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December 4, 2021
Provocative Ideas for Raising More Money
By Gail Perry

Gail Perry 90 x 90
Gail Perry
Though it may appear counterintuitive, nonprofits can increase the amount of funds they raise by paring down their message, focusing on fewer givers, and perhaps even streamlining their programs and boards.

Some of the most provocative and promising thinkers in the field of fundraising, speaking recently at a national conference of Association of Fundraising Professionals, offered 16 ideas that may go against typical practices, but which have the most promise for raising more money more efficiently

These ideas may challenge your status quo, but remember that fundraising is changing and donors are changing. Doing what you’ve always done the same old way will get you yesterday’s results.

1. Go all out for monthly donors on your home page. Monthly donors are worth gold to you. On average, they will stay for 10 years. Put the ask right on your home page. The ideal monthly appeal ties a monthly ask to something specific: “$31 a month will do _______.” (Harvey McKinnon)

2. Focus on fewer, not more donors. You don’t make more money by having more donors. The more donors you accumulate, the less profitable your fundraising program. (Penelope Burk)

3. Encourage restricted giving. Restricted asks raise more money. Period. We are holding our philanthropy back because we are asking for unrestricted rather than restricted. (Penelope Burk)

4. Get rid of the words. Put your whole message in the first 150 words. The rest of your copy just backs it up. (Tom Ahern)

5. Get rid of words like “unmet needs,” “programs,” “services”. Write like you are an outsider to your organization. Get rid of the boring, obtuse jargon. Jargon is a flame retardant! (Tom Ahern)

6. Make your case like a series of ads. Add photos while you get rid of words. Create your case or your fundraising materials with the fewest words and the best photos. (Tom Ahern)

7. Hire more fundraisers. Saying, “We can’t hire any more staff.” is stupid. Each additional fundraising staffer upticks gross fundraising revenue. Period. (Penelope Burk)

8. Give raises to your fundraising staff. Salary is the number one reason fundraising staff leaves. Investing in retention of staff will make you money. Retention boosts profit. Extend young staff from 18 months to 30 months saves you money. (Burk)

9. Get rid of the “raise money now” mindset. Thirty-one percent of fundraisers who are planning to leave their jobs will leave because of an unrealistic “old school” culture of fundraising: i.e., “you HAVE to bring in the $ NOW.” How much more money could you raise if you took a long term, strategic approach? (Burk)

10. You must give your staff management training. Ninety-five percent of business success is attributable to the management of other people. But we cut staff training first whenever there is a shortfall. Training is essential. There’s not enough management training in nonprofits. (Burk)

11. Get rid of lousy board members now. Allowing a lousy, nonperforming board member to serve out their term is, in two words, “chicken s***” (Simone Joyaux)

12. Be blatant. Try this: “With your help, all these amazing things happened. And without your help, they won’t.” You—re selling the impact of the donor’s gift. (Tom Ahern)

13. Stop talking about the money you need. Which approach is most effective? Making a case focusing on the opportunity you—re putting in front of the donor or making a case focusing on your organization—s need for cash? (Ahern)

14. Become a shrink. When dealing with volunteers, you are a psychologist not a fundraiser! (Laura Fredricks)

15. Don’t believe your prospect when. If he says, “I’m just a plain ole country boy,” it really means he is a wealthy prospect! (Eli Jordfald)

16. Close down some programs. True leaders will close or give away a program or activity that is no longer profitable and has little impact.

The ideas presented here were reprinted from Gail Perry’s newsletter, “Fired Up Fundraising.” Gail can be reached at or 919-821-3050.

March 2011
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