The Power of ‘A Little Bit More’ Fundraising

A little bit more.

As a fundraiser, it’s tempting to dream about something big and amazing that would change everything for your organization. A surprise million dollar gift. An unexpected bequest. A knockout appeal that shatters previous records.

And, I’ll admit, you can do a lot of good when those big and amazing things happen.

But there’s a simple tactic that nearly every fundraiser can employ that, over time, can be just as powerful. I call it “a little bit more” fundraising.

Here’s the idea:

Whatever you did last year, do a little bit more.

For example, you could do one or more of the following:

  • Add one or two additional e-appeals to your communications schedule.
  • Add one more direct mail appeal to your calendar.
  • Ask your major donors to give a little bit more than their previous gift.
  • Ask a few faithful donors to start giving monthly.

If you do a little bit more each year, you’re doing two important things:

First, you’re giving your donors more opportunities to support your mission.

Then, by using one or more of these tactics, you’re being proactive and taking control of your fundraising, rather than putting your hopes in a big, surprise gift or a knockout appeal.

This summer, give some thought to what adding “a little bit more” to your fundraising would look like for your organization. When you work “a little bit more” fundraising into your plan, you’ll see a lift in results without a lot of additional work.

The Antidote to Fundraising Fear Is…


So it turns out that the antidote to fundraising fear is a Swedish custom called “fika.”

Fika is pronounced “fee-kuh,” and it’s a custom of people getting together to have coffee and treats together. 

One of our customers practices fika each day, and here’s their genius move: while they are together, they open the mail and have an intentional, shared moment of gratitude for each gift.

I love it.  And, finding this out helped explain something I’d already noticed about this organization: the incredible grace and equanimity with which they handle complaints and pushback on their fundraising.

Now, fika and responding to complaints might not seem related, but they absolutely are…

Emotional Balance Sheet

You see, nonprofits tend not to emotionally acknowledge the generosity behind each gift that they receive. 

Usually this happens for two reasons:

  • The sheer volume of gifts makes it easier to think about each day’s gifts as “revenue” instead of individual acts of generosity and sacrifice.
  • The people who receive and process the gifts are often different from the people who send out the fundraising.  So the Fundraisers only experience the response to their work as a number on a spreadsheet. 

For many people in nonprofits and in Fundraising, even if the balance sheet fills up, there’s little emotional experience of the gifts.  The emotional balance sheet remains unfilled.    

So when a complaint comes in, the organization is knocked sideways by the emotion.  Suddenly they are dealing with a human with a complaint, not just “revenue” or a percentage point in the response rate.    

You know what happens next – the complaint receives outsized reaction.  There’s an immediate urge to change fundraising messaging or strategy to make sure this never happens again.  Some staff members wrongly assume that the Complainer is speaking for more people than him or herself.  Fears of the mythical “donor fatigue” are whispered.  Flee!  Run for the hills!  (I’ve written extensively about this in our free eBook about complaints.)

But when an organization has more of an emotional connection with all of the gifts that have come in – and all the generosity and emotion and sacrifice they represent – then a complaint or pushback from an internal stakeholder is just one piece of negative data. 

And it’s just one drop of negative data in an ocean of generosity and emotion and sacrifice.

In that case, the complaint is given the appropriate amount of attention.  No more and no less.  You’re so thankful for the 47 gifts that came in yesterday that you can easily respond to a complaint with warmth and compassion instead of fear.

December Goals

This is being posted on the last day of November.  And you are going to receive a LOT of gifts in the next 31 days.

Each of us should spend time in gratitude for the gifts that come in.  We should get a little emotionally closer to the generosity and sacrifice behind each gift. 

I guarantee you that visiting the mail room each day (or even just scrolling through the names of online donors) will make the inevitable complaint or pushback easier to handle.  Because somebody is going to say they don’t like one of your urgent year-end messages.  Or a Board member is going to complain about how much fundraising you send out at year-end. 

But if you and your organization emotionally feel all the gifts that have come in, those drops of negative feedback will dissolve in the ocean of generosity.

Emotionally acknowledging each gift will also bring you great joy at what you’re a part of.

Trust Your Donors

High trust.

If you’re at an organization that has a hard time approving new ideas in fundraising, keep reading.

(And maybe you’ve just arrived home from last week’s Nonprofit Storytelling Conference with your head full of new ideas you’d like to try!)

To many people working in nonprofits, new fundraising messaging and tactics can feel deeply risky. And so, some of your team will push back against your new ideas.

To those people, when they push back, here’s what I want you to say…

“I want you to trust our donors. I want you to trust that they could be giving more, and that they are adults.”

“I want you to trust that their support is deeper than a new message, new tactic, or new appeal could shake.”

“Let’s trust that our fundraising right now is not the best it can ever be. And let’s trust that, like larger organizations, we can regularly try new things and improve over time.”

Will each donor say “yes” every time we try something new? Of course not.

Will every “something new” work better than the thing it replaces? Of course not.

But until you trust your donors enough to regularly try new things, to ask for support more often, and try new messages, you’ll never tap into all the giving available to you.

Don’t let internal worries and fears put boundaries around your donors’ generosity. It’s your donors’ job to set their boundaries, not yours.

Trust your donors. Their generosity will astound you.

The Reminder


Before your organization arrived in a donor’s life, their beliefs and values caused them to be generous, to believe in right and wrong, to care for people in their community.

In other words, they put themselves “on the hook.” They decided to take responsibility for some of the ills in the world and donate to help.

So if it ever feels uncomfortable to ask people for money, remember that the people you are asking put themselves on the hook. They are on your donor list or mailing list because they want to help.

So you shouldn’t feel guilty about sending out fundraising. You shouldn’t feel like you’re manipulating people.

Instead, be thankful and joyful they put themselves on the hook. Boldly ask them to put their money where their values are.

Fundraising doesn’t put donors on the hook. Fundraising reminds donors that they put themselves on the hook.

Fundraising is a Gift an Organization Gives


I’d like to interrupt the regularly scheduled blog with a big idea.

We believe that fundraising is a gift that a nonprofit gives its beneficiaries, donors, and community.

Most people don’t believe that fundraising is a gift. They believe that fundraising bothers donors. Or they believe that fundraising is emotionally manipulative. Occasionally they believe they shouldn’t have to fundraise at all.

But having a core understanding that fundraising is a gift leads to a happier fundraising life and to doing more good.

A Gift to Three Groups

It’s easy to see why an organization’s fundraising is a gift to its beneficiaries or cause. The organization generously spends time and money – to multiply that time and money – so that more help can be given to the beneficiaries or cause.

Fundraising is also a gift to donors. Your organization’s donors care about your beneficiaries or cause, but lack the expertise or programs to do very much. So fundraising that gives a donor a chance to do something meaningful for beneficiaries or a cause that they care about. That sounds like a gift to me.

And as Henri Nouwen argues in A Spirituality of Fundraising, fundraising gives donors a chance to “put their money where their values are.” (That’s a gift too, even though it occasionally makes us uncomfortable.)

Finally, fundraising is a gift to the community you live and operate in. More people knowing the truth about what’s going on, and more people taking action to help, is good for everyone. Fundraising is an effective tool to make that happen.

Beliefs Drive Actions

Believing that fundraising is a gift causes reals changes to organizations and Fundraisers…

If an organization believes that their fundraising is a gift, are they fearful when they send it out?


Maybe a little nervous to see how it does? Sure. Maybe a little worried about a complaint? That’s only human. But the removal of fear from an organization’s fundraising life is a massive improvement.

If an organization believes that their fundraising is a gift, do they only ask donors to help a couple of times a year?


Because they aren’t afraid, and they know that donors love to help, they give donors more chances throughout the year.

If an organization believes that their fundraising is a gift, do they enjoy their fundraising life more?


Imagine never thinking you’re bothering or somehow manipulating donors. Imagine fundraising bosses saying, “Yes, let’s try that new idea of yours.” Imagine celebrating the gifts that come in and brushing away the complaints like you shoo a housefly.

Imagine your shoulders, but lowered. Imagine your breathing, but deeper.

And here’s the kicker: if an organization believes that their fundraising is a gift, do they raise more and do more good?

Yes! Because as they create their annual plans, and as they create each piece of fundraising through the year, they make a hundred little generous decisions from a position of strength. Those decisions give their donors more chances to say “yes.” Those decisions make each individual piece of fundraising more engaging for donors. So they raise more money and do more good.

When we work with a nonprofit and they immediately start raising more money, it can look like the tactics were the cause of the success.

But when we help organizations turn around their fundraising, or make “the leap” to their next level of income, it’s because we approach their fundraising with a different set of beliefs.

Because if you believe that fundraising is a gift – that the act of fundraising is a generous act – the fundraising you create will be more powerful than if you believe something else about fundraising.

Interestingly, in our daily lives everybody knows that if you’re more generous, people will be more generous with you in turn.

Turns out the same thing is true in fundraising.

A Generous Ego


If your organization wants to do more fundraising (which we obviously believe in) we’d recommend that you do so with what we call a “generous ego.”

You need to have enough ego to know that what you’re doing is important, that it matters, that your organization is making a difference.  You need to believe those so strongly that you want to share them with other people.

But you also need to be generous.  When you do your fundraising, you need to make the generous act of crossing the gap to your donors’ level of understanding. You need to make the generous act of asking more often than you think you can, on behalf of your beneficiaries.

When asking for support, make the generous act of focusing on your donor’s role, telling her how her gift that makes a difference.  When reporting back on previous giving, make the generous act of giving the credit to the donor, and directly telling her how her gift made a difference.

Too many nonprofits have a hard time being generous in their fundraising.  They make their fundraising all about themselves.  About their process.  About their programs.  About their staff.  About their volunteers.  About how they think about their issue.  They ask the donor to support their organization instead of asking the donor to help people.

Of course, what your organization does is important.  What your organization does makes the world a better place.  

Your organization should have a healthy ego.  Your ego should cause you to want to do more fundraising, because you know more good would be done if you raised more money. 

But be generous about it in your fundraising.  Be generous about it in your branding.

Generously focus on how your donors’ gifts will meet beneficiaries’ needs.  Do that, instead of raising money for your organization, and you’ll raise more money for your organization.