It Occurs To Me

June 15, 2022

I am thinking a lot about trauma. We hear about trauma training at our organizations, but what about in our jobs. Fundraising is a career that is filled with trauma-creating practices. We also have to think about the life trauma we bring to the job. Look out for several articles and possibly a session at a fundraising conference soon.

November 27, 2021

It seems the postal service may do in all of the hard work of our Year-End campaigns.  Not only is it more expensive but the mystery of when letters will get delivered.  I have heard of mailings take two to three weeks longer than previous years.  It will be interesting to see how this affects returns,  My instinct says those who give will do so whenever the appeal arrives. This means that we will have contributions coming in farther into January.  Not a problem for organizations with June 30 fiscal year but what a pain for those with a December 31 year-end. How long do you keep the "year" open? 

September, 25, 2021

 I held an in-person event last night for about 75 people and it was a great success. Everyone had their proof of vaccination and naturally spread out in the theater we held the event in. At the reception, people mingled but stayed in their own pods for the most part. It was a success by all accounts. It gives me hope that we can do a gala next. BTW: here is the link to the movie we showed.

July, 29, 2021

Since writing the last post, I have had to come up with definitive language concerning vaccinated guests at an event. The decision was made to say on the invitation "For the safety of all of our guests we are requesting proof of vaccination upon arrival at the theater." The idea is to accept either the CDC vaccination card or our state's online pass." We will see what the response will be to the invitation and at the event. I will keep you informed.

May, 20, 2021

It has been an amazing year, to say the least. I am part of a group of senior-level fundraisers who meet monthly to talk about the issues we face doing our jobs. We discuss everything from staff issues, board relationships, and managing up, down, and all around.  This group has been very helpful to me. If you don't have a space like this maybe you should do the thoughtful thing and start one.  Contact your peers even if you don't know them. You have a great deal in common and I bet they will appreciate the chance to meet. Give it a try.

January, 20, 2021

I just felt that we needed this today.

October, 22  2020

In only a few days we have an election in the US- have you heard about it? Well, we are having one and no matter the outcome our lives will be forever changed.  As for our organization between the COVID and the election it is hard to know how to plan for the next few years.  But we have to push forward our causes need us, people need what we do. 

September, 22  2020

So your organization did a successful virtual gala-now what?

Here is an example of a successful "live" virtual gala.

July 8, 2020

COVID-19 has changed everything. I am curious how the rest of 2020 will turn out for donations. We have a pandemic and an election. Usually in election years donation to nonpolitical nonprofits. But what will happen now? Some charities that deal with food and shelter have done well during the pandemic. But what about the rest of the charities in America like arts, human services, youth development, environmental, and child welfare. Even with the $300 incentive in the CARES ACT it may be an uphill battle to get the donors to respond. I feel like it is time for strong thoughtful donor-centric storytelling. Time will tell.

April 1, 2020

I saw a blog headline that reminded all of us that donors are not ATMs'. That statement is so true. So instead or along with sending out appeals, why not send personal notes. A handwritten note that doesn't want anything isn't reinforcing the organization's mission. That is just to say hello and ask how they are doing. I have been writing significant donors, board members, and friends of the organization. These are just quick notes, and I don't expect a response.- at least not now.  Staying in touch cannot be underestimated.

December 12, 2019

Well, "Giving Tuesday" is over.  How well did you do?  If you did well did it take away for other efforts? 

We have acquisition mailings, renewals, lapsed and major gift letters going out along a full series of e-appeals. Let's hope this year is a good year for EOY.  What are you doing this season that is new or innovative?

October 28, 2019

Giving Tuesday - Do you bother?  Has it become a passe? Is it overhyped? Does it just take your focus off of year-end? What do you think?

Your thoughtful thoughts, please?

September 15, 2019

Well, the summer is over and it is time to start thinking about Year-End. Yes, it is only 3 months until your year-end should be in the mail are you prepared? 

July 18, 2019

So what is the minimum age and the dollar amount that you should accept for a Planned Gift?  If the person is too young and the gift is too small the organization could end up paying out all of the gifts.  I recommend that Planned Gifts are really for people in their 70s and 80s and the gifts should be no less than 25k. Better yet putting in a 50k minimum can be an excellent idea.  Also, remember that men and women have different life expectancies.  

June 14, 2019

It was another GREAT Fundraising Day New York. Such great sessions. We are so lucky in New York to have so many talented fundraisers who are willing to share their talents with all of us.  If you are not a member of your local Associaton of Fundraising Professionals you should strongly consider it.

May 19, 2019

Check out all of these thoughtful links.

April 16, 2019

A number of organizations I know that are not political have seen drops in their acquisition appeals. How about you?  Is it a trend? Can we blame the new tax law or the early political campaigns? What do you think?

March 8, 2019

Missing AFPICON this year can't wait to hear about all the great workshops from my colleagues. I'll be back in 2020. I will be attending BBCON in October in Nashville. Anyone attending that conference?

February 8, 2019

I am officially a CFRE as of today.  I am looking forward to continuing my fundraising education and being a strong resource to my fellow fundraisers. 

January 10, 2019

Several organizations I've been working with seem to be having surprising results.  One has seen an increase in Acquisitions and a decline in Renewals. Several have seen online donations go down while mail donations have stayed steady.  I think we have not finished learning the effects of the new Tax Law.  I am now anxiously looking at Q1 giving for clues.

December 7, 2018

Just thought we all needed a video like this right now.


November 19, 2018

What if the majority of your individual gifts come from online donations have you hit nirvana or are you leaving money on the table by not doing direct mail? We will be loking into this in an upcoming blog post.

October 22, 2018

We are still collecting data on the segmentation mailing so look for the results in the near future.  In the meantime, please take our quick survey on "Giving Tuesday." I am interested in how this fundraising "event" works for your organization - if it works. 

September 24, 2018

Great feedback on the segmentation post. Thanks to everyone who sent in comments. In a future post, I will go over the results of our segmentation efforts. Look out next month for a quick survey on "Giving Tuesday."

August 16, 2018

Thanks to everyone who completed our Survey Monkey survey. I really appreciate all of your advice. Based on the results, I think you will see an even better blog in the Fall. Again, thanks to everyone,

July 16, 2018

I am thinking even more about donorcentric language and found this old blog post that I wanted to share with you. It clear and pretty concise.  It from Merkle and was published in 2017 - 

How to Be Donor Centric in Fundraising (and When to Bend the Rules)

June 21, 2018

Only one more day until Fundraising Day in New York.  Every year this is an amazing event filled with great presentations by some of the fields best talent.  Even I'll be helping out. I'll be in the mentor center from 9 am to 9:30 am.  Yea, I know it is early but come on over to the 5th floor and get your day started off in the right direction. Fundraising Day New York

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. Acknowledgment 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 on 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 the pecking order. What were your thoughts?

Please leave a comment, thoughtfully.