a reputation that’s not only national but international. Chances are, you’ve heard of the D.C.-based institution, which consists of the largest group of museums and research centers in the world. The Smithsonian’s annual operation costs and capital program revenues come from private trust fund assets and government funding. The majority of funds […]

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You Are Not Charity: Water. But You’re You, and That’s Awesome

February 26, 2019

Are you familiar with Charity: Water? Most people are. They’re the international nonprofit constantly lauded for their breakthrough marketing tactics. And they’ve built their brand entirely on digital. Known for how they engage with supporters through a compelling mix of content, video, copy, graphics, and photography, they’re now a $72 million dollar charity. And they […]

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Fundraising Friday | February 22, 2019

February 22, 2019

Could Green Eggs and Ham, the Dr. Seuss classic, be the essential primer for donor communications? You might be surprised… See how Planned Parenthood took advantage of Valentine’s Day in this week’s What’s in My Inbox. This month’s book drawing winner created a *delight and inspire* packet certain to inspire you. What’s in My Mailbox. […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | A thank you that’s worth a standing ovation

February 21, 2019

Manitoba Theater for Young People has brought the joy of theater to children and families since the early 1980s. Since their inception, MTYP has gained a reputation as one of Canada’s most respected theater companies, for children and adults alike. In addition to creating and developing new work, MTYP presents touring companies from around the […]

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What’s In My Inbox | I’ll gladly break Mike Pence’s heart any day of the week!

February 20, 2019

If nonprofit donor communications are even a blip on your radar, then Valentine’s Day is probably a no-brainer. Really, you can view each day as a chance to reach out to your donors and communicate. But some days are particularly noteworthy and offer you a special opportunity to make an impact. If we’re talking holidays, […]

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Green Eggs and Ham: The Essential Nonprofit Donor Communications Primer

February 17, 2019

Green Eggs and Ham is one of Dr. Seuss’ best-known children’s classics. Released nearly 60 years ago, it manages to capture kids’ attention to this day. While Dr. Seuss’ tales might seem like basic nursery rhymes, his stories go far beyond their simplicity. In fact, there is actually an interesting backstory, and it all started […]

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