The Inspired Fundraising Retreat was a mind-blowing, game-changing 3-day event designed to get people thinking about how to raise more money for their nonprofit’s important work.

With our focus on donors and donor relationships, we covered growing your donor base, messaging your work in a motivational way, building relationships in manageable steps, and wrapping it all together into a plan.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the event, so even if you weren’t there, you can still get the learning.

We started off talking about how you need to stretch your thinking in order to grow your ability to raise money. After all , if you could get ahas from sitting at your desk, you would have gotten them already.

And sometimes you need some help to stretch to your capacity (just like this giant slinky!). Sometimes you need help to brainstorm or refine your ideas and stretch yourself closer to your capacity, because you’re capable of so much more than you’re currently getting.

We got clear about our Big Dream, then publicly declared what we’re trying to do to change the world, because there’s something magic about telling someone else about your vision:

We talked about growing your donor base, and how you don’t want to try to reach EVERYONE in the community – only those who care.

It’s like a big Easter egg hunt and you’re looking for the ones with something inside that will move you forward, keeping in mind that some people might give money, and others will give time, in-kind gifts, have connections to other resources, or become an ambassador for your work.

When Dana Ostomel took the stage, she talked about using crowdfunding to grow your donor base. Then she shared this nugget: People don’t give toorganizations, they give through organizations.

We learned about jargon and became aware of how much we use it, and howjargon kills people’s interest in our organization’s work. We learned ways to make our language more conversational and concise by imagining we are talking to one person, not the masses. We had an elevator speech contest to see who could deliver the most succinct version of what they do.

Here Gwendolyn shows off her fancy pink microphone full of bubbles! (She also won a Starbucks gift card!)

By the end of Day 1, everyone was getting great ideas and had pages of notes, like Angela who noted that it’s all about building relationships:

On Day 2, we talked about messaging and keeping it simple so it’s easy to understand, because we don’t need anything getting in the way of people donating. Here are Julie’s takeaways:

Through a fun demonstration, we learned that you don’t want to target “rich” people in the community. Instead, you want to find those who CARE about your cause.

At the same time, you don’t want to dismiss someone who you think doesn’t have money. They may be well connected in the community or have a relative/neighbor/friend who has big resources to share with you.

In fact, until you know different, you treat everyone as if they’re capable of making a game-changing gift.

We heard first-hand stories from folks who have done AMAZING work this past year, raising tons of money and up leveling their game.

Here’s Candi talking about how she doubled attendance and revenue from her fundraising event last February for BESTWA.

We talked about the importance of thanking donors, because not only is it polite, but it completes the cycle of giving, which prepares the donor for the next gift. We looked at some awesome sample thank-you letters, thank-you videos and a donor acknowledgement plan.

Here’s Lisa’s big aha about thanking volunteers:

We ended Day 2 with a live grant competition, Shark Tank style. Three nonprofits presented their program/project (which was educational for everyone to watch how they did it), then we gave away $1,000. (I’m grateful to our sponsors for judging so I didn’t have to!)

We kicked off Day 3 with a session on mindset, and how easy it is to get stuck by our thinking. Whitney Bishop of Nonprofit Leaders Network challenged us with 3 invitations and 3 questions to increase our emotional intelligence:

We worked on our fundraising plans and got the important point that if the plan isn’t in writing, it isn’t real. If it’s in our head, it’s too easy to morph and change.

We laughed and learned that getting your donor’s attention so she can read your newsletter is an awful lot like throwing inflatable rings onto bunny ears – definitely not easy! Getting your donor’s attention is hurdle #1. Keeping them reading is hurdle #2 and can be overcome by providing interesting content (interesting to the READER!).

You can’t throw your newsletter together at the last minute and expect it to be high quality.

We wrapped up the day (and the retreat) by setting our intentions for the coming 30 days.

Want to join us next year? We’re already planning for 2018. Keep an eye open for announcements about dates and location at