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Posted on in Fundraising

There’s a world of difference between purchasing a service (no matter how satisfied the customer), and making a charitable contribution to help the world experience that activity.

A recent NY Times article on the Y’s new advertising campaign – “Beyond ‘Gym and Swim’” – discusses the public’s misconception about the role of the Y as a health club vs. its mission of community service.

In the case of the Y, this perception results in thousands of dollars in lost fundraising revenue – hence the Y’s new public service campaign, TV ads, digital news spots, etc.

But what are the lessons for the rest of us? 


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Posted on in Fundraising

January is Thank You Month.

From formal letters (serving as tax receipts) to handwritten notes on personal stationary, January is the month we catch up with the results of all December’s asking.

January is also the month for reporting – to the board, staff, CEO – on donor behavior. Who gave what, who donated more, who dropped off, who inscribed which message in a personal note alongside their contribution.

And then?

On to the early-Spring cultivation event, the pre-benefit ramp-up, the next ask. With nary a breath in between.

While that is many fundraisers’ reality, it’s not the optimal one. 


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Posted on in Fundraising

Donor attention wanders.

And to add to that, there are many reasons someone makes a first gift that have little or nothing to do with the cause:

  • A child – or an animal – in a picture looked unusually appealing.
  • Someone asked them whom they didn’t want to say no to.
  • They saw a video on Facebook of a friend dumping water on their head and it looked like fun.

Can some of these one-time “toe-barely-in-the-water” donors be turned into ongoing supporters?

And do these entry gifts (often for small, token amounts) do any good?

According to recent evidence from the ice bucket challenge one year out, both answers are yes. 


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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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