Quick Thanks & Encouragement


Today’s post is a little different: it’s the text of an email I sent out yesterday. It made a number of Fundraisers like you “feel seen and encouraged” — and I hope it does the same for you.  

— Steven

Dear NAME/Fundraiser,

If there’s one thing I know right now, it’s that Fundraisers are tired.

Most of us aren’t “about to quit” tired.  But there are a lot of us who are second-week-of-December-tired even though it’s only February. 

There are a lot of us who used to push hard until 5:00 or 6:00 each day… and are now finding themselves (finding myself) kind of… losing steam around 3:30. 

One day last week I had three meaningful, unprompted conversations with Fundraisers who were tired.  A high-powered V.P.  An experienced leader with a long track record of success.  The founder of a growing organization.

Then the next day I spoke to a young woman who’s been in fundraising for two years.  She can’t decide if working in fundraising is the best thing ever, or it’s going to burn her out before she’s 30. 

I won’t get into comparisons – most of us haven’t been in PPE on the front lines this last year – but I will say that fundraising is more emotionally draining than many jobs because of the amount of empathy required

But I’m not a motivational speaker.  Nor am I a counsellor.  So why am I writing you today?

Two things.

First, if you haven’t recently, I encourage you to talk about the tiredness at your organization or team.  And if you aren’t more tired than normal, thank your lucky stars – and then ask if other people are.  Because chances are, they are.

Naming what’s going on will help us all have a little more grace for each other.

Second, I just want to say thank you for being a Fundraiser

Thanks for all the good you’ve done for your beneficiaries or cause, especially over the last year.  Thanks for all the times you’ve shown #donorlove and let donors know the difference they’ve made.  And for all the times you’ve shown #donortoughlove by reminding donors about real needs and injustices, and asking donors to help meet those needs and right those wrongs.

Your fundraising makes a meaningful difference for your cause or beneficiaries.  Your fundraising makes a meaningful difference for your organization.  Your fundraising makes a meaningful difference in the lives of your donors.

That’s pretty good news for Fundraisers to hear.  All of us Fundraisers should hear it more often.  Not because we’re more virtuous or heroic than anyone.  But because we’re part of the solution.  And that should occasionally be called out and honored.

I love the MLK quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

In this “inescapable network of mutuality,” you are making everyone’s world better. 

Thank you.

Steven & the Better Fundraising team

[FREE VIDEO] Fundraising Now: What to Expect, and How to Succeed

chart video

Here’s a free video for you today.

If you want to learn quickly how to succeed in the coming weeks and months – and don’t want to take the time to read our free white paper – watch this video.

I’ll walk you through it in just a few minutes, show you what to watch out for in the coming fundraising slump, and show you how to emerge from this crisis stronger than before.

Watch the video here.

I also have two pieces of great news to report…

  1. “The Bump” has lasted a lot longer than I predicted and is still happening right now – it’s easy to raise a lot of money right now. (And not because we Fundraisers are amazing. It’s because people are GOOD and donors are generous.)

Please do send in your questions. And keep giving your donors the chance to give by asking them to help – their generosity will amaze you!

1 Update + 2 Challenges Incoming


We have some “big picture” guidance for Fundraisers today.

(All of this will make more sense if you’ve downloaded our free guidance on Fundraising In a Pandemic: What Will Happen, How You Can Succeed.)

First, here’s an update based on what we’re seeing and the results the organizations we serve are experiencing:

  • The bad news – I suspect “the slump” is going to last longer than we expected. The number of things being canceled this fall implies that the economy won’t be up to full speed for months. This will lengthen the slump.
  • The great news – “the bump” is much larger and lasting a lot longer than we originally expected. A majority of our clients are having record-breaking springs. If you’re not fundraising right now, you should be. Donors want to help right now. As @PatrickTiernan said recently on Twitter, “Charitable giving allows people to exert a sense of control in a world that is otherwise spinning.”

And now, a word about the future. Most organizations are going to face two significant challenges over the coming months.

Challenge #1

Modifying your fundraising so that it’s relevant to donors, while still following direct response best practices.

Because if your fundraising sounds like it’s business-as-usual, it will sound irrelevant to your donors in the new world we’re living in.

Your go-to offers will work best if they’re recontextualized to today’s world. Additionally, you probably have new offers available to you (new things you’re doing, new needs you’re meeting, new expenses you’re incurring, new revenue shortfalls you’re experiencing, etc.)

This is going to be hard work.

Challenge #2

Staying the course when you start raising less money.

Sooner or later, that appeal that annually brings in $50k is going to bring in $35k. And then that email that usually brings in $35k is going to bring in $26k.

You’re going to be tempted to mail less. To stop spending money to acquire new donors. And to cancel that campaign.

But that’s almost always the wrong approach. Because during “the slump,” you’re playing a longer game than normal – you’re playing for mindshare. And you don’t keep mindshare by slowing your communications.

Because if you stay top-of-mind for your donors – when “the surge” comes – it will happen faster for your organization, and you’ll raise more money.

It’s Nice to Have a Map

We keep hearing from Fundraisers (and Board members and E.D.s) that they don’t know what to do next because the world is so different right now.

We’re sharing the updates above, and published Fundraising In A Pandemic so that any Fundraiser can have a “map” for what the next few months will look like.

Remember, organizations like yours have survived (and even thrived) fundraising situations like this one before.

And if you’d like help during this crazy time, get in touch. We can help you keep your fundraising relevant during the coming months, or even create your fundraising for you.

Good luck out there! And right now, perhaps more than ever, “lean in” to donor generosity. They want to help!

Silver Linings in a Pandemic

silver lining

We at Better Fundraising have noticed a lot of “fundraising silver linings” in the past few weeks.

So with absolutely all due respect to the loss of life, the people sacrificing on the front lines, and the ways we’ve all be harmed by the current situation… there are plenty of silver linings for donors, Fundraisers and fundraising.

  • Donor generosity is amazing.
  • Donor retention is going to be up this year, based on what we’re seeing.
  • Most of our clients had a great March. For many of them, it was their best month ever.
  • More nonprofits are practicing fundraising essentialism: doing the things that drive results and nothing more. Put another way, they’re abandoning the activities they’ve always done “because they were supposed to” and are doing the things that drive measurable results.
  • Organizations that had systematic approaches to major donor fundraising knew exactly who to call. And those donors came through.
  • Nonprofits that have put in the work before all this – communicating enough, making sure donors know that their gifts make a real difference – are seeing incredible giving.
  • Even nonprofits that haven’t put in the work are seeing the incredible giving. I repeat: donor generosity is amazing.
  • Nonprofits using data to know whether they are still in the Bump or have moved into the Slump, and modifying their messaging accordingly.
  • Nonprofits seeing incredible response to their emails continuing to send those emails until results start to drop.
  • Nonprofits sending direct mail because they know that their emails don’t penetrate the older portion of their file.
  • More and more older donors getting comfortable giving online.

Huge thanks to all the Fundraisers out there making all this possible. You’re giving donors chances to support the causes, beneficiaries and organizations they care about. And you’re raising money for causes that matter.

12 Tips for Fundraising Right Now


Last Friday, I streamed a free two-hour session reviewing Coronavirus fundraising – (mostly emails) and answering specific questions about fundraising during this crazy time.

I’d like to publicly thank Marc Pitman for gathering all the advice dispensed during those two hours and putting it in a super-helpful blog post. Read it here.

And here’s what Marc summarized:

One of the phrases Steven keeps using is encouraging us to “lean into donor generosity.” I love his constant reminder that nonprofits are needed now more than ever. Donors get that. And are currently giving to it. That giving will slow but right now is a time to be asking.

Some other nuggets he says are:

    • Your donors are amazing, and they want to help.
    • Let them decide what is relevant and important to them.
    • Crisis giving spikes, and then slows. The slowing isn’t about donor fatigue. It’s about donor inattention and about the nonprofit’s fundraising irrelevance.
    • Now is not the time to fundraise for the future. Fundraise for the crisis now.
    • Your job is to clearly state how your beneficiaries, or your organization are being impacted by this situation. And how the donor can help.
    • If your most pressing issue is a shortfall in fundraising, tell the donor.
    • Send the emergency email. Resend it to people who didn’t open it. Send it again. Send it every other day.
    • Keep asking until the data tells you to stop. NOT until your feelings tell you. When the appeals stop working, that’s the data telling you to stop.
    • There are still LOTS of older people who haven’t given because they don’t give to emails. If you can get a letter out this week, do it.
    • $25 is a low ask in an email. Average online gifts for many nonprofits is $80, $90, or even $100.
    • Don’t let your unease with asking take away from a donor the chance to make an impact.
    • Now is NOT the time to send an “update on how we’re responding to Covid-19.” That is irrelevant to donors. Share a current need that they can act on.

And one of my favorites: in crisis moments like we’re in right now, “pretty good and fast” will raise more money than “perfect and a couple days later.” Reaching donors now is far better than waiting until things have calmed down. And even better than waiting until you get the wording 100% perfect.

I stand by every one of those.

And I’ll be doing another free review this Friday – you can sign up and submit your materials here.

If you want more guidance right now, here’s a post from last week with the four main ideas that will help you the most right now.

Good luck out there! And stay tuned, we’ll be posting helpful advice every day for the foreseeable future.

COVID-19 fundraising principles


If you’re going to raise money for your beneficiaries and/or cause during the pandemic, follow these principles, and you’ll raise more money.

Note: Everything I’m about to say assumes one important thing – the current pandemic situation impacts your organization, cause, and/or beneficiaries. That could be the virus. It could be the economy. It could be travel restrictions. In other words, that there are “new or more needs” that you’re dealing with.

Here are the principles Better Fundraising is living by as we work with clients:

Speed matters. Sometime soon, several hundred thousand organizations are going to realize they’re in trouble and are going to send out e-appeals. You want to beat them to your donors’ inboxes. Don’t wait until the next vacancy in your communication schedule – cancel what’s coming next and replace it with something urgent.

Volume matters. Your donors’ attention is more fragmented than usual. That means your email open rates are going to drop by 20%. Your direct mail open rates will drop too. That means fewer people will see what you send out. And if fewer people see what you send out, you raise less money. So you need to send out more things.

Simplicity matters. You have less of your donors’ attention than you normally do. If your donor usually reads two paragraphs of your email before deciding whether to read the rest, for the next weeks, she’s only going to read one paragraph. So you have to get to the point quickly, and you have to keep it very simple.

Acute needs raise money. We’ve already seen this several times in the last five days. If your beneficiaries or organization is facing a critical need, share it with your donors. Donors LOVE acute needs.

So if your beneficiaries are short of rent money because their service industry jobs have been slashed, ask your donors to provide rent money. If you’re $1 million event was just canceled, ask donors to help erase your $1 million shortfall.

Make it clear – make it simple. Resist the urge to over-explain. Send it fast.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s a video I made with an 8-point outline for a successful e-appeal.

Good luck out there!

SPECIAL POST: Follow This Formula to Raise Money Right Now [FREE VIDEO]


If the COVID-19/Coronavirus is hurting your beneficiaries or your organization, your donors would love to help by sending in a special gift.

Here’s a formula we created to help organizations during this time of need. Follow this formula to create a simple email that works extraordinarily well:

  1. Quickly acknowledge that things aren’t normal right now
  2. Describe how the situation (COVID-19 or the economy) is hurting your cause / beneficiaries / organization
  3. Ask for a special gift to help (link to your donation page)
  4. Very short story to illustrate the need
  5. Show how the donor’s gift perfectly meets the need
  6. Show how the need from the story is not the only need
  7. Share that the funds needed are not in the budget
  8. Ask the donor to send an emergency gift right now (link to your donation page)

We’re sending this out as quickly as possible because this formula is WORKING. Every email that’s been sent out using it has been a big success.

If you’d like to watch a video of me explaining the formula in more detail, along with an example of an email that follows the formula, click here.

Resist the urge to over-explain. Keep it simple and get it in front of your donors as quickly as you can!

Then get in touch and let us know how well the formula worked for you and your organization!