Category: Fundraising

Excuse me while I get a little provincial. My denomination, the United Church of Christ, adopted a fundraising policy known as the Pattern of Giving in 1968 (and revised it in 1984). The policy says, basically, that individual donors give to their local congregations. Local congregations then give to their conferences and associations (our middle judicatories). And the conferences and associations then give to our national setting. Dollars move nicely and evenly from the donor, through the local congregation, and on to other expressions and ministries of the United Church of Christ. It’s a system that was never going to…
When I was just getting started in fundraising, I found a battered copy of Penelope Burk’s Donor-Centered Fundraising in a desk drawer. I devoured it. It had statistics, it was based on a solid foundation of research, and it gave advice that was easy to implement. I still have a copy on the shelf in my office. I still buy copies for colleagues. I still recommend it to everyone. I still stand by the core ideas of donor-centered fundraising. And, really, I think that comes down to three simple things: Donors should receive prompt and meaningful thanks for their gifts. My…
Technology is a tool. I have worked for too many places that serve their technology rather than the other way around. Real world practices end up being determined by what their technology – and especially their databases – will allow them do to. And this has meant some bizarre practices. How weird is that? I mean, would anyone accept a hammer that required you to be standing on one leg and facing away from the nail in order to use it? No. And yet we too quickly become willing to allow our technology to determine how we do things……
If you’re part of a small nonprofit organization that solicits gifts in multiple states, you’re probably a little familiar with multistate nonprofit registration. This is the requirement that nonprofit organizations that are based in one state and ask for gifts in another state have to register with the second state. So, for example, an organization based in Davenport, Iowa, that sends a direct mail appeal across the Mississippi River to its neighbor, Rock Island, Illinois, must also register as a soliciting organization in Illinois. Now, just so we have some clarity on this and don’t cause anyone to panic,…
My wife is a pastor of a local congregation of the United Church of Christ. That means that she sometimes receives mail from fundraising consultants looking for clients. Recently, she got a mailing that included these two paragraphs (emphasis original): Why aren’t their people giving as they could or should? It’s not the economy which goes up and down like a thermometer. It’s not unemployment, though many people have simply quit looking for work. And it’s not that they don’t love the Lord or want to see their church grow and abound. The reason people are not giving as they could or…
Recently, on a forum I frequent, I came across this question: Fundraising seems like a full time job. How do you do it when you’re the only employee of your nonprofit, and you have to do it all, from programming, accounting, marketing, events, and fundraising? I responded on that forum, but I wanted to take a minute to flesh out my response here. One of the mistakes that a lot of nonprofits make is thinking that development is something that they do in addition to their programs. Often, those nonprofits believe that development is something they do in order…
My official title is ‘church relations associate’, so you might think that I spend a lot of my time relating to congregations. And, since my job is to raise money, you might think I spend a lot of time raising money from congregations. I don’t. I spend far more of my time relating to – and raising money from – individuals. Yes, I visit congregations. I preach. I attend events. I ask them to send groups to volunteer. I ask them for money. But I spend more of my time on direct mail, social media, email, our website, phone…
“In writing,” says William Faulkner, “you must kill your darlings.” We all have favorites. In writing, we have favorite stories, favorite words, favorite phrases, favorite structures, and so on. We also have our favorites in fundraising: the channel we just have to use, the model we just have the follow, the even we just have to throw. I’d almost bet that our favorites give us a fundraising fingerprint. Someone who paid close enough attention, given enough information about style and demands, could identify each of us. But here’s the cold, hard fact: it doesn’t matter if something is your favorite….
Sometime around 1739, the founders of London’s Foundling Hospital were the first people in the modern age to use the word ‘philanthropy’ to mean the project of forming “a voluntary enterprise of private persons, moved by ‘an Inclination to promote Publick Good.’”1Robert A. Gross, “Giving in America: From Charity to Philanthropy” in Charity, Philanthropy, and Civility in American History, edited by Lawrence J. Friedman and Mark D. McGarvie (New York: Cambridge, 2002), 37 This is what philanthropy means in the modern world: private wealth used for public good. The ‘public good’ that the creators of the Foundling Hospital had…
One of the most powerful things that every fundraiser does is say ‘thank you’. It’s also something that a lot of organizations find difficult. There’s always the temptation to turn the thank you letter into a gift receipt, to ask for another gift, or to write about things that are more important to the letter writer than to the donor. Some organizations even forget to say ‘thank you’ altogether! So I’m providing this short guide on how to write a thank you letter. For my examples, I’ll use the Greater Madison Animal Welfare Center, which I’m pretty confident is…

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