Posts made in July, 2012

EOY Pie, Anyone?

Posted by on Jul 31, 2012 | 0 comments

Did I hear “It’s not even August yet, why are you talking about EOY?!”  I thought so. Well guess what, August begins tomorrow and your end-of-year fundraising should have already started.

Questions you might ask yourself to see if you’re on track for your EOY fundraising effort:

  • Do you have a fundraising goal in place? (how many dollars do you plan to raise in what period of time)
  • Do you have a plan to reach your fundraising goal? (determining how will you ask, what will you ask, who will you ask and when will you ask is critical to your success)
  • Is your donation page specific to your ask? (create unique donation pages for your unique asks, rather than sending every donor for every project to your generic donation page)

If you haven’t given a thought to your EOY ASK, now’s a good time to start thinking about it. Here are a few tips from Salsa Labs to get you started:

  1. There is a PATTERN to fundraising. It looks like a pie and it incorporates a surge of giving in December. Each “slice” should be building in some way to your EOY efforts.
    1. The first slice comprises the first fiscal quarter, January to March
    2. The second slice comprises the second fiscal quarter, April to June
    3. The third slice comprises the third fiscal quarter, July to September
    4. The fourth slice comprises the first two months of the last fiscal quarter, October and November.
    5. The fifth slice comprises December 1 through approximately Christmas
    6. And the sixth and final slice comprises just a very few crucial days: the last week of the year.
  2. Ask, Ask, Ask

    Specifically for the EOY last minute effort, plan to ask by email at least twice (we suggest three or more times) before Dec. 25. And really plan to hit the last week of the year with at least three asks. Ask more than that if you can! December is not the time to be bashful.

    • Ask on Saturday, Dec. 31. You should always email at least one fundraising ask on New Year’s Eve, which might be more lucrative in a few hours than some entire months elsewhere on the calendar.
    • Ask at least twice in the Dec. 27 – Dec. 30 span. (Many people will have Monday, Dec. 26 off as their Christmas holiday.)

    Keep It Simple

    Your email has, at best, a few seconds to prove its relevance to the potential donor.

    • Succinct. (Emails should rarely exceed 500 words.)
    • Direct. Don’t bury the ask, or weaken it by mixing in links to non-donation actions.
    • Powerful. Ask the heart, not the head. An image really is worth a thousand … bucks.
    • Repetitious. Link to the donation page multiple times – early, middle, and late in the text, plus any sidebars or buttons.

    Cross Your Channels

    Email is still the go-to fundraising tool for most organizations, but ask everywhere else you’re online, too.

    • Ask on Facebook.
    • Ask on Twitter … and repeat.
    • Ask on your website. It’s not just email subscribers who’ll donate! Get a donation pitch front-and-center on your home page and any other typical entry pages.
Fundraising is a year-round effort with an end-of-year rush.
Grab a slice.
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Yup, that’s me!

Posted by on Jul 28, 2012 | 0 comments

Katya made a point in a recent blog post about “the one thing every home page needs”.

I have repeated over and over again the very same advice, in fact, I have implemented it with several organizations I work with. And yet, my home page is missing the one thing every home page needs.

Katya reminded me of the importance of the human connection when someone lands on your home page. I’ve always phrased it as having “eyes” on your home page, someone looking straight back at the viewer. Because when people surf the internet and land on your page, you have 3 seconds to catch their attention. As I’ve said before, the eyes have it.

A viewer’s gaze will automatically connect with the eyes on the face you have chosen to share. Visit your home page, take a look…is there anyone there? If so, do they make you feel welcome? Engaged? Hypnotized? (just kidding)

When you gaze into those eyes,  do they say “Come in and set a spell” or “I need your help”? If not, they should.

And yet, as of this moment as I am typing,  there are no “eyes” on my home page. No one to welcome you to the site and invite you stay awhile.

Therefore, today begins a new strategy. My image will now be used on the blog posts until I can redesign my home page (time is the challenge here, so bear with me please; it will get done!).

So take a look, let me know what you think. And yup, that’s me.

Come on in and set a spell!

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Face It: You Are Duct Tape

Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 | 0 comments

It’s hard to be everything to everyone. But that pretty much sums up a fundraiser’s role.

We connect with people anywhere, anytime, anyhow (over coffee or chopped salad, in their home, the airport, or at a garden party) at their level of interest.

We search for the common denominator and build upon that foundation. We ignore differences where we can. We build on the common and push the disparities aside.

We are the connection between our organization and supporters. We are often the face of the nonprofit we represent. We are all too often the communicator between our CEO and our major donors.

We seek, we find, we plan, we communicate, we cultivate, we bond, we involve, we inform, we thank, we counsel, we prioritize, we sort, we embrace, we ignore, we praise, we build, we encourage, we nod, we smile, we ask.

We start at the beginning and we see it through to the end.

We do a lot. And when we’re out of pocket, it can be a challenge for everyone, including ourselves.

The solution to prevent a disconnect during our offline time is planning. Planning outreach in advance so that when we are out of pocket, no one will even notice. Well, hardly notice. OK, they will notice, but the processes will continue without us standing watch.

Never underestimate the power of backward planning. If you’ve calendared your outreach and planned ahead. Your vacation, your illness, your emergency will not be cause for worry or delay. Everything should be ready to go automatically, even in your absence.

Think ahead. Plan ahead. And keep smiling.

You really are everything to everyone a lot of the time.  Be prepared and don’t work too hard. The more you plan, the easier it will be.

You are the connector. You are duct tape.

It’s a sticky business, but someone has to do it.

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Moves Management 101

Posted by on Jul 13, 2012 | 0 comments

What is Moves Management?

Moves management is the process of managing donor relationships. In fundraising, moves management provides a strategic and well-planned path to stronger relationships and greater giving.

Moves management involves the strategic planning of “moves” which will be carried out over the course of a year to build a greater connection with a specific donor and increase their propensity to support your organization.

Wikipedia defines moves management as a term used primarily with the non-profit sector in relationship to donor development. It refers to the process by which a prospective donor is moved from cultivation to solicitation. And it’s typically used with major donors.

Moves management is the process that defines the purpose of your donor visits – your cultivation visits. Cultivation of donors without planning and purpose is just another cup of coffee or chopped salad.

And finally, my definition of moves management: a series of clearly defined actions (moves) carefully planned to “move” a potential donor over the course of a year toward making a specific donation.

How to Implement Moves Management

It’s important, first, to understand that each move is an opportunity to connect with and cultivate your potential donor. Each move is planned to increase awareness and commitment to your organization and its mission. Every move should be mission-focused and well-planned.

Moves management is not happenstance fundraising, it’s carefully planned relationship building leading to increased support.

What is a Move?

Moves can range from a friendly meeting at Starbucks to a one-on-one meeting with the CEO. Below are a few examples of moves:

  • One-on-one casual meeting to chat (I call these “Starbucks Meetings”
  • Invitations to special events (small, focused events for a target audience)
  • An “insiders” quarterly newsletter, with a special article by the CEO
  • Invitation to lunch or dinner meeting with CEO
  • Invitation to give feedback on strategic plan
  • Complimentary host table seating with speaker and CEO at event
  • A personal tour of your facility
  • Invitation to be part of your host committee for an upcoming event

When you visit your donors as part of your cultivation efforts, your purpose should be clearly defined and you should have “done your homework.” You should have considered the following:

  1. What is the best possible outcome?
  2. What is the minimum acceptable outcome?
  3. Have in your mind a short specific-to-this-donor list of programs/projects and their strengths and benefits
  4. Know your ASK before you get there. What are you going to ask for? A gift? An action? A task? Input?
  5. Prepare yourself, not just to ask them questions, but as if you’re the one being interviewed. What will the donor want to know from you? Think ahead and have the answers to anticipated questions at-the-ready!
Moves Management in 10 steps:
  1. Select no more than a few dozen strong prospects (I recommend 20 – 25, with 36 as your max)
  2. Do your homework, research each prospect; track their past relationship with your organization; discover their network, current giving capacity, etc. *
  3. Collaborate with a staff member who will be assigned to this prospective donor for cultivation and solicitation (remember, you are not always the best person to connect with every prospect and donor)
  4. Together with the respective assigned staff member, develop a strategy for each prospect’s cultivation and solicitation (moves and touches, gift amounts and opportunities)
  5. Plan your next moves – no more than 12.
  6. Implement them.
  7. Conduct quarterly reviews, make sure you’re on target.
  8. Conduct year end review
  9. Add new prospects, remove old prospects
  10. Start Over.

Tracking your moves management effort is critical to your success. You can do this on an excel spreadsheet, or within your organization’s database. Pre-plan your year and backwards plan from there. Set up reminders. Calendar prep days for the “move” days. Organize your little heart out.

Moves management may feel cumbersome when you begin, but trust me, you will find it makes your life easier, your ASKS more successful and your donors more aware of your organization’s appreciation for them.

It’s a winning combination.

* Watch for my donor assessment post coming soon!

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Move vs. Touch

Posted by on Jul 9, 2012 | 0 comments

If you’re confused about the terms “move” and “touch” as they apply to nonprofit fundraising, you’re not alone.

Maybe this will help:

  • Move = A strategic action that cultivates a donor, for example: a special “insiders” newsletter subscription, a meeting with the CEO, a one-on-one meeting
  • Touch = Communication with a potential donor, for example: a phone call, a letter of appreciation, a personal note with thank you
Moves, as the word implies, are actions. Communications are touches with donors.
Keep up the good work!
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Fundraising Mistakes You Can’t Afford To Make

Posted by on Jul 3, 2012 | 0 comments

Today all the credit goes to The following blog post listing 63 fatal fundraising mistakes was pulled directly from their website on July 3, 2012 (today!), and it’s spot on.

So read, learn, gasp (uh oh!), and correct…enjoy!

63 Fatal Fundraising Mistakes to Avoid – from

With competition for donors and charitable dollars at an all-time high, and the economy still keeping many donors on the sidelines, it’s more important than ever to focus on getting things right.

These 63 fatal fundraising mistakes can have significant negative impacts on your fundraising results (both short and long-term).

If you’re like me, you’ll probably find a half dozen (or more) that sound very familiar. The good news is that once you identify the potential mistakes you can figure out how to avoid them (or how to recover if by chance you’ve already made a mistake or two).

  1. Not having a strategic plan
  2. Focusing too much on the process and not enough on the outcomes
  3. Assuming that your organization deserves support from anyone
  4. Not maintaining up-to-date policies and procedures manuals
  5. Refusing to integrate fundraising channels
  6. Not having a development plan
  7. Assuming cheap = good
  8. Thinking your desk is where you belong all day
  9. Assuming expensive = good
  10. Not being serious about your website and digital fundraising strategy
  11. Not measuring results
  12. Overlooking volunteers and GIK donors
  13. Believing it’s about you
  14. Assuming you know what your donors think or want
  15. Not measuring the right results
  16. Asking the wrong people
  17. Expecting your board members to know what to do without any formal training or support
  18. Asking for too little
  19. Allowing any one revenue line to provide more than 40% of your total revenue
  20. Not capturing the right data
  21. Asking for too much
  22. Not paying attention to planned giving opportunities
  23. Assuming your brand is critical to your fundraising results
  24. Using generic ask amounts
  25. Refusing to use a fundraising tactic because you don’t personally like it
  26. Not talking to your donors frequently enough
  27. Asking your board to do the wrong things
  28. Loading major gift officers up with non-revenue producing responsibilities
  29. Thinking you have all the answers
  30. Having a poorly developed case for support (or none at all)
  31. Not investing in staff development
  32. Asking at the wrong time
  33. Not using personalization in your direct mail, e-mail and newsletters
  34. Believing your job is all about money
  35. Assuming donors don’t cross channels
  36. Writing internally-focused newsletters and appeal letters
  37. Not establishing term limits for your board
  38. Investing too little in donor acquisition
  39. Not investing in donor acquisition at all
  40. Rushing an ask
  41. Taking major donors out of your communication stream
  42. Having a poorly designed online donation page
  43. Not strategically engaging your board
  44. Focusing more on your creative than your audience or offer
  45. Not allowing your staff to learn by making mistakes
  46. Shifting your direct mail budget entirely to digital or social media
  47. Assuming social media can raise significant revenue for your organization
  48. Not maintaining strict integrity of your database
  49. Using generic thank you letter copy
  50. Making decisions based on how you feel instead of following the results
  51. Not segmenting
  52. Using facts and figures instead of emotion and stories to sell your mission
  53. Not clearly articulating board roles, responsibilities and expectations during the interview process
  54. Believing donors exist to support your organization
  55. Protecting your clients by refusing to tell their stories to the public
  56. Assuming your job is to educate donors about all you do
  57. Not returning donor calls and e-mails in a timely manner
  58. Disregarding a donor’s request or intentions
  59. Thinking it’s ok to get a thank you letter out 5-7 days after you receive a gift
  60. Not celebrating your staff’s wins
  61. Never seeking outside counsel
  62. Relying too heavily on special events
  63. Not holding staff responsible for their actions, attitudes and results


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The Lift Letter – Taking Us to Higher Places

Posted by on Jul 2, 2012 | 0 comments

What is a lift letter? I have to be honest here, I know what a lift letter is. I’ve used lift letters and I use lift letters. But, for the life of me, it’s more often than not that I fail to bring up the actual term “lift letter”.

The term “lift letter” is not an overly familiar term in the many realms of publication, it’s typically associated with direct mail. It’s a letter specifically designed to “lift” the response rate of your direct mail campaign.

A lift letter is a personal letter to accompany your fundraising letter. It can be from almost anyone associated with your organization – a donor, volunteer, attendee, or supporter (probably not an employee).

In simple fashion, a lift letter most often sits on top of the main fundraising letter or direct mail piece. It looks different than the main letter, it sounds different than the main letter, and it feels different than the main letter. It’s also signed by a different person than the main letter (it was authored by someone other than the person whose signature sits just above the P.S. on your direct mail piece.) I’ve often called it a cover letter, when I couldn’t bring the term  “lift letter” to mind, but that isn’t really correct.

Today we’re talking about the lift letter. Not a cover letter.

Lift letters aren’t a new idea. They’ve been around since the early 60s. The term “lift” relates to the anticipated lift over former response levels that is typically received when a lift letter is used. In other words, using a lift letter can increase your response rate.  Note that I didn’t say “will always increase”, because that is not the case. But in most cases, when used appropriately, it will increase your response rate.

Why? A better understanding of the lift letter will provide the answers.

Lift letters, when used appropriately, are a cost-effective and proven method to capture the reader’s attention, and therefore, response. Lift letters are used in combination with your fundraising letter and direct mail piece. The purpose is to build credibility for your organization, and to provide an extra point of connection between donor and you via the mutual relationship you both have with the lift letter’s author. This doesn’t mean the reader needs to be best friends with the author, but the lift letter author is often someone recognizable and respected – the governor of your State, the CEO of a partner organization, a well-known philanthropist, a respected community leader, etc. Or in a less formal style, the lift letter author can be someone your reader will identify with – someone who has benefited from your organization’s efforts, etc.

Choosing the correct author is as important as choosing the correct message when you’re working on a lift letter. Select someone who connects to your organization AND to your target audience. Keep it simple and have the author concentrate on one topic or message. Ask them if they want to draft the letter and have you edit, or vice versa. Either works.

An effective lift letter will do the following:

  • Add credibility (let’s face it, having someone in a position of respect author a “lift letter” for your direct mail campaign provides substance and recognition)
  • Provide incentives (possibly your letter already includes numerous requests; the lift letter can add one additional push by including an incentive for the call to action in a timely manner: a special reception at the upcoming convention, a branded item, a special quarterly email from your CEO, etc.)
  • Support your viewpoint (repetition is the mother of learning aka the best teacher)
  • Introduce you or your product (perhaps the author of the lift letter is a prominent person or celebrity who wants to introduce you to his network of friends, family and/or business associates, there’s no better introduction to a potential donor)
  • Increase notoriety (maybe the recipient knows the author of the lift letter, but doesn’t know you very well – now they do!)
  • Capture the reader’s attention (don’t hesitate to do something a bit out of the ordinary, use a colorful sticker, a crazy first line, give something away free if the reader responds, or in the case of a celebrity their name alone will capture attention)
  • Tease the reader (an effective teaser in the lift letter should give the reader an increased desire to read the complete mailing)
  • Provide a third-party endorsement (a simple introductory letter from an influential, well-known person who endorses your organization with his or her own support is invaluable, this type of mailing should be sent to an audience agreed to by you and the lift letter author).

When using a lift letter you should follow this criteria:

  • One page
  • Short, simple, one topic
  • Different size (smaller) and color of paper, maybe even different weight or style
  • Large signature block
  • Heading at top of lift letter (if you choose to have one) could be something like: A SPECIAL NOTE ON BEHALF OF XXX FROM GOVERNOR BLACK
  • You can also reference the lift letter in your P.S.  (Don’t forget to read Jane Smith’s letter about her experience at the XXX 2012 Training Conference. Jane is a great example of our training program’s success.)
  • The lift letter can go on top or inside of your fundraising piece
    • Placement A:  on top of your direct mail piece if the lift letter is an endorsement by a well-known person or introductory in nature
    • Placement B:  within the pages of your direct mail piece if the lift letter is a testimonial concerning something you’ve written in your letter (“My experience at XXX’s recent training conference is unparalleled. I increased my knowledge twenty-fold and am now providing training for my colleagues….”  Jane W. Smith, 2012 XXX Training Conference Attendee)

The term “lift letter” may be foreign to you, but the practice of using these unique letters from supporters should not be.

If you haven’t used a “lift letter” recently, try it. If you follow these steps, I believe you will see a “lift” in your responses as a result. And that’s enough to lift anyone’s spirits!

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