Fire Your Donors

Customer Service 2Over the past year, I’ve seen/heard/had a number of discussions around fundraising trends. They tend to revolve around the following topics:

  • Acquisition ain’t what it used to be, and retention is abysmal. It’s time to really love our donors!
  • Donor-centred fundraising – do it. You can’t thank these guys enough!
  • What’s the next thing after direct mail? WHAT IS IT?!?
  • You are a bad fundraiser. Bad! Work harder!

And finally…

  • What’s with this high fundraiser turnover?


Relationships vs. Results

handshake2 This is a tough one.

Since I’ve been working in fundraising, and especially over the past year, I’ve been noticing the similarities and the differences between fundraisers that I really admire.

They all live by the principles of Relationship Fundraising, but some really take donor-love to the next level, while others simply use the building of donor relationships as another tool to achieving great results. (more…)

Where to find all that money you’re losing


You’re grocery shopping on a tight budget. You’ve got everything you need and a few things you want. You approach checkout knowing the £40 in your pocket will just about cover everything. But when you come to pay you find you’ve lost £10. Do you:

1)      Look for the missing £10 (you know you had it a moment ago)?

2)      Decide to do without a quarter of what you intended to get? (more…)

Don’t I know you from somewhere?

YOUNG-TALENT-logo-e_news3Recently the Dutch Fundraising Institute  announced the winner of the second annual Young Fundraising Talent contest. You can read the essay from last year’s winner here, and below a translation of the winning essay this year, by Paulien Boone.

This year’s theme was “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” and Paulien, with her entry, has won a trip to the AFP Conference in San Antonio, Texas. We wish her luck and lots of fun!


That familiar and addictive icon popped up on my phone: new message alert. It’s from a friend I used to see nearly every day for years; when we were both students in Groningen and did everything together. We’ve been trying to connect for weeks and with no luck. We live 250 kilometers apart and don’t get to see each other so often these days. And with so much distance I don’t quite know how to begin a conversation and I default to the easy questions: “How are the kids?” and “Have you finished your thesis?” (more…)

The Promise of Customer Service and of Making a Difference

2 euro coinTwo sides of the same coin.

When we solicit a gift, we are making a promise to our donors.  We promise to manage their money with care.  We pledge to spend it as we agreed, advertised, stated in our appeal.  We promise that the donor’s investment will accomplish something important, change or save a life, protect our planet and its inhabitants, advance our faith and values, achieve real good.

If we are wise, we also promise customer service in addition to making a difference.  At the time of solicitation, we promise to report on the impact the donor has made.  To connect the donor with that outcome.  Donors Choose, for example, makes a promise up front that they will spend your money as agreed or return it to you if they can’t fulfil their promise.  They state on their website that you will hear from the teachers and students your investments support.  In clear, concise language, they promise customer service and making a difference. (more…)

The hype over ‘donor journeys’

‘Donor (or supporter) journeys’ is all the buzz in the nonprofit world, with prominent thinkers peddling the virtues of mapping out the donor experience. But as a fundraiser actually working on the front-line of income generation in a difficult financial climate, I’d like to add a critical voice to the discussion. (more…)

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When did thank you become so difficult?

For years, the top 250 charities in the UK have been receiving over 90% of donations made, and yet donor attrition rates are holding steady between 15 and 35 per cent annually.

thankyouTo combat this, they have developed more and more ways to say thank you, to create ‘touch points’ with their donors, to explain what £3 a month could do — but they should take the lead from some of their small charity cousins who, instead of a donor development strategy and a ‘contact chart’ simply respond back with a simple but heartfelt “THANK YOU so much for your donation, with it we can keep doing good work on your behalf.” (more…)

The Big Chill: can we cure donor’s emotional breakdown?

We had all hoped it would go better with time and we tried to ignore it. But the disease is still here, how is it possible?  Is it me or is everyone experiencing the same? Everybody is tweeting and blogging about this virus eating away our income and infecting our database (among many see  Roger Craver and  Tom Belford and also the rants from Lucy Gower and Reinier Spruit). Notwithstanding the ‘prescriptions’ on donor’s loyalty and relationship by Adrian Sargeant and Ken Burnett we still sadly look mainly at the numbers: call it retention or attrition, loyalty or stewardship, donors are leaving us. (more…)

Can Thank You Notes be BAD?

Just writing them is enough, right?

A few Sundays ago, I read an article in the Jobs section of my local newspaper, “The Journal News,”
“Don’t forget the ‘thank you.’”  The author, Susan Ricker of careerbuilder.com, was discussing the attributes of a good thank you note after a job interview and it got me thinking about our thank you notes, the ones we all write to donors, event attendees, volunteers, and colleagues inside and outside of our organizations.

Are we getting the job done? (more…)

It’s Personal!

This is my third blog for 101fundraising and while other may prefer to write about theories of giving. I like to write more about technical things that, hopefully, can immediately help you.

In my previous blogs, I talked about “drip-drip” marketing for legacy fundraising and about organising a legacy event.  Now, I want to discuss how using a “personal touch” can help legacy fundraising

In Indonesia we have a phrase ‘Tak kenal maka tak sayang’— which means “if you don’t get to know people, it’s impossible for you to care for them.”  And with legacy fundraising, personalisation can be a VERY  important factor.

In the WWF Network, globally, we have 24 national offices that have a legacy program. (more…)

Failing to Steward the Online Donor

The scene at my desk on Tuesday: In preparing for my monthly ritual of stewarding new donors, I pulled up a spreadsheet that I share with the Gift Processing team. This spreadsheet is a way of double tracking these new donors in order to send them a welcome letter to thank them for their monthly commitment to the organization. I inherited this portfolio (and project) about 4 months ago and hadn’t developed a critical eye around what exactly I was looking at/doing in the bigger picture.

So I made a bad assumption: this spreadsheet captured every new monthly donor regardless of what channel they first gave through.

Imagine my surprise when a colleague from Gift Processing came by my office and off the cusp asked me if I’d like them to list donors who give online on the spreadsheet. Two words flashed through my mind: Mass Panic. (more…)

The Real Challenge of Multi-Channel Fundraising (or Sales): Customer Service

It’s called many things and it can be a bit of a buzz term: integrated fundraising or multi-channel fundraising.

Whatever its name, its definition is the same: “the use of multiple channels to raise money”. However, it’s not the name or the definition that’s most open to debate. Rather, it is whether multi-channel fundraising leads to better results and a deeper donor relationship.

The furious adoption of the internet for fundraising has brought the issue of multi-channel marketing to the forefront. In the past, direct mail, TV, and the telephone have been effectively combined to help improve fundraising results. For example, the telephone has been used to reactivate lapsed donors and convert direct mail single gift donors to more valuable monthly debit (regular) donors. The evidence, generally, with multi-channel marketing prior to the emergence online giving, was that using a more active channel (e.g., the human voice of a phone call) was a very effective way of upgrading donors who were regularly swimming in the channels of a more passive medium like direct mail. (more…)

Donate! It’s proven to make you happy!

Some weeks ago I was at a party, with lots of new people to meet. It was a very nice party: we watched football on a big screen, had a barbecue, and kids were playing in the garden. I started talking to a lady I’ve never met before, and of course she asked me what kind of work I do. Normally I adjust my reply to the person in front of me, because the plain answer ‘fundraiser’ can get you in strange places. So I replied: ‘I’m a fundraiser. I generate money for extra projects, and focus on major gifts and legacies”. I was quite happy with my answer and wanted to take another bite from my meal, when my new friend concluded: “Aha, you beg for money by selling lies to people”. My heart missed a beat and my meal suddenly tasted not that good anymore. This conclusion was exactly the opposite of by idea of fundraising. Well, not quite the opposite because begging for money was somehow true. But I was not selling lies, I was selling happiness to donors. Because: donating makes people happy. And I could proof this, too. Scientifically! (more…)

Geven maakt (wetenschappelijk bewezen) gelukkig!

Enige weken geleden was ik op een feestje waar ik de helft van de mensen nog niet kende.  Het was een leuk feestje, met voetbal via een beamer en een barbecue. Ik raakte in gesprek met iemand die me vroeg wat ik voor werk deed. Deze vraag beantwoord ik meestal op verschillende manieren, aangepast aan de doelgroep waartoe ik denk dat de vrager behoort. “Ik ben fondsenwerver”, zei ik, en voegde enigszins overbodig toe: “Ik zorg voor extra financiële middelen voor kankeronderzoek, waarbij ik mij richt op grote gevers en nalatenschappen”. Mijn gesprekspartner dacht kort na en zei: “Aha, je bedelt dus om geld door leugens te verkopen”. Ik verslikte mij en dacht na. Deze snelle conclusie stond lijnrecht tegenover mijn idee over fondsenwerving, en ook lijnrecht tegenover mijn idee over mijzelf. Dat bedelen om geld, daar zat natuurlijk wel wat in, maar ik verkoop geen leugens. Ik verkoop geluk! Want mensen die geven, worden namelijk gelukkig doordat ze geven. En dat is nog eens wetenschappelijk bewezen ook, en hier lieg ik niets aan. (more…)