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

Multiple online donation pages are your friend - really!

Are you using multiple donor pages for online giving?  Well, you should. How else are you going to track where your gifts are coming from so that you know which of your online campaigns are working.  
Your online donation system needs to allow you to create multiple donation pages if it does not I would recommend finding one that does. Each donation page should have a unique name and URL. That way you can use different pages for different campaigns. For example, you might have three online campaigns: Internal E-blast, Acquisition E-blast, and Social Media i.e. Facebook, and Twitter.  
Internal E-blast- This is an e-blast that goes to your current donors. Ideally, this E-blast would mimic the style and words of your direct mail appeals. Now the rules are a bit different for how much text and graphics to use but the feel ought to be the same since this e-blast is typically, sent in conjunction with mailed pieces. 
Acquisition E-blast- This is an e-blast that is usually sent by a separate company.  These are very similar to direct mail acquisitions.  The email could mimic your base acquisition piece since you know it works. There are a number of companies that can assist you with this type of e-blast. I have found the cost moderately reasonable for the number of people that you can reach. 
Social Media - Each platform is a bit different, but the idea is the same that you should use a dedicated donation page. Let's look at Facebook. There are three places you should be using donor pages on Facebook. 
1.    You can create a “donate” or “learn more” tab for your main page.
2.    You can create a  series of post designed to ask people to support your charity or cause.
3.    Or you could purchase ads since you certainly want to see how well they are doing a separate donation page is a must. These ads should be timely and based on your very best post. Facebook Analytics can tell you which post got an above average number of likes or shares.  
Twitter-  On this platform, you have two places you can use donor pages.
1.    You should create a series of tweets that all use the same donation page URL.  A short video is ideal for this type of appeal. Also, don’t forget to be donor-centric even in 140 characters. 
2.    You can also purchase promoted tweets (or ads).  You will want to track which donations came from the ads. Again, I would recommend basing the paid tweets on your most retweeted or shared tweets.
Knowing which page your donations came from can help you focus your efforts. If you never get donations from Social Media, maybe you won't put as much effort into that particular avenue.  You will definitely, want to know which of your online donations came from your acquisition appeal and renewal appeal.  On the acquisition side, you will also want to know to which list/e-blast each donor is responding. All of this will help you figure out where to put your efforts and what your ROI is for each online/eblast appeal.
Please let me know how you use multiple donor pages.{jcomments on}


Can your organization use a Social Media Expert?  I mean really use.


So you plan on hiring a Social Media Specialist for your organization. Well, you have an important question to answer mainly do you have 40 hours of work for this person?

This new person will need to be someone dedicated to your organization who has the flexibility to get posts into your social media streams on a regular and systematic way. They also need to be able to respond when things happen. But, for most non-profits, the answer to is still no. So what might you combine with the positions social media task to create a full-time position?

Is there a person dedicated to keeping your website up-to-date? What do I mean by "up-to-date?" Well, as I am sure you know websites are never actually finished they require constant tweaking and new material. If you are not doing this, then you have a whole different problem, and we will cover that in an upcoming post.

The person in this position can write beyond 140 characters or the few paragraphs in a Facebook Page post. Also keep in mind that being able to curate material derived from other sources like your annual report or program materials can also be the basis of new material for the website. Then this person only needs the technical skill to add articles to the site - and the forethought to think about what to add or the guidance by you to know what to add.

Who knows they may even understand things like meta tags and keywords? Both of which are important if anyone is going to find your website. Understanding this functions opens what might be wholly new and important area of analytics. If you use the Google analysis products, it would be great to have a person dedicated to this work. If you have a Google Ad Words, Grant you know how much time is necessary to manage that asset. If you don’t have a Google Ad Words Grant then maybe this new person can help you get one.

Another distinct area is desktop publishing and graphic design. Would it be helpful to have an in-house design guru, probably? The very nature of creating engaging well-constructed post requires a good design sense and the technical skill to create images and videos. These same skills may well translate into the skills needed to create a newsletter or simple brochure.

And don't forget your social media campaign should be working hand in hand with your events and individual giving programs. Ads and promoted post are assets to the rest of your donor program.

So is there 40 hours of work for a Social Media/Webmaster/Marketing position at your organization. My instinct says yes. And though you might not be able to draw a solid line between the position and income I think you can certainly draw a dotted line.

What could be better than a thoughtful program of social media post, website updates, meaningful analytics and, possibly even design skills?

Catch up on your reading!

August is the ideal time to catch up on your reading. Here are some examples from our shared articles section.


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.





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