Major donor fundraising work can be lonely work.

Unless you work for a large charity, odds are you have to manage a major donor portfolio AND are also tasked with other fundraising or administrative tasks.

Here are a few tips to help you improve your major donor productivity while improving your work life.

  • There is no need to feel lonely. Your major donors want to meet with you, talk with you about your work and help people in need.  Think of them as your friends.  Every day you have time in your calendar for coffee or lunch meetings.  Ask your major donors to meet with you for these normal, every day activities.
  • Reach out to other fundraising and major donor reps from organizations in your area. Meet once a month to talk about the work you are doing.  This is a great way to learn from others — and to share in the ups and downs of your work.
  • Ask a co-worker to hold you accountable to productivity goals. This can be anyone from your organization that you trust.  They don’t have to have any fundraising experience.  They just need to understand what you are trying to achieve and be willing to hold you accountable to that work.
  • Join a local fundraising association. Attend their classes, webinars, and conferences.  There is a community of fundraising professionals out there that love to share ideas.  Connect with them!
  • Ask your boss for clear productivity goals. This is true for your non-fundraising tasks as well.  If you are wearing multiple hats at your organization it is important for you to know what success looks like for each “hat.”  The more you know, the more you can grow!

I hope these ideas help you find ways to connect with others and encourage you to give your best effort each day.


Over the past few weeks we have blogged about how to Report back to your donors using donor-centered newsletters.

As you set out to do the important job of Reporting, here’s a short list of the most powerful tips to make your next newsletter a blockbuster:

  • It’s not about you!  Try to connect your donor directly with the beneficiary and limit (or preferably eliminate entirely) any organizational or institutional news.
  • Make it easy to scan and still get the message. Most donors have limited time to engage with your material. If they open your mailings, most are just scanning your newsletter for the highlights.  Really make sure your main message is in your headlines and picture captions – the things most likely to get red.  Don’t hide the good news at the end of an article!
  • While the newsletter is primarily a reporting vehicle, you should still ask for money.  Good newsletters raise lots of money! Balance the reporting and fundraising to give the donor great information about the impact of their giving and the chance to continue participating with your mission.  On a 4-page newsletter I do 3 pages of Reporting and use 1 page to present a need that donor can meet with a gift today.

Keep this list in front of you as you build your next newsletter. It will help you “keep the main thing the main thing” – and build a newsletter that Reports and raises money!


We want to radically improve the fundraising capacity of small-to-medium-sized nonprofits. One of the ways we do that is through webinars and trainings. Here are three for you, either free or low cost, that will help you and your organization raise more money.

Webinar: How to Make Your Newsletter Raise Money and Retain Donors with Steven Screen 

Finally! Here’s everything you need to create a newsletter that delights your donors, retains your donors, and raises money! For many nonprofits, donor newsletters can be a bit of a mystery. Steven Screen has created hundreds of newsletters and will share what works best, what doesn’t work, and why, so that you can raise more money.

In this special Simple Development Systems training, you’ll learn how to make your newsletter – which is probably a lot of work and doesn’t raise that much money – into one of the most fruitful parts of your fundraising plan. Your newsletter is incredibly important – here’s how to do it from an expert! Learn more and register here.

WHEN: Tuesday, March 14th from 10-11am PST COST: $87


Conference Call: What You Need to Know to Serve on a Nonprofit Board with Jim Shapiro

If you are looking to be an effective Board Member, this call is for you. Because you joined the Board to make a difference! You care, you have skills to offer, and you want to make the most of your time. This call, hosted by Washington Nonprofits, will give you a clear understanding of what your job on the Board is, and how you can best fulfill it. Register here.

WHEN: Thursday, March 16th from 12-1 PST COST: Free


Webinar: Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat: 4-Part Webinar Series with Jim Shapiro

If you’d like an easy-to-follow fundraising plan for your year, and you want to build trust with your donors, the Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat system is the answer. Oh, and you’ll raise a lot more money!

Come learn the secrets behind this proven, powerful system for communicating with your donors. Each webinar in this Washington Nonprofits series will “go deep” on one integral part of raising money, and you’ll receive specific, easy-to-follow advice. By the end of the series you will have built an annual fundraising plan that is successful and repeatable! Plus you’ll be confident. You’ll know your plan is proven and going to raise more money!

Register Today! (Deadline is Monday, March 20th)

WHEN: Thursdays: 3/23, 3/30, 4/13, & 4/20 from 12-1pm PST COST: $40 for WA Nonprofits Members/ $80 for non-members


You Too Can Raise $1,500,000!

by Jim Shapiro on March 9, 2017

Over the past few months I’ve been working with a small, rural charity that serves homeless moms and kids. They want to increase their impact and they needed more space to do it, so they hired Better Fundraising to help them with a capital campaign.

I’m happy to report that this little charity has already raised over $1,500,000!

If I told you that this tiny organization could raise that much money, you would have laughed at me.

And even more amazing is that this funding has come from less than 10 donors.

I share this to encourage you as you seek funding for your charity.  I also share this with you to teach you that it only takes a few key donors to achieve fundraising success.

I don’t have room here to share everything you need to raise $1,500,000 in such a short amount of time.  But email me if you want to talk, and I can share with you a few highlights…

  • Build a fundraising Offer that is clear and easy to understand. Don’t bog it down with a bunch of details or process related information.  And be sure it includes the problem you hope to solve – not just the sunshiney fantastic future.
  • Ask your board members to make the first pledge gift to the campaign. Their leadership is important and so is their money!
  • Identify your top donors and then ask them to make a significant gift.
  • Be bold. Ask your donors to give more than you think they can give. It is their job to downgrade their gift if needed.  That’s not your job.

I believe that most any charity can have fundraising success just like the organization I’ve been working with.  And if you want to be confident your fundraising is going to work, please let me know.  I’d love to help.  You can email me at


VIDEO: Improve Your Donor Newsletter Today

by Jim Shapiro on March 2, 2017

Your Newsletter is the “Report” in Ask, Thank, Report, Repeat.  It is where your donors find out if giving your organization a gift was a good idea – or not.

And if you are like most fundraising directors, you are about to create a donor newsletter.  Because this is the time of year when many organizations Report back to donors.

Hopefully, you’re Reporting to them the amazing things that happened because they gave a gift to your charity – not just bragging about the things your organization has been doing.

Remember, your donors gave you their money but they don’t know what happened to their gift after you received it.  But they need to know if you ever want them to give another gift!  So your newsletter’s “one job” is to show donors the impact of their gift.

Last February we posted this video that shows how to improve your donor newsletter.  It’s just 3-minutes long and is a great summary plus useful tips as you create your next newsletter.

Click here to watch – and then go Report to your donors and raise more money!


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!