Can Your Donors See What You’re Doing?

It can be easy to assume that our donors KNOW what’s going on; that they spend as many hours as we do thinking about our organization and how we can fund the mission. But the reality is that unless we are intentionally transparent, donors can end up feeling at best confused, and at worst, deceived.

According to H. Art Taylor, President and CEO of BBB Wise Giving Alliance, “Transparency is one of the most powerful tools in helping to build strong, trusting relationships with your donors and the public.” He has a few suggestions for what we can do to increase transparency in our everyday fundraising activities. I’ll summarize them here:

1. Make fundraising goals and appeals clear

Instead of assuming that donors will figure it out, we need to make our goals and our appeals explicit and obvious. Appeal information should include where and how donated funds are used. If you hesitate to include this information, ask yourself why. If the donor really knew, would they still make a gift? If you’re not sure, are you actually deceiving the donor on purpose?

2. Offer two-way responsiveness

By soliciting feedback from your donors for what is going well and what can be improved, you offer the ultimate in transparency. But that isn’t the best part. This transparency can build a deeper and more trusting relationship with your supporters, which can lead to loyalty. Donor retention is key to long term success.

3. Harness social media channels to offer key insights

We’re always talking about how to raise money on social media, but do we spend enough time considering how social media can increase donor trust? Try sharing ways you are improving your organization. Or try demonstrating how previous donations were used to make an impact.

You can find lots more information about what donors expect and how nonprofit organizations can meet those expectations at

Posted in Individual Giving

What Every Fundraiser Needs to Know about “Snow Days”

The end of March in Colorado can be very unpredictable. Sometimes it’s 75 degrees, and sometimes we get over a foot of snow. Sometimes those two things happen back to back! As I sit here to write this blog post, my kids are home from school because they have a “snow day.” I put that in quotes, because this is the view in my back yard:

Ummm…so where is the snow? Good question. Sometime early this morning, when it was snowing, a committee in our district decided to make it snow day. It looked like the storm was going to get much worse in a short amount of time. But Colorado fooled them again, and the weather got better instead.

So what does any of that have to do with fundraising? It made me think about an organization that makes a quick decision about fundraising based only on how things “look” at the time. Sometimes such a decision is made without really considering previous trends or other possibilities.

I’ve seen organizations decide to stop doing a fundraising tactic because it isn’t improving, without questioning why it isn’t working. I’ve seen organizations ask board members or volunteers to help with fundraising, but then quickly give up at the first sign of bad weather.

Before you decide to call it a snow day, is there a chance the storm is about to let up and the sun will come out? Consider these things:
– Are we doing the same things we’ve always done but we’re expecting different results?
– Are we assuming we know the reason something isn’t working, but we don’t actually know? For example, we assume our board members aren’t reaching out to their networks because they are lazy, but in reality, they don’t feel like they have enough information to reach out with confidence.
– Are we panicking when fundraising income takes a downturn and assuming it will keep getting worse instead of thinking about the other actions we can take?
– Have you asked yourself “what is the strategic purpose of this fundraising tactic?” Are you trying to acquire new donors? Do you need a way to improve donor retention? Are you looking for a way to upgrade existing donors?

Sometimes taking a minute to slow down can keep you from making a knee jerk decision that you’ll regret. And hey, if you DID make a decision you regret, focus on what you can learn from that decision instead of beating yourself up for it. And ask others for help when you need it. Sometimes an outside perspective can be exactly what you need most.

Posted in Fundraising Mistakes, Learning Opportunities

Wait a Minute…Who Does the Fundraising Around Here?

Spoiler alert: everyone. I recently came across a compelling video of social justice leaders speaking about the challenges and rewards of fundraising. They offer hints about how to do it right, and those hints lead to getting more people involved.

Check out the video here.

You have probably heard the phrase “creating a culture of philanthropy,” but what does that really mean in practice? It means getting everyone at your organization involved in helping donors to make the impact they desire through giving. It means that your board members, program staff and front desk volunteers are all part of the fundraising team.

My favorite quote from the video: “Because the work matters to all of us at the organization, we all have to be involved in the fundraising.” But, why? Because you never know who your donors, or potential donors, will interact with as they get involved in your organization. Can you really expect that a donor can learn about your organization without having an interaction with anyone other than the Executive Director or Development Director? Even those of you with a staff of one (or zero) have board members and volunteers involved.

When everyone on the team feels responsible for fundraising, you have a much greater chance that these interactions are not only positive, but can lead to major gifts. After all, the goal of philanthropy is to help a donor make the impact they desire. If your team can assist in helping a potential donor understand the impact of your organization, it’s easier for that donor to decide if that impact coincides with the one they want to make on the world.

But how do you DO this? One person (or group) at a time. Share this video with team members. Meet with each person (or group) and share some specific ideas of how they can impact fundraising success. Make sure you recognize and appreciate staff and board members when they have a great interaction with a donor. Share that story with the staff/board members who “don’t get it” too, so you can help them connect the dots.

So remember that fundraising isn’t just your responsibility. If you want it done right, don’t do it all yourself! Every time I help a client write a fundraising plan, we take time to consider how others can be involved. If you need assistance creating a plan that involves other people, reach out and let me know. You’ll be relieved to know you’re not the only one responsible for fundraising.

Posted in Culture of Philanthropy