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!

The Secret to Sending Prompt Thank You Notes

After we meet with a donor, prospect or volunteer; especially for the first time, we fundraisers have the best of intentions to send a thoughtful hand-written thank-you note. We truly appreciate the gift of time that the individual has given us and we want to sincerely thank them for it.  Plus, we know that most people don’t get many thank-you notes; especially hand-written ones, and we know the impact that they have on the recipient.

But what typically happens?  That’s right—life happens. We go to back to the office and get buried in the flood of emails that piled up while we were away. Or we head home and go right into dinner prep, homework help, dog walking or other activities. Even if we add “Write thank you note to Susan” to our to-do list, three days often go by before we get to it — and promptness is a big key to success with thank-you notes.

As a self-proclaimed productivity nerd, this scenario drove me nuts for the first five years of my fundraising career.  There had to be a better way to get these notes written and out promptly, without having them be just another stressor.

Finally, I found the solution.  And it’s simple:

  1. Keep a set of thank-you cards and pre-stamped envelopes with you at all times (in your briefcase, car, purse, etc.).
  2. Before going into your meeting set out a note (my favorite spot for this is the passenger seat of my car) and pre-address it if you have time.
  3. Immediately after the meeting, write the note.  Don’t put “Write thank-you note to Susan” on your to do list—actually write it! The details of your message will be fresh in your mind and it will be effortless.
  4. On your way into your house or office, drop the completed thank-you note into the outgoing mail.

That’s it, and it’s not rocket science. What does it require?  It requires you creating a new habit.  How long does that take?  Typically, 30-45 days.

So stick with it and eventually writing thank-you notes will go on autopilot for you. I’ve been doing this for over a decade now and haven’t stressed out about a single note, and I’ve never missed sending one either. And that has made a big difference with the donors that I’ve had the pleasure of working with to make this world a better place.

This post first appeared as a part of Advancing Philanthropy: Perspectives – a free membership benefit of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).  Check out more posts by @fundraiserchad for AFP.

Get on the “Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat Cycle” with Agents of Good

How do you split your time between the various fundraising activities in your annual fund?

Do you spend more time asking, thanking or reporting?

My friends at Agents of Good, Jen Love and John Lepp, spend a lot of time talking about this in their quest to promote #donorlove throughout the sector.

I had the honor of hosting them as the keynoters for the AFP Central PA conference a few years back (that’s us on their fabulous tour of Hershey’s Chocolate World). While in town, they penned this great, short blog post which really narrows in on where we should be spending our time (HINT: you’re probably not spending enough time on that last part). Check it out now.

Lynne Wester’s Stewardship Report Swap

Do you need to write a donor update or annual report?  Do you want to do something different but are feeling uninspired?

Well, today I share my go to source … Lynne Wester, the Donor Relations Guru.

Lynne conducts the annual Stewardship Report Swap.  This year she and her team received over 1,800 pages of stewardship report samples. These samples include endowment reports, customized top donor reports, annual reports, videos, websites, and more.  Lynne beautifully combines and categorizes them and then puts them out to the fundraising community for free.  Check them out (and her … she’s sassy fun and amazing … she was the first to coin the term “thask”).

Steven Screen’s 3 Things to Become Great At

Are you familiar with Steven Screen’s work? If not, you should be. He’s a fundraising direct mail ninja and partner at The Better Fundraising Co. Steven is always publishing insightful blog articles that cut right to the chase and explain what needs to be done for fundraising success.

Here’s a great recent example: “The Three Things to Become Great At.” Check it out and show him some love.

5 Steps to Smarter Fundraising

5 Steps to Smarter Fundraising

Are you confused about where to start with fundraising? Are you overwhelmed with all of the options out there? Are you ready to focus and see better results?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to use every possible fundraising technique. In fact, you will do better if you don’t. But where should you focus your effort?

Download this FREE GUIDE by @fundraiserchad: “Five Steps to Smarter Fundraising” for the answer.

Why Your Executive Director Needs a Donor Caseload

Why Your Executive Director Needs a Donor Caseload


Every executive director needs a caseload. A caseload of donors, that they manage. A caseload of donors that they work to ensure are having a vibrant and great donor experience with your organization.

I don’t care if the only staff member is the executive director. That’s even more so a case where they need a caseload. I don’t care if they have 20 direct reports and development is not their primary responsibility because they have a whole team of development people. They still need a donor caseload as the top staff member. There’s that certain key top group of donors that expect to have access to the top staff member and their relationship will only deepen with the organization if they get that.

So, if you are a crazy time strapped executive director or not used to doing this, what’s the minimum? I say twelve. Twelve prospects gives you one donor visit a month. If you meet with them each once a year, you’ll be fine. Look at your list once a month or so, reach out on holidays, birthdays, etc. “I was thinking of you today and wanted to let you know what is happening with …” These simple donor touch points will deepen those key relationships. Just think what would happen if the twelve most key relationships at your organization received that focus every year.

If there’s a little more time can we take it to 20, 25 or 30 donor relationships? Imagine the impact that would have. Yes, you as a development staffer are still going to have to prod and push and to make sure those contacts happen. “How’s you caseload going? Have you done your contacts for this month?” But, the impact that it will have with your donors will be well worth it.

So, if you’re an executive director, ask “Could I do this?” If you’re the development director, put this out to your ED and see what they have to say. If you’re a board member, what about evaluating the executive director based on how well they serve their caseload? Did they meet with everybody? Did they routinely reach out to them. That is a great metric for ED success, and for development success at your organization.

Wow Your Donors with Personalized Video

Wow Your Donors with Personalized Video

Wow Your Donors with Personalized Video

Video is incredibly powerful.  It can be an amazing tool for fundraising — especially for donor stewardship.

Everybody has a video camera these days … it’s built right into our smartphones.  You don’t need fancy equipment.  You already have it.  Just turn it on and say “thank you.”

Please watch the video above if you’d like to see a sample of what this looks like.

You can do this.  All you need is a smartphone, a message to share and email — that’s it!

Imagine sending personalized video emails to your donors simply saying “thank you” and showing your program in action.  Remember to use phrases like “you made the possible” and “we couldn’t do this without you” to make the donor the hero of your video.  Have you ever received one of these?  I bet your donors haven’t either.

6 Sweet Ways to Show Donor Love

6 Sweet Ways to Show Donor Love

Jen Love and John Lepp of Agents of Good share 6 Sweet Ways to Show Donor Love …

#1 Remember that Your Donors Want to Feel Good

The part of the brain that lights up when you give to charity is the same part of the brain that lights up when you have sex and when you eat chocolate — it’s the pleasure center of your brain.  Giving feels good.  So always remember when you’re talking to your donors that they want to feel good and they want to help and fix something.  So, think of sex and chocolate and write your donors!

#2 Apply the 80/20 Rule to Your Mail File

If you take 20% of your file, they’re most likely giving 80% of your revenue.  With this group, mail them something special like a bigger envelope with lots of handwriting all over it.  If you follow the 80/20 rule and you produce this mail pack in house, it will do a lot better than mailing the whole file exactly the same thing.

#3 Use Fundraising Delighters

“Fundraising delighters” are things that you don’t expect to receive from the charities that you love but change your perspective on the experience.  This can be things like photographs, postcards and quick video updates.

#4 Create Paper Clip Moments

The power of the paper clip is that computers and machines cannot paper clip.  So, when a donor sees a paper clip they feel like there was a human involved with the creation of the mail piece.  It’s a very small touch, but it’s very meaningful.

#5 Always Maintain an Abundance Mindset

This one is more for you as a fundraiser, and it’s to always maintain an abundance mindset.  There is so much information out there and so much we can look at.  So, always keep your mind open to learning new things and surround yourself with people who will challenge you and keep you open to new things.

#6 Thank & Report Back With Double the Effort

When you ask your donors to give and then do so, you must thank them with double the amount of effort that you put into asking them.  And you have to report back on what you did with their giving.  Only then can you ask them again and repeat this cycle.  Make sure you ask them, make sure you thank them and make sure you report back to them on what you did with those funds.