If there is anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that if you want to be a successful fundraiser you must simplify and clarify your message.

Most donors do not want or need complex jargon. They just simply don’t have time to decipher what you are trying to say.

We tend to think that if we deliver more statistics, descriptions of programs, and detailed reports, that our donors will be more likely to give us a gift.  In most cases, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The best thing you can do is deliver a human-sized problem for the donor to solve. Once you have clearly communicated the problem and given the donor simple ways to help, then you can deliver more content and information to build a case for more support.


Are you a Board Member or Executive Director?  Would you like Free Training on how to know whether your organization’s fundraising is effective — and what to do if it isn’t?

As an E.D. or Board Member, we know you want to understand what a great fundraising program looks like — and how you can govern, support and evaluate your staff’s efforts.

Here are the details on the training that’s been created just for you! We will teach you what you need to know to evaluate your fundraising, to know what to focus on, and what you need to know to really make a difference!

  • WHEN: Thursday, October 20th, 2016; 9:30am-12:00pm
  • WHERE: Fulcrum Capital, 1111 Third Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

You’ll learn:

  • The two performance metrics you should focus on: net revenue and retention rate
  • The three things your organization needs to be doing, especially with Major Donors
  • How Boards can govern their organization’s fundraising but still let the fundraisers do their jobs
  • What successful donor-focused fundraising looks and sounds like

Learn more here and register Today!


Just about every single month, I receive an emergency phone call from an executive director that is short their budgeted goal for a project or program.

The organizations that call us often have something in common: a leadership team that hasn’t had a disciplined approach to cultivating relationships with their major donors.  So when it was time for those organizations to ask their major donors for financial help . . . their donors weren’t inclined to help.

What does that mean for you?  It means that TODAY is the day you need to reach out to your top active donors and donor prospects.  Right now, pick up the phone and give them a call.  This very minute, pick up a pen and write them a thank you note.  Sometime this week ask a donor to lunch.

Then, make sure you have a disciplined system that keeps you in touch with them as often as they would like – which is usually more often than you think.  Especially if you are good about Thanking and Reporting back to them on the effects of their previous gifts.

But for now, make the time to connect with your top donors.  By taking the time to connect with your donors, you not only will build great mission-driven friendships, your donors will be ready to give when asked.


Upcoming Trainings!

by Jim Shapiro on September 21, 2016

Steven and I will be presenting at a number of trainings and seminars this fall and we wanted to let you know about them. They’re on a variety of topics and are reasonably priced, so you’ll want to take advantage of these!

DOWNTOWN SEATTLE: Friday, September 23rd
Planning the Perfect Year End Appeal 

Presenters: Jim Shapiro & Steven Screen
Location: Pacific Continental Bank
Time: 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Cost: Free!
Find out more and register here!

BELLEVUE: Tuesday, September 27th
Essentials for Nonprofit Board Members

Presenter: Jim Shapiro
Location: Clark Nuber CPAs
Time: 8:30am-3:00pm
Cost: $75
Find out more and register here!

TWISP: Monday, October 3rd
Building an Annual Fundraising Plan That Raises More Money

Presenter: Steven Screen
Location: TwispWorks
Time: 10:00am-4:00pm
Cost: $15
Find out more and register here!

WENATCHEE: Monday, October 10th
Building an Annual Fundraising Plan That Raises More Money 

Presenter: Jim Shapiro
Location: Pybus Public Market
Time: 9:00am- 3:00pm
Cost: $15
Find out more and register here!

Please email me at jim@betterfundraising.com if you have any questions. Hope to see you this fall!


Urgency is a powerful fundraising ingredient that motivates donors to action.  Adding a deadline to almost any fundraising effort will usually improve your results.

Your donors’ lives are BUSY.  A deadline – especially deadlines with consequences – gives them another reason to stop what they are doing and send in a gift today.

And here’s how a deadline helps you.  When delivering a major donor appeal for support, I always ask the donor to send me their gift or financial pledge by a certain date.  Including a “respond by” date does a couple of things for the donor and for me:

  1. The donor knows exactly what to do and when to do it by.
  2. The donor knows that if the gift isn’t received by a certain date that there is a negative consequence for the project, person or program we are trying to fund.
  3. It gives me a clear reason to contact the donor again if I don’t receive their gift by the response date.

So the next time you ask your donors to make a donation, be sure you’ve included a “response by” date and that you have clearly stated the negative consequence that will happen if they don’t send in a gift by then.  You don’t have to hit them over the head with it, but deadlines are magic.  And consequences, however small, help a donor realize that their gift really is important.


Video: You Can Fix Your Fundraising!

by Jim Shapiro on September 12, 2016

Do you feel like your fundraising is broken? Like you are caught in a fundraising rut or that you donors are confused by the variety of fundraising messages you send them?

Then this video is for you.

You’ll see why most fundraising is broken — and what you can do to fix it.  After you watch, you’ll know how to improve your donor communications, honor your donors and ultimately raise more money!

Don’t waste another minute wondering why your fundraising isn’t work.  Stop what you are doing right now and watch this video.

It’s just 4 minutes long – but it could be the most important 4 minutes you’ll spend this fall!


If you are like most development directors or executive directors, you feel a little overwhelmed by your day-to-day responsibilities.

And the day-to-day demands of your job puts you at risk of not making the time to cultivate your major donor relationships the way you’d like.

To help you prioritize your major donor development and fundraising, I strongly suggest creating a donor rating system.  Developing a system is relatively easy and will take the guesswork out of which donor you should contact and cultivate first.

Here’s how it works. Using a scale of 1-3, with 1 being the lowest rating and 3 being the highest rating, rank each of your majors on these four qualities:

  1. Total giving for the past 12 months; the top third should be rated “3”, the middle third rated “2”, etc.
  2. Affinity for your work or cause; do they love what you do or who you serve
  3. Relationship strength; is the relationship between the donor and you or someone else at your organization strong or weak?
  4. Financial capacity; regardless of how much they have given, how much could they give?

Add up the total score for each donor.   The best score would be 12, the worst would be 4.  Then sort your list by the highest rated donor down to the lowest rated donor.

Now you know which donors you should cultivate first!  And now you know how to spend your time to create a bigger impact for your organization.

If you would like a copy of an excel spreadsheet that illustrates the final result from this rating process, please email me at jim@betterfundraising.com.


Our Chance To Give Back

by Steven on September 1, 2016

We’ve been incredibly fortunate to learn from fundraising mentors.  And from organizations that diligently measure the results of everything so they can see what works and what doesn’t.

On Thursday, September 8th in downtown Seattle we’re going to share it with you!

If you’re an Executive Director new to fundraising, or a Board Member of a nonprofit, we’re going to share how you can evaluate and improve your organization’s fundraising!

This is FREE seminar, with plenty of time for questions and answers at the end.  Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • The two performance metrics you should focus on: net revenue and retention rate
  • The three things your organization needs to be doing, especially with Major Donors
  • How Boards can govern their organization’s fundraising but still let the fundraisers do their jobs
  • What successful donor-focused fundraising looks and sounds like

We (Jim and Steven) will present what’s working and what’s not working in fundraising today – with real-life examples you can learn from.

It’s all in honor of International Day of Charity, and we’d love to help you and your Board be more effective at governing your organization’s fundraising – and raising more money – for free!

Sign up today!


All too often I work with executive directors and CEO’s that say, “I’m not a fundraiser.”  In most cases, this is the farthest thing from the truth.

That’s because fundraising is a knowledge issue, not a talent issue. 

I’m convinced that if you have risen to the top of your organization, you have what it takes to be a great fundraiser.  You are good with people, you know your mission and work like no one else.  And you have passion for your cause.  These ingredients combined with just a little bit of coaching and confidence equals fundraising success.

Consider these examples from our clients . . .

  • A Head Master of a local private school needs to raise $3M to build a new school building. He just secured a $400,000 donation!
  • A founder of an organization that serves homeless moms and kids needs to raise $5M to build a new resource center. She secures a $1,000,000 gift in her very first donor meeting.
  • A local director of a youth services organization needs to raise $10,000 by the end of the month to fund his programs. He achieves his goal, first by receiving a $5,000 lead gift from a donor that had never given a gift to his organization.

None of these clients were confident about their fundraising ability.  But they are good at their job, and I taught them to be good at fundraising.  Want to learn what they now know?  Get in touch!


It is hard to believe the success one of our clients is having raising money via small group, major donor gatherings. They call them “major donor summits.”

Just in recent months they have raised over $500,000 by bringing together select groups of current major and mid-level donors to hear more about their mission and to be given a very clear opportunity to make a significant donation.

The ingredients we came up with for these events are actually very simple and something you can implement:

  1. Find a geographic location where you have a number of major and mid-level donors residing
  2. Invite them to a one or two-day gathering at a desirable location or venue
  3. Include your leadership team at the event
  4. Share with them the big-picture vision and goals you hope to accomplish with their financial help
  5. Give them a campaign goal that they can collectively fund
  6. Deliver a clear and simple fundraising offer
  7. Include a giving deadline, ideally by the end of the event

These basic ingredients have proven to be a successful combination. I challenge you to come up with your version of a major donor summit so that you can raise more money and develop deeper connections with your donors!