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5 Cures for Your Worst Fundraising Challenges

This post originally appeared on Guidestar  Your fundPrescription pillsraising job never ends.  If you’re like most of us, you’re having a hard time keeping the donors you have.  Getting them to make larger gifts.  Finding new donors.

Here’s 5 tips to overcome your biggest fundraising challenges:

1)  Seek out training!  New research on major gift fundraising by Adrian Sargeant and Amy Eisenstein shows the more training you get, the more you raise.  How much?  They found a $37,000 increase in major gift income associated with each form of training!    As a special exclusive for our loyal readers, Pursuant is giving away one night free hotel to the first 10 folks who sign up for their one day Fundraising Bootcamp

2) Set a revenue goal and cultivation plan for each donor in your portfolio.  Walt Disney said “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”  You can’t wish your donors into giving.  Hope is not a strategy. You have to be thoughtful and intentional.  Determine what you should ask for and when and plan each move and each visit along to way to get there.  Apply your cultivation plan and revenue goals to a calendar and you’re off to the races with a fundraising plan!

3) Resolve to learn more about your donors.  Adrian Sargeant recommends, “Talk to your donors about the 1 program they care about not the 10 others they don’t.” Affordable digital tools like highly visualized email surveys can help you identify your donor’s passions and boost their retention.

4) Get clear on where you can turn the greatest fundraising profit – major gifts.  Love him or hate him, but everyday Mark Zuckerberg wakes up and asks himself: "Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?”  Are you?

5) Dedicate yourself to making your donors FEEL something.  While you’re trying to articulate just how awesome your programs are your donor might be tossing your letter in the trash.   How YOU feel is irrelevant.  What your donors feel is the ONLY thing that matters.  Is your appeal rousing?  Does it make them feel good about themselves for supporting you?  It should.

Ready to raise more?  I hope you’ll join me April 19th for Fundraising Bootcamp! The first 10 to sign up get one night free hotel!

Hope to see you there!


Going to AFP? 10 sessions you can’t miss

This post originally appeared on NP HUBMicrophone in Conference Seminar room Event Background March 15, 2016 I’m packing my bags and counting down the days to AFP International in Boston!  I hope you’ll come say hi to me in one of my sessions:  “Relationship Fundraising” on Sunday at 12:30 with Adrian Sargeant and Jay Love or “Why Midlevel Donors are Sweeter than Christmas Morning” with Mark Rovner and Mohit Pramanik on Tuesday at 3:15.  We’ve got lots of free fundraising goodies waiting for you at the Pursuant booth 1216, so come say hi!


Spending 3 days getting inspired by fundraising thought leaders and seeing “best of” campaigns from around the world is like my own personal Christmas.  Last year’s AFP boasted a star studded keynote line up with Seth Godin, Whoopi Goldberg and Isabel Allende but my favorite session was “Everything You Know about Donor Decision Making is Wrong” by Alan Hutson and Bernard Ross.  Who am I most excited to see this year?  The list is long!  Enjoy my cheat sheet of can’t miss sessions in alphabetical order…


  1. Tom Ahern

I am a mega fan of Tom Ahern (who isn’t?).  Even if you’ve already seen his Loverizing Your Donor before there’s new guaranteed pearls of wisdom every time.  This year he’s also doing a session on “Making Money on Facebook: Yes, it can be done.”


  1. Roger Craver, Editor The Agitator

I’m a huge fan of Roger’s book, Retention Fundraising: The Art and Science of Keeping Your Donors for Life and excited for his session on “Rebels with Causes – Fundraising as a Driver of Social Change”.


  1. NPExperts: Shanon Doolittle (Shanon Doolittle + Co.) & Mark Rovner (Sea Change Strategies)

Two of my all-time favorite humans TOGETHER in one session?  It’s like fundraising is throwing a party and everyone’s invited!  Shanon is pure fundraising joy and Mark is like the defense attorney for great donor experiences.  Ready to get inspired with great stewardship ideas and a renewed passion for fundraising?  Join them for “The Future of Fundraising NP Experts panel”.  You can also see Shanon as part of another dynamic duo with the incomparable Beth Ann Locke in their session “10 Habits of Highly Successful Fundraisers”.


  1. Anne Melvin, Director of Training and Education at Harvard

Anne’s session “The Art and Science of Fundraising Persuasion” promises to show us how to apply social science principles to get donors to a yes.


  1. Mark Rovner (Sea Change Strategies) & Mohit Pramanik, Save the Children Canada

I’m honored to get to partner with these two in “Why Midlevel Donors are Sweeter than Christmas Morning”.  Join us to get tools, insight and inspiration to launch a successful midlevel program.


  1. Adrian Sargeant, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy

I’m honored to get to present with Adrian, Jay Love and Ian MacQuillin in Relationship Fundraising: Where do we go from here?  Join us to get critical insight into the donor journey and what strategies work best when!  You’ve got two more chances to see Adrian at this years AFP, in the Rebels, Renegades & Pioneer's Session: "You can't be truly a profession without academic research." Or is fundraising somehow the exception? and “You Can Raise Major Gifts at Your Small Shop: Research Proven Methods and Best Practices” with Amy Eisenstein and Jay Love.


  1. Stephen Pidgeon

I love Stephen’s book Love Your Donors to Death and expect great things from his copy clinic “Be More Creative in Communication with Supporters”.

  1. Bernard Ross and Alan Hutson

Last year these two knocked it out of the park in their standing room only session on behavioral economics and the great news is they are back in “Behavioral Economics: the Science of Fundraising Psychology”.  Catch Bernard in another session with Angela Cluff “Global Fundraising: 5 campaigns that will change your ideas.”


  1. Stephen Shattuck

I am a huge fan of Stephen and expect session “The Art and Science of Retaining Digital Donors” will be a huge hit.


  1. Gail Perry

Nonprofits struggling to get their board members fundraising can look forward to some hands on help in Gail’s session, “Teach Your Board Members to Open Doors to New Major Gifts Prospects”.


I hope to see you in Boston at one of my sessions or at the Pursuant booth, #1216.   Come say hi!

Try this at home: Donor Cultivation Events that Deliver

This is the second post in a 2 part blog series originally appearing on Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog on November 7th and November 8th, 2013.

In yesterday’s post I shared 5 questions you should ask yourself to develop a donor cultivation event:

1)      What are you already doing with clients that would be meaningful for your donors to see?

2)      What high value “VIP” volunteer opportunities can you create to allow donors to feel a part of your mission in a fun, engaging way?

3)      Who is your audience: major donors, midlevel donors, prospects, board members, media, stakeholders, etc?

4)      What is your event concept and event plan from start to finish?

5)      What is your follow up plan for everyone who attended?

Today I want to inspire you with great examples of donor cultivation events I’ve personally done to get your creative juices flowing!

I founded Girlstart where we empowered girls in math, science, technology and engineering.  We served girls at our location, local schools, universities, and on occasion field trips.

The low hanging fruit for us was summer camps held at our location.  Each Friday when the girls “graduated” from camp we invited “celebrity judges” to review the campers work (websites, robots, videos, business inventions, etc) and award prizes.  We had reserved parking, a set start/finish time, and assignment for judges with the option to interact with the girls as much or as little as they felt comfortable doing so, such as asking them questions about their invention, introducing their career, etc.  Our judges loved it and we made camp come alive for them by engaging them in a camp science experiment, such as sewing stiches on a chicken breast in a mock surgery, or testing “mystery powder” found at the scene of a caper.  Each guest got a personalized invitation, reminder calls, a staff or board member to escort them personally through their visit, a follow up phone call and handwritten thank you card for attending.

Once we mastered that we were ready for our next trick: inviting our donors on a field trip.  Every year for our Take a Girl to College Day we had 100 + middle school girls come to the University of Texas campus to experience a day in the life of a college student.  If these girls went to college they would be first generation college students.  It was a meaningful experience to behold and we soon welcomed donors to it with valet parking, a green room with refreshments, time to mingle with other supporters and board members, and an orientation from a program graduate.  As the girls got off their school buses college admissions counselors (our donors “cast” in a VIP acting role) congratulated each student by name to tell them they’d just been accepted to Harvard, Yale, MIT and more and give them their (scripted) orientation.   This event was a huge hit and our sponsors especially loved it.

My last example is an event created specifically for my top tier major donor in my portfolio.  I had a 6 figure ask goal for his capital campaign gift.  After learning in one of our visits that he was a futurist, we created an ad hoc high tech advisory council to advise us on building our future computer lab and asked him to chair it.  He filled it with high tech C-level friends, we met over lunch in our space and engaged attendees with in-person testimonials from graduates and solicited their advice on cloud computing trends that might impact our technology planning.  Several months later we had the gift!

As I said in yesterday’s post, even if your clients are remote you can still creatively engage your donors.  The only limit is your imagination!