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

Thoughtfully Getting The Most Out Of Fundraising Day New York

I will be blogging through the day as I attend #FRDNY - looking for The Thoughtful Approach To...

Each year I struggle to figure out how to get this best out of my #frdny experience. Do I just hang out with vendors and eat, should I try a track that is my least favorite stuff to do. This year, I actually spent some time with the schedule and tried to figure out which sessions had instructors or presenters who seemed most likely to have a thoughtful approach to their material. Now I am not even assuming they have read my blog or are even aware of being thoughtful. And isn't that really the goal that we just do our jobs in a thoughtful way.

But first I am heading the free breakfast.


At the Successful Strategies for Social Media session. Danielle Brigida from US Fish and Wildlife is amazing in the session. So nice to hear someone who thoughtfully understands how Social Media ought to work for your organization and more importanly for hoe it works for your preferred audience. I so hope she provides a handout! If so I will see if I can share it.

Her main thrust is to be Creative and be understand how people consume content. Try a crazy thing. It won't hurt you it might even drive a lot of great folks to your site. They could learn something and then who knows what they might do next.

Some brief notes:


Owned, Paid, Earned

PUSH OUT, BLAST why so aggressive.

Understanding What Metrics Matter

LISTEN to your social media audience

Final Notes:

Be Inclusive

Asking for stuff can STOP engagement in its track

Know your analytics.

Create things you want to read

Don't just pat yourself on the back

FACEBOOK may be declining for the regular folks. Creating a community on FACEBOOK can be hard.

Consistency is very important.

If you are doing this well and your LIKES and FOLLOWS will increase.


Communicating Across the Generations: Is Everybody Getting Your Message

One great idea after another. So much good stuff.

Do you know what years really define your supporters - depression era, baby boomers, X, Y and Z. Some Xs are turning 50!

Sandwich Generation? Hmmm.. What age do you think they are? And what is sandwiching them?

Do we ask our audience if they want what we are sending them in the way we are sending it to them.

Generation X Z want a response now. N

Cultural norms have changed. Have you?

Being sensitive to age and cultural mores

Older generations attend lectures. Younger Gen want instant feedback

What is the message? Knowing what generation

Boomers are not going anywhere! Darn right! @cdarrison #frdny


The Keynote was amazing as they always are at #FRDNY.  It is inspiring to hear from those at the peak of the fundraising world in New York. This is especially true when they are able to take their experiences and  succinctly relate them to those of us not quite on the precipice -yet. 

The last two sessions were really good. But I am still reflecting on session one. Who knew I would become a dedicated follower of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. 

To tweet or not to tweet that is the question.


Unfortunately, the answer to this conundrum is the same as it is for FACEBOOK - you just have to do it. But you can do it in a thoughtful manner.


First you have to create a TWITTER account.

Twitter allows you to create an account in your organization’s name, but you still need to attach a person to the account. This is where you can use your official email and persona.

Before creating a twitter a count, you should know the difference between @ and #. These are the most important symbols on TWITTER. The @ symbol defines the user i.e. @thoughfulappro is my twitter handle. Handles have a 15 character limit. Your handle should be reminiscent of your organization's name. The Greatest Art Center might use @TGAC or the North Country Jack Russell Rescue Society could @rescueajackNC.



The #hashtag is used to categorize your message. It is used in searches in Twitter - more on that later. 


Your goal is to create a @handle as clearly associated with your organization as possible.TWITTER helps by telling you if your preferred handle is available. If you need signoff from a supervisor, I recommend getting permission to use any of three or four handles. That way, if you cannot get your first choice, you already have an approved backup. You can also just search TWITTER to see if the handle you want is taken. The name that appears under the small photo can be your official persona or your organization's name.

twitter4 5 1

The name that appears under the small photo can be your organization's name or a person's name. It all depends on the type of Twitter feed you are looking to promote. If you are creating a personal blog, then I recommend using your name. On the other hand, if you are creating one for an organization you should use the organization's name. But this is twitter so there are character limits. You can only use 20 characters. So using the organization names above, you might use GreatestArtsCenter or JRRescueNorthCountry.

 Here is an image of my Thoughtful Appro TWITTER account from a few weeks ago.

Note how your information is presented Since this is my blog the username is my name. On the previous example the username was the organization's name.

 This is how Wikipedia describes # or hashtagUntitled


The # symbol called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. Twitter users created it as a way to categorize messages. Now the #hashtag symbol has become ubiquitous throughout social media. You can even do a google search on a #hashtag. 

A #hashtag comes before a phrase or name like #givingtuesday, #thebieberforever, or #lovemylife. When you hear that something is "TRENDING" it usually means that a ton of people are using a specific #hashtag in their Tweets.

There must be millions of hashtags in use. Your goal should be to create one or two that represent your organization and or a specific event at your organization.

Our art center might be #TGACShowsOff. You would use that hashtag in all of your twitter post and even Facebook Page post. You should encourage your followers and friends to use the #hashtag when tweeting about your organization. You can also use it on all of your printed material, as well.  

Here is an example of what #givingtuesday - a popular #hashtag looked like a few weeks ago.

Some # hashtags rules of thumb
Remember, if you Tweet with a #hashtag, anyone who does a search for that #hashtag may find your Tweet.

Don't #use #more #hashtags than you need. It is rather spammy and very unthoughtful. As a rule of thumb, I never use more than two #Hashtags in a tweet.  Make sure the #hashtag is relevant to your tweet. Never use a trending #hashtag just because it is trending.

You can also use your TWITTER account to follow news events without following anything by creating a search using a # hashtag.  #nepal   #brucejenner


Twitter being a micro-blogging site you have a very limited number of characters for your message - 140 to be exact. To give you an idea of how short that really is this famous sentence –


The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

That sentence is made up of 26 characters but 34 Twitter characters because spaces count. In fact, everything counts. Which brings me to @handle and #hashtag.  

If you want to refer to or reference a specific person or organization, you can use their @Handle. That way not only will the @person see your tweet in their stream, their followers will see it as well.  But the thoughtful when you use this approach it is a bit rude and unthoughtful to force your tweet onto someone else's followers. Be sure your tweet is relevant.

Now it is time to start Tweeting and following people and organizations that you are interested in knowing more about.

Why not start by tweeting about this blog? Something like  - 


Have you read @thouhgtfulAppro blog. No better time than now? Just remember #thoughtfulFYI

Let's see if we can make it trend!



I have been asked numerous times since my last post what I meant when I recommended that you create an "official email and persona" to use for social media. Almost all social media platforms require that there be a real live human connected to the account. Or at least an individual persona connected to the account.  In fact, most are designed with the idea that the blog, post or tweet is from a specific person. Below is a chart showing the requirement of some social media platforms.


Social Media Platform

Requires Personal Account

Unique Username or Handle

Tied to






























The industry average for a fundraiser staying at a single organization is 18 to 24 months. So I recommend that the highest-ranking person at the organization be the official persona.

Also, it is a good idea to create a single email to use for all your social media platforms. Something like This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Mike’s normal email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) are good choices for your social media email. I do not recommend info@, socialmedia@, or website@. Remember you will need to create the email first and make sure you have access to it before you begin setting up your social media platforms. 


NOTE: Be sure to keep a written record of your usernames, email and password using a grid like the one above. I keep this in a document file on a shared drive one that other staff can access. 

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It Occurs To Me

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 met them in person. Don't let this opportunity pass you buy.  If your 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.

 {jcomments on}

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 Thoughtfull 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.


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.





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