Get Quick Event Feedback with a 4 Question Survey

Get Quick Event Feedback with a 4 Question Survey

Download our FREE 4 Question Post Event Survey template.

How do you get post event feedback? Join this discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear your tip!

For more special event tips, check out our Free Resource Library, or join us for our next events webinar, “How to Create Unique Fundraising Events that Excite Your Donors.”

The Best Fundraising Appeal Opening Lines

The Best Fundraising Appeal Opening Lines

“Johnny didn’t go to school last week because something was wrong.  His mom, Susan, couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but her mother’s instinct told her that he needed help.  Thankfully she brought Johnny into the clinic before it was too late.”

Don’t you want to know what was wrong with Johnny?  Don’t you want to hear how Johnny and Susan’s story ends?

What if your appeal letter started with a story like this?  Your donors would be much more likely to read it and respond.  As fundraisers we are good storytellers, we have to be, its how we convey need and impact.  But when we write appeals, we tend to bury these compelling stories in the middle of the letter.  And unfortunately, that is the section that very few people actually read.

Even worse, we revert to business writing 101 and often start our appeals with “Here at ABC Charity, we help individuals with …”  I can almost see your donors’ eyes glaze over as the appeal is dropped into the trash can.  We need to capture attention from the start, and what better way to do that than with a captivating and compelling story.

Here are a few other sample opening lines that lead right into great fundraising stories …

  • Just the other day, Marci walked into our facility with a big problem.
  • Last week, I was walking down the hall and stumbled upon something magical.  Six year old LaShonda was sitting outside her classroom huddled over something.

You’ll notice that each of these stories is about one person.  And that one person is referenced by their first name.  This is a key characteristic of fundraising stories.  By talking about just one person and using their name, you allow your donors to put themselves into that person’s shoes.  It is no longer a giant problem that their donation can’t change, it is a problem that one person has and their donation can make a huge difference toward fixing it.

Small changes like this can yield huge results for your fundraising appeals.  We recently heard from someone that attended our “How to Make Sure Your Next Fundraising Appeal Outperforms Your Last One” webinar in the fall.  She put the tips into action with her year end appeal in late 2017.  She couldn’t believe it, but the performance of her appeal actually doubled year over year by following the research-based best practices that we shared.  It’s not rocket science, but it takes some research and effort.  We do our best to simplify that process for you.  It’s what we love to do!

What’s your favorite fundraising appeal opening line? Join this discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear your tip!

For more fundraising appeal tips, check out our Free Resource Library.

The Top 10 Tech Tools for More Productive Fundraising

The Top 10 Tech Tools for More Productive Fundraising

Technology is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to fundraising, or almost any kind of work.  It can be a huge help or it can be a frustrating time suck.  The key is making smart decisions by using the right tool for the right task at the right time.  We’re not technology experts at Productive Fundraising, but we’ve certainly been around the fundraising scene long enough to know a great tool when we see one.  Here are our ten favorite tech tools for more productive fundraising …

  1. Your Fundraising Database
    Let’s start with the most obvious place first … your database.  And I certainly hope you have a fundraising database.  Excel and Outlook are not fundraising databases, they are places to dump information … not tools that make you more efficient.  Getting information back out of your database is just as important as having a place to put it, and that is not easy with spreadsheets and contact files.  When it comes to fundraising databases there are tons of options out there.  We’re currently partial to Bloomerang and NeonCRM.  Both of these products offer monthly fees that are based on the size of your donor base, so they grow with you and do not require large up front cash investments.  The key is to make sure your database is right-sized for your organization.  You don’t need something with every feature if you’ll never have the time to use them.
  2. TextExpander
    Have you ever noticed how it seems like you’re typing the same thing over and over again … especially with emails?  Well, there’s a tool to help with that called TextExpander.  TextExpander lets you instantly insert snippets of text from a repository of emails, boilerplate and other content, as you type – using a quick search or abbreviation.  Our favorite time to use it?  When sending donor visit request emails.  If you’ve been following us for long you know that we advocate using an optimized template for these requests.  So if you’re using a template why not make it easy?  We can insert this template into our email simply by typing “\donor” in the subject line of a new email.  TextExpander handles the rest … here’s a video we compiled a few months back showing this in action.  We also use this tool for doing things like following up with potential event attendees, sending birthday greetings and reaching out to keep in touch with donors and contacts.  TextExpander is a paid service, but we’ve found it to be well worth the minimal annual investment.
  3. Pocket
    Pocket is probably our favorite tool on this list.  It is a handy tool that keeps you on task and ensures that you are always learning something new … two essential keys to productive fundraising.  Pocket lets you save all that great content you find when browsing the web and social media, without using precious blocks of time in the middle of your work day to read it.  When you find something you want to view later, you simply put it in your Pocket.  You can put articles, videos or pretty much anything into Pocket using a simple button directly from your browser or using the share feature in apps.  If it’s in your Pocket, it’s on your phone, tablet or computer. You don’t even need an Internet connection.  You can then use all those little snippets of time in your day (waiting rooms, waiting on hold, etc.) to be productive and learn something rather than aimlessly flip through your Facebook news feed.  It’s a win-win … staying on task and making snippets of dead time productive.  And it’s a free service!
  4. Evernote
    If you haven’t gone paperless, we’d encourage you to highly consider it.  It is life changing and freeing.  You are never worried about where something is, it’s simply always with you.  The tool that makes this all work is Evernote.  Evernote lets you collect what matters and find it when you need it, wherever you are.  You can write notes, capture ideas, clip pages from the web, scan statements and receipts and even record your voice. With Evernote on your computer, phone, and the web, your notes are always with you and always in sync.  Plus their easy search feature means you can find what you need when you need it, even handwriting in images.  Guess where we keep track of blog post ideas?  Yep … Evernote.  We recommend getting started by putting one type of information in Evernote.  See how that goes and then move your life there … it’s a journey.
  5. Spokeo
    So let’s say you send one of your donors a personal note in the mail and it gets returned as undeliverable, what do you do?  Yes you can search Google or the white pages but often times they are not adequate.  You need a good research tool that can pull together all the public data and let you figure out where your donor went.  Have they moved?  Are they at a seasonal address?  Our go to tool (because of its affordability) is Spokeo.  Spokeo lets you look individuals up by name, narrow in to find the right person and then access all of the public data available on them.  It’s often a good way to find a missing email address as well (but don’t just automatically add them to your list, you don’t want to be a spammer).
  6. Feedly
    There are bunch of great fundraising thought leaders out there putting out amazing content (for free) just about every day.  There’s so much quality information that it can get overwhelming and it is very easy to miss great content.  Subscribing to all of their email newsletters just makes your inbox a train wreck.  So, we recommend putting them all into an RSS aggregator like Feedly.  Then you can just spend a bit of time every few days flipping through the headlines and save what you would like to read to your Pocket (with one click).  Then when you read it in Pocket and find something you want to implement it you can save it to your Evernote (with one click).  See what we did there?  A lot of these tools work great together to optimize your workflow.
  7. Doodle
    We coordinate a heck of a lot of meetings as fundraisers.  If you’re scheduling these by sending emails back and forth to committee members you’re wasting a lot of time (and driving them nuts).  Thankfully there’s a far better option, check out Doodle.  Here’s how it works … you select dates and times that work for you using their intuitive website.  This creates a poll which you invite your attendees to view.  With the invitation, participants can select their preferences. They don’t even need an account.  Once the votes are in, you select the option that works for the most people and notify the attendees.  It’s easy as pie (and the basic service level is free).
  8. Auction Management System
    An auction management system can really streamline special event auction coordination and make it a much more enjoyable process for your guests.  After you enter your auction items into the system, it can handle time-consuming tasks like generating bid sheets, catalogs, bidder reports and preview websites with the click of a button.  On the donor’s end the addition of an inexpensive credit card reader to a laptop allows you offer real-time check out and even pre-swipe credit cards to expedite checkout.  Our current auction management system of choice is Auctria (formerly Charity Auction Organizer).  It offers an affordable annual license which is adequate for most small to midsize nonprofit organizations.
  9. Image Editing Websites
    So much of the content that we generate is much more appealing in a visual format.  Our donors are far more likely to read something if it is graphical or includes an image.  Thankfully you no longer have to be a graphic designer to be able to produce nice, simple, clean images that enhance your messaging.  There are a bunch of free websites that allow you to create sharp images with text overlays (or even your logo) on top of free stock images.  Our current favorite is Pablo, but this seems to change every few months.
  10. LastPass
    What does almost every tech tool mentioned so far have in common?  They are all websites that require passwords.  Where are you putting all of those passwords?  Hopefully you are long past the days of keeping a written password book or putting them on a post-it note attached to your monitor.  But often times we end up using the same password for everything in order to make remembering them easier.  In the process we make ourselves (and our organizations) extremely vulnerable to hackers.  What’s the solution?  Use a tool like LastPass which is an online password vault which generates and remembers incredibly secure passwords.  The best part, you only have to remember one password moving forward (your LastPass password) which allows you to make it something creative, unique and secure.

That’s it …  our ten favorite tech tools for more productive fundraising.  Do you have a favorite tech tool that isn’t mentioned?  Join this discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear your tip!

For more productivity tips, check out all the productivity resources in our Free Resource Library.

PLEASE NOTE: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means that we earn a small commission if you make a purchase (at no additional cost to you). We are VERY selective with this list.  To be included on this list it must be a tool, service or vendor that we have personally used and know that you too will have a positive experience if you implement it in your development shop.

Capture Everything

Capture Everything

Here are a few of the tools mentioned in this video:

Alex Toys – Rub a Dub Draw in the Tub Crayons

Evernote – Digital Filing Cabinet

Moleskin – Classic Large Blank Hardcover Notebook

Uniball Jetstream – Ballpoint Pens

Do you have a capture tool that isn’t mentioned?  Join this discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear your tip!

For more productivity tips, check out all the productivity resources in our Free Resource Library.

Have a Fundraising Plan, Period.

Have a Fundraising Plan, Period.

For a step by step walk through of a simplified fundraising planning process, check out our upcoming webinar “How to Craft a Simple Fundraising Plan.”

What’s does your fundraising planning process look like?  Join the discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear from you!

For more fundraising planning tips and templates, check out all the productivity resources in our Free Resource Library.

How to Find Time to Read as a Busy Fundraiser

How to Find Time to Read as a Busy Fundraiser

I’m often asked by nonprofit board members, “What’s the most important skill to look for in a fundraiser?”  My answer is always the same … a relentless passion for learning.  A successful fundraiser always needs to be seeking new ideas and improving their fundraising knowledge base.  One of the best ways to acquire this knowledge is through reading.  There are so many great books, magazines, and blogs dedicated to nonprofit fundraising.  But many fundraisers state that finding the time to actually read is quite difficult.

So, here are my six hacks for fitting more reading into your daily schedule

1) Keep a list of what you want to read

When you hear about a great book or article, make note of it.  I add books I hear about to my online wishlist (at either amazon.com or paperbackswap.com).  When it comes time to look for new reading material, I have a list and don’t have to waste time browsing.  I can use that time for actual reading.

2) Save posts & articles to read later

When I’m spending time on social media, I do my best to get in and get out.  I don’t read articles or follow link trails.  But fellow fundraisers post lots of great content that I do want to read at some point.  That’s where Pocket comes in.  Pocket is a service that lets me save articles for later (in my pocket).  Then when I have a few minutes (e.g. waiting for an appointment, standing in line, before a donor meeting, etc.), I can read these articles — on ANY of my devices at ANY time.  It’s like having your TO READ pile with you at all times, but without the clutter or the weight.

3) Stop reading if you aren’t getting value

If you start reading something and it’s not what you thought it would be, STOP.  There is no rule that says you have to finish what you start reading.  We aren’t in grade school anymore.  We choose what we read.  This is especially important with books.  Reading an entire book is a big commitment – make sure it’s worth your time.  I will admit that I only finish about half the books that I start reading.  Once I can tell that I’m not going to get enough value out of it to justify the time, I’m done.  It’s that simple.

4) Read during all the little moments of extra time

Surround yourself with things to read.  Fill your Pocket with articles.  Keep books and magazines that you want to read on your coffee table, desk, night stand.  Keep reading material in your briefcase and in your suitcase.  Make sure you are never in a situation where you have time to read, but nothing to read.

Then instead of hopping on Facebook on your phone when you have a spare minute or two, pull up something to read.  Even if you only read a page, you are making progress and being inspired.  Don’t let these little moments go to waste, they add up.

5) Schedule a lunch with yourself

When I have something that I really want to read, like a book written by my favorite speaker at a conference or the latest edition of AFP’s Advancing Philanthropy, I schedule lunch with it.  I literally go to my calendar, find an open lunch slot, and plug in “Meeting | Advancing Philanthropy.”  It’s a lunch date, with reading material.  The key is that it is blocked from any other commitments (and it looks like a real meeting to the folks that help manage my calendar).  It’s a great way to make progress on beefier items which really require time to digest (puns intended).

6) Try audiobooks or podcasts (especially in the car) 

Driving is one of the least productive uses of time, but you can change this.  Listening to audiobooks or podcasts is a great option.  Almost any book is available in audiobook format these days and there are countless podcast options — even a few about fundraising.  You can also turn up the speed on audiobook or podcast apps to have them play at 1.5x or 2x speed.  This can allow you to finish things in half the time, and it is often times still very easy to understand.

So there you have it, six tips to help you read more and grow your fundraising knowledge base.  What are your favorite reading hacks?  Need something to read?  Check out the recommended reading section of our Free Resource Library.

Have another tip to share or a favorite resource?  Join the discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  We’d love to hear from you!

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