How Giving USA 2024 Impacts Your Board's Role | GPG

Giving USA is chock-full of the latest data that reports on how philanthropy fared in 2023. (Here’s a spoiler – despite the impact of inflation, Americans NEVER stop being generous!)

We’ve written about the top takeaways and answered your questions.

Here’s the key information that your board members and stakeholders need to know.

We’ve pitched in with a helpful acronym to guide your board update: GIVE.  The top takeaways from Giving USA 2024 can be summed up in four words:

  • Giving 
  • Influence
  • Values
  • Economy

1. Giving: More People are Making Gifts of Stock, and from DAF’s and IRAs

People, and especially larger donors, are giving in different ways today. You could say that the shape that generosity takes is changing.

    Board members should know that individuals have always been the major source of charitable contributions – far more than any other source.

    However, many of the traditional giving channels have changed in recent years:

    • Foundations and donor-advised funds are becoming more significant sources of donations.
    • Foundations are giving more, with over $100 billion in gifts for the second year in a row.
    • Charitable bequests and giving via stock are becoming increasingly significant as Baby Boomers enter their peak giving years.

    What To Know

    Board members will be interested to know that gifts of appreciated stock from private foundations and Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) are trending up. They are growing rapidly these days as popular giving vehicles. 

    Their takeaway would be to help identify donors who may have assets to give, or who may have set up a personal Donor Advised Fund. 

    At a minimum, ensure your board members understand and can talk about these types of gifts. And remind them that your organization is ready and willing to work with donors who give from these sources. 

    ? Learn Even More: 10 Fundraising Responsibilities of Every Board Member

    2. Inspire: People Are Giving When They are Inspired

    People are continuing to give when they are inspired. It’s an emotional thing. People give when they “feel” strongly about something.

    Your board members can also have a huge influence on other donors – simply by sharing their own personal reasons for supporting your organization. 

    The research shows that peer-to-peer relationships and conversations among friends really do help inspire giving.

    What To Know: 

    Ensure that board members know how to handle a conversation with a donor or potential donor:

    • Help them develop their own elevator speech to share their own enthusiasm for your organization’s work. 
    • Equip your board members with thoughtful questions to ask others about their giving.
    • Encourage board members to share their own stories of giving, either in a one-on-one setting with a key prospect, at an event, or in promotional materials. 

    Board members may feel awkward when sharing their excitement about their favorite organizations. That’s not uncommon. 

    So, helping your leaders practice their messaging is a huge plus. 

    ? Learn Even More: Give Board Members Something to Say – Help Them Become Personal Advocates for your Cause

    3. Values: People Are Giving Based on Personal Values and Beliefs

    Above all, donors are going to give where they feel a connection with their personal values. Where they have a personal history. 

    As we mentioned earlier, giving is an emotional act. 

    Where are they giving? What types of organizations are receiving more or less gifts?

    • Giving USA found that giving to many traditional nonprofits, such as houses of worship, is declining.
    • And education continues to see solid charitable support, largely thanks to major donors.
    • Giving to health and medical causes continues to be somewhat stable.

    What To Know

    If your board members know how to ask the right questions, they can help open the hearts of your donors. All they have to do is ask donors “why do you support our organization?” 

    And, just watch out! They may open the floodgates to a donor’s personal values. And that includes the donor’s history, their deepest held beliefs and their true passions. That’s powerful stuff! 

    ? Learn Even More: What is Your Donor’s Emotional Connection?

    4. The Economy: Charitable Giving Follows the Economy

    Remember the saying, “It’s the economy, stupid?” Actually, the economy has a huge impact on giving.

    The most important factoid is this: 

    Charitable giving tends to follow the strength of the US stock market. However, it’s a lagging indicator, following behind the stock market by about a year. 

    • For 40 years, individual giving as a percentage of personal disposable income has consistently averaged 2%.
    • Total giving reliably equals around 2% of GDP.

    So, with the US stock market at record highs, we can expect a very positive economic environment that will encourage giving.

    What To Know

    • It’s helpful to understand that the economy totally impacts the results of Giving USA data.
    • However, philanthropy always perseveres through economic ups and downs. 
    ? Learn Even More: What Mega Donors are Saying about Giving in Today’s Economy

    BOTTOM LINE Board members can help – more they understand about fundraising – the better!


    We recently shared our top insights on the Giving USA 2024 report with a wonderful group of nonprofit leaders. 

    They also asked some very interesting questions about fundraising trends and how their fundraising programs might be impacted. 

    Here are the main Giving USA 2024 FAQs we received – along with answers, of course!

    If you’d like a copy of the webinar recording, just send us an email.

    As a refresher, 2023 was a phenomenal year for charitable giving. Total charitable donations hit a whopping $557.16 billion! 

    It’s an important reminder of the consistency of American generosity, even with inflation running at 4.1% and tempering the overall results.

    Who is Giving and What Are They Giving To? 

    Giving USA insights cover WHO is doing the giving –  individuals, foundations, bequests, and corporate giving.

    It also covers WHAT people are giving to. 

    We track giving in nine major nonprofit subsectors: Religion; Human Services; Education; Foundations; Public-Society Benefit; Health; International Affairs; Arts, Culture, and Humanities; and Environment and Animals.

    You can find our comprehensive review of the Giving USA results here

    Smart Questions from our Webinar Attendees: 

    Everyone’s SMART questions ran the gamut! And we know they were all asking, “What does Giving USA 2024 mean for my nonprofit?” 

    So let’s get started:

    We’ll shout this from the rooftops: Individuals are the leading source of charitable giving!

    Individual giving went up significantly during the pandemic. However, gifts have since come down from those high levels, since pandemic-related gifts in 2021 were unusually strong.

    This decline should not be a major cause for concern in the least, as giving is still above pre-pandemic levels, even when adjusted for inflation. 

    While donors are still incredibly generous, the way individual donors are giving is changing. Many more individuals are choosing to give through their private foundations and DAFs, so it’s important for you to:

    • Understand these giving vehicles 
    • Identify the distinct donors who give this way
    • Mention these giving channels in your comms
    • Flag DAF donors as major gift prospects! 

    Question: Are more gifts being made from IRAs?

    Yes, it’s time to learn more about IRA required distributions. Why? Because this is a fact of life for many donors who are in their prime giving years. 

    Our most populous generation – The Baby Boomers – are reaching the age where they must begin taking “required minimum distributions” (RMDs) from their retirement accounts, including:

    • IRAs 
    • 401(k), 403(b), and 457(b) plans

    Many older Americans choose to donate that money to charities so they can receive the associated tax benefits.

    Your takeaway: be prepared to ask for, foster, and steward these types of gifts. They offer great potential!

    • Remind donors about “giving from your IRA” or “making gifts of stock.” 
    • Add real-life testimonials to your donor communications.
    • Remind donors to consult with their financial advisors about these gifts.

    You don’t have to know everything about tax laws and their implications. You just have to know enough to point your donors in the right direction – and then back to your organization to make their gift designation!

    Question: How should we best handle DAF gifts to honor the donor?

    Remember, even though the gift comes from another source – the DAF – it’s the donor’s original contribution that made it all possible.

    We often hear about the “unknown” DAF donor, and yes, it can be a challenge. 

    The reality is that less than 5% of DAF donors give anonymously.

    Some ways to identify DAF donors are:

    • Survey your donors to learn their preferred vehicle for giving.
    • Consider asking donors directly whether they use a DAF..
    • Work with your Board and other key stakeholders to identify prospects they may know who use a DAF.

    On your website: 

    • Create a “ways to give” page that includes specific information on DAFs. 
    • Consider other targeted communications that highlight DAFs as a way to give. 

    For more help uncovering the identity of the donor, you can even reach out to the DAF provider itself. We strongly recommend this approach! 

    Many offer helpful guidance, like this from Fidelity, to guide your efforts. The legwork will be worth it.

    You can also ask donors how they came to create their DAF. Then, you might find out more about their philanthropic motivations and goals – discovering how and why they give.

    Question: Why has giving to the religion sector taken such a hit in recent years?

    While giving to religion still represents the largest share of support in Giving USA – and has for the last 40+ years – that share is indeed getting smaller each year.

    This is for two reasons: 

    • Studies show that people, especially younger generations, are becoming less involved with and supportive of organized religion. 

    Trends indicate organized faith is declining in popularity and houses of worship are seeing declining attendance.

    • Other sectors continue to take a greater market share of philanthropic dollars. 

    Why? There seems to be an increased awareness of a greater diversity of causes. And many other organizations are using increasingly sophisticated fundraising strategies. 

    It’s important to note that while giving to organized religion is declining, people are still giving to faith-based causes

    This could be, for example, a homeless shelter run by a local church, a relief service run by a Jewish Community Center, or refugee resettlement services aided by your local mosque.  

    This is a reminder that your donor’s values may still align with many faith-based causes. 

    Some analysis suggests donors want more stewardship from religious organizations on how their gifts are making an impact. 

    Your takeaway: If you are in a faith-based organization – be sure to use top notch stewardship and donor communications strategies to keep your donors close. 

    Question: What tips do you have for managing donor nervousness about the next presidential administration?

    While the latest Giving USA report focuses on 2023: there is a very big 2024 event on our audiences’ minds: the upcoming election and all that comes with it! 

    Here are our tips to help you navigate a potentially stormy season: 

    Accentuate the Positive! 

    • Focus communications on the positive impact and problem-solving work your organization is doing, rather than political issues or conflicts. 
    • Emphasize how your lovely donors are making such a difference.

    Keep Your Donors Close! 

    • Remind donors that you provide a “bright light” and distraction from any negativity in the media through your mission and impact. 
    • Keep donors feeling closely connected through personalized outreach, expressing how much their support is appreciated. 
    • Send more thank you gifts or notes.

    Build Confidence! 

    • Structure appeals and stories to keep donors feeling their philanthropy is in good hands
    • Even more, their gifts are making a tangible difference, regardless of outside events or distractions.

    Do you have more pressing questions about Giving USA or the ways that giving statistics have an effect on your donors? 

    We’d be happy to chat! Just connect with us via email, and as always, thank YOU for being a bright light in our field.

    use AI to write killer thank you letters

    AI to the Rescue: Streamlining Thank You’s for More Donor Love

    As fundraisers, we understand the power of a well-crafted thank-you note. It’s far more than a formality – a heartfelt acknowledgment cements the donor’s positive experience, strengthens relationships, and paves the way for continued generosity.

    But let’s face it, finding time to personalize thank you can be a massive challenge, especially for short-staffed development offices. 

    That’s where AI comes in, offering a helping hand to make our jobs easier and donor experiences even better.

    Use AI to Write Thank You Letters

    The Gail Perry Group has an excellent guide on writing thank-you letters that rock:  How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter.

    Our template includes a solid list of do’s and don’ts that will help your acknowledgement notes shine.

    In addition, we’ve created a free AI prompt that incorporates the best practices outlined in our Killer Thank You Letter Template. 

    Here’s how to use this thank you letter template: 

    Take the bolded text below, and add your customized donor information in the brackets. 

    Then, drop the text into your favorite FREE generative AI tool such as ChatGPT or Google’s Gemini. Hit return/update and watch the magic happen.

    As an experienced nonprofit fundraising expert, write a short thank you letter to [donor’s name] which will begin with an innovative or creative sentence that charms the donor and conveys gratitude using a tone that is warm, positive and upbeat. Include how the gift will be used [xxx], the name of your organization [xxx] and sign it by a high-ranking person [name/role] including their phone number [xxx]?


    • Use the first person: “I” and “we.”
    • Use the second person: “you,” “you” and “you” again. 
    • Say things like “I can’t begin to thank you enough for…” We are absolutely thrilled to have your support again this year.” or “Because of your gift, a family will . . .”
    • Use contractions such as “We’ll” rather than “We will.”
    • Use exclamation marks if appropriate, but don’t use too many of them.
    • Show some emotion.
    • Talk about the impact of the gift: what is the donor achieving by giving? 
    • Be concise. Don’t be formal or lofty.
    • Don’t start out with “on behalf of.”
    • Don’t use thank you letter jargon such as “we are deeply grateful for your continued support.”
    • Don’t start out with “Dear Friend”
    • Don’t ask anything else from your donor.

    Here is what Google’s Gemini generated for Fred Flintstone, the executive director of a SPCA kennel near you.

    Dear Barney Rubble,

    I’m not sure if you’ve heard the barking and excited tail wags lately, but the word is definitely out at our SPCA! Thanks to your incredible generosity, we’re expanding our kennels.

    We are absolutely thrilled to have your support again this year. Because of your gift, more furry friends will find safe, loving shelter while they await their forever families. It’s a beautiful thing, and you made it happen.

    I can’t begin to thank you enough for your kindness. Your compassion is making a real difference in the lives of animals and the families who love them.

    With warmest gratitude,

    Fred Flintstone
    Executive Director

    You have to admit that this is a lovely note. It’s one that will bring a smile to your donor’s face. It might even get posted on their refrigerator door! 

    Use this template and let us know how it works for you and your team!  We’ve experimented with this template and keep getting happy, positive, charming letters out of it. 

    Disclaimer: Certainly you’ll need to edit these letters so that they accurately reflect your organization’s work and mission. And, you can tinker with this template as well. But do keep the charm and gratitude as a central focus of the letter.

    Is the AI Version too Emotional?

    One person on our team suggested that the AI thank you letter turned out to be too emotional. Do you?

    On our part, I think we can use more emotion in fundraising overall.  Especially when you consider giving as an emotional act by the donor – they are donating because they really care about something (your mission!).

    So, if donating springs from an emotional feeling in the donor’s heart, then we can certainly respond with graciousness and a tad of emotion ourselves.

    AI Will Never Replace Those Face-to-Face Moments

    It’s important to remember that Artificial Intelligence is a tool, not a magic wand. 

    While it can generate well-written drafts, you’ll always want to review and add your personal touch. 

    And for those truly special relationships and significant gifts, nothing beats a series of thank yous, in person, via email and by snail mail. 

    Remember the old motto: Find Seven Ways To Thank Your Donor and They Will Give Again! 


    By ethically using AI, we can free up time and energy to focus on what matters most – those personal conversations and building lasting connections with our donors. 

    It’s a win for them, a win for your mission, and a win for the well-being of your professional fundraisers.

    Remember to bookmark this article.

    As always, sharing our weekly news and insights with you is a pleasure. 

    If your organization is planning a capital campaign – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

    #AIforGood #AIWriting #TimeSaving #NonprofitMarketing #DonorLove


    How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter
    How a Capital Campaign Planning Committee Develops Lead Donor Relationships
    Thanking Donors – How to Show Your Donors Love


    How to Write Thank Yous to Donors (That Work!) | GPG

    Here’s an important question: Did your last thank you note to a donor make your donor feel:

    JOYFUL to know their recent gift made a difference?

    ASSURED the gift they made was a wise investment?

    PROUD to be supporting such a worthwhile organization?

    Remember, a thank you note isn’t just a show of manners. It’s your first step toward retaining this donor for the long run.

    That’s why feelings are important.

    How would you rate your organization’s thank you letters to donors?

    Are they warm and gracious? Or do they sound grand and lofty, like someone giving a speech?

    We expect your thank you’s can use some brushing up. Invariably, as fundraising consultants, we find that our clients are struggling with lame, tired sounding thank you notes. And they always ask us for help to create a killer thank you letter.

    Why are thank you letters so important?

    Because this note is your first communication to donors after they give, that’s why. It has the potential to give them confidence, build trust and make them happy that they gave to your cause.

    Your letter serves many purposes. It can:

    • Assure your nervous donor that they made a wise investment.
    • Make your donor feel like they did the right thing.
    • Help her feel joyful that they made the gift.

    But remember – warm, wonderful thank you letters are essential: It’s the first step in determining whether your donor stays loyal and renews their gift, or if they drop off and never give again.

    Today, here’s our checklist of 14 steps to a warm, wonderful, killer thank you letter – one that makes your donor feel confident that they made a wise choice. 

    1. Make your letter prompt.

    A prompt thank you note impresses your donor. They know you made them a priority. 

    It also indicates that your organization is well organized and well run. In this day of nervous donors, that gives you a significant leg up the next time you make a request.

    2. Make your letter feel personal.

    I like Penelope Burk’s suggestions from her landmark book, Donor Centered Fundraising. She lists 20 attributes of a great thank you letter that make it feel special and personal.

    So what does personal look like? This makes the letter feel like it came from a real person.

    • Use the first person: “I” and “we.”
    • Use the second person: “you,” “you” and “you” again. Count how many times you use the word “you.”
    • A warm tone toward the donor (vs. a lofty formal, distant tone.)
    • Casual writing – use contractions such as “We’ll” rather than “We will.”
    • Use an exclamation mark if appropriate.

    3. Start out in a personal way.

    Start with the salutation.

    Say: Dear Ms. Smith. Not: Dear Friend.

    Then try to think of a memorable or an unusual opening line. Never begin your letter with, “On behalf of…” You don’t want to lose the reader from the beginning.

    4. Use a warm tone.

    Does your letter really sound sincere? Or is it full of “nonprofit-speak” with formal words and phrases?

    Show yourself as a real person, and try to connect with the donor instead of staying so distant.

    5. Be emotional.

    Don’t bury it.  Giving is an emotional act by the donor. So it’s fine to wear your heart on your sleeve.

    Try to convey excitement about what can happen with the donor’s gift.

    Say things like:

    • “ I can’t begin to thank you enough for . . .”
    • “We are absolutely thrilled to have your support again this year.”
    • “Because of your gift, a family will . . .”
    • “You were wonderful to renew your support . . .”

    6. Thank smaller gifts warmly.

    Smaller gifts should also get warm, prompt, personal thank you’s.

    Remember, there are plenty of major gift prospects in your donor files who are giving you smaller gifts.

    Treat these donors well by sending them killer thank you letters that build confidence and trust.  Then they may reward you with repeat and larger gifts.

    7. Refer to the donor’s past support if you possibly can.

    Is your donor a sustaining donor making monthly gifts? 

    If possible, acknowledge the long term partnership your donor has with your organization.

    In fact, celebrate it!

    A donor will find it strange and off-putting if they have been giving to you for years and years and you don’t acknowledge it.

    8. Sign the letter personally and write a note at the bottom.

    You spent all that time writing notes on your appeal letters. By all means, also write a note on the thank you letter.

    Remember, the PS is the most-read part of your killer thank you letter. Make it count.

    9. Send more than one thank you letter.

    The old fundraising motto is: “Find seven ways to thank your donor, and they’ll give again.”

    For example, you can always ask different staffers to send an additional note.

    This small step could help your organization stand out among a sea of other organizations.

    10. Send an additional thank you letter from a board member.

    I know organizations that bring stationery to the board meetings and have board members hand-write letters.

    We highly recommend this strategy, because it helps connect trustees to the fundraising process.

    11. Have a high-ranking person personally sign the letter.

    The letter should be signed by the highest ranking person you can find – the chair of the board or a board member. It should not be signed by the wonderful, but lowly, development coordinator.

    You could also have the artistic director or a performer sign the letter. Or a teacher if you are a school. Or a field officer if you are an environmental organization.

    12. Send an additional thank you letter from a person helped by your organization.

    We can’t think of anything more powerful. Your donor is really giving to create an impact, so help them feel this directly.

    13. Reconfirm the purpose of the gift.

    If the gift is for the library, for example, say something about what the library plans to achieve with the gift.

    Most donors are worried that their gift will not be spent wisely.

    Acknowledging how the money will be spent is essential – it helps build trust.

    14. Include a contact name and number.

    Including contact info is good manners, and it makes the donor feel a person connection to your organization.

    For example, it would be the head of the library if that’s where the donor directed her gift.

    Bottom Line: How to Craft a Killer Thank You Letter

    Remember: your overall goal is to keep your donor giving and giving over many years. Your thank you letter is an essential first step in building a long and happy relationship of generous support from your donor.

    This is how you create a sustainable fundraising program – developing consistent and repeated gifts from loyal donors who are passionate about your work.

    Do’s and Don’ts

    Thank you letter DO’s

    • Be really, really prompt.
    • Get the donor’s name right.
    • Have a high-ranking person personally sign the letter.
    • Show some emotion.
    • Convey gratitude.
    • Refer to how the gift will be used.
    • Send several thank you notes from different people.
    • Include additional thank you letters from board members.
    • Send a thank you letter from someone helped by your organization.
    • Sign it with a real signature.
    • Be positive and upbeat.
    • Include a contact name and number if the donor has questions.
    • Handwrite it if you know the donor well.
    • Begin with an innovative or creative sentence that charms the donor.

    Thank You Letter DON’TS

    • Start out with “on behalf of.”
    • Ask for another gift.
    • Use thank you letter jargon: “we are deeply grateful for your continued support.”
    • Start out with Dear Friend.
    • Ask anything else from your donor right now.
    • Misspell their name.
    • Have errors in grammar, punctuation or misspellings.
    • Go on and on. Ditch the verbosity. Do be concise.
    • Keep selling.
    • Re-use copy that you used in the solicitation letter to talk about your programs.
    • Be formal. Or lofty.
    • Be vague about how the money will be used.
    • Sign it yourself if you can get a higher-ranking person to sign it.

    As always, sharing our weekly news and insights with you is a pleasure. 

    If your organization is planning a capital campaign – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

    Year-end is the most productive time of the year for fundraising. So let’s take advantage of the generosity this season and make sure you bring in the year-end gifts to meet your fundraising goal.

    Some fundraisers shy away from their donors in December. On the contrary, we think you need to be visible. It’s important to ask them if they’d like to consider a leadership annual gift.

    This one activity could make the largest difference in your year-end fundraising results.

    Here are two terrific reasons to invite your major donors to make an annual gift – at any time of the year.

    1. Participating in the annual campaign will create an even deeper connection with your organization.

    Recognizing them as leadership annual donors sets up these lovely people to be THE philanthropic leaders in your stakeholder community.

    Now you have more access to them: you are able to honor them as the true VIP’s that they are.  Even more, you can use the annual gift opportunity to engage them and bring them even closer to your organization.

    So the year-end annual gift is important. It becomes yet another step in their cultivation and engagement – leading to a much, much larger major or campaign gift.

    Their ongoing participation promotes “buy-in” on their part. Even though they might help with a campaign gift later, they can enjoy their relationship with you right now.

    Above all, you want to make their annual gift an “Occasion of Joy and Celebration” on BOTH your part and your donors.  You have the chance to make your donor feel joyful about their gift and their overall relationship with your cause.

    Don’t miss this special opportunity!

    2. These year-end gifts are super easy to close.

    Why are these the easy gifts? It’s because these donors are pre-sold. You won’t need to educate them, or spend a lot of time developing a close relationship, because it already exists.

    Above all, at year-end, focusing here is the most productive place for you to put your energy.  Especially if you evaluate the return on your investment of time.

    And if you consider the annual gifts that all your major donors might consider, it adds up.  We bet it could be a substantial part of your year-end fundraising goal.

    All fundraisers know that it is the higher dollar donors who make the most difference in our totals. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to zoom over your year-end goal with some easy, large gifts? :)

    It’s not too late to make it happen.

    Here’s our simple call to action:

    • Identify your top 10-15 major gift donors who have not yet made a gift this year – and connect with them.
    • Find out what is on their minds and invite them to support your organization this year with an annual gift.
    • Spending your time with these funding sources is clearly the absolute best place for you to be in late December. So connect with these wonderful donors who already believe in you and have supported you in the past.
    • Spend your time where the pockets are the deepest, if you want to raise the money you need.

    Bottom line on year-end gifts:

    If you don’t do anything else in your year-end campaign, you must do this. Visit with your major donors and invite them to invest in your cause.

    Looking for more support on equipping your team to close record-breaking major gifts? The 2024 Major Gift Intensive is open for enrollment – click here to learn more or book a discovery call.

    How to Write a Fundraising Appeal Letter That Brings in the Money

    110 Tips to Raise More Money from Your Solicitation Letter for Donations

    How to write an solicitation letter that will open our donors’ hearts and prompt them to make generous gifts?

    So many nonprofits struggle with this challenge. And unfortunately, many efforts to write appeal letters end up falling flat with donors.

    Why are solicitation letters so important?

    Fundraising solicitation letters are the backbone of your annual fundraising campaigns that your nonprofit absolutely relies on.

    Many annual giving programs include direct mail integrated with social media and digital appeals to create a true campaign. These tips focus mostly on the direct mail solicitation package, but they also apply directly to digital appeals as well.

    Your Annual Donors

    Your annual donors are very special people – they’re the foundation of a sustainable fundraising program. These donors produce a revenue stream that your organization can rely on year after year.

    Large gifts are coming in too. Believe it or not, we are seeing more and more four, five, and even six-figure gifts coming in thru regular direct mail and digital fundraising campaigns.

    Smaller donors are so important!

    Direct mail and digital campaigns typically focus on smaller gifts. These campaigns can also trigger monthly pledges and even (surprise!) estate gifts.

    Since these are some of the most important communications vehicles your organization will ever have, let’s nail your next appeal campaign.

    Caveat: These are basic tips that form the very basis of good solicitation campaigns. Try using this tip sheet as a checklist for your next appeal campaign.

    Raise all the money you need by following these very basic, best practice tips:

    THE BIG PICTURE – Top 10 Tips

    1. Use the same fundraising solicitation message and call to action in your mail solicitations, on your website, and in your email appeals –this reinforces your message over and over.
    2. Focus more on your donor and what they may want to accomplish. Focus less on your own organization’s accomplishments and needs.
    3. The appeal letter or message can have only one objective: a clear ask for support. It is not a newsletter, an end-of-year report, an update, or mixed in with other communications.
    4. Your top priority is always to renew your past donors. They are your customer base – your “money in the bank.” Don’t let them slip away. 
    5. Be sure to communicate with your donors frequently between solicitations so they are up to date-and feel connected to your organization. How well you stay in touch with your donors will determine whether they give again.
    6. Maintain control. Don’t let a committee approve or edit your letter. If you let well-meaning but unknowledgeable people help write your appeal, they will ruin it. Too many cooks really do spoil the stew.
    7. Update your website and make your donation page easy to use. Many donors who receive a snail mail letter will go to your website to make their gift. Be ready to welcome them there with an easy-to-follow online donation process.
    8. Create an entire campaign. Use phone, postcards, letters, emails, and social media to build a series of appeals. Don’t rely on only one letter to do the work for you.
    9. Create a budget and look at it as an investment. Know that, if well executed, your direct mail/digital program should yield a 400% return. That is, if you invest $20k in these communications to your donors, you should receive $80k back.
    10. Never, ever neglect your paper snail mail fundraising appeal letters. People are experiencing deluges of email and very little snail mail. That means that paper letters stand out far more than a digital appeal in a crowded mailbox. Paper letters get your donors’ attention.

    How to Write a Solicitation Letter: Draw Your Donors in at the Beginning

    1. Very important: use the word “you” immediately in the first sentence or two of your appeal.
    2. Your goal in the letter’s first part is to get your reader’s attention.
    3. Consider starting with a story to draw your readers in.
    4. Make your first two sentences so compelling that your donor will want to keep reading. (You can easily lose them in the very beginning.)
    5. Consider a short, sad story that transforms into a happy one. The sad emotion is what will pull on your donors’ heartstrings.
    1. Be sure to thank donors for their past support early in the letter. It reminds them of their partnership with you.
    2. Pretend you are writing to your grandmother. The most generous group of donors are the older ladies. A recent study found that for every $100 men gave, women gave $258.
    1. Don’t use a lot of photography and fancy layout in your letter or accompanying materials. Too much design makes it much less personal.
    2. If you use any pictures, be sure they are of people, not buildings. It’s what happens inside the buildings that counts.

    How to Write an Solicitation Letter: Make Your Tone Personal and Informal

    1. Always (of course) send out personalized letters. (Dear Mr. Smith, rather than Dear Friend). Make sure your letter is really addressed to the reader.
    2. Write to only one person and not a group of people. Emphasize your one-on-one connection with the reader. Don’t use “you” in the plural sense.
    3. Use contractions – it’s less formal. Formal does not work!
    4. Make your letter as personal and conversational in tone as you can. Make it sound like you sat down and wrote it to a friend. 
    5. Repeat the word “you” frequently: it’s the most important word in your letter.
    6. Use the word “I” in the letter to make it more personal and friendly. It does wonders in changing your tone from “institutional” to “personal.”
    7. Always make your appeal letter about the donor – not about your organization. Help your donors imagine what they can achieve with their gifts.

    Write a Fundraising Solicitation Letter and Create a Dynamite Case for Giving

    1. Talk about opportunities – it’s never about your needs. “We have the opportunity to . . .”
    2. Make your message emotional. Donors give out of emotion, then justify it with logic.
    1. Use stories in your copy but only one story. One story is more powerful than three stories. (~Tom Ahern)
    2. Make your story SHORT but powerful. It can even be a one-sentence story such as, “Monday morning, little Jenny woke up, hungry again.”
    3. Flatter your donor: Tom Ahern says that you should ask (and flatter your donor) and you thank (and flatter) and report (and flatter.) Neuromarketing studies say that flattery WILL make your donor love you more.
    4. Can you share measurable results of what you have achieved with other donors’ gifts? Give it a try. (~Penelope Burk)
    5. DON’T use the words “programs” or “services” any more than you have to. They are boring and too generic.
    6. Repeat the need and its urgency – several times in the letter. That’s your case for support!
    7. Use statistics to build credibility and make the cause more concrete.

    How to Write a Solicitation Letter That Your Donors Will Actually Read

    Assume your reader will . . .

    “pick up the four-page letter, look at their name in the salutation, flip over to the P.S., then shuffle the letter around in their hands, maybe start reading here, maybe start reading someplace else, jump around a bit, and then, after this ragged scanning, MAYBE start reading at the beginning.” (~Happy donors blog)

    1. Make your letter easy to skim and still deliver its message.
    2. Break up your fundraising letter copy in every way possible. Use headings. Use bullets. Vary the indentation. Use boldface type. Use ellipses . . .
    3. What will your reader really see? Artwork: 80%; photos: 75%; headlines: 56%; captions: 29%; and very little text! (~Tom Ahern)
    4. Have plenty of white space on the letter, which makes it easy to read. Wide margins will help.
    5. VERBS matter: Use snappy action verbs that convey action.
    6. Use the present tense. Never use the passive voice when you can use the active voice. (~George Orwell). I.e.: “People are being helped.”
    7. Use short, concise sentences and paragraphs. Vary the length of your sentences and paragraphs for interest.
    8. Write choppy, jumpy, repetitive copy. (see the reader’s profile above) (~Jeff Brooks)
    9. Very short paragraphs: No more than three sentences per paragraph.
    10. Very short sentences: No more than 6 to 8 words in each sentence.
    11. Write on the 5th-grade level for easy reading. (like these tips.)
    12. Use a type large enough to read easily. 12 point type is the minimum size for fundraising material. The average age of a donor in a “house file” is 67. The average age requiring reading glasses is 43 yrs old.
    13. Eliminate every possible word – including adjectives and descriptive phrases – in your copy. “If it is possible to cut a word out, cut it out.” (~George Orwell)
    14. Write your letter. Then remove the first paragraph and see if it isn’t stronger. You don’t need a long preamble. (~Tom Ahern)
    15. Longer letters with more pages are more successful than one-page letters. The letter needs to be as long as it takes. Don’t make it too short. (~Harvey McKinnon)

    How to Create a Killer Ask in Your Solicitation Letter or Email Appeal

    1. Make the ask an “invitation” to give.
    2. Tell your donor explicitly.
    • Why this organization? Why this program?  Why NOW?  Why me?

         If your letter doesn’t lay this out, go back to the drawing board.

    1. Your call to action is the most important part of your letter. Make it clear to donors what you want them to do. And repeat it!
    2. Give the donor something worth doing that is easy to do. “Restore sight for $25.” (~Tom Ahern)
    3. Use the MPI formula to ask: Please consider a gift of $ MONEY for a specific PROJECT that will create a specific IMPACT.
    4. Ask several times in the letter. It’s ok! Especially if it is a long letter – you can ask 4 or 5 times.
    5. Explicitly tell your donor exactly what THEY can accomplish with their gift. And tell them HOW you will spend the money – what project, what purpose. (~Penelope Burk)
    6. Make your ask as specific as possible. Donors will give more if they feel their gift is going to something specific. 
    7. Use a matching or challenge gift opportunity and tell your donors it will make their gifts go further. Play up the concept of “leveraging your donor’s gift.”
    8. Always ask for a specific amount or “the largest contribution you can make.”
    9. Place your ask in the first part of a paragraph. Don’t bury your ask at the end of a sentence or paragraph – it will get missed.
    10. Don’t ask for a “gift”. Ask instead for an investment, a contribution, for help, or to supply something special. (Mal Warwick) Also ask the donor to “become a supporter” – this plays on the concept of “donor identity.”
    11. Create a sense of urgency by asking for an immediate contribution or asking for help with an urgent or critical situation.
    12. Use please such as “Please send your gift today” or “Please consider a leadership contribution of xxx.”
    13. Give the donor a deadline for responding and a reason for the deadline.
    14. Give the donor the option not to give. Recent studies have found this increases donor response. Say:
    • Please don’t feel obligated…
    • Whether you give is entirely your choice…
    • Any amount you want to give will help…
    • You are free to say no — I will understand…

    Tips to Upgrade Your Annual Donors

    1. Focus on more frequent gift opportunities each year as a way to upgrade your donors to higher giving levels.
    2. Establish a monthly giving program. People who give monthly will give much, much more.
    3. Use gift clubs to encourage higher-level donations. Ask donors to move up to the next level.
    4. When you ask for an upgraded gift: talk about an increased or enhanced partnership with the donor.

    Tips to Raise More From your Top Donors

    1. Be sure to send your Top Donors special, custom-tailored personal letters and digital appeals.
    2. Have board and staff members write or visit top donors personally with an individualized appeal.
    3. Thank them in the opening sentence for their continuing and steadfast support. Emphasize their partnership with your cause.
    4. Be sure these donors get many warm, personal touches during the year!
    5. Come right out and ask these donors to make a “leadership gift.”

    Create a Full-Scale Campaign and Schedule your Mailings

    1. Set up a calendar of digital and mail communications and plan ahead. Echo the same theme and ask throughout all the communications.
    1. Segment your mailing list and mail personalized appeals to specially targeted groups. (i.e., past donors, volunteers, people who have attended your auction, corporate sponsors, board members, and past board members.)
    2. Mail to donors more often than nondonors. 
    3. Track your LYBUNTS (people who gave “Last Year but Unfortunately Not This”) and send them repeated, cheerful and enthusiastic appeals to be sure they renew. Once a donor has given for two straight years, they are likely to remain a donor for the long run. 
    1. Develop a series of appeals to SYBUNTS. (People who gave “Some Year But Unfortunately Not This Year”). “We’ve missed you!”
    2. The letters you send to your LYBUNTS and SYBUNTS should remind them of their past support and remind them how much they have helped create your success. (“We love you, we miss you, we want you back!”)

    Followup Makes A Huge Difference

    1. Send a follow-up letter a few weeks after your appeal: “We didn’t hear from you, and we hope you will remain a supporter.
    2. Studies show that follow-up letters are the most important factor in securing the donor’s gift. (Mal Warwick)
    3. Follow-up letters need to be short and play on urgency and emotions.
    4. Write your follow-up letter at the same time you write the first letter.
    5. Organize the board members to make phone calls to follow up appeals to donors.  You can’t lose by following up with a personal call.

    How to Welcome New Donors

    1. Your brand-new donors are the least likely group to renew next year. Only 23% of new donors will typically renew. (~Bloomerang data). Go all out to welcome them!
    2. So, create a dynamite welcome packet for new donors. This will help them renew when the time comes to ask again.
    3. Craft an ENTIRE special thank you and communication program for first-time donors. Celebrate the beginning of this partnership!
    4. Invite new donors to get involved. Move quickly to develop the relationship to keep them on your bandwagon.
    5. Go all out to welcome online donors just like your mail donors. New online donors are even less likely to renew their gifts than paper donors. Don’t let them fall thru the cracks.

    Sharpen Up Your Website

    1. Include your website address in the snail mail appeal. Even when they give with a check in the mail, donors will probably check out your website.
    2. Use different landing pages and URLs to track donors’ responses to individual appeals and campaigns. It’s easy, and it’s important.
    3. From a donor’s perspective, the most important page on your website is “your gift at work.

    Direct Mail: Create a Mailing Packet That Brings Results

    1. Size matters. Try larger sizes to get your reader’s attention. Or smaller sizes.
    2. Everything in your mailing should be easy to read and understand.
    3. Your direct mail packet should include four pieces:
    • The solicitation letter
    • A reply/pledge card
    • A return envelope for the reply card
    • The outside envelope.
    1. Your outside envelope needs to grab your reader’s attention. Put something attention-getting or startling on the outside. NOT a self-serving tagline, though.
    1. Try bright colors. Target Marketing says, “Using standard #10 white envelopes will guarantee a low response rate unless you are giving away money.”
    2. Always include a return envelope. It is critically important to make sure it is easy for people to give.
    3. Be sure your mailing label is attractive and not full of computerized numbers. A “mass market” look to your mailing label can immediately put your letter in the trash.
    4. The reply slip needs to stand out in the package.
    5. Put a headline on the reply card, such as “Yes! I want to help!”
    6. Don’t give your donor more than four choices to consider. More than that will drive your donor away.
    7. Use checkboxes on your reply slip rather than fill in the blanks.
    8. But limit the amount of information you request. The more boxes on the reply card, the more confusing it is to your donor. If you confuse your donor, she will likely abandon your donation card.
    9. Make sure there is room for handwriting on the reply card. Don’t make your donor cramp to write on your card.
    10. Make the reply card paper easy to write on. And remember to have a large font so your donor doesn’t have to reach for her reading glasses!
    11. Circle the amount you are requesting from the donor on the reply card.
    12. Don’t forget to ask for recurring monthly donations!

    Now use this list as a checklist – review your mailing program against it and highlight the tips you need to implement.

    GOOD LUCK, and may you raise tons of money!


    Top Capital Campaign Trends (1)

    Capital campaigns are everywhere these days. Despite a murky economic outlook, nonprofits large and small are moving forward with big fundraising goals and high dollar campaigns.

    We’re seeing some interesting new capital campaign trends among our clients, based on learnings and practices developed during the recent pandemic.  As we’ve found with many of our clients, a few strategic efforts can help your capital campaign  be a booming success.

    Most high-net-worth donors have done well over the past few years, and many of them may be ready to move forward and discuss how they can help – even in an uncertain economy. Here’s how you can take advantage of these current capital campaign trends to reach your campaign goal:

    1. More Transparent Messaging

    We are seeing a strong trend toward more specific, much more transparent communications with major donors. Organizations that share their status openly and honestly with their donors are receiving more support.

    All along, donors have shared that they dislike formal, lofty language from the organizations they support. All the acronyms and nonprofit speak puts them off and dampens their enthusiasm.

    During the recent pandemic, we found nonprofits talking about their work very differently. Our clients were frank with their supporters. They were sharing exactly what is going on financially and what they really needed. As a result, donors responded generously.

    Transparent Messaging Yields a $1 Million Gift!

    Here’s a terrific example: our Major Gift Intensive client, Historic Columbus. was very worried about their dramatic drop in contributions during the pandemic.

    We suggested to Executive Director Elizabeth Walden, that she select 20 major donors for a special monthly “Insider” communication. And she implemented our advice quickly. Moving forward, she sent out a friendly, informal update on how the organization was faring during the shutdown.

    One important point: She was upfront about the organization’s dire financial situation, but her tone was brave and businesslike.

    A few months later, out of the blue, one of these donors suddenly gifted $40,000. The donor explained that he appreciated her frequent communications and the transparency she showed in being perfectly open about the organization’s financial status.

    And, a year later, another donor up and made a $1,000,000 gift! The donor also thanked her for her openness, transparency, and frequent communication. Elizabeth said she almost fell on the floor when her donor came forward with such a generous gift.

    Capital campaign trend takeaway: When your financial situation shifts – or when you have a major opportunity like a capital campaign – it is more important than ever to be transparent with your donors.

    2. More Straightforward Conversations with Donors

    Post-pandemic, the events and meetings are now back to a regular schedule. However, during the pandemic, we saw some new trends emerging that seem to be taking hold for good. Or at least we hope so!

    Back during the shutdown, we were forced into absolutely direct conversations with our donors. No more oblique dancing around with meetings, lunches and social events.

    We are training our clients to move right along with their donors and find out what they are interested in. Be ready to ask your donors in a very straightforward manner:

    “Could you see yourself becoming more involved with our work?”

    “Would you like to know more about how you can help?

    As a result, our clients are saving so much time by finding out quickly which donors are interested, and which ones are not.

    Capital campaign trend takeaway: It’s easy to find your most passionate supporters by asking a few direct questions.

    3. Donors are Ready to Discuss Their Gifts Early in the Campaign

    In an environment where you have some donors who are feeling wealthy, you actually can move forward quickly. When nonprofits directly discuss their needs, opportunities and vision with donors, good things can happen quickly.

    For example, our campaign clients are seeing extraordinary results with one simple question:

    “Would this be a good time to discuss your support of our campaign?”

    This polite question is usually easy to ask. For instance, one of our clients closed a $100,000 gift the first time she asked this question. The next time she asked it, she closed a $250,000 gift.

    Note that both of these gifts came in without a formal campaign ask. We just coached her to look for the right signals and then be ready to pose the question gently. Note: she was on the phone or Zoom for both of these conversations – in a digital format.

    Takeaway: You can close major campaign gifts by asking your donor about their timing. Many of your donors are more ready than you may think.

    4. Taking Advantage of Non-Cash Gifts

    Real estate, valuables, and investments have grown substantially in value over the past decade. And, when donors are “feeling” wealthier, we will know that they are much more likely to make larger gifts.

    Remember, most of the wealth in the US and Canada is NOT held in cash bank accounts. Instead, it’s held in some type of investment.  We find that so many campaign and major gift fundraisers forget to consider a donor’s capital assets.

    So, it’s always, always a smart move to remind donors about the benefits of giving non-cash gifts, such as appreciated stock. Not only can donors avoid capital gains taxes, but they can also gain significant tax deductions from their charitable contributions.

    For example, a donor purchased stocks for an average $100 per share, investing a total of $10,000. Ten years later, the stocks could now be worth $280/share. The donor’s original investment is now worth $28,000. That’s a whopping gain!

    By making the gift of the fully appreciated stock, the donor avoids capital gains taxes and gets to help their favorite organization with a significant campaign gift.

    Takeaway: Because of stock market growth in the past 5-6 years, many donors have extensive paper profits from their investments these days.  Don’t forget to inquire gently about giving with assets other than cash.

    Bottom Line: Top Capital Campaign Trends

    Take advantage of these new capital campaign trends. Look for opportunities for non-cash gifts. Be willing to be transparent, direct and straightforward with your donors. You’ll see terrific results.

    Don’t forget we are happy to arrange a free campaign strategy call if you are in the process of planning a capital campaign. Just email us at

    One of the biggest challenges for major gift fundraisers is in the area of prospect management. When you have a whole list of projects in your portfolio, how do you prioritize your assigned prospects? That’s where the concept of a Backburner List comes in handy.

    It’s a matter of organizing your portfolio.

    How do you sift through many names to find the right people who want to get more involved?

    With over 100-150 donors to manage, how can you organize yourself so that you are focusing on the right prospects at the right time?

    How can you make sure you are spending your time at its highest and best use?

    Each day, major gift fundraisers are forced to make choices. Which donors will you choose to spend time with and which donors can you safely ignore? You only have so much time to go around, and you have too many donors for the amount of time available. 

     The trick is to ensure you spend your time with the right people. Your time is just about the only thing you can control (you certainly can’t control donors!), so you want to be super smart about your own time management.
    And yet, you don’t want to overlook a prospect simply due to lack of time and/or the prospect isn’t responding or available.

    It’s easy to fall into the trap of only seeing your “favorite” people – the easy prospects who are always game for a call or visit. But this may not be the best strategy.

    What Can Go Wrong?

    A lot. While you are chatting up your most available prospects, you might overlook that more elusive donor. You know them – the ones who are hard to get a meeting with, the ones who take weeks to call you back, the ones with whom no one at your organization has a relationship.

    But that prospect may just be worth your time. They have the capacity and a solid giving history to your organization. They do have potential, and you don’t want to forget about them. What is a major gift fundraiser to do?

    Your Top Secret Strategy.

    Every day, you must evaluate your list of prospects and decide who you will focus on. Which donors need to be priorities, and which ones can simmer in the background?

    Then you need an organizing scheme that allows you to segment your portfolio. Create your top ten and then your next group, etc.

    What Should You Do with Elusive Prospects?  Create a Backburner List.

    Your Backburner List includes prospects who are not a priority right now. For example, they may not be ready to discuss a gift – yet. These donors are simply “simmering” on the back burner while you focus on the prospects who are warm or hot.

    Who Goes on the Backburner List?

    • People you don’t want to forget about – they are promising, but their timing is off. They’ll need attention later, but not now.
    • People who may merit a closer look. One day you will be able to have more discovery conversations with them, so you can find out how interested they really are.
    • People who may have given recently and who (of course) need continued touches and attention.

    Why Have a Backburner List:

    1. Lowers Stress.

    Trying to pay concentrated attention to a large number of donors is simply impossible. You are spread too thin. You will end up feeling stressed because you’re not “covering” your portfolio of donors well enough.

    2. Organizes Your Prospects.

    The Backburner List allows you to organize your prospects. Everyone needs a workable prospect management system that guides you to set your priorities.

    3. Bless and Release.

    How wonderful! You can even bless and release prospects who are not responsive, who are rude or unpleasant, or are simply not interested in a closer relationship. You can put some of them on the Backburner so you don’t forget them later.

    4. Makes You More Productive.

    Yes! Let’s make everyone on the team more productive. You have a system that helps you focus on the right prospects. You’re not spreading yourself too thin. Instead, you’re concentrating on where you see the highest gift potential for right now.

    Remember, it’s all a judgment game. We are not saying, “ignore half of your portfolio.” Instead, we recommend a system that lets you sift through everyone on your list so you can set priorities efficiently.

    Bottom Line: Create a Backburner List and you’ll save time by focusing on the right donors. And, you’ll raise more money.

    Even more, you’ll also lower your stress level, and sleep better at night!

    As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. 

    If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. We’re with our clients every step of the way, inspiring their teams and board, building confidence, driving action and measuring success. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

    Yes, there are many more major gifts fundraising mistakes to discuss! The activity of engaging with a potential donor, face to face, or person to person, can create fear and anxiety in many people. At best, it can feel terribly awkward. On the other hand, if you are really interested in the donor as a person and want to know more about them, the encounter can be enjoyable and highly productive. We shared four top fundraising mistakes last week here, and this post shares three more common blunders we see every day.

    Major Gift Fundraising Mistake #5: Talking Too Much!

    Too many nonprofit leaders blather away at their donors, thinking they need to “sell” the donor on a big idea or opportunity. Yes, you do want to share your ideas, but don’t forget that your donor has a lot to say too, and also wants to share THEIR ideas with you. They don’t want to be talked “at.” Instead, your donor wants to be heard. Imagine that! And it’s your responsibility in a donor visit, to hold the space, so to speak, for the donor to share that’s in their head and in their heart. If you do all the talking in a donor visit, you accomplish nothing.  In fact, if you are talking more than 50% of the time, you are shooting yourself in the foot! My motto has always been: “When in doubt, shut up.” If you are not sure what to say, I can promise you that your donor will fill the silence and say something. And you really want to know what is on your donor’s mind!

    Mistake #6: Not Upgrading Donors

    How do you upgrade a donor to give at a higher level? So many fundraisers are stuck and don’t know how to bring this up without feeling awkward or pushy. In fact, fundraisers are often so nervous about asking for a higher gift amount, that they often leave money on the table. But the reality is that your donor may be absolutely willing to give more – but you don’t know how to bring it up! It’s easy. First, be sure to ask for permission to bring up the topic of a gift. All you have to do is ask your donor if they’d like to do more. Or if they’ve ever considered doing something more. Your donor will surprise you! You can say, “If I may, can I ask you if you ever thought about doing something more?” You just may be surprised! 

    Mistake #7: Missing the most important prospects. 

    Fundraising leaders tell us that their teams are often confused and lack focus. MGO’s don’t understand how to find the right donors. They fritter away their time on the wrong people. When that happens, no one raises money!  Many MGO’s have up to 150 prospects in their portfolio.  How do you manage all these people? How do you set priorities? It can be a confusing morass.  We believe in the Top 10, Next 20, Next 30 approach. You can be successful if you organize and prioritize your donors in this simple format. Your Top 10 donors get the most attention. Your Next 20 donors are in line next. And, your Next 30 donors can fill in when you can’t see the other top ones.    This structure has worked for many of our clients and we strongly recommend it to you.

    Bottom Line: Avoid These Major Gifts Fundraising Mistakes!

    Don’t feel alone! We’ve made these blunders before ourselves. Let these videos guide you and your team to major gifts fundraising success!

    Major gifts fundraising mistakes are everywhere! Dealing with major donors can be so challenging – and the entire effort is subtle, full of nuance. You’re trying to make friends with someone who expresses interest in your cause, but what to do? How to do it? What to say, and when? What not to say? And then, how do you coach C-suite executives on appropriate behavior with donors? They are the ones who tend to “talk at” the donor rather than allow the donor to do the talking. Each of these videos outlines a key mistake that happens all too often.

    So today, we’re laughing at some frequent major gifts fundraising mistakes that we often make.

    Don’t forget – in our Major Gifts Intensive coaching and training program, we are teaching everyone the correct way to work with major donors. Your visits will have clear objectives and you end up with a happy donor making a huge investment. And you won’t waste time in endless cultivation. This year’s Major Gifts Intensive registration closes out next week on Feb 15th, so if you are interested, let us know asap!

    Major Gift Fundraising Mistake #1: Rushing the Ask  

    Asking before a donor is ready to be asked is rushing the ask. Remember that major gifts fundraising is not transactional! It’s all about how the donor “feels” about your work – are they committed, are they enthusiastic? When you make it all about a quick, ask when the donor is unprepared, you will put off your donor and you’ll get a NO!

    Mistake #2: Making it All About Money  

    Remember that your donor supports your cause because they’re passionate about your mission, and dedicated to making the world a better place. When you talk only about money and not about the donor’s commitment, you’ll leave your donor cold. You might get a gift but it’s only a token. Not what the donor could really do. 

    Mistake #3: Confusing Suspects and Prospects  

    If you’re going to be successful you have to sort your portfolio into suspects and prospects. Suspects are people who are not yet qualified – which means you don’t know if they have the passion and the capacity to make a major gift. Prospects are those lovely people who are qualified. To be successful, spend your time with well-qualified prospects.

    Mistake #4: Messing up the Discovery Process  

    Discovery is your friend. The Discovery Process happens when you ask your prospective donor questions to find out if they are really interested, have wealth capacity, and are available to be cultivated. You ask questions like, “Would you like to know more? Or, would you like to get more involved? The donor will tell you whether they are interested – or not.  And you’ll “discover” whether the person is really a prospect or not.

    Bottom Line: Avoid These Major Gifts Fundraising Mistakes!

    Don’t feel alone! I’ve certainly made plenty of bloopers. And, I just wish I knew way back when I was a front-line fundraiser, all the things I know now. We’ve all bungled important meetings with key donors. We’ve all missed cues or rushed the Ask or talked too much. It happens every day with key donors all over the world, unfortunately. You can find three more of our top fundraising blunders here. Let these videos guide you and your team to major gifts fundraising success!

    Have you ever tried to reconnect with major donors who have lost touch with your organization and your team? Here’s a quick video we posted to Linkedin yesterday, where we discussed success stories from the Major Gifts Intensive. Our guests where sharing stories of how they put their new skills from the Intensive to use. And one of Alexandra Lippert’s colleagues was able to reconnect with a major donor who had drifted away. Now, this particular donor is so engaged that they are actually discussing a million-dollar gift!  Can you imagine, bringing a former major donor back to the fold – and then having them ready to discuss a seven-figure gift? This is a success in my book!

    Linked In Live Image

    I want to personally thank these wonderful fundraising pros who joined me Wednesday on Linkedin: Craig Nason, Development and Communications Director of the Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking, and Alexandra Lippert, Director of Development for Major Gifts at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Hope you enjoy watching our conversation! The story of Alex’s colleague who was able to bring a donor back to the fold is at the end of this 12 minute video. To share a sneak peak about the video, here are some of the overall skills, key takeaways and successes they achieved in last year’s Major Gift Intensive:

    • Permission-based fundraising to open the door to key donor conversations.
    • Rigorous prospect management – to determine your top 10 and next 20 prospects, and focus your time and energy at the top.
    • Talking less and listening more to your donors, to delve into your donor’s true interests.
    • Building a true major gift plan – step by step to build a program with focus and strategy unique to each organization.
    • The art of growing a relationship with a donor.

    Reconnect Major Donors Who Have Drifted Away

    Many organizations have major donors who once were enthusiastic and on board – yet now have disengaged and are not involved at all. We see this happening all the time. For example, you may have five, six, and even seven figure major donors who once were enthusiastic supporters – but they’ve disappeared. Here’s another example: what happened with your former capital campaign donors – particularly the ones who funded your last building campaign? Are you still in touch with them? Where did they go?  What about those former loyal board members who gave so much to support your work? It may have been years ago that you connected with them, but their emotional ties may still be strong. 

    Trying to Reconnect Major Donors 

    Just about every organization has supporters who were once quite passionate but now have lost touch. In the success story above, our client at Waterloo University had lost contact with a certain former major donor.   

    Here’s the Process We Recommend to Reconnect Major Donors Who Have Drifted Away

    Step One: Try a “Get in touch” phone or zoom call.

    If you have a donor who has not been engaged for a while, consider a “get in touch again” approach.  Just think, your donor might actually welcome your phone call or email. Especially if they’ve been involved in past years, they might really like to know the latest news. They might like to meet any new leaders who may have joined the team. Or, they might welcome a personal update about an area they used to fund.

    Step Two: Try a “Thank You” phone or zoom call.

    Many former donors appreciate a “thank you for all you have done for our organization” phone or zoom call. In fact, if you think about it, they probably deserve a thank you call, however, belated. It’s the least you and your team could do – to reach out to people who’ve been so very supportive in the past and acknowledge everything they’ve done. Thank you’s are always in good taste and appropriate. It’s a feel-good moment for both you and your long-lost donor when you reach out (even if it’s been years) to say thank you again.

    Step Three: Ask them why they supported your organization – what was it about your work that appealed to them the most?

    This is the question that starts to reengage them. Asking them for their Donor Story can be like opening a treasure box. Your long-lost donor probably has deep feelings about your organization’s work. Likewise, they have a strong personal connection to your mission. This is heart-centered work – when you ask the donor to share how they feel about the mission. Ask them what resonated with them about your organization’s impact. Remember, when a donor’s deeply held personal values are really tied in with your organization’s work in the world, they will talk and talk about it. We advise our clients to simply let them talk! You open up a whole new world when your donor shares their personal thoughts and feelings. Here’s when they often start saying, “How can I help?”

    Step Four: Ask them if they’d like the next step – a personal update on what’s happening now.

    • Would they like to get involved again?
    • Would they like to meet the new leadership?
    • See the new initiatives or programs that are being launched?
    • Would they like a personal tour?

    This is when they become re-engaged. Remember, you are using permission – you are asking them if they’d like this or that. Using permission allows the donor to feel like they are in charge – they never feel pushed or like they are getting a pitch.

    Step Five: Invite them to get involved. But use permission.

    Consider using these questions: “Have you ever thought about getting more involved?” “Would you like to know how you can help?” “Would you like to know more about your favorite program and its current challenges?” When your formerly disconnected donor says “YES!” then you can literally move to a Gift Conversation.

    Bottom Line: Reconnect Major Donors Who’ve Drifted Away

    This approach may sound simple. But it’s deliberate, strategic, and utterly donor-centered. You focus on the donor, showing appreciation, listening, and sharing impact. This is how you rekindle a fire in your donor’s heart – and then the magic door to a wonderful gift opens. You end up with new resources to fund your mission, a happy donor, and a renewed relationship with a passionate supporter. 

    The Three Success Principles for a Profitable Major Gifts Program

    Are you and your team ready for a prosperous and productive year? And, most importantly, are you all planning for wonderfully generous major gifts to flow into your organization? 

    We think this year will be an interesting year for major gifts fundraising. With the uncertain economy, we’ve even heard that some fundraising pros are not sure about meeting their fundraising goals this year. 

    That means you need to organize and focus carefully to be successful. You need to be systematic to make the most of your valuable time and energy – while raising the money your institution needs. 

    There may be roadblocks keeping you and your team from reaching your true major gift potential. These success principles will guide you through any economy, to profitable success – for you, your organization, and your mission. 

    Here are the top three major gifts it \\success principles that we teach. You need these elements working together in order to be successful in raising major gifts in good times and also in volatile times: 

    There’s no way around it. There are specific steps you can take to move quickly, find the right high-net-worth donors who really care, have direct conversations with them, and then close gifts. 

    1. Closing major gifts takes know-how and training.

    It can be done, and it’s done every day. 

    However, many fundraisers tell us that they are unsure exactly how to approach donors. Even more, they feel awkward having conversations with prospects. Many say they feel lost when they try to identify the right prospects to focus on. Worst of all, they feel alone and overwhelmed. 

    Your team can learn all the analytical and soft skills they need to be successful major gift fundraisers. They don’t have to guess their way along. 

    We can teach them advanced conversation and discovery skills to help them feel comfortable with donors. Every fundraising professional needs to learn how to hold a conversation that lights the fire in a donor prospect and moves them to a gift. 

    Your team can learn how to listen for a donor’s personal values, passions and interests. And how to take the next steps to move a donor closer to a gift. And we gently push them out the door to go visit their prospects. :) 

    Your team also needs to understand data analysis. How do you keep up with and sort through all the information they learn about their donors? Most of all, they need to know how to put it to use to predict major gift outcomes. 

    We believe strongly that working smarter, not harder, helps busy fundraisers raise more money. Knowing how to put your data to work for your leads to success. 

    2. Successful major gift fundraising takes a team. 

    The smartest professionals don’t try to go it alone. Silos in major gifts fundraising never work well. It’s essential to have other people involved in helping in the major gift effort. 

    The team members don’t need to be out there soliciting, but they DO have to help identify prospects and help think through strategies to reach and nurture donor relationships. We find that you can be much more creative in coming up with ideas to cultivate donors when you are brainstorming with a team. 

    In smaller organizations with limited development resources, the ED or CEO often steps in to help lead the fundraising effort, often aided by a staff member and/or a board volunteer. 

    You would not believe the successes we have seen with this type of smaller team. Two of our million-dollar gifts came in in the Major Gifts Intensive when the ED called on one of their top donors. The Executive Director knew the questions to ask – and, because of our coaching, they knew how to create the setting for the donor to offer a 7-figure gift. No kidding. 

    If you are in a small organization, know that you will never be super successful in major gifts fundraising with only one dedicated person. You should never be alone in this effort. 

    In the Major Gifts Intensive, we ask for a full team of at least four people to register together. It’s best when a group of people from one organization takes the program together. That way, everyone learns the same systems, skills, vocabulary, and approaches – and can reinforce each other. 

    3. Successful major gift fundraising takes a solid system.

    Raising money from major donors is not rocket science, but it takes a very carefully organized structure. As we’ve said many times, you will never be successful without a structure – you’ll be just shooting from the hip. 

    Systems are everything when it comes to identifying and managing prospects. You need a great rating system to measure your prospects’ potential. In addition, you can use Wealth Screening or even AI to determine who your most likely prospects are. 

    We’ve written about prospect management systems that are the basis for managing your pipeline, workflow, priorities, and who you plan to see when. 

    And remember, it’s your prospect management system that lets you and your team know what the potential cash flow looks like – and everyone is interested in that! 

    The Major Gifts Intensive will help you implement all these success principles.

    We can help you with skills training, help you set up the systems that will work for you and your organization, and introduce major gifts success principles to your entire board and management team. 

    Our goal is to help you lay down the infrastructure, systems, and thinking inside your organization that will take hold permanently. We want your organization to enjoy major gift success not just this year but for many years to come. 

    Every organization can raise much more IF you seriously tackle major gift fundraising. We are here to help and support you. Check out the Major Gifts Intensive here, and send us a Letter of Interest if you’d like. 

    Registration closes on Feb.15th. Make sure you register soon, as space is limited and we are filling up fast.

    We’ll hop on the phone with you and decide if this program is right for you and your team. It may not be for you. But then, it may be just the thing that will help you and your team catapult your organization to financial security! 

    Let’s make the upcoming year awesome and close many major gifts for you and your cause! 

    There you are—a major gift fundraiser, sitting in front of a potential donor. You’ve memorized your talking points and are about to make a Big Ask.

    It’s the moment of truth and you’re feeling tense because so much hinges on the outcome. Funding for your project is at stake.

    You’ve got a script that you hope will open your donor’s heart – and wallet.  Even more, you think you have the right amount to ask for. But you are probably just guessing how your donor will react to the Ask.

    What’s wrong with this scene?  

    You’re set up to make a “pitch”—to talk at the donor in a one-way conversation.

    It’s far too formal and presumptuous. You’re assuming that you know everything about the donor – her motives, her timing, how much she wants to give.

    Hello? Where is the donor in this process?

    Ditch the Ask. Have a Gift Conversation Instead

    We believe there is a much better way to stage a successful ask – by slowing down and engaging the donor in a conversation.  Here’s our suggested approach:

    Focus on What Your Donor Wants to Do – Not What You Want to Do

    A traditional Ask is all about money. But a Gift Conversation is about helping a donor see the possibilities.

    In a gift conversation, you help the donor envision how she can make a difference in the world, not calculate how she can give away $25,000.

    The conversation should be about where she is, not where you are. About what she wants to do, not your own agenda.

    We recently saw an anonymous quote that sums it up: To inspire people, don’t show them your superpowers. Show them theirs.

    Invest the Time.

    This approach requires you to invest time in understanding a donor’s personal values, what she believes in, what she’s most passionate about. A donor’s passion can be powerful enough to trigger a $1 million gift.

    When you use our gift conversation approach, you end up with a happy donor who is thrilled to make a gift, not someone who feels “hit up” or manipulated.

    Don’t Put Your Donor in a Box

    When you make a specific Ask, you box the donor into a certain figure. With a gift conversation, you don’t limit the potential size of the gift.

    Even if you have done tons of research, you never really know how much a donor may be willing to give – especially if she is passionate.

    With a traditional Ask, you could even end up with a smaller gift than if you helped the donor live in a space of possibility and vision.

    How to Kick Off a Gift Conversation

    With a few well-placed questions, you can help your donor imagine how she can make a significant impact and then walk through the door to make a gift.

    Here are a few simple ways to start a gift conversation. 

    “Could you see yourself getting more involved in our work?”

    This is one of our favorite qualification questions. Your donor might be sharing her excitement about your work, and you sense the door opening for a gift conversation. 

    Ask this simple question, and you’ll find out immediately whether the prospect might want to discuss a gift. And maybe even when she would decide. 

    “Would you like to know how you can help this project?”

    This is such an easy question to pose. There your donor is, carrying on about her interest in your mission. You can simply ask, “Would you like to know how you could help?”

    “Have you ever thought about doing more?” 

    A prospect may have never thought about making a gift. So, it’s your job to bring it up. You are simply inquiring about the person’s interest in getting more involved.

    We love this question, too, because it helps you qualify whether your prospect might become a donor.

    Help Your Donor Feel in Charge

    Note that these questions have you asking your donor for permission to discuss this topic. Does the donor want to go in this direction or not? This is how you make a donor feel that she’s in charge of the gift process. 

    The beauty of engaging in conversations is that sometimes the donor comes up with the idea of making a gift before you even ask.

    This is a particularly good question for board members to ask their contacts. A board member may invite a friend to an event. A great follow-up question is: “Could you see yourself supporting this project?”

    It’s an easy thing to say, and it’s not at all pushy. If the answer is “yes,” you have a green light to pursue a Gift Conversation.

    Bottom Line on the Gift Conversation: Skip the Ask—have a conversation instead.

    You’re likely to end up with a happier donor who comes through with a bigger gift than you anticipated.

    As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

    If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

    Do you have a Thankathon on your calendar in November? If not, you might want to start planning one today.

    A Thankathon can be a vital part of a smart year-end fundraising strategy. It serves as a mini stewardship campaign that will prepare your loyal donors to make a generous year-end gift.

    With a Thankathon, we are simply acknowledging our donors and their generosity. There is no traditional “ask.” Instead, you’re making sure donors have a warm and fuzzy feeling in their hearts about your organization around the time that they receive your year-end appeal. 

    With the Thanksgiving holiday, November is already a season of gratitude. It’s the perfect time to connect with donors and express your appreciation for their support. 

    Why do a Thankathon?

    Yes, thanking donors is good manners, and it’s also smart fundraising. The reason we like to do Thankathons in the fall is to lay the groundwork for donors to renew, and hopefully increase their gifts. 

    The goals of your Thankathon would be to:

    • Remind them that their support is critical
    • Pull them closer to your mission by making them feel their impact
    • Let them know you notice them 

    But a Thankathon is more than just a calculated strategy. It’s also an opportunity to bond with your donors in an authentic way—a chance to let them know you care about them as people, not just for their checkbooks. 

    Who’s the audience for a Thankathon?

    Ideally, everyone! At some point, you absolutely should thank everyone who’s made a gift to your organization. 

    If thanking all your donors in November is unrealistic, that’s ok. You can segment them to keep your Thankathon manageable.  

    Think about narrowing it down to a measurable audience. For example first-time donors, those at a certain gift threshold (e.g., $1,000+), or people who have given consistently over time (e.g., 5+ years).

    Here’s the thing: You’ve got major donor prospects – right now – buried in your files among the small gifts. The problem is that they just haven’t identified themselves as major donors yet. 

    You just may wake them up with a Thankathon.

    What format should a Thankathon use?

    You can choose to thank people via phone, email, or snail mail.

    If you choose the phone, don’t worry that many people won’t answer your call. That’s fine. They will listen to your heartfelt message and feel good that you reached out to say thanks!

    If you opt for email, don’t default to a blanket approach. Try to keep the messages personal and address the donor by name.

    And if you go with a mailed card or letter, make them handwritten, if at all possible.

    Who should participate in a Thankathon?

    Thankathons are a good time to get your board members and other key volunteers involved. 

    But don’t “require” everyone to participate. You want people who will actually enjoy the activity, especially if you’re doing phone calls.

    Pre-pandemic, it was common to bring Thankathon folks together to make calls or write notes. You can still do that, or you can try a group Thankathon via Zoom. 

    Pull together your volunteers on Zoom, kick it off with an inspirational message, and then have everyone mute their computers. You can pipe in occasionally to encourage your volunteers to keep going!

    It’s fun to see everyone’s smiling, committed faces while they’re doing the important work of showering donors with gratitude.   

    What to say during a Thankathon?

    Whatever vehicle you decide to use when saying thank you, be sure not to break one of our donor communication cardinal rules.

    Don’t thank donors for helping your organization be successful. Thank them for the impact THEY are making in the world. 

    If you’re doing phone calls, here’s a sample script. (Notice it’s short and sweet.)

    “Hello, Ms. Smith? My name is ___________, and I’m on the board of _________. I’m calling to personally thank you for your support this year. Your gift helped underwrite the expansion our ___________ programs. Thanks to you,  _____ more families/children received life-changing services. We are so grateful for your generosity.”

    Consider the script a conversation starter. If the donor is willing, your caller can go further, and ask donors to share their stories. Find out why they gave to your organization and what draws them to you. It can be a powerful conversation. 

    Bottom line

    A Thankathon will prepare your donors to give generously at the end of the year. Organize one today!

    As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies. 

    If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

    Today’s guest post is by Beth Ann Locke, Director of the Academy

    Every fundraiser and nonprofit leader we’ve met is working to create a better world.

    And most successful nonprofit leaders seek to better themselves, by getting trained on new fundraising tactics and the latest, most profitable strategies. They particularly welcome outside guidance when it comes to a major donor ask. And you should too.

    How could YOU benefit from a coach?

    If you’re ready to truly supercharge your fundraising, your leadership, and even your career, now may be time for you to begin working with a coach.

    A fundraising coach is invaluable, offering new points of view, out-of-your-box ideas, and ways to better manage and lead.

    A great coach understands fundraising, donors, and your context. They will speak your language of raising money and changing the world.

    Here are just a few examples of where an executive coach can help.

    A coach can help direct your focus, time, and effort.

    Do you find that your available time, budgets, or resources are s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d?

    A coach can help you sharpen how you apply your time and effort to what needs to meet or exceed those fundraising goals.

    I hear from fundraisers who unfortunately get sidelined by the “fires and fears of the moment.” A great coach suggests ways YOU can keep on track and just what to say to your vital work of asking moves forward.

    A coach can offer fresh takes.

    A coach may provide a new lens, fresh idea, or better perspective. Especially when considering next moves with a major donor or prospect.

    A coach can draw on their lived and learned experiences from a career of fundraising, the latest trends, and what’s happening with donors now – moods, financial outlooks, and easier ways to give.

    And if you’re working solo or in a small shop, a coach can offer new perspectives and a strong sounding board.

    A coach can boost your fundraising success.

    You may sometimes have great fundraising ideas but want to bounce them off an experienced professional. Is this a good idea or strategy? Or not?

    Sometimes, you might want to explore ideas that have offered success to other nonprofits. A coach can talk through alternatives, suggest how to jump into new areas, or determine just how and when to speak with a decision-maker to ensure your ideas are heard.

    (In fact, that’s why we started our Insiders professional education community – to provide the latest fundraising training, via curated education sessions from international experts every month. Live sessions are packed with content you could use immediately to strengthen your fundraising success.)

    A coach can help design your career trajectory or transition.

    Whether you enter the nonprofit space as a first job, a re-entry, or a new chapter, how do you get there from here?  What do you need to do?

    Or, what happens when you finally land the Big Job – the mega opportunity of your career? You really need someone who has your back.

    Talk with your coach about what to do. Your coach can help you determine how to handle every sticky situation. Your coach will guide you where you want to go and the steps to get there.

    A coach can definitely help you become a better leader.

    Do you consider yourself a leader? Whether or not you’re managing a team, you can stand out as a leader at any level.

    When you are a good leader, you’ll be able to work effectively with those you report to, your colleagues, and those who report to you.

    A coach can help with communication skills by helping you distinguish various work styles, so you can work with others most effectively.

    Bottom Line: A coach is 100% focused on YOUR success!

    I’ve helped many fundraisers and fundraising teams set a path to turn a long-time prospect into a donor, create new fundraising plans, and successfully raise funds. Even more, I’ve been a sounding board, guiding fundraisers to the best ideas and alternatives.

    We are here to help you reach your highest fundraising success! Joining the Insiders will be a smart, cost-effective way to invest in yourself and your career.

    We’d love to work more closely with you!

    “Thanks, in part, to your advice, we raised $100,000 more last year than the previous year!” Chris L., Executive Director, Nations Ministry Center, Nashville, TN

    “I became an Insider because I don’t know of another offering where an organization can get so much expertise at this price point.”
    Kendall M., Chief Development Officer, Tennessee Wildlife Federation

    “INSIDERS offers more resources, new ideas, and reinforces best practices. It’s the best move I made in my career. ” Becky B., Resource Development Director, Boys & Girls Club

    Donor Renewals: The Easiest Gifts to Close for Your Year-End Campaign

    Believe it or not, there is plenty of funding available right now for your cause. And, there are more than enough gifts out there for your year-end campaign this fall. Best of all, these gifts are the easiest to raise of all. So, where are these easy gifts? You can find them right in your donor files. Your easy gifts this year-end will come from donor renewals.

    The Easiest Money to Raise: Donor Renewals

    Just focus on your current donors – those lovely, generous, loyal friends who gave last year but have not given this year. These donors love you. They are your tribe. Don’t forget that they’ve already voted that they trust your organization by giving you their money. They’ve literally invested in your work. These passionate donors would love a warm invitation to join the cause again this year and bring more goodness and healing into the world.

    Donor Renewals are Easy Asks

    Remember, a renewal reminder is an easy ask. Because these donors are already in your community and are happy supporters of your cause, you can treat them like the insiders they are. Think of it like asking someone to come volunteer again – you helped last year, so come on and help this year too. Gently reminding them to renew their support is the easiest ask of all. But here’s an important caveat:  you have to treat them like friends. Don’t put them off by sending them a lofty, formal appeal letter. Would you send a formal letter to your own friend?

    Donor Retention is the Name of the Game 

    Donor retention for 2020 was 43.6% according to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project published by AFP Global. That means, overall, only around 2 out of every five donors renewed their gift in 2020. You need to go all-out to encourage your current donors to stay with you.

    Here’s a format for organizing Donor Renewals:

    1.  First, pull a list of donors who have not yet renewed their gifts.

    Pull a report of everyone who made an annual fund gift last year but has not yet renewed – these are the people you will focus on for the next several weeks. Next, add up the dollar total of this list.  You might become concerned when you see just how much money is on the line.

    2. Prioritize and segment your list.

    Start by identifying the people who will be most likely to renew their gifts – they may just need a quick reminder. Or, you might decide to focus on your largest donors first – their renewed gifts could push your numbers up very quickly.

    Remember, many of your loyal donors DO NOT know that they are about to lapse. They may think they’ve renewed their support. And, they may have simply forgotten.

    So following up with them is simply the appropriate thing to do. Above all, it is not pushy or intrusive!

    3. Connect with your donors. Ask them to renew.

    For your higher dollar donors who have not yet renewed, try these strategies: Send Personal Notes: You could distribute the list to board members who are willing to write a personal note as a renewal reminder. Pick Up the Phone: Everyone on the entire fundraising staff could make personal phone calls reminding donors about renewing. Or, pull in a volunteer team. Send Personal Emails: Try crafting very personalized, individualized email messages to higher dollar donors. Remember – the more personal, the more attention the email will get.

    Here’s a sample renewal script for email or letter:

    Dear Ms. Donor, you are so wonderful to partner with us this year as a donor.  You have helped (bring hope, clean streams, stage amazing artistic performances, feed hungry people in our community, etc etc etc.) Thank you!  Thanks to you, (specific projects) have happened, helping to create (impact). I am writing you personally because our fiscal year will be ending soon, and we are hoping you’ll want to renew your support and remain a partner in our work.  We are asking people to renew their support xx amount to create xxxxx impact (or reach xxxxx people), and hope that you might want to support this work again with a generous gift.  The kids (or frogs, or elderly, or students ) need your help if we are going to be able to xxx (add more about impact here.). . .  Please take a moment right now and send in a generous gift to help xxxx happen.  

    Bottom Line: Don’t let your current donors slip away. These are the easiest year-end gifts to close.

    As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly insights with you as we cover important fundraising strategies.  If your organization is planning a capital campaign or expanding your major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.