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Posted on in Fundraising

…before you give up on a prospect?

That was the question a board member posed in a fundraising training we conducted last week.

We were talking about the importance of cultivation, and how you have to read the signals of what a potential donor is interested in and try to respond in kind. In other words, that it’s not about putting what you think is your best foot forward – but about divining the prospect’s intentions and passions and pursing a dialogue about those.

We were discussing the merits of touring a community garden versus visiting the senior crafts hour (which one better conveyed a sense of community need? which was pleasant – good news – but not so lite that prospects would forget the social service underneath the activity’s design?) when a voice popped up from the back of the room. “How long does it take?” asked a middle-aged man sitting near the refreshment table.

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Posted on in Fundraising

Fewer Americans are giving to charity – but the ones who do, are giving more.

That’s the tale told in a recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article exploring the “vanishing” donor base.

How are fundraising-savvy nonprofits dealing with it? The ones looking hard at current returns are concentrating more and more of their efforts on major gifts – those donations that can have substantial impact on the bottom line.

But nonprofits that are also focused on the future, are spending equal energy courting mid-level donors – those $250, $500 donors whose loyalty will grow over time.

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Hours of finding just the right verb.

Anecdotes, photos, graphics, charts.

The compellingly-presented need. The dramatic longitudinal impact, obtained through impeccable research.

All produced, of course, in color, branded, visually-appealing.

A well-done case statement is indeed a great thing. It walks your organization right in the door, often before you yourself can get there. It intrigues, it impresses, it grabs one by the throat and demands a hearing.

But while a well-done case statement certainly sells, it doesn’t create a market.

And therein lies the rub.

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Posted on in Fundraising

Fall event. Spring gala. Annual Appeal in between.

Once you wind down from one, you’re gearing up for the next. Continuous fundraising momentum, right?

But if your board – and staff – lurch from headliner to headliner, it can feel like you’re always asking.

Well – you are.

And no, that’s not the most effective fundraising strategy, unless your goal is to burn out donors (and askers).

Instead, try relationship-building: a two-way street of listening, sharing, and ongoing dialogue.

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Posted on in Fundraising

Donors love the tried and true.

Donors are tired of the same old, same old.

Both are true – in the abstract. But how do you know when it’s time to shake up your direct appeal, dinner dance, annual donor cultivation event?

And, even if donors are telling you this loud and clear – declining donations, impossible to get a committee together, decreased attendance – how do you know what changes will be positively received, and what will be decried as a “change in tradition”?

The simple answer is – ask them. 


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