Ensuring Sustainability with Diverse Revenue Streams

By Rachel Hutchisson, Chair of The Giving Institute, Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy at Blackbaud

Diverse revenue streams and individual fundraising play a key role in a healthy funding mix. As we shared in our recent report from the Blackbaud Institute, The Right Mix, dependence on any one source of giving could affect your financial security and ability to retain donors. For many organizations that have been set up with a single funding model, thinking outside the box to diversify revenue streams can help achieve greater funding success.

A first step in this evolution is to ensure that the right voices are at the table. Fundraisers can and should be a key part of discussions around funding streams. While there is a growing understanding about the importance of a culture of philanthropy across the sector, many organizations still make high-level funding decisions in a vacuum, with only executives and the finance team at the table. Similarly, marketing and fundraising strategies must be aligned to best frame and communicate the value of your mission and programs. When all organizational areas are part of the discussion on funding mix and aligned on the plan moving forward, you can accelerate your impact.

Before you can make decisions about reshaping your funding mix, you need to know your current risk level. The Dependency Quotient, developed by BoardSource®, measures the extent to which an organization is dependent on its top donors to fund its work. According to BoardSource, “It’s an indicator of how vulnerable the organization could be in the face of changed priorities among its top funders. Generally speaking, organizations should seek to have a lower Dependency Quotient, indicating that they are more resilient to changes in top donor giving.” As BoardSource shares, it is very difficult to achieve both a low Dependency Quotient and a low cost of fundraising. Broad-based fundraising efforts tend to bring in more low- to mid-level donors and are more expensive because of it. Meanwhile, strategies like major gift fundraising can cost less, but leave the organization more dependent on a smaller number of big gifts. This is exactly why cost of fundraising should not be the only measure of effectiveness. Anne Wallestad, BoardSource President and CEO, shares more on the topic in this sgENGAGE podcast episode, Is Your Fundraising Diversified?

With better knowledge of the current dependency on certain funding sources, you can move forward with evaluating alternate avenues. Many organizations are already competing for the same grant dollars from traditional funders. In recent years, however, new ways of financing your mission have emerged on the scene. Financing methods like venture philanthropy grants, impact loans, equity investment, and donor advised funds (DAFs) have the potential to bring untapped dollars into the social sector. You should be well versed in these options as you consider the right funding mix for your organization.

And as with all practices, benchmarking is critical to understanding your organization’s ideal funding mix. Take the time to evaluate how your funding model differs from similar organizations, then consider whether any differences in your funding mix are truly intentional because of a unique business model or if you could find greater success by following other models. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other organizations. Together, you can share ideas, successes, and failures to find the best-performing funding practices. The Contributor Development Partnership for public broadcasting, initiated and managed by WGBH in Boston, is a great example of the success that organizations can achieve when they come together. Now in its seventh year, it has 133 collaborating public media stations across the nation engaged in collaborative research and knowledge sharing. Its work has produced incremental revenue of over $100 million for the stations. Think creatively about which types of organizations, both in your local area and outside it, could provide inspiration for funding models and practices. You can read more about thinking outside the box for funding success in Finding Your Own Right Mix: Steps for Evaluating Your Organization’s Funding Streams.

With the changing landscape of philanthropy, sustainability of our organizations has never been more critical. In keeping an eye on the diversity of your organization’s funding, you can enhance your ability to weather changes and continue to find success toward achieving your mission.

The Role of Social Norms

By Kelsey Crouch-Dodson, Project Manager, Bentz Whaley Flessner

The newest report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Encouraging Giving to Women’s & Girls’ Causes: The Role of Social Norms, explores the intersection of social norms, gender, and charitable giving. This study analyzes how current giving behavior of others, future outlooks on giving, and gender affect donor behavior.

The key findings that emerged from the report are:

  • The perception that there are other people who are highly interested in women’s and girls’ causes increases a prospective donor’s likelihood to make a charitable gift to these causes.
  • Men are more likely to donate to women’s and girls’ causes if they perceive that others are highly interested in those same causes. For women, other’s interest in women’s and girls’ causes is less of a predictor of their own giving likelihood. Additionally, men are much more likely to give if they perceive other men have a high interest in women’s and girls’ causes.
  • Future social norms will positively affect people’s likelihood of giving to women’s and girls’ causes. Receiving information that indicates a growing number of donors to women’s and girls’ causes increases a person’s likelihood to donate
  • Messaging about the rising popularity of women’s and girls’ causes is as effective for increasing men’s likelihood to donate as it is for women.

While this study focused specifically on woman’s and girls’ causes, there are some fundamental strategies that can be applied to fundraising shops across the nonprofit spectrum.

  • Empower your base. By utilizing platform giving, you can empower your current donor base to spread the word about your cause. With social media, donors can advertise their own giving activity and encourage others to follow in their footsteps. When you position your current donor population as advocates for your mission, you create traction to help turn prospects on the periphery into donors.
  • Promote your growth. Set the scene for prospects by using language that forecasts positive trends in giving such as increased donations, rising number of donors, or growing awareness. Furthermore, use messaging that invites them to be a part of the growth or “join the movement.” Especially for causes that are not highly visible, this will help prospective donors identify your organization with a growing trend.
  • Expand your reach. To broaden your reach into untapped markets, highlight a diverse set of people who are already interested in your mission. Utilize current donors as representatives for your cause to raise awareness, share why they give, and encourage others to do the same. Prospects who resonate with an existing subset of donors are more likely to form an affinity with your organization. Prospect groups not previously reached will then start to see themselves as donors too.

This study demonstrates the power that social norms have on a prospect’s likelihood to give. When organizations are able to leverage these social norms, it increases their visibility, raises prospects’ awareness, and enables access to a new market of donors. Our team of philanthropy experts provides valuable insight to sustain and maximize donor relationships and will help you define viable plans, address process and procedures, and develop results-oriented donor relations strategies and standards

3 Concrete Strategies to Address The Donor Retention Crisis

By Jeff Gordy, President, Neon One

If you’ve been reading the news as of late regarding charitable giving, you may have seen a lot of chatter about how smaller donors have been dropping away from organizations while overall giving increased slightly from 2017 to 2018. This information is being driven by the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, an initiative that my company has been assisting with alongside Bloomerang, DonorPerfect, and other software providers looking to make a difference in how nonprofits use data in fundraising.

According to the most recent data, there was a 1.8% growth in giving in 2018. Growth in giving is defined as the net of gains minus losses compared to the previous year, so it should be seen as the most vital benchmark metric when it comes to understanding the financial health of not only the industry but also for individual nonprofits. Yet diving into the numbers further, there was a 2.8% decrease in the growth in the number of donors in 2018. Our industry saw 4.855 million donors disappear, which wiped out any of the gains we saw for new or retained donors.

The revenue losses were seen in small dollar donors, with a decrease of 4.4% for donors under $250 and a 4% decrease for donors between $250 to $1000. The only increase was found in donors giving $1000 or more.

Our industry should be alarmed at this information and not take comfort that there was a net increase in giving but instead be focusing on how to re-engage donors of all sizes. There are some concrete strategies that we as an industry should be taking.

Focus on the long game

Our organizations need to shift from single year planning to long term, multi-year strategic revenue campaigns. To organize ourselves, we should be concentrating on two key metrics – Growth in Giving Percentage and Donor Lifetime Value. Like businesses, we should shift our attention to analyzing both Gross and Net Revenue and these are the key metrics to help organize ourselves both at the individual level as well as throughout the industry.

The reality is that acquisition is always going to be a costly endeavor, costing the average nonprofit $1.25 to obtain $1 from a new donor. If our boards are not prepared to understand the Lifetime Value of a donor, then we will be unable to plan for the future of our operations.

Investments into both smart acquisition campaigns as well as a heavy emphasis on retention of donors will ensure that we will see healthy increases in our giving at the organizational and individual donor levels. Acquisition and Retention are excellent metrics to review monthly to gauge the health of your revenue campaigns.

If we understand that our acquisitions of new donors will have a higher upfront cost, then we will be able to then shift the conversation on obtaining the highest quality donors for our organizations, not just high volume. High quality donors aren’t necessarily higher revenue but instead donors who have been cultivated to be long term supporters of your organization’s mission. Then shifting your organization’s strategic emphasis toward obtaining the highest retention rate possible should be a high priority.

Steward our data and our donors

One of the most frustrating things I’ve experienced is seeing nonprofits struggle with the basics around data management for donor stewardship. A big reason for this is that nonprofits are juggling multiple databases that do not talk to each other. We also have seen a proliferation of technology solutions but little focus on integration between platforms in a cohesive and easy way.

We need to make a commitment industry wide toward data stewardship and invest the proper resources into ensuring that nonprofits can feel confident in the technology supporting their missions. Practical investment into collaboration among software providers is one the best outcomes of the Fundraising Effectiveness Project but we can do more – we would love to welcome more data providers to the initiative as well as deepen our collaborations with researchers, consultants, and other stakeholders in the industry.

We also need nonprofits to put resources and prioritization toward their data as well. The most commonly cited reason that a donor no longer wants to support a mission is due to their sense that the nonprofit does not care about them. Little things like getting the donor’s name wrong in an appeal or thank you letter will have a major impact in your ability to manage the relationship and steward that long term value that we see when retention occurs. If we’re serious about creating lasting relationships with donors and growing our giving, we need to invest time, talent, and treasure into ensuring our data and donors are stewarded.

Set the standards for success

At the recent Association of Fundraising Professionals International Conference, a new report indicated that we will be facing a talent crisis in the coming years if we do not properly invest into educating young professionals entering our sector. The report and corresponding session was wide ranging in its impact and included some recommendations that should be seriously considered. These included:

  • Remove from donor communications all language that promotes the percentage of the donation that is allocated to programs
  • Conduct more research into and develop fresh thinking on donor retention, particularly around gifts that are not intended to be renewed annually, and how relationships are measured with donors who only give sporadically
  • A raft of measures to encourage inclusion at an organizational and individual level
  • Develop a new set of standards for professional practice that include the levels of knowledge needed to practice as a fundraiser
  • Invest more in multi-channel communications, new technologies and social engagement.

A continuing theme at the conference was that we need to set the standards of success for our industry. Best practices and guidelines that exist are a starting point, but investing into the education on what it means to be a truly excellent nonprofit is a major task that we need to work toward.

The reality is that our industry has the third largest workforce in the entire United States. We generate billions of dollars in revenue and affect people around the world. We have immense power and with that great power comes great responsibility. We must therefore look past the technological and competitive business walls that keep us from working together and begin to create cooperative arrangements like the Fundraising Effectiveness Project that focus on educating board members, employees, and donors on what it means to be the best versions of ourselves.

These are major initiatives that need the assistance of everyone that this sector touches. I look forward to being a part of the solution that will change the landscape of philanthropy for decades to come.

About Jeff

Jeff Gordy is the co-founder of Z2 Systems, Inc., the makers of NeonCRM. Before starting the company in 2004, Jeff worked for the Kidney Cancer Association and knew that nonprofits needed better software solutions to help with their many challenges. He currently serves as the President of Neon One.

Fundraising is a Profession and Like Other Professions – Coaching Should be Considered

By Dr. Jason Ketter, Senior Consultant, AskRIGHT.com

In the movie Rocky, Burgess Meredith plays Mickey—Rocky’s coach/trainer. He was a grumpy guy and even Rocky was somewhat afraid of him. Anyone familiar with the film would remember both Rocky and Mickey. Muhammad Ali is perhaps the most famous non-fictional boxer of all times and most have heard of him, but many have not heard of Angelo Dundee. Angelo was Muhammad’s coach. Angelo also coached Sugar Ray Leonard and George Foreman.

You may have heard of Anna Sophia Robb or Carrie Underwood, but perhaps not New Zealander Miranda Harcourt, their coach. Helen Hunt 1997 Oscar winner for her role in As Good as It Gets thanked Larry Moss during her acceptance speech. Who is Larry Moss? Her acting coach. It would be hard to name a successful world class athlete, actor, or singer who wasn’t influenced by a coach.

The professional at the top of his or her profession, or seeking to reach the top, has a coach. Members of the senior management team at universities and leading corporations often are assigned a professional coach to help them with skills in the areas of leadership, communications, or interpersonal development.

It is time that the fundraising profession embrace the notion of the professional fundraising coach to support fundraisers seeking to enhance performance outcomes.

Coaching is not Mentoring

When commencing a job people often suggest securing a mentor. A mentor, however, is distinct from coaching. Unlike mentoring, which is reactive and serves more as a type of a sounding board relationship, coaching is proactive—hands on. Coaching is focused on bringing about effective change in the professional for the purpose of higher performance. Further, after receiving candid advice from a quality coach the coach will follow up on that advice to see if the coachee is acting on it, i.e., seeking a demonstrated and sustainable behavioral change. Coaching and mentoring are not mutually exclusive, but the objectives and outcomes can be dramatically different for the individual. Finally, there are plethora of fundraising workshops and these workshops can be greatly enhanced with follow up coaching sessions.

A Tailored Program

The importance of a tailored coaching program can’t be stressed enough because not all fundraisers are at the same level of experience and skill. Further, not all fundraising programs are at the same level of maturity; this may impact priorities of the front-line fundraisers. For example, in a less mature program prospect relationships haven’t been built and the priority will be on discovery visits versus a more mature fundraising program in the final push of a multi million-dollar campaign with a higher focus on solicitations.

Research and Theory

Fundraising research is not on the top of the list for most research universities, it doesn’t attract the same type of research investment like medicine, engineering, or business. However, there are quality research papers and books on understanding donor behavior, the efficiency of a fundraising program, effective prospect research, and the development of a prospect portfolio taken from an expansive database. Quality research informs outstanding practice and given the nature of fundraising (part art and part science) staying abreast of the latest research, as well as understanding of the foundational research in the field, can contribute to better performance.

Real-World Examples

Fundraising is a people business and understanding different personalities, and the scenarios that arise as a result, comes through experience. An experienced coach can demonstrate situations through real-world examples that are most relevant to the coachee and his/her organization. There is nothing wrong with speaking of aspirational gifts, but if examples used are all about eight-figure gifts and the organization largest ever gift is a five-figure it can be demoralizing for the coachee. A quality coach with experience can share about the times things didn’t go right—those coachable moments that can be shared with the coachee.

Further, it is most beneficial to employ the coachee’s prospect list to talk through strategy and discuss possible next steps. An important role of a coach is to play devil’s advocate and walk through scenarios with the coachee to help the coachee think through a variety of possible outcomes when interacting with a prospect. Although one can attempt to script a visit or solicitation like many things in life things don’t always follow the script. Working with a coach helps a coachee develop those critical adlib skills.

Role Playing

How do our favorite actors and athletes make their craft look so easy? How about the ballet dancer who moves so gracefully across the theater stage? We know what they do takes enormous skill and talent to say the least, but rarely do we picture all the hours that went into the rehearsals necessary to make it a star performance. One gets better at something by practicing it. Fundraising is no different.

If you are only making one face-to-face solicitation every quarter the chances are without any practice in between you run the risk of being a little rusty when you conduct your next solicitation. When are favorite football or basket teams are shown on the local news they often are shown passing the ball back and forth between players. The pass is a critical part of the game and so they practice it over and over and over. Players are developing muscle memory, endurance, and mental strength so in game situations execution is automatic.

Granted the solicitation is not like throwing a football or a basketball, but having a demonstrated ability, e.g. it is not the first time you have encountered an objection, is similar. Just like the pass if you fumble the objection during the solicitation the solicitation is not going to end well. Role playing on how to overcome objections, how to secure the discovery visit, how to conduct the discovery visit as well as how to carry out the solicitation will ensure quality skills are being developed to support securing those major and leadership gifts.

An Experienced Subject Matter Expert Coach

George Bernard Shaw wrote in his play Man and Superman “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” There area a plethora of examples where this does not ring true. Richard Williams never played professional tennis, but did very well coaching his two daughters, Venus and Serena to championships early in their careers. Conversely, just because someone is good at something doesn’t mean this person will be good a coaching it. Coaching is about helping the individual to understand themselves and creating positive, and sustainable, change to help the individual achieve their objectives. Quality coaching involves excellent communication skills and detailed knowledge of the subject matter. When it comes to fundraising, however, a diverse background of real-world experiences by the coach, in all facets of the profession and the donor giving cycle, is needed to greatly enhance the outcome for the coachee.

Like other professions fundraising should embrace the concept of using coaches to improve performance and it should be the norm, not the exception.

Can Strategic Planning Lead to a Major Gift? Yes!

By Ann J. Shackelford, Senior Consultant, and Steve W. Waiksnoris, Senior Consultant, Arthur Alley.

I was recently with a group of board members, staff and other stakeholders of a human services organization. They had contracted our firm to perform a community needs assessment and strategic plan, and this was the day we were going to present and review the findings. The full report had been sent out in advance so that all could come prepared to discuss.

While waiting for our turn to speak, I noticed one of the attendees take out their checkbook and carefully begin filling out a check. Of course I wasn’t sure what it was for, but I did know that this person is a prominent philanthropist in the town we were visiting, so I hoped it was a gift for our client’s work.

When it was our turn on the agenda, I began the presentation with a bit of background on these types of studies and why they are done. I’ll share a few of those thoughts here.

When you’re working in your non-profit day in and day out, it’s easy to get into a mode where it’s simply business as usual. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as you are doing the work and continue to be passionate about your cause. You continue to make an impact on your community. Things change for good because of the work you’ve been doing.

But at a certain point along the way, the community may have changed right under your nose. The needs may have increased, decreased, or changed entirely, but you’ve missed the shift while focused on the good things you’ve always been doing.

A community needs assessment is a way for an organization to take an honest look at their operating environment and to confirm that what they are doing is truly needed.

In a nutshell, such a process, whether conducted internally or with the assistance of a consultant, can combine objective research and anecdotal remarks to come up with a series of observations, conclusions, and recommendations. Your organization can use the recommendations to chart a course for more effective service moving forward.

But let’s get back to our client presentation . . . . We reviewed the completed report and had a good discussion about how the client could meet some of the observed community needs and recommended strategies to do so.

It’s at this point that a planning study can also provide a solid foundation for future fundraising activity. When you can prove to your funders that there’s a real need, and that you’ve thoughtfully developed a strategy to address that need, you can build a solid case for their investment in you.

In the instance of our client and their friend with the checkbook, they have known each other for years. They’ve communicated a perceived need and had even asked the donor to support it. Because their relationship is built on trust and respect, the donor had pledged that they would support the planned project. But it wasn’t until they were able to review the facts and findings of the planning study that they felt it was time to make the gift. Once satisfied with the plan, it was time to take out the checkbook…and make a seven-figure donation!

The gift was a great jump-start to helping our client address identified community needs, and added even more credibility to the fundraising effort that will follow.

This is a real life illustration of the importance of planning on future impact. Take the time to tune in to your community needs, find your place in that landscape and articulate how you will make a difference. The money will follow.

About Arthur Alley

Your organization’s development/fundraising goals are unique – they require a custom approach. Arthur Alley works as an extension of your team to create and implement thoughtful, effective strategies focused on success. Whether your goal is to identify emerging community needs, to build your fundraising potential, or to implement a fundraising campaign, Arthur Alley has the experience, insight and commitment to ensure you achieve your goals.

Learn more at www.arthuralley.com

How to A/B Test in Fundraising Emails

By Molly Saks, Senior Marketing Associate, Campbell & Company

According to the M+R Benchmarks 2018 Study, email accounted for 28% of online revenue in 2017. Email still matters—but it’s increasingly important to craft those messages strategically. The same study reported that response rate to fundraising emails declined by 6% in 2017.

So how can you start enhancing your fundraising emails? Try A/B testing.


A/B testing compares two versions of the same variable to determine which is more effective at a stated aim. All other variables are held constant. Here’s an example:

ABC School is planning to send out a fundraising email, and they want to know if changing the call to action (CTA) language will affect the number of gifts received.

They create a fundraising email with a CTA button that reads “Donate Now.” Next, they create an identical email with a CTA button that reads “Support our Students.” Half the School’s subscriber list receives Version A, half receives Version B. Afterwards, the development team compares the number of gifts received from each email.


Even with best practices at my fingertips, I can’t tell you how your unique audience will respond to a specific email. You’ve carefully built up your email subscriber list. It’s your direct connection to people who have opted in to engage with your organization.

A/B testing gives you the chance to test and re-test small changes, see how that curated list of supporters responds to your emails, and change course for better results.


Wait! Before you jump to variables, think about your goal. You likely have multiple goals but pick one to focus on. Once you decide this, it will be easier to choose the variable to test. Some common choices include:

Improving open rate:

  • Subject line
  • Sender name
  • Day of week
  • Time of day

Increasing click-to-open rate, number of gifts, or average gift size:

  • CTA color
  • CTA copy
  • Images
  • Location of CTA in email
  • Messaging (in body of email)


First, steer clear of A/B testing during your most important fundraising time periods. It’s best to avoid experimenting during these critical stretches.

Many email marketing services offer a built-in A/B testing feature. If yours doesn’t, you can run an A/B test manually. Follow these steps:

  • Create the Version A email
  • Change one variable to create Version B
  • Randomly select a segment of your email list—this segment should be at least 1,000 subscribers
  • Send half Version A and half Version B
  • After you’ve compared the results (waiting at least 4 hours), send the “winning” version to the rest of your email list

If the email list in question has fewer than 1,000 subscribers, you can still perform the A/B test without segmentation.


Keep testing: If you think you’ve found something that makes an impact, try it a few more times. If you achieve similar results, incorporate that change into your future fundraising emails. A/B testing can and should be an ongoing process, helping you stay nimble, pivot quickly—and ultimately raise more online.


What Differentiates a Nonprofit Executive Search?

By Ron Guisinger, SPHR, Senior Consultant Benefactor Group

When a nonprofit hires an independent party to assist with the search and selection of its next leader, it can pursue various options: large, globally branded retained search firms; boutique firms; contingent search firms; individual search professionals—or variations of them. However, anyone recruiting for nonprofit leadership positions must understand and appreciate the differences of the sector and the unique competencies required for its leadership. There are several factors that differentiate a nonprofit executive search from its corporate counterpart.

Search Committee
The nonprofit sector relies heavily on a search committee – especially for the roles of executive director, president, or chief advancement officer. The committee is typically comprised of board members, donors, and other key stakeholders. Each has a different perspective of the role, the requirements for success, and the vision for the organization. While the search committee provides valuable insights and diverse perspectives, it also adds a layer of logistical and decision-making complexity to the process. Search consultants who focus on the nonprofit sector are accustomed to working with committee members’ varying opinions and are able to navigate the added complexities.

Nonprofit Boards
Nonprofit executives report to an ever-changing volunteer board—the board chair at the time the position opens may not be the board chair at the time the position is filled. Recruiters must understand this governance structure and evaluate the candidate’s ability to work with the board accordingly. A nonprofit executive’s ability to develop and maintain strong relationships with a rotating roster of board members is critical to long-term success and stability.

Nonprofit Core Competencies
Nonprofit executive candidates will be evaluated for traditional leadership competencies—and they should also be assessed for competencies that are specific to the sector, such as fundraising acumen, volunteer and board relations, donor cultivation and stewardship, and, for many organizations, member or constituent relations. Every recruiter should possess an understanding of these “nonprofit core competencies.”

Multiple Interest Groups
Donors, grantmakers, and other funders will be watching the nonprofit executive search process with keen interest. Multiple parties will have a vested interest in the outcome, creating a level of scrutiny. A hiring process that is inclusive of many constituent groups will position the hiring organization and the new executive for long-term success.

Community Visibility
Executive transitions in the nonprofit sector—particularly the search process—are often very visible in the community. Whether it be in arts and culture, human services, education, or foundation associations, the process is closely observed. Communication throughout the process is critical to ensure the nonprofit is viewed as transparent and authentic in all its actions.

For nonprofits, the stakes surrounding executive search and transition could not be higher. Each organization’s mission of service relies on strong, effective leaders at the helm now and in the future. Ensure that whoever conducts the search for your leadership understands the nuances of the sector—from the search committee to the board to the perspectives of the greater community.


Make Every Day a Campaign Day

By Aly Sterling, founder and president of Aly Sterling Philanthropy

Top 10 reasons why a “campaign mentality” will boost your overall fundraising program

campaign mentality (kamˈpān menˈtalədē) – noun

A constant mindset and approach to fundraising that includes heightened communication, focused goals, intentional donor cultivation, powerful case stories and active board engagement fueled by a sense of urgency and purpose.

 …In other words, acting like you are always in a campaign, even when you are not.

But wait, you might ask, our organization hasn’t completed a capital campaign or endowment campaign before. And we aren’t planning on one anytime soon. How does this apply to us?

Because you don’t have to be in a campaign to glean the benefits!

If you’ve been involved with a campaign, you know the palpable energy and decisive focus associated that is exciting and motivating. At its core, all it takes is assembling a group of committed people around one goal with a start and a finish.

It’s amazing what can be accomplished and how the residual benefits are felt for months and years to come.

Then why do we get to the finish line of our campaigns and lose our momentum and energy?

For many organizations it’s because our development teams are running on fumes. If we are lucky, we might have a one dedicated full or part-time employee who is singularly responsible for everything. They may produce the newsletter, write the grants, enter the data, manage fundraising events and, if there’s any time left, run the donor stewardship program.

I’m exhausted just typing that that laundry list of responsibilities!

“I know that I should be spending more time with our current donors, engaging them in the same fashion we did when they made their first gift. But as a one-person shop, it keeps getting pushed to the bottom of my list.”                                          

– Development director

When a campaign wraps up, it shouldn’t surprise us that the task of keeping volunteers and donors actively engaged in the mission and impact of their gifts falls far down the list of things to do.

After all, everything with a deadline gets attention (think newsletter, grants, events) and anything that doesn’t (donor cultivation, stewardship) gets moved to tomorrow’s to-do list. And moved again. And again…you get my point.

Specifically, a “campaign mentality” has the following characteristics:

  • Heightened communication
  • Focused goals
  • Clear leadership
  • Donor cultivation
  • Powerful case stories
  • Accountability
  • Active board engagement

…all with a sense of urgency and purpose!

You might ask, why would adopting this “campaign mentality” be worthwhile? Is the pain really worth the gain? (Especially in addition to everything else I have on my plate right now?)

Our firm has become a fierce advocate of its worthiness. We believe the act of moving from a mindset of scarcity to one of plenty never fails to deliver.

And so, with a marching band’s drum roll, I share with you what we’ve learned from decades of experience working with all kinds of nonprofit organizations.

ASP’s Top 10 Reasons You Should be in Campaign Mode, Every Single Day

  1. You will have a clear and tangible reason to fundraise.
    Who doesn’t like a solid reason to give? One that has a clear “why” and charitable investment attached? Despite our best efforts, very few donors want to give to overhead. So package your programs and mission differently, in a way that shows the donor exactly what $100 or $1,000 or $10,000 will accomplish. Then bake in the manpower to get it done.
  2. You will get to hone your message, stories and relevance.
    There’s no better time to involve your staff in sharing their client stories and successes. It’s hard to motivate this to happen when there isn’t a clear reason, which is why creating a year-round environment that recognizes and rewards (sometimes literally) submissions of stories and success must be a priority.
  3. You and your team will feel energized with a sense of urgency and purpose.
    Research and personal experience tell us that when we create an authentic sense of urgency and need, people respond in kind. Support for your mission should know no season. Look to create micro-giving opportunities every quarter at a minimum, and then demonstrate the caliber of change that occurs with donor investment. Watch the giving continue…
  4. You will gain NEW donors, NEW volunteers and NEW board members.
    When we ask people to join our efforts and give them roles and responsibilities that are clear and realistic, together, we create success. Success builds confidence and loyalty, so people will continue to say “yes” when you ask because they know your organization has a proven track record and you will be respectful of their time and talent.
  5. You will set the bar even higher.
    While you might have had a few successful campaigns in the past to brag about, what’s next? What is your BHAG, your blue sky, your “what if” vision to get others excited about? In today’s competitive fundraising landscape, if we aren’t stretching and constantly inviting others into our realm of possibilities, we might as well be inviting our donors to dream elsewhere.
  6. You will attract and retain (and possibly expand) staff differently.
    Simple fact: If you can prove you can routinely raise more money, year-after-year, campaign-after-campaign, with a solid model like this, you can justify more staff to help you continue to replicate it. It’s no different than our for-profit friends. #takesmoneytomakemoney
  7. You won’t take your current funding resources for granted.
    You know this better than anyone else. In the realm of nonprofit funding, nothing is guaranteed. But we can count on unstable government support! That is why advancing and expanding your private fundraising efforts simply can’t wait.
  8. You will be reminded that your mission impacts and engages the entire community.
    For organization that would like to expand its donor base – this is how you do it! Segment your programs and services to align them with like-minded, external affinity groups (local, regional and national). Speak their language and seek to engage with them in a custom way. It’s all very possible, but you can’t catch a marlin using walleye bait.
  9. You will get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
    While this is one of the hardest pills to swallow, it is the most worthwhile. When we set clear goals, create a start and finish, and ask someone (your development committee or an ad hoc volunteer group perhaps) to hold us accountable, we will see our confidence and sense of self soar. Left to our own devices, however, most of us will avoid setting up those meetings and lunches or following up on pending asks and volunteers gone rogue. That is, until we are have a “buck stops here” moment and are forced to do it. At which point we often see it’s not so bad and we’re actually pretty darn good at it. That’s because we’re doing something we’re passion about: connecting a need with someone who cares.
  10. That magical mission moment occurs: You turn away one less person.
    In the end, there are no short cuts, no magic wands, no outsourcing of creating genuine joy and excitement about being part of something bigger than us. It’s just one ask, one person at a time.

If I can leave you with anything, it’s this: You can integrate a little campaign magic into your on-going, day-to-day, initiatives.

Ask your development committee or a select group of dedicated volunteers to help where your resources are scarce. Determine what other activities you can (and should) give up in order to get it done.

While your fundraising program will certainly benefit, the people and purpose you serve will be the real winners.