Practical Advice for Modern Fundraisers



: serious and quiet because you are thinking: done or made after careful thinking   : done or made after careful thinking: showing concern for the needs or : showing concern for the needs of feelings of other people


Blogging during Fundraising Day New York is both as pleasure and a challenge. The depth of the information and the pace at which it is delivered makes it hard to do each session justice. But I like getting my ideas and thoughts to you as soon as possible. So we will do our best.

Thought I'll be live blogging during the day I promise to go back through the-the blogs over the weekend. At that point, I'll be able to clarify ideas and clean up any pesky typos. Typos are inevitable when live blogging so I do hope you will understand. I feel it is better to get the idea out to you while it is fresh than to worry about you grabbing your red pen.

So I am off to breakfast and then my first session -


Building an Annual Development Plan that Really Works


With John Hicks

The session is really filling up which is a great sign for the first session of the day!

The three word summary KEEP IT REAL!

Keep fundraising organic. It should be natural to your organization not just the hottest new technique.

You have to Plan, Plan, Plan.

Set you in the right directions.

The Macintosh Way

Figuring out not just the right way to do things but the right way to do things. We sometimes know exactly what to do but we don't always know the way to do it. Combining the way is the key. In order to figure out the right way or the right thing we have to have realistic goals.

We have to have realistic goals based on 4 things - operating, program, investment and sustaining. Not just the amount of money you raise but how will it be used? How will it change the organization.

Sustaining money keeps the lights on.

Investment money is about enhancing or growing the organization.

Funding Mix- Where does it come from now and where might it come from. Every organization will look different. Figuring out how to expand where you are strong and push out where you don't presently have the most reach.

What Donor Markets make the Most Sense to us?

Setting goals and keeping it real.

Buildout on what you are strongest at. And then set a realistic goal for each of your funding pots.

He has a great chart that shows the Constituency, Last Year, This Year's Goal, Budget and Rationale. The goal is what you are striving for the Budget is what your finance dept. is looking for you to raise.

Then choose the right campaign activities. Figure out what will speak to your donors and do that first. Work least to most time consuming, and least to most expensive, most to least touch.


Personal Ask

Proposals to proper Founations

Special events

Social media

Direct response



Social Media


Direct Response





Direct Response


-Use your talent well.


When you bring someone in they should be creating system that you, the organization's fundraiser can maintain. Is there knowledge transfer.


Without and action plan know knows what you are doing. Measure of success is not just money but what you are doing.

Once you have the plan- you need to monitor it and create metrics. If your sole metric is how much money you raised then you probably not doing your job. We need to measure by money and the relationships you have built and sustained.

We have to look at the intangibles.

Willingness to risk

Monitoring the progress

Celebrating Success

Embracing Failures

Make Adjustments

Seize opportunities

Be bold, view asking for money as an invitation to be part of something bigger, invite volunteers to be a part of your fundraising journey.

There were a lot of great questions. But you really needed to be here for those.

This was a great session I am still trying to choose between two different sessions.


Feeding the Major Gifts Pipeline: A framework for effective prospect development.

Matthew Perrin and Joseph Gonzales

Definition of Prospect someone with a propensity to give to a certain cause. Remember that a prospect isn't just a new donor but a present donor who could afford to do more.

A Major Gift prospect is a subjective title given to a donors at certain levels.

Take Aways

1. Do not be distracted by wealth. Forbes Magazine may have a list of all of the wealthiest people but they are not really prospects. Chasing the money is a distraction. You have to

2.Rate their potential. Not just wealth but from 4 areas - Wealth, Propensity, Affinity and Connection. Remember all wealthy people do not give away their money. Do they have a genuine interest in your cause. Do they have a true connection to your organization or cause. These are Dynamic Variables.

3.Rating Giving Potential. Who are the best prospects - someone who has the right amount of wealth, and affinity for your cause and a connection to you in some way.


Prospects are people

Keep the variables dynamic - always check giving potential. If they have the other three but not the wealth then you are out of luck. You need to have a balanced between the variables. Also, you need to categorize your prospects by these variables then label them so that you can know potential and propensity for giving. But don't go over board on the number categories. You will confuse yourself. Connection is the hardest to measure - it is an art.

Never forget giving is an emotional thing. The connection has to stay in tack.

The Road to Finding Prospects.

Tools and resources and out of the Box Solutions when WPAC doesn't quite work.

Look Internal First. Your own CRM is your best starting place. If you have data modeling scores get them into the database. Has someone already created a prospect list - if so use it.

Internal Networks and Concentric Circles.

Event participants can be key. Also setting up News Alerts on people can be helpful to learn more about people.

Check out Charitable Giving Databases including peer organization annual reports. And don't forget political databases. They tell you a good deal about a person.

It is about collecting as much information then cataloging it. Be intuitive. Don't fall down the rabbit hole. be sure to take a moment and step back. It is all about keeping focus and only finding information that will be useful. You probably don't need their dogs name - unless you are an animal charity.

Once you have your research you can compile a prospect profile that only has information that will help you create a and ask. An ask at the right time to the right person in the right way.

Ok, so now it is time to head back to the Exhibit hall and then to lunch. I can't wait to see what the afternoon holds for us.


Rev. Butts was amazing as speaker. Hopefully they recorded it. It would be worth the listening to again. Such wonderful words of inspiration. He truly seemed to understand the importance of fundraising and of Fundraisers.

10 Steps to Making Your Donor the Hero With Your Year-end Appeal.

Farra Tropeter

Why it matters making the donor a hero?

1. Get to know your Hero's origin story.

Why do they give to you. What is their connection? Is their a connection? Can you play up that connection in your Appeal?

2.Use the right theme to draw your donor into the quest.

Creating a urgency. Look for something that plays up "WHY NOW." Look at the world and at your organization's "world" for theme. Don't exploit - explore.

3.Map your hero's journey

What is the journey we will go on and celebrate together. What is the action that the prospect can take. Are there action before the ask.

4.Select the right channels to engage your hero

Where are your donors now. Figure that out and then concentrate on those. Pick the biggest ones for you and make sure they really work. If you did a few last year then add one. Don't forget about the phone.

5. Maximize the superpowers of each channel

Use each channel to its utmost. Mail and email are most likely the biggest.

6. Make the most of opportunities

Do you have a newsletter that can play up the campaign. Do you have an important person in your community who can represent you.

7.Give your hero the right suite - a consistent look

All the campaign pieces have the same look and feel. No matter the channel.

8. Build dramatic tension, craft your calendar around deadlines

Make a strong timeline. Then build your campaigns to build upon each other.

9.Set it up for a sequel w/ a report back in all channels

Ask, Thank - REPEAT! Report back to your donors in Januaury how things went. make it donor centric. THEY DID IT not the staff. make the donor feel like they accomplished something.

10. Plan to capture and analyze the results of your quest

Really spend sometime really looking at when your gifts come in and which ones work for you. The Metrics are important. It also helps you plan for next year. Or later that year.

Bonus Ideas!

Handwritten notes, phone calls from organization principals, get donors to fundraise, advertise on social media and invite small groups of donors give feedback on your campaign.


That was a great session! And the end of a great AFP for me. I'll be spending the last session working the NYU Heyman Center booth. I teach at NYU and they were kind enough to allow me to come to today on one of their passes. I do hope you got a taste of what Fundraising Day New York has to offer. I understand that next year it will be on June 23rd. I can't wait.

Short Thoughtful Post

It Occurs To Me

May 21, 2018

At Blackbaud's Vision Marketing day I saw a great presentation by Steve MacLaughlin on may things including on Donor Pyramids and how we should be thinking about moving our donors from one level to the next.  I plan on bringing my take on this concept and approach to the THOUGHTFUL APPROACH next month.  Be on the lookout for it.

April 14, 2018

I am getting ready for the 2018 AFP International Conference in New Orleans.  There are a number of great sessions that I want to recap for you. Look for the first one on Cases for Support the week of 4/23. I'll do my best to keep them coming after that one on a regular basis. 

January 11, 2018

If your fiscal year ends on December 31st how long do you keep the books open so that you can collect every dollar that is meant for the previous year?  I usually hold the books for three weeks. If a check comes in dated after December 31st then we count it in the new year.

December 15, 2017

Do you have your thank you letters ready?  If not you had better get started. Acknowledgement letters are just as important as your solicitations. Do you put as much thought into them? 

October 11, 2017

It is time to make sure your plans for "GIVING TUESDAY" are all set. Here is a link to a previous blog post on the subject. 

What's up with Giving Tuesday

Enjoy and let me know what you think. You can leave a comment here. 

September 5, 2017

What do you think? Will the deserved generosity being shown to victims of Harvey affect year-end giving to none hurricane related charities? My thoughtful opinion is that those who have supported your organization for a couple of years will still support your year-end appeals. I do believe there will be weakening in the renewal rates of your newest acquisitions. As for this year's acquisitions, these will be soft. How soft is the question? Some of the softness may depend on how close to the affected area you are located. But I will certainly thoughtfully adjust my goals with all of this is mind.

August 1, 2017

August is a great time to review your stewardship program. We all know it is important to thank our donors but do you have a strategic stewardship program.  What I mean by "strategic" is one that thanks, donors appropriately based their donor level. It should also acknowledge things like a first gift, increased gifts, and multiple gifts. Does yours do this?  I also recommend handwritten notes and phone calls for donors at certain levels.  Here is a link to a post last year about thanking donors for your review.

June 5, 2017

Fundraising Day New York (FRDNY) is only a couple of weeks away and it looks like it will be another great day.  I will be blogging from the event. I anticipate writing about 4 sessions. The goal is to pick sessions that cover a few specific topics - cultivation, planning and, of course, technology.

This is always such a great conference and one of the great resources of the day is the exposition.  I always get great ideas and if a vendor you use is presenting at the conference it is a great time to meet them in person. Don't let this opportunity pass you buy.  If you are in the New York area I hope you get a chance to attend FRDNY.

May 18, 2017


It was great being a part of today's AFP Workshop on Direct Mail.  It is always a pleasure to share advice and ideas with other fundraisers. During the workshop, we talked about everything from acquisition to thank you letters. Yes, Thank you letters. Sometimes when we think of direct mail we only think of the "Ask, " but the "Thank-You" is just as important.  Don't ignore the second part of any ask the thank you.  You can not thank people too often or in too many ways. So take a few minutes today to review your thank you process.

April 14, 2017


We will be live blogging from the AFP International Conference in San Francisco. Last year, this was one of the most popular blogs so don't miss it. It should be a great conference there are a lot of great sessions. The first post will hit late on Sunday, April 30th. I'll be sending a reminder on Monday, May 1st so look out for the email.


February 17, 2017

How did your year-end appeal turn out?  What was your retention rate and attrition rate? These two rates are just as important as knowing how much money you raised. If you don't track these you might want to do so. You will be surprised by what you find.Or hopefully, you won't be surprised.

November 9, 2016

So the election is over. We have a winner and a loser. Putting basic politics aside will the results change your Year-End giving results? So far the markets are looking like they will stabilize and  millions of people are happy about the results. Well, millions are also scared.

I wonder if your results will depend on where your charity is located. I work in a very Blue part of my state and my charity only works in that area. What if you work in a very red part of the country. Will you do better or worse?

Also, will the election change average donors,mid-level donors or major donors more? What do you think? I don't have any answers myself and unfortunately, I won't know until January when the year-end result are tallied. Please click on the comments section of the site to leave your thoughts.

October 17, 2016

October is half over so I hope your Year-End Appeal is past the planning stages. By now you should have at least updated your base Acquisition Appeal materials and be well on the way with your renewal appeal. List should be have been chosen and the process of renting them should be underway.

If you are not this far along - no worries- take a deep breath and dive in. You'll get it all done but why not calendar out 2017 to give yourself more time to plan and write.

September 1, 2016

So you made it to September. I know it seems like August is the longest month in the year. It precedes what is the for all practical purposes the shortest two months - November and December. So much of our fundraising year depends on the out come of those two months. So Sepetember and October are all about prep work. In fact, I would say that September is the most important month because by the time October gets here all your year-end work needs to be complete. If those "Giving Tuesday", Year-End Appeals and follow-ups are going out on time your September is going to be quite busy. What do you think?

June 17, 2016

I'll be live blogging from FRDNY so tune in. As always, this is a great day.

May 16, 2016

The next blog is will be posted on 5/23 don't miss it.

March 9, 2016

We will be blogging from the AFP International Conference in Boston starting on March 20. The Thoughtful Approach to... blog will be updated daily after the last session but we will be tweeting during the conference. Be sure to follow us at @thoughtfulappro and to check the main blog each day.

Just 11 days and counting until the fun begins.

2015 Notes

December 2, 2015

So you survived GIVING TUESDAY, now what? Well, it is not the time to start planning for next year. Nope, it is time to take a page from retail and follow up with people.

Let us assume you sent and email to all of your prospects, constituents and donors. If you used any of the primary email systems like Mail Chimp, Raiser’s Edge, Patron Mail et. al. you can pull a list of people who opened your email but did not click on the donate link.

I’d recommend emailing all of those people today to thoughtfully remind them that they can still make a gift to your organization. Rather like the "Your Carts Not Empty" emails some retailers send when you pick out times but do not complete a sale on their sites.

Try it you have nothing to loose. Just don’t be obvious about how you know they visited your site. Treat the email as a reminder ask. Sell the "why" of your organization.

Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.


October 2015

Well, the feed back on my two part series on videos has been great. I know that a lot of people were interested in the subject but I had no idea just how many. I look forward to hearing more from people who decided to add videos to there annual appeal and those who changed their mind.

But what about those annual appeals? Are you ready and where are you putting your emphasis on acquisition, renewal, lapsed or what exactly? I have decided that renewal should get the bulk of your time as for money acquisition always eats that up.


September 2015

So in a little more than two months your annual appeal will drop- right? We'll have you thought about how to use videos as a part of the overall appeal. The right video can be embedded in your website and tied to a Google ad, posted to your Facebook Page and on Twitter. You should even be able to add it right to your email appeal. Just about the only thing you can not do with it is mail it. Unless you create a QR code for the video and include that in your mailing. Just a thought.

But what qualifies as a successful video. I would say like many things in fundraising you won't know know if you have gotten right until the appeal is over and you look at the analytics and crunch some numbers. But you can see what like agencies are doing and take a chance pick up the phone and call a colleague. In fact, my thoughtful tip isn't really about videos it is when in doubt call a colleague. That and read my September post about best practices concerning videos.


August 2015

-How ready is your Annual Appeal? Yes, I know it is August but if you want them to drop before Thanksgiving you should have already gotten started. Remember acquisition, renewal, lapsed donor, major gift and e-solicitations need to all work seamlessly - don't you think?

Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.

-The shared articles section has gotten the second largest number of hits of any area on the site. Thank you. If you have article suggestions please leave it in a comment.

July 2015

I have gotten a lot of great feedback on the TedTalk video on pecking order. What were your thoughts?

Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.





Thoughtful Tweets

Thoughtful Facebook Post

You'd like to say...

How many eyes does a typical person have?

Thoughtful Stewardship

* indicates required



Books of Note

Go to top