Happy New Year!

Okay, before you think I’ve gone batty, I mean Happy New Year to those whose fiscal year started July 1.

It’s a good time to think about how you’re going to do fundraising for the next 12 months.  And for those who aren’t on a July-June fiscal year, it’s a good time to check in and see how your fundraising is going.

If you aren’t getting the fundraising results you want, here are 10 ways you can completely change your fundraising program and get the BIG results you want.

1. Spend more face time with your donors.  For some, it’s uncomfortable to be face-to-face with donors.  Maybe you aren’t sure what to say or maybe you believe your donor will think you’re just after their money.  I’m here to tell you that you need to work through and get rid of these negative thoughts because they are holding you back.  If you want to raise big money, you MUST get in front of your donors.  There’s nothing else like it.  You’ve got to stop hiding behind your computer and take your donors to lunch or visit with them in their home.  Nothing else has the same impact.

2. Increase the donor-focused communications.  Relationships are KEY in raising money and in order to build them, you have to communicate. This means you probably need to be sending more newsletters and more email updates about the work your nonprofit is doing.  We all have a friend that the only time we hear from them is when they want something.  Do you want to show up that way?  Of course not!  And the way you avoid that is by sending communications to your donors giving them an update on the work your nonprofit is doing. One caveat here – your communications MUST contain stories and information that is interesting to your donor.

3. Put more meat in your communications.  Too often, newsletters and email updates fall to the bottom of the priority list and are hastily put together just to get them out the door.  I suggest you take enough time to prepare them to make sure they’re meaty.  In order for them to be effective, they MUST contain stories and articles that are interesting to your donor.  Put yourself in the donors’ shoes and ask “what would I be interested in?”  I’ll give you a hint – it’s NOT your new staff person or your new Board member or the industry award you just won.  Your donors want to know about the people whose lives are being changed by the work your nonprofit is doing.

4. Listen more, talk less.  As you spend time with your donors and get to know them, follow this simple rule – listen more, talk less.  If you do all the talking, how will you learn anything about your donor?  Ask open-ended questions and get your donor talking so you can find out about the deepest desires of their heart.  You want to find out why they care about your organization.  You want to know what motivates them to write that check.  When you learn a great deal about your donors and what makes them tick, you can better match them to needs your organization has.

5. Give your donors more ways to communicate with you.  Communication is a two-way exchange of information, yet too often, nonprofits fail to do that.  Information is sent one way, from the nonprofit to the donor, without an opportunity for the donor to give feedback.  So follow this rule: give your donors more ways to communicate with you. Invite them to call or email you. Offer a tour of your facility. Brainstorm about other ways you can give them to connect with you.  Even if they never take you up on it, they will appreciate that they have the opportunity to do so.

6. Help your donors feel special.  This is key!  Donors want to know that they made a difference. They want to be more than just “donor #5576” on your list. So, help them feel special.  Thank them warmly and sincerely for their gift.  Respond immediately to any questions they might have.  Go the extra mile to let them know the impact their gift has made.  Communicate with them often.  Get to know them and what they’re interested in.  Donors who feel special become quite loyal to your organization!

7. Thank them profusely.  If you get this piece right, it will make everything else easier.  You MUST thank donors warmly, sincerely, and promptly every time.  No exceptions.  For VIP donors, call them to thank them for their gift.  Send a hand-written note expressing your gratitude.  Send a photo of your organization in action along with a thank-you note to your donor.  Get your Board involved in thanking your donor.  The bottom line here is that donors who feel properly thanked feel special and see themselves as partners with you in the work you are doing.Live less out of habit

8. Give them a good experience.  Customer service is KEY.  Always be quickly responsive to your donors.  Return their phone call immediately.  Respond to their email right away.  Be honest and truthful with donors. The better job you do in giving them a good experience with you, the more trust you build.  And trust is the foundation of a good relationship.

9. Recognize them in ways that are meaningful to them.  It’s easy to look for shortcuts when you’re busy, but donor recognition is not a good place to take shortcuts. You MUST find out what would be meaningful to each donor you want to recognize for their support.  One size does not fit all.  I heard the story once of a donor who had received so many plaques from nonprofits that he started taking the metal plates off and building bird houses out of the wood!  Clearly, this method of recognition wasn’t meaningful to him!  What is special to your donor?  Get to know them and find out.

10. Ask them what they think. People LOVE to give their opinion!  So ask.  Ask your donors what they think about the work your organization is doing.  Ask them for their thoughts on your strategic plan.  Ask for their advice on your upcoming fundraising campaign.  See who they think you should be talking to in the community.  Just ask (and ye shall receive!).

You may notice that these 10 resolutions are all about individual donors.  That’s on purpose.  I believe that the greatest source of untapped potential lies in individual donors.  I also believe that for small nonprofits, the fastest path to cash is individual donors. I teach my clients and students that long-term sustainability in fundraising is about having a large donor-base and a strong donor-relations program.

If you get serious about implementing these 10 resolutions, I think you’ll see the same results that my clients see – more donors, more donations, and less stress for you!  Best wishes and Happy New Year!



  1. And don’t forget to add grant proposals to increase your revenue stream! Smaller nonprofits especially seem to fall prey to the myth that only “bigger” nonprofits get the grants. Not true! Try some proposals and see what happens. 🙂

  2. Maybe its just me, but it seems that the prevalence of social media is encouraging us to make statements rather than engage in a 2-way dialogue. I know I know, when used properly, social media is supposed to be a conversation. Thanks for the reminder to take time to listen too.

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