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.

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!


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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Is “customer service” a nonprofit thing? Well, yeah. It’s kind of critical…

February 13, 2019

As a nonprofit professional, do the words “customer service” ever cross your mind? Chances are, when it comes to nonprofit work, this phrase either never appears in your thoughts, let alone your vocabulary, or you think of it very rarely. The reality is, customer service doesn’t just belong within the realm of business and retail. […]

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Power of Storytelling | Why the time to help Second Chance Wildlife Sanctuary is now…

February 10, 2019

Second Chance Wildlife Sanctuary is a wonderful nonprofit that unfortunately has dealt with a heartbreaking tragedy recently. This beloved wildlife rescue, founded by the warm and wonderful Jim Bronzo, is based in Orlando, Florida. Jim cares for many different animals at SCWS, ranging from wild pigs to llamas to peacocks, and provides a safe home for these creatures. […]

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Fundraising Friday | February 8, 2019

February 8, 2019

Are you using your social media to grow your email list? Nonprofit marketing maven Julia Campbell shows you how in this episode of Motivate Monday. If I had a nickel for every nonprofit I’ve encountered without a consistent donor communications schedule, I’d be a very rich woman. This week’s What’s In My Inbox shows the power of […]

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12 Ways to Inspire and Delight Your Donors…With Examples!

February 6, 2019

How are you building those lifetime relationships that lead to monthly giving, major gifts, and legacy gifts? How do your supporters know that their gift is making an impact? How are you regularly inspiring and delighting your donors? In my work with thousands of nonprofits over the past ten years, I’ve found that, aside from […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Save the Chimps shows us the power of consistency

February 5, 2019

What’s one way you can gain yours donors’ trust, show them that giving to your organization was the right decision, and make sure that they don’t forget you? Consistency! If a donor (or prospective donor) signs up for your nonprofit’s enews or alerts, expecting you to touch base weekly or monthly, how are you living […]

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Lessons From Motivate Monday | Social media as an email list-builder? Julia shows you how!

February 4, 2019

A couple of weeks ago, I published a post listing ten ways to rock your fundraising in 2019. If you haven’t read it yet, go on over and take a look. It’s now February, and that means you have plenty of time to put these ideas into action. You have time to figure out how […]

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Fundraising Friday | February 1, 2019

February 1, 2019

Could a disability actually make you better at your job? This week’s Power of Storytelling features an inspirational video you won’t want to miss. Set aside 13 minutes and be sure to stay until the very end… “We did this great thing. And, in 2018, we did this wonderful thing. We are so great!” Yes (yawn), but […]

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Lighting the Donor’s Journey: Utilizing the Persona Priority Matrix | By Tim Sarrantonio

January 31, 2019

One of the best parts of my week is Saturday morning. This is for some of the usual reasons – relaxed morning breakfast with my wife and three young girls, the excitement of planning a family outing, and being able to sip my morning coffee without having to feel a rush for the door. Yet […]

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What’s In My Inbox | The Southern Poverty Law Center slays…with the help of their donors!

January 30, 2019

With your help, we’ve just filed an incredibly important lawsuit. How would you feel if you received an email that began this way? This sentence serves as both the subject header and the first line of my most recent correspondence from Southern Poverty Law Center. SPLC is a very important organization, and right now, they […]

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The Power of Storytelling | Meet Chris: husband, father, rower, and blind architect!

January 30, 2019

News magazine TV program 60 Minutes aired its first episode during the fall of 1968 and instantly resonated with audiences. Now, over fifty years and many awards later, the program continues to capture the collective attention of viewers everywhere. Those who watch 60 Minutes count on the show to deliver consistently compelling storytelling content. A […]

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What’s In My Mailbox | What does a culture of gratitude look like? A couple examples…

January 23, 2019

Have you thought about what it means to develop a culture of gratitude at your organization? The word “culture” can often evoke big, expansive things. Things that could also seem daunting and complicated. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, think of your culture as something that’s always in flux. Culture is dynamic. […]

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What’s In My Inbox | Gilead House kicks off 2019 right — with donor gratitude!

January 22, 2019

Gilead House, located in Novato, California, has been helping homeless families in the community for two decades. Initially, the organization rented homes to house multiple families until, thanks to donor support, they had the resources to build a six-family home in 2011. A few years later, they purchased a 12-unit apartment facility. The donor communications […]

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The Power of Storytelling | Katelyn Ohashi’s story, behind the scenes…

January 20, 2019

If you haven’t yet, meet Katelyn Ohashi. She’s had a great week. The vibrant, bubbly 21 year-old UCLA gymnast took the internet by storm after her floor routine, which earned her a perfect 10, went viral. The clip rapidly gained over 60 million views after it was uploaded to the internet. From start to finish, […]

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Fundraising Friday | January 18, 2019

January 18, 2019

How will you make 2019 your organization’s most successful fundraising year ever? In a word, Systems. Download your free Fundraising & Marketing Calendar and get started implementing your systems. Could anything be quite so painful to a parent as the fear that they’ll miss their child growing up? This week’s Power of Storytelling. Foundation grant […]

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The Power of Storytelling | “I’m terrified of missing you growing up.”

January 15, 2019

StoryCorps is a Brooklyn-based nonprofit founded by radio producer David Isay in 2003. This organization is dedicated to sharing stories from people of “all backgrounds and beliefs.” Since its inception, StoryCorps has become a platform for showcasing great stories. Similar to Humans of New York (HONY), StoryCorps functions as a story curation space. You could […]

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