May 24, 2017

Oh, they’re out there. You just have to understand their motivations in order to get them to come out of the woodwork and give you that $1,000 gift (starting point for the purposes of this blog).

I believe that, more than anything else, it’s positive emotions, not negative ones, that figure very prominently in attracting high-dollar donors. I’m talking emotions like hope, love, faith, compassion, and duty.

Here’s what we can confidently say we know about these donors:

  • They have the cash “on hand” to make a minimum gift of $1,000 at a time.

  •  They’re high-salaried professionals, small business people, artists, heirs to wealth or beneficiaries of trust funds.

  • They’re busy with man...

September 29, 2016

This disappointing annual appeal came across my desk the other day. It’s disappointing because this educational institution is taking the easy and unproductive way out. They asked me to use the same list as they mailed to last year. I tried to initiate a conversation with suggestions for improving the message and doing some tactical things within the body of the letter. “Nah, our donors don’t respond to that sort of thing,” was the response I got. Here, (with my comments underlined, italicized and  in parentheses is the letter—if nothing else, it’s a great example of how to ensure poor results):

Dear Envelope Name,

The 2016-2017 Cardinal Ron Rescigno Alumni Class Challenge is officially und...

April 7, 2016

We recently helped a private university write their appeal which contained what they considered a clever ask of un-rounded numbers. In other words $42, $427, or $4,226 instead of an ask string of $50, $500, or $5,000.. No rationale was behind those numbers. It’s just the way it had been done for years and years.


Why did this institution of higher learning insist on asking for unusual amounts like $427? It seems there once had been a VP of Advancement who thought this strategy was very avant-garde. It became de facto that they asked for these unconventional amounts.


Some convincing was needed to change things. The facts are these:

  1. Round numbers pay off better - Donors are at least 5x mo...

July 20, 2015


How about a teaching moment today?

There’s lots of talk in fundraising about the importance of nonprofits forging deeper, more intimate relationships with their donors. In theory and in practice it makes good sense. The stronger the relationship is the better chance you have to keep donors and get them to increase their gift-giving, right?


What if donors want less of a relationship with you? It’s a scary, but realistic thought. It’s also your responsibility as the leader of your nonprofit to teach your staff to be sensitive to those among your donors who don’t wish to have anything more than what is known as a transactional relationship with you.


The fact is that there are times where add...

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