How smart fundraisers save MASSIVE time and raise more money


You are overworked.

You have too much to do and not enough time to do it.

But there’s an easy way to save a ton of time and raise more money: instead of reinventing everything each year, repeat your fundraising wins.

I know this might sound crazy. But it works like crazy. Here are some examples:

  • When it’s time to do your Thanksgiving letter, dust off last year’s Thanksgiving letter, update only what you need to, and send it again. Don’t change the formatting, don’t change the call to action, just send it again.
  • For your event, don’t make a new video. Use last year’s video.
  • Here’s a crazy example of “repeating” your way to success. I know an organization that, for the last 4 days of the year, divided their email list in half. Half of the people received the exact same fundraising email 4 days in a row. The other half received 4 unique fundraising emails. The group that received the same email each day raised more money and had a higher response rate!

Here’s the thing that smart fundraisers (and organizations) know: most of your donors are not paying very close attention.

Your donors don’t remember what last year’s Thanksgiving letter said. And they wouldn’t be bothered if this year’s letter were remarkably similar to last year’s letter.

So what do smart fundraisers do? When it comes time to Ask for donations, they repeat as much of what was done before as possible.

Those smart fundraisers focus on what works, do more of it, and actively work to NOT have to reinvent the wheel each time.

That’s how they save massive time. And raise more money.

They save the time of writing a new Thanksgiving letter. And getting it approved. And designed. And wrestling with the Program team over the exact phrasing.

Don’t Do Two Things

And perhaps what’s most important, they don’t do two things.

They don’t let themselves change something just because they are bored with what was done last time. If the previous thing worked really well, they dig deeper into that thing to try to make it better.

Second, they don’t bow to internal audiences who want to do things differently because of personal preferences. Your Board member may be bored with your event because it feels repetitive to him – but if you know that your event is raising more and more money every year, and most attendees don’t go for more than 2 years in a row, your board member’s opinion should be graciously accepted and then quickly left behind with other advice like “Direct mail is dead!” and “Let’s focus only on millennial donors!”

Learn From The Advertising World

Not everything from “advertising” is helpful in fundraising. But focus and repetition are VERY helpful.

The advertising world spends a LOT of time and money to a) figure out which message for each client is most powerful, and then b) make sure you see that exact same message multiple times.

But for some reason it’s a value in the nonprofit world to do everything different every time. Here’s how this manifests itself:

  • “What will our new theme be for this year’s auction/event?” Why is there an assumption that we need a new theme? If last year’s theme was powerful and worked great, use it again!
  • “What are we going to talk about in this year’s year-end letter?” If last year’s letter was great at motivating donors to give, why not save time by using it again and make only the updates we need to make?

The value of doing so many things new and different each year causes a lot less money to be raised, and a lot less good to be done.

Don’t Trust Your Feelings, Luke

To some people, it feels like less fun to work hard to identify what’s working and then repeat it. It can feel like less fun to concentrate on making it better each time instead of making it new and fresh.

It can feel like you’re not doing a good job when you send out an email that’s exactly the same as last year.

But I would argue that it’s way more fun to raise more money and do more good.

Does HGTV feel like they aren’t doing a good job when they have aired 50 programs in one week about improving houses? Does Apple feel like they aren’t doing a good job when they air the same commercial 50 times in one week?

No. Because they are focused on repeating what works.

Your organization should be, too. Because that’s what works best to raise more money.

And raising more money is why we’re here!


Steven Screen is Co-Founder of The Better Fundraising Company and lead author of its blog. With over 25 years' fundraising experience, he gets energized by helping organizations understand how they can raise more money. He’s a second-generation fundraiser, a past winner of the Direct Mail Package of the Year, and data-driven.

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