Critical Skills in Fundraising

Here are some critical skills to get under your belt when going out to raise funds for your organization.

Getting the Appointment Over the Phone 

It is very important that you meet with potential donors in person. To get this accomplished, though, you first must master the art of making the appointment.  Get a script together and practice on your own and then with another person (someone who will give you quality critique).

Phone Objections 

There are certain objections that always come up when asking people for donations:

– I’m not interested in giving.
– I already give to other organizations.
– I already give “this” much to your organization.
– I have to check with my spouse.
– We don’t have it in our budget.
– I don’t know enough about your organization.
– How can I know you’ll spend my money wisely?

These six statements echo most concerns donors have about giving to non-profits.  The key to answering them is to be sincere, attentive and as succinct as possible.  Some objections are beyond your control and some address key structural concerns within your organization. It is vital that your organization has a transparent method for handling finances and that you are consistently looking for ways to be good stewards of the money already given to you.  Make this information easily available, whether on the organization website or in a pamphlet that can quickly be mailed to the potential donor.  Having appropriate answers before the call is placed will give you a foundation and confidence.

The Visit 

When preparing for a visit there are a lot of questions going through your mind. The big ones can be as general or specific as you need them to be. What do you say? Where do you begin? What order do I need to proceed? It goes without saying to dress and behave professionally for the person you are meeting.

Handling the Responses 

Along with the objections given over the phone, there are the typical ones given once you have met with someone in person. The first is an agreement. “Yes, I will support you at $____.” The second is refusal: “No, I will not be able to support you.” The other responses are non-committal: “I’d like to think about it.” or “That amount is too high for me right now.” Handle these responses gracefully and be prepared with an appropriate answer or follow-up to keep the conversation going.

Ask for Referrals 

There is a bottom of the barrel for every fundraiser. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals, but be sensitive. Don’t push someone for names and numbers, but be sure to ask each person you approach if they know of anyone else who might be interested in donating to your organization.


Storytelling is immensely important in fundraising these days. Share an account of someone who has given to your organization, a person on staff, a volunteer, or someone whose life was impacted by a service at the organization. A good story engages the listener and reaches into their hearts.  Insert stories into these meetings, committee meetings, a newsletter, email, Facebook and thank-you letters. For more on storytelling, check out this entry on our blog.

This article was featured in the February 2012 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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Raising Money Without Asking for It

During these winter months, giving can decrease as people prepare and recover from holiday shopping and gift giving. A report by Campbell Rinker shows that 7 in 10 Americans say they will give more sparingly to charities in the coming months.  But there are ways to help your donors help your organization without making them give you money.  Here are some ideas from Guidestar:

  1. While there is something special in going to a store and picking out a gift personally, many people choose to do their shopping online.  Register your organization with GoodShop and direct your supporters to start their online shopping trips there before going on to any of the more than 2,500 stores which offer to percentage of almost every purchase to your organization. Plus, GoodShop has more than 100,000 coupons listed to save your supporters money.
  2. Hold a gadget drive at your organization for old electronics and turn them in for cash.  Gazelle for Good is a great resource for setting up a gadget drive fundraiser. They even let you personalize a webpage for easy online promotion. 100% of the value goes to your cause.
  3. American Express and Citi Card offer cardholders the chance to turn their credit card points into charitable donations.
  4. is a Yahoo!-powered search engine and it donates about a penny per search. It works just like any other search engine but a donation is made each time someone searches on it.

There are a few more ideas on GuideStar here.

This article was featured in the December 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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How Do Non-Profits Meet Greater Demand for Services?

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently held an online discussion about the challenges non-profits face when trying to meet greater demand for service when the economy is still struggling.  75% of the people polled said their organizations have faced a cutback in government funding in 2011.  Contrast this with the 70% who saw an increased demand of service during the same year.  How do organizations keep up with the needs while still keeping their costs and budgets under control?

The experts brought in for the discussion were Anne Dyjak of Nonprofit Finance Fund, Joe Harrington of California Charter Schools Association and Jay Laudato of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. These professionals came together to answer questions put forward by the participants. We’re going to highlight a couple of questions and summarize their responses, but you can see the full discussion by following the link at the end of this article.

Question #1 – How do you meet immediate urgent needs without missing opportunities to address the chronic as well?

This problem can be approached by a couple of ways.  One would be by seeking a coalition, or a collaboration with other organizations doing similar work as yours.  Pool resources and focus on the strengths of your organization to meet needs in the most strategic way possible.   Another
approach would be to re-examine your mission and identify what need/service is really critical to your community.  Take a look at the programs you offer and prioritize them based on what you find to avoid being pulled in too many directions.  Also, be sure to include staff, board and other stakeholders in your decision-making process to ensure transparency and communication.

Question #2 –  In today’s market, funders want to see more collaboration among agencies, while agencies, particularly non-profits struggle to keep the doors open.  How do you work through those issues?

Collaboration is vital and yet difficult to do.  Organizations in a community could find themselves competing for the same funds.  If those organizations could find a way to work together to meet a need, the competition within the community would be diminished and the emphasis would be back on the community needs.  There may be areas where the organizations are overlapping service and programs could be streamlined through a partnership.  This is especially helpful and useful if the organizations have similar business models as well as a shared mission.

Question #3 – We still find turf issues among some organizations.  Are there any suggestions for getting people to move in the direction of collaboration which includes sharing of resources? What are some examples?

When getting people to move in the same direction, it’s important to identify key areas where you all agree and mobilize behind it.  This can be accomplished through a facilitator, or an external organization, to get people involved.  CDP has served as a facilitator on certain community-wide coalitions to help bring an overall focus to the need and direct resources in a strategic manner.  Often the organizations just need a well-respected member to step forward and inspire  people to think beyond themselves and their way of doing things.

For the full discussion, visit here.

This article was featured in the September 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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What Data Is and What It Isn’t

“Data are widely available; what is scarce is the ability to extract wisdom from them.” – Hal Varian (Google)

Data. Data. Data.  Our society is so chock-full of data and we love it.  But data can only do so much for us.  Often the words “data” and “information” become confused with each other.  The dictionary says that data is “individual facts, statistics or items of information.”

Jeff Stanger, of Center for Digital Information, (see below for link to full article) states that data is simply the result of research.  It does not inform on its own but carries the potential to inform.  Data is anything that can be digitized, such as numbers and text.  An example would be walking outside and deciding it was “hot” and “humid.” Or taking a thermometer and barometer to measure the temperature as 90F and the air pressure.  Both forms are data, just different kinds.  This data, however, only becomes useful as information when it’s communicated.  Without communication, data is only personal knowledge or even useless raw material.  Not only this, but if it is communicated in the wrong language, too softly or in some other form that is not accepted, the data may still be good, but the communication has failed.

The way we communicate is extremely important, therefore.  According to the Center for the Digital Future, 82% of Americans have access to the Internet and 78% of these say that the Internet is important or very important as a source of information.  In another study by Pew Research Center, 85% of American adults have mobile phones, most of which have access to the Internet.

With all of this digital technology, the ability to collect and store data from research is easier than ever.  As non-profits, data is collected all the time for reporting and it’s important to convey this data, not just for legal/financial purposes, but to the general public as well.  The method doesn’t have to be fancy, just so long as the information is getting out there in a manner which is easy to understand.  Here are some great examples of interactive data on websites:

CIA World Factbook
ProPublica: How the Heart Rhythm Society Sells Access
What will happen to the world’s population?

For the full, original article, visit here.


This article was featured in the July 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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5 Elements to a Great Call to Action

The thrust of non-profit marketing is to get people to do something.  Whether you want them to donate, to volunteer or spread the word to others – you want them to get up and do something.  Here is a list of 5 elements of a good call to action:

Be specific, very specific.  People can’t always take a big problem apart and turn it into bite-sized chunks.  If you can do this for them, they are more likely to get involved.  For example, the very real issues of homelessness, hunger and poverty can be overwhelming, but if each person buys one extra can of soup at the super-market to donate, many people can be fed.  Give people a specific thing to do.

Make it doable.  People have a lot of demands on their time nowadays.  Make the call to action something simple, but also something that will encourage them to do more next time.

Have a first task.  Not everyone is willing or ready to donate right off the bat.  How can you build into these people for the future?  It can be as simple as getting their email address.

Make it easy.  This is a great idea: have someone go through the steps of making a donation.  Are there any unnecessary steps?  If you have donating available on your website, how many clicks does it take to finally make the donation?  Ask your current donors if they have any suggestions to make giving more easily accessible.

Document yourself.  People learn in different ways.  Some enjoy reading, but most would rather have pictures, illustrations and, even better, video.  If you can film what you are asking someone to do, they will feel more comfortable with the process knowing what to expect.

For the original article, go to Katya’s blog here.


This article was featured in the May 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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Fundraising Advice in a Recovering Economy

With the Great Recession officially over, the recovery is another story. Fundraising is still a struggle for non-profit organizations. This struggle comes from all parts of society: individuals, government, foundations and corporations.

The unemployment rate has finally dropped below 10% nation-wide, but underemployment still hovers around 20%, according to a Gallup poll. Many former volunteers are now clients at the organizations they used to help. Many have also stopped charitable giving because of their tight budgets and have cancelled, or cut, planned gifts and bequests.

We can expect the government to make broad cuts in spending, many in grant programs to non-profits, as they try to shore up the federal deficit. We may also face a rise in taxes. Foundations are hesitant to jump back into the stock market and have made fewer funds available for grants to non-profits. Corporations have had to make cuts as well and many have reduced the amount of giving to organizations through corporate contributions, grants and payroll deductions.

Wise strategies for effective fundraising in this economy would be to embrace fundraising, strengthen and stick to your brand and get online.

Embrace Fundraising

Without throwing efficiency to the wind, your organization needs to avoid cutting expenses in fundraising. Typically, the less money you spend on fundraising, the less you will raise. Keep spending on marketing and public relations. If no one knows who you are, they will not give to you. Focus on getting your current donors to give more. Put them in categories by interest or demographic and then approach them in a specific, unique way. Be creative! Challenge them to raise money for you or to compete against each other. Ask for monthly donations or even quarterly gifts.

Strengthen and Stick to Your Brand

Your mission statement should be short and succinct, and yet explain clearly what your organization does. If it can fit on the back of your business card, then you’re probably safe. And then, promote it. Get your message out there, whether it be in newspapers, magazines, radio, T.V., billboards, search engines, conversations – whatever you choose, be consistent with your brand and get your message out. Show that you are a good steward of the money you have received. Check out your competition (other organizations doing it well) and learn from their mistakes and successes. Look at their website, go to their events – see how they show off their uniqueness. Don’t copy them, but let it inspire you to be creative in sharing how your organization is unique. Talk to your volunteers and supporters and get their ideas as well. Lastly, do not exaggerate. Do not over-emphasize the impact you have or oversell the organization. If you misrepresent your organization it can seriously hurt your reputation in the community.

Get Online

It’s not an option anymore. The internet is a prime arena for showing off your organization and sharing your brand and message with the masses. This can be done through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr (for art and photos) and blogs. Social media can help you reach new supporters but also give you an insight into what your donors are thinking. Your website should be updated regularly (once a week is a great goal) and should be “shareable”, with links to connect to the platforms mentioned above. Your website visitors should be able to easily make a donation right on your homepage. You can also ask someone to help you get your webpage high up in the search engines. There’s no specific rule for increasing exposure online, but there may be someone on your staff (or a volunteer) who knows the basics and perhaps some tricks to getting you up there.

For more, check out this article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy by Irwin Stoolmacher.


This article was featured in our monthly newsletter, Bridgeworks Connect.
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Can Your Organization Stand Up Against a 10-Year Old?

While parents are working to get their children more involved in volunteering, some are seeking ways to get them interested in giving financially as well. One such mother compiled a list of 20 charities to which she and her son were interested in giving. They were having difficulty in deciding which of the organizations they would give to and decided to let the son search them out.

He was armed with a pen, some paper and three questions:

  1. What does the organization do?
  2. How do they do it?
  3. How do they know if they are making a difference?

He had 20 minutes to investigate each charity’s website to find the answers. Based on the information he could find (and what he could not find) they determined which of the organizations they planned to help financially.

A few things that this boy found to help him make his decision:

  • ratings and stars – given to the organization by their current donors.
  • metrics – provided by the organization for how they track progress in their mission
  • outside references – books and collaborative groups/projects

Not all the people who look at your website are going to be 10 year old philanthropists. They might be, but probably not. However, simple rules apply when establishing content on your website and should be considered for viewers of all ages. Is the most important information easily found? Web viewers typically spend 80% of their time looking at the information above the page fold (the point at which you must scroll down to see more information). Is your mission statement posted in the top part of your homepage? Do you have a large “Donate Now” button near the top for easy access? Do you have a way for visitors to see that you are actively following the mission statement and making a difference for your cause? What are others already saying about your organization?

These questions can serve as guidelines for the primary and immediate information you share on your website.

For more on this story, go here:


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