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.

5 Podcasts for Charity Fundraising Advice


As a nonprofit professional (or professional volunteer), hosting a charity fundraiser is a lot of work. It requires organizing, marketing, event planning, sales, people management, and so much more. As fundraisers, we are always looking for improved methods for making our events more cost-effective and profitable. Here are 5 podcasts to help make the efforts of a nonprofit event planner a little easier, or more effective. These podcasts are in no particular order and range from 30 minutes to over an hour in length per episode. It can be great to fit in these helpful tips during a lunch break, long drive, or even during a daily workout routine.

1. The Classy Podcast

This weekly podcast has stories from leading founders and executives in the social sector who hope to inspire the next generation seeking to drive change. 

2. Events with Benefits

Hosted by three longtime event fundraising professionals with 50+ years of combined experience, this podcast seeks to help nonprofits achieve greater success in their fundraising events with less effort. The episodes feature special guests from all different sectors of the nonprofit industry who share their biggest lessons learned, including nonprofit attorneys, directors of events that raise over $1 million or more, benefit auctioneers, and technology companies.

3. CauseTalk Radio: The Cause Marketing Podcast

This weekly podcast, hosted by Joe Waters and Megan Strand, keeps you up to date on the world of cause marketing.  The podcast covers trends, tactics and news related to cause marketing and corporate-nonprofit partnerships.

4. Driving Participation Podcast

This podcast talks with marketers, fundraisers and consultants in order to explore what’s been successful for schools, nonprofits, and associations, in order to attract the right people, maintain their excitement, and encourage them to give back.  

5. Raise and Engage

This podcast if for nonprofit professionals and covers the latest trends and hot topics.  With people speaking from the social good community, it’s designed to help listeners in doing more for their cause.  

Questions To Ask When Holding an “In-Store Fundraiser”


In-store fundraisers (a.k.a. on-site fundraisers, restaurant nights, or giveback campaigns) can be a lot of fun and excitement for both hosting venues and the organizations inviting supporters to dine or shop. Before doing one for the first time with a new venue or organization, it's a good idea to get these details clarified in order to set expectations for both sides.


1. What percentage of sales will be donated to the charity?  

It is quite common for a store or restaurant to donate around 15%-25% of sales, or a specific dollar amount per package or service sold. However, percentages can vary, and there could be exclusions, such as alcohol, gift cards, or specific product lines.  Make sure to confirm the timeline of the event, whether donations will apply to sales all day or only during certain hours, and if there is a minimum number of guests or total sales required for payout.

2.  Can the event be held over the weekend?

It is very common for a restaurant to hold giveback fundraisers between Sunday-Thursday, so as to avoid their busiest times during weekends. Stores may have similar policies depending on their sales and other special events as well. Consider exploring other creative options, such as a late brunch or early lunch for a restaurant not normally open in the morning, or even longer-term fundraisers focusing on online or gift card sales for up to a month or more. 

3.  Will the percentage donated include all sales, or only those from guests referred by the organization?

Be sure to clarify whether the percentage of sales to be donated will be limited to only those who bring in a specific flyer, use a code, or mention the recipient organization, or all sales during the time period. It is also best to find out whether coupons and other promotions can be used during your event and/or affect the amounts you earn.

4. Does the percentage of sales include both food and drink items?  Does this include alcoholic drinks as well?

Depending on the restaurant, venues may only donate a percentage of food sold, some include both food and non-alcoholic drink sales, while others will donate a percentage of everything sold. Partnering to create a signature drink or dessert for the event can also drive additional sales-based donations.

5.  How will the business help market the event? And what type of promotions can the organization do?

What marketing materials will the restaurant provide to the organization? It’s important to think ahead about how to make promotion easier through social media, flyers, e-mail newsletters, message boards, and online calendars. It is common for a restaurant to provide the charity with a flyer to be used for tracking sales and promotion.  However, many businesses will not allow the charity to distribute the flyer immediately outside the venue during the time of the event, such as in the parking lot, so it's necessary to market the event in advance. If the fundraiser is at a store or boutique, find out if shoppers can arrive early and put items on hold to purchase during the event. Ask also if purchases can be made online, which would invite sales from out-of-towners.

7.  How can the event be personalized?  

One of the best ways to increase event attendance and traffic is to be creative and feature something unique, such as teachers cooking or serving food; an officer, director, or the school band performing; a special discount; or a raffle for a coveted prize or experience, donated by the venue in conjunction with the charity. If there are any limitations based on insurance or capacity, be sure to figure those out ahead of time, too!

6.  How will the organization receive the donation?  

After all sales are tallied, when and how will the organization be receiving the donation? It’s common for a restaurant to prepare a check for pickup within a few weeks from the date of the event, mail it, or even electronically deposit the funds into the organization's account. Some states have deadlines for how quickly funds must be transferred, so it's always a good idea to refer to your state's Attorney General's office for help.


Great partnerships begin with a clear understanding of what each partner brings and what to expect. We hope these ideas enable you to ask the right questions, clarify details, get creative, drive more sales, and raise more money!

Why Both Charities & Companies Can Benefit From Product Donations


After months of planning for an upcoming charity event, now comes the time where you have to reach out to multiple businesses and ask for product donations or auction items for the event.  As a resourceful problem solver, avoid becoming timid or hesitant when you make the request, feeling like you’re asking the business for a handout. Instead, it’s important to realize that a product donation actually does benefit the business!

Having an item showcased at an event is an excellent marketing opportunity for businesses, allowing both you and the company to share in a win-win situation.  Understanding that both the nonprofit and the business can win is the key to receiving a successful amount of product donations. Below are some additional tips that can help to prepare as you approach a business asking for product donations or auction items.  


Do Research Upfront

Try to first learn what your attendees would prefer to purchase and then find businesses offering those items.  This ensures a better fit for both the attendees and the donor. Also, make sure you understand the demographics (age, gender, location, etc.) of the people attending your event.  Then when speaking to the businesses, you’ll be able to confirm that the event attendees are their ideal target audience.


Promote Social Good

With the topic of social good on the horizon, many companies are beginning to realize that supporting a cause can provide the business with successful ROI.  A study by Cone Communications found that 87% of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about.  A business is not only receiving the opportunity to support an important cause, but is also being offered the chance to promote their product or company to hundreds of people at the event, with very little effort needed on their part.


Prepare a List of Benefits

Before speaking to the business, be prepared by compiling a list of benefits you’re able to provide to the organization.  For example, the company will benefit by having a room full a attendee at the event that are their ideal target market, while being able to benefit from a low cost method of marketing.  They will also benefit by being one product among a limited amount of featured items or businesses at the event. This will help the brand in standing out as a featured product. Don’t forget to offer the opportunity to help promote the brand through social media or provide the company with a social media image or video post-event.  Companies would also appreciate receiving links to their site from the event website. Feel free to ask what the company values that you can deliver. It often doesn’t cost more to deliver an additional benefit to the company and it could compel them to increase their donation.


If you can follow these steps when approaching a business regarding product donations, then you should be able to achieve a more successful outcome with a win-win for both your nonprofit and donor businesses.


DonationMatch Launches GiveBack Program for In-Store Fundraising

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The team here at DonationMatch is thrilled to announce that we recently launched a new online platform, The DonationMatch GiveBack Program!  This new product connects restaurants and stores with nonprofit organizations to host in-store fundraisers. The GiveBack Program will be offered as a feature on our main platform,  

The GiveBack program was created to help any restaurant, brewery, winery, store, service, or online company looking to donate a percentage of sales to nonprofits and causes.  The platform makes companies available to causes that are seeking fundraising options, providing easier scheduling and marketing for the businesses.  

Restaurant fundraisers are popular events for charities and schools, because a percentage of the sales earned during that night are donated to a nonprofit hosting the event.  Fundraisers have also been shown to be a great marketing tactic for businesses, by providing another method for gaining new clients and sales, while giving back to the local community.

The DonationMatch GiveBack tool contains many exciting features to assist with organizing an in-restaurant fundraiser.  Some of the program features include:

  • Giving local fundraising leaders direct access to eligible programs

  • Easy event scheduling

  • Online marketing tools

  • Event tracking and reporting

  • Customizable automated reminders and workflow tools

  • Detailed records of event fundraising history

  • Ability for companies to view event fundraising records for donation decisions

Through the easy-to-use platform, restaurants can receive fundraiser requests, be able to provide event promotional tools to charities, and view analytics post-event.

“We are very excited to launch our latest product, the DonationMatch GiveBack Program, said Renee Zau, CEO at DonationMatch.  “Current DonationMatch clients had expressed a need for a tool that efficiently manages and streamlines the process of hosting restaurant fundraisers.”  Companies who contributed to the design and creation of the GiveBack program include: Buffalo Wild Wings, Dream Dinners, Picaboo, and Henebery Whiskey.

Zau is pleased to launch the GiveBack Program to provide even more functionality to the DonationMatch platform.  Companies interested in trying out the new platform can sign up online through and may begin using the Starter option free of charge.


About DonationMatch: DonationMatch is a social enterprise that creates online cause marketing software for companies and nonprofit organizations. Since 2010, DonationMatch has facilitated in-kind gifts worth more than $34 million. Co-founded and led by CEO Renee Zau, DonationMatch was recently named to the SheEO "Top 25 Ventures" list for U.S.-based companies in 2017.

Events With Benefits® Podcast


Experts in the fundraising arena, Renee Zau, Danny Hooper, and Ian Lauth, have pooled their nonprofit expertise to create an educational podcast called Events with Benefits®. Covering topics related to nonprofits and fundraising, the podcast steps inside the world of event fundraising, seeking to provide insights to event planners, nonprofit staff, and volunteers. The episodes are designed to assist nonprofit organizations in achieving success with fundraising events and raising money.

The Events with Benefits podcast episodes are each 30 to 40 minutes in length, allowing listeners to gain quick access to new ideas for future events. Episodes feature special guests from many backgrounds within the nonprofit industry, who share their personal experiences and lessons learned. Listeners can subscribe, stream or download the podcast episodes, which are available on iTunes and at


One of the most popular episodes is #6: Thinking Big with Noah McMahon, Founder and CEO of Anonymous.  McMahon, who specializes in holding multi-million dollar events, explains his 3 building blocks for having a lasting relationship with donors and event sponsors, in order to multiply the impact of funds raised.  He also shares many extremely helpful event planning tips.  

Meet the Podcast Hosts:

  • Renee Zau, CEO & Co-founder of, has personally worked on over 50 charity events and mentored over 100 business owners.  She personally has experienced and understands the frustrations and challenges that people face during the in-kind donation process.    

  • Benefit auctioneer Danny Hooper has had an award-winning career through thousands of on-stage performances and the creation of Danny Hooper Productions.  He has also had experience as a recording artist, motivational speaker, comic emcee, and celebrity benefits auctioneer.

  • Ian Lauth, VP of Marketing at Winspire, works for a company that provides unique experiences for charity auctions or fundraisers, allowing users to place exclusive travel packages into their charity auctions.  

Where to Start Your Opening Bids in an Auction

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By Renee Zau, CEO of DonationMatch

Every year, Benefit Auctioneer Sherry Truhlar is asked by a few auction chairs, “Sherry, let’s review the opening bids on these live auction items.  Where shall we start them?”

In this video and the post that follows it, she addresses why you shouldn’t care about opening bids. The science behind it is just as important for increasing your results from your silent auctions, too.

[Thanks for being so generous about sharing your insider knowledge, Sherry!]


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 complementary procurement gift - at

10 Tips and Tricks for a Successful Donation Drive


Guest post by Nicole George, CEO & Founder of The Parent Quest

Our last donation drive took us almost three months until completion. We all felt so much more pressure this time because we were going to be on LIVE TV…yikes! When rallying the troops to find donations we weren’t allowed to tell the companies we were going to be on TV, which is usually a huge draw for companies to donate. So we had to get creative. We told them it would be at a surprise location no one would expect. What surprised me the most was how many companies are willing to give, just by our following their donation request process. Some took longer than others, but all in all most companies we asked gave.

A donation drive can be very daunting. The process takes months of coordinating, organizing, and “begging” for donations. This list should help you spend less time and energy on your donation drive, yet yield higher returns. The stress a donation drive potentially can have on an organization and your staff is intimidating, but with these tips you can focus on your goal.

My Tips and Tricks to a Successful Donation Drive

  1. Never be afraid to ask for a donation. The worst they could say is no. Most companies love to donate, especially if you are a nonprofit.

  2. Be quick to reply with thanks and gratitude if a company or person donates. Always follow through. You never know when you might need them to donate again in the future. Never burn a bridge.

  3. Keep a donor registry. You don’t want to keep asking the same donors to donate to your cause every time you have a new event. Try to mix it up and tap into different donor pools. This will keep your donors happy.

  4. Tell your story. The more a donor can connect with your cause the more likely they are to donate and donate generous amounts. Adding a video is always best, but adding at least pictures with a description is a must whenever marketing your event.

  5. Don’t send updates too frequently. People are easily annoyed by multiple updates, especially on Facebook. Limit postings to once per day or every other day. (Don’t be discouraged if you lose Facebook likes during these times. It is normal.)

  6. Don’t have multiple events at the same time. Focus all of your efforts and marketing for donations to one event.  This will make sure your donors aren’t confused as to which event they donated to.

  7. Use different avenues to market your event. Social media is a big money maker now, but Facebook and Twitter aren’t your only opportunities to get your story out there. Call your local radio stations or even post your event on their Facebook page. They usually don’t mind and welcome hearing about community events. Call your local news stations as well, they may want to cover your story live. Reach out to your community as much as you can.

  8. Don’t be afraid to use a crowdfunding website such as GoFundMe, GoGetFundingIndiegogo, or Kickstarter. There are upsides and downsides to each so do your research. They all take a percentage of your donations, but all have different rules on deadlines and meeting your goal. Do your research and do it well. You don’t want to learn the rules after the fact.

  9. Offer incentives. Some people won’t donate unless they get something out of it. It is a shame, but there are people who just can’t give because it makes them feel good. Offer a small token of your appreciation, a gift bag, or even a raffle with all monetary donors who give at least a certain amount. People love games and winning.

  10. Don’t be afraid to pay a little money to get help. Websites like that help you find donations are worth more than you could ever imagine. Their connections and consulting expertise can bring far more donations and happiness to your event than you could ever tap into yourself.

Hopefully these tips will help you be successful in your fundraising endeavors. Keep your eye on the prize and shoot for the stars!



Nicole George is the CEO/Founder of The Parent Quest, a nonprofit online parent-to-parent mentoring program which runs 100% off donations and fundraising.

Introducing Free Event Help in Bite-Size Pieces


By Renee Zau, Co-founder & CEO, DonationMatch

Recently a new benefit was offered to nonprofits who opt for our DonationMatch Pro Event Page upgrade--a one-on-one coaching session with an expert fundraising event planner. We introduced this largely to assist volunteers who were newer to the world of fundraising events, often without help from former committees.

Over the years, however, I've gathered a trove of clever hacks and fixes from which I think most event committees could benefit. These are now being shared as our new series of "Event Organizer Pro Tips." Follow DonationMatch on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to receive them. (Thanks to Nailah of social communications agency Donna + Nailah for inspiring this idea!)

Do you have your own list of "must do's"? I'd love to hear what they are in the comments below!


Event Organizer Pro Tip
Event Organizer Pro Tip