The New Rules for Fundraising

Do you like to break the rules?


Let’s begin.

Here are the old rules of fundraising

1. Talk at your donors. Don’t engage in a conversation. Who has time to talk to donors on the phone all day? Not me!

2. Assume your donors know about your cause as much as you do.

3. Don’t ask your donors for money too much.

4. Reach out to new donors as much as possible. You have to keep getting new donors as quickly as possible!

5. Send one appeal letter a year, and a couple of newsletters, that’s all your donor can really stand.

6. This is a transaction, not a relationship. Get it straight.

Okay. How are those old rules still in effect at your nonprofit?

Are you worried about asking for money too much?

Are you just sending one appeal letter a year?

Do you only talk with your donors when you want something?


Here are the NEW rules of fundraising.

Rule 1: Talk WITH your donors! How do you do that? Find out where your donors are hanging out. Now that we’ve got Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Email, and our blogs and websites, we have a multitude of ways to talk with donors. I have talked with a nonprofit that I’m a monthly donor for on Instagram and on Twitter. How many of your donors have you done this with?

Rule 2: Help your donors understand what you do, and how they’re a part of it. Make sure you help your donors understand not just what you do, but why you do it, in monthly newsletters throughout the year, and that it couldn’t happen without them.

Rule 3: Do ask your donors for money more. But also ask them for time. Ask them for help. Ask them for advice. Don’t just ask for money once a month or once a year.

Rule 4: Reach out to your most loyal donors as much as possible. Think RFM. That means Recency, Frequency and Monetary value. Just trying to chase new donors all the time isn’t going to make you have deep relationships. It will be a bunch of shallow donor relationships. Investing in a stewardship program can REALLY pay off for your nonprofit.

Rule 5:  Don’t stay stagnant! Make new mistakes! Try new ways to fundraise, like crowdfunding, cause marketing, peer to peer fundraising and more.

Rule 6: This is a relationship, not a transaction. That means calling just to say hi, that’s on your list of things to do. That could also mean throwing more open houses, more parties at your board members houses, and spending more time meeting your donors one on one to find out who they really are.


Don’t assume you know your donors.

You don’t.

You don’t know how old they are.

You don’t know why they give to you.

You don’t know if they want to hear more from you or less from you.

You don’t know what they like to do for fun. You don’t know why they stop giving. Unless you ask. Call your donors. Meet them in person. Survey them online. Survey them offline. Ask them.

Don’t assume your donors know what you do.

They probably don’t. I was a monthly donor for this nonprofit for a year and I went to their event and I realized that I had no idea what they really did. I mean, why it was so important and the depth and breadth of their programs. It was an educational moment for me. And I supposedly know about how nonprofits work. But I still didn’t really get it until i went and heard stories from people they helped.

I talked with a board member yesterday and she said, people assume we know what this nonprofit does! We don’t! We really need people to explain things to us at our board meetings! So don’t assume your board knows what you do either.

Don’t just communicate one way.

Communicate in a lot of different ways.

I am a millennial and I love a paper newsletter!

But email is fun too, when the nonprofit has fun with it.

And I love it when a nonprofit notices that I’m talking about them, and they respond to me on social media. It makes me feel like I’m important to them.

Don’t be afraid to ask more than once or twice a year!

Try sending 4 appeal letters a year. Try a crowdfunding campaign instead of a series of 3 year end emails. Write a fundraising plan! Break up your strategies. See which one works the best. Experiment with buying a physical mailing list. Experiment with doing speaking engagements and ask at the speaking engagements. Try doing something different with your e-newsletter.

Above all, never, ever stop learning! And break these new rules! Tell me I’m wrong! Go on!

Posted in