Quit Searching for the Fundraising Fountain of Youth

In this post I’d like to address a growing pet peeve of mine…

It seems that every time I go to a fundraising conference these days there is always a session on ‘engaging millenials,’ or ‘generational changes in giving.’ At first, that sounds great. Yes … we should probably adjust or tactics over time and adjust to changing donor preferences.

But then it goes a step further, and there are sessions on ‘how to get a younger donor base,’ or my all time favorite ‘my donors are getting older, what do I do?’

This is where I pause andsay “that’s always going to be the case!” Our donors are always going to be older. At what stage of life do you have the capacity and the ability to really make major gifts to charities? It’s going to be when you’re at the peak of your career or just past. Our major donors are typically going to be in their sixties and seventies. It’s just how it is. Yes, they will change over time with the generations and new preferences. But this whole idea of trying to get a younger donor base … I don’t think it’s really that worthwhile.

So, I don’t spend a lot of time doing that. Yes, we want to incorporate new technologies, be multi-channel, and adapt to the times. But doing that specifically to target a much younger donor base, one that’s really not going to have the capacity to make major gifts for another 40+ years? No.

Do we still do some things like monthly donor programs and social media engagement to try to get them involved? Yes. But really trying to target that group at the full engagement level, I don’t think so. It’s a lot of wasted effort that’s not going to pay off anytime soon.

So, what do we do? We know who our major donors are. We know what generation are they a part of and we know how to speak their language. Let’s focus on that. And then yes, let’s try to talk to everybody else as well. But, our donors will always be older. It’s just how it is. It’s how our economy works and how philanthropy is going to be, at least for the foreseeable future.

So fundraisers, give that some thought. Think about what you are spending too much time worrying about. And maybe instead you need to get out there and meet with some of those older donors who make a big difference to your organization.

Why You Need an Editorial Calendar

What is an editorial calendar? It is a document used to map out every communication for a set time period. Typically used for annual planning, this tool helps you address seasonal events, holidays, and not over (or under!) communicate on each item. Especially when it comes time to do a social media post, but also for your regular mail, keeping an editorial calendar helps you know what’s going on and therefore you don’t have to reinvent it every time.


Well, the new twist with this is “multi-channel” calendars. So, rather than it just being your social media plan for the year (where you map out all your posts), OR your email blasts OR your newsletter – this new version suggests integrating everything on one page. And the beauty of this is that a lot of the content can be re-purposed and reused. Maybe you do a social media post with content which then ends up in your print newsletter. Maybe your event ads leading up to an event can then be used in multiple other areas. So, it really stops you from having to recreate materials because you can get more value, more places.


The key to making all this work is planning. You can see how this can save you so much time down the line! It can really maximize your fundraising, and any kind of communication, at your nonprofit. So, how do you do it? You need a template. We love Excel for this because you can just kind of map out a grid and plug it in. And, of course, we have a free template to get you started! It has the weeks of the year and the typical channels that folks use. You can edit it and make it fit for your organization so that it gives you exactly what you need. That’s the tip for this week, fundraisers. Maximize an editorial calendar for your organization.

What are your thoughts?  Join the discussion in our private Facebook group, the Fundraising Fish Fry.  @fundraiserchad and the other 200+ fundraisers in the community would love to hear from you!
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Donor Update Call Script [free download]

Are you calling your donors to thank them for their support? Are your board members helping out? I certainly hope so, if not you are losing out as other nonprofits in town are connecting with your donors this way!

With donor thank you calls becoming more common these days, how do you stand out? Try donor update calls.

These calls are very similar to donor thank you calls, but they take place three to six months after the donation is made. We are once again calling to say thank you, but this time we have results to share. We have the proof that their donation made a difference and we simply want to share that with them.

Sound good? Read to pick up the phone? Nervous … here’s my Donor Update Call Script to help you out. Now go call some donors!


Veritus Group: Get Rid of the Word ‘Annual’

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

It’s hard to believe, but I don’t think I’ve ever shared a Veritus Group article with you all.  That’s a crying shame because they are awesome!

Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels deliver great content on a regular basis.  Much of their content is major gift related (and is sometimes a stretch for the tiny fundraising shops that most of you run), but there are also gems like the post I’m sharing today … “Get Rid of the Word Annual.”

I’m sure you see where this is going.  Why do we use this counterproductive term?  We’re essentially training our donors to only make one donation per year!  Richard has some other examples of ways that we do this and some alternative language that you can put into use immediately.


Block Time for Donor Visits (and for Scheduling Them)

Donor visits are the one fundraising technique that we all know we should be doing, but they’re so hard to pull off on a consistent basis. 

There are just so many demands on our time, and donor visits take us out of the office and away from other activities.  We must have dedicated time to do them! But, especially if you’re running a small shop, it’s just so hard to find that time.

So here’s what I did as a small shop fundraiser and what I encourage my clients to do: block time on your calendar each and every week for donor visits

Now, you need to do a little math. I like to allow 2 hours for a donor visit, including travel time. How many do you need to do each month? Multiply that number by 2 (2 hours per visit), now divided it by 4 (4 weeks per month). The result is how many hours each week you should block for donor visits.

So for me, that was four hours per week. I typically split that into two, 2-hour blocks spread throughout the week. And I always liked to schedule these for when I was least effective in the office.  For me, that’s mid-to-late afternoon time. So, I blocked Monday and Wednesday late afternoons as recurring appointments, marked as busy, so nothing else can be scheduled during that time.  It is a time I held sacred for donor visits.

Did all my visits happen on Monday and Wednesday afternoons? No, of course not. But I had held that time so I had the margin and wiggle room to move other things around to accommodate them. You can’t schedule donor visits if your calendar is already full.

But, is that good enough? If you just have that time blocked and you go through the everyday hustle and bustle of your job, you’ll get to the next week (and your donor visit time block) and you’ll still be in the office. That’s because you didn’t take the time to actually scheduled those donor visits.  So, the other key thing that I recommend is to have a time block set aside for scheduling donor visits each and every week. I have always had a half-hour time block where I was simply sending emails, making phone calls, and following-up, to try to get those donor visits scheduled for the next few weeks.

That’s the key to make this (or almost anything) happen — you have to set aside the time and protect it from other less important, yet still “urgent” items.  Now, quit reading this and make some contacts so you can get out of the office and have those visits that we know are so effective!

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.

Super Simple Elevator Speech Template [free download]

How do you talk about your nonprofit organization?

How do your board members talk about your organization? Are they nervous? If so, they’re probably trying to recite your mission statement and totally butchering it.

Make it easy for them … give them a super simple elevator speech to recite that leads right into a story about the impact your organization has had on one person.

Here’s the super simple formula …

  • “We help [who],”
  • “So they can [do what].”
  • “Let me tell you about [first name], [story]”

This is far easier to remember than our boring, jargon-filled mission statements. And exact words aren’t important … just get the basic concept and you’re golden.

Better yet, let your board create the elevator speech. Download my Super Simple Elevator Speech Template and have your board members complete it as an exercise at your next board meeting or retreat.

It’s amazing what can happen when everyone is telling the same story out in the community. You just have to give them the tools to do so.

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.

Twice a week Chad sends out quick tips, free fundraising templates/samples, links to articles by industry gurus and top notch recommendations.  Want in? Subscribers are also eligible to win his monthly swag bag drawing featuring great fundraising books, gear and a $100 donation to your cause!

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