Fundraising success guaranteed, almost

I thought the title of this post would get your attention. Everywhere I turn, fundraisers, nonprofit execs, and board members are eager for THE secret to fundraising success.

Truth be told, however, there isn’t a 100 percent, money-in-your-pocket guarantee in fundraising. You work, after all, with human beings. When freewill kicks in, that’s it. You identify, cultivate, nurture, steward, ask, and pray. But donors will do what donors will do. Sometimes the gifts come your way and other times not.

yes_no_maybe_red_dice_pc_2612That said, there are actions you can (should, must) take to counter the whimsy in the development process. Commit to the following three and I promise (almost guarantee) you’ll get more of the results you want.

AND THE SECRET IS (drum roll, please)

Ask more. There was a time when I urged my clients to get out of the office more – to schedule at least five face-to-face calls a week. But when I saw more chat and coffee than cash, I changed my counsel. These days, I urge at least five asks a week – even more early in the giving year when you’re following up with your most faithful donors. As Jesus reminded us, we have not, because we ask not. Okay, so he didn’t have fundraising in mind, but Jesus’ words are too true to development to ignore.

Thank fast. The gold standard of our profession is a thank you in the mail within 48 hours of booking a gift. Seventy-two hours is tolerable. Beyond that, something needs to change within your operation. It pains me when development teams fail to prepare for what they know (hope) could be a greater than usual influx of gifts (e.g. end of year giving or wrap-up of a matching opportunity). If you’re not ready to thank fast, then you’re not ready to ask.

Report often. Surprise your donors with frequent updates on the good outcomes their generosity has funded. But don’t overwhelm. Rely instead on “drip reporting,” providing donors with bits of information, one after another at regular intervals. And no need for elaborate packaging. Remember the KISS principle (Keep it simple, sweetie).  Short, focused, and timely reports tailored to donors’ interests are the way to grow givers’ hearts – and encourage repeat giving.

No big secrets here, I know. But do these three things and more gifts will come your way in the year ahead. You have my 99.99 percent guarantee on it.

For more on this topic, see:

Overcoming first solicitation jitters

Put the focus on thank you, please

Four tough questions behind truth-filled tales of organizational impact


  1. This is (another) great post, Rebekah. These are the fundamentals we need to remember if we are going to make our donors feel like true partners.

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