Don’t stress about your year-end emails, watch this video

Don’t stress about your year-end emails, watch this video

It’s easier than you think to write year-end emails that work like crazy.

I’m talking about those three emails you send on the last days of the year that work so well.

If you are still working on your emails, here’s a short video I made for Movie Mondays with an easy template to follow for your year-end emails.

You’ll learn the five things you need to include, the order to put them in, and how to EASILY create your 2nd and 3rd emails.

Sneak peek: you only really need to write one email!

The video takes 7 minutes; you’ll save hours of time, and you’ll raise more money.

Pretty good deal, no?

So go watch the video!


On a completely different subject, small nonprofits come to us all the time because they are uncertain.

Uncertain because they need to raise more money and they don’t know the best way to do it.

Uncertain because there are so many options for what they can do next… but no one at their organization has the experience to really know which one is best.

And they end up feeling stressed. (“Stressed” is putting it mildly, in many cases.)

It’s a joy to help those people! You should see their faces light up when we tell them the best thing for them to do next and why it will work.

If you’re uncertain about 2019 – or if you just want to take your fundraising to the next level – keep reading.

So how would it feel if you could hand off your problem to a team of experts who will solve it for you? A team who could create your fundraising communications in a way that would raise more money immediately and keep your donors for longer?

If you’re interested, go here and fill out a simple form. Takes two minutes.

There’s too much stress on small nonprofits already. So outsource your core fundraising communications to experts – that’s what our team does all day, every day.

If you work with us, your organization will raise more money by asking your donors to help your cause or beneficiaries in powerful ways. You’ll thank your donors in ways that show them how important they are to you. And you’ll retain more of your donors than ever because you’ll report back to donors so they see the good work (that you do) that their gift made possible.

All of it will follow the tested and proven Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat communication rhythm. Each piece of communication you send out will be easier to make because a) you won’t have to make it, and b) you will enjoy working on other important things while we make it for you!

So fill out the form. Find out more. Ditch your uncertainty and your stress. And if you sign up before the end of the year, you’ll save $3,500!

You’ll do less work, you’ll free up time to work on other important things, and your fundraising will raise more money.

Imagine starting 2019 knowing that your appeals, e-appeals, and newsletters are in great hands – and knowing you don’t have to do them yourself.

Say These Three Powerful Things

Say These Three Powerful Things.

Here are three powerful phrases you should say directly to your donors.

We work these ideas into almost every appeal and e-appeal our clients send out. And I’m certain they’re a part of our clients’ success.

Here’s the list:

  1. “Your gift is needed”
  2. “You and your generosity make a real difference”
  3. “I’m thankful I can write to you about this”

Your donor almost never hears these things from the charities she supports!

And if you say them, you’ll raise more money. Let’s take them one by one.

“Your gift is needed”

Most nonprofits don’t ask directly for gifts. They’ll share a story of a person the nonprofit has already helped. They’ll talk about all the good work the nonprofit is already doing.

And then they’ll ask for “partnership” or “support.”

I’m here to tell you that you will raise more money if you directly say to your donors, “Your gift is needed right now.”

Your donors are hearing from lots of nonprofits today. Many of them are talking about the good work that the nonprofit has already done. But if you’re asking for a gift and if you make a good case for why her gift is needed today, and tell her that her gift is needed today, you’ll be overjoyed at the response you receive.

And your donors will love giving the gifts. Because they love to feel needed.

“You and your generosity make a real difference”

Again, this is something most donors never hear directly.

I think that nonprofits feel like they are saying this all the time. But they aren’t – they’re usually talking about what the organization has done, not what the donor has done.

So when you directly say to your donor, “You and your gift make a real difference,” you’ll probably be the only nonprofit in her portfolio that’s telling her.

When it comes time for her to give her next gift, do you think the nonprofit that’s made it incredibly clear to its donors that they and their gifts make a real difference has the best chance of getting that gift?

You bet.

“I’m thankful I can write to you about this”

This is one of those powerful ways you can show your donor that you don’t take her for granted.

Take off your “fundraiser” hat for a second and put your donor hat on.

Wouldn’t you love to hear, regularly, that the organization writing you is thankful even for the opportunity to write to you?

If they’re thankful to be able to write and talk to you, how thankful must they be when you give them a gift?

And if they are that thankful for you – if you mean that much to them – doesn’t that make you more likely to give them another gift?

Personally, I think this is such a powerful idea that I’ve put it in every appeal and e-appeal I’ve written recently.

You can think of all three of these ideas as clearly and quickly communicating ideas that matter to donors.

In today’s world of harder donor acquisition and dropping retention rates, isn’t telling your donor that she’s needed, that she makes a difference, and that you’re thankful for her – isn’t that more important than ever?

I believe it is. So I say it all the time. And it works.

Good Fundraising Habit #57: Always Give Your Donor Reasons to Give Now

Good Fundraising Habit #57: Always Give Your Donor Multiple Reasons to Give Now

The appeal letters and e-appeals that do the best tend to have something in common: they give donors multiple good reasons to give a gift right now.

This highlights a really good habit to get into as a Fundraiser: any time you’re asking for money, give your audience multiple reasons to give a gift right now.

And here’s a list of “reasons to give today” that routinely cause donors to take action:

  • A matching grant with an expiration date
  • A deadline of any kind
  • A shortfall
  • A need facing beneficiaries or the organization right now
  • Telling donors they will love how they feel when they give
  • Stating what will happen if beneficiaries are not helped

Contrast this to what most nonprofit appeals and e-appeals do: tell a story about a person or thing the organization has already helped, and ask the donor to “continue this good work” or “join us as we do more of this.”

If you read those appeals carefully, you’ll see that there’s no reason that the donor’s help is needed today.

And if your donor had two appeals in her hand – and she has at least two on most days – which do you think she’d respond to? The one that asks her to “continue this good work” or the one that gives her several reasons why her gift is needed today?

You know the answer.

So for your next appeal or e-appeal, be sure to include multiple good reasons for your donor to respond immediately after reading it.

You’ll be glad you did because you’ll raise more money.

And believe it or not, your donors will be glad you did, too. They love knowing what your organization and your beneficiaries are facing now, and they love being able to help with a gift!


Would you like to start 2019 knowing that your appeals, e-appeals and newsletters are going to work better than they ever have?

Wouldn’t that make you breathe a little easier? Would more money help meet your fundraising goals and enable your organization to do more good?

A team of experts from Better Fundraising can create your appeals, e-appeals and newsletters for you. You’ll free up time to focus on important things that aren’t getting done now, and your fundraising will raise more money. It’s like an “EASY” button for your fundraising communications, and your first month is free – an average savings of $3,500. Wonder if it’s a fit for your organization? Fill out this super-short form and we’ll get in touch!

Act Yourself into Gratitude

Act Yourself into Gratitude.

Two simple quotes for you today about gratitude.

First, from Millard Fuller, the Founder of Habitat for Humanity:

“It is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.”

Second, from yours truly, who stumbled onto the same idea on Twitter a few months ago:

“Most people think that it takes a happy organization to show real gratitude to their donors. In my experience it’s the opposite: the organizations who choose to show real gratitude to their donors become happier.”

Look, there are lots of ways a fundraiser can show real gratitude to their donors. Off the top of my head, look up @LeahEustace on thank you calls increasing donor retention, or @johnepp and @agentjenlove on their incredible “Gratitude Reports” (instead of “annual reports”), and of course @thattomahern on donor-focused newsletters that give credit to donors.

But I’m not talking about that now.

I’m talking about what’s holding your organization back from doing those things.

I have two words for you…

Just Start!

You won’t be great at it at first. But your donors will feel it.

You’ll stumble. But your future fundraising results will improve.

You’ll even shoot yourself in the foot by saying things like “Thank you for supporting us as we do incredible things…“

You can make all kinds of errors. You can be the most self-centered Thanker of all time – and still you’ll raise more money! Why? Because…

Donors Love to Feel Needed and Important

Showing real, emotional gratitude is one of the primary ways you can make a donor feel needed and important.

Get good at that, and you’re on your way to raising a lot of money.

So start! Start acting grateful to your donors, and sharing your organization’s gratitude, and you will become a more grateful organization.

Are your receipts and thank you letters dripping with gratitude, or filled with marketing copy?

Is your newsletter about what the donor did, or about what your organization has been busy doing?

Just start! And I suggest that this January, immediately after a lot of your donors have just given, is a great time to start!

We’re Having a Sale

Would you breathe a little easier as you start 2019, knowing that your appeals, e-appeals, and newsletters are going to work better than they ever have before?

How about also knowing that you won’t have to do them yourself? And that you’ll have time to work on other important things – and you’ll save thousands of dollars?

A team of experts from Better Fundraising can create your appeals, e-appeals and newsletters for you. You’ll free up a time to focus on important things that aren’t getting done now, and your fundraising will raise more money. It’s like an “EASY” button for your fundraising communications, and your first month is free – an average savings of $3,500. Wonder if it’s a fit for your organization? Fill out this super-short form and we’ll get in touch!

A Procrastinator’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising

A Procrastinator’s Guide to Year-End Fundraising.

Just getting started with your year-end fundraising?

Here’s a quick list – my best tips – for what to do with your remaining weeks before the end of the year.

Make a Plan to Start Earlier Next year

First, the hard news: if you’re just starting now, you’ve left money on the table. You could have raised more.

That is a harsh truth. Many people won’t like to hear it. But it’s true. And for the moment, don’t worry about it. But right now, go set a calendar reminder to start earlier next year.

Seriously, set a reminder.

I’ll wait.

It’s that important.

The organizations that start their year-end fundraising earlier tend to raise more money.

What to Do Now

Do as many of the following things if you can. And here’s the order I’d prioritize them in:

Identify and contact your major donors who have not yet given a gift this year.

Don’t do what most nonprofits do, which is hope that their majors give a gift before the end of the year.

If you haven’t already, identify exactly which of your major donors have not given gifts. Then reach out to each of them to ask for a special year-end gift to help your beneficiaries (not to help your organization). Do it in person if you can; phone is the next best way. Tell them their gift is needed now, and tell them their gift will make a difference!

Write and send your year-end letter.

Send out a direct letter that powerfully asks donors to give a special gift before the end of the year. Tell them their gift is needed now, and tell them their gift will make a difference!

If you use a mail house and it’s going to take too long to get a letter produced, here’s what to do:

    1. Figure out how many letters you could print and send using your in-house process.
    2. Start sending those letters to your top donors, starting at the top of your file and working down.

Write and prep your year-end emails.

Be sure to have at least three emails prepped for the last three days of the year. Remember that you do not have to reinvent the wheel: the emails should be VERY similar to your letter, and the emails should be very similar to each other. Repetition is the most effective tool you didn’t know you have!

Tell them their gift is needed now, and tell them their gift will make a difference!

Update your website to ask for a year-end gift.

Make an update so that the first thing users see on your home page is a clear call-to-action and a large “donate” button.

And … wait for it … tell them their gift is needed now, and tell them their gift will make a difference. You will raise more money than you expect.

That’s it! Do as many of those as you can, starting from the top of the list.

Do a great job on each one before doing anything else.

And if you can only do three things, do the top three. If you can only do two, do the top two. You get it.

Remember: year-end is the easiest time of the year to raise more money than you expect!

Your Donors LOVE Helping Your Beneficiaries

Your Donors LOVE Helping Your Beneficiaries

Here’s a Super Simple Principle that most small nonprofits should embrace to start raising more money right away:

  1. Your donors love to help your beneficiaries
  2. So when fundraising, ask your donor to help your beneficiaries, instead of asking your donor to help your organization.

It really is that simple.

Most organizations say things like “Will you help us continue this good work…” or “Please support our mission to fund the Arts…” or “Please partner with us as we…”

In each of those examples (all real, by the way), the organization is primary, and the beneficiary or cause is secondary.

But the vast majority of your donors care more about your beneficiaries than they care about your organization.

And your organization only adds value to your donor by helping them help the beneficiaries or cause that they care about so much!

So when Asking (appeals, e-appeals, events), ask your donor to help your beneficiary or cause. You’ll start raising more money right away!

PS — For more on how to write Asks that move your donors to Action, download our free e-book!

Two Lessons from Giving Tuesday

Two Lessons from Giving Tuesday.

Reason #47 I shouldn’t be in charge: I thought Giving Tuesday was a dumb idea and would never work.

Boy, was I wrong.

But my wrongness is a great reminder of the big lessons that the success of Giving Tuesday teaches all nonprofits that are paying attention.

Lesson #1: the generosity of donors should surprise and delight us

Listen. “Giving Tuesday” is a made-up holiday, during one of the busiest seven-day periods of the year, immediately after donors have spent outrageously – and it is working like crazy.

If that doesn’t make you realize how generous donors are, nothing will.

While at their busiest, donors give. They give sacrificially. They give heroically. Of all the other things they could be doing that day, they give. In droves.

That should be a surprise. It should be a delight.

If I were King For A Day, one of my mandates would be for all Fundraisers to take ten minutes the day after Giving Tuesday to be surprised and delighted at the gifts their donors just gave.

Lesson #2: most nonprofits can Ask their donors for support more often

Ask yourself this question: if your donors will give your gifts on a completely made-up holiday, when won’t they give you gifts?

I’m convinced that Giving Tuesday succeeds – especially with smaller organizations – in part because of pent-up giving.

These organizations have donors who would love to give more. But those donors just aren’t Asked often enough. Or they are usually Asked in ways that hide the real need.

I could go all data-nerd on you, but instead, I’ll just tell a short story. In my 25 years of fundraising, I’ve only seen one organization where the data showed that the organization was Asking their donors too often. And that organization was mailing about 24 appeals and 12 newsletters per year.

Your organization shouldn’t be mailing that many. Or even nearly that many.

But I think the success of Giving Tuesday should teach you that your donors love to give to your organization – and that they will give gifts when you ask them well and you give them good reasons to give!

Looking back, I should have known that Giving Tuesday would work. Because the generosity of donors is a wonderful surprise that we can count on. And because most organizations don’t Ask their donors often enough.

For all you small-to-medium organizations out there: you have pent-up giving among your donors. Go give them powerful reasons to give gifts. They will surprise and delight you!

Your Donor Communications Should Be Simple & Direct

Your Donor Communications Should Be Simple & Direct.

On Tuesday, I wrote about The Curse of Knowledge. To summarize: most nonprofits are experts in their cause or niche, and so they communicate to donors at the organization’s level of expertise and understanding.

Because the organization’s level of expertise and understanding are higher than most donors, this results in donor communications that appear to donors as disconnected and even irrelevant.


Listen, most donors are thinking, “I care about your cause / the people you help; what can my gift do to help them?” That’s why your donor is reading your letter.

But most nonprofits don’t answer that question! Nonprofits describe how the organization does its work instead of what the donor’s gift will do to help.

“But Donors Will Never Give to That!”

The fundraising that tends to work the best – in test after test – feels overly simple to experts.

  • “We have 19 programs that provide a holistic approach to care” will raise less money than “$1.92 will feed a hungry person.”
  • “End generational homelessness” will raise less money than “$33 provides a night of safe shelter for a homeless mom and her kids.”
  • “Experience the Arts” will raise less money than “You can provide drama classes for junior high school students.”

In each of the above cases, the Expert will say, “But donors will never give to that. That’s only part of what we do. And it’s not even the most important part!”

But remember – your donors aren’t experts. They don’t even want to become experts. They just want to help somebody or support the cause.

The Cure for the Curse

The cure for the curse is pretty simple. Talk to your donors at their level of understanding. Theirs, not yours.

(And remember how the conversation is happening: a letter or an email where you have the donor’s attention for several seconds. You do not have time for complex arguments, or to bring her to an Expert’s level of understanding.)

You Can Be Direct & Simple

Here’s what this means for your mass donor fundraising (the fundraising you send to everybody – your letters, your emails, your newsletters):

  1. You can keep it pretty simple. Talk about one part of what you do, or one program, instead of everything you do.
  2. Make sure it’s compelling. Think drama, think emotion. Remember, you only have your donor’s attention for a few seconds. Her attention is precious; you have to earn it, and you have to keep it.
  3. You can be direct. Tell her the problem your beneficiaries or cause is facing, then ask her to give a gift to solve that problem.
  4. Present a problem that she can solve with a gift.

a. Don’t talk to her about poverty in Pittsburgh and then ask her to “end poverty in Pittsburgh” – is that a problem she can solve? No. Talk to her about what it’s like not to have food at the end of every month, then ask her to feed a family for a month.

b. Don’t talk to her about how the Arts are dying in Arizona and then ask her to “save the Arts in Arizona” – she can’t solve that problem. Talk to her about your program to provide art supplies to middle school kids, then ask her to provide art supplies for one student, or maybe for one classroom.

As I mentioned earlier this week, your internal Experts won’t like fundraising that’s simple and direct.

But your donors will. And your Experts will like the additional revenue that starts coming in when you have the discipline to tune your fundraising to your donors’ level of understanding (and amount of attention) instead of that of your Experts.

Beware… the Curse of KNOWLEDGE!

Beware… the Curse of KNOWLEDGE!

Think of this post as a brief introduction to the idea that being an expert about your field, or about your organization, can cause your fundraising to raise less money.

I’m going to cover three things very quickly:

  1. Define “The Curse of Knowledge”
  2. Show how knowledge or expertise often hurts fundraising
  3. Talk about how to get past it to raise more money

The Curse of Knowledge

Wikipedia says, “The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand.”

You know the feeling, right? You’re listening to an expert talk about something and you’re thinking, “That sounds really smart, but I’m not totally sure what everything meant.”

Let me submit to you that donors have that reaction All The Time when they read fundraising.

How Knowledge Hurts Fundraising

This is very simple:

  • Experts use jargon. They say that a child is “food insecure” instead of “often goes to bed hungry.”
  • They use conceptual language. They say “Will you stand behind the victims…” instead of “Will you give a victim exactly what she needs to recover…”
  • The write at a high grade level that takes more cognitive effort to understand.
  • Experts don’t like to talk about the Need. So they talk almost exclusively about the successes – which unfortunately hides the Need from donors.
  • They think about groups of people instead of one person who needs help. They’ll say, “Will you support vulnerable children…” instead of “Will you help a child who needs help now…”

All of these things make the fundraising sound smart and technically accurate – to experts.

But these traits make fundraising harder to read and understand by a donor who isn’t an expert. And – this is important – who is only looking at your letter or email for a few short seconds.

How to Avoid the Curse

Always remember who you are talking to: non-experts. So instead of saying, “Our holistic approach,” say, “Your gift helps them every single way they need help.” Instead of saying, “Your support will provide employment resources to disadvantaged people,” say, “You’ll give a job-seeker everything she needs to get a job.” This approach will sound overly simple to you, and will sound just right to your donors.

Always remember how you are talking to them – in a medium (usually in a letter or email) where most donors only give you a few short seconds of attention. You don’t have time to make complex arguments. This is not a conference or a meeting with a Foundation where you have lots of time, and people want to see the data. For mass donor fundraising you need to make it easy for your reader to know exactly what you’re talking about, and do it quickly.

The Cost and the Incredible Benefit

There’s a cost to doing fundraising this way: the experts in your organization won’t like your fundraising. This is a personal, subjective reaction because your fundraising won’t be written to their level of understanding and expertise.

That’s a real cost. Some organizations never pay it.

But the benefit is clear: talking to donors about what they care about, in language that they quickly understand, absolutely leads to raising more money and doing more good.

If you’re an expert, is that benefit worth the cost?