When a someone makes a donation to your organization it is your number one job to thank them promptly and emotionally.

For Major Donors, I try to thank them 5-times for every gift they make.  This includes the receipt letter, a hand-written comment on the receipt letter, a separate hand-written note, a phone call, email, gift, etc.

You goal this week is to find creative ways to say thank you to your donors for making the world a better place.  Look for new ways to thank your donors promptly and emotionally.  Tell them what is going to happen in the world because they gave a gift.

And remember, don’t thank your donor for giving to your organization or to your programs. Instead, honor the donor by telling them what is going to happen in the lives of the people you serve or cause you represent because they gave a gift.

Saying thank you is the best way to build genuine, mission-driven relationships with your donors.

[Originally posted Feb 2015]


Be Confident!

by Jim Shapiro on February 16, 2017

Are you confident in your fundraising abilities and plan? If you are like most fundraising professionals, your answer is  – – “Well . . . kind of.”

Most fundraisers I work with know they need to raise more money.  They are familiar with the tools and resources that raise money.  But if they take a step back and really think about it – they aren’t that confident and they know they could do better.

So how do you gain confidence in your fundraising?  Try these things:

  • Learn from experts in the field of fundraising, specifically experts that have tested assumptions and have data to support their findings. Here is a list to the top 100 fundraising blogs. Find one you haven’t read before, and go learn from some of the top people in the field!
  • Track the results of everything you do, and only repeat what worked the best. This goes for email, direct mail, major donor work, and events.  You can’t be confident unless you really know what worked and what didn’t.
  • Review your fundraising to see if you are Asking powerfully, Thanking emotionally, and Reporting with gratitude. If you’re not doing each of those three things well, we’re confident you could be raising more money.


Shower Your Donors With Love

by Jim Shapiro on February 9, 2017

Valentine’s Day is a great reminder to shower your donors with love!

Here are a few ways for you to love on your donors before February 14th:

  • Send your donors a Valentine’s card. Send the Valentine on behalf of your organization and staff.  Even better, have one of your beneficiaries sign it!
  • Send flowers to your top donors. During the December holiday rush it is common to receive gifts and treats from friends, family, co-workers and business associates.  What’s to stop you from sending flowers to your top donors? Include a ‘donor love’ note!
  • Pick up the phone just a few days before the 14th. Let the donor know how much you appreciate their giving. And how your beneficiaries LOVE knowing that your donor cared enough to send in a generous donation.

The big takeaway here is to leverage the holiday. This is a great chance for you to show your donors that you love and appreciate them.  And here’s the not-so-secret payoff; donors that feel loved and appreciated are more likely to give future gifts!


The 2016 fundraising season has come to an end. Your donors just gave generously at year-end and now are waiting to hear from you.

Specifically, they are wondering if their gifts made a difference.  And if your organization really appreciated them.

So if you want to raise more money in the next few months you need to do a great job thanking the donors who just gave a year-end gift.

Here are my simple rules for thanking Major donors; Thank them promptly, Thank them often, and Thank them emotionally. In our experience, doing this very clearly leads to more giving.

Not only will you see an increase in giving revenue, you will see an increase in donor retention because your donors will give you more gifts and will stick around for longer.

You may need a little nudge to think of ways to thank you donors. Here are few ideas.

  • Write a personalized thank you note. Send it separately from the standard receipt letter.
  • Make a quick thank you video. This video can be from you directly or even better, have one of your beneficiaries say thank you to the donor. This doesn’t need to be fancy. A 20 second video from your phone will do the trick.
  • Call first-time donors to your organization or donors who give their first gift of 2017.
  • Send your donor a Valentines Day card. Tell them how much they are loved and appreciated.

Use these and other methods you know to thank your donors. They deserve it!


VIDEO: Repeat Your Way To Fundraising Success in 2017!

by Jim Shapiro on January 26, 2017

In this blog I’m going to apply some of the thinking behind Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat and repeat something from last year.

Last January we posted this video. In it, we talk about how to build a successful fundraising plan by repeating what worked from the previous year.  This video is just 6-minutes long and is a great place for you to start as you develop your 2017 fundraising plan.

Click here to watch!


January is the perfect time to kick-start your 2017 major donor fundraising efforts.

And the very best way to start is to evaluate last year’s major donor fundraising effort. Review your portfolio and results to figure out what worked and what didn’t.  Then set clear goals for 2017.

For now, let’s focus on making your meetings with donors in 2017 go as well as possible.  Following these 9 basic major donor-meeting tips. They come from an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy written by Eden Stiffman.

  • Get to know the donor
  • Meet on the donor’s turf
  • Listen intently and avoid talking too much
  • Respect the donor’s time
  • Meetings aren’t for everyone
  • Set reasonable expectations
  • Ask for a donation when it feels right
  • Express your gratitude
  • Involve the whole team

These are great tips and hopefully give you the framework for major donor fundraising success this year and beyond!


2017 Fundraising Trends

by Jim Shapiro on January 12, 2017

Let me look into the future and predict the fundraising trends for 2017.

  1. According to Blackbaud’s 2015 Charitable Giving Report, 93% of funds given to nonprofit organizations came from traditional means in 2015. That means major gifts, annual funds, fundraising events, checks, snail mail and by phone. Only 7% of donations to nonprofits came in online. Online fundraising will increase over time, but the data is clear that direct mail and face-to-face fundraising have not been replaced by digital technology.
  2. Donor systems will continue to improve and be delivered at a lower cost. Consider donor system platforms like Bloomerang and Little Green Light. They are taking on the big system providers and winning.
  3. Most of your fundraising revenue will come from a few key, select donors. Major donor fundraising is not dead! If you want to have fundraising success in 2017, makie it a huge priority to identify and communicate with donors who can give you $1,000 or more.
  4. Earlier I shared that 93% of funds given to nonprofits came inform traditional means. This doesn’t mean we ignore online, digital fundraising. I see a trend where more money will start to come in online this year and in years to come. But the key is to spend the appropriate amount of time and money on online fundraising. For instance, don’t go ‘all in’ on online fundraising unless you’ve maximized your major donor communications and relationships first!

Do you see more fundraising trends in 2017?  If so, add them to the comment section or email me at jim@betterfundraising.com.


How to Raise More Money in 2017

by Jim Shapiro on January 5, 2017

Now that 2016 is in your review mirror, it is time to start raising money to meet your 2017 fundraising goals.  Here are four tips for you taken directly from what worked for our clients:

  1. Stop talking about your organization and start talking about your beneficiaries. Donors want to solve problems. They want to help people in need. They don’t give to fund you or your programs, so stop talking about your organization.
  2. If you want to raise more money you have to talk to your donors more often. But not every new communication piece should be an Ask. Use our Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat communication rhythm to raise more money and build stronger relationships with your donors.
  3. Featuring a Matching gift will increase your fundraising results. And here’s what we’ve found again and again; don’t use this tactic only once, use it multiple times through your year. Donor’s don’t get tired of doubling their gifts!
  4. Make it as easy as possible for your donors to give their next gift. Include response cards and envelopes in your appeals and newsletters. Make sure your online giving form is easy to find and easy to use. Do all that you can to reduce barriers in the way of your donors making their next gift.

These are the 4 easiest things you can do to raise more money this year.  If you have other ideas, please post them in the comment section or send me an email jim@betterfundraising.com!


Yes. You read that headline correctly. You can raise money when you send your donors their 2016 tax summary letter.

Many organizations send donors a letter thanking them for their generosity and summarizing their giving in the previous year.

And many smart organizations raise a lot of money with this letter.  Here’s how . . .

Think of your letter as an appeal letter that just happens to have the donor’s previous giving amounts enclosed.  Put another way, their 2016 giving history is a conversation starter – and then you steer the conversation to why their first gift in 2017 will be so impactful.  Here’s what to do:

  • The outer envelope should say something similar to, “Your 2016 Tax Information enclosed” or “Your 2016 Giving Record enclosed.”  This is what causes the donor to open the letter.
  • The donor’s tax info can be in 1 of 3 places:
    1. In the letter copy (for instance, in a specially-indented paragraph)
    2. On 1/3 of the letter in it’s own little section
    3. On a separate sheet of paper.  This is most often done for donors who give several gifts each year and each gift is listed.
  • The letter should begin by emotionally thanking the donor for their incredible generosity, and tell them that a summary of their giving to [organization name] is enclosed.
  • The letter should then briefly summarize a need that the organization meets, and explain how the donor’s gift meets that need.  This might be something like, ‘there are too many homeless families in our neighborhood’ followed by ‘your gift of $X.XX provides one night of safe housing for a family.’

End the letter by thanking the donor again for their previous giving, and then ask them to ‘renew their support’ by sending in a gift today to help a family who needs help.

As is in most cases with direct communications, include a response card and response envelope. Make it as easy as possible for your donors to send in their donation.

If you don’t normally send out an appeal in January or February, this is a GREAT way to build trust with your donors.  You start by Thanking them for their previous giving, and then are honest that their generosity in 2017 is both needed and will make a difference!


“Send in a gift before midnight December 31st”

by Jim Shapiro on December 22, 2016

This one simple phase can boost your year-end fundraising.  Use it early and use it often in your year-end appeal letters, emails, and major donor appeals.

Why does this phrase work? Because it tells donors exactly what to do and by when. The use of ‘midnight December 31st’ creates urgency. If the donor doesn’t act now they will miss the opportunity to help by the deadline.

This phrase is clear, easy to understand and gives the donor simple instructions to follow.

So, go now and use this phrase in your year-end communications. Your donors will love it and respond to it.  And you’ll love explaining to your boss why you raised more money this December!