Jul 032017

FlagIt’s nearly the 4th of July here in the US, which means we’ll be celebrating our independence.

But independence is important for nonprofits, too! One of the best ways to maintain your financial independence is by increasing the amount of revenue you receive from individual donors.

Last week, I shared some of my thoughts about why nonprofits are struggling, as well as some tips about how to strengthen your grant proposals (http://bit.ly/MoreRevenue1). This week, I want to help you leverage more dollars from donors! Here are the techniques we use to craft powerful appeals:

  • Write directly to your donors. In order to use those seven seconds effectively, you must understand your audience.
  • If you don’t know who your donors are, you need to find out! What are their characteristics? How long have they been giving and at what amount? By analyzing your donor data, you can identify smaller pools of similar donors and write more personalized appeals geared specifically to them, which are more effective.


  • What inspires your donors? What turns them off? An annual donor survey is a great way to find out! The feedback they provide can help you strengthen your donor stewardship, cultivation, and communications programs.


  • Keep the tone casual, yet heartfelt. The letter should be intimate, as if it’s written to just that one donor. Your letter needs to come from the heart.


  • Write in short sentences. When you’re talking to others, you don’t talk in long, drawn out sentences. Using short sentences in your letter helps create an intimate, conversational tone. Short paragraphs work better, too. And while you’re at it, please leave the jargon on the cutting room floor
  • Use action verbs. Action verbs bring life to the letter and create a sense of urgency.
  • Talk about what the donors gets from your organization. If you’re not entirely sure, ask your board and top donors what they get out of supporting the organization. You might be surprised by some of their answers!
  • Use “you” and “your.” You can throw in us/we/our once or twice, but mostly it’s about them.
  • Get personal. Use your mail merge function to personalize letters. Acknowledge how long the donor has been giving and/or have staff, board members and/or clients write personal notes on their letter.
  • Tell stories. Stories illustrate your organization in a way that paragraphs of text cannot and help your donors understand the scope and nature of the problem while keeping it on a human scale. Many of your clients are eager to share their stories to encourage others who are in a similar situation and to give back to the agency that helped them solve their problem.
  • Give your donors’ eyes a break – use lots of white space. Throw those ole spacing rules out the window! If you want to have a single sentence paragraph because that one sentence is going to make your donor stop and say, “OMG,” go for it!  Bullets, photos, headings, and graphs can all provide visual interest and help keep the reader engaged.
  • Consider the shapes you use. Did you know that there is actually a ratio that is most appealing to the human eye? It’s called the Golden Ratio or the Divine Proportion, and it produces a shape similar to a widescreen television or a cinema screen. Use it.
  • As often as possible, use color. Graphic designers have long known that color plays a major role in the success of any marketing campaign. Specific colors tend to stir certain emotions in customers, thus creating brand relevance and motivating purchases.
  • Consider your font. The whole point of an appeal is to have people read it, so it’s important to give some thought to what font you use. At a minimum, it should be 10 point, especially if you have donors who are over the age of 50!
  • Forget the #10 white envelope. Consider creating something that’s an odd size, produced in bright colors – anything that will make it stand out from the rest of the mail in the pile a donor grabs out of their mailbox at the end of the day. Making sure your donor opens your direct mail at all is the first challenge you must overcome!

We hope these tips will help you craft compelling appeals that help you generate more revenue than ever before! On average, our clients see at least a 10% increase when we craft their appeals. Put them to work and see how you fare!

Next week, we’ll share some creative ideas for using social media to get donations!

Meanwhile, if you’ve got questions, feel free to get in touch! Sarah@newera4nonprofits.com

Fighting for your freedom,


 July 3, 2017  Posted by at 3:41 pm Fundraising
Jun 262017

Money StairsI realize that I haven’t been around in a while. I apologize…

The last six months have been a whirlwind:

In February, I was in the Vagina Monologues, then took an 8-day trip to Iceland

In March, I finished my book

In April, I went to China for 10 days to train nonprofit leaders

Later in April, I went to see my Dad, who’s battling cancer.

In May, my son finished up school and we went to spend some time with my Dad.

And this month, I went to CA for 5 days, presented @ the Network for Social Work Management Conference, and
spent a long weekend with my Dad.

As you might imagine, it’s been hard to find time to write.

But it’s been more than that, too.

I feel like once I finished my book, I needed to hibernate for a while. Take a breather. Rest. Recharge. Writing 110,000 words will do that to ya!

But now I’m back, ready to help you raise more money, build better boards, engage in strategic planning and strengthen your communications programs!

Today’s blog is the first in a four-part series on creative ways to generate more revenue. I hope you find it helpful!

I don’t have to tell you that things are tough out there right now in terms of funding. That being said, there are 5 things that nonprofits do that undermine their ability to attract and raise the funding they need.

  • We fail to invest in fundraising.

Most nonprofits do not have staff capacity to adequately perform all the functions necessary to maximize the organization’s fundraising potential. Many of our organizations need to raise more money, yet do not want to invest additional resources into fundraising. So where is this new revenue going to come from?

  • We fail to invest in our board.

Most Executive Directors cite under-performing boards among the top 3 challenges they face.

We need to remember that our boards are comprised of volunteers, who may or may not work in the nonprofit sector, and often do not have experience, skills or expertise in fundraising. If we want them to raise money, we have to teach them how, then give them very specific projects to work on and specific tasks to execute.

  • We fail to engage our community.

Donors, volunteers, and other members of our community have a bevvy of gifts they bring to the table, yet we often fail to identify and leverage them. The work of our organization does not always need to be done by staff – I have seen volunteers do the most amazing things for the nonprofits they love!

  • We have bought into a set of limiting beliefs that serve to suffocate us. These beliefs prevent us from “playing it big.” They are:

–Our organization has to stay in business forever.

–Our organization cannot be profitable.

–Our organization must rely solely on subsidies (private, corporate, government grants, donations, etc.).

–Growth will only make things harder.

–We must focus on expenses, not results.

–We cannot raise the capital we need to meet our needs.

–We must do more for less.

These are just stories we’re telling ourselves. What might shift if we let go of these beliefs and starting playing it big?

  • We believe we can only budget for break-even, which keeps our expectations low.

Just changing one of these things will make a world of difference in your fundraising program!


So will integrating these 8 creative strategies into your grant writing!

  • Communicate clearly and concisely who you are, what you do, how you do it, and why the funder should support your cause. Identify and broadcast your niche and strengths. Prove that your organization is the best one to carry out this project/program by demonstrating that you have a proven track record and can produce results.
  • Focus on the problem and the impact it’s having on the PEOPLE YOU SERVE, positioning your agency as the vehicle through which change happens. Remember – philanthropy is a heart-centered activity, and philanthropists want to help people.
  • Tell stories! Many people feel overwhelmed by today’s social problems. Issues like homelessness, addiction, domestic violence, etc. can feel too big to tackle. Telling stories helps break the problem down into manageable bits and helps people to connect to the people you’re serving through their heart. Be sure to emphasize the benefits for your clients and the community.
  • Keep your audience in mind. Most foundation grant review sessions are held after work, so most of the people reading your proposal are volunteers who may have already had a long day. They will have most likely just eaten before sitting down to read your grant application, and thus may slip into a carb coma… To keep them awake – and interested in what you have to say! — avoid jargon, use short words, shorter sentences, and shorter paragraphs. Say it in 5 pages instead of 8. Leave plenty of white space and use a sans serif font in a size no smaller than 10 to give the readers’ eyes a rest. Consider using 1.5 spacing as well. A happy reader is one who is more inclined to say “Yes!”
  • Did you know that you only have 7 seconds to capture someone’s attention? Be sure to start and end your grant narrative with a bang, and punctuate your proposal with action words.

Please don’t start your grant narrative with something like, “We are pleased to submit this grant application to Foundation X to support our food pantry.” Remember that carb coma I told you about? Well, your reader is now asleep! Instead, try something like, “Did you know that the prevalence of hunger in Worcester is SIX times that of the Commonwealth? That means 1 in 3 children live in households unable to meet their basic food needs.” End with something like, “A $5,000 grant from Foundation X will ensure that fewer children go to bed hungry tonight.” Bam!

  • Find – and use! – your voice. Remember, you are trying to connect with a bunch of people (and their hearts!) through your writing. They are more likely to make that connection when you write from an authentic and honest place.

Grant applications are not academic papers. Writing a grant is more like writing a letter or persuasive essay to a single person, or a small group of people. (That is, after all, exactly what you’re doing!). Use the first and second person, not the third, to create a sense of intimacy.

  • Use visual devices to direct your readers. Headings and bullets to guide the reader through the proposal and demonstrate that you’re adhering to the guidelines. For example, if the funder has asked you to outline your goals and objectives, create a heading called Goals and Objectives.

Be bold! Unless it’s forbidden, use photos, graphs, pull quotes, and infographics to break up the narrative. Using visual aids like these helps reinforce the words and also accommodates visual learners.

  • Submit testimonials, articles, support letters, before/after photos, etc. to reinforce your narrative (provided they are allowed). When I worked for a community development corporation, when possible, I used to include a map of the neighborhood in which we worked. Each one of our projects was marked with a white dot with a number in it, which corresponded to a photo at the bottom of the page. That way, viewers could get a “bird’s eye view” of the impact we were having on the entire neighborhood, as well as see what each project looked like. This map was a huge hit!

The rejection rate with grants is upwards of 50%, but we’ve got an 83% success rate, because we use these strategies to make our grant applications more interesting, appealing, and compelling. Put them to work and see how you fare!

Next week, we’ll share some creative techniques for increasing the revenue you generate through direct appeals!

Meanwhile, if you’ve got questions, feel free to get in touch! Sarah@newera4nonprofits.com

Back in action,


 June 26, 2017  Posted by at 6:23 pm Fundraising
Feb 212017

Greetings from Iceland! I’m here on a photographic vacation – having a good time and learning so much about photography — and myself!

Here are some things I’ve learned in the last day that also apply to life – and to fundraising!

  • Be aware of what’s going on around you. The winter weather here in Iceland can be intense, as can the landscape – if you don’t watch where you’re going, you can break your ankle in a lava field or go tumbling over a cliff!

In life – and in fundraising – we are better served if we’re paying attention to what’s going on in our environment – not only in terms of what our next step is, but also, looking at the horizon. We need to look at the big picture, then figure out the details. Maintaining this dual focus is what helps us to succeed.

  • No chimping! This is a term for deleting photos in the field.

When we’re disappointed by the outcome – from the last photo we just took, from a visit with a donor, a special event, or anything else in life, don’t give up! Give it time, take a step back, and see what you can do to improve the situation. Often times, what at first glance appeared to be a failure can turn into a success (photo editing software is my new best friend)!

  • “Right place, right time, right light.” That’s what photography is all about. Yesterday, we were at this huge waterfall, when a huge, vibrant rainbow appeared in the spray. We all went a little nuts, because it was one of those amazing, magical photographic moments. The rest of the time – especially here in Iceland! – you’re working with what Mother Nature dishes out. Rain, clouds, snow, hail, and changing light conditions.


The point is to persevere; to lay the groundwork so you’re ready for when That Moment arrives, so you can take full advantage of it.


  • You don’t have to have a lot of fancy gear to get a great shot! I felt a little uncertain about coming to Iceland with only my iPhone in tow. Everyone else has all this fancy gear – cameras, lenses and filters that do different things, rain and sun covers, camera bags… Because I don’t have any fancy gear, I’ve been forced to explore all the tools on my iPhone, and to find different angles and vantage points from which to take photos (which, by the way, have been stunning!), which has made me into a better photographer.

Bottom line: you don’t need fancy tools to get great results.

Fundraising is a heart-centered activity. It’s about connecting with people who want to make a difference, who believe in our mission, who want to partner with us to create a better world for the people who are turning to us for help. All that takes is a full heart, a voice, and some people who want to hear the stories that your clients want to tell. No fancy tools or equipment needed!

Who knows what else I’ll learn here in Iceland – about photography, myself or fundraising? I’ll let you know next week, when I’m state-side again!

Yours in all weather,


 February 21, 2017  Posted by at 10:01 pm Fundraising
Feb 132017
Donor Love

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Since I can often be heard comparing fundraising to dating, what better time to write about what it takes to demonstrate your love and commitment to you donors?

The most powerful way you can strengthen your individual donor program and increase private donations is to become a donor-centric organization.

What does this mean?

It means building a culture of philanthropy.

Ok, but how does one do that?

In short, that “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” (Gandhi)

Building a culture of philanthropy means that your nonprofit embodies this. Every last person must lead by example & demonstrate their own dedication to the cause.

This is the foundation of a Culture of Philanthropy. It’s what gives you the credibility to ask others to join you, to support your cause. It’s what inspires & motivates others to give.


Bottom line: we must WALK THE WALK. Our organizations should, at all times, demonstrate their love for humanity (philanthropy). Be places where people feel safe. Welcomed. Cared for.

The entire organization must operate in a way that motivates a “giving response” from anyone who relates to and cares about the mission. This encompasses core values, beliefs & behaviors.

Keeping these 3 key points in mind will help you become a donor-centered organization:

  1. Philanthropy is a heart-centered activity. For maximum success, connect to your donors heart-to-heart. Stories are the fastest, most powerful way to do this.
  1. YOU are a mattress company. Yes, I just said that. Stick with me on this one, and you’ll see what I mean:

When we’re shopping for a mattress, do we really care how many coils it has? Whether or not it’s a pillow-top? Or      is our primary concern whether or not we’ll get a good night’s sleep?

It’s the same with your donors — they want to know, what is your organization’s version of a good night’s sleep?
Yet often, we expend a lot of time and energy telling them how great the mattress is… I’d invite you to stop,
because it’s turning your donors off.

  1. Donors are not ATMs! Please stop treating them like one.


In a donor-centered organization with a strong culture of philanthropy:

  • People are excited about the mission and about getting people involved in advancing it
  • Everyone helps identify new friends & partners
  • The organization makes it easy & comfortable to give & for donors to engage in dialogue
  • Everyone can articulate the case for giving & describe how donations are used
  • Consumers are at the heart of the organization & encouraged to share their stories
  • Organizational leaders lead fundraising efforts, both in the form of participation (time, talent) & contributions (treasure)
  • 100% of the board makes a monetary contribution that is in alignment with their giving capacity
  • Donors are provided with information on a regular basis and in a timely manner and are given multiple opportunities to deepen their relationship with the organization.

The charge needs to be lead from the top of the organization (e.g., Executive Director and Board Chair), but everyone can participate.

And if you’re not at the top, lead the charge, anyway!

Because really, who’s going to say no to bringing in more money?!


If you want to learn more about what being donor-centered means, I’d encourage you to read Penelope Burk’s books, Donor-Centered Fundraising and Donor-Centered Leadership. You can find them here: http://cygresearch.com/shoponline/

Enjoy dating your donors – you might just be surprised what happens when you do!

Yours with love,



 February 13, 2017  Posted by at 5:22 pm Fundraising
Jan 302017

On Wednesday, January 25, I ran a webinar — Writing Winning Grants — for the Network for Social Work Management, an international organization that focuses on promoting best practices 21 areas of management competency for social work managers.

We are pleased to offer you free access to the recording of this workshop! To access it, go to:

You’ll be asked to provide your name and email in order to access the recording.
This will add you to the NSWM mailing list, but you can always unsubscribe later.

Happy viewing! 🙂

 January 30, 2017  Posted by at 5:35 pm Fundraising
Sep 272016
Dumper truck unloading construction gravel, granite and crushed stones at building foundation

One of the things I often say is that fundraising is akin to dating.

And that regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, when it comes to fundraising, YOU are always the “man” in the relationship.

(In other words, it’s YOUR job to “make the moves.”)

Like it or not, it’s always OUR job to take the lead, to deepen the relationship, to let donors know that we’re interested in and care about them, to ask the donor to take the next step with us, be that by making a larger donation, volunteering, engaging in peer solicitation, or joining a committee of the board.

If we don’t take the time required to date our donors, then we will in all likelihood get dumped, unceremoniously, without so much as a Dear John letter.


Donor retention is a HUGE problem in the nonprofit sector! Did you know…

  • We can expect to lose up to 50% of our donors between their 1st and 2nd gift?
  • We can expect an annual attrition rate of up to 30% among donors who make more than one gift?

We’re engaged in the process of fund-raising, but we seem to be donor-losing!


What’s going on?

There are two primary reasons our donors are dumping us and looking for a better date:

  1. We tend to focus on donor acquisition instead of retention.
  2. We generally treat donations as transactions, rather than an extension of a relationship.

When you look at the attrition rates, you can see that the scale of lost opportunity is huge.

And it’s costing us money!


Donor retention is important for several reasons:

  • Cost: It costs about 5 times as much to acquire a new donor than to keep one. It costs our organizations 2-3 times more to recruit a new donor than they will give by way of their first gift. Even after the donor has given, it can take 12-18 months before the relationship becomes profitable.
  • Increased Revenue: Only existing donors can increase the amount of their gift and make additional donations. They are also more likely to attend your events and/or purchase merchandise that supports your cause.
  • Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Existing donors are the only donors who provide word-of-mouth “advertising” to their friends, family members and co-workers, and other people they know. As any business owner will tell you, word-of-mouth marketing it worth its weight in gold!
  • Help: Existing donors are more likely to volunteer, join a committee, or join the board. And – volunteers give twice as often as annual donors!

Without proper attention to cultivation and stewardship – which are the underpinnings of donor retention – we’re leaving money on the table.


We have about 95 days until the end of the year. This gives us a narrow window of opportunity before the holiday giving season kicks in to rekindle that lovin’ feeling with our existing and lapsed donors.

Here are 3 tips to avoid getting dumped by your donors:


Relationships usually fare better when there’s a good flow of positive, heartfelt communication.

It’s no different with donors – they need and want to hear from you!

–When did your last newsletter go out?

–How long has it been since they heard from you via email?

–Is your website up to date (74% of all gifts begin on line!)?

–Are you posting to social media channels on regular basis?

Communication helps build donor confidence. If it’s been a while since you reached out and touched your donors, you have a few weeks in which to reconnect with them and remind them of all the great work their gifts are helping make possible.



The personal touch helps establish a connection and maintain the bond in a relationship.

Donors too want to have that personal connection!

When was the last time you saw your donors?

–Have you ever had an Open House or other small, intimate event that allowed them to get an insider’s view of your organization? If not, you’ve got a few weeks to organize a reception or some other type of low-key event.

Turn it into a schmooze-a-thon! Have your entire staff, board and key volunteers attend so there’s a high ratio of organizational reps to donors – having extra help will allow you to make a personal connection with your donors.



All people want to be treated with respect, to be valued and accepted, loved, and cherished. People also want to feel they are making important contributions and that they are being heard. When people feel seen and validated, it builds cooperation.

Just like any other human, your donors need to be acknowledged, validated, heard and respected. When was the last time you said thank you to your donors?

–Does your organization hold an annual Thank-a-Thon? Giving Tuesday is on November 29 – why not use it as an opportunity to thank your donors?

–Are your thank you notes hand-written? You don’t have to be the only one in the organization writing these – board members, other staffers, volunteers and clients can write them, too (be sure to provide them with samples)!

Try using hand-written notes this year — it’ll make a qualitative difference in your donors’ experience, which will help significantly with retention.


While every donor knows that an organization requires many contributors, not a single one of them wants to feel like a number, a transaction, an ATM. We need to treat every donor – and every dollar – with respect and gratitude. Because at the end of the day, we have no idea what any specific donor may be capable of. I could tell you dozens of tales of low- or mid-level donors who made a mind-blowing donation out of nowhere!

Investing more time and energy in dating our donors (aka cultivation, stewardship and retention) literally pays off in the form of higher donations, multiple donations, habitual donations (e.g., giving every year), volunteerism, word-of-mouth marketing, etc.

We have only a few short weeks in which to evaluate our individual donor program and implement the strategies that will help improve recurring gifts and retention among our donors. Try one of the strategies listed above – and be sure to let us know how it goes!




 September 27, 2016  Posted by at 4:48 pm Fundraising
Sep 072016
Stress Relax Computer Keys Shows Pressure Of Work Or Relaxation Online

As you know from reading my most recent posts, December 31 will be here in about 120 days. YIKES!

Between now and year-end, many of us have numerous grants to crank out, a newsletter to write, edit and design, an annual appeal to craft, and possibly an event or two to manage. It’s a lot!

For those of us with fiscal years that end with the calendar year, the pressure is tremendous – what we do and how we fare for the next 120 days will mean the difference between ending the year on a high note or starting next year climbing out of a hole.

Fall is a time when we often put in extra hours – at night, on the weekends – and experience an incredible amount of stress. During the last quarter of the year, it’s easy to put yourself on the back burner, but that’s exactly what can lead to feeling run down, frenzied and overwhelmed. It can also make us sick!

Mental health professionals suggest taking at least 20 minutes a day to do something for ourselves. Benefits include improved mental and physical health, through enhanced self-esteem, lower stress, and overall well-being. Self-care can provide us with balance in an increasingly chaotic world and is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle which contributes to our health and happiness, and helps us be more in tune with our bodies and minds.

Sometimes, we neglect self-care because some people consider it “indulgent” or “selfish” or see it as a sign of laziness, which might leave us feeling self-conscious or guilty. However, self-care has a positive impact on our physical health, mental health, relationships and even our income. By choosing self-care, we also have more energy and to care for others and to be more compassionate.

So – before the year-end fundraising season ramps up to full speed, I thought it’d be good to share some ideas to help you stay happy and healthy (and sane!) so that you can ring in the New Year in one piece.

Here are 120 things you can do to take care of yourself:

  1. Focus on and leverage your strengths
  2. Ask for help
  3. Eat a balanced, nutritious diet
  4. Get enough sleep
  5. Squeeze some exercise into your day – even 10- 15 minutes makes a difference
  6. Avoid drinking too much caffeine
  7. Avoid loading up on sugar
  8. Avoid drinking alcohol to excess
  9. Spend time with your friends and others who build you up
  10. Do something you love every day
  11. Meditate
  12. Do some yoga
  13. Get a massage
  14. Write in a journal
  15. Take a bath
  16. Get a manicure or pedicure — or both!
  17. Color – there are lots of adult coloring books out there these days!
  18. Stretch
  19. Grab a gab session with your friends and/or family
  20. Get outside
  21. Pay it forward/be of service/volunteer
  22. B-r-e-a-t-h-e deeply
  23. Buy yourself some flowers
  24. Do some aromatherapy
  25. Drink a cup of herbal tea
  26. Practice progressive relaxation – lie on the floor and starting with your toes, progressively tighten then release each muscle in your body
  27. Do a guided visualization – there are a ton of these on YouTube
  28. Focus on the present
  29. Be mindful
  30. Be happy
  31. Smile at every single person you meet
  32. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude by starting each day by making a list of what you’re grateful for
  33. Dance – anywhere, any time!
  34. #*$&%#@! (swear!) Dropping a few F-bombs is an easy way to blow off some steam. (Of course, you probably want to choose where and when you do this!)
  35. Be assertive. Be clear about your boundaries, what is and isn’t ok with you.
  36. Indulge in a little retail therapy
  37. Lose yourself in a good book – or a good audio book – preferably fiction
  38. Turn on the tunes, then turn ‘em up!
  39. Hang out with your pet – if you don’t have one, hang out with your friend’s pet
  40. Laugh out loud – the more snorting, the better!
  41. Look at something cute – or go play with some kittens or puppies
  42. Chew gum
  43. Join a group or religious community
  44. Declutter
  45. Cuddle with someone
  46. Wake up slowly – give yourself time to wake slowly and fully before getting out of bed
  47. Get it on. You heard me! There are many benefits to having sex, one of which is stress reduction
  48. Do an art project – you don’t have to be an artist, just have fun!
  49. Unplug – take a break from electronics, social media, email, blogging, etc. – for an hour, a day, a weekend…
  50. Fly a kite
  51. Get out of Dodge – even if it’s just for the day, go someplace and do something fun
  52. Take a nap
  53. Kiss someone
  54. Sharpen your saw – learn something new
  55. Drink plenty of water – we’re supposed to drink 64 ounces each day
  56. Blow bubbles – ya know, the kind that come in a plastic container with a wand…
  57. Go into a photo booth with a family member or friend and make goofy faces in every single shot
  58. Roll down a hill
  59. Go to the boardwalk or arcade and waste $10 in quarters
  60. Walk on the beach, along a lake or river… water has a very soothing effect
  61. Set aside specific times each day when you WILL NOT WORK. Write these in pen. Do not white them out!
  62. Give – and get – hugs
  63. Listen to a podcast
  64. Be nice to others
  65. Get support when you need it
  66. Wear clothes that make you happy, that make you feel great
  67. Relax – just B-E
  68. Use affirmations to remind yourself how amazing you are (we’re all flawesome! 😉
  69. Dream
  70. Have Girls/Guys Night In – or Out
  71. Pay attention to and take care of your emotions
  72. Acknowledge your accomplishments and successes each day
  73. Create an Absolute Yes list. Then start saying NO.
  74. Let go of things you can’t control
  75. Trust

We didn’t finish the list, because we want to hear from YOU! What do you do to take care of yourself? To replenish?

Leave us a comment below or hop on over to our Facebook page and let us know!

And if you want to learn how to Boost Year-end Revenue, you can find our new online training here!


 September 7, 2016  Posted by at 11:58 am Fundraising
Nov 092015

One of my clients has a brand new employee, who oversees their growing communications program. Recently, she’s been getting a lot of calls from people promoting what I call “Nickel and Dime Fundraisers.”

These fundraising efforts require your staff to put in a Herculean effort to broadcast the company or their product, in return for a teeny tiny ROI (Return on Investment).

When you add in the cost of your staff’s time, the ROI drops very close to – if not below – zero, ultimately turning them into “fundlosers.”

Called Incentive Programs – or Mall Programs – the two most popular of these “fundraisers” are Amazon Smile and Good Search. Let’s look at the actual ROI for each one of these:

GOOD SEARCH: Once you sign up, Good Search donates a penny to your organization every time you or one of your stakeholders uses their search engine. This means you and your fans have to conduct 100 searches before you earn $1.00.

The ROI on Good Shop is slightly better – they donate 2.5% – 5% of the total purchase to your cause. However, even if your shopper spends $100 and the donation amount is 5%, that’s only $5 for your agency.

AMAZON SMILE: Amazon Smile has an even lower ROI. Amazon Smile donates 0.5% of a shopper’s total purchase to a designated nonprofit. This means your supporter has to spend $1,000 before you to get $5 out of the deal.

Is this really all we want our donors to give?

And really, Amazon? Really, Good Search? You can’t be more generous?

Amazon is worth NINETY BILLION DOLLARS. I was unable to determine how much money Good Search/Good Shop is worth, but suffice it to say they wouldn’t be doing this unless they were making money from it.

By law, corporations can give away up to 10% of their pre-tax profits. Only 11% of corporations in the US give away any money at all and of those, the average distribution is 2% of their pre-tax profits. Amazon and Good Search/Shop don’t even meet this depressingly low threshold.

Beyond the pittance your organization gets in return for promoting efforts like Amazon Smile and Good Search/Good Shop, there are other problems with these gimmicks:

1) While any charity can sign up, those reaping the majority of the benefits from these systems are national nonprofits with brand recognition – American Red Cross, World Wildlife Fund, etc. If you’re a small to mid-sized nonprofit, can you really compete in this arena?

2) Good Search/Good Shop promotes online shopping in national chain stores. If you or your donors would prefer to shop locally, Good Shop and other Mall Programs are not an option.

3) Because the company is making the gift to your organization, it’s not tax deductible for your donor. And guess who gets the credit? Not your donor…

Most importantly, these Incentive/Mall Programs rob you of an opportunity to establish or deepen your relationship with your donors. Donors who are connected to your organization are more likely to give generously and to give in other ways (volunteering, advice, etc.).

If you’re promoting these programs while you’re engaged in year-end fundraising, you may end up confusing your donors, diluting your message and/or undermining your own fundraising efforts.

These programs require that nonprofit staff spend some time setting up the system, marketing and promoting their participation in it to their stakeholders.

When we consider the amount of time it takes to set up the system, develop and implement a promotional campaign (which is never-ending, because let’s face it, we all have short memories), managing this project could require a significant investment of staff time.

Let’s say it takes 30 minutes to set up the system and 10 hours to develop a marketing/promotions plan.

If you pay your staff $20/hour, that’s an initial investment of $50. How many purchases do your donors have to make before you break even?

Let’s go on to assume your staff spends 2 hours per month promoting these efforts. You’ll end up spending $40/month ($480/year) and will likely reap far less than that in the resulting donations.

It’s easy to think about staff time as a free resource, but I have yet to meet a nonprofit staffer who reports that they have plenty of time to get their job done. Time is a precious resource – it’s valuable to your agency and needs to be expended carefully.

But time is also an opportunity. There are ways we can invest the same amount of time and see a far greater reward. Write a grant. Find a new donor. Dash off hand-written notes to your top 10 donors. Set up a drip campaign to educate your donors about planned giving. Pretty much anything else you spend your time on is going to give you a greater return on your investment.

Most of us would never include a bake sale as part of our fundraising plans. Yet based on the low ROI provided by these strategies, most of us would actually make more money holding a bake sale.

I value your time.

I want you to succeed.

I want to see you raise more money, so you can serve more people.

Because the work that you’re doing is important. Not just to the people you serve, but to their families, our communities, and our country.

So, rather than bother with Amazon Smile or another one of these Incentive Programs, use the $5 to bake a batch of brownies to bring with you when you meet up with your top donor for coffee. It’s a much better use of both the money and your time.

 November 9, 2015  Posted by at 4:07 pm Fundraising
Oct 262015

A man I like, respect and admire recently told a crowd of conference-goers that “we must continue to do more with less.” And as much as I like, respect and admire him, it took every ounce of discipline I possess not to run up to the front of the room, shove him aside and yell into the mic, “NO WE DON’T!”

Good lord! When did we all drink the Kool Aid?

When did we decide that our clients deserve only whatever crumbs we can gather up?

Perhaps I should have risked alienating the conference organizers and getting hauled out of the room by security, because it’s time to stop thinking this way!

Because it’s dangerous.

Believing we must do more with less limits the expectations we have, for our organizations, but more importantly, our clients.

Do our clients really deserve less than they’re already getting?

Didn’t we get into this business to make a difference?

With 1.5M nonprofits in the US – not counting religious institutions — can’t we do better than to just keep our chins above water?

I believe it’s time to change the conversation and the paradigm.

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” Ford was talking about a different kind of Manifest Destiny, one that is manufactured directly by our own thoughts, beliefs and actions.

Scarcity thinking is rooted in the belief that there is not enough ____ (fill in the blank – money, time, staff, volunteers, etc.) to go around.

If we believes there won’t be enough, then it is certain this will be the case. But how might things change if we started believing that there is enough to go around?

What might happen if we believed there is enough money to go around? That the sky’s the limit when it comes to fundraising? Fundraising isn’t just about having good technical skills – it’s also got a great deal to do with confidence.

We all know that there is plenty of money out there to be had – so why not go out and get it?

How much of our fear and hesitation to do so is rooted in limited beliefs?

If we don’t try, we can’t fail. But we’re also not going to succeed, either.

Let’s dispense with this “more with less” thinking. Instead, let’s act with reckless hope. Let’s take some leaps of faith and trust that we will land on our feet.

Let’s step out into the marketplace in a whole new way.

What might happen if we started openly discussing our organization’s need for program expansion, physical improvements, working capital, our concerns about cash flow, and our need to create and maintain operating reserves with our staff, board, donors, funders, volunteers and the community?

Let’s tie a number to that need, and then craft a financial road map that maximizes revenue through every means possible, focusing only on the strategies which have the greatest return.

Let’s connect with our stakeholders at a meaningful level and enlist their help in determining how we might meet this need.

People are tired to being asked to do the least thing possible to help the causes they care most deeply about. We might just be surprised by the way people step up when asked.

Rather than surrendering to this idea of doing even more with even less, let’s create our own paradigm, our own reality, in which we secure the resources we need to fulfill our mission in ways we never dreamed possible.

After all, the Third Sector (nonprofits) ensure a particular quality of life in this country – think what life in the US would be like without higher education, healthcare, the arts, or social services.

We transform people’s lives on a daily basis. With so much at stake, why let others limit our possibilities?

As the fundraising season shift into high gear, let’s take Henry Ford’s words to heart, identify and uproot those limiting beliefs and manufacture a different outcomes for ourselves, and our clients.

 October 26, 2015  Posted by at 4:03 pm Fundraising