Should You Give Your Donors an Incentive for Giving?

Video Transcription:

I want to talk a little bit about donor incentives … the stuff you get when you make a donation. If I get asked about this, I almost always say, “It’s not a great idea.” Because you don’t want to set that precedent – you don’t want your donors to think that in order to make a donation there has to be something tangible in it for them. You want them to give because they want to make an impact, because they want to change the world. That’s what we’re after. But sometimes there are exceptions….

The most notable exceptions are my friends at public media stations. They have fallen into that trap where it’s, “Make a donation and you get this boxed CD set,” or, perhaps at Valentine’s Day, “Make a donation and we’ll send a dozen roses to a person of your choice.” They are deep into that and they have some donors who won’t give unless they’re going to get something in return. So using that as an example I almost always say, “Don’t do it!” But, you have got to know your audience, which brings me to something that happens in my house every year. A campaign where we actually give to get the stuff.

In the video I’m out camping with two special guests. They are my boys, and I asked them about when we give to a certain fundraiser specifically in order to GET something. They go on to explain how every year they participate in Jump Rope for Heart. Jump Rope for Heart knows their audience well and they give very specific “bling” incentives for giving and participating! So, they go into the schools with activities and they know that the kids want the “bling,” or prizes. You have to give to get. My boys have lanyards and in the video you can see their extensive collections of these incentives. And then we talk about maybe we should just give to the food pantry or something like that. And we do, but we still give to get the bling. We love that bling!

So, there you have it. Ultimately, you’ve got to know your audience. For some of you it may work, but for most of you it’s a trap that you really want to avoid.

Sandy Rees: How to Start a Monthly Giving Program for Your Small Nonprofit

One of my most common recommendations to clients is to start a monthly giving program.

Often times the response that I receive is “we already have a monthly giving program.” To which I reply, “simply having a checkbox on your online donation page (to make the donation a recurring gift) does not qualify as a monthly giving program.”

You need to do more. Create a program and a system to actively market it and you’ll build the momentum you need to make it something that your supporters want to be a part of.

To help you out, here’s great article by fundraising guru Sandy Rees on “How to Start a Monthly Giving Program for Your Small Nonprofit.” Because, even if you already have a program (meaning more than just a checkbox), there are still some great tips on growing support for this important part of your fundraising program.


Where to Find the Best Board Members

I spent ten years as a nonprofit executive director for an arts fundraising organization. During that time I saw a lot of board members come and go. Some were amazing, most were adequate and a few were total flops.

When I look back on those amazing board members there were a few commonalities among most of them…

These folks were mid-level executives, maybe 10 to 15 years into their career. They weren’t yet in the C-suite. They weren’t yet commonly known in the community. They were highly networked. They had good things to offer, but they weren’t the “it” person at their company just yet. They were a step removed from that – and they were awesome board members!

They had the time and the passion to serve on the board. They had drive. They wanted and needed to get active in the community before they could take the next step in their career.

So, as you’re looking for some fresh faces and new energy on your board, I’d encourage you to look for these folks. Those mid-level executives that have the drive to get to the top, but haven’t yet arrived. They’re another 10-15 years from the high point in their careers. You could even call them the “heir apparent” at their companies.

So what do you do with the regular old crowd? You know, those folks that have been on every board in town. The folks that talk about this way: “Oh, you need to get to know George,” or, “You need to meet Sue. She can help your nonprofit.” Well, I’ll go meet with George or Sue but I say something along the lines of “You know we love your company and we want to partner with you. We’d love some board representation, but you’re not who I want. You’re too busy. You’re already incredibly active in the community. I want your number two. Who is your person who needs to be more engaged in the community, who wants that engagement but isn’t quite there yet?” That’s the person who makes an awesome board member.

Don’t be afraid to have that conversation. Think about who that could be in your community. Have those conversations with some of your business leaders and find those hidden gems who are going to be incredible board members for your organization.

Monthly Donor Conversion Request Template [free download]

Monthly donors. They sound great, right? Predictable, recurring, consistent revenue. {cue fundraiser drooling}

But how do you get them? How do you get your current donors to convert (upgrade) to monthly donors? Simple … you ask.

However, it needs to be a direct, personalized ask. Not a generic upgrade email about the your monthly donor program. I’m talking about a personalized email or letter specifically asking them to make the switch. I like to call it a win-win letter. You tell them what’s in it for them and what’s in it for you. And you personalize the request by using their name, adding a note, etc. It should look like personal correspondence.

In my experience, this approach is far more successful than generic requests. However, it often takes several tries. So keep at it and ask folks to consider this at least once a year.

Oh, and feel free to speed this process up by starting with my template.

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 potential fundraising staff?”  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 six tips 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 a note of it.  I add books I hear about to my online wish lists (either on Amazon or Blinkist).  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.  [If you’re starting from scratch, here are my favorites: @fundraiserchad’s top book recommendations]

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 (well … at least I try not to do so … darn memes).  But our 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 app).  Then when I have a few minutes (e.g. sitting in waiting room before an appointment, standing in line to board a plane, 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 those 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 have access to my calendar).  It’s a great way to make progress on beefier items which really require time to digest (puns intended).

6) Try audiobooks, podcasts or book summaries (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.  And I can’t forget my latest obsession, Blinkist, which features 15 minute summaries of tons of great nonfiction leadership and business books.

Steven Screen: When to Attempt to Innovate

I talk a lot about the need for innovation in fundraising. I include a photo of a grumpy committee member with a speech bubble saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” followed by a chart showing the law of diminishing returns in several of my presentations. My honest belief is that if we don’t innovate our fundraising will eventually turn in the wrong direction.

However, not every nonprofit organization is ready to innovate. If an organization is just getting started, hasn’t implemented best practices or is an organizational train wreck it might not be the right time. So when is the right time?

Fundraising guru Steven Screen does a great job talking through that in his article “When to Attempt to Innovate.” The “Stabilize, Optimize, Expand, Innovate” framework is a great way to approach fundraising innovation. Where is your organization at on that framework? Are you ready to innovate or do you need to address some other issues first?


Evaluation Sheet for New Fundraising Ideas [free download]

Do you have more ideas than you know what to do with?

Or does your board of directors have more ideas for you than you can possibly act on? Are they all for new fundraising events? (don’t get me started on this … that’s another post)

How do you evaluate fundraising ideas and decide which ones to pursue?

My friends Alice Ferris and Jim Anderson at GoalBusters Consulting have simplified this process with their great “Evaluation Sheet for New Fundraising Ideas.” This tool lets you evaluate new fundraising ideas along the following criteria:

  • Potential revenue
  • Effort
  • Likely success
  • Uniqueness
  • Mission match (my favorite one)

You end up with a simple score for each idea and can quickly see which idea makes the most sense to pursue.

My bonus tip is to score your current fundraising ideas at the same time. This works really well if you have a committee that is change averse … once they see the numbers they are typically more open to a discussion.

Give it a download today and put it to work in your shop.

Download It Here

Are You Sabotaging Your Fundraising Just to Save a Buck?

Let’s talk about my least favorite tool in fundraising. I don’t even want to call it a tool, because I don’t think you should use it AT ALL. What is it? The Window Envelope.

Yes, window envelopes. They don’t belong in fundraising. What comes in window envelopes? Bills. Bills! Do you want your fundraising appeal to look like a bill when it comes? That’s just screaming, “Throw me in the trash!” No, we don’t want that. And what else do some organizations use them for? Gift acknowledgements or thank-you letters. That’s even worse! Do you want your thank-you letter to look like a bill? No, we don’t want that either.

Why do we use them? Well, it simplifies the process a little bit if we don’t have to also address the envelope – we can see through from the letter. Print shops have really convinced us that this is cheaper. Get it quoted, it’s usually not that much cheaper. And is the connotation that, “It might be a bill,” worth the minimal cost savings you get by using a window envelope? No.

So, I recommend getting them completely out of your nonprofit. Don’t use them anywhere, not even accounting. Just don’t use them! Get them out! It’s not worth the chance that your donors see that letter and think you’re billing them, or you’re invoicing them for their support. It’s just not worth it.

What do I think we should do with them? Check out the video above for some @fundraiserchad special effects.

#donorlove Newsletter Audit (with Agents of Good)

Do you send a printed newsletter? Does it boost donor loyalty and engagement? Is it serving your organization or is it just something you do because you’ve “always done it that way?”

Your donor newsletter needs to ooze with #donorlove and show your donors all the great things that THEY are accomplishing (not what your organization is accomplishing). Make them the hero and give them the credit.

It’s one thing to tell you how to do this and other to show you. My friends Jen Love and John Lepp at Agents of Good do just that in this #donorlove Newsletter Audit. Check it out and optimize your donor newsletter!

Board Fundraising Menu

Do you have a “fundraising board?” Did that question just make you laugh?

If so, you are not alone, many (most) nonprofit organizations struggle with engaging their board in the fundraising process. In my experience the issue typically comes down to the lack of one (or a combination of the following):

  • Clarity on their role;
  • Knowledge on how to perform their role;
  • Motivation to complete their role

Productive Fundraising’s “Board Fundraising Menu” helps to address each of these issues by providing a list of 30+ ways that these members can assist with helping your reach your goals. It is designed as an exercise that board members complete where they indicate which tasks they are comfortable and willing to assist with. Download the sample to create a custom menu for your organization. And then you can begin moving your board to a more engaged state!

Download It Here