Fourth Leg of the Donor Pyramid

April 30, 2008

As I mentioned in my previous article, The Seven Deadly Sins, I had a great discussion with Sarah Hoddinott from Advanced Solutions International ( and Shane Davis from Artez Interactive ( They opened my eyes up to a lot of new ideas and thoughts about online fundraising.

We were talking about how fundraising is changing because of online fundraising tools and Sarah mentioned, “We are no longer working with the donor pyramid. When you look at the traditional ways of fundraising peer-to-peer fundraising is almost like the fourth leg of the new fundraising stool.” Traditionally the fundraising stool consisted of annual fund and monthly donors, the major & principal gifts programs, and the foundation and grants programs. This is what we have all known and worked with for a long time. Often times part of these programs sometimes has a specialization for businesses or students/alumni but the principles are the same. The charity uses it’s contacts and fundraising acumen to raise money to support the organization.

With the emergence of new technology and online fundraising we are starting to see a fourth leg to the stool and that is having an avenue for your donors to promote the organization amongst their friends. With peer-to-peer fundraising you are not creating prospecting lists and doing donor acquisition. You are training your strongest supporters in how to fundraise. I made the mistake thinking it would be so great to run a peer-to-peer program to make new contacts that you could send a mailing to. And Sarah and Shane reminded me. The success of peer-to-peer fundraising is that friends are asking friends. If you take that away you lose what makes you successful.


The Seven Deadly Sins

April 28, 2008

I had the incredible opportunity to talk with a few online fundraising experts. Through our discussion they laid out for me some of the major mistakes that they see nonprofits making in their online fundraising campaigns. Thank you Sarah Hoddinott, from Advanced Solutions International, and Shane Davis, from Artez Interactive, for you expertise and input. Below I have included what they described for me as the seven deadly sins made with peer-to-peer fundraising.

  1. Forgetting your demographic. Who supports your organization is it alumni or past patients? If you have a strong group that things already work with build on it. Don’t think that people will come just because you built something, build a system that complements what you are already doing.
  2. No call to action. Donors need to be asked you can’t assume that people will respond the way you want them to if you do not ask. Don’t create a great message and have no way for people to respond to it.
  3. Losing the key message. Campaigns need to be designed with simplicity in mind – don’t make it confusing; preserve the “click path” for donors. When creating your message don’t try and be everything to all people. Your organization can do some things really well but can’t do everything.
  4. Lack of creativity. Don’t be afraid to try something new even if it doesn’t work. Great campaigns come from great ideas.
  5. Peer-to-peer happening only online. Peer-to-peer fundraising encompasses all of the ways in which people leverage their personal networks for philanthropy. Make sure to integrate your online and offline campaigns.
  6. No building on past success. Make sure to talk to you’re your top fundraisers. Ask them what worked and what didn’t work and thank them. Pull together focus groups around what made your campaign successful. Feedback is crucial from connectors and first-time donors; reward programs are can play a key role in dealing with the 20% of people who indirectly generate 80% of donations.
  7. Fixing things that aren’t broken. Switching technology is costly and time consuming, and should only be done if the new technology adopted is really going to make an impact beyond novelty.

Competition or Collaborative

April 23, 2008

This is a question I often ask myself.  Are we in the world of philanthropy working together or working against each other.  Are we in competition or in collaboration?

Lets say for an example that you work for a nonprofit that provides food for children in Africa. There are hundred of non-profits doing that vary thing why should I give my money (or why should I raise money) for you instead of another organization? I am really happy with many organizations that focus their organization on a specific niche group of people that they know how to serve or issue because it allows them to specialize. What about when two organizations that have a similar or overlapping missions do they go after the same dollars?

I know many nonprofits pride themselves on how collaborative they can be. And sometimes I believe this is true when you see a couple organizations coming together to serve a family in need, or an organization has a staff member who’s salary or work area is directed from an organization outside of the nonprofit.

I have found that when it comes to fundraising there is a very small amount sharing that is going on. Try calling up a local nonprofit and telling them that you would like to see a copy of their sponsorship levels and benefits (and don’t forget to tell them you work for a nonprofit) and you’ll get a no almost every time.

What do you think? Should nonprofits be open to collaboration and shared information on everything? Should nonprofits take a more serious business approach and see their partners as competition? Or is it a mix between the two?

Ingredients of a Successful Capital Campaign: Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants

April 21, 2008

I am hosting the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants and I thought this would be a great opportunity to get a bit of input on what makes a great capital campaign. I heard back from a couple people on this topic and have included their submissions below. But I’d love to hear more so I will keep the offer open. If anyone posts on the topic of capital campaigns and wants me to link to their post in the future send me an email and I with highlight it here.

Joanne Fritz talks about what a capital campaign is at Visit the article about capital campaigns to find some really useful information.

Definition: A capital campaign is a time-limited effort by a nonprofit organization to raise significant dollars for a specific project.

Sandy Rees has some great insights on how to run a successful capital campaign. She talks about the need to start preparing your donors years in advance, and to have the right people on board. Check out her post on her blog, Get Fully Funded.

At its heart, a capital campaign relies on the same things as other fundraising efforts: a compelling case, relationships with donors, and the right person asking for the right amount at the right time.

Robert Guinto from Nonprofit Capital Management sent me a few pointers about how important messaging is to a capital campaign. Check out his blog.

The branding and marketing of the message is critical to capital campaigns. There is a need to have the capital plan designed in a manner that strategically seeks funding from foundations, businesses and individuals… Another element of a campaign is that it does not just state and end on a short time period. It is important to note that your organization needs to be in front of an individual several times before there may be a positive outcome.

I thought I would highlight some examples of capital campaigns online for you to check out.

  • The Elevation Church kicked off their capital campaign, Dominate, giving away $40,000 to their congregation in increments of $5 and $10. Congregation members had so spend the money on other people. An interesting way to share the vision of their campaign but resulted in huge success.
  • The University of Rio is trying a video approach to bringing university alumni.
  • Do you have any links or stories to successful capital campaigns?

In a few weeks make sure to check back to read my interview with a few capital campaign leaders. I have asked The Collins Group, Convio, Lipman Hearne, and Tavro Lund and they will be sharing their expertise.

Is the World Listening?

April 16, 2008

There is a lot to think about in today’s world when you talk about online fundraising. In many ways it is still in its infancy. I write a little bit about it in my post, A Foretelling of the Birth of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising. What will the future look like? What is coming in the new frontier of online giving? I think that it has a lot to do with what is happening in online chat rooms, on message boards, on blogs, and other social media networks. Richard McPherson says in his book, Digital Giving, “Charitable success online will be driven not by the size of your email list or even your donor base, but by the number of people who are talking about you through social media.”

Here are a few simple rules that I gleaned from that book:

  • Start with a clear idea of what you want your community to do
  • Plan for your superusers
  • Have a growth plan
  • Balance listening and leading

You need to know what you want to promote online. Is it a general issue, a cause linked to a geographic area? Make sure that you have this idea in place. Once you start your online community you will start to see a few “superusers” emerge. These are the one out of a hundred that leave a comment or send you an email. Make sure that you are talking to them, thanking them for their comments, asking for their input. Make sure that you are responding and changing based on what your community is telling you. If you ignore them and don’t listen they will go away. Here is another interesting quote from Digital Giving:

Online networks for social action and engagement, of course, compete not for retail sales but for the affections of people willing to speak up or at least listen to others with a cause… “The more connected people feel, the more active they’ll be.” Randy Paynter, founder of Care2

I’m just starting to see the power of this kind of planning and action. There are a few places that I’m trying to start some online community. One of them is connected to each post. A few examples of this working really well would be my All Donors as Major Donor’s post or I Don’t Want to Ask for Money. A couple places that I’m going to try and start some new conversations is are my Idealist Group, my Facebook page, and the Search & Questions section. I want to create a place where I can be listening to the kinds of things that you want me to talk about. Have you had success creating online communities? Has it contributed to fundraising success for you?

An Ask for Help

April 13, 2008

I am currently in career transition. In a few weeks time I will be leaving my current job to start as the Campaign Manager at a local community college. It is going to be a great opportunity to be a part of a great institution of higher education and participate in a capital campaign. I am very excited and hope this will bring a whole new skill set for me to reflect on at A Small Change.

Over the next couple of weeks I would really appreciate any input and advice from you on capital campaigns. Next week on April 21, I am hosting the Carnival of Nonprofit Consultants on the topic, “Ingredients to a Successful Capital Campaign.” Please send your submissions to me at, the last day to submit will be Friday, April 18. I really want this carnival to be a good one so if you have a few minutes to craft a creative and exciting article (on Capital Campaigns) I’d love to promote it on next weeks post.

In early May you will also see another one of my “Online Interviews.” At the end of January I interviewed a number of online fundraising experts and wrote a five part series. Come early May you will see a very similar interview on the topic of capital campaigns. Feel free to let me know of any great capital campaign resources, or pieces of advice below.

Mailing Campaigns On or Offline

April 10, 2008

I have posted many times about online fundraising and I think I’ve explained some of reasons why. With online fundraising the stakes are the same for a large multi-million dollar organization as they are for a small $100,000 charity. Here are a few thoughts and tips about merging together online and offline funding campaigns.

Why? At this point online fundraising is growing but for most organization is only represents a small (but growing) portion of the organizations giving. But many people want to have the online option available to them but will use a paper mail product to initiate their gift. Richard McPherson in his book, Digital Giving, says “direct mail is a calm port in a storm of electronic demands. And it’s often easier than giving online.” You will find me quoting his book a number of times in the coming weeks he has a lot of incredible tangible tips on how to fundraise online.

With online giving growing and how easy it is for a donor to use it is something that your organization should start to think about. I would like to advocate for an integrated model of online & offline fundraising. In any of your paper direct mail appeals make sure that your website is on them & that there is a one click link to your donation page. Put a link to donate or visit your website at the bottom of your email signature.

What ideas do you have to integrate your current mailings & emailings?