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CFS sounds alarm over private student debt levels

September 30th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Education

As Canada’s ‘Big 6’ banks all reported stronger-than-expected profits last week, newly examined data from Statistics Canada reveals a massive upswing in privately held debt among post-secondary graduates. In only ten years, while bachelor’s degree graduates saw a 5.2 percent increase in public debt, private debt for that group shot up by 53 percent.

“As the upfront costs of post-secondary education continue to rise, more Canadians must rely on debt to pursue their studies,” said Jessica McCormick, National Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students. “Higher rates of private borrowing—and the associated interest—mean banks are seeing higher profits on the backs of students.”

Private debt levels for PhD. and Bachelor’s degree holders have jumped between four and 11.5 percent each year between 2000 and 2010. If the same standards used by the Bank of Canada for household debt are applied to private student debt—where annual growth above four percent raises concerns—then there is justifiable cause to sound the alarm. The Canada Student Loans Program expects that over 40 percent of borrowers will need more than the maximum available loans next year.

“Each year, as more students take out the maximum available public loans, they turn to private sources such as bank loans, lines of credit, and credit cards to make ends meet,” added McCormick. “Similar to high household debt, high student debt slows recovery and keeps Canadian graduates from participating fully in the economy.”
A more detailed analysis is available here:
Private Student Debt-EN

By The Canadian Federation of Students
June 2015

The Canadian Federation of Students is Canada’s largest student organisation, uniting more than one-half million students across Canada. The Canadian Federation of Students and its predecessor organisations have represented students in Canada since 1927.


Nearly Nine in 10 Wealthy Individuals Say Giving Back Is Important

September 29th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Eighty-six percent of high-net-worth individuals in the Unites States say giving back to society is an important if not essential part of their lives, a survey by U.S. Trust finds.

Based on a survey of six hundred and forty high-net-worth individuals with at least $3 million in investable assets, the 2015 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth (summary, 20 pages, PDF) report found that 78 percent of respondents participate in charitable giving and that 66 percent volunteer time as a way to give back. The study also found that approximately one in three respondents either owns or is interested in owning social impact investments, about the same as in previous years, with millennials, women, and those with the greatest level of wealth driving interest in impact investing. The three reasons most cited by individuals for their interest in impact investing were that they preferred to invest in companies that have a positive social or environmental impact (71 percent); the potential to achieve market-rate returns (62 percent); and a desire to express their values through their investment decisions (30 percent).

The survey, which asked about aspects of a “life well lived,” also found that “giving back to society” was the second most cited area of life — after “health” — to which respondents felt they should  pay more attention, while the top five reasons for wanting to give back were “to support causes that matter most to me” (55 percent), “to set an example for my children” (43 percent), “to change the world for the better” (33 percent), “I believe the wealthy have a moral obligation to share their good fortune with those less fortunate” (32 percent), and “I am grateful for kindness or support given to me when I needed it” (30 percent).

“A life well lived shouldn’t be viewed through a rearview mirror with the final assessment of accomplishment or regret at the end of the journey,” said U.S. Trust president Keith Banks. “It can and should be carefully plotted and planned for. The wealthy are driven by a sense of purpose and desire to succeed, but what makes life fulfilling is not money; it’s what they do with it.”

June 2, 2015
Philanthropy News Digest

Five ways you can surprise your mid-level donors today

September 28th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Mid-level donors and the element of surprise


If you knew there was a pile of money that people wanted to give to you that you weren’t getting, wouldn’t you commit some time and energy to getting it?

Yes, fundraisers, I know you would.

Enter intermediate donors… leadership donors… “the muddle in the middle”. Whatever you call them, mid-level donors continue to be a bit of a mystery to fundraisers. But they’re there! They’re not annual donors and not yet major donors, but they want to give you more money than they’re giving you right now, and the benefits to you include:

  1. More money now (obviously)
  2. Some stability in the middle of your giving pyramid (cliche, but true)
  3. Future major gifts (should these donors have the capacity for it)

So how do we reach out to these elusive mid-level donors? I’m a fundraiser focused on this group of donors at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and I’ve been running the program in earnest for a little over a year now. The program has existed at Laurier for a little while, but it’s still in its infancy, so it’s been a year of trying, testing, learning, and growing, and I’ve loved every minute of it. What do I love most about mid-level donors?

The element of surprise.

Back when I was in my late teens, I became a camp counsellor, and I worked with the “intermediate” girls, ages 12-14 or thereabouts. Many of us look back on that “tween” age as our most awkward time, and don’t get me wrong, the girls I worked with were awkward, but they were equally awesome. They were more “with it” than the junior girls, but less jaded than the senior girls. They were a little more self-conscious than they’d been a few years ago, but they were still willing to have fun for fun’s sake and not be embarrassed by it.

pleasant-supriseMid-level donors are the same, and that’s why the element of surprise is so much fun!

I once called a woman who had been giving to the university every year since she graduated. It was $50 here, $100 there, and occasionally a bigger gift around $500. For our annual giving program, it’s the $500 mark that shows that leadership giving potential, but more exciting was her consecutive giving. We thought she deserved some acknowledgement for that, so I called her to recognize her giving, and you know what she said?

“I didn’t know I was a philanthropist!”

High net worth individuals are pretty used to having fundraisers call them, but mid-level donors are surprised by it! They’re delighted to be acknowledged and thanked, and are shocked you’re there to meet them for those reasons. Sure, you want to make that connection to discuss future support, but I try to start my meetings and phone calls with the message of not being sure they’ve ever been really thanked and wanting to make sure they are. I make a point of saying thank you and pausing to let it sink in for them. Mid-level donors aren’t jaded; I can tell they really feel that gratitude.

If you’re building a mid-level donor program, play on that element of surprise.

Here are five ways you can surprise your mid-level donors today:

  1. Contact someone who’s been giving less than $500 for 10 consecutive years and set up an in-person meeting. Make sure they know that they’re a philanthropist!
  2. Slightly tweak your planned direct mailing for mid-level donors. It won’t take a lot of work and you’re sending it out anyway! Add a variable paragraph that acknowledges their past support in a different way. Personalize it by noting the area that they last supported. It doesn’t have to be big, but it has to be special.
  3. Hand-address all envelopes for your mid-level donors, and see if you can get their mailings in something other than a #10 envelope. Make your letter stand out in their pile of bills.
  4. Find meaningful, restricted giving opportunities at the mid-level; sometimes giving opportunities are either unrestricted or major and there isn’t much in between. Spend some time identifying ways someone can really make an impact at the $1,000 level so that mid-level donors can feel more invested in their giving. It’ll pay off even more so in the future.
  5. Call the mid-level donor that gave most recently and say thank you!

“First-time donors who get a personal thank you within 48 hours are 4x more likely to give a second gift.” – Tom Ahern

The best part of the element of surprise is that you’ll have fun doing it! Good luck!

What do you do to surprise your mid-level donors???

By Maeve Strathy
On May 26, 2015
101 Fundraising

Return on Information

September 25th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

For all the talk about the value of accurate data, few of us are making the effort to calculate the true and total cost of keeping data up-to-date and making it ever richer. Real-time updates, data overlays, metadata appends and other improvements cost time and money. How can we be sure our investment is justified? This question applies to most firms but it is especially important for information suppliers. They need an accurate idea of the “ROI” of the data they’re selling to their customers, and should understand the return on their own investments in building information repositories.

To calculate ROI, we must to look at both sides of the ledger sheet (decreased expenses and increased revenues). Then we compare that to the cost of the work.

Typical information investments fall into these categories:

Maintaining the accuracy of an existing database

  • Telephone verification
  • Internet verification
  • Automated monitoring
  • Deduplication

Appending critical metadata

  • Email and social contact appends for listed executives
  • Firmographic appends (headcount, budget, revenues)
  • Adding data on key decision makers
  • Job function appends

Appending detailed intention data

  • Expiration date of existing software licenses
  • Announcements of significant future events (land purchases, rounds of investment under way, pending deliveries to important clients)
  • Major regulatory milestones
  • Surveys of purchasing intent

Expanding a database and overlaying in-house and third-party data

  • Assessing market share (the universe of potential customers vs. your current customers)
  • Broadening a database’s scope or adding information on new or adjacent markets

It’s fairly simple to measure the cost of each of these efforts. To calculate expenses, you just add up the checks you write to do the work. The ROI value is tougher to work out since you have to “back out” the effect of economies of scale (i.e., the bigger an organization gets, the lower its expenses per capita are) and general “rising tide” economic growth that would have happened without the investment. Once you’ve adjusted for these two factors, though, ROI calculation should be as easy as assessing any direct marketing effort.


  • Better sales segmentation leads to more efficient marketing spend and higher sales
  • Better decisions based on improved data analyses lead to cost savings and higher revenues
  • Better sense of market shifts allows adjustments to the mix of products and services offered to meet future demand

The first of these is the simplest to measure. The strategic value of better decisions, however, may not be clear for some time and can be tough to pin a dollar amount to. This probably why folks don’t like to calculate ROI – the costs are always crystal clear and the returns are often not.

The imperative for defensible data-driven decision-making is not going to abate soon. Despite the inherent difficulties, we can all expect to have to “prove” data investments are worthwhile, and we need to get more and more granular with our justifications.

by Matt Manning
Information Evolution
May 2015 

MSU to celebrate annual gifts with ‘biggest little’ parade

September 24th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Starting at approximately 11:15 a.m. on Saturday, Michigan State University will host a parade to celebrate the significance of annual gifts to the university, centered around one simple message: Loyal Spartans make a difference at MSU every day.

The “biggest little” parade will start at the Music Building, 333 W. Circle Drive, and will follow the MSU Spartan Marching Band’s traditional game day “March to the Stadium” for the MSU vs. Central Michigan University football game. The parade’s lineup includes: Sparty, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, a 10-foot balloon, custom signage with stories celebrating the impact of annual gifts and a “Grand Giver” riding in a Mini Cooper.

MSU alumnus Sean Williams (’10, Business), one of the founders of the Detroit vs. Everybody brand, will serve as the “Grand Giver.” Williams recently made his first gift of $100 to MSU to support actuarial science and the Charles Drew Science Scholars Program.

Spartans along the parade route will be encouraged to cheer and to post socially using the hashtag #SpartanLoyal. The parade will be filmed and later shared with nearly 43,000 annual giving donors. It’s intended to not only reflect the university’s gratitude for annual gifts, but also to unveil new giving recognition levels, including Spartan Loyal.

“We are so grateful for the generosity of annual givers who help support every part of Michigan State,” said Kathleen Deneau, senior director of annual giving at MSU. “These gifts address students’ needs and allow MSU to take advantage of unexpected opportunities when they arise. The parade is meant to show how all these gifts come together to make an extraordinary difference.”

Throughout the past year, annual gifts to the university have provided student scholarships and funding for research and academic programs. With a total of more than $7 million raised from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, it was one of the most successful single years, and represents a 33 percent increase from last year.

MSU’s annual giving success comes on the heels of the university’s recent announcement of its Empower Extraordinary capital campaign hitting a $1 billion milestone.

Contact(s): Kathleen Deneau , Kristen Parker
Sept. 24, 2015
MSU Today

Half Your Email Subscribers Are Ignoring You

September 24th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

New research from the 2015 M+R Benchmarks Study tells us that, on average, almost half (45%) of small nonprofits’ email subscribers are inactive. Yikes!

Inactive could mean different things to different organizations. Many organizations define inactive subscribers as those who’ve gone one year with no activity. (These don’t necessarily include lapsed or inactive donors. We’re simply talking about people in your database who haven’t opened an email in a really long time—donors and nondonors.) However you define your inactive subscriber base, I think we can all agree that you need a plan of action to reengage with people who were, at one point, interested in your organization.

Why do anything with inactive email addresses?

You’re probably thinking, “My list is really small as it is! Why would I want to make it even smaller by choice?” I hear you! I’ve worked with organizations that have email lists of around 1,000 names, and they are hesitant to do any deleting or suppressions. However, this dead weight is hurting your open rates, and if you continue to send emails to people who aren’t engaging with you, it will affect your deliverability rate.

Trimming and suppressing parts of your email list will boost your confidence the next time you’re testing subject lines. And it will more accurately reflect—and improve!—your open and click rate.

What should I do to reengage with inactive email addresses?

First, segment your list. I recommend pulling a list of people who haven’t opened any email in the past 12 months. Send them an email to let them know you miss them. Make the subject line snappy. Be sure to have a clear call to action in the email that asks people to confirm that they still want to hear from you.

You can even go a few steps further and send a drip campaign with the goal of getting this group to reengage. Karla Capers wrote a guest post on the blog Getting Attention! about how she reactivated $13,000 worth of inactive names with a simple three-email drip approach. I love the subject lines she chose and the careful approach she took to reengage with these subscribers.

Why are email addresses inactive in the first place?

Only your email subscribers can tell you for sure why they don’t open your emails, but here are a few common responses:

  1. You send too many emails. It’s easier to delete them all.
  2. Your sender’s name/subject line doesn’t make it clear the message is from you.
  3. It lands in my junk box, and I can’t figure out how to make you a safe sender.
  4. Your emails always come at bad times.
  5. I want you to send emails to a different email address (work/personal).

If inactive subscribers are a big problem for your organization, it might be worthwhile to survey those who haven’t shown interest in your emails and find out why they aren’t opening them. This can be challenging in itself: How can you get someone to open an email and take a survey about why they aren’t opening your emails? If you have the resources, it might be worth taking the conversation offline.

What do I do with people who didn’t reengage?

After your reengagement campaign has run its course, you need to honor your subscribers’ preferences. You will not hear back from every inactive subscriber. Some won’t make it clear if they want to hear from you again. Leave these people in your inactive list and suppress them from your mailings as you see fit, but make it easy for them to reengage if they want to. I wouldn’t recommend adding them to your unsubscribe list, because they didn’t explicitly tell you they wanted to unsubscribe. If they notice they’re no longer getting emails from you, let them subscribe again without making it too difficult to return them to your active list.

Want to get fancy?

If you’re open to testing with Facebook ads, you might try using a custom audience ad as part of your reactivation campaign. Although I would caution against spending too much on folks who aren’t engaging with your emails, Facebook ads can be very affordable. Facebook makes it really easy to import a list of email subscribers you want to reach. If the email address is associated with a Facebook account, Facebook will deliver an ad to their feed. If you want to just check if your donors use Facebook, John Haydon has simple instructions on how to upload your list without paying for an ad.

What if I don’t have time for all of this?

If you’re in a crunch and can’t manage a reactivation campaign right now, try simply suppressing inactive email addresses from your email sends for a few months and watch your open rate go up. I know you might be nervous about voluntarily sending an email to fewer people, but it’s just a test! It’s time to face the reality: These people haven’t opened an email from you in the past 12 months. Suppressing them from a few email sends as part of a test won’t do any damage.

By Liz Ragland
Wed, May 20 2015
Network for Good – NonProfit Marketing Blog

It’s All About Attitude

September 23rd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

If I had a word that summed up my life it would be perseverance. When you experience a long career in the nonprofit business (and life) you will have ups and downs. I have had many positive and negative experiences. That is why at an early age I learned not to get too high or too low about things. I try to stay in the middle mentally when walking through life. In fact, I relate every career move and endeavor to weather systems. The key to understanding these systems is that life and work is in a constant and dynamic state of movement. Enjoy the sunny and clear days. They will pass and you will deal with partly cloudy and mostly cloudy days. You will also have to live through minor and major storms, which will eventually pass. If you prepare for the ride and understand this is part of life, you will be better able to work in a constant state of effort and execution.

Having coached players of all ages and managed a development staff for a number of years, one element of behavior stands out for me. The key to ultimate individual success in any endeavor—whether it is nonprofit in nature or not—is one’s attitude. You can have the greatest talent and ability in the universe. If you have a poor outlook and attitude you will ultimately fail. Can you tell this subject gets to me? I really do not like it when someone I deal with has a poor attitude. I understand this is a complex subject. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word attitude is the way you think and feel about someone or something; a feeling or way of thinking that affects personal behavior; a way of thinking and behaving that people regard as unfriendly, rude, etc. Attitude is powerful, and others quickly pick up a positive or negative attitude. I strive to have a positive personal attitude.

Throughout my career I have done personal attitude audits with my staff. I have looked for staff that gave continuous, 100 percent effort without complaining, and who wanted to personally strive to improve performance. I evaluated staff on an ongoing basis for a variety of factors, including attitude toward work, other staff and me. I have worked with a number of staff. Unfortunately, one time I was told I had to cut a third of my staff within a week. Do you think I knew immediately which ones were at risk? I definitively did—because of their attitude, which was unpredictable at best. They did not care about the team concept and gave minimal effort just to get by. I was actually in a group meeting once when a director that reported to me left the meeting, and the office, without explanation. I lost all credibility in that person who left employment soon after the incident. His poor attitude affected the entire staff. He never asked me for a reference.

I have also worked with board members with poor attitudes. These individuals served on my board at a prior employer that I did not recruit. The board did not have term limits and they felt entitled to act in any manner they chose. Sadly, they did not contribute time, talent or treasure to the board. It took me four years but I eventually was able to replace at least two-thirds of the board with quality board members with positive attitudes. All it took was for me to replace the entire executive committee with excited new recruits, and they in turn made that board special and dynamic. Board members want to serve on a board and organization that empowers, excites and values their involvement. As attitudes changed, that board environment evolved in a wonderful way. The new board set the tone for future board members. I constantly made the agendas engaging and educational. The board eventually owned responsibility for assisting the organization.

I strongly encourage you to have an attitude that reflects the mission of the organization. Think about how your actions affect your staff, administration, board, volunteers, donors, prospects, friends and others in your total work and non-work orbit. You will be amazed how a smile and willingness to be proactive affects others. Give your best effort at work each day with a positive attitude. In our profession you always want others to do something. Do people want to give to someone with a smile or a frown? It all starts with your attitude. If you don’t believe me, ask your boss if a positive attitude is important!

NonProfit Pro magazine

Useful list of best practices to keep in mind when starting a Grateful Patient Program

September 22nd, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Ice cream is a great thing, but it’s even better when mixed with your favorite toppings. In life, great things can always be improved, and you should never settle for anything less than the next determined progression towards your desired perfection.

Of course, perfection is impossible, but just like plain vanilla ice cream turns into a fun sundae thanks to the addition of whipped cream and jimmies, you can improve your Grateful Patient Program by implementing best practices that can help the program to turn a corner. From how frequently to implement prospect research to solicitation plans to how to use major gift officers, we’ll show you how to go from starting a Grateful Patient Program to making it as effective as possible in order to yield a program so efficient that you’ll swear you can taste the goodness.

1) Conduct prospect research through our Daily Patient Screening service

Prospect research is the spotlight that shines upon the prospects who can deliver big gifts to your organization. Not everyone can be a major gift donor, and prospect research ensures that you focus valuable fundraising resources on your most generous donors.

When you conduct prospect research with DonorSearch, you receive in-depth data on your list of patients, including:

  • Past philanthropy (both to your organization and other nonprofits)
  • Insights into the causes and organizations that the donor supports
  • Political giving
  • Ask amounts based on philanthropy and wealth
  • Corporate and nonprofit involvement
  • Real estate ownership
  • SEC insider stock transactions

Having all of this data is one thing, having it organized is another, and being able to interpret the information in a timely manner is yet another thing entirely. DonorSearch provides three scoring systems to make it easy to identify major gift prospects at a glance. The scores include our proprietary DS rating, along with a quality score, and a RFM score.

2) Entrust major gift officers

With the major gift prospects identified from your screened list, it’s time to assign them to specific gift officers. Gift officers will save you from having to punt on prospects by solving the tough questions, such as:

  • Why does this prospect do very little philanthropic giving despite a large capacity to give?
  • Has the prospect been incorrectly approached about donating?
  • Has the prospect not found the proper cause to support?
  • Has the prospect not been convinced of the value of a donation?

Patients can be split up according to what works best for your organization, but it’s good to prioritize certain types of donors to the gift officers who handle those people best. Types of donors include patients who are current major donors, patients who could do much more philanthropy than they presently do, and wealthy patients who have yet to give.

Fundraising is a long game, but gift officers armed with prospect research can make it a whole lot easier.

3) Gain the support of hospital leadership

Grateful Patient Programs can’t succeed, or begin in the first place, without the support of several hospital departments. You need to get everyone on board with the mission of your Grateful Patient Program, as your program will struggle to succeed without the proper leadership and support.

Present the potential revenue increase to hospital executive leadership. However, a pitch focused on money may not do the trick, and it may be necessary to enlist the support of board members to convince the executive leadership and other hospital administrators of the importance of such a program.

If departments are concerned about how they’ll be affected by a Grateful Patient Program then focus on how you’ll work hard to make the implementation of the program as smooth and as positive of an experience as possible. Make sure to connect with the people who support your efforts, as they can help to convince the doubters to get on board. Once you have the executive leadership on board, it will be easier to gather support from other hospital departments.

A major concern among doctors in regards to Grateful Patient Programs is gift officers visiting patients. You’ll want to address those concerns early and often, as a Grateful Patient Program will struggle to succeed with reluctant doctors. Select a group of supportive doctors and nurses to serve as program ambassadors. These people will address the concerns of more hesitant personnel and ensure that fundraising efforts have minimal impact upon the medical staff.

4) Implement a solicitation plan

From letters to emails to phone calls to in-person visits, it requires a team effort to convince a prospect to commit to a big donation. So strap on your boots and get to work, because, while statistics can be used to skew the odds in your favor, fundraising can be an unpredictable pursuit that should be tailored to the individual prospect.

You’re competing against many other nonprofits, both hospitals and other organizations, for the limited funds that any donor is willing to give. You need to be timely, precise, and enthusiastic about all of your donation pitches.

To stay on top of who you’ve solicited and who you have yet to contact, you should:

  • Track proposals in your donor database — Each prospect should have an individualized proposal that includes: ask amount, anticipated gift date, and the purpose for the gift. Update the proposal at each stage of the solicitation process: research, qualification, cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship.
  • File contact reports — Report all phone calls, visits, and correspondences of any kind with the prospect. You want to know what you’ve done in order to determine the best next steps.
  • Conduct frequent prospect management meetings — Meet with fundraisers and other hospital staff involved with the Grateful Patient Program to ensure that operations are running smoothly and prospects are moving through the solicitation pipeline. New prospects and requests for more prospect research can be presented at this time.

Typically, actual solicitation does not begin until the patient leaves the hospital, but donors vary and it’s up to you to decide when it’s best to begin the asking process. There’s a vast array of fundraising strategies to employ, but always keep in mind that solicitation plans are really just guidelines, and every donor requires an individualized game plan.

5) Track and measure your program

There are a number of useful metrics to track Grateful Patient Program success:

  1. Return on investment (ROI) — Divide the net profit by the expenses and multiply by 100. Calculate ROI for each fundraising program to compare the Grateful Patient Program for relative success.
  2. Cost to raise a dollar (CRD) — Divide program expenses by the gross income and multiply by 100. CRD should never exceed 35%.
  3. Other measurements — These include but are not limited to: Number of prospects identified, number of new donors, number of donors increasing their annual gifts, time of patient discharge to gift, number of interactions needed to close a gift, response rate to specific appeals, size of gifts, and differences between grateful patients and regular donors.

Your Grateful Patient Program should strive to follow program best practices. Every patient is a new, individual opportunity to secure needed funds, and, if you know how the game works, you can implement strategies that set your program apart and lead to an increase in revenue that everyone will see as a great success.

By Richard Smith
May 2015


Three mega opportunities for all fundraisers

September 21st, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Fundraising and fundraisers have taken a bit of a battering from various quarters recently, so perhaps we self-appointed pundits should take a break. Soon, I promise. But for this the third in this five-part feature I’m going to be positive as I seek to define some mislaid keys of fundraising then show you how, with our freshly-refocused profession behind them and with all the skill, passion and purpose we possess, we just might – if we make the right changes to how we do what we do – take full advantage of mega-opportunities like these.

Could fundraising and fundraisers really be on the verge of a golden age?

Here are three glittering reasons why we could be. And one big fat hairy barrier that could spoil everything.

We could be inspiring donors for life.
Any serious professional fundraiser would need to have his or head very deeply in the sand not to realise there’s a new emphasis now on donor retention matched with an urgency to get it right (see here). Adrian Sargeant and colleagues have repeatedly shown us the massive impact on our bottom line that even a small increase in retention rates would bring. All fundraisers need to keep their donors closer for longer, to keep them happy, inspired, feeling great, loving their giving and the big difference they make. And happy to continue their giving, as long as we need them.

So what’s stopping us?

More active older people looking for meaning
Demographic change in the world’s most affluent countries will profoundly affect our society in the next 20 years. As our populations age, in the UK, USA and other markets there will be a massive increase in the 65+ age segment, fundraising’s prime donors. In the UK growth will be more than 60 per cent. But donors living longer isn’t all good news for fundraisers. In an increasingly uncertain world extra demands and pressures will come with these extra years. Yet with carefully structured, inspirational guidance from us, donors of the future could see real joy and meaning in their giving that will enrich and fulfil their extra years, as they come to realise that engaging with our causes will add genuine meaning and fulfilment to their now much longer lives.

Are we ready for this?

A new relationship with business partners
CSE stands for corporate social engagement. CSR, or corporate social responsibility, is yesterday’s way of looking at corporate fundraising. CSE shows companies and charities can work together to make things better for both businesses and for their customers too. It’s not about responsibility, it’s about engagement. It’s not about them giving and us taking, it’s about constructing inspirational win/win partnerships of mutual benefit that make a difference in the world.

Could you answer the businessman’s questions opposite? Clue: he won’t feel reassured by you just asking him to give you money, nor by repeatedly making him feel bad about what he and his business can’t do for you. It’s not about what you need or want, it’s much more about what you give. It’s about what you can bring to the boardroom table, in a two-way partnership, to show the remarkable difference both parties can make when cause and company combine to motivate staff, management and customers as, together, they deliver a powerful amount of good.

Thankfully in the UK at least charities seem to be waking up to the new mood in business and making their plans to get in on it. Not so, generally, with individual donors. Yet the potential is massive and available for all.

So what’s the big fat hairy barrier?
What prevents us from making the most of all these opportunities, tragically, is the nature and quality of the experience that we’ve traditionally offered our donors and that, in our current paradigm, we seem unable to change. It’s this that explains why I now advocate storytelling over selling and why the next part in this series is called, Marketing was a mistake. Controversial, I know. But I can’t defend the status quo any longer.

Change is coming
What do we have to change, to fully achieve this fantastic potential? I’ll have more to say about this, in the next two posts. And please, feel free to email me your thoughts here.

© Ken Burnett 2015

It won’t be pushy sales scripts or repeated asking that will win over long-term support from the likes of Beryl and Clive, above. Nor will that approach cut much ice with businessmen like the famous chilly prospect, below. But we might just be sitting on something that both of these audiences really want
– if we can only find a better way of presenting it to them.

As well as the new wind beginning to blow through corporate boardrooms, demographic change seems set to work in our favour too. I served as a commissioner with the group mentioned below. Our conclusion? The voluntary sector is nowhere near ready or equipped for the change that’s coming.

This analysis of the future of fundraising is in five parts:
Part 1. Why fundraising has to change
Part 2. A fundraising Utopia
Part 3. Three keys to fresh fundraiisng success. Some mega-opportunities for fundraisers.
Part 4. Marketing was a mistake.
Part 5. Fundraising and the rule of law.

See also the forewords to two important fundraising books published in 2015, here. Retention Fundraising by Roger M Craver and How to love your donors (to death) by Stephen Pidgeon.




17 expert nonprofit fundraising tips

September 18th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Fundraising

Need help with your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy and implementation? If you are reading this you already know you need to stay on top of the latest fundraising ideas, trends, and research in order to keep your organization moving forward. After all, the term “nonprofit” refers to a tax status, not a viable business model. Every organization requires funds to sustain its mission and serve its clients. And, like any innovative, successful business it’s imperative that you are on top of new offerings while charting and keeping a strategic course that will advance your cause.

Encouraging findings for some

  • According to the latest report from Nonprofit Research Collaborative, 73% of you met your fundraising goals in 2014 (read more about it here ).
  • M+R Research and NTEN recently released their benchmark study, which reveals online giving is up (read more about that here)

Of course, that also means 27% of you did not meet fundraising goals and I am sure that there are several nonprofits out there which have yet to develop a strong onling giving strategy.

So let’s find out what’s on the minds of 17 leading nonprofit fundraising experts and glean some insight and inspiration from them:

17 Nonprofit Fundraising Tips, Best Practices, Advice &Tools

Barbara E. Kauffman headshot

1.  Barbara E. Kauffman, Executive Vice President, Newark Regional Business Partnership

Be creative!  It’s fine to have a standard package of benefits for different levels, but look for ways you can add value by offering alternatives that are of value to the potential sponsor. 

Wayne Elsey headshot

2. Wayne Elsey Agent of Change – Empowering nonprofits/for profits to develop strategies, strengthen branding and funding

In life and in business, best practices, no matter what you’re addressing, are always a matter of art and science. You need the skills to persuade donors, the board and your staff. You also have to weigh those interests with the science, “best practice”, of the task at hand. In life, it’s the same thing. You need the art of persuasion and the skill of the technical know-how. Period. 

Kitty Cook Ramsey Headshot

3. Kitty Cook Ramsey, CFRE, Major Gifts Officer, Children’s of Mississippi, University of Mississippi Medical Center

I never approach prospects as someone whom I’m going to ask for money, but as a “connector.” I work with them to find out what enflames their passion, what they want to do to change the world. I listen to them. When we’ve established a relationship, I show them how they can support their passion by partnering with my organization. Most importantly, I never try to force a prospect into a donation that doesn’t exactly fit his or her passion. If I did, they would never trust me (or my organization) again.

My goal is to be a resource for that donor so that one of the names he/she will call me is “friend.” Fundraising like this isn’t fast and doesn’t have a quick return on investment. It does, however, create repeat donors who will make a substantial, long-term investment in your organization and their community because of the relationship you’ve helped to build.

John Haydon headshot

4. John Haydon, Digital PR and Fundraising Expert, Speaker, Trainer, Author

We all have two ears and one mouth .

Ear 1: Pay attention to what’s trending in your cause. Listen to what your donors are saying about your organization, executive leaders, and your cause. What topics turn them on? What are your “competitors” blogging and tweeting about?

Mouth: Join existing conversations where you can add value. Praise and recognize supporters, related orgs, and their stories. Be useful, and say thank you.

Ear 2: Pay attention to replies, comments, and tweets about your content. Respond in ways that add value to the donor, AND set you apart from “competitors”. Make your donors feel heard.

Miki Bellon headshot

5. Miki Bellon, Regional Nonprofit Consultant, TriNet

Everyone is a fundraiser, whether it means raising awareness, revenue, income, resources, capacity, programs or services.  There is nothing more satisfying than working together to move a mountain.

Engaging potential donors is as simple as making friends.  Know yourself well enough to recognize when you’ve connected and give back as much in return.

Ed Lord headshot

6. Ed Lord Vice President of Strategic Services at DonorDrive 

Millennials naturally gravitate to online peer-to-peer fundraising. They’re wired to share digitally and this includes news about their participation in events that support causes they’re passionate about. At DonorDrive we’ve seen massive growth in Millennial-centric events like Dance Marathon and Extra Life for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and World Vision’s My Cause. If you give young people the tools, they’re natural-born fundraisers.

Karen Topakian headshot

7. Karen Topakian, Greenpeace, Inc., Board Chair 

Meeting the 100% board giving goal may prove challenging. Treat board members as major donors regardless of their gift size – conduct peer to peer face to face asks. Speak to shared values – but add a twist. Share your giving amount. It motivates both parties to give more.

Claire Axelrad, Contributor to Third Sector Today

8. Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE

Board members often say they’ll do fundraising; then they don’t follow through. Why? They’re afraid. They think it’s about money. Ugh! You haven’t done your job. Tell them it’s about outcomes made possible. About philanthropy facilitating. Volunteers deserve fantastic training, top-notch coaching and inspiring cheerleading. Set them up for success by reframing their task.

Rich Dietz headshot

9. Rich Dietz, Director of Fundraising Strategy for Abila

In our recent donor engagement study, we found only 52 percent of donors felt that the organizations they support take their preferences into account when communicating or appealing for donations. Organizations tend to plan communications based on one data point: donation amount, missing the opportunity to engage the donor through their interests and generational preferences.

Sayydah Garrett headshot

10. Sayydah Garrett , Founder & President, Pastoralist Child Foundation

The top fundraising challenge our very small nonprofit faces is donor acquisition. Pastoralist Child Foundation is entering its second year as a registered 501(C)3. Although we’ve made great strides in a short amount of time, we feel pressured to assure donors that we’re worthy of their contributions. The best way to overcome the challenge is to consistently announce ongoing projects and accomplishments via monthly e-newsletters, social media and conversations.

Derrick Feldmann headshot

11. Derrick Feldmann, 
President, ACHIEVE and  
MCON + Millennial Research |

Being a fundraiser today means managing the expectations all kinds of donors. A fundraiser should create opportunities for donors to articulate the level of interest the have, the types of communication they want and how much participation you can expect. This can be as simple as executing a welcome series with a survey attached to help you understand preferences.

Miriam Kagan headshot

12. Miriam Kagan, Senior Principal, Kimbia

The rapidly growing “fund my idea” crowdfunding marketplace has hijacked the term “fundraising” from nonprofits. They are finding new donors and raising new revenue. As with other marketplace disruptions, rather than taking a wait-and-see approach, our industry must take the plunge and strategically adopt these campaigns as part of our fundraising toolkits

Dan Quirk

13.  Dan Quirk, Marketing Specialist, DonorPro 

Bad data results in money lost at the post office and decreased marketing effectiveness from email to direct mail. We see this a lot for customers that come over from a home-made donor management system, or customers who have disparate contact lists. We recommend running an NCOA, deceased repression, and data append services that help clean up the bad data.

Bobby Valentine headshot

14. Bobby Valentine, FitRaise

One of the biggest challenges I face is the lack of follow-through.  Have you ever connected with someone who says “I’m happy to help” then when the time comes for action they aren’t so willing?  In a recent post I mention a few ways to get around this…my top tip is to make it easy for people to act immediately…right then and there.  I’ve also been guilty of this and am trying to work on it every day.

Cindy Leonard headshot

15 Cindy Leonard, Consulting Team Leader, Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University 

However your organization fundraises digitally, consider the donor’s experience with the process. The call-to-action should be clear, user-friendly, mobile responsive and require as few clicks as possible from beginning to end. For example, check out Charity:Water ( The call-to-action is featured prominently on their home page.  One click later you can donate via credit card or paypal.

Jon Biedermann headshot

16 Jon Biederman , Vice President, DonorPerfect

Donor retention is a challenge many nonprofits, especially small to mid-sized nonprofits. Starting a monthly giving program that encourages donors to donate small amounts of money each month can greatly improve donor retention.

Jeremy Koenig headshot

17. Jeremy Koenig, Head of Marketing, MobileCause 

Crowdfunding for Nonprofits is the most effective way for organizations to collect donations through networks of volunteers, donors and staff. Individuals can set up crowdfunding pages in minutes from any device and share to mobile, social and email contacts in one tap or click. Donations are 100% secure and go directly to NPOs.

Posted on May 27, 2015 by
Third Sector Today – What’s New in NonProfit