“They are not your donors, you are one of their charities”

One of their charities.

While at the AFP International conference in New Orleans last month, I heard a quote from Mark Phillips of Bluefrog that stopped me in my tracks.

“They are not your donors; you are one of their charities.”

I wish more organizations would hear this and take it to heart. Because if they were to do this, their fundraising would get better immediately. Here’s how…

You realize that your nonprofit is in a constant battle with other nonprofits for the attention of your donor.

I find that most nonprofits act as if they are the only organization soliciting their particular donors. They assume they don’t need to attract each donor’s attention. They assume the donor will read everything they write. None of those assumptions are good ones.

Nonprofits need to realize that they are constantly competing for the attention (and dollars) of their donors. They need to work harder to get donors’ attention.

For example, this is why organizations that send out 8 appeals and 4 donor-focused newsletters are more likely to raise more than organizations who send out 4 appeals and 12 e-newsletters: the organization that communicates more relevant information more often is likely to get more attention and more donations from their donors.

So, are you communicating relevant information to your donors often enough? Are your email subject lines good? Is the envelope for your appeal mysterious? Is your writing interesting and clear? Are you actively trying to earn their attention … or just sending stuff out?

You realize you have to earn repeat donations from your donors

Your donor is hearing from a LOT of nonprofits she loves, about causes she loves. What are you saying to her to earn her next donation?

First of all, have you told her powerful stories about the impact she’s made, so that she knows her previous gift made a difference? Do you have a newsletter that regularly shares those stories?

And when you Ask, are you making a weak appeal for her to “partner” with your organization or to “become a supporter”? Or are you asking powerfully for a current need and positioning her (not your organization) as the hero?

You relentlessly focus on donor retention

Now that you know your donors “like to give around,” you become focused on keeping as many of them and their donations as you can.

So you measure donor retention to figure out what percentage of your donors you keep each year – and then you try to keep more the next year.

Why? Because “donor retention” is pretty much the same thing as “donor satisfaction.” And satisfied donors are more likely to give to your organization next year, and give more the following year, and put you in their will, etc.

Are you measuring donor retention? And are you trying to improve it?

Now it’s Your Turn

What can you do, today, that will help you keep your donors?

Is there a major donor you can call? Is there a newsletter you can start? Is there an appeal you can make stronger?

I promise you that if you work like crazy to get the attention of your donors, if you earn their repeat donations, and if you measure and focus on how many of your donors you keep, you’ll be raising more money in no time. And for a long time!

Do your fundraising materials have a donor-shaped hole?

Donor shaped hole.

Let me share an idea that’s been helpful for a number of fundraisers recently:

All of your donor communications should have a donor-shaped hole in them.

Why? So your donor can see a role for herself in what your organization is doing. So she can see a place where she can step in and do something meaningful.

If you get really good at doing this, really good at creating fundraising that makes donors say, “I see that, I can do that,” you’re going to raise a LOT of money.

The idea of a “donor-shaped hole” is an attempt to explain why a set of fundraising tactics is so effective at engaging donors. I’ll list some of the tactics below. You’ll see how each one creates a donor-shaped hole in appeals, e-appeals, events, and newsletters.

Talk To Her about What She Can Do

As you write your fundraising, write it as if you’re talking to one donor. And talk to her about what she and her gift will accomplish.

That approach is significantly different than talking about your organization, your programs, and the people you’ve already helped.

That’s a lot different than asking your donor to “become a supporter” or “please partner with us.”

Instead, write directly to her. Not to everyone, just to her. Use the word “you” a lot. Tell her that great people like her are needed. Give her an example of what her gift will do.

When you’re done, you’ll have a letter (or email, or event) that feels like a 1-to-1 communication to her and about what she can do. That’s a letter that a donor is far more likely to read and respond to than a letter (or an organization) that just keeps talking about itself!

Highlight a Small, Specific Thing Her Gift Does

What you want to do here is pick one powerful thing (or part of a thing) that your organization does. The trick is that it needs to be easy to understand, and inexpensive enough that everyone can afford one of them.

Say you’re an Education organization. You have lots of different programs, most of them long-term. You should look for part of one of those programs. For instance, if you provide math tutoring to middle school students, you can figure out the average cost to provide one day’s worth of tutoring for one student.

Most likely the cost to do that is low enough so that every donor could afford it. Congratulations, you’ve created a donor-shaped hole!

A $50 donor can provide one incredible day of tutoring for a child. A $1,500 donor can provide one incredible month of tutoring for a child.

Pro Level: Ask for the Amount She’s Most Likely to Give

Sophisticated organizations create a donor-shaped hole by asking for an amount that is the right size for the donor.

They do it using customized gift ask amounts based on each donor’s previous gift. Here’s what they do, in a nutshell:

  • When they export the mailing list, they also export the amount of each donor’s previous donation. This is often called “Most Recent Gift” or MRG.
  • That amount is used to calculate three gift ask amounts for each donor. Those amounts are usually 1 x MRG, 1.5 x MRG, and 2 x MRG.
  • When printing the reply card for each donor, the donor’s name, address, and customized gift amounts are merge printed onto the reply card.

This is a proven way to increase response and giving. Why does it work? Because it asks your donor to give about the same amount they gave last time. This makes a donor feel like you know them. It creates a donor-shaped hole that is exactly their size.

Thank, and Report

Organizations that Thank well (promptly, emotionally, donor-centrically) make donors feel great. Great Thank You’s show the donor that she is needed and that she is appreciated.

Great organizations tell each donor, “Thank you, a great person just like you was needed, and you did exactly what was needed!” That tells the donor that there was an important role for her to play in your cause or organization, and she played it.

Take off your “Fundraiser” hat for a moment and put on your donor hat. As a donor, wouldn’t you like to hear that there was an important role for you to play, and that you played it perfectly?

After Thanking, great organizations Report back to donors on what her gift made possible.

Richard Perry is the founder of Veritus Group and one of the best fundraising strategists in North America. (He’s also my old boss!) He says, “The greatest cause of donor attrition is that the donor did not know she made a difference.”

If a donor doesn’t know that she and her gift made a difference, why would she give another gift to your organization?

Again, take off your Fundraiser hat and put on your donor hat. If your donation was needed, wouldn’t the organization Report back and let you know? If you and your gift are important, wouldn’t the organization Report back to you and show you how?

If you mattered to the organization, wouldn’t they Report back to you?

If you mattered, they would. So if your donors matter to you, Report back to them and show them how they made a difference. For each donor, show her the ‘hole’ she helped fill!

Your Next Steps

Use these tactics to create donor-shaped holes in all of your fundraising communications. If you do, your donors will start engaging with your organization more because they’ll see that they are needed, that they have a powerful role to play, and that they matter!

And if you’d like fun, experienced coaches to help your organization do this, get in touch! We can review your fundraising and help you make it stronger, or we can even create your appeals, newsletters and e-appeals for you. For less than the cost of an employee, we can improve your fundraising materials, raise you more money, and free up internal resources!

Exactly How to Run a Fiscal Year-End Email Campaign

Send email.

Using email to raise money at fiscal year-end is exactly like using email to raise money the last week in December.

This month we’re teaching and blogging on fiscal year-end fundraising. Here’s why it works, here’s a sample letter, and here’s what to do in the mail.

And today, here’s how to use email to take your campaign to the next level and raise even more money.

Today we’re going to show you exactly what to do in email to raise money at Fiscal Year-End. It’s pretty simple…

Big Picture: Send Three Emails

Your first email should be:

  • Almost a word-for-word copy of your mailed appeal letter. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead, repeat what’s in the letter, because repetition helps your fundraising.
  • Sent approximately 3 days after you send your snail-mail appeal letter. Your goal is for it to arrive in your donor’s inbox the same day it arrives in their mailbox.
    • If your donors are spread across the country, or if you’re using nonprofit postage, you may want to wait 5 or 6 days after you send your appeal.

Your second email should be:

  • A copy of the first email you sent, but a little shorter. Say that you’re reminding your donor about the deadline on the 30th, and then use the same words, phrases and paragraphs that you used in your letter.
  • Sent the morning of June 29th.

Your third email should be:

  • A copy of the second email you sent, but a little shorter. Say that you’re reminding your donor about the deadline on the 30th, and then use the same words, phrases and paragraphs that you used in your letter.
    • One tactic we’ve used with great success: don’t write a third email; just “forward” your second email with a note at the top. The note should say something like, “Dear [NAME], I wanted to make sure you saw this. Thank you!”
  • Sent the morning of June 30.

The trick here is to send the same message in every email. It’s the repetition of the same message that helps drive it home!

Where Should the Links Go?

Every link in every email should go directly to your giving page. Don’t have links to your website’s home page, your Facebook page, or your Instagram account. We call those “attention leaks,” and they tend to reduce the amount of money you’ll raise.

Ideally, your giving page has updated copy at the top that mentions your “fiscal year-end campaign” and the important deadline of midnight, June 30th. You want that page to reinforce the message that your donors read in the appeal letter or email!

Who Should Receive Them?

Your emails should go to your entire list – every email address you have – with the following exceptions:

  1. If there are any Board members or staff members who won’t want to receive the emails, feel free to take them off the list.
  2. If you’re able, remove people who have given to the appeal or email from subsequent emails. For instance, if they give to the email on the 29th, they ideally would not receive the email on the 30th.
    • If you’re not able to do that, add a sentence in the email that says something like, “If you’ve already given a gift, thank you so much! If you haven’t, please give by midnight, Saturday night…” That will ‘get you off the hook’ for donors who give early but still receive the later email(s).

Our Goal This Month

It’s a simple goal. If your fiscal year ends on June 30th, our goal is for you to fundraise for it and use the tips and tactics we share this month. If you follow our time-tested advice, we know you’ll be surprised by how much money you can raise!

So follow along this month. If you haven’t already, sign up to receive our blog in your inbox. We’ll walk you through how to create a great fiscal year-end campaign – one that you can use every year to raise money in June!

How to Use the Mail to Raise Money at Fiscal Year-End

We’re teaching and blogging this month on how to raise money at Fiscal Year-End.

First we wrote about why it works so well. Then we gave you a sample Fiscal Year-End letter and told you how to write the letter.

Today we’re going to show you exactly what to do in the mail to raise money at Fiscal Year-End. It’s pretty simple:

  • Send the letter to your donors around June 1. There’s no magic to that date. You can send it a little earlier or a little later. But that’s about the sweet spot to A) be close enough to the end of June for it to make sense to donors, and to B) give your donors enough time to respond.
  • Send the letter to all donors who have given a gift in the last 24 months. If you mail your donors often, say eight times per year or more, you probably should only send the letter to donors who have given a gift in the last 12 or 18 months. But for most organizations, mailing to all donors who have given in the last 2 years/24 months is worth it. Do not mail this letter to non-donors or to volunteers.
  • Send the letter with first-class postage to Major donors, and non-profit postage to all other donors. Using first-class postage to your major donors costs more, but it also increases the chances that they will open the letter. It’s worth it!

We’ll talk about what to do online later this month. (You’ll have more time to get ready for that!)

Our Goal This Month

It’s a simple goal. If your fiscal year ends on June 30th, our goal is for you to fundraise for it and use the tips and tactics we share this month. If you follow our time-tested advice, we know you’ll be surprised by how much money you can raise!

So follow along this month. If you haven’t already, sign up to receive our blog in your inbox. We’ll walk you through how to create a great fiscal year-end campaign – one that you can use every year to raise money in June!

SAMPLE Fiscal Year-End Fundraising Letter

There is a model that works really, really well for fiscal year-end letters; I’m going to share it with you. You should follow it because you’ll raise more money than you expect.

Remember: no one thinks fiscal year-end fundraising is going to work, but it works like crazy.

So if your fiscal year ends June 30th or September 30th, keep reading. If not, you can click away and go do something to delight your donors. 🙂

Today I’m going to share a letter that successfully raised a ton of money for one of our clients. They raised so much more than they were expecting that they want other organizations to be able to do the same thing.

I recommend you do three things: copy this letter, customize it for your organization, then send it to your donors on or before June 1st.

  1. What you want to do is copy the approach: the directness, the focus on the deadline, the short sentences and paragraphs. You can copy some of the phrases. Even the formatting. Copy all that.
  2. But customize your letter to be about meeting the need your organization exists to serve. Think of it like Mad-Libs: where this letter talks about what the donor’s gift will do, customize it to talk about what a donor’s gift to your organization will accomplish.
  3. Then mail it to your donors on or before June 1st. You want to give them a couple weeks to get back to you. Only send it to donors who have given a gift in the last 24 months. (We’ll talk about how to use email in a post later this month.)

Here’s the letter. You can click on the images to download the PDFs.

Fiscal year-end letter sample.


My Fiscal Year-End gift.

Our Goal This Month

It’s a simple goal. If your fiscal year ends on June 30th, our goal is for you to fundraise for it and use the tips and tactics we share this month. If you follow our time-tested advice, we know you’ll be surprised by how much money you can raise!

So follow along this month. If you haven’t already, sign up to receive our blog in your inbox. We’ll walk you through how to create a great fiscal year-end campaign – one that you can use every year!

Fundraising at Fiscal Year-End: Why you should do it, and why it works

Fiscal year-end.

We’re blogging this month about fundraising for “Fiscal year-end” – why it works and how to do it for your organization.

We’re focusing on this because fundraising for “fiscal year-end” works great. And we want you to raise more money and do more good. If you’re not doing it, you should be.

It Doesn’t Make Sense…

The first thing to say is that no one believes that fiscal year-end fundraising will work for their organization. No one.

And that’s reasonable! After all, what donor is thinking about when your fiscal year is, and what happens at the end of it?

On the surface, who would think that an appeal about the end of your budgeting cycle would motivate a donor to give? It’s entirely organizational-centric, and apparently not donor-centric at all. But…

…It Just Works

Fundraising for fiscal year-end (FYE) works great for our clients (and lots of other organizations) year after year.

The FYE appeal letter is usually one of the best-performing letters of the year. The emails are usually the second-best performing emails of the year (behind only the December year-end emails).

I’m telling you this because, if your organization’s fiscal year ends June 30th, you have a great fundraising opportunity that – most likely – you’re not taking full advantage of.

This the proverbial low-hanging fruit for you. And we’re going to show you how to grab it.

Why It Works

If we dig a little deeper, we see why FYE fundraising works so well:

  1. There’s a simple, powerful problem the donor can help solve. Every one of us has had the problem of being ‘a little short’ at the end of a month. That means your donor understands and can feel the problem on her own. That right there makes her more likely to respond.
  2. There’s a clear deadline. We know from experience (year-end fundraising, anybody?) that having a clear deadline is magic for motivating donors to take action.

A lot of people will read those two things and think, “Really? That’s it? That’s too simple.”

I know. I think the same thing.

But it works like crazy every year! The power of a deadline and a simple, solvable problem work again and again and again.

We recommend this to every client whose fiscal year ends on June 30th or September 30th.

Our Goal This Month

It’s a simple goal. If your fiscal year ends on June 30th, our goal is for you to fundraise for it and use the tips and tactics we share this month. If you follow our time-tested advice, we know you’ll be surprised by how much money you can raise!

So follow along this month. If you haven’t already, sign up to receive our blog in your inbox. We’ll walk you through how to create a great fiscal year-end campaign – one that you can use every year!

Focus on Just a Small Slice of What You Do

Focus on a small slice.

I keep a list of the ideas that are most helpful to the small nonprofits we coach and consult. Here’s one of the most important:

Be comfortable focusing a fundraising impact (letter, newsletter, event, etc.) on only a small slice of what your organization does.

Here’s why . . .

Don’t Accidentally Create a Barrier

Smaller organizations (and even some big ones) often accidentally put a barrier between donors and their gift. The barrier: they try to make the donor understand all of the things that the organization does (and even how the organization does them) before asking the donor for a gift.

You’ve seen this before. Really long appeal letters that describe everything the organization does. Or Events where the organization makes sure that all the organization’s programs get air time.

Fundraising like that is created when organizations have a mistaken impression that “if only donors understood all that we do, and how good we are at doing it, then they would give more gifts.”

I can’t begin to count how many meetings I’ve been in where I’ve heard some version of that sentence.

The problem is, most donors are usually just scanning for who (or what) needs help and how the donor can help. Those are the Two Main Questions donors are asking. So all the information about all of the programs, and how your organization does its thing, are not answering the question that the donor is asking.

The ‘accidental barrier’ I mention above happens when donors have to wade through all the information about the organization to get to what they want: a simple answer to ‘who needs help right now’ and ‘how can I help them?’

There’s one very nice bright spot in this scenario: as soon as I hear an organization talking about their whole organization I know that they can immediately raise more money. Because here’s one of the secrets of Better Fundraising’s success over the years; we work with organizations to identify powerful parts of what they do, then focus our fundraising on those parts, and begin to raise more money immediately.

Focus on Easy-to-Understand and Powerful

Instead of trying to communicate about your whole organization, what you want to do is focus on some small slice of what you do that is a) easy to understand, and b) powerful.

Let me give you some examples:

  • Parent-Teacher-Student Associations that focus on how they pay the salary of the ‘math and reading specialist’ – and what a big impact that specialist makes – when they could be talking about the 20+ other ways the PTSA supports the school’s students.
  • The overseas adoption agency that does an appeal letter focused on the travel and legal fees needed to adopt a child from a place like China. Donors in this sector know that fees and travel costs are an incredible barrier for some families. “Fees and travel costs” are a small slice of a complex program – but an easy to understand problem.
  • Rescue missions that focus on meals. They may have multiple other programs, but they focus on the meal (cost: $1.92) which is often the beginning of their impact on a person’s life.

Side note: this is one of the reasons having a fundraising offer is so important and works so well.

Your Organization’s Barrier to this approach is called “Organizational IQ”

A few years ago we invented the term “Organizational IQ” to help nonprofits realize that not every person knows the same amount about their organization.

The people who have a high Organizational IQ for your organization are: your E.D. or CEO, your ‘program’ staff, your Board, and some (but only some) major donors.

People with high organizational IQs have what’s called ‘the curse of expertise.’ They know so much about your organization that they can’t imagine that just a small part of your organization could be compelling to a donor. For your internal experts, the whole is much greater than the parts.

To be clear, having a high organizational IQ is a good thing – it’s just not helpful for most fundraising.

Why? Because most of your donors don’t understand (and usually aren’t interested in) your approach or how all of your programs work together. Most donors just want to help someone, in a powerful way, and they don’t want to have to think too much about it!

Think about your own charitable giving for a moment. For most of your own donations, how much time to you spend thinking about them? Maybe several seconds?

But most organizations try to educate their donors about their programs and their organization. They assume that if donors had a higher Organizational IQ (just like the people creating the fundraising) then donors would give more. Problem is, when you try to educate most donors as to how it all works … they begin to get bored, their attention wanders, they are more likely to recycle your letter, and your revenue goes down.

Again – you’ve received letters like this. You’ve recycled letters like this!

Because remember: learning about your organization is not what the donor is in it for. Donors are more interested in helping someone than they are interested in how your organization does the helping.

As always, there are exceptions. If you’re talking to a major donor who loves your organization and knows quite a bit about it, then by all means talk about the whole. If you’re talking to a foundation for a grant, then by all means share the whole.

But most of the time, to most of your donors, you only want to be sharing the most attractive, understandable part.

Try It!

If you have an email list, you have the cheapest way ever to try something like this. Here’s what to do: go identify some small powerful slice or part of how you help people. Then write an email to your list, share about how there is a real need right now for that slice of your organization, and ask them to fund that one thing. If the cost of that ‘slice’ is less than $100 I predict you will be surprised by how many people write in with gifts!

My guess: you’ll raise more money than a normal e-appeal. And if it works, then try it in the mail. And try it again in email.

For small- to medium-sized nonprofits, the concept of focusing your fundraising on an easy-to-understand and powerful slice of what the organization does is the surest path to raising more money immediately.

And if you’d like help identifying the compelling parts of your organization, get in touch!

The One Fundraising Principle To Rule Them All

Donors focus on outcomes.

During the fall of 1993 I learned a fundraising principle that became the foundation for my fundraising career. Every other idea and tactic is built on top of this one idea.

Note: This post isn’t going to ‘get to the point’ as quickly as I normally do. That’s because I want to share the story of how I learned the idea that’s so foundational to my success as a fundraiser. The story itself contains a powerful lesson.

Here’s the big idea:

“Donors fund outcomes, not process.”

I was taught this principle while a draft of an appeal letter I’d written was being torn apart and then reassembled into effective fundraising.

My boss was one of the most accomplished fundraising thinkers and strategists of his (or probably any) generation. And when he would review letters and newsletters that copywriters like me had written for our clients, here’s how it would go:

  • We would print out the text and bring it to his office.
  • The first thing he would do – always – was to sharpen his pencil with an electric pencil sharpener. (This was intimidating.)
  • Then he’d read the whole thing. (The silence during this time was nerve-wracking.)
  • Then he’d go to work, in front of me, editing the crap out of the copy I’d worked so hard on.

His editing was a painful experience. There were a LOT of pencil marks on each page. But he always made it better. He always knew exactly what he was trying to accomplish, and he was incredibly disciplined. I learned a career’s worth of fundraising and writing in those sessions. Most of my success can be traced back to his edits and his explanations for why he made them.

Better Fundraising’s clients, to this day, raise more money because of the clear thinking and discipline he taught me.

One day, he had to do a lot of work on one of my letters. (He had to sharpen his pencil a couple of times because he made so many edits.) He finished and slid the paper back across his enormous desk to me. Then he said something I’ll always remember. “Look,” he said, “you have to stop writing about the organization itself because…”

“Donors fund outcomes, not process.”

He explained that most nonprofits tend to write about what they know: their organization, their programs, how they help people. Their “process,” he called it.

He explained that the “process” is the wrong thing to focus on, because the process is not what’s most important to the donor.

He said that the results from his entire career suggested that donors care more about what their gift will do (the outcomes) than they care about the organization itself (the process).

He told me that if I would write about the outcomes of a donor’s gift, why those outcomes were so needed and powerful, and do it in a jargon-free way that any donor could understand quickly, my letters would raise a lot more money.

He was right. I’ve seen it again and again. And here are a couple of examples to make the point:

“Our programs provide a holistic approach to helping people experiencing homelessness” is about process, while, “Your gift will help a person experiencing homelessness have a safe place to stay, and the counseling they need, to never be homeless again” is about the outcomes of the donor’s gift.

“Our school’s vision is an inclusive education for every child, so our teacher-student ratio is half the average of public schools” is about process, while, “Your generosity means a child who is developing differently will be in all the same classes with his typically-developing peers – and all the students will benefit” is about the outcome.

Over my 25 years of fundraising, I’ve developed a few ‘rules’ I follow to keep the fundraising materials we create focused on outcomes, and not process:

  • Have an offer. There’s nothing like a good offer to keep a letter, e-appeal or newsletter focused on why the donor’s gift is needed and what it will accomplish. Having a strong offer is the antidote for having to ask a donor to “support the organization” or (even worse) “will you partner with us?”
  • Be comfortable talking about just a part of what your organization does (not all of what it does). When you talk about all of your organization’s programs, or its mission & vision, you’re talking process. Instead, go into your programs and find one activity that’s easily understandable by your donors. Focus your appeal on the need for that activity, and go deep on the transformation that activity makes. Ask your donor to fund that transformation by paying for that activity. Example: you know all those Rescue Missions who relentlessly fundraise around providing meals even though they have 19 unique programs? They do so because when they talk about “meals” they raise far more money than when they talk about all their programs.
  • Keep the mentions of your organization to an absolute minimum. Most of your donors care far more about the Need your organization meets, and what they can accomplish with their gift, than they care about your organization. (You know all those organizations that used to work in your sector but have closed down? Many of them learned this lesson the hard way.) Almost any time you’re talking about your organization you’re NOT talking about the things that your donor cares about most.

If you follow the ‘rules’ above, an amazing thing happens: your organization becomes beloved. It becomes a part of your donor’s life. That happens because they see how big a difference they can make by giving to you. That happens because your organization consistently talks about the things that are most important to them, instead of talking about your organization.

It’s just like human relationships. You become loved because you help people, not because you tell them how great you are at helping people.

“Donors fund outcomes, not process.” – The Exceptions

Final thought. I’ve only found 3 exceptions to this rule – and they are only partial exceptions:

  1. Some major donors don’t care that much about outcomes. They love your organization, they love your leadership, even some staff. These are the Board Members you’re on a first-name basis with. These are the major donors who drop by the office sometimes. The trick to remember is that these people are in the vast minority of your donors. (The problem is that they are the donors you are most likely to be in contact with, which unfortunately skews perceptions that most donors are like that – which couldn’t be farther from the truth.)
  2. Year-end fundraising. Especially in December, you can talk more about your organization (the “process”) and less about the outcomes. But you absolutely still need to talk about the outcomes.
  3. Fiscal Year-end fundraising. Same as with Calendar Year-end fundraising; talking about the deadline and your organization is more important than the outcomes. But again, the outcomes need to be present.

OK, that’s enough for today. My suggestion: take the phrase “Donors fund outcomes, not processes,” put it on a sticky note, and put it on your computer. Remember it the next time you’re writing to your donors. Write to them about why the outcomes of their gift are so needed and so powerful, and do it in a jargon-free way that any donor can quickly understand. You’ll raise a lot more money!

What Is a Fundraising “Offer”? [INFOGRAPHIC]

infographic icons

A fundraising “offer” is the least-understood, most-powerful tool in fundraising.

It’s the secret key to Asking effectively.

Here’s what an “offer” is: a super-simple description of what your donor’s gift will accomplish.

Many nonprofits don’t pay close attention to how they describe what a donor’s gift will do. I can’t say this strongly enough: you should pay very close attention to the words and ideas you use to describe what your donor’s gift will do today.

I recently spent some time with Brady Josephson talking about what makes a successful offer. The blog post he wrote after our chat, 4 Components of a Great Fundraising Offer, has a ton of helpful thoughts for you, including a podcast we recorded.

Today, I want to share my super-simple formula for creating a successful offer. Brady created the excellent infographic at the right (click to enlarge).

You can read more about each of the 4 elements in Brady’s post. For now, let me leave you with an idea that shows you how important I think offers are.

As I look back over the nonprofits I’ve worked with, the biggest jumps in revenue tend to come from two causes:

  1. A spike or long-term increase of media attention on the people, place or cause a nonprofit is working on. For instance, raising money to help refugees used to be an uphill slog in the mud. But because of the increased media attention on refugees in recent years (Syria, Iraq, Uganda, Myanmar) it’s become much easier. Response rates are up. Average gifts are up. But for the most part, a change like this is completely outside the control of your organization.
  2. What you can control is your offer. The best example of this is World Vision. They were a tiny organization until they developed the “child sponsorship” offer – now they raise over $1.5 billion a year. It’s not that donors care more about kids now than they did 50 years ago. It’s that World Vision got really good at describing what a donor’s gift does.

Offers are so helpful to donors because they help donors quickly identify something good they can do today. A good offer doesn’t require your donors to understand your cause, your organization, or your methods. Put another way: a good offer makes it easier for a donor to say “yes!”

And when you make it easier for donors to say “yes!” you “open the door” to your organization a little bit wider. More donors will walk through, and they will bring donations!