You Need to *Not* Do Some Things in 2019

All Strategy is Sacrifice

This month we’re posting about the fundraising strategies and tactics that worked well in 2018.

Here’s a piece of hard-won advice: if you want to raise more this year, you need to actively decide not to do some of the things you’ve done in previous years.

Here’s this strategy in a catchy quote:

All strategy is sacrifice.

And here’s how I explain this in a simple decision tree:

  1. You have limited resources (time and money)
  2. You have to decide what to do with your time and money
  3. Which means you also have to decide what not to do with your time and money.

Smaller nonprofits, in my experience, are bad at deciding what not to do. Specifically…

Smaller Nonprofits Have a Hard Time Stopping Doing Things

They have a harder time cutting projects and strategies that are no longer the highest use of limited resources.

I suspect this is mostly because of the collaborative nature of fundraising and communications in small- to medium-sized nonprofits. There’s always somebody who values a thing you’ve done in the past. Here are some recognizable examples:

  • You keep mailing printed annual reports to all donors because some board member or major donor rep says that they simply must have it.
  • You keep doing an event that loses money each year (not to mention the investment of time) because a major donor loves it and has made it their pet project.
  • You write, format and send out an e-newsletter every month because “we have to tell people what we’ve been doing” even though 1 out of 20 people actually open the email.

Sound familiar? And in a collaborative environment, it’s hard to tell stakeholders that their project is going to be cut.

It’s especially hard when the fundraising that’s actually raising the money (and keeping your donors) isn’t well-measured. Because when no one can point to a line on a spreadsheet and say, “Look, THIS is where we raise most of our money, we should do more of this” … then all projects are equal.

And when all projects are equal, the stakeholder with the loudest voice / most passion / highest ranking wins.

Your Nonprofit Needs to Make Hard Choices

Here’s my advice in a nutshell:

Measure and track what really produces your fundraising net revenue.

Then relentlessly focus your resources on doing more of those things.

Be willing to endure some interpersonal conflict in exchange for raising more money and doing more good.

There’s no silver bullet here. For most nonprofits it’s about making hard choices, measuring, and being “sold out” to doing more good – instead of doing what someone thinks is best.

If This Is Your Organization and You Want to Change…

We have one piece of advice for you: measure your fundraising inputs and outputs.

If you don’t already know, figure out how much everything costs and how much everything raises. That’s your preparation for starting the hard conversations.

Data doesn’t always win, but it sure helps. And the practice of gathering and evaluating data is a skill that is incredibly valuable in the nonprofit world.

Final Days of the Sale

Our sale ends in a few days! You can raise more money in 2019, and have more time to focus on important projects, by having Better Fundraising create your appeals, e-appeals and newsletters.

And you can save thousands of dollars.

Visit this page to learn more and fill out a simple form if you’re interested. We’re genuinely excited about how 2018 went for our clients, and would love to work with you in 2019!

Four Tips for Analyzing Your Fundraising Effectiveness

Three vertical blocks of increasing height depict a 3-D graph. An orange arrow follows along the top of the blocks to suggest upward or increased growth

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Analytical Ones, the leading nonprofit donor data analysis firm. Bill, the founder and a personal friend, is an expert at helping you know what to measure in order to raise more money!

Four Tips for Analyzing Your Fundraising Effectiveness

In fundraising, there are just three strategies to increase your revenue: Win, Lift & Keep.

Win is acquiring first time donors or reactivating lapsed donors back; Lift is about your donors raising more money than they did the previous year; and Keep refers to retaining your donors from one year to the next.

The critical question is, which strategy should you focus on that will increase the revenue from your fundraising activities with the least amount of work on your part?

  1. Commit to Measuring Your Donors’ Fundraising Performance

    Peter Drucker once said, “If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” If the goal is to raise money for your organization, then it is imperative that you spend the time to thoroughly measure the fundraising outcomes of your activities and compare it to previous years. If you don’t, then your fundraising won’t improve. It’s that simple.

  2. Study Your New or Reactivated Donors over the past 3 years

    Every fundraiser should be able to answer these WIN questions:

    1. How many brand-new donors did we attract this year? And how does it compare to previous years?
    2. How many lapsed donors did we reactivate this year? And how does it compare to previous years?
    3. What percent of new and reactivated donors from last year gave this year? And how does it compare to previous years?
  3. Analyze Donors Giving Trends over the past 3 years

    Focus on these LIFT questions for your organization:

    1. What percent of the participants gave more revenue this year than last? And how does it compare to previous years?
    2. What percent of your donors made 8+ gifts? (These are great sustainer and planned giving prospects). And how does it compare to previous years?
    3. How much of your total revenue is coming from donors giving $10,000 or more? How does this compare to previous years?
  4. Measure Donor Retention

    Make a plan to know these KEEP metrics:

    1. What percent of the donors who gave last year gave this year? And how does it compare to previous years?
    2. What are your donor retention rates by Lifecycle? Are they improving over last year?
    3. What are your donor retention rates by donor value? How does it compare to last year?

If you commit to measuring the effectiveness of your fundraising, these nine Win, Lift & Keep metrics, will help you improve your organization’s fundraising.

PS – If some of these terms or metrics are new to you, please download our free “Guide to Fundraising Metrics” from the bottom of our homepage at

Ed. Note: This week is the launch of 4 new products to help you raise more money at year-end than you ever have before. Visit our store to see how to Keep and Lift your donors before the end of the year.

If you track your Donor Retention you will improve your Donor Retention!

measure donor retention

Our friends at Bloomerang recently surveyed several hundred nonprofits about donor retention.  Then they created this great infographic to summarize their findings.

First, I’d encourage you to take a minute to view the infographic.  The more time you spend thinking about donor retention, the better.  We think retention is the single biggest indicator of whether your organization is communicating well you’re your donors.

Next, look at the third pie chart.  This basically shows that if you measure your retention rate, you’re more likely to improve it.  That’s incredible.  But it proves the old quote right; “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Be sure to measure your organization’s retention rate at least once a year.  You’ll know whether your donors are finding value in their gifts to you – and you’ll likely improve your retention just by measuring it!