Tag Archives: Raise More Money This Year

Things I Like / Don’t Like / Want To Do At My Job

my job as a nonprofit consultant - teaching to fish

The new school year is another time of year I use as a check in point. Summer is over – did I binge watch too much? Yes, but I am catching up on This Is Us, so I have a good excuse. Did I spend too much time with friends? There is no such thing. Did I do all of the busy work I hoped to achieve in slow months? No, but I did have time to assess and look forward. So, here is what I thought about most recently:

Things I like about my job as a nonprofit consultant. I get to:

  1. Help nonprofits achieve their vision and mission
  2. Teach people to (proverbially) fish. You are not hiring me (and Mersky, Jaffe & Associates) to do your fundraising. You are hiring me to teach you, your staff, and board to participate
  3. Let board and staff members see that giving can be an amazing feeling for a donor
  4. Show how asking for money does not have to be a horrible, scary, gut-wrenching process.

Things I do not like about my job as a nonprofit consultant:

  1. Certain people (you know who you are) give me dirty looks when I suggest they fundraise or donate.
  2. Individuals who would be so great at fundraising won’t get past their fear.
  3. Board members who assume others should do all the fundraising
  4. When organizations don’t achieve their goals because of their fears.

Things I want to do this year:

  1. Train more people to raise more money.
  2. Help individuals and organization’s change their mindset on fundraising.
  3. Explain ways that board members can raise money without having to ask their friends (although I am not opposed to helping those who do want to ask their friends.)
  4. Consider new ways to encourage accountability of fundraising in a campaign. Maybe working with new interim deadlines to utilize the science behind urgency as a motivator.

If you would like to help me accomplish my goal, of teaching you to fish, email me today.

If you have other ideas of things I should accomplish this year, connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

If you just want to say hi, I would welcome that too.

I hope your fall is filled with many achievements.

Which is Easier? Getting a Teenager into College or Getting New Donors in December?

Getting into college or getting new donors?We are starting the college process with my 16-year-old twins. What is amazing when you look at the 3000+ colleges in the country is that there are 3,000+ colleges in the country. That means that if a child wants to go to college, there are plenty of options. And not every child wants to go to an Ivy League or an NCAA champion. In fact, there are thousands of other schools that are better matches for millions of students.

Stay with me here.

Your child will not, in all likelihood get into every school they apply to. The school will not get every student they want. And yet, 3,000 plus schools will have amazing freshmen classes starting each fall.

Just as a university only wants the students who want to be there, you only want the donors who want to give to your nonprofit. If they don’t feel connected students, and donors, will leave for a place with a better fit.

Getting New Donors

At this time of year, it feels as if everyone is talking about getting new donors. Whether they are focusing on end-of-year giving or strategizing for next year, the obvious path forward always seems to be about getting as many people as possible to write checks for any amount.

You may want to increase the number of donors in 2019, but you may not.  

I would suggest that instead of searching for 50 or 100 new donors to your organization, you consider deepening the relationships with the donors you already have. If you are anywhere near the average of 45.5% retention, you will have to find 50, 100 or more first time donors. But those new donors usually give lower amounts than long-term donors, so you will have to find 50, 100 or more first time donors each and every year to replace those you are losing.

You can raise more money if you focus on retention and increased giving. Unlike colleges, you will not have millions of people looking for new organizations to donate to. So, in all likelihood, if you are finding 50 new donors, they are coming from other nonprofits who did not engage them beyond the first gift.

So the real question about getting into college vs. getting new donors might not be which is easier, but which will help you find a better connection(s). Over time, you will raise more money, with less volatility, when you have stronger relationships with the people who want to give to you. You may never have millions of donors, but retaining hundreds of donors year after year will help you fulfill your mission. And that is the idea, after all.


* I suspect that this will be the first of many columns that will reference this fact. Why? When I learn, I like to share that learning. And so many skills learned outside of fundraising can be used inside of fundraising (e.g. timely thank yous, telling people you appreciate them, keeping in touch beyond when you are asking for something, etc). I hope it doesn’t give you PTSD or scare you. If it does, please let me know and we can talk about therapy sessions we offer. 


It’s Time for You to Evaluate Donor Retention For the Past Year

Would Additional Fundraising Staff Support Help Raise More Money This Year?

Lately, I have heard about multiple nonprofit organizations who don’t have enough fundraising staff support. This can play out in a lot of ways:

  • inconsistent response times
  • lack of donor stewardship
  • fewer offerings
  • using volunteers to cover needs
  • late mailings
  • angered constituents
  • skipped events
  • and/or lost opportunities

Surprisingly, the reason for the lack of staffing is not always money.  It can stem from something as simple as not knowing what staff you need to handle the workflow of the agency in its current configuration (this is often the case after a reorganization). Other times nonprofits don’t have enough fundraising staff support when someone leaves and replacing him/her feels like plugging a leaky bucket that keeps springing new holes.  No one had any idea what the person actually did every day, anyway.

Of course, lack of staffing almost always results in less money raised.  Every late mailing or stewardship meeting that didn’t happen will reduce support now and into the future.

If you have read this far, you are probably don’t have enough fundraising staff support and wondering what to do about it. Here are a few options:

  1. Engage Mersky, Jaffe & Associates to conduct an Organizational and Development Assessment. This service can help you define your strengths and needs as well as save you money over time by fully utilizing your staff and their skills.  This is also very helpful when presenting your need to increase staff to the board.
  2. Perform the following exercise:
    1. ask each person in the administrative office to write down what they could achieve if they could magically add 20 additional hours per week.
    2. ask each person in the administrative office to write down 3-5 items they wish someone else could take on so that they could achieve more in the “core” areas of their job.
    3. Ask the supervisor to list all areas that are under-performing due to staffing constraints
    4. Consider the costs of one new part-time person and one full-time person. Generalize – don’t waste too much time on this part of the exercise.
    5. Compare what you could achieve with these additional costs – what is it worth to you?

Raising more money this year will require additional support from staff.  If you are not willing to chart a new path to success, don’t complain when results do not.

Read the overview from this series by clicking here

Read Chapter 1: Solicitation, Acknowledgement, and Stewardship Systems

Read Chapter 2: A Stronger Fundraising and Development Committee

A Stronger Fundraising and Development Committee

Chapter 2: What would help your nonprofit raise more money this year? A stronger fundraising and development committee.

The results of my survey are in, and the schedule is set for a year of articles focused on what would help your nonprofit raise more money in 2017.  This month, I will focus on how to build a stronger fundraising and development committee.

You may remember a series I wrote a couple of years ago on my experience as the chair of a development committee (and if not you can read it by clicking here). I didn’t speak to the challenges of strengthening the committee, but looking back, I should I have.  I was like other development volunteers that lead a committee, I sometimes found it easier to do it myself and then was surprised when people didn’t feel like it was a “real” committee. What would I have done differently? What can you do?

  1. When encouraging fellow board members to join the fundraising and development committee clearly explain that asking others for a donation is part of the committee, but helping do the work to get to that point is equally important if it allows the solicitor to do more asks.Working with volunteers has its challenges and time constraints–jobs, family life, hobbies, and other board commitments all compete.  You can divide the work of prospect research, prioritizing prospects for the year, collecting relevant information on each prospect, the solicitation, and stewardship.  The solicitor will still have to make the calls, find a time and place, have the meeting and make the ask, but that is just one piece of the development committee’s work.
  2. Follow through by asking each member of the fundraising and development committee to participate on a regular basis. If you stop asking for help, each member will spend their time elsewhere and be too busy by the time you get around to calling them.At the next meeting ask everyone to list what they have done for the committee in the past (if anything), what they hope to work on, and what they would like to avoid. Then, strategize to use each person effectively.  If one person doesn’t like to come to meetings but will do research from home, he/she can still be valuable to the committee.
  3. Hold regular meetings. It will ensure that everyone knows they are still on the committee, that they have a responsibility to do their work by a deadline, and that the chair is not taking the work on by themselves.
  4. Have clearly defined goals that are achievable. That means choosing whether you are going to focus on new donors, donor retention, increased giving from current donors, events, etc… Don’t try to do it all so that you won’t lose focus and fail at most of it.
  5. Stay optimistic. Donors and committee members both respond to optimism.  If you don’t feel it, fake it until you make it.

The good thing about committees is that every year is a new opportunity to be stronger and better.  Make 2017 the start that you were looking for.

Read Chapter 1: How do you improve your solicitation, acknowledgement, and stewardship systems?

Read how this series started by clicking here

Read Chapter 3: Additional Staff Support






How do you improve your solicitation, acknowledgement, and stewardship systems?

Chapter 1: What would help your nonprofit raise more money in 2017?

How do you improve your solicitation, acknowledgement, and stewardship systems?

While solicitation, acknowledgement, and stewardship systems may not seem like high priority to those new to fundraising, staff and board in the trenches know that speed, accuracy, and staff capacity is often determined by the systems employed by the nonprofit.

A good data management or CRM system includes tracking, a calendar, reminders, a place to write notes, and staff/volunteers to input information on a timely basis. Let’s look at three of the larger systems problems, and some solutions.

1 – You don’t use your software to its fullest.  Most people use a small portion of their software’s capabilities.  That’s true for everything from word processing to your fundraising software.  Invest in the time to learn the best ways to manage your prospect and donor relationships.  Without knowing what you use I can tell you that there are training guides, videos and opportunities to ask an expert that you could be using to create a better experience. Most people don’t because it takes time away from task and they think they know enough. Assume you don’t and learn the tricks that are unique to that system.

2 – Years of turnover in staff and volunteers have left your systems a mess. It’s an old story, a new person comes in, wants to hit the ground running and creates new codes in the systems that work better for him. Or he simply can’t understand why they would need codes A, B & C when he needs codes H, I & J. He starts working within his comfort level but doesn’t get rid of the old codes.  Next thing you know there are codes from various people that no one fully understands.

Now is the time to fix it.  It doesn’t mean you need a new system. You might, but first you should do a bit of forensics—figure out what is going on. Then, take time to get cleaned up.  The good news is that you can use this refresh to steward donors.  It is a great excuse to call a major donor asking to understand some of their history with the organization and initiate a new relationship.  Of course, if you do this multiple times, the nonprofit will seem inept.  In other words, fix what is wrong, establish protocols, document them, and then keep the system that way.

3 – Retrieving information takes too much time.  You have all this information, but if it takes you too long to determine who gave last year to the annual fund in December, 2015 but did not renew in December, 2016, how much those who gave increased or decreased their gifts and/or who solicited them last year, you should consider something new.  If it is too complicated to get the information out, no one will look for this data on a regular basis.

The ease of collecting donor and prospect information can be the difference between examining the data in late December and waiting until things settle down in January or February.  Those donors who did not give a gift to you in 2016 may have reallocated those funds or simply forgotten, but the result is that neither your nonprofit or the donor prioritized the relationship. Either way, your donations are down and those donors are now LYBUNTs causing you even more work.  Free and low cost software may seem like it saves you money, but not if it costs you donations.

If your systems are not what they should be, create a team to (volunteer and staff) explore and find an alternative and get working.  The sooner you have stronger systems, the easier it will be to raise more money in 2017. 

How did this series come about? Click here to find out.

Read Chapter 2: A Stronger Fundraising and Development Committee

What Would Help Your Nonprofit Raise More Money This Year?

With resolutions and calendaring on everyone’s mind, I would like you to stop and think about the coming year.  What would help your nonprofit raise more money in 2017? The list might include:

This year, in this column, I will cover these topics, help you find the necessary resources and reduce your excuses.

Excuses are always plentiful with some people but it is often perspective.  A shoestring budget can be a deterrent or an inspiration to get creative.  Staff and volunteers who want to learn and grow will achieve more than some seasoned professionals.  And, systems, even the most expensive ones, will only work when they are created or tailored with a specific organization  – and how they will use it – in mind.

To start the exercise, write down your top three priorities from the list above.  If you email them to me by replying to this blog or sharing them on twitter @merskyjaffe, I will collect the results to use as a guide for calendaring the year of articles.  Of course, if you would prefer specificities to help your nonprofit raise more money, email or call me (617.285.2557) today.