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254 posts categorized "Fundraising"

Three Email Tactics to Boost Year-End Donations

November 07, 2015

Nonprofits make a huge chunk of their revenue during the last few weeks of the year – from Thanksgiving until December 31 at 11:59 p.m. So the fundraising strategies you employ during year-end should be rock solid. Careful and thoughtful planning is the key to seizing year-end opportunities.

Here are three email tactics that are relatively painless to implement:

1. Engage subscribers before asking for money. The Jane Goodall Institute asked me to vote for their nonprofit in Animal Planet's 2014 Matching Campaign (see email below). They invited me to show my support without pulling out my credit card. In fact, all they asked for was "just one click."


They've engaged me for two reasons:

  • The barrier to entry is low (just one click).
  • The reward from that one click is high (the good feeling from supporting JGI).

By engaging me emotionally first, they increase the likelihood I'll donate (which I did).

And if you didn't already know it, let me remind you: Opens and clicks are gold!

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (October 2015)

November 02, 2015

To quote the New York Post's Mike Vaccaro: "You are a New York Mets fan...and you know nothing is guaranteed." Congrats to the Kansas City Royals on a spectacular season and a truly memorable World Series victory, their first in thirty years. If you're a Mets fan...well, you don't have to wait that long to revisit some of the winning content we posted in October.

What did you read, watch, or listen to over the past month that had you cheering? Feel free to share in the comments section below, or drop us a line at

Nonprofit Sponsorship: A Key Ingredient to Your Fundraising Recipe

October 31, 2015

Spices jpgOne of my leisure activities is grilling and smoking. For me, it all starts with the rub — a combination of ingredients I apply to beef, pork, poultry, or fish. Salt and pepper, garlic powder, paprika, brown sugar, and chili powder are all staples in my homemade rubs. I rarely use prepared rubs, as I like to experiment and discover for myself what works.

The same goes for my awareness-building campaigns: a bit of this, a pinch of that, a scoop of something else.

In past years, we used to call this the "media mix." Today, with the emergence (dominance?) of digital media, we've redefined this mix as multi- or cross-channel marketing. But at its core is what I have for many years described as a multi-arrow approach to marketing predicated on the idea that no single arrow hits the target every time. Rather, a mix of media/channels almost always is the right recipe if you hope to raise awareness and, ultimately, funds.

In the space where I spent about twenty years of my career — marketing and public relations for small and mid-size nonprofits — the organizations I typically worked with often had limited resources. So these multi-arrow options frequently were limited. Some options were eliminated early on, while others didn't even make the initial list of options. One such option frequently ignored was sponsorship.

Sponsorship as a Marketing Tool

While social media, advertising, promotions, and the like are on the short list of awareness-building channels, sponsorship usually isn't. This is because nonprofit organizations look at sponsorship almost always as an extension of fundraising: as a means to generate revenue. But there's the other side of sponsorship, the side that can expand an organization's reach to their audiences through:

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5 Reasons the Public Is Losing Interest in Your Cause

October 26, 2015

StethoscopeWhat can you do when interest in your cause begins to wane?

It's a scary question, and one that many fundraisers and nonprofit marketers will face at some point.

Perhaps you're already familiar with this scenario: Your fundraising results are okay, but the number of individual donors making gifts to your organization is beginning to decline. Your biggest donors may be giving a little more, but you're left to wonder why many others are giving less – or aren't giving at all.

This kind of situation is usually the result of bigger, deeper problems. So, before you rush to launch your next big campaign or event, take a step back and think long and hard about whether any of the things below could be causing you to lose traction when it comes to generating awareness for your cause.

1. You've become too focused on internal stakeholders. I've run into several nonprofit organizations that had cultivated a highly professional mentality over the years, causing leadership to take a blinkered approach to their organization's relationship with its stakeholders. Often their strategy involves putting highly experienced staff to work on problems with little input from the community. Unfortunately, an all-too-common outcome of this approach is the loss of external engagement, which is critical to your long-term sustainability.

If the number of closed-door meetings at your shop is going up while public engagement in your services is declining, it may be because you and your colleagues are shutting out the community you're supposed to be supporting. The solution: Always make sure your staff is looking beyond the walls of the organization and involving your constituents and outside stakeholders in its work. The more voices you allow to be heard around the table, the stronger your organization will be.

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Building a Strong Money-in-Politics Reform Movement

October 20, 2015

Democracy requires constant vigilance. Too often, however, our liberty is taken for granted. Unless we vehemently protect it, democracy will perish.

Teddy Roosevelt recognized this better than most. He was, of course, a complicated leader with a mixed legacy, but in his time he saw clearly what you and I see clearly today: that the ability of our elected officials to govern effectively is compromised by a rigged system, and that it is our responsibility to fix it when necessary.

Although the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United has further compromised the system, it is inaccurate to blame the status quo exclusively on the court's ruling. The massive, sprawling system of political money and influence-peddling that increasingly paralyzes Washington and state capitals has been mushrooming out of control for forty years.

The result is quietly but profoundly devastating. On the spectrum that exists between democracy and oligarchy, where would you place America? My friend Mark McKinnon, who many know as George W. Bush's former communications director, recently commented: "Our system is an oligarchy." And poll after poll show that Americans agree.

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Why Are We Obsessed With Social Media Fundraising?

October 07, 2015

Social_media-fundraisingWe all have guilty pleasures. Whether it's a favorite show on Bravo, the tabloid magazine we read in the checkout line at the grocery store, or that box of Girl Scouts cookies hidden in a desk drawer, there are certain things we become attached to and will not give up, on pain of death.

In fundraising, many of us share a guilty pleasure: social media fundraising.

We dream about it, discuss it with colleagues, and love reading articles and blog posts about it. Whether it's a platform highlighted in the latest issue of our favorite trade publication or a conference that always has at least one session on the topic, we just can't help ourselves.

Why? Why do we spend so much time obsessing about an activity that, in reality, doesn't generate all that much income – in fact, just 1 percent of total revenue from online donations?

The answer, I suspect, lies in our own use of social media, our often-overzealous boards, and misguided expectations.

You enjoy social media...

...and why shouldn't you? It's a great way to stay in touch with friends and family members, who entertain you with their pictures and videos, share things you like, and keep you informed of their career moves. As long as it's not abused, social media also provides a convenient, low-cost respite from the daily grind.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (September 2015)

October 02, 2015

Although PhilanTopic was on vacation for a couple of weeks, our readers found lots to chew on, content-wise, in September, including new posts by Derrick Feldmann and Claire Axelrad, infographics from Bloomerang and the ALS Association, a timely post by Foundation Center president Brad Smith, and perennially popular posts by nonprofit executive director Susan Danish and fundraising consultant Richard Brewster. As for us? We'll always have Paris....

What have you read, watched, or listened to lately that warmed your baguette? Feel free to it share in the comments section below, or drop us a line at

Four Key Indicators of Nonprofit Success

September 25, 2015

Headshot_richard_brewsterPhilanTopic is on vacation this week. While we're away, we'll be sharing some of our favorite posts from the last year or three. This post was originally published in September 2014. Enjoy.

Have you ever "ghost dialed" someone? You know, when the phone in your purse or pocket accidentally dials a number? Well, that recently happened to me with a board member of a human services nonprofit. We were surprised to be talking to each other but continued. The organization was well known in its community and had been successful, but our conversation ended up being pretty depressing: the nonprofit was in the process of shutting down.

I did some research and discovered that the organization's budget grew from $5 million to $10 million in just five years. Then a crisis came, they lost a major source of revenue, and there followed a painful five-year decline.

Why did this happen? A little more research and some reflection on others' experience suggests that four key conditions need to be met in order to survive a crisis like the loss of a major funder:

1. Sustainability isn't just about dollars. A nonprofit's programs need to be relevant today, not for situations or problems that are five or ten years in the past. The human services group above offered only housing, even as other agencies in the area began to provide services such as day care to low-income people, enabling them to keep their jobs (and pay the rent).

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The Future of Fundraising Is Peer-to-Peer

September 24, 2015

Headshot_derrick_feldmannPhilanTopic is on vacation this week. While we're away, we'll be sharing some of our favorite posts from the last year or three. This post was originally published in January 2015. Enjoy.

When I was leading fundraising efforts at a national nonprofit, the focus of everything I did was the individual donor. From coming up with new ways to get donors to give to creating messaging that resonated with their interests, I spent pretty much every minute of every day thinking about how I could gain donors' trust and confidence and persuade them to support our organization.

After a while, I realized our donors had value beyond what they gave (in money or time), that in fact we could use them to introduce us to people who weren't supporting us – although I never would have asked a donor to physically make an ask on our behalf.

A few years have passed, and my thoughts on this score have changed. That has a lot to do with the emergence of social networking and peer-to-peer (P2P) models.

You can see this in our industry, which over the last three years has moved quickly to embrace peer-to-peer fundraising. I know: many nonprofit professionals argue that online giving is the hot thing in the fundraising space. It seems to me, however, that the rapid growth of online giving owes much to the emergence of peer-to-peer tools and platforms that make it easy to find and give to causes or individuals who may be many degrees of separation removed from us.

How has this changed the job of the professional fundraiser? In the past, fundraising was an activity based in part on the willingness of fundraisers to ask for support from friends, family, and deep-pocketed individuals with whom they had a personal connection. Today, in contrast, the professional fundraiser has at his or her disposal a range of options, from social media and dedicated websites to personalized giving pages and text messaging services, that enable him or her to reach many more people, in many more locations, than was possible before.

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7 Ways to Make Your Year-End Fundraising Really Count

September 14, 2015

Get_Ready_Year_EndIt's the most wonderful time of the year!

It's when a majority of people are inspired (or habituated) to think about giving. Not a time your nonprofit wants to miss out on.

If you want to leverage people's feelings of generosity during the holiday season, you need to start planning now. If you've already begun (yay!), you need to make sure you're not missing any tricks that could help you raise more money.

Your year-end appeal is a terrible thing to waste

Sadly, I see wasted efforts at every turn, efforts that simply do not compel a response — or certainly not a generous one. A few of the more common missteps include:

  • Letters in envelopes no one in their right mind would open.
  • Wonderful letters sent to the wrong mailing list.
  • Letters without a specific ask.
  • Letters with no call to action.
  • Letters with no personalization.
  • E-appeals that strain the eye.
  • Donation pages that would take a degree in physics to complete.
  • Donation pages that convey zero emotion.
  • One-shot efforts that make no effort to remind folks of their noble impulses.
  • Appeals that lack urgency.
  • Thank you's that lack graciousness, or even manners.

Update your year-end fundraising to make it really count

Here are seven questions you may want to consider:

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Weekend Link Roundup (September 12-13, 2015)

September 13, 2015

Back-to-schoolOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

Former Seattle mayor Michael McGinn and the environmental group 350 Seattle has launched a campaign to get the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest charitable and funder of medical research, to completely divest itself of its investments in fossil fuels. The Guardian reports.

Over the last twenty-five years, the world has lost forested areas equal to South Africa. The good news, writes Chris Mooney in the Washington Post, is that the rate of deforestation appears to be slowing.


Still trying to figure out this nonprofit marketing thing? On her Social Velocity blog, Nell Edgington explains the basics.

Guest blogging on Kivil Leroux Miller's Nonprofit Communications Blog, Laurel Dykema of Mission India shares five "don'ts" for nonprofit writers.


Is entrepreneurship in America becoming the province of the wealthy? Gillian B. White, a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, reports.


Markets for Good has a nice crowdfunding-focused Q&A with Alison Carlman, senior manager of marketing and communications at GlobalGiving.

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[Infographic] Major Gift Fundraising - By the Numbers

September 12, 2015

With a hat tip to Tony Martignetti, this week's infographic from Bloomerang, the donor management software vendor, is full of interesting stats and advice re that elusive but much-sought-after fundraising prize: the major gift. Based on data from a Bloomerang survey of more than seven hundred nonprofits and conversations with major gift fundraisers, it should be of special interest to mid-size organizations that have never actively solicited a major gift but are ready to add the category to their development portfolio.

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[Infographic] Your 'Ice Bucket' Dollars at Work

September 05, 2015

Although it couldn't have predicted it, the ALS Association struck gold when it introduced the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last summer. And, as we reported a week or so ago, scientists are crediting the funds raised through the campaign — more than $115 million in the U.S. and an estimated $220 million globally — with supporting a major breakthrough in the search for a treatment for the always-fatal disease. The infographic below breaks down how the dollars raised through last year's the challenge have been used.

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3 Things to Know About Donor Behavior

September 02, 2015

Donor_brainWhen I first got into fundraising, I executed campaigns without worrying too much about donors or spending a lot of time thinking about why or how they responded to particular strategies or appeals.

Eventually, I realized that if development professionals really want to make a difference in their organization's ability to raise money, they not only need to think about their donors, they need to understand how the donor brain works. Let's face it: the brain is an economic weighing machine that makes hundreds, if not thousands, of opportunity-cost calculations a day. Rather than choosing the most difficult thing, it tends to nudge us down the path of least resistance.

What does that mean for the fundraising professional? It's simple. Donors are drawn to actions that, psychologically speaking, are low cost but yield a satisfying result. We need to build that recognition into our appeals and the way we communicate about our organizations.

The 'Me-Too' Effect

Imagine walking into a museum and at the entrance coming across three buckets. Bucket #1 has a sign asking you to donate the change in your pocket. You notice the bucket is almost full of coins. Bucket #2 has a sign asking you to donate $5 and is maybe half full of one- and five-dollar bills. The last bucket, bucket #3, has a sign asking you to donate $50 and has a few bills crumpled at the bottom.

Which approach is likely to raise the most money?

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (July 2015)

August 01, 2015

It was a typically hot and muggy July in most places, but here at PhilanTopic it was an especially cool month, with new posts from Sarah Gunther and Diana Samarasan related to the release of an updated Foundation Center report on funding for global human rights, three posts full of great fundraising and governance advice for nonprofit leaders, a new Q&A with Jean Case, and the latest installment in Matt Schwartz' Cause-Driven Design series topping the list of the most popular posts on the blog. What, you were on vacation? Don't sweat it. Here's your chance to catch up....

Read, watched, or listened to anything lately that surprised or made you think? Share your find with others in the comments section below, or drop us a line at


Quote of the Week

  • "The two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why...."

    — Mark Twain (1835-1910)

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