fundraising

6 Expert Sales Strategies Nonprofit Fundraisers Need to Steal

By Tatiana Morand, Content & SEO Manager at Wild Apricot by Personify

You might think that your fundraising work is worlds away from that of Fortune 500 sales professionals. You’re cold-calling in hopes of a double-digit gift, while they’re landing six-figure deals over a boozy lunch.

But if you’re dismissing the strategies they’re using, it might be time to take another look.

You both have the same task: convince your prospects that your mission is a good investment.

So, before you pull your hair out trying to think of new “viral” fundraising strategies, take a look at how sales pros successfully pitch their products and consider how this could translate into funding for your organization.

1. Make It Personal.

Research has shown that consumers prefer personalized sales experiences. With so many analytic tools available, individualized recommendations have become the norm. Just think of the way Netflix curates “Recommended For You” selections based on your viewing history.

Mailing out stock donation envelopes doesn’t cut it anymore. Your donors and supporters expect communication that shows you’ve taken the time to get to know them.

That doesn’t mean you have to send handwritten notes for every gift. Instead, identify easy things that you can customize a bit more.

Possible Actions:

  • Use personalization fields (merge tags) to address donation letters and emails.

  • Send individualized welcome and thank you emails to new donors.

  • Handwrite thank you letters at major donors. Affirm their sense of importance by including specifics about the use of their gifts.

  • Create drip email campaigns to ask donors questions and elicit replies. Drip emails can be triggered by actions or criteria in your database to make them seem like personal inquiries.

  • Look for commonalities and create targeted segments. Let’s say you work for a literacy organization and realize that 10% of your donors and members are licensed educators. Why not send them unique volunteer opportunities perfect for teachers? Figure out how to leverage their common experience for your organization’s benefit.

2. Go Beyond Your Direct Connections.

A survey by LinkedIn found that consumers are five times more likely to engage with a sales professional if an introduction is made through a shared connection. In your case, this could mean asking your current donors to invite their friends and families to a fundraising event or encourage your current followers to share a post about a new campaign.

Possible Actions:

  • Start a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign via your current supporters to grow your network.

  • Look at your executive leadership team’s LinkedIn connections and make a prospect list.

  • …And then move to your board and do the same!

  • Create content for your board members to post on their social media feeds. For example, ask them to share a link to a blog post or event announcement.

  • Familiarize yourself with the community through local chambers of commerce and networking groups. Learn who might want to help your organization.

  • Introduce yourself to local media outlets. Offer to write articles about the nonprofit sector or mission-related issues.

  • Pay for your leadership staff and board chair to attend a few key events, such as trainings, conferences, or even other fundraisers. This allows them to network with philanthropists and other nonprofit leaders in the community.

3. Be Confident.

Another essential way sales professionals build trust is through professional competence. They speak with conviction about the products and services they’re offering.

We know that people, unfortunately, perceive nonprofits as dysfunctional or financially unsound.
As a result, you may face an uphill battle when speaking about your organization’s stability and success.

Possible Actions:

  • Refine a succinct and clear elevator pitch, and professional and consistent branding.

  • Train your employees and board members to give statistic-backed responses to questions.

  • Equip your employees and board members with case study examples that prove your organization’s success.

  • Prepare a 5-10 year strategic plan that can be shared externally. This shows you’re confident that you’re in it for the long haul.

4. Try Out This Tactic.

It seems counterintuitive, but some of the most successful sales pros encourage customers to explore competitors.

While it may feel terrifying or downright foolish to lead potential donors away from your organization, this type of honesty shows you’re so confident that you know they’ll ultimately choose you.

More importantly, it shows that your primary concern is the mission, which will reassure your prospects.

This may mean discussing the other organizations in your area that have similar programs. This openness lets prospects know that you have a mission-first mindset. Potential supporters will appreciate that you care about the greater good, not just the good of your particular organization.

(But hopefully you’ve sold them on why you’re the best option!)

Possible Actions:

  • Understand others in your nonprofit niche.

  • Develop your value proposition so you can effectively compare and contrast your organization with others.

  • Foster and emphasize collaborative partnerships with other nonprofits, so it’s clear you’re willing to share resources if it leads to greater impact.

5. Think Outside the Box.

When it comes to fundraising, it feels safe to play to the audience we already have a relationship with. However, creating new donors is necessary for organizational growth. Businesses are always trying new ways to expand their market share and reach new populations.  That means taking risks and allocating resources to new products or novel marketing approaches.

For your nonprofit, this might mean investing in online outreach to engage younger donors or trying a new theme or venue for your annual fundraiser.

Who knows… you might find a huge new base you didn’t know existed!

Possible Actions:

  • Dedicate a small portion of your budget to experimentation.

  • Track results in terms of cost-benefit as well as engagement and retention.

  • Try out a few different fundraising ideas.

6. Less Is More.

One of the most important characteristics of a successful sales pro is tenacity. The same goes for a nonprofit fundraiser.  

You’re probably accustomed to being hung up on and just picking up the phone with a smile on your face and trying again and again… and again.

But some sales pros suggest backing off and giving the prospect some space. When it comes to donation calls, less can be more.

So, equip your prospective donors with everything they need to know about your organization within the first couple of touchpoints, including ways to give. After that, the ball is in their court.

This strategy has two benefits: they’ll feel empowered, and you’ll be freed up to pursue other new supporters.

Possible Actions:

  • Prepare call scripts, sponsorship packages, and presentations that include a clear expectation of follow-up communication and call to action. (i.e. “We will send you an email and follow up in a few days.”)

  • Donors can also feel empowered by a challenge. A recent study shows that creating fundraising challenges (for example, saying “A generous sponsor has committed to give $1000 if you and your coworkers raise $2000 by the end of the month”) can positively influence giving. These types of fundraisers appeal to humans’ competitive nature and makes donors feel urgent and integral to the operation.


At the end of the day, a top sales executive and a fundraising manager aren’t that different (although the beverage selection may be a little better at one of their offices...).

To get yourself started, think of something you were recently compelled to purchase and consider what made you make that decision. How can you evoke that same feeling or experience for your potential donors?

Start thinking like a sales pro, and it might just pay off.


Nonprofit Spotlight - Scleroderma Foundation, Greater San Diego Chapter

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Scleroderma Foundation

By Juliet Davenport, Nonprofit Ambassador at DonationMatch

This week we are excited to spotlight the Scleroderma Foundation, Greater San Diego Chapter!

Scleroderma is a group of rare, progressive diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues — the fibers that provide the framework and support for your body. The purpose of the Foundation's San Diego Chapter is to "support the National Foundation's mission of Support, Education and Research." They hold a variety of events, from support and education meetings to walks and social events.

Here's a peek at their planning process from Kelly Davidson, Executive Director, and Cyndy Martin, Treasurer and Walk Co-Chair:

What kinds of events does your organization hold each year? 

Cyndy: Walk-a-thon fundraiser, free Patient Education Day, Ice Cream Social, Holiday Party with raffle, monthly support group meetings, bi-monthly chapter meetings. This year we plan to add a Padres Day fundraiser and a golf tournament.

What are your biggest fundraising event planning challenges?

Cyndy: Publicity! Getting more people to attend.

What are your most highly attended events?

Kelly: The Walk is by far the most highly attended event. The 2nd most highly attended is an annual patient education day where we typically schedule 3 to 4 expert physicians who speak specifically about scleroderma related symptoms and treatments.

How do you make your Walk-a-thon unique?

Kelly: We try to make it a Family Fun Day, and not just a 5K Walk. The location is somewhat unique in that it's right by the water on beautiful Shelter Island. We try to have something for everyone -  massage chairs, music, classic car displays, and a kid zone with face painting, bounce house, obstacle course and craft booth. We try to make it educational, so we invite other autoimmune disease organizations. And, we entice folks to stay around for our raffle fundraiser by providing a food truck with healthy options.

Which events raise the most money, and which help you raise awareness the best?

Kelly: The Walk definitely helps raise the most money and also gives us the most awareness. Our core members reach out to their extended friends and family to request donations and attendance at the walk. In addition, posts about the walk get more attention than any others on Facebook. It generates excitement and is something folks like to share.

What ideas and support has the national organization given you?

Kelly: Our National organization provides our fundraising site which enables everyone to have one common focus for fundraising, yet allows for personal fundraising pages. They set up the basic structure and auto-responders which are then customized by us at the chapter level. They also conduct an Annual Patient Conference each year and hold a leadership day where chapter leaders can share and learn from each other.

Do you have a favorite story of how your organization helped someone?

Cyndy: My favorite story is my own! I was diagnosed with scleroderma in 2010. I quickly experienced the 'Sclero-What?' syndrome of no one, not even many doctors, kn[owing] what it was. It was through the Scleroderma Foundation that I learned all about my disease, treatment options my doctors were not offering me, and met others coping and living well with the disease. In 2012 my disease became very aggressive and life threatening. Again, it was through the Foundation's education day, patient conference, and my new friends that I learned about clinical trials for stem cell transplants for scleroderma. In November 2012 I underwent a stem cell transplant that I believe saved me from becoming terminal. I now enjoy helping others on this path.

What is your favorite dessert?

Cyndy: Lemon Meringue Pie!

Kelly: Chocolate creme brulee!

Thank you both for all the good work you do, and good luck at your Walkathon on June 23rd!

Click here to learn more about the Scleroderma Foundation, Greater San Diego Chapter.

5 Minutes with Geraldine D'Silva, Executive Director of PAWS San Diego

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By Juliet Davenport, Nonprofit Ambassador, DonationMatch

For the past 20 years, PAWS San Diego has provided "essential pet services and support to low-income elderly, chronically ill and disabled individuals."  They currently run two programs - a PetCare/VetCare program which includes, among other things, in-home delivery of pet food, cat litter and flea medicine to their low-income senior, or chronically ill and disabled clients, and their PAWS Pantry Program, formally launched this year, in which PAWS sets up several distribution sites around the county to provide supplemental bags of pet food for families in need.

Here's what DonationMatch learned in 5 minutes with Geraldine D'Silva, Executive Director of PAWS San Diego!

What is the goal of PAWS San Diego?

"PAWS San Diego’s goal is keep pet families together. With our two programs we hope for the day when no more pets are relinquished to shelters due to lack of resources for pet care and pet food in San Diego County. Studies show that unfortunately low income is one of the main reasons for pet relinquishment."

You had different positions within the organization before you became Executive Director.  Do you think that experience has helped you become a more effective ED?

"I am so thankful that I started off with PAWS as Operations Manager two years ago. PAWS had just started moving from being a volunteer run organization to being staff driven. With the transition we were in need of a 'Manager,' especially when donors and others phoned to ask for one. When I was promoted to Operations Director after 6 months I had already learned so much, and after completing a Certificate course in Non Profit Management I was ready to take on bigger responsibilities. Now as the ED, I clearly feel the pulse of the organization and I feel privileged to work alongside our volunteers, amazing staff and an extremely supportive, talented and professional Board of Directors. Together we are effective."

Do you have a favorite story of how PAWS has helped someone?

"I have many, many wonderful stories to tell! The most recent one is a beautiful testimonial we received when we thanked a donor. They informed us that they were in fact a PAWS Pantry client a year ago. The family had suddenly become homeless and was living in their car with their dogs and cat. 'PAWS saved their lives' by giving them an emergency supply of pet food so they could keep their pets.

One of our PetCare & VetCare clients, Ray, takes almost 3 hours each morning just to get out of bed. Ray is a senior, chronically ill and disabled. He has been home-

bound for years and his only motivation to get up is his beloved dog and constant companion Ziggy. He talks to Ziggy all day and Ziggy is always right by his side. I personally deliver food to Ray and Ziggy and I always enjoy seeing the unique bond that they share. They clearly love and need each other."

What types of events do you hold?

"Fiesta is the major, annual event for PAWS San Diego. We also have an annual Volunteer Appreciation event and hope to hold a Donor Appreciation event regularly in the future. Apart from that, we participate in a few outreach events throughout the year, particularly PRIDE and PAWS in the Park and also the AIDS Walk where we run the water station."

What are your biggest fundraising event planning challenges?

"Our biggest challenge without a doubt is the need for an event planner. We are a team of four part-time staff with regular day-to-day responsibilities. Fiesta is our one major event each year, and in addition to it being time-consuming to plan, we are also heavily dependent on volunteers to make this event happen. Having the right event chair each year is of prime importance and fortunately this year we have a wonderful and very organized Chair. Coordinating and keeping volunteers committed through the whole process is a challenge in itself, apart from needing to market the event on a low budget."

Which events raise the most money, and which help you raise awareness the best?

"Fiesta forms approximately 15-17% of our budget. The outreach events help raise some brand awareness. We have small fundraisers throughout the year, hosted by restaurants, bars and stores that donate some of the proceeds to PAWS."

Where would you like to see PAWS in 5 years?

"In 5 years, I would like to see PAWS working more seamlessly with other human and animal welfare organizations and being more self-sustaining on a higher budget. I would definitely like to increase and diversify our funding base while growing and stabilizing our infrastructure and the number of people we serve."

If you were going to eat a brownie, would you choose a middle piece or a corner piece?

"If I were going to eat a brownie, I would choose the chewy center. But I would love a nibble of the crisp corner too, if I had that choice."

Thank you Geraldine and PAWS for all you do! Click here for more information on PAWS San Diego and their 20th Anniversary Fiesta Celebration on June 8th!

5 Minutes with DonationMatch Co-Founder Renee Zau

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DonationMatch Co-founders Darryl and Renee

By Juliet Davenport, Nonprofit Ambassador at DonationMatch

When was the last time you experienced a pain and decided to devote your full-time effort to solving it? Co-founder Renee Zau became an accidental web entrepreneur when she wished for a product like DonationMatch and waited several years for "someone else to build it so I could be a customer." When that didn't happen, she and boyfriend Darryl took what they learned working for a VC-backed startup where they met, their savings, and advice from smart friends to get accepted into and graduate from the Founder Institute (a tech startup accelerator), which propelled DonationMatch into the premiere platform for reaching consumers through charitable events.

Here's what we learned in 5 minutes with Renee!

How did you come up with the idea for DonationMatch?

Inefficiency bothers me. I hated seeing myself and other wasting time typing the same information from the same donors over and over again for fundraising auctions. I also experienced the pain of not having an easy way to collect and track the requests my business was receiving. All the paperwork being mailed back and forth seemed wasteful, and I wanted a centralized place for both donors (companies) and receivers (nonprofits) to not just manage donation records, but make requests and seamlessly transfer necessary information easily. I waited four years before Darryl caught on to how frustrated I was and realized I wasn't alone in needing a solution.

What do you think charities can learn from the private sector?

I know that the ultimate goal of a charity isn’t to make money, but I think many fail to invest in practices early on that will help them become financially self-sustainable. When a charity can’t focus on its mission because it needs money and has to constantly fundraise, it ultimately hurts its ability to do good work. Just like a startup for-profit, I’d like to see nonprofits:

  • Strive for long-term financial viability with an aligned business model,
  • Identify whether their mission is unique and necessary (as opposed to initiating a project within an existing organization), and
  • Plan for a bootstrapped success model based on partnerships and leveraging the help of others, in case funding doesn’t come easily.

Where would you like to be in 5 years?

In five years I’d like to be able to sign on to DonationMatch as a fundraising event chair in the U.S. or Canada, input my event details, and be able to fill my silent auction, opportunity drawings, and gift bags in an hour while having fun. This would be possible because of smart tools we're building into DonationMatch that help companies and brands want to donate goods because it's easy, cost-effective, and profitable. I can't wait for this day!

What is your weakness?

There’s always room for dessert. Even for breakfast.

What is another question you would like to ask Renee?

Using Social Media to Promote Your Event

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By Juliet Davenport, Nonprofit Ambassador, DonationMatch Spring fundraising time is among us.  How are you planning to promote your event?  According to Socialable, one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal should be social media.  Because of its wide audience reach, social media can be used to "increase registration, increase buzz, and ultimately increase attendance."  However, in considering your social media platform, it's important to keep in mind who your target audience is and how they interact online.  Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are likely your best options.

Another boost is the new Pro Event page upgrade on DonationMatch. It has built-in extra help for your event to get found by search engines like Google and Bing and Facebook sharing widgets. What makes it super convenient is automatic donor promotion and the ability to export donation details.

For details on using social media to help promote your event, and for useful tools to help you manage it, read more on Socialable's post here.

How are you using social media to promote your event?

Three Steps to Turning New Guests into Big Bidders

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[Sherry's blog post from last year is just as worth sharing now. Here's to your fundraising success! - Renee, Co-founder, DonationMatch] Courtesy of Sherry Truhlar,  Red Apple Auctions

One of my clients held her school gala last month.  A few days prior, she asked how she could ensure that new parents would feel welcome attending the charity auction.

It's a good question.

The reception you give to new attendees can make a difference in whether they buy, and certainly makes an impression on whether they want to return.

At another auction meeting, one of the co-chairs -- a divorced single Mom -- said that when she drove to the auction the previous year, she sat for several minutes in the parking garage, mustering up the courage to enter.

"I was debating as to whether I really wanted to do this," she told me.  She knew everyone else would be attending with their spouse.  As a single person, she wasn't sure she'd fit in or to whom she'd talk.  "I didn't know anyone," she explained.

Once she made the decision to enter, she was so warmly received that she took a leadership role in the auction the following year.

Do you have guests new to the event coming?  Here are some ways to welcome them.

STEP 1:  Prior to the event, call them.

Point blank tell them you're looking forward to meeting them, perhaps mentioning something specific.

"I'm REALLY looking forward to meeting/visiting you," you'll say, "I'm seating you at my table." Say it with enthusiasm!  These are new people prepared to learn about your cause.  They deserve your energy, and it will help build the anticipation.

If you're not holding a sit-down dinner, offer to make introductions, "Find me at the raffle table because I have someone I'm eager for you to meet."

STEP 2:  At the event, assign people to meet and greet.  

At a recent hospice auction, staff were assigned in pairs to greet guests at the hotel door, right after they'd turned their car over to the valet.  Staff briefly chatted with them before pointing them in the direction of the registration table.

Another client asks three people (two Board members and an outgoing woman who has been involved in the organization for years) to mingle with new guests, being sure to introduce the newbies to others and spending time getting to know them.

You might consider identifying new guests in a specific way, such as a "new parent" ribbon or a subtle star on a name badge.

I've seen this done successfully, though some guests might not appreciate the gesture and instead feel like a target.  Decide what works for your group.

STEP 3: After the event, pick up the phone. Nothing says "Wow!" like a prompt thank you.

If you need a slam-dunk strategy for next year's donations, this is it.

The day after the auction, set aside receipts and written thank you's.  Instead, pick up the phone and start dialing.  Here's the proof.

Fundraising colleague Gail Perry introduced me to Penelope Burk's work.  Penelope, a well-respected fundraising expert, shared some statistics on board member thank you calls back in 2004 at an AFP International Conference.

Donors who received a thank you phone call from a board member within 24 hours of making the gift were 39% more likely than other donors to give the next time they were solicited.

39%!

And after 14 months, they were giving 42% more.

Talk about a super strategy for improving your auction donations for the following year....

Engage your Board members.  Anyone Board member who felt uncomfortable asking for an auction item or sponsorship money should be enlisted in this activity. Provide them a script.  They can start dialing to say, "Thank you so much for your donation last night!  We are so thrilled you attended."

Three simple steps and these new buyers can become lifelong auction supporters.

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Benefit auctioneer Sherry Truhlar publishes "Benefit Auction Ideas," a bi-monthly e-zine for auction chairs seeking to improve the financial results of their charity auctions. Get your own copy -- and a F'REE gift! - at www.RedAppleAuctions.com.

Out of Date Donor Information Can Prove Costly

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By Juliet Davenport, Nonprofit Ambassador, DonationMatch As Kim Kupferman of Heller Consulting admits in this Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN) blog post, this isn’t the most exciting topic, but maintaining accurate donor data is actually quite important. How frustrating is it when we receive mail with our names spelled incorrectly, or which contains outdated or inaccurate information? What does this say about the company who sent the mailing? Knowing who your donors are, what they donate, and why they donate are vital information. Even though you may use some type of CRM to track this data, inaccuracies can be a major issue.

At DonationMatch, we are constantly striving to achieve the highest level of accuracy with our data. When it comes to donors, we understand that it’s important not only to know WHO to contact, but HOW to contact them. A bonus is that the WHO and WHAT of donor information is updated by companies themselves on DonationMatch, eliminating guesswork and streamlining the donation request process for both parties. As companies are learning to be more efficient, many both on and off our system are no longer accepting mailed requests (this preference can usually be found on their websites). When an organization fails to recognize this, it wastes paper and postage and risks offending potential or current donors.

Are you getting ready to mass-mail in-kind donation request letters for your fundraising event? Hop on over to DonationMatch first. Post your events and find out which products you can get in just clicks, then only send letters to donors who are not on our system. (You can even invite them to DonationMatch if you have their emails and think they may want to go paperless).

It shows respect and care to your donors when you are able to identify and acknowledge who they are, what they have recently done for you, and their preferences. This communicates the right message that can lead to better relationships and success.

What have you done lately to ensure data accuracy?

Don't Burn Out Your Volunteers

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Help

By Renee Zau, Co-founder, DonationMatch The inevitable happened. I suspected it was a possibility, but it still took me by surprise. "I just don't think I have it in me." Just like that, my son's elementary school's annual fundraiser was cancelled.

This isn't the first time I've seen a leading volunteer burn out, nor will it be the last. Imagine how much work it is to organize the equivalent of a wedding every year, then DOUBLE it. That's how many hours the average charitable fundraising event takes to plan (about 600 hours!) This will drain even the most experienced volunteers year after year, and we found some advice on alleviating pain:

Get Help. "Auctions are best enjoyed – and planned – with others.... Believe it or not, a good number of your best volunteers may not even have personal ties to the nonprofit, but instead have ties to the auction chair!" - Sherry Truhlar, Red Apple Auctions, from "Five Steps to a Great Fundraising Auction"

Stop the (PTO) Drama. Tim Sullivan of PTO Today addressed this in a blog post where he acknowledged the difficulties of authority or leadership in volunteer situations. He tackled this head-on with several suggestions.

Show Appreciation. While your committees are already securing prizes for auctions and raffles, why not add an ask for volunteer gifts, too? I love that the San Diego Zoo does a raffle at each of their Food & Wine Celebration planning meetings. Another idea? The same companies providing goodies for event swag bags will also often be happy to include extras for volunteers. After all, they are potential customers, too, and a little goodwill goes a long way.

Value Their Time. This has more to do with the tools you provide. It could be an app, software, or updated equipment that can save MANY hours of work or headaches. New products to help with event fundraising are being introduced constantly, including Planana for event sharing and DonationMatch for in-kind donation procurement. The best ones will reduce repetitive tasks, increase sales, and/or stay organized (i.e. prevent busy people from being overwhelmed.)

What helps you stay motivated? What have you done to successfully retain volunteers? We'd love to know in the comments below!

Coming Soon: A Fresh Look and Features for DonationMatch

By Renee Zau, Co-founder, DonationMatch You've told us how easy DonationMatch makes getting more customers and event donors, how much time we've saved you, and how great it feels to both give and receive.  We've taken your feedback and are excited to announce that added features and a new look are COMING SOON! Why are we letting you know BEFORE we do the upgrade?  Our site will be unavailable during this transition, and we want you to be able to plan any important DonationMatch account activity around it.  The exact date/time isn't set yet, but it could happen as early as this Friday evening, May 11th, and we'll announce it as soon as we know with an email, on Facebook, on Twitter, AND here on our blog.

Thanks for all your support, and we look forward to seeing you online at DonationMatch!

Sneak peek of new DonationMatch site