Posts

Some days the work of a fundraiser is not easy. But stories like this one can remind you why a fundraising career is the right choice.

Have you ever had one of those affirming moments where your inner voice says you have made the right choice – you are on the right path?

Let me share a story with you. 

A story about a young woman and her father, and the gentleman who changed their lives. 

The story.

When I was Director of Development at an independent school there was a young woman who had received a full scholarship for four years.  She was a great student, active in student life and well respected by her peers.  She was even graduating with honors.

On graduation day her family came to celebrate her achievements, proud as can be. Her father was literally bursting with pride. He beamed with joy.

The scholarship fund that had funded the young woman’s education had been created by a gentleman and his wife. They also came to witness her graduation.   

I had the special honor of introducing the young woman’s father to the donors.  Full of joy, pride and gratitude the father took the donor’s hand in both of his and just held them.  The two stood with their hands clasped – tears in both their eyes. 

To this day, it is a moment I treasure.  For in that one moment, I saw the true meaning of what fundraising is all about. That was my affirming moment and I knew I had made the right choice to pursue a career in fundraising.

So how did i get to that moment?

An affirming moment. How I got started in fundraising.

Many years ago, when I was nearing the completion of my MBA,  I didn’t have a clear idea of what my next step would be.  I was selling real estate to fund graduate school and I knew that was a means, not an end.  This question kept coming up -what was I going to do with my career and my life? 

A friend and I talked this over. She suggested I might like, and be good at, fundraising. 

She said I had the right personality and the “smarts.”

Before I knew it, my friend set up a meeting with her father, who was a fundraising consultant. Fast forward and within two months I had a job with the consulting firm as an assistant campaign director.

A fundraising career was born.

As I look back on those early experiences, I am filled with gratitude.  A young thirty-something woman embarking on a new journey – suddenly I was working with smart and passionate professionals. And I was working with donors looking to make a difference in the lives of others. 

Whether through education, healthcare, child welfare, animal welfare, the arts and many more, I found that the desire to generate goodwill in the world is the key motivation for giving.

This is my inspiration every day.

Some days the work of a fundraiser is not easy.  My career has certainly had its ups and downs.  But on days when things are not going as well as I hoped – I remember the story of that young woman, her father and the gentleman.  This story always reminds me why I do what I do. And I smile and know I made the right choice.

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

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

Over the years, many fundraisers have asked about our journey from practitioners to consultants. How Gail Perry Group got started. And how did we come to be consultants – offering advice and strategies to all sorts of organizations and institutions?

Well, we can tell you – it’s a journey filled with adventure, mistakes and lots of learning.

Here’s our story – with the lessons we learned along the way. 

Years ago, Kathryn and I were advancing in the fundraising field, doing well at our universities – seemingly happy.

But something kept bothering me. Something was missing. 

I enjoyed my work, but all along I had this idea that I needed a broader scope than only one organization. I wanted to reach out – and inspire – more and more nonprofit leaders and fundraisers.

That’s why, for me, when the time came to leave my position at the University of North Carolina, the move to consulting happened organically. Organizations were reaching out to me quickly – asking if I could help them grow their revenue so they could expand. And before I knew it, I was in deep with many consulting clients. 

But the transition wasn’t easy. Becoming a consultant required some learning. As Kathryn and I embarked as consultants, we learned that to achieve true mastery with our clients and their campaigns, we had to get a few things right.

Lessons Learned: Becoming Master Consultants

1. Always Keep Learning and Learning 

As a consultant, you must keep up with the latest knowledge and trends in the field – especially the various reports tracking shifts in donor behavior, along with everything else.

In addition to major gifts and capital campaigns (our forte) we also needed to know as much as possible about all types of fundraising: integrated direct mail and digital campaigns, planned giving, Donor Advised Funds, corporate and foundation grants, government and public sector funding, event sponsorships, auctions, and social media. 

And yes, finance and accounting, too.  Don’t forget digital and video marketing. Add Big Data, CRM’s and wealth screening to the mix as well. Acquiring the scope of knowledge we needed was – and is – a lifelong commitment. 

We found that to be expert consultants, we consistently need a solid working knowledge of all these areas, and more. 

2. The Art of Client Management

One thing we learned quickly is that, as a consultant, you can’t just pontificate and tell people what to do. It doesn’t work.

People don’t want to be told what to do – they need to be coached in opening to a new idea. 

What does it really take to get someone to accept a change or a challenging concept? We learned to go slowly, and respectfully meet people where they are. We learned to serve as mirrors – reflecting back to our clients and guiding them to come to their own realizations.

Only when you do that can you really create an impact or foster deep change. 

We also learned that all organizations are different. What works for one may not be right for another. Flexibility is the name of the game. We learned that you can’t only see things one way, and that a cookie cutter approach just doesn’t work. 

Mostly, we learned to ditch the standard cookie cutter approaches, and instead customize each campaign and fundraising initiative to each client. 

3. Mastering Board Dynamics  

The field of board governance is complex and vast. And as a consultant, it is a critical arena to better understand and know how to maneuver in order to help clients.

Learning to understand the subtle arts of organizational politics and the psychology of group process (management by committee, anyone?) was a journey in itself. We needed to develop a working knowledge of organizational behavior, and hone our leadership and facilitation skills.

Not only that, but our clients needed us to be a grounding force with their boards. Corralling board members into one direction, while at the same, inspiring and motivating them. Needless to say, this is an art that not everyone masters. 

We learned how to build a strong board, how to best introduce fundraising and friendmaking to boards in a way that makes it fun, and how to get board members to engage in and support the fundraising process. 

Bottom Line.

Sometimes to get where you want to go, you need to ask for help.

As a blossoming consultant, I hired a business consultant myself. They taught me powerful new facilitation skills and the secrets of creating change within an organization. Those ideas are ultimately what inspired my bookFired Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action, and my popular board workshop, Easy Fundraising and Friendmaking for Board Members. 

Looking back, I can confidently say that when we started we did not know what this journey would entail. But now, after helping hundreds of nonprofit organizations and boards, and learning through experience, we know this journey was our calling and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

I wish you could have been there. 

It was a hot Friday evening in July, and a group of friends had gathered together for supper at my house. 

My new daughter was a year old, and I was just starting to think about going back to work, after taking a year off to enjoy being with her. 

As we enjoyed the cooling air on the back deck, one of my friends spoke to me directly. 

It was my good friend Michael Rierson, who was the head corporate fundraiser at Duke University.

And he said some magic words: 

“Gail, are you ready to go back to work? 

There’s a fundraising job at Duke that you’d be great for.” 

Hmmm, I thought to myself. Fundraising. I had several years of professional sales experience but had never thought about getting started in fundraising. 

Yes, at 35 years old, I had already served on several nonprofit boards, and even chaired a board. Yes, nonprofit causes and making the world a better place definitely interested me. 

To me, it seemed like the perfect match: Professional sales plus nonprofit mission. And I heard a little tiny voice in my head: 

“Fundraising. That feels like fun. Yes.”

Now and then in people’s lives, a small voice speaks clearly inside their heads. Some people ignore that voice. The lucky ones hear the message, listen to it – and take action. That voice is how I started in fundraising.

I jumped at the opportunity to interview for the position of Major Gifts Officer at Duke. Six weeks later, I started my new job. Hurray!

Now, raising money at Duke University was a lesson in advanced fundraising. These people knew the art of cultivating donors. As a result, the gifts were flowing into Duke. Here are some of the lessons I learned at my very first fundraising job at Duke:

Lessons learned at Duke University. 

1.     Make the first gift such a nice experience for your donors that they will quickly give again.       

Make it an occasion of joy and celebration on the part of the receiving institution AND the donor. So – the first gift from a donor is (hopefully) never the largest! 

2.     Set objectives for each donor meeting.

Once you get started in fundraising, if you don’t have a plan for each visit with a donor, you may end up wasting your time. It’s easy to be social, and avoid having a direct conversation. But if you don’t engage the donor in a conversation about their interests, you lose a valuable opportunity. 

3.     Find seven ways to thank your donor, and they’ll give again.

Donors who are thanked properly are highly likely to give again. There are all sorts of ways you can acknowledge and appreciate your donors – videos, impact reports, personal notes, events, invitations, etc. It takes a lot of work but it’s totally worth it when your donor gives more and more and more. 

4.     95% of the money comes from 3% of your donors. 

A whopping majority of your gifts and contributions comes from very few people. If they are wildly passionate about your work, then they deserve your focused attention. You must focus on the very few people who can give the most.

5.    Stay in front of your prospects.

There is a direct correlation between the number of contacts a donor has from the organization – before the ask – and the amount of the gift. This also means that the longer you wait to ask, then the bigger the gift will be. 

6.    Ask for a specific amount always – based on the donor’s values and explicit motivation. 

Say: Would you consider a gift in the range of _X dollars_ for _X years_ if we can show you how it could be done?  In the life cycle of a donor there are perfect moments for asking for money. You are just nudging the inevitable.

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you. Let us know what you think of our new branding in the comments below!

Over and over, we all fight the same battle: how to control our talking when we are meeting with a donor.  After all, talking too much is the kiss of death.

It’s a challenge for everyone – newbies, experienced fundraisers, executive directors, board members, academic leaders alike. 

So, let’s review why it’s so important to listen to the donor, rather than to make a presentation. Why do we want the donor to do most of the talking? Why is talking too much the kiss of death in fundraising? 

You will turn your donor off.

Guess what – in a meeting, your donor is probably expecting to do most of the talking. She has opinions, she’s been thinking a lot about your organization, and she wants to express her point of view. She’s expecting to be heard, and she is not expecting to be presented to by you. 

Above all, you want your donor to stay interested and involved in the conversation. If you are talking and talking, she may start taking mental side trips. Her eyes may start to glaze over. And then, the worst thing can happen – she may feel bored. 

If that happens, she just might not want to see you again. Who wants to visit with someone who talks and talks all the time?

Put yourself in your donor’s shoes.

How long has it been since you felt stuck in a meeting with someone you could not escape from? And you were longing for a way out?

You certainly don’t want your donor to feel like she’s desperate to get away from you. Not at all; you want her to enjoy the visit and want to see you again.

You may think you’re being interesting, but your donor may think that you are droning on and on. 

Are you guilty of the kiss of death – the “talking problem?”

Too many nonprofit leaders – CEO’s, development directors and board volunteers alike – are guilty of the “talking problem.”

Everyone thinks they need a presentation that can sell the donor on their cause. Even more, too many people think they need a sales pitch.

Here’s the truth.

You don’t need a pitch. You need to listen to your donor instead.

Why are listening skills more important than presentation skills?

Because in fundraising, we have to follow our donor’s lead. When meeting with a donor, we cater to them. Always, we try to bring the donor out and make them feel comfortable. It’s far more important to listen than it is to talk.

As major gift fundraisers, we pay very close attention to what is on our donor’s mind, so that we can find out where she stands. If we want to develop her interest, then we have to know where her strongest interests are. 

If we truly want a warm relationship, then we need to know what is important to her. What her values are, and WHY she is so interested in our cause.

If we have this information, we can probably engage her deeply, get her involved, create a happy long term relationship and develop some wonderfully generous gifts.

Without this information about your donor, you are pretty much at a dead end. There is no cultivation pathway, and no way to plan an appropriate ask. 

Our recommendation is that you and your team should never do more than 50% of the talking. You’ll find that you can become quite comfortable, simply sitting there, holding the space for your donor to share her thoughts. You can relax, watch, gauge and listen.

We think that self-awareness, self-control and a light touch should be very highly prized skills for major gift fundraisers.

Bottom line. Make this your fundraising motto: “Listen Your Way to the Gift.”

The donor will show you the way.

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. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

How Board Members Can Help Increase Donations by 39%

If you are serving as a nonprofit board member, I’m sure you are often asked to help in fundraising.

Here’s how you and your fellow board members can help increase donations to your organization by 39% – without having to do any “asking.”

To Increase Donations, All You Have to Do is Say “Thank You.”

Are you and your fellow board members nervous about having to solicit or ask for gifts? We understand.

So we’d like to suggest a different role in fundraising for you. How about taking on a thanking role with donors?

When you, as a board member, offer your personal thanks to your organization’s donors, you can make a huge difference.  In fact, you can directly impact your institution’s bottom line, while avoiding gift solicitations that could be awkward.

Special Thank You Treatment for Donors.

Try this test and track your results. Then you can evaluate how this strategy works for you and your fellow board members.

The next time your organization sends out a fundraising appeal, work with your staff to select out a random group of donors to receive a special thank you treatment.

Organize a team of  board members to make thank you phone calls to these donors within 24 hours of the gift being received. It’s important to make the call immediately after your organization receives the gift.

If the donor does not answer, the board member can leave a message that simply thanks the donor.

The phone calls are not about asking for another gift. They are for stewardship only.

If any of the board members are adventurous, they can take another step and ask the donor why they chose to make this gift. That would create a rich conversation that the donor will enjoy.

Track Your Results.

A few months after this first gift, your organization should send another fundraising appeal to all donors – both those who received the extra thank you phone call and those who just received a standard acknowledgment letter.

And when repeat gifts come in, compare the results of both groups.

You’ll find, when all other things are equal, some interesting results.

The donors who received a prompt, personal thank you from a board member within 24 hours of the gift being received, will usually give up to 39% more than the other group.

This is how board members help increase donations without having to ask.

3. The Original Research Findings.

Fundraising pioneer Penelope Burk performed the original research that found these amazing results. Her team originated the  “Donor Centered Fundraising” philosophy, a paradigm shift that changes the emphasis away from the organization’s needs and instead focuses on helping the donor create an impact.

Penelope Burk shared this data on board member thank you calls at an AFP International Conference from her research:

  • Donors received a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of receiving the gift.
  • The next time they were solicited, they gave 39% more than the other donors who did not receive a call.
  • After 14 months, those called were giving 42% more.

4. How to Implement Board Member Thank You Calls.

Some board members may offer to make calls, but not follow through. So you will want only those who are enthusiastic and committed to sign up for this project.

  1. First, share the data with board members about the financial results from making prompt, personal thank you calls to donors. Be sure everyone understands the “why” of the project and the upside positive potential from making these calls promptly.
  2. Have one or two board members take charge of the project. Enlist a small committee. Be sure to coordinate closely with your staff.
  3. Make sure the committee members all understand that prompt timing is essential.
  4. Give each committee member specific phone calls to make. Don’t send out a whole list to the entire committee and hope that someone will make the calls.
  5. Have each board member report back weekly on the results of their calls.

One organization we know asked the board members to post their thank you call results on a shared Google document. That way each board member could see who was making their calls. Word had it that a competition took hold and each board member tried to outdo the others.

The busiest person on the board – a busy lawyer – made sure his calls were as up to date – or more up to date – as all the others. Now that is productive and friendly competition!

A Success Story of How Board Members Can Help Increase Donations:

Here’s an example from our own history:

One of our consulting clients, a local Rape Crisis Center, was staging their annual auction. One of our friends attended with us, and apparently purchased a lot of items at the auction.

The next day I was sitting in my office, when our friend called.

Excitedly, he said, “You won’t believe what just happened!”

“I’m speechless,” he continued. “I just got a phone call from a board member of the Rape Crisis Center thanking me for . . . for   . . .  for being the largest donor at the auction last night!”

“I just can’t believe it,” he gushed. “I’ve given money all over the country and I’ve NEVER gotten a call from a board member.”

We could just feel him beaming all the way over the phone. He was absolutely thrilled.

The next year, he asked us “Is the Rape Crisis Center having their auction this fall? I haven’t gotten an invitation yet?”

That year, he bought an entire table and hosted the president of the largest foundation in North Carolina at his table. I think the Rape Crisis Center has him for life now, because they gave him such special treatment.

Bottom Line: Board Members Can Increase Donations to Their Organizations – Simply by Saying Thank You.

A little effort goes a long way – remember that and remind your board. A simple acknowledgement phone call could be just the thing your donor needs to become a loyal lifelong major donor.

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. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.

We were helping one of our clients work through a challenge yesterday.

Our client, a national organization, is planning a $300 million capital campaign. The problem is, the organization’s board is not composed of “heavy hitters” so to speak, who hold power and influence.

The organization has a lot going for it. Its mission is solid and its impact is proven. But its leadership doesn’t have the connections they need to raise hundreds of millions.

Our recommended solution: we are guiding them through a deliberate networking process to bring in individuals who have power, connections and influence with funders.

Do You Have Enough People of Power and Influence Standing Behind Your Institution?

Every successful capital campaign needs powerful individuals who add credibility to the campaign. Their most important function is to help open doors to important donors – which can significantly shorten the time it takes to close a major gift.

For example, some key individuals can make a phone call, and quickly give you an open door to an important funding source. Or you have may a specific need: with one email, a key leader can suddenly access the resources to make it happen.

What You Get: Instant Leverage

Early in the game, we advise our clients to identify significant leaders of influence in their sphere and pull them in closer. As we all know, one key, well-connected individual can often draw three powerful leaders in.

When they lend their authority and back your work, their own credibility increases the standing of your organization. It builds confidence in your mission.

It’s like they are giving their seal of approval to your initiative.  Again, they can help you dramatically shorten the time it takes to forge significant relationships with funding sources. You can raise serious money much faster.

What You Get: Shortened Timelines

When you have the benefit of the right door-opener, then you don’t have to painstakingly build a trusting relationship from scratch with a donor. Instead, your “key influencer” can help you move right into a Gift Conversation with the donor. This saves you and your team so very much time and effort.

They add a backdrop of visibility and prominence so that doors to donors will fling open early in the game. Key funders will say, sure, I’ve heard about this and I’m happy to discuss your project with you.

In two of our capital campaigns, we’ve helped our clients network their way to a former governor of their state. Imagine how helpful a former governor could be to a campaign – he or she can be a key influencer of many companies, foundations, families, and even government funding sources. It’s a win-win all around.

Planning a Capital Campaign? Stack the Deck with Power and Influence

This is one of our key campaign planning strategies that we incorporate in our campaign planning studies. Who are the leaders who can help your campaign the most?

We advise all our clients – early in the game – to set themselves up for success. Add the right well-connected, influential volunteer leaders as soon as possible. As we mentioned, they’ll  bolster the prominence and visibility of the pending campaign, and make things so much easier by offering access to major and lead donors.

The Right Timing Can Build Momentum

How, and in what order, do you enlist your key influencers? It’s important to understand the whole landscape and lay out a careful sequence of priority steps.

Who is the first person you can enlist? If you can get a certain individual on board now, then who will they attract? What relationships can they leverage?

This is why the early campaign ramp up activities are absolutely critical. The right sequence of key people joining, one by one, to back your project can create that magic campaign ingredient we call momentum.

For example:

One wonderful individual joins on, and they say “have you talked to this person?”

You say, “I barely know them.”

Then your key influencer says, “I can fix that.”

You just moved from game space one to game space five.

Building Your Board Prior to a Major Campaign

If you are even thinking about a capital campaign in the next few years, you need to immediately start building connections with potential board members of influence and standing in your community.

Your board will play a key role in the campaign.  While you are working to recruit top volunteer leaders for the campaign, your board can help create the confidence and momentum needed to help attract those special individuals.

For example, achieving 100% giving participation by the board early can send a strong message to potential leaders that your board and organization are committed to the success of the campaign.

One of our campaign clients did just this. When they went to recruit their campaign chair, they were able to use the board’s early campaign commitment to successfully recruit their desired campaign chair.

It’s never too early to stack your board with people who can not only make major campaign gifts, but also bring other donors with them.

Bottom Line: Who Do You Need to Add to Your Team to Increase Power and Influence?

Is it time for you to reestablish key relationships? Who are your former board members, key funders or supporters who might have drifted away?

Can you seek out advice visits early while your campaign is still an idea? Can you engage them early in campaign planning?

Remember, stacking your deck with people of power and influence can shorten your campaign timeline, help you secure lead gifts faster, and give your campaign prominence in your community. It’s a smart strategy.

Does your institution have a true culture of philanthropy?

Diving deeper, the real question is: is there really full support for fundraising across your entire organization?

All the way from your board members to program staffers?

Often, we find many fundraising teams are not getting full support from their institutions. They are forced to operate in a silo – walled off from other departments. A sense of camaraderie between colleagues is missing.

When fundraising operates in a vacuum, results will be less successful. You’ll never reach your true financial potential in this type of environment.

If you want to reach your ultimate revenue goals you must have broad support for fundraising across your entire organization.

So how do we build broad-based organizational support for fundraising – a true culture of philanthropy?

1. It’s an Attitude Thing

We find that non-fundraisers tend to think of fundraising as only one activity: “asking for money.”

What’s more, it’s not understood that smart fundraising requires much, much more than just the act of asking.

If your colleagues and leaders get stuck on the issue of asking, they might default to thinking that fundraising is distasteful.  As a result, they certainly don’t want to get involved.

Your colleagues may think if you ask them to get involved in “fundraising,” then you’ll ask them to solicit, which they very likely will avoid.

So, you are dealing with an attitude thing – people’s thoughts and their feelings.

If you want to create change – remember meet people where they are. Your job is to slowly start to land different ideas in their heads. 

2. Redefine “Fundraising” into Something Broader and Bigger Called “Philanthropy”

The idea of “fundraising” carries with it ideas like sales, money, asking, soliciting and hitting people up.

The term “fundraising” can put people off.

Yet, on the other hand, the idea of “philanthropy” feels grand and lovely. It carries with it a sense of nobility and community.

The term “philanthropy” can attract people. It makes them want to get involved.

Don’t forget: When you redefine fundraising into the more lofty concept of philanthropy, you open people to new ideas and new possibilities.

Jeanne Tedrow, CEO of Passage Home , (now head of the NC Center for Nonprofits) told us, “Philanthropy just feels different when you are talking to your board and volunteers – they are not so scared to get involved.” 

3. Begin by Asking Everyone to Take Part in Thanking Donors

Thanking donors is an easy job. It’s enjoyable and satisfying, and it’s the right thing to do.

Why not ask colleagues across the organization about creative ways to thank your donors?  This can be interesting and fun, while introducing the idea that donors are important, wonderful people.

When you make it about honoring the awesome people who make your work possible – then it’s not about “fundraising.” Instead- it’s about philanthropy.

We find board members often really enjoy saying thank you. It’s the perfect place to get them started in fundraising. Try a thankathon to launch your next annual campaign.

Focus your board members on thanking and suddenly you just might have enthusiastic board members on the fundraising train.

Sue Acree of Literacy Connections summed this up during an Insiders webinar:“Focus on the donors and the money will follow.”

4. Find Ways for Everyone to Engage with Your Lovely Donors

Just think how much fun you could have if you got the entire organization actively engaging with, and celebrating your donors.

You may be asking: how can you engage donors with your mission? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Give them tours.
  2. Invite them to panel discussions.
  3. Introduce them to program staffers. Bring your key “subject matter expert” program heads to meet donors. Donors always love to meet your program colleagues who are carrying out your mission.
  4. Ask donors to volunteer. Ask them what they think of the work.
  5. Share stories and more stories about your organization’s work. Donors love to hear often about how they are making a difference through YOU.

As Meg Revelle from Arts Together shared after an INSIDERS webinar:

“At our board meeting, we brainstormed all the ways we could help engage donors. Each Board member left with at least one idea to implement. They chose what excited them and they wanted to do – and it was such fun!”

Bottom Line: Create a Culture of Philanthropy

If you want to create a culture of philanthropy at your organization, make it easy and make it enjoyable for everyone. You’ll find broader support across your organization once more colleagues participate.

As Suzie Acree said, “This is changing my thinking….I am gaining a new perspective on donors that makes it more fun, for not only me, but my staff and board!”

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 coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

One of the biggest challenges for major gift fundraisers is prioritizing their assigned prospects, and understanding the role of a Backburner List.

It’s a matter of organizing your portfolio.

How do you sift through many names to find the right people to build relationships with?

With over 100-150 donors to manage, how do you make sure to focus on the right prospects at the right time?

Are you operating with maximum productivity, spending your time at its highest and best use?

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 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 need to evaluate your list of prospects and set priorities. Who will you be focusing on? Which donors need to be on your Priority Prospect List?

First, your goal is to identify them, which is more work than you might think.

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 where you see the highest gift potential for right now.

Remember, it’s all a judgement 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 lower your stress level, sleep better at night, and raise more money!

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 coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

With the positive economic environment right now, most capital campaigns are really taking off in 2021. We’re seeing some interesting new capital campaign trends among our clients’ capital campaigns, and wanted share them here.

As we’ve seen with many of our clients, your capital campaign can be a booming success with a few strategic efforts. Donors are feeling wealthy right now, and they are often ready to move forward and discuss how they can help. Take advantage of these capital campaign trends for 2021:

1. Taking Advantage of the Soaring Stock Market

Most donors make larger gifts when they see strong growth trends in the stock market. As we mentioned above, they “feel” wealthier.

Because the stock market has grown so much over the past few years, investors are enjoying record high stock appreciation and profits.

It’s a wonderful time to remind donors about the benefits of giving 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.

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: Many donors have extensive paper profits from the high stock market. Don’t forget to gently inquire about giving with assets other than cash.

2. More Transparent Messaging

We are seeing a strong trend toward more specific, much more transparent communications with major donors. Organizations that are sharing 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 pandemic, nonprofits are talking about their work very differently. Our clients are being frank with their supporters. They’re sharing exactly what is going on financially, and what they really need. As a result, donors are responding generously.

Our Major Gift Coaching client, Historic Columbus worried about a serious drop in contributions last year just about this time. We suggested to the Executive Director that she choose 20 major donors, communicate often with them via email and share an update of how the organization was adapting.

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

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.

3. More Straightforward Conversations with Donors

For over a year, fundraisers have not been able to meet and greet our donors. No more coffees, lunches, meetings, gatherings. All the schmoozing of major gift and capital campaign work evaporated as we shifted to shut down for the pandemic. All the “fluff” of major gift fundraising went down the drain.

As a result, we were forced into absolutely direct conversations with our donors. No more oblique dancing those awkward discovery and qualification questions.

Now, we are training our clients to move right along with their donors, to 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.

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

In this environment where donors are feeling wealthy, and nonprofits are directly discussing their needs 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 gently pose the question. 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.

Bottom Line: Capital Campaign Trends for 2021

Remember, the fundraising outlook for 2021 and 2022 is very positive. Make sure you prepare and seize this ripe opportunity.

Take advantage of these new capital campaign trends. 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.

NO ASK fundraising strategies for board members? Is this possible?

Often, we find that board members are nervous about the idea of fundraising. They want to help, but shy away from the idea of “asking.”

We recently shared our favorite list of the Top 10 Fundraising Responsibilities of Board Members. Today we want to dive deeper and discuss how each board member can find a comfortable role where they can personally support fundraising, without having to solicit.

Here are just a few of the productive jobs they can do to raise friends, thank donors and help create a sustainable fundraising program.

1. Spread the word among their networks and social circles.

Your board members need to be roaring advocates for your organization; they need to talk it up wherever they go. Every organization needs their board members to be in action, spreading the word and making friends for the cause.

It’s important for all board members to enthusiastically share news about their favorite cause with their friends. Most are willing to share posts, videos or images with their social networks. For example, many board members jump in to support Giving Days by reaching out to friends via social or digital channels.

One thing board members need to remember: they have immense credibility within their communities.

One reason is because they are unpaid volunteers.  They are only supporting the organization out of the goodness of their hearts – because they care. This gives board members more stature within the community and their circles of friends than they realize.

So the job is clear: ask your board members to introduce your organization to everybody they know. Let’s start a groundswell of good news about your cause that will spread through your community.

2. Open doors by hosting Small Socials.

You can expand your community relationships and make new friends through gatherings such as Small Socials. This job is perfect for socially oriented board members who have a large network.

A Small Social can take several formats. For example, it can be a coffee, a tea, a dinner, a porch party, a cookout, or cocktails. The event can be a breakfast meeting or luncheon. It can include 3 people or 100.

Here’s our preferred format for a “door-opener” Small Social:

  1. Board members, volunteers or donors invite guests, underwrite it and serve as hosts.
  2. There is no charge, because this is a cultivation event designed to introduce new people to your organization’s work. The goal is to work the room, so to speak.
  3. There is a short presentation (max 15 minutes) in the midst of the socializing.
  4. The board volunteer host welcomes everyone, and the CEO gives a short high-impact message about the work and your results.
  5. You follow up with attendees after the event, by asking them about their impressions and if they’d like to get involved.

Small Socials are one of our favorite no ask fundraising strategies for board members. Opening doors and making connections is a most important role – one that can pay off in future major gifts. 

3. Host a tour to showcase your organization’s impact.

Board members can host tours to bring prospective friends closer to your organization. We find that a carefully scripted tour can be a powerful way to demonstrate your organization’s good work and to illustrate unmet needs in the community.

The tour lets your work speak for itself.

Your guests will hear staff members, or even clients/students/stakeholders, express in their own words their personal first-hand experiences with your organization’s mission— and the good it does—in the community.

A well-planned tour is hosted by a board volunteer. Just like in Small Socials, the CEO will share a visionary message. Use the same follow-up plan as a Small Social.

By hosting a tour of your organization for donors or friends, board members play a powerful role showcasing your organization’s work. Even more, their presence adds credibility and stature to your organization.

4. Thank you calls to donors.

One of the most powerful actions a board member can take is to make thank you phone calls to donors. This should always happen soon after the gift is received by your organization.

When board members call to thank donors, the donors are usually quite impressed. Donors will  think:

“This organization appreciates me”

“I am a real person to this organization, not just a checkbook”

“This organization is well run”

Donors who receive phone calls from board members invariably tend to give larger gifts the next time and tend to stay on board as donors longer.

Some studies have shown that donors who received a thank you call from a board member within 24 hours of making a gift, later made subsequent gifts that were 39% higher than donors who did not receive a call.

This means that board members can directly improve your organization’s bottom line without having to solicit.

Bottom Line: NO ASK Fundraising Strategies for Board Members

Every board member can support your organization’s fundraising.

There is a fundraising role for each person on your board – whether they are in an asking role or not. Opening doors, making friends and thanking donors are valuable jobs that can pay off with increased gifts to support your cause.

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 coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

People often ask us: “What do I talk about when I meet with donors?  How will I start a conversation? What questions should I ask?

We have a very simple approach to starting conversations with donors.

We like to probe, so we know immediately where the donor stands and what is on their mind. Our favorite “Golden Question” is:

“What are your impressions of . . . ?”

This open-ended question often brings forth interesting results.  Not only that, we’ve raised lots of money by asking this question.

This phrase creates an easy, gentle opening to find out what’s going on with your donor.  It’s completely donor-centered, and focused on them.

Moreover, this question helps you find out pretty immediately what your donor is thinking; about your presentation, your cause, your event, your plans, or even your  organization’s vision.

This question is a golden formula to help open your donor’s heart to your cause.

Why?

Because it generates the donor’s own thinking about your issue. For example, it encourages them to ponder your presentation and react to it.

Asking for their feedback and thinking helps them digest your material, and think more deeply about it. They are no longer passive in the conversation – instead, they are active participants.

Above all we want to know what is on THEIR mind, what they think and how they feel about it.

Your job is to ask, and then listen carefully.

Your donor is not going to get excited about your cause just by listening to you doing all the talking. Don’t forget the fundraiser’s Kiss of Death – talking too much!

Your wonderful, generous, well-meaning donor needs time to mull over what you’ve said.  They need to “stew” in the urgent need or bold vision you’ve just presented.

It’s certainly a much deeper conversation than if you had just presented, thanked them and left.

Get the donor talking to YOU – not the other way around.

Remember, it’s always all about the donor. When we are in a face-to-face meeting, we often forget this.  Too many nonprofit CEOs, fundraisers and even board members think they have to be great salespeople and make a great pitch.

That’s not true.

What you need to do is simply focus on the donor – and listen to them. Your goal is to draw out the donor and get them engaged with you about your cause.

It’s really amazing what you can find out – but you have to ask. And you won’t do that if you’re doing all the talking.

Examples – Put the Golden Question to use:

1.  At the close of a visit with a donor: “What are your impressions?”

Once, we had an Advice Visit regarding a big capital campaign with a potential donor. At the end of our visit, we asked “What are your impressions of our ideas?”

He shared some deep reservations about our project.

Thankfully, we were able to quickly address the issues that were holding him back. He then moved forward to become a substantial donor, and it was a huge win for our campaign.

2. Cultivating a major prospect: “What are your impressions?”

Gail was once walking out of a facility tour with a major donor, who was a candidate for the leadership gift for our capital campaign.  She asked him: What were your impressions of the tour?”

Well, after 5 minutes of conversation – he became so enthusiastic and engaged that he literally invited her to bring forward a $5ook proposal.

Now, that’s cultivation.

3. After a pitch: “What are your impressions?”

We often make presentations to potential clients in order to help them stage successful capital campaigns or build profitable major gift programs.

We always ask, as we wrap up, about their impressions of our presentation. And we get terrific feedback regarding what they are thinking.

4. When we are training or presenting: “What are your impressions?”

In our Fired-Up Fundraising workshops with board members, we want to help them ponder and digest the material we are discussing.

So we model the Golden Question, frequently asking them “what are your impressions of these ideas?” It gets them to mull over and reflect on the discussion, and ultimately walk away with much more than if we had simply presented and left.

5.  After a formal presentation: “What are your impressions?”

One of our clients, a Vice Chancellor at a major university, recently made a big presentation to the Board of Visitors. When she was finished she asked her boss, the Chancellor, about his reaction to her ideas.

She asked him, “What were your impressions of my presentation?” As a result, she received positive feedback from her boss.

Bottom Line: Ask “What Are Your Impressions?”

The Golden Question can give you wonderful information about your donors, colleagues, board members, even family. It really works in all settings to set you up for success in your relationships.

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 coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

What is the outlook for post-COVID fundraising? There’s good news to share!

Giving is up – right now – across the board.

What’s more, the outlook for charitable giving in the next year or two is also looking very good. We predicted a number of positive trends for 2021, and are happy to see some come to fruition so soon.

Recent reports and studies are showing positive signs on the giving horizon.

First of all, here’s a look at recent trends from 2020.

Giving in 2020 was up significantly.

A report issued by the well-respected Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) managed by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, showed that last year, overall charitable giving grew a whopping 10.6% in 2020 over 2019.  

This is really cause for celebration.

The Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s Growth in Giving database charts giving trends from 2,496 organizations that raise $100k – $10 million annually. Clearly this increase in giving was driven by donors reaching out to help those in economic hardship during the pandemic. But many charities of all types saw giving increases.

Small donors are back!

Some of the best news is that small donors, who provide much of the sustainable annual giving for many nonprofits, are returning. We’ve been very worried that small donor gifts had been declining over the past few years. Moreover, these smaller donors are the backbone of many nonprofit organizations’ financing.

Here’s the FEP data as reported by the Chronicle of Philanthropy:

Gifts of less than $250 grew by a total of 15.3% last year over 2019.

$250-$999 gifts increased by 8%.

Gifts of $1,000 or more grew by 10.4%.

But there’s worrisome news too: Donor retention plunged again to a low of 43.6%. (the lowest donor renewal rate since the FEP began tracking in 2004-05.) This means that less than half of the donors who gave in 2019 repeated their support by giving again in 2020.  

Donor loyalty continues to be one of the greatest challenges of many fundraising programs. Retention rates of new donors continue to decline.

Post-COVID fundraising outlook.

Looking ahead, there’s great news on the horizon. So, what can we expect from post-COVID fundraising?

Projections show an excellent outlook for fundraising in 2021 and 2022. The well-respected Lilly Family School of Philanthropy recently shared a report projecting total giving to rise 4.1% in 2021, and 5.7% in 2022.

When you look at individual giving, which supplies the majority of many organizations’ contributed revenue, the Lilly report forecasts a year-over-year rise of 6% in 2021.

This is great news for many nonprofits. 

Why the rosy forecasts for 2021 and 2022?

For decades we have seen giving levels follow the U.S. stock market. When the stock market rises, charitable giving also goes up. We find that when donors’ portfolios are growing robustly, then donors feel more wealthy. When your major donors are feeling wealthy, then their charitable gifts often increase. 

To quote the Lilly report:

“Individual and household giving is influenced by growth in the S&P 500, especially giving by those with median and higher levels of income. A large body of work demonstrates, with few exceptions, that as income and wealth increase, so do the amounts that households give to charity.”

Estate gifts are also projected to rise over the next couple of years.

This is, again, because of the robust stock market. It’s because the amount of an estate gift ultimately depends on the value of the estate’s assets. Many estates include substantial stock investments, which have appreciated nicely in the past few years. So any bequests your nonprofit is targeted to receive will be more highly valued than before.

The Lilly report bases its rosy outlook on several assumptions – namely that the economy will continue to stabilize and grow as people receive vaccinations and life begins to return to “normal.”

Ultra-high-net-worth gifts are also seeing an uptick right now, reports the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Billionaire William Ackman recently donated shares worth one billion, and other mega donors like Elon Musk recently made 9-figure gifts.

Bottom Line: Post-COVID fundraising outlook.

What does this robust forecast mean? It means take heart. Things are looking up. Keep a sense of optimism and possibility about your fundraising. You’ll likely see that your own donors are also primed to give. 

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

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 coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

Many organizations are either planning a capital campaign, or thinking about one in the future.

It’s what happens early on in the capital campaign planning process that really lays the groundwork for success. This Checklist Tool will help you and your team evaluate how prepared you are for a capital campaign in the future.

In our work with clients to set up a winning capital campaign, we begin by evaluating their readiness based on these key seven areas of capital campaign planning.

It’s what you do ahead of time that makes all the difference in capital campaign planning.

Smart capital campaign planning is like stacking the dominoes.  You take the time to carefully and strategically get organized, and line everything up.

Then, once the campaign begins, everything comes together quickly. Like the dominos, they all drop one after the other in perfect sequence.

Please know that very few organizations can say 100% YES to all these questions below. It’s the questions that you answer “maybe” that will point out your focus for the next few months.

This is a handy tool for the board and CEO to understand just how much additional preparation they need to do before moving forward with a capital campaign.

YOUR BOARD

Can your board set the financial pace for a campaign?

Are your board members considered to be leaders in the community?

Is your board in full agreement on the proposed plan for a campaign?

Does your board have good fundraising connections?

Do your board members operate with business minded board practices?

Does your board have a good relationship with staff?

VOLUNTEER LEADERSHIP

Do you have a history of influential people involved with your cause?

Can you enlist top leaders in your community who are well-known to help lead the capital campaign?

Do you have volunteer campaign leaders or campaign chairs already enlisted?

Can your volunteer leaders make major gifts to the campaign?

PROSPECTS

Do you currently have a vigorous major gift program in place?

Do you think you have the donor prospects to reach your campaign goal? 

Are your donors well cultivated and involved?

Can you identify your leadership gifts up front?

Can you identify 15-20 potential sources of major campaign gifts right now?

DEVELOPMENT OFFICE and INFRASTRUCTURE

Do you have experienced, capable staff?

Is the development office fully staffed now?

Is your administrative back office functioning smoothly?

Do you have a system for tracking pledges and policies for accepting gifts of stock and real estate?

Have you allocated funds to staff up and pay for campaign expenses? (the campaign will cost 8-10% of your overall dollar goal.)

Have you determined if you need outside expert guidance as Campaign Counsel?

YOUR PLAN/CASE

Is the need well established, urgent and understood?

Do you have an updated strategic plan?

Do you have an updated master facilities plan with completed capital projections and budgets?

Can you convey the impact of your project in vivid emotional terms?

Do you have data to back up the need you are addressing in your case for support? 

IMAGE

Is your organization well respected in the community, with a track record of success? 

Is there confidence in your organization and its leadership?

Are you communicating your results and your good work to the rest of your community?

Are you visible in the community?

TIMING

Is the fundraising environment good right now?

Are the economic conditions in your community good right now?

Bottom Line on Capital Campaign Planning.

If you have these conditions all set, then you are ready to embark on a capital campaign. 

If not, it’s time to get to work enlisting volunteers, identifying prospects, cultivating your prospective donors and sharpening up your case for support.

Let us know if we can help. We’re happy to provide a free strategy call to guide your capital campaign planning, anytime. 

How are 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, we find that our consulting 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 a donor after she gives, that’s why. It has the potential to make her happy that she gave to your cause.

In addition, your letter can accomplish a lot. It can:

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

Today, here’s our checklist of 14 steps to a warm, wonderful, killer thank you letter – one that makes your donor feel so happy that she gave.

1. Make your letter prompt.

A really prompt thank you note impresses your donor. It indicates to her that your organization is well run.

What’s more, it builds credibility and trust with your donor, and inclines her to think well of you.

2. Make your letter feel personal.

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.

Never begin with “on behalf of . . . “

Much better to simply say: “We are so grateful for . . . “

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 monthly donor? Have they given for a long time?

It’s wonderful if you can acknowledge and celebrate a long term donor – and it would mean the world to them.

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

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 coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a strategy or consulting call with us.

What are the fundraising responsibilities of board members of a nonprofit organization?

Above all, board members carry the legal responsibility for the fiduciary care of their nonprofit. In that vein, it’s their responsibility to ensure that the organization has the funding it needs to carry out its mission.

Given that it is each board member’s job to support fundraising, here’s our list of fundraising activities that everyone on the board can help with. What’s more, these activities are easy, productive and fun.

1. Make a proud, personal annual gift.

Above all all else, board members have a moral duty to support the organization financially. It just shows that they are putting their money where their mouth is.

If board members (who hold the legal responsibility) don’t support the nonprofit financially, then why should anyone else?

The gift each person makes can be large or small. But it always needs to be a gift that each board member is personally proud of making.

Everyone needs to understand that this is the #1 fundraising responsibility of every board member.

2. Understand your organization’s fundraising program and strategies.

Many board members don’t understand how fundraising really works today.

Every organization has a different fundraising strategy. Some rely on events, others on grants or major donors to fund their mission.

As a board member, you need to understand your own organization’s specific fundraising program.

What’s more, you need to understand the profitability of various fundraising approaches. For example, why events are the least profitable way to raise money, and how seeking major gifts is the most effective and efficient way to fund your mission.

3. Help thank donors.

This is the easiest and most joyful fundraising job of all.  And, it’s one of the most important jobs a board member can do.

Why? Because when board members call or write donors to thank them, those donors will become more loyal. They are typically honored to receive a thank you from a board member.

Studies show that when board members thank donors promptly and personally, then future gifts from the donors who receive the call will rise as much as 39%. 

4. Communicate with donors and tell them about your organization’s great work.

Clearly every board member needs to serve as a personal advocate for the cause.  You can share why you care about your organization’s work – with friends, on social media and everywhere you go.

As a board member, you need some interesting stories about your organization’s great impact in the community. Have a statistic or two that will get someone’s attention.

Ask for more training in messaging. It will help you spread the word in your community, gain more recognition for your nonprofit, and perhaps draw new donors to your work.

5. Help identify prospective donors and open the door with introductions.

When we ask nonprofit CEOs what they need most from their board members in fundraising, we usually hear only this:

“I just need my board members to open doors.”

And most board members would be happy to help. Often they just need a bit more training and support.

As a board member, it is your job to be on the lookout for possible new supporters. Look for opportunities to bring your friends in to volunteer, or attend an event or a tour.

You may be surprised: someone in your circle of friends may turn out to be passionately interested in your cause.

6. Help cultivate donors.

Many donors really do want to learn more about your organization’s work.

Remember, they often want to be involved and in the know. Donors would not be supporting the mission unless they were passionate and committed to your cause.

Board members can play a huge role in helping to bring donors closer. As a board member, you can host behind-the-scenes tours or small socials. You can also ask donors to share their personal stories about why they care about your work.

That’s the first step to a much larger donation.

7. Only when appropriate, ask for contributions.

Board members are great at some forms of asking.  They can:

  • Sell tickets and sponsorships for events.
  • Encourage their friends and colleagues to get involved and consider giving.
  • Ask current donors to renew or upgrade their gifts.

When it comes to major donors, however, the best role for board members is simply opening the door.

Master fundraisers take a slow, delicate approach to major donors. It’s important for board members to coordinate with staffers who are directing the overall strategy with key donors.

8. Support and encourage the fundraising team.

An acknowledged staff becomes a more productive staff.  Remember, nonprofit staffers are often working long hours for lower pay. They need the full support of board members for their work.

Board members can encourage not only the staff, but also their peer board members. Celebrate the fundraising team, and cheer them on.

When board members make fundraising important, everyone is more successful. And more dollars come in the door.

9. Ensure that fundraising has adequate resources and support.

When an organization invests in and fully staffs its fundraising operation, it raises much more funding  than organizations with poorly staffed and underfunded programs.

When fundraising is consistently staffed and funded – your organization enjoys long-term financial stability and success.

Above all, it’s important for board members to support the overall fundraising operation. Otherwise your mission will suffer from lack of funding.

10. Attend public events and bring prospects and friends.

Board members need to show up at important events. You have an important role – you are official hosts and hostesses – welcoming donors and attendees to your event.

Ask staffers what they need from board members at events – what’s essential and what’s optional? That way you can show up and help them be successful.

BOTTOM LINE: 10 Fundraising Responsibilities of Board Members

All board members can, and should, vigorously support the fundraising program. There are many ways to be involved, even if you are not directly asking for funds.

Everyone needs to join in and help make fundraising successful!