Tag: blog

Your fundraising plan – tips on donor retention

The basic idea around donor retention, and why I like it included in any fundraising plan, is that it is easier (and cheaper) to keep a current donor rather than try to find a new donor.

Of course we’re not talking about just one donor. We want to think about donor retention in a way of treating our donors that we have in a way that they will donate again. And again.

This post could go on and on about donor retention, and I’ll leave you with just a few ideas about what has worked for me.

First, I highly recommend a database for your donor data. There are many options, and I’m sure there is one to fit your capacity and budget. Having a database with your donor information allows you to track donations, notes, contacts, and anything involved with you and your organization building a relationship with your donors.

Next, thank your donors. When I first started in nonprofit fundraising, a phrase I heard often was “thank before you bank”. Super simple idea. These days, many nonprofits count their online auto-thank you letter as a thank you. I don’t. That’s an acknowledgement of a donation. Your donor knows you received their donation. You still want to take a step to thank them, either by letter, email, or phone call.

Find out why your donor gives. There are several types of donors, and there are also people who simply just make a donation, with no intent to really give again. An example of this is a neighbor you’ve asked to sponsor you ina 5K run for a cause. They are giving because of you, not the cause. If they give again, now you have a donor and perhaps it’s more than just you!

You also have the donor who just loves your mission. They think that what your nonprofit is doing is making the world a better place, or another way of putting it is that you’re creating a world that they envision. These are donors who are with you, and easy ones to build life-long relationships with, if you take the time to do that.

Another idea that works for donor retention is to be transparent with your donors. That means sharing the good, the not so good, and the difficult. Donors don’t always need to know how awesome you’re doing or that all you have are successes. They definitely want to know your challenges as well, along with what gets in the way of your organization being able to have the most impact. Share it all with them. Whether it’s in a newsletter, a personal email, or over lunch, keep your donors in the loop.

My last idea for now is to share your impact. As a donor, I want to know that my giving makes a difference. Your donors are the same. Let them know what you’re doing with the funds you raise and what impact that has. Even if you try something and fall short, share it. Your impact changes things, things your donors want to see changed.

There you go! Try these! I’d love to hear about how you implement them.

Thank you for reading!

Your fundraising plan – reaching out to donors

Back to your fundraising plan!

As your donors, and your relationships with them, are critical parts of your fundraising success, making personal connections with your donors are actions you can take to support your fundraising plan.

When I speak with fundraising teams about this, there seems to be a little trepidation. In our world of nonprofit fundraising, it’s not possible to build lifelong relationships with donors without personal connections, and this includes actually meeting with your donor.

This is my favorite part of the job, and a great tool for your fundraising plan. Meeting in person with a donor can be as simple as meeting for coffee all the way to having lunch and a tour of your program facilities. I’ve played racquetball with donors and gone on hikes with donors. I wouldn’t suggest racquetball unless you’re better than I am!

In our field there are still many who feel uncomfortable meeting with donors. Our work is all about relationship building, and one really needs to be comfortable with all aspects of meeting with donors. Talk out your plan with a co-worker before you meet. Play a favorite song (I do this sometimes before a big donor call). The assumption is that you know the mission, the needs, the impact of their upcoming donation, and are passionate for the cause.

Aside from meeting in person, there are several other actions that can be part of your fundraising plan that include connections with donors. Thanking them of course is important. Let them know the success of a campaign they supported. You can also call or email just to check in. Contacts that have nothing to do with asking them for another donation are super important, and help grow the relationship. Even if all you can do is leave a voice mail, that’s a good step.

Your fundraising plan doesn’t need to include every action you want to take with donors, but do create some type of calendar for connecting with them. Remember that you can include your executive director and board in these communications. They don’t all have to come from you.

Go ahead… give a donor a call or send them an email inviting them to meet. No time like the present!

Thank you for reading!

Send your next e-appeal

As time flies when we’re having fun, today is a good day to consider your next e-appeal.

What the heck is an e-appeal some of you may ask? It’s simply a fundraising appeal sent via email.

If you can’t remember when you sent your last e-appeal, this tip is perfect for you. The main idea here is to make sure you are continually asking your supporters to donate.

I like short e-appeals. The perfect e-appeal for me is a quick greeting, a current need, and then an invitation to give.

A fundraising team doesn’t need to be big, and doesn’t need to have a lot of extra time to send consistent e-appeals. Quick messages letting your donors know what your need is and what the impact of their donation will be is all you really need. You can definitely take the time to send a longer e-appeal, I’m just letting you know that if you lack the capacity to do that don’t let it stop you from sending something out. It’s better to get an ask out rather than continue waiting until you have the perfect e-appeal ready to go. That day may never come.

Here’s an idea. Calendar an hour or two to leave the office. I recently rode my bike to a local coffee house and worked on an e-appeal (see photo above). Think about what you want to accomplish with this e-appeal, who you want to send it to, and what kind of impact you want to share. Finish a rock-star draft and then head back to the office and share with your team. Done.

Of course every team cannot finish an e-appeal this simply, but you get the idea.

Thanks for reading. Please let me know if you have any questions regarding your next e-appeal!

Implementing your fundraising plan

Your fundraising plan is finished and now it’s time to take on another perceived difficult task: implementing it! You can relax, because implementing your fundraising plan is a process, not an event.

You can start slow.

A great way to start is to send a quick note of thanks to all who participated in the plan, sharing your gratitude and excitement to begin.

Then go right into one of the first tasks. That could be one of a dozen or so action items, and I suggest taking on one that is continual throughout the year. Let’s say e-appeals.

Taking on e-appeals could mean taking a good look at your email list, checking your open rates and your click-thru rates. It could mean beginning a new process of writing e-appeals and creating a schedule of when you want to send them, and why.

The key here is to begin implementing your fundraising plan.

The only way a fundraising plan does not succeed is if you do nothing with it. You have it right in front of you know, you spent a lot of time creating it, and now it’s time to actually implement it.

Go easy on you and your team, but do proceed. For me this is one of the many highlights of being in nonprofit fundraising. Implementing your fundraising plan will not only support your organization in building relationships and raising money for your impact, it will be fun.

Thanks for reading!

Hanging out with the board

By, board, I mean your board of directors.

By hanging out, I mean getting to know them and working with them.

You will see all sorts of opinions about boards of directors and board members. My experience is mostly that as a head of fundraising for nonprofit organizations. And it’s always been based in how can I work with them to build more relationships, spread the word about the organizations’ impact, and create sources of fundraising.

First things first, board fundraising. This seems to be the main topic at hand on social media media threads. Many of these include negative experiences or opinions on board members. It doesn’t have to be that way.

If your board is a fundraising board, it’s important to make sure they know that, and that new potential board members know. With your current board bring this up frequently and with new board members bring this up before they say yes.

Do board members need to commit to an annual, minimum donation? Just so you know, many answer yes to this question. My answer is always “it depends”. This may shock some, but in my time as the one held accountable for fundraising goals, I was much more interested in board members spreading the word of our impact, of their interest in our impact, and making introductions to others interested in our impact.

With new board members, meet them for lunch or coffee. Figure out how you can best work together. Suggest that they attend a finance committee meeting or two. Become a resource for them on all things mission.

Some board members will want to support your fundraising efforts, some may just want to write a check or fill a table at a gala. Meet them where they are at, always keeping in mind that you both have a passion for the mission and impact of the organization.

I have had my fair share of board members that I simply did not get along with. It happens. Just don’t get stuck there, and move on to relationships that are possible.

Keep in mind that your board members are volunteers, that their intentions are to support the organization in a way that works for them. They also more often than not want to have a positive impact on the mission of your organization.

The more people you can work with in supporting your fundraising and relationship building efforts the better. Your board is a great place to find them.

Thank you for reading.

Monthly donors

We donate monthly to a couple of organizations.

They made it easy for us. The online donation form gave us the option to make our donation monthly. I checked the box and every month on that date our donation is automatic.

On the same day we receive an auto thank you.

We donate monthly because the impact of the organizations mean a lot to us, and we realize that monthly (or any type of recurring) donations mean a lot to organizations, especially smaller ones (small as in size, not impact).

For nonprofits wanting more monthly donors, it isn’t a difficult path. Give your current donors an easy option, like the one we experienced. Let donors know how a monthly donation benefits you and your mission. What is the impact? And as with any other donation, thank in a timely manner. I also like that in January we receive an email from each organization with the total of our giving for the year prior.

Aside from the clear benefits of monthly donors, one of the benefits I find most appealing is that your donor is connected with you on a monthly basis. They see you in the bank or debit card statement, and they receive that quick thank you. This gives your donor a reason to remember why they give and to be grateful for your work.

If you don’t offer monthly giving on your website, try it. Make it easy. If you don’t include the option on your appeals, try it.

It will pay off for you, those you serve, and your donors.

Thank you for reading!

The great resignation

I read about this every day. Whether this is affecting you and your organization or not, it gives us a chance to talk about fundraising staffing and making sure your organization can be seamless in fundraising and relationship building during team transition. Any steps taken now to ensure a great process will certainly pay off.

I’ve seen many development teams go through transition and have some thoughts, that if acted upon, could make the whole process a lot smoother for you, your supporters, your team, and your mission.

Keep in mind that this post is not about how to keep an employee. This is about when that ship has sailed.

There’s a lot written about hiring right. We of course want to do that, and I’ve seen many organizations do it. And then the brand new person is not what had been imagined, or there is just not a fit. This means a few months (or less) after the hire, everyone is back to the drawing board after having spent time and money on a placement that did not work.

I’ve been there. I highly recommended a candidate. I did everything right, so I thought. There can always be a situation where one does everything right and the outcome is still negative, however what I have learned from my own personal experience is that there were things I could have done better, and different.

If I want a major gifts officer, I need to spend a lot of time talking about that in the interviews. Talking about their personal experiences, how they feel about this kind of work, and setbacks and successes they have had. I talk about expectations, not only mine but theirs. If during the conversation something tweaks me, I need to pay attention to that and talk about it.

Experience also tells me to keep job descriptions up to date. Many nonprofits are still using job descriptions from way back when, with very little in common with what the position actually looks like today. While we’re on job descriptions, three pages of what they need to do is too much. Shorten it.

Benefits matter. For people like me, a fair salary is important, and time off, real vacation time, is equally important. Why on earth would I apply for a job that offers one week of paid vacation after one year of work. No thank you. Four weeks of paid time off, with accrual beginning on day one, is a good place to start. Time off is important for many reasons and acknowledging that at the start sends a great message.

While in the process of hiring, keep in mind that the fundraising and relationship building cannot cease. Ensure donors are being thanked, communications with everyone around fundraising are continuing, and any appeals that were being planned are happening. It’s not uncommon that all of this doesn’t happen while a new person is sought, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Take your time. I know, you need someone now. Rushing this process doesn’t help.

Follow through with all candidates. I know, this can be time consuming. Even if right now you’re saying out loud “you have no idea!”, try it. No one else is doing it and you never know if a future position may be the perfect fit for someone who applied for this one.

Lastly (for now, this may become a series of posts!), be working in a fundraising plan. I see many job requirements that list creating a fundraising plan. One needs to be in place already. Relying on a brand new person to do this doesn’t make sense.

More to come. Thank you for reading!

Overwhelmed and exhausted

I recently spent time working with a client who described themselves as being overwhelmed and exhausted. There are other things they said, which aren’t really appropriate for a professional blog post!

I’m not surprised. Many nonprofit fundraising professionals reach out to me because they are feeling the exact same way, and like there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

I know it’s easy for me to say this (keep in mind that I’ve been there), and I can tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it shouldn’t be this way.

Here are some ways to support your nonprofit’s fundraiser(s) and if you are the main fundraiser, some tips for you:

Don’t throw them off of the bus. If you as an organization’s leader have challenges with your head development person, speak with them about it. Don’t share about the challenges with others while not informing the person.

Don’t create unrealistic revenue budgets then expect your head fundraiser to be accountable for it.

If you’re on a nonprofit board, send a quick email asking what you can do to support their efforts. Ideas are great, if you want to take on the work to implement the idea.

For both leadership and fundraising professionals, create weekly or bi-weekly meetings to connect with your team. Just having the time set aside creates a more open, communicative environment, even if you only meet for ten minutes.

It’s OK to ask for help. Build relationships with your team, board, volunteers, and others and when the need arises, ask them for help.

Practice self care. You know what to do when it comes to self care. Make time for it.

I never really liked lists, but in the last few years I have begun using them. They have made a difference for me.

Hire right. Honor your expectations when hiring.

You have quite a list now. I hope it’s helpful. Please try some of these.

Thank you for reading!

Your 2022 development plan

This post shares ideas that can be used for both nonprofits and for-profit organizations. It focuses on development/fundraising, and many of the ideas can be incorporated to a business plan.

First things first. If you haven’t created a development plan yet for 2022, begin work on it today. It’s as simple as creating a document titled “2022 Development Plan”. The key in starting now is that you’ve started the process.

In my mind, a development plan, or fundraising plan, is a road map for how we will fundraise this year, who participates in it, what are our goals, what are our challenges, and what we need to accomplish the goals. I’ve seen plans that are dozens of pages long with small type and ones that are simple Power point documents that are specific ideas and goals. Choose which one best suits you and your organization.

Keep your plan positive. Keep in mind you want a plan that can be accomplished with your current capacity. Keep your plan realistic with the goals. For example, if you raised $50,000 from individuals in 2021 and your 2022 development plan is to raise $500,000 there is an issue, unless you already have committed donations close to that amount.

I like to break down my plan to revenue-generating categories: individual giving, corporate, civic/faith, and institutional (foundations) are some for a good start. Some organizations like to have specific line items for board giving and major gifts. Others may have some type of income, which I would keep out of a development plan. If you have special events, there are different ways to have that in the plan. The two most common are to have that revenue separated out completely, or (#2), have event revenue within the other categories based on the category that generates the revenue.

Be sure to have a part of your plan that includes who is participating in what. This can be super helpful, especially when presenting to groups, like your board.

Every revenue area comes with a fundraising goal. Like I mentioned earlier, keep it realistic. I’ve seen many nonprofits toss a ridiculous amount into individual giving because they had to add revenue, with no reality in that amount. If you know your annual fundraising event will be different because of , say COVID, keep that in mind when creating your goals. I fully encourage thought-out growth and positive thinking, just keep it realistic.

What are items, events, people, situations that can possibly keep you from reaching your goals? I usually create a one-pager listing these.

Lastly, consider all of your ideas you have, and others have offered, to reach the fundraising goal of each revenue category. This becomes your check-off list. For example, under individual giving you may have the following: expressions of gratitude, impact sharing, phone calls, one-on-one meetings, video calls with the director or a program manger, increased direct mail, increased e-appeals. This list can go on and on. I’m sure you get the idea.

I realize this all may seem over-simplified. For me, it’s not. A development plan does not have to difficult or complicated. After all, this document is your plan for the year, the plan you will use to be successful.

Thank you for reading!

Year-end fundraising begins now

I’ve been excitedly waiting to write and share this post.

Yes, I’m writing about year-end fundraising. Yes, I know you just finished your year-end fundraising efforts and you probably don’t want to read anything about year-end fundraising for at least a month or two.

The fun thing about this is that success with a year-end campaign really begins now. You can have the best, most strategic plan and appeals and e-appeals, written by the best people and supported by the best staff. All of this and you can still struggle.

That’s because if you lose your donors during the year, it’s difficult to get them back for a year-end gift. Not impossible, just difficult.

So let’s make it easier for us, and better for those who support us, (and those we serve!) by taking care of the donor part now, and all year!

Experience has proven that we cannot ignore our donors, volunteers, and other supporters all year and then expect a donation when we ask.

What works well for my clients is to add donor contacts into your development plan for the year. Contacts can be an email, a Thanks for Giving Day call, an impact update, a thank you note or call, etc.

Creating practices of gratitude expression and sharing impact strengthen relationships with those who support you.

If you haven’t created a development plan yet, see my next post!

Thank you for reading!

Keep thanking

The photo is of a thank you card for donors.

It’s already mid-December. You’re watching donations come in supporting your appeals, attending holiday gatherings, and trying to get in front of as many donors as possible for that ever-valued year-end donation.

With everything that is going on, keep thanking your donors. Keep the calls up, keep the impact stories going, and keep making sure that your donors know what it means for them to donate.

That their donation changes the world. For someone. Or something.

As my family makes donations this month I’m unfortunately surprised by how many organizations, especially the ones we have donated to for many years, don’t take the time to just say thank you.

I get it. They are busy. There’s a lot going on. And at the same time the proof is in the pudding: when we thank donors right away, let them know how we spent their donation, and then how that donation impacted our mission, we have a huge chance that the donor will donate again.

And our life-long relationship begins (or continues!).

Some of my clients have a couple of people on staff who make calls, others engage their volunteers (Including board) to help with the expressions of gratitude. You don’t need to do this alone. Ask for help if needed.

The time you spend doing this is definitely worth it, and will make a difference.

Thank you for reading!

Start today

Everyone is busy. And many of us find it difficult to believe that it’s already November, let alone Thanksgiving time!

Meanwhile we read on social media about perfectly created plans for year-end fundraising, complete with actions and calendars and more. Then we look at our list of things to complete before hopefully having a holiday meal with family. Self-judgement begins as we realize we haven’t even sent our direct mail piece to the printer.

Don’t freak out. Set the self-judgement aside. Start today.

This isn’t a fluff piece. Next year you can have the awesome plan ready (you’ll begin in January – see upcoming post). For now, rather than consider all you haven’t done, start taking actions today.

Is it too late to send a direct mail piece? That depends on your printer. Give them a call. Meanwhile create your appeal knowing you can use it as an e-appeal if you can’t get one mailed.

Connect with your team and gather stories for your donors. Begin sharing them on social media in preparation for year-end donations. Add some posts about tax laws, bigger needs, and impact.

Take a deep breath. Then keep going.

Ask the board if they will chip in to create a matching fund for year-end donations. That can be used in your direct mail appeal and e-appeals.

You know what to do. Time catches up and mission work is overwhelming. It’s easy, and not uncommon, to get behind. Start today and you’ll see that you can still have successes with your year-end fundraising.

Thanks for reading!


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