Mobile Text Message Fundraising

Fundraising via SMS text messages still has major obstacles, but one approach avoids that mess and can pay off big.

14 Jun 20120 Comments

It's OK to be Clueless

Fundraising seems shrouded in mystery, a magical process that most people are terrified of. But it doesn’t have to be so mysterious.

06 Jun 20120 Comments

Why is Fundraising a Dirty Word?

If you’re like most people, you think fundraising is a “necessary evil.” Something we wish we didn’t have to do. But most people don’t have the first clue what fundraising is all about.

18 Apr 20120 Comments

10 Facts about Planned Giving

In a national survey among those over age 30, only 22 percent say they have been asked for a planned gift. There is tremendous, untapped potential for planned gifts, yet many of us aren’t doing anything about it.

21 Mar 20120 Comments

Hosting Experiences, Not Events

Events are things that happen; experiences are things you take with you.

01 Mar 20120 Comments

Defending the Annual Fund

Annual giving isn’t always sexy. It rarely draws the big bucks. But Vassar College is defending it and telling a great story to boot.

16 Feb 20120 Comments

Give it Back, Jack: Asking for a donation to be returned

The short version: The Ray Charles Foundation isn’t happy. It donated money and now it’s asking for it to be returned. How did things go so wrong?

15 Feb 20120 Comments

How to waste your board member's donations

One of the most common questions we ask is “how often should I ask for money?” We’re usually thinking of external donors, but what about your board members?

06 Feb 20120 Comments

I Don't Want Your Support

In my new job at Notre Dame, my focus has shifted more to fundraising and away from the broader marketing work. I recently met my my boss, who starts in a few weeks. He shared a few things he feels pretty strongly about, and one was that he hates the word “support.” It showed up agai...

01 Jan 20120 Comments

12 Lessons from Client Service

In my recent job change, I find myself in the first position where I’m not answering to clients. I’m not billable by the hour. It means fewer meetings and a very different kind of work. But I’ve also had an opportunity to reflect on the work I’m leaving behind. Working for...

15 Dec 20110 Comments

When someone loves your nonprofit

Last week I was showing someone how to monitor their social media presence and I discovered a YouTube video that one of our campers created and posted. It might have been a school project or she might have just done it for fun. Think about this camper for a moment. Here’s a teenager who lo...

23 Nov 20110 Comments

New Research on Why People Donate

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Christian Smith, Ph.D. present on his latest research. He’s the mind behind the Science of Generosity at the University of Notre Dame. While they’ve shared a few initial findings publicly, he asked that I hold off on sharing the results he pres...

15 Nov 20110 Comments

Why You Should Ignore Mobile Giving

I get a lot of questions about hot new things like Twitter (which isn’t that new, but people are still figuring out what to do with it), QR codes, etc. One of my favorites is mobile. And for many of us, we think specifically about mobile giving. How it works You send a text message to a no...

13 Jun 20112 Comments

Aggressive Fundraising, Transparency, and the Worst Case Scenario

This year, our Camp Fire USA council went transparent. We posted our budget and shared financial data that people had never seen. At a public meeting and in a community newspaper, we presented balance sheets and income statements, historical performance trends, and details about the organization&...

21 Sep 20100 Comments

Saying Thanks

Last Saturday, we threw a party. It was our second year in a row, and both years the party had two main goals. First, we said thank you. This is an event of gratitude, free of charge and free of appeals. We asked people to bring a dish to share, and many people made donations, but the event was ...

17 Aug 20100 Comments

3 Lessons from Girl Scout Cookies

Our Camp Fire council had a discussion recently about how other youth organizations have changed over the years to meet new challenges and opportunities, respond to market forces, and simply try new things. This article from Comcast Finance talks about Girl Scout cookies and the breakdown of wher...

11 Feb 20100 Comments

Visual Guide to Giving

Found via Make a Difference Michiana. Originally posted at the Mint blog where they have plenty of other amazing things to check out. Related links: Charity Navigator National Center for Charitable Statistics

13 Dec 20091 Comment

7 Tips for a More Profitable Silent Auction

A silent auction isn’t an easy thing to put on. 1. Get people to bid more than the item is worth. You’re a charity, not a pawn shop. Avoid setting up items that have a clear dollar value (e.g., a $20 gift certificate) because it’s hard to rationally justify spending $50 on a $20...

31 Oct 20091 Comment

To Print or Not to Print: the Annual Report

As we wrapped up design of our annual report today, it occurred to me that we could easily save our money and not print it out. What’s an annual report good for, anyway? Sure, you can hand it out to donors or use it to help inform new volunteers or staff members… but is there anything...

09 Feb 20091 Comment


President Obama gave his first weekly address, available on YouTube. As part of an economic recovery plan, his administration is setting up a website to show “how and where your tax dollars are being spent.” has a brief “coming soon” type of message: An overs...

25 Jan 20090 Comments

Not All Non-Profits Deserve Donations

Camp Fire struggles to raise money. It’s not because we don’t use the money well, or because our mission is controversial – it’s because we’re not a charity. Camp Fire isn’t curing cancer. We’re won’t be fixing poverty. We run summer camps. We’...

24 Jan 20090 Comments

A Look at Wikipedia's Annual Appeal

Wikipedia is “the largest encyclopedia in history, written by volunteers.” They don’t do advertising. They don’t charge membership fees. They’re a not-for-profit, paid for by a foundation started by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. For several weeks, they’ve been...

29 Dec 20080 Comments

Mere Exposure leads to Big Returns?

Another business lesson from my psychologist wife: The mere exposure effect states that simply being exposed to an image or a name increases your attraction to that. So when you look at an array of photographs, you’re more likely to respond positively to the ones you’ve seen before. ...

19 Dec 20080 Comments

6 Steps to Meet Your Fundraising Goals

As I recently wrote, some people think about fundraising out of desperation. I take a more pragmatic approach to fundraising. I have an intimidating fundraising goal in front of me for 2009. I’m going to beat that goal. Here’s how. 1. Use a budget What’s your fundraising goal? O...

29 Nov 20080 Comments

Tin Cup and the Lottery Ticket

There are two fundraising models that don’t work, but seem to be immensely popular: The tin cup and the lottery ticket. The Tin Cup The tin cup is the beggar who bangs on doors and asks for money. Until it became illegal, the firemen would stand at the intersection, holding a bucket, and as...

26 Nov 20080 Comments

How to Set Fundraising Goals

Last year, I missed a board meeting. I was eager to hear how it went, since we were in a time of turmoil and many of our meetings took unexpected turns. The board made up a fundraising goal for me. Yep, that’s pretty much how it went. 1. Start with your budget. The biggest difference betwe...

23 Nov 20080 Comments

Who should you ask for money?

Fundraisers, gather round! Who should you ask for money? The obvious answer: People who will give you money. But you’re not sure who will give you money, so the next answer is: People who are most likely to give you money. Ok, then who are those people? Smart fundraising boils down to these...

20 Nov 20080 Comments

Sasha Dichter's Manifesto for Non-Profit CEOs

Sasha Dichter wrote a fantastic Manifesto: In Defense of Raising Money I’m sending this to all of my board members and encourage you to take 10 minutes to read it.

27 Oct 20080 Comments

5 Minutes to Online Donations

I’m embarrassed to admit that Camp Fire doesn’t take online donations. In preparation for an appeal letter, I decided to buckle down and set it up. I’m going to use PayPal because we already have a PayPal account and it’s a quick way to take online donations without a lot ...

20 Oct 20080 Comments

Some Tips on Qualified Deductions from USA Today

I’ve written before about how tax deductions for donating time but I generally try to stay away from legal and tax issues (I’m no lawyer or accountant). But here’s a great article from USA Today with points on deductions and taxes that most people don’t realize: In recent...

07 Oct 20080 Comments

Recruiting Generation Y to Give and Get Involved

Some thoughts on recruiting 20-somethings to your non-profit cause. As a member of both a non-profit board and Generation Y, this is what I have to say about my peers. We are passionate. We are independent and challenge authority. We usually have a lot of debt and manage money poorly. We...

31 Aug 20080 Comments

What All Those Fundraising Books, Blogs, and Seminars Don't Tell You

Having taken up the fundraising reins about a year ago, I got my start by reading a lot of books and blogs. I met with fundraisers, consultants, non-profit managers, and volunteers. I heard many different tactics, strategies, and advice. I looked at the fundraising activities that we had been do...

30 Aug 20080 Comments

The Right Fundraising Software

I need software. As a long-time tech guy, I have high standards. But I just can’t find what I’m looking for. I’m asking for your help. Here are two “user stories” to consider how the software might be used. User Story 1 A donor writes a check. We log the donation,...

14 Aug 20082 Comments

How to Lose Money on Fundraising

Every non-profit fundraising and marketing consultant I’ve met recommends hosting a single “signature” event each year. This event becomes part of your brand and continues to grow in revenue over time. Many organizations rely on this event to produce their entire operations bud...

12 Aug 20080 Comments

What to do if your audience are baby boomers

Beth Kanter cracked me up today when she wrote, “if the bulk of your audience is from the baby boomer and older and you don’t plan to reach out to younger people—perhaps social networking sites are not the best Internet strategy for your organization.” I’m hyperconn...

20 Jun 20081 Comment

Donors are people, too

NonProfit Times shares some tips from a conference presentation about how to raise the first $100,000. A couple of the tips: Fundraising from people is asking for money and is not a quick fix, but it is dependable and renewable, is internally controlled and provides multiple sources. 76 perc...

14 Jun 20080 Comments

Delegate good times, come on! (Let's delegate)

What an awful title. Kool and the Gang… eesh. As the hideous parody title indicates, it’s all about delegation. That’s become my defense against small non-profit woes – too much to do with too few people and too little time. Getting others to do the work for you. After all...

07 Jun 20080 Comments

Chameleons are Dumb

That’s right, I said what we’ve all been thinking. Chameleons are dumb. Or, at least, emulating a chameleon is dumb. In the unending quest for funding, it’s tempting to apply for all kinds of grants. These grants are intended to address a wide range of issues: literacy, poverty,...

11 May 20080 Comments

Taxes and Philanthropists

I don’t think donors really care about tax breaks. I think most philanthropists care about supporting a cause, investing in their community, and making the world a better place. It’s just a hunch. Seth Godin reinforces my hunch when he writes about Charity Auctions: “The goal of...

09 May 20080 Comments

Are you hardy?

Hardiness is a term used to describe plants’ ability to survive adverse growing conditions. That is, a plant can exist with very little water, sunlight, soil, and so on. Imagine a flower in the desert—or as the photo shows, a tree growing up through solid rock. A hardy non-profit org...

30 Mar 20080 Comments

Don't ask for money

One of our new board members has worked in several not-for-profits in a variety of fundraising-related roles. I’ve been looking to him for insight into this process. Recently, he told us, “Don’t ask for money. Tell a story and you won’t need to ask.” The idea is that...

09 Mar 20081 Comment

On Recruiting Board Members

From nonprofiteer: Many harried nonprofit executives also are so uncomfortable with “the M-word” that they recruit people to their Boards without telling them, in writing, that recruits are expected to write checks (and for how much?) and secure checks (and in what context?). Read more

08 Mar 20080 Comments

A Naive Newcomer's View of Fundraising

Fundraising always sounded like a cushy job to me. I had this notion that it consists calling some wealthy donor up, wining and dining him, and collecting a huge check. Of course, that’s not how it works. It’s not about doing business over drinks or dinner. It’s about building a...

08 Mar 20080 Comments

Zero to fundraising in how many seconds?

That’s right, we haven’t been fundraising. I cringe when I read articles about how to keep fundraising during a recession because we weren’t even doing this when the economy was strong! We used to get our funding from one major agency, but that has dried up and left us wondering...

05 Mar 20080 Comments

Fundraising from the Marketing Department

I believe that fundraising and marketing are really about the same things: telling a story and building a relationship. Having worked in a marketing world for my relatively short career, I volunteered to chair our new marketing committee at our Camp Fire council. This makes sense, as I’m fa...

01 Mar 20080 Comments

From the Expert: Fundraising Tips

During this unintentional hiatus of mine, I’ve spent a good chunk of my time on Camp Tannadoonah and Camp Fire USA stuff. One focus is non-profit fundraising. To wrap my mind around this strange concept, I’ve been talking to experts to get their advice and learn from them. Recently, I...

21 Feb 20080 Comments

Non-profit Marketing: Donors don't care about you

I’ve been reading a lot about marketing for non-profits, as one of my major involvements right now is helping Camp Fire USA and Camp Tannadoonah (the summer camp where my wife serves as camp director). I caught this excellent piece: From Marketing for Charitable Nonprofit Organizations at a...

05 Feb 20080 Comments