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Yesterday, I had a little rant about agencies that fail to set the right expectations when they encourage non-profits to hire a fundraiser. You can read it here.

Now for today’s post. If you’re an agency who’s going to tell a charity to employ a fundraiser, this is what the CEO, board and upper management need to know.

10 things agencies should tell non-profits about hiring a fundraiser

1. Fundraising is a long-term investment with input required from staff throughout the organisation.

This includes the CEO who personally thanks a major donor (or even a small donor). It includes the program staff who provide the information needed for a fundraiser to develop a compelling fundraising offer. And it includes the administrative officer who processes a gift then gets a receipt and thank you letter in the mail within three days.

All fundraising activities cannot be done by one person.

2. To do direct mail appeals well, your new fundraiser will need access to lots of expertise.

These include a direct response writer (not a comms writer), a graphic designer (who’s not a prima donna), a web developer (who understands usability rather than being a tech geek), a good printer and a mailhouse. That’s just for starters.

You have three choices. One, the new fundraiser does all of this and not much else. Two, the new fundraiser uses existing in-house resources if they’re available. Often they’re not. Or if you do have a writer, designer and a web developer in-house, they are not skilled in direct response. Or three, the new fundraiser outsources. This obviously requires money.

3. To properly steward your donors, you will need a good donor database. Your fundraiser cannot do her job without this.

If you cannot afford something like iMis or Raiser’s Edge then by all means use something cheaper… but have a longer-term plan to move to one of these systems when you can afford it. It’s worth it.

4. You need to make it easy for people to give. A phone number with a friendly person on the other end to accept a donation. A website with a clearly marked donate button on every page and simple online donation forms.

Otherwise your fundraiser will despair as she sees reports of donors hanging up after 3 minutes in a phone queue waiting to give (and many won’t wait that long). Or the 10% drop off in the donation process with every extra screen you make your donor click through to give online.

5. Recruiting monthly givers, major donors and bequestors takes a long time. A long time means years. Sometimes several years.

Your fundraiser will need resources to nurture donors towards becoming higher value givers. It will mean special mailings or a telephone campaign (or both) to qualified monthly giving and bequest prospects. It will mean a dedicated staff member and the CEO making telephone calls and visits to major donors prospects.

The tactics may vary in each organisation but you get the idea. Your fundraiser cannot do this alone and without resources.

6. If you acquire new donors, you must welcome and nurture them carefully. Especially in the year after they first give because many of them will never give you a second gift. That means some kind of welcome pack or telephone call. And letting them know how their gifts have made a difference. All this increases your retention rate.

Then refer to point 5.

7. You need the right administrative support. People who can efficiently process donations and send out receipts and thank you letters within three days not three weeks.

If you just can’t do three days? Then at least tell the donor over the phone or in a confirmation email that their receipt is coming within 10 days. And work towards cutting that time down!

8. You need dedicated donor relations staff who can answer questions from donors, fix up incorrect details and deal with complaints.

These people need to have a warm manner (both on the phone and in print). They should never make donors feel like they’re interrupting a busy day (even if they are). If you can do this, your non-profit will be streets ahead of the competition.

And please, these duties should not be tacked on to an already busy staff member’s role. I get that you may not have the capacity yet for this. But keep it in mind and plan for it.

9. The CEO and Board members must directly support the fundraiser when it comes to letter signing, visiting high value donors and actually asking for money.

They also should be financial supporters themselves. How can the fundraiser ask others, especially major donor prospects, for funds if the leaders of the non-profit won’t give themselves?

If the CEO and Board are uncomfortable with this notion, they need some fundraising re-education. Desperately.

10. Last but definitely not least. It should be obvious by now that your new fundraiser will need a budget.

Now I understand many small non-profits will not be able to afford or implement all of this straight away. But management must understand what will be required long-term if fundraising is going to pay off as it should.


Please share your thoughts below. And here’s the link again to the first post in this series How Agencies Sabotage Fundraisers if you missed it.

In my next post, I will discuss how this approach should help agencies gain more work.

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