Fundraising Blog

Capturing Email Addresses

Email is the #1 way to connect with the most supporters in an optimal time frame and with a fresh message. Growing your email database provides benefits too numerous to mention.  But, how?

Some people are wary of giving out their email addresses.  They fear getting on a dozen lists of groups they care nothing about.  They fear scammers.  They fear getting too much email, even from  you.

You need to earn the right to deliver content directly to the inbox of your biggest fans. And you need to respect the parameters you’ve promised, so you don’t risk loss of that trust.

On your website, make it simple to subscribe to your email list.  Place the sign-up button in a prominent place, not in the footnote at the end of the newsletter or only on the Donate Now page.  If visitors have found your website, they have taken a step to learn about you.  They are already interested and capable of action.  (What more could you want?)  Jump-start the email signup with a clear call to action and a reason to sign up now.

Don’t ask for the moon.  This isn’t the time to ask for all the information you will ultimately want.  Make it simple and ask only for the information you need to reach them by email.

Establish trust.  You may want to tell potential subscribers what you will and will not do with the information they provide.  (Honor what you’ve promised.)  Showing this respect makes it easier for the person to trust you.  Offer the option to receive information from you by mail or by email.  Show that you want to communicate with them in the way that they prefer, not the way that’s easiest for you.

 If you can give a reason to provide the email, even better.  A subscription to your newsletter. Offer a prize drawing once a month.  Offer to send some special information.

Encourage joining your email list wherever you can.  On your home page, of course, but also on requests for information, donation envelopes, petition signups, raffle entry forms—use your imagination.

Ask current subscribers to spread the word with a “forward to a friend” device.  Make sure there’s a Subscribe link within your newsletter so people who do receive a forwarded copy have an easy way to sign themselves up.

A generation ago your direct mail list was your Golden Ticket.  Today email is path to power.

One Picture is Worth…

Creating (finding) effective photos of poverty, abuse, illness  and disability can be challenging.  But they are the keys to bringing your mission to life for potential donors.  Take some time to make a plan to “develop” some photos that will work for you.

Nothing says it like a wonderful photo to double the impact of your story!  But there are a few caveats when choosing the photos you’ll use.

The photo should be in focus.

  1. The photos on a page should vary in size and in prespective–not all headshots, not all long shots, but a nice mix.
  2. The photo shouldn’t compete with the text; look like it’s overwhelming the text; tell a different story than the one in the text (a photo of your Harvest Fair isn’t compatible with a story on your latest initiative to protect abused women).
  3. The photo should match the text in mood, unspoken message…
  4. Stock photos, while beautifully composed, don’t always work.  I can spot a stock photo a mile away; can’t you?  (Picture that happy healthy couple biking around the retirement community.)
  5. No empty rooms or stand-alone buildings—even if the new construction is what you’re showcasing! Viewers are drawn to photos with people in them.  Empty rooms look like furniture ads; buildings look like real-estate ads.  Your message really is that these spaces will facilitate what happens with the people in them.  Show the people!
  6. Learn how to crop effectively!  In a 3” photo, the focus should occupy two-thirds of the frame.  Showing everything isn’t what works; showing the most important thing is.
  7. No talking heads; no “presenting the check” photos.  If Donor A made a $10,000 gift for the new sound room; don’t show Donor A and your CEO standing in front of the door to the room.  Let the CEO or the sound technician be demonstrating the headphones to the donor.  Three people in suits awkwardly facing the camera, no matter how important they are, makes a terrible ( read: boring) photo.  Show three people conversing, casual, laughing—not everyone full face.

Spend an hour on the web looking for great photo ideas that might work for you.  Keep a collection of great photos for inspiration.  A photo is the first thing a reader looks at.  Make it sing!


Statistics That Sing

The right statistics add meat to your materials as well as attention-grabbing heft.  (As you scan a page, don’t you find your eyes drawn to numbers that stand out?)  Most of us use numbers to get a quick summary of what the text is going to tell us.  (Haven’t you noticed that your news and magazines feature ever-more-frequent quick lists to grab your attention?)

There are many statistics to be found in fund-raising–the majority of them intended for internal purposes (response rates, percent over last year, etc.).   Only certain statistics will be meaningful to constitutents and prospects in your materials.

To be effective in marketing, your leading statistics need to be:

Easy to identify with–” Number of counseling sessions provided or clients served in one month.

In the realm of comprehension–”reduced homeless incidents from 60 to 50 per month.”

Express urgency– “Every 4 minutes a drunk driver gets behind the wheel.”

Relate the gift to the impact possible–”only $.67 a day will help veterans adjust as they return”; “your $100 gift will feed X children for a month.”

Assure donors that their gifts go directly to serving others–”95% of gifts to the campaign goes directly to the people of the disaster area.”

Knowing that the statistics will be read first, make sure you use the ones that will have the most impact for you.  If you don’t have the right statistic on hand, find a way to start collecting data that will fill the bill!

Maintaining Hard-Won Donors

Faithful donors are our life blood.  While we are working our hardest and taxing our wits developing strategies to identify and attract new donor prospects, it is the loyal base that keeps our efforts operating.  Yet do you even know when one of the faithful falls from the ranks?

The donor rarely keeps track of the time since the last gift to you.  Most rely on your gentle reminders to trigger the next gift.  It may be your annual campaign solicitation, but hopefully you are in touch with them more often that the predictable every-twelve-months.  And you should be offering them opportunities to  interact with your organization and help financially more than once a year.  It takes regular communication to maintain your place in their hearts.

So how do you keep track of this? Well, say you do two mailings a year (your Big event and your annual appeal).  Then you need to look at your lapsed donors (sometimes called LYBUNTs—last-year but-not-this-year) about every nine months.  Whether they meant to or not (or had a change in family situation), they have neglected to respond to two mailings.  You might make a personal phone call, mentioning that you haven’t heard from them in a while, and telling them about a special project they might be interested in.  It’s a good idea to ask for a specific amount, but no higher than the amount of their last gift.

When you send your annual solicitation, write a separate letter to those who didn’t give the previous year. Make gentle reference to their lapse, as in “we want to welcome you back to our family of active supporters.” If they didn’t realize they had lapsed, now they will and will become more attentive to their giving in the future.

If the donor fails to respond to the second solicitation, sent another note saying “we miss you” and enclosing a survey asking “can you tell us why you stopped giving?”  Offer a choice of typical responses (Too much mail, Lost your address, change in giving priorities, and I didn’t realize…).  You’ll be happy to see the number who “didn’t realize” and will return your envelope with a check.

Don’t give up on those who don’t respond to “we miss you” approach.  The cost (literal and figurative) of obtaining a new donor is still more than you’ve invested so far.  After another six months, approach them with another mailing or call with a specific offer and a request slightly lower than their last gift.  (This works especially well when you can say “your gift will be matched…).

And occasionally, in the future, send your appeal with the “we miss you” letter, and include them in your planned giving offers if age appropriate.

Track your results (and costs) over time to gauge how much follow-up—and what kind–works for you.  When someone has responded to your appeal in the past, it’s very likely that they still have an interest in your mission.  And those, after all, are the ones you want most.

Fond Farewells

Whenever a Board member or other leader among your constituents is leaving your inner circle—moving, make a career move, shifting his primary support from your organization to a new one, or “slowing down,”  be sure to glean all that you can.

                First, you’ll want to take the person to lunch, show your appreciation for how valuable they’ve been, and acknowledge “publicly” their service.  Not only is this the nice thing to do; it’s smart if you’re in the business of friend-raising.  Including another influencer might also be a nice touch.

                If appropriate, invite them to continue with your organization at a different level.  Perhaps they will serve on a Campaign committee, continue to accompany you on selected major gift visits, refer you to their peers whom you might not know.

                Reap the harvest.  Ask what advice they would have for the organization, what they’ve noticed that might work better, an audience you’re missing.  This senior constituent holds years of experience working with you and yours, may have seen administrative or societal changes, and, because he is now leaving, may be willing to share insights he wouldn’t previously.

                Suggest to the group he’s leaving that they might honor him and acknowledge the impact of his contributions of service.

                Ask if you may contact him in the future concerning the area he’s an expert in.  And, make a note to yourself to check in with him in six months, both as a friend and as one who values his input.

                This person is a treasure you have nurtured.  Don’t say goodbye without learning all you can.

Let’s Talk about Real Estate

You’re drafting a letter–your next Annual Giving, a gift acknowledgement, a personal letter–or an news item for your website.  Once you’re completed the address/date portion, what part of the letter/news item is the one the addressee is most likely to notice?  The first sentence, and probably not all of the first sentence–the first three or four words.  Those few words may be all that the prospect reads! (Well, they’ll probably read the postscript.)

Don’t waste that precious real estate on openings like these:

As 2014 draws to a close…

This year we celebrate…

XYZ was founded in 1945….

Thanks to the generosity…

Following on the success of last year’s…..

Why not?

  • They speak from the point of view of the organization, not the reader.
  • They’re addressing topics of interest to the organization, not the reader.
  • They’re talking about the past.
  • They’re unrelated to mission.
  • They contain no exciting words, create no visual image.
  • etc.

Yes, it takes a little extra effort to start at the heart of the matter rather than at the beginning.  But enticing the reader to read beyond your first few words is well worth effort.  And a lively opening sets you up as an organization worth listening to, and impression that may well extend to other things you write.


Ages for Planned Giving

Your thirteenth birthday isn’t the first day you think about becoming a teen!  If your memory is even half way accurate, you’ll remember imagining being a teenager long before that.  Apply this thinking to your target audiences and give some thought to broadening your appeals.

Recent research offered by marketing services firm Stelter Company reports attitudes toward estate giving, in terms of generation.  (Not just the blue-haired ladies anymore—Are there still blue-haired ladies?)  Use this data to tailor your planned giving strategies. Stelter reports:
You may not think that donors in their 30s are open to the idea of estate giving, but many are, and they haven’t been approached by nonprofits.

Donors in their 40s show the greatest receptivity to estate giving. With all the conversation about planning for retirement, people are making wills at a much younger age than previous generations — noteworthy because a will is the most common device for making a charitable donation at death.

Donors in their 50s, you may have noticed, were the hardest hit by the economy and are lukewarm on estate giving.

At the peak of their careers and earnings, donors in their 60s know a lot about planned giving, but aren’t especially interested at this point.

Once donors are in their seventies or older, they are less interested in estate giving, feeling not that their money should go to family and friends.

These findings may or may not be consistent with your own experience and thinking, but they’re worth considering.  The economic downturn of 2008 has changed the picture of retirement and savings.  Take a fresh look!

Meetings–Start at the End

Look at your meeting from the volunteer’s point of view.

We’ve all been to meetings which seem to ramble all over the place and (apparently) get nowhere.  Don’t let your volunteer committee members think that about your meetings.  They’ve provided you with a piece of their precious time and a willingness to pitch in to help.  You owe them a productive meeting.

Of course, you have an agenda and certain updates to report. But start your meeting with a vision of what you hope to have accomplished by the end of the meeting.

                “Let’s finalize the goals for each sector for the upcoming campaign.”

                “I hope we can agree on three main points, one of which will be the focus of the annual giving letter.”

                “Today we need to brainstorm and then assign who will contact prospects for next year’s Gala Committee.”

With a goal clearly in mind, it’s easy to rein in a wandering conversation. 

Your committee members are clear about the purpose of the meeting and what each needs to do to accomplish that purpose.  When the meeting purpose has been accomplished, the members can leave with a feeling of having gotten something worthwhile done. 

They can say to themselves: “It was a rush to get here today, but at least I’ve contributed my ideas to the discussion, moved the project forward, and helped XYZ move toward our mission.  I look forward to coming again. I can give an hour and help make a difference.  I feel good about what we are doing at XYZ.”

When a volunteer  contributes time, energy, and influence (and if you  hope to keep them coming), it’s the least you can do.

What Triggers Action?

Ever spend a sleepless night bombarded with loud infomercials intent on compelling you to buy some invaluable product you didn’t know you needed RIGHT NOW!  Fundraisers can learn a lot from these aggravating diatribes. 

First notice how the appeal is structured:

  • State the problem:  “Tired of your leaky old basement?”
  • State the solution:  “Mr. Fogger can turn your basement into… just ten minutes.”
  • State the call to action:  “Call in the next ten minutes to get this special price.”

And notice how quickly the ad gets to the point—with very few extraneous words.

Need to Act The viewer has been set up for urgency with the statement of the problem:  you’re tired of thinking about your basement, you’ve been dealing ineffectively with a leaky old basement.

Need to Act Now is created by offering a special price.  Or buy one, get two—give to a friend.  This offer moves you from thinking about whether you can afford to spend the dollar amount to thinking about the good feeling when you give the second one to a friend or relative.

Visualize the Result of Acting Now.  By describing and showing the better tomorrow taking action can create, the seller quiets your defenses (“this can’t be true,”  “I’ve seen this before”) and moves you into picturing the world if you will only stand up and participate.

Spell out the Action Step.  The premise of infomercials is that the customer can act immediately. (Stop the first impulse to “think about it later.”) One price, a quick answer to your question “How much?”  The phone number (or website) is prominent and repeated as the diatribe closes.

What can a fundraiser learn from this?

Well, while it might not be the way you do all your fund-raising, this urgent focus on the problem may be an effective way to attract new givers.  It’s high intensity, minimal copy, and quick to show results.  (It’s the abused dog rescue approach.)

Helping the viewer imagine the positive end result gives a great boost; especially when it’s immediately following the negative of the opening problem.  It’s a natural for us to show the world our mission can create.

Making clear the Call to Action, and emphasizing the “Now,” is a great spur to getting the would-be donor to take the first step.  A matching gift opportunity (time-limited) is one of a fundraiser’s great strategies to create urgency.

Whenever someone’s marketing catches your attention, take advantage and see how that strategy can apply in your efforts.

FrontStream Delivers Highly Anticipated Integration Enhancements to Donor Management Platform

Latest version of FrontStream’s Donor Management platform offers more robust integrations for nonprofits using multiple products

WASHINGTON, September 26, 2014 – FrontStream has announced the release of the newest version of its donor management platform (GiftWorks), commonly referred to as a DRM or Donor Relationship Management tool. The platform has been loaded with a set of highly anticipated integration enhancements and powerful data management features that improve the connectivity of the FrontStream ecosystem of donor management and fundraising products.

FrontStream maintains and makes enhancements to the donor management platform on a continual basis but the annual rollout of the updated version of the software provides an opportunity for clients to take advantage of large scale improvements that have been in development for a full year. As part of last summer’s release, FrontStream announced the release of a set of integrated online donation processing solutions that allow platform users to take advantage of the capabilities of FrontStream’s full suite of integrated products at no additional cost.

Existing features include:

  • Built-in web and mobile donation processing capabilities
  • Robust connections to enterprise-level applications i.e. Constant Contact, MailChimp and QuickBooks
  • Volunteer, Grant and Membership management tools
  • Enhanced email segmentation and SmartList capabilities

By seamlessly connecting the donor management platform with FrontStream’s other fundraising tools, clients have cut costs and increased efficiency as a result of being able to manage several operational functions in one consolidated platform. This release continues to build upon the momentum of the 2014 release by offering a more comprehensive set of data connections between multiple products as well as additional features that have been developed in response to the needs of the market and the donor management client base.

The 2015 features and enhancements include:

  • Enhanced integration with FrontStream’s fundraising platform and event management module
  • Download event registrant, fundraiser and team information
  • Fundraising data is tracked in FrontStream’s DRM for donors and donations
  • Enhanced integration with the FrontStream direct donation solution
  • Simultaneously download donations for multiple donation pages directly into the DRM
  • Direct donations can easily be applied to outstanding pledge payments
  • Enhanced Recurring Donation Processing
  • Easily create donations based on the frequency of recurring donor profile schedules
  • Secure storage of recurring donation credit card information with the option to process on a recurring basis
  • Enhanced Membership Management
  • Mass import of memberships and membership donations into the DRM

FrontStream currently serves over 20,000 nonprofit organizations around the world and is committed to the continual support of clients and their individual causes. To that end, additional development is in the works and includes a forthcoming integration with FrontStream’s Corporate Philanthropy platform.

To learn more about FrontStream’s Donor Management platform, please join us for an interactive webinar. You may visit us at to register for an upcoming tour that will include an overview of the latest features.

To get the latest version of FrontStream’s Donor Management platform or to schedule an upgrade consultation go to: giftworks-version/.

GiftWorks 2015 Press Release