Fundraising Blog

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

What Happened to the Donor Pyramid?

Thinking of your donor base as a traditional triangle with the greatest number of donors at the bottom level, with middle-level donors (those whom you’ve cultivated and brought to the place they now hold), and with the top donors (major money, major influence) in the forever-tightening angle at the apex.

As you might imagine, this traditional schematic (like the food pyramid) no longer works as a model of how we raise funds today.

 Today’s model needs to be much more flexible.  People don’t come in at entry level, suffer through the cultivation process, and end up leaving their planned gift upon their exit from the top of the pyramid.

 Today, we may not hold onto a donor for life.  There are many more competing causes offering ever more opportunities to make a difference.  With social media people are exposed to many more types of events to attract their attention.  We know much more about disease processes and research, about environmental concerns, about how to reduce human suffering and build communities.

 Today we need to focus on the donor, not the schematic.  You’ve heard this one hundred times, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

Your fundraising energy needs to be focused on the donors and potential donors, where they are, what they are interested in, ways in which they prefer to help.  Some of your “loyal” donors may move their highest energy to another project; that’s okay.  Be sure you keep in touch with them in some personal way and give them a call when something of special interest to them comes up.  See if there’s a joint project that may connect your cause and theirs.  Donors move in and out of our sphere of influence; appreciate that they are still involved.

 Volunteer leaders may move in and out of your limelight, too.  That’s why you need a constant influx of new people, new projects.  Interviewing volunteers, old and new, is a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of what the latest “buzz” is all about.

 Don’t be locked into the parameters of your pyramid.  If a new person has an outside-the-box idea, give it a chance to energize others in your circle—or others not yet in your circle.  If you have a supporter who can advise you on energizing people via social media, do it!

 Multiply your interactions with donors and prospects.  Today it takes a fresh and ever-changing strategy to rise to the top of all the clutter.  Just as the Ice Bucket Challenge illustrated:  no one knows what will light the next fire.  It won’t be you, if you’re not out there pitching.









Heard Enough About the Ice Bucket Challenge?

Feeling challenged to top it?  Joking aside, look at the Challenge and see what you can learn!

 What made it work?  For one thing, it’s a crazy, attention-getting idea!  It’s funny, it became visual, viral.  For another, a fundraiser didn’t create it!  It was the product of an enthusiastic young person interested in the cause!

So, just maybe, the key to creating something new and different enough to attract people beyond your regular donor base is to look for something zany and look to young people to come up with some ideas that maximize the potential of social media to go viral.

 Maybe young people aren’t very high on your radar. After all, they don’t yet have much money or interest in traditional donating.  However, they do have enthusiasm; they like a quick response; they have a lot of friends; and, for all you know, they may have a personal interest in bringing attention to your cause.  And they “live” in the interconnected world—where tomorrow’s donors will be found.

 Maybe you’ve put all your focus on traditional fundraising and your traditional audience.  Who knows what might happen if you open your eyes to a wider world?

 Maybe you’ve never sought out a celebrity connection.  It’s always a good idea, especially when you’re trying to bring a fresh interest to your story—and especially when you’re targetting beyond your normal audience.

 Maybe you thought this new kind of fundraising wasn’t dignified.  How does dignified factor into $88 million dollars?  It may take some teaching to convince your board to try something way out.  But it will be worth it!

 Some earlier versions of zany fundraising have been:  bathtub races, jail the donor, buck-a-cup of coffee, flash mobs.  Name the ones you’ve seen or participated in!  Social media adds a multiplication factor to this type of event.  How will you take advantage of this new opportunity?


Who “Wrote” That?

If the average reader of your appeal letters/emails reads only the first paragraph and then looks to the bottom of the page before deciding to spend any more time on it, be sure you’re working that bottom-of-the-page position.

Whoever designs your letter may suggest a different font for a postscript or a “handwritten” marginal note, but it’s your job to see that this special visual element works! 

 Make sure it’s easy to read; our donors are aging.      

Use this design element sparingly so it is a highlight and not clutter. 

Use a font that is appropriate for the “signer”; at least preserve the illusion that a specific human made the note.

 The reason we use “handwriting” in direct mail letters is to draw the reader in.  If it distracts, or is hard to decipher, you’re wasting your effort.

Lively Newsletters—How Do They Do It?

Whatever the frequency of your newsletter, make each one fresh, unique, and valuable to the reader.  You may think repeated information provides an additional hit, but it doesn’t if the donor ignores it.

It’s too easy to fall into the habit of rerunning the announcement of your gala, calls for volunteers, upcoming education schedule, etc.  The problem with this is that the reader sees something he’s read before and assumes that he needn’t read further.  Even worse, the reader begins to regard your communications as something he doesn’t need to read.  Zzzzzzz.

Content and visuals must be new, even if the topic isn’t.

That wonderful poster graphic for the gala is only News once.  Each subsequent pitch must be based on a different facet, use a different (or variation of) visual interest, and be just as “new” as the first one.

With a newsletter, you never know if the reader received the prior issue or took the time to read it.  You want the reader to feel the excitement of the event, even if he’s already bought his ticket.

Give yourself a fresh chance to make the sell each time.

It takes more work to freshen the news every time, but it’s worth it.  Imagine if you opened next Sunday’s paper and saw the same headline you’d seen the week before.  You’d either think you were losing your mind or you’d think “I don’t really need to renew this subscription.”


A Call to Action They Can’t Ignore

Tell the donor what action to take, when, how, and why!  Especially in today’s world of short attention spans, dominance of quick web communications, and preponderance of urgency, you need an appeal that is hard to ignore.  Some pointers:

 Call to action must be prominent, in a place and in font or colors where it can’t be missed. (Remember most readers look only at the first paragraph and the postscript.)

 Identify the specific action: Click the Donate button, write your check, call to volunteer, etc. 

 The action must be feasible for the donor to accomplish now, before he sets the letter aside.

 Visualize the reader taking that action.  If you can’t visualize it (“raising awareness”), your reader won’t either.

People want to make a difference.  If you’re not telling them how to make an immediate difference, you’re not hitting the right buttons.  An appeal letter isn’t meant to convince people of the long-term accomplishments of your organization; it’s meant to spur them to immediate action.

Compelling Story-Telling

Here’s a beautiful example of using story-telling as an effective appeal:

Ngan’s parents were poor rice farmers, struggling to survive. When they saw her cleft lip and cleft palate for the first time, they thought she’d been cursed. Neighbors pitied her. Other children were afraid to look at her.

Four short sentences, at the beginning,  compelling content, emotional, visual.

Generous friends like you enabled us to give Ngan the surgery she needed–and save her from shame and rejection. She now has a terrific smile and a bright future ahead. Such a transformation seems miraculous! But we cannot rest.

“You” (donor) focus, complimentary, resolution of problem stated in first paragraph, hopeful, visual. Switches to “we” (moves donor to his part in all of this).

We want to go to more places and help more children. We want to continue to train local doctors and nurses to carry on the work, and establish more care centers in our partner countries, so surgeries can continue year-round.

States the goal in human terms, mostly visual.

We have medical teams who volunteer their time standing by. Now we need your help. Any gift amount will help give a little one like Ngan a new smile and a new life.

How you can join other volunteers to make a difference, visual.

And for as little as $240, you can help pay for a surgery for a child who’s waiting now. That’s one life changed, entirely because of you.

The difference the donor can make, visual.

Thank you in advance for helping us work toward changing the lives of children one smile at a time.

 Appreciation and reinforcement of the difference donor can make.

There’s not a lot more for me to say. All this in 197 words. Imagine a photo or two, the logo identifying the sponsoring organization, and an action-oriented response device. Do you think this is more effective than the ponderous two-pager? Can you top this?