How to Use Peer-to-Peer Fundraising to Grow Year-End Giving

Ask your advocates to raise their hands on your behalf!

Ask your advocates to raise their hands on your behalf!


Thinking about how to get more new donors this year?  Wondering if you should purchase lists?

Consider this: Response to peer-to-peer fundraising is about 25% compared with direct-to-donor campaigns where response is 1 – 2%.

Why?  People respond better to people than they do to organizations.  Especially when it’s people they know and trust.  Continue Reading

SMIT for May: Why you Need to Reinvent Yourself

Looking at oneself in the mirror

Stop looking at yourself in the mirror!

Listen up.

Whatever you did in the past is relevant, but it doesn’t mean it’s exactly what you should be doing today.  Relevant means pertaining to or connected to. Your history is always connected with you in some manner.  But it’s not always germane (central) or apropos (to the point and opportune).

If you say…

That’s not the way we do things.

We tried that; it doesn’t work.

We don’t need research; we know what our audience cares about.

stop.Continue Reading

Personal is the New Plastics: 4 Ways Nonprofits Can Build Donor Relationships.

'Personal' is the new 'Plastics.' It's your nonprofit's future.

‘Personal’ is the new ‘Plastics.’ It’s your nonprofit’s future.

This month’s SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you):

Remember in ‘The Graduate’ the one word piece of advice given to Dustin Hoffman?  PLASTICS. That was seen to be the wave of the future (oh how long ago that seems, and how quickly something can turn from friend to foe…. but I digress).

Recently I gave another “P” word as my best piece of advice for nonprofit marketers and fundraisers. PERSONAL. I received a lot of feedback, so I’d like to revisit this word and flesh out its multiple meanings – and how getting personal can help you achieve your fundraising and marketing goals.Continue Reading

April Fools SMIT: 7 Tips to Stop Social Media from Peeing on your Nonprofit’s Floor

Puppy chewing slipper

Take care of me, please.

This month’s SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you) is that if you don’t take care of your social media it’s going to pee on your floor, tear up your furniture and chew up your shoes.  No fooling.

Social media is like a puppy. Everyone wants to play with the cute, cuddly puppy.  But then it grows up.  It needs to be walked. It needs to be fed. If you’re gonna get one, you gotta care for it or it’s gonna die.    It takes time, attention and dedication. And just because you have one or two (perhaps named Twitter and Facebook) that doesn’t mean that adding a few more (named Pinterest, Google+ and LinkedIn) and caring for them is going to be a piece of cake.

Full credit: I’m nowhere near the first to make this analogy (see e.g.,  Is Your Social Network a Puppy or a Dog? by Jay Bear; Free Puppies by David Bowman; Social Media is Like a Puppy, and Surviving social media marketing: A puppy owner’s guide).

Puppy litter in red wagon

Don’t you want us all? We dare you!

What’s your current status vis a vis puppies? Will you get one? Everyone else seems to have one, no?  Your board members say you should get one, yes?  Maybe even a whole litter!  Or do you have a couple of puppies tucked in the corner, but for whom no one has claimed responsibility? Some days they get played with, fed and walked; other days, not so much?

Two puppies driving white toy car

Are you driving social media or is it driving you?

If you don’t have time, resources and inclination to take care of a puppy right now, then do what you need to get ready. If you can’t nurture the puppies you’ve got, don’t adopt new ones.  If your puppies aren’t thriving, then consider whether to give them over to someone else (hire or outsource) or seek a trainer (consultant). Social media, like puppies, can be extremely rewarding.  Social media, like puppies, can become your best friend. But rewards and friendship have their costs as well as benefits.

Puppies and social media are decidedly not free; just like friends, they require care and feeding. [See infographic on How Much do Small Businesses Spend on Social Media?] A puppy is a living, breathing animal; not a toy. Similarly, social media is a living, breathing two-way communications channel; not just a shiny plaything. If you just toy with it, it may bite back!

Time to stop fooling around with social media. 

7 Tips to Take Social Media Seriously

1. Embrace social media as the essential communications medium that it is today. Today it’s one of the principle ways folks find out about and interact with brands. Get yourself and your entire household (aka organization) excited about the prospect of truly bringing something new into your lives.

2. Clarify your different social channels, understanding that different people use different networks for different purposes. (see Guy Kawasaki’s top ten social media tips for nonprofits). Figure out the places that make the most sense for your constituents; then go there first. It’s a much better strategy then simply adopting the same puppy your neighbor owns.  If you’re not a poodle organization, get yourself a Labrador retriever or a Chihuahua. Spend a bit of time figuring out your personality and that of your constituents before you leap in. You wouldn’t go to the pet store blindfolded and just ask the clerk to give you any old dog.  Don’t do that with social media.  All channels are not created equal.

3. Get, and keep, everyone involved.  Don’t make social media the province of just one or two departments.  It’s not just for I.T. Or marketing. Or development. Involve program staff. Involve the C-Suite. Involve your volunteers. Everyone must be on board if you’re to become a truly connected, relevant social business for the 21st century.

4. Really play the game. Don’t just buy a board game and keep it in a box. Participate enthusiastically and strategically.  When folks comment, respond.  When folks retweet your posts or ‘like’ you, thank them.  Engage. Remember the ‘social’ in social media.  Make a relationship. [See 6 Ways Your Nonprofit Wins the Game of Social Media].Make a best friend. 

5. Take the village to heart.  Remember the adage “it takes a village?” Trust in the power of crowdsourcing. You absolutely have to share.  Make every piece of content shareable.  Think about linking from one piece of content to another; from one channel to the next.  Don’t think about anything in isolation. [I’m reminded of being in college. My roommates and I used to keep the NYT crossword puzzle on the kitchen table all day; as we came in and out of classes, we’d each add a little bit. When we’d come back later in the day, there’d be something new added that helped us figure out something that had previously eluded us.  By the end of the day, working together, we’d have the puzzle figured out].

6. Test things. It’s a version of trial and error. If you throw a ball and your dog doesn’t chase it, then try a new game.  Do the same with social media.  Don’t just give up and decide your dog/constituent doesn’t like to play. Find what motivates your particular audience. You may learn that posting a video raises more money than a photo, or vice-versa. You may find that a 7 word subject line does better than a 3 word subject line, or vice-versa.  What works for everyone else may not work for you.  Pay attention; then tweak your system.

7. Track and report on what you’re doing. This will keep you focused on your ROI and also keep everyone in the organization involved and informed.  How’s your social media impacting your fundraising, volunteering, advocacy, public relations? Is this what you wanted to happen?  If not, how can you refocus?

When you bring a puppy into your life it makes demands on you.  Be prepared.  Also embrace how much meaning and joy social media can bring to you and your village.  After all, you’re all in this together.

Philanthropy is fundamentally social. I encourage you to check out the SPECIAL GUIDE:  7 CLAIRIFICATION KEYS TO UNLOCK YOUR NONPROFIT’S FUNDRAISING POTENTIAL. It includes easy-to-follow worksheets and exercises to prepare you to become an effective social media adopter and philanthropy facilitator in the 21st century.

Photos via Flickr: BuzzFarmers; Jacob and Kiki Hantla

Purely Practical SMIT: 4 Keys to Never Lose the Why

Never lose the why, by Gaping Void

By Hugh MacLeod

Philanthropy; Not Fundraising

This month’s SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you) is to never lose sight of the “Why.”  And total props to Hugh MacLeod (whose brilliant cartoon is shared here) for the reminder. It’s a simple concept; not so simple to comply.Continue Reading

Where you’re Going Wrong with Donor Retention – Purely Practical SMIT for February

Messy bedroom needs spring cleaning

Is your donor retention a mess?

Here comes this month’s *SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you): the odds are good that you’re searching for love in all the wrong places.

Do a little spring cleaning and get rid of your apathetic donors.  I don’t mean you should toss them out the window. I mean you should do something to overcome their apathy. It’s not their fault.  Chances are it’s yours. I know that may sound harsh.  But, gosh darn it, we betray our donors all the time. Instead, we should go to them and give them some love. It’s really not that hard to retain your donors; you simply must have a strategy.

Most of us don’t even see the mess we’re making.  Just like that pile of papers that’s sitting over in the corner waiting to be tended to, our eyes glaze over. We’re apt to virtually ignore the broad base of donors in the middle, as well as our donors who lapse.  We send them one or two perfunctory renewal appeals; then we’re done.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s because announcing a big upgrade and securing a new donor just seems a lot sexier than renewing folks.  But sustainable fundraising is not about sexy.Continue Reading

Purely Practical SMIT for November/December: 6 Fundamental truths about fundraising and nonprofit marketing

Here comes this month’s *SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you):  The foundation of all fundraising and nonprofit marketing is relationships. Thanks to Katya Andreson for great inspiration in

. I told her I was going to post these fundamentals above my computer – and so should you!

Basic: donors deserve a warm hug
I LOVE this post!  I agree with every one of these six fundamentals, and they are great reminders for us all. Distilled to their essence, they are:
1.  Happiness.
2.  Audience.
3.  Heartfelt.
4.  Stories, stories, stories.
5.  Messengers.
6.  Generosity.
Let’s take a closer look.

 HAPPINESS:  We’re in the happiness business. Giving makes people feel joy – the act of contributing to charity activates the pleasure centers of people’s brains. Remember: we’re not in the business of taking away money, we’re in the business of giving joy.  What a great job we have.
Katya is correct!  There’s been a lot of research into the psychology of giving and it all boils down to this:  we’re wired to be empathic. Our donors want to love others; similarly, they want to feel good about their gift of love. Psychologist John Marshall Roberts, speaking at Tedx New Zealand, goes so far as to say: Empathy is perhaps the foremost survival skill of the current age.We can nurture donors’ empathic instincts and give them this gift of love – which is at the heart of philanthropy.
AUDIENCE:  It’s not about us, it’s about our audience. This insight may be marketing 101, but it’s also gold.
Gold it is! Truly, the gold standard is the old “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me?). Take a look at your last fundraising appeal… your e-newsletter… your annual report.  How many times do you use the words “I” and “we” and “our” instead of “you” and “your”?  Would it be clear to the reader what’s in it for them?  Or does it just seem like they’ll be helping you to reach a fundraising goal or balance your budget? Donor-centered fundraising is not about money or product features. You aren’t selling soap or anything else that’s tangible.  So you’ve got to offer an inspiringemotional/psychological kick-back.
HEARTFELT:  Feeling first, facts later.  There are no exceptions to the rule that we must awaken the heart to arouse the mind.
People give from the heart! When we’re in the emotional/psychological kick-back space it’s all about tugging at heartstrings.  And this isn’t manipulative; it’s about giving people what they want. It’s when we try to persuade people about something they don’twant that we enter manipulation territory (you know, trying to scare someone into buying tickets to the fireman’s ball because they fear their house may otherwise burn down).
STORIES, STORIES, STORIES:  Nothing beats a good story about one person.
No exceptions! We’re all story people. In 1980, Richard Nisbett and two fellow psychologists conducted a study  to see if a single, vivid story (i.e., a very small sample) would more powerfully affect test subjects than authoritative data on the same topic. As Paul Slovic and his colleagues would find two decades later, in a famous experiment about “the identifiable victim effect,” narrative beat the numbers every time. In that study, those who received a fact-based appeal from Save the Children donated $1.14. Those who read a story about an individual child in need donated an average of $2.38, more than twice as much.
MESSENGERS: We can have a stellar message, but if you have the wrong messenger, it won’t matter.  We’re in an era where faith in traditional spokespeople and marketers is at a historic low, and so people are turning to trusted friends, family, independent authorities and peers for their recommendations.  That means we’re best off with messengers other than ourselves. 
Use your influencers!  Too often we wait until the last minute to decide who’ll sign our fundraising appeal or from whom our e-appeal will come.  These things should not be afterthoughts.  New research shows just how much the messenger matters.  Peer-to-peer fundraising works because the askers are not paid to ask. Letters from clients are more influential than letters from you. I know you know these things. Act on your knowledge.
GENEROSITY: Generosity inspires generosity…  It’s not what I need, it’s what I provide. I’m in the business of giving, not extracting… I’ll care about relationships, not transactions.
Give at the office! All of us, and that means your donor, yearn for that one moment when we’re bigger and better than ourselves. Where we soar.  Where we step outside our daily, mundane lives and exceed our wildest expectations.   Our job as fundraisers and nonprofit professionals is to help our donors see the way to greatness. We have to be partners with our donors. It may sound nutty to some, but our responsibility as development professionals is to care about our donors and be generous with them. We’ve got to put them first. That’s the only way to build genuine relationships.  We can’t be detached. If it’s just a job to you, maybe you’re in the wrong place.
What is the most fundamental of all these truths? Were you to add one additional fundamental about fundraising and nonprofit marketing, what would it be?

Purely Practical SMIT for October and Halloween: The Scary Alternative to Fundraising

Here comes this month’s *SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you).   The alternative to fundraising is a lot scarier than fundraising.
There are a lot of scary problems in the world.  Cancer… global warming… natural disasters… homelessness… domestic violence… human trafficking… malaria… undrinkable water… injustice… poverty…
Is fundraising scarier than doing what needs to be done to solve these problems?
In Judaism there is a special commandment called tikkun olam.  It means to “repair the world.”  We don’t raise money simply for the love of money.  We do so to restore balance to a world that constantly gets out of whack.  If we don’t do it, who will?
When people won’t fundraise because they’re scared, remind them. Then do these practical things to set them up for success:

·      Find ways to connect them to their passion. Talk to them about why they’re involved. Is this story personal? Have they been touched by your issue? Or do you need to set them up for some site visits so they can connect more personally to your work? Passion is what will help folks overcome their fears.  Coincidentally, it’s what will separate you from the crowd and inspire others to join you.
·      Arm them (don’t overwhelm them) with good information.  Collect your message points. Why should folks support you over any other organization that does this type of work? Give your volunteers 3-5 talking points and FAQs. Give them brief case statements about your core programs.  Give them succinctfact sheets.  Give them a few stories of people helped.
·      Provide an inspiring ‘training’ session that ignites their passion for philanthropy.  Don’t make it all about money and sales. But do give them practice talking about their passion and telling the story of your organization’s impact on the community.
·      Carefully make solicitor assignments so that you create ‘wins’. Don’t assign cold calls.  Don’t give folks too many calls at too low a dollar level.  Plan ahead so that you make the best use of your volunteers’ valuable contacts and limited availability.  It’s better to focus board members on fewer calls at much higher dollar levels.  I believe in asking board members to make only 2-3 calls at any one time.
·      Provide thoughtfully prepared ‘donor profiles that give folks all the information they’ll need to make a successful connection with their assignment.  This means letting the solicitor know how much was given, when it was given, why it was given and how long the person assigned has been connected with your organization. And it means suggesting an appropriate ask amount.  It does not mean giving them access to every single note that’s ever been written in this donor’s record in your database.  Don’t rely on database queries.  Take the time to look at your print-outs and annotate them.  Redact any information that really is none of the solicitor’s business. Speaking of scary… it’s just plain creepy when a solicitor comes off like ‘Big Brother.’
·      Make sure your volunteer has made their own passionate gift first. What a board member says is not as important as what they do. They must lead by example. (And, by the way, so should you!)
·      Support your volunteers in building ongoing relationships with your supporters.  Remind them their work is not about the ‘ask’ alone.  They can also serve as ‘ambassadors’ and ‘advocates.’ A “AAA Board” is one that’s set up for success because we help them assume the role for which they’re prepared today; then we help them take baby steps towards the roles they will assume tomorrow.  When we make appropriate assignments, fundraising becomes a lot less scary.  You’ve got to learn to swim in the shallow water before you’re ready to jump off a diving board.

What would happen if your organization ceased to exist?  Scary, no?  The alternative to fundraising is not fundraising.  What happens to all the people who rely on you then?  What happens to the cure for disease that won’t be found?  What happens to our planet when people don’t channel their empathy and care for one another?  Now that’s scary!
What’s your SMIT when it comes to taking the fear out of fundraising?

What makes philanthropy work? Starting.

image of shooting star
Here comes this month’s *SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you).   The only reliable way to make wishes come true is through action. Caring… wishing… hoping… praying… that’s not enough.

“Voluntary action for the public good” is the way philanthropy has been beautifully defined by Robert Payton, Professor of Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University. I’ve always loved the definition, because every single word has impact.  It’s not coerced; it’s voluntary. It’s not directed at private benefit; it’s for the public good.  And, most important, it’s implicitly about taking action – the giving of resources – to make something happen.
How many times do we wish really hard for something to happen, waiting for an opportunity to fall into our laps?  Today I came across Seth Godin’s blog post on this subject: The wishing/doing gap. It really resonated. He talks about what occurs when we rely on a wish to get us where we want to go.

We don’t act; we just think about opportunity knocking. We rationalize that if it happens, we’ll jump at it. We’ll know it was ‘meant to be.’  The perfect job…perfect mate… ideal time to take a vacation… to spend more time with an old friend… to make a new friend… to spend time with our kids… to take up a new hobby…to learn a new skill… … to volunteer… to support a candidate we believe in… to do those things on our bucket list.  Yet we never really get around to any of these things.  Our best intentions remain just that.  Undergirded by nothing more than magical thinking.
Magic.  It’s romantic.  We long for it.  But most real magic happens when people make it happen.  As Seth suggests, if you can make the magic happen, do so.  If you can’t, stop considering it because it will only distract you.  If you hate your job, don’t imagine it will magically change.  Do something to make it change.  If you love your kids, don’t imagine you’ll magically have more time to spend with them. Do something to spend more time with them now. Life is short.  We can’t waste the limited time we have wishing.
If you will have ‘anything your heart desires come to you,’ then wishing upon a star won’t make it happen. If there are wrongs in the world you’d like to see righted, wishing won’t do the trick. You make it happen.
Philanthropy is summed up for me by these two quotes:
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” –Anne Frank
“You are not required to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” – Pirke Avot, The Talmud
If we wait for it to happen, it probably won’t.  If we wait for the optimum time to arrive, it probably won’t.  If we think we have to finish, we probably won’t start.
 What’s your SMIT when it comes to taking the first step towards action?

Watch for my free webinar, in collaboration with the folks at, a service of Good Done Great, taking place Wednesday, October 3, 2012, at noon PST: How to Overcome Your Board’s Fear of Fundraising, Once and for All.

Long Weekend SMIT: Stop Hunkering Behind Your Desk

Here comes this month’s *SMIT (Single Most Important Thing I have to tell you).   The next time you have the urge to utter “I don’t have time for this,” stifle it. Usually the things we think we don’t have time for are precisely the things we should most be doing. Like taking some time off.  Getting up and out from behind our desks. Turning our gaze onto something besides an electronic screen. 
Trust me. Time is short. You don’t have time not to do this.
Chances are you spend too much time sitting at your computer. It’s making you stupid.  Seriously. It’s also shaving years off your life. Seriously. This is not just about resolving to exercise more.  It’s bigger than that.

An emerging field of inactivity studies reveals that some of us just naturally move more than others.  And this extra movement makes a huge difference. I’ll leave you to read the research in the two linked articles above for yourself (or check out Stop Your Business From Ruining Your Health ), but here’s what one of the lead researchers in the field, Dr. James Levine, has to say: Excessive sitting is a lethal activity.
The good news is we can tinker with our system just a tad to alter our natural patterns. Yes, here’s where we get out from behind our desks! Not only may it improve your memory, help you to think more clearly and give you a longer life, it will also improve your work productivity and performance. Who doesn’t have time for this?
It turns out the old management by wandering around  philosophy has multiple benefits. When you wander in an unstructured manner just to talk with others in your organization you create energizing opportunities for personal, face-to-face engagement.  In Managers – Get Out From Behind Your Desk! we learn there’s a lot to be said for just being present. And what can be said for being effective as a manager and leader could also be said about being successful as a parent, spouse, partner or friend:
            The most effective…get to know their people…their frustrations, concerns, questions, beliefs, problems, dreams, goals, strengths and weaknesses…negative things are happening… right now, and the sooner you identify them, the sooner you can reduce, eliminate or neutralize them. If you just act as if everything is just fine, prepare for the consequences.
Take some time to get up and out. You’ll feel better.  Others will feel better. Ultimately, you’ll find the time was well spent as it will open up time you were losing by just hunkering down.  Hunkering is a defensive posture; standing up gives us a lot more control.
How do you recharge? It’s worth giving this some thought.
Not just on holidays, but as a regular, incorporated part of your lifestyle? Not just at home; also at work. A daily battery boost.
Have a great long weekend!