Helping you change the world.



Your story is simple. And so powerful.

On a recent visit to Manhattan, I had breakfast with an exceptionally generous person.
He’d just made a $15-million …

On a recent visit to Manhattan, I had breakfast with an exceptionally generous person.

He’d just made a $15-million gift to a non-profit organization. Not only that, but he’d also given an equal amount to his church.

This individual is hardworking and humble. He built a business that did very well, and when he sold it, he wanted to share the proceeds with organizations that aligned with his deep personal values.

Between bites of omelette, I asked him why he’d decided to support the specific cause he’d given to. I expected to hear that he’d done a lot of research, crunched the numbers, and satisfied himself that the financial plan was sound.

He told me:

“I got a letter in the mail with a picture and a story of a little girl. It broke my heart. I knew I had to do something.”

I was blown away — and I’ve been thinking about his response ever since.

So today, what I want to pass on to you is this:

Never forget the pure, simple, wonderful, inspirational message of what your organization does.

Tell that story over and over. Don’t let your story get lost in the complexities of your work or your desire to communicate every single aspect of what you do.

If the purpose of fundraising is to gratify ourselves with the difficult work that we’re doing, then yes, we could make a case for sharing a multitude of details about issues and context and strategic priorities and so on. But if our purpose is to raise money for the cause, then let’s focus on pure, simple, impact.

Because in the end, it’s about how you’re changing people’s lives and creating a better world. It’s about your essential “why,” as Simon Sinek says.

Tell your story. Share the basic need. Show your donors how they can respond.

It really is that simple.


Read more 07/08/2015

You Have $75. How Should You Spend It?

There’s no doubt — we’re living in a tough fundraising environment.
Just look at how different things are today, …

There’s no doubt — we’re living in a tough fundraising environment.

CamJust look at how different things are today, compared to 10 years ago (and I’m not just talking about what happened to my hair).

Today, nonprofits spend about $50 to $100
to get one new donor on board. That’s
one person. One gift. And no guarantee
                                      of future giving.

Ten years ago, if you spent $50 to $100 on marketing, you could bring in one new monthly donor — someone committed to long-term giving.

While I never want to think of donors in terms of numbers, the reality is that nonprofits today have to spend a lot more on marketing if they want to attract new people to their cause.

So the question I want to ask you is this:

What is the best use of your marketing budget?

Say you have $75 to spend per donor. Is it better to invest that money in bringing a new donor into your organization? Or is it better to invest in retaining your existing donors? (The retention investment would consist of relational touches like thank-you calls, welcome packages, impact reports, and so on).

I’m going to suggest that treating your donors exceptionally well — especially your new donors — makes very good business sense.

It’s a significant opportunity for most organizations to improve their fundraising.

To be clear, this isn’t a “one or the other” option. To have a healthy file, you have to work at both acquisition and retention. But if your retention numbers are low, this is definitely the place to start.

I’ll talk more about this in future posts and I’ll show you in more detail what I mean.

Until then,


Read more 06/03/2015

Meet Your Donors In Their Happy Place

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we, as fundraisers, might be making our lives more difficult …

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we, as fundraisers, might be making our lives more difficult than we have to.

That’s because we try to take donors to places where they don’t want to be.

Put yourself in a donor’s shoes for a minute.

You donated to an organization because your friend asks you to sponsor her for a fundraising bike ride. You were happy to sponsor her. She’s your friend — you want to cheer her on!

The next thing you know, you get a letter from the organization. You barely remember that they were connected to the bike race. Now they’re asking you to support a program you’ve never heard of.

That’s a big stretch!

Call it donor conversion, migration, whatever you want — it doesn’t make a lot of sense. It creates friction between a person’s natural affinity (their friend) and what the organization wants you to do (support their programs).

So how do we reduce that friction?

I was at a fundraising conference in Amsterdam, listening to a woman talk about how her non-profit raised $15 million in a bike race across the Netherlands. “Yes, but after people give, how do you convert those donors into your ongoing stream?” I asked.
She looked at me, puzzled.

“We don’t try to do that,” she said.

What do they do instead? They extend the bike race spirit throughout the year. They hold events. They send emails and letters reminding people of the fun they had. Six months before the next race, they start building momentum.

In a word, they meet donors where they’re at, and where they’re happy.

And that’s a good place to be.


Read more 05/12/2015

Not All Golfers … Or Donors … Are Alike

I’m a big golfer.
I love to get out there as the weather turns nice. There’s a golf course …

I’m a big golfer.

I love to get out there as the weather turns nice. There’s a golf course just across the road from my house, so I don’t have to go far.

My son also loves to golf. My wife can take it or leave it. My daughter would rather read.

All this is to say that when it comes to golf, people exist on a spectrum.

And that just might describe your donors and supporters too.

The fact is, they’re not all equally engaged with your organization. Each person is different. Each has a different connection with your non-profit, along these lines:

Aware: These people are aware of what you’re doing. They align with your values. But they haven’t done anything yet to signal active interest.

Advocates: They’re interested. They’ve taken some kind of action for your cause … maybe signing a petition or attending an event. You know about them.

Giver: This person has made one gift. We’re not calling them a donor yet. They might be reacting to something they’ve seen on the news, like a natural disaster. They might be responding to something you’ve sent them. But they’ve only made one gift. Typically, that’s as far as it will go.

Active Donor: These wonderful people have made multiple gifts to your organization. They’ve indicated, through their giving, that what you’re doing is really working for them.

Committed Monthly Donor: This person is really special. They’re in a committed relationship with you. They’re so aligned with what your organization is doing that they’ve promised to give every month.

As a fundraiser, your hope and dream is to move people from Aware to Committed. You especially want to bring along your Giver so he or she becomes an Active Donor.

So how will you do this?

You’re going to have to devote some concerted attention to your Givers – the ones who have made one gift so far.

You want to treat them well – welcoming them, affirming their decision to give, and extending that warm glow that they got when they wrote their cheque.

I’ll share specific tactics, and the business case for this kind of treatment, in future posts. You can also join us at the Do-Gooders Summit on May 13 (sign up here) for innovative “love your donor” approaches.

More to come. Happy golfing!


Read more 04/27/2015
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