Tag Archives: 100 Donors in 90 Days

Finding New Donors Has Never Been Easier

100 Donors in 90 DaysIn this final installment of what I learned during the 100 Donors in 90 Days program, I want to share strategies about how to get your nonprofit to develop the craziest ideas they can imagine and think way outside the box.  Before you hit delete, let me remind you that I was a copywriter in large advertising firms for almost 10 years – I know how to think differently.  I have run brainstorming sessions for nonprofits.   And Kerri Tilby-Price’s advice raised my skills a notch.

In her amusing New Zealand accent, she explained how she encourages ideas to get further and further away from the possible to bring in the ideas that will work.

Want an example of an idea that goes completely against social norms (or nonprofit norms) that has brought many of her clients immense success?  She suggests social service clients ask their clients for donations.  Yes, those who are coming to the organization for health and human services because it is free should be asked for donations.

What has she seen that strategy achieve?  Using the same theory that people value, and are more invested, in a product or service if it cost them something, clients are more invested in the services and the organization as well as getting a feeling that they are helping others at a place that has helped them grow.

This is in no way suggesting that these people should be added to the direct mail appeal.  That may or may not be appropriate in any particular case, but by giving them the opportunity to contribute to a coffee fund or new chairs fund you are giving them the opportunity to give a dollar or two to something that everyone can benefit from.  I would go even further to suggest that thanking them as a group, in a public way similar to larger donors, will help the clientele feel even better.

Getting donations in a mission-driven way is a win-win situation.

Now, if you have read this far but don’t know how you can apply this to your organization let me give you another great tip from her conversation.  Put an ask on the bottom of each and every outgoing email with a link to your organizations “Donate Now” page.  Then, ask your major supporters, volunteers and other committed individuals to do the same.  Imagine if thousands of emails were going around from other people asking for donations for your organization.

For more details on what made it work, you will have to listen to the interview .  And learn to think outside your own box. Click here to purchase your copy of 100 Donors in 90 Days today.

Treating An Annual Fund Like A Capital Campaign

100 donors in 90 days - ipod imageWeek 11 of 100 Donors in 90 Days continues to help listeners find new donors outside of the proverbial box. No buying lists or cold solicitations here.  Instead, this week we look at how Marc A. Pitman helps find new major donors for your nonprofit.

Marc suggests you try treating an annual fund like a capital campaign.  If you were to give as much focus to your under million-dollar annual operating budget as you would to a multi-million dollar campaign – what could you achieve?

New Donors?  Donors you have wanted to get involved for a long time?  A lot more income?  More stability?

Before you add (with some bit of sarcasm) that the one sure thing you would get out of this type of exercise would be board and staff burnout, consider that the stronger the fundraising, the more money that comes in.  The more money that comes in, the more staff can be hired to sustain the new income.  The more income, the more programs and publicity which translates into stronger board members that can give time and money for your well functioning and flush organization.

Let’s break it down further.

Often, as consultants, the first step of a campaign is to conduct a feasibility study.  Time is spent determining who should be interviewed.  Who are the current donors, prospective donors, past donors and dream donors that are or should be involved with your organization?  Marc’s theory is that you should create this list for your annual fund and then ask them for advice.

As appealing as it would be, it will not be helpful to pick a list of the top 50 donors in your community and think they will automatically be supporters of your nonprofit.  There should be some organic connection that makes each name on the list a logical choice – just as you would need in a capital campaign.

What do you ask them about?

Marc suggests that there might be pieces of your budget that are new and exciting but will not happen without any one individual’s support.  Then, ask each and every one for ideas, thoughts, suggestions, about the project and what would make this program more interesting, more appealing and more fundable to others.

As the saying goes, asking for money gets you advice.  Asking for advice gets you money.  And I will add, asking for advice from prospective donors will get you annual donors.  Or so the theory goes.

Want to hear the conversation in entirety?  Purchase your copy of 100 Donors in 90 Days here.

Donor Acquisition – Ways To Acquire New Donors, Staff Turnover and Resources

100 Donors in 90 Days Action GuidesIn week 10 of 100 Donors in 90 Days, Ken Burnett shares his expertise in Donor Acquisition. His early days included helping innovate Greenpeace’s now standard use of young people encouraging other people to give in public places. Since then, he has written books and helped many organizations understand the importance, the cost effectiveness and the range of ways to acquire new donors. While the lengthy seventeen page accompanying Action Guide offers many concrete ways for organizations to find many more than 100 donors, this piece will focus in on two of his ideas that are not specific to donor retention but can have a huge effect on the success of a nonprofit.

Time Paradox

“Fundraisers tend not to stay in posts long enough to make a difference. Laying a long-term fundraising strategy takes several years and it is almost impossible if the people who are charged with putting that strategy into place don’t stay in post longer than what is the current average, which is less than eighteen months in North America right now.”

What struck me about this idea, is ironically why turnover is so high in so many organizations.

Consider the standard situation. A nonprofit hires a development professional who comes in making assurances that he/she can help the organization find stability, increase annual appeal revenue, create an endowment or something similar. They have a proven track record and great references. It takes a bit of time to understand the ins and outs of the organization and meet the major donors and the board. Finally, a plan is in place and the real work starts.

Before you know, it’s been a year and it’s review time! Of course, the results are not yet as everyone hoped. The Development person feels under-appreciated for all the hard work, planning, volunteer recruiting, etc. and starts to look for a new job. Within the next six months he/she finds something else and is off to the next place hoping to be in a better situation. The next person hired comes in, takes a few months to figure out the lay of the land and alter the plan to their strengths and the cycle continues.

How can this problematic structure change? If an interviewee were honest and said it would take two or more years to gain financial stability and many more resources than are currently available—staff, software, CEO and Board members time for the ideal development agenda—then, the organization would probably hire someone else who had a short-term idea to raise more funds.

Maybe new director level hires should have a three-year contract with benchmarks to show progress and to prove the path is right path for that organization. Maybe there has to be more transparency in the successes and failures of a plan.

That leads to the second highlight of Ken Burnett’s piece that you should know about.

Ken’s aforementioned Action Guide includes a page of resources that he thinks are valuable for those who want to focus on Donor Acquisition. But there is one that he also mentions in his talk named, Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration (SOFII). It is a place for fundraisers to share their ideas and learn from each other. For more information visit www.sofii.org.

And please, let me know what valuable information you find! Idea exchanges are invaluable to anyone who wants to continue to grow and learn.

To read other pieces in the series on my learnings from 100 Donors in 90 Days, click here

To purchase your own copy of 100 Donors in 90 Days, click here.

Pass It On Packets

100 Donors in 90 DaysI just finished listening to week 9 of 100 Donors in 90 Days.  This week, was a conversation with Pamela Grow of Simple Development Systems.  While she provided tips on success with donor surveys, monthly giving programs, testimonials and grant writing, I want to highlight her Pass It On Packet.

Pamela’s focus is often on small shops because that is where she got her start.  And while she has been in the business for quite some time, her “packets” were created at her first development job once she moved on from grant writing.

As Pamela tells the story, she was hired into a small nonprofit where it seemed as if the previous development director spent years coasting on the tails of a large capital campaign.  Many donors from the campaign were no longer engaged or even contacted on a regular basis.   An all too familiar story for those in the nonprofit world.  Her solution?

She surveyed a select group of 20 donors to learn more about their interests and to guide her way.  Eighteen responded, five with unsolicited gifts.  Each of the five gifts, as well as any other gifts that came in that year went home with a thank you note and two to three “Pass It On Packets.”  These packets (a combination of appeal brochure and press kits) were offered with a note explaining the following situation.

With the need for funding higher than ever and a lack of money for fundraising outreach, they had decided to ask friends and donors of the organization to help spread the word by giving these packets to people who might have similar interests in helping this health services organization.

And people passed it along.

Ever since, she has been advocating for this simple method of spreading the word about the organization.  It is an easy way for people to invite their friends to join their cause without any pressure.  Their friends can read it, toss it or donate to it.  And it turns out – a decent percentage of people donate.

While it takes a little work and financial support to put together the packets, it does not involve staff to find the new prospects.  Your current donors can do that work for you.  And the more advocates for the organization – the stronger you will be.

To read other pieces in this series, 100 Donors in 90 Days, click here

To purchase your own copy of 100 Donors in 90 Days, click here.

Speaking Engagements to Increase Your Annual Fund

100 Donors in 90 DaysWeek 8 of 100 Donors in 90 Days offers a compelling case to pick up the phone and begin to arrange speaking engagements for your development staff.  Or CEO. Or both. Why?  Because sometimes it feels as the only talks that your organization gives are to your inner circle and that you are preaching to the choir.  Or the choir’s closest friends. But the same type of engagement can be given to a wide range of groups – from civic organizations to corporations, religious institutions to other nonprofits.  And, they are easier to arrange than you think. Surprisingly easy.  It turns out, you can use speaking engagements to increase your annual fund.

Mazarine Treyz, Author of “The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising,”,had a  conversation with Pamela Grow that offers a three-fold approach to increasing revenue, particularly in small shops. She advocates for a combination of speaking engagements, volunteer management and volunteer recruitment (both as free labor in a small shop and based on the idea that volunteers give ten times the amount of an average donor.)  But, due to limited space of this article (and my hope that these highlights will encourage you to get your own copy of 100 Donors in 90 Days) I will focus on the first section – how one year of speaking engagements improved her nonprofit’s unsolicited donations from $12,000 to $70,000.

Where to Speak
Her tips were so simple, yet, beyond what I had ever considered.  It you think outside of a board member’s living room and into a larger organization or company you are exponentially increasing your resources.  The handout that accompanies Week 8 includes a plan for seven “days” of strategies to help you find these potential goldmines.   One suggestion includes examining lists of the most charitable companies in your area and calling their Human Resources department.  The organizations can use this type of talk as a way to encourage giving, volunteerism and awareness – presumably it is part of their overall mission (which is how they landed on the list).  The major advantages are that the staff of the company to whom you wish to speak sets up the meeting, calls catering, if necessary, and, most importantly, gets people in the room.  You just have to go in and tell your story.  And, make sure it’s a good story.

The Story
Mazarine uses a combination of a compelling story and statistics, but the key ingredient, to me, is that she includes at least one visual cue to trigger responses.    What kind of visual cue?  Something that directly relates both to your story and mission.  In a story that references a ring that an abuser uses to signal he is upset with his wife, could be suggested with a simple twisting of your own ring.  A workman’s glove laid on a table can represent an immigrant worker who is no longer alive due to horrible conditions.  Or an empty collar (or 300) can represent the dogs your organization couldn’t save last year but you hope to save this year.

These ideas are all simple yet incredibly effective.

I started to think about how I could do this with organizations with which I have worked.  What if I brought a film reel to talk about the importance of film versus DVDs? Could I bring a stack of talitot to highlight the kids that we were unable to engage and who, therefore, would not be having b’nai mitzvah this year? You can see how a visual cue could make an impact so much more

The Potential
You have the people in the room and engaged in your organization’s mission.  Now what?  Provide a form that will allow them to give on the spot, or tell you what days they are available to volunteer.  Allow them to connect however they feel comfortable.  But give them an easy opportunity to do so.

Then, consider where you can give your next talk.

Click here for information about how you can learn more from 100 Donors in 90 Days.

To purchase your own copy of 100 Donors in 90 Days, click here.

Renewing Lapsed Donors: Lessons from Week 7 of 100 Donors in 90 Days

100 Donors in 90 DaysWeek 7 of 100 Donors in 90 Days is none other than David A. Mersky.  I always enjoy David’s webinars and recorded conversations because, in addition to his melodic, deep voice, I always learn something new.  Here are a few of the gems that I heard during his conversation with Marc A. Pitman about renewing lapsed donors.

For a deeper understanding or to learn the full context, you can purchase the entire series (it’s only $199 for the online access, CDs, and a Binder filled with invaluable handouts that each fundraiser created to improve results).  But, before you offer any of your organization’s hard-earned money, these highlights will definitely give you an idea as to how valuable the system can be.  Some thoughts of mine were added below in italics.

    1. Create a hierarchy to determine which donors are most valuable and should be the recipient of the most time and energy. In order of importance they are:
      1. Amount of donation
      2. Consistency
      3. Cumulative giving
      4. Physical location
    2. Research has shown it costs four and a half to five times as much to attract a new, first-time donor as it does to revive or renew somebody who is already on your donor database. (I did know this, but I like the reminder.)
  • We’re in control of conversations when we listen, not when we talk.
  • Conversation is not simply waiting for your turn to speak. (A nice follow to how to control the conversation).
  • Use the “Principle of Restricted Choice.”
  • Think like a donor every single day. Do not think like the accountant, the CFO or the director of operations in your agency that’s always thinking of how we can make this easier and more economical for us. On the contrary, you want to make it easier and more economical for your donor.”

I’m sure you will know that this is just the tip of the iceberg of the forty-minute conversation.  But I couldn’t write it down word for word.  For that, you’ll have to buy your own copy.

Engaging Prospects At A Nonprofit Event

Week 6 of 100 Donors in 90 Days focuses on events as new donor cultivation opportunities. Events bring out polar responses from fundraisers. Some love them, some hate them but almost all agree that events can be a major “time-suck.”

This week’s conversation with Shanon Doolittle explained how to be successful at engaging new donors – during an easy to run event. And, while the accompanying worksheet is an experienced event planner’s guide to success, I found her talk to be a perfect combination of best practices and creative ideas.

Here are a handful of her suggestions:

    1. “Know why you’re doing an event (hint: to find and cultivate new donors). Don’t overburden yourself with too many event goals. One is more than enough.” This will help you succeed at your one goal instead of trying to raise a large sum of money, while finding new donors, while creating new systems for data collection, while introducing a new board to some major donors, while ensuring corporate sponsors feel appreciated, while celebrating an anniversary, while – well you get the idea. Keep it simple.
    2. Integrate the mission into the experience. Hold a small fundraiser at a mission-related store to make planning easier and off-set costs with potential for in-kind donations in exchange for publicity. Or, encourage attendees to bring a mission-related item to donate (e.g. dog toys for an animal shelter or baby items for a family services organization). This will help attendees think about the mission before they come – even if they are only coming to network.
    3. Take pictures at the event and display pictures of past events. Shanon’s theory is simple – people like to see themselves in pictures. It’s both exciting and helps event-goers feel like they are special to the organization. Important enough to make the wall. And people who feel important to the organization will, in turn, put more value into the relationship.
    4. Put information and/or signage about the organization in the bathrooms. I thought this was incredibly clever. Almost every person will see it while waiting on line or drying their hands. Use your captive audience to inform, excite, and/or educate about your nonprofit.
    5. Follow up. While Shanon takes you through a step-by-step path to following up, I think it is important to highlight her last step. If, after three touch points, the prospect has not responded, place them on a separate events-only list. If they are not ready to give to the organization – you will only anger them by badgering them for a donation again and again. If they come to another event, you will have the opportunity to correspond with them again. But, if they are only interested in coming to events and never offering a straight donation – celebrate them for their role. Maybe they will bring friends who will contribute. Or maybe they will just help you sell tickets to events – either way allow them to develop a positive feeling about the organization and you will have the possibility of a long-term relationship on the donor’s terms.

Engaging prospects at a nonprofit event is stewardship, plain and simple.  And stewardship helps turn prospects into donors.


If you would like to hear Shanon or any of the other 11 fundraisers who share their best ideas in 100 Donors in 90 Days click here.

Stewardship Through Facebook

Facebook IconIn the fifth installment of 100 Donors in 90 Days, John Haydon discusses how social media can help you find new donors. Social media may be complicated for those just considering whether to initiate a program. For those of us who have been working in this realm for a while, it is an ever-changing tactic that we are all trying to employ. Why should we keep at it? Because if there is a chance we can bring in new donors through social media – we are virtually obligated to give it our best effort. And people like John have proven it’s possible. But, employing social media has to be evaluated within the context of our overall development strategy, particularly when we are asking anyone in our organizations to focus their limited time and resources on a new area of responsibility.

Then, what should be a part of the agency’s marketing effort and what should be considered fundraising?

According to John, Facebook is a great place to meet potential donors. He makes some helpful suggestions to increase your presence if you are just starting out. But, let’s focus on some of the ways to use Facebook that will help you find new donors.

Facebook is a hard place to ask for money. Sure, there can be a “donate now” link – people even expect that. But, you have no way to control whether the message goes to people who showed up today for the first time or have “liked” you for the past year. MJA readers know that cultivation takes time and asking too soon can leave a bad taste with a potential donor. Instead, think about what path you would like them to follow once they are on your Facebook page that would enable them to become bigger fans of your organization. If you are not sure that your strategy will work – ask them. Facebook is interactive in a way that few traditional media have been in the past.

In other words, use Facebook as an element of the cultivation and stewardship process. Consider ways to engage people to come back often. Encourage visitors to give you their email address in exchange for some perk. They know you will email them a solicitation at some point, but then you can control at what point in the relationship they receive your messages.

And, gently guide them to your website. The statistics about giving on Facebook vs. giving on a website are drastically different. John refers to a Blackbaud report that demonstrates the value of moving prospects towards your site.

I think he put it well when he said, “the best use of Facebook is going to be about nurturing relationships. If you ask too much you’re going to probably offend a lot of people that are on the periphery. They are just getting to know your organization. If they just happen to come onboard in the middle of your fundraising campaign. You don’t want to turn them off by pounding them over the head.”

Facebook has one other strength that is worth noting. It is a great place to highlight outcomes, offer appreciation to donors and show what you were able to do with the money raised.

With a bit of set up, showing off your best side will become easier and easier.

Understanding the Different Styles of Fundraisers

Week 4 of 100 Donors in 90 Days is a conversation with Andrea Kihlstedt. Her ideas focused on using board members’ strengths to identify ways to make each individual person comfortable with making an ask. Imagine if you could really figure out how to get each and every board member to participate by understanding the different styles of fundraisers.

Most staff and board chairs would be hard pressed to provide individual tutorials to each board member, but you can use Ms. Kihlstedt’s four categories, Rainmaker, Go-Getter, Mission Controller and Kindred Spirit to create four paths by which almost everyone will find their comfort zone. She suggested using a designated part of your time set aside for 100 Donors in 90 Days to determine categories (In fact, she said while referring to gaining the 100 new donors, “You have to be very intentional in the way you work at it. It won’t happen by itself. You need a little time and a little effort every day to do that.“)

I would take her idea one step further.

While she has concluded that any person might be a combination of two categories, you can focus on their primary personality trait and provide lists of four different ways to approach donors (based on those categories). These lists could include options like an event at home for a Kindred Spirit or a room filled with new prospects for a Go-Getter. Then, let each person self-identify – making your understanding of your board and future assignments more productive.

When ideas of strategic partnerships between the different categories were touched upon I could also see how pairing an extrovert with a detail-oriented person would create better results. But the key to ensuring you use this methodology to help you achieve the 100 new donors will be in accepting, and encouraging the board to accept, that everyone works differently and realizing that you can get annoyed by that fact, or use it to your advantage. The choice is yours.

Have A Board Member Contest At Your Nonprofit

In week 3 of 100 Donors in 90 Days we meet Amy Eisenstein.  Amy’s conversation focused on her “Top 5 Ways To Find New Donors” and it was filled with ideas to help nonprofits – big and small – gain supporters.  While I could have chosen any of the top 5 to highlight, number three: Have A Board Member Contest, struck me as a particularly good idea because I participated in something similar as a board member a few years ago. And it was a success.  I had never seen it talked about in this way and I definitely learned a bit about what makes me tick as a donor in her explanation.

What is a new donor board member contest?”
Amy’s idea to have a board member contest is that if you propose the idea of a contest to your board, while engaging them in designing and promoting it, they will be excited about the process and more participatory.

The example she used was a board creating a $5,000 match for all new donors within a set amount of time. Further, she suggested that the board chair or staff encourage the board to engage in a creative brainstorming session to come up with ideas that they think would work with potential new donors.  Then ask the board to consider:

  • How are we going to promote this?
  • How are we going to spread the word?
  • How are we going to reach these new donors?

The answers to the three questions could be anything from social media to flyers and postcards to hand out by board members or at events.  Remember that in all likelihood you do not have these potential new donors in your database so a direct mail piece will not be the best use of resources.

My experience as a board member
What contest did I participate in?  Coincidentally, it was almost identical to Amy’s example although it wasn’t focused on new donors (although I do love that aspect of her idea).  The board chair reserved a portion of the meeting to discuss ways to encourage the board to give earlier during the year to ease some of the financial concerns that had arisen from front and back loading events and year-end direct mail pieces.  Then, it was suggested we all participate in a board challenge  – what a great way to make the board member feel better about donating early in the year while creating the opportunity for donors to do the same (without knowing about the financial concerns).  I, along with my colleagues, did give at that time and felt good about how much more money my same donation would help leverage this year.

And, had they asked me to do it again I would have.  Engage board members and new donors with one campaign – pretty impressive.