What I Wish I Knew Then

Note from Steven: This is a guest post from Lisa, an experienced Development Director who is on the Better Fundraising team.

When I was a new development director, there never seemed to be enough time, money or man power to get everything done. It was overwhelming. Sound familiar?

I knew I needed to prioritize . . . but even that was hard.

As you sit in your seat today, wondering how you can have the biggest impact possible, take this advice from a person who played every role in her development department. Here are three things I wish someone would have told me right at the beginning . . .

Make it clear what the donor’s gift will do

Specifically, make it clear enough so a donor could easily repeat it to their friends.

Your organization probably does a lot of great things, but you need to focus on just one powerful thing. It’s ok if what you ask donors to do is only part of what your organization does. I’ve noticed that most donors respond better to one simple thing than having to learn about all your organization does.

Always have a system to thank your donors promptly

Donors should be thanked and receipted 24-48 hours after you receive their donation. If they give online they will get a digital thank you right away, but follow that up with a thank you in the mail. For larger gifts, you may want to call and personally thank the donor.

As I built relationships with donors over the years I learned that you cannot thank a donor too quickly. But, thanking a donor to slowly is a surefire way to losing donors over time.

Show each donor the difference their gift made

People give because they want to make a difference. So let them know how their gift made a difference! For most of your donors, this can be done in your organization’s newsletter. Or an e-update, but in my experience e-updates aren’t nearly as good at engaging donors as a printed newsletter.

And for major donors, do whatever it takes to show them.

Take them on a site visit, prepare a special report just for them, whatever it takes to show them how their gift made a difference!

Do these three things and you WILL see improvements in your program. Better Fundraising gets this. Their Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat formula teaches and emphasizes the fundamentals of fundraising, helping you prioritize and work on the things that really matter!


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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *