January 17, 2017

Prepping for 2017 Giving Tuesday

It’s never too late to start thinking about big actions, small meaningful activities, etc.

If you’re thinking about #GIVINGTUESDAY for 2017, read these blogs and research first. Because maybe #GivingTuesday isn’t so great. Maybe #GivingTuesday needs to change.

And probably for sure…. your organization needs to think long and hard about how you do fundraising and how you might do #GivingTuesday and………

Giving Tuesday and the when versus why of giving (Nick Ellinger, DonorVoice, November 30, 2016)

  • Starts with: “I like the idea of Giving Tuesday very much – there needs to be a day (actually, more than one) dedicated to giving. That’s why it frustrates me that we are killing it….Killing it in the sense of making it unable to survive.”

Losing Donors in the Sea of Sameness (Roger Craver, The Agitator, December 2, 2016)

  • Starts with: “…abandoning support of an organization is influenced and controlled by the actions the organization itself takes…. Perhaps nowhere are the sloppy, copycat practices of some fundraisers more pronounced that on #GivingTuesday.” READ IT!

Please think. Please review your practices. Please let’s make it better.

P.S. A board member asked me the other day about what I think about “donor fatigue.” And I responded: “Donor fatigue is something we fundraisers and organizations make ourselves. And not because we’re asking. But because we’re doing this work so poorly.”

P.P.S. Do you read the Whiny Donor on twitter. I’m always apologizing to @thewhinydonor. I asked if s/he was actually a fundraiser in disguise – “NO.” I asked if I had ever met him/her – “NO.” Check out @thewhinydonor. Ah tristesse.

January 10, 2017

New stuff that impressed me

Check out The Grow Report. Pam Grow’s stuff is sooo good. I was reading her January 5 new year hello. And the examples she gave. And the book about justice… And the blog roll. And how about your very own “Donor Love Crib Sheet?” Maybe you oughta subscribe?

Pam focuses on the small development office. BUT… I suggest that even the larger offices check out her stuff.


That Tom Ahern guy has done some very interesting writing recently. I particularly appreciated the following: His newsletter article “HOAX!!!! Raising awareness unmasked.”

And his personal blog about Siegfried Vögele. And his personal blog of January 5, 2017 about communications:  It’s built backwards from your target audience.

November 29, 2016

If “they” fail the 20 questions….

Maybe you should find a better place to work.

Visit Tom Ahern’s new website. Pretty cool. I’m impressed.

Check out “The TEST Your Boss MUST Take!” 

Click here. Take it yourself first, of course. (I’m taking it shortly. Not sharing what I score but making darn sure that I learn the right answers if I fail questions!!!)

Share with your staff colleagues. (Maybe do it as a group in secret somewhere?)

Make sure your fundraising boss (and CEO) take it and learn this stuff and expect you to know the answers and make sure you know the answers. And teach the questions and the answers to your fundraising colleagues and your fundraising boss and your executive director / CEO person.

It’s kinda okay if your boss fails the test, but only if your boss is the ED/CEO. It’s only okay if your ED/CEO boss fails the test if that person says: “Well, of course I don’t know all the answers. But I expect you to know the answers and explain to me. And when you tell me to do stuff, I do it. Including that letter that I thought was kinda icky. But I sign it because you know the answers to these 20 questions. Thank you thank you. I was so smart to hire you!”

And if your ED/CEO doesn’t say what’s above…And continues fighting. You fight back. FIGHT BACK!!!!! No more whiny fundraisers. Your job is to fight back and explain and pass on your learnings. And if you fight for a couple years (yes…it can take that long) — and still no change in behavior from the bossies… THEN FIND ANOTHER JOB. YOU DESERVE BETTER!!!!

April 15, 2016

More songs to learn from

Have you been reading (and listening!) to my series about learning from songs and their lyrics?

So here’s a suggestion from David Kravinchuck, the chief Advice Dispenser at Fundraising Pharmacy. Such a cool company name! (And David is planned the new Western Canada Fundraising Conference!)

Here’s what David says about the lyrics: “It’s a lament that so many donors could be sharing with the charities they give to. ‘When you’ve laid your hands upon me and told me who you are…’ is just about the perfect way to describe most of the … communications sooo many orgs STILL use.”

I very much agree with David!

Here are some of the most hard-hitting lyrics … for the donor (or lover!)

How does it feel
To treat me like you do
When you’ve laid laid your hands upon me
And told me who you are

I thought I was mistaken
I thought I heard your words
Tell me how do I feel
Tell me now how do I feel


I thought I told you to leave me
While I walked down to the beach
Tell me how does it feel
When your heart grows cold
(grows cold, grows cold, grows cold)

March 28, 2016

A lovely thank you and extraordinary experience

One of my clients sent me a lovely email. Reading this email was an extraordinary experience for me…something to cherish and remember…causing me to smile and reflect on our time together. Reading this email reminds me how important “thank you” is….And how special a thank you is that shares memories of our time together and…

The executive director wrote: “You have been on my mind a lot lately, first the terrible Paris event and then the Planned Parenthood in Colorado. Our world seems to be so out of control and we grieve with you; by knowing you and your passion for both Paris and Planned parenthood, your causes have become our causes. Please know that we are watching to see where our advocacy can be effective. In February, we’ll be attending a D.C. conference and will be looking to voice our concerns not just on housing but on violence as well.

“Thank you seems like such a small thing when you have had such a huge impact on our board. Last night was our first board meeting since the Board retreat and people were talking about what was new to them and eagerly signed the Board Member agreement and approved the Board expectation agreement as well as the new Board committees;  Governance, Finance and Resource Development. (Executive committee and HR committees were nixed by consensus). Chris is doing a great job of highlighting what are management responsibilities  and what are Board responsibilities.  All good stuff.”

How often do I send those kinds of notes? How about you?

Filed under: Leadership

February 29, 2016

Reading Tom Ahern’s blog

Do you ever read Tom Ahern’s blog? I’m not talking about his semi-monthly e-newsletter…. which is absolutely marvelous and informative and useful.

I’m talking about his personal blog: “The Little Words Mean the Most” And I love the subhead: “Tom Ahern, Circuit Preacher. Cleaning up donor communications, one tough town at a time.”

On January 31, 2016, he posted a blog about Print and Digital communications. I liked it…lots and lots…

Why so much? Because I’m so tired of so many people thinking that digital communications is the answer to all of life’s problems…the best way to build relationships…the cool way to sit at a restaurant with friends, texting…engaging with those electronic devices instead of connecting with human beings in the room with you right now.

So check out this Tom Ahern blog… Read it right here…





Asks, other offers/Asks, other offers

Headlines rule/Headlines & subject lines rule

Easy to fail/Easy to fail

Frequency is expensive/Frequency is less expensive

Targeting varies/Targeting can be ultra-precise

ROI will vary/ROI will vary

ROI will vary depending on competence, in either case. Headlines rule:


February 4, 2016

My stories…NOT YOURS!

Every fundraiser knows that story telling is critical. And stories are full of feelings. You know…all those emotions…like anger, fear, greed, guilt, flattery, exclusivity, salvation. And hope and love and and and…

Suddenly reason steps in. The fundraiser is explaining the rational rationale why you, the donor, should give. Oh my. Oh dear. Could we be any dumber? Yes, just plain dumb according to tons of research. (Just visit Tom Ahern and all his writings about neuroscience from all those neuroscience researchers. Read Seth Godin’s great blog, “A reason persuasion is surprisingly difficult.” And check out the research he’s referring to.

That’s bad enough….pursuing reason when emotion is what makes action happen. (I just love this quote by Canadian neurologist Donald Calne: “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action, while reason leads to conclusions.” As a fundraiser – or marketer of any kind – I hope you want action!)

But too often, fundraisers (and their board members and staff colleagues) get confused about which stories and whose stories. Then the story listening part of the work gets lost somewhere in translation. You’re not listening to my story. And rest assured, that can get pretty ugly. Check out this article about fundraisers denying me my story.

Seth is pretty darn great at talking about story telling and story listening and who the story belongs to. Here’s one of my Seth all-time favorites. “The brand is a story. But it’s a story about you, not the brand.” And the “you” is the prospect, the donor, the customer, the buyer…

Here’s how Seth describes marketing – and what I call the non-listening problem. “Marketing is the empathetic act of telling a story that works, that’s true for the person hearing it, that stands up to scrutiny. But marketing is not about merely sharing what you, the marketer believes. It’s about what we, the listener, believe.”

And here’s one last thought: “Everything is a tale. What we believe, what we know. What we remember, even what we dream. Everything is a story, a narrative, a sequence of events with characters communicating an emotional content. We only accept as true what can be narrated.” [Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Angel’s Game]


November 30, 2015

My donors…Your donors…Our donors…Whose donors?

“Yes, the Smiths are my donors,” said the Major Gifts Officer. The Annual Fund Director responds, “But the Smiths used to be my donors.”

The direct marketing team talks about their donors…not to be confused with the donors belonging to the special events team.

And me? I’m thinking this is rather weird and slightly uncomfortable. I’m wondering how the Smiths and Jones and Mrs. Thomas and all the other donors would feel if they overheard fundraisers talking.

Perhaps we fundraisers and our organizations could improve the conversation by – at the least – talking about the donors as our organization’s donors. Possibly – at least – the donors are part of our organization’s family.

Donors as part of the organization’s family. Donors as part of the team working together to save the children and the cats and dogs and the tundra and the trees. Donors as teammates fighting for human rights and healthcare and more theatre.

That certainly sounds better.

But…Be careful.

What do you think donors think about? Do you think donors think a lot about your organization? Do you think your donors think about belonging to your organization?

Donors think about their own lives and their own joys and worries and challenges and jobs and families and schedules and responsibilities and……….

And when it comes to giving time and money, donors think about their own interests and their aspirations. Donors think about what they’re trying to accomplish with their gifts.

The Smiths look for an organization to give through to fulfill their own aspirations. The Smiths don’t think about belonging to your organization. Furthermore, I suspect the Smiths get rather annoyed when they used to speak with that person in the annual fund and then got transferred to a major gifts person.

Donors don’t belong to us. Donors belong to themselves.

And while we fundraisers and our organizations (hopefully!) think lots about donors because we are donor-centered (hopefully!)……donors just don’t think that much about us.

Here’s what Jeff Brooks said in his October 22, 2015 blog:

  • Your donors are not your donors — as in, an asset you own or control.
  • But your organization is their charity — something they use to accomplish their goals.
  • Keep this distinction in mind, and your fundraising will be a lot better.



July 13, 2015

Fun. Illuminating. Critical for fundraising.


If you subscribe to my monthly e-news, the June edition provided information about emotions from Roger Dooley. Here it is again:

“Disney Knows Your Brain and Wants Your Emotions,” by Roger Dooley

And learn about Pixar’s new animated film, Inside Out.

Then Lisa Sargent connected me to 6 Minutes of Pixar Feels. Oh my gosh – this is stunning! Also, don’t miss Pixar’s 22 Golden Rules of Storytelling. (Many of us call Lisa the “thank-you queen.” Lisa specializes in email and direct mail. Visit her!

And if you’ve read any of Tom Ahern‘s writing or attended is workshops…. You’ll learn lots about emotions.

Here’s one more item to read now!

Jeff Brooks asks us: “Are you suffering from these fundraising delusions?” Jeff is citing from Social Velocity | 5 Fundraising Delusions Nonprofits Suffer by Neil Edgington. I can’t figure out which of the delusions are my favorites. Probably “Crowdfunding and events are fundraisers.” Read. Think about. And please review with your boss and your board! If you haven’t subscribed to Jeff’s daily blog yet, do so now!

July 6, 2015

One little starfish

On June 9, 2015, I presented at the Planet Philanthropy conference in Jacksonville, Florida. The 19 AFP Chapters in Florida come together annually to put together this conference. Wow. I’m impressed with the number of chapters in the state. And I’m impressed with the collaboration. Smart groups around the country – whether it’s professional associations or providers or or – collaborating makes a big difference.

The next day, I woke up to this email from a conference attendee.

“On behalf of all in that large room – I send appreciation for your spirit, enthusiasm and bold approach that we, as fundraisers need, so very much.
Your words were beyond a class, or a training, or a keynote speaker…They were empowerment – to do great things, every single day.. starting tomorrow.
Thanks for the huge difference you made to me – one little starfish, but one!
Thanks for the difference you made today.”

I am proud and touched by Marilyn’s comments. She summarized what I try so hard to accomplish. I do believe that fundraisers must be bolder. In knowing and applying the body of knowledge and research. I do believe that fundraisers must stand up to their boards and bosses: telling the truth; sharing critical information; fighting against “ill-informed opinions” and “we need money now syndrome,” and so much more.

Then Marilyn shared with me this video… which I had never seen. And Marilyn said: “What we do is as important as the different way we say it.”

Thank you, Marilyn Hathaway, CFRE… Habitat for Humanity – Seminole Apopa. Thank you.

Filed under: Leadership

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