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Posted on in Fundraising

The most critical question in planning a fundraising event?

NOT – what’s the best location…who should we honor…when’s the best date…or even what’s the right format.

All questions that board members – and staff too – love to focus on when starting to think about a special event.

It’s…who will do the asking for us. 

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Searching for a Savior – and Coming Up Short

When the Big Apple Circus announced an online campaign in June to stabilize its finances, it cited an 8-year decline in earned revenue as the cause of the crisis. Addressing their shortfall through several large one-time donations and support from “a core group of committed board members,” the Circus was unable to build a stable base of supporters large enough to finance its ongoing operations.

So it turned to the web.

Looking for unknown benefactors to bring in $2 million of new revenue, the organization failed to meet its goal, with a total raised of $900,000.

There are so many cautionary lessons to be drawn from this tale.

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Posted on in Fundraising

That which is tracked is achieved.

The fitness industry certainly understands this – witness the proliferation of exercise-monitoring, consumption-measuring devices intended to help individuals lose weight and get more fit.

What lessons can we in the nonprofit world learn from those ubiquitous bracelets, cousin to a “tie a string around my finger” form of memory-aid?

How can we adapt this visual mnemonic, this wearable micro-tracker, to help us do what we intend but that slips our minds?

More to the point – what can we take from our Fitbit universe to help our board members perform to their highest selves? 


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Posted on in Fundraising

Here we are at Valentine’s Day.

The make-or-break occasion for newly-formed relationships – and pretty important for old ones, too.

Valentine’s Day is all about wooing. Seeking to impress, but also to mark a relationship that, hopefully, is bringing satisfaction to both sides.

To stop for a moment and proclaim, through presents, candlelight dinners, and glasses of champagne: “You matter to me.”

And while the form may be different, our donors need to hear the same message.

In fact, going a little further – we in the nonprofit business need to actually feel the same message.

You (our donors) matter to me.


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The cost-per-dollar-raised is highest when recruiting new donors.

You have to find them, help them get to know you, build admiration and trust, and then ask.

To stir, shake, and repeat, it takes a lot less effort.

But to extend this cocktail metaphor a bit more, it doesn’t happen without the right ingredients (recognition, insider access, donor awareness of impact) being added in the right proportions – all year long.

Not just a month before the next ask.


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