Asking the Right Questions


What do you need to know? 

What are your BHAGs? Your big hairy audacious goals?

What’s preventing you from achieving them?

When it comes to these things – the big topics that come with big questions – it’s time to have a real conversation.

This post is inspired by my recent experience attending the International Fundraising Congress a.k.a. #IFC2016 (which was amazing, by the way).

Asking the Right Questions was the theme of IFC, and for me that theme came to a head at a session run by the amazing Simone Joyaux.

Simone talked us through those big topics that come with big questions that I mentioned above.

There are questions in the office that we don’t need a real conversation for: When should we have our next office social? What food should we serve at our next meeting? How often should we schedule staff meetings?

Then there are other topics that do require a real conversation. And in order to have those conversations, we need to ask the right questions.

What are the right questions? They require openness. The right questions force us to remove our biases and assumptions. They cannot be yes or no.

So, if your organization has some money in the budget for something innovative, that might be when you need to have a real conversation.

What might you ask? Maybe, “What opportunities do we see for growth in the organization?”

Which could lead you through a winding conversation full of more questions that arrives at finding an opportunity to invest in innovation.

By asking these questions, we generate learning, which generates change, which builds stronger organizations.

So what are your big questions that require real conversations? 

Answer in the comments below! Or better yet – create the space for a conversation about it in your office, and let me know how it goes!


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Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for ten years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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What does your charity have in common with Louis Vuitton?

What does your charity have in common with Louis Vuitton-

Imagine this: it’s pay day.

You pay your bills, you set aside money for groceries, you put a little money away in savings, and you generally make sure all your needs are met.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to do that, and even more fortunate that you have money leftover, then you might think to yourself: what else can I do with my money?

Maybe there’s some work to do on your house. Maybe you want to go out for a really nice dinner. Maybe you love purses and you’ve been saving up for a designer bag.

Or maybe… maybe could you consider giving to a charity?

This is the noise we’re trying to cut through, folks!

This post was inspired by a client the other day, who compared charities to luxury brands. Obviously people have many views about charities and the importance of giving, but my client was right; for many, giving to charity is a “nice to have”. It’s one of the potential ways you can spend that extra money that you’re lucky enough to have.

But there’s a lot of noise! There are flashy, highly-produced car commercials. There are glossy pages in magazines with beautiful people holding beautiful bags. There are a lot of temptations, and charities can’t afford to get their ads everywhere that a luxury brand is advertised.

Now I know this isn’t the way we need to think of all donors, especially current ones. Obviously the work we do is more important than the noise we make, and a lot of donors are so committed to us, our mission matters to them, that a Louis Vuitton bag couldn’t tempt them away from us.

But when we think of the world beyond that, and the people that might be interested in giving to our cause that aren’t right now, we need to think about what “the market” is saturated with. Not only are we competing against luxury brands, but we’re competing against other charities, and the competition can be fierce.

Let this be the reason you take a risk. Let this move you to try something you’ve been wanting to but haven’t made a strong enough business case to your boss yet. Think about a digital media buy. Think about a more creative envelope with your next acquisition mailing. Think about trying something new!

Because the charity next door is doing it… and Louis Vuitton definitely is.


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Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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4 things I learned at #AFPFC

4 things I learned at #AFPFC

I’m back from AFPFC a.k.a. the Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference, and I’m ready to share with you my top learnings.

Take little bets.

Take little bets. What I loved about a lot of the sessions I went to was that the presenters looked at the small ways we can innovate, make change, and show #DonorLove. In Steven Shattuck‘s session The Art and Science of Retaining Digital Donors, he talked about 3 opportunities to thank, engage, and – as a result – retain digital donors.

  1. Through the “Thank You Page” a.k.a. the webpage donors land on after successfully making an online donation.
  2. Through the confirmation email a.k.a. the “receipt” we send donors after they make an online gift.
  3. Through the formal acknowledgement we send them later.

Mark Rovner also took this approach in his session called Why midlevel donors are sweeter than Christmas morning, which I sadly wasn’t able to attend since I had to head to the airport, but which I followed on Twitter. Mark shared 3 great tactics to show mid-level donors some #DonorLove.

  1. Put your business card in their donor welcome package.
  2. Pick up the phone [and call her/him].
  3. Send him/her a handwritten note.

Get donors to DO something.

Get donors to DO something. Steven Shattuck talked about this in his session, too. When donors land on your Thank You Page, for example, does it just have a nice (or not so nice) message they can read (or not read) before just clicking the “X” and forgetting about you? OR do you give them a way to further engage with you?

A company called Abila in their session Digging Deeper Into Donor Behavior & Preferences: 2016 Donor Engagement Study, shared some recommendations on how to do this:

  1. Through a short video (2 minutes max.).
  2. Through a short note or article.
  3. Through a short Facebook post.

(See a pattern? It must be short!)

-If you always do what you've always done, you'll always be who you've always been.-

Fundraising = Impact Investing. Fundraising as investing is not a new idea to me, or to any of you, I’m sure, but it was definitely discussed a lot at AFPFC. It was discussed quite a bit in the Tuesday general session, and it was a big chunk of Kay Sprinkel Grace‘s amazing session: Where is the Sector Headed?. Kay urged us all to be nimble and to take risks. People are sick of giving to charities when they could give through venture philanthropy and make a bigger, more direct impact faster. We’re seen as a sector focused on scarcity, and nobody wants to give to a desperate organization. They want to give to a winning organization! We need to make change if we want to “win”!

Don’t be a bad houseguest. After many years of admiring him from afar, I finally got to see Tom Ahern speak in real time/real life in his session titled “Loverizing”: The Lucrative Difference a Few Well-Chosen Words Will Make in Your Donor Communications. Tom inspired the audience in so many ways, but a quote that really resonated with me was:

-A lot of charities could be mistaken for egotistical maniacs.- - Tom Ahern

Tom asked us to think about it like we’re a guest in a donor’s home, even when we send them direct mail. Do we want to go to their house and talk about US – the charity – non-stop? We did this, we did that, we we weOR do we want to talk about them and how great they – the donor – are? I think the latter.

Thanks for reading!


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Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for over nine years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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Guest Post: The Dark Knights of Fundraising

The Dark Knights

Fundraising is at a crossroads. We are constantly in search of the next ice bucket challenge, and yet the industry remains hostage to old schools of thought. Why? Because they work. Direct mail continues to drive organization revenue, and an alternative to face-to-face major gift fundraising with a similar ROI is hard to imagine. For all the stories of organizations empowering communities, there are many more of charities behaving badly and lacking innovation.

“He’s the hero we need but not the one we deserve.” Commissioner James Gordon delivered this line in one of the closing scenes of “The Dark Knight”. He was speaking about Gotham’s need for a public defender; someone willing to sacrifice everything to bring Gotham back to the glory it once held.

Gotham had descended into a city of ill repute, where criminals, the mob, and super villains terrorized citizens. The city and its public offices were filled with corruption, and the atmosphere degraded the sense of trust the city had in itself, and in the relationships between its citizens.

Batman was born from the need to battle the fear plaguing the city and its citizens. During the day, he strengthened the city from his position at Wayne Enterprises, donating millions in corporate and personal finances to address the root causes of Gotham’s degradation. Gotham got its first taste of light in years, and Batman’s actions emboldened its citizens to start standing up to crime and corruption.

Batman was an innovation of necessity; a sign things had deteriorated so deeply a masked vigilante was required. But things didn’t start out this way in Gotham; it was a slow descent into darkness… much like donation rates in Canada.

Our sector is filled with wonderful, passionate people, going above and beyond in pursuit of philanthropy. They are the silent warriors doing what they have to in order to establish their careers, whether it’s volunteering their way into contracts, accepting positions with a long commute, or giving themselves completely to the causes they support. Yet some of these individuals, the ones with the passion to change the course of an organization, are left on the outside. Because they are less qualified? No. It’s because they think differently.

These passionate people are ready to use new ideas that build upon best practice in order to innovate! And it is those who bring forward these new ideas that lead the development of best practice. They do it behind the scenes and out of the public spotlight. They change the culture gradually. They don’t expect recognition because they are excited about the process.

They are the Dark Knights of Fundraising.

What does a Fundraising Dark Knight look like?

  1. They are not afraid to look like the villain. Innovation will always be challenged because people are afraid of change. Dark Knights stand up against the status quo and take the unpopular stance so they can affect change and drive their organization forward.
  2. They know it’s darkest before the dawn. Change comes with fear, doubt, and uncertainty. The best businesses embrace the darkness because although the future is uncertain and mistakes will be made, those organizations that lead into the void will find the light faster and brighter than those afraid to take the first step.
  3. They utilize their entire utility belt. Batman’s utility belt is more than batarangs and smoke bombs. It’s full of tools so Batman can be prepared for any situation. Similarly, organizations should use everything in their utility belts to strengthen operations, whether it’s through interdepartmental collaboration, maximizing the potential of their database, or telling stories of the lives changed because of their work.
  4. They have close-knit allies. Even Batman needed help, whether it was Jim Gordon, Catwoman, Robin, or ordinary citizens. Batman, even when painted as the villain, still developed a passionate base of support willing to defend his reputation – and support Gotham with him.
  5. They are early adopters. Batman found a new piece of technology, used it, and through use, innovated. Solutions are found through trial and error not repeated use. Batman experienced, then adapted to fit his needs.

Now it’s your turn.    

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain.”

Let’s not let best practice become that villain.

We could all use a little more Batman in our fundraising.


Written by JJ Sandler

JJ Headshot


JJ is the consummate volunteer and a passionate community builder. Click here to read more about him.

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Guest Post: The #1 Mistake Online Fundraisers Make

There is nothing more frustrating than not hitting a goal you’ve set. Especially when it comes to fundraising.

You start dreaming big and thinking of all the things you’ll do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars you’ll raise.

Then when you miss that goal, you feel like you’ve failed. Worse yet, you feel like you’ve let down the folks who actually did donate.

That’s not a good feeling.

Many times, missing a goal comes down to one thing: setting unrealistic goals.

What’s Realistic?

The most successful online fundraisers have two things going for them: strong online assets, and a plan to promote their campaign using those assets.

Through my job at WeDidIt, I’ve been able to look at the lots of successful crowdfunding pages and their traffic statistics.

I learned that a campaign’s performance is predictable. I can look at a page’s traffic and give you an idea of where each of those visitors came from (email, Facebook, Google, your organization’s website, etc).

Better yet: I can tell you how much money it probably raised.

It’s a great party trick. If the party you’re at is full of nonprofit people…

How I Do It

It’s all about averages.

By taking the total amount raised and dividing that by the total traffic a page received, we can get a dollars per visit value (how much, on average, each page visit is worth). This figure works out to $9/visit (it’s actually more, but I round down to be conservative).

We can reverse engineer this to figure out how much traffic your page needs to generate to raise a specific amount.

Want to raise $1000?

$1000 / $9 = 111 visits to the page. You’ll need at least that much to make it happen.

On average, here’s where that traffic comes from:

  • Email: 56%
  • Facebook: 25%
  • Your website: 10%
  • Search: 5%
  • Twitter: 3%
  • Other: 1%

Right away, you can see email is the biggest driver of traffic.

It makes sense then to set your goal based on how healthy your email list is.

If your email list is small or has a low open/click rate, setting a huge crowdfunding goal is not realistic.

For example:

If you want to raise $15,000, you’ll need about 1670 visits. 56% of those have to come from your email list, or 935. That means 935 people on your email list have to open the email and click the link to the page.

If your email list is 10,000 addresses strong, you’re in good shape!

If it’s 500 addresses…you get the idea.

Just as you would run a 5K before taking on an IronMan race, setting realistic crowdfunding goals helps you experience more success and have something to build on.

If you’re interested in those crowdfunding stats, I put together a handy little tool I call the Crowdfunding Calculator. It allows you to plug in how much you want to raise, then breaks down how much traffic you’ll need, where it needs to come from, and gives you an idea of whether your online assets are strong enough to support that goal.

I offer it for free to the nonprofit community, all I ask for in return is that you tell me what your biggest fundraising headache is (so I can get ideas for a my next tool to make!). Click here to check it out!


Written by Andrew Littlefield


Andrew is a marketer and nonprofit fan for WeDidIt, a startup based in Brooklyn, New York dedicated to helping nonprofits raise more money and reach new donors.

Connect with Andrew via:
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Customization vs. Personalization


Happy New Year, readers! I hope 2015 brings you great things!

Now, for the first post of the new year, starting with an important question:

Why do donors keep giving to a cause? Because we make them feel special! 

That’s a simple reason, but it’s true!

How do we make them feel special? I’ll tell you one way we wouldn’t make them feel special: if they gave us $1,000 and we wrote a thank you letter to them that said “Dear Friend…”. No! That was part of a long-gone era of fundraising; what Fraser Green would call the “Industrial Age of Fundraising”. We’re now in what Mr. Green would call the “Post-Industrial Age” of Fundraising. The idea of pumping out a million things that look exactly the same – case in point: thank you letters written to the same “Friend” – don’t appeal to our donors. What do we do? We customize.

So our thank you letter now – thanks to mail merge – starts with “Dear Jane…”. Satisfied? YES!

NO!!! I sat down with an acquaintance recently and he commented on a fundraising video he’d received from his alma mater. It was innovative, it was different, and it was customized! The email he’d received had a subject line with his name in it! The body of the email had his name in it! The video had his name in it! I was rejoicing! Great work, alma mater!

You know what he said? It creeped him out. Why?! I asked, full of despair! He said that all that video told him was that his alma mater paid a lot of money to a video company and that they had a database full of information about him. That’s when I realized:

It was customized, but it wasn’t personal.

We’re past the age of customization. Having the technology to insert someone’s first name into something is no longer innovative. Taking the time to write a personal note, acknowledge something specific to a donor, hand-address an envelope… that shows something. It’s not necessarily innovative, in fact it’s pretty old school, and that’s why it’ll cut through the rest.

What do you think???


Written by Maeve Strathy


Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Guest Post: Five pointers for creating the most engaging donation web page possible

The Internet has created a new way for charities and non-profits to collect donations from supporters around the globe. Even smaller charities with limited budgets are able to market and use social media to effectively spread their message.

Web design and page layout are often overlooked when creating a donations page, but both play an important part in how effective an online fundraising campaign can be. Since the homepage is the online headquarters for most fundraising campaigns, make sure it’s set up to accept credit cards, in-kind donations, provides a list of events, and comprehensively outlines the mission and goals.


Create positive and original content that promotes discussion and sharing.

(1) Offer Something to See and Do
The campaign’s mission and goals should be outlined and easy to find, including how any donations are spent and whether or not they are tax deductible. Use images to enhance the story, and stay away from text-heavy pages. Videos are a great way to tell the story and evoke emotion, and updates on the campaign’s progress should be included when goals and milestones are reached.

People are more willing to donate when the funds are being put to good use and progress can be seen. Offer users a forum to discuss the cause and exchange ideas with one another.

Create a “donate” button that stands out from the rest of the site.


(2) Provide Multiple Ways to Donate
In addition to setting up the campaign’s website to accept credit cards, donations should be able to be accepted via text message, PayPal, social media, and through the mail. In addition to accepting credit cards, offer the option to donate cash, checque, or money order.

Users shouldn’t have to navigate all over the site to make a donation, so add a way to donate money right on the campaign’s homepage. PayPal offers a “donation” button that can be setup with minimal code.

(3) Spread the Word
In order for a campaign to be successful, people must know about it. One of the most effective ways to spread the word is through the use of social media. Create a Twitter account, Facebook page, and blog. Stay active on the accounts by creating positive content, engaging your supporters, and promoting conversation. Post thought-provoking updates that people will want to share with their networks.

Link the campaign’s social media accounts to the homepage so users can easily navigate between the two. Add “Like” buttons to stories and videos, and blog about the fundraiser’s progress as often as possible. Include images, videos, audio, and other rich media within the blog posts, as well.

(4) Create an Online Store
Although this may be a bit harder for those on a tight budget, it’s never a bad idea to offer products that can be purchased directly through the website. This includes t-shirts, hats, buttons, bumper stickers, pens, and other novelty items that promote the cause. Make sure a portion of all proceeds go back towards the charity, while other funds may be used to help offset administrative costs. These types of products are an additional way to market the campaign offline, too.

(5) Recruit Volunteers

The more help the campaign has, the better. Provide a way for people to get involved and lend a helping hand. Send out a monthly newsletter with information about local events and appearances. Create street teams that spread the word by going door-to-door or by holding events in public places.

If people are passionate about the cause, it may be easy to find others willing to volunteer their time and effort. Include ways people can help directly on the homepage, and provide contact information for those looking for more information.
By creating thought-provoking and engaging content, offering an easy way for people to donate, and sharing the message through social media, any fundraising campaign has the potential to be successful. It’s also a great idea to accept in-kind donations for those who are unable to donate money.


Written by Brian Flax

Brian Flax is a freelance writer based in the Washington, D.C. area. He is experienced in a variety of topics including technology and Internet-based applications. Follow Brian on Twitter @BrianFlax.

Image courtesy of photoraidz /
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Guest Post: What’s Wrong with Philanthropy (And How We Can Fix It)

There’s a great TED talk (here) that got me thinking. In it, Dan Pallotta – who essentially created the multi-day charitable event industry – argues that the way we judge charities is wrong. There’s an obsession with keeping overhead low and an understanding that salaries for those in charge should be kept to a minimum. After all, they’re working for charity. But this isn’t the best way to succeed. When a business wants to grow, society understands that it’s necessary to reinvest its earnings into creating more earnings. It’s worth hiring the best leaders (even with high pay) because they bring more value than they cost. And it shouldn’t be any different in the non-profit sector. The best way to raise more money is to reinvest a big portion of what they’ve earned so far. Pallotta’s charity events, despite comparatively high overhead, have grown exponentially faster than others and have, as a result, raised a much higher overall dollar figure. And that’s what matters, right?

Okay, I’m convinced.

But then I think about if one of the charities that I give money to told me that their CEO takes a big chunk of the proceeds and a majority of the rest goes towards marketing to get more donations and it just feels… wrong. I don’t want my money going towards overhead.

So: either I’m being irrational or there’s a piece of the equation that I’m missing.

Pallotta establishes – and I agree – that the best way for a charity to grow and raise more money in the long term is to reinvest their profits. Yet I still don’t feel comfortable donating to charities that operate in this way. Is that a contradiction? I’m not sure it is. Not necessarily. If my goal in giving to charity is to maximize the charity’s overall proceeds then yes, it’s a contradiction. But that isn’t my goal.

Let’s step back for a second: If I give $100 to charity and they reinvest all of that money to convince my neighbor to donate $101, is that a good thing? There’s been a net drain on society of $201, yet the charity only has $101 to show for it. That’s not good. I don’t feel like that was money well spent.

Compare that to a company that does the same thing. If I spend $100 on a new gadget and they reinvest all of that money to convince my neighbor to buy the same gadget for $101, is that a good thing? I’d argue that it is. My neighbor got something that he values at over $101 (otherwise he wouldn’t have bought it) and the company made additional revenue. Sure, we’re talking about small numbers so it seems insignificant, but it’s clear that everyone benefitted.

So what’s the difference???

It’s the fundamental problem with philanthropy today: When you give to charity, you are trading your money for the feeling that you’re helping.

That’s it.

And that leads to the societal beliefs that overhead and salaries should be low, and all the donations should go directly to helping the cause. Because, if they don’t, then the person donating didn’t get their end of the bargain. Their money didn’t help the cause.

When a charity spends $1 million on marketing – even if it has a positive ROI and generates $2 million in donations – that’s $1 million of contributions from people who gave money to help a cause and didn’t. Or, phrased another way, $3 million was given to help a cause and created only $2 million in real change.

In economics, we talk about growing the pie. And Pallotta’s speech assumes he can follow that logic: it’s worth reinvesting because it grows the pie. But donating to charity isn’t growing the pie, it’s just shifting wealth around. It’s a one-way transaction. So a reinvestment into getting more people to donate isn’t growing the pie the way reinvesting in a business would, it’s just a net loss for the sake of shifting the wealth around in a more favorable way.

So let’s recap quickly: Pallotta’s logic is flawed because a bigger overall dollar figure isn’t all that matters when people are giving out of sympathy. The best example is imagining a charity that reinvests so much into good marketing that they raise $1 trillion dollars. But only $1 billion of that money actually goes to help. They’ve created a huge bottom line, but because the cost of that bottom line was so massive (and the people giving didn’t get anything of value in return) it isn’t worth it. Donating to charity is a transaction where you are giving money in exchange for being able to help. And when the majority of those giving money don’t get to see their dollars put towards good, it doesn’t matter how useful that money was in creating more donations. It’s an overall societal loss.

So how can we fix this?

We need to change the way we see philanthropy. Businesses operate on the principle that they can provide more value than their costs of producing that value. In other words, they create transactions where both parties selfishly benefit and there’s profit leftover.

Why can’t charities do the same?

That’s the idea behind a charity I’m working with called GiveGetWin. Except – and here’s the secret sauce – there’s more ways to deliver value than just in dollars.

Essentially, what we do is ask someone doing something interesting to provide us with some value free of charge for us to sell. Often, that’s a handful of 1-on-1 consultations. Sometimes, it’s a product that they usually sell.

In exchange, we market the hell out of the deal and, in doing so, raise awareness of what they’re doing and drive a bunch of traffic to their page. Plus, it looks good on them and raises their credibility.

Great – they’re benefiting personally and doing good for charity.

Eventually, people who are interested in what they are selling find our deal and are amazed by the incredible value. The prices are shockingly low and, in many cases, the offers are things they wouldn’t be able to buy elsewhere.

Great – they’re benefiting personally and doing good for charity.

At the end of the day, all the profits generated by the deal go towards helping change the world. Today, we’re developing educational infrastructure in Mongolia. Tomorrow it could be something different. Because those giving are doing so for their own sake (with the added benefit of helping charity), we aren’t tied to one cause. We don’t rely on sympathy to raise money. Those who give are getting something for it. And this gives us the freedom to spend the money however it’s best suited to generate the most value.

Coincidentally, despite all this, we have an awesome team of volunteers and are able to give 100% of all our earnings to charity. But the point is that, the way things are set up, nobody would have that negative gut feeling if we reinvested our proceeds in growing. The transactions don’t consist of trading money for the feeling that you’ve created change. The change is an awesome byproduct of mutually beneficial deals.

And I haven’t even told you the best part. My job? Well, I do a lot of things. But a main portion of that is finding people who are doing cool stuff that I admire and reaching out to them. I explain how we operate, spend some time chatting with them about how we could structure a deal, and work with them to put something amazing together. It’s an awesome opportunity to connect with really incredible people and I consider myself lucky to be able to do it.

Great – I’m benefiting personally and doing good for charity.


Written by Zach Obront


Zach Obront manages recruitment and development and GiveGetWin, a new kind of charity for the 21st century. You can read more of his writing at and find out more about GiveGetWin at


Guest Post: The Power of Listening

I’ve always been a loud mouth. I love to talk. I’ve had the “gift of gab” since I can remember. It’s why people think I make a great fundraiser.

They are wrong. It is one of the biggest obstacles I have had to overcome in my professional career.


Because major gifts fundraising is about listening (and asking great questions). Anything my donor has to say, is more important than anything I have to say.  My donor’s passion for the cause matters more than my own. Their experiences matter more than mine. Their stories are more powerful than mine. And trust me when I tell you, your donors won’t talk to you if you don’t listen.

We have all hear the proverb that we were born with two ears and one mouth. One of the hardest things for extroverted, social, chatty fundraisers to learn is to use their ears.  I want you to all start becoming better listeners; Olympic listeners, super hero listeners. How??? Well it takes time and practice, but here are some steps to get you started:

  1. Ask more questions than you make statements. Instead of giving endless elevator pitches about your organization, try asking questions: When did you first decide to support our charity? When were you proudest to be a champion of this cause? What do you want the world to be like in 50 years? How can we get there together?
  2. Be present. Focus on what is being said, not what you want to say next. It’s almost like calming breaths in yoga. Turn off your internal voice, and focus on what your donor is saying.  They are giving you something incredibly valuable to us as a fundraiser – knowledge about the donor.
  3. Watch their body language and look for a “spark”.  I was once sitting with a donor who seemed quite bored to be talking to me. Somehow the subject of her daughter came up, and her whole demeanor changed.  Her daughter was her spark, the flood gates had opened. Everyone has things they are passionate about and want to share with the world, pay attention so you don’t miss them.
  4. Don’t pretend to listen. Authenticity is a necessity in major gifts fundraising; all fundraising, really. You aren’t the actor you think you are, and it is obvious when you are faking it.
  5. Remind yourself who you are speaking to, and how you want them to feel. This is a donor you are talking to. They deserve to feel heard, respected and valued. You are lucky to have them share their time with you, and luckier still to have them share their words, thoughts and experiences.

These are skills you can practice all day, every day. Try listening to your co-workers, to your friends, to your spouse. It isn’t easy for me, and maybe it won’t be for you, but I promise in time it will get easier. You can become a better listener, and maybe, a better person.

Thanks for listening,





Rory is a Senior Development Officer by day, and FundraiserGrrl by night. As a major gifts fundraiser, I connect donors with an opportunity to invest in a better future. FundraiserGrrrl is a blog about my cheeky observations about life in fundraising.

Guest Post: The Number 1 Tip For Great Storytelling When Fundraising

The most successful charities know that in order to attract donations, they need to tell interesting and engaging stories. We as humans need stories; they help us relate and make sense of information.

After seeing countless fundraisers fall-short, meet or exceed their goals, the one thing that differentiates the great ones from the rest is how that story is delivered.

Very few people want to read reams and reams of text. What people want is a story to be told to them, in-person or by the convenient medium of video. And that doesn’t mean a slideshow with a voiceover – it means seeing a real person with a passion talking through the cause, explaining its importance and how a donation can make a difference.

Aside from seeing the success of this method on the fundraising website I run, the recent cause-based viral video titled Kony 2012 demonstrates the power of personal videos that talk through a cause with passion.

The creator of the Kony video, Jason Russell, introduces us to his child and family in the most personal manner. He’s a likeable character and we feel his passion as he explains the issues at hand in great detail. Once we’re involved in his story, the video ends with the simple call to action to get involved and share. The result? To date, his video has had over 96 million views and received worldwide attention.

Now it’s hard to replicate viral success but by following the fundamentals your message will spread further. It’s simply a case of being genuine, personal and sharing your passion through video.

Well, what kind of fundraising video should you create? In my experience and geeky analysis, I found that it’s best to spend the majority of time highlighting the importance of the cause, why it matters and why it’s worth the donor’s time. It doesn’t matter so much if it’s not created by a premium production team – in fact, a few quirks can even make it feel that little more personal.

Once it’s ready, it’s easy to complement your standard fundraising message with this video. Embed it on your fundraising page, add it to your website and share it by email.

Do you have any tips for spreading your fundraising message by video??? Leave them in the comments below.


Written by Sandip Sekhon
CEO & Founder of Go Get Funding
You can connect with Sandeep via:
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Sandip is currently working on medical fundraising website CauseWish which will host a unique community and is due to launch in February 2013.