The Lesson from a Nonprofit that Shut its Doors

out of business

A nonprofit I’ve supported off and on for a few years just went under.

My heart goes out to the staff and to the people they serve.

I’m sharing this with you because what they did over the last couple of months is an object lesson in how to fail.

The Lesson For You

Don’t hide your needs.

If you have a need right now, please share it with your donors.

Seriously, if you have a big need and haven’t put it in front of your donors, stop reading this and go write an e-appeal.

Let your donors decide whether to meet that need or not. Don’t take the decision out of their hands.

What the (Former) Organization Did

They hid the need.

I looked back at all the emails I received from them over the past two months.

In the two months before they went under, their fundraising shared nothing but success stories.

Which, unsurprisingly, made me think that nothing was wrong.

How was I supposed to know that my help was urgently needed?

How were donors supposed to know that they could play a meaningful part in helping the organization survive?

Courage & Vulnerability

This organization did not have the courage to share the real situation with their donors.

This organization did not have the vulnerability to really tell donors what was going on and ask their donors to help.

To the end, the organization wanted to keep their fundraising completely positive. They did. And they ended.

So to you I say…

Be Courageous and Vulnerable.

Be courageous and communicate with your donors more during the next few months, not less.

Be vulnerable and share the needs your organization and your beneficiaries are facing, then ask donors to meet those needs with a gift today.

Since receiving this news, I’ve had meetings with two organizations we’re working with. The smaller organization has raised twice as much money thus far this year as they normally do.

The larger organization is ahead of where they were last year, and was up 30% in April.

Just trying to make my final point for today:

Donors will do their part to help the charities, causes and beneficiary groups that they love.

If we let them know that help is needed, that is.

Pandemic Fundraising: What to Expect and How to Succeed in the Months Ahead


Every once in a while, we give you a free resource to help you raise more money.

It seems like a good time for that, doesn’t it? Because there’s a LOT of fear in the fundraising world.

So this free resource gives you what you need to guide your organization through the next few months – because we want your organization to be healthy after the pandemic!

Download here for free.

First, you’ll get a graphic that shows what will happen to your fundraising over the next few months. (It’s not possible to know the exact timeframe, but it’s absolutely possible to know the shape & pattern that donor behavior will follow.)

Second, you’ll get a document that shares – based on experience – how to communicate and fundraise your way through this.

The pandemic and economic downturn are doing grave harm to a lot of organizations. But you can minimize the impact and even come out ahead on the other side.

Some organizations are going to have incredible years – even organizations not overtly connected to the pandemic.

It all depends on the choices you make in the coming hours, days, and weeks. It’s up to each organization – to your organization – on how to respond.  

Please download this guide. It has our best experience and advice, taken from past crises and downturns, to help your organization succeed.

Quotes of Amazement about Donor Generosity


Donor generosity is amazing.

To give you a little joy in the middle of the craziness, here are a bunch of quotes about donor generosity that we’ve heard in the last week from organizations we serve.

I’ll just leave these right here for you to enjoy – and for organizations to think about if they or their beneficiaries are being harmed by the current situation but aren’t yet asking donors to help.

“Donors just blow me away with their generosity. So many have responded to share their own story of what they’re going through. And yet they choose to give. What a testament to what amazing people donors are.”

“I was talking to a friend last night, and she said, ‘Oh it must be soooo hard to raise money right now.’ And I thought that’s true if ‘hard’ means breaking all kinds of open rate, click-through rate, and revenue expectations. Then yeah, it’s really hard! ”

“It’s amazing to see how many people want to help right now.”

“It’s like year-end fundraising in March!”

“Donors that gave recently are giving again! This is unbelievable to me. It’s blowing me away!”

And my personal favorite (and a reminder for why your organization should be using the mail, too), a donor replied to an e-appeal with a gift and the following note:

“I forwarded your email to my mom, and she wants to donate but doesn’t want to do so online. Her friend would also like to make a donation. Is there a person and address she could send a check to?”

And finally, a quote from a small organization that used our easy formula for a successful Coronavirus e-appeal:

“I just wanted to thank you again and share the ongoing results of our emergency appeal (following your suggestions, of course). Immediately upon sending our 1st email last week, we received seven online gifts (may not seem like a lot, but it’s huge for us). As I write this email, we have received 81 online gifts, and 43 of those are from first-time donors.

“We also posted the appeal to our social media, which immediately resulted in comments and shares and gifts. Monday, I sent the same letter in the mail (with the edits you suggested in the Free Review Friday last week). I’ve also re-posted and emailed the appeal again this week.

“Not only are the gifts coming in, a couple of other amazing things happened – one of our grantors responded to the emergency appeal by releasing all the restrictions on the grant ($40K) and are allowing us to use the funds as we see fit – HUGE!!! And our local paper (distributed in our county) saw the emergency appeal and printed it inside the front cover of the paper. AMAZING!!”

Donor generosity is amazing! They’re unsung heroes in this whole thing – and I hope you enjoy your role in giving your donors opportunities to be heroic!