Pathways to Excellence: Best Practices in Fundraising

Judy Levine

By Judy Levine, Executive Director, Cause Effective

On February 15, I facilitated NPCC’s“Pathways to Excellence: Excellence in Fundraising” workshop, featuring AmandaKraus, Executive Director/Founder of Row New York, and Karen Pearl, President/CEO of God’s Love We Deliver. Together, we presented a list of best fundraising practices, some of which are featured below. For the complete list, click here.

I.  “Let’s talk about you”:  Get to know the mind of your donor

·  People don’t keep giving to organizations that don’t give something back. They give to causes that resonate with them personally.  You need get to know them to understand their motivations, assure them their gift is appreciated, and to meet their expectations for recognition.

·  Start with your largest donors – invite them to sit down with you in a convenient location and ask “Why do you give?  What about us makes you feel good?”

II.  “Meet me – online?”:  Interact attentively with donors

·  A meeting with a donor should be about learning about them – figuring out their interests and being guided by what they want to talk about.

·  Donors will have all kinds of ideas about what your organization should be doing. Some good, some not so good. Listen diplomatically.  You don’t want to shut them down by telling them their ideas won’t work. Instead, acknowledge their idea, then tell them more about areas of your program that relate.

III.  “Thanks … again!”:  Move from the first gift to a repeat gift

·  The first gift is very important – this person just made a commitment and it’s an essential time to catch them.

·  Every donor, no matter how big or small their gift, should get a signed letter of thanks from the Executive Director or Chief Development Officer.

IV.  “Welcome to our community”: Involve your board in donor stewardship

·  The board members are role models as your donors’ peers.  They can say, “This is really important to me and I give a big chunk of my resources to this organization. I am hoping you will do the same.”

·  When people ask a board member how their weekend was, they have a choice to say, “I went to a great restaurant” or “I spent time working with [Your Organization] and let me tell you how fabulous it was.”  You need to help board members to consistently make the later choice.

V.  “More than just one pretty face”: Expand donors’ relationships from a single point of contact to others in the organization

·  Be purposeful about building relationships between all major supporters and other board members or staff.  Work on building those relationships.

·  Have board members learn more about the organization and feel more connected by interacting with senior staff, not just the Executive Director.

VI.  “Be a part of something bigger”: Make a compelling ask

·  Donors like to be on winning team.  The more you can tell the story of your organization’s unique achievements, the better.  Convince people their contribution could make your organization that much more successful.

·  Stay positive.  People want to help you get to your goal but they don’t want to save a sinking ship.


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