Fundraising is not the first step

By | fundraising, nonprofit, planning, The Case for Support, training | One Comment

Markley, LLC | Fundraising Is Not the First StepI was pretty sure I was being pranked when I got the call.

“Do you guys do grants?”

No preamble. No Hello my name is such-and-such and I work with so-and-so. Nothing.

I answered in the affirmative. Yes, we work with organizations that need grant writing services.

“Do you charge for that? How much?”

I resisted the urge to respond with my best Dr. Evil impression: That would be one MILLION dollars.

The guy on the other end of the line wouldn’t be able to see my inverted pinkie pointing at the corner of my mouth, and might not get it. Instead, I told him I could put together a bid if I had a little more information. I asked him what organization he was with.

“I’m just with myself.” Read More

Motivate your nonprofit board to fundraise like a boss #FiverFriday

By | Fundraising board | One Comment

periscopeWhat is #FiverFriday? It’s a regular shot in the arm of fundraising advice to percolate in your little noggin as you enjoy your weekend. It’s quick and dirty tips for fundraising volunteers and professionals. It’s my new weekly Periscope broadcast that I’ll be sending out into the world.

And it’s also about time I updated this blog, so you’ll be getting some new content from my most recent installment every week (even if it’s not necessarily the day of the broadcast), which you can also catch on Youtube or on my Facebook page, or see it as it comes out, live on Twitter.

Last week, I scoped about a topic I get asked about a great deal. I’m asked about this so much, I come back to it again and again: What is the board role in fundraising? Not only do I get asked about how to get a board to fundraise, which is the topic for today, but why boards are necessary in fundraising, and even if they SHOULD be involved in fundraising.  Read More

Is uncertainty undermining your volunteer fundraising effort?

By | Major Gifts, The Fundraising Coach, Volunteerism | No Comments

16697171583_7c33584c4b_zOn a recent episode of NPR’s Marketplace, host Kai Ryssdal noted: “business hates uncertainty.”

Huh. You don’t say. You know who else hates uncertainty? Pretty much everyone.

Take, my kids for example. I think it’s a hoot when they ask “what’s for dinner?” and I say “well tonight, it’s SURPRISE dinner.”

As in surprise, there’s no dinner.

I think that’s hysterical. Those guys? Not so much.

Others hate uncertainty too: parents wondering when their teens will get home, teachers waiting for that late assignment, outdoor concert planners wondering what a 30% chance of precipitation might mean.

It means get an event tent, people.

You know who else hates uncertainty? Your fundraising team. Read More

Corporate sponsors need love, too

By | Sponsorship | No Comments


I had a chance to catch up this morning with an acquaintance who manages the corporate contributions program at a large company. After finishing the business at hand, I picked her brain on the lay of the land, philanthropically, in our community. She sees dozens of sponsorship and contribution proposals every week, so she has a good brain to pick for what’s going on.

Much of what she had to say came as no surprise – proposals come to her all the time that are poorly written or not well researched. This is a company that funds quite a range, from operational needs, to capital requests, and sponsorships, but there are still guidelines they follow. They like to be visible in ways that aren’t extravagant. They enjoy being part of a group of sponsors, rather than the sole source of funding. This information is readily available online or by just picking up the phone and asking, but time and time again, nonprofits ask for help without doing their research.

Oh, and when they do get the support, a shocking number of these nonprofits go blissfully on their way afterward, ignoring a fairly basic rule in development… and in human interaction for that matter.

“We probably hear Thank You from only about half the groups we fund,” my friend said, and then kept talking, listing off a few groups who are really good at sending pictures of crowd-filled events, reports on outcomes and revenue, souvenir printed programs or other chotskies, and completely ignoring the fact that my jaw was on the table.

Did she just say half of the organizations this company sponsors aren’t even taking time to say “Thank you?” I was busy gathering my wits when my companion noticed my reaction.

“Oh yes,” she said, “but they still come back the next year and ask again.”

The thank-you thing again. Seriously, why does this continue to be an issue?

On the one hand, I’m shaking my head in embarrassment for these groups, but on the other, I totally get how this happens. I do. I run into volunteers for organizations all the time who love to tout the fact that they have very low administrative overhead. They’re proud of this, because they’ve been taught to believe this is a sign of a highly efficient organization.

“We’re all volunteer,” they tell me, “we don’t pay staff,” or if they do, it’s not very much.

Well great, I think (note the italics for sarcastic effect). Good for you. That’s awesome. …And probably temporary, because you’ll either be gone soon, or you’ll get wise to the fact that volunteers need to move on with their lives at some point, or be replaced, either by other volunteers or by paid staff. There are some, but very few, I’ll wager, who want to take on a volunteer position for life, and very many organizations that have found they can’t always hold volunteers accountable for everything that needs to be done, such as reliably taking pen to paper to say thank you after an event.

The whole “living on a shoestring” ethic at the expense of the relationships with your supporters is the topic of a future blog post, but in the meantime, please, when you’re planning your program or special event, make sure you allocate resources for follow up.

When everyone’s exhausted and done picking up the crepe paper and returning the rental chairs, who is in charge of reporting to the supporters and the sponsors and the donors who helped this happen in the first place?

Having a good follow up plan in place and someone in charge to implement it (whether or not that person gets paid, they must be accountable), is the first step to the next great event, as well as to lasting relationships with valuable supporters.

Share: What have you done to keep your sponsors in the loop, show them how much you appreciate their support, and continue to engage them? Leave us a comment. We’d love to know.

Photo by: The Italian Voice

Retention matters more than you may realize

By | Donor Cultivation | No Comments

catch_and_release_only-300x200As we embark on a new year, many take the time to identify resolutions for the coming months. For fundraisers, our goals are often centered around increasing contributions, and gaining new donors. What if we also focused on keeping our established donors?

Research into donor retention across the nonprofit industry indicates that our ability to keep the friends we make might be far worse than we actually realize. All year, we scramble for new contributors, each of whom are likely giving only modestly until they get to know us. Chances are, we aren’t doing enough to keep them engaged, and they don’t hang around for long.

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Fundraising Effectiveness Project, chances are, only 43% of your new donors this year will return next year. If this trend prevails, your organization will retain in 2019 somewhere around 1.5 percent of the donors it acquires this year. 2014’s thousand donors will have dwindled to 15 people still hanging with you.

Still, each year we spend spin our wheels. We prioritize the accumulation of new donors, even with special recognition and fanfare, and all but ignore established ones.

What if we spent some of our valuable resources this year building relationships with our established donors instead of checking an imaginary box that they’ve been recruited, and then ignoring them?  What if we took the time to find out why they’d given in the first place and let them have some idea what we did with their contribution?

What if, by doing so, we increased our donor retention rates by even 10 percent? Those 15 donors (out of an original 1,000) become 42 donors, whose commitment to our cause and relationship with (and perhaps annual contribution to) our organization has been strengthened. We know individuals can continue to give at ever increasing levels over the course of their lifetime and beyond if so moved, so those 42 donors over the course of the next five years might become our major donors, their ranks growing every year.

Think of ways you can build a relationship with the donors you worked so hard to acquire last year, as well as with the ones who have stuck with you from even further back.

Need ideas on how to do this? Enlist your fundraising committee and board in brainstorming inexpensive opportunities. Even if they don’t love the idea of picking up the phone at first, once they hear how grateful people are to hear a simple thank you, they’ll be the biggest proponents of your retention efforts.

Following are some activities I like to see organizations conduct:

Conduct a donor thank-you campaign – Enlist a group of volunteers to make thank you phone calls for an evening. Give them a script and a list. If you’re really energized, bring appetizers, sit around a table and make a party out of the evening. You’re not asking for anything. In fact, you’ll leave messages about 80 percent of the time. But you’ll get noticed, and your callers will have fun.

Add a personal touch to your acknowledgements – Donors notice which organizations include personalized notes on acknowledgement letters and which ones just leave a signature. How hard is it to handwrite a little something extra? Hope the kids are well. Enjoying the weather? I’d love to see you soon!

Highlight the personal stories of one or two of your supporters – if you have a donor or two willing to let you interview them for your annual report or a vignette in your newsletter, do it. Include a photo. Why did they give? What is their history with the organization? What is their story? Be brief and warm. Other donors will volunteer their stories. Others still will be inspired and feel they are part of a community.

Look for special opportunities for recognition – local news organizations and publications are always looking for nominees for community members/businesspeople/women/men/youth of the year. Each spring, our local AFP chapter solicits nominations for heroes in philanthropy. These are low cost means of not only recognizing those important to our organizations, but also finding out more about them.

Include them in your inner circle – Do you have an email or snail-mail newsletter for inner circle friends and associates? Include your established donors with a personal note saying why you thought they’d be interested.

As you’re firming up your resolutions for the New Year, take some time to include donor retention efforts in your plans. In both the short and long term, you’ll be happy you did so.


Leave a comment: What are some of your favorite low cost/high impact donor retention strategies?

Photo by: Michael Corbett