Fundraising: NOT the Luck of the Irish

During the gold rush, some of the most successful miners were of Irish descent, which gradually gave way to the expression, “luck of the Irish.” Ironically, mining success is less a result of luck than it is a byproduct of skill, planning, and grit, much like fundraising. Sure, there’s a chance a total stranger could leave a gazillion dollars to your organization, but it’s certainly not the norm. Rather it is through hard work and a rock-solid plan that nonprofits reach philanthropic success.

While a well-developed and thoughtful fundraising plan is fundamental to success, many organizations operate in a reactive manner, regularly having to put out fiscal fires, as opposed to being proactive in their program development. A well-crafted fundraising plan allows a nonprofit to focus, be strategic and control workflow while moving toward its highest goals.

Here are five golden tips to help you create a dynamic fundraising plan for your organization:

  1. Engagement  While having a single manager for your plan development is wise, a variety of stakeholders should be engaged in the process. Board members, Executive Directors, Development professionals, staff and key volunteers all have valuable insight into goal setting, strategies, activities and needs for support.
  2. Goals  Be specific in setting goals and make sure your goals are measurable and can be realistically attained. That said, be sure to stretch yourself and your staff to work toward your highest goals, avoiding complacency. Don’t be afraid of hard work, and remember how good everyone will feel after meeting or exceeding the challenges!
  3. Strategies  Be specific with the strategies that you will employ to reach each goal. Consider all the techniques you will use to raise funds and cultivate donors. From special events to phonathons, direct mail and volunteer solicitors, utilize a variety of strategies and be sure to evaluate what is working best for your organization along the way.
  4. Timeline  Creating a manageable timeline ensures that you control the flow of work in your shop. A timeline can help you identify downtime for planning, evaluation or office retreats and visually demonstrate the progressive nature of your efforts toward meeting your annual goal.
  5. Flexibility  Creating a plan that is flexible and organic in nature provides space for innovation and for taking advantage of unforeseen opportunities. Evaluate periodically to see what is and isn’t working, and pivot if necessary.

Spring is here and NOW is the time for planning to begin. May the road rise to meet you!

Created by Amy FitzGerald, MSW, Senior Consultant, Eno River Consulting, www.enoriverconsulting.orgIf your organization wants to develop a robust fundraising plan, we can help. Call 919.234.7281 for a free consultation.Untitled design (2)

50 Ways to Love Your Donors

Valentine’s Day is celebrated in a variety of ways around the world. In parts of Europe, keys are given to lovers and children alike to assist in unlocking the “giver’s heart.”  Strategically and authentically cultivating donors is vital to our everyday work toward building successful fundraising programs and sustainable organizations. Taking a cue from American musician extraordinaire, Paul Simon, here are Fifty Ways to Love Your Donors and support the opening of their giving hearts:

  1. Personalize thank you notes, phone calls and emails.
  2. Acknowledge birthdays and anniversaries.
  3. Recognize professional accomplishments, the addition of children and grandchildren, job changes and other personal events.
  4. Ask for their input and expertise.
  5. Be aware of their hobbies and interests.
  6. Know their business–what they do professionally, that is!
  7. Understand what it is about your organization that motivates them.
  8. Create appropriate connections–personal or written–between them and recipients of their generosity (e.g. scholarship recipients).
  9. Profile them and their gifts in your online or print newsletter.
  10. Recognize where and what they like to eat, including food restrictions.
  11. Respect their boundaries and sense of what is personal and private.
  12. Celebrate and recognize their support to other organizations.
  13. Remember where you left off from your last visit or conversation.
  14. Send appropriate holiday cards that celebrate their cultural heritage.
  15. Invite them to educational and festive events held by your organization.
  16. Cultivate them to serve in key volunteer roles for which they are uniquely qualified and interested.
  17. Ask them how and how often they would like you to communicate with them.
  18. Engage your CEO or Director in the relationship development process.
  19. Greet them with a warm smile, handshake or hug.
  20. Ask your Board Chair to thank them personally for their support.
  21. Acknowledge them and their gifts in local, statewide or national media outlets.
  22. Recognize them with a special award from your organization.
  23. Nominate them for local, statewide or national philanthropic awards.
  24. Provide transportation or other services if they have special needs.
  25. Know whether they like to be recognized or remain anonymous.
  26. Send a handwritten note.
  27. Give occasional and thoughtful gifts that remind them of your organization.
  28. Spell and pronounce their names correctly and know titles.
  29. Send photographs or newspaper clippings from a recent event.
  30. Share current updates and successes of the programs they fund.
  31. Be specific in telling them how your organization used their gifts.
  32. Send them a video thank you from staff and clients.
  33. Make their thank you public, such as with a named scholarship, fund or room.
  34. Give them a personal tour of your facility and programs in action.
  35. Say thank you or give a shout-out on Twitter.
  36. Thank them with handmade treats.
  37. Help them network with other people.
  38. Have a program staff person call them and provide updates on the agency’s work.
  39. Say thank you–again and again and again and again…
  40. Attach personal messages to direct mail.
  41. Invite donors to cultural, sporting or fun events in the area.
  42. Feature them in a story in your print or email newsletter, blog or FaceBook post.
  43. Ask for their advice.
  44. Include them in a feasibility study or organizational assessment.
  45. Invite them to private events or special opportunities.
  46. Appeal to them with an invitation to an intimate educational event.
  47. Listen to their concerns, interests and ideas.
  48. Prick up your ears and listen, listen, and listen some more.
  49. Be authentic.
  50. Thank you-bomb your donors–say thank you often and in multiple ways!

created by Amy FitzGerald, MSW, Senior Consultant, Eno River Consulting,

What are the Top Two Ways to Raise Money?

As the hustle and bustle of the holiday season reach a gale force and nonprofits are generating their life-sustaining year-end support, the most successful organizations are putting the finishing touches on fund development plans for the new year. As part of this process, they are once again asking:

What are the best ways to bring in more money?

The answers are clear:

The winners regarding donor retention, return on investment and sustainability are

  1. in-person meetings and
  2. telephone contact.

Though often overlooked, we know it is personal engagement with donors that drives connection and commitment. Therefore, the aware nonprofit must realize the value of its time, and it must create a plan that involves thoughtful individual contact with the most committed donors, (i.e. long-term, multi-gift and major gift donors).

To make the most of personal contact with donors, nonprofits must convey that while they are the facilitators of positive change, it is the donors, themselves, who are the change agents.  Online fundraising strategist, Matthew Sherrington, poignantly writes that a charity’s job is “to help people do their good work in the world. Not the other way around.” So how do nonprofits communicate this truth?

The answer lies in relating to donors authentically–asking them why they care about the organization and what they hope to see accomplished. Then they can be shown how they have made a difference through data points, which illustrate the nonprofit’s impact in the mission area that corresponds strongly to the interest of the donor, along with information that reflects how their individual giving has furthered that work.

In creating a strong fundraising plan that emphasizes personal contact, nonprofits should keep in mind the parable of the rocks and the pebbles, which Steven Covey so eloquently conveys in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Start by placing the large rocks, (i.e. strongest relationships and possible relationships) in the schedule as a priority, and everything else will follow.

Millennials meet Baby Boomers, Baby Boomers meet Millennials


There is much to gain from the age old idea of learning from our elders, especially when it comes to leadership.  Millennials like it, tweet it, post it, blog it, and watch videos all at the same time. We dive in to social media to make deep connections with causes, people, and ideas.  Other generations can be overwhelmed and intimidated by this lifestyle that wasn’t even thought of a decade ago.  These generational differences lead to different ideas about what leadership looks like in an organization.

The most recent Daring to Lead survey (Cornelius, Moyers, & Bell, 2011) of Executive Directors reported that “thirty-six percent of leaders said there would not be a credible staff candidate for the executive position should they leave today” (Corneilus et al., 2011, para. 10).   This creates an opportunity to strengthen emerging leader’s talents to serve in the context of their organization.

How can we engage with each other to provide successful dialogue that moves our organizations forward?

There is an opportunity to link the knowledge of the past to the ideas of the future to create a lasting legacy for the future and to deepen the sector’s experience of contributing back to improve organizations.  Increased collaboration is seen as having the potential for improved outcomes for organizations.  Through collaboration, organizations can often see increased revenue, decreased expenses, and/or significantly improved impact through collaborative engagement strategies with key stakeholders. There needs be a focus on breaking silos of generations, race, power, and gender to creating a cohesive and collaborative environment with a clear vision of the organization.


Younger generations are so full of ideas, ways to change the world to make it better, and how to connect everyone to their ideas.  While other generations may be quick to share their wisdom they have gained over their years of experience, before they listen.   There needs to be time set aside for generations to listen to each other and allow them to understand what they each have to offer the organization.


In organizations each generation has a responsibility to learn!  Younger generations need to reach out and ask for advice and feedback.  Then take the feedback to improve and adapt as a leader.  Millennials are hungry for direction and want to succeed as leaders.  Boomers and Xers may lack some digital skills; however are wealth of talent, have had experiences, and developed skills to become positive leaders.

In the dynamics of an organization there is room for seasoned leaders to gain insight from the younger generations.  Such leaders are able to learn innovative ways to engage their organization, take their experiences and talents adapt them to stay relevant in today’s ever evolving world.


Without this model of inter-generational learning the implications will be severe and cause us to continue to make the same mistakes made in the past without realizing it.


Looking for Supporters in the Right Place

Inner Circle

Many nonprofits feel alone. You work hard, are limited by available resources which often don’t meet a growing demand, and you have the challenge of both managing an organization, and running multiple programs to provide services. To carry out your mission, you need to do all of these things well.

So where are the supporters who can help you carry out your mission? The people who care about your issue may not know about your organization. But by using targeted, data-driven strategies, a good consulting firm can facilitate introductions of your organization to its most likely supporters in the community you serve.

You can also get support in creating prioritized, actionable relationships with people on your current database who clearly care deeply about your organization. Your organization may not be seeing how strong a champion and supporter some of your current supporters could be, with the right cultivation. Relationship-building takes time and intent, and there are a series of steps to take, but you already have invaluable relationships. The key is to recognize them, and then take the next steps to gain even more support for your mission.

Eno River Consulting can help you grow your inner circle significantly, and help your inner circle interact and engage with your organization in highly personalized ways. This way you can accept the many contributions that they want to share with you, on their terms. Relationships, time, and money are shared freely when people and organizations support you and have a clear path to engage.

Keep in mind this helps your organization, but you are also providing something of great value to your supporters. You are simultaneously connecting them to the community, and through engaging with your group, you are giving them a vehicle that supports their own values and priorities. There are people all around you who care for the same mission you exist to serve. Together your mission will take root in the world.

Shift your attention away from your programs for the moment, and focus on the true intent of your organization. This is what other people care about – the people, the animals, the art, the education, etc. Your inner circle includes corporations, government, and major donors – even if you don’t know who they are yet – because you and those entities have shared values and goals. These individuals and organizations have an infinite capacity to help you advance the mission of your organization.  Without them on board, you will forever be Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill.  With them, you can truly fulfill your mission in a larger way than you may believe is possible.

“So, where is my inner circle?”

They are in whatever geographic area you serve.  They already exist, but they won’t engage until you talk with them. And they will only stay and grow their involvement when you 1) relate to them the way they expect, and 2)  maintain communication with them in the way that works for them.

“I have too much to do already with my existing inner circle.  The staff, the board…there is so much to do.”

Yes, you have a lot to do. But, consider seeing your organization as two different, yet parallel, organizations.  One organization exists to ensure that your programs and activities are driving the results you want on that front.  The other track (or organization) exists solely to connect others to your mission and to communicate effectively with them about the ways they can help you. This second track facilitates the involvement of supporters in all the ways that help you achieve the solutions to the issues your mission focuses on. This may look like connecting people with volunteer opportunities in your nonprofit, and at other times it may include higher-level conversations around policy or culture. A good, strategic consultant will help you to think very “big-picture” and create a plan for connecting with your expanding inner circle in a variety of ways to draw supporters in and keep them engaged and invested.

What does the future look like with the inner circle?

The right people are just outside your doorstep. You have the resources you need, and you know where to go. People are helping you with your vision, and their assistance means your perspective is consequently greater than what you can visualize on your own. You see more opportunities and take advantage of relationships and issues you may not have seen on your own, and didn’t have the time or connections to develop alone. Money comes from places you didn’t see before, and other people have helped you ask for it. And your ability to achieve your mission expands exponentially because people are helping you by bringing opportunities, and by doing key pieces of the work.


So, Your Organization Needs More Money

A wise nonprofit gathers data continually, throughout its existence.  Every financial contribution it gets is recorded accurately with complete contact information.  Here is a little-known fact: past supporters have the strongest relationship with an organization, and are the first people to approach for a fundraising campaign. You may know this, and yet not grasp how true it is, or how powerful your current relationships can be.

The gifts made of any size during a fundraising campaign are a direct result of how well a nonprofit is “answering” the deepest desires of its supporters and investors.  To successfully raise money in a fundraising campaign, the nonprofit must “answer” the interest – and initial investments – of its supporters with thoughtful, helpful information about aspects  of the nonprofit the investor cares most about.

When a nonprofit interacts authentically in an emotionally connecting and appropriate way, and with business intelligence with a past supporter or investor, that person feels a strong connection and loyalty, and often continues their giving – and can increase it greatly. Conversely, when an organization does not do these things, or doesn’t do them often enough, it loses contributions from that supporter, and over time it often loses that relationship as well.  When this happens, since you don’t “see” the actions you didn’t take, you are unaware of the lost contributions, and unaware of the lost relationship. Many nonprofits miss huge opportunities because they are busy doing the program work that carries out their mission.

This dynamic happens over and over again in nonprofits of all sizes. 

You may think you are just making an “ask,” and even that your supporters don’t want extraneous communications from you. But the fundraising cycle shifts considerably if you recognize you are also “answering” the need of your donors – their need to participate in their community, their need to be a part of the solution for challenges they care about, their need to contribute. The better you “answer” your donors after a gift of any size, and continue to engage them, the more invested they become in your organization as a positive solution to their needs. In a complex world, people recognize that the way to make change is through collective action. Your organization is actually a solution to your supporters’ needs. The more you recognize this, the greater the resources – and dollars – you will find yourself with, to carry out what you see as the real work of your organization.

The solution? Nonprofits must be able to “answer” their supporters and investors after the investors have responded to the first ask.

You would probably love to focus on your mission without the time consuming process of fundraising and managing an organization. Nonprofits are charged with a huge role in our society – aligning similar entities with common visions and values, to solve major social issues that impact the health and happiness of our nation, as well as economic development and commerce. This is a substantial charge, especially when nonprofits often lack “infrastructure” (systems and staff) necessary to effectively carry this out.

In many cases, an organization of 3-5 FTE’s are in charge of a major goal for a state or region.  In the resulting rush of tasks that must be done for the average nonprofit organization and its programs and clients, raising money is often one more thing on a very long list.

In these cases, it is wise to borrow the knowledge of the corporate sector. Businesses often pay for specialized services, because it is more effective to use someone else’s expertise than develop that expertise within your organization. You often bring in a lot more money when you hire out a part of your fundraising.

Fundraising is a sign of participation and investment in a nonprofit organization’s work for those that give time, money or expertise charitably at any level and through any mechanism.

Many nonprofits are surprised to learn how people that have already supported them at a modest level can actually help to transform the nonprofits service to the community with their insights, their social or business network, or their financial support. These past supporters may not have mentioned or offered these resources to you, but they are there. And the way to start harnessing them is to begin with an information-gathering process.

It is best to start the fundraising process by better understanding who supports your organization and why they support you.  Armed with that information, nonprofit organizations can better adapt their messaging to increase the community’s support.  In addition, nonprofits become much smarter organizations, because they understand their strongest supporters. These supporters are really some of your customers.  What an incredible model – people who are willing to pay for your services, even knowing they are not the direct “recipients” of your services. The process of learning who your supporters are, and why, is the first step to developing a comprehensive fundraising campaign.

It is important to understand that terrific fundraising happens because many other mission critical parts of your organization are going well. Investing in fundraising means investing in the vision, performance and results of your organization.

%d bloggers like this: